Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Free promotion - two days only!

I don't often give my books away, but I am having a free promotion of THE ADULTERESS starting on Friday, 2nd January and running for two days only.
 
It is 1139 and the Empress Maud has landed in England to lay claim to the English throne, currently occupied by her cousin Stephen. David, Lord Ravenscroft is a chief advisor to King Stephen and is away at court, helping to plan a strategy to defeat the Empress. Her armies have been seen close to his own house and soldiers in his own regiment have been sent to search the town and village, including his own house.

That is when his world collapses, as the captain of that regiment returns with the news that a naked man has been found in his wife's bed. Heartbroken, he returns home to confront her, hoping for an explanation, but she admits her guilt. David leaves for London, having appointed guards to be sure she does not leave the grounds, and never expects to return.

Three years later he receives a letter from his wife, Catherine, telling him she is dying and begging him to go to her, as she needs to reveal the truth about the other man and the daughter David always supposed to have been fathered by that man.

Catherine knows he will not refuse her dying wish, but what can the truth be, if not that she had a lover in her bed? The idea of losing her for good tears him apart, despite her betrayal, but he needs to find the courage to see her on her deathbed and learn the truth, for the sake of the woman he still loves.

You can read the first chapter here.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Tudors tv series

I didn't watch it when it was showing on BBC. I tried, but thought there was altogether too much bare flesh and noisy sex, but I was browsing through the on demand box sets and thought I would give it a go. My main reason was the actor playing Henry VIII - the excruciatingly gorgeous Jonathan Rhys Meyers, whom I had already fallen for as Dracula. I am sure he is a lot sexier than King Henry ever was.
 
Anyway, wonderful costumes, great acting, but once again they have to mess with history. Henry had two sisters, Mary and Margaret. This programme has Margaret going to Portugal to marry the aging King and later marrying Charles Brandon, when in fact it was Mary. Margaret was sent to Scotland to Marry James IV, and she reputedly loved him dearly. He was killed at the battle of Flodden by her own brother, King Henry VIII. Margaret was the grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots.
 
I don't know if they didn't check their history properly, which is unforgiveable, or if they thought our tiny brains couldn't cope with two Mary Tudors in one programme, the other being the King's little daughter, Princess Mary, later Mary I and known as Bloody Mary. This is also unforgiveable.
 
One of the characters, who died of the sweating sickness, had a live in mistress - NOT a common law wife, producers. Please! This is the sixteenth century.
 
Apart from that, not bad. I can get over the reference to a common law wife, but not sending the wrong Tudor princess to Portugal. Actually, I have looked it up now and it was the King of France she was sent to marry, not Portugal. I can think of a couple of reasons to change it: one, they could hardly insinuate that she murdered a King of France, as he would have been too important to miss. Secondly, she would have spoken fluent French, and the scenes relied on her not understanding a word he said.

Historically, it is very far from the known truth, but I have picked up a hint for anyone trying to explain the facts of life to their daughter, if such a necessity still exists in this day and age.

The Lady is trying to help Anne of Cleves decide whether her marriage has in fact been consummated, as she doesn't seem to know. She explains:
"He has to insert his member into you and stir it".

So there you have it, plain and simple. I am still trying to picture the stirring; reminds me a little of a James Bond cocktail - shaken not stirred!

 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas missives

I wonder who it was who started the modern idea of sending out pretentious essays with Christmas cards. You know, the ones which tell in great detail what the sender has been doing all year, where they went on their holidays, what they saw on their holidays, how much money they spent and what they have bought during the year.
 
These things usually include little titbits about how they are spending their Christmas, how their adult kids are spending their Christmas, and other such enthralling information to waste more paper.
 
Please tell me, WHO THE HELL CARES?
 
More to the point, why do the authors of these things imagine anybody cares? How bloody pretentious can you get than to imagine everyone on your Christmas card list wants to know the details of your entire year.
 
Good grief! I would like to say I know nobody who would do that, but unfortunately that would not be true. I received one this morning, complete with photographs and I have to say, once more - who the hell cares?

And just to add, I also had an email from a cousin in Australia, a cousin I have never actually met, containing the 'Family Christmas Chronicle', so I thought I would just put here what my own Christmas chronicle would be like, assuming I wrote one.

It was in June that I discovered Diva's penchant for rolling in cowshit. We had been in that field many times before, but I suppose with the cows gone and the pats dried up, they were not so appealing. So, I took them both to the field the cows had recently vacated, not realising the danger. She was dripping green, wet, stinking cowshit all over the car on the way home and then to crown it all, I got home to find the hose pipe would not fit on the tap. I had to throw buckets of water over her, whilst trying to prevent her from going inside the house! What a laugh!

So what do you think? Would everyone on my Christmas card/email list be fascinated by my life?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Jealousy knows no boundaries

Never argue with an arsehole - he or she only has one orifice to speak out of!

I hate to harp on about the kdp forum, and there are an awful lot of self important nobodies on there who believe they are the next Shakespeare and anyone who cannot see it must be an idiot. Those are laughable and good for a chuckle or two. There is even one gentleman who seriously believes his books are being stopped by the government, who have hacked into his computer and destroyed his hard drive. Every time a post view is reported, he believes it is the CIA watching him and if he gets the message that there is an error when he tries to post, he once more believes it to be the government in some guise. Everybody gets these messages, usually when there is a word the bots don't like. One of those words, believe it or not, is 'character'. Would you believe a forum for authors does not allow that word? Anyway, it is obvious that this particular gentleman is seriously ill and since he does no harm to anyone, nobody bothers him.
 
Now we have a serious headcase who calls himself Charlie S. He also has a few other IDs which he thinks are fooling people, and even has conversations with these other personas. One is Jeff Elvero or some such, one is Olney and even one called Bet.
 
This creature has a business formatting books for kindle, and freaks out every single time anyone says they can do it themselves, very easily, using Word. That was bad enough and laughable, but now he is slandering people, including me, declaring that I am one of the ones getting posts deleted. This is simply not true, as I would rather get in a few arguments, and I think it is probably him who is doing it. Now he has gone to extremes and is not only slandering my name, but telling people to leave reviews on my books. I doubt he means 5 star reviews.
 
