There are the first three books in the series reviewed – all have excerpts, as seen in the April issue of Uncaged Book Reviews.
The Pirate’s Duchess
Duty forces him to take on the pirate code, but honor brings him back.
Prudence, Duchess of Blackmoor, has one desire—to be happy again. After struggling to overcome the horrifying death of her husband, she accepts an earl’s offer of marriage, confident she’s taking a step in the right direction. But demons, refuse to die, and Prudence finds herself caught in an intricate web of deceit that threatens the very foundations of all she holds dear.
Tobias, the Duke of Blackmoor, crosses the line when an assassination attempt on him fails. To restore the reputations of friends under attack by the same villain, and ensure his wife’s safety, he stages his own death, becoming The Black Regent, a notorious pirate bent on brandishing justice, never thinking he’d survive. But to his amazement, he has, and now the darkest-kept secrets are not worth losing the duchess his wife has become.
“Please tell me you didn’t bring that book to my wedding.”
“I did,” Chloe confirmed with a grin. “You know I never go anywhere without it. And I shall continue to read about blackguards and rogues while Markwick pampers you anon. I’ve never seen a man so smitten.” She closed the book and hugged the volume close to her chest. She sighed distractedly. “How I long for a gentleman like the Earl of Markwick to do the same for me.”
“That day will come,” Prudence promised. “And when it does, your wallflower days will be all but forgotten.”
Chloe released a hopeful sigh. “Do you think I shall find a man as worthy as Isabella’s Theodore?”
“I know so.” It was only fair. Chloe deserved a man who’d move heaven and earth to convey his love—a heroic man like Tobias.
I am such a fool hanging on to my ghosts. Tobias is gone. Basil is my future now.
“What I wouldn’t give to meet a man as dashing as the Black Regent, though,” Chloe said, drawing in another idealistic sigh.
Prudence released a horrified gasp. “The Black Regent? Why on earth would you glorify that rogue, especially when you brother is trying to catch him?”
“Bookkeepers under my brother’s employ verified that local men are receiving stipends in their accounts when none were to be had. Does that not remind you of Robin Hood?” She stepped toward the mirror as if conveying mere gossip, rearranged an errant curl, then turned back to Prudence to put on her gloves. “I’ve overheard Pierce say the Regent’s demeanor is darker than the clothes he wears. His ship, the Fury, is the wraith of the Cornish coast, painted blacker than night, and nigh uncatchable. You do know what this means, don’t you?”
“He’s even more complex than characters in our favorite tomes! How romantic!”
“A pirate? Preposterous!” How many times did she have to remind Chloe that the novels she read were works of fiction? “There is nothing romantic about pirates.” Prudence eyed the door, counting down the moments until she was summoned, unsure she wanted to hear more shocking details. But for some inexplicable reason, she went on. “Tell me. What has he done now?”
Chloe’s expression turned sheepish. “He targeted another one of Lord Underwood’s ships.”
“Another one?” she asked, lowering her voice to a whisper. If she knew one thing about Lord Underwood, it was this: he valued monetary worth over blood. And right now, with the dire straits he was already in financially, worry sunk deep in Prudence’s belly.
“Yes, the cunning devil,” Chloe continued. “He divided up the cargo and gave it to anyone who could carry it off the beach.”
Prudence chewed the inside of her lower lip. “Why wasn’t I informed about this earlier?”
“I assume Markwick didn’t want to worry you about it before the wedding.”
Prudence toyed with the Honiton lace at her wrists as her friend went on. “I’m sure the earl waits to divulge this unhappy state of affairs after your wedding night. Men do not feel obliged to burden women with their concerns.”
Pru looked up at Chloe sharply. “I am not most women.”
“Oh yes. I am well aware of that, dear friend. I feel positive Markwick simply wants to preserve your happiness, rather than encumber you with his father’s difficulties.”
Prudence tapped her bottom lip, then sighed. “I suppose you are right. Go on. Tell me what else you’ve heard.”
Chloe’s eyes brightened. “After the pirate’s last attack,” she said, thankfully leaving out her usual litany of the devil’s misdeeds, “Pierce was forced to escort debt collectors from Lord Underwood’s offices.”
