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The orphaned heiress, Alecyn de Beauclaire, alone and desolate, finds a friend in the young Saxon squire, Ranulf Mort à Mer. But as their friendship grows, so does their understanding of reality. Ranulf is so poor it is unlikely he will ever be able to afford a horse and armor so he can become a knight. And if he cannot become a great knight, he will never be granted the hand of an heiress in marriage.
Even when Alecyn and Ranulf draw the attention of England’s king and queen, their growing love for each other seems hopeless. And then they are kidnapped by French rebels and discover that sometimes disasters have a silver lining...
June 1160--Somerset, England
The sun rose over the garden wall, transforming the dew drops on the pale pink rose into glistening pools of rainbow fire. Sunlight shimmered off the child’s tears as well. She was nine years old. And desolate.
Alecyn de Beauclaire sat on a turf bench in a corner of Castle Rocheford’s walled garden, her blue linen gown tucked up around her. Her dark hair, inherited from a Norman ancestor who was one of William the Conqueror’s knights, was confined in a single braid which fell to her waist. The low-lying mist, as yet untouched by the early morning sun, provided a curtain for the bare knee that peeked out beneath the linen’s rumpled folds.
When Alecyn had wakened to the predawn light, before the chapel bell tolled Prime, terrible memories of the last six weeks flooded over her. The news of her parents’ death on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The determined ride of her father’s garrison knights who were attempting to take her to the safety of the Amesbury Abbey. The glint of armor, the thunder of hooves, the screams of her women, the ominous thud of lances against chain mail, the clank of swords. Her own scream to her knights to lay down their arms. The battle, against overwhelming odds, was hopeless. Why should good men die for no reason?
So here she was, captive--and now ward--of Simon de Lacy, Earl of Rocheford. She, Alecyn de Beauclaire--child heir to the castles and lands of Wexford, Chichester, Daneham and Avonlea with all their lands and villeins--was totally cut off from the safe, ordered world she had known for nine years. The twelve-foot curtain wall surrounding Castle Rocheford was as effective at keeping young girls in as it was in shutting the enemy out.
The women of the household, headed by the Countess Sybilla, had not been unkind. Merely indifferent to her grief. They had swept her into the bevy of other young girls of noble birth sent to Castle Rocheford for training. For six weeks now Alecyn had refused to speak to any of them. A childish conceit. And against all the training she had received at her mother’s knee. She had heard whispers that Beatrix de Warenne had come to Rocheford as a hostage for her father’s loyalty to the Earl. And Enide FitzAlan had been intended for a priory until stolen, like herself, by Simon de Lacy. Perhaps, Alecyn conceded, she had been too hasty in rejecting their tentative offers of friendship. Too stubborn. Certainly, her parents had often said so.
Her parents. Alecyn caught a welling tear on the tip of her finger. For a moment she stared at the shimmering drop before letting it fall onto the pink petal of the rose in front of her. The peaceful beauty of the garden was all she had left. Here, she could hide in the early morning mist, safe from stern admonitions, querulous instruction, or speculative glances. Here, before the sunlight chased away the fog, she could make believe she was home again, her mother hovering just behind that swirl of mist by the fountain. Her father riding into the bailey with a clanking swarm of proud knights behind him.
A cloud skidded across the sun, darkening the lingering fog, extinguishing the tiny rainbows shimmering in the dew drops. Alecyn snapped back from the realm of dreams. Richard and Blanche de Beauclaire were gone. Lost on pilgrimage to Spain to beg Saint James for a son. A son to inherit the honors of the Beauclaires, to reduce Alecyn to just another young girl of noble birth for whom a suitable marriage would be arranged. No longer an heiress of such substantial proportions that her betrothal could start a minor war.
But raging fever had caught her parents on the far side of the Pyrenees, and the Lady Alecyn de Beauclaire had become an all-too-tempting rich prize. So now she belonged to the Earl of Rocheford, who would enjoy all the income of her estates until he finally allowed her to marry.
If he allowed her to marry.
Blair Bancroft recalls receiving odd looks from adults as she walked home from school at age six, her lips moving as she told herself stories. But it was only after a variety of other careers that she turned to serious writing. Blair has been a music teacher, professional singer, non-fiction editor, costume designer, and real estate agent. She has traveled from Bratsk, Siberia, to Machu Picchu, Peru, and made numerous visits to Britain. Her most recent research trip took her through Portugal and Spain. She enjoys incorporating these varied experiences into her writing.
Blair’s first book, Tarleton’s Wife, won RWA’s Golden Heart for Long Historical in 1999 and First in Romance at the 2002 Florida Writers’ Association Awards. Her contemporary suspense novel, Shadowed Paradise, was a finalist in both the Golden Heart and the EPPIE, the “Oscar” of the e-book industry. Blair’s Signet Regency, The Indifferent Earl, was chosen Best Regency of 2003 by Romantic Times magazine and was a finalist for RWA’s RITA award. Five more Regencies followed in quick succession. Roses in the Mist, a medieval Young Adult, was published by Wings e-Press in January 2004. For Love at Your Own Risk (Wings, August 2005) Blair drew on her family’s long association with Cape Cod and her experiences living in both Boston and New Haven.
Now a long-time resident of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Blair fondly recalls growing up in Connecticut, which still has a piece of her heart. Blair may be contacted at P O Box 21, Venice, Florida 34284 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 228
Paper Weight (lb): 3.8
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