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In 1891, during a voyage to the uncharted isle in the Furneaux Islands near Tasmania, the sixth Earl of Stanbury discovers a saber-toothed tiger thought to have been extinct for more than 10,000 years—a find that will astonish the world and bring great acclaim if he is able to return to England. Learning of the earl’s suspicious disappearance, Lady Samantha enlists the assistance of professor Christian Badia—a noted zoologist and tracker specializing in wild cats who, unbeknownst to Lady Samantha, has a dark ...
In 1891, during a voyage to the uncharted isle in the Furneaux Islands near Tasmania, the sixth Earl of Stanbury discovers a saber-toothed tiger thought to have been extinct for more than 10,000 years—a find that will astonish the world and bring great acclaim if he is able to return to England. Learning of the earl’s suspicious disappearance, Lady Samantha enlists the assistance of professor Christian Badia—a noted zoologist and tracker specializing in wild cats who, unbeknownst to Lady Samantha, has a dark past—to join her in a dangerous expedition to rescue her uncle. Despite knowing his notorious reputation as a recluse, Lady Samantha finds herself drawn into a world of physical passion with the enigmatic man she becomes convinced is her soul mate. When the professor embarks on his own treacherous assignment, Lady Samantha fears she may forever lose her newfound love. Unable to simply stand by, Lady Samantha launches her own investigation at great peril to herself.
"Lindler writes in a smooth style, providing evocative descriptions and compelling historical details." —Publishers Weekly
"The action-packed, late Victorian era romantic adventure is fast paced . . . and never slows down until the finish." —Harriet Klausner, Genre Go Round Reviews
"Engaging characters, a well-planned story line, and a fast pace make this a delightful novel." —Romantic Times Book Reviews
"Awesome adventures and toe-curling love scenes make Starlight and Promises exciting, exhilarating, and so sensual." —The Long and the Short of It
"Starlight and Promises, in short, is fantastic . . . All satisfying and touching. This is going on my favorites shelf." —Stars, Love Romance Passion, 4.5 stars
"This story promises to take you on an exciting ride." —Night Owl Reviews
"Well written . . . steeped in Victorian atmosphere and high seas derring-do . . . an enjoyable and adventure-filled story as well as a provocative romance." —BookLoons.com
"Smilodon," he whispered, barely uttering the word.
"What?" Richard Colchester, sixth Earl of Stanbury, sharply turned his head. "Let me have the glass."
James Truett grinned and slapped the spyglass in Richard's outstretched hand. Richard cut him an annoyed look and examined the distant figure on the rock cairn. Heat coming off the sandy ground distorted the vision. Richard focused the glass again.
He gasped, and as a breeze stirred the heat waves, his eyes watered. He blinked away the moisture. A cat sat on the rocks-a cat as large as a lion. Richard laid the glass on the ground beside him and wiped his face and eyes with his handkerchief. Hesitating a moment to slow his heart, he picked up the glass again and studied the cat.
Sleek yet heavily muscled. An abundant dark mane ran along the ridge of a thick, arched neck. Bunched muscles moved under a tawny coat spotted with irregular white blotches. It moved, stretching out short front legs, warming its belly on the rock surface. Massive paws with long toes ending in sharp, nonretractable claws; a lean abdomen, plainly outlined by the ribs underneath; and powerful, densely packed rear haunches. Small, roundedears set well back on a broad head. A wide, square muzzle, and dark green eyes, large and tilted at the outer corners. The cat washed its legs, taking leisurely swipes with its tongue, and the unmistakable gleam of eight-inch curved canines extended outside the mouth to below the jawline.
"My God." Richard sucked in a breath through parted lips. His hands shook, jiggling the glass, wavering the image. "'Tis a bloody Smilodon." He turned to his companion and grinned. "James, we've found a bloody Smilodon."
For two hours, Richard recorded his observations, and James sketched the cat in detail. Though Richard's primary interest centered on the island's flora, something of this magnitude was impossible to ignore. He made notes as precisely as he would have done had the cat been a new bromeliad.
Comfortable in each other's company, the two men-Richard a noted botanist; James a nature artist and disciple of Audubon-worked in silence. At thirty-five, James was ten years Richard's junior. For twelve years they had traveled together through the world's unknown corners, observing, recording, collecting samples, and sketching the plant life, producing detailed monographs with illustrations accurately depicting the vegetation of exotic locales. The scientific community eagerly awaited each new contribution.
When the cat moved on, Richard and James backed away from the sandy plain in the island's interior and worked their way through the dense brush of the jungle toward the temporary camp they had established on the beach. A sultry breeze rippled through the thick foliage, carrying the meaty scents of decaying vegetation and the whistling calls of parakeets and cockatiels. A six-inch-long, rust red lizard scurried across their path, twirling its tail like a propeller. The trail it left on the sandy ground resembled a corkscrew. It halted at the edge of the trees, expanding its red throat sac in a display of miniature bravado. A long-tailed shrewlike animal shrieked overhead and swung off through the treetops. Still dazed by their discovery, Richard and James tramped along, their tongues stilled, each engrossed in his thoughts.
James suddenly stopped-as he was often wont to do when he sighted a strange plant-causing Richard to nearly tread upon his heels. He gestured expansively with one hand. "Just think, Richard, if that storm hadn't caught us and blown the ship off course to this island, we never would have had this opportunity. We should give thanks to the Lord for His intervention."
"Fate moves in mysterious ways, as do the vagaries of the ocean in these waters," Richard replied with a wry smile. "In this case, perhaps we should extend our thanks to Neptune."
James chuckled. "Ah, Richard, always the heretic."
In the boisterous, smoky Blue Boar Inn, the air hung close and thick with odors of boiled mutton, a blazing pinewood fire, and unwashed bodies. As they dodged pinching fingers and wandering hands, serving maids with platters balanced on their palms and mugs of ale dangling from their fingers swung through tightly packed patrons. Outbursts of ribald laughter followed their swishing skirts.
Richard and James sat at a scarred table in one corner, ignoring the tumult around them and the mutton chops cooling and congealing in their own fat. Their heads close together, the two men conversed in lowered voices.
Richard pulled a pen, a bottle of ink, and a sheet of stationery from his pack and laid them on the table. "I plan to write to Samantha, explaining the situation and the importance of maintaining secrecy. Knowing her, she will pull together an expedition in record time."
James frowned and took a swig of ale. "Samantha? Our Samantha? I cannot help but worry. I fear your expectations exceed her talents and her ability to be discreet. This discovery is far too important to remain a secret for long. My God, a Smilodon! 'Tis beyond the wildest imaginings of even the most optimistic scientist. Done properly, it will ensure the career of the first person to record it."
"That's why I'm depending on Samantha. I feel certain she can be cautious and still get the job done. I have no doubt she'll manage without creating a stir. Samantha's not one to take no for an answer; though now that I think about it, she may muddy the waters a bit, in a manner of speaking. Her tenacity could be our undoing."
James raised an eyebrow. "How?"
"I'd place a wager of a hundred pounds that when the expedition shows up Samantha will be heading it."
"Surely not!" James looked shocked. "This is not an expedition for a lady."
Richard leaned back in his chair and laughed. "And what does that have to do with Samantha?"
"Samantha may have, um, spirit, but she is a lady. If she does arrive with the expedition, you shall simply have to send her back. You cannot possibly take responsibility for her under the conditions of a jungle expedition."
Richard grimaced. "I'll certainly try. But Samantha, as you are well aware, does not take orders in good cheer. That spirit with which you so generously gift her is more akin to obstinacy. At best, I might convince her to remain behind in Hobart."
"You are her guardian." James bent a stern eye on his friend. "I realize Samantha can be difficult at times, but you must be firm. Rein her in, or she will never be manageable and suitable for marriage."
"Believe me, I've tried," Richard replied with a cynical smile. "Nonetheless, Samantha considers herself a modern woman. Nothing I say or do seems to have effect."
James cocked a brow. "A modern woman? I cannot say I have familiarity with that term, nor have I heard her express such sentiments. What does it mean?"
"Cannot say I truly understand it myself. To Samantha, I gather it means she does not take orders from men, any men, myself included. I finally stopped fighting it. Her arguments wore me to a nub."
James waved with his mug of ale. "Then marry her off. She's certainly old enough. A husband will curb her rebellious nature."
Richard snorted, nearly choking on his ale. "I would, but I know of no one I dislike enough to inflict so vile a torture. Perhaps you would offer yourself as sacrifice?"
James gulped his ale with haste, unlike his normally moderate self. "Not me," he mumbled. "I'm a confirmed bachelor."
Richard pushed the paper aside, stuck a fork in a chop, and transferred it onto his plate. "Enough about my recalcitrant niece," he said through a mouthful of stringy mutton while gesturing with the fork. "She is the best qualified to handle this situation. When she arrives, we'll deal with her. My primary concern is planning a successful expedition from our end. We must be ready."
At a prickling on the back of his neck, Richard half-turned in the chair to examine the tavern's patrons. 'Twas as if someone, or some malevolent presence, was watching them, listening in on their words. His survey revealed only heads bent over platters and eyes focused on tankards of ale. The mixture of sailors, merchants, and settlers seemed to pay them no heed. He dismissed his edginess as due to the secretive nature of his conversation with James.
While dividing his attention between the mutton and the list of supplies and personnel he jotted on the paper, he discussed with James their needs for a fully equipped expedition. Confident he had recorded all his requirements, Richard extracted a new sheet of paper. Taking up the pen and dipping the nib into the ink bottle, he began ...
My dearest Samantha ...
Two tables away, a man sat with his back to Richard and James. While eavesdropping on them, the man clenched and unclenched his hands beneath the table.
A serving maid edged up to him, her bovine bosom threatening to spring loose from the tight confines of a low-cut bodice. She regarded him with a lascivious gaze and ran her tongue across her lips. Bracing her hands on the table, she leaned over, nipples visible in their insecure nest. "What can I get fer ye, luv?" She wet her rouged lips again with the tip of her tongue.
When he turned and sent her a malicious stare, she jerked back with a sharply inhaled breath and hurried away, the heels of her shoes clacking in a rapid pattern on the plank floor.
Excerpted from Starlight & Promises by Cat Lindler Copyright © 2010 by Cat Lindler. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted February 21, 2010
In 1891 near Tasmania in a previously uncharted part of the Furneaux Islands, English Earl Richard Colchester and James Truett are stunned to see from their ship using a spyglass a Smilodon. They discuss bringing home to England this previously thought extinct for ten millennia saber-toothed tiger.
Instead of a hero's welcome, pirates kidnap Richard and leave him on an island. Back in Berkshire County, his niece Samantha, praying she is right that her beloved explorer uncle is alive, organizes a rescue mission. She persuades renowned zoologist Professor Christian Badia to help her find her uncle. Famous for his big cats' research, he agrees, but hides his personal quest from her. As they begin to fall in love, he learns the only way to shut her up is with a kiss, but the professor will betray his beloved; just as he believes she betrays him with his former best friend.
The action-packed late Victorian Era romantic adventure is fast-paced from the moment the saber tooth tiger appears and never slows down until the finish. The cast is strong as the audience observes the explorers and naturalists encourages over five decades after Darwin to search for live animals and fossils like the missing link. Although Sam's behavior seems too reckless, fans will enjoy this deep historical romantic thriller.