The Snow White Brideby Claire Delacroix
The Laird of Kinfairlie has helped his sisters, each a gem in her own right, to find husbands. Now the laird himself seeks to wed, and pins his hopes on The Snow White Bride.
Lady Eleanor knows better than to dream of romance and love. Married twice to secure her father's alliances, she has learned that she is desirable only for/em>/strong>
The Laird of Kinfairlie has helped his sisters, each a gem in her own right, to find husbands. Now the laird himself seeks to wed, and pins his hopes on The Snow White Bride.
Lady Eleanor knows better than to dream of romance and love. Married twice to secure her father's alliances, she has learned that she is desirable only for her fortune. When the Laird of Kinfairlie's sisters ask her to wed their brother, Alexander, Eleanor agrees, expecting only to save herself from danger. But Alexander is like no man she's known before, a man more interested in courting her smile than her obedience, a man who values her counsel as much as her newly awakened passion...and a man unaware that Eleanor is the key to a fortune that could ensure the future of everything he holds dear. Now, ruthless enemies will stop at nothing to secure Eleanor's capture. Will she dare to trust her new husband before it's too late for her, for Alexander, and for Kinfairlie?
This edition contains the bonus short story, "The Ballad of Rosamunde".
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The Snow White Bride
By Claire Delacroix
Warner BooksCopyright © 2005 Claire Delacroix, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneKinfairlie, Scotland-December 24, 1421
THE SNOW WAS FALLING FAST AND THICK, the starless sky was darker than indigo, and it was well past midnight when Eleanor knew that she could flee no farther. The small village that rose before her seemed heaven-sent: it was devoid of tall walls and barred gates. She did not believe that it truly could be this peaceful anywhere in Christendom, but the town's tranquillity was seductive all the same.
She did not know its name and she did not care. She spied the church and decided immediately that this sleeping town, with its quiet surety that the world was good, would be the place she chose to rest.
The night would not last much longer, for darkness already gave way to dawn's light. Eleanor did not know where she would go from here, but knew she could make no decision when she was so exhausted.
The church portal was unlocked, and Eleanor sighed with relief as one last fear was proved groundless. She stepped into its embracing shadows and let the door close heavily behind her. She waited, half-expecting the illusion of tranquillity to be shattered, but only silence reached her ears. She stood on the threshold and inhaled deeply of the scent of beeswax candles, the air of prayer and devotion, the aura of a holy place.
Sanctuary. There was a single small glass pane over the altar, and the light cast by the snow illuminated it and the chapel's bare interior. It was a humble church, to be sure, for she could see its emptiness even in the shadows. The altar was devoid of chalice and monstrance, evidence that even this community believed that treasures should be locked away.
Eleanor spied the bench near the altar, perhaps one used by the priest, and eased herself onto it. She sat down and stopped running for the first time in what seemed an eternity.
Then she listened, fearing the worst. There was no sound at all beyond the pounding of her heart. No hoofbeats echoed in pursuit. No hounds bayed as they found her scent. No men shouted that they had spied her footprints.
The rapidly falling snow might prove a blessing, for it would quickly hide her path and disguise her scent. She sat, intending to wait the necessary interval until she knew that she was safe.
Eleanor felt every ache in her exhausted body, and she realized only now how cold she had become. She could not feel her fingertips, so she crossed her arms and pressed her hands into her underarms. She supposed that her belly must be empty, but she was too numb to be certain. She had a keen thirst, to be sure.
Had it only been three days and nights since everything had changed, and changed irrevocably? She shied away from considering what would happen to her now, was too tired to speculate beyond the nigh impossible goal of escape.
Instead, she sat and marveled that she could hear only the faint roll of the sea. It was a gentle sound, its effect not unlike a lullaby. Was it possible that Ewen's kin had abandoned the hunt for her?
Eleanor could not believe as much. She sat vigilant and she listened, but slowly she began to feel warmer. That warmth betrayed her, undermined her resolve to remain awake, coaxed her to succumb to exhaustion. She fought against slumber, but she had endured too much of late. It was not long before she gathered her booted feet beneath her, wrapped her ermine-lined cloak more tightly about herself, and dared to consider sleeping for the first time since Ewen had died.
Although she murmured a prayer, Eleanor did not pray for her husband's recently departed soul. She knew that Ewen was lost beyond redemption, she knew that he roasted in hell.
Worst of all, Eleanor knew that, deep in her heart, she was glad. She was also sufficiently wicked to believe that he deserved no less.
With the dawn, she would begin to atone for her sins of thought and deed. In this moment, she managed only to draw her hood over her hair before her eyes closed and she welcomed the bliss of sleep.
THE FIRST MORNING SERVICES in Kinfairlie's chapel were attended mostly by the women, both from the keep and from the village, and though it was the day of Christmas Eve, this morning was no different.
Madeline arrived with her sisters: Vivienne, Annelise, Isabella, and Elizabeth. Both Madeline and Vivienne were ripening with child, though the other sisters were yet maidens. They were a noisy party, for Madeline and Vivienne had not been home to Kinfairlie since their nuptials earlier in the year, and all five sisters chattered even as they arrived in the village chapel.
The woman kneeling before the altar started at the sound of their arrival. She caught her breath and glanced over her shoulder, fear etched on her features. She was so beautiful that Madeline gaped in astonishment. And she was a stranger. There were few strangers in Kinfairlie, particularly at this time of the year. Madeline was intrigued, as was probably every other soul who followed the Lammergeier sisters into the chapel.
This woman was no maiden, for she wore a gossamer veil and circlet over her hair. What Madeline could spy of the woman's hair was more golden of hue than flaxen. In that moment that she stared at the sisters, Madeline noted skin so fair that the woman might have been carved of alabaster. Her eyes were a startlingly vivid green and her lips as red as rubies. She might have been of an age with Madeline.
But the stranger's fear was almost palpable. She pivoted abruptly after scanning the arrivals. She drew the hood of her sapphire cloak over her hair to hide her features, and bent to her prayers once more. Madeline wondered what horrors this woman had faced that she should be so fearful of strangers.
The woman's cloak was remarkable in itself, of wool spun finer than fine, and trimmed with a king's ransom in ermine. The stranger was noble, then, for no common person could have afforded such a garment.
Yet she was unattended, and there was no fine horse outside the chapel. Surely such a woman would not travel on foot, or alone?
Not unless she was in dire peril. Madeline caught her breath at the simple truth of it, and immediately she yearned to be of aid. Indeed, any other noblewoman would have rapped on the gates of the keep and demanded hospitality of a fellow Christian.
But this woman had no steed. Her boots were mired, there was dirt on the hem of her cloak. She must have been afraid to ask for help, which said little good about her circumstance.
Father Malachy granted the praying woman a benign smile, then frowned at the boisterous sisters. Madeline and her sisters meekly genuflected and became silent as mice as they took their places at the front of the chapel, alongside the stranger. Madeline could fairly feel the questions of her sisters, and was not surprised to find herself eased closest to the stranger by mutual and silent consent.
As eldest, she had been appointed to learn more. The service seemed impossibly long, and Madeline found herself thinking more about the stranger beside her than her prayers. Finally the priest was done and the woman tried to leave the chapel immediately behind him. The sisters had other ideas. The stranger jumped when Madeline touched her elbow, even with the barrier of that cloak between them. When the stranger paused, Annelise and Isabella slipped around her to block her exit from the chapel.
"You are unknown here," Madeline said. The woman's eyes widened at the realization that she had been surrounded, though she nodded acknowledgment. "I mean no harm to any soul. I halted only to pray." She tried to leave, but the sisters stood resolute. "Someone means harm to you, though," Vivienne said with conviction. "You would not have sought sanctuary in the house of God otherwise."
The woman's eyes narrowed with suspicion. "Who are you, and with whom are you allied?"
"Do you not know where you have come?" Madeline asked.
