1572. Europe is in turmoil. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is scattered about the continent, plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. And in the Netherlands, the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise. . .
Scottish-born Fenella Doorn salvages crippled vessels. It is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can't refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances--and the children she's taken from him. But Adam and Fenella will put their lives in peril as they attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the crown, and restore the peace that few can remember.
With eloquent and enthralling finesse, Barbara Kyle illuminates one of history's grimmest chapters. The Queen's Exiles breathes new life into an extraordinary age where love and freedom could only be won with unmitigated courage.
Praise for Blood Between Queens
"Fact and fiction are expertly interwoven in this fast-paced saga. . .this story exudes authenticity." --Historical Novels Reviews
"Gifts the reader with an intimate look into the minds and hearts of the royal and great of Elizabeth's England. Again, Barbara Kyle reigns!" –New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper
"Masterful. . .Gaspworthy treachery and the poignant sweetness of a steadfast love make this a book of quickly and eagerly turned pages." --Sandra Byrd, bestselling author of Roses Have Thorns
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The Queen's Exiles
By Barbara Kyle
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Barbara Kyle
All rights reserved.
The Island of Sark: Spring 1572
Fenella Doorn watched the unfamiliar wreck of a ship ghosting into her bay. Crippled by cannon fire, she thought. What else could do such damage? The foremast was blown away, as well as half the mainmast where a jury rig clung to the jagged stump, and shot holes tattered the sails on the mizzen. And yet to Fenella's experienced eye the vessel had an air of defiance. Demi-cannons hulked in the shadowed gun ports. This ship was a fighter, battered but not beaten. With fight still in her, was she friend or foe?
Or faux friend. Fenella kept her anxious gaze fixed on the vessel as she started down the footpath from the cliff overlooking La Coupée Bay. Old Johan followed her, scuffling to keep up. The English Isle of Sark was the smallest of the four major Channel Islands, just a mile long and scarcely a mile and a half wide, so from the cliff top Fenella could see much of the surrounding sea. The few hundred farmers and fishermen who called the island home were never far from the sound of waves smacking the forty miles of rocky coast. Fenella, born a Scot and bred from generations of fishermen, was as familiar with the pulse of the sea as with her own heartbeat.
"She flies no colors," Johan said, suspicion in his voice. Sheep grazing on the cliff top behind them bleated as though echoing the old Dutchman's unease.
"She likely struck her colors in the skirmish," Fenella said.
"Surrendered? Then why wasn't she taken as a prize?"
"Maybe she was, and the prize crew boarded her." Whoever was in command had done a fine piece of seamanship, Fenella thought. The skirmish must have happened far out in the Channel, since no report of it had reached Sark, yet this captain had brought in his ship with one mast shot away and a single lateen sail on the jury-rigged mainmast. Crew now labored at lowering the sails on main and mizzen, the figures too small at this distance to make out features.
"Or maybe she's Spanish," Johan warned. "Spaniards are cunning. Have a care, Nella."
"That's no Spaniard. Her beak's too long. English, maybe." She had decided the ship was not a danger, at least not to the people of Sark. On the contrary, the crew might need victualing, and Sark's crofters would be glad to sell them mutton and the first spring lambs. Fenella saw silver for herself, too. The monotonous clanging aboard, faint at this distance, told her that crew was working the pumps non-stop, which meant there was at least one hole below the waterline. That promised employment for Fenella's shore crew to careen the hull on the beach to make repairs.
Still, something about the crippled vessel unnerved her, as though it had come hunting her personally. She gave a thought to the flintlock pistol that lay in her petticoat pocket beneath her skirt. A foolish fear, she told herself, especially on such a peaceful, sunny day. Her skirt brushed the flowering gorse, releasing its faint perfume into the warm air. The cliff paths all around were brocaded with primroses, dog violets, and yellow celandines. Springtime always lifted Fenella's heart. Yet she had seen death strike often enough amid sunshine and flowers.
She and Johan were almost at the beach, and the cliff path through the gorse was now wide enough for them to walk abreast. Knowing they could be seen from the ship, Fenella took comfort in having the old man at her side. Absurd, she knew, since he was sixty, twice her age, and had just one arm. The other had been hacked off above the elbow when they'd fled the Spanish troops' onslaught of the Netherlands, troops who had butchered the Doorns' village and made Fenella a widow at twenty-five. Johan, her father-in-law, was as stubborn as her late husband, and she knew he would fight for her to the death. She loved the old man for that, but his devotion was also troubling, disabled and frail as he was. She worried about him, for he was getting frailer every day, the cough that had infected his lungs at Christmas persisting despite the spring warmth. Still, she did not slacken her brisk pace on the path as it wound down to the beach. Johan would not want her to.
