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The Knave carried a message of death. The Maiden who wrote it would change his life.

The knave is a mercenary knight who doesn't flinch when a nun suggests he violate a maiden. But as they travel on a pilgrimage across the England of the Canterbury Tales, her innocence makes him want to believe in miracles.

Meanwhile, someone wants them both dead.

Harlequin HistoricalsTM
ISBN# 0-373-29288-0

Contest Achievements
Finalist in the RWA National Golden Heart Contest.
Buried Treasure Award from All About Romance.
Placed Third in the Historical/Regency category of the 2008 Beacon Contest for published authors.

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The Knave and the Maiden


(The Eagle and the Angel)

July 2005

For more information, visit the
Amazon web site.

(The Pilgrim and the Seducer)

Harlequin Mondadori
March 2005

For more information, visit the eHarmony.it web site 


Mills & Boon
January 2006

For more information, visit the Amazon.co.uk web site.

The Knave and the Maiden was released in the United Kingdom in three editions: paperback and, for the library market, hardcover and large print.



 The Knave and the Maiden by Blythe Gifford

 Knave and the Maiden by Blythe Gifford

Mills & Boon
February 2008

For more information, visit the eHarlequin.com.au web site.

(The Pilgrim and the Seducer)

Harlequin Mondadori
December 10, 2014

For more information, visit the eHarmony.it web site 

(The Scoundrel and the Maiden)

Harlequin Ibérica, S.A.
July 2012

For more information, visit the Amazon.es web site 
England, June 1357
From Chapter One

Garren, though he had given up God as a lost cause, was still shocked when a nun asked him to violate a virgin.

“Dominica is her name,” the Prioress said, settled in her shabby chamber as if it were a throne room.  “Do you know her?”

Speechless, he shook his head.

“Come.”  The Prioress beckoned him to the window overlooking the garden.  “See for yourself.”

The girl knelt in the dirt, facing away from him.  Her hair lay like poured honey in a thick braid down her back.  She hummed over her plants, a soothing sound, like the drone of a drowsy bee.

Of its own accord, his heart thumped a little harder.  Even from behind she had a pleasing shape.  It would not be difficult to take her, but the idea rekindled a sense of outrage he thought long dead.

“I’ll not force her.”  He had seen too much force in France.  Knights who took vows of chivalry and then took women like rutting boars.  The remembrance churned in his stomach.  He would starve first.

“Use whatever methods you like.”  The Prioress shrugged.  “She must not return from this trip a virgin.”

He looked back at the girl, digging up the weeds.  He was no knight from a romance, but he had a way with women.  Camp followers across France could attest to that.  Every woman had a sweet spot if you took time to look.  Where would this one’s be?  Her shell-like ears?  The curve of her neck?   

She stood and turned, smiling at him briefly and the purest blue eyes he had ever seen looked into his wretched soul.  He felt as transparent as stained glass.

And for a moment, he shook with fear he had never felt before a battle with the French.

He shrugged off the feeling.  There was no reason for it.  She was not that remarkable.  Tall.  Rounded breasts.  Freckles.  A broad brow.  Her mouth, the top lip serious, the bottom one with a sensual curve.  And an overall air as if she were not quite of this earth.

She turned away and kneeled to weed the next row.

“Why?”  He had asked God that question regularly without reply.  He didn’t know why he expected a country Prioress to answer. 

The Prioress, broad of chest and hip, did not take the question theologically.  Her dangling crucifix clanked like a sword as she strode away from the window, out of hearing of the happy hum.  “You think me cruel.”

“I have seen war, Mother Julian.  Man’s inhumanity is no worse than God’s.”  He had a sudden thought.  The usual resolution to a tumble with a maid would find him married in a fortnight.  “If it is a husband you need, I’m not the one.  I cannot support a wife.” 

I can barely support myself.

“You will not be asked to marry the girl.”

He eyed a neatly stitched patch on her faded black habit and wondered whether she had the money she promised.  “Nor fined.”

“If you had any money you would not be considering my offer.  No, not fined, either.  God has a different plan.”

God again.  The excuse for most of the ill done in the world.  Hypocrites like this one had driven him from the Church.  “If you do not care for my immortal soul, aren’t you concerned about hers?  What will happen to her?  Afterwards?”

Her eyes flickered over him, as if trying to decide whether he was worthy of an answer.  “Her life will go on much as before.”

He doubted that. But the money she offered would be enough for him to give William the gift of the pilgrimage.  Enough and more.  William would be dead soon.  Garren would have no welcome under Richard’s reign.  All he owned was his horse and his armor.  With England and France at peace, he had no place to go.

With what she offered, and the few coins he had left from France, he might find a corner of England no one else wanted, where he and God could ignore each other.

“Can you pay me now?”

“I’m a Prioress, not a fool.  You’ll get your money when you return.  If you succeed.  Now, will you do it?”

The girl’s happy hum still buzzed in his ear.  What was one more sin to a God who punished only the righteous?  Besides, the Church didn’t need this one.  The Church had already taken enough.

He nodded.

“Sister Marian also goes to the shrine.  She knows nothing of this.  She wants the girl to fulfill her vow and return to the order.”

“And you do not.”

The Prioress crossed herself.  A faint shudder ruffled the edge of her robe.  “She is a foundling with the Devil’s own eyes.  He can have her back.”  Her smile was anything but holy.  “And you will be His instrument.”

Copyright © 2004 by Wendy B. Gifford
This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. and Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved.
® and ™ are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.


"Rescuing his liege, William, on the battlefields of France earned English knight Garren the name of "Savior," but all his efforts seem futile once they reach Readington Castle and William begins a slow descent toward death. Now in a desperate bid to save his friend, Garren agrees to go on a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Blessed Larina. Among the other pilgrims is beautiful Dominica, who seeks some sign that the saint approves of her choice to become a novice. Unbeknownst to Dominica, the prioress, in collaboration with William's younger brother, pays Garren to seduce Dominica in the hope of keeping her out of the convent. Garren tries everything he can think of to tempt Dominica into surrendering her innocence, only to find Dominica's unshakable faith tempting him into believing in God again. Faith and love play an important part in Gifford's sweetly passionate and wonderfully romantic debut historical, which vividly re-creates the medieval pilgrimage experience, complete with a company of characters worthy of Chaucer."   Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission.

John Charles
Booklist--January 1, 2004

"...pure poetry . . .the sweetness of the ending will have you running for your tissues. Oh yes, this is a new star on the horizon . . ."

Historical Romance Writers

"...the reader will find The Knave and the Maiden difficult to put down, even when the last page is read!"

Melissa Fowler
The Romance Reader's Connection

"Ms. Gifford has a wonderful writing talent in that she can bring out the full extent of emotions in each of her characters, touching a reader in every way."

Love Romances

"...the setting and many of the characters in this novel will remain with me..."

Lynn Spencer
All About Romance

"Blythe Gifford enters the romance scene with a fast-paced, scintillating historical romance."

Tracy Farnsworth
Round Table Reviews

"If you believe in love and miracles, you'll adore this story."

Suzanne Tucker--the Old Book Barn Gazette
The Best Reviews

"...gripping and very powerful."

Rendezvous Magazine



Inspiration for The Knave and the Maiden

Most romance writers trace their roots either Jane Austen or Charlotte and Emily Bronte.  I’m an Emily and Charlotte kinda girl, drawn to stories of deep passion and high drama.  On my keeper shelf are books by Anya Seton, Elswyth Thane, Mary Stewart, Rosemary Rogers, Laura Kinsale, and Penelope Williamson.

I can get three tale ideas before breakfast, but in order for an idea to coalesce into a book, three aspects of the story need to gel.

Historical:  I tend to write about turbulent times.  Plagues,wars, new technologies--my characters grapple with a changing world, just as we do.

The Knave and The Maiden is set in an England that has suffered through The Death (as they referred to what we call the Black Plague) and a war with France that was to continue for a hundred years.  My hero has had personal experience with both.  But in nooks and crannies of the country, people like my heroine are working to transform the Bible from impenetrable Latin to English that even a peasant could understand.

So I search for the nuggets that tell their tale authentically without letting the facts sabotage a good story.

Literary:  Each book seems to collect its own literary muse.  When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher made us memorize the Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales--in the old English.  Decades later, I can still recite it. So I sent my characters on a pilgrimage across England with a few characters I borrowed from Geoffrey Chaucer, the first poet to write in English.  I hope the master doesn’t mind.

Personal:  Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way says “Leap and the net will appear.”  My take on it is a little different.  I say “Leap and your wings will appear.”

So my heroine, and I, took a leap of faith.



MEDIEVAL LIFE:  To Go on Pilgrimage

by Blythe Gifford

THE KNAVE AND THE MAIDEN is set on a medieval pilgrimage.  Here is an overview of that topic.  Some of the items here will be familiar if you have read the book, but there are no spoilers.

Many of us believe that a person in the middle ages would spend a lifetime within walking distance of his or her place of birth.  While that was undoubtedly true for some, many did travel on pilgrimage to visit a holy shrine.

The ultimate in pilgrimage, of course, was a trip to the Holy Land, which would take about a year round trip from England.  Rome, Italy, and Santiago de Compostella in Spain, were also important destinations. 

But plenty of sites tempted English pilgrims who did not want to cross the water.  Canterbury, where Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170, is the most well-known.  Only a few days’ ride from London, this was the destination of Chaucer’s pilgrims in his poem The Canterbury Tales.

But England was littered with other shrines, most of which have not stood the test of time.  Because it was expensive and difficult to canonize a saint, these local sites existed beyond the official purview of the church, supported by testimonials of miraculous cures.

While there were many reasons for pilgrimage, the primary draw was the miracle of healing.  The healing power was lodged in the relics of saints---bits of bone, teeth, or a sliver of the True Cross---which were sheltered and protected at the shrine.

Healing was not the only reason for the trip, of course.  Some went in gratitude for God’s goodness; others as penance for sins.  If you were rich enough, you could go on pilgrimage by proxy, paying a palmer to spare you the arduous journey.

Travel was definitely dangerous.  Not only were there robbers and difficult terrain on the journey, but at the shrine itself, robbers waited to steal coin left for the saint, or even steal the relics themselves.

For protection, pilgrims traveled in groups, somewhat like a medieval wagon train.  Despite the dangers, many treated the trip as a vacation, a chance to see the world and escape the scrutiny of family and neighbors.  In an unsupervised group, some even whispered that pilgrimage was an opportunity for sexual license.

These rumors led the Church to flip-flop its position on pilgrimage across the years.  During some periods, the Church discouraged pilgrimage all together.  During others, rules dictated that pilgrims beg for alms as they journeyed, and never bathe or cut their hair.  (Cynics might suggest that this would make them less attractive to the opposite sex, as well as more humble.)

Despite the piety and danger, there was joy along the route.  Song was an important part of the journey, both in celebration and to pass the time.  The guidebooks written to lead pilgrims across unknown country contain directions on where to find good wine, meat, and white bread, an indication that enjoyment came with the journey.

Most returned home with a souvenir, typically a pilgrim’s badge, made of lead, symbolizing the shrine they had visited.  For Santiago de Compostela, the badge was a shell.  For Canterbury, a bishop on a horse.

And in some cases, they returned with changed lives. 

Note: This article is adapted from one that was originally released in the e-newsletter “Romancing the Middle Ages.”  To sign up for this monthly newsletter, contact RTMA@tinastjohn.com



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Copyright 2003-12, W. Blythe Gifford

Cover copyright 2004, Harlequin Enterprises

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