Friday, 22 June 2018

Performance in the Great War.

Entertainment was a place where soldiers could escape the harsh realities of their dangerous life. They were always overjoyed to see these performances. Concerts took place to liven up the troops. Two or three concerts a day were often available and most popular. Drama presented a particular challenge: contemporary comedies and romances were played with canteen furniture, and the scenery was often a backdrop of night sky. Violin solos, string quartets, operatic arias, all were performed behind the front lines. It was not unusual for the audience to be in their hospital beds, or wheeled out of the wards, even if rain beat down upon them. Shows were also given on ships, and out in the wild country or desert.

Back in England the war naturally brought a surge in patriotism, both in drama and cinema. Music hall was one of the dominant forms in World War One. Theatre managers, newspaper editors, civic leaders and even clergymen insisted that people wanted to cheer up and were not expected or even allowed to use their brains or be presented with a serious matter. The war was expected to end by Christmas. Many plays were written about the suffering, but the emphasis was more on the humorous to attract the masses. Soldiers on leave flocked to the theatres with their sweethearts, eager to be amused and entertained. There were many famous performers such as Harry Lauder, Vesta Tilley dressed as a soldier, Gertie Gitana and others, all popular with troops out in the war and for soldiers and their families back home.

After the war, popular tastes began to change. Entertainment then preferred Charleston, jazz and syncopation. Performers would often entertain cinema audiences between films. Queues too would be entertained by dancing dogs or a man playing a banjo or accordion. Then a collection would be taken up for the soldiers and sailors. Benefit performances were held to raise money to entertain wounded soldiers; just as there were Tank Weeks or fundraising for an ambulance. In Girls of the Great War, Cecily, having lost the love of her life, eagerly goes to entertain the soldiers in France, filled with the need to help and overcome depression, Her sister, mother and Johnny, a drummer friend, accompanied her, a part of which proved to be a problem. I was inspired to write this because I’d been involved in amateur dramatics for much of my life. I still love the theatre and have collected many books on the history of it and famous actors. Writing about it was a joy, and I have touched on this theme in one or two others of my books.

Here is a short extract of Cecily’s first performance. 

There was no proper stage, no curtains, dressing rooms or footlights, but they did have acetylene gas lamps glimmering brightly around the boxes. They worked for hours rehearsing and enduring more instructions from Queenie on what and how they should perform. Cecily suffered a flutter of panic as she became aware of hundreds more men gathering in the audience. A few were seated on boxes or benches, the rest of the area packed with a solid mass standing shoulder to shoulder. Many had been patiently waiting hours for the concert to start. Looking at the state of them it was evident that many had come direct from the trenches where they’d probably been trapped in horrific conditions for months. Those unable to move from their tent pulled the flaps open so that they too could hear the concert.
    Heart pounding and nerves jangling, Cecily felt the urge to turn and run as the moment for the concert to start came closer. Was her mother right and she couldn’t sing well at all? Would they roar and boo at her as they had that time at Queenie?
    She steadied her breathing, smoothed down her skirt with sweaty fingers and when she walked on stage the men gave a loud cheer of welcome. The excitement in their faces filled her with hope and as she stepped forward to the front of the boxed stage the audience instantly fell silent, looking enthralled and spellbound. She exchanged a swift glance with Merryn, counted one, two, three, four . . . and her sister and Johnny both began to play, sounding most professional. Cecily started to sing:
          There’s a Long, Long Trail A-winding. 
          Into the land of my dreams, 
          Where the nightingales are singing 
          And a white moon beams: 

    As she sang, her fears, depression and worries vanished in a surge of elation, soaring into a new life, and bringing these soldiers pleasure and relief from the war. When the song was over she received a tumultuous applause, cheers, whistles and roars of appreciation from them. Smiling broadly she went on to sing ‘Roses of Picardy’, followed by ‘Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag’ and many other popular favourites. Most of the Tommies would readily join in to sing the chorus whenever Cecily invited them to do so. Others would weep, as if fraught with emotion because they were homesick and felt greatly moved by this reminder of England. Then would again cheer and roar with happiness at the end, urging her to sing an encore.
    ‘You are doing quite well,’ her mother casually remarked during the short interval, a comment Cecily greatly appreciated. ‘Now sing some of those jolly music hall songs that I recommended.’
    ‘Right you are.’
    Cecily went on to sing ‘Burlington Bertie From Bow’and ‘Fall In And Follow Me’. These brought bright smiles and laughter to all the Tommies’ faces. She finished with ‘Your King and Country Want You’, bringing forth loud cheers of agreement. How she loved singing to these soldiers. If she hadn’t been a star before, she certainly felt like one now.

Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Monday, 14 May 2018

"A Long Goodbye" by Anthony Le Moignan . Powerful Contemporary Fiction

‘A Long Goodbye’ 

Can you outrun a slow death sentence?

Emma, married with no kids, lives, breathes and manages Orchard Care Home; a position her husband, Michael, used to hold in the good old days. But now he’s soared up the company hierarchy she sees so much less of him.

Simon, a successful accountant, has a big problem. The biggest of them all. He checks himself into Orchard whilst still relatively healthy, the youngest resident by decades. He’s confident he cut all ties with the outside world and is untraceable, but determined ex-partners have their ways...

The attraction between carer and resident is instant, but ultimately destined for catastrophe. Alzheimer’s takes no prisoners and Early Onset, it’s most tragic form, is the cruellest of all.

How can Michael be jealous of this man and his time-bomb? Why does he see Simon as such a threat, driving him to behaviour that will end in disaster?

Simon understands less and less, but knows he has to try and run away from time - to somehow beat the ceaseless clock.

A powerful new novel by Anthony Le Moignan that will make you laugh and cry.


