Monday 31 October 2016

#bookreview ~The Scattered Flock #histfict @AuthoJana

The Scattered Flock
(The Flock Trilogy Book 2)
Jana Petken

Jana Petken presents The Scattered Flock, a suspenseful, compelling sequel to the multi award winning, The Errant Flock

David Sanz’s journey south is halted abruptly after a devastating turn of events. In a tense battle for survival against thieves and the militia he has been fleeing from, he finds himself shackled and incarcerated in the prison he once guarded.

The Duke of Sagrat’s brother, Rafael Perato, has survived the war, and the royal court’s treacherous intrigues, but when news of his brother’s death reaches their Most Catholic Majesties his life is thrown into turmoil. Banished by the king, and tasked with carrying out insurmountable missions, he becomes entangled in a web of deadly plots and subterfuge, which threaten not only Sagrat but his very life.

In this fast paced epic, David Sanz and Rafael Perato face adversaries more devious and powerful than themselves, and it is only faith, courage, and unlikely alliances, that may save them both from the Inquisitor and the deadly marauder, Alejandro.


What did I think of the book?

David Sanz's life has been turned upside down and now fate, once more, has turned her hand against him. After a frantic flee South in a bid to save his own life, he finds himself in chains and facing an uncertain future. But maybe, here, at last, is his chance to have his revenge.

I was looking forward to reading the sequel of The Errant Flock, and this book certainly did not disappoint.  With a captivating and emotive story, The Scattered Flock is a book that is very hard to put down.

Petkin's brings 15th Century Spain back to life and in particular the corruption and the cruelty of The Spanish Inquisition.

With unforgettable characters and spellbinding writing, this is a book that gets under your skin and makes you wonder how anyone survived the horror of the Inquisition.

There are several antagonists in this story, but none is as vile as de Amo, he really is a contemptible creature, and he certainly made my skin crawl, which only goes to show how well crafted Petkin's characters are.

As with the last book, I feared for David’s life, and I wondered how much more Petkin’s was gong to throw at the poor man! But he is strong, and his character certainly developed further through the course of this book ~ he is an unlikely hero, but one all the same.

I really liked the character of Rafael Perato. He painstakingly puts all the pieces together as he tries desperately to discover who murdered his brother. Rafael is not afraid to get to the truth, but the more he discovers, the more he realises how deeply corruption is embedded into the ruling class and that of the Church. One wrong move on his part and he would find himself facing his own mortality.

I Highly Recommend this book and I look forward to reading more books by this author.

Links for purchase

About the author
Jana Petken served in the (British) Royal Navy as a leading Wren Regulator, equivalent to a sergeant in the military police.
After the Navy she worked for a travel company as an overseas representative.
She was a security guard at the BBC World Service radio station. Afterwards she spent twelve years as a bodyguard for a Saudi Arabian Princess.
Her final career was as a cabin-crew member for British Airways. Unfortunately, she suffered serious injuries on board a flight. The aircraft, a Boeing 747, was flying at 39,000 feet above Africa when it was caught in clear-air turbulence. As a result of that accident, she endured three major operations on her spinal cord, and was forced into retirement.

Jana Petken is a multi award winning and best selling historical fiction author. Her books include:
The Guardian of Secrets. (2013)
The Mercy Carver Series: Dark Shadows, book 1, and Blood Moon, book 2. (2014)
The Errant Flock: The Flock Trilogy Book 1. (2015)
Swearing Allegiance. (2016)

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Author’s Inspiration ~ Jennifer C. Wilson #HistFic #paranormal @inkjunkie1984

Please give a warm welcome to historical-paranormal author, Jennifer C. Wilson. Jennifer is going to share with us her inspirations behind…

Kindred Spirits
Tower of London

A King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and a host of former courtiers…

In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of Tudor Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back from his place of death at Bosworth Field to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.

Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III takes control, as each ghostly resident looks for their own peace in the former palace – where privacy was always a limited luxury.

With so many characters haunting the Tower of London, will they all find the calm they crave?

