Desperate for coin, Lady Mariel Crawford enters an archery contest as a boy but despite her unmatched skill she loses in a tie to the intriguing, frustrating, and very handsome Earl of Huntington. Robert of Huntington seems like any other young philanderer and Mariel, fleeing a cruel father, trusts no man. Yet Robert proves to have a softer side that threatens her resolve to remain alone and unattached.
When Robert bests a young woman at a tourney, his curiosity deepens when he realizes she is the daughter of the ruthless Beast of Ayr. And when he learns that Mariel’s father conspires with the Sheriff of Nottingham Robert is compelled to protect her. Even if it means lying. Even if it means the only way he can save her is by marrying her. He’s willing to lose everything to guard the Scottish wildling who has pierced his heart.
Each book in the Ladies of Scotland series is a STANDALONE story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Books in the series
An Earl for the Archeress
The Maiden's Defender
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East Anglia, November, Anno Domini, 1190
It was not the first time Mariel had arrived at a tournament to find no accommodations for unescorted, unmarried women. This one was no different. She had ridden three days to reach the fair, only to be relegated to the servants' tent. And today, with a sore neck from sleeping poorly on the ground with a tree root jutting into her back, she needed to register as a contestant. A whole other challenge. For women were forbidden from participating.
The fair bustled with children racing to a puppet theater and buying buns from a vendor set up amid other challenges, like the stone toss and cart hauling. The children's joust was taking place atop a padded beam over a pile of hay, young boys wielding wooden wasters instead of swords. And then there were the other tourney games. Stoolball was set to begin late morning, and Shinty was to be played the following day before the final rounds of the joust.
Ladies wearing velvet finery and embroidered overgowns, imported from France, meandered through the market, purchasing wares from local artisans. The sisters of Barking Abbey had traveled from London to sell dried herbs and embroidered kerchiefs. Men also milled about, indulging their ladies or inspecting crafts for purchase, leather pouches and metal goods, or they gathered around the stables to examine the horseflesh for sale.
But the knights, hulking warriors draped in surcoats denoting their colorful standards, were the most intimidating of the visitors. They seldom wasted time amongst the shopping stalls when there was a joust to prepare for, unless a particular lady, whose favors he wore, was looking at adornments. That, or they needed supplies. The knights, boxy and thick from carrying so much armor, were hardened men with crooked noses from inevitable breaks, their skin like leather. Sometimes there was a handsome one in the bunch, as Mariel knew well.
She pushed her way through the throngs of revelers until she reached the green-and-black striped archery tent fringed with crenulated trim. With a coin purse cinched about her wrist, she felt her coif to ensure it was in place, a worn hood of velvet with beaded trim that covered all of her hair except for the tail of her braid. It was as good as she could manage with her limited privacy and supplies. Smoothing the wrinkles from her skirts, she approached the tent.
A guard for the Earl of Huntington, a huge man by the look of it, stepped in front of her.
"No ladies permitted, Miss," he said, shifting his quarterstaff so that it blocked her route around him.
"But I need ..." She cut herself off. Her first reaction was always to come across as brash. Be demure, she reminded herself, fixing a smile on her face, and don't forget your best English accent. "Sire, I have been tasked with entering my brother into the archery contest. I have coin to back up his intent."
"Why did he not come himself?"
She bowed her head. "He is but a lad and shy at that. Only five and ten, but with the expertise of a marksman. He deserves to be entered, but as you can imagine, with so many men who are stronger and more experienced in attendance, well, it's intimidating." She smiled with a flirtatious bat of the eyes and an obvious assessment of the guard's stronger and more experienced physique. Stronger was an understatement. The man was as tall as a tower and as broad as a battlement, with dusty blond hair and chiseled features. "Surely you can understand and make one wee" — she held her finger and thumb together to indicate her point — "exception."
The soldier looked into her bright green eyes, his posture straightening, and grinned.
"I suppose I see no harm in one exception, Miss."
She placed a hand on his arm and squeezed it, feeling her cheek dimple with a teasing grin. "My thanks, kind sire."
His grin broadened, revealing fairly straight, clean teeth. "Should you be available for a walk this evening, I would be much obliged," he offered, though the twinkle in his eyes suggested he might enjoy a kiss or more.
"If my brother has no need of me, then perhaps I could sneak away," she answered, and she couldn't help but think he indeed was a well-featured fellow.
"I'm off duty after the archery competition," he added, pulling back the flap for her. "I shall wait for you."
She brushed by him. A group of men sharing a goblet of wine together stood behind a desk positioned upon an imported carpet, a parchment ledger, quill pen, and inkwell placed neatly on its surface. Goodness, but height must be a requirement for the men at this fair. Surely there was a short one somewhere, though she had yet to find him. She straightened her shoulders as one by one they looked her way and their conversation and laughter ceased.
"Lady," an older, distinguished man commenced, horribly fat, if truth be told. "I fear you're in the wrong place. The guard should have directed you elsewhere."
"I assure you I'm in the right place, my lord." She nodded, giving a practiced but brief curtsy. She strode to the desk and clasped her hands together. "My brother, Elmer, wishes to be entered into the archery competition. I have come on his behalf to see that he is registered."
All the men regarded her now. Her gaze skittered over them, a quick assessment she had learned long ago was necessary to decide any dangers. She could not outfight a large group of trained men, but she could usually outsmart them. Aside from the fat one addressing her, a man who clearly only nocked an arrow when the need for food arose — if he could even shoot; she smirked — the two others were relatively plain. Another donned a cloak embroidered with scarlet threading and sported a well-groomed beard, dark and trimmed, a handsome fellow.
Yet the hazel gaze of a brown-haired gent caught her eye. He is assessing me as I am him. He was tall, narrow of waist, and wide of shoulder. His tunic was somewhat untucked from his trousers and a leather coat hung open, revealing the gilded hilt of a sword, and — oh, now she blushed — quite the well-endowed codpiece.
He noticed her perusal, too, and lifted the corner of his mouth with humor.
And while all others had been required to disarm, she noted, glancing to the stack beside the flap, the hazel-eyed man retained his weapons: a dagger in his boot, one peeking from his sleeve, another opposite his sword, tucked into his belt and shielded by his coat, if the bulge at his hip was any indication. Though his disheveled clothing made no statement to his rank or title, it was finely tailored. He nodded once and gave a discreet salute with his goblet, watching her intently as she made her observations of his person.
Mariel returned her attention to the man now positioned behind his ledger.
"'Tis unconventional for a woman to enter on a man's behalf," he said.
Mariel tittered her most lady-like giggle. "He is hardly a man, my lord. A lad still, who has yet to have his final growth spurt and is nervous around so many accomplished men ... such as yourself."
"No man below the age of four and ten may enter," the lord replied, his tone hardening.
"Perfect. Elmer is five and ten." She included her soft smile this time. A smile that she had perfected to make men think a kiss was waiting on her lips. "Where should I sign? And the entrance fee is two shillings, no?" "The contestant must register. Tell your brother to come in person and declare himself. Otherwise, leave. Men are conducting business here."
She heard the gossiping of a huddle of women nearing the tent. They bustled through the flap, silencing when they saw her. Mariel turned to see that they were scantily-clad prostitutes. She turned slowly back to face the men and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. It had always been her younger sister's complaint that she rolled them overmuch, thus inviting their father's wrath to descend upon her.
"Oh yes, gentle lords. Conducting business indeed. Is that what we call swiving now?"
A few of the men appeared to appreciate her sense of humor and chuckled.
"Woman, you test my patience." The fat man growled.
"But my brother deserves to be entered."
"I told you. He must come in person. No other negotiations!"
"Let her register him," the hazel-eyed man with the handsome codpiece spoke, cutting off her complaint.
She looked back at him and their eyes connected. His gaze glittered with amusement even though his face was impassive.
"I beg your pardon, sire," said his man.
"I said, let her register him. If anything, this should make for a good mystery."
"Your father would have tossed her out," the man said.
"Or tossed her in his bed," muttered the one with the scarlet cloak as he took another drink.
"My dear man, Wesley. My father is dead. You should need no other reminder than that." The hazel-eyed man's words remained good-natured, but Mariel heard the threat clearly. "Miss." He turned to her. "See that Elmer arrives promptly after the nooning meal to the champ de tir."
Mariel forced a polite nod and attempted to smile again, but she knew it looked strained at best. "Thank you, my lord. As I was asking, is it two shillings?" The stodgy man keeping the ledgers folded his arms with indignation. "Three."
"But I have it on account from the other contestants that the fee is only two."
"Those archers registered themselves in person. Elmer did not. Therefore, it's three shillings for being a coward. Take it or leave it."
She scrutinized the older man's face. Anger boiled in her chest as the other men watched, smirked, and shared superior looks with one another. All except the man with hazel eyes and wavy brown hair hanging to his chin in roguish disarray. He was studying her, and she couldn't help but think he could read her indecision about parting with her coin. That, and he kept looking at her hands. Did he suspect?
She pondered him, feeling the urge to work the ends of her ribbon tied about her wrist with nervous fingertips. On an exhale, she opened her purse strings and pulled out the last three shillings to her name. "Very well. If I must. Though I would like it noted that your tactic is unfair."
"Say what you like, girl, as long as you remove yourself first."
That is it. She fumed. With her cheeks blooming heat and a scowl springing to life, she slapped the three coins onto the table. Without asking, she shifted his ledger to her and dipped the quill in the ink to scrawl the name Elmer Crawford.
"Chivalry is apparently dead, old man, and you are nothing but a highway robber," she snapped, and whirled around to shove her way through the prostitutes blocking the exit. "There! I am removed!"
"Crazed wench," said the bookkeeper, shaking his head. "I bet she's death to live with, Lord Huntington."
"Quite the saucy one," said the man with the scarlet cloak. "Subduing her abed would be an entertaining challenge."
"A job you are willing to burden yourself with, no doubt," jested one of the other men. "If not for her forked tongue, she was quite lovely. Lower ranking, if her gown is any indication. Perhaps a barony. Perchance that means she can be trifled with."
Lord Huntington walked toward the tent flap and pulled it back, watching the woman in the velvet and beaded coif march away, then glanced at his cousin in the scarlet-trimmed cloak who understood all too well the smile tugging up the corner of his mouth. The girl had been pretty, trimly shaped, unlike the voluptuous whores now making eyes at him, though her breasts were of a womanly size, soft and lush. He would have liked to have seen her hair, too, hidden as it was.
"A mystery indeed," he said under his breath, then passed his goblet to the nearest set of hands. "Well, men. I make it a point to know all the participants in a contest. I should like to meet this Elmer." He let the tent flap fall shut behind him and strode after her.
"So much for a meal," Mariel grumbled.
She had managed to scarf down some scraps from the servants' tent the night before but had counted on her last coin to purchase a few buns, some apples, and a turkey leg. It had been several days since she had eaten a filling meal. Her stomach growled just thinking about it.
She found her saddle packs where she had left them and hoisted them onto her shoulders. Now she needed to find a hiding place to change out of her bloody gown. She hated the corset. A restriction. Restrictions, whether they be a corset or a father's edicts, were only designed to control a woman. And that kind of control had no place in Mariel's life.
As she made her way toward the woods from the fair in the most surreptitious way possible, hoping to find a secluded copse of trees, she heard clanking, and sensed someone's presence. She turned to look over her shoulder. The man with hazel eyes and perfectly disheveled hair jogged to a halt not far from her, his sword slapping his thigh.
She gave him her full attention and lifted her chin, making a note of her dagger down her bodice and one more in her gown pocket. She would not be able to best him in a duel, but she might manage to escape. Yet, she didn't perceive that he posed a threat.
"So that's it? You toss three shillings into our coffers and then depart?" he asked.
"I search for a bit of privacy. The incessant racket down there is enough to make any sane person mad."
He chuckled. Lo, but don't his cheeks crease in the most handsome way. The early light made his eyes sparkle, too, an olive green flecked with tan and brown, sitting low on the morning horizon as the sun was doing. She rolled her eyes. A pretty face was a pretty face, nothing more, and there was no reason to take notice of his.
