By Design

By Design

by Madeline Hunter

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Bound by honor...

The moment Rhys saw the stunning young woman selling her exquisitely crafted pottery in the marketplace, he was captivated. But the wealthy freemason would never have guessed that just a few days later, a misunderstanding would land Joan in the town stocks and he would become her unlikely savior. After the grueling ordeal, Rhys tenderly cares for Joan's bruised body—and her bruised pride. Yet he longs to do much more ... to satisfy the fire that sparks between the pair the moment they are alone.

Rhys could not have known that Joan once enjoyed a more privileged life. She'd had no choice but to become an indentured servant, but she is determined to avenge the crimes that ruined her family and destroyed her world. When Rhys meets with her employer to buy pottery—and buys her instead —Joan is furious. She vows to resist falling under the spell of the handsome, imposing Rhys. But she finds that her resolve quickly softens when tempted by Rhys's powerful charms—and she can only hope to find a way to avoid surrendering to her potent desire....

From the Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307482631
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/10/2008
Series: Medievals , #3
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 144,985
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Madeline Hunter is a nationally bestselling author of historical romances who lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. In a parallel existence to the one she enjoys as a novelist, she has a Ph.D. in art history and teaches at an East Coast university. Readers can contact her through her web site,, where they can also learn more about the characters and historical backgrounds found in her stories.

From the Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt

She looked like a statue of calm dignity placed in a sea of vulgar chaos.
The market roared and splashed all around her motionless body. Peddlers of skins and barrels, of pigs and fish, crowded the small space that she had claimed for her wares. Her ragged gown, of a pale silver hue and displaying remnants of elegant needlework, contrasted starkly with the practical browns and flamboyant colors filling the square. Along with her blond crown and braid, the gown created a column of light tones in a very mottled world. She was all gentle fairness, except for her skin. Bronzed from the sun, it possessed a golden sheen that brightened her blue eyes.
It was the respite of pale serenity that first caught Rhys’s attention as he walked through the market in front of the Cathedral. Then the unveiled hair. And the eyes. He had already slowed to see her face more clearly before he noticed her wares.
She did not hawk them. She stood silently behind the crude, upturned wooden box that showed what she sold. Her delicate face remained impassive, as if she did not notice the bodies jostling by, sometimes pressing her—sometimes deliberately. He was not the only man to notice that this tattered dove was very pretty.
He did not recognize her. Most of the vendors were old faces, seen here regularly. She was an alien most likely, and not from the city. She had come for the day to make a few coins.
He felt a little sorry for her. Despite her rigid poise, she struck him as vulnerable, in danger of being broken. He doubted that she was doing well. The box was low, no higher than her knees, and the wares were almost invisible. He had to stroll very near in order to inspect the items set out on it.
Crockery. He had no interest in such things, but he did have an interest in her. He casually lifted the closest cup and a spark of hope lit her cool gaze.
The cup was simple but well made. Surprisingly, it was not ordinary sunbaked terra-cotta. It had been fired, and its shine indicated that it had been glazed.
“The walls are very thin. Do you have a potter’s wheel?” he asked while he examined it. And her. She really was very pretty, but up close he could read fatigue in her lax expression, and discouragement in her blue eyes.
“Nay. I just used coils.”
“With great care, though. The shape is very regular.”
His interest attracted others, as was the way with markets. A stout woman, a wealthy merchant’s wife from her dress, paused and peered down critically. Something caught her eye. Poking her chubby hand amidst the cups, she lifted a small figure.
He had been so distracted by the potter that he had not noticed the little statues. The merchant’s wife held a standing Virgin, maybe a hand’s span tall. It had been carefully modeled with swelling drapes, and painstakingly painted with colored glazes.
The woman examined the little figure, running her fingers along the face and back, holding it upright to judge its look. Rhys made his own inspection alongside.
“How much?” the woman asked, sharp-eyed and ready to bargain hard.
“Eight pence.”
“Eight pence!”
“Five, then.”
The woman groaned and sighed and dawdled and debated. Finally the five pence emerged from her purse.
The potter seemed well pleased.
Rhys dipped into the wares, moving some aside. Two other statues were there. A Saint Agnes with her lamb, and a Saint Catherine with her wheel. She might have just repeated the figure and changed the attribute, but she had not done so. Each was unique in pose, and very realistic.
“Do you seek to buy something?”
Her voice had a little edge to it. Her blue eyes regarded him skeptically.
He knew what that look revealed. He had not been the first man to loiter around, pretending to be interested in crockery.
“You craft the statues, too?”
“When I have the time, and the clay.”
“They are all fired.”
“I know a tiler who lets me use his kiln.”
He lifted the Saint Agnes. “What are they for?”
“That flustered her. “They are statues.”
“Aye, but what is their purpose? The cups and bowls have a purpose. Everyone needs them. What is this saint for?”
“There are churches for that, with much larger statues.”
“Some people might like to have one in their homes,” she said defensively.
“Have you sold many?”
She grimaced, conceding the point. “At most one a day when I come to market.”
“Then you should charge more than five pence.”
She rolled her eyes. “If I sell only one at five pence, I will sell none higher.”
“You will sell just as many, but receive what they are worth, and they will be more valued by those who buy them. These are not practical things. Most will give you nothing, but those who will pay five pence will pay a shilling.” To prove it, he fingered a shilling out of his purse and placed it on the box.
She eyed the coin hungrily, then glanced at him, suspicious again.
Her caution did not insult him. A pretty thing like her, alone in the marketplace, probably received a lot of propositions. “For the statue only. But I must warn you. I am a freemason, and I may steal the pose for a stone saint someday.”
Her gaze raked him with a quick assessment. He knew what she thought. He did not look like a mason today. His dress was too fine for work. A man did not wield a chisel and hammer in a long tunic and tall boots.
Rhys drifted away, carrying Saint Agnes. He looked down at the little figure and laughed at himself. A man who could make stone statues hardly needed to purchase clay ones.
He supposed he had bought it as a form of praise, from one craftsman to another. And as a type of flattery, from a man to a woman. There had been a bit of pity to it, too. He liked the idea that he had made the day a success for her.
He laughed again. A shilling for ten minutes with a pretty woman. Still, even without the statue, he would not have felt cheated.

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By Design 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Elle_See More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by this author, and I must admit that it was much more than I thought it was going to be. Fairly complex and well-developed primary and secondary characters with a good bit of medeaval court intrigue and history thrown in. The author apparently really knows her period. Really enjoyed it, and would definitely recommend it.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the marketplace near the Cathedral, freemason Rhys observes a beautiful newcomer serenely and quietly trying to sell crockery. For some strange reason, Rhys finds himself enchanted by the ¿alien¿ and even more excited by her work that is geometrically perfect especially since he learns that she lacked the proper equipment. Reluctantly by gleefully for having met the latest hawker, Rhys finally moves on to conduct his own business.

A few days later, Rhys sees his enchantress in quite a different situation. Apparently she did something that led to her master blaming her. Now she is a victim of the stocks. Rhys rescues Joan by buying her indentured contract. Joan wants nothing to do with her savior even if he is kind and handsome, and she is falling in love with him. Even with the enticement of Rhys and his love, Joan¿s goal remains vengeance on those who destroyed her and her family though some of her enemies reside in the court of young King Edward.

BY DESIGN is an exciting late medieval romance that uses the political and economic conditions of the times as a backdrop to a warm historical romantic intrigue. The story line works because of the historical depth, especially that of the guilds, that brings much color to the tale and leaves the audience feeling they are inspecting pottery among other wares. The lead couple seems real because of the full flavor of the period. Though Madeline Hunter has written a medieval romance that sub-genre fans will enjoy, readers of historical fiction will gain much pleasure from the novel too.

Harriet Klausner

Guest More than 1 year ago
With BY DESIGN, Madeline Hunter continues her examination of love across social classes in 14th century England. Rhys is a master mason who enjoys the patronage of the crown. One day, he sees a lovely young woman selling her statues in the market. He is struck by her talent. Shortly thereafter, he discovers her in the stocks, being punished for the shoddy goods sold by her master. Rhys rescues Joan and thus begins their relationship. Joan has secrets of her own, secrets which will make their growing love impossible. As she did in her first two books, Hunter uses the history of the time to good effect as Rhys finds himself involved in the political machinations of the era. But what carries this story is the romance. Rhys is a wonderful hero; he is both amazingly strong and amazingly gentle. Joan is a brave and determined heroine; she has lost everything yet has not been defeated. Their impossible love tugs at the heartstrings. A grand story of the power of love to overcome seemingly impossible barriers. Hunter brings the 14th century to vivid life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rhys was a free mason during the time of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer. He noticed Joan in the marketplace where she quietly sold her pottery. When he later found her in the town stocks, for her employer's mistake in crafting some tiles, he took care of her and then purchased her indenture from the tiler. He also took in her younger brother who was not old enough to be a man, but was old enough to get into trouble with other street boys. He was lacking a fatherly figure and needed a serious handling from a strong role model!

Joan and Mark had once lived a better life. But Guy Leighton and Roger Mortimer ceased that. Now they hid and barely survived. All Joan wanted was revenge on Guy and perhaps to get back some of her property or items back for her brother. But the free mason both attracted and repelled her. Trust must be earned from both.

***** Set during a time well known for its unrest, Madeline Hunter has written an enticing romance for the ages! Extremely realistic in details and with characters you cannot help but love! *****
reneebooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In By Possession, Moira the heroine was interested for a short time in marrying, Rhys, a freemason. But eventually Addis wins her. Rhys gets his own story here and because Rhys is such wonderful beta hero, he made this book even more enjoyable than BP.Freemasons in medieval times were skilled stonemasons who built castles, cathedrals, and palaces and created sculpted statues and ornamental works. Rhys is very skilled and therefore financially prosperous. But his social standing would probably be considered a middle class commoner, being neither a poor peasant nor wealthy nobility. Rhys is a kind and decent man and the best part about this book.Joan is an indentured servant who is being mistreated by her master. When he discovers her in the stocks he stands by and protects her from the vicious crowd who were pelting her with rotten fruit and tearing her clothing. I hadn't realized before how torturous this form of punishment can be. After she is released he takes her to his home and cares for her injuries. But Joan is very distrustful of his motives.Later when he buys her indenture papers, she is furious. I really couldn't understand her anger and distrust, and expected her to be grateful. But Joan is actually a high born lady and daughter of a lord who was murdered by orders from Roger Mortimer, the usurper to young King Edward III. She and her brother were forced to escape their home and are hiding out until she can earn enough money to exact revenge. Joan's entire focus seems to be vengeance against Mortimer and when she sees that Rhys appears to be working for Mortimer she is very distrustful of him. Consequently, Joan was hard to warm up to until her backstory is revealed. Unknown to Joan is the fact that Rhys has very good reasons to appear to be helping Mortimer.As in BP the medieval setting is extremely well written as well as the political intrigue which again was fascinating. But it was not too overly detailed that it lost the threads of the romance. The love story and historical detail flow together very smoothly. Addis and Moira from BP make an appearance and are an integral part of the story.Hunter skillfully handles their growing love and the uncertainty created by the disparity in their social standing. And made me very unsure how they would get their HEA but again Hunter handles it beautifully and realistically. An unforgettable story like this sent it straight to my keeper pile. (Grade: A-)
Anniik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book! I am usually wary of books taking place before 1800 or so, as they seem to fudge history far more than necessary. This book is an exception. While there are, of course, fudges, nothing stood out to me as being so completely anachronistic that it ruined the book for me (like one 11th century book I read where apparently they were familiar with penicillin and germ theory). In addition, the characters in this book are well developed, sympathetic, and the reader feels a real empathy with them. This book has a strong plot, but the plot aids the romance rather than overwhelming it. A very good book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite keepers that I re-read and enjoy. Madeline Hunter's best work.
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