St. Patrick’s Day Weekend Book Bundle Giveaway

St. Pat Day Book Giveaway 2018

St. Patrick’s Day Weekend Book Bundle Giveaway for American Residents!

The giveaway ends Sunday night and one lucky winner will be announced Monday morning US Central Time! Best of luck!

Enter to win at L.AP. it Marketing Facebook Page!


THE DAY OF STORMS by Stuart S. Laing Part II

The Day of Storms Final

Photo by Maxine Stewart

I’ve challenged Author Stuart S. Laing to write a story inspired by this photo shared on Facebook a few weeks ago and he accepted my challenge and wrote a short story called The Day of Storms that takes place in The Kingdom of Fife, Scotland, February 5th 1794. Today is Part II and In this story, you will meet Sarah, Rebecca Hopkins and a band of ruthless smugglers.




The Day of Storms Story coverAs the sisters enjoyed the feel of warm air washing over them they were oblivious to the door being locked behind them. They looked around the room to find it was small, barely twenty-foot square with several tables and chairs set across the flagged floor with the only illumination coming from a blazing fire and some tallow candles set on a single table around which sat four men who eyed the girls with grim faces. All were dressed in the thick, warm, hard-wearing clothing of those who made their living hunting the herring shoals in the cold waters of the German Ocean. Their weathered faces were as care-worn as their clothes and not a single smile welcomed the girls to the Dolphin. Only sullen, suspicious and unfriendly eyes stared darkly at them. That sour welcome was an unfamiliar sensation. Generally, they received, by dint of class and breeding, warm words and fulsome praise on how attractive they were. The only ‘compliment’ they heard here was a chuckled, “Aye, they’d dae for warming yer bed on a night like this, eh?”

The youngest of these figures sitting around the table with tankards resting before them was in his middle thirties. The eldest a grey bearded figure in his late sixties. What all had in common the hard-uncompromising look of men who did not welcome strangers into their midst.

“What are you doing letting the likes of them in here, chief?” the eldest man growled around the stem of a clay pipe clenched between stained teeth. “We’ve business needing sorted out, and we don’t need an audience for that.”

“Och, sit at peace, William,” the doorkeeper growled back sharply as he smirked while running his eyes over the sisters. “They’ve promised me five pounds to give them shelter from the storm. And, as you all know, I am a man of my word.”

“Yer a man wanting five pounds,” another man snorted merrily. His smile dissolved into a wicked leer as he added, “Who knows they’re here? They didn’t fetch up in Ainster on their own.”

Sarah, a cold shiver running over her body that had nothing to do with the weather beyond this snugly warm room, swallowed nervously. Forcing a weak smile to her lips she said as pleasantly as she could, “perhaps one of you gentlemen would be kind enough to place a note in our coach? It would let out coachman know where we are once he returns. We would both be so grateful, wouldn’t we, Rebecca?”

Her sister gave her a narrow look before looking back towards the fishermen with a look of disdain barely hidden on her lovely face.

Her look was missed by the men as the doorkeeper said, “Aye, I promised them that one of you would do that very thing.” This was delivered with a hidden wink. “Right, young miss, you write out your note and young Bobbie there will run along to leave it all safe and sound for your man to find. Won’t you, lad?”

The youngest figure scowled but finally nodded in response to the grim look the doorkeeper shot him. All this was missed by Sarah as she produced a pocket book and pencil from the reticule she carried. A moment later the man left with the hastily written note in one scarred hand. As he left the doorkeeper, a tall bearlike figure with massive shoulders and a dour expression on his heavily bearded face, waved the sisters to take seats by the table closest to the fire while the mariners were told roughly to move. As they left they took all but one of the candles with them to sit as far as the room allowed from them. Once seated the men resumed their study of the young women in a brooding silence.

*             *             *

Within a few minutes Bobbie returned, the note still crumpled in his hand as he slammed the door shut behind him and twisted the key to relock it. Neither fact went unnoticed by the girls. With the hand still clutching the note he pointed a finger towards them as he hissed angrily, “It’s the excise man’s coach. They have been sent here by the excise man himself!”

“I know,” the menacing doorkeeper replied with a grim smirk. “I recognised them as Sir Hector’s daughters the moment I saw them. What I don’t know is why he has sent them in here to spy on us.” He rested great fisted hands on the table as he leaned over them. “How many excisemen are waiting out there?” he barked at their shocked faces.

“Excisemen?” Sarah gasped out, her eyes darting from face to face as she struggled to understand what was happening. “There are no excisemen out there. We are alone. No one has sent us to spy on you, sir. I give you my word. Why would there be anyone else?”

“Because your father thinks he can outwit me,” the man laughed without humour. “I’ll give the man credit though. He has some nerve to send his own daughters into the very lair of his prey. He can’t place much value on your lives, can he?”

“What? I don’t understand what you mean…”

“I do,” Rebecca spat out, cutting Sarah’s words off. “These scums are the very smugglers that father has been looking for!”

“Prove it!” The doorkeeper chuckled as he turned his back on the sisters. “Bobbie, go back out there and see what’s afoot. Big George is watching the east road. Find out how many others have come creeping after us tonight.”

“What about them?” the younger man asked with a nod towards the girls.

“That depends on what you find out, doesn’t it? Be on your way, and don’t be o’er long. It wouldn’t be polite to keep the girls waiting to find out what happens next.”


About the Author:

Stuart Laing

Born and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife Stuart grew up looking across the Firth of Forth towards the spires and turrets of the city of Edinburgh and its castle atop its volcanic eyrie.

He has always been fascinated by the history of Auld Reekie and has spent most of his life studying Scottish history in all its aspects whenever he finds the time between family, work and the thousand and one other things that seek to distract him.

Despite the vast panorama of Scotland’s history, he always finds himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Those streets have provided the inspiration for his stories and characters.

He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

Author Website 

Stuart’s books on Amazon 

Part three of this story will be posted next Friday here at Layered Pages!

Sexuality And Its Impact On History (The British Stripped Bare)

Available for pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US

1 + 2018 Sexuality in History Brits Stripped Bare

Previously published at LA.P. it Marketing 

Learn of the scandals and romance that shaped Great Britain. This provocative collection of essays depicts the cultural and societal kinks of the British, from the Anglo-Saxons, Medieval, Tudor, Regency, and Victorian eras. Discover the ménage that changed the course of the Anglo-Saxon throne, go undercover to explore Courtly Love, learn about the business of Tudor and Regency marriages.

Read of a possible dalliance involving Queen Anne Boleyn, and the controversial marriages of Mary, Queen of Scots. Peek into the bedrooms of Victorian prostitutes. Each story provides shocking detail about what was at the heart of romance throughout British history. Would you swig a magic potion or plot to kill your husband in order to marry your lover?

These are just two of the many romantic and sexual customs from British history that you will explore when seven authors take us through the centuries, revealing that truth is stranger than fiction when it comes to love. From bizarre trivia about courtly love, to techniques and prostitution, you’ll encounter memorable nuggets of provocative info that you’ll want to share with friends and co-workers.

It’s all here: Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom, ménage a trois, chastity belts, Tudor fallacies, royal love and infidelity, marriage contracts (which were more like business arrangements), and brothels, kept women, and whorehouses. Take a peek at what really happened between the sheets. Each story provides you with shocking detail about what was at the heart of romance throughout British history.

The Impact of Sexuality in History: The British Stripped Bare chronicles the pleasures and perils of the flesh, sharing secrets from the days of the Anglo-Saxons, medieval courtly love traditions, diabolical Tudor escapades—including those of Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots—the Regency, and down to the ‘prudish’ Victorian Era. This scholarly yet accessible study brings to light the myriad varieties of British sexual mores.

About the Authors

Emma Haddon-Wright is from Plymouth UK and a lover of all things macabre & mysterious. She has a BA (Hons) Medieval to Modern European History. She is devoted to her family, history and is thrilled to be included in Sexuality & Its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare! You can find her on Twitter @RedLunaPixie

Annie Whitehead spends her life researching and writing about Anglo-Saxon history; the kingdom of Mercia in particular. She is an editor for English Historical Fiction Authors, the winner of the Historical Writers’ Association/Dorothy Dunnett Award, and is a member of the Royal Historical Society. She’s written three novels set in Mercia, blogs at Casts Light upon the Shadow, and was a previous Independent Author Network Book of the Year Finalist. She is currently writing a history of Mercia to be published in the autumn of 2018. Find Annie online at her website  on Facebook and  Twitter @ALWhitehead63

Jessica Cale is a romance author, editor, and historian based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a B.A. in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one understands his accent. She is the editor of Dirty, Sexy History and can be found on Facebook and Twitter @JessicaCale

Maryanne Coleman lives in the English countryside and can be found mainly digging in archives, or her garden. Her passions are King Arthur, Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe. She has many degrees, mainly in English Literature, Tudor History, and Elizabethan Theatre. She isn’t online, so no need to look for her. Although she may often be found at Heathrow Airport waiting on a flight to the French Riviera.

Judith Arnopp’s life-long passion for history eventually led her to the University of Wales How I Review Books..Judith Arnopp_swhere she gained a B.A. in English and Creative Writing, and a Masters in Medieval History. Her first novel, Peaceweaver was published in 2009, quickly followed by two others. Her best-selling Tudor novel, The Winchester Goose lead her to create five more novels covering the lives of Anne Boleyn, Katheryn Parr and Elizabeth of York. The King’s Mother is the third book in The Beaufort Chronicles a trilogy following the fascinating life of Margaret Beaufort. She is researching her eleventh novel. Judith’s non-fiction work has been published in various historical anthologies and she is active online at her  website and at Facebook  and Twitter @juditharnopp

Gayle Hulme was born and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland and after many years of soaking up island life in Jersey, Channel Islands she returned to Scotland via historic Warwickshire, England. Back in bonnie Scotland she now enjoys hanging out with husband Paul, son Jamie and two silly, but adorable dogs, Millie and Spot. Weekdays are spent motivating women as a group fitness instructor. She spends weekends travelling the UK investigating dusty corners of historical castles, palaces and museums. Her passions and fascinations are hugely diverse. In the morning she could be reading about her favourite royal heroine Queen Anne Boleyn and by the afternoon she might be at Ibrox Stadium cheering on the Glasgow Rangers FC. By evening she could be away with the fairies or learning about ancient Hawaiian wisdom. Find her HERE

Dr. Beth Lynne is a freelance editor and author. She has a Bachelors in English (SUNY Albany), Masters in Elementary Education, Special Education (LIU/CUNY Queens), Education Administration, and a doctorate in Education Leadership (Rowan University). Originally from New York, Beth worked as a teacher in the New York City Public Schools before moving to New Jersey, where she worked teaching social studies, science, math, and English to a variety of grade levels. She decided to pursue her passion and self-published four books on Amazon. During this time, she discovered her forte was editing. Thus, BZ Hercules, named after her pets at the time, was born! Beth devoted herself to the art of examining the work of others, creating e-books and print books. This venture has been so successful it enabled her to retire from teaching in 2017. Beth currently lives in sunny Florida with her husband, daughter, and several pets. Contact Beth at her  website on Facebook and Twitter @bzhercules1

Hunter S, Jones is passionate about the history of romance, science and music, a.k.a. sex, drugs and rock & roll. She has a popular history blog, and is a historian for Past Preservers Casting. When she isn’t writing, talking or tweeting about kings, queens and rock stars, she’s living the dream in Atlanta, Georgia with her Scottish born husband. Find out more at her website  and follow her on Facebook  and Twitter @HunterS_Jones


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Historical Fiction Book Covers

Today I’m blogging about book covers and we all need to agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and branding in the book industry. Just like any other business-yes, it is a business-the quality of your product-in this case, books- does matter. I can spot a homemade book cover a mile away and so many self-publishing authors produce their own covers and then wonder why their books aren’t selling. Is the book not selling because of the cover alone? Maybe not entirely but it plays a big factor in sales. Two major rules I have for indie authors: 1. Do not skimp on hiring a professional editor. 2. Do not skimp on hiring a professional cover designer. Follow these two rules before hitting that publish button and your brand has a chance in the arena of publishing. Okay, I need to add a third rule: Pre-Book launch promotions are vital!

I’m featuring cover designer Jenny Q with Historical Fiction Book Covers and I would like to say that her covers of late have especially caught my eye. So much so that last week I featured one of her cover designs in my weekly cover crush series I conduct with other fellow book bloggers.

Do check out more of her work by visiting her website HERE.

Next week I will be blogging about marketing and creating a budget for the promotion of your book even in the writing stages of your first draft.

If you would like to know more about my consulting and marketing, please contact me at and visit my company at L.A.P. it Marketing.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Jenny’s latest cover design:

The Fire WithinFalling in love is never easy, especially when a deadly volcano awakens beneath your city, threatening everything you hold dear.

Aurora Fortunas is an aspiring physician living in the celebrated city of Pompeii. Scholarly, proud, and devoted to family, she has refused every suitor for fear that a domineering man will crush her independence. When an earthquake strikes, bringing her on a collision course with a handsome stranger, she finds him old-fashioned, imperious, and utterly captivating.

Evander Mercurius is worldly, strong, and fearless. His belief that a woman should know her place and a man should always have the final word is challenged when he meets the beautiful and fiery Aurora. Tasked by his father to secure his family’s business ties to the new emperor of Rome, he finds himself forced to choose between the love of the beautiful healer and the temptation of political gain.

As Mount Vesuvius roars to life, shaking the city to its foundation, Aurora’s healing skills and Evander’s loyalties are put to the test. As the mountain’s wrath rains down upon them, can they learn to compromise, find their inner strength, and save their newfound love before it’s too late?

The Fire Within is available in ebook and print formats on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Add it to your shelves on Goodreads, and visit Carmela’s website for more information.

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Funk It Up Portraits


For custom made portraits and more about Klais Designs, contact Chad Klais at

About Artist:

KalisTechnology today has taken over with digital printing and vinal, and as an artist, I have always taken pride in the “old school” way of painting and drawing.  I grew up in a small farm town in Wisconsin and I have been drawing, and painting portraits since I was five years old.  My Grandfather, Leslie “Chick” Klais is an established artist and owned his own sign company for 50 years. As my Grandfather saw my talent he took me under his wing and I began to expand my craft. For the most part, he has taught me everything I know.  Before computers we would actually hand letter trucks, windows and signs.  As an adult, I started my own sign business for 20 years.  I realized I just wanted to do the art. Funk It Up Portraits is something different.  A touch of the perfect portrait “funked up” a little bit. -Chad Klais


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Interview with Elisabeth Marrion


Interview Questions for Elisabeth Marrion -The Wight Thing

I’d lie to welcome award-winning author Elisabeth Marrion to Layered Pages today to talk with me about her upcoming new story, The Wight Thing.

Hello. Elisabeth! Thank you for chatting with me today at Layered pages about your book, The Wight Thing. First, tell me about your story and how is it different from your other books?

Hello Stephanie, it is me who has to thank you.

This latest novel is what we call a –‘chick lit, you know, the type of book a reader likes to take away on holiday. My previous books are historical novels. The Night I Danced with Rommel, Liverpool Connection and Cuckoo Clock-New York.  Family life (my own family mainly) before and during WWII). In The Wight Thing, six retired friends find it hard to imagine living without each other’s company, since they have been friends from their uni days, and come up with the obvious solution. How about all moving in together? And their search for the ideal place begins.

How is your character(s) influenced by their setting?

This is a very varied group, each with their own desires and problems, Very different characters. Maybe that makes them such great friends.

Please tell me a little about Christine.

Oh dear, Christine, she involuntarily always finds herself in charge. She is a great ‘doer’. A fact her friends had on caught onto at an early stage in their relationships. Somehow, she stumbles into situations not realising she has yet again has been set up. No different on this occasion.

