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The Ravencliff Bride

The Ravencliff Bride

4.7 31
by Dawn Thompson

As the coach flew up the Cornish coast, Sara saw the end of her journey: Ravencliff Manor. She was now its Baroness. But what sort of man would rescue her from debtors prison by marriage, sight unseen, by proxy? Obviously, a wretch—the same sort of man who kept the curtains drawn and his house in a state of gloomy disrepair. The same sort of man who let a


As the coach flew up the Cornish coast, Sara saw the end of her journey: Ravencliff Manor. She was now its Baroness. But what sort of man would rescue her from debtors prison by marriage, sight unseen, by proxy? Obviously, a wretch—the same sort of man who kept the curtains drawn and his house in a state of gloomy disrepair. The same sort of man who let a strange, wolf-like creature roam his grounds as if it were master. Of course, Sara would have accepted the proposal of the Devil himself to get out of Fleet, so she was resigned to her fate. Then she met her husband, hair black as sin and a handsome face, and all her assurance vanished. What strange curse had befallen Nicholas Walraven, and what secrets did he hide? What dark fortune had brought her to this place? For good or ill, she was now…THE RAVENCLIFF BRIDE.

Product Details

Leisure Books
Publication date:
Candleglow Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 6.76(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Ravencliff Bride

By Dawn Thompson

Dorchester Publishing

Copyright © 2004 Dorchester Publishing
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-505-52653-0

Chapter One

The coast of Cornwall, 1815

"Please, sir, I beg you, have the driver slow the coach!" Sara cried. "We shall tip over at this pace." Clinging to the hand strap, she held the bonnet on her head as the carriage sped toward the summit with horses at full gallop in the darkness. They'd been traveling at breakneck speed since they passed through the spiked iron gates at the bottom of the approach to Ravencliff, as though the hounds of hell were nipping at the horses' hooves.

"We need to maintain such a pace on this steep incline," the man replied. "Take ease, my dear, the coachman knows what he's about."

Peering out of the window at the sheer-faced drop to the rocky shoreline below, Sara doubted that. The road-if one could call it that-didn't appear wide enough for another coach to pass. There was no shoulder. All that separated them from the edge of the bluff was the remains of a low, stacked stone fence on the sea side, while a high wall of granite looming over the road on the other seemed to nudge them toward impending calamity.

The sound of loose pebbles and crumbling earth raining down over the rocks as they streaked along all but stopped her heart. Below, towering, white-capped combers pounded the strand, the echo of their thunder amplified by a cottony fog ghosting in off the water with the turn of the tide. Chased by the risen wind, it climbed the cliff and crept across the road obscuring Sara's view through gaps in the broken fence. She shuddered. If she couldn't see how could the coachman?

The wheel struck a rut, and the coach listed, hesitating. The road was pockmarked with them. The crack of the driver's whip, and guttural shouts to the horses soon set it in motion again, every spring and seam in the dilapidated equipage groaning under the strain.

Sara sank back against the cold leather squabs and shut her eyes, certain that any moment the post chaise would topple over the edge-coachman, groom, horses, and all. As if he'd read her thoughts, her gentleman traveling companion chuckled.

"We are almost there, Baroness Walraven," he said. "But for the fog, you'd be able to see Ravencliff once we round the next bend. Have no fear, I shall deliver you to your bridegroom all of a piece, you have my word."

Baroness Walraven. Her heart leapt at the sound of it. She must be mad. Marrying a man she hadn't even met.

"You aren't having second thoughts?" he said. "It's a bit too late for that now, my dear."

"I've been having 'second thoughts' since you came to me with this bizarre proposal, Mr. Mallory."

Again he chuckled. "In that case, you should have voiced them before accompanying me all the way to Scotland to finalize it," he said. "There's nothing to be done about it now."

"That is what puzzles me," Sara returned. "If the baron was so anxious to marry me, how is it that he couldn't come in person? Why did he send you, his steward, as proxy? That's insulting. Even under these peculiar circumstances."

"I'm crushed," he said, feigning heartbreak, "And we made such a handsome couple, too."

"What if I don't suit the baron?" Sara said, ignoring his flirtations wink. Wasn't the man full of himself, though? He was handsome, and he knew it, fair-haired and fashionable, impeccably dressed, and cultured, the second son of a baronet, to hear him tell it. She wasn't impressed.

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," he replied, sliding familiar eyes the length of her.

They were the color of steel, and just as cold. "But if, by some unlikely happenstance such should be the case," he went on, "I'll be only too happy to oblige you. I thoroughly enjoyed our ... nuptials."

Sara wasn't about to distinguish that remark with an answer, but he was right. What was done was done, and there was no doubt that he looked down upon her for consenting to such an arrangement. Had the nodcock forgotten where he'd come to make the baron's offer? After six months in the Fleet Debtor's Prison, she'd have considered a marriage proposal from the devil himself to buy herself free. Would her bridegroom look down upon her for it, too? She shuddered to wonder.

How the mysterious baron had heard of her predicament puzzled her, although she'd been told that oftentimes benefactors would offer for the inmates of such places as the Fleet. That hers was an offer of marriage, and not something more indelicate should have been a comfort, she supposed, but it wasn't. The plain fact was she had consented to wed a man she'd never even seen-by proxy out of the country, mind-and let a total stranger deliver her to him in this inhospitable place in exchange for payment of her debt. The exact details of the arrangement were yet to be disclosed. She knew nothing about the baron at all, except that their fathers had served together in India and that they were evidently close friends in those days. He had stressed that point, she imagined, in order to put her at ease. Somehow it hadn't. Aside from Mallory's insistence that all proprieties would be strictly observed, and the baron's well-written proposal that was too good to resist tucked away in her reticule, she had no idea what lay in store. It couldn't be worse than the hellish nightmare she'd just come from ... could it?

"Will the baron be in residence to greet us, at least, Mr. Mallory?" she said.

"Why don't you call me 'Alex', my dear," he replied. "We shall be seeing quite a bit of each other, you know. I'm often at the manor. I keep rooms there ... for when I'm not abroad on estate business." He popped another chuckle. "You'll likely see more of me than you will of your husband, truth to tell. He keeps to himself, does Nicholas-always has done. You can take me at my word at that. We go back a long way, Nicholas and I, since our school days actually."

"Then, why-"

"You will have to take the whys and wherefores up with him, my dear," he interrupted. "I am not at liberty to disclose his objectives."

"You haven't answered my first question, Mr. Mallory," she said, making sure he didn't miss her rejection of his offer to put them on a first name basis. "Is his lordship in residence now?"

He consulted his pocket watch. "Oh, he's in residence," he replied. "Whether he's available or not, I really couldn't say-" he tucked the watch away again inside his waistcoat "-but I shan't be. Once I've delivered you to the manor, I'm off to London for a sennight to collect his houseguest, and give you two some time to yourselves."

Sara hadn't missed the seductive implications in his tone, and said no more, the less discourse with this individual the better. She'd seen too many like him in the Fleet. She tugged her spencer into shape, and ordered her traveling dress of dove-gray twill. It had gone limp in the bone-chilling dampness that had run her through like a javelin since they sighted the sea. Though the coach windows were closed, she tasted the salt on her lips. The fog still blocked her view, but that was no hardship. It spared her the sight of the restless sea rolling up the coast below, creaming over the rocky shingle, and filling the tide pools that lived in the coves. It would have been a breathtaking sight by day. In the dark, it was a fearsome thing.

"Look," Mallory said, pointing, as the chaise careened around yet another turn. "Ravencliff. You see? We have arrived."

Sara's breath caught. The sight knit the bones rigid in her spine. The house was in darkness, a huge, rambling structure steeped in the fog to its turrets, looming three stories high above the courtyard. It was crowned with a pair of carved stone ravens, set like gargoyles in the eves. It looked deserted. All at once, the dissipating mist drifted inland, as though the carriage had dispersed it, and she gasped again. Rising from the sheer-faced sea wall, Ravencliff Manor looked as though it had been hewn from the rockbound cliff it crouched upon.

The coachman reined the horses in, locked the brake, and climbed down to set the steps. The mist had soaked him through from his wide-brimmed hat to the red traveling shawl he wore beneath his coat-the only splotch of color in the vicinity-glistening in the light of the coach lamps. Meanwhile, the groom, likewise drenched, hopped off the dickey behind, and began unloading luggage from the boot.

"Not those," Mallory spoke up, exiting the chaise, as the man began to un-strap the two portmanteaux on top. "They are mine. I'm not staying." He offered Sara his hand, and she stepped down into swirling mist that all but hid the Welsh blue stone crunching underfoot. "Come along, my dear," he said. "Unless I miss my guess, that's a flaw brewing, and I want to be on level ground again before it hits."

"A flaw?" she questioned.

"That's what the locals call the wicked storms that plague this coast, especially now, in spring. You'll not want to venture out in one. The winds will blow you right over the cliff, a mere wisp of a girl like yourself. You'd best keep away from the edge even in fair weather."

They had reached the entrance, and Mallory banged the brass knocker. After a moment, the door opened and they were greeted by an aging butler and two wigged footmen dressed in blue and gold livery. Mallory ushered her over the threshold, and raised her gloved hand to his lips.

"Forgive my want of conduct running off like this," he said, returning her hand to her dutifully kissed, "but all good things must come to an end. You're quite safe in the custody of Smythe here, Baroness Walraven. He will see to your every need. It has been my pleasure, but now I must away."

Sketching a bow, he bounded down the steps and disappeared inside the coach, whose wheels were rolling over the blue stone drive before he'd settled back against the squabs.

The footmen rushed past to fetch Sara's luggage. There wasn't much, one portmanteau and a small valise containing necessities bought in London. The rest was to be provided at Ravencliff. Once they'd brought them inside, the butler shut the door and slid the bolt.

"Take Baroness Walraven's bags up to the tapestry suite," he charged them. He turned to Sara. "If you will follow me, madam," he said, "Baron Walraven awaits you in the study."

So he was in residence. She almost wished he wasn't. What would he think of her in her damp, clinging traveling costume? She tried to tuck the wet tendrils plastered to her cheeks underneath her bonnet, but it was no use. There were just too many. To her surprise, since it had seemed so dark from outside, candles sat in branches on marble tables, and in wall sconces lit the Great Hall, and the corridors they traveled. They did little to chase the gloom. There was a palpable presence of sorrow in the house, in the stale, musty air, and the melancholy echo of their footfalls on the terrazzo floors.

Just for a second, Sara thought she heard the patter of dog's feet padding along behind. She turned, but there was nothing there, and after a moment, she turned back to find the butler watching.

"Is something amiss, madam?" he queried.

"I thought I heard a dog," she said, feeling foolish now that the corridor behind as far as she could see was vacant.

"The house groans with age now and again," he said, resuming his pace. "You'll hear all sorts of peculiar noises, especially when the wind picks up. It's naught to worry over."

When they reached the study door, Smythe knocked, but there was no response at first. It wasn't until he paused a moment and knocked a second time that the Baron bade them enter, and the butler ushered her into a large room, walled in books. Dark draperies were drawn at the windows. But for a branch of candles on a stand beside the wing chair Nicholas Walraven occupied, and a feeble fire burning in the hearth, the room was steeped in shadow. Sara flinched as the door snapped shut behind her in the butler's hand. The baron set the tome he'd been perusing aside and surged to his feet, taking her measure


Excerpted from The Ravencliff Bride by Dawn Thompson Copyright © 2004 by Dorchester Publishing. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Known primarily as a Regency romance novelist, Thompson has also written historical paranormals and Celtic and Norse Medievals incorporating the history, theology, legend, and lore of her heritage, which was the ongoing focus of her research for over 35 years. Her works were published by Dorchester, Kensington, and Highland Press. She was an active member of her local RWA chapter and won several regional writing contests. A columnist for select woman’s publications for many years, she was also an award-winning poet, artist, and needlework designer and illustrator. Thompson passed away in 2008.

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The Ravencliff Bride 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
bevstar More than 1 year ago
I was so looking forward to this that I very dissapointed when it didn't turn out like I had thought. I read all the other reviews and was expecting a really good book but it fell completely short. It's kind of hard to describe what's wrong with this book, I just can't seem to find the correct words for everything. The story flowed way too fast, all the conflict happening in what seems like only maybe a few weeks (two maybe three weeks) and there wasn't enough time for you to get to know the characters, to fall in love with them, so much that you cant get enough of them. I didn't like reading the parts with with Sara in them, she's annoying, doesn't listen to reason, and doesn't think before she acts. I thought it was kind of weird that she started loving Nero before she even started having for her own husband and that happened on the like the second night she was there. I really like Nicholas though and his alter ego Nero. What's not to love about a tragic, dark, hero that is trying everything he can to overcome a unfortunate situation that was thrust on him before he was even born. I wouldn't say this was the worst book that I have ever read but it won't be one that I'll ever read again. It was just an ok book and I'm just glad I got it used for .99 cents.
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Sherry Poplin More than 1 year ago
Great romantic gothic mystery! I love storys like this with the old castle and strange sounds n people. Great read, keeps u wanting more till the very end!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I noticed I never posted a review for this book and that made me sad. Dawn Thompson is my favourite author and I wish she had had a chance to know how much I loved this book. She is an amazing storyteller. One that deftly creates a Regency world like few can do. Laying over that is the strong Gothic paranormal that echoes back to books of 50 years ago, like Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. This was her debut romance novel and we all expected her to go on to write so many amazing books. And she did. But she's good too soon. She was a beautiful writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book and was instant Dawn Thompson fan! The woman is an amazing storyteller, and simply one of my favorite writers now. I loved this shapeshifter story. The Regency settling is dead on, and I adored the dog! Have a feeling Thompson patterned on a dog from real life. I simply love this story. Thompson cannot write fast enough. Another debut book that sounds what a wave of fresh talent in romance is emerging.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Dawn Thompson¿s The Ravencliff Bride, I didn¿t find the same old, same old. This historical, paranormal, love story had all the expected elements, but they were skewed inventively to create something new. Sara and Nicholas were appealing, genuine characters. Their confusion in an almost instant attraction ¿ how Nicholas has to fight against his feelings in order to protect Sara from himself and how Sara doesn¿t understand the hidden meaning behind Nicholas¿s behavior ¿ was delightfully and sensually portrayed. Nero, the furry, other hero captured my heart ¿ a perfect example of how a heroine can love two heroes at the same time. You have to read the book to understand the unexpected and honest spirituality of that possibility. I read this book some time ago, and it still resonates in my mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 1815, on the coast of Cornwall stands the forbidding estate Ravencliff Manor. At her rapid approach via carriage, it's new baroness, Sara, is not quite sure what she's gotten herself into. A marriage by proxy, while not wholly uncommon, was still a rather odd way to secure a husband. The phrase `beggars can't be choosers' holds true in Sarah's case as her husband literally purchased her freedom from the bowels of the Fleet, London's notorious debtors prison. The air of intrigue and mystery only thickens when she meets her devastatingly handsome husband, Nicholas and the two settle into an uncomfortable routine. Frequent visits by a dog, Nero, triggers a chain of events that embroil Sara into a world of mystery and danger. All is not right in the dark, twisted maze of Ravencliff Manor, and Sara is quite capable of shaking the tenuous control Nicholas thinks he wields. Thompson's debut novel is a rich tapestry of suspenseful romance and gripping supernatural details. While readers will certainly feel the sizzling romance between Sara and Nicholas, the true focus is the nature of Nicholas's 'illness', which keeps him confined to his estate for the most part. Directly related to his illness, and the growing unraveling of his control over it, is his attraction for Sara. It triggers his violent tendencies in a way he'd not anticipated. As he continues to fight his lust for his new bride, Sara draws ever closer to his secret and to the danger that snaps and growls literally within arms reach. My first read by Thompson was her vividly imaginative 'The Waterlord', and I truly felt nothing could top its sensational plot or characters. 'The Ravencliff Bride' though comes through to readers in a completely different way, and Thompson's voice is clearly able to switch between stories and invoke within each a new and refreshing experience each time. I am anxious now to see what she brings us with her next novel, 'The Falcon's Bride'. A wonderfully talented romance writer, Ms. Thompson is not one to be missed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In the bowels of debtor's prison, Sara Ponsonby receives a most unusual offer. By 'arrangement,' she will be freed from prison if she agrees to marry Baron Nicholas Walraven. The proposal, however, is not rendered by the Baron, but by his steward Alexander Mallory, who will marry her by proxy in Scotland, such marriages now forbidden in England. Loathe to remain in the disgusting confines of prison, she accepts. All too soon, Sara discovers herself ensnared in another type of prison. One she must use every ounce of cunning and love within her to escape. In an otherworldly tale of suspense, intrigue, and deception, Dawn Thompson delivers a never-to-be-forgotten thrust into the unknown. Good and evil, love and hate abound within the pages of The Ravencliff Bride. A wonderfully written story by Ms. Thompson assures that this reader will be watching for more stories by this marvelous writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dawn Thompson's latest is a true 'keeper'. I LOVED THIS BOOK! The Ravencliff Bride has, what could quite possibly be, the best first chapter I've ever read! Right from the beginning, Dawn reels you in and keeps you hooked! It tells the tale of brooding hero, Nicholas Walraven, and his new bride, Sarah, who cannot fathom why such a handsome, wealthy man would need to buy a wife. After her first few nights at Ravencliff manor Sarah, begins to understand that things, where her husband's concerned, are not what they seem. But will she learn too late that, in her quest to uncover the truth behind Nicholas's secret, she risks losing much more than just her heart in the process? This book was a joy to read! The characters, even the hairy ones, are well written and wonderfully developed. For anyone looking for an intriguing paranormal/gothic romance that offers a slightly different story line than what's available now, I highly recommend this book. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book! Couldn't put it down and finished it in two days. Relationship between hero and heroine was very well written. Hope to read more by this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Without a doubt, Dawn Thompson¿s venture into the paranormal world should cause a big celebration for fans of this genre! With clean writing and a highly imaginative plot keeping you on the edge of your seat from first page to the last, this is a genuine treat and not to be missed! Though she had been saved from debtor¿s prison and rescued out of the Fleet, by a fortuitous but unusual request for her hand in marriage by proxy - from a man she¿d never met Sara knew she should be grateful. More than a bit anxious on the ride to meet her husband the new Baroness Walraven viewed a monstrous looking edifice bathed in darkness ¿ Ravencliff. As she arrived at the front door of this ominous looking structure Sara could only think - she would finally meet the mysterious man who was her husband. At first glance, Sara¿s imagination could never have conjured up the gorgeously attractive man that was Nicolas Walraven. Although she was certainly attracted, she could also tell from his burning eyes that he felt the same, so Sara found his `ground rules¿ of their marriage not only unusual but mystifying. The mystery of why he had plucked her out of prison, when he obviously could have had his pick of suitable brides was intensified. Told there would be no physical contact between them, Sara was more than willing to embrace the one living being that seemed to genuinely like her, the wolf-like dog Nero! When Nero saves her from being raped by Nicolas¿ childhood friend she is determined to keep Nero safe from the people who seem to want to see him gone ¿ including her husband. It soon becomes apparent to Nicolas and his ever-present valet Mills, that Sara¿s attachment to Nero could get her killed or worse. Nicolas must now make a life altering decision, whether to trust and reveal his darkest secret knowing that it may lose him the woman he has come to love. --- Impressive and moody, Thompson¿s book instantly intrigued me from the very beginning with dark tones and eerie imagery reminiscent of the great gothic novels penned by du Maurier and Holt. No doubt at all ¿ this ¿ is ¿ HIGHLY RECOMMENDED reading offering the reader both a smorgasbord of emotions coupled with an absolute dream of a love story!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sara is the daughter of a knight. The late Sir Jacob Ponsonby left massive debts when he died. The Crown took all, but it was not enough to pay the full amount. Sara found herself in Fleet Prison. ......................... After six months, she receives and accepts an offer from Baron Nicholas Walraven. They join in a 'mutually beneficial bargain'. What this really means is that they wed by proxy and she rides in a coach up the Cornish coast to meet her new husband at Ravencliff Manor. All the baron wishes is for her to be a companion and act as hostess for any guests he may entertain. Entertaining is rare Nicholas, so Sara would not have much to do at Ravencliff. Her presence would stop society from sending him invitations in hopes of drawing him out of seclusion and marrying him to their daughters. Sara's marriage to Nicholas is to be in name only. The last thing Nicholas wants is children. The possibly of spreading the madness within his blood is too terrifying a thought for him to endure. However, Nicholas never thought that just by being near Sara he would want to throw caution to the winds. ......................... Sara knows something is wrong with her new husband. The man is sending her mixed signals. One minute he cannot abide for her to even touch him, the next he is staring at her with such longing. If it was not for the huge dog, Nero, she would have gone insane. Nero looks more like a wolf than dog to Sara. Nero seems to actually understand her words. The intelligence behind those eyes are amazing. Even though Nicholas told her not to become attached to the dog, Sara cannot resist. The servants all fear the animal, except for Mills, Nicholas's valet, who seems to know a lot more about her husband than anyone else. ............... When Nicholas's childhood friend, Alexander Mallory, attacks Sara in the middle of the night it is Nero that saves her. Yet in doing so, Nero makes it imperative that Nicholas tell Sara his most dark secrets. ..................... ***** If you have ever read one of those awesome Gothic Romances of long ago, then you already understand the flavor this story contains. There are so few novels out today that grabs the reader instantly and holds onto them tighter than steel until the last page has been turned. Author Dawn Thompson has written such a novel here. For those of you too young to have ever had the pleasure of reading a Gothic, I strongly urge you to purchase this gem and give it a try. There is no telling how long before the world will be treated to such a jewel as this tale. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! *****