The Stolen Bride (De Warenne Dynasty Series)

( 57 )


Sean O'Neill was once everything to Eleanor de Warenne—but since he disappeared from his ancestral home, there has been no word, and even Eleanor has abandoned hope, promising her hand to another. Then, just days before her wedding, Sean reappears…but the boy who was once her protector is now a stranger, hardened by prison and on the run.

Weary and haunted, Sean is shocked to find that little Elle has become the beautiful, desirable Eleanor. Though he refuses to endanger her by ...

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Sean O'Neill was once everything to Eleanor de Warenne—but since he disappeared from his ancestral home, there has been no word, and even Eleanor has abandoned hope, promising her hand to another. Then, just days before her wedding, Sean reappears…but the boy who was once her protector is now a stranger, hardened by prison and on the run.

Weary and haunted, Sean is shocked to find that little Elle has become the beautiful, desirable Eleanor. Though he refuses to endanger her by pressing his claim, his resolve to stay away is sorely tested by the determination of a woman who will not be forsaken again. And when, in a moment's passion, Sean steals another man's bride, it is Eleanor who has the power to steal his heart…

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This third volume of Joyce's popular de Warenne dynasty (following The Masquerade) features impetuous and independent de Warenne daughter Eleanor, betrothed to a kind, decent and well-connected Englishman, Peter Sinclair. As might be expected, her heart belongs to another: her half-brother and best friend Sean O'Neill, who disappeared from their Irish estate four years earlier. Now, with her wedding just days away, Eleanor learns that Sean has been rotting in prison for two years, convicted on charges of treason-and that he's just escaped. Sean's plan is to sail for freedom in America, but he's compelled to return home first, ostensibly to offer his farewells to Eleanor. Things don't turn out quite so simple: though already in her wedding gown, Eleanor forgets her fianc and flees with Sean in front of 200 wedding guests. Pursued by the authorities, the family and the in-laws, the fugitive couple navigates a tense, twisting plot as well as the treacherous emotional territory between them. Sean, damaged from his years in isolation, is a strong and mysterious lead, and Eleanor is more than his match; Joyce's characters carry considerable emotional weight, which keeps this hefty entry absorbing, and her fast-paced story keeps the pages turning. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373771844
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 10/1/2006
  • Series: De Warenne Dynasty Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 560
  • Product dimensions: 4.21 (w) x 6.62 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Brenda Joyce is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 novels and novellas, including the popular and critically acclaimed de Warenne Dynasty Saga, a series of novels set in Regency and Victorian England. She lives on a ranch in Arizona with her dogs, broodmares and the year’s current crop of foals. If she isn’t on the back of a reining horse, she can be found madly at work in her office, penning her latest romance novel.
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Read an Excerpt

October 7, 1818, Adare, Ireland

IN THREE DAYS, she was getting married. How had this happened?

In three days, she was going to marry the gentleman everyone thought perfect for her. In three very short days, she was going to be Peter Sinclair's wife. Eleanor de Warenne was afraid.

She leaned so low over her galloping horse's neck that she saw nothing but his dark coat and mane. She spurred him, urging him to an even faster, more dangerous pace. She intended to outrun her nervous-ness—and her dread.

And briefly, she did. The sensation of speed became consuming; there could be no other feeling, no thought. The ground was a blur beneath the pounding hooves of her mount. Finally, the present had vanished. Exhilaration claimed her.

Dawn was breaking in the pale sky overhead. Eventually, Eleanor became tired, as did the stud she rode. She straightened and he slowed, and instantly, she thought about her impending marriage again.

Eleanor brought the bay stallion to a walk. She had reached a high point on the ridge and she looked down at her home. Adare was the seat of her father's earldom, an estate that reached into three counties, encompassing a hundred villages, thousands of farms and one very lucrative coal mine, as well as several quarries. Below, the ridge turned to thick forest and then into the achingly lush green lawns and riotous gardens surrounding the huge stone mansion that was her home, a river running through them. Although first built in Elizabethan times, very little of the original structure remained. Renovated a hundred years earlier, the front of the house was a long three-story rectangle, with a dozen columns supporting the roof and the triangular pediment above it. Two shorter wings were behind the facade, one reserved for the family, the other for their guests.

