Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Interview - Anne Stenhouse.

Today I have the lovely Anne Stenhouse  talking about her novel:
 "Bella’s Betrothal".

Anne Stenhouse writes Regency era historical romance which is dialogue rich and humorous. She spent many years writing drama and loves to carry the skills learned from theatre work into her novels. Married to her own hero and dancing partner for over thirty years, Anne has acquired an interest in old buildings and opera. From the buildings, she crafted her hero, Charles Lindsay. He’s based on the gentlemen architects whose skills built Edinburgh’s New Town and many wonderful country houses still extant. From her own life-long interest in dance, she created young ladies like her heroine, Bella Wormsley. From the opera, she understands that no plot is ever too far-fetched.
Anne lives in Edinburgh but travels widely. Recent forays have included Vietnam and Cambodia where the architecture in both is jaw-droppingly fantastic.
Anne continues to live in Edinburgh and enjoys being able to walk out to the streets which her heroine would have trodden.
The Interview:
(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

Or who? I just loved historical romance as a teenager and read piles of it. I discovered Georgette Heyer as a young adult and dived in head-first. Wonderful stories full of glamour and sparkling wit which are as readable today as they ever were.
(2)Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank?– brief description!
Charles Lindsay is an architect, but also a Scottish laird. Not a person of the top ranks like the Royal dukes or even the aristocrats, but a person of family and clan responsibility. Does that make him beta? I thought he was pretty attractive: good looking, intelligent, touch of arrogance in need of taming…
(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!
Bella Wormsley, Lady Isabella, is the daughter of an earl and the granddaughter of a duke. She’s top drawer, but she’s half Scottish and so like Charles has a strong sense of the value of others. Her hair, beautifully realised by Charlie Volnek’s cover, is that mass of red corkscrew curls seen around in Scottish society. She’s a lady of huge energy, talented as an artist and headstrong. A clash is inevitable.
(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?
Bella’s aunt and uncle, Hatty and Mack Menzies and her cousins form a colourful backdrop when they give Bella shelter from scandal. There is also a villain, Graham Direlton, whose ambition drives a lot of the plot.
(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.
Bella’s Betrothal opens in an inn bedroom in Dalkeith and moves to Edinburgh, 1826.
(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?
I enjoy thinking myself back into the restrictions and social norms and niceties of that period. I try to use the differences to make a colourful canvas. Many of them are limiting, but many of them allow such interesting What ifs? I enjoy that moment in time where English, the language, was modernising. One gets to Jane Austen and thinks, “I understand this.” I am horrified by the social rules and use them to infuse reality as background. I think it’s really important to remind women in particular how recently we did not vote as of right, or own property, or go against the family wishes for fear of ending in Bedlam.
(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?
I dislike my villains because I have crafted them from personality traits I dislike. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time with some of the lesser characters because they’re not the positive people in the leading roles.
(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?
I do avoid those things. The novels have a lot of sensuality, I hope, but I don’t go in for graphic description or extended bedroom romps. I like to write by the tenet that “the pictures are better on the radio”. I think readers are intelligent and enjoy the fantasies they can weave from the hints you drop in your words. I abhor violence. Of course there is violence around wherever people live together, but I don’t regard it as entertainment. So, murders may be committed, but the details are sparse. Any other fearties like me are quite safe with my prose, I think.
(9) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?
Bella’s Betrothal is Regency style Scottish historical romance with touches of intrigue and much laughter.

Back cover blurb:
BELLA’S BETROTHAL by Anne Stenhouse, published MuseItUp, Canada.
While she is travelling north to find sanctuary from the malicious gossip of the Ton, Lady Isabella Wormsley’s room in a Dalkeith inn is invaded by handsome Scottish Laird, Charles Lindsay. Charles has uncovered a plot to kidnap her, but Bella wonders if he isn’t a more dangerous threat, at least to her heart, than the villainous Graham Direlton he wrests her from.
Bella settles into the household of her Aunt HattyMenzies in Edinburgh’s nineteenth century George Square where Charles is a regular visitor. She has been exiled to the north by her unfeeling mama, but feels more betrayed by her papa to whom she has been close. Bella hopes the delivery of her young cousin’s baby will eventually demonstrate her own innocence in the scandal that drove her from home.
Bella’s presence disrupts the lives of everyone connected to her. Direlton makes another attempt to kidnap her and in rescuing her a second time, Charles is compromised. Only a betrothal will save his business and Bella’s reputation.
Mayhem, murder and long suppressed family secrets raise confusion and seemingly endless difficulties. Will the growing but unacknowledged love between Bella and her Scottish architect survive the evil Direlton engineers?


