When Gavin of Ashgrove and his closest friend are captured in a fierce battle during the Hundred Years’ War, their captors demand a hefty ransom from their fathers for their return. Robert is quickly set free, but Gavin’s father refuses to pay for his son’s release, leaving him to rot in a squalid French prison. Aided by a sympathetic priest, he escapes and returns home to England, only to find he has been proclaimed a bastard and disinherited.
With nowhere to turn Gavin journeys to Kentwood, where he fostered as a boy, hoping Lord Aldred will take him on as a knight in his guard. The old warrior is close to death, but he soon realizes Gavin is his son. Aldred plots to have Gavin inherit Kentwood and marry his much younger wife, Elizabeth, a famed and opinionated beauty who remains a virgin after a decade of marriage.
Will the king recognize Lord Aldred’s first request of a marriage between Elizabeth and Robert, uniting Robert’s estate with Kentwood—or will the temperamental Edward reward Aldred’s years of service and honor a dying man’s final request?
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I discovered through research that many times noblemen would be ransomed if captured in war during the Middle Ages. I began toying with the idea of a prisoner whose family refused to pay his captors. Why would they do this? What would happen? That became the seed I planted.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I always start with the name. Once I have a name, I create a physical picture in my mind and give them personality and character traits.
Gavin followed the soldier into Kentwood. The Great Hall teemed with people. Rufus bowed and left to return to his post, wishing Gavin well. He surveyed the room for Aldred even as Rufus left.
He spied his former overlord on the dais, but the sight took him aback. An old man wearing Aldred’s visage and clothes sat upon the platform. His posture caused him to stoop over in his chair. A shag of white hair now replaced the salt and pepper of Gavin’s memory. In the ten years since he’d last seen him, Aldred had become an old man.
His eyes wandered to the woman seated to Aldred’s right. Even at this distance, he saw how comely she was. A gorgeous mass of auburn curls spilled down the back of her dark blue surcoat. ‘Twas almost a sinful display of great beauty, to have hair unbound in such a manner. She sat as royalty would, with a self-assurance and grace that made her all the more attractive.
Every now and then, she turned to Aldred and chatted easily. The camaraderie between them was obvious. Gavin listened as she rendered several judgments in a row. He realized this woman had become the real power at Kentwood. Immediately, resentment festered in him. For Aldred to age was one thing. For him to lose authority to a woman—albeit his wife—was quite another.
At least her rulings seemed fairly received. She thought quickly in any given situation. Gavin couldn’t help but be impressed with her common sense and easy manner. He almost experienced jealousy at her quick, thoughtful decisions. That skill would make her a formidable opponent in war. He was glad she was a woman, for he would never willingly tangle with the likes of her.
“Have we reached all decisions needed on this day?” Her voice rang out clearly through the hall. He admired her presence and wondered who her sire was.
When no one stepped forward, she again called out, “Does any man or woman wish to speak to Lord Aldred or myself before we adjourn?”
A half-dozen stepped forward, most praising Lady Elizabeth in one way or another. It irritated Gavin by this point at how this lady seemed more revered than the very master of Kentwood. Finally, he moved toward the dais.
As he stepped up, the last remaining man to speak, he looked to Aldred.
“I come to pay homage to—”
“Gavin!” Aldred cried in delight. He stood and then staggered forward.
Gavin rushed over and caught the old man as he fell. He placed the nobleman’s still form on the ground. As he did, he felt the woman’s gaze burning into him.
Lauren Linwood became a teacher who wrote on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones. Her romances use history as a backdrop to place her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire and yearning for one another grow into the deep, tender, treasured gift of love.
Lauren, a native Texan, lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with five mile walks. She is thinking about starting a support group for Pinterest and House Hunters addicts.
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!