Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for a new historical mystery, Chaos at Carnegie Hall by Kelly Oliver #blogtour #BoldwoodBooks

Here’s the blurb:

Agatha Christie meets Downton Abbey in the Fiona Figg and Kitty Lane Mystery series opener.

Can Fiona catch a killer and find a decent cup of tea before her mustache wax melts?

1917. New York.

Notorious spy, Fredrick Fredricks, has invited Fiona to Carnegie Hall to hear a famous soprano. It’s an opportunity the War Office can’t turn down. Fiona and Clifford are soon on their way, but not before Fiona is saddled with chaperon duties for Captain Hall’s niece. Is Fiona a spy or a glorified babysitter?

From the minute Fiona meets the soprano aboard the RMS Adriatic it’s treble on the high C’s. Fiona sees something—or someone—thrown overboard, and then she overhears a chemist plotting in German with one of her own countrymen!

And the trouble doesn’t stop when they disembark. Soon Fiona is doing time with a group of suffragettes and investigating America’s most impressive inventor Thomas Edison.

When her number one suspect turns up dead at the opera and Fredrick Fredricks is caught red-handed, it looks like it’s finally curtains for the notorious spy.

But all the evidence points to his innocence. Will Fiona change her tune and clear her nemesis’ name? Or will she do her duty? And just what is she going to do with the pesky Kitty Lane? Not to mention swoon-worthy Archie Somersby . . .

If Fiona’s going to come out on top, she’s going to have to make the most difficult decision of her life: the choice between her head and her heart.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3dMIUoT

My Review

Chaos at Carnegie Hall is a cosy historical mystery set in London, onboard a transatlantic ship during its crossing and also in New York in November 1917. We’re introduced to Fiona Figg, an enterprising young woman, a spy if you would, who is happy to don male costumes to get the answers she seeks.

I did find the beginning of the book a little confusing, but then I discovered why, for Fiona Figg isn’t a new literary creation, but this is her in a new series, complete with references to previous exploits. Once I realised this, I was flying. The backstory isn’t overly relevant, and it adds a wonderful layer of depth to the character. Fiona Figg is not new to this jig, and she knows what she’s about, despite all the men in her life trying to make it more difficult for her.

This story is bursting with historical details – the Suffragettes, events at Carnegie Hall, ‘real’ historical characters, and of course, yellow cabs – which our fine main character informs us makes it much easier to spot a cab in the snowy November conditions she’s enduring. I really enjoyed the way the story is woven around events that actually happened.

The mystery builds really well, and the attendant sidekicks of Clifford, Kitty and, of course, Poppy, the dog, really add to the ongoing mystery.

A thoroughly enjoyable historical mystery recommended for fans of the genre and with just a smidge more historical detail than some other cosy mysteries, which makes it all the more appealing to me.

Meet the Author

Kelly Oliver is the award-winning, bestselling author of three mysteries series: The Jessica James Mysteries, The Pet Detective Mysteries, and the historical cozies The Fiona Figg Mysteries, set in WW1. She is also the Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is bringing new titles in the Fiona Figg series to Boldwood, the first of which, Chaos in Carnegie Hall, will be published in November 2022.

Connect with Kelly

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kellyoliverauthor  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kellyoliverbook  

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kelly-oliver

Follow the Chaos at Carnegie Hall blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

Today, I’m reviewing the second book in Debbie Young’s fabulous St Bride’s cozy mystery series, Sinister Stranger at St Bride’s #blogtour

Here’s the blurb:

When an American stranger turns up claiming to be the rightful owner of the school’s magnificent country estate it could spell trouble for everyone at St Bride’s . . .

No one can believe it when the headmistress, Hairnet, instantly accepts the stranger’s claim, not:

  • the put-upon Bursar, ousted from his cosy estate cottage by the stranger
  • the enigmatic Max Security, raring to engage in a spot of espionage
  • the sensible Judith Gosling, who knows more about Lord Bunting than she’s letting on
  • the irrepressible Gemma Lamb, determined to keep the school open

Only fickle maths teacher Oriana Bliss isn’t suspicious of the stranger, after all she can just marry him and secure St Bride’s future forever. That’s if inventive pranks by the girls – and the school cat – don’t drive him away first.

Who will nab the stranger first? Oriana with the parson’s noose? Gemma with sinister secrets? Or could this be the end of St Bride’s?

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3dBLZZ1

My Review

Sinister Stranger at St Bride’s is a fabulous sequel to Dastardly Deeds, and the villain of the piece, Earl, is sure to almost rouse hatred on a scale of the evil Umbridge in the Harry Potter books.

I love the feel of this series. As someone who did indeed read all the boarding school books as a child, this is a welcome ‘grown-up’ tonic to those long ago days:)

The story for book 2 is, I feel, stronger than for the first book in the series. The answers aren’t quite so easy to fall into the lap of Gemma Lamb, and Max Security has a bigger starring role, as do some of the girls attending the school. But don’t fear, Joe and Oriana, as well as McPhee do still have important roles to play.

I’ll be sharing my review for book 3 on 21st November 2022.

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.

Connect with Debbie

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDebbieYoung

Twitter https://twitter.com/DebbieYoungBN

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/debbieyoungauthor/  

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/DebbieYoungNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/debbie-young

Follow the St Bride’s blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

Today, I’m really excited to be sharing my review for Dastardly Deeds at St Bride’s by Debbie Young #blogtour #cozymystery

Here’s the blurb:

When Gemma Lamb takes a job at a quirky English girls’ boarding school, she believes she’s found the perfect escape route from her controlling boyfriend – until she discovers the rest of the staff are hiding sinister secrets:

  • Hairnet, the eccentric headmistress who doesn’t hold with academic qualifications
  • Oriana Bliss, Head of Maths and master of disguise
  • Joscelyn Spryke, the suspiciously rugged Head of PE
  • Geography teacher Mavis Brook, surreptitiously selling off the library books
  • creepy night watchman Max Security, with his network of hidden tunnels

Even McPhee, the school cat, is leading a double life.

Tucked away in the school’s beautiful private estate in the Cotswolds, can Gemma stay safe and build a new independent future, or will past secrets catch up with her and the rest of the staff?

With a little help from her new friends, including some wise pupils, she’s going to give it her best shot…

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3A3l13R

My Review

This one is short and sweet but shouldn’t detract from the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed this cosy mystery with a difference.

Dastardly Deeds at St Bride’s is definitely the book for all those who spent a childhood ensconced with a good boarding school book (The Chalet School, Malory Towers, St Claires etc). Sadly, there is no lacrosse, as the main characters here are all the teachers, but it is a charming story of our main character’s desire to start her life over again following an abusive relationship. There are a few mysteries to solve for her and a lovely cast of supporting characters, who all have their quirky sides, as does the boarding school itself.

I’ve been lucky enough to read book 2 and 3 already, and I will be sharing my reviews over the next few days, but I highly recommend checking out this new series if you love cosy mysteries (and tales of boarding schools).

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.

Connect with Debbie

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDebbieYoung

Twitter https://twitter.com/DebbieYoungBN

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/debbieyoungauthor/  

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/DebbieYoungNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/debbie-young

Follow the St Bride’s blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources

It’s release day for Wolves of Wagria by Eric Schumacher #blogtour #Viking #HistoricalFiction #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub 

Here’s the blurb:

Three kingdoms. Two friends. Only one way to survive.

For fans of Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden comes the tale of Olaf Tryggvason and his adventures in the battle-scarred kingdom of Wagria.

It is AD 972. Olaf Tryggvason and his oath-sworn protector, Torgil, are once again on the move. They have left the Rus kingdom and now travel the Baltic Sea in search of plunder and fame. But a fateful storm lands them on the Vendish coastline in a kingdom called Wagria.

There, they find themselves caught between the aggression of the Danes, the political aspirations of the Wagrian lords, and the shifting politics in Saxland. Can they survive or will they become just one more casualty of kingly ambitions? 

Find out in this harrowing sequel to the best-selling Forged by Iron and Sigurd’s Swords.

Buy Links:

This book is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the Author

Eric Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history at a very early age, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Bernard Cornwell, Jack Whyte, and Wilbur Smith. Those discoveries fueled his imagination and continue to influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God’s Hammer, was published in 2005.

You can follow Eric Schumacher on Amazon or by joining his newsletter at https://www.ericschumacher.net/readers-club.

Connect with Eric

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LinkedInBook BubAmazon Author PageGoodreads: 

Follow the Wolves of Wagria blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Happy Release Day to Warrior of Mercia, book 3 in the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles

Today sees the release of book 3 in my series about young Icel, a much-loved character from my The Ninth Century series featuring King Coelwulf, the last king of Mercia. And so, now that Icel as a young man, and Icel as a crotchety older man are both firmly in reader’s minds, I thought I’d share more about the idea for the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles series.

My characters in the Ninth Century series feel like they very much arrived in my head fully formed. Coelwulf was obviously the first, but others quickly followed, and Icel, with his derisive comments about any of their accomplishments, was an early fan favourite, and one of my favourites as well. Surly, and outspoken, while offering little of his life before the period that my characters knew him, he really did speak to me when I was deciding on a new series to write for Boldwood Books. All those little comments he makes. I think the below is our first introduction to his character;

“In the reign of King Wiglaf I first became a man,” he’s fond of saying, although he never explains what act made him a man. Again, I’ve stopped questioning him. Edmund likes to when he’s either drunk too much, or is trying to distract himself from whatever attack we’re about to begin. And of course Rudolf hangs on Icel’s every word. They’re an excellent match for each other, the boy who never runs out of questions, and the man who never answers them.’ (The Last King)

All these hints at what he might really have been like when he was perhaps no older than Rudolf, another firm fan favourite, made me want to tell his story. It did help that Mercia, at the time he would have been a boy was in political turmoil. It also helped that the Viking Raiders were making an appearance in Saxon England as well throughout the 830s. But Icel is a fictional character, and while fictionalising my Saxon characters, the men and women I normally write about did actually exist, even if we only have their names. But Mercia, in the 820s and 830s suffered a series of successive kingships, many of which failed, and so while Icel is fictitious, he does allow me to give a more rounded view of the entirety of events. He will live through these tumultuous times, and that’s important when I wanted to write about these events as well as all the kings.

It also helped that, in my contrary nature as a writer of historical fiction, that I always want to offer something a little different to the oft-taken paths when authors write about Saxon England – the Vikings, the reign of Alfred, Ethelred the Unready and the Norman Conquest, as well as the Golden Age of Northumbria, are often chosen but there is just so much more in these six hundred years to write about. So, no one else was writing about Mercia as it begins to falter in the 820s and 830s, and so I thought, why not:)

I really, really hope you’ll enjoy book 3, Warrior of Mercia, which follows Icel to the kingdom of the East Angles. I can also assure you that Book 4 is well underway as well.

Icel is a lone wolf no more…

Oath sworn to Wiglaf, King of Mercia and acknowledged as a member of Ealdorman Ælfstan’s warrior band, Icel
continues to forge his own destiny on the path to becoming the Warrior of Mercia.

With King Ecgberht of Wessex defeated and Londonium back under Mercian control, the Wessex invasion of Mercia is over. 

But the Wessex king was never Mercia’s only enemy. An unknown danger lurks in the form of merciless Viking raiders, who set their sights on infiltrating the waterways of the traitorous breakaway kingdom of the East Angles, within touching distance of Mercia’s eastern borders.

Icel must journey to the kingdom of the East Angles and unite against a common enemy to ensure Mercia’s hard-won freedom prevails.

books2read.com/WarriorofMercia

Available now in ebook, paperback, large print paperback, hardback and audio.

Check out some blog posts I wrote for release day!

And you can follow the blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources too. I’ll be updating with links to reviews, and I’d like to say a huge thank you to my blog tour hosts and usual reviewers for going out of their way to make release day so special.

David’s Book Blurb

Bookish Jottings

@whatjaneyreads

Leanne Bookstagram

InspiredbyPMDD

Amy McElroy Blog

The Pursuit of Bookiness

Stacy T Advance Book Reviewer

Splashes into Books

Johann Loves Book Talk

Sharon Beyond the Books

Ruins and Reading

The Strawberry Post

Reviewsfeed

I’m welcoming Carolyn Hughes to the blog, with her new book, Squire’s Hazard #Medieval #HistoricalFiction #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

Carolyn Hughes is treating us to a fabulous blog post. Enjoy.

Writing what you don’t know…

One of the wonderful aspects of writing fiction – and perhaps especially writing historical fiction – is that your imagination will drive you to include scenes in which your characters engage in some activity or other that you know absolutely nothing about. So, you have to consult books, and the internet, and other resources, in order to fill in the yawning gaps in your knowledge. 

In Squire’s Hazard, two such scenes involve my eponymous squire, Dickon de Bohun, in his struggle against a fellow squire, Edwin, who is making his life a misery with his bullying. Dickon knows he has to get the better of Edwin, but can’t bring himself to do anything dishonourable, or to snitch on Edwin and get him into trouble. 

A wrestling scene arises when Edwin challenges Dickon to a match, to be held, in principle, away from the vigilant eyes of their masters. Edwin imagines he’ll trump Dickon easily, and make him look a fool in front of other squires. Though in the event it doesn’t go all his way. Dickon is somewhat caught off guard by Edwin’s challenge and, although he’s not keen to fight him, as he believes that clandestine wrestling would be frowned upon by their lord, he nonetheless agrees to the match, hoping that his own wrestling skills are good enough.  

The second (extended) scene is that of a boar hunt. Hunting was something that the young squires engaged in, for entertainment, presumably, but also as part of their training. They learned about the process and ritual of the hunt, and practised skills that, as future knights, they might one day use in battle. I imagine they started out hunting small deer, and maybe foxes, but I wanted the hunting scene to have the potential for real danger. Thus I had the squires act as beaters in a hunt for boar – extremely dangerous animals. Powerful and fierce, and aggressive if cornered or protecting young, they could easily kill a dog and badly injure a man at the very least. 

However, the purpose of the hunting scene is not simply to show this aspect of the squires’ life. It has a more sinister purpose: for Edwin intends to find a way of exploiting the danger of the hunt to deliver yet another of his “pranks” against Dickon. It is important to the progress of the story.

Needless to say, I knew nothing about either wrestling or boar hunting (or indeed hunting of any sort), and so I had somehow to discover enough about both to enable me to write reasonably convincing scenes. Of course, if I was a proper, “hands-on” researcher, I’d go out hunting boar, and challenge someone to a wrestling match, so that I could obtain first-hand experience. But I’m afraid I’m way past such energetic, not to say, risky, pursuits, so I confined myself to reading as much as I could about techniques, then using my imagination to round out the narrative.

In both cases I watched YouTube videos to see how things were done. I’ve done this for other activities I needed to know something about, such as charging at the quintain with a lance under your arm, and also the gentler pursuit of making cheese. YouTube is a wonderful resource: you might be surprised what you can learn from studying films produced by practitioners of all sorts of activities, and of course historical reenactors. It’s undoubtedly not quite as good as “doing-it-yourself”, but I hope I have made it work.

So, here are a couple of snippets of the result of my research and video-watching, the first a scene of the wrestling, the second, part of the boar hunt.

The wrestling match

Standing at the edge of the clearing, on the opposite side to Edwin, and some distance from the band of witnesses, he stripped off his belt and tunic and laid them carefully on the ground. Edwin then strode forward, his chest thrust out, to the grassy centre of the clearing. One or two of the onlookers cheered.

Dickon stepped forward too. Each of them took up a stance, legs tensed, arms out.

Then Edwin lunged, grasping Dickon’s wrist with one hand and his elbow with the other. He leered as he thrust a knee forward, clearly intending to unbalance Dickon. But Dickon flicked his free hand up and drove it hard against Edwin’s inner arm, making him let go. Unbalanced then himself, Edwin staggered, giving Dickon time to grab one of his flailing hands.

Squeezing it hard, he flipped it up and twisted it at the wrist, causing Edwin to cry out, then grabbed the rest of Edwin’s arm with his other hand. Quickly putting out a leg in front of Edwin’s and pushing hard against his arm, he threw Edwin over and he fell back onto the ground.

A collective groan rose from the group of bystanders, but Edwin recovered fast and, leaping up, he glowered at Dickon. ‘Right, de Bohun,’ he hissed, ‘now you’re really for it.’ He lunged again.

At first it felt an even match in terms of strength and skill. Dickon would trounce Edwin, then Edwin would do the same to him. But, as each of them tumbled onto the grass time and time again, Dickon realised that Edwin’s energy was waning: his grip was becoming weaker, and he was finding it harder to throw him over. Yet there was still power left in his own hands. When Edwin lurched towards him yet again, but with little vigour, Dickon threw up his hands to fend him off and caught him hard upon the nose.”

The boar hunt

At the outskirts of the wood, the master gathered the squires and dog handlers together.

‘Right,’ he said, ‘our master huntsman has already confirmed there’s a goodly number of boar here today, so it’s your job now to find them. You know the drill. Look for the signs: muddy wallowing hollows in the ground, areas of uprooted soil where the beasts have grubbed for food. And, of course, footprints: you know the shape you’re looking for, with the dewclaws at the back. When we’re confident we’ve found some, we free the dogs to scent them out. You follow on, fast but never recklessly, beating the animals forward towards the huntsmen.’

A mixture of exhilaration and anxiety set Dickon’s heart thumping. He knew what he had to do. But he’d not done it before and prayed he’d make no mistakes.

At first, it all went well. They found a number of fresh wallows, and trees nearby with muddy trunks, where the boars had scraped their mucky bodies clean. The ground was cratered with so many footprints, it seemed there might be several boar drifts in the forest. At length the hounds were set loose to pick up the scent. Quiet now, but with their tails still wagging, they scurried back and forth, sniffing at the tree bark and snuffling around the undergrowth. It wasn’t long before they were off, their handlers and the beaters chasing after them.

Thank you so much for sharing. It is a nightmare when you realise you want to write a scene and have no idea how it might actually have happened. Well done:)

Here’s the blurb:

How do you overcome the loathing, lust and bitterness threatening you and your family’s honour?

It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Fougère. Or he would be, if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth.

At home in Meonbridge for Christmas, Dickon notices how grown-up his childhood playmate, Libby Fletcher, has become since he last saw her and feels the stirrings of desire. Libby, seeing how different he is too, falls instantly in love. But as a servant to Dickon’s grandmother, Lady Margaret de Bohun, she could never be his wife.

Margery Tyler, Libby’s aunt, meeting her niece by chance, learns of her passion for young Dickon. Their conversation rekindles Margery’s long-held rancour against the de Bohuns, whom she blames for all the ills that befell her family, including her own servitude. For years she’s hidden her hunger for retribution, but she can no longer keep her hostility in check.

As the future Lord of Meonbridge, Dickon knows he must rise above de Courtenay’s loathing and intimidation, and get the better of him. And, surely, he must master his lust for Libby, so his own mother’s shocking history is not repeated? Of Margery’s bitterness, however, he has yet to learn…

Beset by the hazards these powerful and dangerous emotions bring, can young Dickon summon up the courage and resolve to overcome them?

Secrets, hatred and betrayal, but also love and courage – Squire’s Hazard, the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.

Buy Links:

This book is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/bW5yJz

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

The paperback is available to buy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Waterstones. 

Meet the Author

CAROLYN HUGHES has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.

Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

Squire’s Hazard is the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE, and more stories about the folk of Meonbridge will follow.

You can connect with Carolyn through her website www.carolynhughesauthor.com and on social media.

Connect with the author

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Follow the Squire’s Hazard blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

I’m welcoming Julia Ibbotson and her historical romance, A Shape on the Air, to the blog #historical #timeslip #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub

Here’s the blurb:

A haunting Anglo-Saxon time-slip of mystery and romance

Can echoes of the past threaten the present? They are 1500 years apart, but can they reach out to each other across the centuries? One woman faces a traumatic truth in the present day. The other is forced to marry the man she hates as the ‘dark ages’ unfold.

How can Dr Viv DuLac, medievalist and academic, unlock the secrets of the past? Traumatised by betrayal, she slips into 499 AD and into the body of Lady Vivianne, who is also battling treachery. Viv must uncover the mystery of the key that she unwittingly brings back with her to the present day, as echoes of the past resonate through time. But little does Viv realise just how much both their lives across the centuries will become so intertwined. And in the end, how can they help each other across the ages without changing the course of history?

For fans of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorne, Susanna Kearsley, Christina Courtenay.

Praise for Julia Ibbotson

Praise for A Shape on the Air:

“In the best Barbara Erskine tradition …I would highly recommend this novel” – Historical Novel Society

“Amazing …a really great book …I just couldn’t put it down” – Hazel Morgan

“Well-rounded characters and a wealth of historical research make this a real page-turner” – Amazon review

“Enthralling” – Amazon review

“Julia does an incredible job of setting up the idea of time-shift so that it’s believable and makes sense” – Amazon review

“Viv/Lady Vivianne … lovely identifiable heroine in both time periods … I love her strength and vulnerability. And Rory/Roland is simply gorgeous!” – Melissa Morgan

“gripping … a very real sense of threat and danger, an enthralling mystery … a wholly convincing romance, across both timelines” – Anne Williams

Buy Links:

This novel is available on #KindleUnlimited

Universal Link: http://myBook.to/ASOTA

Amazon UK:   Amazon USAmazon CAAmazon AU

Meet the Author

Julia Ibbotson is fascinated by the medieval world and the concept of resonances across time. She sees her author brand as a historical fiction writer of romantic mysteries that are character-driven, well-paced, evocative of time and place, well-researched and uplifting page-turners. Her current series focuses on early medieval dual-time/time-slip mysteries. 

Julia read English at Keele University, England, specialising in medieval language/ literature/ history, and has a PhD in socio-linguistics. After a turbulent time in Ghana, West Africa, she became a school teacher, then a university academic and researcher. 

Her break as an author came soon after she joined the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2015, with a three-book deal from Lume Books for a trilogy (Drumbeats) set in Ghana in the 1960s. She has also indie-published three other books, including A Shape on the Air, an Anglo-Saxon timeslip mystery, and its two sequels The Dragon Tree and The Rune Stone. Her latest, Daughter of Mercia, is the first of a new series of Anglo-Saxon dual time mystery/romances where echoes of the past resonate across the centuries. 

Her books will appeal to fans of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorne, Susanna Kearsley, and Christina Courtenay. Her readers say: ‘compelling character-driven novels’, ‘a skilled story-teller’, ‘evocative and well-paced storylines’, ‘incredible writing style’, ‘intricately written’, ‘absorbing and captivating’, and ‘an absolute gem of a trilogy’.

Connect with the author:

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Follow the A Shape on the Air blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club

Today, I’m delighted to feature Floats the Dark Shadow by Yves Fey on the blog #HistoricalMystery #MontmartreParis #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Floats the Dark Shadow.

Protest Against Women Being Admitted to the Ecole des Beaux Arts—Floats the Dark Shadow

“Down with women! Down with women!”

The shouts of the male students clanged in Theo’s head, as she watched them march inside the huge iron gates of the École des Beaux Arts. She had woken groggy and wretched after crying late into the night, but determined to meet Carmine here, for Mélanie’s sake.

“They are yapping dogs.” Carmine didn’t yap, she snarled.

“Puppies with power,” Theo agreed unhappily. Her headache grew worse with each angry shout. She probably should have gone back with Averill yesterday, but she’d needed to be alone after seeing Alicia in the morgue.

“Out with the women! Out! Out! Out!”

“No!” “Stop!” “Cowards!” Cries rose from the crowd as a new pack of male students drove the two distraught women students across the vast courtyard, through the gate, and into the street. The protesters outside quickly drew them into the center of a protective circle. Theo had seen the same arrogance and brutality when she marched for the vote in San Francisco. Why had she expected Frenchmen to be any better, especially when they granted their women even less power than American men did? Her friends were the exception, and even they preferred the image of the perfect muse—a seductive, destructive Salomé who would rend their souls the better to inspire their poems.

“Go back to your embroidery!” a whey-faced student taunted.

“Go back to your diapers!” Another student surged to the front of the pack. He looked like a scruffy fox—a rabid fox.  “You can use baby caca for your paints!”

