Tuesday 30 April 2024

Dive back into the gripping, frontier chaos. Snarling Wolf is the fourth adventurous installment in the Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail series.


Snarling Wolf: A Pioneer Western Adventure
By David Fitz-Gerald

Publication Date: April 30th, 2024
Publisher: David Fitz-Gerald
Page Length: 229 Pages
Genre: Western, Historical Fiction

Dive back into the gripping, frontier chaos. Snarling Wolf is the fourth adventurous installment in the Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail series.

The famed Snake River marks the point the wagon master claims that all the greenhorns turn loco. After twelve hundred grueling miles and four relentless months on the trail, the expedition teeters on the brink. Frayed nerves, exhausted patience, and the specter of doom cast a dark cloud over the travelers.

At every turn, new dangers emerge. A young man who is like a brother to Dorcas Moon is ravaged in a mountain lion attack. A heat wave grips the dusty, barren plains and spreads sickness. The wolves that lurk in the shadows edge closer. Even the rattlesnakes seem emboldened.

Dorcas' daughter, Rose's descent into madness can no longer be ignored. What began as an eerie preoccupation with death takes a shocking turn when Rose reveals her truths. Dorcas is thrust into a realm of disbelief, and her worst fears about Rose's mysterious suitor become a stark reality.

As weary emigrants yearn for respite, tales of murderous outlaws spread like wildfire across the prairie. Passing strangers share the latest terrifying news. It's only a matter of when, not if, the notorious highwaymen will strike. Which bend of the mighty snake shelters the feared outlaws?

Grab your copy of Snarling Wolf now and unveil the next chapter in Dorcas Moon's relentless saga. Sink your teeth into this tale of survival, madness, and the unyielding spirit of those who brave the treacherous migration.

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Snarling Wolf

David Fitz-Gerald 

David Fitz-Gerald writes westerns and historical fiction. He is the author of twelve books, including the brand-new series, Ghosts Along the Oregon Trail set in 1850. Dave is a multiple Laramie Award, first place, best in category winner; a Blue Ribbon Chanticleerian; a member of Western Writers of America; and a member of the Historical Novel Society.

Alpine landscapes and flashy horses always catch Dave’s eye and turn his head. He is also an Adirondack 46-er, which means that he has hiked to the summit of the range’s highest peaks. As a mountaineer, he’s happiest at an elevation of over four thousand feet above sea level.

Dave is a lifelong fan of western fiction, landscapes, movies, and music. It should be no surprise that Dave delights in placing memorable characters on treacherous trails, mountain tops, and on the backs of wild horses.

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#WesternAdventure #AmericanWest #WildWest #HistoricalWestern #NewRelease #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub 

Monday 29 April 2024

A deliciously gothic story of wishes and curses – a new dark fairy tale set against a Victorian backdrop full of lace and smoke.

The Shadow in the Glass 
By JJA Harwood

Publication Date: 17th March 2022
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Page Length: 416 Pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy

Once upon a time Ella had wished for more than her life as a lowly maid.

Now forced to work hard under the unforgiving, lecherous gaze of the man she once called stepfather, Ella’s only refuge is in the books she reads by candlelight, secreted away in the library she isn’t permitted to enter.

One night, among her beloved books of far-off lands, Ella’s wishes are answered. At the stroke of midnight, a fairy godmother makes her an offer that will change her life: seven wishes, hers to make as she pleases. But each wish comes at a price and Ella must decide whether it’s one she’s willing to pay…

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 The Shadow in the Glass 

JJA Harwood
JJA Harwood is an author, editor and blogger. She grew up in Norfolk, read History at the University of Warwick and eventually found her way to London, which is still something of a shock for somebody used to so many fields.

When not writing, she can be found learning languages, cooking with more enthusiasm than skill, wandering off into clearly haunted houses and making friends with stray cats. THE SHADOW IN THE GLASS is her debut novel.

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Sunday 28 April 2024

A pirate of infamy and one of the most storied and scandalous captains to sail the seven seas.

The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi
By Shannon Chakraborty

Publication Date: 29th February 2024
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Page Length: 496 Pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy

A pirate of infamy and one of the most storied and scandalous captains to sail the seven seas.

Amina al-Sirafi has survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural.

But when she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse, she jumps at the chance for one final adventure with her old crew that will make her a legend and offers a fortune that will secure her and her family’s future forever.

Yet the deeper Amina dives the higher the stakes. For there’s always risk in wanting to become a legend, to seize one last chance at glory, to savour just a bit more power…and the price might be your very soul.

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The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi

Shannon Chakraborty

Shannon Chakraborty is the author of the critically acclaimed and internationally best-selling The Daevabad Trilogy. Her work has been translated into over a dozen languages and nominated for the Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy, Crawford, and Astounding awards. When not buried in books about medieval seafarers and con artists, she enjoys hiking, knitting, and re-creating unnecessarily complicated historical dishes. She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband, daughter, and an ever-increasing number of cats.

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Saturday 27 April 2024

The number 1 Sunday Times bestselling fantasy romance.

A Fate Inked in Blood
By Danielle L. Jensen

Publication Date: 27th February 2024
Publisher: Penguin 
Page Length: 414 Pages
Genre: Viking / Historical / Fantasy

A shield maiden blessed by the gods battles to unite a nation under a power-hungry king - while also fighting her growing desire for his fiery son - in this Norse-inspired fantasy romance from the bestselling author of The Bridge Kingdom series.

Bound in an unwanted marriage, Freya spends her days gutting fish, but dreams of becoming a warrior. And of putting an axe in her boorish husband's back.

Freya's dreams abruptly become reality when her husband betrays her to the region's jarl, landing her in a fight to the death against his son. To survive, Freya is forced to reveal her deepest secret: she possesses a drop of a goddess's blood, which gives her magic capable of repelling any attack. A
magic that was foretold would unite the fractured nation of Skaland beneath a king-the one who controls the shield maiden's fate.

Believing he's destined to rule Skaland, the fanatical jarl binds Freya with a blood oath and orders his son, Bjorn, to protect Freya from their enemies. Desperate to prove her strength, Freya must train to fight and learn to control her magic, all while facing perilous tests set by the gods. Except the greatest test of all may be resisting her forbidden attraction to Bjorn. If Freya succumbs to her lust for the charming and fierce warrior, she risks not only her own destiny but the fate of all the people she swore to protect.

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A Fate Inked in Blood

Danielle L. Jensen

Credit: Katherine Calnan Photography
Danielle L. Jensen is the USA Today bestselling author of the Bridge Kingdom, Dark Shores, and Malediction series, as well as the Saga of the Unfated. Her novels are published internationally in fifteen languages. She lives in Calgary, Alberta with her family and guinea pigs.

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Friday 26 April 2024

An internationally bestselling story of love, courage and forgiveness.

The Winemaker's Wife
By Kristin Harmel

Publication Date: 25th November 2021
Publisher: Welbeck Publishing Group
Page Length: 336 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance

East of Paris in the sun-drenched vineyards of northern France lies the glamorous champagne house Maison Chauveau. But as the Nazis march closer and the Resistance builds strength, it becomes clear the grand house is not all it seems.

1940: When young Ines married into the famed Chauveau family she dreamt of peace and luxury. But with German occupation comes a life of fear: for herself, for family and friends joining the Resistance and for Celine, the Jewish wife of their chief vintner. As tensions mount and loyalties are tested, Ines will be faced with a terrible choice.

2019: Liv Kent has lost everything: her job, her husband and the family she thought they were building. Alone and adrift she leaps at the chance to join her eccentric grandmother on a trip to Champagne. But it's not long before past and present collide, and in a desperate search for the truth, Liv is led straight to the Maison Chauveau.

