The Lightkeeper [NOOK Book]

Overview


Once, the sea took everything he loved?

Jesse Morgan is a man hiding from the pain of his past, a man who has vowed never to give his heart again. Keeper of a remote lighthouse along a rocky and dangerous coast, he has locked himself away from everything but his bitter memories.

Now, the sea has given him a second chance.

A beautiful stranger washes ashore, the sole survivor...

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The Lightkeeper

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Overview


Once, the sea took everything he loved…

Jesse Morgan is a man hiding from the pain of his past, a man who has vowed never to give his heart again. Keeper of a remote lighthouse along a rocky and dangerous coast, he has locked himself away from everything but his bitter memories.

Now, the sea has given him a second chance.

A beautiful stranger washes ashore, the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Penniless and pregnant, Mary Dare is a woman who carries painful memories of her own.

With laughter, hope and joy, Mary and her child bring light into the dark corners of Jesse's world. But when their friendship turns to passion and passion becomes love, secrets from the past threaten to take it all away.

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Editorial Reviews

Kristin Hannah
A classic beauty-and-the-beast love story that will stay in your heart long after you've turned the last page. A poignant, beautiful romance.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Jesse Morgan, isolated by sense of duty and years of self-imposed penance, is lighthouse keeper of Cape Disappointment in Washington territory, ca. 1876. A simple log entry, "Recovered one survivor, a female...," will change his life forever. With mythic styling, Wiggs (Beauty and the Beast) creates a tempest-tossed, illiterate, pregnant young Irishwoman, Mary Dare, who will teach Jesse that life is for friendship, forgiveness and compassion. To build trust, each must share secrets and confront fears, romance tropes that Wiggs choreographs masterfully. Charming secondary characters add vitality with their tales and sea legends, but most assertive is the captivating sense of place, one that creates an atmospheric energy from start to finish. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A classic beauty-and-the-beast love story that will stay in your heart long after you've turned the last page..." -New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah

"Susan Wiggs paints the details of human relationships with the finesse of a master."

-Jodi Picoult

"Wiggs is one of our best observers of stories of the heart. She knows how to capture emotion on virtually every page of every book."

-Salem Statesman-Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781460317969
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 8/27/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 95,322
  • File size: 408 KB

Meet the Author


Susan Wiggs is the author of many beloved bestsellers, including the popular Lakeshore Chronicles series. She has won many awards for her work, including a RITA from Romance Writers of America. Visit her website at SusanWiggs.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Washington Territory 1876

On Sunday, something washed up on shore.

The morning had dawned like all the others—a chill haze with the feeble sun behind it, iron-colored swells gathering muscle far offshore, then hurling themselves against the huddled sharp rocks of Cape Disappointment. The rising sun looked like a wound trying to break through the clouds.

All this Jesse Morgan saw from the catwalk high on the lighthouse, where he had gone to extinguish the sperm-oil lamp and start the daily chore of trimming wicks and cleaning lenses.

But it caught him, the sight down on the strand.

He wasn't certain what made him pause, turn, stare. He supposed he had always looked but rarely paid attention. If he gazed too long at the gray-bearded waves slapping the fine brown sand or exploding against the rocks, there was a danger that he would remember what the sea had taken from him.

Most days, he didn't look. Didn't think. Didn't feel.

Today he felt a disturbance in the air, like the breath of an invisible stranger on the back of his neck. One moment he was getting out his linseed oil and polishing cloths; the next he was standing in the bitter wind. Watching.

He experienced a sensation so subtle he would never quite understand what made him go to the iron rail, hold tight with one hand and lean out over the edge to look past the jut of land, beyond the square-jawed cliffs, down onto the storm-swept beach.

A mass of seaweed. Strands of golden-brown kelp shrouding an elongated shape. For all he knew it could be no more than a tangle of weeds or perhaps a dead seal, an old one whose whiskers had whitened and whose teeth had dulled.

Animals, unlike people, knew better than to live too long.

As Jesse stood staring at the shape on the beach, he felt…something. A dull knife-twist of…what? Not pain. Nor interest.

