Here’s a taste of the newest Ballads of the Roses novel, The Trouble With Roses:
Somewhere ahead, a deep rumbling grew to a roar. There must be, or mayhap had once been a village nearby, for the dog halted at the edge of a steep ravine traversed by a narrow bridge. Evarette thanked the heavens for daylight, for had she approached in the night, ‘twas likely she would have pitched over the edge. The bridge’s span was broken and naught but the ends of it were left, buried deep in the rocky banks.
The dog licked her hand and leapt the expanse.
“Dog, you might manage that jump, but I cannot.”
She crept on shaky legs to peer into the depths. The ravine was neither very deep nor wide, but its vine-smothered rock walls were nigh vertical. Tendrils of mist rose from within. At its bottom coursed a stream, running high from the storm, the source of the rumbling. Its leaping, rushing waters, filled with debris, thundered eastward, out of her sight.
She could not cross this way.
The dog watched her from the other side, waiting. She shook her head. “I cannot jump so far.”
The beast uttered a deep-throated ‘woof’.
“What? I have said I cannot jump the chasm.”
What now? She could not go back, nor leap across, and her chilled, weary body screamed in protest at thought of scrambling up the incline. ’Twould be much easier to follow the ravine downhill. Mayhap, ‘twould narrow enough to jump, or another way to cross would present itself. She started down.
The dog raced along the other side, barking.
She ignored it. The poor, dumb beast could not understand. It suddenly turned and tore into the trees opposite her path.
Immediately, she missed it.
’Twas not so simple as she hoped to follow the ravine. The trees thickened again and grew close to the span. Rocks large and small littered the brink. Worst were the thick, heavy vines that fringed the rim, creating a snare for unwary feet. If she took not care, the creepers would trip her up and plunge her straight into the chasm.
A little further, she happened upon a fallen tree trunk spanning the gulf. ‘Twas very large, its girth wide. It looked solid, more than able to hold her weight. At both ends, several arm lengths of the trunk stretched away from the ravine sides and seemed firmly entrenched in the dirt and rock beneath.
Kicking the end of the tree, she stepped upon it to jump a little, searching for weakness. She even tried, unsuccessfully, to move it. It budged not. Mayhap, ‘twould be safe.
She started across, prepared to leap back to safety at the least sign of instability. Ignoring the way her stomach churned in time with the water so close below, she focused on the safe ground on the far side.
There came a moment, almost half the way across, when her courage nigh deserted her. She had to make a choice. ‘Twas either go on, or go back. Her heart pounded so loudly it all but drowned the sound of the flood.
“I am no coward,” she whispered. “’Tis only a few steps more to the other side. All I must do is take them.”
’Twas the most difficult thing she ever did. Inhaling, she stepped forward. Another step, and another. She went just too far to be able to retreat when the tree quaked. She froze, afraid even to breathe. The rim that looked so close only moments before now seemed leagues away. The trunk cracked with a sound like a slashing whip and began to vibrate.
She hissed a curse her mother would faint to hear. The tree she believed was a solid bridge across the ravine must have rotted beneath the bark on the far end. ‘Twas collapsing under her weight. With a loud snap, it gave way. There was no time to do aught but pitch forward to grope blindly for anything to stop her fall. Her fingers scrabbled for a hold and then fisted in the thick vines covering the ravine walls. Pain slammed into her body as she collided with the rock. She felt a little sick at the sound of the tree being mangled in the floodwaters, but she held on, her grip slipping at first from the moisture, but finally catching. The vines gave a little, but they, too, held.
With her boots, she sought a toehold¾a small ledge, a crack, an outthrust rock, a tree root¾anything to put her feet upon to rest her straining arms, to aid in pulling herself up, but to no avail. The rock walls were wet, slick from mist and spray, and too smooth for her feet to find purchase. The toes of her boots rubbed against tiny ridges, but naught wide enough to hold her weight for more than moment or two. Her damp skirts were heavy, adding to the weight that wrenched at her arm sockets. The rim of the ravine was barely more than an arm’s length above her. So close! Surely, she could reach it.
She gathered what was left of her strength and pulled herself up, hand over hand, but even as elation soared and she thought she would make it, the vines began to tear away from the rock.
Terror whipped her thoughts into a spin, vying with the escalating ache in her arms and shoulders.
She hung against the wall, face buried against her arms. She was going to die, and there was naught she could do to stop it. Worse, her father’s men would likely never find her body, making her family’s grief greater.
She tried to grasp a more secure hold, but the vines only yielded their grip a bit more.
She closed her eyes and screamed as the vines loosened further. They gave way even as her stiff, scratched fingers scrambled for a new hold.
Well, dear fans, a loss in my ‘computer family’ – my poor old ‘dinosaur’ Mac gave up on me after *ten* years of faithful service – resulted in time lost finishing my newest book, The Trouble With Roses.
I am so pleased to announce the story is now available!
THE TROUBLE WITH ROSES, Book 3 in the Ballads of the Roses, by Màiri Norris.
An unorthodox woman with a restless spirit…
In her youth, Evarette D’Auvrecher was nicknamed the “restless fire” child. Now a woman grown, she retains that fiery nature. Many men seek her hand in marriage. They want her beauty, generous dower and an alliance with her influential family. They expect from her a meek spirit and implicit obedience – the hallmarks of a proper noblewoman – but she hungers for a man who desires her for herself.
Meets a warrior with a sense of inadequacy – and a slightly misplaced sense of humor.
Sir Javain d’Olgeanc is a powerful knight whose strength lies in battle strategy and the leadership of warriors. Then his father falls ill and he is called home to care for and protect hearth, home – and heaven forbid, helpless, defenseless innocents – a task for which he has little training. To make matters worse, he must manage this feat while falling in love with an unconventional beauty and staying one step ahead of a murderer.
Fate brings them together. Sensual attraction binds them. But they might well kill each other before love can claim them.
Also available on iBooks/iTune and in a week or so, Nook.
I’m off to celebrate!
Just a quick note to let everyone know I’m part of a wonderful new historical romance author’s group. We are called Romancing Yesteryear, and we have some great authors with us (with a few more maybe coming later).
If you love books by Jenna Jaxon, Beppie Harrison, Katherine Bone, Barbara Bettis, Donna Hatch, Cathy MacRae and me, check us out. You can find us at:
Oh, and we’re giving a party tonight to introduce ourselves, so don’t miss it. All the fun will be here, with a bunch of other exciting authors:
Let the party begin!
Wishing a warm welcome to our new subscribers. I’m so pleased you’ve joined us!
The arrival of spring (just around the corner at my house) reminds one of the old proverb: March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers [Frederick Thomas Elworthy, The dialect of West Somerset. An outline of the grammar of the dialect of West Somerset. West Somerset Word-book. – 1875-1886].
‘Tis fitting, then, to introduce at this time of year the cover of the first novel of the “second generation” Ballads of the Roses series. This is the story of Evarette D’Auvrecher – the Storm Rose – eldest daughter of Ysane and Fallard. We first met Evarette with her twin brother, Evart, as a fearless, rambunctious, adventurous three-year-old in Rose of Hope (hint: she hasn’t changed much). Return to the post-Conquest world of the powerful Wulfsingas family in The Trouble With Roses, coming May 01, 2016.
Today is release day for The Yule Rose, the first ‘novella’ in the Ballads of the Roses series! This is the tale of Roland Vesli, Baron of Romleygh Hall and his love, Elysande de Souredeval. You can find it here (it’s also available on Nook and iBooks, and soon, on Kobo):
If you’ve wanted to read Rose of Hope, the first novel in the series, but not had the chance, it’s now ‘free’ on Kindle and Nook (and it has a beautiful, brand new cover):
I hope you enjoy these stories of post-Conquest England. If you love them, I invite you to leave a review!
The next two books in the series are The Trouble With Roses and Scent of Wild Roses. If all goes well, both will be available in early 2016!
Thanks so much, and Happy December!
A brisk, happy welcome to all new subscribers. I’m glad to have you as part of Romantic Eras!
Autumn is such a lovely time of year (and my favorite). The land begins to grow quiet and draws in on itself in preparation for winter. I love the colors, the falling temperatures, the promise of snow, the anticipation of the winter holidays – including Christmas, called Yule in ages past.
In honor of the season, I am releasing, on December 1, a new novella in the medieval-era Ballads of the Roses, called The Yule Rose. It’s the story of Baron Roland Vesli, steward of Romleygh Hall, first mentioned in Rose of Hope and again in For Love of the Rose. It’s for all you who are fans of Christmases past! I’m sharing the new cover here, with all of you, first! I hope you love it as much as I do.
A woman afraid to yield her trust. A warrior determined to win her surrender. Yule will never be the same.
Along with The Yule Rose, I’m offering the first book in the series, Rose of Hope, as a free gift, starting December 1. Courtesy of cover designer Dar Albert’s wizardry, I’ve given Rose of Hope a fresh new cover/new look:
Looking to the FUTURE: The next novel in the series, Scent of Wild Roses, is due for release in February, 2016. In this third novel, Evart, the firstborn son of Fallard and Ysane (Rose of Hope) meets his destiny in Annice of Aiglantier.
Wishing you all a warm, wonderful, safe holiday season… and Happy Yule!
It’s so exciting to announce the release of my new Ballads of the Roses novel, For Love of the Rose, the story of Cynric and Ysabeau (and Brunwulf and Heagyth!)
I hope you enjoy it! (Feel free to leave a review, if you wish.)
Your support means a lot to me – more than I can say.
Have a wonderful, wonderful day (after all, TGIF!)
As promised, in celebration of the release on July 31 of For Love of the Rose, Book Two of the Ballads of the Roses, I have a special post for you.
When I published Rose of Hope, I deleted the entire, chapter length, ‘prose form’ prologue. Now, for the first time, I release that prologue for those of you who loved Cynric.
Imagine yourself sitting around a campfire with friends on a warm summer night. Others have shared their campfire tales. Now it’s my turn. Listen while I tell, in narrative form, the tale of how Cynric met his sister, Ysane.
Waltham Forest, northeast Eastseaxe, Angelcynn [England]
High Summer – the Month of Mowing, 1060
Across the width of the sunny glade, clear eyes of moss green met a wary gaze of feral gold.
A sound, a cross between a whine and a growl, vibrated low in the she-wolf’s throat at the enemy so nigh, but hunger gnawed her shrunken belly and her prey was but a leap away. For a few fragile, terrible seconds, she hung between fear and the caution of instinct engendered by sight and scent of the man. The fear warred with the hunger. The hunger won. She leapt.
The high-pitched shriek of a child muffled the twang of the bowstring as the arrow sped to embed itself in the she-wolf’s heart. She was dead ere she hit the ground, never reaching her quarry.
Cynric Wulfsingas, a young man of seven and ten summers, with eyes the color of the green moss that grew beneath the trees, sprinted across the glade and lifted the flaxen-haired little one in his arms. She was his sister, but ’twas the first time he had touched her, and he held her close, whispering words of comfort, and cradled her in strong arms until her fear faded and her innate curiosity arose.
As he carried her toward her home, she chatted to him about her adventures. Pudgy, mud-streaked fingers explored the straight length of his nose and the scar that marred his right cheek. She petted the fuzz of his golden beard as she would stroke the fur of her favorite cat, then sniffed and told him he smelled good.
The tiny imp was Ysane, daughter of Kenrick Wulfsingas, King’s Thegn and Lord of Wulfsinraed, and barely four summers old. Her parents had taken her along when they went to enjoy a quiet lunch at a meadow nigh their home, during which time she had wandered away and gotten herself thoroughly lost in the forest.
’Twas a day of pristine beauty, the kind of sun-basked moment created for throwing a quilted pallet onto soft meadow grass and sharing a basket of bread, slices of baked chicken, sweet ripe berries and creamy cheese. Wildflowers bloomed in profusion, the scent heavy on the warm, humid air. Their fragrance mingled with that of the sweet meadow grass and the rich, damp earth. Butterflies and bees fluttered and zipped, while dragonflies flitted between them both. Ants and flies competed with each other in their efforts to reach the bounty left in the basket. Occasional black clouds of annoying gnats were encouraged to whisk away to other locations by the waving of the linen squares that had wrapped the food.
After the meal, Kenrick and his wife Edeva laid Ysane down for her nap, for she was warm and drowsy from a full belly and a morn of laughter and play. Thinking the little one safely immersed in sleep on the far edge of the blanket, they turned their attention to each other. Soon, they were engrossed in loving, and unaware when she awoke and wandered away, following a bright-winged butterfly.
She had rambled a very long way indeed for one so small.
Cynric’s heart thundered at what would have happened had he not heard the panicked cries of her parents and learned she had disappeared, and could not be found.
With the consummate skill born of years of woodland living, he tracked her.
She had lingered awhile at a small pool that gently foamed at the base of a low waterfall. Upon a large flat rock a blue hair ribbon, and pieces of shredded fern laid out in a ragged pattern with pebbles from the edges of the pool, gave evidence of how she had played there. Had she not done so, he would not have caught up with her in time.
Now, safe in his arms, she grew sleepy again. The steady rocking motion of his strides was lulling her back to her broken nap. The pauses between her chatters grew longer until they ceased altogether, when a tiny thumb slipped into her mouth and she began to suck. The lids over her moss green eyes, so like to his, grew heavier. Pale lashes fluttered. Moments later, they closed and she slept, her trust in him absolute as none but a very young child’s could be.
He brought her back to the edge of the meadow from which she had wandered.
Surrounded by her women from the hall, a weeping Edeva waited for word. He called out to her. Even as she cried out in unrestrained emotion and ran toward them, he laid the little one in the grass. He turned and disappeared back into the forest ere the mother could reach the spot where Ysane now lay innocently sleeping, blissfully unaware of the consternation she had caused.
Edeva cried to him to wait, but he was already gone, and she had no room in her heart for wondering why when her joy so fully overflowed. Sobbing her relief, she scooped up her child and covered the dirty little face with kisses. Ysane awoke and immediately began to fuss, agitated at such confusing and unwelcome attentions.
Not long after, Kenrick returned, his heart heavy with fear and loss. Both turned to gladness, and unashamed tears streaked his own cheeks when he found his daughter safe. He, too, wondered at the whim that took her rescuer away ere he could be properly thanked. But his curiosity carried a speculative edge, for he knew better than anyone else the probable motive behind Cynric’s evasiveness. Despite himself, his guilty response was relief.
As the laughing, rejoicing family and all those with them returned home, Kenrick determined in his heart to find a way to reward the young man. Some days later, he decided upon what he thought was an appropriate recompense. He journeyed to the cottage in the forest where Cynric dwelt alone.
No word was said, but tension vibrated between the two as they met, and Kenrick thought Cynric would refuse him entrance. In all fairness, he would not blame him. But finally, the young man stepped back, inviting him in. The father glanced around the cottage, noting that while a poor space, ’twas yet warm and comfortable. Kenrick’s moss green eyes took special note of the beauty and skill of the intricate carving of the furniture that graced the otherwise rude interior.
Over cups of cool spring water, Kenrick came quickly to the point, asking Cynric to become the master woodcarver for the hall. Their old carver had but recently died and there was no one experienced enough to take his place. Once again, Kenrick expected the young man to refuse, but instead, Cynric nodded in agreement.
Cynric noted the surprise and smiled, but the movement of his lips was grim, and not amused. He would accept, he said, but only on one condition. He must be allowed to continue to live in his own home, and have no more contact with the hall and its inhabitants than was needful to accomplish his task. He lived a solitary life, and ‘twas his choice to remain apart from all others.
The lord agreed. They grasped wrists, their moss green eyes meeting and holding for longer than was wont. Kenrick nodded once, and then went on his way. Cynric stood in the doorway of the cottage and watched as the deep shadow beneath the trees swallowed the figure of the older man.
The skin around his eyes crinkled as a smile of satisfaction curved his mouth. He was pleased. The new position would continue to afford him the solitude he craved, while at the same time allowing him greater ease in watching over Ysane. This last was of prime importance to him, for though he had only rarely seen her, he loved her, and at her birth had named himself her protector.
