My new book, King of Kings, has a number of main characters. Meet Lady Eadgifu.

King of Kings has a number of characters, and some might be surprised to find Lady Eadgifu amongst them, but she was an incredibly important historical character, and I couldn’t leave her out of the narrative set at the English court.

Lady Eadgifu was the third wife of Edward the Elder (r.899-924), king of the Anglo-Saxons. Edward the Elder was the father of King Athelstan, and a whole host of daughters, as well as five sons. Lady Eadgifu would, it seems, have been young when she married the aging Edward the Elder, and that meant that she long outlived him, and also, that her three children (possibly four, but I’ve opted for three) were young when their father died. And two of these children were sons, Edmund (born c.921) and Eadred (born c.923). Her daughter, Eadburh, is thought to have been the oldest of the three children, born c.919.

While Lady Eadgifu, from what’s known (and it isn’t much, as there are few surviving charters from the end of Edward’s reign) perhaps had little role to play while her husband lived, other than wife and mother to the king’s children, following his death, she became increasingly significant. She was the daughter of an ealdorman, who perhaps died just before her birth, and her family are said to have had connections with Kent. Indeed, it’s often stated that she brought her husband Kent with their union. By that, what’s often meant, is the loyalty of the Kentish people. Remember, at this time, we’re still just before the creation of ‘England’ as we would now recognise it.

Sadly, very little is known about Lady Eadgifu (and she’s not alone in this – many of the royal women ‘disappear’ at points in the historical record, and on occasion, are entirely lost.) We know about a land dispute she was involved in, and also much more information for after Athelstan’s reign.

Indeed, it has been said that

‘Nor is it surprising that Eadgifu, as the consort of the previous king, served little role in her stepson’s court.[i]

[i] Firth, M. and Schilling, C. ‘The Lonely Afterlives of Early English Queens’, in Nephilologus September 2022, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11061-022-09739-4p.7

However, Barbara Yorke believes that,

‘the enhanced position [of Lady Eadgifu] may also have been developed specifically for the widowed Eadgifu as part of an alliance with her stepson Æthelstan [Athelstan] in which she supported his position and he recognised her sons as his heirs.’[i]


[i] Yorke, B. ‘The Women in Edgar’s Life,’ in Edgar, King of the English, 959-975 Scragg, D. ed (The Boydell Press, 2008), p.146


And it is this option that I’ve decided to explore in King of Kings. Lady Eadgifu was wife to a king. She would have known her worth, even when faced with a stepson as the king of the English, and another stepson, and stepdaughters, who perhaps didn’t share any love for their, potentially, younger stepmother. Will Lady Eadgifu work with or against Athelstan? Read on to find out.

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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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I’m delighted to welcome The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Geometry Girls by Tom Durwood to the blog YAadventure #ScienceGirls #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

I’m delighted to feature an excerpt from The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Geometry Girls by Tom Durwood.

A DISRUPTION ON THE COUNTING FLOOR

The Great Famine remains a taboo in China, 

where it is referred to euphemistically as 

the ‘Three Years of Natural Disasters’ or the 

‘Three Years of Difficulties.’     

— Tani Branigan, The Guardian                           

Freckles, well-earned from working long days in the sun, sprinkled the bridge of the nose and spilled over onto the cheeks of the face of the farm girl, Yan Li. 

A badge of honor in her home region, the freckles were looked on as a relic of the agrarian past in certain sectors of modern China. The New China. Industrial China. 

“Don’t do this!” whispered Ming Jun, seated beside her. “The bridge bombing has everyone on edge. What if they –”

“Someone has to say something.” 

Yan Li’s eyes were clear, her jaw firm, her expression determined. She straightened the barrette holding her hair back.  

Yan Li stood up. 

“Sit down!” hissed Ming Jun, 

“These mathematics are wrong! All wrong!”

Yan Li announced this to the room full of working clerks and book-keeps on the expansive counting floor of Building Two. 

Her voice was too loud to be ignored.    

Faces turned towards her. 

“It’s all bad,” she continued. “Completely phony. The assumptions are fabricated. You know this!” 

The calm murmur of adding and multiplying, of calculations and quiet consultations, of pens scratching on paper, the soft clanking of typewriters in the half-walled stations which ringed the floor of low desks offices – all sounds on the counting floor subsided.     

“A thousand times ridiculous is still ridiculous. I can’t be the only one who thinks so.”  

Two of the red-kerchiefed floor proctors hustled towards Ya Li. After all, she was disrupting the entire society’s forward progress. 

“Sit back down, farm girl,” commented one of her tallying peers. But the lone jibe froze in the air. None others joined.  

“Look,” said Yan Li evenly. “If anyone believes these so-called forecasts we are producing … well then, their deaths will be on our heads, comrades. It will be our fault if we do not speak up”

By now, even the soft plucking of stringed instruments in the background had fallen silent.  

“We-cannot-possibly-endorse-this-charade!” concluded Yan Li.

“It’s the millet,” called out a second fellow scribe, a boy near the middle. “The winter wheat numbers are higher –” 

“A FACTOR of FOUR higher?” demanded Yan Li. “The families who sit and wait for those phantom grains will be sorely disappointed, my friend. Empty bowls! They will starve and it will be horrible — ” 

“Her work has been strenuous, Shi’lang,” implored Ming Jun to the first proctor, “the hours long. Just let her sit back down.”

“All right,” said the proctor Shi’lang, a handsome older boy dressed in white with a red kerchief around his neck. “That’s quite enough!”

“Who will join me in a new and honest set of calculations?” demanded Yan Li. 

A loud knock on the glass walls.

A trio of the skinny soldiers, buck-toothed boys in green suits, rifles slung over shoulders, had paused in their campus patrol. Were they needed, to restore order? 

Shi’lang waved them away. 

