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. 

Buy Links:

 www.amazon.com/dp/B09SLWHP8T

 www.amazon.co.UK/dp/B09SLWHP8T

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.

Today, I’m delighted to share a guest post from Edward Londergan about his new book, Unlike Any Other #blogtour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

Today, I’m welcoming Edward Londergan and his new novel, Unlike Any Other to the blog. Edward has written a fascinating post about the locations used in his novel, and how he researched them.

One of the most important aspects of research I undertook to write the book is identifying and understanding the physical locations where the story took place. One of the most important aspects of any historical fiction story is the location. Luckily for me, the three places where most of the story takes place are relatively close to my home. Knowing each of the locations well helps me make the reader be there and see it in their mind’s eye. It helps me craft the story better to make it more lifelike. I want the reader to be there. I firmly believe that if the writer can’t see it neither can the reader. 

The three main locations are all in Central Massachusetts—the small town of Hardwick, the City of Worcester, and the town of Brookfield. One of the great helps to me was the maps of Revolutionary War era Brookfield drawn by a local historian and cartographer. He put together a series of maps of Brookfield during Bathsheba’s time living there. He did quite a bit of research for the maps and I was lucky enough to learn of them from a mutual acquaintance. Unfortunately, he passed away before I began writing the book, so I could not ask the dozen questions I had for him. 

He took great care to get the location of each building of each farm, of the taverns and cemetery. Using his maps and my wonderful and sometimes intimidating imagination, I visualized the village and could walk through it from end to end as if I lived in that moment. 

Bathsheba grew up on her father’s estate in Hardwick. He was a wealthy man and owned large tracts of land. A large house sat on the top of a hill that could be seen for miles in every direction. To proclaim his undying allegiance to the British crown, he had a large boulder dragged to the middle of this field. A large hole two feet deep was drilled in it. A tall tree trunk was used as a flagpole from which flew a large Union Jack. Having such a flag on such a tall pole on top of a high hill rubbed many people in pre-Revolutionary War Massachusetts the wrong way. To be able to go to the estate site and gaze across the open fields, see the long stone walls he had built, stand on that boulder and look in the hole, and visualize the flag curling in the breeze made it all come alive for me. 

In Brookfield, I could drive and walk the roads where all the buildings once stood that Bathsheba would have known and perhaps visited. The roads of today follow, for the most part, the roads of that time. To go to the location of Bathsheba’s house, which is long since gone having been abandoned and falling down many years ago, and stand where the front steps remain, blocks of granite, a short distance from the well where her husband’s body was put after he was murdered. To walk up the dirt road and know that she once rode her horse on it, walked it as I did, or drove in their carriage along it makes it all real. The church they attended still stands. The town common is the same shape as it was then. Some of the houses surrounding it existed when Bathsheba lived there. She would have walked by these same places. 

In my stories, I want to put the reader there. If they realize they’re reading, I’ve failed as a writer. I want my readers to get lost in the story so that the pages seemingly turn themselves. I want the reader to be at the tavern, sit before at a table near the fire on a cold winter day, and see the mug of rum before them. 

Having grown up in Worcester, I’m familiar with the city. Knowing the locations of the jail, courthouse, meeting house, Bathsheba’s sister’s estate, and the burying ground all helped me imagine what it was like during those events. Interestingly, Bathsheba and her unborn child, killed when she was executed, were buried on her sister’s estate, which in 1905 was gifted to the City of Worcester and is now Green Hill Park. She and her baby lie somewhere within the park in an unmarked grave. 

Thank you so much for sharing your research with me. It sounds amazing. I do love a good map. Good luck with your new book.

Here’s the blurb:

The Story of An 18th Century Woman from A Prominent New England Family Who Went from A Life of Privilege to The Gallows

Bathsheba Spooner was the daughter of Timothy Ruggles, a general in the French and Indian War, president of the Stamp Act Congress, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and a leading loyalist in Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War; the epitome of upper class.

Like her father, Bathsheba was smart, strong-willed, and a staunch British loyalist. Forced to marry a man she did not love, Bathsheba withstood her husband’s abuse for years until a young Continental soldier entered her life. But when this well-heeled mother of three small children discovered she was pregnant with the soldier’s child, her thoughts quickly turned to murder.

Based on a true story, the events that follow Bathsheba’s life, her decisions, and her ultimate demise will show readers that Bathsheba Spooner was, in fact, Unlike Any Other . . .

Buy Links:

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Barnes and NobleWaterstonesKobo

Hudson BooksellersIndieboundBooks-A-Million

Meet the Author

Ed Londergan is the author of the award-winning books The Devils’ Elbow and The Long Journey Home. Having researched American history for many years, he is a frequent speaker with a focus on colonial Massachusetts. A graduate of Holy Cross, he lives in Warren, Massachusetts. 

Connect with the author

WebsiteTwitterFacebookLinkedIn

InstagramAmazon Author PageGoodreads

Follow the Unlike Any Other blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m delighted to host The Colour of Rubies by Toni Mount and share an extract from the new historical mystery

Extract

The Palace of Westminster


The Great Gate was impressive, its ancient stone ivy-clad, its turrets snow-capped and the Royal Standard flapping above in the fitful flurries of icy flakes. The guards in their bright liveries stamped their boots and blew on their hands, puffing out white clouds with every breath. Keeping watch in January was a duty none enjoyed. They recognised Jude and waved him through, ignoring Seb as a person of little consequence, unlikely to endanger King Edward in any way.

The Inner Gate into Green Yard was far less imposing but the solitary guard there demanded to know their business. Mayhap, he was in need of some activity or company to pass the time.

‘Who goes there?’ he demanded, barring the way with his halberd.

‘Walter, you bloody nincompoop, it’s me,’ Jude said. ‘You know me better than your own father – if you ever knew him at all.’

‘Bloody Foxley,’ the guard growled. ‘What brings you back on a Saturday afternoon? And who’s this?’ He nodded at Seb.

‘My brother. He’s a scribe like me and we’ve got work to do for Secretary Oliver – not that it’s any business of yours.’

‘Mind your mouth, Foxley. I can throw you in the lock-up anytime I like and you’ll freeze to death in there afore you can say your Paternoster. And why’s your brother here? He ain’t a King’s Clerk and if he’s half the bloody trouble you are, he’s not welcome.’

‘He has permission; a written warrant.’ Jude took a paper from his purse and offered it to the guard, fully aware that Walter was illiterate as a blind sheep. ‘You want to read it?’

The guard shook his head.

‘Just keep out of my sight, the pair of you. Any trouble and you’ll have my halberd shoved up your arse with a ribbon on it.’

Jude was sniggering as he led Seb to side door.

‘You upset him. Why did you taunt him so, not to mention the lies you told?’ Seb
asked, knocking a dark mess of slush and ashes off his boots against the stone step.

Jude didn’t bother, treading mucky footsteps along the passage within.

‘Forwhy Walter’s an ignorant pig. He knows I have the measure of him, the damned jackanapes, and lying is just the Westminster way – nobody tells the truth here. Besides, this clerkship job would be unutterably tedious if I didn’t have folk like him and Piers Creed to make mock of. Did I tell you about Creed the Farter?’

‘Aye, you did, more than once.’

‘This here is Secretary Oliver’s joyous house of entertainment,’ Jude announced, stopping at a closed door. ‘Scene of my life-wasting scribbling and associated tortures. Coldest place on earth, if I know anything, where we sit and feel our bollocks shrivel and fall off, if we’re not careful. You want to see inside, if it’s not locked? Creed is probably still working like an idiot.’

Jude tried the door, lifted the latch. It squealed open and, sure enough, there was Piers Creed, as Jude had half expected, bent over his desk, pen in hand. Despite the noise, the clerk didn’t look up.

‘Jesu’s sake, Piers, you farting, foolish fucker, can’t you think of anything better to do on our free afternoon? Go play bloody snowballs or something. Hey! Don’t ignore me. How can you sleep in here? It’s too damned cold.’

Jude kicked the clerk’s stool to rouse him from his nap. But Piers did not waken. He slid across his desk and toppled off the stool, the pen yet held fast in his fingers.

‘Wake up, you idiot.’

Jude grabbed his fellow before he should fall to the floor and hurt himself. He shook him but it did no good.

Seb lowered himself to the flagstones with care. He removed his gloves and touched the clerk’s cheek.

‘His skin be icy.’

‘So would any man’s be in this place. See? The brazier isn’t alight. Come on, Piers, rouse yourself, you idle…’

‘Shouting at him will have no effect, I fear.’ Seb put his fingers to the pulse pointunder the angle of the jaw. ”Tis a sorrowful thing, Jude, but your friend be dead. We must fetch a priest to him, straightway.’

Here’s the blurb:

Murder lurks at the heart of the royal court in the rabbit warren of the Palace of Westminster. The year is 1480. Treason is afoot amongst the squalid grandeur and opulent filth of this medieval world of contrasts. Even the Office of the King’s Secretary hides a dangerous secret.

Meeting with lords and lackeys, clerks, courtiers and the mighty King Edward himself, can Seb Foxley decipher the encoded messages and name the spy?

Will Seb be able to prevent the murder of the most important heir in England?

All will be revealed as we join Seb Foxley and his abrasive brother Jude in the latest intriguing adventure amid the sordid shadows of fifteenth-century London.

Praise for Toni Mount’s The Colour of Rubies

Tony Riches, author of The Tudor Trilogy “An evocative masterclass in storytelling.”  
Carol McGrath, author of the She-wolves trilogy “I was utterly transported – It’s superb”. “What a plot. What characters. Perfect pitch”.

“I loved the relationship between Seb and Jude”.

“The Colour of Rubies is a totally immersive experience as richly stitched as one of King Edward IV’s gorgeous tapestries. This cleverly plotted novel with its twists and turns will keep a reader page turning late into the night until the book’s final scenes. Sebastian and Jude are wonderfully realised personalities with similar emotions, concerns, fears and hopes we have have today. Their medieval London felt real and intriguing to me with unexpected dangers lurking in alleyways. I felt as if I was walking in Sebastian’s footsteps. With this thrilling novel Toni Mount has shown herself a master of medieval suspense. More please”.

Praise for Toni Mount’s Sebastian Foxley Medieval Murder Series

Tracy Borman, historian and broadcaster “An atmospheric and compelling thriller that takes the reader to the dark heart of medieval London.”

Matthew Lewis author of Richard III Loyalty Binds Me “Toni Mount continues to delight with the superbly crafted Seb Foxley mysteries. Impeccable research and sculpted characters combine with an engaging narrative to create another irresistible story. This series goes from strength to strength, and I’m already looking forward to the next instalment”

J.P. Reedman, author of the I, RICHARD PLANTAGENET series: “Sebastian Foxley is the Cadfael of the 15th century”.

“The Sebastian Foxley Medieval Mystery Series by Toni Mount is not only filled by dastardly murders and gripping intrigue but contains many well-researched historical facts from the Wars of the Roses era” 

Samantha Willcoxson, author & historian “Toni Mount is simply brilliant”.

“If you love CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake (and I do) you will love Toni’s Sebastian Foxley”.

“From learning how a 15th century scrivener created illuminated manuscripts to venturing within the dank tunnels beneath the Tower of London, Toni is an artist who completely immerses the reader in another time and place and always leaves one eager for the next book.”

Stephanie Churchill, author of historical fiction and epic fantasy “Leave it to Seb to unravel another international spiderweb of intrigue, betrayal, murder, and deceit. Our flawed, loveable hero has done it again. And at the end of it all, his future is looking brighter than ever. I cannot wait to find out what happens to him next!”

Sharon Bennet Connoly, author and medieval historian “A beautifully crafted mystery that brings the dark, dangerous streets of medieval London to life. Toni Mount is a magician with words, weaving a captivating story in wonderful prose. The Colour of Evil is, to put it simply, a pleasure to read.” 

Rosalie Gilbert, medieval historian and author “The author’s knowledge of medieval history shines through the narrative in the small details which enhance the story woven into it. The details about the inside workings of medieval trade practices lent themselves perfectly for a background to murder and deceit”.

“Recommended for lovers of historic fiction.”

Joanne R Larner author of Richard Liveth Yet trilogy: “I always look forward to a new ‘Colour of…’ book. I can’t wait to see what escapades Seb Foxley and his brother, Jude, get up to next. They, and all the characters, are endearing and colourful. The books are always well written, conjuring 15th century London into the reader’s mind and the plots are excellent!’

Mel Starr bestselling author of the Hugh de Singleton chronicles: “If I believed in reincarnation I would be willing to think that Toni Mount lived a previous life in 15th century London.  The scents, the sights, the tastes of the late Middle Ages are superbly rendered.”

Connect with the author, http://www.twitter.com/tonihistorian

The Colour of Rubies is available now.

Happy release day to Elena Collins whose The Witches Tree is released today. Here’s my review.

Here’s the blurb:

A tale as old as time. A spirit that has never rested.

Present day

As a love affair comes to an end, and with it her dreams for her future, artist Selena needs a retreat. The picture-postcard Sloe Cottage in the Somerset village of Ashcombe promises to be the perfect place to forget her problems, and Selena settles into her new home as spring arrives. But it isn’t long before Selena hears the past whispering to her. Sloe Cottage is keeping secrets which refuse to stay hidden.

1682

Grace Cotter longs for nothing more than a husband and family of her own. Content enough with her work on the farm, looking after her father, and learning the secrets of her grandmother Bett’s healing hands, nevertheless Grace still hopes for love. But these are dangerous times for dreamers, and rumours and gossip can be deadly. One mis-move and Grace’s fate looks set…

Separated by three hundred years, two women are drawn together by a home bathed in blood and magic. Grace Cotter’s spirit needs to rest, and only Selena can help her now. 

Review:

The Witch’s Tree is my second dual timeline novel in a week. It’s not my preferred take on historical fiction, but hey, I’m on holiday, so why not.

The Witch’s Tree is a story linked by a single space – a house – and the author offers two timelines, one modern-day and one set in the late seventeenth century. It was the late seventeenth-century story that fascinated me the most, and the feeling of impending doom made the story a little difficult to read in places. The contrasting stories of the two women further enforced the sense that problems were brewing for Grace in the seventeenth century,. As you might expect, I wanted more of the seventeenth-century story, and less of the modern-day one. I did appreciate that the modern-day story didn’t give away any of the details of the seventeenth-century story and that some of the aspects were misunderstood by the modern cast. I think that little bit of realism really helped with the contemporary storyline.

A captivating read, I think readers will enjoy meeting Grace and Selena.

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

(Not one to ever think that books should come with trigger warnings, I confess, there was one aspect of the book that I found a little upsetting, so I’ll say here that readers should be aware of the appearance in the narrative of a cleft lip. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but just to let readers know it is there.)

The Witches Tree is released today, 17th May 2022, and is available in ebook, paperback, hardback, large print and audio.

Connect with the author on twitter.

I’m delighted to spotlight The Mesilla by Mary Armstrong on the blog today #BlogTour

Here’s the blurb:

At 14 years old, Jesus ‘Chuy’ Perez Contreras Verazzi Messi is too small and frail to work the land on the family farm near the Rio Bravo in Mexico. The local padre’s tutoring reveals Jesus’s unending curiosity and fertile mind. Noted Las Cruces, New Mexico attorney, and politician Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain, agrees to take his nephew under his wing. Jesus ‘reads law’ with his uncle and shares adventures and adversity with the Fountain family and other historic Mesilla and Tularosa Valley citizens. His coming-of-age story will take you into the wild southwest, a brewing range war, a territory struggling toward statehood, courtroom dramas, and the adventures and adversities of a boy’s quest for manhood. 

*A fictional memoir by Jesus about the ten years leading to the notorious and unsolved Fountain murders.

Buy Links:

Universal Links for the series:

When the Doves Coo (A Prequel to The Two Valleys Saga): 

The Mesilla (The Two Valleys Saga, Book 1)

The San Augustin (The Two Valleys Saga, Book 2)

The Mesilla Buy Links:

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Barnes and NobleCOAS Books

Meet the Author

Mary lives in the heart of one of the ‘Two Valleys’ in Las Cruces New Mexico, with her husband Norman ‘Skip’ Bailey, Jr. and their Cavachon child-dog, Java. In 2017 she wrote the one-act play, “It is Blood,” which was selected for a performance by the Las Cruces Community Theatre. Whereas the Two Valleys series is a prequel to the notorious and unsolved murders of Albert J. Fountain and his eight-year-old son, “It is Blood,” is a sequel to those events. 

After winning an award for her debut historic fiction novel “The Mesilla,” Mary has decided to focus on that genre — at least for the foreseeable future. Her writing is fast-moving, thought-provoking and with just enough wordsmithing to satisfy your artistic hankerings. While her writing has literary merit, she strives to capture the moment — the time and the place — and help you live in that moment.

Before releasing her debut novel, Mary dabbled in creative writing, including a weekly column in the Las Cruces Sun News. Since retiring from a diverse career in various planning and design fields, she has devoted herself more fully to her writing, being a good spouse, serving her dog Java, and slipping away to the golf course when left unchained to the desk. 

Connect with Mary

WebsiteTwitter

FacebookLinkedInInstagram

BookBubAmazon Author PageGoodreads

Follow The Mesilla tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Cragside – A 1930s murder mystery is on audiobook tour with Lovebookstours from 16th-24th May 2022

I’ll be uploading links on the days of the tour, and would like to thank all the hosts and Kelly Lacey for organising the tour.

Here’s the blurb:

From the author of The Erdington Mysteries, a classic 1930s murder mystery house party.

Lady Merryweather has had a shocking year. Apprehended for the murder of her husband the year before, and only recently released, she hopes a trip away from London will allow her to grieve. The isolated, but much loved, Cragside Estate in North Northumberland, home of her friends, Lord and Lady Bradbury, holds special memories for her.

But, no sooner has she arrived than the body of one of the guests is found on the estate, and suspicion immediately turns on her. Perhaps, there are no friendships to be found here, after all.

Released, due to a lack of evidence, Lady Ella returns to Cragside only to discover a second murder has taken place in her absence, and one she can’t possibly have committed.

Quickly realising that these new murders must be related to that of her beloved husband, Lady Merryweather sets out to solve the crime, once and for all. But there are many who don’t want her to succeed, and as the number of murder victims increases, the possibility that she might well be the next victim, can’t be ignored.

Journey to the 1930s Cragside Estate, to a period house-party where no one is truly safe, and the estate is just as deadly as the people.

You can purchase the audiobook via the following link.

And I’m adding the links for all the fab hosts below.

Today, I’m taking part in The Storm Girl by Kathleen McGurl blog tour

Today, I’m taking part in The Storm Girl by Kathleen McGurl blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources.

Here’s the blurb:

The gripping new historical novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Girl from Bletchley Park and The Forgotten Secret.

A heartbreaking choice. A secret kept for centuries.

1784. When Esther Harris’s father hurts his back, she takes over his role helping smugglers hide contraband in the secret cellar in their pub. But when the free traders’ ships are trapped in the harbour, a battle between the smugglers and the revenue officers leads to murder and betrayal – and Esther is forced to choose between the love of her life and protecting her family…

Present day. Fresh from her divorce, Millie Galton moves into a former inn overlooking the harbour in Mudeford and plans to create her dream home. When a chance discovery behind an old fireplace reveals the house’s secret history as a haven for smugglers and the devastating story of its former residents, could the mystery of a disappearance from centuries ago finally be solved?

Sweeping historical fiction perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Kathryn Hughes and Tracy Rees.

My review

The Storm Girl is a dual timeline novel, and as a reader and writer of historical fiction, it was the historical storyline that captivated me far more than the modern-day tale of divorce and starting afresh.

Coming at this from a ‘newb’ point of view, I expected both storylines to have some connection, other than the most tenuous one, of them simply taking place in the same space although at different times. That wasn’t what happened, and I did encounter some problems, whereby the one storyline gave away events in the other – which was a little frustrating.

With all that said, I did enjoy this book. The historical storyline, while a little too wholesome for me, did capture my imagination and The Storm Girl is very much a competent and go-getting type of gal that a modern audience will thrill to discover.

Will I try a dual timeline novel again, that remains to be seen? I confess I would have been happy to have the story revolve only around the historical elements, and not worry about the modern-day setting at all, but I more than understand that a dual timeline narrative is extremely popular, and I’m sure fans of this genre will be captivated by this tale of a place in two different timelines, over two hundred years apart, and will, hopefully, consider learning more about their own local history as a result of reading the book.

A firm 4/5 from me – I did appreciate the historical notes at the back of the novel.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Storm-Girl-Sweeping-historical-fiction-ebook/dp/B09VYLVP58/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Storm-Girl-Sweeping-historical-fiction-ebook/dp/B09VYLVP58/

Meet the Author

Kathleen McGurl lives near the coast in Christchurch, England. She writes dual timeline novels in which a historical mystery is uncovered and resolved in the present day. She is married to an Irishman and has two adult sons. She enjoys travelling, especially in her motorhome around Europe but home is Mudeford, where this novel is set.

Connect with Kathleen 

https://kathleenmcgurl.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KathleenMcGurl

https://twitter.com/KathMcGurl

Follow the tour for The Storm Girl with Rachel’s Random Resources

Book Review and happy release day for – A Taste for Killing by Sarah Hawkswood – historical mystery

Here’s the blurb:

January, 1145. Godfrey Bowyer, the best but least likeable bow maker in Worcester, dies an agonising death by poisoning. Although similarly struck down after the same meal, his wife Blanche survives. The number of people who could have administered the poison should mean a very short investigation for the Sheriff’s men, Hugh Bradecote and Serjeant Catchpoll, but perhaps someone was pulling the strings, and that widens the net considerably. Could it be the cast-out younger brother or perhaps Orderic the Bailiff, whose wife may have had to endure Godfrey’s attentions? Could it even be the wife herself?

With Bradecote eager to return to his manor and worried about his wife’s impending confinement, and Underserjeant Walkelin trying to get his mother to accept his choice of bride, there are distractions aplenty, though Serjeant Catchpoll will not let them get in the way of solving this case.

This is the 10th title in this series, however it can be read alone!

Review

A Taste for Killing is my third Bradecote and Catchpoll Investigations book, and it is always fabulous to return to twelfth-century Worcester.

In A Taste for Killing, Bradecote, Catchpoll and Walkelin must uncover the true culprit when Godfrey Bowyer dies from poisoning. There are, as always, no end of possible suspects, and because this book takes place in Worcester, we meet all sorts of characters, from the burgesses to the maids, and even an old woman, on her death bed, and with a fabulous memory for things that happened many years ago.

The investigation is as tricky as always. Some information points one way, other information, another. I do love the way the author puts the solution together, with all the false leads and people guilty of something, if not the murder. The three main characters, while having their own, separate lives, don’t overburden the story with their storylines, and yet still add to it. All of the characters feel real, and as though they could have truly existed.

My biggest complaint would be that I didn’t want to murderer to be who it was, but still, a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the series. I’ll be reading the 7 books I’ve not yet gotten to when I have the time:)

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

Check out my previous reviews for the series; Blood Runs Thicker and Wolf at the Door.

A Taste for Killing is released today, 12th May 2022.

Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from The Admiral’s Wife by M K Tod #blogtour

Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from The Admiral’s Wife by M K Tod.

Excerpt

August 1912 – The next hour passed in a blur as Flannigan unrolled and rerolled various bolts of cloth. Her selections made and the account tallied, Isabel gathered her things. “It looks rather stormy,” she said.

“We’re sure to get a big blow today, Mrs. Taylor. You might want to get home as soon as you can.”

Outside the wind was stronger and the sky was thick and menacing. Waves churned the harbor. Sampans lining the shore pitched up and down. The air smelled of lightning. An explosion sounded, the blast echoing in her ears.

Suddenly, the mood of the Praya changed. Chinese workers hurried away; some abandoned the tools of their trade—rickshaws, brooms, wheelbarrows, long poles, rickety chairs and tables—while others pushed, pulled, or carried their belongings with them. Those who made their homes and living on the sampans swarmed the decks of their vessels grabbing this and that, hurrying nimbly along the gunnels, and scrambling up the ladders connecting them to long-fingered piers.

The wind grew stronger. Isabel’s hat blew off, rolling along the Praya like a runaway wheel. Without thinking, she chased after it. Hampered by the bulk of her purchases, she weaved this way and that. Every time she got close, the wind picked her hat up again. It’s gone, she finally admitted as the blue concoction sailed off over the water and rain pelted down—big, fat drops that smacked her skin. I should return to Murphy’s and wait out the storm.

She swiveled around. The Praya was deserted. Several sampans were precariously close to capsizing. The wind that had previously been at her back now buffeted her with such force, she could barely keep her balance. Isabel braced herself against the gale. Murphy’s seemed a long way away.

The wind howled like an animal in distress. The rain grew in intensity. “One step at a time,” she muttered aloud. Left foot, right foot. Left foot, right foot. She caught a glimpse of a man falling from a sampan into the water. Should she try to rescue him? Would her skirts weigh her down so that she would only drown trying? The sky closed in. Day felt like night.

Isabel continued to push forward. Without warning, someone grabbed her arm. She struggled to break free.

“I’m trying to help you, Mrs. Taylor,” Li Tao-Kai said, his voice gruff. “Don’t you realize this is a typhoon?”

A typhoon. She’d heard about typhoons—the Asian equivalent to hurricanes—and had even heard about the devastation caused by one that hit Hong Kong in 1906, but she had no idea what such an event would be like. “How was I supposed to know?” she said.

“The typhoon signal went off.” 

“Was that the explosion I heard?”

He jerked his head in a quick nod and she thought he might be a little exasperated with her, although it was difficult to tell. They were both shouting to be heard. Li Tao-Kai held her arm firmly and a few minutes later, pulled her inside the shop.

“I saw a man fall into the water,” she said, as soon as she caught her breath. “He needs help.”

“We can’t go out again,” he said. “It’s dangerous. If you don’t believe me, look out the window to see for yourself.”

With the sun totally obscured and only one narrow window in Murphy’s Fine Silks and Linens, the interior was dim. Isabel hadn’t noticed the men milling about the room when she and Mr. Li had entered, but now she saw that there were about fifteen of them, a mix of Chinese and European. Isabel nodded in their direction, then crossed over to look out the window. Debris skittered along the Praya: bits of wood, sheets of paper, a straw hat, a broom. A table had fallen over and now scraped along the asphalt. She looked for the place where she’d seen the man fall, but everything was so topsy-turvy she could find no trace of him. A crash sounded as something smashed against the building.

“Step away from the window, Mrs. Taylor,” George Flannigan said. “It’s not safe.”

Isabel was so startled that she obeyed without question and took a spot standing next to Li Tao-Kai. Since his role brought him into frequent contact with the British community, she’d seen him on a few occasions following the opera and at times there’d been a chance to talk. He was an interesting man who, to her surprise, didn’t treat her as many men did: an attractive woman worthy of a flirtatious glance or two but unworthy of weighty conversation. She was just musing about whether he spoke to all women in the same fashion, when a bamboo pole shattered the window, flinging glass across the room.

“Good heavens!” she exclaimed. Her eyes wide with shock.

“Are you all right?” Li Tao-Kai asked.

“I think so.” Isabel spoke slowly. Nothing in her life had prepared her for a storm so fierce it left the surroundings looking like a bundle of jackstraws.

“Careful, I see something on your clothes.” He reached over and plucked a shard of glass from the sleeve of her dress.

The howls of the storm were deafening—like a train charging through a tunnel. Beyond the wind was the thumping and banging of debris tumbling past the warehouse. Without thinking, Isabel crossed to the window once more and peered out. Pellets of rain whipped her face.

“We have to help,” she said. “I can see women on the dock trying to save their children. They can barely stand. Look at them,” she urged.

“It’s too dangerous outside,” George Flannigan said.

“But we can’t just think of ourselves. Surely there are enough of us here to help.”

“You don’t understand how deadly typhoons can be,” Mr. Li said. “I’ve seen men blown down the street and trees uprooted by the force of the wind.” He shook his head. “It’s dangerous outside.”

“But those people could die without our help. If we were to form a human chain, each person standing close to the next person in line, we could rescue them. Whoever heads the line will help these people off their boats and hand them over to the next person in line and so on. Surely we can at least try.”

“It could work, Mr. Li,” George Flannigan said. “The wind has eased a bit, so we may have a few minutes before it strengthens again. Now might be the perfect time.”

“All right. We can try. But Mrs. Taylor remains in the shop.”

“I’ll do no such thing,” Isabel declared.

Li Tao-Kai drew his lips into a tight grimace. “If you’re determined to help, perhaps you will agree to be at the end closest to the shop.”

Isabel debated the benefit of further argument. “All right,” she said.

One by one, they stepped outside. When it was her turn, the wind tore at her clothes and rain pummeled her face. From all around she heard the clang, clatter, and smash of items hurled by the wind.

Here’s the blurb:

The lives of two women living in Hong Kong more than a century apart are unexpectedly linked by forbidden love and financial scandal.

In 2016, Patricia Findlay leaves a high-powered career to move to Hong Kong, where she hopes to rekindle the bonds of family and embrace the city of her ancestors. Instead, she is overwhelmed by feelings of displacement and depression. To make matters worse, her father, CEO of the family bank, insists that Patricia’s duty is to produce an heir, even though she has suffered three miscarriages.

In 1912, when Isabel Taylor moves to Hong Kong with her husband, Henry, and their young daughter, she struggles to find her place in such a different world and to meet the demands of being the admiral’s wife. At a reception hosted by the governor of Hong Kong, she meets Li Tao-Kai, an influential member of the Chinese community and a man she met a decade earlier when he was a student at Cambridge.

As the story unfolds, each woman must consider where her loyalties lie and what she is prepared to risk for love.

Trigger Warnings:
Brief sex scenes

Praise:

“Family secrets and personal ambitions, east and west, collide in this compelling, deeply moving novel.” — Weina Dai Randel, award-winning author of THE LAST ROSE OF SHANGHAI

“Irresistible and absorbing.” Janie Chang, bestselling author of THE LIBRARY OF LEGENDS

Buy Links:

Amazon (Universal Link)

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CA:  Amazon AU

Meet the author

M.K. (Mary) Tod’s interest in historical fiction began as a teenager immersed in the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff, Jean Plaidy, and Georgette Heyer. In 2004, her husband’s career took them to Hong Kong where, with no job and few prospects, Mary began what became Unravelled, her first novel. The Admirals Wife is her fifth novel.

Mary’s award-winning blog, www.awriterofhistory.com, focuses on reading and writing historical fiction. She’s an active member of the historical fiction community and has conducted five unique reader surveys on topics from readers’ habits and preferences to favorite historical fiction authors. Mary is happily married to her high-school sweetheart. They have two adult children and two delightful grandsons.

Connect with M K Tod

WebsiteBlogTwitter

FacebookLinkedInInstagram

BookBubAmazon Author PageGoodreads

Follow The Admiral’s Wife blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

It’s my turn on the new release tour for Cause of Death by Anne Legat blog tour #blogtour

Here’s the blurb:

All is not well in the village. The local meadows have been the pride of Bishops Well for hundreds of years, but now they are facing the sharp blades of developers. The landowner is a rich and reclusive author who is happy to see them destroyed, but the villagers – including Sam Dee and Maggie Kaye – are fighting back.

Until, that is, someone decides to silence one of their number permanently.

As Maggie and Sam soon discover, there is more than a quick buck to be made in the developers’ plans. There are age-old secrets and personal vendettas that could have deadly repercussions in Bishops Well today.

With Sam’s legal expertise and Maggie’s… well, Maggie-ness, they delve into the past, determined to unearth the truth. And, as sparks begin to fly, could there finally be something more between this sleuthing duo?

Here’s my review

Cause of Death is the third book in The Shires Mysteries, but the first one I’d read. I think this left me at a little bit of a disadvantage to begin with as Maggie has a quirk, that I didn’t know about, and it took me a while to work out what it was. Also, and this is a very personal complaint, so I apologise – this book has two points of view, but one is told first person, one third person and then there’a also an omnipresent narrator – I really struggle with books that don’t stick to one tense, and writing style.

That said, the story is intriguing, and I did want to know who the murderer was, so I continued reading, despite all my misgivings about tenses. Maggie is an intriguing character, but rather pushy and overbearing. Sam is a milder character, and more likely to apply reason to his conclusions. The story is quite twisty and there’s a touch of humour to it in places. The author has no qualms about making the resolutions quite complex and employing a large and diverse set of characters.

Overwhelmingly, this was an enjoyable and satisfying read, and I might just go back and read books 1 and 2:)

Purchase Links 

Cause of Death: The Shires Mysteries 3: A gripping and unputdownable English cosy mystery eBook : Legat, Anna: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Cause of Death: The Shires Mysteries 3 eBook by Anna Legat – 9781786159892 | Rakuten Kobo United Kingdom

Cause of Death by Anna Legat, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Cause of Death: The Shires Mysteries 3 by Anna Legat | Waterstones

Cause of Death: The Shires Mysteries 3: A gripping and unputdownable English cosy mystery by Anna Legat | WHSmith

Meet the author

Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. Murder isn’t the only thing on her mind. She dabbles in a wide variety of genres, ranging from dark humorous comedy, through magic realism to dystopian. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Connect with Anna

To find out more: https://annalegat.com/

Follow Anna on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LegatWriter

Join Anna on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AnnaLegatAuthor/

Follow the Cause of Death blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources