Under Construction with a New Focus

Hello everyone! For the past few months I’ve backed off from this blog due to personal issues. I’ve missed you all and look forward to getting back into it!

I’ll have more updates coming soon but in the meantime, this blog will be undergoing a revamp. So pardon the dust!

Gina

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A Murdered Peace by Candace Robb – Historical Mystery with a Giveaway

A Murdered Peace by Candace Robb

Publication Date: December 11, 2018
Pegasus Books
Paperback & eBook; 304 Pages
Series: Kate Clifford, Book 3
Genre: Historical Mystery

It is deep winter in York, 1400, the ground frozen, the short days dimmed with the smoke from countless fires, the sun, when it shines, low in the sky. It is rumored that the Epiphany Uprising, meant to relieve the realm of the Henry the usurper and return King Richard to the throne has, instead, spelled his doom. As long as Richard lives, he is a threat to Henry. So, too, the nobles behind the plot. The ringleaders have been caught, some slaughtered as they fled west by folk loyal to Henry, and the kingís men now search the towns for survivors.

A perilous time, made worse for Kate Clifford by the disappearance of Berend, her cook and confidante, shortly after Christmas. Her niece saw his departure in a dreamóhe said he was honor bound to leave. Honor boundóto a former lord? One of the nobles who led the uprising? Is he alive? She is hardly consoled when Berend reappears, wounded, secretive, denying any connection to the uprising, but refusing to explain himself. When he is accused of brutally murdering a spice seller in the city, Kate discovers a chest of jewels in his possession. Some of the jewels belong to her old friend Lady Margery, wanted by the king for her husbandís part in the uprising. For the sake of their long friendship, and the love she and her wards bear for him, Kate wants to believe his innocence. So, too, does Sir Elric. And he has the powerful backing of the Earl of Westmoreland. All she need do is confide in him. If only she trusted her heart.

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Praise for A Murdered Peace

ìThose who meddle in the affairs of kings live to regret it. A…tale of love and murder set in a turbulent period when death and betrayal lurk around every corner.î -Kirkus Reviews

ìSuperior. Robb effortlessly integrates the eraís intrigues into a whodunit framework and peoples the plot with a wide array of characters readers will come to care about.î –Publishers Weekly (starred)

ìA fine flowing narrative and a genuine sense of mystery and peril.î -Writers & Readers

About the Author

Candace Robb is the bestselling author of sixteen crime novels set in fourteenth century England, Wales, and Scotland, including the acclaimed Owen Archer series and the Margaret Kerr trilogy. Candace lives in Seattle, Washington.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, December 11
100 Pages a Day
Bookish Rantings

Wednesday, December 12
The Lit Bitch
Bri’s Book Nook
Passages to the Past

Thursday, December 13
Creating Herstory
Just One More Chapter

Friday, December 14
What Is That Book About
Jennifer Tar Heel Reader

Saturday, December 15
Old Timey Books
Historical Fiction with Spirit

Sunday, December 16
Donna’s Book Blog
Hoover Book Reviews

Monday, December 17
The Writing Desk

Tuesday, December 18
A Book Geek
Tea Book Blanket

Wednesday, December 19
Umut Reviews
The Book Junkie Reads

Thursday, December 20
Clarissa Reads it All
For the Sake of Good Taste

Friday, December 21
Jathan & Heather
Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed set of Candace Robb’s Kate Clifford series! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 21st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Giveaway is open to US residents only.
Only one entry per household.
All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Murdered Peace

 

Historical Fantasy Lovers, Read an Excerpt of Song of Sacrifice by Janell Rhiannon – Giveaway!

Song of Sacrifice
Janell Rhiannon
(Homeric Chronicles, #1)
Publication date: December 26th 2018
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Historical

The heart of the Trojan War belongs to the women.

Mothers and daughters; wives and war prizes, whisper to us across time…

…remember our songs alongside the mighty men of myth.

As the Age of Heroes wanes, the gods gamble more fiercely with mortals’ lives than they ever have before. Women must rely on their inner strength and cunning to survive the wars men wage for gold and glory.

Clytemnestra of Mycenae struggles for control of her life after Agamemnon ruthlessly rips it apart. Leda of Sparta survives a brutal assault by Zeus, shouldering a terrible secret in silence. Penelope raises Ithaka’s sole heir alone, praying for Odysseus’ swift return. Thetis, the sea nymph, despairs of her son’s destiny and resorts to forbidden magic to save him. Hecuba of Troy mourns the loss of her second son to a dark prophesy. And Shavash of Pedasus prepares her daughter to marry the greatest warrior who ever lived.

In a world where love leads to war and duty leads to destruction, the iron hearts of heroines will conquer all.

Sing, Muse, sing their song of sacrifice…

Replaces Song of Princes as the first book in the Homeric Chronicles.

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EXCERPT:




LYRNESSUS

THRITY FOUR, Briseis and Mynes

1262 BCE

“YOUR KINGDOM SOMEDAY, little one.” Briseis rested her hands beneath her round belly, as the child stretched against her ribs. Leaning to the side, she attempted to avoid the uncomfortable tightness building at her lower back. The ache eased and she breathed easy again. Standing from the reclining couch, Briseis walked to the balcony overlooking Lyrnessus’ fields. If she squint her eyes, she could just make out the pale blue of the horizon across the Bay of Edremit. Much farther to the north, she knew Troy stood as the shining citadel of the East. “In another time, that would’ve been yours. I’d thought it mine, before―” Another pain doubled her and she gripped the banister. “By the balls of Zeus! What’s happening?”

Your daughter seeks the light …

Briseis looked around the chamber. “Who’s there?”

Have no fear, daughter, I am with you.

Another pain, this time much sharper and stronger, ripped across her belly and a gush of bloody water splashed at her feet. “Bree! Come quickly! Bree!”

The princess’ chamber door flew open, as the maid servant took in the scene before her. “My lady! By the gods, it’s your time!”

Briseis’ eyes widened in fear. “So soon? I’m not ready. I have―” Her knees buckled.

“My lady!” Bree swept to Briseis’ side, lifting the princess to her feet, half carrying her to the chamber bed.

“The pain. By the … balls of … Zeus. I.can.scarce.breathe.”

There is glory in your pain, Briseis.

“Bree, who else is here?”

“No one, yet,” she said, tucking a sheet about the princess. Bree ran to the door, yelling down the cavernous hall for the midwife. Within moments a gaggle of women flew through the door clucking about the impending royal birth.

Briseis’ scream startled them all. The midwife was at the princess’ side in the blink of an eye, pulling back the privacy sheet. Her hands firmly palpated Briseis’ belly. Without a word, she pushed Briseis’ thighs apart. Her eyes widened.

“What’s wrong?” Briseis asked, tears spilling down her hot cheeks.

The midwife pressed her lips together in a grim line. “My lady, this will be a difficult birth. I must put my hand inside of you to confirm my suspicions.”

“Do it!” Briseis screamed as another pain wracked her body. She groaned in agony as the midwife’s hand pressed into her. “By the gods …”

Bree pressed a cool cloth to her lady’s forehead and cheek.

“The child is breech,” the midwife pronounced, wiping her hands on a towel. A hush settled around the chamber. They all knew it was likely a death sentence to mother, child, or both.

Briseis wept. “No. No. By the gods, no!” Another pain tore through her.

Bree dipped the cooling cloth in the water basin again. “Can nothing be done? Can you save Princess Briseis?”

Briseis rolled back against the cushions. “Save my child, please.”

If that is your wish …

Yes, save my child. “Save my child. Take me instead.”

Bree’s face whitened. “What’s she saying?”

The midwife answered, “What all women say, when faced with such a choice.”

A dusty swirl of air blew into the chamber, snuffing out the oil lamps. The women froze, as a tall, glittering woman emerged from the small storm. Her gown flashed silver and gold. They fell to their knees, heads bowed, the goddess’ name on their lips … Eleithyia.

The goddess glided to Briseis’ side, stars blinking along the hem of her gown as she moved. She reached out a pale, cool hand to Briseis’ forehead. “Calm yourself, daughter. I’m here.”

Briseis smiled weakly. “Gratitude, Goddess.”

Eleithyia signaled to Bree. “You appear a strong maid. Help me set her onto her knees and place her hands on your shoulders.” She looked to the midwife. “Watch. Learn.”

The midwife nodded, as Briseis was placed into position.

The goddess moved her hands on either side of Briseis’ hard belly, running her palms flat against the lower abdomen. “Now, push your daughter to the light. Push like a warrior afield. Push for your life and for hers.”

Briseis cried out in agony, her limbs shaking with effort. Blood spilled as the child’s buttocks crowned.

“Hold your lady tightly.” Eleithyia’s voice was steady, as her hands worked calmly. Gently, she pulled each leg to length. “Push, Briseis.” The goddess, holding the babe with both hands, slightly turned the torso, releasing a shoulder blade and freeing the arm. Then, repeated the same for the other arm. The women gasped as the child hung half-suspended, face down, from Briseis’ body. Eleithyia positioned one hand on the baby’s chest, while the fingers of her other hand cradled the neck and head. “One last push, Briseis. Victory is yours with this battle.”

Briseis’ fingers dug into Bree’s shoulders. She screamed with her final effort, as the goddess guided the slippery child to the light. The princess collapsed against her maid, weeping with her exertions and aching body. Gently, Bree lay Briseis down.

Eleithyia handed the limp newborn to the midwife. “Rub the baby with clean linen, until she cries.” Turning to Briseis, she said, “You’ve won this battle, but you’ll lose the war.”

“What do you mean? What war?”

The goddess stood to her full height, sparkling in the dimly lit room. “The one inside of your heart, daughter.” With the ominous words still hanging in the air, Eleithyia’s image shimmered to nothing.

The midwife stared at the spot the goddess had stood. “By all that is sacred, I never thought in all my days to witness this. Blessed be our princess and her child.”

“Bring me my daughter,” Briseis said, proudly. Once the weight of her baby was settled in her arms, she smiled and joyful tears filled her eyes. “Phila, for love conquers all.”

Author Bio:

In graduate school, Janell focused on the ancient history of Greece and Rome. Hooked by the “sword and sandal” world, she studied everything she could about mythology and Alexander the Great.

The Homeric Chronicles series is dedicated to merging dozens of Greek myths, including Homer’s epics, with plays, history, and archaeology. Her intent is to raise the heroines’ voices equally alongside the heroes, opening up a traditionally male focused genre to a female audience.

She lives in CA and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. She has a pack of two big dogs and two cats.

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The Viking’s Captive by Quinn Loftis – Excerpt and Giveaway!

The Viking’s Captive by Quinn Loftis

(Clan Hakon #2)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: November 27th 2018
Genres: Historical, Young Adult

Prophecy spoken.

Alliances broken.

Will duty come before love?

The Viking’s Captive is the exciting sequel toThe Viking’s
Chosen
by USA Today Bestseller Quinn Loftis.

Two worlds collide in this epic historical fiction centered on an undeniable chemistry
that smolders against the odds. Richly written and injected with moments of humor, this
action-packed romantic tale will leave you breathless.

Novels in The Clan Hakon Series Include:

The Viking’s Chosen (February 12, 2018)

The Viking’s Captive (November 27, 2018)

The Viking’s Consort (Fall 2019)

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EXCERPT:

Chapter 1

“If you vomit on my lap, I will most likely throw you overboard,” Dayna, my incredibly helpful sister, told me for the fourth or fifth time.
“If you hadn’t come running after me like a sodding fool, you wouldn’t have gotten yourself captured. Then you wouldn’t even be on this boat, and you wouldn’t have to worry about me vomiting on you, now, would you?” I asked as I clutched my midsection. My stomach seemed to think it should take its cues from the ocean upon which we sailed. It rolled and flipped just like the waves.
“First, if I hadn’t come after you, then that would make me a coward and not much of a sister, so that was never an option. Second, if I hadn’t gotten captured, then you would be all alone with no one to hold your hair while you vomit, now, wouldn’t you?”
“Do we have to use the term vomit in every sentence?” Hilda, the Hakon clan Oracle, healer, and Torben’s mother, asked dryly.
“Apparently, we do since you just used it yourself,” Dayna pointed out.
Hilda shot me a sly grin, with one eyebrow raised, asked, “You don’t mind if I just put a small hex on her, do you?”
“She is my sister, so I’d rather you didn’t.”
“Thank you,” Dayna said a bit smugly.
“But if you feel it’s absolutely necessary, I guess I could overlook it,” I added, earning me a pinch from said sister.
I had no idea how long it had been since Magnus, Torben’s jarl, had captured us. On one hand, he’d done me a favor. I certainly wasn’t going to have to marry Cathal now. On the other hand, my sister and I were now the prisoners of a man who was slowly losing his mind. I wasn’t sure which was worse, being married to a madman or being stolen by one. For whatever reason, I seemed to have suddenly become a hot commodity to lunatics. I chuckled to myself.
“Pray tell, sister, what is so funny?” Dayna asked.
“Madmen want me,” I said as I groaned and shifted my head, which was indeed lying in my sister’s lap, where I very well might have been sick at any second.
“Do you think she’s already delirious from being at sea?” Dayna asked Hilda.
Hilda snorted¾a most unladylike sound. “We’ve only been at sea for half a day at most. If she’s already delirious, then we are going to need to shore up her constitution.”
I was just about to tell her where she could shove her shoring up when I quickly covered my mouth and sat up. I refused to vomit. If I did, it would feel like Magnus was winning in some bizarre, silent game between the two of us. Once I was sure I could open my mouth without anything but words coming out of it, I addressed Hilda. “I am feeling more than just my own illness, worry, and fear.” I pressed my hand to my heart and rubbed it as if that could somehow remove the ache. “There’s a pain deep in my breast.”
Hilda nodded. “That would be the anchor bond between you and my son. You are feeling his worry and fear as well as your own. And knowing how deeply Torben feels anything, I imagine he is in quite a bit of distress, though he won’t show it on the outside.” She shook her head. “No, he’s a warrior through and through. On the outside, he will look as though he could slit your throat without a second thought. But on the inside, he is frantic to get to you.”
“Is that why you weren’t wailing about the possibility of Torben being dead when Magnus said he was?” Dayna asked.
“I would know if he were dead. A part of me would die inside as well.” I looked back to Hilda. “Will he kill Magnus?” I asked.
She nodded. “It is his destiny to become jarl of the Hakon clan, as it is your destiny to rule at his side. For that to happen, the old jarl must die. Magnus will never relinquish power willingly. Our two nations will grow stronger, not only because they embrace one another’s differences, but because they need new blood. Your offspring will be strong.”
The boat gave a mighty heave, and Dayna and I both nearly fell off the small bench upon which we were perched. Hilda didn’t appear bothered at all by the motion. She noticed the expression I was giving her and shrugged.
“I’ve lived at sea a long time. She and I are well acquainted.”
“Forgive me for speaking out of turn,” Dayna said, gripping the seat beneath her as though it might try to toss her into the bottom of the boat, “but your life has been about as fun as a house rat’s on cleaning day if you’ve spent that much time on the ocean.”
Later in Chapter 1
I closed my eyes once again and focused on the man my heart and soul longed for.
“Torben?” I asked hesitantly. There was no response, and I felt the momentary spark of hope dwindle. How could we have just found one another, just accepted what we were to one another, only to be ripped apart? Was life really that cruel? I snorted inwardly. Yes, you fool, it is. The fact that I had been betrothed to a monster like Cathal was proof that life was a cruel joke at times. It dangled bits of tasty fruits in front of your face that, when you snatched them from the air like a famished horse, you discovered were rotten and putrid.
“It’s not so bad, love.”
His voice once again filled my head, and I felt my heartbeat begin to race. It pounded painfully in my chest as I waited, scared that I’d only imagined him.
“I need to hear your voice, too. Speak to me, Princess.”
“It’s really you? You’re not just a figment of my imagination?”
“That depends, is your imagining of me better than the real thing?”
“Nothing beats having you before me, breathing, flesh and blood. But if this is all I can have for now, then I will take it,” I admitted without shame.
“I am real, Allete. Our bond is strong. I refuse to give you up.”
I smiled to myself. “Your mother said something similar about you.”
“She knows me well. How are you, my love? Has he hurt you?” The words came out in a husky growl.
“No, he hasn’t touched me. Not yet, anyway,” I added before I could censor myself.
“What do you mean, not yet?” His voice was a deadly whisper.
Okay, so I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that.
“Allete,” he warned.
“Well, you see, there was this warrior that needed my help,”
“ACCH! You healed one of his men?”
“Don’t sound betrayed, Torben. It’s not like I lifted my petticoat and flashed the man.”
“Thank you for that image, Princess,” he said dryly.
“I’m a healer, Torben. You know I cannot ignore the call of my magic.”
“And how did Magnus respond?” he asked, sounding very much like he didn’t really want to hear the answer.
“Your mother seemed to think that his interest in me has grown. She said he no longer sees me as just a healer, but as a woman, a potential lover,” I admitted slowly. I could feel the anger and worry inside of him. It was like lava building inside a mountain, growing hotter and more volatile by the minute.
