Monday 30 November 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Imperfect Alchemist by Naomi Miller


I am delighted to be joining in with this blog tour stop

Allison & Busby
19 November 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour today

Two women. One bond that will unite them across years and social divides. England, 1575. Mary Sidney, who will go on to claim a spot at the heart of Elizabethan court life and culture, is a fourteen-year-old navigating grief and her first awareness of love and desire. Her sharp mind is less interested in the dynastic alliances and marriages that concern her father, but will she be able to forge a place for herself and her writing in the years to come?

Rose Commin, a young country girl with a surprising talent for drawing, is desperate to shrug off the slurs of witchcraft which have tarnished life at home.The opportunity to work at Wilton House, the Earl of Pembroke’s Wiltshire residence, is her chance.

Defying the conventions of their time, these two women, mistress and maid,will find themselves facing the triumphs, revelations and struggles that lie ahead together.

๐ŸŒ  I am delighted that Naomi is joining us on the blog today๐ŸŒ 

๐Ÿ“– Hi Naomi, tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author. 

In a diary entry when I was eight years old, I wrote a message to my “older” self, asserting that writing stories is the most important act of creation possible. I wrote my first novel at the age of twelve – an 80-page handwritten historical fiction mystery set in the England of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. So as an adult, it was a natural step to turn from writing scholarship about early modern women authors to writing fiction, in order to share their stories with readers outside academe. 

๐Ÿ“– Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for Imperfect Alchemist? 

Many popular novels about Renaissance women picture them in relation to powerful men – such as the steady stream of novels about the wives of Henry VIII. This perpetuates a phenomenon that I have named the “Noah’s ark approach,” which positions women in dependent relation to famous men. I envisioned a historical fiction series that would bring the attention of a wider public to the extraordinary array of women’s voices that were heard in their own period – both acclaimed and reviled – but then silenced over time and excluded from the canon of accepted classics. Imperfect Alchemist is the first in my projected series, Shakespeare’s Sisters – six interrelated historical novels that imagine the stories of early modern women authors from their own perspectives. 

๐Ÿ“– Mary Sidney is such an interesting character. Tell us about her and why you decided to write a story around her. 

Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke – friend of Queen Elizabeth, visionary scientist, advocate for women writers and scandalous lover of a much younger man – was one of the earliest women authors in Renaissance England to publish under her own name. A member of one of England’s leading families, she carved out space for herself as a daring and often controversial figure in a royal court riven by jealousies and intrigues. 

Her pioneering literary and scientific experiments challenged many of Renaissance England’s established conventions – one of the things that most strongly drew me to her. As an influential literary patron as well as author, she convened a literary salon of writers whose membership included Edmund Spenser, John Donne, Ben Jonson and other authors interested in testing the limits of literary forms. Her own play about Antony and Cleopatra is believed to have influenced Shakespeare. Responding to the Countess’s role as mentor to a cohort of women writers, I have imagined these women into her circle, their interaction with the male authors inspiring visions of new possibilities. 

๐Ÿ“– When combining historical fact with fiction it must be quite a challenge to get the balance right. How do you manage to do this without compromising on authenticity

I employed the scholarly techniques that have served me throughout my career for a new purpose – not to contextualize a literary study, but to create a world in which my fictionalized protagonists could live and breathe, labour and love. To create the form and texture of the time, I read historical studies documenting early modern clothes and food, source texts containing early modern recipes and medical remedies, letters and diary entries. Most important, I returned to the words and works of Mary Sidney Herbert herself. 

One of my guiding principles has been to avoid contradicting historical facts, but I have sometimes adjusted the timing of actual events by a couple of months or years, in order to serve the story and the narrative flow. My aim has been to tell a story that places my characters in a world that encompasses both known facts and imagined possibilities, illuminating the historical record without being limited by it. 

My other primary character is an invented one – Rose Commin, her lady’s maid, a country girl who brings an entirely different outlook to their intersecting lives. Trained to serve and observe, Rose proves to be both a keen judge of character and a skilled artist whose drawings give new dimension to Mary’s own life and writings. My construction of Rose is based on accounts of servants and country folk of the period. Fear of witchcraft was common, and that strand in the story incorporates historical examples of the treatment of women accused of sorcery. 

The supporting cast of characters, both real and invented, add three-dimensionality to the fictional storyline. Most of the characters in the book are fictional renditions of real historical figures whose roles combine elements of their actual lives with my own inventions. 

๐Ÿ“– Imperfect Alchemist is set in Tudor England. In researching the background to the story did anything leave a lasting impression on you? 

My fictional Mary Sidney Herbert has been mediated through my knowledge of her real-life circumstances and her writings. She was also a scientist, practicing alchemy in her private laboratory to prepare chemical and herbal remedies. Although the Countess was a well-regarded alchemist, no manuscript records of her own alchemical recipes or experiments survive. I have drawn on historical accounts documenting the detailed practices of other female alchemists of the period present an authentic, if conjectural, account of her scientific work. 

Two things impressed me about the women alchemists of the time – one, their meticulously detailed records of their experiments, and the other, their overriding interest in finding cures for ailments rather than in the more chimerical search for turning dross into gold that was so characteristic of the better-known male alchemists. 

๐Ÿ“– Is it difficult to find a balance between research and writing? Can you ever have too much historical detail in historical fiction? 

As I embarked on the first draft of the novel, I had to guard against my tendency, as a scholar, to plunge down historical or literary “rabbit-holes,” enticed by fascinating details that would interrupt the writing process and might obscure rather than illuminate the story. Not to mention that some of what thrills me as a scholar/teacher – such as Mary Sidney Herbert’s ingenuity in employing 126 distinct stanzaic forms in her creative paraphrases of 107 Psalms, which influenced the poetry of John Donne and George Herbert – might not grip the general reader or serve the story. 

๐Ÿ“– Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. Do they ever dictate how the story progresses or do you stick with a writing plan from the beginning and never deviate? 

My characters’ voices and choices have determined the progression of the story, sometimes in unexpected ways. For instance, although I knew biographical details about Mary Sidney Herbert, her inner reactions to life events and historical circumstances came from the character herself. And in the case of an invented character such as Rose Commin – I had no idea she was an artist until her sketches spilled out of her bag of possessions when she met her new mistress, and I saw them for the first time. Rose’s artistry turns out to be an essential driver of the story, from start to finish, and it was a pleasure to discover “what happens next.” I hope that my discoveries as a writer function as discoveries for the reader as well. 

And finally for fun... ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

๐Ÿ“– If you could invite three people from history to your dinner table, who would you choose and why? 

That’s easy! I’d invite Mary Sidney Herbert, Mary Wroth, and Aemilia Lanyer, the protagonists of the first three novels in my projected series, and the historical figures that I’d most like to meet and hear from in person – far more than Shakespeare, for instance. I envision dinner table conversation about how to balance being a mother and a writer, how to write “as a woman” in a literary tradition defined by men, how to raise sons as well as daughters who appreciate women’s voices and contributions to the world.

What did I think about it The Imperfect Alchemist

I must admit to knowing very little about Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke,  although I have come across her in other novels where her interest in the study of alchemy has been explored in just a little detail. It's been really interesting, therefore, to have an entire novel which combines Mary's fascinating life based on factual evidence running alongside that of a totally fictional character, namely that of her maidservant, Rose Commin. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the life of these two very different women, one born to privilege and a life of ease whilst the other was born into poverty and hardship and yet both rose beyond the patriarchal society which stifled their natural talents.

Imperfect Alchemist explores in detail the tangled world of Elizabethan England, from the capriciousness of a powerful female ruler, to the often malign influence and interference of male alchemists who searched for answers to the difficult conundrums of the day. However, intelligent female alchemists were rare indeed, and Mary Sidney Herbert is not only credited for her work in this field but she was also a notable author, excelling at both prose and poetry.

The author brings this rather formidable female to life in an intelligent and thought-provoking way. I enjoyed the alternate chapters which detail what was happening with both Mary, and then Rose, and I watched, with interest, as their relationship gradually built to one of trust and mutual respect. Not only does the story flesh out these characters in some detail but it also gives a commentary about life in Tudor England and the restrictions that women faced not just from male prejudice but also from the perils of daily life when grief and loss often walked hand in hand. 

Beautifully written and extensively researched, Imperfect Alchemist is a commendable debut novel, which brings the life of Mary Sidney Herbert into sharp focus giving her, at last, a voice to be heard.

About the Author

Photo credit : Jon Crispin

Naomi Miller is professor of English at Smith College, Massachusetts. She is the author or editor of nine books in early modern studies and Imperfect Alchemist is her first novel.

Twitter@naomimillerbooks #ImperfectAlchemist


Sunday 29 November 2020

๐ŸดSunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Helen Steadman

On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo

๐ŸดI'm delighted to welcome, author, Helen Steadman to our Sunday Brunch today๐Ÿด

๐ŸดWelcome Helen, what favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

Thanks very much for having me along to brunch today, Jo and Jaffa. I’ve brought lots of wholemeal toast with dark, thick-cut marmalade, and a spot of catnip for Jaffa.

๐ŸดWould you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?

Lots of coffee please, but I’m strictly instant because I haven’t the patience to wait for coffee to brew. If you’re doing the brewing, then I’ll happily have a strong Americano, but be prepared for some very rapid conversation...

๐ŸดWhere shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio? 

Definitely outside, please, wrapped in blankets if necessary, as I love a good picnic. Even better if I can have a cat or two on my knee.

๐ŸดShall we have music playing in the background? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you happy?

If everyone’s happy to listen in, I’d like some Velvet Underground playing ‘Venus in Furs’, although that might not feel very much like a Sunday morning song, so we could maybe go for their ‘Sunday Morning’ after that.

๐ŸดWhich of your literary heroes (dead or alive) are joining us for Sunday Brunch today

Let’s have Oscar and Lucinda from Peter Carey’s book of the same name, if we can tear them away from gambling for long enough. I’d also like Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell to pop along if he can take time off from closing down monasteries and suchlike. Finally, I’d like to invite Winston Smith from 1984, if only to see what he makes of Alexa and Siri: ‘Big Brother, what’s the weather going to be like today?’

๐ŸดWhich favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch?

I’m terrible at deciding, so I might turn up with a pile of books, but certainly E. Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News would be on the top, along with Peter Carey’s The Illywhacker, Theft, and Oscar & Lucinda, George Orwell’s 1984 and the Hilary Mantel Wolf Hall trilogy. This is why I’m bringing so much toast. Don’t be afraid of me outstaying my welcome, though, as I’m a quick reader and after an Americano or two, I’ll be even quicker.

๐ŸดWhen you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet!

Reading is like breathing to me, so I always have several books on the go at any given time – usually a handful of non-fiction books for research, a novel or three and some poetry. When researching and writing a new novel, I try not to read fiction from that genre to avoid any accidental cross-pollination. I’m itching to read The Mirror and the Light, the final part of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy, and now that I’ve signed off the proofs for my latest book, I’m going to read it. But first, I’m going to re-read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies so I can read all three in sequence.

๐ŸดWhat’s the oldest book on your bookshelf?

It’s a Complete Works of Shakespeare, published in 1864, but the poor soul isn’t in very good condition.

๐ŸดWhere do you find the inspiration for your novels?

It varies. The idea to write about witches for my first two books came to me during a walk in the woods one day, when I came across a natural bowl that had just been cleared of trees, which made me think of ritual places. Florence Welch’s song, ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ sprang to mind, and I suddenly decided to write about witches, even though, at that time, I knew little or nothing about witches. Cue a lot of research.

๐ŸดHave you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?

I can write anytime, anywhere. I wrote the entire first draft of Sunwise in bed because I decided to write it using morning pages. (Essentially, set your alarm an hour early, wake up suddenly, pick up notebook and pen and write whatever comes to mind.) Widdershins was written partially in bed, but also in the garden, the woods and on various beaches. The Running Wolf was written mostly in bed, but also overlooking the sea in the Highlands and the Canaries, some of it was written on location in Solingen, Germany and some was written at Butser Ancient Farm during my swordmaking. Wherever I write, though, my first draft is always written by hand because it slows me down and makes for better writing. Typing up and editing is certainly something that would be better done in winter because summer days and laptop screens don’t go together very well, but it seldom ends up that way. I did manage to build a makeshift typing tent in the garden to cut down the glare, so I could enjoy the fresh air, but most of my typing up and editing takes place at my desk in an office that would make Harry Potter’s bedroom under the stairs look positively spacious.

๐ŸดWhen writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so, how do you bring back focus on your writing?

Every school report I ever had said, ‘Easily distracted and distracts others’, and not much has changed. When I was supposed to be writing The Running Wolf using morning pages, an entirely different novel turned up: Sunwise. But when I started again, the planned novel arrived. A first draft takes me about 120 days to write, and I always write far more than I need, and never in the right order, so for every hour spent on the first draft, I spend about 20 on unwriting, rewriting and editing. For historical novels, research is the most time-consuming aspect and takes years, but it’s also extremely enjoyable. It’s very easy to vanish down rabbit holes during research, so my distraction super-powers often mean going off on wild digressions, but they can sometimes turn up exciting material, so I don’t rein myself in too hard.

๐ŸดGive us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

A love of reading. If you want to be a writer and you don’t already have a reading habit, it’s wise to develop one quickly. I’d say everything else is secondary to this. My favourite possession as a child was my library ticket, and the day I was issued with an adult ticket and allowed to borrow 9 books at a time is a standout memory from my childhood.

A critic. Find someone whose opinion you respect and who is willing to critique your work – this could be another writer, or an avid reader. Most importantly, it needs to be someone who is comfortable criticising your work. This can be difficult for the critic and for the writer, so it’s wise to have someone who is not a close friend, colleague or family member. If someone gives you criticism, however uncomfortable it may feel, give it due consideration. It can help to take the criticism and not respond to it for a while, and instead, give yourself time to recover from any wounds (real or imagined) and let your subconscious mull it over. A great way to get criticism is to take a writing course. Having a whole class criticise your work can be a humbling experience, but if you can learn to take it on the chin, nothing will improve your writing more. It will also prepare you for working with publishers, editors and agents, who will all give you ‘notes’.

Paper and pen. Get used to carrying them with you, wherever you go, because ideas and observations will strike you at odd times. By and large, if you don’t write them down, you’ll forget them. It’s handy if the paper is in notebook form for ease of storage and retrieval so you don’t have to scrummage through a bag of scrunched up paper bags and so on (guilty) when it comes to writing up. I’ve got a wide range of notebooks, ranging from cheap and scruffy jotters through to beautiful hardback notebooks (invariably these are much-loved presents from friends and family). 

It doesn’t hurt to take a course. As well as helping you to get used to taking criticism (aka ‘workshopping’) and developing a network of people willing to criticise your work, it will help you to become more critical of your own work as you grow used to criticising your peers’ work. Courses can also be very inspiring and help to provide both discipline and support while writing. The first course I took was A215 Creative Writing at the Open University, swiftly followed by A365 Advanced Creative Writing (I can highly recommend both, by the way). Apart from being immensely enjoyable, I drew an enormous amount of inspiration from the tutors and the coursework, and I felt my writing improved markedly as a result. I then went on to do an MA at Manchester Met and a PhD at Aberdeen, although I don’t think you need to go to these lengths.

๐ŸดWhat can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?

I’ve just signed off the final proofs for The Running Wolf, which is about a 17th century swordmaker from Solingen in Germany, who was imprisoned in Morpeth Gaol in Northumberland for sword smuggling. I’m currently researching and writing novel number four, which will be about Grace Darling the Northumberland lighthouse-keeper’s daughter. That said, with my past record, anything might happen and I could end up writing something completely different instead. Luckily, I have an understanding publisher.

When a German smuggler is imprisoned in Morpeth Gaol in the winter of 1703, why does Queen Anne's powerful right-hand man, The Earl of Nottingham, take such a keen interest? 

At the end of the turbulent 17th century, the ties that bind men are fraying, turning neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend and brother against brother. Beneath a seething layer of religious intolerance, community suspicion and political intrigue, The Running Wolf takes us deep into the heart of rebel country in the run-up to the 1715 Jacobite uprising. 

Hermann Mohll is a master sword maker from Solingen in Germany who risks his life by breaking his guild oaths and settling in England. While trying to save his family and neighbours from poverty, he is caught smuggling swords and finds himself in Morpeth Gaol facing charges of High Treason. 

Determined to hold his tongue and his nerve, Mohll finds himself at the mercy of the corrupt keeper, Robert Tipstaff. The keeper fancies he can persuade the truth out of Mohll and make him face the ultimate justice: hanging, drawing and quartering. But in this tangled web of secrets and lies, just who is telling the truth?

More about Helen

Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her best-selling first novel, Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf will be published by Impress Books on 10 November 2020.

Despite the Newcastle witch trials being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Helen is particularly interested in revealing hidden histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy. To get under the skin of the cunning women in Widdershins and Sunwise, Helen trained in herbalism and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers and berries.

The Running Wolf is the story of a group of master swordmakers who left Solingen, Germany and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive research and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook blacksmith training, which culminated in making her own sword.

Helen is now working on her fourth novel, which may or may not be about Grace Darling, daughter of a Northumbrian lighthouse keeper.

๐ŸดHelen, where can we follow you on social media?๐Ÿด

Saturday 28 November 2020

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Blog Tour ~ The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn


On Hist Fic Saturday 

I am delighted to join in with this blog tour 

Simon & Schuster
7 January 2021

My thanks to the publisher and Random Things Tours
for my copy of the book and invitation to this blog tour

The smallest man. The biggest heart. The mightiest story. A compelling story, perfect for fans of The Doll Factory and The Familiars. 

Nat Davy longs to grow tall and strong and be like other boys, but at the age of ten, he’s confronted with the truth; he’s different, and the day when the stares and whispers stop is never going to come. Narrowly escaping life in a freak show, he’s plucked from his family and presented as a gift to the new young queen of England – a human pet to add to her menagerie of dogs and monkeys. But when Nat realises she’s as lost and lonely as he is, the two misfits begin an unlikely friendship – one that takes him on an unforgettable journey, as England slides into the civil war that will tear it apart and ultimately lead the people to kill their king. Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is narrated by an irrepressible hero with his own unique perspective on life. His story is about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together. 

My thoughts..

When ten year old Nathaniel Davy is taken from his family and given as a gift to Henrietta- Maria, the fifteen year old Queen of England, Nat's life changes for ever, for not only does he escape the poverty of his family, but it also places him quite firmly at one of the most beguiling royal courts in Europe. 

That Nat and the young Queen have much is common is rather hard to believe as Nat is primarily there just for the Queen's amusement, but as this unlikely friendship grows it becomes obvious that both are a little bit lost, and frighteningly lonely, in the strange new world in which they find themselves. Nat has known since childhood that he is different and his small stature singles him out as an easy target for bullies but with the help of his champion the Queen, good friends and a fierce determination, Nat soon becomes a force to be reckoned with, and, it must be said, something of a celebrity at the royal court.

Living through the tumultuous years of the build up, and eventual outcome, of the English Civil War, Nat is perfectly placed to give his own unique view of proceedings and it is Nat's voice that we hear loud and clear throughout the whole of the story. It's been really refreshing to have a different view of the Civil War period that didn't focus on battles and conflict but rather told a more domestic story of not just what was happening in the small English villages but also with Queen Henrietta Maria, who is often criticised for touting the English crown jewels around Europe in the hope of raising much needed funds for the King's army. 

Filled with lively adventure, The Smallest Man brings history to life in a unique and fascinating way.  I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Nat Davy and have followed his story with great interest, always hoping that life would turn out well for this small man with the big heart.

About the Author

Frances Quinn read English at King’s College, Cambridge, and is a journalist and copywriter. She has written for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home. She lives in Brighton with her husband and Tonkinese cats. The Smallest Man is her first novel. 

Twitter @franquinn



Friday 27 November 2020

Blog Blitz and Giveaway ~ The Maiden and the Mercenary by Nicole Locke


Delighted to host one of the stops on the final day of this blog tour

Mills & Boon
1 December 2020

#10 Lovers and Legends

My thanks to the publisher for my ecopy of this book
and Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to the blog tou

Keep your friends close…

But your enemies closer?

In order to find a legendary treasure map, mercenary Louve of Mei Solis must infiltrate his enemy’s fortress under the guise of a servant. There, Louve meets beautiful maiden Biedeluue, a fellow servant with her own hidden agenda…to save her sister from the malevolent Lord’s clutches! Their high-stakes missions may be at odds with one other, but their attraction cannot be denied even in this most dangerous of situations…

What did I think about it...

Serving woman, Biedeluue, is doing all she can to try to rescue her sister, Margery from the clutches of the evil, Ian of Warstone. However, when Bied comes into contact with the enigmatic mercenary, Louve of Mei Solis, who is posing as the castle usher, she is ill prepared for the effect that this man has on her peace of mind. That Louve is not who he says he is adds a certain piquancy to what is, after all, quite a complex medieval adventure. 

Filled with an array of rather dastardly villains the story takes some getting used to but once I had the characters firmly in place I found the story moved along at quite a fast pace. I enjoyed getting to know both Bied and Louve, both are complicated characters, and whilst their attraction to each other is obvious, they each have other, more important, things to worry about. However, as with all medieval adventures, nothing is going to run smoothly for this couple in this complicated tale of family politics and whilst I can't say too much for fear of spoiling, I can add that I was intrigued by the complexity of the overall plot.

The author is an accomplished historical fiction writer and brings to the story a distinct air of medieval skulduggery and an interesting sense of time and place. The Maiden and the Mercenary is now the tenth book in the Lovers and Legend series of historical novels which can all be read as standalone stories but as with all series it is better to start at the beginning to see just how the story line progresses through the medieval timeline. 

About the Author

Nicole first discovered romance novels hidden in her grandmother’s closet. Convinced that hidden books must be better, Nicole greedily read them. It was only natural she should start writing them (but now not so secretly).

๐ŸŒ  Giveaway to Win a £20 / $20 Amazon Gift Card (Open Internationally) ๐ŸŒ 

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

Twitter @NicoleLockeNews #TheMaidenandtheMercenary

Thursday 26 November 2020

๐ŸŒ  Publication Day Book Review ~ A Marquis in Want of a Wife by Louise Allen


๐ŸŒ  Happy Publication Day ๐ŸŒ 

Mills & Boon
26 November 2020

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

Ross Vincent, Marquis of Cranford, with his scarred face and formidable disposition knows he’s hardly a catch. But he needs a wife to take care of his motherless son. Shy, scholarly Prudence Scott seems ideal: she has no expectation of love or passion. She’ll care for his baby in return for the protection of his name. Yet seeing Prudence on their wedding day tests Ross’s willpower to not take his new wife to bed…

My thoughts..

Prudence Scott has no romantic expectation from her hastily arranged marriage to Ross Vincent, Marquis of Crawford, other than to save her reputation, and to keep her from being the subject of scandalous gossip. It would seem that, likewise, the Marquis simply wants a mother for his motherless son, and love and passion are definitely not on his agenda when he thinks about his new wife.

Whilst this is very much a marriage of convenience there are undercurrents in the relationship between Ross and Prudence which the author describes with lively dialogue and a fine eye for detail. The niceties of Georgian society with all the subtle references to what is right and proper is maintained and the author brings a refreshing sense of honesty to this Regency romance.

There’s a lovely balance between the first stirrings of romance and the awareness of growing passion between this enigmatic couple which works really well against the exciting developments which occur when Ross, much to Prudence’s consternation, gets drawn into a very dangerous situation. I found that I was reading with bated breath hoping that everything would work out for both Ross and Prudence as each deserve to find happiness.

The author is an accomplished writer of Regency fiction which shows itself in the effortless way the story evolves bringing the  Georgian era to life in a very enjoyable way. A Marquis in Want of a Wife continues the Liberated Ladies series of historical novels and whilst it is perfectly possible to read each book as a standalone story there is a little overlap with some characters which helps to give the series a lovely sense of continuity. 

A Marquis in Want of a Wife has all the right ingredients for an engaging read, lively excitement, smouldering passion, and a thoroughly likeable hero and heroine.

About the Author

Louise Allen was born and brought up in Hertfordshire and now lives on the North Norfolk coast with her husband and a garden full of bossy wildlife. She is the author of over seventy books – historical romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon, indie-published time travel romance mysteries and historical non-fiction. Virtually all her books are set in the ‘long Regency’ and she is a keen collector of original fashion plates of the period and anything to do with the history of London.

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Blog Tour ~ War in the Valleys by Francesca Capaldi


Delighted to be one of the blogs opening this blog tour today 


 ⭐Publication Day ⭐

Hera Books
25 November 2020

My thanks to the publisher and Books on the Bright Side for my ecopy of this book
and the invitation to this blog tour

WW1 marches on, but Violet faces her own battle at home

July 1916. Young mother, Violet Jones, lives a tough life in the Rhymney Valley, caring for 4-year-old Clarice and baby Benjy on her own while soldier husband Charlie fights on the Front Line. But when tragedy strikes, Violet’s life becomes even harder.

While they may be far from the battlefields, the effects of WW1 take their toll on the small mining community of Dorcalon, with food becoming scarce and more and more of their young men losing their lives.

With very little money coming in, and two babies to care for, Violet takes in a relative to help make ends meet. But far from easing her burden, it might turn out to be the worst decision she’s made.

As the Great War takes its toll on the nation, Violet faces her own battle. All alone in the world, can she protect her children, and herself? And will she ever find joy out of the depths of despair?

A captivating, emotional saga set in WW1 – will tug on your heart-strings and bring a tear to your eye. If you like Nadine Dorries, Rosie Goodwin or Sheila Newbury you will adore this beautiful Welsh saga.

My thoughts..

We can never under estimate the poignancy of a community shattered when those who signed up as part of the PALS battalions failed to return home. Whole communities suffered the loss of a generation of young men who left their homes and loved ones behind to fight with boyhood friends in what they thought would be an adventure of a lifetime.

For the small Welsh valley community of Dorcalon, the newly appointed telegram boy is a regular sight as he delivers cream coloured envelopes to unsuspecting households, and for people like Violet Jones life will never be the same again for her and her two small children. However, it’s not just Violet who must learn to cope with life alone, there are others in this small Welsh mining village who are also finding life difficult, money is scarce and jobs hard to find.

Beautifully written, with a heartbreaking poignancy, War in the Valleys brings this war time era into stark focus and describes a dark time when life, for most people, was a real struggle. Violet does what she must to survive and then realises she has to live with the consequences, not just battling through her grief but also finding the strength to go on when someone around her seems hellbent on overpowering her natural good nature.

The other characters who flit into and out of the story are again typical of their time and social class, they pull together in tragedy and yet remain naturally wary of those whom they consider to be their betters. They’re not all likeable, there some are baddies amongst the community who deserve to get their comeuppance whilst others go above and beyond duty and that’s what makes the story so interesting.

Stalwart, stoical and steadfast the people of the Rhymney Valley are well portrayed in a story which tugs away at your heartstrings and which brings the place, people and time to life in a historical saga which captivates from first page to last.

About the Author

Several years ago, Francesca Capaldi pursued a childhood dream and joined a creative writing class. Lots of published short stories, a serial, and four pocket novels later, she’s now explored her mother’s ancestral history for a series of novels set in a Welsh colliery village. A history graduate and former teacher, she hails from the Sussex coast but now lives in Kent with her family and a cat called Lando Calrissian. 

Twitter @FCapaldiBurgess



Tuesday 24 November 2020

Book Review ~ Historical Stories of Betrayal


17 November 2020

My thanks to the authors for the ecopy of this book

Betrayal, treachery, treason, deceit, perfidy – all names for the calculated violation of trust. And it’s been rife since humans trod the earth.

A promise broken

A mission betrayed

A lover’s desertion

A parent’s deception

An unwitting act of treason

Betrayal by comrades

Betrayal by friends

Could you resist the forces of misplaced loyalty, power hunger, emotional blackmail, or plain greed? Is there ever redemption, or will the destruction visit future generations and even alter history? These questions are still with us today.

Read twelve tales by twelve accomplished writers who explore these historical yet timeless challenges from post Roman Britain to the present day...

AD455 - Roman leader Ambrosius is caught in a whirlpool of shifting allegiances
AD940 - Alyeva and cleric Dunstan navigate the dangers of the Anglo Saxon court
1185 - Knight Stephan fights for comradeship, duty, and honour. But what about love?
1330 - The powerful Edmund of Kent enters a tangled web of intrigue
1403 - Thomas Percy must decide whether to betray his sovereign or his family
1457 - Estelle is invited to the King of Cyprus’s court, but deception awaits
1483 - Has Elysabeth made the right decision to bring Prince Edward to London?
1484 - Margaret Beaufort contemplates the path to treason
1577 - Francis Drake contends with disloyalty at sea
1650 - Can James Hart, Royalist highwayman, stop a nemesis destroying his friend?
1718 - Pirate Annie Bonny, her lover Calico Jack, and a pirate hunter. Who will win?
1849/present - Carina must discover her ancestor’s betrayer in Italy or face ruin.

What did I think about it..

I am quite often guilty when reading anthologies to dive in somewhere in the middle, so I  was determined when reading Historical Stories of Betrayal to begin at the very beginning. After all it's the very best place to start in this fascinating anthology which takes us from the Roman occupation of Britannia in 455 AD through to the surviving alternative state of Roma Nova in the 20th and 21st Century.

So often betrayal, retribution and revenge has played a huge part in our collective history when destiny turned on a heart beat and what this anthology does so successfully is give us a collection of stories which feature the act of betrayal so succinctly. Each story comes in at around forty or so  pages which I read quite comfortably in an hour, transported back in time, whether it be witnessing inglorious death at the feet of Venus, witnessing skulduggery in the court of the Anglo-Saxon kings or grieving for a young and frightened boy King forcibly removed from those who loved him.

Each one of the twelve authors is at the top of their game in producing high quality historical fiction and the twelve stories definitely offer a tantalising glimpse into what they do so well. Five of these authors are already familiar to me, I have read and enjoyed their work and expected no less than to be beguiled by their stories - I wasn't disappointed. Of the remaining seven authors whose work was a new experience I was just as intrigued by their writing skills and the clever way they brought their interpretation of history alive in the imagination.

There is no doubt that absorbing fiction brings history alive and all that's needed is an intriguing entrรฉe into a long forgotten world and what this anthology does so admirably is give us that starting point, firing the imagination with a longing to discover more not just about the history being described in such fascinating detail, but also in reading more of the work of these twelve talented writers.

Historical Stories of Betrayal is available now - click here for more details. It's currently free to download.

The authors

Judith Arnopp, Anna Belfrage, Derek Birks,
Helen Hollick, Amy Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Cryssa Bazos, Mercedes
Rochelle, Tony Riches, Elizabeth St John, and Annie Whitehead.

Follow on Twitter @HistFictioneers #Betrayal

Monday 23 November 2020

๐ŸŽ„Blog Tour ~ A Little Christmas Hope by Kathryn Freeman


Thrilled to join in on today's final blog tour stop

Independently Published

Thanks to the author and Rachel's Random Resources for my ecopy of the book
and the invitation to join this blog tour today

Newly promoted head teacher Anna Dalton needs a Christmas miracle – and fast! After years of sitting through excruciatingly dull Christmas productions, complete with crying children and sleeping parents, she’s determined Riddlescomb Primary School will put on a Nativity to remember.

Enter bad boy actor Dan Ramsey, recently axed from the lead role in a TV drama and in desperate need of cleaning up his image or he’ll never work again. 

Dan can flash those heart-stopping dimples all he likes, Anna tells herself she isn’t going to fall for them. She knows why he’s decided to volunteer at the school, and it’s for the good of his career…not his soul. 

But as Anna and Dan are forced to work together for the sake of a truly magical Christmas for the children, sparks fly and they can’t help but wonder what will happen once the festive season is over…

What did I think about it...

Anna Dalton is ill-prepared for the effect that Dan Ramsey will have on her life when she lets him into her Primary School to help out with the school Christmas production, for Dan is a volunteer like no other. Recently axed from his long time acting role as the handsome Doctor Tyler in a daytime soap, Dan is more used to making hearts flutter than inspiring young actors. However, as Riddlescomb Primary starts to work its magic on Dan, so a sprinkling of his charismatic allure starts to work its charm on the lovely Anna.

A Little Christmas Hope isn't just about romance, although when that happens it fairly sizzles on the page, but it's also about being lost and a little bit lonely, about being brave enough to take a second chance when it's offered, and about the bonds of friendship when you need someone to listen. 

A Little Christmas Hope is a lovely heartwarming story which is difficult to put down. I started reading the book on a really grey sort of day when the mist and drizzle seemed set in and there was nothing else to do but settle down in my favourite chair with a packet of chocolate cookies and a good story. I really think that during a national lockdown any of Kathryn Freeman's romantic novels should be compulsory reading as they never fail to take me out of a rather dreary situation and place me quite firmly in the land of her imagination, with lovely heroines and hunky heroes, in romantic stories which just make me smile from start to finish.

About the Author

A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero.
I’ve two sons and husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), so any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn't always about hearts and flowers - and heroes come in many disguises.

Twitter @KathrynFreeman1




Sunday 22 November 2020

๐Ÿด Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Jane Linfoot


On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo

๐ŸดI'm delighted to welcome, author, Jane Linfoot to our Sunday Brunch today๐Ÿด

๐ŸดWelcome, Jane. What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch? 

I love bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon. 

๐Ÿด Would you like a pot of English breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz? 

I’d be very happy with either coffee or the bucks fizz. I do need a caffeine kick in the morning. 

๐Ÿด Where shall we eat brunch – around the kitchen table, in the formal dining room, or outside on the patio

Definitely outside in the sun, under a parasol if it’s really hot! 

๐Ÿด Shall we have music playing in the background? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you happy? 

Let’s listen to the birds singing. 

๐Ÿด Which favourite book will you bring to Sunday Brunch? 

I find favourites really hard. I’ll bring Love, Nina along, by Nina Stibbe. I love off-beat comedy and that book really makes me laugh. 


๐Ÿด When you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet! 

If I read while I’m writing my wip tends to take on the voice of whatever author I’m reading, so I catch up on my to-be-read pile between books. I just bought Milly Johnson’s new Christmas book, I can’t wait to read that. 

๐Ÿด What’s the oldest book on your book shelf? 

The other day I came across a book I won as a prize in reception class. That’s vintage! 

๐Ÿด Where do you find the inspiration for your novels? 

I find inspiration anywhere and everywhere. Like a lot of authors, I soak up ideas wherever I am, whatever I’m doing without even realising. Then they make their way back onto the page later. 

๐Ÿด Have you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer? 

I love to turn my screen brightness up to full and write at a table in the garden whenever it’s warm enough. In winter I pull up a stool and write in the kitchen next to the aga. 

๐Ÿด When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing? 

When there’s a deadline coming up I go into hermit mode and try not to leave my laptop except for dog walks and family things. I’m a very visual writer so I love adding to my Pinterest pages to get myself in the mood. That’s the kind of distraction that counts as work. 

๐Ÿด Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs? 

A fabulous editor, a dog (or two) to take for walks, a decent laptop, and a supportive family. 

๐Ÿด What can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress? 

Love at the Little Wedding Shop by the Sea is a love story with friends! It’s set in Cornwall in the village of St Aidan and is the fifth in the series of books set at Brides by the Sea, but works well as a standalone. Despite the romantic wedding shop setting my stories aren’t all sugar-sweet, they have realism, humour and irony in there too. There’s heartbreak as well as love. 

One More Chapter
August 2020

๐Ÿด Jane where can we follow you on social media?๐Ÿด  


Facebook page: Facebook

Instagram: Instagram

Website: janelinfoot

I have lots of Pinterest boards relating to my novels too. 

๐Ÿด More about Jane๐Ÿด 

I write fun, flirty fiction, with feisty heroines, and lots of heart. Writing is fab, because I get to wear pretty shoes instead of wellies. I live in a cottage up a mountain road in Derbyshire, where my family and pets are kind enough to ignore the domestic chaos. Happily, we're in walking distance of a supermarket. I love hearts, flowers, happy endings, all things vintage, most things french. When I'm not on facebook, and can't find an excuse for shopping, I'll be walking, or gardening. On days when I want to be really scared, I ride a tandem. 

Thank you for taking part in Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo.

Follow us on Twitter @jaffareadstoo #SundayBrunchwithJaffareadstoo