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Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Breaking Dawn - Sneak Preview #2

After a year of hard work - which also involved moving country and buying a house - my latest historical romance, THE BREAKING DAWN, is now available on Amazon.

THE BREAKING DAWN is the first novel in the Kingdom of Mercia series, following my Kingdom of the East Angles novels: Dark Under the Cover of Night, Nightfall till Daybreak and The Deepening NightSet in 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England, these novels blend epic romance, adventure and rich historical detail.


Kindle edition - available on 10 April 2014 
Pre-order a Kindle copy.

Paperback edition - available now for US$12.99
Buy a paperback copy.

What's the novel about?

You cannot fight fate 

A Mercian village girl and a Welsh prince. When two worlds collide, an unforgettable love story unfolds. 

It is the summer of 641 A.D., and the Kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria are about to do battle. 

Merwenna of Weyham accepts the hand of a young warrior who is about to march to war. But when her betrothed does not return, she takes matters into her own hands and goes in search of him. 

Welsh battle lord, Prince Cynddylan, leads a host of warriors to help Mercia fight Northumbria. In doing so, he forms a fragile alliance with one of Britannia’s most ruthless warlords – King Penda of Mercia. 

In the wake of the Battle of Maes Cogwy, the lives of many will change. 

Merwenna travels to Tamworth, the seat of the Mercian King, in search of Beorn, her betrothed – only to discover the bitter truth. 

Cynddylan and Penda return to Tamworth from battle, victorious – but fall out in its aftermath. 

From the moment Merwenna and Cynddylan meet in the Great Tower of Tamworth, their paths are entwined. 

In a journey from Tamworth, through the green heart of Mercia, and into the woods and mountains of Wales – Merwenna struggles between grief for the man she has lost, and her powerful attraction to this battle lord who appears to love only power and glory. 

Cynddylan is also torn. With each passing day, he finds himself increasingly captivated by this courageous young woman. Merwenna makes him question the world, and his place in it. Suddenly, he is not so sure what is worth living, or dying, for. 

Can two lovers from such different worlds, ever be together?  


Intrigued?

Read the Prologue for THE BREAKING DAWN - and step back over 1,300 years to Anglo-Saxon England...


Prologue
The Promise
The village of Weyham, Kingdom of Mercia – Britannia
Spring 641 A.D.

“Will you marry me?”
Merwenna’s breath caught. Had she heard correctly – had he really uttered those words?
“Excuse me?”
“Merwenna,” Beorn stepped close to her, his gaze longing, his voice tender. “Will you be my wife?”
The young couple stood alone in the woods, surrounded by skeleton trees.
Warmth had not yet returned to the world, although it was early spring, and nature still lay dormant. They had both donned heavy fur cloaks for their walk, as the morning air held winter’s bite – yet Merwenna did not feel the morning’s chill. Joy bathed her in warmth as if she stood next to a roaring fire.
A smile broke across her face and she flung herself into his arms. She had not been dreaming. The moment she had longed for had finally come.
“Of course I will!”
Beorn laughed, his relief evident. His arms tightened around her and he pulled her close. “Thank Woden – for a moment there, I thought you would refuse me.”
The feel of his young, strong body against hers made her pulse quicken.
Beorn pulled back slightly and met her gaze. As always, she was struck by the blueness of his eyes, and the beauty of his chiseled features.
“Refuse you?” Merwenna stared at him, incredulous. It had taken her nearly three years of gentle encouragement to reach this point. “I was beginning to think you would never ask!”
Beorn flushed slightly, embarrassed, and looked away. They both knew he valued his freedom highly. Like her father, Beorn served Weyham’s ealdorman. They were warriors who farmed the land around the village by day, but would ride to war with the ealdorman, if commanded. However, unlike her father, who had lived a warrior’s life for many years before wedding her mother – Beorn was young, and chafed at the thought of spending the rest of his days in Weyham.
Merwenna gazed at her betrothed, drinking him in. Wavy blond hair fell over his shoulders and since autumn he had worn a short beard, which suited him.
She waited for him to say something else. She expected an excuse for making her wait so long. Yet, he remained silent.
“Beorn?” she said finally, realizing that he was still avoiding her gaze. “Is something the matter?”
The young man looked up, and shook his head. “The thing is…,” he began hesitantly, “the handfasting itself will have to wait.”
A chill stole over Merwenna at these words, and her joy dimmed.
Hwaet?”
“The king is gathering a fyrd,” Beorn continued, the words rushing out as he gained momentum. “He intends to march north and face King Oswald of Northumbria. I’ve decided to join his army.”
Merwenna stared at him. Her shock turning to upset.
When she did not respond, Beorn’s face grew serious. “Merwenna?”
“You ask me to marry you,” Merwenna replied, her voice quivering as she struggled to stop herself from crying, “and then in the next breath announce that you are going to war. Why did you even bother to propose?”
“Because I love you,” Beorn took hold of her hands and squeezed gently, his gaze earnest. “I want us to be married. It’s just that we shall have to wait a little.”
Merwenna took a deep breath, cursing the tears that stung her eyelids. She always cried too easily; it made her look feeble. “And I love you,” she answered, blinking furiously. “But, I have just passed my twentieth winter. At this rate, I shall be an old maid before we wed.”
“Just a little longer,” Beorn replied, squeezing her hands once more. “Then, I will return to Weyham and we shall be handfasted. I promise.”
“You’re going to war,” Merwenna’s tears spilled over as desperation seized her. “You can’t make that promise!”
She ripped her hands from Beorn’s. Then, she turned, her cloak billowing, and started to run in the direction of Weyham. Dead leaves squelched underfoot and the chill air burned her lungs, but Merwenna paid it no mind. She had almost reached the outskirts of the village when Beorn caught up with her.
“Merwenna, wait!’ he grabbed her arm and pulled her up short.
She turned, tears streaming down her face, and tried to shrug him off. “Let me be!”
“I made you a promise and I intend to keep it,” Beorn insisted, his gaze imploring. “I will return to you!”
Merwenna’s tears flowed without restraint now. Sobs welled up and she had to choke them back. “You don’t know that.”
“Yes, I do,” he set his jaw stubbornly.
“Men die in battle,” she reminded him, “and when two king’s armies meet there will be a great slaughter, surely you realize the danger.”
“Penda’s the greatest king Britannia has ever known,” Beorn countered with the supreme confidence that only young men possess. “His fyrd will be mighty. The Prince of Powys is also sending a large company of warriors to join our army. The Northumbrians won’t withstand our combined might.”
Merwenna wiped away her tears and shook her head wordlessly. She cared not if the whole of Britannia was rallying at Penda’s side. The thought that Beorn would go off to battle and might never return made her feel as if she was being buried alive.
“Penda is a mighty king,” Beorn insisted, staring down at her with fire in his eyes. “He will be victorious.”
Merwenna stared back at him. Her cheeks stung from the salt of her tears and it took all her self-control not to start sobbing uncontrollably. This was folly – why could he not see it? However, it was clear Beorn’s mind was made up.
“When will you leave?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Tomorrow morning.”
Merwenna stared at him. If he had punched her in the belly, it would have hurt less. Suddenly, her world was crumbling around her. Just moments ago, her heart had been bursting with joy. Now, her future looked bleak.
The man she loved was riding to war, and there was nothing she could do to prevent it.

