Sunday, 23 December 2012

MISTLETOE EVERYWHERE, Regency Christmas Comedy, New Excerpt

A man who sees mistletoe everywhere is mad--or in love.

Charles sees mistletoe. Not surprising, since he's spending Christmas at Mistletoe Manor. But why does no one else see it? And why does it always appear above Penelope, the despised lady who jilted him after their last meeting?

Penelope wants nothing to do with the faithless Charles, the man who cried off after she accepted his marriage proposal. But he still stirs her heart--and he stares at her all the time. Or rather, he stares at the empty ceiling over her head…What does he see?

According to folklore, mistletoe is the plant of peace. Can Penelope and Charles, so full of hurt and anger, heed the mistletoe's message and make peace?


“Penny, look out!”

Penelope spun on her heel. Charles, his eyes wide with terror, raced down the hall. He grabbed her arms and shoved her to the side. Her back hit the wall and her breath rushed out in a startled huff.

Charles gripped her shoulders hard as his body slammed full-length against hers, his forearms bracketing her sides, his head over hers.

“Thank God, I reached you in time.” His breath sawed in and out of his chest, crushing her nose into the starched folds of his cravat. The silver buttons of his coat dug into her breasts. His legs pinned hers to the wall.

Her own breaths were uneven pants, partly from his weight, and partly from his nearness. Her pulse thudded. “What happened?” she asked, her voice whispery.

“The kissing bough above you fell.”

Her breath slowing, Penelope shifted her nose out of his cravat and peered around his shoulder. The ceiling and floor were empty. “What kissing bough?”

Moving only his head, he looked over his shoulder. He stiffened. “I could have sworn…” He dipped his chin to look down at her, his body still holding her captive. “I beg your pardon, Miss Lawrence. I appear to be mistaken.”


Although the imagined danger was past, he made no move to release her. Instead, his hands, which had flattened on the wall beside her, cupped her cheeks. His fingers tangled in the strands of hair that had escaped from her braid. A smile played upon his lips. “Penny. My Shining Penny.”

His body heat flowed through her, and a different kind of heat arose. His face softened and time reeled backwards. Here was the Charles she remembered, the man who had placed her in the center of his world.

Her arms, flat against the wall, lifted and wound around his back. He bent his head to hers as she lifted her face to his. “Charles—”

His lips stroked hers, back and forth, warm and soft. Her eyes drifted shut as he feathered little kisses over her cheeks. She leaned against the wall, luxuriating in the soft caress of his lips on her face, the hardness of his body against hers…

Original EXCERPT:

After Charles had heaped his plate with more food than he wanted, he took one of the empty chairs at the table bottom, as far from Penelope as possible.

His tensed muscles eased as he joked with his friends. Smythe made a comment and Charles turned to answer. He caught sight of Penelope…and a monstrous bunch of mistletoe above her.

"Gordon? What is it?" Smythe swiveled in the direction Charles was staring. He looked up and down, and from one side to the other. "I say, with your mouth hanging open like that, you must see something spectacular, but damned if I know what it is."

With an audible click, Charles clamped his jaw shut. "I thought I saw…" He forced his gaze back to his companion. "Nothing. I imagined I saw mistletoe."

Smythe's eyebrows rose. "Mistletoe?"

"Yes. The house is named 'Mistletoe Manor', so the place is filled with mistletoe decorations. Pictures, wall hangings, ceiling trim, whatnot."

"Indeed." Smythe's eyebrows rose higher. "That 'mistletoe' you saw is over that Miss Lawrence. Lovely little filly." His lips curved into a knowing grin. "My jaw dropped the first time I saw her, too."

Charles stiffened. "I was not looking at Miss Lawrence. I believed I saw mistletoe over her."

"'Mistletoe'." Symthe's grin widened. "Of course."

And I hope you got what you wanted for Christmas, too!

All REVIEWS are here:
Buy links:
The Wild Rose Press:

All Romance Ebooks:

Barnes and Noble:


Author Bio:
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

I'm Linda Banche, and I write witty, sweet/sensual Regency romances with nary a rake or royal in sight. Most contain humor, some fantasy, and occasionally a little paranormal. But comedy is my love, and I've created my own wacky blend of humor and Regency with stories that can elicit reactions from a gentle smile to a belly laugh.

Like many other romance authors, I read romances for years before I wrote my own. Once I tried, I quickly discovered how difficult writing is. Did I stop? No, I'm persistent--that's French for "too stupid to quit".

I'm a two-time EPICON finalist, I live in New England and like aerobics and ducks.

So, laugh along with me on a voyage back to the Regency era. Me and my ducks. Quack.

I have four Regency novellas, all from The Wild Rose Press. LADY OF THE STARS (time travel, finalist in Science Fiction Romance in the 2010 EPIC eBook Contest), PUMPKINNAPPER (finalist in the 2011 EPIC Contest in the Historical Romance category. I'm two for two now. I've entered the EPIC contest twice, and I've finaled twice.), MISTLETOE EVERYWHERE, and my latest, GIFTS GONE ASTRAY.

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Lindsay Townsend: 'To Touch the Knight' - new excerpt

Here's an excerpt from my medieval historical romance, 'To Touch The Knight', where the hero tries his hand at cross-dressing...


When Ranulf was escorted into the tent of the Lady of Lilies by a heavily pregnant maid, the princess laughed. He could hear her chuckling clearly through her veil and saw her eyes sparkling, half-closing in sheer amusement.

"My lord!" Seeing him and his costume - devised by Ranulf in a moment of madness on his way from the castle bath-house through the camp - Sir Tancred was clearly scandalized. His pale eyes bulged with indignation as he spilled most of his cup of wine down his gray beard and scarlet tunic.

"This will not do!" her gaudy steward protested, huffing and squawking like a hen thrust off its nest. The pregnant maid was giggling through her fingers.

Ranulf struck a pose. "I am Venus, a fair woman, and all is seemly between women." How did girls walk in long skirts? He felt to be hauling a mile of sacking around with him. "I come to give my sister-princess a kiss of peace."

As the princess continued to laugh, clutching her side, he puckered his lips, provoking another stream of laughter from his intended target.

"My lord, please!" the steward tried again, but the princess held up a hand.

"What is your hair made of, sir? Is it wool?"

"Bought from a spinster in camp," Ranulf replied, dragging the messy cloud of uncombed wool from his head and stepping with relief out of his rough bundle of sacking "skirts". "Where did my disguise fail, princess?"

He ignored the steward's snort and the maid's tittering.

"A lady with stubble? Venus in sacking? I think not. Ask Sir Tancred; he is behind you."

"Ah, your chaperone!" Ranulf turned and nodded to the older knight. "She saw through my play, it seems."

"You are outrageous!" Sir Tancred was another old hen, planting hands on hips and scarlet with indignation. "It is an insult to the princess!"

"Not so, good sir," put in the lady swiftly, slipping between them with a soft swish of her silks. "Sir Ranulf has learned that I too can take a jest against myself, and bear no ill-will for his foolery."

Ranulf thought: that is so, and she is right: she can take a joke against herself. But all I had planned with this was to jest a little, and to steal a kiss.

As if she guessed his mind, the princess went on. "Still, for my patience and forgiveness I would request a favor in return. The small silken star in silver, pinned to your breast: it is a favorite of mine."

"Come take it, then," he said at once, recognizing the justice and straightening as she closed in, drawing in his belly and praying his body would not betray him. It was a near thing, though, with this slender, shimmering moon of a princess, delicate as any courtesan of his dreams. She was still in her gold and cream, with many sparkling jewels and now she glided to him on cloth of some amazing stuff that was as fine and supple as spiders' threads, actually walking on it. The whole tent was carpeted in it, he now realized, and he felt shamed by his own great boots.

She drew near, her perfume slapping him lightly to arousal as a maze of images whirled in his head: a pair of bright eyes, a running scrap of a maid in brown, dainty feet.

Her fingers brushed over his chest, over his best tunic, and his heart hammered his ribs in answer. "Do not take too long, or I may change my mind," he muttered. Only the thought of the pregnant maid being shocked into labor stopped him from snatching her to him and seizing the kiss and all that he desired.

She had been unpinning the favor. Now she glanced up, her startled eyes showing how young she was, in truth, and, with the smile in her voice, how knowing.

"I will soon be done, my lord. There." She held up the silly scrap of cloth and he kissed it, and her gloved fingers. They were cool under his lips, quivering softly. He thought of them de-gloved, tracing down his ribs, scooping lower to his belly, and was lost afresh.

She knew, of course, and stepped back. "Do you go to the revels this evening, my lord?"

"Not without you, my lady," he retorted, glad of the distraction as the steward and Sir Tancred hissed through their beards, no longer hens but geese.

"You know I do not indulge in such revels," she answered easily. "I spend my nights in contemplation."

"Surely not of angels or god? I thought you did not believe in anything you could not touch or see."

The glow faded a little from her eyes. "In my experience that is the best guide."

"And all knights are dreamers to you, yes I know. But have you not considered that you may be wrong, princess?" he replied, feeling somewhat in the ascendancy again, "That there may indeed be more than the narrow realm of the senses?"

Expecting a sharp rejoinder, he was disconcerted when he saw her narrow shoulders sag. In truth he had not meant to hurt her, he realized, only to shake her a little. "But have you seen your other favors?" Keen to change the subject he held out his arms, where the favors won were threaded and tied like tiny banners amidst the long dagged-cut sleeves of his green and gold tunic.

"So many," she said, and a stricken look rose in her eyes, swiftly hidden as she turned away.


Monday, 17 December 2012

The Valley of the Shadow: out at last!

by Carola Dunn

The Valley of the Shadow came out last week. It is an Indie bookseller pick and on the USA TODAY Books: New and Noteworthy list.

 Here's a scene where my chief protagonist, Eleanor Trewynn, is trying to discover where the victims may have been abandoned to die:

The Tregeddles' cottage opened directly onto the narrow street. A large grey cat was asleep in the sun on the slate windowsill, its tail hanging down. The tip twitched. Teazle was usually very good with cats, but this was too much for her.
Barking, she reared up against the wall, dancing on her back legs. The cat whisked its tail away just in time and stood up, back arched, hissing and spitting. Naturally this incited Teazle to further frenzy.
As Eleanor pulled her away, the front door swung open.
"What the...!?" The small, wiry, weatherbeaten man recognized Eleanor. "Oh, it's you, Mrs. Trewynn. Sounded like there was an Alsatian going for our Smoky. Quite a voice your little un's got, hasn't she?" He bent down and scratched under Teazle's chin. By now the Westie's rear end was wagging madly, while the cat was already apparently asleep, his tail carefully tucked up under his chin.
"I'm sorry. It was very naughty of her."
"No harm done. Out collecting, are you?" He peered into her basket. "Looks like you're doing nicely. Come in, come in. The wife was saying just now she has summat or other for your shop and she hoped you'd drop in soon."
Eleanor hesitated. He had his cap in his hand, apparently on the point of going out, and he was the one she really wanted to talk to. But as he waved her in, Teazle accepted the invitation, dragging on the lead. Taken by surprise, Eleanor followed. Abel Tregeddle shut the front door and came after them.
Naturally, Teazle headed straight to the kitchen. The door was open and she trotted in, Eleanor in tow. Mrs. Tregeddle, a stout woman busy at the kitchen table, looked round at the click of toenails on the lino.
"Mrs. Trewynn, how nice to see you. Set yourself down, do." She tossed a scrap of the meat she was chopping to Teazle. "We bin dying to hear what happened yest'day."
"I told Mrs. Trewynn as you got summat for her shop," Abel chided.
"I 'spect I can find something. You'll have a cuppa, Mrs. Trewynn." She filled the kettle at the sink and set it on the gas.
Eleanor was still sloshing about inside from the tea she'd already drunk, but Abel was more likely to stay and chat with a cup in his hand, she thought, so she accepted. Too late, she realised that having invented a donation to inveigle her in, he wasn't likely to leave before hearing about the rescue. Resigning herself to further liquid intake, she recounted the story again, her own minor part and what the others had told her.
All the talking was giving her a dry throat. When the tea was made, she sipped it gladly.
As before, she omitted the young man's race. She stressed the drama of Megan risking her life to save a stranger. "It's a beautiful spot, but dangerous. Do you know it, Mr. Tregeddle?"
"Yas," Abel admitted. "Took a boat in once, when I were a young duffer. But it's risky even at high tide in a calm sea. No use setting pots if you can't be sure when you'll be able to check 'em."
"A funny place to go for a swim," said his wife, "but these young lads'll do anything for a bit of a thrill. In a bad way, was he?"
"He was still unconscious when the ambulance took him away. But I heard later that he came round, just briefly, and he said something rather odd."
As one, the Tregeddles leant forward eagerly. "What'd he say, then?" asked Abel.
"He said his family were stranded in a cave. What no one can work out is how they reached the cave in the first place, and if they could get in, why can't they get out?"
"That's easy. Went in by boat, climbed out to explore, didn't tie it up secure. Landlubbers in a hired boat, could be. First thing a seaman learns is to be sure of his knots."
"Oh, yes, that might explain it. The awful thing is that the lifeboat won't be able to go looking for them because of the fog."
"Whereabout is this cave supposed to be?" he asked warily.
"The boy couldn't explain. It must be somewhere in Bossiney Cove, don't you think? He couldn't have survived a swim from farther away."
"Likely not."
"There are lots of caves. If they have to search all of them, I hate to think what condition the family will be in by the time they're found—if they're found. I've been told there are hidden caves, used by smugglers. I remember you saying, Mr. Tregeddle, there's still some smuggling going on."
"That's as may be."
"Suppose they chanced to come across one of the smugglers' caves, and that's where they're stuck? That could be why no one has seen or heard them. They might never be found."
Mrs. Tregeddle was aghast. "Oh, Abel, the whole family dead!"
Abel's lips set in a thin line.
Eleanor played what she hoped was her ace in the hole. "The boy said his mother is dying. Even if he was exaggerating, even if they find them in the end, any unnecessary delay—"
"Abel, his mam! You can't..." She faltered as her husband glowered at her.
"My niece risked her life." Eleanor spoke quietly. He met her eyes, and she held his gaze. "What would you risk? Information given to me in confidence would be passed to the authorities without any mention of where it came from." She paused. He looked down sulkily at the table, his weathered cheeks flushing. "What would you have to lose? A couple of convenient hiding-places. Against several lives."

Available from all booksellers and in ebook formats.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Love in a war zone

It is true that the Border feuds lasted nearly three hundred years and they interfered with love lives and marriages in a way that is hard to comprehend today. Cross-border marriages did take place, but sometimes feuds interfered with a love match. It all depended on the strength of feeling - be they friend or enemy - between the families.
When Alina's father discovers Harry one fateful day in 1543, he condemns him simply because his family name is Scott. Harry's misfortune is that Scott is an alias he chose at random, but he cannot confess it without betraying his father's mission. Alina fears that their love is destroyed before it really began.


The kitten’s pale claws flexed against the rounded curve of her breast. The court ladies wore stomachers of wood to give a straight line to their expensive gowns, but not so this girl. Harry swallowed. She must be aware of the effect she had on him.

“A stallholder warned me I may lose my life on the road to Edinburgh. Are things so bad in the Borders?”

Alina’s smile faded. “Yes.”

“I must go,” he said. “The journey is one I…it is important.”

She sighed. “Then go if you must, but it is a bad road and you must take care.”

“Then I shall take another road.”

Her smile held condescension. “Whichever road you take through the Borders will be dangerous, sir.” The kitten, tucked in beneath her chin, stared at him, too; both pairs of eyes so serious Harry couldn’t help smiling. “That creature’s probably got fleas, you know.”

“Will you tell me your name?”

“Harry Scott at your service, lady.”

A fine gold chain supported a gold cross at her throat, and it twinkled in the sunlight as she sucked in a sharp breath. “Your family name is Scott?”

He had chosen the surname at random. Why did she look at him as if he was an enemy? Perhaps he should have chosen a decent English name like Smith or Wilson.

He nodded, determined to make nothing of it. Scott was a common enough name, after all. “And your name, lady? I may pass this way on my return.”

“My name is Alina Carnaby. I live at Aydon Hall now. But before you visit, you should know that my father hates every member of the Scott family. So much so that he may kill you the moment you declare your name.”

Jen's blog:

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift - a historical adventure

There is no greater compliment than 'Give me more!' Susanna Gregory Impeccably written historical fiction Let Them Read Books The author excels in making the reader care for the two girlsHistorical Tapestry hooked from the first chapter - even the first page...I loved it Peeking Between the Pages the plot is gripping with plenty of twists and turns History and WomenBeautifully written and meticulously researched, the novel drew me straight into the teeming streets of Restoration London. an addictive, page-turning read.Mary Sharratt A fast-paced adventure peopled with ruthless villains and feisty heroines whose exploits grab the imagination and add suspense and excitement to a historical gem Lancashire Evening Post

An excerpt from The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift

Sadie saw straight away that it was good news. When Ella came
in, her face was r osy and dimpled with smiles and she hugged
Sadie hard, almost squeezing the breath out of her, something she
had not done once since they came to London.

‘What do you think?’ Ella said. ‘I’m to be in a parlour tempting
ladies to buy belladonna and ceruse, and lavender oil, and
morning dew.’

‘A perfume seller?’

‘No, not just any old perfume seller. I’m to be dressed up
like a lady – Mr Whitgift himself picked out a fine gown for me,
yards and yards of red silk, enough for . . . oh, six petticoats –’
she danced Sadie round the table – ‘and he said I’m as pretty as a
poppy in a field. He wants me to dress my hair fancy, and—’

‘Stop, I’m getting dizzy.’ Sadie broke away from Ella’s embrace.
‘How much are you getting?’

‘Nineteen shilling a month.’

Sadie gasped. It was far more than she got at the wig shop.

‘I’m to start day after tomorrow. Won’t get my first pay till
the end of the month though.’

‘Oh, Ell, what luck! We’ll have to scrape till payday though,
we’ve barely enough to feed ourselves. But there’s still my portion
from the wig shop coming in, that’ll cover the rent.’

‘We’ll take on a better place as soon as I’ve got my feet under
the table. I’ll make myself necessary. There’s an old Mr Whitgift
too, the father. They don’t get on. He’s a crabbit old skinfl int by
all accounts. But I’m after twisting the old gent around my fi nger.
I’m good with old men.’

Sadie felt a qualm of misgiving. ‘You’ve hardly set foot in the
place yet, don’t start getting grand ideas. And don’t go against
Josiah Whitgift or you could end up back in the gunpowder

‘Oh, clap a stopper in it. I know what I’m doing. You always
put a dampener on everything. Can’t you just be pleased for me?’

‘Course I’m pleased, I just worry in case it doesn’t work out.
We still have to buy barley for bread, and we’re all but out of
tallow for rushlights. I don’t want you taking risks before you
see a penny for your work. And I don’t trust that Josiah Whitgift.
Corey and Betsy told me there’s shady things go on round his

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The paranormal in my ancient world historical romance

Paranormal elements creep into almost all of my fiction. Why? Because eerie, hair standing up on the back of the neck moments do happen in life, Also because I place my characters into strange situations and unusual settings, where their senses are heightened to an almost supernatural state.
In real life, people can experience extraordinary things. A woman I know of was passing a man on a staircase and a thought entered her mind: this is the man you are going to marry. She dismissed the idea as absurd - but it happened and they are still married. In life, people under stress can do extraordinary, almost superhuman things. The woman after a car crash lifting an engine block to free her trapped child beneath. We can all experience feelings of disquiet, of something being 'off'. We can all have dreams which can stalk us.
This is very much the stuff of fiction. Romance especially lends itself to the paranormal and supernatural. When we are in love we feel to be in a transfigured state: all senses and emotions are heightened. In addition, I write romantic suspense, where my characters are in danger and those warning senses we have are on high alert. I also write romance set in the past, at times in the far distant past, where beliefs in spirits, strange creatures, omens and gods were part of everyday life.
In modern life we tend to separate religion and state. In the past belief in supernatural forces, particularly malign supernatural forces, was far stronger. How else could people in the ancient world make sense of what happened to them and around them? When the causes of illness were not understood it would seem logical that an outside influence - an angry god or an evil spirit - had targeted that person or that animal.
Belief is a powerful force. If a character believes he or she can do something out of the ordinary, then sometimes they can. In my historical fiction I use the beliefs of my characters to allow them to tap into something larger than themselves. This 'something' can be a thing of delight or of terror. It is the wonder of the story-teller, used in tales before humans devised writing. And when we did begin to write, ghost stories, paranormal stories 'spooky' stories, were among the earliest tales we committed to clay, papyrus or parchment.
Here are a few paranormal moments from my novels. The first is based on an ancient Roman ghost story of a haunted house, which I adapted to use in 'Flavia's Secret'. In this excerpt, the paranormal is used to show wonder and delight in a special, secret place; a place where Flavia finds the strength to tell Marcus her own deadly secret.


Walking quickly, to show that she did not regret her decision to share this place with him, Flavia returned along the twisting beaten-earth path between the rampant rosemary and lavender bushes. One more twist of the path and they reached the heart of the garden and its startling secret—a private outdoor pool, its shimmering waters steaming in the sun.
‘By Mithras, what a place.’ Looking around, Marcus halted beside her, dropping onto his knees to test the waters of the deep, lead-lined pool. ‘It’s hot!’ he exclaimed, shaking moisture from his hand.
Flavia pointed to a large lead pipe leading away from the pool in the direction of the deserted house before it was lost in the luxuriant undergrowth.
‘We think the owner fixed a conduit somewhere off the spring waters of the Aesculapius spring and directed some of the thermal water here,’ she explained. ‘The pool drains somewhere, too, but we do not know where.’
Marcus sat back on his heels. ‘We?’
‘Those of us who come here, when we can.’
‘Your own private bathing place.’ Marcus jumped to his feet again and walked around the marbled perimeter of the pool. ‘I am surprised nobody has tried to make money with it.’
‘We are careful who we tell,’ Flavia said, squashing disappointment at Marcus’ mercenary approach, but he was staring across the sun-gilded water at the leaf-strewn timber portico leading to the deserted house.
‘I am not surprised at that,’ he said quietly. ‘It is beautiful.’
He watched a small breeze tumble a bronze oak leaf along a small marble walkway leading from the semi-derelict portico to the edge of the pool. ‘Mysterious, quite eerie, but also...comforting. As if you are in an entirely different world.’ He turned about, pointing to the sparkling spiders’ webs on the lavender bushes, rimed with heavy dew. ‘Somewhere forgotten by the rest of the city. A place where magical things become possible.’
‘You understand,’ Flavia whispered, breathing out in relief.
He smiled. ‘It is more than likely that the old owner saw an easy chance to grab some free hot water, but what he has made here, what time has made...I am not surprised he was thought to be a sorcerer.’
Marcus held out both hands to her. ‘Thank you for sharing this, and be assured—your secret with be safe in my keeping.’
Flavia walked to the edge of the secret pool and joined him in studying the waters.

In 'Bronze Lighting,' set in Bronze Age Europe, many characters believe in and practice magic. Here Fearn and Sarmatia, hero and heroine, are taking part in a sky ritual, a dangerous rite that they believe may unmask a murderer.


By this time it was early evening. A pall of dark clouds had gathered over the Sacred Hill. The sun hung over the eastern hills like a bloodstained shield. Fearn looked up at the sky.
'The God will come here when I summon him and we must be ready. Each of you strip off your gold, your silver and bronze. The Sky God does not like the gleam of metal on others.'
He lifted the bronze diadem from his head and laid it on the grass. 'Pile your ornaments here together. Give it to the earth for safekeeping. Quickly!'
At his command, Atterians broke their circle and came to heap their metal broaches, swords, arrows, arm-rings and finger-rings upon the King's diadem. Sarmatia watched Laerimmer take off his golden throat disc and glanced down at her own bronze ring, reluctant to remove it. Looking up, she saw Fearn walking towards her.
'Must I take off my ring?' she asked in Kretan as he reached her. Fearn answered in the same tongue.
'I fear so, Sarmatia.' He looked at her. Men were still gathered about the growing heap of metal. He and Sarmatia had a moment together.
'What is this ritual?'
'Nothing you need fear, Sarmatia. The Sky God knows our hearts. He does not touch those who are innocent. Twice now as King I've been asked to do this rite. The God may take some of our metal as sacrifice and payment, but that's a small thing for the truth.'
Sarmatia took off her bronze ring and gave it to Fearn. 'You must put this with the rest, Fearn. I can't.’ Then, although she already sensed the answer, she asked, 'Is the Sky God the same whose shrine is the Great Stone Circle?'
'It's the same God. And this is the rite the southern kingdoms have forgotten.' He turned and left her.

