Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: Trying Again With Smugglers Under Her Skirts

Help a Bitch OutBack in 2009, Katherine was looking for a book, but alas, it wasn't identified. She's remembered more details of this book she's still hunting, and wanted to ask again. HaBO, Take Deux! 

So I sent this in a few years ago, but nobody was able to ID the book for me. I've searched everything I can think of (off and on) since then, but still haven't figured it out on my own. I've remembered a bit more about the plot (but no helpful details like character names, author, etc.) so I'm hoping to appeal to the bitchery again, this time hopefully with better results:

I've tried everything to find this book that i read in the early/mid 90s. Hopefully with your help I'll finally be successful. I don't remember the title, author, or character names, but I do remember a good deal of the plot:

The story is set in Scotland. The hero has been sent to bust up a smuggling ring with the dangling carrot that if he is successful, his father won't hang for various cons he's pulled off. He discovers fairly quickly, or at least comes to suspect but can't really prove, that the leader of the smugglers is the heroine after chasing her up the cliffs one night and finding a few strands of her long, silvery blond hair snagged in a branch.

There's an early scene at a local ball/social event where they exchange some banter and she ducks out early to head to her night job, which has been a family business for a couple generations if I remember correctly.

A good portion of the book takes place on one of her ships where the hero has managed to get on board and the heroine and her crew work to make a successful smuggling run right under his nose anyway. During that journey, of course, the two give in to their attraction and fall in love. There's a chapter where there's a bad storm during which it's revealed she's terrified of storms. I think that's when she finally confesses she's the head smuggler.

The heroine and hero have a big argument over how to handle the whole “I need to catch the smugglers to save my father, but I can't turn in the woman I love” dilemma. I don't recall his plan, but hers involves a dramatic scene where the hero is supposed to arrive with soldiers in tow, spy the smuggler in the distance and shoot her, at which point she fakes falling over the cliff to her death. He objects vehemently to this plan and she pretends to agree, but then does it anyway. He rushes to her home to apologize to her mother, tortured because he thinks he's actually killed her and storms off in a fury when he gets there and discovers she's alive.

That night the local officer, who has been pursuing the heroine as a romantic interest, shows up to bully her into accepting his suit. There's a chase down the cliffs to the beach that ends with him strangling her when the hero shows up at the last minute to save her. They decide to deport the villain to either Australia or America, I don't recall which. Hero and heroine are reunited and she reveals she thinks she's expecting hero jr., the end.

There's also a sub-plot involving the heroine's widowed mother and the hero's father, who were romantically involved way back when. There's one memorable scene where they recall the time he, a supporter of Bonny Prince Charlie, is running from a troop of soldiers and hid from them under her skirts.

Please, please tell me someone knows what book this is.

In our first attempt to identify this book, the following books were suggested, but alas, are not the ones Katherine is looking for: Endure My Heart by Joan Smith, Smuggler's Lady by Jane Feather, and Wagered Widow by Patricia Veryan.

Barring those, do you remember this book? Anyone able help a bitch out? 


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  1. 1
    Bethany says:

    That sounds SO familiar. Unfortunately it’s been a while since i really read historical romances, but i’ll see if i can figure out which book i’m thinking of!

  2. 2
    Redheadedgirl says:

    I need someone to figure this out.  I need it like cake.

  3. 3
    Celia Marsh says:

    How about time period? If the parents were Georgian, they’re regency? It really sounds like it could be Veryan, and I think she had a few regencies.

  4. 4
    azteclady says:

    I (almost) second Redheadedgirl—I don’t need any cake, look at my hips, but I do need this book.

  5. 5
    Hillary617 says:

    It’s definitely not by Veryan. I’ve read most of her books, and leading a gang of smugglers is totally out of character for any of her heroines.

  6. 6
    LauraL says:

    I am pretty sure I read this one back in the 90s when I was reading any book about pirates, ship wreckers, or smugglers I could find. Been racking my brain and I checked my keeper shelf and both came up lacking. I did find a treasure on my shelf by Patricia Matthews from 1981, Tides of Love. It is set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the heroine is a pretty damn heartless ship wrecker who must chose between two loves.

