In the Shadow of the Storm
The King’s Greatest Enemy, Book One
by Anna Belfrage
Publication Date: November 1, 2015
eBook & Print; 398 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Sir Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Sir Roger for his life and all his worldly good, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Sir Roger thinks she is. So when Sir Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be.
England in 1321 is a confusing place. Edward II has been forced by his barons to exile his favourite, Hugh Despenser. The barons, led by the powerful Thomas of Lancaster, Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, have reasons to believe they have finally tamed the king. But Edward is not about to take things lying down, and fate is a fickle mistress, favouring first one, then the other.
Adam fears his lord has over-reached, but at present Adam has other matters to concern him, first and foremost his new wife, Katherine de Monmouth. His bride comes surrounded by rumours concerning her and the baron, and he hates it when his brother snickers and whispers of used goods.
Kit de Courcy has the misfortune of being a perfect double of Katherine de Monmouth – which is why she finds herself coerced into wedding a man under a false name. What will Adam do when he finds out he has been duped?
Domestic matters become irrelevant when the king sets out to punish his rebellious barons. The Welsh Marches explode into war, and soon Sir Roger and his men are fighting for their very lives. When hope splutters and dies, when death seems inevitable, it falls to Kit to save her man – if she can.
In the Shadow of the Storm is the first in Anna Belfrage’s new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his baron, his king, and his wife.
“Will she do?” The voice came from somewhere over Kit’s head.
“Do? She will have to, won’t she?”
With a series of grunts, the men carrying her deposited her in a cart. Kit made as if to protest. A large hand gripped her by the neck, tilted her head, and held something to her mouth. No. No more. She spat like a cornered cat, to no avail. Her mouth was forced open; sweet wine was poured, obliging her to swallow. And then there was nothing but a spinning darkness. Nothing at all.
When next she came to, a wrinkled face was peering down at her.
“Remarkable,” the old woman said. “Absolutely remarkable.”
Kit shrank back. Her heart leapt erratically in her chest, her gaze flitting from one side to the other in this unfamiliar chamber, taking in tapestries and painted walls, streaks of sunlight from the open shutters. Where was she? All she had were vague recollections of days on a cart, being jolted this way and that. Days in which strong fingers pinched her nose closed until she was forced to open her mouth and swallow the unctuously sweet concoction that submerged her in darkness.
“Not so remarkable when one considers that they have the same father,” someone else said drily. A pair of light blue eyes studied Kit dispassionately. The eyes sat in a narrow face, a nose like a knife blade separating the two halves. A wimple in pristine linen and a veil in what Kit supposed to be silk framed a face that would have looked better on a man than on a woman – harsh, aloof and with an expression which reminded her of old John back home when he’d cornered a rat.
“M…m’ lady,” Kit stuttered. She tried to sit up but was pushed down again.
“Oh, no. You will not move until we have reached an agreement.”
“Agreement?” Kit pulled at her hands, noting with a burst of panic that she was tied to the bed – a simple thing, consisting of a rough wooden frame and a straw mattress.
“We are in a quandary,” the lady with the blue eyes said. For an instant, she pressed her lips together. “Stupid, wilful child!”
“Me?” Kit’s head hurt, a constant thudding behind her eyes. What had happened to her?
There was a barking sound which Kit took for laughter.
“You, little one, will be anything but wilful. If you are…” The lady made a swift motion across her throat with her hand. Kit cowered. What did they want with her, these two old crones? The older of the women patted her hand.
“It will be none too bad.” From the homespun material of her clothes and the coarse linen of her veil, Kit concluded that she was not a lady but a servant.
“Where am I?” Kit asked.
“Where you are doesn’t matter. It is what you are that is important.” The lady gave her an icy smile. “You are a soon-to-be bride. At noon, you will wed Adam de Guirande.”
Kit did not know what to say. She didn’t like the look in the lady’s eyes, and for some reason she suspected that should she refuse to comply, she would end up dead in the latrine pit – the lady had that sort of air to her.
“Who are you?” she whispered.
“Me?” The lady cackled. “Why, I am the bride’s mother, Lady Cecily de Monmouth.”
Kit wanted to protest. Her mother was Alaïs Coucy – dead since two months back. Grief tore at her, and she turned her face towards the wall, not wanting these strangers to see the tears welling in her eyes.
“I know all about your whore of a mother,” Lady Cecily said. “My husband’s great love, no less.” She sounded bitter. “But at least his bastard will come in handy.”
Kit tugged at her bindings. “I am no bastard!”
“What lies has little Alaïs told you? That your father is dead? That he abandoned her to pursue a religious vocation?”
Kit flushed. “My father—”
“Is my husband, Thomas de Monmouth. My husband, you hear?”
“But…” Kit slumped back against the thin pillow. For most of her eighteen years, she’d heard her mother’s sad story: how two young lovers fled their irate parents, exchanged their vows before a priest and hoped for an eternity together – except that her father had died of a fever. She didn’t understand. Life as she knew it was caving in on top of her – all at the say-so of this unknown woman. “You lie,” she tried.
“I most certainly do not,” Lady Cecily said.
Kit closed her eyes to avoid that penetrating light blue gaze. She suspected the lady was telling the truth: every question Kit had ever asked about her father had been met with an evasion, or the sad tale of star-crossed lovers as trotted out by her mother. When she’d taken her questions to John or to Mall, they had looked discomfited and referred to her mother.
A hand on her shoulder shook her – hard. “No time for all that now. Those dolts I sent to abduct you took their time getting you here, and we have urgent matters at hand. First and foremost, your impending wedding. Mabel, call for a bath – the child is revoltingly dirty.”
“No.” Kit raised her chin and stared Lady Cecily in the eye, summoning what little courage she had. “I’ll not wed on your say-so.”
“No? Oh, I think yes.” Lady Cecily’s eyes were of a sudden far too close, filled with such menace Kit flinched. “If you don’t, I will have you thrown out of Tresaints and publicly branded a bastard.”
“Tresaints? It’s my home.”
“It was deeded to your mother for life. And she is quite, quite dead, isn’t she?” Lady Cecily smirked. “You have nowhere to go, little…Kit, is it? But here you’ll respond to the full version of the name you share with your sister, Katherine.”
A sister? Kit gaped.
Lady Cecily smiled wickedly. “What? You didn’t know you had a trueborn half-sister? A girl who looks just like you?” She laughed as she straightened up to her full height. “So, what will it be? Destitution or marriage?”
Kit wanted to say destitution. She wanted to snarl and spit in Lady Cecily’s face – accuse her of abduction, even – but she knew it would be futile. Women like Lady Cecily had power and wealth on their side. Kit had nothing. She swallowed a sob.
“If you say no, I will evict every single one of the tenants as well,” Lady Cecily said, effectively nailing down the lid on what felt very much like a coffin.
“And if I say yes?”
“If you say yes, your father will include Tresaints in your dowry.”
Kit was trapped. She knew it; Lady Cecily knew it. She acquiesced with a single nod.
Lady Cecily patted her cheek. “Good girl.”
About the Author
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveler. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.
When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.
Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.
Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.
The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, will be published in the autumn of 2015.
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Thursday, December 3
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