 Author’s Inspiration

My inspiration for writing comes from a wide range of sources. Sometimes (rarely, sadly, but lovely when it happens) an idea leaps fully-formed into my head, for example one of the ideas about the life of Richard III I’m currently working on, but most of the time, I’m attracted by a tiny snippet of historical trivia, or even a name. A few years ago, I visited Sweetheart Abbey, and whilst reading about the history of the place, came across Dervorguilla of Galloway, who founded the abbey in memory of her husband. I loved the name, and have subsequently imagined a whole story around a woman of the same name, nothing to do with the real Dervorguilla’s life story at all.

Likewise, the feel of a place can have a significant effect on me. Some places just have a ‘sense’ to them, whether that’s foreboding, romantic, welcoming, or fear. Even without knowing the history of a site (and sometimes it’s better this way), you can get a feel of what characters made their home there, and what life was like. That for me is enough to spark something off. A dark, almost-hidden corridor is obviously the perfect place for secrets, whether conspiratorial or romantic in nature. Likewise, when perched on a rock in the middle of Glencoe, or standing on Culloden battlefield, my mind is filled with conversations that took place (or should have taken place), and the people who lived and died there. I often imagine being a fly-on-the-wall in such places, imagining what happened behind closed doors, or away from prying eyes.

For my debut published novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, the inspiration came very specifically from a competition for poems about ghosts. I had this idea that if the ghosts of Richard III and Anne Boleyn were to meet, they would have plenty to talk about, and a lot in common. The only place I could logically think their ghosts would both be was the Tower of London, so I worked and worked at the poem.

It was dreadful. I didn’t even enter it.

But the idea seemed half-decent, and worth sticking with. I kept reading and researching, finding out who else might be about, and was lucky enough to visit the Tower twice during 2013, in the run-up to NaNoWriMo. By the time November came around, I had my cast, or the central group at least. Anne Boleyn was still my heroine, but I added Katherine Howard, Jane Grey, Jane Boleyn, Georges Boleyn and Plantagenet and William Hastings. Most were from a fairly narrow historical range, but I thought trying to incorporate everyone who had a reason to haunt the Tower would rapidly get out of hand! Looking over peoples’ life stories, relationships and opinions gave me plenty of scope as to who would have some interesting conversations with who, and whether friendships would form or fail as history progressed.

For those who have never taken part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I cannot recommend it highly enough. True, you can say goodbye to a decent night’s sleep for a month, and being able to live by ‘heating up’ rather than ‘cooking’ is a benefit, but if you ‘win’, then your prize is glorious – 50,000 words (or more, if you’re a real glutton for punishment!). Thanks to long evenings, a few days of annual leave, and the television’s off-switch, I made it. And then stopped. I glanced at it once or twice in the following year, always thinking I should do something with it, but never quite getting around to it.

Then they found Richard.

There’s a limited band of writers who can say that their hero made national (and international) news by being found in a carpark! Finding Richard III’s body in Leicester helped boost my motivation, especially once I’d been to the new Visitor Centre and seen the grave-site. It’s been beautifully presented, in almost a chapel-like setting. It still wasn’t quite enough though.

It was the funeral that did it. I’d entered the ballot for a place just to be a part of the whole experience – he was my favourite monarch, my leading man: how could I not go for a place at the re-burial? The envelope arrived, crisp white and gold-trimmed, in early 2015. My first thought was how nice it was, that the organisers had written to everyone to let them know they were unsuccessful; nope, I had a place at Compline. In truth, I didn’t even know what Compline was, but really, did it matter to me? I was going to part of Richard III’s funeral!

This, then, was the final push that I needed. One month after the service in Leicester, my manuscript was edited, polished and submitted. From there, things just went from good to better, with the novel being published as an e-book by Crooked Cat Publishing in October 2015, and in paperback in April 2016.

As for my latest inspiration, holding a copy of my own novel in my hands will take a lot to beat!


Links to Purchase
Only 0.99
(27th ~ 31st October)

About the author 

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.

Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, she won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her debut novel Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Publishing as an e-book in October 2015, and paperback in May 2016.

Useful Links 

Friday 21 October 2016

Pre-Order Blitz ~ Marmalade’s First Christmas @pmillhouse @SecretRealmBook

Marmalade’s First Christmas

A Novella
Paula Millhouse
Pre-Order Blitz

When billionaire Jake Simons rescues a kitten the week before Christmas, the orange tabby cat leads Jake to the greatest gift of the season - Veterinarian Marley West.
The last thing Marley needs is a client meddling in her personal business, but Old Man Winter, Mother Nature, and Jake’s pregnant mares have other plans for her holiday. When she gets snowed in with Jake during the worst blizzard in racehorse country, sparks fly.
But will Jake be strong enough to let go of ghosts from his past? And, in this friends-to-lovers story, will Marley learn to trust that Jake just might be her very own Christmas miracle?

Jake woke to an empty bed, and he startled up. Where was she? He tugged on a pair of sweats and a shirt, and left the bedroom searching for her.
What he found both surprised and pleased him.

“You’re up early,” she said, grinning at him with that breathtaking smile. She was sitting on the cushions in front of the fire, sipping a mug of something warm, reading one of his mother’s old romance novels. Marmalade was purring on her lap, and the Christmas Tree, the only other light besides the crackling fire lit up the room. “I found hot chocolate in the kitchen,” Marley said.
Jake took the mug and sniffed it. “Oh, this won’t do. Give me a sec and I’ll make you something amazing.”
He got up to go make the drinks, and Marley followed him. She watched him like a hawk as he simmered heavy cream, cinnamon sticks, and carved a big block of dark chocolate. “The secret is in not letting the cream reach a full boil.” He turned to the pantry and pulled out a bottle of Baileys Irish Cream. “And Baileys, of course.”
He poured the steaming elixir into big cheerful Snowman Mugs, added a shot of the liqueur, and then stirred a striped red and white candy cane in each mug. “Merry Christmas.”
She took one sip, and her eyes rolled back in her head. “Oh, Holy Night, this is incredible.”
He laughed, and sipped his cup too. “Pretty tasty.”
“I love this time of year, you know. It’s as if this one week, everything is perfect. Unblemished. Full of possibilities.”
She had a chocolate mustache from the drink, and he reached in and touched her upper lip. “You got a little something right there…”
She giggled. He swiped his tongue across the chocolate on her lips. He groaned. Her soft full lips tasted even better with chocolate on them. “This is turning out to be my favorite week this year too.”
She blushed, and her whole face turned holly berry red. Her delicately curved neck too. He took the mug from her hands, set it down, and backed her up to the granite counter. He kissed her properly, thoroughly, deeply.
She sighed, so he knew he’d gotten it right. The tingly taste of peppermint and chocolate on her tongue instantly became his favorite new treat. “Mmm…”
The kitchen heated up with their kisses, but a few moments later she pulled away and said, “We should go check on the mares, and their babies.”

I write books.
Books where romance, fantasy, and suspense collide.
Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, where Spanish moss whispers tales in breezes from the Atlantic Ocean, as a child I soaked in the sunshine and heritage of cobblestones, pirate lore, and stories steeped in savory mysteries of the South. I graduated with honors from both Armstrong Atlantic State University, and Georgia Southern University.
I live in the mountains now with my husband, but honor my southern heritage as a storyteller by sharing high heat adventures in romance fiction with readers.
What’s in it for you?
A reward. Treat yourself to an entertaining diversion from your daily routine by reading my stories. You’ll find themes like, justice does exist, love is worth fighting for, and happily ever afters are expected.

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Secret Realm Book Reviews & Services

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Author’s Inspiration ~ Dean Hamilton #HistFic @Tyburn__Tree

It is my very great pleasure to welcome Historical Fiction author, Dean Hamilton onto the blog. Dean is going to tell us about the inspirations behind his latest book.
The Jesuit Letter

England 1575.
Ex-soldier turned play-actor Christopher Tyburn thought he had left bloodshed and violence behind him when he abandoned the war against the Spanish in Flanders, but fate has different and far bloodier plans waiting.
The innyards of London are closed due to plague and the playing troupe The Earl of Worcester’s Men are on the road, touring the market-towns of the Midlands.
When Tyburn accidentally intercepts a coded letter from a hidden Jesuit priest in Warwickshire, he is entangled in a murderous and deadly conspiracy. Stalked by unknown enemies, he must race to uncover the conspiracy and hunt down the Jesuit to clear his name. . . or die a traitor’s death. His only hope – an eleven-year old glover’s son named William Shakespeare.
This novel has been selected by the Historical Novel Society as an Editors’ Choice and Short-listed for the 2016 HNS Indie Award. It has also been selected as a Semi-Finalist for the 2016 M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction. It was recently awarded an Indie B.R.A.G Medallion.
Author’s Inspiration