Unsurprisingly, the meal had been a fairly quiet affair. To Emma’s great relief, Simon had not pursued his intimate line of questioning any further - she suspected he might have forgotten what he’d asked Michael. It was the first time in her experience that a reasonable amount of Champagne had not encouraged people to talk more.
Michael had been staggered by Simon on many fronts. What was a guy like him doing in a residential home? Sure, eventually he’d obviously need one, but his social behaviour suggested that was a while down the road yet. And boy, was he right to be furious with Emma for gallivanting off to Manchester – that wouldn’t be happening again anytime soon.
He’d watched Emma carefully throughout the meal to see if there was any exchange of glances with Simon that would suggest they were already up to something. The man was constantly staring at her, but she didn’t seem to be looking his way. Then he thought about Penny and winced – taking the moral high ground was very much more difficult now than a couple of weeks ago. He was also furious with Simon for drinking his pint. There was something despicable about that sort of behaviour. However pathetic it sounded, Michael felt he’d lost a little bit of his mojo during that incident. Men didn’t drink other men’s pints. They just didn’t.
And as if the evening wasn’t weird enough already, Michael had become aware of Julie making eyes at him. At first, he thought he must be mistaken, but twice he’d felt her foot rubbing his shin. If there were any doubts left, they were well and truly extinguished when he went to the gents.
Julie was there as he came out, faking surprise at bumping into him. She pushed up against him, her chin on his shoulder, whispering her gratitude for the flowers. It jogged his memory, and he was starting to apologise when she’d put a finger on his lips and told him to save it for another time, and preferably one night soon.
As he stared at her, utterly lost for words, she told him how nice he smelt and then sauntered off to the ladies. More tragic than anything, he’d found himself watching her bottom as she walked off.
Michael sighed, shook his head and seriously contemplated punching himself in the groin.
Simon was feeling a little tipsy. Drink had often caused him to forget things, and this was one of those occasions. He remembered the waitress, and of course he remembered Emma, but the other young girl and the guy who looked a little bit like him were puzzling. He was enjoying the warmth of the late sun and the ambience of the busy pub, but he couldn’t remember how he’d got here.
Strangely, this didn’t worry him. He’d decided not to say anything and just listen to the others, but they weren’t saying much either. As he studied the faces, it occurred to him that the young girl must be with the other guy. She was looking at him, and unless he was mistaken, there was passion and desire written in her eyes and over her pretty face.
He looked at Emma a few times simply because it was a pleasure and a delight. If the other two were a couple, it would make sense that he and Emma were as well, but he knew this wasn’t the case. She seemed to be staring into the horizon, and he was unable to make eye contact with her.
It gave him an opportunity to study her features – he found her stunningly beautiful. He desperately wanted to kiss her. Surely he’d done that before?
The waitress approached the table. ‘Guys, there’s a taxi for Mr Carter.’
‘Oh, that’s me, excellent. Are we all ready to go?’
‘That’s just for us, Simon.’ Julie stood up and put a hand on his arm.
‘Really? Are you sure? What about Emma?’
‘Michael and Emma are going back a bit later.’
‘Oh, that’s a pity. Would you both like to come with us?’ Emma smiled and was about to accept the offer, but Michael got there before her.
‘No, we’ll stay on until our own taxi arrives, thank you very much. Is that a problem for you, Simon?’
‘Yes, it is, really. I wanted to go back with Emma. Would you like to come back with us, Emma?’
Michael swiftly stood up with his fists pressed on the table. ‘Well of all the ...’
This time, Emma was able to interrupt her husband.
‘That’s very sweet of you, but Michael and I should wait for our taxi. I’ll see you tomorrow back at Orchard, okay Simon?’ She smiled at him, not attempting to hide her reddening face.
‘Bye-bye, Julie, take good care of Simon. Michael, let’s go inside, it’s getting chilly now.’
Michael moved towards her, and she grabbed his arm, dragging him into the pub.
Michael had finally managed to buy and drink a pint of his own by the time Emma came back from the ladies. Some of his mojo had returned, along with a nice little buzz.
‘I don’t fucking believe that guy – I should have punched his lights out. And he orders two bottles of Dom, and I get to pay for that and the whole damn meal, the bloody con merchant. Is he one of these guys we’re going to have trouble getting residential fees from? Have you done financial due diligence on him, Em?’
Emma could no longer contain herself, buoyed by the alcohol and her heartache.
‘You fool. You stupid fool. Is it really that long since you were a carer that you’ve forgotten all the signs of Simon’s illness? Can’t you tell he didn’t have a clue where he was or what he was doing?’
‘Oh really? So what about when he grabs my drink off the tray, knowing it’s mine and drinking it in front of me. Then he asks why I don’t see you more often, the cheeky sod. I should have given him a slap. That Champagne came to two hundred and seventy quid, for fuck’s sake! Perhaps you told him I’m wealthy so I can afford it, eh?’
Emma couldn’t remember ever feeling so angry.
‘You’re so wrong on every level. No, he didn’t know it was your drink. As he walked up to us his expression changed. I know him well enough to realise something snapped in his mind.’
‘I bet you do.’
Emma stood up, and her chair clattered to the floor.
‘How dare you, you bastard. Dream on about giving him a slap or punching his lights out – you’d have been on the floor before you’d raised an arm. And no, you’re not wealthy, Michael – not compared to Simon. He’s a multi-millionaire, you idiot. If you’d looked in his file, you’d see his financial situation and how open he is about it. You’ll get your lousy money back. Couldn’t you see how totally confused he was before he left? Damn you, Michael. Damn you to hell!’
The pub had gone eerily quiet as Emma stormed out of the door, slamming it shut behind her. Michael jumped up out of his seat and ran after her, but two rather large local men stood in front of him by the door and politely asked him to calm down and return to his seat. They suggested he have another drink and leave the lady alone.
As Michael was arguing, one of the men’s companions went outside to find Emma. She was leaning against a table, sobbing. The woman put an arm around her.
‘It’s alright love, it’s okay. Are you far from here? Can we give you a lift?’
Between sniffles, Emma told her they had a taxi arriving soon. As they were talking, the cab pulled into the car park, and the woman helped Emma into it.
Back in the pub again, Michael was still arguing with the men – the woman spoke to one of them, and they all sat back down at their table.
Michael was just in time to see the taxi’s tail lights disappear down the road.
Links (this goes live on the 10th May)

Author Bio

It was both a shock and a delight when Anthony Le Moignan received The English Prize at end-of-term assembly.  He was 11 and in the 6th form, his final year at Prep.

The celebrations carried on for years – five in fact, at which point he was expelled from senior school (‘asked to leave’ was the official jargon).  However, a lifelong lesson was learnt (even if an avoidance of alliteration wasn’t) – he was clearly unemployable.

So through a series of almost absurd luck which he cannot begin to over-emphasise, he seems to have successfully ploughed himself to this current moment in time.

He won’t excuse his love of Cambridge.  Having travelled around the world playing croquet for a couple of decades, this little city is just about his favourite place on the planet.  He’s not entirely sure why, but he seems to love being surrounded by people far brighter than himself, and buildings older than God (welllll, sort of…).

So, a lot of his novels are going to be set in or around Cambridge and London, all of which he hopes will be glanced at in the fullness of time.  For now, he’d like to mention that all of the characters in his books, every single one of them, human and otherwise, are based on actual persons; fragments maybe, but they all truly exist.  Quite how any author can claim otherwise is a complete mystery to him.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Extract from - Girls of the Great War



She was running as fast as her legs could carry her, rocks constantly tripping her up, and a blanket of trees towering around so that she could barely see where she was going. The sound of heavy feet pounded behind, filling her with panic. Was he chasing her again? Would she be captured? Breathless with fear she ran all the faster, knowing what would happen if she did not escape. She could feel her heart hammering, tension freezing every limb. Then pain rattled through her back with merciless precision. She felt utterly powerless and vulnerable, petrified of what might happen.
    A hand tapped her cheek and she jerked awake in panic.
    ‘Wake up, Martha, it’s time for breakfast.’
    Staring into her mother’s eyes, the young girl gave a small sigh of relief. So this had been yet another nightmare, a trauma she suffered from constantly. The emotion attached to it always cloaked her in absolute terror. At least she had managed to sleep a little last night, which was never easy. Tension would mount within her whenever she went to bed, no longer a relaxing time. Now pain and fear escalated through her once more and she cried out in agony.
    It seemed that having spent nearly five months virtually locked away in her room, she was now about to give birth, although she had only just turned seventeen.
    A part of her longed to vanish into oblivion, to disappear back into the world she’d once enjoyed, not least her happy and privileged childhood. Why had that all gone wrong after her beloved father died? Would she now die? Many women did when suffering this traumatic event. Would the good Lord take her to heaven? Her soul having no real attachment to Him, it was doubtful He would trust in her innocence and accept her. Nor did her mother, who’d made it clear she didn’t believe a word her daughter said. She no longer viewed her as respectable and had offered no sympathy or support, declaring that no one must ever learn of her condition.
    Martha gazed up at the window, her blue eyes glittering with desolation. How she ached to catch a glimpse of the sun, the cliffs and the sea. Oh, and how she missed her life. Her mind flicked back to the young man she’d once grown fond of. He was most handsome, dressed in baggy trousers, and lived in one of the fisherman’s huts. Whenever he wasn’t away at sea working in smacks and yawls to catch fish, he’d be in a local pub eating, drinking or gambling. He also spent much of his time sitting by the harbour mending nets. They’d sometimes listen to the band down on the bay along with crowds of spectators, or watch a concert and dancing. Claiming he adored her, he’d give her sweet kisses and had her name tattooed on to his arm. Then one day, when she’d excitedly hurried to meet him, as usual, he’d told her he was off to America in search of a new life, having become bored with fishing. She’d felt utterly devastated. He was so charming and helpful over her family problems that she was almost falling in love with him. How she missed him, but if he were still around why would he ever agree to marry her?
    Now water suddenly flushed out of her and the sound of her screaming echoed around the room, bouncing against the shutters that blocked the window. Over the next several hours she sank into more agony with no doctor or midwife around to help, only Enid her maid and of course Mama. Whenever another bolt of merciless pain struck, she struggled to sit up in a bid to resist it, only to be pushed back down by her scolding mother.
    Finally, something solid slid out of her, leaving her breathless and exhausted. She felt hands pressing upon her belly and more stuff flopped out, including blood that soaked the bed sheets. Then she found herself being briskly washed, wiped, stripped and dressed by the maid, making her feel like a piece of dirt. Not a single word had been spoken to her, save for orders to push hard and stop screaming. And no comfort offered.
    Whatever child had been delivered was now swept up into her mother’s arms and she marched away, slamming the door behind her. Martha gave a small sob of distress aware she’d been informed the baby would instantly be given away for adoption. She certainly would not be allowed to keep it. If only her life could return to normal but the harsh, uncaring attitude of her mother proved that would never happen.
    It came to her then that with the agony of her imprisonment and this birth finally over, she had no desire to stay here any longer. In order to maintain her safety, she needed to go as far away from here as possible, and change her name. The time had come for her to leave home and build a new life for herself. Then she’d find herself a husband and become respectable again.

A section of Chapter One 

Christmas 1916 
Lights dimmed as a man dressed as Pierrot in a bright blue costume and pantaloons, peaked hat and a huge yellow bow beneath his chin, skipped merrily on to the stage singing ‘All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor’. He was quickly joined by a troop of dancing girls. They too were dressed like Pierrots, all of them looking ravishing in a pink costume with a wide frilled collar, long swirling skirt decorated with fluffy bobbles, and a tight-fitting black hat. They were complete visions of beauty who brought forth roars of excited approval from the audience. Pierrot waved his gloved hands at them, the theatre being packed with British and Belgian soldiers who responded with cheers and whistles.
    Cecily smilingly watched from the wings as she loved to do most evenings. A part of her ached to join the singers, something her mother would never agree to. Viewing herself as the star performer she expected her daughters to wait upon her hand, foot and fingers. Not that Cecily believed herself to be a good assistant, being too involved with working as a conductor on the electric trams now that most men were caught up in the war. Her mother disapproved of that. Cecily, however, firmly believed in making her own choices in life.
    Feeling a gentle tap on her shoulder, she found her sister at her side. ‘Her royal highness Queenie requires your assistance,’ Merryn whispered, her pretty freckled face wrapped in a jokey grin. ‘I’ve been dismissed, as she’s engaged in her usual bossy mood.’
    ‘Oh, not again!’ Stifling a sigh, Cecily accompanied Merryn back to the dressing room. Gazing in the mirror she recognised the familiar lack of focus in her mother’s blue eyes, proving she’d again been drinking. Despite seeing herself as a star, Queenie too often felt the need to overcome a sense of stage fright before she performed.
    ‘Merryn has made a total mess of my hair,’ she stuttered in a slurry voice.
    ‘I’m sure she didn’t mean to, Mama,’ Cecily calmly remarked, and reaching for a brush began to divide her mother’s curly blonde hair across the back of her head.
    ‘Never call me by that name. You know how I hate it.’
    She’d chosen to name herself Queenie years ago as she considered it more appropriate for her career than Martha, the name she was born with. And that was what she required her daughters to call her, having no wish to be reminded of her age. Merryn seemed to accept this. Cecily always felt the need to remind her of their true relationship, which irritatingly was not an easy one. She carefully twisted up a small strand of her mother’s hair and clipped it, then tucked the other portions neatly around before pinning them together with a glittering silver hair slide on the top of her head.
    Grabbing a curl, Queenie pulled it down to loop it over her left ear. ‘I’ve no wish for my hair to be all pinned up. Flick some over my ears.’
    ‘I thought you liked to look as neat and tidy as possible, Mama,’ Cecily said.
    ‘No, fluff it out, silly girl. How useless you are.’
    Cecily felt quite inadequate at this job and checked her success or lack of it by viewing her mother in the mirror. She was a slender, attractive woman with a pale complexion, pointed chin and ruby lips frequently curled into a pout, as they were doing now. But she was also vain, conceited, overly dramatic, emotionally unstable, selfish, overbearing and utterly neglectful. Queenie was never an easy woman to please, even when she was stone-cold sober. She was an exhibitionist and a star who demanded a great deal of nurturing and support, a task Merryn was extremely skilled and happy to do, save for when Queenie was completely blotto, as she was now. And having been scolded and dismissed countless times when her mother was drunk, her sister would sit in the corner reading Woman’s Weekly, taking not the slightest interest. Once Queenie sobered up she would happily treat her younger daughter as her favourite child in order to make Cecily feel unwanted, even though she’d done her best to help. Not that she ever felt jealous about this, always eager to act as a surrogate mother towards her beloved sister as Queenie could be equally neglectful of them both, wrapped up in herself and her tours.
    There came a rap on the door. ‘Three minutes on stage please,’ called a voice.
    ‘You should have a drink of water,’ Cecily quietly suggested. ‘It might help to mobilise your voice and cool you down.’
    ‘How dare you say such a thing! My voice is fine,’ Queenie snapped.
    Reaching for a jug, Cecily poured a glass and placed it on the table. ‘Do take a sip to improve it, Mama.’
    Filled with her usual tantrum she snatched the jug and tossed the water over her daughter’s head. Then she swept the glass of water, a box of make-up, brushes, jars of cream and all other items off the dressing table onto the floor, swirled around and marched away.
    Grabbing a towel, Merryn rushed over to pat Cecily’s damp hair and face.
    ‘Don’t worry, it’ll soon dry off,’ Cecily said, rolling her eyes in droll humour. ‘Come on, we need to make sure Mama calms down and performs well.’
    Giving a wry smile, Merryn nodded, and they both scurried after her.

Cecily Hanson longs to live life on her own terms—to leave the shadow of her overbearing mother and marry her childhood sweetheart once he returns from the Great War. But when her fiancé is lost at sea, this future is shattered. Looking for meaning again, she decides to perform for the troops in France. 

Life on the front line is both rewarding and terrifying, and Cecily soon finds herself more involved—and more in danger—than she ever thought possible. And her family has followed her to France. Her sister, Merryn, has fallen for a young drummer whose charm hides a dark side, while their mother, Queenie—a faded star of the stage tormented by her own secret heartache—seems set on a path of self-destruction. 

As the war draws to a close and their hopes turn once again to the future, Cecily and Merryn are more determined than ever to unravel the truth about their mother’s past: what has she been hiding from them—and why? 

Published 22 May 2018
Amazon UK 

Amazon US

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

HEIRESSES IN LOVE TRILOGY - Boxed Set by Marie Lavender (Guest Post)

By Marie Lavender

An unforgettable, sweeping saga of romance, passion and history rooted in tales of maritime suspense…
Three heiresses…three novels like no other.


