Monday, January 30, 2017

Medieval Monday with Cathy MacRae

This is the last excerpt in the celebration series. I hope you enjoy today’s guest, Cathy MacRae and her passage from The Highlander’s Reluctant Bride.
At a nod from the priest, Riona stepped forward, and Eaden placed her hand in Ranald’s. She glanced at him from beneath lowered lashes, her heart racing wildly.
“Lady Caitriona, do ye come here of yer own free will and accord, without let or hindrance, free of all moral and legal encumbrance, to enter into this contract?”
Riona inhaled a deep breath. “Aye.”
The priest’s voice droned on, and she and Ranald murmured the correct responses, pledging their troth.
“Laird Scott, will ye have Gilda as yer daughter, to act as father and counsel, granting her all the attendant rights, privileges and responsibilities?”
Riona’s gaze flew to Ranald. This was not part of any wedding ceremony she’d ever attended. What was Ranald promising?
He squeezed her hand reassuringly and motioned for Gilda to approach. Placing his palm on the child’s shining head, he faced Riona, his gaze compelling her to listen to his words.
“Aye. I will offer all this in love and custom, giving her place in law alongside such other children as may arise from this union.”
Riona barely heard the challenge from the priest for any to speak who had just cause to oppose the marriage. Nor could she stop the tears spilling down her cheeks as she strove to breathe past the lump in her throat. Before their wedding guests and God, Ranald had pledged to give her daughter all the benefits of his own children, and to love and provide for her always.
Ranald leaned close, brushing the back of a hand over her damp cheek. “Dearling, will ye say yer vows?”
Abruptly Riona realized the priest was staring expectantly at her and she gathered her scattered thoughts. She handed her bouquet of heather to Gilda and faced Ranald, taking both of his hands in hers.
“Ye are blood of my blood, and bone of my bone.” She lifted her gaze and found dark blue eyes burning into hers. “I give ye my body, that we two might be one. I give ye my spirit, ‘til our life shall be done.”
* * *
Ranald knew he had surprised Riona. By taking Gilda as his daughter, he pledged to his new wife the lass would never want for a home or honor. He meant also to prove they both would never lack for love. The trusting, earnest look in her eyes as she gave him her vows humbled him, and he answered her with a promise of his own.
“I pledge my love to ye, and everything I possess. I promise ye the first bite of my meat and the first sip from my cup. I pledge yer name will always be the name I cry aloud in the dead of night. I promise to honor ye above all others. The love we forge will be never-ending and we will remain, forevermore, equals in our marriage. This is my wedding vow to ye.”
The priest nodded and continued the ceremony as Ranald faced Riona, Gilda tucked between them. The lass rested against her mother’s gown, swinging her basket from one hand, back and forth, watching as petals drifted to the floor.
“Ye may kiss yer bride.”
“‘Tis the best part,” he replied softly, drawing an answering smile from her that lit her eyes. He lowered his head and touched his lips to hers. Riona leaned into his kiss, and his heart skipped to know she willingly sought him before the enormous crowd around them.
A subtle cough from the priest ended their pledge, and they parted, only to turn, cheek-to-cheek, to face the cheers of their guests.
Ranald straightened, pulling Riona against his side, a hand on Gilda’s shoulder. “‘Tis my privilege and honor to introduce ye to my wife and daughter. Together we invite ye to have a drink,” Ranald stared pointedly at a guest near the forefront of the crowd who already held a chalice in his hand, “as the tables are set for the banquet.”
Another cheer went up and people surged forward, congratulating them with hugs or kisses for Riona and a clout to the shoulder for Ranald.
The banquet was quickly readied and everyone found a seat. At Ranald’s left Eaden stood, raising his goblet in a bid for silence. Gradually the jovial noise subsided.
“I would be the first to make a toast. My brother has always been a lucky man, but he has outdone himself this time.”
He faced Ranald and Riona. “A thousand welcomes to ye with yer marriage. May ye be healthy all yer days. May ye be blessed with long life and peace, and may ye grow old with goodness and with riches.”
Slainte!” The cheer rose from every throat as Ranald lifted Riona’s hand and pressed a kiss to her fingers.
Determined to keep the Macrory clan’s holdings out of the clutches of the Lord of the Isles and marauding pirates, King Robert II sends his man, Lord Ranald Scott, to hold Scaurness Castle. There, Laird Macrory lays dying, awaiting word from his son who is missing on the battlefields of France. If the son is not found before the old laird dies, Ranald will take over as laird—and marry Laird Macrory’s headstrong daughter.
Lady Caitriona sees no reason she cannot rule the clan in her brother’s stead, and is bitterly disappointed with the king’s decision to send a man to oversee the castle and people. Not only is Ranald Scott only distantly related to the Macrory clan, but he was her childhood nemesis. She has little trust or like for him.
Her disappointment turns to panic when the king’s plan is completely revealed and she realizes she must wed Ranald. Pirates, treachery, and a four-year-old girl stand between her and Ranald’s chance at happiness. What will it take for them to learn to trust each other and find the love they both deserve?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Medieval Monday with Jenna Jaxon

