WARPRIZE by Elizabeth Vaughan is one of my favourite fantasy romances. I've worn out two books re-reading it.
Xylara is forced into a decision by her brother to save their people and she chooses to sacrifice herself to the Warlord-barbarian who conquered their city.
She thinks she's giving up her freedom to become his slave. During the ceremony, when he claims her, she realises he's a warrior she met while tending the wounded enemy...
It was a voice I knew. My eyes flew up as the room shook with the response of the Warlord's men as they stomped their feet and cheered.The blue-eyed warrior from the marketplace looked down at me, a very self-satisfied smile on his face.WARPRIZE
Keir was the Warlord? How had he done this, or even learned of my true identity?
Before I could think, or say a word, he took my hands and stood, drawing me up with him. From behind him, he swept up a black cloak from the throne and twirled it around me, concealing me from all eyes, enclosing me in darkness. The fabric seemed warm and floated around me like night. It smelled of chain mail and oil and some kind of spice.
I was swept up and over his shoulder. The move made me sqwark, but I doubted that the noise could be heard above the noise of the crowd. He started to move. Through the soft cloth, I could hear his men chanting his name. I squirmed, but the cloak had me pinned, unable to move my arms or see anything.
Then I squirmed for another reason. His hand was on my buttocks, its warmth burning through the cloak. There was a caress, and then a soft swat...a warning to keep still.
I stopped squirming.
The hand stayed where it was.
(Chronicles of the Warlands #1)
She must choose between her people and her freedom...
Xylara is the Daughter of the Warrior King, Xyron. With her father dead and her incompetent half-brother on the throne, the kingdom is in danger of falling to the warring Firelanders.
Before she was old enough for a marriage-of-alliance, Xylara was trained as a healer. She can't usurp her brother or negotiate a peace--but she can heal the brave ones injured in battle.
But not only her countrymen are wounded, and Xylara's conscience won't let Firelander warriors die when she can do something to save them. She learns their language and their customs and tries to make them as comfortable as possible, despite their prisoner-of-war status.
She never expects that these deeds, done in good faith, would lead to the handsome and mysterious Firelander Warlord demanding her in exchange for a cease-fire. Xylara knows must trade the life she has always known for the well-being of her people, and so she becomes...The Warprize.