BLACKTHORNE'S BRIDE - Joan Johnston
A Bitter Creek Series, #12; Mail Order Brides, #4
Historical Western Romance
Wyoming Territory and England - 1877
The story so far: After surviving the Great Chicago Fire of 1874, three Wentworth sisters and their two brothers escape from an orphanage in Chicago. Through many events and much peril, Miranda, (TEXAS BRIDE, April 2012), Hannah (WYOMING BRIDE, January 2013), and Henrietta (MONTANA BRIDE, January 2014) become mail order brides. But the fourth sister, Josie, is captured by Indians during an attack, and no one has heard from her in over two years.
Josephine Wentworth was rescued from the hands of a Sioux warrior by Marcus Wharton, the Duke of Blackthorne. Bloodied and beaten, and mostly unconscious, Josie was in bad shape. Rather than leave her behind, Marcus decides to take her with him on board his ship bound for England. His grandmother has demanded his presence at once. During the long voyage Marcus tends the girl's wounds himself, and when they finally dock in England, he still does not know the girl's name or where her family in America lived. Still, he promises her that as soon as she was well and healed, he will see that she has passage back to America.
It has been two years since Josephine Wentworth reached England. Instead of helping her return home, the Duke of Blackthorne has enslaved her. For the past two years she has been kept at his Tearlach Castle estate, far away from London, near the Scottish border. After the ship docked in England and Josie was well enough to travel, she was taken to Tearlach castle and put immediately into service as a maid-of-all-work. She toils dawn to dusk, receives no wages for her labor, nor has she had an answer to the countless letters of protest she has written to the Duke. Meanwhile at Tearlach, an internal war between housekeeper, Edna Pettibone and the haughty London governess, Miss Adeline Sharpe, has made it necessary for Josie to intervene on behalf of the Duke's two young nephews, Spencer and Clay. The boys have become victims in the fight between the two women and are continually mistreated. Josie has made it her job to protect them. One day a Pinkerton detective from America finds Josie at Tearlach Castle. She is surprised beyond belief when he informs her that her family is alive and well, and she is also a very wealthy heiress! Josie has the means to leave this place, but she wants to take the boys with her; they are not safe if left behind without her at the castle. The Duke not only broke his promise to her, but in the two years Josie has been in residence, he has never once visited his nephews to see to their welfare.
Marcus Wharton has been through some cruel twists since he returned from his trip to America. He married his best friend's sister, Fanny, and subsequently lost his younger brother, Montgomery. In addition to paying off his father's estate debts, he inherited his brother's debts and the care of two nephews, aged four and six. And then, a year later, Marcus lost Fanny and their unborn child, leaving him swimming in debt with no way to save his estates. His only choice now is to marry a rich heiress. But Marcus will not marry among his peers; instead, he advertises for a rich American heiress, one who is not looking for love, but an English title. Even two years later, the girl he rescued from the Sioux comes to mind, and he wonders about her, if she found her family and where she is now. He never learned her name or what became of her. He was enamored of her at the time, but even then, in her tattered clothes, she was definitely not a rich heiress.
David Madison, the Earl of Seaton is Fanny's brother and Marcus's best friend. Fanny has been gone for nearly a year now, and Seaton still carries a heavy burden. Marcus has been inquiring about that girl he rescued from the Indians, and Seaton has been lying to his best friend all this time, just to keep the promise he made to his sister. David cannot tell Marcus what he knows; he must see him married first.
Josie Wentworth becomes BLACKTHORNE'S BRIDE within a matter of weeks, and has formulated a plan to teach the mighty Duke a lesson, after which time she will flee to America with his nephews in tow. She cares little for the millions she has; the Duke is welcome to that, but as his wife, she will have the power to take the boys away and home to her family, where they can be cared for properly. Her only real problem is hiding the scars on her back from the Duke's sight, a difficult task on her wedding night! Josie cannot have Marcus recognize her as the girl he rescued.
BLACKTHORNE'S BRIDE is the fourth novel in the Mail Order Bride mini-series about the Wentworth children; and it is also the twelfth novel inside the Bitter Creek series. Once again, Ms. Johnston has penned a wonderful story! Each of these books stands well alone, but you will not want to miss a single one of them. Every one weaves the new story seamlessly with the events in the previous novels as we follow along with the Pinkerton Detectives who have been hired by Miranda Wentworth to locate her lost sisters. You can find a complete list of both series of books on the author's website: www.joanjohnston.com .
As BLACKTHORNE'S BRIDE, Josie is out for revenge while planning to rescue Spencer and Clay from their cruel and devious uncle. She didn't count on falling in love with Marcus, but after their marriage, she begins to see that the Duke is not the ogre she thought him. Still, rather than confront him, Josie continues to plot her and the boys' escape to America. Meanwhile, Marcus is busy trying to save his crumbling lands and pull his many properties out of debt, nor does he realize the woman he married is the same woman he's dreamed about for over two years. Full of white-hot passion and suspense, BLACKTHORNE'S BRIDE cannot be missed!