Book Review: “Cecily” by Annie Garthwaite

55818511._SY475_The Wars of the Roses was a time filled with dynamic figures who fought for the right to restore order to England. We often think about the strong warrior men who marched into battle, facing their inevitable doom just for the chance to wear the crown and rule the land. The women who stood by their husbands’ and sons’ sides were just as strong as their male counterparts, even if they did not wear armor. They were on the sidelines, ensuring that they could create alliances that would prove helpful in future conflicts. The most famous examples of strong women during the Wars of the Roses are Margaret of Anjou, Margaret Beaufort, and Elizabeth Woodville. Yet, there was another woman who stood firmly on the side of the Yorkist cause. She was known as the Rose of Raby and the wife of Richard, Duke of York. Her name was Cecily Neville, and she is the protagonist of Annie Garthwaite’s brilliant debut novel, “Cecily.”

I have been a fan of Wars of the Roses historical fiction for a while now, and so when I heard about this novel, I knew I wanted to read it. I usually don’t comment about the covers of books, but this particular cover was simply gorgeous, which added to my desire to read it. Cecily Neville is one of those characters that is rarely given a chance to shine, so this book was a treat to see how Garthwaite would portray her.

Garthwaite’s novel begins with the execution of Joan of Arc, which was an event that Cecily Neville witnessed with her husband Richard Duke of York. It marked a turning point for the English campaign in France as the young King Henry VI was crowned King of France. Richard Duke of York is a cousin of the young king and is considered next in line to the throne until Henry VI has a son. Richard is given command of the French campaign, with his beloved wife by his side. Cecily and Richard have known the sorrow of losing children, but eventually, their family begins to grow with the birth of their eldest son Edward. More children will follow, including Edmund, George, and little Richard often referred to as Dickon.

The campaign in France does not end well, so Cecily, Richard, and their growing family go back to England. Along the way, Henry VI decides to take Marguerite of Anjou as his bride; Marguerite and Cecily start as friends and allies, but their relationship will eventually sour and turn into rivals. Richard and Cecily will travel to Ireland to help their king to show their loyalty. Still, when Henry VI falls ill, Richard believes that he must protect his king and country from men like Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, who is a favorite of Queen Marguerite.

It was during this conflict that Cecily’s true strength shines through. She not only has to be a mother to her growing family, but she has to act as a political advisor and confidant to her husband while staying loyal to her king and undermining the queen’s authority. It was not a rebellion that Richard and Cecily wanted, but they felt that it was a necessary evil to protect their family and their kingdom. To see Cecily protecting her young children from the Lancastrian as her husband and oldest sons flee to fight another day. When Richard and their son Edmund tragically died at the battle of Wakefield, to see Cecily go through her grief while fighting to give Edward a chance to defend her family’s honor was inspiring.

This novel was a delightful read. Garthwaite portrayed Cecily as a strong, independent wife and mother who would stop at nothing to protect her dear ones. For a debut novel, this is a smash hit. It is unique and tells an engaging story that every fan of the Wars of the Roses will love. I cannot wait for Garthwaite’s next novel. If you want a new book with a heroine that you will adore, check out “Cecily” by Annie Garthwaite.

Guest Post: “Why I Write Dual Timeline Novels and Why I Choose Present Day” by Clare Marchant

The Queen's Spy Tour BannerToday, I am pleased to welcome Clare Marchant to my blog to discuss her latest novel, “The Queen’s Spy,” and her use of dual timelines. I would like to thank The Coffee Pot Book Club and Clare Marchant for stopping by on this tour. 

I have always loved reading dual timeline novels. I love history (of course!), and although I also read many historical books, both fiction and non-fiction, I love that connection between the past and the present, waiting to find out when the two worlds will meet.

I often wax lyrical about how I am fascinated with the connections that bind us all together, whether family ties, our links to places, objects, or indeed each other. We are all woven together by the way that we are threaded together with everything that we touch. We all have special items, be it family heirlooms or gifts, jewelry, or a book; perhaps that means something special to us. Something that will eventually belong to someone else. When it comes to history, these associations take on a whole new persona as they link over the years or centuries, and I love investigating this through my writing by tying the two stories together through a shared theme, a shared connection.

