Saturday, 23 April 2022

The Last King by M.J. Porter (book excerpt + #giveaway)

Chez Maximka, historical fiction set in Mercia

I'm delighted to introduce a new exciting historical novel, with a fascinating main protagonist.

You have a chance to read an excerpt from the book and also take part in the giveaway to win a hardback copy of the book.

 The Last King

From author M J Porter comes a thrilling new hero.

They sent three hundred warriors to kill one man. It wasn’t enough.

Mercia lies broken but not beaten, her alliance with Wessex in tatters.

Coelwulf, a fierce and bloody warrior, hears whispers that Mercia has been betrayed from his home in the west. He fears no man, especially not the Vikings sent to hunt him down.

To discover the truth of the rumours he hears, Coelwulf must travel to the heart of Mercia, and what he finds there will determine the fate of Mercia, as well as his own.

Purchase Link -

Author Bio – I'm an author of historical fiction (Early English, Vikings and the British Isles as a whole before the Norman Conquest, as well as two 20th-century mysteries). I was born in the old Mercian kingdom at some point since 1066. Raised in the shadow of a strange little building, told from a very young age that it housed the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia and that our garden was littered with old pieces of pottery from a long-ago battle, it's little wonder that my curiosity in Early England ran riot. I can only blame my parents!

I write A LOT. You've been warned!

Find me at and @coloursofunison on Twitter.

Social Media Links –

historical fiction

The Last King



Intro: This scene occurs not long after Coelwulf has returned to Kingsholm, his home, and discovered that he must become Mercia’s king in the light of King Burgred fleeing Mercia when faced with the Raiders (Vikings). But, Mercia has more enemies than just the Raiders. (It also shows some of the humour that lightens the tone of these characters in perilous situations).


Within sight of Gloucester, I rein Haden in, my warriors following my actions. I turn to Edmund, my confusion reflected in the wrinkles on his forehead, his mouth hanging open.

“What the hell?” His words speak for us all.

“Am I really seeing that?” I demand to know. “Tell me I’m not really seeing that.”

“You’re really seeing that,” Edmund replies, Icel beside him. His face mirrors Edmund’s shocked one as well.

“Bloody hell,” I shake my head, aghast.

Of all the things. Well, this was not what I was expecting to see. Not in Gloucester.

And not right now.

“Stupid fools,” Icel’s voice rumbles with his distaste, and I agree with him.

“Why would they do that?”

“Because they’re idiots.” Edmund’s voice is filled with part admiration and part outrage. I share his feelings.

“Just what we need. Stupid Gwent Welsh Raiders on top of everything else.”

“What shall we do?”

“Kill them,” I state flatly. I’ve fought the Welsh men of Gwent almost as many times as I have the Raiders. Admittedly, I’ve never had to fight the Welsh and the Raiders in the same week, or even month.

The smoke that fills the air doesn’t come from the settlement of Gloucester itself, still seemingly protected behind its three ancient Roman walls. But on the quayside, the settlement is threatened.

“Why would they burn the bloody bridge?”

It makes no sense, but then, the Welsh of Gwent make no sense to me most of the time.

“It seems they mean to cut off their own noses to spite themselves.”

Without the wooden bridge, that links Gloucester with the Mercian lands on the eastern side, the Welsh will have to use ships to cross the Severn if they wish to trade with the inhabitants.

“Right, stupidity or not, let’s go and see if anyone needs killing on our side of the river.”

Kneeing Haden, I steer him quickly inside Gloucester. It seems our return has been expected, and the wooden gates are quickly flung open, the street just about deserted as we ride through it.

The town, like so many others in Mercia, is far from overpopulated other than by churches. In no time at all, my men and I are milling around close to the burning bridge.

The heat is surprisingly intense as yellow flames lick their way along the wooden struts.

I’ve nodded to those people I know as I lead my men on, the looks of relief on those faces, assuring me that Gloucester fears this new attack.

Edmund joins me, his hand already on his seax, death in his eyes, as we reach the quayside. He hates the Welsh. All of them. No matter their king or place of birth. If I allow him to, he’ll kill all of the men marooned on this side of the bridge and not think twice about it.

I watch with mild interest as the twenty or so Welsh warriors realise they’re not alone.

The tongue they speak is a gabble of too many syllables. But I’ve not lived all my life so close to the Welsh borderlands without learning some of the language.

A tight smile touches my cheeks.

It seems that facing me today was not their desire.

“Why?” I shout across the void, aware Icel has taken over the role of organising the men in light of Edmund’s seething hissing beside me. The man is quite unmanageable where the Welsh are concerned.

One man steps forward. His long hair is tied back behind his neck, his beard and moustache trimmed close to his face. He wears excellent battle wear, but it’s not going to help him if he needs to swim the Severn, for all it’s much narrower here than downstream.

The man’s Adam apple bobs, as he swallows heavily, his eyes widening with fear. I don’t know what Icel’s doing behind me, but I decide it’s probably Edmund’s wild features that cause so much concern.

“My Lord, My Lord Coelwulf.”

“Yes, and who are you?”

“I am Cadell ap Merfyn.”

“Well then, welcome to Gloucester, Cadell ap Merfyn.”

His grimace almost makes me smile.

“I.” He stops, and I wait, my hands still on the harness of my horse. The smell of the choking fumes of the treated, burning wood, is threatening to bring tears to my eyes. Any moment now, I think the flames will cover the twenty Welsh warriors, perhaps using it as a cover to slip back across the Severn.

Maybe, I consider, there’s a ship waiting for them.

But, Cadell’s nervousness speaks to me of an enormous mistake.

“I. Well we. Well, it was our intention to trade in Gloucester. It seems that our enemies thought differently.”

Ah, now this I can understand.

“Did they, by any chance, wait for you to cross into Gloucester and then set the bridge aflame?”

Relief washes over Cadell’s face, making him almost handsome if I avoid looking at his too sharp chin and elongated nose.

“How did you know? Did they tell you?” A touch of fury slips from Cadell’s tongue.

“No, we didn’t know. But you know, we have enemies too.”

From across the bridge, as the smoke blows clear for a heartbeat, I can actually make out a warband jeering at the enemy. Edmund growls, but I reach out and touch his hand, asking for a calmness that’s never easily found where the Welsh are concerned.

“Is that all of you?” I demand to know, jerking my head to indicate the warriors surrounding their spokesperson.

“Yes, yes,” the head bobs too quickly.

“No fools are hiding along the quayside, in the boats or storehouses.”

The quayside could play host to five hundred enemy warriors, and I’d be none the wiser.

“No. We are all here.” But he turns, hesitant to show me his back, and picks out the faces of the men who serve him.

I shake my head, meeting Icel’s amused eyes to the side of me.

“Edmund, do you want to take yourself off somewhere else. I think I need to speak to this Cadell.”


Giveaway to Win a Hardback Copy of The Last King (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –

Worldwide entries welcome.  

Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  

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Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  

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This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  

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Please note that this giveaway appears through several blogs, taking part in the blog tour. Chez Maximka is hosting the Rafflecopter gadget for free for the purposes of book promotion. 

I have no access to the data collected, and am not involved in the selection of the winner and dispatch of the prize.

Good luck!

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