Recommended Romantic Reads
My thanks to @lovebooksgroup and Love Books Tours for allowing me to participate in the blog tour for what looks to be an exciting new novel by Marian Beland.
Blurb: The King indeed has never met anyone like her. In fact, no one had, nor would they for another 1250 years. Being ahead of their time doesn’t make Gen ahead of their ways. A twenty-first-century mind in a first-millennium female doesn’t necessarily guarantee happiness, peace, or success so much as it does headaches, misunderstandings, fear, and danger. Of course, stirring intrigue in a curious king’s mind may be of great help; if you are careful. Unfortunately, being careful is not one of Gen’s strong suits.
Below is the gripping and exciting opening excerpt from Arrival.
The Year of our Lord 886
Sleek pounding hooves tore across the meadow; behind came the thunder of warhorses, crushing and obliterating everything in their path. Before them, stride after stride, the mare flew; her rider low, and balanced.
Straining her ears, Gen tried to listen past the harsh rhythmic snorts from the mare, past the rush of wind. How close are they now? One length, maybe two? Close enough to snatch her from the saddle? She bent, sinking further into the saddle and chanced a quick glimpse over her shoulder. The mare lurched to the side and suddenly, there were birds everywhere, the flock bursting all around, rising into the sky; the roar of flapping wings deafening.
Terrified, the horse reared, its long legs clawing at the air. Gen’s startled scream died in her throat as she shifted her weight, trying to move with the animal as it twisted and lunged, charging off on a new heading. They hurtled down toward the river and there was no more time for thoughts. Her pursuers had stationed themselves, blocking and intercepting no matter which direction she chose. Along the river, sand muffled the hoof beats and from the corner of her eye she glimpsed two more knights. Converging, from either side, they were maneuvering in unison, funneling her away from the river and toward the embankment.
The embankment! She lost her breath.
Ahead rose a steep, almost vertical wall of boulders. Frantically she swept a look behind, then left, then right. There was only one choice; up.
Crouching, Gen rocked into position, ready to rally the horse. She froze. A hideous image flashed in her mind; a sleek leg, wedged in a crevice, snapping like tinder.
Horrified she pulled at the reins, leaning back, ushering all her might, desperately trying to stop. Oh God!... No!... NO!
It was too late. The animal had already committed. Regardless of its rider, the small mare leapt, landing hard on the craggy bank. Again and again, its clambering hooves scraped off the smooth rounded rock and caught against broken rifts. Relentlessly the horse drove forward, sliding back then lunging upwards in a slow, agonizing advance. Finally, one mighty push caught traction, then another, and it was airborne; up and over the crest. A second later, they were splashing down onto the wet turf of the meadow.
The men below hauled their sweating mounts in. Gawking, they stared up at the rock face.
It was a masterful ploy, one which should have given a considerable lead. The mare was still making good speed when the others appeared, spread out like tentacles. They took up the chase, angling in and forcing Gen to veer off course. This time she wasn’t fast enough. The trap was sprung.
Even as the glistening black mare skidded to a halt, Gen was reaching low, her hand finding and closing on her sword’s hilt. They were not taking her without a fight.
As the bishop hurried off, Alfred brushed past Sean. Without slowing or acknowledging Gen’s flaming temper, he issued an emphatic command. “Regardless of the circumstances, she is forbidden to spend any time in Baylore’s company.”
He tried his best not to listen to the angry words erupting behind him as he detoured toward the abbey. It would be a wasted effort to attempt an explanation, he told himself. She would never have understood. Few ever have. No amount of reasoning could justify the sense of dread he had when he saw her approaching the blacksmith. It was merely an unsubstantiated feeling; but to him, it was the kind of feeling he had long since learned to heed.
Not having a logical excuse, he had chosen to exercise his sovereign right without any justification. Reluctantly, he began a slow climb up the abbey steps. Whatever’s in that dispatch from Canterbury, it is not going to be good.
The sacristy was quiet and cool, a welcomed relief from the courtyard’s incessant activity. Alfred eased himself into a seat behind the table and gave the bishop, who was pacing to and fro, an acknowledging nod. Carefully he unrolled the scroll, stretching forward to bring it under the light of a flickering candle.
Verbose salutations went to the bishop of Minster Abbey, namely Asser, former bishop of St. David’s of Wales. Next came the honors allocated to the sender of the letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury. These Alfred skimmed over with grim disdain. The man’s arrogance was insufferable.
Apprehensively, he glanced across the room. Asser had pulled a small rag from inside his flowing sleeve and was dabbing at his forehead. Alfred returned to the dispatch and immediately shrunk under the weight. The righteous head of the Canterbury See was planning to issue an edict against the Royal House of Wessex. The decree claimed the church had the sacred and supreme right to educate; and any secular attempt was condemned as a singular road which would lead the faithful to hell.
Stunned, Alfred placed the scroll on the table as if it were a fragile length of glass. “Asser,” he said quietly. “He cannot be serious.”
The poor bishop looked positively green and Alfred understood that the Royal House could expect the formal notification before the week was out. The impact would be immediate. The entire system would be dismantled; tutors banished, schools abolished and his offer to educate the free-men of the land, rescinded.
After a long period of thoughtful consideration, Alfred rose and dusted himself off. “Asser, might I trouble thee to inform our illustrious archbishop, that any such edict will be viewed by the Royal House of Wessex as a direct attack against the realm’s best interest. As such, I Alfred, King of England, will oppose it with...” He remembered the words of encouragement the Archbishop from Rheims had given him in the last letter. “... will oppose it with the bridle of my earthly authority. Let him understand that I shall carry my protest to the very steps of the Holy See, if I must!”
About the Author:
Marian Beland resides with her family in the horse country of northern Connecticut; and is the author of the “Here and Now” trilogy.
Her lifelong passion with history and adventure are the foundation of her captivating novels.
When Marian isn’t writing, she is likely training or deploying her search & rescue K-9 partner on missions to find the lost and missing.