Cover image for The maiden's heart
Title:
The maiden's heart
Author:
Beard, Julie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Berkley Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
333 pages ; 18 cm.
General Note:
"A Jove book"--T.p.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780515125153
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

A dashingly handsome knight errant agrees to marry a baron's daughter... sight unseen. But his new bride is as beautiful as an angel -- and just as chaste. Her plan to stay that way, however, will drive them both to the edge of desire -- and danger...


Author Notes

Julie Beard is the award-winning, bestselling author of nine historical novels and novellas. She's also the author of a popular "how to" book entitled The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Your Romance Published . Julie has a master's degree from Northwestern University's prestigious Medill School of Journalism and worked for a decade as a television journalist at NBC and Fox affiliates before she had the pleasure of writing fiction full-time. She lives in the Midwest with her family and two incorrigible basenjis.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this romance set in 14th-century England by bestselling Beard (Romance of the Rose), impoverished knight-errant Sir Hugh de Greyhurst, nursing his latest jousting injury, makes an offer of marriage to Lady Margrete Trewsbury, whose ailing baron father wants her safely wed before he dies. Beautiful Margrete seems to be the answer to Sir Hugh's dreamsÄbut is she really? The lady fancies convent life and wants a "spiritual" (in other words, celibate) union. Deeply in love, Hugh reluctantly agrees to Margrete's terms, setting the stage for major sexual tension, which Beard handles well. Complicating the story are Sir Ranulf de Blakely, a nasty villain determined to deflower Margrete and ruin Hugh; a worldly, avaricious bishop; and a mysterious, reputedly cursed, lost treasure. Beard's sometimes choppy writing coupled with an intrusive narrator are the only detractions from an otherwise engaging love story. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One England, 1313 Ow! God's teeth, man, what are you trying to do? Kill me? You accursed, damnable knave!"     The roaring voice fairly shook a round, faded yellow tent at the edge of the tilting yard, giving pause to more than a few pages and squires scurrying by before the start of the Round Table. But Sir Hugh de Greyhurst--a bear of a man--had never cared what anyone thought of him, and so he let out another string of curses.     "That's my leg, damnation take you! God's wounds! Don't twist it!"     Brian, the squire kneeling at his feet, merely squinted at the insults. When the shouting ceased, he opened his eyes wide and smiled overbroadly as would a cowered mother trying to placate an unreasonable child, which merely reignited Sir Hugh's explosive anger.     "God curse you, you patronizing knave!" he shouted.     "Now, now, my lord," Brian said, "you must bend your knee. If you do not do so, and often, you will never have use of this leg again. It grows stiffer by the month."     "Damn you to hell, do not remind me," Sir Hugh muttered. He nearly cuffed the ear of his handsome young squire, but instead balled his mighty hands into fists and pressed them to his forehead.     "Oh, Lord, curse me for a fool," he groaned, wishing anew he could wheel back time and relive that fateful joust six months ago. He had been knocked from his horse and fell badly in a careless charge down the lists, exacerbating an old injury. His opponent, Sir Ranulf Blakely, had rightly claimed Hugh's charger and best armor, the victor's spoils, leaving Hugh to struggle ever since with his second-best armor and a body that would not heal from whatever unseen wound ailed it.     "Dress me," he commanded, lowering his fists to his lap. He sat on a stool, naked save for a billowy shirt, with one leg stretched out straight and stiff.     "My lord, I always have trouble putting on your leggings. If you could just bend your leg ..."     When Brian looked up and saw the fury blazing in his master's golden eyes, he fell silent.     "Very well, then," the squire said with a beleaguered sigh. "I'll start with the other leg." "I've been at this too long," Hugh said as they exited the tent a half hour later.     He tried not to grimace as he swung his injured leg out and around with the force of his hips, his mail and plate armor clanking with each awkward step. All his concentration was spent on trying to look natural, which was a difficult task for someone who usually strode with the force of a giant on a rampage.     A stone's throw away, trumpets were blaring as more than a dozen knights began to parade around the tilt yard, displaying their arms on flapping pennons and banners, some catching garters and ribbons from women in the stands to tie on their lances. The crowd responded to the tourniers with a burst of applause and cheers of approval.     In days gone by, the sights and sounds of such a spectacle would mesmerize Hugh--smartly caparisoned horses, snorting and pawing the ground as they carried silver-plated knights; the flushed cheeks of haggard peasants and the lush velvet gowns of rich town merchants eager for the competition; a cool breeze snapping the multicolored banners. But now these familiar sights and sounds merely reminded Hugh that more pain was imminent.     "I'm too old for this, Brian."     "Too old? Nay, my lord, that's not true! You are but thirty years of age. Here's your shield. You're up first on the lists. Sir Roland is your opponent."     By now they had reached the edge of the oblong yard where the jousting would take place. The parade was over.     "Rolly," Hugh said with an easy chuckle. He tugged at the chin of his coif--a mail hood that constrained his full mane of amber, shoulder-length hair--and thrust out his chin, adjusting to the gear. He wouldn't put on his stifling helmet until the last moment. "My old and dear friend Sir Rolly. Pray God I don't crack his head open."     "You'll manage a draw, I'll warrant," Brian mused, retrieving Hugh's horse from a young page. "You two have been on the tournament circuit for nigh on two decades, I hear, and in all that time neither one has ransomed the other or his horse and armor."     "True enough."     Hugh had been among the best of the best of the so-called "iron men." Until recently, he had never been ransomed or lost his armor to an opponent in his fifteen grueling years as a knight errant.     In times gone by his successes had made him wealthy, rich with ransoms from knights he had bested. If he had been any other man, he might have parlayed his wealth and glory into a position of power at court. He might have won favor with the king and received a grant of land to become a baron in his own right. But he was the son of Jervais de Greyhurst, a powerful and ruthless lord who would rather burn in hell than see his disinherited son benefit from the king's benevolence.     And now he was a knight who had been injured once too often. Which was to say that overnight he had gone from a feared and awesome jouster to someone who was useless. Thinking of such ill fortune made his thoughts turn to what might have been.     "Brian, I'd rather be stretched out before a cozy fire with my head in the lap of a woman than waiting here for my turn on the lists. She wouldn't have to be pretty, mind you, and she wouldn't even have to please me. If she would just ..." He reached a hand out as if to snatch the fantasy from midair. "If she would just comb her fingers through my hair ... Well, you understand what I'm saying."     Brian held out gauntlets and Hugh thrust his hands into the metal gloves, then tucked his foot in a stirrup. With a heave-ho from Brian and a roar of pain from deep in his soul, which was thankfully muted by the crowd, Hugh swung his right leg over the saddle, sinking onto it in defeat.     "What's so special about women?" Brian said, pretending he hadn't noticed the depth of Hugh's pain. "What good are they? You know we must live by the sword. A home and grandchildren to bounce on our knees is not our lot in life."     At the hard tone of resignation in Brian's normally melodic voice, Hugh looked down at the seventeen-year-old and resisted the urge to tousle his hair in sympathy. "I forget that you are just setting out on the long journey I'm ready to be done with. One day you, too, will long for all that might have been."     Brian, like his sponsor, was a second son. Not the lucky first who would one day inherit the only private chamber and bed in his father's manor. Nor was he the third son who, like many, became a priest or, if rich and powerful enough, a bishop or archbishop. No, he was the second in line and therefore was expected to be a warrior, or in the absence of war, a knight errant and sometime mercenary.     Those who lived by the sword usually died by it at a young age. It was God's way of ridding the world of useless sons who had no property and nothing to offer a woman. For a man was a child in the eyes of the law until he owned his own bed. And so few did in this brutal world. Particularly not men like Sir Hugh de Greyhurst. For even if his older brother died, he would not inherit. He had been disowned. But that was another tale of woe.     "You're up, my lord," Brian said when he heard the shouted orders of the herald.     "I'm first?" Hugh squinted at the other knights. "Isn't there someone younger and more eager to start the Round Table?"     Usually the younger challengers went first, warming themselves up before bouts with the more experienced jousters.     "Oh, well," Hugh sighed. "May as well get it over with."     He accepted the enormous lance Brian handed him. He raised it upright and rested the butt on his mail-covered thigh, then trotted his horse to his end of the lists.     He and Rolly, who sat mounted and ready at the opposite end, acknowledged one another with their usual wry smiles, reminders of shared laughter and good times. They'd drunk more than their share of ale together over the years, even shared a damsel or two--on different nights, of course. They often joked that if one accidentally killed the other, as sometimes happened even though they jousted with blunted lances, the survivor would say a quick Hail Mary and go on to his next opponent, and his next maiden.     