Category Archives: The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge

Medieval Monday- Aelric’s Fate

It’s the final Medieval Monday in the Villains theme and I’m finishing where I started with an excerpt from The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge.  The final excerpt picks up Constance’s story after Robert has taken his revenge on Aelric.

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At the mercy of her enemy!

Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face to face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He’s now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his…

Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?

****

‘You shamed me in public! For that alone I should beat you until you scream!’

Robert’s rage was incandescent. Constance looked to her sister but Jeanne sat, head bowed over her embroidery, and said nothing. She would get no support there.

‘The boy did not deserve death.’

‘Never mind that. What were you doing befriending Saxon filth?’ Robert turned to his wife. ‘Madam, is your sister a wanton?’

‘No, my lord,’ Jeanne answered meekly. ‘Her behaviour is as shocking to me as it is to you.’

Constance’s scalp prickled. If Robert knew the truth about what had passed between her and Aelric his wrath would be too great to withstand. Robert seized hold of Constance by the arm and dragged her roughly to her bed, flinging her on to the straw mattress.

‘You are almost seventeen. It’s time you were married. In the morning I’m sending you to a convent until I can find a husband who can tame you.’

He stormed out, leaving Constance holding her face and trembling with anger.

What will the future hold for Aelric and Constance? Discover their story in The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge.

getBook.at/SaxonOutlaw

Look out for another Medieval Mondays theme coming soon.

 

Romance on the Road

‘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.

 

library-van
There was a sticker on the front too!

 

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.

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Church Minshull residents joining in a photo opportunity – thank you all.

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!

secretbooks

 

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.

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Some of the Mills & Boon titles that were in the library.  Have you read any of them?

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).

park-farm
Jon with his special pink sash in the background.

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.

sash
The closest I’ll get to being Miss World!

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.

Medieval Monday: New theme, new style!

We have a new theme for Medieval Mondays and a new way of sharing our excerpts.

The theme is Villains so join us to find some of the nastiest, most ruthless bad guys who ever plagued our heroes and heroines.

Rather than share a whole excerpt in one go each of us is hosting a shorter snippet on our blogs with a link to where the next instalment can be found.  You’ll be able to track the story on its tour from blog to blog and there will be a new excerpt from a different author to read on our own blog each week.

We’re all starting off with our own stories.  My excerpt comes from chapter one of my newest release The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge.

 

SOR front

Cheshire, 1068

After a failed uprising, Constance Arnaud is forced to watch the execution of Saxon rebels at the hands of her brother-in-law, Norman nobleman Robert de Coudray.

‘Open your eyes and watch how those who would threaten your King die, girl,’ Robert commanded in an undertone. ‘Don’t shame me before these Saxon savages or I’ll whip the skin from your back.’

Constance raised her head obediently and forced herself to watch as man after man was lifted high alive and cut down a corpse. Some resisted as the knots were pulled tight, one or two looked on the verge of weeping; others walked with dignity to their deaths. Without exception all spat towards the dais where Robert’s household sat, fixing any Norman who met their eye with a loathing that made Constance shiver with fear.

Their deaths were not quick or easy, but if the uprising had not been prevented and they had joined with those in other counties, how slow and degrading would her death at their hands have been? She’d heard the tales of what had happened elsewhere, of children speared in their beds and women shared between the rebels until they begged for death. Even a twist-footed cripple like Constance would not be spared the degradation. Jeanne was right, it was relief she should feel, not pity.

Blurb

At the mercy of her enemy!

Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face to face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He’s now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his…

Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?

To be continued next Monday on Jenna Jaxon’s blog

https://jennajaxon.wordpress.com

 

Buy in the US

Buy in the UK

Come back next week to find out whose villain I’ll be sharing.

In the meantime you can check out the other authors here to find how their excerpts start.

Lane McFarland ~ Rue Allyn ~ Sherry Ewing ~ Jenna Jaxon ~  bambilynnblogAshley York ~ Mary Morgan ~ Barbara Bettis ~ Laurel O’Donnell ~ Cathy MacRae ~ Ruth A. Casie

We’ll be tweeting locations using #medievalhop so you can find out who is where and when.

 

Valentine Giveaway

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Dance the night away.

It’s party season and I’m looking forward to getting out on Friday night for a dance with my colleagues so I thought I’d share some of the scenes from my books involving dancing. I love dancing and don’t get to do it often enough so I make sure my couples get the chance.  Learning how to dance properly is on my to-do list when I eventually have the time (and a willing partner).

First from Falling for Her Captor

Falling for Her Captor

Stephen slammed his goblet onto the table. ‘We should dance!’ he shouted, and applause filled the room.

He reached out his hand to Aline, his jaw set and his eyes narrowed. Reluctantly she took his hand and walked to the centre of the room, her eyes cast down. A hush descended over the hall.

‘A quadrille for Lady Aline,’ Stephen announced.

The musicians took up their instruments once more and began to play a simple melody. Stephen took Aline’s hands and together they began to circle the room, the familiar steps of the dance coming back to her as they moved together. She caught a glimpse of Hugh again, deep in conversation with a young woman dressed in scarlet. The woman put her hand to his arm and dipped her head coyly. Hugh smiled. Aline frowned, then caught herself in the act. What was it to her who he talked to?

Hugh gave no indication of noticing her, though she thought she saw him glance in her direction as Stephen lifted and spun her. Stephen didn’t look away from her face, however, and she dared not stare too obviously.

The musicians increased their tempo and other couples joined Aline and Stephen on the floor. The dance became more intricate now: the pairs were weaving between each other, now in one circle, now in two, now in lines, the men lifting the women in sweeping arcs before moving speedily on to a new partner. After her long confinement Aline leapt high and swung wildly, laughing and lost in the dance—until she looked into the face of her newest partner.

A half-smile played upon Hugh’s lips as he bowed to her. His blue eyes met her own. Familiar arms encircled her waist and lifted her off her feet, spun her. They passed shoulder to shoulder, their hands brushing fleetingly as they circled round, their eyes never breaking away.

Then he was gone.

Next one from the midwinter feast which Will has staked his savings on in A Wager for the Widow (the dress in the excerpt is the one Eleanor wears on the cover).

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Eleanor walked through the doorway and Will forgot everything.

She wore green. Pale silk under a mantle of heavy, emerald velvet laced with gold braid from beneath her high breasts to her slender waist. Her hair had been twisted atop her head and encased in a net of gold so that her braids flamed between the metal. The gown left her shoulders bare and the elegant expanse of creamy flesh sent Will’s heart thudding into his stomach.

Half-a-dozen men leapt to their feet as they saw Eleanor, but Will was quicker. He tore his gaze from the curve of her throat and collarbone and strode to her. He bowed before her, then lifted his head. His eyes travelled slowly up her body until he met her gaze, determined to leave her in no doubt of the effect she was having upon him. She looked uncertain until Will gave her a discreet wink. She smiled back and the world brightened, as though a hundred more candles had begun to burn.

‘Let me escort you to your seat, Lady Peyton,’ Will said formally. As she took his outstretched arm he whispered in an undertone, ‘You’re the most beautiful woman in the room. It was worth the hailstorm to see you in that dress.’

Eleanor said nothing, but a blush crept across her cheeks and her fingers tightened on his arm. Will led her to her seat, reluctantly relinquishing her to the company of the Sheriff of Tawstott. He could barely keep his eyes from her for the rest of the feast.

When the final dishes had been removed the tables were cleared for the dancing to begin. The musicians tuned their instruments and an expectant hush fell over the hall.

Allencote began to thread his way through the crowd towards her and Will crossed the room to her side. The two men reached her at the same time. Eleanor looked from one to the other apprehensively.

‘Will you dance the first measure with me, Lady Peyton?’ Allencote asked, a shade before Will could ask the same question.

Eleanor’s eyes flickered briefly to Will’s. He held her gaze boldly though his stomach curled with anxiety. It was out of his hands now. If she chose Allencote, he had lost everything.

