23 June 2018

New Historical Fiction Spotlight: Judge The Best (Above all Others; The Lady Anne Book 5), by G. Lawrence

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The end is nigh...

Anne Boleyn is Queen, with an infant daughter in the royal nursery and another child on the way, but plots are forming within the shadows of court. As events progress, bringing sorrow and fear to Anne's fragile life, she finds once-allies are becoming enemies.

In the final book of Above All Others: The Lady Anne, Anne Boleyn faces hardship, sorrow and danger as she attempts to challenge not only Thomas Cromwell but Henry himself.

Judge the Best is the last book in the series Above All Others: The Lady Anne, by G. Lawrence
"I think how delighted Anne Boleyn would be to see, nearly 500 years after her murder, how she has lived again in these books, which I recommend most highly to anyone who is interested in her.  The series is a terrific achievement, and a magnificent tribute to this most fascinating of women." Best-selling author Terry Tyler
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About the Author

Gemma Lawrence is an independently published author living in Cornwall in the UK. She studied literature at university says, 'I write mainly Historical Fiction, with an emphasis on the Tudor and Medieval periods and have a particular passion for women of history'.Gemma can be found on Wattpad and Twitter @TudorTweep.

22 June 2018

Interview with Cryssa Bazos, award winning historical fiction author of Traitor’s Knot

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I. Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road
as a highwayman.

I'm pleased to welcome historical fiction author Cryssa Bazos

Tell us about your latest book

Traitor’s Knot takes place during the uncertain era between the execution of King Charles I and the start of the English Civil War. This is a story of love and conflicted loyalty. Elizabeth Seton is a young woman who has been shunned for her father’s role in a failed Royalist uprising. In the midst of this new social order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament. To further complicate her life, she meets James Hart, a former Royalist officer turned highwayman. He preys on Parliamentarians in order to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, Charles Stuart. Traitor’s Knot has been called a thrilling romantic adventure.

What is your preferred writing routine?

My preferred writing routine would be to write on a sunny patio with a great view of the sea, but unfortunately, the reality is that I write in between the demands of a full time job and the needs of my family. I often carve out writing time during my lunchtime as well as during my commute. The longest time that I have to immerse in writing is on the weekends, when I dive into the 17th century from morning until the mid-afternoon.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Live whatever scene you’re writing. This advice was given to me early on, and I apply it to my own writing. Living the scene involves putting yourself into your character’s skin. It makes the story more immediate to the reader. One of the challenges of writing historical fiction is to keep it from sounding like a historical info dump, but by thinking of the character and what they could be going through, the writer can best avoid these pit falls.

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

Making connections on social media has helped me spread the word, mainly through Twitter and Facebook. I’m starting to experiment with newsletters and participating in newsletter swaps, and I find those very effective. My publisher, Endeavour Media, also makes good use of newsletters to reach readers. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

Charles II’s escaped after his loss at the Battle of Worcester, and his six-week adventure evading capture is well documented by contemporary accounts that were written a decade later during the Restoration. I stumbled on a letter written by the Venetian Ambassador of Paris, days after Charles safely arrived in France, where he stated that a highwayman helped Charles in his escape. This was never mentioned in any of the historical accounts, although there were rumours about that possibility circulating London at the time. Did it really happen or did Charles fib to protect those who had helped him? These questions are fodder for historical fiction. Naturally, I used the alternative version in Traitor’s Knot. It was too good to pass up.

King Charles II and Jane Lane riding to Bristol
 by Isaac Fuller via Wikimedia Commons

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

Not a specific scene, but settling on the opening chapter was a challenge for me. I must have had about ten different versions of chapter one, and they were all entirely different scenes. Sometimes Elizabeth opened, other times it was James. There were hangings, conspiracies, robberies and even an unnecessary prologue. All ended up in the ‘land of lost scenes’. I do credit my editor, Jenny Quinlan of Historical Editorial, for helping me find the right opening. Once I had settled on that, the first chapter wrote itself.
I don’t believe I’m alone in this. Most writers struggle to find where their story should start. Oftentimes what they think should be the opening is really a note from Muse to Writer about background material that no one really needs to know about.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m working on a second novel that follows the fate of one of the characters in Traitor’s Knot from the disastrous Battle of Worcester to the sugar cane fields of Barbados. In between, I’m also working on a novelette (or a novella) called the Highwayman of Moot Hill. It’s a prequel to Traitor’s Knot, and focuses on the adventures of James Hart before Elizabeth arrived in Warwick.

Cryssa Bazos
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About the Author

Cryssa Bazos is an award winning historical fiction author and 17th century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelist Association and is a co-editor and contributor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot, is published by Endeavour Media, and is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award (historical fiction), a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards (historical romance) and the RNA Joan Hessayon Award. For more information visit Cryssa's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @CryssaBazos.

21 June 2018

Researching and Writing Mary – Tudor Princess

Available on Amazon UK, Amazon US

I chose to write about Mary because I’d researched her birth and early life for my previous book, Henry – Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy. In the trilogy I’d moved forward one generation with each book, so it appealed to me to write a ‘sequel’ which did the same. I’d become intrigued with Mary’s story of how she risked everything to defy her brother when he became King Henry VIII.

When I began the Tudor trilogy, I had little factual information about Owen Tudor, Mary’s great-grandfather. The amount of information increased exponentially by the time I reached the story of Mary’s father, Henry Tudor, as he kept detailed legers of his finances. Some of Henry’s letters also survive, including some to his mother, but they were all rather formal.

This time, I had the advantage of a fascinating book The French Queen's Letters: Mary Tudor Brandon and the Politics of Marriage in Sixteenth-Century Europe (Queenship and Power) by Erin Sadlack, which includes all Mary’s surviving letters, many with replies, as well as an insightful analysis of her state of mind at the time. I prefer primary research and found her letters offer an evocative ‘voice’ for Mary, as well as revealing how she felt about people and events.

I wanted to explore Mary’s vulnerability as well as her strengths, and I was assisted in this by her brother, who broke off her engagement to young Prince Charles, future Emperor of Rome, to marry her off to the fifty-two-year-old King Louis XII of France. Although Mary was barely eighteen at the time, Henry saw his younger sister as a small price to pay for a treaty with France.

I enjoyed untangling the many myths about what happened next, from causing the death of King Louis with her ‘passionate exertions’ to her dying of ‘grief at her brother’s divorce from her friend Catherine of Aragon.’ I also had the benefit of knowing a great deal about the people and places of Mary’s world.

The difficulties came when I had to show Mary’s struggles with the dangers of medieval childbirth. I was present at my daughter’s and my son’s births, and there are plenty of historical accounts to draw from, but I believe only a woman can fully understand how it feels to bring a new life into the world.

I have now competed the companion book to Mary - Tudor Princess, telling the story of Mary Tudor's husband, Charles Brandon, who was King Henry VIII's lifelong friend. Brandon - Tudor Knight will be published later this year.  

Tony Riches

20 June 2018

Book Review ~ Elizabeth I (Penguin Monarchs): A Study in Insecurity, by Helen Castor

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Helen Castor admits this was a not an easy book to write, and is to be congratulated on fitting so much into less than a hundred pages. I like this Penguin Monarch's series, as the authors are cleverly chosen and have done remarkably well within the limitations of the format.

The subtitle 'A Study in Insecurity' offers a good clue to Helen Castor's interpretation of Elizabeth's life. Even before she was queen, it must have been worrying to have the shadow of the executioner's axe hanging over her. As queen, she had to put up with insults and whispering both at home and abroad, and threats of assassins. She is reported to have claimed she was not afraid of anything, but Elizabeth could never feel truly secure on her throne.

Dismissed by her enemies as a 'Jezebel' and a 'she-wolf', the most amazing thing about Elizabeth's life is how she managed to rise above it all. She told her advisors not to hold back secrets, but was prepared to send them to the Tower if they crossed her. This made her lonely in her later years, an insomniac with debilitating depression, yet Elizabeth ruled as Queen of England for forty-five years.

I visited Westminster Abbey and sensed a new connection with Elizabeth as I laid my hand on her tomb. I feel inspired to re-evaluate my understanding of her  life after reading this excellent little book. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Helen Castor is a medieval historian and a Bye-Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Her first book, Blood & Roses, a biography of the fifteenth-century Paston family, was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2005 and won the English Association's Beatrice White Prize in 2006. Her second book, She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth, was selected as one of the books of the year for 2010 in the Guardian, Times, Sunday Times, Independent, Financial Times and BBC History Magazine. Helen is one of the presenters of Radio 4's Making History, and writes and presents programmes for BBC television, including a three-part series based on her book She-Wolves. You can follow Helen on Twitter @hrcastor

19 June 2018

Book Review ~ After the Conquest: The Divided Realm 1066-1135, by Teresa Cole

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

On his deathbed William the Conqueror divided his property between his three sons, Robert, William and Henry. One of them got England, one got Normandy and one £5,000 of silver. None of them was satisfied with what he received. It took much violence, treachery, sudden death and twenty years before one of them reigned supreme over all the Conqueror’s lands.

