The Bride Prize - SANDRA SCHWAB | Historical Romance Author

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The Bride Prize

"[T]hese books are dang cute. So freaking cute. You just get happy by reading."
~ Blodeuedd, Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell 

cover The Bride Prize, by Sandra Schwab

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I have chosen a slightly antiquated spelling of Milton-Malzor. In 19th-century documents the place is sometimes also referred to as Middleton-Malzor (with or without hyphen) as well as Milton Malsor (this is the name the village is still called today).


The Eglinton Tournament was the most elaborate (and costly!) staging of the gothic revival. In August 1839 ten thousands of people flocked to Ayrshire to watch Lord Eglinton and his noble friends don medieval armor (commissioned from Messrs. Pratt in Bond Street, London) and joust like knights of old.

You can find out more about the tournament in the enhanced edition of The Bride Prize


Allan's Miscellany 1839

A medieval tournament in Victorian Britain,
two unlikely lovers, a very grumpy editor,
& an unfortunate dearth of umbrellas.

It's 1839, and Lord Eglinton's tournament in Scotland is the most anticipated event of the year: he and some of his noble friends will don medieval armor and joust like knights of old.

Does this mean a revival of true chivalry? Miss Florence Marsh thinks it might.

Or is the tournament mere tomfoolery and the greatest folly of the century? Mr. Robert Beaton thinks it is.

But when Flo and Robbie meet at Eglinton Park, they'll soon learn that a dash of romance can make the greatest differences look rather small and that true love might find you in the most unlikely place.

If only Robbie wasn't working for that scandalous new magazine Allan's Miscellany! If only Flo's father didn't detest the periodical press!

And if only they had remembered to bring an umbrella!

Praise for The Bride Prize

"Sandra Schwab strikes again with her new series!!"

"The mix of humor with historical details and unlikely romance in The Bride Prize: Allan's Miscellany 1839 is adorable. [...] I laughed from start to finish and loved the romance that held the story together."
~ Jane Flowers, Goodreads review

"The Bride Prize is, in a word, delightful. [...] The Bride Prize is well worth your time. I smiled for a long time when it was over. I cannot wait until the next installment in this series."
~ Michelle Boule, Wandering Eye 


Milton-Malzor, 7 July 1839

The morning sun shone into the snug drawing room, and a soft breeze carried the scent of roses through the open windows. Miss Florence Marsh sat on the sofa, mending one of her father’s shirts, while at the table, her aunt studied a periodical she had received from one of the neighbors.

Flo loved such leisurely mornings, when—

“Aha!” her aunt exclaimed. “A tournament!”

Frowning, Flo looked up. “A tournament, Aunt Lizzie?”

The older woman stabbed a finger at a page of the periodical. “That’s what it says here.” She lifted her lorgnette and read out aloud: “‘Much difficulty exists in procuring the requisite number of knights and esquires for the approaching tournament at Eglinton Castle. Those already enlisted meet at St. John’s Wood barracks every Tuesday for practice.’” She lowered the lorgnette and looked at Flo. “Ha! I knew it!” she said triumphantly.

Her sewing lying forgotten in her lap, Flo stared at her aunt. “You knew there was going to be a tournament at Eglinton Castle?” A tournament? In 1839? Surely, by now her brows were touching her hairline. Who had ever heard of such a thing?

“Of course I didn’t know about this tournament,” Aunt Lizzie said impatiently. She stood and trippled over to Flo. “Do you really think I would have sat idly by if I had known?” She shook her head. “No no. Oh dear.” She went back to the table and picked up the magazine once again. She flicked to the first page and squinted at the paper. “From the 23rd of June. And today is…? Oh dear, oh dear!”

“7 July,” Flo said, still perplexed. Why in all the world was her aunt so excited about this tournament?

“It is too bad—why does Mrs. Wemmingford always take so long before she passes on the magazine? I almost think she might be giving it to Miss Freye before she gives it to me! Oh dear, oh dear.” She sighed. “I will have to ask Mrs. Lowood whether her sister has already sent her last month’s Court and Lady’s Magazine, and you know how Mrs. Lowood is.” She sighed.

The next moment, she straightened and squared her shoulders. “Still, it can’t be helped. I am sure there must be something about this tournament in the Court and Lady’s Magazine. I will have to call on Mrs. Lowood straight away. It is too bad, Flo, my dear, that your father keeps The Gentleman’s Magazine in his study and doesn’t want us to read it. I am sure magazines intended for gentlemen must contain mention of that tournament, too. And if only I had known about it sooner, I could have done something about it. But now it might already be too late, which would be such a shame, wouldn’t it?”

Flo blinked. “Too late for what?” she asked.

Her aunt turned to stare at her. “But, my dear, haven’t you heard a word of what I’ve said? There is going to be a tournament! That would be just the thing for your dear papa!”

