Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A New Biography for Lovers of All Things Georgian!

Prinny’s Taylor: The Life and Times of Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830) by Charles Bazalgette

About twenty years ago, Charles Bazalgette had mostly completed re-researching the history of the
family to which all anglophone Bazalgettes belong. He was then in a position to begin investigating
his great-great-great-great grandfather, the patriarch of this scion, Louis Bazalgette, who moved to London from his native France in 1775. Information about him was scanty but over these years he ran to ground firstly his bank ledgers and then – a major breakthrough – nine years of his tailoring accounts with the Prince of Wales. Having transcribed these it was possible to cross-refer them to accounts in the newspapers which described what Prinny wore to state occasions. By that time Charles realised that he had far more than a genealogical study, but a unique slice of Georgian royal and social history. He was also surprised to find that rather little had previously been written about gentlemen’s tailoring in these times, particularly prior to the arrival on the fashion scene of ‘Beau’ Brummell. In a way this could be regarded as a ‘prequel’ to Ian Kelly’s excellent biography of Brummell.

The resulting biography is extraordinarily detailed and contains a mine of information never previously seen.

The book has been published in Kindle format in order to give it an initial audience, but a printed version will hopefully emerge in the fullness of time.

The e-book can be downloaded at Amazon US, Amazon CA, and Amazon UK and is very reasonably priced at $6.00 USD.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Review: Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

And Giveaway of a Lace Bookmark!

Mist of Midnight is in a Victorian setting, mostly in the house of a young woman returned to her estate after growing up in India, the daughter of missionaries who died in the Rebellion. Eager to arrive at Headbourne House to grieve but also to settle into her life, Miss Rebecca Ravenshaw becomes most unsettled upon learning that her inheritance had already been claimed by an imposter who now lay in a grave with Rebecca's name chiseled into the stone. What is worse is that most people in the area see Rebecca as the probable pretender. A third claimant, the appealing Captain Luke Whitfield, had taken up residence before even the first "Miss Ravenshaw", and the staff was loyal to him.

How could Rebecca prove her identity? What would she do while waiting for the truth to be revealed? And what of this charming man? Was his kindness genuine, or was it part of a plan to put her, too, in a grave near the other?

Ms. Byrd kept me in the Victorian era. A Gothic feel to this mystery kept me turning pages. And the various characters kept me hoping, concerned, or judgmental--to the end.

Ms. Byrd showed excellent research historically and geographically both in England and India. And I wish now I'd put post-its at some of her excellent turns of phrase to share them with you, but you'll enjoy them yourself when you settle down by the fire with this new release.

I received this book free of charge for an honest review.

Link to Mist of Midnight on the Simon and Schuster/Howard Books Website:

About the author:
Sandra Byrd is a best-selling author and has earned Library Journal's Best Books of the year pick twice, in 2011 for To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, and in 2012 for The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.  She's twice been a Christy Award finalist, for To Die For and for Let Them Eat Cake: A Novel. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published April 2013

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

New Release: Stolen, by Sheila Dalton

I was intrigued by a recent post on this blog, “Paper Gods and Iron Men: Ordinary people in
extraordinary situations” by Kevin Cowdall, because that is really what my novel, Stolen, is about - how a series of tragic and tumultuous events affects my heroine, an ordinary young woman who must re-assess herself in the face of difficult situations beyond her control.

The seventeenth century was a challenging age: poverty in England was widespread because of a huge jump in the population between 1529 and 1630. (My novel begins in 1633.) Poor and homeless people were consequently frequently arrested and transported to the new colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean, where labour was desperately needed. They went as indentured servants, a position even lower than that of slave in some instances. Many died on the journey, and many more died of their labours and terrible living conditions shortly after arrival.

The era was also known as The Golden Age of Piracy. Lizbet Warren, at nineteen years old, must face a raid on her village by Barbary Corsairs, in which her parents are carried off to the slave markets in Morocco. Later, she is captured at sea by the British pirate, Gentleman Jake. It is while sailing with him that she confronts many of her most difficult choices: he is a black slaver, and in order to continue her quest to find her mother in Morocco, she colludes in this activity. She must also fight for her life, and finds, somewhat to her horror, that she is able to do so.

