I’ve had the pleasure of knowing M.N. Stroh for a few years now. While we’ve yet to have the pleasure of meeting in person, I can tell you she is a wonderful person with a fascinating interest in writing edgy Christian historical fiction set in Medieval Ireland. In fact, I get the privilege of introducing you to one of her characters, Nessa ingen Aengus. Before I do, let me introduce you to the series and then her book.
Put on a pot of Irish breakfast tea, grab an Irish lace cookie, and be swept away by the saga of Viking-era Ireland, a forgotten age where cattle lords vie with foreign jarls for dominion, bards spin tales, brehons establish law, monks inscribe annals, and maidens alter the course of kings.
Rise of Betrayal is book two in the series, and here is the blurb:
Ireland, 962 AD
Nessa’s father arranges her betrothal to the son of their warmongering overlord. Horrified, Nessa realizes that marrying the rogue warrior will thrust her family into the heart of their clan’s longstanding conflict with the Danes of Luimnech.
Nessa accepts her seemingly sealed fate until tragedy presses her to make a desperate escape, though her brash act costs her intended’s life. Now his family seeks revenge.
Sanctuary among distant kindred proves short-lived and Nessa’s rescuers entangle her into their schemes. With the balance of power shifting in southern Ireland, her knowledge could pave the way for her former chieftain to claim the provincial throne. Yet, offering that knowledge may expose her identity to her estranged clansmen… and to the man whose brother died because of her.
Now for our interview with Nessa.
CC: Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
Nessa: Good day to you! I’m Nessa, daughter of Aengus mac Ruadh and Camma. We’re farmers tending the land of our overlord, Davan mac Duncan, a powerful warrior of the Dal Cais clan, and kinsman to Chief Mahon, who rules over our home in Thomond, a small but powerful túath in the province of Mumhain, nestled on the western coast of Éire.
My father and brothers labored long under Davan so that they might gain noble status and thus a voice in our clan. But one terrible winter stripped nearly all hope of that from us. I say nearly, for there’s but one wretched alternative, and it seems I’m to pay it. All our debt and renders will be forgiven and counted as dowry if my father gives me in marriage to Davan’s son, Ardan. A rogue of a man entangled with his father in secret assistance to Chief Mahon’s rebel brother, Prince Brian mac Cennedigh. Brian and his warband draw trouble to us as faithfully as a foreigner’s ax. Indeed, they draw the foreigners themselves to our lands time and again, for Brian refuses to keep the peace with them that his brother established. I fear what shall become of my family once we are doubly bound to Davan through this betrothal.
CC: That sounds like a terrible situation to be placed in! So I take it that Lord Davan is one of your least favorite people to deal with?
Nessa: Yes. Lord Davan is a stern and cold man. Da says it was not always so. That great tragedy wrought the bitterness festering in his soul. Still, I see naught but deception in him and don’t relish the thought of living under his roof.
CC: That would not be something I look forward to. So let’s talk of happier things. Who is your favorite person?
Nessa: My brother, Tiarnán, is the closest friend I possess in the whole wide world. There’s little he wouldn’t do for me. Still, he’s a might more stubborn than I and just as prone to tug my locks as Davan’s sons and call me “Red”.
CC: Those pesky nicknames are awful. We know others call you “Red”, but how do you think others view you? Do you think this is an accurate representation of you?
Nessa: I suspect most nobles would take no note of me at all. Unless I fall prey to Lord Davan’s foul sons. They’re naught but trouble, especially the younger twins, Ronan and Niall, who are near my age. Some say I’m stubborn and have a fearsome temper. Perhaps so, but only to those who deserve it. To those who show kindness, they should find me a faithful friend.
CC: I can only image how much the Davans deserve that temper, but that is probably not a wise thing. What is your biggest fear?
Nessa: I fear losing Da and my brother, Tiarnán in battle. They’re pledged to serve Lord Davan in that manner as tenants under him. My eldest brother, Callann, fought faithfully alongside Davan’s men and now he’s lost to us, though not dead. They banished him for an indiscretion against the Dal Cais. ‘Tis a fearsome thing to fall prey to the ill will of our overlords. Da may still secure a lesser noble status in our clan, but to do so by my betrothal to Ardan mac Davan, means we shall never be free of the ties that bind Da and Tiarnán to Davan’s warband.
CC: And it does not free them from having to go to battle, though, and that is indeed a scary thing. Tell us a little more about this villainous family. Who are the worst?
Nessa: Lord Davan and his eldest son, Ardan, are alike in every manner. The Devil take them! Both set my skin to crawling. Of the two, Ardan is most arrogant. He hates Tiarnán, and riles him to fearful rows just for the pleasure of it.
CC: They do sound like an intimidating pair. But surely they are not all bad. After all, it appears you may have to marry one of them. Could you tell us a little bit about your love interest in this story–if love can even be used to describe your relationship?
Nessa: All the women of our clan find Lord Davan’s sons handsome and many dream of a match made betwixt them. They’re all rogues to my eyes! Still, if one was to be named best of all, I’d point to Gideon mac Davan. He bears a kindness uncommon to his brothers, and a far leveler head about him. But he reveres his older brother, Ardan…practically worships the ground Ardan trods upon! Neither fear God nor man.
CC: Men who neither fear God nor man are bound to fall–and it seems like with them, a lot of people will suffer. Will you tell us a little bit about the personal journey you are on throughout this story?
Nessa: Ma says, ’tis our lot in life to marry and bear up God-fearing families. From my youth, I knew ’twas a fate meant for me. But I ne’er believed I should be bound to some sullied noble’s son. How can one trust a faithless noble from a faithless family who pledged our safety for service yet failed in that duty time and again? They’ve done naught but betray our loyalty and I dread what further sacrifice they might demand.
CC: This is definitely a story that already has me anxious to read and discover what happens to you and your family, and if love is possible with such a clan.
Readers, if you like epic historical adventure stories, influenced by Irish hero tales and Icelandic sagas, mixed with a heavy side of romance, and grounded in Christ, you need to check this series out. Man of Sorrows is the novella prequel and doesn’t need to be read before reading this book, Rise of Betrayal. However, the rest of the series does need to be read in order. BTW, you can download Man of Sorrows for free by signing up for M.N. Stroh’s newsletter and downloading a copy through Bookfunnel.
M.N. Stroh is fueled by her love for storytelling and history. She writes Christian Historical Fiction with an edge, to inspire the downtrodden and outcasts through adventure-laden escapes leading them back to their First Love, as showcased in her debut series, Tale of the Clans. M.N. serves as Director of Communications for Serious Writer Inc. affiliate, Writers Chat, director of Serious Writer Book Club, and a member of ACFW and Historical Novel Society’s Interviews Admin Team. Connect with her at mnstroh.com and social media.
Readers, what medieval stories have you read? Are you familiar with the Viking history of Ireland?