Cover image for Bride of the beast
Title:
Bride of the beast
Author:
Welfonder, Sue-Ellen.
Personal Author:
Edition:
Warner Books edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Warner Book, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
331 pages ; 17 cm
General Note:
"Warner forever."

"Historical Romance"--spine
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780446612326
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

In this historical romance, Sue-Ellen Welfonder delivers a sensual tale set in medieval Scotland about a young woman in need of a champion - and finding one in a heroic, scarred warrior.


Author Notes

Sue-Ellen Welfonder is a Scotophile whose burning wish to make frequent trips to the land of her dreams led her to a twenty-year career with the airlines.

Now a full-time writer, she's quick to admit that she much prefers wielding a pen to pushing tea and coffee. She makes annual visits to Scotland, insisting they are a necessity, as each trip gives her inspiration for new books.

Proud of her own Hebridean ancestry, she belongs to two clan societies: the MacFie Clan Society and the Clan MacAlpine Society. In addition to Scotland, her greatest passions are medieval history, the paranormal, and dogs. She never watches television, loves haggis, and writes at a 450-year-old desk that once stood in a Bavarian castle.

Sue-Ellen is married and currently resides with her husband and Jack Russell terrier in Florida.

Learn more at:
www.welfonder.com
F acebook.com/SueEllenWelfonderAuthor
Twitter, @se_welfonder.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Larger-than-life characters and a scenic setting add color to Welfonder's 14th-century romance, but the story's lack of historical detail will ultimately frustrate readers. Since her husband's death, Lady Caterine Keith has been forced to stand by as greedy Englishmen threaten her Scottish stronghold. To protect the castle from a royal edict, Caterine's sister, Linnet (the heroine of Welfonder's first novel, Devil in a Kilt), sends Caterine a prospective husband of the highest virtue-Sir Marmaduke Strongbow. Caterine grudgingly marries the scarred, English-born knight but refuses to offer him her heart because she was once raped by English soldiers and now hates any man with English blood. Marmaduke, however, fears Caterine really resists because of his appearance. Although Caterine's opposition to Marmaduke feels contrived, Welfonder pens some steamy scenes in which the two first use sex to bridge their differences and then continue giving into desire while the differences remain. In the end, the rescue of a drowning lapdog finally brings the couple together, but readers will be left wondering how love finally prevailed and why it took so long. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

DUNLAIDIR CASTLE THE EASTERN COAST OF SCOTLAND, 1330 "What you need, my lady, is a champion." Lady Caterine Keith stiffened her shoulders against her companion's well-meant counsel and continued to stare through the arch-topped windows of her tower bedchamber. Far below, the North Sea tossed and churned, its slate-gray swells capped with foamy white, its roiling surface a perfect reflection of her own inner turmoil. A heavy curtain of silence fell between the two women until the crackle of the hearth fire and the hollow whistling of the brisk autumn wind reached almost deafening proportions. Rain-laden gusts lashed at Dunlaidir's thick stone walls, rattling the window shutters with such fervor Caterine wouldn't have been surprised to see them ripped away and hurled into the sea. A niggling sense of foreboding crept up her spine, its portent unsettling. A cloying premonition as cold and relentless as the dark waves battering the cliffs upon which Dunlaidir Castle so proudly perched. Still, she said naught. Her companion's suggestion didn't merit comment. Undaunted by Caterine's silence, Lady Rhona gushed on. "I can see him before me: a mighty warrior who swings a heavy sword, a belted knight of chivalric fame," she enthused, her young voice breathy with excitement. Filled with flimsy fancies Caterine no longer believed in. Mayhap had ne'er believed in. Ne'er been allowed to believe in, much as her young heart had once sought to cling to such foolish dreams. " My lady ," Rhona implored, her tone striving to capture Caterine's ear. "Think of it! A battleworthy knight able to vanquish your foes with a mere glance. A brave man willing to hew them to bits should you but ask. A great champi- "I do not want a champion." Caterine swung around to face her friend. "I desire naught but to be left alone." "And I vow it is desire you need," the ever-romantic Rhona blurted, then clapped a hand over her lips as a pink tinge crept onto her cheeks. Slipping behind Caterine, she yanked the shutters into place, soundly closing out the rain and wind but plunging the chamber into semi-darkness. "Of a mercy!" Rhona fretted, hurrying to light a brace of tallow candles. "I meant no disrespect. 'Tis only you've never kno-" "I know fair well what you meant," Caterine stated before the younger woman could babble on and embarrass them both. Careful to keep her back straight, she sank onto the cushioned seat built into the window embrasure. It mattered scarce little that the slanting rain had dampened the finely embroidered pillows. She had more serious issues to contend with than catching the ague. "Your concern is appreciated but ill-placed." She leveled a sidelong glance at Rhona. "I know much of men. Think you having outlived two husbands has left me an innocent?" "Of a certainty, nay, my lady." Rhona busied herself lighting the remaining two candles. "No one is more aware of your plight than I. Did I have aught but your best interests at heart, I would not urge you to send for a champion." Caterine made an impatient gesture. "You speak of desire. I need a solution to my problems, to Dunlaidir's problems, not a man to warm my bed." Leaning down, she scooped her tiny golden-brown dog, Leo, onto her lap. "I will not seek another man's attentions regardless for what purpose. Leo is the only male welcome in this chamber ... as you are full aware." "Leo cannot protect you from a man as powerful as Sir Hugh. The man is a dastard craven capable of great and vile knavery. Your only recourse is to ask your sister to send help." "Think you one Highland warrior will deter a Sassunach earl with a garrison of mounted knights at his disposal?" Caterine drew Leo closer, taking comfort in the soft warmth of his little body. "Even a mighty MacKenzie would be hard-pressed to deter de la Hogue from gaining hold of Dunlaidir through marriage to me." Rhona tilted her dark head to the side. "Then you must render such a union impossible by wedding your champion." Indignation flared in Caterine's breast. "I do not have a champion. Nor will I impose on Linnet's good graces by asking her to send one. And were I so inclined, which I am not, binding myself to such a man is no more palatable than marriage to Sir Hugh." "How do you know if you haven't met the man your sister will send?" Caterine gave her friend a hard look. "I will not suffer a third husband, champion or otherwise." Rather than answer her, Rhona began pacing the chamber, tapping her chin with a forefinger as she went. Caterine braced herself for the absurd prattle soon to erupt from the younger woman's pursed lips. After years of companionship, she knew her friend well. Fingertapping always preceded outbursts of foolishness. Nonsensical ramblings that made sense to none save Rhona herself. "I have the answer!" Rhona cried then, clapping her hands together. A triumphant smile lit her pretty face. "Simply pretend to wed the man your sister sends." Caterine's brows shot heavenward. " Pretend? " "Aye." Her friend beamed at her, obviously waiting for Caterine to comprehend the brilliance of such a scheme. But Caterine comprehended naught. Naught save her growing aggravation with Rhona's persistent beseeching. Pushing to her feet, she carried Leo across the rush-strewn floor and set him upon his sheepskin bed near the hearth. "I fear you do not understand. I will not plead Linnet's aid nor will I enter into marriage again. Not even a false one," she said, meeting Rhona's exuberance with what she hoped sounded like firm resistance. Firm and unbending. Above all, unbending. "But doing so is your best chance to rid yourself of Sir Hugh," Rhona wheedled. "Have you forgotten he vowed to obtain an order from his king forcing you to acquiesce lest you do not agree to the marriage by Michaelmas?" Rhona lifted her hands in supplication. "My lady, the feast of Michaelmas is long past." "For truth?" Caterine plucked at an imagined speck of lint on her sleeve. "Since our stores have grown too meager to allow us to celebrate St. Michael's holy day, I hadn't noticed its passing. Nor do I care what Edward III declares I should do. Yet is this land held for young David of Scotland." "Lady, please," Rhona entreated. "You have no other choice." Stung to fury, Catherine clenched her hands to tight fists. Beyond the shuttered windows thunder sounded, the low rumblings echoing the churning bitterness deep inside her. Rhona erred. She did have choices. But, as so oft in her life, none appealed. She'd e'er lived under a man's rule. Even now, newly widowed of an elderly but not unkind husband, a time when, at long last, she'd hoped to find some semblance of peace. Peace and solitude. Unbidden, Sir Hugh de la Hogue's thick-jowled face rose before her, his swinish eyes gleaming with satisfaction, the sound of his heavy breathing giving voice to his lecherous nature. Caterine shuddered. The mere thought of the Sassunach's bejeweled fingers touching her made her skin crawl with distaste and sent bile rising thick in her throat. "Lady, you've grown pale." Rhona's troubled voice shattered the loathsome image. "Shall I fetch the leech?" "Nay, I am well," Catherine lied, flat-voiced. Her dark eyes flooded with concern, Rhona rushed forward to grasp Caterine's hands. "Oh, lady, you must relent. The MacKenzie men are able and valiant. Your sister's husband is a fair man, he will send you the most stalwart warrior in his garrison." Rhona released Caterine's hands and resumed her pacing. "Do you recall when he and your sister came for a visit some years ago? My faith, but the castle women were all aflutter did he but glance-" "There is more to a man than the width of his shoulders and the charm of his smile," Caterine broke into her friend's prattle. "I will not deny my sister's husband is pleasing to the eye and possessed of a goodly character, but I warn you, Duncan MacKenzie is nowise a man by which to measure others. One such as he is a rare find. My sister is much blessed to have him." For a scant moment, Rhona appeared duly chastised, but soon babbled on, her face aglow with renewed wonderment. "On my oath, more than his bonny looks impressed me. Ne'er will I forget how he unseated Dunlaidir's finest at the joust yet had the good grace to allow your late husband to best him." Rhona aimed a keen-eyed stare at Caterine. "Aye, Laird MacKenzie is a just man. He will choose you a stout-armed warrior of great martial prowess, a man of honor to protect you." A man of honor . Caterine swallowed the sharp retort dancing dangerously near the tip of her tongue. She of all women had little reason to believe such a paragon existed. Though she'd seen many sides of the men who'd shared her life thus far, honor was one attribute most of them had sorely lacked. Only her late husband had possessed a portion thereof. A meager portion. She folded her arms. "And you think this fabled and mighty Highlander, this man of honor, will lay aside his morals and agree to pose as my third husband?" Rhona ceased her pacing and began tapping a finger against her lips. After a moment, the finger stilled and she smiled. "'Tis for honor's sake he will agree. What man of compassion, of worth, could refuse a gentlewoman in need?" "Think you?" "Of a surety." The tapping began again. "Especially if you inform the lady Linnet of the near ruination facing Dunlaidir. Once the severity of our situation is known, no man who abides by the code of chivalry would refuse you." Saints cherish her, but Caterine didn't think so either. Then so be it she almost said but a loud clap of thunder silenced her before she could form the words, stealing them as surely as if a swift hand had snatched them from her lips. The thunder cracked again, a tremendous and resounding series of booms powerful enough to shake the floorboards and jar the window shutters. The storm's black fury was a portent, she knew. A sign the saints disapproved of the sacrilege Rhona would see her commit. Or worse, an indication they agreed and frowned on her refusal to heed her friend's suggestion. Something she would not, could not, do. Caterine waited for the storm's rage to abate, then smoothed the folds of her woolen kirtle. Before she lost her resolve, her nerve, she drew back her shoulders and forced herself to speak the words she must. "Lady Rhona, I respect your counsel and ken you are ever heedful of my welfare," she said, her voice surprisingly calm, "but I forbid you to breach this matter again. I will not send for a champion." A fortnight later, on the other side of Scotland, deep in the western Highlands, a lone warrior knight fought an invisible foe. Naught but the repeated swish of his great sword arcing through the chill predawn air marred the quietude. Even Loch Duich, hidden from view over the list wall, gave itself silent, its dark surface no doubt smooth as finely fired glass for not so much as a ripple, not the gentlest lapping of waves on the pebbled shore could be heard. The hour was well before prime, the time of day Sir Marmaduke Strongbow favored for practicing his martial skills. Soon, Eilean Creag Castle would come alive, the empty bailey would fill with a bustle of activity and his overlord's squires would trickle into the lists to join him, each one eager for him to prod and teach them. Help them hone their own sword arms. But for the moment, he stood alone. Free to challenge his secret enemies, daring enough to face down the most formidable of them all: his own self and the self-created demons he carried within. He paused and drew a deep breath, then swiped the back of his arm over his damp forehead. The plague take his cares. The saints knew he had much to be grateful for. Soon his own castle would be completed. Indeed, were he not a man who enjoyed his comforts, he'd move into Balkenzie now, this very day. But he'd waited long years to raise his banner over a stronghold of his own, a few more months would not cost him overmuch. Then all would be ready and he would take possession of his new home. A castle he and his liege, Duncan MacKenzie, had designed with great care. A strategically ideal fortalice to guard the southern reaches of MacKenzie land. A home perfect in every way save one. Unlike his liege and closest friend, Marmaduke lacked a fair lady wife to grace his side. His would be a castle filled with men. Quelling the bitterness that oft mocked him when alone, Marmaduke adjusted his grip on the leather-wrapped hilt of his sword and lunged anew at his unseen foes. Faster and faster, his blade rent the morn as he spun and dipped, thrust and withdrew, skillfully slicing his doubts and regrets to ribbons, banishing them one by one. Until the morrow when he'd challenge them anew. " Sir ..." the soft voice behind him was little more than a whisper to his ears but a great roar to his warrior's instincts. Instantly lowering his sword, Marmaduke wheeled around to face the lady who'd addressed him. "Fair lady, I am always pleased to see you, but you should know better than to approach a man's back when he wields a sword," he said, sheathing his steel. "Nor do I believe it is good for you to be out in the chill morning air." "I am fit enough," Linnet MacKenzie countered, drawing her woolen cloak more securely about her before resting one hand upon her swollen middle. "I would speak with you alone, now before the others stir." Sir Marmaduke peered intently at his liege lord's lady wife. Her lovely face appeared more pale than it should and lest the vision in his good eye was failing him, she bore faint purple shadows beneath her eyes. Nor did he care for the rapid rise and fall of her chest. That she'd overtaxed herself in seeking him out was painfully obvious. "Lady, you should be abed," he admonished, trying to sound firm but unable to be duly stern with her. "Does your husband know you are about?" The two bright spots of pink that bloomed on her cheeks gave him his answer. "I must speak with you," she said again and placed a cold hand on his forearm. "Then let us adjourn into the chapel." Closing his fingers over her hand, Marmaduke led her toward Eilean Creag's small stone oratory. "It is closer than the great hall, and private." He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "I would know you warm before I hear what troubles you." He'd scarce ushered her inside when the oratory's heavy wooden door burst open behind them. With a resounding crash, it slammed against the whitewashed wall. "Saints, Maria, and Joseph!" Duncan MacKenzie fumed, ignoring the sanctity of the holy place. Ill-humor swirling round him like a dark cloak, he made straight for his wife. Continues... Excerpted from Bride of the Beast by Sue-Ellen Welfonder Copyright © 2003 by Sue-Ellen Welfonder Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.