New Release, Excerpt and Review | Isle of Gold by Amy Maroney

I’m a huge fan of Amy Maroney’s “Miramonde” series, and was so excited to read the fabulous first novel in her new collection, Island of Gold. Already a best-seller, available on Amazon, read my review here, and enjoy an excerpt below!
Island of Gold
Amy Maroney

Languedoc, France
Cédric offered the falcon a strip of rabbit meat. Ignoring the tidbit, she retracted her neck low into her shoulders, plumped her feathers, and fixed him with a baleful glare.
“Still off your feed?” he asked softly. “What ails you, my girl?”
A low growl of thunder startled him. He glanced through the open door to the courtyard, where rain pummeled the cobblestones. The scent of rotting straw hung in the air. If only sunshine would break through the clouds and give the land a chance to dry out.
Then a familiar figure filled the doorway, jolting him out of his thoughts.
“Philippe?” he said in surprise. “You’re early—”
“It’s your father,” his sword master replied, breathing hard. “He’s wounded.”
Cédric dropped the pouch of meat and pushed past Philippe into the courtyard. He broke into a run when he glimpsed a guard and a servant carrying his father through the front doors of the main house.
Inside the great hall, he cleared the broad oak table near the hearth with one sweep of his arm. Pewter and crockery smashed against the tile floor. Quickly, the men settled his father on the table and removed his leather cuirass and chain-mail shirt. A deep wound gaped at his lower abdomen, leaking blood. His moans reverberated to the rafters.
Cédric yanked an embroidered flax runner off a nearby chest. It was one of the few reminders of his mother left in the house since her death on his twelfth name-day, nearly four years ago. With trembling hands, he wrapped it around his father’s waist. The mingled aromas of sweat and blood filled his nostrils.
“It was the écorcheurs,” said the guard, removing his helmet and running a hand through his matted hair. “They surprised us on the road back from the seminary.”
“They took my purse, my boots, my belt,” Papa managed to croak. “The ring off my finger. And ran me through with my own sword.”
“Those devils. I’ll kill them!” The words exploded from Cédric’s lips without warning. Philippe pressed a restraining hand on his shoulder. His heart thrummed crazily against his ribs all the same.
“Where is Yves?” Cédric demanded, tying the ends of the cloth together to bind his father’s wound. The faint outlines of pink silk roses embroidered by his mother vanished under a relentless tide of scarlet blood. His eyes burned with tears at the sight.
“Your brother went to check on the mill this morning,” Philippe said, accepting a cup of wine from a servant. “I’ve sent someone to fetch him. And the priest.”
Cédric propped up his father’s head and held the cup to his lips. He spluttered and coughed, then swallowed a bit of wine. A gust of wind swept through the doorway, the flames in the hearth dancing in response.
“These cursed rains,” Papa muttered. “There will be no harvest this year.”
Cédric stared at the fire, refusing to watch death tighten its grip on his father.
“And all the while, bandits circle like wolves.” Philippe’s voice was steady, but it held a trace of anger.
Papa sucked in a ragged breath. “My boy, look at me.”
Cédric dragged his gaze from the hearth with reluctance.
“Yves will take my place as viscount. Stéphane is safe at seminary; his path to priesthood is secure. And you—a third son, born with the least advantage.” He caught his breath, grimaced. “God forgive me, I’ve not prepared you, Cédric. You care more for falcons than swordplay. You’re not ready to enter service for a seigneur . . .”
Philippe leaned closer, covered Papa’s hand with his own. “I swear to you as a servant of the Knights Hospitaller that your son has the makings of a strong fighter. I’ll be sure his training is complete before he enters any lord’s household, my friend.”
Papa sought Cédric’s eyes again. “You can change your fate, but not if you spend your life bowing to the whims of other men, understand? One day you must make your own fortune.”
The worry and pain in his expression made Cédric’s heart twist.
“Vow it to me, son.”
“I vow it.” Cédric tried to swallow, but his throat felt dry as dust.
Papa’s face relaxed. His breath grew faint, his skin pale.
“You will make your own way in the world,” he whispered. “But first you’ll learn to live by your sword—and stay alive.”

New Release and Excerpt | The Sins of the Father | Annie Whitehead

Annie Whitehead’s brilliant new historical fiction novel The Sins of the Father releases today, and I am delighted to feature an excerpt. Annie’s writing is immersive, full of fascinating detail and completely unputdownable. Enjoy an excerpt and check out Annie’s release on Amazon US:
Ethelred, a small boy when his father fought his last major battle, has less investment in the feud between the Mercians and the Northumbrians than his elder siblings. Unsure of his place in the world, he sees his warrior brother wearing their father’s mantle and feels cold in that large shadow. Craving peace after the bloodshed he has witnessed during his brother’s recent battle campaign, he sojourns in Wales with his love, Arianwen, and finally plucks up the courage to ask her to accompany him home to Mercia:

Ethelred, Heaferth and Immin spent the evening with the other Mercian men, sitting round a brazier outside, cloaks up to keep off the light rain. Tempers were raised, and it would not have taken much for the Welsh to turn on their guests, so it was better for them to remain in the open. Ethelred was acutely aware that he had kept his men from their families too long while he recovered from his injuries, and the incident in the hall confirmed his decision that it was time to go home.
He was up not long after dawn, noting how long the sun was taking these days to get up into the morning sky. The weather remained calm, holding the woodsmoke hanging in the stillness and, even if it turned, they would make good progress this day and be well on the way before they got caught in any changes.
He loitered near Arianwen’s bower, not wishing to knock in case she was still abed, but as the daylight lifted the dark completely and shortened his shadow, there was still no noise suggesting movement within. He strolled over to the hall, but aside from a few of the Teulu nursing sore heads and picking at chunks of bread, it was empty.
There was no sign of her in the weaving sheds, nor, as far as he could see, was she on the outer edge of the woodland, and those who were watching over the pigs fattening on the acorns had not seen her. She liked to go into the woods and gather mushrooms and hazelnuts, and the morning was crisp and fresh, the ground hard underfoot. She would be tempted, if nothing else, by the chance to kick through the fallen bounty under the trees.
The season had turned sharply during the last week and the woodland floor was covered with red, gold, and brown leaves which emitted a loamy smell as he trod through them, disturbing the residue of moisture trapped there. He blew on his hands and rubbed them, then set off deeper into the woods to find her. If she had not already gathered her belongings together, she would be in a rush to be ready to leave with him and the men.
He got as far as their secret place without catching her up. Lifting up the branch that served as its doorway, he could see at a glance that she was not there, and had not been since they’d last lain there together. Straightening, he let the branch swing down, sidestepped back down to the path and looked around. Where was she?
Ethelred retraced his steps, going more slowly and looking first to one side of the path and then the other, but he heard only the occasional squeak of a shrew and the rustle of other small animals running away from the vibration of his footsteps. Emerging from the treeline, he looked up to see Dyfrig walking towards him.
The two men had hardly exchanged words in the whole time that Ethelred had been Llywarch’s guest. Ethelred wasn’t about to change that now, not on the day he was leaving anyway, but the Welshman clearly had other ideas. He opened his mouth but Ethelred decided to cut him off. “Keep any words you might have. I am on my way to seek out Llywarch, thank him and to take my leave. You will be glad to know that we are leaving this morning.”
He made to walk on, but Dyfrig put a hand on his arm. “A shame you cannot say farewell to Arianwen.”
Ethelred shook off his grip, and made a point of brushing his sleeve as if dirt had been left there. “I have no need to do so. She is coming with me.”
“You think so?”
“Lady Heledd is much stronger now.”
Dyfrig lifted his hand, inspecting that jewelled ring. “Indeed. There is to be a wedding.”
“I am glad. Bleddyn will be a fine husband for her, and I hope that in time they will be blessed with healthy bairns. Arianwen and I will come back for the wedding if we are able.”
Dyfrig lowered his hand, resting it on his belt buckle. “You know, surely, that we four grew up together? What on God’s good green earth makes you think that I speak of Heledd and Bleddyn?”
Ethelred opened his mouth to dismiss the insinuation, then closed it again. She had not answered his question, had not actually said that she wanted to go back to Mercia with him. And what of all those moments when he’d felt there was something she wasn’t telling him, about Dyfrig and his place in her life? Had Ethelred’s heart been like a harp for her, to pull on its strings only when she needed entertainment?
He stood for a moment to steady his breathing and then nodded at Dyfrig. “I wish you well. And now I must find Lord Llywarch and thank him. Let us always hope that we and the Welsh remain friends and never have to meet on the battlefield.” It was a miserable and impotent threat, but it was the best he could manage. He was in too much of a hurry to get back, say his farewells, and be on the road and some miles away before his heart shattered.

