About the Author
Elizabeth Lowell, the pen name for the writer Ann Maxwell, is the prolific author of science fiction, romance, and mystery novels. There are more than 30 million copies of her books in print, and they have appeared on bestseller lists around the world. She has written several romance series, among them the Donovans series and the St. Kilda’s series.
Date of Birth:April 5, 1944
Place of Birth:Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Education:B. A., University of California, 1966
Read an Excerpt
Love Song for a Raven
By Elizabeth Lowell
Wheeler PublishingCopyright © 2006 Elizabeth Lowell
All right reserved.
The man called Raven came awake between one heartbeat and the next. He lay without moving, listening with the absolute stillness of someone whose life has depended many times on sensing shifts in wind and sea. Beneath him the Black Star tugged at its moorings in random motions, telling him that even within the shelter of the inlet, the water was choppy. Currents of air moaned around the boat with a wild, clean sound, the voice of a wind that hadn't touched land for thousands of miles until it reached the Queen Charlotte Islands. Now that voice spoke to mountains rising steeply from the cold ocean, mountains clad in evergreens and ferns, mountains so rugged that man had chosen to challenge the untamed sea in cedar canoes rather than to walk the cloud-wreathed, primal land.
The elemental song of wind and mountain and sea were familiar to the man who lay motionless on the oversize bunk. Raven listened for a moment longer, filed away the fact that the storm had arrived twelve hours early and fell asleep once more.
Beyond the shallow crease of the inlet, the sea was a heaving blackness churned by a reckless wind. The promise of predawn light had been reduced to a vague gloaming that barely penetrated the lowering clouds. The only relief from the seamless gray came from thepale curves of an open rowboat struggling against the wind-whipped waves.
Steering the powerful outboard engine with one hand, Janna Moran kept the bow of the boat headed on a diagonal course into the wind and waves. With the other hand she bailed out the boat, using a plastic bleach bottle whose cap had been screwed on tightly and whose bottom had been cut entirely off. Normally the half-gallon bottle with its built-in handle grip did an excellent job of keeping the boat dry. Or reasonably dry. Nothing in the islands was really dry. The combination of the cold northern sea and the relatively warm Kuroshio current made for nearly constant fog, mist, drizzle, rain and more rain.
Usually Janna enjoyed the liquid varieties of "Queen Charlotte sunshine," but not that morning. The wild predawn churning of water and wind had begun without warning, catching her out on the open sea. The storm that had been scheduled to arrive that evening had obviously picked up both speed and strength somewhere over the Pacific. Instead of the customary rain, brisk wind and choppy seas that had been predicted, the storm was shaping up to be a much more formidable affair.
Anxiously Janna scanned the coastline to her left. By narrowing her gray-green eyes against the wind, she could just make out the rugged wall of land rising from the dark sea. She made a soft sound of dismay as she saw that she was still well short of the opening of Totem Inlet. The last time she had looked, just before the clouds had closed down in the east, she had needed only fifteen more minutes of running time before she could turn and head into the calmer waters of the inlet. But the wind had shifted. Now both tide and wind were running heavily against her, and waves were breaking over the bow as fast as she could bail.
Even worse, the outboard motor had been acting up. At first it had been no more than hesitations in the mechanical heartbeat that were so tiny she thought she had imagined them. By the time she had passed the halfway point to the inlet's safety, the hesitations had become noticeable, more ominous. The engine had stuttered twice in as many minutes, making her own heartbeat lurch.
Janna stared toward the coastline again, wondering if she dared go in closer to the land, shortening her distance to the inlet. The memory of huge waves battering against dark cliffs on either side of Totem Inlet's opening made her reject that possibility. The course she had chosen was longer but it was also far safer.
The motor coughed, faded, caught and then died. Suddenly the wind sounded very loud. With her heart wedging in her throat, Janna turned, braced herself on the bench seat and pulled on the starter cord with all her strength. The engine made healthy ripping noises but didn't catch. She pulled again and again and felt an almost dizzying surge of relief when the motor finally beat steadily once more. Instantly she turned the bow back into the wind and cranked the speed up a notch or two. More water would come in over the gunwale at a higher speed, but she would also get to the inlet sooner.
For a few minutes Janna made good speed. Just as her heartbeat had settled down again, the motor died without warning. She dropped the bailing bottle, grabbed the starter cord and began pulling. The motor ripped, muttered and died. Janna yanked on the cord again and again. Each time she pulled, the engine stirred but didn't fully awaken.
"Damn you, start!"
As though it had only been waiting for the proper encouragement, the motor ripped into life. Janna's slim fingers wrapped around the handle again, feeding gas steadily as she steered once more into the wind and the waves. Sheets of wind-driven spray broke over her, sending streamers of cold water pouring over her yellow poncho. Most of the water drained off into the boat, but some of it inevitably worked beneath the poncho's hood to slide chilly fingers down her spine and between her breasts. Inside the midcalf fisherman's galoshes she wore, her feet were soaked. So were her legs from midthigh on down.
Janna bailed rapidly — not out of any hope of staying dry, but to decrease the weight of the boat so that it didn't ride so low in the heaped waves. Water was heavier than it looked, as her left arm reminded her with each stroke of the half-gallon bleach bottle. Yet for every quart she threw back into the sea, the wind delivered more across her face.
The motor shuddered and stopped. Janna dropped the bailing bottle and pulled on the starter cord again and again. With each pull the motor made a harsh ripping noise but refused to catch. She threw a worried glance toward the coastline. It was closer. Too close. Enough light had seeped through the clouds so that she could see a distinct line of foam where breakers threw themselves at the feet of dark cliffs. There was no gap in the white line, nothing to indicate a safe place to moor short of Totem Inlet itself.
