"Through thick and thin, forever and ever, come what may, we'll stay together..."
So goes the solemn pact between orphans Gavin Carmichael and Daisy Lake. The next day will see them separated for more than a decade.
Years later, Gavin is a successful London barrister haunted by his past - and the memory of Daisy. To distract him from his obsession, his friends coax him out to an East End supper club where the headlining act is the infamous nightingale of the Montmartre music halls, Delilah du Lac.
Only when Delilah strolls out onstage, Gavin takes one look at her slanted green eyes, sensuous mouth, and long, slender legs and feels recognition flood him. Delilah and Daisy are one and the same woman - a woman he resolves to save from herself at all costs. He storms the stage and carries her off.
When Daisy confides her dream to act on a proper London stage, Gavin seizes the opportunity to bind her to him. He will see she gets a part in the upcoming run of Shakespeare's "As You Like It" - provided she agrees to live with him for one month.
Daisy agrees. Gavin's offer is too tempting to pass on, and the lanky boy of her memory has matured into an exceedingly handsome man. Sharing his bed for the month will be no hardship. Only as their sensual games increase in intensity, Gavin is the one in danger of being enslaved.
“A many years ago
Roxbury House Orphanage
Footfalls bounded up the attic stairs. The three children tensed, breaths bated, gazes flying to the unlatched door. As soon as the last of them, Daisy, had stolen inside, they snuffed out the stub of candle and settled in to wait. Almost a quarter of an hour hence, the fading sunrays admitted through the smudged glass of the one weather-beaten window served as their sole source of light. Dust motes floated like feathers in the still, heavy air. In the artificial hush, the slightest creak of a board or the unsanctioned crack of knuckles or, God forbid, a sneeze seemed to ring out as loudly as the chiming of the famed Bow Bells of which all three occupants had been born within earshot, rendering them forever East Londoners, true-blooded cockneys.
The door opened on a screech, sending a sliver of light slicing through the shadows. Harry Stone poked his silver-blond head inside. “All’s clear,” he announced in a high whisper, drawing his friends’ collective sigh. He crossed the threshold, the lantern he held serving as a spotlight for the lopsided grin that girls, the older ones especially, seemed to find so very irresistible.
Scowling, Patrick O’ Rourke—Rourke—popped up from the milk crate he was crouched behind. “Jaysus, Harry, you’re late again. This is the third time in a row.”
Ducking to avoid the low-hanging eaves, the lanky sixteen year-old drew the door closed behind him. “Is it my fault some of us have work to do?”
The Scot answered with a snort. “Aye, hard labor it must be coaxing the bonny Betsy out of her knickers and into the straw with you.”
Making a seat on a stack of old school books, Harry shrugged. The son of a dockside whore from East Cheap, for him sex was a necessary physical function, an activity as inevitable as eating, sleeping, or pissing. “Spying on me again, mate? Well, mind you watch close. You just might learn something.”
Rourke snorted though in the dim light his cheeks burned bright as any candle flame. “Och, I’ve had plenty of girls.”
Legs swinging, Harry let out a laugh. Goats, don’t you mean?”
Rourke faced him, fists clenched. “Best close your clapper, Stone, or I’ll see it closed for ye.”
Crawling out from the underbelly of an old pedestal desk, Gavin Carmichael decided it was time to intervene. At fourteen he possessed neither Harry’s golden good looks nor Rourke’s brawn and glib tongue, but he had a canny knack for diffusing arguments between friends and foes alike, a trait that had earned him the sobriquet of Saint Gavin. He wasn’t entirely certain he fancied being likened to a saint. Saints tended to live short lives of poverty and self-sacrifice only to be broken on wheels like Saint Catherine or beheaded like Saint John the Baptist or burned at the stake like Saint Joan of Arc. The latter fate held a particular horror for him.
“Rourke, Harry, that’ll more than do. We’ve a lady present, after all.” He jerked his head to indicate the “lady” in question.
Nine year-old Daisy sat atop a sea chest, skinny legs swinging. She tilted her head of wheat-colored hair to the side and pursed her pretty upside-down mouth, a sign she was working on unraveling life’s latest mystery. “But straw’s itchy.”
Rourke tossed back his head of long auburn hair and hooted with laughter. Swiping a broad-backed hand over watery eyes, he said, “Dinna fash, sweeting. If ever the lovely Betsy has an itch, our mate Harry will be more than happy to scratch it for her.”
Wincing, Gavin cleared his throat, a signal that a change of topic was in order. “Ladies or rather lady and gentlemen, I hereby call this twelfth monthly meeting of the Roxbury House Orphans Club to order. Have I a second?”
“Second.” Jumping down, Daisy tugged on the skirts of her plain brown school smock.
The foursome settled in to form a circle, huddling cross-legged beneath the eaves. Harry set his offering, a handkerchief full of lemon drops and peppermint sticks pilfered from the kitchen, in the center along with the lantern. Later the booty would be divided among them, though Gavin always gave most of his share to Daisy.
Daisy reached across and tugged at Harry’s shirt sleeve. “You’re forgetting the best part.”
“I am?” Harry hesitated, looking puzzled, and Gavin surmised his friend’s mind was still in the stable with the bountiful Betsy.
“The oath, blockhead,” Rourke hissed.
“Oh, that. Right-o.” Catching Gavin’s pointed look, Harry began, “Through thick and thin.”
He elbowed Rourke. Rubbing at his poked ribs, the Scot scowled and said, “Forever and ever.”
Beaming, Daisy reached across and wrapped her small hand about Gavin’s little finger. Smiling into her shining eyes, he dutifully added, “Come what may.”
“We’ll stay together…just like a real family.” Breaking hands, Daisy clapped hers together, clearly awash in delight. Their oath was her favorite part of their monthly ritual, especially as she always got to say the finale. “Do real families hold secret meetings in their attic?” she asked of the circle though her gaze rested on Gavin.
As Gavin was the only one among them who’d had a proper family, two parents who were married to each other and a baby sister, Amelia Grace, he was uniquely qualified to answer. Still, he hesitated, emotion threatening to trip his tongue, gaze riveted suddenly on the feeble lantern flame, which seemed to grow into a raging inferno before his eyes. His parents and Amelia Grace had died when their tenement had caught fire, and they were trapped inside. By rights Gavin should have died, too, but at the last minute his mum had pressed a penny into his palm and sent him off to the bakery for a day-old loaf to stretch out the leftover supper stew.
“Gav?” Daisy tugged on his sleeve.
He pulled his gaze from the flame and turned to look at her. Working to overcome the invisible chokehold about his throat and the thickness blanketing his tongue whenever the word “family” was mentioned, he said, “They c-could, I…I s-suppose, if they w-wanted to. But no, n-not usually. They’re too…b-busy w-working.”
In truth, he couldn’t recall his parents doing much else but work, his mother especially. Even sitting before the hearth in the evenings reading aloud from her small library of cherished books, his mother had kept her nimble, work-roughened hands busy be it making brushes, putting the final “fancywork” finish on ladies clothing, or sewing canvases for hammocks.
Daisy slipped her small hand into his. “Then we’re the ones who’re better off, aren’t we?” She punctuated the statement with a brisk nod and a bright smile as though the riddle of familial relations had been solved at long last.
Of all of them, Daisy had the least experience of what it meant to be part of a family. She’d been left in a laundry basket on the steps of St. Mary-Le-Bow in Cheapside when barely a month old with no legacy beyond the blanket wrapped about her and a roughly scrawled note that read, “Be good to my baby.” Whether she’d come to Roxbury House under the auspices of the boys’ benefactor, Prime Minister William Gladstone, or by some other means was anyone’s guess. Regardless of who had brought her to the Quaker orphanage, it was a far more desirable destination than a parish workhouse or, worse still, one of the so-called baby farms. In the latter, gin-soaked country crones charged desperate young mothers fifteen shillings a month to take over the care of their infants. The money supposedly went for the child’s keeping, but more often than not he or she was slowly murdered with feedings of lime-laced milk and sundry other poisons. Many a small, newspaper-bundled body had been found on a country roadside. It was a terrible trade.