“They are the ones full of caca,” Carmine fumed. “Only men can create le grand art! You remember Mélanie’s Cassandra.”

“It was beautiful!” Theo affirmed as insults pelted them like rocks. “It was everything they say art should be and it had soul. It had passion.”

“That’s why they didn’t give it an award. Too much life. Not posed pain—real pain. They need their art to be dead, like a rabbit strung up for a still life.”

The futility of Mélanie’s sacrifice tormented Theo, but Carmine brought back Mélanie’s hope for her art, her courage in fighting for what she believed. The demonstrating women shared that hope and that courage.

“Your brains are stuffed full of ruffles!” the whey-faced one sang out, winning hoots of laughter from his friends.  

Theo thrust off the smothering misery of the morgue and stalked to the gates, looking into the paved quadrangle where the irate students marched and shouted. Men she presumed to be professors and administrators hovered anxiously in the background, but some of the male students and teachers squeezed through the gates to join the growing crowd supporting the women. Turning to look across the street, Theo saw a man who must be a journalist scribbling madly in a notebook. Behind him, half-hidden in the arch of a corner doorway, a young woman watched the protesters. Theo caught her eye and beckoned her to join them. She smiled a little but shook her head, looking anxiously from side to side.

“You’re ruining everything!” a petulant voice called out. “All sorts of stupid new rules and restrictions came trailing on your petticoats.”

“We don’t need new rules!” Theo shouted back, adding her voice to the other women. “We don’t want special treatment! We want the same treatment, the same classes, the same models!”

“And the same medals!” Carmine yelled. “That’s why you’re really afraid! You’ll have to compete with women for the prizes you’ve been keeping to yourselves.”

“Why should I be afraid of that!” another student taunted. “No woman is better than I am!”

Remembering Mélanie, Theo seethed with scorn. “These women got higher scores than you did.”

That brought a deluge of cries. “Liar!” “Bribery!” “You don’t belong here!” “You belong on your backs!”

The whey-faced student yelled out above the others. “Go find yourself a husband!” 

The scruffy fox lifted his cane above his head, waving it furiously. “Yes! A husband will teach you to paint with your tongue!”

The men laughed and wagged their tongues at them. The crass insults gave Theo a surge of furious energy. “Did you swing the same cane at the Charity bazaar?” she yelled at the fox. “Did you beat your way through those women too?”

“I was never there!” he yelled back, though the whey-face one suddenly turned even paler and backed out of sight. The fox looked stunned, then shrugged off the defection.

Theo put a hand to her head, remembering the painful cut that some man had inflicted. Hot anger flowed through her. “You are just as much of a coward!” she accused the fox. “More of a coward. Your life’s not at risk—just your vanity!”

Suddenly, the woman she had seen half-hiding in the doorway darted from her haven and ran down the street. Perhaps because of their silent communication, she came straight to Theo and Carmine. She was quite petite, barely five feet. She had a gentle, shy countenance, lit by eyes full of steely determination.

“The police are coming,” she warned, pointing back down the cross street.. “I saw them at the end of the block.”

“Let’s hope they arrest these men!” Carmine said. “But with our luck, they’ll punish us for daring to protest.”

“Go now,” one of the women students said to the protesters. “But thank you for joining us.”

“We should leave,” Theo said to Carmine as the women began to disperse.

“I will walk with you to the corner and circle back around. I don’t want to be arrested!” the young woman said.

Quickly they walked down the rue Bonaparte toward the quai. “You’re American, aren’t you?” Theo asked their companion.

She nodded. “Yes, and you?”

“From Mill Valley, California. That’s near San Francisco. My name is Theodora Faraday.”

“And I am Julia Morgan. We were neighbors. I am from Oakland. I came to Paris last year because the École promised women would soon be admitted.”

“You see they will use any excuse to refuse you,” Carmine muttered, squaring her shoulders. She set her hat at a jauntier angle and plucked at her sleeves to puff them out.

“I want to study architecture,” Julia said firmly. “This is the most prestigious school in the world. There is no equivalent.”

“What are you doing meanwhile?” Carmine asked.

“I am working in the architecture atelier of Marcel de Monclos and submitting my designs to international competitions.”

“Have you won any?” Carmine asked.

“Indeed I have. I am gaining a reputation. Surely the École will admit me.”

“Surely they will,” Theo affirmed.

“Perhaps,” Carmine said gloomily.

Julia stopped when they turned the corner that brought the Seine into view. “I must go back to work.”

Bonne chance,” Theo wished her good luck. Tiny and soft-spoken as she was, Julia obviously had the tenacity to triumph over the forces allied against her sex.

Here’s the blurb:

Young American painter Theodora Faraday struggles to become an artist in Belle Époque Paris. She’s tasted the champagne of success, illustrating poems for the Revenants, a group of poets led by her adored cousin, Averill. 

When children she knows vanish mysteriously, Theo confronts Inspecteur Michel Devaux who suspects the Revenants are involved. Theo refuses to believe the killer could be a friend—could be the man she loves. Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris, from catacombs to asylums, to the obscene ritual of a Black Mass. 

Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France—Gilles de Rais. Once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant, after her death he plunged into an orgy of evil. The Church burned him at the stake for heresy, sorcery, and the depraved murder of hundreds of peasant children. 

Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.

Buy Links:

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Meet the Author

Yves Fey has MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing at twelve.  

She’s been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, creator of ceramic beasties, writing teacher, illustrator, and has won prizes for her chocolate desserts. Her current obsession is creating perfumes inspired by her Parisian characters. 

Yves lives in Albany with her mystery writer husband and their cats, Charlotte and Emily, the Flying Bronte Sisters.

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Book Review – Domitian by S J A Turney – highly recommended historical fiction

Here’s the blurb:

Rome, AD 52. The Julio-Claudian dynasty is in its death throes. Over the next twenty years, chaos descends as Claudius then Nero are killed. The whole empire bucks and heaves with conspiracy, rebellion and civil war.

Out of the ashes and discord, a new imperial family emerges: the Flavians. Vespasian is crowned emperor, with his sons, Titus and Domitian, next in line.

Domitian, still only a teenager, has known only fear, death and treachery for as long as he has been alive. Suspicious of the senate as a breeding ground for treachery, and fiercely protective of his surviving family members, he uses a network of spies to stay one step ahead of any would-be conspirators.

When Titus unexpectedly falls gravely ill, the throne beckons for Domitian, something he never wanted or prepared for. As in all his darkest moments, Domitian’s childhood guardian, Nerva, is the man he turns to with his fears, and his secrets…

Domitian by S J A Turney is an engrossing story of political shenanigans in first-century AD Rome.

I’m not hugely well-read on Roman history, but through reading Turney’s books, I’ve come to appreciate just what a rich tapestry there is to weave tales of corruption, war and politics. And cor, doesn’t Domitian have it all? The narrative starts during the reign of Nero, and takes us through the year of the four emperors, when Vespasian comes out on top, through the brief rule of his son, and then onto Domitian. It’s not quite as whistlestop as it sounds, but the viewpoint Turney adopts, through the eyes of Nerva, allows the reader to stand back and watch it all happen, perhaps, like me, with an increasingly open mouth of disbelief.

This isn’t a fast read, as perhaps others of Turney’s more martial Roman stories might be, but it is absorbing. There isn’t a cast of thousands, but there are still many men who rise and fall (not so many women, but they are still included in the story), and events that we all might know more about, such as the eruption of Vesuvius and the continuing invasion of Britannia under Agricola (I see what you did there Mr Turney:)).

This is a story of politics, spies and corruption; of men who don’t want to fall into the same traps as those who went before. It is a fabulous story, and I highly, highly recommend it.

Buy Now: https://amzn.to/3gUAehY

Connect with the author:

http://www.simonturney.com/

Pagan King – a sneak peek (or listen) to the forthcoming audiobook

It’s not quite with us yet, but still, I want to share the wonderful audio for Pagan King, which should be available at some point in the next few weeks. It’s all uploaded, and now the waiting begins. I will share when it’s released into the wild. (I can’t even share a preorder link as it will just go live on Amazon, Audible and iTunes). Enjoy.

Sample for Pagan King read by Matt Coles