Ways to be Wicked

Warner Books/ Warner Forever October 2006
ISBN 0-446-61687-7

(The second book in the Three Sisters Trilogy...Beauty and the Spy is the first!)

Sylvie Lamoureux is the darling of the Paris ballet, renowned for her beauty and passionate dedication to her art. But when a mysterious letter sends her across the English Channel, she finds herself literally landing in the lap of one of London's most notorious men.

With a face that has charmed many a London lady, theater impresario Tom Shaughnessy is used to women falling into his arms. But from the moment this feisty young Frenchwoman leaps into his carriage, he senses he's met his rival in wit, daring...and sensuality.

When fate pulls Sylvie into the bawdy world of Tom's theater, a desire neither of them fully expects threatens to upend their well-laid plans. But the past Sylvie never knew she had will force her to make a decision. She can either let it bring down the curtain on their fiery pas de deux...or trust this wicked man with her heart.

You can preorder WAYS TO BE WICKED at Amazon today, if you'd like!


Also in the Books section:



...The tension and attraction between Tom Shaughnessy and Sylvie Lamoureux has been building for days now, but Tom knows the beautiful, feisty French dancer he's hired harbors a few secrets. And in this quick excerpt, Tom discovers one of them. And right below this excerpt is a quick and steamy little scene found deeper in the book...and if you check my blog, especially before Friday, August 18th, you'll find yet another excerpt...and you might win a signed book, too! [note: you can read the first part of WAYS TO BE WICKED, where Sylvie and Tom meet, in the back of BEAUTY AND THE SPY!]

On the last day of the week, Tom looked up from his work and saw a woman dressed not as a fairy or a pirate or a water nymph, but in a walking dress, a rather nice one, and it took him a moment to recognize Molly. It wasn't the sort of dress one could afford to have made on The White Lily's salary unless one saved for a good, long time. He wondered, briefly, if the bordering-on-demure, well-cut gown meant that yet another girl had acquired a wealthy protector or a willing husband and had decided to retire from The White Lily.
The timing would be inconvenient regardless, given Molly's role in the Venus show. But Tom philosophically began considering alternatives even before he spoke.

"You're early today, Molly, aren't you?"

"Josephine needed 'elp wi' the sewing, an' so I offered to come in."

Molly had never struck Tom as the type to volunteer for extra work. He frowned a little, bemused, but willing to believe just about anything. "She needs additional help? Isn't Sylvie helping her with the sewing?"

"Well, that's just it, Mr. Shaughnessy. Sylvie ought to 'elp, but she goes off to meet 'er lover midday of late, so Josephine asked fer me help."

Time stopped. Tom's breathing stopped as well.

"Sylvie goes off to meet her lover?" He managed to repeat levelly.

Molly fingered the corner of his desk. "Every day, middle o' th' day, Josephine says. Past few days." Molly was the very picture of innocence. "All of a sudden, like. She leaves early, and comes back mussed and red in the face, like, and she looks… 'appy. Real 'appy."

"Thank you, Molly." Tom breathed in, breathed out, to get his lungs, his heart moving again. He didn't want to hear anymore.

She looks 'appy.

"Yer own needs bein' met, Mr. Shaughnessy?" Molly asked frankly.

"Mr. Shaughnessy?" she repeated, when he didn't answer her.

He did manage to get his mouth to turn up, but the motion was painful, seemed as unnatural as bending in half backwards. "Your concern is touching, Molly, but I haven't any complaints in that regard."

"My concern is…touching, Mr. Shaughnessy," she said quite seriously, with a duck of her head. She trailed a hand provocatively across her collarbone, and then down across, very casually, one full breast.

He was a man, after all; he watched the hand's entire journey. The trouble was, it all looked rather like choreography to him now.

Molly always had been the most persistent of all the dancers in seeking his attention. Most gave up after a few good-natured attempts; few women enjoy being rebuffed again and again and again. Molly was undeniably lovely. Tom was pleased to be able to employ her; he enjoyed admiring her. But that was about the extent of her appeal for him.

"Thank you for considering my needs, and I am flattered. But I believe you know my policy." He said the words firmly, with a smile to soften them.

Leave, he thought. He wanted her to leave so he could be alone with the alien sensation pressing inside is chest. If he didn't know better, he would have called it an ache.

He kept his voice level. "You said you believe Sylvie creeps off to see her lover rather than doing the work she was hired to do?"

"Oh, yes," Molly said somberly. "Right about this time 'o day."


The determined sunlight filtered through dust-caked windows, creating a sort of twilight in the room; the floor, he noticed, had been swept for perhaps the first time in decades, barrels and crates pushed aside to create a clearing. A stage.

Tom had watched her leave her room, close the door behind her, and furtively, hurriedly take the stairs up a flight toward the attic room, her feet touching the stairs lightly as a cat. Inexplicably, as the day was warm and the heat had risen to fill the upper rooms with a sultry density, she had covered herself in a cloak. A disguise?

Or did she spread the cloak over the floor so she could lie upon it with her lover?

His hands squeezed closed into involuntary fists, echoing what his heart had done at the thought.

But he was behind her, took the stairs as lightly as he could, and kept his head down. What did he intend to do? Leap out and cry "A-ha!"

He should leave.

He couldn't leave.

And then, at last, the foreign tightness in his chest eased a little when all he saw was Sylvie.

She was standing in the middle of the room, head down, shoulders back, arms curved out from her body as though she cradled a great invisible heart between them, the fingertips of each hand just shy of meeting below her belly. Her feet were pointed out, her hair pulled up, combed smooth and pinned so tightly the sun glanced off of it as though the surface was mirrored: sable with a sheen of fire.

The cloak had been folded neatly and set aside; he saw it. And she wore a dress that, scandalously, remarkably, exquisitely, exposed a length of elegant ankle and calf. The cloak had disguised it.

Her throat was long and white, so fair he could see the faint blue trace of a vein in it. It should have made her seem vulnerable; instead, everything about how she held her body at the moment spoke of power and intent.

And for a moment, it seemed, he couldn't know for certain whether the light radiated from her or came through the window, or if it was merely an agreed-upon exchange between Sylvie and the sun.

And then he noticed the smile. Faint, but so privately, confidently joyous Tom could nearly feel it. Nearly. It was both bitter and sweet, taut and rich, like the first bite of a plum, because he was certain he'd never worn that kind of smile, felt that kind of joy.

It was very like the smile one would give a longtime lover, he imagined.

The smile became softly inviting; she stretched her arms out toward some invisible partner, and balanced—floated, it seemed—on one leg.

Then she swiftly gathered her limbs together and pirouetted, rising all the way up on her toes, and like a dandelion caught in a breeze, spu and leaped, covering the distance of that rough floor before stopping to arch backward, one knee drawn up.

Mesmerized, Tom watched, pressed back against the stairwell, breathing all but suspended, the better to hear, to feel her dance.

Awe and panic warred inside him, and amused him distantly: truly, he felt as though he'd stumbled, sober, across an actual fairy, the sort his Irish mother had so fervently believed in and feared, not the sort that he and The General swarmed the stage with to ribald acclaim. Sylvie no longer seemed to belong to the same species as he did; she didn't seem crafted of flesh and bone. Rather, suddenly she was made of fire or water, something that burned or flowed.

And Good God—just look at that. She could bend nearly in half.


The prurient possibilities of this did not escape him.

He could almost hear the music Sylvie moved to in his head, could feel the story of it as she danced. He knew, even through the pleasure on her face, that she was meticulously counting the steps off in her head, each placement of her foot precise and calculated as it thumped lightly on the floor in satin slippers, though to the viewer it would all seem entirely artless.

He knew it was beautiful; he in fact knew that "beautiful" was an inadequate word for it. This was artistry, and in a way he resented it: for in watching it he felt every bit of his own roughness, the roughness he had ruthlessly wrestled into submission.

And at the same time, he knew learning to dance like this would have required a superhuman determination.

The determination of someone who was resolved to be something, anything other than ordinary. A determination, in fact, rather similar to his own.

The pieces fell into place: the source of this woman's confidence. The reason she would have taken a lover. Her determination, perhaps, to move out of the shadows of the demi monde Perhaps she, like he, was beginning to understand the limitations of the shadowy place within society they occupied.

