Thursday, January 16, 2014

REVIEW: By Love's Honor Bound by Patricia Bond


Someone is killing Conductors on the Underground Railroad one by one. With a cellar full of runaway slaves, Olivia June Mathieson must decide - is the handsome Fenton Pierce-Smythe savior or traitor?

Both Fenton Pierce-Smythe’s fiancee and grandfather were killed when runaway slaves spooked their horses. Determined no one else will face that pain, he hunts runaways to return them safely to their owners. But can he remain unmoved by their plight? And unaffected by the beautiful
woman who risks her life to lead them to freedom?


God, it was awful.
The whiskey was bad enough, and the stench of sour ale, unwashed bodies, and horse hung in the air like a sail in a calm, but this caterwauling could bring a strong man to his knees.
The girl was pretty, Fenton acknowledged. Remarkably so. She had blond ringlets, brown eyes, and a pair of delicate rosy lips pursed in an invitingly kissable shape. But, the noise coming from them was enough to make one wish for a fence full of toms serenading their lady love.
He closed his eyes and raked his fingers through his hair, praying for the singing to stop. Fenton Pierce-Smythe considered himself a patient man, unflappable and usually tolerant of his fellow man. Truly, though, this was testing even his limits.
Temperance songs were far from popular fare. Especially in taverns. Reactions ranged from drunken jeers and catcalls to being ignored. Fenton admired her courage though, both for her attempt to redeem the souls of his fellow patrons, and for her actually singing with that voice. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, wishing he had the guts to put his fingers in his ears instead.
The singing came to an end, praise God. He opened his eyes to see the object of his fantasies heading his way with a coffeepot. As she approached, the color of her eyes became clearer, a deep, rich brown capable of drowning a man as surely as sable invited one's touch. Many souls had been lost for less. He watched her serve coffee at the next table. Then she was right there, standing by his table.
“Save your soul, sir, and give up the devil's libation.”
He raised a brow and looked from his glass to her face, then slowly smiled. “Only if you'll stay with me and keep me from temptation.”
Her blush charmed him. “I-I c-can't. I must try to save all of you.” Her gaze flitted around the room, unable to land on any one place before returning to his face.
“Most of these poor sods could care less about saving their souls,” he said. “As soon as you leave, the whiskey will flow freely again. Wouldn't you rather know you've saved one soul, than try to redeem many and fail?”
She stood there, speechless, which was a pity, for however horrendous her singing was, she spoke with a voice smooth and deep as velvet.
“Join me?” he asked, rising halfway and pulling a chair out from the table.
“I can't,” she repeated. “Please, take some coffee instead.” She reached behind her for a chipped cup from a tray her companion held, and then took a step forward. Her foot hooked on the leg of the chair he had been bringing out for her, and she lurched forward. As she tried to catch herself on the back of the chair, the hand holding the coffeepot drooped down, pouring the hot liquid directly onto his lap and thigh.
Fenton yelped and jumped up as the coffee ran over him. His eyes cleared from the mist of pain in time for him to see the horror on her face. She looked as if she were about to cry. “I'm sorry,” he heard himself say, and wondered why he was apologizing. It was his manhood and parental possibilities that were at risk here.
From habit, his hand moved to his pocket for a handkerchief instead of reaching for the kerchief tied around his neck. He was immediately grateful he remembered to leave his monogrammed handkerchief at home. Plucking at the cloth of his rough trousers, he tried to get the warm fabric away from his skin. She was still staring at him, and despite his discomfort, he found himself thinking about the feel of her soft lips on his. Her chin trembled, ending his reverie.
“I'm all right,” he assured her, even though his thigh still hurt like hell, and the rest of him . . .
Her eyes sparkled though her smile was watery. “Are you sure?” she asked.
Well . . . “Truly.” He nodded. What the hell? He didn't want to make her feel too guilty. He doubted he was permanently impaired.
“I'm so glad,” she said in a rush. “I really thought I had hurt you. Would you like some coffee?” She brandished the pot in his general direction. He quickly side-stepped away from her.
“I think I've had all I care for, tonight. Thank you just the same.” He restrained himself from grabbing the pot from her hand before she could come close again.
“You're not from around here,” she stated, studying him. “Not many sailors come this far away from the Potomac. What are you doing here?”
Ah, well. Yes, what was he doing here? Looking for someone who was running slaves to the north, that's what, but it was decidedly unhealthy to make that kind of information available. Still, perhaps the girl might know someone. “I was told there was a captain here, looking for crewmen. I hoped I could find him, and sign on.”

Not bad as lies went. In truth, he was looking for a captain, and had been told that one of the “conductors” codenames was Captain. He watched her face intently. Her tears threatened to fall and he handed her the kerchief he'd used to wipe his leg.
Olivia June Mathieson, Livvy to her friends, took the proffered cloth, acutely aware of the paper in her pocket. The note from Dragonslayer was very specific. Was this man the Marauder? He'd given Jedidiah's codename, but not the password she'd expected.

