Mary Jo Putney's passionate, vivid characters and captivating stories have earned enthusiastic acclaim from reviewers and readers everywhere. Now the New York Times bestselling author weaves a new tale in the Guardian series-a dazzling romantic fantasy that takes readers not only from the elegant streets of London to a dangerously tempting Mediterranean island but across time.
Jean Macrae's family is one of the most prominent clans of Guardians, humans whose magical powers come from nature, but Jean considers her skills modest at best. She has never been able to summon the intense, earth-altering ability that has marked the most talented Guardians, and she is content without the adventure that such skill brings . . . until the day she is confronted by a handsome stranger whose magic imprisons her on his pirate ship.
Captain Nikolai Gregorio is convinced that Jean's father abandoned him, as a child, to slavers. Now he seeks vengeance against the Macraes, no matter the cost. But Jean soon finds his untrained magical gifts far more dangerous than his thirst for revenge, especially when they intensify her own powers to an unthinkable-and enticing-degree. And when Jean and Nikolai's irresistible connection summons a woman from the future, they are charged with a formidable task: protect those who will oppose slavery's evil and forever change the future of two nations. This quest will sweep Jean and Nikolai into the most fantastic of realms and try their powers beyond even what the Guardians themselves would dare. And when ultimate disaster threatens, they will stake everything on a shattering test of love that could secure the fate of generations . . . or destroy them and all they cherish.
Near the start of this diverting romantic fantasy set in 1753, the third Guardians novel from bestseller Putney (after 2005's Stolen Magic), Nikolai Gregorio, a handsome pirate captain operating in the Mediterranean, kidnaps pretty red-haired Jean Macrae, a member of the Scottish branch of the Guardians (humans with magical powers derived from nature), in revenge for a wrong he thinks her father did him 20 years earlier. A decent sort who possesses limited magical powers, Nikolai is dedicated to fighting the evil of slavery by freeing galley slaves. He even sets up an island refuge for them. After Adia Adams, a freed slave, travels back in time from 1787 London, the pirate and the fiery Scotswoman find themselves on a dangerous magical mission to strengthen the fledgling abolitionist movement. The mix of magic, time travel, history, adventure, romance and social consciousness will delight series fans, but may strike some readers as an incongruous blend. (July)
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July 17, 2007
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Excerpt from A Distant Magic by Mary Jo Putney
Valletta, Island of Malta
The two foreign gentlemen strolling through Valletta's market square looked like they had pockets worth picking. Nikolai quietly shadowed them through the crowds, knowing they would never
notice a boy his size in the noisy throng. A dozen or more lan-
guages babbled above his head. He recognized all of them, and could make himself understood in most. Valletta was the crossroads of the Mediterranean, a place where Europe, Africa, and Asia met and exchanged their goods.
The men had the pale coloring of northern Europeans. When Nikolai got close enough to hear their conversation, he found that they spoke in English. That was one of his better languages, since his mother had had a taste for English sailors.
Other foreigners roamed the market, but these two had the air and garments of wealth--and they were fool enough to walk alone, with no guards. They'd be lucky to get back to their ship with the clothes still on their backs.
Nikolai followed the men, slipping behind a tethered donkey cart to get closer to his quarry. His talent for going unnoticed had enabled him to keep from starving in the years since his grandmother's death, though he seldom managed to be well fed.
The taller Englishman, a powerfully built fellow whose dark red hair was heavily streaked with gray, stopped to admire the silver trinkets of a local peddler. He lifted a pair of lacy filigree earrings. "My wife will like these, I think."
"We saw better in Greece, Macrae," his companion observed. He was shorter and younger, with a wiry build and a dandy's taste in clothing. "Tell me again why you were so keen to stop in Malta."
"Worth it to walk on land again for a day or two." Having reached an agreement with the peddler, Macrae paid for two pairs of silver earrings. "Besides, I felt there was something, or someone, worth meeting here."
"Unlikely!" the other man snorted.
Nikolai paid little heed to the conversation, apart from gratitude that it engaged his quarry's attention. As the taller man turned to his companion, Nikolai's fingers reached into the fellow's right pocket, light as a butterfly's wings. Yes, there were coins there. . . .
Suddenly Nikolai's wrist was caught, and he found himself skewered by piercing gray eyes. Eyes that saw him as no one had since his grandmother died.
He fought to escape, biting Macrae's hand and jerking free as the man released his grip with an oath. He darted toward a nearby alley. In the rank, twisting backstreets of Valletta, he could lose these great clumsy oafs in no time.
The short man snapped several unintelligible words. The air tingled oddly, and suddenly Nikolai's limbs didn't work. Though he wanted to run, he could barely manage to hold himself upright. He fell against the bricks of the alley wall, his breathing rough. He hadn't felt so weak since he'd almost died of the fever that killed his mother.
Macrae entered the alley and placed his hands on Nikolai's shoulders, then knelt so their eyes were on the same level. "We mean you no harm," he said in fair Italian.
Nikolai spat at him, but somehow missed his mark. Macrae frowned. "He doesn't seem to understand Italian," he said in English. "I wish I knew that dog Arabic the locals speak."
Nikolai didn't bother spitting again, since it had done no good, but he growled like a mongrel. Dog Arabic indeed! Malti was the ancient tongue of the Phoenicians. Since it had never been trapped in an alphabet, it was the private speech of Malta, a mystery to stupid foreigners like this one.
The short man, who stood behind Redhead, said drily, "Are you sure you want to converse with a rabid pup like this?"
Macrae stood, releasing his grip on Nikolai's shoulders. "Look at him with the sight, then ask me that again."