Her home was filled with family and guests now. Three hundred people had been invited to the wedding and fifty guests, mostly Peter's family, had been crammed into the east wing. The rest were staying at village inns and the Grand Hotel in Limerick.

Eleanor stared down at the estate, breathless and perspiring, her long honey-blond hair having come loose from its braid, wearing a pair of breeches she had stolen ages ago from one of her brothers. After her come-out two years earlier, she had been required to ride astride in a lady's proper riding attire. Having been raised with her three brothers and two stepbrothers, she had decided that was absurd. She had been riding at dawn since then, so she could ride astride and leap fences, an act that was impossible in skirts. Society would find her behavior shocking—and so would her fiancé, if he ever discovered she was inclined to ride and dress like a man.

Of course, she had no intention of letting that happen. She wanted to marry Peter Sinclair. Didn't she?

Eleanor could not stand it then. She had thought her grief and sorrow long since gone, but now, her heart broke open. She had wanted to marry Peter, but with her wedding just days away, she had to face the terrible and frightening truth. She was no longer certain. More importantly, she had to know if Sean were alive or dead.

Eleanor walked her mount down the hillside. Her heart beat swiftly and painfully, stirring up feelings she had never wanted to again entertain. He had left her four years ago. Last year, she had come to terms with his disappearance. After waiting for his return for three interminable years, after refusing to believe the conclusion her family had drawn, she had woken up one morning with a horrific comprehension. He was gone. He wasn't coming back. They were right—as there had been no word, he must be dead.

She had locked herself in her room for several days, weeping for the loss of her best friend, the boy she had spent a lifetime with—the man she loved. On the fourth morning, she had left her rooms, going directly to her father.

"I am ready to marry, Father. I should like you to arrange a proper match."

The earl, alone in the breakfast room, had gaped at her in shock.

"Someone titled and well-off, someone as fond of the hunt as I am, and someone passably attractive," she had said. She had no emotions left. But she added grimly, "Actually, he must be a superb horseman or we will never get on."

"Eleanor—" the earl had leaped to his feet

"—you are making the right decision."

She had warded him off. "Yes, I know." And she had left before he might inquire as to her sudden change of heart. She had no wish to discuss her personal feelings with anyone.

An introduction had been made a month later. Peter Sinclair was the heir to an earldom, the estate seated in Chatton, and his family was well-off. He was her own age, and he was handsome and charming. He was a superb horseman and bred Thoroughbred racehorses. She had been wary of his English background, having been chased improperly by some English rakes during her two Seasons, but upon meeting him, she had liked him instantly. His behavior had been sincere from the first. That very night, she had decided he would suit. The match had been arranged shortly thereafter, due to her enhanced age.

Suddenly Eleanor felt as if she were on a bolting horse, one she could not bring to a halt. A horse-woman her entire life, she knew the best recourse would be to leap off.

But she had never bailed from a runaway, not once in her twenty-two years. Instead, she had exerted her will and skill over the animal, bringing it under her control. She tried to remind herself that all brides were nervous and it was not uncommon.After all, her life was about to forever change. Not only would she marry Peter Sinclair, she would move to Chatton, live in England, run his home and soon, bear his children. God, could she really do this?

If only she knew what had happened to Sean. But she did not know his fate, and she was probably never going to learn of it. Her father and Devlin had spent years searching for him, using Bow Street Runners. But his name was not an unusual one, and every lead had turned out to be false. Her Sean O'Neill had vanished into thin air.

Once more, she blamed herself for ever allowing him to go. She had tried to stop him; she should have made an even greater attempt.

Abruptly Eleanor halted her mount and she closed her eyes tightly. Peter would be a perfect husband, and she was very fond of him. Sean was gone. Not only that, he'd never once looked at her the way Peter regarded her. It was a great match. Her fiancé was kind, amusing, charming, blond and handsome. He was horse-mad, as was she. As the English debutantes she had once been forced to attend would say, he was a premier catch.

Eleanor quickly moved the stallion forward. At this late hour, she was lying to herself. Peter was a dear man, but how could she marry him when there was even the slimmest chance that Sean was alive? On the other hand, she couldn't break the contracts now!

Suddenly real panic began. She had been a failure in London. She had hated every ball, where she had been snubbed because she was Irish and tall and because she preferred horses to parties. The English had been terribly condescending. She was going to be a failure in Chatton, too—she was certain of it. Even if Peter had never questioned her background, once he got to know her he would be condescending, too.

Because she wasn't proper enough to be his English wife. Proper ladies would not dream of riding astride in breeches, let alone doing so alone. And while a few were brave enough to foxhunt, ladies did not shoot carbines and fence with masters; ladies loved shopping and gossip, which she abhorred. Peter didn't really know her—he didn't know her at all.

Ladies don't lie.

It was as if Sean stood there beside her, his silver eyes oddly accusing. If only he hadn't left her. How could it still hurt, on the eve of her wedding, when she had invested the entire past year of her life in her relationship with Peter?

And Eleanor knew she was on that runaway horse yet again. Her wedding was in three days and until recently, she had been pleased. In fact, she had been very caught up in the wedding preparations and she had been as excited as her mother. It would be the scandal of the decade should she now call it off. She was having bridal jitters, nothing more. Peter was perfect for her.

Very purposefully, Eleanor halted and closed her eyes, trying to find an image that would chase away, once and for all, every fear and doubt she had. She saw herself in her wedding dress, the bodice covered with lace and pearls, the huge satin skirts boasting pearl and lace insets, the train an endless pool of satin trimmed in beaded lace. Peter was standing beside her, blond and handsome in his formal attire. They were exchanging vows and Peter was raising her veil so he might kiss her.

The veil was removed from her eyes. Peter was gone. Standing before her was a tall, dark man with shockingly silver eyes.

Ladies don't lie, Elle.

Eleanor could not bear the renewed surge of grief. She did not need this now. She did not want this now.

"Go away!" She almost wept. "Leave me alone, please!"

But the damage was done, she thought miserably. She had dared to let him back into her mind, and now, just days before her wedding, he wasn't going to go away. She had known Sean O'Neill since she was a child. His mother had been widowed by the British in a terrible massacre, and her own father, a widower at that time, had married Mary O'Neill, taking Sean and his brother in.Although he had never legally adopted the O'Neill boys, he had raised them with his own three sons and Eleanor, treating both boys as if they were his own.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 57 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2006

    Extremely Annoying

    I have read several of Brenda Joyce¿s early novels and I thought that they were very good. However the characters in this book got on my nerves. Usually it takes me a day or two to read a book. I had to force myself to finish this book, because the constant begging and crying from the heroine really annoyed me. It was pathetic the way she kept chasing after this man, I like strong heroines. Over all this book was a big disappointment for me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2006

    Read this only if all the other books in the world were gone

    Bad book. If you want a book about a crazy woman who it totally selfish this is the book for you. Worst heroine ever. Silly flash back at the end of every chapter.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2013

    Family story

    I am a dirct ancestor of the fantasy family the author used to base her stories on. Frankly, I think my real life de Warenne ancestors were a lot more erotic and exciting than these books. History is always better than fiction.

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  • Posted September 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2007

    What a disappointment!

    I had read A Lady at Last and enjoyed every page of it, so I picked up this book and her the next in the de Warrene series immediately. I decided to read this one first since it was the earlier book in the series. Sadly, I'm debating whether to even waste my time with The Perfect Bride after reading this one. I hope it is of better caliber than this debacle. First, the whole semi-incestuous stepbrother/stepsister thing was just a little too wierd for my taste. Instead of making the reader see their long suffering love, the flashbacks of their childhood had the opposite effect and magnified the creepiness of the familial connection. But like a trooper, I kept reading thinking that I would get past that fact once I really grew acquainted with the main characters. Unfortunately, these were the most irritating characters I have ever encountered in a book, including the villians. The heroine, Eleanor, was like a broken record. The hero, Sean, was equally irritating. They did the stupidest things, especially Eleanor. Their dialogue was flat and repetitive. I could not bring myself to empathize with thier plight at all. By the end, I was hoping they would get caught and hung just to put us all out of our misery!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2008

    Not her best!

    I have to say that this was not Brenda's best work. It takes away from the quality of the other De Warenne Dynasty Series. Not sure where Brenda Joyce went wrong here, but the book was just awful!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2007

    Begining was great, but the ending wasnt so great

    This book started out with a step-sister's love for her step-brother since she was a child and staying true to those feelings even as she grows older. oh.. the begining was so.. good!!! I love Brenda Joyce, but I am sorry to say this book was quite disappointing once I got half way through it and the ending just was'nt as great and as strong as the begining.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2006

    such a disappointment

    i love brenda joyce's books but this was just horrible. the brother/sister factor was underlining but Elle was too annoying for words. i couldn't stand her jealousy over sean's past and her constant whining about him leaving her - come on, get a life. the brother/sister issue was an ick factor as well. it's one thing if they became related later in life but to literally grow up with one another, that's too much for me. the story just lagged on and on and i decided not to finish this one even though i'm more than 3/4 done. i'm going to just skip to the ending. sorry - don't waste your money on this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2007

    This book was great....

    It was GREAT cant wait to read her others

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2007

    A Great Book

    I really like this book. I like the way Eleanor was portrayed because i think alot of women are like that even though they don't admitt it. Love is a powerful thing and yes she cried alot but what women wouldn't under the circumstances,imagine the love of your life in danger. Women are emontional by nature. Yes it is nice to have the heorine to be strong and dependent but face more women than most is not that way especially when it comes to love. I also like the fact that Sean was the one that was in pain and who ultimatly needed Elle. The hero was not your average hero he actually showed emotion that you don't see to often I would recommand anyone to read this book. It makes you want to read her other novels as well. To me when author makes you want to read her other books then it is a good book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2006


    ¿I promise.¿ Were the last words that Sean O¿Neil said to Eleanor de Warenne as he rode out of her life four long years ago. Accused and convicted of treason, he is just a breath away from the gallows when a daring escape makes him the most wanted man in England and Ireland. Changing his name he is set to leave Ireland but the absence and longing of his family calls to him and he can¿t resist returning home to Adare. What he finds and sees upon his arrival hurts him to the core. Eleanor his stepsister is about to be married. Once he may have dreamed of living a life with her and raising a family but those dreams were shattered and the man that Eleanor knew does not exist anymore. Instead he is a man with regrets, a man torn inside on what he really wants or desires. For years Eleanor sat and waited patiently for Sean to return home from his adventures. She¿s loved him madly since he was adopted into her family when her father and his mother married. She always chased and followed after him and he was truly her hero. It was naturally assumed that Sean and Eleanor would eventually marry. As the years went by Eleanor¿s heart was broken bit by bit and she was finally convinced that she seek marriage elsewhere. She found herself enchanted by the charm and personality of Peter Sinclair and she is soon going to be married to him. On the eve of her wedding, she discovers Sean at Adare and her heart leaps in her throat. But the Sean in front of her is hard and cruel towards her. Elle knows that she can reach him and in a daring escape she steals away with Sean on the day of her wedding. Now on the run Sean and Elle are finally alone and face-to-face with their feelings and undying love. But are both strong enough to deny and abandon the feelings they feel inside. The Stolen Bride is one of the most intense, riveting, emotional reads that I have read in a long time. The romance of Elle and Sean is complicated they are hurt, torn and damaged but yet has they delve through the layers reaching into the soul of each other it makes for a spicy and enthralling read. As part of The de Warenne Dynasty it is a novel that certainly stands alone. But it ties previous novels with recaps and follow-ups on related characters introducing them to newer readers making sure not to overwhelm the story for readers who have been following the series. The Stolen Bride is classic Brenda Joyce back in her element of strong tortured hero¿s, and heroines brave enough to rise against the odds.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2006

    Not her best

    I too love all of Brenda Joyce books. I think she is a wonderful exciting author, but this book was lacking the passion and depth that she usually writes with. I look forward to her next book and hope it will be like her earlier work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2006


    i love brenda joyce books my favorite being the masquerade. So i was waiting for this book to come out. I have to say this was not my favorite. Sean was great, but Elle just got on my darn nerves, she was too whiney for me. I hope the next book in the series is better

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2006

    Did not live up to my expectations

    I always eagerly await a new Brenda Joyce book. She is one of my favorite authors. However, this one did not quite hit the mark for me. It was like listening to my three children whine all day. The lead characters spend the majority of the book arguing, fighting, crying, etc. It's somewhat exhausting just 'listening' to them. It seemed to be the same argument over and over.I thought the characters were well developed and likeable, and the concept was good overall. There was great potential. Although disappointed by this book, I will be one of the first in line for her next book.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    In 1818 Ireland, Eleanor de Warenne is about to marry Peter Sinclair, but instead of her fiancé she thinks of her love Sean O¿Neill, who vanished four years ago just after she kissed him. He was the boy she grew up with when their widowed parents married. Though she told her father that he should make her a proper match, which he did, Eleanor wonders if she made an error as she needs to know whether Sean is dead as most people assume. Still three hundred people have arrived in the towns of Adare and nearby Limerick for the ceremony so in spite of her misgivings she will not dishonor her family. --- As if by magic Sean appears out of thin air. He pleads with Eleanor to hide him, which she does as he explains he has been incarcerated and just escaped prison with his enemy in hot pursuit. Rested, Sean plans to leave, but Eleanor in her wedding dress forces him to take her with him. As the hardened Sean finds his heart melting for the former tomboy he has always loved, he knows he must prove his innocence if they are to share a life together as he thought when he first met the infant female brat he knew somehow was his destiny. --- The latest de Warenne Regency era romance (see THE MASQUERADE and THE PRIZE) is a wonderful suspense thriller starring an alpha female and a mentally battered male who suffers from a form of battle fatigue syndrome. The story line is loaded with non-stop action (a trademark of Ms. Joyce), but belongs to the lead couple especially the courageous heroine. THE STOLE BRIDE grips the audience from the onset when a doubting Eleanor finds the reason for her misgivings alive, but not well and in need of help. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2006

    3 stars

    Since childhood, Elle de Wareanne and Sean O'Neill have been the best of friends as well as step-siblings. Moreover, they are each other's first love until the day he disappeared. Two years pass, and Elle is forced to believe he was unable to keep his promise to return, and so pledges to wed another. Then, before she can, Sean comes home, under a death sentence for treason. Against all wisdom, she abandons everything to help him escape and run away with him. In the end, though, both of them are captured, but only she is freed. Sean is due to hang, and only by agreeing to wed a man she does not love can she hope to use the connections that come with that union to free her true love. It is what Sean wants for her, as he believes himself too broken and dangerous to be right for her. Elle does not agree, but she has honor to consider. ............ *** Though overly long and feeling almost padded at times, the final chapters have a heart-breaking quality that atones for any excess verbage. Sean and the secondary character of Peter have a poignancy that will bring tears to your eyes. ***

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    Posted May 30, 2009

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    Posted May 9, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2011

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    Posted June 12, 2011

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