Friday, 30 January 2015

Walking in Wales by Lily Harlem

Many of my friends and readers know that I love living in Wales. I'm not Welsh but the people and the land have adopted me after so many years of being in it's gentle embrace. One of the things I adore is walking with my dogs. Mr H prefers to run but occasionally he slows down a pace and we head off to the mountains to enjoy the views. Here are some pictures taken in the Brecon Beacons. We didn't have snow in our valley but once we went up a few hundred feet there was plenty, and most of it unspoilt as this is a deserted part of the National Park - you're most likely to see military as they use its desolate, isolated landscape for survival training.

Track leading to the mountains

Sign for the Taff Trail


Our walk got pretty steep and the snow deep but it was worth it for the views

Half way up!

Mr H just disappearing over the top

View from the top


Back at ground level and looking forward to a glass of wine in front of the fire!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

FREE! The Novice by Harlem Dae

The Novice, Book 1 in the Sexy as Hell trilogy is FREE on Amazon for a few days only. It's erotic romance - BDSM - and based in London.

Find out more about Harlem Dae on the website.

Bargain BDSM Boxed Set

Friday, 23 January 2015

Abduction of the Scots Queen ~ gripping historical fiction

In Stirling, Marie de Guise, the widowed Dowager Queen, fears for the safety of her  child, Mary, Queen of Scots. Rumours have reached her that the English intend to kidnap Mary and take her to Henry's court to marry his son.
A fast-paced dramatic story set in Stirling, Scotland in the year 1543.

Accompanied by her maid and four Douglas men-at-arms, Meg pondered her father’s instructions as she rode the dreary, waterlogged miles through Edinburgh and on to Stirling. By the third day, when rain gave way to clear blue sky and sunshine, she wondered if she could contrive something to her own advantage.

Father wanted her to pursue friendship with the Dowager Queen of Scotland, who was noted as a generous woman. If a gift were to be offered, a manor house with a little land would be most acceptable.

Riding into Stirling, Meg eyed Broad Street with a calculating eye, but decided it was not a place she would choose to live. A cheerful crowd, jostling for a view of the gallows, surged about the open space between the Mercat Cross and the grim old Tolbooth. A hanging must be imminent. Her escort closed protectively around her and forced a way through to the top of the hill.

Both her destination and the castle came into view at the same time. Meg caught her breath at the sight of the Great Hall, pale as day-old cream in the October light, shining like a beacon against the darker stone of the older castle buildings.

‘You there! Shift yer hide!’ The sharp order from her Serjeant snagged her attention. He had halted his horse and glared at two men sitting on the perimeter wall surrounding Douglas House. The taller of the two slid off the wall and disappeared in the direction of Broad Street before she had time to glimpse his face. When she looked at the other man, her heart gave a single, painful bound.


She blinked, and found she’d raised a gloved hand to her throat. Her heart thudded light and fast in her chest. Like Thomas, this man’s skin had been coloured by wind and sun, and his hair held the same dark-red fire of beech leaves. Yet Thomas Howard had been dead these six years. When the fellow slid from the wall, she realised the resemblance was no more than a trick of the light.

historical novel set in the sixteenth century. PG 13
UK Kindle link:

Jen Black’s Blog -

Monday, 19 January 2015

Medieval Curses and More - Lindsay Townsend

Medieval people believed in magic, both good and bad. Spells and charms cast with evil intent were called curses and several have survived from that time. The Anglo-Saxons believed in both charms and curses, including a curse chanted against a wen or boil. The little wen is told to go away, to become smaller and vanish into nothing (Her ne scealt thu timbrien, it says - “Here not build your timbered house.”)

The Vikings also believed in the power of words and words for magic and curses. In one saga a witch called Busla issues a curse against King Hring, who has captured and threatened to kill Busla’s foster son. The curse is chanted at night (a good time for such dark matters) and Busla’s magical threats are made manifest.  In lines of poetry, the witch claims that her curse will cause Hring to go deaf, make his eyes to the leave their sockets,  make his bed like burning straw and make him impotent. In addition, any horse he rode would take him to trolls– and more.
“Shall trolls and elves and tricking witches,
shall dwarfs and etins (giants) burn down thy mead-hall…”
 The king is still reluctant and  Busla chants the strongest part of her curse, magic so dark that she does not utter it at night but which will cause Hring to be torn into pieces and flung into hell.  Faced with these gruesome outcomes, the king swears an oath to release his captives. The witch then stops the curse.

Curses could be used both as items to propel malice and as a curious form of protection. Curses were often attached to medieval and Anglo-Saxon wills, mostly to ensure the last wishes were observed, or for more day to day purposes.  The will of Siflaed (composed between 1066-68, soon after  the Norman conquest of England, which may explain the strength of the curse)  states “Whoever alters this, may God turn his face away from him on the day of judgment.”   The Will of Wulfgyth, dated 1046, promises that anyone who detracts from his will shall be denied all human comfort and joy and be delivered into hell “and there suffer with God’s adversaries without end and never trouble my heirs.”  

This form of invoking God by means of a curse to protect others remained popular throughout the Middle Ages.  In 1407, the Will of Thomas of Tyldeslegh gives a hundred shillings of silver to a John Boys to make him an apprentice in a trade and “If anyone hinder this, may God’s curse be upon him.”
Curses could be used by medieval people everywhere and in all circumstances. When a monk  in 1420 discovered that the monastery cat had peed  on the manuscript he had been copying, the monk cursed the cat and recorded his curse—with a small drawing, showing pointing hands toward the cat pee—

Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.

Which translates as:

Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.

Curses as medieval swear words can be found in this article here:

The ultimate curse could be considered to be excommunication, where a person and a person’s soul is cut off from God and the comforts and body of the church. This was feared as a terrible punishment but was not seen as being permanent, since a person could make amends and have the excommunication lifted.  Bishops and popes used excommunication as a political weapon and means of control.

 Objects could also be used in a malicious way. An amulet containing such vile materials as human waste, a splinter of wood from a gibbet or menstrual blood might be hidden under a bed to cause anything from impotence to sickness. Corpses of dead animals, such as black mice, were sometimes wrapped in cloth and buried under a threshold to create trouble for the inhabitants. Sympathetic magic, where a witch would ‘milk’ a knife stuck in the wall of her cottage, would enable her to steal milk from a cow. In Lucerne in 1486 2 women were accused of making hail by pouring well water over their heads. In Coventry in the 14th century a sorcerer created a wax figure of his neighbor, then drove a spike into the figure’s head and then heart. The neighbor died. In the 1130s the Jews of Trier were accused of making a wax figure of the archbishop and melting it in a fire to cause his death.

Some people were believed to have the power in themselves of cursing others, particularly if members of their family had been accused of sorcery. In 1454 at Lucerne a woman called Dorothea  was widely believed to be an ill-wisher—her mother had been burned as a witch and Dorothea, being unpopular, was accused in her turn.

Certain things were considered to be inherently cursed or evil in the Middle Ages. The wood of the elder tree was believed to be unlucky (it was said Judas had hung himself from an elder tree)and it was also thought to be a witches’ tree. Elder wood can easily splinter, so strictures against its use were in some ways sensible.  Juniper was another plant with a mixed reputation. Although a sprig of juniper was believed to protect the wearer from curses, to dream of juniper was said to foretell bad luck or a death.

What could protect against curses? Rowan was said to be a strong protector. The rowan tree, taken from the Norse “runa” meaning charm, was often planted close to houses to protect the household  against evil. Around Easter time medieval people would make small crosses from rowan wood to give further safety to the house.

Illness, famine, flood, plague and all manner of misfortunes in the Middle Ages were believed to be either due to God’s anger (as with the Black Death) or the result of a curse. Given the state of knowledge about the natural world at that time, the idea of deliberate evil by a person (or in some cases an animal) makes a strange kind of sense. Moreover people were comforted when they could use prayers, amulets, witch bottles and, in extreme cases, the law to protect themselves against the occult forces.

Belief in magic was strong in the Middle Ages. I write about curses and have characters use, or fight against them, in Dark Maiden, The Snow Bride and A Summer Bewitchment . I touch on the idea of God's anger and the Black Death in To Touch the Knight and belief in magical creatures in The Virgin, the Knight and the Unicorn 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Martini Club 4 – The 1920s

Amanda McCabe, Alicia Dean, Kathy L Wheeler and Krysta Scott have a unique friendship. Yes, they are all romance writers, and at different stages in their writing careers. But every Friday night, schedules permitting, they meet at the Martini Lounge in Edmond, Oklahoma where they chitchat, plan retreats to get away and for just a general get away. Over a period of time the idea to create a series of stories where the Martini Lounge would serve as a backdrop—well, as writers, that was inevitable. So here we are with our first go at it. Welcome to 1920s New York City where four young women run away from England excited to make their own way in a new world.

All four stories are now available for the pre-order price of **$0.99** until February 26, 2015, the official release.

Rebellious: Martini Club 4 Series – The 1920s
Amanda McCabe

Blurb: Can an aristocratic lady melt the cold heart of a Russian gangster?

Lady Jessica Hatton fled her high-society London debutante life for one of investigative journalism in New York—only to be relegated to the fashion pages. Searching for a juicy story leads her to Club 501, the city's most glamorous speakeasy—and its handsome, mysterious owner, Frank Markov. But his past of war and revolution puts their hearts—and their lives—in danger...

Excerpt: “Do you smell that, Meggie?” Jessica Hatton cried as she leaned into the cold, salt spray wind, her t-strap shoes perched on the lowest rung of the ship's railing.  She'd lost her hat, and the short strands of her hair blew into her eyes, but she didn't care.  England was far behind them.  They had escaped.
      “It smells like freedom!” she shouted, and threw up her arms.  It felt like she could fly all the way to America.
      “I only smell old fish,” Meggie said.  “Now come down from there, Jess.  If you tumble into the drink, it will all be over before it even starts.”
      Jessica laughed and shook her head, but she did climb down.  She spun around to see Meggie stretched out on one of the deck chairs, the glossy mink collar of her coat drawn close around her.
      The sky was grey and dismal-looking, the water not as glassy-smooth as when they slid past Ireland yesterday and headed out to open sea.  Several of the passengers had retreated to their cabins, but Jessica couldn't stand staying inside.  Not when there was so much to be seen.
      “It smells like fish and freedom,” Jessica insisted.  “But we can go in now.  Maybe Charlotte and Eliza will want to play some cards or mah-jong.”
      “Finally,” Meggie grumbled as she swung her feet down to the damp deck.  But her smile was broad.  Jessica knew Meggie was loving it all just as much as she was.
Bio: Amanda McCabe wrote her first romance at the age of sixteen--a vast historical epic starring all her friends as the characters, written secretly during algebra class (and her parents wondered why math was not her strongest subject...)
She's never since used algebra, but her books have been nominated for many awards, including the RITA Award, the Romantic Times BOOK Reviews Reviewers' Choice Award, the Booksellers Best, the National Readers Choice Award, and the Holt Medallion.  She lives in Oklahoma with a menagerie of two cats, a Pug, and a very bossy miniature Poodle, along with far too many books.
When not writing or reading, she loves taking dance classes, collecting cheesy travel souvenirs, and watching the Food Network--even though she doesn't cook.
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Ruined: Martini Club 4 Series – The 1920sAlicia Dean

Blurb: She vowed she’d be no man’s doxy, but fate had other plans...

After the Earl of Goodwin attempts to force himself on her, housemaid Eliza Gilbert flees England for New York, hoping to build a better life. But the land of opportunity proves as harsh as the London docks, and she finds herself in a situation more dreadful than the one she escaped.

Former boxer, Vince “The Fist” Taggart dreams of marrying, having a family, and living a quiet, peaceful life. But when a girl he's known since childhood disappears, he heads to New York in search of her and meets Eliza, a woman with a less than honorable reputation. Inexplicably captivated, Vince can’t force himself to stay away, especially when he learns Eliza is the key to finding his missing friend.

Excerpt: Eliza lifted her gaze, then looked away when she met his eyes. They were just too…striking, too blue. “I’m afraid you’ll have to speak to Oscar. He handles all my transactions.” She could never have a normal outing with a man. A lump of regret rose in her throat. She turned and started up the stairs.
Vince caught up to her in a few steps and grabbed her arm, taking the bag from her at the same time. “That was a lousy thing to say.”
She opened her mouth to accuse him of going around Oscar so he didn’t have to pay. But that was ridiculous. He hadn’t taken what he’d paid for the first time. She lifted a hand and rubbed her forehead. His attention confused her. What was his angle? He didn’t want sex. Did he think she was hiding something about Cynthia and if he spent time with her he could draw it out? “What do you want from me?”
“A picnic.”

Bio: Alicia Dean lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. She has three grown children and a huge network of supportive friends and family. She writes mostly contemporary suspense and paranormal, but has also written in other genres, including a few vintage historicals.
Other than reading and writing, her passions are Elvis Presley, MLB, NFL (she usually works in a mention of one or all three into her stories) and watching her favorite televisions shows like Vampire Diaries, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Haven, The Mindy Project, and Dexter (even though it has sadly ended, she will forever be a fan). Some of her favorite authors are Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, Sharon Sala, Jordan Dane, Ridley Pearson, Joseph Finder, and Jonathan Kellerman…to name a few.

Amazon buy link:

Reckless: Martini Club 4 Series – The 1920s
Kathy L Wheeler

Blurb: Lady Margaret turned Lady Bootlegger…

Singer Margaret (Meggie) Montley needs money…fast. Her friend is in a dire situation with nowhere to turn. While Meggie is on the brink of stardom, it’s not soon enough to save her friend.

Harry Dempsey is out to avenge the deaths of his father and brother at the hands of a ruthless gangster. But trouble spirals out of control when Meggie Montley shows up the night he meets his nemesis to settle the score. Saving the impetuous woman from a crime lord might be easier than saving her from her own reckless behavior.

Excerpt: Meggie launched herself from her hiding place and threw her arms about Harry’s neck. Locked in his muscular embrace, she rested her chin on his shoulder. His arms tightened around her. “Oh, Harry. I came as fast as I could. Just as we’d planned.” The words, she’d intended to carry, came out breathless.
“Fast, huh?” The whisper was against her ear where no one else could hear, raised goose prickles over her entire body. “Guess I’ll have to do something about that.” He lifted his head. “What are you doing with my girl, Joe?”
Joey’s hands flew into the air, indicating his surrender. “Sorry, Dempsey. Had no idea she was anyone’s quiff—”
Meggie’s cheeks burned, and she stiffened at the insult. Harry’s one arm gripped her closer. The other shot up, jerking her body like a rag doll. She couldn’t see Harry’s face with her own now buried in his neck, but she felt the corded muscles contract. 

Bio: Kathy L Wheeler (also known as Kae Elle Wheeler) writes both Contemporary and Historical Romance. She was born in Presque Isle, Maine.  How she ended up in Texas, then Oklahoma is as much a mystery to her as anyone. She graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a BA in Management Information Systems and a minor in Vocal Music.
She is published through The Wild Rose Press. She loves to travel.  Ports of call include a three week stint in Europe covering Madrid, Barcelona, Avignon, Paris, Koln, Amsterdam and London.  Other exciting places she’s visited are Grand Cayman, Puerta Vallerta, Mexico, Vancouver, Canada, and roaming from one romance writing conference to another nationwide.  You may have met her in Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco, San Diego, New York or Atlanta.  She is a member of the Oklahoma RWA Chapter, Dara, and The Beau Monde. Kathy lives with her musically talented husband in Edmond, Oklahoma. They have one grown daughter and one bossy cat, Carly!
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Runaway: Martini Club 4 Series – The 1920s
Krysta Scott

Blurb: Can she prove her innocence before more than her dreams are destroyed?

After escaping an arranged marriage, Lady Charlotte Leighton lands on a new shore, determined to realize her dream of opening her own bakery. But her plans are shattered when her former fiancé follows her to New York. Now, she finds herself in a fight for her freedom.

Haunted by a string of failures, Detective Felix Noble is determined to solve his latest case. But his efforts to find a murderer are jeopardized by a forbidden attraction to his number one suspect. While he’s certain Charlotte Leighton is keeping secrets, instinct tells him she’s not the murderess he first believed.

Excerpt: Long thin fingers curled around a glass and lifted it from the tray. Charli followed the direction of the drink. Derrick Chaunce, or as the local duffs referred to him, “Slick”, grinned, exposing yellowed teeth.
“You … You…” Her throat closed. The rest of her diatribe wouldn’t budge.
He winked. His thin hair slicked back in the latest fashion exaggerated the gaunt cheekbones and sunken eyes, tinging him with an unhealthy, dilapidated look. He gulped the whiskey. A bit of the amber liquid escaped through the gap in his teeth and down his chin. Her stomach lurched.
“Thank you, sweet cakes. Put it on my tab.” He skulked off.
Charli whirled around. How did the bounder get past Tiny? Ira fumed about customers who ran up a high tab without reconciling at the end of the night. Now she would have to explain yet another charge added to Slick’s mounting debt. She sighed and rolled her eyes to the heavens. The customer was always right. Even when they were wrong.

Bio: Krysta Scott is a family law attorney in her false life. After years of writing and winning contests, she is now taking the plunge into publishing. A fan of sci-fi and dark stories surrounding people in crisis, she also enjoys way too much TV including Vampire Diaries, Breaking Bad, and Sherlock. Runaway is her breakout story.

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Friday, 9 January 2015

Life as a British governess in Russia

The Imperial Royal family in Russia

Hiring a British governess was quite fashionable among Russian aristocracy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. They loved English style and wished their sons to turn into little Lord Fauntleroys. Being able to speak English was considered to be a necessary social accomplishment. French was also fashionable so employing an English governess who could speak the language was ideal. A tutor might also be hired to provide instruction in the Russian and history, and perhaps someone to teach the piano or violin. Lessons would take place in the mornings with the afternoons devoted to teaching drawing, painting and sewing for their daughters. Boys spent the afternoons taking part in field sports and fishing. Very much in the style of British aristocracy.

Books were hard to find. Those brought into the country were often assumed to be politically suspect and not allowed, a situation which worsened once the revolution started. Education was seen by the Bolsheviks as a snare which tended to make people unruly. Families who owned precious books learned to keep them hidden away.

Children were expected to take afternoon tea and dinner with their parents, and the governess must accompany them. This requirement differed very much from the situation in England where a governess was held in something of a limbo between servants and master. Millie was thankful that she’d learned about aristocratic etiquette from her former employer. The children, however, were quite capable of embarrassing her.

Discipline was an important part of a governess’s job. Not always easy with children who had led sheltered, spoiled lives. Some governesses lost patience and made them stand on a table, or put sticky paper over their mouth. Millie did not approve of such punishment.

Where the royal family stood in church

A governess was also expected to attend church with the family most Sundays. The congregation would stand throughout the long service, even the Tsar and Tsarina, and all servants of the household must wear their best clothes. A fine hat was essential, the more flamboyant the better.

She could also visit the British and American Chapel in St. Petersburg on her day off, which Millie did, once she had convinced the Countess that she was entitled to some free time of her own. After the service the governesses would get together to chat as this wasn’t simply a place of worship, but also a social club. It provided evening classes, a library, chess club, choir, amateur dramatics and jolly picnics. It was the place to make friends, and hear of new jobs on the chapel grape-vine. Very much a home from home for ex-pats. It was here that Millie met the love of her life, but did he feel the same way about her?

Set against the backdrop of revolutionary Russia, The Amber Keeper is a sweeping tale of jealousy and revenge, reconciliation and forgiveness. 

English Lake District, 1960s: A young Abbie Myers returns home after learning of her mother’s death. Estranged from her turbulent family for many years, Abbie is heartbroken to hear that they blame her for the tragedy. 

Determined to uncover her mother’s past, Abbie approaches her beloved grandmother, Millie, in search of answers. As the old woman recounts her own past, Abbie is transported back to the grandeur of the Russian Empire in 1911 with tales of her grandmother’s life as a governess and the revolution that exploded around her. 

As Abbie struggles to reconcile with her family, and to support herself and her child, she realizes that those long-ago events created aftershocks that threaten to upset the fragile peace she longs to create. 

Amazon UK

Amazon US 

Twitter: @fredalightfoot

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Romantic Comedy Meets Celebrity Murder Mystery

When celebrities need a crime solving quickly and discreetly they call in the specialists, the Celebrity Crimes Investigation Agency, otherwise known as the CCIA…

CCIA agent Charlie and barmaid Amber team up to solve the first case – the brother of a heartthrob actor found dead in suspicious circumstances…

And The Earth Moved is book one in the series:

One desperate phone call is all it takes to turn Amber’s day from boring to completely crazy.

The call? Her old university boyfriend Ennis, now a heartthrob actor, begs for Amber’s help.

His brother Joel is dead and Ennis has to discover the truth about his death before the world’s media hear about it and batter his door down demanding answers.

The CCIA has already assigned its top agent, Charlie Huxton, to the case.

Amber’s mission? Ennis doesn’t trust a stranger to keep quiet so he pleads with Amber to shadow and help Charlie throughout the investigation. Ennis was her first love and she still has a soft spot for him – how can she refuse?

Scarily out of her depth Amber knows she needs to somehow get Charlie on side with her involvement in the case – and fast.

Plunged into the world of crime Amber’s battling something darker and far more dangerous than she’d imagined – and it has nothing to do with the equally scary chemistry fizzing between her and Charlie.

Will Charlie agree to work with her to find out how and why Joel died?

Can she help uncover the truth before word gets out and an already distraught Ennis is hounded by story-hungry journalists?

Just as importantly, can she keep her sanity and still be alive when the mystery is finally solved?

 If you'd like to grab a copy of this book then please visit the Amazon links below:

Book 1 - And The Earth Moved

Saturday, 3 January 2015

A new publisher. A new look. A new link.

And a whole new chance to become an 'overnight success'.

Well here I am again, after something of a hiatus, to tell you about my new book.  Only ... if I'm totally honest ... it's not, strictly, a new book.

Last summer I was at the RNA conference, where I renewed by acquaintance with Hazel Cushion. head honcho at Accent Press. 
It was my lucky day. For one thing it became apparent that Hazel was in the process of expanding her publishing venture and was looking for self-published authors of good quality women's fiction.
For another, I don't always go to these conferences, so there was every chance I could have missed my moment. But I didn't. I gave Hazel some of my promotional material and contacted her as soon as I was back home. The rest is history.

TORN is a love story but it is not a conventional romance. If you prefer to read truthful, unpredictable romantic fiction without a rose tint, you'll enjoy TORN.
It was published by Accent Press on the 17th December, as an ebook. 
Print is due out within the next few days.