Brazen Temptressby Elizabeth Boyle
No one could have known the truth: that the beauty who swept into the elegant ballroom was a pirate queen with a treacherous plan--to save herself from execution by identifying an infamous privateer attending the ball in disguise. Only Maureen Hawthorne could expose the double life of Julien d'Artiers, the toast of the ton./i>
She came to betray him...
No one could have known the truth: that the beauty who swept into the elegant ballroom was a pirate queen with a treacherous plan--to save herself from execution by identifying an infamous privateer attending the ball in disguise. Only Maureen Hawthorne could expose the double life of Julien d'Artiers, the toast of the ton. After all, she was his wife....
But he caught her heart unawares...
Julien was stunned when he beheld the love of his life, the wife he'd presumed dead. But here she was, her turquoise eyes blazing across a crowded ballroom, a woman determined to bring about his complete ruin. She blamed him for her father's death, swore to see him hang. But he took her into his arms and made her dance instead, tormenting her with memories of the passion they'd once shared, determined to make her love him again...willing to do anything to keep from losing her again.
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)
Read an Excerpt
"These acts of predation must cease!" The judge's voice boomed throughout the oak paneled courtroom. The black-robed magistrate of the Admiralty court continued his high-pitched rail at the ragtag group of prisoners standing before him. The tattered lot shuffled their feet, the chains binding them together rattling as if in punctuation to the judge's rambling dissertation on their fate.
In the last bench near the doorway, the Lord Admiral shook his head. "Leave it to Porter to use such a toplofty speech on an illiterate pack of thieves," he whispered to his companion, Captain William Johnston.
"Practicing for his turn in the House of Lords, I'd wager," Captain Johnston replied. Porter's father had been poorly of late, and it was well known that Porter was pulling at the tide for the old man to stick his fork in the wall--leaving him free to resign from the Admiralty bench and assume his father's title and seat.
If only Captain Johnston could be so lucky to have a dying father--at least a wealthy titled one.
Instead, he was the fifth son of a poor fisherman who had barely a net to cast out, let alone a title. No, Will Johnston, unlike his well-connected friends, had through his own talents risen to the rank of captain in His Majesty's Navy.
Still, what was a captain without a ship? A poor excuse for a sailor marooned ashore on half pay, that's what he was.
He barely listened to the proceedings before them, for he knew that Porter loved the sound of his own voice and the poor buggers would be half dead before they ever saw the hangman.
He was almost as anxious as the smugglers to learn what Porter had in store for them. For when they were done, he'd learn his fate as well.
The Lord Admiral hadn't dragged him down here to Porter's courtroom if it wasn't for some reason. Peter Cottwell, Lord Admiral of His Majesty's Navy, didn't do anything without a reason. Will held out a tenuous hope that Peter didn't need a favor, rather that he was about to extend one.
A ship. The Lord Admiral had the largesse and the power to grant one. And Will needed a ship.
Almost as much as he needed a drink. Shifting in his seat, he crossed his arms over his chest and held back the shakes threatening to reveal his poor condition to the very man who could give him what he wanted.
He'd kept his promise to his dear Mary and not taken a drop this morning before his meeting with the Lord Admiral.
The Lord Admiral. Will glanced over at the man beside him, his pressed and crisp uniform glittering in sharp contrast to the wrinkled tatters worn by the prisoners.
A real laugh it was to see Peter Cottwell strutting about in an admiral's uniform. An admiral! Why he, Cottwell, and Porter had been nothing but frightened boys when they'd first sailed together some forty years ago on the Faithful.
Now look at them--Peter was an admiral, Porter, a respected magistrate, and Will, a tired, broken captain.
Still, Peter wouldn't have called him down here to meet with Porter if it wasn't to toast Will's new ship.
The image of the beautiful lady rose up before his weary eyes. Beneath his feet he could almost feel the pitch of the deck as the bonny new ship danced with the waves, the sun in his eye as he charted a new course, the smell of tar and pitch and new paint filling his nostrils.
Never mind that a war raged out on those seas. A man could forget about his thirst when such things surrounded him, ruled his life.
"The merchants are all up in arms, not to mention some rather high-ranking investors in the House of Lords. Why, after that damned pirate de Ryes sunk the Greco and the Joyful, he sailed right up into a Scottish harbor and demanded the villagers provision him out of the government stores. Damned cheek, these Americans. Need to be taught a lesson," the Lord Admiral remarked.
"So I've heard," William murmured. He had no desire to go out and seek fame and fortune by hunting down the likes of de Ryes. No, he just wanted a nice packet to sail. Steady work, commanding a packet. No worries about privateers seeking their fortunes against you. Just back and forth between England and some far-flung port with a cargo of Admiralty missives about requisitions and promotions.
