Today, I’m delighted to welcome Penny Ingham to the blog with a fab post about her new book, a giveaway and my review #blogtour #histfic #highlyrecommended

I’m delighted to share with you an excerpt and my review for Penny Ingham’s new novel, Twelve Nights, set in the theatres of late Tudor London. Please read all the way to the end because there’s a lot going on in this blog post:)

Here’s the blurb:

The Theatre

London, 1592

When a player is murdered, suspicion falls on the wardrobe mistress, Magdalen Bisset, because everyone knows poison is a woman’s weapon. The scandal-pamphlets vilify her. The coroner is convinced of her guilt.

Magdalen is innocent, although few are willing to help her prove it. Her much-loved grandmother is too old and sick. Will Shakespeare is benignly detached, and her friend Christopher Marlowe is wholly unreliable. Only one man offers his assistance, but dare she trust him when nothing about him rings true?

With just two weeks until the inquest, Magdalen ignores anonymous threats to ‘leave it be’, and delves into the dangerous underworld of a city seething with religious and racial tension. As time runs out, she must risk everything in her search for the true killer – for all other roads lead to the gallows.

Purchase Links 

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Twelve-Nights-Heavenly-Charmers-Book-ebook/dp/B09ZRPGZL8/  

US  – https://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Nights-Heavenly-Charmers-Book-ebook/dp/B09ZRPGZL8/

Excerpt and author post

Thank you so much to MJ at mjporterauthor.blog for letting me share my latest novel.

Twelve Nights is set in 1592, at the imaginatively named The Theatre in Shoreditch, London. The players are the celebrities of their day, but one by one they begin to die in mysterious circumstances. Suspicion instantly falls on the wardrobe mistress, Magdalen Bisset, because everyone knows poison is a woman’s weapon. 

Magdalen is innocent, although few are willing to help her prove it. With just two weeks until the inquest, she ignores anonymous threats to ‘leave it be’, and delves into the dangerous underworld of a city seething with religious and racial tension. As time runs out, she must risk everything in her search for the true killer – for all other roads lead to the gallows.

Here’s an excerpt from the book. To set the scene: The player John Wood has died a horrible death on stage during the first act of Twelve Nights. The constable, Edmund Stow, has told Magdalen he is convinced she is responsible for his murder, and is determined to prove her guilt.  In shock, Magdalen and the players decamp to their favourite tavern to raise a cup to John’s memory.  


The shadows lengthened. The landlord lit the fire, the serving girls laid out soggy saffron cakes, and the players’ spirits began to lift, warmed by the crackling fire, and by wine and cakes and ale. And with every cup of Rhenish she drank, Magdalen’s spirits lifted a little too. The tavern was starting to fill up. Word spread fast through Shoreditch, and now all the poets and playwrights who had ever felt envious of Burbage’s lauded band of brothers were crawling out of the woodwork to gloat over their misfortune. Robert Greene was first to arrive, his distinctive quiff of long, red hair waxed upright like a cockerel’s comb. He made straight for their table, and addressed Burbage.

‘I see you’re still paying that country-bumpkin to write speeches stuffed with far-fetched metaphors.’ Turning to Will Shakespeare, he announced mockingly, ‘If it isn’t the upstart crow, beautified by my feathers.’

Magdalen winced. Will had borrowed the plot of Greene’s Pandosto for The Winter’s Tale. In truth, the playwrights and poets all stole from each other, but Will took their ideas and made them a thousand times better, filling the Theatre and its coffers day after day, whilst Greene lived in back-street poverty. 

‘The pot is calling the kettle black, or Greene, in your case,’ Will replied lightly, but Magdalen could see tension in his eyes. 

Greene spat something brown and glistening onto the floor. Magdalen hoped it was tobacco. Sitting down on the bench beside her, he attempted to manhandle her onto his knee. ‘Weep not, darling, smile upon my knee, when thou art old, there’s grief enough for thee,’ he crooned.

Magdalen recognised the song. It was Greene’s own. Extricating herself from his arms, she shoved him hard. He fell off the bench and landed on his back, legs in the air like a deceased fly. Everyone cheered loudly and raised their glasses. Greene mumbled something. It sounded like ‘misshapen dick’.

Christopher Marlowe arrived next, and the tavern lit up as if the stars had fallen through the thatch. He greeted them all in turn, embracing some, kissing others on the lips. But he offered no kiss to Will. Instead, they simply shook hands like two fencers before a bout. It seemed fitting, for they were presently engaged in an increasingly spectacular play-writing dual, lobbing masterpieces at each other across the Thames. When Marlowe attacked with the gore-fest Tamburlaine, Will struck back with blood-soaked Titus Andronicus. Marlowe lunged with his study of a weak king, Edward the Second, so Will parried with Richard the Second. All of London was waiting to see how Will would respond to Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta.

‘William.’ Marlowe released Will’s hand, and moved on.

‘Christopher,’ Will replied and turned back to his beer.

Magdalen found their relationship hard to fathom, but hidden beneath the jealousy and rivalry, she often suspected a lurking mutual respect. 

Stepping over Robert Greene, who had fallen asleep on the floor, Marlowe sat down beside her. ‘How now, Magdalen?’

She nodded absently. She had drunk a great deal of Rhenish, but she would never admit her inebriation, not even to Marlowe because it was not seemly. But he must have noticed her glazed expression because that familiar, half-smile was playing on his lips, as if he was enjoying his own private joke at the world’s expense. Although he was fast approaching thirty years of age, there was still a boyish charm to his features; the soft doe-eyes, the beard-less cheeks, the wisps of a moustache above full, generous lips.