Now this person has written precisely two books, one a biography of C.S. Lewis which has sold so little, the rankings are down in the millions. Rather pathetic when you consider that A.N. Wilson has written a biography of C.S. Lewis and he has the right to call himself a professional biographer. This person's other attempt was a supernatural novelette which sounded quite interesting, except the description would put any reader off. I have  seen more badly written descriptions, but not many. Has he never heard of a full stop, or a comma? It was published in 2011 and is no longer available, I imagine because it didn't produce loads of glowing five star reviews nor make a fortune. It is called The Cistaphasmatis and there is still a review on Goodreads, despite his efforts to erase all trace of it.
 
This is someone who thinks he knows how to write and criticises everybody else's work, someone who declared that he has better things to do with his time than read. He also declares that he is afraid when he publishes his masterpiece that a literary agent will steal his idea and give it to a famous author. Have you ever heard of such self important arrogance?
 
So, when you see one star reviews on my books which are obviously from someone who has never read them, you know why. I would put this information on the forum except that my posts are continually deleted by this lunatic, so no point. He cannot delete them from here.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

KDP forum - like nursery school without the supervision.

Ok, I have been having a really good laugh today at the pathetic people on this thread
https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?messageID=812618 What is so amusing? Well, firstly this idiot Charlie (a right Charlie as well) thinks that I and another poster have been deleting his threads, when in actual fact I have not been on the forum for almost a week and Villa most certainly isn't deleting anything. As she says, she and I disagreed about the wisdom of revealing how to delete posts to everyone. I concede she was right, but my excuse is that I didn't think I was dealing with pre-schoolers.

This Charlie person also apparently thinks we don't all know that he is also this Jeff character who is so pompous he thinks he has the right to delete anything he doesn't like. We all know they are one and the same person; he is the only one who thinks he is fooling anyone. I have been banned twice, for no good reason, Villagoise has been banned for no good reason, but this insufferable idiot can say what he likes and stays put.

The KDP forum used to be almost impenetrable because of all the spam, mostly in Arabic, often useless crap about weight loss, muscle enhancement, penis enlargement, breast enlargement and lots of other rubbish. However, once one got past that, there were a lot of helpful members who were happy to help with sensible questions.
 
The moderators, such as they are, got fed up with having to read every report and delete these spam messages which members were reporting on an hourly basis, so they gave that power to everyone. All one had to do was click on the report button, little warning triangle with an exclamation mark inside, and the post would disappear. Great, we thought. No more useless spam to wade through.
 
The downside of course was that any post could be vaporised just like magic, which brought out the arrogant, self important, know-all class who decided to delete any post which disagreed with them.
 
Most of these come from people who do not know how to use Word to format their kindle ebooks, so declare, often and loudly, that it cannot be done. In fact it is the easiest way to do it. You need no epubs, mobi files, html or anything else to scare the average person into paying someone to do it for them.
 
All you need is this:
 
Set your formatting in Word to alignment - justified
Outline level - body text
special - first line 0.5 cm.
 
Do not use tabs. The paragraphs will indent with each manual return. Do not use page numbers or headers and footers and use page breaks only for the end of the chapter.
 
Use styles for Chapter headings, depending on which version of Word you are using.
 
These instructions will work so long as there are no images in your books and it is not too long, more than 2 mb as an example. My Gentle Giant book does have images but uploaded perfectly fine using this method.
 
Now you will not find these helpful instructions on the kdp forum, because every time they are posted, some arsehole who not only wants to sell his own formatting services, but doesn't know how to use Word will come along and delete it. The kdp moderators might put it back, but it won't be for a long time, when they get round to it. And even then it is likely to disappear again. What sort of forum is that, where certain people are allowed to decide who can and cannot have an opinion?
 
Not only that, but their personal insults are such as one might expect of a spoilt five year old, stamping his little feet because he cannot get his own way.
 
The forum now has lost most of its helpful and experienced members, some of whom have been banned for no reason, some who refuse to participate in such childishness. What is left are know-alls who believe their opinion is the only one and a whiney little girl who fills up the boards with poor little me rants about how she is bullied. We have another with the  same name who believes she has the right to come along and tell someone who is being extremely rude to ignore another poster and when called out about that, arsehole crawls round everyone to try and get them on her side. Sound familiar? If you ever had children it certainly should.
 
So the message for today is this: Do not bother with the kdp forums - go visit your local nursery school instead, you will get more intelligent interaction AND Yes, you can format your ebook using Word. Thanks for reading.
 
 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Books now available on other platforms

I am trying out some other outlets for some of my books. So far, my non-fiction book, the Gentle Giant, is available on The Apple Store as well as
Nook Kobo Inktera and Scribbd

Other books available so far are:
The Wronged Wife

Friday, 5 December 2014

Countdown Deal - The Scent of Roses

THE SCENT OF ROSES

This is one of my most popular books and will be on a countdown deal for just three days from tomorrow, 6th December at 25% of its normal price.

It is set in 1438 England, amid the black death which devastated half of Europe. Lady Felice Sutton agrees to marry Lord Christopher, despite his reputation for violence and ruthlessness, to save her impoverished father from debt bondage and disgrace. She is grateful and determined to make him a good wife, but she soon learns that his reputation is well earned and that being a good wife to him is far more difficult that she ever imagined. Why does his first wife lie buried in a pauper's grave? Why does he still visit the peasant woman who has his children? This is a tale of one woman's struggle to find goodness in a man who appears to have none to find, whose distrust of women makes a future with him almost impossible to contemplate.
 
But when he discovers his peasant mistress dead and immediately suspects Felice of poisoning her, she learns just how merciless he can be.

The first chapter can be read here.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Viscount's Birthright - Countdown deal

THE VISCOUNT'S BIRTHRIGHT

When Viscount Robert's estranged father, the Earl of Roxham, dies, he returns home, eager to wed Lady Camilla Austin and make her his Countess.
But his plans are thwarted when he learns that his father had a young ward, Antonia, and his Will dictates that in order to inherit both the title and the estate, he must marry her.

Angry and disappointed, he consults lawyers and learns that the Will is valid. The only way he will inherit is to marry where his father has stipulated so he prepares to give up thoughts of marriage to Lady Camilla and do just that. But he reckons without Antonia who is determined not to comply with her late guardian's wishes, declaring that she would rather find work in service than marry such a boorish and angry man.

