Friday, 13 October 2017

Kitty McKenzie - Victorian historical

Kitty McKenzie is available in all ebook formats and paperback.



Blurb:
1864 - Suddenly left as the head of the family, Kitty McKenzie must find her inner strength to keep her family together against the odds. Evicted from their resplendent home in the fashionable part of York after her parents’ deaths, Kitty must fight the legacy of bankruptcy and homelessness to secure a home for her and her siblings. Through sheer willpower and determination she grabs opportunities with both hands from working on a clothes and rag stall in the market to creating a teashop for the wealthy. Her road to happiness is fraught with obstacles of hardship and despair, but she refuses to let her dream of a better life for her family die. She soon learns that love and loyalty brings its own reward. 


Except:
York, England, November 1864

  From an upstairs window, Katherine McKenzie looked out over York’s rooftops into the distance. The pale grey clouds parted, allowing weak sunshine to filter through the bare trees and banish the gloom. Below, two weighty men filled the back of a wagon with the furniture from the house. Her gaze shifted to linger on the sorry cluster of her brothers and sisters. Ranging in age from sixteen to two years old, they stood as one on the lush lawn with their small carryalls placed neatly in front of them. Their pale faces peeking out from beneath hats showed little emotion while stern-looking men came and went from their once warm and happy home. Of course, there was no evidence of that now.
   Kitty leaned her forehead against the cool glass and fought the tears that gathered as she stared sightlessly down at her remaining family. All morning, the children had watched and listened as strangers invaded each room, taking notes and sizing up all the possessions once important to the family. They understood little of what was happening, but she had told them to wait outside while she and Rory sorted everything out. So, her brothers and sisters, shocked and confused, did as she instructed, not daring to talk about what they saw. Talking would come later.
  Inhaling deeply to calm herself, Kitty turned away from the window. Downstairs a variety of men roamed about, murmuring in hushed voices, making notes on what was left to take and how much money each item would bring.
Vultures, that’s what Rory called them, but Kitty knew it was all about the cycle of life. She had learned a lot about life in the last few weeks. None of it very encouraging, but nevertheless, it had to be endured.
  She sighed, rubbing the back of her neck, stiff with strain. The enormity of what faced her left her cold. Responsibilities had never been hers. There had always been others to care for her comfort. Could she do it? Could she steer the children through this difficult time? As her parents coffins were lowered into the ground, she promised them she’d keep the family together at all costs. She’d do whatever it took to keep her remaining family safe. As the eldest it was her duty to look after them, but secretly she wondered who would look after her.
  Hearing shouts coming from below, she left her parents’ empty bedroom and hurried across the landing and down the main red- carpeted staircase.
 

Available in paperback and digital ebook from Kindle, Googleplay, Apple iBooks and Kobo, etc.
Kitty McKenzie Book 1
She must keep her family safe.
iBook https://goo.gl/RSyj6j

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

"A Knight's Vow," Medieval Historical Romance Novel. 99p 99 cents

Here's the blurb and a new excerpt from my re-issued full length medieval historical romance novel, "A Knight's Vow." Just 99p or 99 cents.

Blurb.

A crusader, haunted by grief and guilt. A bride-to-be, struggling with old yearnings and desires. Can Sir Guillelm de la Rochelle and Lady Alyson of Olverton rediscover the innocent love they once had for each other? When Guillelm makes a fearful vow on their wedding night, is all lost forever between him and Alyson? And will the secret enemy who hates their marriage destroy them both?

“A Knight’s Vow” is a tale of romance and chivalry. In a time of knights and ladies, of tournaments and battles, of crusades, castles and magic.

(First published by Kensington Publishing, New York, in 2008.)


Amazon Co UK

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Excerpt. (Taken from a skirmish where the hero Guillelm is fighting and the heroine Alyson is desperate to save him.)


Alyson began to run again, to Guillelm, aware she only had seconds, instants before the enemy raised his helm and wound up his deadly crossbow.
He would shoot at Guillelm—
‘Down! Get down! Get away!’ Yelling warnings, she ran straight at Guillelm, her one thought to save him, her only wild plan that if she could not make him hear her warnings, she might spoil the aim of the enemy archer.      
Ignoring the growing pain of her heat-seared lungs and her fading, tiring limbs, she screamed again, ’Get down!’ and now Guillelm heard and saw her, shock and horror warring in his face, his mouth forming the question, ’How?’
‘Down!’ Alyson cried, but she was too late. She felt a punch slam into her shoulder, spinning her round so that she fell backwards, the breath knocked out of her. She tried to move, to reach Guillelm, shield him, but as she raised her head a jolt of agony drove through her body and she blacked out.

Guillelm reacted without conscious thought. He lowered the shocked, sobbing Prioress gently onto the ground and seized the quivering arrow shaft buried so sickeningly in Alyson’s shoulder, determined to draw it out before she came round from her faint.
Even as he worked, images flashed constantly before his eyes. Alyson running towards him, arms outstretched, making herself a target. Over and over, he saw the bolt thud into her slender body, saw her feet actually leave the ground as she was flung around by the force of the impact. She had been shot in the back and he had done nothing to save her; worse he had not even known she had joined the war-band. He had been so keen to lay sword against sword with √Čtienne the Bold, who, cur that he was, had turned tail the instant he saw him, riding through the smoke and soot of the burning convent.
‘Ah!’  Although he tried to be steady and careful and the crossbow bolt came out cleanly, the sharp decisive tug hurt her—Alyson came out of her swoon with a shriek of agony.
‘Sssh, sweetheart, it is done.’ Guillelm wanted to cradle her but dare not: he could not bear to hurt her again. Kneeling by her, he packed his cloak around her body, terrified at how cold she was. Her shoulder was bleeding freely and that must be good, for the ill-humours would be washed out.
What if the crossbow bolt was poisoned?
What if she died?
‘Live, Alyson,’ he whispered, too afraid to be angry at her. He should have known she would attempt something like this: she was never one to sit still when those she loved were under threat. Where was that sister of hers? The Flemings had herded the nuns into the courtyard while they torched the buildings. None had been harmed so where was she?
Blinking away tears, he raised his head and met the pasty faces of the squires. The lads had dismounted and gathered round, forming a shield with their horses. Too late, Guillelm thought bleakly.
‘My lord, we did not know…’
‘Truly we never suspected…’
‘She moved so swiftly, ran right amongst the horses…’
‘We could not stop her!’
Their excuses died away and they hung their heads.     
‘What can we do?’ asked one.
Guillelm raked them with furious eyes. His knights were still searching for survivors in the wrecked convent—friends or foe—but these useless, lumpen youths should be good for something. 
‘Get me that archer,’ he spat.
‘I will do so, my lord.’ Fulk stepped into the circle, glanced at Alyson’s still body, and then turned, shouting for his horse.
‘Sir —’
At first Guillelm thought it one of the squires, or the half-blind old militia-man he had led away to safety from the burning church.
‘Do not scold them, sir. I rode in disguise.’ The small, breathy voice was Alyson’s. She was looking at him, her eyes dark with pain and fear.
‘Peace!’ Guillelm took her icy hand in his, trying to will his own heat into her. ‘We shall have you home safe, soon enough.’
‘I am sorry to be so much trouble.’ Alyson tried to raise herself on her elbow, gasped and fell back.
‘Alyson!’ For a dreadful moment, he thought she had died, but then saw the quick rise of her chest and realized she had passed out again. He should lift her from this burnt, wrecked ground as soon as possible, but what way would be best? In his arms, on horseback? On a litter?
‘Give me your cloaks!’ he snapped at the hapless squires. ‘Cover her with them. You! Bring me the infirmarer! You! Make a fire here! You! Find Sir Thomas.’ He almost said Sir Fulk, his natural second-in-command, but Fulk was off on another necessary task and one he longed to accomplish himself, though revenge on the archer would not save Alyson.
Live, please live, he thought. It was a prayer and wish in one.
‘Where is that infirmarer?’ he bellowed, above the steady weeping of the Prioress. He was growing incensed with the lack of speed of everyone about him and exasperated with the cowering, wailing nuns who had trailed after him like ducklings following their mother as he carried the helpless, vacant-eyed head of their order away from her devastated convent. If  Alyson’s sister was in that drab company, why had she not come forward to be with her? Was she so withdrawn from the world that even the sight of her own flesh, broken and bleeding on the ground, stirred no passionate care? ’Is there no one?’
‘I am here, Guido.’ Calm as a rock in a sea of troubles, Sir Tom leaned down from his horse. ’What say I find something to use as a stretcher?’
‘Do it,’ Guillelm answered curtly, ’And tell your men to search the infirmary for potions and such.’ A late thought struck him, but he could not feel ashamed at it, not with Alyson injured beside him. ’See if any of our own men are hurt, and tend them.’
 ‘They will not be hurt. Men never are.’ A small, slim nun emerged from the smoke, her arms full of books and manuscripts.
‘I am Sister Ursula, who was once Matilda of Olverton Minor,’ she said, calm as glass. ‘I have been in our scriptorium, where our true treasures are stored. The mercenaries did not recognize them as such.’ Slow, careful, she laid the books on the ground and only then looked at Alyson.
‘Your infirmarer?’ Guillelm asked, as Sister Ursula’s lips moved in prayer. His hands itched to shake her out of her complacency: was this woman human? ’Your sister is still bleeding.’
‘The infirmarer is dead.’ Sister Ursula opened her eyes, fixing Guillelm with a stare of utter dislike, mingled with distaste. ’Our sister in Christ passed away eight days ago.’
‘Mother of God, have you no one who can help my wife?’
‘Do not blaspheme against the name of our blessed Lady of Heaven.’
Sister Ursula stared at a kneeling squire striking sparks off his knife to light a small, swiftly-gathered bundle of kindling until the youth shuffled out of her path. She knelt beside Alyson, facing Guillelm across her sister’s body. ‘I will pray.’
‘Please —’ Guillelm felt to be out of his depth dealing with this smooth, polished creature, he felt to be drowning in her piety. If it had been a man he would have appealed to honour, or come to blows. How did women deal with each other? He thought of his sister Juliana, but their relationship had been oddly formal, she being so much the elder and out of reach of sibling contests.
Rivalry. The answer came to him as he recalled the scrapes and scraps that he had seen and sometimes intervened in between brothers. It was a risk to employ it against women, but what other tactic could he use? Luck and recklessness were all he had left.
‘If she could speak, Alyson could tell us how to treat her,’ he remarked, adopting Sister Ursula’s calm tones while around him his squires and gathering knights held their breaths against the approaching storm. Gently: he had to do this right. ‘She is an excellent healer.’
Sister Ursula said nothing.
‘She told me you had no diligence in such matters,’ Guillelm went on, lying shamelessly and worse, feeling no guilt as he did so. ’That you love books more than people.’
‘She is wrong,’ said Sister Ursula.
 ‘You put your skill above hers, then? I have seen no other to match her, even in Outremer.’
With a small shake of her head remarkably like Alyson’s, Sister Ursula unclasped her palms.
 ‘I thought her judgment a little harsh, but I see that she was right. She said you lacked the healing touch.’
‘What nonsense.’ Sister Ursula rose to her feet. ’Build up that fire,’ she commanded. ’I must have more light.’ 

Lindsay Townsend

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Matfen Affair, or the bridesmaid and the ghost

"an interesting mix of characters, from Leigh’s older, headstrong sister to the too-young-and-spoilt bride, from the rather delicious Robert to the stiff-collared Bernard."


Clutching my candle, I headed into the darkness beyond the sharp turn that led to the older part of the house. In daytime, with others nearby, it had seemed romantic, but alone and in near darkness, climbing that narrow spiral stair was like stepping back two centuries. In several places my elbow grazed rough stone. My poor little candle flame flickered wildly in the upper corridor and its light glinted and rebounded from metal shields, axes and pieces of old armour that decorated the walls.
The hairs on my arms rose as I approached the door to my bedchamber. I glanced back the way I had come and thought it was a pity that wood panelling had not been used to cover the bare stone as it would have made the corridor so much warmer. Close at hand, someone sighed.
I whirled round with such speed I almost extinguished my candle.
The corridor was empty. I held the candle high, but saw only the dull gleam of ancient armour. The silence was such that it was hard to believe any other person lived in the house, let alone walked the corridor with me. I took a firm grip of my candle, turned to the bedchamber door, grasped the sneck and entered.
A fire burned in the hearth, and the bright, cheerful glow was a welcome surprise. Relief rushed through me as I closed the door. The maids had lit candles, turned down the bed and laid two white nightgowns on the side nearest the fire. Heaping blessings on their heads, I hurried across the room and crouched before the fire. Heat soaked into me and gradually I forgot the sigh of sound in the corridor.
Lacking the nerve to ask Amelia to leave the company downstairs in order to help me undress, I struggled to undo the ties of my evening gown, but managed without too many contortions. Amelia loved parties and gatherings and it would have been unkind to insist that she should leave because I was tired. The bed was wide, so there was a good chance that I would not slide into my sister while asleep. If I did, I would surely earn an elbow in the ribs.
As I snuggled down beneath the covers Elspeth and Maud’s advice about standing up to Amelia wandered into my mind. How odd that Robert should have spoken of the same subject but two days ago. I really ought to have taken a stand against her before now. If I did not do something soon, the pattern would be set for the rest of our lives. Comforting myself with the knowledge that I was cleverer than my sister was no longer enough. I had made a beginning today and must keep it up even though she was the more articulate and seemed able to think and speak at the same time, which often flummoxed me. My answers were good, but had a habit of coming a day later than I actually needed them.
My nose grew cold, so I drew the covers higher and hugged myself beneath them. The fire blazed well, and threw a bobbing, grotesque shadow of the chandelier onto the ceiling. If I had the courage to claim the side of the bed next to the fire, I might grow warmer. The idea appealed to me but for the fact that Amelia would almost certainly demand that side when she arrived. Until I was more practised in opposing her, I did not wish to provoke an argument over which side of the bed I should have.
My nose was icy cold, yet a few minutes earlier I had stood before the cheerful blaze and felt comfortably warm while I fastened the pearl buttons at the throat of my nightgown. I could not get warm in spite of the heaped blankets. A small sound captured my attention and I froze into stillness, for the sound had been very like the sigh I had heard outside the bedroom door.
Rolling my head on the pillow, I checked around me. My senses quickened. Flickering firelight did not penetrate the darker corners of the pretty room, but there was enough light to see what little furniture there was: a small dressing table with a washbowl and linen towel between the two windows and a vast wardrobe stood in the far corner, a chest of drawers next to it. Breathing shallowly, clutching the sheet to my nose, my gaze roved the room in an endless sequence, seeking anything different or strange in my surroundings.




Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Medieval and Tudor Sweets. The Sweet Makers - A Tudor (and Medieval) Treat

There's a BBC TV program today about Tudor sweets - The Sweet Makers: A Tudor Treathttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0Vv_T-b1cA

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/proginfo/2017/29/the-sweet-makers

The mention of waffles, wafers and elaborate sugar creations holds true for the late Medieval period as well. Sugar then was so rare it was considered a spice.

The heroine of my historical romance novella Amice and the Mercenary is a Mistress of Sugar, versed in the art of complex sugar craft. Here's the opening of my novella, where Amice speaks of her craft:


Summer, Kent, 1357
                
 “I need your help,” Duke Henry said. “I need your help to guard the king of France.”
Amice said nothing. She and the duke sat together at her best friend’s wedding, drinking French wine and watching the other guests dance. Throughout the simple country marriage feast, Duke Henry had spoken of the great golden beauty of the bride Isabella, of the good fortune of Stephen, the bridegroom, and of the mild summer weather—all safe, conventional subjects. His leaning toward her now and speaking of the guardianship of kings was unexpected. She raised her dark eyebrows.
Duke Henry lowered his voice still further. “I need someone with a knowledge of plants, medicines and spices, like yourself, a woman with a knowledge of sugar. The reward for such an undertaking will be generous, very generous.”
Listening, Amice was in no haste to commit herself. To a less powerful man than the duke she might have said, “What is the captured French king to me? Why should I care to watch over him against an assassin?” Instead, she asked, “You fear an attack against this mighty hostage? You fear he might sicken or even die and you will be blamed because he is in your charge?”
“I do,” the duke answered, frowning over his wine. “This is an angry time, a time of war and trouble.”
And knights and nobles live for such times. Again, Amice remained silent.
After a sigh, the duke continued. “There are many who might wish to strike against my royal captive. Perhaps an angry Englishman, who believes all Frenchmen are the spawn of the devil.”
“Or Charles of Navarre,” Amice remarked. “He does not lack ambition.”
“True, ‘tis true,” the duke grunted. “It may even be one of the French King’s subjects, one who does not wish to pay his ransom.”
“And you believe I can help. Why? I am no warrior.”
“But you know poisons,” the duke countered.
“As do your food tasters,” Amice answered. “Or you could have the king drink from a cup made from the horn of a unicorn to neutralize the poison.”
“I will do both,” Duke Henry agreed. “But I need still more.”
“I do not blend in,” Amice said, interested to see how Duke Henry responded to that truth. Her parents had been Londoners like herself, but her grandparents were African. She was as dark as Saint Maurice. Even at home, people stared at her in the street.
“That is all to the good,” the duke said quickly. “Tall and handsome, striking as you are, you will attract notice.” He smiled, a look of surprising sweetness. “They will see your beauty and naught else. You will be stationed close to the serving tables, if it please you.”
“To watch for a poisoner? That will be a large undertaking.”
Duke Henry sighed. “I know it will be difficult, Amice, but if you are willing to pretend to work there, you would be another pair of eyes. You have expertise my servants do not have. King Jean—King John in the English way—has a particular liking for almond dragees and anise in confit at the end of every meal.”
Sweets, spiced and difficult to create. Their taste would mask much, including poison. “I can make those.” And watch perhaps as other sweets are made.
“Stephen told me that was likely. That you are a superb cook of sweets. Is it true that your mother trained in Italy and learned all the secrets of sugar?”
“She lived there for a time, yes.” Amice replied. Isabella has been bragging on my behalf to Stephen. And what else has Isabella’s new husband told the duke? “Does the French king not have his own people watching him? His own food-tasters?”
“Of course. King John has many tasters. But still it would be embarrassing if they detected poison, especially in a dish or a confit made solely for the king.”
“I see.” How strange. This king is his captive yet the duke still wishes to be regarded as a perfect host.
Duke Henry glanced away to the dancers again. “I trust my own tasters, of course, but not all of them have your skill and knowledge, especially with spices and sugar.”
Very prettily put, but Amice realized then that the duke did not entirely trust all those within his household. She decided to be blunt. “I will not work in the main kitchen.”
Duke Henry flushed to the roots of his fair hair and looked horrified at the idea. “A young woman such as yourself amidst those raging fires and sweating, half-naked scullions? Indeed, I would not ask that of you. No women work in my kitchens. Women do not work in kitchens. You will be in the still room, with my wife Isabel and her ladies.”
Amice wondered why he felt it needful to stress this. In great houses, castles and palaces, the cooks were all men. If I venture anywhere where food is prepared I shall stand out. But then I do already. “Your wife agrees to this?”
Now Duke Henry looked surprised. “Of course.”
“Shall I wear your livery?”
Duke Henry shook his head. “You are elegant enough already.”
Amice inclined her head at the compliment, glad to hide her eyes as she thought furiously. If I agree to this and I am mostly in the still room , does it mean he suspects a woman? Has there already been trouble? “And for other kinds of assassins?” she prompted.

“King John has Sir Gilles in his household, a most capable warrior, and Harry Swynford, Gilles’s captain.” Duke Henry sniffed. “Swynford is your true mercenary. He is English, but he fights for any side that pays him. Sir Gilles rates him highly.”

Here's another excerpt, where Amice is preparing more sweet treats.
Amice checked on her boiling water, honey comb and the residues of the hive. She was making mead, boiling all in a crock and preparing to add rosemary, cloves and ginger to flavor the drink. She did so, covered the crock and set it aside, ready for the yeasts to grow and change the water and honey into mead.
The duchess and her ladies had gone out into the gardens, leaving her alone in the chamber. When they return the duchess will want me to make wafers, so I should prepare the things I need. These were easy tasks for her, her bed was comfortable and her meals very fine, so why was she discontented?
My friend Isabella says I am impatient and Issa is right. But it is so hard to know that Sir Gilles is here or close and I cannot reach him, be revenged on him. Perhaps I should pray to my grandfather’s sacred spirits and sweeten my request with some of this honey. Instead she moved to the store cupboard, glancing at the brazier to ensure it still burned steadily. She could use the small oven, but that tended to smoke and she could make more of a show with the brazier.  She set another crock of water over the brazier, so as not to waste the flame or fuel, and lifted a wafer iron from the cupboard.
A loud crash then a stricken cry, followed by “Please, no!” and the unmistakable sounds of a solid fist pounding flesh, propelled Amice out of the chamber. Stepping across a broken wine pitcher by the threshold, she found a cowering maid and a squire. The lad, plump and well-dressed, had clearly been beating the girl for dropping the wine jug but he was deathly still now, one fist frozen against the door, the other hovering free in mid-air, and no wonder. A small, slender woman held a knife to his throat.
Amice recognized the squire as one of the duke’s by his livery and the woman by her bright golden hair. “Isabella.”

If you want to read more about Amice and her friend Isabella, please look into my boxed set, To Love A Knight, which contains both my "Amice and the Mercenary" and "Mistress Angel" novellas. This title is also available in print.

You can read more about medieval sweets here.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Aurora's Pride - Victorian saga

Aurora's Pride


My
Victorian historical novel, Aurora's Pride, is set in 1898 Yorkshire.
 This is Aurora and Reid's story and will be available in paperback and March 14th 2017.

Back blurb:
Aurora Pettigrew has it all, a loving family, a nice home, a comfortable life. She’s waiting for the right man to offer her marriage, and the man for her is Reid Sinclair, heir to the Sinclair fortune and the love of her life.
But, Reid’s mother, Julia, is against the match and her ruthlessness unearths a family secret that will tear Aurora’s world apart.
Unwilling to bring shame on her family and needing answers to the allegations brought to light by Reid’s mother, Aurora begins a long journey away from home. She leaves behind all that is familiar and safe to enter a world of mean streets and poor working class.
Living in the tenements of York, surrounded by people of a class she’d never mixed with before, Aurora struggles to come to terms with the way her life has changed. By chance, she reconnects with a man from her past and before he leaves with the army to war in South Africa, he offers her security through marriage.
Aurora knows she should be happy, but the memory of her love for Reid threatens her future.
When tragedy strikes, can Aurora find the strength to accept her life and forget the past?



Excerpt:

Aurora walked along the streets of York, head down against the wind. The end of summer was proving difficult this year and warm days would be followed by squalls of rain and blustery winds such as today. Since Ethel Minton’s visit six days ago, Aurora had gone out looking for work and new accommodation. Each day she had come home despondent on both issues. Without a wage they couldn’t look at the better houses, and the poorer areas were the likes of Edinburgh Yard, which she and Sophia were adamant not to go back to. Noah and Lily had spoken as one offering their home to them, but Aurora was reluctant to agree as they’d be on top of each other, especially when the two babies came.
  Aside from the anxiety of finding money and lodgings, she had become aware over the last few days of someone watching her. She couldn’t define what made her so sure someone was, but instinct told her she didn’t walk the streets alone. Then, last night, while closing the curtains a stranger lingered in the lane looking at her windows. As yet she hadn’t mentioned it to Sophia, who after the attack was nervous enough and jumped at any loud bangs or sudden shouts. Perhaps she should mention it to Noah, ask him to keep an eye out, and just hope that she was imagining it all.
  Her feet throbbed as she turned into Coney Street. The baby kicked, a new sensation that Aurora marveled at in secret joy. She rubbed her stomach and hurried on. She needed to buy some buttons and thread, as Sophia was letting out all her skirts. She’d have liked to buy some linen material too, for a blouse, but every penny had suddenly become precious now neither of them was working.
  She passed a tailor’s shop and was bumped into by two men coming out of the doorway. She apologized, even though it wasn’t her fault, at the same time the gentleman did too. Then she stopped and stared. Tom Sinclair stood gaping back at her, open-mouthed.
  “Aurrie?” He frowned, puzzled.
  She was the first to recover. “How are you, Tom?”
  “My God!” Tom enveloped her in a tight embrace and for a moment she relished being held by him. It’d been a long time since a man had held her, and Tom was as close as she would get to Reid. He stared at her in amazement. “What are you doing in York?”
  “Shopping.” She smiled brightly, acting as though them bumping into each other was an everyday occurrence. “And you?”
  “Oh this and that.” His gaze roamed over her and his grin faltered as he took in her appearance. He’d never seen her in anything but beautiful clothes and neatly groomed. She put a hand to her hair escaping from her felt hat and blushed. He’d noticed her faded clothes beneath her coat, which also needed a sponge and brush. Her shoes hadn’t seen polish for weeks.
  Tom turned to his companion. “Hal, my friend, I’ll meet you back at the hotel.”
  Hal, a tall, healthy-looking young man winked, a devilish smile in his eyes. “As you wish, my good fellow, but remember we leave on the evening train tomorrow.”
  Aurora’s blush deepened, imagining what Hal would think of her. “You should have introduced me, Tom. He thinks the worst judging by that remark.”
  “That’s more exciting than the truth though, isn’t it?” Tom’s smile flashed, but the amusement in his eyes had vanished completely. “There’s a tearoom on the corner. Let’s go.” He took her elbow and so shocked was she to see this serious side of him that she let him escort her into a small tearoom and assist her onto a wooden chair in the corner. He sat on the other side of the square table and lifted his hand to the passing waitress. “Tea and a plate of-of cakes…er…food, sandwiches and the like.”
  “Tom, I—” The words dried in her mouth as she saw the agony in his eyes. “What is it?”
  “I cannot believe it.” He shook his head and looked as if he was going to cry.
  Her heart leapt to her throat and she leaned forward. “Good God, Tom, what?”
  “What happened to you?” His voice came out on a whisper.
  She sat back in her chair, again conscious of her appearance. “You must be shocked.”
  “Shocked?” he squeaked and then clearing his throat, he held his hands out as if in question. “I thought you were travelling with your father’s aunt? That’s what your mother is telling everyone. Is this aunt without funds? Doesn’t your father know—’
  “Please, Tom, stop.” She rubbed her forehead, wondering how to tell him, whether she should tell him. “I’m not with my father’s aunt.”
  “I don’t understand.” He scratched his chin. “Aurrie, dearest, you look like hell. You’re so thin and…and shabby.”
  She wanted to laugh at being called thin, especially when the front fastening corset she’d bought only two weeks ago no longer fitter her. The top button of her blue skirt was left undone and her white blouse strained across her breast, which she hid with her coat, but his expression of horror wiped the laughter from her instantly. Apart from the parts of her body concern with the child, the rest of her was thin, her hands and arms especially. “It’s a long story.”
  “And I’ve got all day.”
  “But I haven’t.” She stood. “I must go. It was nice seeing you again.”
  “No.” He grabbed her wrist and forced her to sit down, causing the other customers to glance in their direction.      “Don’t go, not yet.” He let go of her as she sat and the waitress brought over a tea tray, which she set out on the table. Tom watched Aurora the entire time and she knew he was full of questions. “I want to hear it all, Aurrie.”
  “Do you?” She pulled off her gloves, revealing her red and work-chapped hands and ignored his gasp of surprise at the sight of them. Dropping a cube of sugar into her cup, she then stirred it slowly with a teaspoon. “I don’t think you want to know, Tom, not really.” She gave him a sad smile, knowing his personality as one of fun and laughter, never taking anything seriously.
  “I thought we were friends?”
  “We were. When life was simple.”
  “Aurrie, please. I can’t bear to see you like this.”
  “This?” She waved at her worn clothes. “Good lord, Tom, this is a good day.” Her chuckle was brittle. “We had enough water last night for a bath so I washed my hair…’
  “We?” He leaned forward over the table, cradling his teacup in one hand and took her hand in his other.
  “My mother, Sophia. We live together.”
  “Your mother Sophia?” His eyes widened. “Dearest, are you ill?”
  “Mad you mean?” This time she did laugh. “I wish I was, but alas I’m quite sane.” She bent over the table until their faces were nearly touching. “Can you cope with knowing the truth, Tom Sinclair? The man who has never had a moment of responsibly in his life?”
  Review:
If you're looking for a fairy tale with a twist, then look no further than Aurora's Pride. The characters may not fill out all the classic roles precisely, and you'll get to meet the entire townspeople around the "castle", but they are beyond a doubt entertaining and very adeptly written. It's a great read that reminds the little girls in us that sometimes the princess has to become Cinderella in order to be a good queen one day.
Books N Beans

 Aurora's Pride is available now.
Apple iBook https://goo.gl/1oY8BH

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Jayarava's Raves: There is No Life After Death, Sorry.

Jayarava's Raves: There is No Life After Death, Sorry.: Is there life after death ? This question has been important to people for at least 100,000 years. Now we can definitively say, "no,...

Monday, 26 June 2017

Book cover

Mr. Monfort's Marriage's cover just won a contest. See here:


http://pamlecky.com/2017/06/25/historical-fiction-cover-winner-june-2017



Thursday, 22 June 2017

Where Rainbows End by AnneMarie Brear

Where Rainbows End





Blurb
“I’m not a man, but that won’t stop me. Just you wait and see.”
It’s 1850 and the Noble family have arrived in Australia to start a new life after scandal drove them from their native England. Headstrong Pippa Noble is determined to reclaim their honour by making her father’s plans for a successful stud farm a reality.
Pippa is immediately spellbound by the untamed outback landscape, although she learns the hard way about the unforgiving nature of the bush – sometimes with devastating consequences. When circumstance leads to Pippa tending the new farm alone, it is the steadfast friendship of neighbouring country estate owner Gil Ashford-Smith that helps her through.
Then an unexpected visitor from England arrives, putting Pippa’s dreams in jeopardy. But she refuses to let go. She will hold onto her family’s land and make her mark, even if it means losing everything else …

Excerpt:
‘Miss Noble!’
She whipped around at the urgency in Robson’s voice and blanched at the strain on his face. He skidded to a stop in front of her and pointed to the ridge. ‘Bushfire. From the west. I’ve sent Colin to saddle a horse and ride up to the road to see how far away it is. But we must prepare.’
Pippa’s mouth went dry. ‘Bush … Bushfire?’
Esther hurried back to them, her hand clasped against her chest. ‘Oh, my dear lord. What will we do?’
Robson took off his hat and scratched his head, his expression revealing his concern. ‘We must fill every bucket and wet down the buildings, starting with the grain store. I’ve already got Peter and Barney digging a hole to bury feed and harnesses. The water in the creek is too low to last for long. We’ll need to put valuables in the sawpit and cover it with wet sacking.’
Pippa’s mind went blank. He talked too fast for her to absorb his meaning. ‘Robson, please, what are you saying?’
He took a deep breath and then glanced away sharply as Colin galloped across the valley floor, the hoof beats thundering. ‘Miss, try to understand. If the fire gets into the valley, it’ll wipe out everything in its path. We must bury what we can. Once the fire reaches, if it reaches the valley ridge, we’ll all have to escape from the other side, and there’s no track there, so we can’t take the wagon. I’ll get the horses saddled. The ladies must pack only lightly.’
‘Escape?’ Esther swayed just as Hilary and Davy joined them.
Running his hands through his hair, Robson’s eyes implored Pippa to take action.
But she couldn’t move or think clearly. Bushfire. Escape. ‘It it may not even come this way, Robson.’
‘I hope to God it doesn’t, miss.’
She swallowed, but her throat was suddenly dry. ‘But you think it will?’
He looked up at the large gum trees, their top branches swaying in the warm breeze. ‘If the wind doesn’t change, the fire will sweep over that ridge and head straight for us.’
‘But it’s not summer yet. You said bushfires came in January or February.’
‘Miss, we’ve had very little rain, and dead grass will burn whether it be the middle of winter or summer. We were spared fires last year, but all it takes is one spark to set the bush alight, and this wind will not help us.’ He shifted from foot to foot. ‘Please, miss, we cannot waste time talking. We must prepare—’
‘What of the horses? The mares are due to foal within weeks, they mustn’t be scared into bolting.’
‘I’ll get Peter to take them to the far side of the valley. If the fire breaks the ridge, he’ll take them out and head towards Mittagong.’ He gave another nervous glance at the widening plume of smoke on the horizon. ‘Please, Miss Noble, we need to act now.’
‘Yes, go. Do what must be done.’ Pippa waved him away and turned to her family. On seeing their scared and worried expressions, she hid her fear and straightened her shoulders. ‘Come, we must do as Robson says. Pack lightly or bury what you cannot carry. Quickly, now!’
As the others turned and ran back to the house, her mother stepped forward and gripped Pippa’s arm. ‘This valley, the stud, is all we have, Pippa.’
‘Yes, Mother.’ Distracted, Pippa nodded, looking beyond her towards the scurrying men.
Esther’s hand clenched Pippa’s arm like a vice. ‘No, listen to me!’
Pippa stared at her, shocked.
‘You must not let all that we have slip from our grasp. Not now we are finally finding our way out of the depths of despair. I’d not survive another disappointment.’
‘I promise I won’t let that happen.’
Her mother’s gaze remained fixed on hers. ‘If we lose the stud, that will be the end of us. The Nobles will be finished forever.’
‘I know. I’ll do everything I can to prevent it. Trust me.’ She kissed her mother’s cheek and gently pushed her in towards the house. ‘Go help pack. Take only the most important things and hurry!’
Robson, bless him, sprang into action. He ran about issuing orders that everyone instantly obeyed; even her mother showed extreme courage and did as she was told without complaint.
Pippa knew all kinds of fear. The fear of being turned out of their house when her father squandered their money, the fear of being unloved and rejected by Grant, the fear of being in the middle of a vast ocean on an insignificant ship. Yet nothing eclipsed the fear she was experiencing now.
The terror seemed tangible, as though she could taste it, reach out and touch it. She wasn’t one to panic and hated being vulnerable, but as the wind carried the smell of smoke and the sound of crackling wood, her throat closed up through pure dread.
Astounded by the enormity of losing everything she’d worked for and dreamed of, Pippa stood trance-like, unable to move or think. The noise and confusion around her dimmed.
‘Pip.’ Davy tugged at her skirts, his face pale.
For a long moment she stared at him. She didn’t realise she was frightening him until his bottom lip quivered.
‘Will we die, Pip?’
Wrenched out of her daze, she blinked as his words sank in. ‘No … No, darling.’ His hand inched into hers and she squeezed it tight. ‘We’ll be fine. I’ll take care of you.’
A shout made her jump. Colin rode like the devil towards them, waving his hat in the air. Everyone stilled and then quickly joined Pippa and Davy near the creek as Colin pulled up his horse to a skittering halt before them.
‘Well?’ Robson demanded, his body tense as he ran towards them.
Colin winced as he swallowed, his lips dry and face coated with dust. ‘It’s heading this way about four or five miles from here, maybe a mile more, but that’s all.’ He sagged in the saddle. ‘It’s coming from the direction of the Merediths’ property.’
Time froze for a second and then everyone started talking at once.
Millie stared in horror at Pippa. ‘Oh, no. Amelia and the baby, and Douglas.’
‘They might be safe. Don’t worry.’ Pippa patted her arm and then looked to Robson for direction.
‘It’s closer than I thought.’ He frowned, rubbing his fingertips across his forehead. ‘Right, we’ve got to leave the valley now. Colin, bring the work horses here for the ladies to ride.’
‘Can we not fight the fire, Robson?’ Pippa felt her heart would explode from the pain of losing it all. ‘I mean, we’ve got water at our feet. Can we not—’
‘Miss, a few buckets of water will not stand up to a bushfire. You’ve never seen one before. It’s a wild beast feasting and growing in front of your very eyes. There’s no stopping it.’
Her frustration burst into anger. ‘I will not lose this place! I will stay and fight.’
‘Don’t be silly, Pippa,’ Millie scoffed, returning to her side with a large canvas bag bulging with clothes. She took Davy’s hand. ‘We’ll do as Robson says. We must get out of harm’s way. Nothing is worth putting yourself in danger.’
A rifle shot echoed across the valley, sending birds screeching from the trees.
Pippa wheeled around to stare at their entrance into the valley, but no vehicle or horseman came dashing out of the trees at the base.
Robson scanned the slopes, shading his eyes with his hand as the sun burnt down relentlessly. ‘Someone needs help. It’s a signal.’
A shiver of trepidation ran down Pippa’s back. ‘Father,’ she whispered.
‘No!’ Esther jerked. ‘He’s in Berrima.’
Hilary, eyes wide, stepped closer to her mother. ‘But what if he had started to journey home?’

Buy links:
All Amazon Kindle sites; myBook.to/WhereRainbowsEnd

Sunday, 18 June 2017

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO MY OLD BLOGSITE?

It seems to have been hijacked by someone citing European Union regulations. Just as well I hardly ever post comments.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

New! 'Dark Maiden' by Lindsay Townsend. Historical Romance. Medieval Romance. Excerpts.

Ghosts, revenants, incubi , vampires and demons haunt medieval England, as Yolande and Geraint must use their love to survive.

Beautiful Yolande comes from an exotic line of exorcists—a talent she considers a gift—and a curse. In fourteenth century England, a female exorcist who is also black is an oddity. She is sought after and trusted to quiet the restless dead and to send revenants to their final rest.

Geraint the Welshman captures Yolande’s heart with his ready smile and easy ways, and the passionate fire of his spirit. An entertainer, he juggles and tumbles his way through life—but there is a serious side to him that runs deep. He offers Yolande an added strength in her work and opens his heart to her with a love such as she’s never known.

But Yolande is not free to offer Geraint her love completely—not until her “time of seven” has passed. 

Can the powerful attraction between them withstand the powers of evil who mean to separate them forever? Yolande’s conscience and conviction force her to face this evil head-on—but can Geraint save his Dark Maiden…

Read Chapter One

On Amazon Com 

On Amazon Co UK 

Read Reviews

Two Lips Reviews:


Yolande is half Ethiopian and wonders around the medieval British countryside dressed like a man using her Saint Sebastian bow which is blessed and her knowledge of herbs to exorcise evil demons and bring peace to the restless dead. She must remain chaste for a time of seven or endanger herself to possible possession by a demon. Until she meets the entertaining and charming Welshman, she has always worked alone. While their bond grows, so does the danger in which they put themselves.

Geraint is a Welshman who earns his living by juggling and entertaining, but he is smitten with the fierce, but lovely, Yolande and determines to travel with her as her protector. But the 1300’s is a time of mistrust and danger to those who are different. As they travel from place to place, they occasionally fall under scrutiny and suspicion from villagers as well as the evil spirits they have come to hunt. Even if they survive villagers, evil spirits and the undead, will Yolande and Geraint ever find a way to have a normal life together?   

I found the exorcisms and release of restless dead exciting and interesting. Dark Maiden isn’t just about exorcisms, however; it’s also about human nature and the distrust of anything and anyone who is different. Yolande not only looks different, but acts different. I liked the way Ms. Lindsay Townsend handled those differences without coming off preachy or making it the focus of the story. Ms. Townsend creates believable characters with purpose and motivation.

I particularly liked the character of the Welshman, Geraint. His devotion to Yolande, his innovative ways of showing her how much he cares about her and respects her, and his bravery really made me care what happened to him. Sometimes I felt some distance with Yolande’s character and she didn’t seem to reciprocate Geraint’s regard to the same degree. 

Dark Maiden is filled with beautifully constructed and layered scenes that make the reader feel they are part of the story which I have found to be Ms. Townsend’s trademark. Dark Maiden is a delightful story filled with historical details that make the reader feel they’ve taken a step through time. Readers will thoroughly enjoy Ms. Townsend’s Dark Maiden.

Here's two new excerpts, the first from Yolande, my exorcist, when she meets the dangerous Geraint, my anti-hero.

The following morning, passing the bread and cheese that the sisters had generously given her to a beggar outside the convent walls, Yolande sensed someone watching.  She turned, forced to take a rapid backward step as a stranger trod on her shadow. She had not heard his approach.
“Mistress Yolande?”
“You have the advantage, mister. You know my name.” She smiled to take any sting from her words. “May I know yours?”
Greetings and courtesy were important to her. Each gave clues as to character and wishes. She had once known a demon, beautifully polite, who would have ripped the flesh from her bones had she not bound him by his own rules of manners.
The stranger bowed, a good sign. He muttered something in a language she did not know, which was not good. She moved a little closer, ready to boot him in the balls if he did anything unsavory.
“Geraint Welshman, at your service.” He crouched then looked straight at her. “I am just taking something from my pack, if it please you.”
She grinned at him to prove she was unafraid, her body heavy and languid as she itched to go onto the balls of her feet, ready to scrap. A quick stab to those astonishing black-blue eyes, a swipe at his knee and Geraint the Welshman would be groveling in the hard-packed mud.
Which would be a shame for such a glorious face. He bent his head, showing his trust of her, to rummage in his pack. He was a good-looking brute, not too muscled but as lean and wiry as herself. There was a soft jangle of bells within his patched shoulder-pack, revealing him as a wandering entertainer, a less deadly mirror of herself. They were even about the same height.

 I entertain the restless dead before I send them on. What must it be like to work for living laughter?
Hard, she guessed, noting his less-than-clean black hair, the scars on his knuckles, his drab motley, missing bits of ribbons and coins. He was darker that she was, tanned by many suns, and with excellent teeth.
Strong, rangy and in no hurry to stick to one place, but a honeyman all the same. She felt a flicker of interest, a few youthful, girlish hopes. She was ten-and-eight these days, young for an exorcist but ripe for marriage. Her father, a remarkable man, had managed both. She missed him, but her time would surely come—maybe with this Welshman.
“The pardoner said you would understand the message with this.” Geraint interrupted her reverie as he laid a crucifix down on the rutted road, on top of his pack to keep it from the dirt.
Yolande stared at it, all hopes forgotten in an instant. She sensed the earth shifting beneath her feet as the blood pounded within her temples, making her convinced the top of her skull might shatter. “Oh, great Maria, already?” she said, unaware she had spoken aloud, crossing herself, making the sign of the cross above the crouching Geraint. The great bow across her shoulders creaked as if in warning.
So soon! I must prepare with care. If this sign is right, there can be no mistakes. Pray that I am ready. It is so soon, so soon…


Here's the second excerpt, this time from my hero's point of view.

The abbot… moved to the crucifix, bearing it aloft and tucking it safely into the crook of one arm.
Will he sing it a lullaby too?
Geraint folded his arms across his chest like an angry fish seller’s wife. It was that, or punch an abbot. “And what do you love about Yolande? How her eyelashes curl at the ends? How she puts herself into danger first, to protect others? How she never abandons a friend? How she walks all day without a complaint? How she sometimes talks in her sleep because she is so beset? How she laughs and sheds ten years each time she does? Or are such human reasons too earthy for you?”
He stopped, mainly because he had run out of English words for the moment and his mind was filled with indignant, furious phrases in the Welsh. He also wanted to see whether Abbot Simon would answer.
 “These human trifles, as you call them, are irrelevant. It is her soul—”
“Yes, her soul, hers alone, and unique. Created in the image of God. What do you love about that? Or is the soul of one female exorcist too mean to consider?”
“Stay away from her!” thundered the abbot. “What do you know of her trials and torments, of what she might need to encounter? If you love her, you should not trouble her. Or would you act upon this love and then abandon her —as is the habit of fleshy, sinful men?”
“Sorry, no.” Geraint counted off on his fingers. “I will not leave her, no. I will not act upon anything and abandon her, no. I will not trouble her, no. Do I know the trials she has? No, I do not, but then, neither do you, my lord abbot, neither do you.”


This is one of my favourite excerpts from my historical romance, “Dark Maiden”, and shows Geraint, my hero, and all his anti-authoritarian, bumptious attitudes. Geraint will stand up and fight anyone or anything, including an abbot. I also like it because it shows Geraint’s deepening feelings for Yolande, my black exorcist heroine, and it tells us more about her. This excerpt also shows the attitude of the medieval church to physical love outside marriage and hints at the serious trials that Yolande will have to face – but not without Geraint