A Black Matter for the King by Matthew Willis & J.A. Ironside

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Blurb

TWO POWERFUL RIVALS — ONE DECISIVE BATTLE

Now a political hostage in Falaise, Ælfgifa forms an unlikely friendship with William, Duke of Normandy. William has been swift to recognize her skills and exploit them to his advantage. However, unbeknownst to the duke, Gifa is acting as a spy for her brother, Harold Godwinson, a possible rival for the English throne currently in the failing grip of Edward the Confessor. Homesick and alienated by the Norman court, Gifa is torn between the Duke’s trust and the duty she owes her family.

William has subdued his dissenting nobles, and a united Normandy is within his grasp. But the tides of power and influence are rarely still. As William’s stature grows, the circle of those he can trust shrinks. Beyond the English Channel, William has received news of Edward’s astonishing decree regarding the succession. Ælfgifa returns to an England where an undercurrent of discontent bubbles beneath the surface. An England that may soon erupt in conflict as one king dies and another is chosen.

The ambitions of two powerful men will decide the fates of rival cultures in a single battle at Hastings that will change England, Europe, and the world in this compelling conclusion to the Oath & Crown series on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

My Review

Let me start out by saying that Aelfgifa is probably the character in fiction I’ve found who is closest to me in terms of biting wit, though I will admit freely that I’ve never gone one on one with powerful individuals such as Duke William of Normandy, or her brother, Harold Godwinson. To me, those conversations were the highlight of this tale. That’s not to imply the other facets of the book aren’t worthy, indeed I was thoroughly entertained by this telling of the monumental events leading up to and including 1066. It is the kind of writing that draws the reader into the settings, you are sitting in the herb garden eavesdropping on William and Aelfgifa; thundering alongside William and Gallet as they spur their coursers into the enemy; commiserating with Aelfgifa as she struggles to convince Harold of a better course of action. Intense drama, creative working of the sparse historical record, and a detailed look into what made William and Harold tick. William’s volatile temperament, Harold’s miscalculated duplicity are a couple examples of the genesis that became the Norman invasion of Saxon England. A rousing, page turning tale awaits you my fellow readers. 5 stars

About the Authors

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J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017.

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

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Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOODREADS

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Michael – Book 3 of The Triptych Chronicle by Prue Batten

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Astonishing, amazing, creative – fiction that stirs the heartstrings. When I first started writing reviews, and was on the hunt for authors who would feed my passion, Prue Batten came highly recommended – to paraphrase the recommendation – “Prue could write a phone book and make it compelling.” The depth of character that permeates her narratives is certainly on display in Michael. The mental anguish, the sheer trauma, the weight of responsibility, the relentless downward spiral of hatred and revenge – all that and a downright entertaining story to boot. A tale of merchants and the life and death competition for riches and power set against the political maneuverings of the unpopular ruling class in Byzantine Constantinople. Like an exquisite piece of fine needlework, the author has embroidered an intricate tale highlighted by the details of that vast city and the life within it. So, dear reader, if you have not read Prue Batten, then you are denying yourself a literary treat. 5 stars

The King’s Justice by E.M. Powell

 

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BLURB

A murder that defies logic—and a killer on the loose.

England, 1176. Aelred Barling, esteemed clerk to the justices of King Henry II, is dispatched from the royal court with his young assistant, Hugo Stanton, to investigate a brutal murder in a village outside York.

The case appears straightforward. A suspect is under lock and key in the local prison, and the angry villagers are demanding swift justice. But when more bodies are discovered, certainty turns to doubt—and amid the chaos it becomes clear that nobody is above suspicion.

Facing growing unrest in the village and the fury of the lord of the manor, Stanton and Barling find themselves drawn into a mystery that defies logic, pursuing a killer who evades capture at every turn.

Can they solve the riddle of who is preying upon the villagers? And can they do it without becoming prey themselves?

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

 

MY REVIEW

Aelred Barling, an upright, by the book member of Henry II’s traveling court, and Hugo Stanton, a slovenly messenger for the court are sent to a nearby village to investigate a murder. What should have been a rather routine case to adjudicate turns out to be a bit more complicated. All facts point to one man as the culprit, but circumstances and events push Barling and Stanton to their limits in what becomes a dangerous situation. The author has put together an intriguing mystery with many twists and turns shrouding the perpetrator of the crimes while shining the light of accusation on others. It takes all of Barling’s knowledge and experience to keep control of a volatile situation, relying on his increasingly reliable assistant to piece together the ever changing puzzle. I found myself scratching my head as the story moved from one murder to the next, from one suspect to the next. As well as providing clues to the mystery throughout the book, the author portrays village life in stunning fashion, giving glimpses of the everyday look and feel of the master’s hall, the forge of a blacksmith, the urine stench of the fuller’s shed. I particularly enjoyed the growing bond between Barling and Stanton and am certainly looking forward to reading more of their adventures. 4 stars

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About the Author

E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society.

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in North-West England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

Find out more by visiting www.empowell.com. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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Owen – Book 1 Tudor Trilogy by Tony Riches

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Blurb

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, OWEN is the epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience as he changes the course of English history.

England 1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France, and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her protector.

They fall in love, risking Owen’s life and Queen Catherine’s reputation—but how do they found the dynasty which changes British history – the Tudors?

This is the first historical novel to fully explore the amazing life of Owen Tudor, grandfather of King Henry VII and the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII. Set against a background of the conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which develops into what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, Owen’s story deserves to be told.

Owen – Book One of the Tudor Trilogy is a new addition to story of the Tudors in the historical fiction tradition of C J Sansom, Conn Iggulden, Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel.

Review

Over the last few years I have read many historical-fiction novels that deal with the various monarchies throughout Britain’s long history. It’s stunning the amount of turmoil that surrounds whoever occupies the throne. Even such redoubtable rulers like Richard Lionheart, and Henry VIII had to deal with treacherous nobles asserting their claim to the crown. In this tale, the first in The Tudor Trilogy, Owain ap Tudur, a Welsh servant known to the English as Owen Tudor, in an emotionally charged, and fateful twist of fate begets the royal Tudor line.  Now the manner in which that happens is a bit of a spoiler, so, I will not divulge that particular bit of plot. However, that plot line is a good example of how resilient, and resourceful Owen becomes; necessary because of the enmity he causes by his actions.  Owen is a survivor and the author provides ample opportunities for him to succumb to failure or depression.

It is a well researched book with the author gleaning from sparse historical records enough to bring Owen to life in an entertaining and enjoyable fashion. The characters are well rounded, the settings evoke the feeling that the reader is there, and the story is a captivating glimpse at the beginning of the Tudor dynasty. I am certainly going to continue to follow up with Jasper, and Henry; the other books in the series.  4 stars

 

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Swords of the King – Book 3 of Battle Scars by Charlene Newcomb

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Throughout this most entertaining series we have been treated to stories of not only a historical view of King Richard’s reign, but also stories of unrelenting passion, and anguished souls. In Swords of the King the author tackles the question of who will Richard choose as his heir and successor; his brother, the ever loving, faithful – oh wait, Prince John was never those things, or his nephew, the young and arrogant Arthur. Calling upon his favorite knights, Richard uses Lord Henry De Grey, Sir Stephen, and our old friend Sir Robin Hood to help him keep Arthur safe from the not so loving and faithful Prince John. Of all the Prince John characterizations I have come across, this one is certainly the nastiest; a formidable foe bent on revenge for any who dare cross him – something that could mean disaster for Richard’s favorite knights.

Swords of the King is an exciting tale of war and intrigue as Richard confronts his many enemies, such as Phillip Capet of France. And while the battles, sieges, and physical combat are important aspects to the tale, it is human emotion that fuels it. Page after page replete with unbridled passion, the consequent fear of loss or betrayal, and the cruel nightmares inhabiting Henry’s mind are what make this story, and indeed the whole series an excellent read. 5 Stars

Note: I received a review copy of Swords of the King in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Charlene Newcomb lives, works, and writes in Kansas. She is an academic librarian by trade, a former U.S. Navy veteran, and has three grown children. When not working at the library, she is still surrounded by books and trying to fill her head with all things medieval. Books I & II of the Battle Scars series are B.R.A.G. Medallion honorees; Book II was a finalist in the Chaucer Awards for pre-1750 Historical Fiction & recipient of numerous accolades. Char is a huge Star Wars fan and has contributed short stories to the Expanded Universe featuring an underground rebel freedom fighter, http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Alexandra_Winger. Char loves to travel, and enjoys quiet places in the mountains or on rocky coasts. But even in Kansas she can let her imagination soar. Find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog.
Blog: https://charlenenewcomb.com/blog/ Facebook: https://facebook.com/CharleneNewcombAuthor and Twitter https://twitter.com/charnewcomb

The Cold Light of Dawn-The King’s Greatest Enemy IV – by Anna Belfrage

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It is with great pleasure that I begin this HFVBT of the latest from Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy.

First, a brief summary:

After Henry of Lancaster’s rebellion has been crushed early in 1329, a restless peace settles over England. However, the young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, no matter that neither Queen Isabella nor Roger Mortimer show any inclination to give up their power. Caught in between is Adam de Guirande, torn between his loyalty to the young king and that to his former lord, Roger Mortimer.

Edward III is growing up fast. No longer a boy to be manipulated, he resents the power of his mother, Queen Isabella, and Mortimer. His regents show little inclination of handing over their power to him, the rightful king, and Edward suspects they never will unless he forces their hand.

Adam de Guirande is first and foremost Edward’s man, and he too is of the opinion that the young king is capable of ruling on his own. But for Adam siding with his king causes heartache, as he still loves Roger Mortimer, the man who shaped him into who he is.

Inevitably, Edward and his regents march towards a final confrontation. And there is nothing Adam can do but pray and hope that somehow things will work out. Unfortunately, prayers don’t always help.

The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king.

My Review:

One of the things I like to do while driving is to look for hawks in the trees or soaring overhead. There is a small copse of trees in the median between the north and south bound lanes of I-95 near exit 19 in MA where I have observed a pair of red tail hawks perching near each other. Today confirmed that they are a breeding pair as they were going at it when I drove by. I thought it was so romantic that I decided to name them Kit and Adam after the main protagonists in Anna Belfrage‘s series The King’s Greatest Enemy.  It is only fitting given the fact that throughout the course of this brilliant series, it becomes very apparent that Kit and Adam really, really like each other. An important aspect to the story, their struggles; emotionally and physically, are but a piece of the tense filled atmosphere surrounding the royal court. Thinking that Edward III is still too young to rule without their guidance and powerful influence, Mortimer and Isabella seek out the plots that would bring them down. Adam is torn between his love (and first allegiance) for Mortimer and his sworn oath and loyalty to Edward; Kit is torn between her duty to Queen Phillipa and her feelings toward Isabella. Throw in a few plot twists – strained friendships; return of old enemies; extreme physical endurance, to go along with the strains and schisms at court and you, my dear reader, are in for a page turning, emotional roller coaster ride of a tale.  5 Stars and the highly sought after Hoover Book Review’s “It’s tough to put this book down” Award.

About the Author

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Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 26
Review at Historical Fiction Reviews

Tuesday, February 27
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, February 28
Review at A Holland Reads

Thursday, March 1
Feature at What Is That Book About

Friday, March 2
Review at Book Drunkard

Monday, March 5
Review at A Bookaholic Swede

Tuesday, March 6
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Wednesday, March 7
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, March 9
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Monday, March 12
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, March 13
Guest Post at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, March 15
Feature at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 16
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, March 19
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, March 21
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Feature at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, March 22
Review at Back Porchervations

Friday, March 23
Feature at Button Eyed Reader

Monday, March 26
Review at Just One More Chapter

Wednesday, March 28
Review at Broken Teepee
Review at Impressions In Ink

Friday, March 30
Review at Bookramblings

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a complete set of The King’s Greatest Enemy series to one winner & two winners will win a paperback copy of The Cold Light of Dawn! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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An Argument of Blood by J.A. Ironside & Matthew Willis

 

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It is my privilege to be part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for An Argument of Blood. First, a brief summary of the story:

William, the nineteen-year-old duke of Normandy, is enjoying the full fruits of his station. Life is a succession of hunts, feasts, and revels, with little attention paid to the welfare of his vassals. Tired of the young duke’s dissolute behaviour and ashamed of his illegitimate birth, a group of traitorous barons force their way into his castle. While William survives their assassination attempt, his days of leisure are over. He’ll need help from the king of France to secure his dukedom from the rebels.

On the other side of the English Channel lives ten-year-old Ælfgifa, the malformed and unwanted youngest sister to the Anglo-Saxon Jarl, Harold Godwinson. Ælfgifa discovers powerful rivalries in the heart of the state when her sister Ealdgyth is given in a political marriage to King Edward, and she finds herself caught up in intrigues and political manoeuvring as powerful men vie for influence. Her path will collide with William’s, and both must fight to shape the future.

An Argument of Blood is the first of two sweeping historical novels on the life and battles of William the Conqueror.

And the review:

An entertaining tale of William the Conqueror (or Bastard, depending on who’s talking), as a young man shaken out of his young man’s revelry and into the harsh reality of life as a Duke.  It is also a tale of Godwin’s youngest daughter, Aelfgifa, the unlovely, yet extremely intelligent girl who finds herself a player in the game for the English throne of the heir less Edward.  The authors have combined to deliver an intriguing look at how these early years led to the eventual history making/changing year of 1066.  The characters come alive, the youthful exuberance of William turning into a fierce determination, the misjudging and dismissal of Aelfgifa are perfect examples, and by no means the only ones.  It was a strange time and everyone who has the slightest link to the throne gets involved, and while this is all historical fact, it takes a good fiction writer, or in this case fiction writers, to take that history and piece together a tale that falls into the realm of believable possibility.  We all know the outcome awaiting William, but it is still an intriguing take on the path leading to his destiny, and an intriguing look at the easy to overlook woman who played an important part in that destiny.  4.3 stars and am looking forward to the sequel.

About the Authors

J.A. Ironside (Jules) grew up in rural Dorset, surrounded by books – which pretty much set he up for life as a complete bibliophile. She loves speculative fiction of all stripes, especially fantasy and science fiction, although when it comes to the written word, she’s not choosy and will read almost anything. Actually it would be fair to say she starts to go a bit peculiar if she doesn’t get through at least three books a week. She writes across various genres, both adult and YA fiction, and it’s a rare story if there isn’t a fantastical or speculative element in there somewhere.

Jules has had several short stories published in magazines and anthologies, as well as recorded for literature podcasts. Books 1 and 2 of her popular Unveiled series are currently available with the 3rd and 4th books due for release Autumn/ Winter 2017.

She also co-authored the sweeping epic historical Oath and Crown Duology with Matthew Willis, released June 2017 from Penmore Press.

Jules now lives on the edge of the Cotswold way with her boyfriend creature and a small black and white cat, both of whom share a god-complex.

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Matthew Willis is an author of historical fiction, SF, fantasy and non-fiction. In June 2017 An Argument of Blood, the first of two historical novels about the Norman Conquest co-written with J.A. Ironside, was published. In 2015 his story Energy was shortlisted for the Bridport short story award.

Matthew studied Literature and History of Science at the University of Kent, where he wrote an MA thesis on Joseph Conrad and sailed for the University in national competitions. He subsequently worked as a journalist for Autosport and F1 Racing magazines, before switching to a career with the National Health Service.

His first non-fiction book, a history of the Blackburn Skua WW2 naval dive bomber, was published in 2007. He now has four non fiction books published with a fifth, a biography of test pilot Duncan Menzies, due later in 2017. He currently lives in Southampton and writes both fiction and non-fiction for a living.

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During the Book Blast we will be giving away a signed copy of An Argument of Blood


To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.

– Only one entry per household.

– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Enter the giveaway here

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