Fara risks her heart every time she’s with him, but she cannot deny him.


Chloe never imagined that the man she deceived would be the one man she can’t stop loving.


Adrienne must decide whether to succumb to desire or fight for love.

…Will these remarkable women at last find what they’ve always wanted, or lose more than they can bear?


Fara Bellamont has been back in society for a year after leaving Cluny Abbey, where her uncle sent her long ago. When he chooses a suitor for her for marriage, she fears that she will be forced to marry a stranger and live a miserable life.

But, Fara finds herself thrust into an adventure of a lifetime when unforeseen circumstances cause her to place her trust in a strange man for protection. His intervention not only saves her, but puts her in an even more compromising position.

Grant Hill, a trading captain, is enchanted by the young heiress not only because of her beauty, but because she is hardly conventional. Underneath her ladylike exterior lies a tigress. Grant cannot help but offer his protection as she is in need and he is far from immune from her charms.

Fara just never bargained on the passion that she feels for Grant Hill. As events unfold, she must decide whether her desires and the dictates of her heart should trump the rules of society…


Deception is a dangerous path…

New York City, August, 1891 – Orphaned after the death of her father, Chloe Waverly stows away on La Voyageur to escape the clutches of her cruel fiancé, Lamonte Beckett. Gabriel Hill, a strange and compelling gentleman, comes upon Chloe and promises to protect her without knowing the true circumstances of why she is running away. During their journey, Gabriel doesn’t bargain on being distracted by her fair beauty or succumbing to her many charms. As their attraction to each other grows, so does the danger and Gabriel suspects things are not as they should be.

Both are determined to get to New Orleans, where she can start a new life. But, once they reach their destination, events spin out of their control and Chloe is captured by the fiancé she escaped. Gabriel is left wondering if he can overlook her betrayal. Soon he finds himself in a race against time, to reach her before Beckett can exact revenge.


The Hill family saga concludes as loyalties are questioned, faiths will be tested and undying love may come at a terrible cost…

Fara Hill, mother and faithful wife, is torn between her family at home and her urge to be at sea. Soon, she learns some disturbing truths. Was the past a fairy tale instead of reality?

Chloe Hill, loving wife and young mother, questions her faith when her husband sets an ultimatum she cannot meet. Will she be able to keep her marriage from falling apart?

Adrienne Bellamont Hill, born of a valiant captain and a fiery redhead, is untamed to her core and will bow to no man. Then Christian du Plessis enters her life with an offer she can’t refuse. Discovering the man behind the polished gentleman, she is drawn to him in many ways. Holding out for love is a family tradition, but can she resist the temptation of passion?

Christian finds this young woman to be a fascinating challenge, and is torn between keeping his distance from her and succumbing to her charms. A fierce battle of wills ensues as he sees she is much more than he ever imagined.

But danger lurks, threatening to destroy everything…

Can these two strong-willed individuals unite in the cause before time runs out?



In the darkness, she blinked, her eyes still adjusting. Suddenly, she sensed something different about the room. A presence. Was that the slightest movement before the window? Could that have been a footstep heard on the carpeting? Her stomach muscles clenched into a tight knot of fear and she wondered if it could be Grant. No, she decided at once. He could be mysterious at times, but he would never enter a place unannounced. Well, at least he wouldn't come through the window if he wanted to be with her. “Rosalie?”
A chuckle could be heard a short distance from the mattress. “Your nursemaid has left for the night…”
The voice was masculine but unfamiliar. She rose on her elbows and felt vulnerable in only her nightgown. “Who are you? Reveal yourself or I will scream for help.”
“Relax, Mademoiselle. It is I, Nicholas Bordeaux.” He stepped forward into the moonlight that spilled through the window.
She recognized him as the man she'd seen in the club. A new kind of heat built inside her and it felt like a refreshing rage. Her fiancé? The man who had nearly killed Grant and was somehow still tied to her in writing had truly crossed the line this time. “Get out,” she ordered thickly.
“Please, Mademoiselle…” He sighed. “I realize the circumstances of our first meeting were less than acceptable, but—”
“What are you doing here? Get out!” She flung her feet over the side of the bed and rushed toward him. “Out!”
He caught her wrists as she fell against him, her fists balled. “Mademoiselle…” He sighed again. “You must listen. I had to see you.”
“No, get out of my house. You don't belong here!”
“Fara…Mademoiselle, you are overreacting.”
Pain shot through her wrists from his grip. “Am I? I will scream. Do you think I won't?”
“I believe you, but I needed to see you just once.” His eyes roamed over her transparent figure, lust lighting them.
Fear knotted in her stomach once more. “No!” she cried. “Get out of my house! I'll scream! Let go of me!” She jerked from his grasp, her hip slamming into the armoire. She drew in a breath of agony.
“You heard the lady, Monsieur. You are trespassing on certain property…and it seems to be a recurring theme with you, if you don't mind my saying it.” The reference to a past duel was not lost on Fara.
She swung to see Grant with his pistol trained on Nicholas. He did not often carry it, she knew, and it surprised her to see it in his hand. She had not heard the door open. The light streamed in from the corridor behind him. She was near hysterical from the fear of seeing Nicholas and Grant was the last person she thought would ever come to her rescue again. She had been told by messenger that he would be late tonight because of business.
“Fara?” he asked gently. “I assume this gentleman was bothering you.”
Oui,” she agreed. “Monsieur Bordeaux was just leaving. Perhaps you might escort him?”
“With pleasure. Monsieur?” Grant gestured with the pistol.
“I am not threatened by you, Capitaine,” Nicholas replied with disgust.
Oui, but I am not the one who is disadvantaged. Let's go.”
Nicholas grimaced. “I know the way. Mademoiselle, if I had known this English bulldog was to answer your cry for help, I might not have shown up. I see I have much to learn about you…” He turned away.
He looked back at her. “Oui, chère?”
She gritted her teeth in revulsion at the endearment before answering, “It's over. This engagement is over.”
“You cannot do that, Mademoiselle. It was promised. Your uncle set this up in writing—”
“My uncle is dead, Monsieur. His will states that any indiscretion is grounds for annulment. It's over and you know it.”
He stared at her for a moment, his face grim, and then left the room.
“I do not think he will give up, Fara.”
She sighed, both from relief and exhaustion. “No, probably not.” She walked back to her mattress and sat down.
His gaze rested on her face, concern showing in his eyes. “I'm going to make sure he has truly gone. I'll return,” he promised. When he left the room, she despaired. But what was in a promise? With Grant, was it much at all?
She waited the long moments in silence. As soon as he returned, he set the pistol aside and lit a lamp. Then he went to her, sitting at her side.
“I'm going to do everything I can to be rid of your engagement with Nicholas. I know you do not want it. He seriously stepped out of line this time and that should be enough. I will contact your uncle's lawyer tomorrow. And then, I will take you to find your aunt.”
“Thank you,” she whispered. It was all she could manage. She couldn't help her trembling.
“Are you all right?” He lifted her chin toward him, cupping her cheek.
She shook her head. “He was watching me.”
“I'm sorry,” he whispered, pulling her close.
After her trembling ceased, she asked, “How did you get here?”
“I'm supposed to be your protector, remember? I got back from a meeting after you went to bed. I thought you wouldn't like it if you knew I was here and had free rein in your house without your knowledge. So I thought to remain downstairs, but then I heard you cry out.”
He was right. She wouldn't have liked it if she knew unless, of course, she had invited him. “Merci,” she said once more, grateful that she hadn't had to face Nicholas alone.
His gaze swept the length of her body. “Are you hurt? You fell into the armoire, oui?”
Oui, there will be a bruise. Do not concern yourself.”
His hand gently kneaded the flesh beneath her nightgown. “That is a very difficult thing to ask of me, Fara. I came because I was concerned.”
Fara felt the onslaught of tears and she fought it. She lowered her head to his shoulder and he kissed her temple, gathering her close to him. She felt safe and warm in his embrace, a feeling she was sure she hadn't known since she was a child. She breathed deeply, trying to collect her thoughts. “I do not understand.”
“What, love?”
“Why did he call you English?”
A long silence fell between them. She pulled away, but stayed near him on the mattress, close enough to see his face. A range of emotions crossed his features, none of which she could read, but she thought one might be grief. Her heart strained for him.
“My father was English. This is my mother's country. I am a half-blood. Since I have been here, I have tried to hide my heritage because I know how people see it. It is not one of the stronger aspects of my character. And it doesn't do much for business.”
She had never entertained the idea that he might not be completely French, though his name suggested otherwise. But, she was learning something else about him, and she was grateful for it. “It's all right, Grant. I understand why you wouldn't disclose it. I won't tell anyone.”
He nodded. “I know that.”
“So…you were raised in England?”
“Partially. At least I was until my parents died.”
“And then?”
“And then I was thrust onto the streets. I ended up on a ship later so the crew became a sort of family to me.”
It was evident from his approach to the subject that he had lived a hard life and did not wish to reveal the harsher aspects of it. “What were your parents like?”
He attempted a smile, but there was pain behind it. “My mother was an angel, always supportive and loving. She loved to read to me. My father, on the other hand, was the opposite. Simply put, he was a military man, and that was all that was important to him.”
“I'm sorry.”
He simply nodded.
“You know, I'm not entirely French either.”
“I can't be for sure, but I always thought my mother was from another place. She was so exotic. That probably seems silly.”
“No, not at all.”
Fara moved closer to him so that her head rested on his shoulder again. He received the gesture in kind, pulling her close to him. Though the circumstances were different, he had lived with the same indifference she had endured from her uncle. It was unfortunate, though, that he couldn't have had the support and love of both parents as she had. The rough times, however, had made him stronger and she appreciated that. The one thing that concerned her was that the indifference his father had had toward him might have outweighed the way he accepted his emotions; deep down, she was afraid he might never be able to love her in return.