This week, Jenna Jaxon is my guest. According her one of her reviewers, Jenna’s story, Seduction at the Christmas Court, is the perfect medieval romance for a lazy winter afternoon.
No sooner had they taken their seats than the mummers appeared, bringing a great crash of applause from the courtiers and a low hum of murmuring. The King pounded the broad arm of his ornate, high-backed chair. Queen Phillipa sat smiling, still clutching the small silk bag Alyse had given her.
The guisers were indeed disguised in peculiar clothing. One wore the headdress of a Turk and green and yellow striped pants; his shoes were scarlet and turned up in a curving point with bells sewed onto the tips, so he jingled each time he took a step.
Alyse smiled and clapped until her hands ached, but finally settled herself on the bench. The mummers’ play had ever been her favorite part of the Christmas festivities at home at Beaulieu, the fanciful costumes the best part of the performance.
Several other characters now entered the Great Hall, one a knight in white with a huge wooden sword. That would be St. George. Four others, dressed in even more outlandish garb, would be the foolish knights and the Doctor followed them all, in oversized black robes, his long sleeves dragging the ground.
The court chattered excitedly as the mummers spread out all over the hall, talking and laughing with the courtiers.
With a sigh, Geoffrey smiled and grasped her chin, raising it so he could steal a kiss. His warm lips brushed hers, stirring her inner warmth as his touch always did.
“This entertainment will be tedious. I would much rather retire for a good night’s bedding right now,” he whispered, the puff of his breath tickling her ear and sending prickles of excitement down her neck.
She laced their fingers together. “’Twill be finished ‘ere long, my love. Then you can wield your weapon with a vigor yon knights cannot.”
He laughed and drank deeply. “Aye, sweet Alyse. My skill with both weapons outshines any other knight.”
“As you will not want me to be judge of that, I think, I will demur to your claim, although I will test your skills again with the one blade ‘ere the night is done.”
At Geoffrey’s bark of laughter—so loud it turned heads on the dais their way—Alyse settled back to watch the mummers, her cheeks burning, but a pleasant anticipation building within as well.
The mummer playing St. George took the center spot in the Great Hall and began a sing-song rhyme that soon had the court laughing at its nonsense. A stream of knights—played in turn by the other mummers—approached, made their rhyming challenge, and were quickly slain by St. George, whose wielding of his sword became swifter and swifter. He slayed the knights in such short order that by the time he faced the final knight, he did no more than look at the Turkish knight than the man fell down, his toes jingling softly as he landed on the soft rushes covering the floor.
A burst of laughter and applause followed that performance as the quack Doctor shuffled forward, his “magic potion” in a large bottle, gripped in his hand.
Thoroughly engrossed, Alyse laughed and clapped her hands. She held her breath and leaned forward as the Doctor poured the potion down the throats of the slain knights, spoke his own rhyme over them, and one by one, they began to twitch and dance, the rush-strewn floor seeming to come alive as they did. The room resounded with merriment as all seven knights revived.
Loud applause burst out from the courtiers, many of whom threw gold and silver coins onto the floor. Geoffrey tossed a gold florin to the Turkish knight. “For my lady’s pleasure,” he called.
The man nimbly caught the coin and made a deep bow. “Thank you, my lord.”
With a lecherous grin, Geoffrey grasped Alyse’s arm and urged her to rise. “And now allow me to attend to my lady’s pleasure as well.”
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?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Barbara White Daille

The last time rodeo cowboy Tyler Buckham was in Cowboy Creek, he spent a steamy night with local beauty Shay O'Neill. Back in town for a quick visit, he's hoping they'll have another go-around before he heads for his next rodeo. But seeing Shay pregnant—with triplets!—leaves Tyler feeling as if his best horse has kicked him in the gut.
Shay swore she wouldn't fall for an unreliable cowboy, and Tyler's playboy past makes him even less likely to settle down. The whole town conspires to push them together, and Tyler insists he wants to do his duty by Shay and the triplets, but Shay knows she can't count on promises from a cowboy. Besides, Tyler never once mentioned the word love…
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The Hitching Post’s dining room was crowded with Garland family members and hotel guests, yet the instant Tyler paused in the doorway, he spotted Shay.
She sat on the far side of the long center table reserved for the Garlands, half turned away from him as she talked with one of Jed’s granddaughters. He recognized the straight, wheat-blond hair that fell below her shoulders and felt like silk against his fingers. He knew when she looked his way he would see eyes one shade lighter than her green sweater. Her cheeks held a natural pink tint. Her lips curved in a soft smile.
Just looking at her from a distance made his pulse speed up and his jeans tighten.
She reached for a cloth napkin and unfolded it. As if she’d given a signal, the folks around him began heading toward the tables. The movement spurred him toward the vacant seat at her side before anyone else could grab it. As he slid onto the chair, she turned his way.
The smile stayed, but the light pink color drained from her cheeks. He saw her fingers clutch the napkin she had draped across her lap. And then he saw the rounded expanse of belly straining the knitted weave of her sweater.
She was extremely pregnant.
Thoughts of anticipated pleasure flew from his head. Words did, too, leaving him struggling for something to say.
Jed Garland had no such problem. “Shay, you remember Tyler, don’t you?”
She nodded.
 “I thought you might.”
Tyler couldn’t tear his eyes away from her. He also couldn’t miss hearing the satisfaction in the older man’s voice. What had brought that on? And why had Jed mentioned Shay’s invitation to lunch but said nothing about her condition? Of course, Jed—and everyone else at the Hitching Post—probably thought he and Shay were just passing acquaintances.
He tried for a casual smile. The one she gave him looked about as sincere as his felt.
Obviously, she’d met someone else since they were together last summer. Or she’d already been involved with the man when they’d had their fling. Either way, she wouldn’t want him hanging around, maybe bringing up their brief relationship in some conversation. As if he would.
The boys at the ranch back in Texas always said he needed to have “Love ˋem and leave ˋem” tattooed across his chest. That didn’t mean he’d make a public announcement about a one-night stand. Shay couldn’t know that, but you would think she’d at least give him the benefit of the doubt.
About the Author
Barbara White Daille lives with her husband in the sunny Southwest. Though they love the warm winters and the lizards in their front yard, they haven’t gotten used to the scorpions in the bathroom. Barbara also loves writing, reading, and chocolate. Come to think of it, she enjoys writing about those subjects, too!
Barbara wrote her first short story at the age of nine, then typed "The End" to her first novel many years the eighth grade. Now she's writing contemporary romance on a daily basis, with a brand-new series from Entangled Bliss (Snowflake Valley), an ongoing series from Harlequin Western Romance (The Hitching Post Hotel), and many more books on the schedule. 
She would love to have you stop by her website and to look for her on Facebook and Twitter.
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Monday, January 16, 2017

Medieval Monday with Barbara Bettis

The winter seems to be plodding along. I hope you’re staying warm. Today my guest is Barbara Bettis and an excerpt for her story, The Lady in the Forest. In this passage, Henry has interrupted the wedding celebration at Stonehill Castle to challenge Mortimer’s right to marry Kate.
[Henry and his two friends] stalked into the hall where the lord held forth at the high table before the household left for the chapel. Kate sat at his right, the priest at his left.
“Sir Mortimer.” Henry’s voice boomed above the din. “Stand and answer my challenge.”
Mortimer lifted his head. “Lord Henry. Sit, break your fast before I wed my lady.” His oily tone did not match his hard set of jaw and narrowed eyes.
Henry ignored the words and continued across the floor. Mortimer rose but before he could speak, Henry leaped onto the dais.
 “You have no right to demand Lady Katherine in marriage.” It took all Henry’s determination not to glance at Kate.
 “I have an order from the king, granting me this holding and the lady as my bride.”
 “I say the order does not exist.” A murmur rose from the people seated at the lower tables. Calling the lord a liar meant a fight. But no sounds arose of benches scraping back. Perhaps the soldiers awaited a signal. Henry stepped closer. “Produce this writ. Let me examine the seal.”
Dull red moved up Mortimer’s neck; his nostrils flared.
Henry sucked in a breath of satisfaction. He had him now. “You cannot. The people of Stonehill have been mistreated and their lady driven into hiding in fear for her life. You’ve lied and cheated, and you’ve taken part in a treasonous attempt to overthrow one of the king’s barons.”
He hadn’t known what to expect from Mortimer, but it wasn’t the self-satisfied upturn of the man’s mouth. Dread scraped a cold trail along Henry’s spine.
 “You may be another baron and a pet of the king,” Mortimer said, “but that don’t make you always right, and that don’t keep you from facing a fight when you accuse an honest man of wrongdoing.”
He motioned to the priest, who stood and withdrew a section of parchment from a leather satchel beside him on the bench. It contained no seals.
Henry clenched his teeth. Why in the devil’s own hell hadn’t he considered the priest as the knight’s accomplice?
The churchman opened the document and at a nod from Mortimer, read. “Sir Mortimer of Corbeau, in gratitude for service, is granted the holding of Stonehill in Nottinghamshire…”
A loud buzzing in Henry’s ears blotted the words that followed. Satan’s backside! The writ existed. The parchment was stained and tattered, not the official document often used to dispense favors, but he’d seen Richard direct a clerk to scratch out such awards after a battle. They were rough and hurried, yet they carried the weight of the king’s power.
And they always carried his seal.
Where was the seal for this order?

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Medieval Monday with Mary Morgan

Happy Medieval Monday! It’s cold here on the northeast coast, snow and freezing temperatures. Ah, but a good story and a hot cup of tea (or a glass of wine) can take the edge off the weather. Today I’m hosting Mary Morgan. Here is an excerpt from her story, A Magical Highland Solstice. I hope you enjoy it.
Cormac’s stomach protested fiercely as he descended the stairs. He had eaten little on his journey with Eve—happily content to watch her munch on an apple, or nibble on bread and cheese. She chatted between bites, her hands flying about to match her liveliness. When she complained he had not eaten anything, he relented. He watched in fascination as she wedged cheese and apple slices between the two pieces of bread she tore off for him. It was the most glorious meal he had ever eaten. However, his heart almost stopped beating when she nearly cut her finger with his sgian dubh.
As he attempted to snatch the blade from her hand, she smacked him away, informing him she knew how to handle a knife.
He chuckled at the memory and nearly collided with the golden-haired beauty coming toward him.
“Yikes! I’m sorry, Cormac.” She grabbed his arm, trying to steady the trencher with her other hand.
He lifted the item from her hand as it was about to tumble free. “My pardons. My thoughts were elsewhere.” Inhaling the aroma, he asked, “Wild boar with mushrooms and onions?”
“You have guessed correctly, Laird Cormac.”
He arched a brow. “We are feasting grandly with only a few days before the Yule?”
Eve glanced over his shoulder and behind her before stepping close, as if she was about to pass along some great secret. “They’re experimenting with new mushrooms and herbs from Cathal. I heard it on good authority that a certain laird must approve the dish.” She gave him a wink.
Cormac inspected the dish and then lifted his finger.
“You wouldn’t dare,” she protested, smacking his hand away.
Lifting the trencher high over his head, he replied, “Remember, I am the laird, aye?”
Eve fisted her hands on her hips and glared at him. “And because you are the leader of the clan, you must show some respect.”
His gaze raked over her face and settled on her lips. “I will concede defeat, but only if ye grant me a kiss.”
Her cheeks flushed as she looked around the corridor. “Here?”
“Aye.” As Cormac stepped closer, Eve moved backward.
“What if…someone sees us?”
Cormac’s smiled turned predatory. “All I asked for was a kiss, nae to plunder your body.”
When her back hit the wall, she parted her lips. “One kiss only?”
He arched a brow, understanding her meaning. “I beg for only one. Yet, later, I shall demand many more.”
 “Then take your kiss, my laird,” she whispered.
Slowly, Cormac lowered his mouth to hers, and a moan of pleasure slipped through her lips. Powerful, hungry desire spiraled through him as her tongue invaded him, seeking, stroking. He growled, taking all she had to offer. When one of her hands wrapped around his neck, he deepened the kiss. He was lost in her touch, her lips, and Cormac burned for more.
Finally breaking free, Cormac found he was the one trembling.
“Is your arm getting tired?” she asked, breathing heavily as her hand slipped across his shoulder.
She gave him a gentle push back and stepped away from his embrace. “Good. I’ll relieve you of the trencher, though I’ll make sure to place it near you.”
Obliging, Cormac handed her the trencher of food. As he strolled away, he said, “Ye may inform Moira and the others I approve of the meat.”
Eve glanced over her shoulder at him. “Now why would I lie? You haven’t tasted the food?”
“Och, but I have, fair Eve. From your lips.”
“You’re incorrigible.”
Cormac roared with laughter. “I shall leave it to ye to help me make amends for my bad habits, Lady Eve.”
She snorted and walked into the Great Hall.
“By the hounds…what have ye done to me, sweet lass?”
Back Cover Copy:
Laird Cormac Murray has witnessed how love destroyed his own father after the death of his mother, and he vows to never take a wife. Yet, when he comes upon a bewildered lass traveling alone, he finds his heart will no longer listen to his mind. In the end, Cormac risks everything to claim the love of a woman not of his time.
Eve Brannigan loves helping others and baking. After winning a contest, she is stunned to learn that the Clan Murray has requested her assistance to cater to their guests during the holiday season. When a lost path in Scotland leads her to a handsome but gruff Highlander, Eve fights the temptation to allow love to enter her heart for the first time.
Can the Fae and the magic of the Yule season bring together two souls who have forsaken love? Or will tragedies from the past separate the lovers forever?
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Monday, January 2, 2017