Over the course of the following years, as Ysane grew into a beautiful and happy girl, he kept his watch over her. He saved her life a second time when she was nine summers of age.
In disobedience to her parent’s admonition, she was wading alone, downstream in the river. Observing her antics from behind a tree, he was chuckling in open amusement at her imitation of a large wading bird. The skirts of her cyrtel were hiked up around her thighs to keep them dry, and she stood on one foot, attempting, rather ludicrously, to lure a brown trout, hiding in tree roots by the bank, nigh enough to catch. But a small green snake glided by, and its sinuous body brushed against the bare skin of her leg from behind, startling her. She fell.
The river ran neither fast nor dangerously deep in this spot, but the folds of her cyrtel became entangled in the submerged roots, holding her under. She could not free them, nor could she reach the surface to breath and she foundered, her limbs thrashing in blind panic.
Cynric was beside her in moments, lifting her head above the water. She coughed, and sputtered and choked, but she had not been under long enough to be in serious danger of drowning.
He freed her skirts and carried her ashore, but then the backlash of the wild terror he had felt when he realized she could not breathe took over and he gave her the tongue-lashing of her young life. He yelled that if she ever again did aught so stupid, he would certainly thrash her.
Ysane stared in disbelief into eyes of the same brilliant green as her own. Stunned that this strange man whom she barely knew would speak to her in such a way, she yelled back at him, reminding him haughtily that she was the thegn’s daughter and he was but the woodcarver. He had no right to speak to her that way.
The hurt that flashed across his face was quickly masked, but even at her tender age, she saw it. Sudden shame flooded her. This kind man had saved her life, and she berated him as if he were naught but the lowliest serf. He turned to leave, but quickly she called him back and found the words to tell him of her repentance. She asked his name, and then reached to flit her fingertips over the scar that jagged across his cheek. He tried to flinch away, but she would not allow it, and held his chin with her fingers so she could search his face.
She smiled, then, and motioned him to turn around while she changed out of her wet cyrtel, to slip instead into the syrce she had left on the shore. Pulling him down to sit beside her in the warm sun, she unbound her hair from its braid and spread it out to dry. His green eyes filled with awe at the sight. He tentatively grasped an almost white strand and rubbed it between his fingers.
She watched, and filled with curiosity about him, she urged him to speak of himself, but he would not. So she chattered to him of her life, most of which he already familiar, though she knew it not.
She wanted to know where he lived, for he resided not at the hall or in the village. He told her briefly of his cottage in the woods, but when she asked him to take her there, he refused. The cottage was his home, he said, and few came there. Her curiosity further piqued, she persuaded and cajoled, and finally tickled his ribs until he agreed.
That happy, carefree day began a strange, off-and-on friendship between the lonely, silent woodsman and the thegn’s lovely daughter. They met only occasionally, always in the forest, and never when others were about. Both felt the pull of the powerful connection between them, as if they had always known and loved each other.
Only he knew its cause, but he never spoke of it, never told her they shared the same father.
She grew closer to him than ever she was to her siblings, for though they loved her they far exceeded her in years, for she was not the offspring of her parent’s youth. She had been an unexpected but welcome creation of the love of their declining days.
Her elder brother and sister knew of her friendship with Cynric, but she swore them to secrecy. Her parents, though they also loved her were busy with the cares of life, and thus had no eyes to see. Her friend Domnall, the First Marshal of her father’s hearth companions also learned of it, but he knew Cynric’s paternity, and so found naught in the relationship to foster concern, though he watched it from afar.
Time passed, and Cynric learned from her constant chatter all there was to know of her simple but happy life, while she gleaned almost naught of his beyond what was obvious on the surface. The self-absorption of youth kept her unaware of the odd imbalance. He did not mind.
One day she brought to him a wonderful thing that she wished to share with him. ’Twas a precious object, exceedingly rare and immensely valuable, a book concerning an ancient Grecian warrior who made a fantastic odyssey across the seas. As she read to him, they discovered another thing they shared: a love for the rich tales and stories of the past. He could not refuse her offer to teach him to read, for he desired to study these glorious tales for himself.
