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22 July 2024

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Becoming the Twilight Empress: A Theodosian Women Novella by Faith L. Justice


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In a tumultuous time of violence, betrayal, and ruthless evil, can one charismatic young woman survive the bloodshed?

Ravenna, A.D. 408. Placidia is watching her family fall apart. When her emperor brother accuses their powerful foster father of treason, the naive imperial princess tries to reason with her sibling to no avail. And after her foster father is lured out of sanctuary and brutally executed, she flees the toxic court to avoid a forced marriage… but to dubious safety.

Braving increasing peril on her journey to Rome, Placidia barely survives impassable swamps, imperial assassins, and bands of barbarians. When the Goths besiege Rome and a starving populace threaten civil disorder, the daughter of Theodosius the Great must navigate fraught politics to become a vigilant leader… or face an early death.

Can she rise above an empire descending into chaos?

Becoming the Twilight Empress is the breathtaking prequel to the Theodosian Women biographical historical fiction series. If you like tenacious heroines, vivid settings, and nail-biting drama, then you’ll love Faith L. Justice’s captivating coming-of-age adventure.

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About the Author

Faith L. Justice writes award-winning historical novels, short stories, and articles in Brooklyn, New York where she lives with her family and the requisite gaggle of cats. Her work has appeared in Salon.com, Writer’s Digest, The Copperfield Review, and many more publications. She is Chair of the New York City chapter of the Historical Novel Society, and Associate Editor for Space and Time Magazine. She co-founded a writer’s workshop many more years ago than she likes to admit. For fun, she digs in the dirt—her garden and various archaeological sites. Find out more at Dawn's w
ebsite: https://faithljustice.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter @faithljustice


21 July 2024

Historical Fiction Spotlight: A Song of Courage: A gripping WW2 historical novel based on a true story, by Rachel Wesson


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

This unforgettable novel is based on the incredible true story of two unsung heroines who risked everything to save countless lives in the lead-up to WW2.

Connie Fitzwalter never imagined that her passion for music would lead her into a world of danger and intrigue. When her old family friend Stephen, who works for the foreign office, tells her the true scale of the violence in Germany and Austria, she can stand aside no longer. Together they devise a daring and perilous mission to help innocent people escape the clutches of Nazi persecution.

Under their cover as music enthusiasts travelling to high-society concerts in Europe, Connie and her sister Dottie begin helping desperate families escape to safety into England. As the sisters travel into the heart of Nazi Germany, defying the border guards, patrols and Gestapo agents takes every ounce of courage they have.

One misstep, one whisper of suspicion, and they could lose everything—their freedom, their futures, and even each other.

A Song of Courage is a testament to the unbreakable bond of sisterhood and the strength of the human spirit  based on the real-life story of the Mills & Boon novelist Mary Burchell/Ida Cook and her sister Louise Cook.

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About the Author

Rachel Wesson was born in Kilkenny, Ireland but considers herself to be from the capital, Dublin as that’s where she spent most of her life. She grew up driving everyone nuts asking them questions about what they did during the War or what side they were on in the 1916 rising etc. Finally her Granny told her to write her stories down so people would get the pleasure of reading them. In fact what Granny meant was everyone would get some peace while Rachel was busy writing!  When not writing, or annoying relatives, Rachel was reading. Her report cards from school commented on her love of reading especially when she should have been learning. Seems you can't read Great Expectations in Maths.  Rachel lives in Surrey with her husband and three children, two boys and a girl. Find out more from Rachel's website https://rachelwesson.com/ and find her on Twitter @wessonwrites

19 July 2024

The Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series, by Pam Lecky


Available for pre-order from

The Lucy Lawrence Mystery Series

When No Stone Unturned was published back in 2019, I couldn't have predicted the series' popularity. Now, so many years later, the series has found a new home with Storm Publishing and, hopefully, lots of new readers will discover Lucy and Phin’s adventures.
Having devoured historical fiction and crime since my teens, it was inevitable that I would write books combining mystery, crime and a sprinkle of romance. Initially, Lucy Lawrence was only supposed to be a supporting character in Phineas Stone’s world. But her voice grew in strength to the point I had to rewrite the entire book from her point of view… And the Lucy mysteries were born!
 
Depending on their class, women in the Victorian era faced strict rules and lived a highly restricted life. I wanted to explore how a young woman, with a strong personality and high intelligence (but poorly educated - parents bothered little if you weren’t the heir), would cope within the confines of a troubled marriage. Would she accept her lot or chafe at the bit? 