Prudence had known Underwood was struggling, but was Underwood destitute?
“I assure you, these are not yarns. Not in the least. Pierce has it on good authority—”
“Your brother has been feeding your imagination again.”
Chloe’s smile faltered. “Balderdash.”
Prudence fanned herself more rapidly. “I’m surprised that you, of all people, believe your brother’s stories. Even if he does work with the Royal Navy and the Revenue Office, don’t you remember how he deceived both of us into believing we could swim?”
“But now we can swim,” Chloe said, leaving out the horrific way they’d learned to do so. “I’ve been telling you for nigh a year now that Pierce has chased the Fury out of the quay, down the Exe River, and into the Lyme Sea and never once caught it. He calls it a ghost ship manned by demons.”
Prudence shivered. She wasn’t comfortable talking about ghosts.
“The Black Regent,” Chloe said breathlessly, eyes wide, “is as real as you and me, and thankfully so.”
“How naive you are. The brigand is an elaborate sham conjured by free traders to cover up their own tracks. Or worse, he’s been invented by your brother to veil his inability to catch the marauder preying upon my future father-in-law’s assets.”
“Do you really think my brother would be so cruel?”
Prudence arched her brow and cast Chloe a meaningful glare.
Chloe picked up her reticule with a soft huff, shoved her book inside it, and hugged the bag tightly to her just as the door to the room creaked on its hinges. She stepped forward expectantly as the gray-haired clergyman reappeared.
“Apologies for the delay, Your Grace,” he said. “We are ready for you.”
The old wooden door creaked more as it moved farther outward on its hinges, casting shadows on the wall beside it. Her father, Cyril, Marquess of Heathcote appeared. “The time has come, daughter. Are you ready?”
“Yes.” She nodded, determined to put the Black Regent and Lord Underwood’s financial difficulties out of her mind.
She and Chloe exchanged an emotional embrace, despite their quarrel. “Do not worry. It will be wonderful, Pru.”
“Indeed,” her father added. He took hold of Prudence’s hand and placed it in the crook of his arm, glancing down at her with genuine affection. “We mustn’t keep your young gentleman waiting any longer.”
“No.” The thrumming wings in her stomach dissipated at the thought of Basil. She’d been through hell and looked forward to spending the rest of her life with a loving friend.
He patted her hand. She leaned her head against his shoulder and squeezed his arm.
They followed Chloe toward the rectory, and as the chapel doors opened, Chloe flashed them one more smile before she disappeared through them.
Prudence stood at the threshold with her father, looking out into the chapel. The pews were radiantly lined with flowers in shades of white and green, all leading up to where Basil patiently waited. His handsome face was eclipsed, his thick dark hair illuminated by fragments of light shining through the stained glass.
Father patted her hand again and gazed down at her fondly. “Shall we do this, my dear?”
She nodded. “Yes. I am ready.”
Her father wasted no time guiding her to the altar, past faces she’d known long and well, servants devoted to her as a child and, since her husband’s death, Blackmoor’s tenants, as well as notable gentry.
“It’s been two years since the duke’s passing,” someone whispered to her left.
Prudence pressed forward, past rightful members of the ton seated near the front.
“Imagine being a widow at three and twenty,” another voice said softly.
Tobias’s face momentarily replaced Basil’s, and her slipper caught on the hem of her gown. Father’s quick reflexes kept her from falling flat on her face before Basil, God, and their guests.
He squeezed her arm reassuringly. “Do not listen to foolish hen prattle, my dear. The earl is waiting for you.”
Straightening her shoulders, she focused on Basil’s handsome face and light-blue eyes that glinted like Blackmoor silver, twinkling, promising years of fidelity and conveying assurances that all would be well. Tall, lean, and clothed in simple black and white, Basil gave her a pleasant smile that lured her to him, and warmth swept through her. He was her future now. No more sleepless nights lying awake, feeling helpless and alone. No more nightmares or thoughts of what could have been.
Her father stopped just before the altar and placed a kiss on her brow. “Your mother would be so proud of you if she were here. You are strong, my girl.”
“Thank you, Papa,” she whispered, her heart filled with gratitude.
He turned her toward Basil, who sketched a bow, then lowered his hand and helped her step up to the altar. When she finally stood beside him, he raised her hand to his lips, kissing the amethyst ring on her right hand before clicking his heels together with practiced ease.
He leaned down to whisper in her ear as he removed her veil. “No regrets?”
“I promise you’ll never have them.”
“I accept your challenge,” she replied, returning his smile.
Together, they turned to Mr. Leyes, who stood like a rotund badger in front of his den, a book held open in each hand. He nodded to Prudence and Basil, then began reading from the first book, a copy of Fordyce’s Sermons.
Throughout Leyes’s literal depiction of a woman’s character, Basil held her hand in his, gently rubbing her knuckles with his thumb as brilliant light filtered through the windows behind the vicar’s back, bathing them in prisms of color.
Leyes paused, then said, “Is anyone present who can justifiably object to the joining of this man and woman in holy wedlock?”
Someone cleared his throat, and Prudence’s breath hitched. When the vicar craned his head to find the instigator, the room fell silent. Then Leyes nodded, smiling confidently at Basil, who turned to take hold of both her hands and gazed into her eyes.
“Basil Halford, Earl of Markwick, do you take Prudence Denzell, Duchess of Blackmoor, to wed?”
The doors to the chapel slammed open.
“He does not,” came a deep, angry voice from the back.
That voice! It can’t be . . .
Prudence’s body tensed. Surely she’d heard wrong.
She turned away from the vicar and Basil to see a cloaked man standing in dark silhouette, holding a silver cane. There was something ill-omened about the way he stood and angled his head. Her heart clenched, then raced.
“What is the meaning of this?” Basil asked, anger rolling off him in waves. “How dare you interrupt our wedding?”
“No one is going to marry my wife today.”
We start right off with Prudence getting ready to marry an Earl, after losing the love of her life in a fire – taking a step in a direction for her future. Little does she know, that her husband Tobias is alive and well, and to keep his wife safe from people trying to kill him, he takes up as The Black Regent and Captain of The Fury, a notorious ship that can’t be caught with a crew that maintains a Robin Hood like stance – taking from the rich and giving back to the poor to even the score. But will Prudence ever forgive or trust Tobias after deceiving her?
This is a shorter novella to get you started into this series and it’s a grand start. Even though it’s shorter, the author does a nice job pulling you into the action and keeps it running smooth. I’m always up for a good pirate tale – and this story did not disappoint. Peeling back the layers of the suspense kept me turning the pages, and for a shorter novella, and I think reading this shorter novella before jumping into the series will give you a great background. Reviewed by Cyrene
4 1/2 Stars
The Pirate’s Debt
He thought he lost his honor… then she teaches him what it means to be a hero.
Lady Chloe Walsingham is an enthusiastic gothic romance reader and hopeless romantic focused solely on finding her perfect hero. She also happens to have a penchant for getting into trouble. So when the man she loves disappears after a scandalous duel, she decides to follow him to the ends of the Earth. To do so, however, Chloe must evade her brother, an infamous revenue man, and board a ship bound for Penzance. And nothing in her beloved books can prepare her for the harsh realities of wreckers who ply the coast.
After his father destroyed the lives of countless innocent people, Basil Halford, Earl of Markwick is willing to do anything to earn back his honor. Betrayed by his blood and his reputation ruined, Markwick answers the request of a well-heeled duke and dons the Black Regent’s mask to repay the debt. His task? Rescuing a young woman who is chasing down a ghost of a man.
But a pirate has plenty of enemies, and Markwick isn’t any different. No matter how diligent a captain he may be, sailing to Lady Chloe’s rescue involves risking not only the Regent’s legacy but the last thing he can afford to lose…his heart.
Markwick stiffened. Blackmoor’s reasons for enlisting Markwick’s help were triggered by love for his wife. Markwick’s sense of responsibility went deeper, to a place he’d never allowed himself to go out of respect for Walsingham. While it was true that Chloe had exceeded many levels of Markwick’s patience when she was younger, since his engagement to Prudence, she’d shown herself to be intelligent, talented, loyal, and a most beloved sister and friend. She was also enamored by the Black Regent, which put his identity at even greater risk.
What could he do? How far was he willing to go to bring Chloe home safe and sound?
“For the duchess’s sake,” he began, “I will do my best to find Chloe. You have my word.”
“Remember, her willful head is in the clouds. That, dear friend, makes her dangerous. If she spies her brother, she will most likely flee to avoid facing his ire. But if you find her . . . well, that is a trap well laid.”
“Surely you place too much—”
“I’ve promised my wife that you will find her before Walsingham does.”
Markwick bowed. “I shall strive to earn your confidence.”
He gazed at the missive in Blackmoor’s hand once more, suspecting something else was responsible for the duke’s persistence that Markwick should be the one to locate Chloe. “What’s in the letter?”
Blackmoor handed him the missive, then strode to the door. “Have a care for your soul, Markwick. While the Fury demands forte, females rein a tempest of emotions sure to drown better men.”
Markwick straightened. “Aye, sir,” he said, gazing down at the note.
The screen door slammed. When he looked up again, Blackmoor was gone.
Markwick opened the note, then leaned back on the desk. His jaw slackened at the words on the page.
My dearest friend,
I ask you one question: is a body unhappy about another unless she is in love? I fear we both know the answer to that now, and a gentle violence thrills my soul as I share with you that I intend to sail with the tide. I cannot face the snares and wiles of this world without love to recommend me. Therefore, I beseech you to keep my secret, for you are the only one I trust.
Markwick has disappeared. As you are no longer betrothed, I am finally at liberty to confess to you that I love him. I have always loved him, and I cannot bear for him to suffer alone. Sources close to my brother inform me that a man fitting Markwick’s description has been seen in Torquay. Therefore, I’ve attained passage for myself and my maid aboard the Valerian.
Do not be alarmed for my person or harden your heart against me. Dry your earnest tears. My virtuous intentions steer me toward a higher destiny.
Markwick shut his gaping mouth, then crumpled the letter in his hand.
It couldn’t be true. Blackmoor was right? Chloe loved him? How was that possible? Why? Until now, he had always perceived her attention as infatuation because he’d been the only man her brother allowed around her.
He dropped the foolscap and swiped his fingers through his hair. If he failed to rescue Chloe from another one of her outlandish adventures, Prudence would blame him. Which meant Blackmoor would blame him. Not to mention Chloe’s brother. If Walsingham found out Markwick had known where Chloe was bound and hadn’t alerted him, the bond between friends would be severed for good, making his stint as the Black Regent even more perilous. If anything happened to her, Walsingham would not rest until Markwick was hunted down. That endangered the Regent’s whole design. And a dead Regent could not help the people of Cornwall and Devon.
Markwick hopped forward and yanked open the cabin’s screen door.
Pye stood there, just outside the door, waiting. “What be your orders, Cap’n?”
Had Blackmoor ordered the one-legged pirate to stand there? “Notify the crew that we have a target in our sights. We make way with the tide.”
“Aye, sir.” The salty pirate grinned. “As soon as I’d seen the ol’ cap’n, I knew we’d have us an adventure ahead.”
“Spare me your excitement,” Markwick grumbled. “This adventure may very well lead to my bloody end.”
The second book in this series, follows after the events of book one, The Pirate’s Duchess, and even though the reader would be better off reading that book first, it’s not required to step right into this one, but the first book gives you a more complete background on the characters in this book and just makes the story that much better.
As Markwick takes the helm of the Fury as The Black Regent, passed to him from Tobias, to right the wrongs to the people that were hurt from his father’s dealings. Chloe, whom has always loved Markwick from the sidelines, makes a rash decision to find Markwick, hearing rumblings that he was in Penzance. Booking a seat on a ship, The Mohegan, Chloe and her maid Jane take off on the high seas. When their ship is attacked, all could be lost.
