I’ve been intrigued by D. K.’s books since first I came across Blood and Ink, her first novel which offers an intriguing take on the question of whether William Shakespeare or Christopher Marlowe penned the Bard’s plays and sonnets – and just what did happen to Marlowe in that tavern in Deptford in 1593. Since then she has drawn more inspiration from Shakespeare’s timeless tales in her ‘Fractured Shakespeare’ novels, first Prince of Sorrows (based on Hamlet) and now The Fire of Winter, offering a reworking of MacBeth – but from the point of view of the often more-reviled Lady MacBeth.
It’s a familiar tale, of course – yet this interweaving of historical research and the Bard’s drama results in a unique retelling – and one that may surprise you.
Read an excerpt below… and be sure to follow the rest of the blog tour and enter the #Giveaway (US only).
THE FIRE OF WINTER BY D.K. MARLEY
Publication Date: June 1, 2019
She is known as Lady Macbeth.
What leads her down the path of murder?
What secrets fire her destiny?
Gruah, granddaughter of King Cìnéad III of the Royal Clan Alpin, marries two men in less than six months, one she loves and one she hates; one in secret, the other arranged by the High King of Scotland. At the age of eighteen, she lays her palm upon the ancient stone of Scone and sees her destiny as Queen of Scotland, and she vows to do whatever necessary to see her true love, Macbeth macFindlaech, beside her on the throne.
Amid the fiery times and heated onslaughts from Denmark and England, as the rule of Scotland hangs in the balance, Gruah seeks to win the throne and bring revenge upon the monsters of her childhood, no matter the cost or amount of blood tainting her own hands; yet, an unexpected meeting with the King called the Confessor causes her to question her bloody path and doubt her once blazing pagan faith. Will she find redemption or has the blood of her past fire-branded her soul?
The story weaves the play by William Shakespeare with the actual history of Macbeth and his Queen in 11th-century Scotland.
“…a woman’s story at a winter’s fire…”
(Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV)
From The Fire of Winter:
Chapter 4 – The Greenwood Marriage
Macbeth and Gruah rode in silence along the path toward Na Clachan Aoriadh. Gruah welcomed the silence for with each step her horse made, her heart beat faster in her chest. The purpose was clear.
Tonight, a fire will burn in the centre of the four stone sisters, and tonight, I will give myself to my true husband. And, perhaps the Goddess will grant me a child, an heir to the throne of Scotland whose blood flows from Clann Alpin.
She closed her eyes and breathed in deep. Macbeth’s horse grumbled in his throat, and Gruah opened her eyes. Goose flesh tingled up the back of her thighs, and she shifted in her saddle as she became acutely aware of the closeness of his horse and the warmth of Macbeth’s stare caressing over her back.
Another few miles and the birch and ash trees of Allean forest fell away into a large glade rising high up a hill. Macbeth spurred his horse next to her and pointed toward the tor.
“Look, there is the circle.”
Gruah dug her heels into the side of the palfrey and charged up the hill. When they reached the summit, she dismounted and walked to the edge of the circle, between two of the stones, and gazed out toward the horizon. The tops of the fir trees bent in the brisk Autumn wind, and Schiehallion rose like a mighty God overlooking the evergreens. The clouds hung low and grey, a slight mist penetrating the air, but Gruah did not care. She shielded her face with the hood of her cloak. Macbeth walked up behind her and encircled his arms around her waist, then pulled the edge of the hood away from her cheek. His lips touched ever so slightly against the side of her ear as he whispered.
“What now, Lady Gruah?”
She giggled and her face flushed.
“Go on,” she answered, “we need a bonfire in the centre of the stones.”
He kissed along the side of her neck. “No,” he said, “we do not.”
She leaned her head back, letting her laughter ring out across the tor. “Stop… wait… I have a plan… please, wait and listen to me.”
He reached inside her cloak and pulled her close to him. “No more words, Gruah. Is this not why we came here?”
Gruah thrust her hands against his chest and pushed him away, growling in her throat. “I will have this day perfect as the picture in my head, or we can ride back to Borenich this very instant.”
Macbeth took one step toward her, his mouth crooked in a smile. He bent at his waist and bowed before her. “As you wish, my lady. I will search for some firewood.”
Gruah took a deep breath. She watched him as he edged back toward the forest, picking up scatterings of branches and logs. His brown twill-woven cloak wrapped around his waist and over his shoulder and Gruah eyed the back of his muscular thighs as he leaned over. She smiled and shivered. From the corner of her eye, the two horses, her palfrey and his solid black Shire, grazed gently in the swaying brush grass. She turned her face toward them and held back her hair from her eyes. Something about their graceful manes fluttering in the wind, mingling and falling across their strong muscular necks, fired her soul. The pure perfection in the majestic creatures. She thought of Alba, her land, and the plans in her mind to bring Scotland together, wielded by her own hand and that of Macbeth. The destiny of the two of them as High King and Queen of Scotland could not fail.
