– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘Tudor Christmas Tidings’ blogtour, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.
About the Authors :
Jenni Fletcher is from the north coast of Scotland and now lives in Yorkshire where she writes historical romance novels. She studied English at Cambridge University before doing a PhD on Edwardian literature & psychology at Hull. She has been nominated for 4 RoNA awards and won for Short Romantic Fiction in 2020. In her spare time she loves baking and, of course, reading.
After many years in public relations, advertising, and marketing, Blythe Gifford started writing seriously after a corporate layoff. Ten years and one layoff later, she became an overnight success when she sold to the Harlequin Historical line. Her books, set in the 14th to 17th centuries, typically incorporate real historical events and characters. The Chicago Tribune has called her work “the perfect balance between history and romance.” Blythe lives and works along Chicago’s lakefront.
Amanda wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)
She’s never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. She lives in Santa Fe with a Poodle, a cat, a wonderful husband, and a very and far too many books and royal memorabilia collections.
When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook.
Amanda also writes as Laurel McKee for Grand Central Publishing, the Elizabethan Mystery Series as Amanda Carmack, and the Manor Cat Mystery Series as Eliza Casey.
Make Merry at Court
… with three Tudor Christmas stories!
In Christmas at Court Sir John Talbot and Lady Alice’s secret betrothal must wait until Henry Tudor claims the throne. Next in Secrets of the Queen’s Lady the lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves is unexpectedly reunited with a handsome—younger—diplomat at the palace’s festivities! And in His Mistletoe Lady Catherine seeks help from a mysterious Spaniard to free her father in time for Christmas!
Christmas at Court
Thanks so much for having me!
When we use the term “world-building” we often think of it as a science fiction/fantasy/paranormal world. But building a believable historical world can be a challenge as well. It is the mindset, not just the manners, the writer tries to understand.
Here, my heroine, Lady Alice of Oakshire, has been sent to Christmas court to represent the family. Once there, she is surprised to be told she is to be betrothed to Sir John, son of the Earl of Stanson. But things are not what they seem…
As she entered the hall, uncertain laughter, out of harmony, clashed with the music. No one knew what to expect from this celebration, the new King’s first Christmas.
Last year the former King, joyous, generous and draped in a robe trimmed with sable, had fed two thousand people at Christmas. Surrounded by his wife and children, he had kept the season with perhaps more celebration than religion, but to little complaint.
The new King could not afford such generosity. As they gathered at the table to break Advent fast, conversation was hushed. Lute and harp and recorder played softly, and if some silver and plate items were missing, sold to raise ready money to pay for the celebrations, well, it would not be wise to mention it.
Even though he had been crowned five months before, King Richard still looked uncomfortable on his perch at the high table. With reason. Only a few months ago, his most trusted supporter had turned against him, fighting to remove Richard and put Henry Tudor on the throne.
Why? Had the man’s conscience finally caught up with him or was he just angry that he had not been more fully rewarded? No one was sure, not even her father, who knew more than he said. But when Richard defeated and beheaded his former friend, many who had joined the rebellion fled across the channel to rally around Henry Tudor, living in exile in Brittany.
Many around her family’s Oakshire lands in south-east England had taken up arms. Her father, thankfully, had not, so was spared punishment and exile, but the King still had his suspicions about the Earl’s loyalties.
With more reason than she wanted Richard to know.
So when the King summoned her to him after the meal, she took a breath and kept her smile steady.
‘Your father is not here, Lady Alice.’ A frown showed his displeasure.
‘You are our only child. You must represent us.’
She hid her shaking fingers in the folds of her skirt and bent her knee before the King.
‘To his sorrow and regret, Your Grace. My mother fell ill and my father stayed to tend her. They sent me to pay our homage.’ She held her breath. Had she spoken aright? It must be clear that their absence meant no disloyalty, though even loyalty was no protection from this King.
Richard’s Queen reached to touch Alice’s hand. ‘I hope it is not serious. I had to leave my son…he is ill…’
Alice murmured something comforting. The couple had only one son.
Only one heir to the throne.
‘I understand,’ the King said, interrupting, ‘that your family wishes you to join with the Earl of Stanson’s son.’
She swallowed and nodded, trying to gather her wits. So the King did know. Had she alone been ignorant?
My involvement must remain secret.
She must measure each word. ‘It is time for me to wed, Your Grace.’ A statement of fact. Only the disruption of the year had kept her from being promised earlier. ‘With the permission of Your Grace, of course.’
And if it did not come…?
A frown. ‘Stanson has been unfailingly loyal. I hope your family will be the same.’
‘Do not let there be a question of that, Your Grace.’ Certainly she must do nothing to raise one. Her father had found little to admire in King Richard, but he had, for the most part, held his tongue.
Dangerous to do otherwise.
‘Ah!’ The King looked up, distracted. ‘There’s Sir John. It is time to hang the holly and ivy. You will want to help him.’
She wanted no such thing, but she forced a smile and turned to greet him, only to see the man dressed in new garb. Neither doctor nor squire nor even knight—this time, he wore a rich blue-brocade doublet and woollen hose.
Was this really the man any more than the squire or the physician she had seen before?
But the King was not finished. ‘After the greenery is hung, it will be time for prayer. None of the licentiousness we have seen in Christmas past. See to it, Sir John.’
Having handed her to an ‘unfailingly loyal’ man, Richard moved off, leaving them alone.
John took her hand, his grip strong and sure as if he already possessed her.
‘He knows,’ she whispered. ‘Of our betrothal.’
‘You mentioned it?’ As if she should not have.
‘No, he did, but he approves,’ she added, ‘as you said.’
Unfailingly loyal. Did the King suspect her family was not? Was this man, loyal to the King, sent to spy on them?
He smiled. ‘Cause for celebration, then. Yet you look ill at ease, Lady Alice.’
Trying to read her thoughts. Succeeding.
Well, if they were to be married, he would have to learn to hear her speak freely.
‘I had hoped,’ she murmured, softly, so she would not be overheard, ‘for a season of joy and dancing and merriness before I became a wife. Instead, I have only tonight and that is to be filled with vigil, fasting and masses. After that, we shall be betrothed and I will be ever bound by whatever your desires might be.’
The word desires echoed between them.
She bit her tongue.
His hand was warm on hers, but his hard, sharp gaze assessed her as if she were an enemy. ‘We do not always get what we desire. Come. A basket of holly awaits. There are a few ways we can spend the coming hours pleasantly.’
She shivered. This man, this John who would be her husband—was he as ruthless as the King? Who could be trusted now? Her parents? The former Queen? The current King?
Or this silent man who continued to slip into disguises?
© 2020 Wendy Blythe Gifford
The Magic of Wor(l)ds