2022 – A Reading Year in Review

Wow! I think 2022 has been the year that I read (and listened) to the most books EVER! As I write this, I’m up to 99 titles. I have some ‘holiday’ reading I’m keen to do as well – fingers crossed I make it to the magic 100 for the year (I am including audiobooks in this, and also my own books as I have to read them A LOT, and I’ve also been refreshing a few throughout the year as well.) Even so, I’ve read many, many books, across a number of different genres, but the predominant one has certainly been historical mysteries/cozy crime. I’ve found that this is my ‘happy’ place when trying not to think about my own books. And luckily, Boldwood Books (who publish the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles) have a huge collection of mystery writers, and they’ve autoapproved me on Netgalley, so I’ll never struggle to find something to read in my favourite genre.

As has been pointed out to me by a fellow author, I don’t often award a five star review to books. Indeed, while I do rate and review on Amazon and Goodreads, on the blog, I don’t tend to give a rating – I’m just quirky like that. Those books that I have given a five star to, I’ve given a shout out in the Aspects of History Books of 2022. You can find the link here – (of course, these are all historical fiction books) and The Capsarius, Valentia, Twelve Nights and The Maids of Biddenden made it onto that list (and yes, these are all books I was lucky enough to be asked to review on the blog – but I never automatically give a 5 star review just because of that). I also want to add Domitian by SJA Turney as well. I couldn’t include two of his books on Aspecs of History but Domitian is wonderful, just my sort of Roman story with plenty of politics, intrigue, and some fabulous characters.

Three of these books are indie-published, and I can assure you all, that there’s a huge amount of amazing indie stuff out there. Don’t believe me, try one of these titles:)

I’ve also treated myself to a bit of comedy this year. I’ve been listening to the Terry Pratchett Discworld audio books (the new and the original recordings – but not the abridged versions) and it’s reminded me of how much I love a funny book, and so, here are my favourite comedies of the year. Simon Whaley’s Foraging for Murder, Dead in Tune by Stephanie Dagg and Crazy for You by Domhnall O’Donoghue and Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett, which I’ve listened to twice!

In terms of cozy crime, I’ve found a few new series of which I’m certainly going to read more. Catherine Coles new 1940s historical mystery series, TA Williams‘ Armstrong and Oscar cosy series, Debbie Young’s St Brides Series, and Helen Golden’s Right Royal Cozy Investigations.

In terms of books set in ‘my’ time period, I’ve been reading Matthew Harffy, SJA Turney or maybe it’s a Simon Turney one (it’s the same author, in case you were confused), Peter Gibbons, Christopher Cervasco, Donovan Cook, Eric Schumacher, Paula De Fougerolles, Richard Cullen, and still historical but a little before and after, Robert M Kidd, Elizabeth R Andersen, Mark Knowles, Dan Jones and Kate Shanahan.

I’ve also dipped my toe into a few dual-timeline novels. As you might expect, my interest is always much more in the historical aspect of the story and not the modern settings, but they were a bit of fun when I was on holiday. The Witches Tree and The Storm Girl.

I’ve only read one fantasy book in 2022, which surprises me (aside from Discworld), but Mark Lawrence is one of my all-time favourite authors, and I will always read his books. The sneaky toad has a theme running through them all and I love it.

I’ve also read surprisingly few non-fiction books, in their entirety. I’ve been working on my non-fiction book and that’s meant a lot of dipping in and out of books I’ve already read. But, the non-fiction books I’ve read have been excellent, Michael Wood’s 40th anniversary of In Search of The Dark Ages, reviews for Aspects of History, Winter in the World by Eleanor Parker, also reviewed for Aspects of History and I also read my first ever writing guide.

And an entirely new genre for me, but one I was strangely drawn to for the location, which is close to where I grew up – a bit of Gangland.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my reviews on the blog. And I’d like to that the publishers that let me read advanced copies, and also, all the writers I’ve mentioned who’ve taken the time to craft these novels so that I can devour them. Now, I need to get back to my reading to make sure I hit that magic 100!

I’m delighted to welcome the historical fantasy book, Liopleurodon:The Master of the Deep by MB Zucker to the blog #blogtour

I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Liopleurodon. Enjoy.

Scene 4: Luke reflects while waiting for the Liopleurodon to arrive for the monster’s first battle with the protagonists.

