Medieval Monday w/RueAllyn 09/26

Today the Medieval Monday Exchange begins a new round of excerpt posts on one of my favorite topics, travel. Beginning with my own post we’ll have a new medieval travel post every Monday for the next eight weeks. Please tweet, share and comment on what you believe or have learned about medieval traveling. You’ll find the links for the participating bloggers at the bottom of this post.

The Herald’s Heart blurb:Cover art for The Herald's Heart

Royal herald, Sir Talon Quereste imagined that one day he would settle on a quiet little estate, marry a gently bred damsel, and raise a flock of children. The wife of his daydreams is a woman who could enhance his standing with his peers. She is certainly not an overly adventurous, impulsive, argumentative woman of dubious background who threatens everything he values then endangers his heart.

When her family is murdered, Lady Larkin Rosham lost more than everyone she loved—she lost her name, her identity and her voice. She’s finally recovered her ability to speak, but no one believes her claim to be Lady Larkin. She is determined to regain her name and her heritage. However, but Sir Talon Quereste guards the way to the proof she needs. She must discover how to get past him without risking her heart.

The Tweet:  returns with tales of romantic travels and  at wp.me/p2d2BX-zd

The Herald’s Heart excerpt:

Sir Talon Quereste refused to allow a little thing like being lost in a fog prevent him from completing his task as a royal herald. After getting garbled directions from an anchoress who screeched at the sight of him, swore evil lived at Hawksedge Keep, and then warned him that no good would come of traveling there, he finally located the town of Hawking Sedge. With the mist thickening, he stopped at the alehouse and asked for better directions or a guide. The alewife refused to give more information than “follow the road.” The patrons of the house, when questioned, refused to a man to guide Talon. Even proclaiming himself King Edward’s royal herald failed to gain their cooperation.

“T’ earl’s disappeared and ’tis haunted, sir,” they claimed.

They exchanged taunts with him, and Talon left the alehouse swearing to spend the night in the keep and catch any ghost that wandered its halls. If he could ever find the cursed place.

He very much doubted the earl had vanished. More like he was hiding because he knew he’d incurred Edward I’s wrath. When the king of England summoned a man to renew vows of fealty and that man failed to comply, the king might justifiably be angry. So Longshanks had sent one of his heralds—fondly known by courtiers as the king’s hounds. The fact that the chosen hound was the last person the Earl of Hawksedge would want to see was sugar on the plum for both king and herald. Talon would ferret the man out no matter where he hid. Would his father recognize him? Not likely, despite the fact that, according to rumor, Talon’s guinea gold hair and dark purple eyes could have only come from the Earl of Hawksedge.

St. Swithun’s nose! Recognition by the earl was as likely as finding Hawksedge Keep in this fog. Talon couldn’t even see his mount’s ears in the chill gray mass that swirled around him. According to one of the village cowards, the keep “loomed on a hill near the sea, its great black stones a blot from hell upon heaven’s beautiful sky.” Ghosts! Stones from hell! Nonsense is what it was.

His mount came to an abrupt halt. What now? Try as he might, he could not make the beast move forward. Talon twisted to look behind him. The fog had swallowed all sign of human habitation. The villagers’ absurd fears kept them warm and dry within the alehouse, while his sensible disbelief that Hades somehow escaped its bounds left him cold, wet, and stranded in an impenetrable mist, unable to determine either the way forward or the road back—on a horse gone mad with stubbornness.

Of a sudden, the silence hit. ’Tis the fog. It deadens all sound. He wished for the comforting clop of iron-shod hooves on dirt. He shivered in the enveloping chill and took a deep breath of mist-laden air. The salt tang reassured him. At least he hadn’t ridden off a cliff into the sea. Talon smiled at his own foolishness. If his steed would not go forward on its own, he would dismount and lead the animal.

He had swung his leg across the horse’s rump when a hideous wail arose, bleeding through the fog to ooze fear down his spine. He hung there, suspended above the earth on the strength of a single stirrup. That the horse didn’t bolt was a miracle of good training.

The fog, so thick and impenetrable a moment ago, formed a gap in the wake of the noise. Talon looked in the direction of the sound and met the wide-eyed gaze of a disembodied head.

His breath froze, and he swayed, dizzy with surprise. She … it … possessed the most beautiful face he’d ever seen. A delicate nose flared in a perfect oval framed with fiery red tresses. Long, dark lashes fluttered over bright, exotically tilted blue eyes. A berry-red mouth formed an O. Ivory satin skin pinked over high cheekbones as he watched. Every feature vanished the instant the fog closed between him and the vision. Talon choked on the nauseating aroma of death and lavender mixed with the sea-scented fog. The smell dissipated as quickly as the last glimmer of light. However, that hideous, grinding wail lingered, the aural guardian of a soul doomed for eternity to search out a body no doubt long dead.

What was he thinking? The bright blue eyes had blinked. The berry lips had gasped. She’d even blushed. Whoever she was, that head belonged to a very live woman. He settled back into the saddle and hauled his mount’s head around. With as much speed as he thought safe, given the lack of visibility, Talon hurried after the dying wail, heartened when he heard it rise again, for that meant he was nearing his quarry.

He moved along, pursuing the noise and the woman until his horse once again refused to move. What was wrong with the beast? Talon growled. He could either stay with the horse and lose the maid, or follow the maid and … And what? Stumble blind over a cliff into the sea and lose not only his horse but his life? Nay, only a madman would go wandering around unknown ground in a fog this thick, which made the dunces back in the alehouse look very wise indeed.

Cold chattered Talon’s teeth, and damp soaked his clothing. He needed shelter. No doubt that’s what his mount had been trying to tell him. He could hear his good friend and fellow herald Amis Du Grace laughing in agreement that Talon’s horse was smarter than its rider. He shook his head—once again single-minded determination had led him into trouble. Still, the trouble would be worth it, if he could serve the Earl of Hawksedge even a small amount of the anguish the man had served a six-year-old boy tossed from his home and labeled a bastard.

Talon dismounted and moved to his steed’s head. The animal needed a stern lecture on obeying its rider. The fog became darker just ahead of him. “I’ve had enough nonsense for one day,” he said, whether to the horse or the fog was hard to tell. “There are no such things as ghosts or disembodied heads that blink and blush.” He lengthened his stride, hoping to pull his mount forward, and ran smack into black stone.

He’d found Hawksedge Keep.

Purchase The Herald’s Heart at Amazon.com. Find Rue Allyn at RueAllyn.com

Medieval Monday Exchange blogs:

Barbara Bettis http://www.barbarabettis.blogspot.com

Cathy MacRae http://cathymacraeauthor.com/bits-n-bobs

Jenna Jaxon http://jennajaxon.wordpress.com

Ashley York http://www.ashleyyorkauthor.com/blog

Mary Morgan http://www.marymorganauthor.com/blog

Bambi Lynn https://bambilynnblog.wordpress.com/

Ruth Casie http://ruthacasie.blogspot.com/

Rue Allyn https://authortravels.com/

An Author Travels First ~ Release Tour for To Find A Viking Treasure

to-find-a-viking-treasure-tour-bannerThe Author Travels Blog is pleased to announce we are a stop on the release tour for Gina Conkle’s To Find a Viking Treasure ~ Norse series, Book 2. This blog rarely participates in tours, but Gina (who visited on Sept. 14th) and her books deserve more than one look. If you haven’t yet tried one of Ms. Conkle’s books, please try one.

Here’s a bit about To Find a Viking Treasure ~ Norse series, Book 2ginaconkle_tofindavikingtreasure_hr

GENRE – Viking romance, PUBLISHER – NYLA (self-pub), COVER ARTIST – Kim Killion, RELEASE DATE – September 13, 2016, LENGTH (#Pages/# Words) – 200, NOTE – Readers do not need to read the series in order.

BLURB:

Survival’s in his blood
Rough-souled Brandr’s ready for a new life far from Uppsala, but he can’t stop thinking of a certain flame-haired thrall named Sestra who gets under his skin. Before he leaves for good, the Viking has one final task —Protect her at all costs.

Saving others is her purpose
A slave since birth, Sestra’s life has been filled with hardship…until she learns of a treasure hoard. With war coming, claiming the riches will save lives, but only one Viking can help her on this journey —Brandr, the fierce silver-eyed scout.

Chasing more than silver and gold
Brandr and Sestra have shared taunts and barbs. Now they must share trust in what becomes a desperate bid to survive. Passions flare as secrets unfold, leading one to make a daring sacrifice that changes everything on their quest To Find a Viking Treasure

BUY & TBR LINKS:  AMAZON KINDLE US – AMAZON KINDLE CA – AMAZON KINDLE UK – ITUNES

BARNES & NOBLES NOOK – GOODREADS – KOBO

EXCERPT  Rated PG-   Brandr sliced the oars through water…back and forth, his body’s motion hypnotic and smooth. “Go ahead. Talk to me.”

The Viking could be a mystical warrior dressed in black against waning fog, his graveled voice working a kind of silken magic. Sun shined through clouds, the pearled orb anointing his head. Perhaps Odin did send Brandr to save the day.

Wraiths rose up from the channel as if to push them along. Did the Norse gods want them to succeed? She didn’t believe in Odin and his Valkyries, but the stories Vikings spun at night entranced her.

“You could tell me what you’ll do with your reward,” she said.

He snorted. “I said you could talk to me. Not the other way around.”

“That’s not how it works. People take turns talking and listening to each other. It’s called conversation.” She angled her head coyly. “Vikings can do it. I’ve seen it happen.”

Brandr squinted at tree tops rising above the mist. “Never been much for talk.”

“Your mouth never stops when trading jibes with me.”

His chuckle was raspy and low. “You have a way of loosening my tongue.”

To her shame, his laugh cut a scorching path through her body and her legs fell open under her skirts. Her knees were heavy, and she left them open.

“You’re a warrior long in service to Lord Hakan. Surely you’ll get a bigger reward than a handful of coins?”

His tarnished silver eyes pinned her. “Maybe I get you.”

AUTHOR BIO

Years ago I eloped at midnight after my favorite alpha male (Brian) won a game of pool. We got married the next morning in Vegas and life’s been an adventure ever since! We have two teenage boys who keep us hopping. Family vacations often take us to museums, castles, and forts, which my sons like better than roller coasters. Viking and Georgian romance is my happy place to read and write. My other happy places are times with friends, cooking, a little gardening, and a long ago love for exercise that I keep trying to revive.

AUTHOR FOLLOW LINKS:  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE – WEBSITE / BLOG – FACEBOOK – TWITTER – GOOGLE+PINTEREST – GOODREADS – INSTAGRAM – BOOKBUB – NEWSLETTER for FREE READ

Gina Conkle Talks Cowboys and Vikings

50-percentA few weeks ago I met author Gina Conkle in person for the first time. What a treat. Gina is an intelligent, compassionate, very talented author with a lively sense of humor. Please welcome her and follow along as she takes us to travels to 11th century Scandinavia and gives us a glimpse of her latest book, To Find a Viking Treasure.

How to Fall in Love: Vikings or Cowboys: There’s nothing like a long-legged, male swaggering across the page to make your heart swoon. They can be the strong silent type or the leader of the pack. Bold, brash, and wearing boots, we love our alpha heroes. But comparing Vikings to cowboys? That’s apples and oranges, isn’t it?

Here’s 10 Fun Facts to Consider:

  1. Both Wore Boots : Who doesn’t love a man in boots? Cowboys wore the leather variety. Vikings wore leather, or fur boots cross-gartered to hold them up.
  1. Both Wore Hats: Cowboys wore broad brimmed hats. Vikings wore basinet helmets with iron nose guards (no horns!). Some Vikings also wore helmets with iron eye-rings (strips of iron bent into a circle to protect their eyes). Wealthy Vikings wore chain mail to protect their necks.
  1. Both Wore Weapons:  Cowboys had their six-shooters and rifles. Vikings were walking arsenals: swords for wealthier warriors, axes and hammers for the common man
  1. Both Rode Horses: The horse was the main transportation for cowboys. They also rode in wagon trains. Vikings liked war horses and sleek, keeled ships (not a lot of wheeled carts/wagon transports for Vikings and those wagons that have been unearthed had clunky solid wooden wheels). Cowboys road in quietly (or announced their arrival with a bugle if they rode in the cavalry). By contrast, Vikings packs put large iron ring chains across their horses’ chests to scare the living daylights out of their opponents.

Here’s where Vikings and Cowboys go their separate ways on this list.

  1. The Loner and the Wolf Pack: By old west lore, cowboy romances usually start out with a loner. Oh, I know there were banditos and rustlers who traveled in groups. But, by and large, if someone asks “List Cowboy Traits” loner would make the list. Ranches were spread out, lending to isolated living. Vikings raided in wolf packs. Many lived communally in longhouses and ringed forts. There were loners, but to survive the icy northlands, Vikings needed to work in groups more than independently.
  1. Who Wore the Pants? Historical cowboys “wore the pants” on the range or the ranch. Sure, women had to be strong and independent in the old west, but cowboys and Vikings hit a big fork in the road here. Viking women stood toe to toe with their men. They could be shield maidens and fight if they choose. They easily inherited land and wealth in the Dark Ages. Some rose to power as governmental leaders as far back as AD 876. They could even divorce if they choose (by gathering witnesses and announcing their divorce at their longhouse lintel and again by their bed). A woman needed a lawyer and a lot of money to divorce in the old west. It didn’t happen very often.
  1. Outlaws: Outlaw cowboys robbed banks and stagecoaches for personal gain. Vikings raided or stole buried treasure hoards for personal but more often for settlement gain. And we love those bad boys with a heart of gold!
  1. Home on the Range or Roam the Range: Cowboys roamed wide open country. Most stayed here in the USA (with some going to South America). Vikings by contrast traveled far and wide. Archaeologists are still discovering more far flung places Vikings visited. When it comes to the adventurous spirit, Vikings were the boldest and brashest at exploring the four corners of the earth.
  1. Tall Tales: Cowboys have campfire stories, but Vikings made the annals of literary history. They have their own set of literature – the Sagas. In today’s mass market literature, there’s a lot more cowboy romances out there than Viking romances. Don’t you think we need more hot heroes from the north? I hope you’ll tilt the scales in favor of Vikings and read my book, To Find a Viking Treasure.
  1. They Save the Day: No matter if your hero rides in from a dusty western trail or races ashore on a fast ship, cowboys and Vikings make fine book boyfriends.

Now you tell me, what surprised you from the list above?

Here’s a bit about To Find a Viking Treasure ~ Norse series, Book 2ginaconkle_tofindavikingtreasure_hr

GENRE – Viking romance, PUBLISHER – NYLA (self-pub), COVER ARTIST – Kim Killion, RELEASE DATE – September 13, 2016, LENGTH (#Pages/# Words) – 200, NOTE – Readers do not need to read the series in order.

BLURB:

Survival’s in his blood
Rough-souled Brandr’s ready for a new life far from Uppsala, but he can’t stop thinking of a certain flame-haired thrall named Sestra who gets under his skin. Before he leaves for good, the Viking has one final task —Protect her at all costs.

Saving others is her purpose
A slave since birth, Sestra’s life has been filled with hardship…until she learns of a treasure hoard. With war coming, claiming the riches will save lives, but only one Viking can help her on this journey —Brandr, the fierce silver-eyed scout.

Chasing more than silver and gold
Brandr and Sestra have shared taunts and barbs. Now they must share trust in what becomes a desperate bid to survive. Passions flare as secrets unfold, leading one to make a daring sacrifice that changes everything on their quest To Find a Viking Treasure

BUY & TBR LINKS:  AMAZON KINDLE US – AMAZON KINDLE CA – AMAZON KINDLE UK – ITUNES

BARNES & NOBLES NOOK – GOODREADS – KOBO

EXCERPT  Rated PG-   Brandr sliced the oars through water…back and forth, his body’s motion hypnotic and smooth. “Go ahead. Talk to me.”

The Viking could be a mystical warrior dressed in black against waning fog, his graveled voice working a kind of silken magic. Sun shined through clouds, the pearled orb anointing his head. Perhaps Odin did send Brandr to save the day.

Wraiths rose up from the channel as if to push them along. Did the Norse gods want them to succeed? She didn’t believe in Odin and his Valkyries, but the stories Vikings spun at night entranced her.

“You could tell me what you’ll do with your reward,” she said.

He snorted. “I said you could talk to me. Not the other way around.”

“That’s not how it works. People take turns talking and listening to each other. It’s called conversation.” She angled her head coyly. “Vikings can do it. I’ve seen it happen.”

Brandr squinted at tree tops rising above the mist. “Never been much for talk.”

“Your mouth never stops when trading jibes with me.”

His chuckle was raspy and low. “You have a way of loosening my tongue.”

To her shame, his laugh cut a scorching path through her body and her legs fell open under her skirts. Her knees were heavy, and she left them open.

“You’re a warrior long in service to Lord Hakan. Surely you’ll get a bigger reward than a handful of coins?”

His tarnished silver eyes pinned her. “Maybe I get you.”

AUTHOR BIO

Years ago I eloped at midnight after my favorite alpha male (Brian) won a game of pool. We got married the next morning in Vegas and life’s been an adventure ever since! We have two teenage boys who keep us hopping. Family vacations often take us to museums, castles, and forts, which my sons like better than roller coasters. Viking and Georgian romance is my happy place to read and write. My other happy places are times with friends, cooking, a little gardening, and a long ago love for exercise that I keep trying to revive.

AUTHOR FOLLOW LINKS:  AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE – WEBSITE / BLOG – FACEBOOK – TWITTER – GOOGLE+PINTEREST – GOODREADS – INSTAGRAM – BOOKBUB – NEWSLETTER for FREE READ

Celebrating the Release of The Knight Chronicles ~ The Complete Series

KEcoverKnight ProtectorKnight DefenderHALFToday is release day for The Knight Chronicles boxed set. I’m celebrating at Romance Lives Forever https://romancelivesforever.blogspot.com/2016/…/allyn12.html. Feel free to share. TKS. Please share, or tweet The Knight Chronicles: The Complete Series a new Medieval Romance #BoxedSet @RueAllyn #RLFblog 

BioMuseo ~ Panama City, Panama

So here we are, once again, in Panama, and we finally had time to visit the BioMuseo—a fascinating natural history museum with terrific views of the Panama City skyline and waters at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. The BioMuseo also has a fascinating botanical garden that will only get better as the years go by. Here are some of the sites we saw today.

pbmskyline

Above is the skyline of Panama City seen from an upper level of the BioMuseo. By contrast and from the same level, below is the roof of a hut on the BioMuseo property. Used to give educational presentations, the hut is thatched with traditional materials and in a manner still used by some of the native peoples who live in the Panamanian rain forests.

pbmhut

The next two photos are of some of the plants in the BioMuseo’s botanical gardens. The first is a coconut palm.

pbmcoconutpalm

I could not find a sign or a guide to tell me the name of the plant shown in the next image. So if you know what it is, please feel free to leave a comment and let me know too. Whatever it is; I think it’s really pretty.

pbmflower

As I was searching for interesting plants and structures to show the diversity of sights in and around the BioMuseo, I saw this cargo ship exiting the western end of the Panama Canal. The thing is huge, and I wasn’t certain I could get it all into one shot. My DH thinks the containers are probably empty because, he says, the ship is riding very high in the water.

pbmfreighter

This last image is not from the BioMuseo, but one view from our high rise hotel room. I’ll have others to share in future blogs. For now, buenas noches.

proomview1

 

 

 

Templar Treasure in Scotland?

ForbiddenLegacyPlease welcome Diana Cosby who will take us on a journey to 13th century Scotland in search of lost treasure with a look at her novel Forbidden Legacy ~ The Forbidden Series # 1.

Fascinated by the Knights Templars, I was thrilled at the opportunity to write The Forbidden series.  After hundreds of years, many questions remain about where the Templars fled, what treasure they took, and how were so many valiant knights able to disappear without a trace. In The Forbidden Series, I weave my character’s journey, where they face challenges, and in end fall in love, around these questions and more.

Story ideas come to me in numerous ways.  With Forbidden Legacy, the first book in The Forbidden Series, the hero, Stephan MacQuistan, Earl of Dunsmore, woke me up demanding I write his story.  I spent the next year and a half researching the Knights Templars, and continued researching while crafting Forbidden Legacy.

With an alpha hero, I knew my heroine needed to be strong, and Lady Katherine Calbraith, a fierce, independent woman, was born.  I added tension to the story by forcing her and Stephan into a marriage of convenience, in a setting of Scotland at war.

As a major plotter, I enjoyed weaving in the fascinating history of the Templars into my story along with my speculation as to where their fleet and many of the Brotherhood could have escaped to prior to the arrests beginning in France on the 13th of October, 1307.  In this myth-rich topic, the question of where they could have hidden their treasures still intrigues many today.

I hope you enjoy Stephan and Katherine’s journey where they are forced into a union neither wants, and throughout their danger-ridden adventure, secure the Templar treasures from prying eyes, and in the end find love.

Sincerely,

Diana Cosby

AGC(AW) USN, Ret.

Blurb: A Knights Templar, Sir Stephan MacQuistan desires no bride, only vengeance for a family lost and a legacy stolen.  A profound twist of fate tears apart the brotherhood he loves, but offers him an opportunity to reclaim his legacy – Avalon Castle.  Except to procure his childhood home along with a place to store Templar treasures, he must wed the unsuspecting daughter of the man who killed his family. To settle old scores, Stephan agrees aware Katherine is but a pawn in a dangerous game, not a woman he will ever love.

Follow this link to read an excerpt.

Buy Links:  Amazon  Barnes & Noble  BAM  Google Play  iTunes  Kindle  KOBO  Kensington Publishing CorpNOOK

Diana CosbyAbout Diana Cosby: A retired Navy Chief, Diana Cosby is an international bestselling author of Scottish medieval romantic suspense.  Books in her award-winning MacGruder Brothers series are translated in five languages.  Diana has spoken at the Library of Congress, Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC, and appeared in Woman’s Day, on USA Today’s romance blog, “Happy Ever After,” MSN.com, Atlantic County Women Magazine, and Texoma Living Magazine.

After her career in the Navy, Diana dove into her passion – writing romance novels. With 34 moves behind her, she was anxious to create characters who reflected the amazing cultures and people she’s met throughout the world.  With the release of the third book in The Oath Trilogy and the e Box Set of the MacGruder Brothers series, she is now preparing for the release of the first book in The Forbidden Series, Forbidden Legacy, on 16 August 2016!

Diana looks forward to the years of writing ahead and meeting the amazing people who will share this journey.

www.dianacosby.com or contact Diana on Facebook.

 

 

#MedievalMonday Water Water Everywhere and . . . Oh My What’s That from Lane McFarland’s Elspeth

Excerpt:

ElsbethExhausted from a sleepless night spent on the unforgiving ground, Elsbeth curled on her side with Mum’s little wooden cross clutched in her hand. She stared at the campfire’s dying embers glowing through charred wood and ash. It would be light soon, and the group would continue their journey to Stonecrest.

Conflicting emotions churned her stomach like turbulent tides. Her heart fluttered at the memory of riding with Brandon but squeezed when she recalled his violent nature. She closed her eyes and tried to conjure Fabien’s image, his light hair and smiling face. But Brandon’s dark eyes and boyish grin emerged before her.

Wishing to get the man out of her head, she rose and wrapped her blanket around her shoulders. Bea slept beside the orphans, and Brandon’s men lay clustered in the small clearing. Elsbeth tiptoed from camp and strolled along a narrow dirt path, winding through trees and down to the loch. Brisk air blew off the water, and chill bumps peppered her skin. She rubbed her arms and tugged the blanket tighter about her neck.

Dawn bathed the awakening forest in golden hues, and fog wafted off the tranquil loch. A black-throated diver floated across the pond. The industrious bird disappeared beneath the surface, leaving nothing but ripples in its place. As she’d done so many times beside Da’s loch, Elsbeth studied the calm water and tried to guess where the creature would re-appear. Moments passed. Not even an air-bubble crested. Without so much as a splash, the creature bobbed to the top with a wiggling fish in its black bill.

Wistful memories of playing with her sisters while Mum and Da rested beneath a shade tree surfaced. Three long years had passed since she’d last seen her family. She was homesick and longed for those precious, carefree days.

The sun stretched, sending its warming rays through an arbor of branches and leaves. Brushing aside her melancholy, Elsbeth continued along the light-dappled trail. A thunderous roar drifted on the wind, and she hurried downhill to view the water cascading over a stone ledge. Mist off the noisy flow dotted her face, and a rainbow of blue, red, and yellow arched from one side of the falls to the other.

She hiked her skirt, hopped to a flat stone, then another, and landed on a grey boulder positioned before the falls. Stretching her legs, she settled in to enjoy the stunning view.

A torrent poured over the shelf’s edge into a deep pool. Spray wafted from the churning white water, sprinkling lush vegetation bordering a trail that snaked alongside the basin and disappeared behind the falls. Her gaze traveled across the deluge to the far side. Pleased to see the trail continued, she wondered what creatures stole behind the wall of water.

Her mind wandered back to Brandon McLeod. It aggravated her that he affected her so. She must keep her distance, but accomplishing such a feat while traveling with him would not be easy. Once Da arrived, she would leave the commander’s care and return home with the orphans. Until then, she would endeavor to stay away from the man.

Sadness washed over her and seeped into her heart. By all accounts, the plan should give her a sense of resolution, but the thought of leaving Brandon caused lonesome emptiness.

Something burst through the falls and dove into the deep pool.

Elsbeth gasped. She drew her legs beneath her bottom, poised to sprint. Her heart raced, and her gaze darted across the rippling water.

A man emerged.

Brandon.

Her breath caught at the sight of his broad shoulders and chiseled muscles. Black hair covered his sculpted chest and abdomen. He shook his head and droplets sluiced along his bronzed skin.

She swallowed, and her interest roamed lower, but the water’s shadowed darkness concealed his…other attributes.

He ran a hand through his wet hair as he waded in the basin.

She couldn’t look away. Curiosity and more than a twinge of disappointment piqued. Her eyes strained, and she craned her neck to have a better angle.

He raised his head, and his eyes locked on hers.

Heavens! He’d caught her admiring him. What the devil was wrong with her?

His boyish grin returned. “Good morn, Sister.”

 

Blurb:

Elsbeth MacDougall recoils at the violent Scottish rebellion and the bleak plight of orphans. Vowing to protect the homeless, she embarks on a journey to Scone and sets her course to become a nun, sheltering children from the cruelties of war. But when Brandon McLeod arrives at the Abby, he shakes her convictions and stirs provoking emotions she buried long ago.

After English soldiers murder his family, Brandon McLeod determines a course of revenge and leads numerous clans in Scotland’s fight for freedom. Bent on the annihilation of English oppression, he is resolved to a life of solitude, vowing never to marry and chance the pain of losing loved ones again. However, that was before he met the enchanting Elsbeth.

Buy Link: Amazon

 

#MedievalMondays2016 Nature Hides a Surprise in Bambi Lynn’s Mask of the Highlander

MaskoftheHighlander_E_cover_200EXCERPT

It was late afternoon by the time they arrived at the dilapidated cottage. The door was nearly impossible to find amidst the overgrowth, even to one who knew where it was. Ty halted his stallion nearby and helped Kenna down from her own horse.

She eyed him with the suspicion that had been growing steadily since they passed the first village. She had made no comment as they skirted the ramshackle huts, but her cheery prattle had diminished considerably. By the time they passed the second, she had clammed up like a mute and said nary a word. Since leaving the third village behind them, she had made no effort to hide her uncertainty.

Ty would have found her wariness endearing had he not known the source, but at least she did not cower from him in fear. The hate and loathing she had shown at his homecoming was gone, leaving only doubt and caution. He could not be more proud than to have a wife of such strength as Kenna Cleary Vass.

She stood there, looking back and forth from him to the hidden door. “What are we doing here?”

Her voice trembled. Ty ached to soothe her concerns, but nothing he could say would accomplish that. Soon enough she would trust him, and if not sooner, then later.

He smiled and jerked his head toward the mass of brambles that hid the cottage. “I have something for you…inside.” He reached through the brush and pushed the door open. Without waiting, he went inside and began lighting candles. By the time she joined him, the room was bathed in a soft glow that revealed a hideaway very different from the one they had visited the last time.

Kenna stopped just inside the threshold, a gasp of surprise the only sound in the small cottage. Ty busied himself starting a fire in the hearth, giving her time to look around. He squatted before the fire, staring at the growing flames. He ached to see her face, to know if she was pleased with what he had done.

He tensed when he felt her behind him. His body was already so hard for her. His craving surprised him at times. He was like a man starved, and she the only sustenance that could satisfy him. His skin tingled when she placed her hand on his shoulder.

“You did this?”

He stood, towering over her and filling the small room. “Lá breithe shona dhuit,” he whispered.

She frowned at the phrase. “It’s my birthday?” He nodded. She looked around with newfound surprise. “And all this…is for me?”

‘All this’ was a complete transformation of the sanctuary she had escaped to as a child. Gone were the few pieces of broken furniture, the cobwebs, the decades of dirt and neglect. The place had been scoured until nary a ball of dust remained, even the tiny window allowed in a scant amount of the remaining sunlight. The decrepit furniture had been replaced with a table, two short stools and a bed frame, a fresh inviting tick nestled inside. A bundle of primroses filled a vase in the middle of the table, filling the room with a spicy, comforting fragrance that reminded Ty of spring.

He smiled down at her. “I suppose fairies must have fixed the place up since the last time ye were here.” He took her hand and lifted it to his mouth, pressing a soft kiss to her palm. “D’ye like it, then?”

