Friday 30 September 2022

Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner (The New Zealand Immigrant Collection) by Vicky Adin #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction @vickyadinauthor

 Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner
(The New Zealand Immigrant Collection)
By Vicky Adin

Against overwhelming odds, can she save her legacy?

Gwenna's life is about to change. Her father is dead and the family business on the brink of collapse. Thwarted by society, the plucky sweet maker refuses to accept defeat.

Amid the bustling vibrancy of Auckland’s Karangahape Road, she promised her father she would fulfil his dreams and save her legacy. But thanks to her overbearing stepbrother that legacy is at risk. Gwenna must find hidden strengths and fight for her rights if she is to keep her promise. 

She falls in love with the cheeky and charming Johnno, but just when things are beginning to look up, disaster strikes. Throughout the twists and turns of love and tragedy, Gwenna is irrepressible. She refuses to relinquish her goal and lets nothing and no one stand in her way. Blind to anything that could distract her, Gwenna overlooks the most important person in her life, putting her dreams, her family, and her chance at happiness in jeopardy. 

Gwenna The Welsh Confectioner 

Vicky Adin is a family historian in love with the past. Like the characters in her stories, she too, is an immigrant to New Zealand, arriving a century after her first protagonists and ready to start a new life. 

Born in Wales, she grew up in Cornwall until aged 12. Her family emigrated to New Zealand, a country she would call home. Vicky draws on her affinity for these places in her writing. Fast forward a few years, and she marries a fourth-generation Kiwi bloke with Irish, Scottish and English ancestors and her passion for genealogy flourishes.

The further she dug into the past the more she wanted to record the lives of the people who were the foundations of her new country. Not just her ancestors but all those who braved the oceans and became pioneers in a raw new land. Her research into life as it was for those immigrants in the mid-late 1800s and early 1900s gave her enough material to write about the land left behind and the birth of a new nation for many years. 

Vicky holds a MA(Hons) in English, is a lover of art, antiques, gardens, good food and red wine. She and her husband travel throughout New Zealand in their caravan and travel the world when they can. She hopes that younger generations also enjoy learning about the past through her stories as much as she had in writing them. 

Social Media Links:

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Thursday 29 September 2022

The Art of Deception (The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries Book 3) by Pam Lecky #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction


The Art of Deception 

(The Lucy Lawrence Mysteries Book 3)

By Pam Lecky

London 1888: Stolen art and a vicious murder. Can Lucy Lawrence save Phineas Stone from the gallows?

Lucy is back in London and settling into her new life. To her delight, romance is also in the air. Meanwhile, Phineas Stone is hunting down the notorious Apollo Syndicate: a dangerous gang stealing paintings to order from art collections all over the country.

Lucy cannot resist when Phin asks for her help with the case, but her involvement triggers a terrifying chain of events. When the husband of Phin’s ex-fiancée is found brutally murdered at a house party, Phin becomes the prime suspect.

Can Lucy untangle the dangerous web that threatens to engulf the pair just as her dreams of happiness are coming true?

Pam is an Irish historical fiction author with Avon Books UK/Harper Collins. Pam is represented by Therese Coen at the Hardman & Swainson Literary Agency, London.

Her Secret War, her Irish WW2 thriller, was released in October 2021, gaining a best seller badge in the US. The sequel, Her Last Betrayal, was released in April 2022.

The Bowes Inheritance, her debut novel, was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion; was shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize 2016; made 'Editor's Choice' by the Historical Novel Society; long-listed for the Historical Novel Society 2016 Indie Award; and chosen as a Discovered Diamond in February 2017.

June 2019, saw the release of No Stone Unturned, the first book in the Lucy Lawrence Mystery series, set in the late Victorian era. This was closely followed by the sequel, Footprints in the Sand, in March 2020, which is set in Victorian Egypt. The third book in the series, The Art of Deception, was released in December 2021. A fourth book in the series is at the planning stage.

Wednesday 28 September 2022

Angels and Bandits by Brodie Curtis #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction @BrodieCurtis4

 Angels and Bandits

By Brodie Curtis

Publication Date: 15th May 2022
Publisher: Westy Vistas 
Page Length: 357 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

The Battle of Britain rages and two young RAF pilots from very different stations in life must somehow find common ground—and stay alive.

On the eve of World War II, working-class Eddy Beane is a flight instructor in London. He successfully completes dangerous espionage missions for Air Commodore Keith Park and takes on society-girl June Stephenson as a student. Her ex-fiancé, Dudley Thane, is also a flyer, but upper-class and Cambridge-educated. When the German Luftwaffe attacks England in 1940, Eddy and Dudley end up serving in the same Spitfire squadron. Aerial combat is intense, and both men show their skills and courage, but can they set aside jealousy and class differences to become fighting brothers for the defence of Britain? 

Brodie Curtis

Raised in the Midwest, Brodie Curtis was educated as a lawyer and left the corporate world to embrace life in Colorado with his wife and two sons. 

Curtis is the author of THE FOUR BELLS, a novel of The Great War, which is the product of extensive historical research, including long walks through the fields of Flanders, where much of the book's action is set. His second novel, ANGELS AND BANDITS, takes his protagonists into The Battle of Britain. Curtis is currently working on a novel set on a Mississippi Riverboat prior to the Civil War.

A lover of history, particularly American history and the World Wars, Curtis reviews historical fiction for the Historical Novels Review and more than 100 of his published reviews and short takes on historical novels can be found on his website:  

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Tuesday 27 September 2022

When Starlings Fly as One by Nancy Blanton #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction @nancy_blanton


When Starlings Fly as One
By Nancy Blanton

The Great Irish Rebellion of 1641 began with a failed attempt to seize Dublin Castle, but then rebel forces in Ulster captured several strategic fortresses. Infused with passion and optimism the Irish clans united, and the rebellion spread throughout the country. When Starlings Fly as One is based on the personal account of Sir Arthur Freke, the owner of Rathbarry Castle in County Cork. Rathbarry was besieged by Irish forces for nine months in 1642-the longest siege in centuries of Ireland's history. That history has long been told by English voices, but the Irish perspectives continue to rise. This story is not a classic hero's journey, but a story of war, struggle, spirit, and survival-a story of two sides.

Secretive and often bold, Merel de Vries seeks only escape from the English nobility she serves. When Rathbarry Castle is besieged by rising Irish clans, she faces an impossible choice: allegiance to owner Sir Arthur Freke, loyalty to new-found love Tynan O'Daly, and inner yearnings belonging to her alone. 

On the wind-swept coast near the village of Ross, the English settlers hoping to build a new life now seek shelter within the castle. Rathbarry's former owners, the MacCarthy clan and its followers, have brought their armies to take it all back. 

To Merel, a Dutch orphan, both sides are heroic and both sides seem unspeakably cruel. Worse still, the people she loves are on different ends of the struggle. 

With no access to food or supplies, the castle residents face starvation, disease, and the constant fear of death. Sir Arthur is desperate to find a solution for rescue. Merel insists she can help-but no one will listen. When opportunity comes, can she truly do what her spirit urges? Or, will a sudden betrayal change everything?


WHEN STARLINGS FLY AS ONE is Nancy Blanton’s fourth novel taking place in 17th century Ireland. Based on a true account, it tells the chilling story of Ireland's longest siege, at Rathbarry Castle in 1642. Each of her books explores a different time and circumstance in Irish history, and each has won literary medals and favorable reviews. Her third novel, THE EARL IN BLACK ARMOR, follows the relentless track toward civil war and the execution of Thomas Wentworth, the Earl of Strafford. THE PRINCE OF GLENCURRAGH won four prestigious awards, focusing on the personal circumstances of a young Irishman under English dominance in 1634. SHARAVOGUE begins during Cromwell's bloody march across Ireland, when a vengeful peasant girl is banished to slavery in the West Indies. Blanton was born in Miami, Florida, earned degrees in journalism and mass communication, and continues to live in Florida with her husband and two cats. Her love of Ireland and focus on its history stems from her family heritage and her own unforgettable experiences on the Emerald Isle.

Readers have compared her novels to those of Edward Rutherfurd, Ken Follett, James Burke, Diana Gabaldon, and similar authors of historical fiction.

Monday 26 September 2022

The Silkworm Keeper by Deborah Swift #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction @swiftstory


The Silkworm Keeper
By Deborah Swift

Rome 1638

Old sins have long shadows ~ Italian Proverb

Giulia Tofana never wanted to be a nun, but she is determined to atone for her past misdeeds by making her new monastery a success.

When an unexpected disaster closes the convent, Giulia is forced to turn to her old friend Fabio Pasello for help. Giulia still has intense feelings for Fabio and Fabio’s passion for her has never diminished.

But they are not the same people they were before. Giulia has taken her vows, and Fabio is apprenticed to Gianlorenzo Bernini the famous sculptor, and has become one of Bernini’s rakish libertines. They could not be further apart.

To add to their problems, Giulia cannot escape her reputation as a poisoner, and is soon embroiled in a plot against Fabio’s patron, Pope Urban VIII. Faced with the idea of murder, will Giulia renounce her vows or embrace them?

Inspired by true stories, this is a novel of nuns and courtesans, artists and priests, in the shadow and splendour of the Eternal City.

Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.

She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Sunday 25 September 2022

Muskets and Minuets by Lindsey S. Fera #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction @AuthorLinzFera

 Muskets and Minuets 

By Lindsey S. Fera

Love. Politics. War.

Amidst mounting tensions between the British crown and the American colonists of Boston, Annalisa Howlett struggles with her identity and purpose as a woman. Rather than concern herself with proper womanly duties, like learning to dance a minuet or chasing after the eligible and charming Jack Perkins, Annalisa prefers the company of her brother, George, and her beloved musket, Bixby. She intends to join the rebellion, but as complications in her personal life intensify, and the colonies inch closer to war with England, everything Annalisa thought about her world and womanhood are transformed forever.

Join Annalisa on her journey to discover what it truly means to be a woman in the 18th century, all set against the backdrop of some of the most pivotal moments in American history.

Lindsey S. Fera

A born and bred New Englander, Lindsey hails from the North Shore of Boston. A member of the Topsfield Historical Society and the Historical Novel Society, she forged her love for writing with her intrigue for colonial America by writing her debut novel, Muskets and Minuets. When she's not attending historical reenactments or spouting off facts about Boston, she's nursing patients back to health in the ICU.

Saturday 24 September 2022

Northern Shadows (Northern Wolf Series Book 5) by Daniel Greene #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction

 Northern Shadows
(Northern Wolf Series Book 5)
By Daniel Greene

Not all adversaries go quietly into the long cold night...
Entrapped and snared by Union forces, General Lee has surrendered. Celebrations take hold of the North as the Confederacy crumbles without their hero. Yet Wolf's war isn't over. Diehard rebels still operate in the field, led by the secret organization the Knights of the Golden Circle, including Wolf's nemesis, Marshall Payne.
Their plot? Kill the president and let the war rage on.
Wolf and his men rush to Washington, D.C., to meet the enemy head-on. But these enemies do not march and fight as armies do; they lurk in the shadows waiting to strike. Can Wolf and his motley crew keep the assassins at bay?
The epic finale of the bestselling and award-winning military historical fiction series is filled with danger, conspiracy, and revenge as the North's most unlikely heroes are tasked with the impossible. 

Daniel is an award-winning and best-selling multi-genre author. He made his debut in the post-apocalyptic genre and quickly became known as a must read with his award-winning and best-selling hit The End Time Saga. His deep passion for history has inspired him to tackle the historical fiction genre with launch of the best-selling Northern Wolf Series.

He is an avid traveler and physical fitness enthusiast. He fulfilled a quest of iron by worshipping at the shrine of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Graz, Austria, an experience he will never forget. If he isn’t working on his next book, you can find him training to survive the impending rise of the dead. 

He is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association and the Historical Novel Society. Although a Midwesterner for life, he’s lived long enough in Virginia to call it home. 

Friday 23 September 2022

Lies that Blind: A Novel of Late 18th Century Penang by E.S. Alexander #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction @ES_Alexander7


Lies that Blind: A Novel of Late 18th Century Penang
By E.S. Alexander

Malaya, 1788

Aspiring journalist Jim Lloyd jeopardises his future in ways he never could have imagined. He risks his wealthy father’s wrath to ride the coat-tails of Captain Francis Light, an adventurer governing the East India Company’s new trading settlement on Penang. Once arrived on the island, Jim-as Light’s assistant-hopes that chronicling his employer’s achievements will propel them both to enduring fame. But the naïve young man soon discovers that years of deception and double-dealing have strained relations between Light and Penang’s legal owner, Sultan Abdullah of Queda, almost to the point of war. Tensions mount: Pirate activity escalates, traders complain about Light’s monopolies, and inhabitants threaten to flee, fearing a battle the fledgling settlement cannot hope to win against the Malays. Jim realises that a shared obsession with renown has brought him and Light perilously close to infamy: a fate the younger man, at least, fears more than death. Yet Jim will not leave Penang because of his dedication to Light’s young son, William, and his perplexing attraction to a mercurial Dutchman. He must stay and confront his own misguided ambitions as well as help save the legacy of a man he has come to despise.

Inspired by true events, Lies That Blind is a story featuring historical character Francis Light (1740-1794) who, in an effort to defy his mortality, was seemingly willing to put the lives and livelihoods of a thousand souls on Penang at risk.


Elizabeth Smith Alexander was born in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1954, although her family moved to England a few years later. Her earliest memories include producing a newspaper with the John Bull printing set she was given one Christmas. She wrote and directed her first play, Osiris, at age 16, performed to an audience of parents, teachers, and pupils by the Lower Fifth Drama Society at her school in Bolton, Lancashire. Early on in her writing career, Liz wrote several short stories featuring ‘The Dover Street Sleuth’, Dixon Hawke for a D.C. Thomson newspaper in Scotland. Several of her (undoubtedly cringe-worthy) teenage poems were published in An Anthology of Verse.

Liz combined several decades as a freelance journalist writing for UK magazines and newspapers ranging from British Airway’s Business Life and the Daily Mail, to Marie Claire and Supply Chain Management magazine, with a brief stint as a presenter/reporter for various radio stations and television channels, including the BBC. In 2001 she moved to the United States where she earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in educational psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.

She has written and co-authored 17 internationally published, award-winning non-fiction books that have been translated into more than 20 languages.

In 2017, Liz relocated to Malaysia. She lives in Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang where she was inspired to embark on one of the few forms of writing left for her to tackle: the novel.

Thursday 22 September 2022

The Admiral’s Wife by M.K. Tod #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction @MKTodAuthor

 The Admiral’s Wife 

By M.K. Tod

Publication Date: 11th April 2022
Publisher: Heath Street Publishing
Page Length: 390 Pages
Genre: Dual-Timeline

The lives of two women living in Hong Kong more than a century apart are unexpectedly linked by forbidden love and financial scandal.

In 2016, Patricia Findlay leaves a high-powered career to move to Hong Kong, where she hopes to rekindle the bonds of family and embrace the city of her ancestors. Instead, she is overwhelmed by feelings of displacement and depression. To make matters worse, her father, CEO of the family bank, insists that Patricia’s duty is to produce an heir, even though she has suffered three miscarriages.

In 1912, when Isabel Taylor moves to Hong Kong with her husband, Henry, and their young daughter, she struggles to find her place in such a different world and to meet the demands of being the admiral’s wife. At a reception hosted by the governor of Hong Kong, she meets Li Tao-Kai, an influential member of the Chinese community and a man she met a decade earlier when he was a student at Cambridge.

As the story unfolds, each woman must consider where her loyalties lie and what she is prepared to risk for love.

M.K. (Mary) Tod’s interest in historical fiction began as a teenager immersed in the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff, Jean Plaidy, and Georgette Heyer. In 2004, her husband’s career took them to Hong Kong where, with no job and few prospects, Mary began what became Unravelled, her first novel. The Admiral’s Wife is her fifth novel.

Mary’s award-winning blog,, focuses on reading and writing historical fiction. She’s an active member of the historical fiction community and has conducted five unique reader surveys on topics from readers’ habits and preferences to favorite historical fiction authors. Mary is happily married to her high-school sweetheart. They have two adult children and two delightful grandsons.

Wednesday 21 September 2022

We Shall Not Shatter (Book #1 of the Resilient Women of WWII Trilogy) by Elaine Stock #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction @ElaineStock


We Shall Not Shatter
(Book #1 of the Resilient Women of WWII Trilogy)
By Elaine Stock

Publication Date: 15th May 2022 
Publisher:  Amsterdam Publishers
Page Length: 332 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Holocaust Fiction

An unforgettable story of friendship, family and hope as two courageous young women face one of history’s most horrific tragedies.

