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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Three kingdoms. Two friends. Only one way to survive.
For fans of Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden comes the tale of Olaf Tryggvason and his adventures in the battle-scarred kingdom of Wagria.
It is AD 972. Olaf Tryggvason and his oath-sworn protector, Torgil, are once again on the move. They have left the Rus kingdom and now travel the Baltic Sea in search of plunder and fame. But a fateful storm lands them on the Vendish coastline in a kingdom called Wagria.
There, they find themselves caught between the aggression of the Danes, the political aspirations of the Wagrian lords, and the shifting politics in Saxland. Can they survive or will they become just one more casualty of kingly ambitions?
Find out in this harrowing sequel to the best-selling Forged by Iron and Sigurd’s Swords.
This book is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
Eric Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history at a very early age, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Bernard Cornwell, Jack Whyte, and Wilbur Smith. Those discoveries fueled his imagination and continue to influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God’s Hammer, was published in 2005.
Today sees the release of book 3 in my series about young Icel, a much-loved character from my The Ninth Century series featuring King Coelwulf, the last king of Mercia. And so, now that Icel as a young man, and Icel as a crotchety older man are both firmly in reader’s minds, I thought I’d share more about the idea for the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles series.
My characters in the Ninth Century series feel like they very much arrived in my head fully formed. Coelwulf was obviously the first, but others quickly followed, and Icel, with his derisive comments about any of their accomplishments, was an early fan favourite, and one of my favourites as well. Surly, and outspoken, while offering little of his life before the period that my characters knew him, he really did speak to me when I was deciding on a new series to write for Boldwood Books. All those little comments he makes. I think the below is our first introduction to his character;
“In the reign of King Wiglaf I first became a man,” he’s fond of saying, although he never explains what act made him a man. Again, I’ve stopped questioning him. Edmund likes to when he’s either drunk too much, or is trying to distract himself from whatever attack we’re about to begin. And of course Rudolf hangs on Icel’s every word. They’re an excellent match for each other, the boy who never runs out of questions, and the man who never answers them.’ (The Last King)
All these hints at what he might really have been like when he was perhaps no older than Rudolf, another firm fan favourite, made me want to tell his story. It did help that Mercia, at the time he would have been a boy was in political turmoil. It also helped that the Viking Raiders were making an appearance in Saxon England as well throughout the 830s. But Icel is a fictional character, and while fictionalising my Saxon characters, the men and women I normally write about did actually exist, even if we only have their names. But Mercia, in the 820s and 830s suffered a series of successive kingships, many of which failed, and so while Icel is fictitious, he does allow me to give a more rounded view of the entirety of events. He will live through these tumultuous times, and that’s important when I wanted to write about these events as well as all the kings.
It also helped that, in my contrary nature as a writer of historical fiction, that I always want to offer something a little different to the oft-taken paths when authors write about Saxon England – the Vikings, the reign of Alfred, Ethelred the Unready and the Norman Conquest, as well as the Golden Age of Northumbria, are often chosen but there is just so much more in these six hundred years to write about. So, no one else was writing about Mercia as it begins to falter in the 820s and 830s, and so I thought, why not:)
I really, really hope you’ll enjoy book 3, Warrior of Mercia, which follows Icel to the kingdom of the East Angles. I can also assure you that Book 4 is well underway as well.
Icel is a lone wolf no more…
Oath sworn to Wiglaf, King of Mercia and acknowledged as a member of Ealdorman Ælfstan’s warrior band, Icel continues to forge his own destiny on the path to becoming the Warrior of Mercia.
With King Ecgberht of Wessex defeated and Londonium back under Mercian control, the Wessex invasion of Mercia is over.
But the Wessex king was never Mercia’s only enemy. An unknown danger lurks in the form of merciless Viking raiders, who set their sights on infiltrating the waterways of the traitorous breakaway kingdom of the East Angles, within touching distance of Mercia’s eastern borders.
Icel must journey to the kingdom of the East Angles and unite against a common enemy to ensure Mercia’s hard-won freedom prevails.
Available now in ebook, paperback, large print paperback, hardback and audio.
Check out some blog posts I wrote for release day!
And you can follow the blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources too. I’ll be updating with links to reviews, and I’d like to say a huge thank you to my blog tour hosts and usual reviewers for going out of their way to make release day so special.
Carolyn Hughes is treating us to a fabulous blog post. Enjoy.
Writing what you don’t know…
One of the wonderful aspects of writing fiction – and perhaps especially writing historical fiction – is that your imagination will drive you to include scenes in which your characters engage in some activity or other that you know absolutely nothing about. So, you have to consult books, and the internet, and other resources, in order to fill in the yawning gaps in your knowledge.
In Squire’s Hazard, two such scenes involve my eponymous squire, Dickon de Bohun, in his struggle against a fellow squire, Edwin, who is making his life a misery with his bullying. Dickon knows he has to get the better of Edwin, but can’t bring himself to do anything dishonourable, or to snitch on Edwin and get him into trouble.
A wrestling scene arises when Edwin challenges Dickon to a match, to be held, in principle, away from the vigilant eyes of their masters. Edwin imagines he’ll trump Dickon easily, and make him look a fool in front of other squires. Though in the event it doesn’t go all his way. Dickon is somewhat caught off guard by Edwin’s challenge and, although he’s not keen to fight him, as he believes that clandestine wrestling would be frowned upon by their lord, he nonetheless agrees to the match, hoping that his own wrestling skills are good enough.
The second (extended) scene is that of a boar hunt. Hunting was something that the young squires engaged in, for entertainment, presumably, but also as part of their training. They learned about the process and ritual of the hunt, and practised skills that, as future knights, they might one day use in battle. I imagine they started out hunting small deer, and maybe foxes, but I wanted the hunting scene to have the potential for real danger. Thus I had the squires act as beaters in a hunt for boar – extremely dangerous animals. Powerful and fierce, and aggressive if cornered or protecting young, they could easily kill a dog and badly injure a man at the very least.
However, the purpose of the hunting scene is not simply to show this aspect of the squires’ life. It has a more sinister purpose: for Edwin intends to find a way of exploiting the danger of the hunt to deliver yet another of his “pranks” against Dickon. It is important to the progress of the story.
Needless to say, I knew nothing about either wrestling or boar hunting (or indeed hunting of any sort), and so I had somehow to discover enough about both to enable me to write reasonably convincing scenes. Of course, if I was a proper, “hands-on” researcher, I’d go out hunting boar, and challenge someone to a wrestling match, so that I could obtain first-hand experience. But I’m afraid I’m way past such energetic, not to say, risky, pursuits, so I confined myself to reading as much as I could about techniques, then using my imagination to round out the narrative.
In both cases I watched YouTube videos to see how things were done. I’ve done this for other activities I needed to know something about, such as charging at the quintain with a lance under your arm, and also the gentler pursuit of making cheese. YouTube is a wonderful resource: you might be surprised what you can learn from studying films produced by practitioners of all sorts of activities, and of course historical reenactors. It’s undoubtedly not quite as good as “doing-it-yourself”, but I hope I have made it work.
So, here are a couple of snippets of the result of my research and video-watching, the first a scene of the wrestling, the second, part of the boar hunt.
The wrestling match
Standing at the edge of the clearing, on the opposite side to Edwin, and some distance from the band of witnesses, he stripped off his belt and tunic and laid them carefully on the ground. Edwin then strode forward, his chest thrust out, to the grassy centre of the clearing. One or two of the onlookers cheered.
Dickon stepped forward too. Each of them took up a stance, legs tensed, arms out.
Then Edwin lunged, grasping Dickon’s wrist with one hand and his elbow with the other. He leered as he thrust a knee forward, clearly intending to unbalance Dickon. But Dickon flicked his free hand up and drove it hard against Edwin’s inner arm, making him let go. Unbalanced then himself, Edwin staggered, giving Dickon time to grab one of his flailing hands.
Squeezing it hard, he flipped it up and twisted it at the wrist, causing Edwin to cry out, then grabbed the rest of Edwin’s arm with his other hand. Quickly putting out a leg in front of Edwin’s and pushing hard against his arm, he threw Edwin over and he fell back onto the ground.
A collective groan rose from the group of bystanders, but Edwin recovered fast and, leaping up, he glowered at Dickon. ‘Right, de Bohun,’ he hissed, ‘now you’re really for it.’ He lunged again.
At first it felt an even match in terms of strength and skill. Dickon would trounce Edwin, then Edwin would do the same to him. But, as each of them tumbled onto the grass time and time again, Dickon realised that Edwin’s energy was waning: his grip was becoming weaker, and he was finding it harder to throw him over. Yet there was still power left in his own hands. When Edwin lurched towards him yet again, but with little vigour, Dickon threw up his hands to fend him off and caught him hard upon the nose.”
The boar hunt
At the outskirts of the wood, the master gathered the squires and dog handlers together.
