Hilary Mantel meets Sylvia Day: the second installment in a deliciously erotic trilogy begun in Wolf Bride, set against the sumptuous backdrop of the scandal-ridden Tudor Court by Elizabeth Moss.
HE IS UNDER HER SPELL...
Hugh Beaufort, favored courtier of King Henry VIII, likes his women quiet and biddable. But Susannah Tyrell is neither of these things. She is feisty, beautiful, opinionated and brave. And Hugh is fascinated by her-despite himself.
When Susannah pulls an outrageous stunt and finds herself lost in the wilds of England, Hugh must go to her rescue. Neither of them is prepared for the dangers that lie in wait. But most deadly of all is their forbidden desire for one another. Hugh has long held himself in check, but even his iron will has its limits as they remain alone together in the forest, far from the restraints of court...
Lust in the Tudor Court
Praise for Erotic Romances by Elizabeth Moss:
"Fifty Shades of Tudor sex." -The Sunday Times
"For a terrific historical romance with a couple who can't keep their hands off each other, this is perfect."-RT Book Reviews
"Infused with political intrigue, royal pageantry, infidelity, scandal, historical authenticity, romance and love, this story brings yesteryear to life while heating up the pages and fascinating readers."-Romance Junkies
About the Author
Carmen Rose is an award-winning, critically acclaimed British actress. She trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and enjoys regular work as an audiobook narrator of romance and erotica.
Read an Excerpt
By Elizabeth Moss
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Moss
All rights reserved.
Sir John Tyrell's manor, Yorkshire, April 1536
Susannah sat at the open window in the late afternoon sunshine, plaiting her hair and staring down into the yard below. There always seemed to be noise and bustle at her father's manor house, for it stood on the southern edge of the village and was a farm too. On fine spring days like this the high walls of the yard echoed to the noisy squawks of fowl and the grunts of young black piglets rooting in the dirt. Her fingers worked slowly, twining her hair into a plait, for she was bored of Yorkshire and bored of her father's house, so confined she might as well be dead.
A piglet ran squealing across the yard on short stubby trotters and she watched it sullenly. A place farther removed from the elegant pleasures of court she could not imagine.
Her old nurse, Morag, appeared below at the back door, shooing two of the younger kitchen maids outside. The silly girls stood giggling and nudging each other, making laps with their stained aprons into which she poured a few handfuls of feed for the chickens. Then Morag disappeared inside, closing the door, and the two maids began to scoop feed out of their aprons, scattering it and kicking away the eager chickens.
It was such a warm afternoon, Susannah thought, it might almost be summer. She watched three laborers in old-fashioned smocks cross the yard, heading for the meadowlands beyond. Their coarse hats drooped across their foreheads against the sun. One of the men called out a lazy greeting to Tom Hobarth as he came panting through the yard. The massive old porter was carrying a dusty hod of red bricks, balanced over one shoulder, his load bound for the back of the kitchens, where the wall was being extended to make way for a newfangled oven.
Her plait had gone badly awry, Susannah realized, and tugged at it impatiently, struggling to untwine the thick golden strands.
That was how long it had been since Hugh Beaufort had departed for the court, accompanying her sister and Lord Wolf on horseback. By all accounts it was a long and tiring journey from Yorkshire to the southern reaches where the court lay that spring, but five days would probably suffice. Eloise and Wolf should be there by now, discreetly housed in some comfortable apartment near the king, with silken bedspreads and the best French wine on their table. Hugh might lodge with some other gentleman, or perhaps he had a chamber of his own, for he was high in King Henry's favor by all accounts.
Hugh Beaufort would never think of her now. He had royal business to attend to, his books and accounts. Eloise would not miss her either. For how could she? No doubt there would be hunting during the day, then dancing and feasting in the evenings, the courtiers dressed in their costly finery and waited on by liveried servants as they attended the king and queen.
"Oh, why could you not have taken me with you to court, Eloise?" she demanded of the air, then wrinkled up her nose at the stink from below her window. "This place is a prison ... and full of squealing piglets!"
Giving up on the plait, which hung half-untwined over one shoulder like a fraying yellow bell rope, Susannah jumped up and went to the door.
But her old nurse did not answer her call.
Leaning over the landing rail, Susannah peered down into the darkened stairwell, calling out "Morag!" again.
Nothing stirred in the unlit hallway. All the servants were too busy with their chores to heed her, she thought bitterly, and listened to the clatter of pots from the kitchen, the hoarse shouts of the cook that meant preparations for supper were already underway.
Besides, she was no longer important. Her father would see her married off to Sir William Hanney soon, and then her life would be over, if it was not over already. She supposed that at least once she was married she would have a personal maid to change her gowns and fashion her hair as befitted a married lady. Until then, she must learn to plait her own wayward tresses and not call for Morag every time like a child.
Sighing, Susannah wandered along the dark hallway. The floorboards creaked, but she knew where to step to avoid the noise. It was odd to think she would soon be mistress of her own house, perhaps never to return here to the manor, the home where she had grown up without a mother, only Morag and her sister, Eloise, to guide her.
