Title: Fortune’s Folly
Author: Cat Dubie
Genre: Historical Fiction with Romantic Elements
[mid-1860s] Eden Fitzgerald/O'Rourke is no swooning maiden waiting for the man of her dreams to come along. Alex Banning, a decorated naval officer, has vital duties to perform. Although he and Eden shared a strange adventure when young, he cannot get involved with her now. But irresistible forces draw them together again and again, their attraction culminating in a blazing night of passion.
For one shining moment Eden is in love! But her infatuation swiftly becomes contempt when she discovers Alex is part of the British organization that considers the men of her family criminals and traitors. When her father and brother are arrested and imprisoned, she vows to do whatever is necessary to have them set free. Pregnant with Alex's child but determined to keep him from finding out, she enters into a marriage of convenience with the scion of a wealthy Canadian family.
When all legal methods of setting her father free fail, Eden learns she can arrange an escape for him. Needing money, she turns to highway robbery and becomes the legendary Giselle, a beautiful thief who preys on the wealthy. Soon the hunt is on for the alluring criminal--agents of the Crown, Montreal police, a dangerous smuggler she cheated, a brother-in-law she betrayed--who will capture her?
"Miss O'Rourke." He took off his hat, bowed, and showed her a charismatic smile. In his well-cut suit he was an aristocratic ideal, the prince of fairy tales, an idle hunter of foxes. And perhaps women?
She gave him a poised nod. A sudden burst of cool air swirled about her, and she shivered and rubbed her arms.
"Cold?" His smile thinned. "I'm not surprised, seeing you're only partially dressed."
She edged sideways. "I must go. People are waiting for me."
"You left items in the cove." He donned his hat and withdrew a bundle of white cambric from inside his coat. Heat surged across her face. "Such fine garments, Miss, a soft chemise and lace-trimmed drawers. The petticoat was too bulky to fit my pocket."
"Where did you get those?" She made a grab for them.
He held the bundle out of her reach. "We both know where. I'll return them if you show me a spot on the coast."
"I'll show you nothing. I can't be late today. My sister—"
"As you wish, Miss O'Rourke. I'll stop by your home later and return your undergarments. Perhaps your family will be interested in your escapade in the sea this morning."
The heat spread to her neck. Damnation. "What is it you want?"
He motioned the direction he had come. "We'll stroll above the cliffs and find a spot where a dory may come ashore. Then you can have your fine things back"
His face now seemed made of stone. Would he truly announce to her family she swam naked in the lagoon? She released an exasperated sigh and returned to the path, him following.
On the cliffs a sprightly breeze stirred the heat, and seabirds screamed as they soared into the sky. Eden pulled her braid forward. "You've been trespassing."
He lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug. "Guilty, I admit."
"And spying, too." She came to a stop. "I'll not be taking another step until you tell me a few things. Why are you here? And why must you know where a boat can pull in?"
He gazed at the sparkling water, then met her eyes. "I saw you by accident when you swam out to meet the dory."
"I did not swim out to meet—"
"You spoke to the oarsman."
She shook her head. "I did not speak to—"
"He is a smuggler." His brittle smile vanished. "Keep walking, show me where he might have come ashore. Let's get on with it or I'll tell your father you swim naked to entice men. And don't say no one would believe it. Isn't it true you enticed a group of sailors into a tavern brawl?"
"Who told you such a thing?" The breeze lifted her hat. She clamped a hand on it.
"The men arrested for the brawl were from my crew. I read the police report and spoke to the men. Now, will you keep moving or do you wish to face your family's horror?"
"May I have my clothes?” Frustration sharpened her voice. “I feel ill at ease, and I don't want you thinking I’m trying to entice you as well."
"You'll get your things when you've completed my request.” A condescending glance. “Don't worry. A young thing such as you doesn't entice me in any way, clothed, half clothed, or unclothed."
Young thing. Did he see her as a child? She was nineteen, not nine. With a proud lift of her head, she marched on.
Of course she knew where a rowboat may pull onto a pebbled strand, the one place besides her cove accessible from the sea. She also knew where a skimpy track descended to the strand. However, he needed to work for the information.
"The beach you seek is so private there’s but one way to get there.” She gestured at a cliff jutting several hundred yards into the sea. “We must climb down and walk around the point. The beach is on the other side."
Alex stared down the precipice, a sheer drop of twenty feet with jumbled boulders at the bottom. Was that a sly smirk on her face or an angel's innocent smile? The ebbing tide had exposed a flat expanse of mud, oozing water, studded with sea grass. At the end of the point waves besieged sea-worn rocks.
"We must hurry, Captain. Tide will soon turn."
He bowed. "After you, Miss O'Rourke."
She removed her sandals, tied them together, and slung them over her shoulder. Nimble and quick, she seemed to find toeholds in the face of the cliff and moved down as if descending a ladder. Soon she stood on a flat rock, gazing up at him. Alex pulled off his hat and boots, shrugged out of his coat, and stowed all among a cluster of rocks.
He rolled up his trouser legs and shirt sleeves, and descended the cliff with much less agility than Eden. When he reached the bottom, his damp shirt clung to his chest. At one time he had clambered among a tall ship’s rigging. When last did physical exertion of any kind make him sweat? Too damned long ago.
Eden stepped onto the mud flat, her braid swaying, a circlet of wilted flowers holding it together. He shook off thoughts that she wore nothing beneath her frock, that the fabric rubbed and caressed those sweet curves. Moisture forming on his brow happened less from the heat than from his physical reactions to Eden O'Rourke.
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With so many countries now in a state of flux, I’m thankful my parents chose Canada to immigrate to. [I was four.] All these years later, I'm extremely thankful for my own family: husband, three children, and now seven grandchildren!
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Fortune's Folly, a big, involving story, follows one young woman's arduous quest to free her father from prison. A broad cast of supporting characters, each following their own quest, whether for love, fame, or fortune, interact with the heroine and complicate her life, adding divisive conflicts, instigating daring and dangerous adventures, and revealing deep passions.
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Cat Dubie has traveled the world in books. She has traveled back to the dawn of time and far into the future in books. Her keen interest in history determined the nature of her books, and the first Historical romance novel she read, settled the genre.
After working for various levels of government, she retired and now lives in the beautiful province of British Columbia, where she indulges in her need for creating stories about romance, adventure, passion, mystery, love ...
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