July 21, 2014

M.J. Neary's Never Be At Peace - Guest Post


A pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom - and political martyrdom. Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies. After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices. In the words of Patrick Pearse, "Ireland unfree shall never be at peace". For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

"You cannot march into a battle with one hand tied behind your back!" With those words the legendary Maud Gonne (1866 – 1953), W.B. Yeats' muse, advocated for women's participation in the nationalistic movement in Ireland. Given that Maud had spent her childhood at a boarding school in France, it is not surprising that her traditional Anglo-Irish father had little influence over her. Contrary to popular assumptions, you do not learn obedience and conformity in boarding schools. You learn independence and elusiveness. It is no wonder that Maud defied the expectations of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy class into which she was born by embracing social activism, feminism and nationalism, the three concepts she believed went hand in hand. In 1900 women were excluded from political organizations and even cultural societies. When she approached the National Land League, she was told that ladies were not admitted. Interestingly enough, even though women were taught that ultimate fulfillment could only be achieved through marriage and motherhood, fifty percent of women in Ireland remained unmarried, fending for themselves in a rather inhospitable job market that favored men. Unhindered by the restrictions of the day, Maud went on to create her own organization called Daughters of Erin. It was the first step towards the integration of women into Ireland's nationalistic movement.

It was Maud Gonne's habit of having intimate relationships only with those men who shared her political ideals. In her 20s she had carried on with Lucien Millevoye, a married French politician. To him Maud had born two children, a boy who had died in infancy and a girl Iseult who had gone to become a noted beauty. Splitting her time between France and Ireland, Maud engaged in a turbulent emotional romance with W.B. Yeats and starred in his play Cathleen Ní Houlihan. She had rejected Yeats' marriage proposals at least three times, because he was not sufficiently patriotic. She went on to marry Major John MacBride, an Irish nationalist a few years her junior. Their marriage ended up falling apart due to allegations of domestic violence. MacBride was later executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising. Yeats, who hated MacBride for obvious reasons, briefly mentioned him in his poem "Easter, 1916" as "a drunken, vain-glorious lout."

I did not make Maud Gonne the focal figure in my latest novel Never Be at Peace (Fireship Press, 2014). She is already an iconic figure and does not need any more exposure. Rather, I chose to focus on the underrated heroine Maud had informally adopted and groomed to be her . This earnest and ferocious Irishwoman was Helena Molony (1884-1967). A quintessential lower-middle class Dublin girl with frizzy auburn hair, freckles and a button nose, Helena was earnest and idealistic. Orphaned at a young age, she had no blood relatives except for her older brother Frank, who already was involved in nationalistic politics. On Frank's urging, she attended a Daughters of Erin meeting hosted at Maud's house. When Helena arrived, the house was being raided by the police. When questioned by the constable whether or not she was a member, the girl boldly stated that indeed she was. Moved by the young girl's audacity, Maud took her under her wing and made her the secretary of the new organization. That day Helena's fate was sealed. There was no turning back. Peaceful, boring life was not an option. Helena continued to cultivate her acting talent and went to become an actress at the Abbey Theatre co-founded by Yeats and Lady Gregory.

One of Helena's responsibilities was editing the organization's literary journal, to which many literary voices of the era contributed. Through her activism she met many fellow-nationalists who came from various walks of life. Contrary to popular assumptions, not all Irish nationalists were Irish, Catholic and economically disadvantaged. One of Helena's comrades, her future lover-turn-adversary, was Bulmer Hobson, a charismatic Ulsterman of from a liberal Quaker family of predominantly English blood. The members of Bulmer's immediate circle did not understand his interest in Irish nationalism, given that he did not have strong genetic links to that culture. Nevertheless, he was one of Ulster's most prominent nationalists who greatly contributed to the revival of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the north. One of the sources of friction between Helena and Bulmer was that she championed the labor cause, he did not fully understand her concern for the poor. Unlike Helena, Bulmer had the support of a solid, prosperous family. His father was a successful businessman. His mother was a feminist writer and freelance archeologist. And his older sister was Ireland's first female architect. Although not grossly privileged, Bulmer did not have firsthand experience with addiction, destitution and abuse. In his social strata, unemployment did not necessarily mean starvation. Bulmer spent long periods of time "searching for himself". Holding down a job was not a priority for him. A few times he got fired for putting his nationalistic activities first. Apparently, his parents did not pressure him too aggressively into gainful employment. Authenticity and staying true to one's self rank pretty highly on the list of priorities for Quakers. Bulmer could go for years without a steady income, and his parents would always give him money for food and clothes. Even though he and Helena shared a vision for a liberated Ireland, Bulmer could not help rolling his eyes whenever Helena mentioned the interests of the working class. In my novel I took this opportunity to elaborate on the socioeconomic disparity between the two lovers.

James Connolly's Death
by  Alissa Mendenhall

The final ideological rift between Helena and Bulmer happened over the idea of an armed rising. Helena fully supported a rebellion, especially in light of England's involvement in World War I, especially since Germany promised to help the Irish. It did not matter to her that the chances of a military success were non-existent. Like Patrick Pearse, she believed in the symbolic power of bloodshed and martyrdom. Bulmer, on another hand, felt that a premature rising would be a waste of human life. A romantic in every other respect, he showed strange pragmatism. He went as far as trying to stop the ill-fated rising. This act of defiance had nearly cost him his life. He was kidnapped and held at gunpoint until the rising was well underway, while his former love Helena was on the roof of the City Hall with her comrades-at-arms.

When it came time to choose which military organization to join, Helena Molony chose the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) over Cumann na mBan (translated as Women's League), because in the ICA women were allowed to join on the same level as men, where as Cuman naBhan was a medical adjacent unit to the Irish Volunteers. She objected to the idea that women were only good for bandaging the wounds of their male comrades'. Irish girls were also damn good at making gunshot holes in their enemies. Helena's combat experience was short-lived. On Easter Tuesday, she was captured along with the surviving contingent of the Irish Citizen Army. The girls were separated from their male comrades and locked up in a filthy store where they waited out the rest of the uprising.

Even though Maud Gonne did not participate in the hostilities of 1916, she monitored the events closely and even hired an attorney to defend her former protegee - an act of compassion that Helena proudly declined. For her it was an honor to be imprisoned for what she believed in. Interestingly, Maud admitted to hating violence and regarded an armed rebellion a necessary evil. "I have always hated war and am by nature and philosophy a pacifist, but it is the English who are forcing war on us, and the first principle of war is to kill the enemy." It's questionable whether or not Helena shared the same distaste for violence. It could be that she actually derived some pleasure out of physical hostilities. In 1911 during the royal visit protests, Helena was arrested for throwing rocks at the king's portrait. While serving her time in jail, she actually worried that Maud might find her behavior childish and embarrassing. Imagine Helena's delight when she received a telegram from Maud stating "Well done!" For Helena, being congratulated on an act of juvenile hooliganism was the highest form of validation. In spite of all the hardship she had witnessed, she still retained that pugnacious tomboy side. In my novel, I wanted to explore the psychological complexity of a rebel's psyche. The fine line between heroism and hooliganism is very fine. A martyr is just one step away from becoming a traitor. That's what makes it interesting for a writer to explore the events of that era. It's not just black and white - or in Ireland's case, green and orange.


About the author
Marina Julia Neary is an award-winning historical essayist, multilingual arts & entertainment journalist, novelist, dramatist and poet.Her areas of expertise include British steampunk, French Romanticism and Irish nationalism.

Her latest novel, Never Be At Peace, is garnering rave reviews from prominent authors, historians and critics. Her novel Wynfield’s Kingdom(Fireship Press, 2009) was featured in the March 2010 edition of First Edition Magazine in the UK, followed by the sequel Wynfield’s War in 2010. She is also the author of two historical plays, Hugo in London (licensing available through Heuer Press), and the sequel Lady with a Lamp: The Untold Story of Florence Nightingale (illustrated edition available through Fireship Press).

Her poems have been organized in a collection Bipolar Express (Flutter Press, 2010).Her sci-fi novelette, My Salieiri Complex is available as an e-book through Gypsy Shadow Press. Neary currently serves as an editorial reviewer and steady contributor for Bewildering Stories magazine.

July 16, 2014

Deborah Hill's The Heir - Guest Post


Here’s the question: how does the writer wrap the plot around history?

I take it as given that history can't change. Nor am I fond of narrative, which I use very sparingly. My characters, by their actions, have to tell us what is happening. A segment of The House of Kingsley Merrick, the second novel of the Kingsland Series, demonstrates the possibilities and the problems.

The scene is Cape Cod, the era is the beginning of the Civil War. One problem is that nothing happened on Cape Cod that relates to the war, except, of course, for young men volunteering. I struggled on through it 35 years ago, when I first wrote and published these books. This victory, that victory – frankly rather boring, but I didn’t know what else to do, and eventually the war ended, thank goodness.

But now! With the internet at my fingertips, I made a wonderful discovery: THE STONE FLEET.

The Fleet consisted of defunct whaling ships in New Bedford, MA, bought for a song by the government, fitted out with removable plugs and loaded with stones from the fields of local farmers. At a certain date the fleet was to sail for Charleston, the plugs pulled, and the ships sunk in the harbor, blocking it. Well, if not exactly on Cape Cod, New Bedford is close enough.

Was there a possibility that Kingsley could watch the fleet leave? If he could get himself to the top right of the map, sail south-west down past Falmouth, the ships would be sailing right past him.


As it turns out, he boards a schooner hired by old captains, helping the father of his beloved to climb on, along with the beloved herself. (Not an easy feat to arrange, but I persevered.) History was not violated, the action involved the Cape, and my characters were there, witnessing the event while starting to move forward and into their love affair.

In fact, the dithering and delay of the Union army and navy caused the fleet, which was sunk on schedule, to break up in the tides and currents of Charleston Harbor, providing no barrier at all. But this was not my concern! My characters are living in the moment, when everyone believes the fleet’s mission to be viable.

More troubling was the fact that the date of departure from New Bedford was top secret. But I decided that the captains knew someone important (after all, they’d spent their lives at sea and must have been acquainted with naval personnel of one sort or another.) Deep water mariners stick together; surely someone would be willing to humor them.

Someone does. Problem resolved. The story moves on and into the love affair, which we all have been waiting for. And that is, at least, one instance of how the plot can be made to wrap itself around history.

About the book
In the third book of a series chronicling 200 years of an American family’s triumphs and troubles, a young man returns to his roots to reclaim his heritage.
“I married into this family. Its ancestors did interesting things, and since they aren’t my own, I was able turn their story into historical fiction with a lot more freedom anyone related to them could have done.”-Deborah Hill, The Kingsland Series.

Thirty-five years ago, while living in Cape Cod, author Deborah Hill became captivated by the memoirs of her husband’s mariner ancestor and began to research the family’s history. In a pre-Internet world, Hill found herself pouring through old library books and ancient church records, and began to piece together the saga of the fictional Merrick family. The result was The Kingsland Series, a historically accurate, adventure-filled, spicy trilogy, which will conclude with the release of The Heir in March.

The Heir follows Steven Sinclaire, who grows up with the malicious husband whom his mother, Emily Merrick, tricked into marrying her. Steven endures the humiliations this man inflicts on him by escaping into his memories of Kingsland, the Merrick family’s estate on Cape Cod Bay. Refusing to study at Harvard University, as is expected of him, Steven flees to Kingsland where he learns to value the skills and hard work of the countrymen he meets. When he saves enough, he attends the college of his own choice, and then enters the world of corporate America. Years later, after having inherited the Kingsland Estate, he again returns, hoping to find an alternative to his generation’s frantic post-war climb – and a way to restore his own honor and that of his family.

This is the House, the first book in the Kingsland Series, was originally published in 1976 and sold over 700,000 copies. Set on Cape Cod in the years following the American Revolution, it is the story of Molly Deems, a woman who marries Captain Elijah Merrick in order to escape her mother’s shame. The captain is the ancestor of the author’s hus-band, and the story is based on his own memoir, which Hill has also edited and published as Recollections of a Cape Cod Mariner. The second title in the series, The House of Kingsley Merrick, picking up twenty years after the previous novel ended, follows the title character from Cape Cod to Australia and back to Cape Cod, where he seeks retribution for persecutions he endured as a youth. Both books were re-issued two years ago, coinciding with the bicentennial of the War of 1812.


About the author
Deborah Hill graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Creative Writing and was an elementary school counselor for many years. She currently lives in Brockton, Massachusetts. The Heir by Deborah Hill (published by North Road Publishing, RRP $17.95, e-book RRP $10.99) is available online at retailers including Amazon.com and all good bookstores. For more information, please visit www.DeborahHillBooks.com.

July 11, 2014

Devil in the Marshalsea - Spotlight and {Giveaway}


About the book
Publication Date: June 10, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: eBook, Paperback

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Thrilling new historical fiction starring a scoundrel with a heart of gold and set in the darkest debtors’ prison in Georgian London, where people fall dead as quickly as they fall in love and no one is as they seem.

It’s 1727. Tom Hawkins is damned if he’s going to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a country parson. Not for him a quiet life of prayer and propriety. His preference is for wine, women, and cards. But there’s a sense of honor there too, and Tom won’t pull family strings to get himself out of debt—not even when faced with the appalling horrors of London’s notorious debtors’ prison: The Marshalsea Gaol.

Within moments of his arrival in the Marshalsea, Hawkins learns there’s a murderer on the loose, a ghost is haunting the gaol, and that he’ll have to scrounge up the money to pay for his food, bed, and drink. He’s quick to accept an offer of free room and board from the mysterious Samuel Fleet—only to find out just hours later that it was Fleet’s last roommate who turned up dead. Tom’s choice is clear: get to the truth of the murder—or be the next to die.

Praise for The Devil in the Marshalsea
“Hodgson…conjures up scenes of Dickensian squalor and marries them to a crackerjack plot, in her impressive first novel…Hodgson makes the stench, as well as the despair, almost palpable, besides expertly dropping fair clues. Fans of Iain Pears and Charles Palliser will hope for a sequel.” –Publishers Weekly (STARRED REVIEW)

“The plot develops almost as many intricate turns as there are passages in the Marshalsea…Hodgson’s plotting is clever…the local color hair-raising.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Satisfyingly twisty debut thriller…so well detailed that one can almost smell the corruption, and the irrepressibly roguish Tom makes a winning hero.” —Booklist

“Historical fiction just doesn’t get any better than this. A riveting, fast-paced story…Magnificent!” —Jeffery Deaver, author of the bestselling The Kill Room and Edge

“Antonia Hodgson’s London of 1727 offers that rare achievement in historical fiction: a time and place suspensefully different from our own, yet real. The Devil in the Marshalsea reminds us at every turn that we ourselves may not have evolved far from its world of debtors and creditors, crime and generosity, appetite and pathos. A damn’d good read.” —Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian and The Swan Thieves

“A wonderfully convincing picture of the seamier side of 18th-century life. The narrative whips along. Antonia Hodgson has a real feel for how people thought and spoke at the time—and, God knows, that’s a rare talent.” —Andrew Taylor, author of An Unpardonable Crime and The Four Last Things

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About the author
Antonia Hodgson is the editor in chief of Little, Brown UK. She lives in London and can see the last fragments of the old city wall from her living room. The Devil in the Marshalsea is her first novel.

For more information please visit Antonia Hodgson’s website. You can also find her on Goodreads and Twitter.


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July 10, 2014

Barbara Kyle's The Queen's Exiles - Guest Post and {Giveaway}


HOW FENELLA BECAME A STAR

Readers love series. It's a benign addiction. We get to know the continuing characters so well we can't wait to find out what happens to them in the next book.

What happens can sometimes surprise the author. The surprise for me was Fenella Doorn.

Fenella is the heroine of my new historical thriller, The Queen's Exiles. She's a savvy Scottish-born entrepreneur who salvages ships. This is the sixth book in my Thornleigh Saga which follows a middle-class English family's rise through three tumultuous Tudor reigns.

Fenella played a small but crucial role in The Queen's Gamble, and then I kind of forgot about her. She didn't appear in the next book, Blood Between Queens, but when I was planning the story after that Fenella sneaked up me.

She's a determined, passionate, courageous woman, and rather cheeky—she insisted that I include her in the new story. She reminded me that she had past connections with two exciting men in the series, Adam Thornleigh and Carlos Valverde, which promised some dramatic sparks.

So, I did more than include her in the new book. I made her its star.

That can happen when you write a series—a secondary character can take over. I was glad Fenella did. She offered me an opportunity to create a complex, admirable woman who doesn't fit the ingénue heroine so common in historical fiction.

She's not a young thing; she's thirty. She's not a pampered lady; she rolls up her sleeves running her business of refitting ships. She's attractive but not a smooth-faced beauty; her cheek is scarred from a brute's attack with a bottle years ago. And she's not a virgin; she was once the mistress of the commander of the Edinburgh garrison (he of the bottle attack).

In other words, Fenella is my kind of woman.

But making her the star of the new book in my series meant some serious recalibrating. How could I fit her into the Thornleigh family? Writing a series opens up a vista of opportunities but also a minefield of traps. I'll share a few with you here.

Creating a Series Bible

Before writing full time I enjoyed a twenty-year acting career, and one of the TV series I did was a daytime drama called High Hopes. Its writers kept a story "bible," a record of the myriad details that had to be consistent from show to show concerning the dozens of characters. It's a wise practice for the writer of a series of novels, too.
My Thornleigh Saga books follow a family for three generations so it's easy to forget facts about a character that were covered three or four books ago. So I keep a "bible" that tracks the characters' ages, occupations, marriages, love affairs, children, ages of their children, homes, character traits, and physical details like color of hair . . . and missing body parts! Richard Thornleigh loses an eye in The Queen's Lady (Book 1) yet in later books I would often start to write things like, "His eyes were drawn to ..." So I keep that "bible" near.

Each Book Must Stand On Its Own

An author can't assume that readers have read the previous books in the series. My agent always reminds me of this when I send him the outline for a new book in the Thornleigh Saga. "Many readers won't know what these characters have already been through," he wisely says.

So each book has to give some background about what's happened to the main characters in the preceding books, enough to fill in new readers. However, it can't lay on so much back story that it bores readers who have followed all the books. Getting the balance right is tricky.

I like the way episodes in a TV series start with a recap: "Previously on Downton Abbey . . . " It refreshes the memory of viewers who've seen the previous episodes, and is just enough to tantalize those who haven't and fill them in. I wish I could have an announcer give a recap at the beginning of my Thornleigh books! The point is, each book in a series has to stand on its own. It must be a complete and satisfying story for any reader.

Consistency Can Yield Rewards

When I had a brute cut Fenella Doorn's cheek in The Queen's Gamble I never expected Fenella to reappear in a future story. Two books later, when I brought her back in The Queen's Exiles, I could not ignore the fact that she would have a sizable scar on her cheek. So I used that scar to enrich her character.

She had been a beauty at eighteen, relying on men to support her, but when her cut face marred her attractiveness she realized that it was now up to her to put bread on the table and clothes on her back. I made her aware, even grateful, that the scar freed her from the bonds of beauty; it made her independent. And she became a successful entrepreneur.

Letting Characters Age

It's hard for readers to believe that a hero can fight off bad guys like a young stud if the decades-long timeline of the books he appears in make him, in fact, a senior citizen. J. K Rowling was smart. She let Harry Potter and his friends grow up.

I've enjoyed letting my characters age. Through six books I've taken Honor Larke from precocious seven-year-old to wise grande dame as Lady Thornleigh. Her step-son Adam Thornleigh's first big role was in The Queen's Captive where he was an impetuous seafaring adventurer, but by the time of The Queen's Exiles Adam has become a mature man, a loyal champion of his friend Queen Elizabeth. He has been through a loveless marriage, adores his two children, and falls hard for Fenella Doorn.

