Saturday, May 28, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Forgiving Nero by Mary Ann Bernal


Forbidden Love. Colliding Worlds. Shattered Beliefs.

Rome. The jewel of the civilized world is no longer what it was. Strength has failed the Senate. Her legions are in disarray, and the Empire has fallen into Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus Nero’s hands. His reign begins under a cloud of scrutiny, for he is the depraved Emperor Caligula’s nephew. Nero is determined to overcome that stigma and carve a name of his own. One worthy of Rome’s illustrious history.

Politics and treachery threaten to end Nero’s reign before it begins, forcing him to turn to unexpected sources for friendship and help. Many of the Praetorian Guard have watched over Nero since he was a small child, and it is in Traian that the young Emperor places his trust, despite the inherent threat of reducing his mother’s influence. Traian is the father he never had and the one man who does not judge him.

When Traian secretly marries the hostage Vena, it sets in motion a collision of values as Traian comes to odds with his former charge. The whirlwind that follows will shake the very foundations of the greatest Empire the world has ever known, and survival is far from guaranteed.

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The rhythmic noise of the turning wheels had Nero closing his eyes momentarily. His thoughts wandered, pleasant at the onset, recalling time spent with Acte at Misenum. He loved her with childish innocence, developing a friendship based on trust. 

Lucius reflected on that precious time, pushing aside Nero’s persona. He envisioned the balmy days when they walked along the coastline, exploring sea caves, climbing the rock-strewn hills, and running through green meadows filled with wildflowers being blown by the wind. 

As if in a trance, Lucius held out his hand, his fingers closing over hers. He felt her presence, breathing in her scent, her hair brushing against his face. Lucius heard her silent words, delighting in his poetry, verses written primarily for her and none other, pledging to take her for his wife. 

A solitary tear escaped, staining the side of his face, as he wiped the liquid away with his cloak.

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This story demanded all of my attention from beginning to end. The narrative was utterly enthralling, and Bernal told Nero’s story with a keen understanding of what makes history worth reading. Bernal has brought Nero back to life, and she has explored that life with a profound sweep and brilliance.

Bernal writes with such elegance and authority, not to mention with a keen attention to the historical detail, that a reader can comfortably immerse themselves in this story. Forgiving Nero by Mary Ann Bernal is a must-read for anyone who enjoys quality Historical Fiction.

Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club
2021 Gold Medal Winner
Historical Fiction Ancient World

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.

Chelsy Scherba
Reader Views
Reviewers Choice Awards
2021-2022 Silver Medal Winner

2022 - B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree
Historical Fiction Books

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Before Beltane (Celtic Fervour Series) by Nancy Jardine

Two lives. Two stories. One future.

 AD 71 Northern Britannia

At the Islet of the Priestesses, acolyte Nara greets each new day eager to heal the people at Tarras Hillfort. Weapon training is a guilty pleasure, but she is devastated when she is unexpectedly denied the final rites of an initiated priestess. A shocking new future beckons for Princess Nara of the Selgovae…

In the aftermath of civil war across Brigantia, Lorcan of Garrigills promotion of King Venutius is fraught with danger. Potential invasion by Roman legions from the south makes an unstable situation even worse. When Lorcan meets the Druid Maran, the future foretold for him is as enthralling as it is horrifying…

Meet Nara and Lorcan before their tumultuous meeting of each other in The Beltane Choice, Book 1 of the acclaimed Celtic Fervour Series.

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AD 71 Brigante and Carvetii Territorial Border

Lorcan of Garrigill mulled over the events of the previous evening as his horse plodded on towards the river-crossing. The path they travelled was frost-laden. It was brittle and sparkling in places where puddles in the dips had iced over, though a nippy spell around the time of the Festival of Imbolc was fairly predictable.

The visit he had just made to Chief Creik had not been as successful as he had hoped for. The chief had been reasonably hospitable and open-minded, but some of the village tribesmen had shown continued resistance to the latest circumstances that people, the length and breadth of Brigantia, had found themselves in.

“Lorcan of Garrigill! Is this not the finest of mornings?”

Startled by the call, Lorcan whipped up his chin and looked around him, acknowledging that his surveying of the area had been dire. The hailing had come from the line of alders and gnarled willows that lay ahead, close to the ford. Deep suspicion knotted in his gut when he recognised the speaker who stepped free of the trunk and other winter-spindly growth that had conveniently concealed him.

It was one of the more outspoken men around chief Creik’s hearth.

The warrior pointed his spear aloft and shouted again.

“Look above! Ambisagrus smiles upon us. Our weather god is in a playful mood this morning. May the deities grant you a favourable visit at the next roundhouse you journey to.”

In contrast to the scowls and barbs of the night before, the man’s greeting seemed affable, the wide smile appreciative of the pleasant scene around them. Perhaps the tribesman had wakened thinking differently?

Giving the warrior the benefit of the doubt, Lorcan likewise addressed him.

“Aye, indeed, I am looking forward to that.” He indicated the empty sack strapped around the man’s back. “The day is good and clear for spying your prey.”

When Lorcan’s horse drew closer, the warrior’s initial toothy-smile faded and was replaced by a single raised brow.

“You mean that my quarry will be easily seen?” The warrior’s jaw tightened. Pure malice flashed, and the next words spat free of clenched teeth. “You are right about that!”

Lorcan only just glimpsed the man’s handgrip flipping, before the spear hurtled towards him, like a thunderbolt from the god Taranis.

Pure instinct made him force his upper body sidewards, his arm flying up to protect his face. Almost sliding off the horse, it was impossible to avoid the spear completely. The sharpened point sliced along the edge of his palm before the spear careened on to thump the ground behind him. Urging Dubh Srànnal to leap ahead using knee pressure alone, Lorcan grabbed the mane and righted himself.

His attacker had turned tail and was sprinting away. Lorcan yanked his sword free of the metal scabbard that hung from his belt, but in a blink tossed the weapon across to his left hand, the sheer agony of his wound belatedly making its presence felt. His palm felt as slick as a tallow torch brand, blood now flowing freely from it.

In a few horse-strides, he was upon the fleeing figure and with one wide sweep of his blade, he whacked the warrior to the ground. Though not intended to behead, the slice at the shoulder was forceful enough to make the man’s flesh ooze free, and a deep-red stain spread onto the ground.

Leaping off Dubh Srànnal, Lorcan used the flat of his foot to roll his assailant over.

The warrior’s furious glare berated him.

“My spear should have sung more sweetly than that, Lorcan of Garrigill.” Huge gasps came Lorcan’s way as the downed man persisted, attempting to scuttle himself backwards and out of reach using his heels. “The gods must favour you…because my aim is usually known to be infallible.”

The warrior tried to raise himself on his uninjured side, his rant not nearly over. Lorcan kicked hard at the thighs below him, to keep his assailant prone.

More agonised grunts spat Lorcan’s way.

“All supporters of that useless supplanter – Venutius – must be wiped from Brigantia,” the warrior gasped. “Queen Cartimandua is still our ruler.”

“Venutius is useless? You still think this even after all of the explanations that you heard last night about Cartimandua’s duplicity with the usurping Roman Empire?” Lorcan willed his temper to recede. The man below would not have the pleasure of riling him.

The warrior used his elbow to gain height, though managed to lift his body only a tiny bit before an eruption of frustration forced another collapse. The breath almost knocked out of the warrior, Lorcan was surprised when the man’s harangue continued, the facial expressions still venomous under the agony. “Your…persuasive visits to the hamlets around here… must be stopped!”

Thumping his left foot onto the man’s stomach completely stifled a renewed attempt to rise. The resulting noises and pathetic squirms beneath pleased Lorcan greatly, though the continuing conflict of opinions over who now ruled Brigantia created a deep disappointment in him, too.

The flash of the warrior’s small knife, fumbled free from its belt sheath and thrust upwards, was a last frantic attempt from the downed man.

The spear attack was bad enough, but for the warrior to attempt a second wounding? That was beyond reason for Lorcan. The raising of his sword hilt-high above the man’s neck was deliberate, and his words were equally unhurried.

“My death will surely come, warrior of Creik. Nonetheless, it will not be by your hand,” he declared. “Of that, you can be certain.”

Nancy Jardine


Nancy Jardine lives in the spectacular Castle Countryof Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Her main writing focus has, to date, been historical and time travel fiction set in Roman Britain, though shes also published contemporary mystery novels with genealogy plots. If not writing, researching (an unending obsession), reading or gardening, her young grandchildren will probably be entertaining her, or shell be binge-watching historical films and series made for TV.

She loves signing/ selling her novels at local events and gives author presentations locally across Aberdeenshire. These are generally about her novels or with a focus on Ancient Roman Scotland, presented to groups large and small. Zoom sessions have been an entertaining alternative to presenting face-to-face events during, and since, the Covid 19 pandemic restrictions.

Current memberships are with the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland, Romantic Novelists Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors. Shes self-published with the author co-operative Ocelot Press.

 Social Media Links:

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 Amazon Author Page   Goodreads


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Spotlight on A. M. Linden, author of The Oath (The Druid Chronicles, Book One)


When the last of members of a secretive Druid cult are forced to abandon their hidden sanctuary, they send the youngest of their remaining priests in search of Annwr, their chief priestess’s sister, who was abducted by a Saxon war band fifteen years ago. With only a rudimentary grasp of English and the ambiguous guidance of an oracle’s prophecy, Caelym manages to find Annwr living in a hut on the grounds of a Christian convent.

Annwr has spent her years of captivity caring for the timid Aleswina, an orphaned Saxon princess who was consigned to the cloistered convent by her cousin, King Gilberth, after he assumed her father’s throne. Just as Caelym and Annwr are about leave together, Aleswina learns that Gilberth, a tyrant known for his cruelty and vicious temper, means to take her out of the convent and marry her. Terrified, she flees with the two Druids—beginning a heart-pounding adventure that unfolds in ways none of them could have anticipated.


“Linden's well-researched tale eloquently brings to life a lesser-known period of transition in Britain. . . . The author has created a strong foundation for her series with well-developed characters whom readers can embrace. . . . [a] layered, gripping historical fiction.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“The story rolls along at a lively pace, rich with details of the times and a wide cast of characters. [The] plotting, shifting points of view of the three engaging protagonists, and evocative writing style make The Oath a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.”

—Historical Novel Review

“Linden uses a fairy tale-like style almost as though this story has been passed down orally over the centuries.”

—Booklist Review

Trigger Warnings:

Sexual assault, child abuse


 Buy Links:

  Amazon UK   Amazon US   Amazon CA    Amazon AU   Barnes and Noble   Waterstones

Kobo   Apple Books

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 A. M. Linden

Fun Facts

When I was in my early twenties, I briefly went through a period of writing satirical poetry, including a vaguely haiku-ish verse inspired by a hike I did in the Denali (then Mount McKinley) National Park in Alaska. I’d read a number of conflicting articles about what to do if I encountered a bear, and wrote in my journal:

 What would I do if I met a bear

between here and there?

If it came up behind me with a snap,

I think Id take a crap.

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Although my professional work has included a considerable amount of writing, the only time I have previously been paid specifically for putting words down on paper was as an undergraduate when I had a student job summarizing research articles about nutritional studies conducted on lab rats.

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During my early research for this series, I came across a reference to the Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA) which included a note that it was founded at Carlton College, a liberal arts college in Minnesota. Since my husband is a Carlton alumnus, I went to him and got the scoop that RNDA was started by students protesting the then compulsory attendance at religious services, and, after that requirement was ended, its founders had expected it to disband. By then, however, the RNDA had acquired aficionados, and RNDA “groves” have persisted in one form or another throughout the United States.

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I own a t-shirt with the slogan “Be careful or you will end up in my novel.”

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 While I stick to the disclaimer, “. . . .Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead (in this work), is entirely coincidental,” all of the series’ characters are built from bits and pieces of people I’ve encountered with the exception of Caelym who just popped up—full of himself, albeit mostly well-meaning—and I don’t have a clue where he came from.

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About the Author

Ann Margaret Linden was born in Seattle, Washington, but grew up on the east coast of the United States before returning to the Pacific Northwest as a young adult. She has undergraduate degrees in anthropology and in nursing and a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner. After working in a variety of acute care and community health settings, she took a position in a program for children with special health care needs where her responsibilities included writing clinical reports, parent educational materials, provider newsletters, grant submissions, and other program-related materials. The Druid Chronicles began as a somewhat whimsical decision to write something for fun and ended up becoming a lengthy journey that involved Linden taking adult education creative writing courses, researching early British history, and traveling to England, Scotland, and Wales. Retired from nursing, she lives with her husband and their cat and dog in the northwest corner of Washington State.

 Social Media Links:

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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Spotlight on Brodie Curtis, author of Angels and Bandits


The Battle of Britain rages and two young RAF pilots from very different stations in life must somehow find common ground—and stay alive.

On the eve of World War II, working-class Eddy Beane is a flight instructor in London. He successfully completes dangerous espionage missions for Air Commodore Keith Park and takes on society-girl June Stephenson as a student. Her ex-fiancé, Dudley Thane, is also a flyer, but upper-class and Cambridge-educated. When the German Luftwaffe attacks England in 1940, Eddy and Dudley end up serving in the same Spitfire squadron. Aerial combat is intense, and both men show their skills and courage, but can they set aside jealousy and class differences to become fighting brothers for the defence of Britain?

 Buy Links:

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Brodie Curtis


 I love to road cycle. Wife Sue and I graduated from high school in West-Central Illinois and spend a lot of time there with family and friends. We take summer bike rides on country roads through fields of seven-foot hearty green stalks of seed corn, soybean fields, and repurposed strip mines. One route takes us through the truly Americana town of Victoria, Illinois (population 296) which has the smallest American Legion post I’ve ever seen. Outside it, there’s a WW2-era army tank. It’s missing more than a few parts from the day, but it might have been a Stuart class light tank used in North Africa in 1942 and later in the Pacific theater. I couldn’t resist a close look.


Our sons play two sports that seem on the opposite end of the spectrum: fencing and ice hockey. The oldest’ s game, fencing, is an individual sport where strategy and finesse seem to control the action. The younger one is a defenseman in what seems like the ultimate fast, tough and intense team game. Sue and I knew pretty much nothing about these sports until our sons got involved. But we’ve come to love the swash-buckling and cold steel on ice!


I’ve made quite a few journeys with my bro-in-laws to Northern Ontario, well past ‘the end of the road’ in search of the mighty Northern Pike. Our float plane lands on the surface of a lake with the nearest town dozens of miles away, so other than satellite phones, we’re essentially out of communication with the rest of the world for most of a week. We are totally self-reliant, and sometimes the weather socks us in or can even bring an element of danger to the boating, but there is nothing like the song of the loon, spotting caribou or moose grazing on the bank, or a shore lunch of freshly caught walleye over an open fire. I’m not much for smallmouth fishing when my bros fire up their Bass Trackers here in the states, but it’s a thrill to fish for these monsters with “heavy metal” spoon lures!


Most memorable book I’ve read in a while? I’m going with “Say Nothing,” in which Patrick Radden Keefe sheds light on The Troubles in Northern Ireland while unfolding the stories of IRA front-liners Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, and politico Gerry Adams, around the 1972 disappearance of 38-year-old mother of ten Jean McConville. I posted my short take on Say Nothing on my website: Non-Fiction Book Review: SAY NOTHING by Patrick Radden Keefe - Brodie Curtis Author  

 Now and then I’ll pick up a drink coaster at the end of my visit to a bar or a restaurant. Sometimes the establishment will gladly give you a few of them. I put them in my bar at home and set out drinks on them when guests come over. It’s fun to reminisce about all the terrific places I’ve stopped into!


¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´

Brodie Curtis


Raised in the Midwest, Brodie Curtis was educated as a lawyer and left the corporate world to embrace life in Colorado with his wife and two sons.

Curtis is the author of THE FOUR BELLS, a novel of The Great War, which is the product of extensive historical research, including long walks through the fields of Flanders, where much of the book's action is set. His second novel, ANGELS AND BANDITS, takes his protagonists into The Battle of Britain. Curtis is currently working on a novel set on a Mississippi Riverboat prior to the Civil War.

 A lover of history, particularly American history and the World Wars, Curtis reviews historical fiction for the Historical Novels Review, and more than 100 of his published reviews and short takes on historical novels can be found on his website.

Social Media Links:

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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Book spotlight and excerpt: The Colour of Rubies by Toni Mount



Murder lurks at the heart of the royal court in the rabbit warren of the Palace of Westminster. The year is 1480. Treason is afoot amongst the squalid grandeur and opulent filth of this medieval world of contrasts. Even the Office of the King’s Secretary hides a dangerous secret.

