Blog Tour for A. B. Michaels, author of “The Madness of Mrs. Whittaker”

To follow this blog tour post, please visit The Hist Fic Chickie’s new roost – https://thehistoricalfictionpress.com/post/blog-tour-featured-spotlight-book-excerpt-for-the-madness-of-mrs-whittaker-by-a-b-michaels

All future blog tour stops will be at our new address!! Thanks for stopping – we hope you follow us there!!

BLOG TOUR – “Sisters at War” by Clare Flynn

I’d like to welcome Clare Flynn to the blog today on her blog tour for “Sisters At War”, a heart-tugging tale of the sisterly bond between Judith and Hannah amidst the chaos of war.

BLOG TOUR BOOK REVIEW

5 stars

This book is proof that you can take the simple relationship of two ordinary young women, two sisters, and turn a spotlight on them in the midst of the incredible chaos around them, and the result? Simply great story-telling.

This family living together at the Laurels, a modest home in Liverpool, during WWII is simple and stunning in the way you are a fly-on-the-wall into their lives. Every conversation is filled with emotion, despair, survival, disappointment, fear, and ultimately, love. I was particularly moved by the next door neighbor who at one point loses his cat, and his grief morphs into other losses in his life. I can relate to this in so many ways and I think anyone else who reads this will get the sense of why characters like this are vital in books. A character on the fringes of these two sisters lives, but so very necessary.

This book also deals with the racial cruelties during the war, and not just those thrust upon the Jewish community by the Germans. I was quite taken back in reading of the treatment of British citizens of Italian descent when Mussolini joined Hitler in the fight. And then I was thrilled with the sudden journey to Australia, a land which must have felt like a peaceful haven while the rest of the world was on fire, even for those prisoners who were sent there.

I definitely hope there is another book to come along. I want to know more about these two sisters and where life takes them after the war.

I give this book five-stars and I received this book through Netgalley.

Book Title: Sisters at War

Author: Clare Flynn

Publication Date: 1st May 2021

Publisher: Cranbrook Press

Page Length: 314 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Sisters at War

By Clare Flynn

BLURB

1940 Liverpool. The pressures of war threaten to tear apart two sisters traumatised by their father’s murder of their mother.

With her new husband, Will, a merchant seaman, deployed on dangerous Atlantic convoy missions, Hannah needs her younger sister Judith more than ever. But when Mussolini declares war on Britain, Judith’s Italian sweetheart, Paolo is imprisoned as an enemy alien, and Judith’s loyalties are divided.

Each sister wants only to be with the man she loves but, as the war progresses, tensions between them boil over, and they face an impossible decision.

A heart-wrenching page-turner about the everyday bravery of ordinary people during wartime. From heavily blitzed Liverpool to the terrors of the North Atlantic and the scorched plains of Australia, Sisters at War will bring tears to your eyes and joy to your heart.

Buy Links: 

Universal Link: 

https://books2read.com/sistersatwar

Amazon UK: https://amazon.co.uk/dp/B08Z473XG2 

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Sisters-War-wartime-voyage-across-ebook/dp/B08Z473XG2/

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Sisters-War-wartime-voyage-across-ebook/dp/B08Z473XG2 

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Sisters-War-wartime-voyage-across-ebook/dp/B08Z473XG2/ 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/sisters-at-war-1

Author Bio:

Clare Flynn is the author of thirteen historical novels and a collection of short stories. A former International Marketing Director and strategic management consultant, she is now a full-time writer. 

Having lived and worked in London, Paris, Brussels, Milan and Sydney, home is now on the coast, in Sussex, England, where she can watch the sea from her windows. An avid traveler, her books are often set in exotic locations.

Clare is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of The Society of Authors, ALLi, and the Romantic Novelists Association. When not writing, she loves to read, quilt, paint and play the piano. 

Social Media Links:

Website: https://clareflynn.co.uk/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/clarefly

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorclareflynn 

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Clare-Flynn/e/B008O4T2LC/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6486156.Clare_Flynn 

Instagram https://instagram.com/clarefly 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/clareflynn/ 

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/clarefly/ 

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/clare-flynn

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR

The Hist Fic Chickie is moving!

Official announcement – the Hist Fic Chickie blog is moving to our new website base and the domain http://www.histficchickie.com will be redirected to our new blog base at http://www.thehistoricalfictionpress.com/hist-fic-chickie-blog

I’d love for all the followers here on WordPress to come subscribe to the blog there so you can continue to keep us with the book reviews, podcast episodes, and my own ramblings about historical fiction.

Over at the new website, you will find incredible pages packed with EVERYTHING for historical readers and authors – a bookshop, book awards, editorial reviews, writer research resources, author services, and even a cute little gift shop with unique gifts for readers and writers, alike. Plus, this blog.