The woman shook her head. That in itself was intriguing. She must be far from home indeed. What would compel her to flee into the night without a clear destination? Madeline herself had done as much once and felt a certain kinship with this woman as a result.
"I am Madeline FitzHenry, once of Kinfairlie and now Lady of Caerwyn," she said, softening her words with a smile. "These are my sisters. We are gathered to celebrate the Yule together in our ancestral home of Kinfairlie and mean no harm to any guest of our hall."
"Kinfairlie." The woman's gaze flicked between them. "You must be kin with the Lammergeier then. I have heard tales of them."
"Lammergeier is our family name," Vivienne agreed. The woman took a deep breath as if to steady herself, as if the news of where she stood was unwelcome. "The Lammergeier are said to ally long with no man."
"That is a somewhat harsh charge from one who does not know us ...," Isabella began, but Madeline laid a hand upon her arm to silence her.
"Of what import is our alliance? Have you need of aid?" Madeline asked. "Do you fear someone who might have allies in these parts?"
The woman gathered her skirts and made again to leave. "I thank you for your concern, but it would be safer for you to know no more of me." She pivoted and Isabella and Annelise, faced with her determination, stepped out of her path. The chapel had emptied now, save for the sisters and this woman who strode away from them with the grace of a queen.
"And what would be safer for you?" Madeline asked quietly, her words carrying through the chapel. "Tell us who you flee and why," Isabella said, always unafraid of such details.
The woman paused, seemingly tempted. "How do I know that I can trust you?"
"Who else can you trust?" Madeline asked. "You have not so much as a steed, let alone a maid, to accompany you. I would wager that you cannot run much farther than you already have. I would further wager that you are in peril. We offer aid to you."
The woman's strength seemed to falter then, and she looked at the stone floor. Madeline stretched a consoling hand toward her, but then the stranger straightened and tossed back her hood.
She spoke with a regal resolve. "My tale is not that uncommon. My father wed me to a man of his choice, a man far, far older than myself. When I was widowed some years later, my father wed me to another man."
"Who also died," Vivienne said, guessing the next part of the story as she was inclined to do.
"But not before my father himself died. I have no other kin than my husband's family: my mother died long ago and neither of my husbands granted me a child."
"Surely your dowry once again becomes your own?" Isabella asked.
The woman's smile was wry. "Surely not." Something flashed in her eyes then, a determination that was greater than any fear, and Madeline guessed that the woman did not like her husband's kin. Her dislike must have been potent for her to abandon her dowry.
"It has long been said that a woman weds once for duty and once for love," Vivienne said. "To be wed twice for duty is beyond expectation."
"And against my every desire!" the woman said, her eyes flashing. "I have done all that I can to avoid such a fate. I have left my old abode with only the garb upon my back, I have abandoned what should be my own, but it is not sufficient for them. They pursue me, like hounds at the hunt. Indeed, I dare not confess the name of that holding to any soul, lest they find me again." Her lips tightened with a quiver that rent Madeline's heart.
"You have need of protection, not further flight," Madeline said.
"Who would be so foolish as to protect me?" "A new husband would defend you," Vivienne said. "One of your own choice!" Elizabeth interjected. "Impossible." The woman shook her head. "I am sorry. I should not have burdened you with my woes."
"But where will you go?" Elizabeth asked. "As far as I must," she said, and gathered her cloak about herself as she hastened down the aisle. "I dare not linger here longer. Only as far as Kinfairlie," she whispered, almost to herself. "They will be fast behind me."
She drew up her hood and reached for the handle upon the heavy wood door.
"We cannot let her go," Madeline said, and her sisters nodded agreement. "She will never flee farther than they can follow."
"Surely her fears are overwrought," Vivienne said. "Her husband's kin might have threatened her, and they might even follow her, but as soon as she wed another man, they would abandon the chase. It would not be reasonable to do otherwise, especially if they already hold her dowry." "Doubtless she has had little chance to muster her thoughts," Madeline mused, feeling sympathy for the woman. "I wonder when last she ate a meal."
"Or slept, without fearing that her avaricious kin would pounce upon her in the night." Vivienne shivered at the prospect.
