Welcome to the first to the excerpts I’m sharing in this First Encounter themed Medieval Monday. I’d like to welcome Judith Sterling to the blog today. Her excerpt is from
Shadow of the Swan (The Novels of Ravenwood, Book Three)
The boot retreated. The woolen cloth stirred, then started to rise.
She yanked it down. “No! Prithee leave it be!”
“Why?” ’Twas the older voice.
“I’m in danger.”
The fabric dropped. “What kind of danger?”
“Do you see a clergyman close by? An archdeacon?”
A moment of silence passed. Then came the answer she dreaded. “Aye. He’s headed this way.”
The younger man, Guy, snickered. “If the geese don’t trip him first.”
She wiped her sweaty palms on her tunic. “He mustn’t know I’m here. I beg of you!”
After a slight pause, the elder of the two whispered, “Fear not. We shan’t betray you.”
A number of geese honked in protest. Shuffling footsteps drew closer, then stopped a few yards away.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed print copy of Shadow of the Swan, and follow along next week on Bambi Lynn’s blog:https://bambilynnblog.wordpress.org
Remember to visit Judith’s blog today and leave a comment on my excerpt for a chance to win a copy of A Runaway Bride for the Highlander
Lady Constance de Bret was determined to be a nun, until shadows from the past eclipsed her present. Marriage is the safest option, but she insists on a spiritual union, in which physical intimacy is forbidden. Not so easy with a bridegroom who wields unparalleled charm! But a long-buried secret could taint his affection and cloak her in shadow forever.
Back from the Crusades, Sir Robert le Donjon craves a home of his own and children to inherit it. From the moment he meets Constance, he feels a mysterious bond between them. When she’s threatened, he vows to protect her and agrees to the spiritual marriage, with the hope of one day persuading her to enjoy a “real” one. She captivates him but opens old wounds and challenges everything he thought he believed.
Two souls in need of healing. Two hearts destined to beat as one.
Welcome back for the first Medieval Monday of 2019. We’re kicking off with an old favourite- the meet cute. Though how cute some of these meets will be remains to be seen (after all, where’s the fun if they fall straight in love?)
As something special for the new year I’m offering one reader chance to win an ebook copy of my brand new Scottish romance, A Runaway Bride for the Highlander which comes out in May. To be entered into the draw all you have to do is leave a comment on each blog as you follow the excerpt.
So, without further ado- on with the excerpt.
As she reached the curve in the river almost opposite Gui’s horse the girl dropped her bag to the ground. Still humming, she removed her shoes, unbuckled her girdle and dropped it beside them. She moved slowly, languorously stretching her arms in a manner that sent shivers running over Gui and causing more goosebumps to rise on his skin than the chill of the water had alone managed. The girl unpinned the veil from her hair and revealed a thick plait of pale-blonde hair, the colour of sand from his homeland.
Slowly, and completely unaware of Gui’s presence, the girl pulled her billowing grey tunic over her head to reveal a closer-fitting linen shift beneath. Gui froze, acutely aware that he was intruding on something private, but unable to leave. He could not return to his horse without alerting the girl to his presence and for both their sakes he did not want to do that.
When her mistress is claimed as an enemy knight’s betrothed, handmaiden Aelfhild knows it would be too dangerous for her lady; she must go in her place. But there’s more to the scarred knight than she first thought—she isn’t expecting to fall for him! As the line between friend and enemy blurs, Aelfhild realizes she might be protecting her mistress, but not her heart…
There is no Medieval Monday this week (it is Monday in case, like me, you’re stuck in the Twixtmas fug of uncertainty).
Instead I want to share the piece I entered into the Elizabeth Goudge writing contest at the Romantic Novelist Association Conference. The challenge was to write the opening 2000 words of a romantic novel on the theme The Girl from the Sea.
And I won!
(I was really not expecting to that I didn’t even have my shoes on under the table)
I get to keep the trophy for a year and the piece was published in the RNA magazine. Even better than that, I now have a story that is demanding to be written. It will be one day, as soon as I find the time between contracted books to do it (if anyone wants to pay me to write it, that will speed things up a lot).
I hope you enjoy it and as always, I’d love to hear what you think.