Shi’lang draped an arm around Yan Li’s shoulder and laughed in a most friendly fashion.    

“Ah! Yes! Now I see the error you mention, Yan Li. I had noticed it, too. You are a prankster! Charming.” He chuckled.

A little bell was ringing. It emanated from the corner office, raised above the counting floor. The Supervisor’s office.

A second floor-proctor joined Shi’lang and together they ushered Yan Li off the floor. 

“‘Charade,’” laughed handsome Shi’lang, shaking his head wryly. 

The members of the counting floor disliked this show of force. 

Rumblings started up in the back rows …

Across the big open room, another red-bandana youth clapped his hands.  

“Back to work, please.”

The morning fruit and cheese platters were quickly circulated, an hour earlier than usual.  

The soft plucking of lutes rose once again.  

Gradually, unevenly, the Chairman’s work continued. 

2. IN THE OFFICE OF THE SUPERVISOR

By the end of the first millennium A.D., China

possessed a sophistication in the technology

of traditional agriculture that has never been surpassed …

the basic contours of this spectacular agricultural system

were laid during the Classical period.   

– Agriculture in Ancient China 

The Chairman’s summer villa compound in Mei Ling is most pleasant. 

Dappled sunlight graces the secluded retreat, a well-manicured place most conducive to quiet contemplation and deep thoughts.  Burbling streams and winding paths run through the sylvan grounds of the lakeshore campus. Mountain goats roam the cliffs and munch on grass at the forested margins. Staircases and antique cable cars bring visitors down the sharp inclines leading to Lake Wuhan at the compound’s western edge.  Deer stoop to drink from still ponds by Building Four. 

Red drapes frame tableaus of blond furniture and upholstered chairs of the lobbies within the glass walls of Building Three. An assembly hall could be glimpsed beyond the plum carpeting. 

Among the tall pine and bamboo trees, the young soldiers with their guard dogs walked the paths winding up to bulky Building One. A swimming pool was hidden behind its tinted windows.  Building Two, where the agricultural forecasts in support of the coming Great Leap Forward – the bold initiative which would establish and a new China — were taking place, where Yan Li had created such a commotion, was lower and sleeker. 

* * *

The star-splashed freckles sprinkled across Yan Li’s nose and cheeks stood out now. Her blood was rising, and the skin of her face was flushed with anger. 

The Supervisor, Miss Wang Na, paced the striped rug of the corner office. She paused to look out over the clerks working on their calculations o forecast the coming harvests. 

Yan Li stood, defiant. Her hands had been tied.   

Cushions in primary colors decorated the white sofas in the glass-walled office. Ivory rugs offset a row of wood-paneled bookshelves behind the large desk.      

“We have summoned the Director,” said Miss Wang Na. 

“He left for Xinhua an hour ago, but we can get him back.”   

She paced behind metal standing lamps.   

“Summon Empress Lu Zhi and the Seven Hoardes of Han for all I care,” commented Yan Li.       

“This is most serious,” said Shi’lang

Miss Wang Na paused to consider the lake. 

The glass corner office was perched on and above sparkling blue Lake Wuhan’s shoreline. Splashing paddle-boats and brightly colored lanterns strung along the lakeside walkways gave no hint as to what might lay beneath the deep waters’ surface. 

Miss Wang Na turned, cursing bitterly. 

“First the bombing! Then the Yunhe rebels attack our supply lines. Now this! Treason from within!”

“You’re the traitor!” spat Yan Li. “You are complicit in what will be a famine of colossal proportions! Death by starvation.  In the millions — ” 

“Why are you trying to make me look bad, farm girl?” demanded Miss Wang Na. 

“To save tens of thousands of lives,” answered Yan Li.

“The Director will be presenting our tables to the Bureau, in Beijing, in less than a week. If the net present values do not align — ”

“Oh, that part is easy enough,” refuted the girl. “The net present value of next year’s famine is ‘Famine.’ Also known as ‘Zero.’”

“Yes, well, your barn-yard stubbornness, your backward ways, your slavery to tradition, your LACK of VISION are exactly what the Chairman fears most. I was present during his address at the Beijing Palace, and he predicted that these epochal events woul — ”

__________________________________________________________________________________

The net present value of next year’s famine is ‘Famine.’ Also known as ‘Zero.’ 

__________________________________________________________________________________

“Setting bad mathematics in historical context doesn’t change anything,” said Yan Li. 

“Reactionary.” Shi’lang shook his head. “Confucian.”

“’Confucian’? It’s not Confucian. The calculations need to be exact. Based on reality. It all must beintentional. Not some empty exercise. If the numbers are compromised even slightly, it’s all worthless. No forecast. How can you not see that?”

“Oh, I see,” said the Supervisor, Miss Wang Na.   

“I see, all right.” 

“What’s this? Eh?” asked the Supervisor sharply. 

She pointed to the equation at the top of one of Yan Li’s pages.

“What is the meaning of this formula?”

Yield in t/ha = (220 × 24 × 3.4) / 10,000 = 1.79

“It’s not a formula,” answered Yan Li, shaking her head. “It’s an equation. 

“It shows the crop yield in any given harvest. Every forecaster follows this same model.” 

“And why is it incomplete?” demanded the Supervisor. 

“It’s waiting for a proper numerator. What you gave me is garbage. Worse than garbage.”

Shi’lang moved as if to strike her. Miss Wang Na stepped between them.

“Let X equal X,” challenged Yan Li, stepping forward —  

Here’s the blurb

Young adult fiction featuring gambling, bandits, swordplay, probability and Bayes’ Theorem. An English teacher hopes to engage students with colorful STEM adventures. 

“In this outstanding collection, Tom addresses the chronic problem of our young women dropping out of STEM studies. His stories lend adventure to scientific thinking.” 

