Tuesday 28 November 2023

Have a peek between the covers of Kimberly Burns' fabulous novel - The Redemption of Mattie Silks


The Redemption of Mattie Silks 
By Kimberly Burns

Publication Date: October 25, 2023
Publisher: Thomas Bard Publishing
Page Length: 315 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

In 1892, running one of the West’s fanciest brothels is a rough game. In a town filled with brazen criminals, corrupt police, zealous politicians, and morality committees, Madam Mattie Silks makes her fortune catering to Colorado’s gold and silver millionaires.

Notorious crime boss “Soapy” Smith is at the top of the Denver underworld. There are no rules for Smith’s gang. They solve problems with bribes and bullets. When Mattie’s husband stumbles into Soapy’s dealings, she struggles to protect him.

Gold is discovered in the Yukon and Mattie seizes the opportunity for adventure and profit. But Skagway, Alaska, is even more lawless than Denver. Mattie must use all her business sense and street smarts to safeguard those she cares about. Will it be enough? Or will Lady Justice again turn a blind eye?

Based on a true story, The Redemption of Mattie Silks is an action-packed tale of a woman succeeding in a man’s world even when the cards are stacked against her.


“The research on the era shines through, as do the grit and spirit of the characters. …A colorful and enthralling journey.” 

~ K.T. Blakemore, award-winning author of The Good Time Girls series

“A nice, nuanced portrait of the complex underworld with fine and witty turns of phrase. A great Western romp!”
~ Randi Samuelson-Brown, award-winning author of The Bad Old Days series


Denver, Colorado  
 Summer 1892

What a floozy. A huff of disgust blew from Mattie’s nose. Kate Fulton was hanging all over Cortez, and everyone in Denver knew Cortez Thompson was Mattie Silks’s man. It wasn’t his fault. Women swarmed to him like wasps to spilled cider. When he flashed his smile—that slow, crooked grin that seemed like a stolen kiss—any woman would be powerless to resist. Mattie wished he did more to discourage hussies like this one, but it simply wasn’t in his nature. 

There were many reasons to dislike Kate. She was about twenty years younger than Mattie. She ran a second-rate whorehouse down the street from Mattie’s more fashionable parlor house, and right now, she had captured Cortez’s undivided attention. The low scoop of Kate’s blouse showed too much of her chest. Mattie hoped she freckled in the sun. 

It had been a fun day of racing and picnics on the banks of Cherry Creek in Denver Park. Cortez won his footrace, and they celebrated in the many canvas-tent saloons around the park. But the races were over, and the drinking establishments, which served something called Taos Lightning, were filling with drunks. It was time to peel Kate Fulton off Cortez, and go home.

She gathered her skirts up and stomped toward the cottonwood tree Kate leaned against, her arms draped around Cortez’s neck. Between the summer heat and the tightness of her corset around her ample curves, Mattie was sure her face was turning an unattractive red. She blew a blond curl out of her eyes. 

Cortez had changed out of his star-spangled running tights and looked quite dashing in a dove-gray vest and snug black trousers. His tie was nowhere in sight and his shirt collar hung open. Mattie watched as he smoothed his perfectly oiled sand-colored hair and leaned down to whisper in Kate’s ear. She arched her long, slim neck with a seductive laugh. That was the last straw.

Mattie pulled Cortez away and stuck a finger in Kate’s face. “Stay away from my man.” She turned to him. “It’s time to go home.”

“I don’t think he wants to leave yet.” Kate smirked at Mattie. 

The finger that had been stuck in Kate’s face curled up to form a fist. Mattie punched Kate right in the nose. The younger woman gave a muffled cry as blood gushed down her face.

“And stay away from Market Street. Pack up your ugly girls and leave,” Mattie shouted.

Crying and bleeding, Kate swatted at Mattie with both hands. Cortez wrapped an arm around Mattie’s waist, picked her up, and tried to move her out of the reach of Kate’s slaps. He could hardly contain his laughter as Mattie struggled to be put down to get another swing at her rival. Another man grabbed Kate who continued to swat and reach with nails ready to scratch. Mattie kicked, landing whacks on both Kate and the man who was trying to help Cortez pull the women apart.

“You want to fight, Kate Fulton? I have a pistol in my pocket that will settle this right now.”

“A duel,” someone exclaimed from the growing crowd around the spatting women. Above the women’s shrieks and smacks, a storm of voices blew into a tornado of scandalous hearsay. 

“Who’s dueling?” asked another.

“Two madams from Market Street. Mattie Silks has a gun hidden in her dress.”

“Kate’s got no gun. She has no place to hide it.”

“What’s going on?” inquired a third.

“Two sporting girls are gonna shoot it out with no clothes on,” cracked a wiseacre. 

A horde of men pushed closer, jostling for a better view, hollering excited encouragement at the combatants.

“Who’s taking bets?” shouted someone. “I got a dollar on the little blonde.”

Kate landed a flurry of hits on Cortez’s well-groomed head and pulled at his waxed mustache. 

“Now that’s enough,” Cortez declared.

He threw Mattie over his shoulder, her ample bustle in the air, and headed to the little surrey with matching black horses. He pushed her in, clambered up, and headed the rig back to town, his toothy grin gleaming in the dimming light. 

Cortez hailed from Texas and was full of the cocksure bluster that is born into men of that region. He claimed to be a footracer and gambler by profession. 

Mattie’s profession was the oldest known to mankind and her parlor house was one of the most successful in all the West. Had Mattie been born a man, she could have owned a bank, a hotel, or a mercantile. She had the intellect and gumption to manage any business, but she lacked the correct genitalia to do so. It was with a touch of irony that she made a fortune catering to the male organ.

“Darlin’, you’re the feistiest gal I ever met. But I don’t think you should take up prizefighting. It might ruin your girlish good looks,” Cortez told her with a wink.

Round blue eyes, button nose, and Cupid’s bow lips painted Mattie’s face into an illusion of innocence. It was just a trick of the light. After twenty-five years running a bordello, all the naiveté had been wrung out of her. 

“You know my flirting with Kate doesn’t mean anything.” He leaned close and rested his chin on her head. “I always go home with you.”

This was as faithful as Cortez could be. Mattie understood. She made her living selling intimacy with strangers to happily married men. 

Theirs was an unusual marriage with Cortez kept in an easy, comfortable lifestyle and Mattie the breadwinner. However, to do business in a man’s world a woman needed a man. Since no law-abiding, God-fearing man with a successful, legitimate business and an ounce of common sense would marry a brothel owner, Mattie hitched her wagon to the charming and handsome, but unreliable Cortez. Thereby, she could use her husband’s name to sign legal papers and conduct banking transactions. The untraditional arrangement suited them both. His occasionally wandering eye was just another thing she had to manage.

“Cort darlin’, I love you, but sometimes I could just shoot you.”

He tossed his head back in laughter. A boy of a man, Cortez rarely took things seriously. Suddenly, a gun fired from behind them. As Mattie turned to see what the ruckus was about, Cortez grabbed his neck. “I’ve been shot.”

Blood seeped through his fingers.

 “Sweet Jesus,” Mattie cried, not sure if she was praying or swearing. I didn’t really mean it. She pulled Cortez’s hand away to see a line weeping red under his ear. She grabbed the reins from his hand, snapped the lines over the backs of the horses, and headed at a gallop for the safety of her house on Market Street.

“Harlen, help us” Mattie called to her doorman as the surrey skidded to a stop in front of the elegant brick parlor house. The huge man, who ushered people in, and sometimes threw them out, quickly lumbered down from his post on the front step. Without comment, the bouncer draped Cortez’s arm around his bull-sized neck and half carried his boss’s husband through the public receiving room, up the stairs, and to a private room at the back of the house.

“Girls, send for Dr. Johnson,” Mattie ordered as they rushed past the gaggle of soiled doves who worked for her. Mattie wanted a male doctor to look at Cort’s wound, figuring he had more experience with gunshots than the lady doctor who took care of the particular ailments of good-time girls. 
“The bullet just grazed the skin. Change the bandage every day to keep the wound clean until it scabs over,” Dr. Johnson instructed Mattie later that night. 

He turned to Cortez. “Avoid straining your neck. No fighting or heavy lifting.”

With a lazy smile, Cortez admitted, “I always try to avoid those things or any kind of work at all.”

The doctor turned back to Mattie. “I gave him a dose of laudanum. It does make some people speak rather too honestly.” 

Grab your copy HERE!
This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription. 

Kimberly Burns

Kimberly Burns grew up in Colorado hearing stories about the colourful characters of the Old West. She has degrees from the University of Colorado and the University of Hartford. Kimberly is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Western Writers of America, and Women Writing the West. She lives with her husband and black Lab in Leesburg, Virginia.

Her debut novel The Mrs. Tabor won numerous awards including the Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for Best New Novel, a gold medal for Best Regional Fiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards, a National Indie Excellence Award, and a silver medal from the Colorado Independent Publishers Association EVVY Awards.

Kimberly and her unruly heroines make for an entertaining book talk. She is available to discuss her novels with book groups in person or online. Email her at info@kimberlyburnsauthor.com.

