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. 

Pick up your copy of
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.

Pick up your copy of
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.’

Pick up your copy of
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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Saturday 20 April 2024

Janice Hadlow's The Other Bennet Sister is a life-affirming tale of a young woman finding her place in the world. This is Mary Bennet's story .


The Other Bennet Sister
By Janice Hadlow

Publication Date: 9th January 2020
Publisher: Mantle
Page Length: 673 Pages
Genre: Regency Historical Romance

A wonderfully warm homage to Jane Austen and a delightful new story in its own right, Janice Hadlow's The Other Bennet Sister is a life-affirming tale of a young woman finding her place in the world. This is Mary Bennet's story . . .

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mary is the middle of the five Bennet girls and the plainest of them all, so what hope does she have? Prim and pious, with no redeeming features, she is unloved and seemingly unlovable.

The Other Bennet Sister, though, shows another side to Mary. An introvert in a family of extroverts; a constant disappointment to her mother who values beauty above all else; fearful of her father’s sharp tongue; with little in common with her siblings – is it any wonder she turns to books for both company and guidance? And, if she finds her life lonely or lacking, that she determines to try harder at the one thing she can be: right.

One by one, her sisters marry – Jane and Lizzy for love; Lydia for some semblance of respectability – but Mary, it seems, is destined to remain single and live out her life at Longbourn, at least until her father dies and the house is bequeathed to the reviled Mr Collins.

But when that fateful day finally comes, she slowly discovers that perhaps there is hope for her, after all.

Witty and uplifting, The Other Bennet Sister will make you feel – and cheer – for Mary as you never have before.

Pick up your copy of
The Other Bennet Sister

Janice Hadlow

Photo Credit: Martin Davidson

Janice Hadlow worked at the BBC for more than two decades, and for ten of those years she ran BBC Two and BBC Four, two of the broadcaster’s major television channels. She was educated at Swanley School in Kent and graduated with a first class degree in history from King’s college, London. She is the author of A Royal Experiment, a biography of Great Britain's King George III. She currently lives in Edinburgh. The Other Bennet Sister is her first novel.

This fast moving historical novel is a story of love, politics, class prejudice, intrigue and betrayal in the year leading up to the Spanish Civil War.


The Winds of Change
By Joan Fallon

Publication Date: 30th September 2023
Publisher: Scott Publishing 
Page Length: 322 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction 20th century

The Winds of Change is a story of love, loyalty and betrayal on the eve of the Spanish Civil War, when the country is in political turmoil with strikes and demonstrations, unemployment is high and the people are starving. 

In this complicated love triangle we meet Ramon, a member of the Republican Left, who has accidentally killed a policeman and is on the run from the Guardia Civil and Hugo, the son of the wealthy owner of a local sherry bodega. Both men are in love with Clementina, the beautiful daughter of a well-known gypsy horse trader but there are obstacles in both their paths.

Hugo finds that when he tries to see Clementina again, both his parents and hers do everything they can to stop him.

Meanwhile Ramon's brother, Pedro, is arrested and imprisoned because he will not reveal his brother's whereabouts to the Guardia Civil. Now Ramon has to choose between his brother and the woman he loves.

This fast moving historical novel is a story of love, politics, class prejudice, intrigue and betrayal in the year leading up to the Spanish Civil War.


Hugo can barely contain the excitement that is building up inside him at the thought of getting even a glimpse of Clementina again. He knows he will be heading for trouble if he approaches her, but he cannot help how he feels.
It is early afternoon when they arrive at Doñana. Hugo is driving the horse box and Cristóbal is fidgeting beside him, like an excited schoolboy.
'I can smell something cooking,' his friend says, leaning his head out of the window. 'I say, I think there's a party going on.'
Hugo can hear the clicking of castanets in the distance and the strumming of a guitar. The sound of a man singing Canto Jondo echoes through the woods, and for a moment the singer holds the note in a howl which is more of pain than pleasure. Hugo tries to remember if today is a religious holiday, if so they won't be pleased to see them. He parks the horse box in the usual place and climbs down; the stables are quiet and there is no sign of Vano. Maybe that was him singing.
'I think they're over there,' he says, heading to where a thin column of smoke is floating up through the canopy of trees. 'Come on; let's see what they are up to.'
'Maybe we should come back tomorrow. We don't want to intrude.'
'Don't be ridiculous. If he sent you a message to say that your horse is ready then he will expect you to collect it. I just can't understand why he isn't here.' He studies Cristóbal's face. 'What is it?'
'It's just that, well, he didn't actually send me a message. I just thought that the horse must be ready by now.'
'But he said three days. Well, I suppose that explains it. I didn't think that Vano would just leave us hanging about like a couple of idiots. He knows only too well which side his bread is buttered. Well, we're here now, we'll go and tell him we want your horse today. If you're sure that's what you want. It might not be fully trained. Are you happy with that?'
'Yes, now that we're here, I'd like to see it. Is that all right? You're not just doing this because you want to see that girl again?'
'Come on. You worry too much.'
They do not have to go far before they come to a clearing in the woods where a large fire has been lit and Vano and his family are sitting around it. It is not Vano who is singing, but a younger man who looks very like him and is probably one of his sons. Vano is clapping in time to the music and all eyes are on the singer, a tall, dark-skinned youth with hair that reaches to his shoulders. He is accompanied by an older man on the guitar. A woman wearing a bright pink flamenco dress sits beside him clicking her castanets and joining in the singing from time to time. The delicious smell which is making Hugo feel hungry is coming from the carcass of a young deer that is being roasted over an open fire. The young
 boy attending to it turns the spit slowly, stopping occasionally to baste it with some juices. He looks up and sees them before anyone else notices. The woman in the pink dress has just begun to dance and all eyes are now on her.
'Papa,' the boy calls. 'Visitors.'
Everyone stops and looks to where the boy is pointing then the music resumes and they turn away again. The woman in the pink dress lifts her skirts so that they can see her black high-heeled shoes beating out the rhythm of the music on the wooden board where she dances. Her head is held high and her back is straight; she glances his way and gives him a haughty look and a toss of her hair. Hugo catches a glimpse of her slim brown thighs before she turns away, dippìng and swaying to the music, turning faster and faster until she throws her arms into the air and stops. Cheers of 'Olé,' ring out from her audience and everyone claps. Hugo and Cristóbal join in the clapping.
'Señor Hugo, Señor Herrera de Vega,' Vano says coming over to them. 'Is everything all right? I wasn't expecting to see you today.'
'My friend has had a problem and needs to return to Seville as soon as possible,' says Hugo. 'He would like to take his horse now as he is not sure when he will be back.'
'Well I did tell him that the animal is not one hundred percent tamed, but then when is a stallion ever completely domesticated. I'm sure you want him to retain some of his original spark,' he says, turning to Cristóbal.
'Yes, a little wildness is an attractive thing,' says Hugo, thinking more of Clementina than the stallion.
'I'm sure the horse will be fine,' says Cristóbal. 'I just want him to get used to me before I have to leave.' He looks past Vano at the family gathering. 'Are you having a party?'
'Yes, you could say that. It was my grandson's christening today. Now we are celebrating with all the family.'
'Was that your son singing? He has a lovely voice,' says Cristóbal.
'Yes, that's Álvaro; don't you recognise him?' he asks, looking at Hugo.
'Of course, yes.' Now he remembers that Álvaro was the one who played the guitar and
was always singing. The other brother preferred to play soldiers and they and Clementina would trek through the woods looking for the enemy. Sometimes Vano had let them ride his ponies. Yes, he remembers them all.
'Well, you'd better follow me and I'll get you the stallion.' Vano heads back towards the stables, leaving Hugo and Cristóbal with no option but to follow him.
'The meat smells good. Do you normally celebrate with roast venison?' asks Hugo. He knows and Vano knows that the gypsies have poached the deer from the Marquess's estate, but he is reluctant to accuse him. Nevertheless he wants him to realise that it has not gone unnoticed. If he tells the Marquess then Vano and his family would probably be thrown off Doñana, and there are a number of reasons why he does not want that to happen.

