Cover image for The bride of Rosecliffe
The bride of Rosecliffe
Becnel, Rexanne.
Personal Author:
St. Martin's Paperbacks edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1998.
Physical Description:
378 pages : color illustrations ; 18 cm
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X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Library
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Bestselling, award-winning author Rexanne Becnel brings the glory, intrigue, and breathtaking passion of the twelfth-century Wales to life in this spellbinding tale of loyalty and love...

In the name of the English King Henry, Rand Fitz Hugh has arrived to claim rebellious Wales. A fierce and loyal warrior, he is prepared for war, but boldly seeks peace, never imagining the battle that will rage within his own heart.

Josselyn ap Carreg Du is prepared to marry a man she loathes in order to unite Welsh lands against the hated English. Before she can do so, Rand makes her his captive-and pawn of his politics and ambition. She fears him, not because he is her mortal enemy...but because he has the means to make her forget that. In a time of strife and treachery, when enemies give no mercy and desperate choices mus be made, love may prove the greatest weapon of all...

Author Notes

Critically acclaimed romance author Rexanne Becnel has written eleven previous novels, including Dangerous to Love, The Maiden Bride, and A Dove a Midnight. Ms. Becnel is a multi-award winner-her work My Gallant Enemy won the Waldenbooks First Time Romance Author Award and the Romantic Times Best Award for Best Medieval Romance by a New Author. She lives in New Orleans with her family.

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Becnel's old-fashioned, plot-driven romance takes place in 13th-century Wales. It is a captor-captive story, with the captor being an English noble sent by King Henry to build a castle and suppress any Welsh opposition to the throne, and the captive being a patriotic Welshwoman with a fierce hatred of the English. Josselyn's captivity is made all the more difficult by her attraction to her captor, which culminates in a night of passion. However, she is betrothed to Owain, a ruthless Welshman from a neighboring village who will stop at nothing to destroy the English castle and usurp power. The pacing is quick, the passion is hot, the tone is intense, and the characters are larger-than-life. The plot contains enough twists, turns, and betrayals to keep the reader thoroughly engaged and looking forward to the planned sequel. Becnel's tale will please Woodiwiss admirers. --Ann Bouricius



The Bride of Rosecliffe Part One Hear the voice of the Bard! Who Present, Past, & Future sees Whose ears have heard The Holy Word That walk'd among the ancient trees --William Blake One Carreg Du, Wales March A.D. 1134 "'W inter's end is ... is nigh.'" Josselyn glanced at Newlin, and when he did not respond, she repeated the translation. "'Winter's end is nigh.' That is correct, is it not?" The misshapen little man looked up at her. It was clear his thoughts had wandered away from today's lesson. Josselyn's brow creased with worry. During the long weeks of this bitterest of winters he'd often become preoccupied. Was he unwell? Or did the ageless bard sense some disturbing change in the air? "Winter's end is indeed nigh," he echoed, but in their native Welsh. "And with its end will come an end to these lessons," he added, looking at her with his peculiar mismatched gaze. Josselyn shrugged. "Perhaps for a while. There will be much to do once spring is truly upon us. But summer will bring me more time." "Summer may see you wed and tending to your husband." "And who will that husband be? " she asked in theFrench language of the Normans. " Anyone I know?" she finished, in the rougher Saxon tongue of the English. He smiled at her, though only the left side of his mouth turned up. The right side of his face remained in its perpetually down-drawn expression. Indeed, the entire right side of his body was thus: arm shriveled, leg twisted. He walked with a pronounced limp and had only his left arm with which to perform his daily tasks. But the blessings that God had withheld from his body, He'd made up for by gifting the man with an astonishing mind. Newlin was widely acknowledged as the wisest and most intelligent man in Rhofoniog. From the English border in the east, to the wide sea far west of the wildwood surrounding the village of Carreg Du, he had no match. He spoke four languages fluently, their own Cymraeg , both the French and English he'd taught her, and the Latin tongue known primarily to the priests. He knew the stars, how to cipher, could foretell the weather, and understood the animals as well. He forgot nothing he'd ever heard, and throughout the long dark winters enthralled the people of Carreg Du with his tales of old and predictions of times yet to come. He had no age and no one was certain whence he'd come. He'd always lived in the domen near the meadow, and though no one else would dare seek shelter under those burial stones beside the hill laced with climbing roses, no one argued his right to do so. The two of them sat now, perched on a rocky outcropping halfway up the slope of that hill. Josselyn stared below them to the rough meadow, not yet showing any signs of spring save the spongy ground, soaked with the winter thaw. Newlin's gaze, however, turned toward the crest of the hill, toward the cliffs. After a moment he began to clamber upward. "Wait. Where are you going?" "To the sea." "The sea? What of my lesson?" she called out as hescuttled away with his strange sideways gait. " Winter's end is nigh ," he called back in English. "And spring shall give birth to a future we cannot escape," he added, though this time in their mother tongue. Josselyn knew better than to press him regarding the meaning of that. Newlin revealed what he wanted, when he wanted to. His predictions, when they came, were frighteningly accurate. What this future was that they could not escape, Josselyn did not begin to know. But she scrambled up after him, hoping for an explanation. They reached the crest of the great stone outcropping together. The wind was bitter across the dark churning sea. Bitter with the cold. Bitter with the damp. Josselyn stood up against it, though, ignoring the icy fingers of wind that tore at her wool kirtle and cloak, and whipped her soot-black hair around her face. This was the pinnacle overlooking the lands of her people. Though not the highest point, it nonetheless was imbued with an essence that defined the wild freedom of northern Wales. The great stone outcropping was known as Carreg Du, the Black Stone. Many, like herself, had adopted it as part of their name. She was Josselyn ap Carreg Du, just as her father had called himself Howell ap Carreg Du. Their family had been a part of this land since before recorded time, since before the oldest tales of the early kings, and their struggles to survive. She loved everything about this green fold of wildwood between the mountains and the sea. That's what had driven her out of her uncle's snug house this third Sunday of the Lenten season, the need to be out on their lands. Now she looked down the cliffs to the sea, and marveled as she had so many times before that roses should grow in so inhospitable a place. She breathed deeply of the salty air, then shivered at the cold. But that was all right. She could bear the cold a little longer. After all, winter's end was nigh. She looked around for Newlin and found him staring off to the east, rocking forward and back as he so often did when his thoughtsdelved deep. Forward and back. Forward and back. Her gaze followed his out to sea, to where the sun pierced the heavy clouds and cast diamond glints against the waves. But it was not only the sun glinting off the sea in brilliant flashes of white. There was something else. A sail. A ship. Josselyn squinted, trying to make it out. "The future we cannot escape," Newlin stated. Each word came out in a frigid puff, immediately dispersed by the north wind. "Is it a good future, or a bad one?" Josselyn asked, feeling even colder now than before. The odd little man shrugged his one good shoulder. "Like all futures, 'tis good for some, and not so for others. Still," he added with his familiar twisted grin. "You must agree that any future is better than no future." True. But as they made their way back down from the rose cliffs, then parted ways--she for her village, he for his mean abode beneath the domen --Josselyn was filled with a nameless foreboding. She'd lived these past nine years with her aunt and uncle. They had no children of their own and they'd been happy to take her in when her parents had died. She'd been safe with them with no need to look to the future. But change was in the air. She knew it and so did Newlin. And she didn't like it at all. "They've erected tents on Rosecliffe. And they continue to remove an endless stream of supplies from their ship." Josselyn listened to Dewey's report as did the rest of the villagers gathered in her uncle's hall. Uncle Clyde sat without moving, pondering his scout's disturbing news in that silent manner he had. As the moments stretched out, Josselyn had to restrain herself from prodding a response from him. She loved her uncle dearly, but he was most certainly not a man given to impulsive action. "Post a watch on them," he finally ordered. "We need to know numbers of men, amounts of materials." Hepaused. "Send for the scribe. Madoc ap Lloyd will want to know of this as well." He ignored the murmurings generated by that remark. The lands of the Lloyd family lay just west of Carreg Du, but the fact that they were neighbors did not mean the two families were friendly. The Lloyds were as greedy as the English king, albeit on a different scale. A sheep gone missing. An ox. They hunted on Carreg Du lands and pilfered from Carreg Du's fields whenever they could get away with it. Everyone knew they were not to be trusted. Still, all the Welsh shared a common enemy in the English. And with the English setting up an encampment at Rosecliffe, Uncle Clyde was right to put aside his differences with the Lloyds. Unfortunately, Josselyn did not believe it merely an encampment. "What if they're here to stay?" Everyone turned to stare at her. A faint flush rose in her cheeks, but she ignored it and stared earnestly at her uncle. "The group that came last winter was smaller, and they stayed only a few days. But this group is larger. And at least two men from the previous group are here again." Uncle Clyde frowned and for a moment Josselyn feared he meant to reprimand her before the entire village, first for speaking out on a matter that was, strictly speaking, a men's issue, and second for venturing near the English encampment. After a nerve-racking silence he said, "You recognized two of them from last winter?" Josselyn nodded. There were not many men as tall and broad-shouldered as the younger of the two. Everything about his looks and bearing proclaimed him a warrior. If he did not lead the English, he was at least central to their nefarious plans. She was certain of it. The other man sported a heavy red beard and had more the air of a scholar. It had been he whom she'd been the most curious about. At least that was what she'd told herself. The tall man had been comely in the hard way some fighting men had. It was the attractiveness that came with absolute confidence. But that sort of confidence more oftenthan not carried with it the unattractive specter of arrogance. So she'd turned her eyes away from him and concentrated on the smaller, portly fellow. Was he a bard like Newlin? she'd wondered. Last winter he'd walked the length and breadth of the lands at the top of Rosecliffe, marking down his observations on a roll of parchment. How that parchment had intrigued her. Now he was back with more parchments under his arm. Though it was only a suspicion, she felt compelled to share it. "You know how the English are--how greedy their king is. He wants our lands joined to his. Hasn't he built one of his fortresses two days' travel south of here, on land that once was Daffyd land? I think he plans to do the same thing here. I think he means to construct a castle at Rosecliffe." "A castle? Not here--" "Damn the godforsaken English!" "They wouldn't dare try such a thing--" "Yes they would," Josselyn vowed, fired up by the heated emotions rocketing around the smoky hall. "That king of theirs--Henry of Normandy--believes God has granted him the rights to our lands--" She broke off under her uncle's dark scowl. Everyone else did the same. Only when silence once more reigned did Clyde speak. "More reason than ever to inform Madoc ap Lloyd." He stood and everyone else did the same. "Arrange for a messenger, Dewey. Now leave me to think." To his wife, Nesta, he added, "Send in the scribe when he gets here." Josselyn filed out of the main hall along with the others. But her blood had been roused by the storm warnings of imminent warfare, and she could not simply go off to the kitchens as if nothing of consequence had taken place today. She ran to fetch parchment, ink, quill, and sand, then returned and slipped into the hall. Her uncle stood before a painting of his brother, her father, and Josselyn knew what he was thinking. Howell apCarreg Du had died fighting the English nearly ten years ago. His grief-stricken wife had died giving birth not a month later, along with an infant son, both deaths also attributable to the wretched king of England. In the ensuing years the English had abandoned their efforts in northern Wales. But their successes in the south had clearly encouraged them anew, for it appeared they now had returned. How many Welsh lives would be sacrificed to stop them this time? She beat back a shiver of apprehension. "I have the parchment, Uncle. If you will dictate your message, I will write it down." Slowly he turned to face her. "You have other duties. I can wait for the scribe." She lifted her chin a notch. "I would rather write your message to Madoc ap Lloyd. My hand is as neat as any scribe's." Clyde stared at his niece, his only brother's only heir--and his as well. She was a brave lass--that no one could dispute, least of all him. And she was smart, with an education far surpassing his own. Newlin was to be thanked for that--or blamed. Clyde often worried that the thirst for learning the bard had fired in her would lead to her unhappiness. Such knowledge made a dreamer of the most practical soul. But dreamer or no, the times would force her dreams aside. She must be practical now--as must he. He agreed to her request with a nod. She gave him a pleased smile, but he knew it would not last. "I bid you greeting, Madoc ap Lloyd," he began, pausing periodically as the scratching of the quill pen caught his words forever on the rare parchment. She was right, her hand was straight and true, with no ink splotches to mar its progress. " ... time to unite against our common enemy. To ensure the peace between us endures, I would discuss a matter we have put aside in the past." When he did not continue, Josselyn looked up. The lightcast by the single oil lamp limned her face with gold. She was as beautiful as her mother had been, he thought, not for the first time. Rich black hair. The glowing skin of robust youth. But for all her feminine beauty, she also possessed her father's soul, his daring and his impulsiveness. If any woman could tame Madoc's hot-tempered son--or at least redirect his energies--it was Josselyn. Still, he did not relish what he must do. "What is this matter you have put aside?" she asked, staring at him with the clear blue eyes of his brother. "It is the matter of peace between us and the family of Lloyd." "Yes, but how do you propose to maintain it? You know what will happen. Once the English are routed, the Lloyds will become the same thieving troublemakers they've always been. They are not to be trusted." "I plan to marry our family to theirs," he said without elaborating. She met his stare without blinking, and he knew to the second when she understood his meaning. Though her breathing came a little faster she showed no other emotion. "To Owain?" she said at last. He nodded his head. "If you will agree. His time of mourning is done. He will want another wife for his son. And more children, as well." She took a slow breath, then dipped the quill in the ink and frowned down at the neatly lettered parchment. "Do you wish to add anything?" "No." Josselyn watched as her uncle signed the message. Then she dated it and melted the wax so he could seal it with his signet ring. She refused to let herself react to the devastating news he'd just delivered. She refused to succumb to her fears, for she knew them to be unimportant in the greater scheme of things. But still, those fears would not go away. Owain ap Madoc was a cruel thug, who'd been the baneof existence for the people of Carreg Du for as long as she could recall. He was recently widowed, though, and so this should come as no surprise to her. The fact that no one would force her to wed him was beside the point. She had the freedom to turn him down. No Welsh woman could be forced to wed a man loathsome to her. And Owain was loathsome to her. She knew him mainly by reputation, for she'd only laid eyes on him four times in her life. But that had sufficed. The first time had been at a harvest celebration in Carreg Du. She had been but a child and he a gangling youth, brawling with other boys. Playing cruel tricks on those younger and weaker than he. Bullying them. The next time she'd been twelve and he'd come upon her while she was picking blueberries in Saint Cedric's Vale. She'd not understood everything he'd said, nor comprehended his innuendos. But she'd been terrified all the same. He'd chased her like a wolf cub chases a rabbit. Not to catch her, just to see her run. She'd never told anyone about that day. Maybe she should have. Now she understood what he'd said--about her wanting it. It. Josselyn shuddered in revulsion, just to remember. He'd been a disgusting youth and had become an even worse man. She'd seen him next at the annual horse market in Holy-well. By then he'd been married, and Josselyn had pitied the unfortunate girl. But the last time she'd seen him had been the worst. Six months ago he and a band of his henchmen had returned the body of Tomas, saying they'd found him along the narrow shore at the base of Rosecliffe, thrown to his death by the English said to be in the area. They'd behaved as if it were a goodwill gesture on their part to return the mangled, bloodied corpse. Dewey had pretended that it was too, for there had been few men in Carreg Du that day and he had not wanted to provoke a fight with Owain's heavily armed band. But he'dsuspected another scenario. Josselyn had overheard him saying as much to Uncle Clyde. Owain and his thugs had most likely come across Tomas on their lands, and though by law Tomas was wrong to hunt there, they'd had no cause to kill him. To murder him. No, she need not know him personally to know he was loathsome. But what about her duty to her family? She was her uncle's only heir. If she did not wed while he was still strong, when he died, chaos would ensue and the Lloyds would be quick to take advantage. Added to that was the pressure of this new English threat. Her family might not be able to turn so great a force away this time. There was the increased chance of her uncle's death in the battles sure to come. She didn't like to think about it, but she knew he would want to plan for his successor in advance. But Owain ap Madoc! She'd as lief marry an Englishman as marry such a cutthroat! They were being watched. Rand knew it and welcomed it. Let the people of this wretched corner of Wales spy on him and relay the news to the rest of their kin. Wales had long been claimed by King Henry. Now Rand meant to make that claim a reality--and return to London in triumph. He stood on the pinnacle of the long hill the Welsh called Carreg Du--Black Stone. He stared down the drop-off known as Rosecliffe for its tenacious roses, then swept the horizon with his eyes. Cold sea to the north and east. Cold hills to the south and west. Yet somewhere within those dark forested hills lay a hotbed of opposition. They watched and they waited and they would do everything they could to drive him out, even unite with their enemy brothers, if need be. But he would not be driven out, and though it might take years, they would eventually come to understand that fact. Below him the camp had begun to take shape. Already the tents were being replaced by sturdy timber huts. His workers had set to their tasks on the very day they'd landed. Sir Lovell, the master builder, supervised them using stakes and flags to mark the perimeters where the castle walls would rise, the mighty inner wall first, then the far-reaching outer wall. Even the town would have a protective wall, for Rand meant to fortify his holdings well. Every citizen under his rule would know there was safety under his pennant, whether they were English or Welsh, or something in between. He grimaced at that thought. In between. Henry had cautioned him that a generation of children born of Welsh mothers to English fathers could as easily turn against him as fight for him. But it was not that generation that concerned him now. His men would need wives. Come the next winter, they would need the warm comfort of women in their beds. He needed to keep his men content and women were his best tool for that. Once wed, his men would be tied to this land as firmly as he now was. Unlike them, however, he would not be tied to these lands by a woman. It was ambition that tied him here, and then only temporarily. He'd spent the whole of his life fighting for the right to own lands of his own, besides the past nine years fighting Henry's wars. Now that he had those lands, however, he faced another sort of battle. He'd had the long months of winter to consider his situation, and as he'd assembled men and supplies, he'd also assembled his thoughts. He'd not wanted lands in Wales. But that's what he'd been granted. Now he meant to make them his--only he did not want to waste either time or effort in the process. While he was prepared to take the land by force if need be, he knew it would be faster to wage peace. But he meant to wage that peace with a powerful hand, and he meant to win. Once the lands of northern Wales were secure for England, Henry and his advisors would be forced to acknowledgeRand's ever-increasing influence. He would make his way back to London, an even more powerful baron than before. But there was still the matter of a wife well connected to English politics. He would have to address that matter as soon as possible. A call drew his attention, and as he watched, his burly captain, Osborn de Vere, clambered up the dark, frozen hill. "The ship is unloaded. They sail back to England on the next tide." "Alan has his orders, I take it." "He does. He will return with the carpenters and stonemasons, and the rest of the food stores." The man paused, but Rand knew what he would say next. Five years Osborn had