"Another historical tour de force by the incomparable Shana Galen"
Reviewed by Monique Daoust
Posted February 10, 2019
Honoria Blake was bored and somewhat restless in the little
Paris flat she shares with her friend Alexandra, where the
Pimpernel's agents also hide and congregate. Honoria forges
documents needed by the French who need to escape France and
Madame Guillotine. Honoria was drafted by the League of the
Pimpernel because of her ability at counterfeiting, which
she came about very honestly. Excitement appeared in the
form of Laurent Bourgogne, the Marquis de Montagne, when he
stumbles at her door. Laurent's escape from La Force prison
was engineered by the League because he has information to
aid their cause. However, Laurent has something else on his
mind: he will rescue the little princess Marie-Thérèse or
Shana Galen's stunning Scarlet
Chronicles continue with this third instalment as
the French Revolution rages on. TAKEN BY THE RAKE is just as
much historical fiction as historical romance because Ms.
Galen's scrupulous and mind-boggling research is seamlessly
woven into an improbable romance. The premise is solidly
grounded in historical facts, and I must admit it's quite
educational. Honoria is a magnificent heroine, whom I loved
from the very beginning. She works for a living in London,
where she normally lives; she is very clever, extremely
resourceful, and opinionated. When it comes to Laurent, I'm
not sure if it's because Shana Galen portrayed him so
accurately, but I struggled with him for a significant part
of the book. He is the very embodiment of everything the
revolutionaries despised of the aristocracy: he is haughty,
entitled, arrogant, and it takes him a while to think of
Honoria as more than an object of sexual gratification.
Thankfully, in spite of being a bit dazzled by his beautiful
exterior, Honoria doesn't foolishly fall at his feet; she is
way too reasonable a woman for that, and she acknowledges
his faults. I must add that the romantic moments were
utterly exquisite and lovingly written.
TAKEN BY THE RAKE is one of Shana Galen's most action-packed
stories. From the moment Laurent stumbles in her home, it
doesn't stop, and danger lurks literally at every corner.
Ms. Galen's writing is invisible, as she completely vanishes
and let her characters live their story. The descriptions of
Paris are so astonishingly vivid that I could not help but
envision what a terrific movie it would make. Every book of
Chronicles is so outstanding, even the French would
be impressed by the accuracy, and of course, entirely
approve of the romance.
Honoria Blake knows she must have had a moment of madness
when she accepted a summons by the Scarlet Pimpernel to
travel to revolutionary Paris and help his League. She’s an
expert forger and glad her services can be of use, but the
violence of the Reign of Terror has her longing for her
quiet, unobtrusive life in London. Then a bloody man
staggers to the door of the house where she’s hiding,
claiming he was sent by the Pimpernel. Recently escaped
La Force prison, the former Marquis de Montagne is sinfully
handsome and charming. He’s also desperate enough to kidnap
Honoria. So much for her return to the quiet life.
Can be a beast…
Laurent is a consummate rake, but even he is captivated by
the beautiful Honoria. Laurent cares almost nothing for his
own life, but he was always close to the royal family and
the little princess was like a sister to him. He will risk
everything to save her from a life of imprisonment and
possible execution. His plan is risky and surely doomed,
if he can convince Honoria and the League of the Scarlet
Pimpernel to help him, it just might succeed. The only
question is how far he’s willing to go and whether he’s
willing to risk the life of the only woman he’s ever loved
to save a doomed princess.
ExcerptThe pounding on the door made her jump. Honoria had been
lulled by the quiet in the house. With the League out on a
mission, she’d worked in silence for the past few hours.
The small house on the Rue du Jour was tucked away in the
shadow of the north façade of Saint Eustace church. The
little street was close enough to the Palais-Royal and the
Place de la Révolution for the members of the League to
stay apprised of all that was happening in Paris. And yet
the Rue du Jour was for all intents and purposes nothing
but an ancient walkway dating from the time of the walls of
Philippe Auguste. It garnered little interest from any but
those who had business there or those seeking to attend
services at Saint Eustace. And since in these times of
revolution praying to anyone but the Cult of the Supreme
Being was not prudent, few ventured inside the medieval
Honoria resisted the urge to run and hide or to rush to
open the door. Instead she gathered the false documents she
had been drafting and placed them and the pen and ink she
used inside the false panel in the wall. Then she closed
the panel, made certain it was not visible, and scanned the
dining table to ensure she had not forgotten anything. A
teacup and saucer sat on the table, the cup half full
because she’d forgotten about it as she began her work.
