12 August 2022

Special Guest Post By Adele Jordan, Author of The Gentlewoman Spy (Book 1 in the Kit Scarlett Series)

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Join Kit in a thrilling historical espionage novel! What happens when the spymaster’s right-hand man turns out to be a woman…?

The Women that Inspired Kit Scarlett

A churlish reader once asked me, ‘Surely women from the past don’t have many stories to tell?’ This was a question posited which as you can well imagine, left me dumbstruck and finding it difficult to pick my jaw back up off the floor. Not only is the past full of women’s stories that are yet to be heard, but they can truly dazzle. Perhaps it’s not always so easy to hear women’s voices in a world where men had most ruling positions and wrote the written records, but the voices can be found, if we take the time to look for them.

As a result, I would like to introduce you to three such women’s tales who have inspired me. In their own way, each of these women from the Renaissance helped to create Kit Scarlett, the protagonist of my debut book, ‘The Gentlewoman Spy.’ Whether you agree with them, or question some of their choices, it cannot be denied they lived fascinating lives, and certainly have a story of their own to tell about their clandestine activities.

‘The Wicked Lady’ – Katherine Ferrers (1634 – c. 1660)

This seventeenth century woman, sometimes coined ‘The Wicked Lady’ is somewhat enshrouded in myth and legend. To some extent, who knows where the line between fact and fiction sits, but the real woman gave life to this myth, and has enthralled people for centuries. A female highway robber, or highwaywoman, if you prefer, it’s said she attacked travellers in Hertfordshire with her accomplices before dying of gunshot wounds in a robbery. Clad in men’s clothes and leaving her fine gowns at home in the manor she owned, Katherine led something of a double life.

This is the myth. As for the known facts, they paint the picture of a woman who grew up without much of a steady home, or guiding parents, who might have been left much to her own devices.

Born into a wealthy protestant family, Katherine’s family home was Markyate Cell, now known as Cell Park, which stands to this day. After the death of her brother, Katherine was named as the sole heir to her grandfather’s estate. It’s fair to say her upbringing was a complicated one. She was raised partly by her mother, before her death, and was then handed into the care of her stepfather, and after his imprisonment, was sent as a ward to her step uncle. Used as something as a pawn thanks to her wealthy inheritance, she was married to her stepfather’s nephew, when she was of the very young age of fourteen.

With the failing of the protectorate after Oliver Cromwell’s death, Katherine’s husband, Thomas Fanshawe, became involved in the Booth uprising and was imprisoned in September 1659. This is where the legend begins.

According to local tales, to make up for her dwindling fortunes Katherine turned to highway robbery. In the company of a local farmer, Ralph Chaplin, the two waged war together on the local area, though there is little fact to support this rumour of her connection to Chaplin. Supposedly, the tale grows out of her ghost haunting Markyate Cell to this day. 

Whether you want to believe this tale or not, its very existence is what intrigues. What if there is a germ of truth in this story? While her husband was imprisoned, did Katherine take her fortunes into her own hands? Some say she died of gunshot wounds after a robbery gone wrong. Found outside her house bearing her wounds and wearing men’s clothes, she was taken inside but could not be saved by her staff. Records show that she was buried at St Mary’s church in Ware, 13th June 1660, most likely at the age of twenty-six. 

If we return to the idea of there being truth in this tale, how would we know for certain? If Katherine dressed as a man while doing her crimes, then she went to great pains to hide her identity, and it is plausible to think that any surviving family member would want to protect their own reputations from the stain of a criminal and distance themselves from this story. Who knows, perhaps there is some truth in the tale after all.

‘Scottish Prioress and Spy’ – Isabella Hoppringle (1460-1538)

Little is known about Isabella’s activities as a spy for England in Scottish borders, but it is her survival in this time and location that impresses. Spies could be anyway in Tudor England, even hiding in religious priories.

Born in 1470, Isabella was part of the Pringle family that frequently sent prioresses to the Coldstream Cistercian convent. In order to understand the era Isabella lived in and the tensions, it’s important to recognise the political and military landscape around her. Following the treaty of ‘Perpetual Peace’ in 1502, James IV of Scotland married Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret Tudor, to cement the alliance. Though clearly, the treaty’s name has a certain degree of irony, as in 1513 peace ended. Following Henry VIII’s attack of France, James IV agreed to assist France, and gave notice to Henry VIII of an impending invasion in Northumberland.  

Isabella was stationed at the border during these activities and growing tensions. One can read what evidence exists on Isabella and claim she was a spy for England, barely within Scottish borders separated by half the width of a river, or there’s another way to read the evidence entirely. With her convent in the middle of what could become an area of battle, where her priory could well be taken to be used as sanctuary, Isabella’s communications may have been the very thing that saved her convent. By playing the ruling powers of England and Scotland off against each other, she never let the convent be seen as an enemy to either side, thus securing its position. What is more, she gave sanctuary to Margaret Tudor, the Scottish Queen, and the two remained friends. With a wealthy alliance, she was seen as a confidant to the Scottish, while maintaining this important tie to protect the convent and the women who lived there. 

In 1513 when war did flare up between the English and the Scottish, the damage was significant. Some sources claim up to 10,000, or even 14,000, Scottish men were killed at the Battle of Flodden. It was a battle that took James IV’s life. In the aftermath, Isabella and her community in the convent assisted the wounded, taking them in and helping as much as they could, and buried the dead. It shows a willingness to defy the English and protect the wounded Scottish, and yet, the convent was never touched by the English forces. It survived the battle, which led many people to question how Isabella had ensured the English did not attack. One theory is that the English believed her to be their greatest ally on their border.

Much is clouded in mystery of Isabella’s motivations and her communications. What can be drawn from the facts though is that up until the reformation, she led the priory through a time of not only great political turmoil, but military upheaval, and she managed to keep it safe. If only we knew what was in her letters that may well have been burned around half a century ago, keeping her secrets forever.

‘One of Medici’s Flying Squadron’ – Charlotte de Sauve (1551-1617)

Born into French nobility, the daughter of Jacques de Beaune, Baron Semblançay, Viscount of Tours, much is recorded and known of Charlotte’s life, including her early marriages. The most fascinating part of Charlotte’s time comes about in 1572, when she is reputed to have been recruited by Catherine de Medici to a group called the ‘Flying Squadron,’ or in French, ‘L'escadron volant,’ a group of beautiful spies and informants. It is believed Medici’s purpose in hiring Charlotte was to persuade her to seduce Henry of Navarre, who would come to reign France as Henry IV 1589, to divide him from his wife. Charlotte was so successful in her aim that Henry’s wife wrote of her, “Mme de Sauve so completely ensnared my husband that we no longer slept together, nor even conversed.”

Clearly quite the accomplished charmer, it would not be the last man Charlotte charmed at the bequest of Medici, nor her last task in the aim of protecting the throne, or rather, the Queen mother’s control of it. Charlotte has been cited as the source of information that helped lead to the execution of Joseph Boniface de la Môle and Annibal de Coconnas, who planned to overthrow Medici and her reigning son, Charles IX. In 1575, Charlotte was instructed by Medici to seduce Medici’s son, and the younger brother of the King, François, Duke of Alençon. The affair drove a rift between Navarre and Alençon, a rift so strong that according to written accounts of the French court, the men busied themselves with their argument over Charlotte more than they discussed state affairs. 

The progress that Charlotte made through the court of France is well talked of and much documented in Marguerite de Valois’s memoirs, yet there is a lack of Charlotte’s own voice amongst the records that survive. Did Charlotte see her part in the Flying Squadron as a necessity to survival in French court? Did she resent it? Or maybe, she relished the power her association with Catherine de Medici gave her.

These three women have fascinated me for years. Two are spies, one a supposed criminal, and yet their own minds and opinions are a mystery. It is their stories, as much as what is hidden and what is known about them, that has created Kit Scarlett. She might not have Charlotte de Sauve’s talent for seduction, nor Isabella Hoppringle’s need to protect a home, but Kit has goals that manifest themselves in much the same way. Willing to push herself to extreme limits to protect the cause she believes in, Queen Elizabeth, Kit learns to deal with the challenges before her in much the way these three inspiring women did.

To discover more on Kit Scarlett’s tale, visit getbook.at/GentlewomanSpy. 

Adele Jordan


The Reivers: The Story of the Border Reivers, Alistair Moffat, Birlinn, 1 Jul 2011 

Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, Elizabeth Ewan, Sue Innes. Siân Reynolds,  Copyright Date: 2007, Published by: Edinburgh University Press

Women of Power: The Life and Times of Catherine de Medici, Strage, Mark (1976).  New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 

Queen of Hearts: Marguerite of Valois, 1553–1615, Haldane, Charlotte (1968).  London: Constable. OCLC 460242. 

Mémoires de Marguerite de Valois, edited by Yves Cazaux, Paris: Mercure de France, 1986

Catherine de' Medici, translated by Charlotte Haldane, Heritier, Jean. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1963.

Catherine de' Medici, Knecht, R. J. (1998).   London: Longman

"Ferrers [married name Fanshawe], Catherine (1634–1660)".  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). White, Barbara (2004).  Oxford University Press.

"Katherine Ferrers the Wicked Lady". Barber, John (2009).  Retrieved 2 May 2018.

History of Hertfordshire. Cussans, John Edwin (1881).  E. P. Publishing.

The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Pepys, Samuel. Sunday 23 February 1667/68

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About the Author

Adele Jordan is a writer with a fascination for history. Her focus is fiction in the Tudor era, telling the stories of women and adventure. Whether it’s inspired by true events or created purely from imagination, she desires to write stories from this captivating era that haven’t been written before of those on the edges of society, the paupers, the spies, the workers and those who have not had a voice. Adele studied English at the University of Exeter before moving into an eclectic career of publishing and marketing. Having worked with the National Trust’s photography department for two years, Adele travelled the country to visit the landscapes and historical places that have carved England and Wales’ heritage. When Covid struck, the job disappeared overnight, and Adele committed her time to ghost writing and authoring her own stories. Since then, she has had over twenty successful books published as a ghostwriter and hopes to turn that success into stories now written in her own name. Find out more at Adele's website and follow her on Twitter @ALJordan_writer

8 August 2022

Guest Interview with Robin Isard, Author of The Guild of Salt and the The King’s Messenger

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

AD 1173: England is on the brink of war. Loyalties are divided across the nation and nobody is safe. Young acolyte, Ralph and his friend, Harold, are thrust into the chaos of the warring factions when they are tasked to deliver a vital message to the Royalist forces. Esmé, a young noblewoman, sets out on a quest to recover her inheritance while escaping the abusive grasp of her betrothed.

I'm pleased to welcome author Robin Isard to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book

My debut novel, The Guild of Salt and the King’s Messenger, is a story set in the 12th century and centres around the 1173 - 1174 revolt against Henry II initiated by his oldest son. The protagonists are a group of young people who take advantage of the chaos to try and improve their station.

Ralph is a young man of the lower nobility who’s disgraced his family and been consigned to a backwater. Being a second son, he was foisted into the priesthood and now works as an attendant to a parish priest. Nevertheless, he dreams of being more worldly and becoming a celebrated success for his family.

Esmé is a young noblewoman who’s fallen into wardship. She comes to a crisis as the date of her marriage approaches. She has no confidence in her betrothed to manage her family legacy and fears pregnancy as both her mother and grandmother died having their first child.

The chaos of the revolt provides the characters with a chance to escape their situations and perhaps write a new future for themselves. I was heavily influenced by Bernard Cornwell’s books, notably his Sharpe series and C. S. Forester's Hornblower novels. Both feature protagonists striving against their circumstances. I’ve always thought stories like that have universal appeal and wanted to write something similar.

What is your preferred writing routine?

My preferred writing routine would be to get up early and put a solid four hours of writing in every morning, then edit the previous day's work after a break. However, I have a full-time job working as a university librarian and archivist, I have to live with a more spartan approach.

I spend a lot of time outlining and have developed a template to organise my chapters. It’s easy to add a bullet point about the plot or character development using my cellphone between meetings or during transit. I write in the evenings, after work and try to get seven hundred words written each night. With the help of my outline, I usually hit my quota.

What advice do you have for new writers?

Steep yourself in your research. It’s important to know the dates but just as important to know what people would have eaten and when. What would have passed for entertainment? What kinds of news and events would have mattered to them? The more you understand these things, the easier the writing will be because you won’t need to stop and check for a reference about appropriate food for such-and-such a religious festival.

I always encourage people I know who are interested in writing historical fiction to get a community user's library card from their closest university. There are thousands of scholarly papers and journals with excellent, current information that just can’t be accessed via Google.

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

So far, it seems Twitter gets the most results, but it’s early days. I’m trying out different avenues to measure their performance accurately.

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research

The fact that 12th Century culture showed a much broader intellectual curiosity than I had anticipated. It’s easy to see that time as one steeped in superstition and religious fanaticism, and naturally, there was plenty of both. Nevertheless, a strong current of rationality permeated people’s thinking. As the Oxford historian Christopher Tyerman points out, even a king — Amalric of Jerusalem — could openly question the lack of verifiable evidence outside of scripture for the resurrection. As Tyerman goes on to say, it’s hard to imagine a modern American President showing the same level of scepticism and keeping his job.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

It’s not so much a scene as it is trying to avoid anachronistic expressions. It’s so easy to use modern turns of phrase when writing dialogue, but going back and trying to give the same meaning using something more appropriate for the time can be tough work.

What are you planning to write next?

The Guild of Salt and the The King’s Messenger
is the first book in a trilogy and concerns the beginning of the revolt. The next two books will see it to its conclusion. I plan to continue the series if there’s interest.

Robin Isard

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About the Author

Robin Isard is a faculty librarian and archieral arts university in Canada. He studied history at Western University and has worked in both church and military archives. He has lived many years overseas, primarily in West Africa, building IT infrastructure in The Republic of the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry. He also worked in Ethiopia and Uganda on a telehealth project on behalf of The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. Find out more at Robin's website  https://robinisard.com/ and find him on Facebook and Twitter @RobinIsard

5 August 2022

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Du Lac Chronicles (Book 1 of The Du Lac Chronicles) by Mary Anne Yarde

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

A generation after Arthur Pendragon ruled, Briton lies fragmented into warring kingdoms and principalities.

Eighteen-year-old Alden du Lac ruled the tiny kingdom of Cerniw. Now he half-hangs from a wooden pole, his back lashed into a mass of bloody welts exposed to the cold of a cruel winter night. He’s to be executed come daybreak—should he survive that long.

When Alden notices the shadowy figure approaching, he assumes death has come to end his pain. Instead, the daughter of his enemy, Cerdic of Wessex, frees and hides him, her motives unclear.

Annis has loved Alden since his ill-fated marriage to her Saxon cousin—a marriage that ended in blood and guilt—and she would give anything to protect him. Annis’s rescue of Alden traps them between a brutal Saxon king and Alden’s remaining allies. Meanwhile, unknown forces are carefully manipulating the ruins of Arthur’s legacy.

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About the Author

Mary Anne Yarde is a multi-award winning and bestselling author of Historical Fiction, as well as an award-winning blogger. She studied History at Cardiff University and went on to study Equine Science at Warwickshire College. Mary Anne is a passionate advocate for quality Historical Fiction and founded The Coffee Pot Book Club in 2015 and became a professional Editorial Reviewer in 2016. Mary Anne's award-winning series, The Du Lac Chronicles, is set a generation after the fall of King Arthur. The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Britain and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, The Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood. Find our more at her website http://www.maryanneyarde.blogspot.co.uk/ and find her on Twitter @maryanneyarde.