In Saffron Hall, that relationship, the object that tied the two stories together, was the book of hours. I have a fascination for old illuminated manuscripts, so I wanted to use one of these exquisite small prayer books as the object that united together my two protagonists, showing how the theme, ‘while I breathe, I hope’ touched the lives of them both. They both learn that they must live with the hurt they have endured and to keep taking each day at a time until things get better – they keep breathing and keep hoping. That eventually, time will help them to move on.

In The Queen’s Spy, the object is the triptych that Tom paints, showing his journey, which mirrors in some respects the one in the present day that Mathilde is taking. They are both connected by their shared background of being shunned by society for separate reasons. By being ‘different’ and having to face prejudice and leaving them to lead a peripatetic lifestyle never accepted by those around them. They are always searching for somewhere they will be recognized for who they are and loved for it. By investigating the painting, Mathilde begins to learn more about herself and her place in this world.  And she learns the book’s theme, that she cannot change the past, but she can change the future.

The reason why I choose present-day as my alternative timeline to the Tudor one is that despite the apparent differences to our daily lives between the way we now live compared to how they did in the sixteenth century, I think it shows just how much these morals that guide us affect us all whenever we lived. We are just the same in our hearts, with similar fears, hopes, desires, and despair. People love, they grieve, they laugh, and they cry. In every life, there are shared experiences, precious objects…and precious people.

The Queen's Spy Cover(Blurb)

1584: Elizabeth I rules England. But a dangerous plot is brewing in court, and Mary Queen of Scots will stop at nothing to take her cousin’s throne.

There’s only one thing standing in her way: Tom, the queen’s trusted apothecary, who makes the perfect silent spy…

2021: Travelling the globe in her campervan, Mathilde has never belonged anywhere. So when she receives news of an inheritance, she is shocked to discover she has a family in England.

Just like Mathilde, the medieval hall she inherits conceals secrets, and she quickly makes a haunting discovery. Can she unravel the truth about what happened there all those years ago? And will she finally find a place to call home?

Buy Links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Spy-gripping-historical-fiction-ebook/dp/B08R6Q4CC9

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Queens-Spy-gripping-historical-fiction-ebook/dp/B08R6Q4CC9

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Queens-Spy-gripping-historical-fiction-ebook/dp/B08R6Q4CC9

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Queens-Spy-gripping-historical-fiction-ebook/dp/B08R6Q4CC9

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-queens-spy-clare-marchant/1139196760

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-queens-spy/clare-marchant/9780008454357

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-queen-s-spy-2

iBooks: https://books.apple.com/gb/book/the-queens-spy/id1554626619

Audio: https://amzn.to/2QRzT2K

Clare MarchantAuthor Bio:

Growing up in Surrey, Clare always dreamed of being a writer. Instead, she followed a career in IT before moving to Norfolk for a quieter life and re-training as a jeweler.

Now writing full time, she lives with her husband and the youngest two of her six children. Weekends are spent exploring local castles and monastic ruins or visiting the nearby coast.

Social Media Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClareMarchant1

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/claremarchant1/?hl=en

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/3fkuf2r

Book Review: “The Sunne in Splendour” by Sharon Kay Penman

1321064._SY475_A banner decorated with three suns flaps in the wind on the field of battle. The young man behind this emblem is Edward, Earl of March, whose father Richard Duke of York and brother Edmund Earl of Rutland were tragically slain at the Battle of Wakefield. His younger brothers, George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester, will help Edward carry their father’s cause for the family of York to rule England. When loyalty is questioned even among family members, only one man would truly stand behind Edward until the bitter end. That man would be Richard Duke of Gloucester, or as we know him today, the much-maligned King Richard III. He is often viewed as a treacherous child-killer who coveted the throne after Edward IV’s death, but is that accurately portraying the last Plantagenet king? Who was the real King Richard III? In her magnum opus, “The Sunne in Splendour,” Sharon Kay Penman presents her case for Richard III as a man betrayed, both in life and after his death.

I want to thank everyone who has recommended this book to me in the past. I know that Sharon Kay Penman recently passed away, and I felt that the only way to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field this year was to read this novel. I knew that it was well beloved in the Ricardian and the Wars of the Roses communities, so I wanted to see what made this novel so memorable.

Penman chooses to tell this story through multiple points of view, which, contrary to popular belief, works cohesively and allows each character to have their voice. We are introduced to Richard as a young boy before his father and Edmund die in battle. He is a timid child who witnesses death and destruction all around him and is trying to process everything. We see him grow from a scared child to a warrior duke and later into a king who had to deal with betrayal and heartache around every corner.

What Penman does brilliantly is how she writes her characters to make them so realistic that you forget that you are reading a novel. She fleshes out the conflicts exceptionally well, like the struggle between the brother Richard, George Duke of Clarence, and Edward IV. The love between Richard and his bride Anne Neville is pure and wholesome. The loyalty between Richard and Edward IV and towards Edward’s children, especially the princes in the tower is undeniable. Then there is the tension between the brothers and their cousin Richard Earl of Warwick trying to establish this new York dynasty. And what would a series of wars be without those fighting to keep their rule, which was the Lancastrians led by the ferocious Margaret of Anjou. It felt like I was being introduced to a new side of the Yorkist cause when I read this novel.

The action scenes are intense, and the betrayals hit harder than what you usually read in nonfiction books about the Wars of the Roses. This novel is truly a love letter to this period and a brilliant work of literature. I am not sure why I waited so long to read this masterpiece, but I am glad I finally read it. If you want an exceptional novel about the Wars of the Roses and Richard III, “The Sunne in Splendour” by Sharon Kay Penman is a must-read.

Book Review: “A Wider World” by Karen Heenan

56860771._SY475_The year is 1558, and Queen Mary I is dying. England is engaged in a war between the Reformation and Catholicism. Caught in the middle is an older man named Robin Lewis, who is being taken to London to face his death as a heretic. Fearful that his story may never be told, Robin Lewis tells his captor his tale through the reigns of three Tudor rulers, Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I. Can his story save his life from certain destruction, or is Robin doomed for all eternity? This is the premise of Karen Heenan’s second book in The Tudor Court series, “A Wider World.”

I want to thank Karen Heenan for sending me a copy of this book. I really enjoyed her first novel, “Songbird,” so I was looking forward to seeing where Heenan would take the series.

We have met Robin Lewis in “Songbird” as the rival of Bess and the stuck-up kid in Music. We don’t see much of his story in the first novel. Heenan has decided to take this side character that is a bit polarizing and write a novel about his life, which I love.

It is a bold choice to start a novel with the protagonist being sentenced to death for being a heretic, but the way Heenan structures this story is brilliant. Heenan begins her novel with Robin’s arrest and his captor, William Hawkins, taking him from the countryside to London to be locked in the Tower. Robin acts like a Tudor Scheherazade to delay the inevitable, telling his story through flashbacks to Hawkins.

What makes this story so unique are those flashbacks that are so vivid and filled with men and women that shaped Robin into the man that he became. Robin is a bookworm who prefers the company of texts to other people, so to see him interact with others is just a delight. They include brothers of a monastery, a servant named Seb, and a beautiful Italian woman named Bianca, who shared Robin’s love of learning. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tudor novel without famous figures such as Wolsey, Cromwell, and Holbein. Heenan uses these figures as secondary characters to enhance Robin’s story.

At the heart of this novel is the dissolution of the monasteries and Robin’s travels abroad, especially his stops in Italy. Although Cromwell forces Robin to help dissolve the monasteries, his past with monks makes him question the assignment he has been given. Robin’s faith and his relationships with the church in England and Italy are very distinct and shape how he views the charges brought against him at the beginning of this novel.

Heenan has once again made a delightful tale of struggles inside the Tudor court by someone on the sidelines. The blending of English history with elements from other cultures was inspiring. Weave current events with a character’s past is extremely difficult, yet Heenan does it seamlessly. This enchanting novel is the perfect sequel to “Songbird.” If you are a fan of Tudor historical fiction, “A Wider World” is a must-read.

Book Review: “Songbird” by Karen Heenan

57859999._SY475_We all know about the man who would become King Henry VIII. We know about his love life and his ever-changing views on religious reform, yet a side of the infamous king rarely explored; his love of music. Henry’s court in literature is often viewed through the lenses of those who held power in government and the lady’s maids, but what if it was considered from a different perspective? What if it was viewed from the perspective of one of the performers of King Henry VIII’s court? What might their experiences have been like singing their hearts out for the rich and glamorous? Karen Heenan tries to give her readers a better look into the world of Music with Bess, the titular character of her first novel in The Tudor Court series, “Songbird.”

I want to thank Karen Heenan for sending me a copy of this novel. I hosted a book tour for Karen a few months back for this book, so I was intrigued by this novel.

Beth is a ten-year-old girl who has a voice like an angel. One day, her father brought her to the court of Henry VIII to serve the king as one of his majesty’s minstrels. It is there that Bess meets a boy a year younger than her named Tom, who plays numerous instruments, but he prefers the lute. They form a bond that will last for years. Yet, as the friends grow closer, romance enters the picture, and the friends must navigate the ever-changing world of Henry VIII’s court during the time of the Great Matter.

What makes this book sensational is that the Tudors that we are familiar with, Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, and Anne Boleyn, tend to act as secondary characters, quite like a work by CJ Sansom. The focus is really on the music and the lives of the musicians. It shows just enough of the glitz and the glam of court life to get. The songs that Heenan included in this novel are so melodic that I could imagine the scenes without hearing the pieces aloud.

Oh boy, this book was an absolute treat. It was also a ride in the best sense. Bess and Tom go through many hurdles, including death, heartbreak, politics, and a good old-fashioned love triangle as a cherry on top. The world of the minstrels is full of its scandals, and it is just as brilliant as the court they entertain. There were points in this book where Bess or Tom made a mistake, and I just wanted to scream at them, but I couldn’t put this book down. These characters are so loveable that you will get emotionally attached to them.

To combine the story of the Great Matter with the lives of the minstrels like Beth and Tom is simply brilliant. If you want a historical fiction novel that gives a fresh take on the tumultuous Tudors, you should check out “Songbird” by Karen Heenan. Heenan gorgeously wrote this novel to portray the human experience through the reign of Henry VIII vividly.

Guest Post: “Historical Aspect of Queen of Blood” by Sarah Kennedy

Queen of Blood Blog Tour Banner
Today, I am pleased to welcome Sarah Kennedy to my blog to discuss the historical aspect of her latest novel Queen of Blood. Thanks to the Coffee Pot Book Club and Sarah Kennedy for allowing me to be part of this tour.

The most obvious historical aspect of my latest novel, Queen of Blood, is the Wyatt Rebellion, which occurred early in the reign of Mary Tudor (“Bloody Mary”). It was carried out, unsuccessfully, by a group of men who opposed her rule and her marriage to Philip of Spain. The uprising was soon put down, partly because some of the other nobles who were initially involved in the plot failed to raise their armies, and so the band that descended on London was small—and they did not get the support from Londoners that they expected.

That’s the historical context of the book, and it may be the most compelling part of the narrative for some readers. But it’s not the historical aspect that interests me the most. As in all of the novels in my Tudor series, The Cross and the Crown, the element that draws me in the most is the daily lives of everyday people. We know quite a lot about the lives of royals and nobles—and life was not easy even for people with vast resources of wealth and land—but my attention is always on people who lacked these privileges. I’ve always had sympathy for ordinary people who found (and still find) themselves tossed and turned by changes in their governments and their cultures; such changes occurred dramatically during the Tudor years in England.

I try to imagine what daily life was like, particularly for women, who had to worry about childbirth (or the inability to bear children); maintaining and running a household (or working in a household); and caring for extended family members. Just thinking about the number of chores and tasks that had to be accomplished every day, just to stay alive, is exhausting. Women like my main character, Catherine, sometimes had to keep the books for their husbands’ businesses; sometimes had to work in the business (Catherine’s current husband is a wool dealer), and they surely had to stop everything sometimes to show a young maid how to pluck a chicken correctly or how to make soap. I think, too, about the bodily needs that we take for granted today: staying clean; treating wounds and injuries; maintaining personal hygiene during menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childbirth.

Can you imagine how time-consuming and difficult it was just to get through a day with enough food, shelter, and clothing?

My Catherine is fortunate in that she knows how to read and write because she was raised in a convent. She knows quite a lot about herbs and medicines, so she generally knows what to do if someone in her household falls ill or, say, cuts herself. She also has maids to help out around the house. But having a household staff means looking out for those people, and that job often fell to the lady of the house.

Now, when all of that daily toil is combined with turmoil in the government and the religion of the country, everything becomes more complicated. England, at the beginning of Mary Tudor’s reign, was Protestant. The convents and monasteries had been closed, and their lands and goods seized by the Crown. Mary, of course, remained Catholic, and one of her goals was to return England to Rome.

This goal was supported by some, opposed by others, and just entirely frustrating and confusing to many. A person could be arrested, imprisoned, and possibly executed for failing to submit to the current requirements of the current church, and I’m sure that this created anxiety, anger, and resentment. Which prayers was a person supposed to say? In what language? What if those requirements violated a person’s conscience? Those were questions that, under the Tudor monarchs, ordinary people often simply had to keep to themselves. They had to follow the rules or suffer the consequences, even if the rules were completely different from what they had been in the previous year.

So, on top of all the necessary daily, drudging work, everyday people were forced to submit to the requirements of church attendance, following the dictates from the throne. It’s no wonder that people rebelled. And it’s no wonder that those rebellions were met with force from the court.

People often adapt to the circumstances in which they find themselves if they can. And if they can’t? If they don’t understand the enormous changes, or don’t approve of them, or can’t bear them? The possible answers to those questions are at the center of my historical interest, and those questions, to me, are the most important historical aspect of my Cross and Crown series.

unnamed(Blurb)

Queen of Blood, Book Four of the Cross, and the Crown series continue the story of Catherine Havens, a former nun in Tudor England. It is now 1553, and Mary Tudor has just been crowned queen of England. Still a Roman Catholic, Mary seeks to return England to its former religion, and Catherine hopes that the country will be at peace under the daughter of Henry VIII. But rebellion is brewing around Thomas Wyatt, the son of a Tudor courtier, and when Catherine’s estranged son suddenly returns from Wittenberg amid circulating rumors about overthrowing the new monarch, Catherine finds herself having to choose between the queen she has always loved and the son who seems determined to join the Protestants who seek to usurp her throne.

Buy Links

Universal Link: mybook.to/QueenofBloodBookFour

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1950586758
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Blood-Sarah-Kennedy/dp/1950586758
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1950586758
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/1950586758

unnamedAuthor Bio

Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy is the author of the Tudor historical series, The Cross and the Crown, including The Altarpiece, City of Ladies, The King’s Sisters, and Queen of Blood. She has also published a stand-alone contemporary novel, Self-Portrait, with Ghost, as well as seven books of poems. A professor of English at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia, Sarah Kennedy holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing. She has received grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://sarahkennedybooks.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KennedyNovels
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarah.kennedy.520125
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Kennedy/e/B0054NFF6W
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6538009.Sarah_Kennedy

Guest Post: Excerpt from “The Usurper King: The Plantagenet Legacy Book 3” by Mercedes Rochelle

The Usurper King Tour BannerToday, I am pleased to welcome Mercedes Rochelle to my blog to share an excerpt from her book “The Usurper King: The Plantagenet Legacy Book 3”. This passage is when Prince Hal has to tell Queen Isabella about Richard’s death. I would like to thank Mercedes Rochelle and The Coffee Pot Book Club for inviting me to partake in this blog tour. 

Excerpt

Isabella of Valois was probably the only person in England who did not know about Richard’s funeral. She was fourteen now and kept in close confinement at Havering-atte-Bower, where she was taken after the failed rebellion. Her prison was an old royal palace to the northeast of London, modest but comfortable. She knew Richard’s life was in danger and was worried sick about him. Alas, no matter how much she cried and demanded to visit her husband, she was politely refused. So she was relieved when the Prince of Wales was announced, for of all King Henry’s children he was closest to her in age and they had gotten along well before he went to Ireland. Before her life fell apart.

Hal came in by himself and knelt before her—a gesture sorely lacking these many months. He had grown much taller since she last saw him, and his shoulders had filled out from training. Unsurprisingly, his stiff posture had not relaxed, nor had his eyes softened; they were guarded as usual. 

Blinking back tears, she held out her hands. “You are a welcome sight, my lord. Thank you for visiting me.”

Slowly he stood and together they walked over to a window seat. Tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, she smiled self-consciously. It had been so long since she had a visitor, she was not dressed like a princess. Hal didn’t seem to care. 

“Do you have everything you need?” he said, trying to find a good place to start a conversation.

Isabella nodded. She knew that’s not why he was here. “I had hoped to see my husband,” she said softly. She knew this was none of his doing, but she had to make her feelings known to somebody.

At least Hal had the grace to look embarrassed. “I loved King Richard like a father,” he said earnestly, trying to take her hand. “He was very good to me.”

“Loved?” Her eyes narrowed. “You love him no longer?”

He sighed. There was no easy way to say this. “My lady, there is something I must tell you.”

She pulled her hand away, panic spreading over her face. “What has happened to him?”

As he struggled to find the words, Isabella broke into tears. “He’s dead, isn’t he?” She covered her face with her hands. “My poor Richard. How could you do this to him?”

Stricken, Hal fell to his knees. “I swear to you, I am overcome with anguish. I didn’t even know where he was kept.”

Lowering her hands, she looked at him doubtfully. “Do you expect me to believe that?”

Hal shook his head. “I am not privy to my father’s decisions.”

“How can that be?”

He hesitated, biting his lip. “It seems my father trusts no one, except for the archbishop. And perhaps his inner circle. We were never close.”

She was not convinced. However, there was no point in arguing. “How did Richard die?” Her voice was so soft he barely heard her. 

“It is said that after the rebellion, he stopped eating. This went on for almost two weeks when they sent a confessor to reason with him. Relenting, he tried to eat but by then he was unable to swallow. Sadly, he expired shortly thereafter.”

“Dear God, he starved to death?”

“That is what I am told.” This sounded weak, even to him. What could he do? Richard’s death was shrouded in mystery. 

“Do you believe this?” Isabella’s voice was harsh. 

“Of course I do.” Hal tried to sound sincere. 

“I expect to attend his funeral,” she said firmly. Once again, he hesitated and she couldn’t restrain her tears. “You wouldn’t stop me, would you?”

Hal had to fight back his rage at his father. He was furious to discover Isabella hadn’t been told about the funeral and insisted he be the one to break the tidings to her. Now he regretted it. 

“It’s too late, Isabella. The king thought it best for you not to attend.”

“Not to attend?” Her voice rose to a shriek. 

Hal stood, stepping back. “He sent me to tell you. He thought it would be best for you to hear from my lips.” 

Did she even heed him? Turning away, she threw herself onto the cushion, crying uncontrollably. Looking around the room, Hal went over to a sideboard and poured a cup of water. He knelt by her side, holding it out.

“Here, drink this.”

Hiccoughing, she sat obediently, accepting the water. 

“I promise you, I will do my best to see you are well taken care of,” he said.

She stopped drinking. “What does it matter? I’ve lost everything I care about.”

Defeated, Hal got up to leave.

“Wait.” 

He stopped, his back to her.

“When?”

He was hoping she wouldn’t ask. Turning, Hal wiped his hands on his sides. “The funeral was the twelfth of March.” 

“That was months ago!” 

He waited for her to start wailing again and she surprised him by her restraint. “I see how it is,” she said sadly. “Once again I am a pawn in your game. I am not supposed to have feelings. I must do what I am told for I have no choice.”

She was breaking his heart. “My dear friend, you are not the only one.”

Henry’s response gave her pause. She cocked her head, considering him for a moment. “I am sorry we are enemies,” she said. “In another world we might have been friends. Please, Hal. Help me go home.”

The Usurper King cover(Blurb)

From Outlaw to Usurper, Henry Bolingbroke fought one rebellion after another.

First, he led his 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 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.

Buy Links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08YLFMVPZ

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08YLFMVPZ

Mercedes RochelleAuthor Bio:

Mercedes Rochelle

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 her 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.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://mercedesrochelle.com/

Blog: https://mercedesrochelle.com/wordpress/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mercedesrochelle.net

Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorRochelle

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mercedes-rochelle

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Mercedes-Rochelle/e/B001KMG5P6?

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1696491.Mercedes_Rochelle

Guest Post: “The Inspiration Behind The Poison Keeper” by Deborah Swift

The Poison Keeper Tour BannerToday, it is my pleasure to welcome Deborah Swift to my blog to discuss the inspiration for her latest novel, The Poison Keeper. I would like to thank Deborah Swift and The Coffee Pot Book Club for allowing my blog to host a stop on this tour. 

Deborah Swift, The Poison Keeper Cover

I had enjoyed writing about Seville in A Divided Inheritance and was looking to find another setting where I could escape from the dull grey English winter. My husband suggested Italy and I remembered reading about Giulia Tofana, a notorious Renaissance poisoner, and the poison Aqua Tofana, named after her. I decided to investigate her a bit further to see if she would make a subject for a novel.

I was surprised to find that no one had written a novel about her in English, and so that made me even more determined. However, as soon as I started the research process I realized I was researching someone who was more of a myth than a real historical figure. Most of the information about her was from the 19th century, a good three hundred years since any proper record of her. Also, there were so many different dates associated with her life – for example, she is said by different sources to have been executed, to have escaped, and to have been bricked up behind a wall (!) – and her time of death was variously attributed to 1659, 1709 or 1730.

Antonio_de_Pereda_-_Allegory_of_Vanity_-_Google_Art_Project 1634

Three Generations of Poisoners

There were some peculiarities in the history and it soon became apparent that I was dealing not with one person, but with three – Theofania d’Adamo, her daughter Giulia Tofana and her daughter Girolamo Spara. In Italy at the time, women often took the contracted version of their mothers’ forenames as Christian names – hence Theofania = Tofana. I decided to focus on the middle generation because Giulia was the only one who escaped without execution as far as I could tell.

The one date that could be fixed by contemporary records was the death of Theofania who died on 12th July 1633. This concords with the first record of Aqua Tofana the poison named after Giulia Tofana, or more likely her mother Theofania, which was in 1632. This gave me a firm idea of the timescale for the book.

Naples 1572 Wikipedia 1024px-Braun_Napoli_HAAB

The enticing City of Naples

I was fascinated by the geography of Naples in the 17th Century – a city in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius that had erupted only two years earlier in 1631. The city was still recovering from those horrific events which included not only the eruption, with the city choked by dust and lava, but also by the earthquakes that preceded it and the devastating tsunami that followed it. I was able to use these events in my characters’ backstories. Society was sharply divided into rich and poor areas with glittering Palazzos and squalid slums. Corruption was rife both in the Church and in business.

The Camorra or Mafia

Powerful aristocratic families controlled the city through extortion and racketeering – this was the early inception of the mafia, known as the Camorra. The etymology is from Camo – boss, or head, and Morra – a type of gambling game popular in 17th Century Naples. This provided me with a subplot that I could use with my main male character and allowed me to create a strong antagonist, the Duke de Verdi, for my story.

Aqua Tofana wiki

Aqua Tofana – A deadly poison

Aqua Tofana was supposed to kill by three drops in a drink or food. It was a colorless liquid, supposedly undetectable, but would cause death with similar symptoms to a wasting disease. The actual ingredients have never been confirmed, although many suspect arsenic to be the main ingredient. Naples was a city of alchemists and apothecaries, and the tradition of poison was well known in the city. There had been an epidemic of poisonings since the Borgias. This research area fascinated me, and I spent quite a few happy hours researching poisons in online libraries and through books.

The scope of the research was so interesting that the story soon grew into two books, and the sequel to The Poison Keeper, The Silkworm Keeper will be released soon. 

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NEW RELEASE 1(Blurb)

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.

‘Her characters so real they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf’ Historical Novel Society

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DeborahSwift-1018Author Bio:

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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Book Review: “Essex: Tudor Rebel (Elizabethan, Book 2) by Tony Riches

Essex Tudor Rebel Tour BannerToday, I am pleased to share my book review of the latest Elizabethan novel by Tony Riches as my contribution to his “Essex: Tudor Rebel” blog tour. Thank you to Tony Riches for sending me a copy of his latest novel, and to The Coffee Pot Book Club for allowing me to take part in this tour. 

Being a favorite of a queen is not all glitter and fame. Take, for example, the men who were considered the favorites of Elizabeth I. They had to deal with a queen whose temper and praise were interchangeable. One of the most famous examples of a favorite enduring the wrath of the queen was Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. A handsome rascal who had a mountain of debt to his name, Essex tries to follow his queen’s orders while staying true to his nature. His road from loyal man to Elizabeth I, his numerous adventures, and his ultimate rebellion are masterfully told in Tony Riches’ latest Elizabethan novel, “Essex: Tudor Rebel”.

I would like to thank Tony Riches for sending me a copy of his latest novel. I enjoyed his first venture into the Elizabethan era about Sir Francis Drake. When I heard about this novel, I was excited to dive in. Obviously, I knew about the Essex Rebellion and Essex’s fall from grace, but I really wanted to know about the man behind it all.

Robert Devereux was the son of Lettice Knollys and Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex. Many recognize Robert’s rather remarkable mother Lettice Knollys as she would gain the ire of Queen Elizabeth when she married the Queen’s favorite, Robert Dudley. Essex’s father Walter would die with a mountain of debt when Essex was a boy. The fact that Essex grew up as a poor Earl does not make him stray away from the lavish lifestyle that he craves. In fact, he adds to his father’s debt with his own, making it nearly impossible to pay off.

What makes him so appealing to Queen Elizabeth I is his youthful bravado. Essex is like a son to Elizabeth I. They were so close that some assumed that they were lovers. Riches puts this myth to rest in this novel. That does not mean that Essex was single like his queen. In fact, he did marry the daughter of the famous spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. His daughter, Frances, is extremely loyal to her children and is not afraid to speak her mind when she believes that Essex is in the wrong. Essex is not exactly the most loyal of husbands as he does have affairs and illegitimate children.

Essex did not shy away from battles. He was known for his ventures in France, Cadiz, and Ireland, but his reputation would be battered like the numerous storms he encountered. He wanted the glory to restore his reputation, but his naivete and anger towards the queen who treated him like a son would lead to his downfall.

There is something magical about a new novel by Tony Riches. He is able to capture the audience’s attention with realistic scenarios, characters that jump from the pages of the past, and dialogue that is entirely believable. Essex may seem like an outlandish character, but his desire to restore his honor and to pay back his debt is understandable. There were moments where I was getting frustrated with Essex because of his poor decision-making skills, but Riches really made me feel sympathetic for this naive young rogue by the end. If you want another brilliant escape into the late Tudor age, I highly recommend you read book two in Tony Riches’ enchanting Elizabethan series, “Essex: Tudor Rebel”.

Essex---Tudor-rebel-Kindle(Blurb)

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.

Robert Devereux’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Buy Links:

This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/bwo16Y

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Tony Riches AuthorAuthor Bio

Tony Riches

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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Website: https://www.tonyriches.com/
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Book Review: “Forest of Secrets” by Fiona Buckley

55873447The year is 1586 and Ursula Blanchard is on a mission to protect Queen Elizabeth I. After returning home from a previous mission, Ursula and her household come into contact with a countrywoman named Etheldreda Hope who has brought a peculiar case to the forefront. In the forest by the village that Etheldreda calls home, there have been strange rituals occurring that include reference to an evil queen. Are these rituals harmless or is there a sinister motive behind the beliefs of the pagans who meet in the forest? Will Ursula and her household solve the case in time? This is the premise of Fiona Buckley’s latest Ursula Blanchard Tudor mystery, “Forest of Secrets”.

I would like to thank Severn House Publishers and Net Galley for sending me a copy of this book. This was my first time reading a novel by Fiona Buckley and I was intrigued by the plot. I was looking for a new Tudor mystery series after finishing the Shardlake series, so I decided to give this series a try.

What I did not know when I went into this series was that this was part of the Ursula Blanchard series and it was book nineteen. Not the greatest place to start a new series, but I still decided to give it a try. Ursula is an older noblewoman who works for Sir Francis Walsingham to protect Queen Elizabeth I from threats, like Mary Queen of Scots. By her side is her loyal household who are willing to risk their lives to help Ursula solve the cases that she has been assigned by the royal court.

This particular case was given to her by a woman named Etheldreda who has an interesting problem. She has been declared a witch by her village because her mule gave birth to a foal. Because of this, no one believes her when she says that there have been peculiar rituals occurring in the New Forest. She turns to Ursula and her team to help solve this mystery.

Personally, I did have some issues with this novel. It was difficult for me to get attached to the cast of this novel. I know that this was because I started this series very late so I don’t know the relationships between Ursula and her household.

Another issue that I had was that I didn’t feel like this book was set in the Tudor times. It seems weird to say for a novel that is set in 1586, but with the jargon and the descriptions that Buckley included, you could have easily exchanged characters from different time periods and it would have made sense. When I want to read a Tudor novel, I want to feel like I am transported into the past. With this novel, I just felt like I was reading a novel not set in a particular time period.

Overall, I thought this novel was okay. Buckley has obviously written a world that is beloved, but it was difficult to navigate in that world. I think I will need to read the rest of the Ursula Blanchard series before I reread this book. If you are a fan of the Ursula Blanchard series, you will enjoy “Forest of Secrets” by Fiona Buckley.