Luke watched the sunrise on the Sea Otter’s deck as the sky became an evolving painting, shifting from black to pink to orange to blue. Nature’s beauty was a lifelong source of excitement. He should get up early every morning—with Kelsey beside him. It was free entertainment, as captivating as any work of art ever crafted by man because this was crafted by God. The sky’s progression was only the beginning. Beyond it waited the universe, infinite in scale, majesty, and power. Who knew what was out there, what marvels existed to be adored? Stars, planets, other species, all going through their own cycles of life and death. He resented being stuck on Earth. Though the Earth had its own untapped universe to explore, one that was closer and more meaningful. Luke glanced at the ocean’s surface. Beneath was another world, virtually none of which man had yet seen. Incredible creatures—predator and prey, monster and magnificent—all part of the same planet, from the same hand as the colors drawn across the sky. That included the ancient monster—evolution’s most dangerous creation—that Luke knew was on its way.

Anxiety bubbled below the surface of Luke’s mind. He sought to impose calm, but his consciousness struggled to put its pants on as his subconscious darted ahead. Panic surged every few moments, not derived from thoughts, but from his intuition of what was coming and what was at stake if the Navy failed. What if too many poisoned bullets and harpoons missed? What if the Liopleurodon killed everyone on the patrol boats? What if the Germans captured it? What would they do with it? Could it affect the outcome of a future war? Would the Kaiser rule the world? Luke tried taking his mind off his fear. He thought of Kelsey. Her blonde hair. Her embrace. Yes. Think of that. Another surge. Kelsey’s image faded. Tainted. Next he thought of his father. A legacy redeemed. If only he’d known. He didn’t have to die. Didn’t have to leave Luke and his mother. Another surge. Damnit. Think of the sea, where he was more comfortable than he was on land. Of being a great fish. A being of power and grace. No issues of status or love to think of. Just swimming. And eating. And reproduction. And not being killed by sharks. Or the Liopleurodon. Another surge.

Luke shook his head and snorted. He looked at the others. Maybe getting out of his musings would distract him. Professor Harris was nearby. Like Luke, Harris wore a float vest and a belt that clipped to a canister full of putrescine. Harris looked away from the water, staring blankly, focusing on his breathing to stay calm. Luke looked at Colonel Roosevelt and General Wood, sitting together on the other side of the deck, facing opposite the Paulding and the concoction zone. Roosevelt’s forearms rested on his knees, his hands dangling between his stretched legs. He wore khaki trousers and a blue flannel shirt with yellow suspenders. Atop his head sat a brown felt hat with a blue and white bandanna tied around it. It was the same outfit he’d worn when he rode up Kettle Hill.

Roosevelt noticed Luke staring at him.

Here’s the blurb:

From M. B. Zucker, award-winning author of “The Eisenhower Chronicles” 

Liopleurodon ferox was the deadliest sea predator of all time, the king of the Jurassic ocean. This whale-sized reptile’s return to the early twentieth century triggers a geopolitical crisis in this new historical science fiction thriller. Former President Theodore Roosevelt foresees the threat the Liopleurodon would pose if it falls into the wrong hands. The race is on as Roosevelt leads the American effort to destroy it before the Kaiser’s Germany can turn it into a weapon. 

Fans of Jurassic Park and Steve Alten’s Meg series will not want to miss this adventure filled with action, political intrigue, and characters that readers will remember long after finishing this novel. 

Advance Praise for Liopleurodon: The Master of the Deep

“The storyline itself was superb —- A Jaws/Jurassic Park thriller and a bit of a spy novel all in one – and compelling.– The Historical Fiction Company

Buy Links:
Universal Link: https://mybook.to/liopleurodon  

Amazon UKAmazon US:   Amazon CA:    Amazon AU

Barnes and Noble:     Waterstones:    Kobo:   

Meet the author:
M. B. Zucker has been interested in storytelling for as long as he can remember. He discovered his love of history at fifteen and studied Dwight Eisenhower for over ten years. 

Mr. Zucker earned his B.A. at Occidental College and his J.D. at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He lives in Virginia with his wife. 

Connect with M B Zucker

WebsiteTwitter: and https://twitter.com/michaelzucker1  

Facebook:  LinkedInAmazon Author PageGoodreads:  

Follow The Master of the Deep Liopleurodon blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

I’m delighted to welcome Helen Steadman to the blog with her new book, God of Fire. #blogtour #historicalfiction

Here’s the blurb:

‘Love was surely the greatest punishment of all’

He’s a rejected immortal. But can this magical blacksmith fight against fate and overcome the darkness of his past?

Hephaestus fears he’ll never be accepted. Cast down from Olympus and raised by a powerful sea witch, he sets out on a quest to discover his unknown father’s true identity. But he struggles to be taken seriously by the other gods who only want him for his ingenious inventions.

Convinced that solving his paternity will help him earn the love he seeks, the god of fire traps his mother and refuses to free her until she reveals a name. But when he uncovers a terrifying truth, he finds himself with more enemies than allies amongst the wrathful Olympians.

Can Hephaestus unlock buried secrets and prove himself worthy?

God of Fire is an imaginative standalone historical fantasy. If you like forgotten legends, fantastic beasts, and dark tales punctuated with humour, then you’ll adore Helen Steadman’s fascinating expedition into mythology.

Buy God of Fire to unravel the mysteries of ancient Greece today!

Recommended for fans of Mythos, Song of Achilles, Circe and Pandora’s Jar.

Buy Links: 

Universal Pre-order Link

Amazon UKAmazon US:  Amazon CAAmazon AU

Barnes and NobleGoogle PlayWaterstones

KoboiBooksiTunes

Audio

Meet the author

Dr Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her first novel, Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the seventeenth-century Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf was inspired by the Shotley Bridge swordmakers, who defected from Solingen, Germany in 1687. Helen’s fourth novel will be published on 13 September 2022. This is God of Fire, a Greek myth retelling about Hephaestus, possibly the least well-known of the Olympians. Helen is now working on her fifth novel.

Despite the Newcastle witch trials being one of the largest mass executions of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Helen is particularly interested in revealing hidden histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy. To get under the skin of the cunning women in Widdershins and Sunwise, Helen trained in herbalism and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers and berries.

The Running Wolf is the story of a group of master swordmakers who defected from Solingen, Germany and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive research and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook blacksmith training, which culminated in making her own sword. During her archive research, Helen uncovered a lot of new material, and she published her findings in the Northern History journal.

Connect with Helen:

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Goodreads:  YouTubeSoundCloud

Follow the God of Fire blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

I’m delighted to be featuring The Du Lac Chronicles by Mary Anne Yarde #histfic #blogtour #histfantasy

Here’s the blurb:

A generation after Arthur Pendragon ruled, Briton lies fragmented into warring kingdoms and principalities.

Eighteen-year-old Alden du Lac ruled the tiny kingdom of Cerniw. Now he half-hangs from a wooden pole, his back lashed into a mass of bloody welts exposed to the cold of a cruel winter night. He’s to be executed come daybreak—should he survive that long.

When Alden notices the shadowy figure approaching, he assumes death has come to end his pain. Instead, the daughter of his enemy, Cerdic of Wessex, frees and hides him, her motives unclear.

Annis has loved Alden since his ill-fated marriage to her Saxon cousin—a marriage that ended in blood and guilt—and she would give anything to protect him. Annis’s rescue of Alden traps them between a brutal Saxon king and Alden’s remaining allies. Meanwhile, unknown forces are carefully manipulating the ruins of Arthur’s legacy.

Trigger warnings:

Torture, Warfare

This novel is available on #KindleUnlimtied

Universal Link

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CA

Meet the author

Mary Anne Yarde is a multi-award winning and bestselling author of Historical Fiction, as well as an award-winning blogger. She studied History at Cardiff University and went on to study Equine Science at Warwickshire College.

Mary Anne is a passionate advocate for quality Historical Fiction and founded The Coffee Pot Book Club in 2015 and became a professional Editorial Reviewer in 2016.

Mary Anne’s award-winning series, The Du Lac Chronicles, is set a generation after the fall of King Arthur. The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Britain and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, The Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed

Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.

Connect with Mary Anne

WebsiteTwitterBookBub

Amazon Author PageGoodreads: 

Follow The Du Lac Chronicles Blog Tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m excited to be taking part in the blog blitz for Fantasy Short Stories by Suzanne Rogerson #blogtour #fantasy

Fantasy Short Stories

A collection of stories featuring favourite characters from Visions of Zarua and ‘Silent Sea Chronicles’, plus a glimpse into the new series, ‘Starlight Prophecy’.

The Guardian

With an assassin picking off wizards one-by-one, Kalesh visits Cassima, a former student, hoping to persuade her to re-join the Royal Wizards and use their protection to keep her family safe.

Kalesh’s newest charge, Paddren, has strange visions which link to a past event known only to a select few. The knowledge hidden in Paddren’s visions is invaluable so Kalesh must guard the boy at any cost.

Can Kalesh keep his students off the assassin’s radar long enough for his order to stop the killer?

Garrick the Protector

Fifteen-year-old Garrick is helping at his uncle’s farm when his cousin’s illegal use of magic threatens the family’s safety.

Mara is in immediate danger from the Assembly who deem all magic as a threat. The only safe place for her is the Turrak Mountains where exiled mystics have found sanctuary alongside the island’s Sentinel.

Can Garrick get Mara to safety before the Assembly catch up with them?

War Wounds

Conscripted to fight off raiders, Calder finds the months of bloody battle unleash a sixth sense buried inside him.

