Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Bull At The Gate - Melding History and Contemporary

The Torc of Moonlight trilogy is a set of fast-paced, romantic suspense novels each using three major storylines, one historical. The premise is the resurrection of a Celtic water deity in contemporary northern England – which isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds.

There are many springs and ancient wells veiled beneath a flimsy veneer of scientific understanding or Christian belief at which offerings can be found. Don’t you do the same, throwing coins into a wishing well? Who are you expecting to hear your plea for good luck? Perhaps you are sustaining whatever dwells within.

The Bull At The Gate, just launched, is Book 2 in the trilogy. With Alice dead, Nick has moved to York, a walled mediaeval city hiding the ruins of a Roman fortress. But is Alice dead? Has Nick’s mental state been misdiagnosed? As Alice tries to reach her lost lover, does time shift? A student, Sophie, has vanished, and a Roman legionary has lost his grip on his own reality in a colonia that should be called Eboracum.

Here’s an excerpt from both Nick, who carries all three novels, and the retired Roman legionary, Vibius.

As he took the receipt from the laundry assistant Nick’s phone beeped again, and this time he reached into his pocket to check the message.
Get back here. Police want interviews re Sophie.
Sophie? He stopped in the middle of the tiled floor to stare at the screen, the washers humming on one side, the driers thumping on the other. Sophie. She was missing and he’d forgotten; she’d not turned up for her birthday party at Club Salvation. He remembered James reading out the information from the university’s intranet, but the memory seemed distant. He’d been fixed on the silver plaque, the silver plaque that Alice had given him and that the professor and James had confiscated. It would do him no good to dwell on that.
He texted OK and checked his change as he reached to open the door to the street. In his palm sat three large coins, two gold, one silver, each showing the Queen’s head. As he closed his fingers around them the coins flipped, and he stopped in the open doorway to uncurl his hand and look again. She wasn’t standing, she was sitting on a lion, but the spear was there – no, a trident – the shield, the crested helmet, the draped clothing…
‘Shut that bloody door!’ the woman behind him yelled, and he stepped into the street. As a lorry thundered by, he pulled up the image of the silver votive plaque and placed his mobile beside the silver coin in his hand. He knew she was Britannia on the fifty-pence piece, Minerva, the professor had thought, on the plaque, but they were so alike it was unnerving.

Vibius drew the woollen wrap closer about his shoulders as he watched the painted door thud against its frame with every kick and fist thump that landed on the further side. The houseman had retreated from his shoulder to linger at the turn in the narrow corridor, his anxiety showing in his every awkward gesture. Let the old goat fret awhile. There again, perhaps not too long. There was a side to the man Vibius had not recognised. He could, he realised, have underestimated him, held him against the men of the Victrix and found him paltry, when in truth his skills lay in other areas.
How had he accomplished the feat? How had he paid – or bribed – those who had bundled their cargo into such a box and wheeled it across the bridge and to the rear of his dwelling? There had been scant time for answers, even for questions. Alone, the houseman had said, frightened, hiding, afraid to be seen. And not far from the slaver that had berthed in the night. Had the girl escaped it?
Sitting as if a peach in a tree waiting to be picked, the houseman had told him, and Vibius recalled his sly manner and averted gaze as the houseman had added, waiting to be tasted.
A bed-gift to recompense for earlier aggravations, that was why the girl had been brought, to show that the houseman was worth his keep, to buy him, Vibius Fulcinius. And that rankled, the thought that the houseman believed he could be bought.
He watched the door flex under the onslaught. What was in that storeroom that she was using to hammer at the wood? How had she found it in the dark? Her voice was full of vehemence now, her tongue not one he’d heard, not Hispania, not a dialect of west Germania or of the tribes near the Wall. But those were threats she uttered, he recognised the tone if not the words, threats backed by a belief in an authority that was hers to call upon. She was too well-fed, too richly clothed against the cold for an escaped slave… unless her ship had been boarded and she’d been taken along with its cargo. But no again; she’d not been ill-used, she had been protected.
And yet she was alone.

Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this post please give it a Tweet (below). If you leave a comment or ask a question you could win both ebooks [The draw is now closed]. This post is part of a listed blog tour. Last: Crime Elements in a Non-Crime Novel
Torc of Moonlight Book 1 is discounted to 99c/99p for a limited period.
The Bull At The Gate Book 2 is available in ebook only, paperback to follow
All Formats now – filtering through to iBooks, Nook, Kobo in a few days

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Linda Acaster said...

It's great to be across on Historical Fiction Excerpts. I'll be around all day if anyone would like to chat. Leave a comment for your name to be dropped in the hat for the free ebooks.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Tweeted it, Linda! Have fun! I'm out today but hopefully will get chance to read and comment.

Linda Acaster said...

No probs. Thanks for the Tweet.

Pat McDermott said...

I love the mood in this excerpt, Linda. Wonderful supernatural suspense, and you make it sound quite plausible. Well done. Best of luck to you and your Torc of Moonlight Trilogy!

Linda Acaster said...

Hi Pat, thanks for calling by. I work a lot with atmosphere, tone and nuance with the very intention of making it read entirely plausible. The novel has an ambiguous feel to it, so the suspense creeps up on readers.

Best of luck with the draw!