***

Beorn of Weyham struggled to tighten the saddle’s girth. He nudged his shaggy pony in the belly with his knee, until the stubborn beast exhaled. Then he tightened the girth another notch. The last of his preparations dealt with, Beorn turned to the small group of kin and well-wishers who had gathered to see him off.
He had not been looking forward to this. Good-byes were not something he had a lot of experience in. His mother and sisters were all weeping, a sight which upset him. His father, at least, was stoic.
“Serve the king well, my son,” Horace stepped forward and clasped Beorn in a bear-hug. “Make me proud.”
“I will, fæder.”
Behind him, Beorn could hear the other warriors gathering; the low rumble of their voices, the snort of their horses. It was just after dawn. A light frost covered the ground and the lightening sky promised a day of good weather ahead. They stood in Weyham’s common, a stretch of grass in the center of the village. A collection of squat, wattle and daub homes with thatched roofs surrounded them. It was the only home he had ever known, and shortly he would be leaving it – perhaps for a long time.
Beorn stepped back from his father and took a deep breath. He was anxious to be off. Saying goodbye was harder than he had anticipated.
Yet, first, he had to see Merwenna.
She stood a few yards away, patiently waiting. When he turned to her, Merwenna stepped forward to speak to him. Her eyes were red-rimmed, but that did not detract from her loveliness. In her build and coloring, she resembled her winsome mother – small and brown haired with startling blue eyes. However, there was a seriousness to her face that gave her some of her father’s look. One of her most startling features was her beautifully molded, rose-bud mouth.
Beorn had always been captivated by her lips, and her breasts, which were impressively full for such a small female. They gave her a womanly look on an otherwise girlish frame.
 “Farewell, my love,” Merwenna spoke, her voice quivering from the effort it was taking her to hold back tears. Despite that she was swathed from neck to shin in a heavy rabbit-skin cloak, he could see she was trembling. Suddenly, Beorn felt as if his heart had lodged in his throat. She was not making this any easier.
Although Beorn was eager to ride south-east to Tamworth and join the king’s fyrd, he was also sorry that he and Merwenna could not be handfasted first. He longed to bed her, to tear the clothes off that delicious body. He could have wed her before leaving, but she deserved better. When he returned to Weyham, victorious, their joining would be all the sweeter. He wanted to make her proud of him; he wanted to come back to Weyham sporting silver and gold arm rings, prizes from the king for his valor. He wanted to be worthy of her.
 “Goodbye, sweet Merwenna,” he pulled her against him and hugged her tightly. “Wait for me. I shall return.”
Drawing back from his betrothed, Beorn cupped her face with his hands and stooped to kiss her, not caring that half the village was looking on.
“I must go,” he murmured. “Wait for me, my love.”
“I will,” she whispered back, her eyes huge on her heart-shaped face.

Beorn moved over to his pony and prepared to mount it. He was too big for the beast, but fortunately the pony was sturdy, and it had been the only horse his family could spare. Frankly, he was fortunate to be riding at all – most of the kings’ fyrd would arrive inTamworth on foot.
His mother started wailing then. She broke free from her daughters’ embrace and rushed toward her son. Beorn enfolded her in his arms as she sobbed.
“My boy! Don’t go – I’ll never see you again!”
“Enough, Arwyn!” Horace hauled his wife back. “You’re embarrassing the lad. Control yourself!”
“Farewell, mōder,” Beorn said hoarsely, struggling to hold back tears of his own. He had never seen his mother so upset. “Don’t worry – you will see me again.”
His assurances only made his mother sob even louder. Turning away from his parents, Beorn mounted his pony and quickly adjusted the stirrups. He rode away feeling wretched; his mother’s heart-rending wailing was almost more than he could bear.
It was a relief when he could no longer hear her.
Beorn joined the throng of men leaving Weyham, glad to be finally on his way. His hamlet sat on the heavily wooded western fringes of the Kingdom of Mercia. It was nestled at the end of a long valley, in the shadow of dark hills that rose to meet the sky. Beorn rode through his village, passing the ealdorman’s timbered hall along the way. He listened to the crunch of frozen leaves underfoot, the creaking of leather and jangling of horses’ bridles, and felt his skin prickle with excitement.

A warrior had to be able to say goodbye without shedding tears. He had done well this morning, yet it was nothing compared to what lay ahead. He rode toward battle and glory – toward his future.

--

Get yourself a copy of THE BREAKING DAWN

Kindle edition - available on 10 April 2014 
Pre-order a Kindle copy.

Paperback edition - available now for US$12.99
Buy a paperback copy.


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