(~ Tanzeela Siddique, Math Instructor)

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Meet the author

Tom Durwood is a teacher, writer and editor with an interest in history. Tom most recently taught English Composition and Empire and Literature at Valley Forge Military College, where he won the Teacher of the Year Award five times. Tom has taught Public Speaking and Basic Communications as guest lecturer for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group at the Dam’s Neck Annex of the Naval War College.

Tom’s ebook Empire and Literature matches global works of film and fiction to specific quadrants of empire, finding surprising parallels. Literature, film, art and architecture are viewed against the rise and fall of empire. In a foreword to Empire and Literature, postcolonial scholar Dipesh Chakrabarty of the University of Chicago calls it “imaginative and innovative.” Prof. Chakrabarty writes that “Durwood has given us a thought-provoking introduction to the humanities.” His subsequent book “Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism” has been well-reviewed. “My favorite nonfiction book of the year,” writes The Literary Apothecary (Goodreads).

Early reader response to Tom’s historical fiction adventures has been promising. “A true pleasure … the richness of the layers of Tom’s novel is compelling,” writes Fatima Sharrafedine in her foreword to “The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter.” The Midwest Book Review calls that same adventure “uniformly gripping and educational … pairing action and adventure with social issues.” Adds Prairie Review, “A deeply intriguing, ambitious historical fiction series.”

Tom briefly ran his own children’s book imprint, Calico Books (Contemporary Books, Chicago). Tom’s newspaper column “Shelter” appeared in the North County Times for seven years. Tom earned a Masters in English Literature in San Diego, where he also served as Executive Director of San Diego Habitat for Humanity.

Two of Tom’s books, “Kid Lit” and “The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter,” were selected “Best of the New” by Julie Sara Porter’s Bookworm  Book Alert

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Follow The Adventures of Ruby Pi and The Geometry Girls blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

My new book, King of Kings, has a number of main characters. Meet Ealdred, Lord of Bamburgh.

King of Kings has a number of characters, and King Ealdred, or Lord Ealdred of Bamburgh is one of them. But who was he, and what was the independent kingdom of Bamburgh?

Now, I think we all ‘think’ we know about Bebbanburg (Bamburgh) thanks to Uhtred of Bebbanburg, Bernard Cornwell’s creation. But events in Bamburgh are complex and not easy to understand, even for someone who might think they know the period quite well.

So what was Bamburgh? Bamburgh is traditionally associated with the kingdom of Bernicia – the far northern Saxon kingdom, which was particularly prominent during the seventh century, so three hundred years before the events of King of Kings, and which was joined to the kingdom of Deira to form Northumbria. Check out my Gods and Kings trilogy for the some of the events of this period.

The iconic castle that stands today is a later building, the oldest part, the keep, dating to the end of the Saxon period, while much of what we see today is the later work of Lord Armstrong (who built Cragside), when he significantly repaired the remains. Indeed, the family still own Bamburgh Castle, although not Cragside, which is a National Trust property. (I’ve written a 1930s mystery set at Cragside).

Bamburgh is slightly unusual in that there are old images of the castle before the 19th century work of Armstrong. I enjoy collecting these antique prints. We often find such buildings falling into ruin, not being ruined and the rebuilt.

Antique prints of Bamburgh Castle

And Bamburgh Castle and its environs are stuffed with archaeology. There were some very famous archaeological investigations undertaken in the 1960s, and there’s now a dedicated team unearthing the treasures hidden beneath the current building. You can follow the teams work at Bamburgh Research Project’s Blog. You might know about Bamburgh because of the seventh century bones discovered in the Bole Hole, and there’s a great book about this, Warrior by Edoardo Albert and Paul Gething – available from all good book sellers. You can also learn about where these bones now lie by checking out Bamburgh Bones.

The well

But, all this is before the events of the tenth-century (or after), as fascinating as it is. So, what was happening in the tenth-century? The easiest way I can describe this is that while York, and much of the Saxon kingdom of Northumbria was inundated with the Norse (Viking raiders if you will), Bamburgh was a bastion against this influx, wedged between the growing might of the kingdom of the Scots, ruled by Constantin, and the constantly changing affairs of York, and its string of Norse rulers, often associated with Dublin as well.

Ealdred’s father, Eadwulf is somewhat better attested, with the Annals of Ulster naming him as ‘king of the Saxons of the north.’ He died in c.913 and then Ealdred seems to have had a difficult time of it, his gaze more likely to turn to the Scots kingdom than the known Saxon rulers based in Mercia and Wessex when he was threatened by the Norse Viking raiders.

However, he joined an alliance with Edward the Elder, king of the Anglo-Saxons, in 924.

‘And then the king of Scots and all the nation of Scots chose him as father and lord; and [so also did] Reginald and Eadwulf’s sons and all those who live in Northumbria, both English and Danish and Norweigans and others; and also the king of the Strathclyde Britons and all the Strathclyde Britons.’

(Swanton, M. trans and edit The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, (Orion Publishing Group, 2000 p.104 (A text )

While this can’t be dated any more precisely than 924, it mustn’t have been long before the death of Edward the Elder, which occurred in 924. And this then takes us to the beginning of King of Kings. Will Ealdred continue his alliance with the new king of the Anglo-Saxons, or will he look elsewhere, especially now that the Viking raider, Sihtric, is lord of York/Jorvik?

As to Uhtred himself, of The Last Kingdom fame, he’s even more shadowy than Ealdred, and for that reason, doesn’t feature at all in King of Kings, although there is an ealdorman Uhtred who will appear in subsequent books.

Map design by Shaun at Flintlock Covers

Preorder King of Kings

(released 10th February 2023)

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Meet Hywel, the king of the West Welsh

Meet Constantin, the king of the Scots

Meet Athelstan, the king of the English

My new book, King of Kings, has a number of main characters. Meet Hywel, the king of the West Welsh.

My new book, King of Kings, is a multi-viewpoint novel telling the story of events in Britain from 925-934. I thought it would be good to share details of the historical people my main characters are based on.

My portrayal of Hywel, better known as Hywel Dda (which autocorrect is determined should say Dad), and which means ‘good’ (a unique epithet in Wales), is of course, fictional, but who was the historical Hywel? Firstly, it should be noted that this epithet is a later invention, not assigned to Hywel until at least the twelfth century, and perhaps, as Dr. Kari Maund has commented in The Welsh Kings: Warriors, Warlords and Princes, a reflection of border events at that period rather than the earlier tenth century. (Dr Maund was one of my university lecturers, so she knows her stuff).

By Unknown author – This image is available from the National Library of WalesYou can view this image in its original context on the NLW Catalogue, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41427788

Hywel has no date of birth recorded, and indeed, like Constantin of the Scots, he seems to have ruled for a long time providing much-needed consistency. Hywel ap Cadell was the grandson of the famous Rhodri Mawr, who’d united the kingdoms of the Welsh during his rule. But, this unity fragmented on Rhodri’s death.

To begin with, Hywel ruled Dehuebarth, probably with his brother, Clydog, (who may have been the younger brother) after the death of their father in c.911. He, his brother, and his cousin, Idwal of Gwynedd, submitted to the English king, Edward the Elder in the late 910s.

‘and the kings of Wales: Hywel and Clydog and Idwal and all the race of the Welsh, sought him as their lord [Edward]’. ASC A 922 corrected to 918 (Swanton, M. trans and edit The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, (Orion Publishing Group, 2000)p.103-4)

Not long after, Clydog died, leaving Hywel as ruler of Dehuebarth. Hywel had also married Elen, the daughter of Llywarch and niece of Rhydderch, the last king of Dyfed, and he was able to use this alliance to eventually claim Dyfed as well.

Hywel’s believed to have been highly educated, and some historians suggest he was particularly fascinated with King Alfred, and all he’d achieved and was therefore keen to emulate many of his actions. This could also be why his name came to be associated with the codification of laws in later traditions. What fascinates me most about Hywel is his decision to ally closely with King Athelstan which will be explored in King of Kings. Certainly, he is a intriguing figure in early tenth-century Britain, and not just because we know he made a pilgrimage to Rome in 928, and still managed to return back to his kingdom and continue ruling it.

Map design by Shaun at Flintlock Covers

Preorder King of Kings

(released 10th February 2023)

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Meet Ealdred, the king of Bamburgh

Meet Constantin, the king of the Scots

Meet Athelstan, the king of the English

My new book, King of Kings, has a number of main characters. Meet Constantin, the king of the Scots.

My new book, King of Kings, is a multi-viewpoint novel telling the story of events in Britain from 925-934. I thought it would be good to share details of the historical people my character are based on.

My portrayal of Constantin, the king of the Scots, is of course fictional in King of Kings, but he is based on a historical individual, Constantin (e) II, so who exactly was he?

Constantin is a fascinating character. Again, and as with Athelstan, his exact date of birth is unknown, but it must have been, at the latest, by 877/8, when his short-reigned father died.

By 900, Constantin was the king of the Scots (we think – there is some confusion about this). This wasn’t yet quite Scotland, but it was getting there. The ancient kingdoms of Cait, Fortriu, Atholl and Dal Riata, were ruled by one king, Constantin. But, he hadn’t succeeded his father, Aed, but rather a man named Domnall II, his cousin. At this time there were two rival dynasties and they strictly alternated the kingship.

Affairs in the kingdom of the Scots often intermingled with those of the independent kingdom of Bamburgh, Strathclyde, and of course, the Norse, or Viking raiders, if you will. Indeed, the entry recording Constantin’s death in the Annals of Ulster, reads as though there was often strife.

Constantinus son of Ed held the kingdom for xl years in whose third year the Northmen plundered Dunkeld and all Albania. In the following year the Northmen were slain in Strath Erenn…And the battle of Tinemore happened in his xviii year between Constantin and Ragnall and the Scotti had the victory. And the battle of Dun Brunde in his xxxiiii year.’ (Alex Woolf, From Pictland to Scotland, 789-1070,p.126)

Constantin, ruling for decades, and I mean decades, seems to have brought much needed stability to the kingdom, as affairs there very much mirrored the emerging ‘England’ to the south.

‘Constantin’s reign has increasingly come to be see as one of the most significant in the history of Scotland. Not only was it very long, at least forty years, but it was also the period during which conflict and diplomatic relations between a kingdom recognisably ancestral to Scotland and one recognisably ancestral to England first occurred.’ (Alex Woolf, From Pictland to Scotland, 789-1070, p.128)

Constantin allied with the rulers of Bamburgh, and York, and also, on occasion, both Æthelflæd of Mercia and Edward the Elder, after her death. But, he seems to have been quite flexible in his thinking, and was prepared to pick and choice as he saw fit.

By the beginning of King of Kings, Constantin would have been in his mid-forties, and he was still to rule for many years to come, and he was certainly a more than adequate counterpart to Athelstan, king of the English, no doubt helped by his sons and grandsons, as his reign continued.

Map design by Shaun at Flintlock Covers

Preorder King of Kings

(released 10th February 2023)

books2read.com/King-of-Kings

Meet Athelstan, the king of the English

Meet Hywel, the king of the West Welsh

Meet Ealdred, the king of Bamburgh

I’m welcoming Jessie Mills and her novel, Rosalind: DNA’s Invisible Woman to the blog today #rosalindfranklin #invisiblewomen #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

I’m delighted to welcome Jessie Mills to the blog, with an extract from her novel, Rosalind: DNA’s Invisible Woman

Extract from ROSALIND: DNA’s INVISIBLE WOMAN, Part I, chapter 1 (Exodus | Shemot)

Norway, August 1939

As I stand in line with the other passengers, a dour-faced policeman snatches my passport from my hands. He looks up to examine me from beneath a deeply etched brow.

