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She Serves the Realm

About the Novel

London, 1311: Sir Frederick Kohl, a Hanseatic master merchant and English knight, is really Christina Kohl, a woman in disguise. She returns to London to discover her beloved Lady Cecily’s abusive husband is dead.  They now only need the king’s permission to marry. But in the turbulent times of Edward II’s reign, he is much more concerned with making use of Christina’s considerable talents than in bringing happiness to her life.

In She Serves the Realm, Christina is torn from her merchant trade and the woman she loves to become an officer of the king. She is placed in ever-growing danger as civil war seems all but inevitable; the rebellious barons demanding the banishment of the Earl of Cornwall, King Edward just as adamant to retain him by his side. Complicating matters further is the always present peril of her disguise being discovered.

Can Christina succeed in the tasks King Edward sets before her, winning the right to claim Lady Cecily as her bride? And what of Piers Gaveston; can Christina somehow save him from his enemies, and even himself? Rein your palfrey beside Christina’s Pearl and join her as She Serves the Realm.



They rode north at a quickened pace. After a couple of hours, they slowed, believing the immediate danger to have subsided somewhat. As they neared a crossroads, they discovered they were sorely mistaken.

A group of riders, perhaps three times their numbers, burst forth from behind a grove of trees and galloped directly toward them, their evil intent unmistakable. The horsemen’s speed was such there was hardly time to react. Christina slipped from Pearl’s back and drew her sword, as did Reiniken and Jost. They steeled themselves for their attackers’ onslaught.

Not so Gaveston. Unexpectedly, he spurred his horse to charge directly at their onrushing foes as if they opposed him in the jousting lists. A high-pitched scream burst forth from Plantamor, unmistakably a war cry. The attacking formation halted, then split in panic as the earl’s sword flashed first to one side, then to the other. Gaveston hauled back on the reins and the great beast reared, striking out sharply with its forefeet at a hapless rouncey that fell to the ground from the force of the blow, trapping its unlucky rider beneath it. He wheeled the destrier to the left, his sword impaling another man through the chest as he turned. Gaveston relaxed his arm to allow the horse’s impetus to extract his sword from the mortally wounded man. Great spurts of blood cascaded from the man’s chest, but the earl paid him no mind. He was already seeking his next victim.

Many of the attackers gave the earl and his demonic destrier a wide birth, choosing instead to dismount and seek easier prey in the form of those who stood on their feet. Christina had no time to look for Cecily as she steadily gave ground to two swordsmen who sought to engage her simultaneously, her blade flicking out quicker than a serpent’s tongue to parry theirs to the side. Then she darted forward, dancing to the right of her attackers. This left her opponents one behind the other. The hindmost no longer constituting a threat, she brought her weapon diagonally upward in a slash that parted the skin of the nearest man’s face, digging deeply into the skull beneath. As he fell to the side, wailing as he clutched at his ruined visage, Christina took the opportunity to thrust her sword into his friend’s soft guts. Unlike his companion, the only sound he made was a loud “woof” as she drew back her sword from his body. She had no time to congratulate her clever tactic, however. As she tried to reach Cecily’s side, she was thwarted by more men advancing to take the place of those she had just dispatched.

From the corner of her eye, she noted Reiniken and Jost were positioned back-to-back.

Clever fellows, keeping all their enemies to their front!

While it seemed few of those facing Reiniken had the stomach to venture into the range of his weapon, other than those already on the ground before him, the same could not be said of Jost. The boy was sorely pressed by a single harrying foe whose skill clearly surpassed that of her cousin. Already, Jost had been pinked at least twice on his sword arm, evidenced by thin rivulets of blood running downward. If Reiniken had not been slowly rotating to his right as he fought, a fatal blow would probably have been already struck.

Christina had no time to provide assistance. A swarthy man with a hook nose brought his falchion downward from above his head in a heavy cut directed at her left shoulder. Christina parried it with her blade, the impact almost causing her arm to go numb.

“Hold!” a voice cried loudly from behind her. “Hold or, by Christ, I’ll split her from neck to cunt!”

The man before her smirked and backed away a few steps. Still on her guard, Christina turned her head slightly. What she saw chilled her soul.

One of the knaves had circumvented the fighting. He now held his falchion pointed straight before him, at the point of which stood Cecily.

“Now, drop them toad-stickers and back away, if you treasure her life, that is!”

Having no choice, Christina, Jost, and Reiniken did as they were commanded. Gaveston dismounted and joined them.

“This way, you lot!” one of the men said, directing them to the middle of the road.

“What do we do with ‘em now, Alf?” a younger man with a filthy shock of blond hair asked.

“His excellency only said to bring ‘im this one,” the man who seemed to be the leader of the ruffians responded. “I don’t give a hot damn about the others. Excepting that one maybe.”

He pointed toward Cecily.

“She looks like she would be sport enough for all of us.”

Christina’s ire exploded.

“Don’t any of you fucking touch her or I’ll . . .”

Alf’s gauntleted backhanded blow spun Christina’s head around, knocking her to the ground. Ignoring the sharp pain in her jaw, she immediately rose to her knees, fixing the man with a look of white-hot hatred as she wiped blood from the corner of her mouth.

The other men laughed heartily as Alf exclaimed, “So, she’s yours, is she? Maybe I’ll let you live long enough to watch her squirm beneath me as I pleasure her. I’m sure she’s never . . .”

Alf’s words ended abruptly as his throat suddenly sprouted goose feathers. He stood choking as he clawed at the arrow that transfixed his neck.


Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers’ Favorite

In book four of the No Man is Her Master series, Christina Kohl returns in She Serves the Realm by Lee Swanson. The series begins in 14th-century Lubeck, where Christina, a wealthy merchant's daughter, dreams of adventure and independence over an arranged, loveless marriage. Unexpected events offer a chance for freedom, but with risks and hidden secrets as she assumes the identity of her brother, Frederick. Christina then navigates trade challenges, a perilous voyage to Bruges with English wool, and political unrest while facing adversaries in London's trade guild and Edward II's weakening reign. Three books in, Christina, still disguised as Frederick, falls in love with Lady Cecily before Christina seeks revenge on her family's killers in the Baltic. In this installment, wealthy and accomplished, Christina, now a knight and landowner, aims to wed the recently widowed Lady Cecily. Obtaining the king's approval is essential for their marriage, but getting it proves difficult.

I have been a fan of the No Man is Her Master series for a long time and was so incredibly happy when She Serves the Realm fell into my lap. Lee Swanson gives readers a woman to root for in Christina Kohl and bashes the laws of medieval Europe not just with a woman posing as a man to become one of the wealthiest merchants in London, but also as one who is in love with another woman. Swanson incorporates other scenes where women move beyond gender boundaries, such as a pivotal moment with Trudi and a priest, that provide good fist-pumping moments. It has been a long time coming, but finally, finally, there is hope for her and Lady Cecily. Swanson is fantastic with period details and in bringing an era that is frequently woven into fiction but rarely done so successfully to life. The writing is exceptional, and the story moves forward at a perfect pace to the bittersweet end of the adventure. Very highly recommended.

Reviewed by The Historical Fiction Company

She Serves the Realm is the fourth book in the No Man is Her Master series by Lee Swanson. While She Serves the Realmcan be read alone, most readers would probably get the most enjoyment from it after reading the first three books of the series.

The author includes a brief note and chart at the beginning of the book detailing the use of canonical hours throughout the book. This is incredibly helpful for readers unfamiliar with this religion-based time system. Another thing that the author includes that readers will find helpful is an alphabetical list of characters and a note on historical events at the end of the book. She Serves the Realm contains a lot of characters so the extensive character list is incredibly helpful. The historical notes section also provides a lot of insight into the events in the story and helps readers understand the book on a deeper level.

The writing in She Serves the Realm is straightforward and easy to read and understand. The author does a thorough job of incorporating good imagery to engage the reader and make the story feel more realistic. Another strength of the author is that he can seamlessly integrate history into his tale without making the reader feel as if he or she is trudging through a nonfiction history book. Swanson understands the period that he is writing about and has done extensive research. It takes talent to incorporate that research into a text without making it feel like drudgery for the reader. It is nicely done and helps to set She Serves the Realm apart from other books in the same genre.

One of the biggest strengths of Swanson’s book is that he develops and creates strong female characters. Many readers often find female characters written by male authors to come across as unrealistic or weak at times but Swanson overcomes that beautifully. Christina, in particular, is a strong and impressive character who overcomes so many obstacles. She clearly transcends the standard gender roles of the period. She is believable, strong, and inspiring. Swanson also tackles the topic of same-sex relationships during this period as Christina is romantically involved with Lady Cecily. Readers will genuinely love the characters that the author has created and the positive way that he portrays same-sex relationships in She Serves the Realm.

The intended audience for She Serves the Realm is those who enjoy historical fiction. Readers who love strong female leads will also find that She Serves the Realm to be an enjoyable experience. It is incredibly easy to read and follow and comes in at under four hundred pages making it a great option for readers looking to try out historical fiction for the first time. It is also a great choice for those who love medieval history.

A well-researched story that was beautifully written and features an impressive female main character earns She Serves the Realm a five out of five rating. Readers will love the dose of positive feminism they will find in the character of Christina and enjoy the story. She Serves the Realm is a fantastic representation of life in the medieval period and readers who enjoy this era will find it to be one of the better books available in this niche. It is worth picking up and jumping into the story.