Set at the end of the reign of King Edward VI, Henry VIII's only surviving son, this is a tale of how one self important man discovered the meaning of an honest woman and of his battle to keep her.
 
This book will be on sale for .99 cents in the US and .99pence in the UK from 1st December for two days only.
 
The first chapter can be read here.
 

Friday, 14 November 2014

New Novel - A Man in Mourning

Available from 15th November. This tale is set at the end of the Wars of the Roses when Henry Tudor defeated King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet dynasty, and brought stability back to England.
 
King Richard III is probably best known to non-historians for having murdered the little princes in the Tower of London, although there has never been any proof of that.
 
The allegation likely started with Shakespeare's play about the King, but he was living under the Tudors and had no wish to upset them.  Richard did, however, kidnap his nephew, Edward, the rightful king Edward V, on his way to his coronation and later his brother, Richard, and locked them away in the Tower, supposedly for their own safety.  He also had his brother's marriage annulled so as to make his sons illegitimate and make himself the rightful heir to the throne.
 
Richard III's remains were lost for six hundred years until in February 2013 a car park in Leicester was excavated and the remains were discovered beneath it and given a proper burial. Unfortunately, there are now some doubters who are challenging the finding and the DNA evidence that the remains were indeed Richard. The first clue that the skeleton was Richard's was the curvature of the spine, which is well known, and one has to wonder how likely it would be for another man to have gone into battle with such a disability. We will never know.
 
My story has little to do with the battle, or with Richard, but the setting is at this time. I hope you enjoy it.
 
Lord Ian Westerby has mourned his late wife, Eleanor, for ten years and never wanted to remarry. But when his younger brother and heir dies at the Battle of Bosworth, he is forced to take a new wife to produce an heir to his title and estates. Because he is a recluse who is still devoted to his dead wife, he is not a popular choice, but neither is his chosen bride, Lady Francesca Allinton. An accident some two years before left her crippled and, although beautiful, her twisted gait has made her unmarriageable by most standards.

These two are drawn together through circumstances neither of them want but can they make a future together, or will their individual secret heartaches drive a wedge between them?
 
You can read the first chapter here.
 

A Man in Mourning - first chapter


CHAPTER ONE

 

The final battle for the crown of England had left most of the country’s inhabitants in a state of bewilderment. The men who had fought for King Richard were wondering if their lives would be spared, if their property would be confiscated. The men who had fought for Henry Tudor were wondering if they had done the right thing, pleased their side had won, but most had acted through distrust of Richard and a wish to put an end to the long, drawn out wars between the Houses of Lancaster and York, the endless turnabout of Kings.

They had seen kings murdered, kings deposed, kings reinstated until they knew not who was the reigning monarch and who was not. The last King before Richard was a little boy whose claim could never prevail in a time of such chaos, and he had been intercepted on his way to his coronation and confined in the royal apartments in the Tower of London, on the orders of his Uncle Richard.

With Henry Tudor on the throne, at last that insecurity would hopefully end, even though the man had little claim.

But those battles had cost families dearly and now the Earl of Westerby stood in the August sunshine and watched the coffin containing the lifeless corpse of his younger brother as it was slowly and carefully lowered into the ground. His brother had fought for Richard, despite the Earl’s pleas that he not risk his life. Now the Earl had no heir, but that was not what was on his mind as he stood with the warmth of the sun on his neck and watched his only remaining relative depart into the afterlife.

This small churchyard attached to the Westerby church on his own estate was reserved solely for the Westerby family and some of the gravestones bore dates going back centuries, but next to the newly dug tomb of his brother was the ten year old grave of his beloved wife, Eleanor.

As he stood with his head bent and his hands clasped loosely in front of him, his glance wandered to the giant memorial cross showing Eleanor’s date of birth and death, with the additional inscription for two baby boys, both named Ian after their father, both dead before they had drawn many breaths, before they had had a chance of life.

All the villagers and tenants had turned out for the young viscount’s funeral. Ian could feel their eyes on him, knew they were watching for his reaction to this latest loss. He was their Lord and his fate was their fate.

They came out of respect for the family rather than any feeling of personal loss, but still Ian was grateful for the support. Now his brother was gone as well as his beloved wife, there was little left for him but more mourning, more grief.

Every day for ten years he had stood in this churchyard, had paid his respects to Eleanor, even spoken to her, told her his problems. He had never wanted to move on; he was happy enough being buried in the past, because that is where Eleanor still lived, that is where the two of them still loved.

The gravedigger began to shovel earth over the coffin and Ian closed his eyes to shut out the sight, wishing he could also shut out the sound of that earth as it dropped onto the oak box. His secretary, Sir Alfred Pincher stepped forward and gently touched his arm.

“My Lord,” he said, “Come away. I need to talk to you.”

Ian turned to him with a perplexed frown. What did the fellow mean by disturbing him at this time? The man was a lifelong bachelor and an only child; he had no idea what it meant to lose the people closest to him.

“Well?” Ian demanded angrily.

“I know this is likely the worst time to mention this, but with your brother gone, you need to consider remarriage.”

Lord Westerby glared at him furiously.

“What on earth are you talking about?”

“Forgive me, My Lord, but you have surely thought of it yourself. You have no heir. Your brother fought bravely, gave his life for King Richard and the Plantagenet dynasty. If you die without issue, everything you own will go to fill Henry Tudor’s coffers. I am sure that is not what you want.”

Ian glanced about and was relieved to see the villagers and tenants, the servants slowly walking away, leaving the churchyard. He was angry now and had no wish for them to see his anger, not on this day, not in this place.

He stared thoughtfully at the man, then frowned. He was right, of course, and nobody else would have had the courage to tell him; there was no longer a male relative to inherit his title and estate, his fortune, and he did not want it to go to the Tudors, to the usurper who would soon be crowned King of England.

The Earl gazed for a few moments at the stone which marked Eleanor’s grave, ridden with guilt for even thinking of another marriage, then he turned to Sir Alfred.

“Leave me,” he ordered. “I will talk to you later.”

When his secretary had gone, Ian dropped to his knees beside his wife’s grave and whispered; he wanted no passer by to hear.

He had not wanted to admit to Sir Alfred that he had thought of this as soon as he was told of his brother’s death, but he had pushed the notion away. He had even spent a whole day going through family documents hoping to find some sign of a male relative, anyone who could legitimately lay claim to the title and estate, to spare him the need to take another wife.

But there was no one, and he had to explain to Eleanor, be sure she understood.

“I must do this, Eleanor,” he said. “You have to appreciate that I must try to produce a living heir. I know you always believed I wanted sons more than anything, but you were wrong. I wanted you more than I wanted babies, and I still had Alan then. Now I have no choice. God chose not to bless us with healthy, living sons, but you would never accept that, my darling, would you? I have to marry again, but it will make no difference to the way I feel.”

He waited a few moments, as though expecting an answer, then got to his feet and brushed damp earth from his knees.

He looked across the few hundred yards to the house, an old mansion with nearly a hundred rooms and emblems carved into its stone walls. He had been born in that house, his brother had been born in that house, and his sons were born their too.

There were formal gardens leading up to the double oak doors, gardens Eleanor had loved; she had even planted flowers herself. He knew which flowers they were, he would often take a stem to place upon her memorial stone so she would know he had not forgotten the hours she spent on her knees planting them. He recalled the excitement when the first buds peeped through the earth, how she had clasped his hand and run outside to show him. It seemed to her to be some sort of miracle, and perhaps it was, but there was no miracle when they really needed one.

He would stand here and in the little church and say his prayers to Eleanor, for his belief in God had died with her and had never returned. If there was such an entity as God, Ian did not think He was worth praying to. He had taken his wife and his baby boys and now He had taken his brother, his heir, forced him to think about another wife.

Ian knew his reputation was well known, that the whole county knew his heart was in the coffin with his wife, and he wondered what manner of female could possibly be persuaded to marry him, knowing he would never love her. It would have to be a cold woman, a woman whose only interest was in the title and the wealth. Anything else was unthinkable.

Yet Ian was not a cold man. He was warm and kind and if he were to take another wife, he would be as good to her as his heart would allow. He did not relish sharing his remaining years with a woman who would not appreciate his generosity of spirit. Perhaps Sir Alfred could find him an unattractive woman, one who had few suitors and would be grateful for his offer, appreciate what gifts his memories would allow him to give.

It was warm today, the August weather promising to last out the week, and that only depressed him more. Funerals should not be held in sunny weather; it made a mockery of the mourners’ angst somehow. It had been pouring rain when he buried Eleanor, a cold wind blowing as though the angels were flapping their wings and weeping in sorrow.

His hair was wet with perspiration by the time he opened the oak doors to his house, and saw at once Sir Alfred sitting beside an open window, taking in the fresh air; he frowned. His secretary wore black out of respect for Ian’s brother, but it was trimmed with colourful embroidery, unlike his own clothing which was plain black as it always was. It had been ten years since he had worn anything else, and he was affronted that this man should attend his brother’s funeral, stand before Eleanor’s grave, with fancy embroidery on his garments.

He knew what he was waiting for, and he knew he had to marry, but his heart sank at the prospect. It was not the idea of another woman in his life which he dreaded as much as the potential loss of more baby sons. That is what he could not bear, what he had no strength for. As to the woman, she was an irrelevance, a mere vessel. She would never take the place of Eleanor and he hoped Sir Alfred would find him someone who would not attempt it.

“Well,” he said as he made his way to the sideboard and poured wine. “Do you have someone in mind?”

Alfred’s face lost its worried frown and he stood hurriedly, as though expecting the Earl to change his mind.

“I do, My Lord. Lady Francesca Allinton has lost her betrothed in the battle. She was due to be married next month, but now he has gone, her father might be amenable to an offer from you.”

Ian eyed him suspiciously. It was a small county and nobles tended to know one another, although Ian had only had a fleeting glimpse of the lady in question.

“Is she not crippled?” He demanded.

“She does have a deformed leg, My Lord, it is true. But that should not affect her ability to bear offspring.”

Lord Westerby’s mouth turned down in distaste. He remembered when he had seen the lady, seen her in the distance hobbling across the market square with the aid of a bamboo cane. He had pitied her at the time, thought what a tragic waste it was that a young girl should have to depend on a walking cane to aid her. He remembered that sight now, and could not help but compare her to Eleanor, to her straight and elegant body, and his heart twisted.

“Why do you offer me a cripple? Can you not find me a woman who is at least a whole person?”

“My Lord, may I speak freely?” Ian nodded. “There are not that many ladies available who are happy to wed a man still devoted to his dead wife.”

Ian glowered at him angrily, his fists clenched, but he said nothing. Sir Alfred but voiced the very thoughts Ian had been thinking himself only a short while ago. He accepted that finding him a wife would not be easy, but if he had to do this, he wanted someone independent, not a needy woman who would look for love where there was none to find.

“Lady Francesca is a beautiful woman, My Lord,” Sir Alfred went on. “She has inherited her mother’s dark Latin splendour and she is young, only sixteen years old. She can bear you many sons.”

“I do not need many sons, Alfred. I need but one. Can you be sure her deformity is not also inherited?”

“It is not, My Lord. It is the result of an accident some two years ago. Her brother and sister stand straight.”

Ian pursed his lips thoughtfully, recalling what he had heard of the village gossip.

“Yes, I remember now. A horse threw her, then reared and stamped on her leg.” He paused thoughtfully for a moment, his memory full of Eleanor, and he shrugged. “Very well,” he said. “It is of little moment. Has she agreed to the marriage?”

“I have not made my proposal yet, My Lord.”

“Well, do so, the sooner the better. Let us get this over with before I change my mind.”

When Alfred had gone he sat before the open window, breathed in the smells of fresh grass and wild flowers, and tried to imagine another woman in Eleanor’s place, another female form in his bed, in his arms, giving herself to him. But would she give herself? Or would she lie still and accept his passion with tolerance and distaste? If she accepted him out of desperation, because there was no alternative, she might not feel inclined to return his ardour, even assuming there was any ardour to return.

He had not had the comfort of a woman since the death of his second son, a little over ten years ago, and he cursed his brother for getting himself killed and forcing this marriage on him.

He recalled the argument he had had with Alan, when he announced he would fight for the King.

“You cannot go,” he had told him. “What will happen if you are killed? You are my heir; one day you will be Earl of Westerby and Westerby Hall and the whole village will be yours. Are you prepared to risk all that for the sake of a dynasty which is already in the throes of death?”

