Mastodon The Writing Desk: March 2016

25 March 2016

Historical Fiction Book Launch: JASPER - Book Two of The Tudor Trilogy

New on Amazon UK  Amazon US and Amazon AU

Following the best-selling historical fiction novel OWEN – Book One of The Tudor Trilogy, this is the story, based on actual events, of Owen’s son Jasper Tudor, who changes the history of England forever.

England 1461: The young King Edward of York takes the country by force from King Henry VI of Lancaster. Sir Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, flees the massacre of his Welsh army at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and plans a rebellion to return his half-brother King Henry to the throne.

When King Henry is imprisoned by Edward in the Tower of London and murdered, Jasper escapes to Brittany with his young nephew, Henry Tudor. After the sudden death of King Edward and the mysterious disappearance of his sons, a new king, Edward’s brother Richard III takes the English Throne. With nothing but his wits and charm, Jasper sees his chance to make young Henry Tudor king with a daring and reckless invasion of England.

Set in the often brutal world of fifteenth century England, Wales, Scotland, France, Burgundy and Brittany, during the Wars of the Roses, this fast-paced story is one of courage and adventure, love and belief in the destiny of the Tudors.

"Without the heroic Jasper Tudor there could have been no Tudor dynasty."  Terry Breverton, author, historian and Television Presenter.

"Jasper Tudor was the greatest survivor of the Wars of the Roses. Whilst almost all his contemporaries suffered often brutal and bloody deaths, Jasper persevered against all the odds. That's not to say it was easy, as you will discover..".  Nathen Amin, Author of Tudor Wales

24 March 2016

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Our Own Country: A Novel by Jodi Daynard

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A love affair tests a new nation’s revolutionary ideals.
In 1770s Boston, a prosperous merchant’s daughter, Eliza Boylston, lives a charmed life—until war breaches the walls of the family estate and forces her to live in a world in which wealth can no longer protect her.
As the chaos of the Revolutionary War tears her family apart, Eliza finds herself drawn to her uncle’s slave, John Watkins. Their love leads to her exile in Braintree, Massachusetts, home to radicals John and Abigail Adams and Eliza’s midwife sister-in-law, Lizzie Boylston. But even as the uprising takes hold, Eliza can’t help but wonder whether a rebel victory will grant her and John the most basic of American rights.

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About the Author

Jodi Daynard is the author of The Midwife's Revolt, a novel, and The Place Within: Portraits of the American Landscape by 20 Contemporary Writers. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, The Harvard Review, Harvard Magazine, The Boston Globe, Agni, The New England Review, and elsewhere. They have been anthologized and nominated for several prizes. Her essays have also appeared as Notable Mentions in Best American Essays. Joyce Carol Oates recently nominated one of her essays, "Under the Electric Sun," for a Pushcart Prize. She taught writing in the Expository Writing Program at Harvard University, at M.I.T., and in the MFA program at Emerson College. Find out more at Jodi's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @JodiDaynard.

23 March 2016

New Historical Fiction: The Voyage of Odysseus: Volume 5 (The Adventures of Odysseus) by Glyn Iliffe

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The armies of Troy have been defeated and the city lies in ruins, but for Odysseus his greatest challenge is just beginning. 

With his oath fulfilled, Odysseus sets sail for Ithaca and the long-awaited reunion with his family. But the gods who were once his allies have turned against him, exiling him and the warrior Eperitus into a world populated with seductive demi-gods and man-eating monsters. 

As they struggle from one supernatural encounter to another, never knowing what the next landfall will bring, their chances of ever returning home grow fainter. Tensions reach breaking point between Odysseus and his crew. Even the faithful Eperitus’s loyalties are divided. 

Eventually only one hope remains. For Odysseus to see his wife and son again, he must tread the paths of the dead and descend into the pits of Hell… 

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About the Author
Glyn Iliffe studied English and Classics at Reading University, England, where he developed his passion for the stories of ancient Greek mythology. Well travelled, Glyn has visited nearly forty countries, trekked in the Himalayas, spent six weeks hitchhiking across North America and had his collarbone broken by a bull in Pamplona. He is married with two daughters and lives in Leicestershire. He is currently working on the sixth and concluding book in his Adventures of Odysseus series. Find put more at his website and find Glyn on Twitter @GlynIliffe

19 March 2016

Book Launch ~ Hanging Mary: A Novel by Susan Higginbotham

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

The untold story of Lincoln's Assassination
1864, Washington City. One has to be careful with talk of secession, of Confederate whispers falling on Northern ears. Better to speak only when in the company of the trustworthy. Like Mrs. Surratt. A widow who runs a small boardinghouse on H Street, Mary Surratt isn't half as committed to the cause as her son, Johnny. If he's not delivering messages or escorting veiled spies, he's invited home men like John Wilkes Booth, the actor who is even more charming in person than he is on the stage. But when President Lincoln is killed, the question of what Mary knew becomes more important than anything else. Was she a cold-blooded accomplice? Just how far would she go to help her son?
Based on the true case of Mary Surratt, Hanging Mary reveals the untold story of those on the other side of the assassin's gun.

After writing five novels set in medieval and Tudor England, I decided to switch centuries and continents and tackle a subject I'd been interested in since childhood, the Lincoln assassination. My focus, however, was not on the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, but on Mary Surratt, whose suspected role in the conspiracy to kill the President resulted in her becoming the first woman to be hanged by the United States government.

A widow with three grown children, Mary  in 1864 leased her tavern in Prince George's County, Maryland, to a tenant and moved to nearby Washington, D.C., where she opened a boardinghouse. In early 1865, her son John Surratt brought home a glamorous guest: the actor John Wilkes Booth. Soon Booth was a regular visitor to the boardinghouse.

Just hours after Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, detectives came to search Mary Surratt's boardinghouse in hopes of finding Booth concealed there. They found nothing, but on April 17, they returned, this time to take Mary and those living with her into custody. Mary would never again be a free woman. Just a few weeks later, on July 7, 1865, having been tried for conspiring to murder the President and found guilty by a military commission, she was executed.

Was she actually guilty? Some of the evidence against her was damning, especially the fact that on the very day of the assassination, Booth had visited Mary and given her a package, which she carried that afternoon to her tavern in Maryland. There, she delivered the package, which contained a pair of field glasses, to her tenant along with a message: that he was to have some shooting irons and whiskey available that evening, as a party would be stopping by to call for them. 

That very night, a party did call: Booth,  who had shot the President just hours before. Yet the two chief witnesses against Mary were not ideal: John Lloyd, her tenant, was an alcoholic who had been drunk when Mary visited him, and Louis Weichmann, one of her boarders, was thought by many to be testifying in order to save his own neck. A fair argument can be made for either the prosecution or the defense; indeed, the two most recent biographies of Mary reach opposite conclusions about her guilt. 

In Hanging Mary, I offer my own beliefs as to what Mary knew--and didn't know. 

Susan Higginbotham 
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About the Author

Susan Higginbotham  runs her own historical fiction/history blog, History Refreshed by Susan Higginbotham, and owns a bulletin board, Historical Fiction Online. She has worked as an editor and an attorney and lives in Apex, North Carolina, with her family. You can find out more about her books at Find Susan on Faceboook and follow her on Twitter @S_Higginbotham 

18 March 2016

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ The Chosen Queen (Queens of the Conquest 1) by Joanna Courtney

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

He looked like a king that day, Harold. Even in a simple bridegroom's tunic of darkest green he looked like royalty as he stepped up to take the Lady Svana's hand. There was no gold in sight, just flowers; no parade of bishops, just a smiling monk in a sack-robe and bare feet. There was no betrothal contract, no formal prayers, no exchange of lands or elaborate gifts, just the linking of hands joining two people for a year and a day.

Edyth had said nothing but it had seemed to her then that Harold glowed when he was with his handfast wife and it was that glow, more than any gold or land or title, that drew people to him. 'Love prefers to be free,' Svana had said and Edyth had carried that with her ever since. It had been her ideal, lit up by firelight and scented with meadow grass, and now, on the brink of womanhood, she craved such a passion for herself.

The Queens of the Conquest trilogy

1066. Three Queens. One Crown.

As a young woman in England's royal court, Edyth, granddaughter of Lady Godiva, dreams of marrying for love. But political matches are rife while King Edward is still without an heir and the future of England is uncertain.

When Edyth's family are exiled to the wild Welsh court, she falls in love with the charismatic King of Wales - but their romance comes at a price and she is catapulted onto the opposing side of a bitter feud with England. Edyth's only allies are Earl Harold Godwinson and his handfasted wife, Lady Svana.

As the years pass, Edyth finds herself elevated to a position beyond even her greatest expectations. She enjoys both power and wealth but as her star rises the lines of love and duty become more blurred than she could ever have imagined. As 1066 dawns, Edyth is asked to make an impossible choice.

Her decision is one that has the power to change the future of England forever . . .

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About the Author

Joanna Courtney lives in Derbyshire, UK and has had has short stories broadcast on BBC radio, and has also written and directed award-winning plays. For the last 6 years she has taught creative writing courses for the Open University as well as teaching privately around the country and working with schools. She says, "Being a writer is a tough job but a hugely rewarding one. Stories are in my blood and, however painful it may be at times, I love the process of mining them out and onto paper and hope to be doing it for many, many years to come." 

Find out more at Joanna's website and follow her on Twitter @joannacourtney1

16 March 2016

Book Launch: Margaret the First: A Novel by Danielle Dutton

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A dramatisation of the life of Margaret Cavendish, the shy, gifted, and wildly unconventional 17th-century Duchess. The eccentric Margaret wrote and published volumes of poems, philosophy, feminist plays, and utopian science fiction at a time when “being a writer” was not an option open to women. As one of the Queen’s attendants and the daughter of prominent Royalists, she was exiled to France when King Charles I was overthrown. 

As the English Civil War raged on, Margaret met and married William Cavendish, who encouraged her writing and her desire for a career. After the War, her work earned her both fame and infamy in England: at the dawn of daily newspapers, she was “Mad Madge,” an original tabloid celebrity. Yet Margaret was also the first woman to be invited to the Royal Society of London—a mainstay of the Scientific Revolution—and the last for another two hundred years.

Margaret the First is very much a contemporary novel set in the past. Written with lucid precision and sharp cuts through narrative time, it is a gorgeous and wholly new approach to imagining the life of a historical woman.

"Danielle Dutton engagingly embellishes the life of Margaret the First, the infamous Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne." —Vanity Fair

“With refreshing and idiosyncratic style, Dutton portrays the inner turmoil and eccentric genius of an intellectual far ahead of her time.”—Jane Ciabattari,

"Although 'Margaret the First' is set in 17th century London, it's not a traditional work of historical fiction. It is an experimental novel that, like the works of Jeanette Winterson, draws on language and style to tell the story... There is a restless ambition to [Danielle Dutton's] intellect." —Michele Filgate, The Los Angeles Times 

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About the Author

Danielle Dutton's fiction has appeared in magazines such as Harper's, BOMB, Fence, and Noon. She is the author of a collection of hybrid prose pieces, Attempts at a Life, which Daniel Handler in Entertainment Weekly called "indescribably beautiful," and an experimental novel, S P R A W L, a finalist for the Believer Book Award. In 2015, she wrote the texts for Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera, an artists' book with collages by Richard Kraft. In 2010, Dutton founded the small press Dorothy, a publishing project, named for her great aunt Dorothy Traver, a librarian who drove a bookmobile through the back hills of southern California. The press itself has been praised in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, and Dutton has been interviewed in the Paris Review, Kirkus, and elsewhere for her work promoting innovative women writers.

5 Ingredients of Favourite Historical Fiction by M.K. Tod

In a 2015 reader survey, I asked participants to name three favourite historical novels. Listed below are the twelve top titles mentioned by over 2,000 readers. What characteristics do they share?

Outlander Series
Diana Gabaldon
18th century Scotland
The Sunne in Splendour
Sharon Kay
Richard III in 15th 
century England
Wolf Hall
Hilary Mantel
Thomas Cromwell in
16th century England
Here Be Dragons
Sharon Kay
13th century England,
France and Wales
The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett
12th century England
Anya Seton
14th century England
The Greatest Knight
Elizabeth Chadwick
13th century England
Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell
American Civil War
The Other Boleyn Girl
Philippa Gregory
16th century England
When Christ and his Saints Slept
Sharon Kay
12th century England
C.J. Sansom
16th century England
Aubrey & Maturin Series
Patrick O’Brian
19th century during
the Napoleonic wars

Immersed in time and place. Activating all senses, these novels transport readers to another era right from the opening pages. Here’s an example from the opening paragraph of Master and Commander, the first of the Aubrey and Maturin series: “He was wearing his best uniform—the white-lapelled blue coat, white waistcoat, breeches and stockings of a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, with the silver medal of the Nile in his buttonhole …” Here, words like breeches and stockings help set the time period, as does the reference to ‘silver medal of the Nile’, a sea battle that took place in 1798
Superb writing. Prose, pacing, emotional resonance, plot twists and entertainment value factor into superb writing. Table stakes for high quality fiction of any genre. Each title on the list offers a uniquely compelling blend of these factors. As an example, here’s what one Goodreads reviewer had to say about When Christ and His Saints Slept: “Sharon Penman is one of those exquisitely rare writers who can’t put a foot wrong. The vocabulary she can draw upon would put professors of English to shame, her understanding of the language is almost unmatched, and her consummate fluidity of writing and fluency has few rivals. Moreover, Sharon’s writing style is supremely natural and elegant in its simplicity.”

Characters both heroic and human. Readers want to experience famous figures as believable characters complete with doubts and flaws or everyday people accomplishing heroic tasks in times so different from today. Outlander and Gone With the Wind are examples of novels based on everyday people; Wolf Hall and The Greatest Knight are examples of novels exploring the lives of famous historical figures. The strengths and flaws of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt emerge in Seton’s Katherine as do those of Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler in Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

Authentic and educational. Readers love to learn. The hallmark of favourite historical fiction is meticulous research followed by carefully chosen information to create a seamless blend of history and story. If you want to know about building cathedrals in the 12 century, choose The Pillars of the Earth; to explore Henry VIII’s destruction of the power of the Catholic Church, read Dissolution.

Dramatic arc of historical events. Each of these novels uses the dramatic shape of real events to tell a compelling story. In The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory shows us the times and intrigue of Henry VIII’s court as Catherine of Aragon loses her influence to Mary Boleyn who in turn loses to her sister Anne. Outlander explores a time when Scottish clans hoped for the return of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the end of English rule.

I’ve included a brief blurb about each title to whet your appetite.

Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon: Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year 1743. The series explores the life of Claire and Jamie Fraser, a Scottish warrior who rescues her, during a time of great danger and upheaval.

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman: A novel of the controversial Richard III—a monarch betrayed in life by his allies and in death by history. In this superb novel, Penman redeems Richard III—vilified as the bitter, twisted, scheming hunchback who murdered his nephews, the princes in the Tower—from his maligned place in history with a dazzling combination of research and storytelling.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel: England in the 1520s: if the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. Cromwell helps Henry break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman: Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce by marrying the English king's beloved illegitimate daughter, Joanna, who slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband. But as John's attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales—and Llewelyn—Joanna must decide where her love and loyalties truly lie.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett: A spellbinding epic set in twelfth-century England. The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of the lives entwined in the building of the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known—and a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.

Katherine by Anya Seton: Katherine is an epic novel of the love affair between Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt that changed history. Set in the vibrant fourteenth century, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets who rule despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already-married Katherine. Their affair persists through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption.

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick: A penniless young knight with few prospects, William Marshal is plucked from obscurity when he saves the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. In gratitude, she appoints him tutor to the heir to the throne, the volatile and fickle Prince Henry. But being a royal favorite brings its share of danger and jealousy as well as fame and reward.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with bold intensity. A superb piece of storytelling, it vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory: When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of the handsome and charming Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. In reality, she’s a pawn to her family’s ambitious plots and as the king’s interest begins to wane, Mary is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne.

When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman: A.D. 1135. As church bells tolled for the death of England's King Henry I, his barons faced the unwelcome prospect of being ruled by a woman: Henry's beautiful daughter Maude, Countess of Anjou. But before Maude could claim her throne, her cousin Stephen seized it. In their long and bitter struggle, all of England bled and burned.

Aubrey & Maturin Series by Patrick O’Brian: stories based on the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against a thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Details of a life aboard a man-of-war in Nelson's navy are faultlessly rendered: the conversational idiom of the officers in the ward room and the men on the lower deck, the food, the floggings, the mysteries of the wind and the rigging, and the roar of broadsides as great ships do battle.

M.. K. Tod
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About The Author

M.K. Tod has enjoyed a passion for historical novels that began in her arly teenage years immersed in the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff, Jean Plaidy and Georgette Heyer. During her twenties, armed with Mathematics and Computer Science degrees, she embarked on a career in technology and consulting continuing to read historical fiction in the tiny snippets of time available to working women with children to raise. In 2004, she moved to Hong Kong with her husband and no job. To keep busy Mary decided to research her grandfather’s part in the Great War. What began as an effort to understand her grandparents’ lives blossomed into a full time occupation as a writer. Her debut novel is UNRAVELLED: Two wars, Two affairs. One Marriage. LIES TOLD IN SILENCE, her second novel, is set in WWI France and tells the story of Helene Noisette who featured in Unravelled. Mary has an active blog - - which discusses all aspects of historical fiction and includes author and reader interviews. Additionally, she is a book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. Mary lives in Toronto where she is happily married with two adult children. Connect with M.K. Tod on Facebook and Twitter.

15 March 2016

Book Launch ~ In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII

The visitor's companion to the palaces, castles & houses associated with Henry VIII's iconic queens

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

This book provides a fresh perspective on the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives by embarking on a journey through the manors, castles and palaces in which their lives were played out. This journey traces their steps to the Alhambra in Spain, childhood home of Katherine of Aragon; to the very room at Acton Court where Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII publicly dined; through the cobbled grounds of Hampton Court Palace, which bore witness to both triumph and tragedy for Jane Seymour; into the streets of Düsseldorf in Germany, birthplace of Anne of Cleves; among the ruins and picturesque gardens of St Mary’s Abbey in York where Catherine Howard and Henry VIII rested at the pinnacle of the 1541 progress; and to Gainsborough Old Hall in Lincolnshire, where Katherine Parr lived as daughter-in-law of the irascible Sir Thomas Brough.

Each location is described in a fascinating narrative that unearths the queens’ lives in documents and artefacts, as well as providing practical visitor information based on the authors’ first-hand knowledge of each site. Accompanied by an extensive range of images including timelines, maps, photographs and sketches, this book brings us closer than ever to the women behind the legends, providing a personal and illuminating journey in the footsteps of the six wives of Henry VIII.

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About the Authors

Natalie Grueninger is a researcher, writer and educator, who lives in Sydney with her husband and two children. She graduated from The University of NSW in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts, with majors in English and Spanish and Latin American Studies and received her Bachelor of Teaching from The University of Sydney in 2006. Natalie has been working in public education since 2006 and is passionate about making learning engaging and accessible for all children. In 2009 she created On the Tudor Trail (, a website dedicated to documenting historic sites and buildings associated with Anne Boleyn and sharing information about the life and times of Henry VIII’s second wife. Natalie is fascinated by all aspects of life in Tudor England and has spent many years researching this period. Her first non-fiction book, co-authored with Sarah Morris, In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, was published by Amberley Publishing and released in the UK in late 2013. Find Natalie on Facebook and on Twitter @OntheTudorTrail
Dr Sarah A Morris is a creative soul, as well as an eternal optimist who generally prepares for the worst! She is an advocate of following the heart’s deepest desire as a means to finding peace and happiness. To this end, her writing is a creative expression of her joy of both learning and educating. Drawn by an inexplicable need to write down the story of Anne Boleyn’s innocence, she published the first volume of her debut novel, Le Temps Viendra: a novel of Anne Boleyn in 2012; the second volume followed in 2013. That same year, her first non-fiction book, co-authored with Natalie Grueninger called, In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn, was also published. Hopelessly swept away by an enduring passion for Tudor history and its buildings. She lives in rural Oxfordshire with her beloved dog and travelling companion, Milly. You’ll find Sarah at and at her blog, This Sceptred Isle, Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @LeTempsViendra.

13 March 2016

Guest Post ~ Revisiting Alice Perrers: The King's Concubine, by Anne O'Brien

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

A child born in the plague year of 1348, abandoned and raised within the oppressive walls of a convent, Alice Perrers refused to take the veil, convinced that a greater destiny awaited her. Ambitious and quick witted, she rose above her obscure beginnings to become the infamous mistress of Edward III. But always, essentially, she was alone...

Alice Perrers, mistress of that most powerful of Plantagenet Kings, Edward III, at the same time as she was a damsel (lady-in-waiting) to Queen Philippa, has had a bad press. 
‘There was ... in England a shameless woman and wanton harlot called Ales Peres, of base kindred ... being neither beautiful or fair, she knew how to cover these defects with her flattering tongue ...’  

This was the pen of Thomas Walsingham, a monk at St Albans, who knew Alice well. Alice has fared no better at the hands of reputable modern historians who have been no less damning.  Edward III was sick and enfeebled, given over to the wiles of his rapacious mistress.’ 

Here is Alice, in all her notoriety.

Alice the low born usurper of royal power.  Alice had neither breeding nor wealth nor significant family connection.  Traditions says that she came from the lowest of the low, being the illegitimate daughter of a town labourer – a tiler - and a tavern whore.  She was born with nothing and deserved no promotion, but she did not know her place.  With ruthless determination Alice stepped out of it, rising above herself to become s Queen’s damsel and mistress to the King.

Alice the Ugly.  Alice was ‘famously ugly’.  How could an unattractive woman rise to such pre-eminence?  Using flattery, base seduction, not to mention supernatural powers – she was accused of witchcraft – Alice lured the unsuspecting King into a sexual liaison from which she never allowed him to escape until the day of his death.  Alice was the whore, the guilty party. 

Alice the rapacious royal mistress.  She beguiled and manipulated King Edward until he neglected his wife and his country.  Because she seduced him while Philippa was still alive, Alice was the cause of King Edward committing the sin of adultery.  So great was her power over the King that he could refuse her nothing.  So corrupt were her morals that she entered into a clandestine marriage with William de Windsor without Edward's knowledge.

Alice the Destroyer.  Alice stepped between King Edward and Queen Philippa, destroying the happiness of what was considered to be the perfect marriage.  (A rumour of an earlier mistress was thought to be the work of the despicable French to blacken Edward’s name.)  Edward was the faithful, loving husband - until Alice Perrers came on the scene.  She robbed Philippa’s final, painful days of contentment in her husband’s love. 

Alice the greedy embezzler of wealth.  Alice dipped her hands into the royal treasury and amassed jewels worth more than £20,000 (£6 million in modern values).  After Philippa’s death, Alice demanded that Edward give her Philippa’s private collection of jewellery, which he did.  Alice wore them ostentatiously, flaunting her power.  Together with Windsor, her new husband, an equally unprincipled courtier, she embezzled funds set aside by the King to deal with the uprisings in Ireland.  And worst of all, in the whole vicious category of her crimes?  When Edward lay on his death bed, Alice stripped the royal rings from his fingers.  Such terrible desecration of the dead ...

Alice the grasping land-grabber.  Alice persuaded Edward to give her land.  So successful was she that she controlled 56 manors, castles and town houses stretching over 25 counties of England from the north to the home counties  When property disputes arose, Alice had the temerity to sit in the law courts to intimidate the judges and ensure that she got the best deal for herself.  She became the wealthiest common-born woman in the land; if she had been a man, her wealth would have qualified for an earldom.   

Alice the arch manipulator.  The government of England fell into the hands of Alice, in alliance with John of Gaunt and a group of royal ministers – dubbed her coven by her enemies - appointed by her and loyal to her.  Edward was unable to prevent her from usurping royal power that was not hers to take.  When the Good Parliament in 1376 finally set its sights on Alice, intent on her dismissal from court and the stripping away of all her property and jewels and even her banishment from the country, we are left with the impression that she deserved everything she got.  

But is this the real Alice Perrers?  Infamous, immoral, selfish, manipulating.  But is Alice’s reputation too black to be realistic?  Was she quite so ruthless and self-serving and was she quite so ugly?  Perhaps she was, but we never hear Alice speaking out in her own defence.  Nor are there portraits of Alice or even detailed contemporary descriptions of her.  All the accusations come from her male contemporaries, men of influence in church and state.
Perhaps this was the key to Alice's reputation - a bad case of male jealousy - and for this reason I decided that she deserved that we take another look at her remarkable career.  Even Perrers was not her birth name, but one from an early short-lived marriage.  It all sparked my interest, and so Alice became my ‘project’, not with an intent to whitewash her, but to allow her to speak out in her own voice to allow us to see what her motives might have been. 

As a woman making her way in a man’s world, without rank or family connection, perhaps the formidable Alice deserves that we take a moment, through fiction, to reassess her.  She emerges as a formidable woman, well versed in law and land-management, in effect a very smart business woman.  To my mind there is much to be said in her favour: she makes a worthy, if somewhat unconventional heroine for The King's Concubine.

Anne O'Brien
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About the Author

Anne O'Brien was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a B.A. Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Masters degree in education at Hull, she lived in the East Riding as a teacher of history. Always a prolific reader, she enjoyed historical fiction and was encouraged to try her hand at writing. Success in short story competitions spurred her on. Leaving teaching, she wrote her first historical romance, a Regency, which was published in 2005. To date nine historical romances and a novella, ranging from medieval, through the Civil War and Restoration and back to Regency, have been published internationally. Anne now lives with her husband in an eighteenth century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, on the borders between England and Wales. Since living there she has become hooked on medieval history. Virgin Widow, published in 2010 was Anne's first novel based on the life of an historical character, Anne Neville, wife of Richard Duke of Gloucester. Her second novel tracks the early life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, through marriage, crusades and divorce, not to mention scandal, as Devil's Consort (In the USA published as Queen Defiant.)  Other novels depict the scandalous life of Alice Perrers, mistress of King Edward III, who broke all the rules as The King's Concubinefollowed by Katherine de Valois as The Forbidden Queen and Elizabeth of Lancaster as The King's Sister. Anne's latest book, The Queen’s Choice, about the life of Joanna of Navarre, was released in the UK on 14th January 2016.  Find out more at Anne's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @anne_obrien.