Guest Post: “His Castilian Hawk” by Anna Belfrage- AudioBook Blast

His Castilian Hawk Tour BannerToday, I am pleased to welcome to my blog Anna Belfrage to promote the audiobook for her novel, “His Castilian Hawk.” Thank you, Anna Belfrage and The Coffee Pot Book Club, for allowing me to participate in this tour. 

Blurb:

For bastard-born Robert FitzStephan, being given Eleanor d’Outremer in marriage is an honour. For Eleanor, this forced wedding is anything but a fairy tale. 

Robert FitzStephan has served Edward Longshanks loyally since the age of twelve. Now he is riding with his king to bring Wales under English control once and for all. 

Eleanor d’Outremer—Noor to family—lost her Castilian mother as a child and is left entirely alone when her father and brother are killed. When ordered to wed the unknown Robert FitzStephan, she has no choice but to comply. 

Two strangers in a marriage bed are not accessible. Things are further complicated by Noor’s blood ties to the Welsh princes and by covetous Edith, who has warmed Robert’s bed for years. 

Robert’s new wife may be young and innocent, but he is soon to discover that she is not only spirited and proud but also brave. Because when Wales lies gasping and Edward I exacts terrible justice on the last prince and his children, Noor is determined to save at least one member of the House of Aberffraw from the English king.

Will years of ingrained service have Robert standing with his king, or will he follow his heart and protect his wife, his beautiful and fierce Castilian hawk?

His Castilian Hawk audiobook coverBuy Links: 

The Kindle ebook of this title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link: http://myBook.to/HISHAWK

Audible Amazon: https://www.audible.com/pd/His-Castilian-Hawk-Audiobook/B0BLPXJL8M 

Bingebooks : https://bingebooks.com/book/the-castilian-hawk 

NOOK (Barnes and Noble): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/his-castilian-hawk-anna-belfrage/1137734133 

Chirp: https://www.chirpbooks.com/audiobooks/his-castilian-hawk-by-anna-belfrage 

Libro: https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9789198507249 

Storytel: https://www.storytel.com/se/sv/books/3555095 

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/audiobook/600535465/His-Castilian-Hawk 

Kobo & Walmart: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/audiobook/his-castilian-hawk 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/Anna_Belfrage_His_Castilian_Hawk?id=AQAAAEBCAX5BLM 

Audiobooks: https://www.audiobooks.com/audiobook/his-castilian-hawk/640346 

Anna BelfrageAuthor Bio:

Anna Belfrage

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time traveler. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time-traveling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th-century Scotland and Maryland, and the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy, set in 14th-century England.

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.

Her Castilian Heart is the third in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales; His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In the second installment, The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain. This latest release finds our protagonists back in England—not necessarily any safer than the wilds of Spain!

Anna has also authored The Whirlpools of Time, in which she returns to the world of time travel. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveler Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode! 

Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals and has won different Gold, Silver, and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

Find out more about Anna and her books, and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, http://www.annabelfrage.com.  

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.annabelfrage.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/abelfrageauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor

Instagram: https://instagram.com/annabelfrageauthor

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/anna-belfrage

Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/ABG

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6449528.Anna_Belfrage

Book Review: “The Forgotten Sister” by Nicola Cornick

52024957The year is 1560, and a young woman hatches a way to escape her loveless marriage. Her name is Amy Robsart, and she is the wife of Robert Dudley, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s favorites at court. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned, and the consequences reverberate throughout the centuries. Lizzie Kingdom, a television star, struggles to find her way in life. When tragedy strikes when her friend Dudley’s wife is found dead at the bottom of a staircase, the scandal breaks, threatening to ruin Lizzie’s life and reputation. A deadly secret from the past and an encounter with a mysterious young man will forever transform the lives of these two women from different centuries. Will Lizzie Kingdom discover the truth before it is too late? This mystery is masterfully told in Nicola Cornick’s Tudor novel, “The Forgotten Sister.”

After browsing the shelves one day, I found this book in my local Barnes and Noble. This is my second Nicola Cornick novel; the first was “The Last Daughter of York,” I have enjoyed both equally.