“Ian, I have to be able to do this. Henry Tudor has no business laying claim to the throne and you know King Edward always favoured our family.”

“I need you to be safe, Alan. You must marry and have sons to carry on the title, to inherit the estate after we have gone.”

Alan returned his plea with determination in his countenance.

“The King has summoned me to take up arms for him. I will be condemned as a coward and a traitor if I do not go. Have you received no summons?”

Ian glanced away for a moment before he finally replied.

“I have, but I refuse to support King Richard. Were it his brother, or his nephew, I would be eager, but I do not believe in him. He had his brother’s marriage annulled, made his brother’s children bastards so he could declare himself King. And there have been no sightings of the princes since Richard sequestered them in the Tower. Why would I fight for a man like that?”

Alan sighed impatiently, then that teasing grin of which Ian was so fond flickered about his mouth.

“Well I am going,” he said. “Who knows? If I am killed in battle, it might spur you to put Eleanor in the past where she belongs and take another wife.”

Ian scowled at him, saw the mischief in his eyes and smiled. It was his way and he had never approved of Ian’s devotion to the past, but now the Earl must accept that he would never see that mischievous glitter in his brother’s eyes again, never smile at that teasing grin which he found so endearing. He was dead, buried deep in the ground alongside Ian’s wife, and his flippant words had become a prediction, even a premonition.

The house felt empty without him, without his whistling, his singing as he went about the place and his laughter as he teased the servants and made them laugh indulgently. Perhaps if Ian had insisted on Alan taking a wife he would have had a son of his own by now, and not left Ian with this awful dilemma. A wife might even have made him think twice about going into battle at all, but he would have none of it. He said it was Ian’s fault; he had shown him what a marriage for love could be and he wanted nothing less for himself.

Ian poured more wine and closed his eyes, dragged up the memory of Lady Francesca. He had seen her for but a brief moment and she would not have aroused his interest at all had it not been for the pronounced limp, the bamboo cane. He could barely recall what she looked like; he only remembered the dark hair and the uneven walk.

Still, if she could give him a son she would do. It is all he wanted, then he could return to the love of his life, to memories of Eleanor and ghosts of the life they had once shared.

 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Countdown deal - The Judas Pledge

THE JUDAS PLEDGE is one of my early books and has always sold steadily.
The story is set around the short but violent reign of Queen Mary I of England, known for all time as Bloody Mary because of the nearly 400 protestants she had burned alive for heresy.
 
It is 1553 and for five years the fifteen year old protestant King Edward VI has reigned with the aid of a Lord Protector. It has been twenty years since King Henry VIII broke away from the yoke of the Roman church and Catholicism is outlawed and a thing of the past.

Bethany is the daughter of a wealthy merchant and her only concern is to avoid an arranged marriage to the impoverished baron her father had found to marry her for her dowry.

When the wealthy Earl of Summerville suggests a marriage which will make her a very rich countess she is thrilled and his confession that he is a hated catholic and that he expects her to be the same, means little. If Bethany had thought about it at all, she had believed that there were no Catholics left in England. Her eyes firmly fixed on a handsome, amiable husband and the title, wealth and huge country mansion that comes with him, she believes she will never have to adhere to that condition, she believes that there will never be another catholic monarch, despite his assurances that the catholic Mary Tudor will succeed her brother to the throne.

She has no idea how hard it is going to be to keep that pledge when Mary gains the throne and begins a brutal campaign to bring England back to the Catholic church of Rome. As Bethany's protestant family and friends are persecuted for their beliefs, beliefs for which they are prepared to die a horrible death, she finds the struggle to support her Catholic husband and give lip service to his faith to be impossible despite having fallen deeply in love with him.

This is a tale of love, passion and betrayal in an age when God is a very real part of everyday life and the way he is worshipped worth of dying for.
 
This book has received some good reviews from both sides of the Atlantic and it is going on sale on the 14th November at 99 cents or pence if you are in the UK, for just 7 days.
 
This is book one of the Summerville Journals; book two is The Flawed Mistress which is the story of Rachel, Richard Summerville's beautiful mistress.
 
You can read the first chapter of Book one here and of Book two here.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Countdown Deal - The Romany Princess


The Romany Princess is one of my earliest and most popular books and it has some great reviews on both sides of the pond.
 
I first wrote this book over thirty years ago, manual typewriter, carbon copies etc. So when I discovered kdp I only had a hard copy and was lucky to still have that. So I had to retype the whole thing, all 85,000 words of it. Thank goodness I still have my copy typing skills.
 
Unfortunately, after that I was so excited to get it on Amazon, I didn't proofread it. Imagine how pleased I was to get a four star review 'despite the typing errors'. The reviewer said they would have put her off reading 'in a lesser work'.  Obviously, the first thing I did was to go back and correct every single one.
 
Since then, it has done very well, but now is ready for a special deal to bring it to the light again.
 
The story is about family secrets and a mysterious great aunt revealing those secrets on her one hundredth birthday.
 
This will be on a special offer for only 5 days, starting 9th and 10 November and you can read the first chapter here.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

OMNIBUS EDITION FOR CHRISTMAS ONLY - THE MEDIEVAL ROMANCES

THE MEDIEVAL ROMANCES

Available now for pre-order - release date 1st November.
This is an omnibus edition of my three most popular medieval romances, available in ebook for kindle and paperback, but only until the new year.
This will make a great Christmas present in either format, perhaps if you are buying a kindle for a historical romance fan, with this already installed. Or don't forget you can download a free app for smartphones and pads.
 
The three novels are:
To save her father from debtor's prison and the noble name of her family from disgrace, Lady Felice Sutton agrees to marry Lord Christopher despite his reputation for violence and ruthlessness. She is grateful and is determined to make him a good wife, but his reputation is well earned and she finds being a good wife to him to be far more difficult than she ever suspected. She wants to love him, wants to have a future with him, but she is afraid to ask him why his first wife lies buried in a pauper's grave, or why he still visits the peasant woman who has his children.

But when Lord Christopher discovers his peasant mistress dead, and immediately suspects Felice of poisoning her, she learns just how merciless he can be.

Set in England amid the black death of 1348, a pestilence which wiped out millions,
this is a story of love and passion, jealousy and sacrifice, and one woman's quest to find goodness in a man who appears to have none to find. 
 
After a year spent fighting for King Henry VIII, Lord Richard Morton returns to his Cornish home to find his wife with child. Driven by grief and blind rage, he lashes out violently at her and leaves, taking his five year old daughter with him. It is seven years before he learns his mistake, when his brother makes a death bed confession to raping Richard's wife.

Lord Morton knows he must return to Cornwall, must reunite his daughter with the mother she has not seen for seven years, but he dreads the encounter. He expects no forgiveness for having torn their lives apart, but he is unprepared for what awaits him.

He learns he did far more damage than he thought and when he finds his wife is studying the heretical and dangerous works of the religious reformer, Martin Luther, he fears he is too late to attempt to repair the damage. He cannot risk having the illicit works under the same roof as his daughter, but she is so happy to be with her mother, he cannot bear to separate them again.

Years of heartache and resentment stand between them, but he will do anything to win her love and trust once more. It will be the greatest battle of his life.
When Viscount Robert's estranged father, the Earl of Roxham, dies, he returns home, eager to wed Lady Camilla Austin and make her his Countess.
But his plans are thwarted when he learns that his father had a young ward, Antonia, and his Will dictates that in order to inherit both the title and the estate, he must marry her.

Angry and disappointed, he consults lawyers and learns that the Will is valid. The only way he will inherit is to marry where his father has stipulated so he prepares to give up thoughts of marriage to Lady Camilla and do just that. But he reckons without Antonia who is determined not to comply with her late guardian's wishes, declaring that she would rather find work in service than marry such a boorish and angry man.

Set at the end of the reign of King Edward VI, Henry VIII's only surviving son, this is a tale of how one self important man discovered the meaning of an honest woman and of his battle to keep her.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Adulteress - Chapter One


THE ADULTERESS


CHAPTER ONE
 
“She is really dying, David?”
Deborah’s tone was one of disbelief mingled with sorrow, and she shook her head slowly as she leaned over her brother’s arm and read the letter again.
He glanced at her briefly, then scanned the shaky handwriting once more. He would give it more scrutiny later, when he was alone. He feared his own grief might be impossible to hide and he did not want to break down in front of Deborah.
“It is what she is saying,” he replied.  “She has contracted an illness, a disease of the lungs as well as lack of blood circulation. She does not say how, only that she is not expecting to recover.”
He stopped talking to hang on to an escaping sob, then went to sit at the window and watch the white roofs of the buildings outside, the icy slush in the streets, rapidly turning to mud. He watched the horses slipping on the cobblestones, the pedestrians sliding about and the children running to skid along the street and screech in their excitement.
Where Catherine was, the white landscape would be softer, virgin snow reaching to the horizon. It would be hushed and silent, echoing with the tranquility of the countryside, of the farmland and plough horses standing idle.  Here in London were the sounds of hooves and carriage wheels on the cobblestones outside, the roar of crowds going about their business in the city.
Not that it would matter to her, if indeed she was bedridden as her letter implied, if she was as ill as she said. He had no idea why he doubted her words; perhaps because he could not bear to believe them.
“You sound doubtful, David,” Deborah interrupted his thoughts.
“I am,” he answered.  “If she is so ill, why have I received no accounts from physicians, even from herbal healers.  She cannot afford such services herself. I send her only enough to feed herself and the child.”
Deborah looked startled for a moment and he thought he knew why. He had never mentioned the child before, not once, could hardly bear to think of her, much less discuss her.
“That was generous,” she remarked.
“Was I to let an innocent child starve?” He replied sharply. “More likely Catherine would go without herself; you know that, as do I.”
“What possible reason could she have to pretend?” She asked.
He shrugged, looked up at her.
“It could be a ruse to make me go to her, so she can tell me more lies.”
 
***
 
The note of bitterness behind his words stunned Deborah. The letter her brother’s wife had written broke her heart and while she understood his lingering hostility, she thought that letter might have softened his heart.
She had always been friends with Catherine until three years ago, when she had betrayed David by taking a lover.  She was angry with her then, could not bear to see him so hurt, but now if she were really dying, the past should be set aside and if David could not do that, she had never known him at all.
He was always a kind and generous man, both to her and to Catherine and his servants and anyone else close to him.  He was well liked and respected, both by his servants and his tenants, as well as anyone he had dealings with. A mild mannered and fair man who adored his wife, and it had been hard for him to accept his marriage was over, almost impossible for him to believe his wife no longer loved him. 
She remembered when he had arranged the marriage with Catherine, how he had come to her, excited and pleased with the prospect of taking this woman as his wife. They had met but once, yet he seemed to have fallen in love with her at that one meeting. Watching them together after the marriage, Deborah believed she felt the same about him, until that awful day the fa├žade had broken down, until she had seen behind the lies.
Still, Deborah could not believe he would deny her this final wish, no matter what she had done. She was still a very young woman, barely twenty years old, and her passing was a tragedy whichever way one saw it.
 
***
 
He frowned at Deborah and once more skimmed his eyes over the letter which had arrived that morning, a letter in shaky, yet familiar, handwriting, begging for a few minutes with her husband before she left this world.
His feelings for his wife had never really faded, despite his many attempts to suppress them, to bury them beneath anger and resentment. They were still stronger than he cared to admit, and he could not bear to think of her death, of never having a chance of seeing her again, but nor could he think of her suffering.  He was not sure he would be able to cope with watching that suffering, seeing her thin and ill, when she was always so lovely, so stunningly beautiful, just the sight of her took his breath away.
He recalled the first time he had seen her, at the home of her parents, Lord and Lady Birchwood. He had seen her portrait and almost believed a woman so beautiful could not also be good, but he found himself immediately attracted to her. She was funny, and warm, and he knew he would find it easy to love her.
When he saw her again, in the church porch where they were wed, he had fallen in love with her completely and never recovered from it, despite the pain she had caused him.
“I will go,” he said at last, with a weary sigh.  “She must have known I would not refuse her. I only hope I can be kind to her; thoughts of her still make me angry.”
 
