Three sisters in the shadow of Arthurian legend find magic, menace, and passion in the New York Times–bestselling author’s enchanting historical romance.
The defiant daughters of King Arthur’s descendant, Merlin Pendragon, have an appetite for adventure and a gift for driving men wild. Marrying them off may seem an easy task, but they live and love according to their own rules . . .
Averil is the lord’s eldest daughter, whose dazzling beauty can buy her what she wants most: marriage to royalty. But fate thrusts her kicking and screaming into the arms of rugged and penniless Rhys FitzHugh. He’s looking forward to the challenge of winning her love, her loyalty, and her trust.
Maia has a hefty dowry and the man of her choice: the dangerously seductive Emrys Llyn, descendant of Lancelot and the Lady of the Lake—a man surrounded by rumors that the women in his life suffer terrible fates. Can Maia prove the cursed reputation false . . . or will she fall victim as well?
The uncontrollable and irrepressible Junia is the lord’s youngest, a free spirit content to roam the countryside where she can be alone with the golden-haired son of her father’s sworn enemy. But having a secret love might cost Junia more than she can ever imagine.
“Bertrice Small is a legend.” —Linda Lael Miller
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"I shall marry a great lord," Averil Pendragon told her sisters as they sat together in their father's hall. Her golden head nodded emphatically with her pronouncement.
"You shall marry the man our father chooses for you," her sister Maia said.
"And he shall be a great lord," Averil repeated.
"Perhaps," Maia said. "But he could as easily be an old merchant to whom father owes a great debt, and wishes to pacify; or mayhap a knight father wishes to bind to our service. Your dower will be small, Averil, for though you are the eldest of us, you are still naught but a concubine's daughter. My brother Brynn and I are the true heirs," Maia concluded loftily with a satisfied smile.
"But I am the most beautiful of us all," Averil shot back. "Everyone says I am the fairest of our father's daughters. My beauty shall not be wasted on some merchant or simple knight. I may be the daughter of a concubine, but our father loves my mother, and so my value is great."
"You are the most beautiful of us all!" their youngest sister, Junia, said with a sigh. "You are both very beautiful, and I am so plain."
"You are not plain, Junia," Maia said. "You are simply young."
"Aye, I am," Junia replied. "You have such rich red hair, Maia. And you, Averil, are descended from the Fair Folk, and have hair like spun gold. My dark hair is so common." She sighed.
"But your features are exquisite," Averil remarked. "You have the most perfect little nose, and a sweet mouth, Junia. As for your hair, it has the blue-green shine of a raven's wing. It is hardly common, sister."
"But I am a concubine's daughter, too," Junia wailed. "And the youngest! What sort of dower will I have by the time I am old enough to wed? Father will probably have to match me with the old merchant." She began to cry.
"Now see what you have done with your proud boasting!" Averil snapped at Maia. "You have made the baby weep, and if we cannot stop her we will be punished."
"What about your boasting about being the most beautiful and marrying a great lord?" Maia demanded to know. Reaching out, she pulled Junia from her stool, and into the comfort of her arms. "There, there, chick, do not fret. Father loves us all equally, and we will all have grand dowers and great lords for husbands I am certain." She stroked her little sister's dark head.
"Really?" Junia sniffed softly.
"Of course, you goose!" Averil said impatiently. "We are the Dragon Lord's daughters, and descended from King Arthur himself. Even today our ancestor's memory is still strong. But because I am the eldest I shall be wed first, and I will be fifteen next month, sisters. I think it is time for me to be matched. Most girls are wed younger than fifteen. Da just doesn't want to let us go."
Junia's tears faded away. "I did hear our da speaking with the lady Argel about matches a few days ago," she said innocently.
Maia's arms dropped from about her sibling. "What did my mother and our father say?" she demanded to know.
"There were no names spoken," Junia replied.
"But what did they say?" Averil pressed her little sister. "They had to have said something that piqued your curiosity, Junia, else you should not have mentioned it."
"They said the time had come to consider marriages for you both. Father said he would follow the example of our prince, the Great Llywelyn, and seek among the Marcher lords for suitable husbands for you. That's all that I heard. I swear!"
"What did my mother reply?" Maia wanted to know.
"She agreed. Nothing more. You know your mother, Maia. She is so kind and soft-spoken. It is rare that she disagrees with our father. My mother says we are fortunate in her for another wife might not be so thoughtful of her husband's concubines, or allow them to live in the keep with the lady and her children," Junia finished.
"My mother says if the lady Argel had been able to bear her children sooner we might not be here at all," Averil remarked. Then she turned her attention again to the prospect of a husband. "We must listen more closely, sisters," she told them, "for we shall be told nothing before it is engraved in stone. We shall have to learn everything for ourselves."
The three heads nodded solemnly in agreement.
Several days later, however, Averil overheard something that displeased her greatly. Her father was considering making a match for Maia first because she was his legitimate daughter. Never before had Averil Pendragon known her sire to put one of his children above the other, no matter their birthright. And worse! He would make no overtures towards any family until Maia was fifteen, which was a whole year away. I will be sixteen by then, Averil considered, and too old for a good match. She sighed, and began to think what she could do, but she could think of nothing. She kept this knowledge from her sisters, but she did speak with her mother, Gorawen.
Gorawen was as beautiful as her daughter was. They shared the same pale golden hair, and fair skin. But Gorawen's eyes were silver in color, and Averil's were the light green of her father's. All of the Dragon Lord's daughters had green eyes. "You were right to come to me," Gorawen said. "Your father can wait no longer to match you with a husband. You are more than old enough, but if you must tarry until Maia is wed, who knows how old you may be. Certainly too old to attract a good match. I will not allow your beauty to be wasted on some insignificant family!"
"He has never before put her before me," Averil said, her tone irritable.
Gorawen laughed softly, and patted her daughter's hand. "He has always been more than fair with you all, and Argel too, but this is different, Averil. There is no avoiding the fact that both you and Junia were born on the wrong side of the blanket."
"So was our ancestor, Gwydre, the founder of this house," Averil muttered.
"I know," her mother replied, "but that was centuries ago, and Gwydre was a man. It is different for lasses, Daughter. My birth was true, but I was one of five daughters. There was no dowry for me for either a husband or the church. My father, Arian ap Tewydr, was more than willing to give me to Merin Pendragon as his concubine. He knew your father would treat me well, and I should be safe for the rest of my days. He made your father swear on his ancestor's name that the children born of our union would be well cared for, and you have been, Averil."
"Why did you have no other children, Mother?" Averil asked.
"I did not want to give your father a son when Argel had not. She is a good and patient woman, but even good and patient women have their limits. Ysbail gives us all enough difficulty."
"But Argel did give father a son," Averil said.
"But only after many years of marriage. That is why he took Ysbail for a second concubine, however she birthed Junia much to her annoyance, but then she is a foolish woman. If she had birthed a son he would have been overshadowed by a legitimate brother, for Argel managed at last to have the son, who is your father's heir. Ysbail would not have been happy to have any son of hers forced to take a lesser role."
"You both might have had more daughters," Averil said slyly.
"We might," her mother answered, "but we did not." Then she laughed. "I will tell you when you need to know, daughter."
"Will you speak with my father?" the girl asked.
"Eventually," Gorawen said. "Your birthday is not until the last day of April, my daughter. I do not want your father aware of what you heard, or that you were eavesdropping when he and Argel were discussing your fates. Let me handle this in my own way, and my own time. You will, I promise, be wed before Maia."
"I believe you, Mother, for you have never lied to me," Averil said.
"You must learn to cultivate patience, Daughter," Gorawen chided gently.
"I will try," Averil promised, and her mother smiled.
