Rolling slideshow will be back soon, meanwhile enjoy these Royalty Free historical fiction choices!

Deborah-Swift's Royalty Free 1 album on Photobucket

Saturday, 21 September 2013

The Midwife's Secret/The Other Daughter - Linda Root

When I finished the novel "The Midwife's Secret: The Mystery of the Hidden Princess" I knew the story was not truly finished, and that there was another character, a second Marguerite Kirkcaldy, a child born within weeks of her famous father's execution. 

What would become of her? I asked, since history does not give provide so much as a clue other than a brief reference to the existence of a pretty laundress to whom he wrote love poems while awaiting execution - and who had given birth to his child. 

The knight’s records were destroyed by his enemies and not even a notation of the child’s sex survives. It was all up to my imagination, and thus, a little girl named Daisy was born. Would she be guileless like her beautiful mother, or heroic and unpredictable like the knight Kirkcaldy of Grange? What would she do when she learned that there had been another Marguerite Kirkcaldy also nicknamed Daisy and claimed by Kirkcaldy as his love child? 

The first Daisy had arrived mysteriously at the castle before the Lang Siege and disappeared under a cloud before it fell. Does Daisy have a hidden sister who was spirited away, or is there more to the story of the Other Daughter that even Daisy's mother is willing to disclose?

While Daisy approaches adulthood, weathering an infatuation with her flamboyant nephew, Sir Andrew Ker of Ferniehirst, and dealing with her attraction to the bastard of another controversial Scot, Will Hepburn, who is the 4th Earl of Bothwell’s son, will other rumors reach her ears? Could news of a beautiful Benedictine nun at Saint Pierre les Dames in Rheims called La Belle Écossaise but whose proper name is Sister Marguerite de’ Kircaldie drive Daisy from the secure life she leads in Canongate to a quest with implications touching the future of the Stuart dynasty? 

 The challenge of a meeting of the Marguerites became irresistible, and Daisy's quest became my own. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Seventh Season - Emmanuel of Samaria - by Kit Hudson

Rosalind James : Well I’m not technically the author, but I have some very good reasons for publishing The Seventh Season...

In February 2013, I received a letter from the executor of a distant relative’s will informing me that I was one of the beneficiaries. My relative, Kit Hudson, was an academic and historian who moved to Greece in the 1960s for reasons that were never particularly clear. A few weeks after I received the executor’s letter, a crate arrived from Greece containing oil pressed from olives grown in Kit’s garden and – at the bottom of the crate – an old leather box. When I opened the box, the first thing I saw was a handwritten note that simply said:

Some secrets are meant to be told 

Beneath the note were several hundred type-written pages of yellowed foolscap paper, and as I began to read I realised I had the original typescript of a book Kit had published in 1965. The Seventh Season – essentially an old fashioned epic adventure that just happens to feature one of the Apostles – had been translated from 2nd Century texts known as the Aksum Scrolls. On publication, it seems The Seventh Season created a bit of a controversy (presumably because of the Christian content) and Kit went into hiding in Greece for the rest of his life. I read the text immediately and was dumbfounded that anyone could have found it controversial enough to condemn it – it really is just a ripping yarn with a mad Emperor (Nero), an ancient desert curse and some unrequited love thrown in for good measure – and I immediately knew I had to find a way of re-publishing the text. I'm delighted to say that it has just gone on sale and I feel like it’s my duty to bring it to as many people’s attention as possible.

And - There’s plenty more background at

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Arrow of Sherwood by Lauren Johnson

The story of Robin Hood is one that has bewitched me since I was a child. Many is the woodland walk where I toddled along in my wellies and mack, dawdling behind my parents as I imagined outlaws hidden in the ruins of tumbledown walls, or scurrying between the shelter of trees. But my story of Robin, which ultimately became The Arrow of Sherwood, started to take shape the spring after I finished university. I was working at a castle in South Wales and commuting from Bristol every day to get there - on the long bus ride, and particularly the walk from station to castle, I played out these old scenarios in more detail. Slowly, characters began to emerge: Marian and Robin, nobly born and unwillingly betrothed since childhood; Will Scarlette, Robin's illegitimate half-brother, with a gift of the gab and charm that got him out of the danger his quick temper got him into; a Sheriff of Nottingham who might be self-serving but certainly was not a villain.

Somehow, five years passed. The characters were still somewhere in my mind, but they never got beyond a few hastily scribbled pages. I moved to London, got a job that I loved but took up too much mental space to leave any for writing, planned a wedding, got married. And that is when Robin appeared again. This time I was determined to tell his story properly. I had spent the intervening time working in incredible heritage sites, not least the Tower of London and Great Tower of Dover Castle, buildings that were old enough to have been seen by Robin and his friends when they were brand new. I had worked in medieval costume, loosing catapults in a drained moat, running up and down spiral staircases, stood in the rain and mist while men careered about under the castle walls on horseback. And in order to do this job, I had researched more and more deeply the medieval period I was interpreting.

I had also read and watched a fair amount of historical fiction - some of it brilliant, some of it dire. And what I wanted was to tell a story of Robin Hood that was not about a mythical figure,  witches or wood spirits or fat monks or leering knights, but instead was rooted in the twelfth century world I had come to know and love. An alien culture in many ways, where violence or its threat was never far removed, where death hung in the scales for thousands, to be decided by forces beyond their control - a vicious frost or sodden crops could wipe out whole families, and painted saints were the only intercessors they could rely on.  And into this world I dropped a man called Robin of Locksley, who would have to negotiate the law courts, ordeal, divided loyalties, brute force, and the distant but defiant rumbles of civil war.

Twitter: @History_Lauren

Monday, 9 September 2013

Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife by Jo Ann Butler

My love for colonial America is rooted from 1963, when National Geographic ran an article about Pompeii. I read the issue to shreds and made plans to become an archeologist. Ten years later I worked on my first dig. Though it was in a Connecticut mill village, not Pompeii, I was hooked anyway. A knee injury forced me out of the field, so I channeled my deep interest in colonial America into genealogy. There I met Herodias (Long) Hicks Gardner Porter, my 8th-great grandmother from 17th century Rhode Island.