Anne blogs at Novels Now which is here: Anne
Bella’s Betrothal is available from many online vendors. Amazon UK and Amazon US

Thank you.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Interview - Lindsay Downs.

          Today I have Lindsay Downs in the Interview Chair, talking about a recently released novel:
"The Guilty Countess" 
Lindsay prefers to remain anonymous!
Brief bio: What does it take to be a bestselling author?
Determination, skill, talent, luck or taking a risk with a venture into a totally new genre. For me it was a little of some and a lot of the others. In 2008 when I got two books published I thought it was due to skill; little did I know it was more luck than anything. Over the next three years I wrote, submitted, got rejected. I then did what I tell everyone who asks; I wrote some more. I didn’t give up. More on a dare than anything, I tried my hand at a regency, one of the most difficult genres because of the rules. I broke almost every one, I might add.. Within two days of its release the book was on a best seller list and stayed there for two months.
Turns out it is all of the aforementioned.

After two failed marriages, one from divorce and the other from the death of my wife, I decided upon retirement to move. That opportunity came in September 2012 when I migrated to Texas. For me, as a multipublished author, making the decision to be an author was one of the best things I’ve done to date. Now, every day I can write, creating stories to take my readers to places they can only dream about. I’m also a member of the Published Authors Network (PAN) by the Romance Writers of America (RWA).

The Questionnaire:
(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

When I was writing The Masked Lady and The Murder I got the idea for this book. It was, once again “a what if” question. What would happen if Lady Kersey was accused of killing her husband but the unanswered question-did or didn’t she. To find out that answer you’ll have to read the book.

(2) Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank?– brief description!

Lord Robert Markson, Viscount of Hampshire, is an alpha but is smart enough to listen to his wife, even to where he will follow her advice. He’s five and twenty and a former captain in the Guards. I don’t describe him so as to let my readers decide what they want him to look like.

(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!

Lady Kristina Markson, Viscountess of Hampshire, achieved the title by marriage. She’s very strong willed, with a mind which easily can see when something is wrong. When she does she wastes no time in informing Lord Markson.
She has mousy brown hair with pale blue eyes.

(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

Yes, Lady Donna Kersey. She is the older sister to Lord Markson and plays an important role in the story in helping to find out who killed her husband.

(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.

The book is set during the regency period in England. It starts out in London then to hide and protect Lady Kersey Lord and Lady Markson smuggle her to his country estate. Then they travel to Stratford upon Avon in disguises and by public carriage to interview a possible suspect before returning to the estate. Finally, as the last pieces of the puzzle come together the three return to London openly. Yes, there is a bit of traveling but I can assure you at each stop valuable information is learned.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

I wrote my first regency period piece in 2012 and developed a love for setting my stories in the period after having read a great number of books set during it.

(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?
Lord Ethan Rosewood is the heir to the Earl of Crossington title and feels it’s his duty to attempt to control Kristina. He’s overbearing, obnoxious and demanding. You will only see a very little bit of him in this book but fear not he will have his own story. The reason I dislike him is he reminds me of my older brother.

(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

I purposefully avoid sex scenes as I don’t feel they do anything to enhance or move the story forward. I will show the end result of gross violence but not the act. It’s the same with the other books in the series and my other regencies.

(9) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?

This is a historical mystery fiction where none of the characters are real.


Back cover blurb:

Accused of murdering her husband, Lady Donna Kersey turns to the only people who can prove her innocence, her brother and his new bride.

As Robert and Kristina start their search for the real killer they learn the murder might be more complicated than first thought. Uncovering evidence sends the three in pursuit of a possible suspect only to find this person is innocent, or is he not guilty of the murder but not something else.

When Robert and Kristina learn Lord Kersey might not be exactly who they believe him to be that’s when the facts become murky. It takes a surprise visit by Kristina’s brother to help set the record straight which only adds more confusion to the facts.

Will Robert and Kristina find the killer of Lord Kersey before the authorities take Lady Kersey away in irons?
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Thank you.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Interview - Renée Reynolds

Today I have the lovely Renée Reynolds in The Interview chair talking about her aristocratic heroes from The Lords of Oxford series!


 Author Renée Reynolds grew up all over the world as the daughter of a globe-trotting Marine father and spirited and supportive mother. Their family motto: you can never learn too much, travel too much, or talk too much.

She majored in majors in college, and after obtaining a handful of degrees, she decided not to use any of them.  Instead she writes about what she cannot do - go back in time to dance at balls, flirt with lords and scoundrels, and gallop unfashionably down Rotten Row during the most fashionable hour.

