Cover image for My lady wayward
Title:
My lady wayward
Author:
St. James, Lael, 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Sonnet Books, 2001.
Physical Description:
357 pages ; 18 cm
General Note:
"Linda Lael Miller writing as Lael St. James"--Cover.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780671537883
Format :
Book

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Central Library FICTION Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

Disappointed that the wounded knight whom she nursed back to health has no memory of his identity or past, Meg Redclift nevertheless is determined that he must be her chaperone as she embarks on a quest to find her missing sister.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

This fast-moving, delightful quest narrative, the second installment in Miller's medieval-era trilogy (following My Lady Beloved), chronicles the romance between Meg Redclift, an impetuous young boarder at St. Swithin's Abbey, and Gresham Sedgewick, her troubled knight. Despite her lack of a proper chaperone, Meg is determined to search for her twin sister, Gabriella, who vanished after she left to meet and marry her betrothed. When Meg and her younger sister, Elizabeth, come across a wounded, handsome young knight lying in the abbey's squash patch, Meg hastens to tend to the gash on his head, hoping that he'll agree to act as her chaperone when he wakes. To her disappointment, Gresham remembers little more than his name, but he eventually agrees to accompany her on her mission. Along the way, the two evade the plague, fight off a band of hungry wolves, clash with one of Gresham's old enemies and fall in love, although Gresham may have a wife whom he can't remember. Meg is an admirable heroine, but it's Gresham who blossoms here as he learns many troubling details about the man he was and strives to begin his life anew. Miller's consistent excellence and genre-jumping habits have earned her a large, loyal readership; her fans will embrace this dynamic entry. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

They found him lying facedown amidst the hardened, frosty runnels of St. Swithin's squash patch, half frozen and out of his senses, with a crimson cap of blood crusted at the back of his head. Elizabeth Redclift, the younger of the two sisters, hastily crossed herself and murmured a prayer, while Meg, the more direct of the pair, dropped to her knees beside the unfortunate fellow, turned him gently onto his back, and sought a pulse at the base of his throat. Even in those straightened circumstances, it gave Meg something of a start, the look of him. He was fair, with features so finely chiseled they might have been shaped by an Italian sculptor instead of an often - in Meg's view, at least - careless deity. Just looking at him, she felt a strange shift, deep inside, a singular tension, as though she'd just stepped onto the crumbling edge of some precipice, either to fall or to soar like Icarus before his wings melted. Even Elizabeth, who had sworn never to marry, preferring to take holy vows instead, drew in a breath and spoke with awe. "Mercy," she said. "He looks like a favored angel, or a saint. Is he alive?" Meg commenced wrapping the poor traveler in her cloak, which was none too warm but better than his own clothing, amounting to a torn, soiled shirt and once-fine breeches in much the same state. "Aye, sweeting, he's alive," she replied, "though truly it is a mystery why that should be so. 'Tis plain he's been wandering a while - see how dirty he is - and this wound is fair old." "I'll fetch Mother Mary Benedict," Elizabeth said, and started toward the postern gate gaping open behind them, one of several like it, placed here and there in the abbey's venerable walls. The good dame was abbess, and therefore the ultimate authority. Meg hastily grasped her sister's kirtle, which was hardly in better condition than the stranger's garb, though cleaner of course, and neatly mended, to stay her. The sheriff had been at the front gates, just two days past, looking for a man of similar countenance, and Meg both misliked and mistrusted the king's man, for she'd seen him in the village often enough, bullying peasants and even merchants. "No, Elizabeth - we mustn't be too hasty. He may be an outlaw, or a heretic, doomed to burn at the stake." Elizabeth gasped again, spread one hand over her bosom, swallowed and then crossed herself again. "Surely there are reasons for the abbess's rules, Meg - the plague is abroad, and there are knaves aplenty wandering the roads in these hard times. We would be wise to be cautious." Meg cherished her sister, would indeed have laid down her very life for her, but in these moments she sorely missed Gabriella, her twin, gone these several months to Cornwall. Gabriella was bold and strong-minded, and having her so far away, all the while knowing little or naught of how she fared as the duly wedded wife of Lord Avendall, was akin to having a limb sundered. In all these months, there had been no word, and Dame Johanna, Gabriella's companion, had neither returned to the abbey, as expected, nor sent a message. Meg was secretly worried, though she put on a brave face for Elizabeth's sake. "Never mind caution," she said, rather impatiently. "Go and fetch the pushcart from the potting shed - the big one we used to harvest pumpkins. It should support his weight, so that we can bring him in out of the cold. And mind you don't call attention to yourself while you're at it, Elizabeth Redclift. You'll give an accounting if you do." Elizabeth looked pityingly at the wayfaring stranger, then turned, hoisting her kirtle and the skirts of the gown beneath, and dashed across the frost-scoured