The Marriage Prize

The Marriage Prize

by Virginia Henley

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The Marriage Prize by Virginia Henley

Few writers can rival the sheer storytelling mastery of New York Times bestselling author Virginia Henley. Brimming with sensual tension, humor, and narrative power, Henley's award-winning novels have enchanted readers worldwide. Now in The Marriage Prize-the third novel in her Plantagenet trilogy, which began with The Falcon and the Flower and continued in The Dragon and the Jewel-this incomparable storyteller returns to medieval England and brings to life a love story so passionate it will take your breath away.

Orphaned at a young age, Rosamond Marshal is a royal ward of Eleanor de Montfort, sister of King Henry III and wife of the renowned warlord Simon de Montfort. Under the worldly countess's tutelage, Rosamond learns not only the skills of a chatelaine, but how to wield her female power by dressing exquisitely, conversing wittily, and charming men mercilessly. As she reaches young womanhood, the beautiful heiress is fearful of leaving the security of the de Montfort household and fulfilling her betrothal to the powerful bachelor knight Rodger de Leyburn. Just as Rodger devilishly outmaneuvers Rosamond's strategems to break their betrothal, Prince Edward will accept none of Rosamond's excuses to forestall her marriage. For the prince is determined to reward Rodger, his dearest friend, with a wealthy, noble wife.

Slowly Rodger woos Rosamond, convincing her that his love extends beyond her estates and her wealth. But no sooner does Rosamond become Rodger's wife and experience all the exquisite ways a man can love a woman than she finds herself and her husband on opposite sides of a bloody civil war. For Rodger is fighting alongside Prince Edward and the king to quell the barons' rebellion, led by none other than Rosamond's beloved guardian, Simon de Montfort.

With the gripping storytelling, vibrant historical detail, and powerful insight into a woman's heart that have made her one of the most popular authors of romantic fiction, Virginia Henley sweeps readers into the most captivating and wildly passionate love story of her career.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307567901
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/22/2009
Series: Medieval Plantagenet Trilogy , #3
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 196,396
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Virginia Henley is the author of sixteen romantic novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Seduced and Desired and the national bestseller A Woman of Passion. Her work has been translated into fourteen languages. A recipient of the Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award, she lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

Kenilworth Castle
November 1258

A wave of stark terror swept over Rosamond Marshal, snatching her breath away. She began to run the moment she saw the dark horse and rider, knowing instinctively they would pursue her. Relentlessly! The rider was faceless. All she knew was that he was dark, but it was the horse she feared most. It was huge, black, and terrifying.

An icy shiver slithered down her spine. Her pale golden hair tumbled wildly about her shoulders as she pulled her skirts high, baring long, slim legs, in a desperate attempt to escape being trampled by the cruel hooves. Her lungs felt as if they would burst as she gasped for just one more breath that would carry her to safety. Her pulse hammered inside her eardrums, deafening her as she turned to look over her shoulder.

Rosamond's eyes widened in horror and a scream was torn from her throat as she saw the black forelegs rise above her, then helplessly she tumbled beneath the murderous hooves.

Rosamond's eyes flew open. Slowly, she became aware of her surroundings. She was lying in her bed, her hair a wild tangle, her night rail twisted about her body so that her long legs were bared. Heaving a ragged sigh of relief, she sat up.

"Whatever is amiss, Rosamond?" Demoiselle de Montfort asked, throwing back her covers and padding barefoot across the spacious bedchamber they shared at Kenilworth Castle.

Rosamond tossed back her hair in a gesture of dismissal to reassure her young friend. "It was nothing, Demi."

"But you screamed," the young, dark-haired girl insisted. "Was it the old nightmare come back to haunt you?"

"No, of course not," Rosamond said. She was seventeen, almost three years older than the Demoiselle, as everyone affectionately called young Eleanor de Montfort. The unusual nickname had been given to her by a French nursemaid because mother and daughter had the same name. Rosamond was determined not to alarm her friend. She laughed with bravado. "It would take more than a bad dream to frighten me."

"Could we have a light?" The Demoiselle had always been afraid of total darkness, which was why Rosamond shared her chamber, high in the Lady Tower.

