I’ve been reading Elizabeth Cole’s historical romance novels for a couple of years. I started with her Secrets of the Zodiac series, which deftly combines smart characters and dialog with mystery and romance against the background of the Napoleonic war era. Most recently I enjoyed the medieval historical romance Honor & Roses, book 1 of the Swordcross Knights series, which I reviewed for this blog. This week, the second book of that same series is being released, so today I am featuring Choose the Sky by Elizabeth Cole.
Betray not the heart
Lady Domina is playing a daring game. After her father falls gravely ill, she hides the truth of his condition and continues to rule in his name. Then one of the king’s knights arrives on royal business, and she must find a way to deceive the arrogant, handsome intruder.
Sir Luc of Braecon is fiercely loyal to the king. His battle scars prove it. When he is ordered to investigate reports of an insurrection, he swears to find the traitor. The first clues lead him directly to the Lady Domina. As the relentless knight exposes one secret after another, he finds nothing about the tantalizing lady is what it seems.
Soon Domina and Luc are locked in a dance of deception, lust, and betrayal, each turn bringing them closer to a finale where winner takes all. Considering the stakes, the real danger is falling in love…
The second book in The Swordcross Knights: A series of full-length historical romance novels set in the vivid and beguiling world of medieval Britannia during the period known as “The Anarchy”.
One of the things I admire about these books are the beautiful covers. Judge a book by it’s cover? Guilty! But having read Honor & Roses, I can assure you the story inside is worthy of the cover. How about a sneak peak at Choose the Sky to back up my claim?
Excerpt from Choose the Sky by Elizabeth Cole:
The throne room of King Stephen impressed her with its grandeur, and combined with all the well-dressed courtiers and functionaries staring at her, Domina felt utterly insignificant. The feeling only increased when the king himself spoke.
“So, Lady Domina de Warewic,” he said. “You must be over twenty, yet you are not married?”
“I am two and twenty, your grace, and I am not married.” She added hastily, “I am quite content to wait. When my father is well again, he can attend to the matter.”
“He need not be concerned,” the king said.
Mina nodded, first thinking the king was merely offering a polite phrase to the effect that she would not have difficulty finding a suitor, even at her age. But when he gestured to someone among the courtiers to step forward, she felt a nervous flutter in her belly. It was the same arrogant, dark-haired knight she had met last night!
“This is Sir Luc, son of Lord Laurence of Braecon. I think you should know who he is.”
“Why, your grace?”
The king smiled. “Because if a father sends such a fair daughter to court, he must want her to be well matched.”
Domina stood in shock. A marriage contract was precisely what she had hoped to avoid! But she could not oppose the king himself.
Unable to look at the king, she instead cast her gaze on the man he proposed to be her husband. He was as handsome as she remembered, with an alertness to his expression. Certainly, he was nothing like the brutish warriors-for-hire she’d always pictured in her nightmares.
In return, he was looking her over carefully, with those blue eyes that seemed too intelligent for a man who made his living by hacking his way through a battlefield. Unlike last evening, he didn’t smile, not even a little. Perhaps he was less impressed with her in the bright light of day. Domina was perversely annoyed by the idea, even though it would be better if he didn’t want her for a wife.
“Lady Domina, you have nothing to say?” the king prompted.
She cast her eyes downward once more.
“I am honored by your kindness in thinking of me, your grace,” she said, speaking slowly, as if she could deny the inevitable. “Yet I wonder how Sir Luc feels about this unexpected proposal.” She kept her voice soft, hoping the shaking would not be detected.
The knight glanced at the king and received a nod before replying.
“My role is to serve the king in every way I can,” Luc said, sounding as if he were discussing the sale of a ship instead of a marriage. “Whatever he commands, I’ll carry out.”
Domina swallowed. Her mouth was painfully dry all of a sudden. So she couldn’t look to this knight for common sense.
“If Sir Luc does not oppose the idea,” she said unhappily, “I do not see how I can.”
“Then you consent,” the king pressed.
Mary, Queen of Heaven, help me deal with this all too earthly king! Inspiration struck her. She said, in a rush, “I am your grace’s servant, but first my father’s daughter. Please understand that I could never agree to such an important contract without his advice and blessing.”
The king raised his eyebrow, but said only, “If all fathers had daughters as dutiful as this one, the world would be much closer to paradise!”
Domina said nothing, terrified she’d angered the king.
Instead, she heard Stephen begin to chuckle. Other voices joined in, as the courtiers decided to echo the king’s amusement.
A hot blush rose in her cheeks, surely matching the red of her hair. She must have done something horribly wrong, and now everyone was laughing at her. Her first appearance at court would be her last.
The king rose from his chair and stepped toward her. Domina gasped, but didn’t dare move. What was going to happen?
Stephen stopped a foot away from her, and reached out to chuck a finger under her chin, raising her face to his.
“Well, it’s clear enough that this lady will make someone a blushing bride!” He smiled at her. “Did you think me serious, dear girl?”
“I don’t know what to think, your grace,” she whispered. Only he could hear her.
Stephen’s expression softened slightly. “I may have got carried away with my jest. Your first time at court—I couldn’t resist.”
“A joke, your grace?” she asked, her voice quavering.
“Just a little joke,” he said.
He turned to indicate Luc, who remained standing where he was. Nothing in his expression indicated that he found the joke amusing either. Well, that was slightly comforting.
King Stephen went on, “But I do say that Sir Luc will come to your family’s castle in order to discuss defenses with your father Lord Godfrey. As a knight, he’s served me with honor, and I need to know that your castle can hold the territory it overlooks. Luc of Braecon will be my eyes.”
Domina glanced between the king and Luc and back again, barely keeping up with this rapid shift in topic.
“Certainly, your grace,” she said, falling back on the courtesy she’d been taught. “Whenever an emissary of the king arrives, he is most welcome.”
“Excellent,” the king said approvingly. “It will all be arranged. You are excused now.”
She curtsied again, very low. “God keep you, your grace.”
Domina backed away from the king and then turned to leave.
At the door, she couldn’t stop herself from looking back toward Luc. She was alarmed to find he was still watching her. Even from this distance, she felt the intensity of his gaze, as if he’d be able to find her no matter where she tried to hide.
This was a dangerous man. She’d met him twice now by accident, and now he was to come to her own home. She had no idea how she’d keep her family’s secret from him once he was there. Something told her that when Sir Luc decided on a course of action, nothing would turn him aside.
And now, Domina and Luc seemed destined to cross paths.
Elizabeth Cole writes historical romance with smart ladies, sensual heroes, and thrilling stories you won’t find anywhere else. Come for the wildly romantic settings, stay for the witty banter! From the chivalry of medieval Britain to the deep intrigue of the Napoleonic Wars, Elizabeth spins a happily ever after in every book. Find Elizabeth on her website: http://elizabethcole.co/
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