The French Prize

The French Prize by Cathryn HeinAn ancient riddle, a broken vow – a modern-day quest for a medieval treasure.

Australian-born Dr. Olivia Walker is an Oxford academic with a reputation as one of the world’s leading Crusade historians and she’s risked everything on finding one of the most famous swords in history – Durendal. Shrouded in myth and mystery, the sword is fabled to have belonged to the warrior Roland, a champion of Charlemagne’s court, and Olivia is determined to prove to her detractors that the legend is real. Her dream is almost within reach when she discovers the long-lost key to its location in Provence, but her benefactor – Raimund Blancard – has other ideas.

For more than a millennium, the Blancard family have protected the sword. When his brother is tortured and killed by a man who believes he is Roland’s rightful heir, Raimund vows to end the bloodshed forever. He will find Durendal and destroy it, but to do that he needs Olivia’s help.

Now Olivia is torn between finding the treasure for which she has hunted all her life and helping the man she has fallen in love with destroy her dream. And all the while, Raimund’s murderous nemesis is on their trail, and he will stop at nothing to claim his birthright.

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testimonials

The French Prize has a little of everything – romance, mystery, action, food and fun. It’s taken Cathryn Hein out of the rural romance box and proved that she has a lot more to offer readers with a complex and enjoyable story. I’ve always loved her rurals but I have to say, I love this one just as much!

9/10 from Bree at 1 Girl 2 Many Books

As she draws on memories and photographs of her own time spent living in France, her remarkable knowledge of the Provençal countryside, the language and French history shines through and adds much depth to the novel as you imagine yourself on the dig with both Olivia and Raimund, wander through his family’s subterranean archives smelling those amazing old books and feel the adrenaline rush through your body on a chase through a cave. In typical Hein style, she pulls it together with élan.

If you’ve been longing for some action in your romance novels, then I definitely recommend this romantic escapist adventure.

Marcia from Book Muster Down Under

Loved this one! Why not? It’s got action-packed adventure, a lovely romance, a spirited, intelligent heroine, a sexy, laconic French hero, the spice of a treasure hunt and it’s set in the gorgeous South of France. Such a treat.

5 stars, Annie West on Goodreads

excerpt

Olivia wrapped her fingers around his forearm. ‘Trust me, Raimund. Tell me what’s going on.’

‘No. It’s too dangerous.’

Her hand stayed in place. ‘Whatever’s going on, dangerous or not, if it’s something to do with La Tasse, then you need me.’

His eyes ran over her face as though assessing her sincerity, but he remained silent.

Olivia tightened her grip.

Without warning he smiled, then leaned forward and kissed her gently on the temple. ‘You are a very strong, very clever and very beautiful woman, Doctor Olivia Walker. I feel privileged to have known you. But it’s time you returned to England.’

Her stomach somersaulted at his words, at the tender touch of his lips, and for a brief moment she lost herself in a fantasy, but then reality crawled back to the surface.

She released his arm as though it were on fire and snatched up the cup from the table, holding it to her chest, her mouth set in a defiant line. Keeping her front facing him, she backed towards the door. If he wanted the cup, he’d have to come and get it, but he had better be prepared. She’d fight like an alley cat if she had to.

‘You can flatter me all you like, but it won’t work. I’m not leaving the cup.’

He held out his hand. ‘Olivia —’

She set her jaw, determined not to be fooled again by his slippery words. ‘It doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to the world.’

‘You are wrong. It belongs to no one but my family. It always has. It always will.’

Olivia frowned. ‘What are you talking about?’

Raimund said nothing.

Silence stretched and the air felt as tight as the wounds on her stomach. He wouldn’t stop staring at her, and she had the feeling she was being assessed in some way. Although only small, the cup felt heavier than it actually was, as though mystery had suddenly made it leaden.

Then Raimund sighed and pointed to the chair where her clothes had hung. ‘Sit down. We will talk.’

Suspecting some sort of trick, Olivia stayed where she was. ‘About what?’

‘What this is really all about. A sword called Durendal.’

 

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Read the entire exciting first chapter of The French Prize.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Cathryn Hein
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd
story-behind

I’ve always loved history. As a child I was fascinated by the ancient Egyptians and would spend rainy afternoons in front of the heater, trying to teach myself how to read and write hieroglyphs. Then the civilisations of central and south America caught my imagination, followed by the standing stone circles of Avebury and Stonehenge. And who could ever resist the tales of King Arthur and his heroic knights?

Rocamadour, France

Rocamadour, France

Even now I adore documentaries and books on ancient times. But a move to France in 2003 set my mind soaring. So many legends, so much myth. So much history to explore and breathe. I couldn’t get enough of it.

I learned about Roland’s legendary sword Durendal during our first real holiday, when Jim and I decided to go on a road trip. We didn’t book anything, simply packed up, hopped in our trusty Citroen and started driving north-west with a vague notion of ending up in the Loire, taking in whatever we could find along the way.

© 2014 Cathryn Hein All rights reserved.