Jane Feather has won legions of fans with her irresistible romances that deftly blend mystery and intrigue with exquisitely passionate romance.
Now the New York Times-bestselling author of The Least Likely Bride has penned another seductive tale, the unforgettable story of a beautiful noblewoman who has lost four husbands under mysterious circumstances, and the man who is sent to find out if she is an unlucky victim of fate -- or a black widow whose abundant charms hide a heart of ice....
As a lone and wealthy widow in Henry VIII's kingdom, Lady Guinevere Mallory knew that she was in a precarious position. But she never imagined that when danger arrived, it would be in the form of Hugh of Beaucaire, a man with the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. A man of such power and determination that when he rode up to Mallory Hall, intent on claiming a vast tract of her land, Guinevere couldn't suppress a frisson of fear ... or deny a shiver of anticipation.
A seasoned soldier, Hugh had seen his share of battle and known his share of women. But nothing had prepared him for the reality of Guinevere -- a woman so elegant and alluring, with luminous eyes and hair the color of palest wheat. And when she smiled her damnable smile, so filled with invitation, Hugh found himself confused, aroused, and infuriated. For he suspected that the widow had committed the blackest of crimes.
How else could a woman of eight and twenty have been so unfortunate as to bury four wealthy husbands? How else could she have managed to persuade each of them to sign a marriage contract she herself had drawn up -- documents that ensured she would inherit everything they owned upon their deaths?
As Guinevere stalls for time, Hugh begins to investigate her mysterious and tarnished past. Yet even as they try to fathom each other's motives, temptation explodes into a consuming passion, clouding their minds to the coming peril.
Whatever Hugh uncovers, he must escort Guinevere to London to face the king and the terrifying and ruthless power of the Lord Privy Seal. And if Guinevere is indeed charged with murder, Hugh knows there's only one way he can save her -- by taking the risk that he will become the next victim of the widow's kiss....
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January 28, 2002
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Excerpt from The Widow's Kiss by Jane Feather
London, April, 1537 "How many husbands did you say?" The king turned his heavy head towards Thomas Cromwell, his Lord Privy Seal. His eyes rested with almost languid indifference on his minister's grave countenance, but no one in the king's presence chamber at Hampton Court believed in that indifference. "Four, Highness." "And the lady is of what years?" "Eight and twenty, Highness." "She has been busy it would seem," Henry mused. "It would seem a husband has little luck in the lady's bed," a voice remarked dryly from a dark paneled corner of the chamber. The king's gaze swung towards a man of square and powerful build, dressed in black and gold. A man whose soldierly bearing seemed ill suited to his rich court dress, the tapestry-hung comforts of the chamber, the whispers, the spies, the gossipmongering of King Henry's court. He had an air of impatience, of a man who preferred to be doing rather than talking, but there was a gleam of humor in his eyes, a natural curve to his mouth, and his voice was as dry as sere leaves. "It would seem you have the right of it, Hugh," the king responded. "And how is it exactly that these unlucky husbands have met their deaths?" "Lord Hugh has more precise knowledge than I." Privy Seal waved a beringed hand towards the man in the corner. "I have a certain interest, Highness." Hugh of Beaucaire stepped forward into the light that poured through the diamond-paned windows behind the king's head. "Lady Mallory, as she now is . . . the widowed Lady Mallory . . . was married at sixteen to a man whose first wife was a distant cousin of my father's. Roger Needham was Lady Mallory's first husband. There is some family land in dispute. I claim it for my own son. Lady Mallory will entertain no such claim. She has kept every penny, every hectare of land from each of her husbands." "No mean feat," Privy Seal commented. "But of course there is a father . . . brother . . . uncle to advise and arrange matters for her." "No, my lord. The lady manages her affairs herself." "How could she do such a thing?" The king's eyes gleamed in the deep rolls of flesh in which they were embedded like two bright currants in dough. "She has some considerable knowledge of the law of property, Highness," Lord Hugh said. "A knowledge the bereaved widow puts into practice before embarking on a new union." "She draws up her own marriage contracts?" The king was incredulous. He pulled on his beard, the great carbuncle on his index finger glowing with crimson fire. "Exactly so, Highness." "Body of God!" "In each of her marriages the lady has ensured that on the death of her husband she inherits lock, stock, and barrel." "And the husbands have all died . . ." mused the king. "Each and every one of them." "Are there heirs?" "Two young daughters. The progeny of her second husband, Lord Hadlow." The king shook his head slowly. "Body of God," he muttered again. "These contracts cannot be overset?" Privy Seal, himself once an attorney, lifted a sheaf of papers from the desk. "I have had lawyers examining each one with a fine-tooth comb, Highness. They are drawn up as right and tight as if witnessed by the Star Chamber itself." "Do we join Hugh of Beaucaire in his interest in these holdings?" Henry inquired. "When one woman owns most of a county as extensive and as rich in resources as Derbyshire, the king and his exchequer have a certain interest," Privy Seal said. "At the very least, one might be interested in adequate tithing." The king wa