Medieval Russia, Fairytales and History

Most of The Betrothed Sister is set in medieval Russia where King Harold II’s daughter Gita (Thea in the novel) is married off by her father’s cousin, King Sweyn of Denmark, to a prince of the Rus ruling family, The Riurikid Dynasty, founded in the tenth century. What sort of land did Thea discover, circa 1070? I always think of … Read More

The River Thames in Medieval Times

The River Thames features in The Handfasted Wife and briefly in The Swan-Daughter. What do we know about the Thames from the eleventh century? It rose then as it rises today in Trewsbury Meade beside a Roman Camp and a mound known as Trewsbury Castle. The name of the neighboring village derives from the old Anglo-Saxon word for spring or … Read More

Castles in The Swan-Daughter

In the aftermath of 1066 King William built castles to help secure his hold on England. Initially these were Motte and Bailey castles. On his arrival in England he put up a motte and bailey wooden castle at Hastings. The motte held the keep or tower. The bailey was the yard at the bottom of the man-made hill. This early … Read More

A Literary Festival on Alderney

For those who might not know, Alderney is a small island in The English Channel. Last week, I boarded a tiny plane that flew from Southampton to this outpost of The Channel Islands to participate in a unique literary festival. Getting there was an unusual experience- for me at least. I am a novice who has never been to the … Read More

Discovering Padua, Venice and Verona in Winter

Venice on a chill January day with blue skies and sunshine is a pleasanter experience than Venice in mid-summer when it is crowded, hot and smelly. January is when Venice is reclaimed by Venetians for Venetians and a tourist presence is minimal. Yet, undeniably we were tourists, albeit returning from Christmas and New Year in Greece by driving through Europe. … Read More

Great Reads from 2014

Without doubt my greatest love, second maybe to writing novels, is reading books. During 2014 I read many great novels, a variety of genres and styles, some of which were published before 2014. Here I collect together a selection of my favourite reads of this year. The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland I admire Karen Maitland’s approach to the historical … Read More

Was Waterloo entirely a British Victory?

Waterloo is a much written about battle. My great, great grandfather’s regiment, The Scot’s Greys, fought at Waterloo. Author Tom Williams has written a guest blog about how he is researching the battle for his new novel in his historical adventure series His Majesty’s Confidential Agent. Tom’s novels are set against the meticulously researched background of the Napoleonic Wars. Burke, … Read More

Revisiting Battle Abbey 1066/ 2014

Early this month I revisited Battle Abbey for the first re enactment of the Battle of Hastings in several years. It was a superb event and it made me wonder why I am so fascinated by battles and why I am writing a trilogy about the noble women of the Norman Conquest and how they survived 1066. I studied both … Read More

St Nicholas, a Greek Byzantine Church at Chora

Many of the Byzantine churches in the Greek Mani were built during the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries. Over the past two years I have visited so many of these in villages in the Taygetos Mountains that I cannot even remember all their names. However, the icons and frescoes they contain are fascinating and tell familiar stories. It interests me … Read More

The Swan’s Song in Medieval Literature

Swans feature as an image in both The Handfasted Wife and in The Swan-Daughter, novels set at the time of The Norman Conquest of the eleventh century. Edith Swan-Neck, the protagonist of The Handfasted Wife allegedly possessed an elegant swan-like neck and white skin. This was considered a sign of great beauty during this period. Her daughter Gunnhild, the heroine … Read More