Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Sons of Sigurd series

You can find them on Amazon etc

And this is a jigsaw of the above in case you can something to do:

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Conveniently Wed to the Viking is published and so I've created a jigsaw puzzle of the front cover.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Deal with Her Rebel Viking is published

My latest Harlequin Historical, A Deal with Her Rebel Viking has been published!

Her terms: free her family

His terms: seduction?

Defending her home, Lady Ansithe captures outlaw Viking Moir Mimirson. The prisoner will be the ideal ransom for her father, who’s being held hostage by the Danes. Yet Moir’s flirtatious negotiations exhilarate practical Ansithe as much as they surprise her… Can she be sure that this hardened warrior will work with her and not betray her? And what of his stolen kisses—can she trust those?

It is the first book in a planned trilogy (I am hard at work on the second book) 
You can read the start of the book for free here.

In other news: my part of the exciting Sons of Sigurd saga  coming to Harlequin Historical in 2020 has been accepted.
Conveniently Wed to the Viking will be released in July 2020.
This is my unofficial blurb:

Scotland,  876 AD
A resourceful lady
To escape her stepmother’s murderous marriage plot, Ceanna of Dun Olliagh believes she must enter her aunt’s convent with a pretend vocation.
A warrior dedicated to revenge
After the raid on his family’s home in Norway, Sandulf Sigurdson  lives only to fulfil the quest his eldest brother gave him — find the assassins who killed his brother’s wife.
A dangerous liaison
When her guide goes missing, Ceanna obtains the services of the mysterious Viking warrior. Confronted with the determined Pictish lady, Sandulf’s heart is touched. While Sandulf is willing to offer her his name and a place in his bed, will he be able to keep her safe from the trained killers who now threaten them both?
Conveniently Wed to the Viking is the third book in the exciting Sons of Sigurd saga which is coming to Harlequin Historical in 2020.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

A blast from the past: A Noble Captive reviewed

The UK cover for A Noble Captive which
I prefer 
It is often very surreal for me that I have had books in print since 2005 or basically 14 years.
One of the great things about writing Historical Romance is that sometimes the books last a little longer and don't become as dated.
Basically how I approached a story in 2005 is not necessarily how I would approach a story these days. The themes which interest me are different.
So when Lynn Spencer tagged me that she had read A Noble Captive and reviewed it for her TBR challenge, random dip for the All About Romance site. I read the review with some trepidation. ANC was my 2nd book for HH and it was a Roman set one.
It came out in January 2007 in the UK but wasn't released in the US until 2010.
I remember lots about writing it and getting my revisions. I had just had my first cataract removed 20 Dec 2005.  It was bought 14 Feb 2006 and I had my 2nd contract -- I wasn't a one book wonder!
I was pleased Lynn  got some of the subtleties. She did miss the fact that it takes place on a island a few miles north of Crete and not on Crete itself.  It was a far smaller made-up island. A minor quibble.
I was pleased that it still worked for her.
She said If you love historical fiction but sometimes find yourself wary to take a chance on a book that might not have an HEA, this novel may be right up your alley.  The romance is very much central to the novel’s plot, but the backstory is so well-developed and rich with detail that I think it will appeal to readers of historical fiction as much as readers of romance. 

I should point out that ANC does have a HEA. It is a Harlequin Historical after all.
And it is lovely to see a review after all this time.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Deal with Her Rebel Viking cover reveal

Her terms: free her family
His terms: seduction?
Defending her home, Lady Ansithe captures outlaw Viking Moir Mimirson. The prisoner will be the ideal ransom for her father, held hostage by the Danes. Yet Moir’s flirtatious negotiations exhilarate practical Ansithe as much as they surprise her… Can she be sure that this hardened warrior will work with her, and not betray her? And what of his stolen kisses…can she trust those?

Buy info:  

NB The cover model's name is Carson and he is repped by Sutherland Modelling agency so I can  tell you that he is 6' 2", blonde and blued eyed with a 31" inch waist. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Diversity and High Society in the Regency Period

One of the projects I have had over the last year was to investigate minorities in the Regency period. It came about because I was doing my Life in the UK test and read about the man who started up the first Indian restaurant and who really popularized the taking of waters in Bath as well as the concept of shampooing (Indian head massage) – Sake Dean Mahomet. In June 2018, I went to the Black Salt exhibit in Liverpool and discovered Captain Jack Perkins. There wasn’t much on him at the exhibit as he didn’t fit the narrative of the exhibit but I became intrigued. He was the first black Naval officer and was one of the most prize-winning Naval captains during the American Revolution (therefore of all time). British Naval captains were members of the First Estate and not members of the working class.
 I then discovered Nathaniel Wells who was High Sheriff in Wales in 1818. His first wife was the daughter of George III’s chaplain and his 2nd related to William Wilberforce’s wife.  There was also Cesar Picton who rose from boy-slave to millionaire coal merchant in Kingston upon Hull. And of course there was Gustav Vassa who made one fortune in shipping after buying his freedom as a slave and another as a best selling author during the Georgian period. 
Today I discovered someone else -- a woman.  
The Sunday Times are reporting that the new series of Poldark will carry a strand about the real life adventures of American Revolutionary war hero and British officer Edward (Ned) Despard and his wife Catherine who had once been his servant. Apparently it was a real love match.
On his return to London, he and his wife for a time cut a swathe through Regency high society.
So far, so ordinary, so Regency romance.So far, so Poldark -- although Graham's son denies his father knew anything about Despard and his servant wife.
 Despard however had married his servant Catherine (Kitty) in what became Belize. 
He was an early campaigner for civil rights of the freed slaves and was removed from being the Superintendent of the colony (basically the governor) . Kitty was supposed to be Jamaican (although some people preferred to call her Spanish Creole).
Despard was a friend of Nelson's but it was Kitty who prevailed on him to intervene on Despard's behalf during the trial. Despard  was hanged in 1803 for his part in the so-called Despard plot. She also became an activist for prison reform. They had a son James -- no idea what happened to him.
I suspect some viewing the new season of Poldark will say that the BBC are being politically correct to make Kitty a black woman.
My point is that the notion that somehow black people (and other minorities) in British society during the Regency period was all of low class who did not mix with high society is a canard which is often peddled in Romancelandia as an excuse for not including diverse characters.
 Often they are hiding in plain sight, overlooked because they don't fit the historical narrative or social construct  on many levels.  In short more black men dined with the Prince of Wales than Wellington ever rose from the ranks to become officers. This is not to say that there wasn’t huge discrimination. The fact they continued to be overlooked points to that. To do your research, you must be aware of how people were presented and how things were brushed under the carpet. A painter visiting Wells for the first time expressed surprise at his countenance and that he was as dark as any West Indian but of course, he obvious wasn't (Wells was the son of a slave). It puts another interpretation on Mr Rochester's first  wife and brother-in-law btw. 
NB I haven’t mentioned the French and what was going on there – suffice to say, there is much to excite any historical romance writer who is interested in getting more diversity into their work.
It is time Romancelandia started reflecting what was actually happening during the Regency period, instead adhering to an Edwardian view of the period which Heyer developed.  The late Victorian and Edwardian periods were notoriously xenophobic and people’s family history was bleached. But they are there, hiding in plain sight. It is about time they were restored.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Ghost Wood

View of the dene from under the very large ash in the
farmer's field to the south of the property.

