From Publishers Weekly
- A passionate tale peopled with appealing characters...fresh, funny and loaded
Alternate Selection in Hardcover from the Rhapsody Book Club
HAS ENGLAND'S MOST INFAMOUS
BRIDE THIEF FINALLY MET HIS MATCH?
six-and-twenty, Samantha Briggeham knew her marital prospects were fading by the season and she
was pleased by the thought. She had no intention of being betrothed--especially
against her will--to a man she did not love. She had a plan...and
it didn't include being swept into a pair of powerful arms and spirited
away by a masked rider. News of Sammie's heroic rescue from undesired
wedlock turned her into the toast of the ton, wooed by suitors far
and wide. But she couldn't forget the swashbuckling brigand who'd
abducted her--something about him intrigued her completely. Then
she met Eric Landsdowne, the dashing and seductive Earl of Wesley.
His exploits were
legendary, his life filled with danger. He was the elusive Bride
Thief, who had his own reasons for helping young women escape the unhappy
fate of arranged marriages, and whose true identity was a scrupulously
guarded secret. But from the moment he rescued Sammie--only to discover
she'd already managed to get herself un-betrothed--Eric knew he
couldn't lose her a second time. Marriage was out of the question.
Which left only one option: A clandestime affair that might lead to scandal,
social ruin, and the unmasking of a love-bested legend...
It happened as quickly as a lightning flash.
A black horse emerged from
the trees, vaulting over a low hedge. Sammie's heart nearly stalled
with surprise, then fear flooded her as she realized the horse was headed
straight for her.
Springing to her feet, she
stepped hastily backward. She caught the shadowy glimpse of a rider
who clearly didn't see her, as he veered in her direction. She opened
her mouth to shout a warning, but before she could issue so much as a peep,
a strong arm scooped her off the ground.
Her breath left her body
in a loud whoosh and pain shot up her backside as she was deposited sideways
on the saddle with a bone-jarring thud. Her glasses flew from her
nose, and her reticule fell from her fingers. What appeared to be
a bouquet of flowers sailed past her.
The strong arm tightened
around her like a vice, pinning her sideways to a large muscular frame
as the horse raced into the woods. "Do not worry," a deep velvety
whisper flavored with a faint Scottish brogue sounded in her ear.
"You are perfectly safe."
Speechless with shock, Sammie
tried to move her arms, but her captor held them trapped to her sides with
his own. Turning her head, she found herself staring at a black mask.
Fear snaked down her spine and clogged her throat. What manner of
madman was this? A highwayman? But if so, why had he taken
her instead of simply demanding money?
Realization slapped her.
Dear God, was she being kidnapped? She shook her head to clear it.
Logic labeled the idea utterly preposterous, but the fact that she was
speeding through the night in the iron-clad grasp of masked man certainly
indicated an abduction. Why on earth would someone kidnap her?
While her family was financially comfortable, they were not wealthy enough
to pay an exorbitant ransom. Had he made a mistake and abducted the
wrong woman? She didn't know, but she had to get away from him.
Drawing as deep a breath
as she could manage, Sammie opened her mouth to let lose with a scream.
The sound had no sooner emanated from her throat than the arm anchored
around her middle tightened, cutting her cry into a mere wheeze.
"Don't scream," he whispered
against her ear. "I won't harm you."
Unconvinced by his assurance,
she opened her mouth again, but his lips pressed against her ear stopped
"I don't want to stuff my
handkerchief in your mouth, but I will if I must."
Sammie reluctantly swallowed
the scream trembling on her lips. Although she was not one to panic,
she couldn't stop the alarm quivering through her. "I demand that
you stop this horse and release me. Immediately."
"You've made a mistake.
My family cannot pay a ransom."
"'Tis not a ransom I'm after."
He leaned closer, his warm breath sending a shiver down her spine.
"Fear not, Miss Briggeham. You're saved."
Samantha Briggeham turned
from the opened window where the cool, night breeze drifted into the drawing
room and faced her beloved, but clearly addle-brained father. "I
cannot believe you're suggesting this, Papa. Why would you think
I'd consider marrying Major Wilshire? I barely know him."
"Pshaw. He's been a
family friend for years," Charles Briggeham said, crossing the drawing
room to join her near the window.
"Yes, but most of those years
have been spent in the army," she pointed out, striving to keep her voice
calm and suppress a shudder. She couldn't imagine any woman entertaining
romantic thoughts of the dour Major Wilshire. Heavens, the man sported
such a puckered frown, he always looked as if he'd just tasted a lemon.
She strongly suspected this conversation was the result of Mama's well-intentioned,
but unwelcome matchmaking machinations.
Papa stroked his chin.
"You're nearly six and twenty, Sammie. 'Tis time you married."
Sammie fought a strong urge
to look heavenward. Papa was the dearest, sweetest man alive, but
in spite of having a wife and four daughters, he was as thick as a plank
when it came to understanding females--especially her.
"Papa, I'm well beyond marriageable
age. I’m perfectly content as I am."
"Nonsense. All girls
wish to marry. Your mother told me so."
His words confirmed her suspicions
that Mama was at the root of this mess. "Not all girls, Papa."
The shudder she could no longer suppress edged down her spine at the thought
of being leg-shackled to any of the men with whom she was acquainted.
They were either tiresome dolts, or they simply stared at her with a mixture
of pity, confusion, and in several cases downright horror, when she dared
discuss mathematical equations or scientific matters with them. Most
of them regarded her as "eccentric Sammie", a nom de plume she philosophically
accepted as she knew she was eccentric--at least in the eyes of her peers.
"Of course all girls wish
to marry," Papa said, jerking her attention back to the matter at hand.
"Look at your sisters."
"I have looked at them.
Every day of my life. I love them dearly, but Papa, you know I'm
nothing like them. They're beautiful and sweet and feminine--perfectly
suited to be wives. For the past decade we've all but tripped upon
their constant stream of suitors. But just because Lucille, Hermoine,
and Emily are now all married doesn't mean I must marry."
"Don't you wish to have a
family of your own, my dear?"
A long pause filled the air,
and Samantha ignored the twinge of longing that tugged her insides.
She'd buried such unrealistic fantasies long ago. "Papa, we both
know that I am not the sort of woman to attract a man to marriage.
Not in appearance or temperament. And besides, I’m much too old--"
"Stuff and nonsense.
You're prettier than you think, Sammie. And there's nothing wrong
with a woman being intelligent--so long as you don't let anyone know.”
He shot her a pointed look that clearly said unfortunately everyone already
knows how smart you are. "Luckily Major Wilshire finds neither your
advanced age nor your keen intellect overly offputting."
Sammie pursed her lips.
"How incredibly kind of him."
Her sarcasm floated over
Papa's head. Stroking his chin, he continued, "Indeed. In fact, the
major prefers the idea of a more mature bride. Of course, helping
Hubert with his experiments, gathering insects and toads and all that,
will have to stop. Quite undignified for a married lady to be crawling
about in the dirt, you know. Your brother will simply have to carry
on without your assistance."
This situation had gone quite
far enough. Sammie cleared her throat and pushed her spectacles higher
on her nose. "Papa. I love working with Hubert in his laboratory
and have no intention of stopping, especially now as my own experiments
show promise of a breakthrough. And I am perfectly happy at the prospect
of being a doting aunt to my future nieces and nephews. I have no desire
to become Major Wilshire's wife, and frankly, I'm stunned that you would
even suggest such a thing."
"Major Wilshire is a fine
"Yes, he is. He is
also old enough to be my father."
"He is only three and forty--"
"Provided he had children
when he was quite young," she continued smoothly, as if her father hadn't
spoken. "But more importantly, I don't love him, and he does not
"Perhaps not, but he certainly
holds you in some affection."
"Certainly not enough to
"On the contrary, he quite
readily agreed to the match."
A heavy silence filled the
air as the significance of his words settled upon her like a thick fog.
"What do you mean, he agreed to the match?" she asked when she finally
located her voice. "Papa, please tell me you haven't already discussed
this with Major Wilshire."
"Well, of course I have.
Everything is settled. The major couldn't be happier. Nor your
mother and I. Congratulations, my dear. You're officially betrothed."
stunned, explosive reply rang through the air like a pistol shot.
She squeezed her eyes shut and forced herself to draw deep, calming breaths.
Although Mama had tried--completely unsuccessfully--in the past to find
suitors for her, her mother had finally abandoned the effort in favor of
focusing her attention on her three younger daughters, all beauties of
the first water.
But ever since Emily’s wedding
three months ago, Mama’s matchmaking eye had once again focused on her
one remaining unmarried daughter--a turn of events Sammie should have anticipated,
but hadn’t. Clearly Mama had not given up such ridiculous hopes.
Still, she’d shrugged off Mama's efforts, knowing full well that there
wasn't a man amongst her acquaintances who would consider marrying a plain,
bespeckled, outspoken, socially inept, firmly on-the-shelf, intelligent
Except, apparently, Major
Wilshire, whom Sammie could only conclude had taken leave of his senses.
Papa fitted his monocle over
his left eye and peered at her. "I must say, Sammie, you don't look
quite as ecstatic as your mother assured me you would be." He looked
"I have no desire to marry
Major Wilshire, Papa." She cleared her throat then added very clearly,
"And I will not do so."
"Pshaw. Of course you
will. Everything is already arranged, my dear."
"Why, yes. The banns
will appear this Sunday. The wedding will take place next month."
"Next month! Papa,
this is madness. I cannot--"
"Now don't worry, Samantha."
He reached out and patted her hand. "I'm sure you'll be happy once
you and the major get to know each other a bit better." His voice
dropped to a conspiratorial level. "He's planning to call on you
later this week and present you with a betrothal ring. A sapphire,
"I do not want a betrothal
"Of course you do.
All girls do. Your mother told me so. Now, it's terribly late
and I'm exhausted. All this marriage arranging is quite wearying,
and I wish to retire. Your dear mother harangued me for hours, and
I'm quite incapable of talking anymore. We'll discuss the plans further
"There are no plans to discuss,
Papa. I will not marry him."
"Of course you will.
Your mother told me so. Good night, my dear."
