Monday, April 24, 2023

Book Spotlight: A Matter of Faith: Henry VIII, the Days of the Phoenix by Judith Arnopp

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 Finally free of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, is now married to Anne Boleyn and eagerly awaiting the birth of his son. In a court still reeling from the royal divorce and growing public resentment against church reform, Henry must negotiate widespread resentment toward Anne. He places all his hopes in a son to cement his Tudor blood line, but his dreams are shattered when Anne is delivered of a daughter.

Burying his disappointment, Henry focuses on getting her with child again, but their marriage is volatile and as Henry faces personal bereavement, and discord at court, Anne’s enemies are gathering. When the queen miscarries of a son, and Henry suffers a life-threatening accident, his need for an heir becomes critical. Waiting in the wings is Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting who offers the king comfort and respite from Anne’s fiery passions.

But, when Anne falls foul of her former ally, Thomas Cromwell, and the king is persuaded he has been made a cuckold, Henry strikes out and the queen falls beneath the executioner’s sword, taking key players in Henry’s household with her.

Jane Seymour, stepping up to replace the fallen queen, quickly becomes pregnant. Delighted with his dull but fertile wife, Henry’s spirits rise even further when the prince is born safely. At last, Henry has all he desires but even as he celebrates, fate is preparing to deliver one more staggering blow.

Henry, the once perfect Renaissance prince, is now a damaged middle-aged man, disappointed in those around him but most of all in himself. As the king’s optimism diminishes, his intractability increases, and the wounded lion begins to roar.

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Judith Arnopp

When Judith Arnopp began to write professionally there was no question as to which genre to choose. A lifelong history enthusiast and avid reader, Judith holds an honours degree in English and Creative writing, and a Masters in Medieval Studies, both from the University of Wales, Lampeter.

Judith writes both fiction and non-fiction, working full-time from her home overlooking Cardigan Bay in Wales where she crafts novels based in the Medieval and Tudor period. Her main focus is on the perspective of historical women from all roles of life, prostitutes to queens, but she has recently turned her attention to Henry VIII himself.

Her novels include:

A Matter of Conscience: Henry VIII, the Aragon Years. (Book one of The Henrician Chronicle)

A Matter of Faith: Henry VIII, the years of the Phoenix (Book Two of The Henrician Chronicle)

The Beaufort Bride: (Book one of The Beaufort Chronicle)

The Beaufort Woman: (Book two of The Beaufort Chronicle)

The Kings Mother: (Book three of The Beaufort Chronicle)

The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England

A Song of Sixpence: The story of Elizabeth of York

Intractable Heart: The story of Katheryn Parr

The Kiss of the Concubine: A story of Anne Boleyn

Sisters of Arden: on the pilgrimage of Grace

The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII

The Song of Heledd:

The Forest Dwellers


Her non-fiction articles feature in various historical anthologies and magazines and an illustrated non-fiction book, How to Dress like a Tudor will be published by Pen & Sword in 2023.

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Saturday, April 22, 2023

Coming Soon: AnaRose and the Templar's Quest by Mary Ann Bernal

 A dangerous expedition. A precious artifact. A race against time.

 Museum curator and expert in antiquities AnaRose Preston accepts the challenge to find one of Christianity’s holy relics concealed in the hilt of a legendary dagger. Traveling throughout contemporary France, she rushes to solve a historical mystery. But members of a secret society stand in her way. AnaRose risks her life to locate the weapon before it falls into the wrong hands.


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About the Author

Mary Ann Bernal attended Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY, where she received a degree in Business Administration. Her literary aspirations were ultimately realized when the first book of The Briton and the Dane novels was published in 2009. In addition to writing historical fiction, Mary Ann has also authored a collection of contemporary short stories in the Scribbler Tales series and a science fiction/fantasy novel entitled Planetary Wars Rise of an Empire. Her recent work includes Crusader’s Path, a redemption story set against the backdrop of the First Crusade, Forgiving Nero, a novel of Ancient Rome, and AnaRose and the Templar’s Quest, a historical mystery adventure.

Since Operation Desert Storm, Mary Ann has been a passionate supporter of the United States military, having been involved with letter-writing campaigns and other support programs. She appeared on The Morning Blend television show hosted by KMTV, the CBS television affiliate in Omaha, and was interviewed by the Omaha World-Herald for her volunteer work. She has been a featured author on various reader blogs and promotional sites.

Mary Ann currently resides in Elkhorn, Nebraska.


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Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Spotlight on Alison Morton, author of INCEPTIO


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“It's about Roman blood, survival and money. Mostly yours."

In an alternative New York, Karen Brown is running for her life. She makes a snap decision to flee to Roma Nova - her dead mother's homeland, the last remnant of the Roman Empire in the 21st century. But can Karen tough it out in such an alien culture? And with a crazy killer determined to terminate her for a very personal reason? 

