12 February 2015

Excerpt Thursday: ALONG THE FAR SHORES by Kristin Gleeson

This week, we're welcoming author Kristin Gleeson, whose latest title is ALONG THE FAR SHORES. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. One lucky visitor will get a free EBOOK copy of Along the Far ShoresBe sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb. 

A 12th century Irishwoman sets out on the legendary voyage to America of Prince Madog of Wales.

Aisling, despite her best efforts has failed to become the seer her mother desired, so when her mother dies leaving her alone, she departs Ireland for Wales to be with her brother, Cormac, at the royal court at Gwynedd.  There she finds he is joining Prince Madog’s voyage to the western lands in order to escape the threatening war.  After Madog refuses to let her come with them she stows away, desperate to remain with her brother.  A terrible storm arises and she is tossed overboard by a resentful Welshman and washes up on the shores of the Gulf Coast. Caxna, a Tlingit trader and former shaman, finds her and reluctantly agrees to let her join him on a trading journey to the Mayan city of Xicallanca, and later Etowah (in modern day Georgia) in the hopes she might find Madog and her brother.  Caxna must succeed in this trading journey in order to free his clan but with Aisling along everything changes. 

**Praise for Along the Far Shores**

….Gleeson leaves us with a memorable and poignant love story and a vision of a wonderful culture, unique in my experience of literature.

Karen Charlton, author of The Heiress of Linn Hagh and Catching the Eagle

The underlying sexual tension is all the more powerful for the beautifully restrained writing, which makes the slightest touch electric; a medicinal massage becomes a moment of physical communion…. This is what Kristin Gleeson does best; portraying different cultures and showing how humanity can cross them.

Jean Gill, author of Song at Dawn and Bladesong

Tá brón orm. The words of mourning in her Irish tongue hung heavy on Aisling.  They’d followed her as she travelled along the fields and through the woodlands on the broken nag with her servant and then across the sea to the kingdom of Gwynedd.  It lingered now around the castle hall, mingled with the smoke from the fire and grew stronger, joining the sorrow of the passing of the Gwynedd king.
‘Was it the plague that took your mother, our kinswoman?’  Prince Hwyel, one of the dead king’s sons, addressed her in Latin, for she knew little Welsh.
She could hear the sharp intake of breath from those around her.  Some edged away, while others were more overt in their panic, putting hands to their mouths and noses. With a brief flash of anger, she thought of the comments she could make on the ripe odors coming from their elegantly laced gowns and rich tunics.
She caught her brother Cormac’s fearful glance from where he stood at the far end of the hall.  They were some ways away from Hwyel, who sat at a small table with some of his brothers and other relations to discuss the succession. It was his mother who’d provided the connection years before so that her brother Cormac could be fostered here, far away from their home in Leinster.  She’d hoped to escape Hwyel’s notice for a little longer, feeling that he would have no interest in a newly arrived sister of his poor and distant kin.  But his dark, piggish eyes had missed nothing and she had felt his periodic scrutiny for some time, until after inquiry he’d been told who she was.
Everyone’s eyes were on her, waiting for her answer.  She resisted the urge to smooth her hair, held in place only by a plain band around her head, or tug on the sleeve of her woolen dress, which, though finely woven, was fashioned in the simple, loose style of her home and no match for the women here.
‘My Lord…Cousin,’ she said, uncertain what title to give him. ‘It’s true my mother died of a fever, but it was not the plague.’  She responded in Latin, glad for once that her brother had made her learn it, so that she might let everyone know she carried no contagion.
She felt some of the tension ease as false smiles and nervous chatter erupted when Hwyel, seemingly satisfied, resumed his conversation with his neighbor.  Aisling felt some relief that attention had shifted away from her, but she could not push aside her astonishment that Hwyel had not even pretended to observe the custom to offer condolences on her bereavement. She looked over at Cormac to see if he found Hwyel’s words as lacking in sensibility as she did.
He smiled at her, his face full of determined reassurance, and made his way towards her.  He was fair, like she was, though he appeared almost angelic with his honey colored curls and beardless face.  She noticed his hands still possessed the slender grace she remembered.  Though it had been more than three years since they’d been together, she still found that her heart swelled at the sight of him.  Her dearest younger brother.  He was all she had left now.
‘We’ll go to the chapel later and say prayers for our mother,’ Cormac said when he reached her side.
She studied her brother a moment, puzzled. ‘Yes, of course.’  Why would Cormac suggest such a thing?  She’d only had a few moments with him since she’d arrived.  Just enough time to embrace him and pass on the awful news, before she was told she must go to the hall before Hwyel and his brothers.  But surely Cormac remembered that her mother wouldn’t have wanted them to pray in a chapel.  She’d kept the ancient customs and had paid only lip service to the Christian beliefs to please their father.  Perhaps it was the only way he could speak privately to her.
She stood restlessly, waiting for the princes to leave so that she might speak to her brother alone, share with him all that she and her mother had endured these many months. And there was much to be done.  She must not lose sight of that. All that time her mother had made her promise to refrain from writing to Cormac had been precious time wasted.
Finally, Hwyel and his brothers rose and made their way out of the hall, dogs crowding their feet.  Some of the women followed them, while others lingered, forming small, whispering groups.  Cormac moved closer and took her hands.
‘Come, I’ll take you to the chapel.’
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