The great warrior, Einar Unnsson, wants revenge. His mother’s assassin has stolen her severed head and Einar is hungry for his blood. Only one thing holds him back. He is a newly sworn in Wolf Coat, and must accompany them on their latest quest.
The Wolf Coats are a band of fearsome bloodthirsty warriors, who roam the seas, killing any enemies who get in their way. Now they’re determined to destroy their biggest enemy, King Eirik, as he attempts to take the throne of Norway.
Yet, for Einar, the urge to return to Iceland is growing every day. Only there, in his homeland, can he avenge his mother and salve his grief. But what Einar doesn’t know is that this is where an old enemy lurks, and his thirst for vengeance equals Einar’s…
At the risk of sounding blown away, let me say this: I was blown away by this episode of The Whale Road Chronicles. In fact there are a few characters who are also blown away, but I can say naught about that. Einar is Hel bent on revenge against Thorfinn Skull Cleaver, and this sets off an amazing array of activity. That’s one of the things that fuels this tale, there’s a lot going on from a lot of different sources. Never a dull moment in this one my peeps and fellow readers. Crisp action, the gamut of emotions, entertaining dialogue, and a host of interesting characters from kings to thralls worshipping Christ in the bowels of the earth make this a hard to put down tale. Looking forward to more from Einar.
About the author
Tim Hodkinson was born in 1971 in Northern Ireland. He studied Medieval English and Old Norse Literature at University with a subsidiary in Medieval European History. He has been writing all his life and has a strong interest in the historical, the mystical and the mysterious. After spending several happy years living in New Hampshire, USA, he has now returned to life in Northern Ireland with his wife Trudy and three lovely daughters in a village called Moira.
Tim is currently working on a series of viking novels for Ares Fiction, an imprint of Head of Zeus.
Archaeology student Noah scrapes the soil near Hadrian’s Wall, once a barrier that divided Roman Britannia from wild Caledonian tribes, in the hope of uncovering an ancient artefact around which he can build a project-defining story.
He makes an intriguing find, but hasn’t anticipated the distraction of becoming the object of desire in a developing love triangle in the isolated academic community at Vindolanda. He’s living his best life, but must learn to prioritise in a race against time to solve an astounding 2,000-year-old riddle, and an artefact theft, as he comes to realise his future career prospects depend on it.
In the same place, almost 2,000 years earlier, Centurion Gaius Atticianus, hungover and unaware of the bloody conflicts that will soon challenge him, is rattled by the hoot of an owl, a bad omen.
These are the protagonists whose lives will brush together in the alternating strands of this dual timeline historical novel, one commencing his journey and trying to get noticed, the other trying to stay intact as he approaches retirement.
How will the breathless battles fought by a Roman officer influence the fortunes of a twenty-first century archaeology mud rat? Can naive Noah, distracted by the attentions of two very different women, navigate his way to a winning presentation?
Find out in Tim Walker’s thrilling historical dual timeline novel, Guardians at the Wall.
[POV – Noah Jessop, archaeology student on a dig at Hadrian’s Wall]
I turned at the sound of Mike’s approach, his gum boots bouncing on the wooden boards preserving the moorland grass around the outer edge of the dig. Beyond him, white woolly blobs ripped at the tough turf with teeth and jaws suited to the harsh environment.
“Once you’ve photographed it, make an entry in the day log,” he said, before leaving me to check on the four volunteers who were sieving soil for hidden fragments of pots or small coins in a long wooden box outside the marquee.
It was the site of a settlement of wood and mud-daubed huts and their adjacent animal pens built by the Brigante people, next to what had once been the stone walls of the Roman fortress at Vindolanda. The Romans would have referred to the cluster of buildings as a ‘vicus’. Every fort had one. The fortress site had been excavated almost continuously since the 1930s, and had yielded a wealth of finds that revealed a detailed picture of how successive Roman garrisons had lived their lives – including written records and correspondence that had miraculously survived for almost two thousand years entombed in layers of peat and soft clay. Now a number of archaeology undergraduates had come together to excavate and map the vicus that had once serviced the needs of the Roman occupiers.
I returned to my trench and resumed scraping the earth beside the street. After ten minutes, I stopped abruptly as my trowel blade made contact with a solid object. “Another stone,” I muttered. I dug around it, slowly scraping the dark, loamy soil and patches of sticky clay, then I burrowed gently with my fingers to get underneath the object. It was no ordinary stone. I picked up my paint brush and swept away the clinging soil to reveal a carved face on a smooth, rounded stone, its form and facial features exposed to the sun and air for the first time in almost two millennia. And my eyes were the first to behold it. Time froze. The excavation didn’t exist, just my breathless awe at the face that had last been touched by the hands of someone from the Roman era. I embraced our private moment and then my excitement erupted.
“Mike! I’ve found something!” I yelled in the direction of my crouching supervisor.
Mike stood up and strode purposefully towards me, springing on the boards like a March lamb, calling, “I’m coming!” He knelt down and stared at the stone face peering out of the soil. “Yes, you’ve found something alright, young Noah. Brush away the surface and then photograph in situ before easing it out.”
One careful centimetre at a time, I freed the object, and I held it in my calloused hands, gently brushing away the top layer of clinging soil. I raised the carving and saw grooved swirls and inscriptions that would be revealed when it was clean, and the delicate features of the statuette. It was carved from light grey marble, had a flat base, and stood about ten inches tall. I estimated the weight to be about two pounds – a bag of sugar.
The other students and volunteers had stopped what they were doing and now gathered around, making cooing noises or remarking ‘nice’ and ‘lovely’. I brushed some more, exposing details of the impassive face and shrouded body that suggested it was a female form, its hands cradling the mound of its belly. After admiring her for a few seconds, I handed her over to Mike, grinning like a bridegroom.
“Hmmm, it looks like a deity of the Brigante tribe, perhaps a goddess of fertility or one to ward off evil spirits. Could be carved from a lump of marble found in the quarry pits that produced the blocks used to build the fortress walls. There’s a vein of quartz running through it that perhaps influenced its selection. I’ll take it to Professor Wilde to get her opinion. Well done, lad. Now everyone, back to work. Noah’s shown us that there are riches still to be discovered!”
I beamed with pride as if I’d uncovered the tomb of a pharaoh, and as Mike continued the process of recording and tucked up my beautiful goddess nice and safe, my eyes followed his every move, and I nodded as he talked me through it.
[In the year 180 CE at the same location, Centurion Gaius Atticianus returns to Vindolanda fort after a successful patrol. Kerwyn is his native scout.]
As his unit gathered and men dismounted to clasp each other’s forearms with relief, Kerwyn and his family came to Gaius’s side.
“Sir, I am indebted to you for coming to our aid, although I did not ask for it. I will await your punishment for my disobedience.”
“That punishment will come, Kerwyn, but not today. Be with your family and be thankful to the gods, and your brave wife.”
The scout nodded and pulled his wife forward by her hand. “This is Morwen, who put the mother of our gods to good use in my defence.”
Morwen, still holding her woollen garment that was torn at the shoulder, held out a rounded stone in her other hand, and looked up sheepishly at the officer from behind an uneven fringe. In response to Gaius’s puzzled expression, she lifted the rock and showed him the carved face and body on its smooth, sculptured side.
Kerwyn explained. “Brigantia is the mother of our people; she is like your goddess, Minerva, and is the great protector of our children.”
“Well, she certainly protected you today!” Gaius laughed.
Kerwyn nodded. “The gods were with us today.” He looked shaken and ill at ease, rotating his felt riding hat through his hands.
Morwen said, “Please take the goddess to watch over your wife and family, sir.” She held the stone carving out, and Gaius hesitated before accepting it.
Gaius noticed that his men had assembled and Paulinus was organising them into two ranks, whilst still holding the reins of their horses. He nodded to Kerwyn and Morwen, then turned away and went to Paulinus. “How many have we lost?”
“I make it twelve Gauls and two Sarmatians,” Paulinus replied with a sigh.
Gaius flinched and took his gold coin from his pouch, burying it in his big fist. He hated the loss of any of his men, and now felt the heavy weight of his responsibility. He knew all the Gauls by name and much of their backgrounds. It was a hard loss to bear – the biggest loss in any single action since he had become cent commander.
Just then, two Gauls came into the square, leading their horses, to tired cheers from the men. It was the whipped troublemaker, Vetonrix, and another younger man with a bandaged head and bloody tunic. The men called out friendly insults in welcome.
“There is a story here,” Gaius whispered to Paulinus. They grinned their shared relief that two more had survived.
“There’s a story in your hand, sir,” Paulinus said, nodding at the stone carving.
Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. He grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. After studying for a degree in Communication studies he moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business. He returned to the UK in 2009.
His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, inspired by a visit to the part-excavated site of a former Roman town. The series connects the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend and is inspired by historical source material, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.
The last book in the series, Arthur, Rex Brittonum, was published in June 2020. This is a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur and follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum. Both titles are Coffee Pot Book Club recommended reads. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018). Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker.
Tim has also written three books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (2015), Postcards from London (2017) and Perverse (2020); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); and three children’s books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy – The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017), Charly & the Superheroes (2018) and Charly in Space (2020).
(A Novel of the Civil War and the Most Famous Female Militia in American History)
By Glen Craney
Thanks, Paul, for inviting me as a guest on Historical Fiction Reviews.
A fun aspect of writing historical novels is stumbling upon secondary characters who could merit a book of their own.
One such character, for me, is James Edward Hanger.
In my new release, The Cotillion Brigade, I tell the Civil War story of the Nancy Hart Rifles, the most famous female militia in American history. As wounded men were transported south by rail from Atlanta after the bloody battles of 1863 and 1864, Captain Nancy Colquitt Hill Morgan and her militia women in LaGrange, Georgia, took time off from their military drills to serve as nurses in the local hospitals. Among the horrific scenes they encountered was the arrival of the battlefield amputees.
James Hanger was the first recorded Confederate soldier to lose his leg in the war. An eighteen-year-old engineering student, he was eager to accompany his older brothers to the front, and so he left Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. He soon found himself stationed with the Churchville Cavalry, a local militia, near Phillipi, in what is now West Virginia.
On June 3, cannon thunder awakened Hanger from his bedroll on a farm where he was encamped. Minutes later, he found himself embroiled in the Civil War’s first ground battle.
He dodged canister fire as he ran for a nearby barn to retrieve his horse. As he reached for the reins, a six-pound ball crashed through the boards, rebounded off a post, and struck him below the left knee. With his leg dangling by the skin, he dragged himself to the loft and hid from Union soldiers amid bales of hay. Fortunately, he was found unconscious and carried to a Yankee field hospital, where a surgeon amputated Hanger’s leg seven inches from his hip.
Young Hanger could have been forgiven for having had his fill of being part of several “firsts,” but he survived to be recognized across the world as the first amputee of the war. A lesser man might have spent the rest of his life embittered, but by all accounts, Hanger was a remarkable optimist. Back home in Churchville to recuperate, he holed himself up in an upstairs bedroom. His family thought he was despondent over his peg leg, but to their amazement, he was hard at work devising a way to improve his walking speed.
Three months later, he displayed his invention: the Hanger Limb, a marvel of prosthetics.
“No one can know what such a loss means unless he has suffered a similar catastrophe,” Hanger told admirers. “In the twinkling of an eye, life’s fondest hopes seemed dead. What could the world hold for a maimed, crippled man?”
So astonished and pleased were wounded men and their families with the invention that Hanger earned enough money to open a small factory in Staunton, Virginia. He hired dozens of disabled Confederate soldiers to help him fashion the hinged legs from barrel staves, metal, and straps. Upon receiving a patent from the government in Richmond, he traveled around the South to offer his device to wounded men and civilians. After the war, he took his invention to Europe, where it helped thousands of convalescents during World War One.
A graduate of Indiana University School of Law and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Glen Craney practiced trial law before joining the Washington, D.C. press corps to write about national politics and the Iran-contra trial for Congressional Quarterly magazine. In 1996, the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences awarded him the Nicholl Fellowship prize for best new screenwriting. His debut historical novel, The Fire and the Light, was named Best New Fiction by the National Indie Excellence Awards. He is a three-time Finalist/Honorable Mention winner of Foreword Magazine’s Book-of-the-Year and a Chaucer Award winner for Historical Fiction. His books have taken readers to Occitania during the Albigensian Crusade, the Scotland of Robert Bruce, Portugal during the Age of Discovery, the trenches of France during World War I, the battlefields of the Civil War, and the American Hoovervilles of the Great Depression. He lives in Malibu, California.
The Coronation is my third novel. Like the second, The Old Dragon’s Head, it’s a historical fantasy. My debut novel, The Genes of Isis, is an epic fantasy.
The main character of The Coronation is Marion, Countess von Adler. She is based on a real life personage, Marion, Countess von Dönhoff who lived at her Junker family estate at Castle Friedrichstein near Löwenhagen, East Prussia. For reasons of discretion, I changed the name of the estate in the novel to Castle Ludwigshain.