Inevitability. Destiny.

Even as the foolish thought passed through his mind, his booted feet clattered down the iron spiral of stairs. He left the lighthouse and plunged along the flinty walkway.

He didn't have to watch his step as he followed the winding, rocky path to the desolate strand. He had made the short trek a thousand times and more.

What surprised him was that he was running.

Jesse Morgan had not been in a hurry for years.

Yet his body had never forgotten the feeling of pumping thighs and of lungs filling until the sharpness hovered between pain and pleasure. But once he reached the object on the strand, he halted. Stock-still and afraid.

Jesse Morgan had been afraid for a very long time, though no one ever would have guessed it.

To the people of Ilwaco, to the two thousand souls who lived there year-round and the extra thousand or so who migrated to the shore for the summer, Jesse Morgan was as solid and rugged and uncompromising as the sea cliffs over which he brooded in his lighthouse.

People thought him strong, fearless. He had fooled them, though. Fooled them all.

He was only thirty-four, but he felt ancient.

Now he stood alone, and the fear scorched him. He did not understand why. Until he saw something familiar within the heap of seaweed in front of him.

Oh, God. Oh, sweet Jesus. He plunged to his knees, the chill of the sodden sand seeping through his trousers, his hands trying to decide, without consulting his head, where to start. He hesitated, awkward as a bridegroom on his wedding night, about to part the final veil that draped the sweet mystery of his bride.

The strands of kelp were spongy and cold to the touch. Clinging thick and stubborn to—

To what?

He encountered a piece of fine-grained wood. Smoothed, planed, varnished. Part of a ship. A section of mast or bowsprit with rope lashed to it, the tarred ends trailing.

Stop, he told himself, already anticipating what he would find. The old horror, still raw after all these years, reared up inside him.

Stop now. He could stand and turn his back this moment, could climb the path, wend his way through the woods and rouse Palina and Magnus. Send the assistant lightkeepers to investigate.

But his hands, still the eager, persistent hands of a bridegroom, kept digging and pulling at the slimy shroud, digging and pulling, finding more and more of the mast, the broken-off end, the—

A foot. Bare. Cold as ice. The toenails like tiny sea-shells.

He drew a harsh breath. His hands kept working, the movement frantic, a rhythm pumped by his own pounding heart.

A slim calf. No, skinny. Skinny and dotted with freckles, stark against the lifeless ivory skin.

Jesse was swearing through gritted teeth. Fluent phrases spat past a clenched jaw. He used to talk to God. Now he swore to no one in particular.

Each passing second stood apart in time, crystallized by the knowledge he had been fleeing for years. He had come to the very ends of the earth to escape the past.

He could not escape it. Couldn't help thinking of it. Of what the sea had stolen from him.

And of what the sea had brought him today. A woman, of course. That put the final twist of cruel irony on it.

He quickly moved upward, uncovered the face. And almost wished he hadn't, for when he saw her, he knew why he had felt so compelled to run.

An angel had died on his beach this morning. Never mind that her halo was fashioned of kelp and endless tangled strands of dark red hair. Never mind the constellation of freckles scattered across her cheeks and nose.

This face, this pale face with its lavender bow of lips, was the one sculpted by every artist who had ever tried to turn marble to poetry. The face envisioned by hopeful dreamers who believed in miracles.

But she was dead, back in the realm of angels where she belonged, where she never should have left in the first place.

Jesse didn't want to touch her, but his hands did. His idiot bridegroom's hands. They took her by the shoulder and tugged gently, at the same time rolling the mast to which she was still tied. He saw her fully now, head to toe.

She was pregnant.

Rage charged like a thunderbolt through him. It was not enough that a beautiful young woman had been taken. But the sweet, round swell of her stomach, that dark mystery, that whispered promise, had been claimed, too. Two lives had been snuffed out by the merciless breath of the wind, by the wall-size waves, by the uncaring sea.

This was the start, Jesse thought as he unbound the ropes and gathered her in his arms, of a journey he had no desire to undertake.

The corpse flopped forward like a rag doll. A cold hand clutched at Jesse's arm. He reared back, leaving her on the seeping brown sand.

She moaned and coughed out seawater.

Jesse Morgan, who rarely smiled, suddenly grinned from ear to ear. ''I'll be damned,'' he said, ripping off his mackintosh. ''You're alive.''

He settled the plaid wool coat around her shoulders and picked her up in his arms.

''I'm…alive,'' she echoed in the faintest of whispers. ''I suppose,'' she added, her head drooping forward, ''that's something.''

She spoke no more, but began to shiver violently, uncontrollably. She felt like a large fish in its death throes, and it was all Jesse could do to keep from dropping her.

Yet even as he bore his burden up the impossibly steep slope, running faster than he'd ever run in his life, he knew with stone-cold dread that this day had brought something new, something extraordinary, something endlessly fascinating and frightening, into his world.

* * *

Panic rushed over him in huge, nauseating waves. Why him? Why now? He held her very life in his hands, yet saving a stranger and her unborn child was the last thing he was prepared to do.

At the same time, he knew he must rescue her. Twelve years ago, he had dedicated his life to watching over the shoals and keeping the light burning. He had taken an oath as head lightkeeper. He had no choice. No choice.

He ran swiftly, mounting the sinuous path toward the station, then racing down the other side of the promontory and into the woods where the lightkeeper's house was located. The dead weight of her dragged at him. He took the steps two at a time, pounded across the porch, shoved the door open with his shoulder.

Plunging into the dimness of the quiet house, he brought the woman to a room off the kitchen and deposited her on the bed. The mattress was musty with disuse, the ticking worn and yellowed. He plundered a tall cabinet, finding a few old quilts and a tattersall blanket that had seen better days.

He covered the woman. She didn't stir. He tried to get her to drink something—water, whiskey—but the liquid merely trickled over the sides of her mouth and down her neck. She was out cold.

He rushed to the porch to ring the big brass bell, summoning Magnus Jonsson and his wife Palina from their bungalow a quarter mile down the woodland path. He stirred the banked coals in the kitchen stove and filled a kettle with water, setting it on to boil. Then, bracing himself for the task ahead, he returned to the woman.

He had to get the wet dress off her. Had to touch her. Gingerly, he lifted the layers of blankets. His hand shook a little as he brushed aside a sodden strand of hair and found the top button of her dress.

The act of disrobing a woman felt alien to Jesse. Yet at the same time, it seemed unbearably familiar, as if he were that bridegroom once again.

He set his jaw and undid the row of buttons. She lay unconscious, oblivious to his clumsy manipulations as he peeled off one sleeve, then the other, rolling the flimsy wool garment over her arms and legs, dropping it on the floor.

Beneath it she wore a simple shift that had once been white. Her breasts and belly stood out in pale relief against the thin fabric. With his teeth tightly clenched, he forced himself to honor her modesty and cover her, working the shift off by touch alone. Yet he didn't need his eyes to detect her graceful curves, the smooth texture of her skin.

Her skin was dangerously cool.

In his blind haste, he tore the shift as he finished dragging it down the length of her. He added it to the pile on the floor, tucked the blankets more securely around her and stood up.

He was shaking from head to foot.

Back in the kitchen, he filled canteens and bottles with hot water and placed them around her, insulated by the blankets. That done, he leaned against the rough-timbered wall of the room and closed his eyes briefly. Finished. That phase, at least, was over. The difficult part lay ahead.

The lightkeeper's house was less a home than a refuge. The one-and-a-half-story dwelling, embraced by a towering forest, had been enough for Jesse, who needed little except to survive from one moment to the next. Yet now, with the light spilling through an east-facing window and slanting across the unmoving form on the bed, the house felt small, cramped. Dingy, even.

The birth-and-death room off the kitchen was designed with the idea that a patient lying abed should be close at hand, where the heart of the house beat the strongest. In all the years Jesse had lived here, no one had occupied this room, this bed.

Until now.

