She thought her love for him was unrequited, but when they meet again, she may just find that she's the one he can't forget
West Indies, 1571. Shipwrecked on an island for most of her young life, Lily Christian is rescued by the dashing sea captain, Valentine Whitelaw. On the voyage back to England, Lily falls hard for the sun-bronzed man, but her love is not returned.
Back among the glittering halls of court, Valentine tries to forget the young beauty he plucked from the Caribbean. But when he discovers innocent Lily is caught up in a treacherous plot to murder the queen, he will do everything in his power to protect Lily and save his liege. Thrust together into perilous adventure, Valentine and Lily have only each other to trust...and to love.
Praise for Laurie McBain:
"Lush and evocative."—Publishers Weekly
"Wonderfully romantic."—Romantic Times
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Wild Bells to the Wild Sky
By Laurie McBain
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 1983 Laurie McBain
All rights reserved.
We must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.
January 1571 — West Indies
Fifteen leagues northeast of the Windward Passage
When the Arion had set sail from Plymouth Sound the church bells had pealed. Many a Godspeed followed in her wake. It was the heart of winter and she was not more than thirty tons, with fewer than forty hands manning her. She made her way out into the Channel and turned her prow into the fierce, storm-driven seas of the Atlantic. Within a fortnight the Canaries were sighted, where fresh water and provisions were taken on board. Keeping a northeast wind off her quarter, she steered south by west with the trades filling her sails.
Her captain was an English gentleman by the name of Geoffrey Christian and one of Elizabeth Tudor's most illustrious privateers. Also on board the Arion was Geoffrey Christian's wife, the former Doña Magdalena Aurelia Rosalba de Cabrion y Montevares. The captain of the Arion had met Doña Magdalena eight years earlier when boarding and capturing the Spanish galleon on which she and her family had been passengers for the journey to Madrid from Hispaniola, where the Montevares family had a sugar plantation.
The Montevareses had been journeying to Spain to celebrate the birth of their first grandson. Their eldest daughter, Catalina, who now lived in Seville, had been married for five years. She had given birth to three beautiful daughters, but until young Francisco there had been no male heir. Don Rodrigo Montevares and his wife, Doña Amparo, knew that the lack of a son to inherit his father's name and titles was a grave disappointment to their son-in-law, Don Pedro Enrique de Villasandro. Don Pedro was a scion of an ancient, aristocratic family of Andalusia, and he exerted an influence at court that few rivaled and many envied. For him to have chosen a colonial for his wife, even one whose blood was pure Castilian, had been the greatest honor and had filled Don Rodrigo with pride and great expectations. Not only was Don Pedro master of many fine estates in Spain but by royal grant he held great estates in Hispaniola and Cuba. He captained his own ship and had traveled extensively throughout the Spanish Main. He was a gentleman and a soldier and held in the highest esteem by all who knew or served him. There had even been talk that he was to be the next governor of Hispaniola. It would be the culmination of all of Don Rodrigo's hopes and dreams if his daughter Catalina were wife of the future governor, and her family were to take up residence in Santo Domingo. And if he succeeded in his plan to marry off his only other daughter, Magdalena, to Don Pedro's recently widowed cousin in Córdoba he would no longer have to concern himself with trying to save the family's once thriving sugar plantation which now, due to his mismanagement, was failing. Although the bridegroom, Don Ignacio de Villasandro, was old enough to be Magdalena's father, he was a gentleman of impeccable respectability and considerable fortune. Magdalena, however, was less than pleased with her father's endeavors on her behalf and refused to believe that anything good would come of her father's intentions or of the voyage.
It was aboard Don Pedro's ship, Maria Concepcíon, that the Montevares family was sailing to Spain. Don Pedro had very graciously offered to escort them personally to Seville, where Catalina and her newborn son awaited them, then on to Córdoba, where Don Ignacio awaited Magdalena. Setting sail from Santo Domingo, the Maria Concepcíon had joined the treasure fleet sailing from Havana and had made her way through the treacherous waters of the Straits of Florida without incident. The Gulf Stream carried them northward to Bermuda, where they caught the westerlies and the Maria Concepcíon's bow swung eastward toward Spain. It was near dawn of the third day after they'd survived a sudden squall, which had blown them off course and separated them from the protection of the rest of the fleet, that the red cross of St. George was seen flying atop the mainmast of a ship bearing down on them.
Don Pedro had been momentarily stunned by the daring of the English captain. What madness was this? The Maria Concepcíon was a five-hundred-ton galleon with sixty bronze cannon and over two hundred seamen and soldiers defending her. Calling his men to arms, Don Pedro, from his exalted position of command on the deck of the towering sterncastle, fully expected to disable the smaller ship within minutes of firing a deafening volley of broadsides. Grappling irons would have brought the English ship close enough to have been boarded and the English captain to his knees before the unconquerable might of Spain. It was, therefore, with a look of incredulity that Don Pedro watched the royal arms of Spain fluttering at the mainmast-head of the Maria Concepcíon blown into the sea along with the mizzenmast and rigging.
The Englishman's ship seemed to sail out of danger almost magically, then, through some sorcerer's trick, or so Don Pedro would later swear, maneuvered to windward of the slower-moving Spanish galleon. With her long-range cannon, broadside after punishing broadside wreaked death and destruction on the crowded decks of the Maria Concepcíon. Listing dangerously, her quarterdeck in shambles, her masts splintered, the Maria Concepcíon surrendered when the English ship ranged alongside, her crew armed with sword and musket and standing ready to board.
Don Pedro Enrique de Villasandro's humiliation had only just begun. Catching sight of the frightened passengers, Geoffrey Christian insisted they come aboard the Arion. Unre-pentantly he warned them that the Maria Concepcíon might very well sink before the rest of the Spanish fleet could rescue her. He felt responsible for their safety, since it had been the Arion's cannon fire that had left the Spanish ship foundering. With a mocking smile that had Don Pedro reaching for his sword only to be bitterly reminded of an empty scabbard, the English captain informed the Montevareses that they need have no further cause for fear once aboard his ship, which was still seaworthy, for he would personally guarantee a safe, uninterrupted voyage to England. Once there, he assured them that they would be able to continue their journey to Spain.
The Maria Concepcíon was in far less danger of sinking, however, after her hold was emptied of its treasure and loaded aboard the victor's ship. As the Arion gathered way, the furious Don Pedro swore vengeance against the swaggering English captain who had caused him such mortification.
Geoffrey Christian's thoughts had not lingered long with the vanquished captain of the Maria Concepcíon. The Spanish captain might have lost his ship in the battle, but the Englishman had lost his heart. Doña Magdalena was an ivory-skinned, bronze-eyed beauty with hair of darkest Venetian red. Although it was the fairness of her face and figure which first caught Geoffrey's roving eye, it was the beautiful Spanish girl's undaunted spirit that finally captivated him. She had not experienced a fit of the vapors and been confined to her bed, as had Doña Amparo, nor had she remained in her cabin weeping or sulking. With exceptional grace, Doña Magdalena accepted the challenge of being aboard an English privateer's ship. Soon, even the most prejudiced crew member was enamored of the vivacious, laughter-loving young señorita who, despite the elegance of her appearance and her unfamiliarity with the English language, could mimic their captain to perfection as he roared his orders, much to the amusement of the crew.
The captain had shown unusual patience, even smiling at the jesting and good-natured pranks, for the game was his and, soon, so would be the lady. Pursuing the dark-eyed Castilian with all of the reckless determination that had so successfully marked his career as a privateer, Geoffrey captured the beautiful Magdalena's heart by the time the Arion reached the shores of England.
With a wrathful indignation that left him purple in the face, Don Rodrigo refused Geoffrey's request for Magdalena's hand in marriage. Thinking the unfortunate affair ended, he booked passage for himself, his wife, and his shameless daughter aboard a Spanish ship sailing for Spain. But Don Rodrigo's daughter had a mind of her own, and the heady memory of Geoffrey's kisses and the disturbing thought of a portly Don Ignacio awaiting her in Córdoba helped Magdalena to make the most important decision of her young life. Despite the vehement objections of her father and tearful protestations of her mother, Doña Magdalena eloped with her handsome, fair-haired inamorato. In a quiet ceremony performed by a minister and witnessed by several of Geoffrey's friends — without the blessing of her church and against the wishes of her family — Magdalena made her sacred vows to the man she loved.
The years passed in contentment for Magdalena. Never once had she regretted her decision to marry a man of a different faith and nationality from her own, even though it had resulted in a painful, inexorable rift with her family.
Although Geoffrey was often away for long periods of time during his voyages, Magdalena's life at Highcross Court was full of happiness. The house of gray-brown Kentish stone had been in the Christian family for over two centuries and was surrounded by meadowland grazed by sheep and cattle, deep woods thick with pheasant and partridge, clearwater streams full of trout, orchards of sweet cherry and purple plum flowering in spring, and golden wheat and hops ripening in late summer. It was a haven found appropriately close to the banks of the River Eden, which meandered through the fertile countryside southeast of London.
The fulfillment of Magdalena's happiness had come with the birth of her first child. As Geoffrey came to know his firstborn, he proudly declared to all that the babe had been born laughing. Never had there been such a happy, healthy little girl who brought such great joy to all who knew and loved her. Lily Francisca had inherited her mother's dark Venetian red hair and cheerful disposition and her father's pale green eyes and love of adventure. She could never be found where she was supposed to be. An open window having beckoned her outside to explore, an apple on a branch having been just out of reach of her small hand until she climbed higher, a duck having paddled to the far side of the pond, his quacking a challenge to follow — all of these temptations and many more had resulted in misadventures that left her nursemaid, Maire Lester, feeling far older than her years.
The quince apples had been harvested and made into jams and preserves when Doña Magdalena, marking her eighth Michaelmas at Highcross Court, received a message from her father that her mother was dying. It was the first time her father had broken his silence since their bitter parting.
Don Rodrigo could no longer remain deaf to his wife's anguished pleadings to see her youngest daughter once again. Not even certain that Magdalena would respond to his entreaty, for he had greatly abused her character when she had defied him and he had banished her forever from his sight over seven years earlier, he sent her word of her mother's failing health. He asked, in as humble a manner as his pride would allow, if she would agree to come home.
Fortunately for Magdalena, Geoffrey was at Highcross Court, having returned in early summer from a voyage to Egypt and Africa, and soon the Arion was being refitted and provisioned for a voyage to the Indies. It had been over two months since the Arion had set sail from England. Running swiftly before the winds, their first landfall on the far side of the Atlantic had been the green hills of San Salvador Island rising up before them and looking little different than they had when sighted by Columbus seventy-nine years earlier. They had slowly threaded their way through the Bahamas, finding a port of refuge on the lee side of a small island, just northeast of the Windward Passage, when storm clouds had darkened the noonday sky. By evening the squall had blown itself out without causing damage to the Arion, riding safe at anchor. By dawn the sea would be calm and the skies clear, and the Arion would continue her journey. Above the rain-washed deck, the blackness of the night sky was already brilliant with stars.
* * *
"How many stars are there in the sky, Father?"
"'Sdeath, but you're up early, child!" Geoffrey exclaimed, thinking he alone walked the quarterdeck of his ship just before first light.
"At least a hundred, Father?"
"A hund —" Geoffrey repeated absentmindedly as he measured the angle between the horizon and the North Star with a cross-staff. "By my faith, child, but 'twould take us till the crack of doom just to count all of these above our heads alone, and then we would still have all of those we can't even see," he said with a deep chuckle of appreciation, for it was an inquiring mind that pondered such thoughts. And in a child of seven, and a female at that, it was truly amazing, he mused with fatherly pride.
Lily Christian continued to stare up into the early morning sky. Above her head, beyond the tall, swaying and creaking masts that stretched into the heavens, the sky was black with myriad shimmering lights. The east, whence they had come at noon of the day before and anchored in the cove to escape the storm, was faintly illumined by a sun that still hid just beyond the horizon. The sea and sky to the west were dark and silent and seemed to converge mysteriously before the bow of the Arion. Her captain now charted a course toward the channel that offered safe passage out of the dangerous waters of the sunken coral reefs and hidden sand bars surrounding the Bahama Islands.
"How can there be stars in the sky that we can't see? And how can we count them if we can't even see them? And what happens to the stars when the sun rises? Why do they disappear? Where do they go? Do they fall into the sea?" Lily demanded, her small brow knit with puzzlement as she stared up at her father, certain he would be able to answer her questions.
Geoffrey's teeth gleamed whitely in his sun-darkened face as he grinned. "Ho! What devilment have ye got planned, my sweet Lily, with all of these questions to plague a man while he's about his measuring? Would ye have us run aground, then, on some heathen shore?" he exploded with a laugh that rumbled across the deck like thunder.
Lily's squeal of pleased fright filled the air as her father swung her up and tossed her high above his head. He caught her tumbling figure easily against his chest as she fell back into the safety of his arms.
"Well, fondling? Want to touch the stars?" he asked her with a gleam in his eye. "They're fading fast," he warned her as she giggled and hid her face against his shoulder.
"Yes, Father! Please! Let me touch them, please!" Lily said quickly, raising her face to gaze longingly at the few sparkling jewels that beckoned still from a sky streaked with the first glowing light of dawn.
"Wrap your arms around my neck and hold on tight, Lily Francisca. We're going to climb high into the heavens," Geoffrey declared loudly, defiantly, before he placed a reassuring kiss against his daughter's flushed cheek. "Just for luck, sweeting," he added softly this time.
"You do not need luck, Father," Lily corrected him. "You have always said that a man makes his own. And 'tis only a fool or a weakling who waits for good fortune to come to him or sits idly by while his fate is sealed," Lily solemnly repeated her father's philosophy of life.
