He stepped off a jewel of a sternwheeler onto one of the most beautiful plantations in all of Louisiana. And into her life.
Celine's breath caught in her throat. Heat smoldered in her belly. What a sensual man. The scion of the Andrews family carried an aura of personal magnetism so powerful, a sensation close to fright swept through her. She stood still and aloof, masking her emotions. His intense gaze seemed almost a physical touch. She held her head at a proud, haughty angle, not flinching from his bold scrutiny.
In seconds, Trevor regained his cool, casual air. A lusty grin caught at the corners of his mouth, and fire danced in his eyes as he bent ever so slightly at the waist, tipped an imaginary hat, and strode casually into the house.
She would never be the same . . .
From Plantation era New Orleans to the untamed American West, here is the sweeping, unforgettable tale of a headstrong young beauty and the man she is destined to love.
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By Kathleen Bittner Roth
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Kathleen Bittner Roth
All rights reserved.
April 1853, St. James Parish, Louisiana
Celine Kirkland stared down at the simple wooden casket. Rain drummed against the lid, turning the open grave into a muddy pit. The pungent smell of wet earth and the film of grit in her mouth nauseated her. The wind kicked up. Icy rain swirled around her and stung her cheeks. She shivered and pulled her full-length, hooded cape tight against her body. It seemed as if nature was bidding her mother-in-law a raucous farewell.
Stephen touched her arm. "The weather is worsening. We need to make our way home."
Numb from grief and cold, she climbed into the wagon with her husband and father-in-law. Lightning fractured the sky, and ear-splitting thunder shook the ground. She clutched her swollen belly as if to soothe the babe kicking inside.
The rain turned into a deluge.
"God, this is foul weather," Stephen groaned as he snapped the whip in the air and urged the two draft horses into a trot.
Celine shifted about in her seat. How could he possibly see beyond the horses? "Shouldn't we be coming upon the bridge soon?"
The horses jerked and danced to the left, wild-eyed and whinnying.
"Whoa!" Stephen yelled through a roar of thunder.
The wagon tipped sideways. Celine gasped and gripped the edge of the rough sideboard, her blood running as cold as the pelting rain.
The beasts pawed the ground. One of them whinnied again, nostrils flaring, and braced itself against forward motion. The other twisted hard against the reins, trying to turn back. Stephen lashed out with the whip just as a flash of lightning lit the path in front of them.
Too late, Celine spied the gaping hole where the bridge had been. She screamed.
The horses and wagon jackknifed against each other. The wild shriek of animals and metal grinding against wood vibrated through the air as the wagon careened toward the river.
Celine jerked awake, and caught herself before tumbling out of the window seat. Rubbing her eyes against the light streaming through the window, she glanced at Marie. Her maid stood near the bed, folding clothes and appraising Celine with a worried frown.
"Sorry, did I moan?" She rubbed her stiff neck.
"Did you have another one of those bad dreams—in broad daylight?"
"And sittin' up, no less. Begging your pardon, mam'selle, but if you kept to your bed nights, you might work into a habit of sleepin' during proper hours instead of catnapping in the window seat."
"You know what keeps me awake." Celine slid off the blue velvet cushions and made her way to the dressing table.
"Only been a year since Mister Andrews found you trapped under that broken-up wagon." Marie's voice softened. "That ain't so long for a bad memory to haunt a person. Especially considering your terrible loss and all."
Young Lindsey Andrews poked his head through the doorway to Celine's bedroom, his face aglow. "Trevor's coming home, Trevor's coming home!"
His loud voice jarred her senses, and she winced. He paused, the grin on his freckled face even wider. "Hello, Miss Celine. My brother's coming home."
With a nod, she managed a meager smile. "I'm well aware of the fact, Lindsey."
He disappeared, laughter trailing behind him.
She went back to tossing her toilette articles in one basket, ribbons, combs, and brushes in another, and wondered at her glum mood.
The maid gathered a stack of Celine's unmentionables and laid them in the basket she'd set on the bed. "That scoundrel Mischie Trevor. Did you know he's been in New Orleans a week now and didn't even bother letting his father know he's coming until last night? Tch, tch, tch."
"How would I know that?" Celine caught Marie's reference to Justin Andrews's eldest son as mischie, a localized version of monsieur reserved for someone favored. Marie's mahogany skin glowed from the effort of transporting Celine's things next door. "Do you need to rest a bit, Marie?"
"I'm fine, mam'selle." She grinned, and stuck with her subject. "Like as not, Mischie Trevor's been busy waking up N'awlins. I'll bet most of England sleeps like a babe since he done left. Likewise, papas in these parts won't be getting much sleep now."
Celine threw a brush in the basket and missed. It landed on the floor with a clatter. She swept it up, tossed it back in, and went to sorting ribbons.
Marie lightened her tone. "Pardonnez-moi. Ne vous en faites pas'.'
Celine stared at the colorful ribbons tangled in her hand and then tossed them in the basket with a sigh. "Yes, I may as well leave everything to you since I'm only making a mess."
Marie used the lilting dialect straight out of the French Quarter whenever she attempted to soothe Celine. The maid was a mimic. She could imitate any accent after hearing a few words. Celine couldn't decide if the crisp French inflections Marie called her own might not be contrived as well. A day in Marie's company seemed more like a day among a small crowd.
The maid frowned. "You feeling all right?"
"I'm fine," Celine lied. She traipsed to the window seat along the outer wall and sank into it. With another sigh, she set her elbows to the ledge, propped her chin in her hands, and stared at a circle of children playing below, offspring of the field workers and household staff. They danced to the snappy rhythm of an older boy's clicking tongue and the tap of his foot. Their clever song spun a tale about Trevor that Celine couldn't quite decipher. Everyone seemed caught up in the enthusiasm of his return—everyone, that was, except her.
Zola stepped outside the cookhouse and wiped her wide forehead with the corner of her apron. Most likely working herself to a frazzle on account of Trevor's arrival. There would be pots hanging over the fire in that kitchen, rumbling and sputtering, as if they, too, shared in the excitement. Even from where Celine sat, the rich aroma of roux, filé, and the holy trinity of Louisiana cooking—celery, bell pepper, and onion—tantalized her senses. Her stomach rumbled.
"Do I smell gumbo?"
"And jambalaya," Marie added. "Mischie Trevor's favorites."
Celine shot her a scowl.
Marie raised a brow in return. "You know how Zola always fixes someone their special dishes when they comes to call."
Come to call? Trevor wasn't a visitor, for heaven's sake. He'd merely been gone two years. When she'd visited the kitchens, she'd noticed the cook referred to him as mischie, as well. Why did everyone speak of him with such favor? From what she'd heard, he was quite the rakehell.
Well, what did she know? Marie and the cook had been around all of Trevor's life while she had never met him. After all, if anyone was a guest here, it was she. She'd only met Justin last year, the day of her mother-in-law's funeral. Since Celine had no living relatives to go to, and she'd been too injured to return to an empty house, Justin had taken her in.
Melancholy tugged at her heart. What the devil was wrong with her of late? She rubbed at her arm. A thin red scar ran from shoulder to wrist, a grim reminder of the accident that had left her widowed and childless.
Marie moved to stand beside Celine. "Mam'selle, you haven't said a word about the beautiful clothes Mister Andrews had sent upriver for you. Don't you care for them?"
"Of course, I do."
"Then, what be the matter?"
She shrugged. How could she tell Marie what was amiss when Celine didn't know herself?
"Mischie Trevor used to sit in that window seat after his mother died, his chin propped in his hands and staring out at nothing, just like you be doing, Miss Celine."
Celine's elbows came off the windowsill like a finger off a hot stove.
Marie frowned. "Seems to me the new wardrobe might not be what's bothering you. The letter from Mischie Trevor came on the same boat as what brought your clothes." Her features softened. She reached out and fussed with a tendril on the nape of Celine's neck. "You be worried about Mischie Trevor and his wicked ways you been hearing of?"
Heat pricked Celine's cheeks. With a shrug of her shoulder, she cast the maid's fingers off her hair. "Don't be a dolt."
Marie dropped her hand and stepped back. She slipped into Louisiana Creole, a whimsical dialect that never failed to lighten Celine's spirits. "Doan you be worrying 'bout Mischie Trevor. He won't be botherin' wif you none. Maybe he be a scoundrel, and mayhap he a fool at times, but I ain't never heard of him botherin' no female what doan want no botherin' wif."
Celine laughed. "I hadn't given any thought to your Mischie Trevor bothering me" She caught sight of Marie's toothy grin before she turned to the window again. "For heaven's sake, I didn't just crawl out from under some rock." Maybe Marie's teasing had lightened her mood, or perhaps her bright smile brought a ray of sunshine, Celine didn't know, but her disposition shifted.
"Would you care for a hot bath, Miss Celine?"
"I'd prefer you continue to remove my things from Trevor's room and put them in the guest room before he arrives."
Marie flashed a wide grin. "Oh, he ain't due till near sunset, and we've yet to see high noon." With a small grunt, she lifted the largest basket and headed out the door.
Justin's bellow echoed through the hallway, startling Celine. "What in the name of Glory are you up to, Marie?"
"I'm removing mam'selle's things from Trevor's room and transferring them to the guest room, sir," Marie said matter-of-factly.
"Put them back directly."
Celine shot off the window seat and flew to the doorway, her gaze fixed on Justin while she spoke. "Marie, do as I say."
Justin's set jaw gave a silent command.
Marie nodded at Justin and trudged past Celine and back into the room.
He raked his fingers through his thick silver hair and pinched the bridge of his large nose. "May I ask why you are going to all the trouble of having your things transferred to the guest room?"
Celine crossed her arms and tapped her foot. "Haven't you heard? Your son is returning."
Justin's bushy brows knitted together in a hooded frown. "He'll only be here a few days."
Confusion scattered Celine's thoughts. "Oh?"
He cocked his head. "Did you actually think my thirty-year-old son would be moving back in with his father? He's come from London on business—in New Orleans, not here."
An odd sense of isolation gripped her. How had she missed all of this? Even the servants must know Trevor would remain for only a few days, but she hadn't a clue. She was out of the circle—a gloomy reminder that she didn't really belong here. Not permanently, anyway.
She squared her shoulders. "I prefer the guest room anyway. This one is too masculine for my taste."
Justin stepped closer, using his great height to tower over her. "You don't fool me."
His dominant gesture, usually reserved for his unruly children, startled Celine. "Don't think to bully me."
He stood there for a moment and then chuckled, backed up a step, and gave her a fatherly pat on the shoulder. "Beg pardon, Celine. Perhaps I didn't make clear the situation."
He headed for the stairwell, talking all the while. "Since Trevor's dealings will take place at our offices in New Orleans, he'll reside in our townhouse there. As will his cousin and uncle, also due to arrive this week from England. Our shipping company is expecting a new clipper to be delivered soon, so we're all chomping at the bit."
Celine called out after him. "Situating your son in the guest quarters still doesn't seem quite right."
He paused a few steps down, his hand on the cherrywood rail, and glanced up. "Hush. Trevor's a grown man. In spite of what you've doubtless heard, he was raised with decent manners."
He continued at a fast clip along the stairs, his voice growing louder as he descended. "Try to tolerate an old man's wishes, Celine. I purposely placed you in his old room because you needed the privacy during your recuperation. Admit it, you have the best views of the back gardens—not to mention the gallery at this end is virtually yours alone."
Even though he couldn't see her, she bit her bottom lip and nodded. "All right then." She turned and stood in the doorway, surveying the room that had been hers these past twelve months.
Trevor was obviously partial to blue. Except for the burgundy in the Persian carpet, the deep cobalt color dominated. Even the ceramic pitcher and basin on the marble-topped commode were of the same rich hue. She adored the dark, carved cherrywood of the sumptuous four-poster bed and side tables. And the wingback chair—cobalt blue velvet—angled next to the fireplace. She'd spent many a night curled up there with a book.
Too masculine for her tastes? Not really. She loved everything about her quarters.
She suddenly wished Marie wasn't still around. For some odd reason, she was absurdly close to tears.
Steam swirled around Celine, the tension in her muscles slipping away while Marie scrubbed her skin until it glistened. Sometimes being pampered felt simply grand.
"What a beautiful day, Marie. Open the doors to the gallery so we can get more of the scent of roses from the garden instead of Zola's cooking, will you please?"
Marie flung the French doors wide. A balmy breeze floated in, rustling the lace curtains hanging at the doors' sides until they floated like the lacy wings of a butterfly. The heady fragrance of roses wafted in and mixed with the mélange of robust smells drifting in from the cookhouse.
"I love this time of year, don't you? The spring flowers are in bloom. Everything looks so clean and fresh, and with nights still cool enough to curl up in front of a cozy fire. I'm so glad to be alive. How different things are from a year ago." Celine hummed to herself.
Marie pulled a chair behind the tub and brushed Celine's thick tresses. "Your hair looked half-dead those first few months with us. Like a string mop dipped in mud."
"That's because I was half-dead."
"Now the color reminds me of rich coffee. And so shiny. Like it's been shot through with gold. Lovely to look at. Same as you, mam'selle." Marie ceased her chatter and continued to brush in slow, even strokes.
Celine slipped deeper into the tub and closed her eyes, immersed in the busy sounds and smells of plantation life. A sharp clang of three bells jolted her out of her reverie. They sounded again, a signal that the captain of a sternwheeler had stopped to unload passengers.
Marie jumped. "Lordy, three bells, not two—passengers, not goods. Don't tell me Mischie Trevor got here so soon?"
The steady pounding of feet down the hallway caught both women's attention. "Trevor's home!" Lindsey shouted with a quick rap on the door. The sound of his footsteps disappeared down the stairs along with his whoops and hollers.
Celine sat up, her heart pounding. "I thought you said he wasn't due until the last steamboat?"
Marie leapt to her feet and waved the brush about as she paced. "Oh, Miss Celine, how can I ever manage to get you dressed and your hair done up before he gets to the house?"
"For heaven's sake, such a state you're working yourself into. Settle down and hand me a towel." Celine stood amidst a cascade of water, wrapped the towel around herself, and stepped from the tub. "I have no intention of greeting your Mischie Trevor with the others. Introductions can be made over ..." She gave a flip of her hand. "Over his favorite gumbo and jambalaya."
She dried herself, and then held her new lavender-sprigged muslin dress to her body. Relieved wasn't an adequate word to describe what it felt like to shed the oppressive black she'd worn for the past year. "What do you think?"
Marie stood at one corner of the bed, fidgeting and watching Celine twirl naked around the room.
She ignored the maid and picked up a purple sash and matching kid slippers. "Perfect. Help me into everything, and you can be off. No need to bother with my hair until evening."
Chemise and corset in hand, Marie frowned. "You'd best not be running around here nekkid and with the balcony doors open now that Mischie Trevor's arrived."
Excerpted from Celine by Kathleen Bittner Roth. Copyright © 2014 Kathleen Bittner Roth. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The book was good..but towards the end It fella little flatt for me...just seemed a little all over the place...without being a plot spoiler it just seemed to go from indians, baby, getting married to a friend , to the way trever showed up with little story behind that or at the end it seemed rushed with not much emotion when meeting up with people you thought were dead..it was a great book but kinda got fell flatt when the Indians showed up..I did like wolf just wish it played out differently.
CELINE is a delicious Americana romance with an epic feel, a love story that transports the reader to another place and time. I first fell in love with historical romance while reading epic sagas that swept the reader through danger-fraught adventure, scandals, family conflict, and a love destined to triumph despite formidable odds; I was delighted to discover CELINE, a powerful love story with memorable characters, danger and adventure, and rich attention to historical detail. Kathleen Bittner Roth has woven a love story that takes the hero and heroine on a perilous journey from New Orleans across the American West to a tender and hard-won happily-ever-after in San Francisco. Celine is by turns vulnerable and strong, while Trevor is a courageous, to-die-for hero I rooted for from the very start. The supporting characters are well-developed and likeable. I especially loved Wolf, a rugged, unconventional tracker who has all the makings of a hero in his own right. The author utilizes rich historical detail and description that speaks to all the senses. I felt drawn into Celine and Trevor’s world, and I devoured this story until the delightful ending. Kathleen Bittner Roth is one of my new go-to authors when I want to be immersed in a lush historical romance.
Amazing! Kathleen Bittner Roth has given us a book that we will remember for years to come. I had so many emotions while reading this book. It was a beautifully romantic antebellum story, with riverboats, mansions in beautiful settings. I felt joy, sadness, there were toe-curling sex scenes, happiness, sorrow, laughter, I cried, and then the ending, I can't tell you what I felt without giving anything away, but I'll say this book did NOT disappoint! The main characters, Celine and Trevor were wonderful, and oh my, I can almost see that sexy smile of Trevor's! All the sub-characters were amazing to get to know. There was SO much territory covered in this book, from New Orleans, LA, St. Joseph, MO, to San Francisco, CA. Thank you for such a fulfilling and romantic story that I couldn't put down until the very end. I loved it, and can't wait till my friends read it. I hope the next book is Wolf's story, such an interesting character :
To find their true soul mates, a sassy Southern Belle & a wealth shipping magnet must travel a path through love, jealousy, stupidity, misunderstandings & even across the untamed wilds of America! Pregnant Celine Kirkland buried her mother-in-law in the unforgiving Louisiana downpour, climbed aboard the carriage with her hubby & father-in-law & on their way home tragedy struck. While trapped under a carriage wheel, she stared into the dead eyes of her hubby & gave birth to dead child in the rising river until she was rescued. Justin Andrews lost his eldest daughter & as a friend of hubby's dad, took Celine into his family home & over the their mutual grieving, she became the family of his heart. Within the last 12 months, the Andrews family has won a place in her heart, but she is ready for next step & plans to go to San Francisco to stay with her BF from childhood, Dianah, after her Bday ball at Carlton Oaks. Trevor Andrews is the eldest son, has lots of brothers, his cousin, uncle & only 1 spoiled sister in his large & loving family. He is the head of his family shipping company, has traveled the world & has came home to await the delivery of their newest clipper ship, before he takes the maiden voyage to China. But what he finds at his family plantation, Carlton Oaks, is a gorgeous woman with sad, but sultry green eyes. Celine sees the scoundrel Trevor from the balcony, their eyes lock & she feels it down to her curled toes & he feels it straight to his cojones. Trevor isn't the only new addition to the family gathering, but his BF & Cousin Cameron is also slightly smitten with the pretty widow. Trevor pushes, pulls & twists her into a web of seduction, but she refuses to be another of his conquest. As a terrible thunderstorm comes, Celine is helpless with terror, dosed with laudanum & unknown to her, soothed by none other than Trevor. Everything changes after that, as Celine discover her inner BAD GIRL, she plans to seduce him & then hop aboard the next ship to San Francisco. With a few stolen pantalettes dropping kisses, thumpty thump heart caresses & quivering girlie parts, Trevor stirs up her world & awakens her dead heart, but she rocks his foundation & cracks up his walled up heart! With insane misunderstands, another terror filled storm, a ho of a widow, a night of hot, raw & dominant loving, too many jealousies to count, a pair of dueling pistols & a male ego the size of the Mississippi to send a girl packing for the West! Celine races to get away to only wound up in trouble, with Trevor on her heels, a mysterious tracker named Wolf, a wagon train, Indians afoot, a well placed arrow, snail paced mail & a fast Boston clipper ship to make this romance hit the dusty road for the unknown West! Can Celine get out of the trouble she is in? Does she even want to? Will Trevor raise HADES to find her? Is a relationship possible with China in Trevor future? Who is this mysterious Wolf & how can he help? Who fought in a duel? This is my 3rd book by Ms. Roth & that are all so different from each other, but she touched the hidden places in my heart & made me CRY UGLY! All the sassy Southern Belles I have had the pleasure to have as friends, are unique creatures with their polished manners, endless cheer, gigantic hearts & if you make them mad, BOOM, you had better have a will ready! Celine lost so many people during her young life, but how she got up each day was a testament of her strong inner strength (that I called her Steel MagnoliaNESS)! She protected her bitterly fragile heart by wrapping it up in cotton & that was just 1 reason why she was a true sister of my heart! Trevor was my 1st Southern rake/rogue, but he could put a Duke to shame! And like all rake/rogues when they fall it is hard, fast, messy & they always screw it up with use their heads instead of their hearts. Trevor didn't only not use his head or heart, but he unleashed his massive EGO & let her slip thru his fingers! I will be honest & say that at some points in this tale Ms. Roth took me into many an unseen twists, turns & rutted paths that seem kinda iffy to me, but the romance was so worth the bump, dusty & uncomfortable ride! Ms. Roth didn't just write about sweet & spicy burn passions between them, but she made Celine & Trevor spoke to me using their bodies as they tangled lips, tongues, legs & finally their hearts together! The Andrews family was a character in it self with their large, caring & loud selves that were meddling PITAs (pain in the a$$es) & they will always have a special place in my own personal book COSMO! Now Wolf was an interesting character with a mysterious background that is in Ms. Roth's next book in this When Hearts Dare series, Alanna, & I can't wait for that romance! Again Ms. Roth has WOWED me with yet another totally different romance filled with UNEXPECTED, so I give her my top score of 5 fingers up & 10 toes, AGAIN! NetGalley ARC given for my honest review.
Meant for each other! Great introduction for Kathleen Bittner Roth's new series When Hearts Dare! I really enjoyed CELINE, Trevor and Celine's complicated love story! Ms. Roth is a storyteller that pulled me into this story filled with mystery, love, twists and turns, sizzling scenes filled with humor. I loved this historical romance, set in New Orleans then in San Francisco, it was perfect for me. Just relax and follow Trevor and Celine's journey, filled with ups and downs of emotions. I liked her secondary characters Justin, Cameron, Wolf who nicely blended into this suspense. I'm looking forward to read next Alanna, Wolf's story. Historical lovers will enjoy Celine who became mesmerized and under the spell of Trevor. Will destiny be at the rendez-vous for these lovers? Will they get a second chance?