Tomorrow We Will Know:
A Novel of Imperial Constantinople 1453
An Arthurian tale of the fall of the Roman Empire drawn from history, richly researched and brimming with drama, romance, mysticism, breathtaking courage, and a haunting sense of destiny.
Constantinople 1453: David vs. Goliath, 150,000 enemy at the gates and only 5,000 men to defend the city. A gallant emperor is in the fight of his life and desperate to save his people.
The grand duke’s beautiful daughter is young, spirited, and desperate to win his heart. She becomes his inspiration, and secretly his empress.
Defying the odds, defying the ancient prophecy of doom, defying slavery and the untold horrors of captivity, a dashing military hero brings the embattled emperor ships and nearly 1,000 men. He has sworn never to love again. But if anyone can make him forget his vow, it is this auburn-haired Roman beauty, in this deadly game of life and death, in this dangerous place perched so precariously on the edge of extinction.
Will he prove their salvation, or their doom?
How will it end?
Tomorrow We Will Know.
From award-winning author and “gifted literary talent” Sandra Worth comes a heart-wrenching wartime epic of love, suspense, passion, and survival. Based on history, this tale of love and empire presents a new understanding of this dramatic, far-reaching, and consequential historical event whose outcome shook the world and baffled historians for centuries.
“[A] lavish and detailed plot that deftly combines history and romance in this captivating work. The scope of the work is vast, and the plot far richer due to its historical context...Worth’s skillful blending of historical fiction and romance results in a highly memorable reading experience. A stellar job.“
Note: The Booklife Prize is a prestigious award sponsored by Publishers Weekly. TOMORROW WE WILL KNOW received a score of 9.5 out of 10 and was one of only three books featured in their August 2023 newsletter.
“Navigating this tumultuous period and the personal stories of three main characters, Worth weaves a riveting tapestry of the love that drove the actions at the heart of Constantinople’s fall. The familiar tale of the cowardice at the root of the city’s end is turned here into one of intense bravery and emotion that considers the humanity behind the events that took place.“
“[A] hеart-wrеnching tеstamеnt to Worth's storytеlling prowеss… A timeless tale of love and sacrifice... An incrеdiblе historical novеl that transports rеadеrs to a pivotal momеnt in history. It is a must-rеad for anyonе sееking a dееply immеrsivе and moving historical fiction еxpеriеncе.“
"Sandra Worth has established a literary career around historical novels about real people during the Wars of the Roses. Now, ten years later, she pivots partly around the world with a stunningly detailed historical epic about the final years of imperial Constantinople... The arrival of Justiniani Longo who vows to defend Constantinople seems the answer of [Constantine's} prayers, but when he falls in love with Zoe, complications ensue.... Replete with human passions and deep-rooted courage, Tomorrow We Will Know brings readers front and center into a major turning point in history."
-- Booklist Reviewer Sarah Johnson, Reading the Past blogspot
"[A] love story for the ages... Seemingly without effort, she paints brilliant word pictures that bring this distant fragment of history and its players to life on the page... Certainly, this novel is a sweeping and unforgettable tale worthy of further consideration by historians and one to fuel many creative daydreams of dramatists and filmmakers."
-- The US Review of Books RECOMMENDED
"A magical experience… I love how Sandra Worth explores themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the clash of civilizations between the East and the West and does justice to them all. I also love that there is romance, suspense, and constant action that creates an immersive experience unlike any other. No historical fiction novel has been successful in holding my attention as this story did."
"Some books have 5 * written over them and this is one of them." —U.K. Amazon Reader
From a New York editor to Sandra’s agent
“Once we’re in Constantinople and Zoe is coming into her own, helping the
poor and making the emperor fall in love with her, things really get going.
And it never falters from there. The suspense over what will happen to the city,
the developing love triangle, the battle that wages for the fate of the empire –
it’s full of suspense, emotion, and heartbreak. I found myself welling up during
more than one scene as I raced through the last section of the book.
As expected, I learned so much form the book – and was captivated by the story.”
“One of the best historicals that I have ever read… a truly moving story. Beginning with Anya Seton’s Katherine years ago, I have preferred to get my history that way first and then go back and read the academic sources. Worth brings the characters to life. In some instances her description is sheer poetry. Months after reading Tomorrow We Will Know, thinking about the story still evokes a strong emotional response.”
—Professor Tamara Kaupp, San Jacinto College (ret.)
“Tomorrow We Will Know reveals a richly detailed but little-known history of Christian Constantinople in 1453 as its few defenders battle the mighty Ottoman invaders for their right to exist. Sandra Worth’s best work yet will have the reader tearing through the pages to see what happens next—to Constantinople, to Emperor Constantine, to his valiant military commander, and to Zoe, the woman who is their inspiration and they both love.”
—Cheryl Bolen, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of My Lord Protector
“From her heartfelt historical characters embroiled in a moving love triangle, to the escalating suspense of the final battle that will determine the fate of the Eastern Roman Empire, the author — with impeccable research and inspired storytelling — captivated this reader, bringing new excitement to the historical fiction genre.”
—Robin Maxwell, Los Angeles Times and Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Jane and The Woman Who Loved Tarzan
“Tomorrow We Will Know is an utterly compelling novel, rich in detail, meticulously researched, and beautifully crafted. Sandra Worth’s skill as historian and storyteller is evident on every page. Not to be missed.”
—Tasha Alexander, New York Times Bestselling author of Secrets of the Nile
“In Tomorrow We Will Know Sandra Worth gives us a sweeping saga of empire and love. Worth deftly portrays the battles that will eventually bring down Constantinople—but more importantly she makes us care about the fall of that city through her vivid, flawed, and deeply human characters. By the time a blood-red eclipse of the moon brings fear to both rulers—Christian and Ottoman—leaving each to wonder whether it portends loss or victory for his side of the battle, readers will be biting their nails and holding their breaths.
—Sophie Perinot, author of Médicis Daughter and The Sister Queens
Tomorrow We Will Know
pp. 1-4 not included in this sample
The Eastern Roman Empire
“Zoe, stop twisting your neck!”
“Why do you think she has come, Eirene?” Zoe said, straining to see out the palace window where a litter with the imperial emblem of the black and gold double-headed eagle of Eastern Rome wound up the steep green slope of Mount Taygetos. “Something must have happened!”
As a gray hound watched in a corner, Eirene piled Zoe’s rich red hair on top of her head. She pinned it out of the way and followed Zoe’s gaze to the window where the picturesque town of Mistra nestled on the hillside. Orange tile roofs, olive groves, and cypresses sparkled in the August sun. “Perhaps the Empress Helena comes to visit her son. She hasn’t seen him in a while. Now, be still.”
Starting below Zoe’s bosom, Eirene wound a golden cord around her midriff and smoothed the folds of the silk tunica that was styled in the fashion of ancient Rome. The only concession to modernity lay in the sleeves, which were long and sewn with jewels at the cuffs. She stepped back to assess her handiwork and smiled.
Tall, auburn-haired, and delicate as a woodland sprite, Zoe dazzled in coral. She herself was pretty enough with her chestnut hair and high cheekbones, but Zoe had a special allure. Eirene might have been resentful if she didn’t love her like a sister. Wrong analogy, she amended inwardly, thinking of Zoe’s sister, Maria, who resented her. Turning to the jewel casket, she withdrew a massive necklace worked in gold and set with turquoise pendants.
“The maniakis is heavy. Hold it while I secure the clasp.”
With her eyes riveted on the litter, Zoe absently balanced the wide gold collar over the cowl neckline of her gown. “Constantinople is too far for the Empress Helena to come just to see her son,” she said anxiously.
“Patience, Zoe. If she brings news, I daresay we’ll know soon enough,” Eirene replied. She unpinned Zoe’s hair and fire shot down her back.
Zoe took a seat at her dressing table and examined her face in the mirror. Depending on the hour of day, her auburn hair took on highlights of flame or dark copper, but today it was lifeless, and she was pale. She reached for a vial of pomegranate dye and smoothed the ointment along her cheekbones. Leaning into the mirror, she darkened the brows that arched over her sparkling honey-brown eyes with a dab of charred apricot pit mixed with linseed oil. She laid down the brush. It was hopeless—and she had so wanted to look her best for the empress’s welcome feast, and the dancing, sensuous music, and merriment. She sat listlessly as Eirene brushed her hair with a double set of boar brushes, but when she moved to sweep it up into curls, Zoe stayed her hand. “Leave it down.”
Eirene met her eyes in the mirror. “I’m no fool, Zoe. That he admires your hair is no reason to flaunt yourself to him. He’s going to be emperor one day. He needs to marry for an alliance against the Ottomans. Rich as you are, you can’t give him ships and men.” Eirene’s position as kinswoman, friend, and lady-in-waiting gave her leave to speak freely, for she was a Notaras herself, albeit a poor Notaras, only distantly related to Zoe’s illustrious branch.
“If he fell in love with me, it wouldn’t matter. Emperor Justinian married Theodora, and she was a circus whore and brought him nothing,” Zoe bristled. More gently, she said, “I won’t give up, Eirene. Neither should you.”
Zoe didn’t miss the sudden hesitation in Eirene’s nimble fingers as she braided her thick locks with silk ribbons. Her cousin was a widow at nineteen. Her father had died fighting the Ottomans at the Battle of the Hexamilion Wall, and his death had left her family penniless. At fifteen she had wed a man willing to take her without a dowry, but he was a drunkard who beat her mercilessly. If he hadn’t lost his footing and fallen into the sea weaving his drunken way home one dark night, he would have killed her someday.
“One marriage is enough for me. All I need is a dog, Zoe,” Eirene said. “I have neither the desire nor the dowry to—”
“Oh, a dowry is no problem!” Zoe broke in, ignoring her protest. “My father has enough money for both of us— When I’m empress, I’ll see to it that you wed the man of your choice, whether he wants to, or not!”
Despite herself, Eirene laughed. She loved this irrepressible, generous-hearted girl who was so aptly named after a sprite in the Garden of Hesperides. Drawing Zoe’s braid to the side, she pinned a jeweled cap of golden mesh on her head and arranged its dangling pearls over her brow, but as she looked up, her gaze fell on Prince Constantine’s tall glittering figure awaiting his mother on the palace steps. Gravely, she said, “Be wary what you wish for, Zoe.”
Zoe followed her gaze. Her prayers for Prince Constantine’s love were always followed by a wish for his happiness. But tragedy shadowed him, and he seemed to Zoe a lonely figure. Maybe it was loneliness that had made him reach out to her when she was little. But whatever its source, she had responded by taking him into her heart with a love that grew deeper with every passing year.
Eirene spoke again. “There is only grief down this road.”
“I know,” Zoe sighed, moving to the window. “But he can’t marry someone else, Eirene. I love him too much.”
Eirene came to her side. “Then we should pray he is never emperor.”
Zoe knew she meant the prophecy. Instinctively she opened her mouth to protest that prophecy was a useless art—that sometimes they came true, and sometimes they didn’t—that only fools put their trust in them. But no words came, for this was no ordinary prophecy. This troubled even her. It had been around for centuries, as if waiting for Prince Constantine to be born.
Pages 11-47 not included in this sample
Zoe couldn’t sleep. The news that Phrantzes was leaving for the Black Sea to find a bride for Constantine had plunged her into a deep despondency, and the image of the girl with the babe haunted her. She felt like a rudderless ship, adrift on an endless gray sea, with nowhere to go, serving no purpose.
One frigid night soon after her arrival in March, the Star Wind shrieked into Constantinople, shaking the earth with a torrent of rain and fierce growlings of thunder. Curled up in a window seat, she watched the wind lash the trees and rattle the windows, hoping the girl with the babe had found refuge on this terrible night. Dawn finally arrived. Sitting with Eirene before a glowing fire, she broke her fast with a glass of pomegranate juice.
“You do not eat?” Eirene inquired, helping herself to another heaping spoonful of halva made with sugar, powdered almonds, and ground sesame seeds. She tore off a piece of freshly baked unleavened bread and fed half to an old, limping hound she had rescued and named Theseus in place of Pegasus, who had gone to live with her mother. She smeared her piece with butter and sweet quince jam and popped it into her mouth. “It’s delicious.”
Zoe regarded her cousin. With her pretty looks Eirene turned her share of heads, but she didn’t seem to need anyone, or anything—except, maybe, a dog. She wondered at the source of her self-sufficiency. Was it a mother’s love? Eirene had received a letter from her mother yesterday, buoying her spirits.
She blinked to banish the ache that was always with her. She hadn’t been invited to the palace to see her parents yet, nor had she heard from her brothers who were learning the art of war in other noble households. Everyone had forgotten about her, even Constantine. Her sense of loss was acute. She found it easier to excuse everyone’s neglect except her mother’s. A mother’s love was supposed to be a child’s birthright.
Eirene laid down her napkin. “What is the matter? Is it the emperor?” she asked gently.
“Always,” Zoe replied. “And the street dwellers.”
“You have to stop thinking about them. You give them money when we go into town. You cannot do more.”
“Does their misery not trouble you, Eirene?”
“Of course, it does, but what can I do? I’m not rich or powerful. I can change nothing.”
Zoe froze. For a moment she couldn’t breathe, then she slapped down her napkin and gave Eirene a joyous hug. “You are a genius, Eirene! Thank you—thank you!”
Eirene stared at her, speechless with astonishment.
That afternoon, with Eirene in tow and a guard as escort, Zoe went to the palace to see her father. Crossing the Court of the Sundial, she mounted the palace steps to the great bronze doors and identified herself to one of the imperial guards.
“The Grand Duke is in the council chamber, my lady. If you hasten, you may catch him before the emperor arrives for the meeting,” he replied, assigning her a guide.
She rushed after the guardsman with Eirene as he hurried them along the open walkways and endless corridors of the sprawling palace. They passed through a garden court of tall columns and a peristyle at such a quickened pace that Zoe barely noticed the beautiful patterns of exotic leopards, lions and gazelles splashed across the tiled floors. In the north wing they ran up a splendid white marble staircase to a corridor as wide and long as a city street. Supported by gilded columns and lined with busts of Romans emperors, the passageway glittered in the rainbow-colored light fracturing through a rose window. At the end of the hall Zoe came to a breathless halt before the Varangian guards. The immense gilded doors of the council chamber were shut. She was too late.
The Great Hall where she was taken to wait was divided into two long sections. The lower end was noisy and crowded with all manner of common folk: petitioners, long-bearded priests in black robes and hats, and merchants in cloaks and tunics from knee to ankle length, some in boots, some barelegged in high laced sandals. A few women were present, mostly widows or nuns. But at the far end, on a raised gallery cordoned off for the nobles by a fleet of shining marble steps and crimson velvet curtains, a group of jeweled lords and ladies were gathered around a troubadour. Zoe checked her steps and dismissed the guide.
“Will you not join the nobles?” Eirene asked her in surprise.
Zoe shook her head. “I have no wish to raise Empress Helena’s ire by making my presence known. I’ll read my book until the council meeting is over. You may do as you please until then, Eirene.”
Eirene left to pat a dog lying by the hearth, and Zoe settled into a window seat that commanded a spectacular view of the sparkling waters of the Golden Horn. She opened the book she had brought to read. The Alexiad was written nearly four hundred years earlier by Anna Comnena, daughter of the eleventh century emperor Alexius Comnenus. On her father’s death, Anna made a failed bid for the throne, lost the battle against her brother, and was imprisoned in a nunnery for her efforts. There she whiled away her confinement by writing an account of her father’s reign. Images of the personalities, battles and court intrigues rose before Zoe’s eyes as Anna mourned the loss of the father she had loved. Zoe’s fingers slackened around the book, and she wiped away a furtive tear. Four hundred years, and nothing has changed. People still love, fight wars, and suffer—
“Lady Zoe, what do you read?”
Startled, she looked up from her window seat to find Constantine standing before her and herself the center of attention. She leapt to her feet, blushing, and hid the book behind her skirts as she curtsied.
“By St. Nicholas, what can you be reading?” he teased, bemused by her confusion. “Pray, my lady, let us have a peek—” He held out his hand for the book.
Aware of the eyes on them and the sudden silence that had fallen over the great chamber, Zoe gave it to him, her cheeks burning.
He bent his head and read aloud: “To put before the public the life history of such an emperor reminds me of his supreme virtue, his marvelous qualities, and the hot tears fall again as I weep with all the world—” He looked at her.
Zoe dropped her lids. Placing a finger under her chin, he tilted her face to him.
“My lady, mourning the loss of a loved one is no cause for shame. Loss is a wound to the soul as great as a sword thrust to the body. No one is immune. Potter, shepherd, silk weaver, emperor—it makes no difference who you are.”
Zoe lifted her gaze to his hazel eyes, her heart pounding, her breath catching, emotion blurring her sight. As their eyes met, Constantine took on an expression of bewilderment. He dropped his hand and returned her book. “Death is the order of things, Zoe,” he said under his breath. “None can escape. For those who are left behind, there is comfort and honor in remembrance.”
She fingered the book. “I prefer Vegetius—” she said hastily, to change the mood—change it, and keep Constantine with her, for he was turning to leave. “Vegetius gives practical advice.”
“You have read de Rei Militari?” Constantine demanded in astonishment. Zoe never ceased to surprise him.
He roared with laughter, displaying the dimples she loved. “Why not indeed? No doubt Anna Comnena read Vegetius. Perhaps that was why she made a bid for her brother’s throne? There was once an empress named Zoe who ruled the empire alone. Do you nurse aspirations I should know about, my lady?” he teased.
“My aspirations are not for a throne.” Zoe lifted her chin. “A wife can advise a husband best if she is well read.”
“Advise on fighting?”
He grinned. Zoe might be young in years, but she had spirit, and was turning out to be very interesting. She always made him think.
Zoe bristled at the amusement she saw in his eyes. “I will wager a bet with you, Augustus—That the Empress Helena has read Vegetius.”
His smile vanished. She was right, of course. His mother had read Vegetius, but somehow his mother had always seemed to him more than just a woman. Now he realized that Zoe was right.
“And the dowager empress not only counseled her husband on affairs of state, but also her sons,” Zoe continued, driving home her advantage. “Is that not so?”
He stared at her mutely. Zoe gave him a sly smile that recalled their old familiar friendship and curtsied though he hadn’t dismissed her. She felt his eyes on her as she left.
"Sandra Worth's best work yet will have the reader tearing through the pages to see what happens next."
-- Cheryl Bolen, New York Times bestselling author
"One of the best historicals that I have ever read...
a truly moving story."