Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen - Spotlight Book Tour

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen Vol. II 

 by Collins Hemingway

Publication Date: August 8, 2016
eBook & Paperback; 332 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-1535444958

Jane Austen Lived a Quiet, Single Life-Or Did She? Tradition holds that Jane Austen lived a proper, contemplative, unmarried life. But what if she wed a man as passionate and intelligent as she-and the marriage remained secret for 200 years? The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen resolves the biggest mystery of Austen's life-the "lost years" of her twenties-of which historians know virtually nothing. • Why the enduring rumors of a lost love or tragic affair? • Why, afterward, did the vivacious Austen prematurely put on "the cap of middle age" and close off any thoughts of finding love? • Why, after her death, did her beloved sister destroy her letters and journals? The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen trilogy answers these questions through a riveting love affair based on the history of the times and the details of Austen's own life.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Praise for The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen Series

"A skillful portrayal of an early nineteenth-century literary icon takes this historical romance on an imaginative journey of the soul. … The adventure of a true romantic partnership and all the excitement that the nineteenth century had to offer. … [The] novel invites you to linger, to savor, and to enjoy. … Makes for wonderful reading. … A Jane that lives and breathes on the page."—Claire Foster, Foreword Reviews, 4 stars

"Hemingway captures the energy of the times, while also writing with the irony and sly humor of Austen herself. … A strikingly real Jane Austen fully engaged in the turbulent times. … She is a living, breathing presence. … [He] displays a notable ability to recreate time and place. … A lively, compelling read, [a] sobering but moving conclusion." —Blueink Starred Review

"An enjoyable novel in an imaginative, well-researched series. … A well-researched work of historical fiction … [with] sweet moments and intriguing historical insights. … An incredibly moving portrait of a woman facing loss and love." —Kirkus Reviews

Whether his subject is literature, history, or science, Collins Hemingway has a passion for the art of creative investigation. For him, the most compelling fiction deeply explores the heart and soul of its characters, while also engaging them in the complex and often dangerous world in which they have a stake. He wants to explore all that goes into people's lives and everything that makes them complete though fallible human beings. His fiction is shaped by the language of the heart and an abiding regard for courage in the face of adversity.

As a nonfiction book author, Hemingway has worked alongside some of the world's thought leaders on topics as diverse as corporate culture and ethics; the Internet and mobile technology; the ins and outs of the retail trade; and the cognitive potential of the brain. Best known for the #1 best-selling book on business and technology, Business @ the Speed of Thought, which he coauthored with Bill Gates, he has earned a reputation for tackling challenging subjects with clarity and insight, writing for the nontechnical but intelligent reader.

 Hemingway has published shorter nonfiction on topics including computer technology, medicine, and aviation, and he has written award-winning journalism. Published books include The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen trilogy, Business @ the Speed of Thought, with Bill Gates, Built for Growth, with Arthur Rubinfeld, What Happy Companies Know, with Dan Baker and Cathy Greenberg, Maximum Brainpower, with Shlomo Breznitz, and The Fifth Wave, with Robert Marcus.

Hemingway lives in Bend, Oregon, with his wife, Wendy. Together they have three adult sons and three granddaughters. He supports the Oregon Community Foundation and other civic organizations engaged in conservation and social services in Central Oregon.

For more information please visit Collins Hemingway's website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Goodreads.

Why It’s Possible Jane Austen Married


Jane Austen had a few flirtation-level romances as a young woman, including one with a law student named Tom Lefroy, whom many biographers treat as the one who got away. Commentators also dutifully recount the story of Jane’s acceptance and rejection of a proposal by Harris Bigg-Wither, a young, brash man six years her junior, on Thursday-Friday, 2-3 December 1802. This was when Jane, at age 26, had “lost her bloom,” to use the day’s jargon.

The story goes that Jane and Cassandra journeyed to Manydown, the Bigg-Wither estate, for several weeks of leisure with the family. The Austen ladies were good friends with Harris’s sisters, especially Caroline and Alethea. On 2 December, Bigg-Wither surprises Jane with a proposal. Overwhelmed at the prospect of becoming mistress of the large estate, Jane accepts this proposal from a person with little to recommend him except wealth. She reconsiders overnight; recants her acceptance in the morning; then flees back to Bath in humiliation. (A woman could accept and reject a proposal then; a man could not withdraw one without the woman’s consent.)

