Imagine [NOOK Book]


After years in prison for a murder he never committed, escaped convict Hank Wyatt knew how to survive. But he didn't know if he could last an hour marooned on a deserted tropical island with a beautiful blonde and three orphaned children. Now, looking out for number one doesn't seem to be enough... San Francisco attorney Maggie Smith felt like having a good cry. Thoroughly modern, wealthy, and bright, she's suddenly been cast in the role of mother and forced to battle wits and hearts with the most arrogant man ...
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After years in prison for a murder he never committed, escaped convict Hank Wyatt knew how to survive. But he didn't know if he could last an hour marooned on a deserted tropical island with a beautiful blonde and three orphaned children. Now, looking out for number one doesn't seem to be enough... San Francisco attorney Maggie Smith felt like having a good cry. Thoroughly modern, wealthy, and bright, she's suddenly been cast in the role of mother and forced to battle wits and hearts with the most arrogant man she's ever met! Fate has thrown this makeshift family Robinson together and kismet tossed in a touch of magic...the chance for a love more powerful than they could ever imagine...only a wish away!

Fate had thrown this makeshift family Robinson together when the ship blew up. Now, socialite Maggie Smith, three orphans and a nanny are stranded on a tropical island with escaped convict Hank Wyatt, who noted that Maggie was a looker--but he didn't know if he could last an hour without kissing her or killing her. Original.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A vivid imagination and a love for fantasy are prerequisites for reading Barnett's (Bewitching) newest comedy romance. In 1896, 30-ish attorney Margaret Huntington Smith reluctantly goes on holiday to the South Seas. After the steamship boiler blows, Margaret, three orphaned children and a goat are rescued and brought abroad a lifeboat by Hank Wyatt, an escaped fugitive who was stowed away on Margaret's ship. Despite a raging storm, the castaways make it to a self-contained tropical island where they easily adapt. The only thing they have to do is learn how to get along with each other-not an easy task for Hank, a self-involved, hard-bitten lifer, wrongly accused of murder. He is a reluctant provider, yet he finds within himself a soft spot and becomes a father figure to the children. The goat is Hank's four-legged bane, and Margaret is his human nemesis; her talking drives him crazy. Margaret has her own problems with learning how to be domestic. She burns everything she cooks and occasionally misplaces a child. Soon the six shipwrecks are joined by Muddy, a genie, complete with classic old bottle. Muddy is a silly but delightful character who takes the children flying and serves as foil for a classic comic pas de deux with Hank. In fact, the antics overwhelm the romance, but it's doubtful readers will care. As a whole, the story is unusual: its plot manages to sidestep clichs and stereotypes and the short, fast dialogue give it a refreshingly clipped liveliness. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Although Barnett's latest demands a greater initial suspension of disbelief than some, once the story gets under way, the characters take over and the fun begins. A genuine genii, an escaped convict with a Humphrey Bogart air, a high-society San Francisco lawyer, and three enchanting children all shipwrecked together on an island paradise provide the unlikely ingredients for a whimsical romp with a tidy resolution. Occasionally, the humor becomes slapstick, and the middle could have been more rigorously edited, but the author's clean writing style and clever characters keep the pace lively. Barnett (Dreaming, Pocket Bks., 1994) has written a number of other light, imaginative historicals. [Barnett lives in Pleasanton, Cal.]
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935661740
  • Publisher: BelleBooks, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/4/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 120,114
  • File size: 639 KB

First Chapter

Chapter 1 San Francisco, October 1896

Margaret Huntington Smith looked as if she had everything. She carried herself with confidence, and her height reinforced that image. She was tall, blond, beautiful, and wealthy. And she was an attorney -- at that moment, one very happy attorney.

She wore a cat-in-the-cream kind of smile as she moved down the limestone steps of the courthouse and stepped into a shiny black brougham. She tossed a calfskin portfolio on the plush velvet seat, sat down, and gave a sly wink to the older distinguished-looking gentleman who sat across from her.

Harlan Smith laughed at his daughter's expression. "Oh, Margaret, my girl, it's a blasted good thing that you can hide your emotions in the courtroom or you'd never win a case."

She tugged off her gloves and grinned at him. "I just won this one."

"Yes, you did, and soundly, too."

"A great compliment coming from my father, the judge." She laughed, the hearty clear sound of a woman at ease with her laughter. "It did go rather well, didn't it?"

"I remember when you tied your hair up in ribbons." He shook his head, then gave a wry laugh. "Now you cut the opposing attorney into ribbons."

"And you taught me everything I know."

"Yes, I suppose I did." There was a deep sense of pride in his look. And that one look from her dad made all those eternal months of work -- the research, the planning, the long hours of preparing for a case -- worth every exhausting hour.

They sat in silence while the carriage rolled up and over the steep hills of the city. The horses' hooves clattered over the trolley rails while newspaper boys hawked the afternoon edition. A cool gust of October wind rode in from the Pacific and rattled the etched glass windows of the elegant carriage. In the distance, fog bells belched long and loud, and a trolley bell rang as it crossed an intersection where traffic came to an abrupt halt.

She could feel her father's look, and she turned.

"I wish your mother could see you now," he said. The pride was still in his eyes, along with the misty look of a distant memory.

She reached out and touched his hand. "I know, Dad. I wish she were here, too."

He looked away for just a second, one of those quiet imagined moments of "what if" experienced by those the dead have left behind. She released his hand, and when he turned back, his expression wasn't as wistful. He fumbled in his coat pocket and handed her an envelope.

"What's this?"

His face gave nothing away. "Open it and find out."

She tore open the seal and looked inside. She took out a set of tickets, turned the top one so she could read it, then looked up. "This is a first-class ticket on an ocean liner."

He nodded.

"Going where?" she thought aloud as she thumbed through the other tickets, then unfolded the itinerary. She whipped her head up. "The South Seas?"

"And vouchers for transportation between islands." He smiled. "French Oceania -- Tahiti, the Cook Islands, and more. A little taste of paradise for a daughter who works too hard."

"Oh, Dad..." She leaned over and planted a kiss on his white-whiskered cheek. She looked down at the tickets. "Thank you."

"Are you pleased?"

She gave him an easy smile and grabbed his hand. "Of course."

"Good." He began to talk about the islands, about how the South Seas still held a bit of paradise that the modern world hadn't ruined.

She listened as she stared out the window at the bay and the misty wall of fog sitting just off shore, at the tall narrow rows of candy-colored houses huddled so close together that after traveling past them for a few streets they almost melted together like the colors of a rainbow.

This trip was her father's dream. Not hers. But then she hadn't had much time in the last few years to have any dreams.

She looked at the envelope and knew she'd go. Because he had always wanted to go. She frowned for a second, then slid open the envelope again and shuffled through the contents. "Dad? There's only one ticket here. Where's yours?"

He cleared his throat, then said, "I can't get away right now."

"I'm going alone? But -- "

He held up a hand and cut her off in the same efficient way he handled his gavel. "The state supreme court docket is full. We have to hear the Mallard case."

"So soon?"

He nodded. "It's due to start the day after tomorrow."

She closed the flap on the ticket envelope. "Then I'll wait until you can get away."

"Oh, no, you don't. By that time you'll be into another case and won't want to get away."

"But -- "

"Don't even try to argue this, Margaret. You won't win with me. I'm the one who taught you how to argue a point. And I'm telling you that you will not have another case until after you take some time away."

"You're just throwing your weight around."

"Yes, I am. Shamelessly."

"Coercion," she muttered.

"I'm also your father, and for the last five years, I have watched you work endlessly and not take any time for yourself."

"I'm happy when I'm working."

"You just have a compulsion to make the world fair and equal."

"The world will be a better place if it's fair and equal."

"I know that, but you can't single-handedly change the world."

"I can try."

"Not to the exclusion of everything else. Margaret, for the past few years you have been an attorney and my daughter. What have you done for yourself?"

"Won my cases."

He pinned her with one of his direct looks. "Life is passing you by."

"You make it sound as if I've got one foot in the grave."

He laughed. You're thirty-two, and not getting any younger."


"Go. Just go." He paused. "For me."

She sat there, torn, because she didn't want to go on this trip. She'd rather work. There was comfort and safety in the law. It was something she knew well.

But she looked at her dad and knew she was going to lose this argument. She'd go. Because he wanted her to.

Her mother had died when she was barely seven. And that left just the two of them. She did have her maternal uncles, all attorneys and partners in her law firm. They had been there for holidays, there whenever her father thought he needed help parenting, and there when Margaret began to study law.

But in truth, her family was her father. And he was right. She'd go on this trip for him, because he was the single most important person in her life.

So a week later when she walked up the boarding ramp on a large Pacific liner, she did so with resigned acceptance. A number of male heads turned and followed her with their eyes. Something she had also learned to accept.

She understood that men found her attractive, but she felt her looks were a curse. She wanted, needed, to be taken seriously. Her father had always treated her respectfully, as had her uncles. But to others, once the pretty little girl with ribbons in her hair had grown up, she hadn't become a person, she was a shell, something to ogle.

To the world, there was nothing on the inside of Margaret Smith. There couldn't be, because she was pretty. She had to earn respect, because most of the world thought a woman who was beautiful had little else to offer.

She couldn't be intelligent, because she was pretty. She couldn't have any depth, because she had lovely blond hair. She couldn't think, because she had money. She couldn't have a heart, a soul, because she wasn't like them.

To them, she couldn't hurt.

She remembered how a college classmate, another woman, had looked at her once and said with vitriol, "How could you know anything about being hurt? You grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth."

And that was what too many people thought. That Margaret Huntington Smith had everything. No one knew that although she had a loving father and kind, caring uncles, wealth, and beauty, much of the time, deep down inside she felt alone and scared.

She hid her loneliness, her fears, along with those instincts that were female -- motherhood, sisterhood, even the occasional urge to cry for no reason. All things that her father couldn't explain.

With only men as role models, she strived to be strong and independent, capable and focused. She grew up thinking she had to be as perfect as she appeared to the world and, more important, to one person in her life who mattered, her father. Because she was all he had left.

Maybe that's why she worked so hard to try to make the world fair and equal. Because for Margaret, it never had been.

Two months later, Leper's Gate Penal Colony, Dolphin Island

Hank Wyatt believed in nothing. Because he'd never had anything. Well, much of anything. He'd had a mother once.

When he was five, she took him to a foundling home. "Smile, Henry James, and be a good boy," she had said. "Someone will want you."

Then she'd turned and walked out the door. As if he didn't exist.

But he did exist, and he spent the next thirty-five years making sure that everyone knew it. And no one forgot it.

No one at Leper's Gate forgot Henry James Wyatt existed.

He was an American, a product of the Pittsburgh slums. He was trouble, but he was a survivor. A fast learner. He had to be. Life hadn't dealt him aces. It dealt him deuces.

But he had aces up his sleeve and the instincts to know when to slip those cards into play. He knew when to cheat, when to lie, and when to run like hell.

He learned his lessons the hard way, learned early that a code of ethics wasn't for him. No turning the other cheek. None of that do-unto-others crap. He did unto others before they damn well did unto him.

He was wrongly condemned to Leper's Gate. A mistake. And he'd fought like hell when they'd locked him away. He spent the end of his first week confined in solitary: a three-foot-by-six-and-half-foot wooden box buried in the dirt. In the tropical sun. They gave him water once a day. No food. Food wasn't for prisoners like Hank. They needed to be broken.

For the next four years they tried to break him. They were still trying.

He'd been standing in the sun for two days, his hands and feet tied to two log stakes that had been hammered into the ground. His hair stuck to his head in black sweaty clumps that had whips of silver gray tangled through it, its once-dark color worn like the leather straps of an overworked cat-o'-nine-tails.

The corners of his eyes were creased with wrinkles -- nature's scars for every hard year of the forty he had survived. Hank Wyatt had resolute, determined eyes. They were gray, a carbonic iron color. Like a wall of steel those eyes reflected only the light that shone at them, giving no clue as to what went on behind them, but he was thinking. He had to think to survive.

His skin was brown, fried by a sun so hot it would blister the skin off the new prisoners. His jaw was ruthlessly square, stubborn, and covered with a dark shadow of a beard that was uneven from trying to shave with a piece of metal scavenged from the dark corner of a stone cell block.

He was tall, solid but lean. He had powerful, athletic arms made stronger from years of slinging a sledgehammer at the prison quarry. His legs were long and just as muscular. The weight of a chain gang either made men stronger or broke them.

But now, Hank's legs were stiff from standing. He refused to bend them. His bound hands were numb. His mind was not. His breath was shallow -- a trick he'd mastered to fool the guards into thinking he was closer to passing out than he was.

To stay alert, he concentrated with the sharpened ears of one who was desperate. He listened to the hone of tropical flies. They buzzed around him as if he were garbage. He heard the defeated cry of another prisoner's punishment. He vowed no one would hear that sound from his throat.

He listened to the rattle of chains and ankle cuffs, the constant, monotonous ringing of prisoners' hammers smashing against rock in the quarry compounds. That sound could drive the mind from a weaker man.

In the distance he could hear the haunting call of the sea -- the waves pounding away at the island. And every so often, the caw of a seagull flying free.

Sounds as far away as another lifetime. As close as madness.

He'd been staked before. But this time he'd laid the groundwork so he would never be staked again. He listened to everything. To anything. Hell, to survive Hank would listen to himself sweat.

It took two more days for them to think he was dead, or think him close enough to it. They cut the rope that kept his hands and feet tied to the stakes, dragged him to the center of the compound, then dropped him.

No sound came from his lips. No movement. Nothing. They hit him with bucket after bucket of water. Fresh water. Drinking water. No staked prisoner had ever been able to resist licking at it or finally cracking and gulping the water after being so long without it.

Only the dead lay unflinching. And Hank.

"He's dead."

Silence ticked by as it had for the past few days in minutes that seemed to take longer than a life sentence.

"Kick him just to make certain."

Hank heard the shuffle of the guard's boots. Near his head. He steeled himself for the blow.

"Not there!" came a sharp command. "Here!"

The bastard kicked him in the crotch.

He awoke to the jar of a wagon stopping. There was a dull ache between his legs that told him he wasn't dead. A reminder of his last conscious moment and the pain. He hadn't doubled over. He hadn't screamed. He had passed out.

He lay on the bottom of the wagon, the weight of weaker prisoners, now dead men, alongside of him. He took a shallow breath and almost gagged. He didn't know if the cause was the pain from his bruised groin or the stench of death surrounding him.

He knew the routine. One priest and one guard buried the prisoners outside the compound walls. In a pit in the jungle.

He waited, listening.

Just his luck. No one spoke. The wagon seat creaked. Boots hit the ground with a thud. Birds screeched in the distance. Tropical insects droned and whistled and buzzed. The chains on the wagon tailgate rattled.

Finally, a priest began to chant last rites in Latin. Slowly, one by one, the wagon was unloaded.

He couldn't screw this up, not now. Not when he'd come this far. But that dull ache burned through his groin again.

Escape? He didn't even know if he could stand. He thought of the last four years. Hell, he'd stand if it killed him.

Someone gripped his ankles and yanked.

The priest chanted and touched his forehead. Hank opened his eyes and shot upright, his fist raised. He knocked out the guard with a right cross, then stumbled to his feet.

He scanned the area. There was no one but the stunned priest, who just stood there. Hank took a step toward him.

The prayer book fell from the priest's shaking hands.

"Keep praying for me, Father." Hank picked up the book and handed it to him. "I need all the help I can get."

The priest blinked once, then stared at him for a moment.

Hank grinned. The priest took the prayer book. Then Hank punched him.

Copyright © 1995 by Jill Barnett Stadler

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2012

    Real cute book

    I was so prepared to hate this book, as I really don't care for love stories, but a really good friend recommended it so.....I read it. It really surprised me. At first glance it is a very simplistic story. Ship wrecked, ending up on a deserted island, but where some books go wrong with that story line Ms. Barnett did not. The fact that the couple also are shipwrecked with three children, and that this takes place in the late 1800's makes for a really different tale. Throw in a little magic and you have a very good read. I especially liked the way she used humor, and the fact that the sex wasn't overdone. Quite an enjoyable read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    Something about her books is a little mystical, a little magical, as if a guardian angel guides things to the proper conclusion. It leaves you with a warm feeling of contentment. Thank - you Jill Barnett.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2013


    *sits in his labs, staring at a computer console*

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  • Posted December 16, 2011

    I highly recommend this book! It's a must read!

    She is a wonderful writer who really brings her characters to life. This book will make you smile and you will be entertained from beginning to end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2007

    Thoroughly entertaining

    Imagine by Jill Barnett Reviewer: Pamela Ackerson (author of the Home of the Braves trilogy) Hank Wyatt escapes from prison only to find himself stranded on a deserted island with a beautiful woman, Maggie Smith, and two children from the ship. Cast into roles neither one of them are prepared, they find themselves tumbling into a magical and unique blend of innocence and danger. Thoroughly entertaining.

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    Posted October 4, 2012

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    Posted November 27, 2012

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    Posted February 28, 2011

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