How old is the dene and what were its possible prior uses?
In order to discover, I have turned detective. The first bit was to do a brief survey of the trees in the dene – starting at the kissing gate to the footpath and moving upwards towards my section. Below the kissing gate is farm land, mostly run to sheep or occasionally cows. There are some remnants of trees by the stream but I decided it would not offer any real clues. The ash tree is huge there and must have stood the test of time, rough guess it has about 400 inch girth or so and at one point was heavily coppiced but hasn't been for a long time.
Banked earth by the kissing gate's dry stone wall
However, by the kissing gate, I can detect banked earth – in other words, as Rackham predicted there is a bank separating the woods from the arable field. There is also a stone wall which marks out the wooded area enclosing it to the west, including the footpath and seperating it from the arable field (and houses). Again Rackham suggested that this is entirely what one would expect with an older wood which may have been exploited at certain points.
So it would seem to be the ghost of an ancient wood which developed into a boundary or hedge. 
It was not profitable to farm down the dene, but I suspect the trees were exploited in some fashion and many show signs of coppicing which ceased many years ago. Most woods used to be exploited in some fashion, according to Rackham.
The kissing gate leading into the footpath.
On the house side of the dene are the remains of a hedge – the hawthorn, and several holly bushes. To see if my guess was accurate,  I turned to the 1862  OS Map of Haydon Bridge:  In common with older OS every feature is shown and this is before the house was built in 1908 so it gives some indication of land use.  The dene is clearly marked as a wood and there is clearly a footpath marked through it.  
Looking at the deeds, the house side of the dene belonged to Broom Hill farm at this time and was used as farm land ( I presume livestock). The land to the east and west was owned by the Greenwich Hospital. As an aside, this means it was the Earls of Derwentwater land which was sequestered after the failed Jacobite Rebellion. The Earl of Derwentwater supported Bonnie Prince Charlie and became the last noble to be executed for treason by the crown.  I have no idea when Broom Hill farm became separate from the Earls of Derwentwater land. However it was long enough ago for a footpath to develop and to demarcated by a stone wall on one side.
The name of the house to the south of us which was built in 1902 is Hedgeley and that probably indicates that the dene and its trees were indeed used as a hedge. the suffix -ley normally means a glade within a wood in Anglo Saxon. Going from the OS map, I assume it was named when built and the owners were creating a glade within the hedge. The Dene, the name of my house is self-explanatory and again features the land.
The trees are mixed – Scot’s pine, sycamore, oak, ash, hazel, willow, holly and lime. The Scots pine was probably plant/wind blown sometime in the Victorian era. Sycamore again is mostly likely 18th century or later. The lime is interesting as there appears to be three types – small leafed (pry) in the oldest part of the wood on the footpath. Pry is nearly always an indicator of an ancient wood. There is also a medium sized leaf lime (assuming common lime) – this is within Hedgeley boundaries. And there is the large leaf limes in my section. As there used to be an outcrop of limestone (assume there still is), it could explain the presence of the trees. Alternatively persons unknown planted them awhile ago.
Near to the limes in my part of the dene, in early spring there are white wood anemones. White wood anemones notoriously only grow in ancient woods. They grow through underground runners and advance very slowly. They also do not like being transplanted.  It is only a tiny patch but it is clinging on.  I have no idea if Hedgeley has white wood anemones or not.  However there are hedge plants such as stitchwort and green alknet. 
We also have wild garlic growing in profusion – wild garlic however can be transplanted. It is certainly though a plant which has gone wild in the garden.
Some of our flowers only appeared after we made sure light was getting into the dene – including the bluebells and the stitchwort. This accords with Rackman’s assertion that regular coppicing allowed certain species to colonise. Hedgeley with its closed canopy has slightly different flora. The footpath is much more open and has a mix of species. The sheer mix of flora through out the dene (I walked up the footpath, starting near the farm (no livestock in the field) seems to indicate a longevity.
While I have nettles (sign of human disturbance), Hedgeley's dene and the footpath are remarkably clear of nettles. According to Rackham, true wildwood doesn’t have nettles.
Further up beyond us is farmland where a disused dam resides. It occasionally gets blocked with the odd sheep carcass. The earthworks are huge though and it used to power the gin-gan of Peel Well Farm. The stream probably always has been here, and they simply blocked it as it was the best way to provide power. The stream also serves as run off from various farms (we have had environmental incidents – most recently in April – all I can do is report to the Environment Agency with photos).
It is also clear that my portion of the dene has been a garden for some years, probably over a hundred years (the house was built in 1908). The nettles give it away and there are remains of paths and retaining walls. The more formal part of the garden will have been farmland before the house was built.  I have no real idea of how the Victorian plum tree is (around a hundred years?) but I suspect the back lawn/orchard with wildflowers was at one point a productive orchard. It was also probably a vegetable patch. We have a much smaller veg patch which is now fenced to keep out the hens and ducks.
Where next?
 I need to find out about the outcrop of limestone and why it was considered to be of local geological interest. It was in the late 1990’s that the geologist decided that it couldn’t be seen. He seemed to think this would be better for us. I assumed at the time, it would mean that it could not be exploited. But I suspect I need to do more detective work here but I am starting to get an idea of how the dene can be managed – get rid of/weaken invasive non-natives (ie ground elder) to allow the native wild flora to flourish. The sticks do need to be left in situ as much as possible.
The robin on the footpath.
I also need to put the measuring tape around some of the larger trees as that might help indicate when the wood really developed. My daughter says that I mustn’t put a tape around large ash which is in the field as it isn’t strictly on the footpath. (At 26, she still gets embarrassed by her mother). It is a very large tree. However, I think I can find out a lot through measuring the beech and large leaf lime which are in my portion.  It is merely to discover if the trees were here before the house.  Given what I know about the wood and the surrounding area, it makes no sense for anyone to create an ornamental wood in the dene. There just were no major country houses in the area. The nearest was Langley Castle and that was a ruin during the period of major parkland creation and again it is too far away for that sort of activity to make any sense.
But I have having fun doing the detective work and thinking about the what used to be here and therefore what do the organisms in the soil (the roots if you will pardon the pun of the ecosystem) want to support?
On my walk up the dene, I noticed a robin (hopping in front of me as if to make sure I had filled in all the forms correctly)  as well as specked wood butterflies. It is the stopping and looking which has me noticing these things and that has to be a good thing.