From New York Times bestselling author Jane Feather, a moving, unforgettable romance of defiance and desire. . .
England's disastrous Civil War has robbed Lady Virginia Courtney of everything she holds dear--everything but her home, perched on the cliffs of the Isle of Wight. Left alone to defend it, she is powerless when the enemy forces arrive--but even more defenseless when she meets their leader, a fiercely commanding man whose eyes seem to see through to her very soul.
Colonel Alexander Marshall is no less affected by his prisoner of war, the bewitching, capable woman who has seen so much loss in her young life. Though he would be justified to send her to the mainland--and to her certain death as a traitor--his hand is stayed by compassion. . .and undeniable desire. But even the most passionate love affair may not be enough to hold two sworn enemies together in the midst of war. . .
|Product dimensions:||4.20(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.70(d)|
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By Jane Feather
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 1987 Jane Feather
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They came at sunset. There were perhaps two hundred of them, the evening sun setting alight the round helmets and breastplates, turning the tips of steel pikes and halberds into glowing candles. Perhaps a third were on horseback, the remainder on foot — a silent, orderly brigade tramping across the overgrown lawns, neglected driveway, and paths that led to the house.
She stood waiting in the open front door on this warm summer evening of 1648. The house at her back was a Jacobean mansion of soft, sea-weathered stone, the classical cornices and pilasters bespeaking an age before civil war, when an English gentleman could afford to indulge his taste for the gentle arts of architecture and landscaping, and build for posterity the manor house that declared his wealth and endeavor.
The brigade drew closer, and it became clear that one man rode slightly ahead of the front ranks. Her practiced eye approved both his horse — a magnificent black charger standing maybe twenty hands — and the easy seat of the rider. The latter carried neither pike nor musket, but one gloved hand rested on the hilt of the sword at his hip, the other held the reins as loosely as if he were astride a placid mare.
The cavalcade came to a halt at the base of the shallow flight of steps leading to the front door. She remained at her post, waiting in silence. For a long moment the quiet was broken only by the whinny of a horse, the clink of a bridle as its wearer tossed a head and pawed the gravel. The ranks of men in their leathern britches, helmets, and breastplates stood at attention as the sun dipped behind the headland and vanished into Alum Bay.
As if the loss of the sun were a signal of some kind, the leading horseman declaimed: "I am come by the authority of Parliament to sequester all lands and property pertaining to one John Redfern of this Isle of Wight, whose Malignancy to the rule of Parliament has been proven."
The figure on the steps merely inclined her head. What else was she to do? It was not as if she had an army at her back, muskets trained on the silent ranks come to wrest from her her birthright. She had a ready sense of the absurd that in happier days had landed her hip deep in childhood trouble, and now it again came most inconveniently to the fore — two-hundred armed men facing one unarmed, unprotected woman! Her lips twitched.
The man had witnessed many emotions during these years of civil war. He had seen bravado, resignation, true courage, abject terror, but never could he remember seeing laughter on the face of a Royalist when the New Model Army enforced the decrees of Parliament.
He swung from his horse and mounted the steps, drawing off his gauntlets. "Your name, mistress?"
"Is this an introduction, sir? Or simply an inquisition?"
Her eyes were gray — as cold as the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the Needle Rocks that stood guard over this stretch of water between the Isle of Wight and the English mainland. She was young — barely twenty, he decided. Tall for a woman, but her frame slender and pliant as a willow in the deep-blue kirtle of homespun linen, a white apron tied in a businesslike fashion that merely served to accentuate a waist that he could span with both hands. Her skin carried the golden bloom of summer days spent in the open air. He glanced down at her quiet hands. A slim gold band encircled her ring finger, and the hands were as brown as the small face, but there was a work-roughened quality to their skin that indicated hardship.
Alex Marshall, the youngest son of the earl of Grantham, suddenly remembered his upbringing. "I am Colonel Alexander Marshall, mistress."
"That is an uncomfortably royal name for a Roundhead to carry, Colonel," she said, without immediately responding to the introduction.
Alex Marshall had few scruples when it came to pitched battle, little compunction when he fulfilled Parliament's orders and arrested the king's adherents, sequestered their estates, and disinherited their occupants. Until this moment, however, he had never felt the slightest inclination to vent frustration on a woman.
