On the 11th June in 1488, two armies meet in battle at Sauchieburn, near Stirling. One fights for King James the Third of Scotland, the other is loyal to his eldest son, Prince James, Duke of Rothesay.
Soon, James the Third is dead, murdered as he flees the field. His army is routed. Among the dead is Sir Thomas Sempill of Ellestoun, Sheriff of Renfrew, whose son and heir, John, escapes with his life.
Once John’s career as knight and courtier seemed assured. But with the death of his king, his situation is fragile. He’s the only surviving son of the Sempill line and he’s unmarried. If he hopes to survive, John must try and win favour with the new king.
And deal with the ruthless and powerful Lord Montgomerie…
Praise for Fire & Sword
“The book is brutal in places and left me at times emotionally drained. But that just shows that I came to care about the characters. Recommended.” (Historical Novel Review, May 2014)
“Louise Turner skillfully brings to life the conflict-ridden world of 15th century Scotland… A fantastic debut, recommended for all fans of historical fiction, medieval times, and romance.” (Karin Gastreich, Author of Eolyn)
“If you like historical novels to be well-researched and well-written with a host of believable, three-dimensional characters, look no further than “Fire and Sword”.” (Juliet Waldron, Author of Mozart’s Wife)
“Louise Turner skillfully brings to life the conflict-ridden world of 15th century Scotland. Based on the true story of John Sempill, the narrative takes us from near ruin to an uneasy but satisfying final triumph. Thomas is a wonderfully flawed character, not your typical knight-in-shining-armor, but a young man plagued by uncertainty, prone to dark moods, and keenly aware of the ax hanging over his head. Hugh Montgomery, at once John’s nemesis and eventual ally, is simply delightful in his charisma and ruthlessness. The principle women of the story, Mary, Margaret, and Helen, bring fresh and varied perspectives to the events at hand, each one admirable in her own way. Honestly, I found nothing to complain about in this novel. It is expertly written, kept me turning the pages and reading late into the night. A fantastic debut, recommended for all fans of historical fiction, medieval times, and romance. I look forward to seeing what Turner has to offer next.” – Karin Rita Gastrich, Amazon Reviewer
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About the Author
Born in Glasgow, Louise Turner spent her early years in the west of Scotland where she attended the University of Glasgow. After graduating with an MA in Archaeology, she went on to complete a PhD on the Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent. She has since enjoyed a varied career in archaeology and cultural resource management. Writing has always been a major aspect of her life and in 1988, she won the Glasgow Herald/Albacon New Writing in SF competition with her short story Busman’s Holiday. Louise lives with her husband in west Renfrewshire.
The Place of Caldwell, November 1488
Hugh should have been bored. He hated dining with country lairds; they never cared for much beyond their estates and were seldom capable of witty conversation.
But the baleful presence of Master Sempill at the table meant Hugh couldn’t afford to drop his guard. The young man had been itching for an argument all afternoon. So far, though, Sempill hadn’t said a word, except on one occasion when he’d asked Sir Patrick Wallace to pass the salt.
“It must be so exciting,” said Margaret Sempill. “To be part of such a lively court.”
“Oh, it is, Lady Margaret,” Hugh said. “The King’s such a vibrant young man. His wits are second to none, and he makes entertaining company.”
“If life at court’s so magnificent--” John Sempill said, deceptively mild, “--then why did you come home at all?”
An embarrassed silence fell across the board.
Hugh caught the young man’s gaze. Sempill, unlike most men, had the gall to stare right back.
He was an angelic-looking lad. He appeared younger than his twenty years. That would have fooled some men, but Hugh wasn’t going to let it fool him.
Hugh dabbed his cloth against his lips and took another sip of wine. “My lands don’t manage themselves,” he said. “Besides, I’m Bailie of Cunninghame now. The King was kind enough to grant me the title; I must make sure its duties are performed to his satisfaction.”
Adam and the others nodded politely, but John Sempill just gave him an icy glower.
“Well, I’m pleased to see you back,” said Adam. “It’s well known that you keep a tight rein on rebels and reivers.”
Master Sempill frowned and fiddled with his goblet. “Since you’ve come from the east, my Lord, perhaps you could give us word of the King?”
Hugh feigned misunderstanding. “Whatever do you mean?”
“The King I served. King James the Third. If I remember right, Lord Hugh, you were once his loyal servant too...”
“John!” Adam gasped.
“He hasn’t been forgotten already? Why, his crown is scarcely cold.”
“You’re right to express concern,” Hugh countered, smoothly. “He died, I’m afraid. He fell from his horse as he fled the field.”
“That’s unfortunate,” Master Sempill said, in that same innocent voice. “There’ll be an explanation, of course. I suppose his steed tripped in a rabbit hole. Did they hang the guilty rabbit? Or weigh him down with gold for his pains?”
“That’s enough!” Adam cast a pleading look at Hugh. “Forgive him, my lord. He’s young.”
Not that young... Hugh shook his head, feigning irritation. A warning sign: Don’t press me further. He didn’t really mean it. He just wanted to see whether that would be enough.
“It might be useful to take that rabbit and make him a peer of the realm. Who else’ll sit in Parliament? Half its Lords are dead. Or skulking in their towers, too frightened to come out.”
Adam turned a deep shade of purple. He gazed helplessly at Hugh. “My lord...”
Hugh gave Adam his best benign look. “Master Sempill is nursing a grievance,” he said. “I hope he’ll share it with us sooner rather than later. We mustn’t let it fester on all afternoon.” He slapped his palms against the table. “Well out with it, man!”
“Since you ask, Lord Hugh, then yes, I am aggrieved. I lost a father, just a few months ago.”
“If you hold me responsible for your father’s death, then I’m sorry,” Hugh said. “What did you expect me to do? Bow my head and let him strike me down, like a sheep before the butcher’s knife?”
“What’s done is done, Lord Hugh.” Sempill’s tone was infuriatingly self-righteous. “It’s God’s place to pronounce judgement, not mine.”
“How very magnanimous of you.”
“I’m concerned that my father’s lying amongst strangers,” Sempill gripped the board before him, staring at his platter. “My mother’s pain is much worse, because she can’t visit his grave.” He turned accusing eyes on Hugh. “What did he do to deserve this? What did she do?”
Adam dropped his head into his hands and moaned.
“Your kinsman’s like a mastiff,” Hugh said. “Once he gets his teeth in there’s no shaking him.” He took a leisurely mouthful of his wine, and smiled. “You’re right to speak out, Master Sempill.” He paused to take another sip. “I shall make enquiries, and do what I can to have him restored. For the sake of his widow, as well as for yourself.”
The young man unclenched his fingers, and somehow managed a smile. “Thank you, my lord,” he said. “Your generosity is appreciated.”
“It’s the least I can do.” Hugh felt pleasantly satisfied. He’d come through with his reputation not just untarnished but actually enhanced. All credit to his opponent; unlike many men, Master Sempill had the good sense and the grace to back down and let him emerge victorious.
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