Medieval Monday with Sherry Ewing

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday. My children came home and filled the house. Everyone is gone and while my celebration is over, you can read more celebrations on this month’s Medieval Monday. Today my guest is Sherry Ewing. She has an excerpt from her book, Hearts Across Time.
The golden sun began to peek over the ocean horizon, splashing the morning sky with a thousand shades of pink and orange. The further it rose, the more color splattered across the cloudless sky until all traces of the earlier shades vanished. ’Twas obvious, the perfect day was a gift from the heavens and a priceless tribute to the woman Riorden would call his wife for the rest of his life.
Riorden was in no rush to head down to the Great Hall.  There was no need. Katherine and her ladies had insisted ’twas bad luck to see the bride afore the wedding. He had never heard of such a custom, but who was he to tempt fate? Nay, he dare not look upon her, if such an occurrence would displease God, and in His wrath, He would wrench Katherine back from whence she had come.
Patrick brought Riorden a small repast, along with water to wash and fresh garments Lynet had lovingly sewn for his wedding. He was not surprised when he saw the tunic. Gilded fabric had been embroidered and used as trim on the deep blue cloth Katherine herself had chosen, saying the color would match his eyes. He smiled, wondering how she would look in the golden material he had chosen for her. He supposed, he would find out soon enough.
A knock roused Riorden from his musings of his lovely lady. Opening the door, he saw Aiden standing there, also dressed in his finest.
“ sword?” Riorden inquired in jest. He also was to leave his sword within his chamber, although he stowed a small, serviceable blade in his belt.
Aiden appeared completely ill at ease. “Nay! Amiria refused to allow such in the chapel. God’s wounds, Riorden...I feel as if I am only but half dressed.”
A chuckle rumbled inside Riorden. “Do not be so troubled, my friend. The mass and ceremony should be no longer than an hour or two. Surely, your sister will allow you your blade afterwards.”
“Ha! Easy for you to say. She made it clear she does not trust me.”
“Let me guess,” Riorden mulled over. “She hid it from you, did she?”
“My twin knows me only too well, I am afraid,” Aiden muttered miserably. “Dristan has hidden hers, as well. At least he managed to get her into a dress, instead of boots and hose.”
“Knowing Amiria, I am sure she will in no uncertain terms let me know of the sacrifice she has made, on the behalf of my lady, to appear in such.”
Aiden at last smiled knowingly. “You can count on it.”
“Why are you here? It cannot be time, as yet, is it?”
“Damn, I almost forgot my purpose,” Aiden cursed. “Dristan asked that you come to his solar. He will then accompany you to the chapel at the appointed hour.”
“Then let us be on our way, since I am all but done here,” Riorden said, and they made their way up to the third floor.
He had just taken the last step on the tower stairs, when he halted his progress to peer down the passageway toward Lynet’s chamber. Intent on listening to the bubbly laughter of his soon to be wife and her friends, he began to hear a strange haunting melody, most likely coming from the machine Kat called a cellphone. She was so close, and he found he had missed her company this past eve, more than he would have thought possible.
He took a step in the direction towards where, in his heart, he wanted to be until he felt Aiden tugging at his arm.
“Come on, Riorden. You shall see her afore you know it.”
Back Cover Copy:

Bestselling author Sherry Ewing presents this special edition box set getting 5 star reviews that is combining Katherine and Riorden’s complete story from For All of Ever and Only For You in Hearts Across Time: The Knights of Berwyck, A Quest Through Time Novel (Books One & Two).
Sometimes all you need is to just believe…
For All of Ever: Katherine Wakefield has dreamed and written of her knight in shining armor all her life. Yet, how could she have known that when she and her three closest friends take a dream vacation to England that they’d find themselves thrown back more than eight hundred years into the past? Riorden de Deveraux travels to Bamburgh answering the summons of King Henry II. But nothing prepares him for the beautiful vision of a strangely clad ghost who first appears in his chamber. Centuries are keeping them apart until Time gives them a chance at finding love. Will the past of one consume what their future may hold, or will Time take the decision from them and hurdle Katherine forward to where she truly belongs?
Only For You: Katherine de Deveraux has it all but settling into her duties at Warkworth Castle is not easy and downright dangerous to her well-being. Consumed with memories of his father, Riorden must deal with his sire’s widow. Yet how could he know how far Marguerite will go to have the life she feels they were meant to live? Torn apart, Time becomes their true enemy while Marguerite continues her ploy to keep Riorden at her side. With all hope lost, will Katherine & Riorden find a way to save their marriage?
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