The Norfolk Knights Box Set (books 1-3) record the romances of the Gresham sisters in 13th-century England.
Claiming his Lady (Book 1, Rowena) (previously published as Claiming, Gresham Chronicles) Lady Rowena Gresham wants to be left alone to run her estates and live free of the destructive passion that had ruined her mother's life. However when Sir Saher de Bohun claims both her and her estates, it appears she has to accept him or lose her home. But Rowena has a plan, the discovery of which would incur both his displeasure and the King's wrath. Passion, hot enough to melt the heart of the iciest maiden, contained within. Claiming is a 23,000-word novella.
Seducing his Lady (Book 2, Melisende) (previously published as Seducing, Gresham Chronicles) All Lady Melisende Gresham wants is to become a nun at Blakesmere Priory, the only place she's ever felt she truly belonged. However when Sir Galien de Forester appears with the blood of his father's killer on his hands, pursued by the King's men, he turns her world upside down. Melisende and Galien are as different as light is to dark. Yet, despite that, they are irresistibly drawn to each other. But is that attraction strong enough to allow them to forsake their long-held hopes and dreams? Passion, hot enough to banish the shadows of grief from the most vengeful knight, contained within. Seducing is a 25,000-word novella.
Awakening his Lady (Book 3, Angelique) (previously published as Awakening, Gresham Chronicles) Lady Angelique Gresham is a wealthy widow who is determined to remain free of the cruelty and control of marriage, even to her ex lover, Guy de Lacey. Determined to win her over, Guy tempts her with a night of passion in which she can realize her fantasies, but will one night be enough for Angelique to find the strength to trust not only Guy, but her own heart? Passion, hot enough to scorch the icy flints of a medieval castle, contained within. Awakening is a 17,000-word novella.
The Norfolk Knights series continues with full-length novels: Defending his Lady (Book 4) and Honoring his Lady (Book 5).
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Gresham Castle, Norfolk, England, 1207
Lady Rowena Gresham rode alone, ahead of her men as usual, along the well-worn bridle path that led to Gresham Castle. The crop of barley she’d been inspecting barely moved under the hot summer sun, but it wasn’t the bright light that made her eyes burn.
She swallowed hard, trying to keep at bay the knot of grief that would not release its grip. Her beloved father was dead and she doubted the pain of his loss would ever leave. She’d held him in her arms and watched him slip away from her, hour by hour, minute by minute, until his hands had gone limp in hers.
If that wasn’t enough she’d now been summonsed back to her own castle, by the High Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk no less. His name sent a frisson of fear through her body. There had been no word from her father’s liege lord, and now the sheriff had arrived, unannounced. It did not bode well.
She urged her horse to the top of the ridge that overlooked the fertile river valley in which her castle lay, and reined him in sharply. Below her dozens of strangers swarmed around the castle bailey, disrupting the usual ebb and flow of people going about their business. The sheriff was not alone.
She frowned as the fear that had nagged in her head moved lower, gripping her gut. She spurred her horse into a gallop. The estate was hers, hers. Hers, she repeated again and again in time to the beat of her heart and the pounding of her stallion’s hooves on the dry ground.
* * * Rowena strode into the Great Hall, shadowy after the bright sunlight, followed closely by two greyhounds who loped subserviently behind her. Her attention was immediately focused on the two men who stood by the light of the great window—one was the sheriff, the other a priest. Why, in God’s name, had the sheriff brought a priest with him?
“Sir William!” She beckoned to a servant to bring her wine. “I would offer you refreshment but I see you are both already enjoying my best Bordeaux. I hope it is to your liking?”
“Excellent, my lady.” He glanced over her shoulder and then back to her, his expression hard, unreadable. “Please accept my condolences on the death of your father. He was a good man.”
She shrugged. Of all the things her father could be called, “good” wasn’t one of them. He was strong, brave and could outwit his wiliest enemy, but he hadn’t been “good”. But she wasn’t going to argue the point with strangers. “Thank you. Please, be seated.” She accepted a goblet of wine from one of her servants and dropped down into a chair with a confidence she didn’t feel.
She took a sip of the wine and carefully placed it on the table as her mind raced, trying to gain their measure. Despite her quickened heart beat, she sat back, laced her fingers together and held them before her as she focused intently on the men, waiting for them to crumple like men usually did before the “Gresham stare”. She had inherited it from her father. Just like her personality, just like the estate.
“So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” She refused to call it a summons.
The grizzled-haired sheriff rubbed his lips in silent consideration, as his eyes narrowed against her insolence.
“You are like your father, my lady, inclined to the point.”
“You compliment me, sir.”
“No, my lady, I do not. However under the present circumstances such directness is useful. ’Twill save me time.”
Rowena bit her lip. She’d angered him. It would not be wise to anger such a powerful man. She took a deep breath. “And these circumstances…?”
“Your father, my lady, was a wise man.”
She nodded, feeling a slight lessening of the tension. Sir William was correct this time. “Indeed.”
“And his estates have always been prosperous.”
“He worked hard to make them so. We both did.”
“Yes,” Sir William looked at her with a cool, disapproving gaze. “I have heard of your unusual interest in the estate.” His lips curled into a smile that sent a chill down her back. She shivered and one of the dogs leaned against her legs, sensing something was amiss. “You will no doubt be pleased to know you no longer have to run the estate alone.”
Rowena gasped as if winded and bit her lip as she tried to hide her reaction to his words. She reached down to the dog and petted it, giving herself time to try to understand, try to cover her confusion.
“I know not what you mean, sir.” She tried to form a smile as she looked up at Sir William, but she feared it hadn’t worked because he was not smiling back at her.
“I mean, Lady Rowena, that your father’s estate has now been settled and I’m here to advise you of this.”
Rowena gripped the arm of the chair for strength, willing the fear and anger that raged inside not to emerge. “Settled? It is already settled. With due respect, my Lord, my father’s wishes for the estate have been well known by everyone concerned for years. He has divided it between his three daughters, with Gresham Castle and its surrounding estates being my share.”
Sir William did not reply immediately but a sly glimmer of a smile rested briefly on his lips before he took a sip of his wine, his steely gaze all the while focused on her. He was playing her. The bastard was making her suffer. But she would not show weakness before him. She reached across for her wine and took a small sip, replacing the goblet with the same deliberate control. She brought her hands loosely together and raised an eyebrow in query.
“Your liege lord has charged me with informing you that he agrees to your father’s wishes. Your sisters do indeed inherit their portions as you say. But this estate? No. Your esteemed father has passed you over in favour of Sir Saher de Bohun. Sir Saher is now lord of Gresham Castle and its estates.”
She didn’t move a muscle. It was as if ice, crushed and made liquid, had been poured into her body. It felt an age she sat there as dismay, fear, and anger raged inside her.
It was only when Sir William finished his wine and gave her a smug smile that she rose and smiled back. She knew she smiled because she felt her lips curl. But she felt no smile within, only sickness.
“No. You must be mistaken. My father would never have done such a thing. Now, if you’ve quite finished I have business to attend. I have no time to listen to such tales.” She turned to go, clicking her fingers to summon the dogs to her side.
“These are no tales, my lady.” The unfamiliar deep voice echoed around the large space. She snapped her head around, searching the shadows for its owner.
He stepped forward from behind a screen, until his outline was illuminated by a halo of orange firelight. He looked like the devil himself.
“Lady Rowena,” Sir William’s voice had a smug tone which didn’t go undetected. “Allow me to introduce Sir Saher de Bohun, Lord of Gresham. He is a relative of your father’s.”
Anger broke the chill. She looked him up and down. “Of course he is. It’s surprising how many relatives emerge when a wealthy man dies.”
Sir Saher came close to her, too close, but she refused to back away. Despite her own good height, he was at least a foot taller than her and broader built than any Gresham man. His skin was browned by the sun, his muscles hard and his eyes and jaw harder still. “Quite a performance, Lady Rowena. I’m impressed.”
“Impressed? I have no need, nor wish, to impress you.” She turned back to Sir William. “Who will vouch that he is who he says he is?”
“None other than your liege lord, the Earl of Norfolk, Lady Rowena, and the King himself. There is no doubt. Sir Saher has been on the King’s business these past few years and is now here on his own business. Sir Saher is lord and master of Gresham Castle and its estates. And that, my lady, is fact. Your liege lord anticipated you might be… unaccepting, shall we say, and requested that I ensure the peaceful handover. And now that has been accomplished, we will take your leave.”
“There will be no peaceful handover. There will be no handover at all. The land is mine.”
Saher raised an eyebrow and his hard grey eyes—the colour of flint—sparked with amusement. “You exceed your reputation, lady. I’d heard that you are your father’s daughter, but I had imagined some softening of his character.”
“You imagined wrong. You’ll not be taking my place as head of this estate. I am in charge and always will be. I suggest you leave immediately.”
The smiled broadened, the lines around his eyes crinkling into an intensely irritating smile. “Now why would I do that, when I’ve only just arrived? Be seated, lady, and listen.”
“I do not take orders from anyone, sir. Least of all in my own Hall.”
“Priest,” Sir William interrupted. “Pass Lady Rowena the scroll. Let her see with her own eyes her father’s wishes and those of the Earl and King, and have done with this nonsense.”
The priest, who’d been nervously holding a scroll in his ink-stained hands, unrolled it and passed it to her. “It says—”
She snatched it from him. “I can read.” She scanned the parchment, confusion building with each passing word. She stopped abruptly when she saw her father’s distinctive signature. It was his hand. Betrayal, sickening and lurid, filled her stomach. She turned slowly to this man, this stranger, this barbarian, and took the document and tore it in half. The rending of the precious scroll shocked the observers into silence. She looked from one to the other of them. “This is what I think of the document. Whatever my father did, or did not do, I own the estate and I run the estate. And as to the rest, it will never happen.”
The tall stranger clapped his hands slowly. “Brave, but foolish words. We have other copies of the document.” He came towards her, towering over her, trying to intimidate her but she refused to move. “And it will happen.”
“You seem to forget to whom you speak, sir.”
“I know exactly to whom I speak. I would not mistake the woman whose father left his entire estate—including her—to me.
“Yes. Your father not only left me his land, manors and castles. He left me you. We are to be married, my lady.”