But in Lucy’s case, with no money and estranged from her family, she could not walk away. Doing so would result in social ruin. However, when circumstances finally release her (her husband’s sudden death), she struggles to find her way. Almost every man in her life so far has betrayed her on some level for their own ends. As a result, Lucy finds it difficult to trust her fate to any man.

There is a pivotal point in No Stone Unturned when Lucy realises she must take her destiny into her own hands and she sets out on a dangerous adventure in pursuit of the truth about her late husband and his less than legal activities.
 
Another theme, which emerged as I explored Lucy’s story, was the strong reliance on female friendship. I suspect this is what sustained many Victorian women, finding themselves in similar circumstances to Lucy. As the plot unfolds, Lucy comes to rely more and more on her maid, Mary, who also begins to shine with talents hitherto unknown, namely a penchant for spying and intrigue. And when trouble does strike, it is often her friends, Judith and Sarah, Lucy turns to.

Combining my two great loves - Victorian adventure with a feisty heroine and ancient Egypt - the second book in the series, Footprints in the Sand, will resonate with me the longest. My research included Amelia Edwards’ book, A Thousand Miles Up The Nile (1873). I cannot deny that the Egypt described presented countless possibilities for mischief to a mystery writer. 
Her descriptions of Cairo and the many sites she visited transported me back to Victorian Egypt like none of the other dry contemporary source did. My heroine shared some of Miss Edwards' qualities of curiosity and determination and so Footprints in the Sand quickly transformed from a vague plot idea to a novel.

In the third book of the series, The Art of Deception, Lucy is back in London. You might think she is about to settle down, but, of course, that would be no fun at all. And as Lucy admits to Phineas, trouble seems to follow her. However, when Lucy’s ‘help’ in an art theft case triggers a murder and Phineas becomes the chief suspect, Lucy must use her wits to save him.
The fourth book in the series, A Pocketful of Diamonds, is a brand new murder mystery, set on beautiful Lake Como in Italy. It is slated for release by Storm Publishing in September 2024 and will be available for preorder very soon.

Pam Lecky

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About the Author

Pam Lecky
 is an Irish historical fiction author with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, The Crime Writers' Association, and the Society of Authors. She is represented by Thérèse Coen, at the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency, London. Pam has a particular love of the late Victorian era/early 20th Century. Her debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was awarded the B.R.A.G Medallion; shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; and longlisted for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award. Her short stories are available in an anthology, entitled Past Imperfect, which was published in April 2018.  Find out more at Pam's website https://pamlecky.com/ and find her on Twitter @pamlecky

18 July 2024

Book Launch Blog Tour: The Lost Queen, by Carol McGrath


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Lost Queen is a thrilling medieval story of high adventure, survival, friendship and the enduring love of a Queen for her King.


It is 1191 and King Richard the Lionheart is on crusade to pitch battle against Saladin and liberate the city of Jerusalem and her lands. His mother, the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine and his promised bride, Princess Berengaria of Navarre, make a perilous journey over the Alps in midwinter. They are to rendezvous with Richard in the Sicilian port of Messina.

There are hazards along the way - vicious assassins, marauding pirates, violent storms and a shipwreck. Berengaria is as feisty as her foes and, surviving it all, she and Richard marry in Cyprus and continue to the Holy Land. England needs an heir. But first, Richard and his Queen must return home . . .

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About the Author

Following a first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing from The Seamus Heaney Centre, Queens University Belfast, followed by an MPhil in English from University of London. The Handfasted Wife, first in a trilogy about the royal women of 1066 was shortlisted for the RoNAS in 2014. The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister complete this highly acclaimed trilogy. Mistress Cromwell, a best-selling historical novel about Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of Henry VIII’s statesman, Thomas Cromwell, was republished by Headline in 2020. The Silken Rose, first in a medieval She-Wolf Queens Trilogy, featuring Ailenor of Provence, saw publication in April 2020. This was followed by The Damask Rose. The Stone Rose was published April 2022. Carol lives in Oxfordshire, England and in Greece.  Find our more from Carol's website: www.carolcmcgrath.co.uk and find her on Facebook and Twitter @CarolMcGrath

16 July 2024

Blog Tour Spotlight: The Agincourt King (The Plantagenet Legacy Book 5) by Mercedes Rochelle


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

From the day he was crowned, Henry V was determined to prove the legitimacy of his house. His father's usurpation weighed heavily on his mind. Only a grand gesture would capture the respect of his own countrymen and the rest of Europe. He would follow in his great-grandfather Edward III's footsteps, and recover lost territory in France.

Better yet, why not go for the crown? Poor, deranged Charles VI couldn't manage his own barons. The civil war between the Burgundians and Armagnacs was more of a threat to his country than the English, even after Henry laid siege to Harfleur. But once Harfleur had fallen, the French came to their senses and determined to block his path to Calais and destroy him.

By the time the English reached Agincourt, they were starving, exhausted, and easy pickings. Or so the French thought. Little did they reckon on Henry's leadership and the stout-hearted English archers who proved, once again, that numbers didn't matter when God was on their side.

"A lavish depiction of one of the most famous battles in English history, which was won by one of England's most beloved kings."

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About the Author

Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. She believes that good Historical Fiction, or Faction as it’s coming to be known, is an excellent way to introduce the subject to curious readers. She also writes a blog: HistoricalBritainBlog.com to explore the history behind the story.  Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended! Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves. Find out more at her website https://mercedesrochelle.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @authorrochelle

15 July 2024

Three Bridgerton Historical Inaccuracies that "Work" for the Plot — and One That Doesn’t, by Savannah Cordova



Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that Netflix’s TV adaptation of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton book series has been the talk of the ton on several occasions, especially with the recent release of its third season.

While the series doesn’t always provide the most historically accurate portrayal of England in the Regency era, I’ve found that this can sometimes work in favor of the plot. So in this post, dear reader, let’s look at some Bridgerton inaccuracies we could arguably forgive — as well as one issue that this author believes should’ve been paid more attention to in the writers’ room.

In favor of the plot

1. Names in Lady Whistledown’s scandal sheets

Scandal sheets did exist during the time of Bridgerton — apparently, even high society back then couldn’t resist slander and rumors! Gossip columns in real life, however, notably didn’t mention the full names of members of the ton due to libel laws. That said, the initials of any subjects of gossip were sometimes included, and anyone who was in the know could easily discern who was being written about.

In Bridgerton, however, Lady Whistledown is not afraid to go ahead and publish the names of everyone who has spurned her. Perhaps libel laws don’t exist in the show’s alternate version of Regency-era England? Regardless, for the sake of moving the plot along, it’s important that Lady Whistledown cuts right to the chase and avoids relying on initials or other vague identifiers when penning her scandal sheets.

For more efficient storytelling, it becomes quickly clear to whom the anonymous gossip columnist is referring. That way, instead of the show turning into an Agatha Christie-inspired mystery where we watch members of the ton spend days — even weeks — debating over the possible subjects of scandal, they can devote their screen time to more entertaining matters.

2. The pairing of a Bridgerton with a prince

While the Bridgerton family never existed in real life, Netflix’s popular series does include several characters based on actual people, such as Prince Friedrich. The royal, who appears in three episodes of Season 1, is portrayed onscreen as the nephew of Queen Charlotte. While visiting London for the season, he gets roped into one of his aunt’s matchmaking schemes.

In real life, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz did have a distant nephew known as Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig of Prussia. However, unlike Bridgerton suggests, Friedrich did not fall for a viscount’s daughter like Daphne Bridgerton. Instead, he purportedly expressed interest in Princess Charlotte of Wales: the daughter of George IV and Caroline of Brunswick (so many royals, so little time). Despite this, he ended up marrying Princess Louise of Anhalt-Bernburg for political reasons.

Although Friedrich’s portrayal in Bridgerton isn’t completely accurate, it’s undeniable that his presence was key to the plot of Season 1. When Simon Basset (aka the Duke of Hastings) notices how much attention Friedrich — a worthy rival — has been paying to Daphne, he takes action and makes his true feelings for her known.

This wouldn’t have been as effective if Friedrich had simply been a regular member of the ton, given that Simon is already a cut above as a duke. It’s unlikely that Queen Charlotte would have encouraged her nephew to court someone who isn’t of royal blood in real life, but thankfully, Bridgerton disregards this minor fact for the sake of the plot.

3. The absence of chaperones

The first season of Bridgerton often highlights the importance of a chaperone whenever single men and women are in each other’s company. These women had to keep their reputations flawless, lest they face persecution from society and lose all hope of securing suitable matches. 

However, the third season in particular throws several rules of propriety out the window, with Penelope and Colin meeting often to chat — without any other person in the vicinity! 

