Sunday, 26 February 2012

Fair Border Bride

Fair Border Bride

By Jen Black

Blurb: In 1543 Harry Wharton finds himself caught up in the middle of a reivers' cattle raid and left for dead. Alina hides him, but her father threatens to kill him and events force her into a life-changing decision. An exciting historical romance set on the Anglo-Scottish frontier in Tudor days.


“Are you come to kill me, or help me?”

At the sound of the croaky, laboured voice, she dropped his cap and jerked backwards. Her heart loosed a single mighty thump against her chest wall. Poised to rise and flee, she hesitated when the man made no effort to move. She frowned. He hadn’t sounded like Harry at all. His eyes were open, but only as mere slits. Careful to stay out of reach of his arm, she bent low to peer into his face.

She prodded his shoulder. “Harry?”

His eyes had closed again.

“Sir? Sir?”

His lids lifted, but only half-way. “Yes?”

Alina shuffled to one side, so he did not have to adjust his line of vision to see her. “What are you doing here?”

His lids closed once more. “My head…hurts.”

“You have a swelling. There.”


She whipped her finger back from his brow. “I’m sorry. I did not mean to cause pain.”

One of his eyes opened to the merest slit and regarded her with displeasure. “My horse has a gentler touch than you, madam.”

“Well!” Affronted, Alina could think of nothing to say.

“No,” he said. “Since you ask, I am not well.”

“I didn’t ask.”

“Then you should have done.” He closed his eyes again.

Alina stared at him. His name was Harry Scott, and because of that, hurt or not, her father would kill him. But Harry had saved her from the bull, so she owed him something. She couldn’t walk away and leave him.

Yesterday the intensity of his gaze made her heart flutter.

Today he behaved as if she were a stranger.

Birdsong flooded from the branches above. Dragon dozed in the sunshine. The stranger’s horse moved a pace or two out into the meadow and continued to graze. Could she keep him hidden? Father might return at any moment. She turned back to the prone figure.

“Can you walk?”

His dark brows drew in towards his nose while he considered the matter. “I doubt it.”

“I can’t shift you on my own.”

“No need. Just let me be. Sleep…would be…good.” His voice slurred on the words and his eyes closed.

Alina leaned over and shook his arm. “You can’t sleep here. Someone will find you, and then it will be all over. There was a raid last night, and Father will think you were a part of it.” He took no notice, so she shook him again and raised her voice. “Do you want to die today?”

He groaned, and his hand lifted, fingers splayed, to stop her rough shaking. “Enough, I am awake.”

She sat back on her heels and surveyed him. “I hope you are not too heavy, Harry.”

His fingers clenched on the fabric of her skirt. “You know me?” His voice was sharper, demanding. “You know my name? Wait. Help me sit up.”


It was the kind of flippant reply she gave Lionel when he tried his new found authority on her. Lionel didn’t like it when she stood up to him, but she was the elder and had no intention of being brow beaten by her brother. Harry, however, was unmoved. He stared at the damp hem of her brown skirt as if fascinated by it.

“You are correct,” he said. “I am sorry. Would you please help me sit up? I shall do my best to assist.” Resigned amusement flavoured his apology.

Lionel never reacted like this. Alina made no move to help the man at her feet, but studied the lines of his face and remembered the oddness of his remark. “What do you mean when you ask if I know your name?”

“For God’s sake, woman! Help me!”

“How do I know you won’t attack me?”

He groaned. “By the Rood! How will I manage to attack you when I can’t sit up? You could fell me with a hazel twig at the moment.” Frustrated resignation rang through his voice.

“Can you turn over? It will be easier if you are on your back.”

“I can but try.” His mouth lifted in a crooked smile.

She observed his careful sequence of movements with a critical eye. Each limb seemed sound, and when he rolled over and stared at the spreading canopy of green leaves above him, she could not help but gasp, for his eyes glowed like sapphires in the soft light beneath the tree. Her heart gave an odd little jerk.

“Where are you?”

“Here.” She moved closer, confident he would not hurt her. “Can’t you see me?”

“I can now you’ve moved.” His eyes flickered and squinted as he struggled to focus on her. “What lovely eyes you have. I hope they are kind eyes. If I move my head it makes me dizzy, so just now I prefer not to, if you don’t mind.”

“Then how am I to move you?”

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Find Fair Border Bride on Amazon Kindle: here 
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Sunday, 19 February 2012

Warm Up Your Winter - 'The Snow Bride'

She is Beauty, but is he the Beast?

Elfrida, spirited, caring and beautiful, is also alone. She is the witch of the woods and no man dares to ask for her hand in marriage until a beast comes stalking brides and steals away her sister. Desperate, the lovely Elfrida offers herself as a sacrifice, as bridal bait, and she is seized by a man with fearful scars. Is he the beast?

In the depths of a frozen midwinter, in the heart of the woodland, Sir Magnus, battle-hardened knight of the Crusades, searches ceaselessly for three missing brides, pitting his wits and weapons against a nameless stalker of the snowy forest. Disfigured and hideously scarred, Magnus has finished with love, he thinks, until he rescues a fourth 'bride', the beautiful, red-haired Elfrida, whose innocent touch ignites in him a fierce passion that satisfies his deepest yearnings and darkest desires.

Now out at Bookstrand Publishing 2011

Buy the ebook:

Amazon Kindle (US)
Amazon Kindle (UK)
Barnes and Noble

Read Chapter One

...and here is another excerpt to tempt you:

Elfrida stirred sluggishly, unable to remember where she was. Her back ached, and the rest of her body burned. She opened her eyes and sat up with a jerk, thinking of Christina.

Her head felt to be bobbing like an acorn cup in a stream, and her vision swam. As she tried to swing her legs, her sense of dizzy falling increased, becoming worse as she closed her eyes. She lashed out in the darkness, her flailing hands and feet connecting with straw, dusty hay, and ancient pelts.

“Christina?” she hissed, listening intently and praying now that the monster had brought her to the same place it had taken her sister.

She heard nothing but her own breath, and when she held that, nothing at all.

“Christina?” Fearing to reach out in this blackness that was more than night and dreading what she might find, Elfrida forced herself to stretch her arms. She trailed her fingers out into the ghastly void, tracing the unseen world with trembling hands.

Her body shook more than her hands, but she ignored the shuddering of her limbs, closed her eyes like a blind man, and searched.

She lay on a pallet, she realized, full of crackling, dry grass. When she scented and tasted the air, there was no blood. She did not share the space with grisly corpses.

I am alone and unfettered. Now her heart had stopped thudding in her ears, she listened again, hearing no one else. Chanting a charm to see in the dark, she tried again to shift her feet.

Light spilled into her eyes like scalding milk as a door opened and a massive figure lurched across the threshold. Elfrida launched herself at freedom, hurling a fistful of straw at the looming beast and ducking out for the light.

She fell instead, her legs buckling, her last sight that of softly falling snow.

* * * *

Magnus gathered the woman before she pitched facedown into the snow, returning her swiftly to the rough bed within the hut. Her tiny, bird-boned form terrified him. Clutching her was like ripping a fragile wood anemone up from its roots.

And she had fought him, wind-flower or not. She had charged at him.

“I wish, lass, that you would listen to me. I am not the Forest Grendel, nor have wish to be, nor ever have been.”

Just as earlier, in the clearing where he had first come upon her, a brilliant shock of life and color in a white, dead world, the woman gave no sign of hearing. She was cold again, freezing, while in his arms she had steamed with fever. He tugged off his cloak and bundled her into it, then piled his firewood and kindling onto the bare hearth.

A few strikes of his flints and he had a fire. He set snow to melt in the helmet he was using as a cauldron. He swept more dusty hay up from the floor and, sneezing, packed it round the still little figure.

No beast on two or four legs would hunt tonight, so that was one worry less. Finding this lean-to hut in the forest had been a godsend, but it would be cold.

Magnus went back out into the snow and led his horse into the hut, spreading what feed he had brought with him. He kept the door shut with his saddle, rubbed the palfrey down with the bay’s own horse blanket, and looked about for a lantern.

There was none, just as there were no buckets, nor wooden bowls hanging from the eaves. But, abandoned as it surely had been, the place was well roofed, and no snow swirled in through the wood and wattle walls. Whistling, Magnus dug through his pack and found a flask of ale, some hard cheese, two wizened apples, and a chunk of dark rye bread. He spoke softly to his horse, then looked again at the woman.

She was breathing steadily now, and her lips and cheeks had more color. By the glittering, rising fire he saw her as he had first in the forest clearing, an elf-child of beauty and grace, a willing sacrifice to the monster. Kneeling beside her, he longed to stroke her vivid red hair and kiss the small dimple in her chin. In sleep she had the calm, flawless face of a Madonna of Outremer and the bright locks of a Magdalene.

He had guessed who she was—the witch of the three villages, the good witch driven to desperation. Coming upon her in that snowfield, tied between two trees like a crucified child of fairy, his temper had been a black storm against the villagers for sparing their skins by flaying hers. Then he had seen her face, recognized that wild, stark, sunken-cheeked grief, seen the loose bonds and the terrible “feast,” and had understood.

Another young woman has been taken by the beast, someone you love.

She—Elfrida, that was her name, he remembered it now—Elfrida was either very foolish or very powerful, to offer herself as bait.

Lindsay Townsend

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Guest blog - Bekki Lynn: 'Annie and the Young Master'

Annie and the Young Master is an erotic historical fairy tale based on the old folk-tale 'Cap O' Rushes'. This is Bekki Lynn's re-interpretation of that intriguing fairy story.


Banished from her home, Lillian Basford picked herself up and set out to start a new life. When Samuel Wadkins came along and gave her a real-life taste of what her dreams with him had teased her with, she became torn between her life as it was and what it’d now become. [erotic historical]

ISBN: 978-1-4524-3636-4


She scanned the room, taking in the gowns of reds, greens and blues, even gold, silver and purples. They made her pastel pink dress feel drab. Stepping back to take her leave, her eyes landed on his. He came toward her and she froze. How was she going to escape?

He stopped before her and bowed. “May I make your acquaintance?” he asked. “My name is Samuel Wadkins.”

Manners led her to curtsy. “Excuse me. I can not stay.”

He held his hand out to her. “I’d be pleased if you danced with me.”

His eyes held hers when they met. Lillian could not deny him. With her hand in his, he led her to the dance floor and laid a hand on her waist. She followed his lead easy enough, having danced with her father many times around the house.

“I’ve not seen you before, have I?” he asked.

“Would it matter?” she asked, her eyes lowered, voice quiet.

“Who’s your family?”

“Many questions. Am I to believe you’re in training for service?” she asked, tilting her head to look up at him.

“Forgive me.”

Samuel’s hand tightened on her waist as he whirled her around the floor, stopping to twirl and dip her. He held left her bent over his arm longer than necessary, his eyes penetrating hers. She worried he might see familiarity in her depths. Part of her wished not, part of her was glad to be near him even if she suffered another cold dip in the water to cool her wanting of his body. His eyes began to darken with desire and she shivered. If he laid her out now on the floor and loved her, the onlookers would be forgotten.

He drew her up, saying, “I feel I’ve seen into your eyes before. They’re such a unique blue, between the sky and the night.”

“It’s the lighting, maybe the event,” she murmured. Her heart pounded from both the dance and the desire steadily rising from being near him and remembering what it had felt like to have her body with his.

“I shall like to dance with you all night.”

She didn’t know what to say, but the change in the music temple set them off on a waltz. They glided around the floor as if they were alone. For her it seemed so. Their eyes watched one another as they whirled among others. If his could be trusted, he saw into her soul, the depths of heart. No laughter came from what he saw, but rather his eyes darkened with the same need she'd seen that morning too many fortnights ago.

When the music ended, he drew her close to him. She felt his breathlessness equal hers, from activity she would have believed had she not seen the growing need spread over his face. Was he so easily taken he couldn’t control himself? This thought pricked her heart, but she wanted to believe somewhere deep within him, a particle of him knew she to be Annie. It could wishful thinking or a way to save her heart for the moment, maybe.

He led her toward a table and handed her a glass of punch before guiding her through the nearest open door. She found herself in the night air, welcoming the breeze.

“I used to wonder about these affairs, but then I was sent off to school before I could attend.”

“Is it everything you imagined?”

“Yes, and no,” he said, closing the respectable distance between them. With a finger, he tipped her chin up. “There’s something about you, familiar.” His head bent near her ear and he whispered, “My body claims to know you in ways it desires.”

She swallowed and took a step backward. “Did your school teach you to be so forward?”

“Pardon my bluntness. I’m not normally brash.” He took her glass and set it down on the nearby table. “Shall we?” he asked, extending his arm.

Relieved to return to the dance floor, she wished for the normalcy the night should have had. Maybe know Samuel in an accepted sense of what's proper.

The chimes of a clock reached her. She listened and knew it to be the hour of ten. She must hurry home. Before the music began once more, she reached up on her toes and whispered in his ear. “Blessings to you, Samuel.” Then she turned to leave, but he pulled her back, holding her to his body.

His mouth claimed hers, releasing a hunger she should have kept back. Rather she drank and gave as she’d done that morning many weeks ago. The quiet of the room disturbed her and she pushed at him to let her go. “I have to go.” She ran from the room.

“Annie, wait!”

She heard him, but went for the buggy sitting beside the nearest carriage rather than wait for it brought up.

“Annie!” he called after her again.

Purchase Bekki's books at:
Smashwords, Kobo, Amazon, Lulu, Diesel, SonyBarnes and Noble.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Guest blog: Eleanor Sullivan - 'Cover Her Body'

In a strict, religious society in 1830s rural Ohio, a 16-year-old girl is murdered because she’s pregnant, but the only person who suspects it wasn’t an accident is Adelaide, a young midwife, who worries that the remedy she gave the girl for a “woman’s ailment” caused her death. Adelaide’s husband, Benjamin, fearful that they’ll be banned from the prosperous community, forbids her from questioning the girl’s death. But a mistake she made years ago cost the life of a mother and her unborn babe, and Adelaide vowed to never let another mother die.

Pressure mounts when Adelaide is accused of harming the girl, but the allegation only fuels her determination to find the killer, even though she begins to suspect that her husband might be involved in the girl’s death. And the more she investigates, not only does she start to question her own faith and beliefs, but she finds herself attracted to an unlikely man in the community, a man who has vowed to remain celibate. Then her questions alert the outside authorities, and now this isolated community is invaded by the very society they had shunned.


03 May 1833

Zoar, Ohio

Ropes creaked as Adelaide slid off the bed and waited, clutching herself in the cold. In the cradle next to the bed, her infant puckered her lips and let out a sigh before sinking back into sleep. Benjamin’s side of the bed remained empty. Had he even returned during the night?

Adelaide grabbed her dress from the hook on the wall, pulled it over her head, and moved on stocking feet through the cabin, her hem whispering across the wood plank floor. With a glance up the stairs where her sister slept, she bent to button her shoes, then snatched her shawl off a peg and slipped outside.

The air hung heavy with moisture from last night’s storm. Apple blossoms littered the ground by the door, their scent cloying. Nothing stirred. Good. If she hurried she might have just enough time to herself before the workday began.

A fleeting sensation of guilt washed over her. No good Separatist would sneak out for an unsanctioned outing.

With a shrug, she looped her shawl across her chest, grasped her skirts, and plunged down the hill, her feet moving silently over the rough cinders. She hurried past Benjamin’s cabinet shop and the blacksmith shop next to it, around the store and dairy, continuing on the path into the woods. She didn’t need the moonlight nor a lantern to guide her way. The sound of rushing water hidden below the hill drew her to a favored spot.

She skidded to a stop.

The willow tree—her tree—lay sprawled in the water, its branches flailing about in the raging water. She sank onto a boulder to the side, and shut her eyes against the image. No longer would the tree shield her from the prying eyes of her community. Only naked spikes of its stump remained.

A cock crowed in the distance.

The river roared downstream and splattered foam on the boulder. Adelaide tucked her skirt around her ankles, hugged her knees to her chest, and rocked back and forth. The quarrel she’d had with Benjamin the night before lingered in her mouth like the taste of an unripe persimmon.

Her eyes wandered over the surface of the water, pausing on a white object bobbing in the darkness. Blue fabric trailed in the current. Her mind worked to make sense of the sight until horror plunged through her, tightening her throat.

It was a hand. A girl’s hand.

A wave splashed over the body and twisted it loose to bob beneath the water and spring up again. Only a strand of tangled hair tethered to a branch kept her from plummeting downstream. If she left to get someone, the girl might be gone. She couldn’t let the river take her.

Adelaide hiked up her skirts and plunged into the water, the cold sucking her breath. She struggled for a few steps, but her shoes filled with water, and she tumbled forward. The panic she’d felt all those years ago when the boys had tossed her into the river came back with a rush. She flailed about, gulping dirt-choked water, her arms splashing uselessly.

At last her feet touched bottom. She pushed against it, sprang to the surface, and grabbed onto the body, its buoyancy keeping them both afloat. She spit out muddy water and jerked the girl’s hair loose from its tangle. Her churning legs steered them forward until the girl’s head bumped into the bank.

She slipped off the corpse and stood in the waist-high water, shivering as a gust of wind rose from the river. Her sodden clothing clung to her small frame, the wet-wool smell of her shawl tangled around her neck choking her. Adelaide bent down and turned the body toward her.

Johanna. She stared at the open eyes of her friends’ beloved daughter as water washed over the girl’s face. Her knees buckled as a vision of her own precious baby rose in her mind. She clutched Johanna to her breast and rocked back and forth, the chill forgotten. Whatever would Helga do when she learned of another daughter’s death?

The wind picked up, and a wave splattered them. Joanna’s lifeless arms flapped about, slapping her with icy hands. She’s so cold, poor child. I have to get her out. She groaned as she lifted the water-logged body farther up onto the bank. A whoosh of air escaped from Johanna’s lips.

Air? No water?

She tugged again. Only a dribble escaped the girl’s lips. Puzzled, she rolled Johanna over gently. The skin on the girl’s colorless face seemed as if it had been molded out of paraffin. Adelaide reached over and closed her eyes.

A voice from above cut through her. “Was machst Du?”

About Me

I’m the author of award-winning books for nurses and the Monika Everhardt medical mysteries. Cover Her Body is the first book in a series set in the 1830s village my ancestors settled after escaping religious persecution in their native Germany. It’s my pleasure to bring them to life in my fiction!

Buy Cover Her Body at: Amazon ($11.72) Kindle ($2.99) or autographed from my website:


Sunday, 5 February 2012


My latest Regency comedy novella, An Inheritance for the Birds, the next entry in The Wild Rose Press's Love Letters series, is now available. All the stories start with a letter that changes the hero's and heroine's lives. Mine is a letter about an inheritance, but there's a catch...

Available at The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.


Make the ducks happy and win an estate!

Mr. Christopher "Kit" Winnington can't believe the letter from his late great-aunt's solicitor. In order to inherit her estate, he must win a contest against her companion, Miss Angela Stratton. Whoever makes his great-aunt's pet ducks happy wins.

A contest: What a cork-brained idea. This Miss Stratton is probably a sly spinster who camouflaged her grasping nature from his good-natured relative. There is no way he will let the estate go to a usurper.

Angela never expected her former employer to name her in her will. Most likely, this Mr. Winnington is a trumped-up jackanapes who expects her to give up without a fight. Well, she is made of sterner stuff.

The ducks quack in avian bliss while Kit and Angela dance a duet of desire as they do their utmost to make the ducks--and themselves--happy.

Yawning, he shut the door behind him. Enough ducks and prickly ladies for one day. After dropping his satchel by the bed, he dragged off his clothes and draped them over the chair back. He dug a nightshirt from the valise and donned the garment before he blew out both candles.

Bates had already drawn back the bedclothes. The counterpane was soft under Kit's palm, and covered a featherbed. He grinned. By any chance, had they used the down from the pet ducks to stuff the mattress and pillows?

After tying the bed curtains back, he settled into the soft cocoon and laced his fingers behind his head. Tomorrow, he would have it out with Miss Stratton about the steward's residence, but that was tomorrow. He fluffed up his pillow and turned onto his side…


A bundle of flapping, squawking feathers exploded from the depths of the covers and attacked him. Throwing his arms over his head for protection, Kit fell out of bed. He scrambled to his feet and bolted for the door, the thrashing, quacking explosion battering him. A serrated knife edge scraped over his upper arm. "Ow!" Batting at the avian attacker with one hand, he groped for the latch with the other.

The door swung open. Miss Stratton, her candle flame flickering, dashed into the chamber. "Esmeralda, you stop that right now!"

The feathered windstorm quacked once more and, in a graceful arc, fluttered to the floor.

Kit lowered his arms and gave a mental groan. A duck. He should have known.

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