Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No Will But His by Sarah A. Hoyt

Sarah is fighting the flu and asked me to post this snippet from her upcoming novel No Will But His: A Novel of Katherine Howard. It will be released April 6, 2010. Enjoy! Btw, she will begin her short story clinic next week. Promise. -- Amanda)

The Backstairs of Hampton Court

“Are you brave or foolish, Your Majesty? Brave or foolish?” Thomas Culpepper’s fine, long fingers quested beneath the bodice of my dress, caressing along the rounded slope of my breast till they found the nipple and played upon it as a musician upon a virginal. His blue grey eyes sparkled like a cloudless summer’s sky down at me as he demanded, his voice thickened by desire, “Brave or foolish?”

I smiled at him, but I said nothing. It has ever been my belief with men that it is far easier to allow them to make up their own minds and tell themselves whatever pretty story they want about your motives.

They can think you love them or hate them, that you’re brokenhearted at leaving them or else that you have turned your heart to another. There is naught you can do about their fanciful imaginings, and it saves time and many tears if you simply let them believe as they will. Then they tell themselves their pretty stories and your soul remains unstained by the lie.

As I looked at Master Culpepper from beneath my half-lowered eyelids, I thought it was a good thing he had auburn hair and those fine eyes, and that his features—I thought—resembled what my husband’s had been before he’d grown so fat. Any get of Thomas could pass as the get of Henry, the king of England.

“Don’t you know, madam, that the wrath of kings is death?”

I smiled at him, my sauciest smile, and endeavored to appear lighthearted and fanciful and interested in nothing but my pleasure. Or perhaps half mad in love with him, which Thomas would probably fain believe I was. He’d grown very vain.

“You speak too much, Master Culpepper.”

“Should one not speak?” he asked. “When such grave matter is afoot?” His hand, more forward than his brain, quested still in the warm reaches of my bodice, and by that questing hand I knew I had him. He might think, and he might talk, but his body would no more let him walk away from me than it would let him ascend to flight like an angel bound for heaven above.

“My quarters are warm, and all my servants abed, save only Lady Rochefort and Mistress Tilney who is utterly devoted to me—and both of them would die before they betray me.”

In his eyes for a moment there was a flash of fear. Then it was gone. “Madam!” he said, desire in his voice strong enough to drive away any fear. “Madam.”

“Dare you not, Thomas Culpepper? And I thought you a brave man.” Which by all accounts I should well think him—in the field of joust and in dispute, he stood with the most gallant courtiers.

“Brave I am, and I’ll dare if you will, but . . .”

My finger rested on his lips, stilling them. “Hush then, and dare you all.”

In his eyes I read lust mixed with a little fear. He would never be allowed to see the fear in mine. I kept my gaze level, my smile broad. He would never be allowed to know that as I stood here, in my velvet gown, my sparkling jewels, I walked a narrow path between two deep abysses.

The king, my husband, lay ill abed. At this very moment, already, he might be dead, taken by the same illness that had caused the wound in his leg to stop flowing and turned his face black with foul humors just two months ago. That same illness had returned, that same blocked humor. And now he would die. And if he died—

If he died, he left nothing. Two daughters and a small son who, though he might be a lusty infant, would still be a pawn of every pretender, every hand against him.

We would find ourselves again as in the time before the king’s father when my grandmother said every man had been against every other and no one safe. And I, the relict of the sovereign, would be the first to lose life and limb in such strife.

Only one thing would protect me, and hold me on the throne, and that was that my womb should ripen with a child.

But that was impossible as my husband did little that could lead to such an auspicious result.
And so, at this moment, in my peril, I must seize upon another who might impregnate me and whose son I could pretend to be Henry’s. Of course, discovery of my treason would lead to death, but so would Henry’s death without having seeded my womb.

I half closed my eyes and wondered how I—who had wanted nothing more than to keep myself free from any man’s single, brute power over me—should have come to this.

But I said nothing. I closed my eyes and allowed Thomas to think it was just my desire for him making me hoarse, as I said, “Speak no more, Thomas. Only make me yours.”


John Lambshead said...

Dear Sarah
Sympathies, John

Anonymous said...

Rest, vitamins, chicken soup. Elderberry syrup and curcumin. Magic spells. Whatever it takes.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I've been watching season one and two of The Tudors, so I enjoyed your book snippet.

Hope you pick up soon.

Kate said...

Nice snippet.

Look after yourself and don't let the flu win.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Sarah. I enjoyed the snipet. By a strange chance I was in the act of leeching myself to remove blocked humours at the time.

I was not sure whether to envy or pity poor Culpepper, who I suspect is doomed.

Get well soon.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Hi guys. I am MUCH better today, though I suspect this is the sort of recuperation that will take days or weeks. And a lot of naps. But today I'm goin to do the death-defying trick of attempting sleep.

Rowena, I did Plain Jane, the story of Jane Seymour, under a house name. Weirdly, for a book written in three days while I had a concussion (What? It's the truth) it's my best-selling work to date.

I did it for a chance to write Kathryn Howard. :)

Oh yes, yes, he is. Of course, so is she. She wanted to run away and be a pirate in Ireland. Poor thing.