Thursday, 26 May 2022

Books to Read in 2022! Eternal by Lisa Scottoline #HistoricalFiction #mustread @LisaScottoline

 


Eternal
By Lisa Scottoline


Publication Date: 20th January 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Page Length: 480 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction / Women's Fiction

What war destroys, only love can heal.

Elisabetta, Marco, and Sandro grow up as the best of friends despite their differences. Elisabetta is a feisty beauty who dreams of becoming a novelist; Marco the brash and athletic son in a family of professional cyclists; and Sandro a Jewish mathematics prodigy, kind-hearted and thoughtful, the son of a lawyer and a doctor. Their friendship blossoms to love, with both Sandro and Marco hoping to win Elisabetta’s heart. But in the autumn of 1937, all of that begins to change as Mussolini asserts his power, aligning Italy’s Fascists with Hitler’s Nazis and altering the very laws that govern Rome. In time, everything that the three hold dear–their families, their homes, and their connection to one another–is tested in ways they never could have imagined.

As anti-Semitism takes legal root and World War II erupts, the threesome realizes that Mussolini was only the beginning. The Nazis invade Rome, and with their occupation come new atrocities against the city’s Jews, culminating in a final, horrific betrayal. Against this backdrop, the intertwined fates of Elisabetta, Marco, Sandro, and their families will be decided, in a heartbreaking story of both the best and the worst that the world has to offer.

Unfolding over decades, Eternal is a tale of loyalty and loss, family and food, love and war–all set in one of the world’s most beautiful cities at its darkest moment. This moving novel will be forever etched in the hearts and minds of readers.

“An accomplished historical novel that is both steeped in period detail and full of relatable characters…. Scottoline is a master at ramping up the suspense.”
Washington Post

“In this book of her heart, Lisa Scottoline delivers what her readers expect and so much more, fast-paced intrigue, but also an authentic, tender coming of age tale of three best friends navigating the complexities of fascism, war, political and family strife and romantic competition.”
Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours and The Book Of Lost Friends

“Eternal feels so real you can almost taste the cappelletti, as you get lost in the pages on your glorious and heart-wrenching trip to Italy.”
Martha Hall Kelly, author of Lilac Girls and Sunflower Sisters



Lisa Scottoline is the New York Times–bestselling and Edgar Award–winning author of thirty-three novels. She has thirty million copies of her books in print in the United States and has been published in thirty-five countries. Scottoline also writes a weekly column with her daughter, novelist Francesca Serritella, for The Philadelphia Inquirer, which has been adapted into a series of memoirs. She lives in the Philadelphia area with an array of disobedient pets.

Connect with Lisa:

Author Photo: © Jeff Wojtaszek







Monday, 23 May 2022

Have a sneak peek between the covers of A. M. Linden's fabulous novel — The Oath (The Druid Chronicles, Book One) #HistoricalFiction #Medieval #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @shewritespress



The Oath
(The Druid Chronicles, Book One)
By A. M. Linden


Publication Date: 15th June 2021
Publisher: She Writes Press 
Page Length: 319 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

When the last of members of a secretive Druid cult are forced to abandon their hidden sanctuary, they send the youngest of their remaining priests in search of Annwr, their chief priestess’s sister, who was abducted by a Saxon war band fifteen years ago. With only a rudimentary grasp of English and the ambiguous guidance of an oracle’s prophecy, Caelym manages to find Annwr living in a hut on the grounds of a Christian convent.


Annwr has spent her years of captivity caring for the timid Aleswina, an orphaned Saxon princess who was consigned to the cloistered convent by her cousin, King Gilberth, after he assumed her father’s throne. Just as Caelym and Annwr are about leave together, Aleswina learns that Gilberth, a tyrant known for his cruelty and vicious temper, means to take her out of the convent and marry her. Terrified, she flees with the two Druids—beginning a heart-pounding adventure that unfolds in ways none of them could have anticipated.



“Linden's well-researched tale eloquently brings to life a lesser-known period of transition in Britain. . . . The author has created a strong foundation for her series with well-developed characters whom readers can embrace. . . . [a] layered, gripping historical fiction.”

—Kirkus Reviews


“The story rolls along at a lively pace, rich with details of the times and a wide cast of characters. [The] plotting, shifting points of view of the three engaging protagonists, and evocative writing style make The Oath a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.”

