Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Traitor by David Hingley

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on 

the Traitor Blog Tour

Allison and Busby
18th January 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my coy of this book and for the invitation to be part of this blog tour 

What's it all about ...

May 1665. With winter passed, Mercia Blakewood is at last headed back to England from America, hoping to leave behind the shadow cast by death and heartache. She expects a welcome from the King considering her earlier mission on his behalf, but the reception she receives after her long voyage home could hardly be called warm. With the country now at war with the Dutch, more manipulation lies ahead as Mercia must accept a clandestine role at the heart of the glittering and debauched royal court to unmask a spy and traitor.

My thoughts about it...

This is now the third book in the historical series which features the female adventurer, Mercia Blakewood, and we meet her as she arrives back in England from America where she has been on a secret mission for King Charles II. Her arrival into the country is met with suspicion and doubt, that is, until she is taken to London and a clandestine meeting with the King's notorious mistress, Barbara Castlemaine.  Given the task of exposing a potential spy ring, Mercia must adopt an entirely new role and one which will place her and those she holds dear in grave danger.

This is a fascinating look at the profligate court of King Charles II and of the dangers which so often lingered in shadows. For Mercia, the task she is assigned is dangerous and filled with many obstacles, and yet, her strength of character sees her though the difficulties, and her ready wit and charm endear her to the reader. That she is also brave and quite fearless is also to her credit as Mercia is no simpering courtesan and is more than a match for any of the men and women who try to thwart her. 

The mystery, at the centre of the story is well thought out, and there are more than enough twists and turns to keep the adventure alive in the imagination. I found it quite refreshing to have a female lead protagonist who didn’t conform to the usual rigid protocols which were so evident at this time in history.

Traitor is an intriguing journey into the political arena of the mid-seventeenth century. The wars with the Dutch and the fast growing slave trade form the backdrop to an interesting and lively historical adventure.

Those readers who have followed this series from the beginning will find much to enjoy in this latest story, and for new readers, well, my advice would be to start the series from the beginning with, Birthright, as even though it is entirely possible to read Traitor as a standalone story, there are references to back events which may seem a little confusing without prior knowledge.

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Originally from the West Midlands, David Hingley worked in the Civil Service for eleven years before leaving to fulfill his long term ambition to write. He spent three years living in New York'close to the action in Birthright and Puritan, before returning to the UK in 2016.

Twitter @dhingley_author #Traitor


Do visit the other tops on the BlogTour


Monday, 15 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ An Argument of Blood by Matthew Willis and J A Ironside

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host the first stop on 

An Argument of Blood Blog Tour

Oath and Crown Book 1
Penmore Press

My thanks to the publishers and  HF Virtual Book Tours for my invitation to be part of this tour
and for my review copy of the book.

What's it all about ...

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

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

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

What did I think about it...

In An Argument of Blood, we first meet William, Duke of Normandy, when he is a headstrong and impetuous youth of nineteen, quick to anger and rather slow to take advice from those who think that they know better. That William comes across as spoiled and selfish young man makes for interesting reading, I appreciated getting to learn more of his character and of what focused his drive and ambition as he grew to maturity.

In direct contrast to William's rather angry personality we head across the English channel to learn more about what is happening in the Anglo-Saxon court of King Edward the Confessor, and first meet our narrator,  ten year old Ælfgifa, sister to the Jarl, Harold Godwinson, as she learns of the marriage between her older sister, Ealdgyth and the King. To see the Saxon court through the eyes of this insightful young girl is quite refreshing and I enjoyed reading of life at court and of the difficulties encountered, not just by Ælfgifa, but also of the faults and foibles of those who live alongside her.

An Argument of Blood is an interesting and vivid account of the events which will eventually lead to the invasion of England and this first book in the series sets the scene quite nicely, with the ending lending itself to a natural continuation in the story. Taken as a whole, the book is well written with good attention to detail and a nice sense of time and place. However, I found that I looked forward more to Ælfgifa’s side of the story rather more that William’s but that’s no disparagement of the writing, as both are equally descriptive.

Filled with political intrigue, danger and conspiracy, An Argument of Blood is an interesting interpretation of the events which will eventually lead to the Norman conquest.

About the Authors...

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

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

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

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

Website Facebook Twitter  Goodreads

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

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

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

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

To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

One of my favourite WW1 poems is My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling and over Christmas I had the opportunity to watch the film version of My Boy Jack, starring David Haig and Daniel Radcliffe, which highlights Rudyard Kipling's search for his missing son - eighteen year old Jack Kipling was missing, presumed killed during the Battle of Loos in September, 1915.

John Kipling was born in Sussex 1897, the youngest of the three children born to Rudyard Kipling and his American wife, Caroline Starr Balestier. John, known as Jack, was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire.

Jack was sixteen when war broke out in 1914, and carried along by the fervour of his father who was a staunch supporter of the war, Jack, tried to enlist as soon as he was old enough, but he was unfortunately turned down by both the navy and the army due to his very poor eyesight.

However, Rudyard Kipling was keen for his son to see active service and using his considerable influence, he was able to persuade, Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, a former Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, and Colonel of the Irish Guards to bypass this disability and Jack was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards on 15 August 1914, having just turned 17.

After his initial training. Jack Kipling was sent to France in August 1914 and was reported as missing in September 1915, during the Battle of Loos. His body was never found and although he is officially listed as buried in St Mary's ADS Cemetery in Haisnes, there is still doubt as to whether this is indeed his final resting place.

Rudyard Kipling never recovered from the lost of his son and following this devastating tragedy his attitude towards the war changed. This poem to his missing son was also a tribute to the many other young men lost during the war -

The Children 


("The Honours of War"—A Diversity of Creatures) 

These were our children who died for our lands: they were dear in our sight. 

We have only the memory left of their home-treasured sayings and laughter. 

The price of our loss shall be paid to our hands, not another’s hereafter. 

Neither the Alien nor Priest shall decide on it. That is our right. 

But who shall return us the children? 

At the hour the Barbarian chose to disclose his pretences, 

And raged against Man, they engaged, on the breasts that they bared for us, 

The first felon-stroke of the sword he had long-time prepared for us— 

Their bodies were all our defence while we wrought our defences. 

They bought us anew with their blood, forbearing to blame us, 

Those hours which we had not made good when the Judgment o’ercame us. 

They believed us and perished for it. Our statecraft, our learning 

Delivered them bound to the Pit and alive to the burning 

Whither they mirthfully hastened as jostling for honour— 

Nor since her birth has our Earth seen such worth loosed upon her. 

Nor was their agony brief, or once only imposed on them. 

The wounded, the war-spent, the sick received no exemption: 

Being cured they returned and endured and achieved our redemption, 

Hopeless themselves of relief, till Death, marveling, closed on them. 

That flesh we had nursed from the first in all cleanness was given 

To corruption unveiled and assailed by the malice of Heaven— 

By the heart-shaking jests of Decay where it lolled in the wires— 

To be blanched or gay-painted by fumes— to be cindered by fires— 

To be senselessly tossed and retossed in stale mutilation 

From crater to crater. For that we shall take expiation. 

But who shall return us our children? 

Kipling's poignant poem My Boy Jack was in fact written following the death of 16 year old sailor Jack Cornwell, but it is also a poignant reminder of the loss of his own boy, Jack.

"HAVE you news of my boy Jack? "
Not this tide.
"When d'you think that he'll come back?"
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

"Has any one else had word of him?"
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

"Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?"
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind---
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide.


Saturday, 13 January 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Beautiful Star & Other Stories by Andrew Swanston

On Hist Fic Saturday

Lets's go back in time

This is a really fascinating book of seven historical fiction short stories which have their basis firmly in truth and the author has used his considerable skill with words to bring to life these events which have been completely overlooked.

  • Beautiful Star tells the story of a devastating disaster which befell a small Scottish fishing community in the winter of 1875
  • The Flying Monk gives the fascinating tale of Eilmer, a young Benedictine Monk, who was obsessed with the idea of flight and of the strange portents of a mysterious comet 
  • HMS Association is the story of  the marvelously named, Sir Cloudelly Shovell and his connection to the Longitude Act of 1714
  • The Tree is based on the well known story of the Boscobel Tree and the future King Charles II , but was there someone in the tree with him?
  • The Castle tells of the gallant defense of Corfe Castle which was led by Lady Mary Bankes, widow of Sir John Bankes, Privy Councillor and advisor to King Charles I
  • A Witch and a Bitch describes how a village, even as late as the eighteenth century could turn against a poor old woman 
  • The Button Seller and the Drummer Boy tells the story of an English button seller's encounter with the Duke of Wellington, and the bravery of a young French drummer boy during the Battle of Waterloo

All of the stories sit very comfortably together and are easy to read in one sitting. Beautifully reminiscent of the era in which they are set, each story gives a vibrant account of a forgotten time and gives weight to the argument that our connection to history is always with us.

I found some of the stories very moving, particularly the treatment given to Jane Wenham, an unfortunate old woman who is notoriously known as the Witch of Wenham.  I found the title story, Beautiful Star to be especially poignant and the whole shipbuilding and fishing industry was brought so vividly to life that I could almost taste the tang of sea salt and savoured the smell of wood smoke and timber. However, it's the story of The Button Seller and the Drummer Boy which I found to be the most interesting and couldn't help but be immersed in each of their stories and of the consequences of their actions.

I think this is a real hidden gem of a book which will appeal, not just to history lovers, but also to those interested in well written short stories.

You can read an interview by the author by clicking here

About the author

Andrew read a little law and a lot of sport at Cambridge University, and held various positions in the book trade, including being a director of Waterstone & Co, and Chairman of Methven’s plc, before turning to writing. Inspired by a lifelong interest in early modern history, his Thomas Hill novels are set during the English Civil Wars, and the early period of the Restoration. 

Andrew’s novel, Incendium, was published in February 2017 and is the first of two thrillers featuring Dr. Christopher Radcliff, an intelligencer for the Earl of Leicester, and is set in 1572 at the time of the massacre of the Huguenots in France. 

The Dome Press publish Beautiful Star, a collection of short stories documenting a journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defense of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875.

Twitter #BeautifiuStar

Beautiful Star & Other Stories is published by The Dome Press on the 11th January 2018

Friday, 12 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Secrets Between Us by Laura Madeleine

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on 

The Secrets Between Us Blog Tour 

Black Swan 
My thanks to the publisher for my ecopy of this book and the invitation to be part of this blog tour

First off, it must be said that this book cover is absolutely glorious and captures the setting of the novel to perfection.

In 1943, eighteen year old Ceci Corvin and her family struggle to survive in occupied France where, even, high up in the hills, in their small village of Saint-Antone, they are not immune to struggle and hardship. Working in the village bakery gives them a unique place to view what's going on but also places them in danger.

Fifty years later, Annie is unsatisfied with both her work and personal life and seems be searching for something which will give her life more meaning. When Annie's mother, on holiday in Australia, contacts Annie and expresses a wish to reunite with her estranged mother, Annie's grandmother, the search is on to find her. For Annie this is something of a journey of self-discovery, as not only does she make contact with her gran-mére, but also discovers a deeply buried family secret, which changes everything she once thought to be true.

What then follows is a beautifully written dual time story which looks at the turbulent latter years of the Second World War and of the discovery, many years later, of a family mystery which has been buried for far too long. The author writes really well and brings time, place and people to life with fine attention to detail. Of the two halves of the dual time narrative, I was perhaps more emotionally involved in the war time story and thought that the description of life in Saint Antoine was particularly well defined. I especially enjoyed reading of the bakery in Saint Antoine, and such were the delicious descriptions of the breads being produced that I could taste the pain aux noix and sip the  Acorn roasted café.

The Secrets Between Us is inspired by true events and is a fascinating story of forgotten friendship, lost family, forbidden love and, ultimately, of the healing power of reconciliation.

More about the Author can be found on her Website

Twitter @lauramadeleine #SecretsBetweenUs

The Secrets Between Us is a kindle monthly deal in January and will be on sale for just 99p until the end of the month.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Close To Home by Cara Hunter

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the 

Close to Home Blog Tour

Penguin Viking
January 11 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

When eight year old Daisy Mason  disappears from a family barbecue no-one notices that she is gone, and even her parents don't remember the last time they saw her. How such a popular child can disappear without trace is the puzzle that DI Adam Fawley and his team of investigative officers have to make sense of, and with very few clues to work with the groundwork proves frustratingly difficult.

Close to Home introduces us to a new crime series and to the lead protagonist, DI Adam Fawley, who is an interesting character, supremely flawed like so many of these clever detectives, and we do get to know the reason why he is so troubled, however, what is paramount is his drive and ambition to get the job done. That he is constantly thwarted by this complex case makes for fascinating reading, and the numerous twists and turns in the plot, not only had the investigative team guessing, but also kept me on the edge of my seat. So many times I thought that I had the case cracked only to have it veer off in an entirely new direction which I didn't see coming.

Complex and convoluted, this intricately plotted psychological drama examines the background to the case and looks at the events leading up to Daisy's disappearance, whilst at the same time keeping the investigation alive in the imagination. There is so much I want to say about this story but to do so would give away too many clues and, believe me, this is one of those roller-coaster crime thrillers which needs to be read, in its entirety, without any spoilers from me. 

The author certainly knows how to manipulate a complicated plot and the mystery at the heart of the novel makes for fascinating reading.  Daisy's family are such an integral part of the novel, and their faults and foibles are laid bare, so that, whilst they are largely an unlikable bunch, particularly Daisy's mother, Sharon, you can't help be drawn into the way they operate. I had an especial fondness for, Leo, Daisy's older sibling, who is fighting his own brand of demons.

Close to Home kept me in its grip from its poignant prologue, through to its dramatic and unexpected conclusion and is, without doubt, an exciting debut from a talented new author.

Do visit the other blog tour stops.

Cara Hunter is a writer who lives in Oxford, in a street not unlike those featured in her series of crime books. Close to Home is her debut featuring DI Adam Fawley, and her second, In the Dark, is coming soon.

Twitter @CaraHunterBooks #CloseToHome

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Blog Tour ~ Beautiful Star & Other Stories by Andrew Swanston

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the 

Beautiful Star Blog Tour

I'm thrilled to be able to share this fascinating guest post by the author of  Beautiful Star & Other stories,

Andrew Swanston

In Beautiful Star, the title story of this collection, the narrator, Julia Paterson, tells her boat-loving, countryside-avoiding friend Willy Miller that flowers are not wild or tame, but just flowers. If I could borrow from Julia, I prefer to think that stories are not long or short, they are just stories, with beginnings, middles and ends. 

And characters. Unusual, interesting characters. Julia is one of three narrators in these seven stories, and the only one who really existed. In A Witch and a Bitch, Jane Wenham’s granddaughter is fictional, as is Daniel Jones in HMS Association. They are both there to facilitate the telling of the story. The stories of the other five protagonists (there are two in The Button Seller and The Drummer Boy) are told in the third person. They just seemed to work better that way.

Here are two questions for you: in what year did the first recorded, manned flight take place? (No fables or magic allowed). And in what year was the last woman condemned to death for witchcraft in an English court? I ask because the questions illustrate the point that historical fiction should inform as well as entertain. Until I came across the stories of Eilmer, The Flying Monk and Jane Wenham, The Witch of Walkern (A Witch and a Bitch) I for one had no idea. 

Nor could I have told you much about the magnificently named Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, although his fate led directly to the solving of the problem of Longitude by the brilliant clockmaker, John Harrison. Or, indeed, about the gallant Lady Mary Bankes, mother of twelve, who led the defence of her home, Corfe Castle, during the War of the Three Kingdoms. If not the origin of the word ‘turncoat’ the story of The Castle certainly offers an early example of its use.

I prefer to work within the framework of historical events because it imposes a discipline that some other forms do not. This is relatively easy when the story is a footnote to a well-recorded major event (Waterloo, The War of the Three Kingdoms,), less so when the history is more distant or less clear (Eilmer, Jane Wenham). 

There are two particular perks to being an historical novelist. First, one meets and talks with all sorts of experts, academics, librarians and local historians who are, without exception, unfailingly helpful and generous with their time and knowledge. And, second, from them and from written records, one is forever learning new and unexpected facts, such as that both sightings of what we call Halley’s Comet in 991 and 1066 presaged invasion, first by the Danes, later by the Normans. Eilmer saw it on both occasions.

Finally, I should mention The Tree, which is the shortest and most fanciful of the collection, despite being based on possibly the best-known event. Most of us know that King Charles II hid in the Boscobel oak after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester, but who was there with him?

It is the storyteller who has the chance to ask such questions and to suggest answers.

Dome Press
11 January 2018
About the book

History is brought alive by the people it affects, rather than those who created it. In Beautiful Star, we meet Eilmer, a monk in 1010 with Icarus-like dreams; Charles I, hiding in 1651, and befriended by a small boy; the trial of Jane Wenham, witch of Walkern, seen through the eyes of her granddaughter. 

This is a moving and affecting journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defence of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875.

About the author

Andrew read a little law and a lot of sport at Cambridge University, and held various positions in the book trade, including being a director of Waterstone & Co, and Chairman of Methven’s plc, before turning to writing. Inspired by a lifelong interest in early modern history, his Thomas Hill novels are set during the English Civil Wars, and the early period of the Restoration. 

Andrew’s novel, Incendium, was published in February 2017 and is the first of two thrillers featuring Dr. Christopher Radcliff, an intelligencer for the Earl of Leicester, and is set in 1572 at the time of the massacre of the Huguenots in France. 

The Dome Press publish Beautiful Star, a collection of short stories documenting a journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defense of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875.

Twitter #BeautifiuStar

Beautiful Star & Other Stories is published by The Dome Press on the 11th January 2018