Title – Once Upon a Hero
Author – C.N. Bird, Samantha Holt, Lily Magee, Em Taylor
Genre – Historical Romance
Publication Date – 1st February 2014
Length (Pages/# Words) – 50,000 words
Publisher – Indie
Cover Artist – Samantha Holt
Four tales of love throughout history.
Pompeii by C.N. Bird 69 A.D. Following the loss of her father and her mother years later, Hadriana is saved from a life of prostitution by her closest friend Victus. Through rebuilding and many loves, one night finds them unable to resist their feelings for one another any longer. With their new found affection and moving forward in their lives, the city of Pompeii seemingly doesn’t have a happy ending in store.
Hunting His Highland Lass by Samantha Holt Scotland, 1292 Rory MacPherson has returned home to find his castle overrun by the English and his timid wife missing. So when he hears of her tales of bravery, he’s just a little surprised. But his main concern is whether she is still alive or has been captured. Upon discovering her intention to run to her father’s and to leave their affectionless marriage for good, Rory realises just how much sweet Isla means to him. Can the warrior get past his fears of being too rough for her?
Though fear of capture drove Isla out, it’s the fear of returning to her marriage that keeps her travelling across the unforgiving Highlands. Not that doesn’t care for her husband, but she can no longer bear desiring a man who clearly doesn’t want her. Believing that he must be sharing his bed with another lass, Isla plans to beg her father for refuge from the English…and her husband. But the journey is dangerous and Rory is a determined man. Will he even let her go?
A Love Remembered by Em Taylor England, 1811 When Lord Benedict Mallory is lost at sea while fighting in His Majesty's Navy, Lady Cassandra Strong knows her happy ever after with the handsome duke's son will never be. That is until she spots her friend's footman. He bears a striking resemblance to the Lord who was presumed drowned.
A chance encounter with the newly restored Earl leaves Cassy with no option but to marry Lord Benedict. Can they overcome his loss of memory and forge a marriage for themselves?
An Honourable Enemy by Lily Magee Russia, 1812 War has been kind to Capitaine Amaury de Poitiers. With every victory over the Russians, Napoleon’s Grande Army brings ever greater glory to France. Highly regarded by both his superiors and his men, his career looks set to soar.
When he is tasked with guarding a prisoner of war critical to the war effort, an archduchess no less, Amaury finds himself enchanted by her. The only surviving member of her family, the proud Katinka of Viasma is overwhelmed by grief and the desire for revenge upon the French for her family’s death. Despite her initial hostility, Amaury finds himself becoming ever more drawn to this feisty, angry yet fragile young woman and is overcome by the need to protect her. Katinka in turn finds herself confused by her increasing attraction to the witty, chivalrous capitaine who refuses to give up on her despite her temper.
Their longing for each other is undeniable but both of them know that the barriers between them are great. Amaury finds himself torn between his mission, his love and his honour. Katinka is a noblewoman and he is but a common soldier. To be together could cost Katinka everything.
Can Amaury and Katinka ever overcome the barriers of war and class that separate them?
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Hunting His Highland Lass by Samantha Holt
He reached the village leader’s house and dismounted, hopping down and tying his mount to the joust of the well that sat in the centre of the settlement. Before he made himself known to the man, a young lass, not much older than Isla, scurried up and dipped into a hurried curtsey.
“My laird,” she said breathlessly.
“Aye, lass, what is it? Speak quickly for I crave a word with yer leader.”
“He is out in the fields at the moment, laird. We are checking the flocks. The English were on our land last night.”
“Hellfire, in truth?”
“Aye, my laird.”
Rory swung his gaze around and frowned. “But they didnae harm ye?”
“Nay, my laird. We scared them away.” A smile flickered on the fair haired lass’s lips.
“Scared them away ye say?” He shook his head. How had a bunch of raggedy peasants scared away a troop of battle-hardened English? “Then all is well?”
“Aye, my laird. But I must tell ye…yer lady wife was here.”
He gulped. So she was alive. But that meant little now. Not until she was in his arms where she belonged. “During the attack?”
“Aye, she—the lady that is—helped us scare off the English.”
Rory rubbed a hand across his face. “Ye cannae mean Lady Isla, surely? Were ye mistaken, lass?”
“Nay, truthfully, my laird. She sought refuge with me. She said the keep had been overrun and she was to travel to her father’s. Does this mean ye have won back the castle?”
“Aye, aye.” He waved a hand. “Is she here still?”
“Nay, my laird.” The girl’s face dropped. “I tried to persuade her but she wouldnae listen. She seemed very determined to travel on.”
“God’s blood,” he whispered.
“Forgive me, my laird. I should have tried harder but we didnae know ye were on yer way. She insisted she needed to ensure the English didnae catch up with her in case they tried to use her against ye.”
“And she is unaccompanied?”
The girl bit her lip. “Aye.”
Rory groaned. The lass had fought the English twice and was now gallivanting around the Highlands all alone. It was so at odds with what he knew of his wife. It didn’t stop the fear clutching his heart. Though the lass was more a warrior than he ever realised, she was still vulnerable. And still determined to make it to her father’s. If her father agreed to protect her from him, he might never see her again. Might never get the chance to try again. To show her he had changed and could be gentle.
“What is yer name?” he asked the girl.
“Kate, my laird.” She grasped her skirts and dipped again.
“My thanks, Kate. Tell the villagers that I have claimed back the castle and will send men out to patrol the lands. We’ll no’ be threatened by the English scourge again. I will have ye a fine fat pig sent to ye in return for looking after my lady wife.”
“Oh, pray, ye dinnae need—”
“I do. Good day to ye, Kate.” Without waiting for a response, he leapt onto his mount and gripped the reins. At least he knew one thing. Isla was alive. For the moment. Determination pervaded every fragment of him, making his muscles tense. It seemed Isla was resolved to prove she was more than the sweet lass he thought she was. But could he prove to her he was more than just a rough warrior?
A Love Remembered by Em Taylor
Ben sat on a stool on the kitchen table as Cassy none too gently tended to his wounds. He had dreamt about a woman who looked just like her. Had it been Lady Cassandra Strong? Had his dreams been trying to remind him of who he really was?
He felt comfortable in the large, dark kitchen, surrounded by the smell of baking bread, the clang of pots and the whispered conversations of the maids. The cook surreptitiously watched the young lord and lady as Cassy dipped a clean rag in water and pressed it against his eye.
God’s teeth, he should not be sitting in this position, his thighs apart and her standing primly between them. Every time he looked down, he could see the steady rise and fall of her ample bosom, made even more ample by the empire waistline and stays that she wore. The thin muslin gown did nothing to quash the heat of her and he felt himself harden in his breeches, despite the pain in his eye caused by her inept nursing skills.
Did every young gentleman on the Ton lust after the ladies in such a manner? Her rose petal lips pursed slightly as she studied him. That did not help matters. Any decent fellow would, at worst, be imagining kissing those lips. In his fevered imagination, that delicate mouth was wrapped around…
“Yes, well,” he said, jumping to his feet and causing her to step back in alarm. “I thank you for everything but I must be on my way.” Damn, the girl. Why could she not have worn a fischu?
“Lord Sefdom!” Was she breathless? Was she discomfited by his closeness? His palms itched to close around her breasts. He flexed his fingers and side-stepped her. “Of course. I should ask the cook at Apringdon House for a steak to put on your eye if I were you. It will bring down the swelling.” He nodded curtly. He knew of some other swelling he would prefer not to be present. He clasped his hands in front of his breeches.
“Please God, tell me it is not true.” A woman’s voice, which came from behind the kitchen door, rang through the room.
“Her ladyship,” whispered the cook and the maids lined up. Ben turned towards the entrance to the kitchen, as did Cassy. The butler entered first and held the door open as an older woman in a dark blue gown and an older version of Cassy’s face swept regally in.
“Cassy!” she admonished. “What the devil are you doing? You have been seen sneaking around the lane with a gentleman in tow. And I see it is true.”
Pompeii by C.N. Bird
After taking a moment to collect myself, I spoke, “Well, when I came here to see you after you invited me, I didn’t want to feel like an intruder since you seemed content when I saw you with Iulia.”
“Iulia? She’s a friend and nothing more, Hadriana. She’s not the one I’ve been longing for.”
My heart sped up a bit, but I still refused to believe anything was going to happen between us.
“Well, cease wasting time, Victus.” I laughed and tried to turn him around toward the ever enlarging groups. “Go and find your girl, have wine and a great night. I’ll be right over here by the tree for the night.”
I turned, and, instead of going in the direction I had been headed, altered my course toward the tree I told him I’d be under. I’d stay for a little, but leave once the crowd started clearing to avoid seeing him with the woman he desired, so my heart could be saved from another blow.
His footsteps were stealthy, so much so that I didn’t know he was behind me until I turned back to the people to sit down.
I scowled. “What are you doing?”
“I am going to sit here with you under this tree and watch the showers with you, and there’s nothing you can say or do about it. I also don’t want to hear any more nonsense about me going to find a girl. As far as I am concerned, there need not be anything more said about this. I want to spend the night with you.”
I pursed my lips together and bit my tongue to prevent me from saying anything. Pulling the cloak around me, I sat down on the ground with my knees crossed and Victus followed suit. We didn’t speak for a long while, just sat in silence, but it was comfortable. We listened to the crowd in front of us talk about things and as the night grew darker, a few oil lamps were lit to light certain paths and everybody’s gazes turned skyward.
“I remember coming out here with my pater when he was still alive,” I said softly.
“You haven’t been to one of these since, have you?”
“No, not even with my mater and frater.”
“Why choose now?”
“You asked me to.”
He grasped my hand, a move I was familiar with and unfamiliar with at this very moment. The warmth radiated through my hand and up my arm; a small zing of excitement whizzed through me. He took it further than in times past and intertwined our fingers, his thumb rubbing small circles on the top of my hand. I could feel his gaze on me and I turned my head to the right and to meet it.
An Honourable Enemy by Lily Magee
She stood up and walked towards the decanter, filling her glass. “Tell me. Do you believe France to be a better place for the revolution?” Her voice trembled as she spoke and he felt a flush of longing and shame at his countrymen’s actions.
He sighed and rubbed his temples. “I was but five years old when it began. I’m told of the vile excesses of the nobility. I have heard that whilst honest, God-fearing men starved for want of grain fit only to feed livestock, those with no greater claim to power or fortune than the accident of their birth treated food like a plaything, to create over-elaborate concoctions of sugars and meats and butters and to waste so much.”
He paused and she stood still. A moment passed and he sighed. “Madam, I can only speak thus. If your conscience is clear that those people living under your father’s care had food every day that sustained them and their families, you should have nothing to fear from revolutionaries. Your people’s ears will be filled.”
They were silent for a moment, considering his words. After a small while, she sighed and held her arms, delicate fingers curling around her upper arms. “I suppose it is now not a question that is sensible to answer, nyet? Napoleon has brought his revolution to Russia and until my tsar sees fit to send men to fight le Grande Army, it will happen, whether it be the will of the people or not.”
She looked down and he watched as her shoulders began to tremble with thinly restrained sobs. He paused, unsure how to proceed. He wanted so much to hold her, make all her cares disappear. She must surely see that he—that l’Empereur and he intended no harm to her or to her compatriots. She must know that the Austrian and Polish nation states now within the new Empire had been permitted—encouraged in fact—to retain their royal families. She surely had no reason to be so distraught.
“Madam….” he paused and inhaled. “Madam, this war will not last long and the tsar is an honourable man with good sense. He will surely reach an accord with l’Empereur and stop his foolish trades with the English. Soon you will surely be able to go home.”
She snorted through her tears and brought her hands to her face. “But who will be there when I return? Papa and Vasili…”
She burst into a huge, chest rending sob and emotion and instinct overrode his restraint. He stood and came to her, wrapping her up in his large arms and holding her. She leaned her head against his chest, sobbing. A flood of protective feelings engulfed him and he held her closer, angry at the soldiers who were too hungry and afraid to follow orders. Angry at the tsar for provoking the world’s greatest military genius and providing the spark to the series of events that would bereave this young woman in such a senseless, unnecessary way. Angry at himself for not having the ability to make amends, to make her feel better.
Interview With Author Samantha Holt
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Samantha Holt and I am a British author of medieval romances and a few contemporary ones. I have twins girls and my husband is a bodyguard. Currently he trains other bodyguards. All good fun! Sometimes he thinks he can come home and practice on me :/
2. How did you come up with the concept of Once Upon A Hero?
Once Upon a Hero was put together with the idea of having a collection of short stories spread throughout history. I think it’s great to be able to read through all these different settings and times.
3. How did the characters come about?
I wanted to write an already married couple. As most people know, arranged marriages were common in medieval times and I wanted to see how it would be between a couple who didn’t really know each other. Isla is a soft, sweet woman but I wanted to show that, for both of them, appearances can be deceiving.
4. What character did you least like? And why?
In a short story, you can’t really loathe someone too much but naturally I didn’t like any of the English who were trying to invade Scotland. (Which felt weird seeing as I’m English!)
5. Which character did you like the most? And why?
I love Isla and Rory but I’m probably fondest of Rory. He’s a good man with a strong heart and a sense of duty. I do love the brooding types.
6. Was it hard writing this book?
Writing the end was. I really struggled to know how to round it up. I showed it to a few friends and they all said, leave it. I probably only needed one sentence to finish it but the characters were reluctant to let me go.
7. What drives you?
First and foremost, the need to keep a roof over my head! Writing has been my full time career for about a year now. Secondly, guilt. Awful, I know but I feel guilty a lot so that drives me to do more and be more productive.
8. What are some quirky things about you?
Erm...there are probably lots of quirky things about me. I can’t think of many at the moment. I have an odd sense of humour.
9.Explain your mood when writing?
10. What other ventures are you working on?
I’m finishing off my latest highland romance, To Dream of a Highlander and working on my next contemporary.
11. Any last words for our readers?
Just a great big thank you for making it all worthwhile! I’ve met some incredible people on my writing journey and I’m so grateful for the selfless support they give.
This or That – Author Em Taylor (Once Upon A Hero)
Ebook or Paper/Hard backs – Ebooks (she says having just received two paperbacks from Amazon today)
Call or Text - Call
Lilies or Roses – Roses (lilies make me sneeze)
Army or Navy - Navy
Coffee or Tea – Coffee
Action or Chick-Flick – Chick Flick
Beach or Mountains – Beach in summer, Mountains rest of the time
Insects or Reptiles - reptiles
Paper or Plastic - paper
Skyscrapers or 1-3 story(ies) - 1-3 story(ies) since I’m scared of heights
$10 Amazon GC 2 x ecopies of Saved by a Rake by Em Taylor 2 x e copies of To Steal a Highlander’s Heart by Samantha Holt
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