‘Right,’ he said, ‘our master huntsman has already confirmed there’s a goodly number of boar here today, so it’s your job now to find them. You know the drill. Look for the signs: muddy wallowing hollows in the ground, areas of uprooted soil where the beasts have grubbed for food. And, of course, footprints: you know the shape you’re looking for, with the dewclaws at the back. When we’re confident we’ve found some, we free the dogs to scent them out. You follow on, fast but never recklessly, beating the animals forward towards the huntsmen.’
A mixture of exhilaration and anxiety set Dickon’s heart thumping. He knew what he had to do. But he’d not done it before and prayed he’d make no mistakes.
At first, it all went well. They found a number of fresh wallows, and trees nearby with muddy trunks, where the boars had scraped their mucky bodies clean. The ground was cratered with so many footprints, it seemed there might be several boar drifts in the forest. At length the hounds were set loose to pick up the scent. Quiet now, but with their tails still wagging, they scurried back and forth, sniffing at the tree bark and snuffling around the undergrowth. It wasn’t long before they were off, their handlers and the beaters chasing after them.
Thank you so much for sharing. It is a nightmare when you realise you want to write a scene and have no idea how it might actually have happened. Well done:)
Here’s the blurb:
How do you overcome the loathing, lust and bitterness threatening you and your family’s honour?
It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Fougère. Or he would be, if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth.
At home in Meonbridge for Christmas, Dickon notices how grown-up his childhood playmate, Libby Fletcher, has become since he last saw her and feels the stirrings of desire. Libby, seeing how different he is too, falls instantly in love. But as a servant to Dickon’s grandmother, Lady Margaret de Bohun, she could never be his wife.
Margery Tyler, Libby’s aunt, meeting her niece by chance, learns of her passion for young Dickon. Their conversation rekindles Margery’s long-held rancour against the de Bohuns, whom she blames for all the ills that befell her family, including her own servitude. For years she’s hidden her hunger for retribution, but she can no longer keep her hostility in check.
As the future Lord of Meonbridge, Dickon knows he must rise above de Courtenay’s loathing and intimidation, and get the better of him. And, surely, he must master his lust for Libby, so his own mother’s shocking history is not repeated? Of Margery’s bitterness, however, he has yet to learn…
Beset by the hazards these powerful and dangerous emotions bring, can young Dickon summon up the courage and resolve to overcome them?
Secrets, hatred and betrayal, but also love and courage – Squire’s Hazard, the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.
This book is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
The paperback is available to buy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Waterstones.
Meet the Author
CAROLYN HUGHES has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.
Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
Squire’s Hazard is the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE, and more stories about the folk of Meonbridge will follow.
You can connect with Carolyn through her website www.carolynhughesauthor.com and on social media.
A haunting Anglo-Saxon time-slip of mystery and romance
Can echoes of the past threaten the present? They are 1500 years apart, but can they reach out to each other across the centuries? One woman faces a traumatic truth in the present day. The other is forced to marry the man she hates as the ‘dark ages’ unfold.
How can Dr Viv DuLac, medievalist and academic, unlock the secrets of the past? Traumatised by betrayal, she slips into 499 AD and into the body of Lady Vivianne, who is also battling treachery. Viv must uncover the mystery of the key that she unwittingly brings back with her to the present day, as echoes of the past resonate through time. But little does Viv realise just how much both their lives across the centuries will become so intertwined. And in the end, how can they help each other across the ages without changing the course of history?
For fans of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorne, Susanna Kearsley, Christina Courtenay.
Praise for Julia Ibbotson
Praise for A Shape on the Air:
“In the best Barbara Erskine tradition …I would highly recommend this novel” – Historical Novel Society
“Amazing …a really great book …I just couldn’t put it down” – Hazel Morgan
“Well-rounded characters and a wealth of historical research make this a real page-turner” – Amazon review
“Enthralling” – Amazon review
“Julia does an incredible job of setting up the idea of time-shift so that it’s believable and makes sense” – Amazon review
“Viv/Lady Vivianne … lovely identifiable heroine in both time periods … I love her strength and vulnerability. And Rory/Roland is simply gorgeous!” – Melissa Morgan
“gripping … a very real sense of threat and danger, an enthralling mystery … a wholly convincing romance, across both timelines” – Anne Williams
Julia Ibbotson is fascinated by the medieval world and the concept of resonances across time. She sees her author brand as a historical fiction writer of romantic mysteries that are character-driven, well-paced, evocative of time and place, well-researched and uplifting page-turners. Her current series focuses on early medieval dual-time/time-slip mysteries.
Julia read English at Keele University, England, specialising in medieval language/ literature/ history, and has a PhD in socio-linguistics. After a turbulent time in Ghana, West Africa, she became a school teacher, then a university academic and researcher.
Her break as an author came soon after she joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2015, with a three-book deal from Lume Books for a trilogy (Drumbeats) set in Ghana in the 1960s. She has also indie-published three other books, including A Shape on the Air, an Anglo-Saxon timeslip mystery, and its two sequels The Dragon Tree and The Rune Stone. Her latest, Daughter of Mercia, is the first of a new series of Anglo-Saxon dual time mystery/romances where echoes of the past resonate across the centuries.
Her books will appeal to fans of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorne, Susanna Kearsley, and Christina Courtenay. Her readers say: ‘compelling character-driven novels’, ‘a skilled story-teller’, ‘evocative and well-paced storylines’, ‘incredible writing style’, ‘intricately written’, ‘absorbing and captivating’, and ‘an absolute gem of a trilogy’.
I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Floats the Dark Shadow.
Protest Against Women Being Admitted to the Ecole des Beaux Arts—Floats the Dark Shadow
“Down with women! Down with women!”
The shouts of the male students clanged in Theo’s head, as she watched them march inside the huge iron gates of the École des Beaux Arts. She had woken groggy and wretched after crying late into the night, but determined to meet Carmine here, for Mélanie’s sake.
“They are yapping dogs.” Carmine didn’t yap, she snarled.
“Puppies with power,” Theo agreed unhappily. Her headache grew worse with each angry shout. She probably should have gone back with Averill yesterday, but she’d needed to be alone after seeing Alicia in the morgue.
“Out with the women! Out! Out! Out!”
“No!” “Stop!” “Cowards!” Cries rose from the crowd as a new pack of male students drove the two distraught women students across the vast courtyard, through the gate, and into the street. The protesters outside quickly drew them into the center of a protective circle. Theo had seen the same arrogance and brutality when she marched for the vote in San Francisco. Why had she expected Frenchmen to be any better, especially when they granted their women even less power than American men did? Her friends were the exception, and even they preferred the image of the perfect muse—a seductive, destructive Salomé who would rend their souls the better to inspire their poems.
“Go back to your embroidery!” a whey-faced student taunted.
“Go back to your diapers!” Another student surged to the front of the pack. He looked like a scruffy fox—a rabid fox. “You can use baby caca for your paints!”
“They are the ones full of caca,” Carmine fumed. “Only men can create le grand art! You remember Mélanie’s Cassandra.”
“It was beautiful!” Theo affirmed as insults pelted them like rocks. “It was everything they say art should be and it had soul. It had passion.”
“That’s why they didn’t give it an award. Too much life. Not posed pain—real pain. They need their art to be dead, like a rabbit strung up for a still life.”
The futility of Mélanie’s sacrifice tormented Theo, but Carmine brought back Mélanie’s hope for her art, her courage in fighting for what she believed. The demonstrating women shared that hope and that courage.
“Your brains are stuffed full of ruffles!” the whey-faced one sang out, winning hoots of laughter from his friends.
Theo thrust off the smothering misery of the morgue and stalked to the gates, looking into the paved quadrangle where the irate students marched and shouted. Men she presumed to be professors and administrators hovered anxiously in the background, but some of the male students and teachers squeezed through the gates to join the growing crowd supporting the women. Turning to look across the street, Theo saw a man who must be a journalist scribbling madly in a notebook. Behind him, half-hidden in the arch of a corner doorway, a young woman watched the protesters. Theo caught her eye and beckoned her to join them. She smiled a little but shook her head, looking anxiously from side to side.
“You’re ruining everything!” a petulant voice called out. “All sorts of stupid new rules and restrictions came trailing on your petticoats.”
“We don’t need new rules!” Theo shouted back, adding her voice to the other women. “We don’t want special treatment! We want the same treatment, the same classes, the same models!”
“And the same medals!” Carmine yelled. “That’s why you’re really afraid! You’ll have to compete with women for the prizes you’ve been keeping to yourselves.”
“Why should I be afraid of that!” another student taunted. “No woman is better than I am!”
Remembering Mélanie, Theo seethed with scorn. “These women got higher scores than you did.”
That brought a deluge of cries. “Liar!” “Bribery!” “You don’t belong here!” “You belong on your backs!”
The whey-faced student yelled out above the others. “Go find yourself a husband!”
The scruffy fox lifted his cane above his head, waving it furiously. “Yes! A husband will teach you to paint with your tongue!”
The men laughed and wagged their tongues at them. The crass insults gave Theo a surge of furious energy. “Did you swing the same cane at the Charity bazaar?” she yelled at the fox. “Did you beat your way through those women too?”
“I was never there!” he yelled back, though the whey-face one suddenly turned even paler and backed out of sight. The fox looked stunned, then shrugged off the defection.
Theo put a hand to her head, remembering the painful cut that some man had inflicted. Hot anger flowed through her. “You are just as much of a coward!” she accused the fox. “More of a coward. Your life’s not at risk—just your vanity!”
Suddenly, the woman she had seen half-hiding in the doorway darted from her haven and ran down the street. Perhaps because of their silent communication, she came straight to Theo and Carmine. She was quite petite, barely five feet. She had a gentle, shy countenance, lit by eyes full of steely determination.
“The police are coming,” she warned, pointing back down the cross street.. “I saw them at the end of the block.”
“Let’s hope they arrest these men!” Carmine said. “But with our luck, they’ll punish us for daring to protest.”
“Go now,” one of the women students said to the protesters. “But thank you for joining us.”
“We should leave,” Theo said to Carmine as the women began to disperse.
“I will walk with you to the corner and circle back around. I don’t want to be arrested!” the young woman said.
Quickly they walked down the rue Bonaparte toward the quai. “You’re American, aren’t you?” Theo asked their companion.
She nodded. “Yes, and you?”
“From Mill Valley, California. That’s near San Francisco. My name is Theodora Faraday.”
“And I am Julia Morgan. We were neighbors. I am from Oakland. I came to Paris last year because the École promised women would soon be admitted.”
“You see they will use any excuse to refuse you,” Carmine muttered, squaring her shoulders. She set her hat at a jauntier angle and plucked at her sleeves to puff them out.
“I want to study architecture,” Julia said firmly. “This is the most prestigious school in the world. There is no equivalent.”
“What are you doing meanwhile?” Carmine asked.
“I am working in the architecture atelier of Marcel de Monclos and submitting my designs to international competitions.”
“Have you won any?” Carmine asked.
“Indeed I have. I am gaining a reputation. Surely the École will admit me.”
“Surely they will,” Theo affirmed.
“Perhaps,” Carmine said gloomily.
Julia stopped when they turned the corner that brought the Seine into view. “I must go back to work.”
“Bonne chance,” Theo wished her good luck. Tiny and soft-spoken as she was, Julia obviously had the tenacity to triumph over the forces allied against her sex.
When children she knows vanish mysteriously, Theo confronts Inspecteur Michel Devaux who suspects the Revenants are involved. Theo refuses to believe the killer could be a friend—could be the man she loves. Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris, from catacombs to asylums, to the obscene ritual of a Black Mass.
Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France—Gilles de Rais. Once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant, after her death he plunged into an orgy of evil. The Church burned him at the stake for heresy, sorcery, and the depraved murder of hundreds of peasant children.
Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.
Yves Fey has MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing at twelve.
She’s been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, creator of ceramic beasties, writing teacher, illustrator, and has won prizes for her chocolate desserts. Her current obsession is creating perfumes inspired by her Parisian characters.
Yves lives in Albany with her mystery writer husband and their cats, Charlotte and Emily, the Flying Bronte Sisters.
I’m so excited to share that the first book in my Earls of Mercia series is once more available via Amazon Kindle. With the rerelease of the book, I wanted to share a little about what drew me to this story over a decade ago.
Ealdorman Leofwine , was the ealdorman of the Hwicce (c.994-1023), one of the ancient tribal regions in Mercia, which was a part of England, at the time the story begins. It is possible he may have been related to Ælfwine, who is named, and dies at the Battle of Maldon (more below).
Ealdorman Leofwine and his descendants, who would hold positions of power until the Norman Conquest of 1066, are a unique family in this tumultuous period. No other family, apart from the ruling family of Wessex (and even then there was a minor hiccup caused by those pesky Danish kings) held a position of such power and influence and for such a long period of time, as far as is currently known. The position of ealdorman was not hereditary. It was a position in the gift of the king, and Saxon kings ruled with a varying number of ealdormen. To understand Leofwine’s significance, it’s important to understand this. Unlike an earl – a term we are all perhaps far more familiar with – but specifically a medieval earl in this regard – that position was both more often than not hereditary AND meant that the person involved ‘owned’ significant properties in the area they were earls over. This is not how the ealdormanic system worked in Saxon England, as it’s currently understood.
It is difficult to track many of the ealdormanic families of this period, and the previous century, but there are a few notable individuals, all who bucked the usual trend, which no doubt accounts for why we know who they are.
Perhaps most well-known is Ealdorman Athelstan Half-King, who was the ealdorman of East Anglia from about 934 to 955/6 when he fell from favour at court during the reign of King Eadwig and retired to Glastonbury Abbey. Before he did so, he ensured that his son, Æthelwald, was elevated to the position of ealdorman in his place. This was most unusual, but then, he came from a powerful family, fiercely loyal to the ruling House of Wessex, if not actually a member of them. Athelstan Half-King is believed to have been the son of Ealdorman Æthelfrith, a Mercian ealdorman when Lady Æthelflæd was the Lady of Mercia. Athelstan was one of four brothers. His older brother seems to have either briefly retained the ealdordom after their father’s death in Mercia, or been accorded it a few years later, but when he died, Athelstan Half-King didn’t become ealdorman of Mercia in his place. No, he remained in East Anglia while his two brothers, Eahric and Æthelwald, held ealdordoms in Wessex (Eahric) and Kent (Æthelwald). They didn’t become the ealdorman of Mercia either. The ealdordom passed to a different individual.
When Ealdorman Æthelwald of the East Angles died a few short years later (Athelstan Half-King’s son), his place was taken by Ealdorman Æthelwine, the youngest of Athelstan Half-King’s children. But, the family failed to hold on to the position, despite Ealdorman Æthelwine being married three times, and fathering three sons, one of whom died at the battle of Assandun in 1016. The next to hold the ealdordom of the East Angles after the death of Æthelwine was Leofsige, who was the ealdorman until he fell foul of the king in 1002. In the early 1000s Ulfcytel emerges and may have been married to one of the king’s daughters, but is never officially accorded the title of ealdorman.
Another famous ealdorman was Byrhtnoth of Essex, who died at the Battle of Maldon in 991. But Byrhtnoth was not the son of the previous ealdorman, and indeed, he married the daughter of a very wealthy man and in turn was raised to an ealdordom in Essex at exactly the same time that Ealdorman Athelstan Half-King was being forced to retire from his position in East Anglia. (Byrhtnoth’s wife’s sister had briefly been married to King Edmund (939-946, before his murder). While there are some arguments that Byrhtnoth was from a well regarded family, his appointment was not because of an hereditary claim. It’s known that he was father to a daughter, but not to a son. As such his family did not retain the ealdordom on his death. Indeed, it seems as though Essex and the East Anglian earlordoms were united for a time under Leofsige.
The argument has been put forth that the position of ealdorman may have come with properties that were the king’s to gift to the individual to enable them to carry out their duties in a particular area. The Saxons had a number of types of land tenure, bookland, was land of which the ‘owners’ held the ‘book’ or ‘the title deed.’ (There are some wonderful charters where landed people had to ask for the king to reissue a charter as theirs was lost, often in a fire. There is a wonderful example where King Edgar has to reissue a charter for his grandmother, as he’d lost it while it was in his care). Other land tenure was ‘loan land,’ that is land that could be loaned out, often for a set number of ‘lives.’ Ealdormen might then have held bookland that was hereditary, and not in the area they were ealdorman of, and loan land that was in the king’s to gift to them within the area that they were the appointed ealdorman.
Many will be familiar with the family of Earl Godwin and his sons (thanks to the influence of the Danes, the term ealdorman was replaced by earl, which was the anglicised version of jarl). Much work has been done on the land that the Godwin family held when the great Domesday survey was undertaken during the reign of William the Conqueror. It will quickly become apparent that while they had areas where they held a great deal of land, these were not necessarily the areas over which first Godwin and then his sons Tostig, Harold, Gyrth, Leofwine and Sweyn held the position of earl. Most notably, Tostig was earl of Northumbria from 1055-1065, and yet the family had almost no landed possessions there.
And this is where we return to Ealdorman Leofwine and his family. While everyone knows about Earl Godwin and his sons, they didn’t hold their position for as long as Ealdorman Leofwine and his family. Earl Godwine is first named as an earl in charter S951 dated to 1018. By that period, Leofwine of the Twice had already held a position of importance since 994. The families of both men would converge as the events of 1066 drew nearer, and indeed, Godwine’s son, Harold, was married to Ealdorman Leofwine’s great-granddaughter when he was briefly king of England.
When Ealdorman Leofwine died, his son, Leofric, didn’t become ealdorman in his place. Leofric was a sheriff during the period between his father’s death and his own appointment. And indeed, Leofric’s son, Ælfgar was elevated to an earldom before his father’s death, and so was not initially the earl of Mercia. However, on this occasion, and because of a political situation that was rife with intrigue, Ælfgar did become the earl of Mercia after his father’s death, and after Ælfgar’s death, his young son also took the earldom of Mercia. The family survived the events of 1066, but they didn’t retain their hold on the earldom. The House of Leofwine were a family to not only rival that of Earl Godwine’s, as far as it’s known, but they were also the ONLY family to retain a position as an ealdorman/earl for over seventy years. And yet, very few know about them, and indeed, in many non-fiction books, they’re not even mentioned. And that was the perfect opportunity for me to write about the fabulous family, largely inspired by a non-fiction book, The Earls of Mercia: Lordship and Power in Late Anglo-Saxon England by Stephen Baxter.
Today, I’m welcoming Jane Davis to the blog with a fascinating post about her new book, Small Eden.
In England’s Green and Pleasant Land
In Victorian England, Carshalton and nearby Mitcham were known for their physic gardens, where plants were grown for medicinal and cosmetic use. Peppermint, lavender, camomile, aniseed, rhubarb, and liquorice were stable crops but today the name Carshalton is best associated with lavender growing. Of the many lavender farms that used to exist, only two remain. Mayfield Lavender is the larger of the two. In the summer months, people come a long way to see it. https://www.mayfieldlavender.com/
At a time when few women ran their own businesses, I was delighted to stumble across the story of Sarah Sprules. Sarah had worked alongside her father in his physic garden and took over his business after he died. Her produce was known worldwide. Her lavender water won medals at exhibitions in Jamaica and Chicago, but the highest accolade she held was her Royal Warrant to supply lavender oil to Queen Victoria, bestowed on her after the Queen and Princess Louise visited her during August 1886. The royal connection proved especially beneficial as Queen Victoria had so many European relatives.
But that wasn’t all. it was the discovery that Mitcham was once the opium-growing capital of the UK that made me decide my leading man, Robert Cooke, should be a physic gardener. This chapter has been written out of the history books, but in the nineteenth century, far from having a seedy reputation, opium use was respectable. Queen Victoria’s household ordered opium from the royal apothecary, and Prime Minister William Gladstone is said to have drunk opium tea before important speeches. It was used an anaesthetic, in sedatives, for the relief of headaches, migraines, sciatica, as a cough suppressant, to treat pneumonia, and for the relief of abdominal complaints and women’s cramps.
Mrs Beeton’s famous Book of Household Management recommended that no household should be without a supply of powdered opium and laudanum, and she included a recipe for laudanum. But awareness of its dangers was beginning to spread.
Short Matching Excerpt from Small Eden
It was Freya who first showed him Dr Bull’s Hints to Mothers, a pamphlet highlighting the dangers of opiates in the nursery. Of course he doesn’t agree with the practice of dosing up babies so that they sleep all day, he told his wife, but yes, he’s aware it goes on. Working mothers have little choice but to leave children for hours at a time, so they doctor their gripe-water. And it’s not just the poor. Mothers read the labels that say Infant Preservative and Soothing Syrup. They think that ‘purely herbal’ and ‘natural ingredients’ means that products are safe. Though it was chilling to read about case after case of infant deaths linked to over-use.
As many as a third of infant deaths in industrial cities.
And he, who has buried two sons.
But even Dr Bull didn’t condemn the use of opiates outright. They are medicines, he wrote, and like any medicine, ought to be prepared by pharmacists. The trouble is, Robert told Freya, that until recently any Tom, Dick or Harry could operate a pharmacy. And hasn’t he been vocal in his support for an overhaul of the system?
Why did it take so long for opium to be banned?
In the 19th Century, Great Britain fought two wars to crush Chinese efforts to restrict its importation. Why? Because opium was vital to the British economy. And then there was the thorny issue of class. The upper and middle classes saw the heavy use of laudanum among the lower classes as ‘misuse’; however they saw their own use of opiates was seen as necessary, and certainly no more than a ‘habit’. Addiction wasn’t yet recognised. That would come later.
“Indulge me if you will while I explain how the Indian trade operates – a system that the House of Commons condemned this April last. The East India Company – with whom I’m sure you are familiar – created the Opium Agency. Two thousand five hundred clerks working from one hundred offices administer the trade. The Agency offers farmers interest-free advances, in return for which they must deliver strict quotas. What’s so wrong with that? you may ask. What is wrong, my friends, is that the very same Agency sets the price farmers are paid for raw opium, and it isn’t enough to cover the cost of rent, manure and irrigation, let alone any labour the farmer needs to hire. And Indian producers don’t have the option of selling to higher bidders. Fail to deliver their allocated quota and they face the destruction of their crops, prosecution and imprisonment. What we have is two thousand five hundred quill-pushers forcing millions of peasants into growing a crop they would be better off without. And this, this, is the Indian Government’s second largest source of revenue. Only land tax brings in more.”
More muttering, louder. The shaking of heads and jowls.
“I propose a motion. That in the opinion of this meeting, traffic in opium is a bountiful source of degradation and a hindrance to the spread of the gospel.” Quakers are not the types to be whipped up into a frenzy of moral indignation, but their agreement is enthusiastic. “Furthermore, I contend that the Indian Government should cease to derive income from its production and sale.”
Robert looks about. Surely he can’t be the only one to wonder what is to replace the income the colonial government derives from opium? Ignoring this – and from a purely selfish perspective, provided discussion is limited to Indian production – his business will be unaffected. Seeing his neighbours raise their hands to vote, Robert lifts his own to half-mast. Beside him, Smithers does likewise.
The time comes when Robert Cooke must make a choice. He can either diversify, or he can gamble that the government will ban cheap foreign imports and that the price of domestic produce will rise. Robert Cooke is a risk-taker. He decides to specialise, and that decision will cost him dearly. It may even cost him his family.
Thank you so much for such a fascinating post. Good luck with your new book.
Here’s the blurb:
A boy with his head in the clouds. A man with a head full of dreams.
1884. The symptoms of scarlet fever are easily mistaken for teething, as Robert Cooke and his pregnant wife Freya discover at the cost of their two infant sons. Freya immediately isolates for the safety of their unborn child. Cut off from each other, there is no opportunity for husband and wife to teach each other the language of their loss. By the time they meet again, the subject is taboo. But unspoken grief is a dangerous enemy. It bides its time.
A decade later and now a successful businessman, Robert decides to create a pleasure garden in memory of his sons, in the very same place he found refuge as a boy – a disused chalk quarry in Surrey’s Carshalton. But instead of sharing his vision with his wife, he widens the gulf between them by keeping her in the dark. It is another woman who translates his dreams. An obscure yet talented artist called Florence Hoddy, who lives alone with her unmarried brother, painting only what she sees from her window…
Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis writes thought-provoking literary page turners.
She spent her twenties and the first half of her thirties chasing promotions in the business world but, frustrated by the lack of a creative outlet, she turned to writing.
Her first novel, ‘Half-Truths and White Lies’, won a national award established with the aim of finding the next Joanne Harris. Further recognition followed in 2016 with ‘An Unknown Woman’ being named Self-Published Book of the Year by Writing Magazine/the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust, as well as being shortlisted in the IAN Awards, and in 2019 with ‘Smash all the Windows’ winning the inaugural Selfies Book Award. Her novel, ‘At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock’ was featured by The Lady Magazine as one of their favourite books set in the 1950s, selected as a Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice, and shortlisted for the Selfies Book Awards 2021.
Interested in how people behave under pressure, Jane introduces her characters when they are in highly volatile situations and then, in her words, she throws them to the lions. The themes she explores are diverse, ranging from pioneering female photographers, to relatives seeking justice for the victims of a fictional disaster.
Jane Davis lives in Carshalton, Surrey, in what was originally the ticket office for a Victorian pleasure gardens, known locally as ‘the gingerbread house’. Her house frequently features in her fiction. In fact, she burnt it to the ground in the opening chapter of ‘An Unknown Woman’. In her latest release, Small Eden, she asks the question why one man would choose to open a pleasure gardens at a time when so many others were facing bankruptcy?
When she isn’t writing, you may spot Jane disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.
They call themselves The Settlement Bureau. A faceless, soulless organization coercing Americans with threats to expose their improprieties and vulnerabilities. Inhumanely persistent, they’ve secretly driven hundreds of victims into bankruptcy, despair – and several even to suicide.
But when this organization tries to blackmail IT expert Terry Reynolds, they make a serious mistake. Terry is down on his luck. He is penniless, divorced and in a dead-end job. Yet, the abuse of his personal information stirs Terry out of his lethargy and he fights back. He embarks on a digital game of cat-and-mouse with the cold, calculating minds behind The Settlement Bureau – and in doing so, uncovers a sprawling criminal conspiracy.
Under The Cloud is a chillingly plausible new thriller by B.R. Erlank. With a plot ripped straight from the headlines, readers warn this book delivers a “roller coaster ride right up to the final pages.”
Boris Erlank grew up in Southern Africa and Namibia. He has lived and worked in places as diverse as Luanda, Cape Town, Singapore and San Francisco. Boris recently gave up his job as Global Privacy Manager with a Fortune 100 company to focus on writing full-time.
He has an extensive background in IT, data privacy and cybersecurity, and has drawn on that experience to craft his latest novel, “Under the Cloud”.
Boris lives with his family and two dogs in the foothills of Mount Diablo, east of San Francisco. In his spare time, he likes to cycle, hike, sing in a choir, and listen to audiobooks.
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