New Release | The Last Daughter of York | An Excerpt from Nicola Cornick

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.
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:   Website     Twitter     Facebook     Instagram

A fabulous new Jan Christopher Mystery from Helen Hollick.

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?
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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…
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…
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Rebel’s Knot Review | Gorgeous, Thrilling and Intensely Emotional

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.
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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.

Ride with the Moonlight | A thrilling timeslip set in 16th-Century Scotland

I’ve known and loved Andrea’s work since before she published her first novel (we cut our teeth in a writing group together) and I’m so happy to feature an excerpt today. Take a ride to the border with her time-travelling heroine and delicious renegade reiver!
Ride with the Moonlight
(Thunder on the Moor, Book 2)
By Andrea Matthews
After rescuing sixteenth-century Border reiver Will Foster from certain death at her family’s hands, time traveler Maggie Armstrong finally admits her love for the handsome Englishman, though she can’t rid herself of the sinking suspicion that her Scottish kin are not about to let them live in peace. What she doesn’t expect is the danger that lurks on Will’s own side of the Border. When news of their plans to marry reaches the warden, he charges Will with March treason for trysting with a Scot. Will and Maggie attempt to escape by fleeing to the hills, but when Will is declared an outlaw and allowed to be killed on sight, they can no longer evade the authorities. Will is sentenced to hang, while Maggie is to be sent back to her family. Heartbroken, she has no choice but to return to Scotland, where her uncle continues to make plans for her to wed Ian Rutherford, the wicked Scotsman who she now realizes murdered her father in cold blood. With Will facing the gallows in England, and herself practically under house arrest in Scotland, she continues to resist her uncle’s plans, but her efforts are thwarted at every turn. Will’s family, however, is not about to stand by and watch their youngest lad executed simply because he’s lost his heart to a Scottish lass. A daring plan is set into motion, but will it be in time to save Will’s life and reunite the lovers? Or will Ian’s lies prompt Maggie’s family to ensure the bond between them is forever destroyed?
Trigger Warnings
Violence, sexual content.
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Maggie woke less than three hours later and pulled herself from bed. Many of the guests were still sleeping off the effects of the previous night, but her aunts were already up preparing for the next day’s festivities. As for Maggie, she spent the day making her plans. It was clear she was doomed to be handfast to Ian, but that didn’t mean she was going to be the subservient wife. Whenever Ian tried to beat her, she’d fight back, and if he dared touch a hair on her child’s head, she’d castrate him there and then. As soon as the baby was old enough, she’d convince Marion to whisk him away to the Fosters. After that, it wouldn’t matter what happened to her.
Her aunts kept her in the kitchen baking for most of the day, and though she was bone tired, she still found herself lying awake that night. She pretended to sleep once more, as she had for the past few nights, for there was no longer any peace in her dreams. Each time she drifted off, she would see Will’s face, filled with anguish, with the ghastly scar around his neck to remind her of his fate. In the silence of the wee hours, he would come, caressing her with his cold hands, only to leave her there, alone in her agony. Better not to sleep at all, not to harbor any illusion that she might ever again hold him in her arms.
It became a vicious cycle. She’d fight to stay awake, only to nod off into an uneasy slumber. After an hour or so, she’d wake again to find her cheeks covered in tears. In the end, she’d cry herself back to sleep, setting off the whole painful pattern again. Tonight she had been too ill to even think of sleeping, depositing the last of her supper in the chamber pot not moments before, and more than likely would have continued in that vein if not for the intensive baking marathon her aunt had put her through well into the evening. Now exhausted and brokenhearted, she found her eyes were once more growing heavy.
Determined to stay awake, she rolled on her side and looked out the window. Though the waning moon was not quite as bright as it had been a few nights before, it nevertheless cast an eerie glow on the buildings scattered around the barmekin yard. From its position, Maggie could tell it was still deep in the small hours of the morning, well before dawn, though she was not sure that thought cheered her. On the one hand, it meant there were still hours before she’d be thrust into Ian’s care, but on the other, it was just dragging out the inevitable.
The sky had cleared and bright stars sparkled like specs of glitter on a velvet robe. A cool breeze ruffled the purple heather, and Maggie sighed longingly as it carried the fragrant blossom through her open window. It reminded her of her father. How he loved to breathe in the fresh country air. She used to love it too, but now she could only watch sadly and wait for the first rays of sunlight to tinge the sky.
As she lay there in silence, she heard a sound beneath her window that caused her heart to stir. In truth, she knew it must be Ian coming to claim her, but for a moment she let herself believe it was Will. Determined to have these last few minutes with her fallen love, she quickly closed her eyes, hoping to put Ian off as long as possible.
Someone knelt down beside her, and a coldness overcame her as he pressed his icy hand across her mouth. But this was not Ian who sealed her lips with his chilling grip, not Ian whose breathless voice whispered her name. Slowly, apprehensively, she opened her eyes, sure that she had once more drifted off to sleep. The sight she beheld, however, caused her heart to quicken, for there before her, his dusky blue-gray eyes sparkling mischievously, was Will Foster, alive and well . . . or was he?
Andrea Matthews is the pseudonym for Inez Foster, a historian and librarian who loves to read and write and search around for her roots, genealogical speaking. She has a BA in History and an MLS in Library Science, and enjoys the research almost as much as she does writing the story. In fact, many of her ideas come to her while doing casual research or digging into her family history. She is the author of the Thunder on the Moor series set on the 16th century Anglo-Scottish Border, and the Cross of Ciaran series, where a fifteen hundred year old Celt finds himself in the twentieth century. Andrea is a member of the Romance Writers of America.
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A holiday romance from Heidi Eljarbo | Fair Mountain Christmas

Today I’m welcoming a stop on Mary Anne Yarde’s Coffee Pot Book Club blog tour, with an excerpt from Heidi Eljarbo’s lovely Christmas story. Nothing like a snowy night and a starlit sky to get you in the mood for the holidays.
Fair Mountain Christmas
By Heidi Eljarbo

Nostalgia and Christmas miracles burn bright in this uplifting and heartwarming story about new beginnings and falling in love under a blanket of stars.
Fair Mountain, December 1972.
A few days before Christmas, Juni’s editor gives her a writing assignment that throws her far outside her comfort zone. She and her terrier, Leo, retreat to her grandparents’ old cabin in the Norwegian mountains in hopes of inspiration. But the trip turns into a heart-wrenching and emotionally challenging encounter.
Memories of Juni’s childhood seep in as soon as she enters the cabin, and as for the writing assignment…what does she know about what children need for Christmas?
Juni’s focus changes when handsome Henry Norheim from Moose Lodge down the hill unexpectedly shows up outside her cottage door. His dedication to family, traditions, and Christmas celebration is contagious, but for Juni, coming out of her lonely shell is easier said than done.
As Juni’s deadline draws closer, and the snowflakes softly swirl down on Fair Mountain, she has to face up to her past, open her heart, and dare to take a step forward.
Will the miracle of Christmas live up to its promise of hope, goodwill, and love this year?
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Minutes later they were outside. It was a cold night, and the sky boasted a deep indigo covered in a blanket of stars. Henry carried a stuffed rucksack and two sets of snowshoes. He handed her a pair.
“Are you ready? We’ll head for the woods over there away from the lights from the lodge and the surrounding cabins.”
They strapped the snowshoes on the bottom of their boots and made their way into the forest. Leo struggled a little but ran up ahead as if he knew where they were going. Silly dog. He put his tail up and darted around like a bouncing tennis ball to the left side of the path, to the right…then back to the left.
They followed the trail through the woodland and up a hill to a glade with a spectacular view of the valley below. Henry put his rucksack on a rock and pulled out two sleeping bags, a woolen blanket, a thermos, and two cups.
Juni started laughing. “Are we sleeping here tonight?”
He pushed some of the snow away from a large, flat rock and arranged the woolen blanket with the sleeping bags on top.
“No time for sleep. The night is young, and you’re in for some serious stargazing.”
Juni removed the snowshoes and eased into one of the sleeping bags. Leo came and snuggled next to her, and Henry crawled into his bag on the other side. He poured hot chocolate into the cups and handed her one.
“Careful. It’s steaming.”
“Thank you.” She blew on the cocoa and tasted some. The warm, sweet chocolate went down easily.
“My father used to take me out on dark winter nights and show me the stars,” Henry said. “You could call him a space science nut. He was very enthusiastic and always reading about constellations and planets. His nightstand held a pile of astronomy books, a glass of milk, and a banana. He’d read into the night, and the next day, weather permitting, he’d take me outside and share his findings.”
Henry’s enthusiasm and devotion to his father was contagious. Just hearing about the man made Juni wish she’d known him.
“I know little about stars,” she said and leaned back, taking in the myriad of sparkling lights above them.
Henry smiled. “Well, then. Look up, and I’ll show you some patterns of stars. After you’ve seen the patterns, you’ll always notice them when you look at the sky.”
“So, you’re saying this will change my view of the heavens?”
“I am.”
She settled into a comfortable position. “Then go ahead. I’m ready.”

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don’t want to go near.
Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.
After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.
Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.
Heidi’s favorites are family, God’s beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.
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