Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lost Children in the Spanish Civil War

Lady Felicity, Charlotte’s mother, decides to support her daughter by helping refugee children during the Spanish Civil War. It wasn’t an easy time for them. Many were sent away to foreign lands, including Scotland where she lived. Once the war was over they were expected to return to Spain, whether or not their parents agreed. Some didn’t wish that to happen because their lives were still not entirely safe. But these children were used as means of political propaganda.

Children were taken from those who had been assassinated, jailed, or where members of families had vanished without a trace. Women were in danger of being arrested simply for supporting their husbands. To have a child in prison was a woman’s worst nightmare. If the infant was fortunate enough to survive the birth it would often be taken from her, and their emaciated mothers could do nothing to save them. The law stated that children could remain in jail with their mothers until they turned three. But many were taken away before that, either because of ill health or were considered to be of the wrong religion, not being Catholics.

In addition, babies were often taken away from their mothers at birth, not only if they were unmarried or jailed, but if they were of a different political persuasion to the fascists. This rule was considered to be of benefit to the couples of the Francoist regime who wished to adopt a child, or sometimes in order to indoctrinate them to agree with the new politics of the state. Even after the war it became a state policy that continued for some years.

Other characters in the story also help with this issue, but won’t go into any more detail, as I’ve no wish to make spoilers. Here’s an extract from Forgotten Women:

Prologue:  
Ventas prison, 1938
My dearest love, Let me assure you that I am well. The silence in the prison cells as thousands of women prisoners wait for the call they dread is deeply distressing. Every night is the same. The guards come in the hour before dawn to select the next victims to be shot by firing squad. The only crime of many of these poor women is to have supported their husband by not revealing his whereabouts, or simply to raise funds for the Republican cause. Even failing to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church with sufficient diligence can result in execution, particularly if the family is of the wrong political persuasion.

Sometimes I feel that anticipating one’s death is almost worse than the actual event itself, rather like waiting to be sacrificed to ancient pagan gods. The agony becomes so intense that desperation grows inside me to get it over with quickly. Each night, when the call finally comes, the eyes of the women being taken go instantly blank, as if they’ve already departed this world and are looking beyond the grim walls of the prison to a life of peace in the hereafter. They walk to meet their fate with pride and courage, dressed in their best, heads shaved.

I confess to breathing a sigh of relief each time I am passed by, even if my heart bleeds for those less fortunate than myself. An emotionally charged silence generally follows, as those of us who have been spared listen for the sound of the shots that mark the end of yet more innocent lives. Some prisoners have had their sentence commuted to anything from ten to thirty years. I can’t recall how much of my five-year sentence I have served here in Ventas prison, or La Pepa as some call it. I’ve lost track. But then time no longer seems relevant. I do hope you are still safe, my darling. I live in hope for the day when this dreadful war is over and we’ll be together again.

Sorry, my love, but I had to stop writing this letter and have returned to it a night or two later. I was interrupted by a heart-rending scream, then forced to watch in agonised silence as a woman frantically fought a guard who was dragging her child from her arms. He strode away with the screaming infant tucked under his arm as if it were no more than a rabbit. Silence descended upon everyone as the poor woman fell into a stupor, realising she had but hours to live. Perhaps she no longer cared, having lost the battle to save her child. The lack of facilities is such that many babies don’t survive birth. Nor do their mothers.

The conditions here are unbearable: fleas, lice and bedbugs, with very little water to drink or wash ourselves. Yet we endure it all without complaint. It’s the safest way. I’ve grown accustomed to battling hunger, dysentery, food poisoning, malnutrition and rat bites, even the regular beatings. But living with the fear of torture, rape and execution is another matter altogether. I try to be brave, as always. Did I write to tell you about the interrogation I had to endure, once I’d recovered from the trauma? Can’t quite remember. I do hope you receive all my letters. I’m so grateful for yours that R brings to me. Reading them daily gives me the will to battle on. 

Must hurry to finish this one as letters are already being passed to friends before the guards come for their next victims. Wedding rings, crucifixes, earrings and other jewellery are also being handed over. I have none left, as I’ve given them all away in payment for food and other necessities. Mothers are whispering a loving farewell to their children, preparing for the worst as they struggle not to shed a tear, fearful of frightening them. Babies are put to the breast to silence them too. Ah, a small voice has started to sing. This happens often, almost as if the women feel the need to indulge in some light relief to make their last hours on earth joyous. I’m singing along with them. Can you hear me in your heart, my darling? 

Sadly the singing has stopped almost instantly at the sound of footsteps clomping on the stone paving that leads to our cells. My heart is racing. The sound of breathing too has almost ceased. Fists are clenched. I hear soft whimpers and cries. The guard has entered and is reading out names. The women called rise at once to their feet, knowing there can be no delay in obeying or more will be taken in retaliation. Five are now standing in line. I am safe. Oh no . . .



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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New Release from Jen Black : QUEEN'S COURIER

Against a background of political intrigue and Tudor violence, love is not easy to find or sustain. The Queen Dowager of Scotland repudiates it and for Matho and Meg the struggle is made more difficult by an outbreak of war between England and Scotland. Disaster looms for them all.....

 EXCERPT:
“Harbottle? What in God’s name d’ ye want to go there for?” A goblet of wine half-way to his mouth, Archibald Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus, stared at his daughter as if she were an imbecile.
“I want to see where I was born.” Meg took her place at table beside her father. “Why is that so silly?”

“The place is stuck in the middle of nowhere, lass, that’s why. There’s a sad excuse for a castle perched above a rocky burn and a hell of a long ride to anywhere. It’ll be raining,” he added morosely. “It was ever raining when I was there.”

Meg chose to ignore the steadily increasing flesh that had all but buried the handsome bones of his face. Loving him did not mean, however, that she agreed with everything he said and did. “As I understand it, you weren’t there very long.”

Angus banged the goblet on the table, anger in his drawn brows, but before he could speak, Meg followed up her attack. “You can’t deny you left your wife there to bear a child and rode off to further your own concerns.”

“Your mother was as hare-brained then as ye are today. Who do ye think had to safeguard what property we had and talk sweetly to Henry of England?” Angus roared his displeasure. “Not your mother, even though Henry was her brother. She expected everything to happen as she wished.”
“Well, why not?” Meg lifted her chin.

“Och, aye.” His eyebrows rose, causing furrows in his forehead. “I didna notice ye an’ James were on such good terms. It’s no’ that simple, Meg. Use your head for a change.”

He had a point. Her half-brother Jamie had never truly accepted her, no matter how much she tried to win his friendship. She softened her tone. “I don’t see what harm it can do, to visit the place where I was born. I’m curious, that’s all.”

“Ye’ll put yersel’ on a platter for the rabble that infests the Borders.” Angus waggled a warning finger under her nose. “If they snatch at ye, a demand for ransom won’t be the worst thing ye face. Most sensible folk would take an escort and head for Berwick.”

“I shall be perfectly safe, Father. When you join the Dowager’s train tomorrow, I shall also leave. The English Warden will meet me at the border and escort me south. A courier has gone on ahead. It is all arranged.” She leant forward, and laid her hand on the velvet of his sleeve. “Don’t worry about me. After all, I am half-English and the king’s niece.”



Queen’s Courier by Jen Black

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Seasons of Change Novels



There are four books in this saga series which begins on the day of the Gethin Pit Disaster in a little village in Wales. Each novel tells the story of a young woman who struggles to cope in the face of adversity. Four strong spirited women living in a man's world.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Mary Robinson - Lady of Passion

I was fascinated by Mary Robinson, or ‘Perdita’, as she’s more commonly known. She was a complex character with flaws of vanity and pride, a predilection for spending but hugely ambitious, and a woman of great courage. Despite these weaknesses I couldn’t help but admire her. She married at just fourteen to Thomas Robinson, under family pressure as was often the case at a time when love was not considered essential in a marriage. The alliance resulted in the young couple spending time in The Fleet for debt, leaving Mary with a determination to seek her own financial security.

The Georgian period has always been a favourite of mine as it resonates so well with our own in many ways. It had style and elegance, but was very much an age of extremes, one almost as celebrity driven and equally beset by debt, if largely due to the national passion for gambling. Mary became close friends with Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, the doyenne of fashion and gambling. Mary too became a fashion icon and renowned beauty, her portrait painted by Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Romney and John Hoppner.

