A great love story and a journey through the late eighteenth-century from England to colonial America to the Caribbean to imperial Russia, this trilogy by the author of Angel in Scarlet and other beloved historical romances follows Marietta Danver, a poor Englishwoman who escapes Newgate Prison to find a rich and passionate life.
Love’s Tender Fury: Born out of wedlock to a London barmaid, Marietta Danver yearns to overcome her humble origins, but instead is sold into indentured servitude in North America. In the Carolinas and Louisiana, she will find herself arousing unruly passions in the hearts of three men.
Love Me, Marietta: Marietta is engaged to a British aristocrat, but meets a rakish, indigo-eyed man in New Orleans she cannot help but feel drawn to. She will find herself reunited with him when she’s taken prisoner by pirates on the high seas.
When Love Commands: Marietta awakens after a traumatic accident and finds herself in the care of a mesmerizingly handsome Russian count and his niece. But when she accompanies them to their lavish estate in St. Petersburg, she is caught up in the intrigues of the imperial court and must fight for her freedom—and her life.
Now available in one collection, this is a delicious read from one of the classic names in historical romance.
About the Author
Jennifer Wilde is the pseudonym under which Tom E. Huff (1938–1990) wrote his groundbreaking New York Times–bestselling historical romance novels, including the Marietta Danver Trilogy (Love’s Tender Fury, Love Me, Marietta, and When Love Commands). Huff also wrote classic Gothic romances as Edwina Marlow, Beatrice Parker, Katherine St. Clair, and T. E. Huff. A native of Texas who taught high school English before pursuing a career as a novelist, Huff was honored with a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times in 1988.
Read an Excerpt
The Marietta Danver Trilogy
Love's Tender Fury, Love Me, Marietta, and When Love Commands
By Jennifer Wilde
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1984 Tom E. Huff
All rights reserved.
I'll never forget my first sight of the new land, America, the wild and tumultuous country where fate had brought me. I was standing on the ship's deck, surrounded by coils of rope and wooden lifeboats, the clutter concealing me. I spent much of my time there — anything to escape the foul atmosphere below with its filth, congestion, and horrible odors. I wasn't supposed to be on deck, of course. It was forbidden. We were given our "exercise" once a day, closely supervised, and the rest of the time we were to remain below. This secret place was my haven, shown to me by the strapping blond sailor who had befriended me only a few days after the ship left Liverpool.
He was a rugged, roughhewn lad with a merry smile and flashing blue eyes. Brawny, illiterate, he had spotted me the first time I slipped up the stairs to catch a breath of fresh air. He didn't turn me in. Instead, he led me past barrels of tar and showed me this small area where I could take fresh air without being discovered. I was exceedingly grateful. One of the other women had come up on deck only the day before. She had been caught, had been tied to a mast and brutally whipped as an "example." I had been willing to risk that, and young Jack had admired my courage.
Naturally he expected to be paid. I paid. His lovemaking was rough and energetic, yet there was a surprising tenderness, as well. Afterwards he would hold me in his arms, stroking my breasts, stroking my hair, as though I were some precious object he had miraculously been given to relieve the tedium and rigorous hardships of the voyage. I gave willingly, and I was not ashamed of it. This crude, muscular sailor with his gruff voice and amiable grin showed me that lovemaking could be wildly elating, could be satisfying to a woman as well as a man. I enjoyed it, and I was grateful as well. After the treatment I had received from Lord Mallory and the two thief-takers, I might well have nourished some terrible fear about the act of love, might have connected it in my mind with disgust and loathing, had it not been for Jack and his healthy, robust attitude. He taught me a great deal. He also enabled me to survive the voyage.
Not all of us did. One of the women went insane and ran screaming up the stairs to hurl herself over the railing. Almost everyone was sick from scurvy. Two of the women died from it, teeth and hair falling out. The brawling, bickering group of female prisoners who boarded the ship at Liverpool were soon turned into a lethargic, dispirited lot who huddled on their narrow bunks like zombies, patiently enduring the filth, the abuse of our "keepers," the wretched, skimpily doled-out food and the horribly fetid air. The male prisoners who were kept down in the hull on the other side of the ship fared no better. There were beatings every day with the cat-o'-nine-tails, horror and humiliation a way of life for all prisoners.
Jack saved me from that. Not only did he provide me with a haven on deck, he also had a "talk" with the three brutal guards whose duty it was to watch over the female prisoners. Hands on hips, a lopsided grin on his face, he casually informed them that he had a "special interest in th' redhead" and added that any man who touched me he'd choke to death with his bare hands and then toss overboard without a second thought. Since he was well over six feet tall, with a bronzed, muscular body, he was formidable indeed. The guards left me alone. Surly, sadistic, they took great delight in abusing others, but I never tasted the lash, never had to endure the rutting, grunting sexual assaults that were nightly occurrences for the other women.
Jack also brought me food — beef, ale, decent bread, cheese, lemons and limes to prevent the dreadful scurvy. I knew he was running a great risk, but he seemed to enjoy defying his superiors and putting something over on "th' bloody sods." Jack was a dandy fellow, popular with all his fellow sailors. They knew about me, of course. There was no way they could help knowing, but while they might envy Jack and make coarse jokes about his "private piece of tail," they helped him keep it from the ship's officers. Had any of the officers discovered his little escapade, Jack could have received fifty lashes, could even have been hanged for associating with one of the prisoners. This danger merely added another fillip of excitement as far as Jack was concerned. He considered it all a jolly lark.
The stars were fading and dawn was about to break that last time we were together. He had made a nest of blankets under one of the lifeboats, and he held me loosely in his arms, idly caressing my breasts. I felt warm and secure, loving his salty, sweaty smell, his large, muscular body. I had grown quite fond of him, and I hated to think that I would soon lose my protector. Jack sighed, wrapping his strong arms around me, pulling me closer against his sturdy frame.
"We'll be landin' today," he said. "I reckon it'll be sometime this afternoon — early on, I figure. Should be able to see th' shore soon as it gets light enough."
"I — I hate to think about it," I confessed.
"You've grown kinda fond-a Jack, ain't-ja?"
"Of course I have."
"Makes me feel right proud. I've 'ad my share of women, but I ain't never 'ad one like you, wench. Strange, ain't it, us meetin' like this? I reckon you wouldn't give me a second look under normal circumstances. No, you'd be a 'igh 'n' mighty lady, much too good to even speak to th' likes-a me."
"That — that isn't so," I lied.
"Aw, no sense pretendin'. I've been bloody lucky an' I know it. Crude chap like me — gettin' to 'ave a wench like you. It's a bloody miracle. All my mates're green with envy. Ol' Jack really landed in a pot o' jam this time, they say. Not one of 'em wouldn't give everythin' they 'ave to be in my boots right now."
"They never betrayed us."
"Naw, they wouldn't. Wouldn't dare. Know I'd 'ave their 'ide if they so much as 'inted to any of th' officers what was goin' on. I could beat any man jack of 'em to a pulp an' they know it. They're good chaps, though, my mates. They wouldn't-a told even if they wasn't afraid o' my fists."
"The stars are almost gone," I said quietly.
"Yeah, in just a few minutes th' sky's gonna turn all pink an' gold an' orange. I'll 'ave to be gettin' about my duties. I reckon we won't 'ave a chance to see each other again."
"I suppose we won't," I said in a sad voice.
"No use bein' grim about it," he replied. "We still 'ave time for one more round. Come on, lass, let's say goodbye to each other in th' best possible way."
Later, Jack rolled off me and climbed to his feet, buttoning his breeches and fastening his belt. Reaching for his jersey, he pulled it over his head. The cloth strained and stretched across his powerful shoulders and chest. Shoving the damp blond locks from his brow, he stared out across the railing. The stars were gone. The sky was a faint, misty gray with a barely perceptible touch of pink. The ship rocked. I could hear waves sloshing against the hull, hear the creak and groan of wood. I sat up and adjusted the bodice of my dress, feeling sleepy and satisfied and extremely sad. This man had come to mean a lot to me. I might very well owe him my life.
Jack turned to look at me. His expression was grim.
"Don't you fret none, lass. I know what you're thinkin' — you're thinkin' of what's to come. It's gonna be rough, no doubt about that, but you're gonna make it. You're gonna come through it all with flyin' colors. You got strength an' you got character, an' nothin' is gonna hold you back for long."
"I — I wish I weren't so frightened. They're going to auction us off like — like African slaves. We're going to be sold to the highest bidders. I — I've tried not to think about it, but —"
"I know, lass. I ain't never 'ad much ambition, ain't never 'ad any desire to be a rich man, but this is one time. I wish I 'ad me a whole stack of gold. If I 'ad, I'd jump ship soon as we land. I'd go to that auction an' buy you myself. We'd set out across America together, regular pioneers we'd be. We'd love and we'd fight an' even though I'd set yuh free, you wouldn't want your freedom. You wouldn't want nothin' but Jack Reed — night 'n' day."
"If only it could be that way."
"Take 'eart, lass. A wench looks like you, 'as such a fine education an' all, she's gonna fetch th' 'ighest price goin'. Anyone who 'as enough gold to pay for you is bloody well gonna 'ave enough sense to take good care of 'is investment."
Catching hold of the lifeboat, I pulled myself to my feet. The ship rocked precariously, and I stumbled. Jack caught me, holding me against his chest. I wrapped my arms around his neck and tilted my head back to look up into his eyes. He smelled of sweat and salt and tar, and he was not at all good-looking with his too-wide mouth and sharp nose, but he was the kindest man I had ever known. My heart was actually aching, and I could no longer hold back the tears. They spilled over my lashes and made tiny wet trails down my cheeks.
"'Ere," he said in a scolding voice, "that ain't no way to carry on. Tears're for them weak, whinin' women who ain't got no backbone. You're strong, Marietta. You got determination an' a will of iron."
"I don't feel very strong at the moment."
Jack wiped the tears from my cheek. "You're gonna make it, lass, just like I said. No more cryin', you 'ear? Come on now, let's see a smile."
I smiled feebly, but my heart wasn't in it. Jack held me tightly as the gray disappeared from the sky and the clouds were tinged with gold. We could hear the crew moving busily about their duties now, calling to one another in rough, coarse voices. It was time for him to go. Both of us realized that.
"We'll never see each other again," I said.
"Aw, I don't know about that. Life's a crazy thing. Who knows? I ain't aimin' to be a sailor th' rest of my life. I have a hankerin' to see somethin' of this vast new country we're comin' to. In two or three years I just might give up th' seafarin' life an' give the colonies th' once-over. Maybe we'll run into each other."
"Maybe so," I replied, without conviction.
The sky was a blaze of pink and orange now, and for one brief moment the sea was a-spangle with flecks of gold that danced and shimmered as the waves moved. I looked up at the man who had been my salvation these long, misery-laden weeks, and then, standing on tiptoes, I kissed that wide, amiable mouth, brushing my lips tenderly against his. Jack gave me one last squeeze, an exuberant hug that almost cracked my ribs. Making a fist with his right hand, he tapped me gently on the chin, grinned his rakish grin, and sauntered around the lifeboats and out of sight.
I stood at the railing, gripping it tightly in an attempt to control my emotions. I tried to believe what he had told me. I tried to believe that I would come through it all with flying colors, that I was as strong as he said I was. I was afraid of the future, now more so than ever, for with Jack I had had a respite from the horror and humiliation. He had protected me, and now he was gone and I had no one to turn to. I was desolate and feeling utterly vulnerable.
Heavy gray clouds obscured the sun. The flecks of gold vanished from the water, the waves a lead gray now, the air thick with mist. I could smell salt, and I could smell land, too. In the distance there was the shrill, squawking cry of a gull. I knew that I should go back down to the hull and gather my few things up, but I lingered there at the railing to stare down at the swirling water that slapped so viciously against the ship, causing it to crack and groan like some ponderous brown wooden animal with canvas wings. The warm, wondrous glow that was the aftermath of our lovemaking had gone now, and I felt cold, chilled to the bone.
