Date Published: April 28, 2020
The last thing she wants is a husband…
Least of all one determined to win her heart…
Lady Cassandra has no desire to marry. But when Captain Devlin Crawford brings scandal to her doorstep and offers salvation, she cannot say no. Not with her daughter’s future at stake. So she decides to accept Devlin’s offer, provided he agrees to never being intimate with her. For although Cassandra is drawn to Devlin, she refuses to dishonor the memory of her one true love.
Devlin knows he’s made a mess, but now that it’s done, marrying Cassandra doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world. Far from it, though it will take serious effort on his part to convince her of this. Especially since she’s never stopped mourning the man she was meant to marry over a decade ago. So once they set off on a grand ocean voyage, Devlin embarks on his greatest adventure yet – the wooing of his wife.
Other Books in The Crawfords Series:
No Ordinary Duke
The Crawfords, Book 1
Release Date: August 2018
He’s everything she’s trying to avoid…But somehow precisely what she needs…
Caleb Crawford doesn’t want to be a duke. He’d much rather build houses for a living. So when fate disrupts his peaceful life and burdens him with the responsibilities of a newly inherited title, he does what any sensible man would do by fleeing London, disguising himself as a laborer, and seeking refuge with three young spinsters who need his help with a leaky roof.
Ruined by a marquess who promised her the world, Mary Clemens has sworn to avoid marriage forever. Instead, she intends to live out her days with her friends and the orphaned children they’ve taken into their care. But when Mr. Crawford comes knocking, Mary finds herself in real danger of risking heartbreak all over again. Especially when she discovers that he’s not at all what he seems.
More Than A Rogue
The Crawfords, Book 2
Release Date: June 25, 2019
All she wanted was a kiss…
What she got, was fiery passion…
Emily Howard knows she is destined to be a spinster. She has accepted this fate, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to experience kissing. What she doesn’t expect, is for Griffin Crawford, the handsomest man in the world, to do the honors. Or for all her female relations to discover her in his embrace. Naturally, marriage is instantly mentioned, but since Emily knows this is not what Griffin wants, she tries to escape him, her family and the ensuing scandal.
When Emily flees the Camberly ball in the wake of their kiss, Griffin goes in pursuit. He will not allow his sister-in-law’s determined friend to risk her safety for any reason. And risk it she will if she means to return to her countryside home by herself. But the longer he remains in her company, the more he is tempted to kiss her again. If only he could risk falling in love and remain in England forever.
“I cannot believe the duke and duchess would think to invite her.” The speaker had just stepped onto the terrace a few yards from where Devlin stood.
“It is my understanding that she and the duchess are dear friends,” another voice gently advised.
“Well yes. There is that, I suppose. But to not consider the Vernons’ feelings really is bad form.” There was a small sniff. “Can you imagine having your scandalous daughter make a spectacle on the dance floor for all the world to see? I mean, honestly! She practically threw herself at him, poor man.” There was an outraged snort. “As if Lord Devlin would ever consider marrying the likes of her. The mere thought of it is—”
“What?” Devlin asked stepping forward. He set his glass aside anven if that meant forcing the horrid baroness to choke on her own words.
“Yes?” he inquired in an eerily quiet voice that managed to turn his own stomach. “You were saying?”
“Um…merely that…er…” She glanced at her friend while fidgeting with her gloves but when she found no help there, she surprised Devlin by raising her chin and looking him dead in the eye. “You are a duke’s brother for heaven’s sake and she is nothing but a—”
“Lady DeVries,” Caleb snapped.
“—trollop,” the baroness finished, punctuating her statement with a victorious smile.
What she couldn’t see was the blood rushing through Devlin’s veins or the tight strain of his muscles. Never in his life had he been so livid, and if Lady DeVries had been a man, he would have called her out by now so he could have the pleasure of shooting her dead.
“Devlin,” Caleb murmured from somewhere nearby. “Don’t do anything rash. I beg you.”
But the middle-aged woman who stood before Devlin, dripping with smug maliciousness, had pushed him past all reason. “And what makes you so much better?” he asked.
Lady DeVries gasped. Her friend gulped, took a step back, and then fled back inside the ballroom, abandoning the baroness to her fate. Caleb groaned and Monty managed to get in a weary, “For God’s sake, Dev,” before Lady DeVries recovered and said, “I will not be spoken to in such a rude manner. I deserve better.”
“So does Lady Cassandra.”
The baroness crossed her arms. “Don’t be absurd. She might have been born into the nobility, but she threw all of that away the moment she chose to—”
“Madam,” Devlin seethed, “I would advise you to choose your next words wisely.”