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The Winemaker's Wife

Kristin Harmel

Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling, USA Today bestselling, and #1 international bestselling author of The Paris Daughter, The Forest of Vanishing Stars, The Book of Lost Names, and a dozen other novels that have been translated into more than 30 languages and are sold all over the world.

A former reporter for PEOPLE magazine, Kristin has been writing professionally since the age of 16, when she began her career as a sportswriter, covering Major League Baseball and NHL hockey for a local magazine in Tampa Bay, Florida in the late 1990s. In addition to a long magazine writing career, Kristin was also a frequent contributor to the national television morning show The Daily Buzz.

Kristin was born just outside Boston, Massachusetts and spent her childhood there, as well as in Columbus, Ohio, and St. Petersburg, Florida. After graduating with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida, she spent time living in Paris and Los Angeles and now lives in Orlando, with her husband and son. She is also the co-founder and co-host of the popular weekly web show and podcast Friends & Fiction.

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Thursday 25 April 2024

Can a good heart still flourish in an age of darkness?


Elizabeth of Rosepath
(The Book of Roses, Volume One)
By Kelly River 

Publication Date: 25th December 2023
Publisher: Independently Published
Page Length: 592 Pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy

This is the tale of Elizabeth, servant of a noble family brought to ruin by a brutal coup; of Kaylein, last surviving daughter of the fallen household; of Isaac, son of the man who murdered Kaylein's parents, and of Edward, a troubled knight who seeks revenge on the others at any cost.

After the events of that bloody night twist their fates together for years to come, each of the four seek their own path through the hardships of feudal life. Elizabeth's leads her to the workshop of a kindly carpenter, Kaylein's to a convent, Isaac's to the open road, and Edward's to an ambitious quest of advancement through the nobility. But how long can their peace last when each has demons that threaten to drag the others down along with them?

Set in a fictional medieval kingdom, The Book of Roses tells the story of four young people searching for safety, love, and belonging in a world rife with injustice. Can a good heart still flourish in an age of darkness?

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Elizabeth of Rosepath

Kelly River

Kelly River is an author who dwells on the edge of the English countryside, forever losing themselves in rambling trails both fictional and material.

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Wednesday 24 April 2024

A Splendid Defiance is a dramatic and enchanting story of forbidden love, set against the turmoil and anguish of the English Civil War.


A Splendid Defiance
By Stella Riley 
Audiobook performed by Alex Wyndham

Publication Date: 6th December 2012
Publisher:  Stella Riley
Page Length: 371 Pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction / Historical Romance

For two years England has been in the grip of Civil War.  In Banbury, Oxfordshire, the Cavaliers hold the Castle, the Roundheads want it back and the town is full of zealous Puritans.

Consequently, the gulf between Captain Justin Ambrose and Abigail Radford, the sister of a fanatically religious shopkeeper, ought to be unbridgeable.

The key to both the fate of the Castle and that of Justin and Abigail lies in defiance.  But will it be enough?

A Splendid Defiance is a dramatic and enchanting story of forbidden love, set against the turmoil and anguish of the English Civil War.


The Murderous Spy

Mistress Rhodes’ door was slightly ajar.  Justin entered without knocking, closed it behind him and slid the bolt home.  Startled, Anne looked up from the array of powders and potions that littered her table and shot to her feet.
‘How dare you walk in here like this?  Get out!’
Justin gazed meditatively on the bottles and jars. ‘Which one of those contains the belladonna?’
She sensed danger.  ‘What makes you suppose that I have any?’
‘I know you do.’  He began lightly touching them.  ‘Is it this?  Or this?  Abigail Radford is still alive, you know.’
Her eyes had narrowed but she shrugged and said carelessly, ‘I have no idea what you are talking about. And I’d like you to leave.’
‘I daresay.  But I’m going nowhere – and neither are you.  We’re going to have a little chat, you and I.’
‘I have nothing to say to you.’
‘You may think that now – but you’ll have plenty to say before I’m done. Ah no!’  His hand shot out, imprisoning her arm as she attempted to hit him.  ‘That really isn’t a good start.’
She twisted in his hold and brought her free hand up to his face, the nails poised to rip and tear. Justin felled it using the hard edge of his palm.  Then, smiling, he forced her down on the stool.
‘As I said … a little chat about Abby Radford and Tom Mayhew and Sir Samuel Luke.  You see, sweetheart, I know it all – or nearly all – and you are going to tell me the rest.’
‘I’ll see you damned before I tell you anything.  And you’ll never prove it.’
‘Oh but I will,’ he assured her calmly.  ‘You really shouldn’t have poisoned Abby.  Her brother is a little annoyed with you.  And he still has the last letter you trusted him with.’
Shock rendered her temporarily speechless.  Then, her voice losing every vestige of gentility, she said, ‘That bloody little daisy.  I should have seen to him.’
‘I’m sure you’d have got around to it in time.  Why did you kill Tom Mayhew?’
She curbed her rage, aware of the perils of saying too much.
‘I didn’t.’
‘You did.  But not with nightshade.  What did you use?’
‘Nothing.  And that’s all you’ll get from me.’
‘You think so?’  His fingers strayed at random through the clutter of the table until they encountered the bone handle of a small knife. ‘You are taking me for a gentleman and it’s a mistake – particularly now.  For you will talk … one way or another.’  His hand closed on the knife and, turning a glacial smile on her, he added conversationally, ‘I learned a lot at Naseby.’
The blue eyes widened a little. ‘You wouldn’t dare.’
‘No?  You don’t know me very well, do you?  I don’t hold women sacred.  I have known others like you, you see.  And I don’t make empty threats or baulk at soiling my hands when the devil drives.  So you will do well to believe what I say for I’ll use any means I have to, short of actually killing you.  And that is for the law to do.’

Pick up your copy of
A Splendid Defiance
Special Tour Price: Ebook £1.95 / US $1.95 (and equivalent) for the duration of the tour!

Stella Riley 

Winner of four gold medals for historical romance and sixteen Book Readers’ Appreciation Medallions, Stella Riley lives in the beautiful medieval town of Sandwich in Kent.
She is fascinated by the English Civil Wars and has written six books set in that period. These, like the 7 book Rockliffe series, the Brandon Brothers trilogy and, most recently The Shadow Earl, are all available in audio, performed by Alex Wyndham.

Stella enjoys travel, reading, theatre, Baroque music and playing the harpsichord.  She also has a fondness for men with long hair - hence her 17th and 18th century heroes.

Connect with Stella:

#HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #EnglishCivilWar #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub 

Tuesday 23 April 2024

THE FALCONER'S APPRENTICE is a story of adventure and intrigue set in the intense social and political unrest of the Holy Roman Empire in the thirteenth century.


The Falconer’s Apprentice
By Malve von Hassell

Publication Date: January 30, 2024 (second edition)
Publisher: Malve von Hassell 
Pages: 214 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

THE FALCONER'S APPRENTICE is a story of adventure and intrigue set in the intense social and political unrest of the Holy Roman Empire in the thirteenth century.

“That bird should be destroyed!” 

Andreas stared at Ethelbert in shock. Blood from an angry-looking gash on the young lord’s cheek dripped onto his embroidered tunic. Andreas clutched the handles of the basket containing the young peregrine. Perhaps this was a dream—

Andreas, an apprentice falconer at Castle Kragenberg, cannot bear the thought of killing the young female falcon and smuggles her out of the castle. Soon he realizes that his own time there has come to an end, and he stows away, with the bird, in the cart of an itinerant trader, Richard of Brugge. 

So begins a series of adventures that lead him from an obscure castle in northern Germany to the farthest reaches of Frederick von Hohenstaufen’s Holy Roman Empire, following a path dictated by the wily trader’s mysterious mission. Andreas continues to improve his falconry skills, but he also learns to pay attention to what is happening around him as he travels through areas fraught with political unrest. 

