by Kathleen Bittner Roth
Series: When Hearts Dare #3
Pub. Date: Sept. 29, 2015
"Monsieur Andrews, welcome to my home."
At the smoky, velvet sound, Cameron swung around. Every function in his body—heart, breath, blood ceased to function.
She was lovely. More than lovely. Tendrils of raven hair framed a face so exquisite, it disarmed him. Her mouth, a soft, dewy pink, parted. And those eyes, as dark as Creole coffee, intelligent and assessing, roamed over him and then back to take hold of his.
He needed to step closer, to stroke her skin. To possess her. But would his wealth and worldly experience be a match for the free-spirited Cajun-born widow?
Across the oceans, between worlds old and new—two lost souls find themselves at a crossroads.
This story is set in the mid-19th Century in New Orleans... if I had a time machine, this is one of the times/places I would want to visit. Living in New Orleans, I love reading stories set here, particularly the historicals that are somewhat accurate and give a lot of the city's history. It would be awesome to go back to the time when Antoine's was still new, voodoo wasn't a tourist attraction, and the Cajun patios was abundant. Kudos to this author for doing her research and injecting so much of New Orleans' popular history into this story. Even the slow pace of the story was reminiscent of way of life here (this becomes readily apparent if you ever try to stay within your lunch "hour" at one of the popular restaurants in the Quarter!).
Cameron Andrews is part of the Andrews shipping magnate, and is stunned to learn that many years ago he fathered a daughter... who stowed aboard one of his ships to find him. Alexia was quite the character, always into mischief in a misguided effort to garner attention. I loved Cameron's character. He is grieving the passing of his wife and child and seems to be drifting through life lost. Alexia comes along and forces him into a situation that is sure to shake things up.
Alexia's aunt, Josette, is a creole beauty who married well and is now a widow living in a huge mansion in the Garden District. I had a great picture of Josette in my head, as this stoic beauty in her stately mansion, getting bullied and gossiped about around town for daring to better her circumstances and get out of the swamp.
Josette has loved Cameron since she was a child when he didn't know she was alive. She is standoffish with him now as she fears having her heart broken. Likewise Cameron is still overwrought with grief from losing his wife, and is not quite ready to let her go. So there was a lot of push and pull between the two as they fought their attraction.
I liked this story quite a bit, and didn't feel lost for not having read the first two installments of the series. I did feel that "Nawlins" was a bit overused at times, but the other cultural and historical aspects were well done and seemingly accurate from what I know of the city. This is a good read for people who like those slow southern historicals that really gets into the everyday lives of the characters.
I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Born in Minnesota, Kathleen Bittner Roth has lived all over the U.S.: Idaho, Washington, California, Texas and New York. Currently, she resides in Budapest, Hungary, often called the Paris of the East. Kathleen has won countless awards for her writing, including finaling in RWA's prestigious Golden Heart contest. She is an active member of Romance Writers of America, including the Hearts Through History chapter and has been a contributing editor for an online romance magazine as well as writing and producing successful seminars and meditation CDs.
You can learn more about Kathleen and her books at kathleenbittnerroth.com
“Mr. Andrews!” Joshua Cooper, carpetbag in hand, stepped smartly off the ship, but when his feet hit the deck, he weaved from side to side like a drunken sailor.
Cameron chuckled. “Still got your sea legs, I see.”
Cooper managed to stick out his hand and, with a grin, grasped Cameron’s and pumped it up and down. “Much as I love the sea, and everything about the shipping business, sir, I still end up thinking I’m afloat for a good three or four days after we’ve docked.”
He glanced around at the gray clapboard buildings lining the bayside wharf and at others branching out behind and along narrow streets. “Isn’t this a sight different from New Orleans?” His eyes narrowed at the new clouds forming overhead. “Not to mention the cooler weather.”
“It takes time, but you’ll get used to it. Whatever the conditions are at the moment, they can change fast. You’ll soon learn to carry an umbrella with you as a matter of course.” Cameron gave a nod toward a large white building emblazoned with a green roof to his left. “That’s the Morgan Hotel. Go ahead and get yourself settled in. We’ll meet over dinner there and discuss permanent lodgings for you.”
“Thank you, sir. Until this evening, then.” Cooper trotted down the street.
Cameron folded his arms over his chest and turned to the boy standing beside him. He stared at the top of a capcovered head. “What’s your name?”
With the way he cast his eyes to his boots and scuffed a toe against the dock, Cameron would bet the scamp was lying. “Straighten up and look me in the eye, boy. How old are you?”
The lad lifted his head and, with a cocky attitude that nearly made Cameron laugh, folded his arms across his chest, arrogantly mirroring Cameron’s stance. “Old ’nuff.”
“Is that so?” What the devil was he supposed to do with this ne’er-do-well until the clipper destined for New Orleans set sail? He surveyed Alex, from his threadbare clothing, to his worn shoes, which appeared a few sizes too large. A shaft of compassion shot through him. “Were you looking for a little adventure? Is that what made you stow away? Or was the law after you?”
“Non.” “Were you running away from someone who mistreated you?”
“Non.” Alex assessed Cameron in the exact same manner as he’d been surveyed, slow and easy. Completing his mock appraisal, his gaze settled back on Cameron’s, where it held steady. A smirk curled one corner of his mouth. “I had a fair good reason for hoppin’ aboard your fine vessel asides finding me a good time.”
He spoke in that lyrical Cajun French that made even the most evil of epithets roll off a tongue like a sweet lullaby. Unease spread through Cameron. Was he in charge or had the boy just taken over? Wily little thing.
“Since my stomach is playing fiddle with my backbone, the sooner you tell me why you stowed on one of my ships without a never-you-mind, the sooner I can get a meal. Are you hungry?”
“Oui. I could use me a bite.”
He’d have to take Alex to the public baths before they’d dare venture into the hotel. “Not until you wash away that stink and get into some clean clothes. There’s a mercantile down the street where we can pick up a change of clothing. And then you can bloody well have a bath before eating. Got any money?”
That smirk again. “Non, but you fair do.”
Cameron grunted. “Brilliant. After a free trip halfway around the world, you expect me to supply you with clothing as well?”
“Sumpin’ like dat.”
Bloody hell, he couldn’t just leave a lad this far from home to wander. “Is San Francisco where you intended to land?”
“So what was your purpose in coming here?”
Alex grinned, flashing a set of fine white teeth, but the look in his eye turned flinty. “I came lookin’ for my papa.” The boy rocked back on his heels, his arms still crossed over his chest. “And it looks like I done found you.”
“Me?” A bark of laughter left Cameron’s throat. He peered into sharp, amber eyes fringed top and bottom with dark lashes. A chill snaked through him. If he looked in the mirror, he’d see the same damn thing. But that was impossible.
“You’re coming with me.” He dug his fingers into the boy’s dirty jacket and headed him toward the mercantile. “Davey, I’m off to lunch. Tell the captain I’ll see him and Cooper at eight, over dinner at the Morgan.”
“Aye,” Davey called back.