Wednesday 6 December 2023

Have a peek between the covers of Justin Newland's fabulous novel - The Mark of the Salamander


The Mark of the Salamander
By Justin Newland

Publication Date: 28th September 2023
Publisher: The Book Guild 
Page Length: 256 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction 


Nelan Michaels is a young Flemish man fleeing religious persecution in the Spanish Netherlands. Settling in Mortlake outside London, he studies under Queen Elizabeth’s court astrologer, conjuring a bright future – until he’s wrongly accused of murder. 

Forced into the life of a fugitive, Nelan hides in London, before he is dramatically pressed into the crew of the Golden Hind.

Thrust into a strange new world on board Francis Drake’s vessel, Nelan sails the seas on a voyage to discover discovery itself. Encountering mutiny, ancient tribes and hordes of treasure, Nelan must explore and master his own mystical powers – including the Mark of the Salamander, the mysterious spirit of fire. 

THE MARK OF THE SALAMANDER is the first in The Island of Angels series: a two-book saga that tells the epic story and secret history of England’s coming of age during the Elizabethan era


That night, Nelan had both light from the candles and some valuable space. With no room in the cramped cells, some prisoners slept in the wardens’ shed, and the new arrivals slept in the freezing yard. Marshalsea was a hard taskmaster; many fell by the wayside who could not afford the garnish. Squeezed into the corridor outside the infirmary, he got out his char cloth, iron, and flint, and lit the candle. Again, he read the two papers Dee had given him, but his mind prodded him about shoes. Not those in the cordwainers’ and cobblers’ shops, but the ones that never wore out. Dee had given him a clue in the Geneva Bible. Recalling the lines from the Book of Job, Nelan spoke Chapter 10, Verse 1 out loud:

My soul is cut off though I live.
I will… speak in the bitterness of my soul.

What did that mean? What were the connections between cutting off and living, and bitterness and the soul? And what had they to do with the shoes that didn’t wear out? Dr Dee had said it was a clue, so Nelan resolved to muse on the biblical passage until it revealed its inner meaning. He recalled the fear he’d felt on waking during his first night in Marshalsea, and then he wondered about sweetness and bitterness. Was the soul averse to certain flavours? Perhaps it was more sensitive to some emotions than to others.

Pick up your copy HERE!

Justin Newland

JUSTIN NEWLAND’s novels represent an innovative blend of genres from historical adventure to supernatural thriller and magical realism. His stories explore the themes of war and religion, and speculate on the human’s spiritual place in the universe.

Undeterred by the award of a Doctorate in Mathematics from Imperial College, London, he conceived his debut novel, The Genes of Isis (Matador, 2018), an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies. 

The historical thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador, 2018), is set in Ming Dynasty China in the shadows of the Great Wall. 

The Coronation (Matador, 2019) was another historical adventure and speculates on the genesis of the most important event in the modern world – the Industrial Revolution. 

The Abdication (Matador, 2021) is a mystery thriller in which a young woman confronts her faith in a higher purpose and what it means to abdicate that faith.

The Mark of the Salamander (Book Guild, 2023) is the first in a two-book series, The Island of Angels. Set in the Elizabethan era, it’s an epic tale of England’s coming of age. 

His work in progress is the second in the series, The Midnight of Eights, the charting of the uncanny coincidences that led to the repulse of the Spanish Armada. 

Author, speaker and broadcaster, Justin appears on LitFest panels, gives talks to historical associations and libraries and enjoys giving radio interviews and making podcasts. 

Born three days before the end of 1953, he lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.

Connect with Justin:

Monday 4 December 2023

Have you ever wondered how to dress like a Tudor? Find out in Judith Arnopp's fabulous new book - How to Dress Like a Tudor


How to Dress Like a Tudor
By Judith Arnopp

Publication Date:
(Hardback) 4th October 2023
(Kindle) 21st December 2023
Publisher: Pen and Sword Books
Page Length: 224 Pages
Genre: Historical Non-Fiction

Have you ever hankered to dress like a Tudor lord or lady, or perhaps you prefer the status of goodwife, or costermonger, or even a bawd? 

For beginner historical reenactors, the path to authenticity can be bewildering and sometimes intimidating. Judith Arnopp uses her own experience, both as a historian and a medieval/Tudor lady, to make your own journey a little easier.

The author traces the transition of fashion from the relatively subtle styles popular at the court of Henry VII, through the carefully constructed royal grandeur of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I to the pinnacle of majesty and splendid iconography of Elizabeth I. 

In contrast to the magnificence of court come the ordinary folk who, subject to sumptuary laws and regulations, wore garments of a simpler cut and cloth – a strata of society that formed the back bone of Tudor England.

This brief history of 16th century fashion examines clothing for both rich and poor, adult and child, and offers tips and tricks on how to begin to sew your first historically inspired garment, this book is aimed at helping the beginner learn How to Dress like a Tudor.

Grab your copy HERE!

Judith Arnopp

Judith writes historical fiction set during the late medieval and Tudor period. Her usual focus is on the women who lived close to the monarch, women like Margaret Beaufort, Elizabeth of York and Mary Tudor but more recently has been writing from the perspective of Henry VIII himself. Her books are on Kindle, Audible and Paperback.

She also writes non-fiction, her work featuring in many anthologies and online magazines. Her latest non-fiction, How to Dress like a Tudor published by Pen & Sword Books is available now. 

Judith is a founder member of a reenactment group The Fyne Company of Cambria, and began making Tudor costumes for herself, her husband, John, and other members of the group. It was this that inspired How to Dress like a Tudor and she hopes to write more non-fiction Tudor history in the future.
Connect with Judith:

Saturday 2 December 2023

Book Review - Muskets and Minuets by Lindsey S. Fera


Muskets and Minuets 
By Lindsey S. Fera

Publication Date: 19th October 2021
Publisher: Zenith Publishing
Page Length: 486 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction 

Love. Politics. War.

Amidst mounting tensions between the British crown and the American colonists of Boston, Annalisa Howlett struggles with her identity and purpose as a woman. Rather than concern herself with proper womanly duties, like learning to dance a minuet or chasing after the eligible and charming Jack Perkins, Annalisa prefers the company of her brother, George, and her beloved musket, Bixby. She intends to join the rebellion, but as complications in her personal life intensify, and the colonies inch closer to war with England, everything Annalisa thought about her world and womanhood are transformed forever.

Join Annalisa on her journey to discover what it truly means to be a woman in the 18th century, all set against the backdrop of some of the most pivotal moments in American history.

“Annie? Debut?” George guffawed. “She’d rather shoot a firelock than dance a minuet.”
“Is this true?” Abigail lifted a hand to her breast.
“It is.” Annalisa glanced at the doorway through which Jack had followed Jane and Oliver. “But Mamma says I may have my debut come springtime.”
The same as when I join the militia.

Jack Perkins was not at all the person Annalisa had expected him to be. Annalisa expected to see the man her older sister would marry, but instead, she found a man more alike herself. A man who shared her views against the king, and who listened to her when she spoke. 

In the height of the revolution, Annalisa is ready to stand besides Jack and her brother, George, and show her support for the Patriots, but she constantly seems to find herself at dead ends. She is told she cannot stand and fight, for she is a woman. She is told to keep her ideas to herself, while she knows she is just as smart and strong as the menfolk in her life. Desperate to show her support and prove herself, she dons some old breeches, a new name, and joins a militia. 

With the uncertainty of the revolution, the frustrations of society’s demands, and a forbidden love doomed to fail, Muskets and Minuets by Lindsey Fera is a novel that wants for nothing, and leaves you unable to put the book down at the end of each chapter.

Annalisa despised that fate had been so cruel as to make her a girl, who was not allowed an opinion about the politics of the revolution, and is told to put her efforts towards learning French and how to dance the minuet, rather than learning how to load and shoot a firearm. She would rather be outside, practicing her aim, than inside with some sewing. The frustrations that Annalisa feels, the prison she is trapped in, with everyone telling her what she should and should not be doing, are portrayed with such care, the reader begins to feel these frustrations themselves. Why should Annalisa sit at home and perfect her needlepoint, when those she loves are joining up and shouldering their muskets to show their support for their country? As Annalisa grows into womanhood, she strays further from what society and her mother say a woman should be, and her independence and determination to follow what her heart tells her is right is truly admirable. She is an incredibly strong character, and one who is truly a delight to follow and get to know. 

Annalisa grew up very close to her older brother, George, who was a very important role model for Annalisa throughout this book. She idolised him as a child, and he was the one to teach her how to reload and aim Bixby, their trusty firelock. He taught her how to stand up for herself, and yet, he too seemed to fall into the mindset that she shouldn’t put her talents to good use because of her gender. George is an incredibly likeable character, although at times he can grow rather frustrating. Even though he knows Annalisa is more than capable of showing her support for the Patriots, he attempts to stop her, to placate her and tell her what she should be doing instead. 
Despite his several misgivings, George is one of those characters you can’t help but like. Together with Annalisa and Jack, the three create a rather formidable force.

Although Jack is heir to large estates, Annalisa is the second daughter of her family, and so they are not a match to be sought out. With his titles, Jack would be much better suited to Annalisa’s older sister, as society dictates the oldest sister should be married first. But, Jack cannot deny that, while Jane is beautiful, Annalisa is someone he can’t ignore. He is drawn to her, entranced by her courage and resolution that no man will tell her what to do, nor will anyone tell her not to speak her own mind. However, Annalisa and Jack find themselves of the opposite side of society and their parents, fighting a losing battle to be able to be together. Their desperation is clear among the pages, and you find yourself reading faster and faster, needing urgently to know if there is a happy ending in store for them or not. Their respect and admiration for each other made them an easy couple to root for, and you certainly find yourself reading with your fingers crossed, hoping against hope that, somehow, things will fall into place for them.

This novel, particularly in the relationships and the feelings between certain characters, highlights the ever relevant subject of generational splits, with different generations having wildly different ideas over what is right, and what is wrong. There are several characters in this book who, given their own way, could easily sort out their own relationships and set themselves on the path they see to be correct for themselves. However, with different people in charge of how their lives play out, there is friction and misery. Although acting against the norms of the era, the younger generation of this novel have very clear views on what they want from their own lives, which do not necessarily line up with what the older generation see for them. Unfortunately, in this era, the older generations generally had the last say, which makes Jack and Annalisa’s desperation and desire to be together heart wrenching to read about, for their chances of ending up together are so slim.

The historical detailing in this novel is immersing, and combined with an admirable portrayal of human life, Ms Fera has been wildly successful in creating a novel worth reading. The era has clearly been carefully researched, and plenty of time has gone into every mention of the revolution and the soldiers fighting for their own freedom. In particular, the mention of Annalisa’s monthly menses made the characters come across as very real in the telling, turning them into real people, rather than just names upon a page. This is a novel that has been penned with extreme care to fully entrap the reader within the pages, engross them in the political and social drama of the period, and leave them wanting more once the final page has been turned. With such loveable characters, and a narrative that makes it extremely difficult to put the book down, this is certainly a book not to be missed.

Muskets and Minuets by Lindsey Fera is a wild ride you don’t want to get off, but rather want to ride again and again. With the pull of two hearts desperate to find each other, the frantic energy of battle, and the drama of friendships and society gossip, this is a novel that begs to be savoured, for it is not just a story to read, but one to experience. 

I Highly Recommend.

Grab your copy HERE!

Lindsey S. Fera

A born and bred New Englander, Lindsey hails from the North Shore of Boston. A member of the Topsfield Historical Society and the Historical Novel Society, she forged her love for writing with her intrigue for colonial America by writing her debut novel, Muskets and Minuets. When she's not attending historical reenactments or spouting off facts about Boston, she's nursing patients back to health in the ICU.

Connect with Lindsey: 

Friday 1 December 2023

Book Review - Covered in Flour by Dr. Charles Presti


Covered in Flour

By Dr. Charles Presti

Publication Date: 9th October 2023
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 199 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

It's 1968 in Whisper Haven, and 8-year-old Carl Pozzi's world is about to change.

For eight-year-old Carl Pozzi, 1968 begins like any other year—playing kickball with friends and enjoying the comforting aroma of Mom's pasta dinners in their predominantly white suburban Whisper Haven home. But when Carl's teacher introduces lessons about racial prejudice and injustice, his worldview cracks wide open.

How far can innocence stretch before it snaps?

As Carl flips through the pages of his 3-ring binder, each lesson serves as a gateway to a journey of self-discovery and understanding. It's an expedition that not only changes him but reshapes his whole concept of family and justice—especially as he watches his father put on a police uniform during one of the most fraught periods in American history.

"Covered in Flour" is not just a heartfelt stroll down memory lane. It's a captivating coming-of-age saga that digs deep beneath the surface of suburban tranquility. It beckons you to reconsider long-held family values and confront the societal norms you've taken for granted.

Written with genuine love, humor, and a tinge of sorrow, this story blends the nostalgia of tradition with the inevitability of change, offering a stirring mix that leaves you pondering long after the last page is turned. This book isn't just a delightful read; it's a catalyst for introspection, freshly baked and served for your soul.

“The shrill ring of the telephone from the kitchen desk cut through the silence like a blade, pulling us back to the present moment. No one moved initially; we all just stared at each other. We all exchanged glances before my father's eyes met mine, a wordless cue for me to answer the call. 
"Hello?" I said, my voice barely above a whisper. 
"Hi, this is Miss Veezi. May I speak with your father, please?" The words sent a shiver down my spine. I paused, then turned toward the table.
"Dad, Miss Veezi is on the phone. She wants to talk to you."
Dad put his fork down, dabbed his lips with a paper towel, and stomped toward the phone. He picked up the receiver and listened. The expressionless mask that had been on his face shifted into a scowl, his eyes narrowing as he listened.”

The long wait is over for Carl Pozzi, as he finally gets the 3-ring binder for school and homework. With a sense of maturity, he approaches the new school year with enthusiasm. Like a sponge, he's eager to absorb everything Miss Veezi can teach him. 
While he may lack singing skills, much like his mother, he excels in math. However, Miss Veezi intends to do more than just teach the core subjects like reading, writing, and arithmetic. She is determined to challenge her students with real-life problems and social issues.
Miss Veezi's teaching was nothing short of progressive, but when her teachings clashed with Carl's father’s views, Carl felt torn. Balancing the desire to please his teacher with the knowledge of respecting his father’s views becomes something of a challenge. Especially when he starts to grasp the concept of prejudice and racial inequality. He cannot help but wonder why his father, who is a policeman, despises coloured people so much.
Charles Presti's book, Covered in Flour, provides an insightful window into the mind of an eight-year-old boy during the most turbulent year of the 1960s.
The author effectively transports the readers into the story by appealing to all senses. The baking of bread can be smelt, childhood sweets can be tasted, hugs can be felt, songs can be heard, and the vibrancy of the era can be seen. This is a novel that totally immerses the reader and reminds them what life was like in a seemingly more simpler time. But, it is not all sweetness and light, for this was a period of profound social unrest, where the colour of your skin mattered. 1968 was a year that saw the assignation of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. It was also the year of the Glenville Shootout, all of which are mentioned in this novel.
Carl's story is depicted as a memoir. He is a young boy who has a strong zest for life. He is as mischievous as any eight-year-old boy, but he also has a strong desire to learn and to understand what is happening around him. He adores his mother and has a strong respect for his father. Despite his father’s stance on coloured people, Carl sees his father as a kind of superhero - he is a policeman and that in itself demands respect. Carl puts his dad on a pedestal but by the end of the novel, he begins to have a deeper understanding of his father. He also begins to understand the complexity of being an adult. He begins to recognise the responsibility that adults bear and he also begins to understand that behind the joyful family parties, there is an undercurrent of tension. While his grandparents try to keep unity there is a sense that once they have passed on, the family will split and never unite in the same way again. Carl is also awakened to the injustice around him especially when it comes to skin colour. He lives in an area where there are different ethnicities and faiths, but coloured people are unwelcome - he does not understand why this is. Carl came across as very real in the telling and his story is beautifully depicted. 
Miss Veezi, Carl's teacher, is a lively character known for her colourful attire and empathetic teaching style. She takes the time to teach the children about the world, especially emphasising racism, prejudice, and injustice. She has two methods for accomplishing this: first, by motivating her students to watch the sitcom "Julia," and second, by encouraging reading literature around the subject. Instead of pushing her opinion, she empowers her pupils to think independently. Through her teaching, she inspires Carl to think independently, which unintentionally makes him wonder at his father’s strong reaction against people of colour. Despite clashes in ideology, Miss Veezi maintains professionalism and doesn't judge Carl based on his father's beliefs. Miss Veezi is someone Carl greatly admires and it is very easy to see why. It was wonderful to see Carl flourish under her gentle teachings, as she is one of those teachers who sparks a passion for learning.
Carl's father, Nick, is a complex character. Despite being popular as a teenager, he had a temper that frequently spilt over at home. As an adult, he is very much the same. Despite not posing a physical threat to his children, they are afraid of his anger and know not to engage in arguments. He is also an unapologetic racist, who hates anyone of colour even if they are his colleagues. 
Carl also has the challenge of dealing with his father's disappointment in him - he will never match his father's athletic prowess. But Carl loves his father very much and often fears for him when he is at work. Carl’s relationship with his father really reflects the era the book is set in. 
Presti's writing has an authenticity that includes words not typically used today, but they serve as a reminder of the social history of the period. The historical details in this book also feel extremely authentic, which allows the reader to easily immerse themselves in the story and era. 
The enthralling story of Covered in Flour by Charles Presti keeps readers engaged from beginning to end. If you're craving pure nostalgia, then this novel is definitely for you. With its entertaining narrative, this story really does tick all the boxes.
I Highly Recommend.
Grab your copy HERE!

Charles Presti
Embarking on a fresh journey as a storyteller, Charles Presti brings a lifetime of experience as a retired physician and informatics specialist to his new role. Though "Covered in Flour" marks his debut as a published author, this coming-of-age story was born from the encouragement of loved ones who pushed him to share his stories through writing. 
While not identifying purely as an author, Charles finds joy in sharing stories that resonate with readers. He draws inspiration from his upbringing in 1960s suburbia as well as his experiences as a gay man finding his place in the world. 
When he's not crafting poignant narratives, you can find Charles enjoying life in Pensacola with his husband Mike Bruce, their Wheaton Terrier Zoey, and their close-knit community. Charles and Mike are active with their charity "Sunday's Child," which funds local non-profits and promotes diversity and inclusion. 
With warmth and authenticity, Charles' debut novel captures the complexity of growing up in a rapidly changing America. He invites readers into a world of family, self-discovery, and the meaning found in everyday moments.
Connect with Charles:


Tuesday 28 November 2023

Have a peek between the covers of Kimberly Burns' fabulous novel - The Redemption of Mattie Silks


The Redemption of Mattie Silks 
By Kimberly Burns

Publication Date: October 25, 2023
Publisher: Thomas Bard Publishing
Page Length: 315 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

In 1892, running one of the West’s fanciest brothels is a rough game. In a town filled with brazen criminals, corrupt police, zealous politicians, and morality committees, Madam Mattie Silks makes her fortune catering to Colorado’s gold and silver millionaires.

Notorious crime boss “Soapy” Smith is at the top of the Denver underworld. There are no rules for Smith’s gang. They solve problems with bribes and bullets. When Mattie’s husband stumbles into Soapy’s dealings, she struggles to protect him.