The Whirlpools of Time | New Release | Anna Belfrage

What more can I say, than this is SUCH an entertaining read by master HistFic storyteller Anna Belfrage. So if there is ONE LAST summer read you should indulge in, grab The Whirlpools of Time now, head to the pool and dive in. To your kindle, that is. And, join us for an Author Chat here, as Anna shares stories about writing through a pandemic, choosing character’s names…and why a blue alien just isn’t going to cut it for her next medieval romance.
Author Chat | The Whirlpools of Time

Upstairs, Downstairs and Between-Stairs with The Ladies of Lydiard

Margaret Beaufort. Barbara Villiers. Diana Spencer. All were ladies of Lydiard. Meet them in person in Frances Bevan’s beautiful new book, The Ladies of Lydiard. A fascinating compendium of wealthy brides, influential mistresses, unfaithful wives and aspiring ladies, this book is an un-putdownable set of stories supported by meticulous research. And they’ll surprise you – it wasn’t just the Lords of the Manor who were in charge!

The Ladies of Lydiard | An Exquisite Collection | Frances Bevan

Excerpt from The Art of Love | A.B. Michaels

Today, I’m delighted to feature an excerpt from A.B. Michaels’ fascinating novel about the California gold rush. I lived in San Francisco for several years, and found this part of the state’s history absolutely compelling. Do enjoy!

The Art of Love
(The Golden City, Book One)
By A.B. Michaels

Your Journey to The Golden City begins here…
A tale of mystery, social morality and second chances during America’s Gilded Age, The Art of Love will take you on an unforgettable journey from the last frontier of the Yukon Territory to the new Sodom and Gomorrah of its time – the boomtown of San Francisco.
After digging a fortune from the frozen fields of the Klondike, August Wolff heads south to the “Golden City,” hoping to put the unsolved disappearance of his wife and daughter behind him. The turn of the twentieth century brings him even more success, but the distractions of a hedonistic mecca can’t fill the gaping hole in his life.
Amelia Starling is a wildly talented artist caught in the straightjacket of Old New York society. Making a heart-breaking decision, she moves to San Francisco to further her career, all the while living with the pain of a sacrifice no woman should ever have to make.
Brought together by the city’s flourishing art scene, Gus and Lia forge a rare connection. But the past, shrouded in mystery, prevents the two of them from moving forward as one. Unwilling to face society’s scorn, Lia leaves the city and vows to begin again in Europe.
The Golden City offers everything a man could wish for except the answers Gus is desperate to find. But find them he must, or he and Lia have no chance at all.