Brzeziny, Poland, 1939 Zofia’s comfortable-lifestyle overturns when her husband, Jabez, who monitors Nazi activity, has gone missing. Rather than fleeing the country with her young son, as she had promised Jabez who is fearing retaliation, she decides to stay. She cannot possibly leave her friend, Aanya. Since their childhood they have amazed fellow Brzeziners that it does not matter that Aanya is Jewish and deaf, and that Zofia is Catholic and hearing. Now, more than ever with war looming, Zofia will do whatever is necessary to protect her family and Aanya.

As both love and war approach their Polish town, Zofia and Aanya must make choices that will change the meaning of family, home, and their precious friendship. The journey, decisions and the no-going-back consequences the women face will either help them to survive—or not—as Hitler’s Third Reich revs up its control of the world.

Inspired by the author’s paternal heritage from Brzeziny, this is a heartbreaking yet beautiful story of two women who are determined to remain united in friendship and to live freely despite the odds.

Elaine Stock
 writes Historical Fiction, exploring home, family and friendships throughout time. She enjoys creating stories showing how all faiths, races, and belief systems are interconnected and need each other.

Elaine’s grandparents, on both sides of her family, narrowly escaped World War II by immigrating from Poland and Austria to the US. Fascinated by the strong will of people to overcome the horrors from this era, she wrote We Shall Not Shatter, Book 1 of the Resilient Women of WWII Series, inspired by her deaf great aunt who was left behind as a teenager in Brzeziny, Poland and perished in the Holocaust, while her other deaf siblings were permitted to enter the US when their young ages helped them to circumvent medically-revealing exams. Other extended family members also remained in Poland to lose their lives in the Holocaust.

Although multi-published in award-winning Inspirational Fiction, and a past blogger and online magazine contributor, Elaine now pens novels for the General reading audience. She is a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association and The Historical Novel Society. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she has been living in upstate, rural New York with her husband for more years than her stint as a city gal. She enjoys long walks down country roads, visiting New England towns, and of course, a good book.

Tuesday 20 September 2022

The Viennese Dressmaker by Kathryn Gauci #AwardWinning #HistoricalFiction @KathrynGauci


The Viennese Dressmaker
By Kathryn Gauci

Vienna 1938

Austria’s leading couturier, Christina Lehmann, sits at the pinnacle of Viennese society. Her lover, the renowned painter, Max Hauser, is at the height of his career. But Max harbours a secret, and it is only a matter of time before the Gestapo finds out. The situation takes a dramatic turn on Kristallnacht, when the pogrom against the Austrian Jews escalates and one of Christina’s Jewish seamstresses is brutally murdered.

In order to protect both Max and her couture house, Christina begins a double life, plunging her into the shadowy world of Nazi oppression, fear, and mistrust fuelled by ancient hatreds.

As Vienna descends into chaos, hunger and disillusionment, will her deception be enough to save Max – or will it end in tragedy?

Based on actual events, this is an epic story of courage and resilience. It is the kind of book that wraps around your soul and leaves an impression.

Kathryn Gauci was born in Leicestershire, England, and studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design where she specialised in carpet design and technology. After graduating, Kathryn spent a year in Vienna, Austria before moving to Greece where she worked as a carpet designer in Athens for six years. There followed another brief period in New Zealand before eventually settling in Melbourne, Australia.

Before turning to writing full-time, Kathryn ran her own textile design studio in Melbourne for over fifteen years, work which she enjoyed tremendously as it allowed her the luxury of travelling worldwide, often taking her off the beaten track and exploring other cultures. The Embroiderer is her first novel; a culmination of those wonderful years of design and travel, and especially of those glorious years in her youth living and working in Greece – a place that she is proud to call her spiritual home.

Her second novel, Conspiracy of Lies, is set in France during WWII. It is based on the stories of real life agents in the service of the Special Operations Executive and The Resistance under Nazi occupied Europe. To put one’s life on the line for your country in the pursuit of freedom took immense courage and many never survived. Kathryn’s interest in WWII started when she lived in Vienna and has continued ever since. She is a regular visitor to France and has spent time in several of the areas in which this novel is set.

#HistoricalFantasy author, Cheryl Burman, is talking about the inspiration behind her fabulous book - River Witch #NewRelease @cr_burman


River Witch
By Cheryl Burman

Publication Date: 9th September 2022
Publisher: Holborn House Ltd
Page Length: 320 Pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy

‘You and I are not ordinary folk, little mistress. We are wise. We call the river by her goddess name, Sabrina.’

Hester, a farmer’s daughter, yearns for more than feeding lambs by the kitchen fire. She envies the freedom of the river nymphs and listens to Sabrina’s whispers: Be wise, be strong.

When Hester meets Aaron, a man powerful in herbal lore, she decides the healing wisdom of fields and forest is what Sabrina seeks of her. But her mother scorns her ambitions as witchery and decrees her daughter must have a husband to settle her down. Hester flees to Aaron, only to discover he too insists she should marry and be ‘ordinary’ folk.

While a desperate Hester battles for her dream, Aaron must reconcile his past to accept the future. Will the river help, or hinder?

Trigger Warnings:
Short scene of domestic violence.

Stories come from somewhere. We all know that. Writers happen to be the people who can articulate them in words, as musicians can in music and artists in oils and watercolours. While the occasional random idea might pop into my head, especially when writing flash fiction, my novels to date have been inspired by real events. 

My first foray into the craft came about following the people’s fight in England to save our publicly owned forests from being sold. That fight was particularly important in the Forest of Dean in SW England, which is where I live. Despite an 800-year-old Charter which affirms rights and privileges still in practice today, interested parties have always sought to profit from the Forest. The 2011 battle was the most recent in a long history of seeing such parties off. Afterwards, once the yellow ribbons had been taken down and the celebratory speeches made, I was walking the dog through the woods and the idea of using the experience for a book came to me. Having grown up on Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Disney, it was natural to decide a fantasy for kids was the way to go. Which is how I came to write a trilogy, and in February 2022 added a prequel. A huge amount of fun to write and I love hearing local views about the books being allegorical and who the evil destroyers are in real life. My secret!

Inspiration for my first book for grownups, Keepers, came from further afield geographically, and much closer personally. I was born and lived most of my adult life in Australia, the daughter of an Australian mother and a post WW2 Cockney immigrant. They met on a migrant camp, and they had a stormy beginning. Little snippets of their story would come out, and more after their deaths. My mother died when I was in my late 20s and I miss her still. A strong-minded woman, she took no prisoners and my dad, bless him, sailed along in her wake while she let him pretend he was the boss (that era). I can tell you, however, it was never his idea to be a missionary in Thailand! I had long wanted to write about my mother’s life, but when it came to it, I found it didn’t work for me as an historical biography. Her love of life and, frankly, a touch of drama queen, had to be a novel, full of fanciful might-have-beens and what-ifs. What’s fact and what’s fiction in the book is for me (and a handful of aunts) to know, although many have asked.

For my latest release, River Witch, a magical realism novel, I returned to the Forest for inspiration. Our long and rich history is an author’s paradise, with a million things to write about. One of my most awarded short stories, Sabrina Rising, is about the Great Flood which swept this part of the country in 1607, and I plan one day to write a novella expanding on the protagonist Agnes’ heart-breaking experience. 

Sabrina is the Roman name for the River Severn which forms the eastern border of the Forest of Dean. They considered her a goddess and it’s in this guise that the river plays a prominent role in River Witch. How she came by her divinity is a sorry tale involving love, jealousy, revenge and (more) strong-minded women. This was one part of my inspiration. 

The core of the story came from the true tale of a Forest woman who practised as a herbal healer, a ‘wise woman’, and was accused of witchcraft. In 1906. The crazy tale even had its day in Parliament, with specific note being taken of the godless nature of those who dwelt in this remote, barely accessible, heavily wooded triangle of land between the Wye and the Severn. 

A goddess river and a witch are great starts for magical realism, but then I discovered we also have a sacred well with health-giving waters . People to this day collect the water to use at home. Add to this other more mundane historical details such as the local workhouse and the importance of a town on the river as a major port back in the day – it was all too tempting. With these elements at hand, all I had to do was let my imagination wander along its weird and winding ways to create engaging characters living their suspenseful dramas in a fascinating landscape. 

Feedback so far suggests River Witch is more than meeting reader expectations. After all, as a Forest author I have an obligation to sustain the old belief (not entirely vanquished) that Foresters are a little dangerous and the Forest a dark and mystical place.

This is the place on the clifftop where the man hauled her from the nymphs’ arms. Below her, stunted trees jut from the rocks to spread their wind-twisted branches above the water. Sabrina’s whispers rise, telling Hester she is good, as she did when she was as small as Annie. Hester breathes in the goddess’s murmuring approval, uses it to shore up the courage she has had to dredge from deep within herself. 

She strains to hear above the shouts of sailors, barge owners and fishermen all battling for space on the river’s wide reaches. The tide is turning, and those going down pull into the bank to wait out the tug of the upstream flow. It’s a high bore this morning. Although Hester craves glimpses of river nymphs playing in the spindrift, she vows to close her ears to their call. Today, she is here to confront the man. 

Her need is a stony weight in her stomach. She paces, and paces some more. He doesn’t come, the farm’s endless tasks prod at her conscience and she's uncertain she will find her nerve a second time. A deep sigh of surrender accompanies one more turn, to face upriver.

He is there, his eyes wary as if being here with her is not his choice.

‘What does Sabrina say, Mistress?’ He bows and doffs his beaver hat.

Hester’s courage wanes, would flee from her. With effort, she hauls it back and wastes no time in the trivia of greetings. 

‘Sabrina wants me to learn the lore of herbs and wildflowers, of mushrooms and toadstools, of leaves and roots.’ Arms folded over her chest, she forces herself to meet his eyes. Heat rises up her neck.

‘Is that so?’ He searches her face for truth. She is afraid to blink. ‘Why does Sabrina want this?’

Hester uncrosses her arms, crosses them again. ‘She doesn’t want children to die because I can’t help them.’

‘Ah.’ He finds the streaming water of interest, following the high wave and its white riders. ‘The girl in the village,’ he says.

‘You knew? And you didn’t come?’ Her stomach roils.

He keeps his gaze on the water. ‘I heard this morning.’

He doesn’t say ‘too late’ or of course he would have gone if he’d heard earlier. Hester pushes down her disappointment, choosing to believe he would have gone, he would have saved Annie.

Annie is beyond saving. This is about tomorrow’s Annies.

‘Will you teach me?’ She can’t help the desperate plea in her voice.

He raises an eyebrow, watching her face. ‘Your mother?’

Brushing away a curl sticking to her hot cheek, Hester phrases her answer carefully. ‘Father approves.’ He would, she is sure, if she asked him.

‘Hmm.’ He looks away from Hester and the river to the fields. ‘If the doctor couldn’t save the girl, neither you nor I could have. It was Annie’s time.’ 

Hester ignores the kindness in his tone.

‘Her time? She was five years old! The poor little girl had no time, no time at all.’ Tears wet her lashes. Her hands clench, rise up, wanting to beat the man’s yellow brocade chest. 

He catches her fists in his own warm, smooth hands. ‘No. I will not teach you. The path you want to tread is treacherous.’ He pauses, closes his eyes. When he opens them, their glint of gold is hard and bright. ‘Perils, disaster, crowd that path for such as you ...’ He gently shakes her fists. 'Do you remember how you told me once, when first we met, how you knew meadowsweet because your mother says you will carry the flower on your wedding day?’

‘Yes.’  Hester is conscious of his hands around hers and of his eyes, their tinge of sadness with its intimations of deep regret. 

‘That is what you will do. You will carry meadowsweet when you wed a lusty farmer, and you’ll bear him dark-curled, blue-eyed girls and sturdy boys.’

He drops her hands as if they are fire-heated branding irons and strides away, matching his pace to the incoming tide below the cliffs.

Hester is left with tingling palms, stifling frustrated sobs.

When Cheryl Burman moved to the Forest of Dean in SW England she, like Tolkien and Rowling, was inspired to write. She started with middle grade fantasy, discovered a taste for historical fiction and also that short stories and flash can be fun and rewarding, with several prizes to her name.

As Cheryl Mayo, she is Chair of Dean Writers Circle and a founder of Dean Scribblers, which encourages the creative writing spark in young people in the community.

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