Friday, 29 October 2021

Historian, Sharon Bennett Connolly is talking about The Earls of Surry @Thehistorybits



Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey
By Sharon Bennett Connolly


Publication Date: 30th May 2021

Publisher: Pen & Sword History 

Page Length: 280 Pages

Genre: Historical Non-Fiction / Biographies


Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III.



The Earls of Surry


The earls of Surrey were rich and powerful lords for most of the medieval era, holding sway at the heart of English history and politics for almost 300 years, from the time of the Norman Conquest to the reign of Edward III. They held lands throughout England, from Sussex to Yorkshire, acted as justiciars, sheriffs and generals – and yet, few people know their story.


The first earl, William de Warenne, was rewarded for his support of King William II Rufus in the 1088 rebellion with the earldom of Surrey. However, the earls thereafter were as often referred to as the earls of Warenne – or the familial Earl Warenne, rather than earls of Surrey. The earldoms of Sussex and Strathearn (Scotland) were later added to these titles. The Warenne’s extensive lands were spread over 13 counties and spanned the country from Lewes on the south coast to their castles of Conisbrough and Sandal in Yorkshire, with their family powerbase in East Anglia, where they built a magnificent priory, castle and medieval village at Castle Acre.


The family mausoleum was at St Pancras Priory in Lewes, founded by the first earl and his wife, Gundrada. It is the burial place of all but two subsequent earls and numerous other family members, as well as several earls of Arundel and their countesses.


William de Warenne

Lewes Priory



For almost 300 years the Warenne earls of Surrey were some of the most influential men in the country, but the family died out rather ingloriously, with the seventh – and last – earl’s marital difficulties. 


So who were the Warenne earls of Surrey?


Warenne shield

William de Warenne, the first earl, was a distant cousin of William the Conqueror and fought at the Battle of Hastings. William was a trusted advisor and companion of King William I and was appointed justiciar in England during the king’s absences in Normandy. He pursued a personal feud against English freedom fighter, Hereward the Wake, after Hereward murdered his brother-in-law, Frederic. William was created Earl of Surrey by King William II, just weeks before his death in 1088, having been fatally wounded at the siege of Pevensey. William and his wife, Gundrada, founded the first Cluniac priory in England, St Pancras, at Lewes in Sussex. It would become the family mausoleum. William and Gundrada’s coffins were found beneath the ruins of the priory in 19th century, when the railway line was being laid, and are now interred in the Gundrada Chapel of Trinity Church, Southover.


The first earl was succeeded by his oldest son, William II de Warenne (it was a popular name) who was earl for 50 years. This William had an awkward relationship with Henry I – William was thwarted in love by Henry when they both set their sights on the same woman, Matilda of Scotland. William supported Robert Curthose’s claim for the throne against Henry, but was persuaded to abandon the duke of Normandy in favour of the king of England after the former’s failed attempt to invade England led to Earl Warenne’s lands being confiscated by King Henry. From that moment on Earl Warenne was loyal to Henry and gave a rousing speech in favour of King Henry before the 1119 Battle of Bremule. He married Isabel de Vermandois, granddaughter of King Henry I of France and widow of Robert, Earl of Gloucester. The relationship caused some scandal as one chronicler suggests Isabel and William ran away together, before Isabel’s first husband was dead. William’s royal ambitions would be realised when his daughter, Ada de Warenne, married Prince Henry of Scotland in 1139; William’s grandsons, Malcolm IV and William the Lion, both succeeded to the Scottish throne.


The 3rd earl fought on the wrong side (in my opinion) during the Anarchy; he supported King Stephen. Also named William, he and his forces were ignominiously routed at the 1141 Battle of Lincoln, leaving King Stephen to be captured by Earl Robert of Gloucester. Earl Warenne redeemed himself by capturing the same Earl Robert during the Rout of Winchester in the summer of 1141, thus facilitating and exchange of commanders that saw King Stephen’s release from imprisonment at Bristol Castle. Perhaps growing tired of the constant civil war, in 1147 the earl left on the Second Crusade with his half-brother, Waleran de Beaumont, Count of Meulan, led by the brothers’ second cousin, Louis VII, and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Earl William was killed at the age of 28 at the Battle of Mount Cadmus in January 1148, leaving the earldom to his young daughter, Isabel.