Finally released from duty, he travels home and encounters a mysterious woman who insists his life is destined to serve a higher purpose. Calder rejects her claims, wanting only to return to a simple existence with his wife.

But can Calder pick up his old life when the powers within him have been stirred? And why does he feel such misgivings about his return?

All three stories give readers a tantalising glimpse into the fantasy worlds created by Suzanne Rogerson.

Purchase Link – http://mybook.to/fantasySS

My Review

I’ve really enjoyed this short story collection by Suzanne Rogerson.

All of the snippets of stories are well written, and certainly very intriguing. I will certainly be checking out the full stories on Amazon.

If you enjoy fantasy with a touch of magic, and some really intriguing storylines, I would highly recommend this collection of short stories. These are certainly ‘my sort’ of fantasy stories, so if you’ve read my Dragon of Unison stories, you’ll know what that means, and if you haven’t, then I’m going to say that these stories hint at books and trilogies filled with magic, and not too much graphic violence, and with a cast of strong characters, both male and female. I recommend you check out these short stories to see what you’re going to get. I’m really pleased that I did:)

Meet Suzanne

Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England with her husband, two children and a crazy cocker spaniel.

Her writing journey began at the age of twelve when she completed her first novel. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave Suzanne the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.

Now an author of four novels including the Silent Sea Chronicles trilogy and her debut, Visions of Zarua, Suzanne hopes the dreaded ‘W’ word will never rear its ugly head again!

She loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.

Suzanne collects books, is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles and old ruins whilst being immersed in the past. She likes to combine her love of nature and photography on family walks, but most of all she loves to escape with a great film, binge watch TV shows, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.

Connect with Suzanne

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Goodreads

BookBub

Amazon

Facebook

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The Girl and the Moon by Mark Lawrence #BookReview #Fantasy

Here’s the blurb:

The fate of the world hangs from the Moon

The green world overwhelms all of Yaz’s expectations. Everything seems different but some things remain the same: her old enemies are still bent on her destruction. 

The Corridor abounds with plenty and unsuspected danger. To stand a chance against the eyeless priest, Eular, and the god-like city-mind, Seus, Yaz will need to learn fast and make new friends.

The Convent of Sweet Mercy, like the Corridor itself, is packed with peril and opportunity. Yaz needs the nuns’ help – but first they want to execute her.

The fate of everyone squeezed between the Corridor’s vast walls, and ultimately the fate of those labouring to survive out on ice itself, hangs from the moon, and the battle to save the moon centres on the Ark of the Missing, buried beneath the emperor’s palace. Everyone wants Yaz to be the key that will open the Ark – the one the wise have sought for generations. But sometimes wanting isn’t enough.

THE GIRL AND THE MOON is the third and final volume in The Book of Ice trilogy.

Review

I’ve been reading Mark Lawrence’s books since the very beginning. I have a paperback copy of Prince of Thorns, which I noticed the other day actually says ‘map forthcoming’ on the map page:) (Check out my previous reviews here; The Girl and the Stars, The Girl and the Mountain (Book of the Ice 1 and 2). Red Sister, Grey Sister, Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor Trilogy). One Word Kill, Limited Wish)

Never once, in all the books I’ve read, has he finished a trilogy the way I wanted him to do so. He is infuriatingly consistent with this, and still, I hope, each and every time, to have the answers to all I want to know. And now, with the end of the Book of the Ice, I find myself not only without the ending I ‘thought’ I was going to get, but much, much worse, feeling as though I need to go back and read ALL the books again to unpick the ‘threads’ and perhaps find the answers I want for myself. Grrrr.

To me, this means Mark Lawrence remains at the top of his game, and while I might find it all very frustrating, that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the books, and the universe(s)? he’s created.

A fine end to another great trilogy, and one I took my time with because, quite frankly, I didn’t want it to end, not in the end:)

My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy.

Follow Mark here – and just to say, if you’re not yet sure, his Patreon is fab, and a great way to keep up to date with all he’s doing. And he’s not shy with his book giveaways either. Twitter.

Today, I’m welcoming David Fitz-Gerald and his new book, Waking Up Lost, to the blog

Today, David Fitz-Gerald is going to share with me the process he went through to write Waking Up Lost.

Brainstorming Waking Up Lost

The idea for Waking Up Lost came from a brainstorming process. It’s kind of like planting a row of seeds in the garden. They don’t all germinate. Some get pulled out to leave room for the ones that have a better chance of surviving. As they grow, a lot of weeds have to be pulled.

I don’t recall the premise for Waking Up Lost coming in a single, cataclysmic inspirational moment, but rather as a wondrous evolution. I made a list of supernatural, paranormal, and otherworldly premises, then after eliminating other possibilities, selected this one. I thought it would be fun for readers to imagine what they would do if they found themselves transported to some perilous place.

I like to write fiction that is grounded in history and soars with the spirits. I use that phrase like a mission statement. My Adirondack Spirit Series is an epic, multi-generational family saga. Each book stands alone. What they have in common are ancestry, the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, surviving in nature, and supernatural tendencies that just seem to run in the family. The common ancestry includes the Native American people that inhabited New York state before colonization.

When I finished writing She Sees Ghosts, I thought about what should follow that book, featuring an empathic medium named, Mehitable, set in 1799-1816. As that book ended, the recently widowed mother of a toddler was expecting a second child. What supernatural tendencies should her children possess? That’s where my brainstorming list came in.

Waking Up Lost is the story of a young man raised by a single mother in a newly formed woodland town in 1833. One morning, he wakes up miles from home at an isolated lake where his mother once met his father. A few nights later, he is transported in his sleep to the bedroom of the meanest man in town’s daughter. Another night, Noah awakens in a storm on the peak of a mountain. Just when Noah thinks that he has found a solution to his problem, he awakens on a depraved scow, and its captain forces him to lead mules along the banks of the Erie Canal. Will he find a way to break free from captivity and escape the horrible plans the captain has for him at the end of their journey?

Caught in a Trance, set in 1849, is the story of Noah’s brother, Moses. He has the ability to blast through the air, from one location to another, and yet nobody notices when he does so, even when it happens right before their eyes. Moses also discovers that he can hypnotize people. What happens when Moses becomes addicted to hypnosis and mesmerizes himself? I hope to publish this story in the summer of 2022.

Some ideas are so good, it is hard not to return to them. It is tempting to imagine more adventures for Noah. Maybe I should make a list of different places I’d like to jettison him off to and see if he can make his way home, yet again.

Or maybe I’ll go in a completely different direction. I wonder whether I’ll pull anything else from that list of ideas.

I’d like to think I could just work on one thing at a time, but these little book babies all seem to have their own needs. One needs to be planned, another needs to be written, a third requires editing, this one is setting off to find its way in the world, and the ones that came before still require attention now and then. But I think my favorite part is planning and plotting new stories to develop.

So, I’ll keep brainstorming and see what else I can come up with. Thank you for your interest in Waking Up Lost!

Thank you so much for sharing and good luck with all your writing plans.

Here’s the blurb:

Traveling without warning. Nights lost to supernatural journeys. Is one young man fated to wander far from safety?

New York State, 1833. Noah Munch longs to fit in. Living with a mother who communes with ghosts and a brother with a knack for heroics, the seventeen-year-old wishes he were fearless enough to discover an extraordinary purpose of his own. But when he mysteriously awakens in the bedroom of the two beautiful daughters of the meanest man in town, he realizes his odd sleepwalking ability could potentially be deadly.

Convinced that leaving civilization is the only way to keep himself and others safe, Noah pursues his dream of becoming a mountain man and slips away into the primeval woods. But after a strong summer storm devastates his camp, the troubled lad finds his mystical wanderings have only just begun.

Can Noah find his place before he’s destroyed by a ruthless world?

Waking Up Lost is the immersive fourth book in the Adirondack Spirit Series of historical fiction. If you like coming-of-age adventures, magical realism, and stories of life on the American frontier, then you’ll love David Fitz-Gerald’s compelling chronicle.

Buy Waking Up Lost to map out destiny today!

Trigger Warnings:

Rape, torture, cruelty to animals, sex, violence.

Buy Links:

Available on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link

Amazon UK:  Amazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the author

David Fitz-Gerald writes fiction that is grounded in history and soars with the spirits. Dave enjoys getting lost in the settings he imagines and spending time with the characters he creates. Writing historical fiction is like making paintings of the past. He loves to weave fact and fiction together, stirring in action, adventure, romance, and a heavy dose of the supernatural with the hope of transporting the reader to another time and place. He is an Adirondack 46-er, which means he has hiked all of the highest peaks in New York State, so it should not be surprising when Dave attempts to glorify hikers as swashbuckling superheroes in his writing.

Connect with David

Website:  also https://www.itsoag.com/

TwitterFacebook:  InstagramPinterest

BookBubAmazon Author PageGoodreads:  Book trailer

Link Tree

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Waking Up Lost blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Book Boyfriend by Jeanna Louise Skinner

Today, I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Jeanna Louise Skinner’s new book The Book Boyfriend.

Emmy turned on her heel and headed back to the counter. She didn’t enjoy being rude to him, but it was better this way. So why were her eyes threatening tears again? There had to be a scientific answer to explain how easily her emotions ran to crying these days. It was fast becoming her default setting. A natural phenomenon, like forecasting weather. Cloudy with a chance of waterworks. 

But that wasn’t quite true. The words of her inner voice rang out again, loud and clear: 

Why can’t you let go? What are you so afraid of?

Nothing. 

Everything.

Almost every instance lately when she’d been on the verge of tears, something inside had compelled her to hold them back, to not give in, and trying to understand why made her head hurt. 

Casting the net of her mind wide, she fished in her thoughts for distractions. What had they been talking about before all this? Yes, Jonathan’s curse. She tried to remember the words, but random phrases leapt out at her. Despite everything she’d just promised to herself, she tugged the pencil and notepad she’d dug out earlier closer to her. Jonathan had retreated to Maggie’s armchair, the stack of books now a wall between them. A literary no man’s land. Maybe she’d overreacted a little? She ought at least try a peacekeeping mission.

Clearing her throat, she called his name, her voice low and hesitant. “Jonathan?”

He looked up. His face was a closed book.

“Can you repeat it for me – your curse, I mean?”. The pencil twirled between her fingers until she made herself stop, resting it on the counter. Why was she so jittery? 

He still didn’t reply, only studied her, as if he was battling with himself to acquiesce or tell her where to go. She wouldn’t completely blame him if he chose the latter. 

“Please,” she added. 

As Emmy watched, Jonathan closed his eyes, rubbing both hands over his face before opening them again. The battle was won, it seemed, but it didn’t feel like victory. 

“Of course,” he breathed, smiling widely, as if she was his favourite person in the world and Emmy’s breath caught in her throat. An urgency she didn’t understand swept through her. The only thing that mattered was breaking his curse and a tiny alarm inside her head warned her that she’d already lost the war. There really was no point trying to resist him, but even as she acknowledged the warning signs, she pushed them away again. She wasn’t quite ready to capitulate just yet. 

For a few moments, the only sounds within the little shop were Jonathan’s baritone, the scratching of Emmy’s pencil against paper as he dictated the curse, the ubiquitous ticking from the clock, and the rhythmic patterns of their breathing. Even the mice seemed to have stopped their incessant scurrying inside the walls to listen. When he was finished, Emmy began reciting the curse to herself in a whisper. 

“Bound by word

Bound by paper

A life captive

Bound forever

Bound in flesh

Bound in blood

Gaol eternal

Bound to book”

Intrigued?

Here’s the blurb:

Let us find solace in the quiet…”

Emmeline always dreamed of being an author, finding comfort in words and between the pages of her beloved romance novels, but a mental health diagnosis leaves her blocked and unable to write. Then she inherits a crumbling, second-hand bookshop from a mysterious old friend and Emmy discovers that magic is real and maybe her fantasies about the heroes in her favourite historical romances aren’t so far-fetched after all.

A handsome stranger–wielding a sword as dangerous as his Tudor past–appears in Emmy’s bookshop asking for help. Together they must race against time itself to lift the curse imprisoning him in an ancient book. But when growing threats to her safety are proved real and not another symptom of her illness, Emmy must learn to trust her own voice again. Can she find the words to save Jonathan and her shop before tragedy strikes on the fateful final page? 

Romance-addict Emmy may be, but this damsel is about to kick distress into the Ever After.

Trigger warnings:

Mental health issues, panic attacks, grief, references to abuse, references to cheating, character taking medication, references to therapy, references to suicide, references to section, references to body image references, misogyny.

Buy Links:

Amazon UKAmazon US: Amazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the author

Jeanna Louise Skinner writes romance with a sprinkling of magic. The Book Boyfriend is her debut novel and she is currently working on a prequel. She has ADHD and CRPS, a rare neuro-inflammatory disorder, and she is passionate about writing about people underrepresented in Romance, especially those with disabilities and chronic health conditions. She’s also the co-creator of UKRomChat, a much-lauded, Romance-centric live Twitter chat. She lives in Devon with her husband, their two children and a cat who sounds like a goat. 

Connect with Jeanna Louise Skinner

WebsiteTwitterTwitter:  FacebookInstagram

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

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Empire’s Heir by Marian L Thorpe

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Marian L Thorpe to the blog with a guest post about her new book, Empire’s Heir.

Your book, Empire’s Heir is the sixth book in a series of historical fantasy books. As a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories and why they decide to that research in a fantasy setting (although, admittedly, much of historical fiction could be termed fantasy).

Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring the historical elements of your historical fantasy to life? 

Research, history, and fantasy…a mix I first encountered in Puck of Pook’s Hill (Rudyard Kipling) as a child, followed by The Lord of the Rings, which I read for the first time when I was eleven. Like many fantasy writers (if what I write is fantasy, which is a subject of some debate in some readers’ minds, as my books have no magic) I have created a world based on ours, where the fantasy elements are the societal structures.

I wanted to explore several societal issues: the effects of a sudden change in expectations of women away from traditional roles; what a non-heteronormative society might look like, and, in the overarching theme of the series, the tensions between individual and community responsibility and belief. One of the roles of speculative fiction, I believe, is to present problems and challenges in a setting that is removed from reality, making them more accessible (or acceptable) to some readers. So I chose an early medieval setting, simply because the post-Roman/early medieval history of Britain has been an interest and a hobby since my teens, evolving from an original focus on Arthurian legend.  

Which meant the first two books needed almost no direct research; the information was there in my brain and simply coalesced on the page as I wrote. One of the advantages of historical fantasy of my sort is that only concepts are needed; ideas can be tweaked and modified. For example, the Ti’acha, the residential schools of Linrathe, the country north of the Wall that is the site of most of the action of Empire’s Hostage, are based on the religious schools of early-medieval history and are supported by their own lands and by landholders in much the same way.  

But as my main character Lena’s world expanded geographically, I began to need more than what was already in my head. So I began to take courses, some full university credits, some short courses. I read a lot of journal articles and books, about the Great Heathen Army, about Rome, about the flora and fauna of the Pannonian Plain and what winters are like in the Alps. I look for details that add to the verisimilitude of my world: all birds, all mammals, belong where I have them. Crops grown are true to the time and place (I once spent several hours researching the growing days needed for barley – and the correct type for the period – in northern Scotland. The internet is a wonder.) And I borrow, unashamedly: battles are difficult for me, so the final battle of the first trilogy, at the end of Empire’s Exile, is almost entirely the Battle of Maldon, as described in the 10th C poem. The outcome may be different, but the elements of the poem are there. 

I integrate history by asking a question: what’s the historical fact? Now, how can I use that in the context of my world? The basic premise of Empire’s Heir comes from the bride shows of Byzantium in the 8th and 9th century, although there is little else Byzantine about my world. Even in characters, I borrow a bit from history, although never directly. My main character Cillian, while he is wholly himself, has aspects of both Alcuin of York and St. Columba – and the philosopher he looks to for guidance and solace is based entirely on Marcus Aurelius. My research blends into my story (I hope) in the same way threads are brought into the weaving of a complex tapestry: not to stand out, but to create a cohesive, believable whole where all the elements work together to make the picture. 

I strive, too, to create a sense of place; stories take place within a landscape and setting, and its feel matters. I’ve been able to do most of that from personal experience, but knowing Empire’s Heir would take place mostly in my Rome analogue, the city of Casil, I went to Rome for a quick three-day research trip last year (just before the pandemic hit) with a personal guide who, at my request, focused on the aspects of the ancient city I needed. 

Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?

There isn’t one book I rely on: in the earlier books, Robin Fleming’s Britain after Rome was invaluable, as was Neil Oliver’s Vikings, and, for forming a sense of the psychological geography of my world, East Anglia and its North Sea World in the Middle Ages, edited by David Bates and Robert E Liddiard. And now, as I move towards the next book(s) in the series, here’s a photo of my research pile!

Thank you so much for sharing. I recognise a few of those books on your research pile:) Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

Some games are played for mortal stakes.

Gwenna, heir to Ésparias, is summoned by the Empress of Casil to compete for the hand of her son. Offered power and influence far beyond what her own small land can give her, Gwenna’s strategy seems clear – except she loves someone else.

Nineteen years earlier, the Empress outplayed Cillian in diplomacy and intrigue. Alone, his only living daughter has little chance to counter the Empress’s experience and skill. Aging and torn by grief and worry, Cillian insists on accompanying Gwenna to Casil.

Risking a charge of treason, faced with a choice he does not want to make, Cillian must convince Gwenna her future is more important than his – while Gwenna plans her moves to keep her father safe. Both are playing a dangerous game. Which one will concede – or sacrifice?

Trigger Warnings:

Death, rape. 

Available on Kindle Unlimited.

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Meet the author

Essays, poetry, short stories, peer-reviewed scientific papers, curriculum documents, technical guides, grant applications, press releases – if it has words, it’s likely Marian L Thorpe has written it, somewhere along the line. But nothing has given her more satisfaction than her novels. Combining her love of landscape and history, set in a world reminiscent of Europe after the decline of Rome, her books arise from a lifetime of reading and walking and wondering ‘what if?’ Pre-pandemic, Marian divided her time between Canada and the UK, and hopes she may again, but until then, she resides in a small, very bookish, city in Canada, with her husband Brian and Pye-Cat.

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

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Steampunk Cleopatra by Thaddeus Thomas

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Thaddeus Thomas to the blog to talk about his new book, Steampunk Cleopatra, a historical fantasy.

Your book, Steampunk Cleopatra sounds like a wonderful combination of history and fantasy. I usually ask authors to tell me about their research process because as a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories. But I think your book might be a little different. So, a few questions instead.

Was it the history or the lost science that attracted you to this story? Can you explain why?

I was attracted to the Library of Alexandria, and everything began there. Outside of deciding to focus the book on Cleopatra, the next greatest influence was Hero of Alexander who invented the world’s first steam engine in the first century CE. The draw was the enigmas of history, and the lost science of Egypt was a potential solution.

How did you create your ‘world?’ What aspects of the past were important for you to keep, and which were you happy to discard?

I never intentionally discarded history. The idea that I was writing fantasy gave me the courage to tackle the subject, but I intended to tell as historically accurate a story as possible, in one sense. If that’s all the book was, then the gaps in our knowledge would be filled with the most probable truths. I’ve simple filled many of those gaps with wonder.

The book covers many years and a lot of territory, from Egypt to Rome, Cyprus, Jerusalem, and Kush. Of my own life, I spent two years researching and writing Steampunk Cleopatra and had just come off of three years on Detective, 26 AD, which helped immensely with the Jerusalem sections. 

I enjoy a good steampunk novel, although most I’ve read are set in an alternative Victorian period. What challenges were there for you in using Egypt as your setting? (if you did use Egypt).

In the beginning of the book, I focus on a mostly grounded, historical Alexandria, although the spotlight is often cast on the surprising inventions of the time. For example, their hours were not constant in length. There were twelve daylight hours, no matter how short or how long the day. They invented water clocks that automatically counted out the hours in beautiful, artistic ways while remaining accurate, no matter the time of the year. That historical concern made the move into expanding the technology my greatest challenge.

For the steampunk aspect, think of stories like the movie National Treasure, but what if finding the hidden treasure was only half the story? If we have access to this great technology, how do we use it? Does it benefit the marginalized people who made it possible in the first place or does it become simply another tool of oppression? Is it the secret to taking over the world or is it the key to your downfall? These are some of the questions the book tackles.

I do not use fantasy to change the course of history but to fantastically explain aspects of it and through that, examine our nature, our failure, and our hope.

Was there anything you discovered during your research that made you change elements of your story, or which you found amazing?

There are so many moments of real-life scientific wonder that worked their way in, but the Ptolemaic political drama was the driving force. Of that, the largest single impact was Ptolemy’s slaughter of the hundred delegates sent by Berenice to speak before the Roman Senate. Much of this was new information to me, as the book focuses on the early years of Cleopatra, ending with Julius Caesar and the Alexandrian Civil War. When you study her life, that’s usually where you begin.

Did you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?

Cleopatra: a Life by Stacy Schiff got me started, but that’s not to say she made things easy for me. The years I focus on, she glossed over, and for that time period, she had a way of mentioning facts out of historical context. It worked for the opening picture she was drawing for her work, but I had much to unravel in those early days. I did a great deal of reading, and with so much focus on Egypt, I needed both a break for my eyes and an introduction to Roman history. For that, I have to mention the YouTube channel Historia Civilis. It gave me the context I needed as a foundation and was entertaining. 

Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds like you had a fantastic, if complex, time unravelling the history and the facts. Good luck with Steampunk Cleopatra.

Here’s the blurb:

Amani, a companion of Cleopatra, seeks to rediscover Egypt’s suppressed science and history. She is the beloved of her princess become queen, but that may not be enough to overcome the system they’ve inherited. If she fails, her country and Cleopatra, both, could fall. History meets fantasy, and together, they create something new. Experience an intelligent thriller about star-crossed lovers and an ancient science that might have been. 

Available on KindleUnlimited.

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Meet the Author

Thaddeus Thomas lives on the Mississippi River with his wife and three cats. Steampunk Cleopatra is his first novel, but he has a short story collection available at his website, ThaddeusThomas.com. There he also runs a book club where readers can receive indie book reviews and recommendation. His second book—Detective, 26 AD—releases July 9thand follows Doubting Thomas as he is conscripted to be an investigator for Pontius Pilate.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Steampunk Cleopatra blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club. You can find all the links here: https://www.coffeepotbookclub.com/post/blog-tour-steampunk-cleopatra-by-thaddeus-thomas-july-12th-september-13th-2021