—Historical Novel Review


“Linden uses a fairy tale-like style almost as though this story has been passed down orally over the centuries.”

—Booklist Review



From Chapter 1: The Clearing

A torch touched the dry tinder and the fire sprang to life, flaring up in a ring around the condemned man. At first the bound figure was just a silhouette against the night sky, but as the fire spread around the stake he was illuminated in its glow, his dark hair shining as golden red as the flames. Even bruised and bloodied, he was handsome, tall, lean, and fit—his features so fine and noble that it was hard to believe the crowd surrounding him was screaming for his death instead of pleading for his life.

Looking through the flames, he could see the shifting shapes of the mob, men with spears, women with cudgels, and children waving sticks. They were cursing him, calling him a sorcerer. If he could have made himself heard, he would have told them that he was not a sorcerer, he was a physician who could have given them the gift of healing, a singer whose songs could have soothed their rage, a bard who could have told them a thousand stories about splendid heroes from days when the world was fresh and new. If they would just stop shouting and listen, he would tell them that he’d been the last of the disciples to sit at the feet of the three greatest Druid masters of their time. He would tell them that by killing him before he could pass on what he had learned they were destroying an ancient heritage of wisdom that could never be recovered, condemning themselves to suffering and ignorance.

Their taunts and jeers seemed to fade away, lost in his longing for a swallow of water to sooth his parched throat, a bite of food to ease his aching hunger, and, above all, to die unbound. It was the fire that granted his last wish—burning through the leather cords so that, for a moment, he was free.

Instead of leaving the fire to be torn apart by the frenzied mob, he raised his arms up towards the moon like a child reaching up to his mother. A sudden breeze fanned the fire and the flames soared, engulfing him and forcing his attackers to fall back as his body turned to a soft, feathery ash that was gathered up and carried off by the wind, swirling up and away into the star-filled sky.

The crowd’s angry curses quieted to grumbling complaints, and those changed to the hooting of owls and the croaking of frogs as Caelym woke up to find himself whole again, lying beside a decaying, moss-covered log at the edge of a clearing.

He’d fallen asleep in a thicket of alders, worn out from his desperate race to escape a real mob of raging Saxons. Choosing death by drowning over burning at the stake, he’d dived headlong into a river that carried him out of their reach and far out of his way. It had taken most of a day to make his way back along the river’s edge to the turn in the road where he’d been discovered. From there he’d limped on, continuing the quest he’d begun the day after learning that the long-lamented Priestess Annwr, sister to their chief priestess, was alive, that Ossiam, Grand Oracle and Master of Divination had seen her in a dream . . . imprisoned in a high tower, her golden hair blowing in the wind and tears streaming down her cheeks, crying out for someone to save her . . .

Copyright 2021 A.M. Linden





Ann Margaret Linden was born in Seattle, Washington, but grew up on the east coast of the United States before returning to the Pacific Northwest as a young adult. She has undergraduate degrees in anthropology and in nursing and a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner. After working in a variety of acute care and community health settings, she took a position in a program for children with special health care needs where her responsibilities included writing clinical reports, parent educational materials, provider newsletters, grant submissions and other program related materials. The Druid Chronicles began as a somewhat whimsical decision to write something for fun and ended up becoming a lengthy journey that involved Linden taking adult education creative writing courses, researching early British history, and traveling to England, Scotland, and Wales. Retired from nursing, she lives with her husband and their cat and dog in the northwest corner of Washington State.

Social Media Links:





Have a sneak peek between the covers of Brodie Curtis' fabulous novel - Angels and Bandits #HistoricalFiction #WW2 #BlogTour @BrodieCurtis4



Angels and Bandits
By Brodie Curtis


Publication Date: 15th May 2022
Publisher: Westy Vistas 
Page Length: 357 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

The Battle of Britain rages and two young RAF pilots from very different stations in life must somehow find common ground—and stay alive.


On the eve of World War II, working-class Eddy Beane is a flight instructor in London. He successfully completes dangerous espionage missions for Air Commodore Keith Park and takes on society-girl June Stephenson as a student. Her ex-fiancé, Dudley Thane, is also a flyer, but upper-class and Cambridge-educated. When the German Luftwaffe attacks England in 1940, Eddy and Dudley end up serving in the same Spitfire squadron. Aerial combat is intense, and both men show their skills and courage, but can they set aside jealousy and class differences to become fighting brothers for the defence of Britain? 



