Hero of My Heart
Loveswept / April 8, 2013 / $2.99 digital
When Mary Smith’s corrupt, debt-ridden brother drags her to a seedy pub to sell her virtue to the highest bidder, Alasdair Thornham leaps to the rescue. Of course the marquess is far from perfect husband material. Although he is exceedingly handsome, with a perfect, strong body, chiseled jaw, and piercing green eyes, Alasdair is also too fond of opium, preferring delirium to reality. Still, he has come to Mary’s aid, and now she intends to return the favor. She will show him that he is not evil, just troubled.
Mary was a damsel in need of a hero, but Alasdair’s plan is shortsighted. He never foresaw her desire to save him from himself. Alasdair is quite at home in his private torment, until this angel proves that a heart still beats in his broken soul. The devil may have kept her from hell, but will Mary’s good intentions lead them back to the brink—or to heaven in each other’s arms?
(Full disclosure: Megan Frampton is the community manager for Heroes and Heartbreakers.)
In Hero of My Heart, Megan Frampton cleverly and subtly anticipates the reader’s reaction to scenes and conversations. We meet our protagonists, Mary, the daughter of a vicar, and her noble rescuer, Alasdair, marquess and addict, at a sell-the-virgin-to-the-highest-bidder auction. Mary is the virgin, her wastrel brother the seller and Alasdair the hero of the hour:
“She fell into Alasdair’s arms. It was not an elegant rescue, the kind where the noble prince gathers the humble milkmaid gently in his arms …”
Mary is intelligent and sturdy while Alasdair, not to put too fine a point on it, is a mess. He welcomes Mary “to hell” and as appreciative as she is of being rescued, she “couldn’t convince herself he had a kind face.” Mary tells him that she plans to seek employment as a governess or even a lady’s maid.
“And if I were to offer you a position?”
Mary swallowed. There was no mistaking what he meant—she wouldn’t insult them both by asking if he had children for her to teach. He reached his hand up and grasped her chin with his fingers. “Perhaps if we are creative we can think of several positions.”
A key to the relationship between Alasdair and Mary is that despite their inequality, they have a similar outlook which often manifests itself in banter. When Alasdair entreats him to lend her money and let her go so, he says, “You are growing tiresome, Miss Smith. I said no.” A glaring Mary throws his statement back in his face, so that he’ll understand that buying someone does not equate to owning them.
“Tiresome is when the squire’s wife has told the same story at every social gathering, and expects you to marvel at her cleverness each time. Tiresome is realizing that your father has misplaced his sermon notes again. Tiresome is not, my lord, when a woman has been bought by a marquess who habituates low places where a woman might be sold.”
He flung his head back to laugh, then winced as it slammed against the wall. “Ouch.” He rubbed his head. “Excellent point.”
Alasdair is being pursued by his evil cousin and more tragically, by mental demons that came home with him from the war. To keep the demons at bay, he uses laudanum, an “addiction [that] had become an all-consuming passion, a need that obviated any other.” Mary realizes that she may be of service to him, in helping him break free.
It will not surprise the fond reader of historical romances that soon Alasdair comes up with a plan—a plan to wed at Gretna Green—so that when he fades to dark, euphemistically (suicide is his goal), Mary will be left the widow of a marquess, a safer position than that of an unmarried woman on the run. It is to Frampton’s credit that the strands of poignant darkness are gracefully lightened by threads of humor and sensuality. As when Mary and Alasdair are held up by a highwayman (of course they are, this is a romp, with many a nod to the conventions of a romance on the run):
“You’re traveling light, or is that with your lightskirt?” he said, glancing sidelong at Mary. Oh wonderful, a witty highwayman. “She looks healthy, even if she ain’t a raving beauty.”
Mary goes along with Alasdair’s plans because she knew “she had no other choice. Hell, or hell.” And that’s one of the reasons that Alasdair is not the only one falling just a little bit in love with Mary—readers will also find her irresistible. As frightened and as worried as she often is, she has compassion for the agonies of Alasdair, unable to sleep as he’s bedeviled by unimaginable memories of war—and she also grasps the joy and the wonder of her close quarters with a devilishly handsome and beguiling aristocrat.
“Were you injured?” she asked, then shook her head in annoyance. “Of course you were, I can see that. How did it happen?”
“Someone shot me,” he said, still gazing into her eyes.
“I’m not surprised,” she said with a smile. She reached her fingers out and touched the gnarled skin; it was ridged with scars, and he flinched when she trailed her fingers down to his nipple.
And then took a deep, satisfied breath as she kept working her way down.
What are you doing? her mind screamed. Feeling pleasure, she yelled back.
Her innate warmth and kindness start to thaw Alasdair’s icy prison. Mary knows “she had to do something for him: make him, if not whole again, at least not as broken.” Alasdair shares with her his gift of not giving “a tinker’s damn about what people thought.” Freedom allows her to embrace her sensuality, both internally and externally. Mary’s vocabulary explodes, thanks to Alasdair’s tutelage. Let’s leave them to their rough and ready marriage in Scotland, when Mary cradles to her heart the liberating knowledge that her groom has entrusted her with his secrets.
Because, even though she had experienced delicious bliss in his arms the night before, this moment, here, now, was where trust—dare she think love?—was built.
Dear lord, she was falling in love with him. Dear lord, she should not be falling in love with him.
“Thank you,” he said, as he finally stopped shaking. He lifted his head and looked at her, tears spiking his dark lashes.
It was humbling to see someone so arrogant, so proud, so confident, in the throes of such emotion.
Rest assured that an arrogant nobleman and a resourceful, intelligent teacher from a small village have many a river to cross before they wed in heart as well as deed but Shakespeare says it best, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.”
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Hero of My Heart by Megan Frampton before its April 8 release: