Journeys: The Archers of Saint Sebastian by Jeanne Roland
Publication Date: November 13, 2021 Nepenthe Press
Genre: Renaissance Historical Fiction/Young Adult Series: Archers of Saint Sebastian, Book One
A barracks full of beautiful boys. A girl in disguise, living among them.
It’s the 14th century, and the longbow is king. But in the northern European principality of Ardennes, archery isn’t just the nation’s defense. It’s the national obsession.
MEET THE JOURNEYS
12 young Journeyman archers, the best in the country 2 years of public competitions, in which looks count almost as much as ability 6 will win a coveted membership in the Archers’ Guild of St. Sebastian 1 will become the prince’s new Guardsman
15-year-old Marieke is as obsessed with St. Sebastian’s as everyone else in Ardennes. Only it’s the middle ages, and girls just don’t become elite archers. Except Marieke’s prospects as a girl aren’t promising either, after a well-timed kick from a mule has left her with a face that’s badly scarred and ruined for marriage. But when circumstances force her to leave her old life behind and flee to the guild for refuge, there are only two things Marieke really knows about the place. One is that a mysterious accident ended her own father’s time as a Journey. The other? There are no women allowed inside St. Sebastian’s.
Marieke knows disguising herself as a boy and infiltrating the guild means embarking on a dangerous deception. But it may be her only chance to find out the truth about her father’s past and to stop a murderous plot from coming to fruition. When the dashing young Journeyman Tristan takes her under his wing as his squire, she’s got to stay – at least long enough to help him beat out his brutal arch-rival to win the competitions.
Keeping her identity a secret will be hard. Living in close quarters with a pack of gorgeous boys? That will be harder still. But the hardest thing of all will be keeping the vow she makes for herself: to see Tristan become the next Guardsman, without ever letting him find out she’s a girl – a girl, who loves him.
Part Robin Hood and part Princess Bride, with a pinch of Mulan and a dash of Cyrano de Bergerac in the mix, The Archers of St. Sebastian I: Journeys is a humorous action and adventure saga inspired by late medieval/early Renaissance Belgium and packed with romance, wit, and longbow archery. Perfect for adults who love young adult themes, Journeys is an escape into the past that reads more like romantic historical fantasy than pure historical fiction.
Unrequited love? Ugly heroines who stay ugly? Friendship, coming of age, romance, adventure, and plenty of archery competitions? A unique setting inspired by the glorious city of Bruges, with a richly imagined, immersive world set within the walls of a male-only archers’ guild? Journeys: The Archers of Saint Sebastianhas it all, so if you’re looking for a great escape, don your disguise and join Marieke as she enters the forbidden world of Saint Sebastian’s, and prepare to fall in love with the Journeys – that is, the twelve best and most beautiful archers in all of Ardennes, the Journeyman archers of St. Sebastian’s.
Roland hails from Davis, California, where she spent most of her youth lounging at the pool, soaking up the sun, and daydreaming. She had a key ring that read ‘I’m running away to join the circus,’ and her favorite moment of the day was when the local movie theater went dark, and the slogan ‘escape to the movies’ appeared on the screen. As an adult, her passions include all things melodramatic and beautiful — everything from classic movies, British romantic poetry, ancient tragedy and epic, to Italian opera. She is now a professor of Classics in a small midwestern town, where she lives with her Greek husband, her fraternal twins, and a Bernese mountain dog named Franco Corelli.
Publication Date: March 15, 2022 Paperback & eBook
Genre: Historical Mystery Series: A Lady Evelyn Mystery, Book 6
A few months after the Carlisle Detective Agency opened its doors, Lady Evelyn and her partner, Hugh, are twiddling their thumbs. The cases are slow to trickle in, leaving the detectives feeling uninspired. So, when Evelyn’s Aunt Louise asks her to join the local chapter of the Women’s Institute, she has no excuse to decline the invitation. Yet what she expects to be a tedious gathering, turns out to be anything but. She meets former suffragettes and outspoken women, eager for change, forcing Evelyn to reexamine her own prejudices. A decidedly less welcome surprise is the body she comes across only a few days later. Evelyn need hardly be a professional detective to recognize a murder when she sees one. Amid planning her wedding and navigating family affairs, she sets out to solve the case. The investigation takes Evelyn and Hugh into the past, examining the war years, which left the present far from untarnished. Is the victim’s history connected to her death? Could her involvement in the war have given someone a motive for murder? The questions pile up, and Evelyn and Hugh must race against the clock to discover the truth, before more lives are lost, not least, their own…
She heard them coming through the fog that clouded her mind, made her eyes swim and head throb. The footsteps were heavy, brutal in their approach. Pushing herself up, a spasm of pain ran like a hot poker down her left side and she gasped and pressed her lips together. I will not scream. I will not scream. Tears shot to her eyes, but she swallowed the sob of agony in her throat.
Steeling herself for the door to open, for it to begin anew, she sat as straight as she could, favoring her right side on the stiff straw mattress. Her brow was damp with perspiration. She could taste the salt on her upper lip. Her bare arms were covered in gooseflesh. Though she had hardened herself for this very occasion, the calm she hoped would descend upon her did not come. Her heart beat an angry rhythm in her chest. Counting in her mind, she waited, eyes closed. The steps grew closer. One, two, three. . . She opened her eyes. They were moving away. Her chest felt tight. Something was wrong. What was happening?
A door creaked somewhere down the hallway. The sound of movement, a scuffle. Raised voices and the unmistakable snap of leather against flesh. A cry. A howl. That voice . . .
She flew at the closed door, but misjudging her strength and the ferocity of her injury, collapsed before crossing half the short distance. What had she done? She had known the moment the words passed her lips it would be her greatest regret. Yet the hope her betrayal came too late lived inside her until this moment, which proved the opposite true. Pressing her hands to her face, she could hold in her sobs no longer. The pain, the exhaustion and now this, this shattering confrontation with her own weakness, her moral failing was too much to bear. The ground was cold and welcoming as she lay down, and she could not imagine finding the strength ever to rise again.
Time became liquid, flowing around her until she lost her grip on it entirely. Hours passed, then days. Meals were brought, more questions asked, more bruises added to join the map of blue and green patterning her body, tattoos of her mistakes.
She did not beg. Whatever semblance remained of the dignified, clever woman she may once have been left a trace. Whatever clarity her mind possessed was focused on one fact alone, her guilt. Bruises could fade and sores heal, there was no balm to soothe away the damage she had caused. Every time her mind reached this conclusion anew, she sank into a heap of despair on the ground. The cold did not touch her anymore. The gnawing hunger in her belly felt like her just deserts as did the shock of pain burning an eternal flame along the length of her body. And yet . . . had there not been a sliver of hope, just the tiniest fragment, she might have dashed her head against the wall and been done with life, with suffering and pain.
One night – this much she could tell from the tiny, filthy window set high into one wall – her door was opened. She lay on her mattress. The sound of the key in the lock, the metal bolt scraping back made her open her eyes, crusty with sleep and blink into the dim room.
“Aufstehen!” came the barked command, and a torch beam sliced through the darkness, bringing tears to her eyes. The man in the doorway was tall, his voice young as he ordered her to get up. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other as she made no move to obey. Let him command all he wanted, what could he do that had not already been done?
“Los, aufstehen!” he shouted once more, throwing a quick glance over his shoulder. Nervous. She did not recognize him. He was a new arrival.
“Warum?” she croaked, conjuring a smile to her cracked lips. It had its intended effect and, riled, he stepped forward.
“Der Kommandant fordert es!“ So he had sent for her once more. She wondered what he could want. Hadn’t she given them enough? Hadn’t they wrung her dry like a limp cleaning rag? Curiosity got the better of her, curiosity and a vague hope that she might be able to alter what she had done.
Slowly, she peeled herself from the misshapen mattress she called a bed and, leaning towards her right, pushed herself up to stand. Her whole body pulsed with pain, and she bit down so hard she could taste the metallic tang of blood on her tongue. The young man was impatient and though the lethargy in her movement was not by choice, she took some pleasure in making him squirm. By the time she reached the door, her legs trembled and her hands were slick. She gripped for the doorframe, but the soldier, either impatient or taking pity on her, took hold of an arm and lent her support. He was younger even than her, she noticed. Just an overgrown boy like so many of them.
By the time they reached a spare room up two flights of stairs, the young man was more or less carrying her. She was deposited on a hard, wooden chair in front of the window. It looked onto a closed courtyard, illuminated by cold light. The flagstones were slick with water. It must have rained. She knew nothing of the outside world, the whims and wiles of the weather. Her back was to the door, still she felt his presence even before he made himself heard. The commander was a man with presence, whatever that meant. He was tall and lean, but filled a room to the point that she could hardly find the air to breathe when he was there.
“What do you want?” she asked, trying to steel her voice, to sound hard and bored, knowing the sorry sight she presented, emaciated and pale, told a different story.
“He stepped into the room, his hat tucked under his arm. “You gave me something, so I thought it is only right I should return the favor.”
He was standing behind her now, his powerful hand resting on her shoulder. She tried to shrug it off, but he only let out a low chuckle at her feeble attempts. Bending down, he whispered into her ear and pointed into the courtyard.
Indeed, as he entered the room, her focus had shifted and it was only now she noticed the commotion in the space below. Her breath caught in her throat.
A man was being led out between two soldiers. He was barefoot, his hands bound and face bloodied. She would have recognized him in a crowd of a million. She reached out, but glass and space separated her from him. Look up, she thought, then immediately shrank back. No, no he must not see her, must not know who brought him to this place.
“Now, now, so squeamish all of a sudden?” the voice in her ear whispered. Her chair was pushed forward so close she was trapped in front of the window.
One of the soldiers had produced a black sack he pulled over his captive’s head before marching him to the wall. She could not bear it, yet she could not tear her eyes away, willing fate to intervene, wishing the God she had forsaken herself would show his mercy after all.
The soldier walked back. The second drew a pistol.
About the Author
Malia Zaidi is the author of The Lady Evelyn Mysteries. She studied at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Oxford. Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides vicariously (if temporarily) in countries around the world.
You must be logged in to post a comment.