Title: Loyal Heart (Book One, The Von Wolfenberg Dynasty)
Author: Anna Markland
Genre: Medieval Romance
An impossible choice…love or family loyalty.
Sophia falls in love with a guest at her brother’s wedding, but he is an envoy sent by her father’s enemies.
Brandt intends to return home as soon as his unwelcome obligation to attend the wedding is fulfilled. It quickly becomes apparent he’ll be lucky to leave the celebrations alive.
Upon reaching the stables, Sophia smoothed a hand over Mut’s shoulder. “He’s not himself,” she said to her father. “He seemed to falter near the end of the ride.”
Tongues lolling, the family’s hovawarts watched their master as he passed the reins of his horse to the ostler and slapped Mut’s rear. “He looks fine to me, but you know him best. Out of sorts, is he?”
Before she had a chance to reply, they were interrupted by Konrad. After keeping her company on the long walk from the forest, he’d gone off to take care of his own mount once they’d arrived at the stables. “Papa,” her youngest brother announced, “another guest has arrived and seeks an introduction.”
She preferred they give their undivided attention to her horse, but decorum dictated they greet the newcomer. She turned impatiently, fully expecting yet another overweight count or baron. Instead, her father was shaking hands with a young man who was far from portly. The giant stood taller than any of her brothers, even Johann, though he was probably about the same age as her half-brother. Glossy hair, as inky black as hers was blonde, framed his face before falling to broad shoulders. He was too stunning to be true, the kind of knight troubadours sang of.
Even Armond and Amara, who usually barked at every stranger, sat meekly and stared.
Her eyes darted from the swarthy stubble on his chin to the intriguing depths of his sparkling almond-shaped eyes, and thence to the slightly hooked nose that only added to his allure. She raked her gaze over the corded neck, trim waist, and long, long legs. It was a brazen act she’d never been tempted to do before. Her heart did a peculiar somersault.
But something was amiss. Her father seemed to be greeting the new guest with less than his usual warmth. Kon’s nose twitched, a sure sign of his discomfort.
She took a deep breath to calm her racing heart when the stranger turned ice blue eyes on her.
“You’ve met my son, Konrad. Now, may I introduce my daughter, Sophia Agneta,” her father said. “Sophia, may I present Brandt, eldest son of Graf Gunther Rödermark.”
She executed a polite bob, praying she didn’t fall over. Thank goodness a deep curtsey wasn’t required. He was the son of a count, her equal. She searched her memory. Where in heaven’s name was Rödermark?
“Herr Rödermark is Duke Conrad’s envoy,” her brother explained, his voice strained.
Her heart plummeted to her boots. He was Franken. The Franconian representative to the wedding. She babbled something in reply, suddenly aware of how disheveled she must look after the long ride.
“The emperor and the duke have retired to their pavilions,” her father explained. “I’ll introduce you later.”
The giant bowed politely, then walked to Mut and stroked his nose. “Your palfrey seems out of sorts,” he said softly.
Irritated she’d nigh on forgotten her beloved horse, she wondered if he’d eavesdropped. “Ja,” she replied, astonished by the effect his touch had on the animal. Or was it the deep timbre of his husky voice? “You’ve calmed Mut,” she whispered.
He smiled. “Aptly named. He is courageous. A magnificent specimen.”
Sophia feared the alchemy of his smile had brought on some kind of apoplectic fit. Apparently falling victim to the same charm, Armond and Amara flopped down at the newcomer’s feet. Words refused to form and if she didn’t close her mouth soon, drool would…
“I have a way with horses,” he said, as he examined Mut’s teeth.
Dogs too, she thought to herself.
When he ran a hand lightly over one front leg, then the other, the animal didn’t flinch. If he were to press his long, elegant fingers into her shoulders, the nagging worry about her horse would disappear, she was sure.
Heat rushed up her spine and into her face. This had to stop. Brandt Rödermark was here to spy for the Staufens.
“Mut needs rest,” he said in a matter-of-fact voice.
Not a miracle worker after all.
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The heroes and heroines featured in this series are the children of Blythe FitzRam, who readers will remember as the heroine of The Black Knight’s Captive, Book One of The FitzRam Family Dynasty. The struggle between opposing factions for the throne of the Holy Roman Empire forms the political backdrop for the story.
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As an amateur genealogist (aka an addict of family tree research) I became obsessed with tracing my English roots back to the Norman Conquest in the 11th century.
This turned out to be a pipe dream since I am not descended from the nobility and records were not kept for "common folks" until much later. Even then, early parish records are often indecipherable.
As a result, I began to write stories about a noble medieval family I conjured from my imagination. The Montbryces were born.
Like many people, I had an inner compulsion to write one good book. What was originally intended as that one book about my fictional family eventually became the 12-book series, The Montbryce Legacy.
In other words, writing superseded genealogy as my principal addiction, and I have since published more than 60 novels and novellas. Almost all are historical romances that feature, Vikings, Highlanders, medieval knights or Regency earls. You can find more details on my website https://annamarkland.com/.
I've lived most of my life in Canada, though I was born in the UK. An English grammar school education instilled in me a love of European history which continues to this day. While I may boast of being a proud Canadian, I'm still a Lancashire lass at heart.
Before becoming a full-time writer, I was an elementary school teacher, a job I loved. I then worked as administrator for a world-wide disaster relief organization.
I love cats, although I haven't been able to bring myself to adopt another one since unexpectedly losing Topaz a few years ago.
I have few domestic skills. You'll notice most of my heroines hate sewing!
I try to follow three simple writing guidelines. I give my characters free rein to tell their story, which often turns out to be different from the original version in my head. I'm a firm believer in love at first sight. My protagonists may initially deny the attraction but, eventually, my heroes and heroines find their soul mates. It seems only natural then to include scenes of intimacy enjoyed by people who love each other deeply. I believe such intimacy is wholesome. Historical accuracy is important to me, although I have been known to tweak history when necessary. I write romance because I find happy endings very satisfying.
Social Media Links:
You can find me on all the usual social media platforms. On Facebook as Anna Markland and Anna Markland Novels, on Twitter as @annamarkland, and Pinterest and BookBub as Anna Markland. I also have a reader group on Facebook called Markland’s Merrymakers and new members are always welcome.