I’m absolutely delighted to share a fabulous post about dressing for success in the 17th century by author, Anna Belfrage, who had to find out all sorts of undergarment related information for A Rip in The Veil #HistoricalFiction #TimeTravelRomance #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

Today, I’m absolutely delighted to share a fabulous post from Anna Belfrage about dressing in the seventeenth century. It will make you giggle, I promise.

Dressing for success in the seventeenth century

In a A Rip in the Veil—the first book in The Graham Saga—the unfortunate (or not, depending how one sees it) Alex Lind has the misfortune of falling three centuries backwards in time to land at the feet of Matthew Graham. Matthew Graham is a devout Presbyterian who has fought in the Commonwealth armies in the Civil War. To Alex, he is initially very strange. Heck, the entire situation is strange: no, wait—it’s impossible! 

Matthew is as taken aback as Alex is—perhaps even more, as the only explanation to her sudden appearance in his life must be magic. Or? Besides, what is the woman wearing? Those tight, tight breeches she calls ‘djeens” showcase her every curve, as do her other garments. No, had she been his woman, he’d never have allowed her to set a foot outside dressed like that, all of her exposed, like. 

Alex quickly realises that in this new time she has to adapt. ASAP. And one of the first things she must embrace is an entire new wardrobe. “Yay me,” she mutters as she shakes out shift and petticoats and heavy skirts and bodice and. . .

I must admit that I wasn’t entirely thrilled when Alex landed in 1658. The seventeenth century is not my sartorial favourite – especially when it comes to male fashion. 

This period dress thing is difficult.

First of all, as the writer of historical fiction it is important to understand what people wore, who wore what and how it was worn. In some cases it’s straightforward: stockings cover your feet and the nether part of your legs no matter if you live in the twentieth century or the fifteenth. But take that rather ugly male adornment that Henry VIII was so proud of flaunting – the codpiece – and I am somewhat stumped. How did it work? ( Okay, so I’ve looked this up; strings, buttons or hooks kept this decorative little (hmm) flap of fabric in place.)

Secondly, it helps if the writer in question finds the period attire alluring in some way or other. It’s difficult to write convincingly about handsome men in codpieces and padded breeches when all you see in your head is something resembling a man in a huge diaper.

Finally, there must be a familiarity with how people dress and undress. “He told her to turn around and zipped up her gown,” is not a good description of the intimacy between man and wife in the fourteenth century. (BTW, the modern zipper owes a lot to Swedish inventor Gideon Sundback. It’s nice to know us Swedes have contributed to human development: dynamite, zippers, gauge blocks, the AGA cooker.) Having exploring male fingers encountering panties in the sixteenth century is also something of an anachronism, and should the dashing regency rake pulls down his boxers you’re not reading historical fiction, you’re reading about a masquerade.

To avoid such gaffes, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the period and have accordingly done my fair share of staring at what few clothes survive from the seventeenth century—like James II’s elegant attire exhibited in the Victoria & Albert museum. Okay, so that is later in the century, but all that lace, all those embroideries, and that gigantic wig! Plus, the high heels on the shoes. . . Nope, not at all my cup of tea. 

Earlier in the 1600s, men wore wide breeches, sashes, lace, ribbons—like these young and elegant Stuart brothers in Van Dyke’s portrait. 

To the seventeenth century young girl, they were likely delectable. To Alex, not so much. She’d be hard put not to laugh her head off. So it is fortunate that when she first meets Matthew, he is in a ragged shirt and equally ragged breeches, fleeing from pursuing soldiers. It is also fortunate that Matthew would no more adorn himself with ribbons than he would dance attendance on the king—he is a man of Parliamentarian convictions. No, Matthew wears plain and well-made clothes, now and then adorned with a ruffled cuff or an elegant collar.  

Obviously, Matthew expects this new female companion of his to dress sedately, which is how Alex finds herself obliged to re-learn just how to dress.

In the seventeenth century, there were no bras, no panties. Instead, the undergarment is a shapeless elongated linen shirt that comes to just below the knees. This shift is worn over stockings that come to just above the knee and are fastened by garters.
“I can help you with those,” Matthew suggests, and there is a twinkle in his eyes as he helps Alex fasten the stockings with pink ribbons. Just because he doesn’t wear ribbons, it doesn’t mean she can’t, he says. In fact, he rather likes the fact that she is wearing them—and that he tied them into place. 
Over the shift—which also doubles as nightgown—Alex now dons a corset. 
“Ugh!” she groans as she tightens into place. The corset she has ties in front—only people who can afford a ladies maid have corsets that tie in the back. She has to struggle a bit to get it to sit right, and then there are the petticoats, tied into place at her waist and falling to mid-calf. Only the very, very rich have garments that fall all the way to the floor. Most women have skirts high enough to allow them to work and walk without dragging the hem in the dirt. 

“Here.” Matthew hands her the heavy skirts. And yes, they are heavy, making it hard to, for example, run. Or jump a fence. Once Alex has stepped into them, he helps her tighten them into place. A bodice, a shawl to cover what may remain exposed of her chest and then Matthew holds out a cap.
“No way!” She backs away, staring at the embroidered linen coif. 
“You must cover your hair,” he says.
She refuses. 
There is a slight. . . er . . . argument. Things end in a compromise: she will not cover her hair indoors, but otherwise she will either wear a coif or a hat. Matthew would prefer both, but he is pragmatic enough to realise this isn’t a battle he will win. Besides, Alex is having to handle a lot of change as it is.
“Tell me about it,” she mutters. She isn’t overly impressed with the food. Or the lack of chocolate. Or of tea. “I thought they had tea in the seventeenth century,” she groans. 
“They do,” I tell her, “but it is very, very expensive.” 
“Oh.” She gnaws her lip, her shoulders slumping. Which is probably why Matthew expends a ridiculous amount on a ridiculous small quantity of tea next time he goes to Edinburgh, pleased by the way she lights up from within when he hands the precious package over. 

Over time, Alex will become accustomed to her new clothes, even if she will quite often think longingly of jeans and sweatshirts, of Converse and shop-bought socks. (She hates to knit) 

But while she adapts to her new life on the outside, she remains a woman of modern conviction and outlook, which will now and then cause her quite some problems in her new time. It is fortunate that she has Matthew to guide her. On the other hand, there will be countless of occasions when Matthew will owe his life and sanity to her, the strange lass he found concussed and burned on an empty Scottish moor. Two halves made whole are my Alex and Matthew, no matter such details as sartorial arguments!

Thank you so much for such a fabulous post. I just can’t imagine all the lace:)

Here’s the blurb

On a muggy August day in 2002 Alex Lind disappears. On an equally stifling August day in 1658, Matthew Graham finds her on a Scottish moor.  Life will never be the same for Alex – or for Matthew. 

Alexandra Lind is thrown three centuries backwards in time to land at the feet of escaped convict Matthew Graham. 

Matthew doesn’t know what to make of this strange woman who has seemingly fallen from the skies—what is she, a witch? 

Alex is convinced the tall, gaunt man is some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises the odd one out is she, not he. 

Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with her new existence, further complicated by the dawning realization that someone from her time has followed her here—and not exactly to extend a helping hand. 

Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew, a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But Matthew comes with baggage of his own and on occasion his past threatens them both. At times Alex finds it all excessively exciting, longing for the structured life she used to have. 

How will she ever get back? And more importantly, does she really want to?

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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. 

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

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

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

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

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Today, I’m reviewing Caledon by Virginia Crow on the blog #historicalfantasy #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

Here’s the blurb

“Go out and tell all those you meet, Caledon has risen. Caledon will be protected and defended. And to you who would cause her harm, be prepared. A new fight has come.”

After the destruction of the Jacobite forces at Culloden, Scotland is divided, vulnerable and leaderless, with survivors from both sides seeking to make sense of the battles they have fought against their fellow Scots.

James Og flees Drumossie, seeking the protection of his uncle’s house in Sutherland. It is here that James learns that the Northern Highlands hold a secret power only he can wield: Caledon. When Ensign John Mackay begins hunting Og’s family, James realises he must harness this power to defeat the enemies of Scotland.

But, as the ageless Caledon awakes, so too does an ancient evil. When it allies with Mackay, the small Clan of Caledon faces enemies at every turn, discovering that even those closest to them may seek to destroy them.

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My Review

Caledon is an intriguing work of historical fantasy set in Scotland following the battle of Culloden.

The narrative revolves around six main characters, switching between points of view, and is centred around family loyalty, distrust and the war raging between the Hanoverians and the Stuarts. There are also a few star-crossed lovers, and sadly, not everyone will get the happy ending they deserve, even with the aid of the mysterious Caledon.

With its supernatural elements it offers something a little different as the Clan of Caledon learn to trust their abilities while all those around them seek their destruction.

An enjoyable read and one sure to appeal to those with a love of a Scottish setting.

Meet the author

Virginia grew up in Orkney, using the breath-taking scenery to fuel her imagination and the writing fire within her. Her favourite genres to write are fantasy and historical fiction, sometimes mixing the two together. She enjoys swashbuckling stories such as The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and is still waiting for a screen adaption that lives up to the book!