"More likely she's Dutch," she said to reassure herself and him, "crawling in from a scrape with a Spanish galleon or two." The Dutch hated the brutal Spanish occupation of their country and many had taken to the sea to attack Spanish shipping in the Channel. They had organized themselves into a ragged fleet of a few dozen vessels and with rebel pride called themselves the Sea Beggars. Fenella had refitted several of their vessels that had been shot up by Spanish guns. "The fools never learn," she muttered. She belittled the rebels to mask her admiration for them. But realism outweighed her admiration. Imperial Spain, the most powerful nation on earth, was invincible. The Sea Beggars were minnows attacking sharks.
"That's not Dutch rigging," Johan said. They were crossing the beach, heading for their rowboat, and he raised a hand to shade his rheumy eyes as he studied the ship. "Now that I see her abeam, I think your first guess was right, Nella. She's English."
Nothing unusual about English shipping around Sark. The island lay eighty miles off England's south coast, closer to France, and English trade with France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal was constant. But this ship had been maimed in a battle and England wasn't at war. "An English privateer?" Fenella wondered aloud.
She heard a clank at the bow and saw a dull metallic gleam as the vessel's anchor plunged with a splash. Cable roared through the hawsehole. Fenella knew the anchor would hold well on La Coupe's sandy bottom. This ship was here to stay.
She and Johan reached the rowboat and lifted it to the water's edge, wavelets sloshing at their feet. They climbed aboard and she took the oars. He sat in the stern, squinting at the ship. "God's blood," he said with sudden eagerness, "could it be the baron?"
She scoffed as she rowed. "That fable again, Johan?" He had spoken before about an English privateer, a nobleman who was hitting the Spaniards hard. It was common knowledge that privateers and pirates of many nations prowled the Channel looting their prey—if they weren't sunk first. But a baron? To Fenella it made no sense. Why would an English lord put himself at such risk?
"It's him; I can feel it." Johan's milky eyes shone with excitement. Then, indignation. "And look what the Spanish devils have done to him. Shot him to pieces, damn their hides! I've got to get home, Nella. I've got to go and do my part!"
"You'll do no such thing." He had been harping at her for months to take him back to the Netherlands so he could join the resistance movement. What nonsense. As if a one-armed old man with weak lungs could be of any use. "Might as well spit at a hurricane."
"I beg you, take me back so I can do what I can. Before I breathe my last."
"Enough," she snapped. "I've told you, we'll go nowhere near that madness." Exasperation made her row with such vigor she felt sweat trickle down her back. "You need to look in a mirror, Johan. Fighting's for the young."
"If you won't take me, just give me a boat that I can helm and one brawny crewman. That's all I ask."
"A boat is something I cannot spare. And with one arm you'll find the swim to Amsterdam a long one." Over her shoulder she glimpsed a scatter of men at the ship's rail watching them approach. "Now, keep your nonsense to yourself in front of these visitors and let's earn some coin. Go on, hail them."
Johan shot her a look that said, You and I are not done yet. But he squared his shoulders to do business. Cupping his hand to his mouth, he called up to the men at the rail, "Are you English?"
"English, aye!" a voice called down. "We're the Elizabeth. Come aboard, if you will!"
Rowing closer, Fenella felt the breeze die in the lee of the tall hull, like a wooden wall, and its shadow engulfed her. Again, she sensed the ship's latent power, like a harpooned whale, weak but still able to crush a boat with a thrash of its tail. But harpooned the ship was. Fenella saw three jagged shot holes in the hull's planking, two forward and one aft, all plugged with oakum-stiffened canvas that dripped water. The gun port sills were stained black with gunpowder, and the acrid smell of it clung to the planks. Fenella sculled the rowboat around and came alongside, and Johan made fast the bowline to the ship's chain plate. The crew tumbled a rope ladder over the side.
