Monday, 15 May 2017

Dark Maiden - Medieval Romance. Chapter One, Review, New Excerpts

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

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

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

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

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

Read Chapter One

On Amazon Com 

On Amazon Co UK 

Read Reviews

Two Lips Reviews:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Friday, 12 May 2017

LAST DAY Romantic Suspense Novels for just $3.00! Perfect Holiday Reading!



Thursday, 20 April 2017

Medieval Dragons

Painting by C. J. Begas, 1828 (public
domain image from Wikimedia Commons)
Medieval people believed in dragons. In the east, dragons were seen as powerful, imperial, and signs of good fortune and plenty, but in the west they were often linked to Satan, the devil, "The Old Serpent", and regarded as trouble.

Sometimes such creatures are called dragons, at other times they are worms or wyrms, armed with poison like a snake. The hero Beowulf fights a dragon who lives in a mound and guards a treasure hoard. The Vikings believed in dragons that were more like serpents, so in the Poetic Edda we learn how Sigurðr killed the dragon Fafnir, who behaves very much like a snake.

Sigurðr and Reginn went up onto Gnita-heath and there found Fafnir’s track, where he slithered  to the water. Sigurðr dug a pit there in the path and went into it. And when Fafnir slithered away from the gold, he breathed forth venom, and it fell down onto Sigurðr’s head. And when Fafnir slithered over the pit, Sigurðr stabbed him in the heart with his sword. Fafnir shook himself and lashed about with his head and tail.


In Viking art dragons appear lithe and sinuous, coiling about. However ominous, they were popular in stories, suitable opponents for warriors in tales.

The appearance of dragons in the Middle Ages usually foretold disaster. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 793 tells of the first Viking raid on Lindisfarne, Northumberland, and the omens that preceded it: ‘Here were dreadful forewarnings come over the land of Northumbria, and woefully terrified the people: these were amazing sheets of lightning and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky.’ 


In keeping with the heroic warrior theme but now in a Christian context, several saints battle with dragons in medieval tales. There is the famous Saint George and the Dragon (a dragon lays waste to the countryside and is offered sheep, youths and maidens as sacrifices. When the situation becomes so desperate that the king's daughter is offered, the knight George appears and vanquishes the beast.) In the ultimate show-down of good verses evil, the archangel Michael battles the great dragon Lucifer in the Book of Revelations. a text often illustrated by medieval artists.

For my own story of 'The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon,' I took these ideas of might, power, battle, knight heroes, sacrificial maidens and gold and gave them a twist. I hope my readers enjoy the results.

The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon on Amazon

The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon on Amazon UK

The two book series on Bookstrand







Friday, 24 February 2017

OUT NOW! The Virgin, the Knight and the Dragon - Medieval Creatures 2

The Virgin, the Knight, and the Dragon (MF)
Medieval Creatures 2
Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 24,824
Fantasy,  Historical,  Romantic Suspense

ORDER HERE! with discount!

AVAILABLE: Wednesday, March 8th

[Bookstrand Romance: Historical, Fantasy, Romantic Suspense, HEA]

This story is a sequel to my Medieval Creatures 1 book, The Virgin, the Knight and the Unicorn.

BUY BOTH BOOKS HERE

Blurb

Can Princess Adela, heiress to a deadly destiny, be saved by the love of a knight errant?

The youngest of nine sons, Jesse is used to neglect and hand-me-downs. Becoming a knight through his own efforts, he encounters a beautiful, virtually naked stranger in the countryside above the farmlands of his old home. Who is she and how can he help her?

Flaxen-haired Adela D’Varm is compelled by the magic of a faery geas to remain in the high grasslands until she is rescued by a knight—a worthy knight who must contend with a dragon. But this dragon is no ravening beast, as knights soon discover if they offer Adela any insult.

Amiable and truly chivalrous, Jesse is different. Through their encounters—amusing, tender, exciting—he and Adela fall in love. But, even as they marry, Jesse and Adela encounter a deadly conspiracy and a final test for Adela.

It seems that Jesse has deserted her—or has he?