The 4th earl. Now this is where the subsequent numbering of earls gets confusing. There were two 4th earls, though some history books count them as the 4th and 5th earls. The earldom actually belonged to Isabel. Isabel de Warenne was 4th Countess of Warenne and Surrey in her own right. Her first husband, William of Blois (the first 4th earl), was the youngest son of King Stephen and her second husband, Hamelin Plantagenet (the second 4th earl), was the illegitimate half-brother of King Henry II; a thoroughly modern Hamelin changed his name from Plantagenet to de Warenne on marrying Isabel. The first marriage produced no children, which was a stroke of luck for Henry II, as William of Blois could have founded a dynasty to rival the mighty Plantagenets. The second marriage proved more fruitful, with three daughters and a son. Hamelin was a loyal supporter of his brother, Henry II, and nephews, Richard I and King John – despite the fact John seduced one of Hamelin’s daughters, fathering an illegitimate child with her. Hamelin also built the magnificent keep at Conisbrough Castle, South Yorkshire.


Conisbrough Castle

Their son, William de Warenne, the 5th Earl, was first cousin to both King Richard I and King John. He probably grew up in Normandy, and served with King Richard in France in the 1190s. William played an active role in English politics, negotiating with the rebels on John’s behalf in Spring 1215, attempting to avert civil war. He was a signatory of the Magna Carta in 1215 and again on its reissue in 1225; he was one of the few surviving earls to have witnessed both issues of the charter. He did side with the rebel barons and their French allies, for a time, but returned to the fold following King John’s death in October 1216. He then helped to negotiate the peace, in September 1217, which saw the French Prince Louis give up his claim to England and return home. He married Matilda Marshal, daughter of the great William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and regent of England for the first few years of Henry III’s reign. The couple had two children; their daughter, Isabel d’Aubigny, Countess of Arundel, became famous for berating King Henry III over the appropriation of a wardship that was rightfully hers.


John de Warenne, the 6th earl, was the longest serving earl of them all, holding the title for 64 years. His father died when he was 8 years old. Henry III became his brother-in-law when he married the king’s half-sister, Alice de Lusignan, daughter of Queen Isabella of Angouleme and her second husband, Hugh X de Lusignan. The marriage was a happy one and the couple truly loved each other; following Alice’s death in childbirth, John did not take another wife. John de Warenne fought in the Second Barons’ War and was a close associate of the future king, Edward I. He was at the Battle of Lewes in 1264, fighting for King Henry III against Simon de Montfort, but escaped to the continent when the battle was lost. John was probably at Evesham for the defeat and death of Simon de Montfort, though his presence is not recorded; he was certainly with Henry III’s son, Edward, in the days before the battle. His daughter, Isabella, was married to John Balliol, King of Scots, and the mother of Edward Balliol, who pursued his own claim to the Scottish throne in the 1330s. John was guardian of Scotland for a time and lost the Battle of Stirling to William Wallace in 1298. John de Warenne was a brutal man with a sense of humour; he once claimed the rights to all the rabbit warrens in Surrey – because it was his name! His son, William de Warenne, had died during a tournament in 1286, so when John died in 1304, aged 68, he was succeeded by his 18-year-old grandson, John II de Warenne.