Fenella let Johan climb up first, a slow process with his single hand and fluttering empty sleeve. She followed. It was their usual device with strangers. Visitors assumed that the man was in charge and Fenella a mere shore woman. It allowed her a few moments to observe them unwatched before introducing herself as the owner of a salvage enterprise, to their inevitable surprise.
Today, as it turned out, she was mistaken.
"Mistress Doorn?" a man asked, striding toward her. So, they knew of her. He was stocky, bullnecked, and black bearded, his thick lips chapped by the sun. Gun grease streaked his plain gray breeches and doublet, and a grimy bandage wrapped his head, its bloodstain dried to a nut brown.
"Aye, sir," she answered.
"I must say, I expected—" He stopped, looking flustered.
"A hag instead of a beauty?" Johan slyly suggested.
The Englishman collected himself. "Someone older."
Fenella noted the dozen or so crewmen nearby, dirty, barefoot, bleary-eyed. They carried on at their labor, some coiling lines, some snubbing the anchor cable even as they stole glances at her. They had the look of exhausted men relieved to have made safe harbor. No wonder—she had never seen a deck so damaged. The stump of the lost foremast looked like an amputated limb. In the base of the mainmast a thirty-three-pounder cannonball was embedded in the oak. Shot holes peppered the roughly furled sails on the mizzenmast. The bowsprit was blown away, as was the taffrail, and shot had plowed splintered channels in the deck planks. Dried blood stained the deck in red-brown splotches. The scene below decks must be as bad or worse, since the clang of the pumps never ceased. The sweating men at the pumps would be sloshing in knee-high bilgewater. The deck itself vibrated underfoot with every clang. She could hear men moaning below, too. The wounded, no doubt.
"I'm Curry," the bearded man said. "James Curry. My gunner's mate was on a Portsmouth carrack you refitted last year, Mistress Doorn, and says you're the best. As you see, we've suffered severe hits. Can you effect repairs?"
"I can, sir." This captain seemed common enough, she thought. Not Johan's baron privateer. It brought out the playful devil in her and she asked Curry, with a taunting glance at Johan, "Just one question, sir. Do I address you as your lordship?"
Curry looked baffled. Johan winced. Fenella had to smile. But she tempered her mockery as she considered the fine seamanship that had brought the Elizabeth into her bay. "Forgive my manners, Master Curry, you are most welcome. And never fear, my shore crew will soon have you refitted to fight another day."
"Was it Spaniards?" Johan asked Curry with grim eagerness.
"Aye, a monster three-decker. But they got the worst of it."
Fenella didn't see how. This ship was a hulk.
Curry grinned. "We sank her."
"Curry, get below." The gruff voice behind Fenella made her turn. A man, tall and lean, was coming up the companionway from below decks. His clean-shaven face was smudged with grime like the other men's and his voice was hoarse with fatigue, but his movements were brisk, charged with anger. "Waites is dead. Bring up the damned prisoners. They'll pay for this."
"Aye, aye, sir." Curry knuckled his forehead in salute and hastened down the companionway.
"You there, boatswain," the tall man went on, "go with Curry and tell the—" Seeing the visitors, he came to a sudden halt.
Fenella's heart seemed to stop. Those dark eyes staring at her. That face sun burnished beneath the dirt. Sir Adam Thornleigh! She had never thought she would see him again, not in this life. And not in the next one, either, for smiling angels would surely welcome him into heaven while she'd likely be kicking at flames in the devil's place.
"Fenella?" he said in amazement. "I'm right, aren't I? Fenella"—he struggled to remember her last name—"Craig?" A faint smile broke over his face. "I'm sorry, perhaps you don't remember me, it's been so long. Edinburgh?" he prompted to jog her memory. "Your fishing boat?"
As if she would ever forget! Their desperate flight to Amsterdam. His kindness to her on the voyage. She had been struck with love for him like a bolt from the blue, and every day since then she'd secretly held him in her heart. "Of course," she managed. "Sir Adam."
"How many years has it been, I wonder?"
"Eleven," she blurted. Then laughed, too thrilled to feel foolish. "You are well met, sir," she said with all the warmth she felt.
He grinned. "So, you're the Siren who lured us poor sailors to your shore. Well met indeed, Fenella."
He looked so pleased it brought joy bubbling up in her, making her laugh again. To think that she had fancied his ship might bring evil! But her happy bubble shattered as she thought of her appearance, disheveled as a fishwife. The damp clumps of auburn hair that had escaped her mobcap. The sweat darkening the underarms of her coarse linen sleeves. Her cheek ...