3 August 2022

Special Guest Post by Joanne Wilcock: Visiting the Tudors at St. Gredifael’s Church, Penmynnyd, Anglesey, Wales

 St Gredifael’s church.

My sister has lived on Anglesey for five years. Unbeknown to me she lives about fifteen minutes drive away from a small village that many North Wales people say is the true birthplace of the Tudor dynasty, a tiny hamlet called Penmynnyd.

Having visited Peterborough Cathedral earlier this year, burial place of Katherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, followed by trips to mighty Pembroke Castle, birthplace of Henry VII and then on to Edmund Tudor’s tomb in St. David’s Cathedral Pembrokeshire, my interest in the Tudors started to grow. I was also intrigued by Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, who married Edmund Tudor and then was protected by his brother Jasper when she was widowed aged 13. Wales and the Tudors seemed to be intrinsically linked. 

I needed to know more and so was delighted to find an excellent book called Tudor Wales written by Nathen Amin published by Amberley Publishing.

I was not surprised to read in his book that the large Welsh castles such as Carew, Pembroke and Harlech castles, amongst many others, have Tudor connections but baffled to read that a little church, just 15 minutes up the road from my sister’s house, and effectively in the middle of nowhere, but with stunning views across to the Snowdonia mountains, was the birthplace of the Tudor dynasty. This surely merited a visit even though it was not a grand Cathedral nor a mighty Welsh castle.                

View from the church across to the Snowdonia mountains.

Information about the church on the internet advised me that the church is now no longer in use but is cared for by a group called The Friends of St Gredifael’s and Bangor Diocese. However, there were no details how to obtain the key. I emailed a lady at Church in Wales.org.uk in Cardiff to make enquiries. She forwarded my email and I received this reply, “Your email to the Cardiff Office sent to the Archdeacon of Anglesey forwarded to our Area Leader has finally reached me! I gather you want to visit the above- named Church.” I was given the email address and telephone number of the key holder who, fortunately, lives just a five minute drive away - and what a heavy key it was, promising to open the door to some real Tudor treasures.

Armed with Nathen Amin’s excellent book, I read that St Gredifael’s “is said to have been founded as a Celtic church by the Breton St Gredifael in the sixth century, with the first stone church being constructed in the twelfth century when the area was still under the rule of the princes of Gwynedd.” The current church dates from around the fourteenth century and is about half a mile north of the village between two minor country lanes. If you are not looking for it, you could easily pass it by without really giving it much of a thought. It has the most wonderful views across the fields to the Snowdonia range of mountains.

Once I’d managed to turn the huge key in the little-used lock, my sister and I went in search of the Tudor treasure, a marvellous alabaster tomb of Goronwy ap Tudur and his wife Myfanwy.  The tomb was probably originally in the Friary at Llanfaes, but moved to the church after the Reformation. So, who exactly are the Tudors in this tomb?  I quote verbatim from Nathen Amin’s book, 

“Although it may not be discernible to the casual visitor, Penmynnyd was the base from which one of Wales’s most powerful families grew into Britain and Europe’s most notorious dynasty. The family that would become known as the Tudors began its mercurial rise with the accomplishments of Ednyfed Fychan, the thirteenth century seneschal to the great Gwynedd princes. As steward and chancellor to Llywelyn the Great, Ednyfed was a valued and loyal servant to his prince, and, as expected, was well rewarded in riches and land. Among his acquisitions was the Lordship of Penmynydd which would become both his and his descendants’ power base..."

Ednyfed’s powerful North Wales descendants were his great-great-great grandchildren the Tudors of Penmynydd. There were five of them, all brothers, born to Tudur ap Goronwy and loyal to King Richard II. The probable eldest of the five sons was the incumbent of the alabaster tomb before us in the aptly named Tudor Chapel – Goronwy Fychan ap Tudur, who Amin tells us became Forrester of Snowdonia in 1382 as well as becoming the Constable of Beaumaris Castle shortly before he died from drowning. 

