I am honoured and thrilled to be day 2 of author Simon Anderson’s book tour for his Wars of the Roses novel The Claimant, which has become one of my favourite historical novels of all time. “Gripping” doesn’t come close to describing this book!
Today, Simon is sharing an excerpt from The Claimant and I hope it whets your appetite for more.
Alert: The kindle version of Simon’s book is an Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal at $0.99 on Amazon.com and 99p on Amazon UK from now until 11pm PST and 11pm GMT on 11 February, so do take advantage of that. Here are the links:
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Claimant
“We are betrayed! The King still lives and the men of Calais have changed sides.”
At first it was but a single voice, carried on a chill breeze through the steady drizzle and failing light of an October evening. But then the cry was taken up by others. The stark, unwelcome message gathering strength, surging along the lines of soldiers like a flood tide up a river, impossible to stop and leaving devastation in its wake. As the implications sank in a second shout pursued it through the ranks, precipitating a full-scale panic:
“ALL IS LOST! EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!”
Sir Geoffrey Wardlow, accompanied by his seventeen-year-old son Richard and a retinue of twenty liveried men, had been stationed on the rearmost ‘battle’, or division of the Duke of York’s army. The force numbered some five or six thousand and was deployed in three blocks, one behind the other, straddling the main road from Leominster to Ludlow close to where it was forced to bend around the long ridge known as Whitcliffe. Too steep for an approaching army to scale in any kind of ordered fashion, the ridge offered protection to the right flank of the Duke’s position. In addition, the rain-swollen River Teme, crossed by the Ludford Bridge, ran in a broad curve around their left and rear, and two bowshots beyond that stood the walled town of Ludlow, its mighty castle one of the Duke’s principal strongholds. Sir Geoffrey had left Richard in command in order to seek out an old friend further along the battle lines. They had been discussing the disposition of their troops, said to be outnumbered two-to-one by King Henry’s approaching Lancastrian army, and also the recently circulated rumour that the King, against whom they were arrayed that day, was dead. Now that the latter had been disproved, however, the former was of no consequence, especially with the defection of some six hundred Calais garrison soldiers, under their commander Andrew Trollope, to the King’s side.
On hearing the cries of alarm the two friends exchanged resigned looks, knowing that the time had come to call it a day and make for their homes as fast as their horses could carry them. Fleeing soldiers began to stream past the two knights, many throwing down their weapons and casting off pieces of armour – anything to speed their flight from the battlefield and the King’s wrath. Sir Geoffrey clasped his friend’s hands in farewell and wished him ‘Godspeed’, then set off to rejoin his men and make his own escape.
It was only when he began to walk the two hundred yards or so back to where his retainers had been stationed that Sir Geoffrey realised just how thoroughly panic had gripped the Duke of York’s army. What had been open meadows between the battle lines was now a seething crowd converging on Ludford Bridge, desperate to get away. Men were pressing all around him and he was jostled by common soldiers who under normal circumstances would have treated him with the utmost deference. Three times he was knocked to the ground in the crush and by the third time he had struggled to his feet in seventy pounds of plate armour he was thoroughly disoriented. The rapidly-descending darkness had robbed him of reference points and he began to walk around in circles crying out his rallying call, “À Wardlow! À Wardlow!” But there was no reply.The jostling crowd finally began to thin, but then Sir Geoffrey stumbled down a steep bank, almost losing his balance. A cold, wet sensation enveloped his feet and crept up his steel-encased legs as far as his knees. He realised he must have been heading the wrong way in the now all-encompassing darkness, not to the bridge but straight towards the River Teme. Not daring to take another step, in case he should overbalance and drown in his armour, he cupped his hands round his mouth and in near-desperation shouted again. “À Wardlow!” Still no answer.
The disintegrating rebel army had all but fled the field by now, leaving only the sound of the river swirling darkly around him and, in the distance, the noise of trumpets being blown – faint at first but slowly getting closer. The King’s troops, supporters of the House of Lancaster, were coming.
Sir Geoffrey knew that with the rebel army gone, King Henry’s men would soon be spilling over the bridge, somewhere off to his left he guessed, and advancing on the town. Drown, or be captured and throw himself on the King’s mercy? He felt his feet begin to sink a little further into the river bed. The cold waters of the Teme would not understand the concept of mercy, but King Henry might.
“À WARDLOW!” he roared, his throat tearing with the effort.
“À Wardlow! À Wardlow!” came the reply. Relief flooded through Sir Geoffrey’s body. His men had not deserted him after all.
“Over here, by the river!” he shouted. Disembodied points of light, looking like dancing glow-worms, gradually resolved themselves into flickering torches illuminating indistinct human forms. Strong hands grabbed Sir Geoffrey’s arms on either side, pulling him from the cold, sucking embrace of the river bed and up onto firmer ground.
His relief at being plucked from the murky waters of the Teme quickly evaporated, however, as the hands that had dragged him to safety continued to hold him in a vice-like grip. These were not his men. Moments later he realised they were not the King’s men either. A tall man wearing a full harness of fine-quality armour approached to inspect his catch, flanked by two torch bearers. He unfastened the leather strap on his helmet – a barbuta with a distinctive T-shaped opening – and eased it off, handing it to one of his men.
Sir Geoffrey recognised his captor even before the latter had pulled off his padded arming cap and ruffled out his shoulder-length crow-black hair.It was the eyes that had given him away. Looking into them now, as they glittered in the torchlight, Sir Geoffrey knew he was a dead man.
For your chance to win a paperback copy of The Claimant, simply leave a comment below saying why you’re interested in the Wars of the Roses. Leave your comment before midnight on Friday 13th February. I will email the winner shortly after.
Here is the schedule of Simon’s book tour:
- 9 February – Nerdalicious.com.au – My Favourite Place: Towton Battlefield
- 10 February – Here at The Anne Boleyn Files – The Claimant: An Excerpt
- 11 February – www.thewarsoftherosescatalogue.com/ Q&A session – Debra Bayani interviews Simon Anderson
- 12 February – queenanneboleyn.com/ – Wars of the Roses Places
- 13 February – www.tudorsociety.com – Researching the Claimant
The Claimant book details
The harvest is gathered and the country wears its autumn livery. Four years after the first battle of The Cousins’ Wars, later known as The Wars of the Roses, the simmering political tensions between the Royal Houses of Lancaster and York have once again boiled over into armed confrontation. Nobles must decide which faction to support in the bitter struggle for power. The stakes are high and those who choose unwisely have everything to lose.
Sir Geoffrey Wardlow follows the Duke of York while others rally to King Henry’s cause, but one in particular company under the Royal banner is not all it seems, its leader bent on extracting a terrible revenge that will shatter the lives of the Wardlow family. Edmund of Calais has a private score to settle and is prepared to risk everything to satisfy his thirst for revenge. Riding the mounting wave of political upheaval, he willingly throws himself time and again into the lethal mayhem of a medieval battle as he strives to achieve his aim. One man is out to stop him: his half-brother, Richard. Born of the same father but of very different minds the two young men find themselves on opposite sides during the violence that erupts as political tensions finally reach breaking point. Each has sworn to kill the other should they meet on the field of battle. As they play their cat-and-mouse game in the hope of forcing a decisive confrontation, their loved ones are drawn inexorably into the fray, forcing the protagonists to question the true cost of victory…
For as long as he can remember Simon Anderson has been fascinated by the medieval world, in particular the glorious triumphs and shattering reverses of the period in English history known as the Wars of the Roses. He has undertaken extensive research on the subject in both England and Wales visiting castles, battlefields, churches and tombs. Although not a member of any official re-enactment group, Simon has practised archery using an English longbow, amassed a modest collection of reproduction weapons and armour and occasionally worn a complete outfit of 15th century clothes. He sees this as the best way get a true feel for the people of those times and give his writing extra authenticity.