After dodging a few Collinses and Wickhams, Renée happily snared a Darcy. Her HEA turned out to be in Texas, where she resides with "the hubs, the kiddos, a boisterous menagerie of indoor and outdoor animals, and a yard of meticulously maintained weeds." She has happily tagged on this addendum to the family motto: you can never read too much, too often, or too late at night.


(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

I've always been an avid reader, the type to get lost in a story and see the characters and plot playing like a movie in my mind. Jane Austen is my favorite author, and the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice opened an entirely new reading world to me – Austen fan fiction, sequels and reimaginings, and the historical romance novel.  As I devoured author after author, discovering storylines and characters that I liked and loathed, I suddenly found myself picturing a plot I could create, characters I could bring to life.  After an encouraging “just do it!” from my husband, I sketched the outline to several novels . . . and just did it.

(2) Alpha or beta hero – profession/title/rank?– brief description!

My heroes are a combination of the alpha and beta hero, which some have defined as a third type – the gamma.  My heroes are strong, capable, and dependable without being obnoxiously arrogant or insufferable.  They are the gentlemen you hope to meet in real life, the ones you picture yourself marrying without having to grit your teeth and hope to change his overbearing and high-handed ways.  My heroes are Jonas Leighton, Duke of Dorset (Book 1) and Roman de Courtenay, Marquis of Stafford (Book 2).  They are peers of the realm that take their obligations seriously without letting themselves be consumed by Society's demands.  Dorset wants his sister married because she's driving him crazy, but he's not going to toss her to the first or wealthiest suitor.  Stafford feels pulled in too many directions by his family and title duties, and just wants a bit of a break from his pile of responsibilities.  Both lords love their families, recognize the good and the bad in the Society to which they were born, and strive to find a balance between what's expected and what works for them.

(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!

My heroines are Ladies Juliet Quinn (Book 1), daughter of the Marquis of Lansdowne, and Miranda Leighton (Book 2), sister to the Duke of Dorset.  They are best friends, and personality foils to each other.  Lady Juliet is witty and cerebral, and very proper in Society.  Lady Miranda is outgoing and gregarious, and skirts the edges of indecorous behavior in her efforts to see and experience all life offers.  Both ladies enjoy the bit of independence their high titles afford them, in comparison to some other ladies of the time period, and have strong opinions and beliefs that they express, when asked.  Picture the Duchess of Devonshire without the gambling or endless affairs.

(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

Family is important in my stories, so parents and siblings are characters that I've fleshed out and given relevant voices, but the strongest secondary character would have to be Catherine Allendale, Countess of Ashford.  She is the aunt of Juliet (and her brothers, Charles the Earl of Bristol and Marcus the Army Major), and a force of nature.  She endured a marriage typical of the time – a merging of titles, lands, and monies – but her husband was also cold and even emotionally abusive at times.  After his death, she capitalized on the freedom that widowhood brought and resolved to live in a manner that suited her beliefs and desires.  She tells Juliet and her friends how to be proper but strong ladies, encouraging them to be respectful without being meek.  She educates the younger ladies on their roles in Society and their future homes, but that they don't have to be mindless drudges.  And she really delights in doing things she knows her late husband, the dearly-departed and unlamented Earl, would have abhorred and forbidden.

(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.

My novels are set during the Regency period in England, specifically the summer of 1814.  Napoleon has just abdicated his crown, for the first time, and England is celebrating the Glorious Peace.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

I love the manners, the dress, and even the structure of Regency society.  Mind you, there were plenty of things wrong during this time – from abject poverty to oppressive taxation to war – but it was also a time of industrial growth and increasing enlightenment.  Every period in history has both its positive aspects and its horrors, and it can be difficult for us to wrap our modern minds around some of the things that were considered acceptable in the past.  I think it's also true that each era has its independent movers and shakers – those who push the boundaries of the status quo – so we have to be careful to read with a mind toward historical accuracy in all its forms.

(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?

I have a villain causing havoc in each storyline that is particularly disgusting, the Viscount Melville.  He really has no redeeming qualities, and is a broad caricature of the stereotypically nasty aristocrat of the time period.  He is self-absorbed, arrogant, threatening to his sister and other ladies, and not good ton, to quote a phrase from that period.  But it's hard to say I dislike him.  As a person, he's repulsive, and I would stay far from him.  As a character, he's necessary in spite of his awfulness, which is exactly as he should be.