Eventually, Richard confides in Andreas, and they conspire to free Enzio, the eldest of the emperor’s illegitimate sons, from imprisonment in Bologna. 

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The Falconer’s Apprentice

Malve von Hassell 

Malve von Hassell is a freelance writer, researcher, and translator. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the New School for Social Research. Working as an independent scholar, she published The Struggle for Eden: Community Gardens in New York City (Bergin & Garvey 2002) and Homesteading in New York City 1978-1993: The Divided Heart of Loisaida (Bergin & Garvey 1996). She has also edited her grandfather Ulrich von Hassell's memoirs written in prison in 1944, Der Kreis schließt sich - Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft 1944 (Propylaen Verlag 1994). 

She has taught at Queens College, Baruch College, Pace University, and Suffolk County Community College, while continuing her work as a translator and writer. 

Malve has published two children’s picture books, Tooth Fairy (Amazon KDP 2012/2020), and Turtle Crossing (Amazon KDP 2023), and her translation and annotation of a German children’s classic by Tamara Ramsay, Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures (Two Harbors Press, 2012).

The Falconer’s Apprentice (2015/KDP 2024) was her first historical fiction novel for young adults. She has published Alina: A Song for the Telling (BHC Press, 2020), set in Jerusalem in the time of the crusades, and The Amber Crane (Odyssey Books, 2021), set in Germany in 1645 and 1945, as well as a biographical work about a woman coming of age in Nazi Germany, Tapestry of My Mother’s Life: Stories, Fragments, and Silences (Next Chapter Publishing, 2021), also available in German, Bildteppich Eines Lebens: Erzählungen Meiner Mutter, Fragmente Und Schweigen (Next Chapter Publishing, 2022), and is working on a historical fiction trilogy featuring Adela of Blois. 

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#HistoricalFiction #HolyRomanEmpire #FrederickII #CasteldelMonte #falconry #MedievalMedicine #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub


Monday 22 April 2024

Book Review - The Bastard Prince of Versailles: A Novel Inspired by True Events by Will Bashor


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.

Count Louis of Vermandois and Admiral of France's scandalous life is vividly portrayed in Will Bashor's book, The Bastard of Versailles (The King's Secret Children Book). 

With one eye on the historical controversy of this era and the other on what makes an enthralling read, Bashor has presented his readers with an unashamedly impressive novel. Add to this the historical detail and the author’s skill in developing compelling characters ensures the reader stays engaged throughout. The author's mastery of word-building, impeccable prose, and compelling storytelling illuminated the essence of this era and exposed the shadows lurking within The Palace of Versailles.

The Palace of Versailles may well be glorious to behold, but there are cracks in the plaster, a metaphor for the duplicity and vulgarity of those who tried to bask in the warmth of the Sun King. While the sovereign watched closely, the nobility may have appeared to lose their ability to plot against him, but that didn't prevent them from plotting against one another. This nest, filled with vipers, is a dangerous place for a young naive child. The dangers in court are ever-present and very real. It does not take long before the young Louis finds himself tangled in a web of deceit. At times this novel is harrowing in its depiction of Louis, for he is preyed upon by sexual predators, be they both female and male, and sometimes with the consent of the king himself. Although considered a man in this era, as the author points out in the notes at the end of the book, Louis is ill-equipped to defend himself against these powerful and somewhat influential men.

Louis lives in the shadow of his brother, the Dauphin. His mother, Louise de La Vallière, is seemingly indifferent to both himself and his sister, choosing a life devoted to God rather than her children, while his father is something of an enigma to the young boy. Louis wants what all children want, love. But as the recognised but illegitimate son of a king, Louis also just wants to be seen in a favourable light. His downfall is marked by his innocence, for there are those who are entertained by the notion of destroying this young boy’s character. Louis was a character that was very difficult not to like. He is a young boy with a future ahead of him, and so it is especially tragic that he is put into a position where he is unable to defend himself. When he tells his father what has been happening to him, instead of compassion he is met with hostility, shame and brutality. And yet, through it all, his one thought is to make his father proud, which was incredibly moving. Louis struggles greatly with who he is and what he has seen. 

Although homosexuality (Italian Vice as it was known during this era) was illegal and many men found themself burnt at the stake, Louis is continuously exposed to it. His uncle, Philippe I, Duke of Orléans and his uncle’s lover the Chevalier de Lorraine are hugely influential and are seemingly untouchable. The depiction of Chevalier de Lorraine made my skin crawl, he is not only a morally dubious character, but he is also a vile and cruel man who exploits Louis' vulnerability, and although he is exiled when his seduction of the boy is exposed, he still manages to worm his way back into court. I thought the depiction of Chevalier de Lorraine was wonderfully drawn, he really is the villain in this tale.

Louis does struggle with his sexuality throughout this story, and this is probably why he is so easily preyed upon. Marcel Joubert is at first Louis' whipping boy, but as the story progresses they become fast friends, and Louis always keeps Marcel close. Although Marcel is a fictional character, I thought he was a character that helped to bring balance to the young Louis’ life. Their growing love for each other is built on a foundation of respect and friendship and he is the only true friend that Louis ever has.

Madame Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchess of Orléans is a character worthy of note as she brought a great deal of joy and amusement to this story. She is a very loving woman with an attitude of getting on with it, despite what life has thrown at her. She is married to the king’s brother, and they seem to rub along together, even though he prefers the company of men. She is a kind and thoughtful woman who always has Louis’ best interest at heart. I thought Elizabeth’s depiction was fabulous drawn and she was a character I really enjoyed reading about.

The author has included illustrations, including paintings from the time and maps throughout this novel. This idea was truly ingenious as it breathed life into the characters. The incorporation of these images, although uncommon in historical fiction, certainly added depth to the story.

The Bastard of Versailles (The King's Secret Children Book) by Will Bashor is a highly recommended read for several reasons. This tale introduces a diverse and unforgettable ensemble, exploring the shadowy aspects of The Sun King's leadership while chronicling the challenges faced by a determined young boy. It is a novel that will haunt you long after you have turned the last page.

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The Bastard Prince of Versailles 

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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Sunday 21 April 2024

Will she pay for her husband's mistakes, or will she manage to escape from a terrible fate?

A Court of Betrayal
By Anne O'Brien

Publication Date: 29th February 2024
Publisher: Orion 
Page Length: 445 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction


The Welsh Marches, 1301

Strong-willed heiress Johane de Geneville is married to Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, at just fifteen years old.

Soon Johane finds herself swept up in a world of treacherous court politics and dangerous secrets as her husband deposes Edward II and rules England alongside Queen Isabella.

Yet when Roger is accused of treason, she is robbed of her freedom and must survive catastrophic events in her fight for justice - with her life, and her children's, hanging in the balance...

Will she pay for her husband's mistakes, or will she manage to escape from a terrible fate?



The Castle of Trim in Ireland, 1299

I shivered. It might have been the dank cold as I stood at the foot of the dais in the cavern of the Great Hall of my grandfather’s castle. Instead it was an unpleasant mingling of fear and apprehension. I was thirteen years old, on the cusp of maturity, and I had been summoned. Beside me stood my two younger sisters: Beatrice, a year younger than I, Maud still a child of eight.

‘I have been considering the future of the de Geneville family,’ announced my grandfather, slapping one jewelled hand against the documents he held in the other. Geoffrey de Geneville, now bowed with age but still thickset, bristling with authority, his hair as grey as a badger pelt, looked beneath his brows at me. ‘It is my desire that you, Johane, will wed the heir of one of the English Marcher lords.’

Since Geoffrey de Geneville, Baron de Geneville, Justiciar of Ireland and dominant landowner in the Welsh Marches, decreed that it would be so, there was no doubt in my mind that it would happen. It was my grandfather who ruled my life and my fate.
‘Marriage?’ my mother, Lady Jeanne de Geneville, queried. She too had been ordered to hear the pronouncement. ‘I did not know. She is still very young …’ 

‘Why should you know?’ my grandfather said as if she were a fool to ask. His word was law. Our father, his son, Piers de Geneville, was long dead.

‘When will I wed this Marcher heir, my lord?’ I asked my grandfather.

‘When the negotiations are complete.’

‘Will I meet with him?’

‘When the financial contracts have been signed.’

‘What will …?’

My grandfather cast the documents onto the rough board at his side. ‘God’s Blood, girl. Do you have any more questions?’

I did not dare.

‘What of me, grandfather?’ Beatrice risked his wrath. ‘When will I marry?’

His eye slid to the abandoned sheaf of parchments. 

‘You will not wed. Nor you, Maud. You will both take the veil.’

Silence cut through the air, sharp as my grandfather’s battle-sword, harsh as his voice. 

‘No, my lord. Surely not …’ Our mother sounded as horrified as I felt.

‘I’ll hear no argument.’

‘But it is a cruel fate for such young girls.’

Geoffrey de Geneville’s eyes blazed with long-suppressed fury, some days, as today, not suppressed at all.

‘If you had carried a son, a de Geneville heir, we would not now be in this predicament.’

If the silence was heavy before, now it could be tasted, bitter as unripe fruit on the tongue. I was aware that my mother’s fingers had curled into the cloth of her skirts as she wilted under such an attack. I presumed it was not for the first time. The accusation had the air of long-usage.

‘You will inform your daughters of the need for this,’ my grandfather commanded, ‘and of their need for obedience. It will be done.’

Scooping up the documents, he marched from the room, leaving behind a chasm of shock. I held out my hand to Beatrice but she knocked it aside and ran to the stairs towards the private chambers. Maud, although not understanding the full weight of this declaration began to weep in loud ugly sobbing until my mother drew her towards a stone window-seat.

I could find nothing pertinent to say. My mother, Jeanne de Lusignan, much sought after as a bride, had given birth only to girls, not one son to inherit the de Geneville name and lands from our father. Thus the man who wed each one of us, the de Geneville daughters, would expect to take a share of the vast de Geneville estates, even a third each. Our grandfather was single-minded in his determination to pass the estates in their entirety, in England and Wales and Ireland, as well as de Lusignan lands in France, into the hands of one man who could protect them. 

Oh, I understood the politics of this decision. He chose what he considered to be an obvious solution. Send my sisters as Brides of Christ, unwed and childless for all time, and settle the whole inheritance on my shoulders, offering me as a bride to a powerful family. My sisters would pay the price for my good fortune, incarcerated until the day of their death. My gain had been my sisters’ appalling loss.

My mother was speaking.

‘You will have an assured future as an influential wife, Johane. You should thank the Blessed Virgin for her grace in this decision.’

But at what expense? I sat on the floor at my mother’s feet and held Maud’s hand, weighing my emotions in the scales. On the one side a deep regret and sorrow for my sisters, on the other a tingle of bright expectancy. Which one weighed the heavier, I could not rightly say. I had dared to ask one more question before the door had closed on the back of my grandfather.

‘What is the name, sir, of this heir of a Marcher lord whom I will wed?’

Lord Geoffrey looked back over his shoulder, for once willing to pander to my inquisitiveness.

‘His name is Roger Mortimer.’

As soon as I could escape I sought out Father Anselm, our priest.

‘Do we know when Roger Mortimer was born, sir?’ I enquired. Father Anselm was an old man, long in our service, bent and short-sighted with a voice that quavered when he sang the responses in the Mass. If Lord Geoffrey was negotiating a marriage, Father Anselm would know every detail of it.

‘We do, child. We know the exact date. If I can find the document ...’

He riffled through a pile of parchments taken from a cache in the wall; some new, some dog-eared. I sat on a stool at his side and waited. There was no hurry.

‘Here we are.’ His finger traced down the list of past Mortimers and their brides. ‘The young Mortimer was born on the twenty-fifth day of April in the Year of Our Lord 1287. He is a year younger than you are. I knew that I had it somewhere …’

Father Anselm returned to re-arranging his manuscripts; I left him, but not to return to the solar. My mother being a collector of interesting books and manuscripts, I knew which one I would consult, thus I crossed the inner courtyard to the chamber high in the keep, where my grandfather conducted business. There I discovered the one book that I wanted by that most erudite of scholars Master Michael Scot. It was a book which contained the art of astrology. Sitting in my grandfather’s chair with its carved back, shuffling in its wide seat, I simply turned the magical pages with some care.

Some would call this magic, even wizardry, and look askance. I smoothed my fingers over the pages with their bright, perhaps gaudy pictures, to enjoy the bright depictions of the zodiacs. I loved the artistry, the flamboyant words beneath. Would my mother approve of my interest in what some might call sorcery? I had watched her turn these pages more than once, even though she was never slow in kneeling and offering prayers to the Blessed Virgin.

Now I sought the pages dealing with those born under every heavenly constellation. The one I wanted was Taurus, the masterful bull, dominating the lives of those born in the latter days of April. What would Master Scot have to say about such a man, about Roger Mortimer, who would be my husband? Slowly I read through the words. 

Such a man will be a reliable friend, a devoted husband. Once gained, his loyalties are fixed and permanent. 

It pleased me. So far so good.

Beware though. Such a man can be stubborn and possessive, an uncompromising adversary once his enmity is gained. He has an arrogance and an ambition to be a man of power. Nothing will stand in his way.

That was good to know too. There was much to think about here.

I stood to return the book to the coffer where it was kept safe from dust and mice, then sat again, turning to the page with the Great Horned Buck. Capricorn. My own sign. I knew the description here by heart.

The man under the star of Capricorn is a master of discipline and self-restraint, quick to impose his will on others and efficient in the doing of it. But beware: he can be driven to anger, unforgiving when an enemy is made. An uncomfortable man to live with.

Which I thought to be a fairly accurate summing up of me, for it could apply to a woman as well as to a man. My mother said I had the making of a managing female.

I replaced the book in its safe home, considering this image of a man directed by the stars of Taurus. An interesting meld of conflicting characteristics. Devoted but possessive. Reliable, but uncompromising when alienated. Would this guarantee a happy marriage? It spoke of much conflict to me and yet his loyalty could be strong. I must ensure that I never became his enemy, but then, why would I? I would be his wife. I laughed a little, and with a flutter of excitement. Roger Mortimer would also have much to learn about me. 

I returned to Father Anselm’s chamber to discover more information that Master Michael Scot could not tell me. 

‘There is a question I would ask, Father. Two questions in fact.’

‘Then ask them, my daughter.’

‘Is this young man worthy of me?’

‘Indubitably. Your grandfather would not otherwise have chosen him. He will be a powerful Marcher lord in the fullness of time.’

I nodded, accepting this judgement. ‘My second question. Is this Roger Mortimer good to look upon? Is he handsome?’

Father Anselm smiled with benign understanding.

‘You need have no fears on that matter, my daughter. It is said that he is comely enough to take any maiden’s eye.’

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A Court of Betrayal

Anne O’Brien

Anne O’Brien was born in West  Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in History at Manchester University and a Master’s in Education at Hull, she lived in East Yorkshire for many years as a teacher of history.

She now lives with her husband in an eighteenth-century timber-framed cottage in the depths of the Welsh Marches in Herefordshire, on the borders between England and Wales, where she writes historical novels. The perfect place in which to bring medieval women back to life.

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