There are gods in my novels, too. In 'Blue Gold' the gods of ancient Egypt watch mankind from the sun-boat that crosses the sky each day and they sometimes interfere more directly.


“What happens now?” asked Astarte-with-the-moon-in-her-hair.
The eastern goddess of love was paying another visit to the sun boat of Ra. She thought the climate good for her complexion.
The blue god Amun, casting an admiring glance at the silver-haired goddess’s shapely long legs, mumbled something about a race. He ran his hands through a thick fleece of cloud, parting it with his fingers. “Look below us. There is my Pharaoh, a true Egyptian.”
“Ah yes. Sekenenre. The king who toils like an ant. He certainly looks to be making haste.”
Astarte leaned forward, the corners of her eyes crinkling at the sight of Sekenenre and his retinue of priests running their chariots again and again at the same high dune instead of doing the sensible thing of going round it. At her high vantage point, the fifteen chariots moving with such fanatical haste from the small water course where they had hidden their ship looked bizarre, like weevils.
No one on the sun boat reproved or remarked on the goddess’s comments. Those long, shapely legs were even better when she bent over the gunwale. From the middle of the boat came a muffled exclamation as the soul of the long dead Pharaoh Unas dropped the sun god’s fan.
“Fool of a mortal,” said old Ra sharply, squirming on his throne, crossing hands over thighs.
Astarte looked round over one shoulder and smiled, but she reserved her warmest look for Amun. “He is a long way from Thebes, your Sek-en-enre. Did you send a dream to instruct him? Does this true Egyptian know where he is going?”
“Pay no attention to anything Amun says. Sekenenre’s dash into the desert is due entirely to me.” Set materialized at her elbow. He directed Astarte to look over the other side of the boat. “Here’s my man.”
Aweserre’s chariot scuttled jauntily along below them.

In ‘Blue Gold’ when these two pharaohs meet, it is a clash of arms, force and beliefs and it leads to the unleashing of more paranormal forces.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Kidnapped and sold as a slave

Blurb: When a young Viking buys Emer and takes her to his home, she has no idea where she is or if she will survive the night.

Excerpt: Flane wiped tears from his eyes, groaned and sat back against the wall. Small, weak eruptions of laughter threatened from time to time, but the flush slowly subsided from his skin as he regarded her. His merriment was hard to resist. Emer struggled to stay angry with him, but a small tentative smile betrayed her.

He saw it, and his reaction was swift. Rising to his knees, he reached for her and his mouth swooped down to join hers.

She recoiled, and jerked her head sideways. As he leaned in, she pushed against him, but her slender hands and reed thin wrists proved useless against his solid bone and muscle. Emer squeaked in outrage, and scrambled backwards to get away from him.

Still grinning, he seized her hand, drew it to his mouth and curved his tongue around her fingertips. Emer wrenched her hand from his as if his touch burned her, and lurched further away. Her back slammed against the wooden wall, and she pressed against it, panting, watching him.

"You're frightened, aren't you?" He sat back on his heels, watching her.

Emer shook her head in violent denial. "No."

"Of course you are. You're as pale as milk."

When his gaze descended to the spot where her breasts surged against the too tight cloth of her old gown, Emer instinctively crossed her arms and dragged her legs up, closing in on herself. There was no escape route, and her shoulders already ached from being pressed so hard against the wall.

Pride made her deny her fears, but she was afraid, and he knew it. She could not still the slight tremor that ran through her. Her blood fizzed and bounced in her veins and she could not think, let alone speak.

~~ will take you to the Review/Buy page. Or why not visit Jen's blog at

Banners of Alba, Dark Pool, Shadows, Reluctance and Fair Border Bride - all on Amazon!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

I will send you to meet the Wolf...


Today I would like to talk about my new historical novel, “The Half-Hanged Man”. This is a tale of high adventure and romance set during the Hundred Years War between England and France.

I've wanted to write about the latter half of the 14th century for a long time. Even by medieval standards, this was a brutal and bloody era, with much of Europe plunged into dynastic wars. England under her warrior-king, Edward III, was at war with France and Scotland, and Spain and Italy were riven by internal conflicts. The constant fighting and general chaos offered rich pickings to savvy mercenary captains such as Sir John Hawkwood, Bertrand du Guesclin, Hugh Calveley and Robert Knolles, all of whom succeeded in making a fat profit while Christendom burned.

The Half-Hanged Man is the story of one such captain, though a fictional one. Like many of his peers, Thomas Page is a commoner, destined to rise to brief greatness by virtue of wielding a nifty sword. The book also follows the story of the Spanish courtesan known as the Raven of Toledo, and of Hugh Calveley, a particularly ruthless soldier and black-armoured giant with flaming red hair and incisors he had specially sharpened to terrify the French!

Throw into the mix are any number of battles and sieges, including the Battle of Auray (see pic above) in 1364, where the Franco-Bretons and Anglo-Breton armies hammered the life out of each other for possession of the Duchy of Brittany.

Below is an excerpt of Hugh Calveley’s memories of the epic Battle of Najéra…

“I led my portion of the rearguard across the open ground to the right of the prince’s battalion, and surged into the first company of Castilian reinforcements as they tried to arrange into a defensive line. They were well-equipped foot with steel helms and leather jacks, glaives and axes, but demoralised and unwilling to stand against a charge of heavy horse. I skewered a serjeant in the front rank with my lance and rode over him as the men behind him scattered, yelling in fear and hurling their banners away as they ran.
          If all the Castilians had behaved in such a manner, we would have had an easy time of it, but now Enrique flung his household knights into the fray. It had started to rain heavily, sheets of water blown by strong winds across the battlefield, and a phalanx of Castilian lancers on destriers came plunging out of the murk, smashing into the front rank of my division. A lance shattered against my cuisse, almost knocking me from the saddle, but I kept my seat and slashed at the knight with my broadsword as he hurtled past, chopping an iron leaf from the chaplet encircling his basinet, but doing no other damage.
          My men held together under the Castilian charge, and soon there was a fine swirling mêlée in progress. I was surrounded by visored helms and glittering blades, men yelling and horses screaming, and glimpsed my standard bearer ahead of me, shouting and fending off two Castilians with the butt of his lance. Another Englishman rode in to help him, throwing his arms around one of the Castilians and heaving him out of the saddle with sheer brute strength, and then a fresh wave of steel and horseflesh, thrown up by the violent, shifting eddies of battle, closed over them and shut off my view. 
          I couldn’t bear to lose my banner again, and charged into the mass of fighting men, clearing a path with the sword’s edge. A mace or similar hammered against my back-plate, sending bolts of agony shooting up my spine, and my foot slipped out of the stirrup as I leaned drunkenly in the saddle, black spots reeling before my eyes.”

Intrigued? See the links to the Kindle and paperback below:  


And links to my blog and joint website:

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Guest blog: David Wesley Hill - 'At Drake's Command'

At Drake's Command
The Adventures of Peregrine James during the Second Circumnavigation of the World
Author: David Wesley Hill
Publisher: Temurlone Press | New York |
Pages: 424
Price: $14.95
ISBN-10: 0983611726
ISBN-13: 978-0-9836117-2-1
Publication Date: November 15, 2012
Cover Art: "The Golden Hinde off New Albion" by Simon Kozhin

Available from Amazon US.

About the Book

It was as fine a day to be whipped as any he'd ever seen but the good weather didn't make Peregrine James any happier with the situation he was in. Unfairly convicted of a crime he had not committed, the young cook was strung from the whipping post on the Plymouth quay side when he caught the eye of Francis Drake and managed to convince the charismatic sea captain to accept him among his crew. 

Soon England was receding in their wake and Perry was serving an unsavory collection of sea dogs as the small fleet of fragile wood ships sailed across the brine. Their destination was secret, known to Drake alone. Few sailors believed the public avowal that the expedition was headed for Alexandria to trade in currants. Some men suspected Drake planned a raid across Panama to attack the Spanish in the Pacific. Others were sure the real plan was to round the Cape of Storms to break the Portuguese monopoly of the spice trade. The only thing Perry knew for certain was that they were bound for danger and that he must live by his wits if he were to survive serving at Drake's command.

Excerpt from Chapter 11: Parrots of the Cape Verdes

January 17, 1578
Cape Blank, Africa

We were to remain at Cape Blank somewhat less than a week, until the 21st of January. Most of this time I worked alongside my crew mates aboard the pinnace, cleaning the small ship and making her seaworthy, but on the third morning I was assigned to a fishing party going out in a longboat into the channel, which abounded with mackerel and herring and the larger predators that hunted them. We pushed off just at dawn, rowing across water that was absolutely flat except for the ripples caused by the dipping of our oars. Then we let the boat drift as we readied our gear. My angle was a springy piece of ash seven feet long to which was attached a reel holding a hundred yards of line. We speared whole sprats and chunks of clam on our hooks but neither of these baits interested fish and after several hours we had taken aboard only one nondescript tunny.

I was sharing a bench with Peter Corder, who held his angle with his feet rather than with his hands, twitching his line with his toes in order to animate the bait.

Powell Jemes, an armorer, was another of those who had sailed with Drake during the famous raid on Nombre de Dios six years previously. He tarred his beard in two stiff spikes beneath his jaw and shaved his skull in order to display the design inked on the skin of his crown, the head of a serpent whose tail twisted down his neck onto his shoulders. Giving his angle a bored shake, Jemes said:

“I heard from Mr. Cuttill we will soon be throwing back our catch of Spaniards and Portugals.”

“It was a waste of effort to take such small vessels in the first place,” said Bill Lege.

“There you are wrong,” replied Peter Corder. “Do you not see? By taking the Spanish captive, we prevented advance word of our presence getting out along the coast. No matter how brisk the wind, a sailing ship will always be outrun by men on horseback.”

“Even so,” muttered Lege, “they are all poor craft and barely seaworthy. Nor can we crew them all.”

“Too many ships, too few sailors. That is often the problem,” Powell Jemes concurred. He curled his left spike of beard around a finger. “I remember we had the same situation in the Gulf of Darien back in seventy-two,” he mused. “After a month of raiding we had captured two Spanish coastal barks, one off Cartagena city and the other off Santa Marta. Both prizes were seaworthy and well furnished but neither was a fighter. The general wanted to sink one and to make the other into a storehouse, which would free their crews to reinforce our important ships, but he knew the men would object to mistreating such pretty vessels. So Drake called Tom Moone to his cabin.”

“Aye, I know this story,” said Lege.

“Do not reveal the ending since I have not heard it,” said Corder. “Go on, Jemes.”

“Where is the Gulf of Darien?” I asked.

“It is in the crook of the elbow between the Isthmus of Panama and the Spanish Main,” explained Bill Lege. 
“‘Tis a hellish maze of swamp and reef, lad. Pray to Christ you never visit.”

“As I was saying,” Jemes continued after I had received this geographical advice, “the general sent for Tom Moone, who at the time was the carpenter of the Swan, which was one of the ships in question. ‘Tom,’ said Drake, ‘go down secretly into the well in the middle of the second watch. Bore three holes with a spike-gimlet as near the keel as you can. Then lay something against it, that the force of the water entering the ship might make no noise nor be discovered by boiling up.’

“As you may imagine, gentlemen, Moone did not enjoy receiving these instructions. ‘Captain,’ he said with dismay, ‘the Swan is strong and has many voyages left in her. Besides, the rest of the company will be unhappy with me should they learn of my role in her sinking.’

“But there was no arguing with the general—“

“Aye, is there ever?” laughed Luke Adden.

“—and Moone did as he was bid. Drake waited until morning to let the ship fill somewhat and then ordered me to ferry him over to her from the admiral in a pinnace. Have I mentioned that Drake’s brother, John, was the Swan’s master?”

