Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Island of Dreams by Harry Duffin


In May 1939, when Professor Carl Mueller, his wife, Esther, and their three children flee Nazi Germany, and find refuge on the paradise island of Cuba, they are all full of hopes and dreams for a safe and happy future. 

But those dreams are shattered when Carl and Esther are confronted by a ghost from their past, and old betrayals return to haunt them.

The turbulent years of political corruption leading to Batista’s dictatorship forces the older children to take very different paths to pursue their own dangerous dreams.

And - among the chaos and the conflict that finally leads to Castro’s revolution and victory in 1959, an unlikely love begins to grow - a love that threatens the whole family.

Having escaped a war-torn Europe, their Island of Dreams is to tear them apart forever.

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The harbour side was alive with humanity, loitering in the late afternoon sun. Young, skimpily dressed whores posed provocatively by the harbour wall, or in dark, open doorways invitingly. Swarthy, sharp-suited pimps watched idly from their shiny cars, or sat at bar tables doing deals with sailors, or with furtive male passengers from the cruise ships that lay anchored in the harbour. By a hydrant on the corner a black man was tempting a group of balding, paunchy American men with obscene postcards, while another exchanged a small packet of white powder with a young, racy couple. Among the adults, small barefoot children ran, pestering the prurient tourists for nickels, dimes and gum.        

The taxi driver looked back at Carl and muttered something unintelligible in Spanish.

‘Que?...Qui passa?’ said Carl haltingly.

The man rattled off something that Carl couldn’t catch. He looked at Carl’s uncomprehending expression and gestured out of his window.

‘Senor Freddie. His house.’

Carl looked to where the man’s finger was pointing. Above a seedy café, flanked by a small bar and what was clearly a brothel, two stories of shabby windows looked blindly out across the harbour.

‘There?’ he said disbelieving. ‘Senor Freddie lives there?’

‘Si. His house. There.’

It was a moment before Carl could collect his thoughts. The heat, the noise and the movement disorientated him. Seedy, lascivious humanity swarmed at either side. And Freddie lived here?

‘Two dollar fifty,’ said the driver.

Carl paid the man and struggled to get the semi-conscious Freddie from the cab. For a moment no one came forward to help, then two lean black men, casually but neatly dressed, eased alongside and, taking an arm each, hoisted Freddie to his feet.

‘Take it easy, man.’

As the men half-carried, half-dragged Freddie to the open door beside the café, Carl found himself following as in a trance. He had to see. He followed them up the dark narrow stairs past a closed first floor door, to another flight of stairs leading to a single door at the top. Its brown varnish had long lost its lustre, the brass handle was tarnished green from neglect. One of the men opened the door. They carried Freddie over to the iron double bed and flopped him onto the thin flock mattress. With a grin and a shrug to Carl, the two men left. They had clearly done this before.

Carl stood taking in the room. It was larger than it looked from the outside. Room enough for the bed, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers with a basin and jug on top, a small bookcase containing dusty volumes piled haphazardly on the shelves and a tiny wooden table with two cane chairs. A faded, worn Persian carpet covered the boards between the door and the bed. Slatted blinds kept out the heat of the day and motes of dust floated and sparkled in the sunbeams that pierced the shadows. Beside the bed an empty bottle lay on its side.

‘Que passa?’

Carl turned at the woman’s sharp voice. She was in her early-twenties, dressed only in a white satin shift which delineated her brown, rounded body. She would have been pretty but for the hideous scar that ran the length of her face, bisecting her full mouth so that her top lip was left puckered to one side.

‘Pardon?’ he said. ‘Me habla no Espanol,’ Carl stumbled.   

‘What you do here?’ asked Conchita suspiciously.

‘I’m Professor Carl Mueller. I…er, know Senor Sanchez. I brought him home. He’s not well.’

Conchita crossed to Freddie, leaned over and smelt his breath.

‘He drink?’ she asked, eyes narrowed.

Carl nodded. ‘I’m afraid so, yes.’

Conchita crossed to the chest of drawers, snatched up the jug and flung its contents into Freddie’s face.

Freddie jerked and shuddered half-awake. He tried to focus, wiping the water from his eyes. When his vision cleared, he saw Carl.


Carl stood awkwardly in the middle of the room, lost for words. He looked about him. Anywhere than look at Freddie. What could he say to the man he had helped bring to this place? The brilliant young student whose career he had shattered and led him to this?

