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Monday, 30 January 2017

Book Review: Fair, Bright, and Terrible (Welsh Blades Book 2) by Elizabeth Kingston

A realistic, emotionally powerful historical romance set in a turbulent past. 

This novel was a surprise for me. It's nothing like the first book in this series, THE KING'S MAN (which I also really enjoyed). This story is one of 'second chance romance'. A man and woman, both around forty years of age, who rekindle their relationship 18 years after it ended. It's certainly not a tale for those who prefer lighthearted romance, but if you're ready to tackle a few heavy topics, and deal with a embittered heroine bent on revenge, it's a really rewarding story.

Elizabeth Kingston writes beautifully. She captures the regret, bitterness and hope of Eluned and Robert. One of my favorite quotes in the book was this one - it sums up the conflict between the hero and heroine perfectly:

“To love you was the making of me. But now it is only my undoing.”

I love bittersweet moments.

Eluned isn't an easy woman to like. She's proud, manipulative and scheming. She had an affair with Robert many years earlier when her husband was away but is forced to give up her lover when the realities of life intrude on their private world. The author does a really good job is showing the moment Eluned turns bitter. The heroine can't accept the fact that life isn't hers for the taking, that she cannot have everything she wants - and as a result shuts down her feelings and focuses on political ambition, in schooling her daughter to fight for the Welsh cause.

In contrast, Robert is a truly good man. However, he doesn't let Eluned boss him around or manipulate him. I enjoyed the scenes when he stood up to her. After their marriage - organised by Eluned's son - he is shocked to discover that the carefree, fiesty young woman he remembers is gone. He has spent years loving a woman who only existed in his memory.

The novel is well researched, and gives you a real sense of the political turmoil of the Welsh Marches, and how the Welsh would have felt after years of persecution and bloodshed. It's an intense read, and I believe many women of Eluned's age (which I am!) can relate to some of what she struggles with. Many women (and men!) never get over the disappointment that life hasn't worked out as they had hoped - and Elizabeth Kingston portrays this theme bravely and realistically.

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Buy a copy of FAIR, BRIGHT, AND TERRIBLE on Amazon.com.


Sunday, 29 January 2017

Get a chance to win a paperback copy of THE WHISPERING WIND

Enter to win one of three first edition paperback copies of THE WHISPERING WIND on Goodreads.

Contest closes on February 5 2017 — so make sure you enter soon! Just click on the banner below. 

Good luck! 😊


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Whispering Wind by Jayne Castel

The Whispering Wind

by Jayne Castel

Giveaway ends February 05, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Five stars for THE WHISPERING WIND

I don't often post reviews about my novels on this blog—however, this one for THE WHISPERING WIND was so good that I couldn't resist.

It's always a delight when readers 'get' what I was trying to achieve with a novel, when my characters, setting and story resonate.

I'm pleased, and humbled, when a reader takes the time not only to review one of my books, but to put the time into a thoughtful review like this one from a reader on Amazon.

Enjoy!

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5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Dark Ages manhunt with emotional impact

This is an official request for historical romance readers to move out of their Regency-era and Scottish Highlander comfort zones. Author Jayne Castel had me completely immersed in her Dark Ages world of Northumbria. I could feel the rough clothes abrading my skin, see the poverty of the monks, thrill to a knife battle deep in the woods, and wonder at the power and depravity of an immoral king. This book also packs an emotional punch, since I actually teared up as I read about the desperation of Leofric and Aelfwyn. If you enjoy an emotional, eventful story framed around authentic history (the foreword, afterword and maps are fascinating), then I suggest you pick up books by Jayne Castel.

In the blurb for The Whispering Wind, the reader is informed that Leofric, a monk, finds a woman, Aelfwyn, washed ashore near the impoverished monastery where he is living. The hows and whys of Leofric's exile to the monastery play a key importance to both his personality and the plot. Castel has crafted a character in Leofric that has shades. He is impulsive and vain, kind and thoughtless, cheery and impassioned, proud and stupid. I didn't know what to think of him, and that is what made his character, and his character's journey, so engaging. However, once Aelfwyn enters his life he starts to become a worthy man. I love that he doesn't get it right all of the time, either.

Aelfwyn is a sweet girl marred by tragedy and personal abuse. Her emotional fragility is overwhelming in the beginning, but as the story develops she becomes stronger and more resilient. In the end, she is brave to the point of selflessness, with deep emotional impact on the narrative.

"Her ordeal at Bebbanburg had stripped away her illusions about life, but in doing so it had forged her anew. He [Leofric] noted the iron resolve in her and decided he liked it."