He saw it, of course. His eyes locked on the scar. She turned her face away, pretending a consulting look at Johan. Beauty, ha. Men admiring her body were content to ignore her ravaged cheek, but she always caught them stealing looks at the scar left by a smashed bottle, compliments of the bastard she had lived with, the Edinburgh garrison commander. The scar had hardened into a white ridge that branched across her cheekbone. After eleven years she rarely gave it a thought, her days too busy for mirrors. But Sir Adam's eyes on it made her cheek burn as if the flesh were gashed anew.
Johan piped up, "One question, sir, if I may. Do we address you as your lordship?"
Thornleigh blinked at him. "What?"
"By the fine sound of you you're an English lord, and it seems you've sunk a Spanish man-of-war." With a smug glance at Fenella he went on, "Are you the hell-bent English baron we've heard tell of?"
The brazen interrogation seemed to amuse Thornleigh. "I can't speak to what you've heard, but yes, I'm Baron Thornleigh." He looked at Fenella, jerking his thumb at the old man. "Who's this?"
She could hardly find her voice, appalled at Johan's impertinence and in awe of Thornleigh's exalted new status. New to her, at least. "He's Johan Doorn ... my lord," she managed. "My master shipwright."
"Good. I'll need you, Doorn." Thornleigh was suddenly all business. "Would you confer with my carpenter? You'll find him in the fo'castle." A nod of agreement from Fenella sent Johan shuffling toward the forecastle. Thornleigh turned to her. "I have wounded men. Is there a doctor ashore?"
"Tomorrow, from Guernsey." She explained, "He comes the last Wednesday of every month." She was glad to turn to business to quell her somersaulting emotions. "How many?"
"There's room in the church of St. Magloire. And crofters' wives to nurse them."
"Good." He turned to his watching crew. "Rayner, tell Bates to ready the wounded and get them up on deck." The scrawny crewman dashed to the companionway and clambered down it.
"By the sound of your pumps," Fenella said, "you'll be wanting to careen right soon, my lord. We'll tow you round the headland to the boatyard bay. Good beach, and I can supply all you need there. Stout oak masts, cured planking, plenty of pine pitch. I have carpenters, too, if you lack them, and a sail maker if you're needing canvas."
He nodded but was clearly distracted, his eyes fixed on the companionway that led below. The scowl she had seen when he first came on deck darkened his face again. Curry was leading up several men, and a crewman below bellowed at them to keep moving. Five emerged, stumbling one by one out onto the deck, squinting at the sudden bright sunshine. From the look of them—filthy, barefoot, in ragged homespun shirts and patched breeches—they were common seamen. Spanish prisoners. She smelled their sweat and fear. The gashed forehead of one oozed blood, and all were bruised and scraped. She imagined them plunging into the sea as their ship sank, flailing in the water in terror, since few seamen could swim, and then, when the Elizabeth picked them up, scrambling up the chain plates for dear life, the heaving sea bashing them against the hull, cutting heads, arms, shins.
Excerpted from The Queen's Exiles by Barbara Kyle. Copyright © 2014 Barbara Kyle. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Queen's Exiles is yet another installment of the Thornleigh Saga. Adam is set on an action-packed dangerous adventure with heroine Fenella to find his children. I loved reading the interaction with these two. As soon as I read the last page, I wanted to know what happens next. What a cliffhanger! 5 stars.
Highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction
The Queen’s Exiles is an exciting new novel in the Thornleigh saga written by Barbara Kyle. The setting is in the later years of the 16th century. At the heart of the story is a fiercely independent widow named Fenella Doorn who runs her own ship-refitting business on the island of Sark. Eleven years prior, she helped save a man named Adam Thornleigh. The memory of this man never left her. The story begins when he re-enters her life and they embark on a quest to rescue his children from his Catholic wife who attempted to kill the Protestant Queen of England. There are numerous subplots within the story that offer plenty of twists and turns to keep readers turning the pages. That’s what I love most about Barbara Kyle’s novels! Action, emotion, 3D characters, and fascinating story lines make this series of books one to definitely read! She skillfully weaves historical fact into brilliant fictional tales with intensity. Although this is a series of books, they do not necessarily need to be read in the order in which they were written. Each story stands alone. I eagerly await the next book in this fascinating saga.