The Historical Novel Society said of my novel, “The historical veracity is impeccable”.
The Richard III Society Bulletin wrote “An extremely well-written book with depth and complexity…this is the best book I’ve read in ages!”
When I set out to write The Godmother’s Secret, I committed to going back to as many original sources as possible, as well as reading contemporary Tudor writing, so I could understand the politics through the ages. It was a fascinating research project.
Then, I joined Philippa Langley’s “Missing Princes” Project and was fortunate to exchange ideas with the researchers as we combed archives around the world looking for a clue to their fate.
So, if you knew what happened to the missing princes, would you tell, or forever keep the secret?
Paperback, Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and Audio https://geni.us/GodmothersSecret
Read here: HISTORICAL STORIES of EXILE
Join thirteen authors as we travel around the blogosphere with The Coffee Pot Book Club celebrating the launch of our anthology, Historical Tales of Exile! Some are hopeful, some sad, some romantic, some tragic, but all explore the indomitable spirit of resolute, unforgettable characters. My story – a young Englishwoman who fights intolerance and seeks freedom in the new world, knowing she may never return. Yes, I discovered another intriguing St.John woman in the family archive.
Historical Stories of Exile
Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Elizabeth Chadwick, Cathie Dunn, J G Harlond, Helen Hollick, Loretta Livingstone, Amy Maroney Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Elizabeth St.John, Marian L. Thorpe, Annie Whitehead.
With an introduction by Deborah Swift.
Exile: a risky defiance, a perilous journey, a family’s tragic choice – or an individual’s final gamble to live. Exile: voluntary or enforced, a falling-out between friends, a lost first love, a prejudiced betrayal – or the only way to survive persecution?
In this historical fiction anthology, thirteen authors (they are not superstitious!) have written exclusive short stories on the theme of exile. Some are based on true history, others are speculative fiction. All mine the depths of human emotions: fear, hope, love, and the fortitude to survive.
Join an inspiring Anglo-Saxon queen of Wales, a courageous Norwegian falconer, and a family fleeing back in time to escape the prospect of a ruthless future. Oppose the law with the legendary Doones of Exmoor, or defy the odds with two brave WWII exiles. Meet a Roman apprehensively planning exile to preserve the ‘old ways’, and a real Swedish prince forcibly expelled in heart-wrenching circumstances. Thrill to a story based on the legend of Robin Hood, sail with a queen of Cyprus determined to regain her rightful throne; escape religious persecution, discover the heart-rending truth behind the settlement of Massachusetts and experience the early years that would, eventually, lead to the founding of Normandy. Experience the stirring of first love, and as an exclusive treat special guest author, Elizabeth Chadwick, reveals a tale about the 12th-century’s heiress, Isabelle de Clare, and the Greatest Knight of all time – William Marshal.
With an introduction by multi-award-winning author Deborah Swift, enjoy these tales of exile across the ages. Some are hopeful, some sad, some romantic, some tragic, but all explore the indomitable spirit of resolute, unforgettable characters.
Here’s a brief excerpt from my story, “Into the Light”, set in Boston, England, in 1634:
The rhythmic thump of an axe splitting wood echoed from behind the rectory as Elizabeth hurried home. Her pace was also driven by another layer of anger—this time fuelled by the infuriating conversation with the schoolmaster. As she had anticipated, he was completely opposed to girls receiving any formal education other than learning to sew or cook and knowing their letters so they could sign their name. When she had laid before him her dream of a school for young women, equipping them with an education far beyond that of copying the alphabet into their hornbooks, he had shrunk away from her. If he could have had the courage to lift his fingers in the old sign to stave off witches, he would have.
What an ignorant and petty man.
Pulling the ribbons on her bonnet, she ripped it off as soon as she ran through the gate, letting it dangle from her fingers, not caring that it caught on the rosemary hedge that lined the path. She tugged the pins from her hair and gingerly shook it loose, relieving the pain that the combined aggravations of Boston’s citizens had induced. Between the welt on her forehead and the injury to her pride, Elizabeth was eager to leave the morning behind.
Her husband was in his sleeves, his cream linen shirt clinging to his chest as he swung the axe on the stump of the old apple tree he was felling. His leather britches moulded to his muscular thighs, and his shoulder-length dark hair was tied back from his face—except for one thick lock that fell over his brow.
Samuel looked, she thought, like a young lord of the manor, with his fine features and athletic body. No one would have guessed he was a book-learned preacher who shared her passion for rhetoric and logic, Latin and Greek. When she had fallen in love with him, his sharp intellect and his devotion to God had been as attractive as his physicality. What had her brother Oliver said? “You have a man’s mind in a woman’s body, Lizzie. Use it well, and do not let it be lost in the mires of convention and society.”
“Elizabeth.” Samuel smiled as he stopped and leaned on the axe hilt, drawing his forearm across his forehead. “You look flustered, my love. Here, come and let me kiss you better.”
She stood a quarter turn away for a moment, seeking her calm, for she did not want to upset him with her injured head. His first reaction was always to fight for what was right, and if she presented her indignation as anger, he would respond with further fuel. Elizabeth did not need her beloved, hot-headed husband creating more havoc amongst his congregation. She stepped into his arms and relaxed as he closed them around her in a reassuring embrace. They stood together for several minutes until she felt the anxiety run from her and lifted her head to kiss him deeply.
“That’s better.” Samuel grinned as he smoothed the hair from her forehead, and then gasped. “What happened here?”
Elizabeth took a deep breath. It was important she kept composed. “A misunderstanding,” she replied. “I stood in the way of a stone that was perhaps intended only to frighten me, not hit me.”
“You were stoned?” Samuel’s eyes narrowed. “Where? By whom?”
“No, not stoned. It was one flint that hit me by mistake. It made more of a cut than expected.” She took a deep breath. “In Boston market.”
“By whom?” he demanded again.
Elizabeth remained silent. Sharing this news would indicate a different path in life than that which they had planned. She knew that Samuel had encountered resistance from his congregations before they were married. He had been ousted from Lynn for preaching a nonconformist text. But they believed themselves safe in Boston, their living in Skirbeck protected by centuries of family ties with the ancient borough. Today’s incident in the market proved different.
“Elizabeth. You must tell me, or I shall find out for myself.” Samuel was already reaching for the jacket he’d tossed across the hedge.
“Some women. From our congregation—”
Elizabeth nodded and committed to the truth. “Samuel, they threatened to force you from town. They said your sermons contravene the word of God.”
“And that was the reason they threw stones at you?” He pushed his arm into his jacket, struggling because his hand was clenched as a fist and caught in the fabric of his cuff. Impatiently, he tugged at it, almost tore the cloth. “This is completely intolerable.”
“Just one stone,” Elizabeth repeated. “And I don’t think she intended it to hit me. Please, my love, don’t make the situation worse.”
“So you will just accept this?” Samuel was buttoning his jacket, searching for his hat, which Elizabeth could see was hanging from the branch of another tree in the budding orchard. Beneath the gnarled trees, the daffodils’ green spikes pushed from rich loamy soil, and a robin hopped along a branch, searching for insects. How peaceful this scene, how disturbing their conversation. Elizabeth struggled to equate the two.
“We need to talk,” she said quietly. “I fear this foretells of something much deeper than just one arrowhead or confrontation.”
He paused then, quirked his head to one side. “What do you mean?”
Elizabeth put her hands on his shoulders, drew close to him so he could see the serious intent in her eyes. “Your sermons are no longer acceptable to the small-minded people in Skirbeck.”
“I will not change,” Samuel said abruptly. “I will not preach a different message.”
“Then, my love,” she responded, “we may need to find a different congregation.”
What she didn’t know was where. Or how. For the worry of being ousted was one that had been hidden so deep in her heart that she didn’t realise it until just now.
Read here: HISTORICAL STORIES of EXILE
AN EXCERPT FROM THE INTRODUCTION
by Deborah Swift
Only the misfortune of exile can provide the in-depth understanding and the overview into the realities of the world – Stefan Zweig (author of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, exiled from Austria during Nazi occupation).
The verb ‘exile’ comes from the Old French word essillier, meaning to banish, expel, or drive off. In the past to go into exile was often a punishment, though now people sometimes live in exile voluntarily – or because life at home has become too dangerous or difficult. Alison Morton’s story ‘My Sister’, Cathie Dunn’s ‘Exile’ and Elizabeth StJohn’s story ‘Into the Light’ emphasize this tug between the familiar world that has become unsafe, and the lure of a place where life might be lived in more freedom.
But exile is always a step into the unknown, and often holds no possibility of return. Each of us at some time in our lives has probably experienced the feeling of being an exile – of not quite fitting in to societal norms, and as in the story ‘Into the Light’ the dislocation is often an internal one, as well as an external one.
Exile as a theme for a story collection has all the ingredients you might need for good fiction. The falling in love between a prisoner and his jailor’s daughter, the tearing away of the familiar environment, the gulf between the self and its true home, and the arrival in an often hostile place, is a big feature of these stories. The exile need not even be to another country, Elizabeth Chadwick’s story ‘Coming Home’ features a woman exiled to the Tower of London, a gilded cage but exile nonetheless. Helen Hollick’s story exploits the idea of removal from London to the remote countryside of Exmoor, and as her character St Croix says; ‘he saw the sense of honourable exile over pointless execution.’
In many stories, and in many of these in this collection, it is the families ripped apart that take the heaviest toll; a mother separated from her child, or a wife from her husband. This is well expressed in the heart-breaking stories ‘Unwanted Prince’ by Anna Belfrage and ‘Wadan Wraeclastas’ by Annie Whitehead.
The anguish of being parted from your ancestry, the place where the bones of your family lie, and of having to give up your history, looms large in this collection. Once exiled, the person must build a new life to survive. If returning home, then in one sense the exile will never return to the place they knew. Their old life has moved on and can never be the same. The separation has formed a chasm between the old and new lives. In this collection, the time-slip tale ‘The Past, My Future’ by Loretta Livingstone explores this sense of dislocation, and is a lovely way to highlight societal differences between the past and the present.
The stories in this book span many worlds, from 11th Century Wales, to Iceland, to Greece, to the forests of Robin Hood and even the suburban house of an enemy alien in WWII. Each story is a little jewel of time and place, and so I recommend that you take time to savour each one. I’m sure you will find much to enjoy in this excellently written selection.
© Deborah Swift
Read Here: HISTORICAL STORIES of EXILE
Deborah Swift is a delver into archives, drinks too much tea, and loves antiques and old buildings. Her sturdy, stone-built house used to be the village primary school, and from her window she has a view of a few 17th century cottages, and behind those, green fields dotted with grazing sheep.
As a child she loved the Victorian classics such as Jane Eyre, Little Women, Lorna Doone and Wuthering Heights. Before becoming a writer Deborah used to work as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, so historical fiction was a natural choice because she enjoyed the research aspect of her job. She has always loved poking about in archives and museums, not to mention the attraction of boned bodices and the excuse to visit old and interesting houses!
In her books Deborah likes to write about extraordinary characters set against the background of real historical events. Her first novel was The Lady’s Slipper which was shortlisted for the Impress Prize, and her book The Poison Keeper, about the Renaissance poisoner Giulia Tofana, won the BookViral Millennium Award. She has written eighteen novels to date including two series set in WWII – her latest, The Shadow Network is due for release in early 2024.
She lives in England on the edge of the Lake District, a beautiful area made famous by the Romantic Poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, and when not writing, she enjoys exploring the mountainous landscapes and interesting coastline near her home.
‘Her characters are so real that they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf.’ The Historical Novels Review.
Buy Deborah’s books on Amazon:
So over the summer, a bunch of us got together to write these tales of exile across the ages. Some are hopeful, some sad, some romantic, some tragic, but all explore the indomitable spirit of resolute, unforgettable characters.
My story – a young Englishwoman who fights intolerance and seeks freedom in the new world, knowing she may never return. Yes, I discovered another intriguing St.John woman in the family archives!
Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and paperback.
Available on Amazon
I am delighted to feature Anna Belfrage’s brilliant new historical fiction novel, along with my five star review, and an excerpt. I also recently workshopped Anna’s novel in my Reader Writer Group here in San Diego, and not only were they enthralled with the story, they were totally engrossed in the discussion about Anna’s excellent research and sensitively written prose.
This title is available on #KindleUnlimited.
Universal link: https://myBook.to/ToTABG
Times of Turmoil
It is 1718 and Duncan Melville and his time traveller wife, Erin, are concentrating on building a peaceful existence for themselves and their twin daughters. Difficult to do, when they are beleaguered by enemies.
Erin Melville is not about to stand to the side and watch as a child is abused—which is how she makes deadly enemies of Hyland Nelson and his family.
Then there’s that ghost from their past, Armand Joseph Chardon, a person they were certain was dead. Apparently not. Monsieur Chardon wants revenge and his sons are tasked with making Duncan—and his wife—pay.
Things aren’t helped by the arrival of Duncan’s cousin, fleeing her abusive husband. Or the reappearance of Nicholas Farrell in their lives, as much of a warped bully now as he was when he almost beat Duncan to death years ago. Plus, their safety is constantly threatened as Erin is a woman of colour in a time and place where that could mean ostracism, enslavement or even death.
Will Duncan and Erin ever achieve their simple wish – to live and love free from fear of those who wish to destroy them?
Here’s my review. I highly recommend!
A good historical fiction author will take the reader on a journey to the past and reveal scenes and characters that pique your interest to read the story and discover more.
A brilliant historical fiction author will take you firmly by the hand, fully immerse you into the period, and lovingly transport you to a world as real as the one you inhabit now. Anna Belfrage is such an author, and her latest work, Times of Turmoil, is a testament to her superb storytelling and authentic research. It is a disturbing novel on many accounts, for it deals with racism, slavery, abuse, and complex emotional conflict and social mores that are the foundation of many controversial divides today. At the same time, it is an enduring love story to not only tolerance, love and equality, but to the struggles of everyday women and men in the early years of America’s growth as a democracy. In both facets, the narrative is sensitive, profound, and perceptive.
I found the novel fascinating. I have said before that I love Ms. Belfrage’s voice, and it rings true in this book. Her characters are fully developed, lusty, joyful, temperamental, and, at times, funny and frightening. And although Erin, the modern-day woman of colour is an anachronism in herself as she navigates her way through 18th century Pennsylvania, she is also a crucible and a mirror to everyone who comes into her orbit.
Ms Belfrage’s ability to speak the voice of her character in all her novels—whether a 13th century lord, a 17th century farmer, or a 21st century woman time traveller—is superb, and Times of Turmoil is one of her best.
Enjoy an excerpt:
It was common knowledge that the Quakers—or Friends, as they called themselves—had arrived in Pennsylvania with an ingrained mistrust for the British legal system. Too many years of persecution, too many accusations of being in breach of the Conventicle Act, had left them with a desire to build their own legislation. Accordingly—or so Lloyd said, being a pragmatic soul no matter his faith—the original penal code had been somewhat lax. Some years later, the colony had swung the other way, implementing punishments that were particularly brutal—at least for some crimes, like sodomy.
“Now I believe we have found an adequate balance,” Lloyd had confided with some smugness. After all, he’d been a major contributor to the recent reforms. But some things hadn’t changed: the Friends preferred to settle their disputes in venues that were more reminiscent of their meetinghouses than a courtroom, which was why today’s proceedings were held in a simply furnished room adjoining Lloyd’s office. Uncluttered and full of light, the bare room was evidently to Erin’s liking, as were the chairs, unadorned but well-made. Duncan was not in the mood to inspect furnishings or interiors. Truth be told, he didn’t believe Erin was either: she was merely distracting herself from the coming proceedings.
Lloyd entered, followed by a group of silent men, the jurors. Some were landowners; some ran businesses in Chester itself. All of them looked serious, inclining their heads politely at Erin—albeit some chose not to look directly at her—and greeting Duncan with more familiarity.
Last came Caleb Nelson, strutting into the room accompanied by his lawyer, John Edwards. Lloyd and Duncan shared a look: Edwards was a recent transplant from England and was prone to wordy comparisons between the glories of England and the woeful state of affairs in this sad corner of the world, Pennsylvania.
Today, Edwards oozed confidence. Where Caleb had opted for a brightly embroidered waistcoat under an ill-fitting coat and boots rather than shoes, John Edwards sported expensive black. Black coat adorned with silver buttons, a black waistcoat, neat black breeches, black stockings and polished silver-buckled shoes. Cuffs frothed with pristine lace, a blindingly white collar contrasting starkly with the darkness of his coat. He bowed to the assembled jurors, totally ignoring Duncan and Erin. Duncan bristled. Erin’s hand clasped his forearm, urging him to sit back.
“Well, this won’t take long, will it?” Edwards said, and Caleb grinned.
“No? How so?” Lloyd asked.
“Nonsense!” Edwards said. “Unsubstantiated accusations! Everyone knows it was that man who shot our dear Hyland Nelson.” He pointed at Hans, for the day in his best coat.
“Ah. And thou wert there, wert thou?” Lloyd asked.
“Me?” Edwards snorted. “Of course not, but Caleb—Mr Nelson—says that—”
“Ah. So Caleb Nelson admits to being there.”
Edwards gave Lloyd an irritated look. “What of it?”
“Trespassing, John Edwards. A most serious offense. Who knows what dastardly deeds he and his father were planning?” Lloyd nodded repeatedly.
“Dastardly deeds?” Edwards squeaked. “It was Hyland Nelson who was murdered!”
“Hmm,” Lloyd said. “Murder requires premeditation. Surely, thou knowest that, educated man that thou art.”
Edwards puffed up. “Of course.”
“So if Hyland Nelson died in stables he had no reason to be in, one could argue it was as a consequence of his actions: breaking and entering.”
“How dare you! My father and I—”
“Were trespassing,” Lloyd cut him off. “Or art thou saying Duncan Melville invited you?”
“Melville wasn’t home,” Caleb Nelson said.
“No. Which likely means thou were not invited. So in fact, thou wert trespassing, likely to do Duncan Melville damage. As I hear it, thou wert planning theft, Nelson.”
Caleb Nelson spluttered, but Edwards frowned, gesturing that he hold his tongue.
“We can but speculate for their presence at the Melville home,” he began, at which Duncan shot to his feet.
“Speculate? They were there to steal back my latest indenture.”
“Our indenture! You tricked us out of him!” Caleb roared.
“Duncan Melville bought him off thee,” Lloyd said, waving for Duncan to sit down. “At a fair price. And we all know why he did, do we not?” He fixed Edwards with a narrow, wintry gaze. “I assume thou dost know why we interceded on behalf of the lad, John Edwards?”
“I do,” the lawyer muttered.
“So,” Lloyd continued, “I think we can ascertain that Nelson, father and son, were at Papegoja Plantation to steal.” He turned to glare at Celeb. “Am I not correct?”
“He belongs with us,” Caleb said, and beside him Edwards shook his head.
“Not anymore.” Lloyd turned to Edwards. “Tell me, John Edwards, if this were England, how would a thief be punished?”
Edwards paled. “Err . . .”
“He would hang, would he not?” Lloyd said.
“Well, it depends,” Edwards began. “For stealing a horse, likely, but—”
“Hang?” Caleb interrupted. “Me? It was him, the German, who shot my father, he should hang!”
“Tut-tut: For defending his master’s property against thieves? I think not. Besides, both Hans Muller and Erin Melville give a different account of events,” Lloyd said. He turned to the jurors. “Erin Melville will not testify, of course, but we have here her written statement.”
Duncan suppressed a yelp when Erin pinched him. Bright green eyes met his.
“I want to testify,” she said in an undertone.
“But you will not.” He’d have preferred it if she hadn’t been here at all, but Erin had been adamant: she had a right to be present. And he couldn’t quite tell her that he didn’t want her exposed, that he didn’t like men looking at her with a speculating gleam in their eyes, wondering if there was some truth in the lies spread by Nelson about Erin once having been a slave.
“All lies, lies, I say!” Caleb Nelson said once Lloyd had finished reading Erin’s account out loud. He swivelled to glare at Erin. “She knows it was the German who shot my father; she’s just lying to protect her man.” He sniffed. “What else can one expect of a coloured h—”
“Careful,” Lloyd said. “Tread with care, Nelson.”
“Her word should not count,” Caleb blustered. “Not against me, a white man.”
“How fortunate, then, that our first witness is white,” Lloyd said.
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 travelling 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.
More recently, Anna has been hard at work with her Castilian series. The first book, His Castilian Hawk, published in 2020, is set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In the second instalment, The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain, while the third, Her Castilian Heart, finds our protagonists back in England—not necessarily any safer than the wilds of Spain! The fourth book, Their Castilian Orphan, is scheduled for early 2024.
Anna has recently released Times of Turmoil, the sequel to her 2021 release, The Whirlpools of Time. Here she returns to the world of time travel. Where The Whirlpools of Time had Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin navigating the complexities of the first Jacobean rebellion in Scotland, in Times of Turmoil our protagonists are in Colonial Pennsylvania, hoping for a peaceful existence. Not about to happen—not in one of Anna’s books!
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.
Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, www.annabelfrage.com
Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/anna-belfrage
Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/ABG