(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

I keep the sex behind the bedroom doors, but the kissing, longing, and desire is front and center.  The scenes are sensual but still subtle.  As for violence, my villain uses both intimidation and force to further his purposes.  His level of aggression increases in Book 2, because of the rising desperation he feels over his situation, but I refrain from gross violence.

(9) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?

Definitely historical fiction, heavy on the romance.  They are also full of shenanigans.
Back cover blurbs:

Lord Love a Duke:
Jonas Leighton, Duke of Dorset, hastily organizes a house party to find a suitor for his spirited sister, Lady Miranda. To thwart him she enlists her closest friend, Lady Juliet, and they unleash a series of pranks meant to confound his plans - if only he would cooperate and be the victim. Nothing goes according to plan for any of the scheming guests, yet the party will indeed end in a wedding.

A Marquis For All Seasons:

Lady Miranda Leighton and the Marquis of Stafford, Roman de Courtenay, have a similar problem: their families want them to find a spouse. Together they hatch the perfect scheme: in Society, he will play escort to Lady Miranda and his sister, but for their families, they will pretend an attachment, all in pursuit of one last season of unencumbered entertainment. Yet, in each other's constant company, they find their ruse giving rise to some surprisingly very real feelings. What happens when you set out to fool Society, but only end up fooling yourselves?

Author blog

Thank you.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Interview - Nancy Jardine - Celtic/Roman Series.

Today I have the lovely Nancy Jardine in the interview chair, talking about her wonderful Celtic Fervour Series:
 Bk1 The Beltane Choice; Bk2 After Whorl: Bran Reborn; Bk3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks.
At the foot of the Interview you will encounter my reviews of these wonderful Celtic/Roman themed novels.

Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in an area that’s steeped in antiquity- just as well since loves to write about ancient peoples. She regularly grandchild-minds; tends a messy garden; does ancestry research and leisure reading when she can squeeze them in. Her published work comprises two non fiction historical projects and six novels. Three novels are Contemporary Mysteries set in spectacular world locations; the others are Books 1 to 3 of her Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic Adventures. Writing in progress is Book 4 of her Celtic Fervour series, a Scottish family saga, and a time-travel novel for early teens which has been languishing for too long unpublished. 
Topaz Eyes (Crooked Cat Publishing) an ancestral-based contemporary mystery/thriller, is a finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE Fiction 2014. The winner is announced at the Awards Dinner on 28th May, at the Guildhall of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers in London.
The Interview:

(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?
The Beltane Choice, the first book of the series, developed as a result of my teaching the Celtic/Roman Britain period to my upper primary classes. I loved teaching all historical eras but particularly enjoyed early Roman Britain. Researching the period isn’t easy when there is scant evidence to go by, but the era holds great fascination for me.  I chose to write about a fictional Celtic warrior family, from the hillfort of Garrigill, rather than focus on well-documented historical figures. Historically eminent Romans or Celtic nobility are mentioned in name only as part of the plots.
(2) Alpha or beta hero – profession/title/rank?– brief description!
Book One has an alpha hero in Lorcan of Garrigill, in the sense that he is in a powerful position and to many extents controlling, yet he does not hold the supreme power. Lorcan also has flaws, one of which is serious loyalty to his own Brigante tribe which doesn’t sit well with plans for a marriage with Nara of the Selgovae.  Lorcan is the second-born brother; the mediator between the local, warring Celtic tribes. He becomes the spokesperson of the northern Brigante tribes in negotiations with the Roman Empire and is the best candidate to lead his tribe after the Battle of Whorl - a bloody event against the Romans. Books Two and Three are about Brennus, a younger brother of Lorcan, who is a more of a beta hero in that his former status is somewhat compromised by the injuries he receives at the Battle of Whorl. From being the tribal champion at single combat (a high accolade in Celtic tribal structure but not one with ultimate rule), he has to come to terms with disabilities and learns to use new skills which enable him to still be a prime figure in his tribe. His new life involves assuming a second identity as a spy for his King Venutius, gathering information about Roman expansion in the northern areas. It’s a dangerous business to be involved in and not for the faint hearted. Both, I think, are lovely men!
(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!
In Book One, Nara is the daughter of a Selgovae chief. She’s a feisty lass, a warrior princess with battle ready skills, but is also a healer. Her destiny abruptly changes and instead of becoming a priestess, she’s expunged from the priestess nemeton and charged with finding a man to marry, in order to father a child at Beltane. Her choice of mate cannot be made without much care and attention; a challenge she must rise to since the man must be supremely worthy. Captivity by a rival Brigante tribe makes her situation occasionally just a bit worrying, yet Nara is very adaptable, spunky and resourceful.

Books Two and Three feature Ineda of Marske. She is of lowly stature in her Brigante tribe but is a quick witted young female who has deep hatred for the Roman usurpers. She embraces the life of a spy with relish and aids Brennus of Garrigill in his guise as Bran of Witton till she is captured by a Roman tribune and kept as his slave for many years. Ineda’s enforced slavery means spying is extremely hazardous but she does not give up. She also has healing skills passed down from her grandmother which she uses to her advantage when incarcerated behind Roman fortress walls. She is a young woman of great intellect and ingenuity; full of curiosity; and loves to learn.
(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

In Book 1, Brennus is a secondary character with a strong role in the plot. It was because he got a raw deal from me in The Beltane Choice, I decided he needed a story of his own. That decision led to the writing of a follow-on book which, in turn, ended up being Books 2 and 3 of the series. Book 2 introduces Ineda of Marske who is also a Brigante, though not from Garrigill. As well as interacting with Brennus in Books 2 and 3, Ineda finds herself imprisoned for a while by a Roman tribune, Gaius Livanus Valerius. The tribune has great impact on what happens to Ineda and as such, Gaius plays a very strong pivotal role- in essence he’s a third protagonist in Book 3. However, since my series is about the Garrigill warrior brothers, Lorcan and Brennus reappear in later books- along with their immediate families- playing secondary roles.

(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.
The era is the late first century Britain from AD 71 onwards. Books 1 and 2 are set in current northern England (mainly in Brigante Territory AD 71-78). The locations are Celtic hillforts or Roman forts and fortresses. Book 3 sees Brennus and the Garrigill warriors moving slowly northwards into modern day north-east Scotland, largely mirroring the northern campaigns of Governor Agricola when he marched his legions to the far north of Britannia.  Celtic settlements and Roman forts are also the main settings in Book 3.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

I love plunging my characters into an imaginary landscape that I’ve created using as thorough research of the period as possible. Since visual and written artefacts are rare, there’s a lot of reliance on interpretative history. The fact that new archaeological research can alter previously perceived ideas makes researching the period even more exciting, perverse as that may sometimes seem. Though I’m writing fiction, and haven’t needed to do it, I’ve altered my WIPs to accommodate new evidence that has been unearthed whilst writing my Celtic Fervour Series.
(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?

I’m not sure I actually dislike them, but I’ve included some minor characters which have made the lives of my protagonists more difficult. I wasn’t too enamoured of a warrior of the Carvetii called Shea of Ivegill who appears in Book 1. He’s quite a nasty man who wants Nara of the Selgovae but only on terms acceptable to him. Reading the book will show why he isn’t the happiest of men. In Book 3, Ineda has to deal with her Roman master’s mean secretary - but Pomponius isn’t all bad, he has some qualities I hope readers will enjoy. Otherwise I’ve not, so far, felt the need to make any character really, really horrible.

(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

No. I don’t avoid sex scenes but I’ve had to be cautious in writing some of the scenes to avoid some readers reading it as rape. However, I stand by my decisions that in the era in which I’m writing, what we now term ‘rape’ – as in unwanted sex – happened as a result of war between Celtic tribes, and between the Celts and the Roman Empire. When Celtic lands were invaded, I’m sure such events did occur. With regard to violence, I have some scenes of battle which definitely include bloody tactics – though I don’t believe they are unnecessarily gory. 

(9) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?

My series is being promoted as Historical Romantic Adventure. It has a sound historical background in which varying degrees of romantic entanglements happen, so it isn’t a historical romance where the romance is prime, and the background superficial. Happy endings don’t result in all books. It isn’t conventional historical fiction since the protagonists aren’t Kings, Queens or well-known historical figures- though the backdrop is historically accurate in terms of settings and historical locations. My authentic historical Celtic and Roman figures appear in cameo roles, or are mentioned in a background role. The Celtic Fervour Series is a meld of different historical sub-genres and as such is Historical Romantic Adventure.


Back cover blurb: Book 3- After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks
Pursued by Rome. AD73 Northern Britannia

After King Venutius’ defeat, Brennus of Garrigill – known as Bran – maintains a spy network monitoring Roman activity in Brigantia. Relative peace reigns till AD 78 when Roman Governor Agricola marches his legions to the far north. Brennus is always one step ahead of the Roman Army as he seeks the Caledon Celt who will lead all tribes in battle against Rome.
Ineda of Marske treks northwards with her master, Tribune Valerius, who is responsible for supplying Agricola’s northern campaigns. At Inchtuthil Roman Fort Ineda flees seeking fellow Brigantes congregating on the foothills of Beinn na Ciche.
Will the battle against the Romans bring Ineda and Brennus together again?

Thank you.
My review of The Beltane Choice:

If you're a fan of the late TV drama series "Xena Warrior Princess", then "The Beltane Choice" is for you. It's set in AD 71, Britannia, and the heroine is indeed a Warrior Princess. Nara has lived for many years on the Island of Nemetom with the priestesses until her coming of age, and the upcoming Beltane fires are set to decide her fate.

Although extremely brave, from page one Nara has committed a grave mistake and by her own hand has incited the wrath of a wild beast. Put to flight and seeking a safe haven her options are few. To accept the help of any warrior is bad enough and goes against the grain of Nara's upbringing. To be grateful to an enemy warrior is humiliating indeed. Besides, not only does her bitterest enemy achieve a kill where she has failed, he has it in mind to reap a grand reward in exchange for her life. But her life comes at a greater price than expected. Unwilling to concede to his ardent advances, albeit he awakens forbidden desires within her, she cannot and will not succumb.

Lorcan, although a hardened warrior and far superior in strength he nonetheless concedes to wise inner counsel and sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding his captive. For rather than take her against her will, he knows the journey ahead is long and arduous and will afford time enough for him to win her over: if that is ever possible. Her belief all man's inner desires and needs are base proves mildly amusing to him, and he's not immune to her secret observations all things Lorcan.

But events soon unravel to mar a burgeoning mutual respect erring affection between the captor and captive, and although both are aware of intense desire and longing they remain enemy warriors, Brought to the tribe elder Nara is forced to await her fate for she is nought but a bargaining tool between two tribes. And yet, a Roman legion marching ever closer is set to turn her fate around, and come the night of the Beltane Fires she wishes to succumb to the one she loves but is instead betrothed to another. How then can the Goddess Rhianna make her life complete and remove the darkness now befallen her? Of course as the fires fall to smouldering embers and the sun rises on the distant horizon Goddess Rhianna finally plays her trump card!

Nancy Jardine has spun a wonderful romance set within Roman Britain, and likewise woven a tapestry of tribal life and political ambitions in the shadows of the great forests of Britannia.

My Review: After Whorl - Bran Reborn:

In this novel, the second of a trilogy set in Britannia 71 AD, Nancy Jardine brings the heartbreaking post-battle trauma experienced by Brennus (hero) to the forefront of his very existence. Although as a well-trained native warrior, when faced with the might of well-trained Roman soldiers, the Brigante's defeat at the Battle of Whorl reveals the weakness of individualistic heroics against that of disciplined Roman team-led assaults and defence tactics. Left for dead, to his chagrin, Brennus' survival is reliant upon the expertise of an aged healing woman (Meaghan), who not only tends to his physical injuries she affords wise counsel. But in the long process of his recovery and the sad loss of his healer, he sheds his old identity as Brennus of Garrigill and instead is reborn as Bran of Witton.

With Witton as his adoptive home, and he too becoming an adoptive son, Bran is as good as sworn to protect his adoptive sister (Meaghan's granddaughter) from harm, which is easier said than done. Ineda proves a force to be reckoned with, and causes Bran (Brennus) more than mere headaches, for he becomes enslaved as a day-worker to Roman supremacy and she remains free to roam within set boundaries. Nonetheless, both are committed to ridding the land of the Roman invaders, occupiers-cum-slave takers, and when opportunities arise for garnering valued knowledge of the enemy and troop movements, Bran and Ineda are as one but find themselves at odds in ways that are to prove fatal for both. And so the saga continues, for suddenly and brutally separated, their roles are reversed, in that Bran is free to roam and Ineda is enslaved. Although each knows where the other's heart lies, can they ever be as one again?

It will be intriguing to see, come book three, when and where Bran (Brennus) and his brother Lorcan (book 1) will meet again, if ever, and what effect the Roman officer's enslavement of Ineda will have upon her wilful streak. Either way, a tribal and Roman Pow Wow is in the offing, but will it bring peace with compromise or a fiery hell-ridden showdown with the Romans? Roll on book 3
My Review: After Whorl - Donning Double Cloaks:

