Sunday, 18 November 2012

Guest blog: Marie Laval - 'Angel Heart'

Angel Heart

Devonshire, January 1815.
Marie-Ange, the young widow of an English officer, accepts an inheritance in France only to find that everything in Beauregard is not as it seems. Why is the sinister Malleval so obsessed with her family? And could her darling Christopher still be alive? Marie-Ange finds herself trapped in a dangerous web of lies, intrigue, and mystical possession, and the only person to whom she can turn for help is Capitaine Hugo Saintclair. Yet the enigmatic Hugo represents a danger of a different kind …

Angel Heart is a lavish mix of romance, adventure, and a hint of the supernatural, largely set in France against the turbulent background of Napoleon’s return from Elba.


The cutter was sailing too close to the cliffs, heading straight for the Devil's Tooth. Marie-Ange's cloak billowed in the blustery wind, the hood blew back and her hair swirled like a golden veil around her. From the cliff top, she watched the small French ship dancing wildly on the waves, its tricolour and white ensigns flapping at the top of the mast.  If it carried on its course the ship would be ripped open by the reef… She unfastened her cloak, pulled her black shawl from her shoulders, and waved it above her head in the direction of the Devil's Tooth.

Damn this ship. Damn this weather. And damn Malleval. Hugo Saintclair clapped his hands together a few times and blew on them to keep them warm. Around him, the crew shouted orders and heaved on ropes in order to switch sails and change course before they hit the rocks.  The Angel warned them, the sailors said, heaven was on their side. Shaking his head with impatience, he listened to their nonsensical chatter. Angels didn't exist, but the woman who waved at them from the cliff top had saved them from a certain death.


Who did the woman think he was to summon him to her room like that? A lackey, probably. His lips twisted in an angry snarl as he climbed the stairs two by two. Madame Norton might live in a ramshackle manor house on the bleak, windswept Devonshire moorland, but she was still a Beauregard on her mother’s side and a member of the English gentry by marriage. He should have followed Martin’s advice and stayed at the club a while longer.
He walked down the draughty corridor and drummed impatient fingers on her door.
“Who’s there?”  A timid voice answered from behind the door.
“Saintclair. Did you want to talk to me?” His tone was short.
The door opened just enough for Madame Norton to peer through.
He exhaled sharply to control his rising temper. “Are you going to let me in or shall we talk in the corridor?”
She opened the door wider and he strode in.
“Is there a problem?” He looked down at her. Barefoot and swamped in an old dressing gown, the woman hardly reached his shoulder. He wondered what she wore underneath, if anything. His pulse quickened and a sudden rush of heat coursed through his veins. He stuck his hands in his coat pockets to hide the direction his thoughts had taken.
She stepped back and folded her arms on her chest.
 “You said you would be back early. I have been waiting here all day for you,” she said, her voice cold and haughty.
Her icy tone did nothing to cool his desires, in fact it had just the opposite effect. He took a deep breath and walked to the fireplace to put some distance between them. His lips stretched in a thin smile.
“Sorry. I got…distracted.” He shrugged.  “I did arrange a carriage and a driver for us. We’re leaving for Lyon on Saturday.”
She looked at him again in the way a queen might look at a mangy dog.
“Why wait until Saturday? Your instructions are to take me straight to Beauregard. Monsieur Malleval won’t be pleased.”
 If she meant to intimidate him, she had failed. She was starting to amuse him greatly—in more ways than one. 
“I have things to do. Anyway, what’s the rush? I thought you might like to come to town with me tomorrow and see a play in the evening.”
Her eyes flashed in anger.
“I do not go to the theatre, Capitaine. I am in mourning.”
He arched his eyebrows. “After six years?”
“My husband was a wonderful man. I will mourn him all my life.” Her eyes filled with tears, she bit her lip.
He didn’t answer. There was one thing to be said for her. She was convincing—a first-class actress. He had almost been taken in by her wistful sighs and tearful eyes, by her drab mourning dresses and the almost virginal blushing on her cheeks every time he looked her way. He had almost believed her grief-stricken widow act…until he saw young Norton leave her room in the middle of the night with a wide grin on his face. He knew better than to be fooled by a woman, especially a pretty one. 
Still, the way her voice quivered with emotion, her pale blue eyes shone with tears, and her lips trembled did have a strange effect on him. His throat went dry and he swallowed hard, so strong was the urge to crush her mouth under his, rake his fingers in her soft blond curls, and pull her close. The memory of her soft, pliable flesh quickened his pulse and made his body throb and grow hard.
As if she could sense the heat of his desire, a very becoming pink blush covered her cheeks and throat.  
* * * *
Why did he stare at her in this way? His eyes had gone dark. The red glow from the fire cast a sinister, almost evil light across his face. He walked toward her, looking like a wolf about to pounce on his prey. Uneasy, and very conscious of her state of dishabillé, Marie-Ange stepped backward until her back touched the dressing table.
“I bid you good night, Capitaine,” she said, striving to keep her voice calm despite the thumping of her heart. It was thundering so loudly she was sure he could hear it.
He seemed to snap back to reality and took a deep breath. “Of course…I have a few errands to run tomorrow morning,” he said, walking to the door and opening it. “Be ready for ten o’clock if you want to come with me.”
Once alone, she breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment, something in his expression had made her very uncomfortable. He had come so close the stubble on his cheeks, the outline of his mouth, and the rugged line of the scar had been clearly evident. She could have touched the rough fabric of his jacket. A shiver rippled the skin on her arms and she wrapped herself more tightly in Christopher’s dressing gown. She would have to be very careful where the capitaine was concerned. Despite what Uxeloup Malleval had written, she wasn’t sure she could trust him. But who was there to trust here? She was on her own, in a foreign land. France might have been her mother’s country, it wasn’t hers.

About Marie Laval

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie Laval studied French History and Law at university there. Marie now lives in Lancashire, in Northern England, where she tries to balance her busy family life with her passion for writing and her occupation as a teacher.
ANGEL HEART is Marie Laval’s first novel.

You can find Marie Laval at

No comments: