Soldier of Fortune: The King's Courtesan (Rakes and Rogues of the Retoration Book 2)

 

 

 

Praise for Soldier of Fortune

(The King’s Courtesan)

 

JUDITH JAMES

 

Romantic Times Top Pick

 

 

“James’ fully realized version of naughty, bawdy Restoration England is the ideal setting for her marvelous characters to play out their sensual and romantic love story. Through the pages readers come to believe in hope, true love, trust and the great gift of passion lovers share. The quick pace, strong dialogue and high degree of sensuality added to the lush backdrop will have readers enthralled.”
~
Romantic Times
Top Pick

 

“Judith James can paint with her words...and bring to life King Charlie and his court for me any time! Reading her novels is the closest I can come to living them.”
~
bookworm2bookworm

 

“Seventeenth century England is the perfect setting for this novel and Ms. James does it justice. She describes a rich, evocative world that I can’t wait to sink back into...a sumptuous treat.”
~
The Literary Nymph

 

“This is one really hot delicious book that you won’t be able to put down...a tale you won’t want to miss just for this last sentence alone.”

~
Terra
Yankee Romance Reviewers

 

“The King’s Courtesan is a beautiful love story set in a rich historical period. Judith James gives us a story about how love can heal the scars from the past. If you love Historical romances with a bit of Court intrigues then this is for you. I will be impatiently awaiting Judith James’ next book!”

~Caroline
Booklovers INC

 

“This is an entertaining Restoration romance that is loaded with a rich historical background interwoven with an endearing romance. Historical romance readers will relish this exciting late seventeenth century tale.”

Genre Go Round Reviews

 

 

 

Available from JUDITH JAMES

 

Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration

 

 

Libertine’s Kiss

 

Nominated RT Best British Isles Historical

Booklist starred review

Romantic Times Top Pick

AAR Desert Island Keeper

 

 

Soldier of Fortune

(Formerly The King’s Courtesan)

Romantic Times Top Pick

 

 

The Highwayman

 

~~

 

Previous Works

 

Broken Wing

 

Independent Publisher’s Awards IPPY Gold Medal Winner

Romance Novel TV Best Debut

Historical Novels Review Editor’s Choice

AAR Desert Island Keeper

AAR Honorable Mention Best Book

AAR Buried Treasure

 

 

Highland Rebel

 

One of the best of 2009 Barnes and Nobel

Historical Novels Review Editor’s Choice

One of the best of 2009 Dear Author

 

 

www.judithjamesauthor.com

 

 

 

Soldier of Fortune

 

JUDITH JAMES

 

 

 

Halfpenny House

 

 

Soldier of Fortune

(The King’s Courtesan)

 

Digital edition

Copyright © 2010 Judith James

Halfpenny House

Digital ISBN: 978-0-9920504-2-9

Print ISBN: 978-0-9920504-4-3

 

 

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions

 

This e-book is only licensed through purchase by legal means, and is licensed for your personal use only. All rights reserved and non-transferrable including the right to reproduce, lend, download, transmit, decompile, resell or reverse engineer any part thereof in any form without the express written permission of the copyright holder. The reverse engineering, uploading and/or distribution of this book without the express permission of the copyright holder are illegal and punishable by law.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and events are solely the product of the author’s imagination.

 

Cover image, image design, image postproduction, styling and clothing by Rob Lucas: Copyright © Rob Lucas Pimpernel

Cover model Rob Lucas.

www.pimpernelclothing.com

www.huzzar.co.uk

Photo credit: Fiona Bennett

Cover Production: Hot Damn Designs

Formatting: L.K. e-book formatting

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

 

This book is for my Mom, who faces life’s challenges with courage, grace and humor no matter how tough it gets, and still takes the time to go on helicopter rides.

 

 

 

Preface

 

 

Although Libertine's Kiss and Soldier of Fortune (The King’s Courtesan) are connected stories with recurring characters, they were never connected as a series by title or covers. I am pleased to release Soldier of Fortune, an enhanced version of The King's Courtesan, in the form and length that it was originally intended. Readers who enjoyed Libertine's Kiss can find out what happened to Captain Nichols and catch up with Lizzy, Charlie and Will. They can also find the lead-in to The Highwayman at the end. Although each book can stand alone they were written as a series and when read in sequence they provide a richer picture of the characters and the times
.

 

Special thanks go to those wonderful readers who have waited so long and so patiently. Your good wishes and words of support make it all worthwhile.

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

London, 1651

 

The day Hope Mathews’ life changed forever dawned crisp and clear. She awoke, clutching her kitten, lying
on a cot in a corner garret of a steep-gabled four-story building. Her home, a substantial structure comprised of three linked houses leaning drunkenly over the street below, was at the centre of a zigzag web of side streets and alleys, some barely wide enough for two pedestrians to pass. It was late autumn and the metallic bite of winter was in the air. The frost that patterned the rooftops made the city beyond her windows shimmer like some alabaster-and-diamond fairyland. She imagined she was a princess, trapped high in a tower, waiting for a handsome rescuer to charge the battlements and take her away.

The bells started ringing well before dawn, invading the gloomy quiet generally reserved for bakers starting their day and link boys ending theirs. The sleepy city was stirring and there was already a bustle in the streets below. The Lord Protector and his army had been sighted. Fresh from victories in Ireland and Scotland, the young Charles Stuart driven from England’s shores, they were returning home. Despite the Protector’s edicts against gambling, roistering and drink, soldiers did as they had always done. As the good people of London, deprived of any spectacle since the beheading of their former king, set out early to secure a place along the route to watch the coming parade, every shopkeeper, winemaker, tavern worker and whore were making preparations for what promised to be a lucrative day.

Drury Lane, on the eastern edge of Covent Garden, was one of the most colorful areas in London even in these drab times. Lords and ladies, hawkers and beggars, and charlatans of every nationality rubbed shoulders in this part of town. At times, it seemed the entire world streamed by Hope’s door. Brightly painted signboards hung from every house and business. Unicorn horns and dragons marked the apothecary, wheat sheaves and a sugarloaf advertised the bakery, and her own home proudly displayed a golden-haired siren with wide blue eyes and crimson lips.

Her mother boasted to one and all that The Merry Strumpet was listed in
The Wandering Whore
, and as its proprietor, she was noted therein as one of London’s best known bawds. It was one of many establishments counting on profits this day, and Hope needed to escape immediately or be trapped running errands, raking cinders and cleaning floors, missing the spectacle entirely.

She slipped down the stairs and ducked through an alley, joining a laughing band of urchins who greeted her as one of their own. The sun had risen, the throng was thickening, and they weaved in and out of jostling crowds, nimbly dodging carts and angry merchants as they stuffed their pockets with filched fruit and biscuits. She lost her companions as she approached the city centre, their loose-knit brotherhood disbanding as each sought a perch from which to watch the show.

The steady drumming in the distance was getting louder by the minute and she jumped up and down, trying to see over the heads in front of her. Spying a low-hung balcony, she forced her way through a river of people and pulled herself up, kicking and squirming, wrapping her arms around a beam. Ignoring the protests of its already cramped inhabitants, she positioned herself so she had a bird’s-eye view of the street below.

First came a vast army of grim-faced pikemen in their shining breastplates, pot helmets and buff leather coats. They marched in rigid formation, their weapons bristling as the air rang with the tramping of booted feet. Then came Cromwell at the head of the Ironsides, his company of horse, but there was none of the pageantry and color, the smiles and waves and dashing displays of a Royalist parade.

They passed by, row upon row, a faceless army with nothing to distinguish one from another, and the cheers that greeted them were dutiful rather than spontaneous. It was a display of might and power. A veiled threat and stark reminder more than a celebration, but any kind of public gathering was scare in the city these days, and any spectacle was preferable to none at all.

Hope was beginning to wonder if the adventure had been worth the bother when a prancing black horse caught her attention. It frothed and fretted, tossing its head and stepping sideways, breaking an otherwise perfect formation, yet its rider didn’t seem inclined to curb it. Unlike his fellows who looked straight ahead, he seemed to scan the crowd with interest. Tall and broad-shouldered, he managed the beast with ease. He wore no uniform and looked more like a cavalier than a Parliamentarian. He must be an officer, and a wellborn one at that. Her heart thudded with girlish excitement.

From a distance, he appeared to be young and handsome, and much like the gallant rescuer she imagined in her dreams. It was hard to get a good look at him, though, with his wide-brimmed hat pulled low, obscuring his features.

Interest piqued, she leaned out farther, trying to get a better look, when a sudden scuffle behind her knocked her off balance and sent her tumbling to the street below. She lurched to her feet a moment before a shod hoof would have crushed her fingers, only to back into the hindquarters of a startled horse. When it shied away from her, its rider cursing, she slipped and almost fell again. Surrounded on all sides she dodged and darted, her wooden shoes slipping on the muddy cobbles as she fought to remain upright as she was buffeted from beast to beast. As her panic grew, someone snarled and cuffed her and a man kicked her between the shoulders, growling for her to get out of the way. She was trying, but she couldn’t see over them to find a way out and they just kept coming. People were trampled to death in London’s narrow streets every day, and if she fell again—

A strong hand gripped the back of her dress and swung her up and into the air as easily as if she were a small child. Her rescuer deposited her in his lap, holding her tight with one arm, apparently heedless of his fine clothes and her muddy form.

“Apologies, my lady, for the rough handling and the loss of your shoes, but you seemed in imminent danger of being trampled.”

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