"A mocking child, as I live!" Geoffrey said with a hearty laugh that threatened to shake the very timbers of his ship. "Do you never forget anything? I see I shall have to take great care in future, lest I look the pickle-herring should you repeat my most ribald comment as if quoting scripture. Now, up we go!" he said, his laugh fading as he set his mind to the task.
Excerpted from Wild Bells to the Wild Sky by Laurie McBain. Copyright © 1983 Laurie McBain. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book brought some mixed feelings. I typically don’t read Elizabethian era romances but decided to give this one a chance because the synopsis intrigued me. While the synopsis isn’t entirely correct, it reveals the main point of the story rather well. This novel follows Lily Francisca Christian, through a rough and awe-inspiring childhood. Lily becomes an orphaned and somewhat untamed castaway, because of a certain Spaniard who had a penchant for getting even. She spends seven years on the island, becoming its Captain…and learning secrets told through a cherished loved one. Little does she know that those secrets told could be deadly. Dashing rogue and sea Captain, Valentine Whitelaw has lost a lot to the sea…or so he thought, until news comes along, sending him to a certain island, looking for clues. While there, he finds not only Lily, the young daughter of his close friend, now 14 years old…but, more than he thought he would find…and less. Lily becomes enamored by Valen, but, is heartbroken when he doesn’t stick to his promise, leaving her and her siblings fending for themselves. Years later, an all-grown-up Lily, who’s been through traumatic experience after traumatic experience, bumps into Valen again…only they might not recognize each other. Once being reacquainted, they solve deadly secrets in an attempt to not only save themselves…but, Queen Elizabeth, the first of her name, as well! Wild Bells to the Wild Sky is definitely a great read with a rich history! And that’s why I love and dislike this book. The plot is undoubtedly one of the best I’ve read, the characters and their backstories are well-defined, there is a ton of suspense and heartfelt emotion…my eyes watered when a certain ship and her Captain went down…and the mystery of the traitors kept me turning the page to figure out who they were! I absolutely adored those parts of the book. The parts of the book that didn’t really capture my attention are the romance between Valen and Lily; There was no heat, no fire, no spark between them really. Another part I didn’t care for, was the dialogue. Many times, I found myself thinking, ‘Wow, this person sure does have a lot to say’. Some of the characters gave long-winded speeches when short and simple would’ve been better. There was so much that was left unsaid and many questions at the end of this book. Overall, I liked this book and I would love to read the rest if there is a series…which I couldn’t find. But, I would’ve wanted to read about the younger siblings, Tristram and Dulcie, the cousin, Simon, and even Mustafa. I know it’s a long review, but I felt the need to say it! I liked this book 85% of the time and would recommend to historical romance readers.
This is a book that stands the test of time and can be read again and again. The lush and lavish details and wonderful characters are just amazing. A great storyline involving murder, treason, adventure and romance really keep you hooked. Following Lily from child to adult where she survives shipwreck, treason, and then finds love is super. AN AMAZING BOOK!
Geoffrey Christian was a privateer who had gutted the Maria Conception bur Geoffrey’s heart had been jolted by the beautiful senorita Magdalena who was on her way with her family to marry a rich widower. But Magdalena is as taken with Geoffrey as he is with her. Magdalene goes against her family to marry Geoffrey Even though Geoffrey is of a different faith and nationality Magdalene does not regret her decision. After seven years of no contact from her parents or sister her dad contacts Magdalene to let her know her mom is dying and wants to see Magdalene Geoffrey and Magdalene had a daughter named Lily and she was full of adventure like her dad. On the return trip to home Magdalene's brother in law ambushes and sinks Geoffrey's ship. Geoffrey had sent Magdelena , Lily, And Sir Basil had been sent to a island near by where the ship sank. Valentine who is Sir Basil's brother goes and rescues Lily and even though she was only fourteen she fell in love with Valentine He breaks her heart but life goes on. Sometime later their path crosses again…… I enjoyed this story although the story was a little long. This story had alot to it: pirates, adventure, royals, revenge, romance, treason, England, Caribbean, desert island, pet monkey, sassy parrot, intrigue, betrayal, heartbreak, a queen, and so much more. But it also gave you alot of information so you didn’t have a bunch of questions and I loved that. I liked the characters, the plot was very good as was the writing. I recommend. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.
You don't find many book that you see the main caracter grow (from Child to adult )before your eyes and at the same time have a mystery to solve and a murderer and tratior to catch all wraped up in one story but here you are. I have read this book so many times that my paperback fell apart and I found a first edition in hardcover to purchase now I want it in a nookbook so I can put the first edition with my other collectable books