Today, I’m delighted to showcase Mercedes Rochelle’s new book, The Accursed King #BlogTour

Here’s the blurb:

What happens when a king loses his prowess? The day Henry IV could finally declare he had vanquished his enemies, he threw it all away with an infamous deed. No English king had executed an archbishop before. And divine judgment was quick to follow. Many thought he was struck with leprosy—God’s greatest punishment for sinners. From that point on, Henry’s health was cursed and he fought doggedly on as his body continued to betray him—reducing this once great warrior to an invalid. Fortunately for England, his heir was ready and eager to take over. But Henry wasn’t willing to relinquish what he had worked so hard to preserve. No one was going to take away his royal prerogative—not even Prince Hal. But Henry didn’t count on Hal’s dauntless nature, which threatened to tear the royal family apart. 

Buy Links:

This book is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription

Series Links:

A King Under Siege (Book 1)

The King’s Retribution (Book 2)

The Usurper King (Book 3)

The Accursed King (Book 4)

Amazon UKAmazon US:   Amazon CA:   Amazon AU

Meet the author

Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. Her first four books cover eleventh-century Britain and events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England. The next series is called The Plantagenet Legacy about the struggles and abdication of Richard II, leading to the troubled reigns of the Lancastrian Kings. She also writes a blog: HistoricalBritainBlog.com to explore the history behind the story. Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended! Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

Connect with Mercedes

Website: Twitter: Facebook

BookBub: Amazon Author Page: Goodreads

Follow The Accursed King blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

It’s my turn on the #Argo by Mark Knowles blog tour #BladesofBronze

Here’s the blurb

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

He has come to take what is yours…

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

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

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

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

PRAISE FOR ARGO AND MARK KNOWLES:

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Curious? Here’s a link for Argo.

https://amzn.to/3Ltsqx8

Just to reassure everyone, there is a fab map!

Meet the author

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

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

Introduction to Jason by Mark Knowles

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

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

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

Preorder Jason here.

https://amzn.to/3PvpuTV

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Lindsey S Fera to the blog with her new book, Muskets and Minuets

Today, I’m pleased to share an excerpt from Lindsey S Fera’s latest book, Muskets and Minuets.

Excerpt

They danced the reel, and Abigail with George. For the second, Annalisa paired with Quinnapin, and for the third, Ezra Kimball. 

When the cotillion ended, Annalisa scanned the set for Jack. 

He stood across from Jane.

Forlorn, she turned away. Perhaps she would not dance with him after all. Jane, at seventeen, had been formally educated in Salem, been out for the past two years, and was now ripe for courting. It was no surprise Jack favored her. 

And thank God it isn’t Oliver. 

But Annalisa could hardly shake the bitter sting of disappointment, and an opportunity lost. 

She slipped away from the set of dancers and wandered toward the common’s edge. Near a large boulder—the Common Rock, as it was known in town—Annalisa sprawled upon the cool, damp grass and lifted her face to the sky. The heavens glittered with a million tiny stars, and the yellow glow of lightning bugs hovered over the field in a thousand flickering lights. The brisk evening air, full of dew and lilac, set her with peaceful ease. 

Annalisa reached into her pocket and removed Jack’s linen handkerchief. Holding it to her nose, she sniffed his amber perfume and closed her eyes. She imagined his hands upon her as they twirled beneath the night sky. 

“Miss Annalisa, there you are.” Jack’s voice interrupted her fantasy. 

Startled, she peered up at him. 

“They’ve done the last dance already. I apologize. I’m afraid we’ll have to dance next year.” 

Flowers of Edinburgh played one final time in the distance. Amidst the fireflies and sparkling skies, all she noticed were his eyes, glassy from too much ale. She replaced the handkerchief into her pocket. 

“Sir, that is foul news indeed.” She sat up. “I’ve never seen so many lightning bugs.” 

Jack peered about. “I’ve not seen anything like it myself. Topsfield is agreeable.” 

“’Tis home.” She sighed, ready to lift from the ground. “I suppose I should find my parents.” 

Jack assumed a recumbent position beside her on the grass. “Just a moment more—to atone for missing our dance.” He held his hat to his chest and looked into her eyes. “Nights like these are rare.” 

“You’re right, Mr. Perkins.” 

“Call me Jack.” He paused and licked his bottom lip. “Annalisa.”

