Emily Nevins has built a web of lies to protect her family's inheritance. To save it all, she consorts with pirates to smuggle brandy. On the run from British troops, American Revolutionary War spy Ryan Sutton will do anything for his cause, even blackmail a woman with as many secrets as he has. Ryan is drawn to Emily’s beauty and fire, but he’ll risk his very life if gives in to their forbidden attraction.
England, 1779. Emily Nevins has built a web of lies to protect her family's inheritance. In order to save it all, she consorts with pirates to smuggle brandy. But when a devastatingly handsome stranger bursts into her home threatening to expose her, she has no choice but to give into his demands––and maybe a few kisses.
On the run from British troops, American Revolutionary War spy Ryan Sutton will do anything for his cause, even blackmail a woman with as many secrets as he has. Ryan is drawn to Emily’s beauty and fire. He meant never to see her again, for her safety and his, but a chance encounter pulls him once more into Emily's dangerous circle.
She can't depend on a traitorous spy who could expose her. And Ryan risks his very life if he gives in to their forbidden attraction.
About the Author
GAIL RANSTROM – sold her first book in 2001. Her current releases include ten historical novels and three anthologies. Her novels have been translated into Spanish, Italian, French, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Polish, Chechen, Croatian, Portuguese, Japanese, Manga and English. Yes, English.
After surviving earthquakes, mudslides and wild fires in southern California and dodging hurricanes and alligators in Florida, Gail has returned to Montana where the long winters give her more than enough time to tell her stories.
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By Gail Ranstrom, Tracy Montoya
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Gail Ranstrom
All rights reserved.
Southeast Coast of England
The night, with a new moon and a steady driving rain, was made for thievery. The rising wind made a moan that drowned the creak of straining oarlocks in a turbulent sea and muffled the whisper of furtive voices. Honest men would be home in their beds. Honest women, too. But not Emily Nevins.
She stood toe to toe with Captain Jacques Reynard, shouting over the wind and masking her fear with an extra measure of defiance. "You gave your word that you would bring wine. I have a buyer for wine, but I cannot find a market for so much lace."
The small man's pale blue eyes narrowed, and his lips drew back in a snarl. He leaned forward in an effort to intimidate her and was doing a fair job of it. "Moutard! You must be thankful for what I bring you, no?"
"No." She held her ground, ignoring her maid's firm warning tug at her sleeve and the burn of fear in her stomach. If she were not so desperate, she'd not be here. Reynard was a Frenchman. Her country's enemy. A ruthless smuggler known for perfidy. "Our bargain was for wine, Captain Reynard. And I, sir, need the cash the brandy will bring — by tomorrow. My buyer has cash for that, but he has no need of lace."
Hands palm up, Reynard gave her a typically Gallic shrug. "I 'ave what I 'ave. Tonight I 'ave lace, not wine."
She would fall to the bottom of the smuggler's route if she refused delivery, and she couldn't afford to lose her favored place. Neither could she afford to pay for lace she could not sell by tomorrow.
"Yes or no? I do not 'ave time to dally. Every minute at anchor is another for your navy to close in."
She calculated Reynard's need to dispose of the lace against her own desperation. "I ... I'll take it," she conceded. "But not at your price. Twenty pounds for the lot, Captain."
"Zut! I can get twice that!"
"Not tonight. If you want to unload and return to La Havre, you will have to take my offer."
"Sacre bleu!" He looked heavenward with a dramatic sigh, oblivious to the rain that trickled down his neck. "You drive the 'ard bargain, Anglaise."
Taking the smuggler's distress as acceptance of her terms, she nodded to Simon Bart, the lanky man standing behind her holding her father's flintlock pistol at the ready. "Pay the man, Simon."
She took the pistol while Simon reached into his pocket and brought forth a pouch containing their dwindling hoard of cash and counted the coins into the smuggler's hand.
"Voilà!" Reynard exclaimed, his lips drawing back in a smile that revealed yellowed teeth. "Now I am the wealthy man. I make to you the loan, no? You will 'ave coin for your needs, eh?"
Emily was startled by such an offer. "You would make me a loan?"
"Mais oui. Business, n'est-ce pas? You pay the usury."
Simon, all six and a half feet of him, leaned over her shoulder and whispered in her ear. "Miss Emily, you'd best not make a bargain wi' the French devil. That one scares me, miss."
Her maid, Bridey Sullivan, agreed, whispering, "He's a canny one, miss."
Reynard scowled at them. "She 'as already made the bargain with the devil, Mr. Bart. 'Ave a care, lest the devil come to collect, eh?"
Simon moved forward as if to challenge the veiled threat, but Emily stepped between them. "Load the lace on the dray, Simon, and take it to the tunnels. We shall look for buyers in the morning."
She turned back to the Frenchman and gave him a tentative smile. For all his diminutive stature and his unexpected offer of a loan, the smuggler had treachery written in every line of his body. She did not dare give him a reason to come looking for her.
"I appreciate your offer, Captain Reynard, but I cannot compromise our business arrangement."
"As you wish, Anglaise. Next trip — the brandy, eh?"
"Next time," she agreed, a sinking feeling settling in her heart. Deprived of the profit she so desperately needed tonight, she now found herself in dire straits. She would need another solution for tomorrow.
* * *
Finding her way as much by memory as by sight, Emily stumbled up the bluff. Her black skirts, heavy with rain and mud, trailed behind her like a broom, obscuring her tracks. "Curse the night and the man." She tilted her head to one side and twisted her dark hair to wring out the rain.
"Captain Reynard? Aye, miss. He's a wily one, an' make no mistake about that," Bridey murmured, her carrot red hair hanging in wet strands to frame her heart-shaped face.
"Not Reynard — Henry Dodge. What more could he do to complicate my life?"
"Hush, miss. The fairies will hear you."
Emily gave a rueful smile. Her maid was the paradoxical Irish mix of pagan superstition and Christian faith, and she likely did believe such a statement would tempt the fairies to mischief.
She sighed. Henry Dodge. The bane of her existence — if one did not count Captain Reynard. If her late father had had any notion of how Mr. Dodge would misuse his trusteeship over the Nevins women, he would have killed Dodge before he'd appointed him to the position. Her mother had drummed the lesson into Emily's head that they dared not owe Mr. Dodge so much as a farthing, because he would use their debt to control Emily and her little sister, Lucy.
Mother's last warning to Emily as she and Lucy departed on that ill-fated trip to Scotland six years ago had been, "You and Lucy must keep out of his clutches, sweetling, or suffer the consequences." And then she had blushed. Emily could only imagine what she had been hinting at, and it had chilled her to the bone. Chilled her still when she thought of her beautiful little sister. And now she was certain Dodge was up to some skullduggery to lengthen his trusteeship.
She was so close. Just a few more months, and she would inherit.
She shivered under the weight of her sodden cape and trudged along, her steps making alternate squishing and sucking noises on the muddy path up the face of the embankment. Beside her, Bridey slipped and flailed her arms in an effort to catch her balance. Emily gasped and reached out to steady her.
"You shouldn't have come tonight, Bridey. It's too dangerous. Should the king's men discover us — "
"Enough of your nay-saying, miss. It is dangerous for you to face Reynard and his minions alone. We've all got our secrets, miss. Tush! Carrying the weight of Oak Hill all by yourself and no one the wiser — it just isn't fair."
Emily stared into the darkness. Fair? What did fair have to do with it? In the three years since Bridey had come to Oak Hill Farm, she had learned just how weary Emily was of carrying the weight of Oak Hill all by herself. Nothing had been fair since Papa died and Mama had been thrown from her horse.
"If the crown did not raise the taxes and the lenders compound the interest on the mortgage every time I spin around, Papa's provisions would have been adequate. But it is my family, my estate, my responsibility, and thus my problem."
Meantime, her life was in danger every time she met the smugglers. Every time she sold the goods she'd gotten from them. But she could not worry about that now. One problem at a time. And tomorrow's problem was to find enough money to pay Mr. Dodge the quarterly tenant farmers' rents, tax, and mortgage money.
Just a few more months ...
A raindrop trickled down her neck and made her shiver anew. After tomorrow's payment, if she could just come up with the last of the taxes and interest when they were due, she would inherit her father's estate free and clear. She would be able to pay all their debts. She could stop smuggling, and nothing else would matter. She could become Lucy's guardian and bring her back from Scotland. Even after a generous dowry for Lucy, there would be enough to sustain and care for Oak Hill. Her touchstone. Her home. Her very heart.
"Well, we'll not be caught, Miss Emily, never worry your pretty little head over that. I only worry that we'll have enough to satisfy that nasty prig, Mr. Dodge."
"You were not here then, Bridey, but I still recall how, when I could not pay the increases several years ago, he loaned me the money from his own pocket. It took me two years to pay him back. I do not want to risk another disaster like that, especially when we are so close to being free of him."
She topped the last knoll to see the manor house and outbuildings of Oak Hill Farm illuminated by a flash of lightning. It was past midnight and she glanced toward a faint light in the window of the little cottage behind the manor — Bridey's cottage. She touched her maid on her shoulder.
"Go on to bed, Bridey. I won't need you again tonight."
"If you're sure, miss. I'm fair on my last legs, I am."
They parted, and Emily cut across the broad sweep of lawns that separated the manor house from the ocean bluffs. No need to keep to the woods surrounding Oak Hill Farm, since neither man nor beast would be out in this weather.
At the kitchen door, she removed her father's pistol from the deep pocket sewn into the seam of her cloak, hung the sodden garment on a peg in the small cloak room, then stripped away her muddy clothes and slipped into a brocade wrapper left on a peg for just such purposes. She left her muddy clothes on the floor for tomorrow.
She went to the lantern in the kitchen window and turned the wick high and low three times to signal Bridey that she was safely home, then extinguished the light.
She padded to the library on bare feet to complete her last bit of business for the day. After replacing the flintlock in the desk drawer, she turned to the bookcase behind the desk and tripped a spring hidden by a nondescript tome at one end. The bookcase pivoted open, revealing a narrow windowless room with a steep stairway down to a collapsed tunnel that had, nearly two hundred years ago, led to a secret opening in the shrubbery above the bluffs. The tunnel had been built to shield British watchmen and signalers during the attempted invasion of the Spanish Armada. The signal station was long gone, but Oak Hill Manor had been built atop the ruins and the tunnels.
Sighing, Emily retrieved a small metal cash box from a shelf in the hidden room and brought it back to the desk. She poured herself a draught of brandy before opening the box. A lump formed in her throat when she finished counting. Not enough! She needed more by tomorrow afternoon when Mr. Dodge arrived to collect.
Five and twenty pounds short. In a reckless — almost hopeless — gesture, she drank her brandy in a single gulp and let the heat spread through her before taking the cash box back to the secret room. By her calculations, she'd need three pipes of wine; one pipe of madeira; two hogsheads of brandy; various assorted gallons, pints, and bottles of cognac; and five dozen bottles of claret to make her final payment next time.
She lifted another box from the shelf and opened the lid. The glitter of gems twinkled in the candlelight. So few left. If there were only another way! She selected a small brooch set in gold with tiny glittering diamonds around a baroque pinkish pearl. Soon all the family treasures would be gone. Tears stung her eyes, and she wiped at them with the sleeve of her robe. Keeping the brooch in her hand, she replaced the little jewelry box on the shelf, then pushed the bookcase back in place.
Tense and nervous, she rarely slept after a visit by the French smugglers. Seeking anything to occupy her mind, she selected a copy of Shakespeare's sonnets she knew by heart from the bookshelf and went to curl up in a chair in front the waning fire. Mesmerized by the glow of embers, the book lay open in her lap as she fondled the brooch, committing it to memory — the only place it would exist for her after tomorrow. It was her favorite piece, and the only one with enough value to pay Mr. Dodge.
"Five and twenty pounds," she muttered. She was waging a losing battle. No matter how much money she raised from selling Oak Hill's produce at market, it was never enough. Only the smuggling allowed her to keep afloat in the sea of debt. That, and the sale of her mother's jewels.
Lord, how weary she was of being lonely and afraid. Afraid of Henry Dodge on the one hand, and Jacques Reynard on the other. Afraid of being exposed as a smuggler, of losing everything she had fought so hard to keep, and the certain knowledge that she would live alone the rest of her life to protect her sister and her own carefully constructed lies.
She yawned and pulled her robe closer. A dull lethargy stole over her, deepened by fatigue, the warmth, the brandy, and the fact that she'd resolved herself to the solution of her problem.
Please Lord, just two months and no disasters ...
A cold puff of wind lifted damp tendrils on the back of her neck and elicited a shudder. The candles flickered and died in the sudden draft as the room narrowed to the dim glow of the fireplace.
She glanced over her shoulder to catch the glint of the firelight off metal — a pistol pointing at her head.
"Do not force me to hurt you, miss," a shadow-figure shrouded in a deep hooded cloak whispered from the draperies beside the window. "Turn around and keep your back to me."CHAPTER 2
Terrified, Emily whirled in her seat, her attention riveted on the barrel of cold steel aimed at her temple. This was what she reaped from trafficking with smugglers! A nastier, more treacherous group there never was!
The pounding of hooves penetrated her numbed consciousness. A moment later, sharp rapping at the door broke the hypnotic hold of the stranger's gun. She stood and spun to look in the direction of the front foyer, the forgotten copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets sliding from her lap and landing with a dull thump on the carpet.
"Open for the King's men!" came the call beyond the door.
The barrel of the intruder's pistol pressed into the small of her back. His breath was warm against her cheek as he leaned over to whisper in a slow, soft tone. "Do not turn around. You've seen nothing — heard nothing. Do you understand?"
His voice calmed her, but the pressure against her spine told her he meant every word. She swallowed hard, fought back her fear, and took a deep fortifying breath. Thus braced, she nodded. A firm hand on her shoulder guided her to the front entry.
"You know the price of betrayal?"
She could guess. She turned the knob, her mind working to form a plan. First, survival. Using the door to shield the fact that she was clad only in a robe, she peeked around the panel and feigned confusion. Soldiers stood outside, pistols drawn and swords unsheathed.
A captain stepped forward. "Sorry to disturb you, miss. We've been chasing a spy. He disappeared a few miles back. Have you heard or seen anything unusual?"
A spy! Not one of the smuggler's crew out to thieve back my goods! Relief mingled with trepidation. This cast a different light on matters, but she was not safe yet. Matters could, in fact, be worse. "A spy? La! Nothing like that here, sir."
She did not recognize these soldiers as being from the garrison at Hastings. Their uniforms were unfamiliar. Their pursuit must have taken them far afield. She could use this to her advantage. She blinked and continued. "I hoped you were the physician. We sent for him hours past."
"Miss." The captain bowed. "I offer my apologies in advance. I fear I must search your house. The man we are chasing is a murderer. He left the body of one of our own men in the mud alongside the road. Did you know a man named Erickson, miss? Leon Erickson?"
"N-no, sir," Emily shivered. The barrel pressing into the small of her back was suddenly more sinister than a moment before. He was a traitor — and now she knew he was a killer, too.
Risking death at the hand of a spy, or hanging when the captain discovered her muddy clothes in the cloak room, she nodded. "But of course you must search. A man has his duty, after all." She made a move to swing the door open to admit him, then stopped when the pressure against her spine increased and the hand moved to her waist to draw her closer. The spy's cold, rain-sodden cloak pressed against her back, and she shivered. She wedged the door with one foot to keep it from opening wider. "Oh, one small matter, Captain."
Excerpted from Sweet Treason by Gail Ranstrom, Tracy Montoya. Copyright © 2013 Gail Ranstrom. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was interested in this book because of its time period and location–a book about an American Revolutionary spy in England? Sign me up! Initially the story had a lot of promise–I really liked the characters of Emily and Ryan, and their early antagonistic banter was amusing. I especially enjoyed Emily’s refusal to call Ryan by the correct name–I may actually have snorted iced tea out my nose when she referred to him as “Mr. Button”. Is that TMI? I enjoyed many of the secondary characters as well, especially Emily’s younger sister Lucy and her eventual paramour, Lord Jonah Devaux. Ryan’s cousins and uncle, Emily’s faithful servants, and the French smuggler too were all sympathetic characters. The first third or so of the novel had me hooked, eagerly turning the pages. Somewhere after that point, though, things started to get a bit dicey. Quite a few extra plot lines were thrown in there–an angry jilted ex-lover/source of information of Ryan’s, for example, vows revenge. Not one, but two nefarious personages have designs on Emily’s fortune and person. A member of Parliament finds out at a very public venue that his mistress has been less than faithful, and tragedy ensues. Spies on both sides are wounded left and right, with many suffering mortal wounds. At times it became tricky keeping track of all the different threads, and more than once I had to use the “find” feature on my ereader to remind myself of who that person was and why they were doing what they were doing. Unfortunately, in the end, it also didn’t feel like all of these separate plot lines were completely resolved. The villains of the novel–yes, there’s more than one–show no real redeeming qualities in the end and as a result feel one-dimensional. They’re definitely not as fleshed out as the more protagonistic characters. It's not the worst complaint to have about a book, but it did make the reading feel uneven. I also ran a bit hot and cold with Emmy and Ryan’s relationship–mainly because they were constantly doing the same thing. In the beginning their antagonism made sense–they both had secrets that could hurt themselves and others, and no real reason to trust the other person with them–but then they’d do something that screamed relationship and the next minute Emily was pushing Ryan away and thinking about how she was still afraid of him. It got to be old after a while…but then you’d have a really sweet moment, like this one: This was a token of all Emily held dear—of Oak Hill, her family, of who she was. And now, of Ryan, too. She held it to her heart. She’d thought it was the land that she loved. Her mother and sister who needed her. That it was her duty, her obligation, to preserve those things and keep them safe, no matter the cost. But her mother was gone, and Lucy would have Devaux. All the things she’d held to so tightly suddenly had no meaning. Only this small remembrance and the man who’d redeemed it. All she’d ever need of the past she now held in the palm of her hand. Climax and falling action of the novel has drama galore and all kinds of action–real page-turning reading–but the resolution itself is amazingly abrupt. Again, there’s unresolved issues there, especially concerning what will happen with most of the things that Emily just mused about holding dear in the passage above, less than a dozen pages earlier in the book. Overall I did enjoy the basic story here, and liked the main characters. It’s from a new-to-me author, and though I didn’t love everything about the book I’d probably pick up another by her in the future. C+ rating. I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I will start by saying I freaking loved this book. I didn't have high expectations going into it to be honest mainly because I wondered how the autho could pull it off-a historical romance set in England, about English, against the backdrop (and intrigue/spying) of the American Revolution. I didn't think I'd be able to like the characters, since well, being from the US I kinda have a side, ya know? But this book was nothing like that. This book instead showed two characters, conflicted by their duties to their families and countries, because of the love they felt for each other. The multiple plots that were woven through the story were done well and no threads were left untied. Everything got resolved, or well, as resolved as good as it could! I loved the characters of Ryan and Emily and how hard they fell for each other. But most important, for me, was Emily's sacrifice for Ryan. What she was willing to do for him, well that just blew me away. She was written well and as a very strong, independent, loving woman who would do anything, even sacrifice herself, for those she cared for. It was nice to see that balance of strength, courage, love and vulnerability all together in one character. The end was both awesome and bittersweet. I knew that things couldn't stay the way they were-given who Lucy was going to marry and what Ryan was involved in. And so I knew Emily would have to make a choice. And it was hard but I think she made the right one. *I received an ARC Of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*
Intriguing and definitely sucks you in! Very well written and the flow of the story has great rhythm with all the unseen twists and turns. I couldn’t put it down because I just had to know what would happen next. The characters grab you and you feel like you have known them for years. The story itself reminds you that war has two sides to it. The author did a wonderful job of not pushing one side over another. You can feel for the character’s cause and she leaves you wondering the whole book how they can end up together when on opposite sides! Secrets and bad guys are hiding everywhere. This is a very action packed, well written story that I highly recommend!