A long time passed. The heavy gray clouds began to thin and separate, evaporating, and I saw patches of steel-blue sky through the rift. Sunlight spilled down in bright silvery rays that reflected in the water, and as the gloom left the sea, so did it leave me. That hard core was still inside me, still sustaining me, and the determination to survive was stronger than ever. I had survived the sea voyage, and that in itself was something. Three women had died, and the others were pitiful shells of humanity, dull, dispirited. If anything, thanks to Jack's care, I was healthier than I had been at the beginning of the voyage.
I thought about Jack, objectively now. I was fond of him, and I would miss him, miss his robust male body and the sensations it summoned, but, in truth, I had merely used him. Like a prostitute I had traded my beauty, my body, for the comfort and protection he could give me. I wasn't proud of that, but neither was I sorry. I was a woman alone. I had youth and beauty and intelligence, and I knew full well that I was going to have to use them again and again in time to come. They were the only weapons I had, and I fully recognized the power they gave me. There would be other men like Jack Reed, and each would be a stepping stone to ... what? I was down now, I would be literally a slave to anyone who bought me, but I had a curious feeling that I wouldn't be down for long.
I heard one of the sailors high up on the mast give a loud, joyous cry — "Land! Land ahoy!" — and I leaned against the railing, peering at the shimmering violet-gray mists in the distance. For a moment or so I could see nothing, and then the mists seemed to part and I saw a mound of brown and green, barely visible, and I knew that it was America, the land of my future. My earlier apprehension vanished completely. I felt excitement stir within. It was a new land. I would have a new life there on that vast continent. There would be hardships, and I was already handicapped, but as the mists parted even more and the land loomed up out of the water like a huge, slumbering sea monster, I felt a distinct challenge.
Life had dealt me many hard blows. I had been thrown out of my father's home. I had been brutally raped by a dissolute aristocrat and framed for a crime I hadn't committed. I had been subjected to incredible humiliation that would have broken a weaker person ... but that was all in the past. I had learned several valuable lessons about life, and I was eager to put them into practice. I might be coming to this country as a prisoner, a slave, the lowest of the low, yet it still seemed to beckon to me now, seemed to hold a promise of fulfillment and success.
Always interested in the new world, I had read everything I could find about it over the years. I knew its size was staggering, the English colonies stretching up and down the seaboard and separated by huge areas of untamed wilderness filled with savage Indians and wild beasts. The French were there, as well, and the Spanish, and there were hundreds of thousands of miles to the west still unexplored. Of course, the Americans were little better than hooligans, rough, illiterate, crude despite the scattering of elegant cities they had hewn out of the wilderness. They were a wild, defiant breed, but they were ambitious, always striving, always reaching out. A young, determined woman would have great opportunities in a country like that, even if she did arrive as a common criminal.
Hearing footsteps behind me, I turned, thinking perhaps Jack had returned. It wasn't Jack. It was Angus Blackstone, one of the guards, a huge, hulking brute with short-clipped black hair and savage brown eyes. He wore sea boots, soiled tan breeches, and a rough leather jerkin over a coarse white cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up over his forearms. He gripped a worn leather riding crop in his right hand. I had seen him use it on several of the women, beating them into submission, but I had also seen him cringe with fear and cowardice when Jack spoke to him. I stared at him defiantly.
"Figured I'd find you 'ere," he said. His voice was thick, guttural. "Thought maybe your fine sailor boy'd be with you, 'avin' a last go-round 'fore we land."
"Jack has duties to attend to."
"So 'ave I, wench, so 'ave I. I gotta get you sluts ready to land. You come on with me an' get your things together before we put th' shackles back on ya. Don't give me no argument, now. I ain't laid a 'and on you, but I 'ave to confess I'm spoilin' to. It'd do my 'eart good to give you a taste of my lash —"
Excerpted from The Marietta Danver Trilogy by Jennifer Wilde. Copyright © 1984 Tom E. Huff. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsLove's Tender Fury,
Prologue: London 1770,
Part One: Carolina,
Part Two: The Trace,
Part Three: New Orleans 1774,
Part Four: Natchez 1775,
Love Me, Marietta,
Book One: The Lover,
Book Two: The Pirate,
Book Three: The Rogue,
Book Four: The Beloved,
When Love Commands,