Thursday, April 29, 2021

Spotlight on Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger, author of Two Fatherlands (A Reschen Valley Novel Part 4)


It's a dangerous time to be a dissident...

1938. Northern Italy. Since saving Angelo Grimani's life 18 years earlier, Katharina is grappling with how their lives have since been entwined. Construction on the Reschen Lake reservoir begins and the Reschen Valley community is torn apart into two fronts - those who want to stay no matter what comes, and those who hold out hope that Hitler will bring Tyrol back into the fold.

Back in Bolzano, Angelo finds one fascist politician who may have the power to help Katharina and her community, but there is a group of corrupt players eager to have a piece of him. When they realise that Angelo and Katharina are joining forces, they turn to a strategy of conquering and dividing to weaken both the community and Angelo's efforts.

Meanwhile, the daughter Angelo shares with Katharina - Annamarie - has fled to Austria to pursue her acting career but the past she is running away from lands her directly into the arms of a new adversary: the Nazis. She goes as far as Berlin, and as far as Goebbels, to pursue her dreams, only to realise that Germany is darker than any place she's been before.

Angelo puts aside his prejudices and seeks alliances with old enemies; Katharina finds ingenious ways to preserve what is left of her community, and Annamarie wrests herself from the black forces of Nazism with plans to return home. But when Hitler and Mussolini present the Tyroleans with “The Option”, the residents are forced to choose between Italian and German nationhood with no guarantee that they will be able to stay in Tyrol at all!

Out of the ruins of war, will they be able to find their way back to one another and pick up the pieces?

This blockbuster finale will keep readers glued to the pages. Early readers are calling it, "...engrossing", "...enlightening" and "...both a heartbreaking and uplifting end to this incredible series!"

¸.•*´¨) ¸.*¨) ( ¸.•´

Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger

Some Fun Facts
(You may or may not know!)

I look forward to my husband going on business trips because then I make a huge pot of Red Neck Cassoulet – baked beans and hot dogs—and eat it straight out of the pot.


The first thing I ever wanted to be (after a ballerina) was the female version of James Herriot and Grizzly Adams (all in one). I wanted to write books and be a country vet meeting ridiculously hilarious people, and I wanted to live in a mountain hut with animals as my friends. I’ve managed it all.


The only babies I’ve given birth to are book babies. I never had my own children but have approximately two dozen kids in my life ranging from age 5 to almost 30, including my husband’s amazing kidults and four godsons.

 moved to Austria when I was 33 and after living in Turkey and Poland. The trip to Austria had been a pure fluke, but when I landed where I now live, I knew I would never return to America except to visit.


 I did my paragliding license in German and on my test flight, I was running with my head down and heard in the radio… “Right! Right! Pull right!” When I looked up, I was heading straight for a tree. There was radio silence as I took flight, having pulled right just in time. Then my instructor: “Chrystyna, trees does NOT move.”

 .•*´¨) ¸.*¨ ( ¸.•´

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Apple iBooks   Mondadori   Angus & Robertson

Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger

Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger is an American author living in Austria. Her focus is on historical fiction. She has been a managing editor for a magazine publishing house, has worked as an editor, and has won several awards for her travel narrative, flash fiction, and short stories. She lives with her husband in a “Grizzly Adams” hut in the Alps, just as she’d always dreamt she would when she was a child.

 Connect with Chrystyna

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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, The Aragon Years, Book One of The Henrician Chronicle By Judith Arnopp


‘A king must have sons: strong, healthy sons to rule after him.’

On the unexpected death of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, his brother, Henry, becomes heir to the throne of England. The intensive education that follows offers Henry a model for future excellence; a model that he is doomed to fail.

On his accession, he chooses his brother’s widow, Catalina of Aragon, to be his queen. Together they plan to reinstate the glory of days of old and fill the royal nursery with boys.

But when their first-born son dies at just a few months old, and subsequent babies are born dead or perish in the womb, the king’s golden dreams are tarnished.

Christendom mocks the virile prince. Catalina’s fertile years are ending yet all he has is one useless living daughter and a baseborn son.

He needs a solution but stubborn to the end, Catalina refuses to step aside.

As their relationship founders, his eye is caught by a woman newly arrived from the French court. Her name is Anne Boleyn.

A Matter of Conscience: the Aragon Years offers a unique first-person account of the ‘monster’ we love to hate and reveals a man on the edge; an amiable man made dangerous by his own impossible expectation.



1527 – Henry’s courtship of Anne Boleyn gathers pace

We are in the garden when she accidentally dislodges her hood. I pick it up, but before offering it back to her, I reach out for a glossy, dark strand that is not as dark as I first thought. She stands, stock still beneath my touch, and does not move when I untie her coif and bare her head.

“Beautiful,” I breathe, running my hands over her hair, barely touching yet making her hair crackle and rise magically to meet my palm. It is not raven black nor merely brunette but a mixture of shades: enlivened highlights of red and gold. 

“George says it looks Rusty,” she says, in her dismissive way.

“No, he is wrong. Shall I have him thrown in the tower, just to please you?”

When she laughs, she throws back her head, and my greedy eyes fasten on her throat, so long and white. I want to kiss her Adam’s apple, nibble the softness between neck and shoulder, inhale her fragrance, and tangle my fingers in her hair.

Instead, I chastely kiss her knuckles, clutch her hand close to my heart.

“Mistress Anne, would you …”

She withdraws her hand and places it on my chest as if it is a defensive rampart keeping me from her.

“Sire, please … do not ask it of me. I can never be your mistress.”

I blink in surprise. “It – it is usually considered an honour.”

“I know, I know it is, Your Majesty, a great honour and I love you above all others but I – I have a dream of marriage, children, a house in the country. I would marry for love.”

“Surely you are not still pining for Percy.”

The name issues in a sneer, as if he is some peddling player and not the son of the most powerful magnate in the north. She shakes her head with a pained expression.

“No, no. I am quite recovered from that but …I still harbour hopes of a loving marriage.”

Silence falls. I wonder if he had her. Shortly after she arrived from France her name was linked with Northumberland’s son but Wolsey, who had other plans for Anne, put paid to that as I later put paid to his plans for her marriage with Ormonde.

I watch her pluck a leaf from the hedge and begin to shred it with her nails. I had not expected a refusal, even from her. Nobody ever denies me. I frown, clear my throat, to explain it further.

“As my official mistress, you’d be the highest lady at court, bar the queen.”

“I’d be a whore, Your Majesty. A royal whore but a whore nevertheless.”

She spins away, repeating the word over and over as if to offend me but surely …even Anne would not go so far as to purposely goad me.

I am never sure what she will say or do next; perhaps that unpredictability is her charm. I follow her along the path.

“Not a whore, a royal companion, a helpmeet. Think of the good you could do, the people you could help, the scholars you could encourage…”

She halts, turns back.

“What do you mean? Scholars?”

She thinks I know nothing of her Lutheran leanings but there is little that escapes me in this court. My spies are everywhere, and I have discovered there are already many who resent Anne for her radical ideas.

“I know you are curious about the new learning. You could meet some of the best scholars in Europe face to face. Tindale is here in England now, you know.”

She frowns, shakes her head.

“But that would be against the law … your law!”

“I know.” I snatch up her hand again. “I’d be prepared to turn a blind eye if you were to become my mistress.”

I should not have to stoop so low. In truth, I do not mean it. It is a snare to know her price, to test if she can be bought.

I kiss her fingers, one by one, my ardour increasing each time my lips meet her flesh.

“The queen would never let that happen,” she says, and she is right. Kate detests the new learning; Heresy, she calls it and for once we are in agreement.

“The queen,” I lie softly. “Does as she is told.”

Anne’s laughter is high and mocking.

“She’d never meekly accept an official mistress endorsing the new religion, Your Majesty. Every one of her ladies that have ended up in your bed have ceased to enjoy the queen’s favour. I have no doubt that no sooner had you bedded me, I’d find myself sent back to Hever in disgrace.”

“But Anne …”

I follow her along the path, back toward the hall. At the door we encounter Brandon and my sister, arm in arm, about to take the air. They halt, bow their heads.

“Your Majesty. A lovely day,” Brandon says, while I kiss my sister.

“You know this lady, Mistress Anne Boleyn?” I open my arm to draw her forward and while Brandon bows stiffly over her hand, Mary sniffs and looks the other way.

“Yes,” she says, as if I am introducing her to a snake. “I have had that pleasure. A fine day.”

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Judith Arnopp

 A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds a BA in English/Creative writing and an MA in Medieval Studies.

She lives on the coast of West Wales where she writes both fiction and non-fiction based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women but more recently is writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself.

Her novels include:

A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years

The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England

Sisters of Arden: on the Pilgrimage of Grace

The Beaufort Bride: Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle

The Beaufort Woman: Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle

The King’s Mother: Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle

The Winchester Goose: at the Court of Henry VIII

A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth of York

Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr

The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn

The Song of Heledd

The Forest Dwellers


Judith is also a founder member of a re-enactment group called The Fyne Companye of Cambria and makes historical garments both for the group and others. She is not professionally trained but through trial, error, and determination has learned how to make authentic-looking, if not strictly HA, clothing. You can find her group Tudor Handmaid on Facebook. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.


Connect with Judith


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Spotlight on Faith L. Justice, author of Dawn Empress: A Novel of Imperial Rome (The Theodosian Women, Book Two)


As Rome reels under barbarian assaults, a young girl must step up.

After the Emperor’s unexpected death, ambitious men eye the Eastern Roman throne occupied by seven-year-old Theodosius II. His older sister Pulcheria faces a stark choice: she must find allies and take control of the Eastern court or doom the imperial children to a life of obscurity—or worse. Beloved by the people and respected by the Church, Pulcheria forges her own path to power. Can her piety and steely will protect her brother from military assassins, heretic bishops, scheming eunuchs and—most insidious of all—a beautiful, intelligent bride? Or will she lose all in the trying?

Dawn Empress tells the little-known and remarkable story of Pulcheria Augusta, 5th century Empress of Eastern Rome. Her accomplishments rival those of Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great as she sets the stage for the dawn of the Byzantine Empire. Don’t miss this “gripping tale” (Kirkus Reviews); a “deftly written and impressively entertaining historical novel” (Midwest Book Reviews). Historical Novel Reviews calls Dawn Empress an “outstanding novel…highly recommended” and awarded it the coveted Editor’s Choice.


 ¸.•*´¨) ¸.*¨) ( ¸.•´

Faith L. Justice

Some Fun Facts 
(You may or may not already know!)

My younger sister’s name is Hope, and if there had been another girl, she would be named Charity. Mom always wanted to have three girls. Hope is extremely grateful there were boys born between us. She just happened to marry a man named Justice. I don’t think she thought through the consequences of her naming scheme. Here’s Hope (on the left) and me in our younger activist days. 

I was voted “Most Likely to be the first woman on the moon” by my junior high graduation class. Even then I had my head in the clouds.

I’m active in the feral cat community: conducting and supporting TNR (trap, neuter, return), feeding and sheltering community cats, and fostering cats and kittens until they find forever homes. I am not a crazy cat lady. Here’s Black Jack, one of my feral porch cats. 

I have country girl roots (Whisler, OH population 103) but love living in the big city (Brooklyn, NY population 2.6 million) where I don’t have to drive an hour to the grocery and everything is delivered. I satisfy my green thumb by growing vegetables and flowers in my yard and on my deck.

There’s another Faith Justice out there. Or there used to be. Someone called me (mumble, mumble years ago) when I served as president of the Stamford CT chapter of the National Organization for Women, to ask if I was the same Faith Justice who used to be the president of a NOW chapter in Michigan. Something about the name? 

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Faith L. Justice

Faith L. Justice writes award-winning historical novels, short stories, and articles in Brooklyn, New York where she lives with her family and the requisite gaggle of cats. Her work has appeared in, Writer’s Digest, The Copperfield Review, and many more publications. She is Chair of the New York City chapter of the Historical Novel Society, and Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine. She co-founded a writer’s workshop many more years ago than she likes to admit. For fun, she digs in the dirt—her garden and various archaeological sites.

Connect with Faith 

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Monday, April 26, 2021

Spotlight on Keira J. Morgan, author of The Importance of Pawns (Chronicles of the House of Valois)

Based on historical events and characters in sixteenth-century France, this timeless tale pits envy, power and intrigue against loyalty and the strength of women’s friendships.

Although the French court dazzles on the surface, beneath its glitter, danger lurks for the three women trapped in its coils as power shifts from one regime to the next. The story begins as Queen Anne lies dying and King Louis’s health declines. Their two daughters, Claude and young Renée, heiresses to the rich duchy of Brittany, become pawns in the game of control.

Countess Louise d’Angoulême is named guardian to both girls. For years she has envied the dying Queen Anne, the girls’ mother. Because of her family’s dire financial problems, she schemes to marry wealthy Claude to her son. This unexpected guardianship presents a golden opportunity, but only if she can remove their protectress Baronne Michelle, who loves the princesses and safeguards their interests.

As political tensions rise, the futures of Princess Renée and Baronne hang in the balance, threatened by Countess Louise’s plots. 

Will timid Claude untangle the treacherous intrigues Countess Louise is weaving? Will Baronne Michelle and Claude outflank the wily countess to protect young Princess Renée? And can Claude find the courage to defend those she loves?

Praise for The Importance of Pawns:

Love, revenge, deceit, valour, struggle and bravery. These are the keystones of Keira Morgan’s fascinating new novel, The Importance of Pawns. Historical fiction at its best.


The Importance of Pawns
An Author's Inspiration
Keira Morgan


First, thank you for inviting me to talk about myself and my book, The Importance of Pawns on your blog. I appreciate the opportunity.

The year I was five, I lived with my grandparents to go to grade one. It was the most formative of my life. Escaping from the position as a middle child of three, I became a pampered only child. My grandmother introduced me to the world of medieval and Renaissance English knights, ladies, kings, and especially queens; to Robin Hood and Maid Marion and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, and I developed a passion for the era and reading about it.

When I came home every afternoon after school, my grandfather, the doctor in the community, did my homework with me. He was a wonderfully slow student who allowed me to believe I was teaching him to read. From this experience, I attribute my love of reading and a penchant for teaching that led to a satisfying career in education and training.  

My grandmother, an expert at dinners, desserts, and preserves, introduced me to another lifelong pleasure: the delight of cooking and baking. She encouraged me to “help,” cheerfully enduring the mess I made. This skill has stood me in good stead. My mother, a career woman, enjoyed nothing about the kitchen. As I grew older, I became the provider of the treats — the birthday cakes, the cookies, the Christmas puddings, and mince pies. And because of my pleasure in trying new things, I’ve mastered Indian cooking and Mexican cooking among others along my journey.

That year also gave birth to my fascination with all things miniature. My grandfather had built a doll’s house for my mother when she was young. When I lived with my grandparents, I adopted it. As a family treasure, it stayed with the house, so I started collecting and making miniature furniture, dolls' clothes, and decorated shadow boxes. Finally, I got my hands on the original doll’s house and repainted, and re-roofed it, rewired its electricity and re-papered the walls. I even installed all new light fixtures. When I moved to Prince Edward Island, it came with me. There I made a friend who was a gifted expert at all things tiny and detailed. She rapidly became a soulmate. One of the wrenches, when I moved to Mexico, was giving up that doll’s house and all its contents.

Variety is the spice of my life, and I will try most things once. It has taken me down many winding paths and career directions. I am not known as a sporting enthusiast, so the job that most surprised those who know me was Director of Recreational Cycling with the Canadian Cycling Association. The work itself involved tasks like editing a newsletter, writing funding proposals, organizing and chairing meetings, and so on — duties unrelated to cycling itself — but the organization and the people in it were competitive athletic types caught up in the politics of sport. I learned a lot.

I come from generations of strong-willed, intelligent, energetic women who continue to influence my life and fill me with admiration. Both my grandmothers ran things. My mother’s mother was a physical education teacher before she married. When she and my unilingual, doctor grandfather moved to a small Quebec village, she, as the bilingual one, ran his office and became his nurse, and translator for over forty years. My great-aunt, her sister, was Superintendent of Nurses at one of Montreal’s largest hospitals. When she retired, she trained as a lawyer to act as counsel for nursing organizations. My father’s suddenly widowed mother took a secretarial job at a professional institute, rose quickly to office manager, and basically ran the place for over thirty years. My mother started as a teacher, became a guidance counsellor, then a principal, and moved on to directorships in various Quebec government and educational institutions. After she retired, she researched and wrote three historical novels. She is still going strong, running the family as she always has.

My sister and I have been moulded by these sterling examples. After her retirement from a successful career as a teacher, my sister now leads several community organizations and is active in provincial politics. Her style is quieter than mine, but she is as persistent as a bulldog. When I retired as an Assistant Director in Training, I moved to Mexico, learned Spanish, married, and am now fulfilling my lifelong dream of publishing novels set in the French renaissance.

So, there you have it, an assortment of semi-related tidbits about me that give you an inkling of who I am. I delight in learning about others, so contact me on one of my websites or on Facebook or Twitter if you have questions.

When I finished The Importance of Pawns, it left me, its author, with questions. What caused the deep enmity between Anne and Louise? If Louise’s son was next in line to the throne, why was her husband so poor? My next novel will answer some of those questions.

I am eager to learn the questions my readers want answered in the next book after they finish The Importance of Pawns. I invite them to visit my website  [] to ask!

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Keira J. Morgan

Keira retired from training and management in the Canadian Public Service to follow a career as an author. She now writes from Mexico where she lives happily with a husband, two cats, and two dogs. Her doctoral-level studies in Renaissance history underlie her historical fiction. She writes about the turbulent sixteenth-century French Renaissance. Her stories tell of powerful women who challenged tradition to play crucial roles in French affairs. Find out more at KJ Morgan — Writer

She also maintains a non-fiction website, All About French Renaissance Women, [] where she writes about the lives of Frenchwomen during the era. She plans to collect their biographies into a book

 Connect with Keira

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Friday, April 23, 2021

Crusader's Path by Mary Ann Bernal - Hardcover edition now available


From the sweeping hills of Argences to the port city of Cologne overlooking the River Rhine, Etienne and Avielle find themselves drawn by the need for redemption against the backdrop of the First Crusade. 

Heeding the call of His Holiness, Urban II, to free the Holy Land from the infidel, Etienne follows Duke Robert of Normandy across the treacherous miles, braving sweltering heat and snow-covered mountain passes while en route to the Byzantine Empire.

Moved by Peter of Amiens’ charismatic rhetoric in the streets of the Holy Roman Empire, Avielle joins the humble army of pilgrims. Upon arrival in Mentz, the peasant Crusaders do the unthinkable, destroying the Jewish Community. Consumed with guilt, Avielle is determined to die fighting for Christ, assuring her place in Heaven.

Etienne and Avielle cross paths in Constantinople, where they commiserate over past misdeeds. A spark becomes a flame, but when Avielle contracts leprosy, Etienne makes a promise to God, offering to take the priest cowl in exchange for ridding Avielle of her affliction.

Will Etienne be true to his word if Avielle is cleansed of the contagion, or will he risk eternal damnation to be with the woman he loves?

Bernal has masterfully depicted the horrors of the First Crusade. There are some profoundly upsetting scenes in this book, and there are certainly many casualties in this war. Bernal's portrayal of what became known in history as the Rhineland Massacres of the Jews, in particular, the persecution and the destruction of Jewish communities in Mentz (Mainz) left me reaching for the tissues. The Siege of Antioch was also particularly well-drawn — Bernal captured the horrors in the Crusader's camp as food ran scarce and disease took hold. She also demonstrated the rivalry between Godfrey of Bouillon and Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse, fabulously. The historical detailing in this book is staggering. Bernal has captured the very essence of what it must have been like to follow men such as Peter of Amiens (Peter the Hermit) and The Army of Robert Curthose of Normandy which was led by Robert, Duke of Normandy.

If you are looking for your next great Historical Fiction book then look no further than Crusader's Path by Mary Ann Bernal. I think this may well be Bernal's best book yet!

The Coffee Pot Book Club

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Friday, April 16, 2021

Forgiving Nero by Mary Ann Bernal - Hardcover edition now available


Rome. The jewel of the civilized world is no longer what it was. Strength has failed the Senate. Her legions are in disarray, and the Empire has fallen into Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus Nero’s hands. His reign begins under a cloud of scrutiny, for he is the depraved Emperor Caligula’s nephew. Nero is determined to overcome that stigma and carve a name of his own. One worthy of Rome’s illustrious history.

Politics and treachery threatens to end Nero’s reign before it begins, forcing him to turn to unexpected sources for friendship and help. Many of the Praetorian Guard have watched over Nero since he was a small child, and it is in Traian that the young Emperor places his trust, despite the inherent threat of reducing his mother’s influence. Traian is the father he never had and the one man who does not judge him.

When Traian secretly marries the hostage Vena, it sets in motion a collision of values as Traian comes to odds with his former charge. The whirlwind that follows will shake the very foundations of the greatest Empire the world has ever known, and survival is far from guaranteed.

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"This story demanded all of my attention from beginning to end. The narrative was utterly enthralling, and Bernal told Nero's story with a keen understanding of what makes history worth reading. Bernal has brought Nero back to life, and she has explored that life with a profound sweep and brilliance..." The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Thunder on the Moor By Andrea Matthews


Maggie Armstrong grew up enchanted by her father’s tales of blood feuds and border raids. In fact, she could have easily fallen for the man portrayed in one particular image in his portrait collection. Yet when her father reveals he was himself an infamous Border reiver, she finds it a bit far-fetched—to say the least—especially when he announces his plans to return to his sixteenth-century Scottish home with her in tow.
Suspecting it’s just his way of getting her to accompany him on yet another archaeological dig, Maggie agrees to the expedition, only to find herself transported four hundred and fifty years into the past. Though a bit disoriented at first, she discovers her father’s world to be every bit as exciting as his stories, particularly when she’s introduced to Ian Rutherford, the charming son of a neighboring laird. However, when her uncle announces her betrothal to Ian, Maggie’s twentieth-century sensibilities are outraged. She hardly even knows the man. But a refusal of his affections could ignite a blood feud.
Maggie’s worlds are colliding. Though she’s found the family she always wanted, the sixteenth century is a dangerous place. Betrayal, treachery, and a tragic murder have her questioning whether she should remain or try to make her way back to her own time.
To make matters worse, tensions escalate when she stumbles across Bonnie Will Foster, the dashing young man in her father’s portrait collection, only to learn he is a dreaded Englishman. But could he be the hero she’s always dreamed him to be? Or will his need for revenge against Ian shatter more than her heart?

¸.•*´¨) ¸.*¨) ( ¸.•´


Maggie’s heart lodged in her throat. No matter what the risk, she needed to get to her uncle’s cottage and retrieve the amulet, and her grandmother’s ring with it. Without another thought, she sped down the dimly lit staircase. Fierce fighting raged all around her, causing such turmoil she doubted anyone would notice one girl slipping amongst the clashing swords. But someone did notice, and Alasdair whirled her around with such force her head spun. 