Maredudd ap Tudur was the youngest of the five brothers and he fathered a son Owain. With his disgraced father and uncles all dead, some of whom had become rebels in campaigning against the new king Henry Bolingbroke who had usurped Richard II, Owain ap Maredudd ap Tudur was forced to leave Penymyndd to make his living in London. He incredibly met and fathered two sons, Edmund and Jasper Tudor with Katherine of Valois, dowager queen of King Henry V. The two boys were brought up as members of the Lancastrian royal family as half-brothers of King Henry VI.

Margaret Beaufort went on to marry Edmund Tudor and together they had Henry who would become Henry VII who fathered Henry VIII. The rest, as we know, is all history. So, the alabaster tomb is that of Henry VII’s great-great uncle and aunt and Henry VIII’s great-great-great uncle and aunt.

As Amin writes,

“As Owen Tudor’s paternal uncle, Goronwy would become a great-great uncle to the king of England and related to every British monarch since.”

We circled the tomb several times studying the great detail of the late fourteenth century tomb showing the effigy of Goronwy next to his wife Myfanwy. 

He is dressed in his medieval surcoat with his head covered in chainmail. His legs, missing their feet, rest on a lion. His hands were also missing. His moustache looks grand and he looks very much at peace.

Myfanwy, wearing a wimple, has a lapdog at her feet (apparently there were two but one is missing where the repair is) and her hands held in prayer are still in place. Myfanwy and Goronwy’s heads are supported by winged angels holding cushions. There are shields around the tomb but their detail has worn off.

The repair to Myfanwy bottom right

Looks like R.S. Parry got here before us

Goronwy has his missing feet resting on a lion.

In the church there are many pews edged with the fleur-de lis motif representing the union of the Tudors to the French Royal family through Owen Tudor’s “morgantic marriage with Katherine of Valois” (Amin pg. 83). There is also a replica stained glass window, showing the Beaufort portcullis and the Tudor rose; the original was apparently smashed by vandals two weeks after a visit from prince Charles in 2007. 

Because of its links to the Tudors and queens of Britain the church has apparently had a long association with royal patronage. In 1850 Queen Victoria donated £50 to its upkeep.

When we were there, the church was full of cobwebs and needed a good stiff brush taking to the floor. But it was a rather special place, all the more so because it did take some detective work to finally gain entrance.  As Nathen Amin writes in his book Tudor Wales,

“Any visit to the north-east of Wales warrants a trip across the Menai Strait to explore the village where, it could be argued, the seeds of the British Empire were first sown.” 

Joanne Wilcock

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About the Author

Joanne Wilcock is a history fan with a particular interest in the Tudors and the Brontes of Haworth. You can find her on Twitter @JoanneWilcock2

1 August 2022

Blog Tour: On Bur Oak Ridge (Sheltering Trees) by Jenny Knipfer

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In the early 1900s, quiet and reserved Molly Lund finds refuge from her past at the Nelsons’ farm in Minnesota. In an attempt to turn a new page in her life, Molly works at making peace with her losses and coming to terms with the disfiguring burns on her face. 

Samuel Woodson, the Nelsons’ hired hand, carries his own cares. Split from his family and bearing a burden of misplaced guilt for an act that haunts him, Samuel–seeing past Molly’s scars–draws her out of her self-protective shell. 

Molly and Samuel form a friendship, but just as their hearts lead them deeper, an unexpected guest comes calling, demanding what’s his. 

Will Molly and Samuel find a way to be together or will they be separated, due to impediments beyond their control? Can they trust in God’s plan and travel a path that heals the hurts of the past?  

“A heartwarming story of healing from external and internal scars. Through some of life’s harder lessons the characters learn to trust, forgive, and find second chances out of the ashes of pain and loss.”  Anne Perreault, author of eighteen inspirational novels, including the Yellowstone series

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About the Author

Jenny Knipfer lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Ken, and their pet Yorkie, Ruby. She is also a mom and loves being a grandma. She enjoys many creative pursuits but finds writing the most fulfilling. Spending many years as a librarian in a local public library, Jenny recently switched to using her skills as a floral designer in a retail flower shop. She is now retired from work due to disability. Her education background stems from psychology, music, and cultural missions. All of Jenny’s books have earned five-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite, a book review and award contest company. She holds membership in the: Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, Wisconsin Writers Association, Christian Indie Publishing Association, and Independent Book Publishers Association. Jenny’s favourite place to relax is by the western shore of Lake Superior, where her novel series, By The Light of the Moon, is set. She deems a cup of tea and a good book an essential part of every day. When not writing, Jenny can be found reading, tending to her many houseplants, or piecing quilt blocks at her sewing machine. Find out more at Jenny's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @JennyKnipfe

28 July 2022

Special Guest Post by Deb Stratas: The Time Traveler’s Wife meets Downtown Abbey in The Royal Key

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Annabelle is struggling to overcome a personal tragedy without losing the man she loves. Suddenly, she finds herself locked in a Victorian country home, nannying royal children in a strange time and place. How did she get here? Is she meant to influence the future of the British monarchy? More importantly, how can she unlock the key back to the modern life she desperately misses? Travel back to the nineteenth century with Annabelle, and share her unexpected healing journey.

A Tale of Two Annabelles 

Meet Annabelle, a young Montessori teacher in Toronto, Canada. She loves her life with Ryan, her contractor fiancé and their dog, Lucy. She has a job she adores, a warm family, and a terrific bond with her soon-to-be-husband. What’s missing? Annabelle wants a baby, and is recovering from a painful miscarriage. Was it her fault? Does she even deserve to be a mom? How can she marry Ryan if she can’t provide him with the child he also craves?

One day, while going through old books of her father’s, she happens upon a picture of the Duke of Windsor, as the Prince of Wales. Suddenly, she feels peculiar, and falls to the floor in a faint. 
Meet the second Annabelle! Waking up in a strange garden, she is greeted by an oddly-dressed man asking after her well-being. Assuring himself that’s she’s alright, he urges her to get to the nursery straightaway to report for her duties as a fill-in nanny. Bewildered, Annabelle decides to go along with the ruse until she can get her bearings and find a way home to Ryan.

Thus begins her journey to fit in until she can get out. It’s quickly obvious that she’s in an upscale country home somewhere in England. Feeling as if she’s in an episode of Downtown Abbey, Annabelle draws upon her Montessori training to assist the senior nanny with the upbringing of two young boys and a baby girl. She soon realizes these are royal children, and as time goes on, she identifies them as the oldest children of the Duke and Duchess of York - Edward (known as David), Bertie, and young Mary. She was in the presence of three future Kings!

Taking her role seriously, she tries to instil behaviours befitting two future kings. Given the restrictions of the late 1890’s, it’s a difficult challenge without giving herself away. In the Edwardian era, and children were meant to be seen and not heard. Annabelle perseveres while trying to sort who in the household are friends vs. foes. She hatches many plans to escape, which all come to nothing.

Meanwhile, she makes an extraordinary discovery in the garden one night – a larger-than-life King Edward VIII, just weeks before his 1936 abdication. How is this possible? A grown-up and still petulant King outside, while his childhood self sleeps soundly in the nursery? Annabelle struggles to get her mind around the unsettling events of 1897 blending with 1936, but soon realizes that the grown-up David is the key to her escape and return to 2019 and her much-missed life Canadian life.

Time is running out for Annabelle, as some household staff get more suspicious by the day. Annabelle must risk a daring escape. She’s discovered the secret of the house, and can’t waste another minute for fear that her 21st century self will be revealed.  Do Ryan and Annabelle reunite? What is the secret of the house? Did Annabelle make any impact on her young royal charges? You’ll have to read The Royal Key to find out. 
Why did I write a time travel novel?

I wanted to explore the idea of a modern-day teacher travelling back to Edwardian Britain to perhaps influence the personalities of future kings. I also wanted to set the story in a house that will be familiar to royal followers – but not obvious until well into the story. Above all, I wanted to share Annabelle’s healing journey as she comes to terms with her own personal losses, and future happiness.

What did I discover about the royal children’s childhoods? 

Young Princes David and Bertie suffered at the hands of a very nasty nanny early in their childhoods. I personally believe this trauma may have affected them both physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives. Add the repression of the late 1890’s and early 1900’s, and you can understand why young David never really grew up, and Bertie suffered lifelong stomach problems and the famous stammer – both of which he overcame to be an incredible wartime king. 

What are my impressions of King Edward VIII and the abdication crisis?  

As with all my books, I did extensive research on the reigns of both King George V and King Edward VIII. I found that the adult David was in many ways a spoiled child that insisted upon his way, no matter the cost. He was determined to abdicate in order to marry the divorced American Wallis Simpson, and desert his kingship as soon as possible.

My personal belief is that he was horrified at the boredom and duties that came along with ruling England and the empire. I think Wallis did the world a favour by marrying David, as the Duke of Windsor would probably have been a weak monarch, and even our modern-day democracy could have been at stake.

Can I tell the secret of the house in The Royal Key? 

I’m afraid not. You’ll have to read The Royal Key to find the extraordinary secret of the royal country house where Annabelle found the strength and courage to find her way home. I hope you enjoy the book and welcome your feedback!

Deb Stratas

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About the Author

Deb Stratas is a writer based in Toronto, Canada. She’s a proud royalist with a lifelong passion for the British monarchy. Deb is best known for her Diana Spencer historical fiction trilogy with its accompanying non-fiction At Home with Diana. Go back to Edwardian England in The Royal Key. Her latest book The Kingston Twins, Bravery in the Blitz explores WWII London through the eyes of brave sisters, Tillie and Maggie. Deb cherishes spending time with her two amazing adult children, their spouses, and two grandchildren. Find out more at Deb's website https://www.debstratas.com/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @deb_stratas

25 July 2022

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Clash of Empires: A Novel of the French Indian War: Volume 1 (The Mallory Saga) by Paul Bennett

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In 1750, the Mallory family moved to the western Pennsylvania frontier, seeking a home and a future. Clash of Empires reveals the harrowing experiences of a colonial family drawn into the seven-year conflict between the British and French for control of the continent - the French and Indian War.

Follow the Mallory family as they attempt to live a peaceful life on the PA frontier in 1756. They face tragedy and loss as they become embroiled in The French and Indian War - Clash of Empires. In Paths to Freedom, the colonies are heading to open revolt against King George III, and the Mallory's are once again facing the spectre of war. 

Crucible of Rebellion continues the Mallory story through the early years of The Revolutionary War. Book 4, A Nation is Born completes the Revolution and The Mallory's have played their part in the victory. In book 5, A Turbulent Beginning, the nascent nation finds it hard going to establish a peaceful existence. The Natives of this land resist the westward expansion of white settlers.

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About the Author

Paul Bennett was born in Detroit when the Big Three ruled the automobile industry, and The Korean Conflict was in full swing. A lifelong interest in history and a love of reading eventually led him to Wayne State University where he majored in Ancient History, with a minor in Physical Anthropology. However, to make ends meet, those studies were left to the realm of dreams, and Paul found himself accidentally embarking on a 50 year career in computers. A career that he has recently retired from in order to spend more time with those dreams….7 grandchildren will help fill the time as well. He now resides in the quaint New England town of Salem, Massachusetts with his wife Daryl, just a few minutes’ walk from the North River, and the site where the Revolution almost began.  Find out more at Paul's website https://clashofempires.wordpress.com/ and find him on Facebook and Twitter @hooverbkreview