Alternate Endings: Long Live the King…

With the release of King John’s Right Hand Lady: The Story of Nicholaa de la Haye, I just wanted to share a short extract from the short story I wrote, which was inspired by Nicholaa‘s relationship with King John. The story culminates at the 1217 Battle of Lincoln but it opens as John has arrived at Newark Castle in October 1216, when he should have died…

Long Live the King…

King John

During one of his visits to Lincoln in 1216, either in February or September, King John made a public demonstration of his support for Nicholaa de la Haye, hereditary constable of Lincoln Castle – and a woman! The dramatic scenes as related in the Hundred Rolls, commissioned by Edward I and written down about 60 years after the event, were played out. Nicholaa is said to have met the king at the eastern gate of the castle. A widow since the death of her husband, Gerard de Camville, in January 1215, Nicholaa met King John at the gates of her mighty fortress, Lincoln Castle.

She offered the keys of the castle to the king, the Hundred Rolls told the story:

‘And once it happened that after the war King John came to Lincoln and the said Lady Nicholaa went out of the eastern gate of the castle carrying the keys of the castle in her hand and met the king and offered the keys to him as her lord and said she was a woman of great age and was unable to bear such fatigue any longer and he besought her saying, “My beloved Nicholaa, I will that you keep the castle as hitherto until I shall order otherwise.” And she retained it as long as King John lived and after his decease she still kept it under King Henry, father of the king that now is.’

When Nicholaa spoke of her ‘great age’ she was not exaggerating. She was probably approaching sixty years of age at the time, a good age for anyone in those days, but John still had great confidence in her. Whether Nicholaa ever intended to resign Lincoln Castle at this point is open to debate. It is just as likely that the event was orchestrated as a public demonstration of John’s continuing trust in Nicholaa’s ability to hold and command the royal stronghold. John had been at war with his barons since the summer of 1215 and the failure of Magna Carta in its aim to ward off war. He had few allies left and those he did have, he needed to hold on to. Nicholaa had held Lincoln Castle for him before, in 1191, when John had led the rebellion against Richard I’s hated justiciar, William Longchamp.

In 1216, she had held it again, against the rebel forces led by her fellow Lincolnshire baron, Gilbert de Gant – that time, she paid Gant to lift the siege of the castle while allowing him to hold the city. King John had then raced to Lincoln, chased the rebels from the city and into the marshes of the Isle of Axholme, with ‘fire and sword,’ before returning to Lincoln and Nicholaa. During the visit to Lincoln, the business of government proceeded apace, with John sending out orders throughout the realm.

Effigy of Nicholaa de la Haye

There was no rest for the wicked – literally in John’s case – and he was soon back in the field. It was as John was campaigning in the south of Lindsey (Lincolnshire) that ‘grim misfortune struck him, for it was in those parts that the grievous sickness of which he died took hold, gripping him so dreadfully that he was incapable of moving.’ Moving south, just two weeks after leaving Lincoln, the king’s baggage train was lost as he crossed the Wash estuary and within a few more days John was desperately ill.

John was at Lynn when, on the evening of 9 October, John suffered an attack of dysentery. His health deteriorated as he made his way west until he reached Newark on 16 October, from where ‘he could go no further and that was that.’ He died at Newark Castle on the night of 18–19 October 1216 and was buried at Worcester Cathedral, ‘not because he had asked to be buried there but because that place at that time seemed a safe one where his supporters could gather to deliberate on what was to be done next.’

And this is where my short story for Alternate Endings starts:

Newark Castle

23 October 1216

John awoke to hear mumbling around him. He turned his head to the right to see three white-clad monks. Cistercians from Swineshead Abbey, John assumed. He had stayed there briefly a few days after falling ill and could vaguely recall the abbot insisting the monks accompany the king to tend to his spiritual needs. John had scoffed at the idea, but the monks had ignored him and attached themselves to his entourage. Now, the three of them were stood side by side, hovering over the bed, praying. He tried to make sense of the Latin words, but his mind seemed to be shrouded in fog. Even listening took a great deal of effort.

John tried once more. Was that the Pater Noster? Yes, and now they have moved on to more prayers. For his soul? Or his eternal damnation?

He had always had a rather fractious relationship with the Church, so either possibility carried weight. John’s mind wandered back to his childhood at Fontevraud, the great abbey so loved by his mother. He had been sent there with his sister, Joanna, to gain an education. He couldn’t recall enjoying being forced to study, but he remembered fondly running through the fields with Joanna, or riding abroad in their free time. Had his parents really thought him suitable for the church? He tried to laugh, but only a weak groan emitted from his dry, cracked lips.

Instantly, all conversation in the room ceased. The monks looked at him expectantly. What exactly they were expecting, John could not surmise. When he made no further sounds, the three tonsured clerics resumed their prayers.

Other conversations in the room were taken up again. Few seemed too concerned with the state of the patient. With great effort, John rolled his head to the other side. The slight movement caused a wave of pain through his head. He closed his eyes briefly, waiting for the worst of the discomfort to recede. As he opened them again, he perceived William Marshal standing by the window, talking to a knight whose back was turned to him. The knight said something to Marshal, turning briefly to the bed to indicate John. They were talking about him. Not such a surprise, given he was the king and even he could sense the spectre of death lurking about the room.

John was startled when the knight looked straight at him, and the king realised he was staring into the eyes of his cousin and enemy, the Earl of Surrey, William de Warenne. The man had sworn allegiance to Louis of France at Winchester, months ago. So, what was he doing here? Now? Was he here to ensure John breathed his last? To take the news back to Louis, so there would be no room for doubt for the French invader. Or were John’s eyes and mind deceiving him, was he still in a pain induced delirium?

The man turned back to Marshal, his face now obscured, and the shape of his back gave John no clues as to the man’s identity. Maybe he had been wrong? The light in the room was fading. Was the night drawing in? No, he just could not keep his eyes open any longer. Merely observing the room had exhausted him and he drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep.

What would have happened if King John had not died in October 1216…?

Would England have been lost?

Find out in ‘Long Live the King…

I was not sure about trying my hand at fiction, but there are so many ‘What ifs’ in history that it was hard to resist. Having spent the last two years writing Nicholaa de la Haye’s biography – which will be published in May 2023, I thought it would be quite fun to take one event in Nicholaa’s life and see what might change if that event didn’t happen.

About the Book:

Alternate Endings is a compilation of short stories published by the Historical Writers Forum.

We all know the past is the past, but what if you could change history?We asked eight historical authors to set aside the facts and rewrite the history they love. The results couldn’t be more tantalizing.

  • What if Julius Caesar never conquered Gaul?
  • What if Arthur Tudor lived and his little brother never became King Henry VIII?
  • What if Abigail Adams persuaded the Continental Congress in 1776 to give women the right to vote and to own property?

Dive into our collection of eight short stories as we explore the alternate endings of events set in ancient Rome, Britain, the United States, and France.

Alternate Endings is now available worldwide from Amazon.

My Books:

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Out now!

King John’s Right-Hand Lady: The Story of Nicholaa de la Haye is now available for pre-order as a hardback and Kindle from Pen & Sword Booksbookshop.org and Amazon (UK and US).

In a time when men fought and women stayed home, Nicholaa de la Haye held Lincoln Castle against all-comers. Not once, but three times, earning herself the ironic praise that she acted ‘manfully’. Nicholaa gained prominence in the First Baron’s War, the civil war that followed the sealing of Magna Carta in 1215.

A truly remarkable lady, Nicholaa was the first woman to be appointed sheriff in her own right. Her strength and tenacity saved England at one of the lowest points in its history. Nicholaa de la Haye is one woman in English history whose story needs to be told…

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, and  Bookshop.org.

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword,  Amazon, and Bookshop.org.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, and Bookshop.org.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066. Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, and Bookshop.org.

Alternate Endings: An anthology of historical fiction short stories including Long Live the King… which is my take what might have happened had King John not died in October 1216. Available in paperback and kindle from Amazon.

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For forthcoming online and in-person talks, please check out my Events Page.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

©2023 Sharon Bennett Connolly FRHistS

Guest Post: The Crown Sild by Toni Mount

Today, it is a pleasure to welcome author Toni Mount to the History … the Interesting Bits to celebrate the release of the latest instalment of Toni’s Seb Foxley mysteries.