Effie Cropton was not a religious woman but when she saw the basket tossed atop the waves near the brigg, the first thing that popped into her mind was the story of the infant Moses in the bulrushes. She was so surprised at the memory from one of her childhood Sunday School lessons that when she heard the cry of an infant she assumed it was part of that memory too and dismissed it, turning her attention back to gathering toothed-wrack and dulse from the rocks.
When she heard the thin, despairing wail for a second time she looked up, searching for the gull that had made the sound but none circled above her in the midwinter sky.
As the sound came for the third time she could not mistake it for anything other than a human child. Effie pulled off her shawl and bonnet and kicked off her sturdy clogs then waded into the sea.
The basket had floated closer to the jagged grey rocks and the sea was as cold as you would expect for Yorkshire on Midwinter’s Day. Effie almost turned back, but the cry came again and she pressed on. The turning tide threatened to pull the basket further out to sea and Effie was waist deep before she succeeded in grabbing it by the handle. She fought to make her way back to the shore against the strong current, struggling as her sodden petticoats wrapped around her legs. She crouched where the shingle became sand and looked at her salvage.
The basket contained a baby girl. She looked no more than a month or two old, with wrinkled rolls of fat on her legs and a sullen, grey sheen to her skin. She was naked and lying on a seal fur the colour of the brown down on the child’s head. It was the softest thing Effie had ever touched. The girl screwed her face up and gave a high, angry wail. As well she might do, given her situation. It was a wonder she had not frozen to death, as Effie felt she was about to do.
She stared up at Effie with dark brown eyes edged with flecks the colour of caramel. Her pupils were too large, giving the impression they belonged to a face older than centuries and the hairs on the back of Effie’s neck began to prickle as she looked into the old eyes. Effie picked her up and held her close. The baby began screaming in earnest and rooting for a breast. The cry was of hunger not fear. Effie’s son was six months old and the sound and warm nuzzling face caused her milk to gather in a hot rush. She unbuttoned her blouse and guided the small mouth to her nipple. The baby latched on with a strength that bordered on painful.
“You’re starving, aren’t you, chick,” Effie murmured as the baby pulled determinedly. While the child nursed Effie walked back to the shore, searching the horizon. There was no sign of a shipwreck, though out beyond the Brigg in winter they weren’t uncommon. Effie would find no answers staring at the sea and in the meantime they would both be in danger of freezing. She looped the basket over one arm, wrapped the girl in her shawl. She had reached the top of the steps cut into the cliff towards her cottage when a voice hailed her.
Tom Danby, the blacksmith was walking along the cliff path as he did most days.
“Good afternoon, Mistress Cropton.” Tom pulled the tricorn from his head, smoothing his unruly blonde curls down and gave Effie a smile that was in truth a little too warm for a single man to give a married woman. She returned it cautiously. Effie’s marriage was two years old and John Cropton was ten years older than his wife. They were content with each other, especially when John departed for a week at a time on the whaling ship Serenity. That is all she would say on the matter, but sometimes she wished Tom had finished his apprenticeship soon enough to have asked for her hand.
“How is young Jack today?” Tom asked. He looked at Effie properly and gaped. “You’re soaking wet!”
“This isn’t Jack.” Effie drew her shawl back to reveal the small head. The baby looked pinker now she was warm and fed and her silken hair had dried to match the colour of the seal pelt exactly. She explained how she had come upon the child.
“Shall I ride to Whitby and see if the poorhouse will take her?” Tom asked.
He meant well but Effie clutched the child tighter, baulking at the thought of surrendering her to the stark walls.
“I’ll take her home with me until someone comes to claim her.”
Tom promised to ride to Whitby and bring news if anyone had lost a child, and walked on with a lingering smile back at Effie. She collected Jack from a neighbour, dressed the girl in one of his old smocks, put the basket and fur on top of the wardrobe and forgot about them.
Tom Danby knocked on the door of Effie’s cottage three days later. It was dusk on Christmas Eve. He told her with a grave face of the only shipwreck he had heard of. The Serenityhad been caught in a storm on Midwinter’s Day and lost at sea with all hands.
Effie accepted the news quietly. A sailor’s life was treacherous and a sailor’s wife waited for this news whenever her man set sail. She thanked Tom and acknowledged – but did not accept – his generous offer of any help she required at any time of day or night. Then she closed the door and wept for her lost husband.
Effie became a widow at the age of twenty-seven. Once she had done weeping she dried her eyes and dyed her clothes black in the copper before the hearth. The girl watched with her solemn eyes. Effie wondered if the child had been caught in the same storm that took the Serenity. One life saved in place of all lost seemed inadequate an exchange, but it was at that moment that Effie decided to raise the child herself. Her son would have no father but would have a sister. She sat in her rocking chair and nursed the children, one to each breast.
A year passed. Effie dyed her summer dresses black on Midsummer’s day while the children rolled on the rag rug and giggled in their own private language, and when autumn came she bought cloth of deepest grey to make herself a dress for winter. Tom Danby visited weekly. If he hoped Effie would come round to his way of feeling he never showed his disappointment.
Effie lived quite contentedly with her son and foster-daughter, but no name seemed to suit the girl, either fancy or plain. If she had been a boy Effie would have called her John and made the name stick. Most of the time Effie called her Chick. She seemed agreeable enough to this as she shuffled after Jack on her bottom, or crawled on hands and knees determinedly towards the sea. Effie tried not to fret. A name would suggest itself eventually.
It was a year to the day when a knock came at the door at dusk. Tom had called by earlier, bringing a cake and news that seals had been sighted. Effie was a little ashamed that her heart did not speed up at the thought he might have returned.
A man filled the doorframe. He was barefoot but wrapped in a thick seal-fur cloak of dark brown with a hood shading face.
“It’s late,” Effie said. “Do you need some help?”
He raised his head and stared at her with eyes the glass-green of a winter sea. Effie’s heart stopped beating then sped to double speed.
“I come to speak of a child.” His accent bore a touch of Scottish and a hint of something from further away at the edge. His voice was low and slow and made Effie think of cowrie shells and surging tides. The tone sent ripples undulating up and down her spine but his words made her belly clench.
“Which child would that be?” Effie asked.
The man dropped his hood back and shook out thick, dark hair, the same colour as his cloak. His pupils grew darker and larger.
“I speak of the child who possesses a sealskin. That child is mine.”
Effie’s hands tightened on the frame. She glanced back at the cradle by the fire. The children had not woken at the sound of voices. The wind was bitter and flames danced in the grate causing shadows to run over the ceiling.
“You’ve waited a pretty amount of time to claim her.” Effie folded her arms, blocking the doorway. Her heart thundered, though whether from fear or because of his captivating eyes, she could not tell.
“I had no choice but to wait.” The man scowled. Even with his face crumpled in frustration he was exceedingly handsome. More so than any man Effie knew.
Something in his tone caught Effie’s heart. There was sorrow beneath the frustration. “I have no proof you have any claim over anyone. Come back tomorrow.”
“I must take her tonight. The Midwinter tide turns and I cannot stay.”
“Do you have ship waiting?” Effie asked.
He laughed. “Something like that. Please give me my child.”
He made a feint to the left and when Effie moved he ducked and slipped past her to the right and into the house with swiftness she did not expect. He strode to the cradle and held his hand out over the sleeping children then withdrew it slowly. He turned to Effie with a thoughtful expression on his face.
“You’ve nursed her?”
Effie nodded. “She was famished poor mite.”
The man ruffled his hand through his hair and gave her a rueful look.
“You took my daughter in. You gave her your milk and you have cared for her for a year. You have as much claim as I do.”
His eyes were a different colour to the girl’s but their expression was so similar Effie could not deny they were kin. He gestured to the fur he had cast over his shoulder.
“Where is her skin?”
The basket was where Effie had left it a year ago. When she placed it on the table and pulled the fur out she was astounded to see the colour had deepened and it had grown in size.
“This can’t be the same fur!”
The girl’s father laughed softly. “This is her skin. It will grow with her as she grows.”
Effie whipped her hands away as if she had been scalded.
The man crossed to Effie, moving with a grace that was odd in one so large. He picked up the fur and held it lovingly. The child stirred in her sleep.
“I don’t think you understand what you have brought into your home.”
Effie bit her lip and began to back away. The man took her gently by the shoulders to hold her still but when she looked into his eyes she saw no threat. He tilted her chin back with a cold hand and regarded her seriously.
“Effie Cropton, will you keep my child safe?”
She nodded, wondering how he knew her name. He pressed something small and hard into her hand. She opened it to discover a pearl.
“Then we have a contact, you and I,” he said.
He paused at the door and looked back at Effie, dark eyes flashing. “Her name is Morna. I will return at Midsummer’s Night on the turn of the tide.”
Effie clutched the pearl and watched as he slipped away into the moonlight.
Welcome back to the final Medieval Monday excerpt of the year. Today I’m finishing back where I started with A Wager for the Widow.
If you’ve been following all the blog hops each week you’ll know that Eleanor’s brother is trying to persuade Will into a wager. Will he accept the terms?
Read the final excerpt to find out.
‘Rob’s right. I’d be happy for you to kiss her. I might even welcome you as a brother-in-law, but you’d be on a hiding to nothing,’ Edmund agreed. ‘I reckon Mother will be looking at the duke’s entourage for husbands for my sisters.’
‘Why should that concern me? I’m not looking for marriage,’ Will said. ‘I’ll leave it to Rob to exceed the terms of the wager so foolishly.’ Of course a noblewoman such as she would have her eyes on a mate of equal status. He sat back in his chair, arms stretched behind his head. ‘Very well, I’ll bet five groats I can kiss her by midnight on the night of the midwinter feast.’
Rob laughed, ‘You’re aiming too high this time. In fact, I’m so sure you’ll fail that I’ll make it ten groats.’ He chortled.
‘Ten from me, too,’ Edmund agreed.
Will sucked his teeth thoughtfully. Twenty groats was almost a month’s salary, much more than any wager previously. He could ill afford to lose such an amount. To win it though was tempting indeed. Visions of Master Fortin’s ship laden with wine barrels passed before his eyes. Twenty groats more to invest and for what hardship? Doing something he wanted to do anyway.
Why was he even hesitating! A widow must miss some comforts of marriage after all.
‘One kiss, nothing more? And you assure me I will not incur your father’s wrath?’ he asked once more.
Edmund nodded. ‘How would Father ever find out? Eleanor would never tell him. On the lips, mind,’ he said. ‘None of this virtuous hand-raising or brotherly cheek-brushing.’
Brotherly cheek brushing was the last thing on Will’s mind. He drained his goblet and slammed it down on the table.
To discover if Will wins his wager, and how Eleanor reacts if the truth comes out, you’ll have to read the whole book. It’s available from any of the online sites below. Why not treat yourself to a last minute pre-Christmas present!
Wishing you all the best!
“I suppose a kiss of gratitude is out of the question?”
Widowed Lady Eleanor Peyton has chosen a life of independence. Living alone on her rocky coastal outcrop, she’s cut herself off from the world of men—until William Rudhale saves her life and demands a kiss!
As steward to Lady Eleanor’s father, Will knows the desire he burns with is futile—but he’ll still wager he can claim Eleanor’s kiss by midwinter. Yet when the tide turns Will realizes vulnerable Eleanor is far too precious to gamble with. Can he win his lady before it’s too late?
A mistaken identity. A gruesome murder. The uniting of two powerful clans.
Trained as a warrior…
Brighit of Clonascra is the only daughter of the fearsome overking, Sean, but despises the trappings and demands of womanhood. She’s far more comfortable training for battle than preparing a meal. Long held alliances require she set aside selfish dreams and take Darragh as her husband. The union intended to promote peace between the clans is interrupted by the shocking murder of a neighboring king and she quickly discovers there are far worse things than being wed.
Trained to be king…
Darragh of Drogheda has no wish to follow in the path of his father, Tadhg, but he is an obedient son and supports his father’s plans. His marriage to Brighit, however, will be no hardship at all since he finds her most intriguing especially when she fights him at every turn. A she-warrior indeed. Her persistent dismissal of him merely blows the fire aflame and sets him down the path to discovery of all her most tightly held secrets.
When she stands accused of the murder, can they finally come to an agreement that will give them each what they truly desire?
Welcome back. We’re over halfway through our Family themed Medieval Monday. today I’m delighted to welcome Mary Morgan. Her excerpt is from Dragon Knight’s Shield, Order of the Dragon Knights, Book 4.
Her strength and love filled him as he placed a kiss along her brow. Lifting his head, he reached out with his Fae sight and found the brother he needed. “Alastair, would ye speak with Artair, so he can find the path to the loch where the Great Dragon sleeps.”
Alastair stepped forward and clamped a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “With pleasure.”
Letting out a breath, he turned slightly. “Stephen, I will require your insight if ye should have any visions. They can assist us in finding Lachlan.”
“There have been none, but I will discuss past visions when ye return.”
For a chance to win a signed print copy of DRAGON KNIGHT’S SHIELD, please leave a comment.
You can catch up with Eleanor and Will over on Mary’s blog here
Angus MacKay, leader of the Dragon Knights, failed his brothers and his clan upon the death of his sister. Now he must fight the darkness of despair tempting his soul. Back on Scottish soil, he comes face to face with Deirdre who can wield a sword as mightily as his warriors, and takes her captive. Yet, with each passing day, the fire dragon inside him roars to claim the one woman fate has destined for him.
Famed mystery writer, Deirdre Flanagan, is unprepared for the next chapter in her life. On a vacation to Scotland, she steps through the mists and enters into a skirmish alongside a Highlander. However, the fight has only begun, and now she must battle Angus as well as evil in order to claim the love of this Dragon Knight.
Will their love be powerful enough to shield them from danger, or burn them to ashes? Buy Links:AMAZON | BN | KOBO | iTUNES
We’re onto week five of our Family theme and today I have the pleasure of welcoming Sherry Ewing back to the blog. Her excerpt is from To Follow My Heart: The Knights of Berwyck, A Quest Through Time (Book 3), a wonderful timeslip novel.
Jenna gave her a small smile and watched in dismay as Katherine and Riorden turned their attention to their meal. A trencher was set between her and Fletcher but she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do with it. She put her trembling hands beneath the table to hide them and began twisting the fabric of her dress.
“May I?” Fletcher asked, holding out a large two pronged fork.
“If you wouldn’t mind,” Jenna whispered.
“Is there anything you do not care for?” he inquired while he kindly anticipated her answer.
Jenna looked at the assortment of various meats and fishes in front of her. The fish dishes were no brainers, along with some of the chicken or other kinds of bird entrées. But the red meats, some of which were swimming heavily in brown gravy, were a complete mystery as to their four legged origins.
You can catch up with my excerpt on Sherry’s blog here to see what Will and Eleanor are getting up to.
Love is a leap. Sometimes you need to jump…
After a gut wrenching break up with her fiancé, Jenna Sinclair heads to the coast to do a little soul searching. To say everything is subject to change is putting it mildly. Her world is not only turned upside down, but pretty much torn asunder when she is pulled through a time gate on the beach beneath the Cliff House and transported more than eight hundred years into the past.
Fletcher Monroe, captain of the garrison knights at Berwyck Castle, has wasted too much time pining for a woman who will never be his. When he finally decides to move on with his life and focus on his duties, he is suddenly confronted with a woman who magically appears at his feet. This could either be the best thing that has ever happened to him or another cursed event in a string of many. He soon finds he is wildly attracted to her, but she’s scared to death of him ─ not a very encouraging beginning.
From the shores of California to twelfth century England and back again, Jenna and Fletcher must find a way to reconcile their two different worlds before Time forever tears them apart.
Welcome to week four of Medieval Monday and another fabulous excerpt in our Family theme. This week’s comes courtesy of Judith Sterling and Flight of the Raven
William frowned. “Why was I not told of this?”
“I’m telling you now.”
“You know my meaning.”
Robert held up his hand, beseeching his brother to wait. Then he yawned loudly.
“Don’t test my patience, Robert. You’ll find it wanting.”
“Answer my question.”
“Your roving about the bailey didn’t go unnoticed, and your moods make the men uneasy. Can you blame them for keeping their distance? Besides, Guy said your whereabouts were unknown when it occurred.”
Make sure to comment below for a chance to win a digital copy of Flight of the Raven (or if you already own a copy, your choice of another of Judith’s books). A winner will be randomly chosen and announced on December 31.
Remember to visit Judith’s blog to discover how Eleanor and Will are faring in this week’s excerpt.
How eager would the bridegroom be if he knew he could never bed the bride?
Lady Emma of Ravenwood Keep is prepared to give Sir William l’Orage land, wealth, and her hand in marriage. But her virginity? Not unless he loves her. The curse that claimed her mother is clear: unless a Ravenwood heir is conceived in love, the mother will die in childbirth. Emma is determined to dodge the curse. Then William arrives, brandishing raw sensuality which dares her to explore her own.
William the Storm isn’t a man to be gainsaid. He’ll give her protection, loyalty, and as much tenderness as he can muster. But malignant memories quell the mere thought of love. To him, the curse is codswallop. He plans a seduction to breach Emma’s fears and raze her objections. What follows is a test of wills and an affirmation of the power of love.
Welcome back to week three of Medieval Monday with our theme of Family. Today I’m delighted to welcome Ruth A. Casie to share an excerpt from The Guardian’s Witch – Book 1 of the Stelton Legacy
“You didn’t tell me you traveled with a private army.”
Alex gave Jamie a wide smile. “I hope they get to know you and your men as I do, but right now, Jamie, tell them what your man found.”
The brothers relaxed and found places to sit. Alex noted how easily they seemed to fit in with Jamie’s men. He also noted they didn’t let their guard down.
“Mitchell has detained the king’s protectors and their men in a dungeon in Ravencroft. He holds them prisoner and has them believing they’re being held and ransomed by us,” said Jamie. “He plans to liberate the men and organize them and their followers in a march on Scotland.”
The excerpt continues! Next week Ruth will be here: Ashley York
Commenters each week will be entered into a drawing for a free digital copy of THE GUARDIAN’S WITCH.
Blurb: The Guardian’s Witch – Book 1 of the Stelton Legacy
Will he come in time or must she trust in her magic and risk exposure as a witch to save them both?
Lord Alex Stelton can’t resist a challenge, especially one with a prize like this: protect a castle on the Scottish border for a year, and it’s his. Desperate for land of his own, he’ll do anything to win the estate—even enter a proxy marriage to Lady Lisbeth Reynolds, the rumored witch who lives there.
Feared and scorned for her second sight, Lisbeth swore she’d never marry, but she is drawn to the handsome, confident Alex. She sees great love with him but fears what he would think of her gift and her visions of a traitor in their midst.
Despite his own vow never to fall in love, Alex can’t get the alluring Lisbeth out of his mind and is driven to protect her when attacks begin on the border. But as her visions of danger intensify, Lisbeth knows it is she who must protect him. Realizing they’ll secure their future only by facing the threat together, she must choose between keeping her magic a secret and losing the man she loves.
I’m delighted to welcome Cathy MacRae to the blog this week and to share an excerpt from The Highlander’s Crusader Bride
“Beannachdan.” Donal lifted his goblet to Caelen who slowly stood.
“I am honored to join our clans. May there be blessings on both our houses. Beannachdan air ar taighean” He lifted his goblet to the people. “Slàinte mhath!”
“Slàinte mhor!” the crowd roared as drinking vessels clinked and the toast became the finality on the announcement and her future.
The heated room shortened her breath, and Arbela sank slowly to her seat, hiding her unsteady hands in a fold of her scarf. She bumped against Bram who stared at her with big, questioning eyes. Struggling for a smile, Arbela leaned her head close to his.
Don’t forget – Commenters each week will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Cathy’s ebook, The Highlander’s Crusader Bride!
Born in the Holy Land only a few years after the Third Crusade, half-Armenian, half-Scot Arbela MacLean is a true daughter of the desert, beautiful and untamed. Trained to be a warrior to avoid her gentle mother’s fate, Arbela has honed her skills with Turkish bow and arrow, sword and throwing darts—and dreads the day her father choses a man for her to marry. After more than thirty years in the Holy Land, Donal MacLean, Baron of Batroun, is recalled to Scotland, the last son available to take up leadership of clan MacLean. He brings with him knights, treasure, trade—and a daughter of marriageable age. Caelen MacKern, known as the Bull of the Highlands, is cynical about women. His first marriage formed an alliance, and he did not grieve when his spoiled, immature bride passed away. He has agreed to marry again—against his better judgement—for the men, means and coin to recover from a devastating pestilence that all but wiped out his clan. Though more than a little resentful at finding himself forced to remarry, Caelen’s proposal to Donal MacLean’s headstrong daughter nevertheless piques her interest. Each will receive what they want most from life—the ability to live as they please without interference from a meddling spouse. But their marriage of indifference will soon change to one of passion that neither Arbela nor Caelen could have predicted.