"You left me with no weapons. I surrender all to you."
Reviewed by Sherri Morris
Posted April 3, 2014
Guy de Maci has traveled across the kingdoms in hopes of
finding some evidence of where his missing son is. So far,
the clues have led him to Stonewold. Having shed his finery
for more common clothing, he looks for work in the castle in
order to continue the search for his son Alan.
Lady Joia is being forced to marry a cruel man for land and
protection for her father's castle and Crispin, her younger
brother and heir to the throne. Her father has been
unyielding in his attempts for her to wed, since her older
brother Edmund was killed in battle.
Joia sneaks from the castle and travels to the local stone
circle in hopes that she can glimpse druids, if any show up.
What she finds isn't druids, but a man, her first instinct
is to hide. But when her hiding place is revealed not only
does the strange man find her, but her father also finds her
in the embrace of the half dressed stranger, Guy de Maci.
Guy is offered the position of bodyguard by the king for his
heir Crispin. Guy uses this new position in order to
investigate areas in the castle without raising suspicion.
Guy believes his son is alive because other he would know if
he was killed.....wouldn't he?? The longer Guy spends with
Crispin, the more he realizes his mistakes with his own
sons. He is also falling for Lady Joia.
Lady Joia wants nothing more than to escape the arranged
marriage her father has placed on her. When her father
takes her chests full of jewels and coins, to her future
husbands, she is even more desperate to get away. She looks
to Guy to help her. But the more she spends with him, the
more she starts falling for him.
This is my first book by author Ann Lawrence, but surely
will not be my last! All her characters were great and the
book well written. There were detailed battle scenes as well
as steamy love scenes. I enjoyed this book more than I
thought I would, not everyone can pull off an amazing plot
set in the medieval ages. I will certainly be looking for
more from Ann Lawrence.
Guy de Maci's son disappears during England's bloody civil
war. Guy follows his sonâ€™s trail to Stonewold Castle,
becoming the bodyguard of Stonewoldâ€™s heir. Guy uses the
child as a cover to search for his missing son, but guarding
the boy hampers rather than helps Guy's efforts. He is soon
entangled in not only the boyâ€™s life but also that of the
child's sister, the rebellious and utterly captivating Lady
Lady Joia, betrothed to a man she despises, tries to enlist
Guy in her plots to free herself from marriage. All of
Guyâ€™s warrior skills are useless when it comes to resisting
Lady Joia. But should he? Or should he succumb to the
passion shimmering between them and learn the true meaning
of love before they are separated forever?
In the spring of 1143, England enjoys a moment of peace as a
civil war rages between King Stephen and his cousin, the
Empress Maude, who vie for the English throne. Their war has
torn apart not only the country, but also families.
Joia drew her mare to a halt and looked across the moonlit
moor at the great stones. They stood in a circle like old
women sharing secrets around a fire.
She wanted to know their secrets.
In the sky, a full moon blazed, eclipsing the stars. Ahead
of her lay the moor and the stones â€” mystery and magic.
Behind her, the forest was dark, only the roadbed visible
like a pale finger pointing toward the castle. She tethered
her mare behind a tangled deadfall and finished her journey
to the stones on foot. It would soon be midnight.
She crossed a small ditch and climbed a low embankment to
where the stones stood in silent splendor. Only the wind and
the whisper of her hem on the grass disturbed the night.
Before she entered the circle, she ran her hand over the
lichen-covered surface of the tallest stone that stood her
height and half again as much. Did druids still come here to
practice their ancient rites? As she looked to the moon, she
wondered if she might finally discover the answer.
She took a deep breath and stepped into the circle. Here
within the embrace of the stones, silence lay thick enough
to touch. She turned from the unnatural quiet of the circle
and walked the perimeter of standing stones, ones she called
the Sentinels for they seemed to watch over the moor.
Movement at the edge of her line of vision made her turn. A
touch of annoyance flicked like a whip. Her maid, Edith, was
climbing the embankment. Edith ran to Joia, her skirts held
high at her knees, her blonde braids bouncing on her
â€śMy lady, are you mad?â€ť Edith asked. â€śWhat are you doing
â€śWhat are you doing here?â€ť Joia continued her journey about
â€śDid you think I would let you come to such a place alone?â€ť
Joia bit her tongue on the wish Edith had done just that and
walked on. â€śWhere is your horse?â€ť she asked.
â€śSheâ€™s with your mount, my lady.â€ť Edith dogged her steps
about the circle. â€śYour father will have our heads.â€ť
â€śLower your voice, Edith.â€ť
Edith wrung her hands. â€śCan we not return to the hall? It
will soon be too dark to see our way home,â€ť she continued in
a whisper. â€śYour fatherâ€™s in such a temper. Heâ€™s searching
everywhere for you.â€ť
â€śCome, Edith, you exaggerate. If my father notices Iâ€™m gone,
heâ€™ll not forfeit a night in his mistressâ€™s bed to hunt me
down.â€ť Joia swept her hands out to encompass the stones and
the open moor. â€śHave you not noticed the moon? Druids
worship on a night such as this.â€ť
Edith glanced about. She shivered. â€śThis is what you want
â€śAye, Edith, just druids.â€ť Joia turned her back on her maid.
â€śCome, my lady, we must go.â€ť
â€śAnd I must have this moment.â€ť Eight years ago sheâ€™d left
Stonewold as a bride. Six months ago sheâ€™d returned a widow.
It was the first time since her return that the moon and the
weather had cooperated in such complete harmony.
â€śMy lady â€” â€ť
â€śIf you cannot be silent, get back to the keep or wait with
the horses, for I have no need of one who wonâ€™t obey.â€ť Joia
ignored Edithâ€™s muttered curses. It was as close to silence
as one could expect from the girl.
Joia returned to her contemplation of the stones. Did those
who still harbored superstitions of the old gods make
sacrifices here? Her throat dried. Her pulse fluttered.
Was it anticipation or fear?
Across the circle, aligned with a gap in the stones that
could only mark an entrance, lay a wide stone on its side.
The ancient stone could not have fallen to its present
position, and she imagined it placed just so as an altar.
She also imagined a maiden stretched across its flat
expanse, her breast bared to the moon, a blade descending .
Edith touched Joiaâ€™s shoulder. She swallowed a scream as she
was jerked from her imaginings.
â€śMy lady.â€ť Edith pointed.
Joia looked across the moor that lay like a stretch of
silver cloth cast over a bed. It appeared deserted, but then
Joia saw what Edith had.
A man walked across the heath. Joiaâ€™s excitement returned in
a rush. A druid? Or the spirit of one long past? She
remembered the tales her mother oft told of King Arthur and
his men who many said had used this circle. Did the great
kingâ€™s spirit walk at midnight?
The manâ€™s long shadow followed him as he strode toward the
stone circle. Surely druids walked slowly, heads bent in
reverent prayer. She imagined they did not carry heavy packs
on their backs either. She sighed. Naught but a simple
â€śA giant,â€ť Edith said by Joiaâ€™s ear.
As the stranger approached the entrance stones, Joia drew
Edith behind one of the Sentinels.
The man did as Joia had, stood and contemplated the empty
circle for several long moments. He couldnâ€™t see them where
they crouched in the inky shadows, but still, Joia found
herself holding her breath. He crossed the surrounding ditch
and bank and walked to the altar. He dropped his pack on the
ground and removed his mantle, draping it over the stone.
Midnight was upon them. He will ruin everything, Joia
thought. No druidical band would practice their rites with
this man desecrating their place.
The man pulled off his tunic. And his shirt. Beside her,
Edith hissed in a breath and dug her sharp elbow into Joiaâ€™s
side. Joia could only stare as the man methodically stripped
to his braies.
â€śKing of the faeries, my lady,â€ť Edith whispered.
He cannot be both a giant and the king of the faeries, Joia
wanted to say. Instead, she signaled her maid to remain
where she was. Joia flitted to the next stone. Her new
vantage point allowed her an unimpeded view of the stranger.
Even surrounded by the huge stones, Joia could see he was
much taller than her husband â€” may he rest in peace â€” and
might rival the castle smith for breadth of shoulder. The
moonlight silvered the strangerâ€™s body and cast shadows,
delineating the muscles of his chest and arms.
A flush heated Joiaâ€™s face. Indeed a king, she thought when
he turned his head to look at the moon. Her heart thudded.
He might be one of the emperors depicted on a Roman coin, or
perhaps this was Arthur come back to life.
What brought this man here and why now? He would ruin
everything. She scanned the hills for approaching druids,
but the rolling heathland lay stark and empty.
The man undid his pack, revealing a row of weapons.
Moonlight gleamed on the steel of his blades. He took up a
sword, then another.
He walked to the center of the stone circle and extended his
arms out to the side. He bent his head. It was a reverent
pose. Was he part of a religious ceremony? Was he here to
make a sacrifice? Where was his victim?
Then he moved.
Yet, moved was too humble a word for what he did. He turned
and twisted, swept his blades through the night air. Slowly.
In unsettling silence. No wind hissed on his blades, no
sound whispered from the dry grass beneath his feet.
Was he real?
She squeezed her eyes closed and then opened them again. He
was still there.
The steel of the manâ€™s blades flashed as he performed his
midnight dance. His body was as honed as his weapons. As
sweat slicked his skin, his braies clung to the long lines
of his flanks.
Joia melted into the stone, entranced. Heat twisted through
her insides with each turn of his blades. She had seen her
fatherâ€™s and her husbandâ€™s men practice in much this same
way and yet, here, bathed in moonlight, without a partner to
parry his moves, his swords an extension of his arms, she
felt she witnessed magic.
The man fell still. Joia let out a long breath. He returned
to the altar stone and exchanged one long sword for a short
one, and began his sword dance again. He smote invisible
foes from left and right. He moved with fluid grace, and
Joia felt a strange sensation burn low in her belly.
The man froze.
Joia dropped to her knees in the shadows. The man stood as
still as one of the stones for an interminable time, then
shrugged, and returned to his array of weapons. Joia darted
back to Edith. Silently, she pointed at Edith and then in
the direction of their horses.
Edith shook her head and turned away with an expression Joia
knew well. She tapped Edithâ€™s arm and jabbed her finger with
more vehemence toward the horses. Edithâ€™s mouth opened in a
Suddenly, Joia was snatched off her feet. Edith screamed.
Joia couldnâ€™t scream, her breath trapped in her chest by the
arm about her middle. The man dragged her across the circle
toward the altar.
She struggled, scraping at his hand and forearm with her
nails, but his grip was a band of iron. He shoved her
against the altar stone and held her in place with the one
hand. The other held his sword.
â€śWho are you?â€ť he asked, his voice as hard as the body
pressed against her.
LORD OF SWORDS
He is the lord of swords . . . She is the lady of his heart.
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