The Innocent [NOOK Book]

Overview

To open up a novel by Bertrice Small is to surrender to the deepest longings of the heart. In her sensational bestsellers, she sweeps us to the far corners of the globe and into the most sensual places of desire. Now in The Innocent, she takes us to the wild Welsh borderlands of England, where a young beauty ready to embrace her religious vows becomes the pawn of desperate men. . . .

Deceptively fragile-looking, Eleanore of Ashlin had promised...
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The Innocent

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Overview

To open up a novel by Bertrice Small is to surrender to the deepest longings of the heart. In her sensational bestsellers, she sweeps us to the far corners of the globe and into the most sensual places of desire. Now in The Innocent, she takes us to the wild Welsh borderlands of England, where a young beauty ready to embrace her religious vows becomes the pawn of desperate men. . . .

Deceptively fragile-looking, Eleanore of Ashlin had promised her life to God . . . until fate intervened. With her brother's untimely death, Eleanore--known as Elf to those who love her--becomes the heiress of an estate vital to England's defenses. She is ordered by royal command to wed one of the king's knights rather than take her final vows. With resistant heart, but ever obedient to King Stephen's will, she complies.

Ranulf de Glandeville is all too aware that his innocent bride wants no man; yet his patience, gentle hand, and growing love for his spirited young wife soon awaken Eleanore to passions she never knew, or desired . . . until now.

But their love is not secure from the wicked schemes of an evil woman who hates Eleanore with all her black heart--and she will seek to destroy the innocent in a depraved plot that will put Eleanore's life in jeopardy and her  faith in love to its greatest test. . . .


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307557063
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/4/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 62,314
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Bertrice Small lives on the North Fork of the eastern end of Long Island, where she writes her novels in a light-filled studio surrounded by her cover paintings and many mementos of the romance genre.  Married for more than three decades to her husband, George, she is the mother of Thomas, mother-in-law of Megan, and grandmother of Chandler David Small. Longtime readers will be happy to know that Nicky, the charming cockatiel, and Sebastian, the tiny greige-and-white cat, remain her dearest companions. Many will be saddened to learn of the passing of Checquers, Ms. Small's beloved black-and-white cat with the pink ears, who at the age of fifteen has joined her ancestors. Tired of being the lone female in the household, Bertrice has adopted an orange-and-white lady cat, Honey Bun.


From the Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Novice England 1152

St. Frideswide’s Convent sat atop a hillock with a fine view of the surrounding countryside of Hereford, and across the hills into Wales. Its high stone walls enclosed themselves about a quadrangle on the south side of which was a church. From the church four sheltered walks went around the quadrangle connecting with the refectory, where the nuns and their female guests ate, the chapter house, where they met guests or did the business of the house, and the dormitories. There were special places for the students and nuns to study, and a kitchen, a bakery, a brewery. St. Frideswide’s, though small, had a storehouse, a barn for its farm animals, a henhouse and dovecote, not to mention an infirmary to treat the sick, several workshops for metalwork and illuminating manuscripts, and an herbarium.

Within the convent each day was carefully ordered. At midnight, Matins, the first holy office of the day was said, followed shortly thereafter by Lauds. The nuns would then go to their sleeping quarters. Prime was said at six during the summer months, and seven in the dark months of winter. It was then that the young girls in the convent’s charge joined the nuns for the first Mass, which was followed by a breakfast of oat porridge, a slice of buttered bread, and a small cup of cider, or ale for the nuns. The children then returned to their dormitory to make their beds and sweep the rooms. They emptied the common night jar, and opened the windows to air the space.

It was during this time the nuns met together in the chapter house. Convent business was discussed, announcements, if any, were made, letters read, and finally discipline was dispensed to those miscreants who had earned it. Terce was the next office said at nine o’clock of the morning. A High Mass was sung. It was then the nuns went to their daily tasks, which might involve personal study, teaching, household duties, the workshops where skilled illuminations and simple, beautiful metalwork were done. Some of the nuns did heavy farmwork, caring for the convent’s flock of sheep, its smaller herd of cattle, or its milk cows, pigs, or poultry. At noon the office of Sext, at three, Nones, and at four, Vespers, were conducted, and attended by those nuns whose other duties did not prevent it.

From midmorning until five in the afternoon, the young girls in the convent’s care were taught. All of them learned how to read and write and keep simple accounts. They learned Latin, French, and English, for both of the latter languages were spoken in England, but not all the convent’s students could speak them when they came to St. Frideswide’s. The girls who were eventually to become nuns were taught to do needlework and fine tapestry work. Those who showed a talent for it were taught the art of illumination and scribing. When a girl showed her competence in administration, she was taught the work of supervising the convent and its lands so that should Mother Eunice, the convent’s abbess, be away, or too ill to do her duty, there would be someone able to pick up her burden. Maidens prepared for the church were also taught the arts of healing.

The young girls destined for marriage took a slightly different path, learning how to play on some instrument, do pretty needlework, oversee the kitchens; which meant they must learn to cook, make conserves, and salt foods to be stored for a time. They must know how to make soap for bathing, and soaps for cleaning. They learned how to manage an estate in the event their husbands should be away, how to manage their own households, care for the sick, and tend the wounded.

Frightened and lonely as she was, Elf quickly adjusted to life at St. Frideswide’s. Sister Cuthbert, the nun who had carried her away from her brother and into the convent, was enormously kind. It was she who was in charge of the six young girls currently boarding in the cloister. She was plump beneath her robes, and had a round face with rosy cheeks and warm brown eyes that twinkled more often than not. She was sympathetic over her newest charge’s sadness, but she would not allow the child to wallow in her misery. Bustling into the girl’s dormitory, she set Elf down upon the floor.

“This is where you will live with your new companions,” she said brightly. “Come now, maidens, and meet Eleanore de Montfort, who is called Elf. She is five.”

“She doesn’t look five,” the biggest of the girls said. “She is very petite. Matilda FitzWilliam is five, and she’s far bigger.”

“I am bigger than Isabeaux St. Simon, and she’s six,” Matilda said, glaring at the older girl, who was ten and an earl’s daughter. “Nature makes each of us differently.” She held out her hand to Elf. “You may call me Matti, for we are going to be friends, little Elf.” She had round blue eyes and yellow braids.

Elf looked shyly at the other girl from the safety of Sister Cuthbert’s robes. “I was five on Mary’s Day,” she said as if to reinforce the fact. “I am called Elf because I am so small. My brother named me.”

“I have six brothers,” Matti said, “which is why I was sent here to St. Frideswide’s to be a nun. There wasn’t enough monies to dower me into marriage. I came when I was three, and my mother died birthing the last of my brothers. You’ll like it here. Are you going to be a nun, too?”

“I don’t know,” Elf said.

“Yes, she is,” Sister Cuthbert said. “Now, Matti, you will have someone to go to your special studies with, my child.”

“She’s going to be way behind us,” the earl’s daughter said.

“Of course she is,” Sister Cuthbert said with a cheery smile. “She is the youngest and the newest of you, but I believe Elf will like her studies, and quickly catch on. You cannot expect her to know as much as you do, Irmagarde. After all, you have been with us four years now. As I recall you had no knowledge at all when you were six, and Elf is just five.”

What the good sister didn’t say was that she believed Elf would far outstrip Irmagarde.

Irmagarde Bouvier had departed St. Frideswide’s three years after Elf’s arrival to be prepared for her marriage to a knight some years her senior. She was to be his third wife, and he had children older than she. By that time Elf had indeed surpassed the earl’s daughter in her abilities.

“She was not the brightest of girls,” Sister Cuthbert noted shortly after Irmagarde had departed in pubescent triumph for her wedding.

Outside the convent’s walls, the war raged on. In 1139 the Empress Matilda had landed in England. King Stephen was captured by her forces in 1141, and the daughter of Henry I, the granddaughter of William the Conqueror, entered Lon- don. But the empress was arrogant, and immediately imposed exorbitant taxes on the populace. Stephen’s wife, another Matilda, drove the empress from London. Finally in 1147 Henry’s daughter departed England forever. Her cause was taken up by her son, Henry Plantagenet, Lord of Anjou and Poitou in his own right, and Lord of Acquitane by virtue of his marriage to Alienor, its heiress.

In 1152 Elf was fourteen, and a novice at St. Frideswide’s. It was planned she would take her final vows on the twenty-second day of June that year. This was the feast day of England’s first martyr, and Elf had decided to take his name for her own. She would be known as Sister Alban. Her best friend, Matti, would also take her vows that day and be- come Sister Columba. As for Isabeaux St. Simon, their other friend, she would be married in the autumn and would leave St. Frideswide’s in late summer for her own home near Worcester.

On a late spring afternoon the three girls sat out on a hillside watching over the convent’s sheep. Two were dressed alike in the gray gown all the convent novices wore. Isa, however, wore a red tunic over her deep blue skirts.

“I can’t believe,” she said, “that they’re going to cut your hair, Elf. Mary’s blood, I’ve always envied it.” She stroked Elf’s long pale red-gold hair. “What a sin!”

“Vanity has no place in a bride of Christ,” Elf said softly.

“But you’re not vain!” Isa protested. “It is a great pity you cannot be wed, Elf. I’ll wager there would be men of rank who would take you even with your small dowry. You are far more beautiful than either Matti or me.” She sighed. “I hate it that we’re being separated in a few months. I know I grumble a lot about the convent, but the truth is it has been a lot of fun for us over the years, hasn’t it?”

Matti giggled mischievously. “We’ve had a few small adventures.”

“Misadventures is more like it,” Elf said with a smile. “Keeping you two out of difficulties has been a full-time occupation. You are really going to have to change your ways, Matti.”

“Reverend Mother knows how impossible that will be for me,” Matti replied. “That is why I am going to remain with Sister Cuthbert, taking care of the little girls. Reverend Mother says that will help me to use up all my energies until I am too old to have any. She says we all serve God in our own way. Sister Agnes says if my voice continues to improve, I shall be a head cantrix one day. I would like that, for you both know how I love music!”

“But once Matilda FitzWilliam becomes Sister Columba,” Isa said wickedly, “there can be no more visits to the dairy barn to see Father Anselm swiving the dairymaid with his big poker.”

Matti chuckled. “It’s a shame you would never come with us, Elf. You can’t possibly know what you’re going to miss unless you can see it. I think I am making a big sacrifice now that I have seen a man and a woman together in the throes of passion. I am filled with regret that my family has not the means to marry me off to a big healthy fellow. Still, I have accepted my fate, and am the better for knowing the forfeit I make for our good Lord’s sake.”

“I can’t wait until Sir Martin and I can be joined in the marriage bed,” Isa said. “They say it hurts to lose your virginity, but afterward it doesn’t hurt at all. When Father Anselm puts his big, thick manhood into Hilda, the dairymaid, how she squeals with delight!”

“And waves her legs about until she wraps them tight about our good priest,” Matti noted with relish. “Then they bump up and down until the crisis comes. I like it when he pillows himself on her nice big breasts, and sometimes, Elf, he even suckles on her like a babe at its mother’s breast. It’s very exciting to watch.”

Elf put her hands over her ears. “Matti! Matti! You know I don’t want to hear such things. You are very, very wicked to gossip so salaciously. If you do not cease, I shall have to tell Reverend Mother, and I don’t want to tell. How I fear for your soul, Matti.”

Matti reached out and patted her friend with a plump hand. “Do not fret yourself about me, Elf. Once I have taken my vows, there will be no more visits to the dairy barn, alas. One cannot serve two masters, and my master is our good Lord, not the lord of lust and darkness.”

From the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 33 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2007

    It was not her best

    I read this book because a friend I know said that her books were the best books ever. I really liked the plot, but I really could not get through the book. The Duchess was a better book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2007

    Sorry, I have read far better by this author and expected MORE

    I really tried to like this book because I have always been a fan of Ms. Small. I could not connect with the male lead and I did not care what happened to the female lead. The villians added the spice to this story. Better luck with the next one! (Beware...there are some really graphic scenes in this one... not much innocence.)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2007

    Disappointing

    I thought this story got off to a great start but then, well it just got worse and worse to the point were I had to put the book down. I didn't even finish the book, though I tried to. If you truly are interested or even curious about this book, do yourself a favor and check it out from a library.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2013

    Another good read by Beatrice Small

    Another good read by Beatrice Small

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Another good read by Beatrice Small

    Another good read by Beatrice Small

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2003

    Better than I was expecting

    I love Beatrice Small books, but I was reluctant to buy this book, mostly due to one of the reviews on this site bashing all the anal sex. But since I have read most of Ms. Small's other books I decided to try it anyway. I just have to say to that reviewer, uh, do you know what anal sex is? There was only one instance of it in the whole book, and it was very brief and not really all that bad (I personally don't enjoy anal sex scenes either.) And I liked Elf. Yes, she was a very 'good' person. But she also lost her temper and made bad decision just like the rest of us. I don't think Ms. Small portrayed her as 'perfect' though. Bottom line, if you like Beatrice Small, give it a try and don't let the reviews fool you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2003

    Innocent?!?!

    This is the 1st book I have read by this author. I have to say, I was a bit startled (I usually like books that are a little more subtle!) when I got to the 'juicy bits'. I liked 'Elf', but at times, I found her to be almost too-good-to-be-true. 'Ranulf'...well, he might have been ok for 'Elf', but I wanted to know more about 'Merin'! I found myself flipping ahead through the book to read more about him! I say, write another book with him as the lead...could be quite interesting! I also think the ending, while just-desserts for once character, was a bit disapponting for another (no, I won't spoil it!) Would I recommend the book? Depends on the reader. I enjoyed it, but it's not for everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2001

    It was, well, just ok...

    This novel was ok. This was my first time reading this author and I am not sure if I will choose her again. Ranulf was to sweet. The way he was written made him seem perfect and that became almost annoying. I didn't think that the ending was that good either, you went from 'high drama' to a dead end. One minute you are in an 'exciting' situation and the next the novel is over. Like I said before it was ok. It was a good filler read. :o) I still reccommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2000

    SMALL IS JUST THE BEST

    the innocent is a great book its the story about a young girl, Eleanor who if forced to marry Ranulf before giving in her last vows to be of survice to god.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2000

    Among the best of romance, but not of Bertrice's

    Bertrice Small is a master storyteller. Not only are her characters well developed, but the time periods in which they live are brought vividly to life. I own all of her books and not a one of them is a cookie cutter romance with a virgin female and a slutty womanizer who go through hell to be together, with the story ending at their marriage - you all know what types of romances I refer to, I'm sure. Refreshingly, these are strong women who do their best to control their own destinies, but who actually do get raped - either before they're rescued by the hero or who get out of it themselves - who do make mistakes, who fall in love with more than one man, and who do enjoy sex to the fullest. Her female characters are capable of learning, and of being tough broads without men in their lives. They are able to love intensely and still move on if something evil befalls their partners. Bertrice Small comes closest to a feminist romance writer as it gets. Not only are her heroines fabulous, but Beatrice is brilliant to provide scenes of the villianesses and supporting female characters having the kinky, naughty, forced, and purchaced sex her heroines are above (for the most part). It is the supporting cast of this book that makes it worthwhile. Elf, although a good woman, is perhaps the least developed of all Bertrice's heroines. Within the group of books that Ms. Small has written, this is only a 3 star book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2000

    Another Good Job

    I thought this book was wonderful. Bertrice Small has such spirit and great knowledge of historical love, that it is hard to pass by any of her books. I enjoyed this book and hope she continues to write such great books as long as she is living and well. Thanks again for this great book. I suggest anyone who likes Bertrice Small, to read this book. Its a great story and well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 1999

    Could've been so much better!

    I used to love Ms.Small's books. Note, I said used to! If this reflects the new turn her writing is taking this may be the last of her novels I buy. First, let me say, this book dragged. 300+ pages and it took me (a rather voracious reader) 2 days to make it through the first third. The middle sagged big time. The climax was anti-climatic. (But given the boatloads of degrading sex that occurred among the villains, including a rape, a four on one gang bang, a half dozen instances of anal sex and spanking I'd say enough climaxing was going on.) I actually found myself skimming over the storyline to see where and when the next lurid scene would occur. If you do this, you realize a great deal of the book (especially the second half) features degenrated sex scenes. I tired quickly of these, and, the novelty of this kind of writing having worn off I began to wonder 'where's the romance'? I can read erotica or watch porno to get this kind of smuttiness and even then I know what to expect. A book titled the 'Innocent' that is labeled a 'romance' should be sweet, romantic reading, right? Not in Small's hands, I am afraid. I glossed over some story scenes and then went back to read them and found the book was no better for these scenes, only longer. If only Small would have focused more on the story. (It seemed her way of dealing with an obstacle in the storyline was to toss in one sex scene or another to take up space. 'When in doubt, have anal sex!' seems to be this author's motto.) It was just too boring. I didn't care what happened to little miss perfect, Elf. We saw so little of Rannulf that I couldn't feel any connection with his character. The villains were cartoonish and the only lively characters in this book which isn't saying much. It took me from start to finish a grand total of 3 days to read this. Time I could have spent on other better reading. As well as money I could have used to buy 2 good paperbacks instead of this one lousy trade edition. Painful as it was I ambled on to the end hoping that it would makeup for all the dull lifeless scenes I had to endure reading. Alas! This too was as disappointing as I expected. (I don't what hurts more..this lousy book or wasting $12 on it.)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2011

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    Posted July 24, 2009

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    Posted December 7, 2010

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    Posted August 30, 2010

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    Posted April 15, 2010

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    Posted April 20, 2009

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    Posted June 16, 2010

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    Posted August 17, 2010

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