Much of the inner detail in the novel is derived from the real Countess’ autobiography, Before the Storm: Memories of My Youth in Old Prussia (tr. by Jean Steinberg. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990). Although she lived during the 20th Century, because of her book, I was able to add that rare touch of authenticity and flavour the story with unusual, subtle details. It allowed me to enter not only her pre-Second World War world and then imagine what it might have been like to live there during the 18th Century when the novel is set.
A wonderful read, she paints a vivid picture about her upbringing, from the parlour games, the geese flying overhead, the smell of the forests, her dogs and horses, the names of the staff, to the layout of the rooms in the castle and the out-buildings, and beyond that, the rolling fields, the local villages, the lakes, and running through the valley, the River Pregel.
She describes the diet, the Christmas meal, the daily chores and the routines of Lutheran prayer and cleaning, right down to the colour and texture of the tunics worn by the housemaids.
Bordering the Baltic Sea, the land of East Prussia is special because of the presence of amber – a semi-precious yellow fossilized tree resin – along its Samland Peninsula. 95% of the world’s amber is found there. This gave rise to a significant plot element featuring the famous Amber Room, which, at the time of the novel in the 1760’s, was housed in The Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia.
Marion, Countess von Dönhoff, had much to say about life in Germany during the Second World War, and this extract is perhaps the summit of her humanity:
“I also do not believe that hating those who have taken over one’s homeland … necessarily demonstrates love for the homeland. When I remember the woods and lakes of East Prussia, its wide meadows and old shaded avenues, I am convinced that they are still as incomparably lovely as they were when they were my home.
Perhaps the highest form of love is losing without possessing.”
With such a profound sentiment, added to her sparkling wit and sense of compassion, she was the ideal inspiration for the novel’s lead character, Marion, Countess von Adler. Adler means eagle, and in The Coronation, I wanted to explore an alternative, spiritual genesis for the Industrial Revolution.
Using the folklore and heraldry of the land of Prussia, which is rich in the motif of the eagle, the double-headed eagle, I conceived the idea of a mysterious, supernatural entity, the Adler, and the part it would play in the development of the Industrial Revolution.
What, you may ask, is title of the novel, The Coronation, to do with the Adler? Well, to reveal that would be a spoiler. Enjoy the novel.
Excerpt: The Day after Henry Bolingbroke returned from exile
“My lord, a small band of warriors are approaching bearing Percy arms.”
“Percy?” Henry whirled around, touching Erpingham who was distracted by the ship’s captain. “Thomas, why would Percy be here?”
“Which Percy?” Erpingham asked.
“The younger, I believe,” said the knight.
“Hotspur,” Henry said to himself. “He’s Warden of the East March of Scotland if I’m not mistaken.” He glanced at the knight. “You say he has only a small group?”
“I counted six men.”
“Not enough to attack us, unless more are in hiding.”
“Let us greet him,” Erpingham said. “Best to deal with him directly.”
Both Henry and Thomas knew Harry Hotspur well, so-named by the Scots because he was always ready to dash into battle. Just a few years older than Henry, he had also distinguished himself at the St. Inglevert tournament. They had spent many long evenings drinking and feasting together in those heady days, but once the festivities were over they had not crossed paths since. Hotspur and his father, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland had their hands full keeping peace in the Marches, and their experience with the restive Scots was invaluable.
Henry was well aware that the Percies were pivotal in his upcoming struggle. They were the most powerful force in the North, by far. Their only rival was Ralph Neville, the Earl of Westmorland—a new earl, one of King Richard’s derisively named duketti. He was given his new title after the Revenge Parliament that condemned the Appellants. Bolingbroke was counting on Westmorland as a potential ally because Ralph had recently married his half-sister Joan Beaufort. At the same time, Henry knew that the Percies weren’t going to let Neville get ahead of them when there was a chance to grab more power. So he was relatively certain he could induce them to support him as well.
But he wasn’t prepared to face them so soon! At least he only had to confront the son; the father would ride roughshod over any perceived threat. Still, Henry wasn’t sure how to manage Harry yet. He was well aware that by law, Percy could use his office to arrest him as a declared outlaw. Or at least he could try.
As Hotspur and his followers entered through the gates of the priory, Henry, Arundel, and Erpingham were waiting for them in the courtyard. “My lord, what a surprise to see you here,” said Henry, holding the reins of Hotspur’s horse.
Dismounting, Harry brushed his hands across his legs. “Dusty out there,” he said amiably. “One of your messengers rode across my land and naturally I questioned him. I was at my manor of Seamer, which is only about twelve miles away.”
