Brynhild had once been close to Erik – until he’d betrayed her, and she’d hoped never to see him again. Now the fiercely independent shieldmaiden needs Erik’s skills to rescue her sister. Striking a truce with the tough, isolated loner they reach a mutually beneficial deal: in return, she’ll help him in his quest to find a wife – by teaching him how to please a woman in bed…!
Lucy Morris has always been obsessed with myths and legends. Her books blend sweeping romance with vivid worldbuilding to whisk you away to another time and place filled with adventure. Expect passion, drama and vibrant characters.
Lucy lives in Essex, UK, with her husband, two children, and two cats. She has a massively sweet tooth and loves Terry’s Chocolate Oranges and Irn-Bru. In her spare time she likes to explore castles with her family, or drink bubbly with her friends.
Nicola Matthews is the author of the historical fiction Kitty Canham. The real life of her protagonist, who lived in the same part of Essex 300 years earlier, inspired her to write.
There is a theme in Kitty’s life that echoes a theme that has run through my own life. A theme that is not so often written about, because it is not exciting or enlivening. It is the theme of inevitability. Kitty says that life, ‘is like an inevitable river flowing with or without her consent.’ For too many women in Kitty’s era, as in my own, fighting the flow of the current that was the inequality that women faced, proved too strong. We become worn by its pull and allowed ourselves to drift in its inevitable flow. Kitty often finds herself in such a place. She struggles to make her way amid the conventions that restrain her, but when she expresses her anger, it only seems to confirm her weakness as a woman. Kitty was born into a society where women were expected to present themselves well, in order to receive a good proposal for marriage. That was the sole purpose of so many women in Kitty’s time.
In the eighteenth century women could not inherit easily and were certainly not expected to enjoy the hard graft of a farming life, which Kitty relished. She finds herself in the happy position of becoming the inheritor of her father’s farm, until a boy appears, born to her father out of wedlock but now welcomed into the home by her mother. The boy dispossesses her.
I was born in the late 50’s. It was post war Britain when women’s brief foray into the world of work during the world wars, had come to an end. So many of my friend’s mothers spent their time keeping home for their working spouses. The atmosphere often seemed drab and devoid of conversation. Although my own upbringing was rather more bohemian, and certainly a lot of fun, a woman was still there for the gaze and service of their husband. My father was a well-known actor. My mother was the perfect hostess and a star in my father’s firmament. She fitted it well. I remember watching films in Home Economics, where we were told, by a smiling woman in a 50’s dress and pinny, how to keep house and cook! That was to be our lot, whether it fitted us well or not. Too many women were forced into positions to which they were wholly unsuited.
My character, Kitty, had no interest in presenting herself appropriately for a good marriage. But she too often finds herself caught in the current that was the society of the day. With few options and when all else is closed to her, she agrees to marry Alexander, a rector in the local parish. He is a good man, but still a man of his time, unable and unused to expressing himself to a woman. When she comes home from helping old Jacob with the lambing at the farm, dressed in breeches with blood on her hands, Alexander is angry. He tells her in no uncertain terms that she is an embarrassment and will have to change. Kitty bows to inevitability once more, though she finds her passionate and restless nature will not allow her to settle as she hoped. Eventually she finds a course of happiness, but one that comes at great cost both physically and emotionally. As we know, things have improved for women immeasurably since Kitty’s time. However, we are not there yet.
Thankfully, for my generation, the 60’s/70’s brought change. Though the male gaze had not changed. It was the era of the Carry On movies when a wolf whistle was seen as a compliment. Both my sisters were older than I and were actresses through the sixties. My sister Debbie, ten years my senior, became known as a ‘blond bombshell’ – an image which she was never fully able to break away from and which led her into difficulties as she grew older. Although I was younger than my sisters, the shadow of the expectations I grew up with, lived on in my own soul.
Kitty’s life story was very different to my own, and my struggles were far less keen, but in writing Kitty Canham I found myself expressing, through her, my own anger against the restraints that I felt in my younger years, restraints so often in my own mind, rather than in those around me. In giving Kitty a feisty nature, I found I was able to give expression to my anger, not for myself so much, but for those women, the world over, who’s fight for equality has barely begun.
Nicola Matthews is the author of Kitty Canham (Hall House Press, £8.99, eBook: £2.99), available now from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3lCKLxj
Nicola Matthews was inspired by the ragged North Essex coastline, where she lives with her husband, to write Kitty Canham’s story. She was an undiagnosed dyslexic until her mid-forties and has worked as a sculptor and in the theatre, writing and producing community productions. She is also the author of Anxt and Other Poems, a poetry anthology. It was the unexpected gift of lockdown that gave Nicola the time and inclination to finally write her debut novel, Kitty Canham. Find out more: www.nicolamwrites.com/novel
July 1346. The Hundred Years’ War has begun, and King Edward and his lords are on the march through France. But this war belongs to the men on the ground.
Swept up in the bloody chaos, a tight-knit company from Essex must stay alive long enough to see their home again. With sword, axe and longbow, the Essex Dogs will fight, from the landing beaches of Normandy to the bloodsoaked field of Crécy.
There’s Pismire, small enough to infiltrate enemy camps. Scotsman, strong enough to tear down a wall. Millstone, a stonemason who’ll do anything to protect his men. Father, a priest turned devilish by the horrors of war. Romford, a talented young archer on the run from his past. And Loveday FitzTalbot, their battle-scarred captain, who just wants to get his boys home safe.
Some men fight for glory. Others fight for coin. The Essex Dogs? They fight for each other.
Essex Dogs by Dan Jones, despite its girth, coming in at nearly 7500 lines on my Kindle and 450 pages in hardback, is a really easy-going read. It has a light writing style, and therefore, it’s not an onerous read for anyone worried that it might just be that little bit longer than they’re used to. (I never used to consider the length of a book, but now I do, when there are so many books to read and so little time).
The opening scene, the landing on the beach for the invasion of France, is very well told, and draws you into the world that the Essex Dogs live within. The action then slightly backs off, as we learn more about the men behind the invasion and the details of what’s planned. And there are many little details that slowly draw the reader into the scenario the Dogs face, as just one of many bands of warriors, commissioned for their 40 days of service, to fight on behalf of a lord, who’s in turn beholden to the king or the prince of Wales.
While the Hundred Years War is not ‘my’ time period, I’m not a stranger to it. If you’ve read other books set in the period, as I have, then this feels very close to those books. In no time at all, I was remembering some of the historical details, and I felt right at home with the ‘Dogs.’
This, as the blurb says, is the story of the Essex Dogs, and not the king and lords. The prince, Northampton and Warwick are the most notable members of the nobility to get a decent-sized portion of the story but only in relation to the way the Essex Dogs’ lives mingle, merge and separate with them. You can almost smell the dust and heat, the stink of the rivers, and not for the first time when I read books like this, I’m left considering why the English king was so determined to claim a province that was so hostile to him.
The story, not without tragedy, slowly builds to an intriguing finale, on the field of Crecy, where we follow the efforts of young Romford as he attempts to stay alive.
There is blood and gore in this book, but not tonnes of the stuff. There is some pretty strong language, but not tonnes of it (if you’ve read my The Last King series, it will feel a little tame). My overwhelming feeling on finishing it is that the games kings play affected the men who fought for them more than them, and I more than imagine that this is what Dan Jones is hoping to make us feel. And so, an engaging and well-told tale, not without moments of tragedy and comedy, and one certainly worthy of picking up and devouring.
About the author
Dan Jones is the Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of ten non-fiction books, including The Templars, The Colour of Time and Powers and Thrones. He is a renowned writer, broadcaster and journalist, and has for many years wanted to write authentic but action-packed historical fiction. His debut novel, Essex Dogs, is the first in a planned trilogy following the fortunes of ten ordinary soldiers in the early years of the Hundred Years’ War. He lives near London with his family.
First in the series from The Cévenoles Sagas is THE MUSE OF FREEDOM.
“Brilliantly told, a story that will stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page . . . fresh and compelling, as relevant now as it was then.”
~ Janet Wertman, award-winning author of The Seymour Saga trilogy
A French Huguenot apothecary’s legacy of secrets, a mystic healer’s inspiration, a fateful decision.
In the mysterious Cévennes mountains of Languedoc, France, 1695, Jehan BonDurant, a young nobleman forcibly held in a Dominican prieuré as a child, comes of age only to inherit a near-derelict estate and his Huguenot family’s dangerous legacy of secrets. While he cherishes his newfound freedom apprenticing as an apothecary, his outrage mounts over religious persecutions led by King Louis XIV’s Intendant Basville, who is sent to enforce the King’s will for “One King, One Law, One Faith”.
The ensuing divisions among families and friends and the gradual revelation of his own circumstances lead Jehan to question his spiritual choices. A journey deep into the heart of the Cévennes in search of guidance, unfolds in a way he least expects when he enters the enchanting Gorges du Tarn. There he discovers his muse, Amelia Auvrey, a free-spirited, mystic holy woman who reveals ancient healing practices and spiritual mysteries.
Together they quest for peace and spiritual freedom by aiding the persecuted until the Intendant’s spy reports their activities and the King’s dragoons are sent out after them. To retain their freedom, they must choose to live in hiding in a remote wilderness, join a festering uprising against the persecutions, or flee their cherished homeland with thousands of other refugees in search of hope.
Inspired by the true story of Jean Pierre Bondurant dit Cougoussac, distilled and blended with Cévenole magic lore, this is an inspiring coming of age story and family saga of courage, tenacity, and the power of love in a country rife with divisions under the control of an authoritarian king obsessed with power.
Fans of Poldark, Magic Lessons, The Lost Apothecary, and The Huguenot Chronicles will find thematic elements from those stories melded into this thrilling and obscure slice of French history.
Jules Larimore writes emotive, literary-leaning historical fiction to inspire positive change for the oppressed and refugees, and to encourage an intimate relationship with the natural environment.
Influenced by a background in freelance travel writing, Jules uses captivating historical settings as characters. Then distills and blends them with a dose of magic, myth, and romance to bring to life hopeful human stories. A previous career in marketing offered an outlet for creative writing used to romance brands with mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.
With a Bachelor of Arts from Indiana University, Jules has studied medieval history, ancient Greek culture, anthropology, folklore, narrative composition, and architectural design, and has trained under writing geniuses Libbie Hawker/Olivia Hawker and Roz Morris. While investigating the ancestor who inspired The Muse of Freedom, Jules researched late 17th century Languedoc customs, politics, and spiritual traditions specific to the little known Cévennes mountains of south-central France, culminating in a rich repository to feed future novels about the Cévenol people and culture.
Jules lives primarily in Ojai, California, with time spent around the U.S. and in various countries in Europe gathering more treasures in a continued search for authenticity.
Flora Flowerdew has a secret. The former Florrie Gubbins, music hall dancer, is now Madame Flowerdew, one of London’s most renowned spirit mediums. But it’s actually her beloved Pomeranian dog, Chou-Chou, who can see the ghosts.
One of her most lucrative seances, for the wealthy Petrie family whose daughter is about to marry a handsome young duke, goes chaotically awry. The duke’s late, and very irate, grandfather demands Flora and his grandson Benedict find the long-missing family diamonds—even the search becomes littered with mayhem and murder! Can Flora discover the jewels before she loses her career, her sanity—and her heart?
Sparks fly as Flora, Benedict, and Chou-Chou pursue the truth of the diamonds’ disappearance in this lighthearted, cozy historical mystery set in foggy, gas-lit London
Flora Flowerdew and the Mystery of the Duke’s Diamonds is a delightful, light-hearted Victorian mystery. For all that, it is stuffed with all the elements we would expect to find in a novel of the period, including the always needed addition of the reticule, as well as hansom cabs, wonderful clothing and period detail.
Flora is a delightful character, a woman on the up as she makes her name, not as a chorus girl, but as a spirit medium, with her collection of allies, including a female news reporter for the local newspaper. And of course, there’s a hint of romance along the way; as well as stories of intrigue and mystery, an intrepid explorer, and strange goings-on.
The mystery is engaging, and I think we can all agree, that the inclusion of an irate ghost is particularly fitting for the time period.
An enjoyable, light-hearted read, perfect for those wanting to dip their toe into Victorian London.
Meet the author
Amanda McCabe wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)
She’s never since used algebra, but her books (set in a variety of time periods–Regency, Victorian, Tudor, Renaissance, and 1920s) have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. She lives in New Mexico with her lovely husband, along with far too many books and a spoiled rescue dog.
When not writing or reading, she loves yoga, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook. She also writes as Amanda Allen…
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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.
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.
And sticking with all things Saxon, I’ve written a piece all about Saxon England for this month’s interactive Historical Times magazine. (this link will take you to the sample – sign up to become a member – the magazines are always stuffed with fabulous content)
I can’t quite believe it’s been a year since the release of The Last Shield, but it has, and finally, I’m excited to share The Last Seven with my readers. I confess, the title started as a bit of a joke, but it was just too good not to use:)
Here’s the blurb:
He sent twenty men to infiltrate three hundred. It had to be enough.
While Archbishop Wulfhere of York begs for assistance against Jarl Halfdan, now living in Northumbria, Bishop Smithwulf of London is eager for Coelwulf to forge an alliance with King Alfred of Wessex. And the three Viking raider jarls continue to hold Grantabridge. Yet, Coelwulf has so far managed to dismiss all of these concerns, consumed with worry for his missing warrior, Pybba.
But while searching for Pybba, events overtake Coelwulf, his men are murdered, and his aunt taken, but by which of his enemies?
If Coelwulf fails to rescue his aunt alive, what hope does he have for keeping his kingdom secure?
The year is AD875, and the men of Mercia must once more ride into the fray. The future of Mercia depends on them.
For the first time, I’m releasing the original version, and the Cleaner Version of The Last Seven on the same day. (For those who haven’t encountered the different versions before, the major difference is the absence of a certain word in the Cleaner Versions – I think we probably all know what that word is.)
The paperback and hardback will also be available for the original version. The book will also be available to read with Kindle Unlimited.
I really, really, really, hope you enjoy being back with Coelwulf and his men as much as I loved writing the book. But, a warning, I want you to read the book and enjoy it, but my plan is that book 8 will not be available until this time next year. So, take your time, if you can. And, if you can’t, then don’t forget there’s also a short story collection, Coelwulf’s Company, Tales from before The Last King, and of course, Icel’s story is the basis for The Eagle of Mercia Chronicles. Hopefully, there will be enough for you to read, until the release of the next book.
And, I’ve written a new short story for The Last Seven. If you sign up to my newsletter, I will be sharing the short story with my subscribers first. (I send a monthly email on the 1st of each month.)
Thank you to everyone who has preordered the new book. I hope you all love it, and appreciate the new map I’ve had made for the book.
To celebrate the coming release of The Last Seven, the first book in the series is free on Amazon Kindle for the next few days.
If you’ve not yet discovered Coelwulf, and his warriors, then here’s the blurb;
They sent three hundred warriors to kill one man. It wasn’t enough.
Mercia lies broken but not beaten, her alliance with Wessex in tatters. Coelwulf, a fierce and bloody warrior, hears whispers that Mercia has been betrayed from his home in the west. He fears no man, especially not the Vikings sent to hunt him down.
To discover the truth of the rumours he hears, Coelwulf must travel to the heart of Mercia, and what he finds there will determine the fate of Mercia, as well as his own.
The Last King is available in 2 versions – the original, which is stuffed with foul language, and the ‘cleaner’ version which is missing some of the stronger language, although there’s still many examples of bugger and arsehole, as well as a few others. The battle gore hasn’t been toned down in the cleaner version.
Sometimes, when I’m writing a scene, I just have to write something to go with it, a side story, a prequel, just something that ties up loose ends between one book series, and another, and so, Coelwulf’s Company, a collection of short stories from before the beginning of The Last King. Have you wondered what all our fierce warriors were up to before The Last King? How Coelwulf came to command his warriors? Hopefully, you’ll find some of the answers here in my first collection of short stories featuring the characters from The Last King, and also one character from Son of Mercia!
And, if you’ve read the Chronicles of the English, and are wondering where to go next, then The Mercian Brexit, is an attempt to bridge some of the gap between that trilogy and the Lady Elfrida books. At 15,000 words, The Mercian Brexit is one of my longer short stories, but equally, not as long as some of them have ended up (Cnut was supposed to only ever be 50,000 words but ended up over 100,000 – so not so very short after all.)
Both books are also available to read with a Kindle Unlimited Subscription.
These aren’t my only short stories. You can also find one in The Historical Times magazine from July 2022, and there are also a couple on my author platform with Aspects of History, and I plan on writing many more as well.