***
 
Once more, Deborah shook her head slowly in bewilderment. He still had no charitable thought for his wife, but she could not blame him for that. Had he been a violent man, or a vengeful one, Catherine might not have been so fortunate as to suffer such a mild punishment as imprisonment in her own house.
She sighed heavily and pulled the letter from his fingers, read it once more to herself and caught back a quiet sob.  It was heartbreaking to think of that beautiful woman, slowly fading into nothingness, swallowing the remnants of her pride to beg her husband just a few minutes of his time. She had not seen him for three years, not since she had been discovered by his soldiers, with a naked man in their marital bed.
She wondered if her brother might be better off if Catherine were to die. Even if he could forgive her, he could never take her back into his life, could never renew the closeness they had known. He would at least be free to marry again.
As things stood, there was no heir to the Ravenscroft title and estates. David and Catherine’s only son had lived but a few weeks and if David had no opportunity to remarry, the duty of producing a legitimate heir would fall to her. She did not relish the prospect of marrying again, but she may not have a choice.
Now Deborah cast her eyes up to meet those of her brother, and saw the mixture of heartache and resentment in them. She had believed he was recovering, moving on with his life although he was still tied to Catherine and likely always would be. It seemed she was wrong.
“You should try to forgive her, David,” She said. “She made a mistake, but she never stopped loving you, of that I am certain.”
“If a woman loved a man, she would not be sharing her bed with another man. Of that I am certain.”
“I will not argue the point. She has asked to see you; you must at least pretend to forgive her. She is dying; please do not let her see your resentment. Let her go in peace.”
"Why do you think she deserves any special consideration?"  He said.  "She betrayed me, took a lover the moment my back was turned, had a child by that lover..."
"You do not know that."
"I do not know otherwise.  The girl is not my child; she cannot be.  I never went near the whore again once I learned about her adultery, so how can the girl be mine? Unless she was bedding this other man whilst carrying my child.  That would be far worse.  I am not sure I can face her again if I believe that.  Besides, she as good as admitted she was not my child."
She had, too, but Deborah had drawn her own conclusion as to her motive for doing so.  Deborah had kept her opinion on that to herself for years because she loved her brother's wife, despite her betrayal.  She wanted to help her. She had thrown everything away for one indiscretion; she did not want her to lose her child as well. She also wondered if David would treat the girl fairly if he was not certain of her parentage. Although he was not the sort of man who would blame a child for the sins of its mother, when someone was as hurt as David, they sometimes took revenge without thought for others.
It had been difficult for Deborah, since she and Catherine had always been fond of each other, to forgive her betrayal of her brother.  She loved Catherine, but she loved David as well and she owed her loyalty to him, yet she tried to understand.  David was away, preparing to fight for King Stephen, when the threatened arrival of the Empress Maud and her troops came about.  Catherine had been tempted by a handsome young man, and although Deborah had been furious with her, she eventually managed to understand.  As the widow of a man she had adored, she knew well how lonely a woman could be, how she might have succumbed to temptation herself had it presented itself.  She did her best to make David see her point of view, but it would take a very exceptional man to forgive his wife’s infidelity.
The fact that it had been soldiers who discovered her lover made it impossible for him to make the decision for himself. Soldiers were worse gossips that washerwomen and the whole town knew about it almost before David. He had his position to consider; he was their Lord and it was essential he keep their respect, or anarchy would erupt on his estate, in his town. Deborah believed that to be his main reason for keeping his wife prisoner in her own home since it happened. Many thought a much harsher and more public punishment to be in order, but they dared not tell him that. This way, at least he could be seen to be doing something and it was something which would not cause Catherine too much suffering. Despite her betrayal, he had no wish for her to suffer.
"I have no idea why you showed me this letter," Deborah said at last.  "You do not want my opinion, so why ask?  Catherine is dying, she has asked for you.  You know you will grant her wish and if you do not, your conscience will haunt you for years to come.  That is my opinion.  I see she has also asked for me."
He nodded thoughtfully.
"She has, but I am not convinced she has no ulterior motive.”
Deborah raised her eyebrows and gave him a look of astonishment.
"David," she replied, "Catherine was never devious.  What on earth makes you think she is lying?"
“Never devious?”  He replied angrily, raising his voice.  “She was devious enough to hide a lover from me.  Did I not find his portrait in her private chest?”
She gave him a bashful look.  She had forgotten all about the miniature Catherine had concealed in her little box of secrets, the leather bound chest David had prised open with his dagger that day, looking for love letters, evidence of how long the adultery had been going on.  She imagined he was wondering if his dead son had indeed been his own child, and thank God he found no evidence to confirm that suspicion.
The fact that his firstborn, his son had died, that David had mourned him, somehow made it worse. At last she answered him.
“You did, David.  I cannot deny it.”
He sighed heavily and waved the letter in her face.
"If she is in truth so very ill, then of course I will go to her; we will both go to her.  But I ask again, why have I received no accounts from physicians for her care?  She does not have the means to engage physicians."
Deborah laughed cynically and shook her head.
"You abandoned her because she took a lover," she told him.  "Has it not occurred to you that it might be that lover who has paid for her care?"
He closed his eyes for a few seconds.
"No, it had not occurred to me," he admitted. "And I cannot thank you for making me consider such a possibility. She has been guarded since I left.  It would have to be a very determined lover to find his way inside the house without being captured by one of the sentries."  He paused and shrugged.  "I suppose she might have won them all over.  At any rate, I will go to her, since it might well be her dying wish.”
He sighed heavily and his mouth turned down.
“It is in the past now and best not to think about it. I imagine she wants my forgiveness," he remarked.
"Will she get it?"
"I have not decided," he replied harshly.  "It depends how contrite she is."
"Or how much she is prepared to beg?"
He turned on her an angry scowl and his fist clenched.
"Have a care, Deborah," he warned.
"Why?  I am your sister, not your wife, thank God.  I do not have to obey your every command."
"You do if you want to remain in my house," he answered.
"Very well," she answered.  "I will return to my own house.  You asked me to come here, remember?"
He could not have forgotten, she was sure.  He asked her to come when her husband died so she could be close to her family, give her something to occupy her thoughts.  She was grateful at the time.  She did not know how she would have survived without her brother's comfort and support, but she no longer needed that support and if he was going to start trying to order her life and thoughts, she would have no hesitation in opening her own house once more. That was why Edwin had left it to her in his Will, so she would always have a place of her own, so she would never have to rely on anyone else.
Thoughts of Edwin depressed her even more. She missed him dreadfully.
David frowned again.  He seemed to do that a lot and Deborah only wondered why she had never noticed it before.  She thought back over the years and could determine the exact time he had become so dour.  It was when a soldier in his own regiment informed him his wife had a lover.  That was the moment he lost all sense of joy, when he confronted her and she admitted it.  Deborah could not recall having seen him smile since, not even for her.
It was about the time the Empress Maud had landed in England.  She had little support among the nobles of the land, and David was no exception.  He never approved, any more than the other nobles, despite having sworn their allegiance to her when her father, King Henry I, had told them he had named her as his heir.  The idea of a woman on the throne was absurd as far as they were concerned, and the Empress had an unfortunate manner which failed to endear to anyone, even her peers. Since the Empress was not in England at the time, she had lost her chance to prevent her cousin from claiming the throne for himself.
Given the support of the powerful barons of the land, Stephen had little opposition.
David had been gone a few weeks, away at court helping King Stephen and his supporters form a strategy to deal with the expected invasion.
Despite unrest and nationwide skirmishes, it had been four years before Maud finally gained enough support to come to England and wage war on her cousin. She had done that with the help of her illegitimate half brother, Robert, Earl of Gloucester.  Civil war was imminent, David had to leave his wife of only two years and be ready to take up arms for Stephen.  The King had to be prepared for his cousin's arrival in England and David was among the nobles eager to fight for him.
That was when Catherine committed her terrible sin, a sin for which David could never forgive her.  Most men would not, so Deborah would not blame him for that, but they could have lived in some sort of amity.  They might well have done, too, had Catherine not been with child.  That was the final sin which played on her brother’s mind, which would never allow him to build an amicable relationship with his wife.  How was he supposed to accept another man’s child?  And how was he to insist she give the girl up?
Deborah had known him all her life, having been born just a year after him, having grown up in his shadow, watched his training to one day become Earl of Ravenscroft, while she was trained to be somebody's wife.  She had been fortunate that the man her parents chose for her to marry grew fond of her, even loved her as she loved him.  It was the great tragedy of her life that Edwin had died so young; it was the great tragedy of her brother's life that his wife had betrayed him.  Deborah was not sure which would be worse; she tried to imagine Edwin with another woman and it hurt, but that sort of damage could be repaired if both wanted it enough.  Edwin's death was final and she could never see herself loving another man.
No, she bore her brother's wife no malice for her betrayal, not any more.  Catherine was a warm and passionate woman, with ideas and opinions of her own, and Deborah had grown close to her almost immediately they met.  She was funny, sweet and warm, always willing to listen to Deborah's little fears.  Her brother and his wife were on affectionate, amicable terms.  She had witnessed the affection between them and she was shocked when Catherine surrendered to temptation, but she could forgive even if David  never could.
"It is high time I started thinking about finding you another husband," he remarked, breaking into her thoughts.  "I will go to Oxfordshire to grant Catherine’s dying wish, if indeed that is what it is, but when I return I shall begin enquiries."
She envisioned another man in her bed, making love to her, sharing his flesh with hers, and she shuddered.  She still grieved for Edwin and it was possible she always would. 
"Please do not trouble yourself on my account, David," she said.  "I have no wish to remarry."
"Why not?  You were happy with Edwin; I know you were fond of him."
"I loved him and he returned my love."  She swallowed a tear before she went on.  He had fallen from his horse and broken his neck, died instantly, and the shock had torn her apart.  "I may not be so fortunate next time."
His eyes met hers sharply.
"Was that remark aimed at me?" He demanded.   "I could not have done more for Catherine.  She had everything a woman could possibly want, money, servants, fine clothes, fine horses, carriages and jewels.  She was always dressed to perfection.  My own fault, I suppose, for making her so attractive to another man.  I gave her everything."
 “It is your own conscience speaking, David,” she said. “No, I was not talking about you. I was thinking of someone else in Edwin’s place, and it is not something I would relish. No one could ever take his place.” She paused and gazed at him for a few moments. “Would you want to replace Catherine? When she is dead, if she does not recover from what ails her now, will you marry again?”
His eyes met hers and she could almost see his thoughts racing, see him imagining another woman in place of his wife. But he was not going to answer her question.
"She was a whore," he said harshly.  "For all I know she still is.  I doubt she has done without for three years."
"You have kept her locked away in that house ever since," she reminded him.  "She has hardly had an opportunity to take another lover."
"There are guards, servants."
"No.  She is a countess, your countess.  She would not lower herself."
"Why not?  We have no idea who the man was last time, do we?  He may have been a soldier, or a servant.  We know nothing except what I was told."
"And you were very quick to believe it."
She could have bitten off her tongue the minute she said the words. Now he glanced at his sister, where she stood beside him, awaiting a reply to her remark and wondering how to catch back the words.
"Do you know of some reason I should have doubted him?"  David finally responded.  "She did not deny it, not once.  She admitted it to me, even begged my forgiveness."
"I am sorry, David," Deborah said.  "I should not have said that."  She put her hand on his shoulder and kissed his cheek fondly.  "It was tragic for you, and I should not be willing to forgive her either, but I cannot help it.  She was always a good woman and I was fond of her; she was my friend."
Now Deborah waited for him to speak, but he said nothing.
"How soon can we leave?"  She asked.
"As soon as we can get our things packed.  We can have no idea how long we will be there.  This war has got so confusing, I am losing track of who is the monarch and who is not.  I have had word that the Empress has once again escaped the King’s army. She was under siege in Oxford Castle; they had her surrounded."
Deborah smiled wistfully.  She followed whatever side was safest, did not care enough to do otherwise, but she had to admire the Empress Maud’s resourcefulness and determination. It seemed no one could contain her for long; she always found some way to escape, last time on a funeral bier.
“Not as a corpse this time?”  She asked him.
He shook his head.
“Apparently she was lowered down the castle walls, in the snow, and managed to travel some distance before daybreak.  The woman causes us nothing but trouble; I am not alone in wishing she would give up the fight and return to Anjou.”  He left the hall to order their boxes packed but returned a few minutes later, still clutching his wife’s letter in his hands. He seemed to have forgotten about the Empress.  "You were always close to Catherine, I remember.  I suppose you would like to say goodbye to her, pray for her soul.  God knows it needs it!"

 

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FREE BOOKS These are the e-books you will receive absolutely free when you sign up for my Readers' Group Newsletter. Three of the...