Bits 'n Bobs Author Blog
12/30/2016 0 Comments
My next contribution to the Ghosts of Culloden Moor series is out!
I began writing in this series just over a year ago, drawn by the memory of a misty visit to Culloden Moor on an earlier trip to Scotland.
Then, as now, the tragedies and hopes called to me, and I jumped at the chance LL Muir offered when she told me of her dream of a series that would put the ghosts to rest.
I hope you enjoy Patrick's story. Please read LL Muir's book, The Gathering, first as it gives the background to the subsequent stories.
The Gathering: https://www.amzn.com/dp/B01049Y714
Feasts can do more than satisfy hunger...
Indulge your senses in this feast from Ashley York's book, The Saxon Bride.
John's breath against Rowena's neck sent a shiver down her spine. Knowing now how easily she could be distracted, she fought to keep her head. Those who'd been waiting for the new lord of the manor acknowledged him with some excitement when he entered, Rowena at his side. John accepted their respectful greetings as if he'd always been such a high ranking lord yet Joan had said he was only a knight.
"My lord," a burly man with a ruddy complexion bowed overly long before them, causing his face to turn even redder. "Accept the greetings of a distant friend. I am Mort of Bedgrove near Aylesbury, at your service."
"And what would that service be?" John paused beside the extravagantly dressed man. It was not a man Rowena had ever seen before. John's mouth twitched with humor as he seemed to take in all the fine silk, silver bells and feather adornments in one glance.
The man bowed again before answering. "My lord…" Stepping closer, the man was a head shorter than John but he managed to look him directly in the face when he answered. "Whatever service that you might need."
John's humor fled. Rowena sensed a sudden tension between the two men. Their eyes were locked as if sizing each other up. His arm finally relaxed where her fingers lay lightly atop it. Smiling, he tipped his head in acknowledgment and continued on.
Finally reaching the far center wall, John and Rowena took their seats at the long table. It was covered with a clean cloth and adorned with small bunches of the last flowers from the garden. The scene was festive and Rowena's own spirits seemed to lift as well. It was a time to celebrate. The long awaited lord had finally returned. There would be time later to find out what that would mean to her. For her people, it was time for celebration. A time for peace.
The meal was eaten with the new apple wine Rowena had chosen. The assortment of breads, meats and pies was plentiful. The mead and cider flowed without restraint. All seemed relaxed, happy even. At the tables grouped with eight and ten people each, there was an easy exchange as they talked amongst themselves and the noise level rose as the amount of drink increased. The Normans, however, sat off by themselves and spoke more quietly. They were soldiers after all. Rowena tried to squelch her uneasiness at this realization.
Wondering if John noticed the subdued behavior of his men, she was startled to find his gaze running over her body. Her own breath quickened. It felt as if he were actually touching her. The memory of his touch had left a lasting impression. He wet his lips before taking his goblet to his mouth, opening it right before the cold metal touched his lips. The movement along his throat as he drank mesmerized her. She found herself wanting to put her lips there, to taste him. She looked away. She could never be so bold.
Her response to his looks was quite disconcerting. She cleared her throat."How do you find your manor after your long absence, my lord?"
John eyebrows shot up. She hadn't meant to find fault...or maybe she did.
"I was taken aback to find you do not care for the stores and such. Is there a reason you refuse to act as is your right as my wife?"
Her mouth opened slightly at the lie. "My lord, I have been given no such leave. Your king replaced me as chatelaine on his first visit here."
John searched her face before correcting her. "Our king."
BLURB: Rowena Godwinson, a Saxon princess, refuses to go willingly into a forced marriage to one of King William's most favored knights but her struggle against enemy occupation fades away in the pleasurable arms of her Norman husband. Will he bring her people to their knees in his attempt to please his liege lord? Or can she win him over to the Saxon's side even while one of her own plots to overthrow the bastard king?
John of Normandy is a soldier made for battle, ingrained with chivalry and a deep sense of loyalty to his mentor and king. Serving his liege is reward enough. Neither a title nor a child bride will entice him to become an indolent lord. A chance encounter with an alluring beauty, however, releases all his pent up desires and unspoken needs. His young bride has become a passionate woman, tempting him beyond his endurance. Can he win her over before she learns the truth of her father's death?
Available in paperback and ecopy: iTunes Amazon BarnesandNoble KOBO
Celebrate Rue Allyn's book, Knight Defender.
The days before an arranged marriage are often fraught with anxiety and distrust. Raeb knows his betrothed's temper, but everyone else believes she is an angel.
EXCERPT: Deep in thought, Raeb wasn’t certain what Dougal had been saying, but the man didn’t normally stop speaking in mid-sentence.
Evidently Raeb’s failure to reply went unnoticed, for Dougal stood, took a step back from the table, and stared—openmouthed—at something on the other side of the room. Then the silence filling the now crowded main hall struck Raeb. Even the deepest night was never this quiet.
“What is it?” He shifted to peer around Dougal. Raeb’s jaw dropped.
How had she escaped his room?
Dressed in pale green samite, Jessamyn Du Grace glided into the hall. Her carriage was proud and tall, and every stride bespoke confidence in her own worth. On both right and left, she graced his clansmen and women with a sweet expression and a few words, which he couldn’t hear. Though none he could see spoke in response, men and women alike instinctively made way for her. She had no need to pick her way between the crowded benches.
Raeb understood. He’d seen her disembark and treat a horse with unusual concern and kindness for an English noblewoman. He had witnessed her thoughtful consideration for a servant. He’d seen the lady soaking wet and shivering, and somehow no less attractive. He’d witnessed her screeching invectives and sworn retribution. Now the irate passion of the early afternoon was gone and in its place was a kindly interest so alluring it tempted him to drop his cold reception.
She was either a great actress or less than sane to be able to show two such different sides. Clearly she was not to be trusted. Despite their obedience to his edict to shun Lady Du Grace, he could see his clansmen’s fascination with her. They had yet to learn how false the woman was.
All eyes on her, she approached the high table. As she neared the dais, he stood, and the entire hall of folk followed his example. He offered his hand and seated her in the empty chair at his side. He couldn’t tear his gaze away. Silence and a sense of wonder ruled the room where he should have led.
She looked out at the tables below the salt then turned her head in a slow survey of the hall until her gaze met his.
He fell, drowning in green pools.
Her lips moved.
The shape fascinated him. Their deep rose color and plump texture made his fingers itch to stroke them, to hold her downy cheeks, and plunder the sweetness he knew could be his.
Her lips moved again. “When will the meal be served?”
He stared on.
“Uh, now. I believe,” Dougal said from Raeb’s other side.
Jessamyn bent a look of genuine pleasure on Dougal.
Raeb wanted to push his captain from the dais. No man should answer her questions and thus usurp my authority in front of the clan.
He raised his arm, signaling to bring the trenchers. His gesture broke whatever enchantment held his clan silent, and noise once more filled the room. Servants were scarce in Dungarob keep and limited mostly to kitchen and stable hands. Thus, all the men and women of the clan pitched in to get the meal served. His betrothed’s face was serene, but her fingers tapped a rapid dance against the tabletop. Relief spread through him like a slow breath. Those fingers put the lie to her sweet serenity. There was the passionate woman he knew her to be, not the smiling calm she showed to his people. What could he do to expose that eager energy, and mayhap get his people to see her as a harpy instead of an angel?
“Tell me who released you from your prison, so I may punish them.”
“Since you intend punishment, I’ll not betray a kindness.”
Who would have expected her to show loyalty to any MacKai or recognize the kindness of a Scot? He clenched his teeth. “Would you tell me if I swore no to do more than scold?”
She shook her head. “Scolding is not warranted. The wo ... person sought only to be helpful.”
He narrowed his gaze. “If ’twas a woman then ’twas one of my sisters. I’ll put them all on bread and water until the guilty one confesses.” He’d never do so—he knew his sisters would find a way around such a ridiculous threat.
To emphasize his words and help Jessamyn believe he meant them, however, he placed his hand heavily over hers. Beneath his touch her wrist jerked, and her fingers stilled. As his rough palm rested atop her silken skin, sensation jolted up his arm. If he didn’t do something quickly, he’d sink under her spell again.
She glared at him and slipped her hand from beneath his. “You would never do that to your sisters. You love them too much.”
She could only know that if she’d spent time with his siblings. “Hah. So it was one of my interfering sisters. Let’s see if I can deduce which one. Maeve was busy tending to Rhuad MacFearann.”
“I saw the fight from the chamber window,” Jessamyn remarked.
Was she trying to distract him?
“Your sister Neilina fares well,” the lady continued. “How is the poor man she defended?”
“He’s well enough.” Raeb studied her. “How did you know his defender was my sister Neilina?”
“I ... I must have heard her name as I entered the hall just now. Though most of your people were silent and stared. Really, I do not understand the manners here. Are all Scots so rude or just the MacKai clan?”
“You make a good attempt to divert my attention, but I know better. ’Twas Artis who released you.”
“You cannot possibly know that.”
“Aye, I can. When I came to the table, Dougal related that Artis wanted him to tell me Neilina was resting and well. Since Maeve, who is our healer, had no time to see to Neilina, ’twould be like Artis to seek help from another quarter. Especially if she thought she could get away with releasing you for that reason.”
Jessamyn straightened and her gaze hardened. “Why would your sister need a reason other than common courtesy to release me from an unwarranted imprisonment?”
He returned her gaze in equal measure. “Because I locked you in there and gave no permission for your release.”
“’Tis a blessing then that your sister considers her other sibling’s care more important than the need for permission.”
“Not when Artis could have tended Neilina herself. She cares for all the injured creatures at Dungarob and is near as good a healer as Maeve.”
“Aye, that gives you pause, does it no? My youngest sister is up to something. When she gets a notion into her head, she doesna give it up and rarely shares her thoughts until ’tis too late to stop her.”
“So you will not punish her?”
“’Twould be no point. She’d think naught of any punishment I would be willing to impose. You, however, will return to my chamber immediately after supper.”
Jessamyn stiffened. “I’ll not surrender my virtue without marriage.”
He captured her gaze. “None would object; we are betrothed. What matter if we anticipate the vows by a month or two?” He’d no intention of taking her virtue now or at any other time. Oh, the idea was appealing, but the consequences were not desirable. However, he wanted to see her reaction.
“It matters a great deal to me, and I object most strongly.”
She was blushing. Was it anger, embarrassment, or desire that caused the delicate pink in her cheeks?
He shrugged. “’Tis of no import to me. I’ll send that screeching maid of yours to you tonight, and you may bar the door from inside, if you fear for your honor.”
“I would defend my virtue to the death.”
“’Tis sure I am you would, but ’twill no be necessary. If we are to wed, I want you to know me well enough to come willing to my bed.”
She opened her mouth then closed it, clearly nonplused.
“To that end,” he continued. “I’ve been thinking we should put off our vows until midsummer.” If his intent was to cause her to break the betrothal, he’d best start as he meant to go on. Life with seven sisters had taught him that nothing upset a woman as much as having her plans rearranged.
Jessamyn’s head jerked round, her mouth open on a silent “o.”
So I’ve surprised her. Good, but why is she no angry?
Then the blush fading from her cheeks and a beatific smile were all that remained of the emotions she’d revealed. Even that disappeared as he watched.
She shrugged and faced forward. “If it pleases you.”
“’Twill give us time to get to know each other better, and for you to become familiar with the customs of Clan MacKai.”
“I am happy to know the MacKai clan and learn its customs better. However, since ours is an arranged match, I doubt that knowing you better at this point will be important.” She spoke with an indifferent monotone then bit her lip in an unconscious gesture of nerves.
Raeb frowned inwardly. This was not proceeding as he wished. He wanted her irate and storming for all to see. He must keep the upper hand and not forget the true purpose of this sham betrothal.
“Surely you wish to get along with your husband? Knowing and honoring me can only increase my clan’s respect and affection for you.”
The trenchers finally arrived.
As if his words meant nothing deserving response, she bent her head and opened the velvet pouch tied to her belt.
Idly, Raeb pulled off a piece of bread, chewing slowly as he watched her.
She withdrew a palm-length decorated box and set it on the table beside her plate. Releasing the delicately wrought latch, she revealed a silver stick with one end split into two long, sharp points.
“What is that?”
She lifted her head and stared at him, her mouth curving into a deeper smile. “’Tis a fork.” She lifted the shining metal into her hand and offered it to him.
His brows drew together, and he gently pushed her hand away. “A fork. I heard of such from crusaders I met while fostering. Most said it was a Saracen device meant for weaklings and ladies.”
“Hmm, you imply that ladies are weak, Baron.” She gripped the fork, turning the points downward, then speared a piece of meat.
He bent to his meal, speaking in between bites. “Verily, no all women are weak. Eleanor of Aquitaine, Boudicca, and Queen Scathach come to mind, but they were exceptional.”
“I’ve never heard of Queen Scathach. However, I’ll concede that she, like the others, was exceptional in many ways. Because they are, they also show what every woman is capable of given need or opportunity.”
“Yet none of those legendary women was especially interested in her husband. I gather you intend to emulate their disinterest?” His voice went soft.
Around them his men and sisters stilled in anticipation of an explosion. Would she notice?
Lady Du Grace shrugged and sipped her mead.
“Answer my question, please.”
“I’ve not yet decided.”
When she moved to spear another bite, he took her hand, halting her movement and forcing her to look at him. “Decide now.”
Surely that demand would fire her temper, burn her calm to ash, and break the spell she’d cast over his clan.
She turned to face him and raised an imperious brow, reminding him forcibly of her royal godparent.
“In my experience, excessive familiarity with one’s spouse is not necessary to command respect from others. I will be your wife. I have no special need to understand you in order to support your leadership of your clan or your position as baron.” She retrieved her hand, giving a dismissive wave then addressing her meal.
Raeb ground his teeth. Her casual indifference bordered on rudeness—though he admitted he had given her reason. But she behaved so only to him. Thus far none in his clan had spoken to her, but their obvious interest did not argue well for their continued cooperation. She was trying to win them over, and doing a fair job. He kenned not what game she played, but he would find out. Meanwhile he would bedevil her with good manners—he could do that and still be cold. ’Twould keep her off balance, mayhap enough to lose her temper. He wanted his people to see her serene demeanor for the lie it was.
Like a good host he held forth with a stream of information about Dungarob, its surroundings, and its people. She listened in silence until the meal ended. When she pushed back from the table to rise, he once more placed a hand over hers. This time her outward reaction was more placid, but her fingers trembled beneath his.
“’Tis time you met my family. You must forgive me for not introducing my sisters earlier.”
She cast her gaze upward and heaved a great sigh as if mightily put upon. “If it pleases you.”
He smiled. Let her think she has me fooled. However, to please myself, I’ll strip her bare of all pretense before I’m done with her. No Englishwoman will get the better of Raeb MacKai.
He gestured for the several females seated farther down the table to attend him. One by one they came forward to assemble before him in a line from tallest to smallest.
“My lady, you’ve already met Lady Neilina, who is still resting, so allow me to introduce my other sisters, ladies Maeve, Bridghe, Keeva, and Seona. Lady Artis should be here but has chosen no to join us, probably because she knows I am no pleased with her. I also regret I canna introduce you to Sorcha, who is nearest to me in age. She recently married and now lives as countess at Strathnaver Stronghold many leagues inland.”
He smiled. Knowing how his sisters bedeviled him, he doubted anyone could match them, and certainly not an English lady, even if Jessamyn Du Grace was not quite what he expected.
BLURB: Sent alone to Scotland to wed a wild Scot and serve the needs of her father and her king, Lady Jessamyn intends to escape the marriage and train horses for the good sisters at a nearby nunnery. But her intended is not the wild, boorish monster she imagined - just Baron Raeb MacKai, a man struggling to provide the best for his clan. It could be surprisingly easy to surrender her heart to him, until she learns his plans involve deceiving her family and attacking the king's ship that bears her brother.
Raeb is done watching everyone he loves live in poverty and despair. His betrothal to a wealthy English heiress will solve a decade of problems, and the Scots' secret plot to keep King Edward I from getting a foothold on their rugged coastline will secure his family's future. If he must deny himself the spirited woman who would warm his bed and his heart, so be it.
Neither is willing to give an inch in this clash of loyalties, but can either defend their hearts?
BUY LINKS: Amazon B & N
Summer and winter are all rolled into one in Mistletoe Magic by Laurel O'Donnell.
Yuletide. It had always made Jaclyn Fainwick excited and happy with the potential of what the future held. This one day, amongst all the rest, was when every hope, every dream could come true. She loved this day above all the rest in the year.
She sat before the hearth in the Great Hall, waiting for the festivities to begin, swinging her feet back and forth. She had been waiting for most of the day. Her father would come, and her mother, and her brother. All the people she loved would be together on this day. No matter where they were or what they were doing, they would always gather together on the Yuletide.
She twisted and looked behind the large wooden chair she sat in. The shadows at the back of the Hall were getting long as the sun set, stretching dark fingers into the Great Hall. But no one was coming. She turned back and clutched her hands in her lap. If she were very good, her father would bring her something wonderful. A strand of her long dark hair had pulled free of the braid at her back and she swatted it back in place.
The flames danced in the hearth, warming her. She had been alive for ten Yuletides, this would make her eleventh, enough to know that the Yule log would soon be burned. It wouldn’t be long now.
Around her, the servants cleared the tables from the feast. A dog rushed beneath the table to gobble up a scrap of the duck that had fallen.
Suddenly, booted footsteps echoed down the hall.
Her stomach lurched with excitement and Jaclyn turned to see her friend, Alexander, run into the Great Hall, followed by her brother, Paul. She sat back in disappointment. Alexander reached her side first, skidding to a halt on the rushes.
“I told you she’d be in here,” Paul said, stopping at her other side. He was out of breath as if he had run a far distance. His brown hair was in a disarray on his head; his blue jupon was askew, his black boots dirty.
Alexander looked at her and grinned.
Jaclyn's heart lurched at his twinkling blue eyes, as it always did. Even at thirteen summers, Alexander was the most handsome boy she had ever met. His blonde hair reached to his shoulders and always had just the right amount of wave to it. He was not dressed as nicely as Paul, but he carried himself with more confidence. He usually wore a leather vest and black leggings, the same he was wearing on this Yuletide.
He met her gaze. “Your father is coming,” he said with restrained exuberance.
She turned in her chair to face the door.
“I was going to tell her,” Paul complained.
It didn’t matter who told her. Outside the door in the hallway, Jaclyn heard heavy footsteps. It sounded like the entire village was with her father! She could barely sit still in her exhilaration. A moment skipped by and then her father appeared. He was the tallest man of all the men following behind him, his shoulders broad, his hair dark. He was surrounded by knights and villagers. They entered the hall behind him as he walked toward her.
She stood to greet him.
“My dove,” he whispered and greeted her with a hug.
She embraced him.
He pulled back to look at her. “Before we light the Yule log, I want to give you this. You have been a very good girl this year, and a wonderful daughter.” He held something out to her.
Jaclyn hadn’t noticed he was carrying anything. She looked down to see he was holding a branch with green leaves and white berries. She gasped, “It’s beautiful!” and took the branch from his hand.
“The berries reminded me of the winter snow,” her father said softly.
Jaclyn nodded. “But the green leaves belong in the summer!” She looked up at him. “The trees have long since lost their leaves. Where did you find it?”
“I had to travel very far to find it.” he told her, leaning in to add, “It’s magical.”
“Like Yuletide!” Jaclyn gasped.
Her father smiled and nodded. “That’s why I brought it to you now. Keep it safe, child.”
Jaclyn nodded and hurried through the villagers and gathered guests. She paused to glance back at her father. He was silhouetted before the warm hearth fire, his arms on his hips, watching her. She curtseyed slightly. “Thank you, Father.”
He dipped his head in a nod.
Jaclyn knew the perfect place to keep it safe. The perfect spot for it. She raced to her room and flung a cloak about her shoulders. She paused to stare at the branch. It was amazing. Summer and winter, all rolled up into one glorious plant. She gently touched one of the berries.
“Father’s going to light the Yule log.”
* * *
Blurb from Mistletoe Magic –
A confident knight arrives home to find his childhood friend grown into much more than he remembered. The lady of the castle keeps a dangerous secret that threatens all she holds dear. Will Mistletoe Magic save them?
Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0182MKLZG
Jenna Jaxon has an exciting new medieval romance releasing today! Read an excerpt today!
Christmas tidings of comfort, joy, and temptation in Seduction at the Christmas Court!
Alyse and Geoffrey, Lord and Lady Longford, have journeyed to the glittering Christmas Court of King Edward III in the year 1349 to wait upon the king and take part in some Yuletide merriment. However, when Geoffrey is suddenly called into the king’s service again, Alyse must remain at court, attending the queen and persuading her rebellious sister to accept an unwanted betrothal. When rumors of Geoffrey’s death arise, Alyse fends off an old suitor who wants to renew their friendship. But how long will he take “No” for an answer?
Alyse stared in horror as Guy nonchalantly raised her hand to his lips. The skin seemed to shrink, as though it would crawl off her bones to escape his touch. She longed to snatch it away from the vile man however, mindful of the thousand eyes that marked her every movement, she instead gave him a coy look and a nod. “You are kind to remember me, Guy, now that you have my sister to wife. I doubted you would give me a glance in the wake of her beauty.”
Geoffrey moved closer to her, his hulking presence a subtle warning.
An she knew her husband, he was now sorely tempted to run Guy through with his sword. Thank God it lay safe in their chamber. “I give you good evening, Sir Guy. It has been long since last we met at my father’s house.” Remind him who had triumphed that evening and mayhap he’d keep his distance and his head.
“Too long, cherie. Perhaps now we are to be kindred, we will see much more of one another.” His gaze rested on her mouth and he licked his lips.
Bold villain. Alyse drew closer to Geoffrey. The man’s dark-eyed gaze would peel the clothes from her like the skin from an orange an she endured it much longer.
Face blackened in a scowl, Geoffrey bumped her side as he stepped between her and Guy. “My wife will enjoy her sister’s company as often as she likes while we are at court, Sir Guy. An you are in the room you may bear them company as well during the Christmastide. Should you journey to Longford after you are wed, of course, we will always open our home to you.” Her husband’s teeth clenched so tight his jaw creaked. He’d rejoice in Guy’s company when the last trump sounded.
“Pippa,” Alyse said, turning to her sister, sorry that she must bear witness to Guy’s disrespect. Pray God His Majesty never heard tell of this conversation. She grasped her sister’s hands, pulling the girl from Guy’s side. “’Twill only be a short time ‘ere we are gone from here. This feuding twixt Guy and Geoffrey will last only so long as we remain here. Once you are married—”
“Once I am married to him there will be no escape, Alyse.” Pippa’s voice, hard-edged, flat, and filled with anger, made her cringe. “I will be forever chained to a man who cares nothing for me, only for my sister.”
* * *
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical romance in all time periods because passion is timeless. She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She’s a theatre director when she’s not writing and lives in Virginia with her family, including two very vocal cats, Marmalade and Sugar.
Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as Vice-President of Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA. She has three series available: The House of Pleasure, set in Georgian England, Handful of Hearts, set in Regency England, and Time Enough to Love, set in medieval England and France.
She currently writes to support her chocolate habit.
Find Jenna Jaxon online:
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