For most of the novel, Leofric and Aelfwyn are being hunted. It adds a desperation, and then a weariness, that even as a reader sitting on a couch I began to feel in my muscles and bones. Although much of the book is devoted to this aspect, it never feels repetitive. The interaction between Leofric and Aelfwyn was appropriate to how strangers in a strange circumstance would act. Adding to the stress is the fact that neither lead character is from the ruling class. That means food, money and loyalties are difficult to come by, and the absence of all three impacts choices. I learned a lot about Northumbria and the vagaries of a Dark Ages class system while Leofric and Aelfwyn were fleeing. Optimism, followed by crushing hopelessness, plagues them. I was enthralled to the thrilling end.

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Intrigued?

Get your copy of THE WHISPERING WIND on Amazon!

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk



Monday, 23 January 2017

Get THE WHISPERING WIND for just 99 cents!

Great news! THE WHISPERING WIND (Book #1: The Kingdom of Northumbria) has been released on Amazon.

As a special Early Bird offer, the Kindle edition of THE WHISPERING WIND is available for the next 48 hours for only 99 cents (or 99p if you're in the UK),

After 48 hours, it's going up to its regular retail price of USD3.49, so make sure you don't miss out!

Get your copy (Kindle and paperback editions available)

Here are the Kindle edition links to the Amazon stores:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

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Getting a novel ready for publication is EXHAUSTING!

Every book is a labor of love—also since I'm an indie writer, the work doesn't end once the editing and proofs are done. I organize cover design, e-book and paperback formatting, uploading, marketing, and then manage the entire launch myself. By the time it's all over, I feel in need of a week lazing on the beach!

I'm really pleased with the final version of THE WHISPERING WIND. This novel is not just a romance, but also an exciting adventure story. Leofric and Aelfwyn are easily my favorite hero and heroine so far. He's a likeable rogue and she's kind and big-hearted. It was sad to say good-bye to them at the end. I'm really proud of this story and hope you all enjoy it.
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Please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads

As many of you will know, I'm an indie author. This means word about my novels spreads one reader at a time! If you'd like to help other readers find my work, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon or Goodreads. I would really appreciate it.

When you've finished the book, just click on one of the links below to leave a review:


Leave a review on Amazon.com
Leave a review on Amazon.co.uk
Leave a review on Goodreads

 

Thanks for all your support. :-)

Monday, 16 January 2017

Sneak preview of THE WHISPERING WIND

Exciting news! THE WHISPERING WIND (Book #1: The Kingdom of Northumbria) will be released on Amazon on 25 January 2017.

This novel tells the story of Aelfwyn and Leofric—two young people who are forced to run from their old lives and forge a new one together. Set in 670 AD, in Anglo-Saxon England, Aelfwyn and Leofric's romance is set in a world dominated by the warrior and the sword. It's a story about redemption and courage.

Find out more about THE WHISPERING WIND

Listen to an introduction to Book #1 of The Kingdom of Northumbria and a reading of the Prologue (recorded by yours truly). Enjoy! :-)



Saturday, 7 January 2017

Review: Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters, #1), by Juliet Marillier

What a beautiful book - one of the best I've ever read.

Where to start ... Juliet Marillier is a wonderful writer. The way she evokes the time and place of the novel is nothing short of spectacular. As this is a historical fantasy romance you don't really know exactly when the story is set but judging from her descriptions of the various cultures and politics of the time I'd say late Anglo-Saxon times, possibly just before the Norman Conquest. It's set in Ireland and Northern England - a world that the author brings to life beautifully.

Sorcha is a strong female lead - the seventh child of an Irish family with six protective elder brothers. First person narration can be tricky to get right but Marillier takes us on a long journey with Sorcha and I never tired of her voice. Her courage, even at times of horror and pain, had me in tears a few times during the book.

Red is possibly my favorite hero of all time. The author takes great care in bringing him to life - and it's difficult not to fall in love with him. He's sexy, strong and kind - what's not to love! If Sorcha has one fault is that she is 'too strong' - and risks isolating herself with her need to prove she can deal with everything on her own. However Red understands this about her. His flaw is pride - he doesn't find it easy to express his deepest feelings, and this almost ruins his own chance at happiness as a result.

 I can't believe I've only just discovered Juliet Mariller now - I'm going to enjoy diving into her other works. I also discovered that we're from the same city in New Zealand and studied at the same university!

I can't recommend this book highly enough. If you love historical fiction with a bit of fantasy thrown in - and a powerful love story that will have you reaching for the tissues - don't miss this one.

Buy a copy on Amazon.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Take a tour across 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England


My current 'work in progress' (THE WHISPERING WIND —Book #1 of The Kingdom of Northumbria) is now with my editor. 😊

I've been stuck into writing over the past couple of months—with two manuscripts on the go—but have wanted to write a blog post to give some background about the setting of my upcoming novel.

In THE WHISPERING WIND my characters do a lot of travelling! 

Aelfwyn and Leofric set off from the northeast of England and travel down the Yorkshire coast to Whitby and then on to Lincolnshire. They finally travel back into Yorkshire to what is now York. Only the towns, villages and landmarks they visit are nothing like modern, or even medieval, England—as such the photos below only depict what these places look like now!