Context:

My research for ANGELS and BANDITS provided me the distinct pleasure of learning about the Spitfire, Britain’s innovative fighter plane that played a key role in winning the Battle of Britain, thereby repelling Hitler’s planned invasion of England in September, 1940. Slim and graceful in appearance, yet fast and maneuverable, the Spitfire proved to be the Excalibur of Arthurian legend in the hands of the RAF flyers. The sight of it inspired confidence in the British people and fear in the enemy.



An RAF pilot started a Spit’s powerful Merlin Rolls-Royce engine and heard a blast and then clattering as orange and yellow flames rose from the exhausts and flicked the fuselage. Accelerating smoothly, the plane lifted elegantly, as if kicking the ground clear and its song in mid-flight was sweet and comforting. In experienced hands it made a steep climb, past vertical, and then a wing-over with a tweak of the rudder that would perfectly frame the Spit’s iconic elliptical wings as it launched into aerial combat, high and out of sight, at 20,000 to 25,000 feet.

Imagine Eddy’s emotions as he strapped into his Spitfire for his first solo at an RAF training airfield in Scotland in this excerpt from ANGELS and BANDITS:

Excerpt

“Remember, laddy,” said Sergeant MacLeod, in a strong Glaswegian accent, “she’s a greyhound. Open ’er up gently.”

“I’ll remember,” Eddy said. 

“Be in fine pitch,” Mac said. “O’erwise, the runway won’t be long enough.”
Just two days ago, a new man called Ross hadn’t switched from coarse to fine pitch and had slammed into the beach, destroying himself and the aircraft. 

“Now, man, yer no a nit-wit. I’ll just remind you to bring ’er back in one piece.” 

Eddy took a deep breath and faced the bank of dials, gauges, levers and rods, all of which he had mastered through dozens of hours of classroom instruction. They were his responsibility now, and his only friends in the air—there was no one else to rely on. He reached up to pull the canopy forward, shutting it against the summer sky and other Spitfires overhead that flickered like diamonds in the sun. He pressed the starter. Orange and yellow flames poured from the exhaust and ran alongside the fuselage. 

He flipped off the parking brake, held the spade stick steady and pulled the throttle open, and began to taxi towards the runway. The Rolls Royce engine bellowed and he adjusted left aileron and left rudder as he had been taught, equalizing the monster torque of the propeller that forced the Spitfire’s right wing downwards. Once she was in mechanical synch, he pointed her down the runway, gaining speed with the airframe vibrating slightly and the wheels rattling over the grass. Her wings lifted effortlessly and she was airborne. 

He sought a light fingertip touch on the sensitive elevator while he muscled the ailerons into setting. A pilot’s harmony with his plane’s instruments could never be learned in the classroom. It was born of experience, tact, and physical balance. Up, up, climb—he could hear Mac’s dry advice in his head. “Don’t clip our hangar roof, now, ’cause I dun’t have time for a mess.”

Eddy had no intention of making “a mess.”
  






Raised in the Midwest, Brodie Curtis was educated as a lawyer and left the corporate world to embrace life in Colorado with his wife and two sons. 

Curtis is the author of THE FOUR BELLS, a novel of The Great War, which is the product of extensive historical research, including long walks through the fields of Flanders, where much of the book's action is set. His second novel, ANGELS AND BANDITS, takes his protagonists into The Battle of Britain. Curtis is currently working on a novel set on a Mississippi Riverboat prior to the Civil War.

A lover of history, particularly American history and the World Wars, Curtis reviews historical fiction for the Historical Novels Review and more than 100 of his published reviews and short takes on historical novels can be found on his website: brodiecurtis.com.  

Connect with Brodie:




Have a sneak-peek between the covers of Nancy Jardine's fabulous novel — Before Beltane (Celtic Fervour Series) #HistoricalFiction #RomanEmpire @nansjar




Before Beltane 
(Celtic Fervour Series)
By Nancy Jardine


Publication Date: 29th April 2022
Publisher: Nancy Jardine with Ocelot Press
Page Length: 268 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Two lives. Two stories. One future.


AD 71 Northern Britannia

At the Islet of the Priestesses, acolyte Nara greets each new day eager to heal the people at Tarras Hillfort. Weapon training is a guilty pleasure, but she is devastated when she is unexpectedly denied the final rites of an initiated priestess. A shocking new future beckons for Princess Nara of the Selgovae…


In the aftermath of civil war across Brigantia, Lorcan of Garrigills promotion of King Venutius is fraught with danger. Potential invasion by Roman legions from the south makes an unstable situation even worse. When Lorcan meets the Druid Maran, the future foretold for him is as enthralling as it is horrifying…


Meet Nara and Lorcan before their tumultuous meeting of each other in The Beltane Choice, Book 1 of the acclaimed Celtic Fervour Series.




Nara- A Tricky Birth

“Is all well?” Derw asked. “With…both?”

“Aye, they live.” Nara’s simple words drew huge smiles of relief from father and son as she approached them. “This time the goddess Arianrhod has blessed you with a girl-child who may be very small, but she is as lusty as any healthy babe I have ever seen.”

“I knew that being a daughter must be the reason,” Derw said, “when the straining continued for so long.”

Nara laughed, even though she was bone-tired. “Do not blame the timing on the fact of it being a new daughter. I have seen male babies take just as tortuous a route to entering our roundhouses.”

“Aye, indeed. Some of my foals are not easily coaxed to show themselves either, however, they do not usually tax the mares as long as that new girl-babe has.” Derw joined in with her mirth, shushing the restless son in his arms into sleep, then sobered a little. “How fares my Meinir?”

Nara maintained a happy expression. In truth, it would be the goddess who determined how the mother and the babe progressed in the coming days. Women died during the process of childbirth, and some also succumbed in the days following.

“Both she and the babe sleep just now. Meinir is exhausted, though she will regain strength quickly now that her sister has arrived to help. Your hearth-wife may be tall and slender, as her name indicates, but she summoned the strength needed to eventually slip the babe out  – even though the little one was facing the opposite way from the usual.”

Nara chuckled at the memory, yet at the time it had been a fraught moment since the babe had taken so long to appear. She had not told Derw earlier that she had feared the breath would have been stolen from the child before its head appeared.

“You may think on that when you name your daughter,” she suggested.

“I shall not be likely to name her the speedy one.” Derw’s mirth continued. “Still, I do take heed of your advice. Your presence has been invaluable, and none more so than during that desperate ride back here.”

Nara untied the tethers before she vaulted up onto Eachna, acknowledging his comments with a nod. The poor man had been riddled with guilt, and had been panicked about leaving Meinir with only his oldest son’s assistance for the time it had taken to fetch help. She sought to reassure him again that his options had been limited, and that she had enjoyed the frantic ride with his middle son in front of her.

“Your Meinir is a determined woman. She knew very well what she was doing when she sent you to fetch me. Her faith in Arianrhod remained strong even though she was being thoroughly tested. She was more resolute than you know about not leaving you to raise all four bairns on your own, and you can be very proud of your eldest son. He gave her good assistance, even if the responsibility was terrifying for him.”

“Aye, he learns well.” Derw’s grin faded and his tone grew solemn. “I have already given my special thanks to the goddess Dôn and will do so regularly, of that you can be sure.”

Nara sought to lighten the mood. Meinir was lucky in her hearth-husband. He not only provided the best he could for her and the children, but it was easy to see that his love for his woman was sincere. It was unfortunate that not all dwellings on Tarras Territory were similarly blessed.

“I have left some potions with Meinir’s sister. They should help Meinir gain her strength back in the coming days and that, in turn, will benefit your guzzling daughter.”

“If she resembles her mother then I will be best pleased.” Derw’s good humour was returned, his smile more relaxed. “Though I do not mean that Meinir is a greedy woman, except maybe when it comes to my attentions.”

“In the name of Arianrhod, daughter of Dôn!” Nara raised her hand in caution, yet continued to grin. “Meinir will need your support, and will welcome it, however, not much more than that from you till at least a full moon and some more has passed. She has come through an ordeal that would have been far too much for many of our women.”

“The god Taranis may strike me down with his thunderbolts should I do anything to harm Meinir. I know very well how Arianrhod allows new life to spring from the mating process.”

Derw’s words sounded humorous, yet Nara knew he had been unnerved by this latest birthing, his three sons having come to Meinir so easily.