“Or I shall have to ask you to leave,” Caleb said.
The baroness scoffed – scoffed! – in response to her host’s statement, but Caleb apparently chose to let it go without comment. “Why am I not surprised?” she asked as she turned away and started toward the French doors leading back to the ballroom. But just when Devlin thought that might be the end of their quarrel, she turned back to face him with all the arrogance Devlin despised about the aristocracy. “Lady Cassandra is a fallen woman. When even her parents can see that, I don’t understand why you find it such a hard concept to grasp.”
“Oh, Jesus,” Monty murmured.
Devlin speared Lady DeVries with his hardest glare. “You will not speak of her in that manner.”
“As much as I respect your family, I hardly think it appropriate for you to advise me on how I may or may not refer to a person of such low moral standing as Lady Cassandra.”
Maybe it was the fact that he’d just gotten off a ship after several months at sea, maybe it was the champagne—though he seriously doubted it, or maybe it was the fact that he’d really enjoyed seeing Cassandra again that finally made Devlin come up with something completely unplanned and, quite possibly, cataclysmic. What he did know was that he could think of only one way in which to give Cassandra the stamp of approval necessary to make this woman regret her words.
Blind with rage and as he’d later admit not entirely clear-headed, he ignored Caleb’s words of warning and leaned toward the baroness. Meeting her gaze with all the hatred he possessed for her at that moment, he said, “It bloody well is when she is to be my wife.”
About the Author
Born in Denmark, USA TODAY bestselling author Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish, and Romanian with varying degrees of fluency. But, most impressive of all, she’s been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.
When she’s not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading.
An Enchantress Novel, Book 4
Date Published: February 14, 2020
From the shadows of war, love rises.
Lady Mary Mowbrah, daughter of a duke, fell in love with a man beneath her station. When he leaves for war, determined to earn her hand as a hero, she promises to wait for him, never dreaming the man who returns will be different from the man who left.
Colonel Duncan Starrett returns from war with honors, accolades, and a debilitating injury. As much as he still loves Lady Mary, he fears a future between them is now impossible.
This is the love story of Mary and Duncan as they forge a future from the shadows of the past.
Other Books in the Enchantress Novel Series:
The Earl and The Enchantress
The Duke and The Enchantress
The Baron and The Enchantress
Five years earlier
Stretching out his legs, Duncan Starrett lay across the picnic blanket, his forearm sinking into the dewy grass beneath. His eyes met those of his love’s—wide, walnut brown, framed with black lashes against alabaster skin. For nearly a year he had loved her, yet one look still made his pulse race.
“I want to come with you,” she said, brushing soft fingers against his cheek.
“I’ll return before you notice I’ve gone; a decorated hero worthy of your hand.”
She pleaded with her eyes.
“The battlefield is no place for you, Mary. How could I fight for Crown and country when worrying about your safety? Not that your family would ever consent for you to follow the drum.”
“Oh, Duncan, let’s elope! It would be so romantic.” Wistful, Lady Mary clasped her hands, looked to the heavens, and fell back against the blanket with a sigh of youthful innocence.
Tree branches danced shadows on her features. His heartbeat quickened as he leaned over her, tracing her lips with his fingertips. Leaving her behind would be the most difficult task of his life. His Mary. His love.
“Dream of my return,” he said. “We’ll attend the best parties, dance until our feet blister, and ride into the sunset on our fastest horses. Once I return, I’ll ask permission for your hand.”
She combed her fingers through his hair, sending shivers from scalp to toes. Pulling him to her, she kissed him, a gentle pout of moist lips pursed to his.
“We’ve lingered too long,” he murmured, lost in the depths of her eyes. “Go home before they notice your absence.”
As an ensign in the Light Dragoons, Duncan saw more ballrooms than battlefields, easy to do when there were no battles. He craved the clash of swords and thunder of guns. After a childhood filled with his father’s romantic war stories, Duncan longed to experience the scenes for himself: hiking impossible hills, meeting the enemy with sword drawn, wading through rivers, sleeping beneath the stars. In the quiet of the night, he brandished his sabre at the darkness, practicing his moves, striking a dashing pose.
Lieutenant Starrett had yet to see war. Was this his route to heroism? Was he fated to return home an officer who had never drawn his sword?
Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, months to years.
The French were at war with themselves, launching a revolution against their monarchy. The British Army remained idle, waiting. Waiting for what? An opportune moment to fight? Duncan wanted to fight now. For too long he had waited for action. He recalled the promises made when his father purchased his first commission—the Crown would take advantage of France’s weakness. When was this grand takeover? His blade was sharp, his gun was clean, and he was ready.