The door to Eloise's old bedchamber was ajar. She went inside and stood staring about at the chaos: emptied clothes chests, lids thrown open, a poorly stitched cloth sweet bag of dried rose petals split, its contents strewn across the floor, the mattress stripped of its linens, even the window shutters fastened tight against the sunshine.
The disused bedchamber smelled musty, for the fire had not been lit in weeks. Susannah ran a finger along the dusty bedpost. She had not realized how much she would miss having her older sister back at home. She had barely thought of her while Eloise was at court, after all. But perhaps seeing her again, and hearing all her tales of court life, had made Susannah all the more acutely aware of how narrow and confined her life was in Yorkshire. And how she might suffer once she too was married. Not just in her everyday life but at night, in her marriage bed.
Sir William Hanney was no Lord Wolf, that was for sure. She would never start the day as she had seen her married sister do, with flushed cheeks and coyly downcast eyes ...
A sudden loud creaking above her head made her stiffen.
What on earth?
She stared up at the ceiling beams, frowning.
Only the longest-serving female servants had bedchambers in the attic. And she had thought them all at their chores this afternoon. Yet the creaking continued overhead, strangely rhythmic. Then a sharp cry split the silence. A high female cry, abruptly hushed as though cut off in mid-breath.
Immediately following the cry, Susannah heard the threatening rumble of a man's voice in the attic chamber above.
Her eyes widened.
The kitchen maids and younger house servants slept in the kitchens, and the seamstress and housekeeper lodged together in the front attic. Only Morag's smaller chamber was above this part of the manor house.
Was her old nurse in trouble? Had she been attacked by one of the men? Perhaps her father's chamberman, for Renford could be a surly brute when he had taken too much ale.
Horrified, Susannah ran along the landing to the heavy door that hid the servants' stairs. It creaked open noisily, and she gathered her skirts, staring up into glimmering darkness, for the door at the top was also shut. She had not been up into the attic quarters for several years, for her father was strict about keeping the family apart from the servants.
There was no time to call for assistance. If some villain was hurting Morag, and all the other servants were busy elsewhere ...
Ducking her head for the low ceiling, Susannah ran breathlessly up the stairs. "Morag?" she called, emerging on the attic landing.
The dark space was narrow and unadorned, the floorboards warped and split, yet clean-swept. She recalled playing here once as a girl, in the forbidden place, and screaming at some house beetle that had come scuttling out of a knot in the wainscot, large and black as a polished chess piece. How her father had scolded her afterward, seeming to appear out of nowhere, red-faced, his temper up like a spring wind.
Some terrible premonition came to her. Her gown snagged on a nail in the wall as she hurried along; she swore under her breath, tugging it loose so the material tore.
"Morag, where are you?"
At that moment, the door to Morag's attic chamber flew open. She straightened, staring hard, and met her father's furious glare.
"How dare you come up into the servants' quarters, Susannah? This is no fit place for you." Her father seized her by the arm and shook her like a rag doll. "Get you back down the stairs to your chamber at once, and if I do not put my horse whip about your sides, it will only be out of regard for your tender sex."
His face was flushed, his breathing erratic. It was impossible to miss that his shirt and doublet were not fastened as they should be, his silver hair disheveled, his hose askew.
"But Father, I heard ..."
"I said, get you back to your chamber!" His hand flashed out like a magpie wing, dark in her eyes, bringing a flash of white as it met her cheek. She went sprawling back and Sir John stepped over her, tall in his rage. "And don't bother coming down to supper. There will be no place set for you tonight, girl. I will teach you not to meddle in what does not concern you."
Fastening his doublet, her father lurched to the end of the landing and shouldered his way through the narrow doorway. Susannah groped blindly up the wall and stood listening as he slammed downstairs. Her hand was at her cheek, her mouth gaping.
"Let me see that," Morag offered gently from the doorway behind her.
Susannah turned, blinking back her tears. It was hard to speak without her voice wavering. "I don't understand," she began, then looked at her old nurse more closely.
Morag wore nothing but her shift dress, and stood barefoot on the floorboards, showing her thick ankles and swollen feet without shame. Her long graying hair had been unpinned; it hung loose about her shoulders. And there was a strange, wild look in her eyes. When Susannah glanced past her into the narrow attic chamber, she saw the pins scattered across the floor, and Morag's demure white cap and workaday gown lying in a heap beside the unmade bed.
Truth hit her violently. "You and my father were ... are ..." She could not finish, but stammered something incoherent, willing Morag to deny it. Make it into a jest. Any response would do. She willed it fervently but Morag stood silent. "Oh sweet Lord, no."
Morag held her gaze steadily. "Do not judge me, Susannah." She brushed Susannah's hot cheek with the back of her hand. She was trembling. "That is only for God to do."
"I do not judge you." Susannah caught her hand, squeezing it gently. A wave of sympathy flooded her. Swiftly followed by horror. "Morag, does my father force you to ... couple with him?"
Morag lowered her gaze, her flush deepening. "It did feel like that at first," she admitted. "Sir John is master here, and I have been his servant since I was little better than a child. There was never any thought in my head to refuse him. But it is many years now since he first ..." She stopped, and a defiant look crept into her face. "I have no complaint against Sir John. We give each other comfort."
