Today, I’m delighted to welcome Jane Davis and her new book, Small Eden, to the blog #HistoricalFiction #TheCoffeePotBookClub #BlogTour

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/

Lavender Fields (copyright, author)

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. 

Opium Poppy or Papaver somniferum, vintage engraved illustration. Trousset encyclopedia (1886 – 1891). (Image licensed to author)

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.

The anti-opium movement

In 1874, a group of Quaker businessmen formed The Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade. Then in 1888 Benjamin Broomhall formed the Christian Union for the Severance of the British Empire with the Opium Traffic. Together, their efforts ensured that the British public were aware of the anti-opium campaign.

Short Matching Excerpt from Small Eden

“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… 

Buy Links:

Universal Link

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Barnes and NobleWaterstones:    (POD) / Trade paperback – Waterstones

FoylesKoboiBooksSmashwords:

Meet the author

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.

Connect with Jane:

WebsiteTwitterFacebook:  LinkedIn

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Follow the Small Eden blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m welcoming Under The Cloud to the blog, which is now available #blogtour #Thriller

Here’s the blurb:

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.”

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3nH9JNa

Meet the Author

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.

Connect with Boris 

https://brerlank.wordpress.com

Facebook

Linked In

Giveaway to Win a £20 Amazon Gift Card (Open UK Only)

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

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494522/?

Follow the Under the Cloud blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

Today, I’m welcoming The Ultimate Village Game to the blog for a release day post, author Q & A and a competition! #blogtour #mystery

Here’s the blurb:

Riddled with guilt and tormented by desire, Lucy Short keeps notes about newcomers to the village, but why? The misfit with the rescue dog has a mysterious past. She’s been biding her time, plotting and scheming, and now she’s determined to get what she deserves. It won’t be straight forward. Someone is sure to be watching her every move, and there seems to be something more sinister going on.

Mr. Lester Senior is dead. The family is in turmoil. The future of the famous village treasure hunt is in doubt, but for Lucy a new world beckons. She must stick to her task. The rewards could be huge, but will there also be a price to pay?

Purchase Links 

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ultimate-Village-Game-Beth-Merwood-ebook/dp/B0B4Z7VJRN/ref

US –  https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Village-Game-Beth-Merwood-ebook/dp/B0B4Z7VJRN/ref

My Review

The Ultimate Village Game is a bit of a slow burner, but one that keeps you intrigued from the very beginning. The author does an excellent job of creating a mystery without really letting the reader in on what the mystery is.

The big reveal slowly starts to come into focus from about half way through the book, gaining pace as the end of the book comes into sight.

There is a lot of attention to detail here, a cast of characters that’s quite wide-ranging but interesting all the same. I was entirely drawn into the lives of the main characters and really enjoyed both the big reveal and the bits that came after it – no spoilers here.

This is, as the author says below, unconventional, and not at all your usual local murder mystery, but it is incredibly enjoyable and my only slight complaint would be that there was a lot of scope here for it not to be quite such a pleasant ending:) But, if you’re looking for an absorbing read, then this is certainly that.

Author Q & A

Hi Beth. Thanks for answering my questions about your new book.

Hi MJ, Thanks for having me. 

I do love a cosy mystery. Can you tell me who and what influences your writing?

It was really just life in general that influenced The Ultimate Village Game, the quirks of our lives, the things that are hidden or left unsaid, words or deeds or memories that may be misinterpreted or distorted. I am sometimes taken with a conversation I overhear or a real life situation I come across. Of course, I may only have heard or come across a fragment of information, so I work on it, develop it. I’m a day dreamer too, so on occasion ideas come into my head that way. 

Can you tell me about the fictional location where your novel is set?

The Ultimate Village Game is set deep in the heart of the English countryside. Steely Green is a small, picturesque village but with idiosyncrasies. It’s a contemporary setting, but the village is probably a little behind the times, and to an extent the characters reflect this. Even so, there’s plenty going on!

Can you name your favourite cosy crime novel or author?

Aunt Dimity’s Death – Nancy Atherton 

Do you have a favourite cosy crime film or TV show?

Cozy crime is my absolute favorite genre on TV, and I can watch almost any of it. I’m happy to watch the same episodes over and over. In a way, it’s my wallpaper. 

What did you find the hardest part of writing your cosy crime? 

The Ultimate Village Game is not a conventional cosy mystery, and I had to concentrate on keeping the story moving at a pace I was happy with. I generally read my work back a lot along the way, and with this novel I found I had to do so even more. One of the hardest parts, though, was keeping track of all the characters. They seemed to want to go off and do their own thing on occasion.

No spoilers, but did you know who was going to be the murderer before you started writing your story or did it come to you as you wrote?

(Sorry, can’t answer this one!)

Thank you so much for answering my questions and good luck with your new release.

Meet the Author

Beth Merwood is a writer from the south of England. Her debut novel, The Five Things, was published in 2021.

Connect with Beth

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Website Facebook BookBub TikTok

Giveaway to Win 1 x Paperback and 1 x e-copy of The Ultimate Village Game (Open to UK Only)

1st Prize- Paperback copy of The Ultimate Village Game

2nd Prize – E-copy of The Ultimate Village Game

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

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494524/?

Today, I’m delighted to be reviewing Flora Flowerdew and the Mystery of the Duke’s Diamonds and there’s also a competition to enter #blogtour #historicalfiction #historicalromance

Here’s the blurb:

Flora Flowerdew has a secret. The former Florrie Gubbins, music hall dancer, is now Madame Flowerdew, one of London’s most renowned spirit mediums. But it’s actually her beloved Pomeranian dog, Chou-Chou, who can see the ghosts.

One of her most lucrative seances, for the wealthy Petrie family whose daughter is about to marry a handsome young duke, goes chaotically awry. The duke’s late, and very irate, grandfather demands Flora and his grandson Benedict find the long-missing family diamonds—even the search becomes littered with mayhem and murder! Can Flora discover the jewels before she loses her career, her sanity—and her heart?

Sparks fly as Flora, Benedict, and Chou-Chou pursue the truth of the diamonds’ disappearance in this lighthearted, cozy historical mystery set in foggy, gas-lit London

Purchase Links 

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flowerdew-Mystery-Diamonds-Victorian-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B09ZSWGXYS/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Flowerdew-Mystery-Diamonds-Victorian-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B09ZSWGXYS/

My Review

Flora Flowerdew and the Mystery of the Duke’s Diamonds is a delightful, light-hearted Victorian mystery. For all that, it is stuffed with all the elements we would expect to find in a novel of the period, including the always needed addition of the reticule, as well as hansom cabs, wonderful clothing and period detail.

Flora is a delightful character, a woman on the up as she makes her name, not as a chorus girl, but as a spirit medium, with her collection of allies, including a female news reporter for the local newspaper. And of course, there’s a hint of romance along the way; as well as stories of intrigue and mystery, an intrepid explorer, and strange goings-on.

The mystery is engaging, and I think we can all agree, that the inclusion of an irate ghost is particularly fitting for the time period.

An enjoyable, light-hearted read, perfect for those wanting to dip their toe into Victorian London.

Meet the author

Amanda McCabe wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen–a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject…)

She’s never since used algebra, but her books (set in a variety of time periods–Regency, Victorian, Tudor, Renaissance, and 1920s) have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOKReviews Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion. She lives in New Mexico with her lovely husband, along with far too many books and a spoiled rescue dog.

When not writing or reading, she loves yoga, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network–even though she doesn’t cook. She also writes as Amanda Allen…

Please visit her at http://ammandamccabe.com

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Giveaway to Win an e-copy of Flora Flowerdew and the Mystery of the Duke’s Diamonds & a Victorian necklace (Open to US Only)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494520/?

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

Follow the blog tour for Flora Flowerdew and the Mystery of the Duke’s Diamonds

Things what I have written about Saxon England :)

This post is just a quick summary of where you can find a few articles I’ve written in the last few months, in case you’ve missed them (in no particular order).