John de Warenne, the 6th earl seal

John II de Warenne, the 7th and last earl of Warenne and Surrey, spent most of his adult life trying to divorce his wife, Jeanne de Bar (Joan of Bar), a granddaughter of King Edward I, in order to marry his mistress. He made various claims to try and effect a divorce, including that he had had an affair with his wife’s aunt, Mary of Woodstock, who had been a nun from the age of 7. John was embroiled in a private – but very public – feud with Thomas of Lancaster, Edward II’s most powerful vassal, and even went so far as kidnapping Lancaster’s wife, Alice de Lacey. In retaliation, Lancaster seized the Warenne castles of Conisbrough and Sandal, both being close to his own castle of Pontefract. The castles were only restored to John after Lancaster’s execution following his defeat at the Battle of Boroughbridge, in 1322. John was involved in many of the events that shaped the reign of Edward II, though he did not fight in the 1314 English defeat by the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn. He supported Edward II to the end – almost, only adding his to support to Isabella of France and the future Edward III, when he saw that the king’s cause was hopeless. He died in 1347 at Conisbrough, still married to Jeanne de Bar and with no legitimate heir to succeed him. The earldom passed to his nephew, Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel, but the Yorkshire lands, including Conisbrough and Sandal castles, passed to the crown and were given to Edward III’s fourth surviving son, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York.


And that is just a – very – brief summary of the earls.


One family, over 8 generations, the Warennes were at the centre of 300 years of English history.

Pen & Sword AmazonBook Depository


Sharon Bennett Connolly is the best-selling author of 3 non-fiction history books. Sharon is the author of Heroines of the Medieval World, Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest and Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England. Her fourth book, Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey, telling the story of the Warenne earls over 300 years and 8 generation, was released in May 2021. A member of the Royal Historical Society, Sharon has studied history academically and just for fun – and has even worked as a tour guide at historical sites. She also writes the popular history blog, www.historytheinterestingbits.com. Sharon regularly gives talks on women's history; she is a feature writer for All About History magazine and her TV work includes Australian Television's 'Who Do You Think You Are?'


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Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Find out what inspired Cassandra B. Leigh to write - Crossed in Love @leigh_carol



Crossed in Love
By Cassandra B. Leigh 


Publication Date: 15 October 2020
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 267 Pages
Genre: Regency Historical Romance

Nearly on the shelf, Jane Bennet’s heart is broken when her suitor jilts her. She goes to London to recover her spirits, and hopefully run into him. At the local assemblies, she meets a few new suitors, but can she compete with the younger, more accomplished ladies with generous dowries?

 Crossed in love in his younger days, James Morland refuses to marry without affection. Pressured to find a wife and secure his family’s future, he needs a woman willing to accept a humble curate with a meagre fortune. He meets several eligible ladies, but only one touches his heart.

 Find out what happens when the happiness of a most beloved sister is not ruined forever. Does this change Elizabeth’s response to Mr Darcy’s proposal?

 A sweet Pride and Prejudice / Northanger Abbey crossover.


As an ardent fan of Pride and Prejudice, I often wondered why Jane Bennet settled for Charles Bingley. He left her with no explanation and stayed away for ten months. In my opinion, he was too easily convinced to give Jane up and should have had the courage of his own convictions. What girl with any self-respect would take him back?


Despite being cast as the beauty, Jane had many insecurities. Unlike her bold sister Elizabeth, who frequently defied her mother’s will, Jane took that rainy ride to Netherfield rather than incur her mother’s rebuke. Mrs Bennet frequently boasted of Jane’s beauty, as though it was her most important quality. “I was sure you could not be so beautiful for nothing.” However, at twenty-two and still unattached, she had been on the marriage market for four or five years and was dangerously close to being on the shelf. Why did Mrs Bennet never teach her to play pianoforte as she did with Elizabeth and Mary? Did she believe Jane’s good looks would be enough to get her a husband, despite her small dowry?


From Jane’s letters in canon, we know of her time in London and her fervent desire to continue her friendship with Caroline Bingley, in hopes of running into her brother. When Caroline reluctantly visited her, then eventually dropped the connection, Jane was devastated. The plan to send her to London to recover her spirits merely prolonged her misery. Four months later, Jane was still mourning Bingley’s loss.


Thinking another Austen man would be a better match for Jane, I considered James Morland, from Northanger Abbey, who was deceived by Isabella Thorpe, his inconstant fiancée. His letter to Catherine to advise her of the broken engagement revealed his crushing heartbreak. “Beware how you give your heart.” We know nothing of James’s outcome after his sister married, but as his father’s heir, he would have to ensure the church living stayed in the family. He also had several unmarried siblings who would be his responsibility once he inherited. 


I imagined James would take his own advice, guard his heart, and avoid any romantic entanglements until it was necessary. At thirty, he would not easily succumb to the lures sent out by marriage-minded ladies. However, as a dutiful son, he would understand his responsibilities to his family and feel some pressure to select a wife and set up his nursery. 


Who better to match with Jane than a man who had also been crossed in love? Once I chose a leading man, I needed a plausible setting for him to meet Jane. Since she went to London in canon, that seemed the perfect place for them to meet. In another story, I created a character named Bishop Dawkins who conveniently resided in London. I recruited the bishop again as an old school chum of Mr Richard Morland and gave him a doting wife who was a close friend of Mrs Gardiner.


Besides the familiar characters from Northanger Abbey, a few new ones were cast, including a devoted housekeeper, a lusty widow, an eager debutant, various suitors in London for Jane, and a few interfering matchmakers to keep things interesting. Can a mild-mannered curate and a modest beauty find love, even though their homes are nearly one hundred miles apart? Crossed in Love is a second-chance romance set in Regency England.


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This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription


Cassandra B. Leigh is the pen name of a woman who writes Jane Austen variations and Regency Romance. Born and raised in New Jersey, she studied business administration and accounting at Montclair State University. She began her professional career as an accountant, then switched to writing policies and procedures. After working for fifty years, she retired from corporate life. 


Although a voracious reader, she did not begin writing until later in life. She initially wrote poems and stories for her own enjoyment, then discovered the multiple Jane Austen fan fiction sites and jumped into the fray to explore the 'what-ifs' of Pride and Prejudice. 


What if Jane Bennet didn’t wait for Charles Bingley?


What if an influenza epidemic was announced at the Netherfield ball?


What if Elizabeth Bennet had a special gift and could detect if someone was lying?


What if the Bennet sisters danced every night in an enchanted sapphire castle? (A Twelve Dancing Princesses crossover.)


What if Elizabeth was injured and lost her memories? (Coming soon.)


Cassandra now writes full time in Connecticut. A devotee of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, she is the author of twenty-two books, and posts fan fiction under the penname 'Astonishment'.


Social Media Links:

Website, Twitter, Facebook


Monday, 25 October 2021

Read an #excerpt from Jeanna Louise Skinner's fabulous novel - The Book Boyfriend @UKRomChat


The Book Boyfriend
By Jeanna Louise Skinner


Publication Date: 27th October 2021
Publisher: Violet Gaze Press/Saga Egmont
Page Length: 340 Pages
Genre: Paranormal/Time-Travel Romance

"Let us find solace in the quiet…"

Emmeline always dreamed of being an author, finding comfort in words and between the pages of her beloved romance novels, but a mental health diagnosis leaves her blocked and unable to write. Then she inherits a crumbling, second-hand bookshop from a mysterious old friend and Emmy discovers that magic is real and maybe her fantasies about the heroes in her favourite historical romances aren't so far-fetched after all.

A handsome stranger–wielding a sword as dangerous as his Tudor past–appears in Emmy's bookshop asking for help. Together they must race against time itself to lift the curse imprisoning him in an ancient book. But when growing threats to her safety are proved real and not another symptom of her illness, Emmy must learn to trust her own voice again. Can she find the words to save Jonathan and her shop before tragedy strikes on the fateful final page? 

Romance-addict Emmy may be, but this damsel is about to kick distress into the Ever After.

“Em? Where do you want this one?”    


The voice came from the mass of black curls snaking from behind an enormous box.


Emmy ran the short space across the store to help her best friend, Lizzie, heave it on to the counter.     


“Thanks. What you got in there? A ton of books?”


“Funny.” Emmy swatted her on the upper arm. “Is that the last one?”    


“Yep, all done. And now I have my spare room back again… It looks great in here!” Lizzie scanned the store, grinning.    