Who is Isabelle and can you tell me a little about her relationship with Christine?

Isabelle is one of the group. Altogether there are six of them. But Isabelle has recently lost her husband, Patrick. Maybe that was the instigator for their new venture.

Describe the setting of your story.

The friends live and have worked in the South of England, but that does not mean the story does not go further afield. It goes back and forth from the late sixties to today, therefore, quite a few actual happenings from the early part for their lives together.

Often times the best inspiration comes within us. How do you flesh out your characters to drive the plot?

Difficult to say. The characters sort of come to me and then develop a life of their own, they just grow. I can see them and watch them whilst I go along.

Was there any research or fact checking that went into your story?

Funny, you should ask that. A lot of places in The Wight Thing are actual places and I have either lived there or know them well. A lot of little ‘incidents’ in the book also really happened. Not of course, to the characters I allocated them to, because I made those up.

How has this story impacted you?

This might sound crazy, the story has become part of my life. But not surprising really since I know the places and little stories within.

How has your environment and upbringing coloured your writing?

I write from the heart and like to tell a good story. I was brought up in Germany right after the end of WWII. I know from that time in History how important it is to have a good group of friends you can rely on.

Were there any challenges writing this story? What was your process?

I had the idea about the story for a very long time. It that was something my friends and my husband on myself had contemplated at some time. All of us living together.

How did you come up with the title?

It was supposed to be called ‘No laughing out loud’. But then with comedy comes also tragedy, so the title did not really fit. And when the Characters decided to have a look for a place on the Isle of Wight, and we later find out Christine has a ‘thing ‘about the island, well, the title could not be anything else.

Where can readers buy your book?

I am glad you asked me that. You can already pre-order a printed copy from my Publisher

Elisabeth Marrion BRAGELISABETH MARRION was born August 1948, in Hildesheim Germany. Her father was a Corporal in the Royal Air Force and stationed after the War in the British occupied zone in Germany, where he met her mother Hilde, a war widow.

As a child Elisabeth enjoyed reading novels and plays by Oscar Wilde, Thornton Wilder and never lost her love of reading novels by Ernest Hemingway, or short stories by Guy de Maupassant.

In 1969 she moved to England, where she met her late husband David. Together they established a clothing importing company.  Their business gave them the opportunity to travel and work in the Sub Continent and the Far East. A large part of their working life was spent in Bangladesh, where they helped to establish a school in the rural part of the country, training young people in trades such as sign writing, electrical work and repair of computers and televisions.

For inspiration she put on her running shoes for a long coastal run near the New Forest, where she now lives.

Author Website

Elisabeth Marrion’s book The Wight Thing is expected to be released sometime in March and Layered Pages has an interview with Elisabeth on March 9th! Don’t miss it!

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Book Blogger Spotlights of The Wight Thing:



Part I: THE DAY OF STORMS by Stuart S. Laing


The Day of Storms Final

Photo by Maxine Stewart

I’ve challenged Author Stuart S. Laing to write a story inspired by this photo shared on Facebook a few weeks ago and he accepted my challenge and wrote a short story called The Day of Storms that takes place in The Kingdom of Fife, Scotland, February 5th 1794. In this story, you will meet Sarah, Rebecca Hopkins and a band of ruthless smugglers.



The Day of Storms Story coverThe Kingdom of Fife, Scotland.

February 5th 1794.

 Sarah Hopkins rolled her eyes in annoyance as she watched the dwindling figure of her coachman being swallowed up by the driving wind lashing across the frozen quayside. With a barely suppressed sigh her hazel eyes turned towards the broken wheel which had brought her journey to a sudden halt here in the small fishing village of Anstruther on the East Neuk of Fife. Losing a wheel had been bad enough, but the coach driver had then contrived to somehow allow the horses to escape as he unharnessed them. With a flick of their tails the two black geldings had galloped off into the stormy night with the hapless driver in pursuit.