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Monday 27 November 2023

Have a peek between the covers of Will Bashor's fabulous book - The Bastard Prince of Versailles: A Novel Inspired by True Events


The Bastard Prince of Versailles: A Novel Inspired by True Events
By Will Bashor

Publication Date: August 18, 2023
Publisher: Will Bashor
Page Length: 338 Pages
Genre: Historical LGBTQ Fiction / Historical Fiction

A historical novel inspired by real events, The Bastard Prince of Versailles, narrates the escapades of a misborn "prince" during the reign of Louis XIV in seventeenth-century France. Louis de Bourbon wasn't a real prince-even though his father was King Louis XIV. 

The illegitimate son of the King and his mistress, Louise de La Vallière, young Louis has been kept far from the court's eyes until summoned to bid adieu to his mother. To atone for her adultery, she joins a convent, abandoning Louis to an uncertain future. 

When Louis is humiliated by his father for his role in a secret gay society, he struggles to redeem himself through heroism and self-sacrifice in the king's army on the battlefield.

Praise for The Bastard Prince of Versailles:

“Will Bashor effortlessly weaves together the threads of fact and fiction, transporting us back to the opulence and intrigue of 17th century France. The author’s research and attention to detail are evident and well applied, never seeming like a dry history lesson but always a hook keeping you turning the pages.

Louis is brought to life with such authenticity that you can't help but empathize with his journey. As he navigates the treacherous waters of courtly politics and yearns for his father's approval, you'll feel a gripping connection to his struggles and triumphs. The rest of the characters are well-crafted as well, each contributing to the rich tapestry of the story.
If you are looking for a unique historical novel that will transport you to another time and leave a lasting impression, this book is an absolute must-read.”
--International Review of Books


On the way to his new chambers, Elizabeth introduced Louis to several courtiers in the galleries. Gentlemen bowed and ladies curtseyed, all the while eyeing his charming smile. Many commented that he had his mother’s dainty features. When Elizabeth and Louis happened upon a clutter of mignons in one of the galleries, Elizabeth took hold of Louis’ hand.

“Junger Louis, these are the Italian chevaliers,” she said in a tense tone. “Ignore them.”

The young men stopped conversing upon seeing the newcomer. Elizabeth whispered, “And you’ll soon learn why they are called Italian.”

Louis had never seen young men dressed so frivolously. The sleeves of their shiny, short satin jackets were open from the shoulder to the laced cuffs at the wrist, showing the billowy sleeves of their silk shirts. Their short breeches were elaborately tied with bands of ribbon above the knee, and their red-heeled boots were topped with ruffles or lace garters. 

When Elizabeth caught the minions gawking at Louis, she barked, “Pathetic dolts!” and the mignons vanished from the salon.

As she escorted Louis down the long corridors, she passed an enormous wind. He looked up at her in disbelief.

“This is not Versailles, mein lieber Louis,” she bellowed.

They both chuckled, and Louis knew they were off to a great start. For the next few days, Elizabeth kept him busy settling in, meeting her husband’s bizarre followers, and learning the few rules of court etiquette. It wasn’t Sceaux. And it certainly wasn’t Versailles.
Grab your copy HERE!

Will Bashor

From Columbus, Ohio, Will earned his Ph.D. from the American Graduate School of Paris. In his spare time, he reads memoirs and researches the lives of royals and their courtiers. He hopes to share his fascination with the Bourbon dynasty and its quirky inhabitants and, at the same time, weave the historical record with creative fiction. He has written articles for the Huffington Post, Age of Revolutions, BBC History Magazine, and Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book.

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Friday 24 November 2023

Check out Rowena Kinread's fabulous novel - The Matchstick Boy

The Matchstick Boy

By Rowena Kinread

Publication Date: 10th October 2023

Publisher: Goldcrest Books

Page Length: 329 Pages

Genre: Historical Crime / Mystery / Historical Thriller

When his young brother, Josef, is killed by a rock avalanche, Jakob believes it is murder. He had seen someone on the mountain ridge, above the scree, before it began to roll. But who would want to kill a child, and why? Jakob suspects Ramun, the privileged son of the owner of a matchstick factory, but nobody takes him seriously and he is powerless to obtain justice.

Thirty years later, Jakob’s profoundly deaf daughter is raped by Ramun and becomes with child. Determined to gain justice for his daughter, Jakob unearths a myriad of well-kept secrets in the tight-lipped community, but is anyone willing to tell the truth?

Just as he thinks he has uncovered all the facts, he realises he has made a vital mistake all along. Nothing is really as it seems.

Pick up your copy HERE!

This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription 

Rowena Kinread 

Rowena Kinread grew up in Ripon, Yorkshire with her large family and a horde of pets. Keen on travelling, her first job was with Lufthansa in Germany.

She began writing in the nineties. Her special area of interest is history. After researching her ancestry and finding family roots in Ireland with the Dalriada clan, particularly this era. Her debut fiction novel titled “The Missionary” is a historical novel about the dramatic life of St. Patrick. It was published by Pegasus Publishers on April 29th, 2021 and has been highly appraised by The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and the Irish Times.