“The master?” said Peter Corder. “The general drowned his own brother’s ship? That was cold.”

“What happened next was colder.” Powell Jemes began winding both spikes of beard together while reflecting how best to tell the tale. “Drake invited John to come fishing—“

“No, he did not!”

“God’s truth, Mr. Corder. But his brother was too busy to join us so Drake had me row a little distance from the ship and we fished a quarter hour while waiting for John to get ready. Then the general pretended to notice that the Swan was riding low in the water. He turned to me and asked very casually, as if to make little of the question: ‘Powell, why do you think the bark is so deep?’

“‘I cannot hazard a guess, captain,’ I answered, since I was as much in the dark about what was going on as everyone except for Drake and Tom Moone. ‘She is a sound ship and empty of cargo,’ I said.

“There was no denying, however, the Swan’s gunwales were almost awash. So the general called to his brother, who sent a steward below to investigate. The man returned wet to the waist and crying that the scuttle was flooded. ‘I do not understand it,’ said John Drake. ‘We have not pumped twice in six weeks but now there is six feet of water in the hold.’

“‘It is indeed strange,’ agreed the general, feigning perplexity so well that we were all deceived. ‘Come, Powell,’ he told me, ‘let us go aboard the Swan and provide what assistance we may.’

“‘No, stay,’ said John. ‘We have enough men for our needs. Continue fishing, that we might have some part of your catch for dinner.’

“‘So be it,’ said Drake and we dropped our lines over the side and resumed angling as the Swan’s crew tried to save her. Every once in a while the general called out encouragement to the men, telling them to work the pump harder and offering suggestions as to where the leak might be found. But by three in the afternoon they had not freed above a foot and a half of water, nor had anyone discovered the holes drilled by Tom Moone. Finally it became clear the ship must be abandoned.

“‘Damned bad luck to lose so sweet a bark!’ the general said, clapping an arm around his brother in counterfeit sympathy. ‘Perhaps it would be best to start unloading her now before she goes under. Let everyone take what they lack or like and find berths on the other vessels. As for you, John, you may have my place as captain of the flagship until we capture a better prize for you to master.’”

“Why, that was a kind offer,” observed Peter Corder.

“Aye, was it not.” Powell Jemes shook his head appreciatively. “The general got exactly what he wanted and no one was the wiser. I stood right beside him in these very boots, and we watched that sweet ship settle to the bottom, and I did not think for a second he was gaming us. You have to respect the man.”

“Aye, no one surpasses the general in cunning,” agreed Bill Lege.

“Thank God for that,” said Corder. “A fool will not make us rich.”

“Aye, a fool will get us murdered or blown against a lee shore.”

“Christ save us from all evil destiny!” prayed Luke Adden.

I gave my angle an upward jerk and discovered that my bait had been stolen while I was absorbed in Powell Jemes’s anecdote. I had not liked the story, which seemed to demonstrate an implacable self interest more worthy of Thomas Doughty than Francis Drake. Perhaps I was as naive as Lackland claimed but it did not seem proper justice to use your own men and family with the same ease that you would use an enemy.

“How did the truth come out?” I asked when I had replaced my bait and returned my line to the depths.

“Oh, the trick was too good to keep secret. The general told the story himself although he waited until his brother was dead, which was not long afterward, God rest the poor bastard. Fever, I think. Or was that Drake’s other brother, Joseph? They both died on that deplorable coast—watch your angle, Perry!”

I stopped the pole just before it went into the water.


About the Author

David Wesley Hill is an award-winning fiction writer with more than thirty stories published in the U.S. and internationally. In 1997 he was presented with the Golden Bridge award at the International Conference on Science Fiction in Beijing, and in 1999 he placed second in the Writers of the Future contest. In 2007, 2009, and 2011 Mr. Hill was awarded residencies at the Blue Mountain Center, a writers and artists retreat in the Adirondacks. He studied under Joseph Heller and Jack Cady and received a Masters in creative writing from the City University of New York, as well as the De Jur Award, the school's highest literary honor. 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Valley of the Shadow

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW is the third in the Cornish Mystery series, after Manna from Hades and A Colourful Death, by Carola Dunn, author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries . It will be out December 11th in hardcover and ebook, from St. Martin's Minotaur. It is on the Independent Bookstores forthcoming Great Reads list for December


 The series is set in about 1970 on the North Coast of Cornwall, in SW England (the bit that sticks out into the Atlantic, between the Bristol Channel and the English Channel). It's a wild stretch of coast, with high, sheer, rocky cliffs and small fishing ports battered by Atlantic storms . The cover of the book is a bit misleading--it's more like Falmouth harbour in the south, where the denouement of the story takes place.

My protagonist is Eleanor Trewynn, a widow in her 60s. After working all over the world, she retires to the small fishing village of Port Mabyn, looking forward to a life of peace and quiet with her West Highland terrier, Teazle. However, peace and quiet elude her.

Here, she and her next-door neighbour Nick, an artist, and her niece Megan, a police detective, go for a walk down a narrow, rocky valley (more pics) to the sea:

The stony path climbed the hillside. Here and there bedrock protruded, making natural steps, awkward because of their odd sizes and shapes. Twice Eleanor stumbled and nearly fell, but her Aikido training helped her regain her balance.
Ahead, the valley widened, and soon the inlet came into view. The air was so still that there were no whitecaps, just an edging of creamy froth along the base of the cliff. The dark green swells rolled in with soothing regularity.
"The Isle of the Dead," said Nick.
"What?" exclaimed Megan, startled.
"Rachmaninov. The opening describes the sea's present motion perfectly, restless yet monotonous. But he was writing music about a painting, so I don't see quite how I can reverse the process..." He was momentarily silent, occupied with an inner vision. "Damn! I was hoping for waves crashing against the sheer headland over there in sheets of spray. I should have checked the tide. Or maybe it’s just that we haven’t had much wind recently. Oh well, it'll have to do."
They walked on until the path petered out into terraces and steps of slate. The abrupt edge was two or three feet above the smooth tops of the swells that surged onward to meet the stream in swirls of foam. Clumps of thrift, the flowerheads brown now, clung in crevices here and there. A grey and white herring gull launched itself into the air and joined its fellows circling overhead, their raucous screams cutting through the constant yet ever-changing sounds of moving water. High above floated a buzzard.
"Gorgeous," said Megan.
"Good enough." Nick fiddled with his camera's settings, peered through, and fiddled some more.
Megan jumped down a slate step. Eleanor sat on it, the sun warm on her back.
"What's that?" Nick lowered the camera and pointed.
Eleanor peered, wishing she had brought binoculars. Something dark bobbed in the water. "A seal?"
"No." Megan's voice rang harsh. "It's a man. And if he's not already dead, he soon will be."

