November 26, 2015

The Tiger and the Dove Trilogy - Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale!

Books 1 and 2 of the Tiger and the Dove trilogy will be 99 cents (each) on Amazon for Kindle this Friday (tomorrow) through Monday! You don't want to miss this excellent historical fiction series. It would make a great gift for the Kindle book readers in your family, or among your friends. (And Book 3 will be on sale next week!)

The reviews speak for themselves. 4.6 out of 5 stars from 33 reviews for The Grip of God and 4.5 out of 5 stars from 14 reviews for Solomon's Bride.

Book 1 - The Grip of God  Buy the Book
The Grip of God is the first novel in an epic historical trilogy, The Tiger and the Dove. Set in the thirteenth century, its heroine, Sofia, is a young princess of Kievan Rus. She begins her story by recounting her capture in battle and life of slavery to a young army captain in the Mongol armies that are flooding Europe. Not only is her life shattered, it is threatened by the bitter rivalries in her new master’s powerful family, and shadowed by the leader of the Mongol invasion, Batu Khan, Genghis Khan’s grandson. How will she learn to survive in a world of total war, much less rediscover the love she once took for granted? Always seeking to escape and menaced by outer enemies and inner turmoil, where can she find safe haven even if she can break free? Clear eyed and intelligent, Sofia could be a character from The Game of Thrones, but she refuses to believe that life is solely about the strong dominating the weak or about taking endless revenge. Her story is based on actual historical events, which haunt her destiny. Like an intelligent Forrest Gump, she reflects her times. But as she matures, she learns to reflect on them as well, and to transcend their fetters. In doing so, she recreates a lost era for us, her readers.

Book 2 - Solomon's Bride  Buy the Book
Solomon’s Bride is the dramatic sequel to The Grip of God. Sofia, the heroine, a former princess from Kievan Rus’ was enslaved by a Mongol nobleman and then taken as a concubine by the leader of the Mongol invasions, Batu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. Now, having fled the Mongols with a price on her head, Sofia escapes into Persia and what she believes will be safety, only to fall into the clutches of the Assassins, who seek to disrupt the Mongol empire. In a world at war, both outer and inner, the second phase of her adventures unfolds. Can she ever find safe haven, much less the lost love and family that was almost destroyed by the Mongols?

Spotlight on Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors (Volume 2)

Publication Date: September 30, 2015
Madison Street Publishing
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook; 598 Pages
Genre: History

An anthology of essays from the second year of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book transports the reader across the centuries from prehistoric to twentieth century Britain. Nearly fifty different authors share the stories, incidents, and insights discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From medieval law and literature to Tudor queens and courtiers, from Stuart royals and rebels to Regency soldiers and social calls, experience the panorama of Britain’s yesteryear. Explore the history behind the fiction, and discover the true tales surrounding Britain’s castles, customs, and kings.

Visit the English Historical Fiction Authors blog & Facebook page.

“Thoroughly enjoyable and diverse…leisure reading for any history fan.” – Elizabeth Chadwick, on Castles, Customs, and Kings (Volume 1)


Seven Surprising Facts about Anne of Cleves 
By Nancy Bilyeau 

Everyone thinks they know the story of the fourth wife of Henry VIII. She was the German princess whom he married for diplomatic reasons, but when the forty-eight-year-old widower first set eyes on his twenty-four-year-old bride-to-be, he was repulsed.

With great reluctance, Henry went through with the wedding—saying darkly, “I am not well handled”—but after six months he’d managed to get an annulment, and the unconsummated marriage was no more. Although Anne had behaved impeccably as Queen, she accepted her new status as “sister” and lived a quiet, comfortable existence in England until 1557, when she became the last of the wives of King Henry VIII to die.

And so Anne of Cleves has either been treated as a punchline in the serio-comic saga of Henry VIII’s wives or someone who was smart enough to agree to a divorce, trading in an obese tyrant for a rich settlement. But the life of Anne of Cleves is more complex than the stereotypes would have you believe.

1. Anne’s father was a Renaissance thinker. The assumption is that Anne grew up in a backward German duchy, too awkward and ignorant to impress a monarch who’d once moved a kingdom for the sophisticated charms of Anne Boleyn. But her father, Duke John, was a patron of Erasmus, the Dutch Renaissance scholar.

The Cleves court was liberal and fair with low taxes for its citizens. And the Duke made great efforts to steer a calm course through the religious uproar engulfing Germany in the 1520s and 1530s, earning the name John the Peaceful. He died in 1538, so his must have been the greatest influence on Anne, rather than her more bellicose brother, William. In Germany, highborn ladies were not expected to sing or play musical instruments, but Anne would have been exposed to the moderate, thoughtful political ideals espoused by John the Peaceful.

2. Anne was born a Catholic and died a Catholic. Her mother, Princess Maria of Julich-Berg, had traditional religious values and brought up her daughters as Catholics, no matter what Martin Luther said. Their brother, Duke William, was an avowed Protestant, and the family seems to have moved in that direction when he succeeded to his father’s title.

Anne was accommodating when it came to religion. She did not hesitate to follow the lead of her husband Henry VIII, who was head of the Church of England. But in 1553, when her step-daughter Mary took the throne, she asked that Anne become a Catholic. Anne agreed. When she was dying, she requested that she have “the suffrages of the holy church according to the Catholic faith.”

3. Anne’s brother had a marriage that wasn’t consummated either. Duke William was not as interested in peace as his father. What he wanted more than anything else was to add Guelders to Cleves—but the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had other ideas. William took the bold step of a French marriage so that France would support him should it come to war.

His bride was Jeanne D’Albret, the daughter of Marguerite of Angouleme and niece of King Francis. The “high-spirited” Jeanne was only twelve and did not want to marry William. She was whipped by her family and physically carried to the altar by the Constable of France. But when Charles V took hold of Guelders, France did nothing to help William of Cleves. The four-year-old marriage was annulled—it had never been consummated. Jeanne’s next husband was Antoine de Bourbon, whom she loved. Their son would one day become Henry IV, King of France.

4. Hans Holbein painted Anne accurately. The question of Anne’s appearance continues to baffle modern minds. In portraits she looks attractive, certainly prettier than Jane Seymour. A French ambassador who saw her in Cleves said she was “of middling beauty and of very assured and resolute countenance.”

It is still unclear how hard Thomas Cromwell pushed for this marriage, but certainly he was not stupid enough to trick his volatile King into wedding someone hideous. The famous Hans Holbein was told to paint truthful portraits of Anne and her sister Amelia. After looking at them, Henry VIII chose Anne. Later, the King blamed people for overpraising her beauty, but he did not blame or punish Holbein. The portrait captures her true appearance. While we don’t find her repulsive, Henry did.

5. Henry VIII never called her a “Flanders Mare.” The English King’s attitude toward his fourth wife was very unusual for a sixteenth century monarch. Royal marriages sealed diplomatic alliances, and queens were expected to be pious and gracious, not sexy.

Henry wanted more than anything to send Anne home and not marry her, which would have devastated the young woman. He was only prevented from such cruelty by the (temporary) need for this foreign alliance. But while he fumed to his councilors and friends, he did not publicly ridicule her appearance. The report that Henry VIII cried loudly that she was a “Flanders mare” is not based on contemporary documents.

6. Anne of Cleves wanted to remarry Henry VIII. After the king’s fifth wife, young Catherine Howard, was divorced and then executed for adultery, Anne wanted to be Queen again. Her brother, William of Cleves, asked his ambassador to pursue her reinstatement. But Henry said no. When he took a sixth wife, the widow Catherine Parr, Anne felt humiliated and received medical treatment for melancholy. Her name came up as a possible wife for various men, including Thomas Seymour, but nothing came of it. She never remarried or left England.

7. Anne of Cleves is the only one of Henry’s wives to be buried in Westminster Abbey. Henry himself is buried at Windsor with favorite wife Jane Seymour, but Anne is interred in the same structure as Edward the Confessor and most of the Plantagenet, Tudor, and Stuart rulers. In her will she remembered all of her servants and bequeathed her best jewels to the stepdaughters she loved, Mary and Elizabeth.

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November 25, 2015

Jeanbill's Almost A Millenium - Guest Post

My inspiration for writing Almost a Millennium, why I chose the medieval period, and what is unique about this book:

I wanted to write about two men, one who believed in God and one who did not. Both would be the protagonists and both would have some kind of contact with one another. The good guy would try to convince the bad guy that he was wrong about God. Who is the good guy and who is the bad guy? I am not an atheist; therefore, I made the good guy to be the one who believes in God. 

In the early years of planning this book, the year 2000 would soon be here—the word “millennium” began appearing in the media. That word seemed to have penetrated my subconscious brain, provoking the thought in my consciousness that I could separate the two protagonists by geography and time, another land and one thousand years. How in the world are they going to make contact? I did not have the slightest idea. At that time, I was reading about cryptography and while we were in Switzerland and England, we decided to visit several monasteries. Then, it all seemed to come together. I would have the atheist be an American physician, whom I knew something about, and make the believer in God a monk in England. When? One thousand years ago in England, William, the Duke of Normandy, decided to invade and conquer England. From that data, I began to write all my thoughts about it, realizing I had to hit the books about that period in English history. But, how in the world are the two protagonists going to have contact?

Our monk has to have a personal experience with God, and be aware of the Pope’s decision to foster a crusade to Jerusalem that resulted in the killing of many Jewish people of which the monk highly criticized. Since he was a scribe he decided to write about the two events, but an acting abbot squelched his writing. Later on, he learned about cryptography, giving him the idea to cipher his writing. This is the only way that the monk could have contact with the atheist. Of course, the atheist’s contact was his cryptanalysis of the writings of the monk.

My book is unique in that it is divided into three parts. Every third chapter deals with the American physician, the same for the monk, and the other third deals with the history of the medieval period relating to the two fictional stories. I never thought I would have a chapter referring to Mohammed, but I had to in order to tell about the Arabs contribution to history and education in the 800s. Another unique aspect of the book is the introduction of new characters at the beginning of the chapters, dealing with the fictional stories. 

One of the most difficult challenges was to have the monk be at certain locations at a certain time where and when historical events happened: the killing of monks at Glastonbury Abbey, the Jewish killings in Mainz, and the early period of Llanthony Abbey in Wales.  

About the book
Almost a Millennium, by Jeanbill, was published in January 2015 and is available for sale on Amazon. Genres: Historical / Fiction / Medieval / Religion / Theism

Almost a Millennium is an eclectic novel about the unlikely connection between an English monk and an American physician that lived nearly 1,000 years apart, one of today and one in the medieval period. It begins at their birth, traveling through time to their adulthood.

Using cryptography, Paul, a monk at Llanthony Abbey in Wales, writes a four-page document about his life and a harsh critique of the crusades. He places his writings in safekeeping in the hope that it will survive the crusades and eventually land in the hands of someone who can decipher his secrets. When Fred unexpectedly comes across Paul’s book and ciphers Paul’s cryptic message, he has no idea that four pages of millennial history will challenge him to rethink Christianity.

“Almost a Millennium by Jeanbill is a deeply compelling historical fiction novel. Although a work of fiction, the story is a depiction of England's history and the power dynamics at the time. It is a richly detailed story and many times I found myself forgetting that I was reading a work of fiction as the historical events described felt very authentic. The setting of the story and the character development were simply amazing as we dived into Paul and Fred's compelling background stories. Paul and Fred were two people so different and yet so alike. The pace of the story was set from the beginning and this held true to the very last page. Jeanbill used a unique and very captivating style in developing this story.” - Reviewed by Faridah Nassozi for Readers’ Favorite

About the Author
Jeanbill has been associated with medicine for more than 50 years, practicing as a general practitioner. He studied many hours in the medieval library of University of Notre Dame, researched and wrote over a period of 20 years in his spare time.

His debut novel Almost a Millennium was published in January 2015 and is available for sale on Amazon. Genres: Historical / Fiction / Medieval / Religion / Theism

Jeanbill resides in Lynden, WA. Married to his other half for 57 years until cancer separated them, he has four children and 14 grandchildren.

Readers can connect with him on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

November 20, 2015

Spotlight on Sophie Perinot's Medicis Daughter


Publication Date: December 1, 2015
Thomas Dunne Books
Hardcover & eBook; 384 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot’s heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother’s schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot’s wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

Advance Praise
“This is Renaissance France meets Game of Thrones: dark, sumptuous historical fiction that coils religious strife, court intrigue, passionate love, family hatred, and betrayed innocence like a nest of poisonous snakes. Beautiful Princess Margot acts as our guide to the heart of her violent family, as she blossoms from naive court pawn to woman of conscience and renown. A highly recommended coming-of-age tale where the princess learns to slay her own dragons!” –Kate Quinn, Bestselling author of LADY OF THE ETERNAL CITY

“The riveting story of a 16th century French princess caught in the throes of royal intrigue and religious war. From the arms of the charismatic Duke of Guise to the blood-soaked streets of Paris, Princess Marguerite runs a dangerous gauntlet, taking the reader with her. An absolutely gripping read!” –Michelle Moran, bestselling author of THE REBEL QUEEN

“Rising above the chorus of historical drama is Perinot’s epic tale of the fascinating, lascivious, ruthless House of Valois, as told through the eyes of the complicated and intelligent Princess Marguerite. Burdened by her unscrupulous family and desperate for meaningful relationships, Margot is forced to navigate her own path in sixteenth century France. Amid wars of nation and heart, Médicis Daughter brilliantly demonstrates how one unique woman beats staggering odds to find the strength and power that is her birthright.” –Erika Robuck, bestselling author of HEMINGWAY’S GIRL

About the Author
SOPHIE PERINOT is the author of The Sister Queens and one of six contributing authors of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii. A former attorney, Perinot is now a full-time writer. She lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her three children, three cats, one dog and one husband.

An active member of the Historical Novel Society, Sophie has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences and served as a panelist multiple times. Find her among the literary twitterati as @Lit_gal or on Facebook.

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November 17, 2015

Oliver Sparrow's Dark Sun, Bright Moon - Guest Post

Dark Sun, Bright Moon.
The book is set a thousand years ago in Peru. It reflects the strange views that the isolated Quechua people had formed during their ten thousand years of isolation. I myself first encountered this outlook in 1980, when Peru was a rough country engaged in the early stages of a brutal civil war.

I met my first shaman in Oxapampa, a remote town hanging in mist over the jungle proper. It had been founded by German emigres a hundred years earlier, and red faced blond men held donkeys in the main square, bargaining in accented Spanish.

Even getting there was a major exercise. In 1980, barely any of the principal roads were asphalted, and none of the lesser track. After you have ground your way up from the desert coast to 15,700 feet at the Ticlio pass, therefore, you wander through open, sere landscape that is dotted with llamas and alpacas. A sudden drop takes you to the pretty Tarma valley with its fields of gladioli and arums. On my first visit, this was still a red-tiled village with a single-track road that, a few miles later, fell down the walls of the vast cañon that opened to the tropical Chanchamayo valley. Fragrant with coffee and mangos, enshrouded in red dust, enormous trucks confronted you on this road and necessitated reversing for long distances to let them pass. The river was a little thread below, the road between a rock wall and a sheer fall At night, festooned with Christmas tree lights and covered with tinsel, these sudden apparitions could give way to nobody, even if they were minded to do so.

In twelve hours, therefore, you had gone from frigid desert to alpine extremes and then, in perhaps three of those hours, dropped down into the humid tropics. Clothing changed three times, and both customs and accents more times than that. Seagulls and pelicans are replaced by macaws and parrots. Chanchamayo was then an armed camp, as groups struggled to control the coffee trade, and it was a relief to climb into the Oxapampa valley. This was and remains a place of jungle dwellers and dripping, orchid-filled cloud forest. That ascent took a further six hours on disastrously terrible roads, but today all of this is demystified by tarmac and satnav.

The then-military government had imposed strict controls on vehicle imports, As a result, the company had only a thirty year old Land Rover which, on arriving in a coffee cooperative short of Oxoapampa, shuddered, grunted and passed its mortal bounds. The cooperative was celebrating a Saint’s day and everyone was mostly naked and sweaty drunk, gathering in a ring around the vehicle with their machetes just kissing the ground. The only light came from a bonfire, the houses were palm thatch and wood and any thought of a telephone would have been an anachronism.

Years earlier, I had damaged my back in another set of great mountains, and the gruelling journey had worsened this. I needed a pole just to get out of the car. We all stood and stared at each other until the head of the cooperative came forward, offered us a drink and suggested the services of the curandera, the healer. This was how I first met Esmeralda.

His Spanish was not good and I understood this to mean the village mechanic. I was therefore surprised by an elderly woman with sharp eyes who, without a word, she started pulling at my clothing. I have to say that I thought that this was the local mad woman, and was working out how to solve an awkward situation when the headman stopped me, saying that she, this person, was the curandera. She quickly had me shirtless and with my pants around my ankles, prodding at my back. Still without speaking, she grunted and turned away into the dark. “Esperate ahi”, wait here, said the headman, so I did, more or less naked in front of an audience of thirty rowdy drunks. Eventually, she returned with a pot of sweet-smelling paste. After she has sat me on a coffee sack and put my head between my knees she kneaded this into my back. This seemed to signify acceptance – or anyway the end of the fun - and the crowd dispersed, drinks were thrust on us and by one means or another, the pain faded away as well.

The next day, watched by men cradling hangovers, we identified the problem as being a dead fuel pump. There was no prospect of replacing this. However, Land Rovers have their spare wheel mounted in front, and removing this gives access to the engine. A plastic pipe came off the air horn to give us a fuel feed line, and a funnel bought from the cooperative provided a way to drip fuel into it. My minder Archie was to drive, whilst I was to sit on the bonnet and drip petrol into the funnel.

Before we left, Esmeralda let it be known that she wanted to travel to Lima with us, and so it was that we set out on a journey of three patient days. I learned quickly how perform as a human carburettor, dripping the fuel and clearing dust out of the ball-of-wool filer, I froze at Ticlio, and was happy to get into the cabin as we freewheeled down the face of the Andes to the first workshop we found on the outskirts of Lima.

Esmeralda vanished in the crowd without adding to the few word that she has spoken throughout. She had my address, however, and she made contact through the medium of dolls made from tied scraps of cloth and left on the doorstep overnight.

One evening, just as I was planning to return and complete the business that had had been aborted by the death of the Land River, she turned up in person. This began a friendship that took me into the strange arenas that Dark Sun, Bright Moon explores: the parallel continua that create our little world, the role of the shaman, the yachaq', to belief in a propitiation of the apus that guard and manage individual communities, to the saqras who may manifest themselves to favoured individuals.

Later, I learned that hers was a thin, distorted version of the original rich worldview. Five hundred years of repression had all but extinguished anything but a folk version of what had been a high metaphysic. Despite this, the essence of this view – of the individual as an expression of a community, of the danger to the community from disharmony amongst individuals – remains a vital element in today’s Andean communities, wound into Catholicism through syncretic beliefs. The local apu is now called San Pedro (St Peter) but they still go up the mountain to dance for him and feed him beer, or sacrifice a guinea pig or, for serious matters, a llama. Dark Sun, Bright Moon is an attempt to reconstruct this very different way of seeing the world. I hope that readers think that it succeeds. You can see feedback of their views at

About the book
Dark Sun, Bright Moon, by Oliver Sparrow, was published in July 2014 and is available for sale on Amazon in both paperback and ebook.

Dark Sun, Bright Moon describes people isolated in the Andes, without the least notion of outsiders. They evolve an understanding of the universe that is complementary to our own but a great deal wider. The book explores events of a thousand years ago, events which fit with what we know of the region's history,” says Sparrow.

In the Andes of a thousand years ago, the Huari empire is sick. Its communities are being eaten from within by a plague, a contagion that is not of the body but of something far deeper, a plague that has taken their collective spirit. Rooting out this parasite is a task that is laid upon Q’ilyasisa, a young woman from an obscure little village on the forgotten borders of the Huari empire.

This impossible mission is imposed on her by a vast mind, a sentience that has ambitions to shape all human life. Her response to this entails confrontations on sacrificial pyramids, long journeys through the Amazonian jungle and the establishment of not just one but two new empires. Her legacy shapes future Andean civilization for the next four hundred years, until the arrival of the Spanish.

Dark Sun, Bright Moon takes the reader on a fascinating adventure that includes human sacrifice, communities eaten from within, a vast mind blazing under the mud of Lake Titicaca, and the rise and fall of empires cruel and kind.

About the Author
Oliver Sparrow was born in the Bahamas, raised in Africa and educated at Oxford to post-doctorate level, as a biologist with a strong line in computer science. He spent the majority of his working life with Shell, the oil company, which took him into the Peruvian jungle for the first time. He was a director at the Royal Institute for International Affairs, Chatham House for five years. He has started numerous companies, one of them in Peru, which mines for gold. This organisation funded a program of photographing the more accessible parts of Peru, and the results can be seen at Oliver knows modern Peru very well, and has visited all of the physical sites that are described in his book Dark Sun, Bright Moon.

To learn more, go to