"Comfort?" Susannah's voice was high.
"After your mother died ..." Morag drew a sharp breath. "Your father could never have wed me: my station is too far beneath his. But we had an understanding."
"You will not speak of this to the other servants, will you? Some of them have guessed, but we try to be discreet." Morag bit her lip. "I had forgot you were returned from Wolf Hall. Else we would have found some other place to —"
"No more, I beg of you!" Susannah exclaimed, and clapped her hands on her ears.
Morag looked at her sorrowfully. "Forgive me, little one. You are still so young. I would not have had you discover such a thing before you were even wed yourself. You will not understand this now, but men have ... needs. Your mother has been dead these many years, and although your father chose not to remarry, yet he is still a man."
Her mind flew back, horrified, to the conversation with Hugh Beaufort. I am a man, he had said, as if that alone explained his desire. Not that she was a woman and desirable. But that he was a man.
She backed away when her old nurse would have embraced her. "All these years, you and my father have been lovers."
"I know it is a sin, but it is not so terrible," Morag tried to reassure her, following as Susannah stumbled down to her chamber. "Susannah, wait. This was not a choice I made willingly. Once you are wed to Sir William, you will see how it is, and ... and forgive me."
Susannah shut herself in her chamber, and leaned against the door, breathing hard.
"Please, Susannah, let me in."
"Go away," she cried, and would not open the door. Her cheek ached. Why must her father have such a heavy hand? "I need to be alone."
"Allow me to bring you some supper up on a tray. You cannot sit in your chamber and starve, child."
"I am not a child anymore. And yes, I can."
Morag sighed, speaking more softly through the door. "You are right. Sometimes I forget you are no longer my little one. Well, let me bring you a bowl of stew at least."
"No, I shall fast like a nun, and come to no harm through it. Besides, you risk a whipping yourself if you go against my father, and I will not have you punished for my fault."
When Morag had finally given up and gone down to the kitchen, Susannah sat down at the open window, tearing once again at her wayward plait. She thought of her father. His doublet unfastened, hose askew. His cold fury. Morag's sharp cry above her head.
Once you are wed to Sir William, you will see how it is.
Her fingers trembled.
The rustic smell of the animals in the yard below was suddenly unbearable. She slammed the shutters across, enclosing herself in welcome darkness.
Hugh Beaufort had rejected her because she was too rustic in her ways, a girl with clumsy manners and the rough burr of Yorkshire in her voice. And who could blame him for returning to the court with Lord Wolf and Eloise after their summons, back to a more elegant and civilized way of life? What a fool she had been to think any courtier would want a simple girl like her, that he might save her from the marriage her father had arranged to the vile old Sir William. Master Beaufort, every inch the king's man, like Lord Wolf himself, must have laughed himself sick at her advances, and thought himself lucky to be offered a chance to escape without having to slap her down openly.
On that ride back, she had thrown herself at him without any shame. Yet Hugh had not even bothered to seduce her for the sake of his entertainment. And why would he? She was a country clod whose father rutted with her nurse and put his daughters' maidenheads up for sale like young breeding sows at a village fair.
A knife hung at her belt for cutting thread and meat at table. She fingered it. Why not?
How furious old Sir William would be, pulling away her veil after the wedding ceremony to find not the long golden tresses he so admired, but the shorn locks beneath of a rebellious bride. Indeed, if he heard Susannah had cut all her hair off, the elderly knight might drop his suit for her hand and turn his attention to some more obedient young virgin instead.
Stone-faced, Susannah unsheathed the blade and set it to her thick, fair plait and began to saw away at her hair, just above the shoulder.
To be a woman is to be weak, she thought fiercely. I will not be weak.
The blade was a little blunt though, and would not cut easily. A few golden strands came away in her hand and she stared down at them, suddenly shaken by the enormity of what she was doing. She recalled how Hugh Beaufort had stroked her long fair hair as they kissed, looking at her afterward with undisguised lust.
Hugh would never look at her that way again, she realized, chagrined. Not once she had hair short as a boy's.
While she had no desire to trap her head in the marriage noose — even for such a handsome, green-eyed courtier as Master Hugh Beaufort — she did not wish to remain a virgin all her life. And only a nun would willingly part with her tresses.
Putting down her knife, she rummaged for a box of pins and began pinning up her golden plait instead, coiling it high, so that it did not even touch the nape of her neck.
She had a plan.
* * *
To her relief, dusk arrived with no further visitations from either Morag or her father. Susannah heard the supper bell being rung out in the yard, followed by feet on the stairs, loud voices in the hall, then silence. During this quiet time, she drew together a few things, emptied the coins from her jewelry box, then crept into her sister's old room for ink and a quill, and a piece of spare parchment.
By candlelight she sat and penned a few terse lines, which nonetheless took nearly an hour to compose.
She waited until she was sure Morag was not bringing her up a supper tray, then crept out of her chamber and listened. She could hear the servants at dinner below, the muffled hubbub of their conversation, yet no sound from her father's dining room.
But then he would be dining alone tonight.
Excerpted from Rebel Bride by Elizabeth Moss. Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Moss. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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.