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