|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Allison Pike is a voice talent based on the West Coast. Her work includes audiobooks as well as live performance. Her favorite titles are those about finding love in surprising or unexpected places.
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By Hannah Howell
Kensington Publishing Corp.Copyright © 1991 Hannah Howell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneApril 2, 1318-Berwick, Scotland
Quiet humming did little to stifle the grumbling of Jennet's stomach. Her constant hunger was somewhat easier to bear in the convent, where each woman within the thick, gray walls suffered equally. Unlike the greedy Lady de Tournay and her swinish family, Jennet mused, then hurriedly began her morning ablutions, hoping the icy water would push such uncharitable thoughts from her mind. She had fled to the convent to find peace. That would remain elusive if she did not shake free of her bitterness, born of six years in servitude to the ill-tempered de Tournays.
Again her stomach loudly protested its emptiness. She cursed, then swiftly begged the Lord's pardon. It was such lapses that kept her from succumbing to the abbess's constant urgings to take vows and begin working toward becoming a nun. Jennet was not sure she had the character to be a nun. She had too much bitterness, was too cynical, too angry and unforgiving. A year in the seclusion of the convent had done little to ease those feelings.
"And," she muttered as she donned her plain brown gown, "I dinnae rush to prayer each morn."
She shook her head, then began to braid her long raven hair. The abbess must have seen how tossled she was, proof that she had rushed toprayers straight from bed early that morning. As she donned her headdress she frowned, listening carefully. It was difficult to be certain, but there did seem to be a dull but rising roar of many loud male voices.
"Mayhaps the Scots have finally given up their siege," she murmured as she sat on her cot to begin the mending she had been given to do. "They have certainly been harrying the town for months. Or"-she froze, needle in hand, and felt a swift rush of terror-"they have scaled the protective walls and finally retaken the border fortress from the English."
Jennet forced herself to remain calm, to ignore the muffled sounds. She was safe. Despite the tales the abbess told, Jennet could not believe the Scots would defile a convent. Even eighteen years of war under the Bruce could not have made her people so ungodly. A battle might well rage outside, but here she was free of that at last. This time she would not have to face the violence and destruction directly.
The wimple she mended was barely done when she realized the sounds she sought to ignore were much closer now. Even as she wondered if she should chance a look into the hall, the door to her tiny room burst open, splintering slightly as it slammed against the stone wall. The sight that filled the doorway caused her to drive her needle into her hand. Only partly aware of that self-inflicted wound, she extracted the needle, absently put her wounded palm to her mouth to ease the sting, and stared at the man who had invaded her refuge.
He leaned indolently against the door frame, his strong arms encased in greaves and crossed over his broad mail-covered chest. His helmet, with its noseguard, hid so much of his face that she could see little but his smile. That indolent grin turned her shock and fear to rage. She was facing certain death, and he was laughing at her. Hissing a curse, she pulled her dagger from a hidden pocket in her skirts. Her fury was reinforced by the terrified cries of the nuns that began to echo through the halls.
"And what do ye mean to do with that wee needle, lass?" he drawled in a soft, deep voice.
"Cut ye a new smile, ye godless heathen," she cried, and lunged at him.
He caught her with ease, one large gauntleted hand curled tightly around her thin wrist, the mail cutting into her skin. "So fierce for a nun." As they struggled, he turned slightly so that her back faced the hallway.
There was no way she could break his grip, but the amusement in his voice kept her struggling to push her dagger down until it might pierce his flesh. "I am no nun," she cried, "but a seeker of refuge, and I mean to send ye straight into hell's fires for defiling this holy place!"
"'Tis a petty threat to hurl at a mon who is already excommunicated."
"So the abbess spoke true. The Bruce's men are naught but the devil's minions, cast off by the Pope." She saw a look of cool amusement on what was visible of his hard face, then, without warning, a blinding pain filled the back of her head.
Hacon caught the too-slim girl as she collapsed, rendered unconscious by his comrade's blow to her head. "I wondered if ye meant to act, Dugald, or stand by and watch me being slaughtered."