Meeting with lords and lackeys, clerks, courtiers and the mighty King Edward himself, can Seb Foxley decipher the encoded messages and name the spy?

Will Seb be able to prevent the murder of the most important heir in England?

All will be revealed as we join Seb Foxley and his abrasive brother Jude in the latest intriguing adventure amid the sordid shadows of fifteenth-century London.

Visit Toni Mount's website and bookshelf HERE

Praise for Toni Mount's The Colour of Rubies

Tony Riches, author of The Tudor Trilogy “An evocative masterclass in storytelling.” 
Carol McGrath, author of the She-wolves trilogy “I was utterly transported - It’s superb”. “What a plot. What characters. Perfect pitch”.

“I loved the relationship between Seb and Jude”.

“The Colour of Rubies is a totally immersive experience as richly stitched as one of King Edward IV’s gorgeous tapestries. This cleverly plotted novel with its twists and turns will keep a reader page turning late into the night until the book’s final scenes. Sebastian and Jude are wonderfully realised personalities with similar emotions, concerns, fears and hopes we have have today. Their medieval London felt real and intriguing to me with unexpected dangers lurking in alleyways. I felt as if I was walking in Sebastian’s footsteps. With this thrilling novel Toni Mount has shown herself a master of medieval suspense. More please”.

 Praise for Toni Mount's Sebastian Foxley Medieval Murder Series

Tracy Borman, historian and broadcaster “An atmospheric and compelling thriller that takes the reader to the dark heart of medieval London.”

Matthew Lewis author of Richard III Loyalty Binds Me “Toni Mount continues to delight with the superbly crafted Seb Foxley mysteries. Impeccable research and sculpted characters combine with an engaging narrative to create another irresistible story. This series goes from strength to strength, and I’m already looking forward to the next instalment”

J.P. Reedman, author of the I, RICHARD PLANTAGENET series: “Sebastian Foxley is the Cadfael of the 15th century”.

“The Sebastian Foxley Medieval Mystery Series by Toni Mount is not only filled by dastardly murders and gripping intrigue but contains many well-researched historical facts from the Wars of the Roses era”

Samantha Willcoxson, author & historianToni Mount is simply brilliant”.

“If you love CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake (and I do) you will love Toni’s Sebastian Foxley”.

“From learning how a 15th century scrivener created illuminated manuscripts to venturing within the dank tunnels beneath the Tower of London, Toni is an artist who completely immerses the reader in another time and place and always leaves one eager for the next book.”

Stephanie Churchill, author of historical fiction and epic fantasyLeave it to Seb to unravel another international spiderweb of intrigue, betrayal, murder, and deceit. Our flawed, loveable hero has done it again. And at the end of it all, his future is looking brighter than ever. I cannot wait to find out what happens to him next!”

Sharon Bennet Connoly, author and medieval historian “A beautifully crafted mystery that brings the dark, dangerous streets of medieval London to life. Toni Mount is a magician with words, weaving a captivating story in wonderful prose. The Colour of Evil is, to put it simply, a pleasure to read.”

Rosalie Gilbert, medieval historian and author The author's knowledge of medieval history shines through the narrative in the small details which enhance the story woven into it. The details about the inside workings of medieval trade practices lent themselves perfectly for a background to murder and deceit”.

“Recommended for lovers of historic fiction.”

Joanne R Larner author of Richard Liveth Yet trilogy: “I always look forward to a new 'Colour of...' book. I can't wait to see what escapades Seb Foxley and his brother, Jude, get up to next. They, and all the characters, are endearing and colourful. The books are always well written, conjuring 15th century London into the reader's mind and the plots are excellent!'

Mel Starr bestselling author of the Hugh de Singleton chronicles: “If I believed in reincarnation I would be willing to think that Toni Mount lived a previous life in 15th century London.  The scents, the sights, the tastes of the late Middle Ages are superbly rendered.”

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The Palace of Westminster

The Great Gate was impressive, its ancient stone ivy-clad, its turrets snow-capped and the Royal Standard flapping above in the fitful flurries of icy flakes. The guards in their bright liveries stamped their boots and blew on their hands, puffing out white clouds with every breath. Keeping watch in January was a duty none enjoyed. They recognised Jude and waved him through, ignoring Seb as a person of little consequence, unlikely to endanger King Edward in any way.

The Inner Gate into Green Yard was far less imposing but the solitary guard there demanded to know their business. Mayhap, he was in need of some activity or company to pass the time.

'Who goes there?' he demanded, barring the way with his halberd.

'Walter, you bloody nincompoop, it's me,' Jude said. 'You know me better than your own father – if you ever knew him at all.'

'Bloody Foxley,' the guard growled. 'What brings you back on a Saturday afternoon?

And who's this?' He nodded at Seb.

'My brother. He's a scribe like me and we've got work to do for Secretary Oliver – not that it's any business of yours.'

'Mind your mouth, Foxley. I can throw you in the lock-up anytime I like and you'll freeze to death in there afore you can say your Paternoster. And why's your brother here? He ain't a King's Clerk and if he's half the bloody trouble you are, he's not welcome.'

'He has permission; a written warrant.' Jude took a paper from his purse and offered it to the guard, fully aware that Walter was illiterate as a blind sheep. 'You want to read it?'

The guard shook his head.

'Just keep out of my sight, the pair of you. Any trouble and you'll have my halberd shoved up your arse with a ribbon on it.'

Jude was sniggering as he led Seb to a side door.

'You upset him. Why did you taunt him so, not to mention the lies you told?' Seb asked, knocking a dark mess of slush and ashes off his boots against the stone step.

​Jude didn't bother, treading mucky footsteps along the passage within.

'Forwhy Walter's an ignorant pig. He knows I have the measure of him, the damned jackanapes, and lying is just the Westminster way – nobody tells the truth here. Besides, this clerkship job would be unutterably tedious if I didn't have folk like him and Piers Creed to make mock of. Did I tell you about Creed the Farter?'

'Aye, you did, more than once.'

'This here is Secretary Oliver's joyous house of entertainment,' Jude announced, stopping at a closed door. 'Scene of my life-wasting scribbling and associated tortures.

Coldest place on earth, if I know anything, where we sit and feel our bollocks shrivel and fall off, if we're not careful. You want to see inside, if it's not locked? Creed is probably still working like an idiot.'

Jude tried the door, lifted the latch. It squealed open and, sure enough, there was Piers Creed, as Jude had half expected, bent over his desk, pen in hand. Despite the noise, the clerk didn't look up.

'Jesu's sake, Piers, you farting, foolish fucker, can't you think of anything better to do on our free afternoon? Go play bloody snowballs or something. Hey! Don't ignore me. How can you sleep in here? It's too damned cold.'

Jude kicked the clerk's stool to rouse him from his nap. But Piers did not waken. He slid across his desk and toppled off the stool, the pen yet held fast in his fingers.

'Wake up, you idiot.'

Jude grabbed his fellow before he should fall to the floor and hurt himself. He shook him but it did no good.

Seb lowered himself to the flagstones with care. He removed his gloves and touched the clerk's cheek.

'His skin be icy.'

'So would any man's be in this place. See? The brazier isn't alight. Come on, Piers, rouse yourself, you idle...'

'Shouting at him will have no effect, I fear.' Seb put his fingers to the pulse point under the angle of the jaw. ''Tis a sorrowful thing, Jude, but your friend be dead. We must fetch a priest to him, straightway.'


Toni Mount 

Toni Mount is the author of several successful non-fiction books including How to Survive in Medieval England and the number one best-seller, Everyday Life in Medieval England. Her specialty is the lives of ordinary people in the Middle Ages and her enthusiastic understanding of the period allows her to create accurate, atmospheric settings and realistic characters for her medieval mysteries. Her main character, Sebastian Foxley is a humble but talented medieval artist and was created as a project as part of her university diploma in creative writing. Toni earned her history BA from The Open University and her Master’s Degree from the University of Kent by completing original research into a unique 15th-century medical manuscript.

Toni writes regularly for both The Richard III Society and The Tudor Society and is a major contributor to  As well as writing, Toni teaches history to adults and is a popular speaker to groups and societies.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Spotlight on N.L. Holmes, author of Bird in a Snare (The Lord Hani Mysteries, Book 1)


When Hani, an Egyptian diplomat under Akhenaten, is sent to investigate the murder of a useful bandit leader in Syria, he encounters corruption, tangled relationships, and yet more murder. His investigation is complicated by the new kings religious reforms, which have struck Hanis own family to the core. Hanis mission is to amass enough evidence for his superiors to prosecute the wrongdoers despite the kings protection—but not just every superior can be trusted. And maybe not even the king! Winner of the 2020 Geoffrey Chaucer Award for historical fiction before 1750.

Trigger Warnings:

Sexual abuse of children

 Buy Links:

 Amazon UK   Amazon US   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   Barnes and Noble   Kobo   iBooks  

Narrated by Thomas J. Fria

Universal Links for series:

 Bird in a Snare (Book 1):

The Crocodile Makes No Sound (Book 2):

Scepter of Flint (Book 3):

The North Wind Descends (Book 4):

Lake of Flowers (Book 5):

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  N.L. Holmes

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

My aunt was book editor of the local paper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) when I was little, so she got review copies of all the latest books and handed them out to anyone in the family who was interested. It was heaven!

I was a cloistered nun for nearly twenty years among the Discalced Carmelites. Maybe that’s why I’m more interested in psychological dramas and relationships than in external adventure.

I love horses. When I was a kid, I rode and was happy when my son started riding as a teenager. When he stopped, I took jog cart driving so I could still be around the noble beasts. It was actually part of my research for a novel where the protagonist was a Hittite charioteer. But what I really love is donkeys...

I live on a farm in the French countryside with chickens and cats and soon, I hope, bees. I have to restrain myself or there would be all sorts of four-legged critters! My poor husband!

In my career as an archaeologist, I have excavated in Crete and Israel, worked on material from a site in Lebanon, and participated in a study project in France. It was a great experience living for a prolonged period in another country at a different level than just being a tourist. 

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N.L. Holmes

N.L. Holmes is the pen name of a professional archaeologist who received her doctorate from Bryn Mawr College. She has excavated in Greece and in Israel and taught ancient history and humanities at the university level for many years. She has always had a passion for books, and in childhood, she and her cousin (also a writer today) used to write stories for fun.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Book Spotlight: The Mesilla (The Two Valleys Saga, Book 1) by Mary Armstrong


At 14 years old, Jesus ChuyPerez Contreras Verazzi Messi is too small and frail to work the land on the family farm near the Rio Bravo in Mexico. The local padres tutoring reveals Jesuss unending curiosity and fertile mind. Noted Las Cruces, New Mexico attorney, and politician Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain, agrees to take his nephew under his wing. Jesus reads lawwith his uncle and shares adventures and adversity with the Fountain family and other historic Mesilla and Tularosa Valley citizens. His coming-of-age story will take you into the wild southwest, a brewing range war, a territory struggling toward statehood, courtroom dramas, and the adventures and adversities of a boys quest for manhood.

*A fictional memoir by Jesus about the ten years leading to the notorious and unsolved Fountain murders.


 Buy Links:

 Universal Links for the series:

When the Doves Coo (A Prequel to The Two Valleys Saga):

The Mesilla (The Two Valleys Saga, Book 1):

The San Augustin (The Two Valleys Saga, Book 2):

  The Mesilla Buy Links:

 Amazon UK   Amazon US   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   Barnes and Noble   COAS Books


Mary Armstrong

Mary lives in the heart of one of the Two Valleysin Las Cruces, New Mexico, with her husband Norman SkipBailey, Jr. and their Cavachon child-dog, Java. In 2017 she wrote the one-act play, It is Blood,which was selected for a performance by the Las Cruces Community Theatre. Whereas the Two Valleys series is a prequel to the notorious and unsolved murders of Albert J. Fountain and his eight-year-old son, It is Bloodis a sequel to those events.

After winning an award for her debut historical fiction novel The Mesilla,Mary has decided to focus on that genre — at least for the foreseeable future. Her writing is fast-moving, thought-provoking, and with just enough wordsmithing to satisfy your artistic hankerings. While her writing has literary merit, she strives to capture the moment — the time and the place — and help you live in that moment.

Before releasing her debut novel, Mary dabbled in creative writing, including a weekly column in the Las Cruces Sun News. Since retiring from a diverse career in various planning and design fields, she has devoted herself more fully to her writing, being a good spouse, serving her dog Java, and slipping away to the golf course when left unchained to the desk.

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