What is distinctly odd about this history, however, is that this purported engagement and refusal, which would have created a scandal, does not appear to show up in any surviving contemporaneous letters or journals by anyone who knew Jane.

When I began to examine the details of Austen’s life some years ago for historical fiction based on her life, I recognized that the references all went back to Caroline, daughter of her brother James and sister-in-law Mary. I knew Caroline sourced the story to her mother, but it wasn’t until some years later, when it hit me that Caroline was one of Austen’s youngest relatives, that I checked and learned that Caroline had not even been born when the proposal is supposed to have happened!

Recently, Helena Kelly, in her book “Jane Austen: Secret Radical,” points out the same odd circumstance: this major biographical event is reported only by Caroline, and only in 1870—68 years after the supposed incident—a lifetime! (I am in general agreement with Kelly’s take on Austen and her work in society, though I find her interpretations of the novels to be “eccentric.”)

Supposedly, after the disaster with Bigg-Wither, it was brother James who escorted the Austen sisters home to Bath, so Mary would have been aware of the situation. Mary, however, was never close to Jane and died herself in 1843—41 years after the event, 26 years after Jane died, and 27 years before Caroline’s telling. Caroline was only 12 when Austen died—she recounts her last sad meeting with her aunt. Even if the Bigg-Wither topic arose in the conversations after Jane’s death, that still would have been 15 years after the events. Considering the reticence people have about speaking “ill” of the dead, it is easy to believe the topic well might not have come up until much later.

How is it this story is handed down by a niece too young to have known about it directly but not by the many other nieces and nephews who were alive? Caroline's older brother, James Edward, was Austen’s first official biographer. He was 18 when Jane died—he attended her funeral on behalf of his ill father—yet he sources his younger sister for the tale of the botched proposal! He would have been a toddler when the proposal occurred, but if the story was retold from time to time within the family, wouldn’t he, half a dozen years older than Caroline,  have been more likely to have heard it than she? Why would he have to reference his sister's knowledge?

Stories have become legends in less time than the gaps in this recounting. …

Notice something else: Cassandra was an actual witness to a mysterious suitor, who was going to propose to Jane at a coastal town in the summer of 1801 but died unexpectedly. Cass provides almost no details about the man, and two different nieces give different towns as where the courting took place. Nor does Cass mention Bigg-Wither’s proposal in 1828 when she’s reminded of the other, expected proposal in 1801.

Cass seems to have relayed just enough information about Jane’s coastal “romance” to confuse rather than enlighten. Cass also destroyed the vast majority of Jane’s letters from this period, leaving no other evidence of the events. We know nothing about the letters except that Caroline calls them “open and confidential”—but she gives no indication she has seen them. Again, most of the letters were before Caroline’s birth or when she was a baby. Why would Cass have kept the letters about Tom Lefroy, which support the idea that he (or his aunt) had dumped Jane, while burning those about those later relationships, including one in which she allegedly dumped someone else?

Though the story of any embarrassing Bigg-Wither encounter likely would have circulated for years in the family, the incident is too specific for one being recounted twenty, thirty, or forty years later, as likely happened. Caroline claims to have the exact date of the proposal from her mother’s day books (diaries), but turns around and says no proposal is actually mentioned; only that Jane and Cass had visited at that time. But they visited the family regularly.

Meaning the provenance of this story is suspicious, at the very least. The oafish Bigg-Wither married someone else in 1804 and sired ten children.

Now that we’ve covered proposals, what about a possible marriage? Shocking! But the question brings us to the one letter in which Jane Austen identifies herself as a married woman, the 5 April 1809 letter to the publisher Crosby (a poor speller, she renders it “Crosbie”) in which she demands they either publish her novel “Susan,” which they had bought six years earlier, or she would sell it to someone else.

The publisher quickly replies that they paid for the book (though not required to publish it) and if she sold it to anyone else “we shall take proceedings to stop the sale.” End of correspondence—though years later her brother Henry did buy the book back for Jane for the original £10, enabling it to be published as “Northanger Abbey.”