They all turned at a movement by the door. An old man, clothes hanging in rags around his thin bent body, was standing like a penitent before the altar.

‘Dr Freddie,’ he croaked, eyes wide with hope and tears.

Freddie propped himself up unsteadily on one arm, ‘Si, Manuel.’

The old man mumbled in Spanish and showed them his leg. On the skeletal shin an old wound had re-opened and was ulcerating.

‘Vamos! Manana!’ said Conchita, waving her arms as if shooing chickens from a farmyard.

‘No, Conchita,’ said Freddie. He motioned to the old man, who shambled to the bedside like a whipped dog. Freddie tried to sit up higher, but sank back on the pillow and groaned, battling nausea.

‘Carl,’ he said, his forearm shielding his eyes. ‘I have iodine and bandage in my top drawer.’

Without a word Carl went to the chest of drawers and opened the top one. Inside were a variety of bottles and rolls of bandage. Selecting a dark brown bottle and a roll of bandage, Carl took them back to the bed. Freddie attempted to sit up.

‘Wait, Freddie,’ said Carl. ‘I can do it. You just lie down.’

Freddie looked at Carl. Their eyes met and, for a moment in the shabby gloom, there was a light of recognition, memories of things past, little triumphs shared, of mutual respect, bright hopes and lost dreams. Freddie smiled weakly and lay back.

‘Proceed, Professor Mueller,’ he said, and closed his eyes.

By the time Carl had finished treating the old beggar, Freddie was sound asleep, snoring loudly on his back. When Conchita had fetched Carl hot water to clean the wound, she told him she was Freddie’s woman. She would take care of Freddie now, she said, and Carl wasn’t going to argue with those fierce, dark eyes.

Carl took his time walking back to the hotel. By the time he reached its elaborate wrought-iron entrance he was resolved.

‘No, no, no!’ screamed Esther. ‘I forbid you to contact him again!’

She paced the carpet of their bedroom, her ivory-coloured peignoir flowing behind like waves of her anger. Usually, he just gave in before the onslaught, but for once Carl stood his ground.

‘You didn’t see, Esther. Where he lives! How he lives!’

‘I don’t care! I don’t care!’ she screeched.

This time his voice was louder than hers. ‘But I do!’ he roared.

There was silence. Esther stopped her pacing and looked at him in surprise. In all their  years her husband had never once raised his voice to her. He was standing in the middle of their bedroom, still wearing the formal suit he had worn to the garden party. Eyes alive with indignation, he looked taller than his six feet.

‘Do you think that Freddie Sanchez would be where he is now, in the gutter with pimps and whores and beggars, if I hadn’t acted as I did?’

‘You had to throw him out! You had to!’

‘But not as I did it. Not as he went. With my word blackening every step he took, my reputation closing every door in his face. I didn’t have to ruin his future, Esther! To destroy the career I knew he had set his heart on. That he would have been so splendid at..!’

He paused and then went on more calmly, but with fierce determination. ‘Esther, I am not asking you to play any part in this. Indeed, it would be abominable if I did. You need never ever see him again but, as God is my judge, I am going to try my utmost to help undo the damage I have done.’

Harry Duffin

Harry Duffin is an award-winning British screenwriter, who was on the first writing team of the BBC’s ‘Eastenders’ and won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best TV serial for ‘Coronation Street’.

He was Head of Development at Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment Group, producing seven major television series, including ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ starring Richard ‘John Boy’ Thomas, and ‘Twist in the Tale’, featuring William Shatner.

He was the co-creator of the UK Channel Five teen-cult drama series ‘The Tribe’, which ran for five series.

He has written three novels, Chicago May, Birth of the Mall Rats [an intro to the TV series ‘The Tribe’], and Island of Dreams, which will be published in December 2022.

Chicago May is the first book of a two-part series: www.chicagomay.com

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Spotlight on Elizabeth St.John, author of The Godmother’s Secret


What if you knew what happened to the Princes in the Tower. Would you tell? Or would you forever keep the secret?

November, 1470: Westminster Abbey. Lady Elysabeth Scrope faces a perilous royal duty when ordered into sanctuary with Elizabeth Woodvillewitness the birth of Edward IV’s Yorkist son. Margaret Beaufort, Elysabeth’s sister, is desperately seeking a pardon for her exiled son Henry Tudor. Strategically, she coerces Lancastrian Elysabeth to be appointed godmother to Prince Edward, embedding her in the heart of the Plantagenets and uniting them in a destiny of impossible choices and heartbreaking conflict.

