The final book in Patricia Potter’s enthralling Scottish Trilogy journeys from war-ravaged Scotland to the high seas to the diamond jungles of South America as a nobleman with a price on his head seeks revenge, only to lose his heart to his most despised enemy
Alex Leslie’s hatred for the British is a raging fire in his soul. Once he was a Scottish nobleman with everything to live for. Now he is Will Malfour, an outlaw pursued by the English king’s soldiers. With nothing but bitter memories of the Culloden massacre and his burning hunger for revenge, he roams the seas, taking from his enemies what they stole from him. But the ship he just seized holds an unexpected prize: a willful, captivating beauty who is the daughter of a British invader.
Rumored to carry the mark of the devil, Lady Jeanette Campbell is forced to leave Scotland to become the bride of a man she has never met. But en route to Barbados, her ship is fired on, and she is taken prisoner. Captain Will Malfour is as black-hearted as Satan himself, yet surprisingly gentle with two young stowaways. How the children got aboard is a mystery. So is the wild Scot turned privateer who awakens in her such irresistible desire. With the odds stacked against them—and their lives at risk—Jenna fights for the future and a love she never expected to find.
The Diamond King is the 3rd book in the Scottish Trilogy, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Patricia Potter is a USA Today–bestselling author of more than fifty romantic novels. A seven-time RITA Award finalist and three-time Maggie Award winner, she was named Storyteller of the Year by Romantic Times and received the magazine’s Career Achievement Award for Western Romance. Potter is a past board member and president of Romance Writers of America. Prior to becoming a fiction author, she was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal and the president of a public relations firm in Atlanta. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee.
Read an Excerpt
The Diamond King
By Patricia Potter
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2002 Patricia Potter
All rights reserved.
Jeanette Campbell stared at the letter in her hands.
"It is a solution to our problem," her father said.
"My problem," she corrected.
"Nay," her father said. "Our problem. We are also ... tainted. You know there have even been hints of witchcraft."
Jeanette rubbed her arm. It was well covered. Even her hand was gloved. She was accustomed to hiding both. "Does he know?" she said in a low voice. "Does he know about the mark?"
"And he still makes an offer?"
Her father fidgeted with the ink bottle on his desk. He couldn't quite meet her gaze.
"He is a man of fine family. I am told he is of good disposition. But he lost his wife and he cannot leave Barbados to find a new one. He has children and needs a mother for them."
"In other words, he is as desperate as you are," Jeanette said dryly.
"And you, Jenna. You are twenty-five. You have no chance of obtaining a husband here."
Loneliness overwhelmed her. She had never felt loved in this house. She had always been a burden. Nay, worse than that. She was an embarrassment to them. She was the devil's child. Would she be that to the man offering marriage? Had her father really explained the extent of her ... disfigurement?
Could anything be worse than this cold house and a father—and family—who embraced barbarism toward other Scots? She knew of the slaughter following Culloden. And the bloody aftermath when women and children were killed as well as wounded men. She'd heard British officers laugh about it.
Still, she couldn't resist one last challenge. "You offered my hand without even asking me?"
"I thought you would be pleased. A husband at last."
"Does he know I am considered a bluestocking as well?"
"That, Jenna, is something you can change. We all know why you've been hiding in those bloody books of yours."
"And if I refuse?"
"Then you can leave this house," he said.
"Does my mother feel the same way?"
The despair deepened inside her. The aloneness. She couldn't remember ever receiving a gentle gesture from either of her parents. Her sisters had taunted her unmercifully at first, then complained bitterly as they grew older. Jenna was ruining their chances for good marriages. Her blood was tainted. Maybe suitors would think their blood—and that of prospective children—would be, too.
Barbados. She knew it was an island in the Caribbean. Furthermore, she knew that some Jacobites had been shipped there as bond servants to plantations.
A chance to escape what had become intolerable here in Scotland. The Campbell clan was hated by most of the Highland clans, even those who had sided with the English at Culloden. None had forgotten the massacre of the Macdonalds at Glencoe decades earlier.
Still, she tried to be loyal to her family. It was the only family she had, even if they cared little about her.
