Last of the Brides!

MaryJoPutney_TheBarteredBride800by Mary Jo

I've loved introducing new readers to my classic Bride trilogy, which had been languishing in obscurity for years. Now the last book, The Bartered Bride, is due to be released as an ebook tomorrow (February 8th).

All three books are marriage of convenience of one sort or another, and The Bartered Bride is no exception. The review from Publishers Weekly said, "(Gavin and Alex's) journey from strangers to spouses to true lovers is utterly authentic." And a long and challenging journey it is!

The story was partially inspired by requests I had for a story about Amy Melbourne, the intrepid young daughter of Catherine Melbourne, heroine of my Fallen Angels book, Shattered Rainbows. Catherine had married a cavalry officer and "followed the drum" through the Peninsular campaigns, caring for her husband, nursing the wounded, and raising her fearless young daughter. Amy played an important role in her mother's story, and readers wanted to see more of her.

So did I, but I had to wait till she grew up, which is why the Bride trilogy is set a little post-Regency. More than that, I knew that if Amy got into trouble anywhere in Britain, her warrior stepfather, Lord Michael Kenyon, would swoop in to save her from harm because that's the kind of man he was. But that would interfere with Amy's own romance. <G>

MaryJoPutney_ShatteredRainbows_HR-2It took me time to work out her story. Not only did I decide I'd have to send her halfway around the world, but she informed me that "Amy" was too much a little girl's name and she much preferred to be called by her middle name, Alexandra. (Teenagers!) So she became Alex, and after being widowed in Australia, she heads for home with a young daughter of her own. Here's the blurb for the story:

After building a fortune in the exotic East, American adventurer and merchant prince Gavin Elliott sets his sails for London to begin a new life. Then fate intervenes on an infamous island in the East Indies where he discovers an Englishwoman facing degradation and peril. Though saving her may cost Gavin his life, he cannot refuse to help the fierce beauty who touches his heart and soul with her unconquerable spirit.

Alexandra Warren is returning home from Australia as a widow and mother when a pirate attack condemns her to a life of servitude. A miracle arrives in the form of a steely-eyed Yankee captain whose reckless courage wins them freedom and a safe passage home to London. Intimate strangers joined by too many secrets, they slowly begin to heal the past with attraction and tenderness–until an old enemy reaches out to threaten the passionate love Gavin has found with his irresistible bartered bride.

Alex and Gavin's story has lots of adventure, powerful romance, and of course a happy ending, though there were some serious black moments! There's also the opportunity to see Catherine and Michael and other Fallen Angels characters. Here's an excerpt:

Alex had finally dozed off in a corner of the cage, but she jerked upright at the sound of footsteps. Slavery had taught her that changes were seldom for the better, and she’d been frightened ever since guards brought her to the palace to confine her in this triple locked cage in a strange, luxurious chamber.

At first, the dim light of the single lamp showed only the arrival of a tall, intimidating male. Then she recognized the European who’d visited the slave market. She’d begun to wonder if he was a hallucination, but he was real enough—a tall, powerful man with an air of command. Those gray eyes and the fair hair sun-bleached to gold had to be European. Involuntarily she rose and crossed the cage, pressing against the bars as she studied him hungrily. The gaudy uniform wasn’t British—perhaps German or Scandinavian.

She clamped down on her longing by reminding herself that being European didn’t mean he’d MaryJoPutney_TheBarteredBride200help her. Though she had instinctively pleaded for his aid at the market, now that they were face to face she reminded herself that Westerners who frequented the far corners of the world were often adventurers and renegades. Perhaps this one had asked the sultan for the use of the European slave woman.

No matter. Even if his motives were vile, he was her best chance for freedom, and she’d do whatever necessary to ingratiate herself so he’d help her.

The man halted with shock when he saw her. Glad that he probably wasn’t responsible for her presence, she asked, “Do you speak English? Parlez vous Francais?”

“Both,” he replied in English. “How did you come to be in my rooms?”

“I have no idea.” Unable to repress her bitterness, she added, “Slaves aren’t usually told why things happen to them.”

His expression tightened. “I’m sorry—that was a foolish question.”

Though she’d repaired her battered cotton shirt as best she could, she was uncomfortably aware of how her breasts strained against the thin, worn fabric. She was larger than most Island women, and there had been no kebaya her size.

When his gaze reached her breasts, he looked away in embarrassment. She found that reassuring—a man with a sense of the decencies might be more likely to help her.

He stepped into the bedroom and returned with a neatly folded shirt. “Would you like this?”

“Oh, please!” He passed his shirt through the bars and she immediately pulled it over her head. The garment fell almost to her knees. Before rolling up the sleeves, she rubbed her face in the crisp white fabric. “This smells so good. So clean.”

He glanced around the cage, which contained nothing but her and a brass chamber pot. “Do you need anything else? Food or drink?”

She moistened her lips. Not having eaten or drunk since early that morning, she’d spent her first hour in the cage staring longingly across the room at a bowl of fruit on a low table. “Water, please. And then…could I have some fruit?”

“Of course.” He set the fruit bowl on the floor so she could reach through the bars to help herself.

While she peeled and ate a juicy local orange called a jeruk manis, the man collected pillows from a bench and pushed them through the bars. Gratefully she sank onto one. The last months had made her appreciate even the smallest of comforts.

“No water, only rice wine, I’m afraid.” He settled on another pillow outside the cage, holding a bottle and two glasses. “Drink with caution. This has quite a kick.”

“Thank you.” The rice wine went rather well with the banana that she chose, and she welcomed the spreading warmth that unknotted tight muscles. She closed her eyes for a moment, reveling in the company of her own kind. “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten proper behavior. My name is Alexandra Warren, and I’m English.”

“I’m Gavin Elliott out of Boston, and master of a merchant ship.” He noted her gaze. “Ignore the uniform—it was designed only to dazzle.”

An American? Not quite as good as a fellow Briton, but close enough.

MaryJoPutney_TheWildChild800Actually, though Gavin considers himself American, he was born in Scotland, a fact which causes him trouble in this story.  Here are several reviewer quotes:

"a story you can't put down"—

"a hero to-die-for" —Suzanne Coleburn

"a finely crafted tale by a mistress of the genre"—Romantic Times, Kathe Robin

Click here to buy The Bartered Bride.

Books 1 and 2 of the trilogy, The Wild Child and The China Bride, are also available as MaryJoPutney_TheChinaBride800 e-books. These are some of my most sweeping, adventurous stories, and if you read them, I hope you enjoy the characters and their adventures as much as I enjoyed writing them.

I'll be giving away a free copy of The Bartered Bride to one commentor between now and midnight Thursday. Have you read Gavin and Alex's story? Do you want to?

Mary Jo, ending with her tagline for the Bride Trilogy:

Three extraordinary women,
    Three powerful men,
         Three passionate, unlikely marriages.