Today, I’m delighted to feature Love in A Time of War by Adrienne Chinnn on the blog

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Adrienne Chinn to the blog with a fascinating post about the role of photography in her new book, Love in A Time of War.

Photography plays an important role in Love in a Time of War, the first of three books in The Three Fry Sisters series. In this novel, Gerald Fry, the three sisters’ father, runs a small family photography studio in south London, where he spends his days recording the lives of the local community. Gerald has followed his father, Frederick Fry, into the photography business, and embraces the creativity his profession provides him, even becoming a court photographer for King Edward VII early in his career. His love of photography is shared by his eldest daughter, Celie, whom he trains as his assistant. He encourages her to take the photographs of the steady stream of soldiers wanting portraits to send to their families, despite the fact that the idea of a professional female photographer is considered by many to be odd in the extreme. When Gerald recognises Celie’s talent, he gifts her with a new portable camera and encourages her to explore the world around her and develop her creative “eye”. 

For both Addy Percival in The Lost Letter and Celie Fry in Love in a Time of War, photography provides them with the opportunity to experience the world in unique ways and to become self-actualised women. For photographer Addy, she decides to visit Morocco to take photographs for her first photo exhibition, and finds herself deeply involved with an Amazigh family in the Morocco mountains; for Celie, photography is the path through which she grows as a person as her skills lead her to a job as a photojournalist for a London newspaper where she ends up documenting the lives of Londoners during the war years. 

I have been fortunate to be exposed to photography from an early age through the albums kept by my great-grandfather, Frederick Fry, who was himself a court photographer for King Edward VII, with one of his tasks being travelling around Britain to record the towns and villages of the day. My great-grandmother, Caroline, often joined him on these adventures, and shows up quite regularly in his photographs, for instance, a country bridge in Ecclestone Glen, or under the shade of trees in a bluebell wood in Sussex. My grandfather also photographed his family quite regularly, and it’s because of him that I have so many wonderful photographs of my grandmother, Edith, and her sister May and brother Fred, as well as my grandmother Caroline and his second wife, Cecilia.

It seemed inevitable, as I sat down to draft out the structure of Love in a Time of War, that one of the main characters would be a photographer, given how key photography has been in my own family’s history. I have always found these portrait photographs of the late 1800s and early 1900s so evocative; if eyes are the window to the soul, then photography opens the window for us in a way that paint can’t quite capture. For a novelist like me, these images send out an invitation to explore and once more bring to life the lives of people who still have things to tell us if we only stop and listen.

I have included a few of my great-grandfather, Frederick Fry’s photographs which helped me reach back and recreate an era that ended long before I was born.

1. My great-aunt, Ethel May Fry, known as May.

2. My grandmother, Edith Adelaide Fry Chinn, in 1904 at the age of 20.

3. My great-grandfather, Frederick Fry, the photographer.

4. My great-step-grandmother, Cecilia Fry.

Thank you so much for sharing such a fascinating post about your new book. Early photographs are so interesting. I’ve just been given one of my great-grandmother from the 1910s. Good luck with the new book.

Three sisters

The Great War

The end of innocence…

In 1913, in a quiet corner of London, the three Fry sisters are coming of age, dreaming of all the possibilities the bright future offers. But when war erupts their innocence is shattered and a new era of uncertainty begins.

Cecelia loves Max but his soldier’s uniform is German, not British, and suddenly the one man she loves is the one man she can’t have.

Jessie enlists in the army as a nurse and finally finds the adventure she’s craved when she’s sent to Gallipoli and Egypt, but it comes with an unimaginable cost.

Etta elopes to Capri with her Italian love, Carlo, but though her growing bump is real, her marriage certificate is a lie.

As the three sisters embark on journeys they never could have imagined, their mother Christina worries about the harsh new realities they face, and what their exposure to the wider world means for the secrets she’s been keeping…

Purchase Links

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Meet the author

Adrienne Chinn was born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, grew up in Quebec, and eventually made her way to London, England after a career as a journalist. In England she worked as a TV and film researcher before embarking on a career as an interior designer, lecturer, and writer. When not up a ladder or at the computer writing, she often can be found rummaging through flea markets or haggling in the Marrakech souk. Her second novel, The English Wife — a timeslip story set in World War II England and contemporary Newfoundland — was published in June 2020 and has become an international bestseller. Her debut novel, The Lost Letter from Morocco, was published by Avon Books UK in 2019. Her latest novel, Love in a Time of War, set during WWI, is the first in a series of three books based around the changing lives of three English sisters and their half-Italian mother, with a timeslip to 1890s Capri and London. 

Connect with Adrienne 

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Love in a Time of War blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources.

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Mercedes Rochelle to the blog with her new book, A King Under Siege.

Your book, A King Under Siege, sounds fascinating. Can you share with me what the first idea was that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious, if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?

Shakespeare and A King Under Siege

Back in my college days, I watched the new BBC Shakespeare Production of Richard II with Derek Jacobi. I had never heard of Richard, but I watched this play with growing fascination and by the end, when he sat in prison bemoaning the fate of kings, I was smitten. You know, I carried him around with me for over forty years, intending to write his story someday. 

At the time, I didn’t realize that Shakespeare only covered the last three years of Richard’s life in the play. I had no idea what I was in for: first the Peasants’ Revolt then the Lords Appellant (and the Merciless Parliament) putting Richard’s friends and advisors to death. His story was much more complicated than I ever imagined. And of course, it helped explain the events in Shakespeare’s play—especially the exile of Henry Bolingbroke, which was kind of “out of left field” to me. In fact, I would say that events during Richard’s reign deserved more than one play, but there’s a possibility that Shakespeare might have upset the queen if he had done so. He barely managed to stay out of jail as it was—especially after the Earl of Essex used his play to promote his ill-fated rebellion.

But I digress. Suffice it to say that Shakespeare’s play actually depicted events in my next book, THE KING’S RETRIBUTION. So I had to go back and start from the beginning. At first, I was going to gloss over the Peasants’ Revolt, but frankly I found it too interesting to ignore. Wat Tyler and John Ball were giant personalities, and their revolt shook medieval society to its core. And indeed, I think Richard’s actions revealed his courage under fire—a trait so important to kingship. Too bad he was only fourteen and under the thumb of his elders who were quick to downplay his accomplishments. 

Froissart-JohnBall-BL-Royal 18 E I f. 165v

But it wasn’t until I unearthed the whole Lords Appellant episode that I understood how Richard’s personality got warped. He lost everyone who was important to him—except for his wife—and was humiliated to the point of almost losing his crown. No wonder he felt the need to wreak revenge. It’s a marvel he waited so long. I believe the untimely death of Queen Anne removed the most effective brake on his unwholesome tendencies. 

So Shakespeare, who began his play with the famous scene where Bolingbroke and Mowbray accused each other of treason, showed us the beginning of the end. Their unfortunate quarrel gave Richard the opportunity to get rid of the last two Appellants who almost destroyed his kingship. He had already taken his revenge on the other three, the Duke of Gloucester (whose unavenged murder is referenced several times in the play without explanation), the Earl of Arundel (who was executed) and the Earl of Warwick (who was degraded and imprisoned). Exiling Bolingbroke and Mowbray gave Richard great satisfaction, and Gaunt’s death shortly thereafter clinched his triumph when he confiscated Bolingbroke’s inheritance. 

I always wondered whether the Elizabethans knew the history behind Shakespeare’s plays (for instance, did they know Banquo in Macbeth was the ancestor of the Stewarts?). In Richard II’s case, the play works as it is very well, but a knowledge of its background makes it even more comprehensible. I watched the play often while writing this book (and afterwards), and each time I saw it I caught something new. Needless to say, the same qualifies for Henry IV, as I was soon to discover!

Thank you so much for sharing. I think Shakespeare has a lot to be blamed for. His tendency to play around with details of the past is as fascinating as the events he depicts. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:


Richard II found himself under siege not once, but twice in his minority. Crowned king at age ten, he was only fourteen when the Peasants’ Revolt terrorized London. But he proved himself every bit the Plantagenet successor, facing Wat Tyler and the rebels when all seemed lost. Alas, his triumph was short-lived, and for the next ten years he struggled to assert himself against his uncles and increasingly hostile nobles. Just like in the days of his great-grandfather Edward II, vengeful magnates strove to separate him from his friends and advisors, and even threatened to depose him if he refused to do their bidding. The Lords Appellant, as they came to be known, purged the royal household with the help of the Merciless Parliament. They murdered his closest allies, leaving the King alone and defenseless. He would never forget his humiliation at the hands of his subjects. Richard’s inability to protect his adherents would haunt him for the rest of his life, and he vowed that next time, retribution would be his.

Buy Links:

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Meet the Author

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 by 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.

Connect with Mercedes

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the A King Under Siege blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m reviewing A Night of Flames by Matthew Harffy as part of the new release #Blog Tour #Aries

Here’s the blurb

In the wild lands of Norway, Hunlaf must quell a vicious slave uprising in Matthew Harffy’s new historical adventure.

A wild land. A lethal fanatic. A violent revolt.

Northumbria, AD 794. Those who rule the seas, rule the land. None know the truth of this more than the Vikings. To compete with the seafaring raiders, the king of Northumbria orders the construction of his own longships under the command of oath-sworn Norseman, Runolf.

When the Vikings attack again, the king sends cleric turned warrior, Hunlaf, on a mission to persuade the king of Rogaland into an alliance. But Hunlaf and Runolf have other plans; kin to seek out, old scores to settle, and a heretical tome to find in the wild lands of the Norse.

Their voyage takes them into the centre of a violent uprising. A slave has broken free of his captors and, with religious fervour, is leading his fanatical followers on a rampage – burning all in his path. Hunlaf must brave the Norse wilderness, and overcome deadly foes, to stop this madman. Can he prevent a night of flames and slaughter?

Review

A Night of Flames returns fans to the world of Hunlaf and Runolf. While book 1 focused on the initial raids against Lindisfarne, book 2, eventually, takes the reader further away to seek out the home of the Raiders. An intriguing idea, and an interesting way of keeping with the same characters, when there’s such a huge historical gap between those first raids, and the later, more sustained ones.

Throughout the book, Hunlaf constantly questions himself – is he a warrior or is he a man of God? There are some illusions, through foreshadowing in the narrative, to possible future adventures for Hunlaf, far from the shores of Northumbria. But for now, we have Hunlaf’s accounting of the building of a ship to brave the Whale Road, and the journey he subsequently takes, via Orkney to Norway. It’s a slow burner. Not until nearly halfway through the book does Hunlaf reach his destination. And even there, his journey isn’t at an end, and nor are the perils he must face.

The author, admits, in the endnotes, that this book is big on the fiction. This is understandable. There’s so little information about events at this time, and I confess to feeling a little sorry for him having to pick a new thread for this story of the late eighth century. It would be ‘easier’ to choose a later period when more is known, and yet, equally, it allows for much wider scope. Hunlaf and his fellow warriors aren’t constrained by history to perform certain tasks.

Fans of the author are sure to enjoy book 2 in Hunlaf’s story. Book 3 promises to take readers even further afield, and I look forward to it.

A Night of Flames is released tomorrow, March 3rd 2022. Preorder now. Unless you’re reading this after March 3rd and then it will be available anyway:)

About the author

Matthew Harffy grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him. He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters. 

Pre-order links

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3sOTmAe

Follow Matthew

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Website: www.matthewharffy.com

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Twitter: @AriesFiction

Facebook: Aries Fiction

Website: http://www.headofzeus.com

Today, I’m welcoming Juliane Weber to the blog with a post about her new book, Under the Emerald Sky, and how she came to write it

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Juliane Weber to the blog. I love her story of becoming ‘the accidental novel(ist).’

The accidental novel(ist) 

I seem to have done quite a few things in my life by accident, or at least, without a great deal of planning. When I was at school, I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation and eventually decided to go to university and study my favourite subject, which happened to be biology. This ultimately led me to completing a PhD in physiology, which in turn resulted in me accidentally becoming a medical writer and editor. 

During these various, unplanned activities, I continued—as I had been doing for many years—to read a lot of books! While at university I discovered the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon, which turned out to be some of my favourite books. When I found out that Diana Gabaldon is a scientist turned novelist, I thought: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could also write a book one day? That was the first time I ever thought about writing a novel. I immediately knew that I would write historical fiction with a dose of romance but had no idea when or where the story would take place. 

Over the next few years, my hypothetical novel remained frequently in my thoughts, but I kept waiting for inspiration to come as to the actual content. 

Some brilliant moment of enlightenment perhaps? 

A scene that would come to me in a dream? 

A character that would emerge from the depths of my mind, sparking an idea?

Unfortunately, none of these things occurred… 

The turning point came in 2016, when I moved with my family from South Africa, where I had lived for most of my life, to Germany, where I was born. Before I knew it, I found myself in a town I’d never heard of before, with two small children, a dog and a cat that had travelled with us, and a husband who had to spend most of his time away from home for work. 

Peculiarly, during this fairly stressful time, I became quite obsessed with writing my book! (Clearly, my mind was seeking an escape…) When inspiration still eluded me, though, I turned to Google for help, where I searched for interesting times in history or some such. I immediately steered clear of several of the more popular historical eras—untrialled novelist that I was—but soon found myself drawn to another event of immense historical importance: the Irish Famine. Although I only had a vague idea of the subject from a long-ago history lesson, the Famine nevertheless intrigued me as a potential setting for my book. I liked the idea of the 19th century; I liked the idea of Ireland, with its beautiful scenery and its myths and legends; and I liked the idea of writing about a historical event that hadn’t been written about quite as much as some others. 

And so, finally, I had an idea! As to the details… 

You may have realised by now that I’m not one for meticulous planning (although I am actually a fairly organised person). The same was to be true for my novel writing, with nary an outline in sight! Having decided on a setting, though, I could at last contemplate my characters. Why not create a little conflict by having an Irishwoman and an Englishman take centre stage, I thought? And why not give the Irishwoman an Anglophobic brother to make things a bit more interesting? One idea led to the next and the next and so on. I had no exact plan but knew that I wanted my novel to include a sweeping love story, and to have the potential to make readers laugh out loud and to make them cry. And so, I wrote scenes as they came to me, with the story emerging little by little, until I realised that I was not, in fact, writing just one book but an entire series.  

I enjoyed every moment of writing Under the Emerald Sky in this meandering manner, as much for the joy of writing as for discovering myself how the story would end. I love the way it turned out, unplanned though it was! I continue writing in this fashion as I work on the second book in the series and wouldn’t have it any other way. 

As I’ve discovered: there is no single way of writing a good book!  

Thank you, MJ, for letting me share a little about my authoring journey on your blog today.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I love it. I think I can certainly see quite a lot of myself in there as well. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

He’s come to Ireland to escape his past. She’s trying to run from her future. 

It’s 1843 and the English nobleman Quinton Williams has come to Ireland to oversee the running of his father’s ailing estate and escape his painful past. Here he meets the alluring Alannah O’Neill, whose Irish family is one of few to have retained ownership of their land, the rest having been supplanted by the English over the course of the country’s bloody history. Finding herself drawn to the handsome Englishman, Alannah offers to help Quin communicate with the estate’s Gaelic-speaking tenants, as much to assist him as to counter her own ennui. Aware of her controlling brother’s hostility towards the English, she keeps her growing relationship with Quin a secret – a secret that cannot, however, be kept for long from those who dream of ridding Ireland of her English oppressors.

Among the stark contrasts that separate the rich few from the plentiful poor, Under the Emerald Sky is a tale of love and betrayal in a land teetering on the brink of disaster – the Great Famine that would forever change the course of Ireland’s history.

Trigger Warnings:

Violence, sexual content. 

Buy Links:

This novel is available to read for free with #KindleUnlimited subscription. 

Universal Book Link

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Meet the author

Juliane is actually a scientist. She holds degrees in physiology and zoology, including a PhD in physiology. During her studies she realised, however, that her passion lay not in conducting scientific research herself, but in writing about it. Thus began her career as a medical writer, where she took on all manner of writing and editing tasks, in the process honing her writing skills, until she finally plucked up the courage to write her first historical novel, Under the Emerald Sky. The book is the first in The Irish Fortune Series, which is set in 19th century Ireland around the time of the Great Famine.

Juliane lives with her husband and two sons in Hamelin, Germany, the town made famous by the story of the Pied Piper.

Connect with Juliane

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Under The Emerald Sky Blog Tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m welcoming Rob Samborn to the blog with his new book, The Prisoner of Paradise

Your book, The Prisoner of Paradise, sounds fascinating. Can you share with me what the first idea was that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious, if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?

Thank you for having me on your blog, MJ. I love this question. To answer, I need to provide some background on my book. 

The Prisoner of Paradise is a thriller blended with historical fiction and magical realism, about Nick and Julia O’Connor, an American couple who travel to Venice, Italy. 

After experiencing a traumatic head injury, Nick comes to believe that his true soul mate is not his wife, but a woman who has been trapped in Paradise, the world’s largest oil painting, created by Jacopo Tintoretto in 1592. 

Though Julia is understandably concerned for Nick’s welfare and wants to return home, Nick is adamant he has a connection with the woman in Paradise. He discovers an ancient secret society that developed a method of extracting people’s souls from their bodies. They trap the souls—which they claim are evil—in the two-dimensional prison.

Nick will do anything to free his soul mate, but freeing her means freeing all the souls—and the secret society will never let that happen.

So, where did the idea come from?

The kernel of the idea for The Prisoner of Paradise sprouted in Venice itself. If you’ve never been there, Venice is one of the most magical cities on the planet, even when it’s the height of summer and inundated with tourists. In low season, it’s not only magical but mysterious. 

The city is one thousand years old and built in a lagoon. Marble buildings, sidewalks, squares (piazzas) and everything else are resting on top of millions of petrified wooden pylons. 

Cars and any wheeled vehicles are prohibited.

The only mode of transportation is by boat or foot. There are dozens of bridges and the winding, maze-like streets are often just a few feet wide. 

Add to that a remarkably colorful history filled with legendary artists, architects, and events, and you have a story around every corner. 

One of these artists was Renaissance master Jacopo Tintoretto. So prolific, he was known as “The Furious Painter.”

His work is all over Venice but the best places to see it are The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) and Scuola Grande di San Rocco (School of St. Roch). 

The Scuola features dozens of Tintoretto paintings and many of them are mammoth in scale, including The Crucifixion, which includes nearly one hundred individuals of all ages, genders and races. While researching, I later discovered Paradise, a painting that includes thousands of people. The images are so lifelike, each could be an individual portrait.

It’s no secret that artists use models but I started wondering to what extent. Did Tintoretto have a line of people outside his studio? Unlikely. 

Did he create each one from his head?

Who were these people? Why were they chosen to be immortalized?

These questions led to an idea… 

Perhaps their souls were in the painting and their likenesses painted over their ethereal selves. And they were immortalized not for veneration, but rather imprisoned for all the world to see. 

And a story was born…

To learn more about The Prisoner of Paradise or to find purchase locations, visit www.robsamborn.com

Here’s the blurb:

The world’s largest oil painting. A 400-year-old murder. A disembodied whisper: “Amore mio.” My love.