Genealogists began writing about Herodias in the 1880s, and their assessments of her character were dreadful. 'Redoubtable and undoubtedly glamorous' was the most favorable; lurid and neurotic were more typical. Herodias was separated from her first husband, John Hicks, by Rhode Island's governor when Hicks' abuse endangered Herodias' life. Amazingly, most genealogists sided with Hicks, who described his ex-wife as a whore. The more I explored Herodias' life, the more I was convinced that she was maligned, and wanted to tell Herodias' story from her point of view. Herodias married John Hicks when she was only thirteen, and perhaps he took advantage of a naive girl separated from her family. George Gardner, Herodias' second husband and a target of John Hicks' wrath, may well have protected Herodias from John Hicks' beatings.

Genealogists clucked because years after she took up with George, Herodias sought a divorce from him. Why? Because the couple had never been legally married, and George Gardner was not providing for their seven children. It's my belief that Herodias refused to wed, and become the property of another husband after her sad experience with John Hicks. She had watched him abscond with their children and her inheritance, legal acts under English law. Rhode Island was scandalized when Herodias revealed that she and George weren't married, but Herodias got her separation. Herodias' neighbors were even more shocked when she took up with an affluent man old enough to be her father. However, John Porter made her seven Gardner his heirs, and Herodias' two Hicks children benefited from his estate as well. Herodias said that George hadn't provided for her children, but Porter did exactly that.

Herodias Long steered her life in a way that few 17th century women did, including royalty, and I love her for her vision. She put her body on the line in her defense of Quaker missionaries who were being whipped and tortured by New England's Puritans. Knowing she faced the whipping post, Herodias walked sixty miles to protest the cruelty, was flogged and jailed, and I love her for her boldness. I just had to write about this amazing woman!

You can learn more about Herodias Long, and find Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife, the first books in my Herodias Long trilogy at

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

An Army of Judiths by C.J. Underwood

‘She brought Haarlem to the edge of victory, and the enemy to its knees’

I first encountered the legend of Kenau Hasselaar when I overheard a professor and his students at the University of Leiden’s library in 1994, and was immediately captivated. The professor spoke about the savage sixteenth century Dutch Revolt against the invading Spanish King Phillip II, the revolt that inspired one woman’s fight to preserve the lifestyle that her family had nurtured for generations. Kenau’s battle was the seven-month Siege of Haarlem, 1572-1573. The professor recited the legend of this spirited aristocrat who had been driven to form an army of three hundred women soldiers. He said that Kenau had trained them to fight the Spanish back from the walls of Haarlem, but had refused to wear armour.

From the moment Kenau entered my consciousness, I determined to learn every possible detail about this inspirational female character, a woman that was grist to the mill of my own life story. Although I’d always written, I had spent my career at the time travelling a man’s world; I’d thought nothing of working as a chef in all-male brigades, and was the first woman in the British Merchant Navy to work in the North Sea.

My first surprise was that in the Netherlands the name Kenau was synonymous with the derogative, Bitch. If Kenau Hasselaar had indeed been a Dutch war heroine, I couldn’t understand why she was so maligned by modern Dutch society. After a thorough search of the Amsterdam women’s library, and various other institutions, I was baffled to find nothing more solid than a couple of cursory, albeit reliable, reference works and some old, unreliable stories of Kenau’s part in the siege. I found a tapestry of Kenau in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, but it wasn’t until some years later that paintings of Kenau Hasselaar were available online.
It seemed to me that legends have a lot to answer for, after all these years the fable that Kenau Hasselaar was a dedicated cutthroat for the sake of it should have morphed into something more honourable. She may indeed have been a hellcat, but she must have been so much more besides. Some legends just beg interrogation.

Having visited Haarlem many times to research Kenau Hasselaar’s role in the siege, I enlisted the help of a few eminent historians, one of whom explained that Kenau must have been a frequent visitor to the Cityhouse to meet with Haarlem’s magistrates in order to collect writs that she’d handed to her debtors, some whom lived as far afield as Delft.

Luckily, those official meetings were well documented, otherwise no personal information would have survived about Kenau’s lifestyle, at least publically. One historian suggested to me that Kenau might have been quite an unwelcome sight at the Cityhouse, just for that reason alone. I don’t think she’d have been too happy with anyone poking about in her affairs, however, which is why I was so keen to get my facts right. My novel rigorously follows the historical details of the siege itself, which was fortunately well documented. It is a remarkable history that needs no embellishment, and the more I discovered, the deeper went my respect for Kenau Hasselaar, and indeed all the courageous citizens of Haarlem, particularly the women who withstood the brutality of sixteenth century warfare.

My second big surprise was that in Northern Europe at the time, when a city was under attack, women had always fought. Towns and cities were built with ramparts, they were formed as citadels, or bastions, and when attacked everyone defended their home. This was early modern feminism in action. Women were probably more vicious in battle than we’ve ever given them credit for, and as a woman I feel particularly touched by accounts of man’s inhumanity towards women. I immediately put myself in Kenau’s shoes; as a mature Dutch woman, mother, and no fool, Kenau must have known that once those marauding Spaniards broke through the bulwarks and gates of Haarlem, she and her daughters, sisters and nieces would lose their lives in ways too terrible to contemplate. So Kenau wasted no time in contemplating the obvious; she rounded up three hundred of Haarlem’s toughest, most formidable women, and taught them how to defend themselves; to fight off the enemy, and to protect their beloved city. But first they rebuilt the decrepit walls of Haarlem.

Then they waited.

I believe that writing about any national legend carries a great deal of responsibility, but having researched the war in great detail, including Haarlem’s and Kenau’s role in the siege, I agree with certain academics that Kenau’s name has, at times, been denigrated. Legends can be exaggerated, but they don’t make themselves. I am always gripped by the sort of mind that cannot even contemplate defeat. Perhaps Kenau would not have been the sort of woman you’d want at your dinner party, and quite a challenging woman to get to know, or even like, on a personal level. As a character she certainly eluded me for a good while. I owe a debt of gratitude to those who have researched and written about Kenau Hasselaar, whatever their bias.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Spy Island by Sophie Schiller

As a child growing up in the island of St. Thomas, I used to spend hours roaming through the side streets and alleyways of Charlotte Amalie, admiring the Danish colonial architecture, wondering at the Danish street names, and drinking in the rich history behind this beautiful former Danish colony that captured the imagination of such historical figures as Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard the Pirate, Henry Morgan, the exiled Mexican General Santa Anna, and the American Writer Herman Wouk. A single, nagging question always returned time and time again: Why aren't there more novels detailing the rich, vibrant history of the Danish West Indies? After all, the islands have been praised for their beauty for centuries. The capital, Charlotte Amalie, possesses one of the most splendid natural harbors in the world. For inspiration, all a writer would have to do is gaze at her rolling green hills dotted with colorful flowers, lush tropical flora, Danish watch towers, and ubiquitous red-roofed houses. Since no novel yet existed that could satisfy my desire to read about this fascinating place, I decided to write my own. And that is the seed that germinated into my novel "Spy Island".

When I finally decided to write that novel, it took me about a year to develop a plot in which a local girl, Abigail Maduro, the scion of an old Sephardic merchant family, returns to St. Thomas after her parents are killed in a railway along the Panama Canal to live with her aunt, a bitter spinster and her household of eccentric servants. One day, while out running an errand, she stumbles into a mysterious stranger who turns out to be a deserter from a German U-boat. In Erich Seibold, Abby finds the friendship and love she has been craving. She hides him in the basement of her aunt's house, but unbeknownst to them, the island's German Consul, Lothar Langsdorff, also discovers Erich's true identity as a deserter, and uses this information to blackmail him into committing sabotage and murder on the eve of the islands' transfer to the United States, in order to scare away the Americans.

Along the way, many wonderful people helped me develop my story, including the Grandson of the man who was the real Director of the Hamburg-America Line office who was accused of the Americans of spying for Germany and arrested by the US Marines in 1917 right after the Transfer ceremony and after the US declared war on Germany. I also acquired a new lifelong friend in the Croatian military historian who helped me conjure up Erich's back story and his life-altering journey from the Azores to the West Indies on a Spanish tramp steamer. But most important, in the end, I succeeded in bringing to life the last days of a floundering Danish sugar colony in the West Indies with all its charm, nuance, and color. My wish was finally fulfilled and my own journey had come to an end. So treat yourself to Spy Island for a Caribbean journey unlike any other you'll ever have, a journey right into history.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Sultana: Two Sisters by Lisa J Yarde

Prior to writing Sultana: Two Sisters, I had not envisioned a six-part series on the Nasrid Dynasty. Two years ago, after a long fascination with the matriarch of the last Muslim dynasty to rule in Spain, I released Sultana and Sultana’s Legacy. Lingering interest became an obsession that would not go away, even after other novels took me in different directions. Some readers kept asking if there would be another book on Moorish Spain, but I adopted a wait-and-see approach. Once the first books did well, including a foreign rights deal, I felt confident enough to pursue the tale of the next generation of Nasrids.

Spain has always been an amalgamation of various cultures and religions. After thousands of years under the Celts, Romans and Visigoths, the last major invasion began in 711, when Arabs and Berbers took the peninsula. They might have claimed France if Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, had not halted their advance twenty years later. Christian kingdoms slowly pushed back the Moorish tide in the Reconquista until the late 1200’s when only Muslim Granada remained. Still, almost eight hundred years of Moorish rule left its mark on Spain’s identity as a Catholic nation, and on its music, foods and language.

Why do I find Moorish Spain and this particular family so interesting? The Nasrids ruled from their hilltop fortress of the Alhambra from 1232 and held out for 260 years. Castile considered Granada as a vassal rather than an enemy for most of that period and demanded annual tribute payments rather than expanding its borders. Muslim Granada exemplified the idea of the Spanish melting pot, as Christian women became the mothers of Moorish Sultans, men who employed Christians as their personal bodyguards. Theirs was a kingdom in its death throes, weakened internally by infighting between fathers and sons, and among brothers rather than the lackluster attacks of Christian adversaries.

In this period, women whom we might think of as trapped behind harem walls played important roles. Their choices affected the history of the dynasty. One of the most influential women was Fatima, the heroine of Sultana and Sultana’s Legacy, who was the descendant of the first two rulers of the dynasty, sister to the next two, and ancestress of all who followed until the royal line ended with Isabel and Ferdinand’s capture of Granada in 1492. Then there were the Christian slaves Butayna and Maryam, the main characters of Sultana: Two Sisters whose rivalry extended beyond harem walls and toppled the legitimate ruler. With all the internal strife, dysfunctional family interactions and intrigue that beset the Nasrid Dynasty for centuries, I could not help but write about such a family.

There are other reasons why the history is so appealing. The past is usually the story of the victors, those left alive to chronicle events, and history too often becomes “his story”, the exploits of the men at the forefront of momentous change. Propaganda and biases on both sides of the Moorish and Christian frontiers make a full account difficult, but the contributions of Moorish society to the Spain we know today remain evident. In addition, the role of women and their impact merits greater exploration. My goal with the series is to shed light on a period that remains a mystery to many, while attempting to provide good and interesting stories.

These stories have required an enormous amount of research, which started back in 1995 when I was a junior in college. If there is an English language book about Moorish Spain, I have probably read or bought it in the last 18 years. While study was critical in writing the first books of the series, and I often return to the sources, I also remind myself that no one wants to read the history of the Nasrids; entertainment is the goal. There are elements of the past, Moorish culture and the language included to give a real sense of time and place, but not so much as to bog down the plot. I am a storyteller at heart, even if I lose countless hours on details that never make it on to the page.  

Lisa's website       

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Lady in the Spitfire by Helena P Schrader

The Lady in the Spitfire
As a girl, I went to boarding school in London. I was very lonely, and ended up spending much of my free time in museums. One of my favorite museums became the Imperial War Museum, with its magnificent display of WWII aircraft. From the aircraft it was a small step to books about the Battle of Britain -- and "the Few." Soon I was also visiting the airfields; Tangmere, for example, was close enough to visit it more than once. Before long I was imagining a story and I started work on a manuscript while in college.

But soon other projects took precedence. While working on my Masters in International Relations, I discovered the German Resistance to Hitler. This soon became the topic of my doctoral dissertation. The dissertation was first published in Germany by an academic publisher, then re-written for the English-speaking market and published by Sutton Publishing in the UK. Based on hundreds of interviews and material irrelevant to the dissertation itself, I produced my first novel, An Obsolete Honor: A Story of the German Resistance to Hitler.

Yet all the while the idea of a novel about the Battle of Britain continued to nag at me. I returned to the topic, now with experience of a PhD in history and the ability to read and research in German as well. I decided to write a book that would follow the fate of men -- and the women they loved -- on both sides of the Channel. I sought out the memoirs of RAF and Luftwaffe pilots and obtained detailed histories that recorded the sorties, the claimed(and actual) "kills" each day, the damage to airfields etc. and got to work.

Chasing the Wind was the result of that research combined with my enduring passion for the people involved in this critical battle in history -- the ground crews and controllers as much as the pilots. It seeks to capture the tension and uncertainty of this critical phase of the war -- and highlight how many different people in different jobs were involved in the outcome.

chasing the windBut Chasing the Wind ends when the Battle of Britain did, in the fall of 1940, and -- as we all know -- the war was far from over. Chasing the Wind was a long book already and it had a conclusion that was right for it -- but readers kept writing me to say "But what happened to...." Just as important, the characters wouldn't leave me alone either. Chasing the Wind was finished, but the story was not. There was more to tell. So I sat down and wrote a sequel, The Lady in the Spitfire.

The Lady in the Spitfire practically wrote itself. The characters were by then so much a part of me, that I knew what they would do and say in a new set of circumstances. Furthermore, by this point -- after the PhD and the research for Chasing the Wind -- I knew the clothing, customs and even the jargon -- of the period. The amount of research necessary was minimal. I have rarely had so much fun writing a novel!


Helena's website

"The telling of good deeds is like alms and charity;
it is never lost labour but always has its return."
Chandos' Herald ca. 1386

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Souvenirs by Keith C Chase


This is a story about luck and how it affects the minds of a mythical group of American Army infantrymen. It is also the story of a young Corporal struggling to retain his sanity after two years of combat. The story takes place in October 1944 where the Americans are attempting to surround the city of Aachen, Germany; had the attempt on Hitler's life three months earlier been successful, hundreds of lives would have been saved as there would have been no need for the desperate battles of that fall.

I had just completed a one year seven month tour of duty providing security at the American Embassy, Bonn, West Germany. This will be a book too someday. I returned stateside on Dec. 27, 1983. I had spent years researching the interesting yet terrible and tragic history of W.W. 2 and the Third Reich. Not only had I been immersed in European New Wave and the huge cold war missile deployment situation and many other things but it never left my thoughts that all of these issues were taking place directly in the shadows of the then not so old Nazi era.

I shall add that I and all of my German friends were anti Nazi and anti communist. I wanted a direct link to the Germans and Americans who fought the war . I wanted the bloodshed and hatred but also examples of mercy and goodwill that also took place in that sad and massive war. I was myself on a big and never ending quest for W.W. 2 German military items. Much to my sorrow most of West Germany had been picked clean by the time I was selected to pull duty there. I decided in 1984 when I went back to live with my then German girlfriend that a realistic war novel about German souvenirs would be great. To the best of my knowledge no writer had ever examined such a plot. All historical aspects had to be accurately covered. I am obligated and honored to declare that without the support of Rita Rittinga and her brother, Erich and his family of Aachen, Souvenirs would have taken much longer to accomplish.

By 1985 I had interviewed many American vets in addition to a great many former German soldiers. Something most positive was an almost complete lack of any remaining animosity or hatred from these men. This new information was combined with info I had gleaned from American vets I spoke with while growing up in the 60's and 70's. I also hiked through many of the old battle sites, and I'm not talking about those nice, marked, easy to find trails either! I did not want to create characters, rather I must have totally understandable "real," "story people with their very own concerns and souls". Then I need, for example, the reader to be just as chilly, fearful, tired and angry as our story people are. Finally, I must have the correct slang, movies ,music, and lifestyles, not to mention those people and loved ones they also left behind.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Strategos - Rise of the Golden Heart by Gordon Doherty

After leaving Apion in a very, very dark place at the end of Strategos: Born in the Borderlands, I often wondered not where I would take him next, but where I would find him when I returned to the story to write this second volume. The cliff-hanger ending to the first volume was a tempting place to pick up again, but I quickly realised that Apion's story demanded something different.
Indeed, having read David Gemmell's classic 'Midnight Falcon', I marvelled at how the author had effortlessly stepped several years ahead from where the previous volume, 'Sword in the Storm', left off. Much had happened in the intervening years. Richly painted and seemingly iron-willed characters had been demoted to mere background figures. The world had changed. But had the author made that choice, or had Connovar and Bane chosen for him?
I knew that Apion had to be closer to the tumultuous event around which the trilogy pivots: Manzikert. When, on the first day of my research into this period, I saw the announcement that Michael Attaleiates' History - an eyewitness account of Manzikert and the campaigns of the preceding years - had been translated into English, I sensed the hand of fate on my shoulder. I devoured Attaleiates' History in days, reading of the rise of an emperor who many thought could restore Byzantium to greatness, and of his perilous campaigns into Seljuk Syria. So it was, then, that Apion's destiny was to become entwined in this brutal and treacherous period . . . "

Future Fans of Gordon's books, or those interested in the history of the Britons, the Rigante, The Macedonians or the Trojans might also be interested in these posts on this blog: 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Quaker Trilogy by Ann Turnbull

Some stories take a long time to grow. For a few years in the 1980s I attended Quaker meetings, and it was from the books in the local meeting’s library that I first learned about the origins of the Quakers in the 17th century. Those early Quakers insisted that people had no need of “hireling priests”, and their meetings were held in silence which could be broken by anyone, male or female, who felt moved to speak. They refused to pay church tithes, used the informal “thee” and “thou” to everyone, and would not doff their hats, even to those in authority. They were considered such a threat to church and state that they were subjected to relentless persecution. I was amazed to learn of their courage and the turmoil created by their radical beliefs.

No Shame, No Fear
grew out of this reading and my personal involvement with Quakers, but it was nearly twenty years before I began writing the book. Until then, I had always written for children, but this was to be a young adult novel - a love story. Fifteen-year-old Susanna, the eldest child of a Quaker weaver in rural Shropshire, goes to live and work in town. There she meets Will, the son of a wealthy wool merchant – a scholarly, thoughtful youth, brought up an Anglican but drawn to the Quakers. As the repression of Quaker meetings grows worse, Susanna and Will struggle to uphold their beliefs and stay together.

I started writing without knowing exactly how the story would unfold, or what decisions Will and Susanna would make. When I reached the end I knew I had to write a sequel.

Forged in the Fire starts with Will and Susanna’s attempts to reunite and marry, and continues with the horrors of the plague and Newgate prison, and then the Great Fire of London and its aftermath. No Shame, No Fear had been a difficult book to write as I struggled to find my characters and story. Forged in the Fire was easier. I knew what I had to do; I knew and loved my characters; and I had the bonus of great and terrifying events for them to live through. It was a wonderfully exciting book to write.

Seeking Eden was written much later. A third book – in which Will and Susanna and their children would emigrate to Philadelphia – had always nudged at me, wanting to be written. By the 1680s the suffering of Quakers had increased. William Penn, a wealthy and inspirational Quaker, acquired a large tract of land in America and founded the colony of Pennsylvania as a “holy experiment”, based on Quaker philosophy. This seemed a likely time for Will and Susanna to go. And yet I hesitated. These two dearly loved characters would now be in the background; Josiah, their son, would be the main character. And I was not familiar with America and its colonial history. Could I pull it off?

But the idea would not go away, and at last I gave in and began to read more on the subject. I discovered that there were already Quakers living in the American colonies – quite large numbers of them in Maryland and Barbados. It was a time when the slave trade with Africa was growing fast – and I was astonished to discover that many Quakers kept slaves. I knew then that I had found my story. Seeking Eden takes Josiah from London to an apprenticeship with a merchant in the New World – and face to face with the evil of slavery.

All three books can be read as stand-alone novels, and adults enjoy them as much as teenagers. New paperback editions were published in 2012, and e-book editions will be coming out this summer.

"I felt that I had entered the Garden of Eden and found the serpent coiled at its heart." 

For up-to-date news on my books visit

or my website:

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The First Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson

When people look incredulous and ask, ‘What on earth possessed you to write about John Knox?’ I usually answer, ‘He did.’ For the founding father of the Scottish Reformation is not the most obvious choice for a hero, nor was he foremost in my mind when I started writing my novel. For me, growing up in Scotland Knox was a pulpit-thumping tyrant, a cartoon Calvinist who hated women and banned not only Christmas but playing football on Sundays. Besides, the tragic, romantic figure of Mary Queen of Scots had always held far more fascination for me than the dour Scottish reformer. But it was a series of coincidences that led to the ghost of Knox hijacking my original project.
I’d been doing some research into the Treaty of Haddington, signed in 1548 betrothing Mary to the dauphin of France, when I came across a surprising story. In the local archives I read an article about Elisabeth Hepburn, prioress of St Mary’s Abbey at the time of the treaty who had been forced into becoming a nun to protect the Hepburn family interests at this wealthy convent. Clearly she did not buckle down to a life of quiet contemplation for she was later accused of a certain misdemeanour. This made me eager to find out more about this feisty, free-spirited woman.
It just so happened that I had studied 16th century Scottish literature at university and was blown away by the works of these early writers, especially the playwright David Lindsay who wrote a scathing attack on the Roman Catholic Church, A Satire of the Three Estates. In his play he denounces a prioress for her immoral behaviour and I wondered if by any chance Elisabeth had inspired this character who cursed her friends for ‘compelling her to be a nun and would not let her marry’?
At the time Lindsay had been exiled to Garleton Castle just a few miles away from Haddington and it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that they had met. In fact, the novel, originally entitled The Abbess of Unreason, was going to focus on the intriguing relationship between these two characters.
I was then thrilled to find that Lindsay had urged Knox to preach his first sermon – to sound his first blast of the trumpet – against the Church of Rome at St Andrews shortly before he was arrested and sent to the galleys. Did Lindsay have more influence on Knox than many historians give him credit for? The radical ideas expressed in his play must have affected Knox. Perhaps he learned his preaching skills from the playwright and director, Lindsay. That, to me, suggested a close relationship and I was curious to know how and when it began.
Knox himself was notoriously tight-lipped about the first thirty years of his life. As far as he was concerned, he was born again when the Reformist preacher, George Wishart, pulled him from the ‘puddle of papistry’. What is known about his early life is that this poor orphan lad, born in Haddington in 1513 or 1514, was educated at the local grammar school and St Andrews University and that puzzled me. How could a man of base estate and condition’ have afforded an expensive education? Also unexplained was his relationship with the powerful Hepburn family, the earls of Bothwell. Unearthing these bare bones inspired me to flesh out a story with a dark secret at its centre.
It just so happens that in 2013 (or 2014 as some maintain) Knox will celebrate his 500th birthday and perhaps Knox thought it merited some kind of fanfare. He was certainly instrumental in changing the title which I borrowed from his polemical pamphlet The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. But unlike his misogynistic rant against female monarchs, my First Blast, the first of a trilogy of novels, does not rail against women but is an attempt to unveil the man behind the myth.
More information about the book

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Inceptio by Alison Morton

The world of INCEPTIO glimmered into life several decades ago. My father, a numismatist, had introduced me to history, especially the Roman world. So much so, that it seemed perfectly normal to clamber over Roman aqueducts, walk on mosaic pavements, follow the German limes, pretend I was a Roman playactor in classic theatres all over Europe from Spain to then Yugoslavia, from Hadrian’s Wall to Pompeii.

We were in north-east Spain one holiday. I was eleven and fascinated by the mosaics in the Roman part of Ampurias (a huge Graeco-Roman site). There were so many of them.  I wanted to know who had made them, whose houses they were in, who had walked on them. 

After my father had told me about traders, senators, power and families, I tilted my head to one side and asked him, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain, maybe early feminism surfacing or maybe it was just a precocious kid asking a smartarse question. But clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”

Real life intervened (school, university, career, military, marriage, parenthood, business ownership, move to France), but the idea bubbled away in my mind and the INCEPTIO story slowly took shape.

Although I specialised in languages, I was never free of the tug of history. As well as reading academic books and watching series of documentaries, I grabbed every historical fiction book that came my way from Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth via Jean Plaidy and Phillipa Gregory to C J Sansom’s Heartstone.

My mind was morphing the setting of ancient Rome into a new type of Rome, a state that survived the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire into the 21st century, but retained its Roman identity. And one where the social structure changed; women were going to be leading society. In my daydream haze, my heroine, Carina, was having all kinds of adventures, saving the world as well as herself. Of course, she’d be high-spirited, not stupid, but a bit rash and she’d make mistakes. Some of her conflicts would be personal and romantic - of course, there would be hero(es) -  some against the establishment of which she was a part. 

As I became an adult, I added in a lover for her, a blood–and-bone Roman; damaged, thus self-protective, even arrogant. And Carina would have been brought up elsewhere, just to introduce more conflict. A pleasant fantasy, she and Roma Nova were at this time firmly caged in my head while real life clunked along.

But one day, about three years ago, they flew out. What had opened the door?

Every Wednesday, I would go to the multiplex cinema with my husband on a 2-for-1 offer from our then mobile phone provider with a warm feeling that we were getting something back from the fortune they were making from our monthly contract.

 None of the films looked anything special, but we eventually chose one. Thirty minutes into the film, we agreed it was really, really bad. The cinematography was good, but the plot dire and narration jerky.
 ‘I could do better than that,’ I whispered in the darkened cinema.
 ‘So why don’t you?’ came my husband’s reply.

  Ninety days later, I’d written 96,000 words, the first draft of INCEPTIO.

Alison Morton

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Thursday, 28 March 2013

A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins

The crime at the heart of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate came to me when I was a graduate student in history.  I'd been pouring through ballads and broadsides—the penny press that served as both a source of exaggerated news and a cheap entertainment in seventeenth-century England—and I was struck by the same story that appeared again and again.

These “true accounts” would speak of a woman who’d been found stabbed in a secluded glen or a deserted field. In her pocket, the investigating authorities often found a letter, purportedly from the killer. In this letter, he would usually tell his victim to meet him at ‘such-and-such deserted location.’  Then he would sign the letter, with either his given name or his initials. 

The case seemed open and shut.

Yet, every time I read one of these accounts, I had to wonder:  Why didn’t the killer search his victim for incriminating evidence before he fled the scene? Didn’t it ever occur to him that she might bring the letter—you know, the one with his initials—with her to their rendezvous? I also would wonder: Why did the victims agree to meet these killers? Or perhaps, most simply of all, was some other chap being framed for the crime?

No matter what, the story was not just sad, but incomplete.

In some ways, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate became the answer to the questions that never got asked--Who was this woman? Why had she agreed to meet her killer? Did she know him, or had she been tricked?
And perhaps most important of all—Would she get the justice she deserved?

I decided to focus my story around Lucy Campion, a seventeenth-century English chambermaid serving in the household of the local magistrate.  Lucy’s life is an endless repetition of polishing pewter, emptying chamber pots, and dealing with other household chores until a fellow servant is ruthlessly killed, and someone she loves is wrongly arrested for the crime. In a time where the accused are presumed guilty until proven innocent, lawyers aren’t permitted to defend their clients, and—if the plague doesn't kill them first—public executions draw a large crowd of spectators, Lucy knows she may never see her brother alive again. Unless, that is, she can identify the true murderer…before that murderer turns on her.

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Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Owl of the Durotriges by Yassmin Sanders

I started writing The Owl of the Durotriges after completing a degree in Archaeology and Classical History at Canterbury in 2008.  I undertook the part-time degree for curiosity and interest rather than a career choice.  My specialist area was deposition in boundaries but the more I read about the late Iron Age, the more fascinated I became with the era in general.  Archaeology tells us about social history rather than the history of kings and queens and I was able to imagine how the people lived at that time.  At the end of the degree I realised that I would lose this knowledge unless I put it to good use and kept up the reasearch and so I began writing.
I was fascinated by the fact that there was a roaring trade between Hengistbury Head and Brittany well before the Romans arrived and I wanted to challenge the classically-biased  belief that we were a bunch of barbarians before Caeser or Claudius.  I set the main action in Hengistbury Head and as soon as I began to write, the characters seemed to announce themselves on the page.  Chela, our heroine, is a healer.  I once trained as an aromatherapist and had to learn all about the medicinal uses of plants and herbs - this seemed an opportunity to make use of this knowledge too.  I also included druids but I wanted them to be politically active rather than simply a benign priesthood.  The story changed and had very many edits and re-edits until I was happy with it.  My main aim, however, was to tell a good story rather than use the book as a platform to promote the Iron Age. I hope I have succeeded, but that, of course, is up to the reader to say.
You can see more on my website:  

Monday, 25 February 2013

To the Fair Land by Lucienne Boyce

I sometimes wonder how I managed to combine all the elements of To The Fair Land – Grub Street, Captain Cook’s voyages, murder, fantasy, elopement, the search for the Great Southern Continent... It’s always hard to trace the beginning of something but I would say that the initial spark that eventually brought together these apparently disconnected themes came from Frances Burney, who is one of my literary heroines.

That initial glimmer was my fascination with the secrecy surrounding the publication of Frances Burney’s first novel, Evelina. The book was published anonymously to preserve the author’s modesty. Although there were many fine women novelists in the eighteenth century, attitudes towards them were often hostile and misogynistic. Women who wrote attracted criticism and notoriety which had more to do with their gender than their work, and no respectable woman would seek such attention.

It has also been suggested that the reason for Frances’s secrecy was that the Burneys wished to avoid attracting undue attention to themselves because of certain shocking family secrets. Two of Frances’s step-sisters eloped, and her brother Charles was sent down from Cambridge University for theft. Later, scandal surrounded her elder brother James and half-sister, Sarah, who was also a novelist. I’m not convinced by this argument: these dreadful family secrets were no barrier to her father continuing to write and publish his work – with the unpaid help of Frances as his secretary.

Be that as it may, it was the secrecy about the authorship of Evelina which intrigued me. I began to wonder what would happen if a book was published with more at stake than a reputation. I started to imagine the possibility of a publication that meant real danger to people connected with it. But what could be so important? Again, I found the clues in Frances Burney’s novels and diaries. Her brother James served in the Resolution on Captain Cook’s second voyage; Frances herself met the Tahitian Omai who was brought back to England by the explorers.

Then there was the lure of the Great Southern Continent. I’ve always been fascinated by mythical lands – the island of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Richard Brome’s The Antipodes, Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s Herland, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, William Morris’s Wondrous Isles, C S Lewis’s Narnia, El Dorado, Camelot...all the dystopias and utopias and lands of fabulous wealth that mankind has dreamed of for centuries. (Now we put them on other planets!)

Since the time of Pythagoras, people had believed in the existence of the Great Southern Continent – or Great South Land – which they thought lay in the southern hemisphere. Many navigators went in search of it: Marco Polo, Amerigo Vespucci and Magellan; Dampier and Wallis of England; Bougainville of France. In 1765 Admiral Byron thought he glimpsed this “continent of great extent never yet explored”.

What could be more exciting? The quest for new lands – perilous voyages – scandalous secrets – it was all there! At stake are lives, fortunes, even the fate of a nation…so Ben Dearlove, the hero of To The Fair Land, faces violence, murder and imprisonment because of his obsession with a book about a voyage to the Great Southern Continent. The heroine, Sarah Edgcumbe, is a homeless wanderer who has to conceal the truth about her past. She’s also named, by the way, after Sarah Burney and like her namesake is a writer.

The last great navigator to set sail in search of the Great Southern Continent was Captain James Cook. On both his first and second voyages he was instructed by the Admiralty to search for it, and it was he who demonstrated, once and for all, that it did not exist. But in 1772 his second voyage had only just begun and it was still possible to believe that the Continent existed. So it was at this point in history that I set the events at the heart of To The Fair Land.

To The Fair Land is available in paperback and also as an ebook for Kindle and non Kindle users.

Read an extract at

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Wild Heart by Gina Rossi

Southern Africa encompasses a vast and beautiful series of interchanging landscapes, a wealth of culture and a million secrets. It is the cradle of civilization and a cultural melting pot. It's a darkly glamorous, wild, romantic world. 

I've always wanted to write an historical novel and have read, literally, hundreds. I adore the regency romances, the Edwardian historicals and the fabulous tales of royalty through the ages, but I wanted to do something different. I lived in South Africa for many years and understand (and have witnessed) some of the struggles of that continent. However, those valiant struggles aside, I wanted a feelgood story to come out of Africa. It's time for that. 

So, from the golden age of Dutch and French influence on the 18th Century Cape of Good Hope, comes the story of Georgina Blake, a refined young woman from Wiltshire who commits a social and moral blunder and finds herself cast adrift, alone, in the savage African landscape.

Gina Rossi was born in South Africa. She grew up in Johannesburg and lived in Cape Town before moving to England to live near Oxford, in the Cotswolds. 

Now settled in the sunny south of France, Gina is able to write full time. Her debut historical romance 'The Wild Heart' was listed for the 2012 Joan Hessayon award. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) in the UK, and the Romance Writers Organization of South Africa (ROSA)

Follow Gina on twitter: @Ginagina7 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Coachman by Sue Millard

In 1994 a neighbour of ours asked me to transcribe a letter written by her great-grandfather William James Chaplin. A bookseller had bought it at auction and brought to show her. Neither of them could read his writing. I could… and that long, rambling letter with its air of ‘one-too-many-ports-after-dinner’ gave me the idea for the novel.
William Chaplin was a huge force in the London coaching business in the 1820s and 30s, yet the few stories about him that are recorded in books by his contemporaries all show him in an affectionate light. He was largely responsible for the abolition of heavy brutal driving whips in London’s coaching trade, and his vision was so clear that when the railways began to challenge his trade he was immediately stepped back, sold all his coaches and rebuilt his business on new lines. A thoroughly solid, sound, clever fellow.
When I realised how damn boring that story would be – Dallas with only the nice bits on display – I knew I had to invent someone humbler, so I could show what might have happened to the drivers, stablemen and horses when railways took the heart out of their daily life. Many of the drivers I mention in Coachman were real people in the Golden Age of Coaching, and some, such as Cross, wrote autobiographies during their twilight years for the benefit of Coaching Revivalists in later Victorian times. Their anecdotes were rich sources for this novel.
I thoroughly enjoyed the research that has been necessary, from the theatre productions of London to the beginnings of the railways and the changing business plans of the Royal Mail. The task was made much easier by the digitizing of old and expensive books by the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg, while the British Postal Museum and Archive were helpful in providing photocopies of such material as the instructions and route for the last-ever Procession of Mail Coaches on 17th May 1838. The icing on the cake was the drawing of the Procession by John Sturgess in my copy of The Coaching Age in 1885. It’s not a truly contemporary image but it captures the flavour of the scene beautifully and it made a perfect cover.
The setting among horses and coaches was easy to write about because I have been a carriage driver myself since 1985. Horses still work and misbehave in the same ways today as they did then, so speeds and difficulties were not hard to imagine. To get the full flavour of riding on a coach behind a four in hand I took part in a coaching run between Newcastle and Carlisle in 2011, with the Bowman family from Penrith. They are leading lights in the North West Driving Club and known internationally in competitive driving, and I have shamelessly stolen one or two of the comments that they have let slip over the years.
I have given George Davenport some rather forward-looking attitudes, such as his reluctance to be cruel to horses to get the work out of them that his timetable demanded. Such kindness was probably not typical of most men of his time, but I needed it to make him a warmer character, because his dedication to driving was obviously going to be a rich source of conflict with the women in his life. I gave him the name of my own great-grandfather, because he was a coachman in domestic service, though he didn’t work a commercial route, and he lived 50 years after Chaplin’s time. Although his wife, my great-grandmother, really was called Lucy Hennessy, she didn’t live in Carlisle and my relatives will no doubt be relieved to hear that I have completely invented her unpleasant mother and their unsavoury history.
As for the rest of the cast, I am grateful to Jennie Hill for permission to write the novel and for giving me a copy of Chaplin’s family tree. He had 16 children, of whom Sarah was the only one of his children who died unmarried (Rosa died aged 8 and Horace died in infancy). Nothing else is known about Sarah, so I could safely invent whatever reasons I liked to account for her spinster status. A former coachman remarked that Chaplin’s business was founded on “systematic application ... in which the female members of the family were called to assist,” so I decided to make her obsessed with business and power, determined not to lose them by marriage and yet tormented by physical desires that – due to the strict notions of propriety at that time – she had little hope of satisfying. The temptation to move the newly-married George to London, to hold Lucy back with illness and leave him within reach of such a woman as Sarah was quite irresistible.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Royalist Rebel by Anita Seymour

During the early days of the English Civil Wars, Elizabeth Murray lived at Ham House on the River Thames near Richmond with her mother and three younger sisters while her father, William Murray, was a Gentleman of the Bedchamber at the exiled court of Charles I in Oxford.

In the winter of 1643 as the war edged closer, Catherine Murray took her daughters to Oxford, where they lived amongst impoverished and dispossessed Royalists gathered round King Charles, who plotted to regain London and his throne.

Reputed to be Oliver Cromwell’s mistress as well as a spy for the Royalist secret organisation The Sealed Knot, Elizabeth married twice and died in 1698 at 72 years old, alone, embittered and impoverished in her beloved Ham House. Vilified by society and abandoned by her children, the triumphs of her remarkable life largely forgotten.

If you visit Ham House, which has been restored to the way it looked during Elizabeth’s lifetime, this is the woman the guides talk about; an irascible, embittered widow stripped of her glory and reduced to genteel poverty in her beloved childhood home. They run ghost evenings at Ham, where tales of sightings of the old lady’s spirit that roams the mansion tapping the floors with her stick, her small dog at her side while the scent of attar of roses permeates her favourite rooms announcing her presence.

In the gallery is this portrait of Elizabeth, painted by Sir Peter Lely when she was eighteen. This was the young woman I wanted to discover and subsequently began writing about - the beautiful, intelligent and passionate young girl on the verge of womanhood who was dedicated to Ham House, the Royalist cause and the men in her life; her father William Murray, son of a minister who rose to become King Charles’ friend and confidant, Lionel Tollemache, her husband of twenty years who adored her, Oliver Cromwell who was fascinated by her, and John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale, Charles II’s favourite on whom he heaped honours and riches, only to ostracise him after a bitter quarrel.

Royalist Rebel is the story of that girl.

Release date January 17 2013

Royalist Rebel Blog-
Ham House Website

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Ripples in the Sand by Helen Hollick

Ripples In The Sand is the fourth voyage in my Sea Witch historical adventure series and I wanted to write something a little different from the previous three – albeit keeping the same flavour of swashbuckling pirate-based action.

I also wanted to bring in some of Tiola’s past; as she is now Jesamiah’s wife, I think she deserves to come to the fore a little. We know a lot about Jesamiah Acorne from voyages one, two, and three, but not why he and she are “soul mates” – nor why Tethys, Goddess of the Sea wants Jesamiah so desperately for her own.

I also wanted to bring the characters to England – for no other reason than, for me, it is easier to research Devon than it is the Caribbean!

Without giving any spoilers, I had the idea of Tiola being able to look back into the past some while ago, and this gave me the opportunity to research some history of Appledore, Bideford and Barnstaple – blending small scenes of the past into the “present” (well, 1719!) history.

I have even managed to bring into this story a snippet from my novel about King Harold II of England. (Harold the King – UK title; I am the Chosen King – US title) He landed in Devon circa 1053, returning from a year of exile after a squabble between his father and King Edward the Confessor. It was great fun to include one of my favourite historical fiction characters in this story!

As usual Captain Acorne finds himself in trouble, even though he is trying to become a respectable merchant trader. But will that pirate rogue ever become respectable and live without trouble following behind like a ship’s wake?