‘I think you’ve had enough of this.’ He picked up her cup of Rhenish, and proceeded to drain it.

‘Hey!’ she exclaimed but it was a half-hearted protest, for her head was pounding like cannon fire.

‘You will have heard about the constable?’ she said quietly. 

‘Edmund Stow is highly fed and lowly taught. Pay no heed to him,’ Marlowe replied airily.

‘But what if the Puritans bribe the coroner to convict me? We all know they are looking for an excuse to close us down.’ 

He shook his head. ‘I won’t let that happen.’ 

She wished she could believe him, but Marlowe was the most unreliable man on earth.


My Review

Wow! I love it when this happens. I was really keen to feature this book on my blog, but as I’ve severely over-committed myself of late, I wasn’t sure I’d have time to read the book first. But, I did, and just wow.

Sometimes a book is just an absolute delight to read, and this is one of those. Penny Ingham has written both a delightful murder mystery, but also an immersive story set in Tudor London. The smells, the sights, the political unrest, the politics, the religion, problems with the Scots, the theatre, Shakespeare, Marlowe and the underbelly of Tudor London. It is, somehow, all crammed into this novel, and none of it feels forced on the reader. This is total immersion into the London of late Tudor England, and given how I’ve grown weary of all the ‘Tudor’ stuff, this just reassures me that authors are still out there, conjuring up something new and fresh to delight the reader.

I can’t deny that my love of the BBC comedy, Upstart Crow, definitely played into the joy of reading the novel – a strong female lead being one of the most appealing features – but this isn’t a comedy, this is serious business, and it is such a well-told story with a motley cast of all levels of society, from the servants to the Tudor nobility, featuring all any of us could ever want to know about what it was truly like to live at such a time.

And the story doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of the day, and our main character is sorely tested time and time again. I really don’t want to give any spoilers, but this novel nicely ties with all the bits of Tudor England that draws readers to it, the scandal and the dark underbelly, the glitz and glamour and the high echelon of society.

Twelve Nights is a veritable tour de force; a wonderful tale, deeply grounded in Tudor London, and quite frankly, absolutely brilliant!

Meet the author

I was born and raised in Yorkshire where my father inspired my love of history from an early age. He is a born story teller and would take us to the top of Iron Age hillforts, often as dusk was falling, and regale us with stirring tales of battles lost and won. Not surprisingly, I went on to study Classics at university, and still love spending my summers on archaeological digs. For me, there is nothing more thrilling than finding an artefact that has not seen the light of day for thousands of years. I find so much inspiration for my novels from archaeology. 

I have had a variety of jobs over the years, including working for the British Forces newspaper in Germany, and at the BBC. When our family was little, the only available space for me to write was a small walk-in wardrobe. The children used to say, ‘oh, mum’s in the cupboard again’. 

I have written four historical novels: The King’s Daughter explores the story of Aethelflaed, the Lady of the Mercians. The Saxon Wolves and the Saxon Plague are both set in fifth century AD, a time of enormous upheaval and uncertainty in Britain as the Romans departed and the Saxon era began. My latest is something a bit different. Twelve Nights is a crime thriller set in sixteenth century London, and features William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. 

I now live with my husband in the Hampshire countryside. Like many others during the pandemic, we decided to try growing our own fruit and vegetables – with mixed results! We can only get better! 

Connect with Penny

Facebook:  Penny Ingham Author Page | Facebook

Instagram: Penny Ingham (@penny.ingham) 

Twitter: Penny Ingham (@pennyingham) / Twitter

Website: Penny Ingham (wordpress.com)

Giveaway to Win a PB copy of Twelve Nights (Open to UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494511/?

I’ve been asking fellow historical fiction author, Christopher M Cevasco, some questions about his love of Saxon England following the release of his new book, Beheld: Godiva’s Story

Today, I’ve been asking fellow historical fiction author, Christopher M Cervasco, some questions about his love of Saxon England

Can you explain, if possible, why you’re so fascinated by the tenth and eleventh centuries in Saxon England?

It’s a period of tumultuous change filled with a wide cast of colorful characters, beginning with the children of Alfred the Great seeking to push forward the process of English unification and lasting through the Norman Conquest. Along the way, there’s a long stretch of conquering Danish rule in England under King Cnut’s line. We also see major monastic reforms during this period that radically changed the way religious houses operated in England. And throughout these two centuries, we witness such watermark moments as the murder of King Edward the Martyr (one of history’s great unsolved mysteries), the Battle of Maldon (immortalized in the Old English poem), the St Brice’s Day massacre, frequent Viking raids, and then of course the fascinating series of events that took place in 1066, arising from the succession crisis after Edward the Confessor’s death and culminating in the Battle of Hastings. 

Weaving in and out of these events or in some cases existing on their periphery are such memorable individuals as Ealdorman Byrhtnoth (who fell at Maldon), the historical Macbeth, Svein Forkbeard, the Norman William the Conqueror, the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada (whose adventurous life spanned all the way to Constantinople), Harold Godwineson and his brother Tostig (the tragedy of their falling out is epic in its proportions), and the English resistance fighter Hereward the Wake, just to name a handful. Notably, these centuries also give us such fascinating and powerful women as Alfred’s daughter Æthelflæd (Lady of the Mercians), Ælfthryth (mother of Æthelred the Unready and the first wife of an English king known to have been anointed as queen), Emma of Normandy (queen to both King Æthelred and King Cnut), Godwin’s formidable wife Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, and of course Lady Godiva herself! 

