Showing posts with label Book Excerpts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Excerpts. Show all posts

26 April 2021

[Blog Tour] 'Pied Piper' By Keith Stuart #HistoricalFiction #WW2

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[Blog Tour] 'Pied Piper' By Keith Stuart #HistoricalFiction #WW2
'Pied Piper' - Tour Banner

The Book:

Pied Piper
By Keith Stuart
  • Publication Date: 1st March 2021
  • Publisher: LMP- Len Maynard Publishing
  • Page Length: 176 Pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction / WWII

The Blurb:

In September 1939 the British Government launched Operation Pied Piper. To protect them from the perils of German bombing raids, in three days millions of city children were evacuated - separated from their parents.

This story tells of two families: one whose children leave London and the other which takes them in. We share the ups and downs of their lives, their dramas and tragedies, their stoicism and their optimism. But. unlike many other stories and images about this time, this one unfolds mainly through the eyes of Tom, the father whose children set off, to who knew where, with just a small case and gas mask to see them on their way
Buy Links: Amazon UK ✔ Amazon US ✔ Amazon CA ✔ Amazon AU
  • This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.
[Blog Tour] 'Pied Piper' By Keith Stuart #HistoricalFiction #WW2
'Pied Piper' - Front Cover

'Pied Piper' - Excerpt:

The next few minutes’ thoughts were drowned by the clatter of pots and cutlery and plates but there was an unusual absence of chatter. Alice and Micky always had something to say, correcting and contradicting each other about things they had been doing together and interrupting each other as they shared what they had done alone, each certain the other was being given too much time to tell. But that night they were subdued, quiet.

“Right, you two, hands washed quickly,” and I whisked Micky off his feet towards the sink, trying my darnedest to tickle his ribs and illicit a giggle. Instead, he twisted in my arms and threw his arms round my neck, pressing his warm little cheek against mine and whispered in my ear. “I don’t want to go, Daddy.” I wrapped him in my arms and clasped him so close I wanted him to melt into me so we couldn’t be parted.

“I know, Soldier, but it won’t be for long and you’re a lucky thing getting extra holiday in the country. Wish I was coming.” He could never know how much I meant that. “And you have to look after Alice, too, ’cause you know what she’s like, she won’t want to go either.”

Alice could not have heard the exchange, but she sensed the moment and came running from the sink and crashed into my legs, trying her best to join her hands round my waist and bury her face into my belly. I could feel her shoulders heaving with her sobs and, clutching my son in one arm, I reached down and clasped the back of her head and pressed her closer still. Without looking, my eyes were so tightly shut they hurt, I could see in my mind’s eye her soft, golden hair, tumbling in bubbling curls half-way down her back.

When I dared open my eyes, I found myself instinctively looking straight into Mary’s. She made no sound as tears slid down each side of her face.

“Right, you silly lot. This won’t do. We’ve got tea to eat and lots of getting ready for your adventure. You gotta choose the things you want to take, then everything’s got to be packed, Mummy’s got labels to write. And I…well I’ve got things to do, too.”

“What have you got to do, Daddy?” It was Alice who managed to join me in breaking the moment.

“Now that’s for me to know and you to find out. But you won’t be finding out till tomorrow.”

“Oh Daddy, that’s not fair. That’s teasing and you say we shouldn’t tease.” Micky had eased his cheek from mine and was looking straight at me.

“Yeah, but I’m a grown up and I’m allowed.”

As I lowered Micky to the floor again, I kissed the top of Alice’s head and inhaled as deeply as I could. I needed to lock in the smell of them both. We took our usual places at the table, Mary nearest the stove to fetch and carry, the children either side and opposite each other, and me at the end opposite Mary. It had never been decided that this is how it would be, it just happened. It was a bit like the colour of eyes, or the size of feet being handed down, inherited. It was just the way we did it and it felt right and comfortable. It was the shape of our perfect little family.

Tea was eaten more quietly than usual: the questions the children must have had I suspect could not be asked. They were too big, too difficult to voice because then they would become real issues instead of potential ones. Neither Mary nor I could guess their thoughts for certain and feared we might sow a seed of fear they might not have had if we were to explore the possibilities with them. So, we sat in a cloud of denial. Not lying to each other by saying but doing so by not.

Micky looked the most lost in his thoughts. It wasn’t right that such big things had to be considered by one so small. I daren’t even try to put myself in his place, wonder what I would have felt like at six years old, leaving my Mum and Dad to go off to who knew where, to live with who knew who, for who knew how long. One thought poked itself into my head but, as the possibility of never seeing my little ones again flitted across my thoughts, Micky spoke and a shutter seemingly came down and ‘what ifs’ returned to ‘what now?’

“Can I take Bunners?”

In all the magnitude of the situation, in a mountain of potential consequences, Micky’s troubled, almost tearful fear that he might be separated from his beloved, stuffed and threadbare rabbit broke the silence at last. And I laughed. It was so absurd, so incongruous and had I not laughed I would most certainly have cried.

Author Bio:

Keith Stuart (Wadsworth) taught English for 36 years in Hertfordshire schools, the county in which he was born and has lived most of his life. Married with two sons, sport, music and, especially when he retired after sixteen years as a headteacher, travel, have been his passions. Apart from his own reading, reading and guiding students in their writing; composing assemblies; writing reports, discussion and analysis papers, left him with a declared intention to write a book. Pied Piper is ‘it’. Starting life as a warm-up exercise at the Creative Writing Class he joined in Letchworth, it grew into this debut novel.

[Blog Tour] 'Pied Piper' By Keith Stuart #HistoricalFiction #WW2
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19 April 2021

[Blog Tour] 'Two Fatherlands' (A Reschen Valley Novel Part 4) By Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger #HistoricalFiction #WW2

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[Blog Tour] 'Two Fatherlands' (A Reschen Valley Novel Part 4) By Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger  #HistoricalFiction #WW2
'Two Fatherlands' - Tour banner

The Book:

Two Fatherlands
(A Reschen Valley Novel Part 4)
By Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger
  • Publication Date: April 13, 2021
  • Publisher: Inktreks/Lucyk-Berger
  • Page Length: 636 Pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction (WW2)

The Blurb:

It's a dangerous time to be a dissident...

1938. Northern Italy. Since saving Angelo Grimani's life 18 years earlier, Katharina is grappling with how their lives have since been entwined. Construction on the Reschen Lake reservoir begins and the Reschen Valley community is torn apart into two fronts - those who want to stay no matter what comes, and those who hold out hope that Hitler will bring Tyrol back into the fold.

Back in Bolzano, Angelo finds one fascist politician who may have the power to help Katharina and her community, but there is a group of corrupt players eager to have a piece of him. When they realise that Angelo and Katharina are joining forces, they turn to a strategy of conquering and dividing to weaken both the community and Angelo's efforts.

Meanwhile, the daughter Angelo shares with Katharina - Annamarie - has fled to Austria to pursue her acting career but the past she is running away from lands her directly into the arms of a new adversary: the Nazis. She goes as far as Berlin, and as far as Goebbels, to pursue her dreams, only to realise that Germany is darker than any place she's been before.

Angelo puts aside his prejudices and seeks alliances with old enemies; Katharina finds ingenious ways to preserve what is left of her community, and Annamarie wrests herself from the black forces of Nazism with plans to return home. But when Hitler and Mussolini present the Tyroleans with “The Option”, the residents are forced to choose between Italian and German nationhood with no guarantee that they will be able to stay in Tyrol at all!

Out of the ruins of war, will they be able to find their way back to one another and pick up the pieces?

This blockbuster finale will keep readers glued to the pages. Early readers are calling it, "...engrossing", "...enlightening" and "...both a heartbreaking and uplifting end to this incredible series!"

Buy Links:

Universal Link ✔ Barnes and Noble ✔ Indigo  ✔ Kobo  ✔
iBooks ✔ Mondadori ✔ Angus & Robertson  ✔


[Blog Tour] 'Two Fatherlands' (A Reschen Valley Novel Part 4) By Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger  #HistoricalFiction #WW2
'Two Fatherlands' - Cover

'Two Fatherlands' - Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Graun, April 1938

Katharina was fixing the wiring on the chicken coop when she heard the gunfire. From below the ridge, surprised shrieks, like panicked birds startled from the brush. A second shot. Silence.

By the time she came around to the front of the house, Manuel appeared at the top of the road, furiously pushing the bicycle pedals. Even from a distance, she saw the way her youngest son’s face was pulled tight with sorrow. Bernd and he had been racing up and down the farm road, cheering one another on as they took turns with the bicycle. It had been a scene of peace and unity, of a normalcy so distant these last months that it nearly made everything all right again. Surely, Katharina thought, that squealing had simply come from something Florian had not properly oiled. Manuel was probably distressed because he thought he might have broken the old contraption.

Before he reached the barnyard, Manuel jumped off and dropped the bicycle to the ground—exactly what his father had told him not to do—before throwing himself on Katharina.

Mutti! They shot Hildi!”

“Who did?” But before Manuel could name the Italian police guards, Katharina was already running for the ridge.

Behind her, a tool clattered in the workshop, where Florian was mending the pushcart wheel, but she did not stop to see whether her husband was on her heels. She had to reach the carabinieri before they hurt anyone else.

At last sight, Katharina had seen Hildi’s black-and-white tail swinging wildly in circles as she had chased after Bernd on the bicycle. Hildi—God knew how much Bernd loved that dog—had kept up with him, but not because she’d been on a lead. Bernd must have removed it.

When she reached the scene, a policeman was fastening handcuffs onto Bernd. Her son’s head drooped over his heaving chest. Katharina rushed at the two policemen, intent on pulling her son out of their grips, but at the sight of the prostrate dog in the field, she pulled up short and covered her mouth.

Sentite, ├Ę davvero necessario?” she demanded. Was this necessary?

Florian now pushed towards the carabinieri, hands up. “Vi prego, he’s upset about the dog.”

“Yes,” Katharina reasoned with the smaller policeman, “you’ve shot his dog. Naturally he’s upset.”

With a crushed expression, Bernd looked down at Hildi, then up at Katharina. He wrenched himself from the policemen’s hold. There were always two of them: one to read and one to write—that was the joke. By the way they gripped Katharina’s son again and shook him into stillness, however, these two made it clear they were not joking.

“He came after us,” the shorter one replied, indignant. “He’s not allowed to strike at the police.” To Bernd, he added, “You know that. This is not the first time you’ve crossed the line of the law.”

Katharina started again, as did Florian, the two of them talking over each other.

“Don’t you dare beg them,” Bernd growled in German. Behind those eyes—so much like his great-grandfather’s had been—anger flared dark blue.

The policemen swung Bernd to the road and marched him towards town.

Katharina rushed for her boy, but Florian pulled her back. She twisted out of her husband’s grip, his interference making it all the more urgent that she fight harder. She grabbed the first policeman by the arm and pleaded again for Bernd’s release.

“Please! Fine us. The dog should have been on a lead, I know. We’ll pay whatever you want. Just don’t take my son to Captain Basso.”

The man’s expression wavered. “Signora Steinhauser, my mother is a lioness too. I’ll tell you what I tell her: you cannot fix everything for your children. Bernd is old enough to take responsibility for his actions, for his life.”

Katharina glared at him.

“Take the dog,” the presumptuous policeman said. “Bury it. Then come to the station and pick up your son. But only after he has learned his lesson.”

Florian came to her side and muttered something, but she wasn’t listening. She watched the two carabinieri stride off with her son still defiant between them. Florian then marched back up the road and to the farm.

Katharina followed her husband, Manuel, at her side. Only a few weeks ago, the authorities had fetched Florian in the middle of the night. He’d undergone questioning—questioning that had chilled Katharina. Captain Basso had made it clear that the authorities had information about the family, information that Katharina and Florian had carefully kept from the boys. Florian said Basso had seemed disappointed, angry even, that Florian had not reacted more surprised or vehement about Basso’s knowledge. Katharina could easily imagine the police captain would break open the truth to Bernd.

By the time she reached the top of the road, Florian had disappeared into the workshop. He returned with his hat.

“I’ll take care of this,” he said.

“I’m coming with you.”

He put a hand against her shoulder before she could move into the house. “Stay here.” He indicated the ridge. “You and Manuel should bury Hildi. I’ll come back with Bernd.”

“I want to go with you.”

“You offered to pay a fine. I’m going to need the emergency money.”

It wasn’t just Hildi running around without a lead. Accosting a carabinieri was a serious matter. Bernd could be sent to prison, as far as to Bolzano, unless they could pay. Katharina knew Vincenzo Basso well enough to know they could never pay enough to keep him quiet. He’d had his reasons for testing Florian. Divide et impera. Divide and conquer. That was Basso’s tactic. His and the other Fascists’.

“I’ll get the tin.” Katharina went into the house.

Above the stove, tucked away in the alcove, was the container of matches and the extra lire they’d saved for a rainy day. Florian would also need Bernd’s papers. She took the tin into the sitting room with her and pulled open the drawer of the writing credenza, removed the envelope with all their documents, and found Bernd’s. Before she put the envelope back, she noticed the edge of a picture frame sticking out from between old letters and newspaper clippings. Puzzled, she reached for it and then remembered. She dropped her hand.

That frame was empty now. It had once held the photo of Annamarie dressed in her blue-gingham smock and a white blouse. Katharina recalled the beginning of her daughter’s smile, the reason for it. Manuel and Bernd had dashed out, dressed up in capes and silly hats, swinging wooden swords and trying to get their older sister to laugh over made-up rhymes. Beyond that moment—beyond that photo—Katharina remembered her daughter’s eyes yearning for something far away, remembered how that child loved to run, bounding through the fields, abandoning her chores. How many times had that girl scorched the milk? She remembered her daughter’s crushed expression, the shame on Annamarie’s face, the day she’d returned from Bolzano, hoping for forgiveness. Instead, it was Katharina who had begged to be forgiven, and denied it.

Annamarie. She was in Innsbruck, across the border now, leaving Katharina and Florian to wrestle with the past, with the lies that had compounded over the years and that Annamarie had learned about in the most heartbreaking revelation.

The frame was empty, the photo in Angelo Grimani’s possession. Katharina had pleaded with him to search for their daughter, to be more than a politician and to finally take responsibility. He’d returned empty handed, remorseful, and far too late.

She stuffed the envelope into the drawer and slammed it shut, angry now. At the carabinieri. At Bernd. At the dog. At Florian for refurbishing the cursed bicycle. At herself, most of all, for all that she had managed to undo in the last year.
[Blog Tour] 'Two Fatherlands' (A Reschen Valley Novel Part 4) By Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger  #HistoricalFiction #WW2
Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger

Author Bio:

Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger is an American author living in Austria. Her focus is on historical fiction. She has been a managing editor for a magazine publishing house, has worked as an editor, and has won several awards for her travel narrative, flash fiction and short stories. She lives with her husband in a “Grizzly Adams” hut in the Alps, just as she’d always dreamt she would when she was a child.

Connect with Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger:

WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn • 
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[Blog Tour] 'Two Fatherlands' (A Reschen Valley Novel Part 4) By Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger  #HistoricalFiction #WW2
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12 April 2021

[Blog Tour] 'Songbird' (The Tudor Court, Book I) By Karen Heenan #HistoricalFiction

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[Blog Tour] 'Songbird' (The Tudor Court, Book I) By Karen Heenan #HistoricalFiction
'Songbird' - Tour Banner

The Book:

Songbird
(The Tudor Court, Book I)
By Karen Heenan
  • Narrator: Jennifer Summerfield
  • Publication Date: November 3, 2019
  • Publisher: Authors4Authors Publishing Cooperative
  • Page Length: 300 pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

The Blurb:

She has the voice of an angel...

But one false note could send her back to her old life of poverty.

After her father sells her to Henry VIII, ten-year-old Bess builds a new life as a royal minstrel, and earns the nickname "the king's songbird."

She comes of age in the dangerous Tudor court, where the stakes are always high, and where politics, heartbreak, and disease threaten everyone from the king to the lowliest musician.

Her world has only one constant: Tom, her first and dearest friend. But when Bess intrigues with Anne Boleyn and strains against the restrictions of life at court, will she discover that the biggest risk of all is listening to her own stubborn heart?

Buy Links: 

Audio Buy Links: 

Narrated by Jennifer Summerfield
[Blog Tour] 'Songbird' (The Tudor Court, Book I) By Karen Heenan #HistoricalFiction
'Songbird' - Front Cover

'Songbird' (The Tudor Court, Book I) - Excerpt:

Setup: Spring, 1517. Bess Llewelyn, sold to the king by her father, has been with the court for several months. She has undergone intensive training and is about to sing for the king and court for the first time. Her future rests on the success of her performance.

***

The still morning air was shattered by the winding of the horn as the hunt thundered from the stables. The sky was pink-tinged, the grass soaked with dew.

I watched as the horses streamed up the slope of Shooter’s Hill, the gaily dressed riders looking like figures from a tapestry. Despite their pace, the attitude was leisurely; everyone knew there would be no real sport. King Henry was at the head of the field, splendid in Lincoln green velvet, a jaunty plume in his cap. He kept a close hand on the reins of his black horse as it twitched and bounded with contagious excitement. I clapped my hands when he stood in the stirrups and let the horse have its head and prance along. After everyone had admired his prowess, the king pulled his mount back to ride alongside the queen’s well-mannered gray mare.

The murmur of voices behind me ebbed and flowed like the Thames, but I was all impatience like the king’s horse and turned from the window. “Mistress, are we leaving?”

“Does it appear that we’re moving, Bess?” came the reply from across the chamber. “Don’t fuss. You’ll spoil your gown.”

Mistress Keith, rounded and glowing like an apple, placed a circlet of leaves and gillyflowers on my head. “You’re lovely,” she said with a pat of approval. “You look like a young lady in that gown.”

I thrilled to her words, for hadn’t I thought the same? I didn’t often care how I looked, but this gown was beautiful, and I felt more tolerant than usual of the girlish chatter of slippers and sleeves. The heady scent of the wreath made me sneeze, and I did so stiffly, careful not to disturb the ornaments sewn to my willow-green bodice and skirt.

The performers left in a series of carts, traveling along the worn roundabout path. We arrived ahead of the hunting party and were hidden away when we heard the horn. Henry Guildford, dressed as Robin Hood, shouted a challenge to the royal party to join his merry men.

I experienced a moment of disbelief that I should be a part of such a world and felt in my stomach a fluttering much like the wings of the captive birds netted for the occasion. I prayed I would not disgrace myself when the time came.

Soft music filtered through the trees as the king and queen were led to the dais inside the vast silken tent. I stayed hidden behind my tent-flap, dreamily watching the grand spectacle, wishing it was what the king pretended it to be: an innocent hunting-party overtaken by robbers and whisked into the forest.

The outlaws served the party with course after course of sumptuous fare carried apace from the palace kitchens. I lost count of the number of peacocks, cooked and reunited with their feathers, their beaks and claws turned to gold. There were courses of fish and fowl, lark, and pheasant, and a special dish of stewed lampreys, the king’s favorite. There was much wine and laughter, until I thought the performances forgotten, but at last, Guildford rose and bowed before the king.

“Your Grace, if a poor man may make so bold as to attempt to please his sovereign, I would offer you a little entertainment.” He flung his arms wide, and three musicians entered. Harry and Gilbert looked well in their outlaw garb, but I was most proud of Tom, who was tall and fine in green hose and a leather jerkin over a soft white linen shirt.

Their music was gay and light and rang out marvelously in the enclosure. I judged no one need strain to hear and would pitch my own voice accordingly. When the trio began the last of their songs, joined this time by a group of girls in white flower-bedecked dresses, I readied myself for my entrance.

The king shouted his approval, and Gilbert and Harry bowed their way out of the tent, while Guildford took the stage again, his handsome, fleshy face smiling at the success of the entertainment thus far. “I would offer another treat for His Majesty,” he said. “A small sprite, found in the wood. Fairies, as Your Grace knows, cannot be tamed, but this one has consented to sing for us.”

Someone pushed me forward, and in small, springing steps, I joined Tom before the king and queen, dropping into the low curtsy that was now second nature. Master Fayrefax’s tune emerged from lips and lute as perfectly as it had sounded in the composer’s mind when he wrote the piece. I knew it without vanity, knew it as well as I knew Tom’s songs were better.

There was silence as we performed, and when we finished, King Henry broke into hearty applause. Tom put his hand on my shoulder, and we made our bow together, then retreated to let the next performers come forward. Before we ducked out of the tent, I heard the king say, “Methinks I have heard that sprite before. She sings exceeding well.”

I threw my arms around Tom. “He liked it!”

“Of course, he did.” Laughing, he pulled me loose and set me down on a felled tree, gently, for fear of my gown. “You’ve an angel in your throat, Bess, and King Henry is too much a musician not to know it.”

I leaned back and looked up at the sky, seeing it only as chinks of bright blue through the thick trees. “I would not sing so well were anyone else to play for me.”

“Silly child,” he said, kneeling and brushing grass from my skirt. “I can’t play for you forever, Bess. They won’t allow it. You must learn to stand on your own.”

[Blog Tour] 'Songbird' (The Tudor Court, Book I) By Karen Heenan #HistoricalFiction
Karen Heenan

Author Bio:

Karen Heenan was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. She fell in love with books and stories before she could read, and has wanted to write for nearly as long. After far too many years in a cubicle, she set herself free to follow her dreams—which include gardening, sewing, traveling and, of course, lots of writing.

She lives in Lansdowne, PA, not far from Philadelphia, with two cats and a very patient husband, and is always hard at work on her next book.

Connect with Karen:

[Blog Tour] 'Songbird' (The Tudor Court, Book I) By Karen Heenan #HistoricalFiction
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7 April 2021

[Blog Tour] 'A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years' (Book one of The Henrician Chronicle) By Judith Arnopp #HistoricalFiction

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[Blog Tour] 'A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years' (Book one of The Henrician Chronicle) By Judith Arnopp #HistoricalFiction
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The Book:

A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years
(Book one of The Henrician Chronicle)
By Judith Arnopp
  • Publication Date: February 2021
  • Publisher: Feed a Read
  • Page Length: 335 pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
[Blog Tour] 'A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years' (Book one of The Henrician Chronicle) By Judith Arnopp #HistoricalFiction

The Blurb:

‘A king must have sons: strong, healthy sons to rule after him.’

On the unexpected death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, his brother, Henry, becomes heir to the throne of England. The intensive education that follows offers Henry a model for future excellence; a model that he is doomed to fail.

On his accession, he chooses his brother’s widow, Catalina of Aragon, to be his queen. Together they plan to reinstate the glory of days of old and fill the royal nursery with boys.

But when their first-born son dies at just a few months old, and subsequent babies are born dead or perish in the womb, the king’s golden dreams are tarnished.

Christendom mocks the virile prince. Catalina’s fertile years are ending yet all he has is one useless living daughter, and a baseborn son.

He needs a solution but stubborn to the end, Catalina refuses to step aside.

As their relationship founders, his eye is caught by a woman newly arrived from the French court. Her name is Anne Boleyn.

A Matter of Conscience: the Aragon Years offers a unique first-person account of the ‘monster’ we love to hate and reveals a man on the edge; an amiable man made dangerous by his own impossible expectation

[Blog Tour] 'A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years' (Book one of The Henrician Chronicle) By Judith Arnopp #HistoricalFiction
 'A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years' - Front cover

'A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years' - Excerpt:

1527 – Henry’s courtship of Anne Boleyn gathers pace

We are in the garden when she accidentally dislodges her hood. I pick it up, but before offering it back to her, I reach out for a glossy, dark strand that is not as dark as I first thought. She stands, stock still beneath my touch and does not move when I untie her coif and bare her head.

“Beautiful,” I breathe, running my hands over her hair, barely touching yet making her hair crackle and rise magically to meet my palm. It is not raven black nor merely brunette but a mixture of shades: enlivened highlights of red and gold.

“George says it looks Rusty,” she says, in her dismissive way.

“No, he is wrong. Shall I have him thrown in the tower, just to please you?”

When she laughs, she throws back her head, and my greedy eyes fasten on her throat, so long and white. I want to kiss her Adam’s apple, nibble the softness between neck and shoulder, inhale her fragrance, and tangle my fingers in her hair.

Instead, I chastely kiss her knuckles, clutch her hand close to my heart.

“Mistress Anne, would you …”

She withdraws her hand and places it on my chest as if it is a defensive rampart keeping me from her.

“Sire, please … do not ask it of me. I can never be your mistress.”

I blink in surprise. “It – it is usually considered an honour.”

“I know, I know it is, Your Majesty, a great honour and I love you above all others but I – I have a dream of marriage, children, a house in the country. I would marry for love.”

“Surely you are not still pining for Percy.”

The name issues in a sneer, as if he is some peddling player and not the son of the most powerful magnate in the north. She shakes her head with a pained expression.

“No, no. I am quite recovered from that but …I still harbour hopes of a loving marriage.”

Silence falls. I wonder if he had her. Shortly after she arrived from France her name was linked with Northumberland’s son but Wolsey, who had other plans for Anne, put paid to that as I later put paid to his plans for her marriage with Ormonde.

I watch her pluck a leaf from the hedge and begin to shred it with her nails. I had not expected a refusal, even from her. Nobody ever denies me. I frown, clear my throat, to explain it further.

“As my official mistress, you’d be the highest lady at court, bar the queen.”

“I’d be a whore, Your Majesty. A royal whore but a whore nevertheless.”

She spins away, repeating the word over and over as if to offend me but surely …even Anne would not go so far as to purposely goad me.

I am never sure what she will say or do next; perhaps that unpredictability is her charm. I follow her along the path.

“Not a whore, a royal companion, a helpmeet. Think of the good you could do, the people you could help, the scholars you could encourage…”

She halts, turns back.

“What do you mean? Scholars?”

She thinks I know nothing of her Lutheran leanings but there is little that escapes me in this court. My spies are everywhere, and I have discovered there are already many who resent Anne for her radical ideas.

“I know you are curious about the new learning. You could meet some of the best scholars in Europe face to face. Tindale is here in England now, you know.”

She frowns, shakes her head.

“But that would be against the law … your law!”

“I know.” I snatch up her hand again. “I’d be prepared to turn a blind eye if you were to become my mistress.”

I should not have to stoop so low. In truth, I do not mean it. It is a snare to know her price, to test if she can be bought.

I kiss her fingers, one by one, my ardour increasing each time my lips meet her flesh.

“The queen would never let that happen,” she says, and she is right. Kate detests the new learning; Heresy, she calls it and for once we are in agreement.

“The queen,” I lie softly. “Does as she is told.”

Anne’s laughter is high and mocking.

“She’d never meekly accept an official mistress endorsing the new religion, Your Majesty. Every one of her ladies that have ended up in your bed have ceased to enjoy the queen’s favour. I have no doubt that no sooner had you bedded me, I’d find myself sent back to Hever in disgrace.”

“But Anne …”

I follow her along the path, back toward the hall. At the door we encounter Brandon and my sister, arm in arm, about to take the air. They halt, bow their heads.

“Your Majesty. A lovely day,” Brandon says, while I kiss my sister.

“You know this lady, Mistress Anne Boleyn?” I open my arm to draw her forward and while Brandon bows stiffly over her hand, Mary sniffs and looks the other way.

“Yes,” she says, as if I am introducing her to a snake. “I have had that pleasure. A fine day.”

[Blog Tour] 'A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years' (Book one of The Henrician Chronicle) By Judith Arnopp #HistoricalFiction
Judith Arnopp

Author Bio:

A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith Arnopp holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies.

She lives on the coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women but more recently is writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself.

Her novels include:
  • A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years
  • The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England
  • Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace
  • The Beaufort Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle
  • The Beaufort Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle
  • The King’s Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle
  • The Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII
  • A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York
  • Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr
  • The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
  • The Song of Heledd
  • The Forest Dwellers
  • Peaceweaver
Judith is also a founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of Cambria and makes historical garments both for the group and others. She is not professionally trained but through trial, error and determination has learned how to make authentic looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

[Blog Tour] 'A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years' (Book one of The Henrician Chronicle) By Judith Arnopp #HistoricalFiction
'A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years' - Tour schedule

29 March 2021

[Blog Tour] ‘The Colour of Evil’ (The Ninth Sebastian Foxley Medieval Murder Mystery) By Toni Mount #HistoricalFiction

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[Blog Tour] ‘The Colour of Evil’ (The Ninth Sebastian Foxley Medieval Murder Mystery) By Toni Mount #HistoricalFiction
The Colour of Evil’ - Tour Banner

The Book:

The Colour of Evil
By Toni Mount
  • Series: The Sebastian Foxley Medieval Murder Mysteries
  • Publication Date: 25 March 2021
  • Publisher: Madeglobal.com
  • Page Length: 334 Pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery

The Blurb:

‘The Colour of Evil’

Every Londoner has money worries, and talented artist and some-time sleuth, Seb Foxley, is no exception.

When fellow craftsmen with debts to pay are found dead in the most horrid circumstances, fears escalate. Only Seb can solve the puzzles that baffle the authorities.

Seb’s wayward elder brother, Jude, returns unannounced from Italy with a child-bride upon his arm. Shock turns to dismay when life becomes more complicated and troubles multiply.

From counterfeit coins to deadly darkness in London's worst corners. From mysterious thefts to attacks of murderous intent, Seb finds himself embroiled at every turn. With a royal commission to fulfil and heartache to resolve, can our hero win through against the odds?

Share Seb Foxley’s latest adventures in the filthy streets of medieval London, join in the Midsummer festivities and meet his fellow citizens, both the respectable and the villainous.

[Blog Tour] ‘The Colour of Evil’ (The Ninth Sebastian Foxley Medieval Murder Mystery) By Toni Mount #HistoricalFiction
‘The Colour of Evil’ - Cover

Praise for Colour of Evil:

Samantha Willcoxson, author & historian:
Toni Mount is simply brilliant. If you love CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake – and I do – you will love Toni’s Sebastian Foxley. From learning how a 15th century scrivener created illuminated manuscripts to venturing within the dank tunnels beneath the Tower of London, Toni is an artist who completely immerses the reader in another time and place and always leaves one eager for the next book.”
Stephanie Churchill, author of historical fiction and epic fantasy:
Leave it to Seb to unravel another international spiderweb of intrigue, betrayal, murder, and deceit. Our flawed, loveable hero has done it again. And at the end of it all, his future is looking brighter than ever. I cannot wait to find out what happens to him next!
Sharon Bennet Connoly, author and medieval historian:
A beautifully crafted mystery that brings the dark, dangerous streets of medieval London to life. Toni Mount is a magician with words, weaving a captivating story in wonderful prose. The Colour of Evil is, to put it simply, a pleasure to read.
Kathryn Warner, medieval historian and author of numerous books about the fourteenth century, including biographies of Edward II and Isabella of France:
The ninth instalment of Toni Mount's popular Seb Foxley series is sure to delight Seb's many fans. Mount puts her deep knowledge of late medieval England to good use once again, and takes us on another exciting adventure, this time with Seb's older brother Jude, returned from Italy, in tow. Mount's detailed world-building, as always, brings fifteenth-century London to life.”

Buy Links:

‘The Colour of Evil’ - Excerpt:

The Prologue (pp. 1-4)

If ever there was a hell-on-earth, this was it, in the city’s very heart.

In the rats’ nest of alleyways south of Tower Street, Furnace Court was more noisome than most. Sunlight never dared trespass among the soot-encrusted walls, nor tip-toed into the confines where fire burned, smoke choked and the din of metal on metal rang out, assaulting the ears. Yet a man made his livelihood here. Bare-armed and brawny, smut-covered, the smith toiled at his anvil in the near darkness, working by the flickering light of the devil’s flames. Sweating, he hammered and quenched, re-heated and shaped, forcing his will upon the metals at his mercy. No iron could resist his power.

But such heavy labours were not his sole employment. Elsewhere, in the secret darkness beneath the streets, he had a second, smaller furnace. A more lucrative trade was to be had here, furtive and treasonous, undermining the prosperity of a kingdom. Hamo cared not a jot. In supposed-silver coins, struck with a die stolen from the nearby Tower Mint, there was money to be made – literally.

As the instigator, the greedy genius behind this crime, spread more of the gleaming, underweight groats and pennies throughout the city, strangers began to notice. Such coins undermined their livelihood and must be traced back to the source.

Thus it was that two men, speaking English with a foreign sound, came to a shop, just as the owner was closing the shutters at day’s end, demanding to be told the origin of the coins at fault. When no answer was forthcoming, the pair resorted to torture: a thousand small cuts, none fatal, but each draining the victim’s strength a little more. Every time they paused, removing the rag from the victim’s mouth, they repeated the question:

‘Who makes these coins?’

The victim did not know the answer. He had but borrowed them to pay what he owed. Exchanging a debt to one for a debt to another.

The cuts continued until the strangers were certain the victim spoke true by which time only death awaited but they would not deliver the fatal cut. Time would do that. But it was necessary that a clear message be left. And it could not be spoken by the victim. For fear he might name them, they split his tongue in twain – to warn the devious serpent lurking behind the counterfeiting business that they would hunt him down. Then, to show how much they knew of it, they covered the victim’s right hand – the guilty hand that passed the fake coins – in shiny pigment, brought for the purpose. And to end the message: that there was no escaping their retribution, they nailed the dying victim’s hand to his workbench and left a bag of the false money behind.

The new-minted coins, used to pay debts to the strangers, shone even brighter than silver: the colour of evil.

**

Friday, the eleventh day of June in the year of Our Lord 1479

The Foxley House in Paternoster Row in the City of London

I returned home with my purchases of quills and ink, Gawain at my heel. I could have asked Kate or Nessie to buy them, although, in truth, such items were not needed in the workshop. The errand was simply a means of escape. I entered the kitchen but the sense of something – someone – missing assailed me, like an icy hand clutching my heart, as it always did these days.

Rose sat stitching a pair of gloves of lavender-dyed kid leather, her work so delicate, the stitches were nigh invisible. Little Dickon was at her feet, playing some unknown game with a bunch of straws and a few twigs. Nessie stood at the board chopping fresh sage from the garden, the kitchen filled with its earthy scent. ’Twas a scene of domestic tranquillity, yet utterly amiss.

My Emily was not there.

I could not get used to the lack – a black hole in my soul that I feared naught would ever fill entirely.

I lifted Dickon from the floor. He laughed, showing off his few perfect white teeth.

‘Does my little man fare well?’ I asked him. A string of dribble down my jerkin was the answer to my query.

‘He does very well,’ Rose said. ‘Dickon, show your Papa how you can play at peep-boo.’

The child put his fists over his eyes then took them away of a sudden, shrieking with delight. I took up a table napkin to assist his game, covering my face with it. He pulled it aside, shouting ‘Boo!’ It was a merry jest indeed and one he seemed unlikely to tire of in the near future. I had work to do but what of that? Merriment was hard to come by of late. Thus, I would play with my son a while. He would attain the first commemoration of his birth date in the week to come: the first significant day in his life thus far. I prayed daily that he would see many, many more, as so many infants do not.

‘Mercy is coming to dinner,’ Rose said, ‘That you may see Julia.’

I nodded.

Julia was my daughter, born two months since upon that most sorrowful of days. The widow, Mercy Hutchinson, was the infant’s wet nurse but having three sons of her own, including Edmund who was a little older than Julia, she had taken the new babe to live with her in Distaff Lane, until she was weaned. Mercy’s other children were Simon, a scholar at St Paul’s School, and that scamp Nicholas – a toddling who was trouble upon two legs. I remained uncertain of the wisdom of having Nicholas visit too often, fearing Dickon might copy the elder child’s bad habits – biting people being his most recent undesirable trait. But Mercy and my kinsman Adam were betrothed, so I had to make the best of it: Nicholas would one day become a member of the family.

Neither was I able to determine for certain quite how I felt about Julia. Born too soon, she was the cause of my beloved Emily’s death. Yet she was an innocent.

[Blog Tour] ‘The Colour of Evil’ (The Ninth Sebastian Foxley Medieval Murder Mystery) By Toni Mount #HistoricalFiction
Toni Mount

Author Bio:

Toni Mount earned her Master’s Degree by completing original research into a unique 15th-century medical manuscript. She is the author of several successful non-fiction books including the number one bestseller, Everyday Life in Medieval England, which reflects her detailed knowledge in the lives of ordinary people in the Middle Ages. Toni’s enthusiastic understanding of the period allows her to create accurate, atmospheric settings and realistic characters for her Sebastian Foxley medieval murder mysteries. Toni’s first career was as a scientist and this brings an extra dimension to her novels. It also led to her new biography of Sir Isaac Newton. She writes regularly for both The Richard III Society and The Tudor Society and is a major contributor of online courses to MedievalCourses.com. As well as writing, Toni teaches history to adults, coordinates a creative writing group and is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association.

Connect with Toni Mount:

[Blog Tour] ‘The Colour of Evil’ (The Ninth Sebastian Foxley Medieval Murder Mystery) By Toni Mount #HistoricalFiction
‘The Colour of Evil’ - Tour Schedule

22 March 2021

[Blog Tour] 'Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival' (The Ropewalk Series, Book 1) By H D Coulter #HistoricalFiction

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[Blog Tour] 'Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival'  (The Ropewalk Series, Book 1)  By H D Coulter #HistoricalFiction
'Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival' - Blog Tour Banner

The Book:

Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival
(The Ropewalk Series, Book 1)
By H D Coulter
  • Publication Date: 23rd November 2020
  • Publisher: Independently Published
  • Page Length: 243 Pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

The Blurb:

The North of England, 1831.

The working class are gathering. Rebellion is stirring, and the people are divided.

Beatrice Lightfoot, a young woman fighting her own personal rebellion, is looking for an opportunity to change her luck. When she gains the attention of the enigmatic Captain Hanley, he offers her a tantalising deal to attend the May Day dance. She accepts, unaware of the true price of her own free will.

Her subsequent entanglement with Joshua Mason, the son of a local merchant, draws all three into a destructive and dangerous relationship, which threatens to drag Beatrice, and all she knows into darkness.

Now, Beatrice must choose between rebellion, love and survival before all is lost, and the Northern uprising changes her world forever.
Buy Links: 
Amazon UK ✔ Amazon US ✔ Universal Link to other bookshops ✔

  • 'Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival.' can be bought for only 0.99 during the tour and signed copies of the paperbacks are also available on the author’s website 
[Blog Tour] 'Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival'  (The Ropewalk Series, Book 1)  By H D Coulter #HistoricalFiction
'Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival' - Book Front Cover

'Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival.' Excerpt:

Chapter 4

Bent over the old wooden table, Bea sprinkled out a second dusting of flour before pulling and stretching the stringy wholemeal dough to make the bread for the evening meal. The house was quiet; her brothers were out working with her Da, and her eldest sister Beth was a housemaid over on Southergate. Holly and Rowan sat playing with their wooden toys by the fire as Bea placed the dough in a bowl in front of the grate, covered it with a cloth and allowed it to prove. She made a start on the rabbit stew with the animal she caught yesterday in one of her Da's traps. She peeled the potatoes and chopped the cabbages she had dug out of the small vegetable patch earlier that morning, finishing with a handful of the dried thyme and rosemary which hung in bunches over the hearth, throwing them in to the pot.

With the stew bubbling away above the fire, Bea placed the bread in the small oven inset to the right of the grate. The front door rattled open, abruptly disturbing the peace, as Mrs Lightfoot strutted into the seat in front of the fire.

"Come on girls, move out the way." She kept nudging them until she could sit down. They looked up at Bea, who gestured with her eyes for them to play at the other end of the table.

"How is Mrs Dent faring?" Bea asked politely. Mrs Dent had a nasty turn at the same time every morning, roughly about the time Mr Lightfoot left for work.

"Oh, she is just fine now," her mother remarked with no interest.

"How's dinner comin' by? Anythin' else you need to do? Your father and brothers will be home soon."

Bea continued in silence, turning her back on her Mam and smiling towards the girls. This seemed to vex her Mam once more. She raised her voice a notch higher.

"Your Father can't be expected to always. . ."

A knock echoed across the room, putting a stop to her complaint. Bea let out the breath she had been holding in. Like a Greek player with two masks, Mrs Lightfoot quickly substituted her frown for a large smile. She stood up and smoothed down her dress, rushing hastily to the door.

"Good day, Captain Hanley! Please, come in!"

Without thinking, Bea ducked down and hid by the girls behind the kitchen table. She couldn't imagine what he had come for; it had been a week since their last encounter and the awkwardness she had felt then suddenly came flooding back.

"Good day, Mrs Lightfoot, forgive the intrusion," he greeted her as he stepped into the room, scanning his surroundings quickly.

"Tea?" Her Mam grabbed a grimy tin from the top shelf of the dresser and dusted off the small china teapot given to her as a wedding gift. She hovered over the precious leaves, counting out each spoonful.

"Please." He took off his hat and placed it on the table alongside a large paper parcel.

"If you don't mind me being so bold, Captain Hanley, what do you have there?" She offered the Captain a beaming smile, attempting to convince him it was meant for her. With relief, Bea realised, her Mam had no intention of making her presence known.

"Is Miss Beatrice around?" he enquired, ignoring Mrs Lightfoot’s question.

Mrs Lightfoot paused. So did Bea, mid-breath. Holly looked down at her sister with a delighted smile and bellowed, "Here, Bea is HERE!" She covered her mouth for a second, and then descended into a fit of giggles. Bea's cheeks became hot, feeling like a child herself, caught hiding with the young ones. Rowan joined in with Holly's laughter. Bea stood up slowly, keeping her eyes low.

"Good day Miss Beatrice, I have brought you a little something, which I hope you will like.” Hanley smiled, indicating the parcel.

"I… thank you…?" She hesitated, unsure how to receive such a gift, or if she should receive it at all. She stepped out from behind the security of her sisters and moved towards the Captain.

"Please - open it." His voice held a hint of pride.

The brown wrapping paper was closed with a golden ribbon. Without thinking, she stroked the satin material with her fingers, tugging at the tails, and in doing so, sealed her acceptance. The ribbon fell away gracefully on to the table, and the paper cracked as it gave way to yards and yards of stunning silk cloth which glowed like her beloved early dawns down at the harbour. A couple of seconds passed, and no one uttered a word.

"Do you like it?" Hanley knew it had already worked its magic.

"Thank you, Captain, it is beautiful. . . but I cannot accept this". She folded the brown paper back over, concealing the temptation inside.

"Now Miss Lightfoot, it is merely a simple gift - I came across it through a friend, for half the selling price, and thought you could make good use of it with the dance coming up."

He opened it up again, luring her in. She did not recognise it from Johnson’s, she was certain of that. So where had he obtained it? From his connections with the smugglers, being a sailor? He might be a smuggler himself, for all she knew. Regardless, it must have cost him a shilling a yard, if not more, even at half the price. There must be at least twenty yards sat on the kitchen table. She felt a reckless tightness in her chest. The sound of his voice brought her back into the room.

"Will you do me the honour of accepting it?" His soft voice was low and clear.

"Sir – Captain - it is too much; I’ve done nothing to deserve…" Her heart was a marching drum in her chest. She had never, would never, be able to afford such a quantity of beautiful fabric in her life. It would give her the dress she wanted, allow her to attend the May Day ball which would please Alice - and herself, if she was honest. But what would she owe him in return?

"Forgive me, but I saw how you looked at the fabrics in Johnson's, the other day," he looked at her in a way that made her feel they were the only two in the room, "and by coincidence I came across this similar silk at a lower price only hours later. It was meant for you."

Bea felt the words pulling her in. His hand slowly crept towards hers across the oak boards.

"Isn't that lovely Beatrice?" Mrs Lightfoot exclaimed in a shrill voice, breaking the spell. "You didn't tell me you saw Captain Hanley the other day? And to think, 'e has bought you such a lovely gift!" Bea pulled back her hand and took a step away from the parcel, looking at the door. She wanted to escape, to bring this ordeal to an end.

"What if we perform a simple exchange?" He felt her attention return to him. "If you accept this small gift, in return I ask for the first two dances at the May Day Ball?" Bea's eyes widened, and she looked at him earnestly, inspecting as best she could the meaning in his words, the truth behind the smile. She knew the implications if she said yes.

Glancing at her mother, she saw an unpleasant look on her face, a mixture of frustration, envy and resentment, her hands twisting her apron into a funnel, like a dishcloth. Bea's finger graced the top of the fabric. It reminded her of the creaminess of a rose petal. She would be a golden rose. It would make her beautiful. The equal to any of the other ladies, for one night only, to know what it was like to have opportunities. Her heart cried out for her to say yes; for the price of the first two dances, how could she refuse.

"Captain, I will accept your offer."

Hanley looked triumphant. "I am pleased to hear this. I look forward to seeing the dress you create from the silk, and to have the honour of the first two dances." He made his way without ceremony to the door.

"Thank you…" Bea nodded her head at no one in particular, dazed.

A wide smile filled his face, and he gave Bea a deep bow. Turning on his heels, he faced Mrs Lightfoot.

"Thank you for the hospitality, as always, ma'am," and tilted his head with a curt nod. In two steps he was out of the door, leaving behind a chipped cup full of untouched tea, and a silent kitchen.

Ropewalk: Rebellion. Love. Survival.

Copyright: ©H D Coulter


Author Bio:

Hayley was born and raised in the lake district and across Cumbria. From a young age, Hayley loved learning about history, visiting castles and discovering local stories from the past. Hayley and her partner lived in Ulverston for three years and spent her weekends walking along the Ropewalk and down by the old harbour. She became inspired by the spirit of the area and stories that had taken place along the historic streets.

As a teacher, Hayley had loved the art of storytelling by studying drama and theatre. The power of the written word, how it can transport the reader to another world or even another time in history. But it wasn't until living in Ulverston did she discover a story worth telling. From that point, the characters became alive and she fell in love with the story.
Connect with 
Hayley:

[Blog Tour] 'Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival'  (The Ropewalk Series, Book 1)  By H D Coulter #HistoricalFiction
'Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival' - Tour Schedule


8 March 2021

[Blog Tour] 'A Sword Among Ravens' (The Long-Hair Saga) By Cynthia Ripley Miller #HistoricalMystery #AncientWorld

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[Blog Tour] 'A Sword Among Ravens' (The Long-Hair Saga) By Cynthia Ripley Miller #HistoricalMystery #AncientWorld
'A Sword Among Ravens' - Book Tour Banner

The Book:

A Sword Among Ravens
(The Long-Hair Saga
By Cynthia Ripley Miller
Publication Date: 9th December 2020
Publisher: BookLocker
Page Length: 267 Pages
Genre: Romantic Historical Mystery

The Blurb:

In a grave, on the edge of a Roman battlefield, an ancient sword has been discovered. Legend claims it belonged to King David of Israel and carries a curse—those who wield it will tragically die—but not the chosen.

AD 455. Arria Felix and her husband, Garic the Frank, have safely delivered a sacred relic to Emperor Marcian in Constantinople. But now, Arria and Garic will accept a new mission. The emperor has asked them to carry the sword of King David of Israel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem where Arria will dedicate it in her murdered father’s memory.

As Arria and Garic travel into the heart of the Holy Land, they face many challenges and dangers. Their young daughter is missing then found in the company of a strange and suspicious old monk. A brutal killer stalks their path. And a band of cold-blooded thieves is determined to steal the sword for their own gains. But when Arria confronts the question of where the sword should truly rest—old friendships, loyalties, and her duty are put to the test like never before. At every turn, Arria and Garic find themselves caught in a treacherous mission wrapped in mystery, murder, and A Sword Among Ravens.

Buy Links:

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AUBarnes and NobleKobo

[Blog Tour] 'A Sword Among Ravens' (The Long-Hair Saga) By Cynthia Ripley Miller #HistoricalMystery #AncientWorld
'A Sword Among Ravens' - Front Cover

'A Sword Among Ravens' - Excerpt:

Prologue

A Husband, a Sword, and a Curse

AD 447: Roman Province of Dacia Ripensis (Bulgaria)—Month of Julius

Waves of burnt grass fell away as Lucius Valerius Marcian stomped through the battlefield. Behind him, his surviving cavalry soldiers—the Roman VIII Augusta Equites—found their horses abandoned when the fighting went to foot. Marcian stopped and looked around.

Toward the west, bold yellow rays stretched from the late afternoon sun across gray clouds gathering overhead. They shined with an ominous brightness that rattled through him, making him uneasy—on guard. The battle against the Huns had been fierce. Both sides suffered heavy losses, but their Roman general had died on the field, a brutal blow for the Romans. Shouting victory, the Huns had moved east toward a nearby city, and greater plunders.

A mild breeze swept past him. He winced. A stench floated from the barbarian and Roman corpses around them. The smell of death wasn’t new to him. But even now, after many battles and bodies at his feet, the foul odor, the sight of bloated flesh, and gaping wounds were still difficult to ignore.

Marcian swallowed hard and turned from the wind. He searched the distance. On a small hill, he spied Apollo. The horse grazed beside a cluster of bushes that circled a large oak tree. Sweat dripped from Marcian’s curls and onto his brow while splatters of blood and skin stuck to his tunic, helmet, and leather armor. The summer heat had laughed at the slaughter, adding a cruel torment to the battle, but they had persevered, fought tight, outmaneuvered—and lived. He would see Arria again.

The other horses stood farther away, and the men fanned in that direction. Marcian grinned. It was just like Apollo to go in his own direction and very similar to his master, who often struggled with his own independent nature. Even the girl he chose to marry was not the average Roman woman. Arria had been raised unconventionally. Her father had provided her with a man’s education, not just the domestic arts taught to women. As a result, many in Rome respected her for her sharp wit, powers of deduction, and diplomacy. Marcian’s friends warned that she might be a difficult wife to control, but he had no desire to rule over her; he just wanted to live with and lay beside her. He loved her tenacity, her keen mind, and most important to him, they laughed together.

Marcian ran up the hill while Apollo continued to graze. Suddenly, he stumbled and went sprawling face down onto the ground. Something solid had tripped him. He rose to his knees and shook his head. Running his fingers over his forehead, he glanced behind him. A small black object jutted out from the grass at an angle.

Scrambling to his feet, he went and crouched over it. To the eye and touch, it looked and felt like an iron ring pushing through the earth, eroded by weather and time. Marcian drew his knife and scratched the exterior. Hardened dirt stuck to the surface, forcing him to chip it away. The more he scraped, the larger the object grew. After several more attempts, the ring appeared attached to a metal slab. Marcian looked around. The field was quiet. Most of his men had retrieved their horses and returned to the field camp. Roman bodies needed to be stripped and buried. Not far from him, he spotted his centurion riding in his direction. He waved, and the Roman soldier trotted his horse toward him. A barbarian by birth, the tall, husky blond Goth, Darius, wore only a tunic with a thick leather belt, boots, and no helmet. He lent a sharp contrast to Marcian’s shorter, rugged build and dark coloring.

“Darius, help me!” Marcian stood and shouted. “I’ve found something odd buried in the grass.”

The centurion rode up the hill and jumped from his horse. “What is it, sir?” he asked.

“An iron ring attached to a lid or door, but I want to know what’s inside. Tie up my horse. Then go to the camp and bring back two shovels.”

Marcian returned to his knees while Darius tethered Apollo and then rode away. Thunder pealed in the distance. He looked toward the sky. A few sun rays still pierced the clouds, but the moving layers looked darker, heavier. He raked his knife faster. With a strong hand, he brushed away the earth. Marcian sat back on his haunches, gazed at the ring, and waited. Soon, Darius arrived with the shovels. They dug along the perimeter in opposite directions. Within minutes, they uncovered two hinges on what was clearly a bronze frame. Whatever lay beneath the earth was larger than Marcian had imagined.

In unison, they fought feverishly to unearth the mysterious object and beat the threatening rain. With the last layer of dirt gone, both men stopped to rest. Embedded in the hill’s grassy slope, a three by six-foot rusted iron door shone dark brown in the light. Darius sat on a nearby rock. Marcian took a breath, removed his helmet, and dropped it on the ground.

“How strange,” Marcian commented, pulling a short scarf from around his neck. He wiped his brow and then tied it around his forehead.

Darius nodded, then pursed his lips and scratched his jaw. “Looks heavy, I wonder if it can be opened?” With a quick laugh, he added. “I brought some mead to strengthen us.”

“Good man!”

Darius retrieved a pouch hanging on his saddle and tossed it to Marcian, who took a swig and handed the pouch back to the centurion. Darius took a long drink.

Marcian looked at the sky. “The sun is hidden now. Let’s open this door—to the devil knows what—and be done before the rain falls.” He grabbed the handle, and Darius used the shovel to pry open the door from its frame.

The first attempt proved futile. Their breath labored, they heaved and groaned as thunder rolled over them.

“Balls! This is stubborn,” Darius hissed between clenched teeth.

Marcian tugged at the handle. Darius wedged the shovel’s blade between the door and the frame. The door hinges creaked, giving them hope. Their muscles straining, they braced their legs, bent forward, and yanked. The door screeched like a warning owl. “Harder,” Marcian gasped. Darius bellowed a curse.

The door suddenly gave way, almost knocking Marcian backward. He steadied himself, took a step, and looked down. A dark hole leading into a tunnel gaped back at him.

Shit! What’s that?” Darius spat.

“How the hell do I know,” Marcian replied gruffly, but I’m going to find out.”

Darius nodded, swiped the pouch from the ground, and took another drink. “Will you go first, Tribune?”

Marcian laughed. “Centurion, I won’t let my rank trump your lack of courage.” With a last look into the pit, he jumped in. The edge of the earth came to his waist, and he knelt to crawl in deeper. A few feet ahead of him, he saw bone fragments, a partial jaw with several teeth, and a bundle of deteriorated leather. A shield rested nearby.

Marcian’s heart beat faster. He looked closer. A metal box poked through the bones and animal skin. A sudden rush of dread washed over him. Sweat trickled from beneath the scarf covering his brow. He paused but spied a metal grip. Marcian quickly yanked the box and scurried backward, dragging the case to the opening. Darius gave him a hand, and Marcian jumped out. Together, they reached into the hole and lifted the box onto the ground.

They stood beside it and stared. The box looked about three feet long, a foot wide and half as deep. Marcian tore away the decomposed leather clinging to the outside. On closer inspection, the case proved to be silver, heavily tarnished. A lock secured the lid. Marcian snatched a remnant of the aged leather and rubbed the top of the metal. A short row of engraved and unrecognizable letters or symbols, dulled by time, appeared. He frowned. The case seemed quite old, perhaps ancient.

“Shall we open it?” Darius asked, his eyes shining.

“Better to open it here than in camp with many around us. Use the shovel.”

Darius nodded and swung the blade down against the lock. Yielding to the force of the clanging iron tool, the lock snapped open. Marcian planted his feet firmly behind the box, at the base, and clamped his fingers on the lid’s edge. Darius pressed one foot on the front side and used his knife to pry at it while Marcian pulled from behind. The rusted lid budged a little but groaned its refusal.

“Lift!” Marcian barked, and his jaw tightened. The lid creaked one more time—then gave in and opened.

A whoosh escaped the box trailed by a faint odor of eucalyptus. Both men flinched with the sensation and glanced at one another. Inside, an object wrapped in grayed linen cloth fit snugly into the container.

“This gets more mysterious by the moment,” Marcian said softly.

Darius scratched his head. “What is it?”

“Let’s find out; the day is dying, and a raindrop just brushed my cheek.” Marcian kneeled and lifted the bundle from its case. With a pivot and his arms extended, he gently placed it on the ground. As Marcian unwrapped the object, pieces of the linen crumbled. A soft flash of light burst through the fabric and struck his eyes; he blinked. When he looked again, a sword, simple in form but strangely beautiful lay nestled in the cloth.

Cynthia Ripley Miller

Author Bio:

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages, and books. She has lived in Europe and traveled world-wide, holds two degrees, and taught history and English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com, and The Scriptor. She is a Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist with awards from Circle of Books-Rings of Honor and The Coffee Pot Book Club. She has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on her website, www.cynthiaripleymiller.com

Cynthia is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, and A Sword Among Ravens, books 1-3 in her Long-Hair Saga series set in Late Ancient Rome, France, and Jerusalem. Cynthia lives outside of Chicago with her family, along with a cute but bossy cat.

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