Nick and Julia O’Connor’s dream trip to Venice collapses when a haunting voice reaches out to Nick from Tintoretto’s Paradise, a monumental depiction of Heaven. Convinced his delusions are the result of a concussion, Julia insists her husband see a doctor, though Nick is adamant the voice was real.

Blacking out in the museum, Nick flashes back to a life as a 16th century Venetian peasant swordsman. He recalls precisely who the voice belongs to: Isabella Scalfini, a married aristocrat he was tasked to seduce but with whom he instead found true love. A love stolen from them hundreds of years prior.

She implores Nick to liberate her from a powerful order of religious vigilantes who judge and sentence souls to the canvas for eternity. Releasing Isabella also means unleashing thousands of other imprisoned souls, all of which the order claims are evil.

As infatuation with a possible hallucination clouds his commitment to a present-day wife, Nick’s past self takes over. Wracked with guilt, he can no longer allow Isabella to remain tormented, despite the consequences. He must right an age-old wrong – destroy the painting and free his soul mate. But the order will eradicate anyone who threatens their ethereal prison and their control over Venice.

Trigger Warnings.

Violence, a rape scene, a torture scene.

Buy links:

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KoboApple BooksBarnes & Noble

Meet the author

In addition to being a novelist, Rob Samborn is a screenwriter, entrepreneur and avid traveler. He’s been to forty countries, lived in five of them and studied nine languages. As a restless spirit who can’t remember the last time he was bored, Rob is on a quest to explore the intricacies of our world and try his hand at a multitude of crafts; he’s also an accomplished artist and musician, as well as a budding furniture maker. A native New Yorker who lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, he now makes his home in Denver with his wife, daughter and dog. 

Connect with Rob

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Prisoner of Paradise blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m so excited to share my review for Foraging For Murder by Simon Whaley (I loved this book)

Here’s the blurb:

Foraging for Murder

MORTIFORDE’S FOOD FESTIVAL IS A RECIPE FOR MURDER.

Three butchers. Two deaths. One four-hundred-year-old grudge.

It’s Aldermaston’s first food festival as the Eighth Marquess of Mortiforde and it’s not going well. One butcher is missing. Another has been threatened. And the Vegetarian Society has been sent a meaty ultimatum. 

Meanwhile, Lady Mortiforde desperately needs her husband to find some wild boar meat for her savoury pie entry into the festival’s Bake Off competition.

When the Council’s Chief Archivist disappears, along with the Food History Marquee’s star attraction, a seventeenth-century recipe book, Aldermaston has all the ingredients of a murder mystery that’s been marinating for over four hundred years.

Can he find the missing butchers before it’s too late? Will Lady Mortiforde avoid a soggy bottom in the Bake Off competition? And why do all the butchers take their pet pigs for a walk in the woods at night?

Review

Wow. Foraging for Murder is a fantastic book. It’s stuffed with some very British quirkiness, rival butchers, an obnoxious new Chief Executive for the local Council, and a slightly bumbling, but good-hearted, member of the nobility, his wife, his eminently competent butler, as well as his extremely eccentric brother.

Genuinely, I can’t recommend this book enough. It made me laugh out loud and was a joy to read.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, and each character is well sketched, and unique. It’s filled with all the sorts of little details that I love – it has a strong historical element running through it, and of course, an ancient manuscript. It’s also filled with quirky little details, the sort of eccentric characters that make up a small community and yet none of it feels overcooked. And the mystery is both complex enough, and realistic enough, that you’re not going to quibble with the eventual resolution, even if we, as the readers, get there before the cast do.

I have book 1 in the series ready to read and I really hope we get more books featuring this wonderful cast. And wow, book 1 has an amazing opening chapter. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(I would just like to reassure that this book is not stuffed with animal butchery – in fact a few of the animals do get to star in it. There is some reference to parts of an animal when they’re no longer on that animal – if that makes sense. I don’t want to give anything away, but also, don’t want someone to stumble into the book unawares.)

For fellow readers, if you’ve read Skeltons Guide to Suitcase Murders then this will definitely appeal, even if it has a more modern setting. I’m so pleased I signed up for this book tour and had the opportunity to discover a wonderful book, and series, like this. As you can tell, I’m wildly excited about it.

Amazon Purchase Links 

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Meet the Author

Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Foraging for Murder is the second in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Foraging For Murder Blog Tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

Today, I’m delighted to showcase Rachel Brimble and her new book, A Very Modern Marriage, on the blog

Here’s the blurb:

He needs a wife…
Manchester industrialist William Rose was a poor lad from the slums who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, but in order to achieve his greatest ambitions he must become the epitome of Victorian respectability: a family man.

She has a plan…
But the only woman who’s caught his eye is sophisticated beauty Octavia Marshall, one of the notorious ladies of Carson Street. Though she was once born to great wealth and privilege, she’s hardly respectable, but she’s determined to invest her hard-earned fortune in Mr Rose’s mills and forge a new life as an entirely proper businesswoman.

They strike a deal that promises them both what they desire the most, but William’s a fool if he thinks Octavia will be a conventional married woman, and she’s very much mistaken if she thinks the lives they once led won’t follow them wherever they go.

In the third instalment of Rachel Brimble’s exciting Victorian saga series, The Ladies of Carson Street will open the doors on a thoroughly modern marriage – and William is about to get a lot more than he bargained for…

Purchase Links – http://mybook.to/modernmarriage

Meet the Author 

Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of over 25 published novels including the Ladies of Carson Street series, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin).

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world. 

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the A Very Modern Marriage blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Justin Newland to the blog with his book, The Coronation

Your book, The Coronation, sounds fascinating. What was the first idea that made you decide to write this story? 

To begin this, I’d like to describe how I work, how I come at or conceive my novels. I didn’t know this on my first novel, but have subsequently discovered this about how best I work, and how I best like to work.

So, to start, I tend to conceive the themes I want to explore in a story. Then I find the setting – the plot, the characters, the place, and the historical period – that best allows me to explore those themes and the message I want to put across. 

Before I talk about The Coronation, my third novel, I’d like to give a bit of background as to my own writing journey up to the time I conceived it.

My first novel, The Genes of Isis, was an epic fantasy set in Ancient Egypt, and a re-telling of the Biblical story of the flood. Its plot was loosely based on the myth of Isis and Osiris.

Then I wrote a historical fantasy, The Old Dragon’s Head. It’s set in the 1400’s in Ming Dynasty China on the far eastern end of the Great Wall, and explored the supernatural beliefs of the Chinese mindset of those times.

Egypt and China – two of the largest historical contributors to the mores of civilisation. 

Then, towards the end of 2017, I conceived the idea of a third novel, The Coronation

Looking back at my notes, I wanted one of the themes of the story to be about famine, not only physical famine but also the spiritual famine. I wanted to use physical famine as a metaphor for spiritual famine, such as we encounter everywhere in today’s world.

So, I had to find a period of history, or a setting, when famine was prevalent.

I wanted also to explore the Ancient Greek idea of Arcadia, of an unspoiled, harmonious living together of a people and the land, played out through custom and ceremony, poem and dressage, song and dance. And I wanted to find a recent time and a place in history when the Arcadian ideal was still alive and well. 

So, I also had to find a period of history when this Arcadian ideal was still alive and well and prospering. 

This led me to the 18th Century in Europe. 

It was a huge change-over, from feudal times to the beginning of the industrial era. It was time when there were few large cities, when people often only moved around within a 10- or 20-mile radius of their place of birth in all of their lives. It was a time when, in Europe, society was structured according to the Sachenspiegel, the Saxon Mirror, in the same way that God had ordered the Universe, from the stars down to the moon, from kings down to the peasants. This was a fixed, static view. In other words, people had to stay in and couldn’t move out of their strata of society, otherwise there would be upheaval and revolution.

It seemed to me that the Industrial Revolution had much to do with engendering that spiritual famine, so I looked for its genesis. 

It began with the so-called Newcomen Engine. 

Newcomen Steam Engine

This was a rather inefficient pump designed by a Devon pastor by the name of Thomas Newcomen. It was used to pump water out of Cornish tin mines. 

There’s a photo here showing a reconstruction of that engine.

That led me to research James Watt and the origins of his steam engine. I found that he didn’t invent the steam engine, but he simply improved on the existing design, i.e., the Newcomen Engine. 

So, in the 1760’s, James Watt made his discovery of the improvement to the efficiency of the steam engine, and we now live in the results of that, that is, we live in an industrialised society. That’s what we have inherited, whether we like it or not. 

But was that how it was meant to be? Because at the time, a time they now call the Great Enlightenment, there were great advances in science, in biology, in chemistry, and medical science. These helped dispel the mists of superstition enshrouding the people of the time, and which prevented further growth and development.

But were we, as a people, as a genus, meant to take the industrial route? Was there an alternative? It must have been there, so what was it, and why didn’t we take it? 

So, what was the ‘coronation’ alluded to in the book title? It wasn’t the coronation of a king or a queen or an emperor. So, what was it? Was it to do with the coronation of mankind, and if so, what form did that take? What did it, or would it look like, if mankind was crowned? And what did it have to do with the eagle? 

These were the themes which set me off researching Europe on the 18th Century, and the period of the Great Enlightenment. And if it really was just that, a Great Enlightenment, how come we aren’t living in a greatly enlightened society today? Why didn’t it progress and develop? And should that day ever come, what would it look like? And would we recognise it?

These were some of the questions I wanted to explore in the novel. 

Thank you so much for sharing. Your inspiration sounds fascinating. Good luck with the book.

Here’s the blurb

It is 1761. Prussia is at war with  Russia and Austria. As the Russian army occupies East Prussia, King Frederick the Great and his men fight hard to win back their homeland. 

In Ludwigshain, a Junker estate in East Prussia, Countess Marion von Adler celebrates an exceptional harvest. But it is requisitioned by Russian troops. When Marion tries to stop them, a Russian captain strikes her. His lieutenant, Ian Fermor, defends Marion’s honour and is stabbed for his insubordination. Abandoned by the Russians, Fermor becomes a divisive figure on the estate.

Close to death, Fermor dreams of the Adler, a numinous eagle entity, whose territory extends across the lands of Northern Europe and which is mysteriously connected to the Enlightenment. What happens next will change of the course of human history… 

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Meet the author

Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers – that’s history with a supernatural twist. His stories feature known events and real people from history which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural. He gives author talks and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio Bristol’s Thought for the Day. He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England. 

His Books

The Genes of Isis is a tale of love, destruction and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt. A re-telling of the Biblical story of the flood, it reveals the mystery of the genes of Isis – or genesis – of mankind. ISBN 9781789014860.

The novel is creative, sophisticated, and downright brilliant! I couldnt ask more of an Egyptian-esque book!” – Lauren, Books Beyond the Story.

The Old Dragons Head is a historical fantasy and supernatural thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and played out in the shadows the Great Wall of China. It explores the secret history of the influences that shaped the beginnings of modern times.  ISBN 9781789015829.

The author is an excellent storyteller.” – British Fantasy Society. 

Set during the Great Enlightenment, The Coronation reveals the secret history of the Industrial Revolution. ISBN 9781838591885.

The novel explores the themes of belonging, outsiders… religion and war…  filtered through the lens of the other-worldly.” – A. Deane, Page Farer Book Blog.

His latest, The Abdication (July, 2021), is a suspense thriller, a journey of destiny, wisdom and self-discovery. ISBN 9781800463950.  

“In Topeth, Tula confronts the truth, her faith in herself, faith in a higher purpose, and ultimately, what it means to abdicate that faith.” 

V. Triola, Coast to Coast.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Coronation Blog Tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m welcoming Susan Higginbotham to the blog with her new book, John Brown’s Women

Your book, John Brown’s Women , sounds fascinating. Can you share with me what the first idea was that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious, if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?

For example, my current book started off after watching an old Pathe TV show about making motorbikes and sidecars and has ended up as a 1940s mystery involving an unidentified body!

As a writer of biographical historical fiction, I seldom think up an idea for a novel out of the blue. Rather, something I read triggers me to learn more about a historical figure. In most cases, my curiosity having been sated, I move on, but in others, the character latches on to me and won’t give me any peace until I write about him or her.

My interest in John Brown was awakened when I moved a few years ago to a town in Maryland that’s just a few miles from Harpers Ferry. (Sadly, John Brown appears to have passed it by.) I dug out the family copy of Midnight Rising, Tony Horwitz’s gripping account of the Harpers Ferry raid, and was struck by one figure in particular—Annie, John Brown’s fifteen-year-old daughter, who served as her father’s lookout at the Maryland farm that Brown rented in preparation for the raid. Although most accounts of the raid touch on Annie’s role, Horwitz gave her more sustained attention, and I determined to learn more about her. Fortunately, Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz has written a study of the Brown women, The Tie That Bound Us, and that led me to more information about Annie. Though Annie never  published an account of her activities, she was generous in responding to Brown’s biographers, and her reminiscences and letters made for fascinating reading. Annie had an opinion on everything and a talent for pithy observations, and I was captivated by her. Writing to researcher Katherine Mayo in 1909, Annie spoke of her need to get off by herself in natural surroundings: “I always come back refreshed and with a better feeling towards God and the human race, for I do really sometimes get out of patience with Him and wonder why he created so many people that (it seems to me) would have been better left unborn. I have never been able to understand, why so many things, that ought not to be, exist.”

But as I began to research Annie’s story and to read more family letters: two other women intruded: Mary, John Brown’s stoic, strong wife, and refined, progressively-minded Wealthy, married to John Brown’s oldest son. They too wanted their stories told. Moreover, giving them leading roles would allow me to give a fuller view of John Brown. Mary had shared personal tragedies and financial setbacks with her husband, and Wealthy had been with the Brown men during the violent “Bleeding Kansas” years that set the stage for the Harpers Ferry raid. I ended up framing the novel so it begins and ends from Mary’s perspective, which I think worked artistically.

So Annie, no doubt to her chagrin, ended up having to share her story with others, as did Frances Brandon in my Tudor novel, Her Highness the Traitor, who found herself narrating alongside Jane Dudley. But Annie supplied me with the epigraph, giving her the first word, if not the last.

Annie Brown (Library of Congress)
Wealthy Brown (West Virginia State Archives)
Mary Brown (Library of Congress)

Thank you so much for sharing. I love it when characters have such a strong mind of their own. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

As the United States wrestles with its besetting sin—slavery—abolitionist John Brown is growing tired of talk. He takes actions that will propel the nation toward civil war and thrust three courageous women into history. 

Wealthy Brown, married to John Brown’s oldest son, eagerly falls in with her husband’s plan to settle in Kansas. Amid clashes between pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers, Wealthy’s adventure turns into madness, mayhem, and murder.

Fifteen-year-old Annie Brown is thrilled when her father summons her to the farm he has rented in preparation for his raid. There, she guards her father’s secrets while risking her heart. 

Mary Brown never expected to be the wife of John Brown, much less the wife of a martyr. When her husband’s daring plan fails, Mary must travel into hostile territory, where she finds the eyes of the nation riveted upon John—and upon her.

Spanning three decades, John Brown’s Women is a tale of love and sacrifice, and of the ongoing struggle for America to achieve its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Trigger Warnings:

Deaths of young children through illness or accidents (not graphically described); implied heavy petting involving a willing minor.

Buy Links:

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Meet the Author

Susan Higginbotham is the author of a number of historical novels set in medieval and Tudor England and, more recently, nineteenth-century America, including The Traitor’s WifeThe Stolen CrownHanging Mary, and The First Lady and the Rebel. She and her family, human and four-footed, live in Maryland, just a short drive from where John Brown made his last stand. When not writing or procrastinating, Susan enjoys traveling and collecting old photographs.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the John Brown’s Women blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m welcoming Griffin Brady to the blog with her new book, The Heart of a Hussar

Today, I’m welcoming Griffin Brady to the blog to discover the journey that led to her writing The Heart of a Hussar.

For decades, I’ve wondered if I could write a work of fiction. I didn’t think I had a story in me, but I decided to challenge myself anyway and find out if I could pen a story at least two hundred and fifty pages in length (this was before I knew about word counts!). 

I began with a story set in 1970s on a bleak island off of Nova Scotia. It was going to include some time travel elements, and I realized I needed to do some research on weapons of the 17th century. I don’t recall what words I typed in for my internet search that day, but several websites popped up, including one called “Bad*ss of the Week.” I clicked on the link and was led to a page about the Polish Winged Hussars. I had never heard of them, and I was fascinated! 

I’ve always been a sucker for tales of chivalrous knights, and here was an entire category I never knew existed before. So I read, and I read, and I read, and inspiration swamped me. Soon I was downloading books and historian’s works, devouring every scrap of information I could find. A fire had ignited inside me.

One night as my husband and I shared pizza lots of beer at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, the story that would become The Heart of a Hussar and A Hussar’s Promise tumbled out of my mouth. My husband grew more intrigued as I laid out the storyline, which further fanned the flames inside me. 

So I began to write, and write, and write. Before I knew it, my rough draft had swelled to over 1,400 pages. Thank goodness I had found a wonderful editor to help pare it down to a manageable level! The story is now a little over eight hundred pages long and is split into a duology. 

Thank you so much for sharing. Isn’t is strange where our research takes us! Good luck with the new book.

(Painting of a Polish Winged Hussar)

Here’s the blurb:

Poland is at war. He must choose between his lifelong ambition and his heart.

Exploiting Muscovy’s Time of Troubles, Poland has invaded the chaotic country. Twenty-two-year-old Jacek Dąbrowski is an honorable, ferocious warrior in a company of winged hussars—an unrivaled, lethal cavalry. When his lieutenant dies in battle, Jacek is promoted to replace him, against the wishes of his superior, Mateusz, who now has more reason to eliminate him. 

Jacek dedicates his life to gaining the king’s recognition and manor lands of his own. Consequently, he closely guards his heart, avoiding lasting romantic entanglements. Unscathed on the battlefield, undefeated in tournaments, and adored by women eager to share his bed, Jacek has never lost at anything he sets out to conquer. So when he charges toward his goals, he believes nothing stands in his way. 

Upon his return from battle, Jacek deviates from his ordinarily unemotional mindset and rescues enemy siblings, fifteen-year-old Oliwia and her younger brother, Filip, from their devastated Muscovite village. His act of mercy sets into motion unstoppable consequences that ripple through his well-ordered life for years to come—and causes him to irretrievably lose his heart. 

Oliwia has her own single-minded drive: to protect her young brother. Her determination and self-sacrifice lead her to adopt a new country, a new religion, and a new way of life. But it’s not the first time the resilient beauty has had to remake herself, for she is not what she appears to be.

As Jacek battles the Muscovites and Tatars threatening Poland’s borders for months at a time, Oliwia is groomed for a purpose concealed from her. All the while, Mateusz’s treachery and a mysterious enemy looming on the horizon threaten to destroy everything Jacek holds dear.

This novel is available on #KindleUnlimited

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Meet Griffin Brady

Griffin Brady is a historical fiction author with a keen interest in the Polish Winged Hussars of the 16th and 17thcenturies. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. The Heart of a Hussartook third place in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2018 Colorado Gold Contest and was a finalist in the Northern Colorado Writers’ 2017 Top of the Mountain Award.

The proud mother three grown sons, she lives in Colorado with her husband. She is also an award-winning, Amazon bestselling romance author who writes under the pen name G.K. Brady.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Heart of a Hussar Blog Tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club