Captain Starrett ached with desperation to prove himself.
And then, he found war. Or rather, war found him.
The daring! The glory! The action exhilarated him.
He roared into battle, a fierce foe, heart in his throat, body tingling with excitement tinged with fear. He fought for his life, for his country, for his father, for Mary. In this moment, he was man—raw power, passionate and invigorated, victory red.
He thought himself debonair, a real hero.
With the elation of battle pulsing through his veins, he wrote to Mary. He could not very well return after wielding his sword only once. He wanted more—thirsted, hungered for more. What was another couple of years after the three he spent waiting? It was not as though he would never return.
Major Starrett dabbed the tender skin of his stomach with a wet cloth. The blade had come too close for comfort. Only now did he realize how close, as it had sliced through his waistcoat and grazed his skin. The more superficial, the more troubling. He winced with each stroke of the cloth.
However safe at camp he was, the apprehension of more bloodshed buzzed in his ears. The morning would see the fighting renewed. His limbs were clammy from the cold sweat all too familiar both post- and pre-battle. Tonight, he would dream of holding Mary, inhaling the aroma of her lavender-scented hair, savoring the feel of her velvet skin.
He trudged with throbbing feet, overwrought muscles, and pounding head, disillusioned by war. Lost were his dreams in a sea of red, bathed in the glow of regimental coats mingled with blood. This was not heroic. This was not glamorous. This was a horror show of vacant stares and flashing steel. He was Charon, ferrying sons from their mothers and husbands from their wives. No longer did he crave the battlefield with its death and guilt.
And yet, he still craved the valor, the camaraderie, the rhythm of the drums, the scent of victory, the sounds of gallantry.
Atop his stallion Caesar, Lieutenant Colonel Starrett of the Light Dragoons led his men into battle. British, Dutch, and Austrian troops launched against the French, a proper invasion of a weakened and ruler-less country. With sabre at the ready, he leaned forward and squeezed his calves to the hot horseflesh, signaling his mount to charge. The formation was tight, mere inches between cavalry riders. A roar of power erupted as they broke through infantry lines, slashing an opening for the foot regiments.
There was no greater feeling than a horse beneath him, an inseverable bond between beast and man. Only his legs and weight signaled his horse’s movements, for his hands wielded weapons of war rather than reins. His horse was an extension of himself.
Boxtel was a fierce and bloody battle, but Duncan was untouchable atop his stallion.
Colonel Starrett shivered. More men had died from exposure than battle; a harsher winter they had not seen. With white clouds for breath, they prepared to defend the frozen waters of the Lower Rhine. The horses pawed the iced earth, ready. He stroked Caesar’s neck, his hand trembling.
The enemy lined the opposite bank, muskets aimed, bayonets fixed.
Ignoring the smell of fear in the air, Duncan signaled his regiment with his sabre.
Time slowed. Seconds stretched to infinity between spur and charge. Duncan’s attention funneled. He knew only the hoofbeats of his horse, the song of bullets, and his steady breath.
The cavalry hoofed alongside their field commander, an impenetrable wall of horse muscle and blades.
Convinced the Holy Spirit was on their side, the enemy marched across the frozen water.
Steel clanged and men cried as the dragoons broke the line at the riverbank.
A moment of victory before it all went wrong.
Another line crossed the river, muskets aimed, bayonets fixed. Another line behind them. And another. His regiment, decimated by the cold, chattered their teeth along the river’s edge as they watched the endless onslaught of Frenchmen.
Retreat! The cry echoed through the ranks, the survivors running or fighting their way back to safety.
Duncan, one hand wielding his sabre, the other holstering his Elliot pattern pistol, nudged Caesar to about-face. Without further encouragement, the horse turned and retreated, the whole of the allied troops doing likewise.
His one thought: get the men to safety.
A slap to his lower back broke his focus. He looked to either side, expecting to see one of his men. Leaning forward to quicken the pace away from the river, he felt a tightening pressure along his spine, warming as it twisted, a fire poker sinking into his flesh then tugging.
The scorch spread, hot and wet.
As he straightened, slowing his mount, he felt winded, the air knocked out of his lungs. He panicked, struggling to breathe.
Before him, arm outstretched, hovered an ethereal Mary. His Mary. His ladylove. Even as he reached out to her, his head swam in a dizzying vortex. Their fingers touched as he slumped against Caesar’s neck.
About the Author
Celebrated for her complex characters, realistic conflicts, and sensual love scenes, Paullett Golden puts a spin on historical romance. Her novels, set primarily in Georgian and Regency England with some dabbling in Ireland, Scotland, and France, challenge the norm by involving characters who are loved for their flaws, imperfections, and idiosyncrasies. Her stories show love overcoming adversity. Whatever our self-doubts, love will out.
Publisher: Eve D. Ackerman
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Hijacking an Englishman from a brothel is all in a day’s work for Captain Mattie St. Armand. She needs protective coloration, and a naïve (and expendable) white man will keep the eyes of the authorities off her as she smuggles slaves from the Florida Territory to freedom in the Bahamas.
Oliver Woodruff wanted a spot of travel in the Caribbean before he settled down, but he never expected “Marauding Mattie.” He’ll help her, but he knows there’s no place in his world for the bastard daughter of a pirate and a freedwoman.
As Mattie trains him for their ruse, she comes to realize he’s a man she can turn to for support and companionship, and Oliver grows to love the commanding and daring woman who refuses to fit society’s mold… but both are sure their relationship is doomed by society’s taboos.
It will take danger and adventure (and Roscoe the parrot) to convince them that the passion between them is more than an island fantasy.
“I don’t need a useless white boy. Find someone else to take him off your hands.”
“Not a boy, a man. The sort you favor, captain—golden curls, pouty mouth. He’s quite pretty, I know you’ll agree.”
Captain St. Armand stretched out long legs clad in close fitting buckskins, admiring the shine on boots freshly polished. The brothel on St. Martin offered a variety of services to its clients, from excellent meals to boot-blacking, along with the usual amenities one expected from such establishments.
“If I bring a pretty lad aboard ship, everyone will want one. I don’t share my toys.”
“You’ll take him,” the madam said. “I’m calling in my marker for the incident last year.”
“That wasn’t my fault!”
“Your ship, your crew, your fault, St. Armand.”
“Really, that man needed some excitement in his life.”
“That’s not the excitement Mr. Carlson sought at this house. He never expected a goat.”
St. Armand snickered at the memory. “I still say what you’re asking is excessive.”
“I thought you’d turn me down.” Barbara Simpson took a sip of the sherry she’d served herself. Her guest was drinking Jamaican rum, as usual. “You should know though, the young man in question is Bunny Rathbone’s relation.”
“Bunny Rathbone! How is the dear old boy?”
“He’s well, moving up in the world. He wrote me to say his cousin was touring the islands and if he came here I should treat him as an honored guest. Bunny implied Mr. Woodruff needed to experience more of life. To put it bluntly, he called the young man a ‘stuffy, boring stick.’ I invited him to the house, but first he ran into a spot of trouble and I brought him here for safekeeping.”
The doors to the parlor were open to catch the afternoon breezes rustling through the bougainvillea—a restful pause before business commenced for the evening. Comfortably rounded and middle-aged, Mrs. Simpson was a shrewd businesswoman whose motto was to give the clients what they desired—within reason—and to treat her girls as she’d wanted to be treated when she’d worked there. She’d miss Captain St. Armand, a favored customer setting sail for Nassau after a stop to provision and catch up on mail and messages from home. A packed valise waited near the door.
“The two of us have fond memories of Bunny’s visits to this house, but I’m sailing on the tide, so bring your package out here and let me see for myself.”
The madam’s bully boys were summoned and returned a short while later with their “package” struggling between them in a futile attempt at freedom. It was a young man in his mid-twenties, and, as promised, he had bright gold hair and sky-blue eyes. One of those eyes was blackened, and a bruise discolored the left side of his face. He was also gagged with his hands tied in front of him.
“As you see, I need your help taking him away, and you could use a cabin boy. You told me so yourself. Mr. Woodruff has an unfortunate habit of speaking intemperately, and there were people who took exception to what he said.”
“Americans. Ah, I thought that would interest you.”
“I am slightly tempted,” the captain said, looking the young man over. “I may have a use for him, other than the obvious one. As always, you have an excellent eye for the goods.”
The captive made a noise muffled by his gag.
“Don’t look so horrified, Sunshine. The work’s not onerous and it comes with special benefits. If he’s annoying the Americans I’m thinking of, it makes him far more trouble than he’s worth, Barbara. I’ll pay you for the goat incident and leave him to his own devices.”
“The goat incident set me back twenty-five pounds, not to mention the free services Mr. Carlson received for his embarrassment. You owe me, but if you take Woodruff with you to Nassau we’ll call it done.”
She directed one of her men to get the captive’s gear. The captain pulled a fine cigar from the mahogany box on the table, taking time to light it and inhale before answering.
“Twenty-five pounds? I don’t care how pouty his mouth is, there’s not a man alive worth that amount.”
The bound man squawked again, jerking against the hold on his arms.
“Untie the gag, James. Maybe Woodruff can convince me of his worth.”
The gag removed, the captive worked his square jaw back and forth, glaring at them.
“I demand you release me at once! I am a British citizen and I will notify the authorities!”
St. Armand looked at Mrs. Simpson, then both laughed aloud. Even the guard chuckled.
“How do you intend to back up that demand?” St. Armand asked. “Did you happen to bring a knife with you? Or guns? Or friends with guns?”
“Friends with guns are good, Captain.”
“Indeed they are, James, but I don’t believe Woodruff has friends here, with or without guns.”
“You cannot hold me here! I did not come to the islands to end up in a bawdy house!” he protested.
“Well, that’s your problem right there, Sunshine.”
Woodruff took a deep breath, then looked at the mistress of the house.
“You are not responsible for me, Mrs. Simpson. I am not unappreciative of your protecting me by keeping me here, but I can take care of myself.”
“You don’t seem to be doing a good job of it so far.”
He glared at the sea captain.
“I do not know what your interest in my affairs is, sir, but I do not need your assistance.” He started to step forward, but James’s heavy hand on his shoulder kept him in place.
St. Armand set down the cigar.
“It’s not up to you. Hold out your hands.”
Almost reflexively the man thrust his arms out. St. Armand’s knife sliced through the knots, but when Woodruff tried to pull his arm back, the captain gripped his hand and turned it over.
“Soft and smooth as a nun’s arse. You’ve never hauled lines or done work harder than holding a pen. Don’t look so astounded. I can tell you’re a scribbler from this callus on your finger.” Cold eyes scanned him from his face down to his feet. “Soft all over. I only take crew and cargo aboard my vessel. You are worthless to me.”
The brothel owner delicately cleared her throat.
“Goats, St. Armand. Remember the goats. You don’t have to keep him forever, like a pet. Take him to Nassau or Jamaica and leave him there. You owe me, and I owe”—she paused and looked at her guest—“our mutual friend, so let’s be reasonable about this.”
Woodruff stared at the sea captain. “You are Captain St. Armand? The Captain St. Armand, of the Prodigal Son?”
Before he could answer, the brothel’s majordomo knocked at the door.
“A note arrived for the captain, ma’am, and it’s marked urgent.”
St. Armand read the rumpled paper, a frown creasing the lean face.
“There’s no time for further debate. I’ll dispose of this person for you, Barbara, and make sure the body’s well hidden.”
“What? You can’t kill me!”
They ignored such a patently ridiculous statement, but Mrs. Simpson shook her head.
“I must insist.”
“Oh, very well. Woodruff, you’re coming with me. Your only choice is whether it’s bound and across your saddle, or riding.”
He appeared ready to argue, but after one look at St. Armand’s set face said, “I’ll ride.”
“You’ll find a way to turn a profit on him,” Mrs. Simpson said, rising to her feet as well, “I know you.”
“There is that,” St. Armand said cheerfully. “He could have an unfortunate and fatal accident aboard ship, and I know a surgeon in Nassau who pays well for fresh cadavers. Don’t look so pasty-faced, boy. If you follow orders, you should survive long enough to keep scribbling. The first order is this… The captain is always right, and when I give an order, I expect it to be obeyed. Say ‘Aye, Captain’ if you understand.”
Woodruff looked at him and swallowed.
About the Author
Darlene Marshall is the author of award-winning historical romance featuring pirates, privateers, smugglers, and the occasional possum. She loves working at a job where business attire is shorts and a shirt festooned with pink flamingos and palm trees. Marshall lives in North Central Florida, a convenient location for putting the convertible top down and researching sites of great historical significance, which also happen to be at the beach and serve mojitos.
Marshall is a graduate of the University of Florida and worked as a broadcast and print journalist, news anchor, radio station owner, obituary writer and a few other odd jobs. She’s section leader for Erotic Writing at TheLitForum.com.
Her books have been published in English, German and Estonian. Awards include the New England Chapter RWA (Romance Writers of America) Readers’ Choice Award and Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence for The Pirate’s Secret Baby; the Denver RWA Aspen Gold award (Castaway Dreams); the First Coast Romance Writers National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award (The Bride and the Buccaneer), and two EPIC awards.
Represented by Barbara Collins Rosenberg of the Rosenberg Group.