Hello everyone. I’m Leigh Ann Edwards, and I’m absolutely thrilled to be back on the Tule blog. It’s been nearly a year since my last time here. I’m from Alberta, Canada and like so many places, we’ve had an especially hot summer. I’m really happy autumn has arrived. I love the colors of the changing leaves, the smell in the air, the crisp, cooler nights and lovely warm days. I’ve developed a sun intolerance so summers have become challenging.
I’m so excited for release day of Autumn’s Magical Pact, the first installment in my five book, Maidens of the Mystical Stones series. It’s also my only granddaughter’s fifteenth birthday, so today is doubly special. I’m looking forward to getting this book out to readers. I’m very grateful to Tule Publishing for letting me continue to tell my stories, and to the amazing Tule team for all they do.
Like my previous three series, this is historical-fantasy romance. Maidens of the Mystical Stones takes place during medieval times in the small fictional village of Hengebury, near Stonehenge (then called the sunstones.) Unlike my other series, I haven’t determined an actual time period for this one, but it’s before the Saxon kingdoms united to form England–– so prior to the tenth century.
The story follows four young women with diverse personalities and from extremely different backgrounds. (healer, harlot, castle servant and princess.) Brought together by shared tragic circumstances, they become most unlikely friends.
As with many times throughout history, during this era, sometimes called the middle ages or dark ages, women had few rights and were often forced to marry at a young age and usually not someone they’d choose to wed.
The main heroine, Rhianwyn Albray, (pronounced Ree-on-wen) is beautiful and desired by many men. A skilled healer, she’s the most grounded of the four friends. However, she’s already lost her betrothed, a knight who was killed in battle. She was with her mother when she hemorrhaged and died during childbirth. Her father has recently mysteriously disappeared. Understandably, Rhianwyn’s terrified to let herself care for anyone again fearing she’ll lose them, too. She also is afraid to become with child should she die in childbed, like her mother (and one in three other women.)
She wants to remain living alone and continuing her healing. She doesn’t want to marry––certainly not the arrogant, demanding Irishman who’s inherited Brockwell Manor. No matter how delightfully handsome and sexy he is… or how attracted they are to one another. When he requests the king’s permission to wed her, she’s definitely not pleased. Unfortunately, she’ll have no say in it…unless she can talk him out of it and get him to go to the king and revoke his offer of marriage.
Elspeth Jory is an amusing but headstrong, opinionated, and rather promiscuous castle servant who’s equally attracted to men and women. She’ll soon be forced to marry the sheriff’s unlikeable and abusive son. His first wife died under suspicious circumstances. It’s believed he killed her.
Selena Lovelace is gentle, kind, sweet and empathetic. Although she’s the most timid and naïve of the friends, she has owes a debt to a brothel owner and has no choice but to become a harlot like her mother. Even though her mother was murdered when working in the same brothel.
Princess Lilliana, who’s regal (and snobbish) has an especially lonely life. She longs for male attention. Her father (the king) ignores her. Having to remain chaste, she’s disallowed from being near men. Of course, that doesn’t mean she heeds that rule. She’ll soon journey to Wales (Cymru) to marry a Welsh prince she’s never even met.
This story’s hero, Broccan Mulryan, a tall, muscular, handsome, notably charming Irishman, has come to Wessex to honor his friend and distant cousin, Anslem Brockwell’s, dying wish––to make sure his betrothed is taken care of. He hopes Broccan will fall in love with her and that they’ll marry. Broccan isn’t looking for love, doesn’t really want to marry, and it’s doubtful he’ll long to remain in Wessex, even if he will inherit a grand manor house and a considerably large land holding.
Anslem’s spirit’s been coming to Broccan. He’ll clearly give him no peace until he follows through. He swears once Broccan meets lovely Rhianwyn he’ll be entranced. Broccan doesn’t believe anyone could be that fascinating…until he meets her.
Each of the four woman dreads their own future, yet envies the other women in some regards. If only they could trade places. When they meet in the mystical stone circle for the last time before their lives all change, a magical old crone offers them the opportunity to actually switch lives with each friend, for one season, will they agree to the binding pact? It must be unanimous or the old woman won’t perform the spell.
Here’s a snippet from Autumn’s Magical Pact. To set up this scene, Broccan and Rhianwyn have met a few times. There’s an undeniable attraction but she’s a common-born healer and he’s a wealthy lord. She doesn’t want to encourage any relationship with him. (This is before he’s been granted permission to wed her.)
Rhianwyn’s invited Elspeth and Selena, Maxim, the huntsman, and Keyon, the minstrel, for rabbit stew outside her small cottage. When Broccan shows up with freshly baked bread and butter to contribute to the meal, Rhianwyn feels obliged to invite him, too. They’ve all enjoyed an evening of merriment. The minstrel’s playing his lute and singing. Some people are dancing.
Rhianwyn was distracted watching the others dance and didn’t notice Broccan approach.
“Will you honor me with a dance, Maiden Albray?” he asked.
She inhaled his enticing masculine scent thinking it was dangerous to get any closer especially when she was dizzy with drink.
“I don’t really dance.” Her tongue felt thick.
“I beg to differ. I saw you dancin’ twice this very day.”
“Dancing with Selena, or in the rain with children isn’t the same,” she further argued.
“Then pretend I’m a child and the rain’s fallin’ down upon us even now.”
“That’s absurd,” she said, staring up at him looking tall, brawny, and gloriously handsome.
Undeterred, he clasped her hand and lifted her to her feet. He took her arm and pulled her closer than she expected.
“I’d like you to be as at ease as you were with those children…to one day feel entirely uninhibited with me,” Broccan whispered in her ear. His lips near her skin made her tingle from scalp to toes.
“I wouldn’t hold my breath,” she said coolly. “I don’t intend to get that close to any man.”
“You’ve obviously never known an Irishman’s tenacity.”
“This dance is a bit friendlier than I might like.”
“You don’t like bein’ friendly, then?” He gazed down at her.
By the firelight his eyes were mesmerizing, his presence magnetic, his embrace enthralling.
“Is this how you dance in Ireland?”
“It is when a man wishes to kiss a woman but doubts she’ll permit it and dancin’ is second to what he really wants to do…or perhaps third,” he said boldly with an arched eyebrow. She pulled from his arms and walked away. He came after her.
“I apologize. I’ve had too much to drink. I spoke without thinkin’ it through. Don’t be riled with me, Maiden Albray.”
“You should find a lady, Lord Brockwell…someone of your kind. You needn’t mingle with common-born. I’m certain there’s a good many women of your standing who’d marry you, dance with you…or more. I thank you for the food and…”
“Rhianwyn.” He dared to call her by her given name. The way he said it only made her tingle more. “I don’t want to hang about with lords and ladies. I much prefer this type of gatherin’ and if I’m bein’ truthful, you’re the most captivatin’ woman I’ve ever met. Please dance with me. You have my word I won’t speak of kissin’ you.”
Though they wouldn’t hear what was being said, Elspeth and Selena watched closely. Maxim looked like if she gave him the word, he’d see Broccan Mulryan sorry if he didn’t step away.
She smiled, reassuring the others. Keyon continued to sing. Not wanting to cause a stir, Rhianwyn took Broccan’s hand again. This time he kept an acceptable distance between them and bowed graciously when the dance was over.
Later that evening after everyone left, Broccan returned.
Rhianwyn had forgotten to have Maxim carry the table in. She lifted up a corner and dropped it with a thud. It was too heavy for her to even attempt dragging it.
“I’ll carry the table in if you wish.”
She turned quickly, startled by his voice for the dogs hadn’t barked.
“It can wait,” she said.
Still, Broccan walked nearer. “No one stayed to help you clear up?”
“They were all a bit drunk.” She shrugged. “I don’t mind.”
“Let me carry the table in,” he insisted.
She finally nodded and he picked up the weighty table with ease. She motioned to where it should be placed and he set it down.
“Is there anythin’ else you’d like me to do?” His eyes briefly went to the bed.
“Thanks for your assistance, but I’ll be going to bed soon.”
He grinned as though to say that’s what he’d been suggesting, but he only went out the door, then peeked back in, smiling.
“I liked our dance very much, Rhianwyn.”
“You’re uncommonly audacious, Lord Brockwell…both in using my given name and in speaking so forwardly.”
“With a straight face tell me you disapprove entirely. With no blush in those lovely cheeks.” He dared to step inside again, reached out, brushed a strand of hair from her face and her entire body hummed with need. He gently tilted her chin and lowered his head to hers but she stepped away. She yearned to have his lips on hers but if that happened she had no doubt it wouldn’t end there, but with him in her bed. She wasn’t sure if she was glad or disappointed that Maxim would soon be back for the dogs. But it was enough of a deterrent for her to discourage Broccan’s advances.
“Leave straightaway!” she ordered.
“Before I weaken your resolve and you permit me to kiss you?”
“You’re incorrigible!” Still, she smirked.
“Would you be more inclined to agree to a kiss if I promise to leave straight after?”
“Now!” She pointed to the door.
This time Champion went to Rhianwyn’s side, obviously sensing her impatience.
“I’d never hurt her, old boy.” Broccan chanced petting the dog’s head and again moved so close he could have kissed her. “Good night, Rhianwyn.”
“Good night, Lord Brockwell.”
He left and she closed the door after all four dogs came inside.
Damn that man for making her want the kiss…and more.
I hope everyone has a wonderful autumn. It’s my favorite season and I’m hoping it lasts a while this year. I’m not looking forward to winter. Here on the Canadian prairies summer can be very hot, but our winters are extremely long. We sometimes have snow for six or seven months. Last winter was brutal––the worst I ever recall.
I think I’d like to trade places with someone who lives somewhere with a moderate climate–– probably Ireland. But I wouldn’t trade seeing my grandchildren, who live nearby…even for Ireland.
I’ll be back January 31/23 for the release of Winter’s Haunting Pledge, book 2 in the Maidens of the Mystical Stones series.
Until then, magical wishes!
About the Author
Leigh Ann Edwards has always been fascinated by history, magic, romance, witches and Ireland which all inspired her first series, The Irish Witch Series. Growing up in a very small Manitoba town on the Canadian prairies allowed lots of time to create stories and let her imagination soar. Now writing her third series with Tule Publishing, Leigh Ann also loves reading, traveling, spending time with her four grandchildren, doing intuitive readings and reiki.
Leigh Ann lives with her husband, their two very large dogs and two cats near Edmonton Alberta, Canada.