3 December 2018

Book Launch ~ The Blue, by Nancy Bilyeau

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice.

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue…

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage.

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?
‘...transports the reader into the heart of the 18th century porcelain trade—where the price of beauty was death.’ - E.M. Powell, author of the Stanton & Barling medieval mystery series. 
'Bilyeau is an impressive talent who brings to life a heart-stopping story of adventure, art and espionage during the Seven Years War.' - Stephanie Dray, bestselling author of My Dear Hamilton
'With rich writing, surprising twists, and a riveting sense of 'you are there,' The Blue is spine-tingling entertainment.' – Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassins

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About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau studied History at the University of Michigan and has worked on the staffs of "InStyle," "Good Housekeeping," and "Rolling Stone." She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributor to "Town & Country" and "The Vintage News." Nancy's mind is always in past centuries but she currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City. Find out more at Nancy's website www.nancybilyeau.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @Tudorscribe

2 December 2018

Book Launch Excerpt from Sisters of Arden, by Judith Arnopp

Available for pre-order from

England 1536: For almost four hundred years Arden Priory remains unchanged until a nameless child is abandoned at the gatehouse door; the nuns take her in and raise her as one of their own.

As Henry VIII’s second queen dies on the scaffold, the embittered King strikes out, and unprecedented change sweeps across the country. The bells of the great abbeys fall silent, the church and the very foundation of the realm begin to crack. 

Determined to preserve their way of life, novitiate nuns Margery and Grace join a pilgrimage thirty thousand strong and attempt to lead the heretic king back to grace.

Sisters of Arden is a story of valour, virtue and veritas.

An excerpt from Sisters of Arden
1537 - Yorkshire

We run, heads down through the darkness, away from the cries of our dying friends and the sickening thud of their falling bodies.
  Ducking through a garden gate, I cast about for a hay store or a tangle of bushes that might conceal us. Grabbing her wrist, I pull Frances into a briar patch, the thorns snagging and tearing at our robes and limbs. As we crouch in the dark, she trembles and wipes her wet cheeks on my sleeve. I can just distinguish her bone-white face and the stark terror in her eyes, and I am sickened with guilt that I have led her to this. Her life is now forfeit to my mistaken conviction that simple folk can make a difference.
  I grope for God in the faithless void of my mind, begging that the king’s men grow tired of the hunt and ride away, back to their warm hearths, their laden tables, and their fragrant, sinful wives. Frances’ teeth begin to rattle, her breath faltering as her courage dwindles. I give her a gentle shake and put a warning finger against her lips, beseeching her to be silent, to be brave for just a little longer.
  As the stealthy hooves draw closer to our hiding place, we hold our breath, sinking deeper into the undergrowth when he halts just a little way above our heads. The dank aroma of rotting vegetation rises; the tang of frost tickles my nose and pinches my toes. Frances trembles so violently it is indistinguishable from the juddering of my own body. I fumble for prayer, nausea washing over me as I fail to recall a single one.
  A creak of harness as the rider shifts in his saddle. I cannot see him but when the horse snorts, in my mind’s eye his breath mists the darkness, rising wraith-like in the night. I can feel the rake of the man’s gaze as he searches, seeking out our hiding place. My lungs strain fit to burst, my chest is aching, and I am ready to relinquish my freedom for just one blessed breath. The horse stirs, turns and moves away, and we fill our lungs with fresh damp air. We clutch hands as the vague hope of escape returns.
  Then noise erupts with a harsh yelp. A hound is loosed and, with a furious growl, it crashes through the hedge. As I fall backward, I glimpse a lolling tongue, and yellow eyes stare briefly into mine; cold, murderous eyes. Frances’ scream shatters the night as the jaws clamp down upon her wrist.
  “Let go! Let go!” I strike out with my bare feet, feeling the crack of bony ribs beneath a silken coat.   The hound yelps but holds on fast, screaming aloud as I kick out again, hammering his head with my heels. The air fills with a confusion of hooves, screaming women, and triumphant male laughter as they lay hands upon us. As they drag me to my feet, Frances gives a loud unintelligible sound that breaks my heart.
  “Please,” I beg, as my hands are wrenched behind me and roughly held. “We are nuns from Arden. My sister has done nothing. Take me, but … let Sister Frances go – she ... she doesn’t understand.”
  A white dagger of agony flashes through my skull as my captor clouts me around the ear. My head rings and my vision blurs. Through a fog of pain, I realise they are hauling Frances from the ground, dragging us both rudely forward.
  “Hold them,” the man on the horse orders, and their grip tightens as he slides from his saddle, hawks and spits on the ragged skirts of my habit before slowly unfurling a rope from his belt.
  The knots are tight about my wrists; my hands are numb. I cry out as the horse jolts forward and, tethered to the saddle, all we can do is follow him. Agonisingly, we retrace our route back the way we have come, through the hamlets and homesteads that earlier offered us shelter.
  Our cause is lost. Our peaceful mission to bring England back to the true church has failed; doomed by the promises of a false king. In the lightening dawn, the slack-limbed, sightless bodies of those who aided us sway as we pass. The voiceless, lifeless men, women and children who dared to share our questioning of the king’s wisdom gape blindly at our passing.
  We will join them soon; our useless lives cut short, our fruitless existence ended in ignominy.
  My throat grows tight. How have we come to this?