She lay unmoving beneath the blankets and quilts. Her face was pale and serene. Her dark red hair fanned out in untidy hanks, stiffened by salt. She held one perfect hand tucked beneath her chin. Her delicate eyelids were webbed with faint blue lines.

I'm alive. I suppose that's something.

The words she had uttered so quietly on the beach whispered through his mind. He had thought he detected an accent of sorts, a lilting inflection that was hard to place. She hadn't opened her eyes.

He caught himself wondering what color they were.

''Who are you?'' he whispered, his voice harsh. ''Who the hell are you?''

She was Sleeping Beauty from the fairy tale. Her bed should be a sunlit arbor entwined with roses, not a crude bedstead with a sagging mattress. She should awaken to Prince Charming, not to Jesse Kane Morgan.

He forced himself to turn away. It hurt to look at her, the way it hurt to look directly into the sun on a summer day. Better for all concerned if she were simply whisked away, still unconscious, never knowing who had pulled her from the sea.

Yet he had an urge to sink to his knees beside the woman, to grab her by the shoulders and plead with her to live, live.

He began to pace, wondering what was keeping the Jonssons. Trying to shove aside a jolt of urgency, Jesse observed his house through new eyes, trying to see it as a stranger would. Sturdy pine furniture, hand-hewn. A plain wag-on-the-wall clock, its long pendulum measuring the moments with unrelenting reliability. The shutters were open to the morning. Palina had offered to make curtains, but Jesse had no use for frills.

The longest wall in the keeping room was lined with books. Novels by Dumas, Flaubert, Dickens. Essays and stories by Emerson, Thoreau. When Jesse left the world behind, the only possessions he'd brought along were his books. He read constantly, voraciously, escaping into worlds of make-believe. In the early years, after the tragedy had first happened, he had clung to the books like a lifeline. The babbling voices of fictional characters had blocked out the howl of emptiness that screamed through his mind. The books kept him from going insane.

Lined up neatly on shelves in the kitchen, jars and cans and crocks were stacked by height so he always knew where his supplies were. The Acme Royal stove had been well maintained, blacked over and over again throughout the years he had been here.

The years he tried his best not to count.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 47 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(17)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2011

    Very good read!

    I haven't read very many historical romances because I thought it would be boring. But, Susan Wiggs makes the characters come to life with her writing style. This book is very romantic and one of her best!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 10, 2010

    Great Read

    This is a great read for romance reading. I found it to be hard to put down.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2005

    good read

    This book is the first book I read by Susan Wiggs. The characters are good, and the story kept me interested.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good Reading - don't miss it!

    Love Susan Wiggs and lighthouses too, so how could I not read this book?
    Sure am glad I did, as it didn't disappoint me. A little different, but great nonetheless.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2013

    The light housekepper

    Very good kept me on the edge of my seat

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    Very good book - keeps you hooked all the way through. I love Susan Wiggs!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    As always, a pleasure.

    Wiggs and her extrordinary talent for character strength, tension, and resolve take you back in time to experience and feel how people lived then, as people do now. We may evolve and advance in many ways, but in any time in history or present it has always been about life and the human condition. A lovely realistic story that makes you chuckle at a sweet woman's antics and feel frustration with a thick headed man who needs to be rescued equally as much as he rescues others. Well worth buying.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    i fell in love with it!

    while reading, i couldnt wait to get home from work and see what would happen next it was very beauty and the beast!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2013

    Pleasajt Nt One o Great writing

    I enjoyed this book more than recent ones Ive read, goo

    d details made it an easy refreshing read

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  • Posted March 3, 2012

    Not for me

    I started out reading Susan Wiggs Lakeshore Chronicles and I was hooked, but this is a period piece (not for me) and just does not measure up to what I go accustomed to from her.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2012

    Good read!

    Love Susan's writing...fell in love with the charachters...ya wanna smack him sometimes, but he comes around

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2011

    Not Recommended

    Did not enjoy this book at all. It was hard to get into the story and the characters. I would not download or pay to read this book. Very disapppointing especially after reading some of the reviews.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2011

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    Posted May 28, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2010

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews

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