Friday, November 21, 2014

Cassandra Samuels: A Scandalous Woman and a Giveaway

I have been around the romance writing world for long enough to watch with pleasure as writers go from those first tentative steps, learning their craft, blooding themselves on contests and rejections and finally attaining that elusive goal... a publishing contract and one such is my guest today.

One of the nicest people in the Romance Writers of Australia, historical circle is Cassie Samuels and I am absolutely delighted to have her on my blog to talk about an aspect of research for her debut release, A SCANDALOUS WAGER. 


A Scandalous Woman – Caroline Norton

Thank you so much for having me here today Alison. I’ve chosen to talk about this aspect of my research because my heroine Lisbeth and Caroline Norton are both scandalous women and both were abused by their husbands.

Caroline is a fascinating woman for many reasons. Born in 1808 as Caroline Sheridan she became the face of justice for women, but she didn’t start off that way. When her soldier father died in Africa the family was left penniless. They were granted a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court Palace. Caroline and her sisters were highly accomplished and accepted everywhere due to their upbringing at court.

In 1827 she married George Norton a barrister and MP. Caroline was witty and clever and used her skills to win favour for her husband and his political ambitions. However, he was a controlling husband and often had fits of rage and drunkenness. He physically and emotionally abused his wife throughout their marriage.

Caroline wrote prose and poetry to vent her emotions and earned money doing so. George disliked his wife’s success. In 1836 she left him. He took her earnings from her writing. So, she racked up bills in his name. In turn, he decided to hide her children from her which was a cruel blow to a woman who lived for her sons.

Her husband was insanely jealous of her friendship with the then Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and sued him for Criminal Conversation (accusing him of having an affair with his wife). Melbourne took him to court and won.

Caroline campaigned relentlessly for the rights of women to their children. Her intense efforts culminated in the Custody of Infants Act and the Married Women’s Property Act. These acts gave women a legal identity where before they had none. I think we owe a lot to Caroline Norton.

If you want to know more about Caroline and other Scandalous Women you can watch the documentary on You Tube here:


Set up – This is the morning after Lisbeth meets the Earl of Bellamy and he has accepted her business proposal to help her return to society to seek out her husband’s killer so she can clear her name.

Lisbeth sighed and sipped her tea.
Alone again.
Even when Nathaniel had been alive she had been alone. His dedication to their courtship had been nothing but a dedication to her dowry. What a naïve, silly little fool she’d been then, believing in the fairy tale. A fairy tale which had so quickly turned into a nightmare.
She sipped her tea and closed her eyes for a moment. Yet, even in those few moments memories assailed her. Flashing images passed behind her eyelids in quick, painful succession, each frame of memory causing her to jolt and shudder in her seat. She felt every fist, every boot as they connected; his angry tirades hardly heard through ringing ears. Every cruel word he’d uttered was a scar upon her very soul.
She gasped, her lungs struggling for air, and opened her eyes as she looked around frantically.
Sun poured in from the windows. A cheerful flower arrangement displayed vibrant reds, yellows and green. Her mother’s china graced her table and in the distance she could hear the sound of the servants going about their business.
She released a breath slowly, then another, until her heart had slowed to a more temperate rate.
She picked up her schedule sitting neatly on the table and fanned herself with it. Lisbeth usually took comfort in knowing she had something else to think about besides her horrid, pathetic past but her schedule’s purpose had morphed overnight into something more than a direction for her day. The origins of this simple sheet of vellum lay in her desperate attempt to do everything in exactly the manner and timing Nathaniel had demanded. It had become her sole means of self-preservation.
And it had worked…most of the time. No plan was ever fool proof. Which brought her right back to the present.


As the Black Raven, she’s cold, distant, and alone, untouched by the gossip and scorn of her aristocratic peers. Until he enters her house – and her life – and suddenly her icy shell is no match for the heat of attraction…

Notorious Widow Lisbeth Carslake, Countess of Blackhurst was acquitted of her husband's murder, but no one believes in her innocence. Known as the Black Raven, bringer of bad luck and death, she is eviscerated by the gossips and mocked in the clubs. She’s also the subject of London’s most scandalous wager.

Oliver Whitely, Earl of Bellamy, needs money, but it takes more than a few drinks to take on The Black Raven Wager. He finds himself drunk, at her house, and – more surprisingly – inside, and agreeing to a business proposal at the end of a fire poker. She will let him win the wager, and he will help find her husband’s killer before the killer finds her. But business agreements don’t mean trust, and Lisbeth certainly doesn’t trust Oliver, her body’s reaction to him, or her heart.

 Love may be the biggest gamble of their lives, but is it a wager their hearts can afford to lose? 

Cassandra Samuel's mother always said she should have been born in the 1800s. Unfortunately, she was born in the 1970s instead. But she was not discouraged by all the corduroy and dodgy hair do's. She decided if she couldn't live in the Regency period she would write about it instead. 

Cassandra cut her romance reading teeth on Jane Austen when she readPride and Prejudice in high school. It was the beginning of a love affair with the Georgian and Regency eras that continues today. She has wanted to be a romance writer since she was a teen and was encouraged to study a diploma in journalism, but fiction writing was where her heart belonged. 

She is the eldest of three children and grew up living on the outskirts of of the Royal National Park which gave her a love and appreciation for the Australian bush.  Cassandra lives with her fabulously supportive husband and three wonderful children on the NSW South Coast along with a three-legged staffy cross, a cheeky terrier and a cat called Angus.  Cassandra enjoys music, the theatre, reading, and watching romantic comedies.

BUY A SCANDALOUS WAGER on Amazon and all reputable ebook stores

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In love with a new breed of Regency hero...

I have a huge confession to make. It has taken me a long time to understand the magic of the “Regency Romance”. As a teenager Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer simply passed me by. My taste has always been for stories with a little more action and less mannered ballroom scenes. I quickly add that in more recent years I have become a convert to Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and certain regency romance authors such as Anne Gracie and Jo Beverley.

I set out to write my own Regency, LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, intending it to be of the school of the traditional regency romance. That lasted five minutes as my hero found himself having to solve a murder mystery. I loved writing the story and the reason is (my second confession) I read a great deal of mystery - mostly via audible books on the long commute to and from work. And, yes, historical crime is top of the list so it is small surprise that I turned the “thing I love to read” into the “thing I love to write”.

Recently I have come across a new breed of Regency hero - the amateur sleuth and I am in heaven. The two gentlemen in question are quite different but I am madly in love with both of them and thought I would share them with the rest of you. 

CAPTAIN GABRIEL LACEY (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries by Ashley Gardiner)

I picked up the first books as a boxed set on a special offer and on a recent holiday to Fiji dipped into the first story - THE HANOVER SQUARE AFFAIR). I read all three books and the two short stories within three days. I am now nearly at the end of the second box set and eking out the last story.

Gabriel Lacey is the impoverished son of Norfolk gentry who joined the Army to follow his charismatic friend, Colonel Brandon. The two men fell out over Brandon’s wife, Louisa, while on campaign in Spain and Brandon’s actions have left Gabriel permanently crippled. He now lives in genteel poverty above a baker’s shop but through good fortune has fallen in with one of London’s most popular men of the moment, who provides him with not only a man servant but entry into the fashionable salons. Gabriel is a man of honour and purpose but not without his flaws… or his baggage.

The plots are clever and well executed and the characterisations deep -everything I love about a good historical mystery. There are times I wonder at Gabriel’s motivations, particularly his honourable attitude toward Brandon, who, in my opinion, deserves nothing, least of all Lacey’s loyalty, but maybe Brandon will redeem himself. There are plenty more books to go…

To find out more about The Captain Lacey Mysteries visit Ashley Gardiner’s website:

And the HANOVER SQUARE AFFAIR is currently FREE on IBooksBarnes and Noble   and  Amazon … so it costs nothing to introduce yourself to Gabriel… but remember I saw him first! (PS at $4.99 the boxed sets are incredibly good value!)

SEBASTIAN ST. CYR (Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries by C.S. Harris)

Unfortunately I have come into the middle of the series so I need to go back to the very first book WHATANGELS FEAR (not out on Audio or as ebooks yet!) but just the couple I have read, I am smitten with Sebastian.

Like Gabriel Lacey, Sebastian is an ex soldier, although his books are set a little earlier than Gabriel’s stories and the Napoleonic war is still raging. Unlike Gabriel Lacey, there is nothing impoverished about Sebastian. He is Viscount Devlin, heir to the Earl of Hendon and he moves easily in the circle of the Haute Ton. I don’t want to give away any spoilers except to say he is well matched with his heroine but I think (and this is where not having read the earlier books is an issue) the path of their relationship has not been smooth, not least of all because she is the daughter of his arch enemy.

Like Gabriel, Sebastian has a minor cast of well drawn secondary characters to help him in his sleuthing - the one legged doctor and anatomist, Paul Gibson and his ‘tiger’, Tom just to name a couple.

Visit C.S. Harris’ website for more information on this series.

Both authors are also romance writers under different names and that understanding of characterisation and relationships is what gives these books an extra depth that you don't often see in "straight" mystery or crime stories. Both men are honourable and attractive and they love (and lose). 

My biggest gripe with Harris' books is they are published by a mainstream publisher and the kindle editions of the later books are over $12! More expensive than the mass market paperback. Her early books are not even available as ebooks.  Gardiner on the other hand is an indy author. Her books are beautifully produced, well edited and formatted and reasonably priced (and also gradually coming out as audio books too). When will the big publishers get it?

So if you are after a change of Regency pace and looking for a different type of Regency hero... one you can fall in love with over a span of different books, look up these two gents!

Or you can meet my own Sebastian Alder, Lord Somerton... in LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR. Sadly he only has the one story but oh, the temptation to write my own regency sleuth...

From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.

Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But, her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.

But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?

Friday, November 14, 2014

EE Carter and harnessing the power of water...

It is a family joke that any holiday I go on with my engineer husband, it has to involve rotating machinery of some description (it also involves trying to kill me... but that's another story). It fact FINDING the token rotating machinery has become a fun part of our travels together. There is nothing he likes more than waterwheels... the sight of any fast moving body of water inevitably prompts the remark "They should put a wheel in there to power the electricity". 

So thank you to my guest today, historical romance writer,  Elizabeth Ellen Carter, for perpetuating my husband's water wheel fascination with a fabulous post on... water wheels and sluice gates. I love seeing how my guests use the research in their stories, don't you?

EE Carter's latest book (HAPPY LAUNCH WEEK), WARRIOR'S SURRENDER is set in the years immediately after the Norman invasion. 

WATER WHEELS and SLUICE GATESin the Medieval Period

A huge thank you to Alison Stuart for inviting me to share some fascinating research I uncovered while writing Warrior's Surrender.

Warrior's Surrender is set in the High Medieval period, specifically 1077AD - 11 years after the Norman Conquest of England. I became fascinated by how inventive medieval engineers were. England's waterways have always been vital for the nation's trade, but it was for the the security and early-industrial development that waterways were strongly harnessed.

Sluices and waterwheels were used by the Romans but they were more extensively employed in the Medieval period, both on rivers and also in estuaries where tides provided the kinetic energy to power mills and furnaces that allowed greater production of milled grain and, in the case of furnaces, the consistent heat required for refining ore.

From the 10th century on there was steady progress in land reclamation. Areas in northern and western Europe, once sparsely populated, came under cultivation. Grain was an important crop, and most of it was ground by water mills The Domesday Book, a survey prepared in England in 1086 AD for William The Conqueror, lists 5,624 water mills. A century earlier, fewer than 100 mills were counted.

One of the main innovators of that period were monks who worked to become self-sufficient. 
The Cistercians monks were a strict branch of the Benedictine Order. By the middle of the 12th century were are the forefront of the cutting edge of hydro-power and agriculture. A typical Cistercian monastery straddled a millrace (artificial stream). This stream ran near the monastery shops, living quarters, and refectories, providing power for milling, wood cutting, forging, and olive crushing. It also provided running water for cooking, washing and bathing, and finally sewage disposal.

"Tide and time wait for no man", the saying goes and that was recognised in medieval times as well.

A tide mill was a specific Medieval invention - a mill driven by tidal rise and fall. A dam with a sluice is created across a suitable tidal inlet, or a section of river estuary is made into a reservoir. As the tide comes in, it enters the mill pond through a one way gate, and this gate closes automatically when the tide begins to fall.

When the tide is low enough, the stored water can be released to turn a water wheel. The earliest excavated tide mill, dating from 787, is the Nendrum Monastery mill on an island in Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. Its millstones are 830mm in diameter and the horizontal wheel is estimated to have developed 7/8HP at its peak.

And how did she use this research?

Waterwheels and Sluice Gates in Warrior's Surrender
Background: Sebastian, Baron of Tyrswick and his wife Alfreya are about to visit neighbouring villages that have been damaged as a result of torrential spring rains. The village of Tyrswick has fared well. Sebastian explains why.
She said a silent prayer for her father, hoping he might have found the peace in the next life that he never found in this one, as she urged her horse into a trot to catch up with Sebastian. He’d stopped on the other side of the drawbridge. As she crossed, she looked down to see the first of the Keep’s defenses, a deep ditch filled with water.
“I didn’t think we had that much rain,” she said.
“We haven’t,” he answered. “Let me show you something.”
They broke away from the main party and rode several hundred yards to where the boundary of the Keep met Tyrswick River.
A structure like a low stone gate stood parallel to the river and straddled the channel that skirted the walls of the Keep. Instead of a door, a series of heavy wooden planks strapped with iron were suspended over the water. 
“It’s a sluice gate,” he said. He pointed downstream to where the river flowed by the village. “We couldn’t risk the wheel on the mill being damaged by flood water, so we had the gate built at the same time,” Sebastian explained. “When the river rises above a certain level, we raise the gate to divert water. Not only does it protect the mill and the village, but it also gives the Keep another defense.
Thanks to Sebastian’s forethought, Tyrswick village had weathered the rains well. The mill was in perfect order and would be ready to start grinding the grain immediately. That meant fresh bread. Large quantities would be required to feed the starving if there had been significant damage done to other areas.
A shared secret from their past could destroy their future…

Northumbria, 1077. In the years following William the Conqueror’s harrying of the North, Lady Alfreya of Tyrswick returns to her family home after seven years in exile. But instead of returning victorious as her dead father had promised, she returns defeated by Baron Sebastian de la Croix, the Norman who rules her lands.

To save her gravely ill brother's life, Alfreya offers herself hostage to her enemy. As Alfreya gets to know her new husband, she finds he’s not the monster she feared, and their marriage of convenience soon becomes a bond of passion. But Sebastian is a man with a secret—one that could destroy him.

As a series of brutal murders haunt their nights, the man who betrayed Alfreya’s father returns claiming to be her betrothed. He has learned Sebastian’s secret and will use it to further his own ambition—using Sebastian’s own family—which will destroy Sebastian and mark him a traitor, and plunge an unprepared England into war with the Scots…


A future with words was always on the book for Elizabeth Ellen Carter who started writing her own stories when she ran out of Nancy Drew mysteries to read when she was 10.
Using her mother’s Olivetti type writer with the italic keyboard, she spent endless school holidays making up her own stories and then using the Dewey Decimal System to arrange and categories her bookshelf.
Somewhere around the age of 13 she determined to become a journalist and at 17 was awarded a cadetship to the Gold Coast Bulletin.
She covered news, council, education, health but had the most fun as the paper’s entertainment and features reporter covering film, TV and music.
Best of all she met her husband there and together they started a small award-winning media, marketing and advertising agency and now she works as marketing manager for an international organic skin care company.
In 2012, Elizabeth also returned to the keyboard to write stories (and laptops are so much better than manual typewriters).

Contact the author

BUY WARRIOR'S SURRENDER ON AMAZON and all reputable ebook stores.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Regan Walker and a look at English Churches before the Conquest

Good historical research should complement not overwhelm a story and one of the best exponents of the art is Regan Walker. 

Although Regan and I live on opposite sides of the Pacific, we have very similar backgrounds. Like a good lawyer she has an eye for detail and accuracy so her books are a delight. 
As a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses. You can find out more about Regan on her website:

With The Red Wolf's Prize (Medieval Warriors Book 1) , which is set in England a few years before the Conquest. she has moved from her beloved eighteenth century to the pre Medieval period - hence the research into....


At the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD, England was a place of “unwalled villages,” separated by shires and different subcultures, even different language dialects. Most of the Anglo-Saxon thegns lived in manor houses constructed of wood, though perhaps highly decorated inside.

The decades before the Conquest were prosperous for the ruling class and there was great patronage of church building. Having learned their lessons from the Viking raids, where wooden churches were burned, the English did build stone churches before the Conquest, and some of those survive to this day.

Brixworth Church
Brixworth Church in Northamptonshire is the oldest Anglo-Saxon church in England still standing today. It dates to the 7th century. Many elements from the original building remain visible, although there are later additions, notably the tower, from the 10th, 13th and 19th centuries. What remains of the original building is a nave with windows, a presbytery separated from the nave by a great arch, and an apse rebuilt in the 19th century on the original foundation.

Another example of early Anglo-Saxon church architecture is that of St. Peter’s Church in Barton-upon-Humber in Lincolnshire which dates to the late 10th or early 11th century (the third story added in the Norman period). It was described by Thomas Rickman, architectural historian, as evidencing "structural stratification," that is, one phase of the building resting upon another. Thus, the bottom structure is believed to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, and the tower on top a Norman structure.

St. Peter’s Church, Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire

Church floor plans varied widely. Small porches or chapels were built onto simple rectangular churches, but others might be in the classic crucifix pattern.

St. Botolph’s Church, Hardham
In my story The Red Wolf’s Prize, I based the church that my heroine’s father built at Talisand on St. Botolph’s in Hardham. (See picture below.) They would not have had pews, of course, as the faithful stood, but the English did have plastered walls, which were painted with vivid pictures and stories from the Bible. It was a good way of teaching the stories to peasants who could not read. The Anglo-Saxons loved decoration, including stone carving.

St. Botolph’s was believed to have been constructed on the eve of the Conquest. The inside walls are thought to have been painted by a group of artists known as the Lewes Group shortly after 1100. Though the colors have faded, the paintings, which cover nearly all the church, are still clearly seen.

While many windows were unglazed and slices of horn made up the small multi-paned windows, glass windows were being made by Anglo-Saxon artisans by at least the 10th century. Windowpanes were also imported from the Continent. So, the window in the church in The Red Wolf’s Prize could very well have existed.

The effect of the Norman occupation on Anglo-Saxon churches was dramatic. William I thought nothing of burning churches and in 1069 burned both churches and monasteries in his “harrying of the north.” The Anglo-Saxons were not noted for great cathedrals and churches. Not much of the Anglo-Saxon churches remain today. Instead, we see physical reminders of the Norman presence, including their cathedrals, abbeys and monasteries that symbolized their victory. 

ABOUT RED WOLF'S PRIZE:  An Amazon Best Seller!


Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, the Norman knight known as the Red Wolf for the beast he slayed with his bare hands, hoped to gain lands with his sword. A year after the Conquest, King William rewards his favored knight with Talisand, the lands of an English thegn slain at Hastings, and orders him to wed Lady Serena, the heiress that goes with them. 


Serena wants nothing to do with the fierce warrior to whom she has been unwillingly given, the knight who may have killed her father. When she learns the Red Wolf is coming to claim her, she dyes her flaxen hair brown and flees, disguised as a servant, determined to one day regain her lands. But her escape goes awry and she is brought back to live among her people, though not unnoticed by the new Norman lord. 

Deprived of his promised bride, the Red Wolf turns his attention to the comely servant girl hoping to woo her to his bed. But the wench resists, claiming she hates all Normans. 
As the passion between them rises, Serena wonders, can she deny the Norman her body? Or her heart? 

BUY The Red Wolf's Prize (Medieval Warriors Book 1)  on Amazon.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lisa Fernow guides us through the tango

My husband cannot abide what he calls the "crying shows"... you know the ones?  "So You Think You Can Dance", "Dancing with the Stars"... etc. I LOVE them. Mostly because I have no sense of rhythm and cannot dance to save myself. So I watch them covertly when he's not around.

I particularly love the Latin dances - my favourites being the Pasa Doble and the Tango and it is my great pleasure today to welcome 'new to me' author Lisa Fernow to introduce her romantic suspense DEAD ON HER FEET and the research she undertook to learn all there was to know about tango... Tango and mystery... does it get any better?

Lisa will be awarding a $30 GC to winner's choice of online bookseller to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour



Thanks for having me!

In writing my tango mystery, Dead on Her Feet, I did a lot of research on the music.  My original plan was to include lyrics and audio links so readers could directly experience tango’s heart-wrenching power. 

Ultimately it proved too difficult to identify who owned the copyrights.  But here’s an excerpt where I’ve put the lyrics and link back in for you. This translation of Discepolo’s Uno comes from maestro Alberto Paz. 

Our heroine, tango instructor Antonia Blakeley, is introducing her class to tango culture: 
“Tango can be about many things – seduction, longing, nostalgia, intimacy, tenderness – you get the picture. Whatever the music and the moment inspires. This song isn’t one we normally dance to but I happen to think it’s a beautiful piece, especially if you understand the words. It’s called Uno. One.” Uno, oh yeah, she thought.
Antonia translated the lyrics from the liner notes:
If I had the heart,
The heart I gave away…
If I could, like yesterday
Love without a premonition…

It’s possible that your eyes
That cry out to me their love,
I’d close them with my kisses…
Without thinking that, like these,
They were other wicked eyes
That ruined my life.
“He gave his heart to a woman who betrayed him, and now he can’t love the way he used to.  That’s life and death stuff.”

Tragic, yes?  Julio Sosa performs Uno here:

Doesn’t this just make you swoon? 

It’s not an accident that Antonia chooses this particular tango, Uno, which is not meant for dancing - a curious choice for the class.  But Antonia has walled herself off from love.

We eventually learn why. 

I hope you enjoy Dead on Her Feet.  Visit and let me know!

(PS: the dancer above is Tomás Howlin, a wonderful teacher!)


What happens when a dancer violates the tango code?

Tango instructor and chronic rule-breaker Antonia “Ant” Blakeley has no respect for authority. So when a much-hated member of the Atlanta tango community is stabbed in the middle of the dance floor, leaving her troubled nephew Christian first on the list of suspects, the last thing she wants to do is use her tango expertise to help the police work out how someone could have struck the fatal blow, unseen. As someone who has experienced police incompetence first hand Antonia doesn’t trust them to find the real killer. So she lies to give Christian an alibi, and the coverup begins.

Unfortunately for Ant, former marine Detective Sam Morrow is on the case and he will do whatever it takes to solve the crime. He’s not about to let Antonia hijack his case. As both Ant and Sam investigate (or in Ant’s case, interfere), the two sleuths are about to find out the more antagonistic meaning of “it takes two to tango.”


Available on Amazon and all reputable e-stores


Lisa Fernow grew up on the classic mysteries of Ngaio Marsh and Elizabeth Peters. Lisa has danced Argentine tango since 1996, studying with such legendary masters as Cacho Dante, Susana Miller, and Brigitta Winkler, as well as other inspiring instructors in Atlanta, Seattle, and Portland. Lisa’s short story,Death of a Tango Dancer was featured in King County Library’s Take Time to Read program. She lives in Seattle, Washington. Dead on Her Feet is the first book in a planned series set in the tango world. Read more at

Friday, October 24, 2014

Venetia Green and The Flagellants

This week's guest has brought with her a little sting in the tail (pun intended!).  Last time I spoke to Venetia Green we discussed Vikings (Click HERE to see that post). For her latest book, MY LADY OF THE WHIP, Venetia has moved a few centuries forward in time to 1348 and the time of the Black Death - a period in history ripe with superstition and fear and one or two really interesting little facts.

In more modern times when I think of flagellants, I think of the "mad monk" of  Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, but of course the origin is much, much older. 


Not everybody has heard of the Flagellants. A uni tutorial I once attended is a case in point. During our analysis of some medieval historical text or other, I stuck up my hand and piped up nice and loud: “What about the Flagellants?”
There was a stunned silence. Twenty faces peered at me in disbelief. “Did you say flatulence?” someone asked.
I was a giggling wreck for the next ten minutes.
Apparently the Brotherhood of the Flagellants – the phenomenon which inspired My Lady of the Whip – requires explanation.

Flagellum is the Latin word for whip. Thus to ‘flagellate’ oneself is to whip oneself – which is precisely what the medieval Flagellants were notorious for.

Whipping one’s own (preferably bare) back began as a form of private penance in the Catholic Church. It was the sort of thing a rather devout monk might do in the privacy of his own cell. The Brotherhood’s innovation was to take the whipping out of the monasteries and onto the streets, turning self-flagellation into a public spectacle of bloody atonement for sin. 

Although originating in Italy c.1260, Flagellant processions peaked in popularity in Germany, 1348-50. This was the period in which the Black Death, absent from Europe for a millennium, returned with a vengeance. God was expressing His Wrath through the gruesome death of an estimated third of the population. The logical response was to punish oneself before God saw fit to do so.

 Chanting, all-male processions would appear in town and city centres, each man naked from the waist up:
Each had in his right hand a scourge with three tails. Each tail had a knot and through the middle of it there were sometimes sharp nails fixed. They marched in single file … and whipped themselves with these scourges on their naked and bleeding bodies.
(Robert of Avesbury)

Unfortunately, the processions had no noticeable effect on the Plague – beyond assisting it to spread.


Be careful when you pick up a whip. Your fingers curl about that seductive handle, your wrist flexes its subtle weight and then… Yes, you wonder what would happen if you plied those innocent leather strips against another’s flesh.

1348. The Black Death is sweeping medieval London, social order is collapsing, and the virtuous Lady Elizabeth seizes a whip to defend her honor. But when death seems inevitable, Bess throws caution to the plague-ridden vapors …

… to save the man she can never have – William de Montagu, the handsome, persuasive and soon-to-be-married Earl of Salisbury.

A little bit about VENETIA GREEN

Venetia was spirited from misty England to the wild west of Australia as a child and is still unsure which world she belongs in. Perhaps that is why she escaped into the past...

When she grew up, Venetia spent 10 years studying literature and history before the need to write her own overwhelmed her – at which point she abandoned her PhD and dived headlong into historical fiction. Now she writes dark and sensuous romances set amongst the fjords of Viking Age Scandinavia and back-alleys of medieval London.

Connect with Venetia through her website: Click HERE


Friday, October 17, 2014

Vigeland Park in Norway... its starring role.

Belinda Williams is a "new to me" author... one of the up and coming writers that Australia, and its wonderful Romance Writers of Australia organisation, is producing. Her post today on the role of Vigeland Park in Norway in her debut novel (which is released next week) THE BOYFRIEND SESSIONS demonstrates how importance place is to a writer (and what inveterate travellers, Australians are!).

Belinda is a marketing communications specialist and copywriter who allowed an addiction to romance and chick-lit to get the better of her. She was named a top ten finalist in the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award in both 2013 and 2014.

Her other addictions include music and cars. Belinda’s eclectic music taste forms the foundation of many of her writing ideas and her healthy appreciation for fast cars means she would not so secretly love a Lamborghini. For now she’ll have to settle with her son’s Hot Wheels collection and writing hot male leads with sports cars.


Where contemporary romance meets early 20th century sculpture: The Vigeland Park, Norway

I write contemporary romance so my fun fact is less of a fact and more of an amazing place I’ve visited that I just knew had to make it into one of my books.

I visited Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway, in 2007, and this incredible place has stayed with me ever since. Below is an excerpt taken from the park’s website:

"The Vigeland Park is the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist, and is one of Norway's most popular tourist attractions. The park is open to visitors all year round.

The unique sculpture park is Gustav Vigeland's lifework with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. Vigeland was also in charge of the design and architectural layout of the park. The Vigeland Park was mainly completed between 1939 and 1949."

Vigeland Park is like no other park I’ve ever visited (or heard of) and the sculptures are endlessly fascinating. The park itself is exceptionally beautiful and when there you find yourself wandering the paths wondering if you’ve discovered some sort of magical otherworldly land. In many ways it could be described as an open-air museum that touches every stage of human life and human emotion.

In The Boyfriend Sessions, my main character Christa is a graphic designer who first learned about Vigeland Park when she did her degree at university. Since then, she’s always vowed she’ll go there and after missing out on a promotion at work, it’s finally the kick Christa needs to pack her bags. She decides to visit France on her way and finds herself staying longer than originally planned after meeting the distracting Benjamin Renard. From there, things don’t go exactly to plan.

And here’s a glimpse of Vigeland Park in my story:

On my first visit, it was dark and the sculptures emerged out of the black as though conjured from my imagination. A veil of snow covered them, but it didn't disguise their beauty. Silent caretakers of the park, they signified every stage of life, from birth to death, from pain to joy, with an honesty that was breathtaking.

And standing there on that frigid night, my toes going numb through my wool socks and thick boots, I finally understood. I thought I had come here to escape, but I hadn't. I had tried to hide, to run from everything and look where it had taken me.

Christa’s journey isn’t all serious though, take a look at THE BOYFRIEND SESSIONS

Please take your seats. The journey to happiness may involve some turbulence.

Christa Morrison has commitment issues, a fact that quickly became apparent after fleeing a romantic proposal in Paris, the thunder of impending wedding bells ringing in her ears.
Back in Sydney, she turns to her closest friends for reassurance. Instead they offer her a startling and painful diagnosis: she’s a relationship junkie. The cure? An extreme rehabilitation program guaranteed to reform even the most L-word illiterate.

With her girlfriends along for the ride, Christa commits to their radical plan and the chances of recovery look good. The only problem is Max Spencer. The one guy Christa—and her friends—never expected her to fall for. But he’s proving to be a temptation she may not have the willpower to resist…

For a shot at happiness, is being with Max worth betraying her friends? And will Christa have the strength to trust her heart when her colorful relationship history comes back to haunt her?

It might just be enough to make a poor girl leave the country (again).

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Twitter: @bwilliamsbooks

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