The Princess and the Captain
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by Corinne Everett
Category: Historical Fiction/Romance
Description: American ship captain Richard Chartrain rescues aristocratic Lorrance du Montauban from beneath the guillotine's very blade, sweeping her off to America in his clipper ship. Suspecting that her family caused his brother's disappearance in France, Richard fights his growing passion for the lovely Frenchwoman he has installed in his Virginia home but cannot trust. Irritated by Richard's disdain for her background, Lorrance sets out to prove she's no pampered princess, but when danger from her past stalks her, Richard can no longer ignore his feelings. Together the princess and the captain must take on the evil that threatens their lives and loved ones, forging a future for themselves free of the hatreds of the past.
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2000
eBookwise Release Date: September 2004
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [401 KB]
Reading time: 258-361 min.
"Evocative love scenes and appealing personalities render The Princess and the Captain a must- read for fans who enjoy an intriguing mix of fast-paced action, memorable characters, accurate history, and an unforgettable romance."--Romance Communications
"This is a grand, old-fashioned adventure, rich in character and detail. Read this one--it's great fun"--Affaire de Coeur
"In Richard and Lorrance, Ms. Everett has created an engaging pair of characters who are both proud, determined, and fiercely loyal to their causes. Their fear that their attraction for each other will divert them from their goals keeps the tension in the story humming along. Richard and Lorrance are surrounded by a supporting cast of well-drawn secondary characters, among them Richard's eminently sensible mother (who is pursuing her own discreet romance) and his friend John, who loses his heart to Lorrance and very nearly his friendship with Richard as well. Background details are deftly presented without being intrusive: the perils of France under the Terror, life on a square-rigged ship at sea, and the complications of running the far-flung mercantile empire of Richard's family...A delicious read."--Sharon L. Nelson, Scribes World
Paris seethed with revolution in this autumn of 1793, the streets reeking of fear and hatred, not hope. As he rode through the crowded streets, Richard Chartrane breathed in smells he now knew intimately, although he would never be used to them. Repression and revolution were foreign to him as an American, and always would be.
The guillotine had separated King Louis from his head months ago. Rumor whispered that the hated Austrian, pretty Queen Marie Antoinette, would soon lose hers. The common people squeezed Paris like a woman caught in the merciless hands of a rapist. Chaos ruled the city.
Richard's fists clenched on the reins. At first, he had not given a damn about the fate of the bloated, spoiled aristocratic class overturned by the French Revolution. But now he had a personal interest.
He sighted Gerard ahead of him on horseback at the rendezvous point. Richard maneuvered his gray stallion to draw even with the Frenchman he'd hired to help him search for his brother Paul. Alerted by a letter from their widowed mother about Paul's intended trip to France, Richard had dropped everything to find his impetuous younger brother. Upon docking next to Paul's Chartrane Company ship at Le Havre, Richard found his mother's fears justified: the crew had not heard from Paul since their arrival weeks ago.
Concerned but not yet alarmed, Richard rode for Paris. At the inn where Paul had posted his last letter, the innkeeper told Richard that the young American had struck out for Normandy within a day or two of his arrival, determined to see the still-powerful Duke of Montauban.
Richard followed, only to find the trail cold. Peasants had recently ransacked the chateau, killing or imprisoning the Duke and his family. In the nearby village, Richard's inquiries turned up a young man surprisingly knowledgeable about the former inhabitants of the chateau. Or perhaps not so surprising, since the villagers' entire existence had once depended on the largesse of the Duke.
Riding hell for leather, Richard returned to Paris, the young Frenchman from Montauban village in tow. As soon as they arrived, Richard sent Gerard to find out where the surviving members of the Montauban family were, and their fate.
"What did you find out?" Richard asked as he wrestled his restive mount into position near Gerard, both men struggling with animals made nervous by the throb and roar of the crowd.
"Today's executions are at three o'clock, citizen." The young man's pale eyes gleamed with an odd intensity. "There is no list, but they say some of the sacrifiés are from Normandy."
"They die in only twenty minutes? Good God, let's go." Richard urged his mount into the fastest pace the swarming streets would allow. He followed Gerard to the nearby Place de la Révolution, the infamous square where Madame Guillotine sliced off the heads of France's aristocracy.
"What else did you learn?" he asked the well-spoken youth a few paces ahead of him. When they met, Richard had noticed Gerard's good clothes, his pale complexion and well-tended hands. He sat his horse well, his head at a proud angle. If all the aristocracy treated their tenants half so well, Richard thought, France might not have suffered this murderous revolution.
"You already know that citizens attacked the Duke of Montauban's estate," the younger man said. Richard nodded. "I don't know who survived," Gerard continued, "but they were brought to Paris."
Richard strained to hear above the shouts and clamor. By now he had pieced together Paul's journey. He knew that his brother had arrived at the Montauban chateau the day before the uprising, that he sought the Duke of Montauban on behalf of his future father-in-law.
It seemed Paul had rashly promised the exiled French noblewoman he had fallen in love with in London that he would help her regain her heritage. According to their mother, Paul had swallowed whole the father's assertion that Nicole could not marry without her patrimony restored. The Vicomte Boudrier claimed the Duke of Montauban was expropriating the Vicomte's adjoining land for some nefarious purpose of his own.
