New York Times bestselling author and Reviewers' Choice Awardwinner Laurie McBain has sold more than 11 million copies of her romances around the world with lush, epic storytelling that has made her a favorite among generations of readers.
She has sworn never to love.
To many, she has a perfect life-freedom to travel the world, expensive gifts from wealthy men. But consummate actress though she is, Mara Flynn can never make herself believe the passion is real. One more job. That's all she needs to ensure her family's financial future. And California is just teeming with gold. There, her daring impersonation will fool everyone...except one man.
He has sworn never to forgive.
Mara didn't plan for Nicholas Chantale, though. He has hunted her from the steamy streets of New Orleans all the way to the blinding brilliance of California gold country, only to have his dreams of vengeance crushed when he meets her in the flesh. For though he was sworn to kill her, she was the love he would die for.
Praise for Laurie McBain:
"Ms. McBain's flare for the romantic intermingled with suspense will keep the reader riveted to the story until the last page."
-Affaire de Coeur
"Vivid sense of description, colorful characters...I found myself happily lost in the magnificence of the storytelling."
-Los Angeles Herald Examiner
"Well-crafted and wonderfully romantic. Readers are rewarded with teeming atmosphere."
-RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Laurie McBain became a publishing phenomenon at age 26 with her first historical romance. She wrote 7 romances, all of which were bestsellers, selling over 11 million copies. She is a winner of the RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Award and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Laurie McBain became a publishing phenomenon at age twenty-six with her first historical romance. She is a winner of the Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Historical Romance Author. All of her romances were bestsellers, selling over 11 million copies. Laurie's books have been out of print for over 5 years.
Read an Excerpt
Mara O'Flynn braced her legs against the roll and pitch of the ship as it smoothly climbed the waves, only to drop abruptly after clearing the crest into a chasm of blue-black water. The wind cut through her cloak like a dagger of ice, yet Mara reveled in the feel of the brisk, tangy salt spray on her face. She raised her head higher and stared up at the three, far-reaching masts of the ship. Fully rigged, they stretched up into the sky with a profusion of sails filled by the wind.
It had been in the winter of 1850 that they had set sail from the city of New York, leaving behind a storm of snow and howling winds that had blanketed the city in white. But as they had made their way to open sea, they had faced even worse as gale-force winds and snow flurries had raged at the ship, keeping most of the land-loving passengers below decks fighting off attacks of seasickness. Sailors are fond of saying that the sea never remains the same, and they were right, Mara thought in amazement when one morning, after a week of heavy squalls, she had awakened to a calm sea. As she stood on deck now, she could remember the first sail they'd sighted on the horizon, the first sign to her that they were not lost and alone on an endless sea.
"Ship ahoy!" the second mate had cried out from aloft as the strange ship had drawn closer.
"Hello!" had come the reply.
"What ship are ye?"
"The brig La Mouette, from Marseilles bound for Boston. Where do you hail from?"
"We're the clipper Windsong, from New York bound for California and fifteen days out."
That had been four months ago. Mara now looked across the waves into the distance, staring in disbelief and despair at the bleak shore that was barely discernible, shrouded in floating layers of fog. This was the California coastline. Was this the land they had come to make their fortunes in? Was this the golden dream that had cast its spell upon the world? Mara thought of all the people, like herself, who had been uprooted from their homes and countries to find their fortunes in this land paved in nuggets of gold. Why, on this ship alone were men from places she had never even heard of. Crowded together below deck were fancy European gentlemen in their frock coats and silk hats, speaking French, Italian, or English, disdainfully mixing with flannel-shirted laborers and farmers from Germany and Sweden, Portugal and Greece. The mingling of tongues became indistinguishable and unimportant as they found ways to communicate over the card tables. Their small savings exchanged hands time and time again until they'd all lost something in one game or another.
Mara reluctantly slid her hand from her fur muff and pulled the flapping edge of her cloak closer around her legs. She tightened the ribbons on her green velvet bonnet and touched the matching feathers reassuringly before tucking her icy fingers back into the warmth of the quilt-lined muff. She'd forgotten her gloves, but she'd not go below into the stuffiness of the cabin to retrieve them, not while she could stand here on deck and breathe the sweet, fresh air.
Mara sighed, hoping this was not going to be another one of Brendan's wild flights of fancy. And who was knowing Brendan O'Flynn better than herself? He was her own brother, and the devil take him if he wasn't a charming Irish rogue. His dancing dark eyes and boyish grin charmed people into believing he was everything he wasn't.
Mara returned her gaze to the distant shore. The scene dispelled dreams of easy living. How like Ireland it was! Fog swirled around rugged cliffs. White foamy waves pounded against sharp-edged, vicious rocks, keeping you within your own boundaries, never letting you trespass where you didn't belong. And Mara had a feeling that the O'Flynns didn't belong in this strange land. But how did she convince Brendan of that? Always building castles in the air he was. A fine time he had talking about it too, but seldom did they ever have anything to show for it except debts and their good name held in contempt. Not that Brendan often used his real name when he was up to some scheme of his.
