#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #QandAs : The Girl from Venice – Siobhan Daiko @siobhandaiko #HistoricalFiction #WomensFiction #HistoricalRomance

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Today I’m on the ‘The Girl from Venice’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have a guest post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Siobhan Daiko is an international bestselling historical romantic fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese puppy and two rescue cats. After a life of romance and adventure in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK, Siobhan now spends her time, when she isn’t writing, enjoying the sweet life near Venice.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: The Girl from Venice
Author: Siobhan Daiko
Publication Date: 29th June 2021
Publisher: ASOLANDO BOOKS
Page Length: 300 Pages
Genre: Romantic Historical / Women’s Fiction

Lidia De Angelis has kept a low profile since Mussolini’s racial laws wrenched her from her childhood sweetheart. But when the Germans occupy Venice in 1943, she must flee the city to save her life.
Lidia joins the partisans in the Venetian mountains, where she meets David, an English soldier fighting for the same cause. As she grows closer to him, harsh Nazi reprisals and Lidia’s own ardent anti-fascist activities threaten to tear them apart.
Decades later in London, while sorting through her grandmother’s belongings after her death, Charlotte discovers a Jewish prayer book, unopened letters written in Italian, and a fading photograph of a group of young people in front of the Doge’s Palace.
Intrigued by her grandmother’s refusal to talk about her life in Italy before and during the war, Charlotte travels to Venice in search of her roots. There, she learns not only the devastating truth about her grandmother’s past, but also some surprising truths about herself.
A heart-breaking page-turner, based on actual events in Italy during World War II

Trigger Warnings:
Death
Miscarriage
PTSD
Rape

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Available on Kindle Unlimited.

Q&A :

Hi

First of all thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate it. Here we go! 🙂

Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I was born in Hong Kong and lived there until my late twenties when I moved to the UK. After working in the City of London and then running a B&B in Herefordshire while my son was little, I trained as a languages teacher and taught in a Welsh comp until I reached retirement age. At that time, a dear friend became a published author and inspired me to return to the love of writing I’d developed as a teen. The first book I wrote, The Orchid Tree, is set in Hong Kong during WWII and the 1940s. My grandparents had been interened by the Japanese in the Stanley Civilian Internment camp, and I built on their experiences and those of my father in the Chinese Maritime Customs. In 2012, my husband and I moved to Asolo in the Veneto. The Girl from Venice is a story I’ve wanted to write for years. The family next door to our old place hid a Jewish couple during the war, and, in nearby Bassano del Grappa, there are trees bearing memorials where young partisans were hung by the Nazi-Fascists in September 1944. I needed to do a lot of research before I could sit down and write The Girl from Venice, a daunting task, but I finally got round to doing it and I hope readers will like the story that emerged.

Which books did/do you love to read as a child/now as a grown-up?
I developed my love of reading, like many of us, through Enid Blyton, devouring all the Magic Faraway Tree, Famous Five, and Malory Towers books. I also loved CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Now, I read all kinds of genres: historical fiction, women’s fiction, crime, romantic suspense. Everything except for horror.

Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Philippa Gregory. She’s a brilliant writer and seems like a lovely person.

If you could, which fictional character (from your own book(s) or someone else’s) would you like to invite for tea and why?
Elizabeth Bennett for her sparkling wit and intelligence. It would be fun to find out what her life with Darcy was like after their marriage.

Do you have some rituals or habits whilst writing?
I make sure Pepper, my youngest cat, is fed otherwise she walks all over my keyboard. And Teddy, my Havanese dog, is always nearby.

Where do you come up with your idea(s)? Do people in your life need to be worried? 😉
In bed. At the time between sleeping and waking. Husband used to wonder why I was jotting down notes in the dark, but he’s used to it now, I think. 😉

Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow, as a pantser?
A mixture. I start off with a chapter by chapter outline, but I add or take away from it as the story progresses.

Can you give novice writers some tips (do’s/don’ts)?
Believe in yourself. Don’t worry if your first draft is rubbish. Just write it then polish/edit afterwards.

What are your futureplans as an author?
The Girl from Venice is the first book in a series of standalone novels set in Italy during WWII. I plan on writing at least anoher two.

Last, but not least : Can you give my readers one teaser from your book, which is featured here on my blog, please?

Lidia drew back her bedroom curtains and opened the shutters. The humid morning air caressed her face, and she tucked a wayward curl of dark brown hair behind her ear. She smoothed her hands over the cool marble windowsill and gazed out across the lagoon. The pearly pink façade of the Doge’s Palace shimmered in the early autumn sunshine, its colonnades and balconies bearing witness to the immense power which once resided there.
Her skin prickled and she stepped away from the window. On the fondamenta, the street lining the canal below, two of Mussolini’s blackshirts—an armed squad whose job was to bring into line anyone who opposed him—were marching purposefully towards the vaporetto water bus station. It was unusual to see them out on the street like this, and the sight of them set her heart hammering. As far as she knew, the squadristi usually kept a low profile, having been warned not to scare the tourists. Tourism was vital to the economy, apparently, and Mussolini had ordered the blackshirts to desist from such practices as openly tying a “troublemaker” to a tree and forcing a litre of castor oil down their throat. Lidia shuddered. Venice boasted few trees, but the blackshirts would find pillars where they secretly carried out this despicable act. She was an ardent anti-Fascist like her sweetheart, Renzo, and her group of university friends; they made it their business to keep tabs on the blackshirts. From a distance. She wouldn’t like to get too close to one.
The enticing aroma of coffee brewing filled her nostrils. She made her way down the narrow corridor to the kitchen, a square room at the rear of the palatial apartment. Her papa glanced up from the book he was reading. ‘Ready for your first day back?’ he asked, adjusting his spectacles on his thin nose.
She helped herself from the moka pot on the stove, then dragged a chair out from under the table. ‘I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks.’ And to seeing more of Renzo.
She added two teaspoonfuls of sugar to her coffee. The sweet, dark liquid slipped down her throat, and she gave Papa a smile. ‘Do you have a lot of patients to visit?’ In the mornings, he would make his rounds.
‘Too many, cara mia. ’I can’t wait for you to be qualified so you can join me in the practice.’
She picked up a piece of bread and spread jam on it. ‘Five more years to go. Seems like a lifetime…’
‘For you, it does, because you are young. Five years, for me, will pass in a flash.’
After she and Papa had finished their breakfast, she took their dishes to the sink. Rinsing them with hot water, she let her mind wander. How she would have loved her mamma to be here and to see her starting her second year of medicine. Mamma had been an English professor at the university until she lost her battle with cancer six years ago. It was thanks to her that Lidia had learnt to speak fluent English, and it was also thanks to her that she had learnt to value her Jewish heritage. Mamma had enriched their home life with Jewish traditions such as lighting candles on Friday nights, cooking Jewish food and celebrating Jewish holidays. But Lidia and her parents only went to the synagogue for weddings or funerals; they were secular Jews, Italians who celebrated Passover instead of Easter. She swallowed the lump of sadness that had swelled in her throat. She still missed Mamma so much.
She fetched her coat from the cupboard in the hallway and slipped it on. Papa was already opening the front door. They passed their neighbour, Signora Rossi, at the foot of the stairs leading up to the apartments. ‘Buongiorno,’ the plump middle-aged woman greeted them, a bag of freshly baked loaves under her arm.
They wished her a good morning in return, then stepped out of their palazzo onto the fondamenta. ‘I’ll see you this evening, cara mia,’ Papa said, swinging his physician’s bag. ‘Enjoy the start of the new term.’
‘I will.’ She kissed Papa’s smooth cheek, inhaling the familiar spicy scent of his aftershave. He was her rock and she loved him unconditionally.
At the Zitelle vaporetto station, they went their separate ways—Lidia taking the waterbus to Zattere, from where she would walk to the university, and Papa heading in the direction of the San Marco district to visit the first of this morning’s patients.
Lidia found a seat at the prow, hugging her satchel as the engines went into reverse and the boat pulled away from the pier into the Giudecca Canal. Would Marta get on at the next stop? Marta was her best friend. They’d met at secondary school and had in common their dislike of the cult of Mussolini. Once, they’d been forced to read his biography in class and had sniggered behind their hands when they read about the Duce playing with a lion in its cage at the zoo. Marta’s father had told them beforehand that the lion had been toothless.
Soon, the waterbus was tying up at the Redentore stop. Lidia waved as she spotted Marta’s fair hair in the crowd of morning commuters. ‘Ciao,’ she called out.
Marta jostled to the front of the boat and sat herself down. ‘Are you going to be dissecting any more dead bodies this year?’ she asked with a grimace.
‘No, we leave that to the freshmen,’ Lidia grinned. ‘I’m looking forward to learning about all the different diseases instead.’
Marta made a gagging sound. ‘Rather you than me.’ She was studying to be an architect and was far more interested in art than science. ‘At least we’re both doing something with our brains.’ She lowered her voice to a whisper. ‘If Mussolini had his way, we’d be wives and mothers by now.’
Lidia glanced at the people sitting close by. It wouldn’t be a good idea to give voice to her thoughts in public. She pressed a finger to her lips and winked at her friend.
Fifteen minutes later, she and Marta were strolling arm in arm towards Ca’ Foscari. She knew these narrow calli—what Venetians like her called their pedestrianised streets. She knew the bridges spanning the small canals along the way. She knew the squares, or campi. She knew the dark alleyways, so narrow she could reach out and touch both walls with her outstretched hands. This was her city; she knew it like she knew herself.

***

Not many universities in the world were housed in a Gothic palace overlooking a waterway as beautiful as Venice’s Grand Canal, she marvelled as she and Marta stepped into the courtyard. Her breath caught. There was Renzo, tall and handsome as ever. But what was he doing standing on the steps? He’d mentioned only yesterday that he had an early class in the law faculty and would meet her for lunch in the mensa, the canteen where they always ate during term time.
She unhooked her arm from Marta’s. ‘I’ll go and say ciao to Renzo.’
‘Run to your moroso,’ Marta laughed. ‘I’ll wait for you here…’
But Renzo had seen her and was racing down the steps. They met each other in the centre of the courtyard. Her heart skipped a beat as she took in his serious expression. ‘What’s wrong?’
He glanced from one end of the patio to the other before his eyes met hers.
Eyes filled with wretchedness.
‘All Jews have been expelled from the university,’ he said without preamble.
She gasped. ‘What do you mean, “expelled from the university”?’
‘I went to register, and they shoved a piece of paper at me. There’s been a Royal Decree excluding Jews from public office and higher education.’ Renzo’s deep baritone voice seemed to have gone up an octave.
Lidia shook her head. ‘There must be a misunderstanding. They can’t do this to us.’
‘We’re Jews and that’s a good enough reason for them.’
She pressed her lips together. ‘Well, I still think there has been a mistake. This is Italy, not Germany…’
‘We are becoming more like Germany every day.’
‘I hope not.’ She glanced around for Marta, who must have been wondering why she was lingering.
Marta had already started walking towards them. She came up and touched her hand to Lidia’s. ‘We’d better go and register,’ she said.
‘I can’t.’
‘Whyever not?’
Lidia explained, and Marta’s cheeks reddened. ‘I’m so sorry. This makes me ashamed to be Italian.’
‘Renzo and I are Italians too,’ Lidia said. ‘There must be something we can do…’
‘Be careful, cara.’ Renzo put his arm around her shoulder. ‘People are staring at us.’
‘Renzo is right. Don’t call attention to yourselves,’ Marta advised. ‘There are blackshirts posing as students, you know.’
Lidia nodded. She set her jaw, determined not to let the tears of anger and frustration spill from her eyes.
‘We’d better go home.’ Renzo’s hold on her shoulder tightened. ‘Let me walk with you to the vaporetto station.’
‘I’ll catch up with you later, Lidia,’ Marta’s eyes searched her face. ‘After you’ve told your papa.’
O, Dio, Papa. I wonder if he has heard.
‘This will be the final straw for my parents,’ Renzo muttered. ‘They’ve been considering leaving Italy for a while now.’ He squeezed Lidia’s arm. ‘I hope you and your father will come with us…’
Her chest tightened. Leave Venice? Would Papa consider it? And, more to the point, would she? She loved this city and always felt bereft when she left it.

Isn’t that a great reason to pick up this book and to find out more?!
Thanks once again for this lovely interview, Siobhan Daiko.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

P.S. Are you an author (or publisher) who also wants a FREE interview like this? You can always contact me via e-mail!

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #GuestPost : Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling – Zenobia Neil @ZenobiaNeil #HistoricalRomance #HistoricalFantasy #AncientGreece

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Ariadne Unraveled Blog Tour Banner

Today I’m on the ‘Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have a guest post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Zenobia Neil author pictureZenobia Neil was named after an ancient warrior queen who fought against the Romans. She writes historical romance about the mythic past and Greek and Roman gods having too much fun. 

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Synopsis :

Book Title: Ariadne Unraveled
Author: Zenobia Neil
Publication Date: 7th July 2021
Publisher: Hypatia Books
Page Length: 345 Pages
Genre: Mythic retelling / Historical Romance

ariadneebookcoverjpgAriadne, high priestess of Crete, grew up duty-bound to the goddess Artemis. If she takes a husband, she must sacrifice him to her goddess after no more than three years of marriage. For this reason, she refuses to love any man, until a mysterious stranger arrives on her island.
The stranger is Dionysus, the new god of wine who empowers women and breaks the rules of the old gods. He came to Crete seeking vengeance against Artemis. He never expected to fall in love.
Furious that Dionysus would dare meddle with her high priestess, Artemis threatens to kill Ariadne if Dionysus doesn’t abandon her. Heartbroken, the new god leaves Crete, vowing to become better than the Olympians.
From the bloody labyrinth and the shadows of Hades to the halls of Olympus, Dionysus must find a way to defy Artemis and unite with his true love. Forced to betray her people, Ariadne discovers her own power to choose between the goddess she pledged herself to and the god she loves.

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Guest Post :

Greek Gods

When I wrote Ariadne Unraveled: A Mythic Retelling, I had the pleasure of writing about a great variety of Greek gods—Dionysus is one of my main characters, so I also wrote about his foster father Silenus and his half-brother Hermes. I have scenes with Ariadne’s grandfather Helios, the Sun God. I wrote about Artemis and Apollo, Hera and Ares, but the Greek god who surprised me the most, who I delighted in getting to know better, was Hephaestus God of the Forge.
In Ariadne Unraveled I strove to write about lesser-known myths. I didn’t want to focus on Theseus or the Minotaur, though both are important characters in the novel. There are already so many tales about them. True, there are many stories about Ariadne, but less so about her relationship with Dionysus, especially the lesser-known story that she was married to him before meeting Theseus, which contradicts the more popular myth that he abandoned her on Naxos possibly for Dionysus to wed. How could I rectify these conflicting ideas? Figuring out how to weave these stories together was one of my goals, but I also wanted to focus on the other less familiar tales.
While researching, I read Adrienne Mayor’s delightful book Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology. I had not thought about automatons in the ancient world before and it was fascinating to consider all the feats of engineering in ancient myth. Mayor discusses the reported accomplishments of the mortal Minoan engineer Daedalus, who I mention in Ariadne Unraveled but don’t focus on because there are many myths that include him, and he is often the one credited with giving Ariadne the ability to free Theseus from the labyrinth.
In Gods and Robots, Mayor also writes about Hephaestus and his amazing skill to make moving statues. I always knew about Hephaestus, the lame God of the Forge who was married to Aphrodite, but I never thought much of him or realized how amazing he is.
Hephaestus is the only Olympian who has a disability. Some myths claim that Hera gave birth to him herself to prove to Zeus that she could. But, the myths say, Hephaestus was born with a clubfoot, and she threw him off Olympus. (This feels so terribly like the Greek gods.) Later, when he went back to Olympus, he intervened in a fight between Hera and Zeus and Zeus tossed him from Olympus a second time. He then was cared for the by the people of Lemnos, a northern Aegean island that became sacred to him, and a mythic home of Ariadne and Dionysus.
Hephaestus is the God of the Forge and the only god to actually do work and to work with his hands. Inspired by his disability, Hephaestus crafted different carriers for himself. Mayor wrote about him making a chair of golden women. I loved this idea that the only god with a physical disability used that to inspire his craft and to elevate himself.
During my research, I read that Dionysus and Hephaestus had both sought refuge with Thetis under the sea. One of the two times Hephaestus was thrown from Olympus, Thetis rescued him as she later did with the young god Dionysus when he was chased by his uncle who had been enraged by Hera.
Dionysus and Hephaestus are similar in many ways. They both have serious issues with their divine parents. (This might be true for most of the Greek pantheon but being thrown off Olympus twice is pretty bad even for the Olympians). Dionysus didn’t meet his father for a very long time and spends a great deal of his life not knowing for sure if he even is a god. They both take one thing and change it into something else.
While I was writing, I imagined these two gods meeting under the sea with Thetis and becoming friends and then I heard them call each other by their nicknames. Here’s a passage where they’re reunited in Lemnos.

The hammers ceased, and a flash of gold rippled inside the cave. Blinking into the light of day, Hephaestus, seated in a chair held by four golden women, came to greet them. The God of the Forge had a blunt face covered with a wild black beard and equally wild, wavy hair. His broad chest swelled with muscles. His strong forearms and hands were black with soot, as was his red tunic and thick leather apron.
“Twice Born!” Hephaestus bellowed when he spotted Dionysus.
“Twice Fallen!” Dionysus shouted, running toward his friend. “You appear much taller than the last time we met.”
“Indeed! I have grown four golden women bearers and a golden chair instead of regular feet.” Hephaestus’s laughter reminded Ariadne of a rock crumbling. “I am honored to host you.”
“And we are honored to be here. Allow me to present my lovely wife, Ariadne, Mistress of the Labyrinth, her companion Thalia, and my foster father…” He glanced around, not seeing Silenus. “My foster father is here somewhere.”

When I first began to write about Ariadne and Dionysus, I had not expected to write about Hephaestus or even to take my characters to Lemnos, but writing fiction, like studying the Greek gods, is often surprising.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#AudioBlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #PromoPost : The Assassins – Alan Bardos @bardosAlan @SharpeBooks , narrated by Jack Bennett #HistoricalFiction #Thriller

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

The Assassins Tour

Today I’m on the ‘The Assassins’ Audio Blog Tour organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Alan BardosAlan Bardos is a graduate of the MA in TV Script Writing at De Montfort University, he also has a degree in Politics and History from Brunel University. Writing historical fiction combines the first great love of his life, making up stories, with the second, researching historical events and characters. Alan currently live in Oxfordshire with his wife… the other great love of his life.
Despite the amount of material that has been written about the twentieth century there is still a great deal of mystery and debate surrounding many of its events, which Alan explores in his historical fiction series using a certain amount of artistic license to fill in the gaps, while remaining historically accurate. The series will chronicle the first half of the twentieth century from the perspective of Johnny Swift, a disgraced and degenerate diplomat and soldier; starting with the pivotal event of the twentieth century, the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in ‘The Assassins’.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: The Assassins
Series: Johnny Swift Thrillers
Author: Alan Bardos
Publication Date: (current edition) 15th February 2021
Publisher: Sharpe Books
Page Length: 376 Pages
Genre: Historical Thriller

assassins(3)1914.
Tensions are reaching boiling point in Europe and the threat of war is imminent.
Johnny Swift, a young and brash diplomatic clerk employed by the British embassy is sent to infiltrate the ‘Young Bosnians’, a group of idealistic conspirators planning to murder Franz Ferdinand. The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in a bid to liberate their country from the monarchy’s grip.
Swift has been having an affair with his employer’s wife, Lady Elizabeth Smyth. Sir George Smyth dispatches the agent on the dangerous mission, believing that it will be the last he will see of his young rival.
The agent manages to infiltrate the Young Bosnian conspirators’ cell, helped by Lazlo Breitner, a Hungarian Civil Servant.
However, Swift soon realises that he may be in over his head. His gambling debts and taste for beautiful women prove the least of his problems as he struggles to survive on his wits in the increasingly complex – and perilous – world of politics and espionage.
Desperate to advance himself and with the lives of a royal couple unexpectedly in his hands, Swift tries to avert catastrophe.

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The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #GuestPost : The Usurper King (The Plantagenet Legacy, Book 3) – Mercedes Rochelle @authorRochelle #HistoricalFiction #Plantagenet #HenryIV

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Today I’m on the ‘The Usurper King’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have a guest post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. Her first four books cover eleventh-century Britain and events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England. The next series is called The Plantagenet Legacy about the struggles and abdication of Richard II, leading to the troubled reigns of the Lancastrian Kings. She also writes a blog: HistoricalBritainBlog.com to explore the history behind the story. Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended! Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: The Usurper King
Series: The Plantagenet Legacy Book 3
Author: Mercedes Rochelle
Publication Date: TBC
Publisher: Sergeant Press
Page Length: 308 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

From Outlaw to Usurper, Henry Bolingbroke fought one rebellion after another.
First, he led his own uprising. Gathering support the day he returned from exile, Henry marched across the country and vanquished the forsaken Richard II. Little did he realize that his problems were only just beginning. How does a usurper prove his legitimacy? What to do with the deposed king? Only three months after he took the crown, Henry IV had to face a rebellion led by Richard’s disgruntled favorites. Worse yet, he was harassed by rumors of Richard’s return to claim the throne. His own supporters were turning against him. How to control the overweening Percies, who were already demanding more than he could give? What to do with the rebellious Welsh? After only three years, the horrific Battle of Shrewsbury nearly cost him the throne—and his life. It didn’t take long for Henry to discover that that having the kingship was much less rewarding than striving for it.

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Guest Post :

WHO WERE THE LAST PLANTAGENETS?

Portrait of Henry IV- National Portrait Gallery (Creative Commons license)

Many people get confused when they read that Richard II was the last Plantagenet king. How can that be? During the Wars of the Roses, both the Lancastrians and the Yorkists were Plantagenets. And that’s true. However, Richard II was the last in the direct line—and that’s the difference.
One could almost say that Edward III had too many sons. If his heir, Edward the Black Prince hadn’t died prematurely, all would probably have gone a different route. Lionel, the second son of Edward III (who survived infancy) also predeceased his father, leaving a daughter Philippa from his first wife. It was through Philippa that we have the Mortimers, arguably the true heirs to the throne if you follow the “laws” of primogeniture (see below). The next son was John of Gaunt, the father of the future Henry IV (the Lancastrians). After him came Edmund Langley, later Duke of York (yes, those Yorkists), and lastly, Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester.
What is primogeniture? According to historian K.B. McFarlane, “a son always preferred to a daughter, a daughter to a brother or other collateral.” So the daughter’s heirs should come before the brother’s heirs (hence the Mortimers). Of course, it didn’t always work that way, even among the royals. As far back as King John, we see the youngest brother of a previous king mount the throne rather than the son of an elder brother (Arthur of Brittany—son of Geoffrey—should have ruled if the tradition of primogeniture were followed).
The Black Prince took nothing for granted, and on his deathbed he asked both his father and his brother John of Gaunt to swear an oath to protect nine year-old Richard and uphold his inheritance. Even this precaution didn’t guarantee Richard’s patrimony, and Edward III felt obliged to create an entail that ordered the succession along traditional male lines. This meant that the Mortimers were excluded. It also meant that John of Gaunt was next in line after Richard, and after him, Henry of Bolingbroke. This entail was kept secret at the time because of Gaunt’s unpopularity, and it’s possible that Richard later destroyed at least his own copy. It might have been lost to history until the last century when a badly damaged copy was discovered in the British Library among the Cotton charters (damaged by a fire in 1731). It clearly gave the order of succession as Richard, then Gaunt and his issue, then probably Gaunt’s brothers; parts of the manuscript are lost. According to historian Michael Bennett, “While crucial pieces of the text are missing, it is tolerably certain that the whole settlement is in tail male…”

John of Gaunt. Wikipedia

Why is this important? It’s more than likely that at least members of the royal family knew about the entail. King Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke never got along, and as Richard continued to remain childless, the thought of Henry succeeding him was anathema. He still refused to name an heir, and since he remarried in 1396 the 29 year-old king was still young enough to father a child, even though his new queen was only seven at the time. It’s interesting that he never gave the Mortimer line much credence; he only mentioned them once in his own defense when his barons grew rebellious in 1385: why usurp Richard and replace him with a child? (The Mortimers had a history of dying young and the current heir was just a boy.) Nonetheless, many of his countrymen assumed Roger Mortimer was heir presumptive and didn’t think to question it. By 1397 the grown-up Roger was very popular, but was killed in Ireland shortly thereafter.
Fast forward to Henry IV’s usurpation. Legally, he had a problem. There was another living under-aged Mortimer heir (he quickly took the boy hostage and raised him alongside his own children). Richard abdicated the crown to Henry but only under duress. The new king was advised against claiming the crown by right of arms, because the same thing could be done to him. His reign was riddled with rebellions, and because things didn’t improve like he promised, people started remembering Richard with nostalgia. They wanted the old king back, and rumors of his escape to Scotland only added fuel to the proverbial fire.
Henry IV only ruled for a little over thirteen years, and the last half of his reign he was a very sick man. There were times he couldn’t rule at all and had to depend on his council. His son, the future Henry V, was ready and willing to take over; he even tried to persuade the old man to retire. But that miscarried and Henry dragged himself back into action for a short time, dismissing his son from the council and taking control again. But his days were numbered and everyone knew it. Henry V’s short and glorious reign was cut short by dysentery, and the long and pitiful reign of his infant son Henry VI drove the country into civil war. So much for the Lancastrians.
The Yorkists were descended from both Edmund Langley, the first Duke of York and Philippa, ancestor of the Mortimers. That’s why they felt they had a superior claim to the throne. But by the Wars of the Roses, the Plantagenet line was pretty much diluted. It’s ironic that Henry Tudor, father to the next dynasty, was himself actually descended from a Plantagenet through his mother. Margaret Beaufort was the last surviving member of the bastard line issuing from John of Gaunt (and legitimized by Richard II). It sounds like poetic justice to me.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #Excerpt : The Steel Rose (The Boar King’s Honor Book 2) – Nancy Northcott @NancyNorthcott #HistoricalFantasy #Ghosts #BloodCurse #TimeTravel #RichardIII #Waterloo

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Today I’m on the ‘The Steel Rose’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman. Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance. She combines the emotion and high stakes, and sometimes the magic, she loves in the books she writes.
She has written freelance articles and taught at the college level. Her most popular course was on science fiction, fantasy, and society. She has also given presentations on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III to university classes studying Shakespeare’s play about Richard III. Reviewers have described her books as melding fantasy, romance, and suspense. Library Journal gave her debut novel, Renegade, a starred review, calling it “genre fiction at its best.”
In addition to the historical fantasy Boar King’s Honor trilogy, Nancy writes the Light Mage Wars paranormal romances, the Arachnid Files romantic suspense novellas, and the Lethal Webs romantic spy adventures. With Jeanne Adams, she cowrites the Outcast Station science fiction mysteries.
Married since 1987, Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: The Steel Rose
Series: The Boar King’s Honor Trilogy (Book 2)
Author: Nancy Northcott
Publication Date: April 29, 2021
Publisher: Falstaff Books
Page Length: 370 Pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy / Romantic Fantasy

THE BOAR KING’S HONOR TRILOGY
A wizard’s misplaced trust
A king wrongly blamed for murder
A bloodline cursed until they clear the king’s name
BOOK 2: THE STEEL ROSE

Amelia Mainwaring, a magically Gifted seer, is desperate to rescue the souls of her dead father and brother, who are trapped in a shadowy, wraith-filled land between life and death as the latest victims of their family curse. Lifting the curse requires clearing the name of King Richard III, who was wrongly accused of his nephews’ murder because of a mistake made by Amelia’s ancestor.
In London to seek help from a wizard scholar, Julian Winfield, Amelia has disturbing visions that warn of Napoleon Bonaparte’s escape from Elba and renewed war in Europe. A magical artifact fuels growing French support for Bonaparte. Can Amelia and Julian recover the artifact and deprive him of its power in time to avert the coming battles?
Their quest takes them from the crowded ballrooms of the London Season to the bloody field of Waterloo, demanding all of their courage, guile, and magical skill. Can they recover the artifact and stop Bonaparte? Or will all their hopes, along with Amanda’s father and brother, be doomed as a battle-weary Europe is once again engulfed in the flames of war?

The Steel Rose is the second book in the time-traveling, history-spanning fantasy series The Boar King’s Honor, from Nancy Northcott (Outcast Station, The Herald of Day).

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Excerpt :

The scene below is the introduction of the book’s hero, Julian Winfield, Earl of Aysgarth. It’s set at his mansion in Yorkshire a few days after the book opens.

***

Julian Winfield, Earl of Aysgarth and holder of assorted other titles, frowned at the bits of parchment spread across his library worktable. The ancient codex, supposedly the work of Viking wizards in the eighth century, had fallen apart, and a household fire—again, supposedly, though the damage didn’t fit that explanation—had destroyed parts of the pages.
The Latin script was an odd choice for Viking wizards of that pagan era.
Standing just above six feet, he had to bend over the long table. Perhaps he should have a higher one made, but this one served well enough most of the time.
“Making progress?” his Aunt Augusta asked. She lounged back against the cushions of her chair, a decidedly unladylike pose. At fifty-one, a widow for a decade, his mother’s sister wore her graying blond hair in a simple bun-and-ringlets style and chose her frocks for comfort with the barest nod to fashion.
Her lack of concern with propriety, at least in private, was one reason they got on so well. He rarely wore a cravat or coat or waistcoat at Aysgarth, in or out of the house, and bedamned to society.
“Some,” he replied. “The more I look at this codex, the more I think the story old Fortescue told me was made up out of whole cloth. Though perhaps that’s the story given to him. It doesn’t matter now. I’ll uncover the truth soon enough.”
The writing had faded on the fragment in front of him, and singe marks obliterated some of the words. At the edge, though, the letters o-p-p were clear enough. Was that oppidum, for town? Or some form of opprimere, to oppress?
“Can’t you sort all that magically?” his aunt asked.
“Where’s the fun in that?” Scowling, he shifted the fragments, looking for one that continued the word. Bloody hell, the singed pages made matching things up difficult. Magic had failed to restore the damage, perhaps because it was so longstanding. At least he could magically bind fragments together once he determined how they fit.
Aunt Augusta added, “If you want puzzles, I’m certain the Home Office would welcome your return.”
“I’ve had my fill of their sort of puzzles, thank you.” Not to mention the way everyone wanted to put in his oar. If not for the secret help of the Merlin Club’s Gifted members, well-meant Home Office interference would’ve made accomplishing anything difficult.
He turned his attention back to the fragments. His aunt devoted herself to her book.
Mounds of snow still blanketed the shady parts of the back lawn that were visible through the windows and the French doors to the terrace. Frost sparkled on the windowpanes. In here, though, the fire kept the room cozy. Only its crackling and the occasional whispery sound of his aunt turning a page broke the silence. He liked it that way. This room was his haven, the books like old friends. The crossed cavalry sabers and broadswords above the two mantels and the family portraits hanging above those were so familiar that he scarcely noticed them.
With the war over and that Corsican menace, Bonaparte, safely confined, he could go back to his horses and his books in peace. Perhaps even find something that would help lift the curse confining his friend Adam’s soul.
“Julian?”
His aunt’s voice sounded odd, but it sometimes did when she was distracted. “Yes, Aunt?”
Was that word poena, for punishment, or—
“My dear, there’s a dragon landing on the lawn.”
—no, perhaps it was postulo, for ask or demand. “I’m sure Hawes will tend to it,” he told her. No, it wasn’t postulo. It was…wait. What?
He lifted his head to look at his aunt. Sitting ramrod straight now, she stared out the windows. Her lips were slightly parted. As though suddenly aware her jaw had dropped, she snapped her mouth shut.
“What did you say?” he asked.
“You heard me perfectly well. Come and look.”
He walked around the table to join her. Staring out the window, he blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. “Yes,” he said slowly, “I do believe that’s a dragon.”

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #Excerpt : Sigurd’s Sword (Olaf’s Sage Book 2) – Eric Schumacher @DarkAgeScribe #HistoricalFiction #Vikings

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Today I’m on the ‘Sigurd’s Sword’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Eric Schumacher (1968 – ) is an American historical novelist who currently resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife and two children. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended college at the University of San Diego.
At a very early age, Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Those discoveries continue to fuel his imagination and influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God’s Hammer, was published in 2005.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: Sigurd’s Swords
Series: Olaf’s Saga, Book 2
Author: Eric Schumacher
Publication Date: June 28, 2021
Publisher: Bodn Books
Page Length: 300 Pages (print)
Genre: Historical Fiction

From best-selling historical fiction novelist, Eric Schumacher, comes the second volume in Olaf’s Saga: the adrenaline-charged story of Olaf Tryggvason and his adventures in the kingdom of the Rus.
AD 968. It has been ten summers since the noble sons of the North, Olaf and Torgil, were driven from their homeland by the treachery of the Norse king, Harald Eriksson. Having then escaped the horrors of slavery in Estland, they now fight among the Rus in the company of Olaf’s uncle, Sigurd.
It will be some of the bloodiest years in Rus history. The Grand Prince, Sviatoslav, is hungry for land, riches, and power, but his unending campaigns are leaving the corpses of thousands in their wakes. From the siege of Konugard to the battlefields of ancient Bulgaria, Olaf and Torgil struggle to stay alive in Sigurd’s Swords, the riveting sequel to Forged by Iron.

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Excerpt :

Chapter 12

We turned our prows to steer board and headed for the docks below the fort. Though the sun had not yet risen, the garrison and people who lived in or near the fort came to greet our ships, for many were wives and kin to the warriors who had just returned. I knew their smiles and waves would die as soon as our ships touched land. Nearly half of our warriors had perished in the south, and there would be many families left without their menfolk that night.
As our hulls scraped land and we shipped our oars, the crowd settled into an uneasy silence. Families and friends scanned the ships with weary eyes for their loved ones. Most of our warriors did not wait to grab their things. They simply leaped from the ships and made their way into the crowd to end the suspense of those who waited. It was at once a tender and solemn affair, for seeing loved ones reunited warmed me, but seeing wives and children standing alone, searching, then eventually learning the hard truth, wrenched my gut. For them there was no comfort on that brittle night. There were only tears and memories.
To look upon them was too hard, and so I turned to Olaf, who stood beside me. But his gaze was fixed on something else — or I should say, someone else. I followed that gaze up the boarded path that led to the fortress, where a notable group of warriors and lords stood, looking down at us. They surrounded a young woman, and it was on her that Olaf’s eyes now focused. The entire group was dressed in dark cloaks and hats of fur. She, too, was wrapped in a thick cloak of fur. But unlike the others, her white-blond hair danced on the breeze in the wavering torchlight, giving her an almost ethereal aspect.
I knew instantly who she was and punched Olaf’s shoulder. “Best not be caught ogling the prince’s bride-to-be.” Though I admit, I too was fascinated by her. Even from a distance, she was as mesmerizing as a flame.
Olaf smiled that mischievous smile of his. “Who is ogling? I was just curious.”
I rolled my eyes. “Curious in a leering sort of way.” I lowered my voice and looked about to ensure no one was listening. “Just mind yourself,” I warned.
Olaf brushed my warning aside with a wave of his hand and lifted his pack from his sea chest. “Take your ease, Torgil. I seek only good beer and hearty food, and mayhap the company of a warm woman. I will let the nobles have their own dealings. Come, we have earned our fun this night.”
I looked at the milling crowd, then at the stark walls of the town, then back at Olaf’s mischievous smile. I envisioned myself in some tavern sipping beer, while he and the others bragged about their exploits and I struggled to stay awake, and the mere thought of it exhausted me. What I needed most was silence and comfort. “The night is gone,” I said. “Besides, I seek someone else.”
Now it was Olaf’s turn to roll his eyes. “Gods. You are about as fun as a rock.” He dismissed me with a snort. “If you find her, I wish you an evening like no other. If you change your mind, you know where to find me.”
I hefted my own pack, which carried my byrnie, helmet, and a few loose items, then I grabbed my shield from the port-side rack. “Watch yourself,” I said again as I leaped from the ship.
I threaded my way through the growing crowd and headed north along the Volkhov, following the beach several hundred paces until I reached the tributary that turned east from the main river. There, at the intersection of the waterways, stood Sigurd’s hall. And there I froze, as nervous as if I were facing an army of Pechenegs, a hundred doubts accosting me at once. What would Turid think when she saw me? How would she react? Had I changed? Had she? Had she met someone else in my absence? The questions came at me unhindered, unabated, rapid-fire. They made my palms sweat and my stomach flutter. I had never been good with women, and here I was again, faltering. I cursed myself in an attempt to bolster my courage, but it did not work. Rather, it alerted the guard who walked nearby and whom I had not seen.
“Who is there?”
I raised my hands in surrender. “It is me, Oleg. Torgil Toralvsson.”
The man turned to me and a flash of light danced across his drawn blade. There was a smile on his wrinkled face. “Gods, you had me worried. I am getting too old for night fights.” He stepped closer and looked me up and down. “So Sigurd is home?” he asked.
“Aye,” I said. “He is. He and the men are at the fort.”
He sheathed his blade. “We heard rumors. Was it bad?”
“Aye, Oleg. It was.”
He beckoned me to him. “Come, lad. You are home.” There was that strange word again. I walked to him and he patted my back, ushering me forward.
Sigurd’s was a large estate, with a comfortable main hall in which he lived and entertained, a barracks for his men, a smithy, a larder, and a barn. Attached to the barn was a pen for his chickens, sheep, pigs, and two horses. Down near the water was a boathouse for Sea Snake and Sigurd’s two other ships. Service in the East had been kind to him.
“Head to the barracks and find yourself some warmth,” Oleg instructed. “The men are sleeping, so try to be quiet.”
His words turned my mind to the ten men who had remained behind to guard Sigurd’s estate. Those lucky bastards were sleeping in their cots with full bellies and furs to warm them, and they were the last thing I wanted to see. I shook my head. “There is someone else I must see first.” Though it was night and I knew Oleg could not see my face very well, I blushed. “Is Turid in the main hall?”
“Oh,” he answered. I was about to explain myself when he waved me forward. “Come, then. Leave your things by the door. She sleeps in the first bed to the left as you enter. Mind your noise, now.” He winked at me. “And do not fall asleep. You know the rules. No warriors are to sleep in the main hall.”
I thanked him and deposited my things at the door, then entered the hall as quietly as I could. The door creaked as it swung open. I paused, letting the warmth seep into my skin as my eyes adjusted to the firelit interior and my nose to the smoke and body odor and must. Snores and heavy breathing and the crackling of burning logs filled the space. As silently as I could, I closed the door and moved to Turid’s bed. She lay curled in a ball with her face near the wall. Her fire-red hair was splayed across her shoulder and pillow. Gods, how peaceful she looked. My heart thundered as I sat carefully on the frame of her bed, then brushed my fingers against her shoulder. “Turid,” I whispered with my heart in my throat.
She rolled her head to me suddenly, a mixture of confusion and sleepiness on her freckled face. “Torgil?” she finally asked.
I smiled and whispered, “Aye.”
She sat up and wrapped her arms around my torso. I returned the hug, my nose close to her neck, and immersed myself in her scent.
“I have missed you, Torgil,” she whispered fiercely.
I pulled back from her and studied her face. Those glacial eyes now filled with tears. That straight nose and prominent jaw and jutting chin. Those full lips and fair skin covered with freckles. “I have missed you too,” I whispered back, then looked away because her beauty left my cheeks searing hot and my body bereft of strength.
She lifted my furry chin with her finger and smiled gently. “From the rumors we heard, I feared I might never see you again.”
“And I, you,” I admitted softly. “It was good that you remained here.”
Suddenly her brows dipped and she looked beyond me, then back at me. “Where is Olaf?”
“He is at the fort. I came to see you.” My voice trailed off.
She lifted her blanket. “Come. Warm yourself.”
“Are you certain?” I knew what she had suffered at the hands of our Estland captors and did not want to break that barrier indelicately.
“Aye,” she whispered, holding the fur blanket open for me.
I shed my boots and slid under the furs beside her, aware of how much I must reek and hoping she did not care. She reached up and wrapped her arms around my torso. I closed my eyes, reveling in her touch and her scent, trying to ignore my ache for her.
Her hand reached up and stroked my chest softly. “Rest now. You are home,” she breathed.
I sighed, relaxing into her warmth and into the peace I suddenly felt. Home.
“One day you must tell me of your adventure.”
“I will,” I responded drowsily, trying to keep my weary mind from falling asleep.
It was the last thing I remembered.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #Excerpt : Guardians at the Wall – Tim Walker @timwalker1666 #HistoricalFiction #HadriansWall

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

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Today I’m on the ‘Guardians at the Wall’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Tim WalkerTim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. He grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. After studying for a degree in Communication studies he moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business. He returned to the UK in 2009.
His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, inspired by a visit to the part-excavated site of a former Roman town. The series connects the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend and is inspired by historical source material, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.
The last book in the series, Arthur, Rex Brittonum, was published in June 2020. This is a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur and follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum. Both titles are Coffee Pot Book Club recommended reads. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018). Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker.
Tim has also written three books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (2015), Postcards from London (2017) and Perverse (2020); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); and three children’s books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy – The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017), Charly & the Superheroes (2018) and Charly in Space (2020).

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Synopsis :

Book Title: Guardians at the Wall
Author: Tim Walker
Publication Date: 1st June 2021
Publisher: Independently published
Page Length: 310 Pages
Genre: Historical dual timeline (Contemporary/Roman)

Guardians at the Wall CoverArchaeology student Noah scrapes the soil near Hadrian’s Wall, once a barrier that divided Roman Britannia from wild Caledonian tribes, in the hope of uncovering an ancient artefact around which he can build a project-defining story.
He makes an intriguing find, but hasn’t anticipated the distraction of becoming the object of desire in a developing love triangle in the isolated academic community at Vindolanda. He’s living his best life, but must learn to prioritise in a race against time to solve an astounding 2,000-year-old riddle, and an artefact theft, as he comes to realise his future career prospects depend on it.
In the same place, almost 2,000 years earlier, Centurion Gaius Atticianus, hungover and unaware of the bloody conflicts that will soon challenge him, is rattled by the hoot of an owl, a bad omen.
These are the protagonists whose lives will brush together in the alternating strands of this dual timeline historical novel, one commencing his journey and trying to get noticed, the other trying to stay intact as he approaches retirement.
How will the breathless battles fought by a Roman officer influence the fortunes of a twenty-first century archaeology mud rat? Can naive Noah, distracted by the attentions of two very different women, navigate his way to a winning presentation?
Find out in Tim Walker’s thrilling historical dual timeline novel, Guardians at the Wall.

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Excerpt :

Student and Tutor Meeting

[archaeology student, Noah, visits the Head of Archaeology for her opinion on his find]
I skirted around the two-storey sandstone building and ducked through a doorway into a well-lit reception area and stood before Mavis, the marketing assistant.
“Hi Mavis, is Maggie in?” I chirped, picking up the latest issue of Archaeology Magazine. Professor Maggie Wilde was pictured on the cover, standing on the battlements of the reconstructed section of wall, gazing northwards towards the unconquered barbarians. She was already a celebrity archaeologist and would have made the perfect foil for Harrison Ford’s movie character, Indiana Jones, with her wild, windswept strawberry blonde hair framing a striking face with cute freckles across her nose, and twinkling pale blue eyes. Her glossy lips suggested she knew the value of a warm smile or pout in a room full of men. ‘It’s like fancying your mum’s friend’, Dave had once remarked.
“She’s on a conference call to the States. Wait if you like, she’ll be finished soon,” Mavis replied, in a cultured Edinburgh accent. Posh Scottish.
“She’s the pin-up girl of British archaeology,” I quipped, flashing the magazine cover.
“I don’t know what she uses to keep her skin so flawless,” Mavis sighed.
“Perhaps she discovered an ancient potion?” I offered, flicking through the pages to the article. I had been hovering around when the photographer had taken her photos that day – maybe I was in the background of one of the pictures? I sat and read. ‘Hadrian’s Wall Gives Up Its Secrets’, the headline declared. The Vindolanda reading tablets were described as, ‘the find of the century.’ My broad idea for my dissertation was for it to be based on translations from some of the tablets – those that related to the lives and living conditions of the soldiers garrisoned at Vindolanda and other forts in the early years of Hadrian’s Wall. I had been cropped out of the photos.
“They couldn’t have been more excited if they’d discovered Moses’s tablets,” I quipped.
“You can go in now,” Mavis said, her voice dragging me away from the article. I had read half of it, and resolved to return to it when I came out.
Professor Maggie Wilde’s room was bigger than the reception area, with two walls given over to floor-to-ceiling book shelves – one with books and the other with boxes of academic reports and maps. No doubt Mavis had labelled and sorted them, as Maggie gave the air of being disorganised. She was an anomaly – a successful career academic who reputedly hated being tied down to boring tasks, like report-writing, collating documents, copying and filing; a creative free-thinker who was skilled at persuading others to unburden her of boring or repetitive tasks. She held two positions – Head of Archaeology at the Trust, and part-time Archaeology Professor at Newcastle University.
“Ah, Noah, come in. Just move those over there and sit,” she said, pointing to a couch piled high with maps and printouts. I moved the items and sat, twiddling my thumbs, watching the crown of her ginger head, waiting until she looked up. I had literally bumped into her at the student placement reception a few days earlier, and she had welcomed me with a firm handshake. I had blurted that I’d seen her Hadrian’s Wall documentary on television, feeling like a needy fan as soon as I’d said it. She had smiled and asked me what I hoped to achieve during my placement and listened intently, planting her stylish heels as if she had nowhere else to go, a strange thing in a room where people were mingling in groups. I was grateful for her full attention and pleased when she invited me to call on her expertise any time.
“If it’s a bad time I can come back?” I offered.
“There never seems to be a good time, so now will do,” she said, removing her reading glasses and fixing me with a warm and welcoming smile. “I’ve just had a two-hour conference call with members of the US Archaeological Society, so I could do with a distraction.” She leaned forward and picked up the marble figure Mike had brought to her hours earlier. He must have thoroughly cleaned and polished it before presenting it to her.
“I just wanted to hear what your thoughts are on that little lady,” I said. “Do you think she’s a female deity?”
She turned it over in her slender fingers and her shoulders twitched. “Ooh, I felt a slight shock, like static on a jumper,” she said, placing it gently on her blotter. “Yes, most likely female, judging by the full-length robe. The slight tummy bump suggests she might be pregnant, so perhaps a fertility symbol. I’ll send it to the curator at the Hancock Museum for her opinion. She’ll give me a better idea of where it fits into the Brigantes’ belief system. Some of their gods were twinned with Roman deities as the polytheistic Romans were keen to encourage local worship in their temples. Once we know roughly how old it is, we can look for other carvings or figures from that period and make a guess as to which deity it is. I agree with Mike; it could be a goddess whom the household would supplicate for good fortune, fertility or protection from evil spirits. Come and sit in the chair.”

*****

[At the same location in the year 180 CE, Roman centurion, Gaius Atticianus returns home after a fractious meeting to be confronted by his wife, Aria]
He entered his courtyard in a state of shock to be met by Aria, legs apart in her combative stance, holding the Brigantia effigy in one hand, a look of anger in her eyes.
“What do you mean by sending Paulinus to give me this carving of the local goddess, Brigantia? You know full well that we have a shrine to the water goddess of my people, Sulis, who is twinned with your goddess Minerva, and is the deity who watches over this house and our family! Have you forgotten the time our prayers and the healing waters of Sulis restored our little Brutus when he had the sweating fever?”
“Sulis be praised. But my love, it was a gift from the wife of my scout whom we saved from despoilment and murder,” Gaius replied in his well-practised conciliatory tone. She had resurrected the unhappy memory of his fears that his little son would succumb to the same fever that had robbed him of his first family.
“Then you have kept your promise and delivered it to me. But it cannot remain here, or our own goddess will desert us. You shall not see it again and do not ask me about it.” Gaius knew not to argue further when her temper was raised. She looked both magnificent and terrifying when her red mane was raised and her crystal eyes turned icy with rage. But like the storms of Britannia, it would soon blow out and she would be his sweet Aria again.
“You are wise, as always, my love,” he whispered, now more eager than ever to soak his weary bones and clear his troubled mind. He would withhold his bad news from her and mull it over. Gaius skirted around her and went to the kitchen to seek out Longinus to make preparations for his bath. He would be up at dawn to prepare once again for battle with the Caledonii, or to lead a guard to Coria with their wives, cohort valuables, and the report blaming him for the attack. But that was tomorrow. Tonight, he would eat with his family and sleep in the arms of his beloved Aria.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #Excerpt : The Poison Keeper – Deborah Swift @swiftstory #HistoricalFiction #Renaissance #Italian

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Today I’m on the ‘The Poison Keeper’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have an excerpt, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Deborah Swift lives in the north of England and is a USA Today bestselling author who has written fourteen historical novels to date. Her first novel, The Lady’s Slipper, set in 17th Century England, was shortlisted for the Impress Prize, and her WW2 novel Past Encounters was a BookViral Millennium Award winner.
Deborah enjoys writing about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and most of her novels have been published in reading group editions. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and is a mentor with The History Quill.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: The Poison Keeper
Author: Deborah Swift
Publication Date: 18th May 2021
Publisher: Quire Books
Page Length: 394 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Naples 1633
Aqua Tofana – One drop to heal. Three drops to kill.
Giulia Tofana longs for more responsibility in her mother’s apothecary business, but Mamma has always been secretive and refuses to tell Giulia the hidden keys to her success. When Mamma is arrested for the poisoning of the powerful Duke de Verdi, Giulia is shocked to uncover the darker side of her trade.
Giulia must run for her life, and escapes to Naples, under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, to the home of her Aunt Isabetta, a famous courtesan. But when Giulia hears that her mother has been executed, and the cruel manner of her death, she swears she will wreak revenge on the Duke de Verdi.
The trouble is, Naples is in the grip of Domenico, the Duke’s brother, who controls the city with the ‘Camorra’, the mafia. Worse, her Aunt Isabetta, under Domenico’s thrall, insists that she should be consort to him – the brother of the man she has vowed to kill.
Based on the legendary life of Giulia Tofana, this is a story of hidden family secrets, and how even the darkest desires can be vanquished by courage and love.

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Excerpt :

From Chapter 2

The ship berthed in Naples early, so when they arrived it was just after dawn, the sun still a pinkish blur, hanging low in an egg-blue sky. Giulia was awed by Mount Vesuvius, which was almost purple in this light. It stood motionless and benign, as if no fiery breath could spurt from its jaws, even though it had erupted less than eighteen months ago, raining torment on everything below. Today, Naples was bustling with traders, despite the fact the whole city could be buried tomorrow under red-hot lava if the fire god willed it.
Giulia drank it all in, her head turning from side to side so as not to miss any detail. Cats strolled from the alleys to stretch out on the warm flagstones, horses and carts trundled lazily by with workers on their way to the wheatfields.
Sister Simona marched them through the narrow streets with their tall shuttered houses, with a ‘Keep up. Keep up!’ to her gaggle of followers. Sister Teresa and Sister Marthe were painfully slow walkers. ‘It’s near Il Mercato,’ Sister Simona said, after a quarter hour of walking, her cheeks flushed with exertion. ‘An area of wealthy merchants. There are many beautiful palazzi close to the market. Your aunt must be a wealthy woman.’
‘I don’t know,’ Giulia said. ‘I’ve never met her.’
Sister Simona glanced at her two companions, and frowned. ‘Then we will come and meet this aunt of yours,’ she said.
After a little more walking, and pleas from Sister Marthe, ‘Please, slow down!’ they came to a stop outside a long avenue of houses fronting the square, where traders were already beginning to set up for market.
‘Is this the one?’ Giulia asked, surprised. They were standing before a lofty white stone villa, with high arched windows and a balcony with an ornate ‘goose-breast’ balustrade. A sign in curvaceous script read, ‘Villa Bianca’.
‘Imp…imposing.’ Sister Marthe was so breathless it was the only word she could manage.
Up two stone steps to a vast double door, with a cartouche above carved with twining leaves, and urns of overblown flowers and fruit. It seemed so strange to arrive anywhere without Mamma. Giulia was intensely aware of her lack of proper luggage; that no-one had dressed her hair, and that despite her rich gown, now somewhat crumpled, she was to all intents a beggar on the doorstep. It was intimidating. She took a breath, took hold of the heavy brass ring and knocked on the door.
No answer. The house remained shuttered. Sister Simona pushed past her to knock again, harder, but when there was no answer, she tried the door. It was open. ‘Come along.’
The nuns escorted Giulia inside, into a dark hallway. Marble underfoot, and gilded paneling. It was shuttered, but a heavy scent of perfume, like the pungent scent of lilies, hung in the air. Giulia breathed it in. So different from the sharp smell of physic at home.
‘Excuse me,’ called Sister Simona into the echoing hall. ‘Is anyone there?’
‘Buongiorno?’ Giulia called, louder.
Suddenly they were surrounded. Servants, obviously come straight from their beds, appeared bearing candles and lanterns.
‘What do you want?’ A tight-faced serving woman wearing a plain cambric nightshift, her hair in a long braid under a cap, stood barring their way, her hand curled around a candle. She was obviously the housekeeper in charge.
‘Beg pardon, but we are seeking Isabetta Boveri,’ Giulia said, smiling hopefully. ‘She’s my aunt.’
The servants looked at her askance. ‘Too early. She sees no-one before noon,’ the housekeeper said.
‘Then we’ll wait.’ Sister Marthe, glad of the excuse, plumped down on the only chair in the hall.
‘All of you?’ The housekeeper looked down her nose at the nuns.
Giulia turned to Sister Simona. ‘There’s really no need for you to wait. You’ve been more than kind.’
At that moment a door clicked open upstairs, and a woman’s imperious voice came down. ‘Can’t a woman get any sleep? What’s all that noise? Alessa! What in the devil’s going on?’
‘Your niece, mistress. She’s here in the hall.’
‘Niece?’ the voice said. ‘Don’t talk nonsense. I have no niece. My family disowned me, twenty-five years since.’
A stab of alarm. Would she be turned away? The nuns looked to each other, frowning.
A moment later a woman rushed down the stairs in a flurry of yellow silk, causing the candles to waver in the draught. Sister Simona gaped and the other nuns took a step back.
‘Where is this niece?’ The woman, a taller, thinner version of her mother, looked from Giulia to the sisters. ‘And who on earth thought it a clever idea to admit these nuns?’
‘Pardon us,’ Sister Simona said. She stood up calmly, her shoulders braced. Anyone else would have wilted under the flashing eyes of the new arrival. ‘Are you Signora Boveri?’
‘Of course I’m Isabetta Boveri. How dare you wake me at this hour?’
‘My apologies for the intrusion,’ Sister Simona said, ‘We are leaving, as soon as we make sure Giulia is safe. Her mother left her to travel alone.’
‘So like Theofania,’ Aunt Isabetta said. ‘No consideration for anyone else.’
Giulia stepped forward. ‘I’m Theofania’s daughter, Giulia. I’m glad to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.’ A lie, but she was anxious to make a good impression.
Aunt Isabetta’s face froze. She looked her up and down, her voice came out in a whisper, ‘But that’s impossible. You can’t be Giulia. Giulia’s a child.’
‘Not any more, Aunt Isabetta. I’m twenty three.’
‘No. Let me look at you.’ She stared at her face as if she might see through it. ‘Yes, yes, you have our look,’ she said, as if to reassure herself. ‘The same widow’s peak in the hair, the same pointed chin.’
‘Aunt Isabetta, I’m sorry we could not give you more notice of my arrival in Naples, but Mamma said you’d be glad to give me a place to stay.’
‘She sent you here?’ She shook her head. Then she turned and paced, a frown on her face. ‘But she never wanted us to meet, she said… oh, never mind what she said.’
She was slimmer than Mamma, and her face was painted in the style of a woman much younger, though the wrinkles round her eyes showed her age to be past forty. Her opulent dressing-robe was made up of swathes of yellow-dyed silk, the sleeves trimmed with gold point, and the neck tied in an elaborate bow. Beneath, she caught a glimpse of a lawn nightgown, and a garter but no stocking. Giulia stared. Aunt Isabetta was wearing jewellery to bed.
‘Why?’ Isabetta asked. ‘Why would she send you to me after all this time?’

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #Review : Essex – Tudor Rebel (The Elizabethan Series Book 2) – Tony Riches @tonyriches #Elizabethan #Tudors #HistoricalFiction

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free.
I’m grateful of receiving a free copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review of this book. –

About the Author :

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling Tudor historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors. Tony’s other published historical fiction novels include: Owen – Book One Of The Tudor Trilogy, Jasper – Book Two Of The Tudor Trilogy, Henry – Book Three Of The Tudor Trilogy, Mary – Tudor Princess, Brandon – Tudor Knight and The Secret Diary Of Eleanor Cobham.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: Essex – Tudor Rebel
Series: (Elizabethan Series, Book 2)
Author: Tony Riches
Publication Date: 9th April 2021
Publisher: Preseli Press
Page Length: 352 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

What makes the queen’s young favourite turn against her?
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.
The truth is far more complex, as each has what the other yearns for. Robert Devereux longs for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amuses the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had, and his vitality makes her feel young.
Continuing the story of the Tudors, begun in Tony Riches’ best-selling Tudor trilogy, this epic tale of loyalty, love and adventure follows Robert Devereux from his youth to his fateful rebellion.

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Review :

I must confess I don’t really know a lot about Robert Devereux, but the author tells his story in such a wonderful way.
It’s so very well researched that you have the feeling of being transported into time.
Everything and everyone is introduced with such details and in an intruiging way to keep you turning the pages.
If only my history teachers would done it this way!
Definitely going to read other books by this author as this one was not only very enjoyable, but also very informative.
I have the feeling of knowing annd understanding Robert much better now.

The Magic of Wor(l)ds

#BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub @maryanneyarde / #GuestPost : Saving Grace: Deception. Obsession. Redemption. (The Ropewalk series, Book 2) – H. D. Coulter @coulter_hd #HistoricalFiction

– ‘The Magic of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –

Today I’m on the ‘Saving Grace: Deception. Obsession. Redemption.’ blogtour, organized by The Coffee Pot Book Club.
To promote this book I have a guest post, but before I let you read it first some ‘basic’ information.

About the Author :

Hayley was born and raised in the lake district and across Cumbria. From a young age, Hayley loved learning about history, visiting castles and discovering local stories from the past. Hayley and her partner lived in Ulverston for three years and spent her weekends walking along the Ropewalk and down by the old harbour. She became inspired by the spirit of the area and stories that had taken place along the historic streets.
As a teacher, Hayley had loved the art of storytelling by studying drama and theatre. The power of the written word, how it can transport the reader to another world or even another time in history. But it wasn’t until living in Ulverston did she discover a story worth telling. From that point, the characters became alive and she fell in love with the story.

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Synopsis :

Book Title: Saving Grace: Deception. Obsession. Redemption.
Series: The Ropewalk series, Book 2
Author: H D Coulter
Publication Date: 11th May 2021
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 330 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Beacon Hill, Boston. 1832.
“You are innocent. You are loved. You are mine.”
After surviving the brutal attack and barely escaping death at Lancaster Castle, Beatrice Mason attempts to build a new life with her husband Joshua across the Atlantic in Beacon Hill. But, as Beatrice struggles to cope with the pregnancy and vivid nightmares, she questions whether she is worthy of redemption.
Determined to put the past behind her after the birth of her daughter Grace, Bea embraces her newfound roles of motherhood and being a wife. Nevertheless, when she meets Sarah Bateman, their friendship draws Bea towards the underground railroad and the hidden abolitionist movement, despite the dangerous secrets it poses. Whilst concealed in the shadows, Captain Victor Hanley returns, obsessed with revenge and the desire to lay claim to what is his, exposes deceptions and doubts as he threatens their newly established happiness.
Now, Beatrice must find the strength to fight once more and save Grace, even if it costs her life.

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Guest Post :

The African Meeting House, Beacon Hill.

Thank you again for ‘The Magic of the Wor(l)ds’ for inviting me to guest post for Saving Grace.
At the end of Ropewalk, Bea and Joshua are leaving the UK to start a fresh in America. I choose to locate some of Saving Grace in Beacon Hill which is a part of Boston, was flourishing. It was a representation of what was happening across America in the 1830s, with various cultures descending on different areas of the hill. A class divide between north and south slope in wealth, with a sense of unrest bubbling underneath. Another aspect of why I choose to select Beacon Hill was Joshua’s background in shipping. It was a natural selection for the character to choose that location with business connections and to be on the south slope of Beacon Hill.
However, when I was researching the area, I discovered the African meeting house, which was a hub for the abolitionist movement and a rumoured connection to the underground railroad. Once I stumbled across this, I fell down the research rabbit hole and saw Bea, like her father supporting change. This unexpected discovery changed the plot of Saving Grace and added an element that seemed like a natural development for the characters, especially Bea to take, helping her to find her voice and strength again. Which created a whole new subplot to the novel and leading into book 3.

Getting into the details…

The African Meeting House Beacon Hill was formerly an African Baptist Church of Boston, built in 1806, funded by key members of the community including Reverend Thomas Paul and Primus Hall. As before in 1805, although black Bostonians were free slaves or born free could attend white churches, they genuinely face discrimination. The common rule was that they were seated in the balconies and refused voting privileges. Even though Boston and the state of Massachusetts were deemed as liberal, the distinction between the white and black community was still clear within society. Once the meeting house was built, it became a refuge for the surrounding black communities, acting as a Baptist church, and one for the one of the first schools. They based it on the first floor until 1835, when the Abigail Smith School was built next door, due to the donations raised to the sum of $2,000.

“Besides inspiring Boston’s African Americans to pursue justice and quality in education, the school offered them opportunities for employment and economic growth, which in turn provided funds for the future generations of African-American Bostonians to pursue higher education.”
Faustine C. Jones-Wilson (1996)

The African meeting house became an integral space to gather on a spiritual, cultural, educational, and political life of Boston’s black community. On the sixth of January 1832 William Lloyd Garrison founded the New England anti-slavery society and began the abolitionist movement in the New England and across Northern States of America. Other notable abolitionists involved, Mary Stewart, Wendell Phillips, Sarah Grimke and Frederick Douglass, all spoke at the meeting house, the Massachusetts General coloured association dedicated to ending the dual forces of slavery and discrimination, across the country gathered at the African Meeting House. Speakers and leaders held meetings on the Underground Railroad, forming a station for freedom seeking slaves and helping them to form a new life and education on Beacon Hill. One notable event was the fact the meeting house served as a recruitment post for the Massachusetts 54th volunteer regiment. One of the first African meeting regiment to the fight of the civil war.
In 1972, the Museum of African American History purchased the building, and in 1874 was successful at achieving a national historic landmark and operated by the museum until present day.

So how did that influence the novel…

“As she stepped forward, the light of the room washed over her. It was more like a church than a hall. She heard a voice speaking out from the back of the room, very much like that of a preacher, and saw a man standing on a podium positioned in the centre of the hall. A few of people turned round and examine her with questionable faces until they saw Sarah coming in behind.
“Sarah – welcome. And your guest – please join us.” Bea felt herself being gently forced forward and directed towards a nearby pew.
Once they were seated, the speaker continued, and all turned towards him once more.
“Is this a church?” Bea whispered to her guide.
“No, it is a meeting house.”
“A meeting house for what?” Sarah gestured her head for Bea to listen, so she did.
“Before we finish this meeting, I would like to read from a letter, sent to me by a conductor in the south; a reminder of why we are here, and a push for what we need to do next. He paused for a moment, unfolding a sheet of paper…”
Saving Grace, Chapter 14.

At the start of the novel, we meet a new character, Sarah Bateman with a hidden past and slowly becomes friends with Beatrice as she supports her in the daily routines. The meeting house becomes a central force surrounding Bea and Sarah’s friendship and support in future events as Sarah introduces the secret side to the abolitionist’s movement. With her father’s encouragement with the Reformers and the desire to make a difference, she finds her strength once more to fight as she discovers her voice. Knowing the challenges she could face and the jeopardy it could bring to her future happiness with Joshua. And yet, the meeting house will be essential to help save Grace.