Phillippa Benning is the unrivaled beauty of the Season. But when another lady challenges her for a marquis's attentions, Phillippa entices him to a secret rendezvous-only to stumble upon The Blue Raven, England's most famous spy, lurking at the site of her planned tryst.
The Blue Raven has uncovered an enemy plot directed at upcoming society functions, but he's unable to infiltrate London society. Phillippa makes an offer: in exchange for entrée among the ton, he agrees to have his true identity revealed at the Benning Ball-guaranteeing her unrivaled notoriety. As the danger draws closer, the mysterious spy and Phillippa give in to mutual desire. But when the game turns deadly, betrayal waits around the corner, and Phillippa must decide once and for all-is it the myth that captured her heart, or the man?
March 3, 2009 • Berkley Trade
ISBN-10: 0425233081 • ISBN-13: 978-0425233085
» The title of the “Blue Raven” comes from the idea that the only known identifiable feature of the anonymous spy was hair so black it shone blue
» “Byrne” is an Irish surname, anglicized from the Gaelic Broin, which means “raven”, or “blackbird.”
» The framework for Phillippa Benning’s life was initially (and incredibly loosely) based on Paris Hilton’s. She’s tall, thin and blond, incredibly rich and popular. She once was attached to a man with the same name as she (Paris Hilton was engaged to Greek shipping heir Paris Latsis, while Phillippa set her cap at Phillip, Marquis of Broughton), and she knows a thing or two about frenemies.
» The Gold Ball takes place in Regent’s Park. Regent’s Park was designed by architect John Nash, as part of extensive city planning commissioned by the Prince Regent. (Other aspects of this city planning include Regent’s Street and Carlton House Terrace.) Regent’s Park was originally envisioned to be a grand park with a palace for the Prince Regent and a number of villas to be purchased by the fashionable aristocracy. But the palace and most of the villas were eventually dropped from the designs. As the author, I take some liberties placing an outdoor summer ball in the park, as, although it was in existence and under construction, it was not opened to the public until 1835.
» Learn more about how Kate’s books are connected via this handy guide.
"One thing is certain: Revealed is not just a simple romance novel, it is a damn good one."
- The Book Smugglers (posted March, 2009)
"Blending the elegance of society gatherings with the dark underworld of espionage (à la Amanda Quick), Noble crafts an exciting, witty and highly entertaining tale about an unlikely duo caught in a killer's web."
- Romantic Times (posted March, 2009)
“Revealed is witty and engaging and Kate Noble’s story telling is wonderful. There is also some great suspense, wonderful laughs, and nice, passionate love scenes.”
- Babbling about Books, and More (posted March, 2009)
“Revealed is fresh and lively and utterly delightful. Revealed will enchant lovers of the Regency novel, but I highly recommend it even for those who usually avoid this genre. Somehow, I think you’ll be hooked by this story as securely as I was.”
- Fallen Angels Reviews, Recommended Read (posted March, 2009)
“...if Revealed is any indication of her talent, I've got a new author on my auto-buy list.”
- The Romance Reader (posted April, 2009)
“I knew it.”
Marcus had to admit, having the long, lovely body of Phillippa Benning in his arms temporarily made him foggy on what it was that she thought she knew with such certainty.
But he remembered quickly enough.
Her eyes - more green than blue, even in the dark of the unlit library - were wide and fixed on his face. The corners of her slack mouth tilted and crept upwards, as if she were amazed, nay, awed, by what she beheld.
Very rarely were women awed by him.
He almost smiled back. Almost.
Marcus felt curiously reluctant to put the beautiful Phillippa Benning down. But really, prolonging the moment was foolish, as he had no reason to keep holding her.
“You should be more careful,” he said, his voice surprisingly soft as he set her on her feet. Her gaze remained on his face, unflinching, almost rapturous.
Really, it was becoming disconcerting.
“I can’t believe no one ever guessed,” she said, her hand still on his arm. Marcus looked at it. Then at her. Then, he assumed his most bored tones.
“Guessed what? That you have a passion for mischief in libraries? True enough, I would have never guessed that at all. Mischief yes, libraries, no.”
He expected a reaction from her, hoped for a superior look, like she gave Mariah at the table – anything to stop her staring at him as if he had grown a second head more handsome than his original.
But, as it was, she refused to comply.
“You hardly seem the type,” she spoke conversationally, “which is I suppose what makes you the perfect type. Unassuming, blends in, except for your height, but of course you can stoop when necessary –”
She continued blithely, as if she were discussing something as mundane as a new riding habit. “And I cannot fathom the training you had to undergo – those spectacles, are they real?”
Caught off guard, he answered automatically. “They’re for reading. Mrs. Benning --”
“But you wear them always… oh, I understand, it’s a sort of counter-disguise –”
“Mrs. Benning!” he said firmly (all right, yelled). After a deep breath, he continued more calmly. “What is it you think I am?”
“Why, a spy of course.” She leaned down and picked up one of the black feathers. “Specifically, the Blue Raven.”
For a moment, he could only blink at her.
Those stupid feathers. They were put there so long ago, he’d almost forgotten they existed.
Trust her to find them.
“Mrs. Benning,” he sighed, “have a seat – we’re lucky to be in a library with a sofa.”
“I am not the Blue Raven,” he said, after folding himself next to her on the couch.
In response, Phillippa simply raised an eyebrow, and waggled the feather in front of his rather astonished looking nose. She almost giggled. He really had no idea who he was dealing with, did he?
“Those could be uncut quills, you know.”
She responded by simply giving him look number five. The one that said, ‘you have erroneously come to the conclusion that I’m an idiot.’
He sighed. “You do realize that this is not my home. It is my brother Graham’s home, not mine. Any evidence found in this establishment to support your theory would incriminate him, not –”
At times, Phillippa found the best way to stop someone from talking was to slap a hand over their mouth. Since this was a practice she wasn’t allowed to engage in often, being a lady, she relished the opportunity to do so now.
“Mr. Worth. I know. And know you know I know. And I can’t stop knowing what I know, no matter how much you deny it. So, in the spirit of gratitiude, for all of the – whatever it was you did during the war, I would like to show you my appreciation.”
An eyebrow went up. He calmly pulled her hand down from his mouth, and asked, “how would you show your… appreciation?”
“Why by throwing you a party, of course!” she replied, beaming her most ingratiating smile at him.
Suffice to say, he seemed shocked.
“You wish to throw a party. For me,” he repeated dumbly.
“Absolutely! I know the whole of London would love to thank you for your service, and what better way to do it than at the gala Benning Ball?”
Phillippa knew very little of Mr. Worth, his mind set, his habits. But one thing she did know was that he had at every turn surprised her. He did not fail now – he placed his head in his hand and began making the muffled noises that one could only associate with crying.
“I know, I know,” she said consolingly, “you think it excessive. But I assure you, it’s not! Why, the Blue Raven is a hero, a legend in our own time! No amount of festivities would ever been enough!” Gingerly, she placed her hand on his jerking shoulders, smoothing her palm over the fine cloth of his coat. A conciliatory smoothing gesture. “There, there,” she murmured in time with her ministrations.
However, her ministrations stopped abruptly when Marcus Worth lifted his head, revealing his muffled, wracking sobs to instead be a full fit of laughter.
“Oh, Mrs. Benning, leave off, I beg you!” he said, in between chuckles.
Phillippa stopped cold, her mouth gaping like a fish. Then suddenly, as if all the wind had left her body, she fell onto the couch next to him, her posture relaxed.
“Most men enjoy playing the game you know,” she said, somewhat amused. “Most men, they respond to a flittery innocent, or a coquette, or –”
“Most men are too blockheaded to realize only you know all the rules to this game,” he sighed, and shook his head. “Mrs. Benning, why not simply tell me what you want?” he said, half a smile playing across his face.
“Fine.” She leaned back, crossing her arms. “I want to reveal the identity of the Blue Raven at the Benning Ball. It will be the most spectacular event in the Ton, and it will take place at my party. A tremendous triumph.”
“And you will no doubt be cited in the papers the next day,” he said, nodding along.
“I’ll be cited in the papers for years! It will be fabulous -- a full masquerade, all the men and women masked alike, and then, each person strips off their mask one at a time – the entire hall will be done in capes and shadowed corners, espionage, the thrill of the hunt –”
“How very gothic you are, Mrs. Benning,” he said wryly. “However, if I were the Blue Raven, and I refuse to confirm that assumption, you would be exposing me to the world and all my enemies. Revealing my identity would very likely get me killed.”
Phillippa had to admit, he had a point.
“But…the war is over sir! Your enemies have been vanquished.”
“Not entirely.” He repeated firmly, standing. “Don’t play coy, Mrs. Benning. I know that you could hear perfectly well in that sarcophagus. Hence your whole… maddening curiosity. By-the-by, I told you to disregard that conversation.”
“Which only made me regard it more,” she retorted.
At this, Phillippa stood, toe to toe with him. She looked him dead in the eye, and played her trump card. “Because you want something from me.”
Phillippa held her breath, watching his brow darken. He leaned in to her. “And what could you possibly offer me, Mrs. Benning? A nod and hello? A spot on your… guest list?”
“Exactly,” she said, choosing to ignore his idiotic, if somewhat startling, innuendo. “You’re correct sir, in that I could hear very well in that dusty sarcophagus. I heard you have a list of social events that are possibly under attack. May I venture a guess as to what was on that list?”
At his nod, she continued. “The Whitford Banquet?”
He nodded again.
“The Hampshire Racing Party?”
“The Gold Ball at Regent’s Park?”
He nodded a last time, then eyed her speculatively.
“How did you deduce –”
“They are annual events,” she interrupted. “They are exclusive. And the people that throw them… really it wasn’t all that difficult to discern.” Phillippa took a step forward, closing the space between them. “I can get you into all these parties. I can make certain you’re on the guest list.”
“What makes you think I don’t have invitations already?” he inquired.
“You’re not good Ton,” she replied matter-of-factly.
An eyebrow shot up. “Please Mrs. Benning, don’t spare my feelings,” he said dryly.
“Even worse. No title, and no possible hope of one. Your prospects are modest at best. Your brother’s a rather minor baron and your sister-in-law’s fervent charity work does not grease the wheels of Society in your favor, does it? These parties – they’re not everyday type things like Almack’s. I wager a thousand pounds that you have no earthly idea of how to get into any of these exclusive events.”
She smiled. “You need me.”
She stepped up to him. Delicately, placed a hand on his shirt, felt the rise and fall of his chest stutter. “You once told me that to sway you, all I need do, is ask you nicely. So, please. Just consider it?” She batted her eyelashes. “That’s all I’m asking right now.”
His hand came to rest on top of hers. And then, deftly, he cast it away.
“Is that your sole trick? One would think you’d have a more expansive repertoire.”
Phillippa recoiled as if stung. Haughtily, she stepped back. Looked down her nose at him. As best she could, at any rate.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
“I’m sure you do,” he retorted. “Your plan is ridiculous, and yet you try to persuade me with coy looks and a hand on my shirt. You tried this ploy on me before, if you recall, and it didn’t work that time, either. Perhaps you’re confusing me with your much sought after Marquis?” He leaned back languidly against the shelves as she stood straight, holding her ground. “After all, that little maneuver seemed to work wonders for you in your competition to entrap the poor sod.”
Phillippa felt her smile falter. “You are aware of a… competition?”
He snorted. “My congratulations – as of our last meeting you were making great ground with Broughton. I doubt Lady Jane could possibly be faring as well.”
She stared at him, unable to countenance this hard talk with the mild man who presented it. “I daresay I am making great ground with Broughton. Not two days ago he took me on a private picnic, we got to know one another better. It was very pleasant.”
“I’m certain it was. The dewy grass is far more pleasant for getting to know someone than the lid of a sarcophagus.”
Phillippa almost smiled. In point of fact, the picnic with Broughton had been an exercise in her own agility as a flirt. Oh she made certain that Broughton did not tempt her to feel that dewy grass, but every syllable of conversation was loaded with double and triple meaning, that Phillippa herself didn’t know what was being said half the time. Such discourse was the Ton’s stock and trade.
So she had to admit – speaking frankly to Marcus Worth was so refreshing, it smacked closely of being entertaining.
But that didn’t mean she wouldn’t defend herself against his playful taunting.
“I can assure you, Mr. Worth, that my…meeting with Broughton on the sarcophagus lid was perfectly comfortable. Why, he almost made me forget the cold. And I’ll have you know, I never forget anything.”
At that, Marcus shouldered himself away from the shelves, and with easy, lazy shuffling, came to stand directly in front of her. His hand playing on his chin, and a twinkle playing in his eye, he asked, “You said he almost made you forget the cold?”
“Well then,” he smiled, “you’re, er, meeting, didn’t go as well as you think.”
“My meeting went very – very – well,” she retorted, watching his every move suspiciously.
“I don’t think so. You see, if it had gone well, you would have burned through that sarcophagus lid – never mind its temperature at the start.”
“Oh and you would know, would you?” she narrowed her eyes, cocked her head to the side.
“I would. But more’s the pity,” he whispered, leaning into her, “ you don’t.”
It was the smallest thing really. No reason that this little taunt should have gone any further. Except – her eyes flicked to his mouth, that wry corner lifted, the hint of white teeth shining through. Curiosity flickered in her belly. But he was watching her intently, she knew, so she would just step back, remain passive, cool–
But she didn’t. Suddenly, the gap closed between them, and his lips were on hers.
This was new.
This was different.
Because this kiss she felt to her toes. This kiss hit every single one of her senses with its delicate force. And this kiss made her forget that she shouldn’t be kissing him.
Whereas Broughton had felt the need to press her back, Marcus Worth did not overpower her. In fact, he didn’t touch her, except for his mouth on hers. But she could feel everything. His strength, his warmth. His arms remained at his sides, in his pockets, but she knew that had he touched her, his hands would run through her hair, graze the line of her jaw, follow the length of her collar bone –
A shiver raced down her spine. Unknowningly, she parted her lips, let him inside. As his tongue danced with hers, she leaned into him, put her silk-covered length against his wool. Her hand found its way to his hair, ran through it, the other grazed his jaw, followed the length of his collar bone – and all Phillippa wanted was to feel more.
But just as surprisingly, as suddenly as the kiss had begun, it ended.
He pulled away, slowly. Phillippa followed, at first, until he broke their connection, the cool air filling the space between them. She opened her eyes, slightly bewildered, her heart beating at an alarming rate. His face reflected her wonder, as he let out a long, slow breath. But then, that corner of his mouth slid up, arrogant and taunting, letting her know that he knew every single feeling that had coursed through her body in that last few moments.
So, considering the time, the place, and position she found herself in, Phillippa did the only thing she could think of as situationally appropriate.
She hauled back, and slapped him.