Friday, January 28, 2022

Spotlight on Juliane Weber, author of Under the Emerald Sky (The Irish Fortune Series, Book 1)

He’s come to Ireland to escape his past. Shes trying to run from her future.

It's 1843 and the English nobleman Quinton Williams has come to Ireland to oversee the running of his fathers ailing estate and escape his painful past. Here he meets the alluring Alannah ONeill, whose Irish family is one of few to have retained ownership of their land, the rest having been supplanted by the English over the course of the country's bloody history. Finding herself drawn to the handsome Englishman, Alannah offers to help Quin communicate with the estates Gaelic-speaking tenants, as much to assist him as to counter her own ennui. Aware of her controlling brothers hostility towards the English, she keeps her growing relationship with Quin a secret a secret that cannot, however, be kept for long from those who dream of ridding Ireland of her English oppressors.

Among the stark contrasts that separate the rich few from the plentiful poor, Under the Emerald Sky is a tale of love and betrayal in a land teetering on the brink of disaster - the Great Famine that would forever change the course of Ireland's history.

Trigger Warnings:

Violence, sexual content.


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Juliane Weber

Fun Facts

(Stuff you may or may not already know!)

I was born in Germany but moved to South Africa when I was four years old. I went to school and university there, met my husband (who’s Serbian) and had two children. I have always spoken to my children in German, my husband has always spoken to them in Serbian, and the two of us speak to each other in English. That hasn’t changed since we moved to Germany in 2016, and so the children are growing up speaking three languages.

I have played volleyball for the South African national team, both at the student and senior level. One of my most memorable trips was to Thailand for the World Student Games in 2007.

I’ve made some pretty impressive birthday cakes, mostly for my own children but also for a few others. I also made a three-tiered wedding cake for my cousin.  

When I take my children to the library, I have to take along a small suitcase to carry back all the books! Like their parents, the boys are avid readers and find it impossible to select just two or three books to take home. My youngest is just starting to read by himself now. Soon I’ll have to upgrade to a bigger suitcase!

I have become quite obsessed with saving the bees. I’ve planted a host of different bee-friendly flowers in the garden and have acquired two bee hotels. They’re very easy to mount on the wall of the house and it’s so fascinating to watch the bees flying in and out as they prepare their nests!

Thank you, Mary Ann, for having me on your blog today. 

Thanks for sharing such interesting tidbits, Julliane.

Juliane Weber

Juliane is actually a scientist. She holds degrees in physiology and zoology, including a PhD in physiology. During her studies, she realized, however, that her passion lay not in conducting scientific research herself, but in writing about it. Thus began her career as a medical writer, where she took on all manner of writing and editing tasks, in the process honing her writing skills, until she finally plucked up the courage to write her first historical novel, Under the Emerald Sky. The book is the first in The Irish Fortune Series, which is set in 19th century Ireland around the time of the Great Famine.

Juliane lives with her husband and two sons in Hamelin, Germany, the town made famous by the story of the Pied Piper.

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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Spotlight on Justin Newland, author of The Coronation

 Two Year Celebration Tour

It is 1761. Prussia is at war with  Russia and Austria. As the Russian army occupies East Prussia, King Frederick the Great and his men fight hard to win back their homeland.

In Ludwigshain, a Junker estate in East Prussia, Countess Marion von Adler celebrates an exceptional harvest. But it is requisitioned by Russian troops. When Marion tries to stop them, a Russian captain strikes her. His lieutenant, Ian Fermor, defends Marions honour and is stabbed for his insubordination. Abandoned by the Russians, Fermor becomes a divisive figure on the estate.

Close to death, Fermor dreams of the Adler, a numinous eagle entity, whose territory extends across the lands of Northern Europe and which is mysteriously connected to the Enlightenment. What happens next will change the course of human history


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Author Website    Publisher Website    Wordery (UK)   Bookswagon (India)   Booktopia (AU)

Saxo (DK)   Exclusive Books (SA)

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 Justin Newland

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

The first thing that comes to mind is a bit about me. I was born three days before the end of the year. That makes me a Capricorn. Hey, someone has to be one. We’re renowned for hard work, persistence, and discipline. I mean, who could think of anything more unremittingly boring. So, I figured I needed to develop some qualities to offset this. Such as, a great sense of humour, which includes, or perhaps even starts with, a keen eye for self-ridicule. You have to have one anyway to survive in the world, otherwise, you’ll go mad, right? Capricorns are cusp people – the astrological sign starts at the end of one year and ends at the beginning of the next. The Ancient Romans had a neat description for this: the God who personified this time of year was Janus, who had a second face coming out of his neck, so he could look to the front and behind him at the same time. Which I guess gives a whole new meaning to the idea of ‘second sight.’

From that, you can tell I have a love of history. That started in my 20’s studying Ancient Greece. I read all the Greek tragedies, delved into Greek philosophy, and even visited the Greek Islands and the Acropolis in Athens. What a place is Greece. So much in the people there. The men sitting at the cafés drinking ouzo or retsina or a black coffee that was so strong and so sweet that the spoon could almost stand up in it.

The third fun thing for me in my life is a love of travel. I guess it’s born out of a need and a want to build a greater reference grid from which to compare and appreciate the world. What I mean is, it’s one thing to travel the world, but it’s what you do with the experience, how you add it up, that counts. See, I was born in England and have more or less lived there all my life, except for a short nine-month sojourn in France. This means I was brought up with a Euro-centric view of the world, although like many things about oneself, one doesn’t discover it until it’s challenged, or seen in a different context, or an unusual light. My first trip outside of Europe was to North Africa, and that was a culture shock. That was a challenge to my self-view, to my Euro-centric view of the world, and a good one at that. I remember one funny thing from that trip, and that was seeing goats up a tree nibbling on the buds. And now I think of it, my desire to go to North Africa came from reading Frank Herbert’s Dune because his novel had left me with an overwhelming desire to go to a desert.

Because I’m a writer, I love words, they’re fun things to me. I love language and languages. I speak English and French. And I love the meaning of words and their etymology. I even love anagrams, because they can often reveal hidden meanings in words. And another thing I love is discovering the hidden or the esoteric. How about an anagram of FUNERAL? It’s REAL FUN. Bet you didn’t see that coming. Or another – an anagram of REVELATION is I REVEAL NOT. Well, that’s no surprise, since no one seems to understand St. John’s Book of Revelations. Although I always find it odd that the original Greek meaning of the word apocalypse is to uncover or to reveal.

And for my fifth and final symphony, here’s another curiosity, again about Capricorn, the astrological sign. In Ancient Rome, they had a strange festival called SATURNALIA during which, for a period of five days at the end of each year, everything in society was turned upside down, so the slaves became the masters, and the masters became the slaves. Anyway, from the structure of the word, you can tell the festival was divinated to the Roman God Saturn, which of course is the main governing influence at that time of year. If you’ve ever wondered why Capricorns are such strange people, now you know. And I’ll leave you with a motto I repeated in my novel, The Coronation – and that’s ‘Suum Quique’, which means ‘To each his own.’ 

 Justin Newland 

Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers - that’s history with a supernatural twist. His stories feature known events and real people from history which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural. He gives author talks and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio Bristol’s Thought for the Day. He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.

His Books

The Genes of Isis is a tale of love, destruction, and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt. A re-telling of the Biblical story of the flood, it reveals the mystery of the genes of Isis – or genesis – of mankind. ISBN 9781789014860.

The novel is creative, sophisticated, and downright brilliant! I couldnt ask more of an Egyptian-esque book!” – Lauren, Books Beyond the Story.

The Old Dragons Head is a historical fantasy and supernatural thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and played out in the shadows of the Great Wall of China. It explores the secret history of the influences that shaped the beginnings of modern times.  ISBN 9781789015829.

 The author is an excellent storyteller.” – British Fantasy Society.

 Set during the Great Enlightenment, The Coronation reveals the secret history of the Industrial Revolution. ISBN 9781838591885.

