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.
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.
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.
Welcome to the blog. I’m hoping you’re share what inspired you to write the book with my readers.
The initial inspiration for The Oath—and the books that were to follow it—was an image that came to me when I was mulling over the idea of writing a tongue-in-cheek medieval murder mystery as a way to balance the formal writing I did for work. More accurately, I had just dismissed this as a charming but unrealistic notion since to write any sort of fiction you need to have characters and a plot, and I had neither. Then, out of the blue, I pictured a Druid priest and a Christian nun having a conversation in a dirt-walled chamber.
Since that odd experience, I’ve had occasion to say that writing the five volumes of The Druid Chronicles was what I did to find out who those two people were, what they were talking about, and what happened to them afterwards. There was, of course, more to it than that since I’d seen images of modern Druids celebrating the summer solstice at Stone Henge, knew a little about the Roman destruction of the Druidic center on the island of Anglesey, and took it for granted that later vilification of polytheistic worshippers by the Christian church was at the basis of our current stereotypes of sorcerers and witches. In any case, I was intrigued by the thought of a Druid and a nun having a clandestine meeting, and went on to scribble the first draft of a story that took them out of that underground cell into a world that seemed to grow around them, replete with complicated characters, unexpected plot twists, and moral quandaries.
Thank you so much for sharing. Good luck with the books.
Here’s the blurb:
When the last of members of a secretive Druid cult are forced to abandon their hidden sanctuary, they send the youngest of their remaining priests in search of Annwr, their chief priestess’s sister, who was abducted by a Saxon war band fifteen years ago. With only a rudimentary grasp of English and the ambiguous guidance of an oracle’s prophecy, Caelym manages to find Annwr living in a hut on the grounds of a Christian convent.
Annwr has spent her years of captivity caring for the timid Aleswina, an orphaned Saxon princess who was consigned to the cloistered convent by her cousin, King Gilberth, after he assumed her father’s throne. Just as Caelym and Annwr are about leave together, Aleswina learns that Gilberth, a tyrant known for his cruelty and vicious temper, means to take her out of the convent and marry her. Terrified, she flees with the two Druids—beginning a heart-pounding adventure that unfolds in ways none of them could have anticipated.
“Linden’s well-researched tale eloquently brings to life a lesser-known period of transition in Britain. . . . The author has created a strong foundation for her series with well-developed characters whom readers can embrace. . . . [a] layered, gripping historical fiction.”
“The story rolls along at a lively pace, rich with details of the times and a wide cast of characters. [The] plotting, shifting points of view of the three engaging protagonists, and evocative writing style make The Oath a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.”
—Historical Novel Review
“Linden uses a fairy tale-like style almost as though this story has been passed down orally over the centuries.”
Ann Margaret Linden was born in Seattle, Washington, but grew up on the east coast of the United States before returning to the Pacific Northwest as a young adult. She has undergraduate degrees in anthropology and in nursing and a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner. After working in a variety of acute care and community health settings, she took a position in a program for children with special health care needs where her responsibilities included writing clinical reports, parent educational materials, provider newsletters, grant submissions and other program related materials. The Druid Chronicles began as a somewhat whimsical decision to write something for fun and ended up becoming a lengthy journey that involved Linden taking adult education creative writing courses, researching early British history, and traveling to England, Scotland, and Wales. Retired from nursing, she lives with her husband and their cat and dog in the northwest corner of Washington State.
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.
With the odds stacked against her, Samantha Reynold is determined to prove she’s tough enough to be the boss. But when a secret from the past threatens to ruin Sam’s reputation, she suddenly feels very alone in this dark new world. There’s only one man she can turn to – rival club owner, Sebastian Stoker.
Seb knows first-hand how secrets and lies can tear a family apart. He wants to protect Sam at all costs, but siding with her could threaten his own position as head of the Stoker family and risk accusations of betrayal.
With loyalties divided and two families at war – the fallout could be deadly.
Fallout is my first gangland crime novel. It’s not my usual read – or is it?
Set in Birmingham, in 1995, it’s quite strange to read about a place I once lived quite close to. Mentions of the shops made me chuckle, and I recognised many of the place names, if not all of them.
I thrust myself straight into the book, not realising that it’s the second part of a two part book set (I know, I do this all the time.) That said, I did eventually work out many of the interactions – if I missed a few things, it didn’t impact my enjoyment of the story. And, I did enjoy it. It’s not my usual read – and it is really quite gritty. There is no one in this book that is particularly pleasant – there’s a lot of backstabbing and the plot winds tighter and tighter as it continues. You just know it’s all going to get very nasty in the end. And it does, but not quite as nasty as I feared:)
So, yes, not my usual read, but a story of backstabbing and double-crossing is very similar to the sort of story I like to write, and so the setting might have been different but the plot was like. Overall, I enjoyed my first foray into a touch of gangland, and I will certainly be reading the follow-up.
Meet Edie Baylis
Edie Baylis is a successful self-published author of dark gritty thrillers with violent background settings. She lives in Worcestershire, has a history of owning daft cars and several motorbikes and is licensed to run a pub. She has signed a five-book deal with Boldwood.
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.
Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from Nancy Jardine’s fabulous new book, Before Beltane. Enjoy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 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 . . .
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.
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.”