I’m delighted to welcome Anna Belfrage and her new book, Her Castilian Heart, to the blog  #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub #medievalfiction #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #MedievalEngland

I’m delighted to welcome Anna to the blog, and she’s written a fabulous post about her historical research.

Those unruly Welsh – a post about those that would not give up

Some years ago, I published His Castilian Hawk, where the story is set against the backdrop of Edward I’s conquest of Wales in 1282-83. Some may think that after Dafydd ap Gruffyd was executed in late 1283, Wales was permanently cowed, bowing its neck abjectly before its new overlord. Not at all like in Scotland, where the Scots just wouldn’t give up, no matter what Edward I threw at them.

Hmm. I dare say those medieval Welshmen would snort—rather loudly—at the notion that they somehow lacked in bravery. Also, one must keep in mind that the English king could command vastly more men than the Welsh could. Plus, Wales was not a cohesive unit as Scotland was. No, Wales was subdivided into various little principalities, and since the death of Llewellyn Fawr in 1240 no one had really managed to unite all Wales again. Also, large chunks of Wales had been under English control for yonks, ruled over by the so called Marcher Lords. 

So it was a fragmented people who were invaded by the English in 1282-83, and in some places people didn’t overly care who sat in the nearby castle. Besides, many Welshmen had no reason to risk their neck for Llywellyn ap Gruffyd or his brother as they were princes of Gwynedd, not of Wales. But that does not mean the Welsh had rolled over and given up. In fact, there’d be a sequence of rebellions—of varying size—over the years. What all those rebellions have in common is that they failed, even if the impressive Owain Glyndwr in the early 15th century came close to success.

In my latest release, Her Castilian Heart, the adventures and misfortunes that beset my fictional protagonists, Robert FitzStephan and his wife Noor, are to some extent set against the backdrop of another Welsh rebellion, that of Rhys ap Maredudd.

Rhys was a member of the royal house of Deheubarth, a principality in mid Wales. Deheubarth and Gwynedd were traditional enemies, so when Dafydd ap Gruffyd prodded his older brother into rebellion in 1282, Rhys sided with the English. Actually, already in the Anglo-Welsh wars of 1276-77, Rhys submitted to England, hoping that by doing so he’d be able to keep his lands—and regain the impressive Dinefwr Castle, the traditional seat of the princes of Deheubarth. 

In the aftermath of the 1282-83 conquest, Rhys was rewarded for his loyalty with more land.
“And Dinefwr?” he asked. 
King Edward likely raised an eyebrow. No way was he about to return such an impressive castle to a Welsh princeling. Instead, he forced Rhys to sign a quitclaim, effectively handing over “his” castle permanently to the English king. Rhys may not have liked this, but he seems to have swallowed his disappointment and instead focussed his attention on fortifying his remaining castle of note, Dryslwyn.

But it must have rankled, losing Dinefwr. Also, Rhys seems to have been under the impression that he’d been promised Dinefwr if he rode with the English against his fellow Welshmen. Whatever the case, in 1287, Rhys rebelled.

He had some initial success, but King Edward’s appointed regent, Edmund of Cornwall (the king himself was in Gascony) acted with speed, assembling a huge host that marched into Wales. By October, the rebellion had effectively been stamped out until all that was left was a core of determined men besieged at Dryslwyn. This was when King Edward’s interest in siege machines came in handy: soon enough several huge trebuchets began bombarding Dryslwyn’s walls with projectiles. In all that upheaval, Rhys managed to slip away. 

For some weeks, things were quiet, but in mid-November Rhys popped up again, urging his fellow Welshmen to join his rebellion. A new, much smaller force was assembled to sort things out—one in which I’ve included Robert FitzStephan and his friend, Roger Mortimer. Rhys took refuge in yet another castle, this time the triangular-shaped Newydd Emlyn.

