Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Amorous Chatelaine - Medieval Romance by Lindsay Townsend

My mainstream medieval historical romance The Amorous Chatelaine is out today. This was written for Ellora’s Cave Blush Line, so love scenes are not graphic.You can read the blurb and excerpt here.

Blurb:

Emma de Barri is the generous chatelaine of a large estate, where she schools young, green knights in the matters of courtly dress and deportment. As a widow, she is often the object of desire but never has a knight tempted her away from the memory of her late husband.

Sir Robert is neither young nor green. He is hardened by battle and tempered by the vagaries of life. He is also rough and unrefined—completely lacking in manners, sophistication or any of the qualities Lady de Barri values. But his arms are strong, his face is handsome and his heart is as bright and gold as the sun at noon. A heart he gives unreservedly to Lady de Barri.

As Emma teaches Sir Robert how to read and dress, how to be gentle and composed, he teaches his sweet chatelaine how to live and love again.


Excerpt

He crashed through the elder bushes and hazels toward her, limping slightly on his left leg. Emma knotted her cloak more securely around her middle and strolled out of the river, aware the blue silk hid and also displayed her form as the soft cloth clung and molded to her shape. Mary began to fuss with her hair but with a brief shake of her head, Emma told the maid to leave it. Men were often bedazzled by her unruly hair and this looming knight looked no different. As ever, she would play what advantage she had to the hilt and make him wholly hers.
If she wanted him. Standing on a sun-warmed stone, her land secure beneath her, Emma considered this latest knight.
“Sir Robert without lands,” Stephen had called him, a younger son and a “sturdy fellow in a fight.” Stephen said he would ask the knight to visit her if she gave him leave, which she had. “I vow he will benefit from your instruction,” Stephen had told her, but seeing the man, Emma was less sure.
Robert was certainly handsome, as a lion or wildcat is handsome—muscled and deadly, predatory in all his movements—but so far as she could tell, entirely without courtly charm. He spat and cursed and was far too careless in his appearance. True, she had learned from old Agatha and young Jack that he was protective and kind in a rough, natural sort of way, but was that enough? He was much older than the usual young bloods who flocked to her castle.
A challenge. I relish a challenge, but will he heed me? Will he improve upon greater acquaintance or has he no nonmartial virtues? Will he be willing to learn any?
“What a mud man,” Mary breathed beside her, clearly caught between admiration and censure.
Emma nodded, experiencing the same giddy spiral of emotion. At a distance, ungallant or not, Sir Robert was tall and well-favored, with bright blond hair, a strong jaw and chin and piercing eyes. Dark-blue they were, of a rich color she had often wished to have herself instead of her own washed-out tawny brown.
As he came closer, Robert delighted and confounded in equal measure. His mouth was generous and full but his shave indifferent. His eyes were lustrous, secret pools for a woman to lose her heart in, thickly lashed in gold, but his attention was fixed on her hair, not her face.
Sinewy, powerful, athletic—Robert was all these, but his dress was a disaster. His green tunic may have been clean sometime but he had not attempted to remove the muddy footprint in the center of his chest, nor the streams of pollen smeared across his broad shoulders.
A natural gentleman, perhaps, or lazy and arrogant? Undecided, she prepared to say the usual words of welcome, but he spoke first.
“My horse is tethered on the hillside above. Will one of your people tend him, please?”
“Of course.” Emma readied herself a second time but then, as they truly looked at each other, a tide of heat surged through her. Robert’s eyes, lightened with humor, clearly admired her even as they studied her. He watched her quite as closely as she did him and, worse, he seemed amused.
Sure of her complete attention, he halted a sword’s length from her and snapped a brief bow. “Do you bathe like this to test or tease, my lady? I presume this is another test. Did I pass?”
“For shame!” cried Mary, while Emma experienced a pang of mingled relief and regret. Wit and word-sparring were all part of the courtly game, but she had hoped for more originality and perhaps even some genuine emotion from this knight. Still, his question was a kind of compliment and she was happy to reply.
“Would you be sorry if I said not?”
“Will you be angry if I say I do not care one way or t’other?”
A hit for him, perhaps, but she was not finished yet. “Do you like to win, sir?”
“I would be a poor knight if I did not.”
“And do you win for yourself or for a lady?”
“Both, if I can, but I am my own master.” Sir Robert then belied his seeming boast by asking, “So have I failed?”
“Believe what you will, sir,” said Emma crisply. “To answer your first question, this part of the river is a favorite of mine and other knights have entered my lands by way of the proper road, off to the south of here. You could have taken it after your…encounters with my people.”
He rolled his magnificent shoulders in a shrug. “I prefer the older tracks. Such are better for my horse.”
Laconic but truthful, she guessed. Her silk cloak clinging slightly, she turned east, toward the distant turrets of her castle. “Taking a less trodden route could be seen as hostile.”
“Not by the Lady de Barri, surely? I have heard it said you can disable whole armies with a smile.”



This is my second historical romance novella from Ellora's Cave. My first, 'The Lord and Eleanor,' you can read about here.

Lindsay Townsend

http://www.lindsaytownsend.net
http://www.twitter.com/lindsayromantic






Monday, 27 August 2012

Guest post: Mary Nichols - 'The Girl on the Beach'


The Girl on the Beach
published by Allison and Busby
August 27 2012
price £7.99
ISBN: 978 0 7490 1218 2

A week-old baby is left on the doorstep of the Coram Foundling hospital on a Monday in July 1918.  There is a note pinned to her blanket:  'Husband killed in France.  Can't cope no more.'  No one knows her name and so the administrators of the charity call her Julie Monday.
On a day trip to the seaside when she is eight she meets eleven-year-old Harry Walker and they spend an hour or two chatting but she must go back to the orphanage and he to his family. Ten years later they meet again and are married in 1938. Their son, George is born in spring 1939. When war is declared Harry enlists in the Royal Air Force and is sent to Canada for training, leaving Julie to cope with her baby in wartime London.
When the siren sounds for the first big raid of the London blitz, Julie is on her way home, having left George with a friend. She is ushered into a shelter which receives a direct hit. Pulled out alive but injured, she cannot remember how she got there. She does not know who she is and has lost her bag containing her identification. At the hospital to which she is taken, she is given a new identity. She must make a new life for herself as Eve Seaton, but can she?


Excerpt:

The young lady in the hospital bed was finally coming out of her comatose state and the nurse designated to watch over her called the ward sister. 'She's stirring, Sister. I saw her eyes flicker.'
'Good. Now perhaps we'll find out who she is.'
The patient had been dug out of the ruins of the Linsey Street shelter with a broken left arm and left leg, abrasions to her face and a bump on the head. The broken limbs had been plastered and would heal and so would the grazes, but the head injury was worrying. They did not know what to expect when she regained consciousness, if she ever did. She might be living the rest of her life as a cabbage. She had no means of identity on her when she had been brought in but that was hardly surprising, since almost everything and everyone about her had been blown to smithereens. Bags and papers had been scattered everywhere and there was no way of telling which body they belonged to, even supposing you could piece together the bodies. In any case the chaos as the ambulance crews dashed back and forth ferrying casualties meant possessions frequently became separated from their owners.
Sister stood and looked down at the still form in the bed, watching the flickering of the eyelids, waiting with a fixed smile of reassurance until the eyes opened fully. They were forget-me-not blue. 'Hallo,' she said.
'Where am I?'
'In St Olaves's hospital, Bermondsey. You were in a shelter that was bombed. Can you tell us your name?'
'It's…' She stopped suddenly and tried again. 'It's gone. My name has gone.' Tears filled her eyes. 'How can I forget my own name?'
'Easily, my dear. You have sustained a nasty bump on the head as well as the other injuries and temporary loss of memory under those circumstances is not uncommon. It will come back.'
'Do you know who I am?'
'Unfortunately, no. You were pulled out of the rubble of the shelter on Linsey Street after it was destroyed by a bomb. There was nothing on you, certainly nothing arrived here with you.'
'Bomb?'
'Yes. There's a war on and we're being bombed. Do you remember that?'
'I remember being very frightened. And noise, a lot of noise and darkness.'
'That's something, I suppose.'
'How long ago was that?'
'Over three weeks now.'
'Hasn't anyone been looking for me?'
'There have been several people looking for lost relatives who came and saw you, but unfortunately you did not belong to any of them.'
'What about other people in the shelter? Didn't any of those know me?'
'There weren't many survivors and those that did get out said you were a stranger and not one of the people who usually used that shelter. You may have just been visiting the area when the siren went. Do you remember anything about yourself?'
'I'm trying, I really am. I suppose I must have had parents, brothers and sisters, a husband even…'
'You are not wearing a wedding ring.'
She felt her wedding ring finger which was sticking out of the plaster that encased her broken arm. 'Oh, no husband then.'
'But you have given birth, though not recently.'
'I've had a child? What happened to it?'
'We don't know. There were no unidentified children in the shelter. It may have been stillborn some time ago, or it might have been adopted or put into a home, since you 're not married.'
'A home?' She was silent, struggling to recall something, anything that might help. 'That rings a bell. I seem to remember something about a home and lots of children. And the seaside. Was the home at the seaside? Oh, why can't I remember? Surely I must have loved the child. I would not have put it in a home unless there was no alternative.'
'Sometimes it's the only thing you can do, especially if the father won't face up to his responsibilities and your parents were not prepared to help.'
'That would have been cruel.'
'Yes, but some people are strict like that. Of course you may not have had parents alive. It would have been a struggle to manage in that case.'
'But I must have tried. Are you sure my memory will return?'
'Pretty sure.'
'When?'
'That I cannot tell you. In a day or two, a week, maybe longer. The brain is a funny thing and we don't altogether understand how it works.'
'What have you been calling me?'
The sister smiled. 'C10. It's the number above your bed.'
'What will happen to me now? Where will I go? I can't even remember where I live.' The blankness of her mind was worrying, but it wasn't exactly blank; her brain was going round and round trying to grasp at something, anything, to tell her who she was and where she came from.
'You will have to stay in hospital until your plaster comes off and then you will need exercises to get your muscles working again. If you still cannot remember after that, you will be re-homed, but until then we are moving you to another hospital away from the bombing. We need the beds here for new casualties. With every raid there are more and more. We are rushed off our feet.'
'When will I go?'
'Tomorrow by ambulance.'
'What's the date?'
'Friday the twenty-seventh of September.'
'I shall have to remember that.'
'Oh, I think you will. It's only your past you have lost.'
Only my past, she thought as the sister left her. Her past was what made her who she was; without it she was nothing, a number. C10. What sort of person was she? How had she come to have a child and not be married? Did that mean she was wicked? Had she loved the child's father? Why hadn't they married? Was it a boy or a girl? How old would he or she be? Come to think of it, how old was she? Had she got a job, employers who might wonder why she had not reported for work? Why had no one come forward to claim her? If only someone would come she might not feel so isolated and frightened. She nagged and nagged at her memory until she was exhausted and fell asleep.

Available from www.allisonandbusby.com, Amazon, or from all good bookshops.

More details from www.marynichols.co.uk

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Reign of Terror



By and large Europe regarded the democratic fervour in France with profound suspicion. In England, the Prime Minister, William Pitt, welcomed the new French government’s renunciation of war and aggression. However, the attitude toward the French monarchy, princes and nobles alarmed Europe with its kings, princes and aristocrats.
In June 1971 when King Louis attempted to flee anarchy he was captured on the way to the frontier and returned to Paris, by which time Leopold, the German Emperor was aware of the insults to his sister, Marie of Antoinette, Queen of France. Yet Leopold did not want to become involved in French affairs. However, after the royal family’s flight from Paris and their forcible return to Paris in summer 1791, he suggested joint European action to free “the most Christian King and his Queen.” Subsequently Leopold issued a Declaration “to place the King of France in harmony with the rights of sovereigns and the well-being of his people.
In October, the *Girondins forced the king to accept a new Constitution. When the Assembly met for the first time it confiscated the √©migr√©’s property, and passed sentence of death of those who did not return to France by the end of the year.
The Girondins clamoured for a crusade against Leopold, the Austrian despot On January 11th, 1792 to the tune of “Liberty or Death” the government declared that if the Emperor did not relinquish his threat against France, his country would face invasion.
The French government sent agents to the Netherlands to promote rebellion against Austria. In the meantime, William Pitt, the British Prime Minister, pursued the path of peace. In his Budget Speech in February, 1792 Pitt stated that he believed “Europe was on the threshold of a long period of peace and prosperity.” In order to appease those who feared war, he made economies in the Army and Navy.
On the 20th of April, France declared war on Austria. The **Jacobin clubman, Robespierre, leader of a small group, declared war would assist the growth of tyranny. The Girondins refuted Robespierre’s argument on the grounds that the army’s revolutionary enthusiasm would lead to triumph. They were mistaken. The French rabble of an army fled from the Austrian troops.
King Louis attempted to veto a bill to, amongst other things, dismiss the Girondin Ministry. Jacobins and Girondins united and chose Danton, a 32 year-old lawyer from the Champagne to be their leader.
All too soon the great bell of the Cordeliers tolled at night. It signalled Danton had seized the Hotel de Ville prior to an attack on the Tuilleries. While Napoleon Bonaparte, who was writing a history of Corsica, watched the mob storm the Tuileries.
The Swiss Guards were massacred. The royal family fled. By that night Louis VII had been deposed and confined in a small cell.
The Prussians invaded France and took Verdun. Only the ill-equipped French army, energised by Danton, blocked the way between the Prussian army and Paris, where the Prussians boasted they would free the royal family. While Danton called for volunteers to swell the army, amongst whose elected officers were seven future marshals of the Napoleonic Wars, 1,600 prisoners were massacred; most of them liberally minded aristocrats.
To the east of Valmy, Brunswick, the Prussian general, defeated by the rain and mud, sickness and division in his army, called off his men. Goethe who accompanied the army discerned the truth. “From this day and this hour dates a new epoch in the history of the world.”
On the following day, without news of victory, the monarchy was abolished and the statement “the Republic was one and indivisible” was made.
The Prussians retreated. Led by Custine, the French army pursued them to Speyer and Worms. The nobility fled before Custine’s battle cry. “War to the tyrant’s palace! Peace to the poor man’s cottage.”
            From the other side of the Channel the English regarded events in France with increasing bewilderment. Their reactions were slow but in time they would act.


*The Girondins were radical democrats, a faction of the Jacobins. The Girondins forced the declaration of war against Austria, which began the Wars of the Revolution that would result in the Napoleonic Wars.

**Jacobins derive the name from the Jacobin Club of the French Revolution, which was formed in 1789. After the fall of the Girondins the Jacobin leaders instituted The Reign of Terror.

* * * *

Available from MuseItUp publishing, Amazon kindle, kobo and elsewhere.

Sunday's Child a Regency Novel. Despite quixotic Major Tarrant's experience of brutality, honour,loss and past love, will it be possible for him to find happiness?
Tangled Love set in England in 1706. The tale of two great estates and their owners, duty, betrayal, despair and hope.
New Release. 27th October. False Pretences a Regency Novel. Will Annabelle escape an arranged marriage and discover who her parents are?
http://rosemarymorris.blogspot.com

Friday, 24 August 2012

Turning Point


 
She turned the handle. The door opened silently, and the moving air flickered across her candle. The scent of beeswax reached her, mixed with the tangle of citrus soap, musk, and sweat that was indefinably Jack. A single candle by the bed glimmered in the darkness. A sharp movement drew her gaze to the window opposite the door.

Her heart leaped at his stunned expression. Holding the candle to one side, her mouth dried as light probed his features. Resignation lay in every line of his face.

In the privacy of his own chamber, he had shed the formality of jacket, neckcloth, and waistcoat. He stood before her as she had rarely seen him, in nankeen pantaloons and a long-sleeved shirt wrenched open at the throat. His feet were bare, as they had been on another fateful day in this room.

He turned away from her, leaned against the window frame, and stared out on the darkness as she had done earlier.

“Jack?”

His expression, as far as she could judge in the dim reflection in the window glass, moved through resignation to wariness. He had guessed why she was here, and his face turned blank as a sea-washed beach.

Frances stepped into the room, closed the door, and hesitated, one hand grasping the porcelain door knob behind her. The words would come to her, if she let them. She glanced at her bare feet peeping out beneath the quivering hem of her bed gown. Somehow, she had to make him understand.

“Jack, I do not think I can go on.” It was difficult to speak, to force the words into the air. Her throat ached. “I thought I wanted a marriage such as ours, but I find…living with a man who refuses to touch me is insupportable. I thought I was stronger, but I’m not. I cannot bear it.”

His arms folded. The ruby winked on his hand as his fingers gripped his flesh. “Frances, please. It is late, and I am in no state to discuss anything of import.” His glance flickered briefly to the half-empty decanter at his bedside. “May we discuss this in the morning?”

She shook her head. “No, Jack. Tomorrow I may lose my courage. I must discuss it now.”

He inhaled and expelled air in a huge sigh. “Very well. What will make your life more bearable? You know you can order whatever you wish. You have complete freedom here, Frances. Order whatever you please…do whatever you want. Your friends shall be my friends. I do not know what else I can offer.” He spoke without emotion and stood quite still, his back to her. But he watched her reflection in the dark window glass.

In spite of the gentle candle glow, she thought he had lost colour in the last few moments. Reluctance

“It is not enough, Jack.” Her fingers plucked at the pink ribbons threading the froth of lace ruffles at the front of her wrap, wound them over and around her fingers. “Already I know it is impossible to go on. I feel I am breaking apart… I hardly know myself.”

“What more do you need?” His voice, so gentle it hardly disturbed the air, held resignation. Perhaps he had expected and prepared for such a confrontation.

“I would like,” she said carefully, concentrating on the pink ribbons, “a husband who can bear to touch me, who can give me a child.” Her heart thumped like a blacksmith’s hammer. Even the pink ribbon vibrated.
 
Reluctance, by Jen Black

Available from MuseItUp Publishing,
or from: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reluctance-ebook/dp/B007ROL46Q

The Bastard / Anne Ireland

The Bastard By Anne Ireland Published by Leap of Faith. On sale now at amazon and other leading outlets, including Leap of Faith's website.
A Shocking Scandal/ Anne Ireland - revised and should be free today! Enjoy! Love to all Linda/Anne

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Guest Post: Elizabeth Krall - 'Ship to Shore'

Storms at sea. Heartbreak on land. 

Sally meets Dermid on a tall ship sailing across the Atlantic and is drawn to him, despite what she considers to be his unfortunate passion for bagpipes. However, their tentative romance ends because of something Sally does. She feels guilty and he feels betrayed, and they part in hurt, angry silence.

Despite what happened on the ship, Sally can’t forget Dermid, although when she takes a job on a Scottish island she claims that the fact he lives on a nearby island has nothing to do with it. Not a thing. 

On the Isle of Lewis, city girl Sally runs head-on into small-town Scotland, complete with inquisitive neighbours and more things tartan than she had ever imagined existed.

When her job ends, Sally must choose between building a life with Dermid or returning to her carefree, wandering ways. Someone from Dermid’s past sparks a crisis that sends Sally fleeing back to London -- and may tear them apart forever.

And could she ever learn to love the bagpipes?

Set against the tempestuous North Atlantic and the windswept beauty of the Hebrides, ‘Ship to Shore’ is a story of two people who must learn to trust their feelings, and to trust each other.

Excerpt:

Saturday, thought Sally with sleepy pleasure. No need to force herself out of bed. She snuggled deeper under the thick down duvet and slowly opened her eyes. Browns, russets, golds swam in an unfocused haze.
Sally blinked and pulled her head back, saw the duvet cover, and realised she was in Dermid’s bed. It wasn’t the first time she’d been in his bed in the week since they had, as Kate so delicately put it, “moved forward”, but it was the first time she had spent the entire night.
He was lying on his side facing her, elbow bent and head propped on hand, and grinning in that infuriating way that morning people did. Light spilled through the enormous window, a shaft of sun making the pale walls dazzle.
Sally promptly squeezed her eyes shut again and pulled the duvet over her head. She heard him chuckle, felt the duvet heave, and then Dermid was under it with her, their noses touching and breath mingling in that dim, confined space.
“I don’t understand how you can sleep so much and yet take so long to actually wake up,” he commented.
She mumbled something.
“Good morning to you, too,” Dermid replied, and kissed her.
Well, thought Sally as she fought the tangled bedding to put an arm around him, this certainly beats an alarm clock.
The lack of air finally compelled them to fling back the cover, by which time Sally was definitely awake. It was nowhere near as bright as she’d thought, for rather than the blazing light she had imagined there was only a poor watery sun fighting a losing battle with the clouds. But, the view of moor and river estuary and bay was glorious nonetheless.
“That really is incredible,” she said in appreciation.
Dermid looked modest. “Thank you.”
“You big-headed … !” Sally exclaimed. “I meant the view, not your peculiar idea of a wake-up call.” Then she ran a finger down his arm, and smiled. “Although that wasn’t bad, either.”
He glanced at her, eyes full of humour. “I’m glad you appreciated all my efforts, if nothing else.”
She leaned over and kissed him briefly, then slid from the bed. “Back in a second.”
When she returned, she paused outside the door, just to watch him. Dermid was gazing absently out the window, a far-away look in his eyes and a slight smile on his lips. She smiled in response, and marvelled. If anyone had suggested, on that awful last morning in Portsmouth, that one day she would wake up in Dermid’s bed, she would have reacted with scorn and disbelief.
She must have made a sound, for he turned her way. She saw his gaze travel slowly over her naked body, from her bed-mussed hair to the chipped red polish on her toenails. At that moment, Sally wished fervently that she could make herself go to the gym more often, or could stick to a diet for longer than three days. But when she dared to glance at Dermid’s face as he looked at her, she realised, with some wonder, that he didn’t seem to care about any of that.
“Come back here, you,” he said softly, and held out his hand to her.
She stacked the pillows, then scooted into the crook of his waiting arm and cuddled against him. Then reached down and pulled up the duvet so far that his feet stuck out the other end, and he laughed.
“I was thinking, all that time I was lying here waiting for you to wake up,” he said. “Would you like to come to Uist next weekend?”
Sally turned her head to look at him, distinctly wary. “And just what jobs do you need doing that you’ve got lined up for me particularly?”
“What do you mean?” He looked puzzled.
“Mark: fence posts. Mary: painting furniture,” she said, ticking them off on her fingers. “I’m certainly stronger than Mary, at least as strong as Mark, so what is it? Does the roof need re-thatching? Any fields ploughing? Sheep shearing?”
Dermid frowned in concentration. “Well, yes, now you mention it, there is something,” he said slowly.
She crossed her arms. “I knew it. What?”
“My bed needs warming,” he said gravely. “A very important task. Do you think you’re right for the job?”
“Oooh, I don’t know. I’d hate to mess that up,” she laughed. “Is it just warming? Or are there other components to the job description?”
“Definitely other,” he assured her. “But you’ve already convinced me about those. It’s just the warming component that worries me. With the cold toes, and all.”
Sally winked at him. “I’ll wear socks.”

Sunday, 19 August 2012

1789 Prelude to Britain's Long Struggle Against France

1789. Prelude to Britain’s struggle against France.

Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel is the fictional hero, Sir Percy Blakeney Bart, who saved the victims of the French Revolution. Unfortunately, when it began there was no real life hero to save de Launey, Governor of the Bastille.

On the 14th July, 1789 the French revolution began. A violent crowd of men and women gathered in front of the Bastille. Shortly before five o’clock the rabble stormed the old Paris fortress and tore de Launey, 30 Swiss guards and 80 pensioners to pieces. Afterwards, holding severed heads aloft, they set out to murder the chief magistrate in the Hotel-de-Ville.

This event announced to the world that the French intended to overthrow the old order.

The foundation of society had been the feudal system. By 1789 taxation had impoverished the French workers living in abject misery in hovels.The people demanded change.Writers and philosophers extolled the virtues of a longed for age of reason.

During the reign of Louis XIV France was the most powerful nation in Europe. If William III of England and Marlborough had not defeated France, the French might have ruled Europe. Yet, in France, effective government was eroded by the aristocrats’ privileges, the middle classes exclusion from government and ever increasing dissatisfaction with the Church. The governing class lost touch with the masses, who, in 1788 and 1789 suffered from hunger and cold.

In January 1789, the treasury was bankrupt, the last harvest had been ruined, and the streets of Paris were flooded with unfortunate wretches.  After two centuries of absolute rule the king summoned the States General to meet at Versailles. After three weeks, the Third Estate took control. This declaration was a prelude to the storming of the Bastille and, eventually, Britain’s 22 year struggle against France.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Be his bed slave? Never!


Far After Gold by Jen Black


Available from Amazon Kindle




 Far After Gold
Blurb: Bought from Dublin slave market by a young Viking warrior, Emer knows he intends that she should be his bed slave. What she doesn't know is if she will survive the next few days, because she has no intention of doing as he wishes....

Excerpt:

“Come with me.”

Emer stood rooted to the deck. Flane reached the gangplank, turned and beckoned.

Emer scowled and did not move.

Flane clicked his fingers. Astounded, Emer lifted her chin, turned her head and stared pointedly out to sea. From the corner of her eye she saw one sailor nudge another and both stopped what they were doing to watch what would happen next. Memories of the overseer and his cane flashed through her mind, and she decided moving might be her wisest choice even though he treated her like his favourite hound. Pride stiffened her spine as she halted before him.

“My name is Flane.” He tapped his chest and repeated the words, as if she were stupid, and then sighed. “Trust me to pick a girl who doesn’t understand the language.” He drew his dagger, and the fierce blade flashed silver in the sunlight.

Emer’s heart leapt into her throat. Would he kill her because she could not speak his language? What other reason could he have? Should she speak now, before it was too late? She met his blue glance for an instant even as she took a swift step back, ready to run, heedlessly, in any direction.

He caught her wrist and dragged her in close.

Her heart thudded wildly at the sudden contact of chest, hip and thigh. Mesmerised by his steady blue gaze, she stood there in the thin sunlight with the sound of water lapping against the ship and the smell of seawater and seaweed in her nostrils. She drew a swift, choked breath of air. Her last moment in the world had arrived, and she could not free her tongue to speak. Dear God…. She shut her eyes, awaiting the bite of cold steel at her throat. Dear Lord, accept my soul this day

He hooked one finger under her leather slave collar. Surprised, she opened her eyes and flinched at the sight of the steel blade flashing wickedly in the sunlight.

“Steady, steady,” he murmured, as if to a nervous animal. “I thought you’d rather be free of this.” He gave a couple of gentle tugs on the leather collar at her neck, and before she grasped his intention, the steel sliced through the hated thing. She never even felt the coldness of the blade.

He dangled the strip of leather with its attendant piece of rope in front of her. “Do you want to keep it?”

Furious at being frightened and then gentled like a nervous horse, Emer seized the hated collar and hurled it far out over the loch.


Jen Black: http://jenblackauthor.blogspot.com

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Guest blog - Donna Douglas: 'The Nightingale Girls'

In the autumn of 1934, three very different girls sign up as trainee nurses at The Nightingale Hospital in London’s East End.   

Tough working class girl Dora is hoping for a better life for herself, away from the clutches of her evil stepfather. But she faces a different kind of hardship as she finds herself up against the snobbery of her fellow students. 

Helen has grown up doing everything her overbearing mother expected of her – including becoming a nurse at the Nightingale. But her life is changed when she falls in love with a very unsuitable young man. Can she finally find the courage to stand up to the formidable Mrs Tremayne?