The impropriety of hearing him utter only her Christian name stole her breath. Giddy, she lay back, and together they watched the stars. 

“Adams keeps me too busy. I rarely have the chance to star-gaze in Boston.”

“George and I used to lie out in the western field for hours, watching for shooting stars. Quinn tells us to beware the Puk-wudjies in the woods late at night. I hardly believe in ghost stories, but I’m curious of his tales.” 

“Good old Quinn. Wampanoag lore is fascinating, though. After he told me about Puk-wudjies I thought I saw one in Cambridge. Turns out it had been the ale I’d been drinking!” Jack laughed. “I wish I had someone like George growing up. Your brother loves you very much. He spoke of you countless times when he stayed with us.” He paused. “I felt as though I already knew you before we met.” 

“I felt the same about you. George wrote of you in nearly every one of his letters.” She ground her teeth, hating herself for having harbored ill feelings toward him. “You must be a good man if he had only good things to say.” 

From the corner of her eye, she caught him staring. She turned and smiled.

“I’ve never known a lady so willing to lie in the grass like this.”

“I’m no ordinary lady.” 

Jack’s cheeks dimpled. “I can see that.” 

This is most inconvenientEvery girl in town holds a dalliance for Jack, including Jane

She bit her lip, wishing she weren’t on that long list herself, especially when her own sister fancied him.  

“Annalisa.” Jane’s voice struck like lightning. “Papa and Mamma are waiting.” 

Jack sprung up and held out his hand to her. Annalisa grasped it and scrambled to her feet. 

“Mr. Perkins.” Jane gave a brief curtsy. 

Jack offered her his arm. “Miss Howlett, ’tis always a pleasure.” 

Annalisa trailed behind them until they met with George, his eyes glassy and frown upturned. He dashed to her side and wrapped an arm over her. 

“’Tis getting cool, Little One.” George’s breath smelled of stale cider. 

She eased against him and relaxed her shoulders. “Tomorrow, let me show you how well I’ve been shooting. You owe me a lesson with Bixby.” 

Her brother guffawed and stumbled as they walked. “I like the sound of that.” 

In front of her, Jane held Jack’s arm. They beamed at one another, impervious to Annalisa and George behind them. 

Annalisa squeezed George’s hand. “I’ve still much to learn.”

And much to forget. 

She pulled Jack’s handkerchief from her pocket, crumpled it into a ball, and dropped it onto the common.  

Here’s the blurb:

Love. Politics. War.

Amidst mounting tensions between the British crown and the American colonists of Boston, Annalisa Howlett struggles with her identity and purpose as a woman. Rather than concern herself with proper womanly duties, like learning to dance a minuet or chasing after the eligible and charming Jack Perkins, Annalisa prefers the company of her brother, George, and her beloved musket, Bixby. She intends to join the rebellion, but as complications in her personal life intensify, and the colonies inch closer to war with England, everything Annalisa thought about her world and womanhood are transformed forever.

Join Annalisa on her journey to discover what it truly means to be a woman in the 18th century, all set against the backdrop of some of the most pivotal moments in American history.

Trigger Warnings:

Violence and battle scenes, sexual assault, mild sexual content, and profanity. 

Buy Links:

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the author 

A born and bred New Englander, Lindsey hails from the North Shore of Boston. A member of the Topsfield Historical Society and the Historical Novel Society, she forged her love for writing with her intrigue for colonial America by writing her debut novel, Muskets and Minuets. When she’s not attending historical reenactments or spouting off facts about Boston, she’s nursing patients back to health in the ICU.

Connect with Lindsey

WebsiteTwitterFacebook

InstagramAmazon Author PageGoodreads

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Muskets and Minuets blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Today, I’m delighted to be spotlighting Lord of Worth by Philippa Jane Keyworth #blogtour #competition

Here’s the blurb:

London 1776: Lord Worth is busying himself restoring his family fortunes and burying any feelings he still harbours for the woman who rejected his proposal.

The fact that the lady in question—Lady Rebecca Fairing—happens to be his sister’s best friend, his niece’s godmother, and present at every Societal gathering of consequence is… unfortunate. 

Meanwhile Rebecca fears she made the wrong decision in rejecting James Worth, but when he assures her he won’t be renewing his proposal, she is forced to accept her choice. It doesn’t take long for the eligible Lord Worth to attract other suitors, among them Lady Sophia, daughter to Society’s most notorious gossip, Lady Goring.

Rebecca knows she must step aside and allow James to find happiness, but when she senses all is not as it seems in the Goring family, she can’t help but intervene.

As James and Rebecca work together to unearth Societal secrets, deal with scheming matriarchs, and face villainous highwaymen, they find themselves more in each other’s company than ever before. 

Will they continue to bury their feelings for one another, or will they finally realise what it means to love?

About the Ladies of Worth series

The Ladies of Worth series is a historical romance series of novels set in 18th century. From the gaming hells of London to Bath’s fashionable Pump Room, the Ladies of Worth series opens up a world of romance, wit and scandal to its readers. With formidable heroines and honourable heroes who match each other wit for wit you’ll find yourself falling in love with the Ladies of Worth.

Purchase Links 

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lord-Worth-Ladies-Book-ebook/dp/B09WXNRNC4/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Lord-Worth-Ladies-Book-ebook/dp/B09WXNRNC4/

Meet the author

Philippa Jane Keyworth, also known as P. J. Keyworth, writes historical romance and fantasy novels you’ll want to escape into.

She loves strong heroines, challenging heroes and backdrops that read like you’re watching a movie. She creates complex, believable characters you want to get to know and worlds that are as dramatic as they are beautiful.

Keyworth’s historical romance novels include Regency and Georgian romances that trace the steps of indomitable heroes and heroines through historic British streets. From London’s glittering ballrooms to its dark gaming hells, characters experience the hopes and joys of love while avoiding a coil or too! Travel with them through London, Bath, Cornwall and beyond and you’ll find yourself falling in love.

Keyworth’s fantasy series The She Trilogy unveils a world of nomadic warrior tribes and peaceful forest-dwelling folk. Explore the hills, deserts and cities of Emrilion and the history that is woven through them. With so many different races in the same kingdom it’s become a melting pot of drama and intrigue where the ultimate struggle between good and evil will bring it all to the brink of destruction.

Connect with the author

https://www.instagram.com/pjkeyworth/

https://twitter.com/pjkeyworth

https://www.facebook.com/PhilippaJaneKeyworthBooks

Giveaway to Win a signed copy of Lord of Worth (Open to UK Only)

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

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494498/?

Follow the Lord of Worth by Philippa Jane Keyworth blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

Today, I’m excited to be taking part in the cover reveal for Mark Knowles’ Jason, book 2 in the Blades of Bronze series

Introduction to Jason by Mark Knowles

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

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

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

Jason can be preordered using this link https://amzn.to/3PvpuTV

Mark Knowles

Check back on Friday for my review of Argo and Jason:)

Today, I’m delighted to welcome N L Holmes to the blog with her book, Bird in a Snare, the first book in The Lord Hani Mysteries

Today, I’m delighted to welcome N L Holmes to the blog. She’s going to share with us all the inspiration behind her Egyptian mystery books.

In a way, my Egyptian stories started the same way yours did, M.J. As a kid, I used to love all those fifties sword-and-sandal movies like The Egyptian and Land of the Pharaohs. That awakened my fascination with archaeology and perhaps with what ancient societies looked like. I remember raising pennies to help raise the temple at Abu Simbel when Lake Nassar was being built. During the decades that followed, I got sidetracked from my first love, but in my fortieth year, I went back to school and got my PhD in archaeology after all. Not specifically Egyptian, but Classical and Near Eastern, which situated me in the Eastern Mediterranean. And that meant people who interacted with the Egyptians. The interest was still simmering! 

Land of the Pharaohs

We’re getting closer now to the actual inspiration for Lord Hani. Over the following twenty-five years, I taught a wide variety of classes on ancient culture and history, including one on Ancient Egypt and one called Ancient Near Eastern Empires, which included Egypt and the Hittites. My family had been bookish, so the idea of starting to write fiction when I retired from teaching was a natural one. And the first inspiration I had for a story came from that Ancient Empires class. As an exercise, I had assigned my students to read the few brief historical documents referring to a certain royal divorce in the Syrian city of Ugarit, a vassal of the Hittites. “Now,” I told them, “describe what we really know about the event.” It became pretty clear that there wasn’t much you could say without drifting off into speculation.  I said to myself, There’s a novel in there! So when I retired, I began to write The Queen’s Dog and expanded it into the Empire at Twilight series, set in the last few generations of the Hittite Empire.

