Mastodon The Writing Desk: April 2024

26 April 2024

Blog Tour Excerpt: A Splendid Defiance, by Stella Riley

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

For two years England has been in the grip of Civil War. In Banbury, Oxfordshire, the Cavaliers hold the Castle, the Roundheads want it back and the town is full of zealous Puritans. Consequently, the gulf between Captain Justin Ambrose and Abigail Radford, the sister of a fanatically religious shopkeeper, ought to be unbridgeable. The key to both the fate of the Castle and that of Justin and Abigail lies in defiance. But will it be enough?

Excerpt ~ After the fire at Compton Wynyates:

Captain Ambrose lay in bed, propped up by several pillows, his torso naked except for the bandaging around his ribs.  Abigail flushed and said, ‘Who was that lady?’
   ‘My nurse,’ said Justin, indifferently.  ‘Didn’t Ned introduce you?’
   ‘No.’ His hands, also bandaged, lay with helpless stillness at his sides.  ‘How are you?’
   ‘Still breathing.’
   She looked into silvery eyes empty of expression.  ‘Well, that’s good isn’t it?’
   ‘That would depend on your point of view.’
   Shock banished embarrassment and she crossed to the bed.
   ‘I brought a few things for you.  Nothing much … just a cordial of my mother’s and – ’ She set the basket on the floor. ‘Please don’t look like that.’
   ‘Like what?’
   ‘As if … as if you wished you’d died.’  Her eyes widened in horror. ‘You don’t, do you?’
   He shrugged slightly and his breath caught as the pain hit him.
   ‘Why shouldn’t I?’
   She did not reply and something in her gaze finally succeeded in piercing his detachment. With a smile that didn’t reach his eyes, he added, ‘And then again, why should I? Don’t get carried away. I’m well enough. Unlike you – if Jonas finds out you came here.’
   ‘He won’t. And Sam is with me – at least, he’s with your nurse.’ She paused, watching him frown.
   ‘What is it?’
   ‘Where are they?’
   ‘On the ramparts, I think.’
   ‘Well, that should be safe enough. She can’t seduce him and has no reason to push him off.’
   ‘Nothing.’ He leaned back, looking at her from beneath half-closed lids. ‘Merely my rather warped sense of humour. What did you say you had in that basket?’
   ‘Calves-foot jelly, a bottle of cherry cordial and something of Mother’s for your hands,’ she recited, still staring. ‘Why should she do either?’
   He sighed, closing his eyes.
   ‘God! Will I never learn? All right. She won’t do the second till she’s failed to do the first. Satisfied?’
   ‘No. Who is she?’
   ‘Her name is Anne Rhodes and she is what Jonas would call a harlot,’ he snapped. ‘And don’t tell me you don’t understand that.’
   ‘Oh. No.’ She eyed him uncertainly. ‘How do you know?’
   ‘How do you think?’
   ‘Oh,’ said Abigail again, wishing she hadn’t asked.
   His eyes remained closed, allowing her time to notice the carved pallor of his face, the scattering of burn marks on his chest and the places where the long, walnut hair had been singed. The line between his brows deepened and something tightened in her throat. She asked diffidently, ‘Do your ribs hurt?’
   ‘Not unless I laugh. But I’m showing restraint in that department.’
   ‘Oh – stop it!’ Suddenly, she was unable to bear it. ‘Since you can’t possibly care what I think, there’s no need to put on a performance.’
   The grey eyes opened slowly, hazy with pain but remotely smiling.
   ‘And what do you think, Abigail Radford?’
   ‘I think … I think I’d like to look at your hands. May I?’
   He gave a brief, humourless laugh.
   ‘Help yourself. I can’t stop you. And you’re quite right, of course. They hurt like hell.’

Stella Riley

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About the Author

Stella Riley is the winner of four gold medals for historical romance and sixteen Book Readers’ Appreciation Medallions, Stella Riley lives in the beautiful medieval town of Sandwich in Kent. She is fascinated by the English Civil Wars and has written six books set in that period. These, like the 7 book Rockliffe series, the Brandon Brothers trilogy and, most recently The Shadow Earl, are all available in audio, performed by Alex Wyndham. Stella enjoys travel, reading, theatre, Baroque music and playing the harpsichord. She also has a fondness for men with long hair - hence her 17th and 18th century heroes. Find out more from Stella's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @RileyStella

25 April 2024

Book Launch: The Waiting Game: The Untold Story of the Women Who Served the Tudor Queens, by Nicola Clark

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Every Tudor Queen had ladies-in-waiting. They were her confidantes and her chaperones. Only the Queen's ladies had the right to enter her most private chambers, spending hours helping her to get dressed and undressed, caring for her clothes and jewels, listening to her secrets. 

But they also held a unique power. A quiet word behind the scenes, an appropriately timed gift, a well-negotiated marriage alliance were all forms of political agency wielded expertly by women.

The Waiting Game explores the daily lives of ladies-in-waiting, revealing the secrets of recruitment, costume, what they ate, where (and with whom) they slept. We meet María de Salinas, who travelled to England with Catherine of Aragon when just a teenager and spied for her during the divorce from Henry VIII. 

Anne Boleyn's lady-in-waiting Jane Parker was instrumental in the execution of not one, but two queens. And maid-of-honour Anne Basset kept her place through the last four consorts, negotiating the conflicting loyalties of her birth family, her mistress the Queen, and even the desires of the King himself. 

As Henry changed wives, and changed the very fabric of the country's structure besides, these women had to make choices about loyalty that simply didn't exist before. The Waiting Game is the first time their vital story has been told.

'Written in a lively, accessible style, The Waiting Game is full of insight' Suzannah Lipscomb, Literary Review

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About the Author

Dr Nicola Clark is an Associate Lecturer; Visiting Tutor and Lecturer at the University of Chichester; Royal Holloway, University of London. You can find her on Twitter @NikkiClark86

Book Launch: The Darkest Night: a twisty historical mystery by Victoria Hawthorne

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US

A bewitching and haunting story of family secrets - and the lengths some will go to protect them.

When Ailsa Reid's life in London begins to fall apart, she escapes to her grandparents' house in Fife. But she arrives to find her grandmother, Moira - recently diagnosed with dementia - has gone missing.

Desperate to ensure Moira's safe return, Ailsa must rely on the help of her estranged mother, Rowan. Tensions simmer between the two women as they attempt to piece together what has happened.

To find Moira, both Ailsa and Rowan must look to their ancestors, to a story about witches burned on the hill above the Reid house centuries ago and the curse laid upon the women that came after. Can they break the bonds of history in time to save their family? Or will the Reid curse be their undoing?

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About the Author

Victoria Hawthorne is the pseudonym of bestselling suspense author Vikki Patis. THE DARKEST NIGHT is out now! She lives in Scotland with her wife, two wild golden retrievers, and an even wilder cat. You can find her on Twitter @VikkiPatis

23 April 2024

Blog Tour Spotlight: The Falconer’s Apprentice, by Malve von Hassell

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Falconer’s Apprentice is a story of adventure and intrigue set in the intense social and political unrest of the Holy Roman Empire in the thirteenth century.

“That bird should be destroyed!”
Andreas stared at Ethelbert in shock. Blood from an angry-looking gash on the young lord’s cheek dripped onto his embroidered tunic. Andreas clutched the handles of the basket containing the young peregrine. Perhaps this was a dream—

Andreas, an apprentice falconer at Castle Kragenberg, cannot bear the thought of killing the young female falcon and smuggles her out of the castle. Soon he realizes that his own time there has come to an end, and he stows away, with the bird, in the cart of an itinerant trader, Richard of Brugge.
So begins a series of adventures that lead him from an obscure castle in northern Germany to the farthest reaches of Frederick von Hohenstaufen’s Holy Roman Empire, following a path dictated by the wily trader’s mysterious mission. 

Andreas continues to improve his falconry skills, but he also learns to pay attention to what is happening around him as he travels through areas fraught with political unrest.
Eventually, Richard confides in Andreas, and they conspire to free Enzio, the eldest of the emperor’s illegitimate sons, from imprisonment in Bologna.

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About the Author

Malve von Hassell is a freelance writer, researcher, and translator. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the New School for Social Research. Working as an independent scholar, she published The Struggle for Eden: Community Gardens in New York City (Bergin & Garvey 2002) and Homesteading in New York City 1978-1993: The Divided Heart of Loisaida (Bergin & Garvey 1996). She has also edited her grandfather Ulrich von Hassell's memoirs written in prison in 1944, Der Kreis schließt sich - Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft 1944 (Propylaen Verlag 1994). She has taught at Queens College, Baruch College, Pace University, and Suffolk County Community College, while continuing her work as a translator and writer. Malve has published two children’s picture books, Tooth Fairy (Amazon KDP 2012/2020), and Turtle Crossing (Amazon KDP 2023), and her translation and annotation of a German children’s classic by Tamara Ramsay, Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures (Two Harbors Press, 2012).  Find out more from her website  and find Malve on Facebook and Twitter: @MvonHassell

Book Launch: Grand Tour: The Brass Queen II, by Elizabeth Chatsworth

New from Amazon UK and Amazon US 

The grass was always greener in another dimension.

In a fantastical steam-powered world, eccentric aristocrat and secret arms dealer, Miss Constance Haltwhistle, has been blackmailed into stealing alien artifacts from the crown heads of Europe. 

Only the shady but annoyingly handsome US spy, “Liberty” Trusdale, can help her execute her perfect palace heists. As Constance creates chaos and mayhem across the Continent, monstrous creatures are plotting an interdimensional invasion of Earth. Will Constance and Trusdale stop bickering long enough to end the war of the worlds before it starts?

If you enjoy stories inspired by HG Wells’s War of the Worlds, you’ll love this gaslamp romp across an alternate 1890s Europe where our bickering heroes may just be the bad guys.

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About the Author

A native of Sheffield in Yorkshire, England, Elizabeth Chatsworth now lives in New Hampshire where she works as a voice actor. She writes science fiction and fantasy that celebrates rogues, rebels, and renegades across time and space. Elizabeth’s Science Fiction and Fantasy works have won the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award™ Gold and the Writers Of The Future Contest. Find out more from Elizabeth's website and find her on Twitter at @EChatsworth

20 April 2024

Book Review: The Dartington Bride, by Rosemary Griggs

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

1571, and the beautiful, headstrong daughter of a French Count marries the son of the Vice Admiral of the Fleet of the West in Queen Elizabeth’s chapel at Greenwich. It sounds like a marriage made in heaven…

This second novel from Rosemary Griggs in her ‘Daughters of Devon’ series builds on her award-winning debut with the story of the life of Katherine Raleigh, 'A Woman of Noble Wit'.

As with her first book, Rosemary Griggs has drawn from well-researched historical events and the people of Devon, England. 

Lady Gabrielle Montgomery, known by her family as Roberda, flees the religious wars of France for Dartington Hall in Devon, where each day presents new challenges.

I particularly like the way Rosemary Griggs uses her experience as a guide at Dartington Hall to create an evocative and compelling first-person account from a woman's perspective. I enjoyed following Roberda's journey and the details of daily life in Elizabethan England.

'The Dartington Bride' is also a surprisingly topical exploration of the consequences of religious wars on innocent women, and the hardships faced by refugees. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Rosemary Griggs is a retired Whitehall Senior Civil Servant with a lifelong passion for history. An avid researcher, she is now a speaker on Devon’s history and leads heritage tours at Dartington Hall.  She also creates and wears sixteenth century clothing which she often uses to bring history to life for local museums and community groups.  Rosemary lives in Devon with husband David, and her first novel, a Woman of Noble Wit features many of the county’s well loved places.  Find out more on Rosemary’s website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @RAGriggsauthor

19 April 2024

Blog Tour Excerpt: Yellow Bird’s Song, by Heather Miller

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

In 1849, mercurial Rollin Ridge leaves his family behind to avoid hanging after avenging his father and grandfather's assassinations. After his crime, Rollin runs west with his brothers to mine California gold, packing sin and grief in his saddlebags. Through letters home, he finds his justice only after unearthing how the father's sins have followed the son.

