The duke undone / Joanna Lowell.
- ISBN: 059319828X : PAP
- ISBN: 9780593198285 : PAP
- ISBN: 9780593198285
- ISBN: 059319828X
- Physical Description: pages cm
- Publisher: New York : Jove, 2021.
"When an artist and a duke cross paths in the bustling London slums, an unlikely love story begins and their lives will be forever changed. Royal Academy painting student Lucy Coover quickly comes to the aid of the naked drunkard she stumbles upon one evening in the Shoreditch slums. If only she could banish his lovely form from her dreams as easily. Instead, she finds herself compelled to paint the man in his natural form. Little does she know that her impromptu subject is none other than the seventh Duke of Weston, Anthony Philby. According to his deceased father's will, Anthony is restricted from doing anything to bring further discredit to their scandal-ridden family. So when the duke is confronted with his nude portrait and accused of betraying his father's will, he goes searching for the mysterious artist, L. Coover. He must convince this artist to destroy the painting before it's seen by high society. Stunned to discover the unconventional and bewitching Lucy, he's further amazed when she tries to convince him to help save her aunt's dressmaking shop from ruin. But Anthony is game, and agrees to aid Lucy if she does him a favor in return: assisting him in searching for his disowned and missing sister, Effie. Continually thrown together, an unexpected passion blossoms between the two. Then the hunt for Effie puts Lucy in danger, threatening her career as an artist, and a surprising betrayal imperils all Anthony holds dear. Facing numerous obstacles, it will take all their strength and will to fight for their love"-- Provided by publisher.
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The Duke Undone
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The Duke Undone
PROLOGUE London October 1881 As Lucy Coover turned into the narrow alley, her eye caught the patch of early morning sky peeping out between the tenements. Violet, paling to softest blue. The silver moon still floating above a single rosy cloud. Her fellow students at the Painting School would never believe the slums of Shoreditch could offer such beauty. But how to capture that quality of light? She held up two fingers and focused on the span between. Still gazing upward, she took another step. Something beneath her foot crunched . Not mud, not refuse. Dear God . There was a hand beneath her boot. The hand attached to a wrist, and the wrist to a forearm, the forearm to an elbow, the elbow to an upper arm, shoulder, neck, head. She had trod on a corpse. Lucy sprang back. The feel of fingers grinding beneath her heel made her stomach plunge. But the corpse didn't stir. Well, a corpse wouldn't. There he lay, stretched before her. She felt her heart pounding in her ears. She could hear the street sounds and see, between the bowing walls, a sliver of morning life. Omnibuses and donkey carts rolled along, hemmed in by the throngs. Every morning, Lucy hurried past crumbling tenements, crossed through grim, teeming courtyards, and squeezed through this passageway, a shortcut to High Street, where she caught the omnibus to the Royal Academy of Arts. She'd stepped on her share of rotten onions and, once, a rag that squeaked and discharged a rat. This was something new. She steeled herself for another glance. Ah . Poor soul, he'd been deprived of life and --she swallowed--every last stitch of clothing. Shoreditch teemed with street toughs, notorious for theft and murder. Knocked him on the head, perhaps, stripped him of coin, cloth, and shoe leather. Dumped him in the passage to rot. Her skin prickled as it turned to gooseflesh. She whirled around, but no one loomed behind her. This had to be the loneliest alley in all of London. She turned back slowly. How strange, this feeling that she and the corpse occupied their own little world, a quiet pocket in the clamorous city. The busy street was so close, but the passersby kept their eyes down or fixed straight ahead. For help she would need to send up a cry. Murder! And yet...her gaze dropped again. The corpse was beginning to strike her as remarkably vital. Surely, murder most foul never left the skin with such a ruddy glow. Or the limbs arranged with such casual, insouciant grace. The morning was uncommonly fine, and the moon still floated directly overhead. Was it her whimsy or did it lend an odd, silvered clarity to the light? It felt wrong to stare. But she was, after all, trained to stare. She lowered her bag to the ground. She drew her brown together and gave the corpse a long and steady look. One arm was bent behind his head. The other arm was flung across the broad expanse of his chest. A chest that was, almost imperceptibly, rising and falling. He lived. There was just enough room for her to edge around him. She circled by inches, breath catching as she took in every detail. From head to toe, he was, in a word, magnificent. A figure of geometric perfection. He could easily stand among the statues she'd sketched in the Antique School. Except he wasn't marble. Wasn't nearly so smooth, so rounded. Any bust of Achilles would look well with that straight nose and strong chin, those full but starkly shaped lips. But no sculptor would dare carve that jawline. It was too square, too harsh, contours darkened with stubble. The maleness overpowered and was completely wrong for classical forms. Old gods and warriors wore thick, curled beards as profuse as a maiden's locks. The young ones showed sloped cheeks that flirted with girlishness. This man was not girlish. No. Not that. She noted the bulge of biceps in his bent arm. The width of the forearm. She moved her eyes over his torso, the masses of muscle well-defined, dusted with more of that utterly unclassical hair, then traced the diagonal lines that ran down from his hip bones. She looked away, then back at the black curls at the base of that V of muscle. Here, then, was another deviation from the classical precedent. Canvases and statues had led her to expect something slightly more...cherubic from that part of the anatomy. Obviously, artists upheld a long tradition of minimizing male genitals for the sake of composition. Or decency. Or...Did this particular man exhibit some quirk of proportion? Her suppressed giggle emerged as a snort. It didn't matter, of course, the man's particular quirks, but that he had them at all. That he was particular . Not an abstraction, a mathematical proposition in stone. Those cold, white statues she studied had taught her a little about flesh, the tones and textures, the play of shadow and light, hard and soft. All those hours in the studios of Burlington House trying to work out how the sinews of the human form wrapped the armature of the bones... She almost clapped her hands. She felt flushed, wild. Here it was, the whole mystery of creation. No wonder women were denied access to life classes, banned from drawing semidraped and undraped figures. It wasn't because the sight was corrupting. It was because the sight was illuminating. She leaned closer and caught a whiff of him, caustic enough to cut through the alley's fug of mud and mildew. She wrinkled her nose. Spirits were emanating from his very pores. He wasn't dead; he was dead drunk. Drank himself witless, and some of the local lads had played him for the fool he was. They could have left his drawers , for God's love. She dropped down into a crouch, dust and straw puffing up around her. She knew it was madness to sit on her heels beside a naked stranger, a sot, full as a tick on forty-rod gin. Drunkards didn't often emerge from sleep in the sweetest of moods. This one was strong. His body showed strength in every line. He might leap up without warning, swinging his fists in a rage. Her reflexes, though, were lightning quick. She could dodge a groggy blow. "Hullo." She cleared her throat, sidled closer. " Sir ." She only meant to rouse him. She wasn't trying to memorize the balance of his features, the shape of his mouth, the sharp peaks of his upper lip. But somehow time was passing. She could hear the factory whistles sounding and her eyes were still wandering, sliding down to his chest and arms. She'd have to run from the omnibus to make her morning lesson. She rose, crept out onto the street. On the corner, a red-faced bobby was blowing his whistle. She'd bet her right eye the police would give the man a sniff, heave him up on the wagon, and dump him in a jail. The thought disturbed her. She turned away. There, a ragpicker, painfully young, all but hidden by the bag on his back. She gave him a smile. "What's your biggest piece of sacking?" The boy sized her up as he dug out a filthy rectangle of cloth. Bigger than a fig leaf, but not by much. "A shilling," he pronounced. She sighed. "Never mind." She'd sacrifice her shawl. She slipped back into the alley and covered the man's lower body with odd reluctance. It wasn't the shawl she regretted. It was losing the sight of him. Back on the street, she found the boy waiting, more of his wares displayed for her on the pavement. "There's a man sleeping in that alleyway," she said. "I'll give you a tanner to stand right there and keep an eye on him. If he starts to go clue, call a bobby." The boy snatched the coin and grinned. He was missing both his front teeth. Probably he wouldn't even wait for her to climb into the omnibus before he trundled off, taking the shawl with him. "Don't go too near," she added. "He eats little boys." And he might, for all she knew. The man had certainly done nothing to deserve her sacrificing a shawl and spending sixpence. And , at this rate, missing her morning lesson. Nonetheless, she felt protective of him. She had to force herself to walk away. On her way home, she took the same shortcut and hardly knew if she was happy or sad that the man was gone. Later that evening, she found herself hunched over her sketchbook, staring at the blank page. When she shut her eyes, she could see him perfectly, see his contours and the dynamic tension latent in his resting muscles. She inched her fingers up the pencil, hesitated. The man was someone's son. Brother. Husband. She had no right to reproduce his likeness at a whim. But the image was there, on the insides of her eyelids. The seeing was a king of feeling. She was feeling her way toward something extraordinary. She could capture it, his beauty. The heat of his slumberous, living flesh. All alone in her little room, her great-aunt Marian asleep downstairs in the dress shop, and just overhead, hidden by the slant of the roof and by the clouds, the moon, a secret accomplice, she could put down a line, and then another, and another. The image was there, with her in the darkness. Not that man's body anymore, but her own vision. Hers . She blinked her eyes open. She pressed her pencil lead to the page. Excerpted from The Duke Undone by Joanna Lowell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.