While Hugh felt intensely competitive with some knights, such as Sir Ranulf, he did not want to hurt Rolly. Sir Roland Montague was perhaps the only opponent who had never underestimated his intelligence. The others dismissed Hugh as a dumb animal and blamed their own defeats on his brute strength. But Rolly liked to say that Hugh was such a good strategist on the lists that his opponents didn't even know when they'd been outsmarted.     Yes, Rolly was a good friend. So the events that followed seemed particularly shocking and ironic. Hugh could not later recall their exact sequence. All he knew was that in the moment before he and Roland met at thundering speed, a priest leapt between them on a seemingly suicidal mission, cursing them for defying a papal ban on tournaments.     "Fie on you!" cried the mad-eyed cleric from the midst of a windmill of churning horse hooves. "Damn your souls to hell!"     Both horses reared back, sparing the rabid priest. Hugh managed to hold fast, but Rolly fell hard.     "God!" Hugh cried, for even in the mayhem, he could hear the unnatural sound of cracking bones.     "You will not joust in this bishopric!" the priest shouted as Hugh whirled around on his steed. The black-robed man waved a crucifix, his eyes bulging. "The Pope has forbidden you and the new bishop will not allow it!"     Hugh dug his spurs in the bristled hair of his mount's belly; horse and rider leapt forward, coming to an abrupt stop at Rolly's side. When he saw the widening pool of blood that leaked from Rolly's head, Hugh jumped down and shoved the priest aside, pulling off his helmet.     "Out of my way! Rolly! Dear saints, Rolly!"     At the sight of Sir Roland's eyes, once winking with life and kindness, now glassy and wide in a head that was turned backward, Hugh reeled with a painful mix of affection and regret. A broken neck. Oh, God. "Rolly!"     Tugging off his gauntlets, Hugh knelt, ignoring the ripping pain in his leg for which he would later pay a terrible price, and pulled Roland into his arms, fruitlessly searching for any signs of life. Angry at his own stupidity, Hugh gently lowered the body back to the earth and raked his bloody fingers through his tousled hair. Then he turned his rage on the priest.     "You," he growled with such ferocity the cleric went pale.     "Y-y-you see what comes of this sinful act!" the skinny figure sputtered, backing away as Hugh rose with black fury. The priest turned for support to the crowd. "A man has been murdered! This is why the Pope has banned all tournaments."     He now turned to Hugh, who approached with wide strides. "These wicked events force otherwise upright men to commit murder--a mortal sin," he continued with less certainty, taking a step backward for every forward step from Hugh. "Tournaments rob the Holy Father of soldiers in his crusades against the infidels in the Holy Land! They spawn sinful pride in the victors. They--"     "Silence!" Hugh bellowed. "Curse you for your pious villainy! You are the murderer!"     Hugh gripped his hands around the priest's cowl and began to squeeze.     "No, Sir Hugh!" cried his alarmed squire, dashing to his side. "Do not choke him to death."     "Let him go!" shouted another.     The other knights gathered timidly around Hugh as he strangled the terrified priest. Silence engulfed them. Though no one wanted to spend an eternity in hell, which is what they would all suffer if Hugh murdered a cleric in their presence, they likewise enjoyed the sight of one of their own having his say against the church. The Pope's ban was widely ignored and detested, for like Hugh, these men had no other way to survive but by fighting one another.     As he choked the priest, an image of Roland's lifeless body filled his vision. Sore regret drained him of his will to fight. Vengeance would not bring Rolly back. Overcome with sorrow and a sense of waste, he loosened his grip, and the priest choked in a desperately needed breath of air. Hugh staggered away.     Like some pagan, he stood before the crowd with blood-streaked hair, eyes wild with incivility. They could not know that he wanted to retch with remorse over his part in his friend's death. God forbid, but the priest was right. Hugh was a murderer. No, he wasn't to blame this time, but he had killed other men in jousts. The deaths were accidental and to be expected, even surreptitiously desired, depending on the opponent. But Hugh saw it differently on this brilliant spring day.     Despite the colorful, noble banners, the great helms with peacock feathers and lions carved atop them, and the jewel encrusted swords; despite expensive armor emblazoned with heraldic emblems of lions rampart and bears, and shields striped with colorful chevrons, one truth remained: they were little more than cocks fighting for a blood-hungry crowd. They were animals besting one another.     That was all he had ever been--an animal. Ever since his father had banished him at the age of nine to be raised in the home of an untutored quarry worker, he had been a beast of burden.     Shuddering with this cold realization, Hugh came to one clear conclusion. He looked up with calmer eyes to the blazing sun, which beat on his cheeks day after day with unmatched fidelity, and inwardly vowed that he would never joust again. Never.     And then he said a Hail Mary. Copyright © 1999 Julie Beard. All rights reserved.

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