Her experiences inevitably transform her, and she is not always happy about how. But she also discovers depths of courage within herself, determination to forge her own path, and the strength of character to change what she can in the world around her.

Stolen is currently available as an ebook for the Kindle UK, Kindly US, Kindle CA, Kobo, Nook and iTunes.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Call for Submissions

English Historical Fiction Authors Announces the First annual M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction

Entries are being accepted for works published in 2014.

The winner of the $500 prize will be announced at the Historical Novel Society Conference in June, 2015.

For further details and to submit an application visit http://mmbaward.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Paper Gods and Iron Men: Ordinary people in extraordinary situations

By Kevin Cowdall

A few months ago The Telegraph published one of it’s periodic ‘Best of…’ lists, selecting the ‘Best War and History Books Ever Written’; a mix (or mish-mash, depending on your point of view) of historical fiction and non-fictional history.

Such selections are always subjective and, whilst we all have our own particular favourites, many of us would, I think, certainly include several novels from the list, and might well disagree with the selection of others. For the record, The Telegraph’s list included: Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong, Thomas Keneally’s Schindler's List, and Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour and Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogies, amongst others.

What struck me most about the choice of fiction on the list was that, almost without exception, the main focus of these works is not on the perceived glory / actual horrors of the fighting (indeed several are, undeniably, anti-war in tone), but on the individual, often poignant, experiences of the participants, both combatants and civilians, and how conflict and struggle on such a scale can permanently change individuals and societies alike. The selected novels do not glorify war and few, if any, have a recognisable derring-do, swashbuckling ‘hero’ in the traditional sense of, say, The Three Musketeers of Alexandre Dumas, Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli et al in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, those of classic mythology and epic poetry such as Beowulf, The Aeneid, The Iliad and The Odyssey, and the Arthurian legend; nor even the anti-heroes and adventurers found in the works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, H. Rider Haggard, G. A. Henty or Jules Verne.

As Remarque commented about the semi-autobiographical novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, “This book is neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure”: He takes no overt political or moral stance as such, does not glorify or condemn; he simply tells a story and lets the reader fill in their own blanks. It is this which has, perhaps, contributed to making it (and the others on the list) such an enduring classic.

Likewise, Tolkien opines, “Courage is found in unlikely places.” In other words, like the characters in the above stories, recognition is not consciously sought, but nor is it shirked in the face of adversity or seemingly insurmountable odds. Characters become merely victims of the singular, and often bewildering, situations in which they find themselves, driven by, and responding to, unprecedented circumstances in a manner beyond their accepted norms of experience or comprehension. As Harper Lee has Atticus Finch declare in To Kill a Mockingbird, courage is, “When you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what”. Such is the theme of my novella, Paper Gods and Iron Men.

Set in the North Africa Campaign of World War II, Paper Gods and Iron Men, is a story of endurance and survival, of ‘ordinary people in extraordinary situations’ - a phrase I have used repeatedly in publicity material and interviews to explain what the story, despite its setting, is really about. Two mismatched British Army officers have come together at a temporary aerodrome to be flown out. When their plane is shot down the two are the only survivors and begin the long trek north across the desert...

This Kindle edition is published with the short story, Flanagan's Mule, which shares the theme of personal determination and resolve, and which is set in a South-American mining community in the 1950s.

As Yann Martel reflects in Life of Pi, “Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate”, and Margaret Mitchell observes in Gone with the Wind, “Hardships make or break people.”

Paper Gods and Iron Men is available from the Kindle Store on Amazon at:



Tremendous new voice
"These are two wonderful stories of survival. Cowdall has an expertly controlled style and is a tremendous new voice. At times I was reminded of the early, and best, Norman Mailer."
Paul Pickering (author of Over the Rainbow and The Leopard's Wife)
Amazon / Goodreads Reviews

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Historical Fiction Enticements

Revenge and Retribution
Anna Belfrage

Revenge and Retribution is the sixth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Life in the Colony of Maryland is no sinecure – as Alex and Matthew Graham well know. But nothing in their previous life has prepared them for the mayhem that is about to be unleashed upon them.

Being labelled a witch is not a good thing in 1684, so it is no wonder Alex Graham is aghast at having such insinuations thrown at her. Even worse, it’s Matthew’s brother-in-law, Simon Melville, who points finger at her.

Not that the ensuing hearing is her main concern, because nowadays Alex’s entire life is tainted by the fear of what Philip Burley will do to them once he gets hold of them – there is no longer any ‘if’ about it. On a sunny May afternoon, it seems Philip Burley will at last revenge himself on Matthew for every single perceived wrong. Over the course of twenty-four hours, Alex’s life – and that of her family’s – is permanently changed.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Alex also has to cope with the loss of one of her sons. Forcibly adopted by the former Susquehannock, Samuel is dragged from Alex’s arms to begin a new life in the wilderness.

How is Alex to survive all this? And will she be able to put her damaged family back together?

Amazon UK
Amazon US


Kingdom of Rebels
Book 3 of the Rebels & Brothers Series
Derek Birks

When all hope is gone, only death lies in wait…

England in 1468 is a nervous kingdom. King Edward IV has fallen out with his chief ally, the powerful Earl of Warwick.

Ned Elder, a young lord whose sword helped to put Edward on the throne, has been forced out of England by Warwick. Far away on the Scottish border, a beleaguered fort, Crag Tower, desperately awaits Ned’s return. Led by his fiery sister, Eleanor, the dwindling garrison is all that remains of his brave army of retainers.

Unknown to all except the loyal knight, Ragwulf, Eleanor has Ned’s young son in her charge - a son who has never seen his father. But, as border clansmen batter the gates with fire, the castle seems certain to fall.

One by one Ned’s family and friends are caught up in Warwick’s web of treason. The fate of the Elders and those who serve them lies once more in the balance as all are drawn back to Yorkshire where they face old enemies once more.

Eleanor can only hope that Ned will soon return. She must fight to keep that hope alive… and when Lady Eleanor fights, she takes no prisoners...

Amazon UK
Amazon US


Josiah Stubb
Chuck Lovatt

It is 1758 and The Seven Years War is raging. The military might of the British and French empires collide in a desperate bid to control the key strategic Fortress of Louisbourg and, in turn, Quebec and French-held North America.

One man caught amidst the bloodshed is the young grenadier, Josiah Stubb. Raised by a whore amidst poverty and incest, Josiah seemed doomed from birth to a life in the gutter. His attempt to leave his sordid past behind leads him to Louisbourg, but it comes back to haunt him in the form of a gifted officer, battling his own inner demons.

As the siege blazes towards its inevitable bloody climax, will Josiah live to overcome the formidable obstacles that keep him chained to his past, or will his aspirations for a better life die with him on the brooding shores of Ile Royale?

Amazon (Universal)


City of Ladies
Sarah Kennedy

It’s midwinter in 1539, and Catherine Havens Overton has just given birth to her second child, a daughter. The convent in which she was raised is now part of the Overton lands, and Catherine’s husband William owns the properties that once belonged to her mother’s family. With a son, Robert, and her new daughter, Veronica, Catherine’s life as the mistress of a great household should be complete.

Henry VIII’s England has not been kind to many of the evicted members of religious houses, and Catherine has gathered about her a group of former nuns in hopes of providing them a chance to serve in the village of Havenston, her City of Ladies.
Catherine’s own past haunts her. Her husband suspects that Catherine’s son is not his child, and his ambitions lie with service at court. Then the women of Overton House begin to disappear, and though one of them is found brutally murdered nearby, William forces Catherine to go to Hatfield House, where the young Elizabeth Tudor lives, to improve the family’s standing—and to ensure, for her own safety, that she is as far away from connections to her old convent as possible.

Reluctantly, Catherine obeys, only to find herself serving not only the Protestant Elizabeth but also the shamed Catholic Mary Tudor. As the murders in Yorkshire mount up and her loyalty to the Tudor sisters grows more complicated, Catherine must uncover the secret of the killer and keep her dream of a City of Ladies alive.

Knox Robinson


Men of the Cross (Battle Scars)
Charlene Newcomb

War, political intrigue and passion… heroes… friends and lovers… and the seeds for a new Robin Hood legend await you…

Two young knights’ journey to war at Richard the Lionheart’s side sweeps them from England to the Holy Land in this historical adventure set against the backdrop of the Third Crusade.

Henry de Grey leaves Southampton in high spirits, strong in his faith and passionate about the mission to take Jerusalem back from Saladin’s army. Stephan l’Aigle’s prowess on the battlefield is well known, as are his exploits in the arms of other men. He prizes duty, honour and loyalty to his king above all else. But God and the Church? Stephan has little use for either.

Henry’s convictions are challenged by loss and the harsh realities of bloody battles, unforgiving marches, and the politics of the day. Man against man. Man against the elements. Man against his own heart. Survival will depend on more than a strong sword arm.

Available in print and for Kindle on Amazon and Amazon (UK) and other Amazon sites worldwide, for Nook via Barnes and Noble, and via Smashwords in multiple formats.


This Old World
Steve Wiegenstein

This Old World begins with the end of the American Civil War. The Union has been preserved, but at a dreadful cost. The inhabitants of Daybreak, a Brook Farm-like agrarian commune in the Missouri Ozarks, tried to maintain a neutral stance but were drawn in, inevitably, as the war swept over their settlement. Now, the remnants of the community try to rebuild.

The community's founder, James Turner, enlisted in the Union Army but returns a broken man, traumatized by the horrific violence he has witnessed, including the death of his father-in-law, whom he had served as an aide-de-camp. In his absence, his wife Charlotte has been managing the community, but the war has taken its toll on her as well, making her hard and suspicious when she was once soft and idealistic.

Other former communitarians return, changed in their own ways. Charley Pettibone, an Arkansas native who fought for the South, is embittered and estranged by defeat. Michael Flynn, an Irish emigrant from a nearby settlement, discovers that his community has been scattered and blames the Southerners and their sympathizers for his misfortune. With his surviving son, five-year-old Angus, he starts anew on acreage adjoining Daybreak. And a former slave named Dathan appears from out of nowhere, his origin and motives unknown, and sets to work in the ravaged fields of Daybreak.

Marie Mercadier, a colonist who had an affair with James Turner before the war, remains in the community, and although Turner harbors feelings for her, she only wants to move onward in her life. But her sense of responsibility to her elderly father and to her daughter – her child with James Turner – keep her in Daybreak. Longing for a break with her past, she accepts the courtship of Michael Flynn, despite the fearsome intensity of Flynn's anger toward the world.

Charley falls in with the Law and Order League, a group of former guerrillas and Confederate regulars who refuse to accept defeat and who continue the war by other means, such as night raids and lynchings. Although he is quickly disillusioned by their brutality and random violence, he can't find a way to leave the group without becoming a target himself.

The lives of the characters reach a crossroad when the Law and Order League raids Daybreak, forcing each of them into a moment of moral decision in which they keep or discard their ideals of the prewar past.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Historical Fiction Enticements 8/19

Along with introducing several newer historical novels, I would like to announce that Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors will be available in Audiobook format hopefully in November. Aaaaand! We are working on Volume II.


Bronze and Stones
Paul Burnette

2300 BCE, Hanavel struggles to escape a group of slavers abducting her from her home in Bretanye. Mate Aiman searches for her, finding clues, crossing the Sea Neck into Britain.

He eventually finds the Keepers of the Stone Circle. While Aiman describes his wife and what he knows or suspects of the kidnappers for the Keepers, Ulen studies the stranger again. His brown hair is braided and hangs down his back almost to his waist. . . . Even squatting, he looks ready to fend off any attack. In fact, Ulen sees that the warrior’s body is positioned so that he can see all of the Keepers as well as the leader.

The leader gestured again, this time toward the pack at the feet of the warrior.

“And here?”

Aiman placed his hand on the skin bag and left it there for a moment. Then he took the bag up in one hand, loosening the leather thong that held its mouth closed. Ulen also felt – with every one of the villagers – the impulse to look at the various gold-hued objects that fell from the bag to the ground. He had seen copper jewelry several times and gold a few. These – there were two knives, several pins, bracelets, an armband, more – they were another metal, gold in coloring, but not as deep a tone.

Several of the others had drawn their breath in sharply. But the warrior did not seem to notice, instead drawing his own knife and holding it out toward the leader in the palm of his hand. “Here, try mine.”

The Keepers will not let Aiman take his new metal-smithing skills away, so he sends new friend Ulen to search for Hanavel. At Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain festivals, Tellers stand on their clan’s Telling stone sharing the ancient stories of love, betrayal, trickery, and fate that resonate in their listeners’ lives.

While Hanavel suffers life as a slave to a rival clan’s chieftain, seeking opportunity to escape, the youth Ulen finds his own place adventuring among the ancient peoples who inhabited what we now call the United Kingdom, but which they know simply as the Land.

Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon UK

7 five-star reviews, 1 four-star.


The Portuguese Affair
Ann Swinfen

The year after defeating the Spanish Armada, England retaliates. The expedition to Portugal sets out to destroy what remains of Spain’s Atlantic fleet, drive the Spanish out of Portugal, put the claimant Dom Antonio of Aviz on the throne, and seize the Azores.

But from the time the English fleet, led by Drake and Norreys, reaches Plymouth, things start to go wrong. Christoval Alvarez, sent to carry out two missions by Walsingham, has a more important private plan in mind. Are any members of the family still alive? And what will become of the disaster-ridden expedition?



His Majesty's Confidential Agent 
Tom Williams

The war against Napoleon brought horror, death and destruction to countries across the world. For a young man anxious to improve his position in the world, though, it brought opportunity.

James Burke comes from a poor Irish background. Joining the army offers him a way of escape. Glory in battle might allow him to achieve his ambition to rise in society. But when his linguistic skills are noticed and he is plucked from the infantry to become a spy, James' hopes of advancement are crushed. Spying is no business for a gentleman. And when a mission to Buenos Aires means disguising himself as a merchant in leather goods, he feels he has hit a new low.

His mission, though, means fighting alongside men who see the collapse of the old order giving them a chance to break free of Spanish colonial rule. He falls in love with the country – and with the beautiful Ana.

urke tries to forward British interests, while keeping faith with the rebels. He gains the trust of the rebels, who plot with him to put the British in charge of Buenos Aires. Once their army is established there, though, the British renege on the promises they made to the rebels who helped them. When the people rise against the invaders, Burke is caught in the middle. Captured by revolutionaries and disowned by the British, he becomes a pawn in the three way fight between Britain, Spain and South American patriots. For once, he has more at stake than his own ambition. How can he honour the pledges he has made to his friends and his country and still stay alive?

Based on true events and meticulously researched, His Majesty's Confidential Agent follows James Burke from the jungle of Haiti through the courts of Spain and Brazil until, back in Buenos Aires, he is forced to risk everything to fight for the girl he loves.

UK Kindle
UK Paperback
US Kindle
US Paperback


The Bitter Trade
Piers Alexander

In 1688, torn by rebellions, England lives under the threat of a Dutch invasion. Redheaded Calumny Spinks is the lowliest man in an Essex backwater: half-French and still unapprenticed at seventeen, yet he dreams of wealth and title. When his father’s violent past resurfaces, Cal’s desperation leads him to become a coffee racketeer. He has just three months to pay off a blackmailer and save his father’s life - but his ambition and talent for mimicry pull him into a conspiracy against the King himself. Cal’s journey takes him from the tough life of Huguenot silk weavers to the vicious intrigues at Court. As the illicit trader Benjamin de Corvis and his controlling daughter Emilia pull him into their plots, and his lover Violet Fintry is threatened by impending war, Cal is forced to choose between his conscience and his dream of becoming Mister Calumny Spinks.

$0.99 through Tuesday 8/19

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon AU


Gang Warfare
Peter St. John

Have you ever been blamed for something you didn't do?

Have you ever been caught up in a minor incident that grew into a major conflict?

An orphan, evacuated from the World War II bombing of London, comes to live with his pious aunt in an English village. A bag of sweets is knocked out of his hand in the school playground. This trivial incident has devastating consequences.

The villagers become increasingly quarrelsome. The tension reaches a climax at a fund-raising fete to buy a Spitfire aircraft. This ends in a riotous fight which causes the funds collected for the Spitfire to be last seen floating gently down the river in the twilight and a barrel.

Although this book follows-on from the previous ‘Gang Territory’, it can stand as a complete story in its own right.