Medieval Monday

It’s the final excerpt in the Medieval Monday ‘Celebration’ theme.  Next week there is a new theme and an exciting new format so watch this space…

Until then I’m leaving you with The Saxon Bride by Ashley York

Rowena Godwinson, a Saxon princess, refuses to go willingly into a forced marriage to one of King William’s most favored knights but her struggle against enemy occupation fades away in the pleasurable arms of her Norman husband. Will he bring her people to their knees in his attempt to please his liege lord? Or can she win him over to the Saxon’s side even while one of her own plots to overthrow the bastard king?

John of Normandy is a soldier made for battle, ingrained with chivalry and a deep sense of loyalty to his mentor and king. Serving his liege is reward enough. Neither a title nor a child bride will entice him to become an indolent lord. A chance encounter with an alluring beauty, however, releases all his pent up desires and unspoken needs. His young bride has become a passionate woman, tempting him beyond his endurance. Can he win her over before she learns the truth of her father’s death?

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John’s breath against Rowena’s neck sent a shiver down her spine. Knowing now how easily she could be distracted, she fought to keep her head. Those who’d been waiting for the new lord of the manor acknowledged him with some excitement when he entered, Rowena at his side. John accepted their respectful greetings as if he’d always been such a high ranking lord yet Joan had said he was only a knight.

“My lord,” a burly man with a ruddy complexion bowed overly long before them, causing his face to turn even redder. “Accept the greetings of a distant friend. I am Mort of Bedgrove near Aylesbury, at your service.”

“And what would that service be?” John paused beside the extravagantly dressed man. It was not a man Rowena had ever seen before. John’s mouth twitched with humor as he seemed to take in all the fine silk, silver bells and feather adornments in one glance.

The man bowed again before answering. “My lord…” Stepping closer, the man was a head shorter than John but he managed to look him directly in the face when he answered. “Whatever service that you might need.”

John’s humor fled. Rowena sensed a sudden tension between the two men. Their eyes were locked as if sizing each other up. His arm finally relaxed where her fingers lay lightly atop it. Smiling, he tipped his head in acknowledgment and continued on.

Finally reaching the far center wall, John and Rowena took their seats at the long table. It was covered with a clean cloth and adorned with small bunches of the last flowers from the garden. The scene was festive and Rowena’s own spirits seemed to lift as well. It was a time to celebrate. The long awaited lord had finally returned. There would be time later to find out what that would mean to her. For her people, it was time for celebration. A time for peace.

The meal was eaten with the new apple wine Rowena had chosen. The assortment of breads, meats and pies was plentiful. The mead and cider flowed without restraint. All seemed relaxed, happy even. At the tables grouped with eight and ten people each, there was an easy exchange as they talked amongst themselves and the noise level rose as the amount of drink increased. The Normans, however, sat off by themselves and spoke more quietly. They were soldiers after all. Rowena tried to squelch her uneasiness at this realization.

Wondering if John noticed the subdued behavior of his men, she was startled to find his gaze running over her body. Her own breath quickened. It felt as if he were actually touching her. The memory of his touch had left a lasting impression. He wet his lips before taking his goblet to his mouth, opening it right before the cold metal touched his lips. The movement along his throat as he drank mesmerized her. She found herself wanting to put her lips there, to taste him. She looked away. She could never be so bold.

Her response to his looks was quite disconcerting. She cleared her throat.”How do you find your manor after your long absence, my lord?”

John eyebrows shot up. She hadn’t meant to find fault…or maybe she did.

“I was taken aback to find you do not care for the stores and such. Is there a reason you refuse to act as is your right as my wife?”

Her mouth opened slightly at the lie. “My lord, I have been given no such leave. Your king replaced me as chatelaine on his first visit here.”

John searched her face before correcting her. “Our king.”

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Medieval Monday- Rue Allyn

We’re nearing the end of the celebration theme (a new one with some exciting changes is coming soon) so I’m pleased to be able to share this excerpt by Rue Allyn from Knight Defender.

Sent alone to Scotland to wed a wild Scot and serve the needs of her father and her king, Lady Jessamyn intends to escape the marriage and train horses for the good sisters at a nearby nunnery. But her intended is not the wild, boorish monster she imagined – just Baron Raeb MacKai, a man struggling to provide the best for his clan. It could be surprisingly easy to surrender her heart to him, until she learns his plans involve deceiving her family and attacking the king’s ship that bears her brother.