Her second novel “The Scots of Dalriada” centres around Fergus Mór, the founder father of Scotland and takes place in 5th century Ireland and Scotland. It is due to be published by Pegasus Publishers on January 26th, 2023.

The author lives with her husband in Bodman-Ludwigshafen, Lake Constance, Germany. They have three children and six grandchildren.

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Thursday 23 November 2023

Have a peek between the covers of Ann Bennett's fabulous novel - The Fortune Teller of Kathmandu

The Fortune Teller of Kathmandu
By Ann Bennett

Publication Date: 31st October 2023
Publisher: Andaman Press
Page Length: 356 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction / Historical Romance / Women’s Adventure and Romance

A sweeping wartime tale of secrets and love, mystery and redemption, moving from the snow-capped Himalayas to the steamy heat of battle in the Burmese jungle.

Hampshire, UK, 2015. 

When Chloe Harper’s beloved grandmother, Lena dies, a stranger hands her Lena’s wartime diary. Chloe sets out to uncover deep family secrets that Lena guarded to her grave.

Darjeeling, India, 1943 .

Lena Chatterjee leaves the confines of a strict boarding school to work as assistant to Lieutenant George Harper, an officer in the British Indian Army. She accompanies him to Nepal and deep into the Himalayas to recruit Gurkhas for the failing Burma Campaign. There, she discovers that Lieutenant Harper has a secret, which she vows never to reveal.

In Kathmandu, the prophesy of a mysterious fortune teller sets Lena on a dangerous course. She joins the Women’s Auxiliary Service Burma (the Wasbies), risking her life to follow the man she loves to the front line. What happens there changes the course of her life.

On her quest to uncover her grandmother’s hidden past, Chloe herself encounters mystery and romance. Helped by young Nepalese tour guide, Kiran Rai, she finds history repeating itself when she is swept up in events that spiral out of control...

Perfect for fans of Dinah Jeffries, Victoria Hislop and Rosie Thomas.


"A great read" Advance Reader.

" Thank you so much for allowing me to read the advance copy. I could barely put it down!" Advance Reader.

"What a wonderful book... I loved it. The dual time lines were delineated to perfection... the settings were perfectly rendered.." Advance Reader.


