08 December 2016

Excerpt Thursday: SEVEN NOBLE KNIGHTS by J. K. Knauss

This week, we're pleased to welcome author and Unusual Historicals contributor J. K. Knauss with her first historical novel, SEVEN NOBLE KNIGHTS, a saga of family, betrayal, and revenge in medieval Spain.

Join us again on Sunday for an author interview with more details about the story behind the story. We're giving away two signed print copies and three ebooks of Seven Noble Knights free. Just enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of this or Sunday's post.


Spain, 974. Gonzalo, a brave but hotheaded knight, unwittingly provokes tragedy at his uncle’s wedding to beautiful young noblewoman Lambra: the adored cousin of the bride dead, his teeth scattered across the riverbank. Coveting his family’s wealth and power, Lambra sends Gonzalo’s father into enemy territory to be beheaded, unleashing a revenge that devastates Castile for a generation.
A new hero, Mudarra, rises out of the ashes of Gonzalo’s once great family. Raised as a warrior in the opulence of Muslim Córdoba, Mudarra must make a grueling journey and change his religion, then chooses to take his jeweled sword to the throats of his family’s betrayers. But only when he strays from the path set for him does he find his true purpose in life.
Inspired by a lost medieval epic poem, Seven Noble Knights draws from history and legend to bring a brutal yet beautiful world to life in a gripping story of family, betrayal, and love.

Early praise for Seven Noble Knights
“Let Seven Noble Knights welcome you to historical fiction! …it’s a rich saga populated with characters you will grow to love (and a few you will love to hate). The ancient empires of Spain are a beautiful backdrop to the struggles of humankind across all generations of all lands: romance, revenge, war, and adventure.”    
—Pushcart Prize nominee Reneé Bibby, The Writers Studio

Excerpt from Seven Noble Knights, Part One, Chapter III: The Wedding
Young Gonzalo’s uncle, Ruy Blásquez, is receiving Doña Lambra as a bride in exchange for his service to Castile. Gonzalo isn’t at all sure Lambra should be marrying his uncle.

Doña Sancha shooed her sons away from the cathedral door and drew dried herbs and flowers from pockets Gonzalo hadn’t known were inside her tunic and cloak. With a stick, she carved a large circle on the hard earth. Doña Sancha set the herbs and flowers inside the circle in a pattern with meanings she might have shared with a daughter, but were a mystery to Gonzalo.

“You’ll stand here,” she told her brother, Ruy Blásquez. “When your bride comes from that side, you’ll step inside the circle together.” She arranged her husband and sons on Ruy Blásquez’s side of the circle. Gonzalo ended up next to his uncle, so close he could hear each shallow breath he took.

Count García arrived with a full complement of knights and squires and four banners in white with red castles, as well as a fiddler and a flutist who made ready to play. So many people in the plaza must have been making the loudest ruckus since the city had been won from the Moors, but Gonzalo heard nothing.

From between the buildings at the far end of the plaza emerged forty women who walked with their hair covered to emphasize their married status. Their laughter and singing couldn’t distract Gonzalo from Doña Lambra, who tottered on their shoulders.

An heirloom beaded necklace competed with her yellow hair, shining in tight plaits on her shoulders with ornamental brass tips that looked as if they had come out of a treasure chest long ago. A mail girdle, inlaid with brass and pieces of jet at the edges, cinched her bright blue tunic from under her breastbone to down over her hips. Gonzalo shivered at the thought of the bitter touch of the matching mail sleeves, from the decorated wristlets up to her shoulders. A burgundy-colored cloak edged with three rows of golden braid was fastened over her shoulder with a gilded brooch in the shape of a lion rampant. A square cap, decorated all around with braid and gold carbuncles, looked like a royal crown. Gonzalo imagined he wasn’t at his uncle’s wedding, but that this bride had come from the farthest reaches of Christendom to marry the King of Navarra or León.

The married women set Lambra down in the middle of their ranks. She let the cloak fan out behind her unsteady stride. Her face was frozen into a grimace like the one the Virgin Mary wore as she cradled the Savior’s dead body inside the cathedral.

Gonzalo remembered Lambra’s grin at the banquet days before, when her mouth had dripped red with juices from the roasted bull’s testicles and the sauce-engorged bread trencher. Each time she received the goblet, she had made sure to turn it so that her lips didn’t touch the same spot as Ruy Blázquez’s. She didn’t take the same precaution against Álvar Sánchez, seated on her other side. Gonzalo could hardly taste his food through a choking desire to throw his eating knife across the table into the gloating knight’s hand so it could never touch Lambra so familiarly again.

There he was now, that upstart Álvar Sánchez, wearing just as juicy a grin, so close to Doña Lambra that the obnoxious curl on the toe of his boot intruded on the magic circle.

“What is that blasphemous behemoth doing there? Shouldn’t a member of the groom’s family stand next to the bride?” Gonzalo whispered to Gustio.

Gustio knocked his elbow into Gonzalo’s ribs. “Why? Were you hoping it would be you, little brother?” He chortled until their mother hissed at them to be silent.

Count García was addressing the crowd. “…with these deeds, Ruy Blásquez has earned as a bride my loveliest cousin, probably the most beautiful woman Castile has seen since my mother joined the Kingdom of Heaven. May they live many more years and have many loyal Castilian children.” He raised his arms, which the crowd took as a sign to cheer and shout.

Gonzalo noticed that his uncle had already moved into the circle and reached for Lambra’s hands. She was looking at Ruy Blásquez, but not with love or even curiosity. It was a look of judgment. Gonzalo tried to imagine how his uncle’s soft eyes, long nose, and weak chin fared on Lambra’s scale.

“I receive you as mine, so that you become my wife and I your husband,” Ruy Blásquez said. Gonzalo was relieved to glimpse him smiling widely, displaying his straight, white teeth to his judge in the form of a bride.

Ruy Blásquez smiled and waited, waited and smiled. Gonzalo witnessed a thousand expressions cross Lambra’s face like clouds in a stormy sky. At last, Lambra’s maid emerged from the crowd and leaned over the circle. “I receive you as mine…” she prompted so quietly that Gonzalo had to read her lips.

“I receive you as mine so that you become my… husband… and I your… wife,” said Doña Lambra, her eyes narrow. She pulled her hand away from Ruy Blásquez to wipe at her plump lips, as if the words had sullied them.

She craned her neck to look at Álvar Sánchez and Gonzalo knew she wished she had said the words to him. His heart beat faster. Then she shifted her gaze to Gonzalo. He felt as if he were smothered with the parsley, fennel, red carrot, and beet sauce from the banquet. Such was the hunger he saw in her eyes, a hunger he couldn’t help but feel, too, and which raged all the more, the more he tried to contain it. He remembered the way the bull’s testicles had flopped onto Doña Lambra’s trencher under their own weight and the way they deflated when she plunged her knife into the center of the sacs.

He stopped a startled cry in his throat.

“Long live the newlyweds!” The crowd shouted until they were the only words Gonzalo remembered ever hearing.

Seven Noble Knights will debut December 15 in Kindle, with a softcover edition to follow on January 16, 2017. Preorder it here.

Find out some of the research involved in this wedding scene here.

See the book trailer with specially commissioned art by Ayal Pinkus.

And remember to enter below for a chance to win one of 2 signed softcover copies or one of three ebooks of Seven Noble Knights!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

J. K. Knauss earned her PhD in medieval Spanish with a dissertation on the portrayal of Alfonso X’s laws in the Cantigas de Santa Maria, which has been published as the five-star-rated Law and Order in Medieval Spain. A driven fiction writer, J. K. Knauss has edited many fine historical novels and is a bilingual freelance editor. Her historical epic, Seven Noble Knights, will debut on December 15, 2016, from Bagwyn Books, and she is working on the sequel. Her contemporary paranormal Awash in Talent is now available from Kindle Press. Find out more about her writing and bookish activities here. Follow her on  Facebook and Twitter, too!

25 comments:

Jennifer Macaire said...

Looks very interesting!

Robert Grieco said...

Interesting excerpt!

Andrew of Dunedin said...

I wandered over here courtesy of your mention in today's Shelf Awareness. (I even gave your FB page a LIKE.)

traveler said...

Thanks for this fascinating feature and giveaway.

Jenny Ortiz said...

Finally an interesting take on my historical home

Andrea Stoeckel said...

Love Medival stories!

baog3 said...

Thank you! Looks like a great book :)

nicnac said...

I am actually very excited about this book. It is right up my alley! Hoping to win! :)

Wallace Cairn said...

Looking forward to this book!

Vivian Taylor said...

Adding to my TBR list!

Linda Knowles said...

Sounds like a very good story!

susan beamon said...

Very interesting reading old wedding customs. We tend to think the way we do it now is the only way it was ever done.

jenniferedit said...

Enjoyed the discussion of research behind the wedding. How did the exchange of rings go from being about equality to the more modern pledge of the woman to "obey" her husband? (Fortunately, many women are now leaving that part of the vow out!) It's always funny to me how social mores change over time but there are people in every time period who think that everything is so sacred that to do/say/behave differently is the worst possible act!

bzbarth said...

Was a Spanish major in college. I've visited Spain twice. Would love to read this book to build on my memories and love of this beautiful country.

Barbara Barth

Jennifer Essad said...

what an intriguing novel, thank you for this chance to win

Kendra M said...

This looks amazing!

Barbara said...

Looks like an interesting read. Adding to my TBR list :)

RobinBrz said...

Wow! Looks like a great story!

John Smith said...

Looks like a well researched, interesting book!

Jackie Wisherd said...

I have not read that much about Spain's history . I think it would be interesting.

Kara Lauren said...

This sounds so interesting, thanks for the chance to win!

Victoria M. said...

this sounds like a very interesting novel. Thanks for having your giveaway.

Penny said...

This looks like a really interesting read. Thanks for the chance!

Albert Barkley said...

This seems a good book that I would like to buy and read. From where I can get this book? dissertation writing services

Lisa Yarde said...

Thank you for visiting UH during our promotion of J.K. Knauss' latest novel. The giveaway period is now closed and winners have been chosen.