Antique bookcases ran throughout the shop, along three walls and twisted around hidden corners. Maggie’s battered, oxblood leather armchair still took pride of place in the picture window, but now the green Gumtree sofa sat opposite, with a small, reclaimed pine coffee table in between. Daylight flooded through the sparkling glass and seeped into nooks and crannies. It had taken two weeks of shifting, lifting and cleaning, but thanks to Lizzie (and her spare room) and their mutual friend Dawn, the shop was finally ready for tomorrow’s reopening. The hard work was worth it. They’d salvaged everything they could, from the glitzy chandelier, splashing rainbow-filled sun arrows across the walls and the soft lamps dotted here and there, to the antique telephone in its original red box, which had once stood on the cobbled pavement outside like a sentinel before being rescued by a strident Maggie two decades earlier. Now a quirky reading nook, complete with book-laden shelves and cosy seat, it was Emmy’s favourite spot in the whole store. No longer dim and dingy, Adams' Antique Books was filled with warmth, light and wonder, and was – to Emmy’s mind at least – the perfect place to read and buy books.    


“Yeah, it does. Now all we need,” Emmy held up her hands to show her crossed fingers, “are customers…”     


“They’ll come, don’t worry.”    


“I do worry, but I’ve got to try.” Emmy caught a glimpse of herself in the cracked, gilded mirror behind the counter. Her face was a badly drawn caricature, distorted and gurning like her reflection in the funfair hall of mirrors she’d visited with her ex last year. She rearranged the frown etched on her gamine features into a smile, but there was nothing she could do about the haunted look in her dark eyes.     


“Maggie would be proud of you, Ems,” Lizzie said, meeting Emmy’s gaze in the mirror.    


“I hope so,” Emmy whispered.    


Lizzie rested her dark head against Emmy’s blonde one. This should have been a difficult feat, given their five-inch height difference, but Lizzie’s love of heels was legendary. Even her own mother had once joked that she should have been christened wearing Louboutins rather than baby booties. The disparity between the two best friends’ height wasn’t the only notable distinction in their appearances. Where Lizzie was brunette and pocket-sized petite, Emmy’s strawberry blonde waves topped the kind of body that fashion sites liked to market as “plus”. Emmy was nowhere near as reticent and preferred to think of herself simply as fat - and there was absolutely nothing wrong with that, thank you very much. 


But loving her looks hadn’t always come easy. There was a time, yes in her teens. when Emmy would have given anything to not stand out in every class photo, to not tower head and shoulders over most people in a room. But learning to not only accept her body, but to also rejoice in her showstopping-from-every-angle knockout curves, was just one of the many wonderful life lessons Maggie Adams had imparted about being a young woman growing up in a patriarchal society. Of course, the medication she’d recently started taking had made Emmy bigger than ever, but that was a pattern she’d settled to with relative ease. These days, her greatest bugbear about her size was that those same websites didn’t seem to cater for her tallness as well as her fatness, and she often ended up wearing so-called men’s clothes. But this wasn’t such a sacrifice. Emmy was fat and - haunted expression aside - she looked just as fabulous as any other woman, including her tiny-proportioned bestie Lizzie, who she now flung one long arm around to squeeze closer.


I know so.” Lizzie affirmed. “Now, you know, I’m not into all these ‘Book Boyfriends’ like you, but if I was, this would be the first place I’d come to buy my smut. What could be more romantic?” She spun, arms flung out wide, like a euphoric Julie Andrews on a mountaintop.     


“It is not smut! Austen is not smut, the Brontës are not smut!” Emmy knew Lizzie was trying to distract her, but she couldn’t help reacting all the same.    

“Whatever, but you and I both know that even Maggie’s reluctance in the face of modernity gave way for more and more bodice rippers over the years. Even Breone agrees with me.” Lizzie nodded towards the ginger cat, who was attempting to curl his fat furry body onto a pile of vintage romance novels with limited success. Emmy sighed and grabbed the moggy before he could topple the stack and deposited him on the flagstone floor. The cat turned his squished face away in disgust and somehow slinked into a narrow gap between a bookcase and the wall, orange tail swishing in rebellion.    