The English packed together their siege weapons, loaded them onto carts, requisitioned forty oxen and hauled them all the way up to Newydd Emlyn. Ten days of siege and the English won—but the elusive Rhys had managed to slip away. Again.

For the coming four years, he somehow managed to stay hidden. Some people think he may have escaped to Ireland, but if he had, one wonders why he came back only to be captured. In 1291, Rhys ap Maredudd was executed in York, far from the land of his birth. His son and namesake was to spend the coming fifty years in prison. 

Rhys was not the last Welshman to rebel against Edward. Some years later, the fires of rebellion would yet again threaten Edward’s iron hold on this his newest dominion—but of that I will write in the next book in the series! 

Thank you so much for sharing such a fascinating post. Good luck with your new book and with writing the next one.

Here’s the blurb:

Blood is not always thicker than water…

At times a common bloodline is something of a curse—or so Robert FitzStephan discovers when he realises his half-brother, Eustace de Lamont, wants to kill him.   

A murderous and greedy brother isn’t Robert’s only challenge.  He and his wife, Noor, also have to handle their infected relationship with a mightily displeased Queen Eleanor—all because of their mysterious little foundling whom they refuse to abandon or allow the queen to lock away. 

Eustace is persistent. When Robert’s life hangs in the balance, it falls to Noor to do whatever it takes to rip them free from the toothy jaws of fate. Noor may be a woman, but weak she is not, and in her chest beats a heart as brave and ferocious as that of a lioness. But will her courage be enough to see them safe? 

Trigger Warnings:
There is some sexual (consensual) content. Also some violence

Buy Links: 

Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link : http://myBook.to/HEART

Amazon UK: Amazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.  

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. 

Her Castilian Heart is the third in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In the second instalment, The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain. This latest release finds our protagonists back in England—not necessarily any safer than the wilds of Spain!

Anna has also authored The Whirlpools of Time in which she returns to the world of time travel. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode! 

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, www.annabelfrage.com  

Connect with Anna

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Today, I’m featuring a historical mystery by Alana White, The Hearts of All on Fire #BlogTour

Here’s the blurb:

Florence, 1473. An impossible murder. A bitter rivalry. A serpent in the ranks.

Florentine investigator Guid’Antonio Vespucci returns to Florence from a government mission to find his dreams of success shattered. Life is good—but then a wealthy merchant dies from mushroom poisoning at Guid’Antonio’s Saint John’s Day table, and Guid’Antonio’s servant is charged with murder. Convinced of the youth’s innocence and fearful the killer may strike again, Guid’Antonio launches a private investigation into the merchant’s death, unaware that at the same time powerful enemies are conspiring to overthrow the Florentine Republic—and him. A clever, richly evocative tale for lovers of medieval and renaissance mysteries everywhere, The Hearts of All on Fire is a timeless story of family relationships coupled with themes of love, loss, betrayal and, above all, hope in a challenging world.

Buy Links:

Universal Link:  

Amazon UK: Kindle: Paperback

Amazon US: Kindle: Paperback: 

Amazon Canada: Kindle: Paperback: 

Amazon Australia: Kindle: Paperback: 

Barnes & Noble: BookshopWaterstones

Parnassus Books (Nashville, Tennessee)

Connect with Alana White

Alana White’s passion for Renaissance Italy has taken her to Florence for research on the Vespucci and Medici families on numerous occasions.  There along cobbled streets unchanged over the centuries, she traces their footsteps, listening to their imagined voices, including that of her protagonist, Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his friends, Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Lorenzo de’ Medici.  

Alana’s first short story featuring real-life fifteenth-century lawyer Guid’Antonio Vespucci and his favorite nephew, Amerigo Vespucci, was a Macavity Award finalist and led to the Guid’Antonio Vespucci Mystery Series featuring “The Sign of the Weeping Virgin” (Book I) and “The Hearts of All on Fire” (Book II).  

She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association and the Historical Novel Society, among other organizations.  She loves hearing from readers, and you can contact her at her website, www.alanawhite.com

Connect with Alana

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I’m delighted to welcome Dead in Tune by Stephanie Dagg to the blog, a fun cosy Christmas crime set in France #blog tour

Here’s the blurb:

It’s nearly Christmas, a time for peace and goodwill. Or maybe not.

First the house of a young Spanish family is burned down, and then a Dutch clog dancer is battered almost to death with his own footwear. On the night of the carol service, at which the Worldwide Friendship Club’s choir is singing, a Scottish bagpiper is found dead. By Martha, who has come across enough dead bodies already this year to last her a lifetime.

Convinced there’s a link to the choir, Martha and best friend Lottie set out on the trail of the murderer. Their unconventional sleuthing methods land one of them in rather a lot of trouble…

‘Dead In Tune’, the sequel to ‘Hate Bale’, is an entertaining, festive cosy mystery set in rural France. 

Purchase Links

Amazon UK

Amazon US

My Review

Dead in Tune is a fun cosy Christmas crime that hits all the right notes (sorry: but it really does.) The story’s pacing is sound, and the light relief is very well placed so that even when there’s a bit of un-Christmas-like peril, the reader knows not to fear unnecessarily.

The two characters of Martha and Lottie bounce off one another very well. Both British ex-pats, both really quite nosy and yet with good hearts, for the most part. Members of the local choir, events start to veer away from the cosy Christmas they might have hoped for with an arson attack, a mugging and then the murder of the poor Scottish bag-pipe player.

This isn’t the first book featuring these characters. I’ve not read book one, and this Christmas-themed book works very well as a standalone. It is short and sweet and made me chuckle, and I really didn’t know who the murderer was until the big reveal.

A lot of fun and highly recommended for fans of cosy crime and those in need of a Christmas read.

Meet the Author

I’m an English immigrant living in France with my family, after many years in Ireland. We have a seventy-five acre farm with animals ranging from alpacas to zebra finches. I work part-time as a freelance editor. The rest of the time I’m helping to run our carp fishing lake business and inevitably cleaning up after some or other animal.

I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction books, and plenty of them – somewhere around the fifty mark now! Originally I was published by two presses in Ireland, but more recently I’ve taken the self-publishing route. I’m a keen book blogger, and I also love knitting, natural dyeing, gardening and cycling.  

Connect with the author

Twitter 

Facebook

www.bloginfrance.com

I’m delighted to be sharing the new cover for Holly Bush’s brand new #HistoricalRomance, The Captain’s Woman #BlogTour

Here’s the blurb:

Meet the Thompsons of Locust Street, an unconventional family taking Philadelphia high society by storm…

1870 ~ Muireall Thompson has taken her duties seriously since her parents died on the family’s crossing from Scotland to America in 1854. As the eldest sibling, their death made her responsible for her family and left little time for a life of her own. But now her brothers and sisters are adults; even the youngest is nearly ready to face the world on his own. What will she do when she is alone, other than care for an elderly aunt and volunteer at the Sisters of Charity orphanage? Has the chance for a husband and children of her own passed her by?

Widower Anthony Marcus, formerly a captain in the Union Army, is a man scraping the bottom of his dignity and hanging on to his honor by the barest thread. Reduced to doing odd jobs to keep a roof over his dear daughter Ann’s head, he often leaves her with the Sisters of Charity while he is out seeking steady work with a decent salary that will allow him to move from their single-room living quarters.

After an initial meeting that finds Muireall and Anthony at odds, a tentative friendship forms as they bond over their mutual affection for Ann. As friendship leads to passion, can a wealthy spinster and a poor soldier overcome their differences in station to forge a future together? Just as Muireall finds the courage to reach for her own happiness, Anthony’s past rises up between them and an old enemy reemerges to bring the Thompson family down once and for all. Will the divide between them be insurmountable, or can they put aside pride and doubt for a love worth fighting for?

Buy Links:

International Buy Link: 

Amazon US:   Amazon UK:   Amazon CA:   Amazon AU:  

KoboiBooks:   Barnes & Noble:    Google Books:  

Meet the author

Holly Bush writes historical romance set in the U.S.in the late 1800’s, in Victorian England, and an occasional Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Connect with Holly at www.hollybushbooks.com and on Twitter @hollybushbooks and on Facebook at Holly Bush.

Connect with Holly

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Today, I’m sharing an exciting post by Michael L. Ross about his new book, The Founding, Book 3 in Across the Divide #historicalfiction #biographicalfiction #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

I’m delighted to welcome Michael L. Ross to the blog, with a post about his new book, The Founding.

The Founding follows the earthquake changes that the railroad made to American business and society during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Through the eyes of my fictional characters, Julia and Hiram Johannsen, the railroad itself almost becomes another major character. Julia is the sister of the main character, Will Crump. In order to do an effective job with telling the story of the railroad, I had to research and plot the timeline of the many different railroads that pushed south and west across America during the period 1868-1909. 

The figure of robber baron Jason “Jay” Gould looms over the story, as he went from a tannery business to partner in the Erie Railroad to the major force behind the Union Pacific Railroad. The UP swallowed many other lines in its march to the Pacific Ocean. 

Julia was a businesswoman at a time when it was uncommon, and shepherded the Johannsen steamship line through the Civil War, while Hiram fought for the Federal army in book 1 of the series, The Clouds of War. As The Founding opens, Julia and Hiram’s business is in danger from the encroaching railroads, financed from New York and Europe. They must adapt or perish. 

The Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe promised a new rail line that could save them. For my research, I delved into the railroad’s history, largely through Keith L. Bryant Jr.’s non-fiction account, History of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway, and local records in the Newton, Kansas historical society. The ATSF and the Kansas Pacific railroads sought to go through Kansas from east to west, and south through Indian Territory (Oklahoma) to Santa Fe, and California. At every turn, Jay Gould bought up lines and pounced on the business, making it very tough indeed to compete. The Life and Legend of Jay Gould by Maury Klein follows Gould’s life in great detail, chronicling the schemes and deals that made Gould famous and feared. 

The railroad story is a complex one, and many managers came and went. The road to success was complicated by the financial panic of 1873, where many railroads went bankrupt in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war. European countries had invested heavily in American railroads via bonds, and the end of the war with German victory brought the collapse of the Jay Cook Company, whose bonds financed railroad expansion. 

Two historical tidbits turned up in research that was of great interest and impacted the book. First, the famous joining of the railroads at Promontory Point, Utah to form the transcontinental railroad wasn’t truly transcontinental at first. It was thought that no one could build a bridge across the Missouri River, and at the time the Golden Spike was driven, the Union Pacific stopped at the river, and picked up on the other side. For a period of time, the locomotives had to be ferried across. Then the Kansas Pacific helped to build the Hannibal Bridge, a unique design that swung a bridge section sideways to allow steamboat river traffic, then back into a contiguous bridge across the river. Without electricity, and using only gravity, gears, and river power, it was a major engineering feat, truly uniting the east and western portions of the United States by rail. 

Second, in Chicago, a man named George Hammond filed a patent for a refrigerated railroad car, in 1868. Within two years, Hammond was selling refrigerated meat to the tune of two million dollars annually. Railroad lines that had invested heavily in stockyards in Chicago and elsewhere were reluctant to adopt the new cars, but progress marched forward as demand for beef in the east increased. In The Founding, Hiram and Julia make use of both of these inventions to outsmart Gould, and in real life, Gould was slow to pick up on them. The refrigerated cars spawned a large meat packing business in Fort Worth, Texas, and with the expansion of the railroad, completely eliminated the need for the cattle drives of western movies. Within a decade, Hammond’s new plant in Omaha, Nebraska, was slaughtering over 100,000 cattle a year and moving a fleet of 800 refrigerator cars. Gustavus Swift improved the design of refrigerated cars.1 During the 1850s, when he was still a teenager, Gustavus F. Swift started to work in the beef business in Massachusetts. In 1875, Swift began buying cattle in Chicago to send to his family’s butcher operations back East. He quickly revolutionized the meat industry by using newly developed refrigerated railcars to ship fresh meat from Chicago to Eastern markets. The company soon set up a national network of branch offices, which allowed it to control the distribution of its meat across the country. By 1886, when the company slaughtered more than 400,000 cattle a year, Swift employed about 1,600 people. Between 1887 and 1892, new packing plants were opened in Kansas City, Omaha, and St. Louis. By the time the founder died in 1903, his company grossed $200 million in annual sales and employed about 23,000 people across the country.2[1]

These inventions allowed our fictional characters to gain capital to beat Gould, temporarily, at his own game. 

As railroads advanced, many new towns were founded. Whether the railroad’s route included a particular town could mean the difference between death and survival for the town. Often towns paid handsome sums to the railroads to influence the route. Dallas paid a large cash bounty to gain three railroad lines running through it, cementing it as a center of Texas commerce. In 1860, Dallas only had 261 people. By 1900, it had 82,726.3

Often the town was required to pay for a depot, as well as show that there would be sufficient freight and passenger traffic to warrant choosing a route through the town. In Nicodemus, the citizens raised $16,000 for a depot, with great hopes. There was lots of politics and influence peddling. 

Lubbock, Texas, the other town in this book, was initially unsuccessful in wooing the railroad. However, with persistence, growth, and the fact that it was racially white, the town fathers, including Will Crump, were successful in the end. 

Image: Public Domain

[1] https://www.saddleandsirloinportraitfoundation.org/post/george-henry-hammond-inducted-in-1953-or-1954

2Encyclopedia of Chicago

Dallas population

Thank you so much for sharing such a fascinating post.

Here’s the blurb:

Two men, two dreams, two new towns on the plains, and a railroad that will determine whether the towns—one black, one white—live or die. 

Will Crump has survived the Civil War, Red Cloud’s War, and the loss of his love, but the search for peace and belonging still eludes him. From Colorado, famed Texas Ranger Charlie Goodnight lures Will to Texas, where he finds new love, but can a Civil War sharpshooter and a Quaker find a compromise to let their love survive? When Will has a chance to join in the founding of a new town, he risks everything—his savings, his family, and his life—but it will all be for nothing if the new railroad passes them by.

Luther has escaped slavery in Kentucky through Albinia, Will’s sister, only to find prejudice rearing its ugly head in Indiana. When the Black Codes are passed, he’s forced to leave and begin a new odyssey. Where can he and his family go to be truly free? Can they start a town owned by blacks, run by blacks, with no one to answer to? But their success will be dependent on the almighty railroad and overcoming bigotry to prove their town deserves the chance to thrive.

Will’s eldest sister, Julia, and her husband, Hiram, are watching the demise of their steamboat business and jump into railroads, but there’s a long black shadow in the form of Jay Gould, the robber baron who ruthlessly swallows any business he considers competition. Can Julia fight the rules against women in business, dodge Gould, and hold her marriage together?

The Founding tells the little-known story of the Exodusters and Nicodemus, the black town on the plains of Kansas, and the parallel story of Will’s founding of Lubbock, Texas, against the background of railroad expansion in America. A family reunited, new love discovered, the quest for freedom, the rise of two towns. In the end, can they reach Across the Great Divide? The Founding is the exciting conclusion to the series.

Praise for The Founding:

“Michael is an excellent storyteller and has done a wonderful job depicting Luther, and the other black characters in this book.  He has done his homework and depicts many historical facts about Nicodemus in a most enlightening and creative way.  It has been a pleasure working with someone who has made a concerted effort to get things right.  

~ Angela Bates

Nicodemus Descendant/Historian

Executive Director

The Nicodemus Historical Society and Museum

Watch the book trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbVY8_AIpJQ

Buy Links:

Universal Link

Amazon UK: Amazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the author

Michael Ross is a lover of history and great stories.

He’s a retired software engineer turned author, with three children, and five grandchildren, living in Newton, Kansas with his wife of 39 years. Michael graduated from Rice University and Portland State University with degrees in German and software engineering. He was part of an MBA program at Boston University. 

Michael was born in Lubbock, Texas, and still loves Texas. He’s written short stories and technical articles in the past, as well as articles for the Texas Historical Society. 

Across the Great Divide now has three novels in the series, “The Clouds of War”, and “The Search”, and the conclusion, “The Founding”.  “The Clouds of War” was an honorable mention for Coffee Pot Book of the Year in 2019, and an Amazon #1 best seller in three categories, along with making the Amazon top 100 paid, reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly. “The Search” won Coffee Pot Cover of the Year in 2020, and Coffee Pot Silver Medal for Book of the Year in 2020, as well as short listed for the Chanticleer International Book Laramie Award. 

Connect with Michael:

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Book Bub: Amazon Author PageGoodreads

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Welcome to History Writers Day 2022

Welcome to History Writers Day (weekend) 2022, organised by the fabulous @Book2Cover on Twitter. Started last year, this is a weekend of History Writers sharing their books, special offers, and just an opportunity to celebrate all things history and historical fiction. That it just about coincides with the first-year book birthday for The Automobile Assassination is excellent.

So, first, a little bit about myself. I mainly write stories set in Saxon England in the years before the events of 1066. Whereas some authors might write a series in a few different periods, I’ve opted to tell as many stories from the 600 years of Saxon England as possible. Starting in the seventh century, and running up to about the 1040s (at the moment – the series will run up to 1066 when it’s finished), there is so much material to work with. I tend to write about the ‘lost’ characters, and events, and I love battles and politics, and sometimes, a bit of a love story as well. But mainly fighting, and politics. I enjoy a war of words just as much as a war of swords:) And my characters are likely to be a bit ‘fresh’ with their language (The Ninth Century series – I’m looking at you).

And, when I’m after a bit of light relief, I write the odd 20th-century mystery because sometimes I just want my characters to be able to get into a car and not worry about their horse.

For History Writers Day, I have paperbacks for sale on the blog, (which I hope will work), and I’m also running a competition to win a signed copy of The Automobile Assassination and Warrior of Mercia (2 separate prizes). Just sign up for my newsletter, and receive a free short story set after the events of the Gods and Kings trilogy, and I will pick two lucky winners. I will post worldwide! I will close the competition on 1st December 2022, but you will still get the free short story if you sign up after that date.

If the book you’re after isn’t available, please drop me a line at mjporterauthor@gmail.com. I do have other books in stock, but there’s just too many to pop them all on the blog.

Not in writing order, but rather, in chronological order, here are the books I’ve written. The majority are indie published, but I am also working with the wonderful Boldwood Books to bring my Saxon stories to a wider audience. An increasing number of titles are available in audio format and hardback, as well as ebook and paperback. I’m not adding lots of links other than ones for the series on my blog, but you can find my author page on Amazon here. Select titles are also available widely, including The Eagle of Mercia Chronicles, the Gods and Kings Trilogy and Cragside, a 1930s mystery.