  7. 7
    Celia Marsh says:

    Welp, no way around it.  Someone is going to have to take one (a lot) for the team, and read all of the pirate romance lists on goodreads (I know, I know, smuggler =/= pirate, but there are even fewer lists about smugglers out there.)

    And on and on and on. It’s impressive how many I know I must have read and yet have no idea AT ALL about. 

  8. 8
    Lovecow2000 says:

    How about The Pirate and the Pagan by Virginia Henley?

    Wild as a pagan goddess, Lady Summer galloped her stallion along the Cornish coast.  She had dabbled in the smuggler’s game to save her family estate, but a wealthy marriage would better serve her purpose now.  Lord Ruark Helford seemed the answer to her reckless prayers.  But as his hot, hungry kisses drew her toward deception and irresistible acts of love, she had to hesitate.  Would this arrogant, handsome lord be her ticket to heaven—or hell?


    My Lady Mischief by Valerie King

    A PERILOUS ENGAGEMENT… — Eleanor Marigate thought that Lord Bucksted was the most overly-opinionated man she had ever met. And he was her fianc?! She’d agreed to their betrothal only because he had the funds to get her widowed mother out of debt. And Bucksted was—Eleanor had to admit—dashingly handsome. But Eleanor had her principles… and a secret life as a smuggler, selling goods from France to help the needy. She simply could not marry a priggish fop who had no compassion for anyone besides his own insufferable self.

    Now she boldly announced to him that the wedding was off, telling him exactly what she thought of him. He calmly asked (perhaps with a twinkle in his eye) if she would wait to cry “off” until after the parties his friends had planned. Then he kissed her. And kissed her again. Suddenly Eleanor felt deliciously tingly… and very suspicious. Nothing would be more disastrous than a lady involved in mischief to lose her heart

  9. 9
    Hannah says:

    It sounds a bit like Alyssa Alexander’s The Smuggler Wore Silk, unfortunately, that was published in 2014.

    The Pirate and the Pagan by Virginia Henley sounds a bit like the description, though not exact.

    I hope someone can figure this out, because the plot sounds excellent!

  10. 10
    Hannah says:

    Actually, now that I think about it Claimed by the Laird by Nicola Cornick sounds pretty damn close as well.

  11. 11
    Lovecow2000 says:

    BTW, why are all the smuggling operations in Cornwall.  Wouldn’t Kent or Sussex make more sense (closer to London)?

    I found the two books above by searching on Paperback Swap.  While I don’t think these books are matches, I hope the help narrow the field a bit.  Paperback Swap’s search function is pretty good.  You can narrow by date ranges and keywords.

    This might be a great place for Redheadedgirl to trawl for her brand of crack. :)

  12. 12
    WVAmy says:

    I now want to read this book…

  13. 13
    LauraL says:

    @ Hannah – Claimed by the Laird looks real close. I think I’ve read all of Nicola Cornick’s books over the years but I didn’t think of her when I was looking up other authors.

  14. 14
    Katherine C. says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions ladies, but none of them are quite right :( Sigh. The hunt continues. If I am ever successful though, I will certainly share.

  15. 15
    Katherine C. says:

    Oh my God!!!!! YES!!!! YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!!! Bless you Lovecow!!!! (and let’s be honest, that’s kind of fun to say) — I went to paperback swap and put in my own search and I am 99.99% sure I’VE FOUND IT!!! Yesssss!!!! Pretty sure this is it ladies — I recognize the cover, and the description sounds spot-on: Sorry for all the exclamation points, but I’ve seriously been looking for this for the better part of a decade now.

  16. 16
    cleo says:

    @Katherine C. – Wow! They sure don’t make covers like they used to. I’m so glad you solved your puzzle.

  17. 17
    Violet Bick says:

    @Katherine C.

    Hip, hip, hoorah! I love when a book is found. And, after searching the better part of a decade, you deserve to find this book. Your enthusiasm upon rediscovering the title made my evening. Thanks for sharing the joy!

  18. 18
    LauraL says:

    @ Katherine C. – Woo Hoo

    I will sleep well tonight knowing you found your smugglers!

  19. 19
    denise says:


  20. 20
    kkw says:

    So glad you found the book!

    Also relieved to know she surrendered her ripe innocence to him and him alone. Innocence gets overripe and you run into all kinds of problems. The smell. It’s bad news if that innocence gets ripe enough for him plus anyone else. He hates all the women. She dies.

    Unless it’s a Lora Leigh book, that is.

  21. 21
    Kelly says:

    First, I love it when a HABO is found. Awesome! Mainly because all of a sudden my ever-growing TBR pile grows a bit more.

    Second, I think that cover is due for a reset, or some good cover snark. It looks like they are both making duck lips, despite the publication date of 1986. Maybe her “flawless creamy flesh” just looks more appealing next to his apparent bid to be Tan Lady’s paramour.

    Third, kkw, your comment has me in fits. Overripe innocence! Love it.

  22. 22

    Glad the book is found, but … the hairpiece? The hero is wearing a rug, is he not?

  23. 23
    Celia Marsh says:

    Oh, god, it has a really bad pun in the blurb. I mean, not as bad as his hair or his addiction to the tanning beds,  but bad enough.

  24. 24
    Faellie says:

    Lovecow: quite a lot of the smuggling was ships arriving from the Atlantic and dropping part of the cargo off surreptitiously in Cornwall before going upchannel to port.  Also, the geology means lots of hidden coves (rather than the long, low open beaches of the south east), and distance from the powers that be in London made lines of communication for enforcement authorities difficult while at the same time local gentry were more inclined to support local enterprise.  So yes, plenty of smuggling down here in times past.

    Family legend has my great x 2 or 3 grandmother standing on a beach with a small barrel of rum under her skirts when the Revenue came by to stop the wreckers.  I have my doubts about hiding a whole human being the same way.

    PS: in these here parts “wrecking” means beachcoming.  No historical evidence of deliberately luring ships onto the rocks, as far as I know.  No need for it anyway, as ships wrecked often enough without doing anything to encourage it.

  25. 25
    Katherine C. says:

    Thanks ladies. It does indeed look quite special, doesn’t it? I’ve already had my local book pimp order it for me, and I eagerly anticipate it’s arrival so I can see if it’s as awesome as I remember it being when I read it on the sly in middle school.

  26. 26
    Katherine C. says:

    *Its, its arrival. Dag nabbit.

  27. 27
    Susan Reader says:

    Hey, Kathleen Fraser is Margaret Ball!  She wrote several interesting fantasy/SF books in the early nineties (Flameweaver, The Shadow Gate, Mathemagics).  She also wrote historical romance as Catherine Lyndell—I still have a couple of those.  I’d expect this to be better plotted and written than you might expect from the cover and the blurb.

  28. 28
    Lovecow2000 says:

    @Katherine C.  Yay! Please send SB Sarah a review, so we can all revel in the crazysauce. 

    I think this discovery requires a Snoopy Dance

    @Faellie I always figured that Cornwall was a center of the “free trade,” but wondered if there was some Romancelandia skewing of the history. Thanks for clearing that up. :) 

    Happy Friday, y’all!

  29. 29
    Rikki says:

    @lovecow2000 Thank you for the Paperback Swap tip.  It helped me find a book that I have been looking for for YEARS! (Wedding Bells by Lydia Browne).  I knew it was the book I wanted as soon as I saw the cover.

  30. 30
    Karin says:

    If you like lady smugglers and the men who are trying to foil them, there’s also “Rapture Becomes Her” by Shirlee Busbee, that’s what I was going to guess for this HABO.

    “To save her village and what’s left of her family fortune from her wastrel cousin, gently bred Emily Townsend secretly leads a ring of smugglers. With the king’s forces and deadly rivals closing in, she has but one last dangerous shipment to acquire. But when her men rescue an injured stranger from the sea one stormy night, Emily faces her most formidable – and tempting – adversary ever..”

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