Just one more week and when you click on http://www.histficchickie.com you will end up at the new website. I appreciate all the support here on WordPress but the time has come to expand and offer MORE to fans of historical fiction. Everything you loved about this place is still there, plus more. Come check it out!

https://www.thehistoricalfictionpress.com

Author Takeover with Jim Metzner

In conjunction with The Historical Fiction Club on Facebook, I welcome to the blog, Jim Metzner, during his author takeover on Monday, June 7th. If you would like to join the takeover, please join the club here: The Historical Fiction Club

Author Bio

Jim studied acting at Yale Drama School and enjoyed a brief career working as a singer-songwriter in London, opening for TRex, Free, and Pink Floyd! He has been producing sound-rich audio programs since 1977, including Pulse of the Planet, which has been on the air since 1988 and is now heard widely as a podcast.

For many years, Jim produced features and commentaries for All Things Considered, Marketplace, Weekend Edition, and other public radio programs. He has recorded all over the world and received major grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Grammy Foundation. Stories about his work have appeared in Audio Magazine, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic, The Today Show, and the CBS Evening News. His forty-year archive of sounds is now reposited in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

A bee-keeper and avid fly-fisherman, Jim resides in New York’s Hudson River Valley with his wife Eileen.

For more information visit jimmetznerproductions.com and sacredmoundsnovel.com

Buy the Book: https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Metzner/e/B087CB75ZT

Book Blurb:

“This is a rollicking, thought-provoking, rollercoaster of a novel. It’s time traveling on steroids, but it asks big questions. Bravo!” – Ken Burns, filmmaker

“A rich, complex tale of supernatural heroism. The novel folds ancient traditional wisdom into the seams of its story with the author’s well-honed narrative skills, delivering the tastes and flavors of its mingling times and cultures with ease and aplomb. One ends up feeling not like an onlooker, but an active participant in the events. The book, from this perspective, is hard to put down. It’s a page-turner, but an intelligent one; one that asks more questions than it answers and left, for one, this reader hoping for a sequel.” – Lee Van Laer, Senior Editor, Parabola Magazine

“The tribe’s descent from late prehistoric mound builders connects the Natchez people to one of North America’s most intriguing puzzles. Archaeologists know how the earthworks were built, but excavations cannot reveal what these monuments meant to the native people who built them. With Sacred Mounds, Metzner embraces the mystery to weave a story across time and cultural boundaries.” – Jim Barnett, author of The Natchez Indians: A History to 1735

“Awesome! Jim Metzner has imbued a page-turner of a book with esoteric truth half-revealed behind a somewhat violent drama. There are keys to a meaningful life hidden behind the carnage. A great read. Can’t wait for the movie!” – Lillian Firestone, author, The Forgotten Language of Children

My Interview with USA Today Bestselling Author, Kristin Gleeson

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-qpttf-1055e20

I am welcoming to the show today, USA Today Bestselling author, Kristin Gleeson, author of the Rise of the Celtic Gods Series, The Highland Ballad Series, and The Renaissance Sojourner Series of historical novels.

To buy her books, please visit here: Kristin Gleeson’s Amazon Author Page

Featured Spotlight – Sarah Kennedy, author of “Queen of Blood”

Today I welcome Sarah Kennedy, author of Queen of Blood to the blog today on her blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club. We have the great privilege to read an excerpt of her book, and I hope you enjoy:

BOOK EXCERPT

Excerpt from Queen of Blood by Sarah Kennedy

On the same day that Mary Tudor was to be crowned Queen of England, a letter arrived at the Davies House in London. Catherine Havens Davies had travelled back from Yorkshire earlier than she had meant to, in order to see the unlikely event—a Catholic placed back on the throne, a woman ruling England—and, still dazed from days on muddy, leaf-smeared roads, she thought the message must be from the court. An invitation to attend a special Mass, maybe, in celebration. The Roman Catholic Church would be the Church of England again, after all. The priests were already poised for reinstatement at their altars. Silver chalices and dusty statues of the Virgin were being dragged out of vaults and false-bottomed chests, and the butchers at various shambles were, no doubt, sifting through their piles of discarded bones, looking for possible relics. The Bishop of Winchester was now the Lord Chancellor, because he had got it from the mouth of God Himself that Mary was the legitimate heir of Henry VIII and must rule their island. They would have a woman at their head; a city of ladies, at last. It was all that Catherine had ever hoped for.

Catherine laid her hand on her lap. Her flat belly felt hollow, but she could still recall, after all these years, the delight, and fear, of knowing a new child swelled there. The last had been a baby conceived out of wedlock and the cause of much shaming, mostly, she had to admit, among other women. But after all these years, Mary had surely forgiven her for marrying the baby’s father and keeping the child. All would be well now. Her past sins and errors were behind her, and Catherine would live in peace with her daughters and her queen and her God, for the rest of her days.

She considered the fine, thick paper and let her fingers slide over its surface. She might have remained chaste and alone, like other former nuns. Chaste and bitter, and old, now. How many convents would be opened again, to welcome them back in? She knew that her first marriage had been approved because money had changed hands, but the slick passage of gold from one hand to another had smoothed the passage of others to the places they wanted to go. Why should she be different? She hadn’t chosen the convent, after all. That had been another’s doing, as was the case for so many women.

