Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Time for a break from writing...

This has been a difficult decision to make, but I'm afraid I must take a break from writing altogether. Over the last few months, it's become increasingly difficult to find time and energy to dedicate to my creative pursuits. This is a very hard thing for me to face, as I love writing and always have. But the reality is that my real life has become much too hectic of late, and I no longer have the physical or mental energy to dedicate to both my real-world job and the stories I write. My RL job pays my bills. Writing, unfortunately, only provides me with a tiny income. As hard as it is for me to do, I'm going to have to put what energy I have into getting ahead financially. I'm hoping this will all be resolved when spring rolls around, and if all goes as planned, I'll be able to get back to writing on a regular basis.
I'm truly sorry if this decision upsets anyone. Just know that it's not a choice I've made lightly. Thank you to everyone who has been so wonderfully supportive of me and my work.
Much love to all!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Guy Of Gisborne - "Origins," Chapter 2 Part 1

The night air was cool, and the breeze made it more so. Pulling her shawl closer around herself, Cassia hurried from the barn to the house. The animals were fed, the goats milked. She was glad to be done with the chores. It was late, and a warm bed was waiting, even if it was just a pile of hay in an inner loft. The wattle and daub house she shared with her father was not a grand structure by any means, but despite its small size, it was a sturdy and comfortable abode.

Latching the door as she came in, taking up the candle that had been left for her, she turned and saw her father leaning over the hearth – and rubbing his temples, clearly in some discomfort. She frowned in concern.

“Father,” she said, “Are you unwell?”

Robert instantly righted his posture. “It is nothing of consequence,” he replied. “It is late, and I am merely tired.”

It was not entirely the truth. But she dared not strike at his pride by arguing with him. She loved and respected him too much – and more than that, he was all she had left in the world. She spoke softly to him.

“I am tired as well. Perhaps we should both retire for the night.” Approaching him, she kissed his cheek. “Good night, father.”

He gave no reply, but such was his way. When he was troubled or hurting, he was often taciturn, and so she was not offended or hurt by his manner. She knew him well, and there were probably familiar thoughts – painful ones – weighing on his mind. As she climbed the ladder to the loft, she felt a sting of sadness, thinking of how lonely she knew he was. Loneliness was a common ailment in their household. Robert DeWarren had lost his wife many years ago, and just recently, his only son. Cassia shared her father’s grief over the loss of their family.  But her sadness was compounded by a loss that was her own. As she blew out the candle, settling down in her bed of blankets, a dark thought crossed her mind – just as it had so many times before.

I am a widow. And I am but sixteen.

Both her brother and her husband had followed their passions about going to war, both of them certain that King Richard’s mighty army would conquer the holy land with little effort. But oh, how wrong they had been. So many lives had been lost, and for what? The quest had ultimately been a failure. And among the dead were two people she held most dear to her heart. All because of a king’s foolish ambition.

And another man’s slavish devotion to his lord and master, she reminded herself.

She felt anger welling up inside of her. But with a strength of mind she had often prided herself on, she pushed the thought of him from her mind. Robin of Locksley deserved no place in her thoughts, unless it was the thought of him suffering, just as she had suffered because of his self-righteous ways.

Damn Robin of Locksley, she thought. May he meet a horrible and grotesque end.


The knock on the door was insistant. Cassia rolled over, trying to open her heavy eyelids. These kind of middle-of-the-night disturbances were nothing unusual. Her family had long been known for giving aid to neighbors in need, and so they were accustomed to being so disturbed. Forcing herself to sit up, for she knew she would have to be of help to her father, she saw the light of his candle down below. She waited, and listened, as he spoke to someone at the door.

Her eyes narrowed when she heard a familiar – and despised – voice that spoke with urgency. His words could not be fully heard from where she sat, but her father soon appeared at the bottom of the ladder, raising his candle as he looked up at her.

“Come, daughter,” he said. “One of the villagers brings a child, and we must assist in its arrival.”

She sighed as she smoothed her hair, trying to make herself somewhat presentable. Not that she intended to impress anyone in particular, especially Robin of Locksley. But she did have her own sense of pride. What else of value did a poor young woman possess?


The baby boy was healthy and whole, born with no complications. Cassia smiled as she cleaned him off and swaddled him, and she watched and listened as the friar blessed him. Tuck was one of Robin Hood’s confidantes, but he was a kind soul, and a true man of God. There were many others who followed Locksley as though he might be the messiah himself, even though he was a former earl now turned outlaw. Most of them were simply poor people in desperate need of someone to call a hero, and in truth, she could not blame them for it. But there was one among them she could not admire. One who she despised almost as much as Locksley himself.

As Cassia carried the babe to his waiting mother, she heard the low sound of Robin’s voice just outside the door. And a female voice was speaking to him in return.

“There is nothing to be done about it, Robin. You are an outlaw, and we cannot change such a fact.”

Robin’s words were spoken quietly. But the pathos in his tone was clear.

“We are one soul, Marian. We are destined for one another.”

“I am promised to another,” she whispered. “This you know. I cannot change the arrangement made by my father. It will not be undone.”

“You will marry a man you despise? An evil man, one you can hardly bear to have in your company, let alone your bed?”

“Guy of Gisborne is the man my father has chosen for me. Had you not been outlawed, Robin of Locksley, I would be your wife. But you have created this fate for us. There is nothing to be done about it.”

“There is always a way, Marian. And we will find it.”

Cassia tried not to hear their conversation. But it was not the first time she had overheard such a disagreement. Marian of Leaford was to wed Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s second in command. And Lady Marian was revolted by her husband-to-be. In public, she played the obedient and dutiful fiancé, accompanying Sir Guy to important functions and social occasions, and gifting him with a cool but seemingly genuine affection. But such a façade was thin, and it seemed that only Guy of Gisborne himself was ignorant about the ruse. He was besotted with Lady Marian, and Cassia pittied him. His blindness was a source of amusement and ridicule for all of Nottingham to whisper about. But she found his story to be a sad one. She sighed, thinking that no man – not even one of the most hated men in Nottingham – deserved to be made such a fool.



Monday, September 16, 2013

Guy of Gisborne - "Origins," Chapter One - Part 2

Author's Note: I made a slight alteration to the previous chapter, in which I stated that Briewere was The Sheriff of Nottingham. In that installment, he was actually supposed to be the Master At Arms. In this new installment, he has reached the position of Sheriff, so I've made the change accordingly. Sorry for the confusion!
Thanks for reading!
More to come soon...
November, 1192
Guy’s hand paused as he reached for a piece of bread. Seated at the table for supper, he reacted in surprise to the words he had just heard.
“My bride?”
He stared at his father, who was hastily gobbling up his supper. In the years that had passed since his mother’s death, he had grown accustomed to long passages of time without seeing Hadrian. During his absences, there had been little in the way of communication through letters. In truth, he not expected any, and so he had never been truly disappointed. On the rare occasion of his return to Nottingham, which was scarcely more than twice a year, his reasons for coming were not of a social nature. He came home to see about his property and tenants, and when he business was settled, he would be off.
But this visit was accompanied by important news.
“Yes, boy. Your bride,” said Hadrian, shoveling another heap of pottage into his mouth. He took a gulp of wine. Swallowing it, and then taking a breath, he spoke in his hasty way. “Her name is Marian of Leaford. Her father is a merchant and the overlord of a small estate in Pembroke. The fortune she is to give her husband is not as large as some, but it will do for you.”
Guy felt no excitement at the prospect of marriage. What joy was there in it? His mother, God rest her soul, had known no real happiness in her union. And besides – what was a wife except a bearer of children? Another mouth to feed, another drain on his funds. A woman was nothing more than that. Still, it was his duty to marry and produce the next line of Gisbornes. He sighed, taking a sip of his wine.
“When will she arrive?”
Hadrian finished his meal and rose to his feet. “On the morrow. Make yourself presentable, if such a thing is possible.”
Such a comment was not hurtful. Scornful remarks were something he had grown accustomed to over the years. Briwere made them. His father too, of course. And then there were the whispers of servants and others. They often talked of his harsh features and bitter disposition – his inability to smile. But what in hell’s hump was there to smile about? His life consisted of routine, and that routine was not particularly pleasant.
He needed air.
The sights and scents of autumn were all around. But other than the comfort of the cool breeze on his face, he took no pleasure in his surroundings. His mind was too occupied with other things.
What would this Marian of Leaford look like? What would her demeanor be? His father had given her age as sixteen, and that made him wonder if she was flawed in some way. Most women were already well into motherhood by such an age. Why was this one not taken already? It would be just like his father to see that the woman he chose for his youngest son was of menial quality. Guy frowned, trying to remind himself that being a husband was merely another task he was required to perform. What did it matter what his wife looked like, so long as she did her duty by him?
At the lake, he knelt down at the edge, intending to take a drink. But he became still as he looked at his own reflection, and he stared at himself. His frown deepened, his soul troubled by what he saw.
He was a survivor of the battle of Acre. With the death of the old Sheriff, and Briwere’s appointment to the position, Guy had become a Master-At-Arms, and such a position should have commanded respect. And yet, he knew that no one in Nottingham thought highly of him. They feared him. And they ridiculed him. The mockery was done behind his back, of course, for they would not dare to insult him to his face. But they did it just the same, whispering harsh words about his looks and his mannerisms.
He is as monstrous as he father, they said.
Perhaps it was true. His position demanded that he be fierce, even merciless at times. And each time he captured a criminal and saw him punished, he felt justified in his actions, for the remembrance of his mother's death had never faded from his memory. He felt no pity for each criminal he prosecuted. None deserved his mercy, for what mercy had they shown Elizabeth Gisborne? Even after so many years, the injustice of her murder remained with him, and even more painful to him was the knowledge that the killer had never been found. He took in a deep breath, making an oft repeated vow to himself that one day, he would find justice for her. One day, her soul would at last be at peace.
He was cruel, as necessity dictated. But the thought that he was reviled as a monster - Hadrian of Gisborne, born all over again - was more than he could bear. Striking at his reflection, he was glad to see it disappear as ripples formed, and cupping his hands together, he scooped up a drink. As he brought the cool water to his lips, he heard the sudden snort of a horse and the jingling of reins. Then, the sound of a voice fell on his ear. A voice he would not soon forget.
“Good sir, are you a resident of these parts?”
Turning his head to look, he froze instantly. God in heaven, he thought.
He rose to his feet, slowly - his actions slowed by the daze that had seemed to come over him. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he tried to speak, but found he could utter no words.
“Sir,” she asked again. “Are you a resident here? I have lost my way, and I must be in Nottingham as soon as possible.”
Somehow, he managed to mumble a response. “I am Sir Guy of Gisborne. Nottingham is north, my lady.”
You are Sir Guy?”
Such a question was rather unexpected. “I am,” he replied.
He watched as she righted herself in the saddle, her posture perfect. She lifted her chin proudly.
“I am your intended, my lord. I am Marian of Leaford.”
Impossible, he thought. This woman, this beautiful lady, could not be meant for him. Her shining brown hair hung down in a thick braid that fell over her shoulder. She was pale and slender, but curved in the most sensual way. It was difficult to tell from where he stood, but it seemed to him that her eyes were a bright shade of green, and her face was round, though not overly so. It was soft looking and womanly, with high cheekbones – and her lips were a luscious shade of coral.
He gave his head a slight shake, trying to come to his senses.
“It will be my pleasure to escort you, my lady. Sherwood Forest is not a safe place, especially for a woman.” As he reached his horse, lifting himself into the saddle, he again heard that voice of hers. What a soft, sweet sound it was. And yet, the sweetness was melded with an air of strength.
“Do not fear, my lord Gisborne. I am quite capable of taking care of myself.”
Guy felt an unusual sensation tugging at the corner of his mouth. When was the last time he had found amusement in anything, let alone felt the sensation of a smile?
My lady is spirited, he said to himself, the thought of it arousing his interest. Most women he knew were so mousy - so submissive. Even women of ill reputation submitted to the whims of men, if only to satisfy their own needs. How interesting it was to meet a woman such as this.
Silently, he chastised himself. Regain your senses, Gisborne. Do not be a fool. Learn more of her before you rush headlong into the wild. She may yet turn out to be no more than a pretty face.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Guy of Gisborne - "Origins," Part One

Hello, readers! This is something that I've been thinking of writing for a while, so I decided to give it a go. I'm not sure exactly how it will turn out, but I'm just letting the muse take over for now. Please let me know what you think! This may end up being part of "The Tempest" at some point, but I'm not sure yet. We'll see what happens.


Nottingham, England


Dead. His mother was dead.

Through the floorboards above his head, he had heard the shouts and cries - the commotion of a violent struggle. The sound of his mother fighting with an intruder. There had been a shouted curse, and the sound of a body hitting the floor. His mother had suddenly gone silent. And he knew it then, even as he heard the noise of the thief breaking household objects and turning over furniture.

Mother, he thought. Mother…

The door to the root cellar was opened by a cautious hand. Slowly, Guy emerged from the hiding place he had been ordered to remain in. He saw it then. His mother was lying on the floor, her head turned to one side. He felt numb as he knelt beside Elizabeth Gisborne’s body. She had hidden him in the root cellar, ordering him to be silent and still, no matter what happened. She had given her life to protect her son, and now, he stared at the paleness of her face – at the lifeless blue eyes.

The door slowly opened behind him. Startled, thinking it was the return of the criminal, his head turned sharply towards the sound. His father stood in the open doorway. Tall, dark-haired, and stone-faced, Sir Hadrian looked upon his youngest son with horror and disdain.

“Guy of Gisborne,” he said, the voice a raspy sound. “What atrocity have you allowed in my absence?”


The journey to Nottingham Castle was a short one. But the road was filled with ruts made by horse hooves and wagon wheels. As his father’s cart went ever the holes that were filled with rain, Guy felt the splash of water and mud on the side of his face. But he dared not complain. The last words his father had spoken to him were words of warning, and he feared Hadrian enough not to ignore them.

You go to Nottingham in the morning, boy. You are to be a ward to your uncle. I will have no argument on the matter.

What argument could he give? It had always been known to him that one day, he would become a servant to the Sheriff of Nottingham. His two brothers, both older than he, had already gone away to their servitudes in distant households. For some time now, Guy had known that his ninth birthday was fast approaching, and he had tried to stay close to his beloved mother. He wanted to have memories of her to hold to, for he knew that once he was established in his apprenticeship, he would only see her on rare occasions.

But such memories were pushed to the corners of his mind now. All he saw in his head was her still figure lying there on the floor, the victim of a senseless crime that he had failed to prevent. His father blamed him for his incompetence. Hadrian had not said so in words, but he had not needed to. His silence spoke volumes, and his insistence on this journey to Nottingham was further proof of it. Without his wife, the elder Gisborne had no one to care for his youngest child, and he certainly could not be expected to take up the task himself.

The sky was grey and gloomy, just like the stones of the castle. As the wagon stopped at the gatehouse, Guy looked up at the imposing facade, feeling a sense of dread. He knew what waited for him behind these walls. He knew many of the page-boys that already lived there, and their lives consisted of strict routine and hard work. Such was expected in a place that was, in essence, a military fortress. There would be no kindness or compassion for a boy who had lost his mother. A boy who was the Sheriff’s nephew. Such things made no difference now.

A guard appeared from within. Without speaking, he waited for Guy to get down from his seat, and after a moment of hesitation, Guy did so in silence. Looking back at his father, he waited for some sign of farewell, some sign that Hadrian would at least acknowledge this last moment between them. But Hadrian’s head remained forward, his eyes fixed on the road before him, and in a moment more he departed, leaving the guard to escort Guy into his new residence.

Despite the warmth of the summer day, the halls of the castle were cold and drafty. Guy shivered as he followed along, fighting back the misery he felt in his heart. He missed his mother. She had been the one constant in his life – the one happiness in a dark and turbulent world. So often, she had held him in her arms and spoken softly to him, offering him comfort when his father had been cruel to him. Where would he find such comfort now? Who would care for him? Who would love him?

Turning a corner in the hall, the guard stopped at a door and knocked. A deep voice came from within.


The door opened. Guy was slowly led forward, and he came to stand before a massive desk. But the heavy piece of furniture, though nearly as tall as he was, was not what frightened him. It was the man sitting behind it.

“My Lord Sheriff,” said the guard, “This is your new page boy.”

William Briwere rose from his chair. Guy looked up, seeing his uncle – his mother’s brother. They shared the same slim build, the same middling height. William’s hair was cropped close to his head, but it was fair and blond, just like Elizabeth’s. And those were her eyes, it seemed. The same pale shade of blue. And yet, they looked down on Guy with no light of love. Just a moment of passing regard, and then a word of frosty instruction.

“Take the boy to the barracks. Find some use for him.”

No welcome. No word of condolence for the loss of his mother. Just a brief word or two, and then he was being led again, taken away to begin his new servitude.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A lovely friend, a gifted writer...

I don't have much time for anything these days, as everyone knows. But I'm stealing a few moments to give a shout-out to one of my good friends. GratianaL has been a loyal reader of mine for quite some time now, but I've been terribly neglectful of her at times. I've only managed to read some of her wonderful writing, even though on many occasions, I promised to catch up with everything. Time just slips away from me so easily these days. I'm sure many of you know this dear lady already, and most of you have probably read her stories. But if you haven't, you are in for a treat!

Gratiana's Avi
You can find her work over on Wattpad - http://www.wattpad.com/user/GratianaLovelace If you haven't already, please stop over and have a look. I'm sure she would love some feedback. What writer doesn't? Give her some votes, too. She deserves your love and affection! She certainly has mine.

Much love, dearest Grati! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Catching up with the Langdons...

Hello, fans and friends
My Langdon series ("Oh That I Had Wings," "Finding Grace," "Of Dark and Bright") has been put on the back-burner for some time now. But that will be changing soon...
My plan is to dedicate the next several months to finishing "Of Dark and Bright." And not only that, but the other two books in the series are getting a bit of a makeover. Don't worry - the basic stories will stay the same, but I've decided to do a bit of tweaking here and there. And I've also decided to republish the stories under my pen name, which you know of course is Charlotte Hawkins. (The Langdon series is published under my real name) Not only will this make it less confusing for those who read my work, but it will open up my fanbase to those readers who only know my Gisborne stories. New cover designs are in the works as well.
I hope everyone will enjoy these new editions. Thanks so much to everyone who has been a fan.
Happy reading!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The winner of my EBook giveaway for "The Baron's Lady" is...

Patricia R! You have won the giveaway! :)

Thank you to all who have entered. Stay tuned, because there may be another Gisborne story in the works. We'll see what the muse comes up with. :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

My new Gisborne covers!

The evolution of my book covers' continues. I'm always striving for improvement in both my work and my cover art, so I've chosen brand new designs for all three of my Gisborne novels.

What do you think? Yay or nay? I would love to have your opinions. :)


Monday, August 5, 2013

About "The Baron's Lady" giveaway...

Just popping in with a quick note to anyone who is interested in a copy of "The Baron's Lady." 

Since the book has now come up as a free read on Amazon, I'll be happy to gift a Kindle copy to all who are interested. I just ask that you leave me a review or just a basic star-rating. If you've previously left me your email, please send it to me one more time as a reminder so that I don't miss anyone.

(You can leave me your email privately, if you wish. Just send me a DM on Twitter or Facebook, or you can email me at Charlotte1194@hotmail.com. Please leave me a note in the subject line so I know it's not spam.)

FYI: The promotion on Amazon and Barnes & Noble is for a very limited time, so this may be your last chance for a freebie. Get in on the deal while you can! :)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

To my fans and friends...

Just to let everyone know, I've had a family crisis that has thrown me into an emotional tailspin. I don't know how soon I'll get back to writing, and I may be taking a break altogether from social media. Thank you for all of your support, and I hope to be back soon.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Note From Charlotte...

Hi, everyone. 

I just want to update you on a few things... 

I'm going through some difficulties in life right now, so forgive me if I don't always respond to questions or comments. Just know that I love and appreciate you all. 

About "Of Dark and Bright" - I will try to pick this story up again this week. I know I've been away from it for a long time, and for that I apologize. I'll do my best to get back to it ASAP. 

As for the Gisbornes, I don't know if there will be another story in this series. Truthfully, I think the interest is waning, and I don't want to, as they say, "Take a good horse and beat it to death." For now, the future is uncertain, but you never know what may happen. If you have comments or concerns, please feel free to send me a message. I'll do my best to respond. Thanks as always for your love and support.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Giveaways for "The Baron's Lady"

Hello, dear readers :)

With the recent release of "The Baron's Lady," Goodreads is doing a promotion that you might be interested in. From now until August 20th, you can enter for a chance to win one of two paperback copies. And, I'm doing my own giveaway as well. From now until August 10th, you have a chance to win a free Kindle copy! To enter, just leave me a reply on this post, along with your email info. If you want to keep your email info private, just send me an email at Charlotte1194@hotmail.com and I will add your name to the list. Good luck to everyone!