The Lord Admiral shot a scornful look up at the prisoners before them. "If I don't find a way to stop de Ryes, I'll be spending my retirement scrubbing barnacles off the nearest prison hulk. And you right alongside me, my friend."
Captain Johnston looked up, startled out of his own hazy dreams. He was already on half pay, and even that he knew was only through the generosity of his old shipmate, the Lord Admiral.
But go after de Ryes? He licked his lips and thought about the bottle of rum he had hidden in his study back home.
The notorious American privateer had sunk far better sailors than Will, and now the Lord Admiral thought to send him out into that fray?
"De Ryes?" he said, hugging his chest tighter to keep his voice from shaking like an old woman's. Will might need a commission, but not one that would leave him in an icy Atlantic grave.
"Aye, de Ryes. That's why I asked you to join Porter and me. I need your help. 'Tis rumored de Ryes has full run of the ton, as well as his own contacts in the Admiralty. He's right under our nose, and I can't find him to save my life. Our lives."
"De Ryes, in London?" Will shook his head. "Who'd believe the man would have so much nerve?"
"Aye. It's why he's able to take his pick of only the best prizes, the most important ships. He knows their cargo and when they are sailing."
"And how do you expect us to help you find him?" Will ventured. While his wife, Mary, was the daughter of a viscount and still had some rank in the ton, their financial situation had limited their social connections. The type of society that would give de Ryes access to such highly secret information could come only at the top levels. A level Will couldn't afford.
"Milord, no one knows what the man even looks like," he said cautiously.
"Don't milord me, old friend. In a case like this, it's Peter, like it was on the Faithful. You and Porter are my oldest friends. I need your help. I thought we'd share a pint, like we used to, and perhaps we could, between the three of us, come up with a plan to catch this rascal."
Will saw his ship of dreams sink under the waves, dashed by the desperate tones he heard in Peter's voice. There would be no ship, not today.
Besides, he knew the Lord Admiral and how he worked--the crafty sea dragon had called him down here for a reason. Perhaps he even had a plan, one he needed Porter and him to implement, to do his dirty work.
A better man, Will knew, would have been insulted by these games, but a better man wouldn't be on half pay and beholden to the likes of Peter Cottwell.
Something he would be for the rest of his days.
He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. Mary had been so proud of him this morning when he'd left their little house, full of promise of the riches that would at last be theirs.
How could he tell her, once again, that he'd failed?
Up at the bench, Porter cleared his throat. "I pronounce that each able-bodied member of this crew be immediately transported for indefinite service in His Majesty's Navy. And you, Captain Hawthorne, fate has a different course for you. I order that you be hanged by your neck until dead."
Captain Hawthorne? Will's gaze jerked up toward the bench. He hadn't heard that name in . . . well, long enough for him to have almost forgotten it.
He perked up in his seat to study the prisoner at the end of the row.
Hawthorne. It couldn't be the same man. Too slight, and too straight for a man in his sixties. Will glanced over at the Lord Admiral to see if the name affected him in any way, but Cottwell sat with his usual ramrod posture and unruffled features.
As if he'd known the prisoner's name all along. A shiver of unease trembled over Will's already shaky limbs. 'Twas as if Peter had gathered them together to remember--to remember what they owed him.
No, Will concluded, he'd heard Porter wrong.
Captain Hawthorne indeed.
It was this damned lack of drink--it was making him hear things.
"Do you have anything to say, Captain?" Porter asked the prisoner.
Though the man's back was to them, Will watched the prisoner rear back and spit directly at Porter's bench.
"A curse on you, you bleeding pig." The words rang forth with the same vengeance as the gesture, only it was the unmistakable voice of a woman who spoke.
Will blinked and looked closer. It was easy to see how he'd missed her--dressed as she was as a common sailor, the oversize coat and tight knit cap hiding any evidence of a female shape.
"I ain't no pirate, and neither are my men," the woman continued. "We're innocent traders, I tell ye, innocent."
Porter's face colored to a mottled red. "I'll have no more of that from you, Maureen Hawthorne. Traders indeed! Smugglers and marauders would be a more apt description, but it doesn't matter to me what you call yourself; you'll find the same fate in His Majesty's courts." Porter reached for his gavel and pointed it directly at his prisoner. "You're a scandal to your fair sex, and hanging will serve as an example to the rest of your kind that this court will not tolerate pirates, be they a man or," he said with an eloquent pause, "a woman." He turned to the idle guards standing at either side of the lot. "Take them away."
As the Captain and her crew began their low shuffling procession out of the courtroom, Porter rose from his seat and nodded to his audience.
