Jeannette Boucher, a young French beauty from a family left penniless by the revolution, must marry against her will to save them all from ruin. But almost immediately after the vows are spoken, she learns that her old English husband is impotent — and in his desire for an heir, he plans to compromise her in the worst way.
Determined to escape such a fate, she stows away on one of His Majesty’s frigates. But a woman alone is in constant danger.
To Lieutenant Treynor, honor means everything . . .
Born a bastard to a wayward marquise, Lieutenant Crawford Treynor was given to a poor farmer to raise and was maltreated until he ran away to join the Royal Navy. Treynor is determined to prove he’s as good as any other man and rise to captain his own frigate. But once he finds Jeannette aboard The Tempest he must decide whether to return her to the man he knows would abuse her — or risk everything, even his life, to keep her safe.
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“Shall I let Lord St. Ives know that you are ready?” Agatha’s solemn eyes met Jeannette’s reflection.
Jeannette nodded. She had no choice. She felt like a fox cornered by baying hounds. It didn’t help that those hounds were the urging of her own conscience.
The maid closed the door as she left, leaving Jeannette to wait and to pace, her mouth so dry she could scarcely swallow. Tears burned behind her eyes and, despite the fire, her hands remained as stiff and cold as a cadaver’s. At least her family’s future was now secure, she told herself. Everything was decided, done. The trade had been made when she and the baron exchanged vows. She had only to finish her part of the bargain.
A heavy hand pounded on the door, nearly causing Jeannette to collapse in a heap on the floor. She’d heard no tread and felt completely unprepared to meet her husband, regardless of Agatha’s ministrations.
How could she be such a coward? she wondered, feeling ashamed. Would she shrink from her duty to those she loved?
“Entrez,” she said, steadying her voice.
The door burst open, but it wasn’t St. Ives. It was her younger brother Henri, and his face was as pale as her own.
Jeannette dragged the heavy counterpane from the baron’s bed and used it to cover herself. “What are you doing here? What is the meaning of this?”
Henri didn’t seem to notice what she was or wasn’t wearing. “Jeannette, thank God I have arrived in time. Come with me. We must leave at once.”
“But I cannot—”
“Hush! They were talking about you. The baron is not the man we thought he was. He—he has plans to dishonor you.” He made an effort to compose himself, but couldn’t quite manage it. “Never mind.” He gestured as if he could sweep the confusion away that easily. “The details are too ugly. Come away!”
Jeannette stiffened in surprise. “I understand that you are worried about me, Henri, but Maman and Papa were strangers when they married and—”
“This is different.” His lip trembled as he pushed her toward the door.
“But I am not dressed!”
For the first time, Henri seemed to realize she was dragging the counterpane. His face grew red, but he remained steadfast in his purpose. “There is no time to delay. I heard them . . . outside . . . placing wagers . . .”
“On what? Henri, do not frighten me.”
His chin jutted out in defiance. “You have no need to worry. I am your brother. I will not let anything happen to you.”
Grabbing his slender shoulders, Jeannette gave him a gentle shake. “Stop this. I am a married woman now. I have no choice but to stay here. You know that as well as I do.”
“Listen to me!” He gripped her elbow as though he’d drag her away if he had to. “I have learned the baron cannot father a child.” His whispered words came in a torrent. “He is bringing others to your bed, to acquire an heir any way he can. And the men he has chosen are eager for the opportunity, even placing wagers on whose seed will take in your belly!”
At this announcement, all the strength threatened to leave Jeannette’s limbs. Was that what Richard Manville had meant? Why Sir Thomas had fairly salivated at the touch of her? Were they anticipating a turn in her bed?
She knew the baron had been married before, that the late baroness had borne him no children. . .
“Come, vite!” Henry pulled harder, but she wrenched away.
“No! You must go back down and act as if nothing has happened. Detain St. Ives, if possible, while I leave on my own.”
“But Maman and Papa…we should all go!”
Jeannette’s heart sank. How she wished that were possible. But St. Ives would never sit idly by and allow her parents to take her from Hawthorne House. His standing and reputation would be ruined. And he could easily stop them. He had power here in England, knew everyone. “Think, Henri! I belong to the baron now. And we are refugees, paupers! All he has to do is deny our accusations and follow through with his plan. Who would stop him, except Papa? And I will not have Papa dueling over me.”
“But you cannot go alone. Who will protect you? A woman on her own is not safe!”
“I can take care of myself. You know I can. But you must promise me something.”
Agitated and still eager to grab her and leave, he shifted on his feet. “Yes, anything!”
“Do not breathe a word of this to anyone, even Papa, until I am well away.”
Warring emotions revealed themselves in the look on his face, but he finally sighed and nodded. “Where will you go?”
“To London, of course. Our cousin Darby will help me, I am sure, if only I can get to him. After I am off, tell Mama and Papa where I have gone and then the three of you can meet me at Lord Darby’s in two weeks.”
“But how will you travel so far? You have no money!”
“I will manage. Just do as I say!”
“What choice do I have?” he asked, his bravado crumbling.
“Exactly. Now go, so I can change.” She hugged him, a close, poignant embrace, then half-shoved him out the door, frantic now lest the baron appear.
“Au revoir,” he murmured softly, his somber face looking years older than his age.
“THE BASTARD is more than a romance. It’s an exciting adventure novel full of human hardship and danger. Minor characters are plenty, some likable, some definitely not (especially so the first lieutenant), but all are realistically portrayed. The suspense and conflict in the plot crescendo throughout until the spectacular climax and sweet ending.
Don’t miss this highly entertaining second historical romance from a masterful author of contemporary romantic suspense.”
Jane Bowers, Romance Reviews Today
“I fell in love with THE BASTARD. This is a romance you can’t put down.”
New York Times Bestselling Author Elizabeth Boyle
“A rip-roaring story brimming with adventure and passion. I dare you to put THE BASTARD down once you start reading it!”
Award-winning Author Anna Campbell
“A wonderful love story, full of adventure, action and romance.”
New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter