Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for A Mystery of Murder by Helen Hollick

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Helen Hollick to the blog with a post about her new 1970s murder mystery, A Mystery of Murder.

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog – I think my Coffee Pot Book Club tour for A Mystery Of Murderhas gone well so far!

So, what is the hardest thing about writing a cozy mystery series? They are usually short, novella length stories (between 40 – 70 thousand words) with an amateur sleuth protagonist (often female) and a ‘light-hearted’ feel to them. They should not contain anything too explicit for language, sex or situations – and must be an enjoyable read of course. (Even though there’s a murder involved, not necessarily an ‘enjoyable’ topic!) I won’t say ‘easy-peasy’ to all that but as I was having fun writing the first in the Jan Christopher Mysteries (A Mirror Murder) and this second instalment, A Mystery Of Murder,  everything fell nicely into place.

The difficult bits were ensuring the period detail was correct.

The series is set in the 1970s, which is when I worked in a north London public library as a fairly shy, latter-end teenager. And I was amazed to realise how much I had forgotten about the early ’70s – either that, or I was more naïve than I realised back then! I remember the three-day week here in England, caused by strikes which then led to scheduled power cuts, but I don’t remember evenings without TV or using candles to light the house. Mind you, we only had one black and white TV back then, no additional sets in the bedroom or kitchen. Only one phone as well – a landline mobile, cell phones were only a gadget on Star Trek. MacDonald’s was still a novelty, package holiday trips were only just becoming popular, and my monthly wage was about £100. £25 a week. That doesn’t sound much now, but back then, I felt rich.

South Chingford Library Photo © A Morton

I‘m finding that I have to be as diligent researching my facts for this series as I am with my ‘serious’ historical fiction or for my nautical Sea Witch pirate adventures. Get the facts wrong and there’s bound to be at least one reader who spots it. 

I did make one blooper in A Mirror Murder, but I’ve let it be, as the person who mentioned the error also said ‘I doubt anyone else will know, I only do because I worked for the company.’ Flash floor cleaner. The original cleaner that is. I put ‘lavender’ as the aroma. Apparently they only had pine in 1971. Who’d have thought!

Taw Valley

I like putting a few little titbits of information in these books as a sideline of flavour for the period, or just for interest. For this second episode, for instance, do you know where the term ‘bonfire’ comes from? Or why you see so many daffodils in the hedgerows in the Devon and Cornwall countryside? No? Well, I’m going to be mean – you’ll have to read (and enjoy, I hope) the book to find out the answers!

So it only goes to show that memory is not always a reliable research tool. Where to go for ‘fact checking’ though? I was lucky enough to track down a few people who remembered enough to at last set me on the right path. I needed to know when our nearest railway station became ‘unmanned’ and a ‘request’ stop, (yes, today you have to request the train to stop at Umberleigh.) I browsed the internet, found some 1960s footage of the station, from there, contacted a lovely chap whose father used to be the station master. Then my chimney sweep happened to be a local policeman in the 1970s, and several people in my village recalled various bits of information. Off to the library for any books that had photographs of Barnstaple and South Molton (two North Devon towns).  I’ll be chatting to our next-door farmer soon for background information for my planned book four of the series – while haymaking this summer he happened to mention that he bought a new tractor in 1969 (information duly squirrelled away for possible use…!) 

Google for ‘1970s’ and lots of things pop up, but I specifically looked for fashion, kitchens, living rooms, and furniture. A lot of it was very ‘modern’ back then (very old fashioned now!) and much of it was plastic or vinyl. Bright colours, too, especially orange, which was something my cover designer, Cathy Helms of www.avalongraphics.org researched. 1970s popular colours. Hence the orange on the cover.

Flared trousers, fake fur hats. Plastic handbags… Thank goodness for the internet! 

If anyone has any specific memories of everyday life in the 1970s I’d love to hear from you! I can be contacted on author@helenhollick.net.

Thank you so much for sharing. Yes, I think memory can be a bit hazy sometimes, but it can also bring the delightful little details. My Dad was keen to inform me about the payment ‘shoots’ in the 1940s, whereby there was no til on the shop floor. Who knew? Good luck with the new book. I do like a good mystery.

Here’s the blurb:

‘Had I known what was to happen soon after we arrived at Mr and Mrs Walker’s lovely old West Country house, my apprehension about spending Christmas in Devon would have dwindled to nothing.’

Library Assistant Jan Christopher is to spend Christmas with her boyfriend, DS Laurie Walker and his family, but when a murder is discovered, followed by a not very accidental accident, the traditional Christmas spirit is somewhat marred… 

What happened to Laurie’s ex-girlfriend? Where is the vicar’s wife? Who took those old photographs? And will the farmer up the lane ever mend those broken fences? 

Set in 1971, this is the second Jan Christopher Cosy Mystery. Join her (and an owl and a teddy bear) in Devon for a Christmas to remember. 

Will the discovery of a murder spoil Christmas for Jan Christopher and her boyfriend DS Laurie Walker – or will it bring them closer together?

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Meet the author

Helen Hollick and her family moved from north-east London in January 2013 after finding an eighteenth-century North Devon farm house through being a ‘victim’ on BBC TV’s popular Escape To The Country show. The thirteen-acre property was the first one she was shown – and it was love at first sight. She enjoys her new rural life, and has a variety of animals on the farm, including Exmoor ponies and her daughter’s string of show jumpers.

First accepted for publication by William Heinemann in 1993 – a week after her fortieth birthday – Helen then became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she also writes a pirate-based nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. Despite being impaired by the visual disorder of Glaucoma, she is also branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with the Jan Christopher Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working for thirteen years as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She also runs Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction, a news and events blog for her village and the Community Shop, assists as ‘secretary for the day’ at her daughter’s regular showjumping shows – and occasionally gets time to write…

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the A Mystery of Murder blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Castilian Pomegranate by Anna Belfrage

Today, I’m excited to welcome Anna Belfrage to the blog with a post about her new book The Castilian Pomegranate.

Getting things right – or how a historical fiction writer sorts out her facts

When I set out to write a novel, I usually already have a sequence of real events I want to use as anchors to my story. The reason why The Castilian Pomegranate ended up set in present-day Spain was because I had somewhat fallen in love with medieval Spanish history, and in particular with one rather amazing lady, Maria Alfonso de Meneses, better known as Maria de Molina. 

So what did I know about Maria de Molina? Well, I had heard of her since childhood, this wise queen who would somehow rise over the losses that dotted her life to lead Castile through extremely difficult times. She lost her husband young, stood as regent to her very young son, had to deal with the rebellion of her former brother-in-law, somehow managed to raise her son to adulthood only to have him die far too young and leave her—yet again—as regent to a boy king, her grandson. 