Beside the cup was a tricolor cockade.
The pounding on the door sounded again and Honoria hastily
pinned the cockade to her dress before going to answer it.
It couldn’t be soldiers. The soldiers usually came at night
and made such a noise searching all the houses in the
nearby streets and boulevards, the League knew well in
advance when they would arrive. Still, Honoria’s heart
pounded. The Committee of Public Safety’s law of suspects
meant virtually anyone considered an enemy of the
revolution or likely an enemy could be arrested. The nobles
still in France had already been imprisoned as had former
government officials, as well as anyone having an
association with those nobles who fled the country for fear
of their lives.
As she was a British citizen in a country at war with
Britain and working to snatch the “enemy” out from under
the noses of the Committee, Honoria was doubly at risk.
Fortunately, her French was flawless—thanks to her family’s
origins in Brussels, and her papers impeccable—thanks to
her skills in forgery.
If neither of those attributes saved her, she had a weapon
of last resort.
At the door, Honoria paused. “Who is it, please?”
“Open up!” a man said in cultured French, slightly slurred.
“Of course, citoyen, but who is calling?”
“I have a paper,” he said.
Honoria furrowed her brow. This was no group of soldiers.
Had someone stumbled upon the wrong house? “Go away,
citoyen. My husband is not at home. If you return later, he
will speak with you.” She had no husband, but it was what
Ffoulkes had instructed her to say if anyone should come to
“Open the door,” the man said again. His voice had grown
weaker, but still full of authority. “And I’ll show you the
damned paper with the red flower.”
He’d spoken in French, and so his words had been la fleur
rouge. It made no sense. It was a madman at the door.
And then dread slid down her back like an icicle. La fleur
rouge. A scarlet pimpernel. The Pimpernel’s symbol was
nothing more than a small red flower.
Her fingers fumbled with the locks, tripping over them in
her haste. She flung the door wide and caught her breath.
Blood dripped down the man’s cheek from a gash to his
temple. His clothing was covered in mud and dried blood,
and he leaned on the side of the door, barely supporting
“Oh, my God,” she whispered. She pulled him inside before
anyone might see him, and then wondered if it was already
too late. If one of her neighbors had spotted him on her
doorstep, she was doomed.
They were all doomed.
“Not God,” he said. “Citoyen Bourgogne—at least that’s what
they call me.”
“Do not speak,” she hissed, leaning him against a chair
while she hurried to close the door and turn the locks
before anyone might walk by and see or hear them. It would
take no more than a moment for a passerby to ascertain what
she already had in one quick glance. This man was a noble
running for his life. Honoria did not know if he’d escaped
soldiers, a mob, or the Conciergerie itself, and at the
moment she did not care. She just needed to lock the
dratted door and close all the drapes. She did this with
speed and efficiency.
Alex had told her not to close the drapes unless there was
an emergency. Closed drapes made one look as though one had
something to hide, but if a French noble bleeding on one’s
carpet was not an emergency, Honoria did not know what an
emergency was. Oh, how she wished Alex or Hastings or any
of the League was here. They would know what to do. She was
just a forger and an antiquarian. What did she know about
head wounds and fleeing nobles?
When she’d secured the ground floor as best as she could at
the moment, she turned back to the man, who had sat in a
chair in the entryway. “I do beg your pardon,” he said,
indicating the upholstery now stained with his blood. “Very
bad form of me.” He looked up at her, slowly, a lock of his
chocolate brown hair falling over one moss-green eye. Even
with the blood and the fatigue on his face, she could see
he was a man of beauty. “Is your Pimpernel here?” His words
were slurred, probably from pain as the gash on his temple
looked shallow but painful.
“We’ll not speak of him at the moment,” she said. “We must
clean you up and hide you.”
“I’d prefer you feed me. If you are making a list, do add
that, won’t you? I could use food and wine. Oh, and clean
She raised a hand before he could make more requests. “No
wonder they are cutting your heads off,” she muttered.
“On second thought,” he said, “I may just rest a moment.”
His head lolled back, and Honoria gasped when his eyes
“No, no, monsieur! You cannot sleep here. You must go
“Can’t. Can’t open my eyes.”
She grabbed his hand and tugged. His skin was soft, his
fingers uncallused, and yet there was strength in those
long, elegant digits. If she did not usher him upstairs
before he collapsed, she would have to wait until Dewhurst
or Mackenzie returned. The nobleman—Bourgogne—was a good
foot taller than she and three or four stone heavier. The
secret space between the floors was under her bed. If he’d
been followed or soldiers came to search, she had to be
able to hide him there.
“Please, monsieur. Stand and walk with me. You may lean on
me, and if you cooperate, I will give you wine and fresh
Lord Saint Denys had left some clothing when he’d gone back
to England a few days ago. She could give that to this
Bourgogne. They were of a similar size and build.
He opened his eyes, so green they reminded her of the
English countryside in Derbyshire, where she’d spent time
in her youth. “I like how you call me monsieur. I’ve missed
it.” His eyes closed again.
“No, no, no!” She wedged her shoulder under his arm and
scooted him forward. His head thunked heavily on her
shoulder, staining her dress with blood. “Monsieur, please.
Stand. You must.”
He heaved out a disgusted sigh and clenched his hands on
the arms of the chair. Then with no small effort, he pushed
himself to his feet. He swayed drunkenly before he caught
his balance. “I am at your command, mademoiselle.”
She could not stop herself from glancing at the door. Had
that been a noise outside? “Quick. Up these stairs. I will
She put her arm around his waist and draped one of his arms
over her shoulder. Under her fingertips, the silk of his
coat felt smooth and finely woven. His waist was trim, and
she could feel the muscles in his back move as he walked.
He smelled faintly of oranges and sandalwood. It was a
pleasant scent, and not one she’d expected from a man who
had just stumbled in, bleeding, off the street.
“Where did you get the foolscap?” she asked as she could
see he had crumpled it in his hand.
“I suppose from the Scarlet Pimpernel.”
“Ah, yes. You said that already. Shall we call him FR for
la fleur rouge?”
“If that suits you.”
“He saved me from the mob.”
Honoria almost stumbled on the step. Surprise, more than
his weight, made her legs buckle—that and though they’d
only walked up six steps, she was exhausted. “What mob?”
“The one slaughtering the inmates in La Force.”
La Force. He’d been in La Force. He’d escaped La Force, and
he would be sought. When his body was not found among the
dead, the soldiers would come looking for him.
“I see I’ve rendered you speechless.”
“La Force is not an easy place to be rid of,” she said.
“On the contrary, many are rid of it every day. They sneeze
into the sack and go to their just reward.”
Three more steps. If she could but support him for three
“You know…what I mean,” she panted.
“I do. And I can’t for the life of me understand why FR
would help me escape. God knows—oh, pardon me—the Supreme
Being knows I do not deserve it.”
They reached the last step and Honoria’s legs gave way. She
sank to the floor, and he with her. She cushioned him from
the worst of the fall, laying his head down gently.
“Are you certain it was FR?” She had reason to suspect the
Pimpernel had returned to London with Lord Denys.
“Who else?” he asked, and of course, she did not answer.
“Just leave me here.” He cradled his head in both hands.
“My head feels as though it will explode.”
“We must clean the wound.”
He laughed, a derisive sound. “So it does not become
infected? No, we would not want to deprive Madame
Guillotine by killing me with an infection.”
Honoria took a deep breath, strength returning along with a
steely determination. “Neither will claim you, monsieur, if
I have anything to say about it. But you cannot rest here.
If the soldiers should come looking for you, it would be
better if you were in my bedchamber.”
His eyes, which had been either closed or unfocused
suddenly shifted and looked directly at her. He really did
have beautiful eyes. She’d never seen that shade of green
before. People were always commenting on her eyes, but when
she looked in the mirror, she found them almost unsettling,
such a strange shade of blue were they. His eyes were the
green of peace and tranquility.
The way he looked at her did not calm her, though. His gaze
swept her from forehead to knee, and she was suddenly aware
she’d taken off her fichu earlier and never donned it
again. Her dress was modest, but she felt exposed without
the covering over the top of her chest. The glasses she
wore to disguise herself were forgotten somewhere with the
fichu, and she had not straightened her hair after she’d
dealt with the mess from the domiciliary visit of the night
before. She could feel loose strands of it tickling her
“I wouldn’t dream of refusing an invitation to your
bedchamber, but I’m afraid at the moment I would not acquit
myself very well.”
Honoria felt the heat rush to her cheeks and knew they must
be pink. “There is a hidden space under the floor in my
chamber. We hide men such as you there when the soldiers
come. That is all I meant.”
He smiled at her, a charming smile, even with the smears of
blood on his cheek. “I’m sure it is,” he said in a tone
that indicated he didn’t believe her for a moment.
Honoria felt her cheeks heat further, and this time not
from embarrassment but anger. How dare he act as though she
was propositioning him? Did he think he was that
She would show him otherwise. “Stand up, monsieur.” She
didn’t feel quite so exhausted now that anger flowed
through her veins. “It’s this way.”
She rose and waited for him to climb to his feet. She
resisted the urge to help him when he all but lost his
balance and tumbled down again. But he slapped a hand on
the wall and levered himself up. “Which way?” he asked.
He did, leaning one shoulder on the wall. The house was
small, and they reached the bedchamber she shared with Alex
quickly. “Two beds,” he said from the doorway. “Which is
“You may lie down here,” she said, giving him Alex’s bed.
Alex might complain later, but Honoria didn’t want him in
her bed. She didn’t want the scent of oranges and
sandalwood to linger and enter her dreams.
He sat heavily on Alex’s small bed, then all but fell onto
his side. Honoria didn’t know whether to divest him of his
shoes or see to his wound. Since his feet were still
hanging off the bed, she went to the pitcher of water on
the washstand and poured it into a bowl. Taking several
cloths with her, she crossed to him and set the bowl on the
floor beside the bed.
She lifted his head, ignoring his groans, and put one cloth
under it to protect the linens. Then she turned his head so
she could see the wound and began to wipe up the blood.
“What happened?” she asked as she worked, cleaning the
extraneous blood and working her way closer to the wound
“One of the revolutionary mob hit me with a spade.”
“I should actually thank the dirty sansculottes. The blow
sent me to my knees and I was kicked out of the way. My
head would be on a pike at the moment if not for that
“You are fortunate indeed.” But his comment had sent her
mind racing. Who was this man that the peasants would wish
to parade his head on a pike?
He hissed in a breath as she dabbed at his wound.
“I apologize. I’m afraid I am not a very good nursemaid.”
“You’re too pretty for such menial work,” he said through
clenched teeth. Honoria felt her cheeks heat again. She
hated when men commented on her appearance. She hated when
women did it as well, but no good had ever come of a man
The water in her bowl was red with his blood, but even if
it hadn’t needed to be thrown out, she would have done so.
She needed a moment to collect herself. Honoria went to the
window, and after checking no one was watching them on the
street, she threw the water out and poured fresh from the
“You haven’t asked my name,” he said. She could feel him
watching her, even though she made a point of keeping her
gaze on the stream of water flowing into the bowl.
“It is probably best that I don’t.”
“And what is your name?”
“Bernadette Deschamps,” she said without hesitation.
She carried the water back to him and knelt beside the bed.
When she put the cloth to his wound again, cleaning the
last of the blood, his hand wrapped around her wrist. “What
is your real name?”
“It is probably best that I do not tell you.”
“You are English?”
Her hand trembled slightly in his, and she did not dare
answer. Was it best to deny it or better to admit it? How
had he known? Her accent was not Parisian, but she had
worked on her pronunciation so much it was almost
Instead of answering, she looked at his hand, then those
eyes that saw far too much. “Release me,” she said in
He did so. She dipped the cloth in water again and dabbed
at his wound. Strangely enough, she could still feel his
touch on her wrist.
“You did not flirt with me, that is how I knew,” he said in
strongly accented English.
“I don’t flirt.” She wiped away the last of the blood.
“That is…how do you say? A tragedy?”
“I’m sure it is.” She plopped the wet towel on his face.
“Your face is dirty. Clean up while I see if I might find
you unsoiled clothing.”
He pulled the cloth off his face. “I doubt you have
anything as fine as these.” He glanced derisively at the
“No, but what I give you won’t have bloodstains.” She
started for the door, then turned back to him. “It’s true.”
He arched a dark brow, the same color as his rich hair.
“You did not deserve to be rescued.” She turned on her heel
and marched out of the room. She’d taken no more than three
steps when she was seized with guilt. What an awful thing
of her to say. She should go back and apologize.
That was when she heard it.
He was laughing.
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