Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Like the Queen - A Christmas Message from Ms. Stuart



Dear friends...

And so 2014 draws to a close. My fridge is groaning with enough food to survive the worst Zombie Apocalypse (by the way what IS a zombie apocalypse?). The Christmas tree lights up my life every evening and it is time for a little introspection to reflect on the year that was.

As I publicly declared my New Year Resolutions back in January, here is the score card:

PERSONAL
  • Continue the weight loss journey (family wedding in November and I don’t want to be the short tubby one on the end of the row in the photographs!): Total fail... I WAS the tubby one on the end of the row in the wedding photographs.
  • Keep up the exercise. 4 days minimum. I have been rather injury prone this year which has slowed me down but I did enter Run Melbourne (with my work colleagues) and managed a respectable time in the "old chook" category.
  • Make more time for my needlework. Yes! I finished two quilts and nearly finished a huge cross stitch project. Biggest hindrance to this resolution are my too friendly cats who view my lap as there personal domain in the evening. 
  • Make space in the schedule for quality time with my husband (who after working hard all his life is taking a "gap year") and family. There is more to life than writing! Hubby worked interstate for 4 months this year so this was a hard ask.

PROFESSIONAL
  • Drawing on my corporate background, I have written a "business plan" for 2014 so my goal is to stick to it! All your theory is good but the tree of life is still green... 
  • Better balance of the need to write with the "busyness" side of being a writer which can mean way too much time on social media.  Rolling on the floor laughing...

Oh well - looks like a bit of work to do in setting next year's goals but none the less it has been a fun year:
  • I published 2 books (my first indie CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART) and my first Escape Publishing title (LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR). Both books have earned some wonderful reviews so I can't complain!
  • I signed a 3 book contract with Escape for my Guardians Series coming out in 2015.
  • I finished the first of my cosy mystery series set in Singapore in 1910 - not that it is going anywhere at the moment. It needs a good spit and polish before I send it out into the big wide world.
And on a personal note, I experienced:
  • The joy of sharing my son's wedding in November and welcoming a new family member (daughter in law).
  • The pleasure in my youngest son's engagement.
  • Celebrating my own 30 years of marriage.
  • Crossing the lifetime dream of visiting the ancient classical sites of Greece and Turkey.
  • And only one tiny little sniffle of a cold...
So lots of blessings to count and a life to be thankful for, particularly the many readers and friends who have travelled with me during the year!

A safe and happy Christmas, Hannukah, Holiday season to you all (whatever your beliefs may be!)

Much love
Alison
PS... In case you're wondering the cat in the Christmas tree is Mr. Oliver Kat.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Merry Christmas from Mr. Cromwell...

Of all the heinous offences laid at the feet of the puritans (or "fun police") during the time of the Interregnum (1649-1660), the banning of Christmas raises the most interest. Oliver Cromwell is generally credited with this decision but the fact is that the abolition of Christmas (or “Christ’s Mass”) as a feast day and holiday predated Cromwell’s rise to power and was the outcome of the puritan domination of Parliament in the 1640s.

Oliver Cromwell aka the "Grinch"

Christmas had always been celebrated in England with traditions predating Christianity itself eg the “holly and the ivy” goes well back into pagan times. The traditions of wassailing, carols, feasting, mummers, plays and the resultant general drunkenness, frivolity and idleness were not looked on favourably by the puritans who believed that not only was it pagan but also resounded with Roman Catholic undertones. The puritans believed in a pure (hence the name) form of worship and devotion, based on the scriptures and felt that even the reformation had not gone far enough.

In 1645, a “Directory of Public Worship” was produced in Westminster to replace the prayer book and in 1647 the parliament passed an ordinance abolishing the feasts of Christmas, Whitsun and Easter. In the 1650s this was taken further with a specific ordinance ordering shops and businesses to remain open on 25th December. Despite the ordinances and the threat of penalties (that included fines and being placed in the stocks) many people continued to covertly celebrate Christmas behind closed doors.

For an account of one family’s perilous decision to continue the practice of Christmas, see the diaries of William Winstanley. Winstanley was an Essex farmer who “believed it was the duty of all Christians to celebrate the birth of their Saviour, with joyous festivity and open-handed generosity towards friends, relations and more especially the poor." (Alison Barnes, author of William Winstanley: The Man Who Saved Christmas ).  See my post on William Winstanley on HISTORICAL HEARTS- Click HERE.

In 1660 the monarchy was restored and the Christmas ban was lifted, although, not surprisingly, after 18 dour years it took some time for it to return to the familiar carousing and good cheer.

As we contemplate the “stress” of Christmas, is there, perhaps a pause for consideration that perhaps the puritans were not all that wrong and that a purer form of worship and remembrance of Christ’s nativity should have a place in modern society? Just a thought... 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Gambling in the Regency- Alanna Lucas

I have just returned from a 10 day camping trip and as Christmas roars up at me at the speed of light (got to get the camping gear away before the tree can go up!), this will be my last Friday guest poster for the year and what a lovely, seasonal finish to a year of fabulous guests and interesting facts.

Here in Australia a Christmas of snow and mistletoe seems very far removed from a baking northerly wind and what is more evocative than the thought of Regency England... under a covering of snow. So thank you to Alanna Lucas for bringing me that thought... 

Traveller, rev head and dark chocolate lover, Alanna Lucas grew up in Southern California. From an early age, she took an interest in travel, incorporating those experiences into her writing. When she is not daydreaming of her next travel destination, Alanna can be found researching, spending time with family, or going for long walks. She is the author of four historical novels (3 regency romances and a Montana set historical romance). To find out more about Alanna visit her website:  www.alannalucas.com . You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

Alanna takes a look at gambling in the Georgian/Regency times... 

GAMBLING - A FUN PASTIME OR SERIOUS VICE?

Gambling at Whites
Gambling is one of the earliest forms of entertainment dating back thousands of years to the ancient civilizations. Throughout history, gambling has been seen not only as entertainment, but also as a way to improve one’s lot in life. This philosophy had not changed during the Georgian period.

During the eighteenth century in England, gambling was one of the most sought-after forms of entertainment. In one evening fortunes were lost and won over Faro, Hazard, and various wagers, just to name a few vices.

In the betting books, the standard entries ranged from wagering on horses to wrestling, and everything in between. Men- and women- would bet on the mundane and unpredictable. Anything and everything became the subject of bets from whose father would die first, to the outcome of a race between turkeys and geese.

These bets were not for some paltry sum either. They could range upward of thousands of pounds. Lord Arlington’s wager was one such extravagant gamble. Two raindrops, a windowpane, and 3,000 pounds were the accouterments of the wager.

One evening while at White’s, Lord Arlington bet 3,000 pounds on which two designated raindrops would reach the bottom of the bow windowpane first. Needless to say, Lord Arlington’s purse was a little lighter after that bet.

Despite those who gambled before them and lost, the lure of the possibility of winning was just too great for some. So, whether watching raindrops, jumping out of a window, or tracking some geese, one thing was for certain, no bet was too large, no task too small.

MISTLETOE WALTZ



Trust, patience and mistletoe must overcome a forced marriage, dark secrets, and a looming shadow that threatens all chance of Faith finding love with the Marquess of Hawthorne. 

A HOLIDAY WISH 
Marcus, the Marquess of Hawthorne, vowed never to fall in love. He should have vowed never to marry. Caught in a compromising situation, he’s been forced to wed the young woman he was trying to rescue. Beautiful? Yes. But his new bride’s apprehensions seem worse than his own, and as family and friends arrive at Deer Park to celebrate Christmastide, all he wants is for Faith to play the part of a happy wife and hostess. 

She will not, however—or cannot. And when she commits yet another desperate act, this time with disastrous results, Marcus must save Faith once again. Now he must discover what drives her, what dark secrets keep her unable to trust or love, and what she truly desires. Only then will they, with the magic of mistletoe, overcome the pasts and taste the delights of the season.

BUY MISTLETOE WALTZ


Monday, December 8, 2014

Launch Day for How to Beguile a Duke: Ally Broadfield



This post is part of a book blast organized by Goddess Fish Promotions for the launch of Ally Broadfield's How to Beguile a Duke. One randomly chosen winner via Rafflecopter will receive a $25 Amazon/BN gift card.


HOW TO BEGUILE A DUKE
The spirited Catherine Malboeuf has just arrived in England to reclaim her ancestral home, Walsley Manor, and a valuable missing heirloom. Nicholas Adair, the attractive and frustratingly inflexible Duke of Boulstridge, however, is quite unwilling to sell the estate back to Catherine. Unless, of course, she accepts a small wager...

Nick will sell Walsley Manor if--and only if--Catherine secures an offer of marriage from an eligible member of the ton before the end of the London season.

Of course, Nick is certain he'll win. After all, no proper gentleman would ever marry a woman who conceals a cutlass in her skirts. Yet something about Catherine's unconventional disposition seems to ignite a need deep inside him. A need that won't just cost him the wager, but the very heart he swore to never give away...
Enjoy an excerpt:

He ought not to have let her take the journal. It wasn’t appropriate reading material for an innocent. 

“If you like, I will reread the journal and make note of all of your great-grandmother’s…acquaintances so we can narrow down the possibilities.”

She clasped the journal to her chest. “Good heavens, no. I shall do it.”

“Why?”

“I would never be able to look you in the eye again knowing that you had read about her…exploits.”

“Catherine.” She cast a startled glance at him. Stifling the laughter threatening to erupt, he said, “I’ve already read the journal. There is nothing in there with which I am not already familiar.”

Casting her eyes downward, she said, “Well, there is much with which I am unfamiliar.”

Laughter burst forth from him, refusing to be contained. “Well I certainly hope so. It is not appropriate reading material for you. Give it back to me, and I will make a list of everyone mentioned in the journal. We must be thorough.” Casting his eyes toward the spire of a church in the distance, he attempted to dispel the images of Catherine reenacting her great grandmother’s escapades with him. His imagination was very thorough. Too thorough.


About the Author: Ally lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with three kids, four dogs, a cat, a rabbit, and several reptiles. Oh, and her husband. She likes to curse in Russian and spends most of her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She writes historical romance set in Regency England and Imperial Russia.

She loves to hear from readers and you can find Ally on her website, Facebook, and Twitter, though she makes no claims of using any of them properly.

Website: http://allybroadfield.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/allybroadfield

Twitter: http://twitter.com/abroadfield

Group Blog: http://embracingromance.com


Buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, or Google Play.



Friday, November 28, 2014

SEVENTEENTH CENTURY IS THE NEW REGENCY (part 2)

I have a firm and inconquerable belief that the world has yet to discover the seventeenth century as a brilliant source of romantic fiction.  (see my earlier POST). I am not alone in this belief... as the following post shows. There is a growing tide of writers exploring this era and I am delighted to add my books to the list!

My current seventeenth century (English Civil War) titles are CLAIMING THE REBEL'S HEART and a time travel SECRETS IN TIME and coming in 2015 I have a trilogy of stories running from 1650-1660 beginning with BY THE SWORD coming in March. So watch out for news about The Guardians series. 




(Copied with permission from marybarretdyer.blogspot.com)

There’s a vast crowd of enthusiasts reading and discussing everything medieval and renaissance. But time didn’t stop with Elizabeth Tudor’s death in 1603. Are you looking for the rest of the story? 

King James, his son King Charles I, and grandsons Charles II and James II kept the drama level high and dangerous in the seventeenth century. Their marriages and lovers, births and deaths, political intrigues, religious conflicts, witch hunts, and wars marked the beginning of our modern period. Their aristocrats and politicians, tradesmen, midwives, ministers, writers, musicians, scientists, and artists changed the world.  

Have you noticed that it’s the gift-giving season?  Why not knock out your whole gift list right now with these suggestions? The gift of a book is one that's remembered for years. Some people find it convenient to buy books for all their siblings, or as appreciation gifts for their children’s teachers. You might give paperback books to some in the family, or use the Kindle-gift option. Some books are stand-alone, some are part of a series.

This is a list of authors who have the 17th century covered, from Shakespeare and midwife forensic investigators to barber surgeons, Charles II’s mistresses, men and women who founded American democracy, servants and highway robbers, people who gave their lives for their principles or just because they were falsely accused as witches. In these books you’ll find sumptuous gowns and high society, educated women, poverty, prostitutes, and massacres, childbirth and plague, castles and manors, cathedrals and meetinghouses—even a vampire.

Our ninth or tenth great-grandparents knew these people—or were these people. (Well, probably not the vampire—but everyone else!) Discover what their lives were like, and how their lives formed who you are. Many of the book characters from the 17th century are based on facts, events, and real people. The authors, in addition to their literary skills, have spent months and years in research to get the 17th century world “just right,” so you’ll get your history veggies in a delicious brownie.

Ride the wave of the time-space continuum into the 17th century with these award-winning and highly-rated authors. The images you see are a small sample of what's available from this talented group! Click the highlighted author’s name to open a new tab.


Anna Belfrage — Time-slip (then and now) love and war.

Jo Ann Butler — From England to New England: survival, love, and a dynasty.

Susanna Calkins — Murder mysteries set in 1660s London. 


Francine Howarth — Heroines, swashbuckling romance.

Judith James — Rakes and rogues of the Restoration.



Marci Jefferson — Royal Stuarts in Restoration England.

Elizabeth Kales — French Huguenot survival of Inquisition.

Juliet Haines Mofford — True crime of New England, pirates.

Mary Novik — Rev. John Donne and daughter.



Donald Michael Platt  Spanish Inquisition cloak and dagger.

Katherine Pym — London in the 1660s.


Diane Rapaport — Colonial New England true crime.

Peni Jo Renner — Salem witch trials.

Christy K Robinson — British founders of American democracy and rights.

Anita Seymour —  Royalists and rebels in English Civil War.


Mary Sharratt — Witches (healers) of Pendle Hill, 1612.

Alison Stuart — Time-slip war romance, ghosts.

Deborah Swift — Servant girls running for lives, highwaywoman.

Ann Swinfen — Farmers fighting to keep land, chronicles of Portuguese physician.

Sam Thomas — Midwife solves murders in city of York.

Suzy Witten — Salem witch trials.

Andrea Zuvich — Vampire in Stuart reign, Duke of Monmouth and mistress.



Friday, November 21, 2014

Cassandra Samuels: A Scandalous Woman and a Giveaway

I have been around the romance writing world for long enough to watch with pleasure as writers go from those first tentative steps, learning their craft, blooding themselves on contests and rejections and finally attaining that elusive goal... a publishing contract and one such is my guest today.

One of the nicest people in the Romance Writers of Australia, historical circle is Cassie Samuels and I am absolutely delighted to have her on my blog to talk about an aspect of research for her debut release, A SCANDALOUS WAGER. 


CASSIE IS GIVING AWAY A COPY OF A SCANDALOUS WAGER TO ONE LUCKY COMMENTER. 


A Scandalous Woman – Caroline Norton

Thank you so much for having me here today Alison. I’ve chosen to talk about this aspect of my research because my heroine Lisbeth and Caroline Norton are both scandalous women and both were abused by their husbands.