The Crown Sild, Cheapside, London  

When I began writing my new Sebastian Foxley medieval murder mystery, The Colour of Bone, I had never heard of the Crown Sild but it came to my attention when I was lucky enough to be given a wonderful book of drawings: Old London – Illustrated [1962]. The book contains numerous reconstructed scenes of medieval London and Westminster by H.W. Brewer [d.1903] with explanatory texts and there, in Plate 10, ‘Cheapside from the east’, was a marvellously ornate two-storey Gothic building on the south side of London’s main east-west thoroughfare, labelled ‘Crown Sild or Sildam’. What on earth was it? I was intrigued. 

In the text, discussing the church of St Mary-le-Bow, it tells us: 

In front of Bow Church was a costly building of stone, known as the “Crown Sild” or “Sildam”, with an open arcade in the upper story (sic) facing the street, which was used by Royalty and their visitors for witnessing tournaments, pageants and processions. The tower of the present church has a balcony overlooking the street, placed there by Wren to commemorate the “Crown Sild”. 

Surprisingly for this ‘costly building of stone’, I discovered that ‘sild’ is the medieval word for a shed! That’s a very posh shed. ‘Wren’ is Sir Christopher who rebuilt the church after it was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666, along with the ‘shed’ next door. But why was the Sild built, what was it used for and is there any evidence of it remaining?  

The story goes that the Sild was constructed by King Edward III, following a disaster in September 1331. The king planned to hold a magnificent tournament to celebrate the birth of his son and heir, Prince Edward of Woodstock [later known as the Black Prince] the year before. The tournament would take place in the heart of the City of London, in its widest street, Cheapside. Carpenters were commissioned to build a large wooden grandstand for Queen Philippa and her ladies to sit and watch the spectacle in comfort. King Edward would take part in tournament himself, a risky endeavour since fatalities were not unknown but he was young and daring and determined to impress the ladies and his fellow knights. 

However, it wasn’t the king who almost came to grief that day.  

As the queen and her ladies took their places on the cushioned benches among the flower garlands and bunting, the hastily constructed wooden grandstand began to creak and groan, then to sway and crack before it gave way beneath the royal and noble spectators. The whole edifice collapsed to the great horror of those looking on, including the king. By a miracle, no one was killed but there must have been injuries among the ladies, although the queen was badly shaken but otherwise unharmed. The hot-blooded king’s rage was terrible. 

He ordered that all the carpenters involved in the construction of the grandstand be arrested and hanged forthwith, there and then, on the spot. Fortunately, the queen was a shocked by this as by her brush with death and had wits enough to go on her knees before her irate husband. She begged him to spare the carpenters and, willing to grant her every wish at that moment, Edward let the carpenters live. He also insisted that the tournament continue as planned. A disaster wasn’t going to deter this royal showman. But, for any future, similar events in Cheapside, he wasn’t going to risk the queen’s life in the hands of those incompetent carpenters. Instead, he commissioned the stone masons to build a permanent grandstand at the best vantage point beside St Mary-le-Bow Church, fit for royalty with all the comforts and shelter from the weather. This was the Crown Sild. 

We don’t know how often royalty made use of it. Tournaments were held more frequently at Smithfield, outside the city walls, where there was far more space for the crowds. But the procession of the monarch on the eve of their coronation travelled from the Tower of London to Westminster Palace via Cheapside so the citizens could see the new king or queen and the sild would be the best viewpoint. Other processions, pageants, street festivals and entertainments took place in Cheapside too and the last royal spectators to use the sild for such an event were Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn.  

By the later fifteenth century, when not in use by VIPs, the lower level was rented by the Vintners’ Company and used as storage for their barrels of wine. This is the sild as I describe it in my novel The Colour of Bone when Seb Foxley, the artist-cum-sleuth, his family and friends pay to watch the street entertainments from this ‘royal box’ with disastrous consequences which have nothing to do with it collapsing beneath them – you’ll have to read the book if you want to know what happens. 

At the head of this blog, I also asked whether there is any evidence of the Crown Sild remaining today? I don’t know what may lie among the foundations of the shops and office buildings along modern Cheapside, constructed after the devastation of the bombing during World War II but back in Victorian times, a letter was written concerning it. Here are the relevant bits from a letter written by Thomas Lott, Esq. F.S.A. to Sir Henry Ellis, K.H., Secretary of the Society of Antiquities on 19th December 1844, ‘describing some remains of ancient buildings to the west side of Bow Churchyard’:  

Dear Sir, 

…It is not generally known that there exist, in its immediate neighbourhood, subterranean 

architectural remains, although evidently of a later date, yet of a very interesting character. 

Having occasion to inspect several of the houses on the west side of Bow Church-yard, the property of the parish, I was surprised, on descending into the cellars, to find (as the foundation of three of the houses) stone vaultings of very substantial masonry. 

On a subsequent visit (accompanied by my friend Mr. Chaffers, who has kindly assisted me in describing the place), we found beneath the house No. 5, occupied by Messrs. Groucock, a square vaulted chamber, 12 feet by 7 feet 3 inches in height, with a slightly pointed arch of ribbed masonry, similar to some of those of the Old London Bridge. We were informed that 

there had been, in the centre of the floor, an excavation, which appeared formerly to have been used as a bath, but which was now arched over and converted into a cesspool. 

Proceeding northwards towards Cheapside, we found what appeared to be a continuation of the vault, beneath the houses Nos. 4 and 3. The arch of the vault here is plain, not ribbed, and more pointed. The masonry appears, from an aperture made to the warehouse above, to be of considerable thickness. This vault or crypt is 7 feet in height from the floor to the crown of 

the arch, and is 9 feet in width, and 18 feet long. Beneath the house No. 4 is an outer vault. The entrance to both these vaults is by a depressed Tudor arch with plain spandrils, 6 feet high, the thickness of the walls about 4 feet. 

In the thickness of the eastern wall, in the vault of the house No. 3, are cut triangular-headed niches, similar to those in which in ancient ecclesiastical edifices the basins containing the holy water, and sometimes lamps, were placed. … In some other parts of these vaults are modern imitations of these recesses. The vaulting beneath the house No. 2, appears to have been destroyed to add convenience to the warehouses; but the buildings, of which these are the vestiges, appear to have extended to Cheapside; for beneath a house in Cheapside, in a direct line with these buildings, and close to the street, is a massive stone wall. 

I cannot think they were any portion of the Grammar School which Stowe says “was let out in the reign of Henry VIIth for fowr shillings a year, and a cellar for two shillings the year; two vaults under the church for fifteen shillings both.” 

The Sild – the building in the bottom left hand corner.

Mr. Chaffers seems disposed to think these may be the remains of the stone building erected by Edward the Third, from which to view the processions, jousts, &c. described thus by Stowe: “Within the north side of St Mary Bow, towards West Cheape, standeth one fair building of stone called in record Sildam, SL shed, &c. King Edward IIIrd. upon occasion, (viz. the falling of the wooden scaffold) caused this sild or shed to be made and strongly to be built of stone for himself, the Queen, and other estates, to stand in them to behold the joustings and other shows at their pleasure, and this house for a long time after served to that use, namely, in the reigns of Edward IIIrd and Richard IInd; but, in the year 1410, Henry IVth confirmed the said shed or building to Stephen Spilman and others, by the name of one new sildam, shed, or building, with shops, cellars, and edifices appertaining, called Crown Silde or Tamer Silde, situate in West Cheape, and in the parish of St Mary de Arcubus.” 

According to the same author, notwithstanding this grant, the kings of England still occasionally repaired to the same building to view the shows; and we find a century afterwards, that “Henry VIIIth, his Queen, and nobles frequently came here to behold the great marching watches on the eves of St John and St Peter; remaining there until the morning.” 

Thus it will be seen that this sild or shed, strongly built of stone, still remained in Stowe’s time, two hundred and fifty years after its erection, darkening (as Stowe says) the doors and windows on that side of the church. Mr. Chaffers states, it has been thought that the Crown sild stood on the spot between the tower of the present church and Bow Lane; but he does not think, from Stowe’s account, such could have been the case, as Stowe, speaking of Cordwainers Street, afterwards Hosier Lane, then Bow Lane, says:

“This street begins by West Cheape, and St Mary Bow Church is the head thereof on the west side, and runneth down south.” Had such a spacious building as the Crown-sild been situated between the church and Cheapside, Stowe would doubtless have mentioned it. There is no doubt, it was Crown property, as it now pays a trifling fee-farm rent to the Crown.  

