Once a Scoundrel

Once a Scoundrel

by Mary Jo Putney


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“Putney’s endearing characters and warm-hearted stories never fail to inspire and delight.”
—Sabrina Jeffries

An outcast on the high seas . . .
The son of a proud naval dynasty, Gabriel Hawkins was born to command the sea, until he leaves the Royal Navy in disgrace and is disowned by his family. As captain of his own ship, he’s earned his living in ways both legal and illegal, and his experience makes him the best choice to ransom an aristocratic beauty captured by Barbary pirates.
Having avoided the traps of convention and marriage, Lady Aurora Lawrence is horrified by the prospect of spending her life as a harem slave. Her only hope of escape is a quiet, steely captain who has a history with her captor—and who will do anything to free Rory. Together they undertake a dangerous mission through troubled waters—and encounter another kind of danger as attraction burns hot within the close confines of his ship. But even if they endure the perils of the sea and enemy lands, can their love survive a return to England, where the distance between a disgraced captain and an earl’s daughter is wider than the ocean?
Praise for the Rogues Redeemed series
“A compelling story that neatly balances dangerous adventures and passionate romance.” —Booklist

“A thrilling, romantic tale.” —Bookpage, Top Pick of the Month
“Putney’s multifaceted and well-developed characters add depth to this romance, which is complete with the trials of war and the promise of future series installments.”  —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496703538
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 06/26/2018
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 1.50(h) x 9.50(d)

About the Author

Mary Jo Putney is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has written over sixty novels and novellas. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA, she has won the honor twice and is on the RWA Honor Roll for bestselling authors. In 2013 she was awarded the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.  Though most of her books have been historical romance, she has also published contemporary romances, historical fantasy, and young adult paranormal historicals. She lives in Maryland with her nearest and dearest, both two and four footed. Visit her at maryjoputney.com.

Read an Excerpt


LondonAutumn 1814

Lord and Lady Lawrence were enjoying a pleasant afternoon in the library when the letter arrived. The butler himself delivered it to the earl. Sylvia Lawrence glanced up and saw that the missive was wrapped in stained oilcloth and must have traveled a great distance. "Is that a letter from Rory?" she asked eagerly. "We haven't heard from her in so long! Is she coming home?"

Her husband unwrapped the letter and read it with a deepening frown. Then he swore with the vibrant profanity that only one person ever invoked. "Your daughter, Lady Aurora Octavia Lawrence, has gone and done it this time!"

"She's your daughter, too," Sylvia pointed out as she began to worry. "What's wrong?"

The earl snarled, "The letter is from the British consul in Algiers. Your damned daughter was captured by Barbary pirates and they're demanding an outrageous ransom to return her!"

Sylvia gasped as levity was replaced by horror. "How is that possible? I thought the Barbary pirates had given up their thieving ways after the Americans fought them and forced a treaty."

"The pirates of Barbary are not great believers in treaties," her husband said bitterly. "The consul says she's unhurt, but she's locked in a harem and will be sold into slavery unless she's ransomed." His voice rose. "Fifty thousand pounds! Fifty thousand pounds!"

He slapped the letter onto the desk, sending a fine goose quill pen flying. "Well, they can damned well keep her! I'm not paying a ha'penny to get the girl back."

"Geoffrey, you can't possibly mean that!" Sylvia gasped. "Our youngest daughter! Rory was the delight of your life."

"Until she grew up, and she's been nothing but trouble ever since." He scowled at Sylvia. "She won't make a proper marriage and she's spent her inheritance from her great uncle on her travels. She's a clever minx. Let her get out of this scrape on her own. I can't afford her anymore."

"She's our daughter!"

"You think I don't know that?" His initial rage was cooling and there was pain in his eyes. "I may be an earl, but I can't afford a sum that large. It took me years to pay off debts left by my father, and you know the amount of the mortgages we've had to take out to establish the rest of those eight children you had."

"You had something to do with all those children," she pointed out dryly. "We've been blessed with eight healthy, charming, intelligent offspring. Which of them would you give up?"

He sighed. "None, but giving them the futures they deserve has exhausted the family resources. There simply isn't the money available to pay such an enormous ransom. Not even for Rory."

Sylvia bit her lip because she knew how difficult it had been to raise the money to establish the older offspring. "But slavery in Barbary, Geoffrey! That's not a scrape — it's disaster! Just think of the horrors she might suffer!"

His mouth tightened. "She's pretty enough to avoid the worst atrocities. She'll probably end up as chief concubine of the dey of Algiers. I'm sorry, Sylvia. Rory has made her bed." His voice broke and his pain showed. "Now she must lie in it with whatever man is willing to pay her price."

The countess cringed. Geoffrey had decided that the ransom was impossible and he wouldn't lift a finger to help Rory. She closed her eyes, shuddering as images of her youngest filled her mind. She loved all her children deeply, but Rory had been such a golden, happy baby. That was why Sylvia had named her Aurora, for the dawn.

Aurora had quickly become Rory as her daughter had grown into laughter and mischief. Yes, she sometimes got into trouble, but that was because of her appetite for life. There was no malice in her.

Sylvia knew her husband. Now that Geoffrey had analyzed the situation and decided there was nothing he could do, he would close the door on Rory and concentrate on problems closer to home that he could solve. He'd bury the fate of his daughter so deeply that he wouldn't feel the pain, except in his nightmares.

But that didn't mean that Sylvia must do the same. She'd heard of a man who was good at dealing with difficult situations. An aristocrat with connections to people in all walks of life. She'd call on him in the morning. Perhaps — pray God! — he knew someone who could bring her daughter home.

The schooner ZephyrPool of London, England

As a boy, Gabriel had dreamed of being the bold captain of a sailing ship, a privateer like Drake and his own legendary namesake, Sir Jack Hawkins. Imagination did not include long, boring weeks at sea or weevilly ship biscuits or granite-textured hardtack.

Nor accounting. His was casual because he was owner as well as captain, but some figuring was required to keep the Zephyr running properly. Luckily, his last mission to America to rescue a stranded English widow had been very profitable, thanks to the lady's generous family. As a bonus, he'd even avoided being blown up by the Royal Navy warships that had been thundering up and down the Chesapeake Bay.

He was glad to set aside his account book when Landers, his auburn- headed American first mate, rapped on the frame of the open door and entered his cabin. "Morning, Captain. We'll be through with the provisioning by tomorrow or the day after." He handed over a list. "These are the supplies we're waiting for."

Gabriel scanned the list, then nodded. "Even if it takes longer, it's worth waiting for Halford sails. One should never skimp on good sails."

As he handed the list back, Landers asked, "Where will we be heading next?"

"That's an excellent question." Gabriel leaned back in the chair that was secured to the solid oak floor and absently scratched the head of the white and gray ship's cat that was snoozing on his desk. "I'm not sure. With Napoleon in exile and the British and Americans in peace negotiations, there aren't many blockades to run. I'll have to rustle up some regular cargo. Safer but less profitable."

"I'm getting old," Landers said with a sigh, being all of twenty-six years of age. "We've dodged enough cannonballs that safe is sounding good."

"Even without cannonballs, the sea can kill us quickly enough if she chooses," Gabriel said dryly. Being past thirty himself, he'd seen enough danger to agree with his mate, but a man must do something to keep himself busy, and he was well experienced with the sea. "I'm considering the China tea trade."

"The Zephyr's speed would be an advantage there, but the voyages are very long." Landers hesitated before continuing. "I wouldn't sign on for that. My father is halfway done building a first-rate coastal trading vessel. It will be ready in the spring. I've been thinking that it's time to go home to Maryland and find me a wife before all the pretty girls marry someone else."

"I'd miss you," Gabriel said with real regret, "but the China trade isn't a good fit for a man who wants a home and family. It's time you had a ship of your own."

Speaking with the zeal of a happy romantic, Landers asked, "Have you thought about settling down and finding a pretty wife of your own?"

Gabriel's brows arched. "I wouldn't know which side of the Atlantic to settle on, and in my business, I meet very few pretty ladies, so the answer is no."

"If you settle in St. Michaels, I guarantee you'd find no shortage of attractive females interested in furthering your acquaintance," Landers said with a grin.

"A first mate has many important duties on shipboard," Gabriel said acerbically. "Matchmaking isn't one of them."

"I have a very fine cousin named Nell," his mate volunteered. "Pretty as a picture, and can bake a cherry pie that would make angels beg!"

Gabriel gave his best ferocious captain glare. "Go!"

The glare must not have been working because Landers was laughing as he withdrew. When his mate was gone, Gabriel returned to his accounts, but his mind wandered.

He'd seen more than his share of dire times, but in recent years, he'd done rather well. In fact, he had reached the point where he had choices. But what the devil did he want for his future?

Since he had no idea how to answer that question, he was relieved when Landers stuck his head in the door again. "There's a Mr. Kirkland here to see you, and he looks like someone you might want to talk to." Landers vanished again.

Kirkland? Coming to sharp awareness, Gabriel got to his feet. He knew the name, but why on earth ...?

The tall, dark-haired man who entered the cabin ducked to avoid hitting his head with the ease of someone accustomed to sailing ships. At first glance, he appeared to be merely a well-tailored gentleman, not a spymaster who worked magic behind the scenes. A second glance revealed rather more. "I assume you're not Mr. Kirkland, but the legendary Lord Kirkland?"

His guest smiled. "If our mutual friend called me legendary, surely it was with sarcasm."

"A bit, perhaps," Gabriel allowed as he offered his hand. But there had also been respect in that description. "Welcome to the Zephyr, Lord Kirkland."

The other man returned a firm handshake. "Kirkland will do. Do you have a few minutes? I have a proposal I'd like to discuss with you."

What could a spymaster want with Gabriel? Intrigued, he said, "I have the time." As he gestured his visitor to a chair, a gray and white streak darted from Gabriel's desk and out the door.

Kirkland blinked. "That was a cat?"

"The ship's cat. He's a very good mouser, but shy. He doesn't like to be noticed so pretend you didn't see him." Gabriel crossed the cabin and closed the door. "Speaking of our mutual friend, have you seen Gordon and the intrepid Callie since their return to London?"

"Yes, and they're flourishing." Kirkland settled in the other chair. "It was during our discussion of Gordon's mission that he suggested I should make your acquaintance because you're well suited for certain kinds of work."

"Work that involves sailing ships, I presume," Gabriel said as he took his own seat. "But what can my ship offer that you can't find in your own merchant fleet?"

"Experience of the Barbary states," Kirkland said succinctly.

The back of Gabriel's neck prickled. "Where did you get that idea?"

"Gordon said that one night when you were transporting him to America, the two of you shared brandy and stories," Kirkland explained, an amused glint in his eyes. "Apparently you told him that you'd spent time in Algiers and had also visited some of the other Barbary states."

Gabriel had talked about that? He must have had more brandy than he'd realized. But he and Gordon shared a bond formed in mutual danger, and it was easy to talk to him. Plus, Gordon had more than his share of amazing stories. It had been quite a night. "What did he say?"

"That you'd been a slave," Kirkland said steadily. "That you managed to escape with a mixed crew of American and European sailors by capturing this very fine ship from the corsairs who had originally taken it from the Americans. Those are impressive qualifications, Captain."

He had definitely had too much brandy that night. "The escape was a joint effort that involved a number of men, providentially dreadful weather, and a good bit of luck."

"After I heard the story, I did some investigation. The consensus was that without your sailing skills and your fluency in the local Arabic dialect, there would have been no escape."

That was true, so Gabriel didn't try to deny it. "Why does this interest you?" he asked bluntly.

Equally bluntly, Kirkland said, "A young woman, Lady Aurora Lawrence, was taken prisoner when her ship was captured by an Algerian corsair. When her captor learned that she's the daughter of an earl, he demanded a ransom of fifty thousand pounds. Her father can't pay that."

Hawkins whistled softly. "That's a king's ransom! But refusing is a harsh thing for a father to do. Did he consider negotiating?"

"There are a number of other children and the family doesn't have limitless wealth, and of course negotiating is difficult from so far away. But yes, it's harsh." Kirkland's gaze was steady. "And a situation you might have some sympathy with."

The spymaster had obviously done research into Gabriel's past. His mouth tightened. "I do, but I still don't see what this has to do with me."

"Lady Aurora's mother doesn't agree with her husband's refusal, and she's pawned her jewels and other personal property and borrowed every penny she can in hopes of obtaining her daughter's release."

"Has she managed to raise the fifty thousand pounds? If so, it shouldn't be too difficult to arrange the ransom and retrieve the girl."

"She could only find about half the amount, which is why she needs a shrewd and knowledgeable agent. She'd heard of my reputation and approached me, hoping I knew a man who was brave, honorable, familiar with Barbary, and a really good negotiator." Kirkland smiled a little. "With half the experienced diplomats of Europe dancing around each other at the Congress in Vienna, the list of possibilities was very short. Is this a job you'd be willing to undertake?"

Even though Gabriel had guessed where the conversation was leading, Kirkland's words were like a kick in the belly. The Barbary Coast. Scene of the worst hells of his life, and also the beginning of his resurrection.

Gabriel didn't even realize that he'd risen from his chair and started pacing until he found himself automatically dodging the two cannons that shared his cabin. He stopped and stared out a porthole at the busy Thames, where boats of all sizes skimmed back and forth in happy turmoil, a quintessential London scene. So very different from the sun-scorched shores of the Mediterranean.

Kirkland said quietly, "I gather that is a question not lightly answered."

"You gather correctly."

"Since our countries aren't at war and you'd be carrying legitimate credentials, you shouldn't be in any danger if you return," Kirkland said in a neutral voice.

"True, and I'm not likely to be recognized anyhow. I had a shaggy beard in those days and I'm not particularly distinctive looking."

"Would the Zephyr be recognized? She was captured by Algerian corsairs and spent time in the harbor there."

Gabriel shook his head. "Because of storm damage and repairs, there have been modifications over the years, including changes to the rigging. She might be identified as of the same American schooner type, but not as the same ship. Yet even if the ship and I aren't recognized, the Barbary shores are volatile. I've avoided the area ever since I left."

"It's currently even more volatile than usual," Kirkland agreed. "With Europe busily rebuilding after Napoleon's defeat, it must be like sharing a bed with a restless elephant for the countries on the south shore of the Mediterranean."

Amused by the other man's vivid description, Gabriel turned to Kirkland. "Tell me more about the suggested arrangements and about the young damsel in distress."

"You'll be paid a reasonable charter fee for your efforts, though it won't be as profitable as your journey to America with Gordon," Kirkland replied. "I can get you letters of introduction from high-level government officials, and I think I can get you a temporary rank of consul."

"Those things could be useful, unless some corsair captain attacks for no good reason and blows holes in my ship."

Kirkland nodded with rueful acknowledgment. "That's not impossible. I'll personally reimburse any repairs that might be necessary for such a reason."

"That's generous, assuming my ship isn't captured or sunk," Gabriel said with desert dryness. "What of the girl? Do you know her? Is she worth all this effort?"

"Her mother thinks so. I've never met Lady Aurora, but her nickname is Roaring Rory Lawrence and she has a reputation for being intelligent, charming, and dismayingly independent." Kirkland reached into an inside pocket and pulled out an engraved gold locket. Snapping it open, he said, "Her mother lent me this miniature in the hope it would help me recruit a champion for the girl's freedom."

Gabriel opened the locket, and felt a strange, painful shock as if lightning had savaged his heart. Lady Aurora was a golden blonde, very pretty, but what made her irresistibly engaging was her laughing face. She looked like a young woman who deserved to be free and happy, not imprisoned for life in a foreign harem, a possession rather than the vibrant woman he saw in the miniature.

In an odd way, she reminded him of all the ways his life might have been different. He couldn't change his past, but perhaps he could help this golden girl regain the freedom and laughter she deserved.


Excerpted from "Once A Scoundrel"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Mary Jo Putney.
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.

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Once a Scoundrel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Putney has mastered the art of creating characters that are engaging and complex and weaving tales that are both entrancing yet breeze the reader along through to a joyous conclusion. I am always left happy for the characters, yet yearning for more.
Anonymous 27 days ago
The has author has always been my one of my favorites wonderful characters, always and love leads to marriageThis story is so good, and part of the world that,I have never visited,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well done
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed Gabriel and Rory's story! Gabriel has been tasked with rescuing Rory from a Barbary pirate. He never expected this job to turn into something that would become much more important to him. The pirate turns out to be someone from Gabriel's past and he is able to barter for Aurora, but must then take on the daunting task of rescuing the pirate's family. While on this second rescue mission, he starts to fall for Rory. This was definitely not in his plans. Rory is on a big adventure sailing around the world and never imagined being captured by pirates. She just hopes her father will send the ransom money. When Gabriel arrives to rescue her, she finally begins to hope that everything will be fine. She soon learns that it is not and that she is still a captive. As these two embark on their second part of their journey, they fall in love. Can these 2 star crossed lovers find their HEA? I loved watching these two strong willed people fall in love. I'm hopeful that Putney is going to continue this series as I have throughly enjoyed it.
LEH0644 More than 1 year ago
Gabriel Hawkins has been contacted by Lord Kirkland, spymaster, to travel to Algiers and barter with a pirate for the release of his captives Lady Aurora Lawrence and Constance Hollings. Her family was not able to gather the total amount of the ransom demanded so Gabriel will have to barter. He finds that the pirate is a man he has dealt with before, Malek Reis. Malek needs the ransom to free his family captured by his evil cousin Gurkan and agreement is reached to take exotic animals on to Constantinople. Gurkan enslaves the women and imprisons Malek. Now it is up to Gabriel to free them all and he only has a few hours to succeed or his ship will be burned.
Brownac101 More than 1 year ago
Lady Aurora Lawrence is horrified that she and her cousin have been kidnapped by Barbary pirates and held for an outrageous ransom in Algiers. Her father, the Earl, doesn’t have the funds to ransom her so her mother sells everything she has of value to rescue her baby. She hires Captain Gabriel Hawkins, the son of a proud naval dynasty that is he was until he left the navy in disgrace and his grandfather disowned him. Gabriel has made his living in ways both legal and illegal and is the perfect man to go and rescue Lady Aurora aka as she’s known by high society as Roaring Rory. When Rory and Gabriel see each other for the first time, she is nearly naked and being displayed to potential buyers. There is an instant connection between them, but Rory also sees the ship’s Captain as her only chance of being rescued. Little do they know but her kidnapper Melek has to funds from her ransom to rescue his wife and two children from his horrendous cousin before it’s too late. Gabriel comes up with a solution to possibly save Rory and rescue Melek’s family. Wow what an adventure they have from Algiers to Constantinople transporting a menagerie of pygmy animals especially the pygmy hippos who need a tank of water to be transported to Constantinople to add to the ransom money. Rory and Gabriel have an instant attraction, the passion simmers just below the surface and as they travel by sea, feelings become more complex. A captivating story from Mary Jo Putney filled with adventure, romance, intrigue with a few twist and turns along the way to keep you turning the pages. 5 STARS!!! This is my honest opinions after I voluntarily read a copy of this book that was provided to me with no requirements for a review.
georgia1 More than 1 year ago
A delightful story that takes the reader far and wide! Lady Aurora Lawrence has been captured by pirates and is being held as a slave. Her frantic mother contacts Gabriel, Lord Kirkwood, to try to rescue her. Gabriel had been captured by the Barbary Pirates once himself and agrees to find her. But with shock he recognizes the pirate holding Rory is the same one that held him years ago. Demanding a large sum of money for her rescue or she will be sold in an auction, Gabriel realizes the pirate needs money badly. Of course as Gabriel and Rory meet, there is definitely and attraction. This adventure takes them on a journey to far lands in Turkey and things do not seem to turn out well. Can He get her out of this situation and can they make it back home? A good story that is part of a series but can be read as a standalone. Prepare yourself for a fast paced journey that will have you turning the pages as fast as you can! Lori Dykes
Noire More than 1 year ago
I received an ARC of this book to read through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. Once A Scoundrel is the third book in Mary Jo Putney’s Rogues Redeemed series. This book can be read as a stand-alone but I do recommend reading all the books because ... simply ... they are marvellous. Mary Jo Putney excels at writing strong heroines who are adventurous without being TSTL and in this book she gives us two such wonderful heroines. The main story is about Lady Aurora (Rory) Lawrence and Captain Gabriel Hawkins, the secondary story is about Constance Hollings, Rory’s cousin and companion and Jason Landers the first mate on Gabriel Hawkins ship. Rory and Constance were returning from Greece when their ship was captured by corsairs and now they and the crew of the ship are being held for an impossibly large ransom. Gabriel Hawkins, Captain/Owner of a very fast ship and having had some experience with the corsairs in the area where the women are being held is charged with negotiating their release. Adventure, Evil Villains, Dashing Heroes, Intrepid Heroines, Daring Rescues, cute baby goats, and True Love ... this book has it all. More sweet than steamy. Publishing Date September 25, 2018. #OnceAScoundrel #NetGalley
PegGlover More than 1 year ago
Once A Scoundrel is a captivating historical fiction novel, well-crafted with adventure, romance, and pirates. Gabriel Vance came from a long line of Royal Navy men and used to be the favorite grandson of a well-known military hero. But, Gabriel’s action in the heat of a battle resulted in a dishonorable discharge and a royal shunning from his grandfather. Gabriel’s grandmother couldn’t treat her grandson as her husband did. So, to continue corresponding with his beloved grandmother, Gabriel changed his name to Gabriel Hawkins. Gabriel hesitated when asked to save Lady Aurora and her cousin, from a kidnapper. His own memories of being a slave were still fresh. But after seeing Lady Aurora’s picture, Gabriel couldn’t just sit back and not try to rescue her. Lady Aurora and Constance were mentally preparing themselves for months of slavery when Gabriel Hawkins showed up on the scene. Lady Aurora was surprised to find that her rescuer Gabriel, and kidnapper, Malek Reis were acquainted with one another. Gabriel was bargaining for Lady Aurora and her cousin’s freedom, when Malek accepted Gabriel’s price, under one condition. That condition, however, would bring Lady Aurora, Constance, Gabriel and his crew into more danger than she could have ever imagined. The one thing Lady Aurora knew for sure was that she was falling for the handsome sea captain and rescuer, Gabriel Hawkins. Gabriel knew that showing Lady Aurora affection would get them both punished and possibly killed, but staying away from her was becoming more and more difficult. Once a Scoundrel is a riveting read and one that I stayed up into the night to finish. If you enjoy historical fiction romance and a bit of adventure this book is for you. Thank you, Kensington Books and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.