“Yes, poppet,” Gavin said, grateful she’d escaped such a gruesome fate. With her pale hair, slanted green eyes, and slight built, she reminded him of a wood sprite or an angel depending upon whether she was in a mischievous or reverent mood. “I expect we are.”
Daisy divided her gaze among them and said, “Can we act out the story of the pussy cat who wore boots? I like that one best of all.”
The other two boys answered with groans, but a warning look from Gavin brought them quickly around. If Rourke wanted Gavin’s help with his next history assignment and Harry someone to take over sweeping the horse stalls so he might busy himself with Betsy in the loft, they knew they’d better consent. Before long Harry was acting the part of the king with gusto and Rourke throwing himself into the role of the ogre. That left Gavin to serve as narrator and stage director, the perfect position for him. After nearly a year he knew all the parts by heart and yet he could never be certain when his stammer might crop up.
There was no question but that Daisy would assume the lead role of Puss. Being the center of attention was the entire point of the game, and the cat’s cunning and sheer pluck resonated with her Cockney soul. Watching her strut about the dusty floor, an old cavalier’s hat falling low over her brow and a moth-eaten mantel of velvet flung about her narrow shoulders, Gavin felt at perfect peace.
“Good show, sweetheart,” he called out at the play’s end when she swept off her hat and took her bow. “What a brilliant little actress you are, isn’t that so, lads?”
“Aye, that was a crack performance,” Harry agreed, tearing off his paper crown as though happy to be free of it.
“A bonnier lassie there’s not to be found treading the boards in London or in Edinburgh either, for that matter,” Rourke added, for though he’d lived on English soil for most of his life, he always made it a point to give equal due to his birth country.
Obviously transported to grander times and loftier circumstances in the world of make-believe, Daisy curtsied and dimpled and blew kisses to an invisible, adoring crowd. Gavin presented her with the last of the props, a papier-mâché rose she liked to drape over her arm and pretend was a full, fresh bouquet.
None of them knew it, but that evening was the last they would ever meet in the attic.
Connections: The second in my "Men of Roxbury House" historical romance trilogy, Enslaved is also a “second” chance at love story, my personal favorite theme. Separated for fifteen years, former orphanage inmates Gavin Carmichael and Daisy Lake AKA Delilah du Lac meet again in a smoky Covent Garden supper club. There they make a pact that will put their old friendship—and their new passion—to the ultimate test. Fortunately friends Hadrian and Callie (Vanquished) and Rourke (Untamed) are on hand to help Cupid sling a few more arrows in the proper direction.
Setting: As a lifelong Anglophile, I find London beyond fascinating. Enslaved takes place in both the ritzy West End (hero, Gavin’s new world) and the hardscrabble yet ethnically-rich East End (the “old world” where he grew up). I’ve also set the “supper club” where the lovers reunite in Covent Garden, the site of the street market where Harry/Hadrian meets Prime Minister Gladstone, the dark angel savior of my three male Roxbury House reprobates. To get a flavor for East London, visit www.visiteastlondon.co.uk. To learn more about Covent Garden, past and present, visit www.covent-garden.co.uk.
Hero Worship: Haunted by the memory of his family’s death in a tenement fire, sexy soft-spoken barrister Gavin is yet another tortured soul—in other words, my favorite sort of hero. After all, if one begins with perfection, what is there to be healed or redeemed? As for my inspiration, think multi-dimensional Welsh-born actor Christian Bale. Whether playing “Laurie” in the latest film adaptation of “Little Women,” or the newest (and yummiest yet) Spiderman, Bale never fails to deliver a stellar performance—and yes, magnificent eye candy.
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Mia, the feline heroine of Enslaved, is one of my best-loved cats as well as one of the crowning achievements of my rescue “career.” When I got a call from a neighbor about a mother cat and three kittens living in her yard, somehow I just knew it was the lovely chocolate brown-black long-haired cat I’d seen scrounging for garbage in my neighborhood that week. It was. Once I trapped her and her kittens, the vet assured me that “Mia” was as wild as they came. To be fair, Mia didn't do much to challenge that assumption. She bit the vet tech through the padded leather glove and had to be quarantined as a precaution against rabies. I even agreed to have her ear notched in preparation for placing her in a barn or sanctuary situation. But something, some gut feeling, wouldn't let me give up on her. I could look into her eyes, her angry eyes, and tell that behind all that anger and fear was betrayal. And I figured that if I wanted her to believe in me, to trust me, I'd have to believe in her first.
I brought her home, caged her in a large cage made for big dogs, gave her a cat bed and toys, and put her in a room with the other cats. I played Reiki mediation music nonstop to soothe her. I told her how sweet and good and kind and loveable she was even when she was gnashing her teeth and doing her best to shred my fingers. I let her watch me brushing the other cats and suggested that brushing might feel really good.
That's pure magic, pixie dust, and as romance authors we try to sprinkle a pinch of it in every one of our books.
I hope you savor Enslaved and please do look for Mia in some very special scenes.
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"A captivating Victorian Romance..."
"I liked the path that Daisy and Gavin went on together and how Daisy went from being the daring woman of the world to a well rounded woman who is comfortable as herself and completely with her man."
"A sensual love story that pulls at the heartstrings... Hope Tarr's books always deliver that emotional kick that makes me crave more."
"Fantastic characterization... When I got to the last page and had tears in my eyes, I knew this was a story I would want to read again. Hope Tarr has a new fan... Enslaved certainly put chains around my heart. It is a Joyfully Reviewed Recommended Read for me."
"...a fine Victorian romance that will have the audience rooting for the pair to find a way to remain together. Character driven, Gavin and Daisy struggle to overcome their past and their perceptions of what is best for the other...an enjoyable historical tale."
"Thoughtful and well-written...this book is too good to pass up."
"Tarr pegs Victorian-era London perfectly in this delightful tale of delayed loved...poignant and romantic."
“Enslaved is a good, fast read, and the characters (handsome, raven-haired Gavin, an upperclass barrister, and lovely, voluptuous Daisy, a struggling actress) are easy to like...
...this sometimes explicit love story could also warm up the reader who chooses to enjoy it in the fall or winter months..
[The] twists and turns kept me turning the pages, all the while rooting for the final, blissful embrace between hero and heroine.”
Awarded Five Blue Ribbons (the highest
“Hope Tarr is simply amazing. With Enslaved she has written another story that sucks you in and won't let you go. After reading Vanquished last year I've been anxiously awaiting Gavin's story. I was thoroughly pleased. I'm only disappointed that I'm now left waiting for Rourke's story.
Gavin and Daisy are great together. Despite the obstacles in their path, you just know they're meant to be. Life has changed them; neither of them is the same person they were at Roxbury House, but deep down their bond is still there.
Enslaved was wonderful. It was great to revisit beloved characters from Vanquished, and I'm waiting with baited breath for more.”
"Wicked sensuality and witty dialogue reach out to capture the reader’s attention and hold it throughout the book...A brilliant sense of time and place made for a journey back to Victorian England with all of its drama and pageantry."
“...Don't miss Enslaved.”
So good, I couldn't put it down
“I just had to write you to tell you how much I enjoyed Enslaved. WOW....I was in a reading slump and your book took me right out. Your book was so good, I could not put it down.
Bravo, Hope....me standing up giving you a cyber toast. Cheers!!!!
I know in my heart this is going to be another best seller for
“I finished reading your fantastic new book Enslaved!! I'm glad I paid extra thru Independent Bookseller for this wonderful read. The characters were so real. You felt for Gavin and Daisy and all they have been through. I just knew they were meant to be. They took a chance and made their world a better place to live, of course because of Love!!”
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