She wanted to weep, but she wouldn't give her father the power of knowing how much he'd just hurt her. Perhaps Barbados would be a good place to go. A new start. A family of her own. She only wished she believed her father when he said the planter knew about the marks. What if she sailed across the seas, only to be rejected once again? She didn't know whether she could bear that.
It might be the only chance she had. Despite a large dowry, every man feared "the mark of the devil," afraid it might be passed to any children.
And if the Honorable David Murray did not want her, perhaps she could find a position as governess. Surely if the colonies were so scarce of women that a man would offer for a wife he did not know, then there must be a shortage of governesses as well.
"I agree, Papa," she finally said. As always, she hoped for some slight sign of approval for succumbing to his will. There was none, only a fleeting look of relief.
"We will answer him then and make the necessary financial arrangements. It will be three months or more before all can be completed. You will leave for Barbados from London."
Grief mixed with anticipation. Grief that she would leave, and no one would mourn her. Anticipation that she would leave this place on an adventure. She had taken many adventures through her books, and she had always hungered to see more of the world. Because of the "taint," she had never been taken to Edinburgh, although her sisters had gone there in search of husbands.
Now she would see Edinburgh and London and travel on a ship across oceans. And maybe at the journey's end she would find peace and contentment and, if God was with her, a gentle man.
Alex found homes for his charges—one after another.
Only Meg and Robin had not found permanent homes, mainly because they had refused every overture. There was a strong Scottish Jacobite community in Paris. They had readily offered homes to the younger children. But Meg at eleven and Robin at twelve had dodged British patrols for nearly eighteen months. They had gone hungry and cold and had seen the people they loved killed in cold blood and their homes forfeited to the men who had done it. They were rebellious and independent and trusted only Alex and Burke.
They made it clear they wanted to stay with Alex, though he'd tried to make it equally clear he had no way of keeping them. He had found them temporary refuge with a French count and his wife who had three children of their own, yet still they appeared at his door at the oddest of hours.
He would have to work harder at finding them a permanent home.
Letting the children go had been far more difficult than he'd thought. That surprised him. He'd thought he would be filled with relief.
Yet he had protected some of them for months. He had tried to care for the mother of two of them and had ended up watching her die. He had shared their hardships, and their grief. At some point the children had carved out a piece of heart he hadn't thought he still retained.
He had not been alone when he'd had them with him. They had given him a reason to live. Now he had to find another one.
Alex looked in the mirror in his rented room. A scar ran up to the right side of his face, giving him a permanent smile. It wasn't a particularly pleasant expression. Men looked at him with curiosity, women with either fear or a perverse fascination that sickened him. He remembered when he could have his pick of lasses.
He'd even considered marriage in the days before Culloden. Now he had no idea where Mary Ferguson was, or whether she still lived. He had no future, no land. Where once he'd worn the finest clothes and played cards without a thought of stakes, he now hoarded every coin.
The former Lord Alex Leslie had no title, prospects, future, not even his real name. It might well reflect on his sister, and on his most unexpected benefactor, the Marquis of Braemoor, if the British knew he still lived. Not only lived but had made his way robbing from them. He had taken the name of Will then, and he kept it now, along with the last name of Malfour. Although some in the refugee community in Paris knew his identity, or at least knew he'd been a Scottish noble, they accepted his new name without question. They knew from the children what he had done for them, how he had harassed the British for over a year. Some even speculated he might be the infamous Black Knave.
He didn't care about acceptance. He'd only wanted to be rid of responsibility and indulge a burning desire to avenge himself on those who had destroyed his country. But that would be difficult without funds. He would cheat and lie and gamble to achieve his goals but he could not do that with children at his heels.
Alex sat down in a chair at a table and took out the deck of cards he'd carried during his escape from Scotland. A game of solitaire might serve to focus his thoughts. He studied the first card he laid down. The jack of spades—the black knave. He hesitated, then searched the cards for the heart queen.
The two cards were his only links to family and country. The legend known as the Black Knave had helped him escape Scotland. And his sister had been called the heart queen by her husband, a man Alex had once hated but now respected. They had made a life together despite the aftermath of Culloden and their conflict of loyalties. He didn't think he could ever forgive or forget the horror of Culloden.
A knock at the door interrupted his bleak thoughts.
Burke rose from his chair to answer it. He was acting as butler, manservant, bodyguard. He was not an elegant one. He still looked like a footpad. But there was no questioning his loyalty.
An elegantly dressed and wigged gentleman stood at the door. Alex recognized him. They had met at a soiree hosted by a friend of Prince Charles, who had returned to Paris after hiding for months on the Isle of Skye.
Comte Etienne de Rochemont. A gambler, he'd been told, who won and lost fortunes.
"Monsieur Malfour?" the comte asked.
"Aye," Alex said. "Welcome to my rooms, such as they are."
The comte, a man of thirty-five years or so, took off his gloves. His hands had the pampered look of someone who had never worked with them. But his smile was warm, even as he studied the poor rooms. His gaze lingered on Burke, who looked more like what he was—a thief and murderer—then a gentleman's gentleman.
"I have some brandy," Alex said. "It is better than the room would indicate. A gift from a sea captain."
"Smuggler, you mean."
"I have been told you once captained a ship."
"More than once," Alex said. "My family had a share in a shipping business. My father wanted to make sure he would not be cheated and I took a liking to it, much to his chagrin."
"Where did you sail?"
"Not as a captain, but I went as first mate."
"How many years did you sail?"
"One as an owner's representative, two as first officer, and three as captain."
"Ever fire on another ship?"
"No, but I practiced with cannon."
The comte looked disappointed. "I can find you men who have," he said, almost to himself.
Puzzled, Alex regarded him. "Why?"
"What do you know about privateering, monsieur?"
"That it can be a very dangerous profession," Alex said dryly. "If a peace treaty comes, a privateer can be tried as a pirate, even if he's unaware of the newfound cordiality between nations."
The comte grinned at him. "I had hoped you were not aware of that small problem."
"I'm not sure why that should concern me," Alex said, though indeed he was beginning to understand exactly why it would concern him. Excitement stirred inside him. Still, it was wise to play the unsuspecting observer.
"I have been told you are honorable. And have courage. Or is it, perhaps, recklessness?" the comte asked.
"I ran from the British, if that is what you consider valor," Alex said wryly. "As for honor, I lost that too at Culloden."
"You tricked them for over a year. Anyone who can elude Cumberland interests me."
"A forest is far different than the sea," Alex said.
The comte nodded. "I need funds, and privateering is the fastest way to improve a disastrous financial situation." He paused, watching Alex, assessing him. "I have a ship. I need a captain."
"Why don't you captain the ship?"
"I am not a sailor. Neither do I like the odds of being personally involved," his visitor said honestly. "France and England may make peace at any time. I do not want to be a fugitive from my own country. You, on the other hand, have already lost your country. Your need of funds is obvious. I also suspect you would like to meet the British on, shall we say, more equal terms."
The comte's honesty was disarming. Alex suspected it was calculated to do exactly that. "And the split?" he said.
"Forty-forty of the profits. Twenty percent goes to the French government. Your share includes the crew."
"I would want to see them," Alex said. "And I would need a crew."
"You can find them. There's any number of unemployed Scottish and French sailors who would welcome a chance to earn more than a seaman's pay. The trick is finding capable men with some sense of loyalty."
"And supplies?" Alex said. "You would pay for them, of course. From your share."
"Oui, monsieur. Does that mean you will accept my offer?"
"I have little to lose," Alex admitted.
"We all have much to lose, monsieur. Life is precious."
Alex could have debated him on that philosophical view, but didn't. "I also suspect you couldn't find anyone else."
"That too is correct," the comte said with a smile.
"And how do I know that I can trust you?" Alex said.
The comte shrugged. "You can ask your friends."
"I don't have any friends."
"Then you can ask your fellow Scots. I am usually in need of money, but I pay my debts."
"How did you get the ship if you are usually in need of money?"
"A game of chance," the Comte de Rochemont said.
"You could sell it."
"Oui, but there are other ships for sale now that the war is drawing to an end, and I would not get a good price. I would rather double or triple what a sale would bring."
The ship probably needed repairs before it could be sold but Alex didn't say that. Instead, he raised an eyebrow. "Any necessary repairs would also come from your pocketbook."
The comte shrugged. "As much as I can afford."
Which probably meant very little. Still, the offer appealed to him. A chance to strike at British shipping and improve his financial position at the same time.