Raeb is done watching everyone he loves live in poverty and despair. His betrothal to a wealthy English heiress will solve a decade of problems, and the Scots’ secret plot to keep King Edward I from getting a foothold on their rugged coastline will secure his family’s future. If he must deny himself the spirited woman who would warm his bed and his heart, so be it.

Neither is willing to give an inch in this clash of loyalties, but can either defend their hearts?

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Deep in thought, Raeb wasn’t certain what Dougal had been saying, but the man didn’t normally stop speaking in mid-sentence.

Evidently Raeb’s failure to reply went unnoticed, for Dougal stood, took a step back from the table, and stared—openmouthed—at something on the other side of the room. Then the silence filling the now crowded main hall struck Raeb. Even the deepest night was never this quiet.

“What is it?” He shifted to peer around Dougal. Raeb’s jaw dropped.

How had she escaped his room?

Dressed in pale green samite, Jessamyn Du Grace glided into the hall. Her carriage was proud and tall, and every stride bespoke confidence in her own worth. On both right and left, she graced his clansmen and women with a sweet expression and a few words, which he couldn’t hear. Though none he could see spoke in response, men and women alike instinctively made way for her. She had no need to pick her way between the crowded benches.

Raeb understood. He’d seen her disembark and treat a horse with unusual concern and kindness for an English noblewoman. He had witnessed her thoughtful consideration for a servant. He’d seen the lady soaking wet and shivering, and somehow no less attractive. He’d witnessed her screeching invectives and sworn retribution. Now the irate passion of the early afternoon was gone and in its place was a kindly interest so alluring it tempted him to drop his cold reception.

She was either a great actress or less than sane to be able to show two such different sides. Clearly she was not to be trusted. Despite their obedience to his edict to shun Lady Du Grace, he could see his clansmen’s fascination with her. They had yet to learn how false the woman was.

All eyes on her, she approached the high table. As she neared the dais, he stood, and the entire hall of folk followed his example. He offered his hand and seated her in the empty chair at his side. He couldn’t tear his gaze away. Silence and a sense of wonder ruled the room where he should have led.

She looked out at the tables below the salt then turned her head in a slow survey of the hall until her gaze met his.

He fell, drowning in green pools.

Her lips moved.

The shape fascinated him. Their deep rose color and plump texture made his fingers itch to stroke them, to hold her downy cheeks, and plunder the sweetness he knew could be his.

Her lips moved again. “When will the meal be served?”

He stared on.

“Uh, now. I believe,” Dougal said from Raeb’s other side.

Jessamyn bent a look of genuine pleasure on Dougal.

Raeb wanted to push his captain from the dais. No man should answer her questions and thus usurp my authority in front of the clan.

He raised his arm, signaling to bring the trenchers. His gesture broke whatever enchantment held his clan silent, and noise once more filled the room. Servants were scarce in Dungarob keep and limited mostly to kitchen and stable hands. Thus, all the men and women of the clan pitched in to get the meal served. His betrothed’s face was serene, but her fingers tapped a rapid dance against the tabletop. Relief spread through him like a slow breath. Those fingers put the lie to her sweet serenity. There was the passionate woman he knew her to be, not the smiling calm she showed to his people. What could he do to expose that eager energy, and mayhap get his people to see her as a harpy instead of an angel?

“Tell me who released you from your prison, so I may punish them.”

“Since you intend punishment, I’ll not betray a kindness.”

Who would have expected her to show loyalty to any MacKai or recognize the kindness of a Scot? He clenched his teeth. “Would you tell me if I swore no to do more than scold?”

She shook her head. “Scolding is not warranted. The wo … person sought only to be helpful.”

He narrowed his gaze. “If ’twas a woman then ’twas one of my sisters. I’ll put them all on bread and water until the guilty one confesses.” He’d never do so—he knew his sisters would find a way around such a ridiculous threat.

To emphasize his words and help Jessamyn believe he meant them, however, he placed his hand heavily over hers. Beneath his touch her wrist jerked, and her fingers stilled. As his rough palm rested atop her silken skin, sensation jolted up his arm. If he didn’t do something quickly, he’d sink under her spell again.

She glared at him and slipped her hand from beneath his. “You would never do that to your sisters. You love them too much.”

She could only know that if she’d spent time with his siblings. “Hah. So it was one of my interfering sisters. Let’s see if I can deduce which one. Maeve was busy tending to Rhuad MacFearann.”

“I saw the fight from the chamber window,” Jessamyn remarked.

Was she trying to distract him?

“Your sister Neilina fares well,” the lady continued. “How is the poor man she defended?”

“He’s well enough.” Raeb studied her. “How did you know his defender was my sister Neilina?”

“I … I must have heard her name as I entered the hall just now. Though most of your people were silent and stared. Really, I do not understand the manners here. Are all Scots so rude or just the MacKai clan?”

“You make a good attempt to divert my attention, but I know better. ’Twas Artis who released you.”

“You cannot possibly know that.”

“Aye, I can. When I came to the table, Dougal related that Artis wanted him to tell me Neilina was resting and well. Since Maeve, who is our healer, had no time to see to Neilina, ’twould be like Artis to seek help from another quarter. Especially if she thought she could get away with releasing you for that reason.”

Jessamyn straightened and her gaze hardened. “Why would your sister need a reason other than common courtesy to release me from an unwarranted imprisonment?”

He returned her gaze in equal measure. “Because I locked you in there and gave no permission for your release.”

“’Tis a blessing then that your sister considers her other sibling’s care more important than the need for permission.”

“No when Artis could have tended Neilina herself. She cares for all the injured creatures at Dungarob and is near as good a healer as Maeve.”

Jessamyn blinked.

“Aye, that gives you pause, does it no? My youngest sister is up to something. When she gets a notion into her head, she doesna give it up and rarely shares her thoughts until ’tis too late to stop her.”

“So you will not punish her?”

“’Twould be no point. She’d think naught of any punishment I would be willing to impose. You, however, will return to my chamber immediately after supper.”

Jessamyn stiffened. “I’ll not surrender my virtue without marriage.”

He captured her gaze. “None would object; we are betrothed. What matter if we anticipate the vows by a month or two?” He’d no intention of taking her virtue now or at any other time. Oh, the idea was appealing, but the consequences were not desirable. However, he wanted to see her reaction.

“It matters a great deal to me, and I object most strongly.”

She was blushing. Was it anger, embarrassment, or desire that caused the delicate pink in her cheeks?

He shrugged. “’Tis of no import to me. I’ll send that screeching maid of yours to you tonight, and you may bar the door from inside, if you fear for your honor.”

“I would defend my virtue to the death.”

“’Tis sure I am you would, but ’twill no be necessary. If we are to wed, I want you to know me well enough to come willing to my bed.”

She opened her mouth then closed it, clearly nonplused.

“To that end,” he continued. “I’ve been thinking we should put off our vows until midsummer.” If his intent was to cause her to break the betrothal, he’d best start as he meant to go on. Life with seven sisters had taught him that nothing upset a woman as much as having her plans rearranged.

Jessamyn’s head jerked round, her mouth open on a silent “o.”

So I’ve surprised her. Good, but why is she no angry?

Then the blush fading from her cheeks and a beatific smile were all that remained of the emotions she’d revealed. Even that disappeared as he watched.

She shrugged and faced forward. “If it pleases you.”

“’Twill give us time to get to know each other better, and for you to become familiar with the customs of Clan MacKai.”

“I am happy to know the MacKai clan and learn its customs better. However, since ours is an arranged match, I doubt that knowing you better at this point will be important.” She spoke with an indifferent monotone then bit her lip in an unconscious gesture of nerves.

Raeb frowned inwardly. This was not proceeding as he wished. He wanted her irate and storming for all to see. He must keep the upper hand and not forget the true purpose of this sham betrothal.

“Surely you wish to get along with your husband? Knowing and honoring me can only increase my clan’s respect and affection for you.”

The trenchers finally arrived.

As if his words meant nothing deserving response, she bent her head and opened the velvet pouch tied to her belt.

Idly, Raeb pulled off a piece of bread, chewing slowly as he watched her.

She withdrew a palm-length decorated box and set it on the table beside her plate. Releasing the delicately wrought latch, she revealed a silver stick with one end split into two long, sharp points.

“What is that?”

She lifted her head and stared at him, her mouth curving into a deeper smile. “’Tis a fork.” She lifted the shining metal into her hand and offered it to him.

His brows drew together, and he gently pushed her hand away. “A fork. I heard of such from crusaders I met while fostering. Most said it was a Saracen device meant for weaklings and ladies.”

“Hmm, you imply that ladies are weak, Baron.” She gripped the fork, turning the points downward, then speared a piece of meat.

He bent to his meal, speaking in between bites. “Verily, no all women are weak. Eleanor of Aquitaine, Boudicca, and Queen Scathach come to mind, but they were exceptional.”

“I’ve never heard of Queen Scathach. However, I’ll concede that she, like the others, was exceptional in many ways. Because they are, they also show what every woman is capable of given need or opportunity.”

“Yet none of those legendary women was especially interested in her husband. I gather you intend to emulate their disinterest?” His voice went soft.

Around them his men and sisters stilled in anticipation of an explosion. Would she notice?

Lady Du Grace shrugged and sipped her mead.

“Answer my question, please.”

“I’ve not yet decided.”

When she moved to spear another bite, he took her hand, halting her movement and forcing her to look at him. “Decide now.”

Surely that demand would fire her temper, burn her calm to ash, and break the spell she’d cast over his clan.

She turned to face him and raised an imperious brow, reminding him forcibly of her royal godparent.

“In my experience, excessive familiarity with one’s spouse is not necessary to command respect from others. I will be your wife. I have no special need to understand you in order to support your leadership of your clan or your position as baron.” She retrieved her hand, giving a dismissive wave then addressing her meal.

Raeb ground his teeth. Her casual indifference bordered on rudeness—though he admitted he had given her reason. But she behaved so only to him. Thus far none in his clan had spoken to her, but their obvious interest did not argue well for their continued cooperation. She was trying to win them over, and doing a fair job. He kenned not what game she played, but he would find out. Meanwhile he would bedevil her with good manners—he could do that and still be cold. ’Twould keep her off balance, mayhap enough to lose her temper. He wanted his people to see her serene demeanor for the lie it was.

Like a good host he held forth with a stream of information about Dungarob, its surroundings, and its people. She listened in silence until the meal ended. When she pushed back from the table to rise, he once more placed a hand over hers. This time her outward reaction was more placid, but her fingers trembled beneath his.

“’Tis time you met my family. You must forgive me for not introducing my sisters earlier.”

She cast her gaze upward and heaved a great sigh as if mightily put upon. “If it pleases you.”

He smiled. Let her think she has me fooled. However, to please myself, I’ll strip her bare of all pretense before I’m done with her. No Englishwoman will get the better of Raeb MacKai.

He gestured for the several females seated farther down the table to attend him. One by one they came forward to assemble before him in a line from tallest to smallest.

“My lady, you’ve already met Lady Neilina, who is still resting, so allow me to introduce my other sisters, ladies Maeve, Bridghe, Keeva, and Seona. Lady Artis should be here but has chosen no to join us, probably because she knows I am no pleased with her. I also regret I canna introduce you to Sorcha, who is nearest to me in age. She recently married and now lives as countess at Strathnaver Stronghold many leagues inland.”

He smiled. Knowing how his sisters bedeviled him, he doubted anyone could match them, and certainly not an English lady, even if Jessamyn Du Grace was not quite what he expected.

 

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What’s in a name?

I was a chapter and a half into a WIP when I realised something wasn’t working. After redrafting and editing and still getting nowhere with what I knew could be a great story it dawned on me the problem wasn’t with the story but with the heroine. I just wasn’t feeling her (unlike the hero who was more than happy to have a go much earlier than I was expecting him to, though that’s another story…) and I realised it came down to one reason: her name.

I had inadvertently chosen the name of a real person I had once known and instead of picturing my heroine I had a subconscious mental image of someone who most definitely didn’t deserve to get her hands on my hero.  As soon as I went back to the drawing board and renamed the character the scenes began to come together.

Names are funny things. However much I plan, I can’t get down to the business of writing the story unless I’ve found the right name. I estimate I’ve spent as much time choosing names for my characters as I did for my children*, though for them I had the whole of history to go at rather that medieval England. I try to use authentic names for my characters.  I can happily spend hours poring over documents from the time for inspiration so you’ll never find a Lady Chardonnay or Sir Kevin but I’ve also developed a few rules too.

Rule 1. Heroines can have two syllable names but heroes should be called something short, or a name that can be shortened (nicknames and dropping titles is a way I like to show the growing intimacy between the characters).

My first hero, Hugh in Falling for Her Captor was named after Hugh Jackman – which probably indicates where my mind was while I was writing. I like single syllables that to me at least sound a bit tough and masculine to say out loud: Hugh, Will, Hal. Rhett… Han… Jon… Thor (?!?)…

Four books in I’ve already broken this rule with the hero of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge with a hero called Aelric who goes by the alias Caddoc but finding a one-syllable Anglo-Saxon name proved almost impossible (and be thankful he isn’t called Aethilberct).

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I’ve slightly backed myself into a corner with my next book to be released because when I wrote The Blacksmith’s Wife I didn’t intend Roger to be anything more than the villain (perhaps having a name that became slang for penis is part of the reason he was so bitter).  Now he’s got his own book as readers were intrigued by him and is saddled with a less than heroic sounding name even though the Germanic origin means ‘renown + spear’ which fits his ambition to be a great jouster well. Isn’t that a lucky coincidence!

Rule 2. After hours spent with my spellcheck trying to change my second hero Will Rudhale’s tenses, I added a new which is never use a name that is also a verb (‘Do you mean ‘will try’ not ‘Will tried’? No I ****ing don’t, nor did I the last 27 times!)

Rule 3. Avoid the Dickensian ‘Mr Nastyb*stard, official puppy kicker of London Town’ method of indicating character through names.  Having said that I’m having to seriously resist following the suggestion of Baron Longden Hardthrust of Broadshaft Hall.

Rule 4. The biggie. Avoid the names of friends and family. Especially men. Mainly because I have a low embarrassment threshold and don’t ever want to have the ‘so that’s me in the book is it?’ conversation (which amazingly I’ve had even when the names don’t match). Chances are if I know you then you are in there somewhere because all writers are magpies and collect mannerisms, features and conversations but whether you’re the love interest, villain or comic relief I absolutely refuse to say!

*One named for a series of inventors, the other after a character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer if you’re interested.

Do you have a favourite character name, or one that turns you straight off the book? Do share in the comments.

Medieval Monday- Introducing Laurel O’Donnell

Christmas is over but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy a bit of Yule magic.  Here is the wonderful Laurel O’Donnell with Mistletoe Magic

A confident knight arrives home to find his childhood friend grown into much more than he remembered. The lady of the castle keeps a dangerous secret that threatens all she holds dear. Will Mistletoe Magic save them?

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Yuletide. It had always made Jaclyn Fainwick excited and happy with the potential of what the future held. This one day, amongst all the rest, was when every hope, every dream could come true. She loved this day above all the rest in the year.

She sat before the hearth in the Great Hall, waiting for the festivities to begin, swinging her feet back and forth. She had been waiting for most of the day. Her father would come, and her mother, and her brother. All the people she loved would be together on this day. No matter where they were or what they were doing, they would always gather together on the Yuletide.

She twisted and looked behind the large wooden chair she sat in. The shadows at the back of the Hall were getting long as the sun set, stretching dark fingers into the Great Hall. But no one was coming. She turned back and clutched her hands in her lap. If she were very good, her father would bring her something wonderful. A strand of her long dark hair had pulled free of the braid at her back and she swatted it back in place.

The flames danced in the hearth, warming her. She had been alive for ten Yuletides, this would make her eleventh, enough to know that the Yule log would soon be burned. It wouldn’t be long now.

Around her, the servants cleared the tables from the feast. A dog rushed beneath the table to gobble up a scrap of the duck that had fallen.

Suddenly, booted footsteps echoed down the hall.

Her stomach lurched with excitement and Jaclyn turned to see her friend, Alexander, run into the Great Hall, followed by her brother, Paul. She sat back in disappointment. Alexander reached her side first, skidding to a halt on the rushes.

“I told you she’d be in here,” Paul said, stopping at her other side. He was out of breath as if he had run a far distance. His brown hair was in a disarray on his head; his blue jupon was askew, his black boots dirty.

Alexander looked at her and grinned.

Jaclyn’s heart lurched at his twinkling blue eyes, as it always did. Even at thirteen summers, Alexander was the most handsome boy she had ever met. His blonde hair reached to his shoulders and always had just the right amount of wave to it. He was not dressed as nicely as Paul, but he carried himself with more confidence. He usually wore a leather vest and black leggings, the same he was wearing on this Yuletide.

He met her gaze. “Your father is coming,” he said with restrained exuberance.

She turned in her chair to face the door.

“I was going to tell her,” Paul complained.

It didn’t matter who told her. Outside the door in the hallway, Jaclyn heard heavy footsteps. It sounded like the entire village was with her father! She could barely sit still in her exhilaration. A moment skipped by and then her father appeared. He was the tallest man of all the men following behind him, his shoulders broad, his hair dark. He was surrounded by knights and villagers. They entered the hall behind him as he walked toward her.

She stood to greet him.

“My dove,” he whispered and greeted her with a hug.

She embraced him.

He pulled back to look at her. “Before we light the Yule log, I want to give you this. You have been a very good girl this year, and a wonderful daughter.” He held something out to her.

Jaclyn hadn’t noticed he was carrying anything. She looked down to see he was holding a branch with green leaves and white berries. She gasped, “It’s beautiful!” and took the branch from his hand.

“The berries reminded me of the winter snow,” her father said softly.

Jaclyn nodded. “But the green leaves belong in the summer!” She looked up at him. “The trees have long since lost their leaves. Where did you find it?”

“I had to travel very far to find it.” he told her, leaning in to add, “It’s magical.”

“Like Yuletide!” Jaclyn gasped.

Her father smiled and nodded. “That’s why I brought it to you now. Keep it safe, child.”

Jaclyn nodded and hurried through the villagers and gathered guests. She paused to glance back at her father. He was silhouetted before the warm hearth fire, his arms on his hips, watching her. She curtseyed slightly. “Thank you, Father.”

He dipped his head in a nod.

Jaclyn knew the perfect place to keep it safe. The perfect spot for it. She raced to her room and flung a cloak about her shoulders. She paused to stare at the branch. It was amazing. Summer and winter, all rolled up into one glorious plant. She gently touched one of the berries.

“Father’s going to light the Yule log.”

Buy Mistletoe Magic

Things that aren’t romantic.

My husband and I have an ongoing debate about whether certain things are romantic or not (buying flowers, meals out, taking your own wine glass to the kitchen at bedtime…)

One of our occasional disagreements is over the Roy Orbison song ‘Drove All Night’.

For anyone who doesn’t know the song it’s about a bloke who decides he misses his girlfriend/wife/partner so drives to her/their house through the night.  He arrives in the morning (no mention of pausing for a shower after a six r seven hour car journey)and wakes her up for sex.   He is proud of this fact.

I’m fairly sure that you can tell from my synopsis which side of the debate I come down on.

Stopping someone having a lie in because you were feeling horny is not something to be proud of.

‘I drove all night, crept in your room, woke you from your sleep, to make love to you.’

Umm… no.  That’s you feeling entitled to a reward for unasked for spontaneity.

Try driving all night, creeping in with a pot of tea (and a bacon sandwich if you’re really pressed for time), leaving it by the bed then GOING AWAY FOR HALF AN HOUR.

Then you might be in with a shot (bonus points if you make a start on tidying the kitchen while you’re waiting).

Anyway, here’s the video, which is pretty cool.

I’m unlikely to ever use it as a book inspiration because I promise that whatever my heroes do to show their devotion it will never involve interrupting sleep.

Tell me your least romantic romantic gestures?

On the subject of romance, next month is Valentine’s Day.  I’ll be running a special giveaway for a chance to win a copy of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge so watch this space.

Medieval Monday – Bambi Lynn

I love being able to share excerpts from such wonderful authors.  Today I’m sharing Bambi Lynn’s Marek.

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Boring accountant, Kitty Petty, struggles to get through each day one at a time since the brutal murder of her husband. She spends every free moment caring for her young daughter, until the night she wakes to find her bed on fire.

Kitty doesn’t know how she got to the year 1196, much less how to get back. But if she doesn’t, her daughter will be institutionalized. Having failed to save her child from the clutches of a madman. Kitty vows to protect her future. But going back to her time means risking her own life and separating her from the knight she has grown to love.

Marek Stone wants to protect his wife from the people of Stonebridge. Katherine has been declared a demon after her miraculous rise from the funeral pyre, and the villagers want justice.

Kitty doesn’t know how she got to the year 1196, much less how to get back. But she must if she has any hope of saving her daughter. However, the knight who loves her will do anything to make her stay.

 

Marek’s family sat with them, although Bryn sat at one of the trestle tables, a better vantage point for grabbing the backside of every passing serving girl. As she looked around the great hall, Kitty thought every villager in Stonebridge must be in attendance. Many had never been to a feast as grand as this.

There was no corn or sweet potatoes, but Vale and Bryn had managed to hunt down a flock of birds remarkably like turkeys. There was no end to the bread stuffing, gravy, even stewed cranberries. Kitty herself had been guiding the cooks for a week to prepare enough food for everyone. They had even baked over one hundred pumpkin pies for dessert.

“My lady,” Bryn called from the floor below. “Tell me again the name you have given this feast.”

“Thanksgiving,” Kitty shouted back to him. “While you’re eating, you have to go around the table and tell about something you’re thankful for.”

Marek reached over and squeezed her hand.

Thane, who sat next to Bria, leaned behind his niece to speak to her. “Sister,” he said with a lowered voice only she could hear. “I have been forced to contend with talk of you among many of the villagers. It is not wise for you to suddenly appear out of a fire. I can only do so much to protect you. I beg you not do it again.”

Kitty smiled at him. “I promise.” She reached beneath the table and pulled out one of the carpet bags she’d brought with her. “I have something for you.”

When she handed him the portable Play Station, he looked at her like she might indeed be from the devil. Kitty smiled. “It’s a game. Watch.” She pushed the little machine beneath the table and away from prying eyes.

Thane nearly dropped the PSP when it lit up. “Shh. You’ll have to keep it secret. This is an easy game called PacMan. You have to move him through the path and eat as many of these little dots as possible. But don’t get caught.”

Kitty left Thane to the wonder of electronic video games and moved to sit next to Remi. He looked at her skeptically, but over the last few days, his animosity towards her had dimmed some. She reached into her bag and pulled out a portable DVD player. She had already loaded the Robin Hood movie.

Remi barely breathed as the credits started. “Don’t watch it now. If you’re caught, we might all be burned at the stake. But pay particular attention to the parts about Prince John.”

She caught Bryn’s attention as he was in between wenches and motioned for him to join her. She pulled a handful of Legos from her bag and spread them out on the table, hoping no one nearby was paying them any attention. “Look…you can snap them together, pull them apart. I have a whole box of them for you in my room. They come in all sizes and colors and you can build anything out of them.”

Adin and Vale were enveloped in ladies, so Kitty decided their gifts could wait. Vale would not need his bullet-proof vest for several months yet. Adin would have years to perfect his technique with help from the pristine copy of The Karma Sutra she’d gotten him.

By midnight, Bria had crawled into Thane’s lap and fallen asleep. Kitty would have to give her the Barbie doll later. Vanesa, however, was having the time of her life. She leaned forward to peer around the massive form of her stepfather. “Mom!” When Kitty looked across at her, Vanesa held up her goblet of weak ale. “Huzzah!” They both laughed as Kitty toasted with her. “This is so much better than the Renaissance Festival.”

“What is this ‘renaissance’?” Marek asked.

Kitty smiled and shook her head. “Come carry Bria up to bed. I have a gift for you.”

Buy a copy of Marek here

A Wager for the Widow came out in French in December. I found a lovely review for it here.La rebelle de Tawstott d’Elisabeth Hobbes

⭐ La rebelle de Tawstott d’Elisabeth Hobbes Nombre de pages :  320 pages Éditeur :  Harlequin Date de sortie :  1 décembre 2016 Collection :  Les Historiques Langue :  Français ISBN-10 :  2280…

Source: La rebelle de Tawstott d’Elisabeth Hobbes

Medieval Monday -Ruth A. Casie

Happy New Year!  I’ve just about remembered what day it is (isn’t it hard when we’re going by titles not names for days) which is useful as today is the first Medieval Monday of 2017.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Ruth A. Casie’s The Druid Knight Tales.

dktone

Maximilian, the druid Grand Master, was given a year to find his soul mate. On the final day, the sacred mistletoe has shriveled and died—proclaiming his failure. He must do what no other Grand Master has done before and journey to meet with the Ancestors formally relinquish his title.

Ellyn of Brodgar has the gift of healing. But each use of her magick, through a kiss, depletes her energy and brings her closer to death. Time is running out as she searches for a way to continue saving lives—especially her own.  

Max and Ellyn are tossed into the Otherworld together—a place filled with magick and wonder, it’s also fraught with danger, traps, and death. They have only until the third sunset to find the Ancestors, or be lost to the world forever. The domineering druid must work with the stubborn healer, not only for survival, but for the promise of the future—a future together.

Included an epilogue fifteen years later. See how the man destined for Max and Ellyn’s daughter takes the first steps in becoming a druid knight.

Arik, son of Fendrel and Dimia, prepares for training with his adopted brother, Bran, setting into motion a ripple effect that will carry love, betrayal, and death across the centuries.

***

She woke before sunrise refreshed by a good night’s sleep. After her morning routine she picked up her staff and joined the others at the standing stones. Today, the shortest day of the year, they would welcome the day and celebrate the sacred marriage between Father Sky and Mother Earth. She waited while Doward finished cleansing and purifying the area for the Grand Master.

Ellyn and the people from all the clans proceeded through the outer circle to the Cove and its three standing stones. Doward came up to her. “Another year. They seem to hurry by.”

A wave of unease washed over her. She hardly made out what Doward said. She was too busy trying to control her rising apprehension.

The clans formed a large circle around the stones and waited. The Grand Master walked down the wide avenue and took his place. He stood beside her. She had imagined his tall, commanding presence quite correctly.

Everyone in the large circle faced east and waited for the sun to peek over the horizon. Slowly sunlight crept up and bathed the central Cove stone with its first rays of light.

“Hail and welcome,” declared Max.

“Hail and welcome,” the clans around him responded.

In unison they faced the center of the large circle.

“Hail this new day and year. We remember those who have left us. And we welcome those who have joined us by marriage, birth, or simply by choice.” He nodded toward Ellyn. “Ellyn of Brodgar, we welcome you into Fendrel’s clan.”

“Thank you, Grand Master.” Ellyn’s voice carried loud and clear. She faced Fendrel. “Thank you for making a place for me at your hearth.”

The first part of the morning ritual completed, the circle broke. She followed Max and the others as they made their way to the great oak in the nearby grove.

“Are you familiar with this part of the ritual?” Doward asked.

“Yes. The Grand Master will enter the Otherworld and meet with the Ancestors.”

“There is more to the ritual,” Doward said. “To ensure a good year and banish evil, when the Grand Master returns with the message from the Ancestors, the women will cut down and collect springs of mistletoe from the sacred oak tree. The Grand Master will give the sprigs to the families in the clan for them to hang in their house.”

Everyone gathered around the ancient oak. Once again she and Doward stood in the great circle next to the Grand Master.

Max waited for quiet before he faced the east and raised his arms. “Hail, Guardians of the East. I summon the power of air.” His voice echoed through the grove.

“By the air in her breath, be with us now,” the congregation replied.

He turned to the south. “Hail, Guardians of the South. I summon the power of fire.”

“By the fire in her spirit, be with us now,” came the reply.

He faced the west. “Hail, Guardians of the West. I summon the power of water.”

“By the waters of her womb, be with us now.”

Turning north he said, “Hail, Guardians of the North. I summon the power of earth.”

“By the earth that is her body, be with us now.” Every eye turned to Max when he faced the ancient oak, mistletoe hanging in great bunches from its mighty branches.

“As above, so below.

As within, so without.

Four stars in this place be

To open the door to the Ancestors to me.”

The cold air chilled even more and the sky turned an array of colors. Every muscle in Ellyn’s body tensed. This was magick she was not supposed to see. She must be too close to the Grand Master. She struggled to move away but was fixed to the spot. Slowly the world began to spin. She took a few deep breaths to steady herself, planted her staff deep into the ground, and held on. She peered through a hazy filter and witnessed Doward’s nod. She studied his lips silently mouthing, Safe journey.

Buy The Druid Knight Tales here.

 

Find out more details about all the authors featured on Medieval Monday here

Reading Chicks Best Books of 2016

I’m honoured to be included in this list. Check out the other titles as well. I’ve added to my reading list!

Chicks,Rogues and Scandals

We are nearly into 2017, so for the first time I am holding my own Top Books of the Year, but with my own twist. I have five Categories Best Hero, Heroine, Plot, Series and Book of the Year. This isn’t an oficial chart it’s just my opinions on what I have read this year, I would love to know what your favorite books have been and equally what you are looking forward to reading in the new year, so let’s begin. . .

Best Hero :

Rhys Winterborne, Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas.

webpage_20161230_145350A ruthless tycoon. . .

Savage ambition has brought common-born Rhys Winterborne vast wealth and success. In business and beyond, Rhys gets exactly what he wants. And from the moment he meets the shy, aristocratic Lady Helen Ravenel, he is determined to possess her. If he must take her virtue to ensure she marries him, so…

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