Thursday 25 March 2021

Have a sneak-peek between the covers of A. L. Sowards' fabulous book — Of Sword and Shadow #Medieval #HistoricalFiction @ALSowards


Publication Date: February 8, 2021
Publisher: Covenant Communications
Page Length: 276 Pages
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Greece, 1379

She is known by many names, none of them her own. In truth, she is an unnamed slave, nothing more than a weapon in the hands of her owner in his attempts to provoke political mayhem. When she encounters a handsome young man while on an assignment, she thinks little of him—until he attempts to take what she has stolen. But in her line of work, failure is not an option.

Gillen is intrigued by the mysterious woman who thwarts his mission. But when his path crosses hers again, his intrigue turns to gratitude as the thief he comes to call Eudocia saves his life. The two form a bond of friendship and join forces to wrest control from a group of ruthless rulers. But as their camaraderie blossoms into something more, Gillen and Eudocia must fight for love even as they wage war for a better future.

Thebes, Greece, Spring 1379

I don’t remember the name my mother gave me. Nor can I recall each of the hundreds of names I’ve used since. But the morning I was to steal five sheets of paper from Don Paco de Folgueres, I would be Anna, if anyone asked.

Anna was a safe sort of name, giving few clues about a person’s birth or loyalties. Anna could be Greek, like most of the population. Or Anna could be a descendant of the Franks, who created the Duchy of Athens after they sacked Constantinople while on religious crusade. Anna could also be a Catalan, whose ancestors had worked for, then turned on the last Frankish Duke, Walter de Brienne. They’d defeated him in battle and ruled Thebes and the Duchy of Athens ever since.

Thomas and everyone else I knew called me Girl or Little Mouse. Names weren’t as important as abilities for people in our line of work, where failure could mean starvation, a flogging, mutilation, or exile but where a commissioned burglary might offer a chance to break from the gutters completely.

The Greek scribe who worked for Don Paco de Folgueres had a desk in a small stone room bordering the property’s central courtyard. Light from the room’s sole window illuminated the wooden writing surface and a second table with four books, a supply of paper, parchment, and papyrus, reed pens, and ink. I found the documents I wanted among his scattered papers and slipped them between my dalmatica and tunica. I didn’t always wear both layers—clothes were expensive—but Thomas had taught me to dress the part most likely to lead to success, so I was respectable today. At least on the outside.

The scribe was absent, and that made my task easy. But a complication in the form of a tall, brawny man appeared the moment I left the room. He was clean-shaven, and the hair reaching to the collar of his pourpoint was a few shades lighter than my raven locks. He had a straight nose and long ears, one of which was pierced with a gold earring. He gave me a friendly smile.

“Have you seen the scribe?” His words were Catalan but pronounced differently than what I was used to hearing from the class who ruled Thebes. I pretended not to understand. Perhaps if he thought I was Greek, he wouldn’t press me. I gave a small gesture of incomprehension with my shoulders.

He repeated his question, in Greek. That meant I would have to reply.
“No. He seems to be out at the moment.”
The man surveyed the scribe’s room, and I surveyed him, noting his pleasant face and hazel eyes. He looked closer to twenty than to thirty years of age. The fitted hosa western men wore were meant to show off their masculine legs, and his legs were certainly worthy of admiration. My favorite Anna, daughter of the Emperor Alexios Komnenos, would have noticed him, much as she had noticed and commented on the pleasant forms of the Frankish crusaders who had passed through Constantinople on their way to take Jerusalem during the First
Crusade. She’d also dismissed the handsome knights as ignorant barbarians, and I thought it best to follow her example.

Now that I had the documents I’d come for, I was eager to get away from the tall man with the earring and from Don Paco’s home. “I hope you find him soon.” And I did. If the scribe was busy with the earring man, he was less likely to notice his missing documents.

“Thank you.” The man gave me a nod and entered the scribe’s room.

I left, forcing myself to walk at a normal pace across the sunny, paved courtyard, past the fountain and the marble statue that dated back to times before the Frankish invasion.

The scribe stood near the gates, speaking with someone I took to be a Moor. A line ran across the Moor’s face, from his left temple to his lips, a pale-pink scar against skin of rich brown. His inquisitive eyes glanced at me as I passed.

A polite person would have gone back to the scribe’s office to tell the man who was seeking him where he could be found. But I was polite only when politeness suited my task.

“You there, what’s your business?” One of Don Paco’s men stepped in front of me. He was clothed in mail armor and carried an arming sword and a crossbow.

I’d spoken in Greek when I’d met the man with the earring, and my clothing was more Greek than western, so I kept my identity as Anna the Greek, for the moment. “I was visiting one of the weavers, a friend. We grew up on the same street, you see. She wanted my opinion on whether the cloth she is making has a strong enough warp thread or if she should order something with more twists.” I continued in rapid Greek, uncertain if he understood my language while I compared the thickness of the supposed warp thread to the thinness of the made-up weft thread. As I spoke, I gave silent gratitude to Zoe, the silk maker who had always welcomed me into her workshop. I could talk about silk long enough to bore all but the most dedicated of weavers. The Catalan man-at-arms waved me on quickly. It seemed the silk trade was not his passion.

I relaxed as I walked along the streets of the Cadmea, Thebes’s fortified citadel. Don Paco’s property faded from view, then disappeared completely when I turned left after the bakery that sold the best durum wheat bread in the city. It also sold a more affordable loaf of summer wheat, barley, rye, and millet, and I was more familiar with the latter. I turned right after a wine merchant’s shop that specialized in muscat and malmsey. Then I ducked into a narrow side street.

I took off my hair veil, and I didn’t want to put it on again. The early spring sun shone pleasantly, and I was neither respectable nor Christian, but bareheaded women stood out, and I didn’t want that. I turned the veil over so my head was covered in blue instead of yellow and walked farther into the alley.

A tall man stepped out in front of me, blocking my path. The same man who had been looking for the scribe, but this time, there was no smile on his face. 

A. L. Sowards is the author of multiple historical fiction novels, with settings spanning the globe from the fourteenth to twentieth centuries. Her stories have become Whitney Finalists and won a Whitney Award, reached the number one spot across multiple Amazon categories, received praise from the Historical Novel Society, and been loved by readers from a variety of backgrounds. She has called both Washington State and Utah home, and is now in the process of adding Alaska to the list. She enjoys hiking and swimming, usually manages to keep up with the laundry, and loves it when someone else cooks dinner. She lives with her husband, three children, and an ever-growing library.

Social Media Links:

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds amazing...might just head over to Amazon.


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx