on January 2nd 2018
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Captain Robert Ashton, Earl of Darington, knows finding a bride in London will not be easy—not since he has been notoriously dubbed as the "Pirate Earl". What he didn't expect was to get abducted—and to have his escape go horribly awry when an innocent lady gets caught in the crossfire.
Amateur physician Emma St. James is on her way to meet her betrothed when she is rescued by an injured gentleman. Despite her shock after discovering he is the Pirate Earl, Emma feels drawn to the man who saved her life. Duty forces them apart, but when they meet again on the high seas, Darington will risk all—his fortune, his name, and even his life to keep her safe.
Emma watched in horror as her protector fell to the ground. She raced to him, kneeling in the mud beside him. She lifted his head out of the icy sludge and rested it in her lap. She drew back his greatcoat, searching for injuries. She did not have to go far before she found a large stain of dark-red blood on his waistcoat.
She put a hand to his chest and was relieved to find him still breathing. He appeared to have lost a good deal of blood, and Emma surmised the wound was not fresh. The man was a gentleman by the quality of his clothes. She surmised he must have fallen prey to her vile attackers earlier that day, though how he had come to be entangled with such company and what connection, if any, he had to her step-brother was a question for later. The most pressing need was to save his life.
“Sally, bring the luggage. My medicine kit is inside.” Emma glanced up at Sally, who appeared frozen in place—her eyes wide, her mouth open in horror. “Sally!” Emma repeated, allowing a rare sharpness into her tone. “Bring the luggage immediately.”
Sally blinked. “Yes, miss.” She ran around to the far side of the coach, where the luggage had been tied to the top.
Emma shuddered in the cold of the night. Their attackers’ coach remained on the road, the horses’ breath visible in the pale light of the coach lantern. She needed to get her injured protector inside and somehow drive them all to the next hamlet to get help. To do any of this, she first needed to revive the gentleman.
“Here, miss.” Sally returned with all the luggage, dragging Emma’s large trunk and carrying her own small bandbox.
“Thank you, that is very helpful.” Emma wasted no time in opening her father’s medical bag and finding a vial of smelling salts, waving it under the man’s nose. The man started and opened his eyes with a gasp.
“I am Miss Emma St. James. A pleasure to meet you.”
“I am Dare…” murmured the man, his voice trailing off into something inaudible.
Emma smiled at the man. She was not sure what sort of name ‘Dare’ was, but it did seem an apt description. “I am sorry for the rude manner of your awakening, but you have been injured and we cannot tarry.” Emma spoke plainly and pleasantly, as she had found injured people needed hope and a calm presence.
“Go,” the man croaked. “You need to find safety.”
“I will not leave you.”
“You need to go!” said the man in a stronger voice, his dark eyes blazing with intensity. He had angular features with dark-brown hair tied back in a queue. She might have been afraid had she not been cradling his head in her lap.
“I will not leave you here to die in the road,” said Emma firmly. “What a poor way to repay your kindness. I could never live with myself. So we will either leave together or stay here together.” As she spoke, she grabbed some bandages from her bag and pressed them to his wound, wrapping a bandage around his blood-soaked clothes.
The man inhaled sharply through his teeth as she pressed hard against the wound. “Sorry,” she murmured. “This will stop some of the bleeding, but you need a doctor.”
“Your life is in danger,” the man croaked, rousing himself to a seated position beside her.
“My life? Did my brother send these men to kill me?” Emma gasped.
“Your brother? No, those men are after me.”
“After you? But why would my brother be after you?”
They stared at each other, his eyes mirroring the confusion she felt.
“Can we l-leave n-now?” asked a shivering Sally through chattering teeth.
“Yes, let us get Mr. Dare to his feet. If we can get him to the carriage, I can attempt to drive us to safety.”
Between the two of them and the man’s own efforts, they were able to raise him to his feet. He was a tall man, muscular but thin, which was fortunate in getting him back upright.
“Let us get you to the coach and—”
The man lying near them let out a long, low groan. At the same time, a man cried out from the coach with a string of curses. “That bastard stuck me. Help! I’m bleeding like a stuck pig. Where are you lubbers?”
Emma’s heart pounded in her throat. There was another man in the coach. The man in black, the one she thought her rescuer had shot dead, also groaned and moved on the ground. Sally let out a short shriek that was silenced by Dare, who clamped a hand over her mouth. He looked back at the hedgerows. Emma nodded in understanding. Crouching to avoid being seen, they crept off the road and into the bushes.
You can follow the Daring Marriages series on Goodreads.
~~Reviewed by Amy~~
I fell in love with this series from the first book. I adored the tough, smart, and loyal Lady Kate. Knowing what she and her twin brother, Robert, endured as children made me want to see them both find happiness. I was anxious for Robert’s story. Especially so because Robert was known as the Pirate Earl. Who doesn’t love a good pirate romance? All that danger, swashbuckling, and romancing on the high seas! And I was not disappointed. There are so many threads woven into this story creating an exciting tale of betrayal, revenge, and love. And there’s even a sunken treasure involved!
Robert Ashton, Earl of Darington and his twin sister, Lady Katherine, were essentially orphaned and briefly sent to debtor’s prison at age 12. An unknown enemy had stolen everything from them and so Robert, Dare, had taken to the high seas to restore the family coffers. He’d become a feared privateer. Somber and steady, and never failing to take his prize. He loved the sea. But it was time to find a wife. Dare found the high seas less treacherous than society but knew, as Earl of Darington, he had no choice.
Emma St. James had enjoyed her life making rounds with and assisting her father, a doctor and surgeon. After his death, Emma lived with her step mother and step brother who served as trustees of her father’s, and now her, estate. Emma would soon come into her majority, inheriting everything. But it seemed her step mother and step brother had plans for her. Plans that involved Emma marrying her horrid step brother. Plans Emma wanted no part of. When Emma refused, her step brother began efforts to have her committed. Knowing women had no power in a man’s world, Emma planned to flee and marry a man she’d never met.
And that’s where the adventure began. When Dare’s sister, Kate, was kidnapped, Dare chased after them. Circumstances threw Emma and Dare together and Dare, though injured, saved Emma’s life. But the danger only escalated. It seemed Dare and Emma were both being pursued by nefarious forces. So Dare and Emma find themselves traveling through England and onto the high seas. Trying to evade one danger while pursuing another. All the while their attraction to one another is growing. Neither knew what to call the strange sensations they felt around each other but they were willing to risk anything to explore it further.
This story was a non-stop, action-packed adventure. I loved Dare and Emma. They were the perfect match for one another. Emma was tough, brave, and resourceful. She’d assisted her father growing up and was an excellent doctor. She was able to stay in control in situations that would cower most men. She was an innocent though. She’d been more or less isolated growing up since her step mother wanted to ensure she didn’t marry. Her attraction to and feelings for Dare confused her at times. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thoughts that went through her head when she’d admire Dare’s physique. I loved her optimism too. She chose to see each obstacle as a chance for adventure. “Real life adventures were much more uncomfortable and messy than reading about them in books, but Emma was no less enthralled.” No matter the dangers ahead, Emma had faith they’d see it through. Through Emma, Dare found faith too. Dare was absolutely darling. He wasn’t comfortable making small talk with women and felt completely clueless when it came to wooing one. Yet with Emma, he was oddly content. Unless he fixated on her curves, then he became tongue tied again. He may not have been a master of conversation, but some of his proclamations to Emma were more romantic than any sonnet. It was obvious they cared for one another but Dare didn’t want the danger that was following them to touch Emma. And as the danger increased, the odds of surviving weren’t high. Dare was prepared to risk everything, even his life, to keep Emma safe. And Emma was determined to take that risk right alongside him.
The characters of Dare and Emma are brilliantly crafted and will win your heart from the beginning. This was a grand tale I could not put down. A fascinating story with superb writing, intriguing plot, a strong but haunted hero, and a heroine with enough gumption and faith for both of them. I can’t wait to see what comes next in this series!
I voluntarily reviewed an Advanced Readers Copy of this book.