The Secret to Seduction

Warner Books/ Warner Forever May 2007
ISBN 0-446-61688-5

(The final book in the Three Sisters Trilogy...the first two are Beauty and the Spy and Ways to be Wicked!)


A vicar's daughter unafraid to control her fate, Sabrina Fairleigh arrives at an exclusive country soiree with marriage in mind. How shocking—and intriguing—to discover her host is an infamous ladies' man known for his indecent (and, ah, inspiring) poetry!


They call him The Libertine, and his poetry is just as scandalous—and irresistible—as he is. But after one duel too many forces Rhys Gillray, Earl of Rawden, from lively London to his country estate, he's in desperate need of a cure for boredom. And the proper but beautiful vicar's daughter seems like the perfect test of his sensual skills.


With wit and wiliness, Rhys strips away Sabrina's defenses. But as he teaches her pleasure, the emotional stakes of their sensual duel go beyond anything Rhys has ever known. For deep in his past lies the missing clue to the crime that destroyed Sabrina's family. And all The Libertine's seductive secrets may not be enough to save their future and their hearts.


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Rhys, clever, methodical man that he is, has laid a series of careful traps for Sabrina Fairleigh for days. At last he's lured the practical (or so she thinks) vicar's daugther to his statue gallery using a legend as bait: the statue of Persephone allegedly comes to life when the midnight light of a full moon touches her. But both Rhys and Sabrina are in for a major surprise, and it may or may not
actually involve a statue. Read on... (or visit Early Ink to read the scene that precedes this one!)

The wind had ceased for the moment to heap more snow up against the house, and the quiet was so sudden and thorough it very nearly had a texture. Moonlight poured in through the soaring arched windows and washed over the rows of statues in the gallery.

Sabrina hesitated on the threshold of the room, and this hesitation, as well as the sharp little curl of anticipation in the pit of her stomach, amused her. She approached the statues almost stealthily, until she was a mere few feet away from Persephone.

But it was another few seconds before she mustered the nerve to lift her candle high enough to illuminate Persephone's face.

Persephone's smooth marble eyes gazed back at her.

For seconds of silence Sabrina watched the statue. Seconds ticked into a minute, then two minutes.

How long minutes are when you're waiting, Sabrina thought idly.

Finally, she grew a bit bored and whimsically decided to rest her candle in Perseus's outstretched hand. She stepped back toward the wall to admire it. It looked as though he was bearing a torch.

"For a moment I thought you were Persephone come to life, Miss Fairleigh."

Sabrina's heart didn't precisely stop, though it most definitely did stutter. And when it leaped forward again it was much more swiftly than before.

Perhaps she hadn't jumped out of her skin because she'd almost expected him.

Still, she didn't dare turn around.

"Forgive me for dashing your hopes." She was proud of her voice, even, cool as marble. The voice a statue would have used, she liked to think. Though her heart was now beating so rapidly she wondered it didn't echo in the gallery.

"Given that I came here hoping to be surprised, and perhaps even…awed… I cannot in all honesty say my hopes have been dashed." Drawled irony in his soft, soft voice.

It washed over her the way the moonlight did. It changed the very room. And her mind knew he was an expert at choosing clever words and imbuing them with innuendo, at all the little things added up to seduction. In this, he'd proven himself an artist, in the way Mr. Brand was an artist, or the way Sophia Licari was an artist.

Oh, yes, her mind knew it. Still, it was not her mind that surged in response to his voice, or set the hair on the back of her neck standing.

And in that moment, she didn't dare speak.

She remained quiet; and now she began to feel the warmth of him behind her, as surely as though he were a fire burning low; she wondered, absurdly, if he was clothed for day or night. Perhaps he wore a dressing gown and a cap, had come creeping down from his chambers dressed for sleep. It would certainly de-fang him, somewhat. She'd seen her father, Vicar Fairleigh, in his dressing gown and cap. She had difficulty imagining that any man so dressed would pose any sort of sensual danger.

And then it occurred to her to wonder what the wan moonlight was doing to her dressing gown, and heat rushed into her cheeks.

She fought a maidenly impulse to pull the shawl more tightly around her shoulders, as she sensed the gesture would amuse him and confirm for him everything he believed about her. For some reason, at the moment, the thought of this was intolerable.

"What…what would you have done if you'd seen her?" She found herself asking instead. She was genuinely curious. "Persephone?"

"Take her to Hades with me at once, of course." He sounded surprised that she needed to ask.

This startled a short laugh from her. "Or to London, at the very least."

"Is there a difference?" He made it sound like a serious question.

"I wouldn't know. Is the entrance to London guarded by a dog with two heads?"

She thought he might laugh.

Instead, it was quiet again. The candle flame snapped upward, tugged by a draft.

"You've never been to London?" He said it softly, but he sounded so thoroughly, genuinely astonished—as if she'd admitted she'd never learned to read, or to eat with a fork, something just that fundamental—that she couldn't resist smiling.

And she finally turned, slowly, to face him.

Which of course required looking up a significant distance.

No dressing gown and whimsical cap. White shirt, open at the throat—it took a moment to get beyond those few open buttons—and those blue eyes fixed upon her.

His expression disconcerted her. He didn't seem inclined to blink, for one thing; his gaze on her face was nearly as steady as the statue's…if considerably more warm. The warmth she could see even by the combined light of moon and candle. But she would also have called it… bemused. It was as if two very different notions were warring inside him, and he was puzzled by at least one of them.

"I've never longed to see London." She heard the prim note in her own voice. Perhaps it was for the best.

He simply continued gazing. She refused to be the first to look away, and so an absurd moment passed during which they merely gazed.

When he spoke, she almost started.

"Miss Fairleigh, do you have a mirror in your chambers?"

"A mirror?" She was puzzled.

He didn't clarify the question for her; he smiled faintly as if at some private joke, and gave his head a slow shake, to and fro. And then absently, almost affectionately, he reached out and gently tugged the ends of her shawl more snugly around her. As though tucking a child into bed.

Just as her own hand had gone up to do the same.

A shock: the backs of his fingers touching hers. His skin against her skin. He was startlingly warm, flame-warm. And this simple touch sent a buzz through her blood and flashed like lightning in her mind, obliterating thought. She went motionless, astonished, and looked up at him, absorbing the sensation. A tide of heat rose toward the surface of her skin.

Rhys knew an opportunity when he saw one, and he'd brilliantly orchestrated this one. Those lovely full lips were parted just a little; her muslin wrapper fell softly over the slim lines of her body, hinting at lithe bareness beneath. Her dark hair should have been twined in a missish braid to keep it from tangling as she slept, and instead it spilled in dark silken handfuls over her shoulders. Her eyes were wide and soft, stunned at the contact of his hand, lulled by the moonlight.

He'd kissed myriad other women for much less provocation.

And so he swiftly calculated his angle of approach, and did it.

He'd meant it be a swift touch of the lips, just enough to scandalize her and to satisfy his own half-whimsical impulse, to prove to himself that he had won: he had lured her here, and his reward was to be a kiss.

But when his lips met hers, something went terribly wrong.

Or perhaps it was just that something went too terribly right.

Because…oh, God. Her mouth was a dream beneath his. So softly, surprisingly welcoming it was as though she'd been anticipating this kiss her entire life.

Pragmatically, he thought it more likely it was because she hadn't expected to be kissed, and therefore hadn't had time to do the sensible thing…which would be to stiffen and slap him in indignation. He knew he had an instant's worth of advantage, and regardless of whether it was sensible, he wasn't about to relinquish it. His arms went around her loosely but decisively and he pulled her into his chest before she could do something silly, like stop him.

Her forearms arms folded up, her hands bunched softly near his collarbone, her head tipped back. And now that he she was gently trapped, he lowered his head. And he kissed her, not as though she was a virgin, or the vicar's daughter, or the almost-fiancée of his resentful cousin. He kissed her the way a woman ought to be kissed: With absolutely no quarter.

If you want, you can order TSTS at Amazon!




4 1/2 Stars Top Pick from Romantic
Times BOOKClub Magazine!

"The final volume in Long's Holt Sisters trilogy fulfills readers' desires for a passion-filled, lively romance brimming over with wit and wisdom. It's time for the last Holt sister to discover her hidden passion, her true love and her siblings. Much to our delight, she does so in a most heartwarming and exciting manner. " —Kathe Robin

Publisher's Weekly:

"Long's sharp leads keep this witty tale of love, passion, family and betrayal moving nicely."

Five Roses from A Romance Review!

" Author Julie Anne Long has written a superlative final novel in the Holt Sisters series, and I am truly sorry to see the saga end. The Secret to Seduction is powerful and evocative. In writing about The Libertine, Ms. Long has given her imagery full rein. Readers will feel the heat as Rhys sets about his seduction of Sabrina, when just a turn of phrase can take on new meaning. He is a passionate man who learns the power of true love when he has lost it all.
This book runs the gamut from chuckles to throat-closing tears and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Although certainly
strong enough to stand alone, read in sequence with Ways to Be Wicked and Beauty and the Spy, the trilogy demonstrates historical romance at its best
." —Paula Klug

(Read the entire review)

From Rakehell:

"The final installment in Long's "Three Sisters" trilogy is the best book she has ever written. And when I say "written" I mean the choice of words on the page and the skill used to craft the story and master series arc. It's rare anymore to review a romance novel where I can talk about the writing. Often I discuss the characters, plot, and even dialogue. The Secret to Seduction has character, plot, and dialogue in spades, but what will stand out for discerning readers will be the beauty of the language Long uses.

I cannot say enough good about Long's writing. With each highly charged event in the book, a sentence or two would wring the desired emotion from me, making me feel that I was living and breathing what the characters felt. This style of writing is far more noticeable in the first act where Rhys and Sabrina are getting to know one another and falling in love, but can still be found in the second act whenever Rhys and Sabrina are together."
—Cybil Solyn

(Read the entire review)


4 1/2 stars from The Romance Readers Connection:

"The best part of this book is the sparkling character development and the carefully plotted story. I was truly sorry to see the book
end and found myself wanting more of these delightful people. Julie Anne Long's skill as an author is impressive and I hope we can look forward to many more terrific books by this talented writer.
This one's a keeper!"
Jeri Neal



You can order TSTS online at:

~ Amazon

~Barnes and Noble

~ Books-a-Million

~ Borders



This book is part of a trilogy, right? Do I have to read all of the trilogy books together, or can they be read separately?

The Secret to Seduction
is the third and final book in a trilogy about the Holt sisters—Beauty and the Spy (March 2006) is the first, and Ways to be Wicked (October 2006) is the second. And each book does stand alone, but they are connected, and it might be more fun to read together. You might want to read the first two before you get to the third...just because the third book wraps up our mystery, and a lot of characters and situations from the other books reappear, too. :)