Welcome everyone! Please step in and take a break with me from your hectic Monday to enjoy a little reading for this week's A Duchess Monday. I've chosen to share from Brenda Novak's Of Noble Birth originally published in 1999 and then re-released with a beautiful cover in 2011.
The author has recently offered this book for free via Amazon Kindle and I've read some of the book since picking it up a few weeks back. I've always loved Ms. Novak's writing style and flare for the written word. I think you'll see this from the snippet I've chosen today.
Of Noble Birth
Back of the Book
HE WAS A MAN WHO TOOK WHAT HE WANTED. AND HE WANTED HER.To escape her cruel stepfather, seamstress Alexandra Cogsworth envisioned sailing far from England...though not as a captive aboard a pirate's ship.Pirate captain Nathaniel Kent's strategy for exacting revenge on his coldhearted father involved taking a valuable hostage...not a seamstress he mistakenly thinks is his half sister.Yet fate has designs of its own, landing them both on board the ROYAL VENGEANCE. At sea, Nathaniel intercepts and plunders his father's ships, all the while tormented by his illicit hunger for the tempting prisoner he thinks is his blood relation. And although Alexandra wants no part in this terrifying voyage, to reveal her true identity to the handsome, blue-eyed Nathaniel would invite danger. Not only would she become worthless cargo, but the revelation would surely unleash what she and Nathaniel have been fiercely battling--a rising undercurrent of impossible desire that could sweep them away for good.
The hilltop village of Clifton, famous for its pure air and picturesque vistas of the Severn estuary and the Welsh hills, sat one mile to the west of Bristol, high above the River Frome. Nathaniel had long admired its beauty, and he was not alone. Some of Bristol’s wealthiest residents, most of them Quakers, owned homes in Clifton.
Nathaniel and Richard made their way through Bristol, up to Clifton, and then to the duke’s country estate where they waited by the pond to meet Mary. They stood in silence, patting the noses of their hired mounts to keep them quiet, as the moon’s light peeked through the crooked branches of the many oak trees surrounding the water. Mary was supposed to arrive at midnight, but it was well past that, and Nathaniel was becoming uneasy.
“Does she usually come on time?” He tried to see through the trunks and limbs and leaves that completely blocked his view of the house.
“She’s not the most punctual girl I’ve ever met,” Richard responded. “But then, she’s never in much of a hurry to get back, either, ye ken?”
Nathaniel saw the gleam of Richard’s teeth as his mouth spread into a smile. “I’d find another maid to dally with, if I were you,” he replied. “There’s no telling what my father would do if he found you here. He’s certainly not a man of conscience.”
“You worry too much,” Richard said. “How could he prove my connection to you?”
“Entirely too easily. You’re not nameless and faceless when you board his ships, you know—”
The snap of a twig made Nathaniel fall silent. Someone was coming. His eyes bored into the darkness, but still he jumped when Mary popped out of the trees behind them.
“‘Ere I am,” she laughed. “Did I scare ye?” Nathaniel didn’t answer. Mary was a wiry young girl with medium-brown hair and a heart-shaped face. She had sharp little teeth and a flat, shapeless figure, nothing much to recommend her, but Richard gave her a hug.
“Did you miss me?”
“No, an’ I know better than to believe ye missed me.” She laughed again, her eyes turning to Nathaniel with apparent interest. “Oooo, ye did bring ‘im. But ye never told me ‘e was so ‘andsome.”
“That’s because he’s an ugly bloke in the light,” Richard responded. “His hair’s as black as one of those American savages everyone talks about, not the flaming red of me own, and while I admit his eyes are blue, they sometimes look as pale as ice. You should see him when he gets angry, which I must admit, he does, and entirely too often.”
Nathaniel couldn’t resist a smile at this quick accounting of his attributes, or lack of them, but he hadn’t come to be inspected like a horse. He was ready to get hold of the heavy book Mary hugged to her breast, and doubly eager to be away from Bridlewood.
“Well, ‘e wouldn’t be ‘is father’s son if ‘e didn’t ‘ave a temper,” Mary responded. “The duke’s been a miserable soul ever since the two of ye took that first ship. I can scarcely keep a straight face when ‘e starts rantin’. I swear, the mention of ye makes ‘im apo—apo... what’s the word?”
“Apoplectic,” Nathaniel replied dryly, deriving a small bit of pleasure from picturing his arrogant father out of his mind with rage.
“That’s it. ‘E’s apoplectic near ‘alf the time.”
Nathaniel felt the maid’s hand on his forearm.
“But ‘ow did ye get so tall?” she asked. “Yer a full ‘ead taller than yer father.”
“Perhaps I’ve my mother to thank,” Nathaniel responded. “May I?” He put his hand out for the book she still held to her flat chest, and finally she shrugged and relinquished it.
“‘E’s in an awful ‘urry,” she remarked to Richard, a grimace claiming her plain face.
Nathaniel quickly lit one of the candles he had brought in his pack and laid the book open, searching for the information he needed. The pages were filled with the names of ships, the dates, times, and locations of their departures, their destinations, even a list of their anticipated cargo.
Nathaniel smiled as he memorized the schedule for the following two weeks, but the smile froze on his face when he heard voices, men’s voices, coming through the trees.
“There’s someone at the pond,” a stranger shouted, “Come on!”
Running feet pounded the ground, making apprehension prickle down Nathaniel’s spine. Whoever it was, they were close. And they were coming closer still.
He glanced up to see a look of shock, then fear cross Mary’s face. Snapping the book closed, he shoved it into her arms and pushed her back into the cover of the trees. “Run,” he whispered. “Go back another way and return this. The sound of our horses will draw them after us and keep you safe for a bit, but you must hurry.”
Nathaniel leaped onto his horse as Richard did the same, then he glanced around, wondering which direction to go. The water was on one side, their pursuers were on the other, and he had no idea what he might encounter in front or behind him.
“How do we get out of here?” he asked Richard.
Richard shrugged and pointed. “I’ll go this way, you go that way. We’ll meet back at the tavern, where Trenton is waiting for us.” Then he dashed away, leaving Nathaniel to charge ahead in the direction specified and to pray they could both escape.
No better rogue than a pirate in my opinion! Anyone else love a pirate story as much as I do? Let's talk about historical romances and pirates! Any favorite authors that you can recommend?