Halloween and Samhain, a time when the barriers between this world and that of the spirits are said to be thinner.
In my romance novel, "Dark Maiden" I explore the medieval beliefs to ghosts, spirits, demons and more via my female heroine Yolande, is an exorcist.
#DiverseRomance #Romance DARK MAIDEN http://amzn.to/2qEuKcL
Ghosts, revenants, incubi , vampires and demons haunt
medieval England, as Yolande and Geraint must use their love to survive.
When we first meet the Black Maiden Yolande in 1350, she is crouching behind a tub armed with bow and arrow, pretending to bathe in place of a novice who had been beleaguered by an apparition. A formidable exorcist, she apprehends a lecher mislabeled as an evil spirit. Who but Geraint, an easy-going Welshman juggler, could be a better romantic match for Yolande on her quest of tracking down and ridding evil spirits in plague-stricken England? In between facing demons, displaced souls, and an incubus, Geraint lustily woos the Black Maiden. The courtship is complicated by an abbot’s instructions that Yolande preserve her maidenhead, a barrier to a demon trying to possess her, for a time of seven, until she fulfills her duty. Not sure if the time is in days, weeks, or years, Geraint is nonetheless determined to win Yolande’s hand as they roam town from town, each of which holds dark secrets of people who live there.
Lindsay Townsend has created a masterfully written romance intermixed with the horrors of the plague and the superstitions that arise out of its chaos. The voice is heavily sprinkled with humor, making this a thoroughly entertaining story. I was hooked from the first page and could not put the book down. The dialogue is witty, the characters are well-developed, and the stories of the people whom the couple meet are heartfelt. The rituals of exorcising demons and helping displaced souls find their spiritual home base is well-researched and fascinating. Most of all, the love scenes are sensual but tastefully written.
Dark Maiden is a must-read for readers who love historical romance with unique characters and a dash of paranormal elements. Highly recommended.
EXCERPT 1 AND BLURB
Ghosts, revenants, incubi , vampires and demons haunt medieval
England, as Yolande and Geraint must use their love to survive.
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.
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.
Yolande is not free to offer Geraint her love completely—not until her “time of
seven” has passed.
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…
One: Dark Maiden
England, the North, summer 1350.
could smell the spirits of the restless dead. It was not the sickly sweet rot
of the fleshy body, nor the whiff of lavender and violets of the saints.
Demons, being fallen angels, did not stink of sulfur, but the angry
dead were ripe with it.
crouched behind the bathtub with her bow, hunting by
waiting. She heard the murmur of distant prayers in the summer
twilight as the nuns and novices performed another sacred office. With her
right shoulder snug against the tub, she flexed her legs and toes within her
man’s leggings and boots, grateful she was not yet numb. She did not think her
task would take too long.
novice Mary-Joanna should have been bathing tonight, to ease her aching joints.
She was a comely young woman, but powerfully afflicted by pain.
Yolande, a head taller and blessed with vigorous health, pitied the girl. She
did not know if Mary-Joanna had a true vocation, but she agreed with the abbess
that the novice should not be beleaguered by an evil imp when she was semi
naked within this tiny bathhouse.
Evil imp was how
the abbess described the apparition. After listening to the older woman’s
account of its habits, Yolande had her own suspicions. She had agreed willingly
to pretend to bathe in Mary-Joanna’s place.
bow and its arrows had been blessed by the abbess and dipped in holy water, to
cover all possibilities.
breathed in slowly, sensing her own balance, feeling the sacred herbs she
always wore about her throat brush dryly against her skin. She saw no movement
but her ears , thank the saints, were good and she heard a slight shuffling
braced herself, chanting the great prayer of Saint Patrick, known as Saint
Patrick’s breastplate, within her mind. As if in answer to her prayer, the door
to the narrow lean-to yawned open.
figure loomed across the threshold, faceless, soundless and black, even as the
abbess had said. It slithered inside and closed the door again.
The spirit torments our novices, manifesting to them within the
bathhouse, seeking to steal their immortal souls, the abbess had said.
a peek, more likely.” Yolande’s heart was as steady as a slow drum inside her
chest. “No spirit stops to shut a door.” She set and released an
arrow all in one, smooth, practiced movement.
arrow flew, hissing across the bathhouse tiles. The “spirit” howled as its
cloak was pinned to the door, and tugged desperately at the caught
cloth with a spindly human hand.
her bow, Yolande sprinted and lunged, knocking the man hard against the solid
wood, jamming her elbow across his scrawny throat.
bitch…black…bitch,” the fellow wheezed as she pulled off his hood.
no restless dead,” Yolande countered. She stripped him of his eating dagger
then yanked him round while he was still shocked and tied his hands behind his
back with his own hood.
not see you…” The man was still grumbling. “You are so black.”
as black as my father, nor as white as my mother,” Yolande replied. “You should
be considering how you can plead with the sisters, instead of wondering about
put her hand firmly on his shoulder to “guide” him to the abbess. From his
faint stench of fear— urine, sweat and manure, she knew he was utterly human.
Her skills as an exorcist had not been needed, not against this gawping lecher,
who liked to watch the pretty novices as they bathed.
Would that all my trials were so easy. At least there is no more here
than this, Mother be thanked. It is not my final contest, not yet.
convent was small and poor but the abbess invited Yolande to stay for the
night. She accepted gratefully, asking only if she might pray in church before
the shrine of the Virgin Mary.
penitents are welcome, daughter,” said the abbess, her wrinkled face pinched
with curiosity. She took in Yolande’s outlandish attire with rapid, considering
glances. “Let me guide you.”
Yolande nodded thanks, matched her long, loose stride to her companion’s
trip-trotting gait and waited for the first question.
enough, as they entered the dimmed church of the convent the abbess asked, “You
are not a religious? You belong to no order?”
her, the shorter woman pursed her lips. “You are still of the world?”
abbess crossed herself. “So how are you an exorcist, if you have no vocation?”
had been asked this often and each time she gave the same answer. “I have a
duty, Mother, as my father did before me.”
these times, when so many religious are falling to the pestilence, God calls
others.” Wishing to say no more, especially concerning her parents, she asked
simply, “May I pray, Mother?”
abbess did not refuse her request. Instead, as if Yolande herself had developed
the pestilence, she waddled hastily away, her habit flying.
chuckled softly and turned to the painted statue of the Virgin, ready to begin
* * * *
the Welshman unwrapped the wooden crucifix and set it on the trestle between
him and the lanky-haired pardoner. Around them, men continued to haggle over
deals and drinking games, their faces shrouded by the sooty torches and smoky
fire. A pardoner in an alehouse at any hour, especially this early in the
morning, should have been worthy of remark, but these days no one said or saw
anything. With plague stalking every town and village street in England, men
stayed home with their families or made themselves drunk, falling-down-blind
drunk, in the alehouses.
wanted to watch or pay for his juggling these days, so when this pardoner had
sidled across, clutching a rough cloth bag and wheedling for a moment of his
time, Geraint had let the fellow buy him a cup of wine.
trust me to deliver this?” He tapped the crucifix. “I could take it for
if you know what is wise for you, my son.”
stiffened slightly but told himself that the pardoner could not know
his past. Yes, he had been a novice in a monastery and yes, at age ten he had
punched the novice-master and been expelled, but had he the time again he would
do the same. Old crook-nose, as he was now, would be less eager to fondle the
boys under his charge.
threat does not impress, brother,” he replied.
me. I am the messenger only. But if this is not delivered to Yolande, she will
have your skin.”
drained his cup, chewing on the lees, and made to leave.
The pardoner was so earnest that his face had gone as red as his script. “She
is at the convent of the Holy Sisters of Fealty beyond the old Roman fort,
ridding them of an evil imp, or so I have been told. You could walk there in
less than two hours and win her gratitude.”
picked up the crucifix. It was plain and heavy and he had a sense that it was
very old. “Why not go yourself? Or is there sickness at the convent?”
at all, not at all.” The older man had the grace to look embarrassed. “Let me
say only that Yolande is less tolerant of men such as myself.”
tried to trick her once,” Geraint translated. “Has she a husband, father or
brother that you are so terrified?”
none, but she needs none. She expels devils. She carries the bow of Saint
was intrigued. He was wandering nowhere in particular so he could visit the
convent. The nuns would feed him too. “Is there a message?”
pardoner inclined his head toward the cross. “That is the message, I
was told. Not for the likes of me to question, I was told.”
how shall I know her?”
tall for a woman, slim, pretty if you admire dark girls, and with her bow
usually slung across her back. She wears me n’s clothes.”
men? The church has not moved against her for that? Or the sheriff?”
in these times, with so many dying of the pestilence and the whole world
preparing for the last days. Let any judgment of her be the final one, before
God, I say.” “The pardoner shrugged, avoiding his eyes. “Will you take it?”
glanced at his long fingers wrapped around the feet of the wooden Christ and
ignored the warning prickle at the back of his neck. “Seems I already have.”
* * * *
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.
have the advantage, mister. You know my name.” She smiled to take any sting
from her words. “May I know yours?”
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.
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.
Welshman, at your service.” He crouched then looked straight at her. “I am just
taking something from my pack, if it please you.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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…
saw her face change, becoming as still as a mask. Then she blinked. “I do
understand it. My thanks to you, master Geraint. How may I aid you
in return? Are you thirsty or hungry?”
is always welcome,” he answered quickly, “but for now the pleasure of your
company on the road will be more than payment.”
raised her pretty eyebrows at that. The rest of her was pretty too ,
if such a plain word could be used for such exotic looks. By “dark” he had
expected black hair, which Yolande had—long, shimmering waves of the stuff,
very clean but caught in a simple clasp at the back of her slender neck as if
she had no time for any fuss. Her eyes were either brown or black—he could not
be sure—but they were clear and steady as if she looked straight to the heart
To the heart of me, for sure. Geraint liked women, loved their smell and feel and their cockeyed way
of looking at the world. For all her man’s clothing, Yolande was very much a
woman, and a love worthy of Solomon. Her skin was a beautiful shade of bronze,
smooth as polished wood, and her eyelashes were double-lashed. She had a narrow
face and elegant bones but there was a strength in her, character and soul
together. He could imagine her besting devils.
the rest…the performer in him knew at once that she should be in bright colors,
reds and yellows and blues, not the drab serge of a thatcher. If she was in his
company for long—and he intended she would be—he would tempt her into a
brighter manner of dress.
For she has the glory of the evening in her. She wins me already and
does not know it.
do not chatter,” she said, unaware of his inner tumult. “I have a way to go.”
Better still. He
admired how she did not admit where she was headed. “For today then?” He lifted
his hands, palms up. “To the nearest house of honest folk, who will let you
sleep by their hearth and me in their hayloft?”
wish to squire me to safety?”
the pleasure of—”
the pleasure of my company. Yes, Geraint the Welshman, you said that
already.” But she was smiling as she spoke and he knew she would agree.
I carry this?” He motioned to the cross. “You have your bow and bag already,
and it will be no trouble.”
a moment she strode out like a youth, leaving him to catch up. Geraint admired
her graceful gait and did not hurry. He wanted their day to last.
By then I may have won another day in her company.
