The third book in the VOICES series, VOICES ECHO stands alone as a riveting depiction of both the beauty of 18th-century Jamaica and the horrors of plantation life in the British West Indies.
When Albert Ross sailed to Jamaica months after their wedding, Rhiannon Ross believed he’d abandoned her for the sanctuary of his West Indies plantation and complacent mulatta mistress. Not one to live life in limbo, Rhiannon has followed in a bid to secure the funds necessary to ensure her financial independence and position as his lawful wife, and to quell her growing attraction to her unsuitable American advisor, Liam Brock.
Determined to put the enticing Mrs. Ross out of his mind, Liam Brock accepts an assignment to escort a young heiress to her father’s Jamaican estate. Convinced his and Rhiannon’s ships have crossed paths, he is stunned to learn Rhiannon is still with her husband, and shocked when he finds her isolated and frightened–a shell of the vibrant woman who still fills his dreams. He begins to suspect that beneath the exotic beauty of an island teeming with vitality, there beats a sinister pulse.
As evidence of smuggling and dark magic are uncovered, Rhiannon realizes that not only is her plantation in danger, but the lives of those she holds dearest are at stake. Though she struggles to hide her feelings for Liam, she cannot bear the thought of him coming to harm because of her. As greed on the island evolves into violence and violence into murder, Liam and Rhiannon find themselves in the midst of a deadly intrigue. Both must decide how far they will go in the name of protecting the other, and how much they will sacrifice to attain a future neither thought possible.
First the advice on abortifacients and contraceptives, now this. It cheered her on the one hand, this offer of goodwill, yet if Quaminah suspected her interest in Liam, did others? Had the sting of Liam’s refusal to accompany her been so obvious to Quaminah?
“It’s none of my concern how Liam Brock spends his time. How do you know that anyway? Why does Maisie bear watching?”
“Quaminah saw Massa Brock making eyes at Sally. Sally tell him Miss Maisie fill up her sack with victuals.”
So Mr. Brock flirted with the cook. Nothing new there. But to obtain information on Maisie? He suspected Maisie of pilfering food? He should be setting the accounts to rights, not spying on the help.
“Was it this morning she filled the sack?”
Quaminah nodded, her deft black fingers busy plucking. Suddenly, her fingers stilled, and she canted her head, as if listening.
“Rhiannon! Why in the hell aren’t ye where ye’re supposed to be? Get away from that river. Ye as well, Quaminah. Hurry.”
No mistaking who voiced those gritty commands. Speak of the devil. She turned to find him crouched at the edge of the forest, several yards behind them, beckoning with an impatient flick of his wrist.
She responded with a scowl. He wasn’t even properly dressed. Every white man on this island kept to convention in spite of the heat. Every man except this one. He’d abandoned his waistcoat days ago and wore his shirt loose, open at the collar, with the sleeves rolled to his elbows. If he followed any convention at all, it was that of the Negroes on market day. The linen may be several grades above the cloth worn by the slaves, but the cut of the garment was similar. How could he expect respect dressed like that?
Yet, she’d noted on more than one occasion that when Mr. Brock asked something of one of the slaves, he received. Far more quickly than did Mr. Martinson and his whip. It didn’t stand to reason. Look at how Quaminah, the traitor, had scurried back as he’d commanded.
“What are you doing here?” Rhiannon asked, not moving an inch.
Cobalt-blue eyes blazed at her from beneath straight black brows. In deference to the climate, he’d cut his hair short, but the abrupt way he’d taken to raking it back indicated he regretted the decision. She liked it, though. The glossy lock of black hair falling over his forehead added to his appeal. Maybe she’d tell him so one day, when he behaved less imperiously.
“Shh!” he hissed. Scowling, he hurried toward her at a crouch, slapped a hand over her mouth, then picked her up and carried her back to the tree line. “Can ye no’ do anything I ask? I’ve waited days now. Ye give notice we’re here, it’s all for naught,” he said, his mouth to her ear. With his palm, he indicated Quaminah should lie flat, and he fell atop Rhiannon, his hand covering her mouth, as if he didn’t trust she’d do as he’d demanded.
She ought to be spitting angry. He’d flattened her to the ground with only a palm to shield her from a mouthful of dirt and a nose full of the stench of rotting vegetation. Wet ground shared with roaches, centipedes, ants and scorpions. An intricate web spanned the distance of two low-lying shrubs mere inches from her face, and she eyed the tiny black spider at its center.
Yet she wasn’t—anger found no foothold in her emotions. The bulge of his arousal was immediate and unmistakable, and nothing short of Albert walking into the clearing would convince her she shouldn’t take pleasure in it. She stopped struggling and closed her eyes, blocking out all that wasn’t Liam. The sensation left was intoxicating; and though it might last only a moment, she’d enjoy it for the moment it lasted. She could be spitting angry once he released her.
So very quiet. No bleats from the horn, no squeals from the helpless caught within a predator’s beak or paws, and no parrots squawking their infernal cry. No sound except the persistent hum of the cicadas and the trickling music of the river. The drum of his heart against her back kept time with the gentle flow of water over rocks, and a pleasant lassitude spread through her limbs.
It was as if the jungle extended an offer of peace. She accepted it happily.
She caught a faint whiff of yams as his whiskered chin scraped her face. Yams weren’t served at Albert’s table more than once a week, and that occasion had come yesterday. Liam had taken a midday meal in the yard with the Negroes, then. Or perhaps by the river with Angela Airth.
Stop. He was here now. Enjoy now while it was now.
Her back grew damp with the contact while they lay waiting, and the heat from the hand he’d splayed over her belly began to spread, pooling in her loins. Her hands fisted in the forest floor, clutching the soft, moist soil, the decaying foliage, and God knew what else. If she moved her bottom only a little to the—
His lips grazed her earlobe with the nearly inaudible growl. Why hadn’t he ever kissed her properly? She had known him a year now, and they’d been close friends for half that long. He’d flirted, teased, made indecent suggestions with his eyes, yet he’d never kissed her as she’d suggested more than once that he might. Aside from one small peck good-bye—one she had had to initiate, mind—she’d yet to taste his mouth.
Just his kiss, that was all she craved. She’d stop at a kiss. So many married women indulged in more.
Ignoring his own command, Liam shifted his weight. His fingers dug into her pelvis, urging her closer, and she strained to accommodate. The beat of his heart, raging now, matched hers, outpacing the hum of the insects. All sensation of lassitude vanished, and, suddenly dizzy, she gritted her teeth against a groan.
Maybe she did crave more. Maybe he knew and hadn’t kissed her for good reason.
Abruptly, he stiffened, attune to something other than her. She listened, not daring to move, as the sound of soft footsteps and someone humming came into hearing and then faded.
Publisher and Release Date: Repository Press LLC, June 2014
Time and Setting – 1791, Plantation in Jamaica
Genre: Mystery and Suspense
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Sabrina
I absolutely loved my introduction to Liam Brock and his friends in Voice’s Beckon. In that book we experienced our young protagonists’ voyage to the New World and watched as they grew up and made something of themselves. They relied heavily on one another and it was endearing to watch them become worthy and respectable young adults. Liam’s story continues in Voice’s Echo, but do not be concerned if you haven’t read the first two books. Voice’s Echo takes place mostly in Jamaica and has a different tone overall that allows for it to successfully stand alone.
Rhiannon Ross and Liam Brock actually meet in Voice’s Whisper, but it isn’t until this book that their relationship is taken to another level. I was actually quite hesitant to see how this unfolds given Rhiannon is a married woman, but fortunately the author handles this particularly well. I’m usually the stuffy, prim woman who screams at infidelity and tries to stay away from those types of books. Being a married woman myself it rankles, but the progression of Liam and Rhiannon’s time together flows so well I found I was never anxious over the storyline. It was inevitable that they would become closer. It’s also refreshing to see that Albert Ross is different than Rhiannon had thought. He cares for her and wants only to keep her safe, and is not blind to Liam’s feelings. In one of the most grown up encounters I’ve ever read, Albert actually confronts Liam on this and handles it nicely. Yes, she’s lovely – I understand why you care for her, it is this care I’m counting on to help keep her safe.
I’ve mentioned Rhiannon’s safety twice and there’s good reason – all is not well in paradise. Rhiannon swears there are mysterious things happening to her, and people from the plantation are going missing and unrest abounds. Rhiannon is a mess by the time Liam comes on the scene. It’s comforting when she finally has someone she can trust to help her to solve the mystery. Against her better judgment, she is determined to do all she can to keep those she loves out of harm’s way.
The author does a great job of bringing Jamaica to life. It’s disturbing to see the plight of the slaves, but in keeping the actions and events true to history, she has given an authentic feel to the story. Whether discussing weather, soil or even the bugs, everything was explained with such descriptive detail I felt as though I was part of the surroundings.
Miss Graham takes her time with the story. This is a long book that slowly develops its’ characters, and she has created such vivid scenes that immerse you deeply into the story and leave you feeling vested in the outcome of Rhiannon and Liam’s lives. There is a particularly enlightening Author’s Note that I’m glad was included.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
History and real-life narratives had always blended in Graham’s imagination, particularly when she delved into the stories of her family’s ancestors. Eventually the engaging voices of characters who might have lived emerged. Tracing paper trails quickly gave way to creating her own stories, and she hasn’t looked back since.