“What brings you so far south?” Henry asked, pretending not to be concerned. As Warden of the East March of Scotland, Hotspur spent most of his time in Northumberland—not here, in Yorkshire. Putting on his most amiable expression, Henry led the others into the priory where the good friars laid out food and drink for them.
“I came to collect payment from the exchequer for my services as warden.” Hotspur accepted a mug of ale from a servant. “I think it would be more appropriate to ask what you are doing here?” He softened the remark with a smile.
It was hard to resist his grin. Harry had a certain openness about him that invited trust. Tall, bearded, brown-haired, sincere, and intense, Percy’s son was well-known for his honesty and chivalry. He was the opposite of his brusque father.
Henry was not immune to Hotspur’s charm. “I have come back to reclaim my patrimony, which was unjustly taken from me,” he answered softly. For a moment there was silence around the table.
“I think my father received a letter from you last month.”
Henry grunted. He had sent letters to both of them. “What happened to me concerns us all,” he said in earnest.
Young Thomas FitzAlan walked into the room. Henry pointed to him. “Harry, this is Thomas Arundel, son of the late Earl Richard. Like me, he comes to reclaim his earldom. Thomas, meet Sir Harry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland.” The lad came forward and bowed.
“And this is his uncle Thomas, the Archbishop of Canterbury,” Henry continued. “I don’t believe you ever met.”
Arundel nodded. Hotspur gave him a long look; he knew the archbishop had also been outlawed. “I don’t think we have,” he said finally. “Well met, your Grace. I see you all have the same purpose in returning to England.”
“There are injustices that need to be put to right,” Henry said. “I hope to gather enough support to convince King Richard he must reverse his unlawful decisions.”
“I see.” Harry looked around the room. “It appears you have made a modest start.”
Despite himself, Henry blushed. “I came with my closest companions, who accompanied me to France. I have faith my Lancastrian affinity will swell my ranks.”
Percy nodded. Again his smile rescued an uncomfortable situation. “I have no doubt. King Richard’s policies have even disturbed our stability in the North.”
Was that an invitation? “You must know I have great respect for your family. Between your lordship and Lancaster—and the Nevilles, secondarily—the North is a force to be reckoned with.”
Hotspur nodded, uncommitted.
“I would have you with me, Harry.”
Taking a sip of his ale, Hotspur looked at the table. “You’re asking for much, my lord.”
“Duke Henry speaks for all the nobles in the land,” interjected the archbishop. “If Richard could take away the great Lancastrian patrimony with a strike of his quill, what’s to stop him from doing the same to everyone else?”
“Or declaring a loyal subject a traitor?” added Henry, unable to suppress his bitterness. “We are all at the mercy of his impulses.” He sensed Hotspur’s resistance was half-hearted, and his heart pounded in response.
“We’ve considered that, ourselves,” Harry said. He turned his whole body, facing Henry. “What are your real intentions?”
Blinking, Henry drew himself up. “I have stated them. I came here to reclaim my own.”
Henry didn’t know whether to be surprised or offended. But, he admitted to himself, that question was going to be asked again and again. There was no easy way to put this. “Are you wondering if I covet the throne?”
There. It was said. For the first time.
“It crossed my mind.” Hotspur stared at him, trying to measure his honesty. Henry shook his head.
“I have no interest in Richard’s crown. The Lancastrian inheritance is more than enough.”
“How do you intend to convince the king, as you say?”
Henry pursed his lips. It was a fair question. “It won’t be easy. I think, as in the past, a group of magnates,” he said slowly, “if united by a common goal, can force an obstinate king to rule more wisely, with their help.”
“We don’t have to look any farther back than 1387,” Arundel asserted. “The parliamentary Continual Council was only established for one year. It would need to be permanent this time.”
“There were other examples,” Percy mused. “The Council of Fifteen under Simon de Montfort. Or more lately, the Lords Ordainers against Edward II. Both ended badly for the barons if I’m not mistaken. We don’t even need to talk about the Lords Appellant.”
Henry squirmed uncomfortably. Percy was right. But he had to try again. “This time around, the king has no powerful supporters. Richard’s new appointees have no teeth. Besides, they are with him in Ireland.”
“Perhaps.” Hotspur turned his cup in his hand.
“Between the Lancastrian affinity and the North, I trust, we will prove an irresistible force.” Henry leaned forward. “I am prepared to pay the wages of any men who choose to follow me.”
“Ah, that will be a great benefit.” Percy cocked his head. “You have no intention of usurping the king?”