As Macbeth disappeared into the forest, she removed the woollen blankets draped across the saddle, untied a leather flask and walked near to the centre of the stone circle. Raising her chin to the sky, she said, “This must work, Cailleach.”
Macbeth came back with an armload of firewood. He threw the bundle down and arranged the stack over an old stone firepit in the centre. Gruah sat down nearby and watched him. Within a few minutes, he struck a flint stone, and the fire blazed to life. He backed away from the small blaze and chuckled.
“Well, ’tis no bonfire, but will have to suffice.”
“No matter, ’tis enough,” she said. He cut his stare toward her, and she bit her lip. The wind blew his dark hair across his face, and Gruah shivered. He knelt next to her and brushed her hair away from her eyes with his fingers.
The fire crackled, a raven cawed, and the horses munched as an awkward silence passed between them. Gruah touched her fingers to her lips and giggled.
“I thought you had a plan,” he said. “I do not know the steps of a greenwood marriage at Beltane. My mother rid the customs in our house when she became a Christian, so I never witnessed the rites. I saw the fires, though, all across the fields at the Spring solstice, from my bedroom window at Glamis. Sometimes I thought I heard the music of drums and pipes floating through the warm air and the low whispers of laughter.”
Gruah sat upwards on her knees toward him and tangled her fingers in his hair.
“I do have a plan, my love. Here, drink this,” she said, as she popped the wax stopper on the flask and tilted the contents to his mouth. Then, she poured some over her own tongue.
He swallowed and wiped his chin with the back of his hand. “What is the drink? ‘Tis strong.”
The corner of her mouth twitched. “Just a little recipe I learned from a woman I met long ago. ‘Twill free us, just wait a few more minutes.” He took another swallow as she continued.
“I never witnessed the rites at Beltane either, but my mother told me all before she died. She wanted me to remember and to honour our past. She converted, as well, when I was a small child, but I think the strict nature of the Celtic church, and fear of the secret stake-burnings of the women who would not yield, made her keep quiet of her true leanings. She was a wild thing, even my father used to rail against her, but it was in her blood. She calmed as she grew older and I always knew what she wanted for me. I knew as a princess of the Alpin line that my father would choose my husband, but my mother whispered to me of the days when a woman of royal blood would choose her own.”
She tangled her fingers in his twill cloak and pulled him close. “I am fortunate that the man I have chosen is also of the same royal blood, so we are doubly blessed.” She then held her right hand out to him. “Here,” she said, “I will show you the rites. Grab hold of my wrist with your right hand…”
D. K. Marley – biography
D. K. Marley is a historical fiction writer specializing in Shakespearean themes. Her grandmother, an English Literature teacher, gave her a volume of Shakespeare’s plays when she was eleven, inspiring DK to delve further into the rich Elizabethan language. Eleven years ago she began the research leading to the publication of her first novel “Blood and Ink,” an epic tale of lost dreams, spurned love, jealousy and deception in Tudor England as the two men, William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, fight for one name and the famous works now known as the Shakespeare Folio. She is an avid Shakespearean / Marlowan, a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Fellowship and a signer of the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. She has traveled to England three times for intensive research and debate workshops and is a graduate of the intense training workshop “The Writer’s Retreat Workshop” founded by Gary Provost and hosted by Jason Sitzes. She lives in Georgia with her husband and two Scottish Terriers named Maggie and Buster.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on August 19th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, July 22
Review & Guest Post at Gwendalyn’s Books
Tuesday, July 23
Review at Amy’s Booket List
Wednesday, July 24
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Friday, July 26
Feature at Words and Peace
Monday, July 29
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Tuesday, July 30
Excerpt at The Order of the White Boar
Thursday, August 1
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books
Friday, August 2
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Monday, August 5
Review at Jorie Loves A Story
Tuesday, August 6
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Saturday, August 10
Interview at Jorie Loves A Story
Monday, August 12
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, August 13
Guest Post at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Wednesday, August 14
Feature at Just One More Chapter
Alex Marchant is author of two books telling the story of the real King Richard III for children aged 10+, The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man, and editor of Grant Me the Carving of My Name, an anthology of short fiction inspired by the king, sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK). A further anthology, Right Trusty and Well Beloved…, is planned for later this year…
Alex’s books can be found on Amazon at: