Sunday, January 1, 2017
New Year New Reads Hop
London 1885. An orphan from a far-off land is renamed
"Noah Ames," and given every advantage the English Crown can bestow.
London 1592. Now an experienced barrister, Noah witnesses what appears to be a
botched robbery outside the Rose Theater, a crime he soon suspects to be part
of a plot against Queen Elizabeth herself. Steadfast in his loyalty to the
Queen, Noah must use every bit of his knowledge and skill to lure her most
disloyal subject onto the only battlefield where Noah has the advantage … a
court of law — though in doing so he risks public exposure of his darkest
secret, a secret so shocking that its revelation could cost him everything: the
love of the only woman who can offer him happiness, his livelihood … even his
thanks for coming by my blog. My historical fiction, A Second Daniel, set in Elizabethan England, is 99 cents this month.
Pick up your copy here.
also get a free prequel short story by signing up for my newsletter here. And you'll certainly want to be kept in the loop, as book three in the series, A Dragon in the Ashes, is releasing very soon!
said some great things about A Second
"In Neal Roberts' spectacular
debut, a gripping tale of murder and conspiracy unfolds against the lush
tapestry of Elizabethan political intrigue. Roberts breathes vibrant life into
16th-century London, populating it with an array of enthralling characters. A Second Daniel is a spellbinding
historical mystery, and Neal Roberts is an author to watch!"
— P.B. Ryan, USA Today bestselling author of Still Life with Murder
"With A Second Daniel, Neal Roberts captures Elizabethan London so
skillfully, it's as if the reader has stepped right into the story. Barrister
Noah Ames is a compelling protagonist of intelligence and heart who conceals a
dangerous secret unknown even to his closest friends. A riveting debut historical
mystery by an exciting new talent!"
— Pamela Burford, best-selling author of Undertaking Irene
And don’t forget you can get A Second Daniel for 99 cents here and
claim your copy of the exclusive prequel story by clicking here.
Thanks so much to Patricia Lynne for
organizing this blog hop and helping readers find new and exciting books. Be
sure to visit some other stops on the hop and discover more stories.
Blog hop main page: http://storydam.com/2016/12/31/new-year-new-reads-99cent-book/
posted by Neal Roberts @ 12:00 AM
Sunday, December 20, 2015
MidWinter's Eve Giveaway Hop
Hello, and thank you for visiting my page. I'm Neal Roberts, author of historical mysteries. For today's giveaway, several readers will receive a free copy of A Second Daniel
, and one lucky reader will win a $10 Amazon gift card.
In addition, everyone can journey to England's shores 1558 with young Menachem in my exclusive prequel short, Escape. Download your free copy here
A Second Daniel.
In this gripping historical mystery, Barrister Noah Ames risks revelation of his deepest secret in an attempt to protect Queen Elizabeth. If you enjoy Tudor historical fiction, Elizabethan political intrigue, and a good mystery, then sign up to read and review A Second Daniel FOR FREE
. Sign up here.
If you have friends or family who might enjoy A Second Daniel,
please consider sharing the book with them. Here it is on Amazon
, but you can also find it on B&N, or iTunes.
Enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card:
A special thanks to the hop hosts, Bookhounds and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. Make sure to hop to the other participating blogs and enter to win all the great prizes.
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posted by Neal Roberts @ 4:39 PM
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
A Second Daniel Preview
Hello, my friends!
Permit me to give you an idea of the scope of this project first. It's a series of historical novels known together as "In the Den of the English Lion," set in Elizabethan England during the years 1592-1603, with plenty of flashbacks. The first book, previewed below, is called A Second Daniel.
It took about five years to research, write, and rewrite.
hero, Noah Ames, is a barrister at the Court of Queen’s Bench. Noah has
a deep, dark secret, which some of you may guess before reading. So, when
he accidentally gets caught up in the deadliest political intrigue of
the day, he’s got a lot at stake. For the historically inclined among
you, the intrigue was in fact as deadly and complex as depicted in the
Thank you for your interest, and enjoy reading this preview of A Second Daniel.
