- Author: Carol Townend
- Publisher: Headline
- Year: 1993
- ISBN: 0747241481
- Setting: Medieval France
- Series: The Herevi Sagas
- Amazon Listing: Blackthorn Winter
Arlette de Roncier was raised in the castle of her father Count François in 12th century Brittany. An heiress, she finds herself betrothed to Count Etienne Favell - a man three times her age - in distant Aquitaine. When Arlette's father is disgraced and loses his lands, Count Etienne tries to reject his betrothed but Arlette resists him. She locks herself in a tower for years and, by appealing to princes of both Church and State, eventually succeeds in forcing the Count to marry her.
A novel with a bittersweet ending, this book was inspired by a true story, that of Agnes of Essex. In 1163 Agnes' father was disgraced and her fiancé, Aubrey de Vere, the first Earl of Oxford, rejected her. Agnes of Essex really did shut herself up in a tower and at length the Church insisted that the marriage take place.
Count Etienne drew himself up to his full height. 'Use what weapon you will, girl. There will be no wedding between you and me. I've no use for you. I'll give you a day to pack your belongings. You can take your entourage back to Brittany.' 'I shall not go.' 'Indeed you will.' The Count's face suffused, just like her father's did when he was angered. It made Arlette's heart quail. 'No, I won't,' she stood firm. She was used to standing firm in the face of a man's fury. . . 'I will be your wife. I will become Countess Favell. You have made a legal contract with me and, God help me, I'll make you honour it.'
A deep flush stole over Arlette's cheeks. 'You kiss very sweetly. I didn't know it could be so sweet to kiss a lover' 'We're not lovers,' Gwionn said. She pushed his hand into the neck of her gown and placed it on her breast. Impossibly her expression was trusting, innocent and seductive all at once. Her breast was warm, a perfect handful. Barely Gwionn mastered the desire to press himself upon her. 'No. But we will be.'