 The novel explores the themes of belonging, outsiders… religion and war…  filtered through the lens of the other-worldly.” – A. Deane, Page Farer Book Blog.

 His latest, The Abdication (July, 2021), is a suspense thriller, a journey of destiny, wisdom, and self-discovery. ISBN 9781800463950. 

 “In Topeth, Tula confronts the truth, her faith in herself, faith in a higher purpose, and ultimately, what it means to abdicate that faith.”  V. Triola, Coast to Coast.

 Social Media Links:

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Historical Fiction Company - Rome Burns and an Emperor is Blamed - An Editorial Review of "Forgiving Nero" by Mary Ann Bernal

Forgiving Nero” by Mary Ann Bernal receives 5 stars from The Historical Fiction Company and the “Highly Recommended” award

...Mary Ann Bernal is to be congratulated in presenting this impressive and daunting work to the reader! She has seized a truly chaotic and complex period of history, so crucial for all that was to come in the fortunes of Imperial Rome and, indeed. for subsequent history, by the scruff of the neck. Out of all the confusion, she has licked a wonderful narrative into shape! Given the truly chaotic segment of important history she has selected for her novel, this is no small achievement!

In a moving and multi stranded drama that incorporates so much, Mary Ann Bernal presents the reader, for example, with a truly 'ear at the door' view of the secretive early Christian Church and of all its travails. She reveals a clear view and understanding of the Rome of the time in minute and moving detail, and the everyday preoccupations and aspirations and fears of ordinary people, revealing painstaking research The author relates with clarity, and movingly, the various issues and complications of people in love in truly difficult circumstances; their very moods and preoccupations.

Perhaps the greatest triumph of ''Forgiving Nero'' is the task, that many other historians have found so daunting, of weaving this truly confused and convoluted passage of history into a single and meaningful sequence of events whilst at the same time putting all too real flesh onto these historical, and often diabolical, figures. Above all, we have the figure of Nero! In the hands of the writer we are presented with a figure, so beguiling and charming in childhood and in early youth, transformed into a creature of monstrous depravity capable of truly despicable acts; a being seized by perhaps a hereditary madness and doomed to a bitter end. Read the Review in its entirety HERE
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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Readers' Favorite Book Review - Forgiving Nero by Mary Ann Bernal



Reviewed by Jennifer Ibiam for Readers' Favorite

Lucius Nero and his mother Agrippina returned from exile during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Nero was but a little boy, and having no one to trust, Traian and Vena cared for him with approval from the Emperor. He wasn’t the rightful heir, but Agrippina swore Nero would rule the Roman Empire. She did unimaginable things for the cause and succeeded. However, fate dealt its hand, and things fell apart. The palace, court, and people experienced a war of loyalties, and integrity became a scarce commodity. An ambitious mother, a hated wife, a promised love, and a treacherous mistress warred to own the emerging god-like Emperor. The plot thickened, and everybody had agendas. Will Emperor Nero’s rule be successful? Forgiving Nero by Mary Ann Bernal tells a captivating story.

Forgiving Nero by Mary Ann Bernal was a riveting novel that felt like a chess game. The characters were calculating, deceptive, manipulative, and more. Royal politics depicted in this novel mesmerized me and held my attention until the end. This fast-paced and action-packed story is a blend of fact and fiction, set in the classical era of Ancient Rome. Mary Ann wrote an excellent story aided by thorough research and descriptive writing that will appeal to lovers of the classics, and Greek and Latin literature. I loved Acte, Vena, and Traian because navigating such a predatory government with their heads intact was no easy feat. The one true God came through for the trio. Agrippina’s character was exasperating. Did that woman ever sleep? That woman created a monster, and Poppaea applied the toppings. I enjoyed reading this book, Mary Ann. Please write more.

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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Spotlight on Griffin Brady, author of The Heart of a Hussar (The Winged Warrior Series, Book 1)


Poland is at war. He must choose between his lifelong ambition and his heart.

