“Mistress Angel” is a medieval historical romance novella of 28,000 words. It is a sweet to sensual romance story, set in a time when women had little power and fewer choices.
This ebook also contains long excerpts from six of my other medieval romances.
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Once a child-bride, intended to stop a blood-feud between rich and ambitious families in fourteenth century London, Isabella is now a young widow, a medieval Cinderella, tormented and blamed. Seeking always to escape her grim destiny, she can just endure it but when her beloved son Matthew is torn away from her care, spirited somewhere into the country by her malicious in-laws, Isabella is desperate. To save her son she will do anything, risk anything. Even if it means she must lose the love of her life, the handsome, brave armorer Stephen Fletcher, who catches her when she falls from a golden cage and who calls her his Mistress Angel.
London, May 1357.
Isabella was reading a scolding letter from her mother when Sir William's man-servant John stepped into the workshop and jerked his head to the outside, holding the door open for her.
She tucked the scrap of parchment into her belt and hurried into the back yard, lifting her skirts clear of the cloying mud. It was raining still, a light spring drizzle that had lasted for days and stirred up the usual offal and dung stink of London. She wrinkled her nose and covered her mouth with her hand.
“Hurry!” John urged. “The master does not like to be kept waiting.”
Isabella picked her way round a deep cart track and made for the stand of cherry and apple trees against the back boundary wall of her husband's family house. The tall, portly figure waiting beneath these trees was unmistakable, as was his goldsmith's livery, worn by most guild members only on festivals and holy days but as a regular costume by him. She bowed her head.
Sir William waved his servant away. “You are too brown,” he grumbled as Isabella approached. “Are you a washer-wench, to be so brown? That will not do.”
Naturally I am tanned, through outdoor work. She had been instructed by her husband's family to weed the garden plot and gather greens daily, all work beneath her, but Isabella knew better than to protest.
“My son?” she asked quickly.
Sir William dismissed her anxious question with a sharp shake of his head. “Later,” he snapped. “When you prove your worth to us.”
Isabella fixed her eyes on the golden tips of Sir William's gilt-edged shoes and strove to appear calm. She had been hearing variations of this and other complaints for years, and they held no sting for her. The absence of her son was altogether different. When may I see my child? It has been months since Richard took him from me and his family still keep us apart. Had I the means I would go to law, for in this household no one listens to me. How does my son fare? Does Matthew think of me? She longed to ask all of these things.
“How long have you been with us, Isabella?”
“For six years, since I wed your nephew.”
She had been married to Richard at twelve, made pregnant two years later and widowed three years after that, following a long and bitter apprenticeship of wedlock. I have been a widow for six months and I do not miss a moment of my marriage.
She sensed Sir William staring at her, stroking first his squirrel-fur cloak, then his neatly-trimmed beard. She resisted the impulse to shudder.
“You are much improved in looks of late,” he remarked.
Yes, not being beaten nightly by a drunken brute improves a woman's appearance. Isabella raised her head. “May I see Matthew?”
Sir William frowned at the second mention of her son. “Did I not say later? Have you a better gown?”
Accustomed to his abrupt manner, Isabella said nothing. Sir William need only check the household accounts to realize she had three dresses. One was her bridal gown, a tiny, wrinkled dress, worn with such hopes when she was still only a child. She could scarcely bear to look at it now.
“We must have you robed in brighter colors,” Sir William continued. “And you must stay indoors. Wash your face in whatever women use to whiten skin. You must shine like a jewel.”
When she was first married, Isabella had been full of questions, until Richard's ready fists had silenced her. She nodded to show she understood and waited to be told more. Perhaps I am to be married again, she thought, and hoped this time the man would be kind. Please let him bring my son Matthew back from wherever he is living and safe into our home. If my new husband does that, I will love him forever.