New Book Launch | Enchanting and Enthralling Historical Fiction from Amy Maroney

Sea of Shadows
by Amy Maroney
A gifted woman artist. A ruthless Scottish privateer. And an audacious plan that throws them together—with dangerous consequences.
No one on the Greek island of Rhodes suspects Anica is responsible for her Venetian father’s exquisite portraits, least of all her wealthy fiancé. But her father’s vision is failing, and with every passing day it’s more difficult to conceal the truth.
When their secret is discovered by a powerful knight of the Order of St. John, Anica must act quickly to salvage her father’s honor and her own future. Desperate, she enlists the help of a fierce Scottish privateer named Drummond. Together, they craft a daring plan to restore her father’s sight.
There’s only one problem—she never imagined falling in love with her accomplice.
Before their plan can unfold, a shocking scandal involving the knights puts Anica’s entire family at risk. Her only hope is to turn to Drummond once again, defying her parents, her betrothed, even the Grand Master of the Knights himself. But can she survive the consequences?
With this captivating tale of passion, courage, and loyalty, Amy Maroney brings a lost, dazzling world to vivid life.  Sea of Shadows is Book 2 in a series of stand-alone historical novels packed with adventure and romance.
 Universal Buy Link
I loved this book! Here’s my review:
A passionate slow-burn love story, exotic locations and fast-paced action thrill in Sea of Shadows, a glorious historical fiction immersion into a world fraught with intrigue and adventure. Ms Maroney has created a stunning gallery of characters and places that take us on a voyage to 15th century Rhodes, and the secret world of the Knights Templars. I fell in love with Anica, a spirited Venetian artist who meets her match in Drummond, an equally full-blooded Scottish privateer. These two attract and repel like magnets, creating a tense and increasingly fated relationship, with each impacting the other’s destiny.
In their fascinating medieval world of grand deceits and threatening invasions, Anica and Drummond follow their own emotional life paths, always drawing closer in their growing attraction. Ms Maroney doesn’t make it easy for them, and along with absolutely gorgeous details of art and sorcery, warfare and politics, family feuds and tender love, these two encounter tragedy and heartache on their journey. Fortune comes in many guises, and ultimately Anica and Drummond discover the true meaning of love, loyalty – and sacrifice.
Ms Maroney’s superb scene-setting and historical detail is built on a foundation of research that supports the exciting story, but never dominates. I loved the opportunity to sink into a world that I knew little about, and found myself unwilling to leave. Sea of Shadows is all about action, adventure, fabulous settings and a love story that gifts us the full spectrum of the human heart. An enthralling and enchanting novel. Highly recommend.

Behind the Scenes | Bolton Castle

I spent an amazing couple of days at the Medieval Festival at Bolton Castle last September, doing some thoroughly enjoyable research for my current novel, which is partially set there in the 15th Century. Without giving away too much (more news to come in April) this involves two princes in the Tower of London, a mysterious disappearance, and a family secret that has been kept all this time. How I love writing historical fiction!

The Lost Gardens of Lydiard Park and the Tower of London

I’ve had such fun researching and creating my talk for The Village Garden Club of La Jolla on the Lost Gardens of Lydiard Park and the Tower of London. Fascinating research on plantings, recipes, remedies and archeology…and the people who tended them. There have been St.Johns and their antecedents at Lydiard Park since the 14th Century, so there have been a few different gardeners along the way. My talk today brings to life three woman I am particularly fond of – Lucy St.John (The Lady of the Tower); Lady Johanna St.John (Written in Their Stars) and Lady Diana Spencer, First Viscountess Bolingbroke (more info on The Lydiard Archives). We have evidence in their letters, recipe book and paintings of their love of gardens. It’s a pleasure to bring them to life.

The Vertues of Gilberts Cordial Water

“…Sir Walter Raleigh and Mr. Ruthven being prisoners in the Tower, and addicting themselves to chemistry, she (Lucy St.John Apsley) suffered them to make their rare experiments at her cost, partly to comfort and divert the poor prisoners, and partly to gain the knowledge of their experiments, and the medicines to help such poor people as were not able to seek physicians. By these means she acquired a great deal of skill, which was very profitable to many all her life. She was not only to these, but to all the other prisoners that came into the Tower, as a mother. All the time she dwelt in the Tower, if any were sick she made them broths and restoratives with her own hands, visited and took care of them, and provided them all necessaries; if any were afflicted she comforted them, so that they felt not the inconvenience of a prison who were in that place.”
Lucy Hutchinson
Biographical Fragment
Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson

Leaping from the pages of Lucy Hutchinson’s memoirs, this insight to a 17th century woman’s life within the Tower of London immediately set me on a hunt for more information about Lucy St.John and the world she inhabited. Writing about her mother, Lucy Hutchinson chose to focus on the attributes of medicinal skills and recipes she used to tend to the prisoners within the Tower. This paragraph inspired the writing of my debut novel, The Lady of the Tower, and sent me on a glorious journey into the methods and curatives that were an everyday part of Lucy’s life.
These 17th century remedies were precious commodities exchanged by family and friends alike. And since Lucy St.John would have known her nephew’s wife, Lady Johanna St.John, it was no stretch of the “probable” for me to think that Lucy would be familiar with these recipes, or may even have contributed some of her own.
Already acquainted with Lady Johanna and the Lydiard estate through my own family records, I delved into her recipe book, which is archived at The Wellcome Library in London. The beautifully preserved leather-bound book contains recipes designed to help a knowledgeable and educated woman manage the health of her family, servants and livestock. Relying on a great deal of herbal wisdom, as well as the more exotic ingredients found in the London apothecaries, Lady Johanna’s book is a testament to the importance placed on remedies, in an age where so little was still known about the body and its infirmities. When I decided to use extracts from the book to illustrate Lucy’s learnings in The Lady of the Tower, I was fascinated to discover that many of the herbal properties and therapies Lady Johanna recommend are still used in pharmaceutical production today.
One particular recipe of interest is that for “Gilbert’s Water.”
“It is bad for nothing it cures wind and the colick restoreth decayed nature good for a consumption expels poison & all infection from the Hart helps digestion purifies the blood gives motion to the spirits drives out the smallpox for the grippes in young children weomen in labor bringeth the Afterbirth stops floods for sounding and faintings”
Lady Johanna St.John
Recipe Book
1680

Lady Johanna devotes two pages of her precious recipe book to Adrian Gilbert’s Cordial Water, which was perhaps indicative of the importance she placed on its curative powers. The recipe itself was complex, requiring Dragons Burnett leaves (probably the simple dragon’s mace, a common weed), and then moving on to a page full of rarer ingredients, such as “Crab’s eyes taken in the full of the moon.” Promoting the contemporary belief man shared the virtue of the plants digested, Mr Gilbert was taking no chances with his curative, empowering the recipient with dragon strength to fight his condition.
But there is more to the story. Adrian Gilbert was a well-known alchemist and amateur scientist, and half-brother to Sir Walter Raleigh, himself a distinguished botanist. Adrian’s brother, Humphrey Gilbert, was under the patronage of Robert Cecil and Robert Dudley who maintained an alchemical laboratory in Limehouse. Now it gets interesting. When Sir Walter Raleigh was under the care of Lucy St.John during his imprisonment in the Tower of London, Lucy funded his scientific experiments, lending him her hen house in which to perform his alchemy. I don’t believe it is that much of a stretch to think that Sir Walter and his half-brother Adrian Gilbert traded medicinal recipes, nor that Lucy St.John would keep a record of any precious curatives that came into her possession. For her to pass these on to her niece, who shared her passion for botany, gardens and curatives, would a natural occurrence.
Writing credible historical fiction is always about linking the probables, and in connecting Lucy St.John with Lady Johanna and using their common interest in medicinal curatives, I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to inform my writing. What is undisputed is their common desire to protect their families and charges from the dangers of 17th century life, a shared concern for health, hope for treatment, and the rewards of recovery.

Lady Johanna’s Recipe Book is available to read in full on TheLydiardArchives.org.uk

An Author Chat with Susan Higginbotham | John Brown’s Women | Biographical Historical Fiction

Join me as I welcome Susan Higginbotham as she swings by for an Author Chat on the Coffee Pot Book Club blog tour. We share a love of biographical historical fiction, and I really enjoyed Susan’s take on research, reviews, and what to leave in vs. what to take out (I’ve swept away some of that to-ing and fro-ing myself!). Come and join us for an Author Chat.