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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Books for Adults - Fiction

Cover Art: Once upon a Scoundrel
Once a Scoundrel
By Mary Jo Putney
Zebra, 2018, ISBN 978-1-4201-4096-5, US $7.99
e-book ISBN 978-1-4201-4097-3, US $6.99

StarStarStarStarStar

Being dishonorably discharged from the Royal Navy is a stain on the family’s honor, but Gabriel Hawkins Vance doesn’t regret his actions. In the intervening years since his banishment, he’s done well for himself and is able to pick and choose what he does, but he’s uncertain what future path to select until the British spymaster visits his ship. A delicate situation has arisen and Gabriel has the necessary expertise to carry out the mission if anyone can. He’s spent time in Algiers, is fluent in the Arabic dialect, has had prior dealings with a particular Barbary pirate, and is willing to do whatever may be necessary to successfully conclude his assignment.

Lady Aurora Octavia Lawrence may be the delight of her father’s life, but her penchant for independence and globe-trotting adventure has landed her in a predicament from which he cannot and will not extricate her. The outrageous ransom demanded by the Barbary pirates who kidnapped her is beyond his means – a fact Rory suspects, but still she hopes. In the meantime, she and her cousin must endure captivity in their comfortable “cage,” and she must humiliate herself time and again in front of prospective buyers seeking a beautiful, virginal westerner to grace their harems. If she and her cousin cannot escape and no one rescues them, she will be forced to give up her dreams of being an author and forever resign herself to a life of sexual slavery.

Malek had thought his days of piracy over until his greedy and nasty cousin gives him no other choice. When Gabriel offers him the use of his ship as part payment for the ransom, he accepts the offer that will transport him and his exotic menagerie, including the two English ladies, to Constantinople. Despite their past association, Malek makes it clear that he’s willing to sell them into a harem and see Gabriel and his crew dead to regain what his cousin has stolen from him.

Once a Scoundrel takes place in England, Algiers, and Constantinople between 1814 and 1815. Putney deftly transports readers to the Ottoman Empire and her melding of historical facts with fiction is flawless. In her author’s note she writes, “I do not find pirates romantic. They were greedy and sometimes murderous criminals who preyed on the vulnerable. Barbary pirates were the scourge of the Mediterranean from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries . . . .” (230) This historical romance ably demonstrates this, while spinning a dramatic tale of intrigue, corruption, greed, determination, and love. Perfect reading for a cold winter’s day or as an escape from the stress of everyday life, Once a Scoundrel offers an exotic portrayal of undying hope and love everlasting no matter the odds one must face.
 
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Review Copyrighted ©2018 Cindy Vallar



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