Welcome back to another Medieval Monday. Today I’m hosting Rue Allyn and an excerpt from The Herald’s Heart.
Royal herald, Sir Talon Quereste could never love an overly adventurous, impulsive, argumentative woman of dubious background who threatens everything he values. Lady Larkin Roshan can only despise a man who would deny her identity and steal her heritage. So why has fate thrown them together to solve the mysteries of the heart?
The fog, so thick and impenetrable a moment ago, formed a gap in the wake of the noise. Talon looked in the direction of the sound and met the wide-eyed gaze of a disembodied head.
His breath froze, and he swayed, dizzy with surprise. She … it … possessed the most beautiful face he’d ever seen.
You can find The Herald’s Heart here.
To find out what Gui is up to head over to Rue’s blog and leave a comment there to be in with a chance of winning a copy of A Runaway Bride for the Highlander.
Welcome back! Today I’m delighted to welcome Jenna Jaxon to the blog. Her excerpt is from Time Enough to Love.
Her numbed brain repeated the phrase, trying to comprehend that instead he would be her husband– Geoffrey Longford.
God have mercy on me, for by the look of him, this man will not.
Fearful, she cringed as her gaze climbed higher, over his chest, over his chin, finally resting on the dark blue eyes turned toward her.
Geoffrey returned her appraisal, his gaze sweeping her figure as a smile crept over his face. “Your Majesty.” He spoke to the king but his attention remained fixed on Alyse. “When my father told me of the betrothal contract before I left his home, I resolved to play the dutiful son. Now, however, I find I do not wish to act that role after all.”
What can he mean? Find out at Bambi Lynn’s blog next Monday.
When Lady Alyse de Courcy is betrothed to Sir Geoffrey Longford, she has no choice but to make the best of a bad bargain. The hulking knight is far from her ideal man, and although he does possess some wit and charm, he is no match for the sinfully sensual man she secretly admires, Thomas, Earl of Braeton, her betrothed’s best friend.
From the first, Sir Geoffrey finds himself smitten by Lady Alyse, and, despite her infatuation with his friend, vows to win her love. When Geoffrey puts his mind to wooing Alyse, he is delighted to find her succumbing to his seduction. But when cruel circumstances separate them, Geoffrey must watch helplessly as Thomas steps in to protect Alyse—and falls in love with her himself.
As the three courtiers accompany Princess Joanna to her wedding in Spain, they run headlong into the Black Plague. With her world plunged into chaos, Alyse struggles with her feelings for both the men she loves. But which love will survive?
Welcome back to the blog. This week I have the pleasure of introducing Mary Morgan with an excerpt from A Highland Moon Enchantment.
Desmond stared wordlessly at the beauty before him. Eyes that mirrored the sea on a summer day gazed back at him in fury. Her hair reminded him of the wheat fields at harvest in his village of Navan, and his fingers itched to undo the mass braided around her head. Her lips thinned in disapproval, but he found himself drawn to them. As he took in her appearance, he noted the blood on her gown, and he immediately slammed the door on his lust.
Seeing his distraction, she moved her hand slowly back around the dirk.
“Nae,” he uttered in a hoarse voice. “Again, leave the weapon on the ground and stand.”
Visit Mary’s blog today to find my next excerpt. Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of A Runaway Bride for the Highlander
You first met this warrior in Dragon Knight’s Axe, Order of the Dragon Knights, Book 3
Irish warrior, Desmond O’Quinlan has never surrendered his heart to any woman. He has no wish to have his soul tortured by love. Yet, the moment he locks gazes with Ailsa, his fate is destined for an adventure he never fathomed. He may have battled alongside a Dragon Knight, but his greatest challenge will come from within his own heart.
Ailsa MacDuff, a warrior among her clan, has no desire to have a man chain her to a life of obedience. However, that is before she meets Desmond. The temptation to allow this warrior inside her heart is a risk she dares to take, but one that could lead to a future of emptiness and sorrow.
When betrayal looms from within, the battleground of love is no match for these two warriors. Can the power of a Highland full moon be strong enough to unite or destroy them?
Welcome back. This week I’m delighted to welcome Ashley York to the blog. Her excerpt is from Curse of the Healer.
She closed her eyes, still struggling to string her thoughts into some kind of coherence, but his scent drifted to her. Surrounded her. So manly. And he was even more exciting to look upon, with those broad shoulders that begged for her touch. She was not unfamiliar with the feel of a man’s body beneath her fingers, but it had never before been for the sheer pleasure of it. She wanted that pleasure now. Desperately.
His gaze was powerful. “Have ye been collecting mushrooms, Aednat?”
She liked the way he said her name. “I have. Are ye familiar with them?”
“A bit.” He handed her his water skin. “To quench yer thirst.”
“Oh!” Exactly what she needed! Appreciation welled inside her. Unchecked, she gushed. “Thank ye.”
After the death of Brian Boru in 1014, a legend arose of a healer so great she could raise a man from the dead, with a power so strong it could make any warrior the next high king of Éire…and to steal it away from her, he need only possess her.
Fated to be a healer…
Aednat has spent her entire life training to be the great healer, knowing she must remain alone. When she meets Diarmuid, the intense attraction she feels toward him shakes her resolve to believe in such a legend. If she gives in to the passion he ignites in her, can she settle for being less?
Destined to be his…
Diarmuid of Clonascra is renowned for his bravery in battle. Only one thing daunts him: the prospect of taking a wife. The safest course would be to keep his distance from Aednat, the bold, headstrong healer who’s far too tempting for his peace of mind. But his overking orders him to protect her from a group of craven warriors intent on kidnapping her to steal her power.
What starts as duty for Diarmuid quickly transforms into something more. Aednat’s power might be at risk, but so is his closed-off heart.
Welcome to week three of our Medieval Monday First Encounters. Today I’m delighted to welcome Barbara Bettis with an excerpt from The Lady of the Forest.
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.
He’d been certain Sir Paxton made for Stonehill Castle, the only holding of any size a day’s ride in this direction. If the traitor had traveled along here, the underbrush ought to have provided a clear trail with crushed leaves and snapped twigs.
Yet, not a sign. Not even horse droppings.
He’d need to retrace his path to the crossroads left this morning and try north, toward Glenmore Manor. An entire day, wasted because of rain that obliterated any tracks.
Hell’s fire. The curse loud in his mind nearly obscured the sound. A rustle, a scrape. He turned. In that moment, a moving, breathing weight hit his shoulders.
Welcome back to week 3 of First Encounters. Today I’d like to welcome Cathy MacRae. Her excerpt is from
The Highlander’s Welsh Bride
She glanced up from his hands, now hanging peaceably at his sides, to his face. Dark eyes peered at her from beneath half-lowered lids, thick brows pulled together above his slightly arched nose as he studied her. His nearly black hair hung loose to his shoulders, a bit of curl softening his wide forehead and hard, chiseled features. She was startled to realize her head would likely reach no higher than his shoulder, for she was tall for a woman, and had found it easy to pass for a man. This giant would have been a more familiar figure stepping from a Norse longboat, had his coloring been the pale blonde of that race. She surreptitiously checked his hands for signs of an axe or sword.
Blurb: It was over. Prince Llywelyn was dead, his soldiers fleeing before King Edward’s army. Carys, a distant cousin to the prince, herself a princess of Wales, had picked up arms alongside her husband more than a year ago. Now homeless, her husband buried beneath the good Welsh soil, she seeks shelter in the north, far from the reach of Longshanks’s men. Carys and Wales would never be the same again.
It was time. Birk MacLean has been ordered to take a bride and produce an heir. He grows weary of the lasses paraded before him, women of delicate nature and selfish motives. He desires a wife strong enough to help lead one of the most powerful clans in Western Scotland.
One like the Welsh woman sitting in his dungeon, arrested for poaching MacLean deer.
Can Birk convince Carys marriage to him is preferable to a hangman’s noose? And will the heard-headed Scot be worthy of a Princess of Wales?
From the towering Welsh mountains to the storm-swept Scottish coast comes a tale of betrayal and loss, deceit and passion. An epic tale of honor and the redeeming power of love.
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.