Olympia St. Leger is a princess in desperate need of a knight in shining armor. Sheridan Drake, amused by Olympia's innocence and magnificent beauty, but also intrigued by her considerable wealth, accepts the position of white knight. Unaware that Sheridan is a notorious scoundrel, Olympia willing allows herself to submit to his protection and potent embrace. Theirs is a love born in deception. But as they weather storms on the high seas and flee from nefarious villains, the love sparked by lies begins to burn uncontrollably. Taking shelter on a desert island paradise, the princess and dark knight battle overwhelming odds to keep their adoration burning bright.
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July 01, 1990
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Excerpt from Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale
As a princess, Her Serene Highness Olympia of Oriens felt she was unimpressive. She was quite a common height, not petite or lofty, too plump to be delicate but not substantial enough to be stately. She didn't live in a palace. She didn't even live in her own country. For that matter, she'd never actually seen her own country.
She had been born in England, and had lived as long as she could remember in a substantial brick house with ivy on the walls. Her home fronted on the main street of Wisbeach, facing the north brink of the River Nen. It possessed the same laconic, self-satisfied elegance as its neighbors, a little string of successful bankers, solicitors and gentleman farmers tucked deep among the canals and dikes and marshes of the misty fenlands, which Olympia supposed were about as different from the mountain passes of Oriens as it was possible for landscape to be.
She drank tea with her governess-companion, Mrs. Julia Plumb, and was dressed by an experienced lady's maid. She ate dishes provided by a German cook, had two housemaids and three men to keep the stable and the large garden behind. In a cottage at the back of the garden lived Mr. Stubbins, her language master, who had taught her French, Italian, German and Spanish, plus the Rights of Man and the truths held to be self-evident among enlightened thinkers like Mr. Jefferson, Monsieur Rousseau and, of course, Mr. Stubbins.
She dreamed, in her yellow chintz-hung bedroom above the river, of widening the boundaries of her life. She dreamed mostly of returning to Oriens -- where she had never yet been -- and leading her people to democracy.
Sometimes Olympia felt she had a great bubble of energy within her, a bubble that threatened to expand and explode in the quiet landscape of her life. She should be somewhere, accomplishing something. She should be making plans, executing agendas, fomenting rebellions. She should not be waiting, waiting, waiting for life to begin.
So she had read, and dreamed, and heard in her mind the crowds cheering and the bells ringing freedom through the streets of a city she had never seen. Until one week ago, when the letter had arrived, and real life had begun with an unpleasant jolt.
Now, amid the befogged and treeless desolation of the marsh a few miles beyond Wisbeach, Olympia stood on a set of sandstone steps, gazing reverently up at the snow-dusted walls of Hatherleigh Hall. He was in there somewhere, girded in this modern Gothic mansion that loomed up out of the fens in a dark jumble of spires, towers and gargoyle-infested flying buttresses. Captain Sir Sheridan Drake -- descendant of Sir Francis; decorated veteran of the Napoleonic and Burmese wars, of battles in Canada and the Caribbean; celebrated naval tactician; and most recently, created Knight of the Most Honorable Order of the Bath for his valor and selfless heroism in the Battle of Navarino.
Olympia slipped her hand from her muff and adjusted the coverings on the potted fuchsia she was carrying as carefully as her cold fingers would allow. She hoped the plant hadn't frozen on the four-mile walk from town; it was the only one still alive of the five she'd carefully potted in honor of the naval victory at Navarino as soon as the Cambridge and Norwich papers had announced that Captain Sir Sheridan was coming home. A potted plant perhaps had not been a perfect choice of tributes, but she did not excel at needlework, so an embroidered banner had been out of the question. She'd fantasized about a presentation-sized oil painting of the glorious naval battle, but that was far beyond her pin money. So she'd settled for the plant, and a gift from the heart -- her own small, leather-bound and gilded copy of Jean Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract in the original French.