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3.5 40
by Zoë Archer

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To most people, the realm of magic is the stuff of nursery rhymes and dusty libraries. But for Capt. Gabriel Huntley, it's become quite real and quite dangerous. . .

In Hot Pursuit. . .

The vicious attack Capt. Gabriel Huntley witnesses in a dark alley sparks a chain of events that will take him to the ends of the Earth and beyond--where what is real and


To most people, the realm of magic is the stuff of nursery rhymes and dusty libraries. But for Capt. Gabriel Huntley, it's become quite real and quite dangerous. . .

In Hot Pursuit. . .

The vicious attack Capt. Gabriel Huntley witnesses in a dark alley sparks a chain of events that will take him to the ends of the Earth and beyond--where what is real and what is imagined become terribly confused. And frankly, Huntley couldn't be more pleased. Intrigue, danger, and a beautiful woman in distress--just what he needs.

In Hotter Water. . .

Raised thousands of miles from England, Thalia Burgess is no typical Victorian lady. A good thing, because a proper lady would have no hope of recovering the priceless magical artifact Thalia is after. Huntley's assistance might come in handy, though she has to keep him in the dark. But this distractingly handsome soldier isn't easy to deceive. . .

"Zoe weaves a delightful spell. . .cleverly blending history and magic in new, delightful ways. . ." --Elizabeth Vaughan, USA Today bestselling author

"An innovative and exciting romantic adventure with just the right touch of the paranormal. . ." --Jennifer Ashley, USA Today bestselling author

"Crackles with adventure, a rich sense of place, and terrific characterization." --Mary Jo Putney

Product Details

Publication date:
Blades of the Rose Series , #1
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

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The Blades of the Rose
By Zoë Archer


Copyright © 2010 Ami Silber
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4201-0679-4

Chapter One

Trouble at the Docks

Southampton, England. 1874.

Gabriel Huntley hated an unfair fight. He had hated it as a boy in school, he had hated it during his service in Her Majesty's army, and he hated it now.

Huntley ducked as a fist sailed toward his head, then landed his own punches on his attacker in quick succession. As his would-be assailant crumpled, unconscious, to the ground, Huntley swung around to face another assault. Three men coming toward him, and quick, cold murder in their eyes. Their numbers were thinning, but not by much. Huntley couldn't keep a smile from curving in the corners of his mouth. Less than an hour in England, and already brawling. Maybe coming home wouldn't be so bad.

"Who the hell is this bloke?" someone yelped.

"Dunno," came the learned reply.

"Captain Gabriel Huntley," he growled, blocking another punch. He rammed his elbow into someone's gut. "Of the Thirty-third Regiment of Foot."

His ship had docked that night in Southampton, bringing him back to British shores after fifteen years away. As he had stood at the bottom of the gangplank, his gear and guns strapped to his back, he'd found himself strangely and uncharacteristically reticent. He couldn't seem to get his feet to move forward. After years of moving from one end of the British Empire to the other, following orders sent down through the chain of command, he was finally able to decide on his fortune for himself. It was a prospect that he had been looking forward to for a long while. After resigning from his captaincy, he had booked passage on the next ship to England.

However, that idea had already begun to pale on the voyage back, with days and weeks of shipbound idleness leaving his mind to pick and gnaw at whatever fancy struck him. Yes, he'd been born in England and lived there for his first seventeen years-in a dismal Yorkshire coal mining village, more specifically. But nearly the other half of his life had been spent on distant shores: the Crimea, Turkey, India, Abyssinia. England had become no more than a far away ideal of a place recreated again and again in company barracks and officers' clubs. He had barely any family and few friends in England besides Sergeant Alan Inwood. The two men had fought side-by-side for years, and when a bullet had taken Inwood's leg, the trusty sergeant returned to England. But he'd written Huntley steadily over the years.

In Huntley's pocket was Inwood's latest missive. He'd memorized it, having read the letter over and over again on the voyage to England. It promised a job working with Inwood as a textile agent in Leeds. An ordinary, steady life. The prospect of marriage. Leeds, Inwood claimed, had an abundance of nice, respectable girls, daughters of mill owners, looking for husbands. Huntley could have a job and a wife in a trice-if he wanted.

Huntley knew how to fight in the worst conditions nature and man could create. Monsoons, blizzards, scorching heat. Bayonets, sabers, revolvers, and rifles. He'd eaten hardtack crawling with maggots. He'd swallowed the most fetid and foul water when there had been nothing else to drink. None of it had broken him. He had nothing left to fear. Yet the idea of truly settling down, finding, good Lord, a wife, it turned a soldier's blood to sleet.

After the ship had docked, Huntley had lingered at the foot of the gangplank, jostled on all sides by the shoving and cursing mass of the crowded dock. He had tried to make himself take the first step toward his new life, an ordinary life, and found that he couldn't.

Not yet, at any rate. Instead of rushing toward the inn where mail coaches waited to take passengers to English towns and cities near and far, Huntley had begun to walk in the opposite direction. Though he'd been at sea for months, he needed more time. Time to think. Time to plan. Time to grow accustomed to his strange and foreign homeland. Time for at least one pint.

He walked without real purpose, winding his way through the maze of narrow, lamplit streets that led from the pier. He hadn't gone more than thirty yards from the docks when the crowds thinned, leaving him on a quiet, dark street bathed in seaside mists. A large orange tabby cat slunk by, heading for the docks and promises of fish. At the end of the street was a tiny pub, casting yellow light onto the slick stone pavement outside, and full of raucous laughter and rough talk, not unlike the kind that could be found in any military barracks.

It seemed like heaven.

Huntley had started toward the pub, the desire for a pint of bitters strong in his mouth. At least that part of him was a true Englishman. As he strode toward the welcoming chaos, his soldier's senses alerted him to trouble close at hand. In the gloom of an alleyway leading off the street, he heard it first, then saw it, the sight that turned his blood to fire and overrode all thought: one man, badly outnumbered, wounded and staggering, as half a dozen men attacked him and several others stood nearby, ready to throw themselves into the fray should they be needed. He knew at once that what was happening was wrong, and that he had to help the injured man.

Huntley had launched himself into the fight, needing to even the odds.

Three men now came at him, throwing him against a damp brick wall. Fortunately, his pack kept him from smashing his head against the bricks. Two men took his arms while the third pinned his middle. Before any of them could land a punch, Huntley slammed his knee up into the chest of the man pinning him, knocking the air out of him with a hard gasp, then he wedged the heel of his boot against the man's ribs and shoved. Winded as he was, the man could only scrabble for a hold before being thrown into a pile of empty crates, whose sharp edges made for a less than cushioned fall as the crates broke apart. Huntley swiftly rid himself of the other two men.

He considered going for his rifle or revolver, but quickly discarded the idea. Firearms in tight quarters such as alleyways were just as dangerous to whomever wielded them as they were to the intended targets. Striking distance was too close, and it would be far too easy for someone to grab the weapon from him once it was cocked and turn it on him.

Fists it was, then. Huntley had no qualms with that.

Huntley sprinted toward where the victim was being pummeled by two men. As Huntley came to the victim's aid, one of the attackers managed to graze a fist against Huntley's mouth. But it was nothing compared to the damage the victim had taken. Blood was splattered all over the man's shirt and waistcoat, his jacket was ripped at the seams, and his face was swollen and cut. Huntley had been in enough brawls to know that if the victim made it through the fight, his face would never be the same, even under his gingery beard. He was still swinging, though, bless his soul, as he staggered and struggled.

"I don't like bullies," Huntley rumbled. He grabbed the man who'd just punched him and gripped him by the throat, squeezing tightly.

The man scrabbled to pry Huntley's fingers from around his neck, but the hand that had grown strong gripping a rifle through fifteen years of campaigns couldn't be removed. Still, the man managed to choke out a few words.

"Whoever ... you are ...," he rasped, "walk ... away. Isn't your ... fight."

Huntley grinned viciously. "That's for me to decide."

"Fool," the man wheezed.

"Perhaps," Huntley answered, "but since these are my fingers around your throat"-and here he tightened his hold, squeezing out an agonized gargle from the other man-"it wouldn't be wise to start tossing out names, would it?"

The man's answer never came. From behind Huntley, an abbreviated cry shot out, sharp and dreadful. Turning, Huntley saw a flash of metal gleam in the half light of the alley. One of the attackers stepped back from the victim, a long and wicked blade streaked with bright red in his hand. Blood quickly began to soak through the front of the victim's waistcoat and run through his fingers as he pressed against the wound in his stomach.

"Morris isn't going anywhere," the knife-wielding man said. His accent was clipped and well-born, as neatly groomed as his gleaming blond hair and moustache. He seemed comfortable with the red-smeared blade in his hand, despite his aristocratic air. "Let's go," Groomed Gent commanded to the other men.

Huntley spent half a moment's deliberation on whether to go for the upper cruster with the knife or attend to the fellow who'd been stabbed, Morris. He released his grip on his captive's throat at once and barely caught Morris before the wounded man collapsed to the ground.

The attackers quickly fled from the alley, but not before someone asked, pointing at their unconscious comrade slumped nearby, "What about Shelley? And him," gesturing toward Huntley.

"Shelley's on his own," Groomed Gent barked. "And the other one knows nothing. We have to move now," he added with a snarl. And before Huntley could stop them, every last one of the assailants disappeared into the night, leaving him cradling a dying man.

And he was dying. Of that, Huntley had no doubt. He'd seen similar wounds on the battlefield and knew that they were always fatal. Blood seeped faster and faster through the gash in Morris's abdomen. It would take something akin to a miracle to stop the advance of death, and Huntley had no store of miracles in his pack.

He gently lowered himself and Morris to the ground. "Let me fetch a surgeon," he said. He slipped the straps of his pack from his shoulders so the weight eased off.

"No," gasped Morris. "No use. And time's running out."

"At the least, I can get the constabulary," Huntley said. He recalled the icy cruelty of the knife-wielding gentleman, the sharp angles of his face that likely came directly from generations of similarly ruthless people's intermarrying and breeding. "I had a decent enough look at those men's faces. I could describe most of them, see them brought to justice."

A mirthless smile touched Morris's lips. "That would be the fastest way for you to wind up dead in an alleyway, my friend."

Huntley wondered who those men were, that attacked a gentleman in an alley like common footpads but had enough power for retribution. Perhaps a criminal organization. With a well-heeled gentleman as a member of its ranks. Was such a thing possible? He couldn't think on it now. Instead, knowing that his face would be the last that Morris would ever see and wanting to make the remaining time more personal, he said, "Name's Huntley."

"Anthony Morris." The two shared an awkward handshake, and Huntley's hand came away smeared crimson.

"Is there anything I can do for you, Morris?" he asked. Not much longer now, if the dark blood drenching Morris's clothing was any indication.

Frowning, Morris started to speak, but then Huntley's attention was distracted. The remaining attacker, who had been slumped unconscious against a wall, had somehow come to without making a sound. But now he was crouched nearby, whispering into his cupped hands. Looking closer, Huntley was able to see that the man held something that looked remarkably like a small wasps' nest-but it was made of gold. The close air of the alley was suddenly filled with a loud, insistent droning as, incredibly, the golden nest began to glow.

Not once, through the many places around the world he had been posted, had Huntley ever seen or heard anything like this, and he had seen some of the most incomprehensible things anyone could envision. He was transfixed, his mind immobilized by the sight.

The buzzing grew louder still, the nest glowed brighter as the man whispered on. Then something appeared in an opening in the nest, a tiny shine of a metallic wasp. Of its own volition, Huntley's hand came up, trying to reach out toward the mysterious spectacle. A line of wasps suddenly shot from the nest, directly toward Huntley and Morris. And Huntley still could not move.

