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'Twas an unsavoury life he led, our lad, in an unsavoury land, where an angel wouldna tread. --Dubhgall MacIain MacLeoid
London, 1812 If there was one bit of dramatic nonsense Gabriel Loudon, the Earl of Rievaulx, loathed more than Sunday sermons, it was ghost stories. He loathed the familiar devices, the predictable ends. Most of all, he loathed the undercurrent of every sorry tale that said "This might be true; you cannot prove otherwise."
His feelings on the matter had been different once. As a child he had loved to sit with his grandfather in front of the fire while the old man spun tales of ghoulish glory, always about the long-departed Loudons who stalked Scarborough House's dim halls on midwinter nights. The earl had punctuated the tales by occasionally and suddenly tickling the back of Gabriel's neck, where the boy's hair already stood on end, with his gnarled fingers. Gabriel had clung to his grandfather's knee in terrified delight during the telling. And each night he had reluctantly crept off to bed, a taper gripped in each small fist as he navigated the dark paneled halls on his shaky way to bed.
His grandfather had been gone for fifteen years now and, despite countless bantering promises to the contrary, had never made a reappearance in the ancient house he'd loved and lovingly passed on to the son of his own long-dead son. Gabriel had grown into adulthood, a strong and handsome replica of so many past earls whose stern visages lined the galleries, and he had come to hate ghost stories.
Each and every one reminded him of the ghosts for which he himself was responsible.
At the moment, he was being subjected to a spectral taleof the sort that meant the least to him but set his teeth on edge nonetheless. God help him, it was yet one more involving the spirit of some blighted Highlander, and it was interfering with Gabriel's own earthly pleasures.
The men at the table behind him seemed to have lost interest in their game of vingt-et-un some time past, and had taken to exchanging ghostly tales loudly and with excruciating detail. As lax as Gabriel's own concentration on his cards had become in his boredom, it was completely ruined by the hiccuping narrative nearby.
Around the cavernous room, coins clinked as they changed hands. Men groaned with their losses; women cackled or squealed as groping hands found purchase. All the sounds of a true and busy gaming hell, ordinarily splendid to Gabriel's ears, but now appropriated and spoiled by the quintet behind him.
"It rosh again, the skreel of pipes among the fallen stones. . . ."
So far, this speaker had risen his skirling pipes three times, and mentioned his ghost, a one-armed chieftain, only once. Gabriel had been ready to turn and demand just how a one-armed Scot could play the bagpipes at all, but he wasn't really interested and there was no fun to be had in baiting drunken cretins. Beyond that, the table had eyed him fishily when he had taken his seat an hour earlier. As tempting as it might be, Gabriel saw no reason to ruin his own comfort by upsetting theirs.
He recognized most of the gathering. That in itself would ordinarily have been enough to send him running, but he was pleasantly drunk and winning. The misfortune of knowing many of his fellow gamesters was a mere annoyance. Sadly, the clientele of the Red Hollow had become rather patrician of late. When he had stumbled upon the Tavistock Street gaming hell some six months earlier, it had been filled with smoke, prostitutes, and tradesmen of the sort whose wares would never make their way into Mayfair shops.
The lightskirts were still present; Gabriel had removed one from his lap not ten minutes past. The smoke was still there, too, hovering like fog, obscuring the same scarred paneling and tattered, grimy brocade drapes. What had changed was that the room was now liberally peppered with far cleaner brocade waistcoats, adorning far cleaner gamblers. Apparently other members of the ton had discovered the place more recently. While Gabriel had kept its splendid existence very much to himself, someone else had not.
There was still a scattering of glowering toughs about, hunched at corner tables with their dice and dented tankards, but most had been hastened off by the new arrivals and by the cudgel-wielding proprietor, who had scented a far more profitable living in serving the blue bloods. And making certain their pockets were not picked by nimble fingers or their corseted sides pricked by lethal blades.
Gabriel supposed he would have to seek out the next hell soon enough. He had eschewed "Polite" company and insipid Society gatherings since returning from the Continent nearly a year ago. He certainly had no desire to share his formerly prime entertainment space with Society men now. For tonight, however, cards were cards, gold was gold, and the whiskey burned pleasantly on its way down. He would tolerate the nasal cries and intermittent bursts of spilled snuff.
Yes, he knew many of the men present, including several of those at the table behind him. They knew him. And were clearly not pleased with the acquaintance. As best Gabriel could recall, he had not fleeced any of these particular creatures at the tables, bedded their wives, or insulted their tailors. Of course, enough whiskey did dull his memory on occasion, but never fully erased it. His years in the service of King and Country had sharpened him too well for that.
It was likely nothing more than his reputation, then.
Gabriel had never asked to be dubbed the Archangel by his peers, had certainly never striven to epitomize the absurd sobriquet. And he couldn't really be bothered to care that it was gone, nor that his ignominy had swelled to the point that it had followed him even to this disreputable spot.
At one of the increasingly infrequent visits to his club, an erstwhile friend had seen fit to commend him, drunken wastrel that he had become, on his good fortune in not being shunned outright. How tolerant was the ton of its own, the fellow had murmured. Gabriel knew tolerance bloody well had nothing to do with it. The overfed capons who perched in the club's overstuffed chairs were terrified of him.
He also knew it hadn't always been so. But as it happened, this was neither the place nor time to contemplate his inelegant tumble from grace. Especially when those denouncing him were doing so for all the wrong reasons. He did not dispute their right to scorn him; he just rather wished they would do so on the correct grounds.
He shrugged, and drained his glass in a swallow. He had all the time in the world to go yet another vicious round with his demons. He had other matters to attend to at present.
"Another?" he asked, surprised, of his companion who had apparently recovered sufficiently from the last hand of cards to deal the next. It seemed foolish to hope the man would take the scowled hint and withdraw, but if there was one pithy proverb Gabriel had heard ad nauseam, it involved the eternal existence of hope.
Clarence Fullerton coughed and waved a shaky hand in front of his waxen face. The ever-present smoke wafted for a moment, then settled again. A more poetic man might have been reminded of Hebridean mists that drifted over a man's face like a woman's cool, gentle fingers in the night. Gabriel chose instead to draw a thin Egyptian cheroot from his silver case. He dragged the ill-smelling candle over the table toward him, scarcely noting the hot tallow that ran over his hand in the process. As he bent his head, bringing the cigar to the flame, he darted a hooded glance at his opponent.
Fullerton, for all his twenty-odd years, looked like a schoolboy who had been fed a tadpole. He tugged repeatedly at his wilted cravat, and his eyes, beneath the Byronic tangle of gold hair, were distressed and a bit glazed. The carafe of poor-quality port he had purchased explained the glaze. Gabriel suspected the rising pile of debt markers in the center of the table went a long way toward explaining the distress.
Gabriel could see Fullerton counting his losses as best he could with his fogged brain. Fifty quid in gold, another three hundred in paper promises. It was pocket money to the earl, but for the younger man it probably represented a quarter's allowance, if not a great deal more.
Fullerton shakily lifted several chits between his finger- tips, let them flutter back to the pile. His chin went up, if only a trembling notch. "Another, yes."
His eyes were desperate now, an hour after the first hand, and Gabriel knew desperation went badly with cards. So did idiocy, and Fullerton had that in abundance. Only a fool would have slapped down a deck in front of a man a decade older and aeons ahead in experience. But there was an eager spark in the younger man, one Gabriel found amusing. It reminded him of the man he had once been.
He was nothing like this boy now. At thirty-two, he'd lived one lifetime of good sport and goodwill, and another of which he couldn't be nearly so indulgent. The Fallen Archangel. But that had been Fullerton's goal, he imagined, to face the notorious earl--the earl being in a drunkenly subdued state, of course--and leave with his skin intact, perhaps even a few extra quid in his pocket.
Gabriel drew deeply on his cheroot, then released the smoke in a slow stream. It surrounded Fullerton's face, making him blink anew, then rose. A more righteous man might have seen it as a halo of sorts over the gold curls. Gabriel simply watched it dissipate into the rest of the haze. He drew again, short puffs, then set the cigar on the edge of the table. It rocked for a moment, dropping ash on Fullerton's slack leg.
Gabriel idly sifted through the pile of markers with one finger. "Not a good night for you, it seems."
Posted January 24, 2002
Written with a talent for setting that takes the reader straight to the Scottish Highlands. The characters, Gabriel and Maggie, engaged this reader immediately and didn't let go. Toss in intrigue and adventure and what do you have? A book that is well worth reading and a story that is sure to please. Brava, Ms. Jensen, for creating such a wonderful tale.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
Though time is said to heal all wounds, Lord Gabriel Louden thinks otherwise. He still suffers remorse and guilt from his failures as a soldier during the Peninsular War against Napoleon. Still, his friend and military colleague Nathan Paget requests Gabriel render a duty for England. Though he prefers to say no and wallow in his misery, Gabriel accepts the mission and journeys to the Isle of Skye to stop the Scottish traitor, L¿Ecossais <P> In Skye, Gabriel and his hostess Maggie MacLeod find themselves attracted to one another from their very first meeting. As they begin to fall in love with one another, both share a mutual distrust for the other, which will soon test their chances for a permanent relationship as well as endanger the duo. <P> FALLEN, the sequel to the fabulous ENTWINED, is a fantastic Regency romance. The hero is a fallen angel suffering from battle fatigue over the errors he made that cost men their lives. The battle between right and wrong as seen through the love and disagreement of Maggie and Gabriel is cleverly designed so that the audience must think about whom holds the moral high ground. Award winning has written a complex, exciting tale that will bring her much acclaim as one of the sub-genre¿s most enjoyable novelists. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 3, 2001
Gabriel Loudon, Earl of Rievaulx, was a special operative for the British during the Napeolonic Wars. At the request of his friend Oriel, he travels to the Isle of Skye seeking redemption for his inadvertent loss of intelligence information which resulted in the deaths of two colleagues. In his search for L'Ecossais, a Scot who is also a French spy, Gabriel meets Maggie MacLeod, a fiercely loyal Scot and a compassionate woman with a healing nature. Will love prevail when Gabriel tells Maggie that L'Ecossais might be one of her own? Emma Jensen makes one feel as if they are acutally climbing the cliffs on the Isle of Skye. She skillfully blends local Scots folklore with intrigue and romance which will keep you guessing until the very end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.