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:
Rise of Betrayal by M.N Stroh
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.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Check out the whole series at Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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.
About M.N. Stroh:
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.
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Readers, what medieval stories have you read? Are you familiar with the Viking history of Ireland?
His to Keep
by Sherrinda Ketchersid
Ever get caught in the DMV line without a book? Yeah, me too. I am so glad for the Kindle App on my phone. I’d bought and downloaded this book a while ago because I enjoyed Sherrinda’s first book, Lord of Her Heart. I enjoyed this dip into medieval England as much as I enjoyed the first one. Some of my favorite stories are where the hero and heroine are at odds with one another from the beginning. Prejudice stands between Claire and Ian as they are forced into an arranged marriage by the King. Ian desires to prove himself, and Claire desires to protect the only home she’s ever known. To get what they both want, they have to come together and learn to overcome their past experiences. With enemy neighbors and family, a code of honor and chivalry, and lots of fun swordplay, the danger and romance take the reader to an older time of knights and feisty damsels. I especially loved watching Claire overcome her prejudice to learn that not all Scotts are the same and that she can learn to love her enemy.
I recommend this book to any reader who enjoys stories of chivalry, knights, enemy to lover tropes, and stories where prejudices are overcome.
Genre: Historical Romance, Medieval England, 1204
He’s fighting for his inheritance—she’s marrying her sworn enemy.
When Ian McGowan attempts to claim Whitfield Castle as his rightful inheritance, he finds himself barred by a tempestuous lass who is entailed to be the bride of the castle’s new owner.
Claire Beaumont, the orphaned ward of Whitfield, has good reason to hate Scots, and she is not about to let a Scot enter her beloved home. But when the handsome knight steals into the castle and proves his claim on the land, she must face her ultimate nightmare—marriage to her sworn enemy—in order to save those she cares about most.
Restoring the failing Whitfield Castle while wooing his defiant intended proves more challenging than Ian anticipated. His struggles reach a crisis when his nemesis arrives at the castle, and he must overcome his past demons to prove his worth. He must fight for what is his to keep—and it could well cost him his heart.
What I loved: I particularly liked the development of the relationship between Ian and Claire. It felt like a realistic tug-of-war, as well as was unique enough to not feel like I’ve read it a million times.
Favorite Character and Why: Claire was a feisty woman who sacrificed her ideal future for the people in her keep and learned to overcome her prejudice despite the tragic history which developed those prejudices.
Who would like this? Any reader who enjoys stories of chivalry, knights, enemy to lover tropes, and stories where prejudices are overcome.
Rating and Why: Five stars. The story was engaging, humorous, swoony at times, and full of action. If you know me, I love my action and scenes of danger.
Lord of her Heart
By Sherrinda Ketchersid
I’d heard of this book through word of mouth from my friends and was intrigued, but I held off buying a copy until my favorite book tour group asked for reviewers. I did purchase my own copy for the review, but just needed the extra push to pick it up, and I’m glad that I did.
Every once and a while I want to enjoy a good medieval read. Usually, I just reread Lori Wick’s The Knight and the Dove or a fairytale retelling, but it was nice to step into a new story. This story had elements that I love from multiple other stories while still holding its own as a unique story.
The characters made you want to keep reading to see exactly what would happen. Jocelyn has the courage to disguise herself as a boy, going so far as to cut her hair. The author did a realistic job of the challenges and the weaknesses a woman would face trying to pose as a squire–a very physically demanding job. Then you have that gallantry and chivalry of the knight, Malcom, with realistic flaws. He was a hero you could cheer on, and at moments want to slap the sense into. The secondary characters were entertaining and supportive of the main characters.
I love how this story has a knight, jousting, subterfuge, and a bit of mystery and danger. It has definitely been added to my reread pile.
Genre: Historical Romance, England, 1198 AD (aka Medieval)
Lady Jocelyn Ashburne suspects something is amiss at her family’s castle because her father ceases to write to her. When she overhears a plot to force her into vows—either to the church or a husband—she disguises herself and flees the convent in desperation to discover the truth.
Malcolm Castillon of Berkham is determined to win the next tournament and be granted a manor of his own. After years of proving his worth on the jousting field, he yearns for a life of peace. Rescuing a scrawny lad who turns out to be a beautiful woman is not what he bargained for. Still, he cannot deny that she stirs his heart like no other, in spite of her conniving ways.Chaos, deception, and treachery threaten their goals, but both are determined to succeed. Learning to trust each other might be the only way either of them survives.
What I loved: Two things: 1. The jousting, because who doesn’t like a good jousting tournament. 2. I love how Jocelyn and Malcom must work together to each get what they want, but the deception used by the Jocelyn for her own protection, ends up working against her in the relationship with Malcom. It added a certain depth that helped me sink into the story.
Favorite Character and Why: I liked Jocelyn and Malcom a lot, but I can’t resist saying Horse was my favorite character. It absolutely cracked me up that Malcom couldn’t come up with a better name for his steed.
Who would like this? Anyone who loves a good medieval story with villains, plots to overthrow, jousting, and a love story that extends into the marriage afterward.
Rating and Why: Four stars. The story was enjoyable and something I will reread. It wasn’t so stand out in my mind as to get a five star, but it is something I will enjoy many times.
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The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson
I have finally reached Melanie’s The Merchant’s Daughter in my TBR pile and all I can say is, why did I wait so long? I will readily admit that Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairytale of all time, and Melanie did an amazing job with the story.
For those hardcore fairy tale fans – the ones who read the original versions by Anderson and the Grimm brothers – you will not be disappointed. Melanie did a fantastic job of sticking to the core elements but fleshing them out into a real life scenario that is just as magical as the fantasy presented to us through the historical renditions.
Even though I was very familiar with all the different variations of Beauty and the Beast, I was still wonderfully surprised and held in suspense throughout the story. It is easy to fall in love with kind, sweet Annabell who has her own wounds and broken past.Lord Ranulf le Wyse is an amazing beast who is all at once ferocious and yet gentle. My heart went out to him almost immediately.
Spiritual truth was woven masterfully and naturally throughout the story. I found myself transported and looking at the Holy Writ, as Annabell calls it, in a whole new light and with an excitement that I sometimes forget.
I highly recommend this book and would sum up this review with The Merchant’s Daughter is a fairy tale that reaches down to the soul and brings joy just by reading it. You simply must read this, and heart be still, Melanie has written a whole Fairy Tale Romance series.
The newest book Silent Songbird comes out in November.
Check out the links to purchase and connect with Melanie Dickerson below:
Amazon.com Barnes and Noble Melanie’s Website
“An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf’s bailiff—a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff’s vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf’s future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.”
– Blurb by from Amazon