But to properly flesh her out, I needed to know more, and while I am quite happy to use Wikipedia as a starting point—it always makes me roll my eyes when people dismiss everything on Wiki as being incorrect—I went looking elsewhere. I found a series of talks about medieval Spain on YouTube—and as I speak Spanish the selection was quite large—and spent several happy hours listening my way through them. My conclusion? This was a very complicated time for Castile. 

Reconquista battles

Several years of successful Reconquista had expanded the realm every which way, and to help administer it, the Castilian court used the well-educated Jews, while at the same time tensions between Christians and Jews were slowly growing. Things would explode one day in the late 14th century when the Christian of Sevilla more or less murdered every single Jew they could find, but in the period I am writing about, hostilities were not at that point. 

Likewise, with the Reconquista came a growing Muslim population now under Christian control. These Mudéjares were usually accorded the right to practise Islam, but were also viewed with some suspicion by the Christians who were probably more worried about the tide turning and having the Moors reclaim ther recently reconquered land than about the issue of faith as such. 

To get a feeling for what life might have been like I read books about Moorish Spain, I dug out essays about “la Convivencia” –the period after the reconquest when Muslims, Christians and Jews had to somehow rub along. Once again, internet proved my friend, with a lot of interesting stuff available through various sites like Google Scholar or Academia.edu 

I’ve also spent some time browsing  Real Academia de Historia – an excellent site if you know what you’re looking for! 

When writing a book set in a specific period, I like getting a feel for the cultural context: what songs did they sing, what stories did they tell? I am fortunate in that I have an excellent guide into medieval Spain in Ramón Menéndez Pidal, one of those old-school intellectuals that had a keen interest in almost anything. One of the subjects he had a passionate relationship to was the medieval Spanish literature, the so called cantares de gesta and their roots in the legends and songs of Visigoth Spain. Let’s just say it was a sheer joy to sink back into books I have not revisited since I studied Spanish at university. All that reading had a side effect as I just had to write a post about one of those old legends and have another post almost ready to go. 

One of the things I always spend a lot of time on is flora and fauna—I will never forget Bernard Cornwell telling a full auditorium at an HNS Conference how a fan had contacted him to tell him there were no snowdrops in the UK in the period he was writing about – except, it turns out there probably was 😊 In The Castilian Pomegranate I had to do some serious editing when I realised that the oranges grown in Spain at that time were bitter oranges, the type you used for essences and oils, the dried peels use as spice, while the fruit itself was much too bitter to eat. There went my scene with my heroine closing her eyes with pleasure as she tasted her first ever orange…

Ultimately, when writing about an era so far back in time, the facts offer little but a skeleton on which to build my story. It is the delicious gaps in between that tickle my imagination, where I have to make assumption based on what little I do know when shaping my characters and their reactions to the world around them. That, dear reader, is where the “fiction” in historical fiction comes into play, while all that research helps ground the narrative in a historical setting that I—like most historical fiction authors—do my best to breathe careful life into. 

Thank you so much for sharing your research. Good luck with the new book. (I am always wary of mentioning rabbits as some people say there were brought to the UK by the Romans, and others by the Normans – so, no rabbits in my Saxon England).

Here’s the blurb:

An enraged and grieving queen commands them to retrieve her exquisite jewel and abandon their foundling brat overseas—or never return.

Robert FitzStephan and his wife, Noor, have been temporarily exiled. Officially, they are to travel to the courts of Aragon and Castile as emissaries of Queen Eleanor of England. Unofficially, the queen demands two things: that they abandon Lionel, their foster son, in foreign lands and that they bring back a precious jewel – the Castilian Pomegranate.

Noor would rather chop off a foot than leave Lionel in a foreign land—especially as he’s been entrusted to her by his dead father, the last true prince of Wales. And as to the jewel, stealing it would mean immediate execution. . . 

Spain in 1285 is a complicated place. France has launched a crusade against Aragon and soon enough Robert is embroiled in the conflict, standing side by side with their Aragonese hosts. 

Once in Castile, it is the fearsome Moors that must be fought, with Robert facing weeks separated from his young wife, a wife who is enthralled by the Castilian court—and a particular Castilian gallant. 

Jealousy, betrayal and a thirst for revenge plunge Noor and Robert into life-threatening danger. 

Will they emerge unscathed or will savage but beautiful Castile leave them permanently scarred and damaged?  

Trigger Warnings:

Sexual content, violence

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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. 

The Castilian Pomegranate is the second 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 Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain, a world of intrigue and back-stabbing.

Her most recent release prior to The Castilian Pomegranate is 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.

Connect with Anna

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Castilian Pomegranate book tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on the Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury by Kinley Bryan blog tour

Today, I’m welcoming Kinley Bryan to the blog with a post about the research she undertook for her new book, Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury.

Researching the Great Lakes Storm of 1913

When I began the research for my novel, Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury, there were two things I knew for certain. First, the story would take place almost entirely during the Great Lakes Storm of 1913. This monstrous storm lasted four days, sank dozens of steel freighters, and took the lives of more than 250 sailors. It was a once-a-century weather catastrophe and yet most people have never heard of it. I knew about it only through stories of my great-grandparents, sailors on the Great Lakes who went ashore for good in 1913 after surviving the storm. 

The second thing I knew for certain was that I would use multiple point-of-view characters. I had a vague idea that two characters would encounter the storm aboard ships, and one would be on land, at the water’s edge. With these two certainties in mind, my plan was to research until I was so full of ideas that I couldn’t wait to sit down and start writing.

My research began with White Hurricane by David G. Brown. This book focused on the storm, and included firsthand accounts and contemporary newspaper reports. While the characters in my story are fictional, the situations they encounter are not. This book helped me understand the specific dangers lake freighter crews faced as they battled 35-foot waves, hurricane-force winds, and whiteout blizzard conditions—as well as their strategies for mitigating those dangers. Brown’s book was also critical to my understanding of the course and chronology of the storm, as was the National Oceanic and the Atmospheric Administration, which had published a day-by-day analysis of the storm for its centennial.

Because much of the story takes place aboard lake freighters, I needed a primer on early twentieth-century Great Lakes commercial shipping. For this, I read Sailing into History: Great Lakes Bulk Carriers of the Twentieth Century and the Crews Who Sailed Them by Frank Boles. One of my main characters is a passenger rather than a sailor, so I also needed a passenger’s perspective of these great ships. A helpful resource was James Oliver Curwood’s The Great Lakes: The Vessels that Plough Them, Their Owners, Their Sailors, and Their Cargoes: Together with a Brief History of Our Inland Seas, which was published in 1909.

At one point in my writing, I couldn’t finish a scene because I didn’t know how sailors would have cleared ice from the pilothouse windows. In all the books I’d read, including Great Lakes fiction from the time period, this hadn’t been explained. But it was important to the scene, so I reached out to several historians. I was delighted to learn the answer from maritime historian Frederick Stonehouse, who also happened to be the author of one of my sources. Stonehouse’s Wreck Ashore taught me all about the U.S. Life-Saving Service, which operated throughout the Great Lakes and along the Atlantic Coast from the mid-1800s until 1915, when it merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard. 

In writing scenes about Agnes, who lives at the water’s edge, I drew on my own experiences. For years I lived in a cottage on Lake Erie, and was absolutely enamored of it. I’m now in a different part of the country, but in writing my novel I recalled my memories of the lake and referred to my old journal entries.

Finally, to get the little details right—what prices were in 1913, what people wore, what they ate—my sources included old issues of The Ladies’ Home Journal, many of which are available online. I also found a book published in 1914, Things Mother Used to Make by Lydia Maria Gurney. This collection of “old-time” recipes and household hints gave me wonderful insight into daily life of the period.

Of course, most of what I learned from my research didn’t make it into the novel. I once spent an entire afternoon learning how a triple-expansion steam engine worked. Mercifully for readers, those details never made it into the story.

That’s fantastic – a shame you couldn’t squeeze it in somewhere. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

Three sisters. Two Great Lakes. One furious storm.

Based on actual events…

It’s 1913 and Great Lakes galley cook Sunny Colvin has her hands full feeding a freighter crew seven days a week, nine months a year. She also has a dream—to open a restaurant back home—but knows she’d never convince her husband, the steward, to leave the seafaring life he loves.


In Sunny’s Lake Huron hometown, her sister Agnes Inby mourns her husband, a U.S. Life-Saving Serviceman who died in an accident she believes she could have prevented. Burdened with regret and longing for more than her job at the dry goods store, she looks for comfort in a secret infatuation.

Two hundred miles away in Cleveland, youngest sister Cordelia Blythe has pinned her hopes for adventure on her marriage to a lake freighter captain. Finding herself alone and restless in her new town, she joins him on the season’s last trip up the lakes.


On November 8, 1913, a deadly storm descends on the Great Lakes, bringing hurricane-force winds, whiteout blizzard conditions, and mountainous thirty-five-foot waves that last for days. Amidst the chaos, the women are offered a glimpse of the clarity they seek, if only they dare to perceive it. 

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Meet the Author

Kinley Bryan is an Ohio native who counts numerous Great Lakes captains among her ancestors. Her great-grandfather Walter Stalker was captain of the four-masted schooner Golden Age, the largest sailing vessel in the world when it launched in 1883. Kinley’s love for the inland seas swelled during the years she spent in an old cottage on Lake Erie. She now lives with her husband and children on the Atlantic Coast, where she prefers not to lose sight of the shore. Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury is her first novel.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury Blog Tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Rebel’s Knot by Cryssa Bazos

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Cryssa Bazos to the blog with a post about her new book, Rebel’s Knot.

Your book, Rebel’s Knot, is set during the seventeenth century in Ireland, a period I know very little about. As a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories.

Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring your historical landscape to life? 

Thank you for having me on your blog! Research can be an obsession. While only a small percentage ends up in the final copy, all those hours of research still colour between the lines.

I usually research in three major waves. The first is at the early stage before I write anything. I read historical non-fiction to give me an understanding of the era and subject. This is a general survey to determine where my story will sit within the history, and I look for signposts where I can lay my foundation.

When I feel that I have a good understanding, I start writing. I’m eager to get a taste for the characters and the story. By the time I hit the end of the first act, I often realize I need far more information about the setting and everyday details than I have. This leads me to my second wave of research, where I gather a hundred historical details that will be boiled down to only a few that stay in the text. I search out first-hand contemporary accounts, in letters or diaries, and try to get a sense of the world that my characters inhabit. This is where the characters lift off the page for me, and I can walk around in their shoes and understand what’s important in their life.

The last wave of research is my way of getting out of the dreaded middle slump. At this stage, the characters are walking around aimlessly, waiting for the events that will sweep them to the end. This is the rabbit hole stage of the process. Some might call it procrastination, and while it appears to be, what I’m actually doing is searching for inspiration from history. Where I often find the gold is in the footnotes. The list of goods stolen from a captured ship, for example, can be the lynchpin of a new subplot.

Research – Depositphotos Licence #33252823

Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?

I have several favourite online resources. British History Online (https://www.british-history.ac.uk) is one welcome rabbit hole, and it’s easy to get seriously lost going through the transcribed content they have in there. British Civil Wars Project (http://bcw-project.org) is a great resource for anything to do with the War of the Three Kingdoms. I often pop in when I want to check on a date or a fact, and they have sections organized for Scotland and Ireland. I also love the articles available on JSTOR, and will usually head there to get more in-depth understanding on a topic.

When I was researching Rebel’s Knot, I relied on God’s Executioner by Micheál Ó Siochrú. It’s an insightful and balanced view of the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland, including the events leading up to it. My copy is now dogeared and marked up.

One of the historical figures that I feature in Rebel’s Knot is Edmund O’Dwyer, Commander-in-Chief of the Irish forces in Tipperary and Waterford. He’s mentioned only several times in the historical record and yet he played an important role in the defence of Tipperary. There’s very little known about him. I managed to find an old history of the O’Dwyers called The O’Dwyers of Kilnamanagh by Sir Michael O’Dwyer (1933), which not only compiled the scant information on Edmund O’Dwyer, but gave more information on his family and heritage.

Another major source of information was A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland, from 1641 to 1652 by Sir John Thomas Gilbert. This was a compilation of letters, diary entries and the record of the treaties in one volume. While the English Parliamentarians wrote most of the accounts, the information was still invaluable. I learned about the range of the English forces in Tipperary, and their favourable perspective on commanders such as O’Dwyer spoke volumes about his character.

I also tracked down a first-hand account of an English bookseller travelling through Ireland in the latter seventeenth-century called Teague Land or A Merry Ramble to the Wild Irish (1698) by John Dunton. It’s rare to find contemporary accounts of common people, so this was quite the find that the traveller captured his experiences with his Irish hosts. He seemed to be a bit of a foodie, because he left detailed information about what they offered him to eat and how they prepared his meals.

There were a myriad of other sources and old maps that I found helpful (let’s not get started on the maps), but the above resources were the material I kept returning to throughout writing my novel.

I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to chat about research! It’s a topic near to my heart.

Cryssa

Thank you so much for sharing your research with me. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb

Ireland 1652: In the desperate, final days of the English invasion of Ireland . . .

A fey young woman, Áine Callaghan, is the sole survivor of an attack by English marauders. When Irish soldier Niall O’Coneill discovers his own kin slaughtered in the same massacre, he vows to hunt down the men responsible. He takes Áine under his protection and together they reach the safety of an encampment held by the Irish forces in Tipperary. 

Hardly a safe haven, the camp is rife with danger and intrigue. Áine is a stranger with the old stories stirring on her tongue and rumours follow her everywhere. The English cut off support to the brigade, and a traitor undermines the Irish cause, turning Niall from hunter to hunted. 

When someone from Áine’s past arrives, her secrets boil to the surface—and she must slay her demons once and for all.

As the web of violence and treachery grows, Áine and Niall find solace in each other’s arms—but can their love survive long-buried secrets and the darkness of vengeance?

Trigger Warnings:

Violence, references to sexual/physical abuse.

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Meet the Author

Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and a seventeenth century enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for Historical Fiction, a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for Historical Romance. Her second novel, Severed Knot, is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and a finalist for the 2019 Chaucer Award. A forthcoming third book in the standalone series, Rebel’s Knot, was published November 2021.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Rebel’s Knot blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

The Custard Corpses is on blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

I’m taking The Custard Corpses on blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources. 30 bloggers over 10 days will share their thoughts and reviews on the ebook, paperback and audiobook. Massive thanks to Rachel for organising such a huge tour. I’m really excited to find out what people think of my slightly twisty 1940s mystery.

And, there’s a competition to win one of two copies of The Custard Corpses. Good luck. https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494455/

For those who’ve not read The Custard Corpses yet, here’s the blurb;

A delicious 1940s mystery.

Birmingham, England, 1943.

While the whine of the air raid sirens might no longer be rousing him from bed every night, a two-decade-old unsolved murder case will ensure that Chief Inspector Mason of Erdington Police Station is about to suffer more sleepless nights.

Young Robert McFarlane’s body was found outside the local church hall on 30th September 1923. But, his cause of death was drowning, and he’d been missing for three days before his body was found. No one was ever arrested for the crime. No answers could ever be given to the grieving family. The unsolved case has haunted Mason ever since.

But, the chance discovery of another victim, with worrying parallels, sets Mason, and his constable, O’Rourke, on a journey that will take them back over twenty-five years, the chance to finally solve the case, while all around them the uncertainty of war continues, impossible to ignore.

The Custard Corpses is available as an ebook, paperback, hardback and audiobook (Thank you to Matt Coles for doing such a fabulous job with the narration). And, I’ve written a sequel to. The Automobile Assassination which will release on 25th November 2021.

I’ll be adding links here as the tour progresses, and I want to say thank you to all the bloggers for taking a chance on The Custard Corpses.

Tuesday 16th November

https://whatcathyreadnext.wordpress.com

https://norwayellesea.blogspot.com/2021/11/book-blog-tour-stop-with-author-guest.html

Wednesday 17th November 2021

https://fourmoonreviews.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses-by-mj-porter-review.html

Thursday 18th November 2021

http://pettywitter.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses.html

Friday November 19th 2021

https://nickislifeofcrime.blogspot.com/2021/11/blogtour-book-excerpt-giveaway-custard.html

http://pettywitter.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses.html

Saturday 20th November 2021

https://chezmaximka.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses-by-mj-porter.html

http://www.booksarecool.com/2021/custard-corpses-delicious/

Sunday 21st November 2021

https://dogsmomvisits.blogspot.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses-by-m-j-porter.html

https://www.jazzybookreviews.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses-by-mj-porter-book.html

Monday 22nd November 2021

https://www.instagram.com/mickysbookworm/

https://www.jazzybookreviews.com/2021/11/the-custard-corpses-by-mj-porter-book.html

Tuesday 23rd November 2021

Wednesday 24th November 2021

https://wordpress.com/post/mjporterauthor.blog/3701

Thursday 25th November 2021

Huge thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising such a fantastic tour, and to all the tour hosts and reviewers for welcoming The Custard Corpses to their blogs.

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Ride with the Moonlight by Andrea Matthews

Today, I’m delighted to welcome back Andrea Matthews to the blog, to tell us about her new book, Ride with the Moonlight.

Your book, Ride with the Moonlight is the second in the series.  I always ask writers to share with me some of their historical research but hoped you could also explain whether this second book involved more or less research than the first? 

Ride with the Moonlight did actually involve more research than the first book in the series, simply because there was very little involving time travel in it. As a result, most of the book was firmly planted in the sixteenth century. In addition, where Thunder on the Moor was concerned with an overall research of the period— who the border reiver was and what their lives were like — Moonlight involved more detailed research aimed at specific aspects of life on the sixteenth century borders.

Was there something in particular that you did have to research which you hadn’t realised when you began writing it?

Since I always intended to write the book as a series, I did continue to employ many of the sources consulted for Book 1 when it came to the general atmosphere for Book 2, though given that Ride with the Moonlight would delve more into the border laws and the men who attempted to enforce them, I did find myself turning to The Lord Wardens of the Marches of Scotland and England, by Howard Pease much more for Book 2. Another source I found useful as I delved into a more in depth study the everyday life on the Border was Strongholds of the Border Reivers: Fortifications of the Anglo-Scottish Border 1296–1603 by Keith Durham. I tend to be more of a visual learner, so I was delighted to come across the website of Finola Finlay and Robert Harris entitled Roaring Water Journal. Although their illustrations and descriptions are of tower houses built in Ireland and their set up of the structures is a bit different, it did provide a wonderful depiction of a peel tower. 

There are some additional locations in Book 2 as well, so I needed to do a little more research regarding them. The characters venture away from the peel towers and spend some time in bastle houses and cottages, as well as the towns of Hexham, Bewcastle, Kershopefoot, and among the wilds of the Cheviots. Not only does the Historic Englandwebsite, https://historicengland.org.uk, have links to information on the historic buildings, such as the Moot Hall and Hexham Gaol, but The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings of Scotland has a number of brochures and booklets which cover such topics as 16th Century Outbuildings and Thatched Buildings in Scotland. This information was extremely helpful in researching various aspects that were covered in the book, from the scenes in the gaol to the time spent in Will and Maggie’s small cottage. There were other well documented websites that helped in my research as well, including one that was started by an organization entitled In Search of the Border Reivers, whose website, www.reivers.info contains a plethora of helpful information, including links to documents and other primary sources. 

For book 2, was there a go to research book you relied on (if you don’t mind sharing).

The Steel Bonnets by George MacDonald Fraser remained a foundational guide for the period, though I did find myself consulting The Lord Wardens of the Marches of Scotland and England, by Howard Pease and the Historic England website quite a bit for this book, as well as the other sources listed above.  

Will there be a third book, and do you think you will need to research something else for that?

There is a third book, which hopefully will be out the end of November, entitled Shake Loose the Border. Research is always an ongoing practice, and I am constantly looking for new books and websites to add to my bibliography. That being said, I did return to many of my original sources, to seek out specific facts or check some information. Steel Bonnets and the Lord Wardens mentioned above were heavily consulted once again, as was Forifications of the Ango-Scottish Border and www.reivers.info. Another book, I refer to from time to time is Border Raids and Reivers, by Robert Borland. Though it’s an older book I stumbled across on Project Gutenberg, it’s well done and informative and deals with some of the aspects I would be covering in all books of the series. As most of these books and websites deal with so many of the aspects of Border life, they have continued to be useful as the series moves on. 

Of course, as the story unfolds, I’m always on the lookout for little bits and pieces, small traditions and interesting customs that can enhance the story as well. In Book 2, for example, one such legend was about the cornflower. You’ll have to read the book to see what I mean, but it has to do with it’s color and whether or not a lass returns a lad’s love. It’s just a little side note woven into the story, but I think it’s a wonderful touch of authenticity. In Book 3, Will and Maggie are officially wed, so it was fun to research all the different wedding customs and traditions that were in place at the time too. One thing I always look for in a book or website is a documented source. Even if it is fiction, I try to make it as historically accurate as possible.

In the latter part of Book 3, there is also a trip back to the twentieth century, so my research there only had to return to 1988 and consisted mostly of more mundane things like bus schedules and the current state of technology.

To read more about my historical research, you can check out my website at www.andrea-matthews.com

Thank you so much for asking my questions, and sharing your research. I always think the subsequent books in a series will not require as much research, and I’m always wrong. Good luck with the new book and the entire series.

Here’s the blurb:

After rescuing sixteenth-century Border reiver Will Foster from certain death at her family’s hands, time traveler Maggie Armstrong finally admits her love for the handsome Englishman, though she can’t rid herself of the sinking suspicion that her Scottish kin are not about to let them live in peace. What she doesn’t expect is the danger that lurks on Will’s own side of the Border. When news of their plans to marry reaches the warden, he charges Will with March treason for trysting with a Scot. Will and Maggie attempt to escape by fleeing to the hills, but when Will is declared an outlaw and allowed to be killed on sight, they can no longer evade the authorities. Will is sentenced to hang, while Maggie is to be sent back to her family. Heartbroken, she has no choice but to return to Scotland, where her uncle continues to make plans for her to wed Ian Rutherford, the wicked Scotsman who she now realizes murdered her father in cold blood. With Will facing the gallows in England, and herself practically under house arrest in Scotland, she continues to resist her uncle’s plans, but her efforts are thwarted at every turn. Will’s family, however, is not about to stand by and watch their youngest lad executed simply because he’s lost his heart to a Scottish lass. A daring plan is set into motion, but will it be in time to save Will’s life and reunite the lovers? Or will Ian’s lies prompt Maggie’s family to ensure the bond between them is forever destroyed?

Trigger Warnings

Violence, sexual content.

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Meet the author

Andrea Matthews is the pseudonym for Inez Foster, a historian and librarian who loves to read and write and search around for her roots, genealogical speaking. She has a BA in History and an MLS in Library Science, and enjoys the research almost as much as she does writing the story. In fact, many of her ideas come to her while doing casual research or digging into her family history. She is the author of the Thunder on the Moor series set on the 16th century Anglo-Scottish Border, and the Cross of Ciaran series, where a fifteen hundred year old Celt finds himself in the twentieth century. Andrea is a member of the Romance Writers of America.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Ride with the Moonlight blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m delighted to share my review for Gods of Rome, the final book in the Rise of Emperors Trilogy by Gordon Doherty and Simon Turney

Cor, I’ve loved all three of these books. But before I get to the nitty gritty of the review for book 3, here’s the blurb:

For one to rule, the other must die.

312 AD is a year of horrific and brutal warfare. Constantine’s northern army is a small force, plagued by religious rivalries, but seemingly unstoppable as they invade Maxentius’ Italian heartlands. These relentless clashes, incidents of treachery and twists of fortune see Maxentius’ armies driven back to Rome. 

Constantine has his prize in sight, yet his army is diminished and on the verge of revolt. Maxentius meanwhile works to calm a restive and dissenting Roman populace. When the two forces clash in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, there are factors at work beyond their control and soon they are left with carnage. 

There is only one way Constantine and Maxentius’ rivalry will end. With one on a bloodied sword and the other the sole ruler of Rome . . .

Gods of Rome is a stunning climax to the Rise of Emperors trilogy. The reader has followed the lives of Maxentius and Constantine in the two previous books, through their childhood friendship and adult rivalries, which have resulted in them being firm enemies. In this non-stop and thrilling climax, there is all to play for, and don’t Doherty and Turney manage to ramp up the tension to unbearable heights.

I’m no expert on Roman history, and certainly not on the period leading up to AD312, but the authors manage to convey the chaos of the ruling elite without ever getting bogged down in the minutiae of all the internal power struggles. It’s a light touch that I certainly appreciate. The focus is on Constantine and Maxentius, and the men and women who stand at their side. And this is a particular strength of the book. It would be quite easy to forget about the men’s wives as the book focuses so much on warfare but Fausta and Valeria are given their own storylines, standing firm beside their men, even if they don’t always approve of what they’re doing, and not above some treachery themselves.

Maxentius and Constantine are two very different characters, grappling for the same thing, and the reader never tires of their internal monologues as they goad themselves onwards.

From about 50% through the book, I had to force myself not to turn to the back to read the historical notes, and to find out what ‘truth’ this story was based on.

I have adored this trilogy of books. It is my type of historical fiction – people who lived and breathed, brought to life and made to live their lives as opposed to authors focusing on the inevitability of what would happen, and presenting it as a fait accompli.

I can only hope that Simon Turney and Gordon Doherty are able to collaborate once more. After all, they have a lot of Roman era history they could delve into. (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge).

About the authors

Simon Turney is the author of the Marius’ Mules and Praetorian series, as well as The Damned Emperor series for Orion and Tales of the Empire series for Canelo. He is based in Yorkshire. 

Gordon Doherty is the author of the Legionary and Strategos series, and wrote the Assassin’s Creed tie-in novel Odyssey. He is based in Scotland.

Purchase link

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3EtqBgF

Follow Simon

Twitter: @SJATurney

Instagram: @simonturney_aka_sjaturney

Website: http://simonturney.com/

Follow Gordon

Twitter: @GordonDoherty

Instagram: @gordon.doherty

Website: https://www.gordondoherty.co.uk/

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Website: http://www.headofzeus.com

Extract from Gods of Rome

1
CONSTANTINE
The Cottian Alpes, 27th January 312 ad

We moved through the mountains like winter wolves. The ferocious blizzard sped southwards with us, carried on the famous bora winds, singing a dire song. For days we marched through that driving snow, seeing nothing but great white-clad peaks either side of us; rugged, inhospitable highlands which in these frozen months soldiers were not meant to cross. All around me the gale screamed, boots crunched endlessly through the successively deeper drifts of white, men’s teeth chattered violently, mules brayed, exhausted. It felt at times as if we were wandering, snow-blind, to our deaths, but I knew what lay ahead… so close now.

I called upon my chosen men and a handful of their best soldiers – a group of thirty – and we roved ahead of the army like advance scouts. The blizzard raked through my bear cloak, the snow rattling like slingshot against my gemmed ridge helm and bronze scales as I scoured the valley route. Yet I refused to blink. When the speeding hail of white slowed and the murky grey ahead thinned a little, I saw them: a pair of stone and timber watchtowers, northern faces plastered in snow. Gateposts watching this passage between two realms. I dropped to my haunches behind the brow of a snowdrift and my chosen men hunkered down with me. I gazed over the drift’s brow, regarding the narrow gap between the towers and the valley route beyond, on through the winter-veined mountains. Thinking of the land that lay beyond these heights, my frozen lips moved soundlessly.

Italia…

Land of Roman forefathers. Home of the man I had once considered my friend… but that territory was rightfully mine. Mine! My surging anger scattered when I spotted movement atop one of the two towers: a freezing Maxentian scout blowing into his hands, oblivious to our presence. Then the blizzard fell treacherously slack, and the speeding veil of white cleared for a trice. I saw his ice-crusted eyebrows rise as he leaned forward, peering into the momentary clarity, right at us. His eyes bulged, mouth agog.

‘He is here!’ he screamed to be heard over the sudden return of the storm’s wrath. ‘Constantine is h—’

With a wet punch, an arrow whacked into the man’s chest and shuddered there. He spasmed then folded over the edge of the timber parapet and fell like a sack of gravel, crunching into a pillowy snowdrift at the turret’s foot. I glanced to my right, seeing my archer nock and draw again, shifting his bow to the heights of the other tower, his eyes narrowing within the shadow of his helm brow. He loosed, but the dark-skinned sentry up there ducked behind the parapet, screaming and tolling a warning bell. At once, three more Maxentians spilled from the door at the base of that rightmost tower, rushing south towards a simple, snow-topped stable twenty paces away, in the lee of a rocky overhang. This was one of the few gateways through the mountains – albeit the least favoured and most treacherous – and it was guarded by just five men? Instantly, suspicion and elation clashed like swords in my mind. We had no time to rake over the facts. These watchmen could not be allowed to ride south and warn the legions of Italia. They had to die.

Welcome to today’s stop on the Lies That Blind by E S Alexander blog tour

Today, I’m delighted to welcome E S Alexander to the blog to talk about her new book, Lies That Blind.

Your book, Lies That Blind, is deeply steeped in historical knowledge. As a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories.

Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring your historical landscape to life? 

Do you have a ‘go’ to book/resource that you couldn’t write without having to hand, and if so, what is it (if you don’t mind sharing)?

(If this guest post is especially daunting, please don’t worry. )

MJ: This request isn’t daunting at all. In fact, I’m delighted to outline how I went about writing my debut historical novel, after 30+ years of penning non-fiction books.

In 2017 I decided to exact another major life change. I sold my house, my car, most of my possessions and moved— ‘sight unseen’—to the island of Penang, Malaysia. I knew very little about how Penang had come to be in the possession of the East India Company in 1786, until I was having coffee one morning with a publisher friend of mine. Eager to find out more about the history of my new home, he related the story of how an agent of the so-called ‘Honourable Company’ had leased the island from its owner, the Sultan of Queda (now spelled Kedah). Captain Francis Light, a Suffolk man, had for many years been a country trader, sailing from port to port in the Malay Archipelago buying and selling goods ranging from opium and tin, to condemned muskets and cloth. Extremely ambitious, Light had for at least fifteen years harboured a desire to govern his own trading settlement. After much to-ing and fro-ing with respect to a disputed treaty, he became known as the founder of Penang. 

I imagined everyone, whether Malaysian or ex-pats living here, was very familiar with the history, so it never entered my head to write a book about it. It wasn’t until my friend remarked that Light had almost lost Penang when the aggrieved sultan amassed an armada of Malays, pirates, and mercenaries to take his island back, that my interest was piqued. Having been a freelance features journalist for decades, this seemed to be the most interesting part of the story. Was this a case of a mercurial raja changing his mind about the lease, jealous of Light’s success in transforming Penang from an almost uninhabited jungle island into a thriving entrepôt? Was the sultan annoyed that he was no longer accruing the duties and taxes on trade because ships were now sailing to Penang rather than to Queda? Or had Light, whom I gathered had had no previous administrative experience, made some kind of diplomatic blunder? As I set about trying to find the answers to these questions, in the back of my mind it sparked the notion to write my first novel after 30+ years as a non-fiction author. 

GEORGE TOWN MAP

My friend’s publishing house had produced two enormous volumes—written by his business partner—entitled Penang: The Fourth Presidency of India 1805-1830 (Marcus Langdon, 2013 and 2015)—so I made a start there.  

Marcus’ books provided a wealth of source material. Not least many of the letters that Light had written to his paymasters in Calcutta, at the East India Company. I got the sense that Light was something of a double-dealer: he had obviously made promises to the sultan that he was not authorised to make, and could not keep, but managed to maintain good relations by telling the Malay raja only what he wanted to hear. 

My first port of call, after this preliminary desk research, was the National Library in Singapore. There I found a wealth of old manuscripts and books, each with their own ‘take’ on the agreement between Francis Light and the Sultan of Quedah. Now, as any good researcher should be, I was sceptical of white colonial men perpetrating the usual propaganda: Light was the good guy, the sultan an ungrateful upstart. I spent a wonderful long weekend in Singapore devouring books including Malaya’s First British Pioneer: The Life of Francis Light by Harold Parker Clodd (an obvious fan of the captain’s!), published in 1948; British Malaya: An Account of the Origin and Progress of British Influence in Malaya by Sir Frank Swettenham, a British colonial official from 1871-1904; and A History of Malaya by Sir Richard O. Winstedt, another colonial administrator from the early part of the 20th century. My story was beginning to take shape in the broadest sense—but I still didn’t have a handle on the kind of man that Francis Light truly was. The last thing I wanted to do was write yet another glowing, one-sided tale about an orang putih (white person), as we find is typically the case with Sir Stamford Raffles!