“Are you prepared to swear an oath?”
Without hesitation, Henry put a hand on Percy’s arm. “My lord, I will do so at once.”
Getting up and gesturing for everyone in the room to follow, Henry called for a monk to meet them in the chapel. They approached the altar and waited while the brother reverently unlocked a casket and produced a bible. Henry knelt, putting his hand on the precious volume.
“I swear, before this room full of witnesses and God himself, my only intent in returning to England is to reclaim my inheritance. By the grace of God, I will recover my patrimony and serve the king as a loyal subject.”
He held his hand on the bible as every man crossed himself. Then he stood, a reverential glow on his face. “Are you with me, Harry?”
Percy was suitably impressed by his sincerity. Only hesitating for a moment, he extended his hand. “You may count on me. I will go at once to my father so we can gather our resources.”
About the Author
Mercedes Rochelle is an ardent lover of medieval history, and has channeled this interest into fiction writing. Her first four books cover eleventh-century Britain and events surrounding the Norman Conquest of England. The next series is called The Plantagenet Legacy about the struggles and abdication of Richard II, leading to the troubled reigns of the Lancastrian Kings. She also writes a blog: HistoricalBritainBlog.com to explore the history behind the story. Born in St. Louis, MO, she received by BA in Literature at the Univ. of Missouri St.Louis in 1979 then moved to New York in 1982 while in her mid-20s to “see the world”. The search hasn’t ended! Today she lives in Sergeantsville, NJ with her husband in a log home they had built themselves.
King Arthur is a man smothered in myth and legend, and rightly so because we need diversion, stimulation and an extension to our imaginations and, it is because of the myths and legends that his name has survived and become a part of the collective British consciousness. But hidden within the mists of legend a real man once looked across the meadows, hills and valleys of Britain and, determined not to cede once piece of Celtic Britain to the Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes, he was prepared to put his life on the line to protect those who could not protect themselves. Many novels have been written about the man who became known as King Arthur, and I’ve read most of them. So why did I choose to write a book series, and what makes my book different? The truth is that I wrote the first book in the series because I didn’t have any choice; I had been challenged to try and write by a friend, and once I began I could not stop, I loved creating the narrative and now that I have completed all 5 books in the series, I am so glad that I accepted my friend’s challenge. My book is different because after researching the subject for decades, I believe I know who King Arthur really was, where he lived and how his life might have played out. But this book is not about just one man, in my opinion the true hero of this book is Arthur’s lover, Gwen; she is the heart of the story, as well as being its soul, which at times is ethereal and ghostly, and also glorious because she is as much a warrior as any of the male characters are, and the balance to the story that she provides is essential to the massive climax of this first novel. This book is set at the cusp of the fifth and sixth centuries, when the ambitions of King Aelle of the South Saxons led him and his massive army to Badon, where he would fight the Pendragon for control of Britain. Many of the usual characters in the Arthurian Pantheon take their rightful places alongside the Pendragon, because some of the people in the myths and legends were real people so I felt I could not leave them out. I also created two or three new characters, purely for the fun of taking the story in different directions to make the read even more enjoyable. I hope that you enjoy these new characters, and also the novel way in which I have illuminated the so-called Dark Ages. What I can promise you if you read this book, is a fast paced thriller, a love story with a hint of Otherworldly magic, as well as the expected triumphs and tragedies you’d find in a novel about King Arthur and his lover, Gwenwyfar. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. Kevin Bayton-Wood.
Whatever your thoughts are about the mythic Arthur, one thing you can admit, and admire, is the sheer number of versions of his story brought forth by creative minds. This book, and if it is any indication of the others, this series, is most certainly that – a creative version of the iconic Bear of Britain. It is also a compelling tale, drawing the reader in with superbly crafted characters; a virtual pantheon of the Arthur saga, friends and foes alike. It is also a tale of a love that evokes the gamut of human emotion; a point of contention within Owain’s mind; does he choose to fill his life with peace and tranquility with Gwen, or will the weight of his responsibility to his people threaten to keep them apart? I really enjoyed the ebb and flow of Owain’s predicament; the reluctant hero versus the joys of life with Gwenwyfar. Now it may seem a bit strange, but I kind of felt bad for the Saxon leader, Aelle. Here he is all convinced that he will soon be waist deep in Celtic blood, the Pendragon’s head on a spike, and be wearing a crown as King of all Briton. That is another box ticked off in the list of things I look for in a book; the action that takes place is exciting, visceral without being overly gory, and full of surprises. Yes my fellow readers, Aelle is in for a lot of disappointment. The question is, what will Owain do next? Responsibility or Gwenwyfar? Fortunately, the rest of the series is already written…won’t have to wait too long to find out how the author continues this very creative version of Arthur. 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“President Lincoln is assassinated in his private box at Ford’s!”
When those harrowing words ring out during a children’s entertainment in Washington, D.C. the evening of Friday, April 14, 1865, a quick-thinking young English chemist named Holmes grabs Tad Lincoln, the 12 year-old son of the dying President and races the boy out the theater and into a city convulsed by the shooting of the man known as the Great Emancipator—and soon finds himself on the hunt for John Wilkes Booth.
This is the extraordinary untold story of how that young chemist and a freed slave boy named Abraham tracked Booth through backwoods Maryland and across the Potomac River to the tobacco barn where Booth died.
It is the very first case of the detective we now know as Sherlock Holmes.
And as we learn in One Must Tell the Bees, it is nothing like his last…
I cannot claim to be any kind of expert on Sherlock Holmes. I’ve never read any of the Arthur Conan Doyle novels; indeed my only real exposure to Holmes has been on television. I remember watching old Basil Rathbone movies as a kid, loved the Disney film, The Great Mouse Detective; saw a few of the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock episodes, and that’s about it. As for the American Civil War, I am not a ‘professional’ historian, but I have been reading and studying American history all of my life – indeed my major in college was History, and it is a pursuit I have kept active for 60+ years. So when I received a request to read and review One Must Tell the Bees, it was the Civil War/Lincoln aspect that convinced me to accept it. However, it was clear early on, in this scintillating tale, that the Holmesian twist, and the subsequent telling of the last days of Sherlock Holmes, had me totally in thrall. This powerful imagining by the author not only entertains with the story, but it is chock full of superbly written characters. The historical figures loom large in this tale, and are portrayed in a realistic manner, but the thing that I find most impressive (and something I look for in every historical-fiction book I read) is that the fictional characters are crafted in such a way as to make them appear to be historical as well…and that, my fellow readers, is the mark of excellent storytelling where the line between history and fiction has vanished into the realm of believability.
Not being an aficionado of the Sherlock Holmes genre, I am at least acquainted enough with his demeanor/mannerisms/his familiar attire, etc., to recognize that One Must Tell the Bees brings Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes to life as surely as the new garden varietals brings Holmes’ bees back to the hives. Like pollen laden bees, and the hives bursting with honeycomb, the pages are redolent with superb storytelling that kept this reader more than entertained, it was nourishment for the soul. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication Date: March 15, 2021 Brigid’s Fire Press Paperback & eBook; 399 pages
Georgia burns. Sherman’s Yankees are closing in. Will the women of LaGrange run or fight?
Based on the true story of the celebrated Nancy Hart Rifles, The Cotillion Brigade is a sweeping epic of the Civil War’s ravages on family and love, the resilient bonds of sisterhood amid devastation, and the miracle of reconciliation between bitter enemies.
“Gone With The Wind meets A League Of Their Own.”
1856. Sixteen-year-old Nannie Colquitt Hill makes her debut in the antebellum society of the Chattahoochee River plantations. A thousand miles to the north, a Wisconsin farm boy, Hugh LaGrange, joins an Abolitionist crusade to ban slavery in Bleeding Kansas.
Five years later, secession and total war against the homefronts of Dixie hurl them toward a confrontation unrivaled in American history.
Nannie defies the traditions of Southern gentility by forming a women’s militia and drilling it four long years to prepare for battle. With their men dead, wounded, or retreating with the Confederate armies, only Captain Nannie and her Fighting Nancies stand between their beloved homes and the Yankee torches.
Hardened into a slashing Union cavalry colonel, Hugh duels Rebel generals Joseph Wheeler and Nathan Bedford Forrest across Tennessee and Alabama. As the war churns to a bloody climax, he is ordered to drive a burning stake deep into the heart of the Confederacy.
Yet one Georgia town—which by mocking coincidence bears Hugh’s last name—stands defiant in his path.
Read the remarkable story of the Southern women who formed America’s most famous female militia and the Union officer whose life they changed forever.
While I was reading this most entertaining tale, it occurred to me that it was almost like watching the Civil War documentary by Ken Burns. I even heard Shelby Foote’s voice narrating some of the battles as I was reading. That is a good indication, my fellow readers, that the author did his homework, and has created a tale that sees the war from both sides. Through the eyes of Nannie, the force behind The Nancy Hart Rifles, we are immersed in the polite plantation society of antebellum Georgia, and it is through this stubborn, persistent woman we witness the demoralizing changes brought on as the war progresses.
Hugh thought his life would be as a farmer, but finds himself part of the abolitionist movement led by a rather zealous college professor. Heeding Lincoln’s call for men, he, and his cavalry regiment eventually becomes one of the important pieces of Sherman’s March to the Sea.
The story is wonderfully crafted. The characters are full of the rightness of their cause, and the narrative flows seamlessly between the two sides. I enjoyed the dialogue, and the way the author shows his historical chops with his descriptions of the battles and the major players involved. The horrors perpetuated, and endured; the range of emotions; the fortitude to survive the losses and the suffering – indeed this telling of one of the lesser known chapters in the war had this reader intrigued from page one. 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
About the Author
A graduate of Indiana University School of Law and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Glen Craney practiced trial law before joining the Washington, D.C. press corps to write about national politics and the Iran-contra trial for Congressional Quarterly magazine. In 1996, the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences awarded him the Nicholl Fellowship prize for best new screenwriting. His debut historical novel, The Fire and the Light, was named Best New Fiction by the National Indie Excellence Awards. He is a three-time Finalist/Honorable Mention winner of Foreword Magazine’s Book-of-the-Year and a Chaucer Award winner for Historical Fiction. His books have taken readers to Occitania during the Albigensian Crusade, the Scotland of Robert Bruce, Portugal during the Age of Discovery, the trenches of France during World War I, the battlefields of the Civil War, and the American Hoovervilles of the Great Depression. He lives in Malibu, California, and has served as president of the Southern California Chapter of the Historical Novel Society.
The past calls to those who dare to listen… An invitation arrives; Abbey Coote, Professor of American Studies, has won an extended stay in an historic B&B, Pine Tree House. The timing is perfect. Abbey is recovering from an accident which left her abusive boyfriend dead and her with little memory of the event. But her idyllic respite soon takes a terrifying turn. While exploring the house, Abbey comes face to face with Mary Foss, a woman dead for 350 years. Through a time/mind interface, Abbey experiences the horrors of Mary’s life, living at the edge of the civilized world in the 1690’s New England. As Abbey faces her worst fears, she struggles to free them both from the past.
Let me start by saying thanks to the author for inviting me to read this marvelous story. The dual timeline drew me in, and left me in awe of the descriptive ability the author provides. Not only the amiable, historic, current day events and locales, but the eye opening detail of life in a beautiful, but savage wilderness in the late 17th century, It is a tale that incorporates a series of supernatural events that allows the past to be viewed by the protagonists in the present. As the book progresses we learn more of the brutal existence of a woman trapped by the societal norms of male and religious domination. It is also a tale of two tragic loves, and of the search for healing. I really enjoyed the steady flow of the book. Well it steadily gets a little more dramatic with each chapter, and compels the reader to keep on going. Great characters, an imaginative narrative full of surprises, and wonderfully crafted imagery, The Heron is a page turning delight. 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
It is 1074, 8 years after the fateful Battle of Hastings. Lord Henry De Bois is determined to find the secret community of Robert, an Anglo-Saxon thane. Despite his fervour, all his attempts are met with failure.
When he captures Robert’s young sister, Edith, events are set in motion, affecting everyone involved. Edith is forced into a terrible world of cruelty and deceit, but finds friendship there too.
Will Robert ever learn why Henry hates him so much? Will Edith’s new-found friendships be enough to save her from De Bois? And who is the mysterious stranger in the reedbed who can disappear at will?
A gripping historical fiction with an astonishing twist!
Virginia grew up in Orkney, using the breath-taking scenery to fuel her imagination and the writing fire within her. Her favourite genres to write are fantasy and historical fiction, sometimes mixing the two together such as her newly-published book “Caledon”. She enjoys swashbuckling stories such as the Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and is still waiting for a screen adaption that lives up to the book!
When she’s not writing, Virginia is usually to be found teaching music, and obtained her MLitt in “History of the Highlands and Islands” last year. She believes wholeheartedly in the power of music, especially as a tool of inspiration. She also helps out with the John O’Groats Book Festival which is celebrating its 3rd year this April.
She now lives in the far flung corner of Scotland, soaking in inspiration from the rugged cliffs and miles of sandy beaches. She loves cheese, music and films, but hates mushrooms.