Tales of Saxon England

Gods and Kings Trilogy (The Seventh Century) The story of the mighty pagan, Penda of Mercia

Pagan Warrior

Pagan King

Warrior Kings

The Eagle of Mercia Chronicles (The earlier Ninth-Century) Boldwood Books

Son of Mercia

Wolf of Mercia

Warrior of Mercia

Eagle of Mercia (May 2023)

The Ninth Century Mercian Series (the later Ninth-century)

The Last King

The Last Warrior

The Last Horse

The Last Enemy

The Last Sword

The Last Shield

The Last Seven

The Tenth Century Series – the forgotten women of the 10th century

The Lady of Mercia’s Daughter

A Conspiracy of Kings

Kingmaker

The King’s Daughters

The Brunanburh Series (with Boldwood Books) mid-tenth century

King of Kings (February 2023)

The Lady Elfrida Books – the tenth century – England’s first crowned queen

The First Queen of England, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The King’s Mother

The Dowager Queen

Once A Queen

The Earls of Mercia Series (the last century of Saxon England through the eyes of the Earls of Mercia)

The Earl of Mercia’s Father

The Danish King’s Enemy

Northman Part 1 and Part 2

The King’s Earl

The Earl of Mercia

The English Earl

The Earl’s King

Viking King

The English King

The King’s Brother (June 2023)

20th-century mysteries

Cragside – A 1930s mystery

The Erdington Mysteries

The Custard Corpses

The Automobile Assassination

As a reader of historical fiction, I also have a very active blog, hosting blog tours, showcasing others writers, and sharing my love of 20th-century Golden Age mysteries and cosy crime.

Do please think about following me on your social media channel of choice, or on the blog. All links can be found here, and yes, I am also on Mastodon.

I hope you enjoy History Writers Day 2022. I know I will.

Happy Book Birthday to The Automobile Assassination (Book 2 in The Erdington Mysteries)

I don’t really need an excuse to share these wonderful photos, but a book birthday does seem like a good opportunity to do so. So below are some of the images that first inspired me to write about The Automobile Association sentry boxes in my story The Automobile Assassination.

Below is Beadnell Sentry Box, near Seahouses in Northumberland – on the road opposite Beadnell. (For anyone who doesn’t know, this is close to Bamburgh Castle AKA Bebbanburg, for fans of the Saxon period). And Ardgay Sentry Box, North Scotland, which I visited on my way to my holiday in Orkney in 2021. I had to include the view from the Ardgay sentry box, which is absolutely stunning. And it makes perfect sense as to why a sentry box would have been needed there – it is very remote.

Very few of these sentry boxes remain in their locations – and the majority are in Northern England and Scotland, and are, hopefully, now listed buildings. But, there would have been a time when these sentry boxes would have been a regular sight throughout the United Kingdom. A list of all the sentry boxes known up to 1962 reveals that there were 862 boxes (although not all of them may have been constructed) and just to add to the joy of them, these numbers make very little sense. Boxes located close together are not numbered concurrently.

Inside one of these sentry boxes would have been a telephone, and if you were lucky, a petrol canister so that you could make it to the next petrol station, if you did happen to run out of petrol. Patrolmen (yes, sadly, they were all men at the time) would have followed a specific route, to begin with on peddle bikes, but eventually using motorbikes with sidecars stuffed full of tools to help the stranded motorist. And the phone, in the 1940s, would have been answered by someone in the head office based in London.

AA members paid a subscription fee, and were then given a key which allowed access into the sentry boxes. Can you imagine how cross you’d have been to need to use the telephone only to discover you’d left your key at home. Cars also had a very dapper badge, often attached to the front grill, which proclaimed they were members. AA patrolmen were to salute to all cars showing a badge.

But enough about the sentry boxes, and the AA organisation in the 1940s. here’s the blurb for the book.

Erdington, September 1944


As events in Europe begin to turn in favour of the Allies, Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is once more prevailed upon to solve a seemingly impossible case.

Called to the local mortuary where a man’s body lies, shockingly bent double and lacking any form of identification, Mason and O’Rourke find themselves at Castle Bromwich aerodrome seeking answers that seem out of reach to them. The men and women of the royal air force stationed there are their prime suspects. Or are they? Was the man a spy, killed on the orders of some higher authority, or is the place his body was found irrelevant? And why do none of the men and women at the aerodrome recognise the dead man?

Mason, fearing a repeat of the cold case that dogged his career for two decades and that he’s only just solved, is determined to do all he can to uncover the identity of the dead man, and to find out why he was killed and abandoned in such a bizarre way, even as Smythe demands he spends his time solving the counterfeiting case that is leaving local shopkeepers out of pocket.

Join Mason and O’Rourke as they once more attempt to solve the impossible in 1940s Erdington.

The Automobile Assassination is currently available in Prime Reading in the UK, and in Australia, and can be read in ebook, paperback, hardback and audio version (narrated by the wonderful Matt Coles). I do hope you will check out the birthday blitz.

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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

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for a new historical mystery, Chaos at Carnegie Hall by Kelly Oliver #blogtour #BoldwoodBooks

Here’s the blurb:

Agatha Christie meets Downton Abbey in the Fiona Figg and Kitty Lane Mystery series opener.

Can Fiona catch a killer and find a decent cup of tea before her mustache wax melts?

1917. New York.

Notorious spy, Fredrick Fredricks, has invited Fiona to Carnegie Hall to hear a famous soprano. It’s an opportunity the War Office can’t turn down. Fiona and Clifford are soon on their way, but not before Fiona is saddled with chaperon duties for Captain Hall’s niece. Is Fiona a spy or a glorified babysitter?

From the minute Fiona meets the soprano aboard the RMS Adriatic it’s treble on the high C’s. Fiona sees something—or someone—thrown overboard, and then she overhears a chemist plotting in German with one of her own countrymen!

And the trouble doesn’t stop when they disembark. Soon Fiona is doing time with a group of suffragettes and investigating America’s most impressive inventor Thomas Edison.

When her number one suspect turns up dead at the opera and Fredrick Fredricks is caught red-handed, it looks like it’s finally curtains for the notorious spy.

But all the evidence points to his innocence. Will Fiona change her tune and clear her nemesis’ name? Or will she do her duty? And just what is she going to do with the pesky Kitty Lane? Not to mention swoon-worthy Archie Somersby . . .

If Fiona’s going to come out on top, she’s going to have to make the most difficult decision of her life: the choice between her head and her heart.

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

My Review

Chaos at Carnegie Hall is a cosy historical mystery set in London, onboard a transatlantic ship during its crossing and also in New York in November 1917. We’re introduced to Fiona Figg, an enterprising young woman, a spy if you would, who is happy to don male costumes to get the answers she seeks.

I did find the beginning of the book a little confusing, but then I discovered why, for Fiona Figg isn’t a new literary creation, but this is her in a new series, complete with references to previous exploits. Once I realised this, I was flying. The backstory isn’t overly relevant, and it adds a wonderful layer of depth to the character. Fiona Figg is not new to this jig, and she knows what she’s about, despite all the men in her life trying to make it more difficult for her.

This story is bursting with historical details – the Suffragettes, events at Carnegie Hall, ‘real’ historical characters, and of course, yellow cabs – which our fine main character informs us makes it much easier to spot a cab in the snowy November conditions she’s enduring. I really enjoyed the way the story is woven around events that actually happened.

The mystery builds really well, and the attendant sidekicks of Clifford, Kitty and, of course, Poppy, the dog, really add to the ongoing mystery.

A thoroughly enjoyable historical mystery recommended for fans of the genre and with just a smidge more historical detail than some other cosy mysteries, which makes it all the more appealing to me.

Meet the Author

Kelly Oliver is the award-winning, bestselling author of three mysteries series: The Jessica James Mysteries, The Pet Detective Mysteries, and the historical cozies The Fiona Figg Mysteries, set in WW1. She is also the Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is bringing new titles in the Fiona Figg series to Boldwood, the first of which, Chaos in Carnegie Hall, will be published in November 2022.

Connect with Kelly

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kellyoliverbook  

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kelly-oliver

Follow the Chaos at Carnegie Hall blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources