Monday, April 22, 2024

Have a sneak peek between the covers of Stella Riley's intriguing novel — A Splendid Defiance #HistoricalFiction #EnglishCivilWar #BlogTour @RileyStella @cathiedunn

A Splendid Defiance

Roundheads & Cavaliers

by Stella Riley

*Only £/$ 1.95 & equivalent during the tour!*

For two years England has been in the grip of Civil War.  In Banbury, Oxfordshire, the Cavaliers hold the Castle, the Roundheads want it back and the town is full of zealous Puritans.

Consequently, the gulf between Captain Justin Ambrose and Abigail Radford, the sister of a fanatically religious shopkeeper, ought to be unbridgeable.

The key to both the fate of the Castle and that of Justin and Abigail lies in defiance.  But will it be enough?

A Splendid Defiance is a dramatic and enchanting story of forbidden love, set against the turmoil and anguish of the English Civil War.

The Great Assault 

The rebel drums proclaimed the march.  Stentorian voices from five points around the Castle bawled their commands and, slowly, the Parliamentarian host began its advance.  Tension on the battlements reached its peak … and outside the walls, Colonel Fiennes’ troopers began chanting a psalm.

This proved too much for the Cavaliers.  A growl rumbled through the ranks of Lord Northampton’s green-jackets and one burly trooper shouted, ‘Bugger me, lads – we can do better than that!’ And the tension dissolved into a rollicking, popular parody.

Fight on brave soldiers for the Cause, fear not the Cavaliers

Their threat’nings are as senseless as our jealousies and fears.

How often we Prince Rupert killed  and bravely won the day

The wicked Cavaliers did run  – 

‘They’re coming,’ snapped Justin, killing the song mid-verse. And to his abruptly attentive men, ‘This is it, boys – but no one fires till I give the word.  Clear?’

Having halted briefly well out of range, the rebels came on at the run clutching bundles of furze and scaling ladders.  For those moving in from the north and east, there was little useful cover and this made the work of Captains Vaughan and Ambrose relatively straightforward. But to the south and west, Sir William and Colonel Greene faced approaches sheltered to within twenty yards of the moat by low stone walls and the blackened ruins of houses.  The ruined west wall could naturally expect to bear the brunt of the attack.

The Royalist artillery fired its opening volley, bringing forth screams and confused shouting and veiling the enemy advance in a swirling, acrid haze.

‘Steady, my lads,’ yelled Justin, peering through the smoke.  ‘Steady … give them time … now!’

The harsh crackle of musket-fire ripped the air; more screams, blue scarves crumpling earthwards; others taking their place and running on.

At will!’ Justin levelled his own pistol and picked off a tall, helmeted officer.  

Answering volleys of cannon-shot and grenadoes were now raining on the upper part of the Castle from the Parliamentarian artillery in the church tower.  A musket-ball took Hugh Vaughan in the shoulder and he was carried inside semi-conscious.  Meanwhile, on the north side, the first men had gained the moat and were throwing their bundles of furze into the mud to form a crossing.  Behind them, rows of musketeers formed up to give them covering fire – greatly needed since the garrison’s shot was falling about them like hail and taking a heavy toll.

‘Justin?’  Dirty and already hoarse from the smoke and bellowing his orders, Ned Frost paused briefly in his labours. ‘What’s that their file-leaders are shouting?’

‘Encouragement,’ replied Captain Ambrose, swiftly reloading his pistol, ‘in the form of prize-money. Three hundred pounds, to be precise.’

Ned stared at him.  ‘Hell. Fiennes is a bastard.’

The day wore on in fits and starts.  Attacks were fierce when they came but the murderous fire of the garrison prevented them being pressed home and, by late afternoon, the pace began to abate as fatigue and hopelessness grew like weeds in the Parliamentarian ranks.  The ground edging the moat was strewn with some three hundred forlornly twisted corpses and littered with unused scaling ladders, firearms and even a couple of muddy, tattered colours.

The garrison, when the tally was complete, found they had lost only nine men.

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Stella Riley

Winner of four gold medals for historical romance and sixteen Book Readers’ Appreciation Medallions, Stella Riley lives in the beautiful medieval town of Sandwich in Kent.
She is fascinated by the English Civil Wars and has written six books set in that period. These, like the 7 book Rockliffe series, the Brandon Brothers trilogy and, most recently The Shadow Earl, are all available in audio, performed by Alex Wyndham.

Stella enjoys travel, reading, theatre, Baroque music and playing the harpsichord.  She also has a fondness for men with long hair - hence her 17th and 18th century heroes.

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