Astride a stolen horse, encircled by the shackled arms of Broderick Maxwell, a Scottish spy escaping certain death in the Tower of London, Lizbeth Ives rides to the north, hidden by the merciful darkness. By stealth and by cunning, the daughter of the Lord High Executioner has undone her father's cruel work, compelled to save the innocent man with her. There is no turning back--they are bound as one in his iron chains. Consumed by mortal fear, driven by passion, they disappear into the night...
A single raven follows them. Is it an omen? Or only the first of those who would capture them? They must ride on. If captured, they will face death together. But if they reach Scotland, he will claim her for his own...forever.
TORTURE and EXECUTION. Not two words you would associate with romance? No, they are not, which is what makes HER ONE DESIRE so unusual.
Lady Lizbeth Ives, the heroine in HER ONE DESIRE, is the daughter of the Lord High Executioner. A woman born to the Reaper of the Realm. I would ask you to form a mental picture of this man. Who do you see? A man in a black cloak with an ax who mercilessly takes the lives of both the guilty and innocent. While most of us might picture this man as grotesque, he was not a vigilante, but an officer of the court. The executioner was, no doubt, tormented by a profession that might have left him soulless, but it is also possible that he might have been a gentle man who loved his wife and his children.
Intrigued? I was when I started researching Lizzy’'s character. I walked with her through the cold corridors of the Tower of London, witnessed a beheading, and even felt what it was like to be pressed to death. *shiver*
So without further ado, let's talk about medieval torture. Probably the most common were BEHEADINGS. Severed heads were used as a means to deter criminals. Oftentimes, the heads were boiled in salt (ew) and displayed on pikes, as in London Bridge. A man or woman sentenced to death by means of beheading could only hope the executioner was skilled and the blade sharp. A good executioner could sever a head in a single blow, as was the case with Anne Boleyn. The strike was so abrupt her eyes and lips were still aflutter when the executioner held her head aloft for the crowd to see. It took three blows to end Mary, Queen of Scots' life, and 29 blows were required to decapitate Comte de Chalais in 1626.
Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, did not go quietly to the scaffold. Upon being led to Tower Green, on the grounds of the Tower of London, she declared she was no traitor. The executioner had to chase her down 'swinging wildly.'
WHIPPINGS were accepted forms of punishment for many crimes, not excluding impudence, violence, theft, lascivious thoughts, and lewd behavior. Floggings rarely resulted in death, but, once again, a skilled executioner could dislocate his victim's neck in a single stroke. In Russia, executioners used a knout--a wooden handled whip with braided thongs--which could be frozen or threaded with wire to increase the sting.
Another of the more interesting forms of punishment I discovered along my research was in the form of water torture. The DUNKING STOOL was used to torture women. She was bound to a stool or chair and lowered into the river repeatedly. The rapid descent into cold water caused fatalities among older victims. Of course, there were those who were boiled to death as well as those who were force-fed water as was the case with Scotsman William Lithgow. He was accused of spying in Spain in 1620 and was stretched on a rack at which point water was funneled down his throat expanding his stomach to painful proportions.
The device you see strapped to this woman's face is called SCOLD'S BRIDLE or a BRANK. It was a type of metal helmet that contained a gagging strap that prevented a woman from speaking. A 'scold,' you see, was a troublesome woman who was often angry. She disturbed the peace and was simply a nuisance. I for one can think of a handful of woman I would like to see sentenced to an hour or two in this contraption. Men too. *wicked grin*
Other forms of public humiliation used to punish criminals were the PILLORY, A device that held a person's head and arms immobilized, and the STOCKS--a similar contraption to the pillory except that the ankles are bound in place while the criminal is forced to sit atop a bench. One of the worst parts of being bound in the stocks was the constant tickling of the soles of the feet.
On a final note, I would like to introduce you to a form of punishment I found to be...well...breathtaking. PEINE FORTE ET DURE: Pressing to death. This form of torture was delivered upon a cell floor and used on a prisoner who refused to plead. A board was placed across the prisoner's chest and stomach and heavy iron weights were added to the board until submission or death. For 366 years, until 1772, pressing to death was a standard punishment in England.
If I've intrigued you, then don't miss my debut release: HER ONE DESIRE.
You can read an excerpt here.
Kim is offering to give away a copy of HER ONE DESIRE to TWO random commenters, which we'll draw next Sunday. Your task? Kim asks:
Would you prefer to be beheaded or suffer through the long drawn out process of 'pressing to death'?
None, you say? Good choice. But what if you had to choose one in order to save the man you love?