If this building was erected for purposes of a domestic kind … since the original building was destroyed, which was probably in the fire of London … there are no old maps of the parish to throw any light on the subject, nor do the ancient city maps and plans, which profess to contain elevations of the buildings, assist in the discovery. 

I hazard no opinion on this matter, contenting myself with having thus drawn attention to it from those whose greater experience, more extensive research, and leisure opportunities will enable them to form a more correct judgment…  

I remain, dear Sir, 

Your faithful obedient Servant, 

THOMAS LOTT. 

So now you know as much as I do.  

As to whether the Crown Sild stood to the east or west side of St Mary-le-Bow Church, Brewer’s drawing shows it to the east whereas, if Lott’s friend Mr Chaffers is correct in thinking they had found its ancient vaults, it was to the west. Perhaps we shall never know. But you can have my version of the Crown Sild where traumatic events happen, if you read my latest Sebastian Foxley medieval murder mystery, The Colour of Bone.  

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The Colour of Bone by Toni Mount:

It’s May 1480 in the City of London.

When workmen discover the body of a nun in a newly-opened tomb, Seb Foxley, a talented artist and bookseller is persuaded to assist in solving the mystery of her death when a member of the Duke of Gloucester’s household meets an untimely end. Evil is again abroad the crowded, grimy streets of medieval London and even in the grandest of royal mansions.

Some wicked rogue is setting fires in the city and no house is safe from the hungry flames. Will Seb and his loved ones come to grief when a man returns from the dead and Seb has to appear before the Lord Mayor?

Join our hero as he feasts with royalty yet struggles to save his own business and attempts to unravel this latest series of medieval mysteries.

About the author:

Toni Mount is a best-selling author of medieval non-fiction books. She is the creator of the Sebastian Foxley series of medieval murder mysteries and her work focuses on the ordinary lives of fascinating characters from history. She has a first class honours degree from the Open University and a Master degree by research from the University of Kent however her first career was as a scientist which brings an added dimension to her writing. Her detailed knowledge of the medieval period helps her create believable characters and realistic settings based on years of detailed study. You can find Toni at:

www.tonimount.com

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Toni-Mount/e/B0034P0FF8/

https://www.facebook.com/toni.mount.10/

https://twitter.com/tonihistorian

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My Books:

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Coming 30 May 2023!

King John’s Right-Hand Lady: The Story of Nicholaa de la Haye is now available for pre-order from Pen & Sword Books and Amazon UK. (I will hopefully have a US release date shortly)

In a time when men fought and women stayed home, Nicholaa de la Haye held Lincoln Castle against all-comers. Not once, but three times, earning herself the ironic praise that she acted ‘manfully’. Nicholaa gained prominence in the First Baron’s War, the civil war that followed the sealing of Magna Carta in 1215.

A truly remarkable lady, Nicholaa was the first woman to be appointed sheriff in her own right. Her strength and tenacity saved England at one of the lowest points in its history. Nicholaa de la Haye is one woman in English history whose story needs to be told…

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword,  AmazonBookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, Bookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066. Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Alternate Endings: An anthology of historical fiction short stories including Long Live the King… which is my take what might have happened had King John not died in October 1216. Available in paperback and kindle from Amazon.

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You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

©2023 Sharon Bennett Connolly FRHistS and Toni Mount

Book Corner: Legionary: The Emperor’s Shield by Gordon Doherty

Easier to split the sky, than part a soldier from his blade.

386 AD. The Eastern Roman Empire faces a trident of threats. The Gothic truce grows unstable. The standoff with Persia escalates. And the ambitions of the usurper on the Western throne grow dangerously unchecked.

Pavo, a broken veteran of the legions, cares for none of these things. His life is one of pastoral seclusion on his Thracian farm. A life of love, of peace. His wife and young son are his world. Still, every so often, things seen and done in his old life haunt him, like a cold and unwelcome breeze. But that is all they are, echoes of the past…

…until the past rises, like a shade, to rip his world and the Roman Empire apart.

The Emperor’s Shield is the 9th book in Gordon Doherty’s fabulous Legionary series.

And what an adventure!

The great Pavo has retired from the legions and settled into farming with his wife and young son, his body almost broken by dreadful wounds. However, when the Gothic tribes venture south, and threaten the peace and tranquillity that Pavo has built, he is put on his guard. And when rumours abound of trouble in the West, Pavo is called upon to join the personal guard of Eastern Emperor Theodosius and march once more with the legions, to vanquish the Western Emperor, Maximus – the man he had helped to attain the imperial purple.

And then there is the spy, the mysterious Peregrinus the Stranger. One man is set to bring the Eastern Empire down, by working from within to assure Maximus’ victory. Pavo has his suspicions, but Gordon Doherty will keep you guessing to the very end.

And the scene is set for a fabulous story.

Frugilo was up on his feet, trying his new boots out. He linked his hands behind his back, strolling over to the window to gaze outside. ‘The situation in the West is deteriorating,’ he said, again swatting Pavo’s question aside. ‘Reports indicate that the Dark Eagle is plotting.

Pavo frowned in bemusement, then laughed. ‘His name is Maximus. Magnus Maximus.’ His mind flashed with memories of those brutal days in Gaul when he had aided Maximus during the war to topple the wretched Emperor Gratian from the Western throne. ‘And plotting? About what?’

‘To make the West wholly his,’ Frugilo answered.

‘What?’ Pavo recoiled. ‘No. Valentinian governs Italy and Africa, and Maximus Gaul, Hispania and Britannia. They are co-emperors of the West. Theodosius established that power-sharing division and Maximus bent on one knee before him, pledging to respect it.’

‘You must have heard the rumours?’ said Frugilo.

Pavo folded his arms. ‘Enlighten me.’

‘Twice in the last year, Maximus has sent invitations for his young counterpart to leave the seat of Mediolanum and travel north too live instead at his court in Gaul. Requests, in effect, for Valentinian to relinquish his co-stewardship of the West and to extinguish the government in Italia. Maximus seeks to break his oath with Emperor Theodosius. Tensions run high.’

Pavo chewed over this for a time. Gratian had allegedly done the same, pressuring Valentinian to abdicate, It was probably those old tales being recycled, he concluded. ‘Gossip,’ he scoffed. ‘How many mouths and ears have those rumours passed across by now? I’d sooner trust an Abderan pirate.’

‘And,’ Frugilo continued as if Pavo had not spoken, ‘it appears Maximus has begun an initiative to swell his armies. New legions are being raised. Tribes are being invited across the River Rhenus to be trained ad armed in the Roman way. The Dark Eagle is preparing for something.’

Pavo is the perfect protagonist, a man tired of war but with a sense of duty that will not allow him to rest while his old comrades fight. Brave beyond measure and fearless for his own safety, Pavo also has a mind to tactics – unconventional ones to say the least. There is no surprise as to why the Eastern Emperor wants Pavo by his side. Pavo is aided by his friends from his old legion, and the mysterious Frugilo, a stranger who is at once familiar.

The characters Gordon Doherty brings into the story are vivid and complex. They draw the reader into the story, recreating a world long lost. The research that must have gone into this series is immense. But in The Emperor’s Shield, Doherty puts it to good use, taking the reader on a memorable journey, showing them the marching legions, the vast expanse of the Roman Empire and introducing them to the men who created and upheld it.

The Emperor’s Shield is a thoroughly engaging and entertaining story, with such an air of mystery and suspense that the reader will not want to put it down. You have to get to the end. You have to find out the truth.

Gordon Doherty is one of the best storytellers around, and with the The Emperor’s Shield he has proved this yet again.

About the author:

Gordon is a Scottish writer, addicted to reading and writing historical fiction. His novels have been Amazon smash-hits, and have gone on to be translated and published in Russia, Italy and Greece.

Gordon’s love of history was first kindled by visits to the misty Roman ruins of Britain and the sun-baked antiquities of Turkey and Greece. His expeditions since have taken him all over the world and back and forth through time (metaphorically, at least), allowing him to write tales of the later Roman Empire, Byzantium, Classical Greece and even the distant Bronze Age.

For exciting news, extracts and exclusive content from Gordon:

Visit http://www.gordondoherty.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @GordonDoherty

Follow his author page on http://www.facebook.com/gordon.doherty

Subscribe to his YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/c/GordonDohertyAuthor

My Books:

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Coming 30 May 2023!

King John’s Right-Hand Lady: The Story of Nicholaa de la Haye is now available for pre-order from Amazon UK. (I will hopefully have a US release date shortly)

In a time when men fought and women stayed home, Nicholaa de la Haye held Lincoln Castle against all-comers. Not once, but three times, earning herself the ironic praise that she acted ‘manfully’. Nicholaa gained prominence in the First Baron’s War, the civil war that followed the sealing of Magna Carta in 1215.

A truly remarkable lady, Nicholaa was the first woman to be appointed sheriff in her own right. Her strength and tenacity saved England at one of the lowest points in its history. Nicholaa de la Haye is one woman in English history whose story needs to be told…

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword,  AmazonBookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, Bookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066. Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Alternate Endings: An anthology of historical fiction short stories including Long Live the King… which is my take what might have happened had King John not died in October 1216. Available in paperback and kindle from Amazon.

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You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

©2023 Sharon Bennett Connolly FRHistS

Book Corner: Forest of Foes by Matthew Harffy

AD 652. Beobrand has been ordered to lead a group of pilgrims to the holy city of Rome. Chief among them is Wilfrid, a novice of the church with some surprisingly important connections. Taking only Cynan and some of his best men, Beobrand hopes to make the journey through Frankia quickly and return to Northumbria without delay, though the road is long and perilous.

But where Beobrand treads, menace is never far behind. The lands of the Merovingian kings are rife with intrigue. The queen of Frankia is unpopular and her ambitious schemes, though benevolent, have made her powerful enemies. Soon Wilfrid, and Beobrand, are caught up in sinister plots against the royal house.

After interrupting a brutal ambush in a forest, Beobrand and his trusted gesithas find their lives on the line. Dark forces will stop at nothing to seize control of the Frankish throne, and Beobrand is thrown into a deadly race for survival through foreign lands where he cannot be sure who is friend and who is foe.

The only certainty is that if he is to save his men, thwart the plots, and unmask his enemies, blood will flow.

He’s done it again!

Magnificent adventure!

Forest of Foes by Matthew Harffy is the author’s 12th book and the 9th instalment of his magnificent Bernicia Chronicles. Beobrand is once again journeying over the Narrow Sea into Frankia. This time he is on his way to Rome, escorting a novice monk on his pilgrimage. Unfortunately, as with all Beobrand’s adventures, things don’t quite go to plan…

Beobrand and his loyal gesiths first save the wife of Clovis II, Queen Balthild, from an ambush in the woods and is then drawn into the world of the Frankish court and the conspiracies and controversies that surround it.

“What is he saying?” Beobrand asked Halinard in a quiet voice. The woman’s eyes flicked to him as he spoke, her expression questioning, no doubt surprised by his use of the Anglisc tongue. Beobrand marvelled at her apparent lack of fear.

“He says he will kill her, if let him go we do not,” said Halinard, his words clumsy yet clear.

“I hardly need you to tell me that,” replied Beobrand.

“I tell you what he says,” said Halinard, shaking his head. “He says nothing interesting.”

Brocard spoke to the man in the same calming tone he had used before. The brigand shouted more loudly, his voice cracking with his anger and fear. Behind him the maidservant looked ready to swoon.

Beobrand stepped closer to Brocard, beckoning for Halinard to follow him.

“Ask him his name,” he said in a low voice. Halinard translated. Brocard looked askance at Beobrand, then, with a shrug, he spoke to the brigand.

“Omer,” replied the brigand, narrowing his eyes as though he expected a trick.

Beobrand nodded.

“Offer him a horse,” Beobrand said. Halinard whispered his words in Frankish.

Brocard hesitated. One of his men, the one with the great bleeding wound on his face, growled something. Brocard held up his hand for patience and offered Omer a steed.

Omer replied and Beobrand understood enough to know that he wanted two mounts, one for him and one for his hostage.

“No,” Beobrand said in Frankish. He held up a single finger. “One horse.”

Omer shook his head and began to shout. Beobrand could not make out all the words, but it was clear Omer was not happy with the answer. Beobrand watched the knife blade waver at the woman’s lovely throat. Omer must know that if he killed her, he would surely follow the woman to the afterlife in moments. And yet men under such pressure do not always act reasonably and Beobrand became increasingly worried that the brigand might yet cut her throat by accident.

“Tell him he can have two horses,” he said. Halinard translated for him. Omer again looked as though he suspected he was being lured into a trap. He spoke quickly, urgently, but Beobrand could barely make sense of any of it. He was pleased though, to see that some of the tension had left Omer’s shoulders. The knife had lowered slightly from the lady’s neck. Brocard spoke up in anger at Beobrand’s offer. But before Beobrand could respond, the lady being held hostage moved with the speed of a striking serpent and Omer’s speech came to a sudden, choked halt. For a couple of heart beats he stood there, unmoving and silent, mouth opening and closing without sound. Then his hand fell, the knife tumbling from lifeless fingers.

Matthew Harffy has written yet another cracking Beobrand adventure. Changing the location to France has opened up a world of opportunities, which includes integrating the remarkable story of Balthild, the slave girl who became queen of the Franks as the wife of Clovis II. It also see Beobrand facing new challenges, including that of language. Matthew Harffy could have made life so much easier for himself by having Beobrand pick up the language of the Franks easily, but it makes for a better story, and a more credible one, that he struggles like the rest of us. No one is perfect.

As has come to be expected from Matthew Harffy’s writing, the character development is paramount and it is interesting to see how Cynan continues to grow into the role of war leader and confidant. There is tragedy along the way and, as with any great story, a few surprises that will leave the reader reeling. But it all makes for a fabulous story.

Do not expect your emotions to escape unscathed.

Forest of Foes by Matthew Harffy is an adventure not to be missed!

About the author:

Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria’s Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels. The first of them is the action-packed tale of vengeance and coming of age, THE SERPENT SWORD.

Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. Matthew lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

Pre-order link

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3U5eD43

Follow Matthew Harffy

Twitter: @MatthewHarffy

Instagram: @beobrand

Website: matthewharffy.com

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Twitter: @AriesFiction

Facebook: Aries Fiction

Website: http://www.headofzeus.com

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My Books:

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

1 family. 8 earls. 300 years of English history!

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & SwordAmazonBookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066.  Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Alternate Endings: An anthology of historical fiction short stories including Long Live the King… which is my take what might have happened had King John not died in October 1216. Available in paperback and kindle from Amazon.

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You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

©2020 Sharon Bennett Connolly FRHistS

Book Corner: The Pedlar’s Promise by Steven A. McKay

Medieval England, December

A pedlar has been sent to Wakefield with an unexpected and apparently quite valuable Christmas gift for John Little and his friend Will Scaflock. Unfortunately, the pedlar likes his ale a little too much and somehow gets lost and ends up in the wrong town. With no other work to do, or any strange mysteries to solve for a change, the pair of bored former outlaws decide to ride out and track down their gift. Of course, things don’t quite go as smoothly as hoped and they experience a series of hair-raising adventures on the snowy roads and villages of Yorkshire before their quest finally ends with a surprise…

Will our heroes ever find their quarry? What is the mysterious gift their friend Robert Stafford has sent to them from Brandesburton? And who the hell thought it was a good idea to go riding around northern England in the depths of winter searching for a drunk old pedlar?
Pour yourself a warm glass of wassail and settle in beside the fire to find out!

The Pedlar’s Promise continues the series of short winter stories including Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil, Faces of Darkness, The House in the Marsh, and Sworn To God, and brings some much-needed cheer to the gloomy winter months.

It must be nearly Christmas because there’s a new novella out featuring Little John, Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck.

Steven A. McKay is becoming a master of the mystery thriller. The Pedlar’s Promise is yet another intriguing adventure involving the former outlaws Little John and Will Scarlet takes the reader on an entertaining, muddy journey through Yorkshire.

These novellas follow on from Steven’s The Forest Lord series, telling the story of Robin Hood. They provide a little insight into the adventures of Robin’s leading men – Little John, Tuck and Will – after their lives as outlaws come to an end. The three remain firm friends, reminisce about their time with Robin, and get into some interesting scrapes. The Pedlar’s Promise is one such mini-adventure, when Will and John go in search of an errant pedlar in the depths of winter.

Suddenly the door burst open, snow whirling into the room as a dark, hooded figure forced his way through the icy gale and into the ale house. Muttering, the newcomer shut out the gale, making sure the latch was firmly in place before stamping towards Alexander Gilbert, the purple-nosed owner of the alehouse, and demanding a drink.

Once furnished with an ale the stocky figure turned towards the hearth and grinned, seeing the two men framed by the flickering orange flames.

“Tuck!” John cried, and Will Scaflock laughed, gesturing for the friar to come and join them at their small circular table.

“God’s blood,” Tuck growled as he planted his hefty behind on the stool next to Little John. “It’s freezing out there.”

“Maybe,” the bailiff conceded. “But that just makes it all the more enjoyable to drink an ale or three in here, beside the fire and in the company of good friends, eh, Will?”

Scaflock hoisted his mug aloft, smiling, but Tuck just rolled his eyes and pulled the collar of his brown cassock tighter around his neck.

“Cheer up.” John laughed. “You’re just hungry.”

“How d’you know that?” Tuck demanded, wiping foam from his upper lip and eyeing the bailiff suspiciously.

“You’re always hungry,” John replied sardonically, gesturing for Alexander to bring them some of his fabled broth. That was always a favourite on a night such as this, even if the amount of actual meat and other ingredients in it varied depending on the year’s harvest. Providing ale and warm food was a sure way to cheer Friar Tuck, and the bailiff knew it.

The innkeeper soon bustled over, placing a bowl and some bread in front of Tuck, who happily accepted. “Thank you, Alexander,” he said, lifting the bread and dipping it into the thick, steaming liquid. “Did you get the gift I sent you from Brandesburton?” he asked, turning his attention back to his friends.

“What gift?” John asked with a frown.

As I say with every one of Steven A. McKay’s novellas, this book was too short. It’s not that the story was rushed or shallow. It’s just that, the story ends way too soon. I really do think Steven should write a full-length mystery with Will Scarlet and Little John. These novellas are tantalising but they always leave me wanting much, much more. (Are you listening Steven?)

Having said that, The Pedlar’s Promise is a perfect little read that you can get through in one or two sittings. The story is fast-flowing and draws the reader in from the very beginning, as I have come to expect from Steven A. McKay. His characters are consistent in their actions and it is like reading about the adventures of old friends. Where the previous two novellas, The House in the Marsh and Faces of Darkness were quite dark and broody, and had me hiding under the covers at various points, The Pedlar’s Promise has a different tone and can be quite light-hearted in places. And has a brilliant twist at the end!

I don’t want to tell you too much and ruin the experience, but The Pedlar’s Promise by Steven A. McKay is well worth a read!

I cannot recommend it highly enough!

To Buy the Book:

The Pedlar’s Promise is now available from Amazon.

From Steven A. McKay:

I was born in Scotland in 1977 and always enjoyed studying history – well, the interesting bits, not so much what they taught us in school. I decided to write my Forest Lord series after seeing a house called “Sherwood” when I was out at work one day. I’d been thinking about maybe writing a novel but couldn’t come up with a subject or a hero so, to see that house, well…It felt like a message from the gods and my rebooted Robin Hood was born.

My current Warrior Druid of Britain series was similarly inspired, although this time it was the 80’s TV show “Knightmare”, and their version of Merlin that got my ideas flowing. Of course, the bearded old wizard had been done to death in fiction, so I decided to make my hero a giant young warrior-druid living in post-Roman Britain and he’s been a great character to write.

In 2021 the Xbox/Playstation/PC game HOOD: Outlaws and Legends was released, featuring my writing. I did the character backstories and the lore for the maps and collectables and it was such a fantastic experience!

I was once in a heavy metal band although I tend to just play guitar in my study these days. I’m sure the neighbours absolutely love me.

Check out my website at stevenamckay.com and sign up for the email list – in return I’ll send you a FREE short story, as well as offering chances to win signed books, free audiobooks and other quite good things!

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My Books:

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

1 family. 8 earls. 300 years of English history!

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword, AmazonBookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066.  Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Alternate Endings: An anthology of historical fiction short stories including Long Live the King… which is my take what might have happened had King John not died in October 1216. Available in paperback and kindle from Amazon.

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You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

©2020 Sharon Bennett Connolly FRHistS

Book Corner: Dark Waters Rising by Cassandra Clark

A storm is coming . . . Can nun sleuth Hildegard solve the murder of a lay sister before the rising flood waters trap her with a cunning killer?

Autumn, 1394. All is not well at Swyne Priory. Dissension has arisen amongst the nuns. The new novices whisper in corners, spreading malicious rumours and sharing dark secrets.

The Prioress gives Hildegard an order: search out the cause of this unrest, and put a stop to it. But before Hildegard can investigate, she’s forced to deal with a new problem: the arrival of a mysterious stranger in the middle of the night, claiming his life is in danger.

Hildegard isn’t sure whether to believe him, but when a body is discovered near the priory, she’s soon plunged into a dark and dangerous puzzle where nothing is as it seems. All she knows for certain is that a storm is coming, threatening to cut the priory off from the outside world and trap them with a killer . . .

Dark Waters Rising is the twelfth and final novel of Cassandra Clark’s fabulous series charting the adventure of her nun-turned-sleuth Hildegard of Meaux. Deep in the wilds of Yorkshire, amidst a storm that threatens to drown everything and everyone, Hildegard is thrown into yet another mystery when a court musician appears at the gates of her abbey, just as one of the abbey’s servants is viciously murdered. Coincidence?

Dark Waters Rising is set in the turbulent reign of King Richard II, when the king’s own relatives are always looking to their own advantage – to the detriment of the king and those who support him. It is a thrilling murder mystery, tinged with court intrigue, despite the distance between Yorkshire and London. The political connotations are never far from the minds of Hildegard and her colleagues. Hildegard has to consider the motives of the major players on the national stage, and of those closer to home if she is to uncover the murderer and keep her fellow nuns safe.

Cassandra Clark is the consummate story teller and draws the reader in from the very first pages, taking them on a journey of deceit and discovery as the tale unravels and the villains – and friends – are unmasked.

Hildegard took charge. ‘He’s going to wake the entire priory. Keep the beam in place.’

Speaking through the peephole she demanded, ‘Who’s there?’

From the lane a voice gasped something and Hildegard had to ask again. ‘Who is it? Declare yourself.’

‘I beg you – please, sister, for the love of God, let me in – I beg you, let me inside or I’m a dead man!

‘Your name, sir?’

‘Master Leonin, King’s musician, and I beg entry to your convent. Sister, I mean you no harm – I am alone. One man only. Help me!’

‘Are you armed?’

A pause followed.

Hildegard repeated the question. Eventually a hesitant voice replied, ‘Only with my one knife, for eating and practical purposes while travelling.’

‘That could mean anything, ‘ whispered Blanche the porteress.

Hildegard whispered back. ‘Fear not. I have my own knife, equally practical.’

She gave a glance towards several nuns who, roused from their beds, had crowded into the lodge. She noticed one or two looking as formidable as ever and decided to take a risk.

Peering back through the peephole she could just about discern a hooded figure move into view. Behind him was the short bridge over the moat and beyond that only the dense black of the thicket at the edge of the woods. Apart from this one fellow battering at the door there was no sign of anyone else, no band of cut-throats, nothing but the swish of rain and the gurgling in the gutters as it spewed down through the waste pipes.

She whispered to Blanche, ‘Go on. Open it slowly.’ She gave a last hurried glance outside before stepping back as the bar slid out, the door flew open, and the stranger fell inside.

He was clawing for breath and gasping, ‘I thank you with all my heart, dear sisters! Thank you, thank you!’

His hood fell back and they saw he had black hair plastered to his skull and a clean-shaven face washed by rain. Kneeling in the puddle he brought in he seemed incapable of rising to his feet. With hands clasped he lifted his face to them, eyes stark with something liker terror. He was no more than a boy, a very handsome, exotic-looking boy, wearing filthy but expensive velvet and worn-out embroidered Spanish-leather boots.

‘My blessed saviours – my dear angels of mercy,’ he whispered in a strange accent, then he astonished them all by leaning forward to kiss the flagstones in front of them.

‘Can you stand on your feet, young fellow?’ Hildegard demanded. ‘Come, get up. You’re safe from whatever threatens you outside our precinct.’

‘A moment.’ He was gasping for air. With what seemed like fear, head bent over his clasped hands as a prayer issued from his lips, he broke off with a sob then took another gulping breath before slowly subsiding to the floor in a dead faint.

In Dark Waters Rising Cassandra Clark evokes an atmosphere of desolation and isolation within a storm-swept Yorkshire of the 14th century. Her knowledge of the landscape and its people adds to the authenticity of the story and the history. All is intricately woven into the story to draw the reader into the world of late 14th century England – and the intrigues that abounded.

The reign of Richard II is woefully underrepresented in fiction and non-fiction alike, so it is refreshing to see an entire series of stories set in the period. It s even more refreshing to see them sympathetic to Richard II, rather than championing the Lancastrian cause of Henry of Bolingbroke, the future King Henry IV.

I like Hildegard. She is a no-nonsense, practical nun who just gets on with things. You can imagine that she is the one everyone goes to for advice. The sensible one. Cassandra Clark manages to include a wide range of diverse and individual characters, both in the religious houses and those around them, creating a rich tapestry of personalities for this medieval tale.

If you haven’t met Hildegard of Meaux, yet, I suggest you acquaint yourself with this amazing series.

Beautifully written and expertly told, the story and plot reveals itself gradually, building to the inevitable climax, and the ending of a fabulous series of stories.

Hildegard of Meaux will be sorely missed!

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To Buy the Book:

Dark Waters Rising by Cassandra Clark is now available from Amazon.

About the author:

Cassandra Clark is an award-winning scriptwriter for theatre, radio and television, and the author of nine previous novels in the Hildegard of Meaux medieval mystery series. Running wild near the ruins of the Abbey of Meaux in the East Riding as a child became her inspiration for the series while the discovery in a dusty archive of the Chronicle of Meaux written in 1395 is the secret source for her research.

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My Books:

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword Books, Amazon in the UK and US, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

1 family. 8 earls. 300 years of English history!

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & SwordAmazonBookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066.  Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Alternate Endings: An anthology of historical fiction short stories including Long Live the King… which is my take what might have happened had King John not died in October 1216. Available in paperback and kindle from Amazon.

*

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

*

©2022 Sharon Bennett Connolly, FRHistS

Book Corner: Her Castilian Heart by Anna Belfrage

Blood is not always thicker than water…

At times a common bloodline is something of a curse—or so Robert FitzStephan discovers when he realises his half-brother, Eustace de Lamont, wants to kill him.  

A murderous and greedy brother isn’t Robert’s only challenge.  He and his wife, Noor, also have to handle their infected relationship with a mightily displeased Queen Eleanor—all because of their mysterious little foundling whom they refuse to abandon or allow the queen to lock away.

Eustace is persistent. When Robert’s life hangs in the balance, it falls to Noor to do whatever it takes to rip them free from the toothy jaws of fate. Noor may be a woman, but weak she is not, and in her chest beats a heart as brave and ferocious as that of a lioness. But will her courage be enough to see them safe?

Her Castilian Heart by Anna Belfrage is yet another fast-paced adventure that is impossible to put down. I read it in 3 days!

Her Castilian Heart is the third in the series, set in the reign of Edward I, which follows Robert FitzStephan, an illegitimate son of a lord who has risen on his own merit to become a knight and landowner. He is married to the incomparable Noor, a relative of the queen, Eleanor of Castile. After being exiled to Spain for a short period, Noor and Robert are back in England, facing the anger and suspicions of the queen, and the jealousy of Robert’s brother.

As ever, Anna Belfrage has woven a tale of love, betrayal and intrigue that will leave the reader absorbed from beginning to end. Set with the backdrop of border skirmishes with Wales and the queen’s failing health, Noor and Robert are once again forced to negotiate the English court and its rivalries, intrigues and jealousies.

At present, she did not look much like a mother or wife: her hair had escaped its braid and the confines of the veil, long dark locks floating round her face. There was a smudge of something on her nose – ointment, he’s hazard, given the fragrance – and her brown skirts were covered with straw. He reached over and stroked her cheek with his maimed hand. She leaned into his touch, half closing her eyes.

‘Why is he here?’ she asked, moving close enough that she could stand on her toes and kiss his cheek.

‘Why?’ To drag me along to Wales.’

‘Now?’ She frowned. ‘This time of the year?’

‘I’ve campaigned during the winter before.’ He tapped her nose. ‘I’ll survive.’

She paled, and he regretted his choice of words.

‘It is a scouting expedition.’ he said. ‘We will keep to the shadows.’ He did not quite believe that. The moment Rhys of Maredudd had decided to raise the banners of rebellion yet again instead of disappearing into a hole somewhere, he’d effectively unleashed the vindictive rage of the English king. There’d be little scouting, more killing, as they encircled the rebel.

She snorted. ‘Mortimer is about as adept at staying in the shadows as I am at swimming.’

As his wife did not know how to swim, that was not an accolade. But it made him smile. He shook his head at her. ‘Roger is quite skilled at melting into the background when it suits him.’

‘Hmph! Then he can go himself.’

‘The king requires I accompany him.’ And as the king’s knight, Robert could not deny him.

‘The king is here? In England?’

He heard the quaver in her voice. Once the king and queen were back, there would be no putting off the audience with the queen, and they both feared Queen Eleanor’s reaction to the fact that they’d returned without that jewel she so desired. Or abandoning their foster son in foreign lands as instructed, but hopefully she’d never find that out. Upon returning home, Robert had sent an extensive account of their time abroad to the king, and despite being home for a year, he’d not heard from his liege until now, and then only indirectly via Roger Mortimer.

‘He remains in Gascony.’

Anna Belfrage’s storytelling is second-to-none and her research impeccable. She transports the reader to the court of Edward I, to the Europe of the 13th century. Meticulously recreating the sights, sounds and smells of the era, Anna rebuilds a lost world and immerses the reader entirely within its confines.

Her characters are full of life and vigour, having an energy of their own. They are not untouched by events, and grow and mature through their experiences. Neither Noor nor Robert forget the past and this informs their future. Anna Belfrage has created a hero and heroine that the reader can relate to, and empathise with.

Her Castilian Heart by Anna Belfrage will leave the reader breathless!

Anna Belfrage is a wonderful storyteller. She draws you into the book from the very first page, takes hold of your emotions, twists them around, puts them through the ringer and then – maybe – gives them back to you, battered, bruised and in tears. And you’ll want to go back for more! What an incredible experience!

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To buy the book:

Her Castilian Heart is available now from: http://myBook.to/HEART

About the author:

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. No luck there, so instead she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests; history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours. Plus she always finds the time to try out new recipes, chase down obscure rose bushes and initiate a home renovation scheme or two.

Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga , set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy.

Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. Her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty and love set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales in the late 13th century.

Her most recent release, The Whirlpools of Time , is a time travel romance set against the backdrop of brewing rebellion in the Scottish highlands.

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of several Reader’s Favorite medals as well as having won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, www.annabelfrage.com 

Social Media Links:

Website: www.annabelfrage.com; Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/ABG; Twitter: https://twitter.com/abelfrageauthor; Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/anna-belfrage; Instagram: https://instagram.com/annabelfrageauthor; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor; Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6449528.Anna_Belfrage

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My Books:

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

1 family. 8 earls. 300 years of English history!

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword,  AmazonBookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066.  Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Alternate Endings: An anthology of historical fiction short stories including Long Live the King… which is my take what might have happened had King John not died in October 1216. Available in paperback and kindle from Amazon.

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You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

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©2022 Sharon Bennett Connolly, FRHistS

Book Corner: Wrath of the Picts by Steven A McKay

Princess Catia has gone missing and once again it falls to the legendary druid, Bellicus, to find her. Was the child taken by force, or did she go willingly with the Pictish warrior-woman, Aife?

Their trail leads far north to the windswept fortress of Dunnottar, so the druid must journey there with his companions, Duro, Eburus, and the fearsome wardog, Cai. Leaving Dun Breatann in the hands of Queen Narina and her enigmatic new husband, Ysfael, the friends ride out, but things are never as straightforward as they seem…
Violence and death follow Bellicus as he seeks to discover the fate of the princess. In doing so, he also finds himself on the trail of the swordsman, Lancelot, who disappeared months before when his warband was slaughtered by Saxons. Will the druid be in time to save them both? Or will their enemies, old and new,earn the bloody vengeance and glory they so desperately desire?
Ambition, lust, grief, and the power of the old gods combine in Wrath of the Picts as the druid and his companions are thrust towards a shocking finale that will leave Dun Breatann in turmoil and Northern Britain ravaged again by war.

Bellicus is back!

Wrath of the Picts is book no. 5 in Steven A. McKay’s magnificent series, Warrior Druid of Britain. Having spent some time campaigning with Arthur against the Saxons, Bellicus is called back north after Princess Catia goes missing, supposedly kidnapped by the warrior princess, Aife. But all is not as it seems…

Steven A. McKay once again draws his reader into a story chock full of adventure, treachery and a good few battles as Bellicus tries to make sense of events. It also a story of trust, friendship and loyalty that sees Bellicus and his good friends, Duro and Eburus, risking their lives in order to save the princess and discover the truth behind the uneasy atmosphere of his fortress home, Dun Breatann.

This is a story not to be missed.

“Where are all the Damnonii warriors?” Duro asked in a low voice. It was evening and Bellicus had joined them at last in the great hall. The cooking fires kept the chill of approaching autumn at bay and the homely orange glow would have made for a much more pleasant atmosphere if they weren’t surrounded by Ysfael’s men.

“Some of them are guarding the walls – you just haven’t seen them yet,” Bellicus replied, happily digging into the thick stew a serving girl had placed before him: beef, carrot, cabbage, onion and parsley had all gone into it and the druid couldn’t remember ever tasting, or smelling, much better. “The rest went out to deal with some Dalriadan raiders a few days ago. I expect they’ll return soon enough.”

Duro shook his head almost imperceptibly, glancing around as if spies were eavesdropping although, in truth, the Votadini warriors eating and carousing around them were making more than enough noise to mask what the centurion was saying. None of Ysfael’s men were paying them much attention other than to throw them the occasional curious glance. “It’s not right,” Duro opined. “Narina shouldn’t have let Gavo take her men off, leaving her alone with these … outsiders.”

Bellicus shrugged. He agreed completely, but Narina was her own woman and did things her way. She clearly trusted Ysfael.

Just then the door opened and Bellicus smiled, jerking his head for Duro to look over his shoulder for he was sitting with his back to the entrance. “What were you saying about Gavo?”

The centurion glanced back, mouth open as he chewed a piece of meat, and broke into a smile as he saw the Damnonii guard captain coming towards them. A bear of a man, Gavo had long hair and a grizzled beard which were both turning from brown to grey now that he was in his fortieth year. He wore reed checked trousers, a loose fitting blue tunic, and a bronze torc around his neck which marked his high rank, although it was obvious from his bearing he was a man used to command.

“Are you still here?” Gavo said, taking a seat beside Eburus and eyeing him with clear surprise. “I thought you’d have joined your kinsmen at the other benches.”
The Votadini shrugged, and said in his heavily accented tones, “These are my friends. I’m used to their company now. Ysfael will no doubt order me to join his ranks again soon enough, but until then I’lll sit with who I choose.”

“See?” Duro hissed. “Even he doesn’t trust the Votadini, and he’s one of them!”

The Warrior Druid of Britain series is set in the time after the Romans have left and the Saxon tribes are beginning to settle in England, causing conflict with the native Britons. The great warlord, Arthur, is attempting to hold them back. In the north, in Scotland, Bellicus is druid to the Damnoni tribe, but has been spending time fighting alongside Arthur. With Catia’s disappearance, he has been called home to lead the search for the lost princess. Set in the twilight of the Roman Empire and before the creation of the kingdoms of England and Scotland, Steve A. McKay has recreated the time that is often called the Dark Ages. His vivid imagination and impeccable research brings the period to life for the reader. The ancient landscapes, authentic weapons and tactics, all the way down to the textiles, halls and food, help to draw the reader into the story and allow them to suspend belief and travel back to a simpler, but more vicious time.

Steven A. McKay’s great skill is in the characters he creates. He makes the reader care about their stories and about their fate. Bellicus is a tall, likeable druid with an intelligent mind and a great aptitude for fighting and tactics. He has his weaknesses though, and a soft spot for the princess Catia and her mother, Narina. This gives the character a vulnerability that in turn leaves the reader wondering if he can see the big picture, and if he will succeed in his mission. Alongside his great friend, Duro, the heroes are tasked with saving the day, but not without great personal cost. And I love that Lancelot gets to play a part in Wrath of the Picts, away from teh Arthurian legend and forging his own path.

Wrath of the Picts draws thew reader in from the first page and keeps you hooked until the very last. Steven A McKay is such a skillful storyteller that you cannot wait for the book to finish – and yet, dread getting to the end. Whether it is the first book in the series, or the fifth, the stories are always fresh, new and engaging.

And Wrath of the Picts is just a fabulous adventure!

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To buy the book:

Wrath of the Picts by Steven A. McKay is now available from Amazon

About the Author:

I was born in Scotland in 1977 and always enjoyed studying history – well, the interesting bits, not so much what they taught us in school. I decided to write my Forest Lord series after seeing a house called “Sherwood” when I was out at work one day. I’d been thinking about maybe writing a novel but couldn’t come up with a subject or a hero so, to see that house, well…It felt like a message from the gods and my rebooted Robin Hood was born.

My current Warrior Druid of Britain series was similarly inspired, although this time it was the 80’s TV show “Knightmare”, and their version of Merlin that got my ideas flowing. Of course, the bearded old wizard had been done to death in fiction, so I decided to make my hero a giant young warrior-druid living in post-Roman Britain and he’s been a great character to write.

In 2021 the Xbox/Playstation/PC game HOOD: Outlaws and Legends was released, featuring my writing. I did the character backstories and the lore for the maps and collectables and it was such a fantastic experience!

I was once in a heavy metal band although I tend to just play guitar in my study these days. I’m sure the neighbours absolutely love me.

Check out my website at stevenamckay.com and sign up for the email list – in return I’ll send you a FREE short story, as well as offering chances to win signed books, free audiobooks and other quite good things!

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My Books:

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

1 family. 8 earls. 300 years of English history!

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword,  AmazonBookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066.  Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Alternate Endings: An anthology of historical fiction short stories including Long Live the King… which is my take what might have happened had King John not died in October 1216. Available in paperback and kindle from Amazon.

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You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

©2022 Sharon Bennett Connolly FRHistS

Long Live the King….

What would have happened if King John had not died in October 1216…?

Would England have been lost?

Find out in ‘Long Live the King…

I have finally done it!

I’ve written a fictional short story, and it’s out this week.

Alternate Endings is a compilation of short stories published by the Historical Writers Forum. I wasn’t sure about trying my hand at fiction, but there are so many What ifs in history that it was hard to resist. Having spent the last two years writing Nicholaa de la Haye’s biography – which will be published in May 2023, I thought it would be quite fun to take one event in Nicholaa’s life and see what might change if that event didn’t happen.

Nicholaa’s greatest benefactor and – dare I say? – friend was King John. He had been an ally since at least the early 1190s, but his death on the night of 18/19 October 1216 was a godsend for England. John’s reign had been plagued by unrest, civil war and the paranoia of the king himself. He had murdered his nephew, Arthur, starved Matilda de Braose to death in a dungeon and stolen the lands of those he was meant to protect. His reputation for underhand dealing, seducing the daughters of nobles and reneging on Magna Carta has seen him go down in history as Bad King John. He is a strong candidate for England’s worst ever king.

It has often been said that John’s death saved England.

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for King John. Not because he was such a warm, cuddly human being – he really wasn’t! But because his reign was full of so much drama. It was a time of transition, when England was losing its continental positions, when the barons were flexing their muscles and when the relationship between king and baron was in flux.

It is a fascinating period of history. So, when I was asked if I wanted to write a short story, I immediately thought of King John, of Nicholaa de la Haye and the upheaval that was Magna Carta and the First Barons’ War. Nicholaa’s involvement culminated in her defending Lincoln Castle through a prolonged siege that ended with the Second Battle of Lincoln. And I wondered… Would events have played out as they did if John had lived?

So… what would have happened if he had survived his illness in October 1216.

Well, you will have to wait and see…

But here’s a teaser….

Newark Castle

28 October 1216

John opened his eyes to a black, empty void.

   Is this it? Is this Hell?

   Has death finally claimed me?

He had been hovering on the brink for so long now. For exactly how long, he did not know. He could barely remember anything beyond the excruciating pain in his gut and head. Lying there in the dark, John took a mental inventory of his body. His head felt clearer than it had in days. The feeling that it was held in a vice had gone, replaced by a dull ache. The stabbing pains in his abdomen had also receded and now there was just a gentle throbbing.

  This could be death…

A groan slipped from between his lips. There was movement, the striking of flint and suddenly a flash of light. The candle’s flame illuminated the features of William Marshal. The Marshal leaned in to examine him, then turned to a lad curled up on bedding in the far corner, just lifting his head, looking groggy from sleep.

‘Godfrey, fetch the doctor. The king is awake.’ Marshal ordered.

‘He’s awake? He’s alive?’ asked a voice from the dark. It was heavily accented. Italian. Cardinal Guala, the papal legate.

‘Aye, your grace, he’s awake. At last!’ Marshal replied.

‘Praise be!’ exclaimed Guala, approaching the bed.

John tried to speak, but barely a croak came out. His mouth was so dry. Marshal signalled Guala to aid the king from the far side of the bed and between them, they lifted John and adjusted his pillows so that he was sitting up. He felt as useless as a new-born baby, he had not the strength to resist, even if he wanted to. Marshal turned to the table beside the bed and poured out a cup of water from the pewter jug. He held the cup to John’s lips, so that he could take a long, thirst-quenching draught. Nothing had ever tasted so wonderful!

John sank back into the pillows, exhausted, as the door opened and his physician entered, striding over to the bed.

I don’t want to give anything away, but the biggest challenge was to consider whether John’s survival would be a blessing or curse for England. And at least William Marshal and Nicholaa de la Haye are there to steady the boat – what could possibly go wrong?

About the book:

We all know the past is the past, but what if you could change history?

We asked eight historical authors to set aside the facts and rewrite the history they love. The results couldn’t be more tantalizing.

  • What if Julius Caesar never conquered Gaul?
  • What if Arthur Tudor lived and his little brother never became King Henry VIII?
  • What if Abigail Adams persuaded the Continental Congress in 1776 to give women the right to vote and to own property?

Dive in to our collection of eight short stories as we explore the alternate endings of events set in ancient Rome, Britain, the United States, and France.

An anthology of the Historical Writers Forum.

Alternate Endings is now available worldwide from Amazon.

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My Books:

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

1 family. 8 earls. 300 years of English history!

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword, AmazonBookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066.  Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

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You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

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©2022 Sharon Bennett Connolly FRHistS.

Book Corner: Diamond Hunter by Paul Fraser Collard

South Africa, 1871. Jack Lark no longer walks alone. With the worldly Anna Baker by his side, he travels to the Cape Colony diamond fields determined to seek their fortune – and an adventurous new life together.

The journey north soon turns violent as tensions erupt between other hopeful diggers and a gang of Boer men. Everyone has their eye on the same elusive prize – and some will stop at nothing to get it.

For Jack and Anna, unearthing a diamond is only half the battle. Getting out of the mines alive will prove far more difficult – and dangerous. And when the worst happens, Jack finds himself tested as no enemy, no man and no war has ever before.

Diamond Hunter by Paul Fraser Collard is the 11th book in the fabulous Jack Lark series. Jack Lark has made a career of being an imposter, finding his home and employment in the various wars of the 19th century. But what do you do when the guns fall silent? In the last book, Commander, Jack had followed the many adventurers of his era and joined an expedition to explore the River Nile. In Diamond Hunter he stays in Africa, but turns his hand to entirely different profession, though one that can be just as brutal and cut-throat as war.

In the opening pages of Diamond Hunter, we find Jack Lark content, with a woman who is his equal in every way, and with enough money to help him on to his next adventure. However, his constant search of adventure is still bubbling beneath the surface and he is now in southern Africa, ready to stake everything in the search for fortune, or at least a diamond big enough to see him comfortable, for now.

However, for Jack Lark, nothing is ever easy. The journey is always fraught with danger and trouble does seem to find him out! And I do wonder what Jack ever did for Paul Fraser Collard to give him such a hard time? Poor bloke. He really goes through it this time.

‘Shit.’ Jack gently moved Anna’s arm away, pushing himself to his feet with a groan as the action set off the pain in his spine, the persistent backache so much worse after hours of walking and periods riding in the jarring wagon. but it was not enough to stop him straightening up, then offering a hand to Anna to help her up too. It never occurred to him to leave her behind.

‘They’ve been drinking.’ She brushed down the seat of her trousers.

‘Probably. Ready?’ He gave her a moment to prepare.

She sucked down a deep breath. ‘Ready.’

Jack did not wait for more. The voices were getting louder. Whoever had been angered was making one hell of a fuss.

It took them no more than a dozen paces to round the wagon and see what was going on. The four Boers were squared up, facing three of the Cape colonists. The fourth was lying on his back, blood smothering his face like a mask.

‘What the hell is happening?’ Jack shouted as he came closer. It was not his fight, but it was his future that would be thrown into jeopardy if something happened to force JW to turn around. He would not allow that to happen.

‘Keep out of it.’ One of the colonists turned to snap at him.

It did not deter him, and he came closer, Anna just behind him. He could see Clarke and Goodfellow lurking on the far side of the wagon, watching what was going on while making sure they kept a safe distance from the fracas. JW and Fred were standing by as if readying themselves to pick up the pieces of whatever occurred, while JW’s wife was sitting at a campfire a good dozen yards away, her face set in a cherubic smile as she stared at the flames, seemingly blithely unaware of what was going on.

As Jack approached, the colonist who had been knocked to the ground slowly got to his feet, his hand lifting to smear the blood from his face.

Paul Fraser Collard is a fabulous storyteller. He transports not only his characters, but also his readers, to the most exotic and dangerous parts of the world of the nineteenth century. In Diamond Hunter he recrates the gritty, muddy and miserable landscape of the South African diamond fields. Honestly, you can practically taste the dust in your mouth!

Jack Lark is one of the best character developments in modern literature. In Diamond Hunter, he is finally comfortable in his own skin. Though that doesn’t mean his problems are over. He accepts who and what he is, but for Jack Lark, that will always mean facing trouble head on – it is one of his most endearing qualities! Jack is more affected by people and events than he likes to believe. He can’t help but help, which always leads him into trouble.

Diamond Hunter is gritty, harsh and sometimes hard to read. It also enjoyable, engrossing and absolutely fabulous. Diamond Hunter is a book you will not want to put down. A totally immersive and absorbing adventure, it leaves the reader as physically and emotionally drained as it does Jack Lark. I think it may be the best adventure yet.

To Buy the book:

Diamond Hunter by Paul Fraser Collard is now available from Amazon.

About the author:

Paul’s love of military history started at an early age. A childhood spent watching films like Waterloo and Zulu whilst reading Sharpe, Flashman and the occasional Commando comic, gave him a desire to know more of the men who fought in the great wars of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. This fascination led to a desire to write and his series of novels featuring the brutally courageous Victorian rogue and imposter Jack Lark burst into life in 2013. Since then Paul has continued to write, developing the Jack Lark series to great acclaim. To find out more about Paul and his novels visit http://www.paulfrasercollard.com or find him on twitter @pfcollard

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My Books:

Signed, dedicated copies of all my books are available, please get in touch by completing the contact me form.

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

1 family. 8 earls. 300 years of English history!

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword,  AmazonBookshop.org and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066.  Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, Bookshop.org and Book Depository.

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You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter and Instagram.

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©2022 Sharon Bennett Connolly FRHistS.