To me it’s always seemed that no matter where I look in 10th- and 11th-century England, I uncover some fascinating tidbit, memorable figure, or an event that demands my attention and makes me want to dig deeper and find out more. I suppose to some extent this is true of any period, but these two centuries in England just feel particularly ripe.

Could you explain to me what came first, the desire to tell Lady Godiva’s story, or wanting to use the resource of Earl Leofric’s visions? Or was it just happy coincidence?

Godiva and her story definitely came first.  The legendary tale of her naked ride is of course sensational and lurid, but beyond that, Godiva was one of the most powerful and influential women to have lived during that period. She was married to Leofric, a powerful earl of Mercia during both the Danish occupation of England under King Cnut’s line and during the subsequent return of the royal English bloodline under King Edward the Confessor. Her own life spanned the periods before, during, and after the Danish conquest and she was alive to witness the Norman Conquest. 

The more I delved into this period, the more it became clear to me that Godiva and her husband were very key figures behind the scenes of all of these events. And yet, while we do know a good many details about Godiva’s public life, very little survives in the historical record to tell us about her personal life. I wanted to remedy that by filling in the blanks and connecting the dots. It was while doing that, and in particular while researching Godiva’s husband, that I came across the Old English manuscript known as Visio Leofrici (“The Visions of Leofric”), which dates from the 11th Century and recounts a series of holy visions supposedly experienced by Earl Leofric. As a novelist, that source just called out to me, and I made sure to find a way to incorporate much of its substance into my story. In some ways it was my attempt to come to terms with what was really going on in that primary source that led to the fraught and somewhat tragic character arc I ended up developing for Leofric as I told the story of Godiva.

I notice during the book, hopefully no spoilers, that you also choose to have King Edward as a very uneasy ally of the Godwin family. I too have opted for that explanation in my books, but do you believe it’s historically likely, or is it just wishful thinking on our part?

It always seemed to me that Edward’s relationship with Earl Godwin’s family must have been uneasy and complicated. Yes, he married Godwin’s daughter and made her his queen, and yes the English nobles endorsed Godwin’s son Harold as Edward’s named successor after Edward’s death, but neither of these two facts was particularly straightforward. There was a period when Edward briefly more or less imprisoned his wife in a nunnery coincident with a time when he actually exiled Godwin and the rest of Godwin’s family from the kingdom on charges of treason. And it seems hard to believe that Edward would ever have forgotten the fact that decades earlier, Godwin had helped to blind and murder Edward’s younger brother Alfred. 

As for Harold, while I do personally believe Edward wished at the end for Harold to succeed him, his naming of Harold was anything but straightforward, with Harold having to engage in all sorts of political maneuvering (including an arranged marriage to Lady Godiva’s granddaughter) in order to secure the support of the English nobles. And of course William maintained (with the backing of the papacy) that Edward had in fact promised the English throne to him—not to Harold—and that Harold was merely an oath-breaker and usurper. None of these complications would have arisen, I feel, if Edward’s relationship with the Godwin clan had been purely amicable. So yes, I too ran with the idea that they were only ever uneasy allies.

Do you plan on writing more books in Saxon England?

I’m currently working on a round of final revisions to a war-time resistance thriller set among the English rebels who opposed Norman rule using guerrilla tactics and sabotage in the years immediately following the Battle of Hastings in 1066. After that, I’ll be turning my attention to a new book in which I’ll seek to unravel the mystery surrounding the 978 murder of Edward the Martyr.

I’m looking forward to the murder mystery! Thank you so much for sharing your love of Saxon England. It’s good to know I’m not the only one:)

Here’s all the details for Beheld: Godiva’s Story

A darkly twisted psychological thriller exploring the legend of Lady Godiva’s naked ride.

Having survived a grave illness to become one of 11th-century England’s wealthiest landowners, Godgyfu of Coventry (Lady Godiva) remains forever grateful to the town whose patron saint worked such miracles. She vows to rebuild Coventry’s abbey and better the lives of its townsfolk. But the wider kingdom is descending into political turmoil, and her husband, Earl Leofric, starts to break under the strain. Godgyfu finds her own plans unravelling the moment she meets Thomas, a Benedictine novice with perverse secret desires. Three lives become dangerously entangled in a shocking web of ambition, voyeuristic lust, and horrid obsession. Can Godgyfu escape the monk’s menacing wiles and Leofric’s betrayals to secure her future in a changing kingdom? Perhaps, but first she faces a dark test of wills leading her perilously closer to a legendary ride…

Trigger Warnings:

Sexual situations, psychological abuse, violence, brief references to suicide.

Universal Amazon Link

Barnes and Noble

Lethe Press

Check out my review for Beheld, and the blog tour for Beheld.

Christopher M Cevasco

Christopher M. Cevasco was born in New Jersey and spent a memorable decade in Brooklyn, New York, but he feels most at home in medieval England, Normandy, Norway, and Greenland. A lifelong passion for history and fiction led him to earn degrees in Medieval Studies and English and later to embark upon a writing career that merges these two loves. 

Chris was the founding editor of the award-winning Paradox: The Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction from 2003 to 2009. His own short stories appear in such venues as Black Static, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Distant Echoes(Corazon Books, UK), and the Prime Books anthologies Shades of Blue and Gray: Ghosts of the Civil War and Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages

A long-time member of the Historical Novel Society, Chris currently serves on the society’s North American conference board as registration chair for the upcoming 2023 conference in San Antonio, Texas. 

Chris lives with his wife and their two children in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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Today, I’m delighted to feature a post from Rachel R. Heil about the inspiration for her new book, Leningrad:The People’s War #blogtour

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Rachel R. Heil to the blog.

Your book, Leningrad, sounds fascinating. Can you share with me the first idea 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?

The idea for Leningrad: The People’s War came about several years ago after I read another novel that partially takes place during the Siege of Leningrad. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons is one of my favorite books, and the first half of the story takes place during the Siege of Leningrad. While I loved the book, I recall being disappointed that the story switched locations halfway through because I wanted to see what happened to Leningrad and her people following the first winter under siege.

The Siege of Leningrad lasted 872 days, but as I read a few more books set during the blockade I found that most stories ended during the winter of 1941-42, despite the siege lasting to January 1944. While this was mainly because many citizens were evacuated during that winter due to authorities using the frozen Lake Lagoda to help create a passage out of Leningrad, there were still plenty of people left in Leningrad after the winter had ended. Another reason a lot of books only covered the siege through 1942 was that after the war, the Soviet authorities stopped anyone from speaking about the siege with threats of prison sentences. Despite the limited resources and information available I wanted to write a story that followed the whole ordeal from start to finish, and that’s where the first ideas for Leningrad came about. 

IMAGE CREDIT IS FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS. PLEASE CAPITON PHOTO “The frozen Lake Lagoda. Known as The Road of Life it soon became the only way to escape encircled Leningrad.”

One thing that struck me about Leningrad and the survivors was how strong they were. Reading several interviews of survivors, I found almost all of them did not pity what they went through but saw it mainly as a challenge they had to get through to go on with their lives. The only regrets they had were that they had lost so many friends and family members and regretted not getting out of the city with those loved ones when they had the chance. To me, that was extraordinary, and I wanted to craft a story that would honor those who went through such an ordeal. 

My initial idea for the story was to focus primarily on the Russian side of the war, told from the perspective of an ordinary Russian family attempting to survive. As I began my research this outline began to change a little bit. In the beginning, I didn’t want any of my characters to become involved in the armed forces or political sphere that governed Leningrad. But as I did more digging, I decided it would significantly add to the story for a character to see how the Soviet government handled the siege. I found that it helped explain a lot of the actions Leningraders did and why the city suffered like it did, mainly due to the poor decisions Soviet leaders made. As a result, I made my main protagonist join a volunteer unit where she finds herself being pulled into the inner circle of the people in charge of defending Leningrad.

IMAGE CREDIT IS FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS. “With the end of the siege officials remove the blue signs that warned Leningraders of artillery barrages. In a rare victory for Leningrad survivors after the war the signs were put back up in 1957 to commemorate the siege and remain up in Saint Petersburg today as memorials to the victims. The signs read ‘Citizens! This part of the street is most dangerous during the artillery barrage.’”

The other big change I made was the perspective of the story. Even though one could argue that the story of Leningrad is a purely Russian story, I found the German side to be equally interesting. While there are few accounts from German soldiers who fought on the Leningrad Front, the few that did give their testimonies reveal a group of people who entered the war with the idea that they were liberating the Soviet people but quickly became disillusioned when they realized the human cost of waging such a battle and the persistence of the Soviet people not to give up their city. For many of them, the siege broke their belief in German superiority and that their leaders had made the right decision of waging war with the Soviet Union. With that knowledge I decided to split the narrative equally between the Russians and Germans. 

Looking back, I’m glad I made the decisions I made and that I went away from what I originally outlined. I’m a planner but veering away from that outline turned out to be for the best. My hope is that I crafted a story that honors both the survivors and the victims. 

IMAGE CREDIT IS FROM SERGEY STRUNNIKOV VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS. PLEASE CAPITON PHOTO “Fireworks over Leningrad following the end of the siege, 27 January 1944.” 

Thank you so much for sharing. It sounds like you went on a fascinating journey yourself while writing your book. Good luck with it.

Here’s the blurb:

Leningrad, 1941. As Europe crumbles under the German war machine, the people of the Soviet Union watch. There are whispers of war but not loud enough for the civilians of Leningrad to notice. Instead, they keep their heads down and try to avoid the ever-watching eyes of their own oppressive government.

University student Tatiana Ivankova tries to look ahead to the future after a family tragedy that characterizes life under the brutal regime. But, when the rumors that have been circulating the country become a terrifying reality, Tatiana realizes that the greatest fear may not be the enemy but what her fellow citizens are prepared to do to each other to survive. 

As his men plow through the Russian countryside, Heinrich Nottebohm is told to follow orders and ask no questions, even if such commands go against his own principles. His superiors hold over him a past event that continues to destroy him with every day that passes. But, when given the opportunity to take an act of defiance, Heinrich will jump at the chance, ignoring what the end results could be. 

Leningrad: The Peoples War tells the harrowing beginning of a war that forever changed the landscape of a city, told through the eyes of both sides in a tale of courage, love, and sacrifice. 

Buy Links:

This novel is available on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the author

Rachel R. Heil is a historical fiction writer who always dreamed of being an author. After years of dreaming, she finally decided to turn this dream into a reality with her first novel, and series, Behind the Darkened Glass. Rachel is an avid history fan, primarily focused on twentieth century history and particularly World War Two-era events. In addition to her love for history, Rachel loves following the British Royal Family and traveling the world, which only opens the door to learning more about a country’s history. Rachel resides in Wisconsin.

Connect with Rachel

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Follow the Leningrad blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

The Last Shield is a Bookbub deal this week. Just 99p/99c/65 INR and the whole series is reduced on Amazon UK/US as well

I’m super excited to share the huge promotion for book 6 in The Ninth Century series, which is currently 99p UK, 99c Canada and Australia, and 65 INR, as well as being reduced in all marketplaces. And if that’s not enough, all six books, in both original and the Cleaner versions, are also reduced on on Amazon US and UK. (Well, apart from book 1, which is always 99p/99c).

So, if you’ve not caught up with events in Mercia in the 870s, before the release of book 7, which I couldn’t resist calling The Last Seven, now is the perfect opportunity to do.

books2read.com/TheLastShield

(The link will take you to the original version of The Last Shield).

books2read.com/TheLastKingCleaner

(this link will take you to Book 1 in the Cleaner Versions series, and then you should be able to find all of the books from it.)

I’m reviewing The Discarded by Louis van Schalkwyk, #Thriller #BlogTour

Here’s the blurb:

A fast paced thriller you won’t forget!


‘There were many moments where I can honestly say ‘I did not see that coming’’ – Tina Simpson

Ellis Neill wakes up next to his family one morning, just as he had done for the last ten years, unaware that it would be his last taste of freedom.

His life soon spirals out of control and he is cast into a remote prison in the Arctic wilderness where nothing is as it seems, the inmates rule and a sinister figure wants him and his family dead.

Resulting from carefully laid plans he is plunged into a fight for survival, sanity and saving those he loves.

‘A masterpiece of a story with thrills and twists!’ – Laura, reviewer

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

Review

It was the cover that drew me to this book. Anything with a wintry landscape! And the book did not disappoint.

The story begins with a gruesome murder and only then do we meet our main character, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and convicted without any real chance of proving his innocence before he’s sent to a desolate prison.

The sequence of events is just this side of realistic and ramps up very quickly. The book is somewhat violent, but flows well and is fast paced, and the body count soon begins to build.

This very much reminded me of the movie Taken, or anything in that genre. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it to fans of thrillers. The writing style is confident and the pace never slackens.

Meet the Author

Louis van Schalkwyk was born in South Africa and currently resides in Hong Kong. “The Discarded” is his debut novel, inspired by years honing his writing skills and drawing influence from his favorite authors. When Louis isn’t writing he enjoys reading and sampling various cuisines with his wife, Courtney.

Connect with the Author

https://www.facebook.com/louisvsauthor

https://www.instagram.com/louisvsauthor/

https://mobile.twitter.com/louisvanschalk3

Connect with the Publisher

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/kingsleypublishers/?hl=en-gb

Twitter – https://twitter.com/kingsleypublis1

Follow The Discarded blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

Today, I’m delighted to welcome back Renee Yancy to the blog, with her new book, More Precious Than Gold #blogtour #historicalromance

Welcome back to the blog. I’m excited to hear about the inspiration for your new book, More Precious Than Gold. (Here is the post from last time Renee was on the blog)

The inspiration for More Precious Than Gold came through several different channels. At first, I planned to write a sequel to my first book in the Hearts of Gold series, The Test of Gold. I wanted to continue the saga of Lindy’s family with her daughter, Kitty.

That put me roughly into the time period of 1918.

I also had several readers comment on the original character of Vera Lindenmayer, Kitty’s grandmother, whom I based on the real-life person of Alva Vanderbilt. The same Alva Vanderbilt who forced her daughter to marry the Duke of Marlborough at age 18. They wanted Vera to get her comeuppance!

When I started researching, I came across so much information about WWI and the Pandemic Flu of 1918 that I started thinking of a way my character could get involved. I spent approximately two years researching the pandemic flu.

It was fascinating and horrifying at the same time. Having been an RN for 48 years now, it seemed natural to make my character Kitty a student nurse. After reading the book Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky, I knew I wanted to use Bellevue Hospital.

Many things have changed in the last 100 years of nursing, but some things never change and it was great fun to write about Kitty’s adventures as a student nurse before things get grim as the pandemic flu hit New York City.

At times the writing was difficult, as I got to the pandemic flu part. Then, as now, we all know someone who had COVID or had it ourselves. But the flu of 1918 disproportionately affected people in the 20 to 40 age range―people in the prime of their lives, as opposed to the elderly and very young whom the flu usually affects. In New York City alone, over 100,000 children were left orphans. 

So I had to choose which characters in the story would die of the flu. To be realistic, I couldn’t let them all survive. And I had grown so attached to them that I didn’t want any of them to perish. But it had to be done. 

I finished the manuscript for this story in 2017, two years before COVID hit. No one was more surprised than me to find myself in the middle of a modern pandemic. 

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiration. Isn’t it strange how you spent so long researching the book, and then Covid came along? Good luck with your new release.

Here’s the blurb:

A young woman refuses to become a pawn in her grandmother’s revenge scheme and forgoes a life of wealth and royalty to pursue a nursing career as America enters WWI and the Pandemic Flu of 1918 wreaks havoc in New York City.

Buy Links:

Universal Link:

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CA:

Barnes and Noble: KoboApple Books

Meet the Author

Renee Yancy is a history and archaeology nut who works as an RN when she isn’t writing historical fiction or traveling the world to see the exotic places her characters have lived.

A voracious reader as a young girl, she now writes the kind of books she loves to read—stories filled with historical and archaeological detail interwoven with strong characters facing big conflicts. Her goal is to take you on a journey into the past so fascinating that you can’t put the story down. 

When she isn’t writing, Renee can be found in the wilds of Kentucky with her husband and a rescue mutt named Ellie. She loves flea markets and collecting pottery and glass and most anything mid-century modern.

Connect with Renee

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Today, I’m reviewing The Sweetheart Locket #blogtour #histfic #dualtimeline

Here’s the blurb:

What if the key to your present lies in the past?

London, 1939
On the eve of the Second World War, Canadian Maggie Wyndham defies her family and stays in England to do her bit for the war effort. Torn between two countries, two men and living a life of lies working for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), Maggie’s RAF sweetheart locket is part of who she is…and who she isn’t.

San Francisco, 2019
Over twenty years after Maggie’s death, her daughter Millie and granddaughter Willow take a DNA test that’s supposed to be a bit of fun but instead yields unexpected results. Willow has always treasured her grandmother’s sweetheart locket, both family heirloom and a symbol of her grandparents’ love story. But now she doesn’t know what to believe. She embarks on a search for the truth, one she doesn’t know will reveal far more about herself…

A gripping and heart-breaking dual timeline novel about love, loss and buried secrets, The Sweetheart Locket is perfect for fans of Lorna Cook, Rachel Hore and Suzanne Kelman.

Purchase Links 

Universal Amazon link: 

Other links (Apple, GooglePlay & Kobo) via Hachette: https://www.hachette.co.uk/titles/jen-gilroy-2/the-sweetheart-locket/9781398708365/

My Review

The Sweetheart Locket is a dual timeline story following the lives of 1939 Maggie in London, and 2019 Willow, her granddaughter, who has made her life in California.

The story of Maggie is intriguing, and covers the years of the Second World War, while Willow’s story is mainly told throughout a five week holiday in London. There are epilogues concluding the stories of all of the cast.

The focus of Maggie’s story is not truly her work during the Second World War, but rather on the men in her life, and how the Second World War impacted on those relationships, and then how she kept much of this secret from her daughter, who also had her own struggles as a young woman.

Willow’s story focuses on her need to understand some DNA results she receives just before travelling to London on a research trip. It is this that drives much of the narrative surrounding Willow, although it is not the only element to the story. Willow too is trying to find true love.

The twin narratives weave together quite well, although Maggie is by far the stronger of the two storylines. It is her story that engrossed me, and although I did work out much of the plot in advance, The Sweetheart Locket is still an entertaining read, especially for those looking for the surety of happy endings. Willow’s story is perhaps a little overly complicated, and also too filled with happenstance for my liking. It is Maggie who by far shines as the stronger of the two women, although the juxtaposition between the two characters is quite nicely portrayed.

If you’re a fan of dual timeline novels set in both a contemporary and World War 2 setting, and with a strong element of romance, The Sweetheart Locket will be a perfect read.

Meet the Author

Jen Gilroy writes sweet contemporary romance and dual timeline historical women’s fiction—warm, feel-good stories to bring readers’ hearts home.

A Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist and shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon award, Amazon named her third book, ‘Back Home at Firefly Lake,’ a ‘Best Book of the Month: Romance’ in December 2017.

A dual British-Canadian citizen, Jen lived in England for many years and earned a doctorate (with a focus on British cultural studies and social history) from University College London. Returning to where her Irish family roots run deep, she now lives with her husband, teenage daughter and floppy-eared rescue hound in small-town Eastern Ontario, Canada.

When not writing, she enjoys reading, ice cream, ballet and paddling her purple kayak.

Visit Jen online at www.jengilroy.com

Connect with Jen

Twitter: www.twitter.com/JenGilroy1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenGilroyAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jen.gilroyauthor/

Giveaway to Win 2 x Kindle copies of The Sweetheart Locket (Open to UK / Canada)

*Terms and Conditions –UK & Canada entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494508/?

Follow The Sweetheart Locket blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

Today, I’m reviewing the rather fabulous The Maids of Biddenden by GD Harper as part of the #blogtour #histfic #12thCentury

Here’s the blurb:

‘There is no me; there is no you.

There is only us.’

The Maids of Biddenden is inspired by the real-life story of conjoined twins Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst, born in 1100 into a wealthy family from a small Kent village.

Joined at the hip, the sisters overcome fear and hostility to grow into gifted and much-loved women ­– one a talented musician and song-writer, the other a caring healer and grower of medicinal plants. Entangled in the struggles for power and influence of the great Kent nobles of the time, they achieve much in their lifetimes and leave behind a legacy in Biddenden that survives to this day.

This is the heart-warming and inspirational story of two remarkable women leading one joint life, challenging adversity to become the best they can be.

Review

The Maids of Biddenden is that rare beast which entirely absorbs the reader from page one. Helped by a flowing style of writing, and the immediate and impending danger that the twins find themselves in as six-year-olds, the reader is entirely absorbed in the story, and their fate, so much so that it’s difficult to put the book down. That said, it is not just the twins themselves that drive the story – the people they interact with, those with their best and worst interests at heart – are all believable and well written, and there are occasions when the reader will be left frustrated and angered that some seem to face little punishment for their actions. The story has a number of points of view, and I found that they all worked very well – offering a view of the twins as they think of themselves, and also as others perceived them.

The story is effectively split in two; the first 45% tells the story of the Maids as young children. This element of the story is filled with a deep sense of foreboding that drives the story onward and makes the reader fearful for the future of the Maids. The narrative then moves forward a few years, and we see them as young women, trying to make a name for themselves and use their talents for good. At this point, the immediate landscape that the Maids encounter broadens considerably, and we move away from the nunnery and the settlement of Biddenden, into the politics and events of the early twelfth century, that almost consume the lives of the Maids for the remainder of their years – they lived during the time of the tragedy of the White Ship.

The story doesn’t so much lose focus here, but because the impending danger has passed, the reader is instead absorbed in how the twins accomplish all that they do. There is a great deal of attention to detail here – both medical knowledge and music – and it’s fascinating to see how the Maids’ lives interact with known events from the period.

This is a delightful story. I was entirely engrossed and found myself snatching what time I could to carry on reading it – something that doesn’t happen all that often. I highly, highly recommend The Maids of Biddenden for fans of historical fiction, and also for those who don’t normally read the genre. The challenges that the twins face are well told, and the reaction their appearance sparks are conveyed well, although as the reader you will be offended by the prevailing belief that they are Godless and a monstrosity, and the fact that they were a ‘sight to see’ as opposed to always being appreciated for who they were and what they could accomplish. The historical notes at the back of the novel are also fascinating.

A truly heart-warming story.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Maids-Biddenden-heart-warming-inspirational-12th-century-ebook/dp/B09ZBKX9S4/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Maids-Biddenden-heart-warming-inspirational-12th-century-ebook/dp/B09ZBKX9S4/

Meet the author

I became a full-time author in 2016, publishing three novels under the pen name GD Harper. I have been both a Wishing Shelf Book Award finalist and Red Ribbon winner, been shortlisted for the Lightship Prize, longlisted for the UK Novel Writing Award and longlisted for the Page Turner Writer Award. The Maids of Biddenden was a finalist in this year’s Page Turner Book Award for unpublished manuscripts, longlisted for the Exeter Book Prize and the Flash 500 Novel Award, and shortlisted for the Impress Prize. 

Connect with GD Harper

Facebook: @gdharperauthor

Twitter: @harper_author

Website: www.gdharper.com

https://www.instagram.com/gdharperauthor/

Follow The Maids of Biddenden blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

Today, I’m taking part in the blog tour for A Harvest Murder by Frances Evesham #blogtour #cosycrime

Here’s the blurb:

One unexplained disappearance is strange, but two are sinister.

In Lower Hembrow, an idyllic village nestled beneath Ham Hill in Somerset, the villagers are preparing to enjoy the autumn traditions of the rural English countryside until Joe Trevillion, a curmudgeonly local farmer and the father of six children, vanishes.

When Adam Hennessy, the ex-detective proprietor of The Plough, the village’s popular Inn, investigates, he finds ominous undercurrents beneath apparently harmless rumour and gossip.

Meanwhile, a vicious campaign of vindictiveness forces Adam and his three amateur sleuth friends to dig deep into the secret lives of their neighbours to expose the source of a cruel vendetta and prevent another death.

As they uncover the disturbing truth, the friends learn they must also lay their own past lives to rest before they can hope to make their dreams for the future come true.

Purchase Link  – https://amzn.to/3tNDDDd

Review

A Harvest Murder is the first Ham Hill Murder Mystery I’ve read, but it was easy to get to know the four main characters and I’m sure other readers will be able to jump right in if they want to. Mind – there are a few references to the earlier books, so if you do, it might spoil your enjoyment of books 1 and 2 in the series.

I found the characters and the twin mysteries to be intriguing. The residents of Lower Hembrow are a typically mixed bunch of nosy do-gooders and those trying to keep their secrets just that, secret. Much of the action takes place in the local pub, listening to gossip from the locals, and if it’s not at the pub, then it’s at the local hotel, either on Cider Night or Guy Fawkes Night. The book feels very autumnal.

An enjoyable, cosy read that makes you think of toffee apples, and pumpkins. This won’t be the only book in the series that I read.

Meet the author

Frances Evesham is the bestselling author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea murder mysteries set in her home county of Somerset, and the Ham-Hill cosy crime series set in South Somerset.

Connect with Frances

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/frances.evesham.writer/

Twitter https://twitter.com/francesevesham

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/francesevesham/

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/FrancesEveshamNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/frances-evesham

Today I’m delighted to be sharing an excerpt from G M Baker’s new book, The Wistful and the Good #histfic #blogtour

The Wistful and the Good

Excerpt

Granny Hunith, was an elderly woman. Edith had been her last child and she was well past her sixtieth year, though no one seemed to remember when she was born, and if she knew herself, she was not telling. Hunith and Kendra had disputed for several years over which of them was the elder, for it was some distinction to be the oldest woman in the village. Kendra’s impending death would secure Hunith her supremacy, an event she looked on with a mixture of triumph and regret. 

She was sitting on a bench outside her hut, a spindle busy in her hands while she watched several small children—offspring of Elswyth’s Welisc cousins—playing in the dirt at her feet. She was dressed in rough-spun brown like a slave, though underneath she wore fine-spun linen, so as not to itch from the wool. She had the face of an aging well-tanned cherub, framed with long grey hair that her various daughters and granddaughters, noble and slave alike, kept immaculately combed for her. 

The children leapt up and ran to attach themselves to Elswyth’s skirts when they saw her coming, begging for the nuts or apples that Elswyth usually had with her when she came to visit Granny. But today she had forgotten to bring anything, so she kissed each of them on the cheek and sent them away. 

“Hello, Granny,” she said as they approached. She and Leif were hand in hand, though neither had consciously offered a hand to the other. 

“So you’ve brought your swain to see me at last, Elsy,” Hunith said. 

“No, Granny, this is Leif.”

“Help me up, young man,” Hunith said. 

Leif offered her his hand and she pulled herself to her feet. She did not let go of his hand, however, but held him with one hand while she inspected him with the other, testing the muscle in his arm and forcing open his mouth so she could inspect his teeth. She lifted the corner of his bandage and made him bend over so that she could smell the wound.

“It’s fresh, Granny,” Elswyth said. “It wouldn’t smell yet. I bound it with honey so it would not fester.”

Hunith nodded. “Well, he’s fit,” she said, when she had completed her inspection. “Very tall. Tall men are good in battle, but it can be hard work birthing their babies. Big babies could get stuck inside a wee thing like you.”

“I’m not having his babies, Granny.”

“Waiting till the wedding, then? You are taking her on faith, young man? Don’t worry, we’re a fertile lot, and we birth easy.”

“I’m not marrying him, Granny. I’m marrying Drefan. Don’t you remember? This is Leif, the captain of the Norsk ship on the beach.”

“Norsk? You still remember the old gods, young man?”

“We honor Odin, Thor, and Ran.”

“And what of the Christ, then?”

“I will give no offence to your Christ, in his own country.”

“Good lad. Will you be taking Elsy back to Norway, when you marry?”

“I am not marrying your granddaughter, Lady.”

“Lady? You’re not in the hall now, young man. I’m not an Anglish lady, and I won’t hear it said. You heed me?”

“Yes…”

“You should call me Granny, since you are marrying Elsy.”

“He’s not marrying me, Granny. I’m marrying Drefan. You would have met him several times already, if only you would come to the hall when he visits.”

“I’ll not go to the hall, and Drefan of Bamburgh will not come down to the slave huts to visit me. But this young jarl of yours, he comes to see me when you ask him to. He regards the whole of you, not the half. He will make you a good husband.”

“But I’m not marrying him, Granny. Stop being dense. I know you’re not really.”

“She has a temper, this one,” Hunith said, still holding on to Leif’s hand. “But she has a good heart. Do not beat her. She will disobey you sometimes, but she will be sorry for it. She has a good heart, and beating would only turn her sour.”

“I would never beat her,” Leif said.

“You will be a good husband. She will be a good wife. She can’t sew, but she will entertain your guests and take good care of your children.”

“Granny…”

“You may tell your mother I approve the match,” Hunith said, dropping Leif’s hand and taking both of Elswyth’s hands in her own. Then she pulled Elswyth close and whispered. “Come to me before your wedding night. I have a salve that will make things easy for you, and herbs to put in his food, and a charm for under the pillow.”

“I’m sorry, Leif,” Elswyth said. “Sometimes she’s lucid as a bishop and sometimes she’s just dotty. This must be a dotty day. Let’s go and see if the monk has finished his prayers.

Elswyth kissed her grandmother goodbye. Leif bowed to her and thanked her for receiving him. They turned and walked back toward the hall, her hand falling into his again, without either of them noticing. 

Hunith sat back on her bench, picked up her spindle, and watched them go, a contented smile on her face. She could always tell when the weather was changing, long before other people noticed the sun come out or the clouds roll in.

Here’s the blurb:

The mighty are undone by pride, the bold by folly, and the good by wistfulness. 

Elswyth’s mother was a slave, but her father is a thegn, and Drefan, the man she is to marry, is an ealdorman’s son. But though Elswyth is content with the match, and waits only for Drefan to notice that she has come to womanhood, still she finds herself gazing seaward, full of wistful longing.

From the sea come Norse traders, bringing wealth, friendship, and tales of distant lands. But in this year of grace 793 the sea has brought a great Viking raid that has devastated the rich monastery of Lindisfarne. Norse are suddenly not welcome in Northumbria, and when Elswyth spots a Norse ship approaching the beach in her village of Twyford, her father fears a Viking raid.

But the ship brings trouble of a different kind. Leif has visited Twyford many times as a boy, accompanying his father on his voyages. But now he returns in command of his father’s ship and desperate to raise his father’s ransom by selling a cargo of Christian holy books. Elswyth is fascinated by the books and the pictures they contain of warm and distant lands. 

But when Drefan arrives, investigating reports of the sighting of a Norse ship, Elswyth must try to keep the peace between Drefan and Leif, and tame the wistfulness of her restless heart.  

Buy Links:

Universal Link: 

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Apple Books

Laterpress

Meet the author

G. M. Baker has been a newspaper reporter, managing editor, freelance writer, magazine contributor, PhD candidate, seminarian, teacher, desktop publisher, programmer, technical writer, department manager, communications director, non-fiction author, speaker, consultant, and grandfather. He has published stories in The Atlantic AdvocateFantasy BookNew England’s Coastal JournalOur FamilyStorytellerSolander, and Dappled Things. There was nothing much left to do but become a novelist. 

Connect with the author

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