Mastodon The Writing Desk: March 2023

31 March 2023

Curator's Corner: How to date an Artefact: Dr Rachel King investigates the Gold Tudor Pendant of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon.

How does one go about dating an artefact that was found in a field in England by a metal detectorist? 

The necklace is made of around 300g of 23 to 25 carat gold, it has a 75-link chain, at the centre of which a gold-and-enamel hand emerging from a cloud would have originally connected it to the central pendant. This latter component is hinged like a locket, and was originally secured using two pins; as well as the decoration described above, both sides bear the inscription ‘tous iors’, from the French toujours, ‘always’.

As part of the Treasure process in the UK, artefacts found by metal detectorists that happen to be of a high percentage precious metal, need to go through a process of identification and classification. Join curator, Rachel King as she investigates the clues found on this spectacular gold pendant to shed some light on when it was made, by whom and for whom. 


00:00 Introduction
02:00 A Quick Aside – Terminus dates
02:45 Investigating the clues on the front
03:48 The clues on the back 
04:39 Dating the materials
05:00 The Gold Standard
06:06 Enamel decoration
07:47 The Tudor Curb chain
09:55 Johann Froben
11:46 Jousting at Greenwich
13:20 Who could afford such an artefact?

About the Presenter

Dr Rachel King works at the British Museum where she is Curator of Renaissance Europe & the Waddesdon Bequest in the department of Britain, Europe and Prehistory. Rachel is responsible for ceramics, glass, metalwork and a number of other collections (i.e.. ivories etc) made in Europe or elsewhere under European influence in the period roughly 1500-1700. Rachel previously worked at a number of other institutions in Britain and Germany, mostly focussing on collections of decorative and applied arts, or world cultures. In recent years, she has become especially interested in English goldsmiths’ work, particularly enamelled pieces. This has grown from my professional curatorial involvement in the Treasure Process administered by the Portable Antiquities Scheme. She is also very interested in text-bearing objects, and speaking objects, as well as materials, objects and the expression of faith. Rachel studied languages (MA Cantab) followed by specialising in design and the decorative arts (MA V&A) and completed a PhD contextualising early-modern objects made of amber. She has published widely ranging from objects in amber and obsidian, to silver drinking vessels, moulded ceramics, and prayer beads. You can find Rachel on Twitter @heartovglass

29 March 2023

Historical Fiction Spotlight ~ Pagan King: Britain: The Seventh Century (Gods and Kings Book 2) by MJ Porter

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

From bestselling author, MJ Porter comes the tale of the mighty pagan king, Penda of Mercia.

The year is AD641, and the great Oswald of Northumbria, bretwalda over England, must battle against an alliance of the old Britons and the Saxons led by Penda of the Hwicce, the victor of Hæ∂feld nine years before, the only Saxon leader seemingly immune to Oswald's beguiling talk of the new Christianity spreading through England from both the north and the south.

Alliances will be made and broken, and the victory will go to the man most skilled in warcraft and statecraft.

The ebb and flow of battle will once more redraw the lines of the petty kingdoms stretching across the British Isles.

There will be another victor and another bloody loser.

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About the Author

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. Raised in the shadow of a building that was be-lieved to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author's writing destiny was set. MJ Porter has also written two twentieth-century mysteries. Find out more at and Twitter @coloursofunison

28 March 2023

New Historical Fiction Spotlight: Ritual of Fire: An Explosive Historical Thriller in a Scorching Renaissance Florence (Cesare Aldo series Book 3) by D. V. Bishop

Available for pre-order 

Ceremonial murder has returned to Florence, and only two men
can end the destruction.

Florence. Summer, 1538: A night patrol finds a wealthy merchant hanged and set ablaze in the city’s main square. More than mere murder, this killing is intended to put the fear of God into Florence. Forty years earlier, puritanical monk Girolamo Savonarola was executed the same way. Does this new killing mean his fanatical disciples are reviving the monk’s regime of holy terror?

Cesare Aldo is busy hunting thieves in the Tuscan countryside, leaving Constable Carlo Strocchi to investigate the killing. When another merchant is burned alive in public, the rich start fleeing to their country estates. But the Tuscan hills can also be dangerous.

Growing religious fervour and a scorching heatwave drives the city ever closer to madness. Meanwhile, someone is stalking those powerful men who forged lifelong bonds in the dark days of Savonarola.

Unless Aldo and Strocchi work together, all of Florence will be consumed by an inferno of death and destruction.

Ritual of Fire is the third Cesare Aldo mystery, preceded by City of Vengeance and The Darkest Sin.

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About the Author

D. V. Bishop writes the award-winning Cesare Aldo mysteries set in Renaissance Florence. The first, CITY OF VENGEANCE, received the New Zealand Booklovers Award for best novel, and was shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. The second, THE DARKEST SIN, was published in March 2022, and Cesare Aldo returns in RITUAL OF FIRE in June 2023. Bishop was awarded a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship while writing CITY OF VENGEANCE. The novel won the Pitch Perfect competition at the 2018 Bloody Scotland international crime fiction festival, and was a Sunday Times Crime Club Pick of the Week. Find out more at the author's website and find him on Twitter @davidbishop

27 March 2023

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Battle Song (de Norton trilogy) by Ian Ross

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

There is a fury in England that none shall suppress - and when it breaks forth it will shake the throne'

1264: Storm clouds are gathering as Simon de Montfort and the barons of the realm challenge the power of Henry III. The barons demand reform; the crown demands obedience. England is on the brink of civil war.

Adam de Norton, a young squire devoted to the virtues of chivalry, longs only to be knighted, and to win back his father's lands. Then a bloody hunting accident leaves him with a new master: the devilish Sir Robert de Dunstanville, who does not hesitate to use the blackest stratagems in pursuit of victory.

Following Robert overseas, Adam is introduced to the ruthless world of the tournament, where knights compete for glory and riches, and his new master's methods prove brutally effective.

But as England plunges into violence, Robert and Adam must choose a side in a battle that will decide the fate of the kingdom. Will they fight for the king, for de Montfort - or for themselves?

Searingly vivid and richly evocative, Battle Song is tale of friendship and chivalry, rivalry and rebellion, and the medieval world in all its colour and darkness.

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About the Author

Ian Ross lives in England, and has been researching and writing historical fiction for over a decade. His 'Twilight of Empire' series, set in the 4th Century AD, followed the rise of the Emperor Constantine and the transformation of the Roman world. Find out more at Ian's website and find him on Twitter @IanRossAuthor

26 March 2023

New Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Forgotten Palace: A timeslip novel from Alexandra Walsh

Available for pre-order from

In an underground labyrinth a lost soul wanders, waiting for revenge, waiting for love… 

London 1900: Alice Webster has made the worst decision of her life. When her Aunt Agatha offers her the chance to go on a Grand Tour she jumps at the opportunity to get away from the glare of scandal. Heading off to see the world as the century turns, Alice begins to believe her broken heart can be healed, and a chance encounter on a train bound for Paris changes everything. When their journey takes them to a Cretan house thick with history, and the world-famous dig at Knossos, stories from the past begin to echo through Alice’s life.

London Present Day: Eloise De’Ath is meant to be a grieving widow. But if people knew the truth about her late husband, they’d understand why she can’t even pretend. Needing to escape, Eloise heads to Crete and the house her father-in-law Quinn left her, and slowly Quinn’s home begins to reveal its mysteries. In his office Eloise discovers his life’s work: the study of the Victorian excavation to find the Minotaur’s labyrinth. Fascinated by the diaries of a young woman from the dig, Eloise is drawn into Alice’s tale of lost love and her growing obsession with Ariadne, the princess of the labyrinth.

Three women divided by time but connected by the long-hidden secrets of the past. As their stories join in a golden thread, a terrible injustice might finally be undone…

'Alexandra Walsh weaves a perfectly crafted dual timeline tale that will enthral and delight the reader from the first words until the very last sparkling moment.' Elena Collins

'I absolutely loved this beautifully written and characterful novel which intrigued me as it moves seamlessly between 1900 and the present with a throwback to Theseus and The Minotaur of ancient Crete.’ Carol McGrath

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About the Author

Alexandra Walsh is a bestselling author of the dual timeline women’s fiction. Her books range from the 15th and 16th centuries to the Victorian era and are inspired by the hidden voices of women that have been lost over the centuries. The Marquess House Saga offers an alternative view of the Tudor and early Stuart eras, while The Wind Chime and The Music Makers explore different aspects of Victorian society. Formerly, a journalist for over 25 years, writing for many national newspapers and magazines; Alexandra also worked in the TV and film industries as an associate producer, director, script writer and mentor for the MA Screen Writing course at the prestigious London Film School. She is a member of The Society of Authors and The Historical Writers Association. For updates and more information visit her website: or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @purplemermaid25

24 March 2023

The Death of Queen Elizabeth Ist, 24 March 1603

"To be a king and wear a crown, is a thing more glorious to them that see it, than it is pleasant to them that bear it" Queen Elizabeth Ist

Queen Elizabeth Ist died early in the morning of the 24th of March 1603 at the age of sixty-nine, after a reign of forty-five years. The leading theory is that she died of blood poisoning, but she gave orders not to allow a post-mortem, so we can never be certain. Other proposed causes of death include pneumonia, streptococcus (infected tonsils), and some form of cancer.

Her rumoured last words were: “All my possessions for one moment of time.” Elizabeth’s embalmed body was placed inside a lead coffin and carried at night in a torchlit barge along the River Thames from Richmond Palace to Whitehall, where it lay in state under guard for three weeks before her extravagant  funeral procession on the 28th  of April, 1603.

Thousands of spectators watched the funeral procession make its way through London. Queen Elizabeth's coffin was carried from Whitehall to Westminster Abbey on a hearse drawn by horses draped with black velvet. The coffin was covered in purple cloth, with the effigy of Elizabeth with a sceptre in her hands and a crown on her head. Dressed in royal robes, the effigy was said to be so lifelike it made mourners gasp. 

A canopy supported by six knights was held over the coffin, and behind the hearse was the Queen’s Master of the Horse, leading her palfrey. The chief mourner was the Countess of Northampton who led the party of peers of the realm, all dressed in black.

Elizabeth I was interred in Westminster Abbey, her coffin first being placed in the vault of her grandfather, King Henry VI. In 1606 Elizabeth's coffin was placed beneath a monument to her erected by King James I, in the same vault as her half sister, Mary I. The Latin inscription at the base of the tomb reads, 'Partners in throne and grave, here we sleep Elizabeth and Mary, sisters in hope of the Resurrection.'

Tony Riches

23 March 2023

Special Guest Post by Deb Stratas, Author of the Diana Spencer Series

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Would you like to read the real story behind The Crown? How did a naïve nineteen-year-old British kindergarten teacher's assistant become the famous Princess of Wales? 

Diana, The Uncrowned Princess

As the coronation of HM, King Charles III and his wife, Queen (Consort) Camilla fast approaches, one can’t help thinking of the princess who was never crowned – the late Diana, Princess of Wales. 

Diana’s story is familiar to many of us – the young “Shy Di” who married the bachelor Prince Charles at the naive age of twenty – the fairy-tale wedding in 1981. The young Mum, trying to find her feet in the global spotlight, with a world who never left her alone. The sad divorcee, struggling with a third person in the marriage. The emerging strong woman, who had overcome an eating disorder, loss of her true love, and unflinching public scrutiny to become confident and focussed on her children and important causes like banning personal landmines. And finally, the sad heroine who died tragically in a Paris tunnel at the too-young age of thirty-six.

 1997 seems like a long time ago, but the image of the late princess is still very much alive – whether it be in the images that never leave our television and iphone screens – or in the lives of her children William and Harry, and grandchildren. A living legacy.

If somehow, Charles and Diana had been able to overcome their challenges, and renew their love, would she be the one being crowned on May 6th? It seems impossible to imagine. Twenty-six years on, Diana would be sixty-two – undoubtedly still glamorous, but aging like all of us. Would she have continued to embrace many causes, evolved her fashion sense, become a social media presence? It’s impossible to know. For certain, she would have guided her young sons for a much longer time, embraced their wives and families, and been an involved Granny. Harry, for one, would probably be the better for having his Mum involved in his life beyond the age of twelve. Her naughty sense of humour would still prevail, and I can only imagine the hours of fun she would have enjoyed with her family and friends.

Or what if she had never gotten into that car with an intoxicated driver, and died tragically? How would her life have been as a mature, divorced woman? Would she have found the deep and abiding love that she desperately wanted? Would she possibly have had more children? I, for one, believe that she may have had other relationships, but I’m not sure she would have ever found that one true love that she needed. We’ll never know. 

Many people have said that Diana should have been the rightful Queen, alongside Prince Charles. That Camilla was the “other woman,” and caused the breakdown of the royal marriage. As with any relationship, no one really knows what went on behind closed doors. Much evidence exists that Charles and Diana were in love in the early years, and that Charles was committed to making the marriage work. Both parties are known to have tempers, and Diana’s troubled childhood left her unhealed, and ill-equipped to handle a healthy relationship. The age difference meant that the couple were from different generations, with very little in common. And make no mistake, life in the glare of the royal spotlight must place unimaginable pressures on all parties.

Regardless, there was infidelity on both Charles’ and Diana’s parts. Ironically, the great love story here is Charles and Camilla. The pair have been in love for decades, and have stood by each other through many trials. As his wife and helpmate, Camilla has been a quiet supporter, and is known to bring out the best in her husband. She has taken public abuse for most of her life, and has never once complained. She has taken on a full complement of charitable works, and at the age of seventy-five, is a full-time senior working royal. She and Charles have now been married three years longer than his union to Diana lasted. She is beloved by her family and Charles’. Constitutionally, she deserves to be Queen. She has more than earned it.

Is it sad that Diana never became Queen? Of course, it is. Would she have been a good Queen? Maybe. She herself never believed she would be crowned next to Charles. In the famous 1996 Panorama interview, she declared that she wanted to be the Queen of People’s Hearts. And that she certainly has become, enduringly and endearingly for all of us.

Do you want to revisit Diana’s incredible story? My Diana Spencer Series explores Diana’s life in three parts. Historically accurate, these novels follow the late princess from her early days meeting Prince Charles, up to her tragic death. You will feel like you are in the room with her – listening to her voice, experiencing her life events. 

 What readers have said: 

“Terrific story, well told. You really feel like you're there in 1980, reliving history with Princess Diana. Can't wait for the second book!”

“Book 2 in the Spencer series didnt disappoint!! The authors uncanny ability to get inside Diana's head during the most tumultuous time in her life is extraordinary! I devoured this book in a day! So excited to read more from this author!”

“Best trilogy ever. Looking for your next Royal book? Here are 3!! Awesome and so well written. I couldn’t put them down yet I wanted them to last forever!!”

Diana, A Spencer in Love is a novel that spans the first extraordinary year of Princess Diana’s royal life. As a novel, it tells the story from Diana’s own point of view - this is her voice telling us what happened in the early ’80s. Everyone knows the bare facts about Lady Diana Spencer, but no one has told the story of what this remarkable young woman was thinking, feeling, and experiencing during this incredible time. Available in e-book, paperback, large print, and audio formats. 

Diana, A Spencer in Turmoil explores the extraordinary events of 1992 as they unfolded to that fateful moment when the British Prime Minister announced: “It is announced from Buckingham Palace that, with regret, the Prince and Princess of Wales have decided to separate.” This second book is biographical fiction that brings us to the year of the Andrew Morton book, affairs, eating disorders, and ultimately a marital separation. Available in e-book, paperback and large print. 

How did a fashion icon transform into a beloved humanitarian on the world stage? How was the Princess of Wales able to successfully navigate a complex marital situation to her advantage? Was she or wasn’t she in love that final summer? Diana, A Spencer Forever answers all these questions as the final chapters in Princess Diana’s story unfold in 1996 and 1997. Explore the final months leading up to her tragic death, and the global grieving phenomenon that came to define her. Available in e-book, paperback and large print. 

Do you want to peek through the windows of Princess Diana’s homes? At Home with Diana is a non-fiction that tells her story through the lenses of her palaces and residences in Scotland and England. I personally visited each and every home, and the book is filled with historical tidbits, photos, and travel trips. With over 100 4-star reviews on amazon, At Home with Diana is a popular way to relive the princess’s amazing life. “Filled with well-researched historical details blended beautifully with current information. Wonderful writing style. I felt like I’d stepped in to Diana’s world.” Available in e-book, paperback and large print. 

Deb Stratas

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About the Author

Deb Stratas tells well-researched and highly readable stories about powerful women in extraordinary circumstances. The Kingston Twins, Bravery in the Blitz and The Kingston Twins, Wartime Heart are the first novels in her British WWII series about brave sisters, Tillie, Maggie and Katie. Deb is well known for her Diana Spencer historical fiction trilogy with its accompanying non-fiction At Home with Diana. Deb is based in Toronto, Canada and cherishes spending time with her two amazing adult children, their spouses, and two grandchildren. Find out more at Deb's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @deb_stratas

21 March 2023

Maya Cherny reviews Essex - Tudor Rebel (Book Two of The Elizabethan Series)

Available  from Amazon US and Amazon UK

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. He soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.

Review by Maya Cherny

Handsome, roguish, flamboyant, arrogant, charming, hotheaded and impulsive - this is how I would describe Robert Deveraux, lord Essex, knowing his short-sighted decisions, rush actions and untimely demise. But was he always destined to become such person?

Not every child becomes an adult, but every adult was a child once. In the course of life and serious “adult” -relationships, feelings, choices, deeds, actions, affairs.  It easy to forget that everything starts in childhood and every grownup is impacted by its events.

What do I remember as a child? Why is this particular memory stuck? What earlier memories I would like to forget and what is the reason? Was I essentially the same person at 10 as I’m now?

These questions flooded my mind when I started to read “Essex” by Tony Riches. Already at the first pages my original impression of the persona started to crumble. Meet a gifted child of 11, losing his father and having estranged mother, torn out from his family and thrown in welcoming but unknown household.

Navigating through his own insecurities, learning to find ways to support, to assert himself, to gain knowledge how to survive and strive within intricacies of the court - this was Essex’s maturity age. Nevertheless, he never became an adult.

He was as close as a son to Elizabeth I, as could be, always trying to win her attention, her approval, hurt with the lack of it. His self-centered approach, often sign of a spoiled child, would be his downfall.

His bright ideas, often with wrong reasoning, followed by rush decisions, which were rarely thought through, and carelessness of consequences lay his life path. Come to think of his behavioural extravagance - was it in part attention craving, unfulfilled in childhood?

Short, tumultuous and sparkling life of Robert Devereaux in “Essex” by Tony Riches will keep you engaged and entertained.

Maya Cherny

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About the Reviewer

Maya Cherny is originally from Moscow and lives inSan Jose, California, where she works as a software engineer and mathematician. A ballet dancer at heart, Maya's interest in British medieval and Tudor history began with Philippa Gregory's books and she then continued to look for authors of fiction and non-fiction for that period in British and medieval history. You can find Maya on Facebook.

20 March 2023

Book Spotlight: A Matter of Faith: Henry VIII, the Days of the Phoenix, by Judith Arnopp

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US 

Finally free of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII is now married to Anne Boleyn, and eagerly awaits the birth of his son. In a court still reeling from the royal divorce and amid growing resentment against church reform, Henry must negotiate widespread resentment toward Anne. But his lifelong dreams of a son to cement his Tudor bloodline are shattered when Anne is delivered of a daughter.

Burying his disappointment, Henry focuses on getting her with child again, but their marriage is volatile and, as Henry faces personal bereavement and discord at court, Anne’s enemies are gathering. When the queen miscarries of a son, and Henry suffers a life-threatening accident, his need for an heir becomes vital. Waiting in the wings is Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting, who offers the king respite from Anne’s fiery passions.

But, when Anne falls foul of her former ally, Thomas Cromwell, and the king is persuaded that Anne has made him a cuckold, Henry strikes out and the queen falls beneath the executioner’s sword, taking key players in Henry’s household with her.

Jane Seymour, stepping up to replace the fallen queen, quickly becomes pregnant. Delighted with his dull but fertile wife, Henry’s spirits rise even further when the prince is born safely. At last, Henry has all he desires, but even as he celebrates, fate is preparing to deliver one more staggering blow.

The virile young prince is now a damaged middle-aged man, disappointed in those around him but most of all in himself. As the king’s optimism diminishes, his intractability increases, and soon the wounded lion will begin to roar.

The story continues in Book Three:
A Matter of Time, the Dying of the Light

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About the Author

Judith Arnopp is the author of books set in the Anglo-Saxon/early medieval period and the Tudor court. All books are available in Kindle and Paperback format, and The Beaufort Chronicle (three book series), The Kiss of the Concubine and A Song of Sixpence are on Audible. Find out more at Judith's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @JudithArnopp

19 March 2023

Book Spotlight: The Sixteenth Century in 100 Women, by Amy Licence

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

This retelling of the sixteenth century introduces the reader to a gallery of amazing women, from queens to commoners, who navigated the patriarchal world in memorable and life-changing ways. 
Amy Licence has scoured the records from Europe and beyond to compile this testament to female lives and achievements, telling the stories of mistresses and martyrs, witches and muses, pirates and jesters, doctors and astronomers, escapees and murderesses, colonists and saints.

Read about the wife of astrologer John Dee, the women who inspired Michelangelo, the jester who saved the life of Henry IV of France, the beloved mistress of the Sultan Suleiman the Great, the wife of Ivan the Terrible, whose murder unleashed terror, set against the everyday lives of those women who did not make the history books.

Introducing a number of new faces, this book will delight those who are looking to broaden their knowledge on the sixteenth century and celebrate the lost women of the past.

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About the Author

Amy Licence is an historian of women's lives in the medieval and early modern period, from Queens to commoners. Her particular interest lies in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, in gender relations, Queenship and identity, rites of passage, pilgrimage, female orthodoxy and rebellion, superstition, magic, fertility and childbirth. She is also a fan of Modernism and Post-Impressionism, particularly Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, Picasso and Cubism. Amy has written for The Guardian, the BBC Website, The English Review, The London Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement and is a regular contributor to the New Statesman and The Huffington Post. She is frequently interviewed for BBC radio and in a BBC documentary on The White Queen. You can follow Amy on Twitter @PrufrocksPeach or like her facebook page In Bed With the Tudors. Her website is

18 March 2023

New Historical Fiction Spotlight: The Lost Highlander (Kit Scarlett Tudor Mysteries Book 4) by Adele Jordan

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Will Kit discover what happened to her spy partner…?

1586, London: Covert espionage agent, Kit Scarlett, is once again tasked with defending Queen Elizabeth against an assassination attempt.

With the attacks on the queen’s life mounting, Kit and spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham know they need to find a firm link between these deadly plots and Mary Queen of Scots.

But Kit is also keen to investigate a more personal matter. Her espionage partner, Iohmar Blackwood, did not return from his last mission set by Walsingham and has not been seen for a year.

When Kit is given a task by Queen Elizabeth to deliver a letter to Mary Queen of Scots, a letter not to be read by officials or any political figure, she takes advantage of the opportunity search for Iomhar and find out what happened to him.

But she soon finds herself trailed by Mary Stuart’s supporters and her journey becomes fraught with danger.

Can Kit complete her mission? Will she find out what happened to Iohmar

Or will she become a victim in the fight to overthrow the queen of England…?

THE LOST HIGHLANDER is the fourth book in the Kit Scarlett Tudor Mysteries Series. It is a thrilling historical espionage adventure set in Elizabethan London with a feisty female lead.

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About the Author

Adele 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’s 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 fifty successful books published in pseudonyms 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

17 March 2023

Historical Fiction Spotlight: The King's Son, by Darren Harris

Available on Kindle at Amazon UK and Amazon US
and paperback from Arcanum Press

A crown so easily won, can be lost in a heartbeat.

A life changing secret propels Richard of Eastwell into the centre of a bitter power struggle between the houses of York and Tudor at the climax of the War of the Roses. King Richard's only legitimate son and heir is dead but, known only to a few loyal friends and family, his firstborn son is alive and cared for by a priest in a village in Kent.

On the eve of the Battle of Bosworth, Richard is brought to meet his father, Richard III, who promises to acknowledge his son publicly once the conflict is won. However, treachery plays its part in King Richard's fatal downfall, resulting in Henry Tudor being crowned King Henry VII.

From the slaughter of the battlefield many vanquished Yorkists escape, but from the ashes of defeat a new Yorkist army will rise to challenge King Henry. Richard of Eastwell, with an army at his back, is intent on one thing; revenge upon those who betrayed his father.

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About the Author

Darren Harris grew up in Leicestershire, England, where he still lives with his family. He left school and set up business as a calligrapher before attending both Leicester universities to pursue a career in teaching. After obtaining a BA(Hons) in History & Media and a PGCE in History, he has gone on to work at several city and county mainstream and special needs schools as a teacher and Head of History. He has a lifelong interest in history, particularly the medieval and Tudor periods. He has researched many friends’ family trees and also traced his own family tree back to the fifteenth century. He is a founding member of his local heritage society and gives talks on matters of historical interests to local heritage and historical societies, including the Richard III Society.  Follow Darran on Twitter @DHarrisAuthor

16 March 2023

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Pagan Siege (Tribes of Britain Book 5) by Sam Taw

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Has the young Chief of the Dumnonii met his match?

Three Violent Clans - Two Deadly Rivals - One Struggle for Power

Anarchy reigns as the clan leaders revolt, threatening the Chief's position within the tribe. Wildfires ravage the moors, settlers are starving and homeless and wise woman, Meliora is no longer in favour.

Their fate is now in the hands of fickle and ambitious youngsters who have sly agendas of their own.

Can they end the siege and retake control over the tin mines or will a vengeful leader prevail and slaughter Mel's entire family?

Brutal skirmishes, bloody rituals and heartbreaking underdogs in the fifth book of the series.
Start the adventure now.

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About the Author

Sam Taw is the pen name for fiction author Sam Nash. Sam is committed to delivering novels in two distinct genres, historical thrillers set in Late Bronze Age Britain and a unique blend of science fiction and international espionage stories. She lives in a small market town in the south of Leicestershire, close to where she grew up, but dreams of owning a woodland on the Cornish coast.  For information regarding the work of Sam Taw, please visit:  For information regarding the work of Sam Nash, please visit: You can find Sam on Facebook and Twitter @samtawauthor

15 March 2023

Medicine in the Middle Ages: Surviving the Times, by Juliana Cummings

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Dive in to the history of medieval medicine

The Middle Ages covers a span of roughly one thousand years, and through that time people were subject to an array of not only deadly diseases but deplorable living conditions. It was a time when cures for sickness were often worse than the illness itself mixed with a population of people who lacked any real understanding of sanitation and cleanliness.

Dive in to the history of medieval medicine, and learn how the foundations of healing were built on the knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers. Understand how your social status would have affected medical care, and how the domination of the Catholic Church was the basis of an abundant amount of fear regarding life and death.

We are given an intimate look into the devastating time of the Black Death, along with other horrific ailments that would have easily claimed a life in the Middle Ages. Delve inside the minds of the physicians and barbersurgeons for a better understanding of how they approached healing.

As well as diving into the treacherous waters of medieval childbirth, Cummings looks into the birth of hospitals and the care for the insane. We are also taken directly to the battlefield and given the gruesome details of medieval warfare and its repercussions. Examine the horrors of the torture chamber and execution as a means of justice.

Medicine in the Middle Ages is a fascinating walk through time to give us a better understanding of such a perilous part of history.

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About the Author

Juliana Cummings has been writing for close to thirty years. From her first publication in her junior high newspaper to her current writings on Tudor and Medieval history, writing has always been Juliana’s passion in life. While she has always been interested in history, it was her discovery that her family lineage led to Tudor Royalty, which pursued her to learn even more. Through years of research, Juliana considers herself an expert on all things Tudor. Her interests also lie strongly with other aspects of medieval history, particularly the history of medicine and the macabre. As well as actively writing her blog which focuses on the diary of a Lady in Waiting to the Six Tudor Queens, she continues to write for various publications in both the United States and The United Kingdom. Her work has been published in History is Now magazine, Matt’s History Blog, A Tudor Writing as well as Tudor has been writing for close to thirty years. From her first publication in her junior high newspaper to her current writings on Tudor and Medieval history, writing has always been Juliana’s passion in life. While she has always been interested in history, it was her discovery that her family lineage led to Tudor Royalty, which pursued her to learn even more. Through years of research, Juliana considers herself an expert on all things Tudor. Her interests also lie strongly with other aspects of medieval history, particularly the history of medicine and the macabre. 

Find out more at juliana's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @RevoltSavage

13 March 2023

Book Review: The Colour Storm: A story of art and betrayal in Renaissance Venice, by Damian Dibben

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Venice, 1510. The world's greatest artists gather to enjoy fame, fortune, and colour. When a wealthy merchant discovers a mysterious new pigment, he knows it would create a masterpiece in the right hands. For struggling artist Giorgione 'Zorzo' Barbarelli, success is far from reach. Until he's commissioned by the merchant to paint a portrait of his wife, Sybille. Impress him, and Zorzo could acquire the most coveted colour in the world - and write his name in history.

I enjoyed this book, which made me think about the parallels between literary fiction and fine art. Some passages begin as experimental outlines before the author brings them to life with deft touches of colour, adding light and shade until the scene pulls into focus.

The exotic setting of Renaissance Venice provides a huge canvas, the perfect backdrop for an intriguing cast of characters you soon begin to care about. I liked the unhurried pace and details of the painter’s studio.

This book is a lyrical, poignant and ambitious love story, with just the right mix of mystery and historical accuracy. I suspect I will return to it at some point in the future and discover something new. 

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Damian Dibben was trained as an artist, and lives between the southbank of london and a cottage on the downs of West Sussex.  He says, "Our corner of the country is like a land that time forgot: all ancient forests and secret hills. Whilst in the city, there's the river, theatres & galleries, the bustle, and the imprint everywhere of the past. Shakespeare, Newton and Wren trod the same paths of Southwark and you can sense them still. The future has a hold there too. Year upon year, extraordinary buildings rise up and the skyline never stops evolving." Find out more at Damian 's website and find him on Facebook and Twitter @DamianDibben

12 March 2023

Special Guest Post by Tracey Warr, Author of Daughter of the Last King (Conquest Book 1)

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

1093. An invasion and a curse. The three sons of William the Conqueror fight with each other for control of the Anglo-Norman kingdom created by their father’s conquest. The Norman Marcher lords are let loose to consolidate the conquest of Wales, pushing across the English border to the east and invading from the sea to the south. Nest ferch Rhys is the daughter of the king of south-west Wales. Captured during the Norman assault on her father’s lands, she is raised by her captors,
the powerful Montgomery family.

A Turbulent Life 

If you are an inhabitant, a visitor, or an armchair traveller to southwest Wales you may know and revel in its medieval castles and spectacular coastline. You may, too, have come across the story of Nest ferch Rhys. I lived in Pembrokeshire for several years and was gripped by Nest’s story in the chronicles and entranced by those castles and wide, bright estuaries.

Daughter of the Last King is the first book in my Conquest trilogy, which has just been reissued with a new cover. Book 2, The Drowned Court, is out in April and Book 3, The Anarchy, is published in May. The novels were very much inspired by the beauty and history of this wild Welsh landscape.

The novels focus on the turbulent life of the Welsh noblewoman, Nest ferch Rhys, and the reign of the Norman king, Henry I. Nest was the daughter of the last independent Welsh king, Rhys of Deheubarth. Her father was killed in battle in 1093 by the Norman, Bernard de Neufmarche. Her father’s kingdom was annexed by another Norman, Arnulf de Montgomery. Her eldest brother died alongside her father. A second brother was captured and killed, a third died after a decade in prison, and a fourth brother was maimed at birth by the captors of Nest’s mother. One of her brothers escaped the massacre and was hidden in Ireland during his childhood. 

Nest became one of the many mistresses of King Henry and the mother of one of the king’s illegitimate sons. She was also married to the Norman steward of Pembroke Castle, Gerald FitzWalter and kidnapped and held for a couple of years by the Welsh prince Owain ap Cadwagn. After the death of Gerald, she was married to the Norman constable of Cardigan Castle, Stephen de Marais, and finally (perhaps) she was married to the Flemish sheriff of Pembroke Castle, Hayt. She was a symbol of ownership of the territory for this series of men.

Nest’s surviving brother, Gruffudd ap Rhys, the rightful heir to Deheubarth, returned from Ireland in 1116 and set about trying to reclaim his kingdom. He achieved some success in the Battle of Crug Mawr in 1136 when he, along with the princes of Gwynedd, defeated the Normans near Cardigan. However, Gruffudd’s wife Gwenllian and two of his sons were killed as they tried to attack Kidwelly Castle, and Gruffudd died soon after the victory at Crug Mawr.  

In addition to her son with the king, Nest had at least five other sons and a daughter. She is the grandmother of the writer Gerald of Wales and the ancestor of the FitzGeralds in Wales and Ireland. Hers must have been a turbulent life, to say the least! 

I was living near Narberth when I began writing the novels. I studied for an MA in Creative Writing at University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s (then in Carmarthen). I was awarded a Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary, which helped give me time to research and write Nest’s story. Llansteffan Castle and the triple river estuary at Carmarthen Bay were significant inspirations for me and are central in the novels. 

Llansteffan Castle at sunset with mist rolling in. Photo: Ken Day, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Nest’s other homes at Carew Castle, Pembroke Castle, Cilgerran Castle, and Cardigan Castle are also important for the story, along with King Henry’s courts at Westminster, Woodstock and Winchester where Nest must have spent time. Other places that feature in the story that can be visited today include Dinefwr Castle, the Bishop’s Palace at Lamphey, Saint David’s Cathedral and the Roman Goldmine at Dolaucothi. Being able to walk the headland at Llansteffan and wander around the ruined palace at Lamphey fed my imagination.

Carew Castle by Gordon Hatton, CC BY-SA 2.0
<>, via Wikimedia Commons.

After the death of Nest’s father, fighting continued between the Normans and the Welsh for many years. I didn’t intend to create a polarised story with the Normans as the baddies and the Welsh as the good underdogs. Lived history is more complex than that. Some Welsh collaborated and colluded with the Normans. Others were disinherited and oppressed by them and resisted the slow Norman invasion in Wales. Women were often at the forefront of integration through forced marriage and, of course, their children were both Welsh and Norman. Nest often found herself with loved ones on both sides of the conflict. I aimed to think and feel—through fiction—how she coped with the dramatic events of her life.

In the course of writing the novel, I found myself equally fascinated by King Henry I. His was a long reign of 35 years. Despite ably managing a complex kingdom spanning Wales, England and Normandy, he had numerous mistresses and over 23 illegitimate children, whom he acknowledged and educated. After the death of his only legitimate son in the tragic sinking of The White Ship in the Channel, he tried to make his daughter, Maud, his heir. I was fascinated to imagine his character and throughly enjoyed myself with Henry, and with other figures in the novels, such as a Welsh bard and a runaway nun who are both tasked as spies.

Henry I and Nest ferch Rhys in bed. 
Illustration in Matthew Paris’ illuminated manuscript in the British Library, 13th century.

See my posts for more information on aspects of Nest’s story: Helen of Wales, King and LoverThe White Ship and  A Norman Frontiersman in Wales (on Gerald FitzWalter) 

Tracey Warr

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About the Author

Tracey Warr was born in London, lived in southwest Wales and now lives in southern France. The castles and landscapes of Wales and France inspire her historical fiction. She is the author of five historical novels set in medieval Europe and centred on strong female leads. She draws on old maps, chronicles, poems and objects to create fictional worlds for readers to step into. Her writing awards include an Author’s Foundation Award, a Literature Wales Writer’s Bursary, and a Santander Research Award. Before becoming a full-time writer she worked as a contemporary art curator and art history academic. She continues to teach on MA Poetics of Imagination at Dartington Arts School in Devon. Tracey is part of the group organising author launch interviews for the Historical Novel Society website. She is also part of the team organising the next Historical Novel Society UK conference at Dartington Hall in Devon 6–8 September 2024. Find out more at tracey's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @TraceyWarr1