You might think, given the subject matter, that the primary inspiration for THE JESUIT LETTER was William Shakespeare, however, in actuality it was his father.
I knew relatively little about Shakespeare’s family and upbringing until I happened to read Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. Greenblatt, like many biographers before (and after) him, pulls together threads, ideas and commonalities from Shakespeare’s many works, drawing parallels between the limited evidentiary knowledge we have about Shakespeare’s life and upbringing, and tying in supposition, guesswork and context to try and draw a picture of the life of the famous Bard of Stratford-Upon-Avon.
What surprised me, was that John Shakespeare – Will’s father – actually had rather more documentation accessible about him than his much more famous son.  John Shakespeare was a glover by trade, but also held a number of properties and agricultural interests including an active role as a brogger, illegally trading in wool. He served as a municipal ale taster, a constable, an alderman, and eventually mayor (High Bailiff) of Stratford-Upon-Avon. By all accounts, he was one of Stratford’s leading citizens but in 1575, it all started to apparently go downhill. Records indicate a series of property sales and ownership transfers, the loss of his position as an alderman due to non-attendance, and usury charges over the next decade.
The question that has intrigued scholars is why? What caused John Shakespeare’s reversal of fortune, which saw him slide from aspiring gentleman (he applied for a coat-of-arms in 1569, an application that was allowed to lay fallow until revived by Will in 1596) to a man withdrawn from public life. Research led to a number of different cited possibilities including alcoholism (for which there is zero evidence, only speculation assumptions and guesses based on a handful of lines cited from Will Shakespeare’s plays), issues with the Courts due to his usury and brogging charges, commercial speculation, depression (8 children, of whom only 5 survived to adulthood) or illness, and Catholicism.
Of the many cited possibilities, the question of Shakepeare’s Catholicism is probably the most telling. His withdrawal from public position coincided both with fines paid for his wife’s continued absences from Protestant church services, and the arrival of the new Bishop of Worcester, an ardent anti-Catholic, in Stratford on a visitation. Mary Shakespeare’s maiden name was Mary Arden, one of Warwickshire’s leading families and one vehemently identified with the Catholic faith. The titular head of the Arden family, Edward Arden (who also makes an appearance in The Jesuit Letter) was openly Catholic and at terrible odds with Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, the Queen’s favorite councilor. In addition a Catholic testament supposedly with John Shakespeare’s name upon it was uncovered in the rafters of the Shakespeare family home on Henley Street in the 18thc, though some scholars doubt its veracity. Some have speculated that Shakespeare deliberately divested himself of his properties only on paper – transferring ownership and “conveying land and goods” to his friends to avoid possible recusancy fines, bitter taxation and potential property confiscation due to his Catholic faith.
The other piece of (entirely speculative) commentary that Greenblatt noted that caught my eye was whether young Will could have attended any of the performances of the travelling theatre troupes that his father is documented as paying for as mayor in 1569, and, more tellingly, whether Will attended the famous celebrations held at Kenilworth Castle, when Queen Elizabeth’s Summer Progress rolled through in the summer of 1575. Many scholars have seen significant parallels between Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the staged performances, fireworks shows and events held at Kenilworth by the Earl of Leicester to honour (and woo) the Queen. There is a superb record of the Kenilworth events documented in the Langham Letter from 1575.
This tiny, dangling bit of supposition about what actually happened to alter John Shakespeare’s fortunes made me wonder – about playing troupes, the hidden life of Catholic recusants, the corrosive political and religious strife that had torn England apart over the preceding thirty years, the knife-edge that Elizabeth’s reign balanced on between hard-line Protestantism and a dangerous fanatical Catholicism, and the every-day, ordinary lives that had to determine their own fates, in a time when landing on the wrong side of the fence at the wrong time could result in torture and death.
Most fiction embedded in the Elizabethan era tends to be tales of Court intrigue, set amidst the silken splendor of palaces.  Mine tends to hang about in ale-soaked taverns, muddy streets and fetid back-alleys where cold-steel by lantern light offers redemption or grim death by turns…
So just what would happen if a battered ex-soldier turned play-actor, venturing about on a summer playing tour in the Midlands, stumbled into vicious conspiracy and murder in the quiet town of Stratford-Upon-Avon?
Well, you will have to read the book to find out.

Purchase Links

About the author
Dean Hamilton works as a marketing professional by day and prowls the imaginary alleyways of the Elizabethan era in his off-hours. He is married, with a son, a dog, four cats and a turtle. The Jesuit Letter is his first novel.
Useful Links

(A note from Mary - I reviewed The Jesuit Letter, back in January of this year. You can find out what I thought of the book…here!!)

Tuesday 18 October 2016

The National Wallace Monument ~ #MustSee #Scotland

You cannot go to Scotland and not climb The National Wallace Monument ~ she says!
I have a little issue when it comes to heights, which for someone who spends an awful lot of time, climbing old crumbling spiral staircases in ruined castles, may come as a bit of a surprise ~ you have no idea!


This isn't the first time I have attempted to climb the Monument. The first time was about 16 years ago, and I made it to the room where William Wallace's sword was, by which time I was feeling sick, dizzy and had an irrational fear that I was never going to leave this chamber again. 

 William Wallace's actual sword!

Fast-forward to present day, and I found myself once again looking at that never ending spiral staircase. This time, I had a determined teenager with me who was going to reach the top, and she would do so, even if it meant dragging me up those steps.
Needless to say, it took a little bit of encouragement and a big dollop of patience ~ but hey, we weren't in a rush, well I wasn't anyway!

I think we all know who William Wallace is ~ if not, where were you in 1995 when Braveheart hit the big screens?

Now the locals call Braveheart "that comedy" as there isn't much factually correct with it. But, there was a battle between Wallace and his army of loyal followers, and the English.

Let's give the battle it's real name, which is The Battle of Stirling Bridge. Now, Wallace wasn't the only one who had been, shall we say resisting, English rule. There was a  Scottish nobleman called Andrew Moray who had been doing his fair share of harassing the English army.  Wallace and Moray finally joined forces, and they gathered their troops on the slope of rock, known locally as Abbey Craig and from their position they watched the formidable forces of the English army gather under the leadership of John du Warenne and Hugh de Cressingham.

The Scots were outnumbered. The English had somewhere in the region of 200-300 knights on horseback and 10,000-foot soldiers. The Scots had 8,000-foot soldiers and only 36 horsemen. The English were confident in their numbers. There was no way they were going to lose to this rabble.

Two Dominican friars were sent as envoys to negotiate the Scottish surrender. Wallace replied...

"Tell your commander that we are not here to make peace but to do battle, defend ourselves and liberate out kingsmen. Let them come on, and we shall prove this in their very beards."

The English realised that the Scots were not going to come to them. They were going to have to cross the River Forth and teach these traitors a lesson.
Richard Lundie, a Scottish knight, fighting for the English, said to his commanding officers...

"My Lords, if we go across the bridge we are dead men."

 Old Stirling Bridge ~ photo from Wikipedia
Warrene should have listened to him, but he was so arrogantly confident that this battle would be a mere sword exercise for the men, that he did not heed the warning. The might of the English cavalry crossed the bridge and waited in the loop of the River Forth, while Wallace and Moray watched and prepared the men and when the time was right, they seized the moment. The Scottish spearmen cut off the escape back across the bridge and the English army, floundering in the marshy ground, were slaughtered.
Warrene must have watched with disbelieving eyes as these rebels massacred his men. He ordered for the bridge to be burnt and he retreated to Berwick. It was a decisive Scottish victory, and it wouldn't be the last.

The National Wallace Monument was designed by the Edinburgh-born Glasgow architect J. T. Rochead, and it was built between 1861 and 1869. It is 67 meters high and has 246 steps. I feel sick just thinking about it.

But it is so worth the climb. Not only do you get to see Wallace's actual sword but the views across Stirling are breathtaking ~ but, I have to be honest, I was really glad to get back down again!

You cannot go to Scotland and not climb the Wallace Monument ~ and despite my fear of heights, I am glad that this time, I made it to the top!