Every now and again a story comes along that pulls at your heart, wrings emotion out of you until nothing is left, defies you to hope for that happily ever after that you take for granted in every romance book you pick up. This is definitely one of those books for me. The fact that this is Ms. James’ debut book makes it all the more special.
The beginning of the book gives us Gabriel realizing his life is about to get worse than it’s ever been. The one person who is his friend in the horrible world Gabriel has grown up in is about to return to his family. He has protected James for the last five years, something that has kept Gabriel living. Gabriel has been thoroughly tutored in the art of sex. He is more than capable of pleasuring a woman or a man. He is highly valuable to the brothel he’s been in nearly all his life. Too many times his hope over the years has been crushed, so now with the prospect of not even having James in his life, the world is a very dim place for Gabriel.
Until he meets Lady Sarah Munroe and Ross, the Earl of Huntington, James’ siblings. They offer him more hope than he’s ever had in his life. To repay him for befriending their brother, for bearing any punishments that were to be given to the child, for keeping his innocence intact, they offer Gabriel a place in their home as a companion to James. Grasping onto that lifeline, Gabriel leaves the hell of his existence behind. It takes some getting used to, not expecting people to take from him at every turn, but eventually Gabe finds peace. He also learns how to love, all with the help of Sarah. Her tenderness and her love saves him even from himself.
Once their love is declared, Gabriel is determined to take care of Sarah with money made with his own hands. What he has learned since leaving the brothel is privateering on the high seas, so he heads out one last time to make his fortune so he and his love can be together forever. Of course, we know that isn’t going to happen any time soon, Gabriel has to go through so much more before total happiness is his. I found myself thinking over and over again when is this man going to get a break. When he is lost at sea, he ends up in the hands of a man from his past, and this is what nearly breaks the hero my heart has gone out to since the first page of the book.
I love Sarah’s character because she never condemns Gabriel for what has been done to him, as a lot of people have. He is always afraid to tell her that next horror of his life, but when he does he never receives recriminations from her. He gets nothing but understanding, love, and tenderness, something he doesn’t know what do to with in the beginning. But he’s a man who craves such things and he latches on to both Sarah and her loving ways to find the happiness in life others take for granted.
This is a wonderfully written book. Your heart will break, then soar, break again, and then wonder if it will ever soar again during this story. I did want to scream at Gabriel during the second half of the book when he seemed to give up too quickly, but I simply couldn’t because not only of what he’d been through, but also because of how he sees himself, which without Sarah, is something he doesn’t see very clearly. Ms. James has given us a beautiful romance and love story with characters who will stay in your heart for a long time to come.
Abandoned as a child and raised in a brothel, Gabriel St. Croix has never known tenderness, friendship or affection. Although fluent in sex, he knows nothing of love. Lost and alone inside a nightmare world, all he’s ever wanted was companionship and a place to belong. Hiding physical and emotional scars behind an icy façade, his only relationship is with a young boy he has spent the last five years protecting from the brutal reality of their environment. But all that is about to change. The boy’s family has found him, and they are coming to take him home.
Sarah Munroe blames herself for her brother’s disappearance. When he’s located, safe and unharmed despite where he as been living. Sarah vows to help the man who rescued and protected him in any way she can. With loving patience she helps Gabriel face his demons and teaches him to trust in friendship and love. But when the past catches up with him, Gabriel must face it on his own.
Becoming a mercenary, pirate and a professional gambler, Gabriel travels to London, France, and the Barbary Coast in a desperate attempt to find Sarah again and all he knows of love. On the way, however, he will discover the most dangerous journey, and the greatest gamble of all, is within the darkest reaches of his own heart.
Read an excerpt.