Happy Reading!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Baron's Lady by Charlotte Hawkins

The Baron's Lady

by Charlotte Hawkins

Giveaway ends August 20, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday, May 16, 2013

To My Lovely Fans...

I'm often overwhelmed by the love and support I receive from my fans, and yesterday was a wonderful example of that.  You all have given me a lot to think about, so I will be mulling over this whole Wattpad debacle over the weekend.
It's wonderful to know that I have such friends out there, some of which are quite willing to go the distance for me. Hopefully, it won't come down to a war of words on my behalf, but I'm pleased to know I have such dedicated people in my corner.

I'll make my ultimate decision soon.
Much love to all!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why I'm leaving Wattpad...

As a certain lovely Brit actor once said, "If it stops being fun, then it needs to stop entirely."

Sadly, this has become the case with Wattpad. As a writer, I appreciate constructive criticism. But when things get personal, that's where I draw the line. I have enured a lot of distasteful remarks about my work, which I am willing to accept, because I know that not everyone's tastes are the same. But when people send me personal hate-filled rants or tell me the way they think my stories should be written, that's when I can no longer remain passive. Thus, I've decided to remove my work from Wattpad.

For those who are fans, have no fear. I won't be abandoning you. I will still be offering my work here on the blog, and I will be doing giveaways. But in order to avoid hostile readers, I will be limiting activities to my blog. I hope everyone understands.

P.S. : To the fans who have supported me and continue to do so, God bless.

P.S.S. : I love my Gisborne ladies. You know who you are. :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mini-Thorin hates trolls...on and off the internet...

Mini Thorin can smell a troll, and this, he does not like.

Over on Wattpad, there seems to be one of these disgusting, smelly beasts lurking on the pages of one of my stories. "The Tempest" has always been a favorite of both fans AND haters alike, but now it seems someone has taken the time to comment (In a not so nice manner) on quite a few of the chapters. Thorin is upset, and he is prepared to do battle if this monster persists, so stay tuned...

Friday, March 22, 2013

An update on "The Baron's Lady"...

Hello, everyone!

Some of you may be wondering how things are progressing with my edit of "The Baron's Lady." I've just finished reading the entire thing through, and while I'm pleased with some of it, I've decided there are some parts that definitely need work. I didn't have a lot of time to dedicate to this story while it was being written. (As everyone has been aware of, I know. Forgive me!) My lack of attention seems to show in some parts, so I'm going to do my best to improve the weak points.

When will the book be available? It's hard to estimate, but I'm aiming for early summer. I promise I will keep everyone updated with the progress. I know that's it easy to lose interest in a story that's been delayed so many times, but I hope it will be worth the wait. 

If you have questions or suggestions, (i.e. things that you wanted to see in the story or things that didn't interest you) please feel free to share.

Thank you, as always, for your loyalty and support.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Baron's Lady - Epilogue

At last, the ending is posted. My thanks to everyone who has stayed with this story. My apologies for the many delays in seeing it completed, but I hope you enjoy this finale. There may be some slight changes made when I begin the edit, and if you have any thoughts, feel free to share them. (But please be kind. ) 

Enjoy! :)


May, 1214

The spring air surrounding the Gisborne estate was so sweet. Isabella closed her eyes for a moment, taking in the heady scent of orange blossoms and jasmine. So many times, she had dreamed of coming home to this wonderful place. Though they did not reside at the manor all of the time, they were frequent visitors, and to return after being away for a time was always a delight. 

Sebastian had found a stable and loving home there, where he continued his schooling and knightly duties, and it warmed Isabella’s heart to know that he was not so far away. She could hardly wait to see him again, along with the rest of the family, and she smiled as she looked out the window opening, seeing Lady Cassia waiting for them in the courtyard. Dear Cassia. More like her beloved friend than her mother-in-law. After they had stepped down to the walk, Cassia greeted them both with her usual love.

“At last, you arrive,” she said with a smile. She placed a kiss on Isabella’s cheek. “We have been waiting.”

Owen embraced her. “Hello, Mama.”

She smiled at him, kissing both his cheeks. “I am so happy to see you again. It has been much too long.”

Turning to Isabella, Cassia’s lips curled into an eager smile. “So, tell me,” she said. “Are you to make me a grandmother at last? Your letter indicated the possibility. So tell me. I must know.”

Isabella smiled, hesitating for a moment as Cassia clasped her hands. They had tried for a baby, hoping and praying that God would bless them with a son or daughter. But time had flown, and no child had come. Broken-hearted, they had all but given up the possibility of parenthood.

Until recently. 

To Cassia’s question, Isabella nodded. The result was a squeal of delight, and Isabella found herself laughing as she was gripped in a tight hug. Cassia turned her excitement to Owen, kissing him again and again as happy tears rolled down her cheeks. Her exclamation was punctuated with sniffles. “My baby boy, soon to become a father! Wait until your Papa hears of this news!”

Wearing a delighted smiled, Owen looked around. “By and by, where is he? I expected to see him at your side.”

Cassia’s expression sobered slightly as she led Owen and Isabella towards the door. 

“He has flown away on one of his temperamental journeys. You know his displeasure in regards to his birthdays. He has been quite disagreeable these last few days. But this glorious news will cheer him. I am certain of it.” Her smile returned, and she gave Owen a pat on the cheek.

“See that your wife is cared for. Food and drink. A bath. Whatever she requires. I will go and fetch your father.”

Another hug, another kiss, and she departed as Owen asked of her, “Where is the rest of the family?”

The question was followed by the answer, as the merry noise of children came to be heard. Looking towards the stairs, Isabella beamed as her son, along with her nieces and nephews – with their mothers and nurses in tow – came rushing towards her. Phillipe Gisborne, five years old now, was yet another spitting image of Sir Guy, but with a much more cheerful disposition and a charming smile. Thea’s son, Gabriel, was the same age as Phillipe, and the two were closely bonded playmates. Often in their shadow was Sophia – Simon and Evelyn’s three year old daughter. She was fearless, energetic, and not at all shy about chasing after the boys and engaging in their games with them. Quite the opposite of the tomboyish Sophia were Thea’s twin daughters, Elizabeth and Catherine. They enjoyed being proper young ladies, preferring to behave as such, and the games they liked were ones of a more quiet nature. But they were still children. And when visited by their favorite aunt and uncle, they could not hide their enthusiasm.

“Oh my heavens, we are surrounded!” Owen cried in mock protest. “Where are the dogs to protect us?”

There were kisses and hugs to be given all around, but Isabella greeted her son before any other. She hugged him close, moved by the thought that he was already growing into a handsome young man. She had missed so much of his childhood, and it was a loss that would never to be returned to her. But he was still young, and she intended to show him as much affection as she could. She kissed his cheek.

“How are you, my darling? I have missed you so.”

“I am well, Mama,” he said. “Sir Lucien and I have been preparing for the coming tourney.”

Touching his face, she smiled proudly at him. Like Owen, he was becoming a prize student of Sir Lucien – learning the ways of the knighthood, so he could one day be of service to the king. There was so little of Gilbert in his nature, and she thanked God for that. He had not taken the loss of his father in a particularly bad way, or so it seemed. He had shed tears a few times, but had rarely spoken of it, and she had not pressed him on the matter. Only time would tell if his wounds ran more than skin deep, but for the moment, he was a happy and loving young man.

Over the heads of the children, Isabella saw Evie and Thea, who were watching with happy expressions, and Isabella’s eye went to the bundle in Evie’s arms. Evelyn moved forward, presenting her son with a proud smile. Simon Alexander Jean-Carre was plump and chubby-cheeked, and was quite bald except for a small bit of hair on the top of his head. His eyes were large and hazel, and Isabella was delighted by him.

“Oh, Evie,” she said. “He is so handsome.”

She took him gently into her arms, feeling an overwhelming sense of motherly instinct. One day soon, she would be holding Owen’s child – their child – like this. When she raised her eyes to look at her husband, she saw that he was smiling at her. Their thoughts, and hopes, were the same. Thoughts of the future. Of happiness. Of a family, and a joy that would at last be theirs to have.