"I will not marry him," Samantha
shouted to his retreating back. In response, he merely closed the
door behind him. An exasperated oohh! escaped her, and she massaged
her temples where a thumping headache was rapidly forming.
Good heavens, what had brought
on this madness? And how on earth could she fix this tangle?
Hellfires scorched her cheeks
when she imagined what Mama must have said to convince Major Wilshire he
wanted to marry her. She knew all too well how determined her mother could
be when she'd made up her mind about something. One often left Cordelia
Briggeham's company accompanied by the sensation that they'd been smacked
in the head with a cast iron skillet.
Yes, Mama's good intentions
were unfortunately not always tempered with tact, but Sammie couldn't help
but admire, occasionally in a horrified way, how her mother could outmaneuver
anyone. She had no doubt that if Mama had been allowed to serve in
the Army, Napoleon would have met his Waterloo years earlier than he had.
The knowledge edged a chilling
unease down her spine. Twisting her fingers together, she paced the
floor, her footsteps muffled by the thick Axminster rug. What on
earth was she going to do? The thought of spending the rest of her
life with Major Wilshire, listening to him recount his every military maneuver
in excruciating detail, sent a shiver akin to panic shuddering through
her. And he would certainly demand that she cease her scientific
work--something she most certainly would not do.
Surely she could bring Papa
around. But the finality in his voice when he'd said everything is
all arranged echoed through her mind. She could usually bend Papa
around to her way of thinking, but there was no swaying him once Mama embedded
an idea in his head. And her marrying Major Wilshire was clearly
embedded in his head.
Humiliation burned her cheeks.
God in heaven, this was just like her coming-out eight years past.
She’d begged not to endure the pomp of it all--the parties where she knew
people whispered about her behind their hands, pitying her because she
possessed none of the beauty or grace of her younger sisters. The
frilly dresses that made her feel conspicuous and awkward. Yet Mama
had insisted, and Papa had fallen meekly into line. So with her head
held high, she’d endured the whispering and the pitying glances that were
made away from Mama’s sharp eyes and ears, and buried her hurt behind countless
She pressed her hands to
her churning stomach, recalling how Mama had arranged Hermoine's marriage
with a tactical brilliance that would have rendered Wellington breathless.
True, Hermie was happy, but the poor dear had barely known Reginald when
they'd wed. She just as easily could be miserable, although Sammie
couldn't imagine sweet-natured Hermie being anything but content. And Reginald
worshipped the ground his beautiful wife's petite slippers tread upon.
Sammie could not imagine
Major Wilshire so much as noticing whether she even wore slippers unless
he could somehow relate them to military strategy.
Flopping down on the chintz-covered
settee, she huffed out a frustrated breath. If she refused to honor
the arrangements Papa made, her family would suffer from the ensuing gossip
and scandal. She couldn't disgrace her parents, sisters, and Hubert.
But neither could she marry Major Wilshire.
Heaving a tired sigh, she
rose and closed the window. After extinguishing the candles burning
on the mantle, she left the room, closing the door behind her.
Dear God, what was she going
* * * * * * *
In the flowerbed, Arthur
Timstone heard the window click shut and drew his first deep breath since
he'd first heard the voices above him. He slowly rose from his crouched
position, his knees creaking in protest, then stifled a yelp when his backside
found the rose hedges.
Glaring at the offending
bush, he muttered, "I'm too bloody old fer this sneakin' about in the bushes
in the middle o’ the night. Unseemly, that's wot it is."
Stubble it, a man approaching
his fiftieth year shouldn't be gallivanting about after midnight like a
randy lad. Ah, but that's what love did to a bloke, made him act
like a slow-witted, puppy-eyed fool.
If anyone had suggested that
he'd take one look at the new cook at the Briggeham house and fall instantly
in love, Arthur would have called them daft, then laughed himself into
a seizure. But fall instantly in love he had. And because of it,
he'd just spent the last half hour trapped beneath the Briggeham's drawing
room window, afraid to move lest Miz Sammie or her Pa should hear him,
trying his best not to long for his warm bed which was still an hour's
ride away. If he'd left Sarah's quarters only a few minutes earlier...ah,
but that would have been impossible.
Leaning back against the
house's rough stone exterior, he paused to rub his stiff joints before
dashing across the darkened lawn where he'd tethered Viking at the edge
of the woods. Poor Miz Sammie. Clearly she didn't want to marry
Major Wilshire, and Arthur didn't blame her for one moment. While
the major wasn't a bad sort, his nonstop talk of the war, and his important
role in it, could bore the feathers from a chicken. Why, he'd drive
Miz Sammie straight to Bedlam. And salt of the earth Miz Sammie was.
Always a kind word and a smile for him, always asking after his mother
and brother in Brighton.
Emerging from the bushes,
Arthur set off across the lawn at a brisk trot. Determination stiffened
his spine. Something had to be done to help poor Miz Sammie.
Arthur knew only one man
who could help her...the mysterious man whose name hovered on everyone's
lips from London to Cornwall. The man eagerly sought after by the
magistrate for his daring exploits.
The notorious, legendary
* * * * * *
Through the window of his
private study, Eric Landsdowne, Earl of Wesley, watched Arthur Timstone
cross the terrace lawns on his way back to the stables.
The stableman's words rang
in his ears. 'Tis a terrible situation, my lord. Poor Miz Sammie
wants not a thing to do with that stuffy Major Wilshire, but her Pa's insistin’.
Bein’ forced to marry this way, why it'll just break Miz Sammie's heart,
and a kinder heart I've yet to meet.
Eric had sat behind his desk,
listening to his faithful servant, neither one acknowledging by so much
as a flicker of an eyelash why Arthur would bring this news to him, but
both knowing exactly why. The secret they shared bound them together
tighter than a vice, although they rarely discussed it during the day,
when the servants were awake, for fear of being inadvertently overheard.
Such a mistake could cost
Eric his life.
But simply knowing that Arthur
shared his secret, that he wasn't completely alone in the dangerous life
he'd chosen, afforded Eric a strong measure of comfort. He loved
Arthur like a father; indeed, the servant had spent more time with him
during his formative years than his own father ever had.
Now, watching Arthur striding
across the perfectly manicured lawns, the early morning sun glinting on
his graying hair, Eric noted the man's slight limp, and his heart pinched.
Arthur was no longer a young man, and although he never complained, Eric
knew his aging joints were often stiff and painful. He'd offered
him a well-appointed bedchamber in the manor house, but the servant had
refused. Tears had glistened in Arthur's pale blue eyes at the generous
offer, but he chose to remain in his rooms above the stables, close to
the horses he loved and cared for.
A smile tugged at Eric's
lips for he knew Arthur had also refused his offer so as not to risk sneaking
into the main house in the middle of the night after returning from seeing
his lady love. Even though there were no secrets between them, they
rarely discussed their respective love lives. Arthur would be mortified
if he suspected Eric knew of his late night trysts, but Eric was happy
for the man.
"Perhaps that wasn't a limp
at all, but rather a spring in his step," Eric mused out loud.
Shifting his gaze, he looked
toward the woods in the distance, his thoughts returning to the matter
Being forced into an unwanted marriage.
He shared only a casual acquaintance
with the Briggehams, as he did with most of the families in the area.
He spent most of his time in London, keeping in close contact with his
solicitor and man of affairs, spending only several weeks during the summer
here at Wesley Manor. During those few short weeks every year, he
expertly dodged the matchmaking eye of the village mamas, one of the most
notable of whom was Mrs. Cordelia Briggeham. Of course Mrs. Briggeham
would know, along with every other mother in Tunbridge Wells, his longstanding
aversion to marriage, although they were not privy to all his reasons.
Unfortunately, that aversion only served as a challenge to the intrepid
He had to admit that the
three youngest Briggeham daughters were rare beauties. One of them,
he couldn't recall which, had recently married Baron Whitestead.
He had only a vague recollection of Samantha. Frowning, he tried
to remember what she looked like, but could only conjure up a shadowy image
of chestnut hair and thick spectacles. He knew via the gossip mill
that she was considered an eccentric bluestocking and sadly lacked feminine
appeal, a fact rendered all the more glaring by the extreme beauty of her
In contrast, he had no trouble
calling to mind Major Wilshire--a large, blustery, arrogant man with a
ramrod stiff military bearing. Eric found him tolerable only in small
doses. As far as Eric knew, the major never smiled, and laughter was out
of the question. He sported thick, graying side whiskers, a quizzing
glass, and tended to bark out orders in a booming voice as if he still
commanded a battlefield.
Still, the major was intelligent
and reportedly not unkind. Why didn't Miss Briggeham wish to marry him?
She was well beyond the first blush of youth, and if she were as dowdy
as he'd heard, she couldn’t possibly attract many suitors. Arthur
had reported that she'd claimed not to love the man. A snort escaped
Eric's lips, and he shook his head. He'd be hard pressed to name
even one marriage among his acquaintances that had been based on love.
Certainly not his parents' marriage, and God knows not Margaret's...
Turning from the window,
he strode across the Axminster rug to his desk. Reaching across the
mahogany surface, he picked up the miniature of his sister. She’d
had it painted for him just before he entered the Army. “Keep it
with you, Eric,” Margaret had said, her encouraging smile not masking the
deep concern in her dark eyes. “That way I’ll be with you.
Keeping you safe.”
A lump tightened his throat.
Her lovely face had accompanied him to places he chose to forget.
She’d been the one spot of beauty in an existence of ugliness. Yes,
she had kept him safe. Yet he had failed to keep her safe in return.
He stared at her image resting
in his palm, and a vivid memory rose in his mind’s eye. The day she’d
been born. His father’s disgust with his wife for presenting him
with a girl. His exhausted mother’s sadness. Creeping into
the nursery that night, staring at the tiny, cooing bundle. “It doesn’t
matter that Father doesn’t like you,” he’d whispered, his five-year-old
heart filled with resolve. “He doesn’t like me either. I’ll watch
over you.” She’d wrapped her miniscule fist around his finger and that,
quite simply, had been that.
A myriad of images flashed
through his mind. Teaching Margaret to ride, helping her rescue a
bird with a broken wing, then holding her while she cried when the creature
died. Patching up the scrapes she’d sustained when she fell from
a tree limb so their father wouldn’t scold her. Escaping to the quiet
of the forest to evade the constant strain and arguing in the house.
Teaching her to fish, then rarely ever catching more fish than she.
Acting out Shakepeare’s plays. Laughing, sharing. Watching
her grow from an impish child into a beautiful young woman had filled him
deep pride. We were all we had in this unhappy family, weren’t we,
Margaret? We made it bearable for each other. What would I
have done without you?
And then he’d failed her.
His fingers closed around
the miniature. Like Samantha Briggeham, Margaret had been forced
to wed, a fact Eric hadn't forgiven his father for, even when he lay on
his deathbed. He had bargained innocent, beautiful Margaret away
like a piece of jewelry to elderly Viscount Darvin who wanted an heir.
Rumors of Darvin's debauchery had circulated through the ton for years,
but he had possessed the attributes Eric's father had sought when making
the match--money and several unentailed estates. In spite of his
own substantial holdings, Marcus Landsdowne had greedily wanted more.
He'd thought nothing of Margaret's feelings, and the marriage had devastated
her. Eric had been fighting on the Peninsula at the time and had
been unaware of her situation.
He'd been too late to rescue
But he'd vowed upon his return
to help others like her and bring attention to their plight. How
many poor young women were forced into unwanted marriages each year?
He shuddered to consider the number. He’d tried to convince Margaret
to leave Darvin, promising he’d help her, but she’d refused to dishonor
her marriage vows, and he had reluctantly honored her decision.
Since first donning his costume
five years ago, he'd helped more than a dozen young women escape.
And by doing it this way, as a masked crusader, rather than simply by quiet
financial means, he'd succeeded in bringing the problem to national attention.
He'd accomplished his goal,
perhaps too well. Several months ago a reporter for The Times had
dubbed him the Bride Thief, and now it seemed as if everyone in England
hankered for information about him--most especially the magistrate who
was determined to unmask the Bride Thief and put an end to what he called
A substantial reward was
offered for his capture, igniting the interest in his activities even further.
Arthur had recently reported a rumor that several irate fathers of “stolen”
brides had banded together with the common goal of capturing the Bride
Thief. Eric rubbed his fingers over his throat. The magistrate,
not to mention the fathers, wouldn't be satisfied until the Thief hanged
for his crimes.
But Eric had no intention
Still, the search for the
Bride Thief's identity had now escalated to the point that each time Eric
donned his costume he risked his life. But knowing he would free
another poor woman from the untenable fate that had robbed Margaret of
her happiness made the risk worth the possible price. And helped
ease his guilt over failing to aid Margaret.
He would not allow the heartache
and despair that ruled his sister's life to destroy Miss Samantha Briggeham.
He would free her.
* * * * * * * *
Samantha sat in the family
coach, staring out the window at the fading light. Bright orange
and purple streaks fanned across the sky, marking the beginning of twilight,
her favorite time of day. Cyril slowed the vehicle as they started
through the heavily wooded path leading toward home, and Sammie inwardly
smiled, mentally picturing the coachman pursing his lips and pulling on
Adjusting her spectacles,
Sammie breathed deeply and tried to calm her jittery stomach. When
she arrived home, she faced speaking with Mama and Papa, not a welcome
prospect as she suspected they would not be pleased by the errand she'd
Looking out the window, she
observed a tiny flash of color in the waning light. Heavens, could
that have been a firefly? If so, Hubert would be ecstatic.
He'd been trying to breed the rare insects for months, both in the woods
and in his laboratory, from larva he'd had shipped from the colonies.
Could his experiments be bearing fruit?
She quickly signaled Cyril
to stop and pulled a small bag from her reticule. Her inner voice
told her she was only delaying the inevitable argument with her parents,
but she had to capture the insects for Hubert if they'd hatched.
His fourteen-year-old mind was fascinated by the soft intermittent light
the bugs exuded, and she fully shared his interest in the creatures.
Exiting the coach, she inhaled the cool evening air. The heavy scent
of damp earth and decaying leaves tickled her nostrils, and she sneezed,
sending her spectacles sliding downward until they halted on the upturned
end of her nose. She pushed the glasses back into place with a practiced
gesture and scanned the area, searching for the fireflies while Cyril settled
back on his perch atop the coach to wait. He was well used to these
unplanned stops in the woods.
Sammie walked down the path
toward where she'd seen the flashing glow. Warmth spread through
her as she imagined Hubert's thin, serious face wreathed in smiles should
she return with such a treasure. She loved the boy with all her heart--his
brilliant, sharp mind, and his tall, gangly frame with large, awkward feet
he hadn't yet grown into.
Yes, she and Hubert were
cut from the same cloth. They wore similar spectacles and possessed
the same blue eyes and thick, unruly chestnut hair. They both enjoyed
swimming, fishing, and searching the forest for flora and fauna specimens--activities
that had more than once driven Mama to the vapors. In fact, Samantha
and Hubert's secret name for Mama was Cricket because she emitted a series
of high pitched chirps just before she "fainted," always artistically,
onto one of the many settees scattered about the Briggeham home for the
express purpose of catching her before she dropped to the floor and rendered
Mama will most definitely
chirp when she discovers where I've just been. And what I've done.
A tiny flash of yellow light
caught her eye and her heart jumped with excitement. It was indeed
fireflies! Several hovered near the ground at the base of an oak
a short distance away.
"No running off now, Miz
Sammie," Cyril called as she moved toward the oak. "'Tis gittin'
dark and me eyes ain't what they used to be."
"Don't worry, Cyril.
There's still plenty of light and I'll not go farther than this."
Dropping to her knees, she gently captured the rare insect in her hand
and placed it in her pouch.
She'd just slipped another
in the bag when a sound, coming from the dense forest, caught her attention.
A horse's faint whinny? Lifting her head, she listened for several
seconds but heard nothing other than the rustling of leaves from the breeze.
"Did you hear something, Cyril?"
Cyril shook his head.
"Nay, but then, me ears ain't what they used to be."
With a shrug, Sammie returned
her attention to her task. Clearly she'd been mistaken.
After all, who would be riding
on her family's property? And with darkness swiftly approaching?
* * * * * * *
Sitting astride Champion,
he silently observed her through the trees. Pale streaks of moonlight
glimmered down, and his heart clenched as he noted her posture.
Bloody hell, the distraught
chit was praying. On her knees, bent at the waist so far her nose
was nearly skimming the ground. Anger and frustration heated his blood.
Damn it, he would save her from such misery.
Champion shifted beneath
him and let out a soft whinny. Placing a comforting hand on the beast's
sleek neck to quiet him, he watched Miss Briggeham. She clearly heard
the sound for she looked up. A shaft of waning light glinted off
her spectacles as she glanced around. Then with what appeared to
be a shrug, she lowered her head and resumed her prayers.
He'd followed her through the woods,
waiting while she was inside Major Wilshire's home, wondering why she'd
visited him. Clearly their time together hadn't gone well, for now
she was kneeling on the ground, praying in the woods as darkness approached.
Pity tugged at his heart.
He glanced at her coachman and
noted the man was dozing in his perch. Excellent. The time
With quiet concentration, he slipped
on his tight-fitting black mask, adjusting it until he knew his entire
head was covered except for his eyes and mouth. He tugged the material
to settle two small openings over his nostrils. His long black cloak
draped on the saddle behind him, and snug black leather gloves encased
his hands. His black shirt, breeches and boots rendered him all but
invisible in the growing darkness.
His gaze settled on the distressed
girl kneeling at the base of the oak tree.
Never fear, Miss Samantha
Briggeham. Freedom awaits you.
I hope that whets your appetite!
A passionate tale peopled with appealing characters,
D'Alessandro's newest Regency-era romance (following Whirlwind Wedding)
is fresh, funny and loaded with charm.
When Samantha Briggeham is mistakenly abducted by the Bride Thief (aka
Eric Landsdowne, the Earl of Wesley), she comes away fascinated by the
enigmatic man who has made it his mission to rescue women from arranged marriages. The eldest of three beautiful, married
sisters, bookish Sammie has consigned herself to spinsterhood and is content
to explore nature and conduct scientific experiments with her 16-year-old
brother, Hubert. At least, that's what she tries to convince herself. She
still harbors feelings for the Bride Thief, and she is intrigued by the
Earl of Wesley as well, little realizing they are one and the same.
Drawn to the earl, Sammie decides to engage in a romantic liaison with
him; but when they are discovered, the earl must do the right thing and
propose. Sammie, however, is torn between her desire for the earl and her
resolve to remain independent. Will the Bride Thief-now hunted by rapidly
growing numbers of irate fathers whose daughters are missing-attempt one
more abduction to free the woman he loves from a marriage she may loathe?
Though the plot takes few uncharted turns, this entertaining
romp is on par with some of the best works from seasoned authors like Julia
Quinn and Stephanie Laurens.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Romantic Times Magazine
His legendary exploits have made the Bride Thief the most wanted man
in England. The daring masked rider helps young women extricate themselves
from unwanted marriages -- leaving behind enraged fathers. Eric Landsdowne, the Earl of Wesley, has reasons for saving these women…so
when he hears of Samantha Briggeham’s undesirable betrothal, she becomes
his next mission. Eric has no way of knowing that Sammie has already
extricated herself from the marriage.
Once Eric discovers his mistake, he returns Sammie to her family, but
now fears she might be able to identify him. In order to find out
if she recognizes her masked savior, he frequents the myriad of social
events she attends, now that the story of her escape has made her the Ton’s
most sought after women. Sammie is drawn to Eric and the two become friends and…slowly fall
in love. Jacquie D’Alessandro’s delightful story revs into high gear
as Eric strives to hide his identity while Sammie gets closer to discovering
This charming, funny romp is destined to delight readers
with its fast pace, snappy dialogue, winsome characters (especially Sammie’s
inquisitive younger brother!) and the sweet yet sexy love story.
This “feel good” read brings smiles galore while tempting readers to keep
Affaire de Coeur Magazine
At twenty-six, Samantha Briggeham is considered to be on the "shelf".
