As a knight, Sir Rand Montague's allegiance is to King Edward I. But when the king orders Rand to escort Rosalyn Harcourt to court in order to wed her off to Sir Golan--a crass knight Rand abhors--he's torn between duty and desire. For Rand has never forgotten the woman he spent one incredible night of passion with. . .
After suffering abuse at the hands of her deceased husband, Rose wishes to never wed again. But when Rand rescues her after Sir Golan attempts to compromise her, she agrees to marry Rand in name only. However, sharing such close quarters with Rand brings back memories of their torrid rendezvous--and tempts Rose to give in to an all-consuming desire. . .
Praise for Angela Johnson's Vow of Seduction
"Outstanding!" --Susan Johnson
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About the Author
Angela Johnson is an American poet and children's book writer. Her children's picture books, including ,When I Am Old with You and A Sweet Smell of Roses, are poetic stories about African-American families and friendship. She has also written for teens, including the Michael L. Printz and Corretta Scott King Award-winning novel The First Part Last. She also won Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award for Tell Me a Story, Mama.
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Vow of Deception
By Angela Johnson
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Angela Johnson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWestminster Palace In the year of our Lord 1276 Fifth year in the reign of King Edward I
"The lady who shall be my next wife shall have no reason to find fault with my lineage." Sir Golan de Coucy chuckled. "Indeed, 'tis no boast when I say that the de Coucy's are endowed with certain attributes women greatly esteem in a spouse."
Sir Rand Montague, escorted into King Edward's chamber by a dark-robed clerk, glanced at the knight speaking amongst a group of lords.
Hazy light filtered into the long, narrow room through three glazed windows on the longer east wall. Opposite this, a table was pushed up below a map of the world painted on the plaster wall. Rand approached Lords Warwick and Pembroke, and de Coucy standing before the table.
Sir Golan was tall, of broad muscular frame, with dark brown wavy hair that swept back from his smooth forehead. At court, rumors abounded about the comely, well-sought-after knight who was searching for a new bride. The gossip mainly revolved around the knight's prowess with the opposite sex and the tragic story of how his first wife died giving birth to their stillborn son.
But another dark rumor claimed Golan had had a hand in his wife's demise.
Rand truly despised the courts' ruthless preoccupation with other people's personal affairs. He knew firsthand the destructive force of speculation and innuendo. His cousin Kat was nearly destroyed by scurrilous lies spread by vicious nobles who reveled in court intrigue.
Rand greeted each man with forceful slaps on the back all around. On the long board were what appeared to be a large rolled-up map, and a lighted branch of candles, a flagon of wine, and several jewel-encrusted drinking vessels.
Golan passed Rand a chalice of claret, or rosé. "I believe I have boasted enough for the nonce," he said, grinning broadly. "Rand, tell us about your mission to Gascony."
The Earl of Warwick added, "Aye. I had not heard you'd returned to England. Was your journey successful?"
Rand patiently answered all their questions, savoring his claret. He recognized the excellent vintage from his family's Bordeaux vineyards that he imported in his cargo ship.
"My lords, well come we meet," King Edward intoned behind them.
In unison with the other lords, Rand spun round and bowed low before his sovereign liege lord. Edward waved a negligent hand for them to rise, then moved to the table. They gathered round the king, who unrolled the map, which was a very detailed representation of Wales and the western border of England. Without preamble, the king began discussing war plans.
"Here and here," Edward said, pointing to the Welsh Marches along the English border, "if it comes to war, as I expect it will, is where I plan to cross into Wales. These troops will advance into the south and central regions of Wales, but I'll send the bulk of the troops into Llewelyn ap Gruffydd's territory in Snowdonia in the north, harrying him and any resistance we meet." A red flush crept up Edward's face as he continued, "If the man does not come to pay homage to me as his overlord, I intend to crush and subdue him." He rapped his knuckles on the table, punctuating his statement. "No man, prince or otherwise, shall defy me without retribution."
Rand listened with half an ear as Edward discussed his plans. With war appearing imminent, he could not help but worry about Rosalyn Harcourt, Lady Ayleston, and her young son, Jason.