"Milord, I didn't expect you until next week," he said to the Lord Admiral, his voice rising over the rattle of chains.
The Lord Admiral bowed his head slightly, then stood. "This de Ryes matter has gotten out of hand. I need your help if I'm to find him."
The line of smugglers came to an abrupt halt, the rattle of chains falling momentarily silent as Maureen Hawthorne turned her sharp gaze on them.
The color of her eyes tugged at Will's heart. Like the waters off a faraway Caribbean island. Warm and deep and clear.
And familiar. Too familiar.
"De Ryes?" the woman said, her voice dropped to the low angry growl of an alley cat. "What do you know of that murdering scum?"
The Lord Admiral drew himself up to his full height, a move that sent many a seaman and hardened naval officer alike scurrying under the nearest pile of ropes.
But not this woman. All it garnered from her was a cocky lift of one dark brow.
"Madame," Cottwell said in his most formal and annoyed tone. "This is an Admiralty matter and not your concern."
She laughed, laughed right at the Lord Admiral with the same reckless disregard that she'd shown when she'd spit at Porter. "So de Ryes is giving you a hard time, is he? He's got no soul, that one, and sails with the devil at his side. You'll not catch de Ryes, milord. Not you or that one," she said with a toss of her head toward Porter. Then her knowing glance fell on Will.
Her eyes held him in a wary trance.
She couldn't be related to that Hawthorne, he tried to tell himself, but her eyes, the color haunted him.
Years slipped away, and he was once again in a courtroom looking into a pair of eyes that blamed him, cursed him. And now they beheld him once again.
No, he told himself. This lass couldn't know what he'd done. He washed the thought away. It was an idea worse than a life without rum.
But the girl still studied him as if she sensed his fears. "Or this one as well," she finally said, her gaze never leaving his. "He looks like the only course he's going to chart is to the nearest gin shop. He'll need a drink before he'll find de Ryes--that is, if he can still sail a straight line."
She was right. Will didn't need a drink, he needed an entire bottle. And he hadn't charted a straight line in nearly fifteen years.
Cottwell glared at the guards, who finally got back to the task at hand and prodded their prisoners forward.
But Maureen Hawthorne was not done. "You'll not find de Ryes, milord. Not without someone who's seen his face. Someone like me." She grinned and followed the guards out of the courtroom, whistling a particularly bawdy Irish ballad.
The Lord Admiral's arm swung up, halting the procession. "What do you know of de Ryes?"
She glanced over her shoulder, her mouth turned up. "Enough to catch him. Enough to know what he looks like."
The entire courtroom stilled, as if this woman had just offered them a long-lost Spanish treasure trove of gold.
"And how would that be?" the Lord Admiral asked.
It was her turn to rise up to her full height. "I used to be his wife."
Meet the Author
Elizabeth Boyle was an antipiracy paralegal for Microsoft before settling down to write full-time. Her first novel, Brazen Angel, which won Dell's Diamond Debut Award in 1996, also won the Romance Writers of America's RITA Award for Best First Book, and was a finalist for Best Long Historical Romance. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. She is also the author of Brazen Heiress.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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MY OH MY!! I can't get over what a great series this is. I bought the bundle, which is $3.99 for 3 books, where if you buy them individually, they are $3.99 apiece. Thanks for offering such a deal because this is how I found a new author to me. I read a review that said, this wasn't a favorite, but I beg to differ. Granted it is so different from the first two, those being about Spies, but this is about Pirates, and has as much suspense, intrigue and love, that it was also a favorite. My heart just ached for Julien. The author, really made you feel his pain. I really felt a kinship with this couple. The love making, was tasteful and not throughout the whole book. There was a major twist, that I didn't see coming. I like that the author included an Epilogue, but at the beginning, I wasn't happy, but Ms Boyle, turned it around and I felt satisfied. I am not going into the plot, because it has been done, but just know this is a fantastic series. I read 3-4 books, if not more a week, and it is rare I can say, I hate to see the end of these great character's. I will be reading more of Ms. Boyle's books because she draws you in with the way she writes her stories. You feel you are apart of their lives. (ljb)
*An excellent series
I have just completed all 3 of the Brazen books and MUST compliment Elizabeth Boyle for the fantastic reading. I truly enjoy historical romance books and don't mind the sexual encounters but too many of my favorite writers spend more time on sex than the story. I not only felt Elizabeth gave the perfect balance in her books but also had great historical data and a true suspense story line. GREAT JOB!
Love it made you laugh,cry and i could not put the book down..
Temptress was a good book, but not nearly as good as the other two in the Brazen series.