24 August 2016

Curious About "In the Shadow of Her Majesty"? Here's a Sneak Peek!

As most of my readers know by now, I've been diligently working on my first historical fiction piece for some time, and I can well imagine that many of you wouldn't mind a sneak peek. Well, you won't have to wait any longer. Here it is....enjoy!


PS: Please keep in mind that this is just an excerpt of two separate sections from an unfinished manuscript, and although it has undergone several rounds of vigorous editing already, it's not the polished, final product. Thank you!  =)


Chapter One

Lady Dudley is Dead

It was the 9th of September in the year of our Lord 1560, and the church bells had just announced midday. May God forgive me, but the first thing I thought when Robert Dudley told me about the death of his wife was Why now? She had been found at the bottom of two flights of stairs, with a broken neck and two abysmal wounds at the back of her skull; one of them nearly two thumbs deep. She was only twenty-eight years of age – too young to die.
Did Amy Dudley commit suicide? Or had Robert let his ambitions run amok? Had he hired someone to put away with Amy or had he poisoned her slowly as rumours claimed? Did he have anything to do with his wife’s death at all, or was Her Majesty to blame? Was it just a horrible accident or a cleverly planned murder?
For my family and me, it was a time of great prosperity and peace for which we had waited a long time. Ever since my cousin Jane married John Dudley forty years ago, we were caught in the wheels of Fortuna and couldn’t free ourselves from her clutches, regardless whether we were carried up or down. My name is Blount…Thomas Blount, steward to Lord Robert Dudley. I was born on Jane’s wedding day, and she viewed that fact as reason enough to care for me like a mother. My own mother had steadily grown weaker with every miscarriage until she died when I was just eight years of age. After that, Jane became the most important person in my life for a very long time.... 

It was the year 1554. John Dudley’s sons were imprisoned in the Tower, and about to share their father’s fate. I had a bit more luck. I had not been interred as a traitor, but I had lost all of my belongings. My Cousin Jane’s situation was dire. With the death of her husband she had lost her lands and most of her titles, and she spent her days searching for an advocate at court to save the lives of her sons.
I could have returned to my life in Worcestershire, to my wife Margery and the child she carried. Thankfully Margery’s dowry had not been confiscated by the crown. However, Jane needed my help. When, if not in this dark hour, was the right time to thank Jane for helping me become a man that others could respect? So many of John Dudley’s supporters had disappeared, and Jane woke up every morning with the worry that it might be her children’s last day on Earth. Her youngest son, Guildford, had already paid for his father’s trespasses with his head.
I remained at my cousin’s side and tried to share her unwavering hope while we were shunned by one courtier after another, day after day, looking for support for our cause. It was not just the fault of the many enemies John Dudley had made with his quick ascent that we made no headway. It also didn’t go over well with the new Queen that I tried to help the widow of the man who had attempted to stop her from ascending to the throne. I risked a lot for not much in return. It seemed impossible that another Dudley would ever amount to anything ever again during the reign of Mary Tudor.
Just before every interview, which always turned out to be in vain, Jane would whisper the names of her sons like some sort of prayer – Ambrose, John, Robert, and Henry. When she heard that her son John had contracted the sweating sickness and was about to meet his maker, even before the executioner could fulfill his obligations, Jane broke down and cried in my arms. All of my life I had known Jane as nothing but a strong woman. Now, for just a moment or two, I felt as if my world had been turned upside down. “My Lady,” I said as formal as I could muster, in order to return some of her self-confidence because one of the things that hadn’t been taken from her was her title of Duchess of Northumberland. “If no damn Englishman will help you, then we should ask the goddamned Spaniards for help.”
Jane looked at me with an expressionless face. “The Spaniards,” I continued, “are after all not only here to rob us of our last nerve with their arrogance, but they are here as part of the entourage of King Felipe at the invitation of the Queen and are therefore guests of the crown.” Jane understood, and it brought back some of her fighting spirits. “That is why they will have nothing to lose when they speak on our behalf,” she completed my train of thought. “Besides, everyone knows that the Queen is like wax in her husband’s hands. Perhaps the same holds true for his entourage.” Jane placed her index finger on my lips and told me not to speak in such a disrespectful manner of our Queen, but at least, she listened to my advice. After a week, during which Jane visited every Spanish nobleman she could find, fate began to show its merciful side. Fate – and, of course, the Spaniards interest in information with which they could best their longtime Portuguese rivals. I had handed Jane some letters regarding the North-East passage to India and China, which John Dudley had entrusted to me. He had been too busy planning his big coup, then to take care of business. It was my job to find financiers for a company, which would then equip several ships to search for said passageway. Large sums of money would have been required.
Meanwhile, Jane’s son John, passed away in the Tower from the sweating sickness before the Spaniards agreed to intervene. His remaining siblings, however, were freed. But their release came at a price.
Within a week, I found myself alongside Jane’s boys in the French mud pits of Saint-Quentin, where six thousand English troops were fighting for King Felipe of Spain. To this day, I still have dreams about that place, and they are not pleasant. I did my utmost in those days to not only keep myself safe but also Jane’s sons. I owed her as much.
Her good health had suffered over the years. While her children were locked up in the Tower, she had worried that they would all be executed. Now she had to worry that they would lose their lives on the battlefield. She could not even get up to bid us farewell before we were shipped off to France. My wife, Margery, had traveled to Northumberland to care for Jane. In her own, direct way she had given me her opinion of the situation. “She will not walk this Earth for much longer if you ask me. Sometimes you forget that she is old enough to be your mother, Thomas.”
“If she is this unwell, perhaps I should stay here with her,” I replied. “What, and let those boys go off to war unprotected? She would surely die tomorrow if you let them go alone. Not to mention should one of them die in France, you would blame yourself for the rest of your days. I know you, Thomas Blount!”

Did I hope Jane would ask me to stay by her side? It was now pointless to think about such things. She held my hands in hers and whispered the names of her sons like a prayer, the way she used to – Ambrose, Robert, Henry. That is when I knew that Margery was right. “I will take care of them,” I promised Jane. “I know,” she replied, “You are after all my oldest,” she whispered. Her smile was the one thing I remember to this day. As it turned out, it would be the last time I would see her. She passed away shortly after that, and the only thing I could find of her after our return was her grave. At least this way she never knew that I had lost another one of her sons....

Can't get enough? In the Shadow of Her Majesty is coming soon to a bookshelf near you! 

Piper is the author of military lifestyle books and RV travel journals. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+

1 comment:

  1. It is a interesting beginning, but I noticed a few minor editorial errors. Let me know if you want specifics or need editorial assistance.