"Good. You want to show your father that you are ready to leave his keeping, and be a good wife to a husband," Gorawen said. "Your behavior must never shame us." Then Gorawen dismissed her only child, and considered how to deal with the situation with which Averil had presented her. The truth was that Merin Pendragon had kept his two eldest daughters too close for too long. Averil and Maia should have both been matched earlier, and their marriages ready to be celebrated. Her own child would be fifteen at the end of the month, and Maia would be fourteen on the fourteenth of May. She smiled to herself. Once the wheels were set in motion to match Averil and Maia she was certain that Ysbail would begin demanding equal treatment for her daughter. Junia would be but eleven on June second. There was time for Junia. First Averil, and then Maia. Maia's match would be the better one no matter, but Merin would see that Averil was given a good husband. Her daughter would have a good dower portion. She would not have to be a concubine like her mother, Gorawen thought, satisfied.
She arose, and calling her serving woman for her cloak, Gorawen went out into the spring day. The courtyard of the keep was quiet but for the poultry scratching about in the dirt. Several dogs slept in the sunshine, and by the kitchen garden, her destination, a fat tabby dozed amid the new greenery. She shooed him awake and away, and taking her knife from her robes began to cut some herbs. If she was to have her way about Averil she must get Merin into her bed. Of late, she noted, his manhood did not rise to the challenge of her womanhood as it once had. He was no longer a young man. He had wed Argel late, being thirty. He had been too busy in the service of Llywelyn ap Iowerth, called the Great Llywelyn, who was his overlord, and lord of almost all of Wales. It was Llywelyn who had finally sent him home, and told him to marry before it was too late.
So Merin Pendragon had returned to his keep. His parents were gone from the earth, and he realized the prince was right. He needed a wife. He had found a good match in Argel urch Owein, daughter of Owein ap Dafydd. Argel had been fifteen when they wed. But to her distress she could not seem to conceive a child. After four years Merin had brought Gorawen into his keep, and nine months later Averil had been born. A year later Argel had brought forth her first child, a daughter, Maia. But after that there was no sign of another child.
Gorawen knew well how to prevent conception, having been taught by her grandmother, a wisewoman. She had prevented another pregnancy in order that Argel might have time to conceive a son for their shared lord. After a while Merin grew impatient, and brought another concubine into their midst. Ysbail conceived immediately, and birthed Junia. Gorawen saw that her grandmother's potion was fed to Ysbail that she not birth a son; and she prayed to the gods both old and new for Merin's seed to take root in Argel's womb again, and that it be a son. Her prayers were finally answered in the summer that Averil was six, Maia five, and Junia three. Argel birthed a son on the first day of August. He was a healthy child who was called Brynn.
After that there were no more children born of Merin Pendragon's seed, and as the years went on the master of Dragon's Lair Keep began to lose interest in his women. Now and again, however, Gorawen could lure him to her bed, and help him to gain pleasure. It was usually when she wanted something badly, for Merin Pendragon was no fool, and she would not shame him. So when that evening she murmured an invitation in his ear he had smiled knowingly, and nodded.
Gorawen was awaiting her lord. She had had a tall oaken tub brought to her chamber, and filled with hot water. Now having undressed Merin she climbed into the tub with him, and began to bathe him. He grunted with pleasure as she scrubbed his back with a boar's bristle brush, and a rough cloth. She picked the nits from his graying head, and washed his locks thoroughly. "Where have you been sleeping?" she demanded. "You are flea bit on your back. You need a new mattress, my lord. I shall tell Argel."
"Do it yourself," he said. "She is morose of late, and can take no suggestion. She weeps at nothing. I do not understand it. She is not breeding, I know for certain."
"Perhaps her juices are drying up," Gorawen suggested. " 'Tis a sad time for a woman to know she may never again bear life in her womb."
"You and Argel are the best of friends, and make my life pleasant," he said. "You would think kindly of my lady." He pulled her wet, naked form against him, and kissed her heartily. "You're a good lass, Gorawen, mother of my eldest child."
She stood quietly in his embrace, and smiled. "You are good to me, and to our daughter, my lord. But come now, and let us get out of the tub. I have a fine treat for you." She smiled again, and climbed out of the water, quickly wrapping a drying cloth about herself, picking up the other to wipe the water off Merin's big body. He was yet a fine figure of a man. When they were both dry she led him to her bed, settling him, hurrying to bring a plate of sweetmeats and a cup of wine for his pleasure.
Merin Pendragon had a sweet tooth, and reached at once for the plate. He popped a sweetmeat in his mouth, chewing appreciatively. "What are they?" he asked her.
"I dried plums last summer, and soaked them in sweet wine in a stone crock all winter. Then I rolled them up, dipped them in honey, and rolled them in crushed almonds. Do you like them, my lord?" She climbed into the bed next to him, and sipped from his cup.
"You're a clever wench, Gorawen," he told her, unaware that the wine the plums had been soaking in was imbued with a potent aphrodisiac she made from the herbs in her garden. He reached for her as he felt his passions begin to stir.
Gorawen melted into his arms. "My dear lord," she murmured, holding her face up to him for his kisses, tasting the wine and the plums on his breath. Her fingers began to caress the back of his neck gently, but in a way that had always pleased him greatly.
"What do you want of me?" he demanded, shifting her so that she now lay beneath him. He pulled the drying cloth open, and stared down at her big breasts.
"Later, Merin," she said softly, her tongue teasing his ear, her breath hot, and sending shivers down his spine.
He chuckled. "A very clever wench," he told her with emphasis. Then covering her body with his, and feeling his lust beginning to rage, he thrust into her, sighing gustily as she received him, wrapping her legs about his waist. Soon she was crying out to him with pleasure, and for the first time in a very long while Merin Pendragon felt like the inexhaustible youth he had once been. He groaned as her body shuddered with her pleasure not once, but twice. And at that second burst of satisfaction he loosed his own juices with a howl of gratification, finally falling away from Gorawen, his breath coming in quick pants.
They lay together recovering from the bout of Eros that had surprised even Gorawen. The plums were more successful than she had anticipated. At last recovered she said, "Now I will ask a favor of you, my lord."
He laughed aloud. "And I will grant it you, sweeting, as you have pleasured me mightily this night. What is it you will have of me?"
"I want you to find a husband for Averil. She will be fifteen at the end of the month. It is past time she was matched, wedded and bedded," Gorawen said.
"I have been thinking on it," he said. "For both Maia and Averil."
"Maia is your legitimate daughter, but she is the younger, my lord. She will be easier to match, but she should not be wed before her elder sister. If they had not all been raised together without prejudice in your hall it might be a different thing. But you have treated all your children, both licit and illicit, in the same loving and kindly manner," Gorawen pointed out.
"Ahh," he said, "I see the difficulty here, sweeting. It takes time to make the kind of match that must be made for Maia, and if much more time passes, Averil will be considered too long in the tooth."
"Aye, she will. My lord, she is the most beautiful of your daughters. Use that beauty for a good match. Then the match you can make for Maia will be even better than you might have hoped for as she is the legitimate daughter. And little Junia will have an opportunity she might not if her sisters are married well, and better."
"A clever wench," he repeated for the third time that evening. "But who?"
"You have said you would follow the example of our prince and seek among the Marcher lords for sons-in-law. This may also prove useful when Brynn is of an age to take a wife. I know that the prince hopes to rid himself of this English king who is his overlord, but I wonder if that will ever happen. And we who live here in Wales must think of ourselves, and our children, first. What are the politics of great men to us?"
Merin Pendragon nodded. "You reason well, sweeting, though you be but a woman. The more we ally our family to the families of the Marcher lords the better off it will be for us. I will do as you have asked me, and find a husband for Averil first, but I will tell Argel of my decision before I do. She is my wife, and as loyal to me as are you."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Dragon Lord's Daughters"
Copyright © 2004 Bertrice Small.
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.
Table of Contents
Also by Bertrice Small,
Prologue - ANCIENT BRITAIN BEFORE THE DARK AGES,
Part One - Averil,
Part Two - Maia,
Part Three - Junia,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR,
THE BOOKSELLER'S DAUGHTER,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love this book, it had me sitting on the edge of my seat, crying and cheering all within the first part of the book. I READ IT TWICE!!!
Set in ancient Britain before the dark ages, a definite page turner. Ms Small fans will not be dissappointed. Full of lust, passion, excitement, loyalty and honor. You can't help but feel for Junia (you'll know what I mean when you finish the book).
Love all her books ....can't put them down
But not one I would buy. This is the first time I didn"t care for one of your books. Sorry maybe next time.
This book was truly what I would call poorly-written. To start with, it was full of grammar mistakes. I found this annoying because there were numerous ones in every chapter. With all the editing books go through, this should not happen at all. The only story I felt had potential was the first one, Averil's. However, I felt the story did not end at a place that wrapped up her story well. It should have been more developed. The magical element in the second story didn't flow, and I could never really get into the story. The third tale was truly horrendous. Plot development was lacking, and it ended in a way that didn't fit with the rest of the story. Reading it was unbearable. While I do feel that Bertrice Small has written some good romances, this was definitely not one of them.
¿Averil¿. In Everleigh, Godwine Fitzhugh extracts a deathbed promise from his wrong side of the sheets son Rhys to care for his legitimate heir six year old Mary and to ¿steal an heiress¿, suggesting the Pendragon girl. Rhys journeys to Dragon Lair in Welshry and abducts Averil Pendragon to be his wife, but not realizing that she, like him, is illegitimate. ¿Maia¿. The legitimate heir Maia rejects all her suitors insisting that her beloved, who she has met in her dreams, will come for her soon. Emrys Llyn, the Lord of the Lake, arrives to court Maia. He claims to be a descendent of Lancelot and the Lady of the Lake. He admits he lost two previous wives who suddenly died for no known reason. As Emrys and Maia fall in love, will the jealous Lady of the Lake tragically end their relationship? ¿Junia¿. Two years later, Junia misses her married sisters, but meets Simon de Bohun and over time they fall in love. Simon tells his dad that he wants to marry Junia, but his cruel father Hugo will never accept a Pendragon. Over a century ago, a feud between the clans formed leaving no hope for the star-crossed lovers. When Junia and Simon meet to say goodbye, Hugo captures her, making it even more impossible for the lovers. The three novellas are refreshing well-written tales that move forward the Arthurian legend a few centuries though the audience needs to know that Junia is raped. The three sisters, descendents of Arthur, make delightful protagonists that fans of Bertrice Small and the Camelot mythos will value highly and want a sequel starring their brother Brynn. Harriet Klausner
The idea of a romantic novel about King Arthur's descendants is great, but this book is poorly written and does not live up to the expectation of Beatrice Small fans. Instead of weaving a single cohesive story about three sisters falling in love, each part is disjointed and ends abruptly as though the author remembered she had another book to write. The book progresses from disappointing ending with the eldest daughter to downright aborted ending with the youngest daughter. How can the author possibly introduce a romantic hero in the last 20 pages of the story? Junia's story begins on page 235, on page 337 her hero is introduced, and on page 359 the story ends. There is no romance or love story for Junia, ever. Her first love interest is hardly the hero and we only know that she finds love again because Beatrice Small writes less than one page to tell us that she does. The ending to the second story is only slightly better, in that at least the romantic plot is consistent, but poorly executed. The first story is disappointingly mediocre, but it is clearly where all the creative energy of this book is focused. Such a disappointing read.
I have always loved betrice Small, but after this book I am not sure if I can ever read her again. I enjoyed the first story of Averil but thought it should be longer. The secound story also hade potential but fell short a few pages. However the third storie was one I could have done without. I would have rather read about the son Brynn then read the storie she wrote for Junie. The one scene alone gave me nightmares. I understand the times she is wrighting about but felt there could have been a better ending for Junie.
I have read other things by Bertrice Small that I liked, but this book is awful. No character development, stiff dialogue -- and some odd ventures into vulgarity that seemed really out of place. At times I felt like I was reading the script for a bad porn movie. The writing was just really immature -- more like a first attempt at writing romance than work by an established author.