Monday, October 18, 2021

Spotlight on Heidi Eljarbo, author of Fair Mountain Christmas (Heartwarming Christmas)


Nostalgia and Christmas miracles burn bright in this uplifting and heartwarming story about new beginnings and falling in love under a blanket of stars.

Fair Mountain, December 1972.

A few days before Christmas, Juni’s editor gives her a writing assignment that throws her far outside her comfort zone. She and her terrier, Leo, retreat to her grandparents’ old cabin in the Norwegian mountains in hopes of inspiration. But the trip turns into a heart-wrenching and emotionally challenging encounter.

Memories of Juni’s childhood seep in as soon as she enters the cabin, and as for the writing assignment…what does she know about what children need for Christmas?

Juni’s focus changes when handsome Henry Norheim from Moose Lodge down the hill unexpectedly shows up outside her cottage door. His dedication to family, traditions and Christmas celebration is contagious, but for Juni, coming out of her lonely shell is easier said than done.

As Juni’s deadline draws closer, and the snowflakes softly swirl down on Fair Mountain, she has to face up to her past, open her heart, and dare to take a step forward.

Will the miracle of Christmas live up to its promise of hope, goodwill, and love this year?

 Buy Links

 Universal Link

This novel is available to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.


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Heidi Eljarbo

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

I was on the Ballroom Dance Team when I attended Brigham Young University. We toured the US West Coast and Europe and competed in the Ballroom Dance Championship in Blackpool, England.

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I love being outside in any kind of weather and enjoy hiking and cross-country skiing in the Norwegian mountains with my husband and dog.

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My husband and I have thirteen grandchildren (so far). They call me Mimmi, and I call them munchkins. They are all adorable (speaking from the grandmother’s point of view, of course).

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I’ve traveled a lot and also lived in Canada, the USA, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, and Norway + six US states.

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I speak several languages, and now I really want to learn Italian. There’s something magical about that language.

 Heidi Eljarbo

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don't want to go near.

Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.

After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.

Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.

Heidi’s favorites are family, God's beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.

 Social Media Links

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Friday, October 15, 2021

Reader Views Book Review: Forgiving Nero by Mary Ann Bernal


Forgiving Nero

Mary Ann Bernal
Whispering Legends Press (2021)
ISBN: 9798590150465
Reviewed by Chelsy Scherba for Reader Views (10/2021)

“Forgiving Nero” by Mary Ann Bernal is a fictional account of the life of Nero, Emperor of Rome. As a Praetorian Guard, Traian has looked after Nero ever since he was a small child, protecting him from assassins and treating him like a son. Vena, a hostage to the current Emperor Claudius, and a Christian hiding her faith, is the woman Nero calls “mother.” When Nero finds himself on the Roman throne, he rejects the council of those he once held dear and discovers his newfound power has given him the status of a god. With only treachery and corruption surrounding him, Nero’s former friends and allies can only watch his spiraling descent into debauchery and evil.

When reading historical fiction, I like to learn a lot about the time period and feel immersed in the era. Happily, this book achieves both of those goals. The author brings to life a vast array of characters and events that happened in the life of Nero. Since Nero was the template for the coming antichrist, I found it very interesting to learn more about the person Nero was both during and prior to his role in sentencing Christians to horrific deaths, including that of Paul the apostle.

The writing flows effortlessly between the viewpoints of each of the characters, telling a clear narrative that is easy to follow and rather difficult to put down. At almost 300 pages, it usually takes me over a week to read a book of that length, but I finished this book in about 3 1/2 days. This is a testament to the author’s narrative style and ability to hold my interest. I also found it very interesting to discover how Vena was able to conceal her faith while worshiping Jesus Christ in secret amongst Paul the apostle and her Christian brethren. Nero’s persecution of the Christians was of particular interest to me, and a prevalent subplot of the story as Vena, Acte (Nero’s childhood friend and slave), and Traian grapple with this new religious faith.

I also really enjoyed how the author portrayed Emperor Claudius and the manipulative women in his life. Agrippina was particularly intriguing as to the lengths she would go to get her son Nero on the throne. Claudius’s daughter, Octavia, was a tragic pawn, and Poppaea emerges to challenge Agrippina for control of Emperor Nero. Playing out much like the Greek tragedies Nero enjoyed acting in, his life and the lives of those surrounding him were full of death, mistrust, agony, cruelty, and murder.

If you love Roman history, this book should delight you. Although Nero’s and his family’s wickedness is not sugarcoated, it is not described in a way that is lewd or gratifying. I still recommend this book to adults only, but there was nothing I found too difficult to read, overly explicit, or offensive. The author does an excellent job remaining neutral and presenting each viewpoint factually and without bias. Therefore, regardless of your personal beliefs, you should be able to enjoy this book and make your own conclusions without feeling led to view Nero one way or the other.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

New Release: Her Secret War by Pam Lecky

Pam Lecky

Published by: Avon Books UK/Harper Collins

Release date: 14th October 2021


 A life-changing moment

May 1941: German bombs drop on Dublin taking Sarah Gillespie’s family and home. Days later, the man she loves leaves Ireland to enlist.

A heart-breaking choice

With nothing to keep her in Ireland and a burning desire to help the war effort, Sarah seeks refuge with relatives in England. But before long, her father’s dark past threatens to catch up with her.

A dangerous mission

Sarah is asked to prove her loyalty to Britain through a special mission. Her courage could save lives. But it could also come at the cost of her own…
A gripping story that explores a deadly tangle of love and espionage in war-torn Britain, perfect for fans of Pam Jenoff, Kate Quinn, and Kate Furnivall.

Click HERE to purchase.


Pam Lecky

Connect with Pam



Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Spotlight on Rockland County Artist, Barbara Chen

Hidden Treasure Galleries, in sponsorship with the Arts Council of Rockland, is presently showcasing the work of local artist, Barbara Chen.


Barbara Chen

 “My painting and drawing style evolved in college as I was studying the new classics - Van Gogh, Matisse, and Picasso. You could say that at my age I've straddled three centuries. Over time I added mosaics and ceramics to my repertoire.”

Find out more about Barbara Chen HERE.

 All artwork is for sale unless specified.

Commissions accepted.



Hidden Treasure Galleries

Level One near Macy's

 Palisades Center

1000 Palisades Center Drive

West Nyack, NY 10994

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Spotlight on Micheál Cladáin, author of After Gáirech


The battle of Gáirech is over; the armies of Connachta, Lagin, and Mumu are destroyed! Survivors are ravaging The Five Kingdoms of Ireland!

While working to resolve the Kingdomsissues and bring peace, Cathbadh is murdered, dying in his son Genonns arms. Genonn vows to avenge the death of his father.

For his revenge to work, he needs Conall Cernach and the Red Branch warriors of Ulster. But Conall is gone, searching for the head of Cú Chulainn. Genonn sets out to find him, aided by the beautiful Fedelm, the capricious Lee Fliath and the stalwart Bradán.


Buy Links:

  Amazon UK    Amazon US    Amazon CA   Amazon AU

Available on KindleUnlimited

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Micheál Cladáin

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

We moved from Dublin down to the “Sunny Southeast” in Co. Wexford a few years ago. A strip of driveway and a back yard became an acre of lawn. My better half never liked my café racer and nearly hit the ceiling (in glee, not despair) when I told her I was going to sell it so we could buy a new ride-on mower.

The Honda doesn’t have anywhere near as much power, but it is still fun to ride.

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I was a contract writer and editor in the IT industry for many years. As such, I have lived more of my life abroad than at home. Over the years, I lived in Cyprus, Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, and Italy, (including Rome, Naples, and Modena). I speak fluent Italian, as well as some Dutch and German. I never could get my mind (or tongue) around Swedish or Greek.

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When I lived in Rome, I was working for IBM. One summer, we had a visit from a senior executive. He wanted a guided tour of the Forum during his forty-eight-hour stay. None of the English-speaking tour guides were available at the time, so my department head volunteered me as interpreter for the tour. The Italian tour guide took it as a personal affront and refused to allow me time to interpret what she was saying. In the end, I had to make up quick one-liners so we could keep up.

There is an avenue of Doric Columns parallel to Trajan’s Column. During their day they were painted with multiple colours. The tour guide took five minutes describing their intricacy, which I boiled down to, “the avenue was long and brightly coloured”. The executive raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

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We are aiming for self-sufficiency when it comes to fruit and veg. Since moving to the “Sunny Southeast”, I have built eight raised beds and planted an orchard. The beds are good for spring and summer growing only, so last year a friend and myself erected a polytunnel, providing near all-year-round production.

It’s a wonder I find time to write.

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I completed my first novel when I was twenty years old. It was a tome of some 220k words. Monstrous. I didn’t recognize it as such and duly sent it off to literary agents in their dozens. Back then, it was frowned upon to submit to more than one agent at a time, so I spent the best part of two years getting rejection after rejection. Needless to say, there were many years between my first completed MS and the next one.

A couple of years ago, my sister was doing a clear-out and found a dusty old copy of the MS in her attic. Of course, I had to read it, thirty-odd years later. It transpires the tome was not only monstrous in terms of size. 

Micheál Cladáin

Micheál Cladáin studied the classics and developed a love of ancient civilizations during those studies. Learning about ancient Roman and Greek cultures was augmented by a combined sixteen years living in those societies, albeit the modern versions, in Cyprus and Italy. As such, Micheál decided to write historical fiction, trying to follow in the footsteps of such greats as Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden. Because of his Irish roots, he chose pre-Christian Ireland as his setting, rather than ancient Italy or Greece.

Micheál is a full-time writer, who lives in the wilds of Wexford with his wife and their border terriers, Ruby and Maisy.

 Social Media Links:

 Twitter   Facebook   Amazon Author Page


Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Coffee Pot Book Club - Setting the stage for the First Crusade1096-1099 by Mary Ann Bernal

 The Coffee Pot Book Club

Please give a warm Coffee Pot welcome to Historical Fiction author, Mary Ann Bernal. Mary Ann is talking about the First Crusade, but before we get to that let's check out Mary Ann's fabulous novel...!

Crusader's Path

By Mary Ann Bernal

Publication Date: 12th April 2020

Publisher: Whispering Legends Press

Page Length: 224 Pages (Hardcover)

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?

Setting the stage for the First Crusade


By Mary Ann Bernal

During the Eleventh Century, the Roman Catholic Church held considerable influence throughout Christendom, despite the East-West Schism of 1054 caused by political and theological differences between the Latin West and Greek Eastern Orthodox Church.

Violence, lawlessness, famine, and poverty existed across the European continent. Peasants were at the mercy of the warring nobles craving wealth and power. A significant disparity prevailed in a social hierarchy where landowners set the rules, giving little hope for commoners to rise above their station.

The authority of the Pope, also known as the Bishop of Rome, had waned over the years. Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, clashed with Pope Gregory VII over papal authority. Pope Urban’s predecessor, Pope Gregory, excommunicated the errant Emperor. Military clashes ensued, and the victorious Henry installed the Antipope, Clement III, as the Bishop of Rome.

Alexios I, the Byzantine Emperor, needed help in thwarting the Seljuk Turks harassing his kingdom. Fearing the fall of his capital city, Constantinople, Alexios requested Pope Urban’s assistance in vanquishing the infidel.

The Call to Arms

Pope Urban saw the request from Alexios as a means to reunite the Latin West and Greek East. Additionally, by channeling the violent knights’ and mercenaries’ thirst for fighting towards a common enemy, the followers of Islam, Pope Urban kept unchivalrous warriors from pillaging the European countryside. Besides, a successful campaign would strengthen the Papacy, enhancing political power and dominance over kingly rule. And freeing Jerusalem from Muslim control would secure his place in history.

Pope Urban II was a charismatic and intriguing man. In all probability, he was calculating and manipulative, necessary traits to retain control of the Papacy, defeating his enemies with skillful finesse.

The Council at Claremont had been called to address abuses within the Catholic Church. The assembly decided many canons, renewed earlier legislation, and settled lawsuits at its conclusion. However, Pope Urban piqued the curiosity of the religious elite and common people when mentioning a great speech on the day before the attendees’ departure.

In an open field, the eloquent preacher spoke of atrocities committed upon Christians by the Muslims. Pope Urban maligned the Saracens oppressing Christians, his speech cleverly fashioned to incite the crowd. He offered salvation, giving hope to the hopeless, calling upon rich and poor alike to embark on a righteous war. Pope Urban promised a full remission of sins if they died during the journey or on the battlefield. The chant Deus Vult, God wills it, echoed throughout the crowd.

Pope Urban’s successful oration created the armies of the First Crusade. Although religion was the driving force, the nobility and lowly knights sought land and wealth. They would give no quarter since the Church condoned killing.

The Armies

Peter of Amiens took Pope Urban at his word, leaving without paying heed to logistics – a coordinated campaign, led by princes and noblemen, acquiring manpower, provisions and money, a lot of money to pay the soldiers, and purchase supplies along the route.

Known as Peter the Hermit, the lowly monk preached to the peasants from Claremont to Amiens before setting out to Cologne, following the Rivers Rhine and Danube, reaching Constantinople before Pope Urban’s officially sanctioned army. Known as the People’s Crusade or the Peasants’ Crusade, the ill-fated collection of Pilgrims failed to reach the Holy Land, most perishing on the road to Nicaea.

The peasants risked everything to reclaim the Holy Land for God, proudly wearing the Cross. They were ill-equipped, mostly farmers, men, women, and children. They left behind land they did not own, carrying meager possessions with them, believing Pope Urban’s words, attaining salvation, their sins forgiven.

Peter could not control the unruly mob who ravished the land with such ferocity that sent chills down the spine of the Turkish people when word reached their ears of the rabble’s murderous deeds.

The Princes’ Crusade consisted of four main armies, leaving Europe in August 1096, the planned departure date, and several months after Peter’s Army of Peasants.

To the aristocracy, fighting for Christ was an honor, elevating their standing within the hierarchy, commanding respect and awe from the masses. While saving souls was the catalyst, attaining wealth in a land flowing with milk and honey, controlling centers of trade satisfied their ambition.


The First Crusade was a holy war that had the blessing of God, according to Pope Urban. The Commandment, thou shall not kill, was ignored when fighting the infidel. In retaliation, the Muslims raged a Holy War against the Christians. The apoplectic war of the two faiths continues to this day.

The First Crusade saw the establishment of the Crusader States and the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller military orders.

The role of the Roman Popes progressed in secular affairs.

Alliances deteriorated between the Latin West and Greek East.

Subsequent crusades failed to keep Jerusalem under Christian control.


I could not help but wonder if Pope Urban would have condoned a Holy War if he knew the ramifications of his deeds. Just as I wonder if Catherine of Aragon would have given Henry VIII a divorce if she had known Henry would become the Church of England. Who in history has ever considered the consequences before acting? Just thoughts to ponder.

Click HERE for your favourite online bookstore!

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.

Social Media Links: WebsiteWhispering Legends PressTwitter.