 'This is my first grandson, so it is something special,' Vano says.
He is walking more quickly now; any minute Hugo thinks he will break into a run. Although Vano would never dare to be openly rude to them, it is becoming clear that they are not wanted here; there has been no suggestion that they should join in the festivities.
'So all your family are here today?' Hugo asks, wondering why he hasn't seen Clementina.
Vano grunts an assent, and keeps on walking.
'I was hoping to see Tina,' he says at last. 'I didn't get the chance to speak to her last time.' 'I don't know where she is,' Vano says, through tight lips. He is looking angry now. Cristóbal taps him on the back. 'Leave it, Hugo,' he whispers. 'It will only cause trouble.' 'Papa,' a girl's voice calls. 'Papa, wait for me.'
Hugo spins round. It is her. Clementina is running down the path towards them, her shiny
black hair streaming out behind her and her face flushed from the exertion. He stops and stares at her. 'Tina, what a lovely surprise,' he says, trying hard not to grin too broadly.
'What is it child? Can't you see I'm busy. Whatever it is will have to wait,' snaps her father, continuing to stride towards the stables.
'Don't be grumpy, Papa. I'll walk with you and then when you've finished your business I can tell you the news.'
'So, Tina, you are an auntie now,' says Hugo walking beside her. He would love to take her hand in his, but that would certainly cause problems with her father. He knows that Vano has a reputation for being violent so he does not want to aggravate him, certainly not here with his family close by.
'Yes, he's the most lovely little boy and so good...' She begins to tell him about the new baby and how the christening has gone, but Hugo hears not a word; he is too absorbed in the closeness of her body as she skips along beside him, of the fresh woodland smell of her hair and the gleam of her bare arms. 'You should stay and join us for lunch,' she says. 'Papa, you must invite Hugo and his friend to stay and eat with us. There is plenty of meat.'
'Don't be so stupid, child. These gentlemen have better things to do than eat in the woods with the likes of us,' says Vano, without slowing down.
'We have already eaten,' says Cristóbal before Hugo has a chance to accept. 'And we are expected at the cortijo for dinner; we cannot be late for that. Another time, maybe.'
'Ah, I see you've brought a horse box,' says Vano. 'Good. I'll get the stallion for you, if you'd like to wait here for a minute.'
'May I come with you? I'm so looking forward to seeing him again,' says Cristóbal.
'Of course.' Vano is not particularly happy at this suggestion and gives his daughter a hard stare, which she appears to ignore. 'Follow me.'

Once Cristóbal and the gypsy have disappeared into the stables, Hugo turns to Clementina and says, 'I was hoping to see you today.' He tries to take her hand but she pulls away.
'Don't be foolish Hugo. We will always be friends, I hope, just like when we were children, but we can never be anything more. My father would sooner I was dead than married to a payo. And your father would probably have our whole clan kicked out of Doñana if he thought you were in love with me, which I am sure you are not. You can understand that, can't you?'
'I have never seen anyone as lovely as you, Tina,' he says. Hugo knows she is right, but he refuses to accept it.
'That's silly. You must meet plenty of beautiful women and one day you will marry one of them. We have nothing in common, you and I, but what is the same for both of us is the fact that you will marry whomever your father chooses for you and so will I. My parents have already picked my husband. I have to trust them to pick someone who will treat me well and who is not too ugly.' She laughs at this last comment.
'How can you find it funny? I'm in love with you, Tina, don't you understand? I won't marry whoever my father chooses. I intend to marry for love. I want to marry you.'
'Hugo, you are such a child still. You already know who you are going to marry. I heard your friend talking about it the other day. Some rich heiress from Jerez. So why are you playing games with me?'
He looks down at her, this slight, fragile beautiful girl whom he wants to crush in his arms, understands the world better than he does. Her rejection only makes him want her more than ever. 'Just give me a chance,' he whispers as he spots Vano leading the stallion across to the horse box.
'Here's Papa. I have to go, now.'
'Hugo, come and see this lovely creature,' shouts Cristóbal. 'He must be the most magnificent horse in the whole of Spain.'
For a moment Hugo watches Clementina walk back towards the party then he goes to join his friend. Give him time and he will show her that he is not playing games with her.

Pick up your copy of
The Winds of Change

Joan Fallon

Teacher, management trainer and business woman, the Scottish-born novelist, Joan Fallon moved from the UK to Spain in 1998 and dedicated herself to full-time writing. She is now the self-published author of eighteen books, many of which are historical novels set in southern Spain, and  focus on two distinct periods in the country’s history, the Spanish Civil War and Moorish Spain. More recently she had turned her attention to writing contemporary crime fiction, with a series of novels entitled The Jacaranda Dunne Mysteries but her love of historical fiction has lured her back to writing about Spain in the 20th century in her latest novel The Winds of Change.

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Friday 19 April 2024

A powerful book based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece that celebrates the many women in science that history has overlooked.


The Only Woman in the Room
By Marie Benedict

Publication Date: 8th January 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Page Length: 320 Pages
Genre: Biographical Fiction

Bestselling author Marie Benedict reveals the story of a brilliant woman scientist only remembered for her beauty.

Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to marriage with an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich's plans while at her husband's side and understood more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, screen star.

But she kept a secret more shocking than her heritage or her marriage: she was a scientist. And she had an idea that might help the country fight the Nazis and revolutionize modern communication...if anyone would listen to her.

A powerful book based on the incredible true story of the glamour icon and scientist, The Only Woman in the Room is a masterpiece that celebrates the many women in science that history has overlooked.

Pick up your copy of
The Only Woman in the Room

Marie Benedict

Marie Benedict is a lawyer with more than ten years' experience as a litigator at two of the country's premier law firms, who found her calling unearthing the hidden historical stories of women. Her mission is to excavate from the past the most important, complex and fascinating women of history and bring them into the light of present-day where we can finally perceive the breadth of their contributions as well as the insights they bring to modern day issues. She embarked on a new, thematically connected series of historical novels with THE OTHER EINSTEIN, which tells the tale of Albert Einstein's first wife, a physicist herself, and the role she might have played in his theories. The next novel in this series is the USA Today bestselling CARNEGIE'S MAID -- which released in January of 2018 -- and the book that followed is the New York Times bestseller and Barnes & Noble Book Club Pick THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM, the story of the brilliant inventor Hedy Lamarr, which published in January of 2019. In January of 2020, LADY CLEMENTINE, the story of the incredible Clementine Churchill, was released, and became an international bestseller. Her next novel, the Instant NYTimes and USAToday bestselling THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE, was published on December 29, 2020, and her first co-written book, THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN, with the talented Victoria Christopher Murray, will be released on June 29, 2021. Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie also published the historical novels The Chrysalis, The Map Thief, and Brigid of Kildare.

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Book Review - Concealed by the Tide by Zara West

Concealed by the Tide
By Zara West

Publication Date: 16th November 2023
Publisher: Tidal Waters Press
Page Length: 281 Pages
Genre: Romantic Suspense

A wily bomber... A determined activist... A man with a secret…

Eco-activist Summer Avery abandons the bustle of New York City and scurries to the tiny coastal village of Tide Harbor, determined to accomplish what a crazy bomber has not—stop the destructive Minas Basin tidal energy project in its tracks and earn the EcoGreen directorship.

Desperate for a safe place to raise his autistic daughter, recently divorced marine biologist Gil Moses. takes a job with the tidal energy company, ostensibly to study lobsters, but actually to capture the bomber. The last thing Gil needs is to be the focus of a rip-roaring protest led by Miss Fancy Boots, the most attractive and enigmatic woman he has ever met.

But there’s a killer on the loose, and Summer must choose—sacrifice her career or risk her life to save her Captain Nemo and the little girl she has come to love.

If you enjoy suspenseful thrillers where adventurous women and bold men battle against the odds, you'll love this fast-paced, action-packed romance mystery. Get caught up in the thrilling first book of the Tide Harbor Suspense series.

Seastroke Energy's groundbreaking tidal turbine rested on the seafloor of the Minas Basin. This ingenious billion-dollar masterpiece has already caught the attention of the local community, but not in a good way. Despite the huge advantages that this turbine could bring, many were concerned about the effect it would have on the local lobster population. Summer Avery, EcoGreen Action’s star activist has been sent to Nova Scotia to organise a peaceful campaign against the turbine. But someone had got there before her, and their intentions were anything but peaceful.

Gil Moses, a world-renowned fish expert, has been hired by SeaStroke Energy on the pretext of studying the lobster populations at the site before the company complete the installation. But that is not the real reason he is there. He has been hired by SeaStroke to find out who had tried to sabotage their turbine. He was, however, unprepared for the strong opposition he would encounter or the powerful attraction he would have for the woman who opposed his work at SeaStroke Energy.

Prepare to be enthralled by Zara West's Concealed by the Tide, a story that will leave you yearning for more.

The unashamedly brilliant narrative captures the readers’ attention from the first sentence and continues to hold it hostage until the very last full stop. The cliffhanger tension, the non-stop excitement, and the forbidden romance make this book a real page-turner. This is a novel filled with memorable characters, who are not always what they seem to be. 

The romance between Gil and Summer is portrayed realistically, with a swoon-worthy quality that will melt even the toughest critic's heart. The novel fulfils all expectations and is a must-read for those who appreciate romantic suspense. 

Summer is passionate about her job, for she knows only too well the power that these big multinational corporations have. However, she is not your average environmentalist. She is hoping that her work here will give her the directorship she wants in the company. Summer also wants to make amends with her dying father – while he had spent her childhood fighting the drilling company that had polluted the water by fracking on the neighbour’s farm, she had grown up and worked on an ad campaign to clean up the image of a drilling company. The betrayal was absolute, but Summer believed if she could do this one thing, stop Seastroke Energy's plans, then her father may just forgive her. Summer is a character that a reader can really connect with. She is passionate about her job, and people are drawn to her. She is a very resilient woman who is not easily swayed by arguments, nor does she back down from intimidation. When she meets Gil, she is instantly drawn to him, and although she tries her hardest to stay away from him, the two of them keep crossing paths. As the story progresses the reader becomes even more invested in Summer’s story. She is a character that is simply impossible not to like.

