Cover image for The innocent
Title:
The innocent
Author:
Small, Bertrice.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Fawcett Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
374 pages ; 21 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780449001806
Format :
Book

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Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Library
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Summary

Summary

To open up a novel by Bertrice Small is to surrender to the deepest longings of the heart. In her sensational bestsellers, she sweeps us to the far corners of the globe and into the most sensual places of desire. Now in The Innocent, she takes us to the wild Welsh borderlands of England, where a young beauty ready to embrace her religious vows becomes the pawn of desperate men. . . . Deceptively fragile-looking, Eleanore of Ashlin had promised her life to God . . . until fate intervened. With her brother's untimely death, Eleanore--known as Elf to those who love her--becomes the heiress of an estate vital to England's defenses. She is ordered by royal command to wed one of the king's knights rather than take her final vows. With resistant heart, but ever obedient to King Stephen's will, she complies. Ranulf de Glandeville is all too aware that his innocent bride wants no man; yet his patience, gentle hand, and growing love for his spirited young wife soon awaken Eleanore to passions she never knew, or desired . . . until now. But their love is not secure from the wicked schemes of an evil woman who hates Eleanore with all her black heart--and she will seek to destroy the innocent in a depraved plot that will put Eleanore's life in jeopardy and her  faith in love to its greatest test. . . .


Author Notes

Bertrice Small was born on December 9, 1937 in Manhattan, New York. Primarily known as a historical romance author, she also wrote erotica and fantasy romance. Her first novel, The Kadin, was published in 1978. She wrote more than 50 romance novels during her lifetime including The Love Slave; Love, Remember Me; Hellion; Darling Jasmine; Betrayed; Bedazzled; A Memory of Love; and Lucianna. She died on February 24, 2015 at the age of 77.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Excerpts

Excerpts

THE CHILD England 1143 "I  want my mama!" The little girl struggled within the firm clasp of the young nun's arms. "Mama! I want my mama!" "Hush, Elf," her elder brother said gently. He was already having his doubts about this course of action, but the de Warennes were right. He could not raise his five-year-old sister alone, and it was unfair to Isleen to saddle her with Eleanore, although God knew other brides took on greater responsibilities. "Dickon," the child sobbed piteously, "I want to go home! I want Mama and Ida!" Her small heart-shaped face was woebegone. Her fine gray-blue eyes brimmed over with tears that rolled down her rosy cheeks. Richard de Montfort felt his heart twist within his chest once again, but swallowing back his own emotions he said sternly to his younger sibling, "Now, Elf, you know Mama is dead. There is war all around us, and I cannot raise you myself. We spoke on this, you and I. You will be safe here at St. Frideswide's. This is your home now." "Say farewell to your brother, Eleanore." Reverend Mother Eunice patted the child. Then, turning to a young nun, she instructed, "Take her to meet her new companions, Sister Cuthbert. Quickly! The longer you linger, the harder it is for the girl." "Adieu, little sister," Richard de Montfort said, and he kissed the top of her pale red-gold hair. Elf looked at him just once. She could not speak. Then she burst into a fit of renewed sobbing, and as Sister Cuthbert hurried through the gates of the convent with the weeping child, Elf cried out but once, "Dickon!" Richard de Montfort looked as if he would cry himself, and so Mother Eunice put a comforting hand on his arm. "It is always hard for the little ones the first time," she said. "We will take very good care of the demoiselle Eleanore, my lord." "Elf," he said. "We call her Elf. Perhaps if you could call her that for a short time, it would help her to adjust. With Mother gone, I could not take care of her, Reverend Mother. I could not!" "Of course you could not, my lord. Do not fret yourself. We have several young girls in our care at this time. One is your sister's age. She came to us when she was three. Another maiden is a year older than Eleanore ... Elf." She smiled at him. "I understand that congratulations are in order, my lord, and that you will soon take a wife." She had reassured him, and then neatly turned the subject. "The demoiselle Isleen is not quite fit to be a wife, but her mother assures me it will be within a year at the most," he answered. How anyone could believe that a girl as sensuous as Isleen was not yet ready for marriage baffled him, but he could hardly question Lady de Warenne. The nun, too, was equally surprised, but her face showed nothing. Isleen de Warenne had been at St. Frideswide's for a year, and a more carnal girl the Reverend Mother Eunice had never met. The convent had been most relieved her stay was a short one, however it had had its benefits. The de Warennes had been generous, and on their recommendation the convent had little Eleanore de Montfort and her dowry. "I am certain that Lady de Warenne knows what is best for her daughter, my lord de Montfort. Now, however, I must bid you farewell. I would suggest that you wait several months before visiting your sister. It will give her the time she will need to acclimate herself to her new life. Come at Martinmas, if you can. You will be most welcome." Then with a nod the Reverend Mother Eunice turned and glided serenely through the convent gates, which closed slowly behind her with a very firm thunk as the bar was set in place. Richard de Montfort mounted his dappled gray stallion, and turned the beast's head to begin the eight-mile ride back to his manor of Ashlin. He was unaccompanied, which was dangerous in these troubled times, but of late the countryside about Ashlin had been quiet, so he had taken the chance of riding alone. He had wanted his last moments with Elf to be between the two of them. How very much he loved his little sister. When their father had died four years ago in the fighting between King Stephen and the late King Henry's daughter, the Empress Matilda, he had been eleven years of age. Guided by his mother, he had assumed control of their family's manor. Elf, still at their mother's breast, had just begun to toddle; she would never know the fine man who had sired her. Fortunately Ashlin was not a large, important manor, or it might have been taken over by a stronger baron. Their small wealth was in sheep; they had enough serfs, along with a few freedmen, to do the work that needed to be done. Survival was the chief occupation at Ashlin. Their house sat upon a hill. It was stone, and surrounded by a small moat. About it clustered the barns, the outbuildings, and the huts for the serfs. There was a mill by a swiftly flowing stream near the barns. The little stone church, however, lay half ruined. A wall enclosed it all to protect them from the marauding Welsh. The sheep grazed upon the surrounding hills beneath which lay the arable fields, where they grew hay, oats, marrows, barley, and wheat, in rotation. But his mother had suffered greatly the loss of her husband, for their marriage had been a love match, and without him she was lost. Isolated as Ashlin was, and with England at war with itself, they saw no one but an occasional passing religious brave enough to dare the road in hopes his devout vocation would protect him. Adeliza de Montfort had clung to life as long as she could, teaching her son everything he needed to know about running his manor. His father's old sergeant at arms, Fulk, had continued his lessons in the art of warfare. And Elf. His baby sister had been the joy of his life. She was sweet-natured and extremely intuitive. At the end of the day when he would sit exhausted before the fire in the hall, she would crawl into his lap and stroke his face with her fat baby hand, chattering away in her infant babble at him. How he loved her! But then last autumn their mother had sickened. By now he was a man, and he had Ashlin under his control. Adeliza de Montfort knew it, and while she worried about the fate of her daughter, she could no longer hold on to her empty place in life. They had found her in her bed one morning, a smile upon her face. By chance a passing friar had taken shelter at Ashlin the night before. He blessed Adeliza de Montfort's soul, and helped to bury her before going his way. The next house in which he sheltered, two days later, was that of Hugh de Warenne. Baron Hugh was most interested to learn that Richard de Montfort and his sister were now alone in the world. Hugh de Warenne had quickly approached Richard de Montfort, and proposed a marriage between the two families. The young lord of Ashlin agreed to consider Baron Hugh's proposal. He was invited to visit the de Warenne manor, and leaving Elf in the charge of her old nurse, Ida, he went. One look at Isleen de Warenne, and he was lost. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, with long silken hair the color of purest gold, and limpid blue eyes. But it was not merely her perfect beauty. There was something about Isleen that aroused savage lust in him. She had a way of moving, of speaking, none of it too obviously suggestive, that made him desire her so much he would have gone to hell and back to possess her. The match was agreed upon. Richard de Montfort would marry Isleen de Warenne when the bride's womanhood flowered. In the meantime there were other things to consider. Isleen could hardly come a bride into a house where another and younger female of her station resided, her family said. Nor could she be either asked or expected to raise a tiny girl, not her own child, although such a thing was hardly unusual. Richard de Montfort explained that his sister would be little trouble, being cared for by her nursemaid, Ida. But the de Warennes were adamant that another home be found for Elf, although they did not offer to foster her themselves to facilitate their daughter's marriage. Richard suggested a match between his little sister and one of the de Warenne sons, but, according to Baron Hugh, his sons were all spoken for, alas. It was Maude de Warenne who suggested Elf be placed at the convent of St. Frideswide's. "You cannot raise her," she told her future son-in-law smiling, her tone kindly. "And she cannot be there when you wed Isleen. St. Frideswide's is home to the Order of St. Mary the Virgin. They take in young girls as a means of support. Some are there to be educated and prepared for marriage. Why, Isleen spent time there herself. Other maidens are there to be prepared for a religious life. Do you not think that would be a good choice for your little sister, Richard? Place her at St. Frideswide's, and her future is assured. She will be happy and safe there, I am certain." "And," Baron Hugh said, "they will take but half the dowry you would have to expend on a husband for her. It's a practical solution, my boy, as well as a good one. What say you?" "I loved St. Frideswide's," Isleen chimed in with a tinkling laugh. "We maids had such fun, and the nuns there are really quite kindly, Richard ... m'amour." Her voice seemed to purr at him. She put her elegant hand upon his sleeve. "Your sister will be as happy there, Richard, as I will be as your wife, if, of course, all the terms can be settled between you and Papa." Her little pearl teeth gleamed as she smiled at him, her dark gold lashes brushed her pale cheeks, even as her fingers tightened a moment upon his arm. "Please, Richard," she murmured low. He had agreed because, of course, he had to have her. Having seen Isleen, he could not be happy with any other woman. He had not, however, as his future father-in-law suggested, offered the convent only half of Elf's dower portion. His father had set aside a specific sum for Elf when she had been born, and Richard de Montfort would have felt his parents' disapproval from the grave had he cheapened his sister's worth. As neither Isleen nor her family knew the amount, there would be no quarrel over the matter. Elf had turned five on the first of May, and now a month later as he rode home alone, Richard de Montfort felt a deep sadness at having left her at St. Frideswide's. Old Ida had wept when he had told her his decision. She had gone down on her knees and begged him not to send Elf away, demanding to know what kind of creature the lord was wedding, that she would send a baby from her home. At first he had been comforting to the elderly woman who had nursed his father, and had nursed him and his sister as well. But Ida would not be pacified, and he had finally, in anger, reminded her of her status as a serf. The old lady had pulled herself to her feet, ignoring his hand, and with a fierce look at him, had stalked away. She had not spoken to him since, and while he felt sorrow about it, he would allow no one to criticize his Isleen. When his bride-to-be gave him a son, old Ida would recover and be happy to care for his child. She would soon forget her anger over Elf. She had no choice. None of them did. Isleen must be happy at Ashlin, and Richard de Montfort would do all in his power to assure his future wife's contentment. Excerpted from The Innocent by Bertrice Small All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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