"Can a strong-willed lady convince a determined gentleman that they are destined to love each other?"
Reviewed by Kay Quintin
Posted January 16, 2010
At the age of 14, a very determined Isabella Weston
believed herself in love with her brother Henry's closest
friend, 20-year-old James Sheffield. Izzy was determined
that the man of her dreams should declare his love to her
forever. Now, after being away from Ireland for five years,
James returns to fulfill his promise to Izzy by attending
her "coming-out" ball, only to find that she's turned into
a beautiful goddess who makes his blood boil.
Losing his mother in childbirth, followed by the death of
his father, James grew up under the guardianship of his
stern and loveless grandfather, the Earl of Dunston. Having
lost all he loved, James is determined never to love again
and to extinguish the Sheffield family line. Izzy has other
ideas that quickly culminate in deceit and trickery to
achieve what she desires most. James must use all the
willpower he possesses to reject the one person who can
make him whole again.
PROMISE ME TONIGHT is a Weston novel set in an era of
proper society. James is an appealing young man who feels
much loneliness. Izzy is a beautiful young woman with one
goal in mind -- to love and be loved by James. She will go
to any cost to achieve that end result. The Weston family
is delightful and entertaining. Izzy and her schemes will
keep you on your toes waiting for the next round. I look
forward to tales of the other Weston siblings.
The Weston siblings have been blessed with Shakespearean
names and an affinity for impropriety.
Prepare to fall in love while discovering how the
Westons are won.
Isabella is determined to marry James....
Isabella Weston has loved James Sheffield for as long as
can remember. Her come-out ball seems the perfect chance
to make him see her in a new light.
James is determined never to marry....
James is stunned to find the impish girl he once knew has
blossomed into a sensual goddess. And if he remembers his
lessons correctly, goddesses always spell trouble for
A compromise is clearly necessary.
When Izzie kisses James, her artless ardor turns to a
seduction that drives him mad with desire. But, no stranger
to heartbreak, James is determined never to love, and thus
never to lose. Can Isabella convince him that a life without
love might be the biggest loss of all?
ExcerptWeston Manor, Essex
Perched precariously on the banister of the long portrait
gallery so as to better observe the party in progress one
floor below, fourteen-year-old Isabella Weston was faced
with the devastating sight of her true love dancing with
another woman. She turned her head to look at one of her
younger sisters, Olivia, who, safely seated on the floor,
was craning her head to peer through the carved marble
“Can you believe how that—that hussy is dancing with
James?” Izzie demanded. “Honestly, she should be ashamed,
dancing like that with a man who is not her husband.”
Izzie, of course, fully planned on dancing with James
Sheffield that way, but she would be married to him when
she did—or engaged, at the very least. Of course, since
she’d been planning the wedding since the day they’d met,
Isabella felt they were practically engaged.
She’d been only six when they’d met, but one smile from
James had been all it took for her to tumble head over
heels in love. Of course, she hadn’t really known at the
time that it was love—just that she wanted him more than
she’d ever wanted anything before. She wanted to take care
of him, to share her family with him, to fill his world
with laughter and brightness, and banish the shadows from
his eyes. And though she’d been young, Izzie had been
nothing if not determined, and she’d determined, right then
and there, that someday when she was all grown-up, James
Sheffield would be hers. Now she was all grown-up, or
almost, and the sight of James with another woman made
that “almost” almost unbearable.
“Oh, Izzie.” Livvy sighed, sounding far older than her
twelve years. “Not James again!”
Isabella shrugged. “I can’t help it. I love him.”
“I know, believe me, I know. I would get far more sleep
if you didn’t. But he, well—” Olivia bit her lip and tugged
at a lock of golden-brown hair. “He’s older.”
“James is not old. He just turned twenty in May. Hal”—
she waved a hand at the crowd below that included the
girls’ older brother, Henry—“will be twenty in September,
and he certainly isn’t old.”
“I didn’t say James was old. I said he was older. And
he’s Hal’s best friend . . . and our neighbor. To him
you’re nothing more than a little sister, and even if he is
aware of your feelings, I’m worried that—”
“Aargh! I just saw that woman touch his—” Izzie waved a
hand in the vicinity of her backside, nearly toppling over
the railing as she did so. As much as she wanted to squash
that woman like a bug, she had imagined doing so in a more
metaphorical sense. And, of course, such a fall might well
break her neck and, if it didn’t, her mother might kill her
anyway for appearing en déshabillé in front of the guests.
Not that her thick flannel nightgown and wrapper didn’t
cover every inch of her from the neck down, because they
did, but it wouldn’t be proper.
Along with snakes, spiders, and apricot jam, Izzie
loathed the word “proper.” Henry tormented her with the
former, her mother with the latter. But it was her mother’s
sort of torture that made her quake in her boots; propriety
and Izzie had never gone together.
Izzie hopped down from the banister and plopped herself
beside her sister. “Now, what were you worried about?”
“Nothing,” Livvy muttered.
“Do you know who she is?”
Olivia rolled her eyes and, without bothering to ask for
clarification as to the “she” in question, replied, “I
believe the woman dancing with James is the rather
notorious widow who finally convinced Lord Finkley to walk
down the aisle again.”
“Oh dear,” Isabella whispered, torn between fascination
After his wife had passed away some fifty years earlier,
Lord Finkley had spent his time with a parade of young
mistresses and society widows, each of whom had hoped to
seduce the wealthy, elderly man into matrimony. None had
succeeded . . . until now. This meant that James was in the
hands of the most cunning female England had seen in half a
century or an evil sorceress—or both. Either way, Izzie
didn’t like it one bit!
“I had expected something more of the woman who finally
trapped Lord Finkley.”
Olivia shook her head. “You’re just jealous, and you
“The way she’s acting is disgraceful,” Izzie huffed. “Do
you see the way she’s throwing herself at him? Why doesn’t
her husband do something?”
“Because he’s in the corner, snoring his head off, and
has been for the last hour?” Livvy suggested. “Truly, I
don’t think James minds. She is quite beautiful,” she
added, rather unnecessarily in Izzie’s opinion.
“I suppose. If you like the tall, skinny, far-too-much-
Of course, even though she would have liked to, Izzie
couldn’t blame the woman for throwing herself at James. He
was too handsome for his own good. She could spend—drat it,
had spent—countless hours cataloging his physical
perfections, the first of which had to be his hair.
It was the color of vintage brandy, highlighted with
gold where the sun had kissed it. He wore it just a bit
longer than the current fashion, and it curled up at the
ends where it met his collar.
Then there were his eyes, beautiful green eyes fringed
by lashes that were most unfairly longer and darker than
hers. Her lashes were a scant shade darker than the straw-
colored hair on her head, and didn’t that just figure.
Vanity, thy name is Isabella Weston.
He had a nicer nose than she did, too. Aquiline, she
believed, was the word, and it made him look quite fierce
and arrogant in a way she secretly found thrilling. Her
nose was very average in comparison. It wasn’t even
fashionablyretroussé like Olivia’s. And wasn’t that the
height of unfairness? Isabella felt that as the first
daughter born in the Weston family, she ought to have had
first pick of nice noses.
Lady Finkley had a rather elegant nose, Isabella noted
unhappily. It was a trifle on the long side, though, she
decided as Lady Finkley leaned close to James and whispered
something in his ear that caused him to throw his head back
Isabella ground her teeth as the clock in the gallery
sounded half-past eleven. James and Henry had promised to
bring sweets up to her and Livvy before midnight since they
were too young to be allowed downstairs for the ball.
Olivia yawned. “I’m sorry, Izzie, but I can’t stay awake
any longer. They’ve probably forgotten about us in any
case. I’m for bed. Good night.”
“Mmm-hmmm,” Isabella mumbled, never taking her eyes off
the scene below.
“Common courtesy demands that you wish me good night in
Olivia gave a loud huff. “The things I have to put up
with,” she muttered under her breath. Izzie heard her, but
she was too preoccupied to give her sister a worthy parting
shot. Livvy heaved a disgusted sigh as she stood and padded
off toward the bedchamber they shared.
The things I have to put up with, indeed, Isabella
thought as she watched James walk with Lady Finkley around
the perimeter of the ballroom, her arm wrapped about his
and his hand resting on the small of her back. Izzie
grimaced. She knew exactly how powerful that touch was. It
was so magical that from the very first time she had held
his hand, she’d never wanted to let go. She did, however,
want Lady Finkley to let go. In fact, she just plain wanted
her to go. Finally, after two immeasurably long turns about
the room, Izzie’s wish came at least partly true when James
escorted Lady Finkley over to her comatose spouse.
Izzie tracked James as he moved through the throng of
guests, pausing when she caught sight of her parents
dancing together, gazing at each other as if they were the
only people in the room. It was sweet, she supposed, that
they were still so much in love, but it was also rather
embarrassing. It was a trifle discomfiting too, given that
Isabella’s baby brother, Richard, had been christened just
that morning—thus the reason for the celebration downstairs—
and her mother had said, with a pointed look toward
Isabella’s father, that she did not plan on there being any
more christenings at Weston Manor until she was a
grandmother. However, the looks she was currently giving
her husband told an entirely different story!
Not really wanting to follow where that train of thought
led, Isabella’s eyes sought out James once more and found
him with Henry, who was standing in the crush of people by
the refreshments. She should have known. Her mother often
said her eldest child had been born with a bottomless pit
in place of a stomach. Unfortunately, the same could be
said of Lord Blathersby, whose sole interest in life—
besides food, of course—was his sheep, which meant that
Henry often got stuck speaking with the ovine-loving
gentleman. From the pained look on her brother’s face, he’d
been trapped for some time now. Poor Hal. But, she thought
in true sisterly fashion, better him than me!
* * *
James Sheffield had always considered himself a good
person, but he spent several moments savoring his best
friend’s suffering expression before going in to rescue him
from the most boring man in Christendom.
“Took you bloody long enough,” Henry grumbled as they
made their escape. “I’ve been trying to get your attention
for ages, but you were too wrapped up in the luscious Lady
Finkley to pay any notice. Not that I blame you. Had
similar thoughts myself. Bloody unfair, though, that you
got to play Casanova while I was stuck with old Blathersby
and his sheep.”
“Blathersby and his sheep,” James laughed. “Never fear;
I’ve heard it all before and on multiple occasions.” He
shook his head. “Come, it’s nearly midnight, and we
promised Izzie and Livvy we’d bring them some sweets.”
Henry grimaced. “Lord, it completely slipped my mind.
Good thing you remembered. You know how Izzie gets when
James nodded and hustled Henry over to the crowd waiting
to get at the dessert table.
“What a devilishly dull affair,” Henry remarked as they
waited in line. “First the christening this morning, and
now this. It was good of you to come. You could have been
off weeks ago.”
“Of course I came,” James replied, a gruff note creeping
into his voice. “Neither of us would have been comfortable
leaving until your mother was safely delivered, and
delaying our trip for another month made no real
difference. The Colosseum isn’t going anywhere, and it was
important to your mother that you be here for Richard’s
“And you,” Henry insisted.
“Only to make sure I keep you out of trouble,” James
teased, but his chest was tight with emotion. The Westons
were the closest thing he had to a family since having been
orphaned at age ten and sent to live with his grandfather,
the Earl of Dunston. The best that could be said of the
earl was that his main property, Sheffield Park, neighbored
Weston Manor, home to Viscount Weston and his family.
They had taken him in as another son; their warm,
bustling home had been his refuge. When he and Henry had
gone off to Eton, Lady Weston had kissed and clucked and
wept over both of them, a performance she had repeated when
they’d headed to Oxford.
She had cried when they’d graduated earlier that year,
but James figured that was primarily because Henry had
spent more time “rusticating” than he had at school. James
had taken a first in literature, partly to please Lady
Weston, who was more than a little enamored of a certain
Elizabethan playwright. Henry had joked that morning that
if his father had not had some say in the naming of his
children, the family’s newest addition might well have been
christened Hamlet or Falstaff. Yes, the Weston children
were fortunate to have such a father. James had once
thought himself lucky in his own sire, but—
He shook his head. He didn’t want to think about it. Not
tonight. Not ever, really. Far better to focus on the
“Put it back on the plate, Hal. These are for Izzie and
Livvy,” James scolded as they filed past the refreshments
“When did you grow eyes in the back of your head?” Henry
grumbled through a mouthful of cake.
“I’ve known you since we were ten. Don’t you think a
decade of friendship gives me some insight? Besides, you
eat everything within reach.”
“I’m a growing lad,” Henry retorted.
James chuckled. He was tall at six feet, but his best
friend had at least three inches on him and was built like
a brawny prizefighter.
“If you grow any bigger, I am going to sell you to a
traveling gypsy circus.”
“Remind me once more why we are friends?”
“Aside from the fact that no one else is going to put up
with you?” James joked, turning to look back at Henry. “For
one thing, you would never have graduated without my help.”
Henry laughed. “I still can’t puzzle out how you went to
all those boring lectures.”
“Self-control?” James suggested.
Henry grinned and shrugged his shoulders. “I doubt it
would have made a difference. I was never much good at
James couldn’t argue with that. Intellectual pursuits
were not, admittedly, Henry’s forte. Bedroom games—
actually, games and sports in general—were where he
excelled. Still, James was certain Henry was smarter than
he let on; his best friend certainly wasn’t lacking in
imagination, he reflected, remembering all of the scrapes
Henry had gotten them into.
He was smiling as he made his way up to the gallery,
Henry right behind him, but his amusement faded when he saw
Isabella standing at the top of the stairs, one foot
tapping impatiently, her arms crossed.
“Finally!” she exclaimed. “I was beginning to think you
Standing as she was, the braces of candles flanking the
staircase illuminated her from behind, casting a golden
glow all about her and gilding her unruly blond curls into
a halo. She looked like an irate angel.
“What happened to Livvy?” Henry asked.
Izzie gave them both a pointed look. “She got tired of
waiting, figured you had forgotten us, and decided to go to
Henry looked down at the plate and glass in his hands as
the clock chimed the quarter hour. “I’m sure she’s still
up. I’ll go take this to her. Wouldn’t want her to think we
forgot. She can be nearly as bad as you.” And with that
said, he took off down the hallway.
“What does he mean, ‘She can be nearly as bad as you’?”
Izzie muttered, sitting down.
“Er, have some cake,” James said quickly, shoving the
plate of sweets at her. He waited until she’d downed three
gingersnaps and a piece of cake before deeming her mood
restored enough for him to safely sit beside her.
“So, did you enjoy the dancing?” he asked.
“Not as much as you seemed to,” she said, a hint of
bitterness shading her words.
“Beg pardon?” James leaned closer to her, certain he’d
“I simply remarked that you seemed to be having a grand
time dancing with Lady Finkley.” She stared down at her
plate. “Is she your lover?”
“W-what?” James sputtered. “Izzie! That—that is totally
inappropriate. You shouldn’t even know about—”
“Lovers?” she supplied, gazing up impishly at him as she
licked her fingers.
“Yes, blast it! You shouldn’t know about those sorts of
things, and you certainly shouldn’t ever speak of them.”
“Then she isn’t?” Isabella queried.
“No!” James exploded, and then lowered his voice. “Dash
it all, this isn’t proper. And it certainly isn’t any of
The softly uttered syllable contained a definite note of
dejection. She looked away, and James thought he saw her
shoulders tremble. He instantly gentled his tone. “Izzie,
look at me. Come on. Izzie.”
She kept her eyes glued to the plate in her hands. He
took it from her and set it aside, then placed a finger
under her chin, raising her head until he could look into
“My God, you’re jealous,” he said incredulously. She
swung her head away but made no attempt to deny it. James
cupped his hand around her cheek, turning her face back to
his, and felt wetness on the silky, soft flesh pressed to
his palm. He watched a single tear trickle down her pale
cheek, then another and another, turning her lashes into
dark golden spikes.
“Sweetheart,” he pleaded, though he hadn’t a clue what
he was pleading for. Direction, he supposed. And he had
learned from past experience that uttering an endearment
was the safest way to break the silence in situations like
these. Of course, he had never been in this particular
position before, and he hoped never to be in it again. It
was damned uncomfortable!