I absolutely love this book! Ryan and Emily's characters were well thought out and their interaction don't make me want to cringe unlike other historical romances I have read. I didn't feel the story was lacking at all and can't wait to read more from Gail Ranstrom. I would love to read more about some of the other characters, Emily's sister in particular. I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This book is a great read. There is danger and adventure from beginning until the very last page. I love that the heroin saves the day and rescues the hero. The build up of the relationship of Emily and Ryan allows you to truly get to know them and fall in love with them. They build their trust and passion with each other before they finally get together. Although both Emily and Ryan have a great deal of stress and secrets to deal with, neither one complains excessively. They do what they have to do to keep the people the love safe.
In Sweet Treason by Gail Ranstrom, the year is 1779, the American Revolutionary War is going on, and Emily is at the family estate in Oak Hills, England, struggling to keep it going and find the money to do so. If she can make it a few more months she will inherit free and clear, and she will resort to almost anything to make sure she doesn't lose the estate. When an American 'spy' (Ryan) shows up in her home and Emily doesn't out him to the soldiers who come knocking, Ryan convinces her that if she says anything now, she will be implicated as a co conspirator. Even with a heat and attraction to him that is fully unexpected, Emily is glad to see the back of him. She has her own secrets to protect, she does not want to risk being assocaited with a traitor! Forced to go to London by the trustee of the family estate, who Emily does not trust one bit but she is determined to figure out his ulterior motive, Emily starts running into Ryan more and more. Coincidence or something more? Emily does not want to trust the spy, but the desire they feel for each other can't be denied. Emily knows Ryan won't be staying around, but she can no longer resist him or how he makes her feel. She takes big chances to be with him. Not only could her heart be broken when he leaves, but the secrets they both harbor could end up harming them. With the war going on, clandesine meetings, unexpected and frightening happenings, Ryan and Emily are going to have to trust someone. Can they trust each other? Are they really that different? And what could possibly become of them? I have to admit I don't read a lot of historical romance books, but I am so glad I read Sweet Treason! I loved it!!! Emily was such a strong woman, especially for the era Sweet Treason took place in. She was not going to sit quietly for anything or anyone and I loved that about her. She is so busy taking care of everyone else though, who will take care of Emily? I really enjoyed the relationship between her and Ryan, and seeing it evolve. Ryan played tough, but when it came to Emily he definitely has a soft spot! He is standing up for what he believes in...and they might not be as different as they think. Gail's descriptives are so well written that I could feel the cool air and smell the salt water...see the busy streets, and be at the parties. All of the characters were well written and came together nicely to pull you into the story. I loved it too because even though it was hundreds of years ago, feelings are the same no matter what century and those are what makes you relate to the characters, especially Emily I am so glad I read Sweet Treason and recommend it to any romance reader, especially if you like historical romance, intrigue, and heat!