Thursday 28 July 2016

The Dark Ages ~ A real Game of Thrones?

"Britain is an island in the ocean and it was formally called Albion... It is rich in crops and trees and has good pasturage for cattle...

In Britain at present there are five languages following the number of the books in which the Divine law was written. It contains five nations, the English, Britons, Irish, Picts and Latins, each with its own special dialect intent on the sublime study of divine truth. Because of the study of the Scriptures the Latin tongue has become common to them all..." Bede Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

What do we know about the Dark Ages?

I posed this question to a group of children I was tutoring a little while ago.  This was one of the answers I received.

"It was dark in the Dark Ages. There was no electricity and candles had no been invented. And it was always raining, so it was dark in the day time as well."

For a six year old I thought that was a pretty good answer!

It was Francesco Petrarca, an Italian scholar who first penned the phrase. He was studying the works of the time and concluded...

 "Amidst the errors there shone forth men of genius; no less keen were their eyes, although they were surrounded by darkness and dense gloom."

  He meant it as a scathing criticism of late Lain literature and not the period itself.

Saeculum obscurum ~ the dark world (The Dark Ages) was also a name used to describe the history of the Papacy in the latter part of the 10th Century. It wasn't until the 16th Century that the age between the Roman's departure and the Norman invasion became commonly known as The Dark Ages.

Since then scholars have tried to rename the period -

The Pagan Saxon Period

The Early Saxon Period

The Early Christian Period

The Christian – Saxon Period

The Early Middle Ages

But, for consistency in this post, I will continue to refer to the era as The Dark Ages.

The Dark Ages was a time of invasion - it saw the arrival of the Saxon's, the Angles and the Jutes who fought over the spoils.  And let's not forget the missionaries under St Augustine, who came back to Britain and reintroduced Christianity.  Which ultimately led to the Christina Saxon Period.

By the 8th Century, the Vikings had finally travelled West.  I have often wondered what these Viking explorers thought when they landed at Lindisfarne in 793. Here was an island, completely defenceless, inhabited by men in robes, and filled with precious treasures. What a find. They must have thought the people of this rich country a little soft in the head to leave such treasures unguarded. So it is no surprise that they sacked Lindisfarne. But to a scholar, many centuries later, Lindisfarne shows us how dynamic the political structure in Britain had become.  Up until the Viking invasion, the monasteries were respected as sacred places. No one would dare attack them.

Therefore, we cannot overlook the importance of the church during this period.

" ...As late as the mid-fourth century the principle rural religious foci throughout the region were pagan temples, by 500 the situation had ceased. There is no trace of organised paganism in western Britain after the early fifth century, and the main religious foci are now monastic sites and churches."  Dr Ken Dark

Likewise, trade continued when the Roman's left, particularly between the West of Britain and the Mediterranean. If we stick to Arthurian Legend, then let's go to Tintagel Castle. The finds that have been found here show that this was a regular stop for trade. Money was being spent.

"...glassware from southern Spain, wine amphorae from Byzantium, oil jars and fine tableware from North Africa..." Dr Francis Pryor.

It is true that not a great deal was written down during the Dark Ages. We have to go on archaeological finds and defer to people who have far greater knowledge of the era than I do, but one thing I find intriguing is why what was written down, was written down in the first place.

Gildas - A British monk from the 5th Century who wrote the se excidio et conquestu Britanniae (Concerning the Ruin and Fall of Britain) reads like a condemning sermon. He is preaching a political reprimand.

Nennius and his Historia Brittonim (History of the Britons) is dripping with political motives - in this instance, we need to look to the politics in 9th Century Wales ~ King Merfyn of Gwynedd needed a great Celtic leader to inspire his supporters, and Nennuis’s work provided one.

"The Historia was also created as a counter to the "English" of the Venerable Bede's history, which was very popular at the time…" Dr Francis Pryor.

I love the work of Bede, I have read Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People many times. He describes a time of anarchy - (dare I borrow the title of George R. R. Martin book) – Bede describes A Game Of Thrones. But when the Anglo-Saxons turned to Christianity, order was restored.

During Alfred The Great's reign, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles was composed. As an author of historical fiction set in the Dark Ages, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles is one of the most important books in my collection. It begins with the Roman invasion, and it was updated until as late as the mid-twelfth century. Although deciphering what is real and what is fictitious is certainly challenging!

Of course, being an author who writes about Arthurian legend, I have to give credit to another writer of that time, Geoffrey Monmouth. Monmouth lived during a period of grave unrest. England was in the midst of a civil war between King Stephen and Matilda. Monmouth's work was incredibly popular - but there was more to it than simply telling a good yarn about King Arthur. He wasn't writing for the masses, but for the Anglo-Norman elite. He made up extravagant claims of King Arthur's greatness, which he backed up by "authentic sources,” which he then accidentally misplaced! His work was considered to be factual - for the most part!

"it is quite clear that everything this man wrote about Arthur and his successors, or indeed about his predecessors from Vortigern onwards, was made up, partly by himself and partly by others..." William of  Newburgh ~ 12th Century English Historian.

The Dark Ages is anything but Dark! It is a fascinating period in British history that I will never  tire of.

Gildas ~ se excidio et conquestu Britanniae
Nennius  ~ historia brittonim
Bede ~  Ecclesiastical History of the English People
King Alfred the Great ~ The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles
 Geoffrey Monmouth  ~ historia regum britanniae
Francis Pryor ~ Britain AD
Michael Wood ~ In Search Of The Dark Ages 
Michael Wood ~ In Search of England

Wednesday 27 July 2016

#BookReview ~ The Viking by Marti Talbott #YA

Today, I am handing the blog over to my daughter, Elle, for her very first book review!! Elle is 12 and very much a bookworm!

The Viking
Marti Talbott

  At not quite fifteen, Stefan’s father finally let him board the longship Sja Vinna to take part in his first Viking raid. Yet, the battle was not at all what he expected and he soon found himself alone and stranded in Scotland.

Thirteen-year-old Kannak’s problem was just as grave. Her father deserted them and the only way to survive, she decided, was to take a husband over her mother‘s objections. Suddenly she was helping a hated Viking escape. Could Kannak successfully hide a Viking in the middle of a Scottish Clan? And why was someone plotting to kill the clan's beloved laird? 

What did I think of the book?
At last, the day has come, Stefan has finally been allowed to board his father's Viking longship and go on his first raid.  What he didn’t count on was being left behind in Scotland.

 Kannak is thirteen and is alone with her mother - as her father has abandoned them. She has decided that the only way for them to survive is to marry, so they will have someone to help work the land.

Then she meets Stefan…and life will never be the same again!

This young adult book is one that had me hooked from the beginning. The romance that is weaved into the storyline is beautiful. The relationship between Kannak and Stefan developed over the course of the story and was very believable.

My favourite character is Stefan, for, although he is a Viking, he fits right into the Scottish clan without any problems and cares deeply for the two women who work their way into his life.

I also like the fact that this book wasn’t written as most books are. The clan is Scottish, so when they are speaking, they are speaking the way a Scottish clan would. I could almost hear them talking as I read it.

I Highly Recommend this book to anyone.

Links to buy

About the author

After I retired in 2010, I had lots of time on my hands, so I started writing ANNA and just for fun, posted the story on my website for people to read free. ANNA, typos and all, was a huge success, so I wrote the story of Anna's little sister, Rachel, and a third story called Charlet. Charlet was the most fun to write, and after her story, came seventeen more stories of life, laughter and love in the MacGreagor Clan.

I then divided the twenty stories into five volumes and published them as Kindle books. Like my readers, I could not say goodbye to my characters, so after the first five, I wrote nine more novels, bringing the total to fourteen. The Viking is a prequel to the series. Now, and to my amazement, my Highlander Series is being read all over the world.

Before my grandparents passed, they wrote a journal about their courtship in the early 1900's. Thus, Marblestone Mansion was born. There are now nine books in that series with one more to come.

Seattle Quake 9.2 was written years ago and since then I have added two more books to the Jackie Harlan Mysteries. The Carson Series was already written before I retired.

Useful Links 

Come meet me on Facebook at and visit my website at  

Tuesday 26 July 2016

#Arthurian Legend ~ Morgan le Fay

 Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned.

Morgan le Fay ~ the sister King Arthur wished he never had.

Morgan le Fay by Frederick Sandys (1864)

Morgan goes by many names, the most popular being Morgana. As her name "Fay" suggests, she is a magical being. She is a great sorcerer, a healer, who uses her magic against her brother.

Morgan is the daughter of Igraine and her first husband Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. This makes her Arthur's half-sister. She is married to King Uriens and is the mother of Yvain. In later works, she is the mother of Mordred. 

The earliest mention of Morgan was by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his lesser known work Vita Merlini (The Life of Merlin). In this account, Morgan and her nine magical sisters reside in Avalon. They can only use their magic for good. But by the 13th Century, Morgan takes on a more sinister role.

It is in Lancelot-Grail where her character first takes a turn for the worse. Suddenly, instead of being this caring and compassionate woman who can only do good, she becomes this evil sorcerer, who is intent on bringing Artur and his kingdom down.

Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880)

Morgan believes that Arthur ruined her life. To find out why we need to look at how Arthur was conceived...

 Uther Pendragon became obsessed with Igraine, Morgan's mother. Uther is determined to have her in his bed. While Morgan's father, Glorious, is a way in battle, Uther Pendragon disguises himself - with the aid of Merlin - and tricks Igraine into thinking she is making love to her husband when in fact she is being raped by Uther. It is on this night that Arthur is conceived.

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

After her father's death, Morgan is spirited away to a convent ~ she is out of sight, out of mind. It is at the convent where Morgan begins to study magic. Later, her education is continued under the watchful eye of Merlin. However, Arthur puts a stop to her learning by marrying her off to King Urien of Gore. Their marriage is not a happy one, and Morgan takes a string of lovers until the fateful day when Queen Guinevere finds out about her not so honourable behaviour and puts a stop to it.

Morgan's relationship with Merlin also rapidly breaks down, and she ends up despising him too. To make matters worse, all her attempts at bringing Arthus's reign down is hampered by Nimue ~ The Lady of the Lake.

The Enchanter Merlin, by Howard Pyle 
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights (1903)

And then one day Lancelot comes to court. Poor Morgan, she falls head over heels in love with him, but alas he does not love her back. She tries countless times to seduce him and to trick him into loving her. Unfortunately, he is faithful to his lover, Guinevere. Morgan find's our about the affair and does everything she can to expose it.

Illustration from The Boy's King Arthur 
 Launcelot and Guinevere — "He rode his way with the Queen unto Joyous Gard."

In Post-Vulgate Queste Morgan is devoted to her magic. She even takes herself away from society, living in a forest. She becomes a shape-shifter - she can transform into any animal - and she earns the name Morgan the Goddess.

In Thomas Malory Le Morte d'Arthur, Morgan dedicates her life to bringing Arthur and Guinevere down.

In the tale of Gawain and the Green Knight, Morgan is the brains behind the plot. She wants to test the knights metal and, in an underhanded way, hopes to frighten the living daylights out of Guinevere!

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 
(Artist unknown)

Morgan's tale is told in a thousand different ways through the ages. The most recent account of Morgan's escapades can be found in the BBC series, Merlin. Here she goes by the name Morgana. She is a sorcerer. She is also Merlin's enemy and Arthur's half-sister ( although this time, they have the same father), and she lives in a world where magic is banned.

So from Welsh myth to an Arthurian one, Morgan goes on one heck of a journey.  But the common theme throughout seems to be that she was dealt a poor hand which makes her one very bitter lady with a grudge.

Monday 25 July 2016

Blog Tour & Giveaway ~ An Improper Governess @SecretRealmBook @AmyRoseBennett

An Improper Governess
An Improper Liaisons Novella, Book 2


Amy Rose Bennett

 Blog Tour and Giveaway

 Lusting after one’s employer is certainly not the done thing when you are a governess. But Miss Abigail Adams cannot seem to help herself...
Abigail Adams, the resident governess of Hartfield Hall, might appear to be a very proper young woman, yet she secretly yearns for excitement to brighten her mundane life. And what she does want, she really shouldn’t long for—Sir Nicholas Barsby, the indecently handsome, charismatic master of Hartfield.

Sir Nicholas Barsby returns home from a tour of the Continent to discover his widowed sister-in-law has employed a decidedly delectable governess for his nieces. When it becomes blatantly apparent that the attraction is mutual, Nicholas ruthlessly decides to present Miss Adams with a thoroughly wicked proposal.

Abigail is initially shocked by Sir Nicholas’s outrageous and highly improper offer to become his mistress. Having wanton thoughts about a man is undoubtedly sinful but leading the life of a fallen woman is something else entirely. 

Nevertheless, falling into Sir Nicholas’s arms might just prove to be an invitation too tempting for Abigail to ignore. One thing is clear, whether she’s a governess or mistress, she must not lose her heart...

Release Date: July 15, 2016
Length: Long novella (45000 words)
Heat Level: Hot. 18+ This story is an erotic Regency romance and contains frequent love-making scenes and sexual language.
Additional information: This novella can be read as a stand-alone but is part of a loosely linked series. 

By the time she reached the stile, Abigail was gasping like a landed carp. As she gathered her skirts preparing to climb over, thunder clapped so close, she shrieked. A bright bolt of lightning lit the air around her and she swore she could feel her hair stand on end. Ignoring all dictates of decorum, she hoisted her skirts even higher and clambered up and over the rough wooden steps. However, as she jumped down, the muslin snagged on something and she found she was tethered like a nanny goat, her skirts caught up about her waist.
“Damn!” Without thought, the coarse expletive escaped her. Not only was she about to get caught in a storm she’d probably ruined her best day gown. Could this day get any worse?
“Damn indeed.”
It seemed it could.
Abigail whipped her head around and found herself staring up into the face of the most handsome man she had ever seen. Raven-haired with slashing brows and chiseled features, he sat astride a glossy black gelding with the confidence of a knight-errant, but alas, not the gallantry. As his deep blue eyes raked over her naked thighs and lower to her stockings, his expression was a mixture of sardonic amusement and a darker, heavier emotion she had no trouble recognizing at all—male lust.
“May I be of assistance, dear lady?” he asked, his voice a rich rumbling purr.
Abigail’s face burned as she attempted to wrench her dress and fine cambric petticoats down all by herself. The distinct rip of fabric tearing made her wince. “You might avert your gaze, sir,” she snapped as hot outrage and mortification made her sound more like a harpy than a damsel in distress.
“Yes, I might. But then, that would not be of much help to you now, would it?” Before Abigail could even think to protest further, the ill-mannered stranger slid from his mount and within moments, had released the stubborn snag.
“There,” he said with a wide smile that was probably supposed to be rakishly appealing. “The fair maiden is free.”
“I could have managed on my own,” she retorted. She wasn’t going to thank the man, not when he’d been eyeing her lower body like a hungry beast of prey sizing up its next meal. Dear God, I hope he did not see my bottom, or worse, my—
Another crack of thunder made her start and the man glanced at the menacing sky. Lightning streaked above the dense copse of trees hiding Hartfield Hall from view. As he mounted his restive horse, a sharp gust caught his black traveling cloak and it flapped about him like the dark wings of a fallen angel.
Perhaps even Lucifer himself. “Where are you going, Miss...?” he asked, his compelling blue gaze locking with hers again. “I really don’t think you should be wandering about the countryside in this tempest. In fact, it would be quite foolish if not altogether mad. I must insist you come with me.” He held out his gloved hand.

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.

Website and Blog:


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Wednesday 20 July 2016

Author’s Inspiration ~ Maighread MacKay @MaighreadMackay

Please give a warm welcome to paranormal author
Maighread MacKay.
Before I hand over the blog to Maighread, let’s check out her latest book!
What if you could plan your life before you were born? What could that life looked like?
Victoria Anne McBride is dead, buried and mourned, but she doesn’t know that. She is waiting in Stone Cottage for her husband Will to return. She has something she needs to tell him; something about their daughter Maddy, but she can’t quite remember what it is.
Rebecca Wainwright is modern executive who suffers from anxiety and depression after her father dies. She is looking for a place of sanctuary where she can lick her wounds and heal without the constant, worried looks from her family. She stumbles upon Stone Cottage and immediately feels a sense of déjà vu and a homecoming of sorts. She purchases the home as her own quiet retreat not knowing that it is already occupied.
What happens when these two women meet? How are they connected? A story of past lives, reincarnation, pre-birth planning and love that crosses time and space.


What if you could plan your life before you were born?
What could that life look like?
I have always been interested in ghosts and mysteries. One of the first books I remember reading as a child was Nancy Drew and the Ghost of Blackwood Hall. Why do spirits stay around after they leave their earthly body? Are they real? What do they want? All questions I have asked myself in my exploration of the supernatural. My quest has led me on a fascinating study of yoga, Native theology, Celtic Shamanism, the realm of the Fae and authors such as James Van Praagh, John Edward, Brian Weiss, Eckhart Tolle, James Redfield, Ted Andrews and many others.
In my search I came across a book written by Robert Schwartz entitled Your Soul’s Plan. It is enthralling accounts of people who have done a past life regression into the time between lives, after they had lived and before they reincarnated again. This book touched me deeply and started new questions about reincarnation and past life regression and why we incarnate onto this planet. I wondered how the scenarios presented could play out in a life’s story. Thus the inspiration for Stone Cottage was born. My novel in no way is a definitive look at why life is the way it is, but rather, how events might arrange themselves in one person’s life. It is Visionary Fiction after all. Other than being a neat story, it’s a way to present a new paradigm of life to people who may never have encountered it before.
In the novel, Rebecca is the daughter Charles Wainwright, the CEO of Wainwright Industries and staunch believer in the “old boy’s club”. She adores her father. He has been her mentor and hero. Working hard to prove to him (and herself) that she is worthy of her position as EVP of Marketing, she runs herself ragged trying to gain his approval. A no nonsense business woman, she controls her office and household with a firm hand.
Her best friend, Cissy Walsh, is the local Coroner. She and Rebecca met at McGill University. Polar opposites, Cissy is a throwback to a sixties flower child and has travelled the world seeking spiritual enlightenment. Each complements the other’s personality. Rebecca helps Cissy with down to earth tasks such as shopping for appropriate attire and Cissy helps Rebecca relax and encourages her to open her mind to a different way of viewing the world.
Rebecca’s father dies unexpectedly and throws her into a tailspin that results in this strong, vibrant woman spiralling down into depression and panic attacks. While trying to heal and find herself again she seeks a cottage or something similar as a sanctuary from the overbearing concern of her family. Aimlessly driving one day, she discovers the perfect place – Stone Cottage. What she doesn’t know is that the home is already occupied by the ghost of Victoria Anne (Annie) McBride.
Annie is twenty-three and lived in the 1860’s. A joyful woman with a husband and child she loves, her family is shattered by a tragic loss. Since that event, she has remained an earth bound spirit for over one hundred years.
How are these two women bound together? Why is Annie still here? Can they help each other heal?

Where can I purchase this fabulous book?

About the author
Maighread MacKay is an author and Podcaster from Ontario, Canada.  She is a member of the Writer’s Community of Durham Region (WCDR) and Sisters in Crime, Toronto.
Her publishing credits include three books for children:   Bedtime Treasures, The Mysterious Door and the Crystal Grove written under the name of Margaret Hefferman. Stone Cottage was published in 2015 by Solstice Shadows Publishing. She was included in the 2015 Christmas Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas edition with her story “Being Santa”. Stepping Stones, an anthology of inspirational parables was released March 25, 2016 from Solstice Publishing. A new story, Once Upon a Midsummer’s Eve will be included in the Solstice anthology of Let’s Have Fun, to be released June 21, 2016 
Useful Links 

Tuesday 19 July 2016

#bookreview The Girl from Berlin – War Criminal’s Widow @EllieMidwood

The Girl from Berlin

War Criminal’s Widow

By Ellie Midwood

As soon as Annalise, a counterintelligence agent working for the American OSS office, thinks that all the dangers are finally behind, swept away by the protective hand of her high-ranking lover – the Chief of the RSHA Ernst Kaltenbrunner – she has to face an even bigger challenge. With both fronts approaching her quickly collapsing Germany, she has to make a fateful decision: to run from the allied prosecution together with the father of her unborn baby, the man, who the allies consider one of the major war criminals and who they can’t wait to bring to justice; or to stay with her husband Heinrich and accept a generous offer from the OSS – a new and free life in the United States…

What did I think of the book?

I haven't been this excited about a series for an age. The Girl from Berlin series is a riveting page-turner that I adored.

Annalise is not only a member of the Nazi party, but she is also a Jew and a counterintelligence agent working for the American OSS office - she is married to a fellow OSS agent. She is also working for the Chief of the RSHA, Ernst Kaltenbrunner. And just to add yet another spanner to the works, she falls in love with her boss and he with her.

Book 2 ended on such a cliffhanger that I immediately purchased book 3 to find out what was going to happen next. Book 3 takes you to the end of the war and then beyond. I would advise you to have a box of Kleenex on hand when you read this book. I spent half of the time sobbing my heart out as Annalise's story unfolded. The story of Annalise and her war criminal will stay with me for a long time.
I am a big fan of Ellie Midwood. Purchasing a new book by this author is like Christmas morning, I can not wait to open the book and get started. I know Midwood is going to throw me into a fascinating and dangerous world with characters that I shouldn't always care about, but strangely I do. Midwood's book are so refreshing. I can not recommend them enough.

From the moment I read the opening paragraph of Book 1 of The Girl from Berlin, I was hooked. Midwood recounts Nazi Germany in a way that I haven't come across before. She digs deep into the moral and social dilemmas of the time, and although her main characters are fictional, she does talk of historical figures who names will be forever remembered in history because of their capacity to forgo all humanity in the name of their party.

Midwood does not shy away from the dark days of the Nazi regime, but what she does point out, through her fiction, is that things were not always what they seemed. And she seems to ask her readers a tough question - What lengths would you go to in order to keep your loved ones safe?

I loved, loved, loved, this series and now I am feeling slightly bereft that it is over.

I Highly Recommend.

Where can I purchase this series?

About the author

Ellie Midwood is a best-selling historical fiction writer. She's a health obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew and a doggie mama. 

Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.