Flo suppressed a grin. “I should say he is much too old for taking part in a tournament. And I don’t at all know whether he can ride—”

“Of course he can ride!” Aunt Lizzie threw her an admonishing look. “Isn’t he taking part in young Lord Arley’s hunt?”

“But in full armor?”

“Good heavens, of course Gerald would not actually take part in such a thing as a tournament! The idea is preposterous! Really, Flo, you are too bad to tease me so!” The older woman shook her head at her. “But I know my brother. Isn’t he forever reading those treatises on ancient weaponry and such things? It would be just the thing for him to watch such a spectacle as that tournament at Eglinton Castle! Will you ring for Maisie, Flo? I’ll need my bonnet and my shawl if I want to call on Mrs. Lowood.”

Flo stood and went to the corner to ring the bell. “You want to go now?” She threw a glance at the clock on the mantelpiece. “But it’s not yet midday! Surely Mrs. Lowood, such a stickler for propriety, will think it terribly improper if you call on her now, aunt.”

Her aunt took a deep breath and said in a dignified voice, “Some things, Flo, my dear, just cannot be helped.”


Half an hour later Aunt Lizzie returned from her mission, triumphant. She spread her treasure on the table in the drawing room. “The Court and Lady’s Magazine and some kind of newish publication.” She pointed. “Allan’s Miscellany—if you remember, Mrs. Lowood’s nephew visited her a fortnight ago, and apparently he left it behind. She doesn’t want it back.” She sniffed delicately. “Mrs. Lowood said it is satirical.”

“Oh dear! We wouldn’t want to let Papa see it then.” Flo’s father was very particular about the periodical press: on several occasions he had expressed a strong dislike of “newfangled” modern magazines, which he considered most inappropriate for the household of Mr. Gerald Marsh, Esq.—after all, the former private secretary of the late Lord Arley had a position to uphold in society (be that society ever so small).

“My dear,” Aunt Lizzie said hesitantly, “do you think… I don’t mean to criticize your dear papa, nothing could be further from my mind, really…”

Smiling, Flo put an affectionate arm around the older woman’s shoulders. “Of course not, Aunt Lizzie.” Her aunt doted on her elder brother, who had taken her in when her husband had died and left her almost penniless.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to believe you anything else, but…” She glanced at Flo from the corner of her eye. “He can be a bit difficult at times, can’t he? He probably read about the tournament and thought it much too awkward to travel all the way to— Do you know where Eglinton Castle is, my dear?—No, neither do I. But you see, if you were to go with him, it would be quite alright.” Aunt Lizzie nodded, apparently warming up to her idea.

“You have so much of your dear mama, God may rest her soul,” she continued. “You haven’t just inherited her beautiful brown hair and those dark eyes, but also your mama’s practical nature. You wouldn’t find it difficult to deal with all the peculiarities of railway travel, would you? I would be of not much help, I’m afraid. We didn’t have any railways when I was young, naturally, and I am quite intimidated by them, I fear. But I hear they make traveling very fast and convenient.” She sighed, then peered up at Flo. “It would mean so much to him to see that tournament, I’m sure.”

She was quite right, Flo thought: her father with his slightly old-fashioned tastes and his interest in the Middle Ages would adore the splendor of a tournament. Flo smiled at her aunt. “Then we shall find out how to get him there.” She gestured towards the periodicals on the table. “Shall we begin our investigation?”

And thus the two women sat down and got to work. Flo left The Court and Lady’s Magazine to her aunt, while she herself tackled the other magazine. Though Mrs. Lowood had exaggerated and not all articles were satirical, Allan’s Miscellany still proved to be exactly the kind of publication Flo’s father detested most passionately as proof of the irreverence of the present generation.

Oh dear.

At least it contained some charming illustrations, done by one “RB”. It even was forthcoming about the tournament—if rather prejudiced against the event, which the writer called “Lord Eglinton’s medieval tomfoolery”.

We understand that the young noodles engaged in this silly affair will be weighed down by the whole impediments of chivalry, rather than being strapped into boilerplates and saucepans as would befit their nonsensical undertaking. Questions as to the legal situation should any of the flowers of our aristocracy be bludgeoned to death during their medieval venture appear to us to be rather beside the point, considering the utter uselessness of all the parties involved and the absence of any loss to society should any of them succumb to death by chivalry.

Goodness! Could this article be more cold-blooded? Wrinkling her nose, Flo quickly scanned the rest of the text.

For all that we care, they have our blessing to scamper off to Ayrshire at the end of August and indulge in their penchant for getting their own heads broken. For those interested in the spectacle, we are informed that tickets can be procured by writing to the estate office at Eglinton.

“Ha! Ayrshire,” Flo exclaimed. “That’s in Scotland. Which means Papa could go grouse shooting after the tournament.”

“Scotland?” Aunt Lizzie echoed. “Oh dear. And grouse shooting?”