Somehow he had known from the moment she'd landed in his lap in the stage coach that this woman was far, far from ordinary. And now he realized why watching her wield cutlasses, and pat derrieres…was rather like watching a unicorn pulling a plow.

Then again, he rather liked seeing Sylvie in her fairy wings. He rather liked seeing her dressed as a pirate, and patting derrieres. Somehow, they seemed all simply seemed aspects of her: the delicate, the ethereal, the magical. The dangerous, the wicked, the fearless.

Although he'd begun to suspect he'd rather like seeing her dressed in anything at all.

Tom watched, and knew the longer he watched, the greater the risk she would see him. And now he almost wished he hadn't followed her, for he knew the image of her dancing, of that smile, would haunt him. He felt nearly as conflicted as if he'd actually caught her with a lover. And in a way, he knew, he had.

She looks… 'appy.

He backed slowly, carefully, down the stairs, wondering why he should feel guilty, why he should feel as though he'd been intruding, when everything in this theater belonged to him, including the room she'd cleared to become her own private stage. His own determination and passion had made it so.

It was the final step that had always creaked just a little. And it made no exception for him this time.

[end of exerpt]

Keep reading for one more quick, steamy little excerpt, or preorder your copy now if you like!

It wasn’t until he heard the creak of a light step on the stairs to his room that he admitted to himself that he’d been waiting to hear it for days now. That he’d lain awake for nights desperate for it, every one of his senses honed to razor alertness, hoping for it. Declined invitations, conducted a campaign of quiet seduction so unlike him it unnerved and distantly even amused him. Never had he wanted anything more, it seemed. Never had he been so uncertain about getting it.

Tom sat up in his bed, struck the flint to light the lamp next to his bed, and the tiny room glowed in the warm light. His hands shook, for God’s sake, even as he did it. His heart had set up a drumming in his chest.

He saw the light of her candle quiver against the wall first, and then the shadow of her, and then the woman herself. Her cloak was wrapped round her; beneath it, he saw light muslin.

Her hair was down, a sheet of silky darkness burnished by the dueling lights of her candle and his lamp. He could scarcely breathe. When she saw his lit lamp, she lifted her own candle up with hands that trembled, and puffed it out.

He couldn’t speak.

In silence, he watched her drop the cloak. Saw, in the shadows, the outline of her slim body through her dress, her long legs, slim waist. And in silence he watched as matter-of-factly she reached for her dress, and pulled it—Oh God—right over her head.

The site of her body completely bare to him all at once was an exquisite physical shock. He stopped breathing.

She began to fold the dress.

He remembered to breathe again. “For the love of God, Sylvie, leave the dress.”

She dropped the dress and laughed then, a soft, shaky little laugh. Lifted her hand to push back the long mass of hair, and he watched, mesmerized, the lift of her small perfect breast when her arm rose, then the waterfall sheen of the hair spilling behind her...

Okeydoke, if you like it, you can go ahead preorder if the mood
takes you!




A Top Pick from Romance Reader at Heart!

"Who would have ever thought to plop down into the midst of a bunch of somewhat bawdy theatre dancers, a lithe, worldly French prima donna ballerina and make it work? Along with a love story? Julie Anne Long did, and make it work she did. Every single secondary character she wrote, from the raucous chorus girls to the dictorial dance master, The General (some of whom are carryovers from BEAUTY AND THE SPY, the first sister, Susannah's story), seemed just as alive as Sylvie and Tom. It takes a lot of skill and some very good writing to pull that off, and Long does so in spades.
....If you've never read a Julie Anne Long romance, then woe be unto you because you're really missing out on an author whose writing excels in so many ways. Original, sensual, at times dramatic, and sparkling with wit and humor, WAYS TO BE WICKED is a definite must read, hands... or should I say, toes... down. Historical romance just doesn't come much better than this. "
— Nancy Davis, Romance Reader at Heart



You can preorder WAYS TO BE WICKED at:


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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?

Ways to be Wicked is the second book in a trilogy about the Holt sisters—Beauty and the Spy (March 2006) is the first, and The Secret to Seduction (May 2007) is the third and last book of the trilogy. And each book stands alone, but 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 from the other books reappear, too. :)