“The man is a fool,” she declared into the blizzard with a firm nod of her delicate chin. Burying her head deeper into the shelter of her hooded cloak she pouted in annoyance while snow and sea spray blew around her in the gale force wind. What should have been a simple journey was rapidly descending into a nightmare following a visit to relatives in the village of Crail. A day which had started with bright sunshine had given way to increasingly powerful winds and heavy rain which soon turned to heavy snow shortly after the coach had begun the eleven miles back to Kilconquhar and home where, no doubt, father would be ready to complain endlessly about the problems caused by smugglers. The relatives had been equally keen to expound on the ne’er-do-wells who caused no end of trouble to those responsible for taxing everything that landed in the string of villages clinging along the coast between Leven and St. Andrews. Sarah was sure she had heard all she ever wanted to about these nefarious mariners. A journey which normally took less than two hours had stretched into four as the coach fought its way through gathering snow drifts and badly maintained roads. And now, thanks to a broken wheel, the journey seemed endless. With an angry glance back through the white wall of snow at the hidden coachman she said in high dudgeon, “A complete and contemptible fool!”

“I can’t say I argue with you on that, sister,” the young woman standing in the shelter of the tilted coach said as Sarah joined her, narrowly avoiding being soaked by a deluge of sea water as storm lashed waves crashed against the quay sending great geysers of water and foam fountaining high into the frigid air to be blown across the road to drown the row of cottages facing the water. It seemed a competition between the white spume and snow to see which would cover the quayside first against the sullen darkness of the night sky. “But until he returns I suggest we find somewhere out of this weather.” Her own hazel eyes looked back and forth along the row of cottages to see a score of low buildings, all silent as though the entire village had retired to bed to sleep away the storm. Bed sounded so good right now, she thought. The very thought of being nestled down below warm blankets and quilts was enough to make her smile.

“Rebecca!” Sarah scolded her with a fresh pout. “I can see no good reason to be standing there with a silly smile on your face. We could catch our death of cold if we persist in standing here like complete ninnies!”

“Exactly what I was saying, Sarah,” Rebecca replied with a fresh smile playing on her lips.

With a huff of annoyance at the foolish, frivolous nature of her twin Sarah scowled but then shivered violently as a fresh blast of freezing air drove snow and spray against her body and face. Her own eyes gazed towards the snug looking homes, all battened down against the foul night. “Should we knock on one of the doors? Perhaps we can rouse the occupants. I am sure they will make us welcome when I tell them who our father is.”

“Yes? Or they blow us to Kingdom Come with a blunderbuss!” Rebecca laughed lightly. With one hand holding her hood firmly in place, she peered through the driving snow and spray sweeping across the quayside. Finally the snow eased just enough to reveal a hint of light peeking around the edge of a tightly shuttered window. “There,” she announced triumphantly as she pointed out her discovery. “Sanctuary awaits us.” Not waiting for her twin to respond Rebecca was already boldly striding towards the light as the easterly storm force winds pushed at her back.

Sarah, uncertainly followed in her wake. She felt nervous about seeking shelter with complete strangers and, if she was completely honest, was sorely tempted to call Rebecca back so they could await the coachman’s return within the scant shelter of the broken coach. With an exasperated exhale she unwillingly forced herself to follow her sister’s footprints through the several inches of snow already covering the cobbles. As the sisters drew closer the building was revealed to be a tavern. The crazily swinging sign hanging above the door named it as The Dolphin.

Rebecca, turning her face towards her sister said smugly as she blinked hard against the wind and snow buffeting her chilled flesh, “See! A tavern. They’ll have a warm fire, hot food and a glass of wine to chase away the cold.”

Sarah, as she reached her sister’s side, looked apprehensively at the tavern with its closed door and shuttered windows. There was nothing to suggest this was an establishment which was looking, or wishing for, customers this night. Once more she was on the verge of suggesting they simply hurry back to their coach when another blast of icy air swept over her raising goose-flesh on every inch of her body. “Very well,” she all but shouted to be heard above the roar of wind and endless waves crashing explosively against the stone quay and wooden jetties. As they approached the door a nagging thought caught her mind. Lying a restraining arm on Rebecca’s arm she called out, “How will our driver know where to find us if we are there?”

Rebecca gave an eloquent shrug. “I am confident he will have the wits about him to realise that this tavern is the most logical place to look for us. Now come on. I can barely feel my fingers and toes. If we loiter here much longer we shall become icicles.”

*             *             *

 Sarah, still not entirely convinced as to the wisdom of seeking shelter here, allowed her frozen feet to trudge through the snow as blinding billows of snow swirled around her while Rebecca wasted no time in pushing at the tavern door below the madly creaking sign only to find it firmly locked. Placing an ear against the cold wood she could the muted sound of laughter from within. Blowing a crowd of angry steam through pouting lips she rapped loudly on the ancient planks of the door. At her first rap all sound was extinguished instantly. When, after a moment’s wait, no’one responded to her knocking she repeated her action with even more force.

“We’re closed,” a man’s rough voice barked out from behind the sealed portal. “Come back in the morning.”

“Please, sir, you cannot leave helpless children outside on a night like this. We shall surely perish if you turn us away.” Rebecca’s eyes rolled as she made this seemingly heartfelt plea while her sister cast a look back towards the coach hidden by the falling snow. Rebecca meanwhile had an ear pressed once more against the door to barely discern the sound of hurried murmurs as though several men were debating what to do. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she could hear a key grating in the lock before the door opened barely an inch to reveal a hooded, dark eye staring suspiciously at her.

That eye could see two young women standing shivering in the heavy snow. They were wrapped in thick travelling cloaks of the finest quality. Their pale, chilled faces were beautiful to behold and the lack of worry lines on their clear skin reflected they had never once in their lives had to fret over where their next meal was coming from. “Gentry,” he thought to himself with a dismissive snort. “And you are no children either, are you? No, my girls, I know just how old you are. Nineteen come your next nativity if memory serves. But what I don’t know is why you are here. A place where your kind have no business being.” The unblinking eye stared coldly at their imploring faces. “Like I told you, girl. We are closed. Best be on your way home now.”

“What?” Rebecca stuttered out in shock. “You cannot seriously refuse to offer us shelter, sir.”

“I can. And I am!”

“Please, sir. Our coach has lost a wheel. Our coachman has taken off in pursuit of the horses which he managed to let loose. We just need somewhere to rest out of this vile weather until he returns and finds us.”

“And I have five pounds,” Sarah added quickly despite being increasingly uncertain about whether she would not rather take her chances of returning to the coach rather than enter the tavern. Forcing herself to smile as warm air seeped out around the door to enticingly tempt her. Swallowing down her misgivings she added, “That money is yours, sir, if you can see fit to allow a seat by your fire, a glass of wine and perhaps something to eat? We just need some respite from this weather.”

“Five pounds, eh?” The doorkeeper’s eye glinted darkly as the mind behind it weighed up various options, none of which either woman would want to know about. After a moment’s thought he said, “Your coachman, you say he has taken off after the lost horses, eh? Does he know you have come here? Who else is with you?”

“No’one but us, sir. And no, he ran off before we thought to seek shelter. Perhaps there is someone within who could place a note inside our coach for him to find? He would then know where to find us when he catches the horses and returns.”

“Aye, perhaps I could do just that,” he replied with a low chuckle. “Well, best you come on in then and warm your bones by the fire.” The door swung open only wide enough for them to squeeze through before it was closed and firmly relocked at their back.

About the Author:

Stuart Laing

Born and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife Stuart grew up looking across the Firth of Forth towards the spires and turrets of the city of Edinburgh and its castle atop its volcanic eyrie.

He has always been fascinated by the history of Auld Reekie and has spend most of his life studying Scottish history in all its aspects whenever he finds the time between family, work and the thousand and one other things that seek to distract him.

Despite the vast panorama of Scotland’s history he always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Those streets have provided the inspiration for his stories and characters.

He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

Author Website 

Stuart’s books on Amazon 

Part two of this story will be posted next Friday here at Layered Pages!