We travel to Walter Raleigh’s Devon in the expert hands of Rosemary Griggs, with an excerpt from her acclaimed historical fiction novel, A Woman of Noble Wit. An accomplished historian and Tudor re-enactor, Ms Griggs brings her extensive research and knowledge to illuminate the life of one of the Tudor age’s most fascinating characters. Excerpt: A Woman of Noble Wit
I have a guilty pleasure when historical fiction, biographies and archive-diving become too much – I like to escape with a great crime thriller. And today, I’m delighted to feature an excerpt from Alison Morton’s latest in the Mélisende series – Double Pursuit. Best known for her fabulous Roma Nova novels, Alison’s foray into the world of international crime is breathtaking – enjoy an excerpt and explore her website to discover this great new crime series! Double Pursuit Excerpt
Jon me today as I chat to Siobhan Daiko about her fascinating new historical fiction novel, how living near Venice informs her research, and the importance of great beta readers. And CONGRATS on earning the coveted “orange flag” as a #1 new release, Siobhan! Author Chat
Have you ever wondered what might have happened if William the Conqueror had been beaten at Hastings in 1066? Or if Harald Hardrada had won at Stamford Bridge? Or if Edward the Confessor had died with an heir ready to take his crown? If so – here is the perfect set of short stories for you. 1066 Turned Upside Down explores a variety of ways in which that momentous year could have played out very differently. Written by nine well-known authors the stories will take you on a journey through the speculative ‘what ifs?’ of England’s most famous year in history. Enjoy an excerpt from Anna Belfrage’s tale, and read more about 1066 – Turned Upside Down. 1066 Turned Upside Down Excerpt
I wrote a sweet romance short Christmas ghost story, and recorded it. It’s available on Kindle, and you can hear/see me reading it on The Lydiard Archives. Our Yuletide Collection is a wonderful glimpse into Christmases past…17th Century shopping lists (65 gallons of sack – wow!) and 1920s farming Boxing Day diaries (ferreting, anyone?). Browse Christmas cards, photographs and a mummer’s play. Do come and join our merry times!The Lydiard Archives | Yuletide
The Castilian Pomegranate is Anna Belfrage’s fabulous new historical adventure novel, and one that I absolutely got lost in. This book brilliantly combines enchanting fiction with fascinating historical detail. Read my AMAZON REVIEW here and enjoy an excerpt below. You’ll want to load up your kindle and make this your holiday read, I promise. The Castilian Pomegranate (The Castilian Saga, Book 2) By Anna Belfrage An enraged and grieving queen commands them to retrieve her exquisite jewel and abandon their foundling brat overseas—or never return. Robert FitzStephan and his wife, Noor, have been temporarily exiled. Officially, they are to travel to the courts of Aragon and Castile as emissaries of Queen Eleanor of England. Unofficially, the queen demands two things: that they abandon Lionel, their foster son, in foreign lands and that they bring back a precious jewel – the Castilian Pomegranate. Noor would rather chop off a foot than leave Lionel in a foreign land—especially as he’s been entrusted to her by his dead father, the last true prince of Wales. And as to the jewel, stealing it would mean immediate execution. . . Spain in 1285 is a complicated place. France has launched a crusade against Aragon and soon enough Robert is embroiled in the conflict, standing side by side with their Aragonese hosts. Once in Castile, it is the fearsome Moors that must be fought, with Robert facing weeks separated from his young wife, a wife who is enthralled by the Castilian court—and a particular Castilian gallant. Jealousy, betrayal and a thirst for revenge plunge Noor and Robert into life-threatening danger.Will they emerge unscathed or will savage but beautiful Castile leave them permanently scarred and damaged? Trigger Warnings: Sexual content, violence This novel is available on #KindleUnlimited Universal LinkAmazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU Excerpt In which Robert handles the rogues who have attacked his wife and meets Fernand de Montferr who will come to play an important part in the story. It was dark by the time Noor was safely back in the litter. For a while, Robert sat with his wife, holding her hand as she slept. The sheer linen hangings billowed softly in the evening breeze, lifting sufficiently for him to see Amalia with the two children and Janet, the wet nurse, sitting some distance away. There was a faint smell of blood lingering in the litter, but Noor looked clean if bruised. Her lashes fluttered. She opened her eyes, gasped at the sight of him. “It is only me, my hawk.” He moved to lie beside her. She made room for him, and he stroked her bruised face, her bandaged arm. Gently, he traced her scabbed lip, and then he pressed a soft kiss to her forehead. “They will pay,” he whispered. She gave him a wan smile. Her eyes closed, and he held her until he was certain she was fast asleep. The remaining eight prisoners stood bound in a tight circle, eight pairs of eyes following Robert as he slowly walked around them with his sword drawn. “I demand that you set us free,” the young lordling said. “You have no notion who you are dealing with.” “Oh, I do. An incompetent lout who cannot keep his men in check.” “That is not true!” The youngster straightened up. Like a leek, he was, all tall and stringy and just as green. “Ah, so it was your idea, then, to carry off my wife?” The pup swallowed so hard Robert could see his Adam’s apple bob up and down. One of his men snickered. That was the last thing he did, his body collapsing as his head flew through the air. His remaining companions staggered as the weight of the dead man almost brought them to the ground. Blood spattered their faces, their clothes. “You cannot do this!” the youngster shrieked. “I am Fernand de Montferr, you hear?” “I hear, but I neither know of you nor care,” Robert said. “English oaf!” Fernand said. “I am cousin by marriage to the king of Navarra, future king of France!” “And my wife is the niece of the English queen,” Robert snarled. The lad’s mouth hung open. “What?” he squeaked. “You heard. So what will your dear royal cousin say when I tell him you took it upon yourself to abduct a married woman, a woman with blood ties to the English crown?” “I . . . I . . .” Fernand said. “How were we to know she wasn’t a doxy?” one of the other men said. “There she was, all alone in the woods—” “Had you but asked her, I am sure she would have informed you,” Robert said icily, and from how some of the men looked away, she had told them. “Besides, rarely do trollops stray all that far from the inns and towns where they earn their living,” John put in. “It would be a strange whore indeed to be looking for eager customers in the woods.” In response, the man shrugged. “Was it on your orders my wife was abducted?” Robert asked again, directing himself to Fernand. “No,” the lad said stiffly. “You admit it, then, that you have no control over your men.” A large man with a grizzled beard just laughed. “We’re his nursemaids. His dear mamá would not have let him step outside the castle otherwise.” “Hold your tongue!” Fernand hissed. “So you took the decision,” Robert said, addressing the large man. “No,” he said. “But once Guillaume brought her back, I wasn’t about to say no, was I?” He regarded Robert calmly, knowing full well what was about to happen. Moments later, his bound companions were struggling with the weight of two dead men. An hour later, the surviving captives had been run off. All but Fernand, who was pulling at the ropes that secured him to his two dead companions and cursing Robert to hell and back as he watched his men flee in nothing but their shirts. “Let me go or kill me!” he yelled. “Don’t just leave me like this!” Robert stood before him and carefully wiped his sword clean. “I don’t kill pups. I teach them a lesson. Besides, you may be of value as a hostage.” And then he walked away. “Untie me! For the love of God, do not leave me to sit here with the bodies!” “Whoever unties him is a dead man,” Robert told his men. “He can spend the night with them, and tomorrow I’ll decide what to do next.” Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time-traveling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. The Castilian Pomegranate is the second in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain, a world of intrigue and back-stabbing. Her most recent release prior to The Castilian Pomegranate is The Whirlpools of Time in which she returns to the world of time travel. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode! All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards. Social Media Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagram BookbubAmazon Author PageGoodreads
Last week I featured an Author Chat from the delightful Nicola Cornick, who shared her writing process behind her newest release, The Last Daughter of York. This has to be my favourite novel by Nicola – so I’m excited to feature my AMAZON REVIEW and an excerpt:
In the winter of the year 1465, when I was five years old, my uncle, the Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker, came to Ravensworth one night, and set my life on a course I could never have imagined. It was late, and the torches were lit in the courtyard and the fires hot in the hearths for there was deep snow on the ground. I was asleep when he came, and the first that I knew of it was when my elder sister Elizabeth shook my arm roughly to awaken me. There was an odd expression on her face, of mingled envy and pity. “Mother wants you,” she said. “You are to go to the solar.” “Go away.” I burrowed deeper into my nest of blankets and furs. Beside me my other sister Alice turned over in her sleep, pulling the covers away from me. I pulled them back. Elizabeth was having none of it. This time she poked me in the ribs, hard enough to banish sleep completely. “Our uncle is here,” she hissed. “Get up!” “I need the privy now you have woken me,” I grumbled. I slid from the bed and scurried across the chamber, the cold stone of the floor chilling my bare feet before I had taken more than a couple of steps. The icy draft in the dark little corner garderobe was vicious, straight off the snow-covered fells outside. My teeth were chattering as I came out and stumbled back toward the sanctuary of the bed. I had no intention of going to find Mother in her private rooms; it mattered little to me that Uncle Warwick was here. I was a child and I wanted to sleep. “Anne.” It was my father’s voice, soft and warm. A candle flared and then he was scooping me up and wrapping me in a fur-lined cloak, carrying me out into the corridor. I heard Alice’s sleepy voice. “What is it? What’s happening?” And Elizabeth’s short answer. “They want Anne. They always want Anne.” My father smelled of his familiar scent, and the cloak was soft and warm. I slid my arm about his neck and clung closer. I adored my father, so equable and indulgent in comparison to my high-tempered mother. But mother was a Neville born, which was to be special and important. This we all knew and understood, just as we knew she was stronger than my father whatever men say about the wife being subject to the husband’s authority. The adult world after candles were out in the nursery was a strange and dazzling place. There was noise and light, the bustle of a castle awake whilst we, the children, slept. It made me feel both very grown up and at the same time, at a disadvantage. I wriggled in my father’s arms, suddenly wanting my independence. “I can walk,” I told my father. “I’m not a baby.” He laughed but there was an edge of regret to it. “No,” he said. “You are a Neville.” He placed me on my feet as we reached the door of the solar, carefully wrapping the cloak about me so that it trailed behind me like a train. It was a rich azure blue, and I drew it close as I entered and felt like a queen. My mother and her brother were standing heads bent close together as they talked at the fireside. They drew apart as we entered the room, giving the impression of two conspirators. The room was hot and bright, and the air smelled of wine and spices, making my head spin a little. The sense of a strange, adult world grew stronger. I had no place here and yet I had been summoned. My mother’s blue gaze was sharp as it swept over me as though looking for fault, but my uncle smiled. “My daughter Anne, my lord.” My father was suddenly formal. Holding his hand as I was, I could feel something tense in him. He might be lord here at Ravensworth, but in this company he would forever be an outsider. He had been chosen as my mother’s consort; an ally, a liege man to the Neville clan who were the growing power in the North. Vaguely I understood this although I was too young to grasp the complexity of it. I wondered whether I should curtsey to the earl. It felt odd when I was in my nightclothes but I did it anyway, drawing back and settling the cloak about me again so that it covered me modestly and warmed my bare feet. My uncle Warwick seemed charmed. He crouched beside me. I had never been so close to him before, for he had previously paid no particular attention to his sister’s brood of children, particularly not the girls. He was too busy, too important. Like my mother—like me—he had the clear blue eyes of the Nevilles, but the rest of his face reminded me of a hawk, it was so fierce and predatory. People accused the Nevilles of pride and arrogance, and it was written there for all to see, in the hard line of his cheek and jaw and the cold assessing gleam of his eye. He was a great man, second only to our kinsman King Edward, or he had been until the previous year when the king had married secretly and raised up a whole raft of his wife’s relatives to the nobility. Uncle Warwick hated the Queen because of the influence she held; this was something else that I knew because I had overheard my parents speak of it. People will speak freely before children, just as they will before servants, thinking us deaf perhaps or too young to understand. “How do you do, Mistress Anne,” the Earl of Warwick said. “You have a great look of the Nevilles about you.” I was clever enough to recognize this as a compliment. “Thank you, my lord,” I said. “What age are you?” “I am five years old, my lord.” He nodded. “Tell me, Mistress Anne, what do you know of marriage?” My father was standing behind me. I felt him make an instinctive movement and saw the moment my mother caught his hand and the words on his tongue died unsaid. I looked the Earl of Warwick in the eye. “Marriage is an alliance of wealth and power, my lord,” I said, and he burst out laughing. “Well said, little maid.” He stood up, still smiling. “I like her, Alice,” he said to my mother. “She is both comely and clever. You have chosen well.”
Thank you Nicola (and I have to share her lovely photo, taken at Minster Lovell, with her new book and Angus!). You can find Nicola on line: WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagram
A big welcome today to Helen Hollick, a truly gifted writer of historical fiction, non-fiction and now, historical mysteries. Helen also runs Discovering Diamonds, an absolutely brilliant website highlighting and reviewing historical fiction books. I loved the first Jan Christopher novel, and I’ve got my eye on this one for the post-Christmas lunch curl up on the couch time! Thanks for sharing a delicious extract, Helen! A Mystery of Murder (Jan Christopher Mysteries, Episode 2) By Helen Hollick ‘Had I known what was to happen soon after we arrived at Mr and Mrs Walker’s lovely old West Country house, my apprehension about spending Christmas in Devon would have dwindled to nothing.’ Library Assistant Jan Christopher is to spend Christmas with her boyfriend, DS Laurie Walker and his family, but when a murder is discovered, followed by a not very accidental accident, the traditional Christmas spirit is somewhat marred… What happened to Laurie’s ex-girlfriend? Where is the vicar’s wife? Who took those old photographs? And will the farmer up the lane ever mend those broken fences? Set in 1971, this is the second Jan Christopher Cosy Mystery. Join her (and an owl and a teddy bear) in Devon for a Christmas to remember. : Will the discovery of a murder spoil Christmas for Jan Christopher and her boyfriend DS Laurie Walker – or will it bring them closer together? Read for free with #KindleUnlimited subscription. Universal Buy LinkAmazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AUGoodreads
Jan Christopher is spending Christmas 1971 with her boyfriend DS Laurie Walker and his parents who live in an old farmhouse in Devon. Evidence of a murder has been found. Laurie and his father have gone to the local police station, Laurie’s mother has had an accident and been taken to the hospital with Gran – and Jan is all on her own… A HUNGRY DOG AND A FLYING BEAR Was it any surprise that I felt uneasy? I was alone, in a house I didn’t know, with it being dark and unfamiliar outside. The nearest neighbour, a quarter-of-a-mile away, was an unfriendly, antisocial nightmare with a daughter to match, and the other neighbour, half-a-mile away further down the hill, unknown to me. The grandfather clock struck six. I slid the front door bolt home, then went to check that the scullery door was locked, checked the French doors in the sitting room, too. While I was there, I shoved a few more logs on the fire. The room was quiet, but warm and cosy, the Christmas lights on the tree twinkled prettily. So quiet. Too quiet. Apart from a rather loud grumble from my stomach. Hungry, I wandered to the kitchen, found the biscuit tin and devoured four digestives. Should I think about preparing something to eat for dinner? Everyone would be hungry when they got back. If they got back. Elsie had said something about a casserole that she’d prepared earlier. What if they kept her overnight at the Infirmary and Gran Ethel stayed with her? What if Barnstaple police arrested Alf and Laurie? Unlikely, surely? Then even more urgent questions. When would Laurie be home with Alf? I didn’t fancy cooking something just for myself – although there was also Bess. Poor Bess was looking mournfully at me, her brown eyes conveying that she was wasting away to skin and bone. I rather wished I hadn’t been reminded of bones… Succumbing to her doggy telepathy, I found some tins of dog food in the scullery and opened one for her. PAL: Prolongs Active Life. A rather macabre thought entered my head. Whoever had been those bones, should have tried eating some dog food. I wandered back into the cosy sitting room, my thoughts returning to Reverend Passwith as I passed through the hall. He’d said he was delivering a Christmas card. Well, he hadn’t given me one. Perhaps he’d put it in the postbox. Should I go and look? I peeped behind one of the drawn curtains, peering out into the night through the glass of the window. Maybe not. It would still be there in the morning. Something else caught my eye, a fluttered movement. Then another. Leaves falling? Goodness! It was snowing! I stood at the window watching as the few haphazard flakes grew more in number, swirling and dancing as the gusting wind huffed and puffed. None of the snowflakes seemed to be landing, just little whirlpools of flakes twisting around and around, then skittering sideways before twirling crazily again. It reminded me of a flock of starlings when they perform their intricate in-flight dances. A murmuration of starlings. A murmuration of snow? What if it snowed hard? What if I got snowed in, all on my own? I suppose I could always walk up to the village, ask for help? The snow stopped. It had only been a flurry. I pulled the curtain closed, put another log on the fire and went upstairs to my bedroom. Thinking about unanswerable question after unanswerable question was silly. Find yourself something to do, Jan. Something