I'm grateful that Fenella insisted I feature her in The Queen's Exiles. (By the way, that's her on the cover.) The book has been out for just a month and already I'm hearing from readers that they love her.

I don't know if Fenella will reappear in a future book or not, but right now she's a star.

About the book
Publication Date: May 27, 2014
Kensington Publishing
Formats: Ebook, Paperback

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Europe is in turmoil. A vengeful faction of exiled English Catholics is plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth and install her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. And in the Netherlands the streets are red with the blood of those who dare to oppose the brutal Spanish occupation. But amid the unrest, one resourceful young woman has made a lucrative enterprise. Scottish-born Fenella Doorn salvages crippled vessels. It is on one of these ships that she meets wealthy Baron Adam Thornleigh. Secretly drawn to him, Fenella can’t refuse when Adam enlists her to join him in war-torn Brussels to help find his traitorous wife, Frances—and the children she’s taken from him. But Adam and Fenella will put their lives in peril as they attempt to rescue his young ones, defend the Crown, and restore a peace that few can remember. With eloquent and enthralling finesse, Barbara Kyle illuminates one of history’s grimmest chapters. The Queen’s Exiles breathes new life into an extraordinary age when love and freedom could only be won with unmitigated courage.

READ THE FIRST CHAPTER.

Praise for The Queen’s Exiles
“Riveting Tudor drama in the bestselling vein of Philippa Gregory” – USA Today

“A bold and original take on the Tudors that dares to be different. Enjoy the adventure!” – Susanna Kearsley, New York Times bestselling author

“This moving adventure pulses with Shakespearean passions: love and heartbreak, risk and valour, and loyalties challenged in a savage time. Fenella Doorn, savvy and brave, is an unforgettable heroine.” – Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival

“Brilliant. A page-turner of love and loyalty in treacherous Tudor times. A truly unforgettable adventure.” – Deborah Swift, author of A Divided Inheritance

“A vivid and compelling novel by an author at the very top of her craft.” – Diane Haeger, author of I, Jane

Praise for Barbara Kyle’s Books

“Kyle knows what historical fiction readers crave.” – RT Book Reviews on Blood Between Queens

“A complex and fast-paced plot mixing history with vibrant characters” – Publishers Weekly on The King’s Daughter

“An all-action thriller, bringing to life the passion and perils of the Tudor period.” – Lancashire Evening Post on The King’s Daughter

“Riveting…adventurous…superb!” – The Historical Novels Review on The Queen’s Gamble

“An exciting tale of the intrigue and political manoeuvring in the Tudor court.” – Booklist on The Queen’s Captive

“Boldly strides into Philippa Gregory territory…sweeping, gritty and realistic.” – The Historical Novels Review on The Queen’s Lady



About the Author
Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed, internationally-published Thornleigh Saga novels which follow a middle-class English family’s rise through three tumultuous Tudor reigns:

The Queen’s Exiles
Blood Between Queens
The Queen’s Gamble
The Queen’s Captive
The King’s Daughter
The Queen’s Lady

Barbara was a speaker in 2013 at the world-renowned Stratford Festival with her talk Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers’ organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S.

For more information visit www.barbarakyle.com. You can also connect with Barbara at Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


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July 03, 2014

Elizabeth Chadwick's The Summer Queen





About the Book
Young Eleanor has a bright future as the heiress to wealthy Aquitaine. But when her beloved father dies, childhood is suddenly over. Forced to marry Prince Louis of France, she barely adjusts before another death catapults them to King and Queen. Leaving everything behind, young Eleanor must face the complex and vivacious French court – and all of its scandals.

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IndieBound

About the Author
Elizabeth Chadwick (UK) is the author of 20 historical novels, including The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion, A Place Beyond Courage, The Outlaw Knight, Shadows and Strongholds, The Winter Mantle, and The Falcons of Montabard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Awards.