Title: Isabella’s Heart
Author: Diane Merrill Wigginton
Series: Jeweled Dagger Series (Book 2) (The Benjamin Franklin Award Winning Series)
Publisher: Jeweled Dagger Publishing
Release Date: April 4 2017
Edition/Format: 2nd Edition/Formats ~ eBook & Print
In this follow-up, to Wigginton’s (Angelina’s Secret), the focus is on Isabella Deveraux, the daughter of Lady Angelina Marguerite Amelia Deveraux, the heroine of the first book.
As the story begins, Isabella experiences a disturbing dream about her twin brother, Charlie, on the eve of her 19th birthday. We quickly learn that Isabella has a sixth sense, just like her mother’s, and when she dreams about Charlie’s abduction in London, it’s more than a simple nightmare. She sets off immediately to London, setting into motion events that require her to reunite with her grandparents and eventually her parents, from whom she has been estranged from for years. Complicating matters further, Isabella’s grandfather hires an Irish mercenary to help her locate and rescue her brother and his two school mates. Forced to prove her worth to the mercenary Captain, she is placed in a compromising position and in doing so must open herself up to other emotions that she is not be yet ready for. The Captain is a handsome but brooding man, with a brutish disposition, who is willing to save the lives of three privileged young men, for the right price. Aiden Townsend decides that the best way to avoid suspicion as they travel the Irish country side in search of the abducted men is to pretend to be lovers. Despite Isabella’s grave concern for her reputation, she grudgingly gives her consent to the arrangement and romantic chaos ensues. The romantic tension between Isabella and Aiden intensifies as the search for Charlie also ramps up. During this fast-paced, action-packed tale, readers are treated to many rich historical details about political unrest in Ireland, lending credence to the story’s setting. It is a fun, action packed read with just the right amount of sexual tension to keep even the most seasoned romance reader engaged.
I removed my coat as well and wiped my forehead with the sleeve, before depositing the coat on a pile of ropes. Noticing that the rowdy crowd of men had suddenly gone silent, I looked up to see what had caused it. That’s when I came face to face with the unsmiling, yet ever handsome, brooding Captain Townsend.
“How about we engage in a real dual, my dear?” the captain challenged, his voice seductively deceiving as he broke the tension between us by giving me a half smile. His blue eyes seemed to spark like the sky during a thunderstorm, causing my breath to catch.
Dumbfounded for a moment, as my mind scurried to assimilate and assess the situation, I asked for the only thing that came to mind, “May I please have a drink of water first?” I queried, locking eyes with him.
“Since you asked so nicely,” Captain Townsend said, with a sardonic smile. “Rogers, fetch Lady Isabella some water,” he bellowed in my face while maintaining direct eye contact.
Mr. Rogers ran to do the captain’s bidding, bringing me a ladle full of fresh water. He handed it to me, and I gratefully sipped it slowly trying to buy time.
Realizing what his friend had in mind, Caleb stepped forward. “Aiden, I must protest. What you are proposing is wrong,” he said sternly, as the casual exhibition turned serious and the crew of rugged mercenaries looked on in disbelief.
“Anyone can have a leisurely game of back and forth exchanges for fun or even show, but your enemy is not going to follow the rules, nor will they give you a chance to catch your breath between bouts,” the captain said, putting his hand up to stem the flow of any further protests from Caleb.
Turning his back on Caleb so he could focus his full attention back to me, Townsend continued to speak, but this time he was playing to the crowd, who had gathered for the show. “Although you and my first mate here seem to know your way around a rapier, we are going in with swords, Lady Isabella. Of course, if you would prefer not to continue because you are too tired. . .” Townsend began, leaving the question open ended as he gave me a patronizing smile.
Then turning his back to me, Townsend faced his crowd, as they began to jeer and yell loudly. Paralyzed by indecision, and the dangerous glint I witnessed in Townsend’s eyes, I chewed on my bottom lip, still trying to think clearly.
Turning about in a circle, while shrugging his shoulders, the captain truly was a showman, as he expertly worked the crowd of men up into a frenzy. As if to say the show was over, the captain looked at me and smirked, then shrugged his shoulders as he turned his back to me again.
“Well, lads, I do not think the lady is truly up to the challenge. I would suggest you all return to work.”
Some light laughter erupted as the men slapped the captain and first mate on the shoulder and turned to resume their duties. I picked up the two sabers and weighed them both in my hands, then choosing the one in my left hand, I threw the other at the captain’s feet. The blade landed with a loud clank and skidded to a halt against his shiny leather boots.
Turning around, Captain Townsend’s jovial smile quickly faded as he noticed the sword in my hand. Then slowly looking down, he scoffed, and bent down to retrieve the sword at his feet.
“It seems I was wrong, lads,” Townsend announced loudly between clenched teeth. “It would seem the Lady has a backbone after all.”
The thought flashed through my mind that these blades had very sharp edges and were void of guarded tips for safety purposes. I quickly pushed the thought from my mind and remembered that I truly had a reason for being here — my brother — and I would never turn tail and run from anyone, especially someone as smug and self-righteous as Captain Aiden Townsend.
We walked in a circle like two wild beasts at the ready, each taking the measure of the other. The tension was thick as everyone on deck fell silent again. Caleb again tried to protest, but Captain Townsend gave him a look that silenced him at once.
I felt like I vibrated with the silent tension that existed on deck as I prepared my strategy. I made the first move while Townsend still looked at Caleb. Thrusting my sword, I caught the captain off guard by cutting the button from his woolen coat.
Lifting his eyebrows in a manner that could have suggested either a question or a challenge, Townsend licked his lips and gave me a smile. It was not a pleasant smile, in fact it wasn’t a smile at all, but a grimace meant to warn me of the impending danger ahead.
The crew suddenly went crazy. They shouted and jeered again as I heard money called out and odds exchanged. The captain lunged forward, and I deflected the attack with my sword, easily stepping to the side and swinging. We exchanged thrusts and parried back and forth, moving around in our tight little circle for several minutes. I refused to back down or give an inch as he pressed his advantage of height and strength, pushing me back against the masthead.
I sidestepped him as he swung his sword, and then pulled up short at the same time as I ducked. I figured it was his way of giving me a warning. But I didn’t need a warning because I was playing for all the marbles in my brother Charlie’s bag.
Knocking Townsend in the stomach with the hilt of my sword, I stepped to his right and repositioned myself to the ready. The sardonic smirk was back as he lunged at me, taking several heavy swings with his sword, and nearly knocking me over.
We locked swords, and he came in close, growling under his breath. “Do you concede?” he asked, holding tightly to my free hand, keeping me momentarily still.
“No!” I said, as that one word dripped with derision from my lips.
Not giving him a chance to reset, I pushed off from him and swung hard, forcing him back. The surprise I saw in his eyes was gratifying, if only for a split second, before regaining his composure and retaliating in kind. He forced me back as he went on the attack, and I caused several crew members to scramble for safety, as I beat a hasty retreat.
A low animalistic growl escaped my lips as I attacked in frustration. My muscles were beginning to burn in my right arm, and I let my guard down for just a second. That was all it took. The captain’s sword inflicted a nasty gash on my left arm, several inches below the shoulder. A small cry escaped my mouth. Captain Townsend froze in mid swing, and then lowered his weapon. The smugness instantly drained from his face, replaced with concern.
Maria made her way to the deck, drawn by all the commotion and noise. I heard her gasp and I looked at her for a split second, but I didn’t really see her. My mind was already going through the evasive moves I had been taught.
Maria closed her eyes and began to pray, as the entire crew on deck fell silent. Then I remembered the reason I was there, on that deck, in the first place. Looking down at my arm, I could see the cut was deep and the blood had begun to flow from the gash. This was no time to wallow in my pain. Moving my arm to make sure it was still of use to me, I blocked out the pain, and concentrated instead on the moves I intended to make.
I turned my full attention back to the captain and gave him a murderous stare. I felt something snap inside of me. Like the floodgates being opened, all I could see was Townsend. Everything and everyone else faded away. The captain wore the strangest look on his face as I raised my sword above my head and set myself to the ready. Narrowing my eyes at Townsend, I prepared myself to fight, as if it were a matter of life or death. I was fighting for my brother’s life!
“I think it is time for you to concede,” Captain Townsend stammered as he lowered his guard. “Look, your arm is hurt and —” the captain said, pointing at my arm with his free hand.
Cutting him off, I lunged at him, and he deflected my blade, but stumbled backward several steps, while still attempting to reason with me. I refused to hear him out. I was now focused on the task at hand.
“I thought you said you knew how to fight,” I taunted, causing the crew to go crazy again. “Or perhaps you would like to concede?” I jeered.
Aiden lunged and half-heartedly swung his sword, which I easily blocked. Lunging back in turn, I managed to put the captain on the defensive.
Seeing a moment of hesitation from him, I delivered a kick to his lower left leg, throwing him off balance. He grunted and fell to the deck onto one knee.
I circled around behind him as my breath seemed to come in harsh, angry gasps. Giving an extra push with my booted foot in the middle of his back, I managed to knock him down on all fours.
The captain snorted in frustration and pounded a fist into the deck in a show of anger of his own. Then slowly rising to his feet, he looked over his shoulder at me, and I saw something in his eyes besides surprise at my underhanded tactics, it was determination.
Growling somewhere deep in his throat, Captain Aiden Townsend looked like an angry bull preparing to charge. Turning towards me he lunged, slashing with his sword, a move I had anticipated and easily sidestepped, deflecting his emotionally fueled advances.
This caused another loud outburst of laughter from the crew. We circled each other again, both of us taut and on edge as we lunged at one another, simultaneously locking blades. Aiden’s left arm snaked out and grabbed a hold of my waist. Pinning me tightly against his larger frame, our swords rested between us.
“You need to concede, and I will allow you to save face,” Townsend said between clenched teeth. His rage was clearly manifested by his ragged breathing as he leaned in even closer to my face, to emphasize his displeasure.
“Your hubris is astounding, sir, or is it that you are worried that you might be bested by a woman!” I sweetly asked, just before stomping on the instep of his foot with the heel of my boot.
“Ouch!” he yelled. “Why you little —” he began to say, before letting out another growl of displeasure.
I pushed off from him when he was momentarily surprised by my move, and my blade caught the back of his hand, when we came out of the clench. Looking down, he couldn’t believe what he saw. The back of his right hand was bleeding from a two inch gash.
Full Name: Lady Isabella Sophia Deveraux
Nickname (if applicable): Bella
General physical description: Tall, athletic but curvy with dark auburn hair and green eyes that change to green with specks of blue when she is scared.
Hometown: She grew up on the cliffs, overlooking the Bay of Biscay, on the western coast of France
Type of home/ neighborhood: 1787 Chateau, which sits on the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Biscay in France
Relationship status: Unmarried
Current family: Twin brother, Charlie, younger siblings, Honore and Nicolette, parents, Angelina and Jude Deveraux.
Family background (parents, previous marriages, etc.): Isabella has never been married, or really thought much about it. She has loving parents who are still very much in love. Her twin brother, Charlie and Isabella are psychically connected and very close until they are separated by their parents and sent off to boarding school, separately.
Friends: Isabella becomes a loner when she is sent to an all-girls finishing school in England and separated from her twin.
Other close relationships: Isabella loves her grandparents but is estranged from her entire family for three years.
Relationship with men: Isabella has a general mistrust of men, but has learned to use her womanly wiles on them to get what she wants.
Relationship with women: Isabella is strong willed, blunt and says what is on her mind.
Job: She is daughter to a Duke and therefore responsible to conduct herself in a proper way. But propriety was never Isabella’s strong suit. She likes to disguise herself as a boy with trousers and a shirt, tucking her hair beneath a cap as if that would hide her curves and feminine gender.
Dress style: 1787 Formal gowns with corsets, full skirts, a lot of lace on the sleeves, low cut for the evenings
Religion: There is religious beliefs, but no specifics are mentioned.
Attitude to religion: Isabella’s family are Christians, but again there are no specific religion mentioned
Favorite pastimes: Disguising herself as a lad so that she can ride horses along the country side without bother. She was also formally trained in sword fighting along with her twin brother by a Musketeer, whom they refer to as Uncle, but is not truly related.
Strongest positive personality trait: Strong willed and independent
Strongest negative personality trait: Bull headed
Sense of humor: Very witty and smart
Temper: Isabella has a temper and knows how to hold a grudge
Consideration for others: She is a kind person, but very focused on what she wants and will stop at nothing to accomplish her goals
How other people see him/her: Bull headed and stubborn
Opinion of him/herself: She usually sees herself as being in the right
Other traits, especially those to be brought out in story: Stubborn, hard headed, strong willed, fearless
Ambitions: To save her brother, Charlie, even if it costs her, her life.
Philosophy of life: She evolves through the story, from being a single-minded individual who only thinks about what she must do to accomplish her goal, into someone who opens up her heart to allow another person in. She falls in love with Captain Aiden Townsend, even though their relationship started out as a sham or a cover for the purpose of recovering her bother from a gang of thugs. And Aiden too finds that he is evolving as the story moves forward and he is drawn to Isabella, even though he wants nothing to do with her from the start. They are a perfect match. They both have a large chip on their shoulder because of life’s circumstances, and as the story progresses they find that their hearts soften and change, to allow the other person in.
Most important thing to know about this character: I like how she evolves into a person who can reflect upon her life in the end and how her heart changes for the better.
Will readers like or dislike this character, and why? They will love her because she is so flawed to start with and changes into someone who is vulnerable and open to the possibilities of love in the end. Plus she has a witty, spunky side to her that doesn’t allow herself to accept defeat.
Born in Riverside, California in 1963, my family and I moved to San Diego when I was nearly 8. I had a very rich life growing up, with my brother, David and best friend Gigi, for company. I was married to my current husband, David in 1998 and we moved to Herald, California in 2001. We have a blended family of 6 kids and enjoy the rural life on our 5 1/2 acre ranch, 45 minutes south of Sacramento. I love writing and creating stories that are different and intriguing. I like to give my readers a little something unexpected. I have always wanted to be a published author, but the timing never seemed right. Raising a family and working full time always took precedence. Shortly after I turned 50 I decided that it would never be the right time, and determined that I needed to live my truth and follow my dreams. So I began writing on a whim, and loved everything about it. My first book is out, and the second one is at the publishers, scheduled to be released, April 4, 2017. I am currently working on book 3 of my series, slated to release the first week in August, 2017. I am very excited about the future, and thrilled to be writing. I count my blessings every day because I know how truly lucky I am. Life is good.
Facebook Page/Book Page Angelina’s Secret
Website/Publisher Jeweled Dagger Publishing