positive! I’d brought some wrapping paper, scissors and sticky tape from home, so amused myself for half-an-hour wrapping up and labelling the couple of little presents I’d bought from the market, including the photograph album. Laurie had hidden the hyacinths in a shed somewhere, out of his mum’s sight. I flipped through the book I’d bought for myself then put it safely in my empty suitcase, along with a leftover piece of wrapping paper and the roll of sticky tape. I looked at the writing pad next to my bed. I could jot down some ideas for the next chapter of the science-fiction novel I was writing. I’d left my hero, Radger (rhymes with Badger) Knight hiding from a unit of elite Starforce Five soldiers in an Albaldah tavern basement in the Sagittarius Sector. While hiding, he’d found a few kegs of highly valuable Venusian Vino. I had to help him figure out how he could a) steal them, b) smuggle them out of the star system, c) stay alive while doing so. Unfortunately, I was as stumped for ideas as he was. I sat for a while, pen in hand, gave up. I had no concentration for my masterpiece future bestselling novel. “What are you looking at, Bear?” I grumbled at Teddy, giving him a mock punch to his nose, then swept him into my arms for a cuddle. Still clasping him, I wandered to the window. There had been a little more snow, a scatter of white on the hedges, trees and the edges of the path where the wind had blown it. The sky lit up and I saw the headlights of a car sweep past the house – I opened the window, leaned out… and promptly sent Bee Bear flying into the night air…
Helen Hollick and her family moved from north-east London in January 2013 after finding an eighteenth-century North Devon farm house through being a ‘victim’ on BBC TV’s popular Escape To The Country show. The thirteen-acre property was the first one she was shown – and it was love at first sight. She enjoys her new rural life, and has a variety of animals on the farm, including Exmoor ponies and her daughter’s string of show jumpers. First accepted for publication by William Heinemann in 1993 – a week after her fortieth birthday – Helen then became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she also writes a pirate-based nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. Despite being impaired by the visual disorder of Glaucoma, she is also branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with the Jan Christopher Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working for thirteen years as a library assistant. Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She also runs Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction, a news and events blog for her village and the Community Shop, assists as ‘secretary for the day’ at her daughter’s regular showjumping shows – and occasionally gets time to write… Social Media Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookAmazon Author PageGoodreadsBlogNewsletter
I am so excited to share an Author Chat with Nicola Cornick, where we talk about her fabulous new time slip release, The Last Daughter of York. Stop by and enjoy Nicola’s thoughts on walking in the footsteps of her historical characters, how ruthless editing always pays off, and why this wonderful novel is especially near and dear to her heart. Author Chat
My review of Rebel’s Knot, Cryssa Bazos’s fabulous new release in her Quest for Three Kingdoms series. Travel to war-torn seventeenth-century Ireland for a thrilling historical adventure with Niall and Aine. Think there might be some romance too? Yep – and it’s delicious. Amazon Kobo | IBook | B&N A gorgeously written, intensely emotional historical fiction novel, Rebel’s Knot is an extraordinary journey through an Ireland beset by war and betrayal, weaving through a hauntingly beautiful and tragically devastated landscape misty with folklore and magic. Niall and Aine are survivors in a hostile world–Niall by his wits and training as a hardened Irish soldier, Aine by her instincts and wisdom learned from tales of the ancient heroes of her land. Meeting under terrible circumstances, they are thrown into a world of danger and betrayal, hostility and false friends. And although they carry within them dreadful secrets that trigger shame and a desire for vengeance, they also discover a world of myths, love and tenderness that illuminates a growing longing to be together. Fuelled by their passion, they are determined to fight to the very end, for their beloved Ireland–and each other.
Cryssa Bazos is a remarkable storyteller, for she has a unique gift of blending sweeping events with the detailed footnotes of history, creating a compelling saga rivalling those of the bards of old. Rebel’s Knot is the third in her fabulous Quest for Three Kingdoms series, and it can be read as a standalone; however, those who have read her previous books will be delighted to recognize some favourite characters re-appearing in a delicious subplot. Tense and powerful, tender and lyrical, Rebel’s Knot is an evocative telling of a love story as heart-achingly stunning as Ireland itself. Highly recommend.