Ruby is the eldest of Earl Blackpool’s daughters, and also the one who acts more like the son he never had than a lady.
She can wield a sword and protect herself and that is the reason Lord Nyle Sheffield chooses her in marriage.
He is on a secret mission for the king and needs a wife. However, three wives have died in the past few months and though it seems to be accidental he is now convinced it was murder. And to catch the murderer within his castle walls, he needs Ruby as bait. A wife who can hold her own if attacked, and as he finds out is a match for him as well.
(Available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook)
Excerpt from Ruby – Book 1:
Lady Ruby de Burgh of Blackpool steadied her lance – the old handle off a worn broom – and rode her mare full force toward the roughly made quintain she’d constructed. Leftover broken lances she’d scavenged off the knight’s practice field were put to good use by her creative abilities. She’d made her own quintain of a tall post mounted on a wide base, anchored down with boulders. Atop it sat a crossbar that swiveled when she hit it.
The moist earth flew in all directions as her horse thundered over the ground, bringing her closer to her target. She raised the stick, fastened her sight on the center of the painted red and white broken shield, and pulled her arm back, ready to hit it dead center.
“Ruby!” came her father’s voice from somewhere behind her. It was enough to distract her and cause her to miss her mark. The broom handle smashed into the wooden arm of the quintain instead of the shield, and she lost speed. The sandbag on the opposite side of the crossbar swung around, hitting her in the center of her back.
“Ooomph!” Her breath was forced from her as the sandbag continued its revolution, but not before unseating her from her horse and landing her in the center of a huge mud puddle.
“Ruby, how many times do I have to tell you to stop acting like a man?” Her father, Talbot, Earl of Blackpool, stood just outside the wooden rail of the lists. Beside him were his steward, Severin, and also a tall, handsome man she’d never seen before.
Ruby flipped her muddy, long blond braid over her shoulder and proudly got to her feet in ankle-deep mud.
“Papa, I am not acting like a man.” She smoothed down her crumpled, torn and dirty gown, and tried to sound more mature than her age of twenty years.
“Then what do you call this nonsense? Riding a horse astride and performing the feats of knights?”
Ruby realized her father was only upholding his image in front of the other men. He’d seen her practice her version of jousting many times before and had never reprimanded her. She’d obviously embarrassed him now at a most inappropriate moment. She should act the ever-obedient daughter of an earl as was proper, but the burning desire within her to act of her own accord made her speak boldly.
“The quintain is an extraordinary device that can quicken one’s reflexes and sharpen the senses. I don’t see why women aren’t allowed to use it, too.”
The deep laugh of the man standing next to her father only rattled her nerves. She didn’t see what was so amusing. Being one of four daughters of an earl was hard enough, not to mention eyebrows always lifting because of her attraction to unladylike activities. She’d spent most of her time as a child sneaking away to the armory to look at the weapons. Or she’d go to the stable, coaxing the stablemaster to let her ride the warhorses while mounted in a man’s saddle.
She’d even cut short all her hair when she was ten and dressed like a page, joining a hunting party of men off in the woods for days. That, she had to admit, was a mistake. Not only had she worried as well as infuriated her father, but she’d learned more about men’s desires and fantasies of coupling than she ever wanted to know. That alone was enough to scare her into never wanting a man as long as she lived.
Most girls in her position were betrothed at an early age and already married, or even fostered out to help assure alliances with other holdings. With four girls in the family, the ability to supply decent dowries – even for an earl – became quite costly.
By right, one or two of her sisters or even she should have been sent to a convent. But luckily, her father decided against it. He’d never remarried after the death of his wife. He’d been so heartbroken to have lost her in childbirth as well as his only son, that he wanted to keep his daughters with him as long as possible to help him ease the pain. He’d also made a promise to his wife on her deathbed not to betroth any of his daughters. She wanted him to allow them to find their own true loves instead. ’Twas certainly an uncommon promise for such a powerful man to make but, then again, there was nothing common about Ruby’s late mother either.