For Medieval Monday I’m thrilled to be visited by Cathy MacRae. Cathy enjoys weaving tales of romance in the Highland mists. Her stories feature strong heroes and feisty heroines in pursuit of their happy-ever-afters in medieval Scotland. Here is an excerpt from her book, The Highlander’s French Bride.
Melisende’s arms fell to her sides. “Why would you go back to such a life?”
“To the parties,” Lucienne answered, “and the gowns of fabrics so fantastic they make you cry from the sheer pleasure of them. Laces so delicate they can scarcely withstand the needle. Embroidery so fine it takes four seamstresses a week just to produce one sleeve.” Her eyes closed and rapture lit her face. “The men so courteous, so eager to woo me. Dancing, stealing kisses behind the fountain. They tell me how beautiful I am, how much they desire me.” She opened her eyes, settling her gaze on Melisende’s shocked face.
“Once Raul began annulment proceedings, their interest increased a hundredfold. I will have no lack of sponsors once I return.”
“That is a shameful way to live, and you know it, Lucienne.” Tears burned in Melisende’s eyes. “How can you do this to yourself?” She swept a hand toward the bed. “To her?”
The scorn returned to Lucienne’s face, casting ugly shadows beneath her high cheeks. “You think you know what is right for me. That I should be exactly like you, drowning behind your polite façade. You believe everything is perfect in your little world with your adorable new husband who loves you?” Her eyes narrowed as she slid her gaze to Arielle. “Have you not wondered why she looks like him?”
Melisende immediately looked at the child asleep on the bed. Her dark hair spilled across the pillow like a shadow in the dimly lit room. She glanced back at her sister. “Why do you say that? I think she looks just like you.”
“She has my nose and eyes, oui. But her dark hair comes from her father.”
“Non. From your oh-so-sweet husband.”
Melisende’s gaze bounced from Lucienne back to the child. Lucienne’s parting words so many years ago loosed themselves from the depths of her mind. What do you think went on whilst he slept in our house—only me and him? He would be unable to look you in the eye if you knew everything that happened.
She shook her head. Non! It is impossible to think of it! He has already assured me there was nothing between himself and Lucienne. But her heart grew cold in her breast.
Lucienne strolled to the bed and stroked her daughter’s hair. “She looks so much like me. But she has Kinnon’s hair.” Her smile set an arrow in Melisende’s heart.
Brushing aside her doubts, Melisende stepped forward. “Do not be absurd, Lucienne. Her hair is much like mine, and Raul’s is dark as well.”
Lucienne tossed her head. “You do not seem to recall Arielle was born early—or so I told Raul.”
“Lucienne, did you have relations with someone whilst we lived in Randon?” Melisende demanded. “Did you marry Raul knowing you were already enceinte?”
Lucienne sent her a mocking look. “You would love to believe that, wouldn’t you? To keep your lover innocent of the deed.”
“I do not believe you,” Melisende replied firmly, against the reservations that gnawed at her.
Lucienne’s eyebrows raised, a lofty smile taunting Melisende. “Yet you see the resemblance, non? No matter what you tell yourself, you will always know there is the possibility. We spent an entire week together, unchaperoned. You know how insatiable he is, n’ai-je pas raison?” Her eyes glittered. “No matter what you try to believe, you will always wonder if he shared his body with me first.”
Heir to a lairdship, Kinnon Macrory is driven to prove his worth by fighting the English on the battlefields of France. His dreams of heroic valor are destroyed by the realities of war—the atrocities visited by fellow soldiers on the very people he is sworn to protect. Three years in a French prison for a crime he did not commit leave Kinnon longing for the one thing of beauty in his war-torn life—a young woman of great kindness and wisdom named Melisende.
Melisende de la Roche struggles to stay one step ahead of soldiers who would imprison her for helping an injured Scotsman wrongly accused of treason. She finds refuge in her uncle’s shop—until a chance encounter sends her fleeing into the unknown once again, haunted by the beguiling friendship with the troubled young Scotsman she is certain she will never see again.
Determined to find the woman of his dreams, Kinnon returns to France, only to discover a trail of clues to Melisende’s whereabouts. Their reunion will open the doors to passion, but half-truths and lies from the past could destroy the one thing they both are willing to fight for—each other.