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England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.
Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.
Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.
The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.
Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.
“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story.”
Elizabeth St. John, author of The Lady of the Tower
“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.”
Carol McGrath, author of The Handfasted Wife
People clogged the market, moving as slow as a herd of sheep and with as much purpose. Shrill cries of, “Wool, thirty-six shillings to the pound!” cut through the crowd. James scanned the square, looking for a dark-haired woman in a blue skirt. It was as though he searched for a chaff of barley in a stack of wheat.
James manoeuvred against the tide of people. Soot-faced urchins ran between the channels that opened in the crowd, jostling as they darted past. In an effort to avoid further collision, he nearly bumped into a matron, her basket loaded with packages.
She beamed a bright smile. “God save you, Master Hart.” Her free hand fluttered over her lace collar like a butterfly.
“And you, Mistress Boddington.” James tipped his hat to her. “I trust the family has fared the winter well.” The moment she lowered her eyes, James tried to steal a glance over her shoulder. At of the edge of his vision, he caught a flash of blue.
The woman bobbed her head. “With God’s grace. My daughter, Sibyl, has been a blessing. She has become such an adept housekeeper.”
James ignored the expectation in her tone. Sibyl Boddington was too timid for his taste. “Please give my compliments to your daughter. If you’ll excuse me.”
The matron opened her mouth to continue the conversation, but James managed to extricate himself into the safety of the crowd.
He quickened his pace. Where could she have gone? Taller than most, James commanded a better view of the market, but still he could not find her. How difficult could this be? He rolled his eyes at the irony. He, James Hart, once the best scoutmaster of the King’s army and famed for his ability to track a field mouse, could not find a slip of a maid in a Warwick market.
James made his way down Jury Street through the livestock market and pens of bleating lambs. Someone had forgotten to latch a crate properly, and a pair of fluttering chickens escaped from their coop. The butcher tossed a scrap of offal over his shoulder, and stray dogs darted in before they were beaten away.
Turning on Market Square, James paused to survey the haberdashers. Surely he would find her here, amongst the stalls of linens, laces and ribbons. Hats and coifs intermingled, and for a moment all he could see was a blur of white and grey. About to turn away, his eyes at last fell upon the one he sought.
Elizabeth Seton browsed the household stalls, strolling at her leisure. James walked towards her, his eyes fixed firmly on the prize. She hovered over a collection of linens, and her fingers brushed over the cloths, but she did not linger beyond a curious moment. James kept a discreet distance, ever narrowing the gap. One slim hand held her skirts, raising them slightly to avoid a muddy puddle before she continued on her way.
He halted his progress when she became rooted at the bookseller’s. While fancy ribbons and laces had not attracted her interest, a stack of pamphlets and chapbooks made the difference. She struck up a conversation with the bookseller, laughing at something he said. James rubbed his chin, engrossed. An unusual maid, he thought, and drew closer.
Leaning over the small collection, her head tilted to peer at the titles. Hair secured in a sedate knot, a wayward tendril escaped its constraint. The wind lifted and teased the stray lock, contrasting to the paleness of her nape. James fought the urge to reach out and twist the strand in his fingers.
He bent forward and addressed her in a low tone, “Are you looking to improve your mind, or to seek instruction?”
Elizabeth started in surprise. Her eyes widened, and for the first time, he realised how blue they were. Almost immediately they narrowed, as though she wasn’t sure how to respond to his boldness. He knew he was being forward, but he had never won a thing without pressing his advantage.
“I am looking for a book on good manners, sir. I would not expect you to recommend one.”
James grinned. Without looking away, he addressed the bookseller, who watched them. “Master Ward, would you be so kind as to introduce us?”
“I would,” the man said. “Only I haven’t made the maid’s acquaintance myself.”
Amusement flitted across her lips. “Elizabeth Seton,” she announced.
“Mistress Seton, may I present James Hart, ostler at the Chequer and Crowne,” the bookseller said, fulfilling his duty.
James swept his hat from his head. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mistress Seton.” He rather liked saying her name.
“Master Hart.” Elizabeth canted her head and hesitated for a fraction. She looked at him openly and did not avert her eyes in modesty when he returned her gaze.
“You’re new to Warwick,” he said.
“How would you know this?”
“I know everyone here.”
“Not so,” she said. One brow arched ever so slightly. “You did not know me until this moment.”
James found her bewitching. “I stand corrected, Mistress Seton. Still, you are new to Warwick.”
Elizabeth’s head dipped.
“If I were to guess, I’d say you were Mistress Stanborowe’s niece. I’ve heard that Ellendale has a new resident.”
“Indeed, your information is correct.”
“Pray, allow me the privilege of calling on you.” James leaned against the stall and nearly sent a stack of books tumbling.
“My aunt values courtesy, and you, sir, are quite forward. I can only assume she would object.”
“I assure you, mistress, I am not an objectionable fellow,” he said. “Is that not right, Master Ward?”
“Quite true.” The man’s voice shook with laughter.
“There you have it,” James said. “If you can’t trust the word of a bookseller, all is lost.”
A small smile flitted at the corner of her mouth. James found the resulting dimple intriguing. “I must be leaving.” She picked up her purchase and prepared to depart. “God save you, sir, and good day.” She reached over to pay the bookseller, but Master Ward caught James’s warning frown and casually turned away.
“Are women from the south always so aloof?” James blurted, then cringed. Lagging wit—you can do better.
She halted in surprise. “How did you know I came from the south?”
“Far south, I would guess,” he said, grasping the first thing that came to mind.
“How do you suppose?” Her eyes narrowed.
“Naturally, by your speech.”
“Indeed? I could be from London,” Elizabeth replied.
“You are as likely from London as I from Scotland.”
Elizabeth gave up trying to attract the bookseller’s attention and laid her coin atop a pile of chapbooks. She clutched her purchase to her chest in preparation for her escape.
“I will make you a wager,” he said. “If I can guess where you came from, you’ll allow me to call on you.”
“And if you’re wrong?”
“I’ll wish you good day and trouble you no more.” James offered his hand, but she ignored it. “Do we have an agreement?”
Elizabeth held his gaze for a moment. She pursed her lips, and a hint of a dimple lurked at the corners. “Agreed.”
James smiled. He hadn’t forgotten what she had told the highwayman. “Let’s see—I’ll need one word from you.”
“Which one?” Elizabeth asked.
“Aye, the very one. Say it again.” He crossed his arms and waited. When she repeated it, he nodded. “’Tis perfectly clear. Your speech has a Dorset flavour.” For truth, she did have a lovely, soft way of speaking.
Elizabeth’s brow arched slightly. “Are you certain I am not from Hampshire?”
“Aye. Admit it, I’m correct.”
“Fine, then, but Dorset is quite large, and that does not prove your wit.”
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About the author
Cryssa Bazos is a historical fiction writer and 17th Century enthusiast, with a particular interest in the English Civil War (ECW). She blogs about English history and storytelling at her blog, the 17th Century Enthusiast, and is an editor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog site.
Cryssa’s debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, a romantic tale of adventure set during the English Civil War. Traitor’s Knot is the first in a series of adventures spanning from the ECW to the Restoration and is now available from Endeavour Press.
Traitor’s Knot by Cryssa Bazos
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
eBook; 394 Pages