LOCATION: England/Ireland, 1798
TIMESPAN: About 8 years
HEROINE: Catherine Enderly, 17
HERO: Sean Culhane, 20
BODICE RIPPER? Yes
RAPE? Lots by hero only
VIRGIN HEROINE? Yes
READ: 8/03, 10/07, 12/08, 6/10
FROM PUBLISHER: Abducted on her way to boarding school, a terrified Catherine Enderly was brought from England to the coast of Ireland, the prisoner of the angry and powerful young Sean Culhane—a man sworn to vengeance against her family.
Frightened but defiant, the young countess met her captor with a strength that belied her fragile loveliness. But even as Sean vowed to have his revenge on Catherine, with each encounter he became more attracted to her. Her fiery innocence was a seduction that lured the passions of long smoldering hostility into a blazing inferno of desire.
Locked in a love-hate duel, he did not suspect that the captivating beauty who fought him with such tenacity was struggling desperately against her own awakened desires, and that his touch had become the burning reminder that the fierce hatred she felt for him had become an all-consuming love.
This is Christine Monson's first book, published in 1984, reissued in 1985. She won the Best New Historical Author Award from ROMANTIC TIMES for this very book. She later received the Romantic Times Best Romantic Adventure Award for her book Surrender the Night. Below is my handcrafted summary of the novel, compiled from 27 pages of handwritten notes. This certainly was a labor of love.
This is the tale of two people; 17 year old English Catherine Enderly, who has long black hair, blue eyes, is fine boned, and Irish Sean Culhane. He's somewhere around 20 and has short dark hair and green eyes. He's a smuggler of currency, art and spies. His mother took him away from her home at Shelan when he was born. Shelan is where Sean now lives.
The book opens up with Catherine at home a week after Christmas Eve, 1798. She's there on vacation from school at The Gentlewoman's Academy in Bath, where she's been going since her mother's death five years before. Her maid wakes her up by yelling at her, asking who the man was who'd left her bedchamber the night before. That man was Frenchman Colonel Raoul Louis d'Amauri. We'll learn more about him later in the book. One week later, Catherine is traveling back to school by coach. She noticed the coach was being followed by a horsemen so they stopped, she jumped out and started running. Three men started chasing her. She ran into a saloon to escape and was caught by Sean's brother, Liam, who's older by two years. They have the same mother, Megan. No one knows for sure if Brendan Culhane is Sean's father.
Sean sent Liam to abduct Catherine because, according to what Sean later tells Catherine, her father John 'owes me a debt'. John, who later turns out to NOT be Catherine's father, used to be a commandar who had lead a raid in Kenlo, Ireland. Sean and Liam's mother Megan was murdered in that raid but Sean survived. When Liam was two years old and his father had been in prison for two years for trying to attack the Dublin Armory, their mother Megan ran away with Sean, who she'd given birth to recently. Liam must have been a baby or wasn't born yet when Brendan went to prision.
Catherine is carried aboard Sean's ship. She wakes up on the floor to find Sean staring at her and to find that they are in Ireland, where Sean and Liam live. Sean told Catherine that as long as she's there, she's his to do what he wants with. She then made a terrible mistake by spitting on him. Sean backhanded her, cutting her lip and blooding her nose. She fell when he hit her, he picked her up and carried to his room and sat her in a chair. He helped clean her face up. Then he sat on his bed and made her take is boots off. He told her to take her dress off but she refused. She turned around and threatened to kill him with a candlestick. He ripped her dress off, make her get on the bed, then raped her. He then took her underwear, rubbed her crotch on them then wrapped them in paper to mail to her father. He collected the shreds of her undergarments and wiped them with the mingling of her blood and his seed." She got the package away from him. He told her not to throw it into the fire because it wasn't worth dying for. She threw it into the fire anyway. "Blackness clouded in Sean, the packet conjuring up the image of Megan's oil soaked, blazing corpse." Sean knocked Catherine to the floor as she tried to block his way to retrieve the burning package. We later find out he did send the package to her father.
Catherine became kitchen help and had to serve Sean and all the men their food. Once while serving him cobbler, she purposely let the cream run off the plate onto his lap. He made her go without food for the rest of the day. She got dizzy and sagged to the floor. Sean said she'd have to go without food the next day too. She told him if she wasn't going to get to eat, she'd not do her work.
One day she was snooping in his desk drawer and found a map with her father's estate marked off. She stole a horse to escape but was found by Sean and his men when they realized she was missing. Sean tied her wrists together, tied them to the horse's tail and made her walk the rest of the way home. When she got home, Sean told Peg, the servant, to bathe Catherine, wash her mouth out with soap, which Peg did, and feed her. She slept on the floor. Catherine awoke to the sound of Flannery, the doctor there and Sean's friend, attaching a leg iron to her ankle and to the floor. It had a ten pound ball attached to it. An iron was attached to her neck too. Later on, Sean raped her again then attached her neck iron to the headboard to keep her there. He raped her yet again. He told her she was to knock on his door every night and if he answered, she was to come in. If he didn't answer, she was to leave. One time Sean wasn't there but Peg's daugher Moora told Catherine she was to wait in the room for him, so she chained Catherine to the floor to await him. Sean came home, put a sleeping Catherine in his bed and went to sleep. Catherine awoke to Sean raping her.
A few days later, Sean and his men traveled to England and burned down the woods on Catherine's fathers property. Her father saw the blaze then went over to his desk and took out the package Sean had sent him of Catherine's dirty underwear. He knew Sean was responsible for the fire.
Sean didn't like that Liam and Catherine spent time together so he sent Liam to America for a month, telling him he'd come back a new man. He acted as 'first officer' of the Silvie, Sean's ship. Two weeks later, Catherine was lying in bed next to a sleeping Sean. She got up, got a brass letter opener out of the desk drawer, stood over him and almost stabbed him but lost her nerve and didn't stab him. He said to her, "Flannery was right; you haven't the grit for murder." He knew she was attempting to stab him and hadn't tried to stop her. He pulled back the sheet so she could see his arousal then made her crawl into bed with him.
Later, after her work cleaning fish outside, she went inside the blockhouse. There, she found several rows of muskets. They had saltwater on them so she thinks they must have come in by boat at night since she hadn't seen any activity at all during the day. She thinks maybe Sean is shipping arms all over Ireland. At this time Sean is at his lover Fiona's cottage. She's two years younger than him. As he was leaving Fiona to sail back home, he told her he wouldn't be back to see her anymore. The next day, Catherine was once again washing her hands in the pond because she'd been cleaning fish, when Maude, as servant, tried to drown her. A boy ran to get help while Sean was there so he came running to help her. He did CPR on her then gave her a bath. During dinner she was a bit drunk and tried to seduce him. He said 'no'. The next day he said to Catherine he'd 'make love to you again only at your desire". She then shared his bed willingly every night from then on. He also removed the iron band from around her neck.
Sean left Catherine a note saying he'd be gone for three weeks. He traveled to Norfolk, Ireland and met with some men, one or more had been friends with Sean's father, Brendan. While Sean was away, Catherine spent a lot of time with Liam, allowing him to draw her. She asked him if he was in love with her and he said yes. He asked her to marry him but she didn't give him an answer. They were about to have sex but she changed her mind. Sean arrived home and brough her her horse from England. They went riding together every afternoon after that. During one of their rides, Catherine told Sean that when she was twelve, she was out riding with her mother. Her mother tried to jump the wall on her horse but she and her horse landed on it. The fence pierced their bodies. Catherine shot the horse to put it out of it's misery. Her mother begged her to shoot her too, so Catherine did. Her father locked her in her room for "weeks or months", she couldn't remember which, and she wasn't allowed to go to the funeral. That's when she was sent away to school.
They were out on a boat, near shore and Catherine jumped out to escape Sean. She swam to shore and hid in an abandoned house but he found her. She just happened to be hiding in the very house where Sean and his mother Megan lived. It's were they were when Megan was raped and gutted by Catherine's father John's men. Sean witnessed it. Then when Sean was seventeen, he found the man who raped her and he gutted him. Sean and Catherine were back on the ship and Catherine tried to escape again. Sean said to her, "I'll never let you go girl. Not while I breathe. If you don't kill me, I'm going to take you and go on taking you. I may even give you a child. And if you run away from me, I'll bring you back. If you want to be rid of me, it's now or never." He was telling her to stab him. She had the knife poised to stab him then lunged, lightly stabbing him. She looked into his eyes and couldn't kill him. She dropped the knife, he grabbed her and kissed her. Then they had sex.
After they arrived back home, Liam asked her again if she'd marry him. She agreed only so she could escape Sean. She planned to not consumate the marriage so that she could get an annulment. Catherine and Liam escaped together. Sean found them and made Catherine leave with him. When they got home, Sean locked her in a room for weeks. She was allowed to eat. Later after Catherine and Sean argued about her running away, he cut her clothes off, forced her to her knees and cut all of her hair off, then raped her. He fell asleep and raped her again after he woke up.
The next morning, he put a negligee on her, put makeup on her, dragged her down stairs into the mess hall and said to the five men there, "I've a fresh wench for you lads. Who'll be first to top the English whore?" He then pulled the negligee down to her waist, fondled her beasts then pushed her clothes down to the floor, leaving her naked. He pushed her toward the men and before he could turn around to leave, three men where dragging her down to the floor. He left her there, then went riding on his horse. The horse threw him to the ground, so he slept there. When he woke up he started thinking about what he'd done to Catherine and began running home. Tim O'Rourke tried to talk the men out of raping her. One of the men tried to shoot him, so someone shot and killed him. Catherine was put back into her cell.
After being locked up for two weeks, Sean's ex-lover Fiona brought Catherine her meal and told her that she'd be bringing the meals from now on. Fiona is once again sleeping with Sean. Catherine started noticing that her meals were getting smaller and smaller. She noticed too that she was pregnant. Once Fiona took over, Catherine stopped receiving a new candle when hers burned out. So she was left in the dark in her windowless cell. After not seeing Catherine for three months, Sean went to her cell and found her huddled in the corner. She'd lost a lot of weight. Sean carried her to his room. Evil Fiona came to his room to visit and saw Catherine in there with him. Sean told her to leave, then knocked her to the floor. He told her that if he ever saw her again he'd put a bullet through her "murderous heart." Sean had a new room set up for Catherine with a barred window. By then, she was six months pregnant but no one could tell since the baby was 'undersize'.
Sean had a dinner party and allowed Catherine to attend. Sean had his lover Ellen there. The next day Sean told Catherine she was to be examined by Dr. Flynn because she looked unwell, they argued, he called her a 'reformed whore' and she said, "You dare call me slut! When that dyed creature you were pasting yourself against last night is nothing but a celebrated whore?" Sean struck her and she fell into the corner of the desk. She'd cracked three ribs and cracked her lip. Soon after Catherine is made to go horseback riding with Sean and Ellen. No one knows about her broken ribs but Catherine. Catherine is riding very slow because of the pain. Sean tells Ellen that she'd just going slow to get sympathy. Sean told Catherine then that he's sick of her whining and that the site of her alive sickens him. He said he's 'weary of maintaing her carcass.' She tried to make her horse jump the fence but it couldn't make it. Catherine fell off and landed on her face. Sean went over to her and she told him she couldn't breathe. He said, "Hush baby, don't try to talk anymore." Her ribs had broken through the skin. Sean carried her home so the doctor could perform surgery on her. He yelled at Sean for making her ride a horse when she had broken ribs, but Sean hadn't known that. Sean was drining with the doctor, Flynn, and Flynn told him, "she lost the baby on the table." Told him then that it was a boy fetus who was about four months old and had died inside her two months previous, likely due to malnourishment, thanks to Fiona starving her. Peg wrapped the baby in something and told Sean to bury him. That was near the end of 1799.
After Catherine recovered, she'd no longer talk, walk or move. She wouldn't acknowledge anyone or anything. In the summer of 1800, over six months later, Sean carried Catherine into the water at the beach, ducked her head underwater to get a reaction from her but he got no reaction. Back on the beach, Sean told her he'd never stop loving her. Her hair was shoulder length by now. He'd take her on drives in the carriage but she still wouldn't speak. One day she finally snapped out of whatever she'd been in and started talking again. Sean took her to the baby's grave. There, she named him Michael, after Dr. Flynn
In October of 1800, Liam finally showed back up after being gone for over two years. He began accusing Sean and Catherine of being brother and sister and said she was his sister too. He showed Sean a letter their father had given Father Ryan, along with his will. The letter stated that when Brendan was eighteen, he sailed to France, met Catherine's mother Elise, then later went back home and married their mother Megan. Brendan later saw Elise in Dublin years later. She'd gotten married to Catherine's father John Enderly years before because she'd been pregnant by Brendan and had given birth to a stillborn child. Her husband John was gay so they never slept together. Elise would come to visit Brendan in prison. She was there trying to gain his release. Megan, Brendan's wife, saw Elise in his cell, assumed they were having an affair, went home to Shelan then gave birth to Sean a few months later, then fled, abandoning Liam. Liam and Sean agreed that they would never tell Catherine that she was their sister.
Sean told Catherine that he was sending her home after 'almost three years'. So that would be around 1801. On the eve of Catherine's return, John, her father, received an anonymous note saying Catherine would return home to England via Liverpool within the week. John had some of his men stake out the docks and inn so that he may capture Sean when he see's him. His men captured Sean. Sean was stripped down and his hands were tied to a support above his head and his feet were spread apart and tied to support columns. He was whipped with a studded cat-o'-nine-tails until he passed out. John Enderly watched it all from above on the balcony.
Liam was the only one, aside from Sean, who knew Catherine was returning home. So Liam is the one who notified John of Catherine's return. Liam has always hated Sean, since he showed up at their home when he was about 10, after their mother was murdered by John Enderly's men. When the book started, Sean had been home at Shelan with Liam for about ten years. So he's about 20.
Catherine arrived back home and her father asked her where she'd been this whole time. She made up some story about being abducted by Caribbean smugglers, was taken to a Spaniard, Perez, who only let her go because he was getting married. She said he abducted her because Perez held John Enderly responsible for the death of his mother. John asked her if she believed his story and she said no. I can't even remember why she didn't tell the truth.
On Catherine's 21st birthday, she would inherit her mother's fortune, the Vigny Estates. Her mother is from a very wealthy French family. John thought to himself that Catherine wasn't yet 21, so he had ' nearly two months' to decide whether she would prove more useful dead or alive!! He was deciding whether or not she should live. Amin, Catherine's groom, told her about her inheritance and told her she wasn't really John's daughter. He went on to tell Catherine that Brendan Culhane, Liam and possibly Sean's father, was her father too. She tells Amin that she was Sean's mistress and has been married to Liam for two years. Liam is in fact her real brother. Yes folks, they've committed incest!
Back to Sean and his torture. After Sean passed out from his beating, his abuser, Mr. Worth and John Enderly put a bottle of ammonia under his nose to wake him up. Enderly told Sean his refusal to 'break' confirms his guilt about abducting Catherine. Sean called John an 'envious faggot' when John threatened to cut off Sean's 'manhood'. John gave Mr. Worthy the package Sean had sent him of Catherine's soiled underwear in it. He told Worthy to put Sean's 'equiptment' in it and bring it to him. He intended to 'present' the package to Catherine. Mr. Worthy had four men take Sean down from the flogging brace' and put him, spread-eagle, on an X shaped stone slab and cuffed his limbs to it. Worthy removed one testicle (you only need one anyway, right?) from Sean. John left one testicle and the penis because he thinks Sean will bargain with him to keep what's left.
Later, John Enderly had Sean put on his hands and knees and beat in the head with the butt of guns. Sean attacked one man, got his gun away from him and shot someone in the face with it. Sean was then shot near his heart by someone. Next thing he knows, he wakes up outside in the snow, lying next to other dead men. Everyone thought Sean was dead so they put him in with the other dead men to await burial. He took a blanket that was covering one of them and covered himself with it. He wrapped rags from one of the corpses on his feet and wandered out into the snow. Three hours later, he came to a house. He knocked but no one answered. He got the door open, then passed out.
While all this was going on, Catherine traveled back to Ireland less than two weeks after her return to England. She ran into Louis, someone she'd met during that dinner party Sean allowed her to attend while she was locked up. Catherine was using Louis to get to his father, Charles Artois. She went to visit Charles. She told him that she would turn 21 on December 23rd and she thought her father murdered her mother by injuring her horse, causing it to fall, to get her mothers fortune. She said he wasn't really her father and was scared he may try to kill her to to get her fortune. She told him she was now pregnant by Sean, but she didn't say who the father was. She wanted Charles to "extend Enderly some reassureance of friendship and proof of regard" for her. She'd be protected then and Enderly would think Charles was the father. Charles asked her what she had to wager and she offered herself, thus becoming his mistress in exchange for her safety.
Catherine was back in Liverpool, England, at the office of the commandmant of Liverpool Military Prison. She asked about Sean and they let her talk to the doctor there. He told her that Sean was shot while trying to escape and was buried in a potter's field. He told Catherine that her father was planning on serving her Sean's manhood on a platter. He gave her directions to where he was supposedly buried. She asked two gravediggers outside about Sean. They told her that a younger, dark haired man was among the other bodies and that a 'dead' man got up bleeding and left. She knew that must have been Sean. Catherine went searching a found the house where Sean was. He was passed out on the floor. His right arm was broken near the wrist and several ribs were caved in. Catherine went back to the gravediggers, got them and the prison doctor to come help Sean. The doctor did performed surgery on him to remove the bullet from his chest. He didn't remove the bullet. He told Catherine that she was his half sister; they shared the same father, Brendan. She told him that she knew, since Amin had told her after she arrived home. She told Sean that Liam must have already known that when he married her. Catherine told him she was pregnant. The doctor then fixed Sean's broken nose then gave Catherine two vials of a deadly liquid. He told her that if she and Sean were to be caught, they were to each take a vial to kill themselves.
They headed to the water to steal a boat so they could escape. Catherine sailed them home safely to Sean's home in Ireland. Flannery greeted them. Catherine removed the bullet from Sean's chest with a sterilized crochet hook. Later on, Liam showed back up. He forced Catherine at gunpoint to leave with him. He had his gun pointed at Sean so Catherine shot Liam dead. Sean and Catherine were being invaded by Liam's men, so they escaped outside. They were heading toward the ship so they could sail away. Flannery wouldn't go with them and ended up getting shot through the heart, killing him. Sean's home, Shelan, blew up. As they were sailing away, they got caught in a storm. The storm tore up part of their ship causing them to drift out to sea. They assumed they'd end up dying. One of them mentioned then that it was January 21st and that Liam had died two days before. Then they were captured by a French warship. Catherine had turned 21 a month before.
Catherine ended up marrying 27 year old Raoul d' Amauri, can't remember why. He only married her for her fortune. After they married, Napoleon gave Catherine papers to sign which made her owner of the Vigny estates. Raoul wanted her to become Napoleon's mistress to help further his career and when she said no, he slapped her. Later on, Catherine met with Sean and told him Raoul was being transfered to Spain and that she was moving into a convent. She told Sean that when their unborn child was old enought, she'd send him to live with Sean. Sean told her he was sneaking back to Ireland and then they kissed....still believing they're siblings. That night, Raoel came to her bedroom, told her she knew where Sean was and tried to make her tell him where. She refused and Raoel kept smacking her until she fell to the ground. He was about to kick her in her pregnant stomach but stopped when the maid arrived. Sean went to his mistress Madeleine's house and asked her to hide Catherine and told her she was his sister. Someone arrived at Madeleine's right as Sean was leaving throught the window. He told Sean Catherine was in labor. Sean when to Catherine's and they traveled back to Madeleine's together. While Catherine was in labor, Raoul and Fourquet were hiding in Madeleine's garden to see if Sean was there. Sean saw them, aimed his gun at them and they agreed to a dual. Sean killed both men in the dual. A month later, Sean was in Belgium and got word of his son's birth. Catherine named him Brendan. He's got green eyes like is father, Sean. Sean's 37 year old mistress Madeleine figured out the baby was Sean's, yelled at Catherine for having an incestious relationship with Sean (they didn't know at the time!) and told her too that Sean was a spy for France's enemy (England?) and was giving them military secrets. She told her to get out of her house.
Next chapter starts four years later! with Sean visiting Catherine and their son at the convent. Catherine would be about 25, since her son Brendan was born when she was 21, and Sean would be about 29 or 30. Sean tells her that he's a deserter from the Austrian army. She tells him to take their son to America to start a new life. Some man at the convent reads them Brendan's original will. Brendan had left a copy with someone else too. In the will he says that his wife Megan thought he was having an affair years before with Catherine's mother Elise, before Catherine was born. Megan was jealous so she had an affair of her own with their friend Lockland Fitzhugh. That man is Sean's real father, NOT Brendan Culhane, who IS Catherine's real father. So Catherine and Liam ARE true siblings. Before Liam's death, he'd forged a copy of his father's will so that Sean and Catherine would think they were related and would stay away from each other. Liam was jealous of Sean, so that's why he did it.
Below is the online article from Christine Monson's obituary that was posted on the Denver Post's website in September 2003.
Claire Martin, Denver Post Staff Writer
Historical romance writer Christine Monson published six novels and had finished the draft of another when she died Sept. 11. Greeley author Christine Monson, whose romance novels "Golden Nights" and "Stormfire" were the most successful of her six published books, died Sept. 11 at her former husband's home in Greeley. She was 57 when she committed suicide.
Monson was slight, with long, curly blond hair, a woman who was as at home reading books as she was writing them. She became an avid reader when she was a child, relying on her imagination to make her forget - for a while - the joyless West Virginia coal camp where she and her brother were raised. She learned to coax the extraordinary out of the ordinary. She knew how to scour the racks at Goodwill stores, plucking Donna Karan and Yves St. Laurent from hangers crowded with more pedestrian labels. She braked for yard sales and once brought home an elegant maple dresser that she bought for $15.
She allowed herself to pay retail for one extravagance - a mink coat she purchased with proceeds from her first book.
When Monson first saw "Romancing the Stone," she immediately recognized herself in Joan Wilder, the timid romance writer appalled to find herself in the middle of a dangerous adventure. Like the movie character, Monson preferred to live vicariously through the characters she sketched for her books. "She was a romantic who loved adventure, but she loved reading and writing about adventure more than doing it," said her former husband, Jon Monson, with whom she remained close after their recent divorce. Once, the Monsons took their daughter, Jennifer, then a baby, camping near Aspen. When Jon Monson paused to set up their tent in a forest clearing, Christine shook her head. She chose a site high on some bluffs overlooking the valley, envisioning the dramatic sunset. However, she failed to foresee the relentless wind that buffeted their camp and dangerously fanned the flames of their campfire. They quenched the fire and rolled diaper wipes into earplugs to muffle the sound of their tent snapping in the gusty night. Christine Monson used the image of fire in several book titles - "Flame Run Wild" and "This Fiery Splendor," along with "Stormfire," her debut novel.
Her historical romances were colloquially known as bodice-rippers - novels that pitted a strong-willed woman against a headstrong man who behaves extremely badly for much of the story. Sometimes, even her fans thought her male characters got carried away. "The hero is too violent and cruel" in "Stormfire," one anonymous reader commented in a review on Amazon.com. The same reviewer went on to praise "Rangoon," Monson's second novel, "as wonderfully written" and to applaud Monson's ability to "take you to another time, another place where you can see the temples, feel the rain" in Burma.
Fan Alyssa Maizan wrote that "Rangoon" was "definitely tied for the very best romance novel ever written (along with 'The Wildflower')."
"But in later years, Christine was somewhat embarrassed by her romance writing," Jon Monson said.
Instead, she focused her attention on a screenplay about a social nature-versus-nurture experiment conducted on orphans during the Great Depression. During the last year of her life, she was working on what she considered a more serious novel about an internal quest for the Holy Grail.
She moved to London to research the new novel but found herself overwhelmed with depression and asked her former husband to bring her back to Colorado shortly before she died.
Besides her former husband, survivors include her daughter, Jennifer Monson of Cairo; and her mother, Lillian Clevinger, and brother, Tom Clevinger, both of Wilmington, N.C.
I got this photo of Christine from inside the back cover of her 1990 novel Golden Nights.
MY THOUGHTS: This is one of my most favorite novels of all time. I first read it in August 2003 after hearing about it on a romance forum. I'd searched the internet for it right after I'd heard about it but had no luck finding it for a decent price. The book was mentioned yet again a few months later on that same forum so I begain searching for it again. I found it for just $1.
The story is amazing. Need I say more?