SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Novice by Mirella Patzer

02_The Novice

A young woman on the verge of taking her vows to become a nun.

A desperate flight from a murderous massacre.

One honorable man comes to her rescue.

Another becomes her nemesis and captor.

And a life and death search to reunite with her one true love.

In 10th century Naples, Saracens run rampant, annihilating villages, murdering women and children. Death and despair is everywhere. Alone in the world, Sara is a young novice plagued with doubts about taking her final vows to become a nun. When her convent is attacked, she flees for her life straight into the arms of a group of Saracens who leave her to die alone in the woods. An honorable cavaliere named Nicolo comes to her rescue and offers to take her to the safety of Naples. As they journey together, they are irresistibly drawn to each other. Believing Sara to be a nun, the honorable Nicolo is torn between love and duty to respect her vows. Heartbroken, he does what honor demands and sets her free before she can tell him the truth that she is not a nun. In her search to reunite with Nicolo, she encounters Umberto, a dark and dangerous man who will stop at nothing in his obsession to possess her. With her sharp intellect, and her heart, Sara must rely on her own courage and strength to escape her abuser and find the only man she will ever love. A story that burns with intensity, intrigue, and passion from the author of the highly successful novel, Orphan of the Olive Tree.

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EXCERPT

Village of Gaeta

North of Naples

The massacre caught the villagers of Gaeta by surprise. In the convent of Santa Maria delle Vergine, the first shrieks of the Saracen raiders as they raced down the hills and then into the outskirts of the village had forced the small group of nuns from their beds. Some rushed to the chapel to face the enemy. The others fled terrorized into the summer night. They were the lucky ones; that desperate flight would save their lives.

Protected by the hood of her mantle, Sara, a novice, the convent’s only inhabitant who had not yet taken her vows, stood among the sisters clustering together on the crest of a hill next to a grove of trees. She shivered against the fading night’s breeze. A full moon and the first rays of dawn combined to shed a scarce light over the valley below. She gazed down at the village of Gaeta, a sprawling mass of land surrounded on three sides the sea, that consisted of a handful of buildings and homes, a church, and their convent. An eerie mist hung above it.

The desolate tolling of the church bell suddenly rose up on the wind.

Sara watched in horror as Muslim warriors galloped through the village bellowing their war cries. A knot of terror jammed in her chest when she saw them enter the convent. She held up a hand, a plea for the women to listen. The church bell suddenly ceased ringing. Screams, shrieks, and moans leapt out of the silence like sparks from a fire. Stunned, Sara could not tear her gaze away from the Saracen marauders who attacked homes, broke down doors and windows, and dragged villagers and nuns outside to meet their demise. The world was truly desolate, without redemption. The villagers were people she knew, whom she had toiled with, and served. There had been no time to warn or save anyone. To each his own. The Saracens were bent at slaughter.

A group of villagers had barricaded themselves inside the church. The attackers set fire to the building and waited for them to flee the smoke and flames. Then the bloodthirsty murderers, wielding axes and swords, struck them down. For years, these Muslim enemies had burned towns, hamlets, churches, orchards, pastures, and vineyards. The hatred the Saracens bore for the people of the Italian peninsula had resulted in battles that had raged for decades. The reason for the hatred, however, had long faded from everyone’s minds.

Sara had never experienced anything like this before – the massacre of an entire village. Cold stark horror gripped her.

Gaeta’s rude houses were scattered over a wide area. Even if most of the villagers had not been surprised in their beds, they had little chance to help one another. The Saracens slew without mercy, torching structures at random. Known for their merciless brutality, Sara had heard stories of captives being impaled, of fingernails pulled out and limbs hacked off, even decapitations or being roasted alive at the stake.

All she and the nuns could do was watch in horror. The women were unable to tear their gazes from the death striking those who had not been fortunate enough to escape. Some of the sisters fell to their knees to pray and weep. One fainted and lay huddled against a tree trunk.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

03_Mirella Patzer Author PhotoA true blue Taurean in every way, Mirella Sichirollo Patzer grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a city famous for the Calgary Stampede, oil companies, and the wild west. Historical fiction books are one of her obsessions, especially those that pertain to medieval eras and with Italy as a backdrop. Her fascination for women of history and Italy is often reflected in her work, her various blogs, and website. She lives in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada with her husband and family. Her house is brimming with books and toys. For her, life couldn’t get any better.

For more information please visit Mirella’s website. Mirella also blogs at History and Women & Historical Novel Review. Connect with Mirella on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.

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