Buy Link | The Art of Love

New York, 1899

Over the next several days, under the guise of carrying artwork to and from school, Lia moved her most important belongings to the apartment Sandy had rented. She packed clothing, art supplies, her jewelry, and most important, the items that would remind her of the one real treasure she was giving up. Every evening she sat and watched Little Georgie, sketching him at play and at rest, trying to memorize every part of the precious child she had brought into the world. His tiny, exquisitely formed little ears; his soft cheeks (which someday, she imagined, would grow angular like his father’s); his mouth shaped like a cupid’s bow, rooting quietly as he slept.
She gave Polly and the housekeeper time away to visit their families and spent her last day at home with her son, sitting with him on the floor of the nursery as he built tall castles out of blocks and laughed delightedly when they fell. She held up the carved wooden cow and asked him what a cow says and he said “Moo.” The sheep? “Baa.” The horse? “Eee eee eee.”
“That’s my smart little man,” she whispered, tears running unchecked down her face.
“Mama,” he said, waddling over and patting the wetness of her cheeks.
“Yes, my darling boy,” she whispered. “Mama loves you. Mama will always love you.”
She put him to bed one more time and crooned his favorite lullaby. “Sleepyhead, close your eyes. Mother’s right here beside you. I’ll protect you from harm, you will wake in my … my … ” she couldn’t go on. He lay on his back looking up at her and smiled and reached for her. She leaned down and hugged him one last time and stayed with him until he fell asleep.
You can do this you can do this you can do this, she chanted to keep herself in one piece. She filled her small suitcase, donned her coat, and went downstairs to confront George. He was working in the library. The light in the room was dim except for the lamp on his desk. It lent an intimacy to the space. It was quiet; only the tic, tic, tic of the Ormolu clock marred the silence.
“George?” she called from the doorway.
“Yes, come in,” he replied, still engrossed in the report he was reading.
She checked the pendant watch he had given her on their first anniversary. Sandy would arrive to pick her up shortly; she had only to get through this last charade. She walked over to his desk.
“George, look at me.”
George looked up, a puzzled expression crossing his face as he saw that she was dressed to go out. He frowned. “Where are you going?”
“I’m leaving you for someone else.”
He leaned back in his chair, disbelieving. “What did you say?”
“I said I’m leaving you for someone else.”
“Lia, that’s not funny.”
“It’s not meant to be.” She leaned over his desk. “Do you understand? I’m leaving this marriage and I’m committing adultery to do it. Do. You. Understand?” She drew the words out as she held his eyes.
Comprehension cast a shadow over his features, and he slowly shook his head. “No, Lia. No. You don’t have to do this.”
She stood up straight and repeated the words she’d rehearsed many times. “I love someone else and I no longer love you. I’m moving in with my lover and I’m never coming back.”
“Wait. Who—”
“Sandy,” she said.
George rolled his eyes and snorted. “Ah, yes. The sodomite.”
Lia drilled him with her stare until he felt compelled to face her again. “Ask your mother and her friends about that … and thank you for the insult to one of the finest men I know. You are making this easier.”
George stood up as if to overpower her. “I’ll fight you on this.”
It was Lia’s turn to scoff. “Will you, George? Think long and hard about that. What will you gain? What will you lose?”
“What about your son?” he asked, frustration lacing his tone. “Our son. You’re just going to abandon him?”
You can do this you can do this you can do this. “My son will be loved,” she replied. “You talk to Emmaline about that.”
“Em? What does Em know about this?”
“Nothing. Only that she is a woman with so much to give who is ready to be loved … do you understand me, George?”
He stared at her, not speaking, and she could practically see the wheels turning in his head as he processed all that she was saying, all that she implied. His own eyes welled with tears as he realized what she was doing for him, for them. He reached for her. “Lia—”
She held out her arm to ward him off. “You must hate me until this is over, it is the only way,” she whispered. “Hate me to your parents, to your friends, to your lawyer, to everyone except Em and our son, and do not call Sandy a sodomite ever again. Do you understand me?” she repeated. She heard the near hysteria in her voice.
His eyes clear with comprehension, he nodded. “What will you do?”
“Lay low until the storm passes, then San Francisco, I think.” She smiled sadly. “So, you won’t have to pay that invoice from the Institute after all.”
“Lia?” Sandy stood in the doorway to the library, hat in hand. “I’m sorry. No one answered, so I let myself in. Are … are you ready to go?”
Lia continued to look at George. After a moment she inclined her head and saw George echo her, ever so slightly. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and opened them again, smiling through her tears.
“I will send you the address where your attorney can reach me,” she said. “Polly and Mrs. Rudd will be back tomorrow. If Little … Little Georgie wakes up—”
“I know,” he assured her gently. “Sing him the lullaby.”
“That’s right,” she said, her voice breaking. “Good night, George, and … and bless you.” Lia turned and took Sandy by the arm. They stepped into the cool of the evening and began walking down the street.
Sandy patted her hand. “How did it go?”
She sighed and put her head on his shoulder. Her voice hitched. “I think I know what it feels like to stab oneself in the heart.”
“You are quite a woman, Amelia. If I were someone else, I think I’d do anything to make you mine.”
“You are just who I need you to be, dear friend. Let’s see how it all plays out.”
“Yes, let’s,” he said as they continued on their way.

A native of California, A.B. Michaels holds masters’ degrees in history (UCLA) and broadcasting (San Francisco State University). After working for many years as a promotional writer and editor, she turned to writing fiction, which is the hardest thing she’s ever done besides raise two boys. She lives with her husband and two spoiled dogs in Boise, Idaho, where she is often distracted by playing darts and bocce and trying to hit a golf ball more than fifty yards. Reading, quilt-making and travel figure into the mix as well, leading her to hope that sometime soon, someone invents a 25+ hour day.

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The Lydiard Archives: coming soon to a website near you

In just a few weeks, we will go live with The Lydiard Archives, an extraordinary digital collection of materials revealing the thousand-year history of Lydiard House, Lydiard Tregoz Parish and the families who lived there, from the Lords of the Manor to the children of the post-WWII housing in the Park. We are creating the most substantial and unique digital picture of an English Country House and its place in local history that exists in the UK, and it will be available to anyone who is interesting in browsing family and social history. More announcements coming soon, but here’s a glimpse of just one of hundreds of items…