Tag Archives: Anna Belfrage

Review – Under the Approaching Dark Anna Belfrage

Under the Approaching Dark

Under the Approaching Dark, Review –

As anyone who has faithfully read my site over the years knows, Anna is a frequent name here as she’s one of my most loved historical fiction authors. I fell in love with her time slip series, The Graham Saga, and now, her four book series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, is already publishing its third book, Under the Approaching Dark. I can hardly believe it. I didn’t think Anna could woo my reader’s brain as much with this second series, but she certainly has, and I am happy to say I even liked this third book the very best of this series.

This series takes place in 14th century England and features the couple of Adam de Guirande and his wife Kit as they are placed amid the drama of King Edward II, Queen Isabella, Roger Mortimer, and Hugh Despenser – all interesting real historical characters. As we are introduced to Adam and Kit, I realize Anna has a huge feat in front of her – to research and present the historical characters in an accurate way with her own spin that will create excitement for the reader, while also creating Adam, Kit, and a whole host of other characters that will launch off the page at you and tell you they are most certainly real. And Anna will tell you the same too. I know, I know, Anna – they talk to you, maybe even yell at you, to get their story out.

I digress a little, but my point is that Anna is such a great writer she does it all with ease. She creates likeable, and not likable, characters that you grow to love, and hate, in a way that makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the 14th century and know them personally. They cease to exist as characters and  truly become people. This is the most important thing in a story teller, for without the best characterization, a story can run very flat even if highly researched or developed. Anna is never dry and always entertaining in her dialogue and humor of the characters. I especially enjoy her female characters, and really feel more in love with Kit by this third book, even though she tries to give the male the lead of the story. Maybe she does that to boost his ego, but it doesn’t take long to read between the lines of who actually prods the men’s decision-making, for good or bad.

Particularly in the third book, her opening scene is so emotional, which is something I see Anna has worked on developing. It was a touching moment, even in its brevity before she was back to humor, but enough to make me have a pang of sorrow for Adam. Though it is on the first couple pages, I don’t want to give a spoiler if you’ve not read the second book. In fact, a lot happened in the second book to lead into the third, and so I highly recommend you do read this series in order for full enjoyment. Big things occurred to shift the dynamics within King Edward II’s realm, and to Adam and Kit as well, and this has carried over into more treachery, rebellion, hard decisions, intrigue, and loss in this third book. However, there is still a good amount of love, sacrifice, redemption, and hope weaved throughout the tale as well.

Anna’s decriptive prowress has always been on point, but honestly, it keeps getting better. She knows exactly how to describe things to put us in the moment, and her amount of research detail peppered throughout the book is not only relevant, accurate, authentic to the story, but worded with just the right verbiage.

Kit’s character waned under Adam’s stronger one for me for awhile. I love a strong, yet emotionally adept man, but in this book Kit’s strength during what was happening, and her own personal struggle – I don’t want to spoil – was down right Oscar worthy in the best way. Her intelligence has always shined through, but now her tenacity was more profound. And as Edward III takes on a new role of growth in this novel and into the next, I see how much she’s shown the reader just how a young monarch might grow up to be in his circumstances as well. To me, this growth, shows even more the penmanship of Anna as she challenges herself with each story before the series heads to its climax.

As always, Anna is a master carver of words and plot in order to bring you a drama rich in history, resistance, tragedy, tension, love, and survival. I couldn’t put Under the Approaching Dark down and I’m more than ready for the fourth book in The King’s Greatest Enemy series. Highly recommended for long days or nights when you can get caught up without fear of interuptions.

P.S. Any author in need of writing dialogue assistance MUST read Anna Belfrage. She’s a master at dialogue. And hilarious too!

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I’ve written.

Under the Approaching DarkUnder the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: April 28, 2017
Matador
eBook & Paperback; 424 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II is forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over.

After years of strife, England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster.

In the north, the Scots take advantage of the weakened state of the realm and raid with impunity. Closer to court, it is Mortimer’s increasing powers that cause concerns – both among his enemies, but also for men like Adam, who loves Mortimer dearly, but loves the young king just as much.

When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers.

“The writing is impeccable. The story has everything. Under the Approaching Dark is just perfect in every sense” – Sharon Bennett Connolly, History The Interesting Bits

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Chapters | IndieBound | Kobo

Author Anna Belfrage, Biography –

03_Anna BelfrageAnna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage, please enter via the Gleam form below:
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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Women in History: She-Wolf of the 13th Century? Isabella of France

The Celebrating Women Series for 2017 continues with article #4 today. March is Women in History month and so I’m featuring writers and authors who sent in guest articles surrouding women and topics about women.  In fact, it will extend way past March we’ve had so much interest to feature strong, impactful women. You can find a main page for this with explanation and link to all articles here. I’ll add the article as I schedule or post them.

Today, one of my favorite historical fiction and time slip authors, Anna Belfrage, takes the stage, or probably more likely her character, Isabella, does. Anna is such a great writer and consistenly makes me laugh so hard I’ll spit out my drink. Oh to travel to Sweden and laugh with her. But enough of that…today she is talking about Isabella of France, a she-wolf who put up with a lot from the men in her life, so we head off to the 14th century!

Isabella w Prince Edward doing homage to Charles IV

Isabella with Edward paying homage to Charles IV

Isabella of France – a milksop or a she-wolf?

By Anna Belfrage, historical fiction author

In my series The King’s Greatest Enemy, Isabella of France plays a major role. As per her highness, she is the protagonist, but as the author I can assure you she isn’t, albeit that she is one of the central characters, together with her son, Prince Edward, and her lover, Roger Mortimer. Isabella, however, is not defined by the men in her life. This is a medieval woman who grabbed hold of her destiny and forged a new future for herself – not something she necessarily wanted to do, but life can be a bummer even if you’re a highborn lady. Ask Isabella: she’d agree.

Just to give you some background, Isabella was born in 1295, the only surviving daughter of Philippe IV of France, a.k.a. Le Bel, the handsome. Philippe may have been pretty on the outside, but the rest of him was not quite as pleasing. This was a ruthless king who, among other things, crushed the Templar order and had many, many Templar knights burned for heresy. Why? Because Philippe resented the Templars’ influence over the pope – and desired their wealth.

Where daddy was tough as nails, Isabella’s mother seems to have been of a softer disposition. Jeanne of Navarre and Philippe had a happy marriage and I assume he was devastated when she died in 1305. Little Isabella now only had one parent. She also, since some years back, had a betrothed. Once she was considered old enough, Isabella was destined to wed English King Edward I’s heir, yet another Edward. By the time the marriage took place, in early 1308, Isabella’s husband was the king – and about twice her age, which probably explains why initially Edward treated Isabella kindly but with little interest.

Isabella w her daddy her hubby & her brothers

Isabella with her dad and other family

Things happened that caused Edward to turn to his wife for comfort. Besides, Isabella was now old enough to bed, and as all medieval kings, Edward was fully aware of his duty to sire an heir, no matter if his preferences lay elsewhere. As an aside, there is plenty of evidence Edward preferred the company of his male friends to that of women, but that in itself does not mean he was indulging in homosexual relationships. And if he was, he was still more than capable of impregnating Isabella. Whether he did so while closing his eyes and thinking of England we don’t know. We’ll never know.

Anyway, if we fast-forward some twelve years or so, we find Isabella and Edward living in an England torn apart by the king’s obvious infatuation with Hugh Despenser, the latest royal favourite. Despenser was greedy and the king was more than happy to give him what he wanted. (Them, actually: there was a Hugh senior and a Hugh junior. It was junior who was Edward’s preferred companion and potential lover, but senior was no slouch when it came to the coveting department, and Edward was as happy to shower Hugh senior with gifts as he was to indulge Hugh junior). Problem was, sometimes the Despensers wanted stuff that belonged to others. Sometimes, they rapaciously cheated widows and orphans out of what rightfully belonged to them. Sometimes, they even wanted land that belonged to the king’s younger brothers. And what they wanted they got, causing the rest of the English barons to grumble. Loudly.

In 1321, Isabella was no longer a child but a poised and well-educated young woman. She was Queen Consort and probably expected to – or wanted to – exert some influence over her husband. I imagine she disliked being pushed aside by Hugh. I guess she resented that it was Hugh, not Isabella, who shared the king’s confidences. Also, Isabella had others to think of, primarily her eldest son, the future Edward III, and she did not like what was happening in an England where Despenser ruled the roost. Things went from bad to worse in 1322 when a triumphant Edward II defeated his rebel barons. Roger Mortimer was thrown into the Tower, the king’s rebellious cousin Thomas of Lancaster was summarily executed, and all, as per Edward II, was well in the world.

Except it wasn’t. Despenser and Edward unleashed what is called The Tyranny, a period of four years when the king and his favourite rode roughshod over England and its barons, determined to stamp out any opposition. Thing is, if you crowd too many hungry dogs into corners, chances are they’ll start fighting back, and when Mortimer engineered his escape from the Tower in August of 1323, the downtrodden barons gained a leader who had every intention of bringing Despenser down.

Now, for the king and Despenser to have Mortimer as an implacable enemy was bad enough. They made things substantially worse for themselves when they went after Isabella, first by depriving her of her dower income – the king needed the income to fight the French, he claimed, but Isabella’s dower rights were part of the extensive marriage contracts and he had no right to confiscate them – secondly by exiling several of her household officers on the pretext that they were French and therefore potential traitors. Ahem. Isabella was French – was she also considered a potential traitor?

Whatever her feelings, Isabella was smart enough to conceal her simmering anger, which is how she ended up sent to France to negotiate a peace treaty. She did so (I guess it wasn’t too hard work: after all, she was treating with her brother, Charles IV) but the finalised treaty called for Edward to come to France and do homage to Charles IV. Edward refused – mainly because things at home were getting sticky, and Despenser was worried that the moment Edward left the country, the disgruntled barons would come after him.

In view of her husband’s refusal, Isabella convinced her brother to suggest Edward send his eldest son and heir to perform the homage in his stead. I suspect this was all part of a carefully thought out plan: once Isabella had her son with her, she could act with impunity, declaring that whatever she was doing she was doing on behalf of the poor oppressed English people and her young, handsome son.

After some consideration, Edward agreed to send his son. This is not to say he didn’t have concerns, but up to this point in her life, Isabella had always been a dutiful wife. She’d given her husband four children, she’d even accepted the confiscation of her income, so Edward had no reason to suspect she was about to turn the tables on him. After all, Isabella was a woman, and women were the weaker vessel – everyone knew that. Well, except for Isabella and a rather large handful of other colourful medieval women.

Prince Edward came to France. He did not return home. Roger Mortimer suddenly popped by to visit with the French king. Or was it to meet Isabella? Whatever the case, he did meet her, and as of that moment, those two spent all their time together, planning just how to invade England, with Prince Edward as their figurehead.

Those of you who know your history know the invasion in 1326 was a major success, and come early 1327, Hugh Despenser was dead, Edward II had been forced to abdicate, and Isabella (and Mortimer) were the effective rulers of England, her son being too young to do much ruling on his own.

Isabella besieging Bristol

Isabella besieging Bristol

All of the above indicates Isabella was a forceful person, and yet there are various depictions of the events that paint her as some sort of victim, dominated by the dark and brooding Roger Mortimer. As per these versions, poor little Isabella was manipulated by Mortimer, so enthralled to him she went along with whatever he proposed, be it executing Hugh Despenser gruesomely or (as some say) ordering the murder of her husband. (And no, I don’t think Edward II was murdered. I remain in two minds as to if he died at all in 1327 – not for this post to discuss). What the proponents of this depiction of Isabella conveniently forget is that she was born a princess of France. She’d been raised to become a strong consort, she was used to deference, and while she might have found Mortimer hot, she was also fully aware of the fact that she was born a royal, he was a mere baron.  No way was she going to let him lead her by the nose! As I believe Mortimer was a pretty smart guy, I don’t think he even tried…

The other depiction of Isabella is that of a “she-wolf.” Her behaviour was not normal for a good woman of the times, so some sort of derogatory epithet had to be attached to her, and what better than to label her as a potentially half-crazed beast. A woman to rebel against her own husband, what sort of monster was she, hey? A woman to ride at the head of her own army (Mortimer wisely rode some paces behind the queen and the prince, even if he probably did all the actual commanding), who had ever heard of that before? Unnatural behaviour, that’s what it was!

Obviously, Isabella was no half-crazed beast. She was an ambitious and intelligent woman who deeply resented being shunted aside by an avaricious favourite. She was a mother who worried her husband’s and his favourite’s behaviour jeopardised her son’s patrimony. She was a wife who’d had it with her husband’s high-handedness. In the very capable Roger Mortimer, she found the perfect instrument to help her achieve her goals. I guess it didn’t hurt that she liked the baron for other reasons as well.

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03_Annna_Belfrage 2015Anna Belfrage, Biography –

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. Instead, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time-slip series The Graham Saga, winner of multiple awards, including the HNS Indie Award 2015.

Her new series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, is set in the 1320s and features Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures during Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The third book, Under the Approaching Dark, will be published in April of 2017 – and yes, Isabella plays a major role!

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Anna can be found on her website, on Facebook and on her blog. Or on twitter and Amazon.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor

AMAZON: http://t.co/dto2WzdTJQ

Link The Graham Saga: http://myBook.to/TGS

Link The King’s Greatest Enemy: http://myBook.to/TKGE

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Thanks for following along with the series!

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Interview: Author Anna Belfrage Sits Down to Discuss Writing

Author Anna Belfrage is no stranger to this site. She’s been here numerous times for her beloved series – the time travel historical novels of The Graham Saga – and now, she’s been back already a few times for her new medieval series, The King’s Greatest Enemy. The second book in that series, Days of Sun and Glory, released this year and we talk about that among other new and upcoming adventures she has under her sleeve. Enjoy our discussion below her magnificent cover…..

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Hi Anna! Welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It seems we were just talking about gingerbread and tea and Christmas traditions when your first The King’s Greatest Enemy novel, In the Shadow of the Storm, came out this past December 2015. Time has flown since then, and it’s already September of 2016 and time for another book by you! What have you been up to? What’s some good news for the year?

Anna: Hi Erin – and it is so nice to be back here in your cozy corner of the blogosphere. Yes, time does fly, doesn’t it, and this wonderful, warm summer has come and gone in the blink of an eye. As to what I’ve been doing, well, I guess it comes as no surprise that I’ve been writing. A lot. As to good news, I am rather chuffed that Days of Sun and Glory has already been named a Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice – and that I have mastered the art of making mojitos.

Mojitos are my absolute favorite so I probably should have had you make our drinks today! Your “Anna” chair is still here for you, so have a seat so we can talk about the second book, Days of Sun and Glory. You’re visiting me so it’s about 99 degrees and humid in Ohio. I don’t even think I shall turn on the oven! Shall we have some sort of iced tea or lemonade – I have sun tea with mint leaves on the porch or freshly squeezed lemonade with fruit? What’s your pleasure?

Anna: The lemonade! Throws me back to my childhood in Colombia, where every day when I came home after school there was lemonade and “morenitas” (chocolate-dipped thin cookies) waiting for me.

Erin: I will get the pitcher and pour us some drinks as we cool off in the corner of my library. I baked muffins early morning, peach and blueberry, so I will pull some of those out for us. We can get started to chat a little about your new series and new book once one of us doesn’t have our mouth full. We can look at your beautiful cover until then. How important to you are these beautiful covers? Do you think they assist you in selling your books?

Anna: I do. I actually start the cover production relatively early in my creative process, as I find the effort of defining the visual presentation of my book acts as an inspiration for the writing as such. I want the cover to hint at the content of the book, so it is important for me to have a “medieval” flavor on this cover. I hope I – or rather my fabulous cover artist, Oliver Bennett at MoreVisual – have succeeded in delivering that.

Erin: We explained last time that you ended your time slip The Graham Saga series (Waaaaa!!! Readers – if you haven’t read this, get it NOW!) and started a new series which is not time slip at all, but medieval historical fiction surrounding Edward II and his wife Isabella of France, set in the 1320s! We had a great interview on the start of your new series and the first book, as I stated, back in December. It’s still a good read for new readers, so they can get to that from this link HERE.

 

As you began writing the second book in this series, did you intentionally write it so it could be read as a standalone or did you intend have it join one book to the next? Of course either way your characters carry over….

Anna: I think it is important the various books in a series can be read as standalones. A new reader should not groan and put it down after fifty pages, thinking it is too much of an effort to catch up with the characters. Having said that, I believe the books are enhanced by being read in order.

Erin: Because I’ve had you on so often, I believe I’ve asked you this before, but let’s look into this again. Did you write all of these books at one time, then split them up and stagger out their release dates? Or do you write each one between the other?

Anna: Ha! Not a question I recall you having asked before. In general, I write all the books in a series before I start publishing them. But I write them as separate books, not as one long story I then have to go back and split up.

Erin: I have asked it, but I always like to bring that up. It’s a unique of doing it I think most authors writing a series of books should try! Why did you choose to do it this way and was it easier that way or more difficult?

Anna: Well, as a reader I hate it when I start a series and it takes several years between installments. So, by having all the books written, I can release them at adequate intervals. Also, by writing the complete series, I can ensure I have consistency throughout – and I also have a major problem in leaving my characters hanging, so I have to find out what happens to them, all the way.  Having said all this, the fact that the books are written does not mean they’re finished. Book 3 in the Kit and Adam series is now on its way into the next editing phase which culminates with an external editor taking over.

Erin: Did you do your research all at one time? What did you do for research? Go to libraries? Read? Travel? Tell us some of your best research stories…

Anna: For The King’s Greatest Enemy (in which Days of Sun and Glory is number 2 of 4) I’d done most of my general research prior to writing. Once into the writing, I have a drafted timeline of “real” events to consider as I develop the novel, but there are frequent examples of me highlighting a paragraph or a word in yellow, which means I must revert and research further. I do this after the first draft, so as not to interrupt the flow. I read a lot on line, but I also buy nice, heavy books I can spend hours reading (very distracting at times).  And I do travel to the various locations – I find it important to have a feel for the general lay of the land.

Best research stories – hmm… I must admit I was rather surprised when I read Ian Mortimer’s meticulous descriptions of items confiscated from Roger Mortimer (and no, they are NOT related) when Roger was attained, only to realise this particular baron had a thing about butterflies – he even had a tunic embroidered with them. Whimsical – but also very humanizing.

Erin: You had to form to new characters with this series, and we talked on that the last time, but as you went further into your series, did you hear them conversing with you and each other as you did the Grahams? Were you as connected to them? Why or why not?

Anna: Poof! Do they talk? OMG! My head is full of them. Not only Kit and Adam, Roger Mortimer and Isabella, but also Matthew and Alex (Matthew and Adam have bonded over several mugs of good ale) and various other Graham family members. Unfortunately, these my beloved chatterboxes are at their most active just after midnight, which has a detrimental impact on sleep.

Erin: How accurate did you strive to make your historical accounts and characters in the book? The guest post you wrote for my readers the other day, which they can read HERE, talked about forming Isabella. Do you think overall you captured close to their character of record, or did they take you in new directions?

Anna: I think it is more or less impossible to know what my “real” historical characters were truly like as people. In some cases, we know what they did and when they did it, but human beings are so much more than the sum of their actions, and from a distance of seven centuries, how are we to assess their motivations, their fears and hopes? I do try to stick to the known events, and often a sequence of events reveals a lot about the person – but it is my interpretation of the facts that colour the characters. As a specific example, take Roger Mortimer, who until relatively recently was mostly depicted as hungry for power, harsh and domineering. I am quite sure he was all of those, but he was also a father of twelve, a devoted husband – at least for the first twenty years or so of his marriage – and, by all accounts, initially a capable and loyal servant to his king, Edward II. I write the story mainly from Adam’s perspective, and he owes everything he has – including his life – to Mortimer, so obviously his take on Mortimer will be somewhat rose-tinted. Not, necessarily, a correct interpretation of Mortimer when applying a holistic approach, but neither can we say it is wrong. Mortimer inspired strong loyalties, and in my experience men who do so have quite a few redeeming qualities. However, as the story progresses, Adam is forced to confront the fact that the hero of his youth is not always a hero, and this causes quite some tension.

Once my characters begin to take shape, I take a step back to allow them to develop as per their own inclinations. Sometimes, they surprise me – Isabella most definitely does so in book four – and while there are no historical records proving this is what they did or said, neither are there records to disprove it. Perfect, IMO.

Erin: What has been your favorite character to write so far? Why?

Anna: In all my books? Alex Graham in The Graham Saga sits very close to my heart – but so do Matthew and Adam – and Kit, especially as she grows into her full potential. And Jason &Helle (whom you haven’t met yet) But if I have to choose, it’s Alex, probably because she gets to time travel – lucky her! (“Lucky?” Alex snorts. Yeah, yeah…we’ve heard it all before, and seriously, honey, if I hadn’t dragged you back in time, someone else would have ended up as Matthew’s very happy wife.)

Erin: What theme(s) do you hope readers take away from The Days of Sun and Glory? What could they ponder as they await the third book?

Anna: This is very much a book about a child caught up in the conflict between his parents. In Days of Sun and Glory, the future Edward III takes up a lot of space, angrily defending his slighted mother to his father, helplessly standing to the side when his mother and her lover bring war to his father’s kingdom. Adam does his best to protect his young lord from all this emotional turmoil and pain, but he can’t shield the boy as much as he would want to. Being torn apart by your parents is, sadly, not uncommon in this day and age either, and it always makes me very angry when adults use their children as weapons against each other. Edward, just like any child caught in such a conflict, has little say over what happens – but shoulders a huge portion of guilt.

Erin: What will the next book in the series be about and when can we expect it?

Anna: The next book covers the first few years of Edward III’s reign. Isabella and Mortimer are in control, and not everyone is delighted at this turn of events, putting it mildly. Edward is as yet a boy, but in the fourth book the boy has become a man – a very young man, but definitely a man. God help Isabella and Mortimer then…

The third book, Under the Approaching Dark, will be out in April 2017.

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Erin: If you aren’t writing about Scotland or England, what else catches your fancy to write about? Will it always be historical fiction or do you think you have more genres up your sleeve?

Anna: Oooo, I definitely have more genres up my sleeve. I hope to release the first in a new trilogy early next year, and the preliminary blurb goes something like this:

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In the long lost ancient past, two men fought over the girl with the golden hair and eyes like the Bosporus under a summer sky. It ended badly. She died. They died.

Since then, they have tumbled through time, reborn over and over again. Now they are all in the same place, the same time. It is time to end that which began 3 000 years ago. Time to lay old ghosts to rest, time to finish what was started in distant fogs of time.

This is the story of Jason and his Helle. He betrayed her in their first life – he wants to make amends and has lived through a sequence of lives in a desperate attempt to find her again. He remembers all his lives, she does not – but when she sees him, she knows him, which scares her silly. What also scares her is Sam Woolf, yet another visitor from her distant past – and where Jason wants to make amends, Sam wants revenge…

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As to my historical fiction, I am working on a story set in 17th century Sweden. And one set late in 13th century England. And a book featuring a certain Matthew and Alex…

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Erin: Do you have more time to write now and what have you been working on? How do you write? Do you outline and plot extensively or do you write as the muse takes you?

Anna: My personal muse, Ms Inspiration, would tell you I am incorrigible & have the attention span of a gnat. A new idea pops up, and off I go to explore it, even if I’m in the midst of something else. I tell Ms Inspiration to remember it is all her fault – she’s the one who distracts me by introducing new characters, new settings, new everything…So no, I generally do not outline or plot extensively – beyond a detailed timeline of actual events.

I’ve had more time to write lately, but I’m back to working again – too much time spent mostly with me and my imaginary friends was actually having a negative effect on my output (And how strange is that, huh? I’ve concluded that when I write as a treat at the end of a working day, the time is more precious and I go all wild and crazy with joy, while when I can do it all the time, some of the glow fades)

Erin: If you didn’t already answer this in the question about research, did you do any traveling this year? If so, what were some of the favorite things you saw?

Anna: I did answer it in passing, but I’ve been fortunate enough to do two research trips to the UK this year. My highlights are Tewkesbury (I could move there tomorrow) and Lincoln (I could move there like right now). Lincoln Cathedral is probably one of the most “soul-touching” experiences in my life. I still haven’t quite recovered from the awe it inspired.

Erin: Where do you hope to go in the future? I just love how big and bright your eyes are always for learning and doing new things!

Anna: I like the BIG part. Recently, my eyes have looked very small 🙂 As to the future, it’s a great start just having one. Obviously, I want to see my book babies “born”, and I would really, really like to master a yoga stance or two. And I’d like to relearn how to ride – preferably on a very small horse so that it won’t hurt as much when I hit the ground (I stopped riding when I was thrown by a thoroughbred and dislocated my shoulder).

Erin: Sweden seems like an amazing place to live. We are always so busy talking I rarely get to ask you about it. For a vicarious traveler, what are some sites that are must views?

Anna: Stockholm. In summer, this must be among the most beautiful capital cities in the world. Sigtuna, a very, very old city where some of the first Swedish coins were produced. Lund, just as old, where some of the first Danish coins were produced (Lund was Danish until mid 17th century) Ironically, both the mint in Sigtuna and in Lund were started by the same Anglo-Saxon mint-master – or so it seems. Malmö, where I live, so that I can have you over for tea, coffee, lemonade, elderberry cordial or whatever else you may want. 🙂 (and that invite includes your family)

Erin: Yay! That would be amazing to visit you. Do you have anything fun planned for the rest of the year?

Anna: Other than writing and working? No, not much.  But I am thinking a week or two somewhere very warm and sunny in March or so would be nice.

Erin: Thanks so much Anna for stopping by and hanging out with me again! It’s always fun to have you by to drink, eat, and be merry with me as we talk about your fabulous books, my friend. Be sure to come back soon ( I bet you will, right?)! Best of luck with this new series, but you don’t need it, it’s terrific!

Anna: Thank you for having me! I am more than delighted to stop by and talk to you whenever you want me to.Actually, I can come back and just eat your muffins. 🙂 

Erin: See you again soon, Anna!

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Days of Sun and Glory (The King’s Greatest Enemy #2)
by Anna Belfrage

Publication Date: July 4, 2016
Matador
eBook & Paperback; 418 Pages

Series: The King’s Greatest Enemy
Genre: Historical Fiction

Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive. Fortunately, he has two formidable allies: Queen Isabella and his wife, Kit. England late in 1323 is a place afflicted by fear. Now that the king’s greatest traitor, Roger Mortimer, has managed to evade royal justice, the king and his beloved Despenser see dissidents and rebels everywhere – among Mortimer’s former men, but also in the queen, Isabella of France.

Their suspicions are not unfounded. Tired of being relegated to the background by the king’s grasping favourite, Isabella has decided it is time to act – to safeguard her own position, but also that of her son, Edward of Windsor. As Adam de Guirande has pledged himself to Prince Edward he is automatically drawn into the queen’s plans – whether he likes it or not.

Yet again, Kit and Adam are forced to take part in a complicated game of intrigue and politics. Yet again, they risk their lives – and that of those they hold dear – as the king and Mortimer face off. Once again, England is plunged into war – and this time it will not end until either Despenser or Mortimer is dead.

Days of Sun and Glory is the second in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord, his king, and his wife.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Anna Belfrage, Biography

03_annna_belfrage-2015Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing. These days, Anna combines an exciting day-job with a large family and her writing endeavours.

When Anna fell in love with her future husband, she got Scotland as an extra, not because her husband is Scottish or has a predilection for kilts, but because his family fled Scotland due to religious persecution in the 17th century – and were related to the Stuarts. For a history buff like Anna, these little details made Future Husband all the more desirable, and sparked a permanent interest in the Scottish Covenanters, which is how Matthew Graham, protagonist of the acclaimed The Graham Saga, began to take shape.

Set in 17th century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, the series tells the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him. With this heady blend of romance, adventure, high drama and historical accuracy, Anna hopes to entertain and captivate, and is more than thrilled when readers tell her just how much they love her books and her characters.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with her next project, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. The King’s Greatest Enemy is a series where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

The first installment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, was published in 2015. The second book, Days of Sun and Glory, published in July 2016.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of Days of Sun & Glory by Anna Belfrage, please enter below.

Enter via the Gleam Direct Link

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– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

 

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Visiting with Historical Author Anna Belfrage About Her Eighth and Final Graham Saga Novel + What’s Next?

Today I have an interview with the one-of-a-kind Anna Belfrage. Her eighth book in The Graham Saga series has published, but as it’s the last, we’ve talked about the series as a whole and what’s next. If you missed my review of To Catch a Falling Star yesterday, you can view it HERE. Enjoy!

Hi Anna, welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It’s always a pleasure to have you here for conversation, drink, and sweets…and  your characters…oh, how they like to try to come along for some fun too! Alas, though I’m sure this won’t be the last time I have you on my site, it does look like it is the end of the The Graham Saga series for now, with the publishing of the eighth book, To Catch a Falling Star. Let’s chat a bit today about it all. How has it all been going for you?

02_To Catch a Falling Star_Cover

Anna: Well, I’ve exceeded my normal annual consumption of Kleenex by now… I had no idea it would be so difficult to say goodbye to Alex and Matthew. My husband tries to comfort me by pointing out there’s nothing stopping me from writing some more about them, and he’s right, of course. But there are other characters calling for my attention, and so…I do think there will be a novella or two. Mainly to dull the edge of abstinence I am presently suffering.

Erin: I better go get my extra box of Kleenex then, I’m sure we’ll need them as we talk. Are we up for a spot of tea today? If so, I’ll put on the tea kettle and brew up whatever you’d like. It’s rainy and humid and chilly here right now. Or we can do iced tea, in fact, if you’d prefer. And I know that you haven’t been allowed sweets in your home lately either, but you do love good cake, so I baked up a celebratory pound cake with raspberries and cream. Name your pleasure and I’ll serve it up!

Anna: I love you. Love you! And your pound cake! (Eagerly extends her plate) And yes, tea would be nice – it’s sunny and freezing cold over here, so I prefer the kettle variety.

Erin: It’s all prepared, so I’m on my way back in to settle beside you in some of my comfy library chairs. Aw, *hugs* Anna, I so enjoy you too! I’m looking forward to chatting, and hopefully, laughing as well. I do think I love your laugh, even if I’ve never heard it in person! Let’s get started.

Anna: My grandmother (a dour person who spent most of her life in a housedress and rollers until my grandfather died when she suddenly lost 20 pounds, bought herself jeans, a leather jacket and let her hair grow long) always said my laugh reminded her of the sound a goat makes if it shits on a tea-tray. Did I mention she wasn’t very nice? Actually, I think both of us have contagious laughs – I can see it in your eyes.

Erin: Hahahaha!! I literally just spit out this nice tea I just made all over my lap. I should know better, you are so very funny. I’m going to have to compose myself to even begin again. I might need to wipe myself up a little as well.

Ah, ok, now that I’ve recovered, let’s see if I can ask some questions. The most general question would be, especially after I’ve had you on my site probably 10 or more times, how does it feel to have accomplished writing and publishing eight books in a successful series? Do you feel content and ready for something new? Will you miss it? Will you keep promoting it?

Anna: Will I miss it? Gah! Yes, of course I will. And yes, I will continue promoting the series – among other things by publishing the odd novella or two as mentioned above. But I have so much other stuff in my head, and for some months Alex and Matthew will have to cede center stage to other characters. (“You can’t be serious!” Alex scowls, arms akimbo. “After all we’ve done for you, and you’re just going to leave us like this? Like this?” She gestures at Matthew’s half-finished little cabin, their private retreat. “Just for some months,” I try. Besides, if we’re going to be honest I’ve already written a couple of chapter sin which the cabin is finished and furnished. “You have?” Alex softens. “Well then.”)

Erin: After reading this eighth book, Alexandra Lind and Matthew Graham certainly, to me, don’t seem like they are finished, or that they’re family is finished. Excuse me if you’ve mentioned anything like above already. Though I know you tease about making them immortal, truly, do they still prod your mind with things they want to say?

Anna: Constantly. That Alex is a chatter-box, let me tell you! (“I am not!” Alex says, glaring at me. Matthew just smiles, draws his wife close and kisses her head. “Aye you are. The miracle is that most of what you say actually makes sense.”)

Anyway, yes, there are some things that need clearing up: Samuel and his life among the Mohawk, for example. And there’s an infected situation between Daniel and that horrible toad Richard Campbell. Plus Jacob’s unknown daughter in London is dealt a very, very bad hand of cards.

Erin: When you first set out to write a time slip series, and wrote the first book, did you have in mind it would remain set in the past throughout the series and she might never come back to the present to live?

Anna: Yes. I had this terrible premonition that if I allowed Alex to return, she’d never get back to Matthew. There was this horrible line running in my head: “She died just as twilight tinged the skies with tones of purple dusk. It was the 7th of May and it was exactly twenty years since she’d lost him. Him. Her Matthew, the man she’d last seen as he ran towards her, arms open in a futile attempt to grab her as time sucked her back. Him. Twenty years of arid emptiness, of longing for his voice, his touch. Him.  Alex Lind turned her face to the wall and gave up breath.”

Well, as you can guess, that served as a pretty good motivator in never, ever, allowing Alex to slip back through time.

Erin: Oh my, yes. Why did you choose, as an author, to have her slip into the 17th century? Do you feel that only someone with Alex’s robust personality could really be strong enough to “get on with her new life and love?”

Anna: The 17th century was a given. I am fascinated by this period in time, by the people who were brave enough to traverse the oceans in small wooden ships to start up life in the New World, by men and women so committed to their faith they were willing to die for it. And yes, I do believe most of us, if yanked out of our context, would more or less curl up and die, so it takes a determined – and open-minded – person to sort of pull up her socks and get on with it. I also think it helped that Alex came with some deep personal scars, and in some ways being transported backwards in time gave her an opportunity to reinvent herself.

Erin: Obviously Alex falls in love with Matthew and they start a family, so in the course of the series, they travel many places and take on new things with each novel. Though they seem a simple, down-to-earth couple, they are also very revolutionary. How do you, as the author, feel that they, and their family, grew over the course of the series? What did they learn?

Anna: It was difficult for Matthew to recognize just how dependent he was on Alex – as he had to do when they immigrated to Maryland, with him more or less torn apart with the pain of leaving his beloved Scottish manor.

Over time, both Alex and Matthew have learnt to share their emotional burdens with each other, whether it be the painful secrets of their past, or the devastating loss of their children. Theirs is a relationship built on love, respect and trust, on the certainty that no matter what, they’ll be there for each other – and they pass this on to their children, all of whom have successful marriages with partners they respect as well as love.

Erin: Alex and Matthew both are very strong, passionate, and yet emotional. How did you capture their personalities for the page? How do you think they mirror each other and how do you feel they are similar?

Anna: Well, if you ask Alex, she’ll tell you she is nothing like her obstinate, old-fashioned man, and Matthew will let you know he has little in common with his stubborn, opinionated wife.

I think they are similar in their outlook on life – do the right things, speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves.

Matthew is far more devout than Alex is – and initially, his brand or religion has a whiff of intolerance – he is, after all, a man shaped by the events of the English Civil War. Alex may have her doubts about God being a Presbyterian, but over time she is influenced by Matthew’s deep-seated conviction that God exists, and by the end of the series she has regular little chats with God, mostly to make sure He’s doing His job and keeping her family safe.

Passion is something they definitely have in common – for each other, for life, for their children.

Erin: Of all the secondary characters, children, etc., who was your favorite to write? Who did you enjoy creating the most, who had a mind of their own, and who did you not like very much?

Anna: I’m ambivalent to Daniel and Ruth, both of them with a rather narrow-minded approach to things, where things are either black or white. In my experience, life is mostly a jumble of varied greys…

My favourite… Well, Ian is very close to my heart as is Samuel. Both of them go through the harrowing experience as children of being torn in two between people they love, having to choose one over the other, all the while knowing that the person they don’t choose will be very hurt. Children are very perceptive like that, aren’t they?

Erin: Over the course of the saga, as mentioned, many times and places were encountered. Which was your favorite setting and time period? Why? Was there one that was more of a challenge?

Anna: I am a sucker for American Colonial – the courage it must have taken to ride off into the wilds, stake a claim and then set about taming the wilderness into arable lands. So I am very fond of my version of Colonial Maryland, including Providence, this bustling little town that evolved into Annapolis. The time period is consistently 17th century, so I guess that shows this is my favourite time.

Erin: Yes, I agree. Colonial America is also one of my favorites in general, and about your series.

Beyond that, what lessons and values do you feel you’ve taught within your book as you went along? Alex and Matthew both seem whole-heartedly like fine examples in regards to love, friendship, loyalty, justice.

Anna: I think my books are about love – the enduring kind, the one that has you sitting up all night when your loved one is ill, just to be able to hold his hand, the one that makes you look at your partner after thirty odd years and still see the person you fell in love with. I also firmly believe that most people strive to be good. Yes, for some it doesn’t work out all that well, but deep down, most of us want to do the right thing. Matthew and Alex are such people, and at times their integrity places them at risk – but some things are worth fighting for. Finally, Alex makes a journey into the unknown and becomes an ambassador for tolerance in an era where people were suspicious of anyone different from them. Sadly, I think we still see that type of behavior in our world of today, and I agree with Alex, that ultimately there’s no difference – we are all creature blessed with a short but priceless span of life.

Erin: So, the question everyone is probably asking, will there be more to this series in some shape and form? Will we ever hear from any of these characters again?

Anna: Well, I think I’ve replied to that question further up. So how about you go up and read it while I serve myself another slice of this fantastic pound cake? 🙂

raspberry-pound-cake

Erin: Yes, when you sat down you did say you might write a novella or two! I can’t wait to hear more about them. I’ll ponder it while I pour you more tea to have with your cake. 🙂

In all of the heartache, turmoil, heartbreak, and yet also joy, in your epic familial saga, do you feel that you’ve wrapped up most of the character arcs in this final book, at least especially with the children? Why or why not?

Anna: Not all of them. Samuel tugs at my heart – a lot. Daniel remains unexplored, and little Adam is growing into a young man of character.

Erin: Samuel is one of my favorites. I’d love to read a book about him. HINT!!!

Have you ever thought of going all the way in the opposite direction and writing a novel or novella that is a prequel? You know, one that tells us about Alex’s upbringing and normal everyday life in modern America before she slips? Something about that intrigues me!

Anna: Oh, I have started a prequel – but it starts much, much earlier than that! “She was born just as a bolt of lightning struck the Giralda, causing the heavy bell to boom out a greeting. That, at least, was what her grandfather said, laughing at the thought of a Catholic bell ringing in the birth of a little Jewish girl.” Welcome to 15th century Seville, and the story of Mercedes.

Erin: Oh, THAT’S exciting, I want to read that already!

I saw an excerpt at the back of To Catch of Falling Star, from a new project you’re working on which is set in 14th century England. I’m excited and want to know more about it! What can you tell us?

Anna: Adam de Guirande is a man who has more than one reason to love his lord, the enigmatic and ambitious Roger Mortimer. In 1321, Adam marries Kit Coucy – except he thinks he’s marrying Katherine de Monmouth, and doesn’t take it all that well when he realises he’s been played the fool. Not that Kit had any choice, but Adam has a hard time believing that.

When the conflict between Baron Mortimer and Edward II explodes into armed conflict, Adam has no choice but to ride with his lord, no matter that treason comes with dishonourable death. With Mortimer in chains, and Adam’s at death’s door, only one person cares enough to come looking – Kit.

This is but a brief introduction to a story that will require at least three novels to tell in full. A story where passion and drama play out against a complex political situation, where today’s traitor may be tomorrow’s hero, and the Wheel of Life never stops rolling.

We first meet Adam as he stands waiting for his bride:

Adam de Guirande approached his impending nuptials with as much enthusiasm as a lamb about to be led to the slaughter. Had it not been for the dowry, further enlarged by the baron’s generous gift, he would have refused the honour, all too aware of the fact that most men viewed his intended wife as used goods. He’d only met Katherine briefly, but rumour had her spending a lot of time alone with the baron – especially during the past winter, when the baron had spent several consecutive weeks at Wigmore – and Adam knew better than most just how carnal a man the baron could be. Not for him the refined love of troubadours and chansons, no, Sir Roger Mortimer preferred his pleasures in the flesh, so to speak.

The first instalment in the Adam and Kit story, In the Shadow of the Storm, is planned for later this year. I rather like the title – what do you think, Erin? 

Erin: I like the title and the book premise. Again, excited! I look forward to it!

I love the subtle humor in your books, within Alex but in many of your other characters as well. I feel like you are like this in real life. I think this makes your books fun to read. Do you always wish to carry an element of humor into your characters or does it just “happen?”

Anna: It mostly happens – I do believe my characters take after their creator. But I think it is important with humour – it serves to save a scene from too much sentimentality.

Erin: What is one of the funniest things that have happened to you while in the course of researching or writing your books? If not when writing, then in general, because I know you have some of those stories!

Anna: Funniest? Hmm. I was in Cumnock – I felt I had to see this center of the universe in Matthew Graham’s Scottish life – and I must admit to being a tad disappointed. It wasn’t quite as picturesque as I had hoped. It did, however, have a hotel smack bang in the middle, and this hotel offered afternoon teas. The place was deserted. It was my BFF, me, and the waiter. At some point he asked what we’re doing there. I told him and he just blinked. “Write about Cumnock? Whatever for?” He gestured at the window. “There must be thousands of Scottish towns prettier than this.” Absolutely. But only Cumnock had Sandy Peden, that endearing fanatical preacher who livened up the nearby area in the 17th century.

Erin: I know you already live overseas, and you travel some, what is your favorite place nearby where you live? What is your favorite place abroad?

Anna: I suppose whether it is overseas or not depends on perspective. From where I’m standing, it is you who is overseas, while I have my feet firmly planted in Swedish soil. My favourite place here in Sweden is our country house. Situated in the middle of nowhere, it sits on a lake, and there are no sounds other than those of the wind in the trees, the birds, the bees… Like balm or my soul. My favourite place abroad has to be London. Or Istanbul. Yes, Istanbul, historical highway between east and west, between old and new.

Erin: Oh, Anna, I know! I meant overseas from myself, silly. I still sat I was born overseas (England), you know, not that I live overseas now. It’s all relative, you’re right. J  I’d love to go to Istanbul too!

If you could time slip yourself, where would it be? Who would you meet? What would you wear? What would you eat? (I’m sounding like Dr. Suess…)

Anna: There are so many events in history I’d like to peek in on, but if I have to choose one moment, I think I’d have liked to be on the Santa Maria when Columbus saw land – well, when the look-out screeched that he saw land. As this was an all-male venture, I’d be appropriately dressed in scratchy hose, breeches, a short – and too warm – doublet over a long linen shirt. Food would have been boring: fortunately, I’d have brought along a lime or two to ward off scurvy.

Erin: Ha! Somehow, I can see you doing that! My dearest Anna, I hope we meet your characters from The Graham Saga again in some shape or form, but if not, I look forward to your creation of new ones. Thank you for sharing the Graham’s story with the rest of us; the books will be forever treasured and I’ll pass them down to my daughters. I am excited for you to keep writing, as I know you have many more stories to tell. You’re still welcome here anytime!

Anna: Sheesh! Now look what you’ve done – pass me the Kleenex, will you? It’s been my pleasure to visit with you, and I hope to have the opportunity to do so many more times over the coming years. After all, I haven’t even begun telling you about Jason and Helle, have I?

Erin: Big teaser!!!

02_To Catch a Falling Star_CoverTo Catch a Falling Star, Synopsis~

Publication Date: March 1, 2015
SilverWood Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Series: Book Eight, The Graham Saga
Genre: Historical Fiction/Time-Slip

GoodReads

To Catch a Falling Star is the eighth book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Some gifts are double-edged swords …

For Matthew Graham, being given the gift of his former Scottish manor is a dream come true. For his wife, Alex, this gift will force her to undertake a perilous sea journey, leaving most of their extensive family in the Colony of Maryland. Alex is torn apart by this, but staying behind while her husband travels to Scotland is no option.
Scotland in 1688 is a divided country, torn between the papist Stuart king and the foreign but Protestant William of Orange. In the Lowlands, popular opinion is with Dutch William, and Matthew’s reluctance to openly support him does not endear him to his former friends and neighbours.

While Matthew struggles to come to terms with the fact that Scotland of 1688 bears little resemblance to his lovingly conserved memories, Alex is forced to confront unresolved issues from her past, including her overly curious brother-in-law, Luke Graham. And then there’s the further complication of the dashing, flamboyant Viscount Dundee, a man who knocks Alex completely off her feet.

All the turmoil that accompanies their return to Scotland pales into insignificance when a letter arrives, detailing the calamities threatening their youngest daughter in Maryland – at the hand of that most obnoxious minister, Richard Campbell. Matthew and Alex have no choice but to hasten back, no matter the heartache this causes.

Will they make it back in time? And what will Richard Campbell do?

Buy To Catch a Falling Star~

Amazon 
Barnes & Noble

Graham Saga Titles

Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star

About the Author, Anna Belfrage~

03_Anna BelfrageI was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive …

Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/tocatchafallingstarblogtour/

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Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @Anna_Belfrage

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To Catch a Falling Star Wraps Up Anna Belfrage’s The Graham Saga Time Slip Historical Series in Grand Style

02_To Catch a Falling Star_CoverReview~

I thought about just not writing this review and begging forgiveness. The reason for that being that it’s for the eighth book in Anna Belfrage’s The Graham Saga series, which is also the last. Yes, To Catch a Falling Star is the last. Crying ensues from everyone, everywhere (cue Kleenex!). This really is a best-loved series by so many, and I am included in both the crying and the loving. However, since Anna told me recently (and you’ll see in our interview tomorrow) that she may re-visit some of the characters, I’ll choose to keep hope alive. Also, I’ll leave links below to all my previous 10+ posts with Anna during this series. There is also an excerpt below so you can get a glimpse into this final book.

What might I think of this final book To Catch a Falling Star, this epic tale of Matthew Graham and Alexandra Lind and family, you ask? As always, Anna has great characterization. The proof of this is our connection to her characters over the series. I know I’m not the only one who fell in love with the Graham family. In this final book, we still see the enduring love and support of Matthew and Alex, both for each other, as well as their grown children.

We also see a great amount of adventure, action, and trauma. I mean, Anna can’t write a book that doesn’t make us all cry and tug at our heart strings. Poor Alex is always heavy in heart over one of her children. The situations as each go their separate ways is sometimes sad, as well of course, the fact that Anna doesn’t shy away from the hard emotional scenes that include death and grieving. She writes with real authenticity and pours everything out onto the page.

In the plot of this particular novel, Matthew receives a note from Luke, his brother that he hasn’t spoken to in many years, informing him that he now owns the family manor in Scotland. Of course, I know why Alex would be wary, she isn’t keen on seeing Luke and she isn’t thrilled about going to Scotland. It’s 1688 and there is religious and political upheaval. Matthew seems surprised at how much Scotland has changed, once he arrives with Alex and a few of their children. As always, it can’t be easy and some tragedy ensues, leaving Alex wondering when they’ll be able, and if they’ll be able, to return to their home in Maryland.

I know Alex wasn’t happy to be going to Scotland, but I did think it was great for Anna, as the author, to let her character of Matthew return to his roots, as well as enjoyable that we, as readers, are returned to the start of it all in Scotland. It does seem fitting also, the return, as she writes in a way to wrap things up and come full circle, just as their lives have come around to older age. They need to be able to make amends and face things from their past. Matthew and Luke also having an understanding, so her story is a little about brothers too. Matthew making resolution with his brother, as well as the relationships between the sons of Alex and Matthew as grown brothers. We see love, remorse, sadness, healing, forgiveness, redemption, loss, and joy.

I think that the main plot, which is really the love story of Matthew and Alex, all comes around and ties up nicely. Their love endures throughout the saga and we are left feeling that Alex’s time slip was the best thing that ever happened to her. We are left feeling good by the end, though I don’t want to give it all away, so I’ll just say that I felt it was a very fitting ending.

One of the side stories I found interesting was with Alex’s son Issac, who is a gifted painter. When he falls through a painting he time slips 300 years into the future! This is something I’ve always wanted to do, might I add! However, he does have a bit of a struggle as he tries to paint his way back. I thought it was so fitting to find that Alex’s son, like herself and his grandmother Mercedes, is also a time traveler! He also has a bit of her personality! I always felt like one of the children should have the gift as well.

Of course, there are several other stories and issues occurring throughout the book in regards to historical situations that Alex and Matthew’s children and family find themselves in that make for excellent reading. The action propelled me through the pages, the dialogue kept my eyes moving. I should choose favorites, but my favorite side story of one of their children is Samuel. I enjoy his story. I’d be sad to not hear of him again.

Thinking back throughout the series, I do feel that the books have gotten so much better with ever increasing quality of writing and story telling, even with adding more and more historical information with each new time and place. I especially enjoyed the last few books. Anna’s writing is quick-witted, focused, interesting, and engaging. I like how Anna writes of Matthew and Alex in terms of religious and political situations as well; both characters always seem to be the peace makers or at least are very good at making each side see the other side’s story. They are able to get out of some very sticky situations. I think they teach readers strength, courage, and compassion. This final book is a true testament to a wonderful couple, one that balances out each other with fine precision, though not always with ease.

Anna has created a beautifully written series that should adorn anyone’s bookshelf. I know they’ll urge to be read many times again (I don’t think these characters will rest!). The notion of time slipping is captivating, but what is truly spellbinding is Anna’s writing–her characters, her life humor, her long-abiding love story. It’s an unforgettable saga that is to be passed among generations, as time has no boundaries in regards to it.

My previous reviews/spots with Anna:

Book One: A Rip in the Veil (missed this one!)
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind

Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land

Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star (today)

Guest article on Creating her Series
Guest article on Creating Dialogue with Characters
Guest article on History of Sugar Production
Interview with Anna 1
Interview with Anna 2 (tomorrow!)

Excerpt from To Catch a Falling Star!

Matthew and Alex talk about Luke, Matthew’s perfidious brother~

“He looked old,” Matthew said some hours later, unable to keep a satisfied tone out of his voice.

“Who?” Alex said, sinking deeper into the hip bath. The room they’d taken was full of sleeping lads on pallets, but she had insisted on taking a bath, curtly informing Matthew that as far as she knew, all her sons had seen her naked before and weren’t about to die of shock.

“Luke.”

“Yes, he did, didn’t he?” she said, lathering her hair. “He does, however, look very wealthy.”

“Let me,” Matthew said, sinking his fingers into her scalp. “He is wealthy, and for all that he spent a year in house arrest, it hasn’t damaged his standing in court over much.”

“How do you know?” Alex asked.

“I’m not entirely without contacts, even if quite a few of my erstwhile companions are dead by now.” Matthew rinsed her hair, handed her a couple of towels, and sat on the bed to watch her step out of the tub, pink and glowing. “The King was right in placing him under house arrest.” This was information he had pieced together from several letters arriving not only from London but also from Edinburgh and even from Amsterdam. It would seem Luke had very much on purpose sent Charlie to Amsterdam, hoping the lad would become a well-known face at the court of William of Orange. Unfortunately, he had been dazzled by the Duke of Monmouth instead, thereby becoming an enthusiastic participant in the rebellion three years hence that nearly cost Charlie his life.

“You think?” Alex tugged a clean shift over her head and came to join him on the bed.

“Aye, he’s politically astute, my wee brother, and just like you, he doesn’t see the English taking to a line of Catholic kings.”

“Well, to be entirely honest, I know, don’t I? I know James will be out on his ear shortly.” She hunted about for her comb. “It’s just that I can’t recall exactly when. I should have paid more attention in history class.

“When do we leave for Hillview?” she asked some while later, wrenching Matthew out of private musings as to how close to the fire his brother might be flying.

“In some days. I have deeds to notarise, and then we must find ourselves horses and such.”

“Some days?” Alex gave him a penetrating look.

He averted his face from her, muttered something about having the maid empty the hip bath and cart it away, and escaped the room to yell down the stairs. Alex retreated behind the bed hangings when the door swung open to let in the harried maid and the yard lad.

“You’re scared,” she said once they were alone again.

“Nay, not afraid precisely, more…I’ve never been away this long from it before, and it may have changed.” He twitched the bed hangings closed, enveloping them in a musky, deep red glow, the candle on the headboard flaring in the resulting waft of air before settling down to burn steadily again.

“I seem to remember having had this conversation with you before,” she said, curling up against his chest.

“But that time it was only three years. This time, it’s twenty.” He closed his eyes, imagining all kinds of destruction. Mayhap someone had moved the barn, or torn down the stables, and where the dovecote had stood since time immemorial he might come home to find a pigsty.

“A pigsty?” Alex laughed and shook her head.

“Or a privy.”

“The ground’s too rocky for a privy there, and pigs like mud, not stones. Besides, you can always change it back.” She nestled into him. “You don’t think they’ll have touched the graveyard, do you?” Despite her casual tone, he knew this was her secret fear, that they’d return to find the headstones gone, the rowan tree cut down, and they’d have no idea where their wee daughter lay at rest.

“Of course not, that would be desecration. And Magnus said, didn’t he, how the rowan was still there when he visited Hillview last.” It made him smile – albeit crookedly. His father-in-law had been to Hillview before his longing for Alex drove him to attempt some time travelling of his own – successfully, as it happened, even if the mere thought of those accursed painted time portals had Matthew breaking out in a cold sweat. Magic: black magic, even.

As always when they touched upon the sheer improbability of his dear wife’s life – born in 1976, fallen back to land in the seventeenth century with him – he felt her tense, her hands gripping his shirt.

He tightened his hold on her shoulders. “I won’t let time take you back, lass. You’re staying with me ’til the end of our days and well beyond.” He threw her a teasing look down the length of his nose. “Although I fear that means I must join you in hell.”

“Not if God is fair and unprejudiced. I do as well as I can.”

“But we all know that God is selective as to who gets in to heaven. Most of us are not accorded grace.”

“Not my God. He has plenty of room up there in His rolling meadows for all the truly good and kind souls.” She propped herself up on an elbow to smile down at him. “And I bet you He has tea and cake as well.”

“Tea and cake?” Matthew laughed out loud. “What will a soul want with tea and cake?”

“Let me tell you I have no intention spending an eternity just wafting about and looking adequately spiritual.” Alex grinned. “I’m planning on eating and drinking and having lots and lots of sex.”

“Sex, hmm?” Matthew rolled her over, lowering his voice to a seductive rumble.

“As much as I can get,” she said, tugging his shirt out of the way. Her hand found his balls, she ran a nail up his member, and he dipped his head to nibble her ear, smiling at the responding gooseflesh that flew up her thighs. “Although I think we can manage that in hell as well,” she went on, “it will just be that much hotter.”

”You shouldn’t jest about it,” he said with attempted severity.

Her eyes stared up at him, mostly black in the night. “I don’t care where I go after death, as long as it’s with you.”

It still made his heart flutter when she said things like that, a heartfelt, silent thank you buzzing through his brain. For my life and my bairns, for my health, but most of all for my wife, my miraculous Alex, I thank you, Lord, every day, I thank you.

To Catch a Falling Star, Synopsis~

02_To Catch a Falling Star_CoverPublication Date: March 1, 2015
SilverWood Books
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Series: Book Eight, The Graham Saga
Genre: Historical Fiction/Time-Slip

GoodReads

To Catch a Falling Star is the eighth book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

Some gifts are double-edged swords …

For Matthew Graham, being given the gift of his former Scottish manor is a dream come true. For his wife, Alex, this gift will force her to undertake a perilous sea journey, leaving most of their extensive family in the Colony of Maryland. Alex is torn apart by this, but staying behind while her husband travels to Scotland is no option.
Scotland in 1688 is a divided country, torn between the papist Stuart king and the foreign but Protestant William of Orange. In the Lowlands, popular opinion is with Dutch William, and Matthew’s reluctance to openly support him does not endear him to his former friends and neighbours.

While Matthew struggles to come to terms with the fact that Scotland of 1688 bears little resemblance to his lovingly conserved memories, Alex is forced to confront unresolved issues from her past, including her overly curious brother-in-law, Luke Graham. And then there’s the further complication of the dashing, flamboyant Viscount Dundee, a man who knocks Alex completely off her feet.

All the turmoil that accompanies their return to Scotland pales into insignificance when a letter arrives, detailing the calamities threatening their youngest daughter in Maryland – at the hand of that most obnoxious minister, Richard Campbell. Matthew and Alex have no choice but to hasten back, no matter the heartache this causes.

Will they make it back in time? And what will Richard Campbell do?

Buy To Catch a Falling Star~

Amazon 
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Graham Saga Titles

Book One: A Rip in the Veil
Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind
Book Three: The Prodigal Son
Book Four: A Newfound Land
Book Five: Serpents in the Garden
Book Six: Revenge & Retribution
Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest
Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star

About the Author, Anna Belfrage~

03_Anna BelfrageI was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive …

Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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