Ill-fated Marriages in Literature

I often think that my favourite novels do not depict marriages in a happy light. This, of course, allows the writer to explore tensions and create jeopardy in the story. It permits the writer to be forgiving. I have selected a few of those ill-fated marriages where I think the author does this well- all rate highly amongst my favourite … Read More

The Street in late medieval London- Trades and Noise

When did the medieval period in London begin and end? We assume that the medieval period began in England when the Romans departed circa 410 AD. However for the previous one hundred years the Romans had been withdrawing from England and they were using Saxon mercenaries to supplement the Roman army’s reduced presence. The country continued to trade with the … Read More

Women’s Rights in Early Medieval Rus

The Ruirikid Dynasty ruled Rus lands during the eleventh century. This marks the early part of a Golden Age for the ruling cities Kyiv/ Kiev and Novgorod. These princes replaced many diverse local customs and created a Rus State that stretched from the Black Sea north of Moscow and St Petersburg, which, if they existed at all then, were tiny … Read More

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