“Where are ye going, Cousin? Get yerself upstairs; ’tis safest there.”

“No, I can’t—”

Before she could utter another word, a Foster blade came down upon him, and he had all he could do to block it.

Maggie seized the opportunity and hurried outside. She headed for her uncle’s cottage, clusters of burning thatch now lighting its roof in an eerie glow. A filthy arm grabbed her around the waist, but she wiggled out of the scoundrel’s grasp, shoving the rogue so hard he landed on his behind. Another tried to take hold of her skirt, but a swift kick in his privates put him in his place. By the time she’d reached the cottage door, three more scoundrels stood nursing various body parts. 

That’ll teach them to mess with Rabbie Armstrong’s daughter. Giving herself a mental pat on the back, she turned toward the flaming roof and groaned. From the look of things, her troubles were just about to begin.   

Though the dampened moss sizzled and cracked, the underlying layer of reeds and hazel twigs caught easy enough, and the flames threatened to engulf the entire roof. The heat from it burned her cheeks and made her eyes water. She raised her hand to shield herself from it, but she needed something more. Searching the yard in desperation, she spied the bucket Emma kept by the door. Right away, she recalled her fire-safety training. In one swift movement, she pulled the plaid from her shoulders and plunged it into the lukewarm water, soaking it well before wrapping it tight around her face. 

Somehow she found the courage to enter but stopped for a moment to survey the situation. Sparks and patches of burning thatch fell from above, setting parts of the staircase on fire. Here and there, thick wooden support beams buckled while white hazy clouds billowed from the floor above. She swallowed hard, climbing the crumbling steps with care. Her legs trembled, and her heart pounded out a deafening rhythm against the thick linen kirtle, but at last she made her way to the rooms above.  

Smoke filled the upper chambers, smoldering embers dropping from every direction like a fiery spring rain. Only the stone and turf of the walls kept the entire structure from going up in a ball of flames, and yet Maggie would not turn back. Her precious items lay on the bedside table, and she had every intention of retrieving them. Using a great deal of caution, she inched her way toward them. The floor below her creaked and sagged until, with a sudden crack, one of the boards gave way. The jagged wood scraped along her leg, and though she couldn’t suppress a cry, she managed to pull free and crawl away without falling to the ground below. With bile rising in her throat, she pushed herself the last few feet to the table and ran her fingers along its top, groping for her cherished possessions. “Stay low,” she whispered over and over, almost like a mantra, but even so, the dense fog of soot and ash stung her throat. The heat was so intense it penetrated the once-moist cloth, and she began to cough. 

A washbasin sat on the table. Would it be too hot? She stuck her finger in. No, warm but tolerable. She poured the contents over her face, dampening the rag once more, and took a tentative breath. Her coughing eased, and she continued searching the tabletop until she felt the smooth gloss of the amulet’s stone and the delicate curve of the ring she’d left beside it.  Hanging the amulet around her neck, she slipped the ring on her finger and headed back downstairs, careful to dodge the large chunks of fiery debris that fell at her feet.

Her coughing had worsened again, and she tripped over the last three steps, unable to control the movement of her legs any longer. You’re the daughter of Robert Armstrong. Are you going to let a little smoke be the end of you? With a defiant lunge, she grabbed on to the rickety banister and pulled herself up, shoving her body toward the front door.

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This novel is available on #KindleUnlimited.

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Andrea Matthews

Andrea Matthews is the pseudonym for Inez Foster, a historian and librarian who loves to read and write and search around for her roots, genealogical speaking. In fact, it was while doing some genealogical research that she stumbled across the history of the Border reivers. The idea for her first novel came to mind almost at once, gradually growing into the Thunder on the Moor series. And the rest, as they say, is history…

Connect with Andrea 

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