He was, he admitted grandly, ever so slightly foxed.
Hell, what would you expect after spending the entire evening in a tavern drinking cheap whiskey? As he stepped outside, the cold night air struck him in the face like a loose sail, and he knew he'd have a devil of a headache tomorrow.
And for what? The night had been an abysmal failure. He hadn't found out one thing about the Underground Railroad here. Nor had he heard anything about any runaways. It had been a total waste of precious time, except perhaps for that blond.
He smiled as he walked unsteadily to his horse, thinking of the girl. She'd been eye-catching, no doubt. The memory of her silken speaking voice washed over him and he found himself thinking of the “O” her mouth had made when she'd poured the coffee on him. The soft pucker just begged to be kissed.
But, that coffee! He grimaced as he ran his hand over his thigh and the front of his trousers. They were dry now, but he was still a tad tender to the touch. Thank God he'd been quick enough to escape most of the hot liquid.
He reached his horse, Thunderbolt. Stupid name for a horse that ran slow as molasses in winter. He'd received the animal for his sixteenth birthday, and had chosen the name with visions of a dashing hero dancing in his head. He'd seen himself riding through storm-tossed nights, rescuing fair damsels in distress, and receiving his loving rewards from them. Of course, he'd been sixteen, and his blood had run as hot and randy as any young man's.
Now, at the ripe old age of twenty-nine, he'd learned fair damsels seldom needed rescuing. And especially not by a man named Fenton, riding the slowest thunderbolt known to nature.
Damn, he'd never liked his name. Fenton. He snorted, wishing to hell his mother had never read that silly novel. Why couldn't he be named something dashing like Drake, or historical, like George or Alexander? Or even biblical, like Abraham. At least those were names that engendered respect. But Fenton? For God's sake!  
He swayed slightly while his clumsy fingers worked to untie the reins. With a wry smile, he admitted to himself that having that name taught him a lot about self-defense. He'd had to fight his way through school from the time he wore short pants. Still fumbling with the reins, he wondered if his young temperance singer could give herself to a man named Fenton.
Testing the sensitivity of his thigh again, he found he could touch it almost without pain now, although even in the dark he could see a definite stain from the coffee. He'd had to put up with a lot of ribbing in the tavern. His fellow drinkers had made numerous comments regarding his ability to control himself around beautiful women. It had taken all his control to laugh along with them instead of smashing in a face or two.
After several frustrating minutes, he finally managed to loosen the reins. He didn't remember leaving them in such a muddle when he'd gotten here. Someone must have been playing a joke, he decided, untangling the leather from around his fingers.
He led the horse to an open area, lifted his foot to the stirrup . . . and missed. Thunderbolt nickered softly and Fenton patted the animal's neck. “C'mon, Bolt. There's a good boy.” He felt the first drops of rain start to fall. Great. More rain. Just what he needed. He didn't care at all for the idea of riding the thirty miles back to Baltimore in a rainstorm.
He raised his foot again, and missed the stirrup a second time. “Dammit, stand still!” he hissed in an annoyed whisper.
Thunderbolt turned his head and snorted into his master's face.
Fenton was ready to try once more when he heard a vaguely familiar feminine voice raised in entreaty coming from just up the road. She sounded as though she were in trouble. Had some rogue accosted her, trying even now to have his way with her?
Thoughts of rescue and rewards sprang to his mind. He dropped his reins and slogged as fast as he could through the mud left by an earlier rain, plotting his attack on the ruffian as he went.
The sounds were coming from a modest buggy stopped under a bare-branched tree.
Fenton ran around the side and threw himself into the vehicle, landing in a soft lap.
Livvy would have screamed, had the man who leaped into her buggy not knocked all the air from her lungs. As it stood, she was just barely able to hold onto her reins. “What are you doing?” she finally demanded, shoving him off to the side.
“Saving you. Where is he?” Fenton looked around the buggy wildly, his eyes searching the darkness.
“Where is who? There is no one here but the two of us.”
“You sure?” he asked, squinting at her.
“And Rosabelle,” she said, indicating her horse.
“But I heard you. You were begging to be let go.”
“I was saying 'Let's go.' To Rosabelle. We're stuck.”
“Stuck?” he asked, his face a study in confusion.
“In the mud,” she said with great deliberateness.
“Oh. Well then, let's have a look,” Fenton said, hopping down from the seat and stumbling only a little as he landed. He walked around the back of the buggy and peered through the darkness at the wheels. “Everything's fine here.”
He came around the front and studied the closest wheel. She could see him sway as he stood. The odor of cheap whiskey she'd smelled when he landed on her wafted up on the night wind. Finally he looked up at her, grinning.
“You, madam, are stuck in the mud.”
Livvy rolled her eyes heavenward before answering. “And you, sir, are drunk.” 

Erin's Review 
 From the moment you start reading this book, you are transported back in time. The historical references are very real and it takes you inside the inner workings of how the Underground Railroad operated. 
 Livvie and Fenton are characters perfect for each other. Livvie is strong willed, fun, determined, with a strong sense of convictions. Fenton is just as determined as Livvie, and although his actions are misguided, his heart is in the right place.
Fenton is almost engaged to a cold, seemingly heartless woman that insists on being called by her given three names. Yes, three names. Right away the reader is hoping he gets away from her, for his life would be stable, but boring. 
 Livvie isn't searching for anything but the next conductor as she pursues her duties helping runaway slaves. Her empathy towards their plight is felt throughout the book and no one can get in her way. 
 Fenton and Livvie are constantly fighting their attraction until his wise Grandmere asks him if he truly loves his almost fiance. He then puts his love to a test, one she fails miserably-I loved that part. Livvie fights her feelings, knowing he is almost engaged but she can't resist forever. 
 When Fenton betrays her trust and "loses his honor" you want to weep for what should have been. Then a little help from an unlikely source pushes Fenton to do the right thing. 
 Packed with action, mystery, intrigue, and of course romance, By Love's Honor Bound is a must for historical romance lovers. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Erin, for your generous words of praise. I'm thrilled you liked "By Love's Honor Bound." Livvy and Fenton were true joys to write - glad you liked them. :)