Category Archives: History

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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Author Travels Blog

Medieval Monday- Sherry Ewing

I’m delighted to be taking part in Medieval Monday where each week (guess which day) I’ll be sharing a cover and excerpt from a different medieval novel.  The overall theme is ‘celebrations’ and I’m starting off with ‘Hearts Across Time’ by Sherry Ewing.

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The golden sun began to peek over the ocean horizon, splashing the morning sky with a thousand shades of pink and orange. The further it rose, the more color splattered across the cloudless sky until all traces of the earlier shades vanished. ’Twas obvious, the perfect day was a gift from the heavens and a priceless tribute to the woman Riorden would call his wife for the rest of his life.

Riorden was in no rush to head down to the Great Hall. There was no need. Katherine and her ladies had insisted ’twas bad luck to see the bride afore the wedding. He had never heard of such a custom, but who was he to tempt fate? Nay, he dare not look upon her, if such an occurrence would displease God, and in His wrath, He would wrench Katherine back from whence she had come.

Patrick brought Riorden a small repast, along with water to wash and fresh garments Lynet had lovingly sewn for his wedding. He was not surprised when he saw the tunic. Gilded fabric had been embroidered and used as trim on the deep blue cloth Katherine herself had chosen, saying the color would match his eyes. He smiled, wondering how she would look in the golden material he had chosen for her. He supposed, he would find out soon enough.

A knock roused Riorden from his musings of his lovely lady. Opening the door, he saw Aiden standing there, also dressed in his finest.

“What…no sword?” Riorden inquired in jest. He also was to leave his sword within his chamber, although he stowed a small, serviceable blade in his belt.

Aiden appeared completely ill at ease. “Nay! Amiria refused to allow such in the chapel. God’s wounds, Riorden…I feel as if I am only but half dressed.”

A chuckle rumbled inside Riorden. “Do not be so troubled, my friend. The mass and ceremony should be no longer than an hour or two. Surely, your sister will allow you your blade afterwards.”

“Ha! Easy for you to say. She made it clear she does not trust me.”

“Let me guess,” Riorden mulled over. “She hid it from you, did she?”

“My twin knows me only too well, I am afraid,” Aiden muttered miserably. “Dristan has hidden hers, as well. At least he managed to get her into a dress, instead of boots and hose.”

“Knowing Amiria, I am sure she will in no uncertain terms let me know of the sacrifice she has made, on the behalf of my lady, to appear in such.”

Aiden at last smiled knowingly. “You can count on it.”

“Why are you here? It cannot be time, as yet, is it?”

“Damn, I almost forgot my purpose,” Aiden cursed. “Dristan asked that you come to his solar. He will then accompany you to the chapel at the appointed hour.”

“Then let us be on our way, since I am all but done here,” Riorden said, and they made their way up to the third floor.

He had just taken the last step on the tower stairs, when he halted his progress to peer down the passageway toward Lynet’s chamber. Intent on listening to the bubbly laughter of his soon to be wife and her friends, he began to hear a strange haunting melody, most likely coming from the machine Kat called a cellphone. She was so close, and he found he had missed her company this past eve, more than he would have thought possible.

He took a step in the direction towards where, in his heart, he wanted to be until he felt Aiden tugging at his arm.

“Come on, Riorden. You shall see her afore you know it.”

 

Blurb:

Bestselling author Sherry Ewing presents this special edition box set getting 5 star reviews that is combining Katherine and Riorden’s complete story from For All of Ever and Only For You in Hearts Across Time: The Knights of Berwyck, A Quest Through Time Novel (Books One & Two).

Sometimes all you need is to just believe…

For All of Ever: Katherine Wakefield has dreamed and written of her knight in shining armor all her life. Yet, how could she have known that when she and her three closest friends take a dream vacation to England that they’d find themselves thrown back more than eight hundred years into the past? Riorden de Deveraux travels to Bamburgh answering the summons of King Henry II. But nothing prepares him for the beautiful vision of a strangely clad ghost who first appears in his chamber. Centuries are keeping them apart until Time gives them a chance at finding love. Will the past of one consume what their future may hold, or will Time take the decision from them and hurdle Katherine forward to where she truly belongs?

Only For You: Katherine de Deveraux has it all but settling into her duties at Warkworth Castle is not easy and downright dangerous to her well-being. Consumed with memories of his father, Riorden must deal with his sire’s widow. Yet how could he know how far Marguerite will go to have the life she feels they were meant to live? Torn apart, Time becomes their true enemy while Marguerite continues her ploy to keep Riorden at her side. With all hope lost, will Katherine & Riorden find a way to save their marriage?

 

Buy Links – available in eBook and paperback

Amazon

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1066 and that stuff

Today is the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings where William of Normandy defeated Harold and changed England’s politics, culture and language forever. It also provides the background for The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge which opens with the execution of a displaced Saxon thegn and all but one of his sons (I wonder if anyone can guess who the surviving son turns out to be).  The remaining chapters deal with the reunion of the Saxon, Aelric, and Constance, the sister-in-law of the Norman who condemned his family.  It takes place after the Harrying of the North which was William’s response to uprisings against his rule.  It was an act that devastated the North of England and the aftermath is touched on when Aelric and Constance reunite after an absence of seven years.

1066 is one of the dates that most people in England can remember, probably having been taught it in school.  I’ve been on both sides of the desk and remember lists of unpronounceable names and descriptions of the battle which did little to capture the significance of the event.  I did what I considered a very good comic strip of the battle aged 12 and still have a textbook from the 1980s knocking about somewhere, though looking back my art was well below the level of the Bayeux Tapestry.
Even without the schooling, it’s an event that has been in my consciousness from an early age thanks to two sources (other than the Bayeux Tapestry which any fule kno is really an embroidery). The wonderful 1066 And All That by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman (look it up, it has 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Things and 2 Genuine Dates) which kept me in stitches and was instrumental to developing a love of history, and Stanley Holloway’s monologue including the description of Harold ‘On his ‘orse with his ‘awk in his ‘and’. Here it is for your amusement, read by Tom Baker, aka the fourth Doctor.

Sneak peek

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

 

 

Reviews advance readers

$1.99 book sale!

Harlequin have been publishing ebooks for ten years!  To celebrate they’re offering 10,000 ebooks at $1.99 each, including my first book Falling for Her Captor.  If you haven’t read it now is your chance to get hold of a copy.

Falling for Her Captor at $1.99

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Readers have described it as

A feisty heroine, a drop-dead gorgeous hero, a nastier-than-real-life villain, and a plot you can sink your teeth into.

A really gripping, and at times dark, story that really kept my attention.

A satisfying read, with some great ambiance and a fast-paced romance, if you’ve not read this period before, then this is a great introduction to it.

Loads of emotional tension between the two of them keep you turning the pages and the ending is both heartfelt and satisfying. Highly recommend.

You may also be interested in…

Harlequin puts out six titles a month in the Historical line.

Find out what the other Harlequin Historical authors (and me) are up to here

http://harlequinhistoricalauthors.blogspot.co.uk

There are links to preview chapters, details of giveaways and cover reveals.

Fall Back in Time

Today on Twitter is the Historical Romance Network’s Fall Back in Time event

Now, I love a good historical read and have done ever since I was little. I remember spending a coach trip to the Lake District with my nose stuck in a Jean Plaidy (Murder Most Royal I think) and barely seeing the scenery.

I’m also a sucker for dressing up whenever I can. I date that back to being in Year 5 (aged around 9 or 10 for people thinking in old money) and being chosen to try on the crinoline on a school trip to the Castle museum. There’s something wonderful about putting on a costume and being transported to another time.

Here, for your amusement are a few of the times I’ve had fun dressing up. The one medieval outfit I’ve worn I don’t seem to have a photo of which is a shame. It was a lovely green dress (maybe that’s why Aline wears green) with huge sleeves and I like to think me hero wouldn’t have been able to resist me.

I encourage you to try costumes on whenever you can. Who knows where it might lead.

Lyme Park have a brilliant dressing up area where you can go wander around the grounds in costume.
Lyme Park has a brilliant dressing up area where you can go wander around the grounds in costume and hope to meet Mr Darcy (sadly I didn’t).
One of the joys of teaching is getting to do dressing up days.
One of the joys of teaching is getting to do dressing up days.

Or course some periods are more flattering than others..

Said in Eddie Izzard voice.
Hello, we’re the Romans.