Exploiting Muscovy’s Time of Troubles, Poland has invaded the chaotic country. Twenty-two-year-old Jacek Dąbrowski is an honorable, ferocious warrior in a company of winged hussars—an unrivaled, lethal cavalry. When his lieutenant dies in battle, Jacek is promoted to replace him, against the wishes of his superior, Mateusz, who now has more reason to eliminate him.

Jacek dedicates his life to gaining the king’s recognition and manor lands of his own. Consequently, he closely guards his heart, avoiding lasting romantic entanglements. Unscathed on the battlefield, undefeated in tournaments, and adored by women eager to share his bed, Jacek has never lost at anything he sets out to conquer. So when he charges toward his goals, he believes nothing stands in his way.

Upon his return from battle, Jacek deviates from his ordinarily unemotional mindset and rescues enemy siblings, fifteen-year-old Oliwia and her younger brother, Filip, from their devastated Muscovite village. His act of mercy sets into motion unstoppable consequences that ripple through his well-ordered life for years to come—and causes him to irretrievably lose his heart.

Oliwia has her own single-minded drive: to protect her young brother. Her determination and self-sacrifice lead her to adopt a new country, a new religion, and a new way of life. But it’s not the first time the resilient beauty has had to remake herself, for she is not what she appears to be.

As Jacek battles the Muscovites and Tatars threatening Poland’s borders for months at a time, Oliwia is groomed for a purpose concealed from her. All the while, Mateusz’s treachery and a mysterious enemy looming on the horizon threaten to destroy everything Jacek holds dear.

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Griffin Brady

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

I was born in Japan and grew up in Southeast Asia. When I was three, my family moved from Okinawa to Saigon, and my parents put me in a French nursery school as an experiment. From there, I went on to attend French elementary school, where French was the only language spoken (it was Vietnam’s national language at the time). I only spoke English at home with my family. One time, my mother woke me up to get ready for school, and in my groggy state, I could only speak to her in French—I couldn’t recall my English words! Needless to say, she became a little panicky until my brain finally came fully on-line and I got out the words she could understand.

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For the past fifteen years, I’ve worked as a real estate professional in Colorado. Besides representing clients, I have flipped over a hundred houses. Each one had its own quirks and surprises—such as hidden saddles in attics—but none of the flips were as easy or quick as they are on TV!

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Before turning seventeen, I spent very little time in the States. My goal is to see all fifty states (I have nineteen to go) and to visit the only continent besides Antarctica I’ve never been to, which is South America.

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I lived in Oregon when I was in my twenties. A girlfriend and I played hooky one day from work to go skiing at Mt. Bachelor in Bend. I took a tumble and had to be taken down the slope in a rescue toboggan, which didn’t glide nearly as smoothly as one would think, though I was extremely grateful for the team that got me off the mountain. When I got to the hospital, I discovered I had torn three ligaments in my right knee. I never skied again.

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I moved out right after graduating from high school and got a job and an apartment in San Francisco, where I lived with a girl I had briefly met through work. We got along, but she lost her job and started bringing home some scary characters. I eventually got my own place, and after I moved in, I noticed different people watching my new apartment. I thought I was being paranoid until my sister, who was helping me decorate the place, made a comment. The surveillance finally stopped, and the mystery was solved about six months later when I read in the paper that my ex-roommate had been arrested for armed robbery. Apparently, she had started her new “career” while she and I still roomed together, and detectives were watching to see if I was involved. I later got a letter from her from Terminal Island where she was serving time. 

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Griffin Brady

Griffin Brady is a historical fiction author with a keen interest in the Polish Winged Hussars of the 16th and 17th centuries. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. The Heart of a Hussar took third place in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2018 Colorado Gold Contest and was a finalist in the Northern Colorado Writers’ 2017 Top of the Mountain Award.

The proud mother of three grown sons, she lives in Colorado with her husband. She is also an award-winning, Amazon bestselling romance author who writes under the pen name G.K. Brady.

 Social Media Links:

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Book Spotlight: Raid of the Wolves (Ormstunga Saga, Book 2) By Donovan Cook

The only thing that kept him going were the voices of his ancestors, screaming for blood...

Ulf and his shield brothers are sent on a raid against an old enemy — Francia, a mighty kingdom to the south, now ravaged by civil war. During the perilous sea voyage, Ulf can only focus on one thing. He demands closure: to find the man who slaughtered his family — Griml.

A hidden enemy stalks Ulf and his warriors through Francia, striking mercilessly when they least expect it. Soon the hunters become the hunted. The Norse warriors must make the ultimate choice between defying the king or angering the gods. Both could end in fury.

But there is another threat lurking in the shadows. One that Ulf could never anticipate.

Ulf is not the only one who wants vengeance.

 Buy Links

 Available on #KindleUnlimited

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About the Author

Even as a young child, Donovan loved reading stories about Vikings and other medieval warriors fighting to defend their homeland or raiding in distant lands. He would often be found running around outside with nothing other than a wooden sword and his imagination.

Now older, he spends his time writing about them. His novels come from his fascination with the Viking world and Norse Mythology and he hopes that you will enjoy exploring this world as much as he did writing about it.

Born in South Africa but raised in England, Donovan currently lives in Moscow, Russia with his wife and their French Bulldog, where he works as an English tutor. When he is not teaching or writing, he can be found reading, watching rugby, or working on DIY projects. Being born in South Africa, he is a massive Springboks fan and never misses a match.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Spotlight on E.S. Alexander, author of Lies That Blind


What would you risk to avoid obscurity?

Malaya, 1788

Aspiring journalist Jim Lloyd jeopardises his future in ways he never could have imagined. He risks his wealthy father’s wrath to ride the coat-tails of Captain Francis Light, an adventurer governing the East India Company’s new trading settlement on Penang. Once arrived on the island, Jim—as Light’s assistant—hopes that chronicling his employer’s achievements will propel them both to enduring fame. But the naïve young man soon discovers that years of deception and double-dealing have strained relations between Light and Penang’s legal owner, Sultan Abdullah of Queda, almost to the point of war. Tensions mount: Pirate activity escalates, traders complain about Light’s monopolies, and inhabitants threaten to flee, fearing a battle the fledgling settlement cannot hope to win against the Malays. Jim realises that a shared obsession with renown has brought him and Light perilously close to infamy: a fate the younger man, at least, fears more than death. Yet Jim will not leave Penang because of his dedication to Light’s young son, William, and his perplexing attraction to a mercurial Dutchman. He must stay and confront his own misguided ambitions as well as help save the legacy of a man he has come to despise.

Inspired by true events, Lies That Blind is a story featuring historical character Francis Light (1740-1794) who, in an effort to defy his mortality, was seemingly willing to put the lives and livelihoods of a thousand souls on Penang at risk.


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E.S. (Liz) Alexander

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

I was born in St. Andrews, Scotland, home of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, reputed to be one of the oldest in the world (established 1754). However, the only time I ever picked up a golf club and tried my hand at the game, I had to agree with the popular saying that golf ruins a good walk.

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I was born by Caesarean section and my mother had to be rushed to a large hospital, which happened to be in the nearby town of St. Andrews. We moved from Scotland when I was two years old. Ironically, it wasn’t until 2018 – at the age of 64 – that I visited the place of my birth for the first time since that maternity ward experience.

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I’m an inveterate ex-pat, having lived for varying periods of time in Paris, France (six months); California and Texas in the United States (eighteen years); and have been residing on the island of Penang in Malaysia for the past four years.

Balcony View

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The idea for writing my first non-fiction book (I’ve written or co-authored over twenty since 1988), How You Can Win Competitions, sprang from a hobby I’d picked up, at which I found I was rather successful: ‘comping’. At a time when Apple’s neXT Cube home computer had just been launched, costing the equivalent of almost $14,000 today, I pecked out the manuscript on my electric typewriter, sent in the whole thing to Javelin Books in London (an imprint of Cassell). Within a few weeks, I’d received a contract and a nice little advance. Almost a quarter of a century later, as my debut novel, Lies That Blind, is published, I’ll admit I miss those days when publishing houses were easier to reach, they responded promptly, and having a social media presence wasn’t a consideration.

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Early in my broadcasting career, I was an occasional contributor to the BBC’s TV show, Good Morning…with Anne and Nick. The first time on set, I was on the couch seated next to the actress, Joan Collins. Before the cameras rolled, she pulled out a compact from her purse to check her make-up. Extremely nervous, I asked if I might borrow it for a moment. She gave me a look that was pure Alexis Colby/Carrington (Dynasty – remember that?) – as if I had the nerve to even speak to someone as famous as she! 


E.S. Alexander

E.S. Alexander was born in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1954, although her family moved to England a few years later. Her earliest memories include producing a newspaper with the John Bull printing set she was given one Christmas. She wrote and directed her first play, Osiris, at age 16, performed to an audience of parents, teachers, and pupils by the Lower Fifth Drama Society at her school in Bolton, Lancashire. Early on in her writing career, Liz wrote several short stories featuring ‘The Dover Street Sleuth’, Dixon Hawke for a D.C. Thomson newspaper in Scotland. Several of her (undoubtedly cringe-worthy) teenage poems were published in An Anthology of Verse.

Liz combined several decades as a freelance journalist writing for UK magazines and newspapers ranging from British Airway’s Business Life and the Daily Mail, to Marie Claire and Supply Chain Management magazine, with a brief stint as a presenter/reporter for various radio stations and television channels, including the BBC. In 2001 she moved to the United States where she earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in educational psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.

She has written and co-authored seventeen internationally published, award-winning non-fiction books that have been translated into more than twenty languages.

In 2017, Liz relocated to Malaysia. She lives in Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang where she was inspired to embark on one of the few forms of writing left for her to tackle: the novel.

 Social Media Links:

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Spotlight on Susan Higginbotham, author of John Brown's Women


As the United States wrestles with its besetting sin—slavery—abolitionist John Brown is growing tired of talk. He takes actions that will propel the nation toward civil war and thrust three courageous women into history.

Wealthy Brown, married to John Brown's oldest son, eagerly falls in with her husband's plan to settle in Kansas. Amid clashes between pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers, Wealthy's adventure turns into madness, mayhem, and murder.

Fifteen-year-old Annie Brown is thrilled when her father summons her to the farm he has rented in preparation for his raid. There, she guards her father's secrets while risking her heart.

Mary Brown never expected to be the wife of John Brown, much less the wife of a martyr. When her husband's daring plan fails, Mary must travel into hostile territory, where she finds the eyes of the nation riveted upon John—and upon her.

Spanning three decades, John Brown's Women is a tale of love and sacrifice, and of the ongoing struggle for America to achieve its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Trigger Warnings:

Deaths of young children through illness or accidents (not graphically described); implied heavy petting involving a willing minor.


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 Susan Higginbotham

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

I never tried pizza until I was fifteen. Now I eat it three times a week.

I love mass transit, particularly subways, and make a point of trying out the system each time I visit a new place. Speaking of which, I once accidentally shut down a New York City bus by putting a dollar bill in the farebox instead of coins (apparently the box couldn't handle paper money).


I hate to cook. I have, however, cooked a Thanksgiving turkey with no casualties or fire damage whatsoever, although I neglected to fish out the giblet bag until midway through the process.

I own two letters written by one of my characters, John Brown, Jr.


I am an avid collector of old photographs, mostly from the nineteenth century. I also collect Barbie dolls.

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Susan Higginbotham

Susan Higginbotham is the author of a number of historical novels set in medieval and Tudor England and, more recently, nineteenth-century America, including The Traitor's Wife, The Stolen Crown, Hanging Mary, and The First Lady and the Rebel. She and her family, human and four-footed, live in Maryland, just a short drive from where John Brown made his last stand. When not writing or procrastinating, Susan enjoys traveling and collecting old photographs.

 Social Media Links

 Website   Twitter   Facebook Profile  Facebook Page   Instagram   Amazon Author Page   Goodreads

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