Why had Paul not realized this damned Viscount was manipulating him? Richard wondered. Too late now. Paul had set out on a fool's errand into revolutionary France. At least he would have had no language problems. Their mother hailed from Louisiana, and both Chartrane sons spoke excellent French.
"Only those Montaubans who survived will be executed today, you know." Gerard interrupted Richard's brief meditation on his brother's impulsiveness. "The others are dead. I do not know how many are left."
"You do not know which members of the family are still alive, Gerard? Whether the Duke was among them?" Richard asked with an urgency he could not conceal.
"I would have heard if it were the Duke. A big name always draws bigger crowds, you understand."
"I understand." That meant the Duke probably was dead. Richard's jaw tightened in frustration. Wasting no more time on words, he pressed the animal forward. He would learn what he could from whoever was left alive in the Montauban family. He'd be damned if he would let the guillotine get to them first.
A flurry of excited cries caught his attention. They were near the square and the mob had sighted its quarry. Richard picked out the lumbering prisoner-laden cart some distance ahead, but his own progress was no swifter. The crowd had swelled to such a size that remaining mounted posed a challenge. The two men threaded the horses through the crush with as much speed as they could manage, ignoring curses from those in their path.
Ahead, the tall, stark wooden platform rose in the middle of the square. The guillotine's steel blade shone wickedly in the afternoon sun. Pressing his knees into the horse's flanks, Richard urged his mount ever forward.
Ignoring the mounted men, the crowd watched avidly as the prisoners were dragged from the tumbrel. Richard scanned the condemned. All women. Disappointment snaked through his gut.
Then one women caught his attention, standing out vividly from the rest of her frightened, dispirited companions. Beside him, Gerard inexplicably snapped to attention, his hands taut on the reins.
The woman, her thick blonde hair streaming unbound to her waist, stood before the executioner, looking neither left nor right. Slim and small in stature, she carried herself forthrightly. In contrast to her fellow prisoners, however, she was fighting mad. The tense lines of her body betrayed fury. She struggled valiantly, but with her hands tied and guards gripping both her arms, she made no headway against her burly captors.
"So she is still alive," Gerard murmured softly.
Richard looked at Gerard. "Who is alive? One of the Montauban family?"
"There," Gerard pointed toward the woman who had caught Richard's attention. "The blonde. She is the Duke's oldest daughter, Lorrance du Montauban. His heir. I do not see any of the others."
"Meaning the Duke is dead?" Richard asked.
"Must be," Gerard agreed, a faint smile curving his full lips. Before Richard could say more, the guillotinist's gesture caught his eye. The heavily-built executioner raised one massive hand, as if he meant to cut off Lorrance du Montauban's hair before she went to the block. The woman yanked her head out of the executioner's reach. When he seized her neck to drag it forward, she spat in his face.
A guttural roar of amusement rose from the crowd at this spirited defiance, so uncharacteristic of the cowed aristocracy these days. "That's it, my beauty, spit in the face of death," an approving male voice called out.
"But you still die like all the rest!" a thin man near Richard shouted, a fanatic's hatred in his narrow eyes.
"Allez-y, get on with it. I would rather see that pretty hair still on her head after you stick it on the pike," a tall, raw-boned woman in a Liberty cap yelled. Disgust roiled in Richard's gut at the gory sentiment.
The guillotinist dropped his hand, then motioned to the guards to mount the platform with her. He climbed up behind them. "If her head fails to sever neatly, let it be on your heads!" he turned to shout. The crowd laughed boisterously at the crude joke.
The Montauban woman gave no sign she heard. The guards exerted pressure on her neck, pushing her down to her knees. Trembling shoulders betrayed her continuing struggle to resist, but the guards relentlessly forced her head down. The blood-encrusted trough obscenely cradled the blonde head. Like the lull before a storm, the crowd suddenly fell silent, waiting.
Sound and sight slid away from Richard, narrowing and darkening his vision. Two points of light gleamed in that tunnel: the woman and the guillotine. In the crisp autumn breeze, her hair flowed around her, a golden aura about to be forever doused by the grim and ugly steel.
All at once, he knew he had to save her.
It was not merely that he needed to know about his brother. It was not only that she was the last survivor of the family his brother had visited before disappearing. It was not even that she should not have to die just because of her name or lineage.
What compelled him forward was an absolute, unshakable sense that this woman held the key to his future. He did not know how or why. He just knew.
The thought shocked him. He never rushed into things, had always deplored his brother's impulsive nature. No good could come of an attempt to ransom one life from a terrible death.
Except his future, and hers. Spurring his horse forward, Richard bent low over the saddle. He plowed ruthlessly through the few who remained between him and his goal.
"No!" The single word erupted from his throat, harsh with an elemental passion he did not know he possessed. The stallion surged up the steps, knocking aside the guard, scattering all but the guillotinist and the woman at the far end of the platform.
The executioner reached upward to release the shining blade just as Richard strained for it from horseback.
Copyright © 2000 by Wendy Hilton-Jones