I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for M.G. Sinclair’s The Cardinal’s Man. Set in Cardinal Richelieu’s 17th-century France, this is a story about how great figures of history can pass by unnoticed. Those that have been born in the wrong body, sex or society at the wrong time; reminding us ‘that for every Archimedes of Shakespeare, there have been other seeds which have had the misfortune to fall on far stonier ground’.
Intrigued? Here’s an excerpt from the start of the book!
(1608 – 1632)
Sebastian Morra was born in Camoches, a village in the hinterlands of Normandy. Forty miles from Caen, it lay on an outcrop facing five thousand miles of open Atlantic, clinging to its spur like some barnacle to a whale. It was the ocean that brought the whiting, the bass, the mackerel, the bream and the crab. But it was also the ocean that brought the wind. A hard easterly that stung the eyes, that blew away the earth and left only sand and rock behind; that brought clouds and driving rain from September to June, an incessant wetness which made its way through every wall, roof and into the damp logs which sputtered in every fireplace. Dark and unrelenting months as the air tugged and squalled, wearing the people down as they protected their soil behind low walls, binding it as best they could with beans, beetroot and turnip, or else braved the water, with its currents and rip tides – moods that answered only to the earth and the sun.
The only release came with summer, both a blessing and a curse, a momentary respite from the scrabble and toil, a few weeks to revel, drink and forget. But always too brief and always with the same bitter ending, when the wind returned and the sodden cycle began all over again.
The village was a quarter of a mile from the shore, a straggle of no more than sixty dwellings, all in varying states of disrepair. Sebastian’s was no exception. Like its neighbours, it was walled with mud and stone. Timber was avoided, the fishermen knowing all too well how their boats suffered in the salt and the breeze. But while rock could resist the elements, whatever the mortar, the wind would pick it out, leaving the loose stones to crumble – particularly high up, near the thatch. And no matter how much his parents tried to repair the seaward side, they could never seal all the cracks or keep out the chill which followed every setting sun.
The inside was divided into two. One room for his parents. The other, larger, was used for everything else – a place to eat as well as a bedroom for him and his brothers at night. It was dark. The only light came through the open chimney and a door on the landward side, and Sebastian was to remember it more as a burrow than a home. A life of shadow. All of them packed together like a litter of newborns. Evenings spent crouched tight round the fire, with its familial stench of smoke and sweat that made its way into their clothes, skin and nose until everything they drank or tasted was overpowered by it.
Both his mother and father shared the local physiognomy, flat faces that had been ground to the nub, though it was there the similarity ended. His father was black-eyed, sullen and lean, dressed in his dark tunic, either away at sea or staring into the fire with a drink in his hand. She was the opposite. Blue-eyed, always around and busying herself in her dress and shawl, nudging and cajoling, a whirl of good humour and chat. They squabbled incessantly but seemed to fit each other’s absences well enough. She found comfort in his silence while he found sanctuary in her warmth. And each seemed content in their role, she taking care of the children, he fetching the water and catching the fish.
Sebastian was their first child, and as such, his birth was celebrated. However, by the age of three it was obvious something was wrong. While his chest was normal enough, his back, limbs and jaw remained of infantile proportions – the skull outlandish on his tiny body. Consequently, many of his earliest memories were of distorted faces: the expressions of horrified relatives, visitors flinching as they caught his eye, the stares of unfamiliar children peering round doorways.
Revolted, his father avoided him whenever possible. Instead the boy took sanctuary in his mother’s company. Pitying him, she swaddled him close, at first within the confines of the crib, and then when, aged five, he was able to escape it, she still kept him close to her skirts – safe from his two younger brothers Charles and Audrien who rampaged through the gloom, a pair of clumsy giants oblivious to his presence. And there he remained for his earliest years, secure in his orbit. A speck in infinite space, yet safely revolving around a single star.
The Cardinal’s Man is published by Black & White Publishing on 11th July.
Sebastian de Morra is born with as difficult start as one would care to imagine. A dwarf, born to a peasant family, he has only two things going for him – a first-class mind and a determination to find refuge from the sharp edges of the world.
Using his disadvantage to his advantage, he becomes a jester at the Parisian court entertaining the nobility. Making enemies easily, he also makes a powerful ally when one of history’s most notorious figures, his Red Eminence – the Cardinal Richelieu – requires his services. Under the Cardinal, he finds himself facing and even crossing swords with some of the greatest names of state, until his final task – an undertaking on which the entire future of his country depends.
The only child of two writers, M.G. Sinclair grew up in a world that revolved around literature. Breaking the family tradition, he rebelled and joined the corporate world, where he worked as a copywriter and marketing executive. However, unable to escape the inevitable, he has now completed his debut, a historical novel inspired by a trip to the Prado in Madrid.
author photo (C) Orlando Gili
The blog tour continues tomorrow…