"Everyone needs someone to trust. They found each other."
Reviewed by Sandra Wurman
Posted August 27, 2010
When a man has spirit and is adventurous, he is considered
daring and mayhap even heroic. But when a woman exhibits
those same qualities, she is an easy target for scandal.
Lady Honoria Carlow had spunk. Although she was touted
as the belle of the ton, her standing in London was soon to
be tested. Though she found herself in a situation beyond
her control, society and, more importantly, her dear family
were quick to put the blame squarely on her shoulders. What
was a girl to do?... Well, certainly not what was expected,
that's for sure.
It was no surprise to her parents, brother, and sister that
she was more inclined to learn how to swim then
embroider. So when faced with shaming not only herself but
her family, Honoria headed straight for her Aunt Foxe's home
by the seacoast. She went not to hide out, but rather to
figure out what the future held. She was fairly certain her
future wasn't back in London, but perhaps she had discovered
a life more suited to her and her independent nature.
In Cornwall she was known as Marie Foxe. There she was
accepted not for her title, but rather for her compassion,
spirit, and bravery. These traits, and her beauty, are what
attracted Captain Gabriel Hawksworth's attention. They
developed a strong friendship with each holding the other in
great regard and respect. Of course, neither realized that
the other had come to Cornwall leaving behind a whole
Gabe felt himself wanting more than just friendship with
Marie, but he knew he needed to know more of her
history. Until they could trust each other, he played the
waiting game. In contrast, Marie wasn't the type to wait too
long for anything she really wanted. She wasn't above
pressuring Gabe to act on their mutual attraction. The more
he learned of her reasons for leaving London, the more
driven he was to get to the bottom of what seemed to be a
nasty act against an innocent, albeit independent, young
lady. How was he to know his investigations would open a
floodgate of information about Honoria and her family?
Don't judge a book by its cover. What starts out as a
simple tale of the taking of a young woman's innocence
develops into a rather sordid story about vengeance.
Justiss allows the reader to make discoveries along with
the characters which keeps the story moving at a rather fast
pace. I love a book filled with twists and turns, and this
book doesn't disappoint. Gabe and Marie are complex
characters who were meant for each other.
Lady Honoria Carlow, leading
Diamond of the Ton, is in disgrace. Her spirited nature has
led her too far this time and she is, in reputation at
Indifferent to polite London
society, Captain Gabriel Hawksworth is a gentleman in
bandit's clothing. On the storm-tossed coast of Cornwall,
this smuggler is reckless, sexy and sinfully
Gabriel is luring Honoria right back
to what she's escaping—trouble! Only this time her
impropriety won't be quite so innocent…
ExcerptMay 1814. Sennlack Cove, Cornwall
The shriek of gulls swooping overhead mingled with the
of waves against the rocks below as Lady Honoria Carlow
halted on the cliff walk to peer down at the cove. Noting
with satisfaction that the sea had receded enough for a
silvered sliver of sand to emerge from beneath its high-
hiding place, she turned off the path onto the winding
leading down to the beach.
Honoria had discovered this sheltered spot during one of
first walks after her arrival here a month ago. Angry,
despairing and brimming with frustrated energy, she'd
accepted Aunt Foxe's mild suggestion that she expend some
her obvious agitation in exploring the beauties of the
walk that edged the coastline before her aunt's stone manor
a few miles from the small Cornish village of Sennlack.
Scanning the wild vista, Honoria smiled ruefully. When she
fled London, she'd craved distance and isolation, and she'd
certainly found it. As her coach had borne her past
towards Land's End and then turned onto the track leading
Foxeden, her great-aunt's home overlooking the sea, it had
seemed she had indeed reached the end of the world.
Or at least a place worlds away from the society and the
family that had betrayed and abandoned her.
One might wonder that the sea's violent pummelling against
the rocky coast, the thunder of the surf, and the slap of
windblown spray and raucous screeching of seabirds could
soothe one's spirit, but somehow they did, Honoria
as she picked her way down the trail to the beach. Maybe
because the waves shattering themselves against the cliff
somehow mirrored her own shattered life.
After having been hurtled onto the rocks and splintered,
water rebounded from the depths in a boil of foam. Would
there be any remnants of her left to surface, once she had
the heart to try to pull her life back together?
Though Tamsyn, Aunt Foxe's maid, had tacked up the skirts
her riding habit, the only garb Honoria possessed suitable
for vigorous country walking after her hasty journey from
London, the hem of her skirt was stiff with sand when she
reached the beach. Here, out of the worst ravages of wind,
she pulled back the scarf anchoring her bonnet and gazed at
The water lapping at the beach in the cove looked peaceful,
inviting, even. She smiled, recalling lazy summer
as a child when she'd pestered her older brother Hal to let
her sneak away with him to the pond in the lower meadows.
Accompanied by whichever of Hal's friends were currently
visiting, dressed in borrowed boy's shirt and breeches,
she'd learned to swim in the weed-infested waters, emerging
triumphant and covered with pond muck.
The summer she turned seven, Anthony had been one of those
visitors, Honoria recalled. A familiar nausea curdling in
her gut, she thrust away the memory of her erstwhile
She wouldn't tarnish one of the few enjoyments left to her
by recalling a wretched past she could do nothing to
Resolutely focusing on the beauty of the cove, Honoria
considered taking off her boots and wading into the water.
With spring just struggling into summer, unlike the
sun-warmed pond back at Stanegate Court, the water sluicing
in the narrow inlet from the sea was probably frigid.
As she glanced toward the cove's rock-protected entrance, a
flash of sun reflecting a whiteness of sail caught her
attention. Narrowing her eyes against the glare, she
a small boat skim toward the cove.
A second boat popped into view, apparently in pursuit of
first, which tacked sharply into the calmer waters of the
cove before coming about to fly back toward open water. In
the next instant, the following boat, now just inside the
rocky outcropping that separated cove from coastline,
stopped as abruptly as if halted by an unseen hand. While
the first boat sailed out of sight, she saw the dark form
a man tumble over the side of the second skiff.
The boat must have struck a submerged rock, Honoria
as she transferred her attention from the little vessel,
being battered by the incoming waves, to the man who'd been
flung into the water. Seconds after submerging, the man
surfaced, then in a flail of arms, sank again.
Curiosity changed to concern. Though the waters of the cove
were shallow at low tide, the man would still need to swim
some distance before he'd be able to touch bottom. Had he
been injured by the fall—or did he not know how to
She hesitated an instant longer, watching as the man bobbed
back to the surface and sank again, making no progress
toward the shallows.
Murmuring one of Hal's favourite oaths, Honoria looked
wildly about the beach. After spotting a driftwood plank,
she swiftly stripped off bonnet, cloak, jacket, stockings,
shoes and the heavy skirt of her habit, grabbed up the
and charged into the water.
Still encumbered by chemise, blouse and stays, she couldn't
swim as well as she had in those childhood breeches,
probably not well enough to reach the man and bring him in.
But she simply couldn't stand by and watch him drown
at least trying to wade out, hoping she could get near
enough for him to grab hold of the plank and let her tow
Shivering at the water's icy bite, Honoria pushed through
the shallows as quickly as the sodden skirts of her chemise
allowed, battling toward the struggling sailor.
She had about concluded in despair that she would never
reach him in time, when suddenly, from the rocks far above
the water at the trail side of the cove, a man dove in.
Honoria halted, gasping for breath as a rogue wave broke
over her, and watched the newcomer swim with swift,
practiced strokes toward the downed sailor. Moments later,
he grabbed the sinking man by one arm and began swimming
Relieved, she turned to struggle back to the beach. Only
then did she notice the string of tubs bobbing near the
cliff wall on the walk side of the cove. Suddenly the game
of racing boats made sense.
Free-traders! Tethered in calm cove waters must be one of
the contraband cargoes about which she'd heard so much. The
first boat had apparently been trying to lead the second
away from where the cargo had been stashed under cover of
night, to be retrieved later.
Weighed down by her drenched clothing, Honoria stopped in
the shallows to catch her breath and observe the rescuer
swim in his human cargo.
Her admiration for his bravery turned to appreciation of a
different sort as the man reached shallow water and stood.
He, too, had stripped down for his rescue attempt. Water
dripped off his bare torso, from his shoulders and strongly
muscled chest down the flat of his abdomen. From there, it
trickled into and over the waistband of his sodden
which moulded themselves over an impressive—oh, my!
Face flaming, Honoria jerked her eyes upward, noting the
long white scar along his ribcage and another traversing
left shoulder, before her scrutiny reached his
face—and her gaze collided with a piercing look from
the most vivid deep blue eyes she had ever seen.
She felt a jolt reminiscent of the many times when,
shuffling her feet over the Axminster carpet in Papa's
after receiving a scolding about her latest exploit, she
touched the metal door handle. Enduring that zing of pain
had been a game, a silent demonstration to herself that she
had the strength to bear chastisement stoically, despite
Mama's disdain and Papa's disapproval. Though more lately,
it had fallen to her eldest brother Marcus, de facto head
the family since father's last illness, to deliver the
There the resemblance ended, for the jolt induced by this
man was both a stronger and a much more pleasant sensation.
Indeed, she felt her lips curve into a smile as she took in
the sharply crafted face and the dripping black hair
it, sleek as a seal.
Even had he not just recklessly leapt off a cliff into
swiftly moving tidal water, his commanding countenance with
its determined chin, high cheekbones and full, sensual
would have proclaimed him a self-confident man of action.
One strongly muscled arm still towing the coughing,
sputtering mariner, the rescuer strode through the
carrying himself with an aura of power that, like the long
scars on his chest and shoulder, hinted of danger.
A commanding man, she saw belatedly, who was now subjecting
her to an inspection as intense as hers of him had been.
'Well, lass,' he said as he approached, his amused voice
carrying just a hint of a lilt. 'Is it Aphrodite you are,
rising out of the sea?'
Honoria's face flamed anew as his comment reminded her she
was standing in ankle-deep water, the soggy linen chemise
that clung to her legs and belly probably nearly
Tossing a 'well done, sir,' over her shoulder, she turned
and ran. Upon gaining the shore, she dropped the plank and
hastily donned her sandy cloak, her numbed fingers
struggling with the ties. By the time she'd covered herself
and bent to retrieve her jacket, skirts and shoes, a crowd
of men was walking toward her along the narrow beach.
Accomplices of the free-traders, come to help move the
inland, she surmised as she chose a convenient rock upon
which to perch and put on her shoes. She'd just seated
herself to begin when the first of the men reached her.
Suddenly she realized their attention was fixed not on the
rescuer or the cargo waiting in the cove waters—but
her. She could almost feel the avid gazes raking her body,
from the seawater dripping from the loose tendrils of hair
to her bare feet, the curiosity in their eyes overlaid by
something hotter, more feral.
Horror filling her, she shrank back. Instead of the
windswept cliffs, she saw the darkness of a London
town-house garden, while the cawing of seabirds was
by exclamations of shock and surprise emanating from the
path leading back to a brilliantly lit ballroom.
Eyes riveted on her, men closed in all around. Their
gazes lust-filled, their lips curled with disdain or
anticipation, their hot liquored breath assaulting her as
she held the ripped edges of her bodice together. Anthony,
disgust in his eyes, running up not to comfort and assist
but to accuse and repudiate.
Panic sent her bolting to her feet. Boots and stockings in
hand, ignoring the protest of the handsome rescuer who
called upon her to wait while he deposited his coughing
cargo, she pushed through the crowd and ran for the cliff
Gabriel Hawksworth's admiring gaze followed the honey-
lass fleeing down the beach. After pulling the half-drowned
mariner onto the shore, he straightened, breathing heavily,
while the man at his feet retched up a bounty of Cornish
An instant later, some of the villagers reached them.
Quickly dragging the man inland, one held him fast while
another applied a blindfold and a third bound the man's
Gabe shook off like a dog, chilled now that his drenched
body was fanned by the wind. To his relief, darting toward
him through the gathering crowd was Richard Kessel, his old
Army friend 'Dickin,' owner of the vessel of which Gabe was
currently, and temporarily, the master.
'That was a fine swim you had,' Dickin said, handing Gabe
his jacket. 'Mayhap ol' George will be so happy you saved
his new revenue agent, he'll take a smaller cut of the
cargo. Though the villagers hereabouts won't be too fond of
your lending him assistance. Being a newcomer, our soggy
friend—' Kessel nodded toward the man being carried
off by the villagers '—is far too apt to point a
pistol at one of them— and you, too, if he'd known
it was that rescued him.'
'Aye, better to have let the sea take him,' declared
man as he halted beside them.
'Well, the sea didn't, Johnnie,' Dickin said, 'so 'tis no
point repining it.'
'Perhaps someone ought to give the sea a hand,' the man
'No thanks to you, the sea didn't oblige, little brother,'
Dickin shot back. 'What daft idea was it to call for the
cargo to be moved inland in full daylight, with a new man
patrol? 'Tis nearly asking for a scrabble.'
'I knew if the revenuer followed Tomas—not likely
times, as little as these English know the
coastline—Tomas would still be able to lead him off
the scent,' John defended.
'Aye—nearly drowning the man in the bargain,' Dickin
'What care you if there is one King's man less?' his
replied angrily. 'Besides, I'm the lander on this venture.
'Tis my place to decide how, when and where the
cargo gets moved.'
'If you're going to put our men and boats at risk, mayhap
you shouldn't be the lander,' Dickin replied.
'Threatening to have Pa ease me out of operations?' John
'Nay, just trying to jaw some sense in your head,' Dickin
'Well, landing's my business, not yours, and best you
remember it,' John said. Turning away, he called for the
holding the bound and blindfolded revenue agent to throw
into one of the carts.
After watching the brother pace away, Gabe said, 'Promise
me, Dickin, the revenuer will get safely back to town? What
happens on the high seas is up to God. I'd hate to abandon
you still needing a replacement skipper for the Flying
Gull, but I'll not be a party to murder.'
''Tis a most inconvenient conscience you've developed of
late, Gabe my lad,' Dickin remarked.
'We used to share the same scruples,' Gabe replied. 'You'd
never have shot a French prisoner back on the Peninsula.
have left one for the partisans, though Heaven knows the
Spaniards had reason enough to torture the French.' Smiling
anew at the irony of it, Gabe continued, 'Our former
enemies… with whom you now trade for brandy, silk
'True,' Dickin acknowledged cheerfully. 'But war is war and
commerce is commerce.'
'Still, it wasn't sporting of Tomas to sail so close to the
cliffs. He knows where that underwater ledge is. Our new
revenuer obviously didn't.'
Kessel shrugged. 'His own fault, giving chase in daylight.
If he wishes to hamper the trade, he'll have to get to know
the coastline better.'
'Or try to follow us at night, when we, too, show a
healthier respect for the rocks.'
'I doubt any of the revenuers wish to test the sea after
dark,' Kessel replied. 'Few enough Cornishmen have your
Irish daring. Or your expertise with a boat.'
'I'll ignore that jab at my heritage and accept your
compliments on my skill,' Gabe said with a grin.
'Sure you'll not consider staying on once Conan's fit to
resume command of the Gull?' Kessel asked. 'You've
probably earned enough already from your cut of the profits
to buy your own boat. We could make a good team, just as we
did fighting Boney's best! Unless you've changed your mind
about returning home to be your brother's pensioner?'
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