Thursday, 28 January 2016
"Hartley's Solace" (MM) by Cara Adams "The Swordsmen" book 3
Blurb: So much has happened this summer. First Randall’s opponent in battle was Hartley, the man he’s fast coming to think is essential to his future happiness. Then they fought the masterless men to claim Lord Denzil’s castle for Bancroft the Bold and all the swordsmen. Now they’re frantically busy trying to ensure there’s enough food for everyone to last through the upcoming winter, and that the castle will be a secure place for those living inside it.
The more time he spends with Randall the more he wants this man and this place to be his future but King Edward has all the power. What if he doesn’t allow them to stay here? Is what he feels for Randall real or just his own wishful thinking?
Buy link: http://www.bookstrand.com/book/hartleys-solace
It was a fiercely hot summer day and instead of beginning the battle at Prime, like a normal fight, they’d been lined up in battle array for hours while Lord Bolton argued with his noble friends. Meanwhile the serfs and peasants shuffled their feet and moved this way and that instead of remaining in formation, and Lord Howard started screaming and waving his arms like a child deprived of his toy sword. Lord Howard’s friends tried to quiet him down but that only made him even angrier until he was ranting and railing so loudly it was a wonder they couldn’t decipher the words all the way over on the far side of the battlefield.
By the time battle was joined Hartley’s body was slicked with sweat, the weight of his metal great helm made his neck and head ache, and he was very thirsty. But he was a swordsman and ignored all that to engage his opponent in fair combat.
The man was a little taller than him, his war horse very well trained. Hartley wasn’t rich enough to have such a well-trained beast, but his horse knew the rudimentary rules of battle and let him concentrate on the thrust and parry of the engagement.
It didn’t take him more than ten minutes to notice that the loud shouts and crash of metal against metal had already diminished. His opponent stopped attacking and only defended himself. Hartley took a moment to turn his head and saw serfs and peasants fleeing the field.
What the fuck? They weren’t trained fighters, but they owed allegiance and service to their lord. They had no right to leave until the battle was over.
He fought on resolutely, until he realized his opponent was deliberately making him turn and then he saw why. Lord Howard was lying on the ground, dead or dying, and two other men were lying beside him.
Without a word he and his opponent stopped fighting and climbed off their horses.
All around them the other swordsmen were doing the same thing. Already the last of the serfs was fast disappearing over the hill behind them.
He pulled his great helm off and finally could look around freely. Lord Bolton and Lord Howard were both dead. Two other noblemen were injured, and the battle had stopped. There was no sense in continuing to fight when the protagonists were dead.
But what did this mean to him? Who would pay him his silver?
Hartley turned to look at his former opponent. The man, taller than him and stronger looking as he’d guessed, held out his hand. “Randall.”
Since then they’d been friends and companions, working side by side as swordsmen under Bancroft and Winston to claim this castle and make it safe to live in. He enjoyed cooking and so did Randall, so they spent time together in the kitchens until some women arrived to take care of the food preparation.
These were young women who’d been enslaved by the masterless men who’d captured the castle. Several women became pregnant to their captors and their village didn’t want them back, so Bancroft had offered them safe housing here at the castle, provided they worked.
Now that someone else was available to prepare the meals, he and Randall would be helping in the fields, planting winter food crops. He was less familiar with planting, sowing, and weeding, but knew what vegetables looked like in the soil and had picked them many times, so expected he’d adjust to his task. Or maybe he’d remain on guard duty and care for their horses. That was a better fit for the skills he had.
Hartley wanted to be with Randall. His former opponent was the closest thing to a friend he’d ever really had, and he didn’t want to lose that connection.
He rolled over onto his back and stared at Randall. The big man was lying naked beside him on the large comfortable bed. This was the first time ever that Hartley had spent an entire night in a bed. Various lovers had taken him into their bed, but he’d always been expected to leave after the fucking was done. Of course, most of the fucking he’d done hadn’t even happened in a bed, but against a wall in a darkened stable or shed, or on the ground under their cloaks, or perhaps on a blanket under a tree.
Hartley shook his head. Those men weren’t lovers. Randall was his first and only true lover. The bodily contact he’d considered love in the past merely scratched an itch. His feelings for Randall were completely different. He thought it was love. Or maybe that it would continue to deepen and truly become love. Whether his feelings now were love or not, they were already a lot more than scratching an itch, and a lot deeper than anything he’d ever felt in the past. They were truly different.
Randall mattered to him. Not as a meal ticket or as a protector. He’d had them in the past. Now he could support and protect himself as a trained swordsman. No, Randall mattered to him as a person. They were equals, swordsmen working for a mutual gain to make this castle safe so they could all live here. But this meant more than that. He didn’t want Randall to like him for self-preservation. He wanted Randall to return the emotions he felt.
The problem was Hartley didn’t know what love was. No one had ever loved him before. They’d liked his body and enjoyed fucking him. More recently, they’d appreciated his skills with a sword and hired him to fight for them. But love? No, that was new. Completely new and totally unexpected.
Was what he felt for Randall genuine love? Did Randall return his love? Or was it all just his own need making him see things that didn’t really exist?
Buy link: http://www.bookstrand.com/book/hartleys-solace
Thursday, 14 January 2016
"The Werewolves of Hanson Mall Collection", Volume 1 (MFM) by Cara Adams
In Publicly Exhibited, sisters Willow and Hawthorne Cunliffe are fleeing from Hawthorne's ex-boyfriend, who thinks she's insane and wants to force her into a mental health institution because she saw a shape-shifter. They arrive at Hanson Mall not knowing it's a shape-shifter community. Cadfael Hanson, the Alpha of the pack, and his second-in-command, Rhion Jones, are instantly attracted to Willow, but revealing their identity could send the women running away again. They offer the women safety. The women begin to relax, but can they ever be safe while Hawthorne's ex is searching for them?
In Doubly Protected, Willow and Hawthorne Cunliffe decide it's time to sell their parents' house and reclaim their lives. But someone still wants to find them. Werewolves Maelor Powell and Dylan Upjohn are determined to protect Hawthorne until the problem is resolved and the safest place for her is in their bed. But she hates being confined and refuses to believe she should hide away indefinitely. This problem has to be solved before the men explode with repressed desire.
In Dangerously Attracted, to prove Jackson Hamilton's well-being center is kidnapping people, security guard Dakota Rutherford contacts him pretending her grandmother needs care and accommodation. Lewis Bowen, who escaped from the center, and Andreas Llewelyn are horrified by her risky actions. But she refuses to listen to them or accept their protection. Andreas has loved Dakota for a long time but she won't listen to him either, and now he sees the adoration in Lewis's eyes when he gazes at her. Maybe together they can convince her to let them keep her safe from harm.
All 3 books for $4.99.
"Archer's Revenge" (MM) by Cara Adams. "The Swordsmen" book 2.
Archer Goldenvoice and Drake the Swordsman are swordsmen for hire, determined to help Bancroft the Bold and his lover Winston the Warrior win their castle— and themselves a secure job for the future. Fighting the masterless men is just the first of a series of obstacles they must overcome to gain the castle.
Life in England in 1320 is not safe. Edward of Caernarfon is a strong king but he has his own problems to deal with in battling the Scots, as well as a wife, and a lusty love life. With the death of both Lord Howard and Lord Bolton the swordsmen head north to see if reclaiming Lord Denzil’s castle is possible. Success offers them all the opportunity of safety behind strong stone walls, and a future of ongoing employment. But such a huge undertaking was never going to be that easy to accomplish...
The door fell in with a mighty crash, and Archer raced after Baxter and Cedric into the hall. He was just in time to see a man’s feet disappearing up the stone stairs so he ran after him.
“Coward! Stand and fight,” he roared. The man kept running so Archer threw his ax at the man’s body. The coward had been warned so hitting him in the back wouldn’t be dishonorable, although a face to face fight would be better.
The man ran into a room and Archer almost lost him because he stopped to pick up his ax. His throw had missed the man thanks to his sidestep into the room. Archer stepped slowly into the room, looking around but no one was there. He was about to look under the bed, although that would have required him removing his helmet, when he realized one of the hangings on the wall covered another door.
He ripped the hanging open. The ancient fabric disintegrated in his gauntleted hand. Archer stopped instantly as he stepped into the inner room. The man he’d been chasing held a woman front of his body.
His arm was across her neck, almost choking her. The woman’s feet were scrambling to reach the floor as he was a lot taller than her, and he kept her shielding his entire torso.
“Such a brave man to hide behind the skirts of a woman. Step out and fight like a man,” Archer challenged him.
“Like fuck I will. Get out of this room and leave me or she dies.” The man raised his sword to the center of the woman’s body and her legs flailed even more as she tried to move. But his arm across her neck held her much too tightly. Archer thought the man might choke her anyway, just out of spite. But that wasn’t his concern. His job was to kill the coward.
Archer ignored the woman and the sword, watching the man’s face intently. Many fighters signaled their movements with their eyes. It was slight, almost indiscernible, but a true swordsman learned to read the tiniest of signs.
As Archer gazed into the man’s black eyes, the years fell away and he saw another cowardly soldier. Another man with a sword. One who had grabbed an elderly monk delivering food to the poor. The elderly monk had made no attempt to save himself as the earlier coward had slashed his neck to free the strap holding the pouch of food and alms. The monk had dropped dead at Archer’s feet and the soldier had laughed at Archer and run away before he could do anything more than fall to his knees by the old monk’s side. But his mentor, his teacher, the man who’d helped him, was already dead. Killed for some bread, a small jar of oil, and a few copper coins.
Archer’s blood, hot as fire as he’d chased the coward up the stairs, turned to ice in his veins as he recognized the man.“Ten years ago you murdered a monk in cold blood. A monk. A man of God. He carried no weapon and was no danger to you. Yet you killed him without a moment’s thought. Today Father Kirby will be avenged. I will kill you for your infamous treatment of him.”
“I’d forgotten about the monk. He was a nobody. Now this little cunt might give you some fun tonight if you treat her right. I’ll give her to you if you let me go.”
“She won’t give me nearly as much fun as I’ll get killing you.” Archer swept his war ax up at the man’s sword arm, causing him to step to the side away from it. In the same movement Archer brought the flat of his sword down as hard as he could on the man’s bare head.
The soldier sank to his knees, and the woman scrambled away from him and took to her heels out the door.
“Now stand up and fight like a man. Prepare to meet your maker, you coward who hides behind women and murders the innocent.”
The man jumped to his feet, taking his own sword in a double handed grip. Now the fight could begin in earnest. Archer watched his face, not his hands. This man was a murdering coward and Archer already knew he wouldn’t fight honorably. The man would fight to win. Archer had his honor to maintain, but once the man broke the rules of fair combat, he could, too.
They thrust and parried, moving slowly around the room, staying just out of each other’s reach between blows. Then Archer realized the man was trying to wear him down, so he stepped in closer and thrust hard, putting all the force of his arm behind each blow.
The other man wore ordinary clothes and Archer was in full armor. That meant he would tire more easily, but he could make more dangerous moves with the chain mail to protect him. The battle raged for several long, fierce minutes of thrust and parry, slash and withdraw, only to attack once more.
Archer slammed his sword down on the hilt of the other man’s weapon, and he dropped to his knees. There was no reason for him to do that. It was a feint. Sure enough, he thrust upward with his sword, hoping to catch Archer leaning over him. Archer wasn’t that naïve. He jumped to the side and brought his sword down on the man’s shoulder with all the strength in his arm.
The man fell flat on his face, not acting this time, as blood welled up through his clothing.
“Confess your sins and I’ll bind your wound,” Archer offered.
Friday, 1 January 2016
Warriors for Hire (MM) The Swordsmen Book 1
Winston the Warrior is a swordsman for hire. It’s an uncertain life but it’s okay, until he meets Bancroft the Bold and starts to want so much more. Winston’s on the opposite side in battle from Bancroft but a swordsman isn’t easily deterred from his plans.
Lord Howard and Lord Bolton have hated each other since birth but the battle between them is only the beginning. Now there are fourteen skilled swordsmen all homeless, jobless, and trying to find a path forward. Lord Garrick suggests they travel north and reclaim Lord Denzil’s dilapidated castle from the masterless men who’ve invaded it.
A swordsman is extremely courageous, but not stupid. Will listening to Lord Garrick provide them with a hope for the future or send them to an early grave? And what about the growing affection between Bancroft and Winston? Will this be the death of their romance even if they live through the battle?
Winston removed his chain mail with a huge sigh of relief, and poured cold well water over his head happily. A quick swim in a nearby river would have been even better, but the chilly freshness of the water was very refreshing on his hot, sweaty body. Late summer was always the traditional time for battle, once the muddy tracks had dried out and the crops were harvested. But today was still midsummer and the weather had been unpleasantly hot. He rubbed his hands over his body to remove the worst of the water and then shook his shoulder-length, dark brown hair like a dog to get rid of the excess water.
He considered drying himself on his tunic, but the sun was still quite hot enough to dry him in minutes so he stood back from the well as the other men washed, before sighing and dropping his tunic over his bare chest. It would have been good to wash his entire body, but a swordsman never removed his chausses when women and children were around, as they were right now in the courtyard of this manor house. Besides, he was still wearing his boots. He wondered whether he ought to put on a surcote but it was too hot to want another layer of clothing, and he didn’t think he needed to get dressed up for dinner just yet.
When the men who’d declared he could speak for them were ready, he led them into the hall. Once again he recognized the signs that this was a well-to-do family. The room was large and already servants were setting up long trestle tables and benches for the meal. There were banners and embroidered hangings on the walls, demonstrating years of hard work by the lady of the house and her female attendants.
Carved wooden chairs with arms were behind the high table. Four of them, not just one for the lord of the house.
A manservant brought around a large pitcher of ale and filled their tankards, which Winston was very grateful for. He’d drunk some water at the well, but the ale was much more thirst-quenching than plain water.
The man who led the other group of swordsmen, Bancroft, and his men joined them and Winston stepped back to include them in the group. They would all have a much stronger bargaining position as a single group, rather than as two opposing sides, and he’d liked what he’d seen of Bancroft on the ride here. He seemed to be an honorable man.
“We should talk, you and I, before the official meeting,” said Bancroft.
Winston moved farther away from the rest of his men and the two of them crossed over to stand by the side wall of the hall. “I agree. United we have more authority. Although this entire situation is a huge pile of turds.”
“That’s true. We have limited choices as to where we go and what we do from here.”
“We were promised ongoing employment as castle guards for Lord Howard. I suppose you were told much the same story.”
“A purse of silver each and the position as guards, yes. It’s good Lord Garrick has promised to pay us, but silver won’t last long with no means of earning more,” said Bancroft.
“And therein lies the problem. I don’t wish to fight in the Holy Land. Nor do I wish to join in the border wars against the Scottish lords.”
“No indeed. They’re King Edward’s battles, not mine. Yet London will be the only place to find a new lord to serve.”
Winston crossed his arms and stared at the other swordsman. He spoke like a man of intelligence and leadership, just the kind of person Winston liked best. Someone who genuinely understood the situation and didn’t offer any silly suggestions that wouldn’t solve the problem. He was also a fine figure of a man. Tall and muscular, broad of shoulder and sturdy of limb. His hair was dark blond and his eyes pale blue, but it was the smile on his face and the intelligence in those pale blue eyes that pleased Winston the most.
“Unless Lord Garrick knows of another lord hiring swordsmen,” Winston said.
“I’ll be more wary before I shake hands this time, though,” said Bancroft.
“Fuck, yes. Me, too. If we journey back to London as a group we’ll be safe from masterless men even traveling more slowly with the wagon.”
“Why do you have the wagon? I mean, I understand its use in transporting goods, but it’s also a disadvantage in that it attracts the attention of men wishing to steal whatever it contains.”
“Ah, but we had hoped to win the battle and have secure employment. I suspect Lord Howard only gave it to us because he was trying to outdo Lord Bolton. I doubt very much that he was truly concerned for our welfare. We were not hired as a group but as individuals. Many of us met for the first time on the battlefield this morning. I and a few others spent last night at Lord Howard’s castle, though.”
Bancroft nodded and looked thoughtful. “Tomorrow we’ll join as a group to return to London. Agreed?”