When she’s not writing, Virginia is usually to be found teaching music. She believes wholeheartedly in the power of music, especially as a tool of inspiration. She also helps out with the John o’ Groats Book Festival which is celebrating its 4th year.

She now lives in the far-flung corner of Scotland. A doting spaniel-owner to Orlando and Jess, Virginia soaks up in inspiration from the landscape as she ventures out with her canine companions.

She loves cheese, music, and films, but hates mushrooms.

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2022 – A Reading Year in Review

Wow! I think 2022 has been the year that I read (and listened) to the most books EVER! As I write this, I’m up to 99 titles. I have some ‘holiday’ reading I’m keen to do as well – fingers crossed I make it to the magic 100 for the year (I am including audiobooks in this, and also my own books as I have to read them A LOT, and I’ve also been refreshing a few throughout the year as well.) Even so, I’ve read many, many books, across a number of different genres, but the predominant one has certainly been historical mysteries/cozy crime. I’ve found that this is my ‘happy’ place when trying not to think about my own books. And luckily, Boldwood Books (who publish the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles) have a huge collection of mystery writers, and they’ve autoapproved me on Netgalley, so I’ll never struggle to find something to read in my favourite genre.

As has been pointed out to me by a fellow author, I don’t often award a five star review to books. Indeed, while I do rate and review on Amazon and Goodreads, on the blog, I don’t tend to give a rating – I’m just quirky like that. Those books that I have given a five star to, I’ve given a shout out in the Aspects of History Books of 2022. You can find the link here – (of course, these are all historical fiction books) and The Capsarius, Valentia, Twelve Nights and The Maids of Biddenden made it onto that list (and yes, these are all books I was lucky enough to be asked to review on the blog – but I never automatically give a 5 star review just because of that). I also want to add Domitian by SJA Turney as well. I couldn’t include two of his books on Aspecs of History but Domitian is wonderful, just my sort of Roman story with plenty of politics, intrigue, and some fabulous characters.

Three of these books are indie-published, and I can assure you all, that there’s a huge amount of amazing indie stuff out there. Don’t believe me, try one of these titles:)

I’ve also treated myself to a bit of comedy this year. I’ve been listening to the Terry Pratchett Discworld audio books (the new and the original recordings – but not the abridged versions) and it’s reminded me of how much I love a funny book, and so, here are my favourite comedies of the year. Simon Whaley’s Foraging for Murder, Dead in Tune by Stephanie Dagg and Crazy for You by Domhnall O’Donoghue and Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett, which I’ve listened to twice!

In terms of cozy crime, I’ve found a few new series of which I’m certainly going to read more. Catherine Coles new 1940s historical mystery series, TA Williams‘ Armstrong and Oscar cosy series, Debbie Young’s St Brides Series, and Helen Golden’s Right Royal Cozy Investigations.

In terms of books set in ‘my’ time period, I’ve been reading Matthew Harffy, SJA Turney or maybe it’s a Simon Turney one (it’s the same author, in case you were confused), Peter Gibbons, Christopher Cervasco, Donovan Cook, Eric Schumacher, Paula De Fougerolles, Richard Cullen, and still historical but a little before and after, Robert M Kidd, Elizabeth R Andersen, Mark Knowles, Dan Jones and Kate Shanahan.

I’ve also dipped my toe into a few dual-timeline novels. As you might expect, my interest is always much more in the historical aspect of the story and not the modern settings, but they were a bit of fun when I was on holiday. The Witches Tree and The Storm Girl.

I’ve only read one fantasy book in 2022, which surprises me (aside from Discworld), but Mark Lawrence is one of my all-time favourite authors, and I will always read his books. The sneaky toad has a theme running through them all and I love it.

I’ve also read surprisingly few non-fiction books, in their entirety. I’ve been working on my non-fiction book and that’s meant a lot of dipping in and out of books I’ve already read. But, the non-fiction books I’ve read have been excellent, Michael Wood’s 40th anniversary of In Search of The Dark Ages, reviews for Aspects of History, Winter in the World by Eleanor Parker, also reviewed for Aspects of History and I also read my first ever writing guide.

And an entirely new genre for me, but one I was strangely drawn to for the location, which is close to where I grew up – a bit of Gangland.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my reviews on the blog. And I’d like to that the publishers that let me read advanced copies, and also, all the writers I’ve mentioned who’ve taken the time to craft these novels so that I can devour them. Now, I need to get back to my reading to make sure I hit that magic 100!

I’m delighted to welcome the historical fantasy book, Liopleurodon:The Master of the Deep by MB Zucker to the blog #blogtour

I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Liopleurodon. Enjoy.

