Authors: Barbara Cartland
Tags: #romance and love, #romantic fiction, #barbara cartland
Having sailed with Sir Francis Drake, swashbuckling privateer Rodney Hawkhurst yearns for a galleon of his own with which to plunder the Spanish Main in the name of Queen Elizabeth. Seeking investment from Sir Harry Gillingham, he has a fleeting encounter with an elfin, tomboyish golden-red-haired beauty – Sir Harry’s youngest daughter Lizbeth – and is bewitched by her limpid green eyes. Yet it is fair and golden-haired elder sister Phillida with whom he first falls in love...
Granted his finances on the condition that Sir Harry’s weak, possibly even traitorous son sails with him in the hope that the mission will make him a man, Rodney embarks on a voyage of blood, honour and glory in which he gains great riches but loses his heart, not once, but twice.
The risks are great but so are the rewards: wealth beyond compare and, as Rodney finally discovers, a greater, deeper, more passionate love than he ever imagined possible.
In 1750 Scotland, just four years after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Rising of the Clans, it’s hard to know who’s loyal to the English and who is faithful to the Stuarts. And it’s beautiful seventeen-year-old Iona’s perilous mission to ascertain whether the Duke of Arkrae, head of Scotland’s most powerful clan, is a traitor – or is he in cahoots with the English. The plan is for Iona to gain the trust of the Duke and his clan by claiming to be the sister he thought to have died as a child.
As all around her doubt her claim and call her a ‘pretender’, Iona struggles to hold her nerve. Her native wit and steel nerves do not fail her – but almost instantly, on meeting the imperious Duke, it’s her heart that lets her down. She’s fallen deeply, hopelessly in love! Traitor or not, surely the Duke could never love the Little Pretender who was sent only to ensnare him?
Eighteen-year-old Mistral is an innocent abroad in the sophisticated Côte D’Azur, where princes and millionaires mingle in the casinos and sumptuous hotels while others plot to relieve them of their riches.
Accompanied only by her embittered and domineering Aunt Emilie and kindly servant Jeanne, Mistral appears dressed all in grey like a ghost in the salons and ballrooms of Monte Carlo and sets Society’s tongues wagging. It’s not long before her waif-like beauty has men falling at the feet of Madamoiselle Fântóme – gentlemen such as Sir Robert Stanford.
But on her sister’s bewildering but strict instructions, she must not converse with any but the Russian Prince Nikolai, who’s also keen to woo her, as is an opulent Indian Rajah…
Something about Mistral touches Sir Robert’s heart – and he cannot understand why Mistral appears afraid to be with him. Yet both of them crave love. Only if Mistral’s innocent eyes are finally opened to the truth – that Aunt Emilie’s motives are borne not of concern for her niece but of pure evil and greed – will she find her heart’s desire…
Just seventeen, Lady Caroline Faye is already the toast of the Season and accustomed to the ways of genteel Society. So when notorious cad Sir Montagu Reversby offers to drive her in his phaeton from London to Sevenoaks, she innocently accepts – little knowing that he is planning to fake a broken axle so that she will be forced to spend the night alone with him at a remote country inn.
But Lady Caroline of made of sterner stuff than the predatory Sir Montagu imagined. Escaping his lecherous clutches, she finds refuge in the imperious Brecon Castle only to discover that her new-found haven and its master, Lord Brecon, harbour dark and terrible secrets. A murderous plot is afoot and Caroline’s innocent mistake will come back to haunt her as heartbreak and humiliation in the dark, foreboding castle turn to hope and then ardent, all-consuming passion.
To WONDERFUL MOTHER this my 50th novel,
with all my love
The author wishes to express her most grateful thanks to Mr. C. Christopher Lloyd of the Navy Records Society and Royal Naval College, Greenwich, for his valuable help and advice on ships and armaments of the Elizabethan era, and also to Mr. C. A. Lillingston of Harrow School for historical research.
The road was dusty and deep-rutted from the snow of the past winter. The horse had to pick its way warily, but his master raised his face to the green budding of the trees overhanging the road and drew a sudden deep breath as they came upon a wood carpeted with bluebells.
He had forgotten the miracle of spring in England, Rodney Hawkhurst thought. After months at sea it was breathtaking. It made him feel almost absurdly sentimental and at the same time excited as he had been years ago when he first set out on a life of adventure. Now at twenty-nine he thought himself old and blasé only to find that the spring could arouse his emotions as easily as a woman might have done.
He drew his plumed hat from his head and felt the breeze upon his forehead. He had ridden hard and fast and had long since left behind his servants and the packhorses carrying his luggage.
He felt the need to be alone. He wanted to think and to plan in his own mind what he was to say when he arrived at Camfield Place. He had heard many conflicting reports of Sir Harry Gillingham at Whitehall, but the majority had been reassuring. Sir Harry was rich and generous and there was no reason to doubt that, were a proposition put to him in a proper manner, he would agree to it.
It meant so much to Rodney, more than he dared allow himself to think, and if Sir Harry refused, where else could he turn for help? As he thought of failure, his lips set themselves in the hard line of obstinacy and his chin squared itself.
Failure was something he had not previously encountered in his life and he did not intend to anticipate it now. He must succeed, of course he must succeed, as he had done in so many other ways.
Deep in his thoughts he had almost reached a pair of high, imposing iron gates before he realised where he was. He had arrived – here was his destination and here was the beginning of his quest – a quest for gold!
The gates were open and the horse passed through them. The drive ahead was bordered by great trees and a profusion of flowering shrubs. There were lilac bushes heavy with purple and mauve blossom whose fragrance seemed to scent the air and made the traveller forget once again his anxiety as he glanced around him.
Laburnum trees were fountains of gold, chestnut blooms starred the trees like Christmas candles, pink and white. An early cuckoo called from the dark boughs of the cedars, there was a glimpse of lawns ahead, soft and lush as green velvet.
It was spring! and Rodney felt light-hearted and assured at the beauty of it.
Then, as his horse carried him forward slowly, something flew swiftly through the air, striking his hat and casting it violently from his head.
He turned startled, yet with that alertness to danger which comes to men who have lived close to it for many years. He looked not to where his hat had fallen in the dust, pierced by a fine arrow, but in the direction whence it had come. The lilac bushes were swaying as if someone moved behind their screening leaves.
With a swiftness that bespoke an athletic body, well trained and utterly subject to the man, Rodney Hawkhurst leapt from his horse and in three strides reached the bushes, plunging into them he seized hold of someone who was hiding there.
He had moved so quickly that he himself had not expected that the fierce hardness of his hands would encounter anything so soft as a white shoulder. But before he had time to consider, he had gripped it fiercely and dragged its owner out on to the grass which bordered the drive.
He saw then that it was a woman he held captive, or rather, a girl. She was twisting and turning in his grasp and for a moment it took all his strength to hold her. Then, as his fingers tightened against her struggles, she was suddenly still.
“Let me go!”
She raised her face to his, throwing back as she did so a cloud of golden-red hair which hung loosely around her small oval face. Her eyes were strangely green, set beneath arched eyebrows which were drawn together now in an angry scowl.
“Did you loose that arrow at me?” Rodney asked.
Her lips pouted for a moment and then suddenly she smiled.
“’Twas but a jest.”
Her smile was irresistible and Rodney found himself smiling back. She was a lovely, roguish child and he imagined she must be the daughter of some employee on the place, he could see that she wore a white apron and her loosened hair told him that she had no social position. But she was pretty – her breasts were round beneath the tightness of her gown, and at sea one had only dreams of fair women with which to relieve the loneliness of the long nights when one’s arms ached to hold something warm and soft within them.
“If it were a jest,” Rodney said severely, “’twas a costly one, for my hat is ruined and I bought in it Cheapside but a week ago.”
“I could perhaps mend it for you,” the girl suggested.
There was no apology in her eyes and her mouth still curved in a smile which had grown mischievous, and strangely enticing.
“By Heaven you shall pay for it!” Rodney exclaimed.
“Pay for it?” She echoed the words in surprise as his arms tightened round her and he drew her closer to him.
His kiss was something she did not expect, for his lips found hers unprepared, unarmed, and for one long moment she was still beneath his strength. Her mouth was sweet and very soft. He could feel the beat of her heart against his, and then with a little cry and with a sudden violence which caught him unawares she had wrenched herself from his grasp.
Before he could stop her, before, indeed, he realised what she was about, she had run away from him through the thick leaves of the lilac bushes and was gone.
He knew it would be impossible to follow her and he felt, too, that it might prove a little undignified. Smiling, he returned to the drive and, picking up his hat, drew the sharp-pointed arrow from the crown.
For a moment he held the arrow in his hand, undecided whether to keep it or to throw it away, then he chucked it down on the grass and, mounting his horse, continued his journey down the drive.
The interlude had been unexpected and amusing. If Sir Harry’s daughter was as attractive as the red-haired wench he had just kissed he would not regret the decision he had made before he left London. It was his god-father who had put the idea of marriage into his head.
“I have known Harry Gillingham since he was a boy,” he told Rodney. “He is, if it pleases him, as generous as he is rich, but he expects value for his money, and as far as I know he has always obtained it. If you want him to finance you, you will have to offer something in return.”
“He will get paid a good dividend right enough,” Rodney replied.
The Queen’s Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsingham, smiled.
“Let us hope that you can give us the four thousand seven hundred per cent that Drake paid after his voyage round the world!”
“’Tis not as easy as it was,” Roger admitted. “The Spaniards are growing wary, the gold ships are guarded, but if I can get my ship, I will bring home the booty even as Drake has done. I have not sailed with him for these past ten years without learning something of the trade.”
“I would put up all the money myself if I had it,” Sir Francis sighed, his sallow, thoughtful face regretful. “The last venture in which I invested brought me ten thousand pounds, but at the moment I cannot spare more than two. You can have that with my blessing, and an introduction to Harry Gillingham, asking him to supply the rest.”
“What will he expect of me?” Rodney asked.
“Yes, we must not forget that.” his god-father said, smiling. “Harry has a daughter of marriageable age. There are rumours that he won’t bring her to London because his new wife is jealous of her. Try your hand there, my boy. A man with a young wife is always ready to be rid of the tangles and burdens of family life.”