Staring at the map, his eyes strayed to the cartographer's mark that indicated the town and port of Chester near the Welsh border. The manor of Ayleston lay in the Marches five miles southwest of Chester, making it vulnerable to Welsh raids once hostilities broke out. It was too dangerous for Rose to remain at Ayleston without proper protection. But Rand did not think she would listen to him if he tried to reason with her. She ought to move to one of her dower manors farther inland for the duration of the war.
"Well, cousin. I have lost you, haven't I?"
Startled, Rand glanced up at the king.
Several inches taller than him, Edward had long golden hair and a drooping left eyelid. The king slapped him on the back good-humoredly. "Come. Tell me what troubles you."
Rand glanced around, realizing he and the king were alone. Consternation filled him at his breach of etiquette, but Edward, seemingly unperturbed, moved to the table to pour more claret into his chalice. Rand followed suit, taking a big swill of his wine.
"Now. I would hear what had you so distracted earlier that war plans could not hold your interest. Most unusual for you, cousin."
Rand had been feeling rather out of sorts of late. The pride and satisfaction he usually took in being a trusted and highly valuable knight in the king's household no longer fulfilled him as it once had. Something was lacking in him, but for the life of him he could not deduce what.
"'Tis Lady Ayleston, Sir Alex's sister."
Edward chuckled. "Ah, of course. I should have guessed. After warring, you are renowned for your amorous conquests."
Rand chuckled. "Nay, Sire. My interest in Lady Ayleston is not of a prurient nature. Verily. My concern is her proximity within the border of Wales, war with Llewelyn appearing inevitable. As Alex is my friend, I cannot help but feel it is my duty to keep her safe from harm."
Rand shrugged, grinning as though his apprehension was naught but a trifle.
"Ah, Rand, you are a good and dutiful friend. But let me set your mind at ease on that score. The good Sir Golan has offered to marry the lady, and offered a hefty sum to acquire the wardship of the lands of Lord Ayleston's heir. He shall make a worthy protector of Lady Ayleston."
Rand's stomach felt as though it had dropped to his knees. He knew it was inevitable she would marry again. But thinking of Golan caressing the delicate perfection of Rose's body-kissing her soft, luscious lips-was too awful to bear.
Rand took several deep draughts of wine. It burned a path down his throat, clearing the images from his mind. "Has the lady given her consent to the marriage?"
"Nay. I have not informed her yet, but Lady Ayleston will do as she is told. As you have noted, the seat of the Ayleston barony is in a strategic location near the border between our two countries. It also has a total of thirty-two knight's fees, and fifty men-at-arms and archers. Ayleston will need a strong leader to rally her fighting men under one banner."
Perhaps just as importantly, Rand thought, silver from Sir Golan's purchase of the wardship would flow into Edward's coffers and help pay for the war.
Edward quirked his blond head at him and a twinkle of humor flashed briefly in his eyes. "Have you given some thought to seeking a bride yourself? 'Tis time you married and saw to the begetting of heirs."
"I have not thought about it, Sire. I have plenty of time yet before I need concern myself with siring heirs. Besides, I doubt any lady with good sense would have me," Rand said good-naturedly.
"Nonsense. Any lady would be proud to have a knight of your renown to claim as a husband."
Nay, there would be no wife for him. Rand turned to stare blindly at the portrait of Queen Eleanor above a cold fireplace. What he did not tell the king was that he would never marry-for everyone he ever loved died. The waking dreams of his sweet, vivacious little sister were a constant reminder.
A pain throbbed at the base of his skull as the memory returned.
The river's current tugged Rand under, and he sputtered, choking up water even as he gripped Juliana tighter. "Rand!" she cried out in desperation moments before they were dragged under again. The water's embrace drew them deeper and deeper into the dark depths of the river. Holding his breath, lungs bursting, he couldn't breathe. A bright light burst inside his head.
Oh, God. Rand released Juliana. Her narrow arms slipped from his neck and she floated down.
Suddenly he kicked his legs and shot straight up. He burst free to the surface, gasping for breath. His mouth opened wide; a long, agonized wail of grief ripped from his throat until his voice was sore and raw.
"... you are to escort Lady Ayleston to court without delay." King Edward's commanding voice pierced his waking vision. "Certes, keep your counsel regarding her marriage to Sir Golan. I shall inform the lady of her duty when she arrives at court."
"Sir Rand." The same dark-robed clerk as before appeared at his side, his arm extended toward the door by which Rand had entered.
Reeling, Rand bowed and then exited the chamber. His agitated footsteps echoed down the torch-lit corridor, while it felt as though a vulture pecked at his exposed innards. Not only would he have to watch Rose marry another man, but now the king had tasked him with delivering her into that man's hands.
When he finished his distasteful task, it was time to consider his position in the king's household. He'd risen to knight banneret, yet still he was not content. Perhaps he was destined for dissatisfaction-guilt was his burden and his curse.
Juliana's death was not all he had to atone for. His mother's violent, painful death was on his conscience, as well. Rose, he had wronged her, too ... But she made him swear never to speak of it and he honored her request.
Ayleston Castle Chester County Welsh Marches
Rising at daybreak, Rose exited the Keep down a set of steep stairs, and went round back to the kitchen garden. She dug her fingers into the moist earth, weeding the medicinal herbs she grew for treating the various wounds, ailments, and diseases of the dependents of Ayleston Castle. It was a responsibility she learned at her mother's side, and one in which she took immeasurable comfort in, easing the ills of her people.
Entering the kitchen by the back entrance, she met with Cook to plan the meals for the following week. Then after instructing Lady Alison on the supervision of the servants in clearing and replacing the rushes in the Great Hall, she went to her steward's office.
A corridor off of the Great Hall's entrance led to a chamber. When she stepped inside the small room, David ap Qwilim rose from the stool behind the table and bowed. "Good morrow, my lady." He smiled in greeting. A hank of his thick, dark auburn hair flopped on his broad forehead.
"Good morrow, David. Has a message from the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield arrived for me yet?"
In addition to the table, a number of open cupboards on one wall were stacked with parchment rolls full of estate records.
"Aye, milady. Bishop Meyland's messenger arrived early this morrow." David searched the rolled parchments on the table until he found the bishop's sealed missive. He came around the table and handed it to her. "I insisted the man wait while I informed you of his arrival, but he refused and departed hastily."
Rose broke the wax seal, unrolled the parchment, and read the untidy Latin scribble. A quiver shot to her stomach, but she did not reveal her distress. She had learned well at Lord Ayleston's hands how to suppress her emotions.
"The bishop informs me that his annual progress has been delayed, yet again, and he will not be able to travel to Ayleston for some while." She looked up from reading the message and met the steward's concerned black gaze. "Well, David, if Bishop Meyland cannot come to me, I shall go to him. Ready an escort for me for the journey to his residence in Lichfield. We depart on the morrow, at dawn."
Rose left the chamber, her steps calm and measured, a counter to the pressure building in her chest. Anxiety spread its wings inside her, a feeling of imminent doom growing that no amount of mental reasoning could calm. She exited the castle in search of Edith and Jason, the heat of the sun already foretelling another sweltering day.
She found Edith on a bench overlooking the orchard, keeping a watchful eye on Jason. Crouched on his haunches, Jason, large for a boy nearly three summers old, dug for worms with a stick beneath the sheltering branches of an apple tree.
Rose raised the missive in her hand and waved it at Edith. "The bishop has cancelled his trip to Ayleston, again. I wonder what can be keeping him?"
Edith set one of Jason's hose she was mending down on the bench beside her. She rested her right arm, bent at an awkward angle, in her lap. "Milady, calm yourself. I am sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for his delay."
Rose smiled at her former maidservant's observation. Rose could not be any calmer outwardly, but Edith knew her very well and understood her agitation.
"I cannot help feeling something is amiss. Not till the bishop takes my vow of chastity will I feel safe. I shall never marry again," she swore, a dark thread of conviction drawing her voice taut.
Rose plopped down on the bench beside Edith. Jason tugged a worm from the earth and squealed in delight, his cheeks dimpling. Rose's gaze softened as she watched him.
"Are you sure you wish to take such a drastic measure? A vow of chastity is irrevocable. Perhaps you will want to marry again one day."
Rose jerked her head to Edith. Jason's nurse gazed at her, eyes shadowed, her left hand rubbing her crippled arm.
Guilt reared. Rose reached over and began massaging the shrunken muscles and tendons of Edith's forearm. "Oh, forgive me, Edith. Here I am rambling on about my troubles when you are in pain."
A significant pause, then Edith whispered, "'Twas not your fault, milady."
"If only I had been obedient and dutiful, Bertram would not have broken your arm and forbidden me to set it properly for you."
Rose gazed off in the distance, her thoughts returning to the past. Rose had been spoiled and indulged as a child, and her father, Lord Briand, had taken an unusual step in allowing her to choose her own husband, provided the man was of equal or greater rank than she. But Rose had chosen unwisely, to her everlasting shame and regret. When she threatened Bertram that she would return to her father and tell him of Bertram's perverse sexual proclivities, her husband struck out at Edith instead.
From that moment on, she learned never to defy him. No one was safe from his violent tendencies, not even Jason, his own son.
"Once I take my vow of chastity, I shall never be compelled to marry and be at the mercy of a man again."
Marriage required enduring the humiliating debasement of conjugal duties. She had barely survived her first.
"Wurm, Mama. I found a wurm." Her son's excited voice drew Rose from her devastating memories. She looked down at Jason standing before her. The worm lay in his dirty palm as he raised it up for her inspection. She relaxed her tight grip on the crumpled missive.
Her eyes grew big as she stared at the worm he dangled before her. "Oh my, you did find a worm. A big, fat, wiggly one." She growled beneath her breath, then reached out and tickled his tummy.
He burst out giggling, his little body wriggling as he tried to escape her marauding fingers. "I can't breathe, Mama," he gasped between giggles.
Rose relented, bent forward, and kissed his sweaty brow. "Jason. How would you like to help me collect some herbs in the woods? You are always such a great help to Mama."
"I'm a good helper, Mama." He jumped up and down, a huge grin on his face, his gold curls bouncing in his exuberance. Her heart twisted at the resemblance to his father, but she pushed the guilt away.
Regrets could not alter the past. She lived in the present, her sole purpose to rear and educate her son to prepare him for responsibilities he would assume upon his majority. Her son was her life. Indeed, she would protect him to her last breath from anyone who would harm him. She would teach Jason to revere and respect women, like his uncle and grandfather. They were the rare exception of what was good and honorable and chivalrous in a man.
"Good. Why don't you go put the worm in your pail?"
Jason skipped away.
"Milady. What do you intend to do?" Edith looked up at her, her hand shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun.
"We leave for Lichfield at dawn. I dare not delay one day longer."
"I shall go and have Lady Alison pack for you and Jason then." Edith rose and hurried toward the Keep.
Rose's gaze returned to Jason, drawing in the dirt with his stick. Her only regret about her decision to formalize her vow of chastity was that she would not have any more children. But it was a sacrifice she was willing to make for her independence. Not to mention her emotional and mental welfare.
Excerpted from Vow of Deception by Angela Johnson Copyright © 2010 by Angela Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Secrets, feelings of guilt, and traumatic experiences keep Rosalyn Harcourt, Lady Ayleston and Sir Rand Montague from acknowledging their feelings for each other, until.. Rose, once bubbling with a zest for life, hides her beauty in drab widow's attire. Her heart is cold and hard from her deceased husband, Bertram's abuse. She despises a man's touch. The humiliation, degradation, physical and emotional abuse drove her to docile obedience in order to survive and to protect her little son Jason. After Bertram's death, she gains full custody of Jason and for two years manages and improves Castle Ayleston and its holdings. Once again, she can openly function as a healer and study her treasured books that give her insight, wisdom, and guidance. Rose's strength in the face of colossal challenges makes her a memorable heroine. How far she goes to protect her little Jason shows a mother's love that has no bounds. Edward I, in his greed for more riches (which Sir Golan offers) plus his wanting stronger control of his position near the Welsh Marches, prompts him to grant Sir Golan the wardship of Ayleston Castle and all its holdings plus Rose for a wife-of course, he does all of this under the guise of protection from the rebellious Welsh. Sir Rand Montague, who has a past history with Rose and her family, goes to bring Rose to court so she can be informed of her new situation. Loyal to Edward I and believing Sir Golan will be suitable for Rose, Rand follows the king's orders to not tell Rose anything. However, as the drama unfolds at court, Rand sees the dark, cruel, bullying side of Golan and recognizes Edward for the arrogant despot he can be at times. Rand identifies with the powerlessness Rose feels. He remembers how powerless he had been in the past when he so desperately wanted to rectify things. He denies that he loves Rose, but vows to do every thing possible to save her from another abusive husband. Even though flawed, he is a hero to the core. The secondary characters have important roles in the unfolding of the plot. The three-year-old Jason plays a unique part in events. Lydia, once Bertram's mistress, and Sir Golan create terrifying conflicts that set off pulse-pounding actions. Driven by their own inner-demons, they prove to be powerful and conniving antagonists. Other, less visible, foes threaten to defeat Rose and Rand as they work to outmaneuver Edward and Golan. The horrors of her marriage to Bertram make Rose terrified of having another husband, even her long-time friend Rand. She is drawn to him but cannot seem to get passed the emotional pain and trauma she has suffered. On the other hand, Rand feels if he admits to loving her, something bad will happen to her as it has to all others that have been dear to him. These intangible foes hamper their finding what they both long for in their marriage, but abiding love, strong and true, wiggles its way in slowly but surely with ever-growing strength. The good fortune and misfortune that beset Rose and Rand makes Vow of Deception a mesmerizing vicarious adventure for the reader. Using subtle and often ominous undercurrents that threaten to swamp the hero and heroine, Angela Johnson enchants with an incredible love story while weaving in events of history that add a realness to the spellbinding Vow of Deception. Originally posted at The Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
overall, it was a good read. At time the plot was a little slow. Good historical facts.
Loved this nook book!!! Loved Sir Rand!!! You will not be disppointed!,!
Reviewed by Marissa Book provided by the author for review Review originally posted at Romancing the Book As I read this book, I had a hard time relating to the characters. Rose is a widow who had been married for just a few short years but she had been abused - mostly sexually but also emotionally. On her wedding night, she was put on sexual display for her husband’s lover and, later, his friends. Her husband ridiculed for being aroused and constantly informed her of how stupid she was. Even with all this, I just couldn’t feel for her. One minute she is cowering and hanging her head in shame yet the next she is strong and opinionated. I had a little bit of an easier time with Rand, though not much. Rand feels that anyone he loves will die, that he will lead them to their deaths. He tries to stay away from Rose but ends up “saving” her from a second heartless bastard of a husband by marrying her. Still, while he’s loved her from afar for years, he stays away, convinced he is keeping her safe and alive. This is one of those stories where the two heroes love each other but will never admit it to each other, much less to themselves. They stubbornly adhere to their preconceived notions that they are doing what is best even though they end up putting each other in danger. However, as lovers, I buy in to them completely. And by “lovers” I don’t mean sex, I mean forever-after-made-for-each-other kind of lovers. Here’s why: They began as friends. Yes, even when they were younger they were attracted to each other, but the friendship developed – as did the respect and admiration for each other. The writing is good – very good. The author is able to pull off the time-period easily and (seemingly) flawlessly. If you like medieval fanfare, including jousting tournaments, feasts, and the rescuing of damsels in distress, you will enjoy this novel.
Terrific as usual by Hannah Howell
I'd totally recommend Hannah Howell as a romance author to read. I enjoyed all three of these books, and I read all three of them in a relatively short time period. I look forward to reading more of her works. Great!