Their affection for each other deepened, yet still he would not leave his reclusive retreat in the forest, though she begged him oft. Thus, she came to him, and she brought the precious books, and found him an apt pupil. ’Twas not long ere his skill at reading matched her own, while his comprehension surpassed hers.
… And so time passed, and a deep, comfortable, familial love grew between them. He was the one whose admiration she sought first when her father gifted her with a new gown. He listened with carefully hidden amusement as she spun webs of romantic nonsense about her betrothed, whom she had never yet met. ’Twas from him she sought advice for answers to her questions about growing up, for despite the solitude that characterized his life, he was wise in the ways of the earth. He had learned early that in nature one could find the answers to most of life’s most profound questions.
’Twas to him she fled for comfort when first her mother, Edeva, died from a strange fever, and then again, two years later, when her brother Kennard’s life was lost during a hunt for wild stag. The broad woodcarver’s shoulders bore the brunt of her agonized tears and his calloused hands shook with his own pain for her grief as they stroked her flaxen hair.
Mayhap the strange friendship would have continued indefinitely on the same straightforward course had not life, as so frequently happened, intervened. But events occurred that set them both on paths that not only tore them apart, but also set him against her in ways he had never foreseen. He became a man torn by loyalties she could not understand, for he could never tell her the truth.
Yet, in the mysterious dance that is life, fate does not always remain cruel, and fortune favored the two. In time, and at the very nick of time, he learned the truth of where his true loyalty should lie, and found the courage born of love to act upon it. Had he known the cost, still he would not have faltered. For he was her protector, and through all that transpired in those days, that one reality endured: love.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the early life of our hero, Cynric.
Here is part two of the Inns and Alehouses info I promised. I hope you enjoy it. Next week, Cynric’s first meeting with his sister, Ysane.
Alehouses [Part 2]
Last time we looked at the origin of inns in Anglo-Saxon England. Today, alehouses are the subject. These were owned and operated by alewives and were found in (almost) every town or village, no matter how small or poor. The Anglo-Saxons loved their drink and so did the Vikings and the Normans when they came. As usual, trouble would develop when men got to drinking too much, but it was pretty well dealt with by the local sheriff or, if necessary, by the alewife’s husband or sons. However, sometimes fights ended with blood spilled and dead bodies littering the floors.
While it was not common, some alehouses were known to allow traveling customers to stay overnight if no cumen-hus (inn-house) was available, especially if the weather was inclement or the individual got too drunk to be moved. The overriding Anglo-Saxon principal of hospitality to strangers, both by custom and by law required this, but in such a case, because alehouses were not meant to be lodgings, this was allowed at the discretion of the owner and the price was steep. One slept wherever there was a space available, without even pallets to lie upon. For an even higher price, the alewife and her husband might give up their pallets in their private bower, but most folk simply bedded down on the hard-packed clay floor in the main room after the trestle boards (tables) were taken up and stacked against the wall.
At one point in the reign of King Edgar (c. 970 AD), alehouses became so prevalent the king actually passed a law limiting the number of alehouses in a single village and created a “drinking measure” known as a “peg”, which governed how much drink a customer was allowed on any given night.
Then of course, there were those who had too much to drink and might or might not be left where they lay by the owner. Depending on how much the owner liked the customer, or if they were local and a friend or relative might eventually be expected to show up to claim them, the owner might simply throw them out the door to sleep where they landed on the ground.
An alehouse in Anglo-Saxon days was indicated by a sign outside the door on which was seen the image of a bush (indicating the grain by which ale was made; hops were not used to make drink until the 14th c. This new drink was named “beer”, though both the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings had versions of beer and small-beers made without hops. These various drinks, along with cider, mead, water, et al, would also be available for consumption at the inns.
History of the British Empire: Advanced Class-Book, by William Francis Collier
Encyclopaedia of Antiquities and Elements of Archeology, Volume 1, by Thomas Dudley Fosbroke
The Oxford Companion To Beer, by Thomas Dudley Fosbroke