Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Lion's Embrace by Marie Laval

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Four stars!

When Harriet’s father is kidnapped she has little choice but to seek out the help of Lucas Saintclair.  Lucas is not the nicest person.  He is very arrogant and not too happy to have Harriet take along as he tries to uncover what happened to her father.  Both characters make assumptions about each other.  Lucas thinks that Harriet is too “delicate” to come with him and he is annoyed about her insistence that she help him.  At first it seems that they bring out the worst in each other but as they get to know each other they discover what they are both really like.  The gang of Tuareg fighters  that kidnapped Harriet’s father mean business and both Lucas and Harriet have to not only prove themselves to each other but to them as well. 

I really thought that Lucas and Harriet had great chemistry.  The author presented an engaging story with a trace of romance and adventure.  Reading about their adventure in through the Sahara was very fascinating, there were many thing that I learned and found very intriguing.  I personally really liked Harriet she comes off as quiet and delicate but she has tremendous strength.  I really liked Lucas too.  He was very rough around the edges but it was easy to put that aside and see him for who he was!  This was a great read. Anyone looking for adventure, romance and a touch of history will love and enjoy this story as much as I did.

The Lion's Embrace
by Marie Laval

Excerpt 1

“Oh, my God,” Harriet breathed out. She glanced around, but nobody was
paying the two men the slightest notice. There was no time to think, a man’s life
was at stake. With a muffled cry she hurled herself at the tall stranger, jumped on
his back, and hooked her arms around his neck.
            He let out a roar of anger and swirled round to shake her off, but she wrapped
her legs more tightly around his waist.
            Bon sang! Qu’est-ce que...”
            He dropped the dagger, twisted his body, and managed to grab her waist to
slide her to the front so she was now against his chest. Aware she was losing her
grip she lunged forward and sank her teeth into his shoulder.
            He growled, held her at arm’s length, and threw her off. She fell on the
cobbles. The turban softened the impact to the back of her head, but a vicious pain
at the bottom of her spine made her cry out. The man swore in French. Although
she only caught a few words, she understood he was angry. Very angry. His victim
had escaped.
            She let out a sigh of relief. She had done it. She saved a man’s life. Her joy,
however, was short-lived. The Frenchman leaned over, picked her up by the collar
of her tunic, and lifted her as if she was no heavier than a bundle of cloth. The
savage glint in his eyes dried her throat; her heart hammered against her ribs.
            “Please, don’t hurt me,” she pleaded, breathless.

His eyes opened wide in shock.
            Since when did Tuareg fighters speak fluent English? Come to think of it, since when did they smell of Damascus rose soap?
            He peered more closely at the face in front of him and saw two large, grey eyes bordered with long, dark eyelashes and the tip of a small nose above the dark blue scarf. He recalled the odd sensations when the soft, curvy body had thrust against
him earlier. This wasn’t a Tuareg fighter at all, it was a … He ripped the headdress
off and a mass of thick, honey blonde hair tumbled out.
            “A woman? I thought as much. Who are you?” he asked in English. “What the
hell did you think you were doing just then?” He shook her a little, not to hurt her,
but enough to give her a fright.
            The woman didn’t answer.
            “You’re not so bold now, are you?” He narrowed his eyes, smiled his meanest
smile, and was satisfied to hear her helpless cry. She had cost him days of patient
stakeout. Now, because of her, Rachid was free to sell the map to the highest bidder. And he knew exactly who that would be.
            “Maybe you want to take another bite?” he snarled, pointing to his shoulder.
            “No,” she whispered.
            “Actually, maybe I’ll be the one to take a bite. You look appetizing enough.”
He lifted her closer, until his mouth almost touched hers, and he felt her warm
breath on his skin.

The Lion's Embrace by Marie Laval
Excerpt 2

It was a narrow valley where the river curved into a bend, secluded by thick bushes and reeds. After a quick glance around to make sure she was alone, she stripped and walked naked into the water. It was so cold it took her breath away. She gritted her teeth, clutched her bar of soap, and walked into the river until the water reached her hips. Getting rid of the grime and sweat of the past few days was worth the torture…
            Holding her breath, she dipped into the water before standing and lathering soap over her body and her hair.
            The light was changing. A transparent gold dust touched the hillside, the top of the trees. The sunrise streaked the sky with red, orange, and pink hues, reflecting into the river. She was alone in the world, in a bubble hovering between sky and water.
            It was then she heard the growling. Stones tumbled down the hillside seconds before a male lion jumped onto the river bank, sleek and agile. It approached the river and started drinking. It hadn’t seen her. Yet.
            Her heart thumping with terror, she ducked under the water very slowly, careful not to make any ripples on the surface. How long would she have to hold her breath? How long did it take a lion to quench its thirst after a night spent hunting? What if it saw her and came after her? Did lions, like cats, hate water? Her lungs started to burn, she felt close to choking. When she couldn’t hold on any longer, she popped her head above the water and took a long, long breath.
            The lion had gone.
            “You are one lucky woman,” a voice called from the bank.
            Still breathless, she spun round. Saintclair crouched near the water, a knife in one hand, a pistol in the other.
            “How l-long have you be-been here?” she stuttered, her teeth chattering from cold and shock.
            “Long enough.”
            Had he watched her undress and get into the water? Actually, she’d rather not know.
            She moved her legs and arms, numb and stiff with cold.
            “Is it safe? Has the lion gone?” She looked toward the hillside.
            “You’re safe. From the lion, that is.” He narrowed his eyes. “I, on the other hand, might just want to throttle you for disregarding my orders. I knew taking you with us was a mistake. I knew you were stubborn. I didn’t realize just how reckless, how stupid you were. You could have been mauled to death just then.”
            “I handled the lion perfectly well on my own.” She tilted her chin. Her heart had almost stopped with fright, but there was no reason to tell him.
            He stood up, put his pistol in the holster on his hip, slid the knife in his boot, and walked toward the edge of the water. His face was so tense, his eyes so steely, that she recoiled. He was going to walk into the river, pull her out and…
            “Damn it, woman, you were told not to leave the camp alone. You were warned about lions roaming this area. There are all sorts of dangers here—wild animals, snakes, scorpions.” He looked up towards the hillside. “Raiders.”
            She swallowed hard, followed his gaze toward the top of the hills.
            He shook his head.
            “If that lion hadn’t been so old and half-blind, you wouldn’t be talking to me now.”
            “It seemed pretty sprightly to me,” she muttered.
            He snorted.
            “Get out. You’re freezing, and your lips are blue,” he said without a trace of sympathy in his voice.
            She shivered, nodded. “Only if you turn round.”
            “It’s a bit late to play the prude,” he muttered, but he obliged and faced the other way.
            So he had seen her naked. Well, he wouldn’t see her now. She covered her chest with her arms and walked to the shore. She threw a nervous glance in his direction before stepping out of the water, but he remained immobile, his back to her, as if he had been turned into rock.
            She gathered her clothes as fast as she could, stumbling on pebbles in her haste, and chose a large bush behind which to get dressed.
            Her fingers were too cold, too stiff to fasten her tunic’s tiny buttons. She had to leave it open for now. She put her boots on and ventured out of the bushes.           Saintclair took one look at her and snarled.
            “You can’t go back to camp half dressed.”
            She pulled her tunic across her chest to cover up, shifted uncomfortably on her feet.
            “I can’t do the buttons up,” she said, showing him her hands still red raw with cold.
            He tightened his lips but didn’t answer.
            The sun now peeped above the rugged hilltop, a huge orange ball setting the sky on fire. Dazzled, Harriet caught her breath.
            “This is…magnificent. We don’t have sunrises like that in England.”
            He gazed at her face, at her eyes filled with wonder.
            “No but you have rain, summer storms.”
            He stepped closer and looked down into her eyes. “I always wanted to stand outside in a thunderstorm.” Her eyes were a rain cloud right now, cool and soothing.
            She smiled. “You might get hit by lightning.”
            “Maybe, but what a beautiful way to die,” he said. His breathing was a little faster, his gaze heavier.
            She parted her lips but didn’t answer. The colour of her cheeks deepened. In the opening of her tunic, the gold pendant gleamed against her milky white skin. His fingers itched to toy with it and bring it to his lips, still hot and fragrant from her body.

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