The man continued to speak. “The next foal bred from the dam – the one that you admired in the far field – will be sent to the sacred nemeton home of the priestesses. Eachna is as fine a filly as I have ever seen, but the one to come soon has a good sire and should make a prime horse. And, before you say it, Chief Callan of Tarras will still get the amount I agreed on for his horse pens, when summer comes.”

“Tapadh leat!” Nara’s words of thanks were sincere. “We will look forward to its arrival. You will have the heartfelt gratitude of all of us at our sacred home, since our horse stock is low just now.”

She acknowledged that Derw could ill-afford to send a new horse to the priestesses. However, the man ran a competent farm, and if the gods willed it, all of his horses already in foal would deliver safely. Derw would probably have to work even harder than usual to raise even more new stock come the next spring season, yet Nara knew that giving such a gift would maintain the man’s self-respect.



Amazon


This novel is FREE to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription




Nancy Jardine lives in the spectacular ‘Castle Country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Her main writing focus has, to date, been historical and time travel fiction set in Roman Britain, though she’s also published contemporary mystery novels with genealogy plots. If not writing, researching (an unending obsession), reading or gardening, her young grandchildren will probably be entertaining her, or she’ll be binge-watching historical films and series made for TV. 

She loves signing/ selling her novels at local events and gives author presentations locally across Aberdeenshire. These are generally about her novels or with a focus on Ancient Roman Scotland, presented to groups large and small. Zoom sessions have been an entertaining alternative to presenting face-to-face events during, and since, the Covid 19 pandemic restrictions.

Current memberships are with the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland, Romantic Novelists Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She’s self-published with the author co-operative Ocelot Press.

Connect with Nancy: Website • Blog • Twitter • Facebook • LinkedIn • Pinterest • BookBub • Amazon Author Page • Goodreads






Thursday, 19 May 2022

Blog Tour: Clement: The Templar’s Treasure (Clement, Book 3) by Craig R. Hipkins #HistoricalFiction #YAfantasy #Medieval #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @CraigHipkins



Join The Coffee Pot Book Club on tour with…

Clement: The Templar’s Treasure
(Clement, Book 3)
By Craig R. Hipkins


June 20th – July 1st 2022

Publication Date: 4th May 2022
Publisher: Hipkins Twins
Page Length: 233 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Clement & Dagena return for another action packed adventure. From the cold and dreary shores of Greenland to the fabled land of Vinland. The legendary treasure of the Knights Templar awaits.


Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU


Craig R. Hipkins

Craig R. Hipkins grew up in Hubbardston Massachusetts. He is the author of medieval and gothic fiction. His novel, Adalbert is the sequel to Astrolabe written by his late twin brother Jay S. Hipkins (1968-2018) He is an avid long-distance runner and enjoys astronomy in his spare time.


Social Media Links:

Website • Twitter • Facebook • LinkedIn • Instagram • Pinterest • Amazon Author Page • Goodreads



Tour Schedule




June 20th
The Coffee Pot Book Club
Excerpt
I got lost in a book
Review

June 21st
Zoe’s Art, Craft and Life
Guest Post
The Historical Fiction Company
Excerpt

June 22nd
Let Your Words Shine…
Guest Post
The Book Bandit’s Library
Review

June 23rd
Crowvus Book Blog
Guest Post
The Magic of Wor(l)ds
Excerpt

June 24th
The Writing Desk
Interview
Paul Walker’s Official Blog
Excerpt
Candlelight Reading
Interview

June 27th
B for Bookreview
Spotlight
The Whispering Bookworm
Interview

June 28th
Let Us Talk Of Many Things
Excerpt
Shadows of the Past
Review

June 29th
Wendy J, Dunn’s Official Blog
Excerpt
CelticLady’s Reviews
Spotlight

June 30th
The Historical Fiction Blog
Guest Post
Archaeolibrarian
Excerpt

July 1st
Linnea Tanner’s Official Blog
Excerpt
When Angels Fly
Interview





Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Have a sneak-peek between the covers of Marthese Fenech's fabulous book — Ash Fall: a Novel of the Knights of Malta #HistoricalFiction @Fenka33

 



Ash Fall: a Novel of the Knights of Malta
By Marthese Fenech 




Publication Date: September 8, 2022
Publisher: BDL Publishing
Page Length: 525
Genre: Historical Fiction

1565. 