* * * *
the end of their day together, Yolande slept with him in the hayloft of a new,
nervous reeve in a village called Lower Something-Or-Other. Geraint had missed
the name and was not interested in the shabby, defeated place anyway. He had
offered to juggle and been told “no,” offered to chop wood and been shown a
graceful and self-contained as a cat, apparently oblivious to the villagers’
stares and whispers, had paid for her lodging with gold coin. She had rebuilt
the hearth fire too, with permission from the goodwife, and made flat cakes on
the hearth—cakes that melted in Geraint’s mouth and exploded with spices on his
had the spices from a cook on London Bridge as a thank you,” she told him when
he asked how she had made them. She did not say what she had done for the cook
and he knew better than to ask, at least in the hearing of others.
had surprised him by sleeping in the loft with him, but the reeve had been
growing bolder through the evening, taking every chance he could to touch her.
Geraint would have punched the fellow or cracked his greasy fingers, but
Yolande was content to put herself above such petty gropings. He marveled at
slept, her breathing light and soft, and he was glad to hear her slumbering in
the stale, sparse hay, only the stretch of a hand away from him. He had not
slept and had eased the ladder up into the loft with them. He did not quite
trust the reeve, although the fellow was snoring loudly enough to put a
sleeping bear to shame.
was July and in the summer night he could see Yolande, her great bow—which he
meant to ask her about, oh yes—laid beside her within easy reach. She lay
curled on her side, her hair wound about her long throat, her limbs
twitching as she dreamed.
What do you dream of, my lady?
many dead, so many restless dead.”
hair on his scalp rose as if trying to escape. Yolande was sitting up beside
him, rigid as a pole. She was sleeping still, though her eyes were open.
voice was full of pain. “How can I help them all? This sickness is a plague and
we are in the last days.”
cracked his knuckles together. He did not believe that, not for a moment. While
in the monastery, he had heard of a time when men learned that a thousand years
had passed since Christ had died . People had thought the world would end then,
but it had not.
it is nighttime,” he said quietly. He did not want her sleepwalking like a
little child, for she would be a danger to herself. “Rest, Yolande.”
sighed and lay down again. “This place is soaked in the evil of
men. Geraint senses it too. I can tell from his scent. And he does
not like to touch the crucifix. He could be an exorcist, with training.”
was news to him but he kept silent. He was startled that she had noticed his
reluctance to handle the ancient cross, but could not understand how that was a
point in his favor.
must leave early. Get away before the others wake. I must gather herbs, sacred
herbs. Saint John’s wort and rosemary, lavender and hyssop. “
agreed with that, grinning as he savored the we. He cleared his
throat, cutting off her sleepy list. “Sleep now, Yolande. I will help you with
the green stuff.”
has possessed them?”
did not know who the they were and did not care. “We shall
find out. Sleep, Yolande.”
would rest in honeyman’s arms, but it would not work. Men want more, want all
and I cannot. I cannot give all.” She sank into the hay, leaving him more
wakeful than ever.
What a nickname! Even the little you give me , lady, stirs me. “Honey-Man,” he said aloud, and smiled.
Geraint picked up the crucifix. It was
plain and heavy and he had a sense that it was very old. “Why not go yourself?
Or is there sickness at the convent?”
“Not at all, not at all.” The older man had
the grace to look embarrassed. “Let me say only that Yolande is less tolerant
of men such as myself.”
“You tried to trick her once,” Geraint
translated. “Has she a husband, father or brother that you are so terrified?”
“None, none, but she needs none. She expels
devils. She carries the bow of Saint Sebastian.”
Geraint was intrigued. He was wandering
nowhere in particular so he could visit the convent. The nuns would feed him
too. “Is there a message?”
The pardoner inclined his head toward the
cross. “That is the message, I was told. Not for the likes of me to question, I
“And how shall I know her?”
“Very tall for a woman, slim, pretty if you
admire dark girls, and with her bow usually slung across her back. She wears
“Aping men? The church has not moved
against her for that? Or the sheriff?”
“Not in these times, with so many dying of
the pestilence and the whole world preparing for the last days. Let any
judgment of her be the final one, before God, I say.” The pardoner shrugged,
avoiding his eyes. “Will you take it?”
Geraint glanced at his long fingers wrapped
around the feet of the wooden Christ and ignored the warning prickle at the
back of his neck. “Seems I already have.”
* * *
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.
“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
“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
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.
#DiverseRomance #Romance DARK MAIDEN http://amzn.to/2qEuKcL
Ghosts, revenants, incubi , vampires and demons haunt
medieval England, as Yolande and Geraint must use their love to survive.
Ghosts Excerpt: Where Yolande seeks to bring one of the unquiet dead to their final rest.
She dug in the churchyard where Martin’s
widow showed her Martin’s grave. As Yolande’s
spade struck the side of the
coffin, the winter sun finally peeped over the horizon.
Thank the Mother for that mercy.
Martin’s corpse did not reek of sulfur but
was not so wholesome she wished to linger. It was tempting to hurry but she
forced herself to do everything correctly and give this restless ghost due
reverence. Aware of a knot of villagers scuttling from the church and gathering
behind her aching back—one reason why she had wanted Geraint facing them and
not digging with her—she prayed aloud for Martin and laid the parchment on top
of his coffin with as much care as she could manage.
The small of her back ached like
toothache, and the calves of her braced legs were stiff with tension as she
leaned over the open grave, straddling the coffin itself.
This was a lustful ghost. Never more am I
most relieved that I am still a maid and not open to his unwanted attentions.
Dimly she sensed the crowd watching her
every act and was glad when they repeated the “Amen” after her. She made the
sign of the cross over the body, laid a crucifix at the foot of the coffin,
plunging it as deep as she could into the hard winter earth, and sprinkled all
with holy water.
She waited, head bowed. No voice came,
nothing from the revenant.
“It is done,” she said in Latin.
She might have swayed or, horror of
horrors, tumbled into the newly opened grave itself, but Geraint’s sinewy arm
held her upright and safe. She turned slowly to the villagers and forced her
dry mouth to speak.
“It would be a kindness, a most Christian,
neighborly act, to cover him again. He will rest until Judgment Day in peace.”
She held out the spade. “Who will aid Martin and his widow?”
The reeve, a decent sort, rose from a
crouch and took it.
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“A demon is here,” she said quietly. “It
tries to use our desires against us. It has lost those two poor souls.”
“Were they sacrifices?”
“I do not know and it does not matter now,
not in the greater scheme of things.” She spoke quickly as though girding
herself for the next fight. “I am glad there was no vampire.”
She sighed. “I would have needed to bury
them with a boulder jammed between their jaws, to pin them to the earth.”
Quickly, apparently ashamed of her admission,
she turned to the inscription again. “What were those spheres you threw?”
“Three apples from the orchard.”
“Ha! I suppose they were blessed, being abbey
apples.” As she searched for something in her tunic, she motioned for him to
“And thrown by a juggler, do not forget,”
he quipped. He did not want to cut a caper inside the tower so he added in
Welsh, “Peace and blessings to all those who are within this place,” just as he
might when entering a house.
Forget your blessings, rasped a new
thought. We spit on your blessings, you disgusting little Briton.
“I know you now,” Yolande called in Latin.
She had heard the challenge too and sensed the presence of the approaching
demons, more ominous than a building thunderstorm. “Proud as the Romans of old
and as cruel. You should go back whence you came, Julian the accursed and
others of your kind. Your sacrifice has failed.”
The pressure in her brain was such she
felt as if her eyes stood out on stalks, but she drove her order home. “I have buried those two, woman and man, and
they are beyond your vile touch. Get back to hell!”
We are not yours to command. None of
yours, darkie, woman-whore—
The voices cut off with a shriek as she
pinned the cross and a packet of her most sacred and magical herbs into the
very middle of the inscription, driving it home and fixing it fast with an
“Begone!” she screamed in Latin and felt
the whole tower shift in response to her command as the strength of Saint
Michael and the Magdalene flowed though her.
The world around her went white and then
all was silence.
* * * * *