“He won’t touch me,” I said, attempting to reassure him. “I’ll cut off his hands before I let him, and Dayna has threatened to gut him like a fish.”
“You must be careful about insulting him, Allete. There are worse things than death. I need you to survive, but… I’ve seen Magnus do unspeakable things, even to his own men. And that’s nothing to what he does to his enemies.
“I will survive, but you need not worry that it will be at the expense of him getting anywhere near me.” I didn’t have to say that I would die before I let Magnus violate me; it was understood in the tone of my voice.
“I love you,” Torben said suddenly. The longing that filled his voice matched my own. “I never thought I could feel this way about someone, but I do. I want the chance to know you more, to have a life with you. I want to see you swollen with my children and tired from being up all night nursing. I want to hear your laughter at my bad jokes and to taste your kiss after years of togetherness.”
If someone had told me, a few short months ago when I met Torben, that he would say such moving words to me, I would have laughed. But here we were, destined for one another yet unable to be together. Here he was, my Viking, whispering words of love in my mind, yet I could not touch him.
“We will have those things and many more,” I said finally after several minutes of silence. “It’s worth fighting for, Torben. I will fight to the death for you. I love you.”
I heard the sigh he breathed out as if he were standing there beside me. I could nearly feel his warmth, and I couldn’t decide if it was a gift or a curse.
Hilda’s voice intruded on the blissful moment. “The expression on your face suggests we are witnessing something no mother should ever witness between her son and his bride.”
“Your mother is summoning my attention,” I told him, hoping he could hear in my voice the affection I had for her.
“By all means, don’t leave the Oracle waiting. Reach for me as often as you need. Our souls communicating like this will help keep you anchored and strong. And if you can help it, do not heal any more of those bottom-feeders.”
“Thank you for your words of wisdom, Oh Mighty Viking,” I crooned. “I will do my best to resist the call of my magic to heal some scallywag.”
Chapter 2
“I’m going to cut off his fingers one at a time, and then I’ll cut off his hands, and—”
“You’ve had lots of practice at cutting off appendages. Perhaps while you’re cutting on the jarl, you could thank him for giving you the experience,” Brant said, interrupting my tirade.
“He won’t be able to respond because I’m going to cut out his tongue, so I don’t have to listen to his lunacy,” I snarled. Leaning down, I cupped some water from a small stream into my hand and slurped it into my mouth. We’d pushed the horses hard all night and late into the day. Both the animals and my men needed a break, no matter how badly I wanted to keep riding.
“So, what I hear you saying is there will be a lot of cutting,” Brant chuckled. “Is this before or after you torture him and make him wish he’d never been jarl of Clan Hakon?”
I narrowed my eyes on him. “He has your woman, too, ya know?” I saw the way Brant’s jaw tightened even though he tried to appear nonchalant.
“Yes, I know,” he responded. “But she can probably kick his arse. I should be more worried about the poor, unsuspecting men who are going to be dealing with her. The lass has quite a temper.”
I snorted. “Wicked temper,” I muttered under my breath, though I wasn’t talking about Dayna. My thoughts were on another princess whose temper could be quite as volatile as her sister’s, though Allete would be more likely to set traps for her enemies and watch silently as they fell. Dayna would simply run them through with a sword, laughing all the while.
Chapter 3
Two days had passed since Magnus had captured me and my sister and tossed us onto the ship that had become our personal hell. I never knew men could smell so bad or that I could hate singing with such a passion. I mean, damn it all, who in the bloody hell had taught these men those songs?
“Ugh!” Dayna groaned. “Do they ever shut up?” She was lying on the cot that doubled as her bed, hands covering her ears, but it was no use. It was as if the crew knew how much we hated the singing and sang louder for the sole purpose of torturing us.
Hilda shook her head. “They believe their singing keeps away the sirens.”
“Sirens?” I asked. “You mean they really believe there are women who live in the sea and lure men from their ships into the depths?”
She nodded. “Some swear they’ve seen it happen. Mind you, they wouldn’t tell you about the barrel of ale they drank before they saw it happen.”
“If they’re so scared of these sirens, then why do they ever bother to sail at all?” Dayna asked.
“Because when the jarl says to do something, his men obey—sirens or no,” Hilda answered. “Someone has to be in charge. Someone has to lead. Unfortunately, our current leader doesn’t always have the clan’s best interests at heart.”
“That’s why Torben needs to take over,” I said. It wasn’t a question. I felt a sense of urgency and worry flow through me, and it wasn’t my own. I knew I was sensing Torben’s emotions, as if speaking his name had somehow stoked the power of the bond between us. I’ll admit it was comforting to be able to feel him, but, at the same time, it made me long for him to be there with me.
“It takes a strong person to lead, and not just physically, though that’s certainly part of it among the Northmen. The clan follows the man who’s proven himself by besting challenges to his claim of leadership. Magnus, crazy as he may be, is still a skilled swordsman. And he doesn’t fight fair, so he’s going to win by any means necessary. My people don’t see that as a negative thing. A true leader must be strong of both mind and body. The Vikings see Magnus’ tactics as cunning, using every resource available to him.”
“And you believe Torben can kill Magnus?” Dayna asked.
Hilda smiled. “Without a doubt. Torben is destined to rule. And now that he has his other half, the prophecy can be fulfilled.”
There was a commotion above, and the singing stopped. Praise all that is holy, I thought.
“Land ho!” a man yelled.
“Land!” Dayna and I yelled at the same time. I considered kissing the dirt when my feet touched down on the earth again. If I learned nothing else on the voyage from England to… wherever our captor had taken us, it was that I was not meant to be on the ocean. Dry land, with firm ground beneath my feet, that was my home.
“Let’s go and see where the mad jarl has taken us,” Hilda suggested as she stood and walked to the ladder.
We followed her up to the deck and found the crew was scurrying about like ants defending a recently kicked-over hill. They ran to and fro, tossing tools and pulling ropes. But I noticed a rhythm to their scrambling. It almost seemed like a dance on the deck of the ship. Each man knew his own steps, and somehow, they managed to keep from running over one another.
I finally lifted my eyes up from the organized chaos to see the land that had caused all the commotion. There was nothing significant that stood out. I shivered as I stared at the beach directly ahead of us. It was only then that I noticed the temperature outside was much cooler than when I’d last been on deck. At least I knew the direction we’d travelled. North.
“Do you know where we are?” I asked Hilda.
“Hmm… brown sand resting in front of a thick, impassable forest… yes, of course. I know exactly where we are.
“Really?”
“No, of course not. I’m a seer, not a cartographer. One beach looks like another.”
Dayna laughed. “I want to be like you when I grow up.”

Author Bio:

Quinn is an award winning author who lives in beautiful Western Arkansas with her
husband, two sons, Nora the Doberman, and Chewy the Cat who thinks he’s a dog. She
is the author of 17 novels, and 2 novellas, including the USA Today bestseller, Fate and
Fury. Quinn is beyond thankful that she has been blessed to be able to write full time
and hopes the readers know how much all of their support means to her. Some of her
hobbies include reading, exercising, crochet, and spending time with family and friends.
She gives all credit of her success to God because he gave her the creative spirit and
vivid imagination it takes to write.

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Twitter

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Excerpt of Imperial Passions by Eileen Stephenson – Plus a Giveaway!

Imperial Passions: The Porta Aurea
by Eileen Stephenson

Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Blachernae Books
Paperback & eBook; 387 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

At the center of Byzantine society, fifteen-year old orphaned Anna Dalassena lives with her grandparents among the most powerful men and women in Constantinople. But the cutthroat politics of the Great Palace sends the family into exile in a distant corner of the mepire. Her bleak situation finally turns promising after meeing a handsome young soldier, John Comnenus, and his brother Isaac, before the are finally permitted to return home.

The vicious power struggles, uprisings, and betrayals at the highest levels of the empire push Anna and John unwillingly into its center as they struggle to deal with their own tragedies. When rebellion puts her life and those of everyone she loves at risk, is the reward a throne for her family – too big a gamble?

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Excerpt

For those of you interested in 11th century Byzantium, here is an excerpt from my novel, Imperial Passions – The Porta Aurea. This scene takes place in the church of the great monastery of St. John Stoudion, not far from the Porta Aurea (Golden Gate) of Constantinople. It marks the end of the 5 – 6 month reign of the young and foolish Byzantine Emperor, Michael V Kalaphates. This incident was described in some detail by Michael Psellus in his Fourteen Byzantine Rulers history.

Setting the scene: Rioting has broken out in Constantinople as the people have become outraged at the shabby treatment Michael V has given his adopted mother, the rightful Empress Zoe. Anna Dalassena, her grandparents and two women servants have gone to the Monastery of St. John Stoudion where Anna’s uncle is a monk and they hope to be safe until the commotion has died down, not realizing they have entered the eye of the storm.

The End of Michael V Kalaphates

“The emperor is here, with his uncle Constantine. They are with the hegoumenos. They’ve begged for sanctuary, and to be tonsured as monks. They sailed from the palace to our dock a little while ago.”

Grandfather swore under his breath. Suddenly, the sounds of the angry mob were close and I turned to see an immense number of people swarming up the street that had been empty only moments earlier. Uncle Simeon looked over my shoulder, his usual calm gone.

“Theotokos help us,” he prayed, then pulled us in before barring the gate. “Come with me. I’ll put you in an alcove in the church. It should be safe there. They won’t dare desecrate the sanctity of the church.”

Uncle Simeon secured the gates to the monastery before turning us all towards the church. I grabbed hold of Maria and Alethea’s hands and we raced through the gardens towards the archway that held the door the monks used. We’d been in the church many times before, but always from the visitors’ entrance, never from the monks’. Uncle Simeon rushed us through a back corridor and up steep stairs to a gallery overlooking the nave. He glanced over the railing, then gasped.

“They’re here,” he whispered, looking towards a few figures we could see through the entrance in the iconostasis.

That time of day, the gallery was in shadows, hiding us while we could see all that transpired below.

The man I had seen proudly attired in imperial purple just a day earlier, was now in the plain robes of a monk, his head pink where he had just been tonsured. Another man stood near him, also pink with the tonsure, but a beardless eunuch. They were pleading for protection from the Hegoumenos, Matthias, their hands grasping the altar.

The door to the church crashed open below and a voice called out, “They’re in here.” The rabble rushed in while the two new monks frantically grabbed the altar, crying out “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” repeatedly. I thought the people would seize the men at that moment, but the hegoumenos raised a hand.

“Stop! Stop! Not one step further, you are in the house of God. I will not have you desecrate it with violence.” Matthias, a soft-spoken elderly man, would have had better luck trying to stop the waves from lapping on the shore than to deter this mob.

A couple of the larger men pushed the sputtering hegoumenos to the other side of a door near the altar, shutting it and ending any further monkish interference. Uncle Simeon, up in the balcony with us, was the only monk to witness to the retribution dealt the two miscreants.

One of the men in the crowd, with light brown hair that poked out at odd angles, a beaky nose and receding chin, and wearing the garb of a palace official, pulled away from the mass of people and began berating first Constantine, and then Michael for their sins against the empress. The two men cowered, hands gripping the holy altar.

“Was there anything she ever did that could have justified your cruel treatment?” Looking directly at Michael, his angry rebuke continued, “The empress is your adopted mother and has been only kindness and generosity to you. I saw it with my own eyes. And this is how you repay her? With baseless accusations and imprisonment?”

The crowd surrounding them cried out in assent to these statements, shaking fists and waving swords at the two figures clinging to the altar.

The beardless one began stammering a reply, pointing a finger at Michael. “It was him—I couldn’t stop him. I tried to but he would’ve killed me.” He gibbered on, lapsing into incoherent sobbing excuses for what had happened.

The one who had been emperor gaped at his uncle’s efforts to absolve himself from any blame. He started to speak, looked around at the crowd and thought better of what he had planned to say, then began again.

“It is true, I sinned against my kind mother, the empress.” Michael stopped and gulped hard, looking around to gauge the impact the admission had on his listeners. “But I’ve repented and taken the holy vows and tonsure, as I deserve for my wickedness. My kind mother has told me she forgives me. Please, please have mercy.” With that, he bent his face to the altar and rested his cheek against it, almost daring the mob to pull him off.

The rabble was slowed by this speech of repentance, but not stopped. The anger and outrage throbbed through the air, thirsting for blood. A few men with spears jabbed their weapons at the two, sometimes pricking the skin and rousing the crowd to greater frenzy as bloody cuts appeared. I heard one woman call out to finish them off.

Suddenly, two soldiers entered with about twenty of the Varangian guards. I recognized among the Varangians the tall blonde guard called Harold who three years earlier had escorted my family to our ship and exile. Grandfather whispered that one of the men was Constantine Cabasilas, the one who had gone to bring Zoe’s sister, Theodora, back from her convent.

In the fading light I tried to see who the other man with the Varangians was. His shape looked familiar when I realized with a shock that it was John Comnenus.

Cabasilas ordered Michael and his uncle to leave with him, that the new empress Theodora had ordered it, Zoe conveniently forgotten for the moment. All eyes were on the sobbing men gripping the altar, and I moved out into the little remaining light in the church that came through the windows. John had been speaking to some of the Varangians when my movement caught his attention and he saw me, eyes widening in disbelief. Grandmother pulled me back into the shadows.

“Didn’t you see him? That’s John down there with the soldiers,” I whispered urgently to her.

“I don’t care who it is, we need to stay hidden until this mob is gone,” her voice edgy at my recklessness.

Michael and his uncle were steadfastly refusing to leave the altar, but none were ready yet to physically remove them from it.

Cabasilas tried another way to remove them willingly from the church, but I think he was lying when he spoke.

“I swear by the Holy Relics of the holy St. John of this Church, and by the Theotokos, that you, Michael, and you, Constantine, will come to no harm, by order of the Empress Theodora. But you must leave with me now,” he concluded.

It did no good; they still refused to be moved from their sanctuary. At that, Cabasilas lost all patience. He nodded at the leaders of the mob. The two men were pulled from the altar and dragged, screaming desperately, out to the street in their new monk’s robes, sick fear in their cries.

I turned to Grandmother, shaking at what I had witnessed. Her pale face was as shocked as mine. The church grew quieter as the crowds surged through the doors back to the open area outside. Almost without realizing it, we were drawn like iron filings to a magnet, turning to look through the windows at the front of the church down at the scene below.

The mob poked and taunted Michael and his uncle, making ribald jokes about the old eunuch, nicking them with their swords, spinning them around until they fell, weak kneed and dizzy, into a heap. Damp spots on their robes showed the fear they felt. Suddenly a beefy man appeared carrying a brazier with several pokers sticking out of it.

“Phillip, welcome, we have been waiting for you so this party can begin,” Cabasilas said with sick humor.

It seemed Michael’s uncle recognized the man before Michael did, and let out a horrified moan before falling into an unnatural silence, resigned to his fate. Michael took a few more seconds before he, too, realized the inevitable. Yet he, instead of accepting the punishment as his uncle did, fought frantically, if unsuccessfully, against it. Several men took pleasure in restraining him with the occasional fist.

Phillip came up to the men with his instruments at the ready, the crowd closing in on them. The view from our vantage point was crystal clear.

Suddenly I heard the eunuch speak, “You there,” to Cabasilas, “make the people stand back, so all can see how bravely I bear my punishment?”

Cabasilas looked over the crowd before nodding and people spread back in anticipation of the gory show. The old uncle looked in vain for mercy, before lying down on the cold stones, ready for Phillip’s hot irons. Phillip started to bind his victim’s arms but Constantine stopped him.

“If you see me flinch, then nail me down. Until then, leave me as I am.”

With a shrug, Phillip took up the first of his hot pokers, touching close to first one eye of the man, and then the other. Constantine took his punishment bravely, not moving or screaming at all, despite the agony he must have felt. Michael, seeing his uncle’s now blind face, began wailing and struggling more. The grinning soldiers forced him to the ground and bound him more tightly. Still he writhed, trying to escape punishment, forcing more men to grab and hold him down. It was not long, though, before he shrieked like a wounded animal from the first wound.

Voices in the crowd muttered, “Got what he deserved,” and “Piece of horse shit,” and “Dug up your bones.” Most approved what happened, but a few of the women fell back in shock.

Still they were not finished. Another anguished scream rose from the man who had been emperor, as the poker pierced his other eye. I stood mesmerized until the mob’s cheering broke the spell, and I turned around. Someone put his arms around me as Michael’s anguished cries echoed in the square.

The ghastly job completed, the mob dissipated like a morning mist on the Marmara. It had had its fill of blood and laughed in satisfaction at their accomplishments. Monks emerged from the monastery to tend the two blind men in the street, leading them to its infirmary to bind up their wounds.

I finally looked up and realized it was not Grandfather’s arms around me as I had thought, but John’s. I leaned against him in relief, wiping my tears on his shirt.

About the Author

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, but after a peripatetic childhood ended up in the Washington, DC area, where I attended college, married, worked a day job in finance, and raised three children.

My first book, Tales of Byzantium, contains short stories taking place in the middle years of the Byzantine Empire. My second book and first novel, Imperial Passions – The Porta Aurea, introduces Anna Dalassena, the extraordinary mother of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Comnenus, and an unstoppable force in her time.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 19
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, November 21
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, November 22
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, November 23
Review & Excerpt at Locks, Hooks and Books

Monday, November 26
Feature at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, November 27
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, November 28
Excerpt at Tea Book Blanket

Thursday, November 29
Review at Passages to the Past

Monday, December 3
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit

Tuesday, December 4
Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, December 6
Excerpt at Introvert Booklover

Friday, December 7
Feature at Jathan & Heather
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Monday, December 10
Review at Bookramblings

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a beautiful Byzantine-style Sterling Silver Bracelet! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Imperial Passions

Enjoy a Christmas Historical Romance with A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews – Giveaway!

A Holiday by Gaslight
by Mimi Matthews

Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Perfectly Proper Press
eBook & Paperback; 172 Pages

Genre: Historical Romance/Christmas/Novella

 

 

A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion–or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.

Available on Amazon

Praise for A Holiday by Gaslight

“Matthews includes all the required elements of a cozy English Christmas and a classic Victorian love story. Matthewsí novella is full of comfort and joyóa sweet treat for romance readers thatís just in time for Christmas. A very merry tale of romance thatís perfect for the holiday season.” -Kirkus Reviews

“Matthews (The Matrimonial Advertisement) pays homage to Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South with her admirable portrayal of the Victorian era’s historic advancements in addition to courtship struggles arising from societal castes. Revealed incrementally throughout are family circumstances molding the characters of both Sophie and Ned, allowing their genuine identities to evolve naturally, just like their sincere and sweet romance…Readers will easily fall for Sophie and Ned in their gaslit surroundings.” -Library Journal, starred review

“A Holiday by Gaslight is a real delight. Completely satisfying as a graceful love story, it also doubles as a family drama and an authentic presentation of the 1860s that reads with the simplicity and visual gusto of a period movie…It’s a sweet tale filled with believable characters…Fun to read and fun to read again, this book is one of my favorites now.” -Readers’ Favorite

“This is magical, it beautifully entwines a gorgeous Victorian Christmas, social prejudices of the era and the most marvellously different cast of characters that you would ever want in a historical romance…[A] wonderfully charming and vividly rich romance, that will have the readers swooning with absolute delight. Perfect!” -Chicks, Rogues and Scandals