She enjoyed a brief affair with the future George IV when he was just seventeen, and rather naively expected him to stay true. With her reputation ruined and her career lost, she fought a long political battle for recompense, assisted by Charles James Fox. Unlike many courtesans, she was intelligent, a talented actress and gifted poet who did later achieve the promised potential of her youth, despite many disappointments in life and suffering from a crippling disease from a very young age.

It is impossible to accurately diagnose the exact nature of the illness which struck her down one fateful night. Very likely it was an acute form of rheumatic fever that possibly affected the nerves, perhaps caused by an infection during her miscarriage. Quite common at that time. Mary became an early feminist, a writer of Gothic romance in addition to her poetry, largely forgotten today, and despite the considerable pain she suffered, continued writing to her death, becoming known as the English Sappho.

Mary Robinson died practically penniless in 1800, aged 42, of dropsy, a retention of fluid on the chest which causes heart failure, often linked with rheumatic fever. She asked for a lock of her hair to be sent to the Prince, and one to Tarleton, hero of the American War of Independence and the love of her life. She was buried in a corner of the churchyard at Old Windsor, apparently still wearing the Prince’s miniature. Lady of Passion is entirely based on fact, much of it from her own Memoir, backed up by less emotional biographies.


A beautiful and talented actress, poet and fashion icon, Mary Robinson was one of the most famous women of her time. But Mary was destined always to be betrayed by the men she loved: by her father, a prosperous Bristol merchant who abandoned his family for a life of adventure – and another woman; by her husband, a weak and foolish man who bankrupted the family with his inveterate gambling and humiliated his young wife with his numerous affairs; and by the Prince of Wales, later King George IV, who fell in love with Mary when he saw her playing Perdita in A Winter’s Tale. Mary gave up everything for her prince – her career, her husband and her independence – only to be cruelly abandoned when his affections turned elsewhere. And then she met the love of her life. Could she hope this time it would be different? 

Against the turbulent background of the American War of Independence and the French Revolution, this is the enthralling story of a remarkable woman: a tale of ambition, passion, scandal and heartbreak.

Published by Severn House

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

100 Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme

I am a lover of history and I have a special interest in WWI. I'm not a scholar or an historian. I write stories. I would have liked to have had a career as a WWI historian. Instead, I feature it in my writing.
Books about WWI sit on my bookshelves, I read them for research, and every time I look at them I am in awe of what those men and women went through - the first world war.

It was a time of new awakenings. The world had never experienced anything on such a grand scale before. Wars had been fought before, but they were country against country. This time, this war, it was united armies fighting across vast areas, something not ever seen or done in history.

I can't imagine, or though I do try, how the people felt at this time. Each side believed it was in the right. I don't get into the politics of that era. I believe that unless you lived in that period with the mind set belonging to that era, then we can only surmise how they thought and why.
I prefer to concentrate on the effects of what was happening to the common people.
When I am writing about the war in my stories, I hope I can capture the feeling of what it was like to be in that world at that time.  There was fear, certainly, but also hope and belief in that they were all fighting for the right cause.

My research is based on the English and Australian people and armies. I am Australian born to English parents and I've attended many ANZAC parades and services on ANZAC day in Australia. However, my heritage is completely British and Irish. I had ancestors who fought and died in WWI. I was amazed to find, while researching my family's genealogy, that one my mother's side, there were great + uncles who fought - six brothers from West Yorkshire went to war, and surprisingly four came home as far as I can find out by the records so far. They bet the odds, but still, that family, my family, lost two, maybe three, young men.

Alfred Ellis - King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Died - 2 May 1915

Arthur Ellis - King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Died - 1 July 1916

Arthur died on the first day at the Battle of the Somme. One of the worst battled with the biggest loss of men in British military history. You can find out more about the battle here.

WWI is, without doubt, a changing point in history. A time when women were asked to take the roles only held by men. Women worked in factories, on the land, learned to drive ambulances, became battlefield nurses. They stood up and were accounted for. No longer told to stay by the kitchen sink and look after the children, they had a job to do - they kept the country going.
Strong women and brave men.
We, the future generations, should be so proud of them, our ancestors, for fighting to stay alive, both at home and on the battlefield.


As the years roll by and WWI becomes even more distant, a mere event in history, we should never forget such courageous people who suffered, who buckled down, who stuck together, who got on with the job they were asked to do. They saved us from tyranny. They saved us from invasion. They fought for their country to keep it safe and free.

We should never ever forget their sacrifices.

 We should, and always continue to, educate the younger generations that they live this wonderful carefree existence because of the people who fought, and those that died - for us.

Lest We Forget










Friday, June 24, 2016

Witchchild

The inspiration for my latest historical romance, Witchchild, came from the myths and legends of Robin-the-Devil, a Major Robert Philipson who was reputed to have ridden down the aisle of Kendal Parish Church seeking his enemy, Colonel Briggs. The pair had been in conflict for some time, and Briggs laid siege to Robin’s island home and even sacked his family church at Windermere during the civil war. A house still stands on Belle Isle on Lake Windermere but not the one of the legend.

Sir Walter Scott used this myth to write his poem – Rokeby.

When through the Gothic arch there sprung 
A horseman arm’d, at headlong speed 
Sable his cloak, his plume, his steed.

My research unearthed no real information about the feud and so my writer’s mind devised my own, making the story family and romance oriented. I have changed the names of all characters as they bear no relation to any family in the Lake District. Apart from the inclusion of some of these myths and legends, is entirely fictitious.

 
Lady Rowanna Blamire, the spirited and much-cherished daughter of a Royalist has lived for much of her life in Yorkshire because of a family feud, about which she knows little. But now her grandfather has died, her Parliamentarian uncle, Carus Blamire, has brought her home to Lakeland. His motive is to lay his hands on his niece’s fortune by marrying her to his stepson. When Rowanna refuses, he punishes her rebellious disobedience by auctioning her off for a month’s hard labour to the highest bidder. 

Sir Robert Pennington, a cavalier known as Robin-the-Devil, makes a bid and carries her off to his island home. Is he too seeking possession of her fortune, or simply wishes to bed her? She finds him irresistible, but with the outbreak of civil war hostilities erupt to a far more dangerous level, and the family feud becomes a mystery she needs to resolve. 

Extract:
WHO would buy her? Lady Rowanna’s fearful gaze focused desperately on the distant horizon, the glorious range of mountains bringing some ease to her troubled heart. She felt the June heat of the marketplace thicken as the throng of inquisitive farmers pressed suffocatingly close, making her heart beat all the faster. What was she doing here? What had brought her to this pretty pass? She really didn’t care to consider.

If she turned her head she could see the stocks beneath the ancient oak. It stood in a shady corner of Kendal’s main square where many a recalcitrant daughter or sharp-tongued wife had endured punishment. As she must endure hers. She supposed she should be grateful that her uncle had not subjected her to such pillory. Despite the stocks having been little used in this England of 1645, not since the last witch had been stoned there half a decade ago, Rowanna had feared she might be about to set a new precedent. She’d heard worrying talk lately of witch-finders stalking the land, tormenting innocent girls but none in Westmorland so far, praise be to God.

But what had possessed her uncle to flout family tradition of loyalty to the monarchy and embrace a brand of politics and religion that allowed such diabolical practices, and with such fervour? Could it be hysteria and superstition, or simply his desire for power?

Rowanna looked at the beads of moisture glittering upon his brow, the curl of disdain about his thin mouth, and the hardness in his narrowed eyes. Carus Blamire was lean and scrawny, a man who did not believe in excess, not even in his own flesh. He showed no loyalty or affection, not even towards family members, but believed utterly in his right to dictate and control. She shuddered to think how she was vulnerably in his hands now that her father was dead. Her uncle seemed stubbornly determined to marry her off to his stepson, her cousin by marriage. If he had his way they would be wed before the month was out, thereby giving him the pleasure of revenge on his dead brother. This alliance he planned struck a presentiment of dread in her heart. Nothing would induce her to agree.

Read more of an extract here: www.fredalightfoot.co.uk

 

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Friday, June 17, 2016

The Earliest of England's Castles: Motte & Bailey Castles by Regan Walker


In the course of doing research for my Medieval Warrior series, I learned much about 11th century castles in England. For the most part, the castles erected by William the Conqueror after 1066 were not the stone edifices we think of today, the monuments that remain. The castles the Normans first constructed, the ones built in mere days, weeks or months, were timbered structures erected upon a “motte,” or a mound of earth with a flat top, and surrounded by a deep ditch sometimes filled with water (a moat).