“Romance novels can be super feminist, which you’d know if you’d read my dissertation, and as I’ve pointed out multiple times, bodice ripper is an outdated term that doesn’t help shift stock,” Emmy said, pouting as she turned back to Lizzie. “Plus, it sells, so maybe Maggie was on to something.”


“Let’s hope she was right.” Lizzie’s tone was a curious cocktail of doubt and delight as she picked up the book on the top of the pile. “Enchanted Paradise by Johanna Hailey,” she smirked, holding the book up for Emmy to see. 


The cover was your standard 1980s romance novel affair: an impossibly beautiful heterosexual couple in a passionate clinch, the woman’s nudity barely covered by a whisper-thin diaphanous veil, the man - all torso and rippling back muscles gripping her bare flesh in his hands. What set this particular cover apart, however, was its inclusion of a male and female deer, a unicorn and a rainbow in the pastel toned, other-worldly background. And Emmy loved every inch of it! She snatched it from her best friend’s hand with an exasperated tut and set it back on top of the stack as if it were as precious as a first edition Austen. 


“Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.”


“Whatevs,” Lizzie was unperturbed. She whipped her head to the door, dark curls bouncing.  “I think I’ve left something in the car. I’ll be back.” She tripped out of the shop before Emmy could respond.



Jeanna Louise Skinner writes romance with a sprinkling of magic. The Book Boyfriend is her debut novel and she is currently working on a prequel. She has ADHD and CRPS, a rare neuro-inflammatory disorder, and she is passionate about writing about people underrepresented in Romance, especially those with disabilities and chronic health conditions. She’s also the co-creator of UKRomChat, a much-lauded, Romance-centric live Twitter chat. She lives in Devon with her husband, their two children and a cat who sounds like a goat. 

Blog Tour: Waking Up Lost – A Mystical Fantasy Adventure by David Fitz-Gerald @AuthorDAVIDFG


Waking Up Lost – A Mystical Fantasy Adventure
(The Adirondack Spirit Series)
By David Fitz-Gerald


January 25th – March 29th 2022

Publication Date: December, 2021
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Page Length: 263 Pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Traveling without warning. Nights lost to supernatural journeys. Is one young man fated to wander far from safety?

New York State, 1833. Noah Munch longs to fit in. Living with a mother who communes with ghosts and a brother with a knack for heroics, the seventeen-year-old wishes he were fearless enough to discover an extraordinary purpose of his own. But when he mysteriously awakens in the bedroom of the two beautiful daughters of the meanest man in town, he realizes his odd sleepwalking ability could potentially be deadly.

Convinced that leaving civilization is the only way to keep himself and others safe, Noah pursues his dream of becoming a mountain man and slips away into the primeval woods. But after a strong summer storm devastates his camp, the troubled lad finds his mystical wanderings have only just begun.

Can Noah find his place before he’s destroyed by a ruthless world?

Waking Up Lost is the immersive fourth book in the Adirondack Spirit Series of historical fiction. If you like coming-of-age adventures, magical realism, and stories of life on the American frontier, then you’ll love David Fitz-Gerald’s compelling chronicle.

Buy Waking Up Lost to map out destiny today!


David Fitz-Gerald

David Fitz-Gerald writes fiction that is grounded in history and soars with the spirits. Dave enjoys getting lost in the settings he imagines and spending time with the characters he creates. Writing historical fiction is like making paintings of the past. He loves to weave fact and fiction together, stirring in action, adventure, romance, and a heavy dose of the supernatural with the hope of transporting the reader to another time and place. He is an Adirondack 46-er, which means that he has hiked all of the highest peaks in New York State, so it should not be surprising when Dave attempts to glorify hikers as swashbuckling superheroes in his writing. She Sees GhostsA Story of a Woman Who Rescues Lost Souls is the next instalment in the Adirondack Spirit Series.


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