Catherine turned over the letter, and in the buttery candlelight of her private chamber, the Wittenberg seal blazed. It was not from the queen. This could only have come from one person. She almost tore the missive itself in breaking the wax. Rubbing the grit from her eyes, she squinted at the familiar, tight script, and she must have called out, because her husband Benjamin, still in his night shirt, appeared in the doorway. “What is it?” he said.

“My son,” said Catherine, still reading. “Robbie says that he will return to England.” She handed it over.

“As soon as this? And at this time? He surely knows that we’ll be Catholic again?” Her husband scanned to the signature and set the letter aside. “Maybe the air of religious reform smells less sweet when it blows through a university instead of a king’s chamber. I hope he’s been studying his Latin.” Benjamin, from behind, wrapped his arms around Catherine’s shoulders and laid his cold palms against her bare chest. She gasped and pushed backward, into his belly. “Let’s back to bed,” he said. “It’s too wintery today for crowning queens.”

“He is coming through Kent. My son, I mean.” Catherine leaned away from her husband and dragged a brush through her hair, letting the long strands settle onto Benjamin’s arm, and when she set it down she saw a white one wound into the bristles. “Look here.” She held it to the window light. “I am almost thirty-nine years old. I grow ancient.” She wrapped the silver thread around her finger and cast it toward the fire, listening for the whisper of a hiss. “Do you think Robbie has really had enough of the Lutherans?”

Benjamin urged her backward. “To bed.”

She shivered and let him pull her up, into his arms. Benjamin had thickened in the ten years of their marriage, but so had Catherine, a little. He swung her around and laid her on the sheets, then lumbered over her and grinned down. “You will never be too old for me.”

She knew his body, and his ways, and they were playful in bed, unhurried and relaxed, Catherine growing giddy in the stomach. They spent themselves without fear or shame, and when Benjamin lay afterward on his back, one arm behind his head, he said, “I will ride to Dover and meet him, if you wish it. He will stay here, with us.”

Catherine turned onto her side and propped her head on her hand. “Will he, do you think?”

“Where else? I promised you I would try to be a father to the boy, and I will.”

“I will send him a welcome from us both. Perhaps they have heard over in Wittenberg how kindly the queen has spoken of her Protestant subjects.”

“Let us hope she maintains that generosity of spirit,” said Benjamin.

“She will. I’m certain of it.” A wet leaf smacked against the pane by Catherine’s side, and stuck to the glass like a dead hand. She yawned and a giggle caught in her throat. “I should dress. Let the girls stay at home this day. The sky threatens rain.”

Benjamin rose and poked at the fire. Then he lifted the letter and looked at it. Set it down. “Let that be the only threat we feel.”

When she was alone again, Catherine put on her clothes herself. The maids were probably all downstairs gossiping about the coronation parties, and she didn’t want to hear it. Few people mentioned the convent to her anymore. She had almost forgotten what it felt like, to be the subject of sideways smirks, the half-finished speculations about fortunate times for a former nun and having two husbands and Jesus as well. She’d only been a novice, after all. And now she would be a good Catholic woman, as she had tried to be in the convent, and if she was married now, who could dare to be her judge?

Her queen. And suddenly, her son. Catherine covered her head and peered into the mirror, stretching back the skin of her cheeks. She had not had so much as a word from Robbie since the summer, when he had sailed off without a backward glance. His Protestant king Edward was dead, and when Guildford Dudley had been hauled to the Tower with Jane Grey, he had fled, claiming that he would never put his neck under the foot of a queen allied to Rome. Or any queen, for that matter.

And yet, he was coming back. And the queen was speaking of mercy and peace. All would be well, and with her son at home, the world would be an Eden again. Catherine took up the letter again. The boy knew no one in Kent. Did he? The leaf at the window lost its grip and fell. Its damp shadow faded, and Catherine rose, rubbing her arms. Her son was coming home. She shuddered in the cold and tried to feel again that fluttering in her stomach. She was happy. She told herself that she was sure of it. Today could hold nothing but good news.

Book Title: Queen of Blood

Series: The Cross and the Crown, Book 4

Author: Sarah Kennedy

Publication Date: 26th  March 2021

Publisher: Penmore Press

Page Length: 321 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Queen of Blood 

(The Cross and the Crown, Book 4)

By Sarah Kennedy

(Blurb)

Queen of Blood, Book Four of the Cross and the Crown series, continues the story of Catherine Havens, a former nun in Tudor England. It is now 1553, and Mary Tudor has just been crowned queen of England. Still a Roman Catholic, Mary seeks to return England to its former religion, and Catherine hopes that the country will be at peace under the daughter of Henry VIII. But rebellion is brewing around Thomas Wyatt, the son of a Tudor courtier, and when Catherine’s estranged son suddenly returns from Wittenberg amid circulating rumours about overthrowing the new monarch, Catherine finds herself having to choose between the queen she has always loved and the son who seems determined to join the Protestants who seek to usurp her throne.

Buy Links

Universal Link: mybook.to/QueenofBloodBookFour

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1950586758

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Blood-Sarah-Kennedy/dp/1950586758

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1950586758

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/1950586758

Author Bio

Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy is the author of the Tudor historical series, The Cross and the Crown, including The Altarpiece, City of Ladies, The King’s Sisters, and Queen of Blood. She has also published a stand-alone contemporary novel, Self-Portrait, with Ghost, as well as seven books of poems.  A professor of English at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia, Sarah Kennedy holds a PhD in Renaissance Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing.  She has received grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://sarahkennedybooks.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KennedyNovels

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarah.kennedy.520125

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Kennedy/e/B0054NFF6W

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6538009.Sarah_Kennedy

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR

Author Takeover with J. L. Oakley

In conjunction with the author takeover at The Historical Fiction Club, I’d like to welcome to the blog, J. L. Oakley, the author of The Jossing Affair, The Quisling Factor, and so many more!

The author takeover is on May 31st at the Club – JOIN HERE

Author Bio

Janet Oakley, writing as JL Oakley. writes award-winning historical fiction that spans the mid-19th century to WW II. Her characters, who come from all walks of life, stand up for something in their own time and place.

Her writing has been recognized with a 2013 Bellingham Mayor’s Arts Award, the 2013 Chanticleer Grand Prize for TREE SOLDIER, 2015 WILLA Silver Award for TIMBER ROSE and the 2016 Goethe Award Grand Prize for THE JØSSING AFFAIR. MIST-CHI-MAS, set on San Juan Island after the Pig War, is an 2018 IndieBRAG Medallion book, 2018 WILLA Award finalist and won second place in the Will Rogers Medallion Award, Western Romance.

Though she has lived in the Pacific NW for many years, she has also lived in Hawaii, Washington DC and Pittsburgh. She has been a guide at Mission Houses in Honolulu, a museum educator at a small NW county museum, and a Humanities Washington speaker.

When not writing, Janet demonstrate 19th century folkways. She can churn some pretty mean butter.

To view her books, go to her Amazon Author Page here

BLOG TOUR – “Saving Grace” by H. D. Coulter

I am welcoming H. D. Coulter to the blog today on her blog tour for “Saving Grace”! Scroll down for details, for a book excerpt, and my review!

Book Title: Saving Grace: Deception. Obsession. Redemption.

Series: The Ropewalk series, Book 2

Author: H D Coulter

Publication Date: 11th May 2021

Publisher: Independently Published 

Page Length: 330 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Blurb:

Beacon Hill, Boston. 1832.

“You are innocent. You are loved. You are mine.”

After surviving the brutal attack and barely escaping death at Lancaster Castle, Beatrice Mason attempts to build a new life with her husband Joshua across the Atlantic in Beacon Hill. But, as Beatrice struggles to cope with the pregnancy and vivid nightmares, she questions whether she is worthy of redemption.

Determined to put the past behind her after the birth of her daughter Grace, Bea embraces her newfound roles of motherhood and being a wife. Nevertheless, when she meets Sarah Bateman, their friendship draws Bea towards the underground railroad and the hidden abolitionist movement, despite the dangerous secrets it poses. Whilst concealed in the shadows, Captain Victor Hanley returns, obsessed with revenge and the desire to lay claim to what is his, exposes deceptions and doubts as he threatens their newly established happiness.

Now, Beatrice must find the strength to fight once more and save Grace, even if it costs her life.

Buy Links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08YWBZRQY

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08YWBZRQY

Universal Link to other bookshops: https://books2read.com/u/38QrBV

Ropewalk; Rebellion. Love. Survival (The Ropewalk Series, Book 1) is only 0.99 on ebook during the tour. Here are the buy links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08MKZW4S5

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08MKZW4S5

Universal Link to other bookshops: https://books2read.com/u/bxjlQd

Author Bio:

H D Coulter

Hayley was born and raised in the lake district and across Cumbria. From a young age, Hayley loved learning about history, visiting castles and discovering local stories from the past. Hayley and her partner lived in Ulverston for three years and spent her weekends walking along the Ropewalk and down by the old harbour. She became inspired by the spirit of the area and stories that had taken place along the historic streets.

As a teacher, Hayley had loved the art of storytelling by studying drama and theatre. The power of the written word, how it can transport the reader to another world or even another time in history. But it wasn’t until living in Ulverston did she discover a story worth telling. From that point, the characters became alive and she fell in love with the story.

Social Media Links:

Website: https://hdcoulter.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/coulter_hd

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hd.coulter/?hl=en

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hdcoulter

Sign up to Hayley’s newsletter between now and May 30th to be placed into a giveaway raffle for a personalised BookBox, including a signed copy of Ropewalk and Saving Grace.

http://eepurl.com/hjgxYf

BOOK EXCERPT

Chapter 15

The following day, Beth collected the new emerald dress from Miss Julie’s and Sarah helped Bea prepare for the gala. There were so many questions she still had after her experience of the meeting house, but now was not the time. Instead, Bea was more concerned with convincing a group of social-climbers that she was as much one of them as it was possible to be.