One of the problems with the way history was taught when I was at school was the 'compartmentalisation', punctuated by the great events. We didn't see it like that, of course, but 1066 is a perfect example, as having studied the invasion, we wasted no time on the aftermath and consequences.

I'd like to think that's changed now (although I doubt it) but it's why books such as After the Conquest are so important. As well as enabling those of us who were failed by their history teachers to 'catch up', they can begin to help readers make sense of a complex period in British and European history, which had far-reaching effects on society.

Teresa Cole is the history teacher I wish I'd had, as she held my attention from the first page to the last, with a lively and engaging style. I particularly like her technique of raising questions in the reader's mind, then answering them in the context of the of the contemporary accounts of chroniclers such as Orderic Vitalis.

One of the 'facts' I dutifully learnt as a schoolboy was of King Henry I dying of a 'surfeit of lampreys'. If you imagine a time before food hygiene or knowledge of harmful bacteria, this was more likely to have been a case of food poisoning. 

I mention this as an example of how understanding the context shifts your understanding. I found this the case throughout this excellent book, which I'm happy to recommend to anyone who wants to know more about how the sons of William 'The Conqueror' took froward his legacy.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Teresa Cole has been a teacher for thirty years. She has written several law books and a historical biography, 'Henry V: The Life of the Warrior King & the Battle of Agincourt 1415' . She lives just outside Bath. 

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

18 June 2018

Book Review ~ The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown, by Nathen Amin

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Beaufort portcullis badge is everywhere, from the one penny coin to the Houses of Parliament, but few people know much about this amazing family, which has had such an impact on British history.  I think part of the reason is the story of the Beauforts is complex, so Nathen Amin has to be congratulated for unpicking myth from fact and producing a highly readable account.

It's often said that history has much more drama than fiction, and the House of Beaufort is no exception. This is a story of loyalty and treachery, luck and disaster, which would make a wonderful epic feature film.

My only issue with this meticulously researched book is that my personal favourite Beaufort, Lady Margaret, (mother of Henry Tudor) has a mention in the prologue and only a single paragraph at the end. I'm hoping Nathen Amin is already working on a companion volume, 'The House of Tudor'. 

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and has long had an interest in Welsh history, the Wars of the Roses and the early Tudor period. His first book Tudor Wales was released in 2014 and was well-received, followed by a second book called York Pubs in 2016. His third book is a full-length biography of the Beaufort family. He is the founder of the Henry Tudor Society and has featured discussing the Tudors on BBC radio and television, as well as in print and online media across the UK. He has a degree in Business and Journalism and now lives in York, where he works as a Technical Writer. Find him on Twitter @NathenAmin.

16 June 2018

Book Review ~ Arthur and the Kings of Britain: The Historical Truth Behind the Myths, by Dr Miles Russell

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

I've always had a fascination with the 'Dark Ages' and look out for new discoveries, so was keen to read this book from Dr Miles Russell.  I don't suppose we'll ever know how much of the Arthurian legends are based on fact, although there is some analysis here about the Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), which places King Arthur's possible origins in context and suggests we should at least keep an open mind.

The subtitle is The Historical Truth Behind the Myths, and Miles Russell prefaces his book with a thought-provoking quote from Michael Wood:
"The continued retelling of the story in the folk tradition has produced its own narrative, accumulating fabulous detail over many centuries, ending up far more wonderful than historical fact, but in some mysterious way reflecting a kind of crystallised essence of the original story."
I was intrigued with the theory that the  British monarchy might owe more than we expect to the Trojan Brutus, and there are some interesting ideas about the origins of London which I've not seen before. 

This book also adds weight to the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth as and the re-evaluation of what has previously been dismissed as myth and legend. Recommended for anyone who'd like a better understanding of the early kings of Britain.

Tony Riches
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About the Author

Dr Miles Russell is a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology at Bournemouth University in the UK. He has worked as a field officer and project manager for the UCL Field Archaeology Unit, the Oxford Archaeological Unit and Bournemouth Archaeology on sites across Southern England, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Germany, Sicily and Russia. He is currently researching prehistoric monumental architecture, archaeological hoaxes and Roman imperial statuary. He is co-director of the Durotriges Project and REGNVM investigating the transition from the Iron Age to Roman period in SW and SE Britain. Miles is a regular contributor to television and radio,  and the author of fourteen books.

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