 Excerpt:


Ahead he could hear a deep rumbling, like a cat purring—a cat the size of a hut. There was a smell of blood in the air and a savour of roasted meat.
Dragons, like wolves, prefer to feast on horses, not men.
From where had that thought sprung? Jesse felt for an instant as if he was bathed in heat—real, forge-hot heat. Older memories and stories trickled up and down his back in a messy puddle of sweat.
A dragon. Walter the shepherd whispered there was once a dragon up on these high grasslands. A creature of faery. Maybe it has returned.
The sweat turned clammy on his back. Trying not to stiffen up, Jesse choked down a cough. Above him, how high and how far off he did not want to know, he listened to the sounds of gnawing.
Turn back or go on? Either action held both appeal and risk. To retreat might mean survival or a blast of fire at his back. To go on—if he bested a dragon, he would be as famous as Beowulf.
No doubt Beowulf was an elder son . With my luck, I could win and gain nothing but a few coins for my trouble. Any treasure would be claimed by my older brothers.
Jesse stopped crawling. Roast horse swirled in his nostrils and, despite his wavering dread, his mouth watered. Wanting to travel light and make haste, he had not eaten well for days. Succulent, hot meat tempted him to raise his head.
A dragon rose on its haunches to tear and swallow a morsel of some animal that once may have been horse. Again Jesse’s hunger flared.
His older brothers would never have attempted what he planned, but that was a virtue. Why not? he decided, as the dragon took another bite. A dainty bite, he noted, for a beast as long as a cavalcade.
It did not kill the knight. The thought was almost a prayer. Inspired—or mad, or truly desperate—Jesse threw down his weapons and rose out of the grass, his hands filled with herbs. He averted his eyes, hardly daring to look.
“Good day.” He was glad he had planted his feet wide apart and pitched his greeting above the steady breeze of the dragon’s breathing. “May I join you?
“I have brought herbs.” He raised his cupped fingers, allowing some greenery to slip from his hands so the dragon would know he was unarmed. “Good eating herbs, wild parsley, wild mint, wild sorrel, also called vinegar leaves. I think you will find they enhance the taste of your meat.”
He stepped forward, placed the herbs on a boulder, and stepped back. “The marigold is simply for the colour,” he added, his throat growing dry again as he sensed the dragon leaning closer.
It must work, a wild, mad babbling voice wailed in his head. Dragons are said to be silver-tongued and to understand speech. And I like animals. Jesse had worked with hawks, horses, oxen, sheep, chickens, and goats and found each creature appealing, in its own way. Dragons were creatures of faery, and perhaps more. If there is a dragon, there must be a maiden close, a living maid. The old stories always have both.
Those jaws of hell gaped nearer, each tooth sharper than any sword. Through his half-closed eyes, it seemed to Jesse for an instant that the beast was smiling, which was surely impossible. Determined to look his probable death in the face, Jesse stretched on tiptoe,  raised his head and stared.
Now he could study it more closely. The dragon  was a shining gold blending to silver, lean and long as a vast snake or a whip, but with powerful legs and a deep chest. Jesse could not see any wings, but he did note, with a certain detached surprise, as of someone who could perish at any second, that the beast was ornamented with flashes of silver and gold scales about its neck, like a necklace. It had a narrow, almost elegant snout, prick ears topped by small, shiny spines, and deep large eyes the colour of an emerald. Strangely beautiful eyes that were considering him in a thoughtful, almost tender way .
“Thank you.” The voice sounding in his head was not his, though how had the dragon spoken?
Jesse decided not to trouble over that and made a bow. He sensed the dragon deftly plucking at the herbs, heard the faint scratch of very sharp claws on the boulder, then flinched as a round cut of steaming horse steak was placed on top of the boulder, laid neatly beside the rest of the herbs.
No one would believe I shared my dinner with a dragon. Jesse ate in a daze. The meat was cooked to a turn, and tender.
“Thank you for the flowers.” Again the voice that was not his sounded in his head.
Jesse harnessed his manners and his wits and swallowed the final piece of meat before he answered. “It is my pleasure.”
A wave of heat surged over his neck, followed by a percussive clap of huge, scaly wings. The force half stunned Jesse, and when he stirred again the dragon was gone.

“Good day.” A small slim young woman stood over him. She gave the same greeting that he had given the dragon, and her dainty bare feet rested in the hollow made by the dragon’s claws. “Are you hurt?”
Jesse shook his head. The woman seemed to be wearing nothing but a cloak. She had a flower in her electrum-pale hair, a marigold.
The same as the spray I gifted the dragon. She has the same colour scales—sorry, hair—as the beast, and the same deep green eyes. What is going on?







Wednesday, 2 November 2016

One Winter Knight. A Medieval Romance Anthology


One Winter Knight is a medieval romance anthology filled with stories perfect for a snowy winter and Christmas-time. My story is 'Sir Thomas and the Snow Troll.'

Here's a blurb and the first chapter.

LINDSAY TOWNSEND—SIR THOMAS AND THE SNOW TROLL
Sir Thomas no longer knows who he is, or even who his natural father is. Adrift, Thomas sets out on a winter journey to discover more, finding adventure and passion on the way that he ever expected. Fiery Ruth, a young woman who has escaped a terrible servitude to live alone in the northern forest, is proud of her independence from all others...but can Thomas protect her from the dreaded and terrible Snow Troll?


Two lost souls, striving through long winter nights and days, find each other—but can they begin to truly live?

Winter 1134, Northern England

You were always the son of your father’s soul. You were not his seed but you were always his heart. He loved you my child, never doubt that.
His mother’s voice pounded in Sir Thomas’s head as he rode through the forest, his mind as purposeless as a ship without a rudder. Believed to be on her death-bed, Christine of Carcassone had confessed to her son what Thomas had long suspected—that his father, Sir Guillelm of Normandy and Tissaton, was not his sire.
Sir Thomas, Tom to his family, squire and friends, snapped the ends of his horse’s reins against his right thigh, caught between pity, exasperation and relief. For of course his mother, contrary as ever, had then rallied after her confession and was even now on her feet and gadding, chattering of the Yule to come, keeping the servants busy with Christmas preparations. She had gaily waved him off that morning, assuring him she would be quite safe and well.
“You know how I love Christmas, Tom, and the whole month beforehand with all the gathering and cooking and preparations. My ladies and I will be very happy and snug in the keep. Take that long face of yours away! Go forth and seek your natural father! Look to your roots! You have my blessing.”
Beneath her bright and airy manner Christine had been determined and Tom, torn between staying at Tissaton to hover over her or striding out to find his native father, had found himself agreeing. Now, after riding for several hours along the great north road in the northern forest, he was less sure.
I am pushed from my nest like a dazed fledging chick but Mam is surely right, as she usually is. Tom knew Sir Guillelm had loved him. It had been in his father’s every look and smile and gift, in his teaching Tom to ride and count and to fashion baskets and panniers and reed fertility charms from the rushes of Tissaton’s sprawling, watery estate. Scarcely a month since his father’s death and Tom still missed him with a tearing ache in his chest, still longed to hear his stumbling footsteps on the floor of the great hall and see that cheerful, gap-toothed smile.
I will call him father still, for he was ever one to me.
Is this how a cuckoo feels? Tom scowled at the idea and snapped his reins again, wincing as his mount reacted with a surge of speed along the snowy track and the persistent, nagging wound in his backside stung and ached anew. A knight for three years since he had won his spurs in Normandy, Tom had become used to carrying injuries from the battle and tourney fields, but this embarrassing stab was slow to heal.
Were my father alive, I would ask his advice. I will not ask the other.
The other was how Tom thought of his natural sire, the one who had cast his seed into his mother and then abandoned her. He snapped his reins a third time as his mother’s voice hissed in his head, cold and hard as the winter sleet he rode through.
Never think that, my son! she had scolded, soon after they had buried his real father and she had taken ill herself, dropping the equivalent of a siege boulder on his head before making a miraculous recovery and then taking him to task. Tom could picture her clearly, round and red as a robin and as furious, hopping about the solar of Tissaton keep, barely a day after she had left her fatal sick-bed.
“Magnus does not know of you,” she had told him then. “I took care he would never know. He was a lad, a squire, just fifteen years old, when I tempted him into my bed and took his virginity. A fine, sweet romp for us both, and a parting with no ill-will on either side. Magnus wanted to court me, but I told him no. I was ten years older, and I had my sights fixed on your father, Sir Guillelm. A fifteen-year-old swain did not suit my purpose.”
Fifteen years old. God’s bones! All lads are idiots at fifteen.
Catching her son’s distaste at her seduction, Christine stared back at him until Tom had blushed. “It was Yule and feasting and Magnus was handsome, then,” she had snapped. “Do you think only men can feel desire?”
“But Sir Guillelm—” Tom had started, unsure what to say, but feeling he should protest.
His mother folded her arms beneath her bosom and glowered still more. “Had a loving, splendid son and the heir he needed,” she answered swiftly. “You were both tall and dark and if your features do not match your father, your gestures do. Guillelm was always proud and pleased of you.”
“Of another man’s bastard!”
“A youth, not a man, Tom, and a single time, only. I married your father within a month of bedding Magnus. Once we were betrothed, I was always faithful to Guillelm, so for years I thought you were his.” Her round face softened and her pretty gray eyes sparkled. “We were content, very content.”
Remembering her flushed and dreaming expression Tom could not snarl, not even when his horse skidded on an ancient cobblestone on the old Roman road and the wound at the top of his thigh flared again. His parents had been happy, and for an age he had dreamed of a marriage like theirs.
It was a marriage built on a lie, and yet...
“We were not blessed with children,” Christine had added, after a heavy, breathing pause. She had stared from the small lancet window in the solar, her pleasant features becoming as pale and blank as the snow outside. “After our first year of marriage, Guillelm was not strong, or hale or vigorous.”
Tom nodded, recalling how his father had frequently taken to his bed, especially in winter.
“If he ever wondered about you, as I imagine he did when you grew more and more like Magnus in looks, he was prudent enough to recognize you as his heir. You are a good son, Thomas. Guillelm was proud to claim you as his scion and tactful enough never to ask questions. And now those who might have made trouble for us are all dead, of age or disease or war.”
Tom had shuddered at his mother’s cool assessment. The larger part of him wanted to flee the solar, with its cushions and bed and books, and disappear into a new battle-fray. He did not because he
respected his father, Sir Guillelm, who had trusted him with his lands and title. Only this fall, when the man was still alive, Tom had promised the older man that he would care for Christine—Guillelm had insisted on that vow.
He never asked aloud, but father realized I was less than his. And yet, he loved me. I know he did.
You were always the son of your father’s soul.
Perhaps Guillelm’s actions had been directed by self-interest and prudence, as his mother’s had certainly been, but there was a loving kindness, too, Tom thought now, ducking under a low arch of trees to avoid a tangle of wind-whipped branches. Yet perhaps, damn all the heavens, his mam was right. Guillelm had loved him.
Would I be as generous with a child not of my own flesh and blood?
The fact he did not know chilled him.
Again, he drove his heels into his horse’s flanks and the black surged forward, foam falling hot from its gleaming mouth. Off in the distance, the low winter sun burned in Tom’s eyes and the bare trees seemed to crowd ever closer. For an instant, he wondered if he had strayed from the track, but then the puzzles of the moment overcame him afresh.
The other, the man whose face he wore, what kind of creature was Magnus? Brooding, Tom hunched lower in his saddle and considered what his mam had said. Drawing knowledge from her was always as tricky as taking honey from a hive, but he recalled the most.
“He was so handsome then, just like you, my son.”
“Then?” Tom had prompted, flinching as his mother sighed.
“He was almost pretty at fifteen, though not any more. Magnus, so I have heard, was much cut about in his final crusader battle.”
A crusader! At just twenty years old, Tom was still boyish enough to feel his heartbeat racing up in awe.
“He was at Azaz,” his mother added.
A great battle, Tom thought. This Magnus must be a mighty warrior. I am still glad Sir Guillelm is my real father.
“He is married, or so I have heard. A slip of a wench, a red-head. They live over beyond Great Yarr and have a son. Of course, the babe must survive infancy, but I have heard it does well. Still, you can make a claim on Magnus, if you wish. I think you should. After all, you are his mirror, and a knight making his way. He will be proud of you.”
A baby son, Tom had thought, a strange sinking sensation sucking at his bones, a healthy baby son. I have no place in this new family. And yet, Great Yarr was only twenty miles away, off to the north.
He was brought back to sharp attention by his mother’s next statement.
“’Tis said to be a love-match, which is typical for Magnus. He ever let his heart rule his head.”
Unlike you, Mam?
Tom winced as the grinding cold bit through his leather cloak and a heap of slush and sleet tumbled from an overhanging branch onto his head. What was he doing out in this white murk, quit from all company?
Because I am fit for no human-kind at present. Had I stayed, I would have roared and raged at my mother and told her the dark truth, that I am ashamed of her. Yet, who am I to judge?
He had broken his promise to his real father, too, and that made him more ashamed. Christine had manipulated him, suggesting he seek out his roots, whatever that meant.
If the other is married now and has a child, what am I? Mam said he would be proud of me, but for what?
Peering through the ever-falling sleet, shaking his head to rid his eyelashes of the snowy crust, Tom decided he was lost. His whole flight from Tissaton had been a poor design, half-baked notions of seeking out his native parent, and for what? Material as ever, his mam had strongly suggested he make a claim against Magnus, but truly how could he accuse Magnus of anything? The lad, as he had been as an eager fifteen-year-old, had tried to court Christine.
If I find him, what then?
The idea of intruding on a grizzled warrior, who had earned his respite, plus a new wife and baby, sickened Tom.
He wheeled his horse about, determined to turn back, if only to gallop to the closest town where he could squat down in a stew or inn over Christmas and leave those with true connections to themselves.
Distracted, he missed the overhanging cloud of mistletoe and blundered head-first into the mass, almost swallowing a milky berry. Rearing back, he overbalanced and skidded from the saddle, untangling his feet from the stirrups just in time.
The snow stopped falling around him for an instant as the world seemed to slow, and then he was down, struggling to right himself like a clumsy beetle tipped onto its shell.
I may die down here. The thought held no malice or alarm, sliding through his mind like a shaft of sunshine.
Get up! He told himself and rolled sideways.
Agony lit through him as the wound on his backside burst open. Tom fought the dancing black dots in front of his eyes but the pain closed about him, choking as a fist, and he felt himself going.
At the very edge of his consciousness, before he blacked out, he thought he heard a voice exclaiming, “Idiot male!” but then, he knew no more.


To read the rest and more stories, please go to Amazon Com or Amazon UK 

This anthology is FREE with KU (Kindle Unlimited.)



Sir Thomas' father Magnus is the hero in 'The Snow Bride' and 'A Summer Bewitchment' and he and Elfrida appear in my 'Medieval Captives' Series.

All these novels and novellas are on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple, Bookstrand. Excerpts and Reviews of these can be seen at Bookstrand, from my author page there. http://www.bookstrand.com/Lindsay-Townsend 











Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Historical Romance Collection Volume 2 - Boxed Set of 3 Books. OUT NOW!


AVAILABLE: Thursday, October 6th Box Set #58: Lindsay Townsend: The Historical Romance Collection, Volume 2 (All 3 books for $3.99)
In Blue Gold, Pharaoh Sekenenre has many enemies, family and foes who want to take his throne. But his most dangerous adversary is the storm-god Set. It is a time of famine. To prosper, a man must be civilized—and ruthless. The conflict for control of Egypt reaches its climax in all-out war. Behind it all is the God Set, with his question: “What am I?”
In Bride for a Champion, Alice Martinswood has no choice but to obey her father’s final instruction and marry his champion, Simon Paton. Bewitched by Alice, Simon vows to help find her younger sister. After misunderstanding Alice’s tears of joy on their wedding night, Simon swears he’ll never touch her again, a promise Alice makes impossible to keep. Will they find the missing sister as they track through medieval London? Will they find true love with each other?
In The Virgin, the Knight, and the Unicorn, Sir Gawain is on a quest to catch a unicorn. His companion, the dairy-maid Matilde, loses no time in clashing with the young knight and remains resistant to his attempts at controlling her. As they proceed on their quest, the couple begin to compromise and a fondness grows. When Matilde is taken by outlaws, Gawain realizes, almost too late, what she means to him. But can he save her in time?
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance


Click on each link for detailed blurbs, awards, ratings, excerpts, and reviews for each book in Lindsay Townsend: The Historical Romance Collection, Volume 2.