Scene 4: Luke reflects while waiting for the Liopleurodon to arrive for the monster’s first battle with the protagonists.

Luke watched the sunrise on the Sea Otter’s deck as the sky became an evolving painting, shifting from black to pink to orange to blue. Nature’s beauty was a lifelong source of excitement. He should get up early every morning—with Kelsey beside him. It was free entertainment, as captivating as any work of art ever crafted by man because this was crafted by God. The sky’s progression was only the beginning. Beyond it waited the universe, infinite in scale, majesty, and power. Who knew what was out there, what marvels existed to be adored? Stars, planets, other species, all going through their own cycles of life and death. He resented being stuck on Earth. Though the Earth had its own untapped universe to explore, one that was closer and more meaningful. Luke glanced at the ocean’s surface. Beneath was another world, virtually none of which man had yet seen. Incredible creatures—predator and prey, monster and magnificent—all part of the same planet, from the same hand as the colors drawn across the sky. That included the ancient monster—evolution’s most dangerous creation—that Luke knew was on its way.

Anxiety bubbled below the surface of Luke’s mind. He sought to impose calm, but his consciousness struggled to put its pants on as his subconscious darted ahead. Panic surged every few moments, not derived from thoughts, but from his intuition of what was coming and what was at stake if the Navy failed. What if too many poisoned bullets and harpoons missed? What if the Liopleurodon killed everyone on the patrol boats? What if the Germans captured it? What would they do with it? Could it affect the outcome of a future war? Would the Kaiser rule the world? Luke tried taking his mind off his fear. He thought of Kelsey. Her blonde hair. Her embrace. Yes. Think of that. Another surge. Kelsey’s image faded. Tainted. Next he thought of his father. A legacy redeemed. If only he’d known. He didn’t have to die. Didn’t have to leave Luke and his mother. Another surge. Damnit. Think of the sea, where he was more comfortable than he was on land. Of being a great fish. A being of power and grace. No issues of status or love to think of. Just swimming. And eating. And reproduction. And not being killed by sharks. Or the Liopleurodon. Another surge.

Luke shook his head and snorted. He looked at the others. Maybe getting out of his musings would distract him. Professor Harris was nearby. Like Luke, Harris wore a float vest and a belt that clipped to a canister full of putrescine. Harris looked away from the water, staring blankly, focusing on his breathing to stay calm. Luke looked at Colonel Roosevelt and General Wood, sitting together on the other side of the deck, facing opposite the Paulding and the concoction zone. Roosevelt’s forearms rested on his knees, his hands dangling between his stretched legs. He wore khaki trousers and a blue flannel shirt with yellow suspenders. Atop his head sat a brown felt hat with a blue and white bandanna tied around it. It was the same outfit he’d worn when he rode up Kettle Hill.

Roosevelt noticed Luke staring at him.

Here’s the blurb:

From M. B. Zucker, award-winning author of “The Eisenhower Chronicles” 

Liopleurodon ferox was the deadliest sea predator of all time, the king of the Jurassic ocean. This whale-sized reptile’s return to the early twentieth century triggers a geopolitical crisis in this new historical science fiction thriller. Former President Theodore Roosevelt foresees the threat the Liopleurodon would pose if it falls into the wrong hands. The race is on as Roosevelt leads the American effort to destroy it before the Kaiser’s Germany can turn it into a weapon. 

Fans of Jurassic Park and Steve Alten’s Meg series will not want to miss this adventure filled with action, political intrigue, and characters that readers will remember long after finishing this novel. 

Advance Praise for Liopleurodon: The Master of the Deep

“The storyline itself was superb —- A Jaws/Jurassic Park thriller and a bit of a spy novel all in one – and compelling.– The Historical Fiction Company

Buy Links:
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Meet the author:
M. B. Zucker has been interested in storytelling for as long as he can remember. He discovered his love of history at fifteen and studied Dwight Eisenhower for over ten years. 

Mr. Zucker earned his B.A. at Occidental College and his J.D. at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He lives in Virginia with his wife. 

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I’m delighted to be featuring The Du Lac Chronicles by Mary Anne Yarde #histfic #blogtour #histfantasy

Here’s the blurb:

A generation after Arthur Pendragon ruled, Briton lies fragmented into warring kingdoms and principalities.

Eighteen-year-old Alden du Lac ruled the tiny kingdom of Cerniw. Now he half-hangs from a wooden pole, his back lashed into a mass of bloody welts exposed to the cold of a cruel winter night. He’s to be executed come daybreak—should he survive that long.

When Alden notices the shadowy figure approaching, he assumes death has come to end his pain. Instead, the daughter of his enemy, Cerdic of Wessex, frees and hides him, her motives unclear.

