What if your favorite superheros had Regency-era doppelgangers? And what if a group of them were recruited by the Duke of Wellington to gather intelligence for him during the Napoleonic Wars while they protected their own parts of the realm?
You'd get The Heart of a Hero series.
Nine authors are bringing nine full-length novels to you this summer, each telling the story of a man or woman who is a hero in all senses of the word.
Here's a bit about my book, The Mercenary Pirate:
Wolfgang, one of Lord Wellington’s craftiest spies, is a fighter, an indulgent loner who is cunning and bold enough to go where others do not dare. He hates distractions and complications, especially those involving the fairer sex, and his instincts have always fueled him and kept him on course, mission after mission. That is, until his talents steer him toward a destiny he didn’t know he had and a search for the brother he barely remembers. And when he comes into contact with a brave young woman disguised as a boy, the urge he feels to protect her might just lead him on the biggest adventure of all.
Selina’s wedding day did not go as planned. Instead, she was kidnapped by pirates and ransomed for an exorbitant sum. Her diabolical captors didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, however, and kept her imprisoned even after their demands were met. More clever than her kidnappers expected, she managed to escape and disguised herself as a boy. Forced to lie, cheat, and steal in order to stay alive, she loses hope of ever returning to the man she intended to marry. Desperate, she agrees to become a handsome and compassionate sea captain’s cabin boy to gain passage back to Cornwall, but the captain endangers the one thing she cannot afford to lose—her heart.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
“A reunion of sorts, monsieur,” she purred. “You look weary. What can I serve you?”
Joanna knew very well what it was Wolf wanted—information on his brother. Hadn’t that been what Wellington had promised him?
“Give me a beer,” he said.
She turned to the large barrel spout positioned behind her and filled his order as he leaned his elbow on the counter.
The scuffling and grunts he heard grew louder, more curious. He peered back over his shoulder at the crowd of bodies encircling someone in their midst, his leather overcoat crackling as he moved.
“You heard me. Stay...back!”
Wolf straightened at the sound of a boy’s voice.
He narrowed his eyes. His instincts railed. His nerve endings blazed to life and his entire body tensed for a fight. This time, there was no mistaking the fear or the slight feminine tone prickling his senses. Surely those men weren’t beating a woman on the premises?
“Monsieur?” Joanna asked when he didn’t acknowledge the beer she placed before him. “He is none of our concern. There are most important matters that require our attention.”
Whatever Joanna had to say could wait. “I’ll be the judge of that.”
Wolf turned around and headed toward the crowd of men, when everyone else minded their own business. Thirst came second to the protective urges clamoring inside him. Instincts had never failed him before. And at this moment, they shouted that the unruly men weren’t dealing with a mere boy, but a young woman in grave danger.
Marching back the way he’d come, he shoved his way through the derelict group, clothed in shabby threads that appeared to have never seen water or soap. There, in their midst, he finally clearly observed the owner of the raspy voice. A disheveled boy with a bloody lip and swollen eye was chained to a wall, bracing himself against his attackers, knees bent, fists protruded before him, prepared to take on the horde.
Filthy, disheveled hair half-covered the boy’s face as he glared through the strands at each man, wary, prepared to defend himself, to inflict pain on anyone who came near. Incredibly brave or terribly unwise, for Wolf was almost certain this boy was not who he appeared to be. A lot of care had been taken to alter his shape, but the filth couldn’t completely hide the bone structure that made him believe he was looking at a young woman in disguise. But who? Why was she here?
Chains rattled as she moved.
Damn. He’d seen what happened to captured boys who couldn’t hold their own against a group of well-oiled cutthroats. He’d experienced it and had been lucky enough to survive. But this girl wasn’t Wolf. She was a young woman facing brutal odds. These were hardened men bent on punishing those beneath them, of turning boys into men, or issuing a slow and painful death.
Violence didn’t favor the weak. Not in Saint-Malo, a citadel that bred pirates and privateers and some of the mightiest and valiant seadogs that had ever sailed.
For reasons he could only guess, the girl posed a significant problem to her captors. If she revealed her identity, she could expect a crueler fate than the one she was suffering now. But if Wolf used her troublesome behavior to his advantage, he might be able to broker her release before she got her arse handed to her on a platter or found herself on her back servicing every last one of these scabrous dogs.