Markwick was not as great of a pirate as Tobias was before him, being an Earl, he was truly out of his comfort zone, but he learned quickly. Chloe was a bit rash and stubborn, but she was brave and loyal. The love story was a little too easy for me, I like some conflict. What I can say is that I really loved was the fantastic action sequences – a very strong feature of these books. Reviewed by Cyrene
The Pirate’s Duty
He lost everything… but his duty to her brought him back to life.
Innkeeper Oriana Thorpe is a smuggler’s daughter who has been hardened by a legacy she cannot escape. She has risked everything, including her safety, in her attempts to break free, going so far as to challenge her evil pirate brother, Charles, in order to save a lady and her maid from his wrath. Determined to atone for his villainy, Oriana distributes the blood money he left behind to widows and orphans living nearby. But when threatening letters promising retribution begin to arrive from Charles, she suspects one or more of her customers may be her despicable brother’s spies. Yet one haunted man promises to protect her, and she finds herself taking the greatest risk of all—falling in love.
Captain Pierce Walsingham should have died when his ship was destroyed by the notorious smuggler Captain Carnage. Instead, Pierce was pulled from the water by the Robin Hood of Cornwall, a pirate known only as the Black Regent. In gratitude, Pierce accepts the Regent’s offer to take over the man’s role, allowing his name to be added to the list of the dead and vowing to protect the beautiful innkeeper who saved his sister Chloe’s life. Unfortunately, Oriana is also Carnage’s next of kin, and the smuggler has sworn vengeance against her and Chloe.
While there is no cause dearer to Pierce’s heart than stopping Carnage, the task won’t be easy. Strategic allegiances have replenished his enemy’s power at sea, and he’s moving ever closer to enacting his revenge. Now Pierce must find a way to defeat Carnage, all while fighting his desire for the resilient woman who fiercely defends her roost.
Miss Thorpe’s stillness gave Walsingham pause. She didn’t trust him, as well she shouldn’t.
I am going to betray her.
Those six words ate away at his gut as he gazed down at her glorious hair, fisting his hands to keep from touching her, spinning her around to face him, and taking her into his arms.
Oriana Thorpe was a desirable woman. He was uncertain what else she truly was, however. Girard and O’Malley claimed she was trustworthy, and the threatening letters she had received proved Carnage had a vendetta against her. And yet, if she was innocent, why hadn’t she turned in her brother’s gold? Girard and O’Malley didn’t know where it was, though they suspected it was in the cellar. If Miss Thorpe wasn’t involved, she’d be the only member of the family who hadn’t joined free trade. What were the odds? Or was she simply a brilliant actress? Marauders were content to wait out their enemies in order to succeed. Was it possible she was luring them all into a trap?
Therein lay the challenge. Miss Thorpe’s beauty had become an ensnaring temptation he was finding hard to resist. Her stubbornness matched his, and in her eyes, there were instances where unbridled passion leaped from their depths, yearning—no, begging—to be satisfied.
She had a habit of reining in her emotions, except when she spoke of saving young orphans from a life of misery. That wasn’t the kind of woman who’d lure men to their deaths.
“What are ye doing, Mr. Hunt?” she asked.
Jolted from his musings, Walsingham decided to tell the truth. “I’m looking at you, Miss.”
She dropped the curtain, her hand shaking slightly. “Why?”
He couldn’t be sure if anyone in her family, aside from Charles, had ever dealt with Captain Pierce Walsingham, or for that matter, anyone who frequented the tavern. If they had, he couldn’t trust her too soon.
“Do you really want to know?” He was playing a dangerous game, and he knew it. But he couldn’t seem to help himself when he was near her.
The longcase clock sounded in the hall. Ding. Ding.
She tilted her face upward to look at him, her gaze locking with his.
“You’re a vision, Miss.”
He would count himself lucky to claim such a woman, but not as long as Miss Thorpe or Carnage had the power to commit an unspeakable act that would seal the Regent’s fate . . . He didn’t intend to be the Regent forever. He already had an idea of who his successor might be, should the man agree. But he couldn’t retire the mask until he prevented Carnage from coming for Chloe. She ran an orphanage of her own. He couldn’t risk innocent lives, not even at the detriment of his own happiness.
The world thought Captain Pierce Walsingham was dead, but in the candlelight, in Miss Thorpe’s eyes, he saw the man he wanted to be, a man who was blessedly alive.
He narrowed the space between them, and she splayed her hand over his heart. “Don’t come any closer,” she said softly.
“I won’t. Unless you ask me to.” He laid his left hand over hers, pressing ever so slightly to ensure she knew his heart beat as rapidly as hers did.
She glanced down at his hand before raising her gaze to his. “You’re as solid as stone.”
Pleased with her praise, he chuckled. “I’m not made of granite, Miss. I’m flesh and blood, a man with needs and desires. Do not doubt it.”
She focused on his chin, avoiding his gaze.
He stroked her cheek and then lowered his finger to her chin, tilting her head back, forcing her to look into his eyes. “And you’re a beautiful, desirable woman. Why aren’t you married?”
Her green eyes sparked, boring into him. “I am well aware of what men desire and I do not need a man to survive.”
“But what do you desire?”
“I . . .” Her breath hitched. “I’m not in the habit of touching men who come to my inn.” She tried to remove her hand from his chest, but he held it steady.
“Don’t,” he said.
She bit her lip, drawing his attention to her mouth. “This isn’t proper.”
“That depends on who you ask.” She wanted him, he could tell, but she was too proud to admit it. By all that was holy, he would never pressure a woman to do anything she didn’t want to do, no matter from what echelon of society she hailed. He wasn’t that sort of man. “May I speak freely?”
“Of course,” she said. “It appears I’m your captive audience.”
“I’ve been drawn to you from the moment I walked into your inn.”
Her throat bobbed gently as she swallowed. “And I ye.”
Her green eyes radiated unequaled strength, a steely reserve that drove her to betray her own flesh and blood to save a stranger—his sister. Was that what motivated him? A need to show her his gratitude? Or was it something more, something deeper, instantaneous, the type of attraction that gripped a man by the heart and never let go?
Who could blame him? She’d worked tirelessly to operate an inn where men continued to exploit her femininity. She was a true Cornish woman who had joined forces with the church and the Seatons to support those without resources, those who could not care for themselves, extolling praises for the Regent . . . Or in essence, for him!
“I’ve dreamed of kissing you,” he admitted.
A growl escaped his throat as he bent to taste her lips. But just before their mouths made contact, the latch on the door shifted loudly. Dredging up strength he didn’t know he possessed, he dropped Miss Thorpe’s hand and stepped over to one of the tables. Once there, he made quick work of appearing as if he had been rearranging the chairs.
Miss Thorpe, in all her decadent allure, bent to rearrange lavender several tables away, the quick ruse perfection as Jarvis walked in, followed by Girard and O’Malley.
“All is well in the barn, Miss,” Girard said, stopping cold and causing O’Malley to walk into him. “Miss, are ye unwell? Your face is as red as a brandy bottle.”
Of the series so far, this one is my favorite. Pierce takes the reins of The Black Regent, and vows to bring the smuggler, Captain Carnage to justice – who has been terrorizing the seas, killing and destroying all in his path, including destroying Pierce’s own ship, the Windraker. When Pierce is rescued by the pirates he’s spent years trying to catch, he finds his own friend Markwick at the helm. Pierce agrees to take over the Black Regent to catch the killer and protect an innkeeper, Oriana – the sister to Captain Carnage, even though being a pirate goes against everything he’s believed in.
This book has just the right amount of action mixed in with the romance and there is enough road blocks to the love story that keeps me in my happy place. Pierce makes a cunning and perfect pirate, a Captain that easily transitions to his new role with a commanding presence. Oriana is a strong lead, with strength, independence and loyalty, but still fearful of her brother’s return to kill her.
The setting is done in a way that draws you into the story, and has you wishing you could belly up to the bar at Marauder’s Roost for one of Oriana’s ales. If you like pirates and the high seas, this is a series you should pick up. Reviewed by Cyrene