It is my pleasure to have Laura Libricz at Room With Books today. Laura is on tour with her novel “The Master and the Maid” this week. I hope you’ll check in at 4 Wills Publishing for links to the entire tour!
THE MASTER AND THE MAID: She’s lost her work, her home and her freedom. Now, harboring a mysterious newborn, she could lose her life. In 17th Century Germany on the brink of the Thirty Years War, 24-year-old Katarina is traded to the patrician Sebald Tucher by her fiancé Willi Prutt in order to pay his debts. En route to her forced relocation to the Tucher country estate, Katarina is met by a crazed archer, Hans-Wolfgang, carrying a baby under his cloak. He tells her an incredible story of how his beloved was executed by a Jesuit priest for witchcraft right after the birth and makes Katarina—at sword point—swear on her life to protect the child. But protecting the child puts Katarina at risk. She could fall in disfavor with her master. She could be hunted by the zealots who killed his beloved. She could be executed for witchcraft herself. Can Katarina’s love for the baby and Sebald Tucher’s desire for her keep the wrath of the zealots at bay? Set in Franconia, The Master and the Maid is an accurate, authentic account of a young woman’s life in Germany in the 1600’s, her struggle for freedom and her fight for those she loves.
Nuremberg, Germany — May 1616
Katarina twisted the tap on the wooden barrel of beer. Foam spluttered into the tankard and sprayed the white apron covering her coarse brown dress.
“Willi, get me another barrel,” she shouted over the heads of three men sitting at the table nearest her.
The three men swayed from side to side singing a drunken song: “Ich bin a mal auf fischn ganga, in a sumpfig Weier, hockt a Frusch auf meiner Stanga…”
One man lifted his tankard, slammed it on the table and hit the rude bit of the song, “…zwickt mi in die Eier.”
The tallow lamp spun across the table and onto the floor. The new barmaid, Lily, stomped on the burning oil, proving herself quite useful on her first night serving drinks at The Stork’s Nest.
“Willi can’t hear ya,” Lily said. “I’ll get cha one.”
She swung her wide hips around the three drunk men, waddled behind the bar and heaved the empty wooden barrel onto her shoulder. It was the same size as her stomach. She disappeared into the storeroom.
Katarina grabbed her wooden spoon and whacked the drunk at the bar who dared put his head down on the smooth wooden surface.
He raised his head, rubbing the crown. “Hör auf, Katarina. What was that for?”
“Either you’re here to drink, or you’re here to drink. You can sleep at home,” she said.
Near the back door of the tavern, a woman shrieked and a man laughed. Katarina looked up and saw Willi Prutt catch the still-shrieking woman, set her on his lap and kiss her on the lips.
“Katarina, bring us some beer,” the butchers yelled from the table by the door.
Lily rolled back into the taproom and plunked the full barrel onto the short wooden stool. She bent at the waist and hammered the tap into it, sending foam flying everywhere.
“Hand me some tankards there Katarina, be a dear,” Lily said.
Like a practiced team, Katarina passed Lily empty tankards, Lily filled them and Katarina grabbed the full ones back, banging them down on the counter. Lily straightened, heaved five full tankards in each hand and rolled back towards the table of butchers.
The drunk at the bar took a swig and said, “They say the butchers feed her fat to keep her that fat. They just love her young skin. She’s probably carrying another one of their bastards.”
The tavern door opened, letting in a chill evening breeze. In the street beyond, a group of vagrant boys taunted passers-by. The scent of late spring fleeted by her. As the season headed towards the solstice, the evenings seemed to go on forever. And here she was, in this smelly, dark tavern bettering neither herself nor her purse.
She and Willi had been working this tavern since his mother died two years ago. As a result of them working hard together, they had great turnover and they were making more money than when they were weaving cloth and selling fabrics on the market. He promised they would get married when they had the money. But the money they took in made him giddy, like sweet wine. He forgot his promises. He forgot the reason he’d gotten so far was Katarina. He’d forgotten Katarina it seemed.
She would run this tavern by herself if she could. She’d surely be better off without him.
A man who didn’t belong entered the taproom. Katarina pictured a rose growing amid a field of wheat. He closed the door. The flames from the tallow lamps on the tables nearby flickered. He pulled the thin black cape off his shoulders and removed his hat. His dark smooth hair was caught in a black ribbon at the base of his neck. He moved between the full tables to an empty one at the back of the tavern. He caught Katarina watching him. She poured him a cup of port and silently moved to his table.
Katarina set the ceramic cup on the table in front of him. “Good Evening Herr Tucher.”
“You look wonderful tonight, just like always,” Herr Tucher said.
“You look drawn and pale, like always,” she said.
“I can always rely on you for uplifting conversation, Katarina.”
He smirked in a way Katarina found maddening, as if he were making fun of her. As if he saw something in her that she herself was blind to and she wanted to know what it was.
Laura Libricz was born and raised in Bethlehem PA and moved to Upstate New York when she was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, she received a scholarship to go to college. She tried to ‘do the right thing’ and study something useful, but spent all her time reading German literature.
She earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn’t writing she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of musical instruments into the world market.
Her first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven’s Pond Trilogy. The Soldier’s Return and Ash and Rubble are the second and third books in the series.
Google+ private page: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LauraLibricz
Google+ brand page: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/111626375322992289353/111626375322992289353
“This tour sponsored by 4WillsPublishing.wordpress.com