ORDER A COPY: The Convict’s Bounty Bride
Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises Australia
Publishing Date: March 1, 2013
eBook: 52 pages
Rating: 4 pages
Life as a convict in an Australian penal colony was brutal, but James Hunter had theadvantages of raw physical strength and courage on his side. He survived, and now he isback; a self‐made man of means, determined to take the bride he was promised.
Lady Thea Willers knows nothing of the bargain her father made to save her brother, nordoes she have any interest in marriage. It might be a radical idea, but what Thea wants is acareer.
The revelation that her brother’s liberty depends on her marrying James Hunter isdevastating. But nothing, it seems, has the power to shake Thea’s world upside down likeJames himself, or the way he makes her feel.
James Hunter is back in England after serving seven years of hard labor in an Australian penal colony. While down under, he has earned himself a fortune but even a rich ex-convict has a hard time breaking into society. He has come back to claim the bride promised him when he agreed to take the fall for the Earl’s foolish son. Although he hopes the Earl’s daughter might be a pretty thing, he is more interested in the status he will finally gain by returning with a wife of breeding.
When James finally meets Lady Thea Willers, he is surprised to find that she is not only beautiful but she is spirited and intelligent as well. She is also quick witted and cunning, especially in her attempts to avoid the alter. She would be a perfect wife for him, and an asset working by his side. He begins to hope that they might have a marriage that is more than obligation, except Thea isn’t sure she is interested in fulfilling her father’s obligation to James.
Thea doesn’t want a husband. She was educated and brought up to think for herself. She wants a career. She wants to be useful, not just a piece of fluff to be paraded out by some husband and kept to breed out an heir. James seems different then the men her mother is constantly throwing her at, but can she trust that a life with him could afford her an opportunity to be the woman she wants to be.
When fate intervenes to keep them apart, will they fight for the future that might just bring them the happiness that has alluded them both or will all be lost?
Let me set the scene for you on this one – I was out with my kids, playing chauffer, reading my story. I get to an interesting part of the story, but it’s time to head home so I put my book away. While driving home, I kept thinking about what kind of interesting thing will happen once we get to Australia. Will there be a business rival for James who will cause trouble? Will Thea become fond of her home? Will she be accepted? Will a jealous rival try to break them apart? Once I get home, I get my coffee, sit in my comfy reading chair and find my place…then I turn the page and it won’t go any further. At first, I thought there was a problem with my download. No! This is only a short story of 52 pages! This is the problem with an eReader. Unless you check first, you don’t know how long a story is or sometimes you think you still have 20 pages left and it turns out to be a promo for the next book in a series. Frustrating!
I can’t tell you how pissed off I was when it ended. I was really enjoying the characters in this story. Thea was an intelligent and spirited woman. She was clever in her subtle sabotages to her reputation so that prospective husbands would walk away from the willful and peculiar woman. She wasn’t about to submit to her father’s promise without getting to know James and determine what her life would be with him. James made a few brief references to his life in Australia and as a convict. I was looking forward to more details about his life, about his farm, and the people he is attempting to socialize with. I love the occasional romance that is about two people getting to know each other and finding out how much they really like the person they are with.
This story needs a Book #2 continuation taking us to Australia and seeing the life they make together and the trials they work through.
For a short story, it certainly gave a lot but it left me wanting a whole lot more. 🙁
Received an ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“What makes you think that I wished to be apprehended?”
“You had no cover, the gaslight in this corner is bright, and the establishment is well patronized,” he said, identifying all the aspects Thea had taken into account before attempting to execute the maneuver.
“That’s most astute of you, Mr. Hunter.”
“So, you did hope to be observed?”
Flummoxed, she had given him the truth before she had the presence of mind to substitute it with something less incriminating, like wanting to liven up the evening. A practical joke, even, would have been a more plausible excuse.
Heavens, what was wrong with her?
“May I ask why?”
Thea took a breath, willing her pulse to steady. How should she reply to that? She had already admitted she wanted to be caught.
“To be cast out of polite society.”
Mr. Hunter roared, bursting out with an unexpectedly melodious laugh. Thea hadn’t meant to reveal anything to this man, and yet, it was as if with one look he had stripped her down to her chemise and extracted the truth from her.
“Why? I thought a woman would sooner saw off a limb than to relinquish her position in the ton.”
There was no point lying now. She had practically told him everything anyway. She might as well come clean.
“To ensure that I remain a spinster.”
One corner of Mr. Hunter’s mouth rose in half suppressed amusement.
“Surely a lady as comely as you wouldn’t want to wither and die an old prune without knowing the pleasures of the flesh. While you’re still succulent that is,” he said with a meaningful glance down to her breasts.
She drew a hand up to her chest instinctively, as if his stare had the power to burn. Warmth spread out from her middle, rushing to the surface where the feeling skittered out across her skin. She wished she had brought the fan she had jettisoned in favor of fitting the flask into her purse. Men often praised her beauty. Such comments were neither here nor there. She would much rather have been complimented for the sharpness of her mind, but nevertheless, for once, Mr. Hunter’s comment left her speechless.
“If you wish to be ejected from society, why not just lay down your maidenhead to a suitable rake? That way you would at least not die a virgin, assuming, of course, you are still pure?”
Who did he think he was questioning her virtue, let alone referring to her maidenhead in polite company? Irritation pricked like a burr caught in her stocking, and the words that had temporarily deserted her came flooding back. She tilted her chin towards him, determined not to allow his impudence to pass unchallenged.
“Is that an offer, Mr. Hunter?”
“Is that a request, m’lady?
She had expected him to demur, but instead he stepped forward into the space usually reserved for family and intimate friends; close enough that she could sense the heat from his body. His voice was even, his eyes tinkling in with devilment. Broad and weathered, the image of him stripped down to his shirtsleeves labouring over some manual task flashed through her mind. Within a few seconds her senses seemed to have heightened a hundred-fold. Mr. Hunter’s sudden and brash movement into her proximity was sending odd sensations fluttering beneath her skirts.
Thea hated backing down from a challenge, but the man’s expression indicated that he would be only too willing to oblige if she called his bluff.
She took a hesitant step back to widen the space between them.
“Yes, I am pure. And even though it’s none of your business, I did consider my total social disgrace as an option, but rejected it on the basis that I might be forced to marry the cad.”
“Well, well, what a conundrum.”
Mr. Hunter tugged at his neckcloth as if he were unaccustomed to wearing it. Her attention was drawn to strange red marks curling from the top of his collar. The scars licked at his hairline.
Like the mark of the Satan.
Mr. Hunter’s eyes glinted. He didn’t appear the least bit apologetic for ruining her scheme. If anything, he obviously found the whole situation comical. Now, thanks to this man, she needed to obtain more cognac or think of another way to engineer her social disgrace.
She thrust back her shoulders.
“I’m not at all sure what you find so humorous, Mr. Hunter. Due to your chivalrous intervention, I am now inconvenienced to either try again or come up with another plan altogether.” She jerked the drawstring of her reticule tight, her purse dropping heavily at her side.
“In that case, I must act soon, while you are still a candidate.”
“A candidate for what?”