Thursday, 22 January 2015


Welcome again for another round with Dave McCall, who writes as David Ebsworth. Here, David, our Book of the Month winner, would like to talk to you about the background of his latest novel, The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour.

The Battle of Waterloo, its 200th Anniversary, and a new angle on the story--

The British Cavalry at Waterloo

They say that on the day after the battle, you couldn’t find a pair of pliers for love nor money. Not for fifty miles around.

The new fashion - in London, Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg – was for dentures fitted with real teeth. And there, on those few square miles of Belgian soil, lay no less than 50,000 potential donors, most of them dead, the rest so close to it that it didn’t much matter.

Carved ivory base with human teeth, 

And it wasn’t just the nature of dentistry that changed in June 1815.

The battles fought in Belgium over those few brief days brought an end to 22 years of almost continuous fighting between the European powers in what had been, effectively, the first “world war” – and historians estimate that as many as 7,000,000 military and civilian casualties occurred between 1804 and 1815 alone. Until 1917, this was known as “The Great War.”

Those battles also brought an end to that military rivalry between Britain and France which had flared so violently and plagued each of the six centuries since the Anglo-French War of 1202-14.

From now on, France would be our ally in all subsequent conflicts – the beginning of a new and more modern Europe in which Germany and Italy would be born, and the seeds of social democratic government would slowly begin to replace the despotism of the old royal houses. It’s a process that’s still evolving, of course.

But many other things remained entirely unchanged. International banking continues to fund all sides in current conflict, exactly as they did in 1815. The arms industry is still the main beneficiary of warfare, exactly as it was in 1815. And regardless of the original spark, which may ignite the bonfires of war, it has generally been international banking and the arms industry that have fanned the flames and kept the bonfires burning.

So, with this in mind, and the bicentenary of Waterloo coming up, I began to think how I might tell the story from a slightly different perspective.

As usual, I began by looking at the controversies. Was victory at Waterloo (a) won by the brilliance of Wellington and the resolute steadiness of his British infantry; (b) truly threatened by the alleged cowardice of his Dutch and Belgian contingent;  (c) snatched from the jaws of an ignominious British defeat by the timely arrival of Wellington’s dogged Prussian allies; or (d) simply thrown away, against all the odds, by the French. You’ll find whole battalions of eminent historians this year fighting their own battles, for and against each of these viewpoints.

And then there were the legends – none striking me so hard as the tale of Charles Napier (95th Rifles) and the broken body of a beautiful female French cavalry trooper he discovered among the thickest of Bonaparte’s dead. It was this tale that set me on the path of researching the many feisty women who fought in their own right, in their own way, in the French front lines.

By the time I’d finished that research, I knew what I didn’t want to write. Not yet another “boy’s own adventure” story of Waterloo. Not another one-sided account that failed to recognize the battlefield fever and frenzy, the heroism that gripped British, Dutch-Belgian, Prussian and French alike – nor to at least acknowledge that all the protagonists genuinely believed they were “on the right side.” Hindsight, and the pen of the victors, might have shaped the way we’ve been taught about Waterloo over the past 200 years but on the day among the French ranks, it all looked very different indeed!

So I became a bit fixated on some little-known and often forgotten issues.

First, Napoleon faced two very powerful armies, not one – and each of those armies was numerically as strong as his own.

Napoleon Bonaparte

By the time of Waterloo itself, over the previous three days, the French had already fought two major battles and several smaller ones.  The French army and its commanders had slept little over those few days. By the end of the battle, many French divisions, almost a third of Bonaparte’s total force, had still not fired a shot nor been engaged.

For at least half the battle a relatively small number of French soldiers held off wave after wave of Prussians trying to come to Wellington’s rescue – in some of the bloodiest fighting which those taking part had ever seen. And for most of the battle Bonaparte – either by choice or through illness – was not even present on the field.

The Prussians arrive!

The result of all this has been The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour – a tale of Waterloo told from the viewpoint of two French women participants. But is this Napoleonic chicklit? Definitely not. This is a very traditional action story, and will hopefully appeal to all readers of historical fiction. Somebody said that the novel is perhaps akin to Thomas Keneally’s The Daughters of Mars and if so, that’s a great compliment.

But I’ll leave readers to make up their own minds!


David Ebsworth has published three previous novels: The Jacobites’ Apprentice, finalist in the Historical Novel Society’s 2014 Indie Award; The Assassin’s Mark, set during the Spanish Civil War; and The Kraals of Ulundi: A Novel of the Zulu War. Each of these books has been the recipient of the coveted B.R.A.G. Medallion for independent authors.

More details of David’s work are available on his website:

The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour was published on 1st January and is available through all normal outlets.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


Welcome all to Paula's People, my very own spot on The Review Blog where I get to talk to some of the most interesting people. Today I would like to introduce you to the winner of our Book of the Month Award, Dave McCall who writes as David Ebsworth. This month it was my turn to choose the first winner, The Jacobites' Apprentice, and it means that this book has been chosen to win for its high standards of excellence. 

Hello, Dave, I am so thrilled to announce you as my Book of the Month for The Review. When I thought about this award and chose the first slot, I did not even have to think twice about which book I was going to choose. The Jacobites’ Apprentice just popped into my head straight away and I was like YES! That’s the one! So I’m glad to be in this position now to present your book to our readers and to present you as a shining example of why being an indie author works.

Thanks, Paula, and it’s a great privilege to be first up for Book of the Month – and among so many old friends, of course! So thanks for thinking so highly of Jacobites' and also for giving me this chance to talk about it.

The Jacobites’ Apprentice is your first novel and is such a roller coaster ride of an epic tome. How long did it take to research and write?

In truth, I wrote it twice. I spent two years researching and writing the first version, but that was while I was still working full-time – as a union negotiator, you may remember.  I had no real intention of publishing anything then. It was just a hobby, really. Then I retired, but still wanted a new challenge, something that would feel like a work routine. So I went back to the manuscript of Jacobites', realised that the background story was OK, but the writing and plot detail was abysmal. So it went in the bin. Every page. And I started again. It was easier this time, of course, because the basic research was mostly complete. It still took me more than a year to finish the first draft of version two, though. It’s a big book – over 300,000 words. And then there was all the editing and polishing. Another six months. So I suppose I spent two years on the version of Jacobites' that was eventually published early in 2012.

What inspired you to choose this subject and how did your characters develop?

I was working in Salford at the time, and doing lots of meetings in Manchester. I’m from Liverpool really, so it felt a bit like foreign territory. But as I was going from place to place, I started noticing the various blue plaques that linked the city to events in 1745 and the Bonnie Prince Charlie rebellion. It was one of the periods of history that’s always fascinated me, though I think I had a fairly romantic view of the story. It intrigued me, I suppose - that little-known fact that Charles Edward Stuart only enjoyed minority support from Scotland in his bid to reclaim the throne for his exiled family, and was tempted to march south on the promise that England was full of sympathisers who would flock to his banner if given half a chance.

He should have known better! In practice, only Manchester provided any substantial numbers of additional troops – three hundred, in total. Well, I thought, I’d like to read a novel about that. But there wasn’t one. I searched for ages. So there was really only one solution. And the characters simply walked out of the walls wherever I found those blue plaques. Manchester in 1745 was a town divided. Right down the middle. Not by football but by its politics. Those Manchester merchants, clergymen and citizens loyal to the ruling Hanoverian George II – the Whigs, and their mainly Catholic opposite numbers who felt marginalised by the Hanoverians and wanted a return of the exiled Stuarts – the Tories. So I needed three or four fictional characters from each faction who would stand for the real-life personalities of the time.

My favourite characters are definitely Maria-Louise and Titus Redmond. As a couple they work tremendously well together despite their dysfunction. Maria-Louise, for example, is painted by you so vividly, that I could hear her, see her and almost feel her jumping out of the pages. Titus I just adored, and even though he is flawed and not a saintly man, I couldn’t help but have a soft spot in my heart for him. Did you base these characters on anyone in particular or did they develop naturally – or did they turn out a lot different to what you’d had in mind when you started?

Titus was easy. It had occurred to me that, although the main supporters of each side were middle-class merchants, they were up to their necks in intrigue and also some illicit operations – tea smuggling was rife at the time, for example, as a supplement to more honest trading. So they must have been ‘rough diamonds’ for the most part. And I wanted to portray them accordingly. I cheated a bit, however, since I’d recently seen the series Deadwood and knew instantly that I wanted Titus to be a Manchester equivalent of that great Ian McShane character, Al Swearengen. Maria-Louise, on the other hand, wasn’t based on anybody specific. I wrote up a character sheet for her and then just let her loose on the story. That was exciting because, until almost the final chapter, I didn’t know how her story would end.

What are your writing methods? Did you plan the book from start to finish? Or did you have a starting plan which you developed as you went along?

I have to admit that I didn’t do much planning for Jacobites'. As a result (though I suppose I shouldn’t admit this!) the story rambles a bit. But actually I quite liked that. I’m not a great fan of today’s trend that requires all books to be trimmed to their absolute minimum. On that basis, I doubt whether Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy or Victor Hugo would ever have been published. I enjoy putting a bit of effort into my reading. Most of the time, anyway. So I suppose that’s also reflected in the way I write. And then there’s the fact that I like writing historical fiction. That helps because the history must be as accurate as possible. The history therefore sets its own framework through which my invented characters must travel. If their characters are sufficiently developed, they should be able to react to the historical events or background in a way which, basically, writes its own plot.

One of the things you state about yourself is that you write the books that no one else has thought of. Looking at the novels that you have written, I would say that was true. Is this a conscious thing? Can you explain more about this? How do you look for extraordinary subjects and is it a challenge?

In truth, I think I’ve said that I write the books which I wish somebody else had written for me to read, but which don’t yet exist. With Jacobites', it was really just accidental. I’ve already explained how the story came about. But once I had this concept in my head, I found it hard to escape. I normally have an idea of the period I want to work on next – and I enjoy having to research different historical eras for each book. Once I know the period, I start looking for the 'untold tales' that surround it. I normally begin with any local links to the story. Almost always, that triggers some unusual aspect or viewpoint. And, if I search beyond that again, there’s normally a pearl waiting for me.

What other books have you written? Please tell us what they are and a little about them and why you wrote them?

So, for the second book I wanted to write about the Spanish Civil War, partly because of my politics and partly because of those friends, both in Spain and in Britain, who had fought in that awful conflict, the prologue to the Second World War. I wanted to tell the story from a whole new angle and eventually came across the extraordinary story of the battlefield tourism that took place in northern Spain while the war was still raging. So The Assassin’s Mark was born – a Christie-esque political thriller set towards the end of 1938.

For the third, I was drawn by the Zulu War – but thought that it had been done too many times already. And then I realised that every single novel on the subject only dealt with the first few weeks of the war – the territory most famously covered by the two films Zulu Dawn and Zulu. Yet the war lasted for another six months and some of the most intriguing stories simply hadn’t been told in fiction. Ever! Like the strange death of the French Prince Imperial, Louis Napoleon, which now lies at the heart of The Kraals of Ulundi.

My recently published fourth book is The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour – a novel about the Battle of Waterloo told mostly through the eyes of two incredibly feisty French women whose exploits are based on those of real-life characters who served in the front lines of Bonaparte’s battalions.

Indie publishers work very hard to publicise their books and I know that you for one have been very successful in your endeavours. Do you have any tips for us other authors who are trying to make their way in the world of publishing?

The first big thing, I reckon, is to take almost pedantic care of the editing processes. Several re-writes and plenty of polishing, then work by a good professional editor. Traditionally-published authors seem to get away with any number of typo errors. But for indies, the slightest mistake is picked up as a sign that we’re not really professional. And if we haven’t got that credibility, we’ll never succeed with the publicity and marketing. But once the editing’s sorted, the book is published, and you’ve got a decent author website, all the hard work begins.

At last year’s London Book Fair, some of the world’s best-selling indie authors talked about the key things that had made them successful. Interestingly, they all said more or less the same things. First, that they concentrated on ebook sales more than the frustrating process of trying to get on bookstore shelves; second, that they had only begun to earn real income with their fourth or fifth books; third, that while it was important to have a working knowledge of all the social media formats (Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Goodreads, Linkedin, Pinterest, etc., etc.) it was crucial to concentrate on no more than two of them. So, for me, I like to focus on just Goodreads and Twitter – otherwise, I’d never have enough time to reach books numbers five, six and seven.

In addition, it’s taken as read (isn’t it?) that you’ve got the right cover for your book – since (fairly obviously) an ebook requires a very different cover image than one destined for bookshelves.

Do you think that if a big publishing house offered to take you on that you would ever accept it, or are you happy being independently published?

Oh, heavens, I think that’s really difficult. I am happy being independently published but that’s because I’m resigned to finding most of my new readers online, regardless of whether they’re buying paperbacks or ebooks. But part of me would like to make it onto mainstream bookstore shelves at some point – and I think that’s really difficult without a big publishing house behind you. But that’s just a vanity thing.

What next is for David Ebsworth?

Book number five is set in 6th century Britain. Its working title is The Song-Sayer’s Lament and I’ve dubbed it 'the antidote to King Arthur stories.' It should be published early in 2016.

At the same time, I’m working on a sci-fi novella that’s been floating around in my head for far too long. That too should appear early next year under the title Kunlun: Post-March Millennium and, as the title suggests, it’s set in the year 2936. I’ll be writing that one under a different pen name, however – as Robert M. David.

But that, as they say, is another story.

Thank you, David, for being such a fabulous guest and bringing all those brilliant answers with you!


Readers: Just so you know, there is still time to get your name in the hat for the giveaway draw of The Jacobites' Apprentice. Just check this link for details.

David's website is

Stay tuned for tomorrow's guest post when David talks about his new novel The Last Campaign of Marrianne Tambour.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Kristie Reviews - Mary Dyer Illuminated by Christy K Robinson

Mary Dyer Illuminated by Christy K. Robinson

Please see below for information about the giveaway!

Mary Dyer Illuminated is the first book in a two-part series by Christy K Robinson which details the life of Mary Dyer. As the story opens, Mary is a young orphan who has been taken into the household of her father’s friends, Edward and Anne Stansby. From here, the book takes us on a journey from England to America as it explores Mary’s life in the New World. As Mary is not a fictional character, her story stays true to the basic facts of her life as she adjusts to hardship and political upheaval in her new home.

It soon becomes obvious that a great deal of research has gone into this book, making it at times read a bit like a biography. The author spends a great deal of time setting up the history of the founding of the Puritan settlements in America. The character of John Winthrop is carefully developed, along with those of Edward and Anne Hutchinson. This becomes quite important once the setting of the story moves to America. The first part of the book moves a bit slower, as it is necessary to set up the story lines of all the various characters, as well as describe the deepening relationship between Mary and her soon-to-be husband, Will Dyer.

The story picks up quickly once the Dyers reach America. Soon after they arrive, Mary and Anne Hutchinson develop a deep friendship. Anne becomes almost a mother figure to Mary, helping her understand the visions that have been plaguing her. Ms. Robinson painted such a vivid picture of Anne Hutchinson that she came to life within the pages of the book. For me, the character of Mary took a back seat to that of Anne anytime Anne was on the page. Once Anne was no longer in the picture, however, Mary truly comes into her own. Robinson develops a quiet determination in Mary, as well as a solid belief in her faith, faith that becomes necessary to Mary as calamitous events begin to occur. This book follows Mary’s story through several traumas as she makes her way through both the constraints and freedoms her new life offers. After a terrible tragedy, the family moves, but misfortune inevitably finds them. The closing scenes of the book set the stage for the opening of the next in the series, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This. The author chose a good time to end the book, leaving the reader wanting to learn more.

Anne Hutchinson

The novel contains descriptions of the religious upheavals of the time, as the division between different factions is explored in depth. The author has included quite a bit of historical background research to the events to ensure the reader will understand the characters’ motives. She weaves these into the story to paint an intense picture of the turmoil of the period.

Mary Dyer

The best thing about this book, other than the way the author draws the reader into the complex life of Mary Dyer, is the detail she has painstakingly included. Robinson starts out the book with a preface detailing the background of Mary Dyer and why she chose to write a book about this particular historic figure. Next, she includes maps of several of the locations in the book. Afterwards, she lists a cast of characters, giving detailed information about each one, as well as explaining which characters she had invented for the novel. At the end of the novel she does something that sets her novel apart from many works of historic fiction – she includes author’s notes. In each of the notes, she explains any historic discrepancy that was in the book.

Trial of Anne Hutchinson

The second in the series is out, and I have already procured one, ready to delve back in to the world of Mary Dyer. Although I know the ending, I cannot wait to read how Robinson
handles it.

Christy K. Robinson was first published in the inspiration genre with her book We Shall Be Changed. She has also edited and contributed to a number of books during her career as a magazine and book writer and editor. Mary Dyer Illuminated and Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This are her first historical fiction novels. The Dyers of London, Boston & Newport is a non-fiction book that explores the world that the Dyers inhabited. For more information and research into the lives of William and Mary Dyer, as well as information on Robinson’s upcoming books, visit her website here  and blog here.

Follow Christy on Twitter.

If you would like to win a free copy of  Mary Dyer Illuminated, please leave a comment here on the blog OR on our Facebook page here.

Kristie Dean is the author of several books. Her latest, The World of Richard III, leads readers on a journey through the landscape of Richard's time.  Kristie can be found on AmazonFacebookTwitter and at her website.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Lisl Reviews: Whither Thou Goest

Whither Thou Goest by Anna Belfrage

Book seven in The Graham Saga
Review by Lisl

Please see below for giveaway information!

People who populate today’s societies—ehem, us---have a tendency to believe our world is superior to that of the past: more conveniences, broader rights for women and minorities, better medicine. While these advantages have indeed developed, they come with trade offs and in the realization of these gains we’ve lost bits of our selves and relationships. In Whither Thou Goest, the seventh installment of Anna Belfrage’s Graham Saga, this theme comes closer to the fore as time-traveling Alex Lind and her 17th century husband, Matthew, make their way to the West Indies to rescue their unknown nephew from the horrors of indentured servitude—in reality, brutal slavery.

Matthew himself once suffered this fate and it is largely his history that decides for the Grahams they should heed the plea of Matthew’s brother Luke to rescue his son, a youngster persuaded into the Monmouth rebels now facing a terrible future as the consequence of his misguided involvement. There is no love lost between Mr. and Mrs. Graham and Luke, but they also conclude that young Charlie should not be left to such a terrible fate as a result of the animosity between his father and uncle and events not of his doing. Their decision reflects the book’s title as well as their own bond forged, a bond that, like that of Ruth and Naomi, was not “supposed” to be:

“What do we do?” she said, coming over to hug Matthew from behind. She rubbed her face up and down between his shoulder blades, feeling him relax.

“There isn’t much choice, is there?” he said. “I have to go down there and attempt to find him.”

“Wrong pronoun,” Alex told him. “It’s ‘we’, Matthew, not ‘I’.” No way did she intend to let him face the ghosts of his past alone.

“We,” he said, and twisted round in her arms to hold her close.

So they go, and readers follow along, though with the added advantage of seeing events occurring in other family members’ lives. There also are small delights throughout as readers recognize events from the Grahams’ past that led to these moments, links bringing on the awareness of Belfrage’s genius for tying it all together, and from and through such a distance as thirty years. The book’s pace is swift, but not quite as whirlwind as its predecessor, and the author engages in language realistic for the period yet also a comfortable fit for us. So comfortable it is, one never wants to take it off. The only disappointment in this series is that eventually each book comes to an end.

It is a testament to Belfrage’s prowess as a writer of historical fiction that she can manage to get so far into a complicated series of events and a seventh novel, and still maintain reader attention as raptly as in the first book. But more than that, just as history is never static, neither are people and the author brings us along as Matthew and Alex progress through the years: readers never grow out of the series, but rather the characters grow with them. 

Therein lies the ability for Alex to accept—even in many instances relish—the hand she has been dealt. A freak thunderstorm painfully threw her past where a veil customarily divides time and in meeting with Matthew Graham she recognized something so special she fought powerful forces attempting to yank her back. There definitely was a fair share of life in 1658 Scotland unfamiliar and not terribly attractive to Alex—by law and religious tradition loss of voice and stature, for one—so why did she opt to stay? While there were pros to life in 2002, her personal assessment of where she stood may have brought a realization that there, too, the voice she had was also suffocated by circumstance.

Now, in Whither Thou Goest, Matthew and Alex are engaged in welcoming 1686—they have been together for nearly thirty years. The opening passages introduce us to one of the contradictions Alex has grown with all this time: 

“The shrubs were beginning to show buds; here and there startling greens adorned the wintry ground[. . .].Winter was waning, and soon it would be brisk winds, leaves on the trees and weeks of toiling in the fields or the vegetable garden.” 

The beauty of the new life of coming spring is paired with the awareness of the backbreaking labor it brings, with only brief opportunities to savor it around an immediate need to work for survival. In Alex’s 21st century life she wouldn’t have had to do this; instead she would have faced other perils connected to food supply. The lifestyles are so different, but Alex recognizes the similarities as well, here and in many other elements, such as religion. She is content with her choice, a promise towards Matthew that “thy people shall be my people,” and Belfrage’s treatment of Alex’s attitudes towards various aspects of her life strikes a balance, much like the one Alex maintains as she adjusts and carries on.

A complex personality, Alex may differ with us on various perceptions of 2002 as well as 1658 and on, but the author gives Alex’s voice life in a way that even those most opposed could admit that she makes a good argument. 

Like Alex, Matthew is a strong enough man not only to survive, but also thrive because he is willing to grow in a similar way. While Alex certainly caught him off guard that day when they both were on the run and she literally landed at his feet, the intervening years have led him down the road he shares with her. The pair do not always agree, but he has grown secure enough to speak of Alex’s mother—the woman whose hand initiated her daughter’s passage through time—as someone deserving of compassion, even if she was a witch as he always feared she may have been. In discussing her horrific death, Matthew speaks of her dying “well,” that she forgave her tormentors not only because they needed it, but also because she did. 

There is a welcome peace about and within this installment—for reader as well as protagonists, especially given recent events in the Grahams’ lives. Not that Belfrage gives anybody too much of a break--the 1600s in Scotland as well as the Colonies, to where the Grahams have repaired, is a perilous time for all, and getting hold of Charlie is the easy part. Finding their way back to Maryland is the real challenge. Moreover, Alex comes face to face with an old nemesis only to learn painful truths about the world and her place in it. 

Nevertheless a softening shift can be felt, and Belfrage winds the threads of this aura through her narrative like a subtle breeze come to cool a painfully hot day. Acceptance occurs a lot, between Matthew and Alex as well as each of them with others, and the bond they have, one that has been growing over the years to reach this point, is tangible to another. It is significant that Belfrage has this insight coming from a relative of the Burleys, dangerous and destructive men once driven to destroy the Grahams, as she shows us again through this contradiction how life often blooms from the seeds of destruction.

“Tilting his head, he studied Matthew Graham and his wife, fascinated by how they automatically fell in step, a slight leaning towards each other. Her skirts brushed against his leg, her profile turned towards him, and she said something that made him laugh, bending his head close to hers. Her hand touched his, fingers widened and braided tight together as they continued down the dusty road.

He had never seen anything like it, never seen two bodies come together so effortlessly, so obviously halves of a perfect whole. Welded together, it seemed, and Michael stood where he was, his eyes glued thoughtfully to their backs until they dropped out of sight.”

Here as in many passages, Belfrage utilizes ordinary yet such poetic language, painting a moving picture in which readers can easily see what she describes: the tender closeness of a man taking in the words of his wife, the curl of her swinging skirts’ material, the wide, deliberate yet instinctive opening and joining of fingers as they move in time to each other’s steps. What’s more, she does this undetected: the words and rhythm are so natural it is as if they are a part of ourselves; we only understand how much these characters have “over the years” come to mean to us. Like the paintings of Mercedes, Belfrage’s draw us in and bring us to another time. 

There are, of course, no easy conclusions, and the novel ends with a few questions unanswered, a lead-in to the next—sadly the last—installment in the series. There are continued contradictions with which the Grahams find acceptance: an event Alex has painfully yearned for occurs, but at a price; Matthew helps his son build a bridge between his own two worlds; a cherished piece of his past is re-imbursed, though he may never be able to claim it; and, as in the opening passages, fragile life makes an appearance, life that will bloom, but only with perseverance. 

Whither Thou Goest, to be sure, contains scenes of heartbreak and sadness, with painful reminders for some characters of a past and connections they will never completely be able to escape. But it also is a love story of sorts, in which promises and commitments are made, solace is taken from unexpected quarters, and individuals experience awakening, a blooming of new life amidst ruins to be cleared as futures are built. It is a story only Anna Belfrage could tell of a family readers will never forget and often wish to re-visit.


Anna Belfrage has so graciously offered a FREE COPY of Whither Thou Goest for one lucky winner. 
To get your name in the hat, simply comment below OR at the Facebook thread here.


Anna Belfrage and more information about her wonderful Graham Saga series, as well as other works, can be found at her website. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Lisl can also be found at before the second sleep, where she publishes book reviews, poetry and her own musings. She is a contributor to Naming the Goddesshas published poetry in Alaska Women Speak, and is currently at work on a book of short stories. If you would like Lisl to review your book, please see our submissions tab.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Paula Reads: Book of the Month, The Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth -

Please see bottom of page for details of the giveaway!

1744, and the whole country is threatened once again by civil war as the exiled Stuarts attempt to recover their lost throne. Their Manchester supporters will use any means to raise support and finance for the Jacobite cause. But those loyal to the current monarchy are equally determined to stop them. As the opposing forces gather, and the threat of civil war becomes a reality, the fates of both sides will lie in the hands of one man – Aran Owen – who must choose between loyalty to the family who have raised him and his burning ambition to become a renowned artist. The finale will be played out on the ramparts of Carlisle Castle in the winter of 1745. Hopes of a Stuart restoration are dashed – and Aran finally discovers who are the Rogues and who the Righteous within the complex web of his relationships.

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Called The Jacobites' Apprentice, this book centres around the lives of those who would support the Young Pretender to the throne, shall we say Prince Charles Edward Stuart for short and those Hanoverians loyal to King George of England, Scotland and Ireland. Charlie, or Bonnie Prince Charlie as he was romantically called, claimed the crown to be his through his father, known as the Old Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart, being the son of King James II of England and VII of Scotland. King James had been ousted by a group of parliamentarians who were worried about the king's Catholicism and replaced instead by his daughter Mary, who was a Protestant, and invited her and her Protestant husband, William of Orange, to rule England. James Stuart was to be the last Catholic king of the United Kingdom. But by the time we reach the year 1744, it is the King George the second of that name, from the German House of Hanover who sits on the throne.

But this is merely the background to this story. The real theme is about  greed, corruption, adultery and immorality on many levels, including tax evading and fraud:

 'Damn your eyes sir! You think me a simpleton? If you was to set the Excise men loose on Redmonds's affairs, there's no telling that they might not stumble upon your own. Is that not the case? This whole town is riddled with corruption. Why, they tell me that sometimes you have timbers imported here on the very same vessels that land Redmond's tea, so that you might avoid the duty together.'

This book is a massive work of art and the extensive research done by the author is one of the reasons why I have chosen it to be my choice for Book of the Month. David Ebsworth is to be highly commended for undertaking a project on a subject that is as convoluted as a snakes and ladders board, and although it was nothing like I had been expecting when I first picked it up (I was looking forward to what I believed to be a tale based around a romanticised adventure of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' and his fight to win back the British throne), I was disappointed. But as I continued to read I found that at first it intrigued me, then after awhile I felt drawn into the story, wanting not to put it down until I had found out more about the goings on of the Redmond family or James Bradley's illicit affair with Titus' wife, the lovely Maria Louise, and the more I read, the more I enjoyed it and the more I wanted to know.

18th century coffee house

It begins with a prologue in which the reader is left with a moral. The main character, a young Aran Owen, is sent by his mother on a fly wagon from his home in Wales to his new home in Manchester; on the way there he travels with a gentleman who teaches him that he will need to know how to discern the Righteous from the Rogues to which, at this point, young Aran is unsure of the significance. Then years later we meet the family that a grown-up Aran has been fostered to in Manchester. They are staunch Jacobites, supporters of the Stuart cause. At the head of the family is Titus Redmond, a wealthy, middle aged merchant and brothel owner and his beautiful wife, Irish colleen Maria Louise, who uses her charms to gain information for the cause in her liaison with royalist James Bradley. There are also their four daughters; the eldest, Rosina, is equally as attractive as her mother, but 'afflicted' by tribady (lesbianism). Another main player is the creepy but interesting double spy Dudley Striker whose sinister presence throughout the book makes him one of the most strangely enjoyable characters.

Other characters include the coffee house owner Elizabeth Cooper, who seduces the young influential Rosina Redmond, much to the distaste of Aran, who hankers after the beautiful Rosina. The relationship between the two women causes a terrible scandal in Manchester social circles and astounds not least, Rosina's parents. The aforementioned are just some of the colourful characters in this book; there are also many others who contribute to the many threads of this tale as they lead to the explosive conclusion. We see the two different sides: the Jacobites, steadfastly Catholic, and the Protestant Royalists as, curiously, they strive to behave with decorum toward their rivals in social circles whilst behind the scenes each are plotting their downfall. Titus Redmond's wife Maria Louise was one of the most likeable characters. She is loyal to her husband despite her sexual liasons, but it it is the liaison with James Bradley that Titus encouraged in order for the Jacobites to gain oneupmanship on the Hanoverians.

The cast is one of many and there are several main characters with their own story lines and agendas contributing to the overall intrigue of the book. The plot  evolves as Aran is drawn into the opposition's camp and, having come under threat from the deadly assassin Striker, does his best to remain loyal to the Redmonds, who have brought him good fortune. The weird relationship between Rosina and her lesbian lover, Royalist Eilzabeth Cooper, makes you wonder why on earth the author has used the story line but all will be revealed in the conclusion as Aran works out who were the Rogues and who were the Righteous.

The language of The Jacobites' Apprentice was authentic and very amusing. David Ebsworth uses well researched 18th century vernacular and the overuse of a certain swear word sometimes made me cringe; however I accept that this was the personality of the character being portrayed. In his author's note, David lets us know  his references and he produces an extensive library to back up his use of events, places and people. He also lets us know what his inventions to the story were and which parts of the novel were accurately portrayed. Dudley Striker it seems, was based on a real person; I particularly liked reading his back story. The characters are quite complex and there are no perfect heroes; they all have their foibles. I could see this book being made into a big televsion production or even a musical! Well they did Sweeny Todd didn't they?
Jacobite army marching into Manchester

The Jacobites' Apprentice is a great sweeping giant of a book and the language is authentic and reads like a classic. If you like an easy read, this isn't for you. But if you are the type who enjoys the literary genius of Henry Fielding, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens this is definitely for you. And if you want a challenge, then this is also for you! Brilliant stuff. Go on, challenge yourself! Its worth it - you won't be disappointed.

For a chance to win a copy of our Book of the Month award novel  The Jacobites' Apprentice, please leave a comment below or on our Facebook page here.

David Ebsworth's The Jacobites' Apprentice can be found on and Amazon UK.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


Welcome to our new initiative for The Review. We have decided to launch our Book of the Month series now because we think it's about time that great books that we love by fabulously talented authors were recognised by us, and so our aim is to choose a book that one of us has read, on a monthly basis. There will be no submissions to this as it is purely us, The Review Team, who will choose them from books we have read, either recently or some time ago, but they have to be independently published by an independent author. 

So what does it all mean then, to receive this accolade? Well it's simple really; the reasons why we are choosing these books are because they are works of excellence that make them shine above others. Every one of us will have our own tastes and ideas about what makes a good book; these are some of the aspects that would get my vote:

  • Books have to be well written and have a unique and interesting writing style.
  • Great characterisation with lots of depth to them. 
  • Plot development (I hate books that lack plots) and a good book for me leaves me not wanting to put it down. 
  • Good research and authenticity.
  • I also love to be taken on a great roller coaster ride of emotion and I want to imagine myself there, and there are not many authors that have this talent of taking me into their world through a portal.
So in the month of January I have been lucky enough to go first, and my choice for the Book of the Month award goes to the wonderful The Jacobites' Apprentice by the very talented Mr. David Ebsworth (aka Dave McCall).

David Ebsworth’s d├ębut novel is set in England during 1744-45. The whole country is threatened once again by civil war as the exiled Stuarts attempt to recover their lost throne. Their Manchester supporters will use any means to raise support and finance for the Jacobite cause. But those loyal to the current monarchy are equally determined to stop them.

As the opposing forces gather and the threat of civil war becomes a reality, the fates of both sides will lie in the hands of one man – Aran Owen – who must choose between loyalty to the family who have raised him and his burning ambition to become a renowned artist.

The finale will be played out on the ramparts of Carlisle Castle in the winter of 1745. Hopes of a Stuart restoration are dashed – and Aran finally discovers who are the Rogues and who the Righteous within the complex web of his relationships.

David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer Dave McCall, a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for Britain's Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool (UK) but has lived for the past thirty years in Wrexham, North Wales with his wife Ann. Since their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009. 

Other books by David Ebsworth:

Check out David's Website 
Follow him on Twitter
Fan him on Goodreads

Be sure to check out my review for The Jacobites' Apprentice tomorrow!!!!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Freedom's Pilgrim: A Tudor Odyssey by Edward James

Freedom's Pilgrim: A Tudor Odyssey by Edward James
Reviewed by Rob Bayliss

See below for giveaway information!

Looking back on his life, the old man pondered. “I resolved to remember as much as I could… Scraps of memory floated up in my mind like gristle in my mug. None explained anything.”
Leaving Devon in 1568, 13-year-old Miles Philips joins Captain Hawkins' third slaving expedition from Africa to the West Indies. The English ships are ambushed at San Juan in Mexico by the Spanish. Overloaded and short of supplies for the voyage home, Captain Hawkins maroons a number of English sailors on the Mexican coast; among their numbers is young Miles Philips. He needs to find his way home, but how?
Some of the marooned embark overland to the north, seeking the fishing grounds of Cape Cod, whilst others looked for mercy from the Spanish. I had previously read of this event so when I saw this book and its description I knew I would want to read it. From the beginning Edward James immerses the reader in the world of Miles Philips and you eagerly follow in his footsteps as his life story unfolds.
For a time the historical Miles Philips was somewhat of a celebrity. His tale was first written in The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation by Richard Hakluyt in 1589, although at the time relations between Catholic Spain and Elizabethan England were drifting towards open warfare and the tale of Miles Philips became a propaganda piece. It is interesting to note that the sufferings he described (as well as those of other English sailors trickling home after their abandonment by Hawkins) were enough to threaten Sir Walter Raleigh’s attempt at establishing a colony in the New World. Mariners in West Country ports – the usual source of deckhands – were less willing to embark on such a venture and risk the same Spanish brutality. Richard Hakluyt painted Miles as the true Englishman, loyal to his queen, his country, and steadfast in his Protestant faith. Edward James portrays a more true representation perhaps, that of a pragmatic individual, pursued by the Inquisition and then initially enduring distrust from his fellow countrymen.

Freedom’s Pilgrim is told as an imagined grandfather relating his life story to his grandchildren. Miles, the narrator, is laying his soul bare, his tale told honestly with a healthy portion of cynicism. There are things he would have done differently, deeds done of which he is ashamed (he feels guilt about being a slaver as he is made a slave himself), but he is putting the record straight. Of course this has been written (purposely) from a 21st century  viewpoint, so some might question its style. But if this book had been written using solely a 17th century mindset and language, could the modern reader empathise with the protagonist?
I very much enjoyed Freedom’s Pilgrim, although it doesn’t paint John Hawkins or his cousin Sir Francis Drake -one of my childhood heroes- in a particularly flattering light. In Freedom's Pilgrim the undeclared war by English privateers on Spain and her empire comes under question. The narrator treads a neutral path, but living over half his life in the Spanish world, it is as much his home as England.  Having the same red hair and Devonshire accent as El Draque proves both a help and a hindrance to Miles. It marks him out but also saves his life on numerous occasions as his captors feel he has value. Eventually of course he does succeed in returning to England, but even then his safety is not ensured. His journey (his Odyssey) home has taken him 17 years and in accomplishing it he has experienced hardship, enslavement, the Inquistion, battle and romance, but he has also lived a life to its fullest. Miles Philips is an everyman living in extraordinary times, his practicality and will in ensuring his and his families' survival is a joy to read of.

It is perhaps  expected that authors of historical fiction are influenced as much by modern events as the periods they immerse themselves within, and so it is with Freedom's Pilgrim and the hateful and ruthless Spanish Inquistion, depicted here, mirroring the religious lunacy which fractures our modern world. 

Our central character in Freedom's Pilgrim is plagued by the Inquistion as a Protestant, a pagan heretic, a lover of a Converso, and then in the company of Moriscos. The Inquistion was used as a tool to establish Catholic orthodoxy and monarchal hegemony in the aftermath of the Reconquista. It later went to the Americas to cement the Spanish hold onto its colonies. The Inquistion became a byword for intrangient, state sponsored terror, and yet the tighter it sought to grasp, the weaker its grip ultimately became as common humanity and scientific advance asked more questions than its superstition could answer. Through the lens of history we see that the Renaissance was in full swing and the Enlightenment and Age of Reason was around the corner. Now perhaps, over four hundred years later, we see it  more in the light of the famous Monty Python sketch, something to be quite rightly ridiculed.

Once more humanity is facing the demands of an intolerant and ignorant brand of religion but remember, one day they too, like the Inquistion, will be history. Read this book and you'll experience the reality faced by our forebears; read it and be thankful and hopeful.


Would you like to win a FREE copy of Freedom's Pilgrim? The author has so kindly offered a copy of this novel for one lucky winner. To get your name in the draw:

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Edward James is rather like his hero, the Tudor chronicler Richard Hakluyt; neither of them went to sea and both were fascinated by ships and seafaring from a young age. Edward blames it on growing up beside the Thames in the days when the big ships still came up river to the Royal Docks.

After a career as a lecturer and civil servant upon retirement he went back to history as a Review Editor for the Historical Novel Society and to writing about ships and the sea in the Age of Discovery. You can find more about him, including a selection of his short stories and interviews on his blog

Freedom's Pilgrim: A Tudor Odyssey is also available from Amazon.

Rob Bayliss is a reviewer at The Review and is currently writing his Flint & Steel, Fire & Shadow fantasy series. Book 1 The Sun Shard is available at Amazon.