Reluctant debutante Millie has everything she wants in life – except freedom. Becoming a nurse is her last chance at independence. But she soon finds that life on the wards is tougher than she’d ever imagined.
Through bedpans and broken hearts, the girls form an unlikely friendship. But which of them has what it takes to become a Nightingale Girl?

Buy from Amazon UK


EXCERPT from Chapter One:

“Tell me, Miss Doyle. What makes you think you could ever be a nurse here?”

After growing up in the slums of Bethnal Green, not much frightened Dora Doyle. But her stomach was fluttering with nerves as she faced the matron of the Nightingale Teaching Hospital in her office on that warm September afternoon. She sat tall and upright behind a heavy mahogany desk, an imposing figure in black, her face framed by an elaborate white headdress, grey eyes fixed expectantly on Dora.

Dora wiped her damp palms on her skirt. She was sweating inside her coat, but she didn’t dare take it off in case Matron noticed the frayed cuffs of her blouse.

“Well – “  she began, then stopped. Why did she think she could ever be a nurse? Living on the other side of Victoria Park from the Nightingale, she had often seen the young women coming and going through the gates, dressed in their red-lined cloaks. For as long as she could remember she’d dreamed of being one of them.

But dreams like that didn’t come true for the likes of Dora Doyle. Like any other East End girl, her destiny lay in the sweatshops or one of the factories that lined the overcrowded stretch of the Thames.

So she’d left school at fourteen to earn her living at Gold’s Garments, and tried to make the best of it. But the dream hadn’t gone away. It grew bigger and bigger inside her, until four years later she had taken her courage in her hands and written a letter of application.

“What have you got to lose?” Mr Gold’s daughter Esther had said. “You’ll never know if you don’t try, bubele.” She’d even lent Dora her lucky necklace charm to wear for the interview. She could feel the warm metal sticking to her damp skin beneath her blouse.

“It’s a hamsa,” Esther had explained, as Dora admired the exquisite little silver hand on its delicate chain. “My people believe it brings good fortune.”

Dora hoped the hamsa’s powers weren’t just extended to Jews. She needed all the help she could get.

“I’m keen and I’m very hard working,” she found the words at last. “And I’m a quick learner. I don’t need telling twice.”

“So your reference says.” Matron looked down at the letter in front of her. “This Miss Gold clearly thinks a lot of you.”

Dora blushed at the compliment. Esther had taken a real chance, writing that reference behind her father’s back; old Jacob would go mad if he found out his daughter was helping one of his employees to find another job. “Miss Esther reckons I’m one of her best girls on the machines. I’ve got the hands, she says.”

She saw Matron looking at her hands and quickly knotted them in her lap so the woman wouldn’t see her bitten down nails, or the calluses the size of mothballs that covered her fingers. ‘Grafter’s hands’, her mother called them. But they didn’t look like the right kind of hands to soothe a fevered brow.

“I have no doubt you’re a hard worker, Miss Doyle,” Matron said. “But then so is every girl who comes in here. And most of them are far better qualified than you.”

Dora’s chin lifted. “I’ve got my certificates. I went back to night school to get them.”

“So I see.” Matron’s voice was soft, with an underlying note of steel. “But, as you know, the Nightingale is one of the best teaching hospitals in London. We have girls from all over the country wanting to train here.” She met Dora’s eyes steadily across the desk. “So why should we accept you and not them? What makes you so special, Miss Doyle?”

Dora dropped her gaze to stare at the herringbone pattern of the polished parquet. She wanted to tell this woman how she took care of her younger brothers and sisters, and had even helped bring the youngest, Little Alfie, into the world two years ago. She wanted to explain how she’d nursed Nanna Winnie through a bad bout of bronchitis last winter when everyone thought she’d had it for sure.

Most of all, she wanted to talk about Maggie, her beautiful sister who’d died when Dora was twelve years old. She’d sat beside her bed for three days, watching her slip away. It was Maggie’s death more than anything that had made her want to become a nurse and to stop other families suffering the way hers had.

But her mother didn’t like them talking about their personal business to anyone. And it probably wasn’t the clever answer Matron was looking for anyway. 

“Nothing,” she said, defeated. “I’m nothing special.” Just plain Dora Doyle, the ginger haired girl from Griffin Street.

She wasn’t even special in her family. Peter was the eldest, Little Alfie the youngest. Josie was the prettiest and Bea was the naughtiest. And then there was Dora, stuck in the middle.

“I see.” Matron paused. She seemed almost disappointed, Dora thought. “Well, in that case I don’t think there’s much more to say.” She began gathering up her notes. “We will write to you and let you know our decision in due course. Thank you, Miss Doyle…”

Dora felt a surge of panic. She’d let herself down. She could feel the moment ebbing away, and with it all her hopes.  She would never wear the red-lined cloak and walk with pride like those other girls. It would be back to the machines at Gold’s Garments for her until her eyes went or her fingers became so bent with rheumatism she couldn’t work any more.

Esther Gold’s words came back to her. What have you got to lose?

“Give me a chance,” she blurted out.

Matron looked askance at her. “I beg your pardon?”

Dora could feel her face flaming to the roots of her hair, but she had to speak up. “I know I don’t have as much proper schooling as the other girls, but I’ll work really hard, I promise.” The words were falling over themselves as she tried to get them out before she lost her nerve.

“Really, Miss Doyle, I hardly think – “

“You won’t regret it, I swear.  I’ll be the best nurse this place has ever seen. Just give me the chance. 

Please?” she begged.

Matron’s brows lifted towards the starched edge of her headdress. “And if I don’t?”

 “I’ll apply again, here or somewhere else. And I’ll keep on applying until someone says yes,” Dora declared defiantly. “I’ll be a nurse one day. And I’ll be a good one, too.”

Matron stared at her so hard Dora felt her heart sink to her borrowed shoes.
“Thank you, Miss Doyle,” she said. “I think I’ve heard enough.”



Turning back time

If you’d told me this time two years ago that I’d be writing a series of novels based on an East End hospital in the 1930s, I wouldn’t have believed you.

At that time I’d written eight contemporary romantic novels under the name Donna Hay. One of them, Waiting in the Wings, even won the RNA New Writers Award back in 1999.

I loved writing romance (I still do), but I wanted more. Often in my previous novels, I’d found myself more interested in the other relationships in my story. Sibling rivalry, the betrayal of best friends, the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship, fascinated me much more than boy meets girl. 

I also longed to write something set in another time period. Writing about the past opens up so many possibilities. Imagine a time when life was full of taboos; when divorce could turn you into a social outcast, and getting pregnant out of wedlock was just about the worst thing a young girl could do. It might not have been much fun to live in, but it’s great material for a writer!

But I really didn’t think I’d get the chance, until the day my agent called and said that a publisher she knew was looking for someone to write a series of books set in a hospital during the early 20th century.
“Although it’s probably not your kind of thing…” she added.

Was she kidding? I loved the idea! And the more I researched the lives of nurses during that period, the more I knew I wanted to write about them.

A nurses’ life was harsh, to say the least. They trained for three years, during which time they ‘lived in’ under the watchful eye of the Home Sister. They were not allowed visitors beyond the front door of the nurses’ home, and they had to be in bed for lights out (although they devised ingenious ways to get around this particular rule). In some hospitals, a student faced instant dismissal for even speaking to a man (they seemed to get round this one, too, as my own Nightingale Girls demonstrate!).  They worked 14 hour shifts, and apart from three short breaks they were expected to be on their feet the whole time. And woe betide a young nurse who broke a thermometer, spoke back to a ward sister or even walked through a door before a senior member of staff – she could expect a severe dressing down from Matron!

To write about young women living, loving and having fun under this kind of strict regime was too good an opportunity to miss. I’d already come up with my three main characters before I’d finished my research. Not to mention the cast of sisters, staff nurses, porters and cleaners who also made up the Nightingale Hospital.
Thanks to them, I have dozens of stories to tell, and I’m really exciting about writing more Nightingale books (the second, The Nightingale Sisters, is due out next spring). Who knows, one day I might be tempted to write another contemporary romance. But for now, I’m very happy to be living in the past!


Donna Douglas
www.donnadouglasauthor.wordpress.com
www.donnadouglas.co.uk 

Monday, 13 August 2012

New Release: Finally Found by Lucy Felthouse


I am very excited to announce a new release! My lesbian erotic romance story, Finally Found, has just been released as part of Evernight Publishing's Lover Unexpected: Sappho Edition anthology. I'm snuggled between the covers between some super authors, too!
I wanted to post here because my story is very British. It's set in London, where the two lead characters are having a girls' weekend. They're staying at The Ritz, visit Fortnum and Mason, spend time in Waterstones on Piccadilly and also visit Soho during their weekend away. These are all places I've been to during my many trips to London and I wanted to add them to this story to make the most of my experiences. I've also added some funny stuff, too. And of course, there's romance and sizzling sex. I hope you'll check it out!
Here's the antho blurb:
Girlfriends share lots of things, including their most sinful secrets. When those secrets involve love, lust and long denied desire, sparks are sure to fly. And sometimes, there is no denying the need for a woman’s touch. In this volume you’ll find seven delicious stories of sensual, daring women who open their hearts to discover love, fulfillment and satisfaction—closer than they expected.
And here's an excerpt from my story:
Chapter One
Natalia smiled as she caught sight of the familiar redhead sitting in the hotel bar. Thankful for the thick carpet masking her footsteps, she walked towards her friend from the back, ensuring she wouldn’t be seen. Then, she slipped her hands over her eyes.
“Guess who?”
An excitable squeak, then, “Oh, I don’t know. Is it Scarlett Johansson?”
“Hmm, close, but not quite. Guess again.”
“Oh, shut up you silly cow, and come here.”
With that, the redhead stood and turned, throwing her arms around Natalia and pulling her into a tight hug. “Hey, gorgeous. I missed you! How are you?”
“I missed you too, Ashleigh. I’m good, thanks. How about you? You look great.”
Disentangling from their embrace, Ashleigh looked down at her clingy black top and skinny jeans and shrugged. “Thanks. I’m okay, I guess. All the better for seeing you. It feels like forever! Come on, sit down. Let’s get a drink.”
They sat down, and a waiter appeared. Natalia suspected he’d been waiting at a safe distance until they’d finished their enthusiastic greeting.
He smiled. “What can I get you ladies?”
Natalia looked at her watch. “You know what, it’s Saturday and it’s after twelve. I’ll have a glass of white wine please.”
Ashleigh piped up. “Make it a bottle. Thanks.”
The waiter nodded, gave a little bow and walked away.
“So,” Natalia said, settling back into the plush armchair, “how was your journey? I always find getting into London a total nightmare, but it’s not so bad once you’re here. The Tube may be sweaty and crowded, but it’s damn fast!”
Ashleigh nodded. “It was all right, actually. The train into the city was on time and not very busy, and, like you say, the Tube is quick and easy. It was pretty stress-free. You?”
“Much the same. I’m just glad we’re finally here. I can’t believe it’s been a year since we’ve seen each other. It’s so easy to forget that when we talk almost every day.”
“I know. I’m sorry. It’s just life gets in the way, doesn’t it? Especially as we live so far apart. And then there was all that stuff with Kayla…”
Natalia didn’t know how to respond to that, so she just nodded sagely. Kayla had been Ashleigh’s live-in girlfriend, until the discovery of some text messages and emails tipped Ashleigh off that she was being cheated on. Despite all of Kayla’s pleas and declarations of true and undying love, Ashleigh had no intention of being a doormat, so she’d thrown Kayla out, and that was the end of it.
Of course, Natalia had known that Kayla was going to be thrown out before Kayla did. As soon as Ashleigh had found the incriminating missives, she’d gotten straight on the phone to Natalia for advice. And as much as Natalia wanted to tell her friend to get the hell rid of the cheating bitch, she also wanted her to be happy, so instead she’d asked if Ashleigh if she thought she was being too hasty.
“Fuck no,” Ashleigh had replied, “as far as I’m concerned, she’s destroyed my trust, and once that happens things are never the same, so it’s not worth it. And if I meant that much to her, she wouldn’t have done it, would she?”
Natalia had been inclined to agree. And although she was glad Kayla was off the scene—even aside from the fact that Natalia had been in love with Ashleigh since their University days, she’d never liked Kayla—she still hadn’t plucked up the courage to confess her own feelings to her friend. She probably never would—there was too much at stake. Their friendship spanned over ten years, and Natalia didn’t want to risk losing that.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Britain's 22 year-long Struggle Against France

When I think of the French Revolution, the reign of George III and Regency, so many authors spring to mind. Dickens, Thackery, Jane Austin, Georgette Heyer, Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe, and many others.

At the moment I am studying the late 18th century and the early 19th century.

For twenty-two years, from 1793 to 1815, France tried to dominate the world. At the beginning of this period, some men and women who had seen the Protector Richard Cromwell were still alive. At the end of it those who would live until Adolf Hitler was young had been born. On a personal note my grandfather remembered my long-lived great grandfather speaking about the Battle of Waterloo.

During those years of struggle the French wanted to overturn the old order, however the British did not accept a government not based on the rule of law. At one time Britain fought nearly the whole of Europe with little hope of victory. To make matters worse, when Britain was on the verge of bankruptcy, revolutionary France benefitted from Napoleon Bonaparte, considered by many to be the greatest military genius in the history of the world.

Until Sir John Moore fought Napoleon in Spain, only the Russians triumphed over Napoleon for a few months between 1806 and 1807.  

Trafalgar and the battle of Waterloo are so well-known that the first ten years of struggle, which William Pitt called ‘the virtues of adversity endured and adversity resisted, of adversity encountered and adversity surmounted, which ended in the Peace of Amiens, are often forgotten.

The peace did not last but it did give Britain the breathing space necessary for the war to continue until 1815.

Available from https;//museituppublishing.com/bookstore2, Amazon kindle,Good Reads, Kobo and elsewhere

Sunday's Child a Regency Novel. Despite quixotic Major Tarrant's experience of brutality, honour,loss and past love, experience of brutality will it be possible for him to find happiness?
Tangled Love set in England in 1706. The tale of two great estates and their owners, duty, betrayal, despair and hope.
New Release. 27th October. False Pretences a Regency Novel. Will Annabelle escape an arranged marriage and discover who her parents are?


Saturday, 11 August 2012

NEW RELEASE: THE EAGLE'S WOMAN


My romance about the Vikings in Ireland, The Eagle's Woman, released 8/2. If you like Viking lore, I hope you will enjoy this one.

Son of an impoverished, dying Norse chieftain, Ari raids for booty and slaves so he can feed his people. Pagan himself, still he spares priests though he sells them. He’s a heathen, a murderer, and it is a sin for any Christian woman to love him. Yet when he abducts Maeve from her peaceful Irish fishing village, he may have found the one woman who can.

EXCERPT:

“What?” Ari asked, reaching with his free hand to take her chin in it. His thumb caressed her bottom lip and she thought she was not out of danger with him, no matter how disheveled her appearance. This man wanted her, no doubt of it. Not enough to commit violence on her, apparently, but she thought gentleness held its own dangers. If she was not careful, it could weaken her will. He was not unattractive—with fair skin, strong angular features and striking eyes—though just then he looked like a drowned rat as all of them did. It did not obscure the strength of his body or the keen intelligence in those eyes. She turned her head to the side, dislodging his thumb.

“I have not seen tears from you before,” he said thoughtfully, “though many of the others are crying. What has finally broken you?”

“I am not broken,” she spat, “only mourning two good people who raised me. But I am sure you know nothing of such feelings.”

He sat back on his heels. “Do I not? Two good people raised me as well. One lies crippled in his sickbed and the other waits for me to bring coin to buy things a sick man needs.”

Maeve was silent, surprised and momentarily chastened. She had never seriously supposed he had motives other than greed.

“Do you think raiding is worthy of a fighting man?” he persisted. “I would rather face an army than hungry children.”

She stifled an impulse toward sympathy. “Ours are dead or captive. You seem to have no trouble facing that.”

Abruptly, he set both feet beneath himself and got up, undaunted by the motion of the ship which made such things impossible for Maeve. She had not noticed a wineskin hanging from the rigging, but she saw him reach for it then. “I cannot help your children.” He took a fulsome swig. “Just mine.” Wiping the neck with his wet tunic, he held the wineskin out to her.

It was decent wine, probably from their monastery, tasting of strength and summer. She needed strength to remember that summer would come again, so she drank.

BUY LINK: http://thedarkcastlelords.net/?p=822