Monday 30 May 2016

Book Review ~ The Master of Strathburn @AmyRoseBennett

I had the great pleasure of receiving an ARC copy of
The Master of Strathburn
by Amy Rose Bennett.

Robert Grant has returned home to Lochrose Castle in the Highlands to reconcile with his long-estranged father, the Earl of Strathburn. But there is a price on Robert’s head, and his avaricious younger half-brother, Simon, doesn’t want him reclaiming his birthright. And it’s not only Simon and the redcoats that threaten to destroy Robert’s plans after a flame-haired complication of the feminine kind enters the scene...

Jessie Munroe is forced to flee Lochrose Castle after the dissolute Simon Grant tries to coerce her into becoming his mistress. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious and handsome hunter, Robert, in a remote Highland glen, she throws her lot in with the stranger—even though she suspects he is a fugitive. She soon realizes that this man is dangerous in an entirely different way to Simon...

Despite their searing attraction, Robert and Jessie struggle to trust each other as they both seek a place to call home. The stakes are high and only one thing is certain: Simon Grant is in pursuit of them both...

What did I think of the book? 

Robert Grant should have listened to his father. But he was young and naive. Ten years on from the failed Jacobite revolution, Robert, who has spent many years in exile, has returned home, in the hope of being granted a pardon for his part in the war.

Jessie Munroe does not know her place in society anymore; her family have fallen on hard times and now she is a servant. Just a little while ago, she had prospects, but now that the money has gone, her would-be suitors have disappeared. Her father is now in the employment of the Earl of Lochrose. The Earl is a kind man; it is a shame that the same cannot be said for his youngest son, Simon.

Jessie has caught Simon's eyes and he will have her whether she wills it or not. Desperate to escape his lurid advances, Jessie decides to run away to her family in Edinburgh, but alas she does not get very far when she is mistaken for a deer by the recently returned, Robert Grant.

The Master of Strathburn is a riveting page turning and the hours flew by as I read it. I liked Robert, he is very heroic and gallant  ~ He carries a burden of terrible guilt about the loss of life at the Battle of Culloden and he comes across as a man of deep morals. He was also incredibly romantic, and several times I caught myself sighing!!

Jessie was a very courageous young lady, and I felt real terror for her whenever Simon was in her presence. She falls for Robert very quickly when she meets him and she was very forward ~ sometimes I felt, a little too forward, for the time the novel was set in. Nevertheless, her relationship with Robert was very believable.

The only thing that struck me as slightly odd in this book was the Earl of Strathburn. He had his suspicions about what his son, Simon, was up to with regards to Jessie, yet he did nothing to stop it. However, as soon as he learnt that Jessie had spent a couple of nights under the protection of Robert, he demanded that they hand-fast??! He came across as incredibly feeble ~ he had no control of his wife or his youngest son and he only seemed to develop a backbone once Robert was back. He did not come across as the usual Scottish Lord that is so familiar with this time frame. However, this is only a very small complaint in what was a great read.

Bennet is a skilled story-teller and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Where can I purchase this novel? 
About the author 

Amy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favorite genre. She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.

Amy is happily married to her own Alpha male hero, has two beautiful daughters, and a rather loopy Rhodesian Ridgeback. She has been a speech pathologist for many years but is currently devoting her time to her one other true calling—writing romance.
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Saturday 28 May 2016

New Release ~ The Shadow of a King @cgray129

The Shadow of a King

by C.M.Grey

Legends of old can never fade…

The truth can never die…

The tip of a spear settles any dispute…

But the love of a King, well… that comes before all…

King Uther Pendragon, High King of all the Celtic tribes,

in his fifteenth year of rule, is set a quest by Merlyn and

the Druids of Mona to brave the winter seas and set sail

for the Isle of Erin.

The quest placed upon the King, despite the tribal lands

being at war with Saxon invaders, is to take a war party and

return with a prize that will lay to rest the ghosts of the past

and allow the Celts to reclaim their lands.

However, none of those that set sail quite realise what this

quest will release within their King and what events

will unfold...

 Where can I purchase this fabulous book?


Friday 27 May 2016

Annowre the Sorceress and the Legends of King Arthur

“Now shall ye hear what was the cause that King Arthur came into the Forest Perilous, that was in North Wales, by the means of a lady.”

Sir ThomasMalory knew that in order for there to be a protagonist there must also be an antagonist. And so it is true with Arthur, but it was not just Mordred, that Arthur had to watch out for!

Arthur has many enemies, but when it comes to women, he really knows how to attract trouble. Annowre falls in love with the young King and entices him into her home, which is set deep in the heart of the Perilous Forest. She is intent on seducing him, but Arthur, being virtuous, refuses her advances. 

But a woman scorned is a dangerous woman, especially when she is a sorceress. Annowre plots Arthur’s death in the way only a sorceress can ~ with skill and cunning.

Annowre once again enchants Arthur. He feels compelled to ride into her perilous forest every day, and every day he is forced to fight for his life. Arthur’s future is looking bleak.

“Then the Lady of the Lake that was always friendly to King Arthur, she understood by her subtle crafts that King Arthur was like to be destroyed.”

Thankfully, The Lady of the Lake hears of Arthur’s desperate situation and is moved to pity. With the help of Sir Tristan, they race to Arthur’s aid, arriving just in time to stop Arthur from becoming a head shorter.

Arthur pursers Annowre ~ finds her ~ and puts an end to this nonsense once and for all. Without a head on her shoulders, Annowre is a no longer a threat.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Author's Inspiration ~ Keith.W.Willis @kilbourneknight

It is my very great pleasure to welcome back historical-fantasy author Keith.W.Willis. Today, Willis, is going to tell us about his inspirations behind his latest book, - Traitor Knight - which I just so happened to have had the pleasure of reviewing. You can check out my review here.

Let's take a quick look at the book....

 When Morgan McRobbie rescues a damsel-in-distress from a dragon, he expects she’ll swoon, murmuring “My hero!” Instead, Marissa has only loathing for the man everyone believes will betray Kilbourne. That’s fine with Morgan. A woman in his life would just complicate things. 

A high-level informer threatens the kingdom’s security, and Morgan is out to stop him. Posing as a turncoat himself, he’s walking a fine line between honor and betrayal. A single misstep could result in disaster, and his mission is fraught with distractions: the pesky dragon, a pair of conniving courtiers, and the disillusioned damsel who’s certain Morgan can’t be trusted. 

If Morgan’s going to save the kingdom, win the girl, and manage to stay alive, he’ll need to step up his game. Because the traitor is lurking in the shadows, and his scheme calls not just for the betrayal of Kilbourne, but also the destruction of Morgan McRobbie.


Myth? Myth?

I cut my teeth on Arthurian legend. Literally. My mother practically threw me in the dungeon for daring, as a mewling infant, to chew on her copy of The Sword in the Stone.

So naturally TH White’s classic ended up being the first fantasy book I ever read (and it’s still, in my opinion, one of the best). I was never that enamored of the Disney version, by the way. But I loved the way White presented not just the story, but also the history of the period. He essentially snuck in all these little lectures, rather like slipping a pill into your chocolate ice cream. You got it without actually realizing it.

While Traitor Knight is technically classified as a historical fantasy, I couldn’t replicate White’s feat of sneaking in all the wonderful obscure historical details. Didn’t want to, in fact. I like history, but only when I’ve made it up myself. So while there are parallels to Western Europe of the Middle Ages or Renaissance period as a basis for the Kingdom of Kilbourne, I’ve not attempted to bring in any real historical details. I’m lazy, and didn’t want to do the exacting research necessary—it was much easier to just invent it all. In this fashion, too, I don’t have to worry about critics calling me out on anomalous details.

Back to TH White. Of course I’ve read the not just The Sword in the Stone, but the entirety of White’s The Once and Future King. And The Book of Merlyn. His telling of the Arthurian legend has infused not only my work, but that of countless other writers whose stories deal with chivalric knights, fair maidens, and court intrigue.

In the opening scene of Traitor Knight, Sir Morgan McRobbie, Knight-Commander of the King’s Legion, risks his life to rescue a damsel-in-distress from a dragon. He does so because that’s what he’s sworn to do. He’s just a guy doing his job, even if he does come across as a bit pompous when he tells Marissa, the disillusioned damsel he rescues, “It’s my oath-bound duty to see justice done and evil banished from the kingdom.” Marissa retorts “My word! Did they teach you that in knight school? A pretty speech and a most noble sentiment. It does you credit, I’m sure. But you shall have some reward. I won’t have it said any man had a claim on me.”

But Morgan gives no thought to reward, and when Marissa insists he accept a boon from her, he declines, stating “you have thanked me, and that will suffice.” Chivalry personified—even though he’s considered a traitor by all and sundry, he still maintains the chivalric tradition handed down by Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

But I honestly think my writing owes a lot less to the entire, tragic Arthurian mythos than it does to the initial, brilliantly witty Sword in the Stone. White showed with this book that there was room for a playful sensibility in historical fantasy. Granted, he got pretty intense with the later parts of TOFK, but there’s such a marvelous sense of fun in Sword in the Stone. It shines through and imbues this story with light and wonder and delight. That’s the mythology I’ve tried to infuse into my own opening salvo into the world of fantasy.

I wanted, in all honesty, to turn the chivalric trope on its ear a bit. To take the heroic Morgan, who does all the right things (and sometimes the wrong things) for the right reasons, and make him an anathema to everyone around him. It’s darned hard to be a hero when everyone hates you (just ask Spiderman). He’s posing as a traitor in a classic “set a thief to catch a thief” plot. Unfortunately, his act is so good that everyone from the Lord High Chancellor to the boy who cleans the grates absolutely believes him the turncoat he’s pretending to be. Especially Marissa, whom Morgan finds himself falling for, even as he cavalierly uses her to further his own schemes. The motto on the McRobbie coat of arms translates to “As Need Requires” and as Morgan explains, “We do what needs to be done.” Even, it would seem, at the cost of his own reputation and any chance of winning the girl.

While that may not sound like much fun—it certainly isn’t for my hero—I’ve tried to imbue that sense of playfulness into the story. None of the characters really take themselves that seriously. Oh, the situations they’re thrust into are serious, often life and death. But their responses are, I think, more typical of characters from PG Wodehouse, the grand master of comic fiction, than they are of the traditional fantasy cast. They banter and toss out snide comments and, while they refrain from actually pulling a face-palm, you can often tell they would if such a thing existed in their world.

A large part of Traitor Knight is driven by the old idea that the writer needs to “get your hero up a tree and then throw rocks at him before you get him down again.” In my case, I thought that it would be much more fun to get Morgan up a tree, throw rocks at him, have him scramble into another tree, fire off a few flaming arrows (which, naturally, set the trees alight), and then start sawing down the tree as the dragons converge on it, only to have him fall from the topmost branch, hitting every limb on the way down and land on the back of one of the dragons. I’ll let your imagination take it from there…

Speaking of dragons, there is indeed a dragon (Wyvrndell by name) who appears in Traitor Knight. He is, in fact, the catalyst who starts the story, and though he doesn’t get a lot of play in this book, you can rest assured sure he’ll be back in Vol 2 (for some strange reason, lots of people seem to feel Wyvrndell is one of my best characters…)

While I owe something to the legend of St. George and his erstwhile draconic opponent, I’m afraid my dragon (and probably a lot of the book) derives more from the mythos of Looney Toons than from St. George. Specifically from the marvelous “Knighty Knight Bugs”. If you’re a poor deprived soul who’s never seen this 1958 gem, be sure check it out:


Bugs Bunny Knighty Knight Bugs 1958 arsenaloyal 

 I dare you not to guffaw. Dragons, as The Black Knight so aptly proclaims, is sooo stupid. Well, mine may not be stupid, but like the Black Knight’s dragon, he does get the hiccups at the most inopportune moments.

So there you have it. TH White; PG Wodehouse; Bugs Bunny. My shining inspirations.  Hey, nobody said this whole writing thing had to make sense, did they?

Where can I buy Traitor Knight?