Chapter Two
How the hell was she to get the poor bugger out? Megan took a rapid inventory of her resources.
"Hang on, we're coming!" Nick bellowed through cupped hands.
A good start. "Aunt Nell, go for help." As she spoke, she pulled off her sandals and untied the bow of her skirt. "Doctor, ambulance, rope, rugs, hot drinks, anything else you can think of."
Her aunt hurried away up the path, white curls bobbing, Teazle at her heels. Megan turned to find that Nick had already stripped off his shirt.
"Pity I didn't wear long trousers." He knotted Teazle's lead together with one sleeve of the shirt.
Megan tossed her skirt to him. "On the diagonal."
As he tied the other sleeve of his shirt to one corner of the skirt, she slipped out of her shoes and ripped off her blouse, buttons flying, glad she was wearing a black bra and knickers. Just like a bikini, she assured herself.
"No need for that," Nick protested, tightening the knots. "I'm going in."
Megan shook her head firmly. "I'm a certified lifeguard. I'll need your weight and your reach to pull us out, if I manage to get him. " Without further words, she leapt down the shelves of slate and, mindful of hidden rocks underwater, did a shallow racing dive towards the floating figure.
With a shock of cold, the sea enveloped her.
Surfacing in a trough, she swam to meet the next swell. From the crest she couldn't see the body. Had it been a seal after all? She glanced back at Nick, who waved and pointed.
Thank heaven he had his wits about him. She corrected her course slightly and ploughed on.
Down, and up, and down, and up... Was she actually moving forward, or was a current stalling her in one place while the swells passed beneath her, lifting, dropping, lifting— But the current was moving her target, too. Towards the rocks? She must be getting closer.
There he was! A brown-skinned man, limp, floating on his back. Dead men float face down after first sinking. The dark patch she had taken for hair was his face, unshaven, eyes closed. He was alive!
"I'm coming!"
Opening black eyes, he turned his head to look at her. As though the effort exhausted his last reserve of strength, he started to sink.
Megan would have said she was swimming as fast as she was able, but she put on a spurt. She caught him under the arms and raised his head above the surface. He neither struggled nor made any attempt to help. He hadn't choked on emerging. A bad sign?

She decided hopefully that his buoyancy meant his lungs must be full of air, not water. With one arm under his and across his chest, she swam backstroke, straining to hear Nick's shouted directions as single-armed swimming made her veer from her course.
"You're getting close!"
Megan changed tactics. One hand holding up the victim's chin, she twisted sideways and started a scissors kick. At the top of each swell she glanced backwards. As she neared the sheer rock face, she slowed, unsure what to do next.
Nick knelt down. "I'm throwing a loop of rope," he called. "Try to hook it under his arms."
Teazle's lead flew towards her. The weight of the leather and the metal clip carried the makeshift rope within reach, and the leather floated. Megan grabbed it with her free hand.
Hooking it under the arms of the flaccid body, while staying afloat and keeping his face out of the water, was easier said than done. She was growing tired by the time she accomplished it, but now Nick took the strain. He drew them slowly nearer. Megan was able to put out a hand to fend them off from the rock.
Unlike the smooth concrete edge of the swimming-bath she'd trained in, this edge was sharp. The sea's action flaked the slate rather than smoothing it. Getting out—and especially getting the helpless man out—without nasty grazes was not going to be easy.
Nick was lying full length now, awkwardly, on the shelving rock, his shoulders and arms over the edge. "Can you lift him at all?"
"Don't think so. Can't feel anything to stand on."
"Never mind." He reached down. "I'll hold him. Can you get yourself up?"
"I'll manage." She moved over a couple of feet and waited for a swell to lift her, then grabbed the edge above her head. There were plenty of toe-holds. Somehow, with the loss of some skin, she hauled herself over. For a brief moment she let herself flop, all muscles relaxed.
"Let's get him out. Is he breathing? I don't like the look of him."
"Hypothermic." She pulled herself together and shuffled crabwise to Nick's side.
He had draped his shorts over the edge as some protection against scrapes. What a pair, she thought, her in sodden black bra and knickers, him in white Y-fronts and string vest!
Turning his head, he caught her eye and gave her a crooked grin. "Needs must when the devil drives. Come on, we can do it. On three."
She leant down. He shifted his grip and she hooked her hands beneath the brown man's armpit. As another swell raised him towards them, Nick counted, "One. Two—"
"Hey, hang on!"
Heavy footsteps hurried across the rock. Megan glanced back to see a young couple in hiking boots and shorts, shrugging off rucksacks as they came.
"We saw from the cliff path," the girl explained breathlessly. "Sorry it took us so long to get here. We were way up at the top."
"I'll take over," the shaggy-haired youth said to Megan, kneeling down. "Super job, but you must be done in."
She was happy to relinquish her place. Her arms were beginning to feel like jelly.
As she sat up, Nick said, "Megan, be ready to support his head. All right, mate, at the top of the swell... One, two, heave!"
Megan managed to field his head before it struck the rock. She laid it down gently and brushed the straggling black hair from his face.
"A wog, eh?" said the stranger. "Indian, looks like. Stupid git, swimming in there. Starkers, too."
"Don't talk like that, Chaz," his companion remonstrated. "You don't know what happened. Is he breathing?"
Her hand on his chest, Megan put her ear to his mouth, which had fallen slightly open. "Can't feel any movement but there's a faint wheeze."


Carola will be talking about Valley of the Shadow and signing copies at Murder by the Book in Portland OR at 2 pm December 9th (at their holiday party) and at Seattle Mystery Bookshop at 12 noon December 11. Signed books can be ordered from either.