This blog is to keep my readers updated about my forthcoming historical romance books and to tell you a little bit about the history behind each one. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel free to comment.
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Wednesday, 29 April 2015
Holy Poison: Book 5 The Heretics - First Chapter
Julia sat in the
bed, her pale blonde hair newly brushed and shining, her blue silk shift
unfastened at the breast, her flesh smelling sweetly of the rose petals the
maids had soaked into her bath. The fine, pale skin on her arms was marred with
goosebumps although it was not cold. It was nervousness making the flesh stand
up in tiny pimples, making her stomach quiver. This was her wedding night and
she sat alone awaiting the bridegroom with whom she had exchanged not a word
outside the marriage ceremony through which they had stood that afternoon.
They had danced to
the minstrels’ music after the wedding feast but that was all the contact they
had shared. Sir Geoffrey’s countenance was stern and he had not given her a
smile of welcome; the one person who was smiling and congratulating himself was
her father. He was delighted that one of his daughters was now entitled to be
called ‘My Lady’.
It seemed like
hours since the maids left. Obviously her new husband was in no hurry to make
her his wife; perhaps he was having too much fun with his friends in the great
hall. She could still hear the music and laughter coming from the ground floor
and she wondered how long it would continue before he grew bored and came to
She was Lady
Winterton now, just as her father wanted. He had searched for many months for
an impoverished nobleman who would make her a lady in exchange for a generous
dowry. Julia had no say in the chosen one, what manner of man he would be or
whether she would even like him. That was the way of things and Sir Geoffrey
Winterton had been the highest title to which her father could aspire. Just a
man who had been knighted by the late King Henry for his service in battle,
along with many others. Still it made her a lady and gave her access to the
court, if her husband so desired.
thought nothing of titles, or even much of wealth. She had never been without
wealth, so she could hardly speak on that score, but the title was of no
importance whatsoever. She was not like her younger sister in that respect;
Bethany wanted a title and wealth, but she also wanted a man she could look up
to and respect, just as Julia did. That was not too much to ask, was it? She
hoped she could find those qualities in her husband.
She sighed heavily.
Where was he? Why did he keep her waiting so long? It was insulting. She lie
down and thought about the events of the day. First there had been the wedding
service, a beautiful service written by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer himself. She
had taken vows, so had Sir Geoffrey, and those vows had been dear to her. Her
sister had come and wished her well, but Julia sensed she had her misgivings.
Julia also had those misgivings, but she hoped she was wrong. Like most young
maidens, she had read the romances and dreamed of a husband who would love her.
Eventually she fell
asleep, still waiting for her bridegroom to join her, to complete the marriage.
She awoke some hours later to feel hands, wet with sweat, touching her thighs,
pushing up her shift, and she gasped in shock. In her deep slumber, she forgot
for a moment that she was not at home in her own maidenly bedchamber, but was
married now. Her eyes opened to nothing but darkness and the smell of wine on a
She could see
nothing, but she felt his hands pushing her legs apart, felt him roughly enter
her body, felt the sharp pain and the movements of him, then the rapid end to
his passion. She felt violated.
This was not what
she had expected at all. She could not say what she had expected, as her mother
told her nothing except that it would hurt and she told no lie. When he moved
away from her, she watched as he swung his legs to the floor and stood up. He
left the chamber without saying a word and her eyes filled with tears. Was this
how it would be every night? She wondered. If he were going to be tender at
all, this would surely be the night to be so; obviously this was indeed how it
would be and she had no choice other than to endure such treatment.
She caught back a
sob and buried her head in the pillow to weep away the humiliation and
She had heard of
some men having a ‘reputation with the ladies’ and wondered now what that
reputation could be. Surely no woman would willingly give herself up to this
unless she absolutely had to.
night was likely the worst night of her life, but it seemed she was not to
suffer such humiliation again. After a week of waiting for her husband to come once
more to her bed, she gave up and thanked God for the respite.
She saw him at
breakfast every morning, but he said nothing to her except a murmured greeting
and a quick bow of his head. Eventually she began to get angry about that. She
may not have a title of her own, she may be but a merchant’s daughter, but she
was well educated and had been treated with as much respect as a woman could
expect before this. She saw no reason why that should end just because she had
married this cold man.
She sat at the
table, having finished her breakfast and waited for him to finish his before
“Sir Geoffrey,” she
said. “I am unfamiliar with the customs of married people, but I thought you
might have had a little more interest in your wife.”
He was not a
particularly attractive man but not hideous either. His skin was clear of
blemishes, his hair an indiscriminate brownish colour, his beard the same. He
was tall and very thin, which did not seem to be caused by lack of nourishment
judging by the amount he ate, and since he had acquired his wife’s fortune his
clothing was rich and proved he had good taste in that regard.
Now he raised an
eyebrow and his mouth turned down in distaste.
“I am sorry, My
Lady,” he answered with a heavy sigh. “I think perhaps we had better understand
each other a little better and I have not been kind in keeping my thoughts to
myself. I married you for your fortune; you know that so please do not look
aghast and hurt.”
His words angered
her further, made her feel the need to retaliate.
“Yes, I know that,”
she said. “And I was made to marry you for your title, nothing more.”
“Good. Then we have
each gained what we wanted.”
“What my father
“Ah, yes. You are a
mere female and have no opinion.” He sighed heavily. “The fact is, my dear, I
have no interest in you or any woman. It was not only your fortune for which I married
you, but for appearances also; people were beginning to talk. Now I have a
wife, they will hopefully find someone else to gossip about.”
Julia had no idea
what he was talking about. Why should people talk? Why should they gossip about
him, just because he lived alone and was unmarried? Many men lived in similar
circumstances; but perhaps it was different for titled people.
Still, she did not
understand why he said he had no interest in her.
“But you came to my
bed,” she said.
Again his mouth
turned down in distaste.
“I did, although it
was not the easiest thing I have ever had to do.”
“Do you think that
was enough to get you a son?” She demanded, hoping his answer would be in the
affirmative. She did not want to experience that again. “I have been told a
virgin cannot conceive the first time.”
“That is of no
importance to me,” he answered harshly. “My brother is my heir and he satisfies
me on that score.”
“Then why did you
make me suffer your disgusting attempt in the marriage bed?”
She could feel her
voice rising but could do nothing about it and she saw his face flush with anger.
“Why?” He replied.
“Because I did not want you running to the village priest with tales of
non-consummation and divorcing me. I did not want you taking back your dowry.”
Julia had nothing
to say to that. She had no idea she could divorce him for that; she had no idea
she could divorce him at all.
“You should have
saved yourself the effort, Sir,” she said bitterly. “My father would have been
far more concerned with losing your title than in having to retrieve my dowry.
That would be far more important to him than his daughter’s happiness.”
He looked at her
and raised an eyebrow.
“You are likely
right. He is an obsequious little man, a sycophant of the highest order.”
Julia felt no
offence at the slight to her father. In fact she rather agreed with him, but as
he said, she was a mere female and had no opinion.
“So that is it?”
She finally spoke. “That is our marriage, two separate people living separate
lives under the same roof?”
“My Lady, you
should be grateful. Your experience should have told you I can never make you
happy and you can never give me what I need. I disgust you, I know it. I am
used to that. I will give you enough respect, I will keep my friends away from
your presence. All you need do is play the loving wife in public and you can
live in this house, which is rather lovely I think, and call yourself Lady
Winterton.” He got to his feet before he added: “I think that is a fair
“Did my mother lie
then? When she told me I was beautiful, did she lie?”
He watched her
thoughtfully for a moment then gave her a half smile.
“You are very
beautiful and I am sure very desirable,” he answered. “But not to me. I regret
that, do not think otherwise, but I can do nothing about it.”
“I do not
He pursed his lips
thoughtfully then gave her a wistful smile.
“No, you really do
not, do you? Perhaps you would be better remaining in ignorance. Suffice it to
say, I will leave you in peace. You can close your pretty eyes and dream of
whatever handsome man you want, as long as your dreams take no substance in
reality. You can buy beautiful clothes, wear beautiful jewels and ride a
beautiful horse. But you will be my wife in name only. I am sorry; that is the
way it is.”
“But I am not to
take a lover?” She demanded as he turned to go. “If you do not want me, why
should you care?”
He turned back and
stood beside the table, close to her so she had to bend her head back to see
“I married you to
still gossiping tongues. Your loyalty is required to maintain that image and I
will have that loyalty, make no mistake.”
He turned back to
the door and strode away, while she watched him go and swallowed back yet
another tear. As she thought about it, she wondered if she would be better off.
She would never know love, but she would have her life to herself. It was the
best of a bad bargain, but how could she live with a man who had no interest in
her? And why did he have no interest in her? He was right – she did not
understand and was not sure she ever wanted to.