Friday, 31 July 2015

Lisl Reviews: The World of Richard III

The World of Richard III by Kristie Dean
Review by Lisl

See below to learn how you can win a FREE HARDBOUND COPY of 
The World of Richard III
Drawing August 7, 2015

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Link to Kristie Dean's prior guest post at The Review for an excerpt from 
The World of Richard III

With the recent re-internment and increased interest in Richard III, it is not surprising there would be a flurry of new publications related to the last Plantagenet king. While we all read at least a smattering of the Wars of the Roses (WoR), for many these studies belonged to bygone days, but the attention generated by these new books has brought the monarch to a wider audience. With The World of Richard III author Kristie Dean takes a new approach by bringing us to Richard. As closely as it is possible to do, she escorts us to and around the world he inhabited via the places he had visited, seeing or imagining what he observed and how he may have perceived it.

St. Mary's Church, Barnard Castle~
A carving of Richard's emblem, the boar
The work is a combination of travel information and history focused on places lived in or visited by Richard Plantagenet, from birth to his time as Gloucester, through his two years of kingship and finally, his death. Organized in seven major parts that span these courses of Richard’s life and in a loose chronological order, subsections then turn their attention to specific places associated with him on various occasions. As the author takes us from point to point there is some overlap, given that Richard visited certain locations several times, and Dean handles this seamlessly and without repetition. An extensive collection of beautiful photographs enables readers to follow along visually as they move forward. 

Gatehouse at Middleham Castle~
This is the entrance Richard would have
used to reach the inner courtyard
The book is set up in a very practical manner, and the convenience will appeal to armchair traveler as well as visitors to these amazing monuments. The table of contents lists the locations—including geographical—within each section in the event one wanted to access information about a specific site. While readers come in close contact throughout the book with the medieval practice of “recycling” names (first as well as surnames), Dean also provides a York family tree that sensibly and easily maps out the “who’s who,” helping to alleviate common confusions, for instance between Richard III (Gloucester) and his father, also called Richard (York). Years also are provided for clarification of events, such as the Duke of York and Salsbury’s flight to Ireland and Calais (1459), and their deaths in 1460, the latter of which is necessarily presented first.

A “how to” also briefly introduces the setup and points out helpful details such as contact information (phone as well as website), opening times, prices and postcode, which struck me not only as practical but also a blessing in disguise because many travelers—myself included—might get bogged down in their movements. In such instances it has happened that it doesn’t occur (to me and others) to check ahead about such additional details as cash machine availability, non-regular closures or waiting periods. Dean covers these and other crucial details and tips to contribute to a fascinating and rewarding journey.

The World of Richard III is presented in language that is a combination between necessarily practical and beautifully rhythmic, and one of Dean’s strengths is being able to fuse the two in passages that complement each other. Ordinary words have the power to transfix, and the sense of peering through a veil is never far off. “But pause for a moment,” she advises at one point. “You are standing where he would have stood, with only the thin veil of time between you. It is a heady feeling.”

Church of St. Mary the Virgin and
All Saints, Fotheringhay

Dean speaks of Fotheringhay, Richard’s birthplace, in conjunction with how the “River Nene winds around the mound and disappears in the distance”; of the spires of St. Mary the Virgin and All Saints and a “sleepy river,” adding that “[d]uring Richard’s time, the river would have been humming with activity. On Richard and Edward’s visit in 1469 the view would have been one of constant commotion as people scurried about to meet the king.” As readers we are privileged to catch this glimpse of Richard re-visiting his roots and taking care of and pride in who he is.

Nottingham Castle~This was one of Richard's most visited
castles, and where he and Anne learned the dreadful
news of their son Edward's death.
The ideal of knowing who you are based on where you are is deeply embedded in the travelogue and the author awards sense of place its rightful due by “illuminat[ing] his character through the places and events that shaped him into the man he became.” Indeed, many occasions prior to Richard contribute to place and shared history, and to this end the author also unpacks some of these moments to give readers a greater sense of what it may have meant to Richard himself. She often invites readers to imagine Richard at a certain place, or to see something lovely or meaningful through his eyes, and it is not difficult to contemplate Richard as an individual rather than a noble, duke, monarch or distant historical figure. Speaking of the Painted Chamber, once the scene of a momentous occasion, Dean elaborates how

…the sun would cast a rosy glow through the four windows in the chamber, illuminating the decorative paintings that graced its interior. Even the arches over the windows were covered with paintings, mostly heraldic images. It is easy to imagine Richard pausing from his duties as king and admiring these magnificent works of art with their deep hues of vermillion, ochre, and verdigris.

Penrith Castle, Cumbria~Dean writes of the "sandstone glowing in the sun" and tells readers
that "English Heritage credits him with adding large windows." It is easy to
imagine how breathtaking the scenery would have been, from inside and out. 

Photo Wikimedia Commons, user Northernheng

The author does not, however, romanticize Richard as someone he was not, and to that end she retains an extensive and admirable neutrality regarding his controversial life and opposing views as to what kind of person he was. Indeed more than once she references Lancastrians and Tudors within their humanity and expresses compassion regarding their losses. She does not seek to disparage and the questions raised about Richard pertaining to his nephews et al. are not addressed here.

The World of Richard III is likely to appeal to admirers of any era, WoR, prior or subsequent to, as well as those unfamiliar with even key players or events of Richard’s time. Those mildly or deeply interested in the Middle Ages, castles, cathedrals, architecture, travel, monarchy, and where we come from all will find rewards within the pages of this book. It is a history and reads not unlike a story, accessible and fascinating, bringing to life not only details of past lives, but also portraits of individual people who lived and loved, and sometimes lost in a time they recorded, deliberately and not, in the places they lived. We are brought to these magnificent locations and shown their splendor within the framework of one life influenced by countless others. We follow the trail of Richard, whose memories might include much of what is presented here, and in so doing learn a great deal more about who we ourselves are.

Warwick Castle was an historic structure even in Richard's day. Despite frequenting
magnificent buildings, Dean writes, "Richard may still have been awed by the castle's grandeur."

For your chance to win a FREE HARDBOUND COPY of The World of Richard III, simply comment below OR at this review's Facebook thread, located here


All photos courtesy of the author and ©2014 unless otherwise noted

About the Author: 

Kristie Dean has an MA in History and now enjoys teaching the subject, following a successful career in public relations. She has been published in several online magazines and local newspapers, and presented a paper at the International Congress on Medieval Studies. She lives in Tennessee, where she is currently working on her upcoming book, The World of the Yorks, which features locations associated with the York family. 

You can find more about Dean and her work at her website, her Facebook page and that of The World of Richard III.

The World of Richard III by Kristie Dean is published by Amberley Publishing, 2015. It is available to buy at all good bookstores, as well as online at the Amberley website, AmazonAmazon UK and the Book Depository.


Lisl can also be found at before the second sleep. 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, poetry and other projects.    

Added Notation: This review has been updated to include photograph credits

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Anna Reviews: Perfiditas by Alison Morton

Perfiditas by Alison Morton
Review by Anna Belfrage

Author Alison Morton has kindly offered a signed paperback novel of Perfiditas
See bottom of page for details on how to win
Drawing on August Tuesday 4th 

This drawing has been held and a winner announced at Facebook.
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We have a giveaway with every review!

To write alternative history carries some likeness to writing fantasy, in that the world creation is a fundamental part of the writing endeavour. In difference to fantasy, writers of alternative history have to tread a very fine line between the invented and the impossible, i.e. expectations are that the writer creates a society we, as readers firmly rooted in our reality, can conceive as being an alternative outcome had things been somewhat different.

Authors like Robert Harris do this with panache. Writers like Stephen Fry do it with ironic humour. And writers like Alison Morton just do it, a few deft brushstrokes, no more, and Roma Nova is a feasible little European country in a world where Adolf Hitler never happened and where the northern parts of the American continent remain divided between former English, French and Spanish dominions.

Roma Nova lies snuggled into the folds of the Alps. A last refuge for a group of Romans fleeing the devastation of the Germanic invasions, this is where Roman Senator Apulius and his family and followers settled, ready to make a last stand if needed. Our staunch Roman was married to a spirited Celtic woman who gave him four equally spirited daughters but no son. And so, through a combination of chance and expediency, Roma Nova developed into a matriarchial society, a country where the family heads always are female, but where traditions and concepts of duty towards the state remain rooted in Roman values.

So well does Ms. Morton paint this little country of hers that I find myself considering just how to travel there – by car? By train? Until I remember that I can’t go to Roma Nova – not outside the pages of Ms. Morton’s novels. Fortunately, she has so far written four and is intent on writing a couple more. 

Now, as we all know, a setting does not a novel make. However intriguing Roma Nova is, however fascinating Ms. Morton’s descriptions are of Saturnalia celebrations, of funerals as per ancient Roman rites, it would be a thin soup indeed had Ms. Morton not also gifted us with Carina Mitela and her husband Conrad Mitelus.

Carina Mitela became a friend of mine in Inceptio, the first of the series. Tough when so required, careful with whom she allows to penetrate the shield of reserve with which she manages her life and her emotions, she is a woman who believes in herself, believes even more in right and wrong, and who is dedicated enough to doing her duty that she will risk her own life if so required.

Carina was not always Carina. Born in the E.U.S. (Eastern United States), she used to be Karen, a rather downtrodden and insecure Karen, until one day she was appraised of her family in Roma Nova and whisked back to her ancestral country by Conrad, her husband-to-be. When Perfiditas opens, Carina has lived in Roma Nova for seven years or so, successful in her military career, proud mother of three and happily married to Conrad.

Her husband is as dedicated, as tough, as she is. He is also somewhat damaged due to a harsh childhood, and his reluctance to talk about his experiences leave him far more vulnerable than he realises – or at least wants to accept. Instead of a touchy-feely approach to these sensitive memories, Conrad has recreated himself from a hurting, wounded boy to an efficient and self-sufficient military leader, capable of much warmth and affection towards those he loves – as long as there is no conflict between his private life and what he perceives as his duty to Roma Nova.

At times, these two people tear each other apart – and things are not exactly simplified by the fact that Conrad is Carina’s commanding officer. Sometimes, when Conrad makes a call he considers correct in his role as Praetorian Legate, he is at the same time figuratively back-handing his wife over the face – or so she feels. Are there consequences? Of course.

Ms. Morton does a great job of describing the tension caused by Conrad repeatedly setting duty before Carina. Yes, sometimes Carina breaks every rule in the book – for all the right reasons – so maybe he’s entitled to some irritation, but there are times when this reader wants to take the stupid man by the shoulders and shake him until his teeth rattle, so stiff and insensitive does he seem. Besides, Conrad has problems handling the fact that at times it’s Carina saving him from dire death rather than the other way around. Especially when she uses her underworld network to do so…especially when it is rather apparent Carina is not entirely unaffected by the leader of this network.

Which, just by chance, brings us to Apollodorus, the enigmatic man who has previously helped Carina out of a tight spot or two in a rather unorthodox manner. Apollodorus is a man of night and shadow, instinctively disliked by Conrad, discreetly admired by Carina – after all, she more or less owes the man her life. Cultivated, smooth and possessed of eyes as dark as pools of pitch, Apollodorus has only ever loved one woman - Carina. No wonder Conrad raises his hackles whenever Apollodorus is around.

It irritates Carina that Conrad will not extend the benefit of the doubt to Apollodorus. It makes Conrad see  that his wife does not steer clear of this dangerous, amoral man, a man as subtle as a stalking leopard, ruthless and efficient, unfailingly polite and always in control. Apollodorus is a puppet-master, and just how intricately he weaves his various threads is revealed in bits and pieces, causing Perfiditas to twist and turn like a trapped snake.

Other than the three protagonists, Ms. Morton has gifted us with a broad cast of characters it is easy to relate to, all the way from Carina’s impressive grandmother, the mater familias Aurelia, to former gladiatrix Mossia. With an economy of words, a few lines of description, no more, she brings her extensive cast to life, making each and every one of them distinctive.

The plot is skillfully constructed: in this case Roma Nova is threatened by a band of determined coup-makers who want nothing more than to return Roma Nova to its true Roman roots, i.e. relegate women back to a position of invisibility, reduced to being wives and mothers, subservient to men. As a modern woman, I find the matriarchal society portrayed by Ms. Morton quite fascinating – even more so because fundamentally Roma Nova is an egalitarian society – men and women are true equals in all aspects of life. The wannabe coup-makers don’t agree: they are sick of the rule of women and set out to throw off this terrible yoke of oppression.

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and as Carina digs deeper into a plot that not only threatens her country but also her loved ones, she uncovers one layer after the other of rot. In defence of her own, Carina is formidable, holding herself together even during those periods when Conrad leaves her to do battle alone. But it costs her, and her vulnerability, her sensation of abandonment when Conrad retreats into professionalism rather than supporting her, his wife, is excellently depicted.

To an exciting plot and well-developed characters, must be added the casual if precise descriptions, bringing to life everything from the holding cells of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, to the streets and buildings of Roma Nova. In expressions, in off-hand depictions of traditions and rituals, Ms. Morton’s passion for things truly Roman shines through. Ms. Morton has done her research, and so heavy togas are discarded casually, studded sandals clip over tiled floors, young girls are proud of their new pallas, the atriums are adorned by the statues of the ancestors – all of this without ever becoming contrived.

Ms. Morton takes her readers for quite the ride in this book, and passages of introspection vie for space with fast-paced action scenes that have this reader holding her breath – or chewing her nails. While Ms. Morton writes strong and fluid prose, it is her dialogue that blows me away. Pitch-perfect, distinctive and vivid, it brings Carina and all the rest to vibrant life, offering insight into the various character’s thoughts without ever sacrificing rhythm and pace.

In conclusion, Perfiditas is a great read, a book that has you saying, “Hmm?” without raising your eyes from the page should anyone attempt to talk to you while immersed. Here and there, I spot a missing quotation mark, but such minor beauty spots are, in this case, more like freckles – distracting, but also cute.

Unfortunately for me, I have already read all Ms. Morton’s books. I crave another – soon! So, Ms. Morton, to paraphrase a famous Latin quote: Scribere necesse est, vivere non est necesse or in other words, please get on with it and write the next one!

To enter our drawing for a FREE signed paperback copy of Perfiditas, simply comment below OR at this review's Facebook thread, located here.

About the Author:

Alison Morton lives since some years back in France, after an exciting life in which she had both served in the military and run her own business. She has a Masters in history, has been fascinated by the Roman era since she first saw the impressive Roman mosaics at Ampurias, Spain as a little girl, and blames her feminist mother and ex-military father for part of the inspiration for Roma Nova. She can be found on her website where she also maintains a blog. Perfiditas is available both on Amazon and Amazon UK.


Anna Belfrage is the author of eight published books, all part of The Graham Saga. Set in the 17th century, the books tell the story of Matthew Graham and his time-travelling wife, Alex Lind. Anna can be found on AmazonTwitterFacebook and on her website.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Saturday Night Feature: The Journey of Research by Wendy J Dunn

Wendy J Dunn is kindly giving away an e-version of her book 
Light In The Labyrinth
Please leave a comment below to be in with a chance to win
Draw will be Saturday 1st August

This drawing has been held and a winner announced at Facebook.
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If there is one thing I have learnt about writing historical fiction it is this: a new work of historical fiction necessitates a new journey of research. This is even more the case with my current work in progress, which tells the story of a woman born at the end of the 18th century – a fairly unfamiliar period for me as a writer. The research is ongoing, and will keep going until such time I feel I know enough about my historical character, and more certain of my world building.
 Despite having researched the Tudor period for many, many years, writing my young adult Tudor novel The Light in the Labyrinth also meant doing immense research, as well as important decisions of plotting and crafting of story. For example, my first draft saw me worrying over bringing my Kate, a girl not yet fourteen, to court only in the company of her stepfather. Was that too risky a gamble with authenticity?
Mary Boleyn

 History tells us that Mary Boleyn greatly upset her family when she married William Stafford, a soldier who was not even a knight. The other Boleyns saw it as Mary indulging her own desires rather than marrying for status and the good of the family. Banished from court, Mary and her husband lived in Rochford with little support. Despite being impoverished, they also seemed happy (Hart 2009).  I asked myself: Would Mary Boleyn send her daughter to London from Rochford, escorted there by her husband, on an approximately two-day journey by horse, without an attendant? If the real Mary described herself as living a “poor honest life” (Hart 2009, p. 116), surely that also suggests she would not have servants to spare to attend her daughter at court? Surely my fictional Mary would rely on her royal sister to organise these servants for Kate when she took up her duties as one of Anne Boleyn’s attendants?

Catherine Carey

 Needing more knowledge to construct a believable Tudor girl of fourteen in a work of fiction, I returned to research. Pre-teenager aristocratic girls usually lived at home being trained to be good wives and mothers by their own mothers, or by other women of their households (Harris 1992). Whatever education girls received was generally directed to what was believed to be suitable for women – with Bible study high up on the reading chart for noble girls, as well as books to help them grow into modest, virtuous and Godly women (Sim 1996).
Tudor children were expected to act adult at a very young age. Older girls were “put out to expand their social circles and secure the assistance of another well-connected family in arranging their marriage” (Harris 1992, p. 39).  That fact ignited my imaginings about Kate, who exchanges the care of her mother for the care of her royal aunt. This gave me another thread to add to my loom of storytelling: What if my fictional Anne Boleyn had a husband in mind for young Kate, now approaching the more acceptable age for marriage?
 Whilst the legal age for girls to marry in Tudor times was twelve, people still understood that a too-early consummation of a marriage risked the life and health of a young mother. Margaret Beaufort spoke in great concern to her son, Henry VII, over the marriage of his daughter Margaret to the much older James IV of Scotland. Margaret’s grandmother begged for the marriage to be delayed, fearing “the King of Scots would not wait, but injure her and endanger her health” (Fraser 1992, pg. 30). Margaret’s fear came from her own experience. Likely stunted in growth due to this early pregnancy, her own body was considered impaired after she gave birth to Henry VII at only thirteen. She was never to have another child despite two more marriages after the death of Edmund Tudor. Varlow also adds to this discussion in `Sir Francis Knollys's Latin dictionary: new evidence for Katherine Carey’, writing “even landed heiresses marriage at thirteen did not usually involve co-habitation”(Varlow 2007, p. 21).  Still, I thought, my imagined Queen Anne may have thought it time to decide on a suitable match for her niece.

Anne Boleyn

 What else did I have to keep in mind during the construction of my fictional story? Tudor women were not brought up to see themselves as equal to men (Sim 1996). Henry VIII not only cut down two of his wives to shorter size, but also tightened the screws on the repression of women. During his reign, professions like brewers and in medicine, where once women competed against men, became “formalised, more professionalised” (Herman, et al. 1994, p. 159), and therefore increasingly shut off from women’s participation. At the end of their relationship, Henry VIII called Anne Boleyn a witch – another way of describing a woman who dares to speak out and be different.  However, we also find in Reading Early Modern Women: 
Individuals could, depending on their social position, ethnicity and gender, practice certain self-fashioning techniques “for ends for which they were not originally attended”’ (Ostovich, H., E. Sauer, et al., 2004, p.12).

 Education, I came to believe through my research, formal or informal, was the key. I used one example of a strong-minded, educated, self-fashioning Tudor woman in The Light in the Labyrinth. Katherine Willoughby was perhaps no more than sixteen in 1536, the time my novel is set. Katherine was married to Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk, in 1533. Despite her young age, Brandon, a man in his late forties, bedded his bride and quickly sired on her two sons. In this period, Katherine became very influenced by the protestant reformer, Hugh Latimer (Read 1963). I wondered: Was there a deeper cause for Katherine to seek his solace than what appeared on the surface? Katherine grew up with her husband’s son, expecting to marry him. But when Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s favourite sister and the boy’s mother, died, the father married Katherine instead. Months later, the son died, too; some said of a broken heart (Read 1963).  My fictional construction of Katherine was influenced by these facts, as well as remembering her words as an adult woman with children approaching the age for marriage. Katherine said then: “I cannot tell what more unkindness one of us might show another, or wherein we might work more wickedly, than to bring our children into so miserable estate not to choose, by their own likings, such as they must profess so strait a bond and so great a love to for ever” (Harris, English Aristocratic Women; p. 58).
 Thus, along with Katherine Willoughby, I placed my fictional Catherine Carey in the circle of young women who lived close to Anne Boleyn during the months leading up to her execution. Margaret (another mistress of Henry VIII) and Mary Shelton, Lady Mary Howard, the wife of the king’s bastard son, the Duke of Richmond and Somerset, and the king’s niece, Margaret Douglas were all part of this circle. Indeed, the Devonshire Manuscript documents Margaret Douglas’s love affair with Lord Thomas Howard, younger son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and the outrage felt by this circle when the lovers were imprisoned (Herman et al. 1994).
 I imagined that Anne’s own outspokenness encouraged this up and coming generation of girls to be also outspoken, cracking the expected mould for women in these times. Kate, as a fourteen-year-old, would have looked to them all as role models. My imagination painted my character Kate as an innocent girl, kept that way by a protective mother who remembered too well the experiences of her own teenage years when she was seemingly seduced by one king, and then used and abandoned by another. I wanted my fictional Kate to learn much from these older girls during her first months at court.  
 I considered all the narrative possibilities for my story. First, I had a group of women who empowered their lives through writing in the Devonshire Manuscript. I first learnt about this manuscript while researching about my protagonist, Sir Thomas Wyatt, for my novel, Dear Heart, How Like You This? Sir Thomas Wyatt authored many of The Devonshire Manuscript poems (Ostovich, H., E. Sauer, et al. 2004, p. 323).
 Considering the manuscript with fresh eyes, and through the prism of feminism, what intrigued me was how close all its writers were to Anne Boleyn. They also wrote poetry. Poetry – poetry from the characters I wish to give voice to in this novel? Another jigsaw piece fell into place. In all my novels so far I have availed of period poetry to help colour my story. Now it offered me with very telling evidence about these young women – they supported one another through text - text often of dissent, that articulated and helped refashion their identities.
 Even the fact they could indeed write told me much about them. Despite a society where illiteracy was widespread (Harris 1992), reading was not an uncommon skill shared by noble women of this period, but the ability to write was another matter, but “travail in writing” involved both aristocratic men and women (Harris 1992, p. 35). 
 What did my imagination paint about women in this period who wrote more than simply their names? Modern day scholars describe Mary Shelton’s handwriting as “scrawl” in the Devonshire Manuscript but, as Paul G. Remley rightly points out, Mary’s “scrawl” copies out Chaucer, Hoccleve and Wyatt (Herman, et al. 1994 p. 42). Clearly, knowing how to write allowed these women “voice” in this manuscript alongside male voices. Collectively coming together, they showed themselves as not the silent women expected in these times – but women who were not frightened, or refused to be frightened, to speak. Writing gave them access to a form of power otherwise denied to them. This research opened the door to the fictional women I constructed in The Light in the Labyrinth. It also gave me the beating heart of my story, which reclaims the lives of women from the margins of history.

To read The Review's previous review of Light in the Labyrinth  by Anna Belfrage click

Works Cited:

Fraser, A  1992, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.

Harris, BJ  2002, English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers, Oxford University Press, New York.

Hart, K 2000, The Mistresses of Henry VIII, The History Press,  Gloucestershire.

Herman, PC (ed.) 1993, Rethinking the Henrician Era: essays on Early Tudor texts and contexts, University of Illinois Press, Urbana.

Ostovich, H & Sauer, E (eds)  2004, Reading Early Modern Women: An Anthology of Texts in Manuscript and Print, 1550-1700, Routledge, London.

Read, E 1963, My Lady Suffolk, a portrait of Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, Knopf, New York.

Sim, A  1996, The Tudor Housewife, Sutton Publishing Ltd, Gloucestershire.

Varlow, S 2007, ‘Sir Francis Knollys’s Latin Dictionary: New Evidence for Katherine Carey.” Historical Research 80 (209), viewed August 9 2009.

Wendy J. Dunn is an Australian writer who has been obsessed by Anne Boleyn and Tudor History since she was ten-years-old. She is the author of two Tudor novels: Dear Heart, How Like You This?, the winner of the 2003 Glyph Fiction Award and 2004 runner up in the Eric Hoffer Award for Commercial Fiction, and The Light in the Labyrinth, her first young adult novel.

While she continues to have a very close and spooky relationship with Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder (Tom told the story of Anne Boleyn in Dear Heart, How Like You This?), serendipity of life now leaves her no longer wondering if she has been channeling Anne Boleyn and Sir Tom for years in her writing, but considering the possibility of ancestral memory. Her own family tree reveals the intriguing fact that her ancestors – possibly over three generations – had purchased land from both the Boleyn and Wyatt families to build up their own holdings. It seems very likely Wendy’s ancestors knew the Wyatts and Boleyns personally.

Born in Melbourne, Australia, Wendy is married and the mother of three sons and one daughter—named after a certain Tudor queen, surprisingly, not Anne.

After successfully completing her MA (Writing) at Swinburne University Wendy became a tutor for the same course. She gained her PhD (Human Society) in 2014. 

Wendy can also be found in these places

Wendy's books

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Sharon Reviews: The Holy Lance

The Holy Lance (The English Templars Series, Book I) by Andrew Latham
Review by Sharon Bennett Connolly

Author Andrew Latham has so kindly offered a FREE KINDLE COPY of The Holy Lance to one lucky reader. Please see below for your chance to win!
Drawing July 31, 2015

This drawing has been held and a winner announced at Facebook.
Please see new reviews for more chances!

We have a giveaway with every review!

It’s 1191 and Richard the Lionheart is leading the Crusaders against Saladin’s Muslim army.

The Holy Lance is a fantastic piece of fiction. From the first page, you are drawn into the final battles of the Siege of Acre. English Templar Michael Fitz Alan leads his men to victory in a counter-attack against the Saracen army, saving the Crusaders from defeat. As part of the peace negotiations, Richard has demanded the return of the fragment of the True Cross, in Saracen hands since the Crusaders’ defeat at the Horns of Hattin. However, Richard decides against putting all his faith in the return of the True Cross, and sends Fitz Alan on a quest to retrieve the Holy Lance – the lance that pierced Christ’s side while he was on the Cross.

Fitz Alan and his hand-picked team of Knights Templars journey through hostile territory, battle Saracens and face down Assassins, to complete their quest, all the time guided by a Knights Hospitaller priest they just don’t quite trust….

Andrew Latham’s The Holy Lance is a wonderful story, filled with action, intrigue and adventure. Set during Richard the Lionheart’s Third Crusade, the action is fast and furious; the battle scenes are frantic and vivid. The novel is full of political intrigue and hidden agendas; Fitz Alan never knows quite who to trust, except his faithful Templars. The book works on many levels. The tension is palpable. The success of the mission is in no way guaranteed…..

Fast-paced and full of suspense, the story is absorbing, and draws you in. As if without trying, the author gives you a good grounding in the history of the Holy Land and in the differing objectives of the various combatants. There are some minor spelling errors – such as the use of ‘there’ when it should be ‘their’ – but they don’t detract from the story and after a while you don’t even to notice them. Every paragraph and chapter is filled to the brim with amazing detail, keeping the reader absorbed to the point that time just drifts away….

The book’s hero, Michael Fitz Alan, is a wonderfully complex character, with a past that is frequently alluded to, a man of the world who dedicated himself to the Fellow-soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, becoming one of their most effective captains. There are hints from the beginning of some sort of disagreement between Fitz Alan and Richard I – just enough teasing to get you curious. Fitz Alan is a model Templar Knight, trying to make amends for something; his desire to leave the material world behind and his past experiences clearly direct his current actions. Andrew Latham has made his character incredibly human, susceptible to doubts, fears and prejudices. He begins to learn that the Holy Land is not as black and white/good and bad as he thought before he arrived. A very likable character: you find yourself egging him on, wanting him to succeed.

All the lead characters of the Third Crusade have their parts to play. The portrayal of Saladin is surprising – and refreshing, looking at the Muslim leader from a whole new perspective. Richard the Lionheart is portrayed as the hard soldier you’d expect, with an intelligence which allows him to deal with the machinations of the incumbent Western leaders, Conrad of Montferrat and Guy de Lusignan. The relationships of all involved are deep and complex, but explored with such energy and passion, you almost feel you know them personally.

The novel provides a great depiction of the Third Crusade and of the motivations of the various combatants. The Templars and their rule are sympathetically and accurately depicted – the hard, trained knights and sergeants who fought for God and each other, while following monastic rules. You can almost feel the heat of the Levant’s sun and hear the sounds of battle. The battle scenes are marvelously choreographed; they are hectic and realistic.

As a debut novel, Holy Lance is incredible. It is one of those amazing books that grips you from the first page and won’t let you go until the last – and yet you never want it to end. Great as a stand-alone novel and yet, as the first in a series, it leaves you eager to read the next installment.

For your chance to win a FREE KINDLE COPY of The Holy Lance, simply comment below OR at this review's Facebook thread, located here

About the Author: 

Andrew Latham was born in England, raised in Canada and currently lives in the United States. He holds a PhD from York University in Toronto. Since 1997 Andrew has been a member of the Political Science Department at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he regularly teaches courses in Medieval Political Thought, International Security and Regional Conflict. His most recent publications include a non-fiction book entitled Theorizing Medieval Geopolitics: War and World Order in the Age of the Crusades published by Routledge in 2012, and The Holy Lance, his first novel, published by Knox Robinson on April 7 of this year.

You can follow and learn more about the author and his work at his blog and at Twitter. To purchase The Holy Lance you can go to the worldwide link at Amazon


Sharon Bennett Connolly has a lifelong fascination with history, and has recently discovered a love of writing. She has combined these two in her blog, History…the interesting bits!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Robert Reviews: TimeStorm

by Steve Harrison
Reviewed by Robert Southworth

Author Steve Harrison has so kindly offered a FREE PAPERBACK COPY of TimeStorm to one lucky reader. Please see below for your chance to win!
Drawing July 30, 2015

This drawing has been held and a winner announced at Facebook.
Please see new reviews for more chances!

We have a giveaway with every review!

TimeStorm is a recipient of
the Highly Commended
category in the Fellowship
of Australian Writers (FAW)
National Literary Awards,
Jim Hamilton Award
TimeStorm begins briefly in the modern day and centres upon a sixteen-year-old boy called William. Then, quite abruptly and with no small skill on behalf of the author, it throws you back a few centuries to 1796, aboard a ship in the Tasman Sea. As the novel moves forward, weather-beaten sailors and hardened convicts alike are transported into the future. To use author Steve Harrison's own words:

TimeStorm is a thrilling epic adventure story of revenge, survival and honour set in a strange new world of unfamiliar technology and equally unfathomable social norms. In the literary footsteps of Hornblower comes Lieutenant Christopher 'Kit' Blaney, an old-fashioned hero, a man of honour, duty and principle, dragged into the 21st century… literally.

Firstly, I would like to mention that TimeStorm is not in any way the type of novel I would usually read. I was so far out of my comfort zone it was like looking for my arm chair from the moon. That said, I believe it is important as both reader and author to experience tales of all types as they give us new perspective in what we can demand from books, and also spur on creative thinking in our own works.  So with a mixture of trepidation and excitement I began. Any fears that I may have had were soon dispelled with the first few pages. The author shows great skill in presenting a picture of modern life, the humdrum existence of a young man with too much time on his hands. As a reader you just begin to settle into the pace of young William’s life and suddenly you are picked up and thrown bodily onto the creaking timbers of a convict ship over two hundred years in the past.

The book moves at a fine pace, keeping you turning the pages with a sense of anticipation. This is helped along the way not only with an intriguing storyline but also the well-developed characters. It is true that some have been sculptured more than others, but all are believable and add to the novel's integrity. I can’t think of one character who is mere window dressing. It’s at this point I must mention Blaney, an officer aboard the ship. I loved this character, and in the blurb he is described as a heroic figure similar to the likes of Hornblower. I could not agree more; heroic and honourable are cut from the same cloth as C. S. Forester’s most notable hero and Cornwell’s Sharpe.

Worth mentioning is the descriptive writing around life aboard the ship. I have very limited knowledge around nautical life in the 18th century, so it was important to me as a reader that the author created an atmosphere that ensured a sense and feeling of the craft and crew in this era. He delivers this skilfully without interrupting the story with too many mundane inner workings of a ship. Coupled with how those characters react to being torn from their native time to a world that differs from theirs in almost every way makes for a very exhilarating read. I believe that Mr. Harrison the author fused his characters together well; they interacted in a way that was true to the era and to them as individuals.  Of course the book has its serious moments but the author has managed to interject snippets of humour that helped the novel in its entirety.

Karen sighed. She had not anticipated a language barrier. ‘I suppose you must be a foreigner.’
A shadow came across the man’s face and his body stiffened. Karen shivered, sensing for the first time an element of danger in the man. He sat up straight and turned to her coldly. ‘Good Lord, no, madam,’ he said crisply, ‘I am an Englishman!’

TimeStorm is written in a format I have not encountered before, and differs from the traditional chapter numbers or headings. Instead each is labelled with a character's name and the segments alternate between them; the start of main sections also include dates.

When I have summarized books in the past I have had a reference point: a place where I thought the book would begin and take me on a journey and I would give my opinion on that journey. This book in many ways has been more remarkable as I never had a starting point, because the novel is so far removed from my usual reading material. It is like getting on a mystery bus tour, where the driver not only has no clue where they are going, but is also blindfolded. All I can say is that I felt the novel was entertaining and well written, with diverse and interesting characters. The fact that time travel is involved is neither here or there, because the skill in which the author has written about the individuals and the trials they face is of such a high quality, that it is on them the reader concentrates. If I had to give the book a rating, I would not have any qualms about placing a more than healthy four stars next to the title.

For your chance to win a FREE PAPERBACK COPY of TimeStorm, simply comment below OR at this review's Facebook thread, located here

About the Author:

Steve Harrison was born in Yorkshire, England, grew up in Lancashire, migrated to New Zealand and eventually settled in Sydney, Australia, where he lives with his wife and daughter. As he juggled careers in shipping, insurance, online gardening and the postal service, Steve wrote short stories, sports articles and a long running newspaper humour column. In recent years he has written a number of unproduced feature screenplays (although being unproduced was not the intention) and developed projects with film producers in the US and UK. 
His script, Sox, was nominated for an Australian Writers’ Guild ‘Awgie’ Award and he has written and produced three short films under his Pronunciation Fillums partnership. Prior to publication, his novel TimeStorm was Highly Commended in the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) National Literary Awards, Jim Hamilton Award, in the fantasy/science fiction category, for an unpublished novel of sustained quality and distinction by an Australian author.

You can learn more about Steve Harrison and his work at his blog (which also includes the fascinating story behind TimeStorm), his super fun Facebook page and Twitter. You may also purchase TimeStorm at AmazonAmazon UK and the Elsewhere Press TimeStorm page.


Robert Southworth, a big time Aston Villa fan, is the author of Wrath of the Furies and three books of the Spartacus series, and can be found on his Amazon author page and Twitter. He is currently at work on his new Ripper series, and you can purchase his books at Amazon and Amazon UK