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A Crowning Mercy
     

A Crowning Mercy

4.4 7
by Bernard Cornwell, Susannah Kells
 

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The civil war that is tearing England asunder in the year 1643 has not yet touched Dorcas Slythe, a secretly rebellious young Puritan woman living in the countryside south of London. She aches to escape the safe, pious tyranny of her father—and the opportunity appears with the arrival of Toby Lazender, dashing scion of a powerful royalist family, who awakens

Overview

The civil war that is tearing England asunder in the year 1643 has not yet touched Dorcas Slythe, a secretly rebellious young Puritan woman living in the countryside south of London. She aches to escape the safe, pious tyranny of her father—and the opportunity appears with the arrival of Toby Lazender, dashing scion of a powerful royalist family, who awakens her to her passionate destiny. Her adventure truly begins with the discovery of an intricately wrought gold seal—one of four that, when joined, will reveal a great secret. Suddenly grave danger lies before her—not from Cromwell's advancing armies, but from relentless enemies who covet the great treasure to which she now holds the key.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061832987
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/17/2009
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
74,204
File size:
542 KB

Read an Excerpt

A Crowning Mercy


By Kells, Susannah

HarperTorch

ISBN: 0060725648

Chapter One

She first met Toby Lazender on a day that seemed a foretaste of heaven. England slumbered under the summer heat. The air was heavy with the scent of wild basil and marjoram, and she sat where purple loosestrife grew at the stream's edge.

She thought she was alone. She looked about her like an animal searching for enemies, nervous because she was about to sin.

She was sure she was alone. She looked left where the path came from the house through the hedge of Top Meadow, but no one was there. She stared at the great ridge across the stream, but nothing moved among the trunks of heavy beeches or in the water meadows beneath them. The land was hers.

Three years before, when she had been seventeen and her mother dead one year, this sin had seemed monstrous beyond imagination. She had feared then that this might be the mysterious sin against the Holy Ghost, a sin so terrible that the Bible could not describe it except to say it could not be forgiven, yet still she had been driven to commit it. Now, three summers later, familiarity had taken away some of her fear, yet she still knew that she sinned.

She took off her bonnet and laid it carefully in the wide, wooden basket in which she would carry back the rushes from the pool. Her father, a wealthy man, insisted that she worked. St. Paul, he said, had been a tentmaker and every Christian must have a trade. Since the age of eight she had worked in the dairy but then she had volunteered to fetch the rushes that were needed for floorcoverings and rushlights. There was a reason. Here, by the deep pool of the stream, she could be alone.

She unpinned her hair, placing the pins in the basket where they could not get lost. She looked about her again, but nothing moved in the landscape. She felt as solitary as if this was the sixth day of creation. Her hair, pale as the palest gold, fell about her face.

Above her, she knew, the Recording Angel was turning the massive pages of the Lamb's Book of Life. Her father had told her about the angel and his book when she was six years old, and it had seemed an odd name for a book. Now she knew that the Lamb was Jesus and the Book of Life was truly the Book of Death. She imagined it as vast, with great clasps of brass, thick leather ridges on its spine and pages huge enough to record every sin ever committed by every person on God's earth. The angel was looking for her name, running his finger down the ledger, poised with his quill dipped in the ink.

On the Day of Judgment, her father said, the Book of Life would be brought to God. Every person would go, one by one, to stand before His awful throne as the great voice read out the sins listed in the book. She feared that day. She feared standing on the floor of crystal beneath the emerald and jasper throne, but her fear could not stop her sinning, nor could all her prayers.

A tiny breath of wind stirred the hair about her face, touched silver on the ripples of the stream and then the air was still again. It was hot. The linen collar of her black dress was tight, its bodice sticky, the skirts heavy on her. The air seemed burdened by summer.

She put her hands beneath her skirts and unlaced her stocking tops just above her knees. The excitement was thick in her as she looked about, but she was sure she was alone. Her father was not expected back from the lawyer in Dorchester till early evening, her brother was in the village with the vicar, and none of the servants came to the stream. She pulled her heavy stockings down and placed them in her big leather shoes.

Goodwife Baggerlie, her father's housekeeper, had said she should not dally by the stream because the soldiers might come. They never had.

The war had started the year before in 1642 and it had filled her father with a rare, exalted excitement. He had helped to hang a Roman Catholic priest in the old Roman amphitheater in Dorchester and this had been a sign from God to Matthew Slythe that the rule of the Saints was at hand. Matthew Slythe, like his household and the village, was a Puritan. He prayed nightly for the King's defeat and the victory of Parliament, yet the war was like some far-off thunderstorm that rumbled beyond the horizon. It had hardly touched Werlatton Hall or the village from which the Hall took its name.

She looked about her. A corncrake flew above the hayfield across the stream, above the poppies, meadowsweet and rue. The stream surged past the pool's opening where the rushes grew tallest. She took off her starched white apron and folded it carefully on top of the basket. Coming through the hedged bank of Top Meadow, she had picked some red campion flowers, and these she put safely at the basket's edge where her clothes could not crush the delicate five-petalled blossoms.

She moved close to the water and was utterly still. She listened to the stream, to the bees working the clover, but there was no other sound in the hot, heavy air. It was the perfect summer's day; a day devoted to the ripening of wheat, barley and rye; to the weighing down of orchard branches; a day of heat hazing the land with sweet smells. She was crouching at the very edge of the pool, where the grass fell away to the gravel beneath the still, lucid water. From here she could see only the rushes and the tops of the great beeches on the far ridge.

A fish jumped upstream and she froze, listening, but there was no other sound ...

Continues...

Excerpted from A Crowning Mercy by Kells, Susannah Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series, which includes The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne, and which serves as the basis for the hit television series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.


Susannah Kells is the pen name of Bernard's wife, Judy Cornwell. They live on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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Crowning Mercy 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Jim_M More than 1 year ago
Another great Cornwell book. Once I got into the book it was hard to put down. I was desperate for a book to take with me to the beach and was a little apprehensive about "A Crowning Mercy" since it is co-authored by someone I don't know. The cover led me to believe that I might be a "romantic novel" instead of the more traditional action/adventure novels for which Cornwell is noted. The lead character is a woman and thus suffers some interesting travails but, the book otherwise lives up to everything one would expect from a Cornwell novel. Plenty of action, and interesting characters; maybe too many plot twists and saved in the nick of time moments. Once I got into the book it was hard to put down.
magpieMC More than 1 year ago
As a fan of Bernard Cornwell I always pick up his books for entertainment and to escape to another place. I found this one was full of characters that were, as is his usual, full of adventure and the plot was interesting enough to keep me entertained. I don't think it was one of Cornwell's best works but do think it was a great escape to another time and place. To me" The Crowning Mercy" fufilled what good fiction should do, entertain us, help us escape and to in some way learn a little along the way. I would recomend this book!
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I lobe this book and it was so suspensful and bi just LOVE IT SO MUCH!one of my favorite books