Next Hal and Joanna’s wedding reception from The Blacksmith’s Wife

Blacksmith's wife cover

‘We should dance,’ Hal said, pushing his chair back and helping Joanna to her feet. He was quick on his feet and graceful. Under any other circumstance dancing with him would have been a delight, but as he led her through the steps Joanna’s thoughts were on his last words. When the day ended they would return to Hal’s lodgings with all that must happen between a husband and wife. The thought made her feel nauseous and she stumbled her footing through the next steps of the reel. Hal’s arm came about her waist, leading her back into the rhythm.

‘Are you ill?’ he asked, concern clear in his voice.

‘Just a little tired,’ Joanna answered.

As she passed down the line one of Simon’s associates overheard her words. He grasped her round the waist and lifted her high. ‘The bride wishes to sleep,’ he cried. ‘We shall have the bedding ere long!’

Joanna’s blood froze in her veins. That part of the wedding night had kept her awake night after night. She had steeled herself to bear whatever her husband bade her do, but to be disrobed in front of the guests would be unendurable. Cheers soared around the room, echoing his words. Joanna felt herself passed from guest to guest through the steps of the dance. Her protestations were ignored as hands gripped her skirts, pulling at the cloth as if they would begin undressing her right there. Laughing faces leered at her as for one terrible moment she became the centre of a circle of dancers before a pair of strong arms gripped her and she was clasped against someone’s chest. She tried to pull free but a soothing voice hushed her, brushing her hair from her face.

‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, gentlemen and ladies, but there will be no bedding,’ Hal said.

Joanna gave a gasp of relief. He smiled down at her with eyes full of intent that caused a shiver to race along her spine.

‘My wife is my own tonight,’ he said quiet enough for only her to hear.

And finally the book where no one dances but which contains one nevertheless, The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge

SOR front

The second time they met it had been spring, not many weeks later than it was today. A time after they had settled in Hamestan, but before the thegns rose against her people. A market day filled with rare laughter and music where Constance had believed they were becoming accepted, that they could live in peace alongside each other.

There had been dancing and she’d watched enviously as the girls spun about the circle with their skirts flying, trying to ignore the stares and whispers.

Aelric had been at the centre of the knot, a set of pipes to his lips and his red-blond hair falling into his eyes. He had paused his tune as he spotted her watching and threaded his way through the circle towards her and held out his hand. When she indicated the stick she leaned on his expression hadn’t been one of pity or ridicule like she was used to, but regret. Instead of turning immediately back to the dance he’d taken her hand and bowed, then walked with her through the marketplace, leaving his friends behind.

She’d fallen a little bit in love with him at that moment.

I doubt I’ll be lucky enough to dance with anyone like one of my heroes (lovely though my colleagues are) and even if I did I’d probably trip over my heels and end up in the pudding plates but I’m going to enjoy myself anyway.  Have fun if you’re out and about this Christmas.

Which of my heroes would you take for a spin under the glitter ball?  I’d love to know.

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.

The Saxon Outlaw’s Cover reveal

The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge is out in November in print and ebook in December and I can finally share the cover art and blurb.

At the mercy of her enemy! 

Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face-to-face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He’s now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his… 

Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?

 

SOR front

I’ll be honest and say the cover doesn’t show the Aelric I had in my head because he’s a Saxon so really should be much blonder than reddish and with longer hair (he’s been living wild in the forests of Cheshire for years after all).  I’d used Tom Hiddleston and Tom Felton as inspiration.  Having said that, I love the pose and his brooding intensity.  He does look like someone who might seriously consider whether to sacrifice the woman he loved to get his revenge on the man he hates.

The original cover was slightly different and I emailed my editor and asked if the hair colour could be changed and the art department worked their magic.  The original and new covers are here for comparison.

SOR spot the difference copy

It’s a December release so will be alongside Christmas books on the shelves so I think the candles give it a festive touch too.

The book can be preordered here for readers in the USA and here for readers in the UK

The UK cover hasn’t been finalised yet so I’ll be interested to see which one they go for.

I’d love to know what you think.  Let me know in the comments below.