These timbered castles were enclosed with a “palisade”, a fence of wooden poles sharpened to a point at the top. The land inside this palisade would be the “bailey” and would house the outbuildings like the stables, smith and armory. The castle itself included a central tower, the donjon or “keep,” used as a lookout post and built on top of a summit. We call the structures “motte and bailey” castles.

At the end of William’s reign, over eighty such castles had been built throughout England. By 1100, it is believed 400 motte and bailey castles had been erected. To build his castles, William confiscated the land of English nobles and their heirs and gave it to his loyal barons. (By the end of William’s reign, a small group of his tenants had acquired about half of England’s landed wealth.) Typically, that land had a castle as its governing center.


Whenever William the Conqueror wanted to make a statement (or a threat) to the local population, he erected a castle. This happened following the Siege of Exeter and the Battle of York featured in book 1, The Red Wolf’s Prize.

Artist's depiction of the timber castle erected in York
Typically William would leave a garrison of his knights with orders to erect and hold a castle. He had 5,000 knights at his command who could put down rebellions and guard his fortifications. The king was making his point with the populace that he was there to stay and any hope of rebellion was futile.

In Rogue Knight, the Conqueror built two such castles in the city of York in the course of my story.

Building a motte was a skilled achievement. The large mounds of dirt were constructed layer upon layer, with a layer of soil capped by a layer of stones that was capped by another layer of soil. The stone layers were needed to strengthen the motte and to assist drainage.

The larger mottes took longer to build…months, not weeks. The motte at Hampstead Marshall contains 22,000 tons of soil and took fifty men eighty days to construct. The motte at Dover, constructed in eight days, would have required 500 men.

Often, the local people were conscripted into the work, which must have been humiliating for the defeated Anglo-Saxons. There were three phases of castle building under William’s reign, about 80% of which were the motte and bailey castles. Eventually, many of the wooden castles were fortified or replaced with stone structures.

Tamworth Castle
Tamworth Castle in Staffordshire overlooks the River Tame. Its sandstone and herringbone walls are all that survive of the “curtain wall” of the bailey. The first castle was a wooden structure, constructed by the Normans in 1070, but later, it was fortified with stone. Today, it is one of the best preserved Norman motte and bailey castles in England. 


In Rebel Warrior, book 3 in the series, the royal court of Scotland is in a tall stone tower, a fortified hillfort that was considered impregnable. You’ll have to read the book to experience it! 
                                                         
The Medieval Warriors Series:

  “This series captures the medieval era perfectly, creating the true sensation of traveling back in time to experience epic, riveting love stories that ignite the imagination. Beautifully written, perfectly paced and action-packed with passionate love affairs...
What more can you ask?”   —  The Book Review

The Medieval Warriors on Regan's website
On Amazon.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Researching the First World War

For some years I have had a fascination of what is known as the First World War, or the Great War. (World War I 1914 – 1918)
This was a time of enormous change in the world. For the first time countries banded together to fight a common enemy. I’ll not go into the politics of the time or the reasons why the war happened, that is for professional historians to determine, but the effects of the war were far reaching, particularly in Europe.
In Great Britain the changes impacted on all walks of life, from the wealthy to the poor. Women were asked to step into the space left behind by the men who went to war. Not only did they have to work the men’s jobs, but they also had to keep the home running as well. Not an easy task to a female population who was expected to simply marry and have children and keep a nice house. Women of that time were sheltered from the world, innocent. All that was soon to change.

In my book, Where Dragonflies Hover, modern woman, Lexi, finds a diary written by an Australian nurse, Allie.
Allie wrote about her time as a nurse in Great War, and of falling in love with Danny, an English officer. She wrote of her struggles to help injured and dying men who came to her straight from the battlefield, covered in mud and blood.


To write Allie’s story I had to do a lot of research about World War I. I enjoy researching, and because the Edwardian Era is one of my favourite eras, it was no hardship to spend hours reading sources from that time.  
I really wanted to make Allie’s story as real as it could be. One of my research sources was reading, The Other Anzacs by Peter Rees. A truly extraordinary book detailing the true stories of Australian nurses in WWI. A lot of my inspiration came from that book. What those nurses went through was simply remarkable.