Tears sparkled on her lashes, and he could tell she had trouble speaking. He almost laughed. That must be a first. She laid her palm against his cheek, smoothing the patch that covered his eye and staring deep into the other one.

“No one has ever done anything like this for me. Thank you.”

He cocked his eyebrow at her, pressing her with his most devilish grin. “I hope ye have some other way of showin’ yer thanks?

BLURB

Kenna dreads her husband’s homecoming like the plague. The man she married is vile and cruel. She has prayed every day of his absence he would be killed in the fighting, freeing her from a life of brutal torment and a loveless marriage. But the man on her doorstep has changed. This man is kind, gentle and sparks a fire in her she never felt in the early days of her marriage.

Ty is returning home after years fighting in France. He yearns for the arms of his beautiful wife and to finally meet the daughter he has never known. But can Kenna forgive the man she married and love the man he has become?

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#MedievalMonday2016 Witch Power and Nature from Ruth A. Casie

The+Guardians+Witch+RuthACasieExcerpt from The Guardian’s Witch

The berries Lisbeth had gathered tumbled forgotten from her hands. A tremor touched her lips while the vision slammed behind her eyes. She didn’t doubt the vision’s truth. Sometimes a bright light, warm and comforting, accompanied the vision; other times the wind howled, cold and disturbing. Today, panic clearly filled the air.

She spun around trying to pinpoint a direction and abruptly stopped. Facing south, she licked her lips nervously and tasted the sweetness of fresh water. A rushing sound burst in her ears. The river. Her head snapped east toward the river path and she ran. As she careened down the narrow trail, the outstretched branches tugged at her dress, pulled off her shawl and clawed at her face and arms. She took no notice. The cadence of her footfalls beat out a mantra, not him, not him, not him. She rushed on faster, mumbling enchanted words under her breath.

She exploded out of the forest and stood on the riverbank as the bridge gave way, sending the horse and rider plunging into the angry current. Swiftly the horse surfaced and headed for shore with an empty saddle. She stood on the bank, still mumbling as she scanned the river until she glimpsed a clear red aura shining deep in its middle. Her relief was momentary when the blackness began to creep in. There wasn’t much time.

Quickly she pulled off her heavy dress and, wearing only her chemise, dove into the river. Save him was her only thought. Down she plunged kicking hard against the current. The usually clear water, now choked with mud, churned with debris. She screamed the words in her head and made her demands. In response, the current slowed and as the mud began to settle, a lifeless hand beckoned to her from below.

Desperate to reach him, she kicked hard toward the deep river bottom. She was a strong swimmer and reached him quickly. She pulled on his arm but he didn’t budge. Something pinned him in place. She dropped his hand and pulled herself around him. The murky water made it difficult for her to see what held him. She resorted to running her hand over every inch of his body to locate what kept him captive. Her lungs burned. She needed to surface but she pressed on.

Frantically her hands felt their way along his leg until she found his foot caught in the debris. She shoved the timber away. The exertion cost her precious time and air. With one hand she grabbed his shirt collar and kicked off the bottom. With her free arm she reached for the surface. She didn’t take her eyes off him.

The higher she got, the more the water cleared. The wild current fought to get free of her restraint. She didn’t think. She focused on getting Alex out of the water.

The hand holding Alex’s collar cramped, sending spasms of pain up her arm. She did not let go. The last of her breath spent, her lungs screamed for fresh air. She forced herself not to breathe. She was certain she would break free of the water soon. Alex’s weight pulled at her. She wasn’t making any progress. If she didn’t do something quickly they would be back on the bottom. She glanced up. The light was brighter. She was close now. She held her legs together and undulated like a graceful giant fish. Once again her free arm reached hard and pulled the water out of her way. One last hard kick and she exploded into the air as if propelled from underneath. Alex floated face down next to her.

She gulped for air, exhausted. There was no time to waste. She held on to him as the current pulled them toward the rapids and the steep falls beyond. She turned him onto his back and swam for shore. She dragged the large knight onto the bank where his warhorse stood snorting and stomping. Worn out but thankful, she collapsed next to Alex gasping for air. Her hand was on his chest.

He didn’t stir. She fixed her eyes on his chest but she didn’t see any movement. She scanned his face. A small trickle of water escaped his mouth.

She rolled him on his side and pounded on his back. Nothing. She pounded again. More water trickled out of his mouth. She reached inside his wet shirt. No heartbeat.

She kept the building panic at bay. Think. Calmness overcame her. She rolled him onto his back and knelt above him. She placed her mouth over his and gave him her breath. She’d given her breath before, when the blacksmith’s wife gave birth and the baby didn’t breathe. That day she had tried everything but nothing worked. She wanted to move the baby’s chest, just one breath. In desperation she breathed for the child. It worked then. It had to work now.

She felt the tingle at her lips and a dizzying current raced through her. She closed her eyes and gave him another breath. Her hand pressed hard against this chest. She searched for a heartbeat, the rise and fall of his chest, anything to indicate he lived.

He shuddered with a shallow breath. Reassured, she felt a faint but steady beat and sank back on her heels. She observed the deadly gray pallor on his face retreat. His arms twitched as they came to life. His face contorted in a spasm as he choked to clear his lungs. He pushed himself up coughing out the last of the river sludge and sucked in large quantities of air.

Relief surged through her. She rose, retrieved her dress lying in a pool of sunlight, and quickly slipped it on. She calmed the restless warhorse with her gentle touch and whispered words. When she ventured a glance at the knight, she found herself staring into his compelling gray eyes. His gaze was riveted on her face. A fresh spasm of coughing took him, and she turned to leave.

“Wait.” He struggled to get the word out.

She stopped and took a deep breath.

He shook his head. His eyelids slid closed and he fell onto his back. He was asleep before his head touched the ground.

Back Cover Copy from The Guardian’s Witch

Lord Alex Stelton can’t resist a challenge, especially one with a prize like this: protect a castle on the Scottish border for a year, and it’s his. Desperate for land of his own, he’ll do anything to win the estate—even enter a proxy marriage to Lady Lisbeth Reynolds, the rumored witch who lives there.

Feared and scorned for her second sight, Lisbeth swore she’d never marry, but she is drawn to the handsome, confident Alex. She sees great love with him but fears what he would think of her gift and her visions of a traitor in their midst.

Despite his vow never to fall in love, Alex can’t get the alluring Lisbeth out of his mind and is driven to protect her when attacks begin on the border. But as her visions of danger intensify, Lisbeth knows it is she who must protect him. Realizing they’ll secure their future only by facing the threat together, she must choose between keeping her magic a secret and losing the man she loves.

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#MedievalMonday16 Freedom or Destiny

TheHighlandersFrenchBride_high+resToday, author Cathy MacRae brings us the blessings of freedom in spring, when winter has released its frozen grip. Or is it destiny that after great deprivation comes great bounty–after death and despair come hope and the search for love? Please welcome Cathy and leave her a few comments about her excerpt from The Highlander’s French Bride.

Excerpt:

Seagulls shrieked as they circled overhead. The promise of spring was in the warm breezes and the green grasses. Young boys hurried after their wooly charges as the sheep eagerly sought the new fodder, tiny lambs tottering behind their dams on shaky new legs across the rocky landscape.

Brother Padraig clasped Kinnon’s shoulder. “My friend, ye are doing the right thing. Some serve in the world by preaching the Gospel, and a few give themselves over to God in solitude and silence with constant prayer and penance.” He smiled. “Yet others are called to married love, mayhap bringing new life into the world. I pray ye find whom ye seek, but there are always places to tend the poor and needy in this world. Ye need not take vows to help God.”

Kinnon gripped the monk’s upper arm, conveying his thanks in the strengthening grip, the earnestness of his gaze. “I have no words powerful enough to thank ye, Brother. Ye have given me much to contemplate, and have healed more than my poor body.”

“Rest is a balm for the soul and healing for the body,” Brother Padraig quipped. “I will take good care of wee Angus. `Tis a good thing ye decided to leave him here. After these past months without battling the rats for the last of the winter stores, I fear we would have had an uprising amongst the monks had ye insisted he go with ye.” He grinned. “Take care, my friend. If possible, I would hear word of yer travels.”

Kinnon stared deep into the monk’s kind eyes, hesitant to bring himself to the moment of parting. But the gentle thumping of the waves against the boat’s waiting hull reminded him the time to tarry was over.

Ranald’s men-at-arms met him as the boat docked on Mull, a horse saddled and waiting for him. Kinnon greeted them warmly, wondering at the sense of freedom stealing over him. It had begun as a flash of clarity the moment he’d resolved to search for Melisende. At first he wasn’t sure if he simply needed to be certain she and her sister had survived and were doing well, or if he truly longed to be with Melisende again. But the idea that she could have married in the years they’d been apart struck his chest with a peculiar agony that was a curious mix of anticipation and fear. The thought of another man holding her, loving her, being the center of her life, sent strong jolts of alarm through him.

It was then he realized he had to find her—for himself, not so he could worry less, but so he could care more.

Blurb:

Heir to a lairdship, Kinnon Macrory is driven to prove his worth by fighting the English on the battlefields of France. His dreams of heroic valor are destroyed by the realities of war—the atrocities visited by fellow soldiers on the very people he is sworn to protect. Three years in a French prison for a crime he did not commit leave Kinnon longing for the one thing of beauty in his war-torn life—a young woman of great kindness and wisdom named Melisende.

Melisende de la Roche struggles to stay one step ahead of soldiers who would imprison her for helping an injured Scotsman wrongly accused of treason. She finds refuge in her uncle’s shop—until a chance encounter sends her fleeing into the unknown once again, haunted by the beguiling friendship with the troubled young Scotsman she is certain she will never see again.

Determined to find the woman of his dreams, Kinnon returns to France, only to discover a trail of clues to Melisende’s whereabouts. Their reunion will open the doors to passion, but half-truths and lies from the past could destroy the one thing they both are willing to fight for—each other.

Buy Link: Amazon