Excerpts


BLUE GOLD
STORY EXCERPT

“What a man, my father! He has the speed of a leopard.”
“My boy, son of my great wife! What a son for a warrior-Pharaoh!”
Sekenenre and Kamose toasted each other again, and the nobles lifted their own tall goblets and drank, pledging allegiance to both. Torches blazed throughout the banqueting hall as men and women dropped off their wigs and entertainers practiced final flourishes in the odd dark corners. Ahhotpe kissed the cheek of the slave-girl who had brought her another perfume-cone and, with a sigh of pleasure and relief, shook off her own wig.
“Allow me.” The Pyramid loomed at her elbow. He placed the cooling cone of perfumed grease on her hair. Ahhotpe shivered as the perfume-cone melted and ran in a delicious fine rain down her face.
“Thank you, my lord.” She glanced from Zoser to Sekenenre. Her father and younger brother were very drunk. She was very drunk. She looked again at the Pyramid.
He took her practiced smile as an invitation to join her on the couch. Kamose saw but did nothing. And how could she resist a man so much bigger and stronger than herself? Alive with the wine, Ahhotpe was in a mood to enjoy.
“My arms are full of flowers, and my hair is weighed down with perfumes.”
She waited for him to complete the verse, as her father would have done, or to lay his broad head in her lap and have her say the rest of the poem, as Kamose did. The Pyramid merely grunted and tugged on her anklet bangle.
“We’re betrothed, little bird. I don’t want you to keep staring at Kamose.”
“I’ll gaze only at you, my lord.” His face in the torches seemed sleeker, his dark eyes, lined with malachite, lustrous as the beads of his arm-bracelets. Ahhotpe saw new possibilities for Zoser. Being engaged to the man had its advantages.
Two nobles, shouting and throwing bones at each other in an argument over a Senet game, gave Ahhotpe and the Pyramid their opportunity.
“It’s getting to be a real riot.”
“Father’s drunk. Everyone takes their cue from him.” Ahhotpe pushed aside a tipsy slave, who fell giggling against her couch. “Why not come and study the paintings in my room? They’re by a Keftian artist, and very fine.”
The Pyramid cupped her breasts and licked his lips. “Let’s go to my room instead, and trade parts.”
“Such a coarse expression for love.” Ahhotpe, with a drunken little smile, held up her arms to Zoser. He scooped her from the couch like a barbarian, throwing her over one shoulder.
Raising her jiggling head and squinting back into the hall, Ahhotpe noticed Kamose sprawled on purple cushions, ponderously explaining how he had saved Pharaoh’s life. Her father, fondling the Pyramid’s mother, smiling at everything Kamose said, talked earnestly to a drunken acrobat. None of them saw her undignified exit.
Ahhotpe lowered her head, feeling the broad flanks rub against her face, and ran her thumbs between the Pyramid’s legs.

* * * *

Later, lying in the warm dark circle of the Pyramid’s arms, Ahhotpe was talking to herself. This habit, born of a lonely childhood, she would never lose. Zoser snored.
“This fat pig who rutted on me and fell asleep afterwards as though I were a slave has done me a true service. Any doubts I had concerning him are gone. Sleeping with the Pyramid has cleared my mind. A pity though, that it was such a dismal lesson.”
Ahhotpe smiled and scratched her nails across the man’s broad chest. Zoser twitched and rolled onto his back.
“Sleep on, prince pig, and let me puzzle for myself.” Ahhotpe drew aside the Pyramid’s hairy forearm and wormed out of bed, taking the bedclothes with her. Zoser’s hand groped for the covers, and she quirked a golden eyebrow.
“Ah, you must learn to do without. How much better it would have been for you, Zoser, had your mother ever taught a little self-denial. Of course, if she had, I wouldn’t be here yet. You wouldn’t have let me come until our official wedding night, and then it would have been too late.”
Ahhotpe blew him a kiss. “I’m glad you’re as you are, pig.”
Swiftly, she sped onto the balcony. In this last hour before dawn, the night was as cold as it would ever get. A mist of dew wet her bare feet. She heard a hippo grunt, a donkey braying somewhere, both sounds carried by the Nile. Ahhotpe leaned out and listened to the closer shufflings of the palace night-watch. All was well.
“By Amun—well, why shouldn’t I use Kamose’s oath?—there’s the wine cup!”
One hand hugging the covers round her middle, Ahhotpe darted back to the bedchamber and retrieved the silver cup. She and the Pyramid had drunk from this vessel, pledging each other before love. Zoser had drunk from it afterwards, too.
“His mistake.” Ahhotpe took up the water ewer and walked back to the balcony. She washed out the silver cup and replaced it on the table, filling it with new wine.
Carefully, she applied new lip-paint and then took a good long draught from the cup. The imprint of her lower lip showed red against the metal.
She sat on the bed and listened to the Pyramid’s breathing.
She heard his breathing stop.
She waited.

BRIDE FOR A CHAMPION
STORY EXCERPT

I command you to marry the bearer of this letter. This is the man, the one I told you of, Alice, the one who saved me. My champion Simon Paton, come all the way from Constantinople. Marry him, bear him a son and heir and forget Henrietta. Do your duty by me.
Lady Alice, crouching on her knees with a cleaning rag and a ribbon of her missing sister’s in one hand and her father’s last letter in the other, knew she did not look her best. But what did that matter? Her father was dead and the dead no longer care for appearances. Since the loss of Henrietta, she did not care, either.
She glanced at the man’s travel-stained cloak and mud-splattered boots without looking up into his face. Her steward should not have brought the fellow into her presence, should have given her time to compose herself and greet him in the great hall, but she sensed Simon Paton had ordered otherwise.
And my steward obeyed him. Already my people take orders from him, because he is a man.
“Forgive my appearance, Lady Alice,” said the stranger in a deep, faintly accented voice, clearly indifferent to whether she forgave him or not. “I had business to attend to in London. I have come as soon as I could.”
Alice dropped the yellow ribbon back into her sister’s clothes chest. She had been searching the chest again for any sign that would point to where Henrietta had been taken and by whom, but her father’s last letter contained a devastating order. Marry him.
The letter shook in her hand. Swiftly, she dropped it into the chest and closed the lid. “Your name, sir?”
“I am Simon Paton. Your father’s champion.”
The bearer of the letter. The man I am commanded to marry. “You were with my father in London?” She almost choked on her next question but she had to know. “At the end?”
“I was, my lady. Your father died well and at peace.”
 Alice wished she could cry, she longed for some relief. When word had come ten days ago of her remaining parent’s death from fever she had expected to feel something. Instead her heart felt numb. Her beloved younger sister was lost to her and her father—their father—had disowned Henrietta weeks before. Henry Martinswood had always demanded absolute obedience from his daughters and, by her elopement, Henrietta had failed him. Yet now, by letter, he orders me from the grave. Marry this man. Give him sons. Do your duty. Always obedience and no word of love. Our father never loved his girls.
“My lady?”
Still without looking at Simon Paton directly, Alice reluctantly clasped his fingers and allowed him to draw her to her feet.
“My lady, you may be assured that your father died and is buried as he wished, in London.”
Beside the longed-for son that his London mistress had borne him, Alice guessed, wondering how this new knowledge did not pierce her soul. She had never met the young Henry, her father’s namesake, but when the child had died two summers back Henry Martinswood had become still more cold and grim toward his daughters.
“Lady Alice. Look at me, Alice.”
Hearing her name said so gently, she looked up for the first time and stared, forgetting the tingling pins and needles in her legs, forgetting everything.
He was big, this Simon Paton, tall, well-made and starkly-handsome, black-haired and with a head-full of straggling, fierce curls. Tanned from many eastern suns, he was dressed in a mantle that was strange to her, very dark and at the same time glossy, like the plumage of a raven. His clean-shaven, pox-free face, as lean as a hermit’s, thrust at her like the prow of a great ship.
He was smiling, or at least a shadow of a smile hovered round his full lips—though not his eyes. Simon Paton’s eyes—a dark blue, almost black, ringed with curling black lashes—gazed at her in a coolly intense, measuring way, as if judging her. He had a contained energy in him, as if he was ready to wrestle with angels, yet at the same time found the challenge distasteful. An unhappy man, she thought, yet also a striving one.
The woman to win his heart will be most lucky. The idea—more a feeling than a thought—flashed through her and was gone, dashed aside by his next words.
“Alice, I understand your father’s last wishes. I applaud them. Before he died, he spoke to me of them. When we are married, you will be safe. I shall protect you.”
Thoroughly disconcerted, Alice wrung her hand from his. “He discussed my marriage with you?”
“To ask my consent.”
Yes, you are asked but I have to obey. It was the way of the world but she did not have to like it. “And my consent?”
He waved that aside. “You need a man to be safe. I agreed, subject to my seeing you.”
Alice clenched her teeth together, too proud to ask if he approved of her. Simon Paton was clearly enjoying her discomfiture.
“Shall we take a glass of wine or tisane together, my lady?” he went on smoothly. “Toast our nuptials tomorrow?”
So soon! Alice dipped her head, afraid her face might show her alarm. “Will you call my maid Beatrix, to serve us?” she asked this tall stranger—my husband to be—thinking he could be useful at least.
“Such duties are for a woman,” came back his curt response. “I will await you here and we shall plan how best we shall manage together.” His dark eyes gleamed as she jerked her head up. “How you will obey me.”
“You may be sure I shall be most agreeable,” Alice snapped, aggrieved afresh. “I shall fetch a tisane.”
She withdrew, her head high and her heart hammering within her.
If he is so keen to marry me, might he also help me to find and recover Henrietta? Or will he be only too keen to gorge himself on my father’s lands? Will this Simon Paton be thrilled with my dowry and delighted to keep me in my place? Such thoughts horrified her and she shivered. Would I were a man, in command of my own fate!

THE VIRGIN, THE KNIGHT, AND THE UNICORN
STORY EXCERPT

“The girl you want is weeding in the great field this morning,” Lord John told Gawain. “You will know her by her beauty. Her name is—”
Gawain ignored the rest of his lord’s speech. The girl was a peasant, so why should he bother with her name? Did serfs have names? He gave a stiff bow of farewell to Lord John, nodded curtly to Lady Petronilla, and mounted his palfrey.
Riding to the great field, Gawain spotted the girl at once. She was the youngest, cleanest and the prettiest of those peasants toiling along the rows of peas and beans, a small, slender blonde, nimbly weeding along the flowering rows of his lord’s field strip. Pleasantly surprised to find her so comely, he stood up on his stirrups and hailed her. “You!”
You plunged her hoe into the soil and looked up at him. Her eyes, gray as steel, flicked over him, a long, cool stare. Without speaking or bobbing a courtesy, she spun about on her bare feet and stalked away.
“Hey!” Gawain called, astonished that she dared to turn her back on him. Half of him wanted to ride her down, but that would mean trampling his lord’s crop, so he had to content himself with nudging his horse along the ridge between the field strips to follow her. Gaining on the disrespectful wench with his bay’s every stride, he watched her kiss a wizened field-worker on the cheek and pick up a neat cloth bundle clearly left at the end of the strip. Now I have you.
“Follow me, girl,” he ordered, smirking at the dust his horse raised as he cantered past her. When he looked round after a few paces, he saw her lagging way behind, making no effort to run. “Make haste!”
“I am,” came her instant reply. “Though I am a dairy maid, I do not yet have four legs. If I might ride with you, we would go faster… Sir.” Staring at him full in the face, she added his title deliberately late.
Scarcely believing her insolence, Gawain glanced at the other, crook-backed serfs. Had any been fit, he would have clubbed this wench to the ground and taken another, but, looking properly at her fellow peasants for the first time, Gawain realized they were all old. There were no more maids in this field to take in her place.
Reining in, astonished afresh, he saw by the wench’s half-smile that she knew this, that she had probably even planned it that way. Temper scorched through his body. Catching his darkening mood, his horse snorted and laid back its ears. He tugged the reins again. “Easy.”
“Do you speak to me, your horse, or to yourself, Sir Gawain?”
She spoke with a rough accent, her mouth soiling his name. Incensed that she should know it, he swung down from his horse and stepped closer.
The girl stood her ground. She was a foot smaller than him, dressed in patched but clean green skirts and an earth-colored tunic. Her blonde hair was partly hidden by a short veil, but her face was not hidden at all. She studied him as if they were equals, as if she had a perfect right to look at him.
For an instant, her beauty cooled his anger, as a sparkling frost may coat and still a pool. Cloud-gray now, her eyes were fringed with long, golden lashes and shone with intelligence and life. Her skin was flawless, rich cream and roses. Gawain found his hand rising seemingly by its own will, to touch her perfect cheek. Forget the unicorn. This wench beguiles me, but where is the treasure or renown in that? Quickly, he jerked his arm down and gripped his belt instead.
“Do we begin the quest, Sir Gawain?”
Gawain twitched, irritated afresh that she should speak to him. I should speak first.
“May I make a suggestion?”
“No,” growled Gawain. “I need nothing from you but your obedience.” Tired of talk, he snatched her off her bare feet, cast her over his shoulder, strode back to his mount, and slung the writhing, gasping girl across his horse’s neck. As she opened her mouth yet again to protest, he leapt into the saddle, spurred hard and rode off at a canter, laughing when her head bounced against the bay’s muscled flank and she shut her eyes tight. Keeping her secure with a heavy fist in the middle of her back, he galloped for the woods.
The forest where I shall find and slay the unicorn, where this wench will be my lure, but first she will learn, indeed she will learn.
As he reached the end of the fields, where the trees began, Gawain was smiling.