Dugald grunted. He frowned down at the heavy silver chalice with which he had struck the girl, then dropped it back into the sack he held. "She had no chance. 'Twill be a woeful shame to kill her. The wee lass has spirit."
"Kill her? Now, why should I kill her?"
"We were told to show as little mercy as the English king did when he took this place in Baliol's Rebellion. Kill all we can and plunder the place."
"And this"-Hacon neatly tossed the unconscious girl over his shoulder-"is plunder."
"Aye? Looks like a wee lass to me. And what need have we of a nun, forsaken by the Pope as we are?"
"She isnae a nun. Are ye so eager to spill her blood?"
"Nay. I have no stomach for killing a lass, and weel ye ken it. I have no stomach for angering the Black Douglas either. The Bruce chose a fierce, hard mon as his lieutenant, and 'tis unwise to cross him. Douglas doesnae mean to halt here but to go on. What will ye do with your plunder then? Ye cannae hide her from him."
"I willnae hide her. She is mine, and there is an end to it. Now, grab hold of her blanket and help me tie her onto my back." He nodded toward her cot.
Even as he did as he was told, Dugald grumbled, "And how do ye expect to fight with such a burden?"
"This slight lass is no burden, and I doubt much fighting will be done. The townsfolk flee if they are able. We but need to fill our coffers with plunder."
"If we dinnae get to the doing of it, the plunder will be all gone."
Hacon winked at his scowling cousin. "Dinnae wear yourself thin worrying. I ken weel where to look. Have I not given us a good beginning?" He nodded at the sack Dugald carried.
Dugald nodded grimly as he strode down the hall of the nunnery toward the main entrance. Hacon adjusted the weight of his captive more comfortably against his back and followed. He winced and increased his pace as a woman's high-pitched scream echoed through the dim hallways. He preferred the chaotic battle out in the streets between the victory-drunk Scots and the panicked, fleeing English to the rape and slaughter of the defenseless nuns going on in here.
For ten years he had been with Robert the Bruce, ever since the beard on his face had been but the light fluff of a boy. When the Bruce returned from exile in Arran, Scotland had been demoralized, the devastation widespread. Bruce's victory against the English at Loudon Hill had renewed the people's hope, and Hacon had joined many others in racing to aid the claimant to the Scottish throne.
But now he ached to go home to Dubheilrig. Instead, he found himself on yet another raid into England, another bloody foray over land that had been deeply scarred by war.
"Ye cannae stop fighting for the Bruce now," Dugald said as he started through the gates leading to the narrow, winding streets of Berwick.
"How do ye ken I was thinking about that?" Hacon asked as he strode beside his kinsman into the heart of the walled town.
"That black look upon your face. I have seen it before. Ye cannae walk away from it yet. Aye, ye got your knighthood at Bannockburn, but ye havenae won a square foot of land yet."
"Did my father send ye to be my conscience?"
"Nay. He trusts ye to do as ye ought. Aye, as ye must. 'Tis just that I feel I must speak the truth. The Bruce holds our lands. Only he can return them to us. 'Twas our weakness which lost them to the de Umfravilles. Weel, after being honed in this war we willnae be weak. 'Tis some comfort, kenning the de Umfravilles lost those lands to the Bruce, but even that comfort will wane if the Bruce gifts our lands elsewhere."
"That will ne'er happen," Hacon muttered as he stepped ahead of his cousin. "Come along. If I cannae win back our lands through faithful service and the strength of my sword, then I mean to have enough plunder to buy them back." He strode off into town, confident Dugald would watch his back, just as he had done for ten long, bloody years.
Hacon slouched in a rough, heavy chair before the fire, heartily approving of the new-style fireplace and chimney set in the wall. It was far better than the usual, a hearth in the center of the room with an inadequate venting hole in the roof. He wondered how Dugald always managed to find such fine quarters for them. This had to be one of the few houses in Berwick that still had an intact thatched roof, one untouched by the fires that even now scorched the town. After glancing at the plunder scattered on the table in the center of the room, he fixed his gaze upon the female plunder sprawled unconscious at his feet.
Twice the girl had come awake while strapped to his back. Twice she had wrapped her lovely slim hands about his throat. Twice Dugald had had to strike her unconscious again to save his cousin. Hacon grinned. She had spirit. Dugald could well be right-she was the devil's child, even though she had been hidden away in a convent. He would be sure to keep all weapons out of her reach. She could prove to be a very troublesome bounty.
But a bonnie one, he mused, leaning forward. She looked very tempting sprawled on the sheepskin with her thick raven hair splayed out around her. Her headdress had been an early victim of the battle in the streets. While he suspected her too-thin build was a result of the famine that had ravaged the area over the last two years, he found no fault in it. There were curves enough to please him. Her skin was the soft white of ivory touched with all the warmth of good health. He easily recalled her magnificent eyes, their vivid green enhanced by sparks of fury and defiance as she had faced him in the convent.
"Do ye think I have harmed her?"
Glancing up at Dugald, who stood on the other side of the girl, Hacon shook his head. "She breathes easily and there is a growing flickering in her eyelids. She will wake soon."
"Then ye had best guard your throat."
The way Dugald eyed the girl, as if she were as great a threat as any well-armed Englishman, made Hacon laugh softly. "She has more spirit than many another in this place."
"Aye, which will make her a muckle lot of trouble. Wouldnae it be wiser to leave her behind?"
"Much wiser, but I willnae do it."
"Why? She is naught but a skinny wee lass."
"Ah, now there is a puzzle." Hacon shrugged. "I just willnae."
Jennet had grasped consciousness in time to hear the one man's disparaging description of her and the other's response. Her head ached and she knew it was their fault. She had made no move to reveal that she was now awake; her captor's answer had interested her since it might reveal her fate.
Now, however, deciding their talk was of little help, Jennet released the groan she had held back. She propped herself up on one elbow and tentatively touched the back of her head. The man had clearly curbed the strength of his blows, for she could find no serious injury, but her head was pounding. Slowly she gazed up at her captor.
He still looked big, a tall, lean, battle-hardened man. Now that his helmet and mail hood were gone, she saw that he had thick blond hair reaching to his broad shoulders. She doubted it would lessen the breadth of his chest by much if he took off his padded jupon and the snug, bloodstained leather jerkin he wore. He had long muscular legs encased in a better quality hose and cuarans of excellent waxed rawhide tied closely about his calves. She remembered the flint of armor on his forearms earlier, but suspected that had long been discarded. His clothes gave her little hint as to his station. Even the armor she recalled could simply be pieces he had stolen from dead knights upon the battlefield.
As she carefully sat up, she lifted her gaze to his face. He had the finest pair of eyes she had ever seen on a man, a clear rich blue. His lean face, high cheekbones, and a long straight nose bespoke a better birth. In fact, his looks reminded her very strongly of a Dane or a Norseman, and she frowned.
"Ye are a Scot?" she demanded. "We havenae got the twice-cursed Danes rampaging about to add to our grief, have we?" The man smiled too much, she thought crossly as he grinned at her.
"Aye, I am a Scot. I have my mother's looks, and she is a distant cousin to the king of Norway, so I should watch how I speak of those people." He thrust his hand toward her. "I am Hacon Gillard of Dubheilrig."
She took his hand and found herself firmly propelled to her feet. "Jennet."
"Jennet? No other name, no kinsmen? Ye are no one's daughter and from no place?"
"Of course I am someone's daughter." She sighed and rubbed her forehead with her left hand since Hacon was slow to release her right one. "I am Jennet, daughter of Artair, a Graeme, who wed Moira, an Armstrong. I can be from Liddesdale, for those are my mother's lands. More often than not, I am from no place in particular, dragged hither and yon by my father."
"Neither name is connected with much wealth."
She glared at him. "Aye, so ye will gain no ransom for me. The Bruce's fine soldiers have already slaughtered my mother. Aye and mayhaps my father as weel. I have naught left. Best to let me slip free. I can only be a trouble to you."
"Of that I have little doubt." He stood up, placed his hands on his trim hips, and looked down at her. "Howbeit, I will keep you with me."
"Now, why should ye wish to do that?" She had a very good idea of why but wondered if he would tell her the truth.
Reaching out, Hacon took a thick lock of her hair in his hand, idly caressing it with his long fingers. "Ye Jennet, who can be from Liddesdale, are my plunder."
That was an answer in itself, she supposed. She told herself that anger would gain her nothing; nevertheless she clenched her hands into tight fists at her sides. Escape was still possible if she did not act too rashly, did not give in to the fear that threatened to conquer her anger. From the corner of her eye she saw the other man stealthily move to flank her. She had to be certain the move she finally made was unexpected.
"I am plunder, am I?"
"Wee and skinny though I am?"
"Och, weel, one cannae always have the pick of the litter."
There was a tone in his voice that told her he thought he was being funny. He was grinning, and a soft chuckle came from his companion. A guffaw from behind them told her that other men were enjoying her predicament as well. That knowledge sent her temper soaring. The rape of Berwick and her own undoubtedly impending ravishment were not laughing matters.
Muttering a curse on all men, she struck out with both fists, neatly and forcefully hitting each man who flanked her square in the groin. Both howled with pain and cursed roundly as they bent over, clutching themselves. She raced for the door-and ran straight into a tall, armored man who blocked the long, narrow opening.
Staggering backward, she was roughly grasped at the shoulder by Hacon, who had stumbled after her. Still dazed, rubbing her nose, which had collided with the man's mail-clad chest, she found herself swiftly yanked behind Hacon. Curious as to why, she took a good look at the man who had ended her attempt to escape, and tensed, fear gripping her. It could be none other than Sir James Douglas, the one some called "the Good Sir James" but many another called "the Black Douglas."
And not simply because of his swarthy coloring, she thought with a shiver, her gaze fixed upon the bloodied sword in his hand. The nuns had told her many a chilling tale about this man whom they had dubbed "the Bruce's godless lieutenant." There was something about the colors he and his men wore that added to her fear, but that flicker of a memory was doused when Douglas spoke. As the words came from his mouth, she hid herself more completely behind Hacon, terrified that she would reveal her astonishment. The Black Douglas, the scourge of the North, the man who made many an English soldier tremble, spoke with a lisp.
"You are having some difficulty, Sir Gillard?" asked Douglas.
"Nay, only a brief quarrel."
Excerpted from Conqueror's Kiss by Hannah Howell Copyright © 1991 by Hannah Howell. 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A beautifully written love story! The characters are so well described that you feel a connection with them. I absolutely love this book! Two thumbs up!
Hannah Howell never disappoints readers who enjoy a well-written and researched Scottish Historical Romance. This blend of the English and Scottish takes place duing the time of the wars between 'The Bruce' and King Edward. Sir Hacon Gillard has fought ten long years for the Scottish King and yearns for his lands to be returned and for the fighting to someday stop. He is beginning to tire of the destruction and unnecessary killing of innocents that many of his fellow knights seem to enjoy. As the Scottish enter an English village to pillage a convent he enters the room where the beautiful novice Jennet Graeme is hiding. From a poor Scottish family she has taken refuge in the convent, but finds there is no place that is really a place of refuge. Hacon is immediately drawn to her and takes her as plunder. Jannet is afraid of being raped and brutalized as her mother and so many other women have been, but she soon finds Hacon does not mean to hurt her, but to treat her gently and seduce her. As the weeks and months go by he is drawn to her spirit as well as her beauty. She soon warms to him and his men and finds herself giving in to the handsome and kind knight. Because Hacon is noble and kind, he has many enemies within his own ranks and soon finds himself fighting for his own life. Many attempts are made to set up his murder during battles. Soon the fighting ends and he returns to his lands and marries Jannet. But the idyllic ends as the ultimate attack comes when he is set up and named as traitor. Jannet may be a wee little wench, as Hacon is know to call her, but her strong character and love saves Hacon and his lands, when a very pregnant Jannet travels to the King and testifies in Hacon's defense. The story and characters are well-developed and the struggles of the people are felt as well as the love they have for their land, king and each other. There are light moments that make you smile and laugh out loud especially with Jennet's rogue of a father. The seduction and passion of Hacon and Jennet will not disappoint, as like other Hannah Howell romances, the love scenes are beautifully written. A Scottish Historical by Hannah Howell is always an enjoyable and interesting read and if read in chronological order they are like reading a long recorded history. I enjoyed this book as much as any of the others and look forward to the next one.
Her Scottish books are always enjoyable and I look forward to the next one. Read all of of her books.
In this Scottish medieval romance, Hannah Howell takes her readers on a journey of one woman's battle to survive during the border wars between Scotland and England in the early 1300s. Jennet Grame witnessed her mother's brutal rape and murder as a small child, endured years of abusive servitude, believed her father dead, and finally took refuge in a nunnery as war and famine raged around her. She soon learns that not even convents are immune to blood lust and plundering during these harsh times.Sir Hacon Gillard is a knight in service to Robert the Bruce who has claimed the throne of Scotland. Against Hacon's will, he and his loyal men take part in ransacking the convent held by the English, and thus he discovers Jennet in her small cell mending clothes. He is taken with her green eyes and her spirit as she tries to use her small knife to defend herself. Hacon claims her as "his plunder" and takes her with him as the army moves forward into England.The story of the relationship between this fearsome knight and the young woman he has claimed as his own is artfully crafted to be at once tense and tender. The reader follows them from battle to battle and always the romance is first and foremost in the story while the background action keeps you in suspense to find out what will happen next.Beware you might find yourself trying to ignore your need for food or sleep in order to keep reading. I liked everything about this book: the plot, the characters (of which there are many) and the almost nonstop action. I closed the book after the last page with a heartfelt sigh of pleasure while wishing it had not ended so soon.
4 Stars Very strong heroine Jennet is. Fending off famine and becoming spoils of war to be captured at a nunnery. She could swoon and give up, but not for this feisty character. Likely for her Hacon is her captor. There is more than meets the eye when it comes to Hacon. Though he fights in the battles Jennet realizes he may not be as blood thirsty as she believes all knights to be. I felt bad for Jennet and Hacon at times because every time it looked like these were going good they were thrown for a loop. All the characters are intriguing from Hacon nephew to his cousin. It had humor, suspense, passion, and adventure. Definitely wort.h a read if you are fan of historical romance.
Once again Howell takes readers back in time, painting a vivid and seamless backdrop for her intricate story. Her descriptions paint this world before your eyes while she tells an intricate and intimate tale. The seamless narrative brings the plot to the forefront allowing me to experience the exciting and romantic tale, rather than simply reading it. The characters in this novel were not only historically accurate; they were also fun to get to know. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that they weren’t all instantly likeable. It added an extra sense of realism to the story for me. I felt as if I were truly caught up amongst them, living back in time along with them. The trials and difficulty of their lives are so apparent, bringing about a myriad of ways for me to connect with them. I love how easily Howell took me back in time to get lost in this fantastic and fun novel. It was a great read that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to others. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Please note that this is a reissue, so it is possible you may have read this one before, I did and noted a few inconsequential changes. Jennet is living in a convent when it is invaded by Scottish warriors and Sir Hacon claims her as his plunder. As she travel with the warriors and sees the perils of war she and Hacon grow closer together. When the fighting ends they start a life together but is the battle every really over? I love Hannah Howell and never miss one of her books! The characters are excellent and the story draws you in, even though I had previously read it, I couldn’t help but enjoy it a second time. Great Read!
I've enjoyed most of Ms.Howell novels so far until this came along. It just seems to drag. The plot is some what boring and I found myself hating the heroin. That's not good. I have yet to finish the novel. I'm not even half way through the book. I don't recommand this book. Buy at your own rick. Hope this helped.
Hollow characters and a boring,choppy plot.
[ Meh. We'll see if this place lasts. ] <p> The ginger tabby tom padded in.