Beautiful young widow, Countess Eleanor, believes wholeheartedly in her Blystoke family motto of Honor et Fides, honor and loyalty, and works hard to live up to it, taking care of her younger sister, Mary, and of all her late husband’s estates.
Recently returned from the Crusade, handsome and arrogant, Lord Hugh, believes no woman is to be trusted and lays the blame for all the poaching in their forests at Eleanor’s feet, certain she is incapable and too naïve and trusting, to boot.
They can neither trust nor deny their powerful attraction as they clash over land boundaries and thieves. Conspirators abound to wreak havoc and danger, but no conspirator is deadlier than their own hearts.
“There is no better paradise than having the sweetheart of one’s choice.” – Le Roman de la Rose, 13th c.
“Milady! Milady!” a voice called.
Startled, Eleanor dropped her embroidery in her lap. Her favorite servant, Agnes, face red and gasping for breath, burst through the doors into Eleanor’s bedchamber.
Eleanor smiled. “Yes, Agnes?” she asked, as the servant curtsied quickly.
“Oh, no! Where is it?” Agnes moaned, looking frantically through the basket she held over her arm.
Eleanor waited for Agnes to find whatever it was she was so anxious to find. Thank goodness no one else was in the room to see that she had—once again—allowed a servant to burst in unannounced. It wasn’t really quite proper. Of course, other people would look down on her for it. It was so hard, though, to try and remember everything that she should and shouldn’t do. So many rules! Just barely eighteen and a widow for two years, Eleanor had to keep reminding herself that she had to fulfill the role of who she was supposed to be, no matter how hard it sometimes was.
“I must have dropped it on the stairs!” Agnes moaned. “I must find it!” She curtsied again and fled through the doors. Eleanor could hear her exclamations echoing down the stairs. She picked up her embroidery off the floor, and she drifted back into her thoughts.
A role to fulfill? Well, she was Eleanor, Lady Strathcombe, widow of Edgar, Earl of Strathcombe, and mistress of her late husband’s lands, wasn’t she? She had an important position—at least, others certainly thought so—and she must behave accordingly.
But she certainly didn’t care about letting Agnes in unannounced. After all, ever since Eleanor had arrived at Strathcombe Castle four years ago as a nervous, scared bride of fourteen, Agnes had been steadfast and true to her, comforting her and calming her, especially after that first, and only, session in the bedchamber with Edgar—a session during which nothing had happened to change her from a maiden into a married woman. Eleanor shuddered, remembering her anguish at his humiliating treatment—treatment that she was sure real marriage and true love could have nothing to do with.
About the Author
Growing up in Europe and seeing castles on a daily basis made me sure I wanted to live back in the Middle Ages. Since that wasn’t likely to happen, being a child of the 20th century, the next best thing I could try to do was to write about this enthralling period in history. Having studied medieval history in college, I loved doing the research about how people really lived and spoke and dreamed and loved, and so TORCH IN THE FOREST came to be, thanks to my dear husband, who encouraged me to write about Eleanor and Hugh. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, or traveling. I love hearing from readers and am happy to do book club conference calls!