Caroline is a fascinating woman for many reasons. Born in 1808 as Caroline Sheridan she became the face of justice for women, but she didn’t start off that way. When her soldier father died in Africa the family was left penniless. They were granted a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court Palace. Caroline and her sisters were highly accomplished and accepted everywhere due to their upbringing at court.

In 1827 she married George Norton a barrister and MP. Caroline was witty and clever and used her skills to win favour for her husband and his political ambitions. However, he was a controlling husband and often had fits of rage and drunkenness. He physically and emotionally abused his wife throughout their marriage.

Caroline wrote prose and poetry to vent her emotions and earned money doing so. George disliked his wife’s success. In 1836 she left him. He took her earnings from her writing. So, she racked up bills in his name. In turn, he decided to hide her children from her which was a cruel blow to a woman who lived for her sons.

Her husband was insanely jealous of her friendship with the then Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and sued him for Criminal Conversation (accusing him of having an affair with his wife). Melbourne took him to court and won.

Caroline campaigned relentlessly for the rights of women to their children. Her intense efforts culminated in the Custody of Infants Act and the Married Women’s Property Act. These acts gave women a legal identity where before they had none. I think we owe a lot to Caroline Norton.

If you want to know more about Caroline and other Scandalous Women you can watch the documentary on You Tube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsgC9ojd0yI

Excerpt:

Set up – This is the morning after Lisbeth meets the Earl of Bellamy and he has accepted her business proposal to help her return to society to seek out her husband’s killer so she can clear her name.

Lisbeth sighed and sipped her tea.
Alone again.
Even when Nathaniel had been alive she had been alone. His dedication to their courtship had been nothing but a dedication to her dowry. What a na├»ve, silly little fool she’d been then, believing in the fairy tale. A fairy tale which had so quickly turned into a nightmare.
She sipped her tea and closed her eyes for a moment. Yet, even in those few moments memories assailed her. Flashing images passed behind her eyelids in quick, painful succession, each frame of memory causing her to jolt and shudder in her seat. She felt every fist, every boot as they connected; his angry tirades hardly heard through ringing ears. Every cruel word he’d uttered was a scar upon her very soul.
She gasped, her lungs struggling for air, and opened her eyes as she looked around frantically.
Sun poured in from the windows. A cheerful flower arrangement displayed vibrant reds, yellows and green. Her mother’s china graced her table and in the distance she could hear the sound of the servants going about their business.
Safe.
She released a breath slowly, then another, until her heart had slowed to a more temperate rate.
She picked up her schedule sitting neatly on the table and fanned herself with it. Lisbeth usually took comfort in knowing she had something else to think about besides her horrid, pathetic past but her schedule’s purpose had morphed overnight into something more than a direction for her day. The origins of this simple sheet of vellum lay in her desperate attempt to do everything in exactly the manner and timing Nathaniel had demanded. It had become her sole means of self-preservation.
And it had worked…most of the time. No plan was ever fool proof. Which brought her right back to the present.

A SCANDALOUS WAGER

As the Black Raven, she’s cold, distant, and alone, untouched by the gossip and scorn of her aristocratic peers. Until he enters her house – and her life – and suddenly her icy shell is no match for the heat of attraction…

Notorious Widow Lisbeth Carslake, Countess of Blackhurst was acquitted of her husband's murder, but no one believes in her innocence. Known as the Black Raven, bringer of bad luck and death, she is eviscerated by the gossips and mocked in the clubs. She’s also the subject of London’s most scandalous wager.

Oliver Whitely, Earl of Bellamy, needs money, but it takes more than a few drinks to take on The Black Raven Wager. He finds himself drunk, at her house, and – more surprisingly – inside, and agreeing to a business proposal at the end of a fire poker. She will let him win the wager, and he will help find her husband’s killer before the killer finds her. But business agreements don’t mean trust, and Lisbeth certainly doesn’t trust Oliver, her body’s reaction to him, or her heart.

 Love may be the biggest gamble of their lives, but is it a wager their hearts can afford to lose? 
ABOUT CASSANDRA SAMUELS

Cassandra Samuel's mother always said she should have been born in the 1800s. Unfortunately, she was born in the 1970s instead. But she was not discouraged by all the corduroy and dodgy hair do's. She decided if she couldn't live in the Regency period she would write about it instead. 

Cassandra cut her romance reading teeth on Jane Austen when she readPride and Prejudice in high school. It was the beginning of a love affair with the Georgian and Regency eras that continues today. She has wanted to be a romance writer since she was a teen and was encouraged to study a diploma in journalism, but fiction writing was where her heart belonged. 

She is the eldest of three children and grew up living on the outskirts of of the Royal National Park which gave her a love and appreciation for the Australian bush.  Cassandra lives with her fabulously supportive husband and three wonderful children on the NSW South Coast along with a three-legged staffy cross, a cheeky terrier and a cat called Angus.  Cassandra enjoys music, the theatre, reading, and watching romantic comedies.


BUY A SCANDALOUS WAGER on Amazon and all reputable ebook stores

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In love with a new breed of Regency hero...

I have a huge confession to make. It has taken me a long time to understand the magic of the “Regency Romance”. As a teenager Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer simply passed me by. My taste has always been for stories with a little more action and less mannered ballroom scenes. I quickly add that in more recent years I have become a convert to Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and certain regency romance authors such as Anne Gracie and Jo Beverley.

I set out to write my own Regency, LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, intending it to be of the school of the traditional regency romance. That lasted five minutes as my hero found himself having to solve a murder mystery. I loved writing the story and the reason is (my second confession) I read a great deal of mystery - mostly via audible books on the long commute to and from work. And, yes, historical crime is top of the list so it is small surprise that I turned the “thing I love to read” into the “thing I love to write”.

Recently I have come across a new breed of Regency hero - the amateur sleuth and I am in heaven. The two gentlemen in question are quite different but I am madly in love with both of them and thought I would share them with the rest of you. 

CAPTAIN GABRIEL LACEY (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries by Ashley Gardiner)

I picked up the first books as a boxed set on a special offer and on a recent holiday to Fiji dipped into the first story - THE HANOVER SQUARE AFFAIR). I read all three books and the two short stories within three days. I am now nearly at the end of the second box set and eking out the last story.

Gabriel Lacey is the impoverished son of Norfolk gentry who joined the Army to follow his charismatic friend, Colonel Brandon. The two men fell out over Brandon’s wife, Louisa, while on campaign in Spain and Brandon’s actions have left Gabriel permanently crippled. He now lives in genteel poverty above a baker’s shop but through good fortune has fallen in with one of London’s most popular men of the moment, who provides him with not only a man servant but entry into the fashionable salons. Gabriel is a man of honour and purpose but not without his flaws… or his baggage.

The plots are clever and well executed and the characterisations deep -everything I love about a good historical mystery. There are times I wonder at Gabriel’s motivations, particularly his honourable attitude toward Brandon, who, in my opinion, deserves nothing, least of all Lacey’s loyalty, but maybe Brandon will redeem himself. There are plenty more books to go…

To find out more about The Captain Lacey Mysteries visit Ashley Gardiner’s website: http://gardnermysteries.com/

And the HANOVER SQUARE AFFAIR is currently FREE on IBooksBarnes and Noble   and  Amazon … so it costs nothing to introduce yourself to Gabriel… but remember I saw him first! (PS at $4.99 the boxed sets are incredibly good value!)

SEBASTIAN ST. CYR (Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries by C.S. Harris)

Unfortunately I have come into the middle of the series so I need to go back to the very first book WHATANGELS FEAR (not out on Audio or as ebooks yet!) but just the couple I have read, I am smitten with Sebastian.

Like Gabriel Lacey, Sebastian is an ex soldier, although his books are set a little earlier than Gabriel’s stories and the Napoleonic war is still raging. Unlike Gabriel Lacey, there is nothing impoverished about Sebastian. He is Viscount Devlin, heir to the Earl of Hendon and he moves easily in the circle of the Haute Ton. I don’t want to give away any spoilers except to say he is well matched with his heroine but I think (and this is where not having read the earlier books is an issue) the path of their relationship has not been smooth, not least of all because she is the daughter of his arch enemy.

Like Gabriel, Sebastian has a minor cast of well drawn secondary characters to help him in his sleuthing - the one legged doctor and anatomist, Paul Gibson and his ‘tiger’, Tom just to name a couple.


Visit C.S. Harris’ website http://www.csharris.net/sebastian.php for more information on this series.

Both authors are also romance writers under different names and that understanding of characterisation and relationships is what gives these books an extra depth that you don't often see in "straight" mystery or crime stories. Both men are honourable and attractive and they love (and lose). 

My biggest gripe with Harris' books is they are published by a mainstream publisher and the kindle editions of the later books are over $12! More expensive than the mass market paperback. Her early books are not even available as ebooks.  Gardiner on the other hand is an indy author. Her books are beautifully produced, well edited and formatted and reasonably priced (and also gradually coming out as audio books too). When will the big publishers get it?


So if you are after a change of Regency pace and looking for a different type of Regency hero... one you can fall in love with over a span of different books, look up these two gents!

Or you can meet my own Sebastian Alder, Lord Somerton... in LORD SOMERTON'S HEIR. Sadly he only has the one story but oh, the temptation to write my own regency sleuth...

From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.

Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But, her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.

But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?



Friday, November 14, 2014

EE Carter and harnessing the power of water...

It is a family joke that any holiday I go on with my engineer husband, it has to involve rotating machinery of some description (it also involves trying to kill me... but that's another story). It fact FINDING the token rotating machinery has become a fun part of our travels together. There is nothing he likes more than waterwheels... the sight of any fast moving body of water inevitably prompts the remark "They should put a wheel in there to power the electricity". 

So thank you to my guest today, historical romance writer,  Elizabeth Ellen Carter, for perpetuating my husband's water wheel fascination with a fabulous post on... water wheels and sluice gates. I love seeing how my guests use the research in their stories, don't you?

EE Carter's latest book (HAPPY LAUNCH WEEK), WARRIOR'S SURRENDER is set in the years immediately after the Norman invasion. 

WATER WHEELS and SLUICE GATESin the Medieval Period


A huge thank you to Alison Stuart for inviting me to share some fascinating research I uncovered while writing Warrior's Surrender.

Warrior's Surrender is set in the High Medieval period, specifically 1077AD - 11 years after the Norman Conquest of England. I became fascinated by how inventive medieval engineers were. England's waterways have always been vital for the nation's trade, but it was for the the security and early-industrial development that waterways were strongly harnessed.

Sluices and waterwheels were used by the Romans but they were more extensively employed in the Medieval period, both on rivers and also in estuaries where tides provided the kinetic energy to power mills and furnaces that allowed greater production of milled grain and, in the case of furnaces, the consistent heat required for refining ore.

From the 10th century on there was steady progress in land reclamation. Areas in northern and western Europe, once sparsely populated, came under cultivation. Grain was an important crop, and most of it was ground by water mills The Domesday Book, a survey prepared in England in 1086 AD for William The Conqueror, lists 5,624 water mills. A century earlier, fewer than 100 mills were counted.

One of the main innovators of that period were monks who worked to become self-sufficient. 
The Cistercians monks were a strict branch of the Benedictine Order. By the middle of the 12th century were are the forefront of the cutting edge of hydro-power and agriculture. A typical Cistercian monastery straddled a millrace (artificial stream). This stream ran near the monastery shops, living quarters, and refectories, providing power for milling, wood cutting, forging, and olive crushing. It also provided running water for cooking, washing and bathing, and finally sewage disposal.

"Tide and time wait for no man", the saying goes and that was recognised in medieval times as well.

A tide mill was a specific Medieval invention - a mill driven by tidal rise and fall. A dam with a sluice is created across a suitable tidal inlet, or a section of river estuary is made into a reservoir. As the tide comes in, it enters the mill pond through a one way gate, and this gate closes automatically when the tide begins to fall.

When the tide is low enough, the stored water can be released to turn a water wheel. The earliest excavated tide mill, dating from 787, is the Nendrum Monastery mill on an island in Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland. Its millstones are 830mm in diameter and the horizontal wheel is estimated to have developed 7/8HP at its peak.

And how did she use this research?

Waterwheels and Sluice Gates in Warrior's Surrender
Background: Sebastian, Baron of Tyrswick and his wife Alfreya are about to visit neighbouring villages that have been damaged as a result of torrential spring rains. The village of Tyrswick has fared well. Sebastian explains why.
She said a silent prayer for her father, hoping he might have found the peace in the next life that he never found in this one, as she urged her horse into a trot to catch up with Sebastian. He’d stopped on the other side of the drawbridge. As she crossed, she looked down to see the first of the Keep’s defenses, a deep ditch filled with water.
“I didn’t think we had that much rain,” she said.
“We haven’t,” he answered. “Let me show you something.”
They broke away from the main party and rode several hundred yards to where the boundary of the Keep met Tyrswick River.
A structure like a low stone gate stood parallel to the river and straddled the channel that skirted the walls of the Keep. Instead of a door, a series of heavy wooden planks strapped with iron were suspended over the water. 
“It’s a sluice gate,” he said. He pointed downstream to where the river flowed by the village. “We couldn’t risk the wheel on the mill being damaged by flood water, so we had the gate built at the same time,” Sebastian explained. “When the river rises above a certain level, we raise the gate to divert water. Not only does it protect the mill and the village, but it also gives the Keep another defense.
Thanks to Sebastian’s forethought, Tyrswick village had weathered the rains well. The mill was in perfect order and would be ready to start grinding the grain immediately. That meant fresh bread. Large quantities would be required to feed the starving if there had been significant damage done to other areas.
WARRIOR'S SURRENDER
A shared secret from their past could destroy their future…

Northumbria, 1077. In the years following William the Conqueror’s harrying of the North, Lady Alfreya of Tyrswick returns to her family home after seven years in exile. But instead of returning victorious as her dead father had promised, she returns defeated by Baron Sebastian de la Croix, the Norman who rules her lands.

To save her gravely ill brother's life, Alfreya offers herself hostage to her enemy. As Alfreya gets to know her new husband, she finds he’s not the monster she feared, and their marriage of convenience soon becomes a bond of passion. But Sebastian is a man with a secret—one that could destroy him.

As a series of brutal murders haunt their nights, the man who betrayed Alfreya’s father returns claiming to be her betrothed. He has learned Sebastian’s secret and will use it to further his own ambition—using Sebastian’s own family—which will destroy Sebastian and mark him a traitor, and plunge an unprepared England into war with the Scots…


ABOUT EE CARTER

A future with words was always on the book for Elizabeth Ellen Carter who started writing her own stories when she ran out of Nancy Drew mysteries to read when she was 10.
Using her mother’s Olivetti type writer with the italic keyboard, she spent endless school holidays making up her own stories and then using the Dewey Decimal System to arrange and categories her bookshelf.
Somewhere around the age of 13 she determined to become a journalist and at 17 was awarded a cadetship to the Gold Coast Bulletin.
She covered news, council, education, health but had the most fun as the paper’s entertainment and features reporter covering film, TV and music.
Best of all she met her husband there and together they started a small award-winning media, marketing and advertising agency and now she works as marketing manager for an international organic skin care company.
In 2012, Elizabeth also returned to the keyboard to write stories (and laptops are so much better than manual typewriters).

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