From my teaching experience, though, I knew there were only about five people in the world who got excited by the Hittites, whereas loads of people were Egyptophiles. I loved Egypt too, after all. And we had a wonderful resource in the Amarna Letters. This is a partial archive of diplomatic correspondence from the reign of Akhenaten, the “heretic pharaoh”, that tells us nearly everything we know about Egypt’s relationship with its vassals and peers in the fourteenth century BCE. Here was a ready-made cast of characters and loads of plot points grounded in reality. Hani son of Mery-ra appeared frequently in the Letters, and his every mission was ready to become an adventure. I took Hani as my protagonist and developed his character into the sort of man I thought might be a trusted royal emissary under several kings. Then I selected a number of events and personages and wove them together. The process was “This, this, and this happened. Now explain it. Give the actors motives and relationships.”

Amarna letters

I’m not a writer who plots in advance, so I can’t say that had any particular story in mind before I started. The process was one of tying diverse threads in so that nothing was left dangling at the end. In addition to Hani’s particular adventures, I wanted to capture a sense of the social and political upheaval Akhenaten inflicted on his kingdom with his “reforms.” Thus, I made Hani’s family involved with the worship of Amen-Ra—people whose personal lives took a direct hit from the revolution of values. Hani’s crisis of conscience is an ongoing thread through the six books of the series.  But in addition to the political intrigue and the personal or familial arc, there is also a murder mystery in each book. In the case of Bird in a Snare and The North Wind Descends, the murder is a real historical fact; the others are fictional. After my experience with the Hittite series, I thought a solid, definable genre series might be easier for readers to digest. People seemed not to know exactly what to do with a genre-less, perhaps literary book set in the remote past, just because there weren’t any. Historical mysteries are familiar and popular. And that is how Lord Hani came to be!

Amen temple

Thank you so much for sharing the inspiration behind your series of books. They sound fascinating. Good luck with them.

Here’s the blurb:

When Hani, an Egyptian diplomat under Akhenaten, is sent to investigate the murder of a useful bandit leader in Syria, he encounters corruption, tangled relationships, and yet more murder. His investigation is complicated by the new king’s religious reforms, which have struck Hani’s own family to the core. Hani’s mission is to amass enough evidence for his superiors to prosecute the wrongdoers despite the king’s protection—but not just every superior can be trusted. And maybe not even the king! Winner of the 2020 Geoffrey Chaucer Award for historical fiction before 1750.

Trigger Warnings:
Sexual abuse of children

Buy Links:

Amazon UKAmazon US: Amazon CAAmazon AU

Barnes and Noble:  KoboiBooksAudio

Universal Links for series:

Bird in a Snare (Book 1)

The Crocodile Makes No Sound (Book 2)

Scepter of Flint (Book 3)

The North Wind Descends (Book 4)

Lake of Flowers (Book 5)

Meet the author

N.L. Holmes is the pen name of a professional archaeologist who received her doctorate from Bryn Mawr College. She has excavated in Greece and in Israel and taught ancient history and humanities at the university level for many years. She has always had a passion for books, and in childhood, she and her cousin (also a writer today) used to write stories for fun.

Connect with N L Holmes

WebsiteTwitter:  FacebookLinkedInInstagram

PinterestBookBubAmazon Author PageGoodreads

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Bird in a Snare blog tour with The Coffee Pot book Club

Happy release day to Gordon Doherty and his new book, The Dark Earth in the Empires of Bronze series

Today sees the release of Gordon Doherty’s brand new book, The Dark Earth in the Empires of Bronze series. I am currently reading this and loving it.

Here’s the blurb:

The time will come, as all times must, when the world will shake, and fall to dust…

1237 BC: It is an age of panic. The great empires are in disarray – ravaged by endless drought, shaken by ferocious earthquakes and starved of precious tin. Some say the Gods have abandoned mankind.
When Tudha ascends the Hittite throne, the burden of stabilising the realm falls upon his shoulders. Despite his valiant endeavours, things continue to disintegrate; allies become foes, lethal plots arise, and enemy battle horns echo across Hittite lands.

Yet this is nothing compared to the colossal, insidious shadow emerging from the west. Crawling unseen towards Tudha’s collapsing Hittite world comes a force unlike any ever witnessed; an immeasurable swarm of outlanders, driven by the cruel whip of nature, spreading fire and destruction: the Sea Peoples.

Every age must end. The measure of a man is how he chooses to face it.

The Dark Earth is released today, 26th May 2022, and is available from here.

Meet the author

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

Follow Gordon

Twitter: @GordonDoherty

Instagram: @gordon.doherty

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

Today, I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Nancy Jardine’s new book, Before Beltane #BlogTour

Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from Nancy Jardine’s fabulous new book, Before Beltane. Enjoy.

Before Beltane

Nara-Summoned to Swatrega

Nara pulled back the heavy leather cover that kept draughts from entering the roundhouse and ducked under it.

The first thing she noticed was the pall of aromatic smoke that lingered and danced high up in the roofbeams, and the heavy burning smell that permeated the dwelling. Swatrega and the priestess diviner had been casting prophecies.

At the far end of the large room, Swatrega sat alone in silence. The eyes of the High Priestess were closed, though Nara guessed the woman was not asleep. She stood awaiting the invitation to go further into the room. It came eventually, by which time Nara was feeling extremely unsettled, wondering what she could have done to merit the censure she now feared was coming to her.

“Come and sit by me, Princess Nara of Tarras.”

Swatrega’s tone was not angry. This disturbed Nara even more. The use of the term ‘princess’ was yet another reminder of her tribal status, and not a good sign at all.

Nara made her way to the end of the fireside, to a low-burning fire that gave out just enough heat to warm the priestess, who sat on the stool that had specially carved sides and was created for the one who led the order. Swatrega was enwrapped in a thick blanket of close-woven wool of a mud-brown colour, the material similar to the acolyte cloaks.

Only after Nara was settled on the short wooden bench beside her did Swatrega begin to speak again.

“You have been here for many seasons and, for my part, you have always given the impression that you would eventually rise to become one of our best priestesses.” Swatrega broke off, a gruff laugh coming unexpectedly.

Nara was dazed by the words, a sudden thrill overtaking her natural caution. Was she now to be given her final priestess rites? The elation she was feeling she quickly suppressed from sight – it was not a worthy trait under the eyes of the goddess.

She also knew it was not her place to answer…though it was her place to listen,

Swatrega broke eye contact, her focus on the doorway at the far end of the room. “In time, I had even envisaged that you might take my place, here at this priestess home.”

Once more Nara had to wait, confusion now reigning. The word ‘had’ that Swatrega used did not seem to indicate that she would remain at the nemeton. Did that mean she would leave and go to another priestess settlement? Nara’s head whirled. For some reason, conversations about other priestess villages had been rare, although a visiting priestess was not a completely unheard-of occurrence.

Talk with the High Priestess about her future had never transpired before. Many times Nara had wanted to ask why her final vows of the priestesshood had been delayed, and further delayed, yet it was never a conversation that she could start. When the goddess willed it, it would happen. She felt her eyes glisten as she focused on the hearth stones.

Was it about to happen now?

Nara listened to the huge sigh that came before Swatrega’s attention returned to her.

“Know now, Princess Nara of Tarras, that time will never ever come. You will never be a High Priestess at any sacred place. The goddess has spoken. She has prophesied a new pathway for you.”

“A new pathway?” Nara could not control the wobble in her voice that bordered on a squeal, and could only repeat Swatrega’s words. “What does that mean? I do not understand.”

“The goddess has newly spoken today. You must leave the Islet of the Priestesses. You have only a few things to claim as your own. You will collect them and leave now.”

“Leave? What have I done?” Nara was horrified. Dread cold replaced the heated excitement that she had been trying to suppress. “Why does the goddess not favour me? Why does she send me away?”

“Your future is freshly foretold, Nara of Tarras. You are no longer an acolyte of the priestesshood. You must take your place once again at your father’s side in his stronghold…as a woman of the people.”

Nara fell to her knees beside the High Priestess and grasped Swatrega’s thin and bony fingers, tears stinging and dripping from her chin. “I still do not understand your words. My father has never had any need of me at Tarras. He hates the very sight of me. Why must I return there?” Relentless tears continued to stream down Nara’s cheeks. “I have been a priestess in all except name for many seasons now, bar the final rites. Why cannot I continue? Even as I am now, still uninitiated?”

Soft pats at her cheeks only barely registered.