“May I come in?” Beth peered around the door.

“Of course, come and sit next to me, and help calm my nerves.” Bea reached out a hand for Beth to take. “I wish we could have secured a place for you to come too. I do not know what I am going to say to these people…”

“You’ll have Joshua there; I am sure he will look after you.”

“We saw it before at the May Day dance, men go off in one corner to talk about work and politics, whilst the women gossip in another.”

She feigned a moustache with one of her curls and pretended to take a puff of a cigar. The three women burst out laughing.

On the other side of the room, Grace stirred from her sleep at the sudden commotion in the room. Instinctively Bea rose from her seat but felt the pressure from Sarah’s hands on her head.

“I’ll get her. You stay and make ready.” Sarah turned her head towards Beth. “Do you mind finishing?”

“It would be my pleasure, like the old days.”

Beth waited for Sarah to exit the room with a now-grumpy Grace in her hands. “I am sure you’ll be fine – you have had time to accustom yourself to things here now, and you are in a better place… in your head. You have a stunning gown which I’m sure Joshua will approve of. Besides: it is just one night, if you find yourself in a huddle of gossipy wives, well – allow them to talk, and simply nod your head like so…” Beth lifted her nose up high and pulled a familiar face, causing Bea to burst out laughing, followed by Beth. 

“I have missed that, laughing. It has been like living in a fog, clouding every thought or action. But recently it seems to have been dissipating, finding I can smile once more. Enjoy the small things; laughing and playing with Grace.” 

“There, done! I haven’t done your hair since the last dance we had in Ulverston, the night you made Joshua fall in love with you.” Beth gave Bea a wink in the mirror.

“I think we both knew there was something there. But so much has happened since. I wonder sometimes if I am the same woman as I was then.”

“A year ago you were still a girl in many ways. Now you are a woman and have lived through so much more. It would make sense you have changed, how could you not? Now you are stronger; you are a wife, a mother and living in a new world.”

Bea shook her hands, as if ridding herself of a wave of emotions. “You are right, I am just being silly.”

“Bea, are you ready?” Joshua shouted from downstairs.

“Am I?”

Beth finished pinning the last braid into the sweeping bun and loose curls. “Yes, all done.” She declared, sealing the hair with a kiss.

Bea stood up, smoothed down her dress and looked at herself in the free-standing mirror. She failed to recognise the woman staring back at her, in a glowing green dress that shone in the candlelight, setting off her warm skin and auburn hair. It gave a curve to her body and an elegance to her frame. “I look like one of them.”

“You look as beautiful as you always do – now go down to your husband.” Beth pushed Bea towards the open door.

Bea could see him standing handsomely at the bottom of the stairs, gazing upwards. He seemed not to have changed since the last dance. How elated she had felt seeing him again there, the daring touch of his hand upon hers – and now they were going together to a gala halfway across the world as husband and wife. Standing at the top of the stairs, she saw his expression change to a delighted smile at the sight of her. One hand on the skirt and the other on the banister. She glided down the stairs towards him. In one move, he grabbed hold of her and pressed her against his body.

“You look radiant. I am a lucky man to be presenting you as my wife this evening,” he whispered into her ear. Something changed in him. Suddenly, they were how they used to be. His mouth met hers as though it were their first kiss all over again, pulling her tight against him, and they both felt a sense of yearning stirring between them that hadn’t been there for a very long while.

Bea skimmed her lips against his. “Do you remember the ball in Ulverston?”

“The night I fell in love with you? How could I forget?” He stole another quick kiss.

“It felt like an unreachable dream – that one day you would be my husband, standing here, holding me. I hope you know how much I love you.” He leaned in and kissed her again. She felt his fingers press into her back, urging their bodies into one. His hands travelled over her. One slid downwards while the other went north. Her skin became hot and flushed under the dress as a new yearning surged inside of her. Reluctantly, he paused.

“I love you too, more that you’ll ever know – and now I almost don’t want to go to the gala.”

Bea felt her cheeks become hotter at his implication. She pulled herself away from his grip.

“We had better say goodnight to Grace.” She lead the way into the sitting room, and with a disappointed sigh, he followed behind her.

They had positioned themselves on a chair, Grace leaning in as Sarah hummed one of her tunes, rocking her back and forth.

Bea quietly crept up and crouched down beside them. “Sweet dreams my darling, I will see you soon.” Grace, on hearing her mama’s voice, turned and smiled at Bea, but her eyes widened in awe at the sight of the magnificent green dress.

“She will be fine. You go and enjoy yourselves. I will keep her in with me tonight.”

“If she needs a feed, bring her in.” Sarah smiled, seeing Bea’s anxiety at leaving her child for the first time.

“Of course.”

“Sarah and Beth will take good care of her.” Joshua leaned in a little closer, placed a kiss on his hand, and gently laid it upon Grace’s head. “Good night, my sweetheart.”

Bea could hear Grace moaning as she walked towards Beth, holding out Bea’s cloak. 

“If we need you, I will send word to you.” Beth replied, reading Bea’s face, and the question written all over it. 

“Thank you.”

“Now – you go and dance the night away.”

Joshua smiled at Beth as he grabbed hold of Bea’s hand, drawing her towards the carriage waiting outside.

*

The house was lavish, a real spectacle of Mr Goldstein’s wealth and power within the community, sitting proudly on the northern side of Beacon Hill. Carriages waited their turn to deposit strings of guests in front of the two front pillars, made up of the crème de la crème of the city money-makers, amongst them all, a former Ropemaker’s daughter. But tonight, Bea was not just her Da’s daughter; she was the wife of a successful business manager; she reminded herself. She noticed Joshua tilting his head at certain men as they passed by in the hallway. He strolled into the principal room as though he had always belonged there, tall and proud, comfortable in his own birth-class once more.

“Don’t look so nervous,” he whispered into her ear, “you belong here too.”

Bea nodded. Her throat had become dry and her hands were sweaty as she noticed some women staring at the new arrival in their midst.  

Joshua felt her body tense against his and guided her towards the refreshment table. “This should help.” He handed her a glass of champagne and took one for himself.

The bubbles popped in her mouth and caused a fizzy sensation on her tongue. She couldn’t help but giggle. “That’s better.” He lent forward and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

She smiled. As the champagne disappeared, so did the fear.

“Shall we dance, Mrs Mason?”

“I think we shall, Mr Mason.”

Joshua guided her onto the dance floor as the music began. It was a quadrille. Joshua beamed at her, seeing how much of her old self had returned. Then they both remembered: they still didn’t know the steps confidently to a quadrille! A laugh slipped out from Bea, and she tried to cover it with a dainty cough. They watched the other couples do their steps first, and with their turn, in the middle, Joshua took her hand and leaned in close so that no one else could hear: “I love you.”

A passionate happiness surged through her body, and for the first time since their courting days, she wished they were alone. Instead, she waited for their next turn and whispered the same sentiment. She stared at him with wonder. How did she deserve such a man? 

“Are you alright?” Joshua whispered, observing a wave of emotions flashing across Bea’s expressions.

“More than, this is wonderful.” She smiled up at him as he placed his arm around her waist, pulling her closer.

“Come with me.” He took her hand in his and weaved them away through the crowd, issuing small nods to anyone he knew.

“Where are we going?” He replied with only a mischievous glance. One of the side doors to the now-empty hall stood ajar, and he pulled her through quickly.

“What- I don’t think they’ll allow us to be in here.” Her eyes darting around the room, making sure they were alone.

It had a musky smell, with a fire crackling in the stuffy air, and worn leather books lining the walls. He let go of her hand and closed the door behind them. Then, in a single movement, he pressed her back against the door and kissed her. It was deep and passionate, reawakening the earlier sensation in her body at the foot of the stairs. She wanted to give in to the moment, to allow all the past inhibitions and trauma behind.

“I’m perfectly happy.” She stroked the side of his face, staring into his sea-blue eyes.

There was a moment of relief and joy reflected in his expression. “I know.”

©H D Coulter

BOOK REVIEW

I received an ARC copy of Saving Grace from the author for an honest review.

Having not read the first installment of this series, which I think is a must for this story, I, at first, felt a little off with the backstory of Bea and all that happened to her in Ropewalk. First and foremost, I do think it is necessary to read Ropewalk first.

That being said, the author does a good job of leading you into the lives of Bea and her husband as they embark on a new life in Boston, away from the former tragedies they left behind in England… or at least, they think. I felt for a long time this was more a story of a husband and wife trying to reconnect after tragedy instead of a story about the little girl, Grace, who lends her name to the title. There was a lot of back and forth, a struggle of reaching out, and of hesitation, between the couple for a long time into the story.

Where I felt the story really really blossomed was the introduction of Sarah’s backstory. I truly wished there was a book all on its own for her voice, and the words leapt from the page with passion and emotion. Her story was necessary to Bea’s story in the end, though, and drew them together in a mutual understanding; all with the goal of saving Grace, literally and figuratively.

What I loved about the story? Everything about Sarah and her struggles. What I didn’t love about the story? I felt a little disconnected to Bea for a long time into the book, but I soon discovered the reasons for her disconnect from those around her and the author skilfully has the reader feeling the same detachment. If that was what she was going for, then bravo!

I give this book four stars and look forward to catching up in reading Ropewalk and finding out what happens next in the third book.

Shakespeare’s Knowledge of Old Drama

Since doing research for my own novel “Blood and Ink”, I have had many people ask me about different aspects in the novel, as to whether or not some of the events actually happened or not. Of course, as I have stated before, I am a fiction writer not a historian; but it is interesting as a writer to take things from the real life and apply them to an imaginary encounter in a novel.

One of the events in my novel is where Shakespeare and his family went to Coventry for a county fair and to see the players perform a “miracle or mystery” play on the stage. Did they really do this and what was Shakespeare’s knowledge of the old drama of the day?

So this post is about the knowledge he had and an excerpt from my novel of a day when he might have visited Coventry.

What were “miracle and mystery” plays? Craig’s The Complete Works of Shakespeare reads “The miracle play, also widely current in England, shows a different variety of religious drama, although mystery plays and miracle plays shade off gradually into each other and are not different in origin. Miracle plays, as distinguished from mystery plays, are those which tell the stories of the lives and miracles of saints and martyrs. English records are preserved in considerable numbers of plays on St. Katherine, St. Laurence, St. Nicholas, and other saints; but the texts of only two or three have been preserved, and they are not representative. To know what when on dramatically in honor of the saints one must study the plays preserved in French. One finds there a variety of saints’ plays as well as the great Miracle de Notre Dame.

There are also the great group of dramatized allegories of varying lengths, known as the morality plays. A number of them, such as The Castle of Perseverance, Mankind, and Everyman, are still in existence. Moralities were less offensive to the taste of the Reformation than were the mystery and miracle plays so that they had a better chance to survive.”

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Shakespeare knew these plays in their old forms, we know this because of his references, along with a bit of ridicule, to various episodes and characters in them. Herod and Termagant, both characters in mystery plays, appear together in Hamlet. Shakespeare compares Falstaff to the Mannington ox which is a reference to the Mannington fair and possible the morals. Falstaff remarks in contempt about Justice Shallow. Both references in I Henry IV of “that reverend vice, that grey iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years” and “that old white-bearded Satan” recalls knowledge of the morality plays.  When Falstaff refers to the flea on Bardolph’s nose as a black soul burning in hell-fire, he may have been referring to the play of the Last Judgment.

Craig’s book also says: “Shakespeare had opportunity to see the old plays, for the Corpus Christi play was performed annually in Coventry, only fourteen miles from Stratford, until he was sixteen years old. It is no extravagant guess that he joined the throng of those who attended the play at the chief city in Warwickshire. In some places in England the Corpus Christi plays continued to be performed until after the beginning of the seventeenth century in spite of the fact that such plays were obviously “blasted with antiquity.” Shakespeare was a child of his time and therefore looked with amusement, if not contempt, on these old-fashioned folk practices.”

Which brings me to my own interpretation of his family’s visit to Coventry. An excerpt from my novel brings the flavor of the day as the Shakespeare family travels on the road toward Coventry for a Mayday fair.

Excerpt from “Blood and Ink” –

The townspeople of Stratford welcomed the drizzly days of May. The ice covering the banks of the Avon melted and laughter came again to the waters beneath Clopton Bridge. William watched the children splashing and playing, jumping from the Roman stone wall holding the bridge in an arch. The wagon he sat upon clacked across the cobblestones, rocking his family from side to side. They were one short on their journey to Coventry this spring, and he looked to the spot where his sister, Anne, would have sat. Little Anne did not make it through the harsh winter and he missed the dimples in her face.

Gilbert nudged William from his dreaming. “I heard Mother say this would be the last year for our trip to Coventry.”

William shrugged his shoulders. “’Tis the same as last year.”

Gilbert scooted closer and lowered his voice. “Nay, ’tis not the same. Father said the council in Coventry has banned the mystery plays. They see it as an old influence of Catholic Mary. You know, watch the plays and scare the common folk to confession.”

“Well, if ’tis banned, then why do we go?”

Gilbert looked to their father whose back was to them as he rallied the horses to Coventry with a click of his tongue. “Father still clings to it, know you this?”

William frowned and pulled his coat closer around his shoulders, still feeling a chill in his bones. Gooseflesh raised on his forearms as he thought of his father’s descent, the meeting with Edmund Campion and the testament he saw his father tuck above a rafter in his workshop three years ago. So much had changed since that talk with his father. Foremost, the capture of Campion. William remembered seeing his father stagger in late from a tavern, his cheeks pale and ashy, but not from too much ale. John slumped in a chair, hanging his head over his hands. Mary and William gathered near to him, sitting on the hearth and urging him to speak. When the words came out, what a tale he relayed.

The lower lid of John’s eyes reddened. “Walsingham arrested Campion, and many others. Edward sent word that his sources at the Tower reported for the past month they subjected Campion to thumbscrews and the clenching jaws of the Scavenger’s Daughter before throwing him into a pit below the White Tower. There is more. Campion crumbled and delivered names to his torturers. After his confession, they dragged him to Tyburn where they burned his innards and quartered him into four parts. His head now sits as food for the ravens atop the ramparts of London Bridge. Edward fears for us all, for the Queen’s wrath will descend upon Warwickshire, headed up by that sinister man, Walsingham. We must learn to suspect strangers in our midst.”

