Thursday, September 30, 2021

Book Spotlight: Over the Hedge By Paulette Mahurin

 During one of the darkest times in history, at the height of the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1943, members of the Dutch resistance began a mission to rescue Jewish children from the deportation center in Amsterdam. Heading the mission were Walter Süskind, a German Jew living in the Netherlands, Henriëtte Pimentel, a Sephardic Jew, and Johan van Hulst, principal of a Christian college. As Nazis rounded up Jewish families at gunpoint, the three discreetly moved children from the deportation center to the daycare across the street and over the backyard hedge to the college next door. From the college, the children were transported to live with Dutch families. Working against irate orders from Hitler to rid the Netherlands of all Jews and increasing Nazi hostilities on the Resistance, the trio worked tirelessly to overcome barriers. Ingenious plans were implemented to remove children’s names from the registry of captured Jews. To sneak them out of the college undetected past guards patrolling the deportation center. To meld them in with their new families to avoid detection. Based on actual events, Over the Hedge is the story of how against escalating Nazi brutality when millions of Jews were disposed of in camps, Walter Süskind, Henriëtte Pimentel, and Johan van Hulst worked heroically with the Dutch resistance to save Jewish children. But it is not just a story of their courageous endeavors. It is a story of the resilience of the human spirit. Of friendship and selfless love. The love that continues on in the hearts of over six hundred Dutch Jewish children.


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Available on #KindleUnlimited


Paulette Mahurin

Paulette Mahurin is an international bestselling literary fiction and historical fiction novelist. She lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science.

Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her second novel, His Name Was Ben, originally written as an award-winning short story while she was in college and later expanded into a novel, rose to bestseller lists its second week out. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015. Her fourth book, The Seven Year Dress, made it to the bestseller lists for literary fiction and historical fiction on Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K., and Amazon Australia. Her fifth book, The Day I Saw The Hummingbird, was released in 2017 to rave reviews. Her sixth book, A Different Kind of Angel, was released in the summer of 2018 also to rave reviews. Her last four books: Irma’s Endgame, The Old Gilt Clock, Where Irises Never Grow, and Over the Hedge all made it to bestselling lists on Amazon. Her new release, Over the Hedge, was #1 in Hot New Release Amazon U.K. it’s second day out.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Coming Friday, October 1, 2021 - Historical Times Magazine Viking Edition


I am honored to be included in the Viking Edition of the Historical Times Magazine, available on Friday, October 1. 

Catch up HERE on the back issues for #FREE. 

Check out The Briton and the Dane Series

Click HERE to purchase.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Spotlight on Malve von Hassell, author of The Amber Crane


Chafing at the rules of the amber guild, Peter, an apprentice during the waning years of the Thirty Years’ War, finds and keeps a forbidden piece of amber, despite the risk of severe penalties should his secret be discovered.

Little does he know that this amber has hidden powers, transporting him into a future far beyond anything he could imagine. In dreamlike encounters, Peter witnesses the ravages of the final months of World War II in and around his home. He becomes embroiled in the troubles faced by Lioba, a girl he meets who seeks to escape from the oncoming Russian army.

Peter struggles with the consequences of his actions, endangering his family, his amber master’s reputation, and his own future. How much is Peter prepared to sacrifice to right his wrongs?

Trigger Warnings:

References to rape, Holocaust, World War II, violence


 Buy Links

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¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´

 Malve von Hassell

Fun Facts
(Stuff you may or may not already know.)


“Where are you from?”

I moved to America when I was 13. It took me years to get used to the friendly question “So, where are you from?” I never knew how to answer this gracefully without providing too much information. “I was born in Italy,” I would say. “So you are Italian,” was the perplexed response. “No, I am German.”  “Oh, but where were your parents from?” “Well, one was born in Italy, and the other in what is now Poland.” This is all true as is the fact that I lived in Germany only for about six years. I also became an American citizen many years ago. Meanwhile, I always will be grateful for the kindness and genuine interest with which these questions were asked.

My favorite journey

Once, after having completed a large project, I indulged myself with a ten-day journey to Italy, where I joined a horseback riding tour. We rode around Lago Trasimeno in Umbria and stayed in charming inns, farms, and even for one night in a monastery, where the nuns reprimanded us for laughing too loud at night. The trip was chaotic, included interesting foods such as tripe and homemade wine, and provided me with the most fun I ever had in my entire life.

Favorite work experience

I have been very fortunate in having been able to work on a number of amazing projects. I once worked on a study of community gardens in New York City. In the course of this study, I interviewed gardeners in all boroughs, participated in garden work and community events, and even was invited to meals lovingly prepared with produce grown in the gardens. It was the most wonderful and inspiring experience I ever had to see people create miracles in the middle of the city, often on abandoned lots, and with few resources to smooth their path. Learning about their history was a privilege and a joy.


Community garden on the Lower East Side of New York City

Adventures with Loki the Incorrigible

I have lived in my neighborhood on Long Island for many years, and I call it home. Home includes a series of dogs that shared our life over the last decades. Our current dog is a black beagle-mix rescue known as Loki the Incorrigible. The other day, I visited a neighbor with a charming dog. In light of the fence around the property, I thought the two dogs could run around. Loki was thrilled. The neighbor's dog was thrilled. But Loki quickly spied an area in the fence where he could make his escape into the great wilderness of my neighborhood.  Desperate and furious, I ran home to alert my son and to get the car. So both of us drove around checking all the likely places where Loki might have gone to ground, munching on delightful deer carcasses, fish, discarded hamburger wrappers, and other equally irresistible culinary items. No Loki. I returned home, picturing the production of search posters and calls to animal shelters. But here Richard the truck driver entered our lives. On his way home, driving along a major thoroughfare, he noticed Loki happily dashing back and forth in the middle of traffic. He immediately recognized an unreconstructed canine free spirit and pulled over—not an easy thing to do on this particular road. Loki thought the truck was delightful. He happily hopped in and proceeded to steal Richard's leftover lunch and was pleased to be offered water to drink. And then Richard in the kindness of his heart drove him to our house. Loki was pleased to see us and elated with his adventure. BEWARE BEAGLE MIXES!

Here he is in his famous rendition of "I am a very good dog.”


Life in my neighborhood: manna from heaven

The other morning, walking along, on my way home from a beautiful wetlands area near my house, and grousing to myself about the humidity, unlimited amounts of street trash, and my dog Loki's penchant for eating everything in sight, a car stopped next to me and a familiar voice sternly instructed me to take what was being held out—a jar of incomparably wonderful honey fresh from the hives maintained by a local beekeeper extraordinaire and dear friend. That was the best morning ever.


Wetlands near my house

  ¸.•*´¨) ¸.*¨) ( ¸.•´



 Malve von Hassell

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. She has self-published two children’s picture books, Letters from the Tooth Fairy (2012/2020) and Turtle Crossing (2021), 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). The Falconer’s Apprentice (namelos, 2015) was her first historical fiction novel for young adults. She has published Alina: A Song for the Telling (BHC Press, 2020), set in Jerusalem in the time of the crusades, and The Amber Crane (Odyssey Books, 2021), set in Germany in 1645 and 1945. She has completed a biographical work about a woman coming of age in Nazi Germany and is working on a historical fiction trilogy featuring Adela of Normandy.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Spotlight on Nick Macklin, author of Bloody Dominions (The Conquest Trilogy, Book 1)


Journey with those at the heart of the conflict as Caesar embarks on the tumultuous conquest of Gaul 58-51 BC. Book One 58-56 BC.

As Caesars campaign begins, tests of courage and belief will confront the three protagonists, shaping them as individuals and challenging their views of the world and each other:

Atticus an impetuous but naturally gifted soldier, whose grandfather served with distinction in the legions;

Allerix a Chieftain of the Aduatuci, who finds himself fighting both for and against Caesar; and

Epona – a fierce warrior and Allerixsadopted sister.

Experiencing the brutalities of conflict and the repercussions of both victory and defeat, Atticus, Allerix, and Epona will cross paths repeatedly, their destinies bound together across time, the vast and hostile territories of Gaul and the barriers of fate that have defined them as enemies. In a twist of fate, Atticus and Allerix discover that they share a bond, a secret that nobody could ever foresee

Trigger Warnings:

Violence, attempted rape.


Buy Links:

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 ¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´

Nick Macklin

Fun Facts
(Stuff you may or may not already know!) 


Tae Kwon Do

Although I have long since given up my training, age catching up with my ability to move quite as flexibly as I would like, I spent a number of years practicing Tae Kwon Do, the Korean martial art, reaching Black Tag level. I actually started by watching from the sidelines having taken my daughters along, but eventually decided I may as well join in. There were times, often in the midst of a particularly tough circuit training session that I questioned whether that was a wise decision, but it was a great way to keep fit as well as learn a useful self-defence technique. There are a lot of patterns and set moves to learn at each level, which was a real test when your memory is not your strongest point.  Although the biggest test was the gradings, formal assessments of whether you had captured the necessary skills to progress to the next level. As someone who really doesn’t feel comfortable being in the spotlight, having to run through things in public, before an audience was a little daunting. I particularly remember my first grading where for reasons unknown I ended up in the front row with a large number of younger and very much smaller club members, I don’t think I have ever felt more conspicuous, but everything turned out ok and challenging myself like that was certainly character building. One aspect I did particularly enjoy was the sparring, which often served as a cathartic release from the trials and tribulations of a day in the office, working in the NHS can drive you to it!! I actually ended up taking part in the South West Sparring Championships, claiming a bronze medal. It was an exhilarating experience but nerve-wracking too and gave me a very small taste of what it must have felt like to take your place in the shield wall.

Hiking in Nepal

In October 2019 I had the great privilege of spending ten days trekking the Himalayas in Nepal. Inspired by the documentaries of David Attenborough and Michael Palin, I’d always wanted to visit the Himalayas and waking up in the mornings beneath the snow-capped peaks of Annapurna, and Dhaulagiri, I had to pinch myself that I was actually there. The experience was even nicer for having my now grown-up daughters as walking companions, we had a lot of fun and made some wonderful memories. The trekking was tough, there isn’t a lot of flat terrain in the mountains and I have to concede, as my girls will never let me forget, that there were a few slips, trips, and falls along the way. The scenery however was just amazing, the Nepalese warm and hospitable and the camaraderie of our fellow walkers, who hailed from Australia and Canada, meant those evenings in front of the campfires passed quickly and enjoyably, although 5.30am starts meant there weren’t too many late nights!

One day we had the option to take an optional hike to Khayer Lake at 4,660m above sea level Everything started well enough and despite the altitude, we arrived at the lake in good time. After a brief stop to admire the view, catch our breath, and pay our respects at the Buddhist temple, we set off back to the lodge. Unfortunately, as we retraced our steps, we got caught in an unseasonably early snowstorm. Before too long, visibility was little more than a few yards, and the safe track was lost amidst the rapidly accumulating snow. Wet, cold, and still miles from the lodge, we trudged on for several hours with conditions steadily worsening, especially as night began to fall. We can look back and laugh now about having an adventure to tell but at the time it was a deeply unpleasant experience and I won’t pretend that I wasn’t a little apprehensive at times, especially when we stumbled, literally, into a herd of equally disgruntled Yaks. I have never been so glad to see the lodge base and fully twelve hours after we set off, get back in front of the fire. I was at least able to draw on the experience when writing the early chapters of Book 2 in the Trilogy, Battle Scars, where Atticus and his comrades in the XIIth find themselves in the winter snow of the Alps, although they were battling a lot more than Yaks!


One of the things that I have always enjoyed doing is baking, biscuits cookies, and cakes mainly, although I have been known to turn my hand to the occasional bread product. There really is nothing like the smell of a freshly baked cake and of course you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour with a cup of tea and a good book.  I really can’t lay any claim to producing anything to elaborate, although I did win first prize at the local village show on a couple of occasions meaning I think, that I can lay claim to having an award-winning Fruit Cake and a Banana LoafFor the sake of full disclosure and before the members of the local Women’s Institute take legal action, I should add that this was in a men-only category but competition was still fierce. Unfortunately, my attempts to secure a hat trick of successes floundered with a chocolate roulade that looked like it had been carried, carelessly, by Atticus on the march, so still plenty of work to do with that one!

 Sports Day Injury

In the dim and distant past, when my daughters were both still in Primary school, I had the afternoon off work one summer’s day to watch the school sports day. Intending only to enjoy an ice cream alongside the supportive parent duties, I ended up taking part in a father’s race, which had been organised to be a short dash over a distance of c50-60 metres or so. By the time we were due to begin, I think there must have been about fifteen to twenty of us on the start line. Those watching later said that it was an accident waiting to happen as despite starting evenly spaced, we all seemed to converge in the centre of the lanes as the race got underway. Unfortunately, I was that accident! To this day I still claim to have been tripped from behind and denied victory, but it was more likely a case of my brain wanting to push faster than my legs could or would go, the end result of which was crashing head over heels into the turf and climbing gingerly to my feet with a double break to my wrist. As luck would have it, the local doctor's surgery happened to be open that day and after a dose of morphine and a quick trip to the A&E the wrist was reset. After further pain medication, I watched the whole process with a degree of morbid fascination although how coherent I was after the double dose of drugs is open to debate. I wore a cast for the rest of the summer, which seriously impacted the planned holiday reading but it was a useful reminder that my competitive athletic days were probably behind me and the wrist healed well. Perhaps not surprisingly, the school elected not to run a fathers' race the following year, not that I would have been entering it!!

Taylor Swift

I was going to say that a guilty secret of mine is a love of Taylor Swift’s music, given that I am probably not her target demographic but I’m not guilty and it’s no longer a secret. I’ve always loved music, including musical theatre and film scores, and influenced by the music of my parents, the soundtrack of my own life and latterly those of my daughters, I probably have favourites records from every decade and almost every genre of music, including more than a few of Taylor Swift’s. I was fortunate enough to see her in concert in Manchester a couple of years ago, with my daughters. I went with some trepidation, fearing that I might be a little on the old side but she has such a broad appeal that I needn’t have worried. The show was fantastic and I’m already looking forward to her next tour. My favourite song of hers at the moment is ‘no body, no crime’ which has a storyline fit for a novel and delivered in three and a half minutes!!


Nick Macklin

A history graduate, Nick enjoyed developing the skills that would stand him in good stead during the extensive research he conducted prior to writing his novel. Whilst the ancient world, unfortunately, didn’t feature to any extent in his history degree, (the result of failing miserably to secure the A level grades that would have permitted greater choice) he maintained a lifelong and profound interest in ancient history and especially the Roman Empire, continuing to read avidly as he embarked on a career in HR. Over the next thirty years or so, Nick occupied a variety of Senior/Director roles, most recently in the NHS. Unsurprisingly, writing in these roles was largely confined to the prosaic demands of Board papers but Nick never lost the long-harboured belief, motivated by the works of writers such as Robert Fabbri, Robyn Young, Anthony Riches, Simon Scarrow, Matthew Harffy, and Giles Kristian, that he too had a story to tell. When he was presented with a window of opportunity three years ago, he took the decision to place his career on hold and see if he could convert that belief into reality.

Nick always knew that he wanted to set the novel against the backdrop of a significant event/period in Roman history. Looking to narrow that down to something offering the potential for meaningful character and plot development, but that hadnt already received exhaustive coverage, he settled on Caesar's tumultuous occupation of Gaul. Spanning eight years, the prolonged clash of cultures offered ample opportunity for the kind of dual perspective from which he was hoping to tell the story, whilst the violent conflict provided a wealth of exciting material to explore the changing fortunes of war and its impact at a personal level. The switching of allegiances, nations fighting for and against Rome also provided the potential for some intriguing plot lines. As his research unfolded, he was also struck by just how heavily the Roman psyche during this period was influenced by the scare they had received fifty years earlier when Germanic tribes invaded their territories and defeated their legions. Seeing references to the veterans of that war watching their sons and grandsons enlist for a similar campaign, he started to think about developing that link on both sides of the conflict. And so, the idea for the Conquest Trilogy was born.

In Bloody Dominions Nick has sought to produce a novel in which unfolding events are experienced and described from the perspective of protagonists on both sides of Caesar’s incursion into Gaul.  Conscious that the role of women in Roman fiction, Boudica aside, is largely confined to spouse, prostitute, or slave, Nick wanted to ensure that one of his lead characters was female and a prominent member of the warrior clan of her tribe. The novel is driven by these characters but the framework against which their stories unfold is historically accurate, featuring actual participants in Caesar’s campaign and drawing on real events as they occurred. As such Nick is genuinely excited about his characters and the story they have to tell.

Nick lives in Exeter with his two daughters and is currently juggling work as an Independent HR Consultant with writing the second novel in the Conquest Trilogy, Battle Scars.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Spotlight on Amy Maroney, author of Island of Gold (Sea and Stone Chronicles)


1454. A noble French falconer. A spirited merchants daughter. And a fateful decision that changes their destiny forever.

When Cédric is recruited by the Knights Hospitaller to the Greek island of Rhodes, his wife Sophie jumps at the chance to improve their fortunes. After a harrowing journey to Rhodes, Cédric plunges into the world of the knights—while Sophie is tempted by the endless riches that flow into the bustling harbor. But their dazzling new home has a dark side.

Slaves toil endlessly to fortify the city walls, and rumors of a coming attack by the Ottoman Turks swirl in the streets. Desperate to gain favor with the knights and secure his position, Cédric navigates a treacherous world of shadowy alliances. Meanwhile, Sophie secretly engineers a bold plan to keep their children safe. As the trust between them frays, enemies close in—and when disaster strikes the island, the dangers of their new world become terrifyingly real.

With this richly-told story of adventure, treachery, and the redeeming power of love, Amy Maroney brings a mesmerizing and forgotten world to vivid life.

Buy Links

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This novel is available on #KindleUnlimited

 ¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´

 Amy Maroney

Fun Facts
(Stuff you may or may not already know!)

I’ve lived in Europe four times, starting when I was in middle school. That’s why I have memories like this: I won a medal for shot put in a track and field competition in Paris at age thirteen. It was the first time I’d ever picked up a shot—and also the last.

During our two-year stint near Frankfurt, Germany, I managed to be completely mortified by my family’s American-ness and at the same time singularly committed to not fitting into my new world. I also developed an abiding passion for historical romances and castles.


Neuschwanstein Castle
Source: Unsplash

In my twenties, I freelanced as a writer and editor and did lots of volunteer work. My favorite unpaid gig was at the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County, California, where I grew up. The volunteer shifts were twelve hours long and we wore rubber boots, rubber overalls, and rubber gloves. That’s because we spent most of our time in the pens with seals and sea lions, cleaning up after them, feeding them, and protecting each other from them with tall wooden shields. The best part was releasing rehabilitated animals back to the ocean.


Source: Unsplash

I love to draw and paint. I’ve been taking art classes since our first daughter was born twenty-two years ago. One of my favorite drawing instructors, Phil Sylvester, gives great advice that I apply to writing, too. To help his students stop comparing themselves to others and stop worrying about producing “bad” work, he’ll tell us to actively try to be the worst artist in the group. “You’re all going to draw a pig,” he’ll say. “And I want your pig to be the worst, the most hideous, the most awful pig in this room.” It completely disarms everyone and makes us relax and feel free to create. I think about his advice often while writing first drafts.


Drawing and photo by Amy Maroney

I love to dance. I’ve been dancing since I was a kid and my mother enrolled me in ballet, jazz, and tap. I still take dance classes today. No one in my family notices when I break into spontaneous dancing around the house because it’s constant. To them, it’s like a leaf blower going outside – just part of the background. One of my great joys is dancing with my women friends.


Source: Unsplash

Growing up, I was the only member of my family who liked to swim. And I was terrified of deep water. My husband, on the other hand, is totally at home in deep water, huge ocean swells—the more action-packed the water situation, the better. Thanks to him, I’ve ventured out into deeper and deeper waters. I’ve always enjoyed snorkeling, but I used to stay in waist-deep water; now I’ll go out farther and see much more. Once I realized I could tread water for long periods or rest on my back, I started swimming in lakes and ponds. Now I love floating on my back in mountain lakes, just staring up at the sky, listening to the wind and the water.


Source: Unsplash

 ¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)  ( ¸.•´

Amy Maroney

Amy Maroney lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, and spent many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction before turning her hand to historical fiction. When she's not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of the Miramonde Series, a trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. To receive a free prequel novella to the Miramonde Series, join Amy's readers' group at (Just copy and paste into your browser.)

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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Spotlight on History Roadshow, created by Jon Marshall


You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy the adventures showcased on the History Roadshow’s YouTube channel.

Kings, Queens, Battles, Murder, and Mayhem, as never seen before. Discover what the textbooks failed to reveal. Whoever said history is boring never ran into Henry Tudor, ask any one of his many wives.

And let’s not forget the intriguing questions appearing on the Community Page on Teaser Tuesdays. Multiple choice possibilities, so you don’t have to scratch your head while doing an internet search. You do know which title Pope Leo X awarded Henry VIII in 1521 (Answer: Defender of the Faith – but you already know that. Easy, right?)

So, you are new to the site and not sure where to start. No worries. Check out the playlists where history is uncovered. What about Robert Dudley, possessed jealous lover? That got your attention, didn’t it?

I am attaching one of my favorite clips to whet your appetite.

Stop by, have a look, and become a subscriber – it’s free! Hope to see you there. 

Click HERE to subscribe.

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Friday, September 17, 2021

The Coffee Pot Book Club - An Author's Inspiration - Mary Ann Bernal

An Author's Inspiration: 
Meet #HistoricalFiction author, Mary Ann Bernal 

Crusader's Path


Mary Ann Bernal


Publication Date: 12th April 2020

 Publisher: Whispering Legends Press

 Page Length: 224 Pages

 Genre: Historical Fiction / Historical Romance

From the sweeping hills of Argences to the port city of Cologne overlooking the River Rhine, Etienne and Avielle find themselves drawn by the need for redemption against the backdrop of the First Crusade.

Heeding the call of His Holiness, Urban II, to free the Holy Land from the infidel, Etienne follows Duke Robert of Normandy across the treacherous miles, braving sweltering heat and snow-covered mountain passes while en route to the Byzantine Empire.

Moved by Peter of Amiens’ charismatic rhetoric in the streets of the Holy Roman Empire, Avielle joins the humble army of pilgrims. Upon arrival in Mentz, the peasant Crusaders do the unthinkable, destroying the Jewish Community. Consumed with guilt, Avielle is determined to die fighting for Christ, assuring her place in Heaven.

Etienne and Avielle cross paths in Constantinople, where they commiserate over past misdeeds. A spark becomes a flame, but when Avielle contracts leprosy, Etienne makes a promise to God, offering to take the priest cowl in exchange for ridding Avielle of her affliction.

Will Etienne be true to his word if Avielle is cleansed of the contagion, or will he risk eternal damnation to be with the woman he loves?

In my ongoing interest in the human psyche and why people behave the way they do, I discovered most individuals react in the same way when coming in contact with a person who may or may not have a communicable disease.

When I had a bout of shingles a while back, I was fortunate – only one hand and wrist were affected, a few manageable lesions that did not spread, just five or six clusters lining one finger, easily covered with Band-Aids.

While speaking to several coworkers, I noticed their peculiar behavior the minute I said the word shingles. They stepped away – distancing themselves a few feet from where I stood as if my covered finger would contaminate them.

Of course, I was not contagious, but the fear emanating after hearing the word shingles seemed to set protective gears in motion, leaving as quickly as one could without appearing rude.

What immediately came to mind was how people with infectious diseases had been treated throughout the centuries.  The recent remake of Ben Hur in 2016 reminded me of Charleston Heston’s portrayal of Judah and how he interacted with his mother and sister, who had contracted the disease while in prison.

Many movies were made about the Crusades and leper warriors throughout the years, such as King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem. The Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem established a military order to care for the hospitalized lepers around 1119 AD.

Remember Richard the Lionheart joining the Third Crusade to fight his nemesis, the notable Saladin? And don’t forget the Robin Hood movies, which reference the famous outlaw’s experiences fighting the Infidel. Recognizable names and places because of Hollywood, all filmed with creative license meant to entertain and are not necessarily historically accurate.

However, in recent years, the atrocities of warfare have been articulated with documentaries and dramatic television series where the brutality of the age is showcased and not swept into the background. In Knightfall, we see a leper knight whose face is covered by a mask. Yes, there were warriors affected by the disease who fought valiantly during every campaign over the years.

But I wanted to go back to the beginning, to the First Crusade, to understand what drove the warriors of Christ to leave their homes, enduring untold hardships for a holy cause. It took years to reach the Holy Land, a feat not everyone accomplished, dying en route from disease, starvation, and battle.

Creating a narrative set during the First Crusade satisfied a two-fold desire to discern the truth about life in such a turbulent era.

Lepers were shunned and, to this day, still bear the stigma for having the disease. Delving into the minds of human beings is fascinating because of the different perceptions. Where one sees a victim struck down by God, another sees an unfortunate soul suffering from an infliction through no fault of their own.

And what of the reasoning behind the Crusades, and what mitigating factors drove the men and women to travel to an unknown land. The peasant class had no clue as to what the undertaking meant, never having ventured out of their village.

I wonder if Pope Urban II would have started his quest to free the Holy Land from the Infidel if he knew his mission would set off a series of events that has transcended the centuries. In our modern era, there is still a holy war being fought in the Middle East. With the advances in warfare, all that has changed are the weapons. Battles are still being fought in the name of God, religious wars, man-made, making the assumption God wills it. In reality, the quest for power and wealth drives a primeval need to dominate the weak, worldwide dominion, reminiscent of the saying, only the strong will survive.

It took three years for the Princes’ Army to reach Jerusalem, where the remnants of a once-massive military force did what no one expected. The Christian flag flew above the tower of the Lord’s city, a hard-fought victory never to be repeated over the ensuing years.

As in Romeo and Juliet and the Outlander series, Crusader’s Path has more than one main character. The story takes an in-depth look at how leprosy and religious warfare affected the individual. Avielle, a commoner, conforms to the laws of the land, but her compassion for the afflicted grows because of her personal experience. Yet, she must behave according to the mores of the time, and many of her decisions stem from having to live within those rules.

On the other hand, Etienne defies accepted values, his status giving him license to do as he pleases. He casts everything aside as he follows his ducal lord, Robert, but he is not judged as Avielle would have been for the same infraction.

Whether or not you agree with their decisions reverts to your perception of what is and is not acceptable. Were the conditions and rules harsh in the Eleventh Century? Yes, they were. What would you have done in a similar situation? Can you feel empathy for Avielle and Etienne and even the ducal lord, Robert, whose selfishness fits his entitled persona? If you judge them according to the principles imposed in their century and not ours, would you be surprised by your verdict?


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 Mary Ann Bernal attended Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY, where she received a degree in Business Administration.  Her literary aspirations were ultimately realized when the first book of The Briton and the Dane novels was published in 2009.  In addition to writing historical fiction, Mary Ann has also authored a collection of contemporary short stories in the Scribbler Tales series and a science fiction/fantasy novel entitled Planetary Wars Rise of an Empire. Her recent work includes Crusader’s Path, a redemption story set against the backdrop of the First Crusade, and Forgiving Nero, a novel of Ancient Rome.

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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Spotlight on Philip Yorke, author of Redemption (The Hacker Chronicles, Book 2)


Saturday, the second day of July, in the year of our Lord, 1644, will be a day long remembered by the men and women committed to ending the reign of a tyrannical King. For on this day, the forces of Charles the First were crushed on the bloody fields of Marston Moor.

The calamitous defeat forces the increasingly desperate Royalists to intensify their attempts to bring about the immediate demise of their Parliamentarian enemies. This includes devising an audacious plan to assassinate the man they believe is key to the war’s outcome.

With the plotters ready to strike, Francis Hacker, one of Parliament’s most loyal soldiers, becomes aware of the conspiracy. With little time to act, he does everything in his power to frustrate their plans. But, alas, things start to unravel when brave Hacker finds himself pitted against a ruthless and cunning mercenary, a man who will resort to anything to achieve a ‘kill’.  

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 Fun Facts

 Philip Yorke

 My painful Hull City rejection

While I have been writing all my adult life, my childhood ambition was to become a professional footballer – and play for my hometown club, Hull City. I have been a fan of the Tigers since I was six years old, and I was taken to my first game against Queens Park Rangers. To put things into perspective, I must say from the outset that I have no footballing skills whatsoever – but that didn’t stop me writing to the club when I was ten and offering my services. Two weeks after I had penned my plea, a reply popped through my letterbox. It was from the Club Secretary (who in those days was quite a senior person) and it said: “Dear Tony. Many thanks for writing to us and offering yourself as our new centre forward. While we are flattered to have received your proposal, we are unable to accept it, for in football, we contact you – and make you the offer – not the other way around! Good luck for the future.”

I was naturally devastated, for even though I was utterly useless as a footballer, I am sure there was talent buried deep within. All I needed was the right kind of encouragement…

I am terrified of flying

The thought of flying fills me with dread, so much so that I have only flown on a jet on eight occasions in my life – and these were eight occasions too many! Ever since I was able, I have chosen to drive everywhere, even to mainland Europe, much to the frustration of my family who roll their eyes every time the subject of a holiday is mentioned! Yet, for some, my aversion has been a distinct benefit: In the 1990s, I was offered the chance to work for a large US newspaper. The job sounded really promising, and I was even prepared to consider flying across the Atlantic for an interview. However, my interest died the moment I discovered the role involved using domestic flights in the US up to three times a week. When I told the paper I was not going to proceed, they couldn’t quite believe my reasoning. But hey-ho, I have no regrets. Shortly afterward, I was offered the opportunity to attend the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta for a week-long stay. Alas, my fears got the better of me and, much to their delight, a colleague benefitted. Do I have any regrets about my aviation inhibitions? Nope!

Riding a bike without “due care and attention”

When I was seventeen, I used to cycle everywhere. Yet my love of two-wheeled transport almost got me killed. One day, after I had visited a friend in a nearby village, I was involved in an accident with a car at a notorious ‘blind spot’ – a place where cars appear out of nowhere around a bend in the road. The crash damaged my shoulder and wrecked my bike. A policeman told me I was lucky to be alive, such was the damage to the vehicle. He then recommended I went to hospital and get patched up. Immediately after he told me this, he officially cautioned me and said he was going to be bringing charges against me, as I was the cause of the crash. This he duly did, which resulted in me making a court appearance and being found guilty of “riding a pedal cycle without due care and attention”. The court punished me by imposing three penalty points on a driving licence I didn’t possess (and wouldn’t for a further ten years). But I learned a salutary lesson: be wary of smiling police officers!

I occasionally play practical jokes

Uncle Jim always walked his dog twice a day – first thing in the morning and last thing at night. One day, when I was a child and staying with him and my Auntie Kathleen, a wicked thought popped into my head; it was something along the lines of ‘why don’t I swap all the sugar for salt?’

My uncle liked three heaped spoons of sugar in his tea when he got back from the walk, and on this day, after I had engineered the swap, every spoonful looked like a mini mountain! As he positioned his mug by his lips and took an almighty swig a huge grin spread across my mouth. This turned into explosive laughter when Uncle Jim’s face went crimson red, his cheeks became drawn, and he then spat out the foul-tasting liquid. But the ejection wasn’t a dignified affair. Oh, no; far from it. The explosion I witnessed that wonderful day was like a volcanic geyser exploding; the tea travelled the entire length of the kitchen before spattering against the brilliant white wall and leaving an almighty stain. As soon as he had got the tea out of his mouth, Uncle Jim looked at me and said: “I am going to kill you, you little bugger!” That I am alive today is testimony to him not being a man of his word.

I can be quite gullible

Being a journalist and writer, confessing to being gullible is probably not a good thing. But I am. There is no point in denying it.

My gullibility started at an early age, with my Auntie Jessie, a woman I loved dearly.

Auntie Jessie was short in stature, not glamorous in the slightest – and she had a heart of gold. So, when I asked her what she did in the First World War, I was not expecting her to say: “I flew airships and won the Victoria Cross by helping to keep enemy planes at bay.”

My aunt never lied; the truth was sacred to her. So, I naturally believed her. And several times a year I would ask her to recount her wartime adventures in her airship as she fended off Nazi attacks and saved the city of Hull from total catastrophe. I did this for the best part of fourteen years, and every time, the stories became more embellished – with Auntie Jessie becoming a greater heroine than the likes of Amy Johnson (another aviator from my hometown). To me, she was a goddess.

It was only when I reached the age of nineteen, or possibly twenty, that Auntie Jessie gave up the pretence. We were playing cards one night when the subject wandered into the past and I asked her to tell me more about her exploits. By now, she was into her eighties. And even though she was one of the kindest people I have ever known, it didn’t stop her from giving me a withering look and saying: “My goodness, what kind of pillock are you?”

The memory still makes me chuckle.

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Philip Yorke

Philip Yorke is an award-winning former Fleet Street journalist who has a special interest in history. His Hacker Chronicles series, to be told in five fast-paced historical fiction novels, tells the story of Parliamentarian soldier, Francis Hacker.

Redemption, the second book in the series, is set during the period 1644-46 (during the first English Civil War) when events take a significant turn in favour of Parliament.

Philip is married, and he and his wife have five children. He enjoys relaxing to classical music, reading the works of Nigel Tranter, Bernard Cornwell, Robyn Young, and CJ Sansom, and supporting Hull City FC and Leicester Tigers RFC.

He lives in Leicestershire, England.

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