She is content with her life. Her three sisters are happily married and
she can devote her time to helping her brother with his experiments and
doing some of her own. Unfortunately, her mother has plans for Samantha
- wedding plans. Without Samantha's knowledge or consent her mother has
coerced her father into betrothing Samantha to Major Wilshire, a man Samantha doesn't
care for in the least. While on her way back from a visit with the Major,
she leaves her carriage and coachman while she investigates some fireflies
she has seen from the window. While stooping down to collect them she is
suddenly grabbed about the waist and hoisted onto the lap of a masked man
riding a huge black stallion.
He is "The Bride Thief". He rescues women who are being forced into
unwanted marriages. What the Bride Thief does not know is that Samantha
has already extricated herself from the attentions of the Major and not
only are the Bride Thief's services not needed, he must now return Samantha
to the safety of her home. The Bride Thief intrigues Samantha, but she
is also drawn to her neighbor Eric Lansdowne, the Earl of Wesley.
Ms. D'Alessandro's debut novel RED ROSES MEAN LOVE
was a triumph. Her second historical WHIRLWIND WEDDING was also excellent.
Any fears that I had that Ms. D'Alessandro might not be able to sustain
her high level of masterful writing have been put to rest after reading
THE BRIDE THIEF. Her dialog is excellent and flows naturally. There is
never a forced moment in either her dialog or her ability to create some
the best and well remembered characters in historical fiction. Ms. D'Alessandro's books are
not only keepers - they are treasures.
Huntress Book Reviews
(Reviewed by Detra Fitch)
Samantha Briggeham was nothing like other society women. Sammie was
intelligent! While other women flirted, wed, and had children, Sammie preferred
being with her younger brother, Hubert, in "the Chamber (his laboratory),
working on their experiments. In fact, Samantha was on the verge of a breakthrough
with her's. However, her mother decided to play matchmaker and force Sammie
into a marriage she did not want.
Eric Landsdowne, Earl of Wesley, was a confirmed bachelor. He never
intended to marry. Yet he was also the notorious Bride Thief that everyone
was after. The price on his head was constantly growing. Eric abducted
women who were being forced into unwanted marriages and gave them money
to begin life anew elsewhere. Samantha was the first woman who had not
been happy when she was rescued.
Samantha thought the Bride Thief was a bloody pain in the arse! She
did not need his help. She had already rescued herself! But she did admire
what he did for the other poor women. The abduction made Sammie into the
toast of the ton and she was overwhelmed by suitors. She did not want their
attention! The only exception was for Lord Wesley, who paid much wanted
attention to Hubert. As their attraction grew, Sammie decided that for
just once in her life she would have an affair and know love!
***** Oh Readers, books get no better than this! Jacquie
D'Alessandro has become one of my all time favorite authors! I read this
book twice! My husband would come up to me and ask what had me chuckling.
So I began sharing sections with him.
I urge all romance lovers to purchase this book! I
have absolutely no doubt that you will love it! Long live Jacquie D'Alessandro!
Romance Fiction Forum
Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, 1820
Samantha Briggeham is on the shelf and perfectly happy with her situation.
She cannot imagine being married to any of the gentlemen of her acquaintance,
most of whom recoil in horror when she tries to discuss mathematics or
scientific matters with them. Convinced that no man will want to
marry a plain, bespectacled, gauche, spinster bluestocking, Sammie is stunned
when her father announces she is betrothed to Major Wilshire. But
not so astonished that she agrees to the match. Her father ignores
her protests, telling her everything is already arranged. Sammie
knows that if she refuses to honor the agreement, her family will suffer
from the resulting gossip and scandal. She cannot disgrace them,
but neither can she marry the pompous major.
When he returned from the Peninsula five years ago and learned his father
had forced his sister into an abhorrent marriage, Eric Landsdowne, the
Earl of Wesley, vowed to help other young women in the same dire straits.
His dashing rescues of more than a dozen ladies brought the problem of
forced marriages to the nation's attention -- and resulted in an enormous
reward being offered for the capture of the "Bride Thief." Now, the
search for the Bride Thief has escalated to the point that Eric risks his
life every time he dons his costume. Although he has no intention
of marrying, he cannot bear the thought of another woman suffering the
heartache and despair that are his sister's lot. Thus, when he hears
of Miss Samantha Briggeham's plight, Eric decides to rescues her.
And so he does…only to learn that she has already unarranged her betrothal.
So now the Bride Thief must do something he has never done before:
return a woman he has rescued. Sometimes being the most notorious
man in England is more trouble than it's worth. And sometimes it
brings rewards beyond one's wildest dreams.
A light-hearted tale despite the seriousness of its underlying premise,
THE BRIDE THIEF is a charming story of two lonely people who find love
although neither expects it. The characters, both main and secondary,
are deftly drawn, likeable, and engaging. Samantha is not a typical
Regency era miss, but her uniqueness is part of her appeal -- for Eric
and the reader. Eric, too, is refreshingly different; instead of
wallowing in guilt because he could not prevent his sister's marriage or
brooding over the injustice of her situation, he is determined to help
other young women in similar straits, even if the cost is his life.
Crisp dialogue and realistic interactions between the characters move
the story forward at just the right pace. Readers will enjoy the
relationship between Sammie and her family, especially her younger brother.