Annis has loved Alden since his ill-fated marriage to her Saxon cousin—a marriage that ended in blood and guilt—and she would give anything to protect him. Annis’s rescue of Alden traps them between a brutal Saxon king and Alden’s remaining allies. Meanwhile, unknown forces are carefully manipulating the ruins of Arthur’s legacy.

Trigger warnings:

Torture, Warfare

This novel is available on #KindleUnlimtied

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Meet the author

Mary Anne Yarde is a multi-award winning and bestselling author of Historical Fiction, as well as an award-winning blogger. She studied History at Cardiff University and went on to study Equine Science at Warwickshire College.

Mary Anne is a passionate advocate for quality Historical Fiction and founded The Coffee Pot Book Club in 2015 and became a professional Editorial Reviewer in 2016.

Mary Anne’s award-winning series, The Du Lac Chronicles, is set a generation after the fall of King Arthur. The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Britain and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, The Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed

Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.

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Today, I’m excited to be taking part in the blog blitz for Fantasy Short Stories by Suzanne Rogerson #blogtour #fantasy

Fantasy Short Stories

A collection of stories featuring favourite characters from Visions of Zarua and ‘Silent Sea Chronicles’, plus a glimpse into the new series, ‘Starlight Prophecy’.

The Guardian

With an assassin picking off wizards one-by-one, Kalesh visits Cassima, a former student, hoping to persuade her to re-join the Royal Wizards and use their protection to keep her family safe.

Kalesh’s newest charge, Paddren, has strange visions which link to a past event known only to a select few. The knowledge hidden in Paddren’s visions is invaluable so Kalesh must guard the boy at any cost.

Can Kalesh keep his students off the assassin’s radar long enough for his order to stop the killer?

Garrick the Protector

Fifteen-year-old Garrick is helping at his uncle’s farm when his cousin’s illegal use of magic threatens the family’s safety.

Mara is in immediate danger from the Assembly who deem all magic as a threat. The only safe place for her is the Turrak Mountains where exiled mystics have found sanctuary alongside the island’s Sentinel.

Can Garrick get Mara to safety before the Assembly catch up with them?

War Wounds

Conscripted to fight off raiders, Calder finds the months of bloody battle unleash a sixth sense buried inside him.

Finally released from duty, he travels home and encounters a mysterious woman who insists his life is destined to serve a higher purpose. Calder rejects her claims, wanting only to return to a simple existence with his wife.

But can Calder pick up his old life when the powers within him have been stirred? And why does he feel such misgivings about his return?

All three stories give readers a tantalising glimpse into the fantasy worlds created by Suzanne Rogerson.

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

My Review

I’ve really enjoyed this short story collection by Suzanne Rogerson.

All of the snippets of stories are well written, and certainly very intriguing. I will certainly be checking out the full stories on Amazon.

If you enjoy fantasy with a touch of magic, and some really intriguing storylines, I would highly recommend this collection of short stories. These are certainly ‘my sort’ of fantasy stories, so if you’ve read my Dragon of Unison stories, you’ll know what that means, and if you haven’t, then I’m going to say that these stories hint at books and trilogies filled with magic, and not too much graphic violence, and with a cast of strong characters, both male and female. I recommend you check out these short stories to see what you’re going to get. I’m really pleased that I did:)

Meet Suzanne

Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England with her husband, two children and a crazy cocker spaniel.

Her writing journey began at the age of twelve when she completed her first novel. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave Suzanne the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.

Now an author of four novels including the Silent Sea Chronicles trilogy and her debut, Visions of Zarua, Suzanne hopes the dreaded ‘W’ word will never rear its ugly head again!

She loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.

Suzanne collects books, is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles and old ruins whilst being immersed in the past. She likes to combine her love of nature and photography on family walks, but most of all she loves to escape with a great film, binge watch TV shows, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.

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I’m delighted to welcome Linnea Tanner to the blog, with Apollo’s Raven, Book 1 in Curse of Clansmen and Kings

Your book, Apollo’s Raven, sounds fascinating. Can you share with me what the first idea was that made you decide to write this story? It might be very different from how the story ended up being, but I am curious, if you don’t mind sharing. And, if the story is very different, would you mind sharing the process by which you ended up with your current novel?

Thank you for featuring me as an author of Apollo’s Raven (Book 1 Curse of Clansmen and Kings) in the blog tour. You pose an interesting question, because the evolution of the characters and storyline has been a lifelong journey. Since childhood, the characters of a female warrior and her Roman lover have lived in my head, in part, as a way for me to deal with challenges in my own life. Both characters are bigger than life, but I never had a cohesive tale until I discovered historical figures who inspired me to develop the overall arc of the storyline.

A pivotal point for creating the story was during one of my business travels to the United Kingdom. I was intrigued by the statue of a warrior queen and her daughters in a chariot, alongside the Thames River in London. After I did more research, I learned that she was Boudicca—an Iceni warrior queen who united the Britons in a rebellion against the Romans in AD 61 to expel them from Britannia. Roman historians describe her as a powerful druidess who sacrificed some of her victims to the war goddess, Andraste. Although the Celtic society was becoming more paternalistic, women were still held in high regard and could rule. The legacy of warrior queens in ancient Britannia and in Irish mythology inspired the primary protagonist, Catrin, in the series.

Boudicca in chariot with two daughters

The legacy of Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) and his tragic downfall with Cleopatra inspired the creation of Catrin’s Roman lover, Marcellus. Mark Antony’s son (Iullus Antonius) from a previous marriage also suffered a similar tragic fate— he was forced to commit suicide for his scandalous affair with Augustus Caesar’s only daughter, Julia. Little is known about Iullus’s son, Lucius Antonius, except that he was exiled to Gaul as a young man, most likely as a condition to escape his father’s fate. During the period in my series, the Antonius family legacy is cursed by the act of damnatio memoriae (condemnation of memory) for Marcus and Iullus Antonius, who both died in disgrace as a consequence of their liaisons with women. One of the burning questions I had is how would the tragic Antonius legacy impact Lucius Antonius? How would he react if his own son went down the same fateful path as his ancestors?

Bust Mark Antony

And thus, Marcellus, the son of Lucius Antonius, was created and cursed to meet the tragic fate as his ancestors. Catrin also lives under the curse cast against her father, King Amren, that foretells she and her half-brother will overthrow their father and rule the Cantiaci Kingdom in southeast Britannia. 

I drafted a three-page summary in 2010 for initially three books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series, which is now envisioned to be at least five books, a sequel, and other books associated with the characters. The series spans the time period between AD 24 through AD 40 in the backdrop of ancient Britannia, Gaul, and Rome. Prior to the Roman conquest of Britannia, tribal kings fought each other for power and sought interference from Rome to settle political differences. The series is an epic tale with universal themes of love versus duty, political corruption, otherworldly forces, loyalty, vengeance, and redemption.

When I look back at my original summary, the storyline has changed substantially. Apollo’s Raven starts earlier in southeast Britannia to give a taste of the Celtic culture and beliefs to contrast with the Romans. Since the Celts left few written records, most of the backdrop for Celtic society is based on Greek and Roman accounts and archaeological findings. Interestingly, Julius Caesar left some of the most detailed accounts about the Celtic society in Gaul and Britannia.

Statue of Julius Caesar

Fantastical elements were added to reflect the culture and religious beliefs of Britons to contract with the paternalistic Romans. The magical elements are based on Welsh and Irish mythology and legends, similar to Arthurian legends. The story was changed so that Catrin can connect with ravens, which is seen as a bad omen. As she is struggling to understand this unnatural connection, she is romantically drawn to the captivating Roman hostage, Marcellus—her family’s enemy. 

Likewise, Marcellus is confounded by Catrin’s mystical ability to travel to other worlds through her spirit guide, the Raven. She co-exists in the realm of mankind and in the Otherworld of the gods and the dead which empower with the ability to see through the eyes of a raven, foretell the future, and hear his thoughts. His intimate relationship with Catrin could unravel the volatile politics between Rome and Britannia.

Catrin Shutterstock

One of the most fascinating concepts of Celtic religion that I incorporated into the series is the Celtic belief in the reincarnation of the soul. Their belief is consistent with the Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who believed in metempsychosis, or the “transmigration of souls.”  Every soul is immortal and, upon death, enters into a new body. I freely use this concept to explain shapeshifting and other magical powers, which was not originally included in the series.

In essence, seeds for the characters and storyline germinated over time in my mind, but then evolved to include fantastical elements after I developed the original summary of the plotline. After that, characters directed how their stories should be told in my head, and I was further inspired from further research and travels.

Thank you so much for sharing with on the blog. I wish you huge success with the series.

Here’s the blurb:

A Celtic warrior princess is torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and duty to her people.

AWARD-WINNING APOLLO’S RAVEN sweeps you into an epic Celtic tale of forbidden love, mythological adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. In 24 AD British kings hand-picked by Rome to rule are fighting each other for power. King Amren’s former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him. The king’s daughter, Catrin, learns to her dismay that she is the Raven and her banished half-brother is Blood Wolf. Trained as a warrior, Catrin must find a way to break the curse, but she is torn between her forbidden love for her father’s enemy, Marcellus, and loyalty to her people. She must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that threatens the fates of everyone in her kingdom.

Will Catrin overcome and eradicate the ancient curse. Will she be able to embrace her forbidden love for Marcellus? Will she cease the war between Blood Wolf and King Amren and save her kingdom?

Trigger Warnings:

Sex, Violence, Sacrificial Rituals

Buy Links:

Apollo’s Raven:

Amazon (Universal Link)

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Barnes and NobleWaterstones:  Kobo:

iBooksGooglePlay:  Booktopia: Books-A-Million

Audio: AudibleiTunes

Series Links:

Apollo’s Raven (Book 1)

Dagger’s Destiny (Book 2)

Amulet’s Rapture (Book 3)

Meet the Author

Award-winning author, Linnea Tanner, weaves Celtic tales of love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts, who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.

Linnea has extensively researched ancient and medieval history, mythology, and archaeology and has traveled to sites described within each of her books in the Curse of Clansmen and Kings series. Books released in her series include Apollo’s Raven (Book 1), Dagger’s Destiny (Book 2), and Amulet’s Rapture (Book 3). Skull’s Vengeance (Book 4) is anticipated to be released in late 2021 or early 2022. 

A Colorado native, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.

Connect with Linnea

WebsiteTwitter:   Facebook

LinkedInInstagramPinterest

BookBubAmazon Author PageGoodreads

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

The Girl and the Moon by Mark Lawrence #BookReview #Fantasy

Here’s the blurb:

The fate of the world hangs from the Moon

The green world overwhelms all of Yaz’s expectations. Everything seems different but some things remain the same: her old enemies are still bent on her destruction. 

The Corridor abounds with plenty and unsuspected danger. To stand a chance against the eyeless priest, Eular, and the god-like city-mind, Seus, Yaz will need to learn fast and make new friends.

The Convent of Sweet Mercy, like the Corridor itself, is packed with peril and opportunity. Yaz needs the nuns’ help – but first they want to execute her.

The fate of everyone squeezed between the Corridor’s vast walls, and ultimately the fate of those labouring to survive out on ice itself, hangs from the moon, and the battle to save the moon centres on the Ark of the Missing, buried beneath the emperor’s palace. Everyone wants Yaz to be the key that will open the Ark – the one the wise have sought for generations. But sometimes wanting isn’t enough.

THE GIRL AND THE MOON is the third and final volume in The Book of Ice trilogy.

Review

I’ve been reading Mark Lawrence’s books since the very beginning. I have a paperback copy of Prince of Thorns, which I noticed the other day actually says ‘map forthcoming’ on the map page:) (Check out my previous reviews here; The Girl and the Stars, The Girl and the Mountain (Book of the Ice 1 and 2). Red Sister, Grey Sister, Holy Sister (Book of the Ancestor Trilogy). One Word Kill, Limited Wish)

Never once, in all the books I’ve read, has he finished a trilogy the way I wanted him to do so. He is infuriatingly consistent with this, and still, I hope, each and every time, to have the answers to all I want to know. And now, with the end of the Book of the Ice, I find myself not only without the ending I ‘thought’ I was going to get, but much, much worse, feeling as though I need to go back and read ALL the books again to unpick the ‘threads’ and perhaps find the answers I want for myself. Grrrr.

To me, this means Mark Lawrence remains at the top of his game, and while I might find it all very frustrating, that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the books, and the universe(s)? he’s created.

A fine end to another great trilogy, and one I took my time with because, quite frankly, I didn’t want it to end, not in the end:)

My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy.

Follow Mark here – and just to say, if you’re not yet sure, his Patreon is fab, and a great way to keep up to date with all he’s doing. And he’s not shy with his book giveaways either. Twitter.

Ten Years an Indie

At some point in December 2011, and I don’t remember the exact date, other than it was before the schools broke up for Christmas in the UK, I indie-published my first fantasy book, then called Purple, and now renamed to Hidden Dragon. I’d spent years writing it (over three, but the idea had been with me for fifteen.) I’d sent it to just about every UK based agent that would consider fantasy, and I’d got precisely nowhere. Unsure what more I could do, I was convinced to put it on Amazon Kindle just to see what would happen.

I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time. (Some might argue I still don’t). But, that means that in December 2021, I’ll celebrate ten years as an indie author. And what a ride it’s been. There have been a few dizzying highs and primarily many, many lows. I would like to think that I finally know what I’m doing, but every so often, such as recently with IngramSpark, something happens that I realise I don’t know. Anyway, I think this anniversary allows me to reflect on the last ten years.

Firstly, I would say that indie publishing is just about unrecognisable to when I started. Yes, Amazon Kindle hasn’t changed in any way – it still offers writers an affordable means to publish, but the way books are ‘built’ and put on the service is very different, in a good way. The options are far more sophisticated, and indeed, I think every platform has undoubtedly changed for the better in the last ten years. I can only speak mostly about Amazon Kindle because while I’ve flirted with other platforms, I’ve only used Amazon Kindle for much of the last few years.

The way indie-writers approach their writing is entirely different. The options available in terms of editors, cover designers, advertising, printing paperbacks, accessing multiple market places has also changed over time. I genuinely pity anyone starting today because it is a minefield. It doesn’t have the quirkiness about it that it once did when anyone could try their luck, and success stories were built on it. Writers have higher expectations of themselves. Readers have expectations that exceed those of authors with traditional publishing deals. And authors with traditional publishing deals increasingly look to indie-publishing if they have projects that are rejected by their usual route. 

My journey has seen me pivot more than once. My desire to write fantasy that fans of ‘my sort’ of fantasy could enjoy (my influences were and remain, Anne McCaffrey, Katharine Kerr, Patricia Keneally Morrison, Melanie Rawn, Robin Hobb, Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin), but this isn’t where fantasy is these days. (All hail grimdark – apart from Robin Hobb). I took to historical fiction when I discovered a historical character that needed writing about – Ealdorman Leofwine – but even then, it wasn’t a smooth journey. Once more, I went down the route of trying to find an agent and failed. And once more, I went indie. I will share the story of how I placed Ealdorman, as the book was then called, for pre-order on Smashwords for three months and got precisely no pre-orders – even though I stayed up until midnight on release day to watch them all flood in. It would be another three months until someone picked up that book!

I still toyed with fantasy, but I was increasingly finding my ‘home’ in historical fiction – a genre I didn’t particularly enjoy reading apart from five authors – Elizabeth Chadwick, Sharon Penman and Bernard Cornwell’s Excalibur trilogy, as well as Stonehenge and some Egyptian historical mysteries by Paul Doherty. I wrote different periods (but still in Early England). I tried different writing styles. I just didn’t stop because the only way to succeed was to write something that would be successful. 

I had a false start with The First Queen of England book, a novel I tried to write as a historical romance, but where the sequels pivoted towards the political (I mean, the poor woman’s husband died!) and which therefore landed me in trouble with my readers who didn’t want a romance, and with romance readers, who were unappreciative that the trilogy didn’t continue as a romance. But the success of the Lady Elfrida books did allow me to give up my part-time job to write full time.

I wrote some more fantasy. I wrote a modern-day/dystopian future mash-up under a different name and sold about ten copies. But all the time, readers were slowly coming. My pre-orders all made it beyond my zero for Ealdorman.

And then, one day, King Coelwulf came to me. He wasn’t very clear to start with, and he sat on the back burner for two years, and then, when I began to write him, he sort of exploded onto the computer screen. (I believe his character is so strong because of a character I’d written in one of my fantasy books, who isn’t Coelwulf but has some of his qualities, while the battle scenes have been built upon by my attempts to recreate the three famous battles of the seventh century and Brunanburh in the tenth). I also decided to ‘sod it’ and write a character the way I wanted to. That doesn’t mean that my other characters aren’t the men and women I want to portray, but I think there was some hesitancy in them and me. This time, I downplayed the history a little and upgraded the violence and the swearing. I brought the humour. I brought the peril, and I had a bloody good time doing it. And you know what, people loved it (or hated it), and Coelwulf connected me with an audience who had just been waiting for me to discover them. 

I’ve written 46 novels and one short story (15K) throughout the last ten years, which I published (not all under M J Porter), and a shorter short story in Iron and Gold with fellow Aspects of History authors. I have four further novels which aren’t yet published, which I’m writing – Son of Mercia will be published by Boldwood Books in February 2022 and is complete, the second book in the Eagles of Mercia Chronicles will be published by Boldwood in June 2022, the third, later in 2022. This means that after ten years as an indie, I’m becoming a hybrid author.

I have four series I’m currently writing (three set in Early England and one in 1940s Erdington), so more books will come, and I have many more stories to share. Whether I make it another 46 books in the next ten years, I genuinely don’t know. I can’t see I’ll lose the desire to write. To do that, I’ll need to stop attending history and archaeology talks which offer me so many new stories to tell. I’ll also have to stop reading because often, my ideas come from what I read. And that just isn’t going to happen. 

So, thank you to everyone of my readers who’s made the last ten years possible. You rock (well, most of you do – you know who you are:)) Let’s see what the next ten years bring. 

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

WebsiteTwitterTwitter:  FacebookInstagram

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