The Queen’s Exiles by Barbara Kyle
Paperback, e-Book, 352 pages
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Series: Thornleigh Saga
Genre: Historical Fiction
“Europe is in turmoil. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. And in the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise. Scottish-born Fenella Doorn salvages crippled vessels. It is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him. But Adam and Fenella will put their lives in peril as they attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the Crown, and restore a peace that few can remember. With eloquent and enthralling finesse, Barbara Kyle illuminates one of history’s grimmest chapters. The Queen’s Exiles breathes new life into an extraordinary age when love and freedom could only be won with unmitigated courage.”
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
Fenella Doorn watched the unfamiliar wreck of a ship ghosting into her bay. Crippled by cannon fire, she thought. What else could do such damage? The foremast was blown away, as well as half the mainmast where a jury rig clung to the jagged stump, and shot holes tattered the sails on the mizzen. And yet, to Fenella’s experienced eye the vessel had an air of defiance. Demi-cannons hulked in the shadowed gun ports. This ship was a fighter, battered but not beaten. With fight still in her, was she friend or foe?
Or faux friend. Fenella kept her anxious gaze fixed on the vessel as she started down the footpath from the cliff overlooking La Coupée Bay. Old Johan followed her, scuffling to keep up. The English Isle of Sark was the smallest of the four Channel Islands, just a mile long and scarcely a mile and a half wide, so from the cliff top Fenella could see much of the surrounding sea. The few hundred farmers and fishermen who called the island home were never far from the sound of waves smacking the forty miles of rocky coast. Fenella, born a Scot and bred from generations of fishermen, was as familiar with the pulse of the sea as with her own heartbeat.
“She flies no colors,” Johan said, suspicion in his voice. Sheep grazing on the cliff top behind them bleated as though voicing the old Dutchman’s unease.
“She likely struck her colors in the skirmish,” Fenella said.
“Surrendered? Then why wasn’t she taken as a prize?”
“Maybe she was, and the prize crew boarded her.” Whoever was in command had done a fine piece of seamanship, Fenella thought. The skirmish must have happened far out in the Channel, since no report of it had reached Sark, yet this captain had brought in his ship with one mast shot away and a single latten sail on the jury-rigged mainmast. Crew now labored at lowering the sails on main and mizzen, the figures too small at this distance to make out features.
“Or maybe she’s Spanish,” Johan warned. “Spaniards are cunning. Have a care, Nella.”
“That’s no Spaniard. Her beak’s too long. English, maybe.” She had decided the ship was not a danger, at least not to the people of Sark. On the contrary, the crew might need victualing, and Sark’s crofters would be glad to sell them mutton and the first spring lambs. Fenella saw silver for herself, too. The monotonous clanging aboard, faint at this distance, told her that crew were working the pumps non-stop, which meant there was at least one hole below the waterline. That promised employment for Fenella’s shore crew to careen the hull on the beach to make repairs.
Still, something about the crippled vessel unnerved her, as though it had come hunting her personally. She gave a thought to the flintlock pistol that lay in her petticoat pocket beneath her skirt. A foolish fear, she told herself, especially on such a peaceful, sunny day. Her skirt brushed the flowering gorse, releasing its faint perfume into the warm air. The cliff paths all around were brocaded with primroses, dog violets, and yellow celandines. Springtime always lifted Fenella’s heart. Yet she had seen death strike often enough amid sunshine and flowers.
She and Johan were almost at the beach, and the cliff path through the gorse was now wide enough for them to walk abreast. Knowing they could be seen from the ship, Fenella took comfort in having the old man at her side. Absurd, she knew, since he was sixty, twice her age, and had just one arm. The other had been hacked off above the elbow when they'd fled the Spanish troops' onslaught of the Netherlands, troops who had butchered their village and made Fenella a widow at twenty-five. Johan, her father-in-law, was as stubborn as her late husband, and she knew he would fight for her to the death. She loved the old man for that, but his devotion was also troubling, disabled and frail as he was. She worried about him, for he was getting frailer every day, the cough that had infected his lungs at Christmas persisting despite the spring warmth. Still, she did not slacken her brisk pace on the path as it wound down to the beach. Johan would not want her to.
“More likely she’s Dutch,” she said to reassure herself and him, “crawling in from a scrape with a Spanish galleon or two.” The Dutch hated the brutal Spanish occupation of their country and many had taken to the sea to attack Spanish shipping in the Channel. They had organized themselves into a ragged fleet of a few dozen vessels, and with rebel pride called themselves the Sea Beggars. Fenella had refitted several of their vessels shot up by Spanish guns. “The fools never learn,” she muttered. She belittled the rebels to mask her admiration for them. But realism outweighed her admiration. Imperial Spain, the most powerful nation on earth, was invincible. The Sea Beggars were minnows attacking sharks.
“That’s not Dutch rigging,” Johan said. They were crossing the beach, heading for their rowboat, and he raised a hand to shade his rheumy eyes as he studied the ship. “Now that I see her abeam, I think your first guess was right, Nella. She’s English.”
Nothing unusual about English shipping around Sark. The island lay eighty miles off England’s south coast, closer to France, and English trade with France, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal was constant. But this ship had been maimed in a battle and England wasn’t at war. “An English privateer?” Fenella wondered aloud.
She heard a clank at the bow and saw a dull metallic gleam as the vessel's anchor plunged with a splash. Cable roared through the hawsehole. Fenella knew the anchor would hold well on Le Coupée’s sandy bottom. This ship was here to stay.
I have one paperback copy of The Queen’s Exiles by Barbara Kyle up for grabs today for US and Canadian residents only. Giveaway will end July 6th. Entries are made through the Rafflecopter below.
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