Strictly Legal

Available in stores

Waldenbooks top 10 bestseller

 

Mills & Boon Modern Extra

July 2006

ISBN: 0263849929

 

Harlequin Promotional Presents as Mistress on Trial

August 2007

ISBN: 9780373820542

Breaking and entering...

Barrister Leo Ballantyne is not the usual kind of guy that Rose falls for - strait-laced, serious and sexy... in fact, seriously sexy! It doesn't help that he thinks she's a flake and a bad influence. Rose is not particularly keen on Leo, either. Except she can't help wanting him to flip his wig and make serious and sexy love to her...

However, though Rose might feel that when it comes to her Leo has already acted as judge and jury, actually he fancies her like crazy! His dilemma is that Rose is of the wild variety - a vintage clothes dealer with a boho life and an allegedly dodgy past - and she'd surely play havoc with his ambitions to further his legal career...

This looks like one case that'll have to be adjourned - until some red-hot passion takes over!

Also released in Australia in paperback (December 2006, ISBN: 0733572936).

 


Behind the Book

I'm intrigued by the idea of opposites attracting. Everyone said when I met my husband that it would never work because we're so different... actually, we think the same way about the important things in life, and the differences are enough to make life interesting! So I thought I'd explore the idea a bit more in this book.

So that's why we start with Rose - a second hand clothes dealer - and Leo, a barrister. Different worlds, different attitudes, the worst possible person each other could fall for... Leo thinks Rose is an unreliable flake and no way is he going to let her have charge of his four-year-old niece while his kid sister goes away. Rose thinks Leo is a stuffy, humourless barrister and no way is she going to let him make her goddaughter miserable.

Except then they discover they're both wrong. Leo finds out that Rose is responsible; and Rose finds out that Leo has a sense of humour. Oh, and they fancy each other rotten. Except a relationship isn't in the plans for either of them.

It's going fine until Rose's past comes back to haunt her - meaning she has to make a very, very difficult choice. Leo doesn't react in the way she expects. And... if you want to know how they bridge the gap between love and career, you'll have to read it!

It's dedicated to Cathy, whom I met when I first became a Mills & Boon author and she's become a good friend over the years. This is my way of saying thanks for her support and very, very wise advice.

Leo makes Rose Mexican salad - one of my favourite lunches.

The Book's Soundtrack

This book has a rather eclectic soundtrack - and you'll have to read between the lines in the text to see where it fits in, as references to popular culture are pretty much frowned upon by editors (because they date your book). Rose listens to Fifties' torch songs and Leo listens to classical music, so the soundtrack for the book (which also happens to be in my collection) includes:

  • Nat King Cole - particularly Magnificent Obsession and On The Street Where You Live
  • Julie London - Cry Me a River (this is the Black Moment song)
  • Christian Forshaw - Mortal Flesh (from his album Sanctuary)
  • Bach's cello sonata no 2

Read a Bit

CHAPTER ONE

'You look like a princess,' a sleepy voice murmured.

And she did. Like a gypsy princess. Barefoot, in a white slub-silk slip dress trimmed with lace, with a crimson feather boa draped round her shoulders, a sparkly tiara in her hair and dark curls corkscrewing down her back, she should have looked a mess. Like an adult playing at dressing up.

Instead, she looked good enough to eat.

And he could imagine her wearing just the feather boa...

Leo Ballantyne was furious with himself for thinking that way about Rose Carter - his baby sister's best friend and, in his view, the worst thing that had ever happened to Sara. Rose was bad news, with a capital B. And now Sara had gone off somewhere for a few days and left Rose - one of her flakiest, most unreliable friends - to look after Daisy.

Unbelievable.

So much for thinking that motherhood had settled Sara and made her more responsible; she still clearly had the 'wild child' streak she'd had since her teens, doing whatever she pleased and leaving everyone else to sort out the chaos she trailed in her wake.

And no way was Leo letting his four-year-old niece stay in the care of Rose Carter. Even if Rose was cuddling Daisy right now and reading her a story. Daisy should have been in bed and asleep ages ago. And the flat was a complete tip. The living room looked as if it had been burgled, with things strewn everywhere and a huge pile of laundry just dumped on one of the chairs. He shuddered to think what the kitchen looked like. How could one woman make so much mess in the space of half a day?

Then Rose glanced up, saw him leaning against the doorjamb, and shrieked.

'It's all right, Aunty Rose, it's not a burglar. It's only Uncle Leo,' Daisy said as she peered round Rose. She gave Leo the wide smile that always melted his heart, and a tiny little wave. ''Lo, Uncle Leo.'

He smiled back. 'Hello, Princess.'

Rose stroked the little girl's hair. 'I'm sorry if I scared you when I screamed, Daze. I was just a bit surprised because wasn't expecting to see anyone.' Her mouth thinned as she looked straight at Leo again. 'I didn't hear you knock.'

Because he hadn't bothered. He'd found out the situation from his mother; Sara's phone had switched to answering machine and her mobile phone had been switched off, so he'd driven straight over to Sara's flat to see for himself what the situation was and whether his niece was all right.

Right now, his worst fears had been realised.

He realised that Rose was waiting for an answer. Why hadn't he knocked? 'I have Sara's spare key.'

'And you normally just let yourself in?'

Of course not. He had that key for emergencies - and, in his view, this counted as an emergency. Was Rose trying to make him feel guilty for looking after his little sister and his niece? 'This isn't a normal situation,' he said coolly.

Rose frowned at him. 'Pas devant l'enfant.'

He blinked. Was it his imagination, or had she just spoken French to him in a perfect accent? He'd had no idea that she knew French. Not in front of the child. She was right. They shouldn't drag Daisy into this. And it riled him that she was the one who'd been responsible enough to think of it, not him.

'Go and make yourself a coffee or something. I'm reading Daisy a bedtime story. And then you're going to go to sleep, aren't you, sweetheart, while Uncle Leo and I have a little chat in the kitchen?'

'Yes, Aunty Rose.' The little girl smiled trustingly at Rose.

It irritated him that Rose had somehow taken charge, but there wasn't much he could do right now. Not without creating a scene and upsetting Daisy at bedtime, which he wasn't willing to do. It wasn't his little niece's fault. And he should be protecting her, not putting yet more disorder into her life.

'Goodnight, Princess. Sleep well,' Leo said. He had to walk across the room and lean across Rose to kiss his niece goodnight. Bad move. Because Rose's perfume was the sexiest thing he'd smelled in weeks, and it was oh, so tempting to move back very slightly and kiss her, too.

He yanked his self-control back in place, just in time, then left the room and headed for the kitchen. Which was absolutely spotless. Well, Rose had left the dinner things to air-dry on the draining board, but apart from that everything was clean and tidy. Maybe he'd overreacted about the living room. He made himself a cup of coffee and sat at the kitchen table.

Everything about Rose Carter set his teeth on edge. From the boho chic of her dress, to her chaotic lifestyle, to the sweet vanilla scent of her perfume. Like a topnote for rich, dark chocolate. It made him want to taste her, when really he should want to throttle her. Rose really wasn't good for Sara. She'd encouraged Sara to drop out of college; and, worse, he knew Rose had been in court charged with handling stolen goods. He'd hoped that maybe Sara would grow out of the friendship - he'd already learned the hard way that Sara did the opposite of whatever her family suggested, so he hadn't made a big issue of it - but it seemed that Rose was still hanging round his sister and dragging her down.

There were pictures pinned to the corkboard on the wall next to the kitchen table. Pictures of Daisy and Sara dressed in the same kind of boho chic as Rose. Second hand clothes. In one picture, Sara and Rose had their arms draped round each other, giggling - the best of friends. Like sisters.

But Sara didn't need a substitute sister. She had three older brothers - brothers who adored her and spoiled her stupid as the baby of the family. Brothers who'd always looked after her. Though Joe and Milo were both working in Brussels for the next six months so Leo, as the eldest, had the sole responsibility for looking out for Sara. And he was doing his best, trying to juggle a crazy schedule at work with keeping an eye on his sister and making sure she didn't get into an even bigger mess - because Sara just attracted chaos.

And one of the biggest bits of chaos was in the shape of Rose Carter.

Then Rose walked in and closed the kitchen door behind her. It felt as if all the air had been sucked out of the room and the temperature had just gone up ten degrees. Ha. Leo wasn't scared of her. At a little over six feet tall, he was a good seven or eight inches taller than she was. She'd shed the tiara and the boa, but was still barefoot. And slender. He could easily pick her up, dump her outside the flat and lock the door, if he chose.

Though thinking about lifting her up wasn't a good idea. Because it made him think about pinning her against the wall and kissing the pulse that throbbed at the base of her neck. Before having wild, wild sex.

And he had the nasty feeling that she knew it.

'So,' she said, very quietly. 'You've decided to honour your sister with a visit. Shame she's not here.'

Honour Sara with a visit? That rankled - Rose made it sound as if he never bothered with his sister. Which was very, very far from the case. 'Not that it's any of your business, I ring her three times a week,' he said stiffly.

Rose shrugged. 'If you say so.'

Was she suggesting that he was lying? Leo felt his jaw tense. Of course he rang Sara three times a week! He'd even set an alarm on his laptop, so if he was working on a pile of case notes he wouldn't get so sidetracked by his work that he'd forget to call her. And he took Daisy out one Saturday a month. He'd ring and visit more often except he knew his little sister would complain he was smothering her or checking up on her and cramping her style. He'd thought he was managing a very tricky tightrope rather well.

But clearly Sara thought otherwise and was claiming he didn't bother with her. Which annoyed him even more. He'd given up on his sister for about a month, just after she'd dropped out of college - simply because he was fed up with sorting out her mistakes, he'd realised that she never took any notice of the advice he gave her, and he'd thought that maybe letting her stand on her own two feet for a change might give her a different perspective and make her grow up a bit. It hadn't, so he'd gone back to keeping an eye on her. But Sara had never quite forgiven him for taking that big step back.

He could explain this to Rose... though he didn't see what business it was of hers. Or why her opinion of him should matter. So instead he folded his arms and retreated into silence.

'Thank you for making me a coffee, by the way,' Rose added.

The sarcasm stung - the more so because she'd made him sound thoughtless, selfish and rude. 'Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. And I didn't know how long you'd be. There was no point in letting a cup of coffee go cold.'

'No.' She walked over to the kettle and switched it on. Even though her dress was ankle-length and perfectly demure, Leo was still aware of how good her legs were and the faint swish of her dress made him think of the sound the material would make as it pooled at her feet - just before he lifted her and those beautiful legs wrapped round his waist and his body eased into hers.

Ah, hell. He argued niceties as a living. He was good at it. But Rose Carter made him tongue-tied. His libido simply took over his brain and supplied enough images to make him wary of speaking, in case he said any of his thoughts aloud. It was one of the reasons he never actually said her name - he was scared it might come out as a hiss of pure desire.

How was it possible to detest someone yet want them so badly at the same time?

'Want a refill?'

And she'd managed to wrong-foot him again. Just when he was working himself up for a fight with her, she turned on the courtesy. Did everything he hadn't done.

'No. Thanks,' he added belatedly.

'Suit yourself.' Just to rub it in, she didn't make herself a coffee. She used some kind of teabag - something that turned the water a dark ruby colour. He wasn't going to ask. Even though it smelled enticing - sweet, fruity, spicy, something he couldn't quite place - he wasn't going to ask.

She came to sit at the table opposite him. 'So what's the problem?'

You are.

Sitting this close, he could smell her perfume as well as the fruit tea. Soft and sexy and bewitching. All he had to do was reach out and he could touch her. Find out if her skin was as soft as it looked. Find out just how silky those corkscrew curls were. Find out just how well her lips would fit against his own.

From the book Strictly Legal by Kate Hardy.

Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance
Publication Date: July 2006
ISBN: 0263849929
Copyright © 2006 by Pamela Brooks
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information surf to http://www.eHarlequin.com

Like what you read? Order It

Order it from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

More recent titles are also available from Mills & Boon UK, eHarlequin.com, and Harlequin Australia.

Reviews

From Cataromance: a fabulously sassy, sexy and stylish romantic novel - 4.5 stars

Kate Hardy has written another spellbinding romantic novel which you will find hard to put down. In Strictly Legal, she introduces Rose, a richly drawn heroine who is strong and independent whilst Leo is a gorgeous hero whose charisma, sex appeal and generosity will make women everywhere swoon! Tender romance, sizzling sexual tension, characters which leap off the pages and master storytelling make Strictly Legal a compelling modern romance which is absolutely impossible to resist!

What they're saying on e-Harlequin:

  • I liked the way they came round to the idea that the other wasn't the ogre/flake they'd thought, the way Leo began to question his commitment to his goal and the way he reassessed the family dynamics. I loved his unconditional support of Rose and her bid to help the other victim and the way the epilogue tied that up.
  • One of the aspects of this book is that once he falls for her, the goals he once had for a career are not as important as his relationship with her. Wonderful conflict and characters.
  • Coming to terms with someone you thought you knew, but really didn't makes this a strong, sexy, passionate story.

 

Home Bio Books Blog Press Tips Food of Love

Copyright © 2002-16 Kate Hardy

Harlequin Mills & Boon book covers © Copyright 2002-2016
by Harlequin Books, S.A.
® and TM are trademarks of the publisher.

Website design by HR Web Concepts