The official blog of Historical Fiction author, Mary Anne Yarde, and home to The Coffee Pot Book Club and Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots. Come and join Mary Anne on the hunt for everything historical, as well as mythological. Oh, and let's not forget the odd book or two! Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy...
eyewitnesses to King Charles’s bloody execution, Royalists Nan Wilmot and
Frances Apsley plot to return the king’s exiled son to England’s throne, while
their radical cousin Luce, the wife of king-killer John Hutchinson, rejoices in
the new republic’s triumph. Nan exploits her high-ranking position as Countess
of Rochester to manipulate England’s great divide, flouting Cromwell and
establishing a Royalist spy network as Frances and her husband Allen join the
destitute prince in Paris’s Louvre Palace to support his restoration. As the
women work from the shadows to topple Cromwell’s regime, their husbands fight
openly for the throne on England’s bloody battlefields.
But will the return of the king be a victory, or could it rip
apart the very heart of their family? Separated
by loyalty and bound by love, Luce, Nan and Frances hold
the fate of England—and their family—in their hands.
A true story based on surviving memoirs of Elizabeth St.John's
family, Written in their Stars is the third novel in the Lydiard Chronicles
Elizabeth St.John was brought up in England and
lives in California. To inform her writing, she has tracked down family papers
and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, and Castle Fonmon to the
Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along
the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth's family
still occupy them - in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry
their imprint. And the occasional ghost.
Elizabeth’s debut novel, The Lady of the Tower, has
been an Amazon best seller since its release in 2016, and has won numerous
awards for historical fiction. By Love Divided, the second in The Lydiard
Chronicles series, follows the fortunes of the St.John family during the
English Civil War, and was featured a the 2018 Swindon Festival of
Literature as well as recognized with an “Editors’ Choice” by the Historical
Novel Society. Elizabeth’s currently working on the next in the
series, telling of the lives of the St.John women after the Civil War and into
A powerful period flavor embellishes this
intriguing novel replete with the shocking depravity rampant in the insular
Portuguese enclave of Lourenço Marques, the neutral colonial capital of
Portuguese Mozambique, during the early years of World War Two. It is June 1940
when, ahead of the Germans marching into Paris, Rudolf and Aleece Bamberger, a
young German-French Jewish couple flee to Africa to wait out the war where they
become embroiled in intrigue and espionage. Safe at last—or so it seems at
first—the Bamberger’s are diverted to Lourenço Marques because of a U-boat
threat rather than to Cape Town their original destination. Aleece, a French
citizen, finds work at the British consulate while Rudolf, her German husband,
but an emigrant to France before the war, drifts helplessly into the hands of
the Abwehr spymaster, Ludwig Janke. The Nazi’s tentacles run deep through the
tranquil colonial capital and his fearsome espionage operation soon ensnares
Rudolf and threatens him into cooperating. With spy-thriller plotting, To
Live Another Day vividly re-creates the skullduggery of Axis
intelligence operatives from MI6, the OSS, the Abwehr and other services
operating from this vast neutral harbor situated at the forefront of Indian
Ocean shipping lanes.
Born in Paris of American parents, J.R. Rogers is a writer who has
lived and worked in southern California since the 1980s. He holds a degree in
French literature and later studied short story writing at the University of
California, Irvine. Fluent in French he has worked principally in quality
management and as a writer for a number of firms in both Canada and the United
States. His writing focus has been pre-World War II historical novels of espionage
and intrigue set in little known and out of the way international locations.
His latest novel is his third to be set in Africa—where he lived for three
years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He began writing and publishing
short stories in 1996 and since 2008 has written eight historical fiction
novels and a number of short stories that have been published.
I even realized Historical Fiction was a genre, I was fascinated with MACBETH
and the witches’ prophecy. If you recall, after they told Macbeth he would be
king hereafter, Banquo wanted to know what they had to say about his future.
"Lesser than Macbeth, and
"Not so happy, yet much
"Thou shalt 'get kings, thou be
Just what kings
were they talking about? And what happened to Fleance after he escaped from
Banquo's murderers? I can only suppose Banquo’s legacy was common knowledge to
the Elizabethans, for Shakespeare dropped the Fleance subplot, leaving later
generations to puzzle over its meaning.
Shakespeare's story of Macbeth, taken from
Raphael Holinshed (who took it verbatim from Hector Boece 1465–1536), was a
legend, not real history. Macbeth did NOT kill King Duncan in his bed; King
Duncan was killed in battle. In fact, Macbeth was considered by historians to
be a good king who reigned fourteen years. But really, who would want to give
up such a juicy tale?
I knew none of
this at the time—when I started this novel a good 35 years or so ago (some
first novels take a long time to mature). In the early '80s—when the internet
wasn't even a twinkle in Al Gore's eyes—I only had access to books in my local
libraries, and in St. Louis that was a severe handicap. Once I moved to New
York and discovered the NY Public Library, my research venue improved considerably.
I was surprised to discover that Banquo was thought to be the ancestor of the
Stewarts, and James I had only mounted the throne of England a couple of years
before this play was written. Shakespeare was giving a nod to James I’s
ancestry—and his work on demonology—while showing his audience that killing the
king was a really bad idea. It wasn't until much later—only recently, as a
matter of fact—did I discover that MACBETH was written in response to the
gunpowder plot of 1605. As it turns out, Shakespeare's family had some
disconcerting connections to the conspirators, and it is thought that the great
bard wrote Macbeth to clear himself of any guilt-by-association; the play was
first performed nine months after the gunpowder plot was foiled.
But I digress...
of James VI and 1, c. 1606, by John de Critz (Source, Wikipedia).
As it turns out, connecting
Banquo to King James Stewart was the whole purpose of the witches. So when the weird
sisters told Banquo “Thou shalt ‘get kings”, they were talking over 500 years
into the future! The witches, such an integral part of the play, were already
embedded in Shakespearean society; much of that can be attributed to King James
(also James VI of Scotland) who was pretty much responsible for the witch
burning craze that infested Scotland in 1597. To this day I still don't
understand why this would be a good plot device for Shakespeare. In fact, it is
popularly thought that James was so displeased he banned the play for five
years, though I can't find any credible documentation to support this
speculation. However, it has also been suggested that the weird sisters (or
wyrd sisters) were a manifestation of the Norns—the Norse goddesses who
controlled our destiny, much like the Greek Fates. What did Shakespeare have in
mind? Considering that paganism was alive and well in the 11th
century, it's not really all that far-fetched. And indeed, this is the
interpretation I chose for my novel. It was the Norns who set up a chain of
events that placed the Stewarts on the throne. It made so much sense to me!
I discovered a
history called Cambria Triumphans, written by
Percy Enderbie in 1661; it referred to the old legend, and from this
came the plot of my novel. He told us about Fleance and "during his
residence in the Welsh court, he became enamoured of Nesta, the daughter of
Gruffydd ap Llewelyn; and violating the laws of hospitality and honour, by an
illicit connection with her, she was delivered of a son who was named
Walter." Aha! I struck
did I realize (until I was deep into my research) how many historical figures
were actually related to Walter; on his mother’s side he was grandson of Gruffydd
ap Llewelyn, Prince of Wales and Ealdgyth, daughter of Aelfgar, Earl of Mercia
(and future queen of England); on his father’s side he was grandson of Banquo.
He was a distant relation to Alain le Rouge, Count of Brittany and future Earl
of Richmond. And, to fulfill his destiny, Walter was created the first Steward
of Scotland, a hereditary post. Walter’s quest to unravel his legacy took him
through many historical events like the Battle of Dunsinane, the Battle of
Hastings, and Malcolm III's court, and gives us a rare look at eleventh century
Scotland as well as King Malcolm's relationship with William the Conqueror.
I hadn't planned
to write a historical novel, but by the time I figured it all out, my course
was already charted. While researching this book I became fascinated with Earl
Godwine and his family, which inspired me to write my “Last Great Saxon Earls”
trilogy. All three books overlap this one, and Walter even makes a cameo
appearance in “The Sons of Godwine”. This year I was able to regain my rights
and publish a revised edition of “Heir To A Prophecy”. It was great fun to
revisit my old friend.
Heir To A Prophecy
Fleance barely slowed his step as Banquo stopped again,
removing a rock from his shoe. He and his father were already late to the
king's banquet, and a half mile still stretched between them and the castle
gate. It had seemed like a fine idea a couple of hours ago, taking a walk to
get away from that hostile environment. There had been too many uncomfortable
pauses in conversation, too many unfinished phrases, too many sideways glances.
But now, dusk was quickly deepening into night, and it was getting difficult to
see into the forest. There was probably a spy in every tree, for all he could
tell.The young man’s curly hair blew about his face as he looked up at the
treetops. High cheekbones accentuated dark brown eyes as he raised his brows to
see better through the shadows. His fine square chin gave him a profile he was
proud of, and he went beardless, disregarding the current fashion. But his
mouth, usually so prone to laughter, was pursed tonight in frustration.
"Blast this uphill climb," he grumbled as
Banquo adjusted his cloak clasp. He glanced at his father wryly; this reticence
was most unusual for him. His father grunted a response, but finally shifted
his belt, shaking off his lethargy. Picking up their pace, father and son
strode deep into the forest.
It was a quiet night, punctuated by the crunch of stones
underfoot. Not a cricket was heard, nor birds, only the sigh of leaves rustling
"It shall be rain tonight," Banquo said.
From behind came the cry: "Let it come down!"
In an instant, three dark forms were among them. Banquo
was their main target, and two of them fell upon him, slashing the startled man
in the face. The worthy lord was blinded by his own blood even as he shouted,
"Villains, Murderers! Fly, Fleance, Fly!"
Though past his physical prime, the old warrior still was
more than a match for both opponents. With a practiced motion, Banquo swept his
sword from the scabbard, aiming an overhead cut at his nearest attacker's head.
If the blow had hit, he would have cleaved the man's skull. But the blood was
flowing so fast into his eyes that his aim was flawed. The blade only glanced
off the other's shoulder, eliciting a howl of pain.
Enraged, the murderer dived at Banquo, catching him in
the throat with a dagger. Letting go the knife, the man stepped back, clutching
his arm; he was astounded that Banquo was still on his feet. For a moment, it
seemed that their victim would respond with a last lunge. Then he staggered,
gurgling, and collapsed into the arms of his murderers.
Fleance was already in motion before his father had
shouted. Shoving his torch into the third assassin's face, he set the man's
mask aflame. Screaming, clawing his face, the murderer went down, his feet
kicked out from under him.
Fleance allowed himself a brief sneer. Then, wasting no
more time, he moved toward the others when he saw the killers slashing Banquo's
face. The boy hesitated, reluctant to abandon his father. But the assassins
were too good at their work. Even from this distance he could tell that Banquo
was already finished; his body gave no more sign of life.
It was also clear that their companion’s screaming made
no impression on them; the assassins must have assumed that the victim was
himself. Cursing, Fleance took advantage of the confusion. He stamped out his
torch, kicked his assailant once more as the man was struggling up, and ran for
Murder gave the forest a sinister cast. The trees seemed
to bend their limbs before him, seeking to block his way. Fleance's breath came
in short gasps, heightening the pain in his side as he ran frantically the way
he had come.
His first thought was to go to Macbeth and raise a search
party to ride down these outlaws. Then, a deeper, more telling conviction
assailed him, though he knew not whence it came: perhaps the murderers were not
there by chance. Perhaps they were paid assassins, in which case he could trust
He considered, leaning against a tree and catching his
breath. He wasn’t going anywhere without a horse, and both horses were still
stabled at the castle. Going any closer to that accursed place was the last
thing he wanted to do; however, he reminded himself that no one besides the
assassins would know that there had been any trouble.
It was a risk. Perhaps they would lie in wait for him
near the stables and finish the job. But he had a feeling that they would be
too busy tending their wounds. Despite himself, Fleance smiled grimly.
He looked slowly around the tree and up the path.
Everything was quiet. He took one step then another, resisting the urge to
break into a run. This was no time to panic. He needed to keep his senses about
him. He looked one more time in all directions, then began striding quickly
toward the castle, hand on his dagger.
No one stopped him at the castle gate and Fleance went
directly to the stabler’s door. He knocked quickly then stepped back, looking
around. There was no indication he was being followed yet.
The stabler took his time answering, his face breaking
into a scowl when he recognized Fleance; he hadn’t expected anyone to leave for
some hours yet. But when the youth held out a penny, his mouth curled into a
greedy sneer and he quickly came out, making the coin disappear as he passed.
Fleance watched him go into the stable, resisting the
urge to shout at the other to hurry up. The man seemed to take an inordinately
long time, then he came out—alone.
"What about t’other?"
"I only need one now. Is he ready?"
The man shrugged. "Whatever you want." He
opened the stable door and Fleance sighed with relief to see that his horse was
saddled. Without another word he mounted, offering no explanation for his hasty
conduct and rode off, leaving the man scratching his head.
Born in St. Louis MO with a degree from
University of Missouri, Mercedes Rochelle learned about living history as a
re-enactor and has been enamored with historical fiction ever since. A move to
New York to do research and two careers ensued, but writing fiction remains her
primary vocation. She lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log
home they had built themselves.