It’s Northern Britannia AD73, and through the eyes of Lorcan and Brennus, two Brigante brother warriors, Nancy Jardine casts the reader back in time to Celtic Britain. It all seems such a far off point in history until the first light of dawn streaks the horizon, mists rise from deep dark dells to creep wraithlike across hills, and the sound of wood on wood is heard. That sound alone was the moment I stepped into Nancy Jardine’s Celtic world of the The Beltane Choice. Subsequently, Whorl: Bran Reborn was next on my agenda. I then eagerly awaited the publication day of book 3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks, and this is why:

Book 1 of Nancy Jardine’s Celtic/Roman series brings to the fore two brothers with wooden swords, who grow to manhood and become hardened Brigante warriors. Thus this reader lived through their hopes; their dreams; their love of their homeland and their struggle to survive the advancing might that is the Great Army of Rome. The Celtic tribes have little choice but to fight and die by the Roman Gladius or capitulate and serve their new overlords. And yet love still blossomed within the sanctity of the Celtic hearths, and the hero Lorcan discovered a happiness he never thought could be his. But he lost something dear to his heart too, and that something became the heart of book 2.

By Book 2 the Celtic struggle to regain sense of freedom has the reader riding with Brennus who becomes separated from his kin in tragic circumstances, and all the while the might of the Great Army of Rome advances steadily northward. After a great battle, Brennus is all but a broken man, his survival and enslavement serves only to instil greater loathing for every Roman standing on the land of Britannia. And for Brennus love springs from an unexpected source and brings with it great healing and greater determination to survive, and to escape and once again challenge the might of the Roman invader. But with freedom comes tragedy.

By Book 3, Brennus and Lorcan are again as one in mind, body and spirit. Rebellion is on the ether. And while Brennus has already sacrificed much for his freedom, the woman (Ineda) who made him whole again sacrifices even more. Torn between loyalty to her Roman master (for personal reasons) and that of her people, she risks her life to relay vital information to Celtic spies and couriers. Likewise Lorcan could lose everything that is close to his heart, but if the Celts are to achieve freedom from oppression, the rape of their lands, the slaughter of their people and hold fast to the dream of one day setting the might of the Roman Army to flight, they must stand and fight! This Book (3) is every bit as thrilling as 1 & 2, and I’m fingers crossed this is not the last of Brennus, Lorcan and their children.

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Interview - Judith Arnopp.

Today, in the Interview chair, I have the lovely author Judith Arnopp, talking about her latest novel
"Intractable Heart" : the story of Katheryn Parr. 

In 2007 Judith Arnopp graduated from the University of Wales, Lampeter with a BA in English Literature and a Masters in Medieval Studies; she now combines those skills to write historical novels.

Her early books; Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd concentrated on the Anglo- Saxon/ medieval period but in 2010 she published a short pamphlet of ‘Tudor’ stories entitled, Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens.  Some people loathed it but many loved it and she received endless requests for full length ‘Tudor’ novels. 


For a while Judith buried herself once more in study, refreshing her already extensive knowledge of the period. The result was The Winchester Goose, the story of a prostitute from Southwark called Joanie Toogood whose harsh existence is contrasted with that of Henry’s fourth and fifth wives, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. The Winchester Goose is a multi-narrative illustrating Tudor life from several, very different perspectives; a prostitute, a Spy, and a Lady-in-Waiting at the royal court.
Judith’s next book The Kiss of the Concubine details the life of Anne Boleyn, told in the first person- present tense, the story takes you to the very heart of England’s most talked about queen.
Her third Tudor novel is Intractable Heart, the tale of Henry’s sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr. Judith also blogs about the Tudor period, both on her own blog-page and on the English Historical Fiction Author’s website. Her work reaches a world-wide audience and her following is steadily increasing.
As a self-published author Judith maintains direct control of her work and avoids the hassle involved with agents and publishers. Self-publishing speeds up the process but accuracy and attention to detail is paramount. Her small team is made up of three proof readers, an editor, and a cover designer all of whom work with Judith toward a finished product that is as polished as they can get it, but still they seek ultimate perfection.

The Interview:

(1) What actually inspired the writing of your novel(s)?

While I was researching for my second Tudor novel, The Kiss of the Concubine; a story of Anne Boleyn I kept chancing upon references to Katheryn Parr. I had always been led to believe she was an older woman, a nursemaid and, on the whole, rather dull. I was surprised to discover she was anything but and made a mental note to give her a book of her own.

(2) Alpha or beta hero –profession/title/rank?– brief description!

There are two main male characters in this book. You might expect Henry VIII to be a real villain but in this novel he is psychologically damaged and growing old. Henry’s flaw is his inability to find love. Thomas Seymour, Lord Sudeley, Lord High Admiral of England is young, handsome, rather foolhardy and fuelled by ambition. His fatal flaw is his impetuosity and lack of wisdom. He is over fond of the ladies but you can’t help but love him.