Flo smiled at her. “I was only funning, Aunt Lizzie. But Eglinton Castle is indeed situated in Scotland, or so it seems, and we will need to write an application to the estate office. I only hope there are still tickets available.”

“An application? Oh dear, oh dear. We must tell them about how very much interested your papa is in all things medieval. Surely they will be impressed by the number of treatises he has read on the subject? Or perhaps we could ask young Lord Arley to write to them on your dear papa’s behest?”

Chewing on her lower lip, Flo frowned. “No,” she said slowly. “I think we need something more impressive.” She threw a look at the magazine. “Something to show that we really don’t hold with radicals.”


St. John’s Wood, London, 13 July 1839

Charging down the lists towards the wooden dummy on wheels, the noble Knight of the Swan suddenly lost both his balance and the control over his horse. One moment he was a shining star of chivalry, his armor glinting in the sun, and the next he was flying over the head of his horse and landed in the mud in an undignified sprawl.

A groan rippled through the crowd of spectators, then laughter as the Knight of the Swan—the Honorable Mr. Jerningham—heaved himself upright, unhurt, with nary a dent in his fine armor.

Robert Beaton, writer and chief—indeed, only—artist of that hopeful new periodical Allan’s Miscellany scribbled into his notebook, his boyishly round face crunched up in concentration. He added a few lines, a hasty sketch…

Damn, we need somebody to do satirical illustrations, he thought, glancing up to see how the next knight riding against the wooden dummy would fare.

Once again, he was struck by the incongruity of the scene: The gardens of the Eyre Arms had been transformed into a jousting ground, with elevated benches on either side to accommodate the spectators, members of the gentry and the aristocracy. There were several thousand people present this afternoon to watch the chivalric proceedings—and this was merely the final rehearsal before the tournament proper!

There was no question: he needed to get Mac up to Ayrshire next month. All the papers and periodicals would be writing about Lord Eglinton’s medieval spectacle. Unthinkable that Allan’s Miscellany should not!

Down at the grounds, the dummy knight was cleared away and preparations were made for the main event of this rehearsal: the tilting between the Lords Eglinton and Waterford.

Lud! It’s Ivanhoe sprung up to life! Or rather, Astley’s in St. John’s Wood. A circus show with buffoons in sparkling armor, who took their chivalric endeavor very, very seriously indeed. They had even given themselves names—the Knight of the Swan, the Knight of the Dragon; there were a few lions as well—as if they were children playing at dressing up.

Robbie snorted.

Oh, Mac would just love this—he would get that glittering look in his eyes as if he wished nothing more than to level somebody. Or at very least demolish them with words. He was very good at that, Mac was. It had been his sarcastic wit which had made Allan’s Miscellany notorious these past months. Good for making people talk about the magazine, but not necessarily something which would secure them a wider audience. Hence it fell to Robbie to tune down his friend’s more caustic outbursts.

A flourish of trumpets sounded, and amidst the cheering of the crowd, the two noble lords…eh, knights charged at each other. Or rather, trotted towards each other and passed each other with a good few yards in between them. If anybody had expected the thunder of galloping hooves from a historical novel, they would be sorely disappointed.

Robbie chuckled. They should have taken some lessons from the performers at Astley’s!

After three equally tame passes, a murmur rippled through the audience, and quite suddenly most of the noble spectators were on their feet, having apparently decided en masse that it was time they went home. Everybody pushed towards the narrow passage that led outside, and in no time at all, the assembled nobility and gentry had become hopelessly stuck.

His face splitting into a wide grin, Robbie did a quick sketch of their wasted efforts. Given that outside, the streets and roads around the Eyre Arms were all crammed with waiting carriages, he supposed it would take considerable time before the crowd would become unstuck again.

His stomach rumbled, reminding him that it had been a very long time since he had had that hasty lunch of a rather leathery mutton pie from the public house.

Getting up, he snapped his notebook shut and strolled in the opposite direction from the large building of the Eyre Arms. At the back of the garden, he found a spot where he could climb over the fence without ripping his clothes or impaling himself. He walked on, towards Regent’s Park and took the bus from Gloucester Gate down to the Strand.

He chose a seat on top of the carriage, where he could enjoy the sunshine and the lively din of the teaming metropolis. There was nothing quite like it, that big, sprawling city, throbbing with life and misery, splendor and dirt!

Down at the Strand, Robbie climbed off the bus, whistling a bawdy song he had heard at the Cider Cellar the night before.

“Then down he laid the charming maid,
He found her kind and willing.
He played again, and tho’ each strain
Was silent, yet ‘twas killing,” he sang softly to himself, as he walked past the shop fronts towards the City. “Right Tol de rol de pol de rol, It was killing.”

Idly, he wondered whether he should fortify himself with rolls and sausages before returning to “the Den”, the backroom above Uncle Allan’s printing shop, where Mac would hole himself up and write like a madman twelve hours a day.