I wrote a feature for Shepherd about the five books that led to my obsession with Saxon England.

https://shepherd.com/best-books/that-led-to-my-obsession-with-saxon-england


I wrote a feature for The Coffee Pot Book Club about Lady Elfrida, England’s first crowned queen. Is she the stereotypical wicked stepmother?

https://thecoffeepotbookclub.blogspot.com/2022/08/historicalfiction-author-m-j-porter-is.html


And sticking with all things Saxon, I’ve written a piece all about Saxon England for this month’s interactive Historical Times magazine. (this link will take you to the sample – sign up to become a member – the magazines are always stuffed with fabulous content)

https://online.1stflip.com/dssx/3jpe/


And if you’ve not yet read The Last Seven, you can read a short excerpt here, on The Coffee Pot Book Club.

https://thecoffeepotbookclub.blogspot.com/2022/08/have-sneak-peek-between-covers-of-m-j.html


Phew, I hope you find something fun to read. Thank you.

Welcome to today’s stop on the Vendetta by Edie Baylis new release blog tour #Gangland

Here’s the blurb:

Who can you trust?

Once bitter enemies, Samantha Reynold and Seb Stoker’s powerful alliance enables their firms and casinos to go from strength to strength. With the families no longer in opposition, it seems that Sam and Seb are untouchable…

But not everyone is happy with the new power couple of the club world.

Unbeknownst to everyone, someone new wants to see Sam’s perfect life ruined. And they will stop at nothing to seek their revenge – even if it means destroying everything – and everyone – in their path.

With tensions high, Sam and Seb must put their trust in each other completely. But can they trust those closest to them? Or do they have a vendetta of their own?

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

My Review

Vendetta is the third book in the Allegiance series, and the second book that I’ve read by Edie Baylis.

I really enjoyed returning to the world of Samantha and Seb, and I found the build-up to the second half of the book, which is pretty non-stop, to be much easier going for me. I think, as with these things, not having read the first book made the second book a bit tough. But with this book, I already knew many of the characters, and it was far more enjoyable for that.

As ever, none of these characters really have any redeeming qualities, but I did find myself hoping some of the women would have a happy outcome. Whether they do or not, I won’t spoil it for other readers.

It’s always fascinating to read about places that you know. And these books, set in Birmingham in the 1990s resonate with me. I think I also enjoy knowing a little more about the landscape.

A fabulously entertaining read. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my review copy. Vendetta is released today, 1st September 2022, and I wish the author a happy publication day:)

Meet the Author

Edie Baylis a successful self-published author of dark gritty thrillers with violent background settings. She lives in Worcestershire, has a history of owning daft cars and several motorbikes and is licensed to run a pub. She has signed a five-book deal with Boldwood and the first book in her new ganglit series, set in Birmingham, was published in January 2022.

Connect with Edie

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ediebaylis

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

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

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/edie-baylis

Check out my review for the previous book in the series, Fallout.

Happy Release Day to The Last Seven – book 7 in The Ninth Century series

I can’t quite believe it’s been a year since the release of The Last Shield, but it has, and finally, I’m excited to share The Last Seven with my readers. I confess, the title started as a bit of a joke, but it was just too good not to use:)

Here’s the blurb:

He sent twenty men to infiltrate three hundred. It had to be enough.

While Archbishop Wulfhere of York begs for assistance against Jarl Halfdan, now living in Northumbria, Bishop Smithwulf of London is eager for Coelwulf to forge an alliance with King Alfred of Wessex. And the three Viking raider jarls continue to hold Grantabridge. Yet, Coelwulf has so far managed to dismiss all of these concerns, consumed with worry for his missing warrior, Pybba.

But while searching for Pybba, events overtake Coelwulf, his men are murdered, and his aunt taken, but by which of his enemies?

If Coelwulf fails to rescue his aunt alive, what hope does he have for keeping his kingdom secure?

The year is AD875, and the men of Mercia must once more ride into the fray. The future of Mercia depends on them. 

For the first time, I’m releasing the original version, and the Cleaner Version of The Last Seven on the same day. (For those who haven’t encountered the different versions before, the major difference is the absence of a certain word in the Cleaner Versions – I think we probably all know what that word is.)

The paperback and hardback will also be available for the original version. The book will also be available to read with Kindle Unlimited.

I really, really, really, hope you enjoy being back with Coelwulf and his men as much as I loved writing the book. But, a warning, I want you to read the book and enjoy it, but my plan is that book 8 will not be available until this time next year. So, take your time, if you can. And, if you can’t, then don’t forget there’s also a short story collection, Coelwulf’s Company, Tales from before The Last King, and of course, Icel’s story is the basis for The Eagle of Mercia Chronicles. Hopefully, there will be enough for you to read, until the release of the next book.

And, I’ve written a new short story for The Last Seven. If you sign up to my newsletter, I will be sharing the short story with my subscribers first. (I send a monthly email on the 1st of each month.)

Thank you to everyone who has preordered the new book. I hope you all love it, and appreciate the new map I’ve had made for the book.

Check out previous release day posts.

The Last King

The Last Warrior (apart from The Last Warrior, which doesn’t seem to have one!)

The Last Horse

The Last Enemy

The Last Sword

The Last Shield

It’s short story week. Coelwulf’s Company and The Mercian Brexit are both 99pUK/99cUS on Kindle

Sometimes, when I’m writing a scene, I just have to write something to go with it, a side story, a prequel, just something that ties up loose ends between one book series, and another, and so, Coelwulf’s Company, a collection of short stories from before the beginning of The Last King. Have you wondered what all our fierce warriors were up to before The Last King? How Coelwulf came to command his warriors? Hopefully, you’ll find some of the answers here in my first collection of short stories featuring the characters from The Last King, and also one character from Son of Mercia!

And, if you’ve read the Chronicles of the English, and are wondering where to go next, then The Mercian Brexit, is an attempt to bridge some of the gap between that trilogy and the Lady Elfrida books. At 15,000 words, The Mercian Brexit is one of my longer short stories, but equally, not as long as some of them have ended up (Cnut was supposed to only ever be 50,000 words but ended up over 100,000 – so not so very short after all.)

Both books are also available to read with a Kindle Unlimited Subscription.

These aren’t my only short stories. You can also find one in The Historical Times magazine from July 2022, and there are also a couple on my author platform with Aspects of History, and I plan on writing many more as well.

#Jason by Mark Knowles is now available, and so I’m reminding you of my review for #Argo, and giving a shout out for, the #BladesofBronze books

Here’s the blurb

An action-led reimagining of the famous Greek myth, Jason and the Golden Fleece, brilliantly told by classicist Mark Knowles.

He has come to take what is yours…

Iolkos, Thessaly. 1230 BC. King Pelias has grown paranoid, tormented by his murderous past and a prophecy of the man who will one day destroy him.

When a stranger arrives to compete in the Games of Poseidon, Pelias is horried, for this young man should never have grown to manhood. He is Jason, Pelias’ nephew, who survived his uncle’s assassins as a child. Now Jason wants his revenge – and the kingdom.

But Pelias is cunning as well as powerful. He gives his foe an impossible challenge: to claim the throne, Jason must first steal the fabled Golden Fleece of Colchis.

Jason assembles a band of Greece’s finest warriors. They are the Argonauts, named for their trusty ship. But even with these mighty allies, Jason will have to overcome the brutal challenges hurled his way. His mission and many lives depend on his wits – and his sword.

PRAISE FOR ARGO AND MARK KNOWLES:

‘Mark Knowles has taken the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece, and stripped it down to its bare bones… What is left is a deeply researched historical epic, so brilliantly brought to life I could taste the salt air on my tongue… Epic battles, well- rounded characters sailing through a brilliantly described world’ Adam Lofthouse, author of The Centurion’s Son

‘What a spectacular triumph! Knowles has taken a reassuringly familiar legend and elevated it into a new, realistic and engrossing story’ Sam Taw

‘[Knowles] has teamed his love of learning classics and childhood love of sword-and- sandals epics to accomplish something remarkable’ Boarding Schools’ Association

Review

The legends of Greece don’t often cross my mind when I’m thinking of stories to read, but I read a wonderful retelling of the legend of Troy last year, and so I was really intrigued to be invited to read Argo by Mark Knowles. And I’m so pleased I did.

Argo is a rich retelling of the journey to retrieve the Golden Fleece, populated with a cast of characters with names even I recognised. Some of them leap from the page more clearly than others, as is to be expected with such a large cast, and the ship, Argo itself, is one of the clearest, for even someone such as me to imagine. Reading the author’s bio, it’s easy to see why the ship is such an important part of the story.

I was swept away by the tale, and intrigued to know how it would all end. I should probably have known, but I didn’t.

The story is rich in detail, the journey told in great detail, as are the stops along the way, and the people the Argonauts interact with. It certainly builds in tension so that the last quarter of the book went by in a flash. This truly is a wonderful reimagining of the legends of Jason, the Argonauts and of course, Argo.

I’m lucky to have been given an advanced copy of the sequel Jason, and I’m powering my way through the book now, which, luckily, starts exactly where Argo stops, and I was so pleased I had book 2 straight to hand. Do check back for me review.

Curious? Here’s a link for Argo.

https://amzn.to/3Ltsqx8

Just to reassure everyone, there is a fab map!

Meet the author

Mark Knowles took degrees in Classics and Management Studies at Downing College, Cambridge. After a decade working as a frontline officer and supervisor within the Metropolitan Police Service, he became Head of Classics at a school in Harrogate. He is a particular fan of experimental archaeology and rowed on the reconstructed ancient Athenian trireme Olympias during its last sea trials in Greece in 1994.

If you missed the introduction to Jason from Mark Knowles on Monday, here it is again.

Introduction to Jason by Mark Knowles

Getting Argo home in the process of writing JASON was great fun. In fact, once I’d got the route straight in my head, it gave me the most joy I’ll probably ever have in writing a story. It presented an opportunity to weave together as many strands of myth as I could without – I hope – stretching credibility. And what more could an unashamed Classics geek want? JASON features an all-star ancient Greek cast: Circe, Talos, the Sirens, King Minos, Ariadne, the Minotaur, and the Oracle, ranging over a vast landscape from as far north as the Danube to Crete in the south. 

‘Sprouting wings and flying home would have been a more useful suggestion!’ So says Idas, a thorn in Jason’s side, as options are discussed to outwit the ships blockading the Black Sea straits. His comments are apposite when looking at the wackier ancient suggestions for the return leg of Jason’s voyage. In one surviving version of the myth, we see Argo traversing the Sahara; in another, sailing to Greece via Scandinavia. Needless to say, all these routes (but one) are physically impossible. But what an opportunity for a writer to stretch the imagination!

I even discovered a lost island when researching the route. An old map of the Anatolian coastline based on a Roman geographer’s work showed an island just off the Thracian coast (modern day Bulgaria), which some natural disaster or other seems to have swallowed in the Middle Ages. As soon as I saw it, I had to have it for Circe’s mysterious island of Aea. This sums up the spirit in which JASON was written. I hope, in joining this epic voyage, you make some discoveries of your own.

Preorder Jason here.

https://amzn.to/3PvpuTV

Welcome to The Last Seven (cover reveal) #TheNinthCentury #Coelwulf

I’m excited to share this one with you. I mean, we all knew what it was going to look like, but all the same, I think this looks suitably menacing for a title like that:)

Here’s the blurb:

He sent twenty men to infiltrate three hundred. It had to be enough.

While Archbishop Wulfhere of York begs for assistance against Jarl Halfdan, now living in Northumbria, Bishop Smithwulf of London is eager for Coelwulf to forge an alliance with King Alfred of Wessex. And the three Raider jarls continue to hold Grantabridge. Yet, Coelwulf has so far managed to dismiss all of these concerns, his worry only with his missing warrior, Pybba.

But while searching for Pybba, events overtake Coelwulf, his men are murdered, and his aunt taken, but by which of his enemies?

If Coelwulf fails to rescue his aunt alive, then what hope does he have for keeping his kingdom secure?

The year is AD875 and the men of Mercia must once more ride into the fray. The future of Mercia depends on them.

Preorder now

books2read.com/TheLastSeven