Monday 24 June 2024

A docile wife is what he wants. A husband is the last thing she needs. Can a quest for a killer teach them that they are both wrong?


A Gentleman’s Promise
(Gentlemen Book 1)
By Penny Hampson

Publication Date: 11th March 2021
Publisher: PP&M Publishing; 2nd edition
Page Length: 322 Pages
Genre: Regency / Historical Romance

A docile wife is what he wants. A husband is the last thing she needs. Can a quest for a killer teach them that they are both wrong?

Emma Smythe and her brother arrive at Easterby Hall to discover that a handsome stranger has laid claim to their ancestral home and the family title. Have her relatives been murdered, and is her brother next? Determined to find the answers, she has no option but to trust the gentleman who insists that he will help. But danger appears in many guises, and for a woman intent on remaining single, her intriguing protector may prove the biggest threat of all. 

The attempts on Richard Lacey’s life begin when he inherits a title and a rundown estate. A coincidence? He’s not so sure. Problems multiply with the unexpected arrival of Jamie and Emma Smythe. Long thought dead, they too are potential targets. Richard thinks he wants a docile, obedient wife, but will the task of keeping headstrong Emma safe from danger change his mind?

Embroiled in a sinister mystery, can Richard and Emma work together to catch a killer? And will this dangerous quest teach them that what they both wish to avoid is exactly what they need?

Pick up your copy of 
A Gentleman’s Promise

Penny Hampson

Writing History, Mystery, and Romance.

Penny Hampson writes mysteries and because she has a passion for history you’ll find her stories also reflect that. A Gentleman’s Promise, a traditional Regency romance, was Penny’s debut novel and the first of her Gentlemen Series. Penny also enjoys writing contemporary mysteries with a hint of the paranormal, because where do ghosts come from but the past? The Unquiet Spirit, a spooky mystery/romance set in Cornwall, was a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2021.

Connect with Penny:

Friday 21 June 2024

A reluctant daughter. A dutiful wife. A mystery of the ages.

Love Lost in Time
By Cathie Dunn

Publication Date: 7th November 2019
Publisher: Ocelot Press
Page Length: 274 Pages
Genre: Duel Time-Line / Historical Mystery / Romance

A reluctant daughter. A dutiful wife. A mystery of the ages.

Languedoc, France, 2018

Historian Madeleine Winters would rather research her next project than rehash the strained relationship she had with her late mother. However, to claim her inheritance, she reluctantly agrees to stay the one year required in her late mother’s French home and begins renovations. But when she’s haunted by a female voice inside the house and tremors emanating from beneath her kitchen floorboards, she’s shocked to discover ancient human bones.

The Mediterranean coast, AD 777

Seventeen-year-old Nanthild is wise enough to know her place. Hiding her Pagan wisdom and dutifully accepting her political marriage, she’s surprised when she falls for her Christian husband, the Count of Carcassonne. But she struggles to keep her forbidden religious beliefs and her healing skills secret while her spouse goes off to fight in a terrible, bloody war.

As Maddie settles into her rustic village life, she becomes obsessed with unraveling the mysterious history buried in her new home. And when Nanthild is caught in the snare of an envious man, she’s terrified she’ll never embrace her beloved again.

Can two women torn apart by centuries help each other finally find peace?

Love Lost in Time is a vivid standalone historical fiction novel for fans of epoch-spanning enigmas. If you like dark mysteries, romantic connections, and hints of the paranormal, then you’ll adore Cathie Dunn’s tale of redemption and self-discovery. 

Only 0.99 on #Kindle for a Limited Time
Pick up your copy of
Love Lost in Time

Cathie Dunn

Cathie is an Amazon-bestselling author of historical fiction, dual-timeline, mystery, and romance. She loves to infuse her stories with a strong sense of place and time, combined with a dark secret or mystery – and a touch of romance. Often, you can find her deep down the rabbit hole of historical research…
In addition, she is also a historical fiction book promoter with The Coffee Pot Book Club, a novel-writing tutor, and a keen reviewer on her blog, Ruins & Reading.
After having lived in Scotland for almost two decades, Cathie is now enjoying the sunshine in the south of France with her husband, and her rescued pets, Ellie Dog & Charlie Cat. 

She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Richard III Society, the Alliance of Independent Authors, and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Connect with Cathie: 

Thursday 20 June 2024

Dual timeline story set in the 1960's and the years 1472-1502, following the finding of Anne Mowbray's coffin, through the story of her brief life, burial and first reburial as witnessed by her mother, Elizabeth Talbot, to her final reinterment in Westminster Abbey.


Princess in the Police Station: A Tale of Little Anne Mowbray
(Medieval Babes: Tales of Little-Known Ladies Book 12)
By J.P. Reedman

Publication Date: 24th May 2024
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 161 Pages
Genre: Dual Timeline / Historical Fiction / Biographical Fiction

1964, Workmen digging on a bombsite in London uncover a hidden vault containing a lead coffin. The coffin is almost reburied in a mass grave in a local churchyard, but an old retired policeman, examining the sarcophagus in the police station where the find has been taken, notices a plaque attached to the leaden lid. What he reads, stuns him--this is not a an unknown medieval nun or noblewoman.
The coffin's occupant is a child--a Princess, Anne Mowbray, wife of Richard of Shrewsbury, one of the infamous Princes in the Tower, who disappeared in 1483...

1470's. Elizabeth is the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. King Edward IV has expressed a wish that the widow's only child, Anne, might marry his younger son, Richard. Unwillingly, she agrees, even though the marriage contract will cause her to lose her dower lands, and if Anne should die young, all the Norfolk lands would go to her young husband instead of blood relatives. But she dares not deny the King, for Elizabeth is the sister of Eleanor Talbot...the King's secret wife from years before. If the King suspects she knows the truth of his relationship with Eleanor, all she loves is in danger, for her knowledge could threaten his throne...

So at just five years old, Anne is married to an even younger Prince Richard in a grand ceremony, but Elizabeth fears for her child's future in Edward's decadent court.
And soon the thing she fears most comes to pass...

Dual timeline story set in the 1960's and the years 1472-1502, following the finding of Anne Mowbray's coffin, through the story of her brief life, burial and first reburial as witnessed by her mother, Elizabeth Talbot, to her final reinterment in Westminster Abbey.

Pick up your copy of 
Princess in the Police Station

J.P. Reedman

J.P. Reedman was born in Canada but has lived in the U.K. for nearly 30 years. 

Interests include folklore & anthropology, prehistoric archaeology (neolithic/bronze age Europe; ritual,burial & material culture), as well as The Wars of the Roses and the rest of the medieval era.

Connect with J.P. Reedman:

Wednesday 19 June 2024

How do you recover from the havoc wrought by history's cruellest plague?

Fortune's Wheel
(The Meonbridge Chronicles, Book 1)
By Carolyn Hughes  

Audio Release Date: 22nd April 2024
NarratorAlex Lee
Listening Length: 11 hours and 54 minutes

How do you recover from the havoc wrought by history's cruellest plague?

It's June 1349. In Meonbridge, a Hampshire manor, many have lost their lives to the Black Death, among them Alice atte Wode’s beloved husband and Eleanor Titherige’s widowed father. Even the family of the manor’s lord and his wife, Margaret de Bohun, has not entirely escaped.

But, now the plague has passed, the people of Meonbridge must work together to rebuild their lives. However, tensions mount between the de Bohuns and their tenants, as the workers realise their new scarceness means they can demand higher wages and dictate their own lives.

When the tensions deepen into violence and disorder, and the men – lord and villagers alike – seem unable to find any resolution, the women – Alice, Eleanor and Margaret – must step forward to find a way out of the conflict that is tearing Meonbridge apart.

If you enjoy well-researched, immersive historical fiction, set in a turbulent and challenging time, with strong but credible female characters, you’ll love Fortune’s Wheel, the first of the MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES.


Chapter 1

June 1349

Alice atte Wode gazed around the vast high space of the manor’s great hall. It was only six months ago that Meonbridge had come together here for the Christmas celebration. Then, everyone was full of dread; fearful of the news they’d heard about a terrible sickness sweeping across the world and already at England’s shores. But at least they were then still all together. 

Alice’s beloved Stephen had still been alive, and their sweet boy Geoffrey, both now lying cold in the common grave that Stephen himself had ordered to be dug, as more and more folk died and the churchyard no longer had space for them all.

And it was Agnes’s last evening before she disappeared, only the Good Lord Himself knew where. The girl had seemed uninterested in the celebrations, sitting silent and distracted, with none of her usual vivacity. She hadn’t even bothered with her appearance, neither begging her father for a new kirtle, as she often did for Christmas, nor even taking any trouble to decorate her hair, but letting her yellow curls hang plain and loose. 

Tonight was Midsummer’s Eve, usually a time of revelry and merrymaking, with games and mummers, and a great feast held on the village green. But this year, the new priest, Master Hugo Garret, decreed the festival would be one of thanksgiving, not merriment. At church the other Sunday, he mounted his platform on the chancel steps and glared at his flock standing together in the nave.

‘This Midsummer Eve,’ he said, ‘all must come here to church, to pray and thank God and Our Lady for delivering Meonbridge from the evil that has stalked our lanes and byways since last Christmastide.’ A few among the congregation murmured discontent, but Master Hugo glared again and coughed. ‘Only then will it be fitting for the village to come together for a communal dinner.’

But, after months of constant rain, the green was too muddy for the dinner to be held in the usual place just beyond the church door, so, after prayers, everyone trooped up to the manor house.

The hall was festooned with the Midsummer decorations of birch boughs, fennel and orpine, and garlands of flowers, and a hundred candles lit up the shadows. Despite the priest’s avowal that this should not be a merry feast, it seemed that Lady Margaret had worked hard to bring some cheer to the occasion: a cheer most guests scarcely felt, despite doing their best to smile and wish each other good fortune.

But it was hard for them all; Alice wasn’t alone in her grieving.

Her sons, John and little Matthew, were sitting on her right, and on her other side sat Simon Hogge, the butcher, and his wife Ann, still mourning the loss of their only child. They were young enough to have more children, but knowing this didn’t make up for the ghastly death of their darling Elizabeth, a child of three with a mop of fair curls, a sunny smile and a perpetually dirty face. She was naughty but sweet-natured, the apple of her parents’ eye. Yet no more so than the three small children of Agnes and Alexander Baker, or the grown-up daughters of Margery Watson, or the two young sons of Robert Tyler, the bailiff, who had also lost his wife. Or, of course, Peter, the last surviving son of Joan and Thomas Miller. The Millers hadn’t come this evening: Thomas was still in shock, and Joan had taken to her bed and wouldn’t be coaxed out of it. And who could blame her? No one here.

The parish clerk had drawn up a list of the dead, and Alice went to see it. Although she couldn’t read the names, she could see the list was very long. Alice knew everyone who had died. She knew all their stories. It had become her business to know, not because she was a gossip but because all the village families were her friends and neighbours, and she made a point of visiting them all and they were only too happy to pour out their hearts to her.

This was of course the job of the parish priest, but Master Hugo had come only recently to Meonbridge, given the post just a month ago, eight long, worrying weeks after dear Master Aelwyn finally gave up his soul to God. Hugo knew no one in the village and was finding it hard to become accepted. Many folk no longer trusted the Church: angry that Meonbridge was left without a priest for two whole months, they didn’t understand why God’s ministers on earth couldn’t prevent the plague’s horrific spread. They were aghast when God’s wrath struck down two of His own, Aelwyn himself, and Alice’s own son Geoffrey, apprenticed to Aelwyn and taking his first steps in training to be a priest.

The Church was no longer the rock of safety they had imagined it to be.

Sir Richard de Bohun banged on the table and rose to his feet. He looked thin and haggard, the neat rufous beard of his youth now grey and shaggy. The lord of Meonbridge was a man of action, not fashionable but careful with his dress and appearance. But, despite seeming to work hard at his smile, it was clear he too had been shaken by the horrors of the past six months.

‘My friends,’ he said, raising his voice and holding his goblet in the air. ‘Let us raise our cups and give good cheer to one another. And let us give thanks to God that He has delivered us from the great mortality that has laid waste to Meonbridge, and taken so many of our loved ones from us.’

A small commotion rippled around the hall as everyone lifted high their cups, brimming with Sir Richard’s good ale, and calls of ‘Thanks be to God!’ rose up into the rafters.

Alice lifted her best pewter goblet and, turning to her sons, bade them knock their wooden cups together. ‘May we have good fortune.’

‘Good fortune, Ma,’ said John, forcing a smile, then wrapped a great arm around her shoulder and crushed her to his chest. A tear escaped from his eye, and he wiped it roughly away on the sleeve of his best tunic. ‘God knows, we need it. Yet no more so than our friends and neighbours.’

She eased herself up from the bench and gave him a brief hug, then reached for Matthew and, grasping him to her, kissed him on the forehead. He quickly pulled away, his cheeks aflame.

‘God bless, Mam,’ he mumbled and retreated to his seat the other side of his brother.

Sir Richard banged the table again and rose once more to speak. He held up his hand for quiet. ‘My friends, it is time for us all to take our fill. Neighbours, it has been a difficult time for us all. Our fields and crofts have had short shrift, our animals given less care than we are accustomed to give. Our stocks are low and our harvest may be small, but what we share with you this Midsummer’s Eve, Margaret and I give with our heartiest blessings. Eat, friends, eat your fill.’

Alice leaned towards John, and whispered in his ear. ‘Sir Richard’s very good at acting the generous host, don’t you think?’

John grinned.

‘At manor feasts,’ she continued, ‘he always seems the very model of the kindly benefactor, graciously sharing his bounty with his servants.’

John nodded and leaned close to her ear. ‘But, though we’re willing enough to take advantage of his hospitality, we’re not fooled. It’s we who bring in the harvests.’

She pursed her lips. She was not alone in thinking Sir Richard a hard master, who extracted every ounce of work from his tenants and insisted on the payment of every fee and fine. Yet she knew well enough that Margaret didn’t share her husband’s views on the treatment of his tenants, though she presumed the lady still kept her counsel, for Richard had never been a man to argue with.

As Sir Richard sat down again, Margaret gave a signal and the manor servants entered in a small procession bearing aloft the dishes for the feast. It was a welcome sight. Alice’s family didn’t go hungry, even in these difficult times. But many of her neighbours had struggled more than usual these past few months, with their fields, crofts and livestock so neglected. This banquet, meagre perhaps compared with those of the past, was nonetheless a grand affair.

As the recent widow of the reeve, Alice was seated with her sons close to the high table, so she had a good view of the procession of dishes, which came first to the de Bohuns and their most important guests, and then to her table. Roasted meats glistened on their trenchers, together with dozens of small birds – woodcock perhaps, trapped in the local forest. There were pigeon pies and a rich venison brewet served with a creamy wheat and almond milk frumenty, pease pudding and a thin spicy mortrews. As well as the usual dark rye and barley bread, they all shared a few small maslin loaves that contained a little wheat flour – Sir Richard was probably the only one in Meonbridge who still had wheat from last year’s harvest, but at least he was sharing it with his tenants.

Excitement buzzed around the company as the dishes were presented, then near-silence descended as everyone fell upon the food and devoured what was, for many, the only substantial meal they’d had for several months. It wasn’t long before the meat and bread and all the accompaniments had been consumed, and Margaret called for the tables to be cleared and restocked with a variety of sweet and spicy confections. The wine and ale continued to flow, and the silence was swallowed up again into a noisy babble, as low spirits were raised and, if only for a short time, losses and worries set aside, and a little laughter returned to Meonbridge.

Alice and her sons were amongst the last to leave the celebration. She lingered, hoping somehow to have the opportunity to make her peace with Margaret, but she managed to do little more than take the lady’s hand and wish her good fortune. But Margaret did clasp her hand firmly in return and smiled warmly, so Alice hoped it might yet be possible to mend the rift between them. Despite everything, she wanted to. John thought she should still keep her distance, after what had happened, but that was really not her way.

Taking his arm as they emerged from the manor gate, she stepped cautiously onto the broad wooden bridge that crossed the river just beyond, for it was slippery from the rain. It was a bright, cool evening. The rain had stopped, the moon broken through the clouds, but, even though it was June, she was shivering and wrapped Stephen’s best woollen cloak tightly around herself. They stopped for a moment on the bridge to look down into the river, shimmering in the moonlight, and rushing noisily downstream towards the mill, full from the torrents of rain that had fallen for so many weeks. Then she took Matthew’s hand in her free one and the three of them marched briskly the short distance to their cottage.

Download your copy of
Fortune's Wheel

Carolyn Hughes

Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After a first degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. It was fun for a few years, but she left to become a school careers officer in Dorset.

But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the Government.

She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest, several years ago, that creative writing and, especially, writing historical fiction, took centre stage in her life.

She has a Masters in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University, and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

Connect with Carolyn: 


Tuesday 18 June 2024

Book Review - West of Santillane by Brook Allen

West of Santillane
By Brook Allen

Publication Date: 8th March 2024
Publisher: Dawg House Books 
Page Length: 377 Page
Genre: Historical Biographical Fiction

Desperate to escape a mundane future as a Virginia planter’s wife, Julia Hancock seizes her chance for adventure when she wins the heart of American hero William Clark. Though her husband is the famed explorer, Julia embarks on her own thrilling and perilous journey of self-discovery.

With her gaze ever westward, Julia possesses a hunger for knowledge and a passion for helping others. She falls in love with Will’s strength and generous manner, but, like her parents, he is a slave owner, and Julia harbors strong opinions against slavery. Still, her love for Will wins out, though he remains unaware of her beliefs.

Julia finds St. Louis to be a rough town with few of the luxuries to which she is accustomed, harboring scandalous politicians and miscreants of all types. As her husband and his best friend, Meriwether Lewis, work to establish an American government and plan to publish their highly anticipated memoirs, Julia struggles to assume the roles of both wife and mother. She is also drawn into the plight of an Indian family desperate to return to their own lands and becomes an advocate for Will’s enslaved.

When political rivals cause trouble, Julia’s clandestine aid to the Indians and enslaved of St. Louis draws unwanted attention, placing her at odds with her husband. Danger cloaks itself in far too many ways, leading her to embrace the courage to save herself and others through a challenge of forgiveness that will either restore the love she shares with Will or end it forever.

Sometimes life happens when you are busy making plans. If Phillip Carrington asked to court her, Julia Hancock had firmly made up her mind to accept. Yet, the two-faced nature of someone who was supposed to be her friend ensured that such a thing would never come to pass. She would have to look for a husband elsewhere.

Then, without warning, a marriage proposal is presented. Captain William Clark, an American hero, has asked for her hand in marriage. Hers! William is no Phillip, he is a grown man and a great deal older than her, but age is just a number when you are in love, and Julia was definitely in love.

Prepare to be enchanted by Brook Allen’s West of Santillane, a captivating tale that delves into family, slavery, and political controversy from the viewpoint of Julia Hancock Clark.

Historical narratives frequently centre around men, leaving the women of the time overlooked; however, their stories often prove to be even more captivating than those of their male counterparts. Julia Hancock, wife of the renowned William Clark, exemplifies this phenomenon.  

Julia’s social standing is greatly enhanced by her status as a planter’s daughter in Virginia. She is highly educated, exceptionally well-read, and proficient in household management. Seeking an advantageous marriage for Julia, her father believes there is no better candidate than the famous William Clark, even though Julia’s mother feels uneasy about the significant age disparity. Julia first encountered William at the age of nine, and now she’s excited to see him and swiftly becomes enamoured by his charisma. The narrative that follows is a mix of hardship, loss, grief, and love. Julia’s story has been patiently waiting to be told, and Allen is the only author who can do it justice. Julia is a relatable character that readers can connect with right away. She possesses firm opinions, a compassionate heart, and an indomitable spirit. Julia’s story is not only captivating, but it also mesmerizes and leaves the reader yearning for more.

Captain William Clark is something of a national hero having jointly led a two-year exploration of the Pacific with the Corps of Discovery, with Meriwether Lewis. The reader doesn’t receive a complete understanding of the expedition’s events, as that would require a separate story. Nonetheless, the expedition and the publication of their discoveries play a significant role throughout the narrative. William effortlessly handles fame, but his current priorities are his courtship and marriage to Julia, as well as advancing his career. President Jefferson designates him as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Louisiana Territory, a role he is thrilled about, though Julia’s father has reservations about her living in Louisiana so far away from home. William is quite a complex character for a reader to get grips with. He is a loving husband and father, a fair man when it comes to Indian affairs, earning the readers’ admiration, but his cruelty toward his people (slaves) taints his character. Allen has not romanticised William in any way, he is what he is, a product of his time and it is wise for the reader to remember this, although it is very difficult not to judge him harshly.

One of the underlying themes in this story is the presence of slavery. Even though the country had just freed itself from English rule, slavery remained prevalent, undermining the notion of true freedom. Julia never really thought about her father’s people until her actions resulted in devastating consequences for two boys she used to play with. Until now, she had always seen Ares and Virgi as nothing more than her friends, without considering their skin colour, and now they have been punished for something she had done. The memory of injustice and cruelty will forever be etched in the mind of a very impressionable nine-year-old girl. Many years later, she attends a speech given by abolitionist, James Mitchell, a Methodist minister, and upon meeting him, she becomes resolute in her decision to never marry a planter who owns slaves, as she finds the practice utterly repulsive. Despite not marrying a planter, she does end up falling in love and marrying Captain William Clark, who happens to be a slave owner. Despite Julia’s efforts to conceal her abolitionist views from her husband, she cannot tolerate witnessing him administer cruel punishments. William treats his horses better than he treats his slaves, and this comes as a shock to both Julia and the reader. It seems so out of character for William to beat his slaves. His excuse for such behaviour is simple, they are his to do with what he wants and this ingrained attitude, so prevalent at the time, leads to incredible tension in their marriage. Allen skillfully uses Julia’s character to reveal the distressing truth about the insignificance of a slave’s life to their owners. The treatment of York by William, who had accompanied him on the expedition and was the first African American to cross the continent and see the Pacific, is a clear illustration of the power dynamics between slave owners and their enslaved individuals. Conversely, Julia treats her husband’s people with respect and kindness, and they reciprocate in the same manner. The way her relationship with Chloe was depicted was exceptionally well executed.

This novel portrays politics as a power struggle accompanied by corruption. Though not based in Washington, the presence of President Jefferson resonates throughout this tale. Both William and Meriwether Lewis face a two-fold consequence when they are offered their positions by the President. With figures like Frederick Bates involved, it is wise to anticipate and outsmart political manoeuvrings, but the threat comes seemingly too late for Meriwether. With his rapidly declining health and Bates’ continued interferences, Meriwether faces financial ruin. Meriwether’s initial strange demeanour melts away as the reader uncovers the hardships he faces, which in return prompts sympathy. Allen’s authentic portrayal of Meriwether was flawlessly executed, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

West of Santillane by Brook Allen is a novel that will evoke strong emotions, so make sure you have tissues nearby. While there are moments of horror and intense passion, this story also explores life in Louisiana during this era and has breathed new life into Julia Hancock Clark. Once you have read it, this story will stay with you forever.

Pick up your copy of
 West of Santillane

Brook Allen

Author Brook Allen has a passion for history. Her newest project, West of Santillane spotlights history from a little closer to home. It’s the story of Julia Hancock, who married famed explorer, William Clark. Each character of this thrilling, adventurous period was researched throughout southwest Virginia and into Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Idaho, and North Dakota. It launches in March of 2024.

Brook belongs to the Historical Novel Society and attends conferences as often as possible to study craft and meet fellow authors. In 2019, Son of Rome won the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year Award. In 2020, it was honored with a silver medal in the international Reader’s Favorite Book Reviewers Book Awards and also won First Place in the prestigious Chaucer Division in the Chanticleer International Book Awards, 2020. 

The Antonius Trilogy is a detailed account of the life of Marcus Antonius—Marc Antony, which she worked on for fifteen years. The first installment, Antonius: Son of Rome was published in March 2019. It follows Antony as a young man, from the age of eleven, when his father died in disgrace, until he’s twenty-seven and meets Cleopatra for the first time. Brook’s second book is Antonius: Second in Command, dealing with Antony’s tumultuous rise to power at Caesar’s side and culminating with the civil war against Brutus and Cassius. Antonius: Soldier of Fate is the last book in the trilogy, spotlighting the romance between Antonius and Cleopatra and the historic war with Octavian Caesar. 

Though she graduated from Asbury University with a B.A. in Music Education, Brook has always loved writing. She completed a Masters program at Hollins University with an emphasis in Ancient Roman studies, which helped prepare her for authoring her Antonius Trilogy. Brook teaches full-time as a Music Educator and works in a rural public-school district near Roanoke, Virginia. Her personal interests include travel, cycling, hiking in the woods, reading, and spending downtime with her husband and big, black dog, Jak. She lives in the heart of southwest Virginia in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Connect with Brook:

Climb aboard! Don't miss the heart-pounding climax of the Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail series. Rolling Home is the final installment.

Rolling Home: A Pioneer Western Adventure
By David Fitz-Gerald

Publication Date: 15th June 2024
Publisher: David Fitz-Gerald
Pages: 254 Pages
Genre: Western Historical Fiction

Climb aboard! Don't miss the heart-pounding climax of the Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail series. Rolling Home is the final installment.

In the heart of the rolling village, dissent brews as the stubbornest naysayer refuses to continue the journey. With an ominous early snowfall and memories of the ill-fated Donner Party haunting the pioneers, Dorcas Moon faces a new wave of challenges. Just when she believes things can't get worse, a disastrous river crossing claims their wagon and submerges their belongings.

As the rolling village approaches the final leg of the journey, the looming threat of outlaws intensifies. The notorious bandit known as The Viper and his ruthless brothers are determined to rob the greenhorns, sell their stock, and kill every last one of them. The pioneers had heard tales of their brutality, but now, with Dorcas' daughter kidnapped and Dorcas captured, everyone is in danger.

What will become of Dorcas Moon, her family, and their friends? Will anyone survive the perilous journey?

Rejoin the expedition and witness the thrilling end to a gripping saga.

Pick up your copy of
Rolling Home

David Fitz-Gerald 

David Fitz-Gerald writes westerns and historical fiction. He is the author of twelve books, including the brand-new series, Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail set in 1850. Dave is a multiple Laramie Award, first place, best in category winner; a Blue Ribbon Chanticleerian; a member of Western Writers of America; and a member of the Historical Novel Society.

Alpine landscapes and flashy horses always catch Dave’s eye and turn his head. He is also an Adirondack 46-er, which means that he has hiked to the summit of the range’s highest peaks. As a mountaineer, he’s happiest at an elevation of over four thousand feet above sea level.

Dave is a lifelong fan of western fiction, landscapes, movies, and music. It should be no surprise that Dave delights in placing memorable characters on treacherous trails, mountain tops, and on the backs of wild horses.

Connect with David:

#WesternFiction #WesternAdventure #AmericanWest #NewRelease #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

Monday 17 June 2024

Book Review - Ash Fall: A Novel of the Knights of Malta (the Siege of Malta Book 3) by Marthese Fenech

Ash Fall

A Novel of the Knights of Malta
(the Siege of Malta Book 3) 
By Marthese Fenech

Publication Date: 8th September 2022
Publisher: BDL Publishing
Page Length: 660 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Fate meets fire. The world ignites.

1565. Malta stands on the precipice of one of the bloodiest battles in history. An elite Ottoman army, 50,000 strong, prepares to depart Istanbul, the seat of the Empire. Deeply conflicted, Demir must sail alongside the host determined to conquer his mother’s homeland and crush the Order of St John once and for all. Testing his loyalty is the knowledge that Angelica, the half-sister he has never met, dwells on the tiny island.

As the Maltese garrison braces for the incoming storm, knights and civilians stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the walls. Domenicus and Robert volunteer for the ramparts of Fort St Elmo, the most precarious position on Malta. Angelica finds herself locked outside the city gates and scrambles to a hilltop citadel, where she helps establish a makeshift infirmary. Katrina takes up a bow and stands a post, shielding her town as the Ottoman tide crashes against it.

For several blood-soaked months, Malta is the stage upon which fierce combat rages. Heads are fired from cannons, field hospitals set ablaze, knights crucified, and soldiers melted where they stand. As the land exhales swirling ash, and narrow streets choke on rubble, no one escapes the fiery currents of war unscathed. The body count surges. Hope scatters with the smoke. Outflanked and outnumbered, can the defence hold out until a much-delayed relief force arrives from Sicily?

Vastly outnumbered, the Knights of Malta, once again come face to face with their adversaries, the Ottoman Empire. Having already suffered the loss of Rhodes four decades earlier, following a lengthy six-month siege, they now find themselves confronted with the same impending danger. They are aware of their significant numerical disadvantage. But they had God on their side, although the question as to where He was at Rhodes they do not linger over.

Malta plays a crucial role in the Ottoman Empire’s strategic plans for European conquest. It is seen as an important link between Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples, enabling further territorial expansion. And after all, they have Allah on their side, like they did in Rhodes. Along with that, they have Dragut, the notorious Ottoman corsair and skilled naval commander with extensive experience battling Christian knights.

Marthese Fenech’s Ash Fall is the thrilling finale of her highly praised The Knights of Malta series.

The depiction of the siege preparation was skilfully done. While the knights order the evacuation of the old and infirm, the wealthy also take their chance to escape. This serves as a reminder of the class divide explored in previous books. The plight of those left behind made for a very sobering read.

Just like the previous novels in this series, Ash Fall has undergone meticulous research. From the clothes they wore to the weapons at their disposal, Fenech has brought the era back to life. Fenech has stayed true to the historical context and depicted it with her expected writing prowess. The siege’s brutality, the immense loss of lives, the torture, and the crucifixions make for a difficult read. The reader experiences the chaos and brutality of siege warfare, witnessing the complete disregard for both life and death. This book is dominated by intense battles, with no relief, as even when the reader is removed from the front line, the makeshift hospitals and the unbearable suffering of the injured and dying persist. 

There is a prevailing sense of fear among the general population, and the islanders are genuinely concerned about depleting their supplies, weapons, and manpower. Amongst all this chaos, all this bloodshed, there are the characters that have made the first two books so very memorable. In the first two books of the series, Augustine and Angelica, along with the rest, encounter immense hardships including slavery and persecution. However, in this instalment, there’s a chilling sense that they’re bound together and they would prefer death over separation. Consequently, this amplifies the significance of the narrative. As a reader, we can only hold our breath as the Ottoman Empire strikes at the very heart of the land that the protagonists call home.

Unlike the previous two novels, this book features a significantly larger cast of characters. Fenech has incorporated into her story, and rightly so, the leading historical figures associated with this siege. This gave the story a strong sense of realism. But for the most part, the story is centred around the novel's principal players, namely the Montesa family. The Montesa family are devoted to their homeland almost as much as they are devoted to each other. As a reader, I have come to know this family very well, and it was like witnessing old friends having to go through a seemingly unrelenting traumatic experience. As expected, their bravery matched their unwavering devotion to one another.

Several of the characters suffer life-changing injuries, which sometimes left me questioning the narrative. Even though Robert has a horrific injury, he loses an eye, and he briefly experiences psychosis from the pain, he recovers and resumes fighting rapidly. Remarkably, he was still the best marksman they had, despite the challenge of his one eye needing time to compensate for the loss of the other. I was left somewhat confused by this, and it momentarily disrupted my immersion in the story. Although I acknowledge the necessity of utilizing all available resources for defence, I question the feasibility of Robert’s quick recovery from a medical standpoint.

The concepts of duty and love were both brilliantly explored. At times it was difficult to tell the two apart. Not only are the main characters fighting for Malta, but they are also fighting for the people they hold dear, such as their family and friends. These two deep-rooted emotions are the most challenging for Demir. His reluctance to participate in a war against Malta stems from having family there, even if they are unaware of his existence. However, his obligation and loyalty to his sultan compel him to serve. He faces death several times, and yet always he is conflicted but what he has seen and what he knows. He frequently finds himself pondering over who holds more significance - an unknown sister or the country he was born to serve. As with the other novels, Demir continues to hold a special place in my heart. His depiction was truly wonderful.

The conclusion of Ash Falls can only be understood by those who have read the beginning of the series. There’s a sense of closure and fulfilment as if everything that occurred in the story was meant to culminate in this ending. The way this series concluded was beautifully portrayed. Marthese Fenech is an incredibly talented writer and one I do not hesitate to recommend, especially if you love quality historical fiction.

Pick up your copy of 
Ash Fall

Marthese Fenech

Marthese Fenech was born the youngest of five to Maltese parents in Toronto. She has traveled extensively across five continents, visiting sixty-five countries. Her research for her novels has taken her on numerous trips to Malta, Turkey, Italy, France, and Spain--a wealth of fascinating places that introduced her to her characters and their cultures in a most authentic way. She also spent time writing the trilogy while living in Singapore.

When she was twelve and on a six-month stay in Malta, she enrolled in an all-girls private school run by nuns. She lasted three days before getting kicked out for talking too much. Back in Toronto, she started her own business recording, editing, and selling bootleg heavy metal concerts. She later worked with special needs children and adults, where witnessing small miracles on a daily basis was part of the job.

A former kickboxing instructor, Marthese has a Masters in Education and currently teaches high school English and history. She speaks fluent Maltese and French. As part of her research for Eight-Pointed Cross, she took up archery, and ended up accidentally becoming a certified instructor. She has a passion for adventure, photography, running, snowboarding, surfing, scuba-diving, climbing, and yoga.