William found it impossible to care about the death of the Jesuit. His thoughts continued dwelling on pursuing his nagging desire for the stage. A day did not pass without his mind tracing over the peculiar dream he had several years earlier in the forest at Park Hall. Yet, his family needed money and, as the eldest, he had to find work. In between tanning hides for his father’s gloving work, setting traps for hares in Charlecote forest, and packing wool in woven bags, he managed a few chances to walk the boards at Burbage’s tavern. The plays usually brief, always staying to the classic lines of Plautus or Seneca, but just enough to keep his blood stirring.

John Shakespeare hid well the cause of his fall from the rest of the family. The thought made William’s skin crawl, for in his father’s demise he brought them all down. His mother turned into a wafting specter, ashy and non-existent, while his siblings bumped about their lives grasping for semblances of their identities, the way for a family of an ambitious man whose star plummets. William squared his shoulders and jaw, setting down a promise in his mind.

I shall never travel that path. When I marry, my family will never suffer from my ambition.

Within the hour, the cart rallied around Wiltshire Wood where the oak tree girths widen and the whispering tales of thieves in the trees fill the air. They topped the hill overlooking a fresh culled wheat field just south of Coventry, green and lush with new growth, and the lilting music of days long past drifted on the wind. Old Celtic ballads plucked upon lutes and lyres, piping and drumming surged through the gathering crowds, beckoning their pagan past. William stood up in the cart and held his hand over his eyes, shielding the spring sun, and scanned the field for the stage. In the distance, past the maypoles adorned with a rainbow of dyed ribbons, two green banners flapped in the breeze embroidered with the arms of the Earl of Leicester. William’s blood raced. He clasped his hands together and laughed, grabbing hold of Gilbert’s shirt.

“Look there, ’tis Leicester’s Men on the stage. If you look for me, there is where I will be.”

William jumped from the cart and sprinted across the emerald field. As he approached, the sights and sounds of players drowned out all notice of the festival. Richard Burbage, William’s longtime friend, saw him from afar and waved to him.

“Will, come join us!”

William touched his hand to the stage, feeling the knots and the grain as he soaked in the sensation pounding within him. He watched the players as they walked around him. They were all there, the statues of his idolatry: William Knell, Tobias Mills, and John Singer, decked in costume. Tarleton, adorned in white face paint and rosy cheeks, sat on the steps tapping upon a tabor. William nodded to him as he rounded the corner of the stage.

Richard came up to his elbow and nudged him. “What say you, Will, shall you join us for a line or two?”

A knot formed in his stomach as he cut his stare to Richard. “What do you mean? To perform with Leicester’s Men? Surely they would not allow it.”

Richard pulled a mask from his cloak. “Who is to know? ‘Tis a masque we perform today. You know Sidney’s masque The Lady of May?”

William huffed. “Know it? Has not every child in Christendom suckled on his works?”

Richard handed him the mask. “Then put this on and we will keep the secret. Master Wilson owes me a favor. I will have you on his mark, so come with me.”

The groundlings gathered before the stage and roared at the clown Tarleton’s prologue, his comic ambles full of religious slights tame enough to keep his head and wild enough to thrill the audience. The masque came next and William hit his queues with finesse, even falling upon the gestures and attitudes like natural rote. As the last exeunt passed and the final bow before a cheering crowd, William gazed out behind his mask upon the faces and heard his calling. His heart soared. At that moment, his eyes fell upon a golden-haired maiden gazing up at him as Andromeda upon Jason. She tilted her head toward him, giggled and wove away into the crowd.

The May dance began. Hundreds of people gathered at the poles, clapping to the rhythm of the pipes and tabors and watching as maidens attired in white laced corsets and flowing blue skirts circled and braided the ribbons of the maypole, in and out, twisting the colors, as their voices soared breathless in laughter and song. William watched only one girl among the virginal flowers, her hair shimmering like struck gold coins dipped and cooled in water, and flowing down her back to her waist.

*****

*Want to read more? Buy the book here: Amazon “Blood and Ink”

*****

So, using a bit of artistic license, I used Shakespeare’s knowledge of the miracle, morality, and mystery plays as food for my own scene in my novel. While these plays, in Shakespeare’s time, affected the population in moral and religious instruction, Craig points out that it also gave them a command of a way of dramatic thinking and a form of literary culture. The plays were so dear to their hearts that they disappeared slowly from the surrounding countryside, from those who still adhered to the old way of thinking. And do we not see the same in our own modern-day theater and film? Culture and drama are still developing and updating, yet many hold on to old ideas, the old miracles, morality and mystery of our day.

To write about men like Shakespeare and Marlowe is to write about ourselves, for in truth, whether 21st century or 17th century, we are still human, influenced by the same wants, needs, and desires. Ambition still rules our hearts, love still moves us, and tragedy shapes our actions. So, to view a slice of their lives, whether in fiction or non-fiction, gives a mirror into our own soul. At least, that is my thoughts… what about yours?

I would love to hear!

Thanks for reading.

D. K. Marley

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