Swatrega’s tones softened, though the High Priestess did not properly claim her gaze. “The goddess Dôn has spoken – and as her servants – we must obey, Princess Nara. Your path is no longer as a priestess.”

Nara was distraught.

“But how can I now be a princess of the tribe at my father’s side? What shall I do?”

“The goddess Dôn has foretold that you will be the mother of a son who will become one of the greatest leaders the northern territories has ever known. In this time of great threat from the legions of the Roman Empire, the tribes of the north will desperately need strong men and women to defend our way of life.”

Nara could only gape, open mouthed. What Swatrega was saying was incomprehensible.

“Our forthcoming Beltane Festival will be a crucial time for you along your prophesied journey. Before then you must find a worthy warrior to sire your son. It cannot be just any man, but will be the one whose destiny is linked to yours. Pray to the goddess Dôn because she will always guide you.”

“A mother?” Nara was dumbfounded.

Swatrega’s expression lost its momentary softness. “You must leave immediately and prepare for your new future.”

Here’s the blurb:

Two lives. Two stories. One future.

AD 71 Northern Britannia

At the Islet of the Priestesses, acolyte Nara greets each new day eager to heal the people at Tarras Hillfort. Weapon training is a guilty pleasure, but she is devastated when she is unexpectedly denied the final rites of an initiated priestess. A shocking new future beckons for Princess Nara of the Selgovae…

In the aftermath of civil war across Brigantia, Lorcan of Garrigill’s promotion of King Venutius is fraught with danger. Potential invasion by Roman legions from the south makes an unstable situation even worse. When Lorcan meets the Druid Maran, the future foretold for him is as enthralling as it is horrifying…

Meet Nara and Lorcan before their tumultuous meeting of each other in The Beltane Choice, Book 1 of the acclaimed Celtic Fervour Series.

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Meet the Author

Nancy Jardine lives in the spectacular ‘Castle Country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Her main writing focus has, to date, been historical and time travel fiction set in Roman Britain, though she’s also published contemporary mystery novels with genealogy plots. If not writing, researching (an unending obsession), reading or gardening, her young grandchildren will probably be entertaining her, or she’ll be binge-watching historical films and series made for TV. 

She loves signing/ selling her novels at local events and gives author presentations locally across Aberdeenshire. These are generally about her novels or with a focus on Ancient Roman Scotland, presented to groups large and small. Zoom sessions have been an entertaining alternative to presenting face-to-face events during, and since, the Covid 19 pandemic restrictions.

Current memberships are with the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland, Romantic Novelists Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She’s self-published with the author co-operative Ocelot Press.

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Today, I’m delighted to host a fascinating guest post from Brodie Curtis about his new book, Angels and Bandits #BlogTour

Today, I’m delighted to share a fab post from Brodie Curtis about the inspiration behind his new book, Angels and Bandits.

ANGELS and BANDITS is my second historical novel, set around The Battle of Britain. What inspired ANGELS and BANDITS? Well, I can say the book is a follow-on to THE FOUR BELLS, my debut novel which portrays events during the Great War. Protagonist Eddy Beane is the answer to a loose thread from my first book, and we follow Eddy’s story all the way to those heady days when Britain stood alone in 1940.

But my inspiration for ANGELS and BANDITS goes beyond a sequel and is rooted in deep respect and admiration for the Royal Air Force’s defence of unrelenting German Luftwaffe bombing attacks in August and September of 1940. For those of us who have never experienced war in our day to day lives, and hopefully never will, just imagine London in late summer 1940. Sirens wailed, ack-ack guns boomed and in between Londoners heard the droning engines of bombers somewhere high overhead. Explosions, death and destruction became part of daily life. 

Contemporary images of mostly boyish countenances of RAF fighter pilots present the young men, who were inexperienced in life but tasked with the weighty life-saving responsibility of protecting civilians. It was up to them to confront and repel the German Luftwaffe and all of its daunting scale, efficiency and weaponry. It is the story of those young men and how they dug deep within themselves to accomplish the task that inspired me. 

For me, I was stirred beyond words reading Churchill’s war-time speeches and famous line: “Never, in the field of human conflict, was so much owed by so many to so few.” Walking by The Battle of Britain sculpture on Victoria Embankment in London, opposite the London Eye, was terrifically inspiring. 

Battle of Britain Monument

Watching YouTube clips of the Spitfire in action took my breath away. And I must admit that watching scenes from Michael Caine’s movie  The Battle of Britain, for the umpteenth time, still gives me chills. 

So who were “The Few”? That question, I suppose, is at the heart of ANGELS and BANDITS. My impression from a deep research dive is that “The Few” were men of many backgrounds. Some educated, some not; some wealthy, some far from it; Englishmen and Canadians and Aussies, Poles and Czechs, and many more. All united by the masterful leadership of Air Marshals Hugh Dowding and Keith Park, and others. 

How did “The Few” do it? The answer, in part, is that many of them flew the magnificent Spitfire, Britain’s elegant yet powerful fighter plane. 

Sptifire

The more I learn about Spits, the more I love them, and can’t wait for the day I look into the cockpit of one. My admiration for Spitfires surely comes through in many scenes in ANGELS and BANDITS.

I would draw a contrast with the inspiration for my debut novel, THE FOUR BELLS. That book was set in motion years ago, in a homey lounge, when I heard a gorgeously mournful acoustic version of John McCutcheon’s song about the transcendent Christmas Truce of 1914. It inspired me to research reports on the truce in contemporaneous writings and non-fiction, and to walk the fields of Flanders. Its funny how your characters take you along on their own journey. In the end, The Christmas Truce became just one important scene in THE FOUR BELLS.

Thank you so much for sharing your inspiration and good luck with the new book.

Here’s the blurb:

The Battle of Britain rages and two young RAF pilots from very different stations in life must somehow find common ground—and stay alive. 

On the eve of World War II, working-class Eddy Beane is a flight instructor in London. He successfully completes dangerous espionage missions for Air Commodore Keith Park and takes on society-girl June Stephenson as a student. Her ex-fiancé, Dudley Thane, is also a flyer, but upper-class and Cambridge-educated. When the German Luftwaffe attacks England in 1940, Eddy and Dudley end up serving in the same Spitfire squadron. Aerial combat is intense, and both men show their skills and courage, but can they set aside jealousy and class differences to become fighting brothers for the defence of Britain? 

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Meet the author

Raised in the Midwest, Brodie Curtis was educated as a lawyer and left the corporate world to embrace life in Colorado with his wife and two sons. 

Curtis is the author of THE FOUR BELLS, a novel of The Great War, which is the product of extensive historical research, including long walks through the fields of Flanders, where much of the book’s action is set. His second novel, ANGELS AND BANDITS, takes his protagonists into The Battle of Britain. Curtis is currently working on a novel set on a Mississippi Riverboat prior to the Civil War.

A lover of history, particularly American history and the World Wars, Curtis reviews historical fiction for the Historical Novels Review and more than 100 of his published reviews and short takes on historical novels can be found on his website

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Today I’m really delighted to feature a guest post from Alistair Tosh about his new Roman era novel, Siege.

Maintaining order in Roman Britannia’s vast militarised zone

The original vision for my ‘Edge of Empire’ series of novels was to write stories that focussed on the lives and adventures of two protagonists from a single Roman auxiliary infantry unit. It was to be set in the north of the province of Britannia and in the wilder, unconquered lands beyond its boundaries. But as I buried myself in the research phase I was continually surprised by what I discovered. Ultimately I gained a greater understanding of the Roman way of doing things and quite fundamentally changed the approach to my stories.

For much of its first 300 years of use Hadrian’s Wall marked the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. In movies such as The Eagle or Centurion we see Roman foot soldiers astride its battlements looking north, spear and shield in hand. But the Wall was not the-be-all-and-end-all of the north’s defence. What is less understood, at least to me, is that the Wall was really a focal point for a much larger militarised zone that stretched from Lancaster in the south to forts like Blatobulgium and Trimontium well into what is now modern day southern Scotland (I’m ignoring the period of the Antonine wall for simplicity).

It seems evident that the lands both north and south of Hadrian’s Wall were at times restive, if not in down right conflict, with the Roman administration. Whilst auxiliary infantry troops had an important role in keeping the peace, their deployment became increasingly localised in nature, especially in the later centuries of the empire. It was the mounted troops that had the pivotal role in commanding the north.

When researching for my historical adventure novel ‘Siege’, that focuses on the lives of the men of a Germanic cohort, a real life regiment with a mixture of infantry and cavalry. I was surprised by the amount of detail we now have on the everyday life of a Roman cavalryman. In the story I have worked hard to be faithful to that knowledge and attempted to bring it to life for the present day reader.

Most forts in the militarised zone included a cavalry force within their garrisons.

It has been calculated that sustaining a cavalryman with his kit and horse cost 5 times that of an infantryman. Why would the Romans invest so much if they were not an important and  valuable asset? The answer surely must, at least in part, lie in both its symbolic and strategic roles.

Cavalry could move at a rapid pace and cover great distances quickly. They were highly mobile, making them effective on patrols and as scouts both north and south of the Wall. They made speedy messengers, giving warning of sudden threats and incursions. They also ensured food security, protecting local farmland and guarding supply trains to the Wall’s outlying forts. But, probably as importantly, they projected the image of power and renown of Rome and its imperial might. If you have ever seen the Household Cavalry in London or mounted police outside of a football (soccer) stadium you will get an idea of what a Roman turma must have looked like to an Iron Age population.

Outlying forts, north of the Wall, such as at Birrens and Netherby housed specialist, double strength, mixed infantry and cavalry cohorts (milliaria equitata) as well as specialist scouts (exploratores) enabling them to command a significant geographic area and suppress any uprising of local tribes. The effect on the populace must have been as much psychological as physical.

But who were these cavalrymen? Well they certainly weren’t drawn from the Roman aristocracy as they often were in the time of the Republic. No, the names of their units give a clear indication that the Romans recruited from all over the empire from the homelands of its conquered peoples. Germanic and celtic Gaulish units were prevalent, such as the I Nervana Germanorum and the cohors II Tungrorum that garrisoned the fort of Birrens at different times. But regiments from as far away as Spain and modern day Bulgaria and Croatia have also been identified. But as the needs of the empire changed over time individual units would mainly have recruited from the local populations. With sons moving into the family business by joining the cohorts of their fathers and grandfathers.

So what was life like for the cavalryman? Well each troop, known as a turma (typically 30 men), were housed in a single barrack block. Trios of men lived at the back of the building with their horses stabled at the front. There were surely few nights that troopers fell asleep without the sound of the snorts of their mounts accompanied by the smell of hay and dung. Each room had a hearth set against the stable-side wall for warmth and cooking. The decurion, who commanded the turma, lived in rooms at the end of the block along with his family.Troopers ate, slept and kept their weapons and tack in these small rooms. It is also thought that grooms and slaves may have slept in the roof space above.

Training for cavalrymen and their mounts was extensive and intense. If you have seen horses being drilled for modern day dressage you will get the idea, with each trained initially on a long rein to teach the horse basic skills as well as special steps. It is likely that horses were broken and prepared by specialists before being assigned to its rider. They learned to overcome their instinct to flee when startled and to cope in the noise and fervour of combat. The early instruction of the cavalryman would have focussed on the basic skills of controlling and riding the horse whilst holding a sword or spear in the right hand and the shield and rein in the left. From there they would have progressed to training to fight as a turma, with unit drills enabling large numbers of men to manoeuvre in battle. 

The average cavalryman was well armed and armoured. He typically wore chainmail armour that allows greater movement whilst on horseback. Their weapons consisted of the long cavalry sword often referred to as the spatha. They also had a fighting lance and two shorter throwing javelins. Their shields were a variety of shapes including square and oval, but were usually flat with a steel rim and a rounded metal boss to enable it to be used as a weapon.

It is not hard to imagine the damage the charge of even a small unit of auxiliary cavalry could inflict on the largely unprotected bodies of the tribal warriors of the north of Britain. 

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Meet Alistair

Alistair lived in the Dumfriesshire countryside for most of his childhood. A region of Scotland filled with ancient place names such as Torthorwald and Caerlaverock. But it was his history teacher’s telling of the tale of Burnswark and the Roman siege of the Iron Age hillfort that fired his love of Roman and Dark Ages history. From there the kernel of the stories for the Edge of Empire series took root.

On leaving school he began a 35-year communications career, firstly with the Royal Navy, that included covert riverine and seaborne operations during the height of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, before moving into the corporate world. Military life is unique, and Alistair aims to reflect an authentic view of that experience and its language in his stories.  When not writing or spending time with family, Alistair, his wife Jenny and Hurley the cockerpoo love to walk in the hills of both the UK and Andalucia.

  

Thank you for such a fabulous guest post. Good luck with the new book.