"She has need of a stalwart defender," Elizabeth said with gusto. "Like a valiant knight in an old tale, one who will vanquish all of her enemies."
"It will be a rare and honorable man who takes her cause," Annelise agreed.
"It will be a bold man, unafraid to face any foe to see his lady's safety assured," Elizabeth said, her love of tales evident. "He will slaughter dragons for her, and send evil flying from the gates!"
"There are no dragons to be bested," Isabella said wryly. "Only greedy kin."
Madeline exchanged a smile with Vivienne as an idea apparently came to them both of one accord. "Hmmm," Madeline mused. "A brave knight, unwed but in possession of his inheritance, so entitled to wed."
"A man with a reputation for ensuring justice is served," Vivienne said as her smile broadened.
"A man who would court the lady's favor, and treat her with the honor she is due," Annelise contributed, for she clearly discerned Madeline's thoughts.
"Would it not be perfect if we knew such a man?" Madeline said.
"Especially if the nuptial vows of such a man would ensure that his debt against his own sisters is paid in full?" Vivienne said.
Elizabeth began to laugh, though Isabella still appeared to be confused.
"Alexander found husbands for us when we had no desire of them," Madeline explained. "I say we return the favor, and aid this beleaguered noblewoman at the same time." "It would serve Alexander well to taste his own dish," Elizabeth said with some heat. "Though I think her too fine for him."
"The lady herself must agree," Vivienne said, ignoring this. Elizabeth had become quite vexed with Alexander of late, and was increasingly inclined to voice her unflattering opinion of him.
"Lady!" Madeline cried, and the sisters gave chase as one. "Stay your flight!"
They burst out of the chapel in pursuit. The woman paused in the bailey, the fresh snow as high as her ankles. She glanced back, as if afraid to hope that any soul might assist her.
"My brother, Laird of Kinfairlie, has need of a bride," Madeline said. The sisters surrounded the woman once again, their eyes alight with the perfection of their scheme.
"He is a man of honor," Vivienne said, "and one who will see you protected. He is not so hard upon the eyes, and can be charming."
"He is a bit mischievous," Isabella warned the woman. "But he takes his responsibilities most seriously and serves Kinfairlie well as its laird," Annelise said. "But you cannot expect him to wed me. You scarce know me and he does not know me at all."
"Marriages are arranged all the time," Vivienne said with a smile, and Elizabeth laughed. The woman looked between them, not understanding the reference. Vivienne stepped forward and looped her arm through the other woman's elbow. "Come and look upon him. If he meets with your favor and wedding him seems to you a suitable scheme ..."
Madeline took the woman's other arm. "Then you may rely upon us to arrange the details."
"There will be guests aplenty in the hall this night," Vivienne said. "No one will note another, and if you decide against this course, you can travel onward on the morrow."
The stranger nodded at this plan, but Madeline was not fooled by her apparent reserve. There was new vigor in her step, just for having a choice, and Madeline knew that Alexander would be at his amiable best this night. Her brother might try to delay his duty to wed, he might even protest the sisters' interference, but once this beauty was in his bed, once he had a child to bounce upon his own knee, he would thank her and Vivienne for their aid in finding him such a bride.
Madeline was certain of it.
ALEXANDER LAMMERGEIER, Laird of Kinfairlie, had had his fill of responsibility. The accounts for Kinfairlie would never balance, not without a massive financial gain from some unanticipated source. He had seen two sisters married this year, on the counsel of those who knew more of running an estate than he, and could not for the life of him see what fiscal benefit had been derived from having two less mouths to feed. There were dozens yet residing within his walls, after all.
The sound of merrymaking rose from Kinfairlie's hall below. It was Christmas Eve, and he was laboring over Kinfairlie's books, trying to find a stray denier. There were no stray deniers. Alexander knew it well.
Excerpted from The Snow White Bride by Claire Delacroix Copyright ©2005 by Claire Delacroix, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Bestselling author Claire Delacroix published her first romance novel - a medieval romance called THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE - in 1993. Since then, she has published over forty romance novels and numerous novellas, including time travel romances, contemporary romances and paranormal romances. THE BEAUTY, part of her successful Bride Quest series, was her first book to land on the New York Times list of bestselling books. Claire has written under the name Claire Cross and continues to write as Deborah Cooke as well as Claire Delacroix. Claire makes her home in Canada with her family, a large undisciplined garden and a growing number of incomplete knitting projects.
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Highly recommend this book - good story line - loved the character's. Worth the money!!!
This read like a melodramatic soap opera that just drags on and on. I did not finish reading it.
Really liked this book and characters.
This was a well-written, enjoyable medieval romance. Lady Eleanor has been widowed twice and was treated badly in both marriages. Alexander, the Laird of Kinfairlie, has helped two of his sisters find grooms. He sees Eleanor's sadness and wants to make her smile. His sisters suggest to Eleanor that she marry Alexander and she agrees to escape the danger she is in. They have dangerous enemies, but the bigger risk is whether they can let themselves trust each other. This was a great story. It can be read as a standalone book, though is the third in a series with related characters. I am excited to read the next in the series! Copy gifted by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed reading this story of Alexander and Eleanor. The story had a good flow and I liked how the characters developed throughout. Alexander is an interesting character, caring and intelligent. Eleanor is a good match for that, having been though difficult situations that she needs to recover from. I thought that the story showed how well matched they were and how they could give each other what they needed. Copy gifted by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I loved this story! After finding husbands for two of his sisters in the first two books in The Jewels of Kinfairlie series, Alexander is finally paid his due. When an unknown woman shows up at the chapel of Kinfairlie seeking aid, Alexander's sisters see an opportunity to turn the tables on him and marry him off. Lady Eleanor has been forced to marry twice before and is in no hurry to find another husband. Having run from her last home she is seeking sanctuary in Kinfairlie when she comes upon Alexander's younger sisters and agrees to be part of their scheme. Little does she know that Alexander has plans of his own to win her affection and heart. I simply adore Alexander and how he strives to win over Eleanor. Their relationship is filled with mistrust and secrets but he refuses to give up on the woman he is falling in love with. I would highly recommend this series to fans of historical romance. ***Copy gifted by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review***
Claire Delacroix beautifully continues the Jewels of Kinfairlie series with the recent named Laird of Kinfairlie’s love story. Featuring lies, deception, deceit and subterfuge she magically takes me back into the far past with a narrative and dialogue that hinted of the Highlands, with characters so richly developed they have no trouble appearing in my minds eye and backdrops so period perfect I can almost smell the strewing herbs placed on the floor of Kinfairlie keep and the sweet savory scent of the majestic steeds in their stables. Her stars are quite the star-crossed medieval couple and with baited breath and nail-biting angst I continually waited for the inevitable doomed other shoe to fall and was pleasantly rewarded for all my anxiety. The Snow White Bride is book three in the Jewels of Kinfairlie series and is now available in all formats. The audible edition is narrated by the mesmerizing lyrical voice of the sensational Saskia Maarleveld whose vocal range perfectly portrayed each and every character from impish young women and children to old men, old crones and adult male warriors and dastardly foes. And whose familiarity of Claire’s tales and characters only increases her brilliant narrations. The five Lammegeier sisters quite vexed with their interfering brother the Laird decide to play a trick on him when their keep is visited by a beautiful stranger on Christmas Eve. Recently widowed for the second time Eleanor Douglas escapes her deceased husband’s family and a dire situation and wanders unexpectedly into the Christmas Eve celebration of Kinfairlie Keep. After meeting the Laird’s sisters she decides this is where she’ll seek sanctuary and agrees to participate in a rouse they’ve concocted. And after a night filled with practical jokes and devilment is satisfied to find herself married to the Laird. Now she just has to concoct a way to keep him. Alexander Lammegeier is a reluctant and perhaps poor replacement for his father as Laird. There is much to worry about at this festive time of year with the coffers nearly empty and still three unwed sisters to find husbands for but there is also much to celebrate and when he spies a beautiful stranger as part of this celebration his only goal is to see her smile. Unfortunately all turns bitter when he learns he played right into a well-planned scheme. Should he throw her out or is there a good reason for her deception?