With a grunt and groan, Morris managed to shift himself around in Huntley's arms and shove him down to the ground. They both splayed out onto the slippery pavement. And just in time. Dozens of wasps slammed into the wall behind them, their noise and impact against the brick like a round of bullets shot from a Gatling gun. Chips of mortar and brick rained down onto Huntley as he raised his arm to shield himself and Morris. He quickly reached out and grabbed a wooden board from a crate that had been broken apart in the fight. Several nails stuck out from one end of the board, and this he hurled at the man with the wasps' nest. The man yelped in surprised pain as the board hit him in the head, then staggered to his feet and scurried away, cradling the nest and pressing a palm to his bleeding scalp. It wouldn't be difficult to catch up with the wounded man, but in those few minutes, Morris would be dead, and Huntley had seen enough death to know it was better with someone, anyone, beside you.

He might have joined Morris in the afterlife, though. Huntley looked up at the wall behind him. Two dozen neat holes had been punched into the solid face of the brick. Exactly where his head had been. If Morris hadn't pushed him, those holes would now be adorning his own skull and his brains would be nicely splattered across half of Southampton, where they wouldn't do him much good.

"What the hell was that?" he demanded from Morris. Huntley heaved himself up into a sitting position, with Morris leaning against him. "Wasps like bullets? From a glowing golden nest?"

Morris coughed, sending another bubble of blood through his fingers. "Never mind that. Something I have to tell you. A message to deliver. Must be delivered ... personally."

"Of course." Huntley owed Morris his life. That bound him to his service. It didn't matter that, in a matter of minutes, Morris would be dead. It was an unbreakable rule, one that was never questioned, never doubted. Honor was held at a premium when the rest of the world went to hell. "Have you a letter? Something I should write down?" There were a few books in his pack, but of any of these he would gladly sacrifice a few pages to transcribe Morris's message.

Morris shook his head weakly. "Can't write the message down. Even so, there are no mail routes to deliver it."

A message that could not be written. A destination beyond the all-encompassing reach of the British postal service. Things began to get stranger and stranger. Huntley started to wonder if, perhaps, he was lying drunk in a gutter somewhere, already deep in his return to England alcohol binge, and everything that had happened, was happening, was a whiskey-induced delusion. "Where's it going?"

"To my friend, Franklin Burgess." Morris gritted his teeth as a wave of pain moved through him, and Huntley did his best to comfort him, brushing clammy strands of hair back from Morris's forehead. "In Urga. Outer Mongolia."

"That is ... far," Huntley managed after he found his voice.

Another ghostly smile curved Morris's mouth. "Always is. Was headed to a ship to take me there when," he nodded toward the horrible wound in his stomach as his smile faded. With his free hand, he clutched at Huntley's jacket. The strength left in Morris's grip surprised Huntley, but Morris was growing more and more agitated. Huntley tried to calm him, but to no avail. Morris became nearly frantic, spending the last of his energy as he tugged Huntley closer. "Please. You must deliver the message to Burgess. Thousands of lives at stake. More. Many more."

Huntley hesitated. Inwood's letter was in his pocket. The promise of a quiet future beckoned. What Morris asked was huge, a deviation from plans to settle in Leeds, and yet, to Huntley's mind, an adventure into unknown lands was infinitely preferable to tranquil stability. The fact that he'd thrown himself into a fight minutes after arriving in England told him so. Intelligent, probably not, but Huntley never put much stock in dry logic. And Morris had saved his life, the ultimate obligation. He could not refuse the dying man.

He said, "Give me the message. I'll deliver it to him."


Excerpted from WARRIOR by Zoë Archer Copyright © 2010 by Ami Silber. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Warrior (Blades of the Rose Series #1) 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I keep asking myself when I will learn to BELIEVE negative reviews and not be so enthusiastic to click the "buy now" button. That's the third time now I've spent my money on an e-book that just ended up at the bottom of my archive list on my nook. This book had so much promise though: adventure, unique Victorian setting, recovery of ancient relics, historical elements, riddles, a handsome male "warrior" and the old fashioned plot of saving the world from certain destruction. Unfortunately that's all this book had going for it. I just wanted to escape for a few hours to something that resembled an ancient treasure hunt with a strong, charismatic, intelligent "warrior"--what I read was far from my desire. I found the main characters just plain irritating and dull. The main purpose or plan of the villains was in a word "lame"--I think that is when I really lost interest. The romance was just over the top, laughable and needless. Oh and to all those referring or trying to sell this book as an "Indiana Jones type fiction" please stop, you lured me (great job) but I have to tell all those potential readers, this book is as far from being anything resembling Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones, Jr. Ph.D. Comparing Indiana with this Captain Huntley is just an insult. Don't waste your money (like I did).
Cid More than 1 year ago
Victorian era paranormal romance. Um, yes please? I have been trying to figure out how to describe the world of the Blades. It feels very Indiana Jones meets a protect-the-native-interests kind of mood. The world that the Blades strive to protect and defend is made up of all those bits and pieces of mythology and magic we've heard stories about. They're real. The god Thor, ancient Oriental powers, all of them exist, and because of that fact - people are out to abuse them; in this story it's the Heirs. The Heirs are predominantly English gentry who want to use the magic Sources to create a global English empire. Sources are powerful magical objects. Thus, the Blades have decided to defend them. In Warrior, this journeys to Mongolia and across the steppes and desert, traversing a culture rich with hospitality and adventure. I can only think of one other book I've ever read that touches Mongolia as a setting. I was fascinated reading Warrior on an intellectual level, learning about the people and customs of that place. It's a rarity to find a novel that also educates, which makes the Blades of the Rose books all that much more of a great read. This story features two people, Thalia Burgess and Captain Gabriel Huntley. They're both awkward and confident in their own way. Thalia is an English woman raised in Mongolia, fighting to protect precious secrets and the interests of people alien to her. Her father is a Blade of the Rose, and that's what she wants to be; it's why she accepts the task of protecting a Mongolian Source without hesitation. Thalia has also spent most of her life in Mongolia and is more Mongol than English - so the very English Captain Huntley makes her self-conscious that she isn't a proper lady. Gabriel Huntley has lived his life as a soldier and isn't sure how to stop soldiering, or even converse with a woman. Kill something? Track an enemy? Plan a multi-level defense? He can do those! Have a domestic conversation with a woman? Out of his skill set. Believe that there's magic in the world? Need a stiff drink there. I love the awkwardness between the characters, and I especially love Gabriel's gruffness. Maybe it's just reminding me of the very country/cowboy men I've grown up with, but he's a plain, ordinary man. There's something refreshing about his character not being a suave, alpha male hero that sweeps the woman off her feet. The love that develops between Thalia and Gabriel is both instantly combustible and also tangible. To date there are now two of these books out, Warrior & Scoundrel, though Rebel should be out by the time this blog is published.
buriedbybooks More than 1 year ago
I haven't read a book like Warrior in a long, long time. In some ways, it's very old fashioned. In a good way. In other ways, this book is entirely new and fresh. There are echoes of Rider Haggard, the Amelia Peabody series, the Mummy movies, and even Indiana Jones in this book. The setting is one I haven't read a lot about: Mongolia. But it's clear that the author has done her research. The climate, customs, even the sprinkling of Mongolian words throughout the story all add to a nice sense of authenticity. I love that this book is hard to pin down to a single subgenre. There's suspense. There's paranormal. There's history. Even some steampunkish elements. But all of it is woven with such subtle skill that no one element dominates any other. It's entirely new, yet borrows from an extensive film and literature lore-which only adds to the richness of the storytelling. I don't think the cover of this book really does it justice. Although it does have that Indy feel, this is about much, much more than a rogue adventurer. At its heart, Warrior is a romance about two people who have trouble fitting into society who discover that with each other, they can be accepted and appreciated as they are. Gabriel is a recently retired soldier who isn't thrilled with what retired life holds in store for him. Thalia is an Englishwoman living in Mongolia. She's far too accustomed to freedom to ever be comfortable being "proper." But their unconventionality is exactly what makes a relationship between the two of them possible. There's a lot to love about Archer's writing, too. Although it's told in the third person, she makes sure that whenever we read about a character's thoughts or emotions it is clear which character it is. Plus the book is incredibly funny. Like this line when he first hears her swear. "...to hear such language come from her edible-looking mouth was something of a thrill for Huntley, not unlike going to a prayer meeting and finding it full of unrepentant strumpets." I also really love how Gabriel treats Thalia as an equal. He's protective and arrogant. But not smothering. And he doesn't devalue her feelings, capabilities, or skills. This book was flat-out fun to read. I think it will appeal to a wide variety of readers and
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1874 former British Army Captain Gabriel Huntley has just come home to England with no plans. However, when he sees a lone person under assault by a group, Gabe rushes in to help. He is too late to save the life of Anthony Morris. Before dying Anthony pleads with his Good Samaritan to deliver a message to Franklin Burgess in Urga, Outer Mongolia. Huntley agrees giving a death bed vow to Morris. Huntley travels to Asia to find Burgess. He does, but the man has a broken leg and cannot follow up on Morris' missive. Burgess explains to his visitor that he is a member of the Blade of the Rose that prevents magical objects or "sources" from the possession of the "Heirs" who want world domination. Desperate he assigns his daughter Thalia and Huntley to locate and bring in the Mongolian Source at the same time a deadly Heir seeks to obtain it too. The first Blades of the Rose Victorian Era romantic fantasy is a fabulous thriller as the lead couple struggles with their attraction and their mission. Fast-paced and filled with action and adventure in an exotic late nineteenth century locale, Zoe Archer opens her new series with a strong tale. Harriet Klausner
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wildcatkel More than 1 year ago
this was the one in the series that really grabbed at me, the chemistry was amazing
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Weightlifter More than 1 year ago
Zoe Archer wrote a compelling book that introduces her own brand of magic. Very imaginative. I enjoyed learning about it along with Captain Gabriel. Thalia, the female hero in the story is not the typical 'wild girl that needs taming,' but a real woman with intelligence and skills. Both Gabriel and Thalia are well written characters with a solid backstory. Setting up the series, this first book has a real ending. Instead leaving you with a cliffhanger, the book gives you a taste of the magic and wonders to experience if you pick up the next volumes, but has a well rounded conclusion that doesn't make me feel cheated.
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Romance_rookie More than 1 year ago
Warrior is the first book in Zoe Archer's The Blades of the Rose series. Captain Gabriel Huntley has only known the life of a soldier, but now that he has left the service he has plans to settle down in the English countryside. Not long after leaving the docks he witnesses a group of people attacking a man. Never one to stand an unfair fight, Gabriel comes to the man's assistance. Unfortunately, the man dies and Gabriel makes a promise to go to Mongolia to deliver a message. When Gabriel gets to Mongolia, he becomes embroiled in a mission upon saving magical artifacts that must not get into the wrong hands. Never one to back away from danger, Gabriel takes it upon himself to protect Thalia Burgess, whose father is a member of The Blades of the Roses and is too sick to go on the mission himself. For me the strength of this book is the unusual setting of Mongolia and the paranormal plot development. The scenery and customs of the Mongolian people is unique and interesting to read about. The history of the people and how magic is tied to the earth reminded me some of Native American culture. The fact that the story is told through an Englishman and woman makes it all the more different. While I like both Gabriel and Thalia, I felt that the romance between these two seemed forced. Instead of showing me how the relationship developed, the author told me. At least this is how it was in the beginning of the book. By the time I had read half the book, I felt the writing had gotten better and the relationship felt less forced. For me though, I was more focused on the external conflict between the Blades and Heirs. I definitely see the potential in this series. It is unusual enough that I will be giving the second book Scoundrel a try.
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