Rounding the first corner, Lena found herself in a wide, open space, a square surrounded by temples with tiered red roofs, mounted above flights of stone steps. People sat on the steps taking in the afternoon sun, smoking and chatting. A couple of rickshaws stood empty beside a group of men. 
A boy approached her carrying a box of brushes. ‘Shoeshine, miss?’ 
The boy couldn’t have been more than eight or nine and had the most beautiful, gappy-toothed smile, but Lena shook her head and carried on walking across the square. In front of her was an imposing three-storey red-brick building, with shuttered windows and elaborate roofs. The steps to the entrance were guarded by two huge, mythical creatures. They looked like enormous painted dogs, extravagantly decorated in reds and golds. Lena stood staring at the building, wondering what it might be, when the shoeshine boy plucked at her sleeve. 
‘This is Kumari Bahal, madam,’ he announced. ‘Home of the Kumari Devi.’
‘Who is the Kumari Devi?’
‘She is a child, miss.’
‘A child?’ Lena was intrigued. 
‘Yes. A living goddess. She lives in that building. People say it is very lucky if you happen to see her. Sometimes she comes to the window and looks out. I have seen her many, many times,’ he added with another huge smile. 
‘Thank you for telling me. I had no idea.’
Lena realised then how little she really knew about Kathmandu; she should have bought a book about the city from the bookstore on Chowrasta. But she’d been kept so busy by Lieutenant Harper making preparations for the trip and by Mrs Spooner, with general office duties, that she’d had no time for shopping. She realised it was probably impossible to buy a tourist guide in Kathmandu itself. There were no other tourists and no concessions to foreign travellers. She would just have to learn about the city first-hand. Everyone seemed friendly enough, even if they did stare at her strange, modern clothes.
Shading her eyes, Lena looked up at the palace. One of the shutters in an upstairs window was thrown back. A child appeared in the window and stared down at the crowded square. Lena couldn’t take her eyes off the little girl. She was like no child she’d ever seen before. She wore an elaborate gold headdress, and her forehead was painted bright red, with the image of a white and blue eye in the centre. Round her neck, she wore many garlands of flowers, marigolds and chrysanthemums.
‘Kumari Devi!’ said the shoeshine boy with subdued excitement, pointing up at the window. ‘You are very lucky, madam. She brings luck to everyone who sees her.’
Lena tore her eyes away from the little goddess and smiled down at the boy, but when she lifted her eyes to the window again, the girl had vanished, and the shutters were already swinging shut.
‘She is gone, madam, but the fortune teller will be able to tell you how lucky you are.’
‘Fortune teller?’ 
Lena’s scalp tingled at the thought. There was a fortune teller in the bazaar in Darjeeling, but everyone said she was a charlatan who preyed on people’s fears and superstitions and that she had no special powers at all. Perhaps it was being in these ancient, mystical surroundings, so far from home, completely alone, but the idea of going to a fortune teller here in Kathmandu appealed to Lena then in a way that it wouldn’t normally have done.
‘Would you like me to take you to her?’ the boy asked.
‘All right…’ Lena said slowly, and the boy laughed, flashing her another wide smile.
He was off then, tugging her arm to follow him. She hurried along behind him, across the wide Durbar Square and into a side alley filled with jewellers’ shops. The boy was moving quickly, darting between the shoppers. 
Lena struggled to keep up with him in her slingback shoes. But at the end of the alley, he waited for her, then ducked into an even narrower passage, where there were no shops at all. It was dark there, and looking up, Lena saw that the eaves of the buildings were almost touching, shutting out the light, and the air was heavy with the smell of drains mingled with the spicy, smoky perfume of incense. A chill went through her then and she suddenly felt vulnerable and alone. How far she was from home here, how far from the base even. 
The boy stopped at an entrance halfway along the passage. ‘It is here,’ he said, pointing at some carved wooden doors. ‘You just go inside, and she will see you.’
Lena hesitated. 
‘I will wait for you here,’ the boy said, ‘so you don’t get lost.’
Putting aside her qualms, Lena thanked him, pushed the heavy door open and entered a darkened room. There were no windows, and for a couple of seconds, she stood behind the door wondering whether to turn round and go straight back out again, but her eyes soon acclimatised, and she could see that the room was lit by candles, flickering from every surface, giving off a smoky, waxy smell. Ahead was a red, velvet curtain covering an entrance. Lena walked across the dark room towards the curtain, pulled it aside and peeped round it. 
A woman sat in a tiny room behind the curtain, on a high-backed chair. In front of her was a small round table, spread with a red velvet tablecloth and a white crystal ball that glinted in the candlelight. Lena was surprised to see a little girl sitting beside her, dressed in a red tunic. Her eyes were rimmed with heavy kohl and looked huge in her tiny, pale face. She reminded Lena eerily of the Kumari Devi. The room itself was lined with silk wall-hangings depicting scenes from the Ramayana, and the air was filled with the smell of incense. 
The woman was reading from a book to the child, but when she looked up and saw Lena, she put the book aside hastily and stood up to greet her. She was dressed in colourful robes, her hair covered with a shawl fringed in gold braid. Around her neck she wore many gold chains. She was heavily made up with thick black kohl around her eyes, just like the child’s, and deep red lipstick on her full lips. In her nose and ears were rings and studs and when she put her hands together in a gesture of greeting, numerous gold bangles jangled together. 
‘Good afternoon, madam,’ she said in Nepali, which Lena could understand, given her knowledge of Hindi.
‘Good afternoon, to you,’ Lena replied, and the woman motioned for her to sit down on a stool in front of the table.
Lena perched on the stool, feeling a little nervous and a little foolish too. Why had she come here? She hadn’t even had to be persuaded, she’d just gone along voluntarily at the very first suggestion.  It would be very difficult for her to leave now, though. She glanced at the little girl, and was startled that her intense dark eyes were fixed on her face. She quickly looked away again. 
‘Don’t be shy,’ the woman said with a welcoming smile. ‘Give me your hand, please.’
Lena held her hand out over the table and the woman took it and turned it over to look at the palm. She bent her head forward to study it carefully and stayed like that, motionless for a long moment. Then she began tracing the lines on Lena’s hand with her forefinger and muttering to herself, as if in a trance. The fortune-teller’s nails were long and sharp and painted the same deep shade of red as her lipstick.
When she was beginning to wonder whether this was a normal palm reading, the woman lifted her head and looked into her eyes. She was still holding Lena’s hand, palm up, in one of hers. ‘You will have a long life. Long and happy for the most part, but I do see tragedy there too.’
‘Oh?’  A prickle of unease stirred in Lena’s chest. She felt herself frowning. 

Grab your copy HERE!
This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

Ann Bennett

Ann Bennett is a British author of historical fiction. She was born in Pury End, a small village in Northamptonshire, UK and now lives in Surrey. Her first book, Bamboo Heart: A Daughter's Quest, was inspired by researching her father’s experience as a prisoner of war on the Thai-Burma Railway. Bamboo Island: The Planter's Wife, A Daughter's Promise and Bamboo Road:The Homecoming, The Tea Panter's Club and The Amulet are also about the war in South East Asia, which together with The Fortune Teller of Kathmandu make up the Echoes of Empire Collection.

Ann is also author of The Runaway Sisters, bestselling The Orphan House, The Forgotten Children and The Child Without a Home, published by Bookouture.

The Lake Pavilion, The Lake Palace, both set in British India in the 1930s and WW2, and The Lake Pagoda and The Lake Villa, set in French Indochina during WW2, make up The Oriental Lake Collection.
Ann is married with three grown up sons and a granddaughter and works as a lawyer. For more details please visit www.annbennettauthor.com. 

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Tuesday 21 November 2023

Have a peek between the covers of The Middle Generation: A Novel of John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine by M. B. Zucker


The Middle Generation: A Novel of John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine 
By M. B. Zucker

Publication Date: November 7th 2023

Publisher: Historium Press

Page Length: 432
Genre: Historical Fiction / Biographical Fiction 

The classical era of American history began with the Revolution and ended with emancipation. Between these bookends lies the absorbing yet overshadowed epic of a new nation spearheading liberty’s cause in a world skeptical of freedom arriving at all, much less in slaver’s garb. M. B. Zucker takes readers back to that adolescent country in the care of an enigmatic guide, John Quincy Adams, heir to one president by blood and another, Washington, by ideology. Adams is the missing link between the founders and Abraham Lincoln, and is nigh unanimously regarded as America’s foremost Secretary of State. Through Adams’ eyes, readers will experience one of history’s greatest and most forgotten crises: his showdown with Europe over South American independence, the conflict which prefigured the Monroe Doctrine. 

With his signature dialogue and his close study of Adams’ 51 volume diary, M. B. Zucker’s The Middle Generation is a political thriller and character piece that surpasses his achievement in The Eisenhower Chronicles and ascends to the cinematic heights of the historical epics of David Lean and Steven Spielberg. It is an unforgettable portrait and a leap forward for one of our rising historical fiction novelists. 


“The Emperor authorized me to make the following proposal to your government,” the Baron de Tuyll, Russia’s minister, said, “though I request you inform me in advance of declination. In that case, it shall remain informal.” A dark figure, wearing black with a red collar and gold tassels on his shoulders, the medals won fighting Napoleon’s Grande Armée pinned to his uniform. His accent was a baritone deeper than any I’d ever heard, the croak of a man broken from lifelong service to his sire. Other voices modified via emotion—happiness, tenderness, hatred, vexation, and so on. 
Not the Baron’s. His was the voice of a man who hated the world and everyone in it, including his master. 
“What proposal? I asked. We spoke in English. 
“He wants the United States to ratify the Holy Alliance Treaty.” 
A moment. “He’s sincere?” 
“Yes. The Alliance is a league of peace. The United States would strengthen their ties to its members by joining.” 
“But the treaty is a collection of sovereigns’ autographs. It excludes republics.” 
“The Swiss cantons were invited and acceded.” 
“I thought the Alliance was hostile to the United States.” 
“The Alliance is hostile to anarchy.” 
“We’re not responsible for the French Revolution. The President and I interpret the Alliance as promoting the divine right of kings to rule over humanity. Our constitution is incompatible with such a view.” 
“Will you communicate his proposal to the President?” 
“Yes. Though two-thirds of the Senate must vote for our joining.” 
“I see,” he said. “Do you believe they will?” 
“That is unfortunate. The Emperor wishes for your country and for Britain to join.” 
“He invited Britain?” I asked. He nodded. “The same problem, King George can’t sign it without Parliament. I don’t grasp why the Alliance invites our countries. Britain has a monarchy but elects her legislature. The Alliance recently crushed republican efforts in Naples and the Piedmont. 
Why would we join such an entity?” 
“The Emperor is optimistic that Britain will join. It will be to the world’s benefit if London and Washington adhere to the Alliance’s influence. The treaty contains no specific points but sets an ideal for global peace.” 
“A peace built on despotism.” 
“You’ll communicate his proposal to the President?” 
“Yes. Is that all?” 
“No. We must discuss the South American war.” 
“Why? Last year’s armistice is stable and peace talks are ongoing. Royalist rebels harass the republics like gnats do elephants, but I expect the war to end by 1822.” 
“That cannot happen under current conditions. The continent’s revolution insults Europe’s monarchs and threatens her security. The guilty continent must return, through peaceful means or through arms, into the Alliance’s protection.” 
Lines so wide that Noah's animals could walk through them with not just their mate but their whole menagerie. “The Alliance wants to conquer South America?” 
“The Alliance will restore Spain’s dominion. South America will receive greater autonomy than it did previously and will have open trade with all nations.” A pause. “American independence caused the French Revolution. South American independence cannot bring a similar catastrophe to Europe.” 
“So your invitation to join the Alliance is meant to nullify objection to aggression toward this hemisphere?” 
“To cooperate for the good of the world. The Emperor is anxious that a general peace be built. Embers burn in Europe that must not flame again.” 
“Embers of men and women who yearn for freedom. His route toward peace involves destroying an entire hemisphere. You must know we’ll never agree to this and neither will Britain. 
She’s invested enormous resources into supporting the South American rebels.” 
“We have ways of persuading her.” 
“Why alert us to your intent?” 
“To reduce your government’s anxiety so it will not attempt to stop what it cannot.” 
“What cannot be stopped is the inevitable doom of Europe’s masters,” I said. “Its people have been taught to inquire why certain men possess enjoyment at their expense. Civil wars shall rage in Europe until the total ruin of feudal constitutions has been achieved.” 
“The Emperor bears no hostility toward the United States or their institutions. You know this because you worked with him as a minister. I’m saddened to learn you do not reciprocate his respect. He views South American independence as a coming apocalypse that threatens man’s connection to Christ through divine rulers. Your country will lose much and gain nothing by resisting what is necessary for a lasting peace. I pray your government takes his proposal seriously.” 
“I’ll confer what we’ve discussed to the President.” 
“Thank you.” 
I escorted him from my office and Maury led him out of the building. Then I returned to my desk and analyzed his words. I’d feared the Holy Alliance’s intentions for six years and finally its 
intervention was upon us. America had no choice but to resist and we had no hope of defeating Europe’s combined might. 