garden to disappear through the postern gate. The god-man, barely alive by Meg's reckoning, murmured something and stirred, and Meg hastened to lend what comfort she could, gathering him up in her arms. "Here now," she said, "you've fallen amongst friends. We'll not turn you over for burning unless it comes out that you deserve it." She thought just the faintest flicker of a smile touched the man's mouth at that moment, but of course she must have imagined it. He was surely too broken to feel mirth, and certainly too weak to show it if, for some unfathomable reason, he did. "Come to that," Meg went on, holding him closer to lend what warmth she could, and rocking him back and forth as she'd oft done with Elizabeth, who had been sickly as a child, "it's hard to credit that anyone could warrant such a horror, isn't it? There's no need to be so cruel, it seems to me. If one merits condemning, then he should simply have his head chopped off, quick and clean. Or have an arrow put true through his heart ..." She was rambling a little, but there was nothing for it. Meg had ever tended to chatter when she was nervous. The man's head had fallen back over Meg's supporting arm, revealing his throat and long, perfectly shaped, though unwashed, neck. Although his features would have been cherished by any woman, Meg noticed, with what was mayhap an unmaidenly degree of interest - for he could truly be called beautiful, in the way of saints and angels - there was nothing of the feminine in him. He was, for all his lithe build, his thick and lengthy lashes, his wondrously wrought face and limbs, completely, uncompromisingly, and inarguably male. Pity , Meg thought, that he's in such a sorry state, for we might have been wed, he and I, and traveled to Cornwall, to find Gabriella. He looks to be the adventuring sort - see his hand, calloused from the hilt of a sword, see the fine, sturdy form of his shoulders and forearms ... "Have done, Margaret Redclift," Meg scolded herself, muttering. "You'll forfeit your immortal soul for such thoughts, if you haven't already." A tendency toward unseemly reflections was, it seemed, her besetting sin. That she was wont to act upon her musings often made matters worse, of course. A clatter at the postern gate revealed Elizabeth, hurrying with flushed cheeks over the hard, empty furrows of the field, pushing the garden cart before her. Her dark hair, truly her greatest glory, had escaped her wimple, tumbling tousled and gleaming over her slender shoulders and down her back. Watching her, Meg thought with no little ruefulness what an irony it was that Elizabeth, the most comely of all three Redclift daughters, was the one who had no wish to marry. She'd be content, the little goose, to stay at St. Swithin's Abbey all her days, and never know the tender caresses of a man, the tug of an infant's mouth at her breast, the clash and clamor of everyday life out there in the wide, frightful, glorious world. Meg, for her part, was certain that Gabriella's new husband would provide adequate dowries for his wife's sisters, if he had any honor at all. She wanted a certain sort of mate and, since her expectations were quite stringent, fully expected to purchase him, like a good horse at the summer fair. Elizabeth, on the other hand, wished to become a postulant and surrender the whole of her bride-price, should she ever actually have one, to the coffers of the Holy Church. Mother Mary Benedict, the abbess, bless her soul forever and ever, had refused this offer, saying that Elizabeth must first live outside St. Swithin's for a year, mayhap with Gabriella in Cornwall, or even at court, attending some great lady of the king's household. Only when she'd experienced life beyond the convent walls, and found it truly wanting, would she be permitted to take her vows. "What do you suppose he's called?" Elizabeth asked, her breathing belabored, as she and Meg hoisted the poor wounded sojourner into the pumpkin cart. "It hardly matters just now, does it?" Meg countered, unreasonably and inexplicably nettled by her sister's question. "Come, we'll put him in the planting shed; it's warm enough, and no one ever goes there, now that the crops are in." The journey back across the frozen runnels of dirt was trying indeed, for the stranger, though comely, was as ungainly to transport thus as Zacheus, one of the abbess's two white mules, would have been. Alas, both animals were gone, Zacheus, the elder, with Dame Johanna and Gabriella, on the journey to Cornwall, and Enoch, mysteriously vanished from a nearby pasture. "It does matter," Elizabeth insisted, huffing, for she could be stubborn, despite all her saintly inclinations. "We can't refer to him as 'the stranger' forever, can we?" "We shan't have cause to refer to him at all, I should think," Meg answered, nearly oversetting the cart in her efforts to traverse a particularly high furrow. It made her a little sad, to think of the man going away, whether under his own power or the sheriff's, as he inevitably would. "He looks hearty, for all his hurts, and he'll soon be gone from us." Elizabeth persisted, and Meg reflected that there might be hope for her sister yet. If Elizabeth had a failing, it was that she was too docile in most matters, and she seemed to lack any inclination toward adventure. "He wants a name," she said, with resolution, gasping as she pushed mightily at the back of the cart. "Zacheus, then," Meg teased, pausing to tuck a wisp of chestnut hair back into her own wimple. "For the mule." Elizabeth looked sorrowful, and Meg was sorry she'd mentioned the creature. Zacheus, like Gabriella and Dame Johanna, was elsewhere, and Elizabeth had been almost as fond of him as she was of their sister. "No," poor Elizabeth said, for though she was merry of spirit, she seldom knew a jest when she heard one, "that won't do. There is bound to be confusion, when Dame Johanna returns, as she left us, mounted upon Zacheus's back. She'll bear tidings of Gabriella, you may be certain." Meg shook her head. She feared that Gabriella's party, for all the brawny and well-armed guards her husband-to-be had sent as an escort, might have been waylaid by bandits somewhere in the journey, and she was aware that the abbess shared her concern, though they said little about the matter. There should have been a letter by now, at the very least. And why had Dame Johanna, Gabriella's chaperon, failed to return, once her charge was safely married? Presently, Meg and Elizabeth gained the planting shed, stumbling and struggling as they went, and made a bed for their fallen angel by pushing three long potting benches together in the center of the small, rickety structure. His mattress was of rough, empty seed bags - better than many in the abbey itself, for all that - and they laid him upon it with great care and industry, nearly exhausting themselves by that effort alone. Then, for good measure, they covered him in still more of the crude bags, that being all they had in the way of blankets. "Mother would put him in the infirmary," Elizabeth said pointedly, surveying their wretched attempt at hospitaling. "As will we," Meg replied briskly, "once we know he's in no danger of burning or hanging." Elizabeth muttered something that might or might not have been a prayer for patience. "You'll kill the poor man, Meg Redclift, and all in the name of saving him from punishments that may exist only in your own fancy." "I won't take the chance," Meg whispered, mayhap harshly, gripping Elizabeth's arm and dragging her aside. "I mean to ask him to take me to Gabriella, once he comes around. He's a fine specimen, isn't he - a soldier, I'll wager." Elizabeth looked as horrified as Meg expected, and crossed herself, once more, this time violently. "Or an outlaw, certain to cut our throats the moment he awakes - Sister, I fear you are either a fool or a madwoman, even to think of venturing -" Meg glanced back at their captive and thought she saw his eyelashes flutter slightly. "He'll need water," she said brusquely. "And medicine. You go to the well, and I'll fetch the remedy box from the infirmary." "You'll steal it, you mean," Elizabeth pressed. Now, of all times, she'd decided to be spirited. "Honestly, Meg, I despair of your soul sometimes." "I depend wholly upon grace for my salvation," Meg said virtuously, batting her eyelashes. She was also leaning quite heavily on the hope that God had a better sense of humor than her sister did. "Now, do as I say, Elizabeth. Don't force water, mind you, unless he awakens - just put droplets on his tongue, or you'll choke the poor wretch." Elizabeth's eyes went round, and she turned pale, though not, Meg suspected, at the prospect of choking the patient. It was the possibility of his waking up that frightened her. "Donkey feathers," Meg snapped, impatient now, and not a little spent from the rescue effort. "What have you to fear if he does come round, he's that weak?" "You mustn't curse," Elizabeth said, very righteously. Then, at the look on Meg's face, she turned and fled to fetch the required water. Meg herself made quick work of stealing the medicine chest, and returned to find Elizabeth watering the stranger's tongue as carefully as if he were one of the spring seedlings she always nursed so tenderly. For all her timid ways, Elizabeth had a gift for looking after broken and fragile things. "He hasn't wakened, then?" Elizabeth shook her head, flushed with noble works, hard exercise, and scandal. "He spoke once, though, and quite clearly, too. He cursed someone named Blodwyn to hell and perdition for stealing his purse. I always thought they were one and the same place - hell and perdition, I mean." Meg set the remedy box down with a thump and raised its lid to peer none too knowledgeably at the contents. "Mayhap only the two names could suffice, so heartfelt was the curse," she said. "Do you suppose we should smear a paste on his chest?" Elizabeth rolled her eyes; poultices and potions were her provence, for it was she who grew the herbs for them, and oversaw the crops and gardens that gave the inhabitants of St. Swithin's an unusually varied diet. "You come and dribble the water, Meg," she said, with an authority she showed only when dealing with plants. "I shall mind the medicine box." Meg smiled to herself and pretended to mild chagrin. "Aye, Sister," she said, and came to tend the stranger. Before she'd had a chance to accustom herself to close proximity - there was something pleasantly disturbing about being so near this particular man - the splendid wretch opened his eyes and gazed up at Meg, perplexed. She had never seen eyes so blue; the color of them fair stopped her heart and surely put an end to her breath. "Who -?" he asked. "What -?" Meg simply stared at him, and all but strangled before she remembered to breathe. "You've come to St. Swithin's Abbey," she managed, by a miracle no less impressive than the parting of the Red Sea or the multiplying of the loaves and fishes. "Devonshire." The beautiful stranger frowned, as though he'd never heard of either place. Elizabeth came promptly to stand just behind Meg. "What is your name, good sir?" she asked sweetly, showing no sign now that she feared him an outlaw or a heretic, as before. Continues... Excerpted from My Lady Wayward by Lael St. James Copyright (c) 2001 by Simon & Schuster 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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