Excerpt: Sarah Northrup Ridge, Near New Echota, Cherokee Nation East, 1827

Orchards greeted us in neatly planted rows, dense with peaches and apples, creating a fragrance in the air like home. Servants’ quarters bordered the tree line of flat valley land surrounding Diamond Hill. Joe Vann’s large manor, a two-story brick home with expensive glass windows and large white columns, held verandas on the front and the rear of the house. There were corncribs, smokehouses, and outbuildings for weaving and cooking. Given the abundant number of horses and carriages, many attended. A surge rushed through me, nerves on fire, reminding me of the importance of the event, framed by the fear I’d make a mistake.
   Our carriage rolled through Vann land between a row of walnut trees bordering endless green pastures. Black and white cows, silent sentinels, gnawed grass and watched as we passed, undisturbed. As the horses pulled us the last distance, I saw an open door at the side of the house. From it, trails of servants carried trays and crockery from the exterior kitchen to the main house near white linen tablecloths and white-washed ladderback chairs in neat rows. Their movement reminded me of fire ants seeking sweets, and, in a line, returning to their self-constructed dirt abodes. Other servants turned a pig on an open fire, slaughtered for the occasion. The smell of salt and fat from the roasted meat mingled with the aromatic sweet apples hanging on the trees. The bees hummed louder amidst such plenty. 
   Most whites were surprised to know slavery existed among the Cherokee. John and I argued over the institution. The Ridges treated their servants like family. However, their will to choose their lives was the identical desire of John’s people, fighting for God-given liberty to govern themselves. While we still lived with his family, I could do little but speak to my husband and pursue change. But I knew a time would come when America and the Cherokee Nation must make the moral choice, no matter the economic difficulty such a choice might bring. 
   Once I stepped from the carriage, John held my gloved hand and said, “I’m instituting the wink law.” John’s top hat shaded half of his face, so I couldn’t see his eyes in the bright sunlight. I predicted his expression from his carefree tone. “Are you familiar, Mistress Ridge?” he asked.
   “I am not, Mister Ridge. However, I would hate to violate without intention.”
   “Ignorance of the law is no excuse. It is in the Constitution.”
   “I’m aware.” I grinned.
   “One wink means I have ten minutes to end my conversation and take you home.”
   “What does a whole blink mean?” I asked. 
   I surprised him with my question. “I don’t know. You have something in your eye?”
   “A whole blink means I’m proud of you and content to remain by your side, but thank you for saying so. You know I am worried about leaving Rollin and Clarinda with Honey. She can manage one, but if Rollin wails…”
   “Amendment duly noted, Mistress Ridge.” He rechecked his watch. “I’ll have you back to our children in hours.” His promise was sincere, just under the surface of his sarcasm.
I pulled him close so I could whisper. “Promise me you won’t leave me alone too often.” For a man so aware of time, he lost hours debating politics.
“Agreed. I hope we get to mingle with the many guests in the time we have. Some have traveled great distances and are new here.”
Major and Mother followed us into the sunlight. A row of white women adorned in a rainbow of pastels held fast to their matching parasols with white-gloved hands and whispered about the heat while their white-breeched, black-booted husbands stood in small circles gesturing about important matters. White pipe smoke hazed around their heads. 
Shirtless Cherokee separated themselves by sitting on their heels on the ground. Cherokee women walked through the guests with red and purple baskets in their arms and yellowed gourds slung from leather straps around their necks. Like John’s family, wealthy Cherokee slipped easily between these two groups. As for me, I did not know where I’d fit in this mix of classes and attitudes.

Heather Miller

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About the Author

Heather Miller is a veteran English teacher and college professor who has spent nearly thirty years teaching her students the author’s craft. Now, with empty nest time on her hands, she’s writing herself, transcribing lost voices in American’s history. Find out more from Heather's website:  and find her on Facebook and Twitter @HMHFR

18 April 2024

Blog Tour Spotlight: The Viola Factor, by Sheridan Brown

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

"The Viola Factor" takes place at a time when the country faced division and growth after the American Civil War. Viola Knapp Ruffner (1812-1903) struggled with what was just and fair, becoming a little-known confidant for a young black scholar from Virginia. But Viola was much more than a teacher; she was a mother, wife, game-changer, and friend. 

With her mother's dying wish, a young woman alone, she left her New England roots. This is a story of trauma and love in the South while battling for justice and the rightful education of the enslaved and once enslaved. African American leader Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) called her his friend and model for life.

The Viola Factor is in many ways a journey of life done in baby steps, tentatively stumbling, until a galloping stride is achieved. Viola Knapp wears different shoes on different days. Heavy, mud-trekking boots to allow for aggressive steps, and daintier shoes for more rhythmic and assertive ones. She was a diligent daughter, an outspoken protector, and a progressive teacher.

Like many women in her situation, alone at seventeen, Viola must realize her own principles to fulfill her future goals. With every stride, Viola Knapp Ruffner marches around surprises, over potholes, and dodges folly after folly on her journey to be fulfilled. 

After ambling in one direction, plodding along in another, and wandering to find herself, a sudden halt pushes her forward until a factor of fate places her in the path of a newly freed slave with a desire to read and penchant to lead. After years of post-traumatic stress and mental uncoupling, she finds herself a woman who followed her mother's dying wish to fight for what is fair and just.

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About the Author

Sheridan Brown holds advanced degrees in school leadership and is a certified teacher, principal, and educational leader. The arts have always been a central force in her life, since performing in piano recitals, school band, plays, and singing in choirs. Sheridan was born in Tennessee and raised in small towns of southwest Virginia. She practiced her profession in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Florida. Upon retirement, she began volunteering, painting, writing, researching, and traveling with her husband, attorney John Crawford. She has one son, Tony Hume. She is GiGi to Aiden and Lucy. She has returned to the Blue Ridge to live and explore. You can find Sheridan on Facebook

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