‘English?’ he asks.

His menacing eyes follow me as I walk past him and up the steps to board the ocean liner. The port town of Bergen is dotted with wooden houses in vivid hues of red and yellow. It is a different sight from the sleepy fishing village on our inbound journey when the Sheriff’s office was closed. I wished then that we could have flown from Gressholmen Airport, in one of the new metallic Imperial Airways planes. They were as big and shiny as the Zeppelins on the banners in Paris. But Father insisted that we couldn’t get the family Austin on one.

On our return, queues into the port stretch for several miles. The jetty is crawling with uniformed police in visor caps, which shield their faces from the stark Norwegian sun. The police are checking passengers’ papers before boarding the boat.

The ship has cast a deep and foreboding shadow over the steps.

As my feet navigate each rung, the iron staircase creaks and yawns. The structure is gnawing at the bolts on the side of the ship.

The staircase sways in unison with the waves as they lap with force against the steel stern. My feet move in time with the structure, back and forth like a pendulum. I vault two steps at a time, levering my body from every other step until the sun’s rays warm the cloth on my back.

Standing on the ship’s bow, I long to stay there forever. The last of August’s sun is twinkling softly on the water’s peaks. The waves are undulating gently against the hull as the boat crosses the water.

The journey out of the port is smooth. With each ripple and swell of the water, my mind drifts, first to home and then to college. I am due to return to Cambridge in less than a month. Suddenly, a thought grips me. At first, it is fleeting, but the more I try to suppress it, the harder it resurfaces, with agonising intensity. I may never return.

Seconds later, a pummelling sensation rams my stomach. The ship swings to one side, and the rail jolts against my ribs.

‘Navy ships?’ my mother asks.

A Cimmerian mist quickly settles on the water’s surface. Through the haze, a large vessel is visible.

My father’s response is inaudible.

As we descend the poorly lit stairwell at the side of the ship, a tide of panic sweeps over me. My parents and brothers spend the rest of the journey in silence.

Perhaps it is selfish to want the bourgeois life of a scientist, a gentleman’s profession. I like Maths too, as well as Chemistry. Yet while the rest of the world is upended by ideology, science is the last bastion deserving of my faith. From the tiniest molecule to the whole of the universe, science pervades every inch. It is the only language we have to make sense of it.

When you lose everything you ever knew to be true, all you can do is drive forwards to keep the ghosts at bay. Our family holiday to Norway began much like our trip two years before. There were few signs of what would transpire, or how it would change the course of our lives. Sometimes it only takes one event, one meeting, one person, or one kiss, for a life to change forever. That August was to be one of those events.

Here’s the blurb

‘A luminous, pin-sharp portrait of a true trailblazer. Mills’s writing simply glows.’ Zoë Howe, Author, Artist and RLF Writing Fellow at Newnham College, University of Cambridge

Rosalind: DNA’s Invisible Woman tells the true story of the woman who discovered the structure of DNA, whose work was co-opted by three men who won a Nobel prize for the discovery.

Her story is one of hope, perseverance, love and betrayal. 

Driven by her faith in science, Rosalind Franklin persisted with her education in the face of formidable obstacles, including the de-reservation of women from war science. 

In Norway at the start of World War II, her place at Cambridge’s first women’s college was thrown into jeopardy.

A decade later, she fled Paris upon the news that the research director at the State Chemicals Lab was having an affair. They continued to write to each other in secret.  

Rosalind knew when embarking on science, a gentleman’s profession, that the odds would be stacked against a woman’s success. But she did not foresee that her pay would later be cut on account of her age and gender, that she would be burned by the plagiarism rife among her male contemporaries or face her own battle with cancer. 

When she took a research post at King’s College London, the head of the physics department switched her subject to DNA at the last minute. 

She was tasked with discovering its structure using X-ray crystallography. Could she become the first scientist to map the DNA molecule and would the discovery ultimately be worth it? 

When two researchers at Cambridge University, her alma mater, built a three-chain model of DNA weeks after seeing her lecture, she knew that it was wrong. 

Scientists at each of the three labs competing in the race to find DNA’s structure had guessed that the molecule had three chains. Her evidence proved them wrong. But would anybody listen?

This is the story of DNA that you won’t find in the history books…   

The woman behind science’s greatest discovery has been variously referred to as ‘an obsessive woman’, ‘difficult’, and ‘the dark lady of DNA’. Why was she called these names, and were they justified? 

Written by journalist and former Wall Street Journal (PRO) editor Jessica Mills Davies, following nearly three years of intensive archival research, the novel aims to give Rosalind Franklin a voice for the first time in history. Her story is the most well-documented account of ‘the Matilda effect’ and its corollary ‘the Matthew Effect’, whereby women’s contributions to science and other professions are often ignored or misappropriated. 

The Exeter Novel Prize-longlisted novel is peppered with copies of original correspondence between her and her contemporaries, illustrating how three men got away with the biggest heist in scientific history. 

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(Also available on APPLE BOOKS)

Meet the author

Jessica is a journalist and author. She has written for publications such as The Independent, The Wall Street Journal and Business Insider, where she investigated the use of flammable cladding in hospital intensive care units in 2020.

Before that she was a member of the steering committee for Women at Dow Jones, where she spent several years as an editor and led the team that uncovered the misuse of funds at Abraaj.

Her debut novel tells the true story of Rosalind Franklin, the invisible woman behind the discovery of DNA’s double helix. It was longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize 2020.

Connect with Jessie

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Follow the Rosalind: DNAs Invisible Woman Blog Tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m welcoming The White Sails Series Collector’s Edition by Emma Lombard to the blog #blogtour

Here’s the blurb

Award-winner, The White Sails Series, where icy winter storms, opportunistic mercenaries, uncharted lands, and a colourful crew of sailors are all lashed together by an epic love story. 

This collector’s edition includes all four books in the series.

The White Sails Series: Special Hardback Omnibus

If Bridgerton and Pirates of the Caribbean had a love child.

Are you a fan of sweeping romantic adventures?

Do you fall for tall, brooding Naval Officers?

Love a feisty female lead who makes you yell aloud?

Then hop aboard Emma Lombard’s hardback Collector’s Edition of The White Sails Series, and batten down the hatches!

But why?

Well, firstly, let me tell you what my Kickstarter campaign isn’t. It isn’t a plea for donations, it’s not a beg for money, and it’s not just another retailer.

Okay, so what is it then? 

Kickstarter is a wonderful way for me to give more to my fans.

It allows fans access to a special collector’s edition that is not (and will never be) available from online retailers.

It allows fans to have each and every copy personalised, which is just not doable on retailers.

It also allows fans a more intimate view of the story behind my series.

And best of all, it allows fans to get involved in my next series, whether through an exclusive sneak peek of the first draft or even having a character named after them.

Oh, and did I mention there’s an opportunity to win the original oil painting of the cover?

Where else in the world do you get all this extra cool stuff thrown in just because you bought a book?

What’s in it for you, Emma?

Without wanting to sound too cheesy, I’m beside myself to put such a pretty book out in the world. I’m mean, just look at that dreamy sunset! I’m not going to lie, I love a chunky book.

This collector’s edition fulfils my ultimate author dream—to be able to hold (and smell) a weighty tome. I’m not the only one—I’ve had folks walk up to my books at the market and pick them up just to smell them! My kind of peeps!

I know it’s taboo to talk about money, but the pledges received for this campaign will help me recoup some of the upfront expenses that I have already laid out, like editing, book cover design, audiobook narration, and it will give me the momentum I need to invest in those same services for my next series, The Gold Hills Series.

You’ll be helping keep the indie publishing ecosphere turning, which in turn lets me keep creating more stories.

So, what’s The White Sails Series about?

One of my readers described it best: If Bridgerton and Pirates of the Caribbean had a love child.

The idea for this series was born from a tiny nugget of family gossip that my grandmother shared with me. She told me how my 3x great grandmother left her well-to-do family in England to elope with an English sea captain, and live aboard his ship with him. 

I took the basic concept of this story and had a blast creating an entirely fictitious imagining of what it might have been like for a woman to live aboard a ship in those days. Quite ironic considering that I get terribly sea-sick myself.

Curious? Never seen what a Kickstarter campaign looks like?

Just looking: Take a look at Emma’s campaign to see it in detail: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/emma-lombard-author/the-white-sails-series-special-hardback-omnibus-audiobook?ref=9oxhwz

Note: clicking on this link will not sign you up to anything, it will simply take you to the campaign page to look.

GIVEAWAY

Batten down the hatches, m’lovelies, for a chance to win an exclusive, personalised, hardcover Collector’s Edition of The White Sails Series: 

Fill out the entry form — https://forms.gle/Be1snbRhVZzcKyKY7

Winner will be notified by email on February 18th, 2023.

Buy Links 

Exclusively available on Kickstarter

Meet the author

Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa—calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years—before finally settling in Brisbane Australia, and raising four boys. Before she started writing historical fiction, she was a freelance editor in the corporate world, which was definitely not half as exciting as writing rollicking romantic adventures. Her characters are fearless seafarers, even though in real life Emma gets disastrously sea sick.

Connect with Emma

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Follow The White Sail Series Collector’s Edition blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

I’m delighted to welcome The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Math Girls by Tom Durwood to the blog YAadventure #ScienceGirls #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

I’m delighted to feature an excerpt from The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Math Girls by Tom Durwood.

Gunfight in the Mogollons 

“These Colorado coaches,” lectured the solicitor, Aynsley, “are a larger, more rugged version of the Kinnear design. Wells Fargo uses them widely.

“This is a Concorde model, if I’m not mistaken,” he added. “Capacious.”

Johnny glared at the talkative lawyer. 

“More useless information,” snorted the militia man, Morgan. He rubbed his bandaged hand sullenly.    

The stagecoach’s constant motion cast a bad mood within its large interior, but it was more than just the motion. The day had turned to dusk. Only an hour further to Folsom. The mountain trail was clear, the horses making good time. 

“Leather-strap suspension,” offered Aynsley to his captive audience, “is what gives the carriage its swinging movemen– ” 

It happened so fast. 

All in the same moment–   

They heard a thunderous crash, followed by three loud gunshots.

The horses whined their objection in a panic – 

One of the brake levers snapped. 

The stagecoach screeched to a halt.

The stagecoach passengers heard a hard, painful scream from the driver’s seat – 

“I’m hit! I’m hit!”

The stage door flew open and half of the passengers spilled falling out onto the trial – 

Shut up,” came a woman’s voice. A pause, and then, “Morgan! You there?” 

The passengers stood.  Now they could see that a great, bulky deadfall had been placed across the trail to block the stage. 

Angie and Drew, from the saloon in Silver City, sat astride two horses, guns drawn.

“Hands up! All of you!” proclaimed Drew. “This here’s a robbery!”

He held his pistol on the stage driver, who had his hands up.  Beside him, the rifleman clutched at his arm, where had been shot.

Now Morgan smirked as he trained a gun on Johnny’s stomach.

“What the devil — ” sputtered Aynsley.

“You- you’re bandits?” demanded the startled Mrs. Aynsley.

“The money belts,” commanded Morgan. “That deed! Now!”

One of the drivers groaned for mercy.   