Janna squeezed the bulb leading from the gasoline reservoir to the motor. Liquid spurted invisibly. She could feel its resistance in the bulb beneath her palm. She wasn't out of gas. Whatever was causing the outboard to fail wasn't a lack of fuel. Grimly she yanked on the starting cord, putting everything she had into it.
The boat slewed sideways as a wave hit. Janna barely managed to stay aboard. Without the motor's power, the boat was at the mercy of the wind and tide. Now she was sideways to the incoming waves and being shoved toward shore at a frighteningly swift pace. She pulled hard on the cord twice more, but nothing greeted her efforts, not even the familiar coughing snarl as the motor tried and failed to keep running.
Suddenly Janna knew that it was futile to waste her energy any longer. There was no more time for her to spend pulling on the starting cord of a dead motor. She scrambled off the rowboat's stern seat and threw herself onto the middle seat. Working as quickly as her cold hands would allow, she unshipped the oars, jammed the pegs down into the oarlocks and began to row with all her strength. As she pulled on the oars, she brought the bow back around to meet the wind and waves. Immediately the boat began taking on less water.
Janna braced herself and put her back into her work, pulling in long, steady sweeps as her brothers had taught her years ago on a small lake in Washington. She watched the shoreline that lay diagonally off her stern, trying to gauge her progress by landmarks that were slowly condensing out of the cloud-wrapped dawn.
When the landmarks appeared not to move, Janna thought she was simply overanxious. She picked another landmark, counted fifty strokes and checked again. She was moving relative to the land, but just barely. The wind and the tide were simply too powerful for her to overcome; and every few seconds more water splashed into the boat, adding more weight to the already unwieldy craft. At this rate she wouldn't make Totem Inlet before her strength gave out and she was pushed onto the rocks or the rowboat was swamped in one of the larger sets of waves that humped up periodically out of the west.
For a few minutes Janna picked up the pace of the rowing, putting more space between herself and the dark cliffs that lined the edge of the sea. Always before now she had thought of herself as being reasonably strong and physically competent, the legacy both of a healthy body and the goading of three muscular brothers who had teased her mercilessly when she was too weak or too slow or too timid to play their rough-and-tumble games. She had learned to smile and joke as though she didn't hurt; and she had learned to work harder and longer so that the next time she played she would be better. As a result, she had gained a reputation as a good sport with a great sense of humor.
Water sloshed ankle-deep through the boat. Janna permitted herself to look at the shoreline. She had made almost no progress. If anything, she was afraid she had drifted closer to the cliffs. For an instant fear burst in her, taking the strength from her arms. Then she set her teeth, headed the rowboat straight out to sea instead of on a diagonal course and rowed hard. After a hundred strokes the shoreline had receded somewhat. The inlet, however, was no closer.
Janna changed course slightly, choosing a heading that would bring her closer to the inlet.As she rowed she thought over her choices. Rowing straight out to sea would keep her off the rocks but wouldn't get her to safety. Rowing a diagonal course would bring her closer to the inlet, but combined with the pressure of tide and wind, it would bring her closer to the shore, as well. It would be a race to see whether the tide and wind shoved her onto the rocks before she reached the relative shelter of the inlet. Frankly, she didn't think she would make it.
And if she didn't stop rowing to bail, she would sink before she reached either cliffs or inlet.
Janna dropped the oars, bailed frantically for a minute, then whipped off her waterproof poncho and dumped it at her feet. It the boat were capsized or swamped, she didn't want to be weighed down by the unwieldly slicker. As she reached for the oars her long, cinnamon hair fanned out wildly in the wind for an instant, only to be plastered darkly against her skull when an unusually big wave burst over the gunwale. She picked up the oars and brought the bow into the waves once more. As she rowed she kicked out of the fisherman's boots, knowing they would drag her down if she tried to swim in them. She left her soaking sneakers in place; she would need them if she got to the rocky shore.
"Not if," Janna said firmly to herself. "When. You're a strong swimmer. Just two weeks ago you swam for about a mile without a break. It's not even a quarter of a mile to the inlet's mouth."
What she didn't say aloud was that two weeks ago when she had been swimming, it had been a rare, calm, hot day, and she had been in a very sheltered inlet, where the sea was as flat as a mirror. Right now the sea was neither sheltered nor calm. But there was no point in dwelling on reasons to be afraid. She knew that in dangerous situations, panic killed more people than anything else.
Pushing every other thought out of her mind, Janna bent to the oars once more. As she rowed, the fluorescent orange of her life vest swayed like a flame in the postdawn gloom. She was the only spot of life and color showing on either land or sea.
Excerpted from Love Song for a Raven by Elizabeth Lowell Copyright © 2006 by Elizabeth Lowell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is an older novel by Lowell, and it's been reissued several times. The story is interesting, but like many Lowell romance novels (as opposed to her more current style, whick is suspense/mystery), the characters are a bit overdrawn, and the writing style is close to being a parody of romance writing (i.e. very florid language!). In addition, the hero in this novel, like many of the heroes in Lowell's romances, frequently addresses the heroine using a silly nickname. I don't mind the use of terms like "honey", "sweetheart", "my dear", etc. but cutesy-poo nicknames like "small warrior" are a turn-off for me. A much better Elizabeth Lowell novel is "To the Ends of the Earth"--no silly nicknames, and a really good story!
To be honest I have read and re-read this book many times. The story is timeless.
This book is so good! I wish the store still sold it in print and the it had a NOOKbook version!
I enjoyed this book when I read it years ago. It's not romantic suspense, in Lowell's current mode, but if you're looking for a good romantic read, you WILL find it here.
Nobody writes romantic stories like Ms. Lowell. Her characters are livable and interesting. This book was wonderful. I could hardly put it down. It's a must read.