Coming soon, a new historical romance from Lissa Bryan set in the days of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Under These Restless Skies.
Will Somers has always thought himself unlovable. When he encounters a creature of myth and magic, he seizes the chance to finally have a wife and family of his own. Emma is a selkie—one of the immortal fae-folk of the sea—bound to Will by the magic of her kind, and eager to learn about life on land. She has to learn to adapt quickly to human customs, because Will is headed for the court of Henry VIII, to serve as the king’s fool. It’s a glittering, dangerous world, where a careless word can lead to the scaffold and the smallest of gestures is loaded with political implications. Anne Boleyn is charmed by Emma’s naïveté and soothing selkie magic and wants Emma for her own fool. Can Will protect his newfound love from the dangers that lurk in every shadow? Circa regna tonat: around the throne, the thunder rolls.
Release Date: February 20, 2014
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They came to the doorway of the presence
chamber. Fermor gave his name to the steward.
The man flipped through a list. “Oh, aye.
“Correct, my lord. I am come to bring His Majesty
“A fool, was it?”
Fermor gestured at Will. “And a fine one at
The steward did not seem impressed. “Go and come
again tomorrow. His Majesty is in a temper today.”
The king’s visit with his sister must not
have ended well. Fermor sputtered, panicking as he saw his chances slip away.
“ ’Twould seem the best time for him to be
regaled by a fool’s antics,” Will noted.
The steward stared at Will for a moment and
then gave a slight smile. “This way.” He led them through a tapestry-covered
door through the empty presence chamber. Will paused, awed by the sight of the
throne—the symbol of the king’s power—wide and heavy, gilded and jeweled, set
on a carpeted dais. Beside it was a smaller throne for the queen, and over both
were canopies bearing the coat of arms of each. The steward bowed to the empty
throne as they passed, and they copied him before continuing out into a smaller
“Tarry here,” the steward instructed. “The
king is at cards with the Lady Pembroke. You will be called to him when he is
Will’s stomach churned. He’d never felt less
amusing in his life, and his wits were logy. A horrifying thought occurred to
him. If he was unable to persuade the king to take him on, he wouldn’t be able
to keep Emma. He couldn’t take her with him if he returned to the comedy
troupe. Panic made his mind blank for a moment, and he did not hear his name
called. Fermor elbowed him, and Will stumbled to his feet and followed the
steward into a chamber.
Will didn’t have much of a chance to survey
his surroundings. He had an impression of tapestries over dark wood paneling
and the glitter of gold, but his eyes were on the floor in front of two figures
seated in x-shaped chairs. He knelt.
“Your Majesty, Lady Pembroke, if it pleases
Your Graces, I present Master Richard Fermor and Will Somers.”
“Rise,” the king said. Will stole a glance
at him and saw a large, but still muscular man with thinning reddish-blond
hair, dressed in a dark brown velvet doublet, ornamented with pearls and gold
frogs. The king had gained weight in the last few years, and to disguise it he
had widened the shoulders of his surcoats. Will had to admit the effect was
powerful. His large codpiece jutted up from the center slit of his doublet,
also meant to convey power, or at least, virility. His eyes were small, a
piercing blue-gray. Will caught a glimpse of them before he lowered his gaze to
“So, Fermor, you have brought me a fool.”
The king’s voice was low and gruff, and he didn’t sound much interested. The
lady seated at his side wore a French hood and an initial pendant attached to
her strand of pearls, the letters “AB” twined together. She was garbed in a
dressing gown of brilliant scarlet, trimmed in ermine. It was casual raiment
only the highest nobility was entitled to wear outside their own bedchamber,
but Anne Boleyn was now royal in all but name. Just weeks ago, the king had
created her Marquess of Pembroke, the highest noble title in the land. She
patted the small dog in her lap.
“Aye, your majesty,” Fermor said. “If it
pleases Your Grace.”
“Well, fool, what can you do?”
Will was startled. He hadn’t expected the
king to speak to him. “I—I can juggle, Your Majesty,” he croaked. “I can make
jests, tumble, and sing a little.”
“Let us see it, then.”
Will’s hands trembled as he withdrew the
balls from his bag. “If it pleases Your Majesty,” he started. He straightened
his shoulders as best he could, and said in his haughtiest tone, “I, Will
Somers, am the best juggler in England.”
The king snorted and Will hoped it was from
amusement. He fell into his act, bragging about his abilities while seeming to
lose track of his juggling and keeping the balls in the air seemingly by
accident alone. He was grateful he had performed this particular act so many
times, because he thought he’d completely forgotten his lines, but they slipped
from his mouth of their own accord, and his limbs seemed to move themselves.
The king guffawed a couple of times, and he thought he heard Anne laugh at one
point. Will ended with one of the balls balanced on the tip of his nose, before
dropping it into his hands and sweeping low into a bow.
“Well done, Master Fool,” the king said, and
he seemed a bit more jovial than he had when Will first entered the room. Or
perhaps it was wishful thinking on Will’s part. “But tell me this: I have fools
already who can juggle and make jests. Why would I wish to have you at my
court? What have you to offer that they do not?”
The answer popped from Will’s mouth as
though he had rehearsed it. “Because I will do something none of your council,
lords and ladies, nor servants will do.”
The king lifted an eyebrow. “And what might
“I will tell you the truth, Your Majesty.”
Fermor gasped. Anne burst into laughter.
“Oh, I do like him.”
The king cast an amused glance at her. “Is
that so, Master Fool? Then perhaps you are worth it, after all.”
“But you must make an oath to me,” Will
The king’s eyes narrowed a bit, but he
calmed when Anne giggled at Will’s audacity. “What?”
“You must swear it, as the word of a
Christian king.” Will’s mouth was as dry as paper and his heart thudded in his
chest, but he continued. “You must swear to me, on your honor, you will never
hold it against me when I tell you the truth.”
The king stared at Will, his mouth agape,
and then he burst into laughter. He slapped his knee and elbowed Anne, who gave
him a sharp glance at being prodded by his arm, before she laughed along with
him as a courtier trained to echo the king’s mirth.
“You have my word,” the king said, as he
accepted a perfumed handkerchief from one of his serving lords to wipe away the
tears seeping from his eyes. “Or must I write it out and put my royal seal to
“Your word is sufficient for me,” Will
“I am flattered at your trust, Master Fool,”
the king said in solemn tones and burst into guffaws once again. “Go and have
my steward find you rooms. Have you a wife?”
“I do.” Will’s mind whirled. He hadn’t
expected this, and he didn’t want Emma to live at court, but there was nothing
he could do. Refusing lodgings offered by the king would be a gross insult.
“Bring her tomorrow,” the king commanded. “I
wish to see what the wife of a fool looks like.”
“Much like every other wife in England,”
Will said, and that sent the king into laughter once more.
“Go, and come back on the morrow.” The king
waved a hand at the steward. “Find him some decent garb, and some for Milady
Fool as well.”
Will bowed deeply and followed the steward
from the room. “And for you, Fermor,” he heard the king begin before the door
was shut behind them. Will’s knees gave out and he collapsed to the floor. His
head swam in sick circles. He sat back on his heels and looked up at the
steward. “Pray, pardon,” he rasped.
The steward gave a slight smile. “You are
not the first to react in such a manner.” He held out a hand and Will stared at
it in surprise. The steward was a lord, and here he was, offering a hand to a
baseborn commoner. Will took it, and the steward helped him to his feet and
drew him near.
“If ever a man needed to hear the truth,”
the steward whispered, “ ’tis that man in there.” He drew away again, and
his manner was once more brisk and officious. “Follow me.”