Stifled by the protective cocoon of her Roma Novan family, deceived by her new lover, she propels herself into a dangerous mission. But then the killer sets a trap - she must sacrifice herself for another - and she sees no escape.

A thriller laced with romance and coming of age, this first in series is Roman fiction brought into the 21st century through the lens of alternative history and driven by a female protagonist with heart and courage.


This 10thAnniversary hardback edition includes bonus content: Three character ‘conversations’, two short stories and the story behind INCEPTIO.


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INCEPTIO 10th Anniversary special edition hardback:

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Fun Facts

I’m a persistent control freak.

I confess ­– I can’t let things go. This is probably why I’m still writing and publishing ten years after my first book INCEPTIO came out. However you publish, being a writer is hard work. Extracting that first draft from your mind and soul crushes you as well as elating you. When you write The End, the relief is intense. Then you must set to work trying to make it reasonable, possibly attractive. Being a perfectionist, I feel my work is never done. But the editor seems happy, and so (thankfully) do the readers.

I’ve just bought an electric car.

It’s a revolution in mindset, but then writers have weird, flexible mindsets by default. Full of technology, driving the car is like driving an iPad. It purrs along but makes a louder noise when it detects people or does under 30 kph.

More seriously, polluting fossil fuels must be reduced and quickly. We’re having photovoltaic panels fitted to cover the roof of our house and will charge the car from the abundant sunshine here in southwest France. With any luck, we may even end up selling excess electricity to the grid. Hooray!

 I’m a transmanche commuter.

Although I live in France, speak good French, and hold French nationality as well as British, I write in English for English-speaking markets. In the average year, I hop over to the UK, Ireland (and anywhere else that invites me) eight to ten times a year to speak or participate in events. I did twelve trips one year, and a Ryanair crew member even remembered my name! I tend to sit in the same seat, so perhaps that’s why.

My favourite events include the Roman festivals in York and Colchester, the London Book Fair to meet colleagues and friends, the Historical Novel Society Conference, the International Dublin Writers’ Festival, and crime writers’ conferences (CrimeFest, CWA). This year, I’ve had the added pleasure of a fabulous writing retreat in Cornwall.

I’m visiting the real Roma Nova this summer.

You think my imaginary country of Roma Nova doesn’t exist? 😉  Well, it sort of does, hovering in the Austria/Slovenia area, formerly Roman Noricum. Postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have rebooked everything, and I can’t wait!

Why do I want to go?

Virunum, near present-day Klagenfurt, was the home of Julia Bacausa, one of the ancestors of the dynasty which founded Roma Nova.

Virunum was where the Roman tribune Apulius was posted in AD 370 after he refused to become Christian and thus turned his back on a glittering career. Virunum was 
where he met the fiery Julia.

Virunum was where the refugees from Rome first sheltered when they left Rome in AD 395, pursued as pagans.

Virunum 1980’s archaeological dig sheltered one of Aurelia’s clandestine listening posts in RETALIO.

So, for me, a visit is a no-brainer. And my other half will take some nice photos for me… 


I’m the ALLi Ambassador for France

No, not representing a nation, but the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) here in France. I’ve published my own work independently since 2012 and have been an ALLi member since 2013 and would not have achieved the success I have nor made such good friends in the writing community without ALLi.

 Basically, it entails being a local source of information about ALLi’s work – campaigns, membership, what ALLi does and showcasing great resources, both free and paid. I’m also the ‘face’ and contact point for ALLi – sending local feedback about what my area needs from ALLi, what goes down well, suggestions for ALLi, and topics on which ALLi needs to act.

It’s unpaid and very flexible, and a great honour to be asked. It also means I can give back some of the experience I’ve accumulated and hopefully help others along the way.


Alison Morton

Alison Morton writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her ten-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. INCEPTIO starts the adventure…

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

Six full-length Roma Nova novels, including INCEPTIO, have won the BRAG Medallion, the prestigious award for indie fiction. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. The Bookseller selected SUCCESSIO as Editor’s Choice in its inaugural indie review. The Historical Novel Society recently selected JULIA PRIMA, the first Foundation story set in the 4th century, the accolade of Editors’ Choice.

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

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site:

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Thursday, April 13, 2023

Spotlight on: The Kingmaking Special 30th Publication Anniversary and Helen Hollick 70th Birthday Celebration

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New Editions for 2023

(sadly, this edition is not available in USA/Canada)

The Kingmaking: Book One
Pendragon’s Banner: Book Two
Shadow of the King: Book Three


The Boy Who became a Man:
Who became a King:
Who became a Legend... KING ARTHUR
There is no Merlin, no sword in the stone, and no Lancelot.
Instead, the man who became our most enduring hero.

All knew the oath of allegiance:
To you, lord, I give my sword and shield, my heart and soul. To you, my Lord Pendragon, I give my life, to command as you will.’

This is the tale of Arthur made flesh and bone. Of the shaping of the man who became the legendary king; a man with dreams, ambitions and human flaws.
A man, a warlord, who united the collapsing province of post-Roman Britain,
who held the heart of the love of his life, Gwenhwyfar
- and who emerged as the most enduring hero of all time.

A different telling of the later Medieval tales.
This is the story of King Arthur as it might have really happened...

"If only all historical fiction could be this good." Historical Novels Review

"... Juggles a large cast of characters and a bloody, tangled plot with great skill. " Publishers Weekly

"Hollick's writing is one of the best I've come across - her descriptions are so vivid it seems as if there's a movie screen in front of you, playing out the scenes."  Passages To The Past
"Hollick adds her own unique twists and turns to the familiar mythology" Booklist
"Uniquely compelling... bound to have a lasting and resounding impact on Arthurian literature." Books Magazine

(contains scenes of an adult nature)


Buy Links:


The Kingmaking is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

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Amazon UK new edition   Amazon AU new edition

Amazon US: US edition   Amazon CA: US/Canada edition   Barnes and Noble: US edition  


Helen Hollick

Helen is celebrating her 70th birthday and thirty years as a published author. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, was accepted for traditional publication in April 1993 by William Heinemann (Random House UK) a week after her 40th birthday.  The Trilogy has been widely acclaimed since then – and gone through several different editions.

Helen moved from Random House UK in 2006 and went ‘Indie,’ now in 2023. To celebrate, she has brought out her own fabulous new editions! (The Trilogy is published mainstream by Sourcebooks Inc in USA/Canada. The publisher was offered the new cover designs for free but declined.)

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.

She writes a nautical adventure/fantasy Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Sea Witch Voyages and 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 with a variety of pets and horses.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Spotlight on David Lawrence author of Blue Billy’s Rogue Lexicon


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William Dempsey was a wonder among wonders.

By 18, he had risen from a gang of London street rogues to be the personal plaything of the Marquess of Argyll. Maintained in splendour, celebrated at masquerades – with everything he could wish for.

Now all has come crashing down. He is put out in the rain without patronage, his West End apartment, or a place among the ton.

So on a stormy night, he arrives at a house in Southwark. Marathon Moll’s in the Mint – the bawdyhouse he worked in during his ascent and where he earned the name Blue Billy.

But is Marathon Moll’s a place from which to rise again? For there is one in the crowd, who catches his eye. Who takes his hand and promises something better.

Or does Moll’s signify a return to his roots? For one day, a second and very different young man raps on the door. Takes his hand and asks him to return to his past.

To the cat language of vagabonds. The canting dialect of thieves.

To the schemes, and the dreams, of his youth.

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Fun Facts about Blue Billy’s Rogue Lexicon

by David Lawrence


Many of the characters who visit Moll’s bawdyhouse (the centrepiece of the antics in my book) are inspired by actual people mentioned in 18th-century criminal records. Thank goodness for those records! Without them, we would know little or nothing about them today, and so very much would be lost to history. I used a bit of imagination to fill in the blanks when describing such as Dip-Candle Mary (a tallow chandler) and Hardware Nan (presumably a seller of hardware goods), but these were the actual ‘house names’ of men living in London in the 18th century.


The lexicon of the title refers to the chapter names in the book. The terms are taken from the street, or cant language spoken by the thieves and vagrants of London in the 17th and 18th centuries. The primary use of the language was to disguise various nefarious and illegal doings. However, some terms, such as ‘hand-me-downs’ have made it into popular usage. Fuller lexicons of the cant language can be found in two fabulously colourful books of the period (you can tell by their titles just how fabulous). These are:


The Surprising Adventures of Bampfylde Moore Carew, King of the Beggars - Containing his Life, a Dictionary of the Cant Language, and many Entertaining Particulars of that Extraordinary Man by Robert Goadby (published 1749)


The English Rogue: Described in the Life of Meriton Latroon, A Witty Extravagant

by Richard Head (published 1665)


Bampfylde Moore Carew

 Source: Wikimedia Commons

The English Rogue

Source: Wikimedia Commons

1771, the year in which this book is set, was the year Captain Cook, commander of the HMS Endeavour, returned from his first voyage around the world. This was by no means the first time Great Britain ventured around the globe. Because of this, I wanted to draw attention to a lesser-known expedition by having one of Billy’s romantic interests participate in one of these previous voyages – in particular: the 1764 expedition around the world of the HMS Dolphin. No discoveries comparable to those of Captain Cook were made during this expedition, but the account of Commodore Byron in the HMS Dolphin is right there in the historical record, and it is an exciting one.


Yes, Commodore Byron was a relation of that Byron. Vice-Admiral (and Commodore) John Byron was poet Lord Byron’s grandfather. I don’t see a family resemblance, though. Perhaps without the wig…?


John Byron

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Lord Byron

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Brit author Alexis Hall, fabulous writer of queer romcoms and historical romances, is largely responsible for my taking on this project. He was kind enough to give my first book, Hugh, a favourable review, after which he wrote that he’d like to know more about the street boy/thief/prostitute William Dempsey, who was a supporting character in that book. After some research, I realized William was in fact, Blue Billy, and the book developed from there. I’m indebted to Alexis for caring enough about this character to ask to know more.


David Lawrence

David Lawrence is the author of two queer historical novels – ‘Hugh: A Hero without a Novel’ and ‘Blue Billy’s Rogue Lexicon.’ As a writer, he loves taking a deep dive into the politics, social norms, and events of 18th-century England while presenting humorous and unique coming-of-age tales.

A native of the American Southwest, David has spent much of his life in Great Britain, France, and Finland.  He now lives in the American Northwest – Helena, Montana – with his Finnish partner. 

By day he loves hiking under the Big Sky of his beautiful adopted state.

By night, however, he prefers wandering the byways of 18th-century London…

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Monday, April 3, 2023

Book Spotlight and Excerpt: Close Your Eyes: A Fairy Tale by Chris Tomasini


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Set in early 1400s Europe, Close Your Eyes is a sincere, yet light-hearted and lustful, ode to love. As Samuel, the court jester, struggles to describe why his friends, Agnieszka the cook, and Tycho the story-teller, fled the King of Gora's service, he learns that love was the beating heart behind everything that happened in the castle.

He learns as well that more ghosts than he knew of walked the midnight halls, and that the spirit of Jeanne d'Arc haunted his friend, and once slid into bed with Tycho, daring him to leave - to take to the cold roads of Europe, where he had once wandered orphaned and alone, and find his destiny there.

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 .•*´¨) ¸.•*¨) ( ¸.•´

 Close Your Eyes


(Samuel’s first-person narration)

In the early morning hours of June 1, 1431, the castle of Gora echoed and sounded with the cries of mobilizing soldiers. Preceded by hundreds of horsemen, the soldiers rumbled through the city and fanned into the surrounding countryside. The city populace awoke to the confusion, and meeting in the dark streets, neighbours questioned each other as to the reason for the hysteria. The most widely believed rumour was that forces of the Holy Roman Empire were preparing to attack our King. This caused considerable alarm, for our land had been at peace for nearly two decades, and war was thought of as a terrible plague that existed only in distant, foreign lands.

It was not war which had sent torches blazing and soldiers careening through the night, and though the true reason was known, and often spoken, it was as often dismissed, seeming too inconsequential and unlikely to be the cause of such a disturbance. The truth, which none of those people milling about in the city streets believed, was that the King’s cook and storyteller had fled the castle.

I was found wandering about the castle halls that night, and a party of guards subsequently escorted me to my room. They closed me in and set two watchmen outside the door. Alone in my cell I opened the shutters of my window, leant against the stone wall, stared up at the full moon, and listened to the shouts and cries drifting from the fields and through the city. I knew that I would be unable to sleep, but nevertheless I climbed into bed where I found, to my surprise, a scroll lying hidden amongst the furs and cushions. I sat up in the darkness and held it reverently in my hands. I knew immediately what it was – my parting gift from the storyteller, from my friend Tycho.

It is now 1435. When I found Tycho’s scroll in 1431 I was illiterate, and it has taken me four arduous years to learn the mysteries of the written word. Reading Tycho’s scroll, which proved to be an infrequently kept journal, and certain other documents which came into my possession, I developed a desire to write the story of my friend, a daunting task, for it is the story of a storyteller.

I spoke to an old and wise friend of my desire to write Tycho’s history. I asked him where I should begin, and he replied “At the beginning.” I pondered this for a few days, then returned to him and asked “Which one?” The old man smiled patiently, answering “My friend, the answer lies within yourself.”

That was a year ago. This business of writing, it is like being cast into a blackened dungeon, with your arms bound behind your back, and then ordered to sound out the dimensions of the room by bashing your head against the walls.

A year, but after so many false starts and counterfeit revelations, I think I have finally understood what my old friend meant.

Chris Tomasini 

Chris Tomasini lives in Ontario, Canada. He has studied creative writing via Humber College's "Correspondence Program in Creative Writing" and through the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.

In the 1990s, Chris taught English as a Second Language and had stops in England, Poland, and Japan.

Since 2000, Chris has worked in bookstores, publishing, and in libraries.

Chris is married with two children and can often be found (though not very easily) on a bicycle on country roads in central Ontario.

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