Exclusive Excerpt: Matilda Empress by Lise Arin

Exclusive Excerpt from Lise Arin's
Matilda Empress

My friendship with Adeliza and dependence on Gerta grow apace. We three often fritter away the cold autumn hours in my solar, plying our needles within while the men hunt for game without.
Today, we debated who among us was the Sanguine Woman, artful and cunning, inclined to fleshiness, with a healthy womb. We easily settled upon Maud, that warm and wet creature of the air. I was named the Phlegmatic Woman, cold and wet, belonging to the water, recognized by my severe physiognomy, unbridled vigor, masculine manners, and charismatic allure. The queen we labeled the Choleric Woman, warm and dry, born from fire, in keeping with her delicate pallor and her benevolent, prudent, chaste, and loyal nature. Gerta could be none other than the Melancholic Woman, cold and dry as the earth, gaunt of figure, gray, moody, impulsive, sterile.
At some point, I steered the conversation to the Count of Boulogne. Her Majesty does not encourage my infatuation. The queen’s youth and beauty ill reflect her opinions, which are those of an old woman, long past the days of romance. Her petite, rosy mouth puckered in concentration, as she stitched slowly at a complex pattern that she embroiders on the decorative bands of one of my father’s tunics. “Only after many an hour do two people gently meld their wills and minds as one. It was not a few months before I properly understood your father. Now I can truly offer him my heart.”
I regarded her seraphic coloring. “Your Majesty, you feel the reverence and affection due a husband, as I did for the emperor. In Germany, the duties of the conjugal bed seemed no especial burden to me, but I did not experience any of the incitements that the jongleurs ascribe to passion. Yet, when I dwell on the image of my cousin, I fall victim to irrefutable temptation.”
Adeliza chose her words as carefully as she drew out her silken threads. “Empress, forego this madness. Do you respect the man whom you covet? You cannot adore truly where you cannot admire fully. Only an irreproachable man deserves your acclaim and your attentions.”
I shrugged, as if to ward off embarrassment. “I must have inherited such a hazardous propensity, and it blinds my inner eye. I am incapable of measuring the true worth of my chosen hero, for all I feel is my need for him.”
“The minstrels sing of a bond that is pure and coupled with honorable service. Count Stephen cannot be both your knight and Maud’s.” My friend reached into her sleeve and brought forth a lustrous pearl, which she balanced precisely between two fingers.
The jewel glinted at me in the waning light. “The attraction is both carnal and spiritual. It is the union of both sorts of desire, the sacred and the profane. Looking at the Count of Boulogne, I soar upon the clouds, but I know that my sordid lusts are unworthy in the eyes of God.”

Mathilda Empress
Release Date March 14, 2017


A novel of the medieval queen who lost her empire and her heart versus woman who almost conquered England

Matilda, a twelfth-century Empress of the Holy Roman Empire and daughter of Henry I, is twenty-four years old and a widow. She returns to inherit her father's double realm of England and Normandy, but is promptly married against her will to Geoffrey, a minor continental nobleman. Absent from England at the time of her father's death, Matilda loses her throne to her cousin, Stephen, despite their ongoing and secret love affair.

For almost twenty years, anarchy reigns throughout the empire, and their illicit passion fluctuates between hatred and obsession. The only hope is the Empress' growing faith and their illegitimate son, whose rightful claim to the English throne could finally halt the bloody, endless war.

In the vein of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, Matilda Empress illuminates the real history of the early English monarchs, while exploring what is at stake when a strong woman at the center of great upheaval refuses to play by the rules laid out for her.

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About the Author:
Lise Arin has a BA from Harvard and a PhD from Columbia. She is thrilled to be publishing her first novel of historical fiction, MATILDA EMPRESS, on March 14, 2017. She lives in New York City with her husband and children.
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