21 March 2017

Book Review - The Du Lac Devil: Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles, by Mary Anne Yarde

Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

The feisty Du Lac brothers are reunited at the old family home in Brittany - what could possibly go wrong?  Well, quite a lot actually. For a start, author Mary Anne Yarde has a liking for deeply flawed characters. Secondly, you need to be thinking George R.R. Martin rather than Sir Thomas Malory. Chivalry is hanging in by its fingernails and treachery is in the air.

Book two of the Du Lac Chronicles would work perfectly well as a stand-alone novel but to really understand the complex web of relationships I recommend starting with the first book. You also need to keep your wits about you, as a fast pace is achieved with short chapters and plenty of action.

I don’t want to include any ‘spoilers’ but at one point I was reminded of those TV programmes that begin with a warning viewers might find some scenes disturbing. There are also tantalising glimpses of the Arthurian back-story, which I’d really like to hear more of – perhaps a ‘prequel’ to the chronicles?

The Du Lac Devil is Mary Anne Yarde at her best – and I’m really looking forward to the next one. Five out of five stars.

Tony Riches 

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About the Author

Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood. At nineteen, she married her childhood sweetheart and began a bachelor of arts in history at Cardiff University, only to have her studies interrupted by the arrival of her first child. She would later return to higher education, studying equine science at Warwickshire College. Horses and history remain two of her major passions. Mary Anne Yarde keeps busy raising four children and helping run a successful family business. Find our more at her website and follow her on Twitter @maryanneyarde

18 March 2017

New Book Launch – HENRY Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy

(Paperback and Audiobook coming soon)

Bosworth 1485: After victory against King Richard III, Henry Tudor becomes King of England. Rebels and pretenders plot to seize his throne. The barons resent his plans to curb their power and he wonders who he can trust. He hopes to unite Lancaster and York through marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth of York. With help from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, he learns to keep a fragile peace. He chooses a Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon, as a wife for his son Prince Arthur. His daughters will marry the King of Scotland and the son of the Emperor of Rome. It seems his prayers are answered, then disaster strikes and Henry must ensure the future of the Tudors.

I began the Tudor Trilogy with a challenge. The known facts of Owen Tudor’s life are so sparse it’s little wonder so few writers have tackled his story. There are no images of him and historians even debate his name. Undaunted, I persevered and uncovered an amazing life of adventure which ended in tragedy when Owen was about the same age I am now.

The records were far more detailed for the second book, the story of Owen’s second son Jasper Tudor, and although he spent many years in exile I had no shortage of material. As my research progressed I began to wonder how the story would end. Henry was born in the first book, comes of age in the second and becomes King of England in the final book of the trilogy.

The problem now was too much information. Henry left a wealth of detailed records, often initialling every line in his ledgers, which still survive. At the same time, I had to deal with the contradictions, myths and legends that cloud interpretation of the facts. It troubled me to realise how, even in my own history lessons, we skipped over Henry’s contribution to learn about his son (and his six wives).

How could I begin to do justice to the life of such a complex and little understood man? Why did his son turn out as he did? I decided the only way was to immerse myself in Henry’s world and explore events as they might have appeared from his point of view. I stood in the small room in Pembroke Castle where Henry Tudor is thought to have been born, (within sight of where I was born) and began three years of intensive research about this enigmatic king.

I bought every book I could find about Henry and his times. I travelled to remote Brittany to visit the cobweb-festooned chateau in theforest where he lived in exile. I stood on the pebble beach at Mill Bay wherehe landed with his invasion fleet. I walked across Bosworth field and watched hundreds of re-enactors recreate the battle, complete with cavalry and cannon fire. I saw the Torrigiano bust of Henry at the V&A Museum, his portraits at the National Portrait Gallery and finally visited his tomb at Westminster Abbey.

My hope is that I can offer readers an insight into Henry’s life and make them want to learn more about one of our least understood kings. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers around the world who have been on this journey with me. Although this is the end of the Tudor trilogy, I am now researching the lives of Henry's daughter Mary and her husband Charles Brandon, so the story of the Tudors is far from over.

Tony Riches

16 March 2017

Tudor Book Launch - Maid of the King's Court, by Lucy Worsley

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US
In the vibrant, volatile court of Henry VIII, can even the most willful young woman direct her own fate and follow her heart in a world ruled by powerful men?

Clever, headstrong Elizabeth Rose Camperdowne knows her duty. As the sole heiress to an old but impoverished noble family, Eliza must marry a man of wealth and title — it’s the only fate for a girl of her standing.

But when a surprising turn of events lands her in the royal court as a maid of honor to Anne of Cleves, Eliza is drawn into the dizzying, dangerous orbit of Henry the Eighth and struggles to distinguish friend from foe.

Is her glamorous flirt of a cousin, Katherine Howard, an ally in this deceptive place, or is she Eliza’s worst enemy? And then there’s Ned Barsby, the king’s handsome page, who is entirely unsuitable for Eliza but impossible to ignore.

British historian Lucy Worsley provides a vivid, romantic glimpse of the treachery, tragedy, and thrills of life in the Tudor court.

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About the Author 

Dr Lucy Worsley is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, and other historic places. Her first paid employment after studying history at Oxford was at a minor stately home called Milton Manor, near Abingdon, where she fed the llamas. After that she became an Inspector of Ancient Monuments at English Heritage, doing historical research at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire: this led to her first book, 'Cavalier', about a dissolute Royalist duke. Her work as a curator at Kensington Palace led to 'Courtiers', which was followed by 'If Walls Could Talk', 'A Very British Murder', and her first historical novel for young readers, 'Eliza Rose', which is set at the Tudor court. For more information visit Lucy's website www.lucyworsley.com and find her on Twitter @Lucy_Worsley,

10 March 2017

Guest Post: Ambition & Destiny Part 1: Hooks & Eyes, by Val McBeath

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

To start again, you must leave the past behind...
England 1846: Widowed with two small children, Mary Jackson fears for the future. Moving to the town of Birmingham, she hopes to put her troubled past behind her. Mr Wetherby craves respectability. His only priority is growing his hooks and eyes business, and he'll stop at nothing to get his own way. When their paths cross, Mr Wetherby is not prepared for the impact Mary has on him. 

Set in Victorian England, Hooks & Eyes is Part 1 of 
The Ambition & Destiny Series. 

Often when books, films or TV depict the 19th century, they focus on either the upper classes/aristocracy or the impoverished lower classes. It is much less common to come across stories about the aspiring working or middle classes. In reality, however, the 19th century saw a phenomenal rise in the number of middle-class households.

My interest in the Victorian era started when I was researching my family history. I was intrigued to know if there was any truth to the rumour that our family had once been very wealthy. Based on our circumstances during the 20th century, it seemed highly improbable, but this begged the question. If my ancestors were wealthy, where did the money go? Did it pass out of the family as a result of a death and re-marriage as we had been lead to believe?

As I picked my way through an assortment of historical records, it appeared that, yes, the family had once been very wealthy, but no, the money did not leave the family as a result of a re-marriage. It was much more complicated than that. As I delved deeper, the story I uncovered astounded me. The more I learned, the more I needed to know and within a couple of years the idea of turning it into a book started to build. With no clue about where to start, however, I pushed the idea to the back of my mind … for a while at least. 

Eventually, the idea wouldn’t leave me alone, and I started to write. Initially, didn't expect to produce more than about a hundred pages, but now, six years later, I have a five-part family saga entitled The Ambition & Destiny Series. Part 1, Hooks & Eyes, was published on March 9th, 2017. 

The story takes place in and around Birmingham, England, and was triggered by an event in 1839 that changed the family’s future forever. This event is the basis of a short story prequel to the series, Condemned by Fate, and is based on three months in the life of my great, great, great grandfather. 

The main series (Hooks & Eyes) starts in 1846 with the family moving to the town of Birmingham. At first, they struggle to survive among the back-to-back houses, but eventually, they leave their working-class origins and become part of the affluent middle classes. Unfortunately, the good life doesn’t last and with one fateful event in 1882, followed by a second in 1885, everything changed.

As the story started almost two hundred years ago there are no living relatives who have any knowledge of the people involved. That means I have no idea how close to the truth the story comes. All births, deaths and marriages are correct, and most of the major storylines are based on fact. Many of the sub-plots and all characterisations, however, are fictitious. Not wishing to cause any upset, names and places have been changed to protect the identity of the real individuals.

Initially, one of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t find out what happened in time to tell my grandfather. I think he spurred my interest in the whole story because he lived with the shame of being made homeless as a child when his father couldn’t pay the rent. Knowing what I know now, however, I think it’s perhaps as well he didn’t know the truth.

Hooks & Eyes is Part 1 of The Ambition & Destiny Series. A compelling family saga of love, loss and betrayal set in Victorian England. The eBook is now available on Amazon and is free as part of Kindle Unlimited. The paperback is due in April 2017.

Val McBeath
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About the Author

Val McBeath is a scientist by training and has worked for the pharmaceutical industry for many years. Born and raised in Liverpool she now lives in Cheshire with her husband, two daughters and cat. In addition to Family History her interests include rock music and Liverpool Football Club. Her Ambition & Destiny Series is set in Birmingham (UK) between 1846 and 1890 and is very much a work of fiction. Find out more at Val's website http://valmcbeath.com/historical-fiction-author/ and find her on Facebook and Twitter @valmcbeath.

9 March 2017

Book Launch - My Name Is Victoria, by Lucy Worsley

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US
'You are my sister now,' Victoria said, quietly and solemnly. 'Never forget it. I love you like a sister, and you are my only friend in all the world.'

Miss V. Conroy is good at keeping secrets. She likes to sit as quiet as a mouse, neat and discreet. But when her father sends her to Kensington Palace to become the companion to Princess Victoria, Miss V soon finds that she can no longer remain in the shadows.

Miss V's father has devised a strict set of rules for the young princess, which he calls the Kensington System. It governs her behaviour and keeps her locked away from the world. He says it is for the princess's safety, but Victoria herself is convinced that it is to keep her lonely, and unhappy.
Torn between loyalty to her father and her growing friendship with the wilful and passionate Victoria, Miss V has a decision to make: to continue in silence, or to speak out.
By turns thrilling, dramatic and touching, this is the story of Queen Victoria's childhood as you've never heard it before. 

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About the Author 

Dr Lucy Worsley is Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity which looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, and other historic places. Her first paid employment after studying history at Oxford was at a minor stately home called Milton Manor, near Abingdon, where she fed the llamas. After that she became an Inspector of Ancient Monuments at English Heritage, doing historical research at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire: this led to her first book, 'Cavalier', about a dissolute Royalist duke. Her work as a curator at Kensington Palace led to 'Courtiers', which was followed by 'If Walls Could Talk', 'A Very British Murder', and her first historical novel for young readers, 'Eliza Rose', which is set at the Tudor court. For mre information visit Lucy's website www.lucyworsley.com and find her on Twitter @Lucy_Worsley,

7 March 2017

Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience, by Dan Blank

New on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Too often we think about the creative process as separate from the marketing process. Instead, view them as the same. Replace the inclination to “promote” with the desire to share and engage. How and why you create is a story — and your best asset to truly engage people.
Be the Gateway shows you how to use that gift with joy
and with confidence.

Something I have been thinking a lot about this month is the word “threshold.” With my book coming out and the upcoming birth of my second child in April, I feel like everything I do is moving through a threshold. A moment where things will be different than they were before.

Most people are apprehensive of change. With change comes uncertainty, and at times, risk. This month I have been embracing the idea of moving through the threshold. Of welcoming what comes next. 

When my first son was born back in 2010, I had just left my corporate job to start my company. Much like today, it was a massive threshold to move through, and one that I am so thankful I embraced. 

What threshold would you like to move through? How can you shift your perspective from being apprehensive about it, to approaching it with vigor and openness? 

Dan Blank
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About the Author

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers and creative professionals share their stories and grow their audience. He has worked with hundreds of individuals and amazing organizations who support creative people such as Random House, Hachette Book Group, Sesame Workshop, Workman Publishing, J. Walter Thompson, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer's Digest, Library Journal, and many others. Dan's work has been featured by Poet's & Writers magazine, the National Endowment for the Arts, Professional Artist magazine, and 99u. You can find Dan on his blog at http://wegrowmedia.com and on Twitter at @DanBlank.