Malta stands on the precipice of one of the bloodiest battles in history. An elite Ottoman army, 50,000 strong, prepares to depart Istanbul, the seat of the Empire. Deeply conflicted, Demir must sail alongside the host determined to conquer his mother’s homeland and crush the Order of St John once and for all. Testing his loyalty is the knowledge that Angelica, the half-sister he has never met, dwells on the tiny island.

As the Maltese garrison braces for the incoming storm, knights and civilians stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the walls. Domenicus and Robert volunteer for the ramparts of Fort St Elmo, the most precarious position on Malta. Angelica finds herself locked outside the city gates and scrambles to a hilltop citadel, where she helps establish a makeshift infirmary. Katrina takes up a bow and stands a post, shielding her town as the Ottoman tide crashes against it. 

For several blood-soaked months, Malta is the stage upon which fierce combat rages. Heads are fired from cannons, field hospitals set ablaze, knights crucified, and soldiers melted where they stand. As the land exhales swirling ash, and narrow streets choke on rubble, no one escapes the fiery currents of war unscathed. The body count surges. Hope scatters with the smoke. Outflanked and outnumbered, can the defence hold out until a much-delayed relief force arrives from Sicily?




Katrina sets a lantern on Belli’s workbench in the stable at the edge of the carpenter’s property. She opens the gate to Peppone’s stall and sits on the straw-scattered floor. The brownish-grey donkey gives a contented bray, his ears flat out to the side. Alone and unable to sleep, Kat has come to spend time with the animals. 

The certainty of war keeps her wakeful. Some European spies remain unsure of the objective—at least, according to discussions she’s overheard in the bailey. Malta is presumed, but several observers maintain Spain or Sicily is the target of Suleiman’s spear. With the pace of labour redoubled, most Maltese do not indulge in such dangerous optimism. The Grand Master has ordered all tradesmen to work through the night at the armoury, Robert and Belli among them. Malta may sink under the weight of all its newly fashioned weapons. 

The moon, curved like a white feather, shines through the window, catches floating bits of straw-dust and turns them into silver flakes. Tramonto, her family’s splendid black Arabian, nickers in the stall next to her. To the other side, the offspring of Odin and Freya respond with piercing bleats. 

Kat rests her head back against the wall, closes her eyes, and tries to capture this rare moment of peace. Although she and Robert laboured to restore his mother’s house, all but destroyed by a cyclone years ago, they’ve settled in with Belli the past few months. Best to be closer to family and friends—even four-legged ones—in these precarious times. 

The stable door creaks on its hinges. Katrina’s eyes pop open. Peppone cocks an ear. Kat peeks over the enclosure. Domenicus, his face drawn yet alert. Probably couldn’t sleep either.

“Everything all right?” she asks, pushing open the stall gate. 

The lantern swings in his grip. Shadows move up the walls. “Given the fact that the world is about to end, everything is as good as it can be.” He sets his lantern down beside hers on the bench and gives his horse a nuzzle. “Too long since you’ve had a good gallop, hey?” 

Tramonto stretches his neck over the gate, and Kat gives him some love, too. She strokes the charger between the eyes and glances across her shoulder to her brother. “This is pleasant. I could be seven again.”

“Remember how many times Mama begged me not to sleep in the pen with Peppone?” Domenicus reminisces. 

“And how many times I ignored her?”

“Almost as many times as I did,” Kat replies.

Her brother laughs—a foreign sound these days, and one most welcome. “Or the time you came here and used Belli’s saw to hack off your braid?”

At that, Katrina too bursts into laughter. “The day I decided I no longer wanted to be a girl. Oh, our poor mother.” 

“She’d be proud of you, you know.”

Kat’s throat constricts. “And just as proud of you.” She swallows. “…In over twenty years, I have never thanked you.”

“Thanked me?”

She takes her brother’s hand into both hers. “We were children when Mama fell sick. You tried everything to save her. And when it failed, you tried harder. Thank you for that.” 
 
Domenicus blinks, eyes watering as they reflect the glow of the lanterns. “Kat, I want you to leave for Sicily tomorrow with the Viceroy’s ships.”

She drops his hand. 

“Please, hear me. Angelica will not go without you.”

Katrina crosses her arms. “You expect me to leave my home in its time of greatest need? Not when I can help. Not when I can teach someone who has never lifted a bow how to defend himself.”

“There are others who can instruct—some even trained by you. The knights are also teaching citizens to handle guns. Marcello has been working with locals for weeks.”

“With little success,” Katrina counters. 

Domenicus sighs.

Kat softens. “Angelica is your wife. She will never leave without you. No more than I would leave without Robert. Why don’t you take her and go? Attend the apothecary school in Messina.”

“Attend school while my home is reduced to ashes? Don’t be absurd.”

“I’m not. After the war, Malta will need educated men to help restore…” Kat stops—her brother is right.

“How could I abandon you here?” he says. “Abandon Robert and Belli and Anton? How could I dishonour Pa so?”

“Oh? And you think it would be so easy for me?”

“No. That’s why I’m begging you. If something happened to you or Angelica, it would kill me. And you think after everything Robert endured to be with you, it wouldn’t destroy him if you…” He never finishes. “You want to thank me for trying to save Mama? Do so by staying alive.”

Kat turns her face away, unable to meet her brother’s eyes. “That isn’t fair.”

“Fair? Nothing about any of this is fair. Reports claim a force upwards of fifty thousand men is preparing to depart Istanbul for our shores. They outnumber us ten to one.”

“You tell me how terribly the odds are stacked against us yet in the same breath, tell me to leave?”

“Yes.”

The stable door scrapes open a second time. Angelica walks in, steps tentative, a candle in hand, eyes narrowed. She wears a wool stole tight around her shoulders, her hair in a messy pile atop her head. Beautiful, as always, but ever since her unspeakable ordeal in the Inquisitor’s dungeon, her eyes have lost much of their sparkle, her smile, its spontaneity. The sight of her causes a shift within Kat.  

“Angelica,” Domenicus says, voice throaty. 

She lowers the candle. “I woke because you were not beside me. I came to Belli’s house and found it empty. Saw the light in the stable.”

“Found my sister here,” he replies, gesturing in Katrina’s direction.

Angelica squints beyond Domenicus. “Kat, you all right?” 

“Yes.” She shakes her head. “No… I think we… Angelica, I think we should accept the gift of safety and leave with the Viceroy’s ships tomorrow.”

Domenicus looks over his shoulder. “I thought—”

“Malta does not stand a chance,” Katrina interrupts. “Had the Viceroy offered men, perhaps. But we stand alone in this fight—a boulder in a sandy vale.”

“I’m not leaving,” Angelica says. Her tone is final and somehow, prepared.

Domenicus exhales. “My love, please—”

“You want to send me away because you think I’m weak? Some fragile flower easily crushed underfoot?” She stands taller, raises her chin. 

“Never,” Domenicus replies. “But you are my weakness, and I need to know you are somewhere safe.”

“Safe is together.”

“Angelica,” Kat cuts in, “I want to go. Robert has lost so much. His father. His brother. His mother. Dr Callus… He’ll put himself at risk to protect me.”

Angelica presses her lips, shoulders rigid. She sucks in a breath, holds the air inside her. Shifts her gaze to Domenicus. Exhales. “You would do the same.”

He nods. “So, you see, I need you to protect me.”

Angelica tips her face to his but glances to Kat almost imperceptibly from the corner of her eye. “I will pack a few things.”






Marthese Fenech
is the author of bestselling historical novels, Eight Pointed Cross and Falcon’s Shadow, set in sixteenth-century Europe. Ash Fall is her third novel. She has also written an award-winning pilot episode of a television series based on her Siege of Malta trilogy.
Research has taken her to the ancient streets her characters roamed, the fortresses they defended, the seas they sailed, and the dungeons they escaped. Obstinate curiosity has led her to sixty-five countries across six continents. She does her best plot-weaving while hiking mountain trails, wandering local markets, paddle boarding cliff-sheltered bays, and sitting at home with her Siberian husky curled at her feet.
The youngest of five, Marthese was born in Toronto to Maltese parents. At twelve, she moved to Malta for six months and was enrolled in an all-girls private school run by nuns; she lasted three days before getting kicked out for talking too much. 

A former kickboxing instructor, Marthese snowboards, surfs, scuba-dives, climbs, skydives, throws axes, and practices yoga—which may sometimes include goats. She lives north of Toronto with her brilliant, mathematically-inclined husband and brilliant, musically-inclined dog, known to lead family howl sessions on occasion. 

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