Monday, February 27, 2023

Book Spotlight: A Mistake of Murder by Helen Hollick


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The third Jan Christopher Cosy Mystery

Was murder deliberate - or a tragic mistake?

January 1972. The Christmas and New Year holiday is over and it is time to go back to work. Newly engaged to Detective Sergeant Laurence Walker, library assistant Jan Christopher is eager to show everyone her diamond ring, and goes off on her scheduled round to deliver library books to the housebound – some of whom she likes; some, she doesn’t.

She encounters a cat in a cupboard, drinks several cups of tea... and loses her ring.
When two murders are committed, can Jan help her policeman uncle, DCI Toby Christopher and her fiancé, Laurie, discover whether murder was a deliberate deed – or a tragic mistake?

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Helen Hollick

First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She has also branched out into the quick read novella, 'Cosy Mystery' genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon, England, and occasionally gets time to write…

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Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: GODWINE KINGMAKER - THE LAST GREAT SAXON EARLS by Mercedes Rochelle

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They showed so much promise. What happened to the Godwines? How did they lose their grip? Who was this Godwine anyway, first Earl of Wessex and known as the Kingmaker? Was he an unscrupulous schemer, using King and Witan to gain power? Or was he the greatest of all Saxon Earls, protector of the English against the hated Normans? The answer depends on who you ask.

He was befriended by the Danes, raised up by Canute the Great, given an Earldom and a wife from the highest Danish ranks. He sired nine children, among them four Earls, a Queen and a future King. Along with his power came a struggle to keep his enemies at bay, and Godwine's best efforts were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son Swegn.

Although he became father-in-law to a reluctant Edward the Confessor, his fortunes dwindled as the Normans gained prominence at court. Driven into exile, Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his second son Harold was destined to surpass him in renown and glory.


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Canute deals with Eadric Streona

It was nearing dark, and the servants were lighting the torches while Godwine played chess with the king. They sat in Canute's favorite room—perfect for entertaining the early arrivals of the Yuletide celebration. Already, Earl Eric of Northumbria was present, tasting some of the breads at the sideboard. Tovi was in his usual place behind the king speaking quietly with two other Danes, and a musician was in the corner, plucking on a harp.

The door opened and Godwine, whose back was to the newcomer, concluded who it was from Canute's grimace. The sleek voice of Eadric Streona confirmed his guess. "Good even', your grace. I hope you are well." All other voices in the room stopped.

Canute moved a piece, nodding an answer.

Two servants followed Eadric into the room, carrying a batch of firewood. For a moment, the sound of wood being stacked filled the silence. Then the servants left the room, bowing.

"And yourself, My Lord Eric?"

The Northumbrian Earl moved closer to the king, bending over the chess-board. "Considering the rare quiet within my earldom, I am content. And yourself, Eadric?"

Godwine heard the newcomer striding back and forth behind him. His concentration broken, the Saxon quickly turned around, watching Eadric rub his arms as though he needed more warmth. Godwine turned back to the board, but not before he noticed Eadric's mouth twitch.

"I could be better." Eadric's tone brought Canute's head up questioningly. Godwine straightened in his seat but Canute caught his eye, nodding at the board. Eadric took a stick and poked the fire.

Taking a closer look at the earl, Godwine noticed that his hair was unbrushed, his fingernails were cracked, his clothing wrinkled. He began pacing again, adjusting his belt.

“How is that Christmas pie?” Canute asked Eric, holding out a hand for a taste. The Dane cut a piece for him, proffering it on the edge of his knife. Taking a long time to sample it, Canute leaned back, evidently enjoying the taste. He licked all five fingers and wiped his hand on his tunic, then reached for another chess piece. Eadric stopped pacing and faced Canute, his arms crossed over his chest.

"And what might be the problem?" The king's voice sounded appropriately concerned.

"My earldom is restive,” he started slowly. "The populace has not yet recovered, the revenues are poor, and the people are hungry."

"That is a pity."

"More the pity that the king does not concern himself with their troubles."

"I see," said Canute, interested. "And what of the exemption I gave them from this year's taxes?"

Closing his eyes, the other gestured as if it were nothing.

"Eadric, this is not what is bothering you."

Stopping, the earl glared at the king, unable to hide his antipathy. He came to the table, leaned over it. Godwine could smell alcohol on his breath.

"All right. I believe that I deserve better than this. You have given me the most devastated, the poorest earldom in the kingdom. You exclude me from your council. You treat me like a stranger. After all I have done for you."

"And what is it that you have done for me?"

Eadric straightened up, crossing his arms again. He took a deep breath. "You know damned well."

Intrigued, Canute gave Eadric his full attention. "I know damned well," he repeated softly.

The tension between them was so strong it felt as though there were only two people in the room. Everyone knew Canute was at his most dangerous when he was totally quiet. But Eadric seemed beyond caring.

"Ask Edmund Ironside, if you could."

Godwine gasped aloud, more in amazement at the man's blatant admission of the deed than its actuality. Even Canute had paled. Getting slowly to his feet, he faced Eadric so fiercely that the other stepped back.

"Then you shall get everything you deserve. You killed your own lord! My sworn brother! Your own mouth has pronounced you a traitor; let the blood be on your head.

"Eric, dispatch this man, lest he live to betray me as well."

The earl of Northumbria was not loth to obey. Pulling an axe from his belt, the man moved purposefully toward his enemy, narrowed eyes reflecting his satisfaction with Canute's command.

For a moment, Eadric froze, unbelieving. Then his instinct for survival gained sway, and he pushed the table over, making a dash for the door.

But Godwine blocked the way—Godwine, this nonentity, who had barely rated his acknowledgment. The Saxon was standing with legs apart and drawn sword, opposing his exit.

Preferring to die under the blade of an equal, Eadric whirled, pulling his sword. But he was already too late. Eric's axe was making its deadly arc, and Eadric's blade came up uncertainly, not even delaying the impact of the edge as it cleanly severed his head from his body.

Canute had been watching from the fireplace. "Throw the wretch's carcass from the window, into the Thames."

Eric was glad to do so. He had hated the earl, and saw this as a fitting end to a despicable career. Seizing one of the convulsing legs, he dragged the body across the floor, oblivious to the gushing blood. Stooping, he hoisted the corpse onto the sill and dumped it unceremoniously into the river.

Godwine stared at the disembodied face, as it gawked back at him. Then he grabbed the hair and came up behind Eric, flinging the head through the window and far out over the water.

As he listened for the inevitable splash, Godwine felt an eerie satisfaction; at least this once, he had done his part in wreaking revenge on the betrayer of Edmund Ironside, and possibly his own father way back in 1009.

Both bloodied Earls turned to Canute, who had observed the scene dispassionately. "Thank you. You have done me a great service."

Godwine controlled his trembling with an effort. "You drove him to it, didn't you?"

"You might say that. Although I was expecting his demands in a more rational form...and at a better time." He glanced at the horrified servants, who were huddled at the newly opened door. "Yes, come in, come in. As you can see, it is time we met the queen in the great hall and started our celebrations in earnest. Send for some water and buckets and take care of this mess.

"Oh, and come, my friends. Let me arrange for some clean tunics before you present yourselves."

Mercedes Rochelle

Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. She believes that good Historical Fiction, or Faction as it’s coming to be known, is an excellent way to introduce the subject to curious readers. She also writes a blog: to explore the history behind the story.

Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world.” The search hasn’t ended!

Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: The Black Madonna by Stella Riley

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As England slides into Civil War, master-goldsmith and money-lender, Luciano Falcieri del Santi embarks on his own hidden agenda. A chance meeting one dark night results in an unlikely friendship with Member of Parliament, Richard Maxwell. Richard’s daughter, Kate – a spirited girl who vows to hold their home against both Cavalier and Roundhead – soon finds herself fighting an involuntary attraction to the clever, magnetic and diabolically beautiful Italian.

Hampered by the warring English, his quest growing daily more dangerous, Luciano begins to realise that his own life and that of everyone close to him rests on the knife-edge of success … for only success will permit him to reclaim the Black Madonna and offer his heart to the girl he loves.

From the machinations within Parliament to the last days of the King’s cause, The Black Madonna is an epic saga of passion and intrigue at a time when England was lost in a dark and bloody conflict.


(Audiobook narrated by Alex Wyndham)

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  .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´


On his way to find the first of the men who had condemned his father, Luciano is taken prisoner and gets caught up in the first military action of the war.

After almost twenty-four hours of polite captivity that had included a very uncomfortable night, Luciano was beginning to lose his temper.  It was Friday and he’d expected to be at Callow End by now, confronting Thomas Ferrars – not sitting in a field at Powick under constant guard while the citizens of Worcester came in their droves to gape at the military side-show.

‘This,’ he announced savagely, ‘is bloody ridiculous.’

Selim looked at him.

‘I still have my knife,’ he said hopefully.

‘Don’t be a fool.  How many of them do you think you can kill? And our horses are back there with the rest.  We can’t do a thing until they decide to move – and, on present showing, that could take till Doomsday.’

There being no real answer to this, they sat in silence for a further hour until the air of rising excitement around them culminated in a mêlée of activity and a youthful lieutenant arrived, leading their horses.

‘Mount up,’ he said cheerfully. ‘We’re going.’

Luciano rose slowly.  ‘Going where?’

The fellow hesitated and then shrugged.

‘Worcester.  Byron’s on the move and we’re off to stop him.  But don’t worry.  Captain Fiennes says you’re to be fully protected at all times.’

The men fell in on a large meadow just below the village and then indulged themselves with a heartening psalm.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed

Luciano looked on beneath faintly amused brows.

‘A goodly clutch of Puritans, no doubt.  But I wonder if they fight as well as they sing?’

Selim sniffed.  ‘Singing is for women.’

‘You’re missing the point.  Why would Byron choose to leave today of all days, knowing as he does what’s out here waiting for him?’

Selim cast his mind back and then, finding the answer, opened his mouth to deliver it.

‘Exactly,’ said Luciano softly.  ‘But if dear Nathaniel hasn’t worked it out for himself, I don’t think we’ll help him.  Just keep your eyes and ears open and be ready for any confusion.  I imagine we can rely on these gentlemen not shooting the golden goose.’  He paused and met his henchman’s eye with a sudden smile.  ‘But, in case those are famous last words, you’d better get ready to duck as well.’

The cavalcade made its ponderous way along the lane towards the bridge that would take it across the River Teme. Luciano knew that bridge moderately well.  It was old, brick-built and no more than twelve feet wide – which meant that the troops would have to break formation to cross it.  And on the far side of the river lay an equally narrow lane bounded by straggling hedges which wound up into a large field from where one could see Worcester.  So if a surprise lay in store this, presumably, was the place to look for it.

Rather less alert than his Italian captive, Nathaniel Fiennes led the column over the bridge and down the lane into Wickfield – aware but undismayed that, behind him, his force was being squeezed into a long thin ribbon.  And then he stopped dead, staring at a sight too incredible to be believed.

On the other side of the field, four or five hundred Royalist cavalrymen were taking their ease on the grass. Some had disarmed and lay dozing in the sun, some were still eating their noon-day meal and others were grouped about their officers in the shade of a thorn tree.  All appeared totally oblivious to the presence of the enemy.

Nathaniel stared and stared again, still unable to take it in while, at his back, the entire troop came to a shuddering stop as each man’s horse cannoned unwarily into that of the man in front.  And then everything changed as a tall Royalist officer surged to his feet and alerted all the others by throwing himself astride the nearest horse.

‘Boot and saddle!’ he roared.  ‘Charge!’

The spell shattered..

‘God rot it!’ swore Nathaniel.  ‘Rupert!’

And then all hell broke loose.

Somewhere towards the back of the column, Luciano and Selim were barely over the bridge.

‘Christ,’ muttered Luciano, as they ground to a halt.  ‘Already?’

He dropped one hand on Selim’s bridle and strained his ears.  Then, as the first shock waves rippled through the ranks, ‘Now!’ he said.  And, dragging the Turk from the saddle as he dropped from his own, took a sort of flying dive at the hedge.

It parted unwillingly to let them through but took its toll on skin and clothing. Without pausing either to assess the damage or heed the pandemonium breaking out on the other side of the hedge, the Italian said, ‘Across the river – before Nathaniel’s lads start dropping on our heads.’

Shouts and screams of escalating panic and confusion rose from the lane as those in front turned and rode down those behind in an attempt to retreat; while further away pistol shots and the clash of swords bore witness to the fact that at least some of Captain Fiennes’ men were staying to fight.

‘What now?’ asked Selim as, soaked and muddy to the armpits, they gained the far bank.  ‘We run?’

‘No.  We hide.  That clump of willows ought to do,’ replied Luciano, already squelching towards it in boots full of water.  ‘We need horses.  Preferably our own – but any will do.  Either way, we stay out of sight until the gentlemen over there complete their business with each other. And then we try to keep our rendezvous at Callow End.’

Selim resisted the impulse to say, Like this? but could not forgo a gloomy ‘Inşallah.’

‘Quite.  But just now I  prefer “God helps those who help themselves”.’

The skirmish taking place on the opposite bank turned out to be brief but remarkably unpleasant.  Long before the Royalists appeared, the lane was a seething mass of confusion as Fiennes’ men rode over each other in their efforts to escape the damnably restricted space.  They swarmed back on to the bridge where John Fiennes tried to turn and rally them – only to find himself driven aside by the terrified stampede.  And then the Royalists were upon them from behind; cutting men down, forcing them into the river and trampling others beneath their horses as they swept on in relentless pursuit.

The whole thing probably lasted less than twenty minutes, thought Luciano grimly – but it was as comprehensive a rout as anything he could have imagined.

‘Tenant-farmers versus gentlemen,’ he murmured. ‘What chance have they got?’


‘Nothing.’  Luciano pulled off his boots to empty them.  There was no use in letting the scene he’d just witnessed touch him.  It was nothing to do with him, after all.  ‘Let’s get out of here.  It would probably be safer to wait till the Cavaliers give up the chase and head back to Worcester … but, if we do that, they’ll round up all the loose horses and we’ll be left to walk.  So we’ll risk it.’

Selim, who disliked being wet, said persuasively, ‘And then we find an inn?’

‘Perhaps.  But let’s take one thing at a time, shall we?’

He had not bargained for the nightmare on the bridge. Dead, dying or wounded, men and beasts lay tangled in grisly carnage; the very air was filled with sounds of pain and terror.  Never having been near a battlefield before, Luciano smelled blood and instantly felt bile rising in his throat.  He did not think his life had been particularly cushioned; poverty, fear, gruelling work and the disease and desperation of the back-streets – he knew all these things.  But nothing had prepared him for what lay on Powick Bridge; and for the first time he found himself wondering how many people in sleepy, self-satisfied England were prepared for it either.

Sickened, he said, ‘What a bloody mess.’

‘Yes.  But we can do nothing, efendim.  There are too many.  And soon the King’s men will return – so we must cross the bridge.’

At the back of his mind, Luciano could see the sense in this; and so, although it was the very last thing he wanted to do, he pulled himself together and began picking his way through the human wreckage at his feet.  The necessity of looking where he was going brought nausea several steps closer … and the sight of a man whose skull had been virtually split open all but undid him.  Then a hand grabbed his ankle.


 Stella Riley

Winner of three gold medals for historical romance (Readers’ Favourite in 2019, Book Excellence Awards in 2020, Global Book Awards in 2022) and fourteen B.R.A.G. Medallions, Stella Riley lives in the beautiful medieval town of Sandwich in Kent.

She is fascinated by the English Civil Wars and has written six books set in that period. These, like the seven-book Rockliffe series (recommended in The Times newspaper!) and the Brandon Brothers trilogy, are all available in audio, narrated by Alex Wyndham.

Stella enjoys travel, reading, theatre, Baroque music and playing the harpsichord. She also has a fondness for men with long hair – hence her 17th and 18th century heroes.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Spotlight on Micheál Cladáin, author of Hammer


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Genonn's tired and dreams of a remote roundhouse in the Cuala Mountains.

However, sudden rebellion in Roman Britain destroys that dream because the Elder Council task him with delivering Lorg Mór, the hammer of the Gods, to the tribes across the straits of Pwll Ceris. Despite being torn between a waning sense of duty and his desire to become a hermit, Genonn finally agrees to help.

When his daughter follows him into danger, it tests his resolve. He wants to do everything he can to see her back to Druid Island and her mother. This new test of will means he is once again conflicted between duty and desire. Ultimately, his sense of duty wins; is it the right decision? Has he done the right thing by relegating his daughter’s safety below his commitment to the clans?

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.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´

Fun Facts

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

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

•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)  ( ¸.•´

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

•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)  ( ¸.•´

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

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

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

It’s a wonder I find time to write. 

•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)  ( ¸.•´

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

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


Micheál Cladáin

Micheál has been an author for many years. He studied Classics and developed a love of Greek and Roman culture through those studies. In particular, he loved their mythologies. As well as a classical education, bedtime stories consisted of tales read from a great tome of Greek Mythology, and Micheál was destined to become a storyteller from those times.

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Monday, February 13, 2023

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage


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On a muggy August day in 2002 Alex Lind disappears. On an equally stifling August day in 1658, Matthew Graham finds her on a Scottish moor.  Life will never be the same for Alex – or for Matthew.

Alexandra Lind is thrown three centuries backwards in time to land at the feet of escaped convict Matthew Graham.

Matthew doesn’t know what to make of this strange woman who has seemingly fallen from the skies—what is she, a witch?

Alex is convinced the tall, gaunt man is some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises the odd one out is she, not he.

Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with her new existence, further complicated by the dawning realization that someone from her time has followed her here—and not exactly to extend a helping hand.

Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew, a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But Matthew comes with baggage of his own and on occasion his past threatens them both. At times Alex finds it all excessively exciting, longing for the structured life she used to have.

How will she ever get back? And more importantly, does she really want to?

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 .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´



Alex closed her eyes and pretended to sleep. She didn’t want to talk about her mother. Even leaving aside that last horrifying afternoon—no, don’t go there—Mercedes had been uncomfortable to grow up around. Too intense, too . . .  well, weird.

He kicked at her foot. “Alex!”

“Why do you want to know?”

“Why don’t you want to talk about her?” he asked back.

She didn’t reply.

“Ah, lass, I’m sorry. Is she dead then?”

Alex shook her head, feeling an uncomfortable rush of heat up her throat and cheeks. She had no idea; she supposed Mercedes was dead—she should be—but she wasn’t sure, not anymore. Alex pulled her legs up and studied the barren landscape. No cars, no distant tractors, no distorted music from a passing vehicle. She missed that, all those sounds that she belatedly realised had tied her to her time.

“Mercedes,” she said, “her name is, or will be, Mercedes.”

“Mercedes? And that’s a Spanish name?”

“Well it certainly isn’t Swedish or Scots,” she replied with irritation. “Her first name was really Maria de las Mercedes, but as every second woman in Spain is called Maria in one form or other, she was always known as Mercedes. And her sister was Dolores, but I never knew her. She’s dead.” And taboo; Mercedes clammed up whenever Alex asked her about this unknown aunt.

“She’s an artist,” Alex went on, smiling at the memory of her mother in front of her easel: smudges of crimson and cobalt on her hands, emerald green streaking her arms, and that ubiquitous cigarette, lying forgotten in the ashtray as Mercedes bent forward to add yet another miniscule dot of zinc white to her latest masterpiece.

“She painted the occasional cat or horse for me, but mostly she painted. . .” Her voice drifted off as she tried to think of how to explain the disturbing canvases that flowered from her mother’s hands. “I think she painted grief, grief and loss.”

“How’d you do that?” he asked.

“I don’t know. But when you looked for too long at her paintings it was as if a silent scream built inside of you.”

Matthew looked pale and Alex laughed dismissively.

“Silly, right? I guess she was good with her brushes, twisting those columns of colour so that they pulled your eye in; always red and orange, always like a huge fire that surged and struggled against the constraints of the frame.” Alex stared off across the faded greens and browns that stretched in silence all around them. “Sometimes she painted small canvases, blues and greens with the odd dash of white. John always complained that they gave him a headache, made his stomach heave, and he’s right, they were rather weird, disconcerting somehow.”

She felt a sharp twist inside at the thought of John. What was he doing now? Would he believe Diane when she insisted that she, Alex, had decided to go AWOL, or would he know that she’d never do that?

“You don’t speak much of him, John, either,” Matthew said.

“Well, you don’t speak too much about her, Margaret, do you?”

“No, but if you want me to, I will.”

“It’s not really any of my business, is it?” Her eyes caught his and held them, and they sat like that for some time, green locked into blue.

“Mayhap it is,” he smiled, and stretched out a finger to run down her cheek. All of her thudded, wanting him to touch her some more, but instead she sat back, forcing him to drop his hand back to the ground, to rest very close to hers.

“Maybe. And if you tell me about her, I’ll tell you about him.”

He splayed his hand so that his little finger touched hers. She closed her eyes and concentrated on her breathing.


He helped her back onto her feet, holding on to her a bit longer than necessary. Blood was flowing so swiftly downwards it left him lightheaded, and his fingers tightened round her hand as he struggled to bring himself back under control.

He couldn’t walk like this, with his privates a coil of aching tension and throbbing blood. For an instant he saw himself pulling her back down onto the grass, saw how he struggled with her odd breeches and . . . He snaked an arm round her waist and pulled her close, ignored her little “oh” of surprise, and kissed her.

She stiffened at first, hands flat against his chest. But then an arm slid round his neck, the other followed suit, and he drew her even closer. She opened her mouth to his, and she tasted of tart, unripe blackberries, of the grass stalks she’d been chewing as they walked, and, very faintly, of smoked fish.

He just couldn’t let her go, and she didn’t seem to mind, grinding her hips against him in a way that made him groan. Ah, Jesus; he was on the verge of losing all restraint, and so, seemingly, was she, a pliable warmth in his arms.

He released her so abruptly she nearly fell. She stepped back, an unreadable look in her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he stuttered. “I shouldn’t . . .” His chest was heaving, as was hers, and in silent consent they turned away from each other, a moment in which to collect their thoughts and regain a semblance of control over themselves.

When they began to walk he took her hand and she let him, opening her fingers to braid them with his. All that afternoon they said nothing at all, but their intertwined hands seemed to fuse together, and it was with reluctance he let her go to set up their camp for the night.


Anna Belfrage

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. 

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.

Her Castilian Heart is the third in her “Castilian” series, a stand-alone sequel to her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love. In the second instalment, The Castilian Pomegranate, we travel with the protagonists to the complex political world of medieval Spain. This latest release finds our protagonists back in England—not necessarily any safer than the wilds of Spain!

 Anna has also authored The Whirlpools of Time in which she returns to the world of time travel. Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode!

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, 

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