Like “The Last Daughter of York,” “The Forgotten Sister” is a dual timeline book in which one story takes place in Tudor England and the other in modern England. We begin with the ghost of Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley, wandering Cumnor Hall, waiting for someone to release her from her curse. Flash forward to the modern day, where Lizzie Kingdom is attending the wedding of her best friend, Dudley Lester, and his wife, Amelia. There, Lizzie comes into contact with a glass orb that, with her psychometry, allows her to see the history of an object. The sphere gives Lizzie a somewhat unsettling vision, but it is not clear to her what the meaning behind the vision.

Ten years later, Dudley and Amelia are going through a rocky divorce when Amelia is found at the bottom of a staircase, dead, just like her ancestor Amy Robsart. Dudley is suspect number one, with Lizzie as his accessory after the fact, just like what happened in Tudor England, since Lizzie and Dudley are so close. Lizzie is concerned about restoring her reputation until he encounters Amelia’s brother Johnny and Amelia’s half-brother Arthur. Johnny has a psychic connection to Amelia and wants to solve the mystery surrounding her death and the death of their ancestor Amy Robsart.

I am not usually a big fan of books with supernatural elements, but this one grabbed my attention. It kept my attention to the very end because even though I knew the basis of the Amy Robsart case, I wasn’t sure how it would tie into the modern case of Amelia’s death. I think telling Amy Robsart’s story from her perspective is a unique twist, and she pairs rather nicely with the contemporary protagonist Lizzie Kingdom, based on Elizabeth I.

If you want an enthralling mystery that spans centuries and is a delight for modern readers and Tudor nerds alike, you should check out “The Forgotten Sister” by Nicola Cornick.

Guest Post: “The Hearts of All on Fire” by Alana White Blurb

The Hearts of All on Fire Tour BannerI am pleased to welcome Alana White to my blog today to share a blurb from her latest novel, “The Hearts of All on Fire.” I would like to thank The Coffee Pot Book Club and Alana White for allowing me to be part of this tour.

The-Hearts-of-All-on-Fire_coverBlurb:

Florence, 1473. An impossible murder. A bitter rivalry. A serpent in the ranks.
Florentine investigator Guid’Antonio Vespucci returns to Florence from a government mission to find his dreams of success shattered. Life is good—but then a wealthy merchant dies from mushroom poisoning at Guid’Antonio’s Saint John’s Day table, and Guid’Antonio’s servant is charged with murder. Convinced of the youth’s innocence and fearful the killer may strike again, Guid’Antonio launches a private investigation into the merchant’s death, unaware that at the same time, powerful enemies are conspiring to overthrow the Florentine Republic—and him. A clever, richly evocative tale for lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere, The Hearts of All on Fire is a timeless story of family relationships coupled with themes of love, loss, betrayal, and, above all, hope in a challenging world.

 

Buy Links:

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/md1RGZ

Amazon UK:
Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White-ebook/dp/B0BGJ1XHXS/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White/dp/1639884211

Amazon US:
Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White-ebook/dp/B0BGJ1XHXS/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White/dp/1639884211/

Amazon Canada:
Kindle: https://www.amazon.ca/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White-ebook/dp/B0BGJ1XHXS/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.ca/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White/dp/1639884211/

Amazon Australia:
Kindle: https://www.amazon.com.au/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White-ebook/dp/B0BGJ1XHXS/
Paperback: https://www.amazon.com.au/Hearts-All-Fire-Alana-White/dp/1639884211


Barnes & Noble:
Paperback: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-hearts-of-all-on-fire-alana-white/1141662345

Bookshop:
Paperback: https://bookshop.org/books/the-hearts-of-all-on-fire/9781639884216

Waterstones:
Paperback: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-hearts-of-all-on-fire/alana-white/9781639884216

Parnassus Books (Nashville, Tennessee)
Paperback: https://www.parnassusbooks.net/book/9781639884216


Alana White author photoAuthor Bio:

Alana White’s passion for Renaissance Italy has taken her to Florence for research on the Vespucci and Medici families on numerous occasions. There along cobbled streets unchanged over the centuries, she traces their footsteps, listening to their imagined voices, including that of her protagonist, Guid’Antonio Vespucci, and his friends, Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Lorenzo de’ Medici.

Alana’s first short story featuring real-life fifteenth-century lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his favorite nephew, Amerigo Vespucci, was a Macavity Award finalist and led to the Guid’Antonio Vespucci Mystery Series featuring “The Sign of the Weeping Virgin” (Book I) and “The Hearts of All on Fire” (Book II).

She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association and the Historical Novel Society, among other organizations. She loves hearing from readers, and you can contact her at her website, http://www.alanawhite.com.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.alanawhite.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlanaWhite1480

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authoralanawhite/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alanawhiteauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/writerawhite/

 

Book Review: “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel” by Sandra Vasoli

63226327._SY475_What if you found information about a mysterious portrait that would radically change how we view history forever? Who would you tell? When Zara Rossi entered the Ancient Manuscripts Room at the Papal Archives in Rome, she never imagined how a single letter would change her life and the Tudor community. Each piece of the puzzle unlocks a new story from the past and allows Zara to explore the remarkable tale of this masterpiece. Follow the clues with Zara Rossi to solve this mystery from the past in Sandra Vasoli’s latest book, “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel.”

Thank you, Sandra Vasoli and GreyLondon Press, for sending me a copy of this novel. I am always looking for a new way to incorporate Tudor history into a story, so when I heard the description of this particular book, I was captivated.

Zara Rossi begins her adventure into the past by going to the Ancient Manuscripts Room and the Papal Archives, which is an immense honor as you have to be invited even to have a chance to go into the Archives. She is looking for personal letters of Pope Clement VII to find his reaction to Henry VIII’s split from Rome. Instead, she found a letter from the Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Villiers de L’lsle-Adam, about a double portrait of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

As Zara uncovers the tale with each clue in the modern age, Vasoli introduces her audience to a colorful cast of characters that span centuries. Starting in the 16th century, we are introduced to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, his advisors, Hans Holbein the Younger, and the Court Astronomer Nikolaus Kratzer. We also become acquainted with the Order of St. John and rebellious Catholics horrified by this painting. But, we do not stay in the 16th century for long as Vasoli transports her readers to the middle of an 18th-century swashbuckling pirate adventure in the Caribbean that ends up in France with a murder, a trip on the Titanic with a fashion designer for the rich and famous, and an encounter with scoundrels from World War II at Hever Castle.

Vasoli created a complex yet spectacular story of pursuing the truth that will rock the academic world with vibrant characters and compelling cases. Zara is a main character that I could personally relate to, and while I was reading, I was hoping she would find her way to not only the truth about the painting but for her to be happy with her family and friends. Her desire to uncover the truth, no matter the cost, is genuinely admirable. I wanted to know if Zara would ever find the truth, but at the same time, I did not want the story to end.

Vasoli created a masterpiece by not only creating a thought-provoking fictitious double portrait of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn but a novel that is unlike anything I have read. It’s a love letter to the past and those who pursue the truth behind even the smallest fragment left by our ancestors. If you want a thrilling Tudor-based historical fiction novel, “Pursuing a Masterpiece: A Novel” by Sandra Vasoli is a must-read.

Guest Post: “What Makes a Historical Novel Seem ‘Authentic’?” by Carolyn Hughes

Squire's Hazard Tour BannerToday, I am pleased to welcome Carolyn Hughes to my blog to discuss the topic, “what makes a historical novel seem ‘authentic’” as part of the blog tour for her latest novel, “Squire’s Hazard,” the fifth book in her Meonbridge Chronicle series. Thank you, The Coffee Pot Book Club and Carolyn Hughes, for allowing me to be part of this blog tour. 

I love reading and writing historical fiction. My series of novels, The Meonbridge Chronicles, is set in fourteenth-century rural Hampshire. Though, the last three books, De Bohun’s Destiny, Children’s Fate, and Squire’s Hazard, do have scenes set elsewhere as well. The novels mostly focus on the lives of “ordinary people,” and in particular, the common people of fictional Meonbridge, though both De Bohun’s Destiny and Squire’s Hazard also depict the lives of the gentry too. But the novels are not about politics or war, or royals or heroes, but are rather the “everyday stories of country folk,” and my particular writing pleasure is trying to recreate their world in which readers can immerse themselves. 

And to make that world feel natural requires both “authenticity” and a little “strangeness,” so here are a few thoughts on how I try to achieve this…

Although my novels are not about “history,” history does provide the important factual context in which my characters’ fictional lives are set. The novels are set in a specific time, and each one follows on from the previous one after a two or three years gap. Mostly, what was going on in England as a whole is not important to the Chronicles’ stories. But that isn’t the case for Fortune’s Wheel, the first Chronicle, or the fourth one, Children’s Fate, where what we call the Black Death – plague – underlies the premise for the stories. In Children’s Fate, too, I describe a devastating storm that occurred in January 1363. I write about it because it emphasizes the horror that people had already been suffering in the previous months when the plague was killing children and young people when it must have seemed as if the world was coming to an end.

