Cover image for The rogue
The rogue
Delacroix, Claire.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Warner Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
366 pages ; 18 cm
General Note:
"Historical romance"--Spine.
Format :


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X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

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Determined to live a more respectable life, Merlyn Lammergeier's first order of business is to secure his family holding, Ravensmuir. But when an attempt is made to murder him, Merlyn feigns his own death to discover the reason behind the attack. He knows the one person who can help him is his estranged wife, Ysabella. Merlyn therefore wills Ravensmuir to Ysabella--and then begins to "haunt" her to uncover the truth.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Ysabella has chosen a hard path. Living in one room with her siblings, she toils all day making ale, only to have the landlords confiscate the proceeds. Her life has been tortuously difficult for five years all because she left her husband, Merlyn Lammergeier, Laird of Ravensmuir. Merlyn's family trade was the sale of religious artifacts to the wealthy. When Ysabella found out the artifacts were fakes, she packed up her principles and left. Now Merlyn needs her help. When she refuses, he tricks her into believing that he's dead and that she has inherited Ravensmuir. The promise of having a roof over her head and food in her belly on a regular basis outweighs her pride and she moves in, only to have her husband reveal himself and attempt once again to engage her help. Ysabella's heart wars with her mistrust in Delacroix's engaging tale of lost love found, and, in fact, Merlyn is not the rogue she believes him to be. --Maria Hatton

Publisher's Weekly Review

An unconventional heroine and a mystery about forged religious relics lend spice to this beguiling medieval romance from Delacroix, author of the Bride Quest series (The Beauty, etc.). Ysabella is an illiterate peasant living in near poverty with her sister and young brother. The family is reviled by the town for aspiring above its station-five years earlier, impetuous Ysabella married Merlyn Lammergeier, the lord of the manor, only to leave him in a fortnight. While the town assumes she's been cast off, the truth is she refused to live with a man who earned his fortune selling false relics to wealthy lords. Merlyn left Ravensmuir shortly thereafter but has now returned to reclaim his birthright and his bride. When he is attacked and left for dead, Ysabella agrees to play the grieving widow to help discover the assailant. Delacroix does a fine job of integrating historical detail into her plot; Ysabella's illiteracy, for example, is not merely mentioned, but used as a source of conflict between the couple. The story is told in the first person from Ysabella's point of view, which lends it an air of oral history, and the details of the relic trade are engrossing. Though a few plot twists are predictable, readers will treasure this rich and compulsively readable tale. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



The raven came first. It landed upon the window sill in the kitchen of the silversmith's wife and croaked so loudly at me that I nearly dropped my ladle into the hot wort. "Wretched bird! Shoo!" I waved my hand at it, but it merely tilted its head to regard me with bright eyes. "Fie! Away with you!" I knew as well as any the repute of these birds, but had less desire than most souls to be in the company of a creature so associated with superstition. I had sufficient trouble without being found in the company of drinkers of blood and harbingers of death. The silversmith's wife would be rid of us for once and for all, if anyone in this village whispered that I kept a raven as a familiar. Such tales were all nonsense, of course, but I dared not risk an inopportune rumor. "Shoo!" I flicked a cloth at the bird, which seemed untroubled and unimpressed by my antics. The creature bobbed its head and seemed to cackle at me, no doubt enjoying my discomfiture. "Begone!" I picked up an onion, the bird watching me with knowing eyes all the time, then flung it across the kitchen with all my might. I missed the raven by a good three hand-spans, though the onion splattered against the wall most impressively. The bird screamed and took flight, uninjured and apparently insulted, which suited me well enough. I sighed and rubbed my brow as I eyed the mess. I not only had to clean the shattered onion but would have to explain to my patroness why I had seen fit to destroy her foodstuffs- without admitting to the presence of the raven, lest her superstitions be fed. How sweet it would be to have no need of Fiona, with her sharp face and sharper tongue! I had learned long ago, though, that there was nothing to be gained in bemoaning one's circumstance. I stirred the wort again and fought the urge to grumble. My ale is fine, I dare say, the very finest. But with no kitchen, no pot, no spouse, the law decrees that I cannot be granted a license to brew. My ale has long provided what little coin my family had, so I am compelled to brew. What choice have I but to ally with this wife or another? Fiona it was, for she would have me as her partner, if by her spouse's command. It would take a more foolish woman than myself to not perceive that though I did most of the work, Fiona kept most of the coin-and one less aware of nuance than I to not note that coin and spousal approval were not sufficient in Fiona's view to suffer a witch in one's kitchen. We were convenient to the silversmith and his wife, and it was for this, not a matter of principle or Christian duty, that they tolerated us. I have learned not to be surprised that charity is so circumscribed, nor that principles can be so readily forgotten. Once this massive pot was strained and flavored with my particular combination of herbs, I hoped for brisk sales over the holiday season. The ale would spoil in several days and, as I worked, I worried anew that I had made too much. I could not risk the loss of any of my investment in ingredients. Competition was fierce in Kinfairlie for alemaking, there being so few other sources of profit. I had a good repute, but the harvest had been mean and all the other brewsters would be making similarly large batches. I frowned and stirred the wort while it came to the boil. Making ale is a tedious trade and one requiring much heavy labor. I am not afraid to work, indeed I welcome labor. A heavy day ensures a solid night's sleep, at least, and a reprieve from the multitude of worries that plague me. This day was the first day of the so-called Twelve Days of Christmas, though I should undoubtedly have to explain to young Tynan again and again why there were fourteen days in total so designated. The prospect made me smile. The wort began to sputter and splash. It was a feat to move the cauldron from the fire myself, but I would have to do it again. I cursed Fiona, who contrived to be absent whenever her assistance might have been helpful. The pot was large enough and hot enough that even once it was away from the heat, it continued to chortle. It was when I had wrestled it from the fire and halted to wipe my brow that I heard the hoofbeats. I turned, eyes narrowed, and listened. Three fleet steeds, their hooves shod with iron. Dread prickled down my spine. Not plough-horses, for they pranced too lightly. Palfreys lightly burdened, perhaps. And a fourth steed. Larger. Faster. I listened, wanting to be certain, my heart thumping with its own certitude. The fourth beast was a destrier. There could be no doubt. I closed my eyes, swallowed, and prayed that the beast's rider was not who I feared it might be. There was no reason it should be him. After all, Kinfairlie's meager tithes have been hotly contested since the liege lord and manor were lost. We have become accustomed to various nobles assaulting the town in search of tribute. Especially before a holy day. The hoofbeats came closer. When the raven cried, even at a distance, I knew. The silversmith's house faces the main square of Kinfairlie, where markets are held and criminals are hung, and it was here that the new arrivals came to a halt. I stiffened, but did not go to the door. The steeds' hooves clattered to silence, the destrier neighed and no doubt tossed his head. "I seek Ysabella of Kinfairlie!" roared a man, his voice achingly familiar. Merlyn. My heart lunged for my throat. For years, I had imagined how we might meet again, how I would scorn him with blistering wit, yet now I merely whispered his name beneath my breath like a besotted damsel. In truth, I did not know whether to be frightened or relieved, to be joyous or disappointed. He had come in pursuit of me, after all this time, a boon to my pride if not a good omen for my future. "Ysabella!" he shouted anew and I wondered if he was drunk. I glanced over myself and smiled wryly at the embellishment of fermented malt upon my skirts. No doubt the hair had escaped my braid, my face would be hot and nigh as red as my hair. It was a far cry from the reunions I had so oft envisioned, when I was garbed in richness and hauteur, my words as sharp as lances. My appearance would do very well to show my spouse his importance-or lack of it-to me. I crossed the kitchen and opened the heavy wood door. Even though I braced myself, my heart stopped. Merlyn was just as imposing as before, his two young squires fighting to control their palfreys. He was garbed in the black and silver he favored, the hues of his house, the hues that made him look more dangerous and dashing than even he was. I looked hastily at his companion. Stalwart Fitz was still with Merlyn, his face only slightly more lined than before. "Good morning to you, Merlyn," I said, feigning an indifference I hardly felt. "What brings you to Kinfairlie?" He urged the steed closer, then dismounted, casting the reins aside. His smile was confident, roguish, and enough to set my very flesh to flame. His gaze swept over me, leaving a tingle in its wake and I gripped the door lest I cast myself at him like a harlot. His breath made a cloud against the sky that darkened too early in this season. "Well met, chère," he murmured, with the intimacy one reserves for lovers. And I flushed scarlet, heating from nipples to hairline. Worse, I could not summon a sound to my lips. Merlyn knew it, curse him, and grinned with wicked satisfaction as he closed the distance between us. I could not draw a breath. I knew the dark truth of Merlyn, and yet, and yet despite all of that, despite my moral certainty that he would burn in hell, I still yearned to touch him again. He infuriated me, yet I had not felt so alive in all the years we had been apart as I did in this one moment, holding his gaze in winter's cool air. I had assured myself that my attraction to Merlyn had been born of my ignorance, but he approached with all his wretched surety and the loss of my ignorance did not keep his allure at bay. Far from it. If anything, I desired him more ardently than ever. To think that I had long fancied myself a clever woman. "I seek you , chère," he said, his words husky. I caught the scent of his flesh and lust unfurled within my gut, memories flooding my thoughts of nights-and days- spent entangled in each other's arms. I squared my shoulders, determined to resist him and failing utterly. "What else?" He claimed my hand and bestowed a kiss upon my knuckles, his eyes filled with an answering heat that weakened my knees. I snatched my hand away, hating that I so quickly fell beneath his spell once more. "And it has taken you five years to remember the way to Kinfairlie village? God in heaven, Merlyn, even the slowest child can walk to Ravensmuir in a day." I inclined my head curtly, excusing myself, and retreated into the kitchen. I knew full well that he would follow, though I bristled when he did so. I stirred the wort vigorously, showing a belated care that my investment did not burn. "You might at least leave the door ajar," I snapped. "But then, when have you had a care for my reputation?" "Always, despite your conviction otherwise." Merlyn's words were more harsh than I expected. I pivoted and his gaze locked with mine as he flicked the portal closed with his fingertips. He did not apologize, he did not so much as blink. I raised a finger. "You ..." He interrupted me with resolve. "I am your legal spouse, and there is no law writ that says a man cannot be alone with his wife." I turned back to the brew and stirred it with an enthusiasm undeserved. "And you have developed a sudden interest in law?" I asked archly. "How strange. I was certain that your sole commitment to the law was to break it." Merlyn laughed. I felt him pause behind me and heard him doff his gloves. He cast them on the board and I caught my breath when I glimpsed them from the corner of my eye. Had he chosen scarlet ones apurpose this day? Did he mean to prompt memory in me? I knew him well enough to understand that nothing was accident with Merlyn Lammergeier. Even knowing he approached, I still jumped when his warm fingertip landed on my bare nape. His gentleness always caught me unawares. I inhaled sharply, hoping my indication of disapproval would halt him. It did not, but then, I had expected as much. I stared at the wort as Merlyn's finger traced a beguiling path around the neckline of my ancient dress. I felt the barest whisper of his breath before he kissed me beneath the ear. I jumped truly then, swatted him and moved to the other side of the cauldron. I looked daggers at him, but he was unrepentant. "The fire still burns," he murmured, his eyes gleaming. No doubt he reveled in having some power over me. "Trust me. It is doused beyond reviving." I scrubbed the hot mark of his kiss with one hand as he laughed. Merlyn blew me a kiss across the cauldron. "I have missed you, chère." "I can tell by the speed with which you sought me out." He studied me for a long moment, then slapped his gloves against his palm. "You are vexed that I did not come sooner." "I expect nothing of you, Merlyn Lammergeier. Indeed, I would appreciate your absence." I indicated the door. "Do you still cede to the request of a lady?" Merlyn sobered. "Not this time." He fixed a gaze upon me that was so intent that I nearly squirmed. "Why did you leave Ravensmuir?" "How can you ask me such a thing? Is it not obvious?" "No." "Then you should have asked sooner. I have forgotten by now." I stirred and blushed and ignored him as best as I was able. Which was not particularly well. When he finally spoke, Merlyn's voice was no more than a whisper. "I was certain that you loved me." I scoffed, irked anew that he made no sweet pledge himself to persuade me to come back. "You never held my heart, Merlyn, and even if you had, it would have been lost to you the moment that I learned that you had lied to me." He watched me, as a cat does afore it springs upon its prey. "What lie is that?" "So, even you cannot keep them straight." I surveyed him with disdain. "You trade in religious relics and we both know it well." "In the greater service to the Lord, that all his faithful might have access to saintly intercession on their behalf." A smile touched Merlyn's lips. "It is my solemn Christian duty." "Nonsense! You do it for coin!" "My expenses must be compensated." He began to circumnavigate the cauldron again, though I moved too, and kept the pot between us. "And who am I to argue with an abbot or a bishop so anxious to gain a foreskin or a lock of hair that the coin fairly spills from his fingers?" "Who are you to trouble yourself with ensuring that the relic is genuine?" "Chère," Merlyn chided, "there is not a relic in all of Christendom with a provenance above repute in these days." "Except perhaps the ones that you and your brother Gawain have wrought. Do they not have impeccable credentials?" Merlyn's eyes lit with surprise, then something that might have been admiration. His tan crinkled beside his eyes when he smiled. "How do you know of this?" "I guessed, once Gawain made his confession to me." Merlyn leaned forward, suddenly intent. "Is this why you left Ravensmuir? Because of my brother's tales?" I dropped the ladle and propped my hands upon my hips. "I did not leave Ravensmuir, I left you, Merlyn. I could not abide with a thief and a forger and a liar." Merlyn was not in the least bit insulted. "I am not a thief, chère." He had the audacity to smile. "Perhaps you misunderstood, but acquisition has long been Gawain's part in our endeavor." "I could not abide with a forger and a liar, nonetheless." His smile flashed briefly and my cursed heart skipped a beat. "Ah, while you could have remained with a mere liar. You should have said as much, for I long ago surrendered the forging to Fitz. He shows a tremendous talent for the details." I glared at him. "Liar. You told me that your trade was in textiles. I thought you an honest merchant, but you lied to me." Merlyn prowled the width of the kitchen, his expression so serious that I knew he meant to mock me. "And this is the root of it? For the sake of a single lie, I could have been happily wedded all these years." He turned and granted me an inquiring look that I knew better than to trust. I stirred with a vengeance. "I am certain you would have left many comely wenches disappointed." "Perhaps not." There was laughter in his tone, though whether he enjoyed the idea that I might be jealous, or whether he was amused at the idea of monogamy, I could not say. Asking him to clarify would only humiliate me further, and the realization made my anger boil as surely as the wort. Truly, if ever there had been a wicked wretch draw breath, he stood before me-yet still I felt my blood quickening to Merlyn's presence. My flesh still sizzled where he had planted that kiss. Continue... Excerpted from The Rogue by Claire Delacroix Copyright © 2002 by Claire Delacroix Inc. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.