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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Book review: Silver Hammer, Golden Cross (Book Six of The Circle of Ceridwen Saga) by Octavia Randolph

A sweeping, epic novel that picks up around a decade after Ceridwen and Sidroc's story. This is the tale of Ceric (Ceridwen's son) and Ashild (the daughter of Aelfwyn and Yrling). Like the earlier books in this saga, Octavia Randolph uses real historical events to bring her story to life. The peace forged by King Alfred and Guthrum has ended, and war sweeps across England once more.

The characters are great - well rounded with flaws that make them feel like real people. I particularly loved Ashild. A young woman of independent spirit, she struggles with the role that she must play; to marry to strength alliances and wealth. She and Ceric are childhood friends, and both their families wish them to wed. However, despite her attraction for him she wishes to choose her own fate.

Likewise, Ceric is a young man coming to terms with his own place in the world as he reaches manhood and must fill the gap left by his uncle.

Unlike the earlier books in the series, this one is told in third person narrative (rather than first person). This creates quite a different tone - less intimate, more epic. We move from Four Stones (in what is now Lincolnshire, I guess) down to Kilton on the south coast of England, and then across the water to Gotland in Scandinavia. Ceric and Ashild are the main POV characters, although we also spend some time again with Ceridwen and Sidroc, which I enjoyed.

What I love most about Octavia Randolph's books (apart from the memorable characters) is the way she brings 9th Century Anglo-Saxon England to life. She has done vast amounts of research and it shows, not in an 'info-dump' way but in a rich, detailed tapestry. She really brings you there. I particularly loved the descriptions of the food!

The story also highlights the conflict between the paganism and Christianity at this time, hence the title of this book. Ashild carries the silver hammer of Thor from her father, Yrling, and a golden cross from her mother, Aelfwyn, around her neck.

There are quite a few battle and fight scenes in this book that were really well done. There are some great action scenes toward the end of the book - but I'll say nothing about those as I don't want to spoil the story for readers!

I look forward to reading the next installment in the Ceridwen saga - highly recommended five-star read.

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Buy a copy of Silver Hammer, Golden Cross on Amazon.com

Thursday, 6 April 2017

My favorite Historical Romances list

I read (almost) as much as I write—and there have been a number of historical romance novels over the years which have inspired and enthused me. I thought I'd share my list of absolute favorites here. Some you'll recognize, others might be new to you—some new books for you to discover! 

Of course, I read far more widely than historical romance. I love historical epics, fantasy and the classics. Although I haven't mentioned them above Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, George R.R Martin's The Song of Fire and Ice, Jean M. Auel 's The Clan of Cave Bear,  Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, Stephen King's The Stand, and Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles/Saxon Chronicles, have had a huge influence on my writing (and life!).

Back to Historical Romance though... 

In no particular order, here are my keepers:












The Conquest
Elizabeth Chadwick

This is one of Elizabeth Chadwick's earlier books - but easily one my favorites. It's actually two love stories, set at the time of the Nortman Conquest. Poignant, and at times very sad, this isn't a traditional romance, but it's well-worth the read. Chadwick brings this time to life so vividly you feel as if you're there with her. It was after reading this novel that I decided I wanted to set my novels in the Anglo-Saxon period!













Daughter of the Forest
Juliet Marillier

This book is actually Historical Fantasy Romance but I had to add it here. A beautifully written story of courage, strength and slow-burning love, Daughter of the Forest is a compelling tale.

Read my review of Daughter of the Forest on this blog.












The Warrior's Game
Denise Domning

Get past the awful cover and discover an exciting story set at the time of King John and the Magna Carta. The characters in this story—a fiesty English widow and a sexy French mercenary—is what made this novel a keeper for me. This well-researched story really brings the 13th century to life. It's the third in a trilogy (although they can all be read as stand-alones), and my favorite of the three.













The Wolfe
Kathryn Le Veque

Kathryn Le Veque has written a huge number of door-stopper epic romance novels set in the Middle Ages. Her earlier works are definitely my favorites; they're page-turning adventures with exciting characters and lots of intrigue. My other favorites by Le Veque are: The Dark One, Spectre of the Sword and The White Lord of Wellesbourne.

Read my review of The Wolfe on Goodreads.












Outlander
Diana Gabaldon

This series needs no introduction. It has everything, romance, adventure, intrigue and real history—with a bit of time travel thrown in. Jamie Fraser is the ultimate romantic hero, who can blame Claire for falling for him!













Circle of Ceridwen Saga
Octavia Randolph

This is a fabulous series of books set in 8th Century England and Scandinavia. Randolph draws you right into the period and brings it to life so vividly you can almost smell the burning peat, the crunch of rushes under your boots and the jingling of chain mail! Not a traditional romance, the love-story is a slow burn through the first four books, with a stand-alone fifth book. I'm now half-way through the sixth book which tells the story of the next generation. A fabulous historical epic that I can't recommend highly enough!

Read my review of the first book in the series on Goodreads.












The King's Man
Elizabeth Kingston

A fabulously gritty historical romance about a brutal English soldier and a wild female Welsh warrior. Kingston is an original voice in this genre. She writes realistic stories about flawed characters. The second book in this (Welsh Blades) series is also excellent.

Read my review on this blog.












A Knight in Shining Armor
Jude Deveraux

Before Outlander there was this book. This is the original historical romance time-travel novel—the story of a frightened and insecure young woman on holiday in England and a young, arrogant Elizabethan lord, whose paths cross across time. A compelling, fun read that's really well researched. A first read this book many years ago but recently re-read an updated version—even better than I remembered!


Sunday, 5 March 2017

New projects on the go!

2016 was a very busy year writing-wise - and it looks as if 2017 is shaping up much the same. Not that I'm complaining. I'm at my happiest when immersed in my stories. 😊

I've currently got three writing projects on the go - two Historical Romances and an Epic Fantasy Romance. I've just begun a new series set in Dark Ages Scotland, and embarked on Book #2 of the Kingdom of Northumbria. My fantasy novel is now being line edited so I'm working on the maps for it. Read on to find out more about each project - and get a sneak peak at the covers - below.

Historical Romance

BLOOD FEUD

THE WARRIOR BROTHERS OF SKYE — BOOK #1
A DARK AGES SCOTTISH ROMANCE

CAN THEIR LOVE OVERCOME GENERATIONS OF HATE?

Autumn, 366 AD—The Isle of Skye

Far north of Hadrian’s Wall—beyond the shadow of the Roman Empire—the daughter of a Pictish chieftain prepares to wed her enemy.

To forge peace, Tea must marry the leader of a neighboring tribe that killed her father.

Dark, brooding and sexy—Galan isn’t what Tea expects. But, unlike her, he’s determined to end decades of bloodshed between two warring tribes—even if it means sacrificing his own happiness.

Tea isn’t what Galan expects either. A statuesque, embittered beauty, she hates him and his people.

Yet, together, Galan and Tea have the chance to forge a new future—one that will ensure lasting peace—if only they can only let go of the past.


Historical Romance

WIND SONG

THE KINGDOM OF NORTHUMBRIA—BOOK #2

HE RULES THE NORTH
BUT SHE RULES HIS HEART

Northumbria, Britain—684 AD

Hea isn’t like other women. The feisty daughter of a seer, she lives alone in the fort of Bebbanburg and survives by tending the sick and selling herbs and potions. However, she has also inherited her mother’s gift—and when King Ecgfrith requests her skills she can’t refuse him.

Ecgfrith, the ruler of Northumbria, is having trouble with the Picts, the warlike people to the north. He needs a seer’s guidance in dealing with them. The Pictish king, Bridei mac Beli, once fostered at Bebbanburg—but now he’s demanding freedom from his Saxon overlord.

Hea and Bridei have history.

They grew up together and he once saved her from being raped. Hea has longed for him ever since. Eight years later they meet again, and sparks fly. Arrogant and ambitious, Bridei is used to getting what he wants—and Hea discovers he’s the only man she can’t refuse.

Yet he’s a Pict and she’s a Saxon. Bridei will do anything to win back his people’s land from Northumbria, and Hea has sworn her loyalty to a king who treats her more like a daughter than a servant. As the shadow of war looms, it seems any chance they have at love is lost … or is it?


Epic Fantasy Romance 

RULED BY SHADOWS

In a land ruled by shadows, the fate of all lies in the hands of a girl who is afraid of the dark.

Lilia is afraid of the shadows, so when her own one starts behaving strangely, she can barely cope—especially when it starts threatening her.

It all starts the day she meets Saul of Anthor. Handsome and darkly mysterious, he leaves a charm-stone in her safekeeping. Only, what appears to be a humble Hag Stone—used by folk to ward off evil spirits—is in reality a powerful talisman. One that a secret brotherhood has spent a thousand years searching for.

Perrin is Lilia’s best friend. He has spent his life avoiding responsibility and hard work—but now he becomes her unlikely ally. When Saul of Anthor reappears, Perrin suspects his motives. Robana, a healer with a mysterious past, also believes Lilia is in danger—although from those far more dangerous than Saul.

The shadows are deepening and an ancient evil risks being unleashed upon the world. Lilia embarks on a journey into danger, discovery and ... love.  But she must face the darkness, and her own fears—or there will be no going home.




Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Get a chance to win a Kindle Fire and +45 Historical Fiction novels

Today, I have a fun surprise that I’d like to share with you. 

I’ve teamed up with +45 fantastic Historical Fiction authors to give away a huge collection of novels, plus a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner!  You can win my novel NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK plus books from authors who write similar novels to mine.

Enter the giveaway here.























Good luck, and enjoy!


Sunday, 5 February 2017

THE BREAKING DAWN is a semi-finalist!


Exciting news - I've just learned that THE BREAKING DAWN (Book #1: The Kingdom of Mercia) has reached the semi-finals of The 2016 Chatelaine Book Award.

The CHATELAINE Writing Competition Book Awards recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in the genres of  Romantic Fiction and Women’s Fiction. The Chatelaine Awards is a division of Chanticleer International Novel Writing Competitions.

Check out the shortlist - congratulations to all the other finalists too!

What's THE BREAKING DAWN about?

Set in 7th Century England and Wales, THE BREAKING DAWN is the story of Merwenna and Cynddylan: a Mercian Village girl and a Welsh prince. Set against a backdrop of war, treachery and ambition, this epic romance is about two people from different worlds, and the power of destiny.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Book Review: Fair, Bright, and Terrible (Welsh Blades Book 2) by Elizabeth Kingston

A realistic, emotionally powerful historical romance set in a turbulent past. 

This novel was a surprise for me. It's nothing like the first book in this series, THE KING'S MAN (which I also really enjoyed). This story is one of 'second chance romance'. A man and woman, both around forty years of age, who rekindle their relationship 18 years after it ended. It's certainly not a tale for those who prefer lighthearted romance, but if you're ready to tackle a few heavy topics, and deal with a embittered heroine bent on revenge, it's a really rewarding story.

Elizabeth Kingston writes beautifully. She captures the regret, bitterness and hope of Eluned and Robert. One of my favorite quotes in the book was this one - it sums up the conflict between the hero and heroine perfectly:

“To love you was the making of me. But now it is only my undoing.”

I love bittersweet moments.

Eluned isn't an easy woman to like. She's proud, manipulative and scheming. She had an affair with Robert many years earlier when her husband was away but is forced to give up her lover when the realities of life intrude on their private world. The author does a really good job is showing the moment Eluned turns bitter. The heroine can't accept the fact that life isn't hers for the taking, that she cannot have everything she wants - and as a result shuts down her feelings and focuses on political ambition, in schooling her daughter to fight for the Welsh cause.

In contrast, Robert is a truly good man. However, he doesn't let Eluned boss him around or manipulate him. I enjoyed the scenes when he stood up to her. After their marriage - organised by Eluned's son - he is shocked to discover that the carefree, fiesty young woman he remembers is gone. He has spent years loving a woman who only existed in his memory.

The novel is well researched, and gives you a real sense of the political turmoil of the Welsh Marches, and how the Welsh would have felt after years of persecution and bloodshed. It's an intense read, and I believe many women of Eluned's age (which I am!) can relate to some of what she struggles with. Many women (and men!) never get over the disappointment that life hasn't worked out as they had hoped - and Elizabeth Kingston portrays this theme bravely and realistically.

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Buy a copy of FAIR, BRIGHT, AND TERRIBLE on Amazon.com.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Get a chance to win a paperback copy of THE WHISPERING WIND

Enter to win one of three first edition paperback copies of THE WHISPERING WIND on Goodreads.

Contest closes on February 5 2017 — so make sure you enter soon! Just click on the banner below. 

Good luck! 😊


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Whispering Wind by Jayne Castel

The Whispering Wind

by Jayne Castel

Giveaway ends February 05, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway