Tag Archives: historical fiction

Book Blast: Traitor’s Knot is for Historical Fiction Fans

Traitor’s Knot
by Cryssa Bazos

Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Endeavor Press
eBook; 394 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War.

“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story.” – Elizabeth St. John, author of The Lady of the Tower

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” – Carol McGrath, author of The Handfasted Wife

Traitor’s Knot is available in eBook from Amazon

Author Cryssa Bazos, Bio –

Cryssa Bazos is a historical fiction writer and 17th Century enthusiast, with a particular interest in the English Civil War (ECW). She blogs about English history and storytelling at her blog, the 17th Century Enthusiast, and is an editor of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog site.

Cryssa’s debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, a romantic tale of adventure set during the English Civil War. Traitor’s Knot is the first in a series of adventures spanning from the ECW to the Restoration and is now available from Endeavour Press.

For more information visit Cryssa’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Interview: A Talk with Author Teresa Neumann About Her 70s Hippie Fiction!

best-oregon-pinot-noir-v2.pngToday, I’m hosting the lovely Teresa Neumann straight from Oregon for an interview! A conossieur of wine (check out the beautiful Oregon wine country above), her heart is also much with the Italian culture and lifestyle. When I think of her, I think of this – fun times with friends and family enjoying food and wine. She’s a great person and talented writer. She’s also not new to this blog, as I’d reviewed her Italian historical fiction books year ago, but it’s been a little while and she has since written a new book, A Year in the Company of Freaks. This novel was a bit of a departure from her other books, which we discuss in the interview below so you’ll want to keep reading.

“Freaks” is a novel that showcases life of those growing up in the 60s and 70s in California. I can’t say I’ve ever read a book like this, and it certainly was an eye-opening adventure for me as I don’t delve into this time period too much. What drew me in so much when I started reading the book early last year was the way their dialogue made me laugh. Her easy writing style will have you turning pages when you don’t even mean to keep reading and the characters will become so real that you swear they exist. I would never have thought I’d connect to the characters, but I did and found myself pulling for them and wishing they weren’t so misunderstood.

A Year Freaks

Though I don’t have experience coming-of-age in the way they did, the themes and struggles they had in all getting along together, and needing to learn and grow with and from each other, certainly fits within the framework of what needs to happen more in today’s society. It was fun contemporary fiction, but with strong messages, all wrapped up with descriptive and emotional prose. Though learning to live with others is a theme prevalent in the book, and judgment between hippies and rednecks, there is also love, frienship, redemption, and self-reflection. I’m really glad I stepped out of my box in reading this one!

Now, let’s talk about the book more with Teresa….and it’s her birthday, so please help me to wish her a very happy one!! : -)

Teresa

Welcome Teresa! I’m so glad you’re stopping by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It was my pleasure to read A Year In the Company of Freaks, your new book out last year – and an entertaining one at that! I’m glad we finally caught up to talk about it and what else is new in your life.

Come in and sit down. I feel like we should take part in your “live life” motto and drink wine in the afternoon. You tell me what’s the best – your favorite – and I’ll snap my fingers to make it so! Let me know what’s good to go with it too. I really have to learn my wines better someday soon!

Teresa: Thanks for inviting me, Erin! Ah, wine. My favorite wines are reds – cabs and merlots, though I love a great Oregon pinot noir too. They not only taste great but they’re healthy as well. In fact, after my gastronomical sojourns in Italy with my husband’s families, it’s hard for me to eat meat without a little wine as it is so good for digestion 😉

Erin: I’m not much of a wine drinker, but always wanted to try more of it for the experience. Let me pour us some. Now, let’s settle in on the front porch and talk awhile.

As I noted, A Year in the Company of Freaks was out last year.  What were some of the successes and challenges in the last couple years of writing and publishing it? How do you feel about it all now?

Teresa: I actually wrote a condensed version of “Freaks” about 12 years ago after my children and their friends began needling my husband and I about what it was like to live during the 60’s and 70’s. It wasn’t until after Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table were published that I chose to make it my next project and began the editing process. The title of the book always grabbed people’s attention, and since there were so few historical books out for the time period of the 60s and 70s, I just decided it was time to go with it. The successes and challenges of writing, for me, are one and the same: bringing a book to publication. I never realized what a truly mammoth effort goes into the process—writing, editing, re-writing, editing, decision-making on titles, front covers, back covers, synopses, etc. And that’s not even the marketing aspect of publishing a book, which is – true confession — my least favorite part of being an author. I just hate having to get the word out about my new books. That’s why you’re so incredibly appreciated, Erin! 

Erin: It is the hard part for many and so time consuming. Thank you! This book is a departure from your other novels that take place in history and overseas, Bianca’s Vineyard and Domenico’s Table respectfully, and takes us to Northern California to the 1970s and the dawn of the laid back lifestyle. However, one stream that runs through them all is the familial relationships you bring to life between family and friends. How do you create such vivid characters and connections?

Teresa: You’re correct that my third book is a departure from my first two books, which are mostly set in Italy, although my main character in “Freaks” is an Italian-American and wine – or, at least vineyards – play a small role at the end of the book: I’m still committed to a nod in my books to my beloved Italians.

Family is – and always has been – an absolute joy and priority in my life. I believe the older one gets, the clearer it becomes that all the other trappings of life fade in comparison. I also tend to be an apt people watcher and am fascinated by relationships – especially the interaction between age groups. My mother-in-law once told me that she and her husband decided against moving to a retirement community in Arizona because the absence of younger people and children made it feel “sterile” and unnatural. The truth of her observation has always resonated with me on a literary level. What would the Wizard of Oz be like without Auntie Em, the lion, the scarecrow, and the tin man? Perhaps it’s that philosophy that affects my writing style?

Erin: That’s an amazing observation and so true!

I think part of this book had an element of your own life decades ago? What spurred it and how much of your own experiences did you put into it?

Teresa: Very observant, Erin! In the early 70’s, before I was married, I moved to northern California with 5 other financially broke, free-spirited girlfriends from Iowa. I had never seen an ocean before; had never been to the west coast, or any coast for that matter. Marin County at the time was the “it” place to be, so we found a four-bedroom house to rent in Novato and lived there for nearly two years before going our own ways.

I got a job as a secretary in a mail-order “head shop” on a houseboat in Sausalito, adopting the name “Marsha Mellow” as a pseudonym to protect my identity from all the prisoners around the country who bought our drug paraphernalia. Only one or two of my roommates were smart enough to own cars, so the rest of us – myself included – hitchhiked everywhere we went, day or night: work, rock-concerts, parties, etc.

In hindsight, of course, it was insane, but the craziest part of it was that I had considered myself a full-fledged hippy before moving to California: I talked the talk, smoked the pot, dropped the acid, dated rock stars, loved the music, and everything else that went with the label in those days. And yet, hippies in California were so hard core and so far beyond anything I’d experienced in the Midwest that I began to feel somewhat like an alien on another planet.

My family and educational background (I was raised in a Catholic home and private Catholic schools) kicked into gear and, quite honestly, saved me from some pretty terrifying incidents. For example, several local guys tried pressuring us girls to attend a huge, “private” weekend party up in the redwood forests near Trinity County.  When I found out that hundreds of people would be there, that everyone was expected to drop acid, and it was not clothing optional (no clothing allowed) I got a “check” in my mind and declined. I was the only one of my friends who did. Peer pressure is always tough and I felt like an idiot at the time, but I couldn’t get past my own issues with personal safety and privacy. Although I don’t judge others, by nature I’m modest about public nudity, especially in a large group setting with strangers.

Anyway, one of my friends overdosed that weekend. She came back absolutely wrecked. Not only did she OD, I suspect she was raped, although none of my other friends would say that’s what happened. They all refused to talk about it. That friend, a shell of what she’d been just days before, immediately moved back to Iowa to live with her parents. Whenever that weekend was brought up thereafter, my roommates faces reflected a certain pain that I could only guess stemmed from their own negative personal experiences at that party. Dodging that bullet – and the price of staying home alone that weekend – taught me a lot about withstanding peer pressure when my gut says “no.”

All that to say, Erin: yes, I did live in northern California in the 70’s. But contrary to the one-dimensional view that too many authors of that era have portrayed (that it was the best of times; all peace, love, flowers, and fabulous free love, and oh, how we miss it) I wanted to balance it with another reality – the reality that I and so many others experienced during that time. A reality based not solely on nostalgia, but also crafted as a cautionary tale with all the regrets and warnings that come from living a real life. I mean, my friend who overdosed at that party wasn’t my only friend during that decade to be lost to drugs, or preventable diseases, or suicide, or …

Erin: Wow, that’s SO impactful Teresa! I’m so glad you tell that side of it. Besides all you’ve stated, as opposed to taking something of historical record as in your historical fiction books, what made you decide to try something new?

Teresa: Great question! I’ve always appreciated authors who’ve experimented with various genres in their writing: Ian Fleming, Stephen King, Anne Rice, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Elizabeth Grudge. As an author who isn’t getting any younger, I’m discovering the luxury of not caring so much about conventional wisdom in publishing. I suppose “Freaks” was my break-out-of-the-mold experiment; my transitional work into trying other genres. Why not?

Erin: Your heart shined through in the writing and it was emotional yet humorous, just like life. Did the plot come easy to you? Which character did enjoy writing about the most and why?

Teresa: Ketch – the albino biker from Texas — was my favorite, just because I used to know someone from Texas much like him and he was hoot. I also enjoyed fleshing out the sheriff and his wife; Otis and Pearlie Skinner. I do love precious old folks. I suppose, subliminally, writing about them makes me feel close to my own grandparents whom I adored 😉 Sid was harder for me, simply because as a woman it takes extra effort to get inside a man’s head and portray him fairly. Mika was probably the most difficult to write. There were elements in her character that many in society would, no doubt, be quick to judge and hate. But that’s the whole point. There would be no challenge to bias, no social dilemma, no need to soul-search if there weren’t opposites at play.

As for characters in general, I love breaking stereotypes both in writing and in real life. Here’s the thing about stereotypes: they exist for a reason. When enough people from any certain group begin to display common traits, stereotypes are born. In the 60’s there were two major social stereotypes: hippies and rednecks. Whether old or young, regardless of race, sex or religion, you were either one or the other. Hippies had long hair, wore bell-bottom jeans and sandals, experimented with drugs, promoted peace at any cost, listened to heavy, psychedelic rock and loathed the establishment. Those who didn’t fit into those categories were considered rednecks. When you really think about it, it was ridiculous.

Is it any different today in our polarized world with liberals and conservatives? In fact, it was today’s political and social climate that compelled me to publish “Freaks.” I think there’s an immensely valuable lesson to be learned from reading about strangers of different stripes living together under certain constraints for a year. It is one of the major underlying themes throughout the book. We CAN live together. We can even love each other despite our differences – and even because of our differences.

Oh, and you asked about plots. Plotting, for me, is always easy at first, until I actually start putting it on paper and then all the little details I missed during the first go around start rearing their ugly little heads. That’s when the real work begins.

Erin: You may have touched on this already, but in this book you dealt with some issues of prejudice, redemption, and such. How difficult were those to write about? Do you hope these themes help readers to identify within their own lives or were they just plot points to create drama and intrigue?

Teresa: I certainly hope readers will identify with the pitfalls and futility of prejudice in “Freaks.” Quite honestly, it’s so much a part of the human condition that I think prejudice is something everyone, including myself, has to work at their entire lives. As for redemption – YES! I’m an extremely positive person and all about gaining victory over every challenge. I can’t imagine life without redemption. It would be hell. Prejudice and redemption aren’t plot points; they’re the fabric of our lives, of history, of universal reality.

Erin: So true, Teresa. Well said. It’s mentioned about A Year in the Company of Freaks that it is a coming-of-age classic that “very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times.” To a slightly younger reader, what was that attitude and mood of the times? What was it like? Does this book display well life in the 70s in California?

Teresa: Having lived in northern California in the 70’s, I naturally feel that “Freaks’ accurately portrays life there during that time — through my perspective. I could have been more graphic. I could have delved into the darker aspects of things I saw and experienced while there, but that wasn’t the point of my story. As a writer, I have to constantly discipline myself to avoid rabbit trails that detract from the simple, core message of my story line. The core message of “Freaks” wasn’t to show just how crazy, or decadent, or dangerous, or fun, or wild life was during that time, although those elements definitely are addressed. It was to follow the character arc of a guy born in the 50’s who came of age during the 60’s and may, or may not, make it through the 70’s without going to prison, thus altering the entire course of his life. That arc includes the arcs of the other disparate characters he is forced to live with.

One of the minor subplots in the book is the price one pays for conformity vs. the price one pays for rebellion. Whether fiction or non-fiction, any literature that doesn’t address the downside of the counter-culture movement in the 60’s isn’t being intellectually or historically honest. Today smoking, and growing, pot has become more main stream. But during the era of “A Year in the Company of Freaks” doing so was a serious criminal offense, punishable by stiff prison sentences. Without an advocate or a criminal justice system that turned a blind eye to it, drug dealers and marijuana growers faced enormous risks.  The film “Blow” starring Johnny Depp is a good case in point.

Erin: You have the SUMMER BOOKS theme at the top of your website: “Summer reading is a delicious pastime.” Do you like writing your books in the summer and reading over the winter or the other way around? Summer is reading for you too, or just your readers? What books do you like to read and where?

Teresa: The title Always Summer Books is borne out of my addiction to reading. As a young girl I spent my entire summers reading non-stop. My mother claims that before I could walk I would spend hours just looking at and leafing through telephone books. I hated it when September rolled around because – although I loved academics – it interfered with my personal reading. Thus, Always Summer Books–never stop reading, no matter the season of the year or season of your life. I suppose I am the ultimate literary nerd. I’d rather curl up with a good book than watch a mediocre movie any day.

Let me just say it’s tough writing in the summertime!! I do much better in the winter.

Erin: I TOTALLY agree! What are you writing next?

Teresa: I’m almost finished with a screenplay – an adaptation of a classic — that I’m very, very excited about. I’ve also started a children’s book, though it’s becoming far more of a challenge than I ever imagined it would be. Who would have ever thought that writing for children could be so complicated! Is it because they take everything at such face value that nothing, no little trick of the literary hand, gets past them?

Erin: I can agree with you there on the children’s books. I have a set of them I’ve been trying to write for years and they seem to be the hardest of all my work.

I know you love to travel at least once a year, if not more. What are some of the favorite places you’ve been to and things you like to do?

Teresa: Though my father was a farmer’s boy at his core, he was also an avid traveler and passed his passion on to all of his children. He would have loved to travel overseas, but was never able to in his lifetime. I’m so thankful and blessed to have been able to see a wee bit more of the world. My fascination with other lands and cultures sometimes even supersedes my love of books! Nearly all our trips are family vacations and with a growing family on a specific budget it is no small feat to accomplish, but so worth the effort. They’re unforgettable experiences that we all hang our memory hats on.

Italy holds a special place in my heart because of my husband’s family in Tuscany. It’s more than a beautiful country abounding in great food, gorgeous people, and incredible history. It’s a place that feels like home because the Bertozzi and Sigali family there embrace us in a way that is impossible not to love. As a mother, when I realized my children’s DNA was connected so strongly to a certain country, I think I instinctively wanted to nurture it in them. I’m half-Irish, so Ireland holds a similar attraction for me. We went there for the first time last year and I was constantly overcome with the giddy sensation of: “I feel so at home here! These are my people!” It’s just inexplicable. Again, the genetic link with a place and its people is stronger, I think, than most of us imagine and it’s hard to grasp until you go back to your roots and experience it.

We have dear friends in England, France and Germany as well. Currently, my daughter is an au pair in Paris, so we just recently returned from there. I love, love Paris. It is truly one of kind. London, too – England is simply amazing.

But it’s a big world out there. So much more to see and so little time (and money) to see it all in one life. Asia, Africa, and so many other places beckon.

Erin: I completely agree, Teresa! I have some Irish in me too and my dad really connects with that part of him. It’s why he named me Erin, since it means Ireland! As for me, I was born in England and though my parents are American, I totally feel that England is partially my home. I’d love to travel the world too. Thanks so much for stopping by Teresa! Please come back anytime. Now let’s sit and sip wine, talk travel some more, and enjoy the beautiful day – summer is here!

Teresa: Thank YOU, Erin — anytime! And if you’re ever in Oregon, give me a call. Summer, indeed, is almost here and a glass of cold Rosé is calling me!

Erin: Thanks so much, Teresa, I certainly will. One day I hope to see all of that side of the country!

A Year FreaksA Year In the Company of Freaks, Synopsis –
All’s Well House (December 11, 2015)

It’s 1972 and a seismic clash-of-cultures is rattling northern California. In the redneck town of Trinity Springs, rumors of hippies migrating up from San Francisco have residents bracing for an invasion.

When Italian-American hometown boy and Berkeley graduate Sid Jackson is busted for growing pot on his deceased parents’ farm, locals suspect the assault has begun. Will a crazy deferral program devised by the sheriff keep Sid out of prison? Or will a house full of eccentric strangers, a passionate love interest, and demons from his past be his undoing?

A “disarmingly appealing” tale of discrimination, transformation and restoration, Freaks is bursting with intrigue, drama, comic relief and romance. Reviewers agree this five-star, coming-of-age classic “very much reflects the attitude and mood of the times.”

Purchase on Amazon

Praise for A Year In the Company of Freaks –

“Sure to intrigue and entertain, Freaks will have its digs in you before you realize how involved you’ve become.” — The Manhattan Book Review

Teresa Neumann, Biography –

Teresa Neumann and her musician husband live in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley with their three children. As well as being an author, reporter, and journalist, Teresa loves to fiddle on her violin and live “la dolce vita” in  Italy whenever she can talk her family into it. Visit Teresa at her website or on Facebook Page called Always Summer Books.

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Book Blast and Sale: Hakon Haraldsson and his quest in Viking Age Norway

Raven’s Feast

by Eric Schumacher

Publication Date: May 1, 2017
Creativia
eBook & Paperback

Series: Hakon’s Saga, Book 2
Genre: Fiction/Historical

 

 

Raven’s Feast is the sequel to God’s Hammer, the true story of Hakon Haraldsson and his quest to win and keep the High Seat of Viking Age Norway.

It is 935 A.D. and Hakon Haraldsson has just wrested the High Seat of the North from his ruthless brother, Erik Bloodaxe. Now, he must fight to keep it.

The land-hungry Danes are pressing from the south to test Hakon before he can solidify his rule. In the east, the Uplanders are making their own plans to seize the throne. It does not help that Hakon is committed to his dream of Christianizing his people – a dream his countrymen do not share and will fight to resist.

As his enemies move in and his realm begins to crumble, Hakon and his band of oath-sworn warriors must make a stand in Raven’s Feast, the riveting sequel to God’s Hammer.

“At its core, Raven’s Feast is more than a story about a young king holding firm to the power he has won in Viking Norway,” said Eric Schumacher, author of Raven’s Feast. “It is the story of a young man holding true to one’s self and convictions in the face of extreme challenges — something to which, I hope, many people can relate.”

Order your copy today on Amazon!

To celebrate the launch, the prequel, God’s Hammer, will be available free-of-charge on Amazon in the US, UK and Canada from May 2-6, 2017.

Praise for God’s Hammer (Hakon’s Saga, Book 1)

“Eric Schumacher has created the most evocative tale in his stunning novel — God’s Hammer. This book completely drew me in. The research that has gone into God’s Hammer has to be commended, and it is incredibly rich in historical detail. It was as if I was looking through a window into the past as I read the pages of this remarkable story. Hakon’s portrayal is both realistic and believable. Schumacher has obviously researched the life of Hakon in great detail, and this certainly came through in the writing. Schumacher brought Hakon back to life. Well Done!” – Mary Yarde, the author of The Du Lac Chronicles

“Author Eric Schumacher put together a rousing story of warfare, religious strife and tested friendships.” – Mercedes Rochelle, author of Godwine Kingmaker and The Sons of Godwine

About the Author

Eric Schumacher was born in Los Angeles in 1968 and currently resides in Santa Barbara, CA with his wife, two children and dog. He is the author of two historical fiction novels, God’s Hammer and its sequel, Raven’s Feast. Both tell the story of the first Christian king of Viking Norway, Hakon Haraldsson, and his struggles to gain and hold the High Seat of his realm.

More information on Eric and his Hakon Sagas can be found on his website. You can also connect with Eric on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and AuthorsDB.

04_Ravens Feast_Book Blast Banner_FINAL

 

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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

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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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