Grab your copy HERE!

M. B. Zucker 

M. B. Zucker has been interested in storytelling for as long as he can remember. He devoted himself to historical fiction at fifteen and earned his B.A. at Occidental College and his J.D. at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He lives in Virginia with his family. He is the author of three other novels. Among his honors is the Best Fictional Biography Award at the 2023 BookFest.

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Monday 20 November 2023

Book Review - Ascent (House of Normandy Book 1) by Cathie Dunn


(House of Normandy Book 1)
By Cathie Dunn

Publisher: Ocelot Press
Published: 8th April 2022 
Page Length: 293 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

A brutal Viking raid heralds the dawn of a new, powerful dynasty – the House of Normandy
Neustria, Kingdom of the West Franks

AD 890

Fourteen-year-old Poppa’s life changes when Northmen land near Bayeux. Count Bérengar, her father, submits to them, and she is handfasted to Hrólfr, the Northmen’s heathen leader, as part of their agreement.

To her relief, Hrólfr leaves immediately in search of further conquest, only returning to claim her years later. In the face of retaliating Franks, they flee to East Anglia, where she gives birth to their son and daughter.

When Hrólfr and Poppa return to reclaim Bayeux, his new campaign strikes at the heart of Frankish power, and King Charles of the West Franks offers him a pact he cannot refuse. In exchange for vast tracts of land in Neustria, Hrólfr must convert to Christianity and accept marriage to Gisela, the king’s illegitimate daughter.

Poppa’s world shatters. She remains in Bayeux, with her daughter, Adela. When Gisela arrives one day, demanding she hand over Adela, to be raised in Rouen, Poppa’s patience is at an end. But Gisela makes for a dangerous enemy, and only one woman will survive their confrontation high up on the cliffs.

Will Poppa live to witness the dawn of a new era?

ASCENT is the first in a new series about the early women of the House of Normandy – women whose stories have been forgotten through time.

Until now!

Readers of Viking and medieval fiction will enjoy ASCENT, a fictional account of the life of Poppa of Bayeux, handfasted wife of Rollo the Viking.

Trigger warning: Loss of a child. Some battle and fighting scenes.

Holding his axe aloft, he let out a roar. It echoed across the beach as men around him raised their weapons.
He grinned as he strode up a narrow path that led to the top of the cliffs rising from the shore. Once at the top, they saw the thatched roofs of Bayeux in the distance ahead.
Ripe for the picking.
The runes told him it was his destiny to conquer Neustria. Hrólfr only had to seize it.

Easter Sunday, April 12th, AD 890, was a day Lady Poppa of Bayeux would never forget. For it was the day Hrólfr and his raiders came to Bayeux. But this was no typical raid, because once they had taken everything worth taking, they stayed.

Poppa was determined to remain aloof to Hrólfr, even when she was forced to marry him by her own father. But Hrólfr is a restless warrior and he had grander plans than Bayeux. He would leave his young wife at Bayeux and carry on with his plan. But as the years rolled on and Hrólfr stayed away, Poppa could not help but feel a little abandoned.

When Hrólfr finally returns to Bayeux he finds Poppa has grown into a beautiful woman and one he would be proud to call his wife. But as they wait for their first born to arrive, war once again comes calling Hrólfr's name...

Ascent, the first book in the House of Normandy series by Cathie Dunn, depicts the mesmerising untold tale of Lady Poppa from Bayeux.

The beauty as well as the austerity of this era has been painstakingly portrayed. The harsh landscape, where the ocean meets the land, is utterly captivating. The portrayal of the climate, illness, war, peace, love, hate, and the passage of time conveys a strong sense of realism throughout this book. The backdrop of Danish raiding parties, a king's capriciousness, and the dominant presence of the Church add depth to the characters whom the readers meet in this novel. Dunn's ability to capture historical authenticity in her novels is evident in her writing, and this book is no exception. This novel is truly captivating because of its meticulous attention to historical detail.

The reader meets Lady Poppa of Bayeux when she is just fourteen years old. As the daughter of Count Bérengar of Bayeux, she has grown up in privilege but she still has the commoner's touch. Unfortunately, her youthful days are left far behind her the day the Norsemen come calling. Her fear of what will happen to not only herself but her people is palpable. It is a fear that Dunn has cleverly exploited to make the reader share the emotion as well. Even though she is young, and is facing such insurmountable odds, Poppa is determined to protect the people of Bayeux as best she can, and if that means submitting to Hrólfr rule, then so be it. But, she is no pushover, neither does she let Hrólfr dictate to her. She accepts her situation for what it is, but she does not become bitter or angry as others in this novel do. Poppa is an exceedingly likeable character who is brave, honest and unfailingly kind. 

Although much of Lady Poppa's life has been lost to history, she finally has a voice. Dunn has breathed new life into this almost forgotten heroine and she has done so in such a way that is deserving of recognition. Dunn reminds her readers that although history primarily focuses on the men of this era, the women were just as formidable, just as brave, and just as deserving of having their stories told. 

Anyone who knows Viking history will recognise the name of Hrólfr, or Rollo as he is now commonly known. In life, he was a man who secured a permanent foothold on Frankish soil and went on to become a Count. In this novel, he is both of those things, but he is also a man who understands both love and hate. The brutality and lack of mercy of the Norse invaders have been well documented in both historical accounts and fiction alike, and thanks to the popularity of Michael Hirst’s Emmy Award-winning television series, Vikings, there has been a renewed interest in Hrólfr's life. Dunn’s Hrólfr is an undoubtedly brave warrior and a respected leader. He honours tradition, dividing the treasure and people taken between his men, but in Dunn's depiction, he does not condone rape. Dunn's Hrólfr is extremely likeable, much like Hirst's Ragnar. He is ambitious, he wants to make a name for himself, but he is also a kind lover and considerate father. There are moments in this novel where Hrólfr's desperation to carve his name in history seemingly overrides his common sense, but as is the way with some rash decisions, Hrólfr pays a heavy price. But, the reader cannot truly dislike him, even when he does not deserve the reader's respect!

Hrólfr's struggle with religion was an interesting side story in this novel. He is religious when it suits him, and although he holds fast to the Gods of his birth, he sees the political merit in worshipping the Christian God. He does draw on the strength of the Gods from time to time, and he does often wonder if he has upset them in some way, but then he begins to consider if perhaps the Christian God is stronger. This internal religious struggle is very telling of his character as he is often conflicted in this novel. As in life, Dunn's Hrólfr is a fascinating character and his depiction in this story is utterly sublime. 

Whether a historical or legendary character, Gisela of France certainly makes her presence in this story known. Gisela may be the daughter of a king but she is very easy to dislike for Dunn has made it so. Her spoilt princess attitude, her longing for Paris, and her violence towards her servants is in stark contrast to Poppa's gentle ways. But in truth, she is but a pawn in this medieval game of thrones. Dunn has given her readers an antagonist in Gisela. She is a character that is very easy to despise as she has no redeemable qualities.

Ascent (House of Normandy Book 1) by Cathie Dunn is the type of book you must recommend to everyone you know so you can have lengthy discussions about it over coffee. This novel is perfect for book club groups and will definitely interest fans of high-quality historical fiction set in the Viking era.

I Highly Recommend.

Grab your copy HERE!

Cathie Dunn

Cathie is an Amazon-bestselling author of historical fiction, dual-timeline, mystery, and romance. She loves to infuse her stories with a strong sense of place and time, combined with a dark secret or mystery – and a touch of romance. Often, you can find her deep down the rabbit hole of historical research…
In addition, she is also a historical fiction book promoter with The Coffee Pot Book Club, a novel-writing tutor, and a keen reviewer on her blog, Ruins & Reading.
After having lived in Scotland for almost two decades, Cathie is now enjoying the sunshine in the south of France with her husband, and her rescued pets, Ellie Dog & Charlie Cat. 

She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Richard III Society, the Alliance of Independent Authors, and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

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