Those gray eyes mocked him as she curtsied and said, "Virginia Courtney, Colonel. I have little hospitality to offer you and ..." She gestured at the throng. "... your cohorts. But what I have, I gladly extend."
Alex was conscious of two-hundred pairs of eyes at his back as he stood alone facing this extraordinary woman who made fun of him with every supple movement and every glint in her eyes. A woman who offered him hospitality as a gracious hostess extending succor to the wanderer.
"Who is here with you?" It was a harsh demand, an attempt to establish a supremacy that was usually unquestioned.
"Why, no one, Colonel. I am quite alone," she responded. "You need have no fear for your men's safety. They are not about to be attacked." The voice was dulcet, sweet in its insolent challenge.
Ginny watched him covertly. She must take care not to antagonize the conqueror too much lest she endanger others than herself. It was a fine line she must tread if she were to achieve her object. He was in his late twenties, she decided, and as personable as it was possible for anyone to be in that detestable uniform. His eyes were a mélange of greeny-brown — not true hazel, but moving in that direction; his eyebrows dark brown and most definitive. An aquiline nose stood above full lips that at this moment were set in a thin line. There was an uncompromising set to the jaw, Ginny reflected, as she wondered what color his hair would be if he ever took off that helmet. One thing she knew, it would be cropped short in the manner of all Roundheads.
"What relationship do you hold to John Redfern?"
"His daughter, sir."
"And where is your mother?"
"Dead, these six months." It was a flat statement. "My father, as I am sure you are aware, died three years ago at the Battle of Naseby."
"And your husband?" His eyes fixed on the wedding ring.
"Killed during the surrender of Oxford." It was another simple, expressionless statement.
"And where is your household, Mistress Courtney?" She was forcing this catechism from him, putting him in the position of a boorish brute dragging the catalogue of war deaths from a lone widow. The thin line of his lips tightened.
"Gone." She shrugged with an assumption of ease. "There is little purpose, Colonel, in maintaining an estate destined for the block. I have lived alone these past six months. If you doubt my word, you have only to look around." Ginny gestured to the overgrown lawns, the box hedges around the flower garden springing out of their former ornamental shapes to throw unruly sprigs into the weed-infested broad walks, destroying the neatness of the rectangles and squares that had marked her mother's beloved garden.
"There is absolutely no one living with you?" He stared, incredulous.
"Have I not just said so, Colonel?" A martial light appeared in the previously cold gray depths of her eyes. She was enjoying herself, Alex Marshall realized, as she stood challenging him in the face of an armed brigade.
The colonel, however, was most definitely not enjoying himself. It had been ten years since anyone had questioned his authority, either implicitly or explicitly, and it was not an experience he wished to continue — particularly when the questioner was a mere slip of a girl.
"How old are you?" he snapped.
"I do not consider that to be your affair, Colonel." Had she overplayed her hand? It was a lamentable tendency she had when her blood rose in anger or when the game took precedence over the goal. Tread softly now!
She had little chance, however, to follow her own advice. The colonel spun her around and propelled her into the house away from watching eyes. The hall was large and cool, the walls elaborately paneled, the plasterwork of the ceiling ornate. A broad staircase with an intricately carved baluster led to the upper floors. But the colonel, at this point, was not interested in admiring his surroundings. "I asked you a question, Mistress Courtney, and I will have my answer."
"And if I choose not to give it to you?"
"Then you will discover, girl, that I am an uncomfortable man to challenge." He spoke very softly.
It was that soft voice that convinced Ginny, more than the hand still gripping her elbow and the exasperation in the greeny-brown eyes. Deciding that she had played with fire for as long as it was safe to do so, Ginny shrugged nonchalantly and said, "nineteen, Colonel."
"And why have you been permitted to remain here unattended?"
"In the absence of my parents and my husband, sir, there is no authority that I am prepared to acknowledge," Ginny replied coolly.
"And what of your husband's family? There must be someone who stands guardian to you. You are not yet of age."
"I did not say I had no guardian." She spoke slowly as if to a half-witted child. "I said only that there is no authority I am prepared to accept."
Taking her chin between long fingers, he tilted her face and examined it thoughtfully. It was an arresting countenance, dominated by those fine eyes, but much more youthful than he had originally perceived. "My child, I am afraid that your parents and your husband must have sadly neglected their duties. You appear remarkably undisciplined."
Virginia, her composure shattered as he paid her back in her own coin, attempted to pull herself free from his hold, but the fingers tightened on her chin. He held her thus for a minute longer and then, with a satisfied chuckle, released her. "It is not pleasant, is it, Mistress Courtney, to be goaded? Come, I wish to inspect the house."
"You wish to see it first, before giving your men the freedom to pillage?" Venom coated every word as she took her revenge. The gasp of outrage this time came from the colonel. He took a step toward her, but she stood her ground, for he was not to know that her knees shook beneath her skirt.
"My men do not pillage," he hissed.
"Then they are the exceptions to the rule," bravely she said. "Vandal and Roundhead are held to be synonymous these days."
It was, of course, true and a fact that Colonel Marshall deeply regretted. Many beautiful houses and priceless paintings had, in the last year, fallen victim to the besieging cannon, the soldier's pike, and the burning torch. But his own men were too well disciplined, too much in awe of their colonel, who punished the slightest excess with a fearful consistency.
"You may rest assured, Mistress Courtney, that the house and its contents will suffer as little harm as is consonant with occupation," he said stiffly. "I intend to make this place my headquarters during my sojourn on the island and would be glad if you would show me what accommodations the house has to offer."
Virginia curtsied and inclined her head. "I am at your service, Colonel. There are but twelve bedrooms, counting mine own. Of course, there are the servants' quarters, but I hardly think you may house all your men there."
Alex heard the note of mockery again and fought to keep a tight rein on his temper. His moment of supremacy had not lasted long. "My men will bivouac in the gardens and the orchard."
"I do hope that they will show respect for the shrubs and the fruit trees," she murmured sweetly, turning toward the drawing room.
Alex Marshall regarded the slender straight back, the firm set of her shoulders, the arrogant tilt of her head where glossy chestnut braids formed a neat crown. Mingling with his infuriation came reluctant admiration and the most intense curiosity. What kind of woman was this, who faced adversity with a grim humor and a conquering army with a defiance laced with irony? He had the liveliest desire to find out.
Blissfully unaware that such a desire played perfectly into the hands of Virginia Courtney, he strode to the open front door and in ringing accents gave orders for the dispersal of the troops before he accompanied her on the tour of this gracious house.
Leather carpets covered the floors of the dining and drawing rooms; the stools held gold nails, and green velvet covered the few chairs reserved for the elderly and honored guests. It was a house that bespoke both the wealth and taste of a seventeenth-century English gentleman. The usual trestle table had given place to solid black oak with ornamental legs; beds and cupboards were of the same magnificently carved wood. Framed pictures hung on the oak-paneled walls, and the colonel recognized several Rubens and Van Dycks. In the deep embrasures of the windows, marble sculptures stood carefully placed to catch the eye. But the miasma of neglect hung in the still evening air, exemplified in the tarnished bronze and gold furnishings, the dust nestling in the knots of the intricate carvings, running in white lines down the folds of the velvet draperies.
"It is a little difficult for one person to maintain such a house in true order," Ginny said in inadvertent defense, dusting a small table with her apron.
"Quite so, mistress," he concurred, averting his gaze from the slight flush of discomfiture mantling the sun-browned cheeks and the sheen that obscured the clarity of her gaze.
Alex had hidden the tragedy and pathos of this war behind his vision of a land no longer ruled by the despotism of the Stuart monarchy — a land where Parliament, elected by the people, held the only definitive voice of the lawmaker. But on this summer afternoon, on this small island outpost of the greater island that was England, in the dust of a neglected manor house and the militant sparkle of a pair of gray eyes, the greater purpose became diminished, split into the atoms of its suffering human parts. This girl had lost her father in the great Battle of Naseby, three years ago, when Cromwell's New Model Army had won a decisive victory against Charles I and the royal army under the command of his nephew, Prince Rupert. The following year, she had lost her husband when the king's headquarters at Oxford had surrendered and King Charles had given himself into the hands of the Scots, no more friends of Parliament than he was. In the wake of their victory, the parliamentary armies had besieged the estates of the Cavaliers who still held out for the king; Parliament had imposed crippling fines on the Malignants — fines that had forced them to sell off vast acres of field and woodland. In extreme cases, the lands had been sequestered and the owners disinherited. This island backwater, however, had escaped for two years until the king had chosen to illuminate it with his presence. Having been handed over to Parliament by the Scots, who hoped thus to make peace, he had been seized by the army and imprisoned in Hampton Court. Charles I had listened to explosive rumblings within the army as the Radicals overcame the Moderates, and his very life had become threatened as talk of bringing him to summary justice grew stronger. In November 1647, he had escaped Hampton Court and taken sanctuary in Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight, ostensibly the guest of the governor, Colonel Hammond, who found his Royalist sympathies clashing mercilessly with an office he held by the authority of Parliament.
Alex Marshall's brigade was part of the reinforcements sent to the Isle of Wight — their task to deal harshly with the many local Royalists rallying around the king, as Royalist uprisings swept through England and Wales, bringing this, the second civil war in six years, to a land already riven and denuded by strife.
When he had come to the Redfern estate this evening, to exact Parliament's penalty, he had not expected to find only John Redfern's orphaned, widowed daughter standing between the enemy at the gate and her inheritance. It seemed to make nonsense of the presence of an entire brigade, and this young, unprotected woman was making him feel like a posturing idiot.
"You will grant me sufficient time to remove my possessions from here? Or are they also sequestered, Colonel?" Ginny's heart pounded as she broached the all-important matter. Had she read him rightly in those first moments? Read correctly the paradox inherent in the ingrained authority of the commander, who could not tolerate a challenge, and the chivalry of the noble born, who would not cast out a defenseless woman. If she was right, both those facets of his personality would dictate that he keep her under his eye, at least for a short while.
She opened a heavy door onto a west-facing corner room. It was a girl-child's room with its dimity hangings to the bed and the windows. A spinning wheel stood in one corner, the hemp of flax partly spun and carded. A wooden doll, prettily dressed, sat on the window seat. A set of tortoiseshell combs lay on the dresser, and the armoire stood open to reveal her scant wardrobe.
For the moment ignoring the sarcastic question, Alex went to the casement standing open to the sea. The house stood on the cliff above Alum Bay at the westerly end of the Isle of Wight. The small cove was famous for its variegated sands — every color of the rainbow — and for its commanding position at the point where the ocean gave way to the relatively peaceful waters of the Solent. In the evening light the Needle Rocks presented a mellow nonthreatening image to those who did not know these waters. The English mainland was still just visible across the five-mile stretch of water, and the coast of France, should King Charles finally decide to make his escape complete, a day's sail across the channel.
Excerpted from Beloved Enemy by Jane Feather. Copyright © 1987 Jane Feather. 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.
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Table of Contents
Part One - When the blast of war blows,
Part Two - That love would prove so hard a master,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really like this book and have read at least every two years since I bought it in the late 1980's. It was like her fourth book and it's as good or better than any she's written since. The only thing I don't really care for is when Ginny's husband shows up from the dead and the whole story is shifted to the Virginia colony. It seems an unnecessary complication for the last part of the book. Couldn't the story have been resolved in a different way, without out the husband in the last eigth of the book? Even so, it's one of the best handlings of the lovers from different sides of a conflict that I've ever read.
June 2010, I was looking forward to reading Beloved Enemy, but the characters were just not believable and the story went on and on and on. Virginia jumped into bed with Alex right after he and his men take over her house and hold her prisoner and then she keeps going to him after they way he treats her? He was not likable at all. I have read over 40 (historical romance) books so far this year, this is the only one I've disliked enough to write a review because I was so disappointed. Not Jan Feathers best work!
the history detail were great jane really made you feel as though you were there and the characters were even better. this book had it all love, suspense betrail i just couldn't put the book down i think i read it in a day and a half i know that this is a book i will definantly have to read again i really recomend it