Today I’m delighted to be sharing an excerpt from Carolyn Hughes’s recently released novel, Squire’s Hazard, as part of a blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club. Squire’s Hazard is the fifth in Carolyn’s series the Meonbridge Chronicle set in the Meon Valley, Hampshire in the fourteenth century.
The waters of the river glinted in the winter sun, as it dipped towards the tops of distant trees. Dickon’s heart beat faster at the sight of it, for he and his small retinue had at last reached the final mile of their long ride to Meonbridge from Steyning. He’d never have thought he would care for it quite so much, the Meon, the river of his childhood.
He called out to Piers Arundale and, when his grandmother’s squire turned his head in answer, he pointed. ‘Home,’ he cried, and Piers trotted over.
‘You’re glad to be back, my lord?’ Piers’s eyes were quizzical.
‘I’ve missed the place.’ He’d not tell Piers the true reason for his yearning to be home. If asked, simple pleasure in being amongst family and friends again would be enough. Indeed, now he was here, he wondered if he could somehow arrange it so he stayed for good. Though of course his grandmother wouldn’t let him.
He’d been relieved when Piers arrived at Steyning Castle with two de Bohun men-at-arms to accompany him on the journey back to Meonbridge for the Christmas festivities. Yet the prospect of the two-day ride, in the chill December weather, was still daunting.
He’d done this journey many times before. When he was small, he’d ridden pillion behind his uncle, John. But, for the last two years, he’d travelled the long distance on his own horse, albeit still with the small retinue to protect him. He had to keep his wits about him, for the roads and tracks were treacherous at the best of times, even more so at this time of year. Though the courser Piers brought for him, his favourite, Bayard, was a fine, sure-footed horse. Indeed, Bayard lived up to his reputation so well, he could let his mind wander to the events of the past few months.
He’d been at Steyning now for a year and a half. When he went there the first time, years ago when he was much younger, he wasn’t at all happy. At home in Meonbridge, he’d always felt confident and strong. But Steyning Castle was big and frightening, and all the other boys seemed arrogant and proud. He was glad when Sir Giles Fitzpeyne had suggested he went to Shropshire instead, to continue his page training. Sir Giles had only two pages, and they lived as part of the family. But, by the time he was twelve, Dickon was ready for a more martial atmosphere, and content, if not eager, to return to Steyning.
At first, it was all he’d hoped. He soon made friends with two fellow squires in training, Alan de Clyffe and Nicholas Fenecote, both of whom were from noble families, and displayed it in their bold and mannerly demeanour.
He’d been nervous about exposing his own background. His grandmother had made it clear that there was no need to speak of it: no one at Steyning except Lord Raoul knew the truth about his birth. And the confidence he’d gained at Fitzpeyne Castle was enough to make him feel their equal, and for Alan and Nicholas to accept him.
But when Edwin de Courtenay arrived in Steyning a few months later, the mood entirely changed.
First, Edwin lured his friends away. Then, after a while, the “gang of three”, as he thought of them, began to taunt him, always at Edwin’s instigation, making him look stupid, calling him “churl” and “dullard”, though never within earshot of their knights or the earl, or even any of the castle servants.
Dickon didn’t understand what made Edwin take against him. It seemed clear he considered him inferior. But why? Surely he didn’t know his secret? How could he? So, was his true background showing after all?
How do you overcome the loathing, lust and bitterness threatening you and your family’s honour?
It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Fougère. Or he would be, if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth.
At home in Meonbridge for Christmas, Dickon notices how grown-up his childhood playmate, Libby Fletcher, has become since he last saw her and feels the stirrings of desire. Libby, seeing how different he is too, falls instantly in love. But as a servant to Dickon’s grandmother, Lady Margaret de Bohun, she could never be his wife.
Margery Tyler, Libby’s aunt, meeting her niece by chance, learns of her passion for young Dickon. Their conversation rekindles Margery’s long-held rancour against the de Bohuns, whom she blames for all the ills that befell her family, including her own servitude. For years she’s hidden her hunger for retribution, but she can no longer keep her hostility in check.
As the future Lord of Meonbridge, Dickon knows he must rise above de Courtenay’s loathing and intimidation, and get the better of him. And, surely, he must master his lust for Libby, so his own mother’s shocking history is not repeated? Of Margery’s bitterness, however, he has yet to learn …
Beset by the hazards these powerful and dangerous emotions bring, can young Dickon summon up the courage and resolve to overcome them?
Secrets, hatred and betrayal, but also love and courage – Squire’s Hazard, the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.
Squire’s Hazard is available on Kindle Unlimited and at
Universal Link • Amazon UK • Amazon US • Amazon CA • Amazon AU
The paperback is available to buy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Waterstones.
Carolyn Hughes has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.
Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
Squire’s Hazard is the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE, and more stories about the folk of Meonbridge will follow.
You can connect with Carolyn through her website www.carolynhughesauthor.com and by clicking on the links below.
Website • Twitter • Facebook • BookBub
Amazon Author Page UK • Goodreads
More information on the Coffee Pot Book Club and other works of quality historical fiction can be found on Twitter and Instagram
Book Title: Squire’s Hazard, The Fifth Meonbridge Chronicle
Series: The Meonbridge Chronicles
Author: Carolyn Hughes
Publication Date: 6th October 2022
Publisher: Riverdown Books
Page Length: 360
Genre: Historical Fiction
2 thoughts on “Squire’s Hazard by Carolyn Hughes”
Thank you for hosting Carolyn Hughes today, Catherine. x
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Absolutely happy to, Cathie.