Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Looking for A Christmas Novel to Heat You Up?

 



COLD NIGHTS, HOT BODIES is Lily Harlem's popular Christmas novel set in the beautiful Cotswolds. Dive in and find out what it's like when all the heroes in your favourite novels are brought to life by a willing and kinky new boyfriend!



Sunday, 13 December 2020

One Perfect Knight - Bargain Boxed-set! 6 full-length medieval historical romance novels for under $3.00/£2.50!


  

ONE PERFECT KNIGHT BOXED SET

Blurb


Your knight in shining armor is waiting to tell his exciting story in this new boxed-set release from Prairie Rose Publications! ONE PERFECT KNIGHT is a fantastic collection of SIX full book-length tales of beautiful medieval ladies and their dangerous men as they discover the magic of love! These exciting stories are sure to capture your imagination as you travel back in time to those romantic days of knights and ladies in medieval times! Handsome warriors, valiant knights, or valorous common men of the day—all will meet their matches with the daring and unusual women they happen to fall in love with, and you won’t want to put this boxed set down until you’ve read the very last story!

Authors Deborah Macgillivray, Lindsay Townsend, Cynthia Breeding, Linda Swift, Keena Kincaid, and Livia J. Washburn spin six incredible novel-length love stories filled with danger, excitement, and romance that will keep you turning page after incredible page until the very end. What could be better than ONE PERFECT KNIGHT? How about six fabulous stories of knights, warriors, and noblemen who want nothing more than to live happily ever after—in love—with the women in their lives?



A RESTLESS KNIGHT—DEBORAH MACGILLIVRAY

Had the music stopped, or had she just ceased to hear it? All she could do was stare into the dragon green eyes. Drown in them. This man was her destiny. Nothing else mattered. Lost in the power, Tamlyn was not aware of the hundreds of other people around them or their celebrating. To her, the world stood still, narrowed, until there was nothing but the star-filled night. And Challon.



THE SNOW BRIDE—LINDSAY TOWNSEND

She is Beauty but is he the Beast?

Beautiful Elfrida is the witch of the woods, and no man dares to ask for her hand in marriage until a beast comes stalking brides and steals away her sister. Desperate, Elfrida offers herself as a sacrifice, and is seized by a man with fearful scars. Is he the beast—or will he save her, as well as the other young women who have disappeared? Sir Magnus, battle-hardened knight of the Crusades, has finished with love, until he rescues a fourth 'bride', the red-haired Elfrida, whose touch ignites a fierce passion that satisfies his deepest yearnings and darkest desires.



CAMELOT’S DESTINY—CYNTHIA BREEDING

The legend of Camelot is born and, with it, bold passions and forbidden desire. Fiery-tempered Gwenhwyfar is chosen by Arthur to be his wife and queen… Seared by the forbidden kiss of Arthur’s most-trusted warrior, Lancelot, Gwenhwyfar is swept into a world of passion, torn by loyalty and love to a husband who betrays her and a man she cannot have. But in a time where good and evil clash, where magic and chivalry reign, love will prove a weapon as powerful as any sword.



MISTRESS OF HUNTLEIGH HALL—LINDA SWIFT

Wait for me… Malcolm Gray asks only one thing of Alice Wykeham when he goes to sea. But ten long years go by, and Alice is forced to marry an elderly lord who is eager to claim her dowry. Malcolm has been shipwrecked and severely injured, but when he heals, he remains nearby in disguise, too late to claim his true love. When Alice discovers the lord is involved in a treasonous plan to overthrow the king, she must do something—it could be the death of her, along with Malcolm, the only man she will ever love…



ART OF LOVE—KEENA KINCAID

Abigail d'Alene has been in love with learning all her life, and she now has the means to indulge in her passion. Disguised as a boy, she heads to Paris and the abbey schools that will one day change the world. Shocked by the ineptitude of her masquerade, Alain of Huntly Woods takes Abigail under his protection until she recovers her senses. But her audacity and intelligence spark unexpected passion. When Alain discovers Abigail's uncle plots against the English king, Alain must choose between protecting his king or the woman he loves.



ALURA’S WISH—LIVIA J. WASHBURN

In the fire opals of an ancient treasure live two djinn. Once freed from the stones, these immortal spirits will serve this master's commands. But these djinn also have another purpose—to bring the wearer a true and lasting love… Can a reluctant bride find unexpected happiness with the dark knight, Sir Connor Warrick, she agrees to marry for the sake of honor and duty? The brilliant opals of the exquisite slave bracelet unlock a magic unlike any Lady Alura has ever imagined…and a love more rare than any jewel…




Free to read with KindleUnlimited

Amazon Com 

Amazon Co UK

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Remembrance Day

  Today is 11th November. 102 years ago WWI ended on this day. The defining era of WWI is a fascination to me. I have researched this turbulent time for years and I'm always learning new things about it. One of my bucket list goals was to visit the battlefields of Belgium. Walking amongst the graves, the old trenches, visiting the water-filled bomb craters, going to museums, and spending time in beautiful Ypres was inspiring. How could you not be moved? My own ancestors fought and died in WWI. I had five great+ uncles all brothers from one family fight. Two died - Arthur and Alfred Ellis. They were the inspiration behind the Jackson brothers in my book The Woman from Beaumont Farm. My Ellis uncles live on in those pages.

The few books I've written set in WWI are homage to all those wonderful Allied men and women who served their countries for our freedom.
We must never forget their sacrifices. They are true heroes.










Sunday, 1 November 2020

Viking Romance - The Viking & the Pictish Princess. Romancenovel. Pre-order now, out Nov 5th


 THE VIKING AND THE PICTISH PRINCESS https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08LTGYTHV/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i20

https://amzn.to/3jA5bDvUK

 https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08LTGYTHV/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i13

https://amzn.to/3jA52Qt


Excerpt

The lone figure rose silently from the loch. Emerging from the grey shimmer of a winter morning with water sheeting off his body, he glided over the submerged boulders onto the shore of her island. Bindweed scrambled into a holly tree and dropped to the parched ground. She gritted her teeth against the shout surging up her dry throat, old fears from the past made real.

Viking!

He was big, this invader, big as a king stag of the forest, tanned, barrel chested and with arms thicker than her legs. His black hair, dark as December pine cones, matted itself to his skull in long streamers of shadow and eyes, the colour of storm clouds, were quick and piercing.

“Black Norse,” Bindweed muttered, not daring to stir as that fierce grey gaze swept over her hiding place. His thick gold collar and armlets flashed when he strode by, arrogant as a lord. He moved with the swift, quiet grace of a warrior, the low winter sun illuminating his leather tunic and trews, the long dagger strapped to one thigh, his sword on the other.

Spy or assassin, Bindweed wondered, watching his retreating back. He made for her cave-house as if he had walked the path a hundred times, though she doubted he sought her skill in herb-lore. Still she did not stir.

The first snare on the trail he avoided with a snort of humour, the second, set below a seeming bed of innocent pine needles, swallowed him whole. Bindweed was out of the holly and sprinting before the Viking had stopped his bellow of surprise. A quick jerk of the rope hidden by ivy had the nets and timber unravelling and the trap closed. She quickly pinned it down, panting hard as she rolled the lock-stone in place.

Thirteen feet below, in the round pit it had taken her three summers to dig and harden with fire, the black Norse prowled, thumping the sheer walls and slamming the mud-churned floor. He would not look at her. Bindweed did not care.

“No one comes here,” she lied—why tell truth to the enemy? “Yell away,” she added, when the stranger’s mighty chest swelled like organ bellows. “None shall hear.”

The Viking lunged up. She stamped his clenching fingers off the timbers and nets and he cursed and spat. “Food later,” she told him, spotting how his eyes narrowed briefly in calculation. He understands me, then.

It did not matter. Tomorrow night she would lace his portion and his ale with enough sleeping draught to fell an ox and then drag him out, to question at her leisure. Thank the stag god and the great mother that I heeded my instincts four summers ago to fashion these traps. Sometimes my senses are not only tuned to women’s healing, but to more brutal matters of survival.

She had no time to celebrate, however. Now she was exhausted, harp-string taut tension replaced by a yawning tiredness. Without troubling to undress, she stumbled into her bed and slept.

She dreamed of her past, an old horrific recollection, that began, as too often, with screaming.

****

She was seven summers old when her father Giric killed her mother. Nothing as quick or kind as a knife, but his selling of Kentigerna bright-hair into slavery, to a Viking, was still murder. Years later, she had never forgiven the old man, nor forgotten her mother’s screams.

She had tried to follow the Viking’s longship, running hard for the track by the loch. Mongfind, her half-sister, older and bigger than her by two summers, had grabbed her. After hearing Mongfind’s shouts, Giric himself had seized and flung the little one, flailing and punching, into the ancient black broch that gave the people their name.

She had hammered on the locked door until her knuckles were bloodied, then sprinted up the winding staircase to the roof of the broch. Seeing a flash of her Ma’s bright red hair in the longship’s bowels, she had clambered right over the thick circular walls of the broch and leapt down.

“Me, too!” she yelled in her later dreams, though she could not remember if she spoke the words. She only knew that if the ship sailed, she would never see her mother again.

Seven years old, I knew this! But then bastards have to grow up fast.       

She landed in a mess of heather, winded and broken. She scrambled to rise and a searing pain in her left foot seized her whole leg. Too shattered to scream, too shocked to move, she watched the Viking longship and her mother sail away.

Irish Maeve, old and wrinkled as a dried out leather flask, prodded her with her walking stick.

“You will do, now get up. There’s work!” Maeve ordered, laughing as she burst into tears. “Get to it, Bindweed.

“She clings,” Maeve told the whispering onlookers, who smirked or shook their heads and turned away.

From that day, the little girl was Maeve’s servant. The name her mother gave her was forgotten and all knew her as Bindweed.

Later, Bindweed learned, a travelling tinker who had a taste for young things had wanted to buy her, but Irish Maeve had refused his offer. But only because I was quick and clever. She never forgot how the old woman had laughed at her hurt and grief, how the others in her father’s fort had turned away.

She never saw her mother again.

 Six years later Irish Maeve died in her sleep. Bindweed buried her mentor on their island home and mourned for three nights, as custom demanded. On the dawn of the fourth day, she poured the ashes of a barley loaf over the new grave and squeezed a final tear from her smarting eyes.

Enough of that, as Maeve would say. I respected her as a healer, but no deeper feeling than that. She took me in for her own convenience and laughed at my grief. Though she did keep the secret of the smaller cave, so there was that.

Bindweed patted the cold earth once, in valediction, and turned back to the small cave where she and the Irish wise-woman had made a dwelling and a home of sorts She was Bindweed Silverhair, wise-woman of the loch, keeper of the island pool, the one maidens and womenfolk turned to so she might heal their hurts. Poultice their beasts. Charm the chickens into laying more eggs. No one now remembered she was the bastard get of Giric the Harsh, a warrior and giver of gold, who had sold his own mistress, her mother Kentigerna, into slavery.

Lightning strike him down for that! Why does Giric thrive? Why do his well-fed, well-dressed legitimate sons and daughters parade through this land like the blessed children of fairy. Not that I wish them ill, but still—

Revenge did not interest her, for that would merely prove she cared about Giric’s ill-nature. She had a home and skills, a name she had made respected. She ate well, even in winter and before harvest-time. No man would want to wed her, with only this scrap of a wooded islet as her land dowry, but she might take a handsome highlander as a lover, someone quick and wick and small as herself.

No boy with light blue eyes, though, no youth with a beard like Giric’s. Send me a sunny lad, nimble with his fingers—

A long, low snore from nearby brought Bindweed stark awake. It was time for her to move.

Time to spar with the Viking again. Even if the brute sleeps.

 

****

Olaf came to with a pounding mead-style headache and a sick stomach. Twitching sore limbs he found himself bound, hand and foot, and blindfolded.

“Drink!”

A pot clashed against his teeth and he guzzled the weak ale, soothing both headache and sore jaws. “Why did you not slit my throat?” he demanded, after the cup was withdrawn.

“I heal, not kill.”

A young female. Another wise woman? Olaf risked a confession. “I was told the witch Irish Maeve was dead, her place empty. I planned to move in for the coming winter.”

“Who told you that? In truth, you cannot. I am her heir.”

“No one mentioned you.”

“No one ever does.”

When the wench said nothing more, he did not deign to respond to her question but asked, “What did you drug me with?”

“Drenched-salted the food, spiked the ale.”

He sensed her smirk and his bound fists clenched. She had admitted nothing new. “My men will find me.” And kill you. The threat went unspoken but hung like a gibbet between them.

A rustle like dry leaves made Olaf turn sharply to his left but the woman was already drawing back, leaving a whiff of lavender and a touch of the soft wool of her skirts.

“You will mend.”

True, since his headache was almost gone, though he tensed in irritation at her ignoring his warning. “And my men will still find me.”

“You have lain in my pit for two days, been sleeping hard for a day and a night, and none have come looking for you. Now there is fog. No ships in or out of the loch, y’ken?”

He breathed in deeply against her mockery, savouring her perfume afresh. “Aye.”

“No men are allowed here on Maiden’s Isle. For despoiling this sacred space I could spell you with ill luck for the rest of your life.” She paused, allowing the silence to grow, then delivered her final threat. “The curse would stick.”

Dread iced up his spine. Has my bad luck tracked me from Byzantium? Fore God, it has been evil since Karl’s death. Grief sleeted through Olaf afresh at the memory of his brother-in-arms, dead these six months and entombed in the white marble of Constantinople.

“What do you want from me?” he demanded. Anything to stop thinking of Karl, cut down in ambush in an arid city street, hundreds of miles away.

“Your name. Why you are on the run. The truth.”

“I am Olaf No-Kin.” He did not ask how the wise woman knew he had neither ship nor men, though he inwardly cursed the loss of that flimsy advantage. How can I do anything if she does not respect me? “I quit my lord Ragnar’s service and took the first passage I could to Alba to offer my sword to a laird of the Picts.”

“A mercenary. Why, if you left his war-band, does this Ragnar pursue you?” 

Published by Prairie Rose Publications, this novel is available for pre-order and will be out on November 5th.

Lindsay Townsend

Monday, 13 July 2020

New Release August 1st!

I'm so excited to share the news that my next historical saga is The Market Stall Girl, which will be released in Kindle ebook and paperback August 1st.

1913 Yorkshire, England.
Beth Beaumont enjoys her life as a rhubarb farmer’s daughter in West Yorkshire. Working on the family’s stall selling the fruit and vegetables grown in their own fields gives her a sense of purpose and is healthier than working in a dangerous cotton mill.
Although not thinking of marriage, when Beth meets Noah Jackson, a village miner, she is suddenly very aware of Noah as a man who could change her mind. The summer brings the two closer and their feelings deepen while Noah studies hard to fulfill his dreams of becoming a teacher and securing a better life than his parents endure.
But, a disaster at the coal mine changes lives forever. Noah’s plans are shattered. His love for Beth is put at risk, and he fears they can never find happiness together.
However, another man wants Beth. Louis Melville, the wealthy son of a local gentry family, is acutely aware of Beth’s beauty and he wants her for himself. At first, he is willing to offer marriage, but when Beth turns him down in favour of Noah, Melville, furious to be denied, wreaks revenge with devastating consequences.
Will Beth and Noah find the happiness they wish for or will overwhelming events break them apart?

#Edwardian #historicalsaga #familysaga #Wakefield #Yorkshire @amazonkindle

http://mybook.to/TheMarketStallGirl


Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Calling all holiday-themed readers! It’s more than evergreens and twinkly lights at N. N. Light’s Book Heaven’s fourth annual Christmas in July FĂȘte. 39 Christmas/Hanukkah-themed books featured plus a chance to win one of the following:

Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card Enter to win a $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card Enter to win a $15 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card Enter to win a $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

 

I’m thrilled to be a part of this event. My book, WANTED, will be featured on JULY 22. Wait until you read what I love most about the holidays. You won’t want to miss it.

Bookmark this event and tell your friends:

https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/bookpromos/categories/christmas-in-july-fete

Open internationally. Runs July 1 – 31

Drawing will be held on August 1.


 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Firecracker Summer Reading Giveaway #giveawayalert #CanadaDay @KMNbooks

Want to find a new writer, learn what novels some of your favorite authors are reading, or find new book recommendations? Visit https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/literary-giveaway-portal to enter this new multi-author giveaway.

All genres are included whether it’s novels from debuting authors to award-winning/bestselling authors with multiple books and/or series. The best part -- it's all free for readers to enter, as authors are generously donating copies of their books as well as other prizes each month in the hopes of finding new fans and to build up their reading communities.

I’m excited to participate in this month’s giveaway and can’t wait to share with you all that will be offered this month and moving forward. You never know what surprising authors might just show up on the list this year!

It might be your favorite. Firecracker Summer Reading Giveaway: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/92db775066

Literary Giveaway Portal: https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/literary-giveaway-portal a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 29 June 2020

My Books

Five of my favourite books have now been taken by Canelo who will sell them as they are very good at that. Here are the details:

Lakeland Lily 

Lily Thorpe is a spirited, ambitious fisherman’s daughter, desperate to escape the poverty of her Lakeland home.


Amazon

Kitty Little 

After fleeing from a marriage arranged by her ambitious mother, Katherine throws herself into an acting career, but a scandal threatens to wreck everything she has worked for.


Amazon

The Bobbin Girls 

Alena Townsen wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life with her childhood friend Rob, the only son of James Hollinthwaite, a wealthy landowner.

Amazon

Gracie’s Sin 

It's 1942 and three young women join the Women's Timber Corps, eager to do their bit for the war effort. Buxom and bouncy, red-headed Lou is newly married and sees her training in Cornwall as a way of staying near her sailor husband.


Amazon

Daisy’s Secret 

Daisy is devastated when her lover, Percy, abandons her. All alone, Daisy is forced by her own mother to give up her baby son for adoption – shortly before she throws Daisy out.


Amazon

You can also see them on my Blog, giving details of what they are about. http://fredalightfoot.blogspot.com

Thursday, 4 June 2020

BITE MARK - FREE STEAMY PARANORMAL ROMANCE



Grab yourself a copy of BITE MARK a super sexy vampire menage a trois set in London for FREE from Amazon and meet Aimery, Ryle and Beatrice who gets in-between them as she enters The Worshipful Company of the Ancient Order.

Then when you've finished, continue the story with CLAW MARK, more steamy romance, this time with some M/M thrown in for good measure. What's not to love?


Saturday, 30 May 2020

The Inspiration behind "The Master Cook and the Maiden"

THE MASTER COOK AND THE MAIDEN
 
Vengeance…or love? Will Alfwen have to choose between them? And what part will the handsome Master Cook, Swein, play in her life?


People sometimes ask me: "Where do you get your ideas from?" In the case of my Master Cook and the Maiden, it came from a real historical event.

In the early 14th century, a nun called Joan of Leeds "crafted a dummy... to mislead...She had no shame in procuring its burial in a sacred space" according to the Archbishop of York, William Melton.

By means of the dummy, she faked her own death and fled the convent of Saint Clement by York. Later gossip placed her in the city of Beverley and she was ordered to return to the monastic life by her Archbishop.

Joan's absconding from the convent is not the only one recorded. In 1301 another nun, called Cecily, stripped off her habit, disguised herself and rode off to live with one Gregory de Thornton. 

Clearly, the relgious life was not for everyone. 

In the case of my heroine Alfwen, she is not yet a nun. She fakes her death by drowning, a fate that could happen all too easily to laundresses who had to deal with heavy, waterlogged sheets and clothes in their local rivers. She gambles that the church authorities will consider her body swept away and so makes her escape.

Why she does so forms the catalyst of the story.

#NEW THE MASTER COOK AND THE MAIDEN
Vengeance…or love? Will Alfwen have to choose between them? And what part will the handsome Master Cook, Swein, play in her life? amazon.com/dp/B088RJNYJ4/ UK amazon.co.uk/dp/B088RJNYJ4/ #Romance #MedievalRomance #RomanceNovel

Lindsay Townsend

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

New! THE MASTER COOK & THE MAIDEN. Historical Romance. Money off! Excerpts

#NEW THE MASTER COOK & THE MAIDEN Vengeance…or love? Will Alfwen have to choose between them? And what part will the handsome Master Cook, Swein, play in her life? amazon.com/dp/B088RJNYJ4/ UK amazon.co.uk/dp/B088RJNYJ4/ #Romance #MedievalRomance #RomanceNovel


THE MASTER COOK AND THE MAIDEN
 
Vengeance…or love? Will Alfwen have to choose between them? And what part will the handsome Master Cook, Swein, play in her life?


UK                                              
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B088RJNYJ4/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+master+cook+and+the+maiden&qid=1589871416&s=books&sr=1-1

Romance, MedievalRomance,  RomanceNovel

The Rose and the Sword Novel Series



Excerpt

The Master Cook and the Maiden
Lindsay Townsend



Third day of Lent, 1303

The small brown dog stumbled towards Alfwen as she pounded washing in the river. Without stopping her work she watched the little rough-coated creature slip through a gap in the convent boundary wall to limp her way, flopping down on the damp grass twice before it reached her.
“Hey, boy,” she whispered, glad of the honest companionship even if it was just a dog. Hearing a pitiful whine she dropped the dry crust she had been saving for her supper in front of the shivering beast. “Go on, it is yours.”
The scrap disappeared between the dog’s narrow jaws. Alfwen wiped a hunger tear from her face, glancing about. So far, she and the little dog were safe from discovery. This close to Terce, the other nuns and novitiates of the convent were busy with their own assigned labours. As Alfwen had pretended she was afraid of the river, naturally the spiteful Mother Superior had ordered the girl to do the sisters’ laundry, an outdoor task that suited Alfwen very well, even on this bitter afternoon in early spring. Tempers sharpened during Lent, when all were famished, and to be in the fresh, chill air was better than being mewed up in the sooty church or cramped, icy scriptorium.
Kneeling on the riverbank, Alfwen wrung out another section of bedsheet and dunked the next, flinching at the freezing water flowing over her reddened fingers and pale skinny arms. No possible spy was with her, no religious or lay brother or sister, and she could relax a moment. She unwound from her knees and sat on the grass, trying to ignore the burning prickling in her legs. When no shout or complaint issued from the convent she stroked the dog.
With a soft whine the beast crawled closer. So small and trembling, she thought, and she could count its ribs through that rough brown coat and the raw patches along one flank where the fur had shed. Recalling a lively, bouncing pup from long ago, she whispered, “Teazel?”
The dog weakly wagged a balding tail. As it raised its head, Alfwen spotted a filthy cloth collar, half-hidden by dirt.
“I gave you to Walter with a leather collar,” she murmured, surprised she remembered that detail. Teazel snuffled and edged even nearer, so she could see the grey in his muzzle. She wrapped the dog in the rest of the dry sheet she had yet to scrub and fought down a wave of horror.
Walter must be dead. Teazel would never have left him.
She tried to pray for her brother. Failing that, she tried to remember him. It had been seven, no eight years since Walter and his new wife had abandoned her in the convent, though Alfwen knew she had no vocation.
I was ten years old and my parents had just died. Walter was in the first flush of marriage and lordship and his wife—Alfwen shuddered, checked again for spies and admitted the truth. Enid hated me.
A growl came from the tangled sheet as if Teazel agreed with her. A quivering, questing muzzle emerged from the heavy linen and Alfwen was struck by a memory of Walter. Her older brother, whirling about the tilting yard with his new puppy in his arms, laughing as the little dog yapped and squirmed and nuzzled closer.
“He likes me!” Walter cried, pressing a sloppy kiss on the pup’s back.
“He is yours,” Alfwen agreed, and Walter had grinned at her, his hazel eyes bright with joy, the sunlight picking out the red glints in his brown curls.
Enid had soon shorn off his hair, claiming it unseemly for a young lord. Alfwen had scowled and Walter had scolded her for protesting against his wife, although she had said nothing. Two days later she was delivered to the convent, a poor, mean place. My limbo, with an entrance to hell, and my brother did not care, did not question. Eight years she had been here as a novitiate, neither lay nor nun. Postulants to a religious life were supposed to serve only a year as a novice but as a sister Alfwen would have status and Enid and the Mother Superior between them did not want that. Instead I am trapped and my close family have forgotten or dismissed me. Would I be as stupid and selfish in wedlock as Walter?
Alfwen shook her head and tried a second time to pray for her brother’s soul.
He is gone forever and I cannot even cry.
She tried to think of him, remember him, kindly memories. Save for when she had given him Teazel, and he had taught her to write her name, she drew a blank on any more joyful times. Have I forgotten or was Walter really so morose and carping? Am I unjust in how I consider him now?
In the dank grey light of early spring, the bell for Terce rang through her like a blow. Numb, Alfwen rose, ready to gather her work and stumble into the nunnery’s huddled church set close to an expanse of marsh but out of reach of the river. She reached for the part-washed, part-dry sheet and Teazel burst from its coils. Again she noted his thinness, the scrap of cloth collar.
The collar was once part of a favourite gown of mine, a yellow dress my mother made me.
The bell for Terce continued to toll and Alfwen detested its sweet intrusion.
Anger sharpened her, tempered her dull acceptance of convent life into more than resentment. In a blast of sudden added colour she saw the white and pink daisies by her feet, the blue glow of a kingfisher farther down the riverbank, the glint of gold amidst the dirty yellow of Teazel’s collar.
He has something pinned to his collar.
A shadow fell across Alfwen before she could unpin the tiny roll of parchment, but thankfully it was merely a cloud, not a nun coming to drag her to service.
No, the good sisters of Saint Hilda’s will be hastening to church. I will not be missed until after the latest holy office.
Alfwen flinched as the gold brooch scratched her fingers and then the thing was undone. Heart hammering, she smoothed out the parchment.
Two words only in her brother’s hand, but a message to her, all the same.
“Avenge me.”









Chapter 2
Swein saw the girl drop into the water from the riverbank and leapt from his waggon, sprinting to reach her before she drowned. Hearing no splash or screams he dared to hope and ran faster, forcing air into his searing lungs.
Pounding along the track and over the water-meadow he vaulted the mud brick wall of the convent. He landed clumsily but kept going, determined to save her. Never a fatal accident in my kitchen and I’ll not gave one here, either.
Scrambling to the edge of the bank he stared downstream, seeing nothing but a young trout, swung round to scour upstream—and choked on his breath. Tripping daintily over the river pebbles at the stream’s edge the girl walked steadily away from her pile of laundry.
Swein flattened himself to the grass and watched the small, skinny wench. Her skirts were sodden to the backs of her knees, he reckoned, but she moved smoothly, never looking back. Across her retreating shoulders she carried a sling, made from part of a sheet. A little old dog poked its muzzle from the bundle and seemed content with the ride.
A runaway from Saint Hilda’s. “No business of mine,” Swein muttered, but his ankle ached so he lay still and stared.
The girl disappeared round the bend in the beck—stream, Swein mentally corrected, since this was in the south, not north—her presence winking out like a small star.
She will walk to the ford and take the Roman road hence. I could drive my waggon there and wait for her.
“Why not?” Swein said aloud, flexing his toes in his boots. “I have no business with Saint Hilda’s.” The head nun in the place did not like men and detested cooks so he had never had cause to visit in his travels.
‘Tis Lent and I go home for Lent. Cooking food for fasting times does not stir me and my folk are waiting. He had the early gifts ready for them.
Still he would catch Nutmeg, his mule, and his waggon and drive to the ford. That girl needs fattening up, I reckon, fleeing from Saint Hilda’s.
The nobles I cook for do not like me curious but I am my own master and this Lent time is my holiday. He could do largely as he pleased and he wanted to see the lass’s face.
Swein rolled to his feet and set off back for the track, whistling a merry tune.
****
Alfwen glanced at the sinking sun and the crossroads with dismantled archery butts stacked against the oak tree. She had hoped for a hiring gather and had her story ready. I am a laundress seeking honest work.
She wanted to steal a nag and ride to her family’s seat at Ormsfeld, but she brutally dismissed the desire. She needed to know how Walter had died and who were his enemies. Teazel would never have left if Walter lived still. Yet no one had come to the convent to tell her that her brother had died. Although I am a de Harne I have been buried at Saint Hilda’s for eight years and no doubt forgotten.
“Avenge me,” Walter growled in her head, in a voice she was not sure was his, or what she remembered of him.
Again she was relieved she had not taken final vows. Nuns were not supposed to plot vengeance.
Why should I? When did Walter care for me?
Alfwen squashed such thoughts, stamping her feet in a futile bid to keep warm. Her skirts and sandals were still wet from the river and she knew she would look strange, a lone woman with no protectors. I dare not linger here past twilight. I have to find shelter, food for Teazel.
The dog slept on the damp ground in her rough bundle, weary with hunger. Enid starved him. Did she do the same cruel thing with Walter?
“Are you seeking work?”
Startled, Alfwen turned, stumbling as she took a rapid backwards step. The man looming over her was so big—
Strong arms caught her, brought her safe against a broad chest.
“Here,” said the stranger as she gulped in breath to fight, “Before you hunger faint.”
A large calloused hand pressed a warm round dumpling into her palm, a white plump dumpling straight from a pottage pot, but not so hot as to burn. The comforting heat and yeasty scent took her straight back to childhood, pottering after Simon, the old cook, who would often take her with him into the kitchen garden and let her eat fresh bread from his ovens.
Avenge me, Walter scolded, while she chewed and swallowed the dumpling treat, licking her fingers after.
“I need a washer lass,” the stranger went on, dropping a morsel of something on the earth for Teazel. “I feed my folk well. You come?”
He almost had her at feed well, but Alfwen had not sprung the trap of the convent to fall into another. She shook her head. “I cannot stay, sir.”
Now she spoke, Alfwen felt the light-headedness of hunger boil into the seethe of panic. What might this big brute make me do for his food?