Another book I read was The Roses of No Man’s Landby Lyn MacDonald. Another interesting account of what the allied nurses and VADs from other countries went through. These women went from the comfort and security of their homes to the heart of battle zones.  They had to learn new skills swiftly, for even dedicated career nurses had never experienced before the types injuries and wounds they encountered only miles from the front line. Those women had to sustain difficulties they never thought of, for example at times they were food shortages, hygiene hardships, danger from bombings, homesickness and many more problems. Yet, these women, some just young girls, dutifully headed into an alien world without the promise of survival.

It is, of course, impossible for me, or anyone, to know exactly how these women felt during this challenging time, we can only read about their experiences. However, simply reading about them is enough for me to give them my heartfelt gratitude and admiration for what they endured.
I hope I did justice to their stories, to what they gave up and for the sacrifices they made to help us win the war.


Where Dragonflies Hover blurb:

Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …
Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it. 
Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.
Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the ho
use leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …

Excerpt:
The late sunshine enveloped the house in a golden glow. Again, it seemed to call to her, begging for attention. A path on the left of the drive looked inviting as it meandered through a small strand of poplars. Lexi grabbed her keys, locked the car and took off to explore again. She had nothing to rush home to now, and if she got caught for trespassing, then so be it.
The overgrown pathway brought her out on the far side of the grounds near the end of a small lake. She gazed over the water towards the back of the house and noticed a paved terrace area. From there the lawn then sloped down to the water. She’d not been around the back before and fell even more in love with the property. She could imagine the serenity of sipping a cool drink on a hot summer’s day and looking out over the lake.
Lexi stepped out along the bank. A lone duck swam by, its movement serene on the glassy, dark surface. This side of the lake was in shadow from large pine trees, and she stumbled on fallen pinecones hidden in the long grass. On the opposite side of the water were some small buildings, a garage, fruit trees in early blossom, and an overgrown vegetable patch, complete with a broken, rejected-looking scarecrow.
She wandered over to a narrow shed on her left and peered through its sole, dirty window. Unable to make out much in the dimness, she walked around to the front and was surprised when she was able to pull the bolt back on the door. Why didn’t people lock things? A covered rowboat took up most of the space inside. She smiled, seeing herself rowing it on the lake. Growing more excited, Lexi edged around it to peer at the workbenches and the odd assortment of tools and useless things one found in abandoned sheds. It was like treasure hunting in an antique shop. She used to love doing that with her grandfather.
She glanced about and spied a dusty painting leaning against the wall. The scene was of a child and a brown dog. Behind the canvas were more paintings, some framed, some not. Lexi flicked through them. The ones that caught her attention she took out and set aside.
She looked for somewhere to sit and study the paintings. A small tin trunk wedged under a workbench seemed the only offering. Thinking it empty, she went to tug it out, but it remained fast.
Using both hands, she heaved it out and was showered in a puff of dust. Squatting down, she inspected the latch that was held tight with a small lock. ‘Why are you locked?’ she murmured. The shed was open to anyone passing by, yet this ugly little chest had a lock on it. The trunk was nothing special, plain and in parts rusted. No ornament or writing hinted at its use.
Intrigued, she grabbed a hammer from the workbench, but then hesitated. She had no right to open someone else’s property. Lexi closed her eyes momentarily.What was she thinking of breaking into the trunk? What am I doing? Never had she broken the law and here she was guilty of trespassing and breaking and entering! She looked around the rowboat as though expecting someone to jump out and arrest her.
Something inside urged her on. She knew she couldn’t stop now. Sucking in a deep breath, she bent and hit the lock hard. The ringing sound was loud in the quiet serenity of the garden. The metal dented and with another few solid whacks the lock gave.
Shivers of excitement tingled along her skin. Gently, she eased up the lid.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

A visit to a country house: Harewood House

Today I went to Harewood House, near Leeds, to attend the Good Food Festival, aside from the festival it was an opportunity to visit this lovely country house.