Bloody hell. Isabella had always dogged his heels when
she was younger, but he’d had no idea she fancied him in
that way. She looked miserable and defeated, so unlike her
usual sunny self, and it killed him to be the cause of it.
He slung his arm around her shoulders, hugging her close.
She burrowed her face into his shoulder, soaking his jacket
with her tears.
“Don’t cry, Izzie,” James begged. “Please, don’t cry.”
“I-it’s j-just that you were s-smiling and laughing with
her, and I just w-wished so badly that I was older and
could wear a beautiful gown and be the one dancing with
you.” The words were muffled as they poured out against the
soft, black wool of his coat. He murmured nonsense into her
hair, soothing her as he would an upset child, but it only
made her cry harder.
“Hush, now.” James cupped her face in his hands and
wiped her tears away. “I am not nearly so good a dancer as
to be worth all this fuss.”
The small smile she gave him made James feel like the
king of England—utterly grand and slightly mad. As James
stared into her watery eyes, for a moment, it seemed as if
he saw his soul gazing back at him; the thought terrified
him, and he pulled his hands away as if burned.
“Someday,” he said gruffly, “when you’re older and have
that beautiful dress, there will be so many men wanting to
dance with you, you’ll wonder why you wanted to dance with
“That is not true!” Isabella protested fervently. “I
will want to dance with you for the rest of my life. Only
you. I knowit. I know, and I won’t change my mind. I won’t.”
“You will,” James insisted.
“Never.” She sniffed and shook her head mutinously. “I
“I hope you are not so foolish as to think yourself in
love with me.”
She flinched at his tone.
He hated that he was hurting her, but it was best to end
this infatuation now. “What you feel for me isn’t love—
affection, admiration even, but not love. And if you’re
smart, you will save your love for some lucky man who
deserves it and will love you back. I am not capable of
“But surely, when you were younger…”
“That was a long time ago. I have had some years, and no
small amount of help from my grandsire, in which to conquer
Isabella shot to her feet. “Love is not a weakness—”
“For God’s sake, lower your voice.” He stood and looked
down at her. “So young and innocent,” he murmured. “Izzie,
I hope you will never find love to be a weakness.” His
voice was weary and bleak. “But I promise you it can be.”
She shook her head and jabbed a finger at his
chest. “And I promise you I will still want that dance.”
Izzie glowered, her bottom lip thrust out and quivering,
and he knew the fight was up. “All right, don’t glare at me
so. If you still wish it, when the time is right, I will
certainly claim that dance.”
Isabella’s face brightened, and her eyes lit with sudden
James felt a moment of trepidation, but he told himself
it was foolish. Izzie would likely fix her attention on
some other gentleman and forget this entire exchange within
a fortnight. And if she didn’t, it wasn’t as though a dance
with her would change anything.
“Do you promise?” Isabella demanded.
“Promise what?” Henry asked, his sudden presence
startling them both.
“James was just going to promise to dance with me at my
come-out ball,” Isabella replied.
He hadn’t been about to do any such thing, James wanted
to protest, but he didn’t want Henry to know what had
transpired. For one thing, it would embarrass Izzie. For
another, he wasn’t certain how Hal would react.
He might take it as a great joke; Henry was generally an
easygoing fellow. When it came to his family, though, Henry
was all seriousness—fierce, protective, pistols-at-dawn
seriousness. Of course, James had done nothing to encourage
Izzie, but Henry might not care. And James really didn’t
want to get laid flat because of some innocent fancy. From
their sparring sessions at Gentleman Jackson’s, James was
painfully aware that Henry had a bruising right hook.
“Izzie, your come-out ball?” Henry frowned. “That’s
years from now and—”
“I promise,” James said quietly, his eyes never leaving
“Good.” Isabella gave James a smile that had him
wondering if a dance was truly all he had agreed to. He
wasn’t sure why, but he had the eerie feeling that he had
just given himself into the custody of a girl with eyes the
color of a summer sky and a smile that filled his heart in
a way that scared him down to his toes.
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