Gold is discovered in the Yukon and Mattie seizes the opportunity for adventure and profit. But Skagway, Alaska, is even more lawless than Denver. Mattie must use all her business sense and street smarts to safeguard those she cares about. Will it be enough? Or will Lady Justice again turn a blind eye?

Based on a true story, The Redemption of Mattie Silks is an action-packed tale of a woman succeeding in a man’s world even when the cards are stacked against her.


“The research on the era shines through, as do the grit and spirit of the characters. …A colorful and enthralling journey.” 

~ K.T. Blakemore, award-winning author of The Good Time Girls series

“A nice, nuanced portrait of the complex underworld with fine and witty turns of phrase. A great Western romp!”
~ Randi Samuelson-Brown, award-winning author of The Bad Old Days series


Denver, Colorado  
 Summer 1892

What a floozy. A huff of disgust blew from Mattie’s nose. Kate Fulton was hanging all over Cortez, and everyone in Denver knew Cortez Thompson was Mattie Silks’s man. It wasn’t his fault. Women swarmed to him like wasps to spilled cider. When he flashed his smile—that slow, crooked grin that seemed like a stolen kiss—any woman would be powerless to resist. Mattie wished he did more to discourage hussies like this one, but it simply wasn’t in his nature. 

There were many reasons to dislike Kate. She was about twenty years younger than Mattie. She ran a second-rate whorehouse down the street from Mattie’s more fashionable parlor house, and right now, she had captured Cortez’s undivided attention. The low scoop of Kate’s blouse showed too much of her chest. Mattie hoped she freckled in the sun. 

It had been a fun day of racing and picnics on the banks of Cherry Creek in Denver Park. Cortez won his footrace, and they celebrated in the many canvas-tent saloons around the park. But the races were over, and the drinking establishments, which served something called Taos Lightning, were filling with drunks. It was time to peel Kate Fulton off Cortez, and go home.

She gathered her skirts up and stomped toward the cottonwood tree Kate leaned against, her arms draped around Cortez’s neck. Between the summer heat and the tightness of her corset around her ample curves, Mattie was sure her face was turning an unattractive red. She blew a blond curl out of her eyes. 

Cortez had changed out of his star-spangled running tights and looked quite dashing in a dove-gray vest and snug black trousers. His tie was nowhere in sight and his shirt collar hung open. Mattie watched as he smoothed his perfectly oiled sand-colored hair and leaned down to whisper in Kate’s ear. She arched her long, slim neck with a seductive laugh. That was the last straw.

Mattie pulled Cortez away and stuck a finger in Kate’s face. “Stay away from my man.” She turned to him. “It’s time to go home.”

“I don’t think he wants to leave yet.” Kate smirked at Mattie. 

The finger that had been stuck in Kate’s face curled up to form a fist. Mattie punched Kate right in the nose. The younger woman gave a muffled cry as blood gushed down her face.

“And stay away from Market Street. Pack up your ugly girls and leave,” Mattie shouted.

Crying and bleeding, Kate swatted at Mattie with both hands. Cortez wrapped an arm around Mattie’s waist, picked her up, and tried to move her out of the reach of Kate’s slaps. He could hardly contain his laughter as Mattie struggled to be put down to get another swing at her rival. Another man grabbed Kate who continued to swat and reach with nails ready to scratch. Mattie kicked, landing whacks on both Kate and the man who was trying to help Cortez pull the women apart.

“You want to fight, Kate Fulton? I have a pistol in my pocket that will settle this right now.”

“A duel,” someone exclaimed from the growing crowd around the spatting women. Above the women’s shrieks and smacks, a storm of voices blew into a tornado of scandalous hearsay. 

“Who’s dueling?” asked another.

“Two madams from Market Street. Mattie Silks has a gun hidden in her dress.”

“Kate’s got no gun. She has no place to hide it.”

“What’s going on?” inquired a third.

“Two sporting girls are gonna shoot it out with no clothes on,” cracked a wiseacre. 

A horde of men pushed closer, jostling for a better view, hollering excited encouragement at the combatants.

“Who’s taking bets?” shouted someone. “I got a dollar on the little blonde.”

Kate landed a flurry of hits on Cortez’s well-groomed head and pulled at his waxed mustache. 

“Now that’s enough,” Cortez declared.

He threw Mattie over his shoulder, her ample bustle in the air, and headed to the little surrey with matching black horses. He pushed her in, clambered up, and headed the rig back to town, his toothy grin gleaming in the dimming light. 

Cortez hailed from Texas and was full of the cocksure bluster that is born into men of that region. He claimed to be a footracer and gambler by profession. 

Mattie’s profession was the oldest known to mankind and her parlor house was one of the most successful in all the West. Had Mattie been born a man, she could have owned a bank, a hotel, or a mercantile. She had the intellect and gumption to manage any business, but she lacked the correct genitalia to do so. It was with a touch of irony that she made a fortune catering to the male organ.

“Darlin’, you’re the feistiest gal I ever met. But I don’t think you should take up prizefighting. It might ruin your girlish good looks,” Cortez told her with a wink.

Round blue eyes, button nose, and Cupid’s bow lips painted Mattie’s face into an illusion of innocence. It was just a trick of the light. After twenty-five years running a bordello, all the naiveté had been wrung out of her. 

“You know my flirting with Kate doesn’t mean anything.” He leaned close and rested his chin on her head. “I always go home with you.”

This was as faithful as Cortez could be. Mattie understood. She made her living selling intimacy with strangers to happily married men. 

Theirs was an unusual marriage with Cortez kept in an easy, comfortable lifestyle and Mattie the breadwinner. However, to do business in a man’s world a woman needed a man. Since no law-abiding, God-fearing man with a successful, legitimate business and an ounce of common sense would marry a brothel owner, Mattie hitched her wagon to the charming and handsome, but unreliable Cortez. Thereby, she could use her husband’s name to sign legal papers and conduct banking transactions. The untraditional arrangement suited them both. His occasionally wandering eye was just another thing she had to manage.

“Cort darlin’, I love you, but sometimes I could just shoot you.”

He tossed his head back in laughter. A boy of a man, Cortez rarely took things seriously. Suddenly, a gun fired from behind them. As Mattie turned to see what the ruckus was about, Cortez grabbed his neck. “I’ve been shot.”

Blood seeped through his fingers.

 “Sweet Jesus,” Mattie cried, not sure if she was praying or swearing. I didn’t really mean it. She pulled Cortez’s hand away to see a line weeping red under his ear. She grabbed the reins from his hand, snapped the lines over the backs of the horses, and headed at a gallop for the safety of her house on Market Street.

“Harlen, help us” Mattie called to her doorman as the surrey skidded to a stop in front of the elegant brick parlor house. The huge man, who ushered people in, and sometimes threw them out, quickly lumbered down from his post on the front step. Without comment, the bouncer draped Cortez’s arm around his bull-sized neck and half carried his boss’s husband through the public receiving room, up the stairs, and to a private room at the back of the house.

“Girls, send for Dr. Johnson,” Mattie ordered as they rushed past the gaggle of soiled doves who worked for her. Mattie wanted a male doctor to look at Cort’s wound, figuring he had more experience with gunshots than the lady doctor who took care of the particular ailments of good-time girls. 
“The bullet just grazed the skin. Change the bandage every day to keep the wound clean until it scabs over,” Dr. Johnson instructed Mattie later that night. 

He turned to Cortez. “Avoid straining your neck. No fighting or heavy lifting.”

With a lazy smile, Cortez admitted, “I always try to avoid those things or any kind of work at all.”

The doctor turned back to Mattie. “I gave him a dose of laudanum. It does make some people speak rather too honestly.” 

Grab your copy HERE!
This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription. 

Kimberly Burns

Kimberly Burns grew up in Colorado hearing stories about the colourful characters of the Old West. She has degrees from the University of Colorado and the University of Hartford. Kimberly is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Western Writers of America, and Women Writing the West. She lives with her husband and black Lab in Leesburg, Virginia.

Her debut novel The Mrs. Tabor won numerous awards including the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best New Novel, a gold medal for Best Regional Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards, a National Indie Excellence Award, and a silver medal from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Awards.

Kimberly and her unruly heroines make for an entertaining book talk. She is available to discuss her novels with book groups in person or online. Email her at

Connect with Kimberly:

Monday 27 November 2023

Have a peek between the covers of Will Bashor's fabulous book - The Bastard Prince of Versailles: A Novel Inspired by True Events


The Bastard Prince of Versailles: A Novel Inspired by True Events
By Will Bashor

Publication Date: August 18, 2023
Publisher: Will Bashor
Page Length: 338 Pages
Genre: Historical LGBTQ Fiction / Historical Fiction

A historical novel inspired by real events, The Bastard Prince of Versailles, narrates the escapades of a misborn "prince" during the reign of Louis XIV in seventeenth-century France. Louis de Bourbon wasn't a real prince-even though his father was King Louis XIV. 

The illegitimate son of the King and his mistress, Louise de La Vallière, young Louis has been kept far from the court's eyes until summoned to bid adieu to his mother. To atone for her adultery, she joins a convent, abandoning Louis to an uncertain future. 

When Louis is humiliated by his father for his role in a secret gay society, he struggles to redeem himself through heroism and self-sacrifice in the king's army on the battlefield.

Praise for The Bastard Prince of Versailles:

“Will Bashor effortlessly weaves together the threads of fact and fiction, transporting us back to the opulence and intrigue of 17th century France. The author’s research and attention to detail are evident and well applied, never seeming like a dry history lesson but always a hook keeping you turning the pages.

Louis is brought to life with such authenticity that you can't help but empathize with his journey. As he navigates the treacherous waters of courtly politics and yearns for his father's approval, you'll feel a gripping connection to his struggles and triumphs. The rest of the characters are well-crafted as well, each contributing to the rich tapestry of the story.
If you are looking for a unique historical novel that will transport you to another time and leave a lasting impression, this book is an absolute must-read.”
--International Review of Books


On the way to his new chambers, Elizabeth introduced Louis to several courtiers in the galleries. Gentlemen bowed and ladies curtseyed, all the while eyeing his charming smile. Many commented that he had his mother’s dainty features. When Elizabeth and Louis happened upon a clutter of mignons in one of the galleries, Elizabeth took hold of Louis’ hand.

“Junger Louis, these are the Italian chevaliers,” she said in a tense tone. “Ignore them.”

The young men stopped conversing upon seeing the newcomer. Elizabeth whispered, “And you’ll soon learn why they are called Italian.”

Louis had never seen young men dressed so frivolously. The sleeves of their shiny, short satin jackets were open from the shoulder to the laced cuffs at the wrist, showing the billowy sleeves of their silk shirts. Their short breeches were elaborately tied with bands of ribbon above the knee, and their red-heeled boots were topped with ruffles or lace garters. 

When Elizabeth caught the minions gawking at Louis, she barked, “Pathetic dolts!” and the mignons vanished from the salon.

As she escorted Louis down the long corridors, she passed an enormous wind. He looked up at her in disbelief.

“This is not Versailles, mein lieber Louis,” she bellowed.

They both chuckled, and Louis knew they were off to a great start. For the next few days, Elizabeth kept him busy settling in, meeting her husband’s bizarre followers, and learning the few rules of court etiquette. It wasn’t Sceaux. And it certainly wasn’t Versailles.
Grab your copy HERE!

Will Bashor

From Columbus, Ohio, Will earned his Ph.D. from the American Graduate School of Paris. In his spare time, he reads memoirs and researches the lives of royals and their courtiers. He hopes to share his fascination with the Bourbon dynasty and its quirky inhabitants and, at the same time, weave the historical record with creative fiction. He has written articles for the Huffington Post, Age of Revolutions, BBC History Magazine, and Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book.

Connect with Will: