A murder shocks the small town of Walden. And it’s only the beginning…
Walden, 1921. Local reporter Iris Woodmore is determined to save her beloved lake, Waldenmere, from destruction.
After a bloody and expensive war, the British Army can’t afford to keep the lake and build a convalescent home on its shores yet they still battle with Walden Council and a railway company for ownership. But an old mansion used as an officer training academy stands where the railway company plans to build a lakeside hotel. It belongs to General Cheverton – and he won’t leave his home.
When the General is found murdered, it appears someone will stop at nothing to win the fight for Waldenmere. Iris thinks she can take on the might of the railway company and find the killer. But nothing prepares her for the devastation that’s to come…
Murder at Waldenmere Lake is book two in the Iris Woodmore Mystery series set in the very early 1920s onwards. Check out my review for Death at Crookham Hall here.
Book 2, Murder at Waldenmere Lake, begins not soon after the events of the first book, and it’s good to see some familiar characters return to Walden. As with book 1, the mystery is firmly rooted in the concerns of the period, recovering from the events of World War 1 while contending with changes in society. I really love how well-researched the two novels are. I love a cosy mystery, but I adore it even more when the author goes that one step further and adds so much more authentic settings to the novel.
As with book 1, there’s a murder fairly early on in the novel, which seems impossible to solve, and events more quite sedately until there is another murder and events really begin to move at pace. And yet, even with the devastation Iris feels at the murder, she can’t seem to work out who was responsible, and indeed, some personal betrayal strikes her low as well.
The mystery, when it is eventually solved, is delightfully nuanced. Looking back, there might have been some hints I should have read more into, but I didn’t, and so, as with book 1, the big reveal is a surprise but a really well-constructed one. I adored this book. Iris is a great character, as is Percy and the people she interacts with.
A fabulously well-researched historical cosy mystery, and I can’t wait for the next book in the series.
Meet the author
Michelle Salter is a historical crime fiction writer based in northeast Hampshire. Many local locations appear in her mystery novels. She’s also a copywriter and has written features for national magazines. When she’s not writing, Michelle can be found knee-deep in mud at her local nature reserve. She enjoys working with a team of volunteers undertaking conservation activities.
Faberge is the third book in the Becky White thrillers series. I was compelled to read it by the title. Faberge eggs are certainly something to conjure an image in my mind.
As it’s the first book in the series that I’ve read, it’s taken me a little while to get to know the characters and to work out what’s happening. That said, it’s well worth the effort, for this is a very twisty and tightly woven thriller set in the UK, in the cities of Manchester and Preston, with a brief trip to London.
All three of our main characters, Becky, Will and Joanne, have their backstories, which we could be forgiven for thinking were irrelevant, but they’re not. What seems to be a seemingly random chain of events begins to have more and more relevance. The tension ramps up in the book as it tumbles toward its conclusion. This does have a tight and twisty plot.
A novel that was worth sticking with, and I would recommend that new readers perhaps start with the first book in the series just to give them a firm grounding for the events in Faberge, although the book works very well on its own – once you’ve worked out who all the characters are.
A thrilling thriller.
Meet the Author
Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire, UK. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled “Science Can Be Fun”. At eleven, she discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.
Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.
When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, youngest son, a Golden Retriever/Husky cross and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.
Connect with Jo
I can be found at my website www.jofenton137.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest (links below):
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My latest release, King of Kings, is a tale of five kings, and one enemy. But what was the background in what we would now know as England?
The tenth-century sees the creation of what we would recognise as ‘England’ – the combining of Wessex with Mercia, with the additions of Kent, the kingdom of the East Angles, the Danish Five Boroughs, and the kingdom of York, and also the independent kingdom of Bamburgh. But telling this story is complex. When people think of England, they might not know all these smaller kingdoms. They might not know, particularly, what the Danish Five Boroughs (Leicester, Nottingham, Lincoln, Stamford and Derby), were because if you google the Five Boroughs, you’ll be told about New York (this has happened to me).
Everybody knows about King Alfred of Wessex holding back the tide of the advancing Viking raiders throughout his reign from 874-899. And if everybody didn’t know before, then Uhtred, Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon warrior, has done much to ensure we know about it now.
But again, it’s not quite so simple. The Saxon kingdoms of the seventh century onwards numbered seven, alongside Wessex, there was also Kent, Mercia, the kingdom of the East Angles, Northumbria, Essex and Sussex. These kingdoms eventually merged to give us just Wessex, Mercia, Kent, the kingdom of the East Angles and Northumbria (which itself comprised of two kingdoms, Deira centred on York, and Bernicia, centred on Bamburgh). So, all seems clear there? But no.
When the Viking raiders began their concerted attacks on Britain in the late ninth century, Alfred of Wessex promulgated a treaty with one of their leaders, Guthrum, forging an independent kingdom of the Viking raiders, which stretched along something known as the Alfred-Guthrum line. Loosely, this meant that land to the east was in the control of the Viking raiders. All that survived of those kingdoms south of the Humber was Wessex and the western part of Mercia. The Viking raiders had already overrun Northumbria. The kingdom of Jorvik, centred on York, was part of a Dublin/York kingship, where the kings of York/Jorvik had often already been the king of Dublin, and this kingship was firmly in the hands of a family claiming descent from Ivarr (the Boneless), one of the men who’d led the concerted Viking raider attacks of the 860s and 870s which we might find termed The Great Heathen Army.
This, then, reimagined what we think of as England and these Saxon kingdoms weren’t the only ones to face attack from the Viking raiders. The many Welsh kingdoms shared sea borders with the Dublin Norse, and the small kingdom of Manx (the Isle of Man) became incredibly important, as did all of the islands that surround western and northern Scotland. Orkney, at this time, was settled by the Norse.
When Alfred died in 899, he was king of Wessex. His son, Edward, would become king of the Anglo-Saxons, ruling over Wessex and Kent, and then after the death of his sister, Æthelflæd, the Lady of Mercia, staking his claim to western Mercia as well as those parts of the Five Boroughs, essentially Norse held lands, known as the Danelaw, which Æthelflæd had ‘won’ back for Mercia.
‘Here in the early part of this year, with God’s help, she [Æthelflæd] peaceably got in her control the stronghold at Leicester and the most part of the raiding-armies that belonged to it were subjected. And also the York-folk had promised her – and some of them granted so by pledge, some confirmed with oaths – that they would be at her disposition.’[i]
This was a time of intense unease, almost constant warfare. And not everyone was happy about the advances the surviving Wessex royal family made. Edward died at Farndon, in Mercia, perhaps putting down a Mercian rebellion or, a Welsh one. Farndon wasn’t far from the border with the Welsh kingdoms.
But Edward’s death, and the subsequent death of his son Ælfweard only sixteen days later, brought about a sea change. Ælfweard wasn’t Edward’s oldest son; that was Athelstan, a youth seemingly banished to live with his aunt in Mercia when Edward remarried (if the later pseudo-historian, William of Malmesbury is to be believed who makes the claim that it was Alfred’s wish that Athelstan be brought up in ‘the court of his daughter Æthelflæd and Æthelred his son in law.’[ii]
Athelstan was immediately recognised as the king of Mercia. Not long afterwards, he also became king of Wessex. And his ambitions didn’t stop there.
‘Here King Edward died at Farndon in Mercia; and very soon, 16 days after, his son Ælfweard died at Oxford; and their bodies lie at Winchester. And Athelstan was chosen as king by the Mercians and consecrated at Kingston.’[iii]
It’s difficult to imagine that Athelstan wasn’t a warrior of fierce renown. His aunt and uncle, the lord and lady of Mercia, had spent much of their rule, both together, and then after Æthelred’s death, Æthelflæd had continued alone, driving back the incursion of the Viking raiders, or the Norse as it might be easier to term them. Athelstan must surely have taken his place in these battles. And yet, while he was eager to hold tightly to the kingdoms of Mercia, Kent and Wessex, he was also prepared to unite people through peace, and this is where the story, King of Kings, begins. With Athelstan, the first crowned king of the English.
[i] Swanton, M. trans and edit The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, (Orion Publishing Group, 2000), p.105
[ii] Mynors, R.A.B. ed and trans, completed by Thomson, R.M. and Winterbottom, M. Gesta Regvm Anglorvm, The History of the English Kings, William of Malmesbury, (Clarendon Press, 1998), p.211
[iii] Swanton, M. trans and edit The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, (Orion Publishing Group, 2000), D text p.105
(I’m re-sharing an old post which I’ve amended slightly, and added some new graphics).
England, Wales, Scotland, the smaller kingdoms of Mercia, Wessex, Northumbria, East Anglia, Kent, Powys, Gwynedd, Dal Riada – for the uninitiated (including myself) the sheer number of kingdoms and kings that peopled the period in British history before 1066 can appear as a bewildering display of names, places, times and events, and perhaps never more so than when a historian is trying to sell a book and so makes a statement in their title that applies to that particular king.
Phrases such ‘the Golden Age of Northumbria’, ‘the Mercian hegemony’, ‘the rise of Wessex’, they all mask so many events that I find the phrases very unhelpful and perhaps worse, misleading.
I think that Athelstan and his younger half brother, Edmund, probably deserve their titles as Kings of the English. And it’s not just my opinion either. There was, according to Sarah Foot in her book on Athelstan, a concerted effort by the king and his bishops to have him stand apart from his predecessors – to be something ‘different’ to them. They named him king of the English, not king of Mercia (a post he held briefly before another of his younger brothers died) and not king of Wessex, for all that he was both of those things.
They changed his title, they crowned him with a crown, not a helmet. They wanted Athelstan to be something other than his grandfather, King Alfred, and his father, King Edward. It was a bold statement to make, and one they continued when Athelstan died too young and his half-brother, Edmund replaced him. He too was crowned using, it must be supposed, the same Coronation service. (For full details have a peek at Sarah Foot’s book on Athelstan – or read the first few chapters of King of Kings as the service appears in it as well).
So why the change? Essentially the old Saxon kingdoms, for all that they were preserved in the naming of the earls/ealdormens designations, had been swept aside by the Viking raiders. The old kingdoms had become a handy label to apply to certain geographic areas, and the kings of Wessex, whilst keen to hold onto their hereditary titles because of the permanence their own royal line had managed to acquire, were equally as keen to do away with regional boundaries. There was, it can’t be denied, a concerted and almost unrelenting urge to drive any Viking raider or Dane or Norwegian (the Norse) from British soil, and this is what Athelstan and then Edmund were tasked with doing.
Yet the idea of ‘English’ wasn’t a new concept. Why else would Bede have called his great piece of religious historical writing “The Ecclesiastical History of the English people’, if there hadn’t been a shared consciousness that the people in England, all be it in their separate kingdoms, didn’t have a shared heritage? Why the idea suddenly took flight under King Athelstan could be attributed to a new sense of confidence in Wessex and Mercia at the time. They were confident that they could beat the Viking raiders and they were convinced that England belonged to them.
Or perhaps it was more than that? The destruction wrought by the Viking raiders on the separate kingdoms must have been a stark reminder of just how insular the kingdoms had become, and the Viking raiders showed everyone just how easy it was to run roughshod over the individual kingdoms. Only in unity could the Saxon kingdoms of England survive another onslaught; only with unity could the Saxons hold onto their kingdoms they’d claimed about 500 years before.
It was a message that was learned quickly and taken to heart. Athelstan worked to reunite more of the Saxon kingdoms with the growing ‘England’, and he tried to do so by both diplomacy and through war. Yet, the Viking raiders hadn’t finished with England, and nor were they her only enemies. This also lies at the heart of Athelstan’s ‘masterplan’ his treaty of Eamont (if it truly happened – Benjamin Hudson in his Celtic Scotland is not convinced). Athelstan wanted to be a mighty king, but he also wanted England, and the wider Britain (also a concept already understood otherwise why else would that cantankerous monk – Gildas – have called his even earlier work than Bede’s “On the Ruin of Britain?”) to be united in their attempts to repel the Viking raiders. He was a man with a keen vision of the future and it was a vision that his brother continued, with slightly different direction and results.
The ‘English Kings” saw safety in unity, and of course, an increase in the power they held went hand-in-hand with that.
Yet at no point during the Saxon period can it be said that the emergence of ‘England’ as we know it, was a given certainty. Throughout the period other great kings had tried to claim sovereignty over other kingdoms, but never with any permanence. The earlier, regional kings, were powerful within their own lifetimes and within their own regions. Few, if any, were able to pass on their patrimony complete upon their death. This was a time of personal kingship, and it was only under Athelstan and Edmund that the leap was taken away from this to a more permanent power base.
Not that it was a smooth transition and it did have the side-effect of allowing other men, those not related to the royal family, to evolve their own individual power bases in the old Saxon kingdoms. The ‘English’ kings had to do more than just rule their own kingdom, they had to rule their ealdormen and earls, their warriors, bishops and archbishops. The number of names of kings might start to deplete in the after math of Athelstan and Edmund’s kingship, but in their place spring up more and more powerful men, men that these English kings had to rely on.
Becoming King of the English was very much a mixed blessing, bringing with it new and greater responsibilities and more, it brought with it the need to expand personal government further, to have a greater persona to broadcast.
For Sophie it’s a trip home and for Hector it’s time to meet Sophie’s parents… Though their trip has village tongues wagging about a stop at Scotland’s notorious elopement spot, Gretna Green.
No matter what, it’ll make a nice break from the murder and mayhem that has been plaguing their beautiful Cotswolds village. But Sophie and Hector are barely on the road before they’re being hassled by reckless drivers and at their first rest stop a body is discovered.
Then comes a series of ‘accidents’ that leave poor Hector a little worse for wear. Is someone after Hector? Who could even know he was in the Highlands?
Accidents or not, can they find some way to keep Hector safe?
Murder in the Highlands is the latest book in the Sophie Sayers cosy crime series, usually set in a small Cotswold village, but not on this occasion. Sophie and Hector (who isn’t Scottish) are off to Inverness for a well-deserved holiday with her mother and father.
But as ever, dark going-ons and strange occurrences follow them on the long journey north, and Sophie is left feeling that there’s a mystery to solve, but unsure what it can be about, and even worse, that it somehow involves Hector.
I really enjoy this series of books – Sophie is a fun character, if troubled with an overactive imagination – as a writer, and her character is a writer, I’m right there with her. Hector is usually the more grounded of the two, but this time, even he’s starting to worry about what’s happening.
While there is no sighting of the Loch Ness monster, this is a fun mystery firmly rooted in Inverness, which the author has visited extensively, and the mystery is one of the stronger ones in the series that plays out, perhaps, in a more conventional way to earlier books in the series.
A great addition to the cosy crime series, which is going from strength to strength.
Meet the Author
Debbie Young is the much-loved author of the Sophie Sayers and St Brides cosy crime mysteries. She lives in a Cotswold village where she runs the local literary festival, and has worked at Westonbirt School, both of which provide inspiration for her writing. She is bringing both her series to Boldwood in a 13-book contract. They will be publishing several new titles in each series and republishing the backlist, starting in September 2022.
Love, Loss and Life In Between is a really lovely collection of short stories focusing on acceptance, moving on and recovery. I confess, I feared the stories might be upsetting, but they really weren’t. I was lucky enough to read the ebook last year, but now I’ve listened to the brand new audio as well. I really enjoy the option to listen as well as read books, especially ones I’ve read before.
Garden Therapy, with its slight otherworldliness was delightful, and A Mermaid’s Tale was a beautiful account of a young girl coming to terms with the loss of her mother, whereas Catalyst was quite edgy. Not Just for Christmas is a tale many pet owners with feel resonates with them.
This really was a delightful collection of short stories. The author has a lovely turn of phrase and manages to evoke strong feelings in her characters which make them believable, so that in only a few words the reader is already rooting for them.
Highly recommended, as was the author’s previous short story collection, of which you can find the review here.
The audio adds a delightful new dimension to these short stories. The narrator, Sandie Keane, has a lovely warm tone, and manages these uplifting and sorrowful tales with real compassion and understanding. Highly enjoyable.
Meet the author
Suzanne lives in Middlesex, England with her husband, two teenagers, a crazy cocker spaniel and an adopted cat that thinks she’s the boss.
Suzanne’s writing journey began at the age of twelve when she completed her first novel. She discovered the fantasy genre in her late teens and has never looked back. Giving up work to raise a family gave her the impetus to take her attempts at novel writing beyond the first draft, and she is lucky enough to have a husband who supports her dream – even if he does occasionally hint that she might think about getting a proper job one day.
Now an author of four novels including the Silent Sea Chronicles trilogy and her debut, Visions of Zarua, Suzanne hopes the dreaded ‘W’ word will never rear its ugly head again!
She loves gardening and has a Hebe (shrub) fetish. She enjoys cooking with ingredients from the garden and regularly feeds unsuspecting guests vegetable-based cakes.
She collects books, is interested in history and enjoys wandering around castles and old ruins whilst being immersed in the past. She likes to combine her love of nature and photography on family walks, but most of all she loves to escape with a great film, binge watch TV shows, or soak in a hot bubble bath with an ice cream and a book.
Having attended Drama school in Liverpool as a teenager Sandie moved into a variety of jobs varying from Hotel Management/Merseyside Police/Motherhood to name just a few but for 25 years she taught worldwide as a Pilates Tutor Trainer.
During lockdown Sandie’s interest turned to Audiobooks and it was from there she embarked on her own journey as an Audiobook Narrator.
I’m sharing an excerpt from Run with the Hare, Hunt with the Hound by Paul Duffy.
I was still young when the fulcrum began its pitch. Fortune’s wheel clanking around in its inscrutable way. It was the year that the sky ships were seen in Ard Macha. A silver host, spectral and gold illuminated the heavens, emerging from the cloud with their glistening sails and their ghostly hosts peering down, blazing with light on the men below who shrank from them in terror. And in that year also, the crozier of the bishop of Cluin Ioraird spoke to its owner, words of radiance and doom setting the kingdom alight.
Though we saw no such miracles to presage coming things, the Tiarna had a dream. He saw a great light rise from the mound on Cnuc Bán. A sídhemound guarding the high pass over the valley and below – a stag belling, a wild dog of two colours devouring a heron’s nest and above, a sun rising in the west, spreading brightness over a darkened east. A weapon shining at the heart of the mound. A weapon of immense power.
The Tiarna ignored the words of his wife and councillors, he disregarded his ollamh, he closed his house to the monk and chewed his thumb long into the night. Night after night ruminating beside ashen fires, forging his resolve. Until, one darkening day, he sat on his horse commanding the unthinkable. Watching us scrabble and shift moss-thick stones from the ancient cairn. We worked in silence, frantic in our task, working to quieten the dread that rang out in each of our heads. To stave off the flesh-creep as hour after hour, we watched the sun pass its peak and begin to drop away westwards over the shoulder of the cairn. The mound’s passive bulk thrumming with threat, and the geis-breaking sound of stones rolling free, rising to swallow everything else. Swallowing the champ of the standing horses, the rare lilts of the wind through the woodland below, the keening of buzzards circling. We cast the stones out beyond the kerbing into the heather, hoping they would land soft. Flinching at each cracking strike as they collided with hidden rock among the furze. Dread and skeletal hands clenching slowly within our skulls as the darkness thickened in the east.
‘Ho,’ Lochru cried out – the first human sound in hours and he came around the curve of the mound, his palsied face white, his hands trembling. He motioned to the Tiarna who urged his horse onwards. Tuar, his ollamh and the monk, Milesius cantering on also. We all followed to where the youth Fiacra stood, unnaturally still, his eyes fixed upon something in the scree. With great reluctance, he raised his hand and pointed at an opening which showed amongst the loose stone. Two rough pillars leaning towards each other, forming a narrow doorway as wide as the span between fist and elbow.
We stood steaming in the cold. Shudders passed among us and Milesius, hand on the psalter hanging in a satchel at his side, mumbled Latin incantations. The Tiarna gazed coldly. He looked to where his son, Conn stood by, leaning on a spear. I saw the subtle question in the Tiarna’s eye. I saw Conn’s face lowering to the ground, refusing the wordless request and, to disguise Conn’s refusal, the Tiarna’s voice came sudden and barking.
‘Send in the Sasanach,’ he said without looking in my direction and my bowels dropped within me. I stared ahead at the terrible and absolute blackness, a blackness that inhaled the failing light, and did not move. Lochru came towards me, grabbing my arm and pulling me past him with a blow that cupped the back of my skull. I staggered forward, feet twisting among the stones, and fell to my knees before the doorway, backing instantly, as if from a wild beast. I looked to the Tiarna on his horse and Milesius at his side. Their faces as hard as the stone of the hill. I breathed through my nose, a forceful breath. Another. And another. I made the sign of the cross, rose, commending myself to God and the Saints Patricius, Féichin, Lasair and stepped forward.
I moved towards the dragging blackness. Towards the mouth of the underworld. Towards the realm of the sídhe. I approached as if approaching cold water, step by step, clenching something deep within. My hand reached out to touch a pillar and its frigid surface drew the warmth from me. I turned side-on, a welling panic, though I did not stop. I slid my shoulder into the gap and pushed my chest through, feeling the pillars scrape at once along my spine and breastbone. I dipped my head, without looking back and entered the dark.
The space within forced me to crawl and I advanced blindly, my bulk blocking the light from the opening. The stones pressed in all around so that I could neither stand nor turn. Pools of water splashed beneath me, a dead air, stale in my lungs. My eyes moved wildly around, though nothing changed in the depthless dark. Hands slipped and scraped and I struck my head frequently on the uneven roof. Yet I moved, and in moving there was hope.
Here’s the blurb
On a remote Gaelic farmstead in medieval Ireland, word reaches Alberic of conquering Norman knights arriving from England. Oppressed by the social order that enslaved his Norman father, he yearns for the reckoning he believes the invaders will bring—but his world is about to burn. Captured by the Norman knight Hugo de Lacy and installed at Dublin Castle as a translator, Alberic’s confused loyalties are tested at every turn. When de Lacy marches inland, Alberic is set on a collision course with his former masters amidst rumours of a great Gaelic army rising in the west. Can Alberic navigate safely through revenge, lust and betrayal to find his place amidst the birth of a kingdom in a land of war?
Paul Duffy, author of Run with the Hare, Hunt with the Hound (2022), is one of Ireland’s leading field archaeologists and has directed numerous landmark excavations in Dublin as well as leading projects in Australia, France and the United Kingdom.
He has published and lectured widely on this work, and his books include From Carrickfergus to Carcassonne—the Epic Deeds of Hugh de Lacy during the Cathar Crusade (2018) and Ireland and the Crusades (2021). He has given many talks and interviews on national and international television and radio (RTÉ, BBC, NPR, EuroNews).
Paul has also published several works of short fiction (Irish Times, Causeway/Cathsair, Outburst, Birkbeck Writer’s Hub) and in 2015 won the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award. He has been shortlisted for numerous Irish and international writing prizes and was awarded a writing bursary in 2017–2018 by Words Ireland.
The Scots of Dalriada takes place in 5th century Ireland and Scotland and tells the fictional story of the legendary king Fergus Mór. Recorded Irish history begins with the introduction of Christianity and Latin literacy, beginning in the 5th century. Most of my research however, relied on sources written much later. First and foremost, Studies in the History of Dalriada by John Bannerman.
Published in 1974 this book is no longer in print but can be purchased second-hand.
My research of the Dalriada began fifteen years ago when I discovered that my ancestors descended from the Dalriada. History is compelling, especially when your own ancestors are involved, and the stories around the Dalriada didn’t let me go. I had to wait three years to obtain a copy of this book but it was definitely worth it, as it is much more comprehensive and detailed than anything to be found on the net.
It amazed me that St. Patrick was kidnapped as a teenager and sold to the Dalriada. He stayed with them, working as a shepherd on the exposed hills of Slemish until he miraculously escaped. When he returned to Ireland in his role as missionary, his first self-imposed duty was to convert the Dalriadians, despite bitter opposition from the druids.
See my first book from this period about the life of St.Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland.
Although both books take place in 5th century Ireland, they are entirely independent of each other.
5th century Ireland and Scotland is at the end of the Iron Age and beginning of the early Medieval Age. This period includes an expansion of the Dalriada clan to Western Scotland. Ireland, at the time, was divided into many small baronies, each ruled by an underking. Life was dominated by a myriad of petty wars, neighbouring clans were constantly under attack from each other, stealing cattle and crop and encroaching upon each other’s land.
The Dalriada was situated in the utmost North East of Ireland, composed of much that is presently known as Antrim. To the North and East their territory was bordered by the North Channel and the Irish Sea. To the South and West, by the aggressive tribes of the Northern Uí Néill, the Dál Fiatach and the Dál nAraide, who continually attacked the Dalriada. So it was only natural that the Dalriada sought to expand their kingdom across the North Channel.
These background facts form the setting for my, mainly fictional, novel about Fergus. The book covers his life from roughly 440 to 501 AD, when his ship is sea wrecked, and he is succeeded by his son Domangart.
By that time the Dalriada have conquered Argyll (“Coast of the Gaels”) and built their chief stronghold and trading centre at Dunadd. The hillfort of Dunadd is believed to have been their capital. Other royal forts included Dunollie, Dunaverty and Dunseverick. Within Dalriada was the important monastery of Iona, which played a key role in the spread of Celtic Christianity throughout northern Britain, and in the development of insular art. Iona was a centre of learning and produced many important manuscripts. Dalriada had a strong seafaring culture and a large naval fleet.
Scotland is said to have been founded by the legendary king Fergus Mór (Fergus the Great) in the 5th century. Heavy onslaughts from the Picts checked the Dalriada on the Scottish mainland. In the 8th century the Dalriada gradually declined; and after the Viking invasions early in the 9th century, it lost all political identity. In the mid-9th century its king Kenneth I MacAlpin brought the Picts and Scoti (the Roman name for the Irish Gaels) permanently together, and thereafter the whole country was known as Scotland.
More books that I read to complement my research:
A Brief History of Ireland by Richard Killeen
Ireland’s Forgotten Past: A History of the Overlooked and Disremembered by Turtle Bunbury
A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver
Scotland: History of a Nation by David Ross
The Book of Celtic Myths: From the Mystic Might of the Celtic Warriors to the Magic of the Fey Folk, the Storied History and Folklore of Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and Wales by Adams Media
Here’s the blurb
THREE BROTHERS Fergus, Loarn and Angus, Princes of the Dalriada, are forced into exile by their scheming half-brother and the druidess Birga One-tooth.
THREE FATES Fergus conceals himself as a stable lad on Aran and falls helplessly in love with a Scottish princess, already promised to someone else. Loarn crosses swords against the Picts. Angus designs longboats.
TOGETHER A MIGHTY POWER Always on the run the brothers must attempt to outride their adversaries by gaining power themselves. Together they achieve more than they could possibly dream of. Fergus Mór (The Great) is widely recognised as the first King of Scotland, giving Scotland its name and its language. Rulers of Scotland and England from Kenneth mac Alpín until the present time claim descent from Fergus Mór.
Full of unexpected twists and turns, this is a tale of heart-breaking love amidst treachery, deceit and murder.
Rowena Kinread grew up in Ripon, Yorkshire with her large family and a horde of pets. Keen on travelling, her first job was with Lufthansa in Germany.
She began writing in the nineties. Her special area of interest is history. After researching her ancestry and finding family roots in Ireland with the Dalriada clan, particularly this era.
Her debut fiction novel titled “The Missionary” is a historical novel about the dramatic life of St. Patrick. It was published by Pegasus Publishers on Apr.29th, 2021 and has been highly appraised by The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and the Irish Times.
Her second novel “The Scots of Dalriada” centres around Fergus Mór, the founder father of Scotland and takes place in 5th century Ireland and Scotland. It is due to be published by Pegasus Publishers on Jan.26th, 2023.
The author lives with her husband in Bodman-Ludwigshafen, Lake Constance, Germany. They have three children and six grandchildren.
The fight for a torn kingdom rests in the hands of a few brave men…
King Aethelred II, who men will one day call The Unready, rules over a land divided by the shadowy spin of his mother Queen Ælfthryth and the sprawling power of the Church.
The Viking Warlord, Olaf Tryggvason smelling the Kingdoms weakness brings the vicious Jomsvikings to the Saxon coastline ravenous for war and plunder.
Together Lord Byrthnoth, Ealdorman of the East Saxons and Beornoth his Saxon Thegn lead a force of oath sworn Viking killers, every bit as brutal and war-skilled as the Norse invaders to protect the Kingdom against enemies both from within, and from the cruel seas. They are pushed to the very limits of their bravery and endurance in a desperate fight for the very existence of the Saxon Kingdom.
In a riveting story of trachery, betrayal, vengeance and war, can Beornoth defeat his enemies and protect the Kingdom from destruction?
Storm of War is the second book in the Saxon Warrior Series, which began with Warrior and Protector, set during the early 990s in Saxon England. Æthelred II is the king of the English, but the Viking raiders, quiet throughout the reign of his father, known as Edgar the Peaceable, have begun to turn their eyes once more to the riches that England has to offer.
Beornoth is a thegn once more, connected to Ealdorman Byrhtnoth, a man who has long-supported the claim of others than the current king to rule England, firstly, Eadwig, the uncle of Æthelred II, to whom he owed his elevation to the ealdordom, and also, Edward the Martyr, Æthelred’s stepbrother. Often brought into conflict with the queen, Lady Elfrida, or Ælfthryth, as she is called in the book, Byrhtnoth is not the easiest of allies for the king and his mother, and Beornoth, a warrior like the ealdorman, is needed for his warrior-prowess but perhaps distrusted for the very same reason.
The book opens with a battle at Watchet in which we encounter the Viking raider, Olaf Tryggvason, for the first time, soon to be a bane to England, and while Beornoth and his quick thinking, alongside Ealdorman Byrhtnoth, are victorious on that occasion, there is a fear that Olaf will attack once more.
Yet, Beornoth and his allies soon find themselves heading north to counter a problem amongst the ruling elite of the northern parts of the kingdom, on the commands of the king’s mother, if perhaps not the king.
We begin to encounter more of the men who will one day be famously remembered in the Battle of Malden poem as the story continues, Ælfwine perhaps of most relevance to me (as he might, or might not, have been the father of Ealdorman Leofwine of the Twice). Beornoth is still an angry man, eager to kill the enemy who destroyed his family but he is involved in a dangerous game with enemies surrounding him while he fears that Olaf will attack once more.
A tale of Saxon England on the cusp of the Second Viking Age sure to thrill fans of the era.
Meet the Author
Peter Gibbons is a financial advisor and author of the highly acclaimed Viking Blood and Blade trilogy. He comes to Boldwood with his new Saxon Warrior series, set around the 900 AD Viking invasion during the reign of King Athelred the Unready. The first title of the new series, Warrior and Protector, will be published in October 2022. He originates from Liverpool and now lives with his family in County Kildare.
BREAKING NEWS Mystery Woman was in the Earl of Rossex’s car when it crashed
Reports are coming in that an unidentified woman was in the car that killed James Wilshire (24), the Earl of Rossex, when it crashed in Fenshire late on Tuesday evening and died from her injuries later in hospital. The police have not named the woman, but sources at Francis Court, where the earl lived with his wife Lady Beatrice (21) claim the dead woman was the wife of a member of staff.
The impertinence of the man! Who does this Detective Sergeant Richard Fitzwilliam think he is asking personal questions about the state of her marriage and insinuating that James was having an affair with the estate manager’s wife? Of course he wasn’t! She knew her husband and he wouldn’t do that to her. But what was James doing back in Fenshire on that fateful night when he’d told her he would be London? And why was Gill Sterling in the car with him when they barely knew each other? Unless, of course, she didn’t know her husband as well as she thought she did…
PLEASE NOTE: This is a prequel in the A Right Royal Cozy Investigation series and is not intended to be read as a standalone.
A Right Royal Cozy Investigation series is fast becoming one of my favourites, and An Early Death is a fabulous prequel novel, answering so many questions and leaving much more unanswered for those readers enjoying the series, which begins about a decade after the events of An Early Death.
I really, really can’t wait for the next book, A Dead Herring, which I hope might finally contain all the answers fans of the series are after.
The author makes it very clear the prequel shouldn’t be read until after reading the first three books in the series, and I echo this. Don’t spoil it for yourself:) Check out my reviews for the first three books below.
Hello. I’m Helen Golden. I write British contemporary cozy whodunnits with a hint of humour. I live in small village in Lincolnshire in the UK with my husband, my step-daughter, her two cats, our two dogs, sometimes my step-son, and our tortoise.
I used to work in senior management, but after my recent job came to a natural end I had the opportunity to follow my dreams and start writing. It’s very early in my life as an author, but so far I’m loving it.
It’s crazy busy at our house, so when I’m writing I retreat to our caravan (an impulsive lockdown purchase) which is mostly parked on our drive. When I really need total peace and quiet, I take it to a lovely site about 15 minutes away and hide there until my family runs out of food or clean clothes.