Eyes wide, Chloe watched them, fending off the attack of the other. Parry and thrust. Entangling, then hauling back. As they fought, she was aware of the other four men closing in on her on all sides. Gabriel was distracted. He couldn’t possibly help her. She looked around for a weapon, but only saw ropes. Then she saw a sailor’s body lying on the ground, facedown. She shuddered, afraid he was dead instead of unconscious. She leaned down as if to check on him and located a knife in his belt. She picked it up, then rose to face her attackers.
One of the men laughed at her. “What are you going to do with that, darlin’?” he drawled.
She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of answering. She took many steps away until she came up against the wall of the ship. Her gaze went to the ropes tied into a figure eight and slowly traveled to the sails high above her. She glanced at the man advancing on her, felt her stomach clench when he licked his lips. Then she dove for the rope and sawed quickly with her knife.
Shortly, the ship jerked forward, upsetting the equilibrium on board. The man who stalked her went down. Seeing a narrow escape, she ran straight past two men on her left. She kept running until she reached the wheel of the ship. She tried to turn it, but it was heavy. She thought if she could turn the ship, she could throw the men off balance once more. Suddenly though, she was tackled and her head hit a cold hard object. A loud bell rang. She shook her head to try to clear it, but the disorientation spread. It was too soon after her other injury. She fell into the enveloping blackness.
A few minutes later, she was roused by a man hauling her fiercely to her feet. Her head spun with the sudden shift in movement. Feeling faint, she sagged against him and he gripped her shoulders with a biting grasp. “Miss Waverly,” he grated out.
She frowned up at him. It was the man Gabe had been fighting before. He had dark hair, an equally dark mustache and very cold eyes from what she could see in the light from the lanterns.
She peered around him. Gabe was struggling with the others. How had this man gotten away? She heard a gunshot on the other side of the ship. Was Gabriel all right? And had she heard the man right? Had he said her name?
“Don’t you worry, Miss Waverly, my comrades have everything under control.”
He knew her name. A form of dread curled hard in her belly. It was a suffocating thing. She gasped for air, and winced at the pain in her skull. “How…how do you know me?” She prayed he had simply been hired to work on La Voyageur, but logic told her that wasn’t the case. She didn’t recognize him as a sailor. It was true she probably didn’t know everyone yet, but she would have at least seen him in passing.
“Beckett sent us. He’s looking for you. You will come back to him.”
She clenched her jaw, staring up at the man who gripped her arms. “No, I won’t. You can go back and tell him that. It’s over.”
He shook his head. “Maybe he’d rather hear that from you.”
“I doubt it. You’re just afraid of him, afraid of what he’ll do when he finds out you failed him.”
He slapped her and the force of it had her stumbling away. “I haven’t failed him, bitch!”
The shock of it brought tears to her eyes. She shook with fear, but managed to dampen it. She no longer had the knife so she couldn’t harm him. But, there wasn’t much he could do to her. He would have to return her to Lamonte unharmed. The violence instilled upon her would be of Lamonte’s making, and no one else. She was in danger of being raped with him. But, he would probably kill her for her insolence. That was another reason she’d run away from him. She had suspected what he was capable of as soon as her father died.
Gripping her arm, the man seemed about to yank her to her feet and drag her against him once more. Just when he reared his hand back to slap her again, he toppled to the ground, a blood stain appearing on his chest.
The captain was there, holding his rapier and glaring down at the man.
Captain Hill was hardly an old man. He had a handsome, boyish charm to his face with a hard edge of arrogance. He was a strong man, and she could clearly see where Gabriel got it from.
Shaking, her breath unsteady, he helped her to her feet. “Thank you.”
“Of course. I would be sorely lacking as a gentleman if I disregarded a woman in peril, Mademoiselle.”
Chloe’s cheeks felt warm. She looked around for Gabriel. Where was he? Now that her terror was wearing off, she could only think of his safety. When he approached, she breathed a sigh of relief. Obviously, he’d dispatched the other men.
He eyed the bruise on her cheek. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, I think so.” She frowned. “Are you?”
He shrugged. “You didn’t know that man, did you?”
Her heart started to pound erratically, a sick rhythm. How had he figured that out? He was too clever. “No. How would I?”
“I assume he came from the last port, your home. Maybe they followed you.”
“That is ridiculous. What would they want from me?”
“Indeed. That is the question, isn’t it?”
Unsettled, she ran a hand through her hair, wincing.
He caught her arm swiftly, then tipped her head with a slight grasp on her chin, lifting her face to the light of the moon.
Alarmed, she looked up at Gabe. “What is it?”
“You’re bleeding again. You must have hit your head. Let’s have the physician take a look at that.”
He signaled for Davis to take her back to her cabin and alert the ship’s physician. Resigned, she went below decks with the man.
* * * *
Gabe went back to stand by his father.
“This is a nasty business, Gabriel. You suspect more, don’t you?”
He frowned, weighing his words carefully. His father was not the type of man to take trouble lightly, nor was he an idiot. He knew his son’s moods well, and though he was intelligent, he could be dangerous when necessary. “It’s just a feeling I have.”
“Then, the quicker you can escort Mademoiselle Waverly to her home, the better.”
He agreed.
His father shook his head. “It is a damned shame this had to happen to her though.”
“Yes, it is.”
The captain turned to the crew. “Let’s take those men down to the brig, shall we? I have a few questions for them.”
William Barlow, a newer sailor, stepped forward. “As soon as we intervened, they jumped ship, Captain.”
Gabe swung to where they’d been. Barlow was right. There was no one left but the crew they respected and trusted with their lives. He shook his head. “What about the man who attacked Mademoiselle Waverly? He was wounded.”
“I assume he went with them.”
Gabe strode over to the railing, looking out over the dark currents. A search party would never find them in those unforgiving waters. They would soon be dead, unless they’d had a small boat and another ship nearby. That would have been the smarter option. Uncertain whether that revelation was enlightening, troubling or both, he slammed a hand down on the railing. “Damn!”
Grant joined him for a moment. “At least the threat is gone, son.”
“I don’t think it’s that simple, Father. Something just isn’t right here.”
He nodded. “Your instincts have saved you in a number of situations. If you say something else is going on, then I believe you.”
Gabe frowned, then sighed. “I should check on Chloe.”
The captain grabbed his son’s arm. “You care about her, don’t you?”
“Papa,” he warned.
“It’s all right. I understand. You’ve heard the story about your mother and I.”
“Yes, many times.”
He chuckled. “More than you probably wanted to hear. I’m not passing judgment, son. I already warned you once. I sincerely hope you find what you’re looking for and I wish you well, that’s all.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The captain nodded and went to the helm. “Tie down that sail!” he called to another man.
Gabe looked out over the sea once more. They had been lucky. He and Chloe had been outnumbered at the outset, and it was pure luck that they had survived. Fortunately, she’d fallen into the bell by accident. Or had she been slammed into it? He grimaced. Either way, it had summoned the crew. It was possible that without it, someone might have heard the scuffle on deck. But, most of the crew had been fast asleep, and those who were supposed to be on watch had been knocked out. Even through the clash with those other men, he’d noticed her resourcefulness. She had cut the sail’s rope. That was smart. But, nothing either of them had done would have saved them if the bell hadn’t alerted everyone, he realized with grim knowledge.
Indeed, they had been too lucky. He felt a niggling worry deep in his gut. Something didn’t quite fit. He would have to figure that out. Shaking off the sensation, he headed down the companionway to see Chloe. She had sustained another injury while in his care. It did not bode well for the journey ahead. Nonetheless, he was determined to get her home, no matter what he was forced to sacrifice for her safety.


July 18, 1882

Harwich, England

Adrienne Bellamont Hill was considered a young lady in society. But to her, she was different, much more than that….
The nine year old girl tightened her hand in her father’s as they entered the group of sailors milling down the lengthy Halfpenny Pier, a part of Harwich called ‘the quay’. Some were talking business while others walked steadily along. Still, the pier was chaotic, and Adrienne wasn’t sure she wanted to brave the crowd. She and Papa were to meet her mother and Gabriel at the Pier Hotel. Her father, the captain, had said he needed to finish up some business on La Voyageur first before escorting her there. The odor of decayed fish drifted on the air, her nose wrinkling. Forty-two days at sea, she’d been told, and they’d just landed in England this afternoon.
She was glad they were on land once more. Though she’d come on board La Voyageur before, she’d never been at sea until now. It hadn’t been easy living on the ship, but Adrienne could handle it just as well as her brother if need be, she thought with a firm lift of her chin, her dark tumble of curls brushing her face. She often wanted to compete with him in activities he deemed she was too young for. Her brother acted much older sometimes. He was so overprotective of her, even at home. But at the age of nine, she was a great runner and she would do more than that if her Maman allowed it. She often got scolded for being headstrong, though she still wasn’t sure what that meant.
Just prior to reaching land this morning, a search party had been sent out, despite the fact that she’d only intended to quickly breakfast in the mess deck before meeting her parents on deck. She hadn’t planned to worry her family. Papa had often warned her of the dangers for a young girl at sea. Not only could she easily drown in the mass of tides, but injuries could happen with the equipment sailors used. He had worried that she’d also get adventurous and climb the rigging, as she was prone to do with trees at home, and be caught in a sail or fall. This was why he had informed her she shouldn’t be unsupervised on deck.
Captain Hill murmured to the others as he tugged her along now, probably excusing himself. She thought they would squeeze through the mass of people but, then, two men eased very close to her, crowding her, making it hard to breathe. Her fingers slipped from the captain’s grasp. “Papa!” she shouted, but her voice was caught in the din of voices on the pier. She experienced an odd sensation in her stomach and her heart raced wildly. On impulse, she crouched down, trying to crawl out of the crowd. “Papa!” she tried, again.
A big hand clutched her small body, jerking her to her feet. A sense of relief swamped over her, until the hand shook her.
“You little pickpocket!” a man ground out.
She shrank back at the unfamiliar, booming voice, but glanced up into the man’s face, which was red from the sun. His clothes were tinged with dirt and she detected a strange odor upon him. She glanced around for her father. She’d been taught to avoid strangers unless her parents were present. His insult did not go unnoticed, however.
“I am nothing of the kind, sir,” she declared. “I am a lady. My father was—”
His hand tightened on the back of her dress. “Is he a thief as well?”
“Thief? Why, no, he is an honorable man, a captain, and you must unhand me or he’ll do you harm, I swear.” Panic swept through her at his hold, and a shout tore out of her. “Papa!”             
“No one can hear you, scamp. And you stole my money.” He grasped her arm.
“I am not a scamp!” she cried. “I am a lady.” She stamped her foot on the ground. Fear threatened to choke her, but she knew it wouldn’t solve a thing. Her father was gone. She had to rely on herself. Her gaze swept the pier until her attention was caught by a quarrel nearby. A boy, perhaps about eleven years old, attempted to wrest a blue reticule from a young girl, who was screaming. A few bills stuck out of the boy’s side pocket. “Sir, I do believe that is the rascal you’re looking for.” She pointed across the pier. “Now, if you’ll be so kind as to let me go….”
His eyes followed hers. “Well, I’ll be damned.” He glanced at her clothing. “I suppose you don’t look like a pickpocket.”
She nodded.
He released his hold on her. His brown gaze softened, and he swept a hand over his dark hair. “How old did you say you were?”
Adrienne frowned. “Well, I didn’t. I’m nine,” she proudly announced with her hands on her hips. This brought a laugh out of the man, but she couldn’t see why.
“We must find your father.”
“I appreciate it, sir, but it looks as if your money is getting away.” Even now, the boy was yanking the reticule out of the girl’s grasp and Adrienne gasped as the girl, dressed in a dark blue gown, fell head over heels into the water by the dock with quite a splash. “Mon Dieu! We must help her!” Adrienne said.
She grasped the man’s hand, tugging him over to the scene.
Her mouth gaped further as the man shook his head, dropped her hand and took off after the boy who’d stolen his money. Adrienne had no time to remark on his actions, and moved to her stomach, leaning over the pier. She took hold of the girl’s hand as she thrashed in the water, desperate to stay afloat.
“Someone help!” she cried, fearful she might drown before Adrienne could save her.
She took a deep breath, realizing she was still on her own. The girl didn’t appear to see her on the dock. She whistled hard, just like she’d seen her brother do on occasion. “Miss, can you swim?”
The girl’s tears mixed with the water on her face as she shook her head.
“Are you able to find a footing on the pylons below?”
“I, I think so,” she said, her teeth chattering now. The girl struggled more, and an odd look crossed her face. “Yes, I think I found it.”
“Good. I want you to grip my hand tight, and then take my other hand, all right? On the count of three, I’m going to pull hard and you will push off the pylon. Do you have that straight?”
The girl nodded, grasping Adrienne’s open hand.
“Now we count. One… two… three!” Adrienne yanked as hard as she could, and the girl clutched at the pier. She pulled her over the rest of the way, and they both rolled, collapsing hard on their backs, breaths labored as the setting sun shone down on their faces.
Sobs came from her companion. Adrienne hugged her until she stopped crying, and then looked into the girl’s face. She had damp, dark blonde hair, at least from what she could tell of the wet mop, and pretty blue eyes. “You did well.”
“Thank you. Oh my Lord, I think you saved my life!”
She smiled. “My pleasure. May I have your name, Miss?”
“Elena,” she said, though her teeth continued to chatter, and the girl rubbed at her wet arms.
She smiled. “Let’s get off our backs, shall we?”
They managed to stand upright. Adrienne saw a bit of dampness on her own gown, but didn’t care. She was more concerned about the girl. “Are you all right?”
“I think so,” she paused, then declared, “You don’t sound English.”
Adrienne frowned. “I am American. Well, my father is half English, and my mother is French. But, we live in the states.”
Elena lifted a brow. “A strange combination, to be sure.”
The way the girl proudly lifted her chin despite her bedraggled appearance made Adrienne laugh. “In any case, we will have to do something about this….” She gestured to the dirty water soaking through the girl’s dress and dripping at her feet.
Her soulful blue eyes darkened. “Oh, my dress is ruined. My mother will be so angry with me!”
“It’s all right.” She considered the girl for a moment. “I do believe I have a dress that might fit you.” Elena was a bit shorter than her, though.
“You mustn’t go to the trouble.” Her blue gaze searched the harbor. “I got turned around. My driver is gone. I took pianoforte lessons in town, and then he was to stay with me on a stroll I usually take at this time of day.” The girl bit her lip, and Adrienne thought she caught a hint of fear in those eyes as they darted around.
“Don’t worry. I do hope the man taught that ruffian some manners, however.”
“How can you tell me not to worry? I am at the harbor, and my family lives in the country. And without money—”
“We’ll help you.”
She frowned. “You don’t even know me.”
Adrienne shrugged. “I will still help you. Come, my family is nearby. We’re visiting England.” Surely, she could locate La Voyageur again. Perhaps George, Papa’s second-in-command, could help?Or, maybe she could find the hotel they were staying at, and her father could find her there.
“Oh, I suppose it would be fine if they took me home.”
She nodded. “Of course.”
She turned her head. “Papa!” she shouted, unable to express the pure joy of hearing his deep voice again.
The broad shoulders of her father came into view, his full head of dark, wavy hair swirling in the breeze as he stood in his gray day suit. He scowled down at Adrienne, clutching her shoulders as he shook her gently. He was stern just like on La Voyageur, in charge when he stood with his hands crossed behind him at first, waiting while the men lined up in two opposing rows.
“Twice in one day? Chére, how many times have I told you that you must not run off?”
She stuttered as she replied, “Papa, I got caught in the crowd, torn away from you. I couldn’t help it.”
“Are you hurt?”
He nodded, and then glanced over at Elena. “Oh. What do we have here?”
Adrienne frowned at him. “That’s a girl, Papa!”
His lips twisted. “Oui, I can see that. Who is your friend, chére?”
“Why, I…,” she frowned. “I do not know her surname.”
Despite her disheveled state, the girl managed a curtsy. “I am Elena Wyndham. Pleased to meet you both.”
Adrienne couldn’t figure out why her father looked so amused as she glanced at him, then back toward Elena. “A pleasure, of course. My name is Adrienne Bellamont Hill and this is my father, Captain Hill. Papa, Elena got herself into some trouble. A ruffian stole her reticule and pushed her! I saw it all. And I would have taken him to task if the man who found me hadn’t rushed off after him. I also had to pull her out of the water.”
The girl’s teeth chattered as she crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s true, sir. Your daughter saved me.”
“I see. Those are unfortunate circumstances, to be sure, Miss Wyndham. May I ask the whereabouts of your parents as you seem quite alone?”
“They are at home. I… got lost somehow, and I don’t know where my driver is.”
He nodded. “Well, we shall take you to them at once.”
“Yes, of course. But, she’ll borrow one of my dresses first,” Adrienne offered.
His dark gaze swept over Elena’s gown. “A reasonable request I’m certain we can accommodate. Come along, girls, and stick close to me. The hotel isn’t much farther, but we still must get through this crowd of people.”
This time, she took Elena’s hand in hers and clung to the edge of her father’s suit jacket with her other. She didn’t want to lose sight of him again. They went to the hotel, a blue and white structure at the end of the pier. Inside, Papa inquired about rooms, and Adrienne smiled at Elena. “Perhaps I will see more of you while we are in town.”
Elena nodded. “I would like that.”
“We could exchange addresses and write to one another. I don’t have any friends in England.”
Elena’s blue eyes twinkled. “You just made one. I’ll never forget what you did for me out there.”
Adrienne waved a hand. “Really, I think anyone would have done it.”
“I’m not so certain.”
She didn’t want to think about what might have happened if she hadn’t known what to do. She couldn’t imagine watching someone drown and doing nothing to help, as it appeared that man on the dock was capable of. Besides, receiving gratitude wasn’t something she had ever handled very easily. She knew her parents would have done the same in her position, though, and she was glad she’d taken action.
“Come now, girls. It appears your mother found some rooms. I’ll take you to her.” They followed her Papa and another man up a set of stairs and down a hall until the man knocked on the door.
Her mother answered. Fara Hill’s auburn hair, just a shade or two lighter than Gabriel’s, was pulled up into a bun. Her violet eyes, so like Adrienne’s, were filled with concern though they narrowed. “What kept you?”
Her father kissed Maman’s cheek, then tipped the man who’d accompanied them before ushering the girls inside the room.
“Sorry for the delay, love. Adrienne ran into some trouble, and it seems we have a visitor. This young lady is Elena Wyndham, and we are charged to return her to her parents.”
“Of course!” She smiled at Elena. “It is a pleasure to meet you. You may call me Fara, if you like.”
Her new friend curtsied once more. “You’re very kind, Mrs. Hill. How long do you think your family will be staying?”
Captain Hill scratched his chin. “Ah, maybe five days.”
“Then perhaps Adrienne can come to dinner with my parents tonight or tomorrow.”
Adrienne felt a sudden thrill, and she clenched her hands. “I would love to. Maman?”
“Well, I’m sure that would be fine. Elena, have your mother let us know when it is a good time to come back for Adrienne.”
“I will.”
“For now, Maman, Elena needs a dress.”
Her mother nodded, that swift violet gaze assessing Elena’s damp state. “I can see that.”
Papa cleared his throat. “Ah, that’s my cue. I shall disappear for an hour and procure a ride to Elena’s house. Where do you live, Miss Wyndham?”
“On the outskirts of Harwich, in the country. Everyone has heard of the Wyndham estate.”
“Very well.” He kissed her mother’s forehead, and fluffed Adrienne’s hair before leaving the room.
“You are taller than Elena, chére. I fear your clothes won’t fit her.”
She frowned. “No, Maman! I packed that light blue dress, the one you said was too short for me.”
“Hmm… yes, that might work.”
Soon enough, they had Elena stripped and sponged off using the water basin and soap nearby, then wrapped her in a warm towel. When she was warmer, she was given a shift and new pantaloons, as well as Adrienne’s spare pair of boots. Then her Maman put the light blue, silk gown over Elena’s head and buttoned it up.
“I will give all of this back to you tomorrow,” Elena said.
“It’s all right. We don’t need it.”
Fara Hill smiled. “Adrienne is right. We can buy her other clothing. Don’t concern yourself over it, all right?”
She nodded.
Her father arrived with a knock at the door and he escorted the young ladies to the waiting cab. They piled in, one by one, and headed off. The drive was scenic, but Adrienne was far too distracted to enjoy much of it. She didn’t want to let her new friend go just yet.
All too soon the driver pulled up to a large house in an ivory color with numerous, shuttered windows. Her father stepped out of the cab and helped the girls down.
A blonde-haired woman shouted as she came out of the house, “Elena, darling!” Then she gathered her daughter against her. “When Theodore returned without you, we weren’t sure what to do. Your father was about to fetch the constable.” As she drew away, she looked at Adrienne and her Papa. “Oh, hello….”
“Good evening, Mrs. Wyndham. I am Captain Hill of La Voyageur. We just docked this afternoon. My family is visiting with me in town and it appears my daughter, Adrienne, happened upon your own child at the harbor. She could have drowned, but she’s a very lucky girl.”
She gasped. “Are you all right, Elena? Do we need to fetch a physician?” She caught her daughter’s chin and lifted her face up to the setting sunlight.
“No, I’m fine, only grateful to Adrienne. She saved my life. And her parents, of course.” 
She hugged Elena. “I am grateful as well, darling.” She glanced at the captain. “I’m sorry to be a burden on you since you just came into town.”
“Not at all. We were happy to help. And if I’m not mistaken, I think our girls have a burgeoning friendship.”
“Oh, well… we would, ah, only want Elena to associate with young ladies of her class, you understand?”
He nodded, but his smile vanished. “Of course, but have no fear. My daughter is an heiress, Mrs. Wyndham.”
“Oh! I didn’t know.”
“Adrienne is a pleasant, young lady. I can tell, Mama.”
“Of course, dear.”
“May she come to dinner this evening?” Elena asked, with a hopeful look in her blue eyes.
Mrs. Wyndham appeared to consider it. “Not today, dear. We have other plans tonight, but she may come tomorrow evening at eight o’clock. Would that be all right, Captain Hill?”
“Yes, of course. I will escort her myself and you can tell me when to fetch her.”
“Good. Come along then, Elena.”
“Mama, let me say goodbye to Adrienne….”
“All right, love. I’ll meet you inside.” She turned on her heel and had disappeared before they could blink. 
Elena looked at them both. “Mother can be rather difficult about my acquaintances. I don’t know many girls my age as I only have a governess.”
Adrienne’s father frowned. “I still find it odd you were in town on your own, even with a driver.”
“Mother doesn’t go into town often, perhaps to the milliner’s shop, but nowhere else. We have done some traveling, however, to London and Bath.”
“I see. Well, we should head off now. Adrienne?”
She nodded. “Yes, Papa. Elena, it was nice meeting you.”
“The pleasure was mine.” They shook hands like she’d been taught. “We’ll exchange addresses after dinner tomorrow, Adrienne. It is all right if we write to one another, sir?”
Captain Hill smiled. “Of course.”
“Thank you, sir. Goodbye, Adrienne.”
“Goodbye, Elena. I will see you tomorrow.”
Elena curtsied and then went inside her house.
Adrienne waited while her father boosted her into their hired cab and, after he climbed in, the hansom cab began to move. Papa squeezed her hand and she glanced over at him. “Hmm?”
“Elena is a nice young lady. I see no reason you shouldn’t become friends with her.”
She nodded. “I was thinking the same thing, Papa.” She bit her lip. “She was so grateful to me before, I knew not what to say.”
“You saved her life. I am so proud of you, bébé.”
“Thank you,” she whispered. “In truth, Papa, I don’t know how I did it.”
“That is often the way of things when someone is in danger. We can only react.”
When they arrived at the hotel, her father lifted her out of the cab, took her hand and they went inside. She froze in the front hall just inside the door. That man from before, the one who’d confronted her, stood there, with his ruddy appearance and soiled clothing. She drew behind her father, grasping his suit jacket, and tugged.
He frowned, glancing back at her. “Chére?”
“Papa, that’s him, the man who thought I was a thief and handled me roughly, then went after that boy.” Captain Hill’s dark eyes widened for a moment, and then his face became a hard mask. She realized she’d forgotten to tell her father everything before, and she shivered. “Papa, I—”
“Let me handle it, Adrienne.”
She nodded and watched as her father stepped forward, his hands clenched into fists. “My daughter is no thief, Monsieur. If you’ve come to recover what you’ve lost, you’ll have nothing from us. She had to pull that poor girl from the drink—”
“No, and I’m sorry…”
“Captain Hill.”
“I, I’m sorry, Captain. I never meant for her to have to do that. I was desperate, but I found the boy.”
“Interrogated him, did you? I hope you handled it without resorting to violence at least.”
He shrugged. “No, I barely touched the rascal, but I did get my money back. I also retrieved this,” he said as he handed over a royal blue, satin, drawstring purse with braided cording. 
“Elena’s reticule!” she cried, and moved closer.
“Just so. I thought the young lady might have need of it.”
As she glanced between the men, her father’s eyes narrowed. “I trust her belongings are still there?”
“Of course. I am not without scruples, sir.”
“How did you find us?”
“I inquired on Halfpenny Pier to see where the girl might have gone. When they mentioned both had disappeared with a man down the pier, I began to fear for their safety. I see you found your daughter, anyway.”
“Yes. Thank you for returning the reticule. We shall deliver it safely, I assure you.”
He nodded, then made a move to leave the building, but turned back. Both Adrienne and her father watched as he shook his head in a wry fashion and pointed at her. “That one, she is one to watch out for. Fearless.”
“You have no idea,” her father murmured.
After the man left, she frowned up at her Papa, shaking her head. “I was plenty afraid, Papa, when you left, but I knew I was on my own so I had to figure it out.”
He smiled. “You learned an important lesson today, chére.”
“What’s that?”
“There is never courage without fear.” He drew his arms around her then, and she leaned her head against his waist.

About Marie Lavender

Multi-genre author of Victorian romance, UPON YOUR RETURN, and 22 other books. UPON YOUR LOVE and THE MISSING PIECE placed in the TOP 10 on the 2017 P&E Readers' Poll. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated for the 2017 Reader's Choice Awards. The I Love Romance Blog became a finalist in StartDating DK's Romance Blog Awards of 2017. ILRB landed on Feedspot’s 2017 TOP 100 Novel Blogs and TOP 100 Romance Blogs. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART placed in the TOP 10 Books of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog Challenge Survivor in 2016. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title - winner of the "Broken Heart" themed contest and the "I Love You" themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers' Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers' Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial's Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader's Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013, 2014 and 2016. 2013 and 2014 Amazon Bestseller Ranking for UPON YOUR RETURN. Top 10 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 23 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several anthologies. Her current published series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Magick Series, The Code of Endhivar Series and The Blood at First Sight Series. Feel free to visit her website at for further information about her books and her life. Marie is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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