It didn't require much thought. He no longer had a country. If he ever returned to Scotland, he would be condemned as a traitor. His face and leg prevented much of a future as a gentleman. He had no family.
"I will make a decision once I see the ship," he said.
The Frenchman's face broke into a wide smile. He held out his hand. "Monsieur Malfour, or is it 'my lord'?"
"Will is agreeable," Alex said. "If I agree, I do want a legally drawn contract as well as letters of marque."
"That will be no problem. This government has no love for the English. They continue to try to usurp us in the Americas. And the government will, of course, welcome a percentage of the prizes." He hesitated, then added, "Please call me Etienne."
Alex turned to Burke. "What think you?"
"I don't like the sea," the man said sullenly.
"You didn't like horses either, but you rode throughout the Highlands on one."
"Reluctantly, my—" He stopped suddenly with a sideways glance.
"But you will come with me?"
"Aye," he said.
"I have my first seaman," Alex said cheerfully. In truth, he felt better than he had in years, despite the prospect of sailing what would probably be a wreck with outdated gunnery and an inexperienced crew and inadequate supplies.
For the first time in two years, he would be master of his own destiny.
It mattered little if it ended in disaster.
Le Havre, France
Alex was pleased to see that the comte's vessel was a frigate, a long, low ship that was swift in the sea. It looked as if it had once served as a warship, then had been sold and refitted as a merchantman. Most of the guns had been stripped from her, though some had been retained, probably as minimal protection against pirates.
As a privateer, the ship needed at least twenty-eight guns capable of firing twelve- and eighteen-pound shot. This one had only fourteen guns capable of firing twelve-pound shot.
It also needed other repairs, but on the whole looked sound, better than he'd expected. If he obtained additional guns, he could have it ready in three, maybe four weeks. Time, he knew, was vital. He would not receive his letters of marque nor be allowed to leave France if the ongoing peace talks between France and England succeeded. After that, he would take his chances of being charged as a pirate. God knew England would hang him fast enough in any event if they ever captured him.
He looked over the remaining guns carefully. He was familiar enough with artillery, since some of the merchant ships in which he'd sailed had traveled over sea-lanes inhabited by pirates and had been lightly armed. He knew how to direct fire. He'd practiced gunnery, though he'd never been on a ship that had actually fired at an enemy.
Excerpted from The Diamond King by Patricia Potter. Copyright © 2002 Patricia Potter. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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
THIS WAS ONE GREAT READ... The whole trilogy was excellant series. You can not go wrong with any of Ms.Potters books.
One of the best stories I have ever read. Ms Potter is an amazing storyteller.
This is undoubtedly one of the best romance books ever, but there were so many typos it became annoying. Not the author's fault, I'm sure, but I was amazed at the amount of errors. This is an adventurous romance, with Alex and Jenna well-suited and in love. They went through a lot and deserved to live in peace, although I doubt they would have really found it in the place they chose to live.
He managed to survive Culloden, but the battle left him with an acrimonious aftertaste following the atrocities of the English. Alex Leslie changed his surname to Malfour and escorted children across the Channel to France. There he found homes for all of his lost sheep except for Meg and Robin who refused to stay with anyone but Alex. Comte de Rochemont offers Alex an opportunity to make money and to take vengeance on the English. The French noble obtains papers for Alex to work as a privateer and outfits a ship the Ami. Alex sets sail across the Atlantic to steal English cargo with ultimately Brazil and its diamonds as his destination. Alex captures the English vessel Charlotte that contains Lady Jenna Campbell as a passenger. Because of a disfigurement, Jenna has been treated by her family as the ¿devil¿s child¿. She was heading to Barbados to marry before Alex abducted her. Alex detests the Campbells for their betrayal at Culloden, but admires the courage, spunk and nurturing of Jenna. As they fall in love, their perils have just begun. Though the aftermath of Culloden through star-crossed lovers may be the most frequent theme in historical romance novels, Patricia Potter purveys a fresh look through her strong cast as readers see the impact on children. The story line is loaded with action yet enables the audience to understand what drives both lead characters ands several key secondary players. Fans of the era and anyone who relishes a robust romantic adventure will want to read Peerless Potter¿s powerful tale. Harriet Klausner