The interactions between Sammie and Eric sizzle with passion and are, at
times, delightfully unpredictable.
For a well-written, thoroughly entertaining romp through
the British countryside, I highly recommend THE BRIDE THIEF.
|A "Must Read"! Ms. D'Alessandro's
books are always filled with witty scenarios and dialog as well as heart
warming scenes and this book is no exception to that rule. The Bride
Thief is one of the best of Ms. D'Alessandro's books, perhaps the best
or at least it's a tie between The Bride Thief and Whirlwind Wedding.
The Bride Thief won't disappoint Jacquie D'Alessandro
fans it will only add weight to the conviction that Jacquie D'Alessandro
is one of today's hot regency romance writers!
THE BRIDE THIEF WAS A GREAT BOOK.
PLEASE WRITE A SEQUEL I WANTED IT TO GO ON AND ON. MAYBE WITH THE
SISTER OR BROTHER, ANYTHING..THANK YOU
This is the first time I have
ever written to a author. This is the first time I have read one
of your books. I found this book funny, sexy and had a good read.
This is only the second author that I ever wanted to write to, the other
was LaVeryl Spencer, and your books are much like hers.
Yesterday when the night was
closing upon me, I opened my copy of The Bride Thief and started to read...I
was utterly HOOKED! This is the first book I read from you and to tell
you the truth it's the first time I really LOVE a book. I haven't finished
it yet but until now I just LOVE it. It is truely a wonderful read
and I really have the sense of "being there". Thank you so much for
bringing me so much pleasure in reading.
Well, you have done it again!
The book was great! I could not let myself read the first Chapter
to the sequel - I would die waiting (again) HA! HA! for November to get
Hi, I just wanted to email and
say thank you. I have not read historicals in a long time (several
years) as they had become stale to me. I picked up "The Bride Thief"
on Monday because the back flap made it sound intriguing. I started
it Tues night and finished it on Wed night. I couldn't put it down!
It was wonderful. Funny, charming, romantic and more! Thanks
for re-opening my eyes! I'll be going to buy your other books now.
Please keep writing!
Just had to say thank-you for
the last 2 weeks. Just finshed reading 3 of your books. (The
Bride THIEF), (Whirlwind Wedding), (Red Roses Mean Love). I could not
put them down. Looking forward to more. Adding you to my list
I do not usually write because
I am very busy but wanted to say thanks when I do get time I love a good
read nothing is quite as enjoyable as sitting down with a pop (my addiction
) a quite house with good music in the background and a engrossing book
one I can't wait to turn the page. Looking forward to your new book.
I bought a copy of your new book
today. As soon as I got home, I immediately turned to the back of
your book hoping for some news about Whirlwind Affair and to my utter delight
there it was, a sneak peek. It was wonderful, I can't wait.
I love a story in which the heroine is given a second chance at love.
And to completely seal the deal, to have Robert feel, "At last."
Thank you so much for this treat to savor until it arrives in bookstores.
You see, Whirlwind Affair is the book I have been anticipating since I
finished Whirlwind Wedding. But now onto The Bride Thief, I started
it sort of halfheartedly especially after reading your sneak peek gift
to readers. Well, I was hooked and I just finished it, with a big
smile on my face. Each and every time you write a book you allow
your readers to remember exactly how it feels to fall in love. I'm
still smiling about Sammie and Eric's private running joke about the words
that start with certain letters. Thank you for another incredible
story to cherish.
Jacquie, I just started reading
romance novels over the past year. My good friend got me hooked on
Julie Garwood books. I have to say, I do love her writing.
Unfortunately, I've read all her books. Because my friend works at
a book store, she was able to get an early release copy of your book the
Bride Thief. It was wonderful! I enjoyed reading it so much
that when I finished, I felt sad. I just wanted the story to go on
and on. It left me with such a feeling of warmth. It was funny,
sexy, I got completely lost in it. What a great way to escape, and
relax. Your writing makes you feel like your right there, feeling
the same feelings as the characters. I was not bored one second.
Of all the books I've read to date, it is my absolute favorite. I
didn't realize you had other books until I look at your website.
I ordered the Whirlwind Wedding and Red Roses Mean Love. I
just finished reading the first chapter of Whirlwind Wedding on-line.
I just wanted to tell you that
I think you are extremely talented, and I can't wait to read the book your
plugging at the end of the Bride Thief. I'm sorry I can't remember
the title but, it definitely left me wanting more. When do you expect
that book out? Thanks again for bringing
adventure and romance into my life with your wonderful
writing. Who would have thought reading would be so fun.
Thank you to everyone who has taken the
time to write to me.
I love hearing from Readers!
Named one of Amazon's Best Romances of 2002
Named one of the Best Romances of 2002 by the Oakland
Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery /
Suspense - Finalist, sponsored by the Kiss of Death Chapter
BookSellers' Best Award -
sponsored by the Greater Detroit Chapter of RWA
National Readers Choice Award
Orange Rose Award - Finalist
Maggie Award of Excellence
Waldenbooks Romance List
- Two weeks, reaching
Waldenbooks Mass Market List
- Two weeks,