guarded his back, and Rand had guarded his. Their thoughts had become finely attuned in the process. But that did not mean they always agreed. Rand spoke before Osborn could. "Jasper remains in England." Osborn's eyes narrowed and his jaw jutted forward. "The hills of Wales are more likely to make a man of your brother than mincing around Henry's court. Even Jasper knows that." "He wants the adventure with none of the responsibility," Rand retorted. "You know my feelings on this, and so does he. Until he can negotiate the twisted byways of the court and survive in that pit of vipers, he is no more than a green lad, and of no use to me. Once he has mastered Henry's court, he can come here, and I'll return to England. But enough of that," Rand continued. "What word from Sir Lovell?" Osborn wisely abandoned the subject of Rand's younger brother. He grunted. "Faith, but I'd never have believed so mild a man could be such a taskmaster. Already his crew has marked the wall locations. The diggers have begun their tasks and two wells are being bored, one for the castle and one for the new town, just beyond the castle walls. The site is just as he had drawn out--the half-moat, the sheer cliffs.The quarry site." Osborn stared around him. "'Tis hard to imagine a castle rising up in this very place." But it was not hard for Rand to imagine. He was a man who believed in setting goals: hard goals, impossible goals. So far he'd achieved them all. All but one. He'd never heard his father acknowledge his success. And now he never would. His father had died content in the belief that his heir, his eldest son, John, was the best of the lot. Randulf he had fostered to a cruel man, a man guaranteed to beat the wildness from his middle son. Jasper he'd intended for the Church. Only John had he gifted with his attention. But Rand had defeated his foster parent's attempts to beat him into an obedient soldier, and Jasper had thrown off the shackles of holy life. As for John, he was a drunken fool who had collapsed when their father died. Rand took a deep breath of the icy air, not fooled by every evidence of winter. Spring was near and with it would come the challenges of raising the castle defenses and appeasing an angry and suspicious populace. "The walls will rise slowly, but they will rise," he told Osborn. "Meanwhile, we must eat. Never doubt for a minute that the key to our triumph here lies in the success of our crops." "We've marked out the best fields, and once the thaw is certain, we'll begin breaking up the land. But it seems we have a problem." "A problem?" Osborn grimaced. "There's a man--if indeed you can call him such. A queer fellow, twisted and deformed. The diggers had worked their way around to that pagan altar--or whatever that pile of rocks is--when this apparition came up, right out of the stones. Scared them out of their skins. Now they won't go anywhere near the place." "What of the cripple?" Osborn blew out a frustrated breath. "He's sitting on top of the bloody altar. Won't budge from the spot." "So have him removed," Rand said, working hard tokeep a straight face. Though his captain feared no man who came at him with a weapon, he had a superstitious bent. Rand knew that a twisted and deformed man was bound to raise dread in Osborn's bosom. "Have him removed? And who's to do the removing?" "I take it you're not volunteering." Osborn made a quick sign of the cross. "Not bloody likely." "Is he bigger than you?" "No." "Has he mightier weapons?" "He's got the devil with him, is what he's got! Satan himself. Gibbering in his heathen tongue then spoutin' the holy words of the priests!" That drew Rand up short. "He speaks Latin?" "Aye. And curses us in both French and English," Osborn answered. "As I said, 'tis the devil at work in him." Rand turned for the pile of rocks, the pagan altar they'd all assumed it to be. A crippled man who spoke four languages? Either Osborn had tapped one of the wine kegs or he was losing his mind. Or else this land was as possessed of faeries and wizards and conjurers as idle gossips would have it. But the faeries had best be forewarned and the wizards and conjurers had better beat a hasty retreat. For Randulf Fitz Hugh had arrived and he claimed these lands, in his own name and in the name of Henry, King of England. Off to his right his red wolf pennant fluttered above their encampment. Before very long it would fly from the ramparts of a mighty fortress. No amount of superstition would prevent him from reaching his goal. Copyright © 1998 by Rexanne Becnel. Excerpted from The Bride of Rosecliffe by Rexanne Becnel 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.