The Forbidden Rose
It's France. 1794.
As usual, civilization has fallen with a basso profundo clatter and all right-thinking people are at each other's throats. In Paris, the guillotine's doing a roaring business. Civil war batters and bashes its way across the countryside. On the philosophical front, the world's teetering on the cusp of old loyalties and new.
Maggie's caught in the center. Her old certainties have been swept away. Love and loyalty pull in different directions. To survive, she'll become someone she barely recognizes.
And Doyle ... our Doyle is playing the detached loner. This is maybe not so smart when half of France is after his neck.
and an excerpt ...
She was alone, suddenly, with Guillaume LeBreton.
He stood, being inscrutable, which was one of his talents. In the stark white robe he became dark and exotic. The long folds and draped sleeves made a mandarin of him.
How does he pass unnoticed through the streets of the city? It is as if a lion joined a pack of dogs and none of them remarked upon it. “Did you follow me from my house?”
“Something like that. You didn’t make any secret where you were going.”
“It was a perfectly useless thing to do, following me. It is over
between us. We know it is impossible. We said farewell.” She ran out of
“I changed my mind.”
He did not move, except to breathe. He was like an idol that was made of smooth, brown stone, but also alive. His hands were in the knot of his belt. It was a little to the side and tied twice. He would take less than a moment, untying it.
She picked up her comb to have something to do with her hands. Set it down again. She would feel more comfortable if he talked more.
“I see your plan,” she said. “You do not want me to regret parting with you. You have come to give me another hour of your company so I shall become delighted not to see you again. There is a logic in this. If we were to live cheek by jowl for a week, I would wish you in Parthia or on that island in the Pacific where the birds are the size of dogs and have never learned to fly.”
He paid no attention to what she was saying. He loosened the knot that tied the belt of his robe.
“There is no reason to take your clothing off in that menacing and improper way. We will do nothing whatsoever that requires a lack of clothing. When I said you should stay, I . . .” I was not looking at your body. I was not thinking about it. I cannot think clearly when you are nearby. “I meant that we should talk.”
His robe was loose in long, strong lines down his body. Like columns. He took three slow steps and he was beside her. She did not try to move. He lifted her toward him until their skin touched.
Fragile restraints broke everywhere in her mind. She placed her hands fl at upon his chest and shoved cloth aside so she could kiss him there.
She could not speak. Not at all. Her muscles made decisions without consulting her brain. Her body flared into fire. Heat raced through her blood, curled low in her belly, rushed to fill the empty spaces of her mind.
He was warm and naked. Her hands fumbled with the edges of his robe, opening it upward, across his shoulders, deciphering the message of dark hairs and brown skin and the ridges of bone and muscle that were the body of Guillaume LeBreton. If she thought too much about this, she would push him away and stop this. She did not want to let him go, so she did not think.
Where had her robe gone? How had it become untied? It did not matter in the least.
She was distracted. So distracted. It was as if her fingers could see color. The deep tans of his neck. As if the rough prickles of his neck became visible when she explored him there. He was too vivid for mere feeling. He consumed every sense.
I should not do this . . . She did not say that aloud. She did not even think it loudly.
He stroked her body, all the way up and down the length of her. He spread his hands on her hips. Rough palms molded her skin, held to her bone, as if she were sculpted and he were the artist. Awe spoke from his hands. He found her beautiful. More than beautiful. It was as if he worshipped.
He was sweet and forbidden fruit. Forbidden to her in ten thousand
ways. A single desperate indulgence. She had set him aside and walked
away in pain, knowing the exact limits of her freedom. Now she came home
to find forbidden fruit growing, unexpectedly, in her garden.
Kisses deep inside her mouth. Kisses that traveled happily across her lips. Kisses that strayed over her face and down her throat so that she raised her head, eyes closed, and gasped for air. Anticipated, anticipated, waited with every stitch of her being for the next small nip, the next lap of his tongue. He was a man who understood many nuances of loving a woman with his mouth.
She trembled, thinking that, and pressed herself against him and she was lost in him.
Bourne (The Spymaster's Lady) returns to the French Revolution for her latest romance, this time matching up an English spy and a French aristocrat. Marguerite de Fleurignac, a noblewoman who smuggles émigrés to England, encounters William Doyle in the charred remains of her chateau outside of Paris. She needs sanctuary and agrees to let him escort her through the French countryside.
Though she pretends to be Scottish and he claims to be French, no one in this book seems able to keep secrets: William knows Marguerite's identity, she and the French secret police both know he is hunting her father, and everyone, including the secret police and the British, knows everything about the smugglers. Nonetheless, the romance is sweet, and once William and Marguerite admit their love, the ensuing adventure story is everything a spy thriller should be. (June)
Top Pick! 4 1/2 ****