Wolf growled low in his throat. Corsairs didn’t relax diplomatic practices for anyone, including female captives, unless it benefited them monetarily. They had long memories. They were willing to do anything for entertainment and profit, which meant he’d have to be a savvy barterer.
He examined the girl—her wild desperation and courage a rare find—from her handkerchief-tied curly-haired head, to her prominent nose, and swollen mouth. A coat hung overly-large off her shoulders, sleeves folded up at the ends revealing clenched fists chained at the wrist.
“What’s going on here?” he asked a seasoned tar to his right, barely controlling his temper. “What’s this boy done?”
“Slave boy,” the man spat. “Been cowerin’ in the corner like a rat for ’ours.”
“Cowering?” Wolf scrutinized the girl’s bloody knuckles. “The little rat has claws.”
“A dunderhead, ’e is. Not right in the ’ead, bitin’ the ’and that feeds ’em.”
Doubting the man’s logic, Wolf shook his head. Complete and utter fools, the lot of them. How long had the girl been held captive? Certainly not long enough to let her true identity slip.
He clenched his fists, struggling to control the violent impulses coiling inside him as urges to rise to her defense and kill everyone around him surfaced. But this wasn’t England. He was a foreigner on French soil during a time of war, intent to find a man with information about the brother he barely remembered. Losing his temper and going berserk would only draw suspicion on himself, Joanna...and the girl.
He took a deep breath to curb his rising fury as another man goaded the girl into swiping at air. Dark circles discolored the skin beneath her eyes. Christ, she looked as if she hadn’t eaten a good meal in at least a fortnight.
“Thirsty?” a grizzled man asked her, upending his tankard.
“You...” Hobbled by her chained ankles, she struggled to escape the ale that sloshed over her and slipped on the floorboards. “Oomph!”
“Assez!” A man missing several teeth broke away from the crowd and approached the girl as she fought to stand. “Enough,” he shouted again. “Ye’ll learn not to steal my scraps, batârd, or ye’ll never eat again.”
“Diable!” Regaining her footing, her eyes shot daggers at him. Then, to the man’s surprise, when he turned his back to her she leaped onto him and tightened the chains dangling from her wrists around his throat. “You threw them to me!”
There was a distinct inflection in her voice that indicated French wasn’t her native language. Bugger. A foreigner then. How far away from home was she? She could be from anywhere, but if she was from England... Hell, she might have been taught French as a member of the gentry or the peerage, which meant he couldn’t possibly walk away now, even if he wanted to. It didn’t matter he had business of his own to attend to. Ignoring an Englishwoman’s welfare wouldn’t be right. It wasn’t even in his nature.
“Ye’ll pay for this!” Her jailer—a man several had named Cuvier—bit her hand.
She released her grip and he flung her off his back. Cuvier staggered back, gasping for breath. Supported by his men, he then lunged forward, but Wolf stuck out his foot and sent the man sailing into a group of card-playing gamblers.
One artful swindler, swiftly grabbed his earnings, nimbly leaped to his feet and raised his booty above the heads of the other men, turning to glare at Wolf. “You owe me, monsieur.”
Men scrambled around the crafty sharker, but his attention never wavered from Wolf. His fiery stare promised there would come a time when he’d collect his due.
Annoyed, Wolf puffed harder on his cigar. Right now he had more important things to worry about than a disgruntled cheat. Namely, making sure a high-spirited wench didn’t get herself killed.
He clenched his hands and pondered the girl through the coiling smoke rising from his mouth. As if sensing his rapt attention she looked his way, locking her incredulous gaze with his. Wolf’s breath caught as he found himself gazing into a pair of the stormiest gray eyes he’d ever beheld. Suddenly, sounds in the tavern silenced. His lungs squeezed and alarm shot through him. Blood in his veins burned, fueling a sense of urgency that heightened his senses.
The little heathen didn’t plan to back down. She intended to fight these pirates—including him—until she revealed her identity or worse, breathed her last breath.
He understood her desperation to be free, the crazed flicker in her eyes. But that wasn’t all he read there. A maddening intensity drove her. One he immediately identified with—a mission, a search for something or someone she’d never have a chance to accomplish unless she gained her freedom.