“A perfect holiday treat for Victorian-loving romantics. Sophie and Ned’s sweet romance is sure to steal your heart.” -Lena Goldfinch, bestselling author of The Unexpected Bride

“This is the epitome of what historical romance is all about. Like all of Mimi Matthews’ books, her characters are full-bodied and evenly matched; the details are historically accurate, coloring the pages with vibrancy. Sure to warm your heart–perfect read for the holiday season!” -Christina Boyd, The Quill Ink

About the Author

Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Ladyís Guide to Fashion and Beauty, The Lost Letter) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthewsí†website†and†blog. You can also connect with her on†Facebook,†Twitter,†BookBub,†Pinterest,†Google+, and†Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, November 13
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Wednesday, November 14
Review at Proverbial Reads
Feature at Tea Book Blanket
Feature at The Caffeinated Bibliophile

Friday, November 16
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads
Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Monday, November 19
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 20
Review at A Darn Good Read
Review & Excerpt at Clarissa Reads it All

Wednesday, November 21
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Friday, November 23
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, November 26
Review at Jennifer Tar Heel Reader

Wednesday, November 28
Review at Donna’s Book Blog

Friday, November 30
Review at The Lit Bitch

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed copy of A Holiday By Gaslight! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Giveaway is open to US residents only.
Only one entry per household.
All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

A Holiday By Gaslight

Jaws of the Wolf by Charlotte Jardine – Excerpt and Giveaway!

Jaws of the Wolf
Charlotte Jardine
(The Visigoth Chronicles, #1)
Publication date: October 30th 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance, Young Adult

He’s her father’s slave. She’s promised to another. But war changes everything.

Tervingi Territory, 376 AD. Gelvira dreams of becoming a powerful jeweler. But the arrogant son of a tribal elder wants her for a wife instead. After a Hun raid sends her people into exile, her chance to master the ancient secrets of her craft are stripped away…

Adafuns yearns to become a great warrior and win Gelvira’s affection. But as a slave in her father’s service, he has little chance of either. Captured and carried off by the Huns, Adafuns’ dream of being a warrior could come true… at the cost of losing Gelvira forever.

With her people starving, marrying the tribal elder’s spoiled son may be Gelvira’s only hope to save her family. Will Adafuns reunite with the exiles in time to free Gelvira from her loathsome vows?

Jaws of the Wolf is the exciting first novel in the epic Visigoth Chronicles series of YA adventures. If you like strong heroines, thrilling action, and rich historical detail, you’ll love Charlotte Jardine’s page-turning saga.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

After the meeting broke up, Gelvira sat by the fire, mulling over everything she’d heard. The wood creaked as someone sat beside her. Their reiks’ son, Widin. She scowled. She wasn’t in the mood to talk to him. Not after the way he’d treated Pa.

“It must be a lot to take in,” Widin said. “Most of the men will be riding to war. Sorry, not to war. To rebuild old Roman fortifications.” His face darkened and he compressed his lips.

“Did you come to Erdeu to round up warriors in Lord Angmar’s name?” Gelvira asked.

He smiled. “Also to see you.”

She glanced around. Praise the Great Mother, Ma hadn’t heard. She’d be planning their wedding feast.

Widin motioned toward her amulet. “This is new. Did you make it?”

She nodded. “After the raid. I worked on it in the evenings, to take my mind off the Huns.” There was no way she’d tell him its purpose.

He traced the outline of the wolf. “I would have thought flowers or birds more appropriate for a maiden?”

A shiver ran through her. A wrongness. Then heat flared from the metal.

Widin snatched his hand back. “It … burnt me. Was it made using the Becoming One?”

“Yes,” she replied, head spinning with excitement. Had her amulet really done that?

He scowled. “Our people are under attack. You shouldn’t be wasting your time making baubles.”

“It’s a practice piece,” she replied, biting down on her anger. “Master Raginmar used it to teach me the rudiments of the Becoming One.”

“Ah, I see.” Widin’s black look faded. “You must make me something useful, once you’ve mastered the art. I’ll need the gods’ aid far more than you, safe behind your palisade.” He wound his fingers through hers and pulled them against his chest.

Ma noticed the gesture, and beamed.

“If it wasn’t for the Huns, I’d marry you before summer’s end,” he said, leaning close so his breath brushed her skin. “My father would prefer I took a wife who brings more political advantage. He doesn’t see it, but you’ve much in your favour: you’re well born, brave, and quite lovely to look at. And your jewellery will bring me renown, now you’re learning the Becoming One.”

“You honour me,” Gelvira replied, lowering her eyes so he couldn’t see her dismay. Marry him after the way he’d behaved? She couldn’t bear the thought. “As you said, you’re a warrior. You must deal with the raiders first. At times like these, marriage must wait.”

For one terrible moment, she felt almost grateful to the Huns.

Author Bio:

Charlotte Jardine writes Historical Fiction, Contemporary Romance and Romantic Adventure. Her books feature courageous heroines, big-hearted heroes, adventure and love.

Her love of history came from reading the adventures of Asterix and Tintin at a young age and continued into adult life, when she studied Classics and Roman History to postgraduate level at university.

While working as a desk slave by day, she spends her evenings escaping into other worlds via her writing.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook

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