While this wouldn’t have been allowed in real life, it’s pretty imperative in Season 3 of Bridgerton; after all, you wouldn’t dare to hold a flirting lesson in the presence of a relative or your maid, would you? The private conversations between Penelope and Colin are crucial to progressing Season 3, serving to both deepen their bond and help Colin realize Penelope is indeed the love of his life.

It’s safe to say that historical fiction authors and showrunners need to take some creative license in order to appeal to a contemporary audience, but it can be a fine line to balance. So what about when it doesn’t work?

Against the plot

Despite being one of Netflix’s most popular series of all time, Bridgerton is not immune to heavy criticism. One of the most recent, glaring issues would have to be Season 3’s unforgivable inclusion of just a few too many modern elements.

Given that Bridgerton is set in England in the 1810s, the dialogue of our most esteemed characters should reflect the time period in which they live. However, certain moments have caused this author to raise a perfectly arched eyebrow.

For example, instead of declaring her affection for Colin Bridgerton in a poetic manner, Penelope Featherington resorts to a modern type of confession: “I have feelings for you.” Other characters are not exempt from this — Penelope’s sisters, Prudence and Philippa, often say “pregnant” instead of “with child,” the former being considered much less polite by formal society in the early 1800s.

One could argue that this reflects the crudeness of their characters, but it stands out as just a little too anachronistic in this context. Even Lady Danbury has uttered at least one phrase inspired by popular sayings in this day and age (“Don’t come for my cane,” anyone?). And while these meme-worthy moments can certainly be fun, the repeated usage in Season 3 is more distracting than diverting.

Another major anachronism: eagle-eyed viewers have pointed out that Penelope wears acrylic nails throughout the latest season of Bridgerton. While their origins have been disputed, many historians believe that an American dentist named Dr. Fred Slack created them to fix a broken nail at work in the 1950s — over a century after Bridgerton takes place. In addition to acrylic nails, characters such as Penelope and Francesca Bridgerton can also be seen with more contemporary cosmetic inventions, such as smoky eyeshadow and false eyelashes.

Bridgerton may be historical fiction, but its viewers’ suspension of disbelief can only go so far. When too many modern elements are incorporated into a period drama, this reminds engrossed audience members that they are watching something fictional, which can lead to a jarring experience and create a sense of distance.

These viewers may also end up feeling upset with the series, its showrunners, and its writers, asking questions such as: Did they do enough research for this show? Did they take enough time and effort to work on this season, or is this just lazy writing (or an unfortunate oversight)?

If you have been inspired by Bridgerton and are considering penning your own historical fiction, you have artistic license to add certain details that may not be 100% authentic. However, dear reader, take heed and remember to ensure that any inaccuracies you include will enhance — not detract from — your story. Happy writing!

Savannah Cordova

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About the Author
 
Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with publishing professionals to help them edit, design, and market their books. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading and writing short stories. Naturally, she’s a big fan of historical fiction — when it’s done right. Find out more at reedsy.com and on X @ReedsyHQ.

Book Launch: What is Better than a Good Woman?: Alice Chaucer, Commoner and Yorkist Matriarch, by Michèle Schindler


Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Alice Chaucer, Countess of Salisbury and Duchess of Suffolk, is one of the very rare people, and the only woman, not born to nobility who became an important political player in the upheaval of fifteenth-century England. 

Widowed, remarkably enough, at the age of 11, that ‘marriage’ nevertheless set her on the road to power and riches. Her second husband, the Earl of Salisbury, would die at the Siege of Orléans during the Hundred Years War. 

Her third husband, William de la Pole, was Henry VI’s Chief Minister ‒ and paid for that allegiance with his life, murdered and thrown into the English Channel. Alice survived all this and more – including a state trial in 1451 – and at the same time was a patron of the arts, commissioning artworks depicting empowered historical female characters, notably St Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary. Alice possessed a large library. 


Tomb of Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk
Church of St Mary the Virgin, Ewelme. (Wikimedia Commons)

As late as 1472, Alice became custodian of Margaret of Anjou, her former friend and patron. She ruthlessly protected the inheritance of her son John de la Pole, and three of his four sons would pursue the Yorkist claim to the throne against Henry VII: they would all die in the attempt. 

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About the Author

Michèle Schindler studied at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, reading English Studies and history with a focus on mediaeval studies. At the same time she worked as a language teacher, teaching English and German as a second language. In addition to English and German, she is fluent in French, and reads Latin. You can find Michèle on Facebook and Twitter @FLovellInfo