Lady Elizabet Armstrong had donned a disguise in an attempt to free her brother from Ravenmoor's dungeons. Although intimidated by the confident Englishman with his well-honed muscles and beguiling eyes, she cannot refuse his offer.
Nicholas senses that his new squire is not what he seems. His gentle attempts to break through the boy's defenses leave Elizabet powerless to stem the desire that engulfs her. And when the truth is exposed, she'll have to trust in Nicholas's honor to help her people-and to surrender to his touch...
"Cosby gives you it all-passion, danger, lush history and a touch of magic. Excellent reading." -Hannah Howell, New York Times bestselling author
"A sexy new voice in historical romance. Scottish historicals have a bright new star (in Diana Cosby)." -Sandra Hill, USA Today bestselling author
"Diana Cosby writes wonderful historical romance!" -Susan King
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.62(d)|
Read an Excerpt
An Oath Taken
By Diana Cosby
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Diana Cosby
All rights reserved.
England/Scotland border, August 1291
Sir Nicholas Beringar, castellan to Ravenmoor Castle, halted his steed near the sheer cliffs. Streaks of afternoon sunlight collided to create a prism across the narrow inlet, igniting a wash of purple and gold across the savage land. "'Tis magnificent."
"Indeed," Sir Jon, his most trusted knight, replied as he drew his mount to a stop alongside. "'Tis understandable why men would lose their hearts to the Scottish borderlands."
"And fight with their last breath to keep it," Nicholas added, in awe of the beauty of this untamed wilderness, a land torn asunder by the death of King Alexander III. "How tragic that in the Scots' strife to name their new king, clan has turned against clan. Only through the church's intercession does the fragile bond of unity exist."
Jon grimaced. "For now."
"Indeed. I pray King Edward's intervention will aid the Scots in choosing their next king. Meanwhile, my duty remains to rebuild Ravenmoor Castle and end the restlessness of the Scots along the western border."
"As well as the reiving."
"Aye," Nicholas agreed. "God's teeth, I have added patrols, yet sheep and cattle are disappearing at an alarming rate. Within the past two days, the reivers are growing bolder, and have robbed travelers on Ravenmoor land."
Jon nodded. "It makes no sense. The increased guard should have quelled their thievery, not incited further plundering." With a grimace Nicholas glanced toward his knights resting their mounts a short distance away. "We will uncover no answers bartering words. 'Tis time to return to Ravenmoor Castle. Take the men and go. I shall be along posthaste."
Concern darkened his friend's eyes. "I will leave two knights to accompany you."
"No." Nicholas studied the chiseled landscape to the west that transformed into rolling fields of thick grass and peat. "We completed rounds over Ravenmoor's land but moments ago. No one is about." And he needed time to think. Alone.
"As you wish." Sir Jon cantered to the waiting knights, waved them to follow.
The clatter of hooves softened, becoming muted as his men reached the turfed lowland. Several moments later they became but a distant fleck, then disappeared into the dense swath of forest beyond.
Nicholas rubbed his brow to quell the throbbing in his head. He must halt the lawless acts of the reivers. As well, he must win the trust of the Scots who remained in Ravenmoor Castle since King Edward had claimed it for his own over a year ago. A challenge, considering the reception he'd had this morning. Before he and his men had departed on rounds along Ravenmoor's border, he'd made a point to speak with several of the remaining Scottish tenants. Their responses had been clipped and cold. All had eyed him with distrust. A reaction that, however much he'd worked to change since his arrival a sennight past, remained.
Sadly, the reason was damnably clear. As the new castellan of Ravenmoor Castle, he'd taken a brief tour of their living quarters. Rotting boards and crumbling foundations were only the beginning of the deplorable conditions.
Closer inspection of the castle revealed a general state of disrepair compounded by the people's inadequate clothing, meager resources, and empty larder, barren except for a few containers of herbs. A quick review of the ledgers revealed misappropriation of funds and abuse of power by the previous castellan, Sir Renaud. Had the knight stood before him, Nicholas would have shackled him and hauled him before King Edward to answer for his gross neglect.
The detailed reports Sir Renaud had sent to the king bespoke his pious efforts to strengthen relations with the Scots and rebuild Ravenmoor Castle. Had he used the money for his own greedy ventures instead? Or did another reason lay behind the previous castellan's betrayal to his king? Whatever the reason, Sir Renaud chose to ignore King Edward's command to appear before him with a detailed report of the castle's status.
And had paid with his life.
A death served by the neighboring Scots during the latest attack.
Perhaps justice existed after all. With a grimace, Nicholas turned his steed toward Ravenmoor Castle. Mud sucked at his mount's hooves as he skirted the bog, rich with the fragrance of sedge and peat that bordered the marsh. Then he guided him up the gradual incline toward a stand of trees.
However long he pondered his findings, Nicholas discerned no motive as to why Sir Renaud would lie to their king except greed. Neither could he determine the reason for the escalation in the number of attacks on Ravenmoor's borders in recent days.
God's teeth, 'twas a mess. He needed time to rebuild Ravenmoor Castle and gain the Scottish residents' trust, except the deteriorating state of affairs between England and Scotland usurped that luxury.
So, he would focus on what he could control. With the outer defenses in place, over the next few days he would review the castle's ledgers in depth. They should provide a degree of insight into the actual state of affairs. Or, at least a clue as to how to approach the wariness of the surrounding Scots.
A light breeze sifted over the hills, spilled through the stand of thick elm and oak in his path. He glanced west. His men should be arriving at Ravenmoor Castle by now and plenty of work remained to be done. Enjoying the beauty of the borderlands would come later.
Nicholas donned his helm and kicked his mount into a canter.
Without warning an arrow hissed past his head, missing him by inches.
"Bedamned!" Turf flew as Nicholas reined his steed hard to the left. He yanked his sword free and scoured the dense stand of trees for charging men.
The hair on the back of his neck prickled. Precious seconds passed. The expected attack, the clank of metal and the flash of blades as warriors stormed from behind the trees, never came. Who'd fired the arrow? Nicholas kicked his steed forward. He'd bloody find out.
"Halt or the next arrow will find its mark," a lad's rough burr commanded.
"State your name!" Nicholas called as he reined in his mount. He scanned the leaf and branch shield to pinpoint the youth's position. Was he alone? If not, how many others held their bows trained on him?
A branch quivered.
Nicholas searched the limb.
The tip of a black boot peeked from the leaves.
"You are surrounded," the lad warned. The leaves on a nearby tree shook in confirmation. "Throw down your gold and you will nae be harmed."
Nicholas scoured the nearby elm to locate the would-be accomplices, and paused in disbelief. Entwined within the branches and extending through several surrounding trees ran a network of blackened string, all leading back to the youth. A clever ploy to convince his mark that additional men filled the trees.
Compassion for the Scottish lad assailed him. He understood all too well how hard times could alter a life irrevocably. Where were his parents? Had they been killed during the siege on Ravenmoor Castle more than a fortnight past, or during a previous battle in the fight to claim land along the border by both Scotland and England?
"Toss down your gold!" Nervousness crept through the youth's voice.
The tree branch trembled, this time allowing Nicholas a better glimpse of the reiver. The youth was draped within a large black hooded robe two times his size, yet Nicholas made out the shadowy outline of his face.
Though the lad may be a victim of the times, Nicholas refused to tolerate any lawless acts on land beneath his responsibility. "I am Sir Nicholas Beringar, castellan of Ravenmoor Castle. 'Tis upon my land that you brandish your thievery. Come down. Now!"
Lady Elizabet Armstrong tugged the folds of her cowled hood closer to her face and sunk deeper into the thick, green shield of leaves. Mary, Mother of God, of all people to rob, why did he have to be the new castellan?
Sweat beaded on her brow, and her hands grew clammy. She should have followed her instincts and returned home with this day's spoils. Except as she'd started to climb down, she'd spied the single rider in the distance and believed relieving him of his coin 'twould be simple.
The castellan's steel-gray eyes locked on hers.
Sensation swept through her. His aura was magnetic, yet lethal. Broad shoulders needed no gambeson or hauberk to increase their dimensions. His trim, well-muscled body attested to his physical adeptness. And he sat upon his steed with the confidence born of years of battles.
Shaken by her attraction to her enemy, she forced her attention to his mail, his chestnut warhorse, and the finely-tooled broadsword. His trappings bespoke wealth. If he held but even a few coins, she would take them. And if he carried none, she would relieve him of his weaponry. They would bring a fair price at the market.
"If you carry nay gold, leave your sword and dagger," Elizabet demanded, keeping her voice low.
A deep, impatient sigh rumbled from the castellan's chest.
A slap of anger streaked through her. The Englishman would take her seriously! She nocked an arrow and drew the bowstring taut.
"Such a move would be unwise," Sir Nicholas said, his voice disturbingly calm. "I know you are alone."
Her hand shook as she sized up the large man, too confident for her liking. She bluffed. "Obey my command or my men will kill you."
The castellan's expression darkened. "I see the blackened string threaded through the trees."
Blind panic shredded her last ounce of calm. What was she going to do? She couldna obey his command. Believing she was a lad, he would most likely punish her, mayhap sever her hand or worse. And what if he discovered she was a woman? Terror raced through her.
Before he would touch her, she would fight to her death! Body trembling, Elizabet lowered her bow. She shifted on the limb to steady herself, and the branch gave a traitorous groan. With a gasp, she caught a nearby limb. She must get rid of him! "I have decided to allow you to pass."
The foreboding knight studied her a long moment. "Come down, I wish to speak with you."
She edged closer to the trunk. Why couldna he react like any of her previous targets over the past couple of days? If given the opportunity, each would have fled like the spineless fops they'd been. Instead, Sir Nicholas was proving to be a formidable challenge.
What was she going to do?
A lonely wind howled through the trees, batting the newborn leaves with a careless hand. The scent of peat, tinged with fresh, mountain-fed water, sifted on the breeze. She took in the darkening sky, wishing she was home, safe in her chamber. Again she cursed herself for nae returning to Wolfhaven Castle when she'd had the chance.
"Lad, I will not harm you."
Though several feet separated them, she sensed his frustration. And resolve. "'Tis a trick. I know the penalty for thievery."
The castellan kicked his mount forward.
She held her breath as he halted beneath the branch she stood on, his gaze straight at her. If he'd stared at her in anger, that she could ignore. But the intensity of his gray eyes probed her as if seeing straight to her soul. Shaken, she pressed farther into the leaves.
"I would offer you a job as my squire."
A trick! "I am nae a lackwit. If I climbed down you would cut off my hand." And God help her if he discovered she was a woman.
A frown creased his brow. He lowered his broadsword and laid the flat of his blade across the withers of his mount. "You have my word as a knight that my offer is sincere."
Hope ignited. What if he spoke the truth? Elizabet ached at the thought of her family and people trapped within Ravenmoor Castle. Were they wounded? Suffering? She hated nae knowing. Worse, with each passing day her belief that they lived dwindled. The coin she'd stolen these past few days was far from enough to bribe a castle guard at Ravenmoor to set her family and people free. If she agreed, could she successfully play the role of a lad?
A fool's lot to consider his offer. As if she could ever trust a Sassenach? The slang name for the English suited their lie-infested statements.
Even as she pondered the reasons why such a decision would be dangerous ... if the castellan's offer was sincere, she must use this opportunity to gain entrance to Ravenmoor Castle. Her family's future depended on it.
Fighting her nerves, she nodded. "I will be your squire."
Satisfaction shone on the castellan's face. "Come down. You will ride with me to the castle."
"Nay. I will make my way on the morrow, at first light."
A muscle worked in his jaw. "I have given my word that you will not be harmed."
She tightened her grip on the nearby branch. "And I have given mine. I will arrive at Ravenmoor Castle at first light."
"I could come up there after you," he said with challenge.
She darted a glance to the nearby tree then back to him. His well-honed muscles left no doubt of his prowess. In which case, she would jump. Then, if she didna break her neck, she could outrun him, as he would be slowed by the weight of his armor.
Leather creaked as he shifted in the saddle.
Instinct assured her he knew exactly of her thoughts to escape. Irritated, she tilted her chin in defiance.
Mirth flickered in his eyes. "At first light, then."
She released a slow breath.
"I would have your name."
A name? Of course he would expect a name. "Thomas," she replied before she could change her mind.
"Thomas," he said without preamble, "if you have not reported to me by Terce, I will track you down." His brow furrowed. "'Twould serve you well to heed me. I do not make false claims."
Of that she had little doubt. "I will be there."
With a nod he turned his destrier, kicked him forward, and cantered toward Ravenmoor Castle.
Elizabet swallowed hard as her enemy's daunting outline melded into the trees. She'd made the right choice. To doubt herself now could only lead to disaster.
As darkness consumed the last flicker of sunlight, fatigue weighing on her, Elizabet halted halfway up the tower steps of Wolfhaven Castle and faced her steward, Lachllan.
Torches set in nearby wall sconces illuminated his wrinkled face, laden with concern, love, and anger. "You will nae pretend to be the castellan's squire. I promised Giric that I would keep you safe. I will nae break my word to your brother." He shook his head with disgust. "That you sneak out to reive by yourself is enough to set my blood afire. Can you nae see the folly of your going to the castle alone? What were you thinking, lass?"
The frustration simmering in his voice endeared him to her even more. Elizabet laid her hand on her steward's shoulder. "If I thought there was any other way to free my family and our people, I would seek it. There is nae. The few pieces of coin I stole this day couldna feed a goat much less bribe an English guard." She dropped her hand. At the moment all she wished for was a few hours of sleep. "Once I am inside, I am confident an opportunity to aid our people will arise."
Lachllan eyed her skeptically. "Even if I were to agree with your foolhardy plan, how will you convince the castellan that you are a lad? Half-hidden within the leaves and your face shielded is a far cry from being in his service where you would work at his side."
She frowned, having pondered that exact question the entire ride home. "The duties of a squire are familiar to me. As for my attire, I will borrow an old set of clothes from Giric's chest." If her brother knew of her intent, he would be furious. With the discord between her and her father, she doubted he would care, but she still loved him. Except with them both locked inside Ravenmoor's dungeon, neither Giric nor her father had any say in her decision.
Lachllan gave an unconvinced snort. "You will need more than a change of clothes to convince the new castellan that you are a lad. You look too much like your mother." His face softened. "And a beautiful woman she was as well."
Warmth swept her cheeks. "My mother was a strong woman who fought for what she believed in. I am going. I canna let her memory or our people down."
Red flushed his weathered cheeks. "Did you nae hear a word I said? This time you will nae have your way." Lachllan lifted a finger in warning. "Your father would skin me hide if I allowed you to leave, nae to mention Giric. And I love you too much, lass, to allow you to take such a risk."
She threw up her hands, understanding too well—her father would nae care. He'd wanted a second son, nae a daughter. Since her birth, he'd given all of his lauds and attention to Giric. It hurt to think about the years she'd tried to gain his praise.
Excerpted from An Oath Taken by Diana Cosby. Copyright © 2014 Diana Cosby. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
I love the passion and romanticism. Makes me smile and think of my own wonderful husband.
This was a very entertaining book. Excellent. I will definitely read the next one's in the trilogy.
Well written story of an English knight and Scot lady falling in love through adversity. She is determined to save her family and people of their castle even if she has to pretend to be a lad to do so. Little did she know the knight would have pity on her and make her his squire. Even dressed as a lad, there was an attraction. It was maddening...that is until he discovered the truth. Lots of twists and turns and sexual tension. 218 pages
I already bought the next book that comes out in June! Keep them coming.
Couldnt put it down loved the story
A brilliantly written Scottish Romance. Fast paced and filled with passion, suspense, betrayal and romance. This is a new series and it promises to be an amazing series! The characters will capture your heart. It is well written with intrigue, passion and weaves an awesome romance. I loved the hero/heroine and the secondary characters help to carry the story. Ms. Cosby is a talented Scottish romance storyteller, whose stories hold the reader in awe. A wickedly delicious Scottish Romance! Well done, Ms. Cosby! Can't wait for the next installment of this series. * Received for an honest review from the publisher though Net Galley * Rating : 4.5 Heat rating : Hot Reviewed by : AprilR, Courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
This is a serious romance and history story. There is a lot of information in this book and has some, OK a lot, of violence. It is so hard to fatham men fighting and killing each other. Sir Nicholas is sent to rebuild Ravenmoor Castle from neglect of previous owner. He has been there for 2 weeks when he is told of prisoners sick and dead in the dungeon. Nicholas is livid. He meets Elizabet, dressed as a boy, as she tries to rob him. He can't see into the tree and tells her to be at the Castle to be his squire. That is her in to free the prisoners. There are plenty of spoilers all over this book. I couldn't put it down, yet I had to walk away and reset before I read again. I liked this book a lot, learned a lot of history and I hope you like it too!
I can’t help myself: historic romance is my downfall and weakness. In this lovely story, Diana Cosby brings us a knight, Sir Nicholas Beringar, an Englishman sent to become the new Castellan at Ravenmoor along the Scottish border. Anyone remotely familiar with English / Scottish history will know that this is a wonderful setting for drama as the “Sassenach” is placed in a location where not all the locals will be friendly. Elizabet Armstrong has resorted to desperate measures to free her brother and father from the dungeons at Ravenmoor. Disguising herself as a boy, this lady is taking innumerable risks to person and reputation to help her family, and unfortunately for her, she is a terrible thief. To his credit, Beringar doesn’t wish to retaliate, instead hiring the youngster as a squire. While this trope is familiar, Cosby twists and refreshes it, adding her stamp and originality to this plotting device, and giving the characters quite a solid sense of confusion regarding their own feelings for one another until Elizabet’s secrets are revealed. And what a series of twists and history she brought to each character: Elizabet’s mother died when she was young, and she has tried to gain her father’s love at every turn. Her plan to free them from the dungeon is what she decides will cement her position and gain the love from her father she so desperately wants. Nicholas is far from a ‘difficult’ master, preferring to treat his new squire Thomas with kindness as he notices the boy’s hesitancy about men, but plain speaking when questioned about the village’s emotions, feelings and situations as we consider the strife of the time: 1291 England under Charles I (Longshanks) the Plantagenet King who rested allegiance from Scotland, and was rather a bit of a bully in the Scot’s eyes. But Nicholas is not just protective of the young lad, he is finding himself inexorably drawn to him, in ways that don’t sit comfortably. For her part, Elizabet / Thomas is also experiencing feelings and thoughts about Nicholas that confuse her: she shouldn’t like him, he is the enemy, but his undoubted kindness and fairness shown her, along with her minor machinations to free her people from the dungeons have her on edge. And then, as always must happen – her disguise is discovered and her choices are few: leave in failure or trust in the man who has been the epitome of fair, with eyes that mesmerize her. These two are beautifully drawn and developed, with stories that feel honest and open, and their attraction is palpable. From laugh-out-loud moments to giant sighs, this story carries all of the emotion that you could hope for, with just enough tension stemming from the politics of the age and Elizabet’s rather tenuous position that the pages fly by, and you are left with a smile on your face. These two are a lovely couple and the story is so full and rich with description and emotion, with just enough sensuality to please every reader. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
This is book 1 in the Oath Trilogy series. Sir Nicholas Beringar, the new castellan of Ravenmoor Castle, is trying to gain the trust of the locals. It doesn't help that one of the locals has started stealing from the Englishman in his employ. When he catches the young man, he makes him his squire instead of punishing him. What Nicholas doesn't know, is that his new squire is really Lady Elizabet Armstrong. She needed a way into Ravenmoor to see if her people were ok. Her brother and father were put into the dungeon by the previous castellan. What will Nicholas do when he finds out that his squire is not who he thinks he is? This is my first book by Cosby but it definitely won't be my last. I sat down and read the book in one sitting as I didn't want to put it down. I love that Elizabet was willing to do anything to help her people, even if that meant going into the place where her family was being held captive. She didn't want to like Nicholas because of all the awful things that his predecessor did, but he showed Elizabet that he was a much better man through his actions with the prisoners and his interactions with her (whom he thought was an orphan that had been wrongly used by others). I can't wait for the next book in the series which stars Elizabet's brother Giric, the Earl of Terrick. Thanks go out to Kensington Books via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
Grabs from the first page, takes you on a Scottish adventure, and doesn't let go! Diana Cosby is one of my all time favorite authors. Her amazing talent pulls the reader into the story and makes them part of it. The reader forgets any surroundings and escapes into an amazing story. I will read anything with her name on it and she never disappoints the reader! So glad this is the first of a new series and will anxiously await the rest. The hero, the new castellan, has the responsibility rebuilding the Scottish Castle, Ravenmoor, as well as trying to earn the trust of everyone, even those who are against and try to rob him. It turns out that the thieving lad is actually a lady! A Lady who is simply trying to free her brother from the dungeon! The lady is made an offer she can not refuse. Once I started reading I could not put the book down and read way into the night to finish! I highly recommend this author to anyone who has not read her as of yet. Trust me, once you read her you will want everything on her back list and will watch for any future release and add each and every one to your keeper shelf to be reread! You will not be disappointed!
A delightful historical romance, An Oath Taken was a wonderful read. With a vivacious heroine and a thoroughly honorable hero, this book was sweet, romantic, and lovely in all. Elizabet was a lively heroine. She was determined to save her brother, even if she had to put herself into a precarious situation to do it. She was a likable character and I thought she was great. Nicholas was a truly good, honorable man. He was a fair leader and a strong warrior. He was wonderful and I really liked him The romance was lovely. It was sweet, with a bit of spice, and I thought Elizabet and Nicholas were great together. The plot moved quickly and kept me interested. I really enjoyed the story and the ending was lovely. An Oath Taken was a wonderful historical romance that I really liked. Romance lovers, this is a book worth checking out. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review