THE EARL'S RUNAWAY BRIDE
My latest Sarah Mallory is now available in paperback in North America! This is the cover for the paperback, which I like as much as the British hardback cover below. What do you think? Felicity and Nathan's story was "born" while I was on a tour of northern Spain, retracing the steps of the British Army's retreat to Corunna in January 1809. We stayed in comfortable Paradours with good food and all amenites, but the hardships suffered by the troops during that harsh winter 200 years ago were brutal. They were hotly pursued across the mountains by the French and had to travel fast with little food or rest. The confusion and panic in Corunna at that time must have been very great, and perfectly possible for a young couple to become separated. I have put more details of my trip to Corunna on my website at www.sarahmallory.com. Below you can read the first chapter of The Earl's Runaway Bride.
Felicity was angry, blazingly angry. All her terror and anxiety at being alone and penniless in a strange country was forgotten, superseded by rage that the portmanteau packed with her last remaining possessions had been snatched away from her. Without a second thought she gave chase, following the ragged Spaniard in his leather waistcoat away from the Plaza and into a maze of narrow alleys that crowded about the harbour at Corunna. She did not stop, even when a sudden gust of wind caught her bonnet and tore it off her head she ran on, determined to regain her property. Only when they neared the harbour and she found herself in an unfamiliar square bounded by warehouses did she realise the danger.
She saw her bag handed to a young boy who ran off with it while the thief turned to face her, an evil grin splitting his face. Felicity stopped. A quick glance over her shoulder revealed two more menacing figures blocking her escape. Felicity summoned up every ounce of authority to say haughtily, 'That is my bag. Give it back to me now and we shall say no more about this.'
The response was a rough hand on her back, pushing her forwards. She stumbled and fell to her knees. Quickly she scrambled up, twisting away as one of the men reached out to grab her. There was only the one man in front of her; if she could get past him – with a guttural laugh he caught her by her hair and yanked her back, throwing her into the arms of his two accomplices. Felicity fought wildly but it was impossible to shake off their iron grip. They held her fast as the little man with his yellow teeth and stinking breath came close, leering at her as he ripped open her pelisse.
She closed her eyes, trying to blot out their cruel laughter and ugly jests. Then she heard another voice; slow, deep and distinctly British.
'Move away from the lady, my good fellows.'
Felicity's eyes flew open. Beyond the thief stood a tall British officer, resplendent in his scarlet tunic. He looked completely at his ease, regarding the scene with a slightly detached air, but when her tormentor pulled a wicked-looking knife from his belt the officer grinned.
'I asked you politely,' he said, drawing his sword. 'But now I really must insist.'
With a roar the two men holding Felicity released her and rushed forward to join their comrade. She backed against the wall and watched the red-coated officer swiftly despatch her attackers. He moved with surprising speed and agility. A flick of his sword cut across the first man's wrist and the knife fell from his useless fingers. A second man screamed as that wicked blade slashed his arm and when the officer turned his attention to the third, the man took to his heels and fled, swiftly followed by his companions.
The officer wiped his blade and put it away. Sunlight sliced through a narrow gap between the houses and caught the soldier in a sudden shaft of light. His hair gleamed like polished mahogany in the sunshine and he was grinning down at her, amusement shining in his deep brown eyes as if the last few minutes had been some entertaining sport rather than a desperate fight. He was, she realised in a flash, the embodiment of the hero she had always dreamed of.
'Are you hurt, madam?'
His voice was deep and warm, wrapping around her like velvet. She shook her head.
'I – do not think so. Who are you?'
'Major Nathan Carraway, at your service.'
Sarah Mallory/Melinda Hammond