Britain in Anglo-Saxon times

So far, I've written six novels and a novella set in Britain's exciting 7th Century. My novels have focused on three kingdoms in particular (East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria) but others such as Powys, Kent and the East Saxons also crop up in the stories. The Anglo-Saxon place names I use in my novels are far different to the modern names of towns, villages and landmarks. Not only that but the spelling varied hugely. For example, the Anglo-Saxon name for York was spelled Eoforwic, Eoferwic or Eoforīc—depending on the source.

Let's take a look at what England looked like all those years ago...

The tour: from Bebbanburg to Eoforwic

Bebbanburg (Bamburgh)
Today the mighty red stone fortress of Bamburgh looks out to sea from a high rocky headland. In the 7th Century it was called Bebbanburg—named after Bebba, the wife of the Northumbrian king, Æthelfrith.

In the period of my novel (mid 7th Century), Bebbanburgh looked nothing like today's fortress. Instead it would have been a great fort, built mainly in wood with gate houses at each corner. Inside the fort there would have been a large village of timber and wattle and daub dwellings, workshops and stables.

 'My' Bebbanburg (which first makes an appearance in Book #2 of The Kingdom of Mercia - Darkest before Dawn), also has a 'great tower' made of the same red stone as the rock upon which the fort stands. There's no evidence to suggest that Bebbanburg had a 'great tower'—however when I visited Bamburgh Castle I discovered that these great towers were precursors to Medieval keeps. So I decided to include one in Bebbanburg.

Lindisfarena (Lindisfarne)
Holy Island as it's now known has long been a setting I've wanted to include in one of my books. There's something incredibly mystical about this windswept island that's only accessible via a tidal causeway.

Lindisfarne is one of the United Kingdom's most iconic spots of religious pilgrimage—and the place the Vikings first came ashore.

Lindisfarne priory was founded in 635 AD by King Oswald. My current story takes place in 670 AD, so around 35 years after the priory was built. The monastery became the religious heart of the Kingdom of Northumbria until the Vikings sacked it in 793 AD. After that, the surviving monks fled and the monastery wasn't rebuilt until 300-400 years later.

I deliberately set this book at this time so that I could include Prior Cuthbert in the novel. Saint Cuthbert is one of the most important saints of Medieval England. After his death many miracles were attributed to him. Cuthbert only appears for a handful of chapters, I really enjoyed bringing him to life.

Read more about what Lindisfarne would have been like in my recent blog post.

Streonshalh (Whitby)
In 657 AD, King Oswiu of Northumbria (the father of the king in my upcoming novel) founded the abbey at Streonshalh. Today this location is the beautiful seaside town of Whitby. At the time, the abbey would have perched on the cliffs above a tiny fishing village.

Like the buildings in the locations above, the abbey would have looked very different to the ruins visible today. It would have had a wooden perimeter filled with a collection of buildings that included a great hall, a refectory, a weaving shed, the abbess's lodgings, an orchard—as well as a collection of huts where the nuns lived. Also, in early Anglo-Saxon times, monks as well as nuns dwelt at Streonshalh—the division of the sexes did not come till a bit later in history.

THE WHISPERING WIND begins around 13 years after Streonshalh Abbey's founding, at the time when Abbess Hilda (or Hild) lived there. She was the founding abbess and, like Cuthbert, was one of Medieval England's most important saints.

Lincylene (Lincoln)
I was born near Lincoln (in the market town of Louth) so this setting is very close to my heart. Lincoln was founded as a Roman fort called 'Lindum Colonia'.

Lincylene was the seat of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Lindesege (Lindsey). The King of Lindesege in THE WHISPERING WIND is called Eatta. He appears in the list of Anglo-Saxon monarchs for the kingdom although I could find no details about what kind of man he was. As such, my depiction of him comes entirely from my own imagination.

The settlement I describe in my novel is surrounded by a surviving town wall that was constructed by the Romans. The spot which currently has Lincoln's magnificent cathedral, housed the king's Great Hall and an early church built of wood and stone.

Eoforwic (York)
This town was an important hub during Anglo-Saxon England. Sitting on the confluence between two rivers: the Ouse and the Foss, Eoforwic was accessible by river to the coast (something the raiding Vikings later found very useful).

Like Lincoln, York has Roman origins. The city was founded in 71 AD, when the Ninth Legion conquered the Brigantes and constructed a wooden military fortress on flat ground above the River Ouse close to its confluence with the River Foss. Later it was resettled by the Angles in the 5th Century.

High wooden ramparts would have surrounded the town and there would have been a number of boat building and fishermen's huts along the banks of the Ouse. Like Lincoln, I placed the Great Hall and the town's church at the highest point overlooking the town. And like Bebbanburg, I created a low gate—through which you enter the town—and a high gate that houses the Great Hall.

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Looking forward to immersing yourself in these settings?

I should have a release date for THE WHISPERING WIND soon—so watch this space! 😊