Today I have an exclusive excerpt for you from Alyssa J. Montgomery’s new historical romance,
KNIGHT OF HER HEART.
Knight of Her Heart is the profoundly romantic and passionate journey of Lisette and Rowan—each vulnerable and less than perfect, yet determined and worthy of finding happiness.
It is a story of repentance and forgiveness; desperation and hope, and one in which loyalty, courage and love triumph over treachery and betrayal.
Lady Lisette is desperate to thwart her guardian’s plans and determined to do whatever she must to save her life and protect her young sister – even if she must act against her moral integrity.
But just when she’s acted to safeguard her future and committed the sin that plagues her conscience, she is stunned to learn that King Henry V has assigned her a protector – Lord Rowan.
Lisette is hardly worth of Henry’s noble warrior. Can she ever gain Rowan’s forgiveness for what she has done and win his heart?
Lord Rowan, King Henry’s hero of Agincourt is driven by his thirst for justice. He swore an oath to seek revenge for the death of his parents and the last thing he wants is a wife.
Yet he must marry by command of his liege. Believing that he has at least gained a beautiful and biddable bride, he is challenged on every level by a woman who is spirited and independent.
Just when he thinks she may be the one to help heal the bitterness he carries, he discovers her betrayal. But does he have the right to judge her when his own past hides a shameful secret?
“Therefore,” the priest droned, “if any man can show any just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, by God’s Law, or the Laws of the Realm; let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.”
“I present just cause.”
There was a collective gasp from the crowd at the confidently delivered words.
Lord Collins stiffened beside her and dropped her hand. “What is the meaning of this outrage?”
“Identify yourself,” the priest commanded.
A knight in a full suit of armour sat astride a mighty black destrier and walked his mount forward toward the people standing at the back of the crowd. As he lifted his arm in signal, a half a dozen more knights rode forth surrounding the crowd.
People grew restless. Fearful.
“What is your business here?” Collins challenged the leader of the knights, but Lisette was close enough to observe the uncertainty in Collins’ features. “Who are you and from where do you hail?”
The knight swung down in a smooth, lithe action from his steed and removed his helmet.
There were some exclamations and sounds of feminine approval from the assembly.
Lisette’s heart jumped in her chest then seemed to do a series of acrobatic tumbles. A finer man she’d never seen. Even dismounted, he stood head and shoulders above everyone. His clean-shaven face—in the style of King Henry—was exceedingly attractive with a strong jaw and high, chiselled cheekbones. However his manner and expression were menacing. His gaze skewered through Collins as surely as if he’d speared him with a lance.
“I am Lord Rowan, Earl of Romsey and first knight of King Henry.”
A great chain of oohs and aahs rippled out like waves from those around her.
The deep, authoritative voice had Lisette’s pulse quickening.
“You have no business here, Romsey,” Collins said forcefully, although he shifted from leg to leg. “Get on your horse and ride on.”
Paying him no heed, the knight continued. “I object to this marriage, on two counts.”
The crowd jostled a little. Lisette could see that those on the edges vied for a better view of the handsome knight who dared to interrupt the marriage ceremony of a powerful local lord. Collins, after all, was highly feared by all who knew him.
“Lord Collins, you are to be arrested on the charge of murder—”
Aye! Lisette breathed out her relief. She was free! Her prayers had been answered. Finally, someone would deliver justice to the cruel man beside her.
“You know not who you are dealing with!” Collins challenged, but his words were shaky. He blanched as white as a lily when Lord Rowan took a step toward him. Collins shrunk away even while he voiced his protest. “You have no proof!”
“My second objection to this marriage is that Lady Lisette of Bridlemere is my betrothed,” the knight continued.
What? Lisette gaped at him as those gathered gasped in exclamation of their disbelief.
“On whose authority?” boomed her guardian. “This is nonsense. I am the girl’s guardian and she is betrothed to Lord Collins.” In stark contrast to Collins pallor, Lord Blake had puffed himself up and was bright beetroot-red.
As formidable a figure as her guardian was, he was no match for the knight who opposed him. The Earl of Romsey was younger and there was no doubt he was much stronger and fitter. As Blake moved toward him, Lord Rowan did not draw his sword but merely stopped him in his tracks with a firming of his mouth and a look of blistering contempt.
Blake was out of his depth. Collins took a step backward like the coward he was and his eyes darted back and forward as though he searched for an avenue of escape.
The knight made another gesture with his hand and the priest stopped mid-sentence as a squire hurried to the earl’s side and handed him a scroll.
“’Tis by King Henry’s authority that I arrest Lord Collins for the murder of his third wife” At his words, two knights from his party seized Lord Collins who edged away from Lord Romsey. “Lord Collins, you will be tried by King Henry’s court.”
Condemnation erupted from the crowd. A few people shouted out words of scorn for the man who was no longer a threat to them—a man who was now powerless against the mighty knights who held him.
Lisette watched Lord Rowan. She was startled at the heated loathing that blazed from the knight.
The Earl of Romsey lifted another scroll fixed with King Henry’s royal seal. “’Tis King Henry’s command that Lady Lisette of Bridlemere become my wedded wife.”
“Give me that,” Lord Blake spluttered.
The king’s first knight ignored Lisette’s guardian and walked forward to extend the document to the priest. “My Liege commands the marriage take place immediately, without the reading of banns.”
Lisette stared at the Earl of Romsey and her pulse skipped a beat. This was the man of whom the troubadours sang. The knight whose tactics had been responsible for Henry’s victory at Harfleur, and whose bravery was instrumental in the French defeat at Agincourt.
He truly was a formidable, commanding man. He’d already proved he was more than capable of standing up to her beast of a guardian. This knight had already slain a dragon for her. Her prayers were answered. Heaven had sent her a champion of the highest order to wed. She was certain this man was a truly worthy knight.
Her head drew back and her mouth fell open as the full horror of her situation slammed into her more forcefully than the blow of a battering ram.
The Earl of Romsey may be worthy of her, but she was certainly not worthy of him.
Panic set her blood racing through her veins. The wicked wrong she had committed in the judgement of the church had returned quickly to haunt her. Deceiving Lord Collins had been a cross she could bear considering the alternative, but to carry out her deceit with this man who was surely her saviour? A chivalrous knight who had sworn to uphold the values of honour, honesty, valour and loyalty, did not deserve to wed a fallen woman.
The words of the Song of Roland had been sung many times by the troubadours visiting Bridlemere Keep. Some of the words played around now in her head, haunting her. Lord Romsey lived by the code set down by Charlemagne. He was charged to protect the weak and defenceless, live by honour, to respect the virtue of women and at all times to speak the truth.
To deceive this man was unthinkable. She could not do it. The king’s champion surely deserved better.
But what could she do?
“The papers are in order,” the priest told the gathering in a clear, confident voice. “This wedding ceremony will proceed.”
The moment their hands touched, her body trembled as his heat warmed her. Forgetting the discomfort of her conscience, she raised her head until she looked into the most intense, moss-green eyes she’d ever encountered. Darts of desire flared through her as his expression willed her to be calm. His other hand closed over the top of hers in a gesture which was surely meant to reassure her. She tore her eyes away from his as she fought to swallow down on the guilty sob which threatened to burst from her lips.
Far from being reassured, Lisette’s emotions seethed in the turmoil of inner conflict. On her own private inner battlefield, a yearning to be wed to this fierce, noble warrior waged war with her guilty conscience.
Nay! Her brain screamed. ‘Tis so wrong. He attempts to calm me when he has no knowledge of the terrible injustice I have unwittingly wrought upon him.
The priest re-commenced the wedding ceremony. When he reached the words that asked if anyone had just cause why they should not wed, Lisette felt faint.
Confess! Her conscience berated her. In all the wrong you have done, at least do this much that is right!
Lisette trembled in earnest as the ceremony continued. It felt as though she had been plunged into a cold river. Each of the priest’s words was like a millstone around her neck, weighing down on her conscience—sinking her into deeper despair so she was drowning in a fast flowing tide of her sins and could not breathe.
“My Lady, are you well?” Lord Romsey’s deep voice broke through her thoughts as she struggled for each shallow breath. His left armour-clad arm went around her waist to support her. “You are faint?”
Speech was not possible. All she could do was incline her head slightly as she fought to control her breathing.
“All will be well, Lady Lisette,” the Earl of Romsey told her in hushed tones. “I vow upon my life that I will take care of you and honour you as my wife.”
Oh, Dear Lord. His words only made her feel worse—just twisted the dagger a little further into her sickened stomach and pulled more thread from the frayed edges of her conscience. The knowledge that he was so chivalrous and she was now so immoral by the one shocking deed she had perpetrated, caused her an agony of anguish.
Guilt threatened to overcome her. Only a week ago she would surely have made this man a good wife.
Why, oh why had she taken things into her own hands? She should have trusted in God to right this situation for her in His own way. She would surely repent her actions for ever more. She had failed in her faith. Her prayers had been answered but she had been too impatient to wait for God’s response. Instead she had deceived herself being convinced that she had only one option available to her that did not involve murder.
Confess now! Her conscience shrieked.
Confession could have her sentenced to death. What would become of Genevieve then?
She was in a whirlpool of confusion and regret, unsure of how she would go on.
The Earl of Romsey’s hand squeezed gently at the indentation of her waist. “’Tis expected that you make your vows now, my Lady Lisette.”
God forgive me.
The saints have mercy on my soul.
Alyssa James is the pen name of Alyssa J. Montgomery.
As a child, Alyssa was always writing or co-writing stories in her spare time. Having loved being caught up in characters and their conflicts in romance stories since her late teens, the delivery of happy-ever-after endings means that Romance is still her favourite genre to read.
Alyssa still has a busy private practice where she works as a Speech-Language Pathologist – mainly with children with developmental disorders, literacy difficulties and autism. She has also been a professional pianist and worked for Qantas Airways as an International Flight Attendant.
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