“I will not wed a man who thinks to own me.” Furthermore, Esmeraude of Ceinn-beithe declares that she alone will name the winner of her heart. To the knights gallant who ride from afar to do her bidding, she issues a challenge: a riddle that is both quest and test. And then she flees, daring her suitor to follow. Thus begins the Bride Quest of Bayard of Villonne, to compete for the hand of a woman he has never seen... Newly returned from the Crusades, Bayard has warned his family of a pending attack upon their estate. When they pay no heed to his message, he swears to protect the family holding himself...even if its price is a marriage of convenience. It seems a simple matter to win the hand of a rural maid in a barbarian contest — until the chase begins. Esmeraude's challenge makes her far more intriguing than Bayard had dared to hope. But when he follows her across the waters and rescues a tattered, ravishing damsel in disguise, he knows he has found her. Recklessly, she offers herself to the handsome stranger. But not even a passion that touches both their souls can win her hand. For Esmeraude will settle for nothing less than total surrender of the crusader’s worn and weary heart...a treasure Bayard is determined to keep shielded forever.
Bestselling author Claire Delacroix sold her first romance, a medieval called THE ROMANCE OF THE ROSE, in 1992. Since then, she has published more than forty-five romance novels and numerous novellas in a wide variety of sub-genres. She also has written under the names Claire Cross and continues to write as Deborah Cooke. THE BEAUTY, part of her successful Bride Quest series, was her first book to land on the New York Times List of Bestselling Books.
She has an honours degree in history, with a focus on medieval studies, and is an avid reader of medieval vernacular literature, fairy tales and fantasy novels. She makes her home in Canada with her husband and family. When she isn't writing, she can be found knitting, sewing or hunting for vintage patterns.
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