This week on Medieval Monday I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Barbara Bettis’ The Lady of the Forest.
Paxton already must have arrived to spread his lies. Damnation.
“This has all been a mistake,” he insisted.
“You might well think so.” She edged closer as they spoke.
Something about her hair—its remarkable color—danced at the edge of his memory. He’d seen it before, but memory failed. No matter. He’d not allow an intriguing female to deter him. “What I think is you should loosen these cords. I’m Henry of Chauvere. I’m no danger to anyone here.”
He must pursue his enemy; she must protect her people. Can their love survive the duties that drive them apart?
When her elderly husband dies, Lady Katherine fakes her own death and disappears into the forest with others escaping the brutish new lord. Determined to protect her people, she knocks the wrong man senseless. But Lord Henry isn’t an enemy, he’s the brother of her childhood friend. Although his tender confidence tempts her, she’s bound by duty.
Henry of Chauvere has found the one lady he wants for his own, never mind she’s tied him hand and foot. When he learns the king has ordered her to wed Stonehill’s ruthless new master, he insists Kate seek haven with his sister. But she won’t desert her friends. Henry vows to solve her problem, provided he catches a traitor before the threat from Kate’s past catches her.
When a daring rescue compels Henry and Kate to join forces, their attraction grows into love. If only duty didn’t drive them apart.
‘I’m glad I caught you, Elisabeth. I’ve got a proposal for you…’
Words to stir anyone’s heart. In this case not from Tom Hiddleston (I keep hoping) but the librarian at Macclesfield Library where I do my Tuesday morning writing session. She asked me if I would be interested in taking part in the Romance on the Road campaign organised jointly by Mills & Boon, The Reading Agency and the Mobile Library Service.
Mills & Boon have had a long involvement with mobile libraries but I didn’t know until I started looking into the campaign that Charles Boon, one of the founders, worked in a mobile library before going into partnership and starting the publishing house.
With all that in mind, and the chance to spread the Mills & Boon love for Valentine’s Day, how could I resist!
As a result, earlier this week found me out bright and early in Cheshire , heading down country lanes that got smaller and more twisty to meet up with Jon and the mobile library. While over 70 mobile libraries are taking part in the event around the country, Cheshire East has been chosen to be one of the ‘Fabulous Five’ with stickers, balloons,sashes for the driver, and gifts to give out to library users.
Our first rendezvous was in the car park of the Badger Inn Church Minshull . I waited, hoping I was in the right place and before long the car park had filled up with a group of eager readers, waiting with piles of books. I can imagine that if I lived there the tri-weekly visit would be a real highlight for me. I was excited even waiting once! The library van arrived decorated with stickers and a poster with my books in the window, the doors slid open and in we went to be greeted with bunting and shiny pink padded envelopes.
I had taken along some of my books to discuss and the villagers were particularly impressed with the cover of The Blacksmith’s Wife, especially when I mentioned I had asked for Aidan Turner as the cover model. They told me that inspired by the recent BBC adaption of Poldark, the village had got together and created a calendar featuring village men in Poldark-y poses. So far they’ve raised over £2000 which is incredible!
It was wonderful to meet such an enthusiastic crowd and I’m half tempted to move there, if only so I can join the ballroom dancing class!
If you’re wondering what I’m holding in the photos, they’re Valentine’s gifts that Mills & Boon had sent along. I had a box of packages waiting for me inside the library. It was very hard not to peek to find out which books were inside!
The residents of Church Minshull went off for their regular post-library coffee in the pub while I looked on enviously. While we waited for time to leave, we made a display of some of the copies of Mills & Boon titles that were in the library van.
Our next stops were at the two ends of Home Farm Park in Lea where we met residents who live on the park permanently (I was super impressed with Jon’s ability to reverse park in such small spots). It was a warm, sunny day so it was nice to stand around with light streaming in through the library door and be able to chat to borrowers (of library books, not small people living under the floorboards). One of the visitors told me her daughter lives just outside Macclesfield and is a keen reader of historical so I was pleased to be able to give her a copy of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge which is set in the area. We spent some time discussing our favourite historical authors and browsing the shelves (the library is impressively stocked with something to suit everyone- a real TARDIS).
I recommended my favourite author and managed to pick up a copy of a book I’ve been searching for in the process (well I couldn’t spend a morning in a library and not leave with something).
The van had to move on to the next stop and I needed to get back to carry on writing my new story. Before I said goodbye I did get to wear the sash that I had been coveting since I arrived.
The van goes out on three-weekly timetables around villages in Cheshire. The promotion is running until the 14th February and there are still plenty of gift bags to collect before Valentine’s Day itself so keep an eye out for the van with pink stickers heading your way!
Thank you Cheshire East Libraries for inviting me along. I had a lovely morning and it was great to see how well the library was used. I’m lucky to have always lived in towns where there is a library and made great use of it, from nipping in on the way home from school as a teenager to fill in time before the bus (and often missing the next as a result of getting absorbed in a book) to taking my own young children as welcome moment of sanity amid sleepless nights and PND. Not everyone is so lucky to have a library on their doorstep and the Mobile Library Service provides a wonderful way of accessing books for those living too far to get to one regularly. With funding cuts and libraries being threatened increasingly with closure, keeping services like this going will be so important to people living in more isolated areas.
Libraries, exploring and Mills & Boon- three of my favourite things in one day!
The Reading Agency is a charity whose aim is to inspire more people to read. They do a superb job of encouraging people of all ages to pick up a book and targeting groups who might not have access otherwise. You can find out more of what they do here.
It’s the season of romance (unless you’re cynical and Northern like me). To celebrate Valentine’s Day Harlequin are running a giveaway with a difference.
All the authors taking part are giving away a copy of one of their own books and a secret surprise title by another author. I’m giving away a copy of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge and I’ll give you a clue to my secret book-it’s by one of my fellow Unlaced Ladies – all Harlequin Historical authors who manage The Unlaced Book Club where we discuss writing, inspirations and anything else that takes our fancy with a historical or romantic theme.
The giveaway runs for the whole of February. Lucky it’s a short month so you won’t have to wait for too long to find out if you’ve won.
You can enter the giveaway here or by clicking the picture and find details of other authors taking part with the hashtag #HarlequinSecretValentine on Twitter.
I’m giving away one North American paperback version of The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge via Goodreads. The giveaway is open until 5th November for readers in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Click here to enter
With less than a week to go until the release of The Blacksmith’s Wife I thought I’d share a snippet. This is the first meeting between Hal and Joanna. Joanna has talked her way into the tournament grounds, hoping to find Sir Roger, the knight she is in love with.
Joanna made her way to the courtyard where makeshift stables and workshops had been assembled. She had given up hope of finding Sir Roger when, through a sudden parting in the crowd, she saw familiar black curls and glimpsed the line of his jaw just as he turned away.
A thrill of anticipation rippled through Joanna as she eased her way towards him. It had been six months since Sir Roger had last been in York. Despite the urge to run to his arms Joanna stood back and watched in admiration.
Sir Roger was facing away from her, sharpening a sword with slow, sure strokes. He had removed his armour and padded woollen tunic, but instead of the customary fitted doublet of fine wool he favoured, he was dressed in britches and a shapeless tunic drawn in at the waist with a thick belt. As Joanna watched he laid the sword on a trestle table, rolled his head from side to side and stretched his arms high.
Intending to surprise him Joanna crept behind him. She reached on tiptoe to whisper in his ear, her lips close enough to brush against his hair.
‘Greetings, my lord, I’ve been searching for you.’
He stiffened and turned to face her. Joanna found herself gazing up into Sir Roger’s eyes.
In the face of a stranger.
Her mouth fell open and she stumbled backwards away from the man, dropping her bag. Explanations and apologies tumbled unintelligibly from her lips.
‘I didn’t know… I thought you were… I mean… I’m sorry!’
The man folded his arms across his broad chest. His lips curled into an amused smile. Joanna took another step back, her mind whirling with confusion and embarrassment. Her voice tailed off. Her heart was pounding so loudly she would swear it must be audible. She covered her face with her hands in an attempt to conceal the blush that was turning her pale complexion scarlet and peered through her fingers.
It was little wonder she had mistaken the man for Sir Roger. From behind they shared the same build and unruly curls. Facing her there was still a resemblance. She noticed for the first time that what she had taken for a belt was a long leather apron tied about his waist. Whoever he was, the stranger was no knight.
‘I beg your forgiveness!’ Joanna said, wincing with embarrassment.
The man ran a hand through the tangle of black curls that fell to just below his ears. He eyed Joanna with an open interest that made her heart thump.
‘No forgiveness needed. I thought Lady Fortune was finally smiling on me but alas it seems not,’ he said with an exaggerated note of regret. ‘It’s been so long since I have had such a greeting that I believe I should be thanking you for the experience! Perhaps I will do as a companion?’ he suggested.
If that has whetted your appetite then the book is available at Amazon, B&N, Kobo and other online retailers. Preorder now
I also have an Amazon giveaway running until May 2nd which is open to readers in the US Enter here