Bound by blood and torn by honour, when the king dies and Elysabeth delivers her young godson into the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation, she is engulfed in political turmoil. Within months, the prince and his brother have disappeared, Richard III is declared king, and Margaret conspires with Henry Tudor to invade England and claim the throne. Desperate to protect her godson, Elysabeth battles the intrigue, betrayal and power of the last medieval court, defying her husband and her sister under her godmother’s sacred oath to keep Prince Edward safe.

Were the princes murdered by their uncle, Richard III? Was the rebel Duke of Buckingham to blame? Or did Margaret Beaufort mastermind their disappearance to usher in the Tudor dynasty? Of anyone at the royal court, Elysabeth has the most to lose–and the most to gain–by keeping secret the fate of the Princes in the Tower.    

Inspired by England’s most enduring historical mystery, Elizabeth St.John, best-selling author of The Lydiard Chronicles, blends her own family history with known facts and centuries of speculation to create an intriguing alternative story illuminating the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower.

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Elizabeth St.John

Fun Facts


I picked the main character of my new book, The Godmother’s Secret, by entering my own name into our family tree

When I was looking for inspiration for my new book, The Godmother’s Secret, I literally entered my own name into our digitised family tree to see who else was recorded in the archives. I was so excited to find Elysabeth St.John, who lived in the 15th century – and over the moon when I discovered she was the godmother to Edward V – the eldest brother of the missing Princes in the Tower. I had a new family story to investigate! And surely Elysabeth, above anyone else, would know what happened to those poor boys?

As a little background, my books are inspired by my own family stories that I have discovered through our ancestral records, diaries, letters, and the locations they lived in. I’m fortunate the St.John family was prominent in English history, and so we left quite a trail—which can be both good and bad! My previous novels, The Lydiard Chronicles, are based on the diaries and records of my 17th century family, and it has been a glorious research journey uncovering their words and stories.

The Entry Portcullis
The Bloody Tower

I keep getting stuck in the Tower of London

My first book, The Lady of the Tower, was about Lucy St.John, my 17th century ancestress who lived in the Tower of London for thirteen years as the Keeper’s wife. I really didn’t intend to write more than one book, but that turned into a trilogy. I didn’t realize it at the time, but one of the main characters in the third book, Written in Their Stars, was imprisoned in the Tower of London as a regicide (he was one of the judges that condemned King Charles I). As the son-in-law of Lucy St.John, we had to return to the Tower to visit him while he was imprisoned in the Bloody Tower.

And then, when I discovered my newest heroine was the godmother to the oldest Prince in the Tower, it was inevitable – back to the Tower I went! I think it might be a family thing – I started looking for a Tudor family member as a possible next book – and along came Alice St.John. She sounded like a suitable candidate – right age, right time period – and then I realized she was the mother of Jane Parker, George Boleyn’s wife. So, her son-in-law’s sister was Anne Boleyn. And…off to the Tower again!

I believe you’re never too old to make a dream come true

I’d wanted to write a historical fiction book since I was about twelve and read Anya Seton’s wonderful novel Katherine. After a full career and raising a family, I was in my fifties when I finally sat down at the kitchen table and decided I needed to commit to writing the story I’d been carrying around inside me for decades. I wrote The Lady of the Tower with the goal of proving I could write a book. When I published it as an independent author, and it became a best-seller, it was a surreal and joyful affirmation that dreams really do come true.

Liz with Arthur

I always write with a cat and a dog at my side

Writing is, by and large, a solitary occupation, but I am never alone when I write. I’ve had the wonderful company of Barry White, Lady Latte, Aslan, MoJo, and Arthur McArthur as my muses; from early in the morning to late at night, they have kept me sane through a few million words, tons of drafts, 12-hour days of research and many a blank page. Some have now passed on, but their pawprints are on the pages of my novels, and somewhere in each of my books, you’ll find an animal or a name that honours them or other four-legged friends we’ve had over the years.

A Costa and a Sausage Roll upon landing…

are the first things I head for after clearing Heathrow. I grew up in the UK and I’ve had a home in California for many years. Every time I land after a long transatlantic flight, I pick up my rental car and head for the unique breakfast treat on an M25 motorway service that I can’t get in California. That simple! Then, it’s usually straight into a day’s worth of exploring ruined castles, soaring cathedrals, or quiet country estates, researching my writing. All very doable on no sleep, a sausage roll, and an Americano (which, by the way, isn’t available in America)!


 Elizabeth St.John

Elizabeth St.John spends her time between California, England, and the past. An acclaimed author, historian, and genealogist, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Lydiard Park and Nottingham Castle to Richmond Palace and the Tower of London to inspire her novels. Although the family sold a few country homes along the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth's family still occupy them— in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their legacy. And the occasional ghost. But that's a different story.

Having spent a significant part of her life with her seventeenth-century family while writing The Lydiard Chronicles trilogy and Counterpoint series, Elizabeth St.John is now discovering new family stories with her fifteenth-century namesake Elysabeth St.John Scrope, and her half-sister, Margaret Beaufort.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Book Spotlight: Owerd the Briton by James Gault


In Saxon England of the 1060s, the prospects for Owerd are grim. He is a Briton, son of a miller, and looks like a Dane. The Church beckons, as does a warrior life, but he must first learn his ‘station’ with frequent humiliation.

Fate lends a hand in rewarding his courage, but as his lot improves, the Normans invade. Does he fight them or aid them?

His loyalties are tested by events involving violence, loss, love, and fate as he tries to manage the balance between security and oppression.


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James Gault

James, or Jim by preference, was a successful mariner who spent much of his life at sea mucking around in ships and boats. That was the relatively adventurous part of his life, encompassing a good slice of the world and its ever-changing challenges and joys, from violent wars and cyclones to glorious sunrises and oceans of tranquillity.

These days the stability of reading and writing are preferred, especially writing about the fictional adventures of others. He enjoys the company of his wife Sally and Labrador dog Pippa in a small coastal town in Australia.

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Spotlight on Jane Davis, author of Small Eden

 A boy with his head in the clouds. A man with a head full of dreams. 

1884. The symptoms of scarlet fever are easily mistaken for teething, as Robert Cooke and his pregnant wife Freya discover at the cost of their two infant sons. Freya immediately isolates for the safety of their unborn child. Cut off from each other, there is no opportunity for husband and wife to teach each other the language of their loss. By the time they meet again, the subject is taboo. But unspoken grief is a dangerous enemy. It bides its time.

A decade later and now a successful businessman, Robert decides to create a pleasure garden in memory of his sons, in the very same place he found refuge as a boy – a disused chalk quarry in Surrey’s Carshalton. But instead of sharing his vision with his wife, he widens the gulf between them by keeping her in the dark. It is another woman who translates his dreams. An obscure yet talented artist called Florence Hoddy, who lives alone with her unmarried brother, painting only what she sees from her window…

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(Stuff you may or may to already know.)

The Beatles, Fool on the Hill

On an October day in 1967 when I was only 10 days old, my uncles Richard and Christopher Taylor were in a recording studio laying down the flute tracks (and quite possibly recorder tracks) for Fool on this Hill. Despite this family legacy, the Beatles were not the soundtrack to my childhood (although we did have a Pinky and Perky Sing the Beatles album in the house). My father was a policeman, and as part of his duties, he had to police Beatles gigs. He was completely put off the band by the hysterical behaviour he witnessed. I always took his stories with a  pinch of salt until I read an interview with Bob Geldof in Q magazine, who was there and confirmed it was all true! And so I was that girl at guide camp who couldn’t join in the Beatles singalongs around the campfire because she didn’t know the lyrics. Fast forward thirty years, and I met my partner who hails from Liverpool, whose father has memories of seeing the Beatles play in the Cavern during his lunchtimes from work, and whose sister is an official Beatles guide (and the only tour guide in the UK to have a Masters Degree in The Beatles!) By the time I went to Paul McCartney’s gig at Anfield in 2009, rest assured, I knew all the lyrics!

Fame and Price, Sergeant Jobsworth

Another story from my dad’s days as a policeman. In 1970/71, my father arrested a young man for a parking offence. The young man turned out to be Georgie Fame, then something of a heartthrob. My dad’s version of the story was that the young man said to him, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ and my Dad told him that he hadn’t a clue. In Georgie Fame’s version of the story, my dad told him that he’d seen him on television and knew exactly who he was. This would have been highly unlikely, because my father had absolutely no interest in modern music. He was a Vivaldi man. Either way, George Fame took his revenge by writing the song, Sergeant Jobsworth, released as a B side in 1971. 

Jane Davis

My mother played the recorder part in the famous Finger of Fudge advert. From childhood, she had performed and recorded music as part of the Taylor Recorder Consort with her father and brothers, Richard and Christopher. Whilst they went on to become flautists, she specialised in Tudor music and can be heard on film soundtracks such as the 1969 film Anne of a Thousand Days, which featured Richard Burton as Henry VIII. My mother would really rather prefer that I didn’t refer to the Finger of Fudge advert as an example of her work, but it was a 70’s classic!

Young Jane Davis

I once sang There are Fairies at the Bottom of our Garden on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. My parents sent me to private singing lessons to prepare for this great honour, but I had awful stage fright and could barely get the words out. 

Jane Davis
Dorset 2011

In 2008, I won the Daily Mail First Novel Award with my second novel. Nothing in the rules referred to a first novel, just an unpublished novel. Please don’t tell! 

Jane Davis


Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch,’ Jane Davis writes thought-provoking literary page-turners.

She spent her twenties and the first half of her thirties chasing promotions in the business world but, frustrated by the lack of a creative outlet, she turned to writing.

Her first novel, 'Half-Truths and White Lies', won a national award established with the aim of finding the next Joanne Harris. Further recognition followed in 2016 with 'An Unknown Woman' being named Self-Published Book of the Year by Writing Magazine/the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust, as well as being shortlisted in the IAN Awards, and in 2019 with 'Smash all the Windows' winning the inaugural Selfies Book Award. Her novel, 'At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock' was featured by The Lady Magazine as one of their favourite books set in the 1950s, selected as a Historical Novel Society Editor's Choice, and shortlisted for the Selfies Book Awards 2021.

Interested in how people behave under pressure, Jane introduces her characters when they are in highly volatile situations, and then, in her words, she throws them to the lions. The themes she explores are diverse, ranging from pioneering female photographers to relatives seeking justice for the victims of a fictional disaster.

Jane Davis lives in Carshalton, Surrey, in what was originally the ticket office for a Victorian pleasure garden, known locally as ‘the gingerbread house.’ Her house frequently features in her fiction. In fact, she burnt it to the ground in the opening chapter of 'An Unknown Woman'. In her latest release, Small Eden, she asks the question of why one man would choose to open a pleasure garden at a time when so many others were facing bankruptcy?

When she isn’t writing, you may spot Jane disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: The Conjuror’s Apprentice (The Tudor Rose, Book 1) by G.J. Williams


Born with the ability to hear thoughts and feelings when there is no sound, Margaretta Morgan’s strange gift sees her apprenticed to Doctor John Dee, mathematician, astronomer, and alchemist. Using her secret link with the hidden side and her master’s brilliance, Margaretta faces her first murder mystery. Margaretta and Dee must uncover the evil bound to unravel the court of Bloody Mary.

The year is 1555. This is a time ruled by fear. What secrets await to be pulled from the water?

The Conjuror’s Apprentice takes real people and true events in 1555, into which G J Williams weaves a tale of murder and intrigue. Appealing to readers of crime and well-researched historical fiction alike, this is the first in a series that will follow the life, times, plots, and murders of the Tudor Court.

Trigger Warnings:

Descriptions of bodies and the injuries that brought about their death.

Threat of torture; description of a man who has been tortured.

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John Dee stared at the letter, then at Cecil. ‘The letter must have been penned by someone who has sight of this household – and the same person who planted the letter on Jonas.’

The master of the house nodded and put his head in his hands, propelling Mildred to cross the room and put her hand on his shoulder. He glanced up and patted her fingers. ‘Are you quite sure what you read, my dear?’

‘Yes. You heard the words yourself. The letter is to someone who wants testimony of your movements. The scrivener speaks of your visits to Lady Elizabeth. Each one is listed. They even know you are due to visit her again this week.’ Her lips pinched together in anxiety. ‘They state that you hide a book of Elizabeth’s treachery to protect her.’ Mildred looked at John Dee. ‘Why would they make up such stories of us?’

But next to her, Cecil did not move. He kept staring at the wood of his desk, his brow crinkled in thought. A slight flush spread across his cheeks.

Margaretta shifted in her seat, the feelings rising inside her. Dread. Something you’ve done. A secret. You imagine being arrested. You are hiding something. She leaned forward, touched John Dee’s sleeve, and whispered ‘Mae e’n cuddio rhywbeth.’ He hides something.

Cecil’s eyes darted to her. ‘I do not speak my forefathers’ tongue with ease. What did you say?’

Thank the Lord, John Dee stepped in. ‘She says she must away to the kitchen and her chores soon.’ He leaned forward and dropped his voice to a cajoling purr. ‘Is there anything you have secreted, my friend? Better we know.’

Cecil sat up straight and cleared his throat. His wife’s fingers tightened on his shoulder as she looked down, beginning to frown. Her husband looked at the window as if searching for the right words. ‘I…I…hold a book belonging to the Lady Elizabeth. Nothing treasonous. Just her thoughts.’ He swallowed and looked to Dee, a faint beseeching in his eyes.

The room was silent.

Panic. Confusion. It is you, Lady Mildred. Anger.

John Dee leaned forward again, keeping the low, calm voice. ‘Where is this book?’

‘Mildred’s library. Well hidden among the religious texts.’ At this, Lady Cecil gave a short, sharp cry and snatched her hand away from her husband. She walked to the window and put her hands on the glass. They could see her kirtle move with her fearful breathing. Then she turned and faced him, her face pale and fixed in fury. ‘You brought secrets here and put us all in danger? Have your senses left you, husband?’ Her voice was slow and cold.

In an instant, he was on his feet, rebutting her challenge with indignation. ‘No, Mildred. I was showing loyalty to a fragile girl wracked with fears. She is under constant suspicion.

So, when she was summoned to court to attend her sister’s birthing, she dared not take it with her, nor leave it behind. I am the only one she trusts. What could I do? Abandon her?’

‘And what is in this book, William?’ asked Dee.

‘Her thoughts on regency. She speaks of a fair rule; of religious tolerance rather than the burning we live with today; of making this land great again and not a puppet of Spain.’

Cecil dropped his head forward and his voice fell to a murmur. ‘She speaks of a golden age in which men thrive, not fear life.’

Dee sighed. ‘So, she speaks of being queen.’ He waited until Cecil nodded. ‘So, with Mary expecting her own son to succeed her, it is a tome of treason.’ He gave a small laugh. ‘Making my conjuring look pale in comparison.’

Cecil bristled. ‘No. It is a volume of hope. The only treason lies with those who would put a Spanish prince as our ruler.’

He gave a low growl. ‘For the love of God, they circle court like hawks awaiting the death of Mary and her babe so they can grasp power while England mourns.’

John Dee opened his palms in question. ‘Mary herself made Philip King of England. Not a prince. Not her consort. A king.’

Cecil wheeled round. ‘Elizabeth is the rightful heir to the throne. Not a Spanish puppet of the Catholic Pope. A woman of the true faith…Protestantism.’

‘So, if Elizabeth aspires to be queen, she is the single threat to the supporters of Philip.’ John Dee pointed an accusing finger. ‘And that book sets out her ambition.’ He paused. ‘That book will take her to the Tower and her death for treason… and someone in your household knows of it. They also know your involvement.’

From the window, Lady Cecil spoke. ‘And her treasonous book is in this house. And somebody knows it.’ She turned to look through the glass onto the bustling street below. ‘May God save us.’

G.J. Williams

After a career as a business psychologist for city firms, G.J. Williams has returned to her first passion – writing tales of murder, mystery, and intrigue. Her psychology background, melded with a love of medieval history, draws her to the twists and turns of the human mind, subconscious powers, and the dark-side of people who want too much.

She lives between Somerset and London in the UK and is regularly found writing on a train next to a grumpy cat and a bucket of tea.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Spotlight on Alison Morton, author of JULIA PRIMA


“You should have trusted me. You should have given me a choice.”

AD 370, Roman frontier province of Noricum. Neither wholly married nor wholly divorced, Julia Bacausa is trapped in the power struggle between the Christian church and her pagan ruler father.

Tribune Lucius Apulius’s career is blighted by his determination to stay faithful to the Roman gods in a Christian empire. Stripped of his command in Britannia, he’s demoted to the backwater of Noricum – and encounters Julia.

Unwittingly, he takes her for a whore. When confronted by who she is, he is overcome with remorse and fear. Despite this disaster, Julia and Lucius are drawn to one another by an irresistible attraction.

But their intensifying bond is broken when Lucius is banished to Rome. Distraught, Julia gambles everything to join him. But a vengeful presence from the past overshadows her perilous journey. Following her heart’s desire brings danger she could never have envisaged…

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 Alison Morton

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

First of all, thank you, Mary Ann, for hosting JULIA PRIMA and me on your blog. I’m not sure my life is particularly sprinkled with fun facts, though some of them may strike your readers as quirky and interesting and perhaps raise an eyebrow, if not a smile.

I am delighted to share your fascinating life. Interesting selections. And thank you for your service. 
Mary Ann

Fun Fact No.1: Six years in military

As a result of my making a casual enquiry more out of curiosity than anything, the administrative officer of my local unit invited me to an information evening. Six years later, after having travelled all over the NATO area, I ended up as a captain commanding a specialist communications detachment. In my Royal Signals regiment, women learned the same technical skills as men. Although some jobs weren’t open to women in the 1980s, we spent hours training with weapons – in my case, 9mm pistol and small machine gun, so that we could defend ourselves. Safety was hammered into us. These years eventually led to my writing about military heroines and the skills and strong camaraderie of that life.

A bonus fun fact: After 30+ years, I’m still married to Steve, the same Northern bloke whom I met when I led a military exercise to Cyprus.

Fun Fact No.2: I’m a former professional translator

Although history, especially Roman, was my first great love academically speaking – I completed my MA with distinction in history – my first degree was in languages. I’d added a post-graduate diploma in translation. After the birth of my son, I worked on some freelance projects from French and German into English to fit in with having a young child, but within weeks, other languages practitioners made contact. In the end, I set up and ran a translation company covering all European languages, including Russian. And yes, I had a rocket scientist and an ex-GCHQ translator working for me. Another brush with the secret services!

Fun Fact No.3: Mini mad!

Not all at once, but I have owned and driven seven Minis, five originals or variants, and two modern BMW ones, including a 1275 GT sporty model. Goodness, that could shift! They all had names such as Little Grey Min, Purple Min, and The Sh*t-Shoveller, and I hated saying goodbye to each one.

Fun Fact No.4: I live in France but write in English

Steve and I have been living in southwestern France for over twelve years. Five years before we moved, we’d bought the French house as a holiday home with the idea of retiring there many years in the future. But one day, Steve, known as The Keeper of the Spreadsheet, announced that two vital lines correlating living costs and required income had crossed. We could move to France much earlier.

Our house went on the market with my new critique writing partner’s estate agency! It was in prime commuter land on the Kent/Sussex borders, and similar houses sold within a week. Hooray!

Unfortunately, Lehmann Brothers crashed, triggering the great financial crisis of 2008, and meltdown ensued. We went from a position of a contracts race two days before (two people were vying to buy our house) to no buyer. It took a further eighteen months and seven more potential buyers (each new one offering more than the one before!) to secure the final couple who signed on the dotted line. Steve was a nervous wreck by this time, being on the edge of giving in his notice each time, not to mention my estate agent/writing partner’s acute embarrassment in the drawn-out process of selling our home, but happily, it all paid off in the end.

Fun Fact No.5: The day I caught the Roman bug

Thinking of a small curly-headed child walking on a huge multi-coloured mosaic under a hot Spanish sun. She crouches down and runs her fingers over it. In her other hand are a drawing pad and pencil bag full of crayons so she can make a sketch for her ‘what-I-did-in-my-holidays’ school project. But she is entranced by the figures and swirls. She asks her father about the people who lived in these now ruined houses. He explains about senators and sailors, soldiers and slaves, the sea and the storytellers. The little girl thinks about all this and asks what the mothers did. Her father informs her they stayed at home and looked after the house and the children. The little girl frowns, then shakes her head. Her own mother is a school head of department. Ladies go out to work, don’t they? The little girl looks up at her father with an eleven-year-old’s piercing curiosity.

 “But suppose the mummies and other ladies were in charge of the Romans? What would it be like?”

“Well, what do you think it would have been like?” her father replies.

I was always impressed by the way my father threw that question back at me. From that conversation, my fascination for all things Roman grew, and I devoured every bit of information about them I came across. I’m still doing it many decades later with my Roma Nova series.



 Alison Morton

Alison Morton writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her nine-book Roma Nova series is set in an imaginary European country where a remnant of the ancient Roman Empire has survived into the 21st century and is ruled by women who face conspiracy, revolution, and heartache but with a sharp line in dialogue.

She blends her fascination for Ancient Rome with six years of military service and a life of reading crime, historical, and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history. 

 Alison now lives in Poitou in France, the home of Mélisende, the heroine of her latest two contemporary thrillers, Double Identity, and Double Pursuit. Oh, and she’s writing the next Roma Nova story.

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