They needed, Robbie decided, not just an artist for comic illustrations, but also another writer, or Mac would work himself to death within the next six months.

Frowning, he passed through Temple Bar and walked down loud and busy Fleet Street.

He and Mac had come down from Edinburgh five months ago in pursuit of their dream to work for a magazine that would be read throughout the Empire—easier said than done, as they had found to their chagrin. After several weeks of doing cheap commissions—a few articles for weeklies, some illustrations for envelopes—envelopes!—they had by chance met their old friend Jonathan Allan, whose uncle not only owned a print shop, but also had a soft heart for young men and their dreams. He had also quite fancied the idea of having a magazine named after himself, and thus, with some financial help from Uncle Allan Allan’s Miscellany had been born.

The tinkling of a bell announced a muffin man coming towards Robbie, a large, now mostly empty tray on his head. He sold Robbie his last four muffins—cold, alas. Even without butter, a toasted muffin would still be better than another mutton pie.

“Right tol de rol de pol de rol.”

He turned into Bouverie Street, then into the narrower Pleydell Street, where the sign ‘Allan & Son, Printers’ greeted him in bold letters. Upon Robbie’s knock, Jon opened the door in his shirt-sleeves, his normally immaculate dark locks tousled, his maroon-colored waist-coat crumpled—a sure sign that Jon had been involved in what he called ‘the necessary evil’: checking the books.

“Mac’s still up?” Robbie asked.

His friend rolled his eyes. “Do you have to ask?” He let Robbie pass through the door and closed up behind him. Together they walked towards the back of the shop.  “How was the rehearsal?”

“Chivalric,” came the dry retort. “The Knight of the Swan did a nice imitation of a swan dive.”

Jon grinned. “Sweet.” He pushed the back door to the courtyard open and gestured towards the staircase leading to the first-floor gallery. “Let the battle commence.”

“Right-ho. Let’s see whether we’ll come out of this alive,” Robbie said cheerfully and climbed the stairs.

When they pushed the door at the end of the gallery open, they found the large table that dominated the room littered with stacks of paper, a few newspapers and a magazine or two. In the middle of the chaos sat William MacNeil, brilliant editor of Allan’s Miscellany. As ‘Mr. Urbanus’ he had already taught novelists, poets, and playwrights to fear his caustic, sharp pen.

At the moment, Mac was writing—of course.

At their entrance, he looked up, his blue eyes drilling into Robbie. He raised a copper-red eyebrow. “You’ve been to that travesty up in St. John’s Wood,” he stated, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Naturally.” Unperturbed, Robbie held out the muffins bundled in brown paper. “Muffin? They’re a bit cold, I’m afraid.”

“So? Have the modern-day flowers of chivalry already managed to slay each other?”

Robbie gave him one of his most engaging lop-sided smiles because he knew it would annoy his friend. “Not quite.”

The second coppery brow joined the first. “Pity.”

“They haven’t slain a dragon either, in case you were wondering.”

“I would have been very surprised if they had.”

From the door, Jon cleared his throat. “Everybody is talking about Lord Eglinton’s medieval fête.—As will Allan’s Miscellany.” He came up to the table and, putting his hands on the wooden top, leaned forward. “We cannot afford not to, you know that. Besides—”

“I will not go to that travesty and watch those people celebrate themselves,” Mac growled. “They would love nothing more than to return to that time when we were all peasants and thralls and they ruled the country with an iron fist.”

“I suppose they would. But you can always shout ‘boo’,” Robbie said in a kind voice, then grinned.

Jon straightened. “Besides, Uncle Allan is quite taken with the idea.”

Mac looked from one to the other, his eyes narrowing. “Is this a conspiracy?”

Robbie’s grin widened. “You don’t want to disappoint Uncle Allan.”

“He’s going to pay for the journey.” Jon took a folded letter from his waistcoat pocket and held it up. “And you already have rooms bespoken for.”

Mac growled.

Robbie half-sat on the table and studied the ceiling. “Just think of it: it will be the talk of the town. How would you be able to write a pithy article on the degeneration of the aristocracy and the gentry, if you were not there to witness it?” He turned his head to glance at his friend. “You look a bit peakish, Mac. Are you sure you don’t want a muffin?”

“What I want”—Mac heaved himself from his chair—“is a drink.”

“It’s going to be very amusing, that tournament,” Robbie offered.

Mac snorted. “It’s going to be a waste of money, you mean.”

“I’m sure the wooden dummy knight would be very heart-broken to hear you speak thus.”

A ball of paper bounced off Robbie’s head. “A drink,” Mac said firmly. “Or more. Let’s see whether they can teach you another song about mute flutes at the Cider Cellar.”

“Right tol de rol de pol de rol. ‘Twas killing.”


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