(3) Can you describe your heroine’s personality- title/rank?– description!

I’m not sure she needs an introduction but Katheryn Parr was Henry VIII sixth wife. She was married four times, Henry was her third husband; her fourth, Thomas Seymour, was her downfall. She is sensible in every way, putting her personal desires aside for the sake of duty until she is weakened by her passion forThomas Seymour. She marries himshortly after the king’s death and without the permission of the council and all sorts of misfortune follows.

(4) Are there secondary lead characters with important roles?

Oh, tons. Katheryn’s step-children, John Neville, Margaret Neville, Mary Tudor (later Queen Mary I), Elizabeth Tudor (later Queen Elizabeth I), and Edward Tudor (later King Edward VI).Her siblings Anne Herbert and William Parr. All of these people play an important part in both Katheryn’s journey to becoming Henry’s sixth queen, and are with her in the aftermath, and the lead up to her death.

(5) Where is the novel (s) set? – time-frame – country etc.

The novel opens in Tudor England, in 1537 during a siege at Snape Castle during the northern uprisings. The plot then travels from Yorkshire to the royal court in the last years of Henry VIII’s reign and the early years of Edward VI’s.

(6) What is it about your chosen era/periods that you most enjoy?

The Medieval/Tudor period is a favourite of mine, as is the Anglo-Saxon era. I don’t find the world after Queen Elizabeth I quite as enthralling but I do read novels set in any historical era. These days, my research and my writing is mainly centred on Medieval/Tudor.

(7) Which if any of your characters do you dislike, and why?

I always try to give my characters motive for even their worst crimes so because I understand them I can’t dislike them too much. I even have a soft spot for Henry VIII.Each personality is made up of different shades of grey. They are like my children. When they do things to displease me it makes me sad and I just hope I can help them overcome it.

(8) Do you avoid sex scenes, gross violence or other in your works?

There is love and violence in all my novels. It can’t really be avoided writing in the period that I do. I try to ensure it is never gratuitous, always moves the plot on and it is never too graphic. I prefer to recount the emotion of the experience rather than the geography.When it comes to the sex in my novels my dad is my worst critic. He is of the old school and believes such things should never be discussed but my argument is, I am writing about the human condition and you cannot begin to touch what makes us ‘human’ without including sex. Sex, or the lack of it, reveals so much about a person, and I would never omit it. I don’t glorify it although in my novels it is often very far from ‘romantic.’ I mean, can you imagine how it must have been for Katheryn being intimate with an unhealthy old man like Henry VIII?

(9) How would you rate your novel – historical fiction, romantic fiction, tear-jerker, emotional drama, swashbuckling adventure, or...?

I am always stuck when it comes to answering this. I suppose they are historical fiction. They have a bit of everything and are not in any way rose-tinted. You will find love, you will find sex, you will find childbirth, you will find death, you will find suffering, there are tears but there is laughter too and warmth. Like life, my books are a mixture of all these things.

Back cover blurb:

1537. As the year to end all years rolls to a close, King Henry VIII vents his continuing fury at the pope. The Holy Roman Church reels beneath the reformation and as the vast English abbeys crumble the royal coffers begin to fill. The people of the north, torn between loyalty to God and allegiance to their anointed king, embark upon a pilgrimage to guide their errant monarch back to grace. But Henry is unyielding and sends an army north to quell the rebel uprising. In Yorkshire, Katheryn Lady Latimer, and her step-children, Margaret and John, are held under siege at Snape Castle.
The events at Snape castle form Katheryn and set her on a path that will lead from the deprivations of a castle under siege to the perils of the royal Tudor court.

The novel, Intractable Heart, is told via four narrators, Katheryn’s step daughter, Margaret Neville; Katheryn herself; her fourth husband Thomas Seymour; and her step-daughter Elizabeth, later to become Queen Elizabeth I.

Katheryn Parr emerges as an intelligent, practical woman; a woman who sets aside her love for Thomas Seymour to do her duty and marry the aging king. Katheryn becomes Henry VIII’s partner in all things, acting as Regent for England during the French war, embracing and guiding Henry’s three motherless children, and providing a strong supporting voice for religious reform.

It is not until the king’s death, when she is finally free to follow the desires of her heart that her life descends into chaos … and wretchedness.

Judith Arnopp’s published work includes:
Intractable Heart
The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn
The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII
The Forest Dwellers
The Song of Heledd
Dear Henry: Confessions of the Queens
A Tapestry of Time