Title: Guardians of the Crown #1: By The Sword
Author: Alison Stuart
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: March 22, 2015
Genre: Historical, Romance
England 1650: In the aftermath of the execution of the King, England totters once more on the brink of civil war. The country will be divided and lives lost as Charles II makes a last bid to regain his throne.
Kate Ashley finds her loyalty to the Parliamentary cause tested when she inherits responsibility for the estate of the Royalist Thornton family. To protect the people she cares about, she will need all her wits to restore its fortunes and fend off the ever-present threat of greedy neighbours.
Jonathan Thornton, exiled and hunted for his loyalty to the King's cause now returns to England to garner support for the cause of the young King. Haunted by the demons of his past, Jonathan risks death at every turn and brings danger to those who love him. Finding Kate in his family home, he sees in her the hope for his future, and a chance at a life he doesn’t deserve.
(Excerpt context:Kate and Jonathan are discussing Kate’s husband, the parliamentarian, Richard Ashley)
Kate nodded, a faint colour rising in her cheeks. ‘I had a good dowry and Richard fair prospects.’ She looked up at him, holding his eyes with her clear gaze. ‘And we loved each other.’
Dear God, this bloody war, Jonathan thought.
‘And if it were not for the war, you would be living in wedded bliss in Barton Manor, surrounded by a brood of children,’ he said.
Kate looked away and he knew his observation had hit home. He reached for her hand and when she tried to pull away he tightened his grip, forcing her to look up at him.
‘I’m sorry, Kate, that was a thoughtless remark. I’m the last person who has any right to do that.’ He released her hand. ‘From what I knew of Richard, he did not have the heart of a soldier.’
He knew more about Richard Ashley than he was prepared to reveal. A scholar, not a soldier. Richard should be at home at Barton Manor with this woman and their children. Not dead in the ground at the age of twenty-two.
Kate looked up at him, her brow creased in puzzlement, and he cursed himself for revealing too much.
‘What could you possibly have known of him? The Thorntons have been estranged from the Ashleys for over thirty years.’ This time he bit his tongue and when he didn’t reply she continued. ‘To answer your question, Richard may not have gone willingly to the war but he fought bravely against the terrible odds in the North. He followed Sir Thomas Fairfax into hell during those early years.’
Jonathan nodded. ‘Fairfax’s men had it hard in those early years.’ He paused. ‘Was he with Fairfax that day at Marston Moor?’
‘Of course,’ Kate replied. ‘Were you there? Is it possible you faced Richard?’
Of course Jonathan had been there with Prince Rupert’s cavalry. It had been a bloodbath. Marston Moor had put in train a series of tragic events in his own life that had nothing to do with the battle.
He swallowed and gave a barely perceptible nod. ‘I was on the other flank with Rupert.’
‘What did it matter?’ A rare flash of anger rose in Kate. ‘You wouldn’t have known Richard if you had met on the battlefield.’
Yes I would, he thought.
‘That is the tragedy of a civil war, Kate.’
She didn’t seem to notice that he had used her given name. Her eyes blazed with anger and misery. ‘They brought him home to die. It was a horrible death.’ Her voice cracked.
She lowered her head and took several deep shuddering breaths that wracked her body.
Without thinking, Jonathan lifted his hand to her face, tilting her chin so she looked at him. Her eyes swam with unshed tears. Tears he had caused.
‘So many deaths. Too many, Kate. Believe me, it’s not always easy to be the survivor. I may not be dead but I have lost all that is important to me. It’s a hollow victory over death.’
So many deaths...Marston Moor and afterwards, Oxford. He had run at life, stumbled into the path of innocent people, and he had survived while they had died.
Escape Publishing © 2015 Alison Stuart
Alison Stuart fell in love with the English Civil War when her father read her The King’s General by Daphne Du Maurier. She has been writing stories set in this period since her teenage years but it was not until 2007 that the first edition of BY THE SWORD was published. It went on to win the 2008 EPIC Award for Best Historical Romance. Alison has now published 6 full length novels and a collection of her short stories. When she is not writing she is travelling and has dragged her family around the sites of every major battle of the English Civil War.
Alison lives in Melbourne, Australia. She is a lapsed lawyer who has worked in the military and fire service, with an obvious obsession for men in uniform, which may explain a predisposition to soldier heroes.