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THERE WOULD BE A time, later in Lord Pierce DeForte's life, when he would remember his first encounter with Mistress Rose Woodbine, the untitled but extremely wealthy daughter of the colonial merchant Ashcroft Woodbine, and realize that sometime on that day, they had all been there.
All of them. He and Anne, and all those who were to betray him.
It all began with Rose ...
He had been aware, through the intelligence of numerous friends, that Ashcroft considered him to be the most worthy suitor for his daughter. But then, at the moment, almost every matron and proud father in London considered him to be one of the finest catches of the decade. He didn't dwell on that fact or let it inflate his ego. Rather it caused him a good deal of wry amusement, for it had not been all that long ago when the ancient Norman name of DeForte might as well have been mud—not just in London, but in all of England.
Indeed, it had not been that long ago that the current king's father had—with an amazing nobility, not to be forgotten—walked to the scaffold, and there lost his head. In the midst of it all, no matter how dangerous the times had been, the DeFortes had remained completely, almost blindly, loyal to the House of Stuart. At the age of fifteen Pierce had first learned to test his sword in battle, fighting side by side with his good friend, the young Prince Charles. Even when Pierce's own father had given his life in his steadfast loyalty to those he had served, Pierce had determined never to waver. Consequently he had followed his young friend to Scotland, defending him all the way. He had seen him crowned there on the Stone of Scone and then fled with him, going into exile with the landless monarch while Oliver Cromwell held his iron hand over England.
He had risked everything, not just lands and titles, but life and limb as well. Perhaps he had done so because he had been young, brash, and foolish. Perhaps he had done so simply because Charles had been his friend. Perhaps it had even been the adventures they had shared, the good times and bad, the struggle to maintain pride and position abroad. Whatever the reason, he had set his course, and now he was reaping the rewards. Charles had been asked back to England, and he was not a man to forget those who had defended him. He was the king, he ruled a somewhat—no, a very—promiscuous court, but he did so with a certain wisdom and shrewdness, with a wry and bitter humor gained from years in exile. He loved theater, music, art—and beautiful women. And beautiful women loved the king. They flocked to the court. Fluttering mamas and stern papas worried about their daughters, but after the puritanical rule of Cromwell, people were willing to doff the cloaks of respectability and join the handsome young king in enjoying life. Still, Charles was ever careful. The years of deprivation had aged him, given him a reserve that few men ever truly got beyond. Whatever vindictive thoughts he had, he most often kept to himself. He showed bitterness to almost no one and toleration to almost everyone. He was, from almost the first moment he set foot upon English soil once again, a beloved monarch.
Naturally, as one of the king's best and most loyal friends, Pierce found himself the recipient of some of the adoration that fell the king's way. He was tall, well enough muscled, he supposed, and a swordsman of some repute.
Not only that, he was younger than the king, and very rich, since Charles had not only restored his own lands to him, but granted him new properties as well.
And, he thought, grinning, he had all of his teeth, and a full head of hair. He had managed to retain his limbs through the years of fighting. All in all, he determined, he must be a fairly decent bargain.
And Ashcroft Woodbine was a social climber. That fact in itself didn't bother Pierce. He admired the man, and knew a little something about him. Across the Atlantic, Woodbine had done his best to support the wandering young man who had not yet been accepted as King Charles II within his own country. Gifts had often arrived when needed—guns, half-armor, fine swords, and once, even a ship. An orphan, Woodbine had escaped a workhouse to stow away aboard a vessel bound for America. And there he'd worked first for other planters and begun to buy land. His crops had flourished. He had bought more land. He had traded intelligently. He had come from nothing to become a king himself—of cotton and tobacco. He had married the daughter of Lord Justin Renault, and though that old Royalist had gone to the scaffold, Ashcroft Woodbine had managed to make his daughter acceptable to the gentry of England. Of course, reaching for a lord of Pierce's status was quite a stretch, but ...
Well, he wryly admired the old man for the reach! And he would have been intrigued—at the very least curious—about Mistress Rose, except that he had finally decided, after all his years of wandering, upon a bride.
She was the Lady Anne Winter, and they were very well suited, he thought. Anne was beautiful, wealthy, vibrant, and worldly—indeed they had been enjoying an intimate relationship for quite some time now. He probably should have asked her to marry him by now. He wasn't quite sure why he'd delayed.
Maybe all the years of wandering had caused it. He didn't know. But over the last several weeks, he had spent a great deal of time thinking, and he always came back to Anne. He cared for her deeply. Loved her, surely. And they were so very well suited.
With his mind thus made up, there was really no point in meeting the Woodbine girl.
But he did meet her. The court was at Hampton, and Charles had arranged for a hunt. Pierce was mounted upon Beowulf, an Arabian stallion nearly fifteen years old now but an exceptional horse, one who had carried him through many a misadventure. He was arriving late because he had been waylaid on shipping business, as he had acquired a fleet of six ships since his return to England. A barge had brought him down the Thames from the docks in London, and he had hurried to the stables to see that Beowulf was saddled and ready. He had found the hunt master, and inquired where he might catch up with the king. Riding hard, but certainly not recklessly, he bounded over one of the forest trails. It was an extraordinary day. The sky was beautifully, endlessly clear. The forest was richly adorned in brown, the tree branches high overhead weaving and waving. The air was cool; it felt good against his cheeks as he rode.
Then, quite suddenly, a burst of different color appeared before him. He jerked on the horse's reins, doing his best to avoid the collision, trying to veer Beowulf to the side. His actions were good and honorable—they risked his own neck far more than that of the other rider. But the reckless rider had plunged too swiftly and carelessly onto the trail. No matter how quickly he acted, they would still collide. He managed to avoid the main body of the other horse—and its rider—but still hit the tail end of the other mount.
Beowulf reared and shrieked, skidding several feet with the impact. The girth broke, and Pierce found himself slipped beneath the animal. He held on so as not to be trampled, then threw himself to the side the best he could, rolling quickly. Sticks, leaves, and twigs entangled in his hair and clothing—then a sudden cold seemed to seep into him. He didn't just lie upon the forest floor. No. He had fallen by a stream. If he rolled an inch more, he would find himself in two feet of cool, bubbling water.
He gasped quickly for breath, deeply irritated. He'd maintained his saddle in every battle he'd ever fought, and here, in the middle of the king's own forest, he had been unhorsed by some reckless horseman.
Lying upon the ground, panting, feeling the prick of sticks and stones against his flesh and clothing, he looked up to see that the other rider was still horsed, and edging close to him. Then the rider spoke with a very soft and feminine voice, one that held just a hint of superiority. "Can you move, sir? Shall I call for the king's physician?"
Horseman! Horsewoman! It was all the worse.
Yes, he could move! Just what did he look like, some elderly dolt? He pushed up. He was seated in the water, his knees above it, his hindquarters and his feet planted several inches within it. He gritted his teeth, emptying his hat of water, and met his nemesis.
She was not in the least ruffled—he noted that right away. Skeins of deep copper hair, very dark beneath the forest canopy but gleaming gold here and there, were neatly pinned in a heavy braid at her nape, while tendrils and curls escaped to frame her face. An exquisite face, he admitted, startled to find himself mesmerized momentarily by its perfect beauty. It was a face totally unblemished, ivory and rouge, with a small, very straight nose, beautiful full lips, and eyes that seemed like gemstones, even against the green of the forest. Clad in deep green velvet and sitting atop a pitch-black mare, she seemed like some forest sprite, unearthly, stunning—and completely unaware that she was the one at fault.
Rose Woodbine was not quite so unaffected as she was trying her best to appear. She had been in such a hurry ...
She was late for the hunt, because she had been tarrying in the ladies' solar, dreaming of home while a number of the queen's women had been gossiping about the king's exploits.
She liked the king and the queen, and enjoyed the court. But she wanted to go back to Virginia. She'd been away too long. She wanted to ride over the hills, lie in the grass along the river, feel the sultry Virginia breeze on a warm summer night. In the very worst way, she wanted to go home.
And she had been expecting to do so soon!
But then last week a message from her father had arrived at her school just outside of London directing her to join the king and his court. The message had instantly sent her heart sinking, for she knew exactly what her father wanted from her. "I came from nothing!" he had once told her as he paced their beautiful Virginia ballroom. "And I worked my fingers to the bone, yet all of it would have been for naught had I not met your sainted mother!"
Rose had kept quiet, of course, because when Ashcroft was in one of his moods, it was always best to keep quiet. And though her memories of her mother were dim, they were tender. Her mother had been beautiful, soft, gentle, and she had always smelled sweetly of green fields and flowers. It had seemed a nightmare when she had died, trying to give Ashcroft a son. Rose had scarcely been five at the time, but after all these years, she still missed her.
To give her father credit, Rose knew that he had adored her mother—whether he had married her for her social position or not. He had never remarried. He had buried his desire for a son, but he had determined that he would set his daughter among the aristocracy. Rose simply listened to his tirades in silence.
Then she turned about and did exactly what she chose.
Not that she had really chosen to disobey him. It was just that he intended her to marry some arrogant nobleman, and she had absolutely no intention of doing so. She was going to play the court game, and then she was going to go home! In her favor was the fact that the particular lord her father seemed to have in mind was nearly engaged to Lady Anne Winter—lovely, witty, rich, and sophisticated. He was hardly likely to change his mind. So despite her father's desires, things could go well. She could be charming at court, Lord DeForte could marry, and she could sail home. On a Woodbine ship. Her father owned several. And when she returned home, she'd prove she was every bit as able to run their shipping business as any man.
There seemed to be one small flaw in her plans, however. Her father had written to an old friend asking him to act as her guardian while she was at court. However, while Ashcroft's letter had been crossing the Atlantic, Lord Bryant had passed away.
His son, Jamison, a young man Rose considered somewhat unsavory, naturally acquired his father's charge.
It was a chilling thought! And her thoughts had made her so late that when her beautiful black mare, Genie, had been brought to her, she had leapt atop her and raced like the wind.
Perhaps she had been racing just a bit recklessly, but so had this awful, arrogant man!
Defensively, she stared down upon him.
"Sir, if you're not all right—"
"I am quite all right, dammit!" Pierce DeForte lashed out. He'd been sitting in the wretched cold water, just staring at her. His temper flared. "And no thanks to you, girl!"
She bristled visibly. "As I've said, sir, I shall be most happy to go for the king's physician—"
"I do not need a physician."
With grace and agility, she slipped down from her mare's back, grimacing as her feet touched the muddy earth. She picked up her skirts and approached him, standing just beyond the water. "If you cannot rise—"
"You're going to assist me from there?" he inquired politely, his tone just barely touched with sarcasm.
"I can send—"
"Girl, you can learn some common good sense and courtesy—and how to ride!" he exclaimed angrily.
"Sir, I do not wish to boast, but I ride with exceptional skill," she informed him.
"You don't wish to boast, eh, yet your skill is—exceptional?"
"It is, sir. I have ridden since I was a very small child. And if you have had the misfortune to discover that you cannot control your mount—"
"My dear child! I was doing my very best to avoid injury to another!"
She sighed, with a great deal of exasperation. "I am not a child! And if you will note, sir, I maintained my position upon my horse while you did not!"
Pierce gritted his teeth. "I just told you—"
"Yes, quite a good excuse, I think," she said sweetly.
"You rode as carelessly as a two-year-old!" he exclaimed angrily, wincing as he shifted and a rock grated against his backside. She stepped closer, still trying to keep her dainty boots and the hem of her skirts from coming into contact with the water.
"Look!" she said impatiently. "I didn't mean to injure you, even if you are an arrogant fool."
"Oh, girl! You do press your luck!" he hissed.
"If I can assist you—" she began.
He smiled, his teeth gleaming beneath the curl of his lips. "Perhaps you can." He stretched out a hand to her. "Perhaps you could reach me?"
She let out a soft sound of impatience, but stretched out her fingers to him.
Perhaps he shouldn't have done it. Charles was known for his chivalry—and he expected it of those around him as well.
But today ...
Something about this elegant and brash little chit simply rubbed him wrong. And she could certainly use some manners.
He met her startling eyes, and his smile deepened as her lime-green-gloved fingers touched his. He curled his hand around hers. Very strongly. And he pulled hard.
A startled screech escaped her. His grin broadened as she came near flying over him, landing half atop him, half in the chilly water.
"Dear me, what a dolt I am!" he murmured, suppressing his laughter as she struggled amidst the wealth of velvet and lace of her costume to right herself. She squirmed against him in the effort, and to his surprise he found himself acutely aware of her in a physical manner—not just as a girl, but as a woman. She lay flush against him, and through the barriers of clothing between them, he could feel the length of her legs, the curve of her hip. He could feel the bone of her corset, and above its hard constraint, the soft fullness of her breasts. He was aware of the sweet scent of her, like the petals of a flower, yet with the weight of the woman against him, it seemed to combine with something that was all natural, and very feminine, and completely sensual. She made him think of darkness, of hot fires that blazed in the flesh. For several long seconds he was still, caught up in some trap of the senses, quite simply mesmerized by something lush and compelling within the girl. Perhaps there was innocence in her eyes, perhaps there was not. He was amazed by his reaction to her, annoyed, even furious with himself.
Fool! You've a near perfect woman you're about to wed! he reminded himself. A woman who loved him, who came to him, who filled his nights.
And yet he could feel this dark, fierce desire for a girl he had barely touched. A desire unlike anything he had known in all his life. A desire created by the copper flame of her hair, by the emerald blaze of her eyes. By the weight of her within his arms, her breasts heaving with the fever of her fury.
Excerpted from Bride of the Wind by Heather Graham. Copyright © 1992 Shannon Drake Pozzessere. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted March 9, 2014
Posted September 30, 2013
Great Historical Romance
Bride of the Wind by Heather Graham is a fantastic romantic read. Graham knows how to draw the reader in by starting her novels with a prologue that immediately captures the readers. Her prologues are different in the sense that they give you a sneak peek of what is about to happen in the book, not something that happened in the past but something that is going to happen in the future. Then she separates the book into two parts: the first takes place before what happens in the prologue and the second takes place during and after what happens in the prologue. I personally really like this feature of her writing.
Starting with the prologue, Lady Rose Woodbine is on a ship when they are suddenly attacked by the fearsome pirate, the Dragonslayer. She is thrust into the captain’s room while they try to defeat the attacker. Rose is surprised when the Dragonslayer bursts into the room with his menacing eye patch and sword. When she tries to defend herself she discovers herself face-to-face with her husband, Lord Pierce DeForte, who is suspected of murder back in England and she thought was dead. Rose does battle with her emotions of both loving and hating her husband, who is actually the Dragonslayer. The reader is left wanting to know why her husband claims to hate her and wants revenge on her. What went wrong in their marriage? Who is he suspected of murdering? The rest of the novel takes the reader on the wild ride of their relationship with many twists and turns. Will Pierce get his revenge? Will they be able to work things out?
If you like historic romances, I would highly recommend this book. Graham is a fantastic writer that always knows how to please her readers and leaves them wanting the book to never end.
Posted August 2, 2013
I have read books by this author before and they are usually decent to good, but I not only couldn't finish this book, but I also deleted it from by Nook.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 27, 2012
Posted December 9, 2012