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Damion de Jarnac is the black knight, a rogue horseman bound by no code of honor except his own blind ambition. Working for the aging King Henry, Damion scouts the hills of Brittany on a dangerous mission to expose the treachery of Philip of ...
Damion de Jarnac is the black knight, a rogue horseman bound by no code of honor except his own blind ambition. Working for the aging King Henry, Damion scouts the hills of Brittany on a dangerous mission to expose the treachery of Philip of France. There he joins forces with a courageous lad-- who turns out to be the most intriguing woman he has ever met. But to win the beautiful Attica's love, Damion must slay the demons of an unforgivable past. And to save his doomed country, he must make a deadly decision that could break his lady's noble heart. . . .
The two white candles on the altar filled the night with a golden,
flickering light that shimmered over the painted walls and high vaulted ceiling of the empty chapel. Letting go a quiet sigh of relief, Attica d'AlÈrion dipped her fingertips in the carved stone font of holy water near the door and went to the rail.
She was glad to find the chapel deserted. In the four months that had passed since her betrothal brought her here to the household of the viscomte and viscomtesse de Salers, the chapel had become a place of refuge. The chapel and the battlements.
Sometimes, when storm clouds bunched low and threatening in the sky, when lightning split the darkness and the wind blew fierce and wild, Attica would climb to the battlements of Chateauhaut's new stone keep and let the wind whip at her hair and batter her face until she felt as if the savage night had stolen the very breath from her body. She would be filled with such an exhilaration, such a reckless excitement, such nameless, soul-deep yearnings that the sensation both stirred and frightened her. She didn't allow herself to go there often.
And so she had come here tonight, to the chapel, where she found not wild temptation but peace. Kneeling before the ornate altar with its carved and gilded front, she made the sign of the cross and bowed her head to say a
She prayed for the easy passing of the Parisian courtier who lay dying in the guest chamber beside the chapel. She sought God's protection for her brother serving as a household knight with the beleaguered English king,
Henry II, as he prepared for the peace conference at La FertÈ-Bernard. She asked a blessing for her father, old and spending most of his time now in his favorite hunting lodges in Normandy. As an afterthought, she added her mother's name, although she squirmed when she did it, the glazed tiles of the floor feeling cold and hard through the fine wool of her skirt.
Again she hesitated, her gaze lifting to the white plastered eastern wall behind the altar. This was the only section of the chapel yet to be painted. Yvette--the viscomtesse de Salers--was still arguing with the monk from Pierreforte l'abbaye about the subject to be depicted. The good brother thought this section of the chapel should portray the Last Judgment, except that Yvette had a pronounced aversion to the Last Judgment and wanted God Triumphant in Heaven. Privately, Attica agreed with the brother, but she'd had enough sense to keep her mouth shut. Not only could Yvette be vindictive, but she had a long memory. And in one short month Attica would be marrying Yvette's son, a thirteen-year-old boy nicknamed Fulk the Fat.
Attica felt a welling of complex, unwanted emotions at the thought of the wedding day looming before her. Fulk was six years younger than she and sadly inclined to sulk. He particularly resented the fact that the top of his head didn't even come up to Attica's chin--something he believed was more her fault than his, for she was far too tall and thin for a woman.
She hoped he would grow. Quickly.
The melted wax around the wick of one of the candles hissed, filling the air with the scent of hot beeswax and sending up a spiral of dark smoke.
Ducking her head, she begged God's forgiveness for her wayward and rebellious nature and asked a blessing for the house of Salers. She saw no need to particularize.
Her duty fulfilled, Attica closed her eyes and let the peace of this place wash over her. Her breathing slowed until it seemed as if the peace became a pulsing thing, as if her heart were beating in harmony with the universe, as if she could feel--
The harsh and decidedly artificial sound of someone clearing his throat behind her shattered the moment of quiet rapture. Attica's head whipped around. "Oh, Fulk." She schooled her features into a gentle smile. "You startled me."
He stood just inside the doorway in a halo of light thrown by one of the cressets, a fleshy, pale-faced boy wearing crimson silk and purple brocade and an accusatory pout. "You didn't come down to supper because you said you needed to tend that Parisian courtier. So why are you here instead?"
He pulled a piece of linen from his sleeve and blew his nose. "It's cold in here."
The walls of the chapel suddenly seemed to press in on her, smothering her. She sucked in a quick breath scented with cold damp stone and the memory of old incense, and pushed to her feet. "Your cousin offered to relieve me while I came to pray," said Attica, who by that time had been sitting with the ailing Parisian courtier for the better part of twelve hours. "I should get back now."
Posted December 9, 2008
In 1189 Brittany, Lady Attica d'Alerion learns that Richard and Philip plan to attack Henry when the conference at La Ferte-Bernard collapses. Attica worries that the enemy armies will kill her beloved brother Stephen, a knight loyal to Henry. Trusting no one including her betrothed Fulk, Attica masquerades as a man to ride off to her nearby uncle so he can, in turn, warn Stephen. <P> Damien de Jarnac is a mercenary who currently works for the English King. He rides all over Brittany seeking proof that the French King Philip plans treachery at the upcoming conference. Damien meets the disguised Attica on the road, but soon realizes his new companion is a beautiful intrepid woman. As they fall in love, he not only must deal with his past, but also decide between his country and his heart. <P>Best-selling author Candace Proctor has written a stirring medieval romance that will bring much entertainment to fans of the sub-genre. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the era comes to vivid life. Though the late twelfth century has been the backdrop of way too many romances, moving the plot to Brittany bring a definite freshness to the tale. The lead charcaters are brave even as they struggle with differing and warring loyalties. Ms. Proctor seems destined to return to the best-selling lists with this enjoyable historical romance. <P>Harriet Klausner
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