As in any period of wartime, there are many stories to be told and the Rebels and Brothers series is in part an antidote to historical fiction which focuses solely on the lives of and events surrounding kings and queens. In my story the royals have walk-on parts – albeit important walk-on parts – but they are not the focus of the story.
Kingdom of Rebels is the third of a four-book series but, like the two books that precede it, it is a complete story. With a series of books, many like to read them in sequence – no surprise there! – but it does not have to be that way with this series and I’m proposing an alternative route here.
Read this book, Kingdom of Rebels, first – as a stand alone. Then – if you like it enough – read the others in number order: 1,2,and 4. But trust me: you don’t want to read the last book first!
To help persuade you to take this route, Kingdom of Rebels is just 99c this week. Here’s a bit more about the series to whet your appetite.
Rebels and Brothers does not address either a predominantly male or female readership. Yes, there is a fair bit of ‘blood and thunder’ but it features many female characters who are not just there as window dressing! The female protagonists drive the storylines just as much as the males. For some, there may be too much bloodshed and death, but that’s what happens in wartime in real life. I believe that the story does enough to draw readers in so that they’ll want to know what happens to the characters.
It is an excellent introduction to the Wars of the Roses in general and more particularly to the world of the fictional family, the Elders. The Elder family live in Wensleydale – referred to in earlier times as ‘Yoredale’ – in Yorkshire. They are what you might call ‘lesser nobles’ which is to say that they have a title, modest landholdings and a fair number of estate workers. The main protagonists of the story are the three Elder siblings: Ned and his sisters, Emma and Eleanor.
At the start of the first book, Feud, these three are introduced with a bit of a bang. There is a deliberate rawness to the first book because the siblings are young – in their mid to late teens – and they are in shock because all of their comfortable aspirations have been turned upside down by the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses. They panic, they run and they make mistakes – as people often do when they are faced with sudden disaster. The reader may sometimes wince at a few of the decisions they make, rather as one might regard the behaviour of an errant teenager today. The question is: will they pull through?
What effect does the war have upon this family? Well, it throws them into a world where traditional loyalties are questioned and new allies must be found. In its simplest terms: if your enemy has the support of the Lancastrian King, Henry VI, or his queen, Margaret of Anjou, then you need to get support from their greatest rival: Richard, Duke of York.
By 1468 when Kingdom of Rebels is set, the kingdom is ruled by the son of Richard, Duke of York, Edward IV, aided by an increasingly frustrated Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Warwick is known to history as the ‘Kingmaker’- irritatingly, because most of the time he isn’t!
At the start of this book, Ned Elder is exiled. His sisters are poles apart in their own circumstances: Emma is safely ensconced in the powerful Warwick’s household, whereas Eleanor is trapped in a beleaguered fortress on the Scottish border. And it is there that the story begins…
Eleanor woke up with a start. Across the other side of the room Maighread cried out in alarm. The chamber door lay open and Ragwulf stood in the doorway, a flaming torch in his hand.
“More trouble,” he said. “Get dressed… if you will, ladies.”
Eleanor slid out of her narrow bed in a hurry, only remembering her nakedness when she found Ragwulf staring at her. She snatched up a linen shift and her servant, Becky, scrambled up from her place on the floor to help her dress.
“Go on, I’ll come after,” Eleanor told Ragwulf.
He hesitated on the threshold. “You need not come at all, my lady. We have men enough to deal with it. Sir Stephen thought you should know, though… in case it goes badly.”
“Is it the same ones?” she asked.
“God alone knows. They’re all thieves and murderers – every last one.” His voice was gruff, dismissive.
“Go then,” said Eleanor.
Ragwulf left and the chamber was plunged into darkness with Becky still scouring the floor for clothing. Once dressed, Eleanor bent down to rummage under her bed.
“Where’s my sword?” she growled. When she stood up and her eyes adjusted to the poor light she saw that Becky was holding it out to her. Without another word she snatched it and crossed the room to the other bed. Maighread was sitting up.
“Stay here, aunt,” she said. “You need not be disturbed.”
“And how in the name of Christ am I not to be disturbed,” asked Maighread, “when there are raiders at our gates?”
Eleanor shrugged and then hurried after Ragwulf. She ran down the steps to the hall where the young men had also been rudely awoken and were only now arming themselves.
Outside in the courtyard she found a short queue of men and women forming at the well. This night’s struggle, like all the others, would be fought with water as much as steel. She could already see the glow of the flames snaking up the outside of the gates. Soon acrid smoke would spread across the yard and they would all be coughing in the midst of it.
Their captain, Sir Stephen, was on the wall rampart above the gate, bellowing orders into the night. Young Hal was there too with his bow trained on the ground below but on the fringes of the fire the attackers would be little more than wraiths.
A slight figure came to stand beside her and she gave him a smile. Fulk was the youngest of the men at arms and not really a man yet – just a boy. He had attached himself to her before and regularly pledged to protect her, should the gate be breached. Her smile dimmed and instead she gave him a solemn nod of encouragement – one warrior to another – his courage deserved that much.
Bales of burning straw thudded against the gate and the fire burned more fiercely. Her hand clenched and unclenched on the hilt of her sword. She did not expect to be using it much if the attack followed the same pattern as before. Whilst the defenders fought the fire, sporadic volleys of arrows fell upon them, usually harmlessly. Wailing cries assailed them from beyond the walls and every so often a crudely-fashioned spear landed on the cobbled yard. Eventually the fire would be extinguished by pail upon pail of water and then, around dawn, it would all go quiet. Then they would stare at each other in relief, wipe the smoke from their faces, rest their weary limbs and wait for the next time.
But Eleanor was wrong; it did not play out as she expected. The arrows did not fall harmlessly. One tore through Fulk’s neck and the impact threw his body against her. They hit the ground hard together and Eleanor rolled into a crouch beside him. Fulk was trembling with fear and pain but she could find no soothing words to calm him. The wound hardly bled at all but the arrow was lodged in his throat and she dared not pull it out.
It took a long time for the lad to die and whilst he lay dying she stayed with him, her hand on his shoulder and her eyes locked on his. Afterwards, she did not want to move and instead sat on the cobbles watching the servants and men at arms hurl water against the gate – until it became clear that this time their efforts would be in vain.
The fire at the gate caught hold and their few leather buckets and leaky wooden pails proved insufficient to put it out. It seemed that tonight their attackers were trying harder for the gate was now a mass of flame…
That’s all folks!
You can find Kingdom of Rebels here:
Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00MQA6826/
Of course if I’ve failed to convince you to start with book 3, you can always read Feud first…
Now, why not check out the great writers and books featured in The Holiday Historical HF Blowout.
The whole bookfest is kicked off on December 1st with this:
A Similar Taste in Books – by Linda Banche
Historical Period: Regency
Book 1 of Love and the Library: Clara and Justin
“Pride and Prejudice” has always brought lovers together, even in the Regency.
Justin has a deep, dark secret—he likes that most despised form of literature, the novel. His favorite novel is “Pride and Prejudice”, and, especially, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Intelligent, lively, fiercely loyal Miss Elizabeth. How he would love to meet a lady like her.
Clara’s favorite novel is “Pride and Prejudice” and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Intelligent, steadfast and willing to admit when he is wrong. Can such a splendid man exist? And can she find him?
One day in the library, they both check out copies of their favorite book. When Justin bumps into Clara, the magic of their similar taste in books just might make their wishes come true.
A sweet, traditional Regency romantic comedy novella, but not a retelling of “Pride and Prejudice”.
Sales Link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/247691
On sale for 99 cents at Smashwords only with coupon code FF67C (not case sensitive)
Each day another author has one of their books up for grabs at 99c during the period 1st to 8th December.
Here’s what else you can look forward to:
Tomorrow, December 3rd: Search for the Golden Serpent (Servant of the Gods, Book 1) – by Luciana Cavallaro
Historical period – 600 BCE Ancient Greece
The story is about Evan, an architect whose been having strange dreams. He received an unexpected phone call from an entrepreneur from Greece who wants Evan to restore his Family’s home. He dismissed the caller and regarded the person as a crank.
During a dream, he met the mysterious entrepreneur, Zeus, who catapulted him back in time, five hundred years before the birth of Christ. Evan, an unwilling participant finds himself entangled in an epic struggle between the gods and his life.
December 4th: Children of Apollo (Eagles and Dragons – Book I) – by Adam Alexander Haviaras
Historical Period: The Roman Empire, A.D. 202
At the peak of Rome’s might a dragon is born among eagles, an heir to a line both blessed and cursed by the Gods for ages.
Lucius Metellus Anguis is a young warrior who is inspired by the deeds of his glorious ancestors and burdened by the knowledge that he must raise his family name from the ashes of the past. Having achieved a measure of success in the emperor’s legions in North Africa, Lucius is recalled to Rome where he finds himself surrounded by enemies, cast into the deadly arena of Roman politics.
Amid growing fears of treachery, Lucius meets a young Athenian woman who fills his darkening world with new-found hope. Their love grows, as does their belief that the Gods have planned their meeting, but when an ancient oracle of Apollo utters a terrifying prophecy regarding his future, Lucius’ world is once more thrown into chaos. Ultimately, he must choose sides in a war that threatens to destroy his family, his faith and all that he has worked for.
Available here on Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo: http://eaglesanddragonspublishing.com/books/children-of-apollo-eagles-and-dragons-book-i/
December 5th: Sea Witch (Voyage One) – by Helen Hollick
Historical Period: The Golden Age of Piracy – 1716
Escaping the bullying of his elder half brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves – his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crewmates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa.
He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes – until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer, a midwife – and a white witch. Her name, an anagram of “all that is good.” Tiola and Jesamiah become lovers, but the wealthy Stefan van Overstratten, a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife and Jesamiah’s jealous brother, Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for resentments of the past, a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded in his own home.
When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship – the Sea Witch – is put in Jesamiah’s path he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both, but Mereno and van Overstratten want him dead.
In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother’s ship, can Tiola with her gift of Craft, and the aid of his loyal crew, save him?
Using all her skills Tiola must conjure up a wind to rescue her lover, but first she must brave the darkness of the ocean depths and confront the supernatural being, Tethys, the Spirit of the Sea, an elemental who will stop at nothing to claim Jesamiah Acorne’s soul and bones as a trophy.
Amazon Author link: viewAuthor.at/HelenHollick
Universal Amazon link: viewBook.at/SeaWitch
December 6th: INCEPTIO – by Alison Morton
Historic Period: Modern/Roman (alternate history)
New York, present day, alternate timeline. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe.
Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety, at a price, and a ready-made family in a strange culture she often struggles with. Just as she’s finding her feet, a shocking discovery about her new lover, Praetorian special forces officer Conrad Tellus, isolates her.
And the enforcer, Renschman, is stalking her in her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why this Renschman is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it…
Amazon (universal link): http://authl.it/B00K5OO4QW?d
iBooks (US): https://itunes.apple.com/book/inceptio/id903741754
December 7th: Men of the Cross (Battle Scars I) – by Charlene Newcomb
Historical period: Medieval – 12th century
War, political intrigue and passion… heroes… friends and lovers… and the seeds for a new Robin Hood legend await you…
Two young knights’ journey to war at Richard the Lionheart’s side sweeps them from England to the Holy Land in this historical adventure set against the backdrop of the Third Crusade.
Henry de Grey leaves Southampton in high spirits, strong in his faith and passionate about the mission to take Jerusalem back from Saladin’s army. Stephan l’Aigle’s prowess on the battlefield is well known, as are his exploits in the arms of other men. He prizes duty, honour and loyalty to his king above all else. But God and the Church? Stephan has little use for either.
Henry’s convictions are challenged by loss and the harsh realities of bloody battles, unforgiving marches, and the politics of the day.
Man against man. Man against the elements. Man against his own heart. Survival will depend on more than a strong sword arm.
December 8th: Flavia’s Secret – by Lindsay Townsend
Historical Period: Ancient Roman Britain, 206 AD
Spirited young scribe Flavia hopes for freedom. She and her fellow slaves in Aquae Sulis (modern Bath) have served the Lady Valeria for many years, but their mistress’ death brings a threat to Flavia’s dream: her new master Marcus Brucetus, a charismatic, widowed officer toughened in the forests of Germania. Flavia finds him overwhelmingly attractive but she is aware of the danger. To save her life and those of her ‘family’ she has forged a note from her mistress. If her deception is discovered, all the slaves may die.
For his part torn between attraction and respect, Marcus will not force himself on Flavia. Flavia by now knows of his grief over the deaths of his wife Drusilla and child. But how can she match up to the serene, flame-haired Drusilla?
As the wild mid-winter festival of Saturnalia approaches, many lives will be changed forever.
On sale at Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/flavias-secret