Then I stumbled upon an article by R. Bonney entitled Francis Light and Penang in the Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Almost from the first page I got the sense that Light tended to over-exaggerate situations: to make promises he could not keep, and to ‘gild the lily’ on occasions when it suited him. Here, at last, the ‘founder’ of Penang was shaping up to become a worthy antagonist in my novel. It seemed to me that the man’s past deceptions had come back to haunt him. My story just took off from there.  

TRAPAUD ILLUSTRATION OF LIGHT’S POSSESSION CEREMONY. CREDIT Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. 

I’ll conclude with three final points. The first being that the Penang Presidency books written by Marcus Langdon provided me with such lengthy letters that I was able to take much of what Light had written and bring it to life as dialogue in my novel. No one could accuse me of slandering this great man if I was putting his own words into his mouth. 

The second point, of which I’m very proud, is that I read the English translation of The Hikayat Abdullah, said to have been completed in 1845 by Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, which provided me with an authentic sense of the region not long after Light lived (1740-1794). Indeed, one of the Malay characters in my novel is based on Munshi Abdullah. Anyone reading the Acknowledgements Page of my book will also see the names of all the Islamic scholars and Malay historians I reached out to, to check that I wasn’t inadvertently misinterpreting something I’d read. 

Finally, I have never adhered to the philosophy ‘write about what you know’. To me, it’s always more interesting to write about what I want to know. I guess this comes from my years as a journalist when I wrote for women’s magazines, national newspapers, and trade journals focusing on topics as wide-ranging as skincare, supply chains, IT, and human resources. I discovered so many fascinating insights into the time and place during my three-and-a-half years researching this novel that they have become topics I go into more in-depth in my blog (https://www.esalexander.com/blog)

Wow, thank you so much for sharing such a great post. Light sounds like a fascinating character. Good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb

What would you risk to avoid obscurity?

Malaya, 1788

Aspiring journalist Jim Lloyd jeopardises his future in ways he never could have imagined. He risks his wealthy father’s wrath to ride the coat-tails of Captain Francis Light, an adventurer governing the East India Company’s new trading settlement on Penang. Once arrived on the island, Jim—as Light’s assistant—hopes that chronicling his employer’s achievements will propel them both to enduring fame. But the naïve young man soon discovers that years of deception and double-dealing have strained relations between Light and Penang’s legal owner, Sultan Abdullah of Queda, almost to the point of war. Tensions mount: Pirate activity escalates, traders complain about Light’s monopolies, and inhabitants threaten to flee, fearing a battle the fledgling settlement cannot hope to win against the Malays. Jim realises that a shared obsession with renown has brought him andLight perilously close to infamy: a fate the younger man, at least, fears more than death. Yet Jim will not leave Penang because of his dedication to Light’s young son, William, and his perplexing attraction to a mercurial Dutchman. He must stay and confront his own misguided ambitions as well as help save the legacy of a man he has come to despise.

Inspired by true events, Lies That Blind is a story featuring historical character Francis Light (1740-1794) who, in an effort to defy his mortality, was seemingly willing to put the lives and livelihoods of a thousand souls on Penang at risk.

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Meet the author

E.S. Alexander was born in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1954, although her family moved to England a few years later. Her earliest memories include producing a newspaper with the John Bull printing set she was given one Christmas. She wrote and directed her first play, Osiris, at age 16, performed to an audience of parents, teachers, and pupils by the Lower Fifth Drama Society at her school in Bolton, Lancashire. Early on in her writing career, Liz wrote several short stories featuring ‘The Dover Street Sleuth’, Dixon Hawke for a D.C. Thomson newspaper in Scotland. Several of her (undoubtedly cringe-worthy) teenage poems were published in An Anthology of Verse.

Liz combined several decades as a freelance journalist writing for UK magazines and newspapers ranging from British Airway’s Business Life and the Daily Mail, to Marie Claire and Supply Chain Management magazine, with a brief stint as a presenter/reporter for various radio stations and television channels, including the BBC. In 2001 she moved to the United States where she earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in educational psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.

She has written and co-authored 17 internationally published, award-winning non-fiction books that have been translated into more than 20 languages.

In 2017, Liz relocated to Malaysia. She lives in Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang where she was inspired to embark on one of the few forms of writing left for her to tackle: the novel.

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Lies That Blind blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on The Lords of the Wind by C J Adrien audiobook tour

Today, I’m delighted to welcome C J Adrien to the blog with a post about the historical research he undertook for hi his new audiobook, The Lords of the Wind.

Your book, The Lords of the Wind, sounds absolutely fascinating, and is set in a time period I love to research. As a historian first and foremost, and then a writer, I’m always interested in how people research their historical stories.

Can you explain your research process to me, and give an idea of the resources that you rely on the most (other than your imagination, of course) to bring your historical landscape to life? 

I, too, am a historian first and writer second. My latest series, The Saga of Hasting the Avenger, was inspired by research I conducted for both my undergraduate and graduate studies. I conducted most of my research in an academic setting, and have had the privilege to work with a couple of historical associations in France where my novels take place. It helps that my paternal family live on the island that is the setting for my novels, and I spent a significant amount of my youth there. 

My roots on the island are what inspired the focus of my academic research. Beginning at an early age, I took an interest in history, particularly in the medieval period. In college, I majored in history, studied medieval Europe and Japan, and worked for two years on Ancient Russia. In my studies of the Rus, the people who lent their name to the modern-day country of Russia, I happened upon the intrinsically fascinating world of the Vikings. During a trip to visit family in France, my grandparents asked what I was studying at school. When I told them I had begun to research the Viking Age, they casually informed me that our family was partly descended from Norwegians from that time. Initially, I was skeptical. They directed me to my great aunt Nadette. She was a school teacher and put together a genealogy of the family’s history from the 1600s. While impressive, this was in no way indicative of Viking heritage. Yet, she argued that there were no significant migrations, exoduses, or major population movements between the Viking settlement (it is thought they colonized the region, though evidence for it remains dubious) and the earliest record of the name Adrien. Thus, she argued, it is likely we are descended in part from the Vikings.

I was still not entirely convinced, so I decided to research the subject myself. The issue gripped me. The idea that Vikings, legendarily fearsome warriors who are often little more than a footnote in the history books, had visited and perhaps colonized the island of Noirmoutier where I had spent nearly every summer of my life was an exciting prospect. Back at school, I continued my studies and became more and more interested in the Vikings as a historical subject. In 2009, I put together a research proposal for a doctoral program specifically regarding the history of the Vikings in Noirmoutier, which was tentatively accepted by my university to begin a doctoral program. Due to budget shortfalls from the Great Recession, the university cut the humanities department by 40%, including my program.