What was it like to live then? I enjoy depicting what we know or can deduce about how people lived – their homes, clothes, food, tools, and working practices – and showing everyday life as authentically as possible. Portraying the environment, in particular – people’s homes and their interactions with the world outside – can also help to give an authentic-seeming picture.

For example, in my depictions of peasants’ homes, I try to show how generally cramped, dark and smoky they were and, in bad weather, cold and damp. I don’t dwell on the unpleasantness but don’t shy away from it when required. Part of me thinks the grimness would be in our eyes rather than theirs. The Chronicles are told in the voices of the characters, not from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, and my feeling is that the people wouldn’t necessarily notice those things that we would find hard to cope with. Trying to put me into my characters’ shoes, to imagine the minutiae of their daily lives, is what I see so fascinating about writing about the past and what I hope contributes to that sense of authenticity.

Some readers might think I’m obsessed with the weather! Weather does play a big part in my novels, for it surely affected medieval people’s lives far more than it does ours (here in England, at any rate). If you owned only, at most, two sets of clothes, how miserable was it to work outdoors in the rain and come home all wet, with just a small hearth fire (no radiators or tumble dryer…)? Drying clothes must have been so difficult! No book has yet told me exactly what they did, so, putting myself in their shoes, I assume they arranged their clothes around the fire, on some sort of rack, perhaps, and that they possibly slept in their damp clothes – sometimes, anyway – to help dry them out. A pretty ghastly prospect! Yet what else could they do?

Depicting the physical aspects of daily life is important, but almost more important – and yet more difficult – is portraying the intangible aspects. Sexuality, religion, superstition, ideas, and sensibilities, in general, are trickier. The difficulty lies in transporting oneself as a writer into their very different mindsets. Fourteenth-century people must have been like us in many ways, yet also unlike us in many others, and tapping into those dissimilarities is a challenge and, perhaps, one of the principal points – and pleasures – of writing historical fiction.

For example, the Church was central to daily life: in prayers and oaths, influencing people’s view of their position in society, directing how they ran their lives to an extent that we would consider deeply interfering. The fourteenth century was also a world where what we consider natural (or man-made) disasters, such as ruinous weather, famine, and plague, were presumed to be God’s punishment for man’s sin. These aspects of life need to be portrayed in a way that shows the differences in people’s thinking, yet without making them seem alien – they were still individuals with ambitions and concerns, emotions and desires.

Historical fiction is sometimes criticized for failing to portray the past’s strangeness (the “foreign country”). Beyond religion and superstition are aspects of belief that modern readers are likely to find obscure or even bizarre: religious charms, relics, magic and spells, monsters, weird concepts, and seemingly fantastical happenings that today can be explained or dismissed. All of these were normal to people of the time, yet they need careful handling in a novel. “Magic and monsters” might have been part of a medieval person’s ordinary belief, but they are the opposite: we tend to consider them fantastical, not commonplace. And a danger of introducing such elements – however natural they might have been to a medieval mind – is that the novel might seem to the modern reader to be less historical fiction than fantasy. Achieving a sense of naturalness requires a balance between the authentic past and the skeptical present. This aspect of writing historical fiction makes it both a challenge and a pleasure. 

Squire-Final-working.inddBlurb:

How do you overcome the loathing, lust, and bitterness threatening you and your family’s honour?

It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Fougère. Or he would be if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth.

At home in Meonbridge for Christmas, Dickon notices how grown-up his childhood playmate, Libby Fletcher, has become since he last saw her and feels the stirrings of desire. Libby, seeing how different he is, too, falls instantly in love. But as a servant to Dickon’s grandmother, Lady Margaret de Bohun, she could never be his wife.

Margery Tyler, Libby’s aunt, meeting her niece by chance and learns of her passion for young Dickon. Their conversation rekindles Margery’s long-held rancor against the de Bohuns, whom she blames for all the ills that befell her family, including her own servitude. For years she’s hidden her hunger for retribution, but she can no longer keep her hostility in check.

As the future Lord of Meonbridge, Dickon knows he must rise above de Courtenay’s loathing and intimidation and get the better of him. And, surely, he must master his lust for Libby so his own mother’s shocking history is not repeated? Of Margery’s bitterness, however, he has yet to learn…

Beset by the hazards these powerful and dangerous emotions bring, can young Dickon summon up the courage and resolve to overcome them?

Secrets, hatred, and betrayal, but also love and courage – Squire’s Hazard, the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.

Buy Links:

This book is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/bW5yJz 

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Squires-Hazard-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0BHKH1QB1/ 

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Squires-Hazard-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0BHKH1QB1/ 

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Squires-Hazard-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0BHKH1QB1/ 

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Squires-Hazard-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B0BHKH1QB1/ 

The paperback is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Waterstones. 

Carolyn Hughes authorAuthor Bio:

CAROLYN HUGHES has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group, and medical instruments manufacturers.

Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a Ph.D. from the University of Southampton.

Squire’s Hazard is the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE, and more stories about the folk of Meonbridge will follow.

You can connect with Carolyn through her website http://www.carolynhughesauthor.com and on social media.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.carolynhughesauthor.com 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/writingcalliope 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarolynHughesAuthor/ 

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/carolyn-hughes 

Amazon Author Page UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Carolyn-Hughes/e/B01MG5TWH1/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16048212.Carolyn_Hughes 

Book Review: “The Marriage Portrait” by Maggie O’Farrell

62237869A 16-year-old duchess, who lived a sheltered life, died in a remote villa after only being married to her husband, Alfonso Duke of Ferrera, for a mere year. Many suspect that she died of a fever, but there are rumors that her husband had her poisoned. Not much is known about Lucrezia de Medici, Duchess of Ferrara, except her marriage portrait and a brief mention of her in Robert Browning’s poem, “My Last Duchess.” Did she die of a fever, or was there a more sinister plot behind her demise? The mystery around her life and unexpected death have not been discussed much until now in Maggie O’Farrell’s latest novel, “The Marriage Portrait.”

The last book I read by Maggie O’Farrell, “Hamnet,” was such an emotional ride for me, so when I heard that she would dive back into the 16th century with her latest novel, I was excited. I will admit that I had never heard the story of Lucrezia de Medici, so I was curious to see how O’Farrell would tell her tale.

We begin in the villa with Alfonso and Lucrezia, where Lucrezia feels uneasy and fearful for her life, but to understand why we must go back in time. We then jump to the past and Lucrezia’s childhood as the daughter of Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his wife Eleanor of Toledo. Lucrezia’s youth should be filled with balls and glamor, but she is different than her siblings and is treated as almost an outcast in her own family. Her only solace is her maid Sofia, who acts more like her mother, and her love of the arts.

As a daughter of nobility, Lucrezia knows that she will have to marry a noble one day, but it comes sooner than expected when her eldest sister dies, and she is betrothed to Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara. Her marriage to Alfonso begins smoothly; Alfonso is loving and caring, allowing Lucrezia to pursue her passions and have the freedom she desires. He even allows for a portrait painted in her honor to show the world how regal his bride is and how much he loves her. However, as time passes, Alfonso’s more erratic side shows its ugly head, and Lucrezia sees how dangerous her husband can be to those who displease him.

I will admit that it took me a while to get used to how this particular book was structured, as O’Farrell jumps from the present to the past in every other chapter and presents Lucrezia’s story in a very artistic way. I am unsure if Lucrezia was an outcast in her family, but I believe she could have been an artist and viewed the world differently than her family. As for Lucrezia’s relationship with her husband Alfonso, I think it is plausible that he had a more erratic side to him, especially when it came to those who displeased him. Still, I am not sure that he was responsible for her death.

This novel was thought-provoking and engaging with an unlikely protagonist in Lucrezia de Medici. Even though you know she will die at the end, you will root for Lucrezia and hope that she can find even the slightest thread of happiness in her short life. I found this an utterly gripping novel, and I hope O’Farrell will write more stories set in 16th-century Italy. If you want a thrilling book about a young noblewoman living during the Italian Renaissance, “The Marriage Portrait” by Maggie O’Farrell should be at the top of your to-be-read list.

Book Review: “The Godmother’s Secret” by Elizabeth St. John

62232439When one says “the Princes in the Tower,” a few images pop into our mind. Two young boys were killed in the Tower by their evil uncle, who would become King Richard III. At least, that is the image that the Tudors wanted the world to see, and for centuries, that story has often been told. However, as research has expanded into who Richard III was, the tale of these two boys and their ultimate fate has become even murkier with new suspects and the question of whether the boys were murdered. Elizabeth St. John decided to take on the mystery of the Princes of the Tower with her twist to the tale in her latest novel, “The Godmother’s Secret.”

Thank you, Elizabeth St. John, for sending me a copy of your latest novel. I have found the mystery of the Princes of the Tower fascinating, and when I heard that this novel had a different angle to their tale, I knew I wanted to read it.

We begin our journey by introducing Lady Elysabeth Scrope, the wife of John Scrope and the half-sister to Margaret Beaufort, going into the sanctuary with Elizabeth Woodville. She is there to act as the godmother for Elizabeth Woodville’s first son, the future King Edward V, at the request of King Henry VI. Elysabeth is reluctant to help the Yorkist cause, as she was raised as a Lancastrian, but her husband is loyal to the Yorkists. She promises to keep Edward safe from harm, which would prove more challenging with the death of King Edward IV in 1483.

This should be a happy time for Elysabeth, John, and the new King Edward V, but a sermon and a coup caused everything to come crashing down. Edward and his brother Richard are removed to the Tower of London while their uncle becomes King Richard III. Along the way, Margaret Beaufort schemes to get her beloved son, Henry Tudor, to become the next king of England. Torn between her blood family and her family built by loyalty, Elysabeth must navigate the ever-changing political field of 1483-1485 to protect the princes, no matter the cost.

I thoroughly enjoyed being introduced to Lady Elysabeth Scrope and John Scrope and seeing the events unfold while they weathered the political storm the best they could. St. John has created a believable and compelling story about what might have happened to these two boys whose disappearance has captured our imaginations for centuries. She attempts to answer some age-old questions, like what might have happened to the boys, did Richard III have them killed, and did Margaret Beaufort have something to do with the princes’ disappearance? Suppose you want an engaging novel that gives a different perspective about what might have happened to the Princes in the Tower. In that case, I highly recommend you read “The Godmother’s Secret” by Elizabeth St. John.

Guest Post: Excerpt from “The Conjuror’s Apprentice” by G.J. Williams

The Conjuror’s ApprenticeI am pleased to welcome G.J. Williams to my blog today to share an excerpt from her latest novel, “The Conjuror’s Apprentice.” I want to thank G.J. Williams and The Coffee Pot Book Club for allowing me to be part of this blog tour. 

John Dee stared at the letter, then at Cecil. ‘The letter must have been penned by someone who has sight of this household – and the same person who planted the letter on Jonas.’

The master of the house nodded and put his head in his hands, propelling Mildred to cross the room and put her hand on his shoulder. He glanced up and patted her fingers. ‘Are you quite sure what you read, my dear?’

‘Yes. You heard the words yourself. The letter is to someone who wants testimony of your movements. The scrivener speaks of your visits to Lady Elizabeth. Each one is listed. They even know you are due to visit her again this week.’ Her lips pinched together in anxiety. ‘They state that you hide a book of Elizabeth’s treachery to protect her.’ Mildred looked at John Dee. ‘Why would they make up such stories of us?’

But next to her, Cecil did not move. He kept staring at the wood of his desk, his brow crinkled in thought. A slight flush spread across his cheeks.

Margaretta shifted in her seat, the feelings rising inside her. Dread. Something you’ve done. A secret. You imagine being arrested. You are hiding something. She leaned forward, touched John Dee’s sleeve, and whispered, ‘Mae e’n cuddio rhywbeth.’ He hides something.

Cecil’s eyes darted to her. ‘I do not speak my forefathers’ tongue with ease. What did you say?’

Thank the Lord John Dee stepped in. ‘She says she must away to the kitchen and her chores soon.’ He leaned forward and dropped his voice to a cajoling purr. ‘Is there anything you have secreted, my friend? Better we know.’

Cecil sat up straight and cleared his throat. His wife’s fingers tightened on his shoulder as she looked down, beginning to frown. Her husband looked at the window as if searching for the right words. ‘I…I…hold a book belonging to the Lady Elizabeth. Nothing treasonous. Just her thoughts.’ He swallowed and looked to Dee, a faint beseeching in his eyes.

The room was silent.

Panic. Confusion. It is you, Lady Mildred. Anger.

John Dee leaned forward again, keeping the low, calm voice. ‘Where is this book?’

‘Mildred’s library. Well hidden among the religious texts.’ At this, Lady Cecil gave a short, sharp cry and snatched her hand away from her husband. She walked to the window and put her hands on the glass. They could see her kirtle move with her fearful breathing. Then she turned and faced him, her face pale and fixed in fury. ‘You brought secrets here and put us all in danger? Have your senses left you, husband?’ Her voice was slow and cold.

In an instant, he was on his feet, rebutting her challenge with indignation. ‘No, Mildred. I was showing loyalty to a fragile girl wracked with fears. She is under constant suspicion.

So, when she was summoned to court to attend her sister’s birthing, she dared not take it with her nor leave it behind. I am the only one she trusts. What could I do? Abandon her?’

‘And what is in this book, William?’ asked Dee.

‘Her thoughts on regency. She speaks of a fair rule; of religious tolerance rather than the burning we live with today; of making this land great again and not a puppet of Spain.’

Cecil dropped his head forward, and his voice fell to a murmur. ‘She speaks of a golden age in which men thrive, not fear life.’

Dee sighed. ‘So, she speaks of being queen.’ He waited until Cecil nodded. ‘So, with Mary expecting her own son to succeed her, it is a tome of treason.’ He gave a small laugh. ‘Making my conjuring look pale in comparison.’

Cecil bristled. ‘No. It is a volume of hope. The only treason lies with those who would put a Spanish prince as our ruler.’

He gave a low growl. ‘For the love of God, they circle court like hawks awaiting the death of Mary and her babe so they can grasp power while England mourns.’

John Dee opened his palms in question. ‘Mary herself made Philip King of England. Not a prince. Not her consort. A king.’

Cecil wheeled round. ‘Elizabeth is the rightful heir to the throne. Not a Spanish puppet of the Catholic Pope. A woman of true faith…Protestantism.’

‘So, if Elizabeth aspires to be queen, she is the single threat to the supporters of Philip.’ John Dee pointed an accusing finger. ‘And that book sets out her ambition.’ He paused. ‘That book will take her to the Tower and her death for treason… and someone in your household knows of it. They also know your involvement.’

From the window, Lady Cecil spoke. ‘And her treasonous book is in this house. And somebody knows it.’ She turned to look through the glass onto the bustling street below. ‘May God save us.’

9781915194190Blurb

Born with the ability to hear thoughts and feelings when there is no sound, Margaretta Morgan’s strange gift sees her apprenticed to Doctor John Dee, a mathematician, astronomer, and alchemist. Using her secret link with the hidden side and her master’s brilliance, Margaretta faces her first murder mystery. Margaretta and Dee must uncover the evil bound to unravel the court of Bloody Mary. 

The year is 1555. This is a time ruled by fear. What secrets await to be pulled from the water?

The Conjuror’s Apprentice takes real people and true events in 1555, into which G J Williams weaves a tale of murder and intrigue. Appealing to readers of crime and well-researched historical fiction alike, this is the first in a series which will follow the life, times, plots, and murders of the Tudor Court.

Trigger Warnings:

Descriptions of bodies and the injuries that brought about their death. 

Threat of torture; description of man who has been tortured.

Buy Links

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Conjurors-Apprentice-G-J-Williams/dp/1915194199

Waterstones

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-conjurors-apprentice/g-j-williams/9781915194190

RedDoor

https://www.reddoorpress.co.uk/products/the-conjurors-apprentice?_pos=1&_sid=30c68d694&_ss=r

Gwenllian Author photoAuthor Bio 

After a career as a business psychologist for city firms, G.J. Williams has returned to her first passion – writing tales of murder, mystery, and intrigue. Her psychology background, melded with a love of medieval history, draws her to the twists and turns of the human mind, subconscious powers, and the dark side of people who want too much. 

She lives between Somerset and London in the UK and is regularly found writing on a train next to a grumpy cat and a bucket of tea.

 

Social Media Links:

Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/gjwilliams92

Book Review: “Essex Dogs” by Dan Jones

60841074The year is 1346, and numerous English ships have landed on the shores of France. King Edward III, his son Edward of Woodstock, and his lords launched the first stage of what would be known as the Hundred Years’ War. Amongst the English royalty, nobility, and regular soldiers, are companies of men who came of their own accord for money and glory. One company of men consists of ten men known as the Essex Dogs, led by Loveday FitzTalbot. They are not like the other groups. They do not fight for money or glory; they fight for each other. In the horrors of war in a foreign land, can the Essex Dogs keep their promise and stay alive? Dan Jones introduces the world to these ten men and the early stage of the Hundred Years’ War in his first historical fiction novel, “Essex Dogs.”

I have read nonfiction books by Dan Jones for years now, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the amount of detail he puts into each book. When Dan Jones announced that he would dive into the world of historical fiction, I was fascinated to see how well he could handle the transition from historical nonfiction to fiction. I was pleasantly surprised by how this amazingly gripping novel.

This story, from the landing in France to the Battle of Crecy, is told through the eyes of Essex Dogs, a rag-tag group of men from England, Scotland, and Wales. Each man has a past that they are trying to run away from, but their loyalty to each other unites them to finish their forty days of service to King Edward III. Some Essex Dogs include the pint-size fighter Pismire, the strong Scotsman, and the loyal Millstone. We also have crazy priest Father, the young and naive archer Romford, and their fearless leader, who will do anything to keep his group together, Loveday FitzTalbot.

I love the colorful interactions that the Essex Dogs had between one another and with the actual people who were involved in the campaign to Crecy. Each soldier’s struggles, from injuries and drug use to strategies and the punishments for not following royal commands, were written brilliantly. However, one area in which Jones excelled was portraying the brutality of war. The battles and skrimmages Jones included were so believable that I had to collect my breath after each battle before I went back to ensure the Essex Dogs were okay. Even the fights between companies were thrilling and will stay with me for a long time ( I am looking at you, chapter 12).

I honestly did not know what to expect when I ordered this book back in February, but it was a masterpiece. I can’t believe it took Dan Jones this long to write historical fiction, but I cannot wait for the next book in this trilogy. It is easily one of my favorite historical fiction novels of this year. If you want an electrifying novel with a compelling cast of characters set at the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War, “Essex Dogs” by Dan Jones is a must-read.

Book Review: “Keeper of the Queen’s Jewels” by Adrienne Dillard

61419479._SY475_ (1)Two women who served Anne Boleyn must deal with the ramifications of staying on opposite sides of the queen’s downfall. One is the next bride of King Henry VIII, who must give the king the son he desires or suffer the consequences. The other is a lady in waiting who holds a dark secret and a relic of the past that could be dangerous to both women. Many of us know the story of Jane Seymour, but is there more to the queen who was able to give King Henry VIII the son he desired? What about the mysterious Margery Horsman? What role did she play in Anne Boleyn’s and Jane Seymour’s inner circles? In her third book, “Keeper of the Queen’s Jewels,” Adrienne Dillard tells the tale of these women bonded by fate to work together to survive such a tumultuous time.

Thank you, Adrienne Dillard and GreyLondon Press, for sending me a copy of this novel. I had read Dillard’s previous novels and adored them, so when I heard that she was writing a new story with Jane Seymour and Margery Horsman as the heroines, I knew it was a must-read for this year.

We begin with the immediate aftermath of the death of Anne Boleyn. Margery Horsman is still reeling with her words and how they might have led to the deaths of innocent people. On top of that, Anne Boleyn entrusted her with her most famous piece of jewelry, the B necklace, which she must keep hidden until the time is right to give to Anne’s beloved daughter, Elizabeth. Alone in a sea of faces, Margery must navigate the Tudor court to ensure her queen’s final wish is fulfilled, even if it means working with Anne Boleyn’s replacement, Jane Seymour. Along the way, she unexpectedly falls in love with a widower and finds happiness.

While we have Margery Horsman’s story, we also have Jane’s tale of how she became queen quickly after the death of the woman she once swore to serve. Following the advice of her brothers, Thomas and Edward Seymour, Jane learns what she must do to survive as queen, even when she is not pregnant with a potential Tudor heir. She may appear like this meek and mild mother in the making, but deep down, Jane wants to speak up against issues that matter to her, like the Pilgrimage of Grace and the dissolution of the monasteries. A wise woman who knew how to balance her opinions in such a matter to avoid falling into the deep end and following her predecessor to the scaffold.

Dillard weaves historical facts with elements of fiction to create believable versions of the Tudors. The amount of care taken to write the stories of Jane Seymour and Margery Horsman is extraordinary. In short, “Keeper of the Queen’s Jewels” is Adrienne Dillard’s latest Tudor masterpiece and is a must-read for Tudor fans.