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About the author

When Judith Arnopp began to write professionally there was no question as to which genre to choose. A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds an honours degree in English and Creative writing, and a Masters in Medieval Studies, both from the University of Wales, Lampeter. Judith writes both fiction and non-fiction, working full-time from her home overlooking Cardigan Bay in Wales where she crafts novels based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women from all roles of life, prostitutes to queens. Her novels include: The Beaufort Chronicles: the life of Lady Margaret Beaufort (three book series); A Song of Sixpence; Intractable Heart; The Kiss of the Concubine; The Winchester Goose; The Song of Heledd; The Forest Dwellers, and Peaceweaver. Her latest book, Sisters of Arden, is told from the perspective of a novitiate nun during the dissolution of the monasteries. Her non-fiction articles feature in various historical anthologies and magazines. Find out more at Judith's website www.judithmarnopp.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @JudithArnopp

29 November 2018

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ The Altarpiece (The Cross and The Crown Book 1) by Sarah Kennedy

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

It is 1535, and in the tumultuous years of King Henry VIII’s break from Rome, the religious houses of England are being seized by force. Twenty-year-old Catherine Havens is a foundling and the adopted daughter of the prioress of the Priory of Mount Grace in a small Yorkshire village. 

Catherine, like her adoptive mother, has a gift for healing, and she is widely sought and admired for her knowledge. However, the king's divorce dashes Catherine’s hopes for a place at court, and she reluctantly takes the veil. 

When the priory’s costly altarpiece goes missing, Catherine and her friend Ann Smith find themselves under increased suspicion. King Henry VIII’s soldiers have not had their fill of destruction, and when they return to Mount Grace to destroy the priory, Catherine must choose between the sacred calling of her past and the man who may represent her country’s future.
". . . a great many things are happening in The Altarpiece: there is mystery, action, and even some romance. Kennedy has managed to create some interesting characters in the sisters of Mount Grace,particularly in Catherine, who is both intelligent and resourceful."--Historical Novels Review

"Kennedy demonstrates a robust knowledge of Tudor-era medicine and folk cures.  The reader is introduced to the mortal effects of monkshood, the blood-clotting capabilities of cobweb and lard, and the healing properties of holly, ale, chickweed and basil.  Indeed, one of the most intriguing features of the novel is its many references period antidotes and recipes, and they provide an illuminating glimpse into Tudor-era life.  . . . This book recommends itself first on the basis that it is quite simply a well told mystery story.  It also makes Tudor England accessible to a large audience, and will hopefully even encourage scholarly interest in the subject."
--Sixteenth Century Journal

"Sarah Kennedy's debut novel, The Altarpiece, is not one to be missed. The thoroughly absorbing story, as finely wrought as the missing artwork that sets the plot into motion, is rife with drama, intrigue, and thrilling historical details that echo the most riveting passages of Margaret George's Tudor-era biographical novels . . . while detailing the utter destruction of the Catholic church in England during the Protestant Reformation. Though the mystery of the missing altarpiece makes this novel a page-turner, at the heart of the story lurks something much more vital: a smart young woman's desire to pursue a much greater life than the one offered to her."--Per Contra
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About the Author

Sarah Kennedy was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. A professor of English at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, Sarah is the author of seven books of poems. She holds a PhD in Renaissance literature and an MFA in creative writing. Sarah has received grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts and is currently a contributing editor for Shenandoah. Find out more at Sarah's website sarahkennedybooks.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @KennedyNovels 

22 November 2018

Book Launch: Brandon ~ Tudor Knight

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Handsome, charismatic and a champion jouster, Sir Charles Brandon is the epitome of a Tudor Knight. A favourite of King Henry VIII, Brandon has a secret. He has fallen in love with Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, the beautiful widowed Queen of France, and risks everything to marry her without the King’s consent.

Brandon becomes Duke of Suffolk, but his loyalty is tested fighting Henry’s wars in France. Mary’s public support for Queen Catherine of Aragon brings Brandon into dangerous conflict with the ambitious Boleyn family and the king’s new right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell. 

Torn between duty to his family and loyalty to the king, Brandon faces an impossible decision: can he accept Anne Boleyn as his new queen? 

Special Guest Interview with Samantha Grosser, Author of The King James Men

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

England 1604: Faith, treason, love, betrayal
Two men, once friends, have long since gone their separate ways. But when the new King James commands a fresh translation of the Bible, their paths are fated to cross again.

Today I'm pleased to welcome historical novelist Samantha Grosser to The Writing Desk

Tell us about your latest book

Connected by love, divided by faith. The King James Men is novel of friendship, faith and betrayal during the religious upheavals of 17th Century London. In the turbulent years of the early 17th Century, King James commands a new translation of Bible. For scholar Richard Clarke, the chance to be involved seems like a gift from God, until he discovers there is a price to be paid, and that price is betrayal. Caught between love for a friend and his faith in his Church, he must soon make a choice that could cost him his soul.

Set against the writing of the King James Bible, and inspired by true accounts of the people who became the Mayflower Pilgrims, The King James Men is a vivid portrayal of the religious struggles of the age and the price of being true to your faith.

What is your preferred writing routine?

In an ideal world, I’d get up early and go for a walk somewhere beautiful and inspiring, before returning to my desk for a morning’s writing. I’m usually pretty spent creatively by lunchtime, so I like to spend the afternoon attending to the business aspects of life as an author.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Do it because you love it, even when its hard. And learn to take criticism on the chin – it’s something you’re going to have to get used to.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I’m still working this one out! Blog tours, obviously. Ads on Amazon. Goodreads. And spreading the word via social media.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

Gosh, where to begin? I started off with an idea to write about the translation of the King James Bible. But the challenge was to create a compelling novel within that story, and in the mountains of research I collected about the period, by chance I came across the story of the Separatists, a small community of nonconformists who would later go on to become the Mayflower Pilgrims. The story of The King James Men was born in the conflict between the world of the translation and the world of the Separatists.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The hardest scenes by far were those that involved the moments of bible translation. With zero understanding of biblical Hebrew, it was hard to know where to start. Fortunately I have a very learned friend (thank you, Dr Louise Pryke) who was able to help with the technical aspects of the language. But it was still a challenge to write these scenes in a way that not only added depth to the novel, but was interesting to read.

What are you planning to write next?

Currently, I’m working on another novel set in England in the 17th Century in the lead up to the English Civil War. I’m still rattling out the first draft, and so I don’t want to jinx it by saying too much!

Samantha Grosser
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About the Author

Samantha Grosser is an English graduate and author of historical fiction who spent several years travelling and working as an English teacher in South East Asia, Japan and Australia. She has also worked variously as a bookseller, a secretary, a proofreader and a Registered Nurse. She currently lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches with her Australian husband and son. Find out more at Samantha's website https://samgrosserbooks.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @SamanthaGrosser

19 November 2018

Stories of the Tudors Podcast - Arthur Tudor

Prince Arthur was heir to the throne of England and the embodiment of the union between Lancaster and York. His wedding to the young and beautiful Catherine of Aragon was one of the first great events of Henry's reign. Then, at the age of fifteen, 
Arthur's sudden death changed history.  

12 November 2018

Book Review: Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest, by Sharon Bennett Connolly

Available for pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Harold II of England had been with Edith Swanneck for twenty years but in 1066, in order to strengthen his hold on the throne, he married Ealdgyth, sister of two earls. William of Normandy’s Duchess, Matilda of Flanders, had supposedly only agreed to marry the Duke after he’d pulled her pigtails and thrown her in the mud. Harald Hardrada had two wives – apparently at the same time. So, who were these women? What was their real story? And what happened to them after 1066?

One of the many things I learned from Sharon Bennett Connolly’s new book is there are six hundred and twenty six people depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, but only three are women. One is Edward the Confessor’s queen, Edith of Wessex, one is a woman fleeing from a burning house - and the third is an intriguing ‘mystery woman’, who has been the subject of much debate by historians.

I mention this because it touches in the central theme of Silk and the Sword, which is how little is known about the women involved in the build-up to the Norman Conquest. It has taken much detective work to sort out the few known facts from the many myths. It hasn’t helped that even the names of these women are debated and records of the time (including the famous tapestry) focus on the men.

Sharon Bennett Connolly begins with what she calls ‘the triumvirate’ of remarkable women from before the Norman invasion. I knew about Emma of Normandy – but suspected that most of what I know about Lady Godiva was wrong. Although she is arguably the most famous of the Anglo-Saxon women, her name was probably Godgifu. As for her famous naked ride, it’s no surprise that every retelling becomes more embellished in the fashion of the time.

For me, the most fascinating story is that of Gytha of Wessex, mother of an ill-fated dynasty. (Her father, the wonderfully named Thorgils Sprakaleg, was said to have been descended from the union of a bear and a Swedish maiden.) Gytha's life seems to have been an amazing saga of wealth and war, privilege and tragedy. As with all these women, I have the feeling that Sharon could have written a whole book about each of them. I am certainly inspired to find out more. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

Disclosure: A review copy of this book was kindly provided by Amberley Publishing

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About the Author

Sharon Bennett Connolly was born in Yorkshire and studied at University in Northampton before working at Disneyland in Paris and Eurostar in London. She has been fascinated by history for over thirty years and has worked as a tour guide at historical sites, including Conisbrough Castle. Best known for her fascinating blog History ... the Interesting Bits she began focusing on medieval women and in 2016 her first non-fiction book, Heroines of the Medieval World was published by Amberley Publishing. Sharon is now writing her second non-fiction book, Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest, which will be published by Amberley in late 2018. Follow Sharon on Facebook and Twitter @Thehistorybits