For the next few years I worked as a school teacher at the secondary level and returned to France every year to visit my family. As luck would have it, my grandfather served as the president of the local historical association, Les Amis de Noirmoutier, who opened up all of their resources to me to conduct my research. Initially, I had thought to write a history book, but on the recommendation of one of the association’s members (a dual p.h.D. in France and the U.S.), I decided to keep my research to myself until enrolling in another doctoral program. In the interim, they published some of my research to start to build interest in the subject, and I wrote a series of novels with a real historical figure as its protagonist. 

My research has turned a few heads in different places. The core argument of my thesis garnered the attention of a production company who make historical series for the History Channel, Discovery, and National Geographic. We had good momentum with the idea, but the Covid pandemic put a halt to the whole project. You can see the reel for the show on my website cjadrien.com. 

Thank you so much for sharing your fascinating research with me. Good luck with the new book and you phD.

Here’s the blurb

Orphaned as a child by a blood-feud, and sold as a slave to an exiled chieftain in Ireland, the boy Hasting had little hope of surviving to adulthood. The gods had other plans. A ship arrived at his master’s longphort carrying a man who would alter the course of his destiny, and take him under his wing to teach him the ways of the Vikings. His is a story of a boy who was a slave, who became a warlord, and who helped topple an empire.

A supposed son of Ragnar Lodbrok, and referred to in the Gesta Normannorum as the Scourge of the Somme and Loire, his life exemplified the qualities of the ideal Viking. Join author and historian C.J. Adrien on an adventure that explores the coming of age of the Viking Hasting, his first love, his first great trials, and his first betrayal.

“The Lords of the Wind” by C.J. Adrien is a gold medal winner in the 2020 Reader’s Favorite annual international book award.contest.

Trigger Warnings:

Violence

Praise

“If you want to sit down with an extremely well-researched tale involving heroic battles, first loves, and the making of a legend, this book is for you.”

The Historical Novel Society

This series is available on #KindleUnlimited 

The Lords of the Wind (Book 1)

In the Shadow of the Beast (Book 2)

The Kings of the Sea (Book 3)

Meet the author

C.J. Adrien is a bestselling and award-winning author of Viking historical fiction novels with a passion for Viking history. His Saga of Hasting the Avenger series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Ken Follett and Bernard Cornwell. He is also a published historian on the subject of Vikings, with articles featured in historical journals such as LAssociationdes Amis de Noirmoutier, in France. His novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), conferences on Viking history in France, among others. 

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Lords of the Wind blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Book Boyfriend by Jeanna Louise Skinner

Today, I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Jeanna Louise Skinner’s new book The Book Boyfriend.

Emmy turned on her heel and headed back to the counter. She didn’t enjoy being rude to him, but it was better this way. So why were her eyes threatening tears again? There had to be a scientific answer to explain how easily her emotions ran to crying these days. It was fast becoming her default setting. A natural phenomenon, like forecasting weather. Cloudy with a chance of waterworks. 

But that wasn’t quite true. The words of her inner voice rang out again, loud and clear: 

Why can’t you let go? What are you so afraid of?

Nothing. 

Everything.

Almost every instance lately when she’d been on the verge of tears, something inside had compelled her to hold them back, to not give in, and trying to understand why made her head hurt. 

Casting the net of her mind wide, she fished in her thoughts for distractions. What had they been talking about before all this? Yes, Jonathan’s curse. She tried to remember the words, but random phrases leapt out at her. Despite everything she’d just promised to herself, she tugged the pencil and notepad she’d dug out earlier closer to her. Jonathan had retreated to Maggie’s armchair, the stack of books now a wall between them. A literary no man’s land. Maybe she’d overreacted a little? She ought at least try a peacekeeping mission.

Clearing her throat, she called his name, her voice low and hesitant. “Jonathan?”

He looked up. His face was a closed book.

“Can you repeat it for me – your curse, I mean?”. The pencil twirled between her fingers until she made herself stop, resting it on the counter. Why was she so jittery? 

He still didn’t reply, only studied her, as if he was battling with himself to acquiesce or tell her where to go. She wouldn’t completely blame him if he chose the latter. 

“Please,” she added. 

As Emmy watched, Jonathan closed his eyes, rubbing both hands over his face before opening them again. The battle was won, it seemed, but it didn’t feel like victory. 

“Of course,” he breathed, smiling widely, as if she was his favourite person in the world and Emmy’s breath caught in her throat. An urgency she didn’t understand swept through her. The only thing that mattered was breaking his curse and a tiny alarm inside her head warned her that she’d already lost the war. There really was no point trying to resist him, but even as she acknowledged the warning signs, she pushed them away again. She wasn’t quite ready to capitulate just yet. 

For a few moments, the only sounds within the little shop were Jonathan’s baritone, the scratching of Emmy’s pencil against paper as he dictated the curse, the ubiquitous ticking from the clock, and the rhythmic patterns of their breathing. Even the mice seemed to have stopped their incessant scurrying inside the walls to listen. When he was finished, Emmy began reciting the curse to herself in a whisper. 

“Bound by word

Bound by paper

A life captive

Bound forever

Bound in flesh

Bound in blood

Gaol eternal

Bound to book”

Intrigued?

Here’s the blurb:

Let us find solace in the quiet…”

Emmeline always dreamed of being an author, finding comfort in words and between the pages of her beloved romance novels, but a mental health diagnosis leaves her blocked and unable to write. Then she inherits a crumbling, second-hand bookshop from a mysterious old friend and Emmy discovers that magic is real and maybe her fantasies about the heroes in her favourite historical romances aren’t so far-fetched after all.

A handsome stranger–wielding a sword as dangerous as his Tudor past–appears in Emmy’s bookshop asking for help. Together they must race against time itself to lift the curse imprisoning him in an ancient book. But when growing threats to her safety are proved real and not another symptom of her illness, Emmy must learn to trust her own voice again. Can she find the words to save Jonathan and her shop before tragedy strikes on the fateful final page? 

Romance-addict Emmy may be, but this damsel is about to kick distress into the Ever After.

Trigger warnings:

Mental health issues, panic attacks, grief, references to abuse, references to cheating, character taking medication, references to therapy, references to suicide, references to section, references to body image references, misogyny.

Buy Links:

Amazon UKAmazon US: Amazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the author

Jeanna Louise Skinner writes romance with a sprinkling of magic. The Book Boyfriend is her debut novel and she is currently working on a prequel. She has ADHD and CRPS, a rare neuro-inflammatory disorder, and she is passionate about writing about people underrepresented in Romance, especially those with disabilities and chronic health conditions. She’s also the co-creator of UKRomChat, a much-lauded, Romance-centric live Twitter chat. She lives in Devon with her husband, their two children and a cat who sounds like a goat. 

Connect with Jeanna Louise Skinner

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Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Book Boyfriend blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club