LATE NOVEMBER 1558
UNCLE AVRAM HAS
that his special customer’s house across the Thames can be seen from this
hillock in the market square, but the only thing young Menachem can make out on
the opposite bank is a scary-looking castle looming in the distance. Wherever
the customer’s house may be, Uncle Avram has promised to take him there to
deliver groceries as soon as the sun goes down. Menachem is eager for even this
small adventure outside the Southwark food market.
nearly dusk, and red clouds streak the sky. Church bells clang in Southwark
Priory on the near side of London Bridge, and north across the river in the walled
City of London. The rain of the previous evening still dampens the packed dirt
under the market, and a few small pools of muddy water dot the ground.
this time in the evening, business has dwindled. Around the market, each family
closes its booth at its own pace, the day’s receipts by now fixed in amount,
whether good or bad, with nothing to be done about it at this late hour. A
cloth is dropped over the entrance to each booth, telling the casual shopper
that food can no longer be purchased here.
Avram, known locally as “Avram the Jew,” selects the perfect produce for his
special customer. The best specimens have been withheld from general sale all
day, stored in special wooden crates covered by a tarpaulin. As he still needs
to supplement their quantity, he traipses about the booth scowling, intently
studying each potato, each parsnip, each carrot, to ensure it’s clean of rot
and dirt, and can pass for the most desirable of its kind. He dusts his wares
thoroughly, crates the items he’s just selected, and loads everything onto his
oxcart. The evening air grows chill as he sets about hitching his cart to the
spies his pretty cousin Rachel peeking and smiling at him around the edge of
one of the carts. Though he’s lived with Avram and his family for little more
than a week, already he seems to have captured her heart. She has a visitor
this evening, her stout cousin Beth. As the children have been taught to keep
silent whenever Avram fusses about his special customer’s order, what ensues is
a little dumb show, such as those seen nearby at The Theater and The Rose
before the real play begins.
apparently noticed how taken Rachel is with Menachem, Beth prances into
Menachem’s full view with an exaggerated feminine strut, one shoulder jerking
forward with each step, and a preening air about her upturned nose. Rachel
makes no attempt to conceal her jealousy, and shoves Beth arse first into a
puddle, which makes a little splush that Menachem finds even funnier for its
quietness. Silently, Rachel points derisively at Beth, who lurches to her feet
and drags Rachel out of view. A brief scuffle ensues, the only sign of which is
an occasional soft slap or rustling sound. The girls reappear, slightly muddier
than when the show began.
Avram finishes hitching together ox and cart. “Ready,” he says, winking at
Menachem and grabbing the reins. Menachem clambers up and settles in beside his
uncle. Aunt Sarah waves goodbye, and the girls follow suit, still eyeing each
ox jerks the cart out of a small rut, and Avram and Menachem begin their trip
in comfortable silence. As the market diminishes in the distance, London Bridge
looms ever larger.
Avram hands him a long wooden switch. “You keep those people away from the
cart,” he says, pointing at a painted woman, “and away from the food. Half of
them have more money than we do. They are not so poor as they look.”
accepts the switch and assumes a forbidding countenance for their trip across
London Bridge, which he soon realizes is not used merely to cross the river.
For much of its length, it’s occupied by activities beyond the range of his
experience. The furtive glances of those involved remove any doubt that such
activities are improper, perhaps even unlawful.
brazen woman, the tops of her breasts exposed, begins to approach the cart but,
seeing Menachem’s innocent face and Avram’s threatening glare, she stops and
recedes into the gloaming. Another woman
raises her skirts to flash her legs, but then reverses course, realizing there
is no business to be had from this cart. Halfway across the bridge’s span, a
few beggars huddle around a small fire to ward off the coming chill. From the
corner of his eye, Menachem spies what appears to be two men grunting and
humping beneath an outsized coat so large it must have been made especially for
is not as shocked as another child his age might be. Having heard Bible tales
of illicit practices, he is strangely reassured to see that they weren’t
conjured up merely to frighten little children into behaving themselves. He
glances at his uncle’s face and takes comfort from his sober eye and his steady
hand on the reins.
the far end of London Bridge, it’s rumored, one can often see severed heads on
pikes. Now, with a new queen about to be crowned, all the heads have been
cleared away. Rumor has circulated that the new queen regards such displays as
detestable signs of barbarity and that she’ll replace them with new heads only
under the most pressing of circumstances.
they leave the bridge, Uncle Avram points to his left and breaks the silence.
“Over there is Chancery Lane, where there’s a whole building for the conversion
of Jews to Christianity.” He smiles, shakes his head, and laughs. “Goyim.” He
jerks the reins, and the cart turns right.
their left soon appears the walled castle Menachem spotted from the hillock in
the market square. Over its long stone wall peer several stone buildings and
one tall white tower.
place is this?” he asks, his eyes wide.
snickers. “This is the customer’s house. We’re bringing them groceries.”
whistles softly. “They must be very rich, and happy!”
Avram shrugs. “Rich, yes.” He pauses. “Happy?” He shrugs again, but
must be a lot of people living here,” says Menachem. “Surely, we can’t be
bringing food enough for them all.”
cart approaches a gate guarded by four burly men wearing colorful uniforms and
holding long pointed pikes. As the cart draws close enough for Menachem to read
their expressions in the fading light, they seem in no mood for a chat.
slows the cart to a crawl, his posture stiffening. A few cautious words pass
between him and the foremost guard. Avram draws a paper from his pocket and hands
it to the guard, who examines it though there is barely enough daylight left
the royal warrant, all right!” says the guard, returning the paper.
pockets the paper and discreetly palms a coin into the guard’s hand. The guard takes
a step back, at first raising his hand to wave them through. But as his eyes
light on Menachem, he shouts “halt!” and smiles sheepishly, evidently
embarrassed by his hesitation.
you don’t mind my asking, Goodman Jew, who’s the English boy?” He nods toward
Menachem. “I mean … who is he to you?”
head jerks around toward the boy, as though he’s completely forgotten that his nephew’s
been seated beside him the whole time.
he’s not English,” Avram says cautiously. “He’s a distant cousin, an orphan,
who just came to us from Poland.” He leans toward the guard, and whispers
guard nods gravely, and regards Menachem with pity. Drawing his great head so
close that Menachem can smell the whiskey on his breath, he smiles discreetly,
winks, and says hoarsely: “Welcome to the Tower o’ London, boy.”
isn’t sure what it is about the way the guard has spoken those words, but there
is something threatening inside them, as though the Tower of London is not at
all a place to feel welcome. The guard takes a step back, and waves them on.
few manly shouts are heard calling and answering, some from above the wall,
some from inside what now appears to be a giant compound of stately stone buildings.
cart creeps up the cobblestone path to a giant gate of latticed iron. There the
ox stops unprompted and waits, as though it has done this before. Chains clank,
and wood creaks against metal. Slowly, the gate begins its rise, revealing
sharp spikes along its base. Menachem shudders to imagine what such spikes
would do to someone unfortunate enough to be caught under them when they drop.
pass into a tunnel-like enclosure with a latticework iron gate exactly like the
first at the opposite end. The gate behind them clanks shut, trapping them in
longer able to contain himself, Menachem asks quietly, “What are these gates
a hushed awe that matches Menachem’s own, Avram replies, “They’re called a
mouths the word, and whispers, “Are they to keep the Jews out?”
suppresses a laugh, his face reddening. He composes himself, and replies, “No.
They’re to keep out the goyim who don’t bring groceries.” He tousles the boy’s
hair. The gate ahead of them creaks up, and the cart advances into an open
is now full dark. No light shines from any building except for a modest stone
cottage, also dark but for the glow of coals still smoldering in a tall fireplace
beneath a carved wooden hearth, such as one might see in a great kitchen. The
cart turns toward the cottage, and a cold breeze runs through Menachem’s cloak
and up his spine like icy fingers, as though he has passed into some ancient
fairy tale where anything might happen.
second gate thunders closed behind them.
low fence surrounding the dark cottage blocks the cart’s way to the rear door,
which means that the crates will have to be carried in one by one. Avram and
Menachem climb down from the cart, careful not to stumble in the dark. Avram
pulls a torch from the rear of the cart, lights it, and lodges it in a sconce
on the fence. He takes a sack of potatoes from the cart, hands it to Menachem,
and points to the rear door of the cottage. “I’m giving you one small sack, so
you’ll have a hand free to open the door.”
then, a muffled shout escapes a building across the courtyard. A man’s voice.
Though it sounds distressed, there seems to be no fear in it. Avram turns first
in the direction of the shout, then back to his nephew and nods toward the
cottage’s rear door. “Go ahead. I’ll be in soon.” He takes a few hesitant steps
toward the source of the shout, which has died away in the night.
turns toward the cottage door, carrying the sack in the crook of his left arm. Apparently
the door has been left unlocked by design, as the key has been left jutting out
of the lock. He turns the iron knob and goes inside.
finds himself in a kitchen that must have been left dark and vacant no more than
a few hours ago. There is still a stuffy heat inside, along with unfamiliar
scents of finely prepared foods. A few droplets of water cling to the base of a
pan hanging from a hook above the fresh-water basin. The stone walls have kept
the chill wind out, except for the breeze now entering through the open door
a work area the size of his uncle’s booth, an archway leads out of the kitchen
into an unlit hallway. He closes the door behind him, half expecting his uncle
to barge in before it can fully close. The breeze dissipates, but his uncle
does not appear. He comforts himself in this strange new place by softly
singing a tune he heard Rachel sing just yesterday. Although the lyrics are unknown
to him, his wordless and soft young singing voice overcomes the gloom of the
small cottage. He places the bag of potatoes on the marble base jutting out of
a presence behind him, he is too frightened to turn. He gasps, and his eyes go
wide. A cultured young woman’s voice emanates from the archway across the
kitchen, with a lilt of humor. “If you leave the potatoes so near to the flame,
they shall be roasted long before anyone will care to eat them.”
turns, and there, directly beneath the arch, stands a graceful young woman in a
rich gossamer dressing gown. The deep red glow of the firelight illuminates her
as something in a dream. He wonders fleetingly whether she might not be some
beautiful wraith rather than a real woman, but he quickly dismisses the
thought, as the bemused stare that holds him motionless is humanly warm and
benevolent. Her most striking feature is her long red hair. Not the brassy red that
he has sometimes seen affected by fine older ladies, but a rich auburn that
reminds him of warm sunshine, newly tilled earth, and roan horses.
appears to have been interrupted in preparing for bed, as she wears no makeup.
Her face is a healthy pink. Though her eyelashes are nearly invisible but for
the flimsy shadows they cast on her lids, her dark red eyebrows betray a sharp
intelligence and afford her an air of confidence and authority. Perceiving his
adulation, she casts him a broad smile with the slightest suggestion of impishness.
“Put the potatoes on the wooden board, and bring one to me.”
lifts the bag off the pediment. It is already hot to the touch and, left where
it was, would soon have been scorched from the heat of the dying fire. He
places it on the board, where he realizes he should have laid it in the first
instance, and opens it to remove a potato for the lady.
tune were you humming when I came in?” she asks.
strains to recall whether he was indeed humming before she made herself known.
For an instant he cannot recall any part of his life that took place before she
spoke to him. Then he remembers Rachel, and the song. “I think it’s called
what I thought. My father wrote that song,” she says wistfully. She steps
forward, lifts her skirts off the floor, and perches delicately on a bench
facing the fire, only a few feet before him. Although he can feel the fire’s
heat at his back, all he can think of is the warmth exuding from her.
you a cook?” he ventures.
she replies, “although this is my kitchen. Are you the grocer’s boy?”
bows courteously. “At your service,” he pronounces beautifully, just as he was
taught by Aunt Sarah.
Red Lady (which is how he now thinks of her) giggles with delight.
what is your name, squire?”
plays along with her elevated courtliness. “I am known as Menachem, madam.”
your surname?” she asks. He looks at her, puzzled. She rephrases her question.
“Your family name?”
have no surname,” he replies humbly.
she says, “I can see you are a quick learner, anyhow.”
what, may I ask, is your name?”
muses for a moment before answering. “You may ask, squire. I think that I shall
not tell you my first name, for you may not call me by it. But my surname is
‘Tudor.’” She stresses the word “surname,” as though to caress him for
attentiveness to his lessons.
mind races. He has heard that name before. “Is that not the name of the royal
house of England?”
smiles. “Why, yes, Menachem, it is!” When she says his name, it sounds like
a moment’s thought, he ventures: “Are you a relative of the Queen?”
regards him forlornly. “Alas, I am not. But where is my potato?”
Menachem is about to hand it to her, she snatches it away, and her coy
expression dares him to snatch it back. She is too quick for him, tossing it from
one hand to the other, always too gingerly for him to reach. She giggles, and
the music in her voice makes her seem little more than a schoolgirl having him
on. She raises the potato over her head, and Menachem, not about to be defeated,
places a foot on the bench beside her and steps up. Reaching as high as he can,
he tugs the potato from her grasp.
steps back down and sees that her expression has changed in an instant. Now she
seems to be fighting off a sadness. Although he doubts it has anything to do
with the potato, he kneels before her and offers it back to her with both
laughs despite herself, and tries in vain to fight the tears forming at the
edges of her eyes. She blows her nose into her handkerchief. “You may keep the
potato, Squire Menachem.”
are you so sad?” he asks, sorry for any part he has played in her dismay.
tries to speak several times, but no voice will emerge.
you any children?” he asks.
shakes her head, and the tears well up again. He has put his finger on it. He
assures her calmly, “You are young and beautiful, and shall no doubt have many happy children.”
draws herself together, and clears her throat.
she says, “I am so lowly a person that I lack the authority to make such
decisions for myself.”
the corner of his eye, he sees men with torches emerge from a big stone
building far across the courtyard.
sees him notice them. “They’re looking for someone.”
whom, I wonder?”
laughs sulkily. “For me.”
door behind him bursts open, nearly stopping his heart, and lets in a blast of
cold air. It’s Avram, and he’s alone.
Avram’s expression is frozen in amazement. His eyes, wide as saucers, are
riveted on the Red Lady’s face, and at first he seems unaware that his nephew
is in the room. Then he kneels reverently, his eyes downcast, and pulls
Menachem beside him by the back of his shirt, pressing him down onto bended
him, madam, please. He is just a boy who knows nothing.”
smirks. “He has done nothing requiring an apology, Goodman Grocer. But you do
him wrong to say he knows nothing.” She casts Menachem an appraising eye. “He
speaks English beautifully.” Her glance darts skeptically from the small, swarthy
grocer to the tall young boy whose hair is very nearly the color of her own.
“Is he of your family?”
fixes his stare on a place just before the lady’s feet. “He is distantly
related, madam. His parents lived in Poland, but … passed away in a fire.”
dreadful!” she replies. “His English has nothing of the Pole about it. He is
not Polish, is he?”
he is not, madam. His people went to Poland from Flanders many years ago, but
they continued to speak English in their home.”
nods knowingly. “That is because they are English, having been deported to
Flanders by my illustrious ancestor Edward the First. Is that not right?”
of sweat begin to form on Avram’s forehead and glisten in the red light of the
coals. “You are correct, madam.”
achievement of which my family can be right proud,” she says sardonically. “How
long has he been with you in England?”
than a fortnight, madam.”
Menachem’s young eyes, an idea seems to be forming in the lady’s mind.
cocks her head. “In such a brief time, has anyone in your family grown
especially fond of him?” Avram evidently has no idea how to respond. “Do not be
coy, Goodman Grocer. You know what I mean. Would your wife or children be
bereft by his absence?”
is dumbstruck, his eyes now boring a hole in a spot before her feet. Menachem
somehow has the strange feeling that his life is being negotiated between the
Red Lady and Avram, and that the Red Lady clearly has the upper hand. Avram
appears to be drowning.
madam,” Avram shrugs. “We all welcome him, but it is the women who seem to be especially
fond of him, especially my daughter.”
Red Lady looks askance at Menachem and smiles bitterly, as though she knows him
to be the devil himself. “I can understand that,
Goodman Grocer.” She straightens herself and stands up to her full height, a
simple motion that nearly causes Avram to swoon.
regards Menachem, and sighs. “You are beloved of women. You sing well, and
speak beautifully. All in all, you seem headed for an easy life, Goodman
Menachem.” She brings her chin up to a proud height. “I shall ensure that your
life is made less easy” — Menachem looks up at her imploringly — “but far more
meaningful” — she hesitates — “and important. Goodman Grocer, would your family
object to my placing this boy under my protection, in the custody of an
educator at Merton College, Oxford?”
madam, there is the matter of his Hebrew religion — ”
waves away his concern. “His private religious practice will be fully
respected, and he will be permitted to visit with you and your lovelorn daughter
shoulders fall in relief. Through the windows, torches approach, ever closer to
the cottage. The shouts of men can now be heard, some guttural, others
belonging to cultured nobility.
name is Añes, is that correct?” she asks.
let’s make his a little more
English,” she says pensively. “He shall be known as ‘Noah Ames.’ Now, will that
be all, Goodman Añes?”
madam. Thank you, madam.”
are most welcome. I will send for Goodman Ames in a few days.”
torches are now very close. Menachem is sure that, if the kitchen were
illuminated by more than glowing embers, the men outside would have discovered
the Red Lady well before now. Down the dark corridor behind the lady, there is
a loud banging on the heavy front door, through which a man commands sternly,
“Open up, in the name of the Queen!”
the lady’s eyes open wide. “Go!” she says excitedly, waving them out the rear
scoops Menachem violently into his arms and rushes out of the door, shutting it
quietly behind him. At first he appears to duck down, but Menachem sees that
his knees have buckled beneath him. Avram struggles to stand again, and rushes away
toward the oxcart, pulling Menachem behind him by the hand. Reaching the
bushes, Avram lowers his head and quietly vomits.
Avram composes himself and feebly struggles to find a water bladder in the
cart, Menachem watches through the windows of the cottage as a strange scene
man and a boy enter through the front door. The man is quite stout, and appears
to suffer from a crippling foot injury. Discovering the Red Lady, he claps his
hands in relief and collapses into a chair, removing one boot and rubbing his
foot, while the boy lights candles throughout the kitchen. The lady’s hair is
just the color Menachem perceived in the firelight. The man dispatches the boy
through the front door. Although Menachem cannot hear the instructions given
the boy, he assumes he has been sent to assure the other search parties that
the Red Lady is found.
man’s voice is too deep to make out, but the words of the lady, though muffled
by the windows, can be heard. “Sir Henry,” she says, “I have told you that I
will not be kept under guard like a common criminal!” She kneels to massage his
wounded foot. “Your gout must be so painful! Poor Neville!” She wags an
admonishing finger. “How could you allow yourself to be enlisted on a pointless
errand such as this?”
Henry places his hands sympathetically on her shoulders, and peers deeply into
her eyes. Although she stamps her foot and turns away, from that point the voices
die down, and the lady’s words can no longer be heard.
whispers Avram, “come over here, out of the light.” He places himself and the
boy outside the view from the cottage windows. Sounding exhausted, he points to
a stump and says, “Sit.” He stoops and hugs Menachem as though he loves him
more than his own life, and begins to quake, although whether from fear or
relief Menachem could not say. “It is true, what they say. God protects
children and fools. Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the Lord is One.” He draws
his nephew’s face from his chest, holds him squarely by the shoulders, and
looks him in the eye.
can no longer bear the silence. “Who was the Red Lady?”
regards him incredulously. “Who did she say she was?”
I asked her, she would not tell me her first name, and said her family name is
‘Tudor.’ But she said she is not related to the Queen.” Voice full of concern,
he asks, “Will they hurt her?”
regards him skeptically. “Think hard, Menachem. Is that exactly what she said?”
— I asked her if she was a relative of the Queen, and she said” — his eyes roll
up in deep recollection — “‘alas, I am not.’”
Avram is apparently losing patience, he says indulgently, “Menachem, we are
Jews. We live by our wits, or we do not live long. If a lady at the Tower tells
you she is named ‘Tudor,’ but she is not a relative of the Queen, then who is
she? You know this. Who is she?”
furrowed brow slowly relaxes. Much of what he has heard and seen begins to fall
into place. Tears stream from his eyes.
is the Queen.”
34 YEARS LATER
FEBRUARY 26, 1592
you would like to continue reading, you can grab your copy of A Second Daniel here: http://amzn.to/1GuI0AX
If you'd like to read the prequel to A Second Daniel for free (entitled "Escape"), you can find it here, but I recommend you read A Second Daniel first to provide some context: http://eepurl.com/bBwsJL
posted by Neal Roberts @ 9:52 AM