We've met Hawker as a secondary character in the other books. He's Hawker, or Adrian Hawker, or sometimes Sir Adrian Hawkhurst, depending who he's pretending to be and who he wants to impress. He is deadly and sarcastic and maybe a bit too fond of sticking knives into people. Naturally he has the making of a Romance hero.
Two of the most dangerous spies of the Napoleonic War — on opposite sides, natch — fall in love. Think Montague and Capulet. Think Yankees and Red Sox. Think Hannibal and Scipio Africanus. Think about the owl and the hawk, two birds that might share the sky for a while, but can't live together.
Hawker rose up snarling out of the slums of London. His mother was a country servant, forced into prostitution when she turned up pregnant. She dies under the fist of a brutal customer, leaving Hawker to survive alone on the streets. By the time he's ten, he's becomes the most cunning thief and the most skilled, ruthless assassin in the service of the King of Thieves. He's rescued from that life, by the British Service who have uses for his particular skill set.
Justine DeCabrillac, daughter of the nobility, is a woman just as formidable as Hawker. Her parents die in the chaos of the Revolution and she is betrayed into a decadent child brothel. She's rescued by a woman of the French Secret Police. In time, Justine, too, becomes a great spy for France.
It was inevitable Justine and Adrian would meet. The shifting intrigues of war and peace between England and France bring them together again and again, sometimes working toward a common goal. Sometimes wholly at odds. But a friendship forms between these two young spies, the best of their generation, based on common knowledge and common respect. Spies of different nations have more in common with each other than with the armies clashing across battlefield or the civilians at home in bed.
They become lovers.
This is a great error.
For Montague and Capulet, owl and hawk, tragedy is inevitable. The demands of
loyalty will drag them apart.
But they can't seem to stop.
Then, in two decisive confrontations — one on the steps of the Louvre, one outside Paris as armies advance to take the city — they hurt each other. They do the unforgivable. They speak words that can't be taken back.
Their love story is over.
Ironically, years later, when England and France are at peace and Justine has given up her old spy games, she learns of a plot to discredit and destroy Adrian. She's attacked on her way to warn him and staggers into British Service Headquarters, bleeding.
As Adrian carries her upstairs, unconscious, he knows it's a second chance at love. If they can work together, they might just find out who wants to kill Justine and frame Adrian. If not, they'll both fall.
His chin was shadowed with a need to shave. She had known a boy three years ago. She did not really know this young man.
I do not know how to ask. Everything I can say is ugly. I do not want this to be ugly.
She gave her attention to pouring hot water onto the tea leaves. Rain drummed on the roof. Since they were not talking, since they were not looking at each other, it seemed very loud. He said, “As soon as you drink that, you should leave. It’s getting worse out there.”
I must do this now, before I lose my courage. “I am hoping to spend the night.” She chose words carefully, to clarify matters beyond any possibility of misunderstanding. “It is my wish to spend the night with you, in your bed.”
Hawker was silent. He would be this self-possessed if tribesmen of the Afghan plains burst through the door and attacked him with scimitars. The refusal to be ruffled was one of his least endearing traits.
Time stretched, very empty of comment, while she swirled the teapot gently and he was inscrutable. Finally, he took the oil lamp from the end of the mantel and busied himself adjusting the wick, lighting it with a paper spill from the fire. “The hell you say.”
In the books you love, what love stories were never told?
For me, it's the story of Cat in Sharon and Tom Curtis' Windflower. I would love to read his story.
I'll be giving away a copy of Black Hawk to one lucky commentator.