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Friday, November 28, 2014


I have a firm and inconquerable belief that the world has yet to discover the seventeenth century as a brilliant source of romantic fiction.  (see my earlier POST). I am not alone in this belief... as the following post shows. There is a growing tide of writers exploring this era and I am delighted to add my books to the list!

My current seventeenth century (English Civil War) titles are CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART and a time travel SECRETS IN TIME and coming in 2015 I have a trilogy of stories running from 1650-1660 beginning with BY THE SWORD coming in March. So watch out for news about The Guardians series. 

(Copied with permission from

There’s a vast crowd of enthusiasts reading and discussing everything medieval and renaissance. But time didn’t stop with Elizabeth Tudor’s death in 1603. Are you looking for the rest of the story? 

King James, his son King Charles I, and grandsons Charles II and James II kept the drama level high and dangerous in the seventeenth century. Their marriages and lovers, births and deaths, political intrigues, religious conflicts, witch hunts, and wars marked the beginning of our modern period. Their aristocrats and politicians, tradesmen, midwives, ministers, writers, musicians, scientists, and artists changed the world.  

Have you noticed that it’s the gift-giving season?  Why not knock out your whole gift list right now with these suggestions? The gift of a book is one that's remembered for years. Some people find it convenient to buy books for all their siblings, or as appreciation gifts for their children’s teachers. You might give paperback books to some in the family, or use the Kindle-gift option. Some books are stand-alone, some are part of a series.

This is a list of authors who have the 17th century covered, from Shakespeare and midwife forensic investigators to barber surgeons, Charles II’s mistresses, men and women who founded American democracy, servants and highway robbers, people who gave their lives for their principles or just because they were falsely accused as witches. In these books you’ll find sumptuous gowns and high society, educated women, poverty, prostitutes, and massacres, childbirth and plague, castles and manors, cathedrals and meetinghouses—even a vampire.

Our ninth or tenth great-grandparents knew these people—or were these people. (Well, probably not the vampire—but everyone else!) Discover what their lives were like, and how their lives formed who you are. Many of the book characters from the 17th century are based on facts, events, and real people. The authors, in addition to their literary skills, have spent months and years in research to get the 17th century world “just right,” so you’ll get your history veggies in a delicious brownie.

Ride the wave of the time-space continuum into the 17th century with these award-winning and highly-rated authors. The images you see are a small sample of what's available from this talented group! Click the highlighted author’s name to open a new tab.

Anna Belfrage — Time-slip (then and now) love and war.

Jo Ann Butler — From England to New England: survival, love, and a dynasty.

Susanna Calkins — Murder mysteries set in 1660s London. 

Francine Howarth — Heroines, swashbuckling romance.

Judith James — Rakes and rogues of the Restoration.

Marci Jefferson — Royal Stuarts in Restoration England.

Elizabeth Kales — French Huguenot survival of Inquisition.

Juliet Haines Mofford — True crime of New England, pirates.

Mary Novik — Rev. John Donne and daughter.

Donald Michael Platt  Spanish Inquisition cloak and dagger.

Katherine Pym — London in the 1660s.

Diane Rapaport — Colonial New England true crime.

Peni Jo Renner — Salem witch trials.

Christy K Robinson — British founders of American democracy and rights.

Anita Seymour —  Royalists and rebels in English Civil War.

Mary Sharratt — Witches (healers) of Pendle Hill, 1612.

Alison Stuart — Time-slip war romance, ghosts.

Deborah Swift — Servant girls running for lives, highwaywoman.

Ann Swinfen — Farmers fighting to keep land, chronicles of Portuguese physician.

Sam Thomas — Midwife solves murders in city of York.

Suzy Witten — Salem witch trials.

Andrea Zuvich — Vampire in Stuart reign, Duke of Monmouth and mistress.

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 na├»ve, 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.