The second book in the Vallerand series, written in 1992.
The newlywed bride of a Creole aristocrat, Celia Vallerand prays for deliverance from the bloodthirsty brigands who abducted her from a New Orleans-bound schooner. Though she believes her beloved husband slain and despairs for her own life, the shy French beauty fears above all the dashing privateer who pays a king’s ransom to claim her … and boldly risks capture to possess her. The most notorious pirate of the open seas, he is called ‘The Griffin’, a rugged and powerful renegade who arouses within Celia desires as dangerous as they are irresistible. But the magnificent adventurer is a man trapped in a perilous deception – and he guards a shocking secret that could deny him the love of the gossamer-haired enchantress who stirs his manly passions and enslaves his heart.
Just when Philippe Vallerand and his shy French bride Celia are about to finally consummate their marriage, their ship is under attack from pirates. Philippe leaves Celia with a pistol to kill herself if her cabin is raided, but when that time arrives, she just can’t kill herself. She wants to live! She kills one of the pirates instead, and is dragged onto the deck, where she sees all the crew and passengers slaughtered, including Philippe. She throws herself upon him only to be dragged away again, to see Philippe tossed into the sea, with the other bodies.
The pirate captain, Dominic Legare, decides to take her with him as a present for his brother André. So with the other looted goods she is stowed in the storage rooms in the pirates ship, with the rats and a cat to keep her company till they reach the pirate’s island.
Another pirate captain, ‘The Griffin’ hears about her claim to be a Vallerand, and he tries to buy her from his collegue. But as André Legare really wants to have the woman, he is denied. A fight over her ownership breaks out, and the Griffin wins. But Legare doesn’t play honestly, of course, so The Griffin rescues her in the nick of time from André’s deprived ideas of sex. They manage to escape the island, but as André is murdered, The Griffin knows he will never be safe of Dominic Legare’s revenge. Still he is determined to take Celia to her family, but not for nothing. He desires her, and he is determined to have her. After all, she is a widow now.
Celia fights him, but to no avail. And she even finds pleasure in his arms, something she never thought could happen. She loves Philippe! And still, there is something familiar about this man. His first name is Justin, but it doesn’t ring any bells and Justin seems disappointed about that fact. She wants to know his secret, but he won’t tell her till they safely reach the plantation of the Vallerands in New Orleans. There she finds out, that Justin is Philippe’s twin brother. How can that be? Philippe is the ultimate gentleman, kind, gentle, loves poetry and is a doctor. And Justin is a savage, a pirate, a scavenger, caring for no one but himself! She hates him!
When months later, Justin is delivered home by his crew, he is badly wounded, and Celia is compelled to care for him, to nurse him back to health. Her presence is the one thing that soothes him, she is the only one who can make him take his medicine and food. What is this strange bond between them? Maximilian and Lysette Vallerand are happy to have Justin back, especially when they have just lost Philippe. To keep him safe from the militairy, Justin will have to pretend to be Philippe, escaped from the pirates clutches. And that means, Celia will have to play being his loving wife! It doesn’t take long for that play to become truth, and Celia is torn with her own feelings.
The Dominic Legare tells them, Philippe is not dead, yet. And he will exchange him for his brother. Celia doesn’t want Philippe back, she wants Justin, but Justin will go through with it. He knows the island, he has made a plan to escape and take his revenge on Dominic Legare both.
Will Celia be able to convince Philippe to give her up to his brother? Or will he hold her to her marriage vows? She has changed in the past months, but for him time has stood still while being imprisoned.
I had this books lying on my shelves for some time now, as I am not that much into pirates. But I loved this story. The drama of the lovestories, and the historical facts, the life of Creoles in that time. To visit again with Max and Lysette, and find out more about their lives. The passion they all have. And how a good woman can change a man, make him want to live instead of uncaring for anything. Risking his own life because he doesn’t care if he dies or not, as long as he enjoys himself doing it.
Celia grows in her character, from a shy young woman into one strong enough to fight for the man she loves. Even in the roughest time, she doesn’t break, she survives.
Another great book by one of my favourite authors. I love her historicals, her contemporary not so much.