My final Friday Read for 2016 is the Harlequin historical romance The Saxon Outlaw's Revenge by Elisabeth Hobbes.
‘At the mercy of her enemy!
Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face to face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He’s now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his… Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?
‘Come with me,’ Aelric instructed quietly. He took Constance’s arm and led her away from the crowd towards what appeared to be a high rock face covered with trees. As they got closer she saw the branches concealed a square stone building. Aelric moved aside a large skin and pulled open a door. He nudged Constance inside the building, closing it behind them.
It smelled disconcertingly of daily life. Wood smoke overlaid the fragrance of human bodies, which in turn mingled with a lingering scent of onions and meat that made Constance’s mouth water. A small fire pit provided scant heat and light, but after the bitter wind it was as welcome as any hearth she had sat beside. Whatever she had to face faded into insignificance compared to her need to rest. She limped across the room and sagged weakly on to a stool beside the fire. Closing her eyes, she held her hands out to the glowing coals, rubbing them together vigorously until her fingers moved easily once more.
She glanced around at the straw pallets littering the room and looked pleadingly at Aelric.
‘I’m so tired,’ she whispered.
‘You can’t stay here,’ he said. He pointed to an unstable-looking set of steps knocked into the back wall that led to a trapdoor. ‘You’ll sleep up there.’
Constance stood, but her legs began to tremble and her head spun. She reeled, but before she fell Aelric’s arms were around her, holding her upright.
‘I don’t think I can walk any further,’ she gasped.
‘I’ll carry you,’ he said. Instead of swinging her over his shoulder as he had previously done Aelric lifted her into his arms, holding her against his chest. Constance rested her hands in her lap. To put them round his neck would be too familiar and she had not forgotten the daggers at his waist. If she could somehow reach one…
Her hand crept towards his waist. As her fingertips brushed against his belly he drew a sharp breath, his head whipping down to glare at her with suspicion. She withdrew her hand hastily, abandoning all idea of stealing her dagger back.
Aelric edged his way up the narrow staircase, ducking his head to climb through the hatch. He put Constance back on her feet. The loft was filled with sacks and smelled sweetly of straw, almost like the barn where once…
No! Don’t think of that, Constance instructed herself.
‘You’ll stay here until I can decide what to do with you. I’ll bring you a blanket and some food.’ Aelric’s eyes flickered from her face to her body. ‘I’ll try to find you something more appropriate to wear, too,’ he said disapprovingly.
‘I’ll keep my own clothes,’ Constance said with dignity, smoothing her tunic down.
Aelric raised an eyebrow, then disappeared down through the hatch. Constance sat on the bare floorboards, leaning back against one of the sacks. She unbraided her hair, then ran her fingers through her it, detangling the long locks and feeling the knots of tension in her scalp start to disperse. She bowed her head and hugged her knees. When she looked up again Aelric was standing over her, arms laden. He lowered a thin straw-stuffed mattress to the floor and dropped a blanket from beneath his other arm. He handed Constance an earthenware pot that contained pottage that had a familiar flavour.
‘Venison,’ she remarked. ‘A fine animal for outlaws to be breeding.’
Aelric smirked and folded his arms across his chest.
‘What of it? The lords have so many deer they won’t miss one or two, even one as gluttonous as The Pig.’
The name was what they had called Sir Robert.
‘We’re on my brother-in-law’s land?’ Constance asked.
Aelric’s smile vanished. ‘Not necessarily. Eat if you want it, if not there are plenty with empty bellies.’
Aelric watched as Constance emptied the bowl, his face in the dim light an impassive mask.
‘Why did you weep for Wulf?’ he asked once she had finished. ‘You didn’t know the boy. You would have fought against him if he had tried to capture you.’
‘He was young,’ Constance said. She pictured the sightless eyes and beardless face. ‘His life was cut short and I wept for his mother. No one should have to face that grief.’
An odd look passed across Aelric’s face. ‘You still have a compassionate nature, I see. For young men at least. The years haven’t changed you so much.’
It did not sound like a compliment.
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0373299109
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01JY7H76O
Elisabeth grew up in York, where she spent her teenage years looking for a handsome Roman or Viking to sweep her off her feet. She achieved her dream of becoming an author after finishing third in Harlequin's SYTYCW contest 2013 and being offered a two-book contract. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time reading and is a pro at cooking while holding a book. Elisabeth lives in Cheshire with her husband, two children and two cats with ridiculous names. She still works as a teacher but if everyone buys her books she might be able to escape!
I asked Elisabeth to tell us a bit more about herself:
How did you get started writing?
My husband was working away for days at a time and as I had young children t the time I was pretty much trapped in the house after bedtime. I wanted to do something more than sit in front of the TV and after talking with a friend about how easy it might be to write a historical romance I decided to give it a try. Turns out it was harder than I expected but much more fun
What was the first thing you had published?
Falling for Her Captor in 2014. It was my entry into Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013 and bagged me third place. It needed work to fit in with Harlequin’s series promise but I was thrilled when they offered me a two book contract on the back of the revisions.
What do you like writing most?
Arguments. I love setting my characters up against each other and having them let rip. It makes the eventual happy ending feel much more satisfying having seen all the misunderstandings and conflicts played out.
Are you ever disappointed when you see your work published?
I get a thrill every time I see one of my books or read a review because I can’t believe I’m where I am. The only time I’ve been disappointed was with my second book, A Wager for the Widow, because I don’t think the cover reflects the story or character (someone described the cover model as having resting bitch face which I think is a little unfair). It’s a Christmassy story that came out in July and wasn’t as popular as my other books which I think is a shame as Will, the roguish, scarred hero of that book is probably my favourite of all.
What do you like to do to relax?
I love going for walks in the countryside (useful for scouting locations) but a deep bubble bath with a good book takes some beating.
Lovely to talk to you, Elisabeth. Thanks for dropping by. :)
Bring a little sunshine into your life!
Sassy, feel good romance by Karen King. Just right to cosy up with on cold winter nights. Published by Accent Press