The gardens and surrounding parklands were designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. The lake was in the above photo was one of the creations. To prevent the lake leaking they drove cattle and sheep into the basin of it to stomp down the clay before the water filled it.
To learn more about Capabilty Brown visit this link http://www.capabilitybrown.org/



Details inside the house always fascinate me. Below stairs this bell system allows the staff to know which room needs attendance.


The terrace over looking the park and lake.

To learn more about Harewood House you can visit their website. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Longlisted for the HNS Indie Award

I'm happy to tell everyone that the Historical Novel Society reviewed my novel The Craigsmuir Affair and gave it an Editors Choice Award.  I'm still bouncing with pleasure over that, and you can read the review at: https://historicalnovelsociety.org/post_type=&s=craigsmuir+affair&submit=Search

Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite for an entertaining tale set in 1893 when young Daisy and Adam Grey fist meet....

Excerpt:

Clennell Castle, Northumberland, 1893


Daisy Charlton swept the sheaf of papers into her arms, cast a final, satisfied glance around the small room that had been her work place for the last week and then closed the door behind her with a triumphant flourish. She hurried along the gallery toward the stairs, swung one-handed around the newel post and scampered down the first steps into the main body of the library. Now she had time to relax and enjoy herself.
Someone below snapped a newspaper straight.
Diverted, she looked down. A gentleman’s sun-browned hands held a newspaper open. She could see nothing of him but legs clad in riding breeches and brown leather riding boots. Her feet tangled in the folds of her long skirt. Her stomach lurched; she stumbled, missed the shallow tread of the stair and turned her ankle on the edge of the next.
‘No-o-o!’
She grabbed for the banister, missed and pitched forward. Her precious papers sprang into the air and fluttered around her like a cloud of newly released doves. Her hip and shoulder collided painfully with the shallow riser and she yelped as she bounced and rolled down the stairs.
‘Good God!’ The sound of crushed newspaper followed the exclamation.
Daisy struck something hard. Dazed and breathless, she inhaled the mixed scents of smoky sandalwood, starched linen and something spicy like black pepper. She lay unmoving for a long moment and registered a steady, rhythmic thud against her ear. She opened her eyes and stared at the fawn moleskin and engraved silver buttons of a gentleman’s waistcoat. Her right hand clutched the rough tweed of his sleeve. Her left trailed on the parquet floor.

and for the UK -

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Gybford Affair ~ New Release from Jen Black

The quiet life of Frances, Lady Rathmere, is disrupted forever the day Jack, 4th Marquess of Streatham, arrives from London and almost rides her down. At the same time a stranger arrives in the locality, makes a play for her young cousin and scandalous letters accusing Frances of an illicit liaison appear in the national press. Is Jack their author? Frances is convinced he is, and has no idea the trouble those letters are going to bring in their wake.



EXCERPT:
“Gyp! No! You will be soaked!” Rolling to her knees, Frances stared across the grass. Too late. Gyp’s front paws were already in the water. “Gyp! No!
The faint sound of hooves distracted her. At the end of the meadow she saw a flicker of white against dark foliage. Her eyes narrowed. No gentleman of her acquaintance would ride without jacket, gloves and hat on Gybford land. Shirt sleeves were for the gypsy or the common field labourer.
Whoever he was, he turned his horse and hurtled across the ford in a shower of spray. Frances sank back on her heels, frowning. Ought she to be wary? Strangers were rare in the district, though vagrants and gypsies occasionally travelled the old route by the river. Frances opened her mouth to call her dog, and realised that would bring Gyp into the path of the horse.
The vibration from the great iron-shod hooves thudded up through the grass into her spine. Really, there was no need for such speed. One would think the snorting grey was in a race. The rider aimed for the gap between the river and the beech tree and gave no sign of having seen her.
Faster than she would have believed possible, the huge grey horse filled her vision.
Forgetting her dignity, Frances scrambled to her feet and lunged for safety behind the beech tree. She caught a glimpse of the wide-eyed rider gaping at her.
Gyp sprang up from the river bank like a red flame in the sunshine and loosed a loud bark beneath the horse’s nose. The horse veered sharply away from both dog and the river.
The rider flew out of the saddle, struck the bank with his shoulder and disappeared over the edge. Water droplets rose in a huge shower, sparkled for an instant and fell back into the stream.
Frances hesitated, one palm clasped to her mouth, suppressing a breathless urge to laugh. It served him right, really; but she ought not to laugh. One should not mock another’s misfortune.
The stallion snorted, wheeled and tore across the field, hooves flinging clods of grass high in its wake. Gyp followed, barking, but returned when Frances called her name. The horse was in no danger and would soon slow and stop of its own accord.
The rider, however, might need careful handling. She’d suffered similar falls as a child when she had not paid attention to her pony, and knew how foolish he would feel, which might mean an outburst of some kind.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Where Dragonflies Hover now released!

Where Dragonflies Hover is released today! Yay!
I really enjoyed writing this story. It's the first time I wrote a split-era novel (modern/1915).
I think having two strong heroines worked in this case. From the diary she finds, Lexi learns a lot of about life and love from Allie, the diarist.
WWI is an interest of mine. The first World War was a time of change in so many ways. Allie as a nurse experiences first hand the effects of what a tragic and perilous time it was. The biggest thing she learns, however, is that life is short, we never know when our time is up, so make the most of it. I totally agree with that lesson, and it is one that Lexi learns, too.

I hope you enjoy reading Where Dragonflies Hover as much as I did writing it.
AnneMarie Brear

 
 
Where Dragonflies Hover blurb:

Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …

Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it. 
Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.
Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the house leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …

 
Excerpt:

The late sunshine enveloped the house in a golden glow. Again, it seemed to call to her, begging for attention. A path on the left of the drive looked inviting as it meandered through a small strand of poplars. Lexi grabbed her keys, locked the car and took off to explore again. She had nothing to rush home to now, and if she got caught for trespassing, then so be it.
The overgrown pathway brought her out on the far side of the grounds near the end of a small lake. She gazed over the water towards the back of the house and noticed a paved terrace area. From there the lawn then sloped down to the water. She’d not been around the back before and fell even more in love with the property. She could imagine the serenity of sipping a cool drink on a hot summer’s day and looking out over the lake.
Lexi stepped out along the bank. A lone duck swam by, its movement serene on the glassy, dark surface. This side of the lake was in shadow from large pine trees, and she stumbled on fallen pinecones hidden in the long grass. On the opposite side of the water were some small buildings, a garage, fruit trees in early blossom, and an overgrown vegetable patch, complete with a broken, rejected-looking scarecrow.
She wandered over to a narrow shed on her left and peered through its sole, dirty window. Unable to make out much in the dimness, she walked around to the front and was surprised when she was able to pull the bolt back on the door. Why didn’t people lock things? A covered rowboat took up most of the space inside. She smiled, seeing herself rowing it on the lake. Growing more excited, Lexi edged around it to peer at the workbenches and the odd assortment of tools and useless things one found in abandoned sheds. It was like treasure hunting in an antique shop. She used to love doing that with her grandfather.
She glanced about and spied a dusty painting leaning against the wall. The scene was of a child and a brown dog. Behind the canvas were more paintings, some framed, some not. Lexi flicked through them. The ones that caught her attention she took out and set aside.
She looked for somewhere to sit and study the paintings. A small tin trunk wedged under a workbench seemed the only offering. Thinking it empty, she went to tug it out, but it remained fast.
Using both hands, she heaved it out and was showered in a puff of dust. Squatting down, she inspected the latch that was held tight with a small lock. ‘Why are you locked?’ she murmured. The shed was open to anyone passing by, yet this ugly little chest had a lock on it. The trunk was nothing special, plain and in parts rusted. No ornament or writing hinted at its use.
Intrigued, she grabbed a hammer from the workbench, but then hesitated. She had no right to open someone else’s property. Lexi closed her eyes momentarily. What was she thinking of breaking into the trunk? What am I doing? Never had she broken the law and here she was guilty of trespassing and breaking and entering! She looked around the rowboat as though expecting someone to jump out and arrest her.
Something inside urged her on. She knew she couldn’t stop now. Sucking in a deep breath, she bent and hit the lock hard. The ringing sound was loud in the quiet serenity of the garden. The metal dented and with another few solid whacks the lock gave.
Shivers of excitement tingled along her skin. Gently, she eased up the lid.

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Also available in Apple ibooks, etc.