by Lauren Linwood
I was that kid in school who liked history when it wasn’t cool to do so. I liked it so much that I became a history teacher! My idea of fun is traipsing through all of the Smithsonian museums in D.C. or visiting presidential libraries across the US. When DNA confirmed that they’d found the remains of Richard III, I was in hog heaven.
(Okay, I’m not a total geek. I do like to sip margaritas, go to action/adventure movies, and can get worked up over a good football or basketball game—so cut me some slack!)
I’m not want of those authors who looks for inspiration. It just seems to find me at times. And that’s exactly what happened to kick off my latest medieval series, The Knights of Valor.
I was minding my own business and flipping around the hundreds of cable channels I have when I stumbled across a documentary about POWs from the Vietnam War. It was informative; it was heartbreaking. It made me really consider how long those men were gone from home. Years of separation from their families in deplorable conditions. And then they had to come back and be husbands and fathers and sons and try to assimilate back into their former lives.
Hmm . . . the inspiration wheels began turning. And thanks to watching this history documentary, I found a story to tell. I wanted my hero to be an honorable man. A man of his word. I wanted him unwillingly separated from the woman he loved for a long amount of time, just as these POWs were torn apart from their families. I also needed for him to have a terrible adjustment when he finally returned home. That’s not even mentioning his wife, who has had to live without him for years and will have trust issues once he arrives.
In WORD OF HONOR, Merryn Mantel and Geoffrey de Montfort have loved each other since childhood. Once betrothed, Geoffrey leaves for the wars in France for five long years. Upon his return, the two marry and spend one blissful night consummating their love and making plans for their future.
But her new husband vanishes the next day without a trace. Merryn grieves for almost seven years—and then Geoffrey returns to her—changed from the boy and man she knew and worshipped. This stranger refuses to reveal where he has been and why he stayed away for so long.
Will her husband’s silence create a rift too large to heal, or can Merryn and Geoffrey recapture the love they once shared?
Not only did I find inspiration for WORD OF HONOR, I made the bold step to turn it into my first series after writing nine standalone romances. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Geoffrey and Merryn, and that’s been a great decision on my part. I have five more books coming in The Knights of Valor series. Geoffrey and Merryn will play a role in each of these novels—sometimes small, sometimes a little larger—but we will get to see their love story continue and grow even as other couples come onto the scene and fall in love.
MARKED BY HONOR, coming July 6, is the story of Raynor Le Roux, Geoffrey’s best friend and cousin who makes an appearance in WORD OF HONOR. On October 5, CODE OF HONOR will be released and tell the tale of Geoffrey’s niece. The final three books in the series will arrive in 2017, and I’m busy at work on them.
WORD OF HONOR
Book 1 in the KNIGHTS OF VALOR
“So you think you can tell me what to do now? Order me about?” Merryn Mantel’s sapphire blue eyes twinkled with mischief as she leaned against the sturdy oak outside the gates of Kinwick Castle.
Geoffrey de Montfort gave his newly-betrothed a smile. The sunlight fell upon her hair, which spilled in waves to her waist. Usually dark in color, the light brought out burnished red highlights, making it a rich shade of chestnut.
“I assume you understand that our betrothal is a legally binding contract. That we’re as good as married.”
Except for the consummation.
But that would be another few years. At ten and six, he knew he had time to sow his wild oats before making Merryn his.
“I read the contracts, Geoffrey.” He heard the exasperation in her voice.
“Of course, you did. I would expect nothing less from you, Merryn.”
“They said nothing about obeying.”
He hide the smile that threatened to show itself. “I believe that will be a part of our actual vows. I suppose you still have a little bit of time before you become a slave to my every command.”
In truth, he was delighted his wife-to-be could read, thanks to her indulgent father. Merryn’s intelligence and natural curiosity about the world around her had drawn him to her since they were children. Geoffrey knew he was lucky in that theirs would be a love match, a rare exception to most noble marriages. He’d known her practically from her birth since their fathers’ estates adjoined one another.
And looking at her budding figure, it wouldn’t only be his mind attracted to her. When the time came for their true marriage, the physical would play its part in their union. He saw them with many children.
And many nights of making those children.
He came and stood next to her. Lifting a curl, he twirled it about his finger. He studied it with interest, dreading to tell her of the long separation ahead.
“I must return and finish my service to Sir Lovel first,” he explained.
“Will you go to France again before we marry?”
He nodded, reveling in the silky feel of the single curl he toyed with. Longing for the day they would be married and he could bury his hands in her hair. “There are still battles to fight. Crecy is but five years past, and though we have captured Calais, France has yet to capitulate to King Edward.”
“The third of his name to grace England’s throne,” she pointed out. “I have become fascinated with our country’s history.”
“I’ve fostered with Sir Lovel for half a score, first as page and then squire. I hope I shall fight as a knight when I step foot again in France.”
Merryn smiled up at him. “You are already as tall as any of Father’s knights, Geoffrey. You are broad of shoulder and think quickly on your feet. Sir Lovel would be a fool if he does not allow you on the battlefield.” A frown crossed her face.
“What ails you?”
She lowered her eyes to the ground. “’Tis nothing.”
Geoffrey’s fingers lifted her chin till their eyes met. “We have no secrets from one another, Merryn. We never have. ‘Tis nothing but trust that flows between us. I’d know your mind if you’ll but allow me.”
She placed a hand against his chest. His pulse jumped at her touch.
“I fear you may not come home to me,” she whispered.
“You have seen me spar. I’m quick with a sword or mace.” He brought a hand to cup her cheek. “And I know you wait for me. I will return to you, Merryn. Nothing could keep me from your arms.”
Geoffrey slipped his hand to the nape of her neck and held her steady. He bent and brushed his lips next to hers in their first kiss.
He broke the kiss and grinned. “We’ll have plenty of time for love play someday.” He reached down and snatched a few wildflowers. Lifting her hand, he placed them in her palm.
“I know how much you enjoy picking flowers and your herbs. Think of me when you do so each time. Until I return.”
Merryn set the flowers on the ground. She reached and unclasped the delicate gold necklace she always wore and fastened it around his neck.
“I know ‘tis suited for a woman, but you can wear this cross under your gypon. Wherever you go, I shall be close to your heart.”
Her gesture touched him. He brought the cross to his lips and pressed a kiss against it before slipping it under his clothing.
Geoffrey took her hand and brushed his lips against her knuckles before lacing his fingers through hers.
“I promise I shall come home to be your husband, Merryn.” He gave her a wicked grin. “Who knows? Mayhap I shall serve as your slave instead.”