by Olga Nuñez
I don’t usually blog on Wednesdays, but as wonderfully talented author Shelley Wilson was having a book launch tomorrow, I had to bring you her book and made sure it was available for you. So, here it comes.
The Last Princess by Shelley Winter
Edith still has much to learn about the art of ruling a kingdom, but when her family is murdered, she’s faced with the challenge of staying alive.
As a young woman in Anglo-Saxon England, Edith finds it hard to be heard above the Eldermen who are ripping the kingdom to pieces, but nothing can prepare her for the arrival of the pirates and the Vikings. Torn from her homeland and sold into slavery, she’s determined to survive at any cost.
Finding allies in the unexpected and enemies closer to home, Edith clings to her dream of returning home one day to reclaim her throne and to exact revenge on those who harmed her family.
Extract from The Last Princess
‘It’s too far for them to travel without us,’ my mother protested.
There weren’t many women who could admonish their king and get away with it, but Mother wasn’t your usual woman. She was strong and capable, an equal match to my father’s bravery and flair.
‘Nonsense. Kings have been sending their children on pilgrimages for years without issue.’
‘The girls aren’t on a pilgrimage though, are they, my love? They’re simply parading themselves for the good of our kingdom in the hope of snaring a suitable husband.’
Father dismissed her comment with a wave of his hand and snatched up his goblet of mead, draining the contents in one gigantic gulp. He threw his arm out and a servant jumped to attention, immediately filling the empty vessel.
‘We’ll be all right, Mother,’ I said in a bid to quiet the unrest etched into the queen’s brow. ‘We’ve got Edmund and lots of soldiers with us.’
A trusted friend of my father’s, Edmund was an elderman, and it landed on his shoulders to serve the king in any capacity. At the moment, it was my father’s wish to send his three daughters across Northumbria on a “husband-grabbing rampage”—Mother’s words. ‘I’d feel much happier if one of us were accompanying them, that’s all.’
My father rose from his elaborate throne and approached his wife, tucking a loose curl of her hair beneath her veil and kissing her gently on the forehead. My sisters always looked away when our parents were loving, but the exchange fascinated me. I hoped that our husband-grabbing rampage bore me a spouse as loyal, and handsome, as my father.
Although marriage at a young age wasn’t what I’d hoped for myself, I understood the commitment we, as heirs to the crown, needed to make to secure the future of our realm. At seventeen, I should have been wed long ago, but Father had grumbled over every suitor who stepped through the doors of Bamburgh fortress and into his court. It was at Mother’s insistence that we now embraced the task ahead.
‘They’re good girls, strong-willed like their mother.’ Father chuckled and cupped Mother’s chin in his hand, raising her head so they were looking into each other’s eyes. ‘They have Edmund and my best guard, but I doubt they’ll need them. I saw Edith practising with a sword when she didn’t know I was watching.’
Father winked at me as Mother rolled her eyes in dismay.
‘When will you start to act like a lady, Edith?’
I shrugged and tried to look suitably mortified for my mother’s sake, but I was elated that my father, the king of Northumbria, thought my skills with a sword were enough to keep us safe on the road. My private lessons with Edmund were paying off.
‘Go. All of you, gather your things as you leave at first light.’
My sisters and I shot off in all directions, excited to get back to our chambers and start packing. As the eldest daughter, I could take the largest luggage chest, which meant at least two good dresses for the journey, whereas my siblings would have to entertain suitors in the same old dress. I could have cut back on the lavish jewels and slippers and let them pack more, but I wasn’t that nice when it came to my sisters.
Being only two years apart in age from one another, my sisters had bonded so much that it was difficult for anyone to break through into their confidence. I’d tried over and over as they were growing up, but they always saw me as the older sister, able to come and go as she pleased. Over time it was easier to ignore, tease, or annoy them as I saw fit, something my father found amusing but our mother discouraged at every opportunity.
‘Try to act like a princess, Edith,’ she would tell me when I’d hidden their slippers or put a spider in their bed. ‘One day you will be a queen, and a queen doesn’t drop a leech into her siblings’ bathwater.’
It was unheard of for a daughter to succeed as heir, but as our father had only produced girls, it rested at my feet to take up the mantel of queen should something catastrophic happen to the king.
Father had spoken to me at length about it only recently, calling me into his private study, which contained hundreds of scrolls—or lessons, as Father liked to call them. He showed me a map of the kingdom and where our boundary lines met with Mercia, the centre of England.
‘One day all this will belong to you, my daughter.’
I’d traced my finger along the map, outlining Northumbria from east coast to west, a sense of pride and passion rising through me. Losing my father was not something I wanted to contemplate—he was an amazing man and an even better king—but the thought of ruling our beautiful land was too tempting to push those wicked thoughts from my mind.
‘I thought only sons could rule, Father.’
‘Nonsense. If I will it, which I do, then you will succeed me when I die.’
‘But the eldermen might object.’
‘They wouldn’t dare defy the ruling of their king.’ The power in his voice thundered around the small room, and I knew he was right. Nobody would have the strength of character to argue with him, apart from my uncle.
Being the king’s only brother, Aelle didn’t cower like the other eldermen. He stood up to my father and tested him. Although Father always bellowed his dissatisfaction at being challenged in his court, I knew he secretly enjoyed sparring with his younger brother. They had a similar relationship to me and my sisters—they loved each other one minute and wanted to bury each other in the vegetable garden the next.
‘What will your first act be when you become queen, Edith?’
I’d pondered his question for a moment as I studied the map on the table.
‘I’d invade Mercia, then Wessex, and become queen of all England.’
He roared with laughter and swept me into a warm embrace that only a father can give.
‘That’s my girl,’ he said. ‘A warrior queen.’
GET your copy of The Last Princess
About the author:
Shelley is an English multi-genre author. She has written nine young adult/middle-grade supernatural, fantasy, and historical novels, a children’s meditation book, and six motivational self-help titles for adults.
She is a proud single mum of three and lives in the West Midlands, UK. Shelley loves travelling in her VW camper searching for stories. She also enjoys paddle boarding, Tudor and Viking history, supporting Leeds United, and obsessing over to-do lists!
Her latest book, The Last Princess, is out on 24th May 2022, published by BHC Press Books.
Good luck and thanks to Shelley for sharing the news with us, thanks to all of us for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and keep reading and smiling!