I really enjoyed listening to this story I thought it was a interesting read with humor, drama and passion. I doubt many people have worse luck than Lady Eleanor it does seem at every turn someone is one step ahead of her make it hard to believe anything she said. She is holding all her cards close to her chest not giving out much information. She has so much to give the right man and all she asks for return is to be respect, cared for and honored. She isn't interested in love just want a man that will not abuse her and trust her. Is that to much to much to ask for? It does seem so when you live in a world where man rule and show no respect to women they are for one thing only and can do with their women as they see fit. They are mean as they use, abuse and beat the women they marry all wanting one thing at this time she has been unable to give. You might say her heart you would be wrong for they have no desire for that they want something much bigger and are willing to fight to take her and keep her. That is until one night when she walks in the snow and finds 3 sisters who want her help to get back at their lord brother. Pranks lead to danger as one man is taken in and weds a lady he does not know why another come to take her away any way he can. Lady Eleanor I thought was sweet but it does seem the whole world as turned against her. She has been abused and will not take give of herself easy until Alexander shows her how a man should treat a women. She still does not take things as face value for she has seen how sweet and kind men can be when they want something. She knows they will turn on you on a dime when things do not go their way. She is scared that he will turn on her if she gives him the truth he seeks. This causing trouble for them and makes her look guilty at every turn. Can she learn to trust and give what he needs before time runs out and all is lost? Alexander is a man of honor who lives for his family. Times are hard and he does the best he can without giving away just how poor they truly are. When he meets Eleanor he is taken in he see that she is not trusting and has been abused. He wants to make her smile give her a little happiness. His sisters have a plan for him which he knows nothing about until the deed is done and he has little choice but to go along with it. On the day of their wedding he learns so much about her and her lies. He cannot abide by lies and goes to annul their marriage. Eleanor sees things differently as she puts a plan into action to keep the marriage intact. Alexander works towards finding the truth but it might be to late for there is evil all around who is willing to die for the hand of Lady Eleanor. This is the first time I have read/listen to anything by Ms. Delacroix. I found this story to be a delight. She has wonderful characters that you will fall in love with as she gives you a wonderfully captivating listen. There is drama as one women tries to find a safe haven. She gives you sadness that will break your heart and laughter that you will find delightful. The author gives you a compelling store which has adventure, a few thrills and even a chill that you will say OH NO please let this turn out right. She does give you a wonderful HEA but first these characters must fight to stay alive. Here characters you will love as they work their way through trying times. The supporting characters will keep you laughing as each woman are strong and will have their due.
Gtg for a moment.
Loved this book from start to finish ! The author did an excellent job endearing every character to our hearts. I will definately be reading more of her books.
Yes and No................................................................... Yes I believe her father would have married her off at 12 years old. Especially given the fact he did not seem to like her very much. No I do not believe he would have had her taking care of his books and finances. He was an extremely wealthy man. He would have had stewards and accountants of some sort. To say he would let a 12 year old female child do so is ridiculous. Yes I believe sisters play pranks on their brothers. To suggest they would marry him off to a total stranger they no nothing about is just stupid. And to have no remorse when they find this stranger may have murdered her first two husband is selfish and cruel. Yes I believe being abused by her first two husbands made her frightened and frigid. No she did not get over this in 24n hours with a total stranger even if he was sporting enough to marry her. And please the scene where her guardian comes in to check to see if she had a baby. Give me a break. Yes the story had its moments. No I would not recommend it. Over 600 pages. Some of it so moronic you give yourself a headache from eye rolling.
This one was not as good as the first two books in the series. I did enjoy it but was tired of the heroine lying because she was afraid! Such a stupid concept. Anyway enjoyed most of the book and the trilogy was great.
Lots of excitemrnt and adventure loved it