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17 April 2024

Book Review: The Cavalier's Oath (Lord's Legacy Book 6) by Eleanor Swift-Hook

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

England, May 1643 With the country riven by civil war, word reaches Royalist headquarters in Oxford that the Parliamentarian commander Sir William Waller plans to capture the strategic city of Worcester. Sir Philip Lord, a mercenary commander with a mysterious past, is sent to help prepare Worcester to withstand a siege. With Lord is Gideon Lennox, a young lawyer, who has been helping Lord unravel the secretive conspiracy that has overshadowed his life.

The sixth and final book of the Lord's Legacy series is a masterclass in how to bring together the complex and unresolved strands of an entire series to a satisfying conclusion. 

My plan was to read one book a month, but I found I couldn't wait to find out what happened next  - and raced through this last book. I like the way Eleanor Swift-Hook has built an ensemble cast of characters, and reveals a little more backstory in each book.

These are men and women you can care about, with enough well-researched history to create a compelling world based on actual events.

This is a series I will return to with the benefit of knowing how the mysteries are solved. I thoroughly recommend reading the Lord's Legacy series in order, and am inspired to look deeper into the truth behind the often over simplified explanations of the English Civil War.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Eleanor Swift-Hook enjoys the mysteries of history and fell in love with the early Stuart era at university when she re-enacted battles and living history events with the English Civil War Society. Since then, she has had an ongoing fascination with the social, military and political events that unfolded during the Thirty Years' War and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. She lives in County Durham and loves writing stories woven into the historical backdrop of those dramatic times. You can find out more about the background of Lord's Legacy on her website and find her on Twitter @emswifthook

See Also:

14 April 2024

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

Available from Amazon US and Amazon UK

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, 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: and find her on Facebook and Twitter @faithljustice

6 April 2024

Book Review: The Alchemist's Plot (Lord's Legacy Book 5) by Eleanor Swift-Hook

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

England, March 1643:  While the civil war between King Charles and his Parliament continues to tear the nation apart, erstwhile lawyer, Gideon Lennox, returns to England as part of a royal escort and in the employ of Sir Philip Lord, a mercenary commander with a mysterious past.

The fifth book of the Lord's Legacy series takes us to the mysterious London house of prominent Elizabethan alchemist, Dr John Dee. Gideon Lennox takes centre stage, and we finally learn a little more about the members of the enigmatic 'Covenant'.

As a fan of the series I enjoyed the linking back to previous events, although I feel readers should start with book one to fully appreciate the author's nuanced style.

I particularly liked the well-researched details, such as the arrival of Queen Henrietta Maria in England, and the way the story of the Dutch and Flemish tapestry makers is woven into the plot.

The Alchemist's Plot is an entertaining read, with overtones of 'Tomb Raider', and Eleanor Swift-Hook's engaging writing keeps the pages turning. The cliffhanger ending means I have already started on the final book in the series, The Cavalier's Oath

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Eleanor Swift-Hook enjoys the mysteries of history and fell in love with the early Stuart era at university when she re-enacted battles and living history events with the English Civil War Society. Since then, she has had an ongoing fascination with the social, military and political events that unfolded during the Thirty Years' War and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. She lives in County Durham and loves writing stories woven into the historical backdrop of those dramatic times. You can find out more about the background of Lord's Legacy on her website and find her on Twitter @emswifthook

See Also:

3 April 2024

Book review: Jane Austen's Men, by Helen Amy

Available for pre-order from 

I'd been looking forward to this new book by Helen Amy, having previously been impressed by her anthology of Austen letters and family recollections, the Jane Austen Files.

This comprehensive study of all the men in Jane Austen's life is divided into two sections. The first two thirds focus on short biographies of each of the actual men she knew, starting with her father and brothers. The final third is an interesting review of the fictional men from her novels.

I particularly liked Jane's youngest brother, Charles. He encouraged her writing and she sent a copy of Emma to his ship, the Phoenix,  and he replied with a. note which said he had already read it three times during the voyage.

Packed with information and fascinating details which were new to me, this book will appeal to anyone interested in how Jane Austen's writing was influenced by those around her.  Highly recommended.

Tony Riches 

Disclosure: A review copy was kindly provided by the publishers, Amberley Books

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About the Author

After leaving university with a BA in English Literature and history Helen Amy worked for a number of years in the Court Service before becoming a full time mother of three. Her interest in the life and works of Jane Austen developed from the research she did for her MA dissertation which was about the lives of women in late Georgian England. You can find Helen on Facebook

2 April 2024

Blog Tour: Find Me in the Stars, by Jules Larimore ~ a Cévenoles Sagas novel - Book Two in the Huguenot Trilogy

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

IFrance, 1697. A sweeping adventure during the time of Louis XIV's oppressive rule and persecutions, this compelling narrative follows the intertwined destinies of two remarkable protagonists, Amelia Auvrey, a mystic holy-woman healer, and Jehan BonDurant, an apothecary from a noble Huguenot family, in a riveting tale of enduring love, faith, and the search for light in the darkest of times. 

I'm pleased to welcome author Jules Larimore to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, Find Me in the Stars: a Cévenoles Sagas novel, is the second book in my Huguenot trilogy series. Inspired by a true story, this refugee’s tale of sacrifice, separation, and abiding love unfolds in the rugged Cévennes Mountains of Languedoc, France. Amelia and Jehan are fierce champions of tolerance and compassion in their cherished Cévenole homeland, a region plagued by renewed persecutions. The escalated danger forces their paths to diverge, each embarking on their own dangerous journey toward survival and freedom. The Knights Hospitaller provide protection for Amelia and her ailing sage-femme grandmother, even as they come under suspicion of practicing witchcraft. To avoid entanglement in a brewing rebellion, Jehan joins a troupe of refugees who flee to the Swiss cantons seeking sanctuary—a journey that challenges his faith and perseverance. He arrives to find things are not as he expected; the Swiss have their own form of intolerance, and soon immigrants are no longer welcome. The utopian Eden he seeks remains elusive until he learns of a resettlement project in the New World.

During their time apart, Amelia and Jehan rely on a network of booksellers to smuggle secret letters to each other—until the letters mysteriously cease, casting doubt on their future together. Seemingly ill-fated from the start, their love is tested to its limits as they are forced to navigate a world where uncertainty and fear threaten to eclipse their unwavering bond. 

Find Me in the Stars is a stand-alone sequel to the award-winning The Muse of Freedom, a bestseller in Renaissance Fiction, and is based on true events in the life of Jean Pierre Bondurant dit Cougoussac—who happens to be my eighth great-grandfather.

What is your preferred writing routine?

I am fortunate to reside most of the year in Ojai, California, so my writing routine is centered around enjoying the outdoors. A cup or two of strong tea, (oolong is my current favorite), starts the day, followed by a brisk walk. I am most productive in the morning hours and when I write in my outdoor living space—a covered patio. I’ll sit there until around noon, letting my characters and my muse shape new chapters, occasionally distracted by songbirds that flit around the garden birdbath. After lunch, I like to work on a little editing. Later in the afternoon, I take some time for promotions, usually in the form of social media posts. Publishing time has an entirely different routine and, while in the midst of it, my mind is filled with thoughts of desperately wanting to get back to research and writing!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read as much as possible, especially well-written novels set in the era you are writing about. For historical fiction, my advice is to do your background research before you start writing. Visit the settings in your novel if you can—in person or on Google Earth. Then fill in with research on the small details as they are needed.

I would also caution about following the advice of bloggers on the “rules” of writing. Know the expertise level of the blogger before taking the advice verbatim. When I first transitioned from writing non-fiction magazine articles to writing novels, I spent a lot of time consuming the latest blogs and webinars. After a while, I found myself freezing up, afraid I would violate the latest “rules” that were being touted. Often these rules are exaggerated or even a matter of opinion. Write in a way that you find enjoyable then, before handing it off to an editor, utilize editing software and seek out critique partners and beta readers from a circle of other authors.

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

I’ve used a variety of ways to get the word out about my books. The ancestor who was the inspiration for the book, Jean Pierre Bondurant, has his own following—the Bondurant Family Association. This group has over one thousand social media followers who have a special interest in all things “Bondurant”. They are my best source for spreading awareness. Also, interviews, such as this, podcasts, guest blog posts, and social media posts (with hashtags) are very helpful. Interacting with social media groups that are specific to the topics and history in my book has offered some success. Awards and press have also been key to raising awareness. 

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

While researching on Geneanet in search of more information on the Bondurant family, I came across the genealogy of a distant cousin in Paris. He had found documents in the regional archives revealing Jean Pierre Bondurant’s father, Sieur Bondurant de Cougoussac, had been imprisoned in the Tour de Roi (King’s Tower) dungeon in Uzès, France, for a month. Sieur Bondurant, a nobleman with an estate, was arrested for his refusal to pay the king’s newly imposed taxes, despite having the financial means to do so. It must have been his way of protesting the king’s many new measures meant to stifle the nobles, especially Huguenot nobles. Finally, Sieur Bondurant’s wife hired a lawyer and paid the fine for his release. This bit of information gave me more insight into the sort of man Jean Pierre’s father was.

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The death scene of my female protagonist’s grandmother was the most challenging scene to write because, like an actor, I tapped into my own emotional experience. I used elements of my mother’s passing to create feelings and reactions for both my protagonist and her grandmother.

What are you planning to write next?

I am currently working on the research for two novels. One is the third book in the Huguenot trilogy which takes my characters to the New World in their search for “Eden”. The other is about Adelaide de Toulouse, Comtesse of Burlats, Carcassonne, and Beziers. She was the mother of the infamous Raimond-Roger Trencavel, a character in Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth and the Count of Carcassonne and Beziers who met his death during the crusade against the Cathars. Which of these books receives more of my attention and gets published first is yet to be seen.

Jules Larimore

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About the Author

Jules Larimore is the author of emotive, literary-leaning historical fiction with a dose of magic, myth, and romance to bring to life hopeful human stories and inspire positive change. She is a member of France’s Splendid Centuries authors’ collaborative, a board member of the Historical Novel Society of Southern California, and lives primarily in Ojai with time spent around the U.S. and Europe gathering a rich repository of historical research in a continued search for authenticity. Find out mpre from her website and find Jules on Facebook and Twitter @jules_larimore

31 March 2024

Historical Fiction Spotlight: This Whiteness of Swans: The Surface and the Deep: Story of Anna of Cleves, by G. Lawrence

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Swan Castle, Cleves, 1521: Nestled deep in a land rich in myth and fairy-tale, within the changing politics and religion of the Holy Roman Empire, a young girl grows to adulthood, watching war and faith tear the world she knows asunder.

Sheltered within the court of women in which she and her sisters live, Anna of Cleves may be protected, but she is not in ignorance of the world outside her castle walls, and when the Tudor King of England begins to cast his eye upon Cleves, seeking a fourth wife, she is only too aware of the peril that may be placed upon her life, as the ring is slipped upon her finger.

This Whiteness of Swans is Book One of The Surface and the Deep: Story of Anna of Cleves, by G. Lawrence.

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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 who inspire me'. Her first book in the Elizabeth of England Chronicles series is The Bastard Princess (The Elizabeth of England Chronicles Book 1).Gemma can be found on Twitter @TudorTweep

30 March 2024

Book Review: 1000 Tudor People by Melita Thomas

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The product of years of diligent research, this ambitious title brings the incredibly varied lives (and deaths!) of 1000 Tudor people into a single, accessible volume. Illustrated with historical portraits and a wealth of detail, including specially designed family trees to chart the links between major Tudor figures.

Melita Thomas has created an invaluable reference work that shines a light on the real people who populated the English Tudor period from 1485-1603. Going beyond the familiar figures, this is an impressively comprehensive exploration of the nobles, courtiers, clergymen, soldiers, explorers, and early colonists who all left their mark on this transformative era of English history.

I particularly liked the stories of relatively unknown figures like Jane Dormor, one of Queen Katherine Parr's ladies who was accused of heresy, or Roger Pratt, a sailor on John Cabot's voyages to North America. In her author's note Melita explains that by choosing as man lesser known Tudors with 'quirky' stories as possible she can offer a glimpse of the vibrancy, diversity and colour of Tudor life.  

The book's A-Z format makes it easy to locate biographies of major players like Thomas Cromwell, William Shakespeare, and Walter Raleigh.  At over 450 pages, the book's scope is breathtaking - from power players like Cardinal Wolsey to lower-class yeomen whose living circumstances illustrate the sociology of the age.

Highly recommended for anyone wanting to build a vivid, populated picture of 16th century English life and society in all its fascinating complexity, Melita Thomas' 1000 Tudor People is an indispensable guide which brings the world of the Tudors to life.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Melita Thomas is the author of non-fiction works The King’s Pearl, and The House of Grey and co-author of the Tudor Times Books of Days series of gift books. She is a doctoral candidate at UCL, researching the social and political networks of Mary I and is the co-founder and chief contributor for Tudor Times, a repository of information about the Tudors and Stewarts 1485 – 16625. In her spare time, Melita enjoys long distance walking. You can find her on and on Twitter @melitathomas92 and @thetudortimes