BOOK TOUR: Archibald the Grim Series by J.R. Tomlin #HistoricalFiction

The Douglas Bastard
Archibald the Grim Series
J R Tomlin
Publication Date: April 26, 2022

Young Archibald, the Black Douglas’s bastard son, returns from exile to a Scotland ravaged by war. The war-hardened Knight of Liddesdale will teach him what he must learn. And with danger on every side, he must learn to sleep with one eye open and a claymore in his hand because even their closest ally may betray them…

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My fascination with James, Lord of Douglas, known as the Black Douglas, came early from my granny reading me stories of his fight beside King Robert the Bruce for Scotland’s independence. My first trilogy was about this great knight. I did not give much thought to his sons for a long time. His older and ‘legitimate’ son died in battle while still in his teens, leaving only young Archibald. But Archibald was not his heir.

Archibald, as the chronicler Jean Froissart put it, “was held of little account because he was a bastard.” They underestimated him. Archibald inherited his father’s appearance, a dark, large man, and his father’s skill in battle. Even so, in his youth, he followed the man who carried on in James’s fight, his cousin, William Douglas, the Knight of Liddesdale.

The Knight of Liddesdale made Archie his squire. With this great fighter, Archie learned all he needed to know, as Liddesdale had learned from King Robert and the Black Douglas who went before.

On foot should be all Scottish war.

Let hill and marsh their foes debar

And woods and walls prove such an arm

That enemies do them no harm.

In hidden spots, keep every store

And burn the plainlands them before.

So, when they find the land lie waste

Needs must they pass away in haste,

Harried by cunning raids at night

And threatening sounds from every height.

Then as they leave, with great array,

Smite with the sword and chase away.

This is the counsel and intent

Of Good King Robert’s Testament.

Against the English, Archie learned to use the tactics of night attacks, ambushes, escalades of castle walls, and simple deception as he and Liddesdale recaptured castles and drove the English from their land. To these skills, he added to his strong sword arm that soon struck fear into any enemy he faced. Even so, he was still held of ‘little account.’

However, Archie also had a good friend, King David of Scotland, who would make a big difference in his life. As soon as the King was old enough to rule in his own right, David returned from exile to Scotland, determined to lead the fight against the English. And at his side in that fight, he meant to have Archie. Archie would fight for his King, whatever it might cost—and the cost would be high.

About the Author:

J R Tomlin is the author of twenty historical novels.

Her historical novels are mainly set in Scotland. You can trace her love of that nation to the stories of Robert the Bruce and the Black Douglas that her grandmother read her when she was small and to her hillwalking through the Scottish Cairngorms where the granite mountains have a gorgeous red glow under the setting sun.

In addition to having lived in Scotland, she has traveled in the US, mainland Europe and the Pacific Rim. She now lives in Oregon.



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BOOK TOUR: Hammer by Michael Cladain #historicalfantasy #myths #legends @cathiedunn @cladain_m

Genonn’s tired and dreams of a remote roundhouse in the Cuala Mountains.

However, sudden rebellion in Roman Britain destroys that dream because the Elder Council task him with delivering Lorg Mór, the hammer of the Gods, to the tribes across the straits of Pwll Ceris. Despite being torn between a waning sense of duty and his desire to become a hermit, Genonn finally agrees to help.

When his daughter follows him into danger, it tests his resolve. He wants to do everything he can to see her back to Druid Island and her mother. This new test of will means he is once again conflicted between duty and desire. Ultimately, his sense of duty wins; is it the right decision? Has he done the right thing by relegating his daughter’s safety below his commitment to the clans?

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Londinium – CE 60 or 61

The air was cool in the pre-dawn grey. If not for the fog, it would have been a welcome release from the previous day’s clamminess. Despite the noise in the taberna, Agricola could hear the boatmen calling to each other as they landed supplies on the docks. He supposed the fog from the river Tamesis was making the sound carry, echoes of a wooden city coming to life.

Is it already dawn? Agricola asked himself, rubbing his hands over tired cheeks before studying his drinking companions.

The soldiers were as rowdy as only off-duty legionaries at their leisure could be. As the first cohort, they were not only hardened fighters but also hardened drinkers. Wine was still flowing, despite the late hour.

Early hour would be more accurate.

Now regretting it, Agricola had been defenceless against their calls as he rode through the palisade’s South Gate the previous night. A respected officer, the soldiers of the Fourteenth Legion did not begrudge him because he came from a different command – the Second.

Agricola did not put much stock in it. As a thinker, he knew it was only because he listened to them. Heard them. Stood behind them when the governor was ranting. Drank with them when they were off duty and called for him as he passed their taberna.

I need to be more aloof.

‘I must go,’ he said, downing his cup and standing. He was expected by the governor in Londinium to oversee the delivery of supplies for his command, the Legio Fourteenth Gemina. There were whispers of an insurrection, and the governor was preparing in case the rumours held any truth.

Whispers of an insurrection. Why are soldiers of the first cohort even in Londinium?

‘Why are you here, um…’ Agricola asked.

‘Drinking, tribune, why else.’

‘No, I mean, why are you in Londinium.’

The aquilifer tapped his nose and laughed. ‘More than my position if I let that snake out of the sack, tribune.’

Agricola considered ordering the man to tell him the reason members of the First were in the city before realising the futility of such a course. The aquilifer — whatever his name might be — would laugh at him, and rightly so. As a banded tribune, Agricola had no authority over the legionaries. He was little more than the governor’s personal servant.

‘Come, Aurelio,’ he said to the praefectus of his turmae. ‘Duty is demanding my presence… our presence.’

‘The night is young,’ the aquilifer admonished, lifting the wine jug to pour more. Agricola put his hand over the cup and shook his head.

He could not remember the standard bearer’s name. It did not matter. He would never see him again unless it was in battle. Carrying the legion’s eagle, the man would be targeted. The Britons would strive to take the prize. Agricola knew the soldier would fight well. No one who gained the position of aquilifer ever fought badly. However, his life would probably be short, his end filled with agony and the shame of failure as some warrior of the tribes tore the eagle from his dying grasp.

‘The night is over, dolt. The governor is expecting us.’ Despite the insult, Agricola grinned and slapped the man on the back.

The aquilifer said something into his wine cup. Agricola heard the insult aimed at Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, governor of Britannia. Turning to Aurelio, he could see the praefectus was concentrating on a fight brewing at a nearby table and had not heard. He sighed in relief. It would not be necessary to order the standard bearer punished. He could not, however, let the legionary think it was acceptable to criticise his commander.

‘What did you say, soldier?’

‘Nothing, sir. I was thinking aloud,’ the aquilifer said, staring into his cup. Agricola frowned. It was not the first time he had heard the men of the Fourteenth voicing criticisms of their commander.

Is it the usual grumbling of soldiers, or is there more to it?

‘In my experience, it is best not to think when in your cups and in the company of senior officers. Crucifixion is often the fate of soldiers who think too much.’

The man held his peace and gulped at his wine, suddenly morose, as if he regretted spending time with a tribune. Agricola turned towards the exit nearest the stables under the palisade and gave the aquilifer no further thought. A sudden urge compelled him to use the latrine, so he turned to the rear door of the hostelry, ignoring the calls of the drunks who wanted him to join their table.

‘I will meet you by the stables,’ he said to Aurelio before heading out of the rear door.

Leaving the taberna, Agricola stopped in the swirling fog. He could not see the latrine trench from the doorway, only twenty paces or so from where he stood. Shivering, he tightened his cloak around his shoulders and made for the trench. He did not need to see where to go. He could smell the latrine, even when dampened by the density of the Tamesis’s morning offering.

He had just hung his spatha on the handrail when a voice asked, ‘Tribune Agricola?’

Reaching for the sword, Agricola glanced over his shoulder. A man in a black cloak with the hood up stood a short distance away, only just visible in the grey. Agricola could perceive no threat. If anything, the newcomer appeared bored rather than menacing.

‘Who are you?’ he asked, not releasing the spatha’s hilt.

‘You won’t need your weapon, sir. I come from Viroconium,’ the man said, throwing off his hood and revealing a gallea shining dully in the fog. ‘I am Lucius, bodyguard to Cerialis, sent as a messenger…’

The soldier hesitated.

‘Speak, man. What is your message?’

‘Mine is grave news, tribune…’

‘Spit it out. I will not bite you.’

The legionary, thumped his chest, took off his helmet and ran a hand through damp hair. ‘A turmae patrolling on the western borders came under attack.’

‘Under attack?’ Agricola shook his head. Why the commander of the Ninth legion would send a messenger to Londinium with such news defeated him. Patrols were constantly under attack.

‘They were annihilated, sir. To a man. The attackers took everything. Horses. Weapons. Armour. Heads.’

Author Bio:

Micheál has been an author for many years. He studied Classics and developed a love of Greek and Roman culture through those studies. In particular, he loved their mythologies. As well as a classical education, bedtime stories consisted of tales read from a great tome of Greek Mythology, and Micheál was destined to become a storyteller from those times.

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BOOK TOUR: Sisters of Castle Leod by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard #HistoricalFiction @EHBernardAuthor @cathiedunn

Sisters of Castle Leod: A Novel

by Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard

**Finalist in the 2022 American Writing Awards**

Millions are fans of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander books and television series, but few know that Gabaldon’s fictional Castle Leoch was inspired by a real Scottish castle, Castle Leod. The two sisters who lived there at the turn of the twentieth century were among the most fascinating and talked-about women of their era. 

Lady Sibell Mackenzie is a spiritualist, a believer in reincarnation, and a popular author of mystical romances. Petite and proper, she values tradition and duty. Her younger sister Lady Constance, swimming champion and big game hunter, is a statuesque beauty who scandalizes British society with her public displays of Greek-style barefoot dancing. The differences between the sisters escalate into conflict after Sibell inherits their late father’s vast estates and the title 3rd Countess of Cromartie. But it is the birth of Sibell’s daughter that sets in motion a series of bizarre and tragic events, pitting sister against sister and propelling Sibell on a desperate mission to challenge the power of fate. 

Sisters of Castle Leod, by award-winning author Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard, is the emotionally charged story of two sisters torn apart by jealousy and superstition, and the impossible leap of faith that could finally bring them together.

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From across the street, we saw Constance exit her private car in front of the theater. Her outfit had a distinctly Japanese flair, a long, loose-fitting brown robe gathered at the waist with slits up each side. In a Bohemian way, she looked quite stylish. Half a dozen photographers surrounded her as she swept across the sidewalk to the entrance.

Edward and I remained in our taxi, watching a line forming outside the box office. Our seats had been reserved in advance. We planned to claim them at the last moment, after the lights had dimmed.

“This will be the first time you’ve seen Constance dance. Do you think your heart can take it?” I said, trying to lighten our otherwise somber mood. Neither of us was looking forward to confronting her after the show, but how else were we to find out anything? If, at first, I’d doubted that she and Austin could really be in such dire financial straits, I didn’t any longer. Selling that necklace, as I now felt sure she’d done, had to have been a last resort.

Edward patted my hand reassuringly. “If it’s too much for me, I’ll close my eyes and take a little snooze. But I don’t see why we have to sit through her performance. We could have arranged to speak to her afterwards.”

“You’re not in the least bit curious about her dancing? If one can look past her skimpy costume, I’m sure there’s much to appreciate.”

“Don’t you suppose the entire audience will be looking past her costume? That is what it’s designed for.”

I rolled my eyes. “Very amusing. Remember, we will not lecture her about propriety or anything of the sort. If we do, she’ll never open up to us. Our purpose is to see how we might assist her and Austin to get back on their feet.”

“First, we need to understand how their situation came about to start with. Constance had a tidy sum in her dowry when she married, and, to all appearances, Austin was a prosperous landowner.”

“Don’t we know plenty of people accustomed to being wealthy who’d rather die than admit they no longer are?”

“That’s not my point. I’m talking about the possibility of a deeper problem …”

“Such as?”

He grimaced slightly. “Lots of things can cause people to spend more money than they have. All I’m saying, Sibell, is that before you hand over any sizeable sum to bail them out, you’d better be sure they’re going to use it appropriately.”

He was right. Many a young nobleman had frittered away his fortune on some secret addiction. But how likely was Constance to admit the root of their problem if, indeed, it was something heinous? “Let’s not speculate. We’ll find out what we can and, hopefully, figure out the rest. And say nothing about the necklace. It would only make Constance feel we’d been spying on her. I know exactly how she’d react. Clam up in an instant, and we wouldn’t get another word out of her.”

“The necklace is another problem. We’ll need to solve that one ourselves. If that young fellow, Khoury, thinks he can manipulate us into paying twice what the piece is worth, he’s sorely mistaken.”

For a split second, I considered telling him everything. Asking him to accompany me to the jewelry store tomorrow so we could present a united front against Demetrius’s demands, whatever they might be. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it, for fear he might sense what I wished not to admit even to myself. My attraction to Demetrius had not diminished with the years. Though I no longer questioned my devotion to Edward, how could I explain away this feeling that still haunted me? The belief that my soul was bound to another.

Whether or not I wanted it to be.


The intertwined melodies of two flutes signaled the velvet curtain’s rise, revealing a backdrop of lush woodland crowned by a glowing silver orb. A painted prop, yet the setting reminded me of home and how much I missed it. How I would have loved to pluck my sister from among the tall, faceless buildings of New York City and drop her onto the windswept moors of Ross-shire, where both of us belonged! I wished I could know if she regretted the decisions she’d made. Might she long to return to life the way it was, before she’d decided that her duty was to scandalize the civilized world?

Was she simply too stubborn to admit her mistake?

My sister’s sudden entrance onto the stage, pirouetting across the floor with her arms in a graceful arc above her head, elicited a collective gasp from the crowd. Though one couldn’t see everything through the gauzy film of her diaphanous robe, what could not be seen was easily imagined. A wave of whispered chatter was followed by a smattering of hoots and calls, the latter leaving little doubt as to why some members of the audience had come. Yes, Constance was beautiful, as perfect a womanly figure as nature had ever created. She continued her dance, whirling about the stage in a self-induced trance, veils flowing, bare feet flying, and I was mesmerized. But what I saw was surely different from everyone else. I was watching a soul take flight.

Unprepared for the plethora of emotions that flooded over me, what I felt most keenly was guilt. I should have listened, from the beginning, when she tried explaining herself to me—when she talked about beauty and what it means and how she wanted to teach others by example. But I’d brushed her off as brash and egotistical. Was her desire to dance so different from my desire to write? Despite critics who called my pagan-inspired tales shocking, I kept on. Writing had become one of the few things in life about which I was unwilling to compromise.

Wasn’t Constance entitled to feel the same about dancing?

Violins, like a rush of wind, swelled and died, and then out of the silence came again the plaintive melody of the flutes, beckoning the dancer along a woodland path. One by one, other instruments joined in and, as they did, her dance became more exuberant, her moves more daring. A gazelle-like leap, then spinning with arms outstretched, head thrown back, gazing at the multitude of stars in her imaginary sky. Round and round, faster and faster. I stared in wonderment. How could anyone do that and not become impossibly dizzy? But, of course, this was my sister, the consummate athlete. Master of every physical challenge. Champion of every sport she’d ever tried. My God, I was proud of her!

And then it happened.

Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard

A former touring musician/songwriter and public relations professional, Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard is the author of two Amazon bestsellers: THE BEAUTY DOCTOR, “a compelling historical novel steeped in mystery with strong elements of a medical thriller” (Readers’ Favorite, 5 stars), and TEMPTATION RAG: A NOVEL, a “resonant novel … about the birth and demise of ragtime … luxuriously crafted” (Publishers Weekly). Her books have been finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award, National Indie Excellence Awards, and Arizona Literary Contest; they have received 5-star ratings from Readers” Favorite, Book Readers Appreciation Group, and historical fiction Discovered Diamonds. Elizabeth and her family live near Phoenix, Arizona.

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BOOK TOUR: Minotaur’s Lair by Luciana Cavallaro #AncientGreece #GreekMythology @CathieDunn @ClucianaLuciana

The Minotaur stirs. Evan is drugged to forget the gods’ quest.

Evan and his companions are entrapped by the Amazon Queen Antioche and her warriors. Memories and allegiances are tested. The Dark Master’s victorious revenge over the gods is almost complete. The plight of the High Priestess is precarious, her health ailing, and unable to rescue her brother and fellow Atlanteans.

The last sacred relic, secreted in the lair of the Minotaur, must be recovered or the Dark Master’s succession plans of a new god are complete. The mystical lands of Krete, the final stage of Evan’s journey, are within his grasp. He must succeed so his father, Zeus, fulfills his promise. Then there is Queen Antioche, and the precious gifts she presents him.

Will Evan return home, and what will become of his future?

Minotaur’s Lair is the third and final book in the action-packed Servant of the Gods historical fiction series. If you enjoy well-researched landscapes, historic characters, excitement, mythical creatures and unique settings, then you’ll love Luciana Cavallaro’s heroic odyssey.

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Luciana Cavallaro

• Award-winning author of The Labyrinthine Journey

•  Nominated for book awards in the Action/Adventure and Historical Fiction genres

•  Drove her first car at the age of three

Luciana Cavallaro’s alter ego is a high school teacher where she plugs away educating teenagers the merits of reading and ancient history. She often looks for a brick wall to bang her head when faced with disinterested looks from her students. She’s also a historical fantasy and thriller/suspense author, who creates fast-paced, action-packed series for her readers.

Born and raised in Western Australia, residing in Perth, Luciana loves to travel and since getting her passport at the ripe old age of twenty-four has toured parts of Europe, a legacy of her Italian heritage. She enjoys being active, going out with friends, reading and tries to grow her own vegetables. She dreams of travelling again and visiting the ancient sites that inspired her stories, that is when she’s not spending time being an unofficial stunt person and knocking herself out in the process.

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COVER REVEAL: The Captain’s Woman by Holly Bush #CoverReveal #historicalromance @hollybushbooks

The Captain’s Woman

by Holly Bush

Meet the Thompsons of Locust Street, an unconventional family taking Philadelphia high society by storm…

1870 ~ Muireall Thompson has taken her duties seriously since her parents died on the family’s crossing from Scotland to America in 1854. As the eldest sibling, their death made her responsible for her family and left little time for a life of her own. But now her brothers and sisters are adults; even the youngest is nearly ready to face the world on his own. What will she do when she is alone, other than care for an elderly aunt and volunteer at the Sisters of Charity orphanage? Has the chance for a husband and children of her own passed her by?

Widower Anthony Marcus, formerly a captain in the Union Army, is a man scraping the bottom of his dignity and hanging on to his honor by the barest thread. Reduced to doing odd jobs to keep a roof over his dear daughter Ann’s head, he often leaves her with the Sisters of Charity while he is out seeking steady work with a decent salary that will allow him to move from their single-room living quarters.

After an initial meeting that finds Muireall and Anthony at odds, a tentative friendship forms as they bond over their mutual affection for Ann. As friendship leads to passion, can a wealthy spinster and a poor soldier overcome their differences in station to forge a future together? Just as Muireall finds the courage to reach for her own happiness, Anthony’s past rises up between them and an old enemy reemerges to bring the Thompson family down once and for all. Will the divide between them be insurmountable, or can they put aside pride and doubt for a love worth fighting for?

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Holly Bush writes historical romance set in the the late 1800’s, in Victorian England, and an occasional Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Connect with Holly at and on Twitter @hollybushbooks and on Facebook at Holly Bush.

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BOOK TOUR: Floats the Dark Shadow by Yves Fey #mystery @YvesFey @CathieDunn

Floats the Dark Shadow

by Yves Fey

Young American painter Theodora Faraday struggles to become an artist in Belle Époque Paris. She’s tasted the champagne of success, illustrating poems for the Revenants, a group of poets led by her adored cousin, Averill.

When children she knows vanish mysteriously, Theo confronts Inspecteur Michel Devaux who suspects the Revenants are involved. Theo refuses to believe the killer could be a friend—could be the man she loves. Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris, from catacombs to asylums, to the obscene ritual of a Black Mass.

Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France—Gilles de Rais. Once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant, after her death he plunged into an orgy of evil. The Church burned him at the stake for heresy, sorcery, and the depraved murder of hundreds of peasant children.

Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.

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Michel Arrests Viperine at Leo Taxil’s Confession-Floats the Dark Shadow

Ignoring both Taxil and his faux monk, Michel turned his attention to Vipèrine, who had chosen a seat very near the podium. …. The diabolist was at least a plausible suspect—quite capable of provoking some drama to put himself center stage—but was he capable of true villainy? There was little information to be had on him before his appearance in Paris five years ago, not even his real name.

….Michel recognized someone else who provoked his curiosity. Theodora Faraday was sitting with the Revenants. He had seen the tall blonde roaming about Montmartre even before he interviewed her. Tonight she wore a gown of midnight blue satin. The deep hue set off her fair skin and pale, gleaming hair. She seemed far too dynamic for most of that coterie, literary aesthetes who lived on their nerves. He had read the premiere issue of their magazine, which had created quite a stir. There were several striking illustrations, but Michel did not remember them being by a woman. He must have assumed Theo to be a man. Or perhaps she assumed a different male nom de plume, as he’d seen her assume male dress. Quite illegal and quite flattering. She had very long legs.

“Assuming the guise of Miss Vaughan,” Taxil exclaimed, “I revealed the existence of secret rooms hidden within the Masonic temple in Charleston, Virginia. In one, a statue of Eve awaits. When a Templar Mistress is especially pleasing to Master Satan, this statue takes on life. Eve becomes the demon Astarte and bestows kisses on the chosen one.”

A tidbit in the grand tradition of Leo Taxil, ecclesiastical pornographer, Michel sneered silently. Lesbian demons on parade.

“Despicable charlatan!” the abbot cried.

“No priest will take your confession!”

Taxil moved on to the infamous forges buried beneath Gibraltar and fed by hellfire, and the outbursts faded. The opposing side brooded silently, which Michel thought boded ill. He quietly rose from his seat and stood against the back wall, free to move fast if there was trouble. His gaze roved over the gathering as Taxil embarked on a new tale of Vatican conspiracy. “After Jeanne d’Arc was burned at the stake, the executioner discovered that the heart of our heroine had not been consumed. He threw more burning pitch and sulphur upon it, but the heart would not burn! Finally, in desperation, Jeanne’s heart was tossed in the Seine.” Taxil raised a pudgy finger to punctuate his words. “Be sure that one day a mysterious angel will carry that heart, not to France, but to Italy, and Jeanne d’Arc will be canonized by the Pope. French pilgrims must henceforth go to Rome to view this miraculously retrieved heart.”

Odd. One of the Revenants had risen and was urged back to his seat by Theodora Faraday. Did the mockery of the Maid anger him? Many who cared nothing for Luciferian plots or Vatican conspiracy might still take offence at having France’s beloved heroine derided.

Enamored of his own voice, Taxil rumbled on, “Alas, the final success of my hoax was endangered by a Mason who declared these bizarre claims must be a Jesuit plot. Unfortunate Jesuits! I had sent them a fragment of Moloch’s tail as evidence of Palladism!”

In spite of himself, Michel’s curiosity was stirred. What had Taxil actually sent—mummified crocodile? Chief Cochefert would be captivated with this morsel. Personally, Michel preferred Taxil’s story of his first malicious prank—false tales of ravenous sharks hiding in sea caves off Marseilles.

“Fearing my magnificent creation would be suffocated by the evil oubliettes of the Vatican, I have chosen to confess.” With a grand gesture, Taxil proclaimed, “I have committed infanticide. Palladism, the child of my mind, is utterly dead. Its father has murdered it.” Taxil finished with a bow. Silence hovered for a moment, then cacophony reigned. Applause, laughter, jeers, hoots, and accusations rose in the air like myriad squawking birds. The abbot stood on his chair, gesturing for all the faithful to gather round, but the noise drowned out whatever he was saying.

Vipèrine rose, his height emphasized by his theatrical robes. The gleam of their gold embroidery caught the light and drew the attention of the audience. He lifted his chin truculently, his blue beard pointing at Taxil. “There is only one hoax—and that hoax is that Satan has no worshippers.”

Weaving through the stream of the infuriated leaving the auditorium, Michel moved swiftly as Taxil called out his answer, “Ah, monsieur, I acknowledge that he has his worshippers. But that does not mean he exists.”

Vipèrine swirled his cape, then flung up his hands. Fire burst from his fingertips. A flaming object winged like a bat sailed to the stage and exploded with spurts of flame and noxious spirals of black and yellow smoke. Screams of panic filled the hall—cries of “Bomb!” and “Fire!” Taxil ducked behind the podium. Gendarmes rushed to guard him. Still twenty feet away, Michel saw that no fire had actually ignited, though the smoke rose in sulphureous plumes.

Chaos reigned as the remaining audience rushed for the doors. Vipèrine raised his arms again, flames flashing from his fingers, and Michel guessed the next smoke cloud would cover his escape. Stepping into range, he aimed a hard lateral kick, driving his heel into Vipèrine’s thigh. Vipèrine reeled back with a snarl of surprise and pain. The chemical ball he held bounced across the floor, hissing loudly and leaking darkness.

“Police,” Michel said. “Surrender yourself.”

No novice to savate, Vipèrine aimed a savage kick at his ribs. Michel blocked and countered with a low undercut to the shins. Vipèrine lurched forward, grabbed a chair for balance, then swung it sideways at Michel’s head. Michel knocked it to the floor, but Vipèrine’s back leg sweep tumbled him. Michel rolled as he hit the floor and came up into a crouch. Vipèrine aimed another kick at his head. Michel dodged sideways, but Vipèrine’s foot grazed his face. A blaze of pain erupted on his cheek. The metallic tang of blood filled his nostrils. Vipèrine had razors set in his shoes. With cold fury, Michel rose and spun into a reverse kick that sent Vipèrine staggering. Another slammed him hard against the wall. Moving in, Michel twisted Vipèrine’s arm behind his back, pinning him in place as he drew his ligote and pulled it tight around Vipèrine’s wrist.

“You are under arrest for inciting a riot and assaulting an officer.” Blood spilled down from his cheek and onto his neck.

“Let me go now,” Vipèrine snarled, “and perhaps I will let you live.”

Disgusted with the melodrama, Michel dragged him up the aisle and into the lobby.

Author Bio:

Yves Fey has MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing at twelve.  

She’s been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, creator of ceramic beasties, writing teacher, illustrator, and has won prizes for her chocolate desserts. Her current obsession is creating perfumes inspired by her Parisian characters.

Yves lives in Albany with her mystery writer husband and their cats, Charlotte and Emily, the Flying Bronte Sisters.

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Leningrad: The People’s War by Rachel R. Heil #HistoricalFiction #WorldWarII #Leningrad #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @HeilRachelR @maryanneyarde

Leningrad: The People’s War

(Leningrad, Book 1)

By Rachel R. Heil

Leningrad, 1941. As Europe crumbles under the German war machine, the people of the Soviet Union watch. There are whispers of war but not loud enough for the civilians of Leningrad to notice. Instead, they keep their heads down and try to avoid the ever-watching eyes of their own oppressive government.

University student Tatiana Ivankova tries to look ahead to the future after a family tragedy that characterizes life under the brutal regime. But, when the rumors that have been circulating the country become a terrifying reality, Tatiana realizes that the greatest fear may not be the enemy but what her fellow citizens are prepared to do to each other to survive.

As his men plow through the Russian countryside, Heinrich Nottebohm is told to follow orders and ask no questions, even if such commands go against his own principles. His superiors hold over him a past event that continues to destroy him with every day that passes. But, when given the opportunity to take an act of defiance, Heinrich will jump at the chance, ignoring what the end results could be.

Leningrad: The Peoples War tells the harrowing beginning of a war that forever changed the landscape of a city, told through the eyes of both sides in a tale of courage, love, and sacrifice.

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Leningrad: The People’s War is the first book in a three-book seriesand depicts events in Leningrad from June to December, 1941. Following Russian university student Tatiana Ivankova and German military commander Heinrich Nottebohm, the story of the Siege of Leningrad is told from both the Russian and German perspective and explores how Leningrad and her people became a symbol of resilience and strength.

I’ve been fascinated with history for as long as I can remember and World War Two has been one of my main points of interest for just as long. While I am interested with learning facts about major battles I’ve always been drawn to personal stories of those who lived, fought, and survived. Stories that depict the hardships of war but also the resilience of ordinary civilians has always drawn me in and this can be clearly seen in stories concerning the Siege of Leningrad.

“Leningraders clearing rubble following an air raid, 1 May 1942.”

The encirclement of Leningrad in the Soviet Union lasted 872 days and remains one of the longest sieges in history. While countless civilians and military personnel lost their lives defending Leningrad, many others survived to share their stories with future generations, even when the government attempted to silence them. Within hours of reading some of the facts of the siege I was sketching out an outline of a story that would depict the event from start to finish.

Research can be a meticulous process but I enjoy it. It serves as the foundation of your story and sometimes can inspire events that will transpire in your narrative. Yet, the research process for the Siege of Leningrad was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. Unlike Stalin’s purge in the 1930s, the Holodomor, and the Gulag system, information and educational resources on the Siege of Leningrad is far less extensive. Quite a bit of this can be contributed to the fact that the Soviet government did everything they could to eliminate the disaster of Leningrad from people’s memory.

While the city had not fallen the cost of human life to defend it was atrocious and stories of Party officials refusing to let citizens flee Leningrad when they had the chance or the lack of action taken to get food to those stuck in the city had to be silenced. It is not difficult to imagine that a lot of valuable documents pertaining to the siege were destroyed or remain locked up in Russian archives. For example, we don’t have an exact death toll of those who died in Leningrad. Soviet authorities ultimately admitted at the Nuremberg war crime trials that 632,253 people lost their lives in Leningrad but most scholars agree the number is far higher than what the Soviet government admitted. Historians have provided theories based on the information we do have available, such as survivors’ accounts and population numbers from before the war, but they can’t be entirely accurate due to the influx of refugees who came to Leningrad and those who did manage to get out the city before the encirclement. We also have evidence of physical reminders of the siege like manuscripts, artwork, and captured German equipment like Tiger tanks and canons that were initially displayed in a Leningrad museum immediately after the war but were then taken away and have never been seen since.

“Leningraders leaving their destroyed homes following German bombardment, December 1942. These individuals were among the lucky ones who survived the first winter of the siege.”

Survivors who dared speak out about their experiences were silenced either by being imprisoned or in some cases executed. Survivors of the siege were treated as second class citizens and were seen as an embarrassment. Vainly, they tried to keep the memory of the siege alive with varying success but were ultimately ignored or shrugged off as just another group of people who experience hardships during the war. As a result of this persecution and lack of understanding, many Leningraders were tight lipped about their experiences, something that has thankfully diminished when Mikhail Gorbachev opened the archives in the 1980s, allowing previously repressed survivors to tell their stories. Within weeks newspapers were being filled with Leningraders telling their stories, revealing tales of losing all their family members and friends, starving through the first winter, and yet still not losing hope for final victory. Their tales of survival in the face of impossible odds are ones that should be continually told and helped serve as the basis of the Russian characters in Leningrad.

Though resources were scarce, I found that the ones that did exist were rich with detail. Journalist Harrison Salisbury, who wrote the first account of the siege, was able to correspond with several survivors who gave their vivid memories for Salisbury to immortalize. Likewise, historian Anna Reid has been able to incorporate information that was previously not available but opened on Gorbachev’s orders to provide some of the missing pieces to the Leningrad puzzle. Finally, the survivors who were finally able to voice their stories paint a picture of a group of people who would not be so easily defeated and should serve as inspirations for all of us.


Rachel R. Heil is a historical fiction writer who always dreamed of being an author. After years of dreaming, she finally decided to turn this dream into a reality with her first novel, and series, Behind the Darkened Glass. Rachel is an avid history fan, primarily focused on twentieth century history and particularly World War Two-era events. In addition to her love for history, Rachel loves following the British Royal Family and traveling the world, which only opens the door to learning more about a country’s history. Rachel resides in Wisconsin.

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BOOK TOUR: Sea of Shadows by Amy Maroney #HistoricalSuspense #HistoricalRomance #Renaissance @wilaroney @maryanneyarde

Book Title: Sea of Shadows

Series: Sea and Stone Chronicles, Book 2

Author: Amy Maroney

Publication Date: 12th April 2022

Publisher: Artelan Press

Page Length: 396 Pages

Genre: Historical suspense/romance

1459. A gifted woman artist. A ruthless Scottish privateer. And an audacious plan that throws them together—with dangerous consequences.

No one on the Greek island of Rhodes suspects Anica is responsible for her Venetian father’s exquisite portraits, least of all her wealthy fiancé. But her father’s vision is failing, and with every passing day it’s more difficult to conceal the truth.

When their secret is discovered by a powerful knight of the Order of St. John, Anica must act quickly to salvage her father’s honor and her own future. Desperate, she enlists the help of a fierce Scottish privateer named Drummond. Together, they craft a daring plan to restore her father’s sight.

There’s only one problem—she never imagined falling in love with her accomplice.

Before their plan can unfold, a shocking scandal involving the knights puts Anica’s entire family at risk. Her only hope is to turn to Drummond once again, defying her parents, her betrothed, even the Grand Master of the Knights himself. But can she survive the consequences?

With this captivating tale of passion, courage, and loyalty, Amy Maroney brings a lost, dazzling world to vivid life.

Sea of Shadows is Book 2 in a series of stand-alone historical novels packed with adventure and romance.

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Summer, 1459

Rhodes Town

Aunt Rhea swiveled her gaze to Papa. “How much easier it will be for you, Paolo, once Anica’s settled into a new life with a husband, under another man’s roof. Then you can get Heleni married off, too, and your worries about these precious girls will be over.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Papa muttered.

Anica knew what he was thinking. Aunt Rhea had been blessed with sons. She would never have to amass dowries or protect the virtue of daughters.

“I know the funeral was costly,” Aunt Rhea added with a confidential air, drawing close to Papa. “You need gold, and quickly. I’ve a partnership with an Arab merchant from Alexandria whose family has been trading in spice for generations. For the last few years, I’ve helped him finance his shipping business, and he gives me a cut of his profits from pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.”

“What are you proposing?” Papa asked.

“You can join me in the endeavor,” Aunt Rhea said. “Give me whatever you’ve saved for a dowry. I’ll invest it in the spice business and triple your earnings in a few months.”

If your trader returns from Alexandria,” Papa said. “You just told me how dangerous these seas are.”

“There’s chance in everything,” she countered. “He’s returned faithfully since we began this venture. I’d rather put my money into spice than let it molder in the knights’ treasury or the Florentines’ bank, where it will benefit foreign men instead of me. We have to be inventive these days, spread out the risk.”

“Like your trade in illicit statues?” he asked, his voice sharp.

Mamá’s family possessed a collection of marble statues from ancient times, mostly depicting pagan gods and goddesses. Such things were officially the property of the Order, of course. They were meant to be turned over to the knights upon discovery. But the Georgillas clan—along with other Greek families—kept such treasures hidden all over the island, some in caves that were accessible only at low tide.

“Can I help it if the Italians are mad for such things?” Aunt Rhea asked. “When the price is right, I’d be a fool not to part with a statue or two. But I can’t always find a trustworthy ship captain for such delicate matters. So I’m having my Dimitri apprentice in the shipyard here with a master builder. Soon he’ll go to sea under the wing of a merchant friend of mine. One day he’ll captain his own ships. Then I’ll no longer have to put my trust in strangers.”

“You truly want Dimitri to take such risks?” Anica asked, shuddering at the thought of her cousin at the mercy of privateers and pirates.

Aunt Rhea shrugged. “He’s seen twenty winters and he’s a bright, strong lad. There will always be work for shipbuilders and sea captains from Rhodes, and I want to have a way out if there’s a siege. Besides, our sword master says he’s the most skilled fighter of all our boys. With God’s grace, he’ll always be able to defend himself on land or at sea.”

They had drawn close to the Cypriot merchant ship now. Sailors unloaded wooden casks of wine onto the quay. Aunt Rhea rapped on the side of an oak barrel.

“Where’s the captain?” she demanded of a passing sailor. “Tell him his most loyal and generous customer, Rhea Georgillas, awaits.”

The man nodded. “Right away, kyria.”

Anica contemplated the perspiring face of her aunt as she inspected the wine barrels arrayed in front of them. She understood now why Mamá had sent her back to the quays with Aunt Rhea and Papa. It was her mother’s way of including Anica in a discussion of her future, of matters that until now had been kept from her. Pride unfurled in her chest at the thought.

“Aunt Rhea,” she ventured. “Do you have a suitor in mind for me?”

“It is not a matter of finding a suitor, but of fending them off. You and your sister are rare flowers on this island.” Aunt Rhea gestured at the heavens and dropped her voice. “We won’t speak of beauty because the gods are listening.”

Anica’s Greek relatives had no problem combining their respect for the old gods with their adherence to the Orthodox Christian tradition, though they knew better than to exhibit this tendency in front of the knights. “But you’ve got Latin blood and Georgillas ancestry—it’s an irresistible combination for men seeking a good match. You’re a lucky girl.”

Anica turned to her father, thinking of all the responsibility she had taken on these past six months. With her changed role within the family, she felt certain Papa would give her some authority over her own future.

A lone gull circled overhead, screeching plaintively.

“Who are these men, Papa?” she asked. “Will I get to choose among them?”

His eyes were unreadable. “When the time is right, we shall select the suitor who is the best match for you and our family.”

She looked from her father to her aunt, wrestling with an urge to protest. The pride she’d felt a moment ago vanished, replaced by a rising sense of indignation. Since Beno’s death, it had seemed as if she were the head of the household—when in reality she was being discussed behind closed doors like a sack of grain or a basket of grapes to be sold off. “Surely, this doesn’t surprise you,” Aunt Rhea said. “I didn’t choose my husband, nor did your mother.” She leaned closer, raising her voice over the gull’s screams. “And neither

About the Author:

Amy Maroney studied English Literature at Boston University and worked for many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction. She lives in Oregon, U.S.A. with her family. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of The Miramonde Series, an award-winning historical fiction trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. Her new historical suspense/romance series, Sea and Stone Chronicles, is set in medieval Rhodes and Cyprus.

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BOOK TOUR: When the Mermaid Sings by Helen Hollick #NauticalFantasy #HistoricalFantasy @HelenHollick

When The Mermaid Sings

Series: The Sea Witch Voyages

Author: Helen Hollick

Publication Date: 21st June 2021

Publisher: Taw River Press

Page Length: 190 Pages

Genre: Historical/Nautical Fantasy

A prequel short read story to the Sea Witch Voyages of Captain Jesamiah Acorne

When the only choice is to run, where do you run to?

When the only sound is the song of the sea, do you listen?

Or do you drown in the embrace of a mermaid?

Throughout childhood, Jesamiah Mereno has suffered the bullying of his elder half-brother. Then, not quite fifteen years old, and on the day they bury their father, Jesamiah hits back. In consequence, he flees his Virginia home, changes his name to Jesamiah Acorne, and joins the crew of his father’s seafaring friend, Captain Malachias Taylor, aboard the privateer, Mermaid.

He makes enemies, sees the ghost of his father, wonders who is the Cornish girl he hears in his mind – and tries to avoid the beguiling lure of a sensuous mermaid…

An early coming-of-age tale of the young Jesamiah Acorne, set in the years before he becomes a pirate and Captain of the Sea Witch.

Trigger Warnings: Sexual content, adult language.

Praise for When the Mermaid Sings

Ms Hollick has skillfully picked up the threads that she alludes to in the main books and knitted them together to create a Jesamiah that we really didn’t know.” Richard Tearle senior reviewer, Discovering Diamonds

Captain Jesamiah Acorne is as charming a scoundrel as a fictional pirate should be. A resourceful competitor to Captain Jack Sparrow!” Antoine Vanner author

Helen Hollick has given us the answer to that intriguing question that Jesamiah fans have been aching for – how did he start his sea-going career as a pirate?” Alison Morton, author

I really enjoyed the insight offered into Jesamiah’s backstory, and found the depiction of our teenage hero very moving.” Anna Belfrage, author

I loved this little addendum to the Jesamiah series. I always had a soft spot for the Lorelei stories and enjoyed that the author cleverly brought her over from the Rhine valley to fit into the story.” Amazon Reviewer

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A brief bit about the Sea Witch Voyages:

I wrote the first Voyage (Sea Witch) back in 2005 after thoroughly enjoying the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Like most avid readers, however, I wanted more than just the movie, I wanted to read something that was as entertaining and as exciting. A nautical adventure with a charming rogue of a pirate captain, written for adults (with adult content) but with a dash of supernatural fantasy as well – elements of which had made that first movie such fun to watch. I found many nautical-based novels, but they were all ‘serious stuff’ – Patrick O’Brian, Alexander Kent, C. S. Forrester … all good reads but without the fantasy fun, and barely a female character in sight. I simply could not find the book I wanted to read. So, I wrote my own.

The first Voyage led to more books in the series, and also generated several emails from fans who wanted to know how Jesamiah had become a pirate in the first place.

When the Mermaid Sings answers that question.

* * *


Virginia, Summer 1708

Calpin set his glass aside, rose from his chair, lifted a canvas knapsack down from a hook beside the door and began putting things in it: cheese wrapped in muslin, a clean shirt, and two small tobacco pouches which he held up for Jesamiah to see before packing them away. “For selling or for barter.”

He went to a seaman’s wooden chest situated beneath one of the two windows, peered out into the darkness, then closed the shutters before opening the chest. He tossed a leather three-corner hat to Jesamiah. “See if that fits. It was mine – good for wind, rain or sun, that hat. These were mine also.” He brought out an elegant box and opened the lid. Inside, a quality pistol, a powder horn, round iron bullets, replacement flints and the various paraphernalia required for keeping the gun in good working order. He closed the lid, slid the box into the knapsack, and added a tinderbox. “You might as well have these things, they are of no further use to me. You know how to load and use a pistol?”

Jesamiah nodded.

Calpin grunted approval. He buckled the bag and set it down beside the door. Before closing the chest, he brought out a sword and leather scabbard.

Handing them to Jesamiah, he said, “This was your father’s. It is an ordinary weapon, nothing of much value, but it is well balanced and well made. It’ll do as good for you as it did him.” He paused and looked Jesamiah in the eye. “It was not for us to find the courage to fight back, lad – that was for you to do. You will be on your own out there, you need to win your own battles.”

Jesamiah answered with plain frankness. “And if I do not, or cannot?”

Calpin’s answer was equally frank. “Then you will not survive. But you have already shown that you are a survivor. Those who have already been to Hell know the path back, and they can be dangerous people because they know how to survive what life throws at them.”

Tentatively, Jesamiah ran his fingers over the scabbard; he had never seen the weapon before. As far as he was aware, his father had always worn a gentleman’s rapier.

“It is kind of you,” he said quietly, “and I am sure this is a good blade, but…” He paused. “I want nothing of my father’s.”

“Suit yourself,” Calpin answered with a shrug. “Keep his things or sell them. It makes no difference to me, nor to your pa. Not now.” He rummaged in the chest again. “There are these, as well,” he said, handing Jesamiah a small wooden box. “Your ma gave them to me when she fell ill, God rest her soul.” He shook his head, pressed his nose between thumb and forefinger to hide a sudden flood of sorrow. Dona had been a good, kind woman. A good friend. “Anyway, she asked me to keep these for your birthday. I guess she would not mind if you had them a few months early.”

How I met Jesamiah Acorne (the tru-ish) story

About the Author


First published in 1994, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She is now branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her new venture, the Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Talesand Life of A Smuggler. She lives in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon, runs Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction, and occasionally gets time to write…

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