"I'm so sorry I disturbed you, Demi." She lit the square, scented candle in its metal stand and tucked the Demoiselle back into bed. Back in her own bed, Rosamond offered a silent prayer of thanks that she was safe and secure at Kenilworth. Located in the midland county of Warwickshire, eighty miles from London, the castle was her haven, her refuge, where she felt protected from the harsh world. Rosamond watched the shadows flicker upon the wall. She hadn't had the trampling dream in a long time and had hoped she was free of it, but apparently she was not completely free.

Though Rosamond knew what caused it, she never spoke of it anymore.

Because her parents had both died while she and her brother Giles were children, they had become royal wards. Since Giles was the same age as Prince Edward Plantagenet, he had joined the prince's household, becoming one of a dozen noble youths who were Edward's companions. Rosamond, however, had joined the household of the king's sister, Eleanor de Montfort, Countess of Leicester, because Rosamond was the niece of the late William Marshal, who had been Princess Eleanor's first husband.

The brother and sister had seen each other often because Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, was Prince Edward's godfather, and the young noblemen received their military training from the great warlord, reputed to be the ablest warrior in Christendom. By the time he was fifteen, Lord Edward, as the heir to the throne was called, had towered head and shoulders over the other men of the court. His companions were all high-spirited youths, guilty of excesses. Some of them were his cousins from Provence and Lusignan, who thought themselves above curbs and restraints.

Though King Henry had forbidden them to joust, Lord Edward and his companions had ridden over to Ware to take part in a tournament. That was the fateful day that Giles Marshal had lost his life in a jousting accident. Because Rosamond was only twelve at the time, the gory details had been kept from her, but she had heard whispers of the half-wild charger that had trampled his body. At first the nightmares had come every night, but with time, they had become less frequent, and she had been free of them for almost two years.

Rosamond remembered the months following the accident, how everyone had been kind to her. Giles's companions, led by Lord Edward, had been soberly contrite and extremely solicitous. Because she was all alone in the world, several had sought her hand in marriage, and at Lord Edward's insistence she had been betrothed to his dearest friend, Rodger de Leyburn, who held the coveted post of royal steward in the prince's household. Yet Rosamond could not help feeling a secret resentment toward Edward and his high-spirited companions.

Rosamond sighed. It had happened five years ago, yet still she thought of the prince and his friends as arrogant, lawless, spoiled young devils! And it was true. They had all been wild and courted trouble with a vengeance. She thought of the Demoiselle's older brothers, Henry and Simon de Montfort, who had been Lord Edward's first companions. They were no different. All they thought of were weapons and horses and tumbling the maidservants.

Her thoughts inevitably drifted to a more worthy knight, Sir Rickard de Burgh. He was the son of the wealthy and noble Falcon de Burgh, Lord of Connaught. Sir Rickard was a twin, and reputed to possess the mystic gift of seeing into the future. He was a mature man of middle years, not a dissolute youth, but maturity only enhanced his rugged good looks. His thick black hair had a distinguished touch of gray at the temples, and his brilliant green eyes had attractive laugh-lines at their corners. His voice, so low and melodious with its Irish lilt, had insinuated itself into Rosamond's heart the first time she heard it, and it made her sigh whenever he spoke.

To Rosamond, Sir Rickard de Burgh was everything that was honorable and chivalrous, for he had pledged himself to serve and guard Princess Eleanor Plantagenet when she was tragically widowed by William Marshal's untimely death. It was rumored that he remained unwed because no lady had yet touched his heart. Rosamond secretly daydreamed that perhaps she would be the one he would honor with his favor. Her pulse fluttered at the mere thought of Lady de Montfort's knight-errant. Her maiden's heart overflowed with awe and admiration for the handsome Irish warrior.

In the morning, Rosamond forgot about the dream as she and Demi dressed and learned from their tiring-women that Earl Simon had returned from Wales with a large group of knights. As she saw the joy transform her friend's face, banishing the worry Demi experienced whenever her father went on campaign, Rosamond was thankful she no longer had to live with such paralyzing fear. To love someone and lose them was the worst thing that could happen in this world.

The Demoiselle was eager to see her father, and Rosamond blushed, hoping that Sir Rickard de Burgh also had returned and not tarried in Wales at one of his castles. The girls spurned the head veils held out by their tiring-women, and like two hoydens, picked up their skirts and raced from the ladies' quarters of the castle down to the Great Hall. Kenilworth was like a royal court in its size and importance. The household was a hive of activity, with Eleanor de Montfort, Countess of Leicester, presiding over it like a queen bee. She was the sister of King Henry of England, but she took as much pride in the title her husband had
given her as she did in the title of princess. Though Eleanor now had grown children, she was still a beautiful woman. She was vividly dark, and far too vain to allow her hair to turn gray. These days, however, she wore her hair up, fastening the curls with jeweled pins or braiding it into a regal coronet to enhance her small, five-foot stature. She wore cosmetics, painting her mouth with lip rouge, and using kohl to outline her startling amethyst-colored eyes and to darken her lashes.

Eleanor prided herself on her slim figure. Her waist was almost as tiny as it had been before she had given birth to her children, and the necklines of her gowns were always cut to show off her beautiful breasts. Pride of blood showed in her every gesture. Eleanor was a vibrant woman who loved to laugh almost as much as she loved clothes and jewels. She was both a princess and a countess down to her fingertips. Her husband not only adored her, but also trusted her implicitly.

When Simon spied his daughter, he swooped her up in his massive arms and swung her about. "Can this young lady possibly be my little girl? Demoiselle, you have grown into a woman in the months I've been gone. You rival your mother in beauty; I just hope and pray you are neither as willful nor as wicked as she." Simon's dark eyes found Eleanor's and gazed into them for a moment, deliberately reminding her of the passion they had shared when he'd arrived home in the middle of the night. Though he was in his fifties, Simon was still an extremely virile man, with a commanding presence. He had a soldier's body; the muscles on his six-foot, four-inch frame were well honed from the rigors of the Welsh campaign. Simon de Montfort also had a supreme air of confidence that drew younger men like a lodestone.

His daughter dimpled with delight and gave him an affectionate kiss of greeting.

"The castle felt empty without you, Father."

"It is filling up by the hour as the men return from Wales. No doubt it will burst at the seams when your cousin Edward arrives."

"Lord Edward is coming?" Countess Eleanor raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow at her husband. Her brother King Henry and Simon de Montfort were almost enemies.

"I am Edward's godfather, Eleanor. Just because his father and I disagree on every conceivable matter doesn't mean that Edward and I cannot be friends."

"I agree, darling. You have been a wonderful influence on him. My nephew Edward will make a magnificent king. I warrant he will put both his father and grandfather in the shade when it is his turn to rule."

"In spite of their reputations as hell-raisers and carousers, he and his young nobles acquitted themselves well in the Welsh campaign."

"Such wild boys!" Eleanor said indulgently.

"Boys no longer . . . they are men, make no mistake."

Rosamond rolled her eyes ceilingward and Demi giggled as they imagined the spoiled boys parading about like men. In truth, Rosamond found it hard to picture them at all, for a month after her betrothal, the royal family had traveled to Spain, where Prince Edward, heir to the throne, was married to ten year-old Eleanora of Castile. The political marriage had taken place to ensure peace between England and Spain, and immediately after the ceremony, Lord Edward and his nobles had ridden to Gascony, where he had been installed as ruler. When he returned to England at twenty, Lord Edward had his own household at Windsor, which had been especially built for him. Rumor had it that the young nobles, influenced by continental ideas, were wilder than ever. Edward now commanded a large troop of young Gascons and was so eager for military action, it had been impossible to keep him from the campaign in Wales.

As the two friends broke their fast, Demi confided, "I don't remember much about Edward except that his hair was flaxen and everyone called him Longshanks because he was so tall."

Rosamond's glance, which had been searching the hall for a glimpse of one particular knight, came to rest on Demi's pretty face. "That's because it has been five years since we've seen him . . . thank the Lord!"

Demi laughed at her friend's irreverence. "I can't remember any of the young men
in his household."

"How very fortunate for you," Rosamond teased. "They were a pack of uncivilized beasts, forever fighting and trading blows with each other. The only one I could tolerate was Harry of Almaine, and that's because his mother was Isabella Marshal and he's my second cousin."

"What about Rodger de Leyburn?" Demi asked avidly.

"What about him?" Rosamond shrugged a pretty shoulder to show her complete

"He's your betrothed!"

"Not for long! I'll soon rid myself of the ugly devil," Rosamond said lightly, licking honey from her fingers.

"Is he truly ugly?" Demi asked with compassion.

Rosamond's throaty laugh bubbled forth. "He left such an indelible impression upon me, I don't remember."

The girls finished their breakfast and hurried off to their first lesson of the day. Eleanor de Montfort was a stickler for learning and would not excuse the Demoiselle from her lessons simply because her father had returned. They studied languages with Brother Adam, a learned Franciscan who had helped compile the library at Kenilworth. Both young ladies were fluent in French, and Rosamond had recently developed a flair for Spanish, while Demi preferred to learn the Welsh tongue. They also studied history and government, as well as music and art.

From the Hardcover edition.

Table of Contents

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Marriage Prize 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
12 chapters in and I am disgusted. The characters are infantile at best, completely and utterly deceiful and manipulative at worse. The male lead Rod is a disgusting prick, always using others as a way of getting what he wants. If the female disagrees with him he always makes his friend the prince command her to do what he wants. Not inly is he a jerk he is also quite willing to be abusive. The phrase "I'll tan your arse" should never be spoken to anyone over the age of 18. Virginia Henley owes me 7.99 and I want my money. She should never be allowed to write.
dem More than 1 year ago
I loved this book just as I have with most of Virginia Henleys books. This trilogy was very much enjoyed. I've read complaints about the end of some characters from the trilogy and had to say something. The love stories may be fiction but some of the characters and battles are very much real. This is the reason I love this author, the way she seamlessly intertwines facts with fiction. She simply kept true to the story. Do some research before you start mouthing off and complaining.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Since I was at a lost for reading the first book of this small series, I only read the 2nd and 3rd. In the second book, my heart was won by the characters. I felt their passion, I felt their pain, and I cried their tears. In the Marriage Prize, I enjoyed flipping each page just to see what was soon to happen next, it continuously kept me enthrawled. I have to say, Virginia Henley possess a talent few writers have. When I read of the death of a certain character, my heart turned to stone and my eyes cried for the fate of a great warrior who once was. Bravo to Virginia Henley, and bravo to the people lost in time she has brought back to life to so many people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
himalayas More than 1 year ago
Read Dream Lover or A Year and A Day instead.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
My first Romance Novel and quite a page turner. I would recommend to anyone who likes historical fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've been an avid romance reader for a very long time. I read this book and is the only book in my collection of romance novels that I've read more than a dozen times!!! I've recommended it to many friends, and the've enjoyed it just as much. Each character is cleverly written and there is no digression from the plot. I found myself being excited, sad, angry, frustrated, happy, and scared while reading this story!!! It is the most Fun I've had in reading a romance novel! If you are ready to read some thing that's different from your basic love story-where usauly the heroine is totaly helpless and swoons over the hero-then I highly recomend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Marriage Prize was the first romance novel I ever read. It still remains my favorite one even though I have read plenty other ones.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I did not enjoy this book and had I read the reviews I would not have purchased it. The romance between Rodger and Rosamund hardly held my interest and I could have lived the rest of my life not knowing the gruesome fate of one of my favorite characters. The Dragon and the Jewel, a book I loved to reread is now ruined for me. I am not only disappointed in this book but in the author as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For a fan who has ALWAYS ADORED Virginia work this book just plain baffled me. The main characters were deceitful, untrustworthy and with NO redeeming qualities what so ever. I could have survived the trauma of Simon's death had the characters been worth cheering for. But I was disgusted by them and was not rooting for them or their "love" one iota. Not sure what drove Virigina to write such unworthy characters but let's hope it was a one time flaw! Having read Ravished since, it's restored my faith in Virginia's abilities but nothing can save this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I suggest reading this trilogy in order. PLANTAGENET TRILOGY: THE FALCON AND THE FLOWER........ THE DRAGON AND THE JEWEL....... THE MARRIAGE PRIZE. Once again, this is the kind of book that is not for everyone. Some might enjoy it to the fullest yet some find it too tedious because of its historical facts. Some might even hate it for the gruesome faith that awaits Simon De Montfort, who I believe everyone loved in THE DRAGON and the JEWEL. I on the otherhand, loved this book. I did find it somewhat a slow read. When I said SLOW read, I didn't mean it to as a derogatory comment. It's somewhat slow for me because I wanted to absorb the historical portion of this book. I wanted to remember the details that way when I do some researched about it, I could compare or differentiate it. I find Pince Edwards character quite intriguing. His friendship to Roger (and Roger's loyalty to him) and the Prince's relationship with Simon De Montfort was all an interesting read. Even the secondary characters, fiction or non-fiction, all piqued my curiosity. Roger and Rosamund's love story was kind of a secondary interest to me. Their romance was a bit simple, too conventional perhaps and is not particularly my top favorite yet I did enjoy them. They have their own spot which I admit added spice to the whole novel. I was devastated to have finally read the horrific death of Simon De Monfort (Didn't want this to be a spoiler and I wouldn't have mention this part but then others already have...). Even if I already knew by history that this would happend, it seems I was still unprepared. Perhaps it's the way V. Henley wrote it or perhaps it's just cuz I've love Simon and Eleanor in THE DRAGON and THE JEWEL that I sympathize for both of them. They are so much in love that it aches to read such heart wretching moment. I cried and felt so sad for Eleanor and her children. I admired her in TDATJ and seeing her strength here made me admire her even more. Simon's death affected me so much that I thought about it for days afterwards, wishing it would have ended differently. I am a sucker for HAPPY ENDINGS and reading his death didn't particularly suit me well. Had I not read about him in TDATJ, I am sure I wouldn't be this devastated. However, I eventually come to terms with it and have decided that if Virginia Henley rewrote Simon's story differently, this book won't probably affect me this way nor would it leave an impressive mark like it did now. It is amazing how V. Henley challenged her readers this way... to have readers love a character who is to die in the next book. Truly amazing! After reading Virginia Henley's P. Trilogy, I did some more research about the Plantagenets and learned a lot through the process. I also researched about Simon De Montfort, the Marshals, the De Clares and even the name Roger Leyburn, who is our hero in this book. I made an interesting findings! If a historical romance novel can piqued my interest this strongly for me to do some researching to enhance my knowledge on the matter then I say it's truly a worthy book. I am impress by the way Ms. Henley corporated this trilogy. Full of facts, mixed with her own unique ideas of romantic interlude. Overall, this book is a grand read. Cry, smile and learn!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book and it was wonderful to see the previous characters again. I must be allowed to point out, however, that the character that dies was a real person and he really was killed at the battle mentioned. Yes, it is disappointing, but at least you can say this wonderful writer knows her stuff! I highly recommend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
love all henley books but bitterly disappointed that the much loved main character from the dragon & the jewel was killed off. I wept and was unable to finish the book upon discovering same.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the storyline to this book, as much as I have loved all of Ms. Henley's previous books. I am, however, disturbed by the ending of the book which resulted in the horrible demise of one of her wonderful main characters from a previous book, The Dragon And The Jewel. I truly wish that Ms. Henley didn't hold so closely with historical fact, if that was her intent, and chose a different way to end the conflict in the plot line which would have maintained the integrity of the characters from The Dragon And The Jewel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Virginia does it again...with this beautifully written continuing saga that pulls at your very heart strings...It was wonderful to read this story and recognize some of the characters from a previous book and follow them in their new adventures, along with the fresh young heroine Rosamund and her powerful knight Sir Rodger. I was enthralled, as you will be , as we always are , when reading a Henley novel. What more can I say but READ THIS BOOK !!.