Jane signs her letter to Crosby “Mrs. Ashton Dennis,” care of the Southampton Post Office. The publisher does not know her name—Henry handled the sale, and she was identified only as “A Lady.” The thinking is that she uses a different name to remain anonymous, and the one she uses spells out “MAD” to indicate her unhappiness at the delays. (And what prompted to her write the abrupt letter six years after the fact?)

That leads to an interesting problem. Jane has been in Southampton for some time; the post office knows her. In the autumn, she kept up a steady stream of correspondence with Cassandra, then at Godmersham, when Edward’s wife, Elizabeth, died unexpectedly after childbirth. How is Miss Jane Austen going to pick up a letter for a Mrs. Ashton Dennis unless that is now her name? Isn’t it also strange that, while Jane’s life is relatively well-known, the two proposals that have very poor provenance come in the period in which Cass destroyed almost all of Jane’s letters?

In this time, we have a three-and-a-half-year gap of Jane’s letters, 1801-1804; a year-long gap, mid-1805 to mid-1806; and a 16-month gap, February 1807-June 1808. We have only 13 letters—not quite 2 a year—from 1801 to 1808, where they begin again with some regularity. Besides the occasional passing reference to her in other people’s letters and diaries, we know nothing of Jane’s whereabouts or doings for this time.

Considering the confusion and inconsistency in reports of who she was involved with, and when—too many specifics in one major encounter (Bigg-Wither in 1802) and far too few in another (the mysterious clergyman at the beach in 1801)—one must ask what was really going on. Were there multiple romantic encounters, each one ending disastrously, or perhaps one relationship that these inconsistent stories point to—or are designed to point away from?

When she signed her name as a married woman in 1809, was she MAD at the publisher about not publishing her book, or MAD about some man the family later sought to hide?

These unanswered questions prompted me to write the trilogy “The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen,” which tells the story of an intelligent, passionate woman discovering all that is good and bad in life for a woman in the early 1800s. 

Monday, January 14 Review at Coffee and Ink Wednesday, January 16 Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads Thursday, January 17 Feature at What Is That Book About Friday, January 18 Review at Rainy Day Reviews Monday, January 21 Feature at Donna's Book Blog Tuesday, January 22 Excerpt at T's Stuff Interview at Passages to the Past Wednesday, January 23 Review & Guest Post at To Read, Or Not to Read Friday, January 25 Review at View from the Birdhouse Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views Monday, January 28 Review at For the Sake of Good Taste Tuesday, January 29 Guest Post at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen Wednesday, January 30 Review at Library of Clean Reads Friday, February 1 Review at History From a Woman's Perspective Saturday, February 2 Review at Jorie Loves a Story Sunday, February 3 Review at Bri's Book Nook Monday, February 4 Review at Amy's Booket List Tuesday, February 5 Review at Maiden of the Pages Wednesday, February 6 Feature at The Lit Bitch Interview at Bookish Rantings Thursday, February 7 Feature at CelticLady's Reviews Friday, February 8 Review at Book Reviews from Canada Saturday, February 9 Interview at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card! To enter, please use the Gleam form below. 

  Giveaway Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 9th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open to US 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. 

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen Vol II

Saturday, January 26, 2019

New Adventure!

Dear readers,

I have a lovely announcement that I am so excited to share with you.  Starting this month, I will be writing for The Engrafted Word!  In fact, I will be cowriting with my friend Savanna Kaiser.  This is such an incredible endeavor, and one that I am so grateful to pursue.  The Lord truly orchestrated this idea, and Savanna and I are both looking forward to how God will use our writing and this blog this year.  Please check out my first piece that was posted this week!

Thank you dear readers for all of your support these last four years.  I will still continue to write for my blog, but now there will be more to read over on The Engrafted Word.  Also, look for an upcoming giveaway in February as we celebrate the four year anniversary of Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen!  Happy reading friends!  

Heather Snyder 
Tea Queen :)  

Friday, January 25, 2019

First Line Fridays

Today I wanted to highlight one of my favorite stories from one of my favorite series of books.  C.S. Lewis was a remarkable author, and I have enjoyed reading his books through the years.  As an Oxford scholar, he truly understood so much about storytelling, people, and the Bible.  His testimony is incredible, and I encourage you to read it.  In fact, I recommend reading any of his works.  Happy reading friends! 

Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first line!

Today I am going to post a line from: 

  Prince Caspian  
by C.S. Lewis 

And the first line is...

"Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy, and it has been told in another book called The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe how they had a remarkable adventure."  

Happy reading and happy Friday!   

Let me know your first line in the comments & then head over to Hoarding Books  to see who else is participating! 

Friday, January 18, 2019

First Line Fridays

Happy Friday!  How is everyone's reading going thus far?  I am on my second book, and of course, am determined to read forty books this year.  There are so many wonderful books coming out in 2019, but there are also so many that have been published these last few years I have not read yet.  I can think of a couple of series I want to finish, and I would also like to incorporate more classic literature--Dickens, Austen, Bronte, and Shakespeare. 

What books are you most looking forward to reading?  And what are some of your reading goals?  As always, happy reading! 

Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first line!

Today I am going to post a line from: 

  A Defense of Honor 
by Kristi Ann Hunter 

And the first line is...


"Graham, the Viscount Wharton, heir to the earldom of Grableton, pride of the Cambridge fencing team, coveted party guest, and generally well-liked member of Brooke's and White's, was bored."  

Happy reading and happy Friday!   

Let me know your first line in the comments & then head over to Hoarding Books  to see who else is participating! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Daily Life of Hailey Grace - Spotlight Book Tour

For Hailey Grace, birthdays suck! She hopes with all her heart that her big day passes without gifts, or even a birthday wish. But with loving parents and two witty best friends who keep her on her toes, there’s no telling what adventure Hailey Grace will be forced to explore this time. 

Unexpectedly, her best friend Alex challenges her to do something she’s never done before. With that comes a whole new set of rules, and another life Hailey isn’t sure she’s quite ready for. Now questioning all that she has ever believed, she takes Alex up on the dare by asking for something that no one but God can give her. Her request also comes with a twenty-four-hour deadline. As the minutes slowly but surely tick by, Hailey’s life shifts into overdrive and she wonders if she has asked for too much too soon.

Purchase at Amazon 

Beloved is a ministry leader and Christian Romance Author born and raised in Miami, FL. She spends much of her time studying the scriptures and has a gift for sharing the Gospel. Through her debut novel, Beloved hopes to inspire youth to seek God whole-heartily, knowing there is nothing impossible with Him on their side!

Find Beloved on her social media links: 

Facebook: belovedchrist
Instagram: @belovedforever2018
Twitter: @beloved4jesus

1.  When did you decide you wanted to write a novel, and what was the inspiration behind The Daily Life of Hailey Grace?  I love the plot by the way!  

Hmm….that’s a great question! I don’t think I officially decided to write a novel until about a year or so before I completed The Daily Life of Hailey Grace. The inspiration behind my novel is Jesus Christ. I absolutely adore Him and cherish Him like no other. I wondered what would it be like for Jesus Christ to take on the form of a teenager in the present times we’re living in. I questioned whether I would be able to recognize Him and if I would let Him into my world. I’m sure you get my point, and so here comes Hailey Grace living out the possibilities that paraded my mind. By the way, I’m glad to hear that you love the plot!

2.  What do you enjoy most about writing?   

What I love about writing is living liberally without the reproach of others. I can live and dream the impossible all the while holding Jesus’ heart and encourage others to do the same. I think that pretty much says it all!

3.  Can you give any advice for those wanting to write a novel of their very own? 

My advice for those of you who would like to write and/or publish a novel, is simply to PRAY.

Win an autographed copy of The Daily Life of Hailey Grace, as well as a $10.00 Amazon Gift Card! There will be 3 book winners, and one Grand Prize Winner will receive the Gift Card in addition to their copy.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 11, 2019

First Line Fridays

Happy January everyone!  I pray you have had a great start to 2019.  How is the weather where you are right now?  It seemed to be getting warmer one day--almost like spring--but then Jack Frost came right back!  Of course, this cold weather makes me feel like it is still Christmas.  Does anyone else feel that way?  And am I the only one still catching up on Christmas movies?  :)  Have a lovely day and happy reading! 

Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first line!

Today I am going to post a line from: 

  A Tender Hope 
by Amanda Cabot 

And the fist line is...

August 8, 1881

"She was free."  

Happy reading and happy Friday!   

Let me know your first line in the comments & then head over to Hoarding Books  to see who else is participating! 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Enchanting Nicholette - My Review

I was so excited to read another book in The Everstone Chronicles by Dawn Crandall.  This is book five in the series.  The entire storyline follows a group of men and women who meet in one way or another, and each unique story fits together so beautifully.  You can read each book alone, but I highly recommend reading them in order, because they connect so well.  This particular story picks up from the last book, and explains the tragic events occurring in the life of Nicholette Everstone.

Nicholette is a widow, and she continually imagines what her future might look like.  Will she ever find love again?  Could her heart even consider it?  So much has happened since the death of her husband, and she wonders at the possibility of regarding someone else in the same manner as her William.  Those around Nicholette try to comfort her, but not much can be said regarding the most difficult day of her life. 

There is so much to be said about these books, because this series contains so many wonderful stories and characters.  Each individual holds so much and gives so much to the context of each scene—conflict is everywhere, because love and jealousy abound with each turn of the page.  It is so interesting to see how the lives of these characters meld together to create such incredible plots.  I recommend checking out this series—perhaps it can be you New Year’s set of books to read!  Happy reading! 

Check out my reviews of the first four books in this series:  

This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to the author for my copy.

In this captivating novella by Dawn Crandall, Nicholette Everstone is already a widow at the age of twenty-two: her husband was murdered on their wedding day. She has just returned to Boston after two years of mourning in Europe. Although her husband was loving, the marriage was an arranged one, and Nicholette would like to wed again--this time for love...and to someone safe

As she acclimates to life in Back Bay again, Nicholette meets someone she can't help but fall for. But when she learns of the danger and sacrifices Cal Hawthorne takes on for the safety of others, will her heart be strong enough to keep her fears of "what if" at bay?

Dawn Crandall is an ACFW Carol Award-nominated author of the award winning series The Everstone Chronicles from Whitaker House. The series consists of three books: The Hesitant Heiress, The Bound Heart and The Captive Imposter. 

Dawn is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary. Apart from writing books, Dawn is also a first-time mom to a precious little boy (born March 2014) and also serves with her husband in a pre-marriage mentor program at their local church in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Visit her online at:  www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com

Friday, January 4, 2019

First Line Fridays

Happy New Year!  I hope all of you had a lovely Christmas and New Year celebration.  It is so wonderful to start again--each and every day is a blessing.  Let me leave you with this Bible verse:  "He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!'  Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"  Revelation 21:5  Happy reading!

 Grab the book nearest to you and leave a comment with the first line!

Today I am going to post a line from: 

  The Bramble House Christmas 
by CJ Carmichael 

And the first line is...

"Willa Fairchild hadn't counted on driving through a blizzard on her first night in Montana, but given the way her life had gone the past two-and-a-half years, maybe she should have."  

Happy reading and happy Friday!   

Let me know your first line in the comments & then head over to Hoarding Books  to see who else is participating! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Murder by Any Name - Spotlight Book Tour

A Murder By Any Name by Suzanne M. Wolfe

Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Crooked Lane Books
Hardcover & eBook; 326 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery

When a brutal murder threatens the sanctity of the Elizabethan court, it’s up to a hot-tempered spy to save the day. The court of Elizabeth I is no stranger to plotting and intrigue, but the royal retinue is thrown into chaos when the Queen’s youngest and sweetest lady-in-waiting is murdered, her body left on the high altar of the Chapel Royal in Whitehall Palace.

Solving the murder will require the cunning and savvy possessed by only one man. Enter Nicholas Holt, younger brother of the Earl of Blackwell—spy, rake, and owner of the infamous Black Sheep tavern in the seedy district of Bankside. Nick quickly learns that working for the Queen is a mixed blessing. Elizabeth—salty-tongued, vain, and fiercely intelligent—can, with a glance, either reward Nick with a purse of gold or have his head forcibly removed.

When a second lady-in-waiting is slain at Whitehall, the court once again reels with shock and dismay. On the trail of a diabolical killer, Nick and his faithful sidekick—an enormous Irish Wolfhound named Hector—are treading on treacherous ground, and only the killer’s head on a platter can keep them in the Queen’s good graces.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Chapters | IndieBound | Kobo

Praise for A Murder By Any Name

“Captivating… Fans of Fiona Buckley’s Ursula Blanchard and Kathy Lynn Emerson’s Rosamond Jaffrey will be delighted to add Wolfe to their reading lists.” ―Booklist
“[A] promising series launch… Fans of Elizabethan historicals will be satisfied.” ―Publishers Weekly
“An excellent series kickoff by Wolfe that cleverly highlights both the mystery and the many ills of Elizabethan times.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“In vivid passages, Suzanne Wolfe’s novel brings to the reader the light and dark of Elizabethan England, its squalor and splendor, filth and riches, intrigues and delights.” ―NY Journal of Books
“A deeply atmospheric and richly textured Elizabethan mystery... I was captivated by Nicholas and Hector as they navigated court treachery and the dark recesses of the lower classes in this compelling Elizabethan mystery.” ―Shelley Freydont, New York Times bestselling author
"Wolfe’s descriptions are unparalleled, immersing the reader in the time period as they join her wily protagonist on his quest to catch a cold-hearted killer.” ―Anna Lee Huber, bestselling author of the Lady Darby Mysteries
"I stayed up reading much too late to finish this book! Wonderful Elizabethan atmosphere, well-drawn and unusual characters, action and intrigue and excitement―I felt like I was in the 1570s" ―Amanda Carmack, award-winning author of the Elizabethan mysteries
“Bewitching! Suzanne Wolfe opens the door to Elizabethan life through her masterful creation of the sympathetic spy, Nicholas Holt. An exciting start to a promising new historical mystery series.” ―Naomi Hirahara, Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai series
“A classically plotted whodunit set against the background of Elizabethan London and the court of Queen Elizabeth the First, both of them well researched and vividly realized, with a wealth of detail. One can almost smell the reek of the 16th century streets and waterways.” ―Fiona Buckley, author of the Ursula Blanchard Elizabethan mysteries

Suzanne M. Wolfe grew up in Manchester, England and read English Literature at Oxford University, where she co-founded the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society. She served as Writer in Residence at Seattle Pacific University and taught literature and creative writing there for nearly two decades. Wolfe is the author of three novels: A Murder by Any Name, The Confessions of X, and Unveiling.

Thirty years ago, she and her husband, Gregory Wolfe, co-founded Image, a journal of the arts and faith. They have also co-authored many books on literature and prayer including Books That Build Character: How to Teach Your Child Moral Values Through Stories, and Bless This House: Prayers For Children and Families. Her essays and blog posts have appeared in Image and other publications.

She and her husband are the parents of four grown children. They live in Richmond Beach, Washington.

For more information, please visit Suzanne M. Wolfe's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

The Black Sheep Tavern, Bankside

The Honorable Nicholas Holt, younger brother of Robert, Earl of Blackwell, lately returned from spying for the queen on the Continent, was dreaming of white, willing female flesh, his lips grazing over smooth pearlescent thighs, lute-flaring hips and upwards to what he confidently anticipated to be pillowy and perfectly rounded breasts, murmuring endearments, if not of love, then those guaranteed to induce enthusiastic cooperation—“sweetheart,” “my Venus,” even the low and surprising moan, “Mouse.” The only fly in the ointment was an inhumanly pitched shrieking that kept putting him off his amatory stride.


“I’m risen,” he growled.

“Evidently,” a voice said.

Nick blearily became aware that the voice was male and could not possibly have emanated from the lips of his dream-goddess. At the same time her flesh began to melt, oozing unpleasantly through his fingers like marchpane on a hot summer’s day at the fair until she was gone. In its place a horde of blacksmiths set up shop inside his skull and started clanging away. 

          “John,” Nick said without opening his eyes. “Be a pal and sod off.” And, as an afterthought: “And shut that bloody parrot up before I stuff it up your arse.”

         The shrieking subsided to low avian grumblings as John Stockton, Nick’s friend and companion in arms, threw a cloak over the stand where Bess, said parrot, was chained. Next he shook Nick who was sprawled on a bench in a corner of the taproom of The Black Sheep, the tavern Nick owned and John ran. A raspy, wet tongue began to slaver Nick’s face.

          “Cut it out, Hector,” he muttered, pushing the big canine muzzle away.

          “Nick,” John said. “There’s an urgent message from your brother.”

          “He can sod off, too.” But something in John’s voice made Nick open his eyes. “What’s wrong?”  

          “It’s Sir Edward Carew’s daughter.”

“Which one?”


Nick sat up quickly, then regretted it, as the room tilted and his stomach lurched. Hector, his enormous Irish Wolfhound, so massive the shaggy head was on a level with his own, was regarding him with reproachful eyes. Nick had fought beside Sir Edward, visiting his manor in Herefordshire many times. He recalled Cecily as a shy, dreamy girl with long fair hair and guileless cornflower blue eyes. As he grew accustomed to the shuttered gloom of the taproom, he recognized an adolescent boy in the livery of his brother standing near the door, face taut, eyes black holes in a white face.

“What’s amiss, Alan?” he asked, pulling on his boots and buckling on his sword belt. Black wings began to beat inside his chest. 

“It’s Lady Cecily,” the lad replied. “She’s been murdered.” Then he burst into tears.

The corridor outside the chapel was in an uproar, a seething mass of plush taffeta brocade, and the humbler fustian as nobles, pages, and servants jostled one another and craned their necks to see through the crossed pikes of the two stony-faced Royal Guards positioned at the door. Nick pushed his way through the crowd, the page boy Alan at his heels, Hector padding silently behind, a path magically opening up around him like Moses parting the Red Sea as people shied away from this canine monster.   

Nick had questioned Alan closely as they were being rowed across the river in the wherry Robert had sent to fetch him, a river-crossing being quicker than attempting London Bridge on foot or even on horseback with its throngs of pedestrians and lumbering carts. All the boy could tell him was that at first light, when the Queen and her ladies had gone to the chapel for morning prayers, they had discovered Lady Cecily’s body.

“Let me pass,” Nick said.

The guards’ expressions did not change, the wickedly sharp pikes remaining resolutely crossed. Nick sighed.

“Robert,” he shouted. “Tell these trained monkeys to stand aside.”

“Let him pass,” a voice ordered. Wood clashed on stone as the guards came to attention, pikes smartly brought into the upright position.

“Majesty,” Nick said, belatedly catching sight of a froth of red curls just inside the door. He gave a small bow, all he could manage in the cramped space, then entered the chapel.

“Thank you, Alan,” Nick said, touching the boy gently on the shoulder. “Tell the earl I will speak with him later.” Nick saw his brother Robert with an arm awkwardly about the shoulders of Sir Edward Carew, who was sitting on the altar steps, face buried in his hands, shoulders heaving although not a sound escaped. Alan nodded and went to stand beside them.

The queen was striding up and down the center aisle, her inner circle watching from the pews with pale, strained faces. Off to one side, the white-haired Baron Burghley, the queen’s chief advisor and Lord Treasurer, was whispering urgently in the ear of Sir Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State. One young boy in a white surplice, one of the choristers, was throwing up in the corner. Even the queen’s fool was silent, standing forlornly off to one side like a forgotten child. As Nick approached, the queen abruptly stopped and whirled around. Two bright spots of color burned on her cheeks, and her brown eyes bore into him like gimlets. He recognized the signs: the queen was afraid and because she was afraid, enraged.

“Disperse those ghouls,” she bellowed. “It’s not a God-damned cock-fight.” 

Monday, December 17 Review at Passages to the Past Tuesday, December 18 Excerpt at Let Them Read Books Wednesday, December 19 Review at Pursuing Stacie Guest Post at Jathan & Heather Thursday, December 20 Feature at The Lit Bitch Review at Peppermint Ph.D. Friday, December 21 Feature at What Is That Book About Sunday, December 23 Review at Carole's Ramblings Thursday, December 27 Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story Friday, December 28 Review at Tar Heel Reader Review at Amy's Booket List Monday, December 31 Review at Tudor Enthusiast Wednesday, January 2 Excerpt at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen Thursday, January 3 Excerpt at T's Stuff Guest Post at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots Friday, January 4 Review at 100 Pages a Day Monday, January 7 Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit Tuesday, January 8 Guest Post at On the Tudor Trail Wednesday, January 9 Review at Reading the Past Thursday, January 10 Review at Broken Teepee Review at Clarissa Reads it All Friday, January 11 Feature at The Book Junkie Reads Feature at View from the Birdhouse Monday, January 14 Review at Maiden of the Pages Tuesday, January 15 Interview at Passages to the Past Wednesday, January 16 Review at A Book Geek Thursday, January 17 Review at Coffee and Ink Review at CelticLady's Reviews

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