About the author.
Keith W. Willis graduated (long ago) from Berry College with a degree in English Lit. He now lives in the scenic Hudson Valley/Adirondack region of NY with his wife Patty. They have one grown son, Matt, who actually thinks it’s pretty cool that Dad wrote a book.Keith’s interests include camping, canoeing, and Scrabble. Keith began writing seriously in 2008, when the voices in his head got too annoying to ignore. When he’s not making up stories he manages a group of database content editors at a global information technology firm. TRAITOR KNIGHT is his first published novel.

Useful links

Twitter : @kilbourneknight

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Knights of Camelot ~ Sir Ector

What if I were to tell you that everything you thought you knew was a lie? I am not your father.

Sir Ector (Hector) has been associated with Arthurian Legend since he was introduced by Robert de Boron, in his great works, the Lancelot-Grail Cycle. As with all things Arthurian the tale was soon picked up by other poets until Disney finally got their hands on it in 1963 (Yes, it really was that long ago). Surprisingly, very little has changed with regards to Sir Ector’s story and the account that Disney portrayed was very similar to the original.

Although maybe this scene didn't happen in the original telling!

                                                The Sword in the Stone - Attack of the Dishes

Sir Ector is entrusted with King Uther’s newborn son, Arthur. He is told to look after him and will be rewarded greatly by the King ~ all he needs to do is care for the child and do exactly what Merlin tells him to do.

 Howard Pyle  The Story of King Arthur and His Knights. (1903)

Arthur grows up under the illusion that Sir Ector is his father. He also believes that Sir Ector’s son, Kay, is his brother. Years pass and Kay is knighted and Arthur acts as Kay's squire. They travel to a special tournament in London, for Kay is keen to compete for a kingdom is up for the taking. There is a sword in a stone and whoever can pull the said sword out of the stone is the rightful king of Britain.

And I think we all know what happens next…

Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and he learns that Sir Ector is not his father after all and that is the end of the story for Sir Ector. For such an important figure in Arthur’s upbringing, he disappear into the shadows for the rest of Arthur's story.

Sunday 22 May 2016

Character Interview ~ Emrysia ~ #YA #booksgs @camorganwrites

Forget everything you think you know about fairies, mermaids, and fauen's, because fantasy author C.A. Morgan is on the blog today. Read on for an exclusive interview with a very special mermaid ~ sorry, I mean a Glisseon, a fauen and a healer.

Step into the light and you'll see them. A headstrong young healer with wings, a mermaid with more than one secret, and a vengeful fauen - she just may slit your throat! Enter their world of Emrysia - part fantasy, pure fairytale, but NOT for the faint of heart. Because, here in the light, the Shadow is growing.....

Vol. I: Forget everything you think you know about fairies, mermaids, and fauen - pretty tales to put children to sleep. Now, enter the magically shifting landscape of Emrysia, where sentient swamps and ancient forests enchant disobedient daughters - maybe to death! Journey with three youngsters; Aryelle, a winged healer with an amazing gift, Lureli of the Mer, who shimmers with secrets deep as the sea, and fierce Eleanor - barely four feet tall on hoof point, she has horns even if you can't see them! Three sisters, separate races, one common destiny.
Vol. II: In this second volume of the series, ever more certain that they are the Chosen who must save Emrysia from the Reign of Shadow, Aryelle, Lureli and Eleanor are scarcely into their new journey when disaster strikes. Navigating through an increasingly treacherous and unfamiliar world, will they go their separate ways - if they survive! - or will fate lead them down even darker paths together?

Vol. III: In this the final volume of the Three Sisters Trilogy, backbone of the Emrysia Series, each of the three Chosen must face evil times on their own, without help from the others. Sent their separate ways by the Lydian Muse, Mandelbrot, each of the "Three Sisters" finds herself in treacherous and unexpected circumstances from which there is no easy return. As Aryelle, Lureli and Eleanor journey toward self-discovery, the shadow grows in Emrysia. Will they be able to save themselves and the world they love, or be doomed to eternal darkness?

MY: Hey guys, I'm Mary (MY), welcome to the blog. Since your creator is a little shy, I thought I would ask you - the main characters of this series - a few questions. How would that be?
Lureli : Of course! What would you like to know? I could talk about myself all day because, you know, there's nothing more interesting than a mermaid - not that I am one! I'm really Glisseon, but you land-dwellers always seem to want to put things into your own perspective, you know? It's all about you, or the Mer, as the case may be. Flippin' fins! You've got me confused now...what was I saying? Oh yeah, I guess I'd appreciate a little more attention-
Eleanor : Hunh! Is that even possible?
Aryelle : Could we please just answer this nice lady's questions?
MY: Thank you, Aryelle. So, you three are really sisters? How so? I mean, you're so different...?
Aryelle : We are of different races, true, but we are all sentient Emrysians-
Eleanor : Some of us a little more aware than others!
Lureli : Was that another insult? Why you stinking goat-girl!
MY: I can see that you don't always get along-
Eleanor : Ever-
MY: ...which seems pretty normal for siblings. But since you're so different, could you each tell me a little bit about yourself?
Lureli : I'll go first. (eye roll from Eleanor) Like I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, I'm from under the sea. My people are gorgeous and fun-loving, and we live forever - provided a barracuda doesn't eat us or anything. We're all female except for a few Mermen that we have shape-changed into proper mates over the years. Not that I have one of my own. Well, actually...I do have servants, but most of them still live on shore-
Eleanor : She doesn't need to hear about your exploits! I'm an Aurrac fauen. I hunt, I fight, and I can beat any ram in hand to hoof combat with one hand tied. Period. Aryelle?
Aryelle : (sighs) My name is Aryelle, Daughter of Elazaryn, El'Kandhar of the Ka'Andharra Empaya, and heir to the exalted Seat. I do not yet know my true calling, though I am a healer by nature. This is why I must set out on questanna - to learn how to use my gifts to heal the rift between my people and the Naturra. That, and to somehow overcome the Kra'Nochta Empa'ana - the Reign of Shadow - that is encroaching over all of Emrysia.
MY: Wow - that's a heavy load for one so young! What do you do for fun?
Aryelle : Healing others is rewarding enough. I do not crave fun...though occasionally I visit the aviary or stroll the gardens.
MY: How about you two?
Eleanor : I hunt. I fight. Period.
Lureli : Okay then, goat-girl! We Glisseon have all sorts of entertainments. There's swimming, of course, and manta ray hunts, tuna races, reef tag, catch-the-clown fish, talent shows, the Coral Salons, the Asylum, midnight sing-a-longs on shore, urchin juice parties, kelp feasts-
Eleanor : I've seen you eat; it's not a pretty sight!
Lureli : Why, you-
MY: How about your most embarrassing moments?
Lureli : I'd rather not say...
Eleanor : When Gord and me were fighting and he knocked me flat on my-... my rear. I didn't even see it coming!
Aryelle : Sliding down that muddy bank into the Swamps of Dire; what a foul place! I can still smell that slime when my wings get wet...
MY:  What is the strangest thing about your homeland, Emrysia?
All three : Mandelbrot!!!
MY: Does anyone know what your author is working on next?
Lureli : (sticking out her tongue at Eleanor) Yes -  a prequel!
Eleanor : I heard a sequel.
Aryelle : Actually, she is working on both, plus another volume going more in depth with some of our support characters. She also mentioned something about a memoir, a collection of daily motivational essays, and several children's picture books. She is quite prolific. Someday, perhaps we, too, will each find and fulfill our true purpose...

Book Extract: From Emrysia Endurance: Vol. II of the Three Sisters Trilogy, by C.A. Morgan
“Well then, where is Aryelle? Why isn’t she back yet?” Lureli was more than a little frustrated at finding herself back at Rona’s warren, but mostly at being there alone with Eleanor. They were standing outside in the first rays of morning sunlight. The moment she opened her eyes and saw where she was she had bolted up the tunnel, leaving Eleanor to follow. Now Eleanor was trying none too patiently to explain.

“I had to get you back first. I thought you might resist coming.”

“You were right! I never even made it home! It’s not fair!”

Eleanor snorted. “Who said any of this was fair? Do you think I enjoyed seeing my people slaughter each other? Do you think…” she swallowed a painful lump, “do you think I asked for any of this?”

“No, but…my father, my men-”

“-are as good as dead to you, if they aren’t already! Get that through your thick fish skull! We’re all we’ve got, sister, for now at least.”

Lureli’s chin began to quiver. One lone, fat tear rolled down her cheek. “But you tricked me!” she squeaked accusingly.

“Yeah? How’d I do that?”

“You know how; by pretending to be my dead mother!” 

Eleanor looked at her as if she’d just grown horns. “What do you mean? I didn’t trick you. I didn’t even know your mother was dead! All I did was come back here to the Maze of Ages and say your name – just once!” she added preemptively, since Lureli looked about to argue. She heaved an exasperated sigh and began to stomp back inside.

As much as Lureli hated being alone with Eleanor, being alone without her would be worse. She called after her. “What are you doing? Where are you going?” 

Without looking back, Eleanor grunted. “I’m calling Aryelle.”

Lureli gulped. “Is that really all it took?”

Eleanor returned far enough to glare at her. “I didn’t even know if it would work, okay? I thought I was wasting my time on some crazy idea that prophesy planted in my head.” She threw up her hands and began pacing. “I almost left. But then, I started wandering around here, trying to figure out the Maze, and where the two of you might be. I figured Aryelle could only be in her treehouse, but who knew where you might have ended up. Except-” she strode back to where Lureli stood, stopping only when they were hoof to toe. “Except I muttered your name out loud, and suddenly, here you were. Conjured up like a bad memory. It doesn’t matter anymore where you were…or who you were with, or how happy they made you. All that matters is that none of us can get out of being Chosen, like it or not. We’ve got a job to do, so let’s just do it and get it over with!”

At that very moment, Aryelle walked out of the warren. “Shall we be about it, then?” she asked.

They stared, dumbfounded. She was dressed like a fairy queen, all in colorful silks, her delicate feet swathed in fine slippers. Glowing like a lamp in the rosy morning light, her wings shimmered against the backdrop of the warren. More importantly though, they noted, she was no longer blind.

“You can see again!” cried Lureli. “How?”

“That is a long story. Perhaps someday we will have time to share our tales. Now we have more important matters to discuss.”

 “What are you doing here? I didn’t even call you yet,” blurted Eleanor.

“You must have. I heard someone clearly speak my name as I wandered the gardens,” said Aryelle walking between them, “-and knew it was time to return. I turned around a hedge, and suddenly, I was here.”

“Well, that’s strange! I spoke one name and one name only: Lureli. I might have thought of you both, but-”

“It seems that was all it took,” Aryelle told her. “As prophesy foretold, the eldest beaconed, and her sisters came. The Chosen are reunited.”

“Look, not to interrupt our little ‘family’ reunion, but that just doesn’t make sense, and I’m tired of not knowing what’s going on. I’m not going anywhere, or doing anything either of you says, until I get some answers!” Lureli planted her hands on her hips and waited.

Eleanor shot her a murderous glance and took a step toward her, but Aryelle laid a restraining hand on her arm. A look, and more, passed between the two of them.
Eleanor backed off, taking a deep breath to calm herself; why the mermaid brought out the worst in her she didn’t know, but for some reason she always did. “Well then, let’s get caught up so we can just get on with it, how’s that sound? You first, Little Miss Shellfish.” 

Where can I purchase this fabulous series?

About the author
C. A. Morgan is not only an author/illustrator and armchair theorist, but an incredibly talented home chef who doesn't believe in the zombie apocalypse --- although she does hoard food in an amazingly well-stocked pantry. Equipped with a degree in Commercial Art from Michigan's Ferris State University, she has worked in a variety of related and teaching fields, and now calls Vermont's Northeast Kingdom home. She loves sharing rural life with her husband and their five exceptional children, seasonal livestock and occasional moose. Portraiture - both visual and literary - is her forte. She enjoys layering the aesthetic with functionality in her richly drawn fictional characters as much as in her "illuminated" art furniture. Encouraging others to develop their talents is her lifelong passion. Living out her dream, she hopes everyone reading this will take a chance, make a change, and work their butts off to make their own dreams come true!
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