The Heiress

The Heiress

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by Claire Delacroix
     
 

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"When you open a book by Claire Delacroix, you open a treasure chest of words, rare and exquisite!"
Rendezvous

"I seek a bride, the wealthiest heiress in Ireland."

No woman can resist the charms of Rowan de Montvieux. But the dashing rogue is in no hurry to marry—until his family dares him to find a bride . . . or risk losing his

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Overview

"When you open a book by Claire Delacroix, you open a treasure chest of words, rare and exquisite!"
Rendezvous

"I seek a bride, the wealthiest heiress in Ireland."

No woman can resist the charms of Rowan de Montvieux. But the dashing rogue is in no hurry to marry—until his family dares him to find a bride . . . or risk losing his inheritance. So Rowan sets out on a Bride Quest, vowing to wed only . . .The Heiress.

But his journey is interrupted when a slave merchant offers to sell him a ragged peasant girl who carries herself like a queen. Intrigued and never imagining she is the sought-after Bronwyn of Ballyroyal, an heiress in disguise, Rowan buys her, offering her his protection if she will lead him to the bride he seeks.

Never has he met a woman so proud, so beautiful, so defiant. He suspects she is no commoner and vows to uncover her secrets and melt her fiery resolve. But the perilous voyage to Ireland kindles passions that risk both their lives, as the slave girl who would not be mastered slowly takes possession of his wary heart. . . .

Don't miss the first two novels in the breathtaking Bride Quest trilogy: The Princess and The Damsel, both available from Dell.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Delacroix's third historical novel in the Bride Quest series continues with the escapades of irresponsible Rowan De Montvieux. Rowan loves a challenge, especially when issued by his two brothers, and he can't resist when they dare him to seek and wed the richest heiress in Ireland. When he arrives at the London docks, en route to Ireland, he is approached by a man intent on selling him a slave girl named Ibernia. The autocratic air of the young slave leads him to believe that she comes from wealth, so he buys her. Ibernia tells Rowan that she knows the richest heiress in Ireland and promises to lead him to Broynwan of Ballyroyal if he will release her from bondage. Delacroix's subplots create much intrigue but at times can both confuse and impede the narrative. However, in the second half of the book the author successfully combines the storylines and kicks up the pace. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780440225898
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/28/1999
Series:
Bride Quest Series
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
4.12(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.81(d)

Read an Excerpt

London, July 1172

Rowan de Montvieux was in a foul mood.

Not only had he been ill beyond belief on the journey from LeHavre, but he was not at his intended destination. Indeed, the last Rowan had heard, the Thames was not in Ireland.

Which meant that he must endure another sea voyage, no doubt even less pleasant than this last, and that he must do so immediately in order to win the challenge he had accepted from his brothers.

Nay, he was not in a fine mood. He strode through the tangle of merchants on the docks, retrieving his horse and finding his squire Thomas with no small effort. They badgered him from every side, these hagglers with their shoddy goods, and he braced himself against thieves in the crowd. He deigned to purchase some meat pies from one merchant who looked more reputable than most.

But what he really needed was a measure of ale. Aye, then some song, and a solid measure of the sorry excuse for food in this country warm in his belly. Then blissful sleep. That would restore his interest in bucking his brothers' expectations. Rowan loved a challenge—at least when he was feeling hale—and the more desperate the stakes, the better.

An Irish heiress! For the love of God, what had possessed him to take such a dare? On a morn like this, with the taste of his own bile ripe in his throat, Rowan doubted he could charm even the most ancient and desperate crone alive.

Or that he wanted to.

"Oho! A fine knight just into port!" a slavemonger cried. The man was unshaven and unkempt, his dark hair hanging in his eyes and more than one tooth missing from his mouth. "I have just the wench for you, sir, and she is a bargain on this day of days." He leaned closer to whisper, his breath even more foul than Rowan's own. "I shall make you a special deal, sir, on account of your knightly status and recent arrival."

Rowan growled a dismissal and made to push past the man, his gaze drifting disinterestedly to the woman in question.

And then he stopped to stare.

'Twas not the bright red gold of her hair that captured his attention, nor even that her tresses were cropped short. 'Twas not the deep hue of her tan, nor even how that tan made her eyes appear ethereally blue. 'Twas not the ripeness of her breasts fairly spilling from her chemise, not even that she wore a boy's chausses, which hid none of her copious charms.

Nay, 'twas that she feigned insouciance nearly as well as he.

"She is not much of a lay, if that is what you seek," the seller confided in an undertone. He leaned closer to whisper. "Indeed, a corpse might serve a man better."

The woman did not even blink. Her stance remained unchanged, her arms folded across her chest, her bare feet braced against the ground. She was nearly as filthy as her owner, a rough length of rope knotted around her neck and tethering her to that man.

Rowan swallowed as he noted the mark of a chafe there. "Indeed," he said mildly. "I would have naught with which to compare." The man looked quizzically at him and Rowan lifted his brows. "Having never been intimate with a corpse." His squire chuckled at the jest, but the woman's steady stare did not waver.

The would-be seller, though, grimaced and turned away, muttering something uncomplimentary under his breath and giving the woman's rope a savage tug. She made no protest, obviously accustomed to his abuse, and strolled behind him with her head as high as a queen's. Rowan could not help but watch them go.

He imagined the man taking his pleasure with this woman, his sweaty bulk heaving atop her as she stared fixedly at the rafters. His stomach rolled mutinously and, though he stood on dry land, Rowan felt ill again.

"How much?" he called impulsively.

"Three silver deniers," the man cried, spinning to jab a finger at Rowan. "Two for you!"

"Outrageous," Thomas murmured.

'Twas a shocking price but Rowan found himself digging for the coins. "Margaux will be proud of me," he muttered. He fired a glance at Thomas. "Be sure to tell her of this. I may well be in need of her favor."

Thomas nodded. A mere heartbeat later, Rowan's purse was lighter and he held the end of the distasteful rope in his hand. The seller marched away, whistling.

But the woman surveyed him with the same cold manner. If Rowan had thought she might thank him for winning her release from that creature, he was clearly mistaken.

And that irked him. He had just bought a slave, for no good reason, a slave he did not want, expending coin he would have preferred to keep or at least spend on some amusement.

She could at least appreciate the gesture!

"For a smile and a word of thanks, I would release you," he offered pointedly, and her gaze flicked over him.

"Gratitude for paying him for his crimes?" she asked. "You will not have that from me, nor a smile."

"A smile would cost you naught."

"'Twould cost me that very freedom you promise," she retorted dryly. Her eyes narrowed. "Or have you not noted the fine company we keep?"

'Twas true enough that the docks were swarming with unsavory characters, more than one of whom was making a thorough study of what filled her chausses.

"'Tis your own fault for wearing such garb," Rowan felt compelled to observe.

The hint of a smile crossed her lips. "The embroidery on each and every one of my kirtles is being mended."

Thomas laughed, then looked to Rowan and stifled himself. Rowan fixed the woman with a dark glance, not liking that she made the jests instead of he.

His look did not seem to trouble her in the least, which was doubly vexing.

"At some point," he said sternly, "you donned that garb of your own choice."

"True enough."

"Why?"

Now she did smile, although the expression was more sad than might have been expected. "'Twas a whimsy of long ago and far away."

"Why?" Rowan repeated, determined to have one answer from her.

Her smile disappeared. "I thought to disguise myself as a boy."

"You? A boy?" Rowan laughed. He could have done naught else. "A man would have to be blind to doubt your gender!"

The woman glared at him and Rowan felt a measure of pride for stirring some response from her. "I thank you for observing my foolishness. I might have doubted it otherwise, given my current exalted status."

Thomas snickered even as Rowan's smile was snatched away.

"'Tis the mark of maidens in a convent to imagine that they can deceive the world, simply by donning boy's chausses and cropping their hair . . ." Rowan's voice faded as he stared at her in sudden comprehension. "You speak too well to have been raised in a gutter. Who are you?"

The woman's eyes flashed so quickly that Rowan almost missed the telltale sign that he had found a truth. "I am no one," she declared.

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