It wasn’t at all difficult to find her wayward husband. Cassia wandered out of the dense woods into the fields, dotted purple everywhere with the springtime blossoms of lavender. Even at a distance she could see him, his frame impressive and strong even when sitting, his sharp profile unmistakable even from far away. When she quietly approached him, he slowly turned to look up at her. His greeting was cool, given with something close to a frown.

“Good afternoon, wife.”

Eyes slightly wide with mock displeasure, she gently reproached him for being so glum.

“What a greeting, husband! Is your mood so sour that you cannot greet me with something more pleasant?”

At last he smiled, reaching out his hand to her. As she placed her palm in his, he pulled her down to sit beside him. 

“Forgive an old man and his grumpiness,” he said, pressing a soft kiss to her lips. Sighing, she snuggled into his arms, informing him of their guests’ arrival.

“Owen and Isabella are here. They wish to see you.”

Now it was Guy who let out a sigh. “All in due time, beloved.”

Leaning back in his arms, Cassia looked into his eyes. “Guy, you are the same as ever, with your moodiness and tendency to go into seclusion when you are troubled. Will you never learn that you cannot hide from me?”

“It is not you I hide from,” he replied. “It is the constant reminder of my age that I have no desire to see or hear.”

She leaned her head against his chest. “Do you not think I know your feelings? I share them, more than you may know.  Have you not seen the age lines around my mouth?”

His tone became softer, more pleasant. She could tell from the way he spoke that he was smiling. “That is not age, beloved. It is the constancy of your lovely smile.”

“Oh? And what of the crinkles around my eyes?”

“Your eyes match the actions of your lips. Results of a happy disposition that has brought much joy to us all.”

He was determined to argue his points, which was something that had always pleased her. She loved these kinds of playful debates with him, for they often drew him out of his gloomy moods. Her eyes meeting his with a daring look and a little smile, she challenged him.

“What of my knees, then? You have heard the noise they make at times. What explanation do you have for that?”

A light of mischief flashed in his eyes. “That? It is most certainly old age.”

A stunned laugh escaped her, and as he grinned at his own cheekiness, she playfully hit him.

“Fiend!” she scolded him, but he only laughed, and she laughed along with him. Such moments of shared joy had always seen them through difficult times. It would see them through the trials of their autumn years as well.

“Let us go home and see our family. They are waiting for us.”

He grumbled for a moment. But as she rose to her feet beside him, he rose to his as well. Putting her palm in his, she felt a familiar sense of love and comfort at the sensation of their joined hands. Together they walked through the fields of lavender and into the woods, eager to return home to the ones they loved.


January, 1215

A cold winter wind was howling outside the house. But in the bedchamber, all was warm and cozy. Owen sat in a chair beside the bed, where his wife was sleeping peacefully. In a cradle nearby, their newborn son was sleeping as well. After the chaos that had gone on to bring the boy into the world, it was wonderful to know that all was peaceful at last.

John Edward Gisborne had been born after a long and difficult labor that had utterly exhausted his mother and made his father crazed with anxiety and concern. But in the end, all had been well. Rising from his chair now, Owen crept over to the cradle to look down at the baby. Like all of the Gisborne babies, he was a handsome child and a healthy one. That was partly an inherited trait. But one could not forget that a strong and beautiful woman had so much more to do with it. 

Moving from the cradle back to the bedside, Owen resumed his place beside Isabella. She was so beautiful, even in sleep. And he loved her so, more than he had ever loved anyone in his life. He wanted her to always be happy, and he would do whatever it took, even it meant he would defy customs that other followed religiously. He thought of the days before their son was born, when she had revealed her fears, and of course, her memories.

Sebastian was torn from my arms instantly, she had said, her eyes filled with tears. She had clung to him tightly. Promise me you will not let that happen.

He had not let it happen. Indeed, he had insisted that the baby be returned to her arms the moment he was clean and swaddled. He would not do as Gilbert had done – snatching the child away and immediately handing him over to the care of a nurse, instead of allowing mother and child to bond. Isabella had held young John close for hours, just admiring him, until weariness had finally overtaken her. Mother and son had fallen asleep together, and Owen had felt his own exhaustion coming over him. But he fought against sleep. He had been with them through the long and difficult day. And he would be there to greet them both when they woke up in the morning.