Gil, the handsome marine biologist has, like Summer, a complicated past. He has just gone through a divorce and a custody battle. The job opportunity at Seastroke Energy comes at just the right moment. It means he can leave his well-paid position at MIT and return to doing what he is passionate about – research. It also means he could start a new life in Nova Scotia with his daughter. The one thing he was not looking for was love. Dolores had put him off women for life. He was definitely not going to fall head over heels in love with the enemy, and that was what Summer was. For all he knew, she could have had something to do with the sabotage of the turbine. Gil is the perfect romantic lead, and despite his working for Seastroke Energy, he is a good man with strong principles. What makes him slightly unusual is that he is a character who is willing to learn, especially when it comes to his autistic daughter. He knows he can parent her better, he just does not know how. As the story progresses Gil learns new skills and begins to really bond with his daughter.  

The depiction of Lissie was expertly illustrated. Lissie brings both joy and chaos to the story. The combination of her autism diagnosis, sensory difficulties, communication struggles, and lack of empathy from her mother creates a distressing narrative. Her stimming and aggressive outbursts are challenging, but Gil is determined that his daughter will never see the inside of an institution. He is doing his best, but he realises his best is not quite enough when he meets his new would-be housekeeper, Mrs Victoria Eagles. Despite her odour and penchant for keeping secrets, Victoria quickly bonds with Lissie, demonstrating to Gil the potential for a meaningful relationship with his daughter. As the story unfolds, Gil's comprehension of his daughter’s abilities grows, and he acknowledges that Lissie is exceptionally bright. And with Mrs Eagle’s encouragement, he learns not to disturb Lissie’s circles!

This novel features multiple antagonists, some of whom are not what they appear to be. Despite Summer's efforts to organize peaceful protests, some community members still turn to violence. This leads to devastating consequences, none of which Summer could ever have predicted. The antagonists frequently cause Summer to doubt her relationship with Gil, resulting in her unknowingly getting caught in their deceitful scheme. The depiction of the antagonists is spine-chillingly clear and wonderfully done.

The plot is really captivating and has a fast-paced vibe. Numerous obstacles, such as Gil’s job at Seastroke Energy and Summer’s campaign against their turbine, impeded the couple’s relationship. Nonetheless, this drama served as a driving force for the story. 

Concealed by the Tide by Zara West is a mesmerising read. I could have very easily read another thousand pages, and my attention would not have wavered. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series. 

You can pick up your copy HERE!

Zara West

Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Zara spends winters in New York where the streets hum with life, summers in the Maritimes where the sea can be cruel, and the rest of the year anywhere inspiration for tales of adventure, mystery, and romance are plentiful. An accomplished artist by training and passion, she brings a love of art to every book she writes. When not marooned on an island or chasing after Greek shepherds, Zara tends her organic herb garden, collects hats and cats, and whips up ethnic dishes for friends and family.

A professional artist, Zara's handcrafted clothing and creations have been sold in Bloomingdales, Altman’s, Putumayo, the Museum of American Folk Art and more. She has done ethnographic fieldwork among the shepherds of Greece and Italy, gone head to head with a flock of 400 sheep and 30 milk goats in upstate New York, and in her spare time, written award- winning stories, books and magazine articles.

A member of Romance Writers of America, From the Heart, Kiss of Death, Southern Tier Authors of Romance, and Hearts Through History, Zara’s short stories have appeared in several anthologies, and she has received awards from Women on Writing, Stone Thread Publishing, Tryst Literary Magazine, and Winning Writers. Her novels have won and placed in numerous contests.

Contest Wins

2013 Mslexia Novel Competition - Finalist Take the World

2015 Touch of Love - 2nd place Historical House Carpenter

2015 Heart Through History - 1st place American Historical Lilly’s War

2015 Fab2 - 5th place Inspirational House Carpenter

2016 Pages from the Heart - 1st place Romantic Suspense Close to the Skin

2017 Emma Merritt - 3rd place Romantic Suspense In With the Tide

2018 InD’Tale Magazine - 2nd place Rone Award for Romantic Suspense Close to the Skin 2018 I Heart Indie - 1st place Suspense Close to the Skin

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