In war torn England the battle lines between Saxon and Norman are clearly drawn. The Saxons must fight for everything they have in the hopes of winning their country back from the Normans who are determined to break their resistance.
Rowena Godwinson, the sole remaining member of the defeated royal family, stands proudly against the Normans that would trample them underfoot but her nobility and grace make her an ideal pawn in the Norman King William’s play for power with the Saxon people. When he decrees she marry a powerful Norman knight, her subjugation appears to be complete. The handsome soldier with the kind brown eyes and gentle touch is a threat to her determination to defy the interlopers. Can she hold firm to her Saxon heritage and refuse to give in to his advances?
John of Normandy wants only to prove himself worthy of the king’s trust. He is rewarded for his service and loyalty with land, titles and a Saxon beauty for a bride. John balks at the marriage, driven by the secret guilt of knowing Rowena’s father died at his sword. However, John’s reluctance is soon replaced by a burning desire to please this woman and win her over as well as her people.
As their people look to them for guidance and peace, can John and Rowena find a love that unites all of England?
Her response to his looks was quite disconcerting. She cleared her throat. "How do you find your manor after your long absence, my lord?"
John eyebrows shot up. She hadn't meant to find fault...or maybe she did.
"I was taken aback to find you do not care for the stores and such. Is there a reason you refuse to act as is your right as my wife?"
Her mouth opened slightly at the lie. "My lord, I have been given no such leave. Your king replaced me as chatelaine on his first visit here."
John searched her face before correcting her. "Our king."
"Yes." Rowena dropped her gaze. A slip of the tongue.
"You would accept this position then?"
She looked up but hesitated, not wanting to overstep her bounds. "It would give me great pleasure to be in charge of the running of the castle."
"Then run it you shall."
Rowena nibbled at her lip to hide her smile. Since the Normans had come, no one obeyed her unless they wanted to. The king had never come to meet with her but instead with those he had put in charge of her. Now John was giving her back her rightful place. Things were progressing better than she had hoped.
The young girl, Sarah, had replaced Ruth and was in front of the table offering a basket of almond-stuffed dates dripping with honey. Rowena returned her genuine smile. She was a lovely child. Serving the lord and lady was a big responsibility.
Offering the sweets to the new lord, Sarah's face fell as he declined with a shake of his hand.
"Oh, yes, please." Rowena hurriedly accepted the sweet. Sarah beamed in appreciation and moved on to the next table.
Rowena put the treat to her mouth and took a small bite. The honey smeared her lips. Quickly, John was leaning toward her, pulling her close. He licked her lips before kissing her. He was so tender that she was moved by the gesture and leaned into him, wanting the kiss to continue.
The burst of applause from those present in the hall surprised Rowena. She smiled in answer when they separated at last. Not all present looked happy with their display of affection. Noticing John had not yet moved away, she realized he was waiting for another kiss. She kissed him chastely. He frowned but pulled back.
The young man on her left caught her eye. He sat against the wall, his clay whistle on his lap. He had a small smile and looked at her expectantly. It was Cedric, the performer. Too shy to come to the table himself, he was apparently hoping Rowena would intervene on his behalf. She did not disappoint. Trying not to smile at his bashfulness, she turned back toward John.
"My lord…" Catching him unguarded, she was taken aback by the look of sadness she saw there. It passed so quickly, she wondered if she had imagined it.
A ripple of delight washed over her at the title. She glanced away to hide her pleasure.
"Our performer tonight is a bit shy and hoping you would enjoy hearing his songs," she said. "He is very good. Will you address him?"
She tipped her head slightly indicating the man.
"Please." John smiled warmly at the performer and stood, facing those in hall. "Friends and visitors, let us rejoice in the blessing of music that God has given us by listening to…" realizing he didn't know the man's name, his composure fell slightly and he looked to Rowena to complete the introduction. "Rowena?"
"Cedric." John lifted his cup.
Applause broke out with murmurs of excitement as the man stepped into the middle of the hall. A sudden hush fell like a blanket over the hall in anticipation of the entertainment as Cedric produced one long note from his whistle then cleared his throat. No longer the shy young man, he took over the music with confidence, having nothing more than his voice and a whistle.
Lifting his strong, clear voice, he told the story of the fallen soldier. He had been killed by an arrow and left to die alone by his companions. While he suffered the inevitable, it was a fallow deer that came to be with him. The story was enchanting and one of Rowena's favorites. She brushed away a tear and clapped enthusiastically. Cedric blushed as he bowed low. Next taking up his whistle, the pleasant music increased the peaceful mood that fell over the hushed crowd.
John wiped at her cheek, his touch light. "That song brought tears?"
Rowena dipped her head, shrugging a shoulder. "I think it is a lovely story. ‘Tis all."
"Ah, my wife has great sentiment." He took her hand in his. "I will remember that."