29 October 2015
Excerpt Thursday: THE KING'S MAN by Alison Stuart
This week, we're pleased to welcome author Alison Stuart again with her latest novel, THE KING’S MAN (Guardians of the Crown Book 2). Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. The author will offer a free copy of The King's Man to a lucky blog visitor. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Here's the blurb.
The second in a tantalising trilogy from award-winning author Alison Stuart, about warriors, the wounds they carry, and the women that help them heal.
London 1654: Kit Lovell is one of the King’s men, a disillusioned Royalist who passes his time cheating at cards, living off his wealthy and attractive mistress, and plotting the death of Oliver Cromwell.
Penniless and friendless, Thamsine Granville has lost everything. Terrified, in pain, and alone, she hurls a piece of brick at the coach of Oliver Cromwell, and earns herself an immediate death sentence. Only the quick thinking of a stranger saves her.
Far from the bored, benevolent rescuer that he seems, Kit plunges Thamsine into his world of espionage and betrayal – a world that has no room for falling in love.
Torn between Thamsine and loyalty to his master and King, Kit’s carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. He must make one last desperate gamble – the cost of which might be his life.
**AN EXCERPT FROM THE KING’S MAN**
Thamsine Granville had not begun the day with the intention of killing Oliver Cromwell.
Around her a jovial crowd pressed against the barricades, determined to enjoy the spectacle of the Lord Protector’s ride in state to dine with the Lord Mayor of London. But from across the road, he had seen her. A triumphant smile crossed his handsome face and he raised his hand to his hat, doffing it as he bowed. She saw him mouth her name and push his way towards the barricade. Thamsine swallowed, her mouth dry with fear. She only had a few moments to make good her escape, but the press of people to her rear hemmed her in, pushing her toward the barriers.
The bells of London, silenced for so many years, rang out, and above her the flags of the City Guilds flapped in the chill wind. A roar went up from the crowd as the coach bearing Cromwell approached.
From where she stood she could see the Lord Protector, clad in a reddish-coloured suit embroidered with gold. He inclined his head to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd with all the aplomb of a man born to such a station. She could see no trace of the simple farmer he had once professed to be. Thamsine’s heart beat a rapid tattoo. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector, the false King, was about to become Thamsine Granville’s personal protector.
She stooped and gathered up the broken piece of brick at her feet.
Oblivious to his fate, Cromwell smiled, his right hand raised in a parody of benediction as if forgiving them their sins. At the sight of his face, solid and pudding-like, framed by the open window of the carriage, she raised her arm and threw with all the strength that she could muster.
The brickbat hit the body of the coach barely inches from the open window. She got a brief impression of surprise on her intended victim’s face. The coach stopped, the horses rising in their traces, whinnying in alarm. The crowd, stunned into silence, held its collective breath, every eye fixed on the ugly graze on the coach’s paintwork where the brickbat had struck.
A roar of approbation went up, but Thamsine Granville had disappeared. In the instant her fingers uncurled from the missile, someone had grabbed her from behind. Strong fingers dug into her arm and drove her with force through the crowd that parted before them like the Red Sea. She was only dimly aware of a commotion in the press around her. Soldiers yelled and a woman screamed but all she felt was utter despair. It had all been for nothing; somehow he had reached her.
The world roared in Thamsine’s ears. Her knees buckled and she could feel herself slipping into unconsciousness, only to be drawn back by a sharp, agonising tug on her arm as it was cruelly and expertly bent behind her.
‘Don’t faint, don’t you dare faint.’
She didn’t recognise the voice, and nearly screamed with relief. It wasn’t him.
‘Now, unless you want to end your life on a gibbet on Tower Hill, you will co-operate fully in what we are about to do,’ he said.
Her rescuer thrust her down a dark, noisome alley, pressing her back against a wall. The rough brickwork dug into her spine as he pulled her around to face him, pinioning her arms at her side. His body pressed against her and she closed her eyes, bracing herself for the blow or whatever punishment was coming her way.
She did not expect to be kissed.
Her instinctive reaction was to resist, but with her arms and her head immobilised she was reduced to trying to kick her assailant. He responded by placing a booted foot on her instep. She gave a muffled yelp of pain.
‘Who’s down there, then?’
A voice from the entrance to the alleyway caused her assailant to break off, allowing Thamsine the luxury of taking a deep breath. The fingers holding her arm tightened, digging into her flesh. It was a warning not to move, not to make another sound.
The soldier gave a ribald whistle. ‘Got yourself a tasty piece, then?’
In the shadows she saw her assailant turn his head towards the soldier. ‘Now then, sergeant. Can’t a man get a bit of privacy around here?’ he said in low and well-modulated voice, with an unusual undertone to the accent that she could not place.
‘What’s her charge?’ The sergeant’s voice again.
Thamsine squeaked in protest but the firm and painful pressure on her upper left arm deepened and she kept her peace.
‘My dear sir, there are some pleasures beyond price.’
‘We’re looking for a woman.’ The soldier’s voice became clipped and businesslike. ‘Just tried to kill the Lord Protector. Has she come this way?’
‘I doubt I would have noticed. I have been otherwise occupied these minutes past.’
Thamsine squirmed in the tight grasp. The easy, lascivious intonation of his voice made her want to slap him.
‘Well, good day to you, sir. I wish you joy of it.’
‘He’s gone,’ her rescuer said, removing his boot from her foot
Thamsine found her voice. ‘Let me go. You’re hurting me.’
‘Hurting you? Is that gratitude for saving you from the gibbet?’
He released her and took a step back. She straightened, rubbing at the place where his fingers had pressed.
‘Maybe I didn’t want saving.’
He stepped back and waved at the entrance to the alleyway. ‘Very well. No doubt you can catch up with the good sergeant, if that’s what you wish.’
To her embarrassment she started to tremble with cold, with fright, and with delayed shock, as the audacity and foolishness of what she had done began to sink in.
She had tried to kill the Lord Protector. Men had hanged for less.
In her desperate bid to escape him she had given no thought to what penalty she may have had to pay had she been apprehended. She owed this man thanks for her deliverance, but the words stuck in her throat.
She looked up at her rescuer. In the gloom of the alley it was hard to make out his appearance, and he wore a wide-brimmed hat that hid his face, but she could see that he was clean-shaven, his hair, dark and rough-cut, skimming an immaculate, white collar.
‘You do realise what you just did?’ he asked.
‘May I ask why?’
‘Because I wanted him dead,’ she said, without much conviction in her voice. It was not the Lord Protector she had wanted dead.
‘Well, I’m sure there are plenty who would share the sentiment, but hurling brickbats at a coach is hardly the best way to accomplish that end.’
She drew herself up to her full height. ‘And what do you care?’
‘I don’t,’ he answered. ‘I really don’t care at all. I have enough problems of my own without rescuing dim-witted whores who choose to hurl brickbats at the Lord Protector.’
‘I’m not a whore.’
He touched his mouth. ‘Well, you certainly kiss like one.’ (End Excerpt)
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Allow me to take you back to 1654 … the years after a bloody civil that tore the country apart and saw a King executed. The new King, Charles II, sits in exile and England is ruled by a ‘Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell…
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Award winning Australian author, Alison Stuart learned her passion from history from her father. She has been writing stories since her teenage years but it was not until 2007 that her first full length novel was published. Alison has now published 6 full-length historical romances and a collection of her short stories. Her disposition for writing about soldier heroes may come from her varied career as a lawyer in the military and fire services. These days when she is not writing she is travelling and routinely drags her long-suffering husband around battlefields and castles.