"Do I irritate you?" he asked, walking closer.
"No. Why?" she replied.
"The way you rolled your eyes to heaven would suggest otherwise."
Dear Lord, but did I actually roll my eyes? She had thought it a sentiment only in her head.
"I'm sorry. I was thinking of something else."
He smirked and his brows knitted together, thick and arching over the most perfectly cut cheeks and jaw. That wasn't true. His face was littered with little scars, indicative of good training or perhaps fighting. But he was not a knight, that much was certain. Knighted, probably, but not a warrior. His body had not developed the breadth of a barrel like the other knights whose bones were as robust as well-made ale.
"Do you always move about so freely without escort?" he pressed.
"As a matter-o-fact, I do." She kept her chin lifted as his eyes did an involuntary glance at her chest, then her body in general.
"You should be careful, Miss. If Elmer has any good sense, he would not allow you to cavort about a fair alone. Rogues lie in wait to seduce fetching faces such as yours," he teased. "And thieves plague these forests. They're said to seep out of the trees, attack their quarry, make off with bags of coin, and disappear again like wraiths. William de Wendenal has indeed complained of these attacks more than once. I can't imagine how they would ravage a woman such as you."
She knew about William de Wendenal, King Richard's Sheriff of Nottingham, who had been appointed to uphold the laws upon the king's departure for the Crusades. Indeed, she had successfully eluded him a few times as his men had stalked the countryside in search of law-breakers. His reputation as a corrupt official who burdened the people of England with unfair taxes and increased rents was widespread. Families, rich and poor, had all fallen victim to him.
"Considering I'm the older sibling, I've never thought it wise to submit to the lad's inferior protective skills," she said. "And I assure you, a thief would not score much in the way of valuables from me."
"Have you no parents to ensure your safety?" She wanted to laugh at that remark. She did indeed have a father, though her safety was not his chief concern. Her mouse of a mother had languished in fear of her father, Harold Crawford, the Sheriff of Ayrshire, before she'd died. A cruel man, her father had earned the nickname The Beast of Ayr. And her sister ...
Oh my wee sister! Just the thought of her made the pain in Mariel's heart ache anew. Madeline was a beauty — soft, demure, obedient, and quiet. So quiet, she was all but a shadow, and because Mariel was a horrible older sister, she had left Madeline behind to fend off their father on her own.
Excerpted from "An Earl for an Archeress"
Copyright © 2017 E. Elizabeth Watson.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Definitely a different take on Robin Hood! Mariel, a strong but wary skilly archeress, leaves her abusive father to avoid an abusive marriage. She ends up in Robert's lands and an unlikely relationship develops. Both character's have pasts they are trying to break from so is this a foundation for them to bond over? Her archery skills lead to an interesting proposal and the band of merry men is seen in action. Always on the run from her father she cannot allow anything to delay her. Mariel was such an interesting charater, strong, fiercely independent but wary and lonely. Robert has such strong desires to help those in need and trusts easily. As we know it has a HEA but the road there was an interesting ride. If you enjoy Robin Hoode and/or historical romance give this a read!
What a lovely read. I like strong female characters, but I love strong female leads with visible flaws. Mariel is clever, resourceful, a great archeress…and absolutely terrified of her father which she is very open about to Robert. It was refreshing to read and made Mariel all that more endearing despite her also trying to prove repeatedly that she can “take care of herself.” Yes, that age old trope. That being said, there are few men worthy of her, but Robert is definitely one of them. Faced with obstacles on all sides, Robert handles them all with ease and dignity all while trying to protect Mariel and not fall for her. Historical romance can be hit or miss. With so many of them out there, it can be overwhelming to weed out the good ones. AEftA is great read worth your time. While not an original plotline, Watson’s breathes life into it fueled by dynamic characters and a powerful love story you can’t help but root for.
This was a great story about strength under pressure. I loved that Mariel was a woman who took matters into her own hands and got out of an abusive situation. I loved Robert's protective nature over Mariel. Between her sass and his wit, there is some very enjoyable and humorous banter between the two of them. This was a great reimagining of a Robin Hood-esque type of romance with interesting characters and a plot line that was engaging and moved along at just the right pace. *I received a complimentary ARC of this book from NetGalley & Entangled Publishing, LLC in order to read and provide a voluntary, unbiased and honest review, should I choose to do so.
I received a free book and voluntarily chose to review it. LOVED it! Mariel is my strong woman in this story and is probably the strongest since I started looking for them. The time is AD 1190 and almost everything is against women. The only safe place is a nunnery and that is not always safe either. About a third of the way in the book I said to myself “Nottingham? Robert? Little John?” If this is not familiar to you, look it up. There should be numerous references. I don’t want to spoil it for you. I can’t believe it took me that long to catch it. Maybe it was Mariel’s name that caused the problem.
'An Earl for the Archeress' by E. Elizabeth Watson is the First Book in the New Series called, "The Ladies of Scotland". This is the story of Mariel Crawford and Robert, the Earl of Huntington. Mariel is on the run from her abuse father, Laird, and Sheriff of Ayr in Scotland. As the oldest daughter and child he has been grooming her and trying to beat her strong. Now, Mariel has left her younger sister who doesn't get the raft that she gets alone. But Mariel felt she had no choice. While hiding out she has been earning money in Archery contest. When she is set to compete in Robert's contest she seems to loose to him because of a man in his employee says that Robert won with they actually both tied. Mariel sneaks away from the game after 'losing' to make her way from there but is caught days later by Robert's men who throw her in the dungeon. Robert knows that he needs to find 'Elmer' who is actually lady Mariel. Robert feels guilt over the unjust that was given to Mariel in the game. When he sees his men being cruel to "Elmer" he quickly goes forth and takes control. But what will happen with the truth of Elmer/Mariel comes out. Will Mariel move past the hurt her father caused her and now she feels that Robert is of the same cloth as her father. This book was impossible to put down! Loved it. Can't wait to read more from this author and this sires. "My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read."
Well, I completely missed the reference to the Sheriff of Nottingham in the blurb when I picked this one up, probably because I was already too excited about the fact the heroine was an archeress because I freaking LOVE tomboys in historicals! So it came as a very pleasant surprise when I started reading and discovered it was a Robin Hood retelling! ZOMG! Did anyone else absolutely love the Kevin Costner movie as a kid? With the Bryan Adams theme song that was number one in the UK for about a million years? Don't care. Still love it. Still mumble along to it when it comes on the radio. So, the Robin Hood aspect really upped my enjoyment of this book, and also served to make it very unlike any other Scottish Romance I've read so far. And I've read a few. The adventures of Robert's band of merry men took up a little bit of page time instead of it being solely about the romance, which for me was a plus as Scottish Romances can get a bit samey in their historical detailing. I can only read about so many clans, keeps, and chieftains before I'm like yep, yep, and then what happened? Robert and Mariel were both great characters. What made Mariel a particularly great tomboy character was that it was borne of necessity, not brattishness. Her father, the Sheriff of Ayrshire, was such an abusive brute that when he threatened to marry her off to someone just as heinnous and even older than himself, she ran. And to earn some coin and fend for herself, she competed in archery competitions disguised as a young man. Which is where she meets Robert! Hee hee! Robert was great. He's a bit of a rogue with a cheeky smile and, due to his looks and title, he's never been short of female company. So it's awesome to see how besotted he becomes with the one woman who's litterally having none of it. His charm is wasted on her because she's just too wary and too independant at this point to be wowed by his offers of protection as most other ladies would be. The romance was well-orchestrated, with just the right amount of steam - although I could have done without hearing about Robert's codpiece quite so often. The plot was pleasantly entertaining and in good balance to the love story, and all the little Robin Hood touches were the cherry on top. Overall, An Earl for the Archeress is a sweet and merry tale of love, trust and friendship that all readers of Historical and Scottish Romance would enjoy.
Mariel Crawford is an exceptional archer, but she is a woman and not allowed to participate in tourneys, so she becomes her brother, Elmer. The earl is a little unconventional and knows she is a woman but says nothing. The surroundings are so well described. The characters make you laugh, cry and feel sad, They are so realistic. The story is set in King Arthur's time, he is away on the 13th crusade, but is expected back soon.. The plot is complex, so much is happening in this story. The author has taken all the bits and pieces, compiled them and created a smooth, even paced and amazing tale. With her writing ,she has done a great job of drawing you in and keeping your attention thru out. I loved it. Their elopement was simple but lovely. It is racy but so very good a book. There were other momentous moments for some reason this one sticks out. I hope you love it as much as I did. I received this from Net Galley and voluntarily reviewed.
Wow. What a brilliant take of a Robin Hood story. Better! Loved it! Superb writing, wonderful characters I fell in love with from the start, both are just the type I characters I like best. Robert is honourable, intelligent and protective (love how he got really protective AND possessive of Mariel) with a sense of humour not to mention loads of charm. Mariel is a heck of a sassy heroine. She matches him in every aspect, and is just as skilled as archer. The best part being that Robert realizes this from the start and wants her to be very much part of his life as a partner. He doesn’t feel intimidated by her obvious intelligence or skill. Their interaction is amazingly entertaining. "You roll your eyes heavenward often woman. I wonder if God has taken notice yet." (There is a lot of facetious eye rolling that is hilarious) Despite the belligerent and distrustful facade Mariel projects, she shields a very vulnerable "heart that could not take the pain of caring for someone who would let her down" after being badly hurt by her father. "she needed the barbs she wrapped herself within, needed to protect the desperation kept locked in her heart for fear of it weakening her" Robert is just as steadfast in his persistence to win her over. A definite keeper. After reading this (my 1st from this author), I looked up her back-list. What have I missed?! ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Romance set in 1190 with a twist on the Robin Hood theme sees Mariel and Robert tiptoeing around the best way to keep her safe from her abusive father who is not only set on taming her but also desirous of marrying her off to someone that will further his political aspirations. Robert and Mariel seem well matched in more ways than one BUT there are many things against them and the possibility of them spending time together in the future – whether or not they will conquer all is what this story is about. Well, it also introduces Rob’s band of merry men, Mariel’s sister, someone that has a thing for Mariel’s sister, some other women that may or may not show up in future books and a fun story to read set in the medieval time period. I did have a quibble or two about whether or not codpieces and corsets were actually in use in 1190 and even though I googled was not able to find out for sure…but the question did send me hunting for information. What I liked: * Both Mariel and Robert are strong in mind and body and willing to state their minds * Mariel was willing to leave everything to get away from her father * Both, though highborn, saw the needs of those less fortunate * Everything was not easy for the two of them * The side characters were intriguing * I wondered who the next book in the series would be about * The writing style * The villains were heinous and deserved their comeuppance * The camaraderie of Robert and his followers What I didn’t like: * Mariel always haring off like a rabbit when afraid * Mariel’s lack of trust in Robert although it might be reasonable considering her past * Her sister’s choice at the end of the book (unless she stars in the next book and all works out well for her) Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the ARC – This is my honest review. 4.5 Stars
It's one of those books which grab your interest right from the beginning, and you can't help but give it your full attention. The story is very engaging, and it kept me engrossed until the very end. Mariel and Robert are a perfect couple, both living outside of society's rules. Mariel doesn't want to be controlled by men and Robert has no intention of controlling a woman. Mariel ran away from home to avoid marriage to an English brute. Also she is tired of her father's abusive behavior. Now she must learn to survive on her own, a woman in man's world fending for herself. But so far she is doing just fine. She has avoided being captured by her father, and also kept herself fed. Next step is to get enough money so that she can go far away and never has to fear her father, or any many, ever again. Robert is intrigued by the woman who claims to be entering Archery contest on her brother's behalf. Soon he finds out her secret but he is even more attracted to her afterwards. He hopes that he can convince her to stay with him. He can provide her with shelter and much more.... but will the stubborn woman agree or not is another question entirely.... I loved it and would be recommending it to all historical fans. It's definitely something worth reading.