Condemned & Admired: The Earl’s Cunning Wife (Love’s Second Chance Book 9)
by Bree Wolf
A French privateer’s daughter. A marquess’s son.
And a chance encounter on the high seas.
Twelve years ago, Lady Silcox fled England with her six-year-old daughter Violet to spare her the life she herself had been forced into: an arranged marriage to an older man.
Today, VIOLET WINTERS is a grown woman sailing the seas on her French stepfather’s privateer, dreaming of commandeering a ship of her own. However, when she stumbles upon a betrothal announcement of the man she was set to marry, Violet cannot help but feel honour-bound to protect the woman who had been forced to take her place.
Fortune smiles on Violet and delivers an English lord into her hands – and with him the chance to return to England unrecognised.
OLIVER CORNELL, EARL OF CULLINGWOOD, is trapped in a life he abhors. Not seen as a son, but merely an heir, he dreams of sailing the seas, the epitome of freedom.
By sheer happenstance, Oliver ends up on a merchant vessel, which is promptly boarded by a French privateer. On board the Chevalier Noir, Oliver meets the captain’s daughter, a woman unlike any other he has ever met. Utterly fascinated by the adventurous gleam in her eyes, he does not hesitate to offer his assistance when Violet finds herself in need of a guide to London’s upper society.
Revelling in his first taste of adventure, Oliver poses as her husband…only to realise before long that posing as her husband will not be good enough.
Can a privateer’s daughter and a marquess’s son ever have a happily-ever-after? Or is their love doomed to fail?
Giveaway question: Have you ever lived on borrowed time?
Once the last course had been cleared off the table, the circle of friends moved into the ballroom where–to Violette’s surprise–they found a young man seating himself at the pianoforte.
“Shall we begin with a waltz?” Oliver asked, winking at Violette as he reached for her hand.
Chuckles rose from the others as they all turned toward their spouses, eyes filled with deep emotions as they looked at one another.
The man at the pianoforte began to play, and Violette took note of the impeccable way the other two couples began to move across the empty dance floor. A lump settled in her stomach, and a hint of panic raced through her veins.
“Look at me,” Oliver said, his voice strong, as he pulled her into his arms. “Don’t look at them,” he whispered when their eyes met. “You can do this. We can do this.”
Doing her best to remember the steps, Violette allowed Oliver to guide her to the soft notes of the music, her gaze dropping down to her feet again and again.
“Look at me,” Oliver repeated, pulling her against his chest so that she was no longer able to see her feet.
Violette glared at him. “I should think this is rather inappropriate,” she commented, trying her best to keep her voice from losing its seriousness. “What will the lords and ladies of the ton think?”
Oliver grinned. “That I’m very fond of my wife.”
Violette suppressed a laugh. “Be serious.”
“I am.” His gaze held hers, and suddenly there was no mockery in the way he looked at her.
Inhaling a deep breath, Violette could feel his fingers tracing intricate patterns across her back where his hand rested gently, and yet, insistently while his other closed more tightly around her own. There was something in his eyes. Something that spoke of deep longing, and yet, he seemed peaceful, satisfied with the place he had found in life.
At least for the moment.
Violette felt her heart skip a beat as she tried to interpret the emotions that were dancing over Oliver’s face, and a touch of panic crept up her spine. Although she was far from disinclined–in fact, rather curious–from exploring a physical relationship with her fake husband, Violette knew that anything more would only lead to complications.
After all, his place was here in London as the future marquess while her own was out at sea. No amount of wishful thinking could change that.
No matter what they felt, what might come of the time they spent together pretending to be husband and wife, in the end, they would have to go their separate ways.
Averting her gaze, Violette looked over Oliver’s shoulder, refusing to meet his gaze as he tried to re-establish the connection they had had. The connection that had made her realise that the greatest danger on this endeavour was not to have her secret revealed, but to lose her heart to a man who could never share her life.
When the music stopped, there was a moment when Violette looked up and saw not only confusion but also a touch of fear in Oliver’s eyes. Had he felt it, too? She wondered. Had he just now realised the same thing? That they lived on borrowed time?
What a fantastic historical fiction/romance! I am new to the series, so I was relieved to know this could be read as a standalone! Getting to know Violette and Oliver was a perfect way to spend the day!
Violette is swept away from the life that was dictated to her by her cold, unfeeling father, Viscount Silcox, one dark night by her strong, protective mother and a French privateer. Years later, her mother and stepfather, that French privateer who whisked them away, have given her a life of freedom to make her own choices. England is a lifetime away until one day all that changes when a prisoner and a notice of a upcoming wedding change everything, and she finds herself back in the possible crosshairs of her unfeeling father.
Oliver dreams of a life outside the stuffy, regimented society of England that comes with being an Earl. He can never live up to his father’s standards, but he doesn’t believe he has the courage to take control over his own destiny that is until he becomes the prisoner of Violette and her family on a French sea vessel.
This is a couple destined to be together even though all odds are against them. When Oliver agrees to help Violette by posing as her husband, all bets are off. I liked both of them as individuals so I adored them as a couple. She helps him embrace his passionate, adventurous side all the while helping him find the freedom he craves. He shows her another side of life beside the open sea…a life full of love and support. He truly sees her as an equal, and he treats her as such.
This wasn’t just your ordinary historical romance. Violette wasn’t a damsel in distress, and she didn’t need a hero to save her because she was the hero. I just LOVED that concept. Yes, Oliver was a support, but they were equals which is a couple ahead of their time during that era.
Underlying all the romance, intrigue, and adventure was the theme of family and what constitutes a family…is it blood or relationships? Wolf does an amazing job of showing her readers that blood doesn’t make a family as you will clearly see in this novel, but it’s the love and relationships you form with others that make up a family.
I highly recommend reading if you love historical fiction/romance, and I recommend reading even if this genre isn’t your cup of tea. You might just become a fan after reading a Bree Wolf novel!
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USA Today bestselling author Bree Wolf has always been a language enthusiast (though not a grammarian!) and is rarely found without a book in her hand or her fingers glued to a keyboard. Trying to find her way, she has taught English as a second language, traveled abroad and worked at a translation agency as well as a law firm in Ireland. She also spent loooong years obtaining a BA in English and Education and a MA in Specialized Translation while wishing she could simply be a writer. Although there is nothing simple about being a writer, her dreams have finally come true.
“A big thanks to my fairy godmother!”
Currently, Bree has found her new home in the historical romance genre, writing Regency novels and novellas. Enjoying the mix of fact and fiction, she occasionally feels like a puppet master (or mistress? Although that sounds weird!), forcing her characters into ever-new situations that will put their strength, their beliefs, their love to the test, hoping that in the end they will triumph and get the happily-ever-after we are all looking for.
If you’re an avid reader, sign up for Bree’s newsletter at http://www.breewolf.com as she has the tendency to simply give books away. Find out about freebies, giveaways as well as occasional advance reader copies and read before the book is even on the shelves!
Q & A with Bree Wolf
As a writer of historical fiction, is there a lot of research involved when developing a story?
I suppose that depends on your definition of “a lot”. Before I even started writing my first novel in the (pre-)regency period, I naturally did extensive research on peerage, titles, inheritance, marriage, divorce (not really an option those days!), formal etiquette, etc., etc. Now, with each new book added to the series, I get to research a little something new, like the how-to of fencing, all things Scottish, dueling and now privateering (a legal form of piracy). That’s always exciting!
Is there a certain time period in history that is your favorite? If so, what would that be?
The regency era is among my favorites as it provides a very specific setting. There are fixed rules for ladies and gentlemen (more so for ladies, of course!), which do not allow for much wriggle room. Or do they? In truth, I believe that boundaries create opportunities, and I love writing about extraordinary people who find a way around the rules in order to claim their happily-ever-after.
Do you have any other genre you like to read?
While historical romance is undoubtedly my favorite, I also love variations of it. Adding a bit of a mythical theme to history as in adaptations of the tales of King Arthur, for example. In book four in my novel series, Abandoned & Protected, Henrietta travels to Scotland and comes into contact with people who possess certain abilities. As I generally don’t include supernatural concepts, it is only hinted at, and every reader can draw their own conclusion.
I know you have traveled abroad, is there any one place that is your favorite? If so, where, and why was it your favorite?
Well, I’m partial to the Celtic countries as they’re steep in the kind of history that usually gets my creative juices flowing. I cannot set foot in Ireland (my favorite!) without feeling my thoughts whisked away on yet a new adventure. Also the landscape is simply breathtaking and provides a wonderful and more relaxed (compared to London!) backdrop to these love stories. It feels like anything is possible, something I like to bring across in my novels.
This new book begins with a privateer? Were any of the characters based on anyone in history?
Not particularly. Naturally, I researched privateering in Europe in the early 19th century, but also broadened my research when it became clear that by then privateering was already on a descending branch. Still, I was more taken with what privateering could represent in that era. Again, opportunity to decide one’s own fate. To bend the rules…or break them. Freedom. These are major themes in my newest novel, which is why I chose a setting on the high seas. It seemed fitting.