Thinking back, Mara realized that she couldn't help but have become infected with Brendan's enthusiasm as he had planned their journey to America and the faraway land they'd heard was rich in gold. What sane man could resist the image painted of mountains of gold in a land populated by few people? It was yours for the finding, they said. How enticing that was to the poor of Europe, whose ancestors had been born into a life of poverty, and even now their children's children could hope for little better. Not that the O'Flynns were really of the poor, Mara told herself.
The O'Flynns could trace their bloodlines back to the first kings of Ireland, and were part of one of the great families of the land. Of course, it wasn't a legal relationship, for she and Brendan were bastards. But their father, a gentleman of means, had set their actress mother up in a fine house in Dublin. There had always been money for them, and even though they had been excluded from the haut monde, Mara and Brendan had been well educated by a succession of tutors, knew how to sit a horse as well as any aristocrat bred to it, and could even comport themselves perfectly over the tea table, should the occasion arise.
But while the children were growing up, their gentleman father had grown tired of his aging mistress. Mara's lovely mouth curled in bitterness as she recalled the abrupt change those circumstances had wrought. Gone was the fine Georgian house that had been their birthplace and held their memories. Gone were the stable of horses and carriages, the army of grooms and hostlers, and the household staff. Jamie, their mother's longtime maid and confidante, had been the only servant left to them.
It was not only the loss of material comforts that had devastated them. They'd lost their happiness as well, for Maud O'Flynn had made a tragic mistake. After a liaison of close to fifteen years with her gentleman lover, she had committed the folly of falling in love with him. She had lost her youth to those years, but she had never worried about what the future might hold when her beauty faded. Maud, in her love for that one man, had forgotten that it was her beauty that had attracted him in the first place.
Maud O'Flynn seemed also not to have understood that, as his mistress, she had no rights, that she could be discarded as easily as a scuffed pair of shoes or an unfashionable hat. She had believed it could never happen to her. But it had. Mara's face flamed even now, eleven years later, as she remembered the humiliation of it all. The packing, the giving up of prized possessions that suddenly were no longer theirs.
Few such liaisons end in friendship, without scars, and where love had once blossomed only bitter hatred remained. Maud was broken by her own dreams, forgotten by a man to whom she'd given more of herself than he'd asked for-or had wanted.
Disappointed in her bid to reestablish herself on the stage, finding it unbearable when the roles she coveted were offered to younger women, Maud found comfort in a succession of lovers. Never satisfied, Maud took to traveling, never stopping long enough to create new memories-or to let the shadows of the past catch up with her.
And what of Brendan and herself? Mara asked with remembered pain. Did they no longer have a father, now that he had disclaimed the relationship with their mother? How easy it had been for him to discard them, for they had no legal hold on him. They didn't even bear his name. Mara wondered if he even remembered them.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
From all three books available on nook by this author, this one was definitely my favorite :)
I've loved every book by Laurie McBain, and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. Her books are always filled with mystery and intrigue, and leave you guessing until the very end. She effectively paints vivid characters as she sweeps you from Europe to the California Gold Rush to Louisiana and develops the interaction between them. I've got every book she's written, and am so thrilled they are becoming available on nook. My greatest wish is that she will begin to write again.
Different parts of mid-nineteenth century America come to vivid life in this book. The setting is unusually colorful and descriptive in this moving book, one filled with spunky characters and melodious dialogue. The beginning is sad, as are other parts of this book, but that gives it more poignancy. Mara is an interesting heroine, an Irish lass traveling with her light-hearted brother, Brendan, his son, Paddy, and their maid. The two Irish siblings sure know how to get into trouble. Their adventures are entertaining. They end up in California during the time of the gold rush. Rich details bring this era and world to life and even offer the reader a deeper understanding of the people there. Later, New Orleans and life there is presented vividly. Nicholas, a sexy Creole man is after Mara for something bad she did: hurting a member of his family. They meet up and don¹t get along, to say the least. I was startled a bit by how quickly their relationship went from hatred to courtship. Nicholas goes from suspecting she was his villain, the one he searched for and yet they end up in the bedroom with little development to get to this point and then they become enemies again shortly after. The story has its share of suspense as well. I wondered what would happen when the siblings' deception was discovered. The history is vivid, interesting and spot on. Readers will be entertained and learn a lot. It¹s also good that there is character growth for the two leads. Something quite sad happens and, while unexpected, fits in with the developing plot. Occasionally, the story rushes over certain parts, and in other areas, there are so many details. At times it becomes annoying that Mara and Nicholas see the worst in each other so easily and so often, despite the passion between them. Still, this is a good tale filled to the brim with adventure and romance. It's on the long side but worth it, having a satisfying ending and enough suspense to keep up the tension. Originally posted at The Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
I thought it was one of the most boring books I have read in a long , long, time and I read a lot. No substance. I could have had the written plot in a few words. No intrigue or a lot of Romance going on.