Almost Innocent is a romance that is particularly dear to me, with a heroine who surprised me with her strength and resourcefulness, and a hero who will always be one of my favorites.
Growing up behind the impenetrable walls of an English fortress, young Magdalen does not know that she is the illegitimate daughter of a powerful English prince and his murdered French mistress -- or that she has been a pawn in the struggle between England and France ever since she slipped from her dying mother's womb.
All she knows is that she longs for excitement. And then one day, as if in answer to her prayers, the splendid figure of Guy de Gervais, a true knight in shining armor, rides into her cloistered world and spirits her away.
For Magdalen it is love at first sight. The one and only love of her life. Yet Guy sees only his responsibility to keep Magdalen safe until she can be wed to his nephew and thus fulfill her political destiny.
Then duty calls Guy to the bloody battlefields of France, and when he returns, time has transformed Magdalen into a stunningly sensual beauty. Suddenly the noble knight is fighting the fiercest battle of his life: against a searing desire for a woman he cannot have.
I hope that you will be thrilled by Magdalen and Guy's passionate love story, and that you will have as much pleasure reading it as I had writing it.
P.S. Don't miss my latest novel, The Widow's Kiss, featuring an enchantress who has been widowed no less than four times ... and the formidable hero who finds himself reluctantly falling under her spell.
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April 29, 2001
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Excerpt from Almost Innocent by Jane Feather
Prologue Carcassonne, 1360 The woman was smiling, and it was the smile that never failed to set the serpents of lust crawling in his belly, the heat of urgent desire suffusing his skin. It did so even tonight. The man returned the smile, reaching to touch the rich dark hair falling to her knees, glowing bright against the virgin white of her linen shift. A virgin white belied by the swell of her belly. "It seems nothing can dim your beauty, Isolde." The woman took the compliment as her due. She began to play with the dripping wax from the tallow candle on the table in front of her, rolling the little puddles into soft balls. Her nails were long. The man felt the stirring in his loins. How many times had those nails raked his back in the throes of passion, those little white teeth nipped his shoulder during the violent heat of their sharing? He turned aside, walking to the narrow slitted window set into the turret wall of the fortress monastery of Carcassonne. He could see nothing but the black strip of night sky and a single steady star. The silence in the bastion room was profound, its quality somehow undiminished by the crackle of a splitting log in the hearth, the scrape of her chair on the stone-flagged floor, the whisper of wine flowing from pitcher to cup. At the last sound, he felt his shoulders stiffen. He kept his back to the room until she spoke. And it was a minute or two before she did so. "Come drink with me, John. You are in a strange mood this night. It is the last time we will be together for many months." Her voice was sweet and cajoling, and bile rose in his gorge. "Aye, and this meeting was the devil's own work to arrange," he said, turning back to the room. Two pewter goblets of wine stood on the table. Her hand curved possessively around the one at her place. The man's full, passionate mouth smiled, but his blue eyes were hooded, concealing their expression. The candlelight caught his golden head as he bent to kiss her mouth, curving beneath his caressing lips. How easy it was to do that. "I have a present for you," he said, straightening slowly. Her gray eyes glittered as they always did at such a prospect. "What is it?" "A christening present for our child," he replied. "I must leave tonight for the fighting in Burgundy, and you will be delivered and churched long before I may see you again." "Where is it?" She rose from the table, tall and graceful despite her swollen belly. Vibrant, she was, with her glowing dark hair and her glittering gray eyes, and her rich red lips now parted eagerly. Her lover's generosity was always princely. He gestured to the leather pouch on the settle beside the fire. "Why do you not see for yourself?" She moved with measured step. She bent over the pouch. Soundlessly, he switched the positions of the pewter cups on the table. "Why, 'tis beautiful!" She held up a golden two-handled cup studded with emeralds and rubies. "Look within," he said softly. Slowly, she drew out a strand of sapphires, each one the size of a robin's egg. "Ah, John, but you never fail." She regarded him with that same smile. Was there a hint of regret in her eyes? If there was, it was gone almost before it was visible. "Let us drink," he said. "A toast to the babe." He lifted his own goblet. She took the one at her chair and raised it to her lips. "To love, John." "To love," he said, and drank. She watched him drink before she drained her own cup, then she came into his arms, so warm, so loving ... so treacherous. But yet the passion stirred even as he felt on his own body the child in her womb kicking against her belly, pressed so close to his own. "Why do you wear chainmail?