Angie stopped placing the saddle on the lead horse, turned and shot him 

“Money belts,” spat Drew.  

“But you’re such a nice boy — ”

“I’ll shoot you, hey,” shouted Drew, trembling. 

“You’ll never get away with it,” warned the lawyer. 

“Easy …” said Johnny.

“Sorry, bub,” Morgan said, half-smiling, to Johnny as he raised the weapon.  “We can’t leave witnesses now, can we?”

Ma yelled ‘No!’ and lunged for the militia man — 

“Hey. Morgan,” said Casey. 

Morgan turned in time to see Casey’s hand sweep to her side and emerge with a gleaming pistol, one of the Colt Rainmaker’s, nickel-plated and deadly fast.   

In a liquid motion, she raised the Colt and fanned the hammer —  

BAMBAMBAM!  

Three rounds sunk deep into Morgan’s chest, all at once.

Casey swiveled and sent three more rounds slamming into anxious young Drew, jerking him clean from his saddle — 

With a curse, Angie jammed her spurs into her horse and rode off —  

Casey dropped the Colt and ran to grab the Enfield rifle from the passenger racks. 

She shucked the rifle sheath and ran to the edge of the trail. 

She stood on an outcrop facing northeast. She could see the sweep of the basin and range, to her right, where Angie was escaping — 

She was galloping unseen, along the high-walled Mogollon limestone.

But there was a break in the wall, very distant … 

It was that opening to which Casey devoted her attention.  

They could hear the horse’s canter, moving away … 

Casey thumbed in three big, heavy cartridges.           

“Eleven hundred meters … ” said Johnny. 

Johnny held the rangefinder like binoculars.

He counted off a sequence of numbers. 

Casey scribbled the calculations. 

Distance … curvature  … target point … origin point

Now she watched through the Enfield’s telescopic sight, following the horse-and-rider trajectory, as she imagined it.  

John called out a second sequence of numbers, distance in meters.  

“Twenty …” said Johnny. 

“Fifteen,,, ten .. five …”

The Enfield let go a sharp crack — 

The firearm echoed in the great solemn quiet along the southern section of the Mogollons …

Angie’s body slumped and fell from the saddle. 

What we see are objects in refracted light. A thing itself does not change, just the ways in which we experience it.  It is the light which changes.   

A blue moon looks blue because of shifts in light, the suspended volcano dust in the air. The way that light refracts can make everything look new, and not as we thought it to be.   

It alters how things appear to us, does the immense cloud of fine dust and ash from the Krakatoa Volcano, supplemented by forest fires in Sweden and Canada. When the quality of the air changes, so does the quality of light. On a Blue Moon night, the thing itself does not change, just the ways we experience it. 

Casey turned to Ma. 

“Why don’t you take the money back to Mister Torgeson, Ma?”

She indicated the currency that had spilled from the lawyer’s satchel onto the trail, when Johnny had shot Morgan.  

“Back to Silver City.”  

Ma looked long and still at her daughter.

“I’m sure he’d appreciate it,” said Casey. 

She slung the Enfield over her shoulder, like it had always been there, like it belonged attached to her.   

“Johnny and me can run the clinic in Folsom. Then we’ll head straight for Albuquerque. 

“You come join us, soon as you can.”  

The horses fell quiet. A silence vast and deep seemed to descend, all along the southeastern section of the Mogollon Rim. The little grouping around the stagecoach listened, as though they could all feel, or somehow hear, the rotation of the earth.

No man or woman could put an adjective to the look that appeared on Ma’s face. It was sad and accepting, almost relieved and almost embarrassed, and several more emotions as well, all at the same time.

“And so the child,” intoned Aynsley, “is father to the man.” 

“What, are you the effing chorus now?” Johnny raised his pistol to shoot the lawyer. “You two-faced shill — ”

“No! Please!” Mrs. Aynsley began to cry —   

“They were robbing us, too,” she reminded Johnny.

Now Mrs. Aysnley’s cry turned into a scream, a hideous, feral sound, for such a cultured woman — 

Johnny lowered the gun. “Just as soon,” he murmured. 

“All right, Case,” said Ma. “All good.” 

Ma’s face had gone white. She gripped the hem of her skirt tightly   

“You two …take …” Ma choked. “Ah! Me! Take good care, Johnny –”

“The Fort Stanton stage should be by here in an hour or so,” said Casey. “That about right, Whip?” she called to the driver. 

“Yup,” came the reply.

Casey looked out over the basin lowlands. She closed eyes, for a moment.

“I don’t know what we’ll find in Albuquerque,” Casey said to her brother as she swung into the saddle of the horse Drew had been riding. 

“But we got a real-life deed to some damn thing.” 

“We got two hundred bucks.”

She patted the horse’s neck.

“And we can make an honest living fixin’ guns.”

“We should be all right,” Johnny nodded.   

He finished cinching the saddle of the lead stage horse and checked the horse’s underbelly. The bay was ready to trade all this gunplay and confusion among the humans for an open run along a clear path.   

“Let’s light a shuck — “

Here’s the blurb

A collection of adventure stories featuring young heroines at turning points in history who use math to solve colossal problems. Smart girls take on buried secrets, villains, tanks, mysteries, codes, and economics to save their people “Stories, mystery and math go well together… a welcome addition.” 
(~ Jeannine Atkins, author of “Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math”) 

Buy Links:

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Meet the author

Tom Durwood is a teacher, writer and editor with an interest in history. Tom most recently taught English Composition and Empire and Literature at Valley Forge Military College, where he won the Teacher of the Year Award five times. Tom has taught Public Speaking and Basic Communications as guest lecturer for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group at the Dam’s Neck Annex of the Naval War College.

Tom’s ebook Empire and Literature matches global works of film and fiction to specific quadrants of empire, finding surprising parallels. Literature, film, art and architecture are viewed against the rise and fall of empire. In a foreword to Empire and Literature, postcolonial scholar Dipesh Chakrabarty of the University of Chicago calls it “imaginative and innovative.” Prof. Chakrabarty writes that “Durwood has given us a thought-provoking introduction to the humanities.” His subsequent book “Kid Lit: An Introduction to Literary Criticism” has been well-reviewed. “My favorite nonfiction book of the year,” writes The Literary Apothecary (Goodreads).

Early reader response to Tom’s historical fiction adventures has been promising. “A true pleasure … the richness of the layers of Tom’s novel is compelling,” writes Fatima Sharrafedine in her foreword to “The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter.” The Midwest Book Review calls that same adventure “uniformly gripping and educational … pairing action and adventure with social issues.” Adds Prairie Review, “A deeply intriguing, ambitious historical fiction series.”

Tom briefly ran his own children’s book imprint, Calico Books (Contemporary Books, Chicago). Tom’s newspaper column “Shelter” appeared in the North County Times for seven years. Tom earned a Masters in English Literature in San Diego, where he also served as Executive Director of San Diego Habitat for Humanity.

Two of Tom’s books, “Kid Lit” and “The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter,” were selected “Best of the New” by Julie Sara Porter’s Bookworm  Book Alert

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Follow The Adventures of Ruby Pi and the Math Girls blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

My new book, King of Kings, has a number of main characters. Meet Athelstan, the King of the English.

Athelstan is one of the main characters in my new book, King of Kings, a multiple point of view story, recounting affairs in Britain from 925-934.

Based on a historical person, my portrayal of him, is of course, fictitious, but there are many details known about him. However, we don’t know for sure who his mother was, it’s believed she might have been called Ecgwynn, and we don’t know, for certain, the name of his sister, but it’s believed she might have been named Edith. What is known is that his father was Edward, the son of King Alfred, and known to us today as Edward the Elder. Athelstan is also rare in that he is one of only two Saxon kings for who a contemporary image is available. (The other is Edgar, who would have been his step-nephew)

Edward the Elder
Edward the Elder – MS Royal 14 B VI.jpg
Miniature d’Édouard l’Ancien dans une généalogie royale du XIVe siècle. WikiCommons

It must be supposed that Athelstan was born sometime in the late 890s. And according to a later source, that written by William of Malmesbury in the 1100s (so over two hundred years later), Athelstan was raised at the court of his aunt, Æthelflæd of Mercia. David Dumville has questioned the truth of this, but to many, this has simply become accepted as fact.

‘he [Alfred] arranged for the boy’s education at the court of his daughter, Æthelflæd and Æthelred his son in law, where he was brought up with great care by his aunt and the eminent ealdorman for the throne that seemed to await him.’[i]


[i] Mynors, R.A.B. ed and trans, completed by Thomson, R.M. and Winterbottom, M. Gesta Regvm AnglorvmThe History of the English Kings, William of Malmesbury, (Clarendon Press, 1998), p.211 Book II.133

Æthelflæd image
Æthelflæd as depicted in the cartulary of Abingdon Abbey (British Library Cotton MS Claudius B VI, f.14).
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Æthelflæd_as_depicted_in_the_cartulary_of_Abingdon_Abbey.png
AnonymousUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Why then might this have happened? Edward became king on the death of his father, Alfred, and either remarried at that time, or just before. Edward’s second wife (if indeed, he was actually married to Athelstan’s mother, which again, some doubt), Lady Ælfflæd is believed to have been the daughter of an ealdorman and produced a hefty number of children for Edward. Perhaps then, Athelstan and his unnamed sister, were an unwelcome reminder of the king’s first wife, or perhaps, as has been suggested, Alfred intended for Athelstan to succeed in Mercia after the death of Æthelflæd, and her husband, Æthelred, for that union produced one child, a daughter named Ælfwynn.

There is an acknowledged dearth of information surrounding King Edward the Elder’s rule of Wessex. He’s acknowledged as the king of the Anglo-Saxons. His father had been the king of Wessex. Historians normally use the surviving charters to unpick the political machinations of the Saxon kings, but for Edward, there’s a twenty year gap between the beginning and end of his reign, where almost no known genuine charters have survived. What isn’t known for sure, is how much control, if any, he had in Mercia. Was Mercia subservient to Wessex or was it ruled independently? It’s impossible to tell. And this makes it difficult to determine what Athelstan might have been doing, and also what his father’s intentions were towards him.

Frontispiece of Bede’s Life of St Cuthbert, showing King Æthelstan (924–39) presenting a copy of the book to the saint himself. 29.2 x 20cm (11 1/2 x 7 7/8″). Originally from MS 183, f.1v at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. (Wikimedia Commons)

What is known is that following the death of King Edward in 924, Athelstan was acknowledged as the king of Mercia; his stepbrother, Ælfweard was proclaimed king in Wessex. As with all events at this time, it shouldn’t be assumed that just because this is what happened, this is what was always intended.

‘Here King Edward died at Farndon in Mercia; and very soon, 16 days after, his son Ælfweard died at Oxford; and their bodies lie at Winchester. And Athelstan was chosen as king by the Mercians and consecrated at Kingston.’[i]


[i] Swanton, M. trans and edit The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, (Orion Publishing Group, 2000), D text p.105

But, if Athelstan was raised in Mercia, it’s highly likely he was a warrior from a young age, helping the Mercians defeat the Viking raiders who still had control of the Danish Five Boroughs of Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester.

And the events of 924 are where King of Kings begins, and so I will leave him there. By now, he would have been perhaps thirty years old, give or take a few years. What sort of man was he? What sort of king might he be? Do please read King of Kings to find out. And, if this intrigues you, then do please have a look at Sarah Foot’s wonderful monograph on him, Athelstan, from Yale Publishing.

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