Helen Hollick: How NOT to fall into the pitfalls of writing an (unintended) series

I’m delighted to welcome Helen Hollick back to the blog to celebrate the release of the latest Captain Jesamiah Acorne adventure. And what breath-robbing story it is! More later… 😉

First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels which explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She is now also branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her own, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon and occasionally gets time to write…

Welcome, Helen! Over to you…

Writing stories, especially an ongoing series, can be great fun. Can be. It can also be an enormous headache, especially if, at the beginning, the series wasn’t intended as a series. (I know the feeling! – Alison)

When I wrote Sea Witch, way back in 2005, I had only envisioned a one-off nautical adventure that had been inspired by the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, The Curse of the Black Pearl. I wrote the book because I loved the movie and wanted to read something similar – swashbuckling fun with a lovable rogue hero and a splash of supernatural fantasy with a little bit of, well, lets say ‘romantic adult content’, if you get my drift. I couldn’t find anything. Back then, novels were only straight nautical, primarily with male characters for a male-readership market, or young adult for mid-range teenagers. So I decided to write my own. As you do!

But that first one did well, and I rather fell for my hero, Captain Jesamiah Acorne. Voyage Two followed, then Three – and now I have recently launched Voyage Six, Gallows Wake, with a novella prequel story, When the Mermaid Sings adding to the series.

The stories, the plots, are not a problem – trouble follows Jesamiah Acorne like a ship’s wake, so there is always plenty of trouble to land him in (and get him out of!) But the continuity with previous Voyages is the cause of MY trouble!

Every writer of every novel, whether it be historical, fantasy, alternative, romance, thriller, or contemporary has to be conscious of continuity. Obvious things such as a character with blue eyes at the beginning must have blue eyes at the end. A short person cannot suddenly become a tall person. If it is raining at the start of a scene, it must be raining at the end of the scene – or mention that the rain has stopped. A big no-no  I often come across in novels is the phases of the moon – a full moon becomes, two days later, a new moon. And the sun wouldn’t be in the west before noon…

Keep a close eye on other practical things as well, the smallest blooper that was not researched for factual detail can ruin what should otherwise have been a good book – hummingbirds, for instance cannot be found wild in England. Would a young Victorian lady really be sitting an English garden, reading, in late January? Keep watch on what your characters do or say – and keep note of their everyday character as well as their quirks and foibles.

With a series a writer has to check all the little ‘incidentals’ with the previous stories. And believe me, keeping track of it all is hard work! Keep a notebook or spreadsheet (whatever you are comfortable with – I have my Captain’s Log!) Jot down even the smallest bit of information … ‘lost his ring in Bk 2’, or ‘hates cheese’ etc.

And the biggest tip of all? If you can’t remember, or cannot find a previous reference, don’t put it in. Did he have a scar on his left or right cheek? Drat … I can’t remember. Oh well, rather than ‘He scratched at the scar on his right cheek’ just cheat and put ‘ He scratched at the scar on his cheek.’ And just hope that his scar is on his cheek, not his forehead… Believe me, someone, sometime will notice! (So true!)

See what I mean? Continuity can be an enormous headache. But writing a series can also be – frequently is – great fun!

I can endorse everything that Helen says, especially about continuity. Sometimes, readers are kind and let you know about slips and blips, but you can disappoint fans and wound their enjoyment grievously if you mess up on continuity. 


Connect with Helen
Website: www.helenhollick.net
Newsletter Subscription: http://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick
Blog: www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HelenHollick
Twitter: @HelenHollick https://twitter.com/HelenHollick

The Voyages


Just published…   

GALLOWS WAKE – The Sixth Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne

Where the Past haunts the future…

Damage to her mast means Sea Witch has to be repaired, but the nearest shipyard is at Gibraltar. Unfortunately for Captain Jesamiah Acorne, several men he does not want to meet are also there, among them, Captain Edward Vernon of the Royal Navy, who would rather see Jesamiah hang.

Then there is the spy, Richie Tearle, and manipulative Ascham Doone who has dubious plans of his own. Plans that involve Jesamiah, who, beyond unravelling the puzzle of a dead person who may not be dead, has a priority concern regarding the wellbeing of his pregnant wife, the white witch, Tiola.

Forced to sail to England without Jesamiah, Tiola must keep herself and others close to her safe, but memories of the past, and the shadow of the gallows haunt her. Dreams disturb her, like a discordant lament at a wake.

But is this the past calling, or the future?

Buy Gallows Wake here:  Amazon Author Page (Universal link) https://viewauthor.at/HelenHollick
Where you will find the entire series waiting at anchor in your nearest Amazon harbour – do come aboard and share Jesamiah’s derring-do nautical adventures! (Available as Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in paperback)

My review

A Sea Witch voyage is always a pleasure to look forward to, but this one is a real cracker. And like the waves on the sea, just as you are getting over the roll of last high and low incident, another crashes into you. Hollick’s ingenuity and ability to pile on the pressure may bring about not mere gasps, but actual stopping of breath.

Apart from the pace, the sheer level of atmosphere and period detail shines through. And she writes a good fight, too! Betrayal vies with noble intent, love struggles with doing the right thing, while courage never fails. But the author writes the time as it was with fear of witchcraft, mob movements, casual brutality and constant danger at sea. Exhilarating as adventures are, death is all too present and injury often means a descent into poverty, starvation and a miserable end. This is not the 21st century.

But of course, it’s the people who count. Jesamiah is his usual direct self – very much a man of his century – and one who does not know the word ‘shirk’. He’s not always polite 😉 but goodness, you would want him on your side! Tiola, haunted by the past is nevertheless practical, loving and courageous. She needs to be. And I was delighted to meet an intriguing character from the past again…

Even if you haven’t read any other books in the series (why not?) go and get this one. Highly recommended.
Now, when’s the next one out?


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA, a new Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Elizabeth St. John, Elysabeth Scrope and the Princes in the Tower

I’m delighted to welcome historical novelist Elizabeth St.John to the blog especially as she is going to reveal a secret about one of the English crown’s biggest mysteries…

Elizabeth ’s critically acclaimed historical novels tell the stories of her ancestors: extraordinary women whose intriguing kinship with England’s kings and queens brings an intimately unique perspective to Medieval, Tudor, and Stuart times and a fair amount of danger.

Inspired by family archives and residences from Lydiard Park to the Tower of London, Elizabeth spends much of her time exploring ancestral portraits, diaries, and lost gardens. And encountering the occasional ghost. But that’s another story.

Now, we both contributed to Betrayal: Historical Stories. You can guess the theme…  (And it’s either 99pence/cents or even free on Apple, Kobo and B&N Nook to download 😉 )

Elizabeth tells me that during our collaboration she became consumed with her character’s potential and with that little spark of research (a command from one king, followed by a pardon from another) she spent two whole years creating The Godmother’s Secret, a full-length historical novel. And now you can read it.

After the introduction, you can read an excerpt, then discover more about the 21st century Elizabeth…

If you knew the fate of the Princes in the Tower, would you tell? Or forever keep the secret?

May 1483: The Tower of London. When King Edward IV dies and Lady Elysabeth Scrope delivers her young godson, Edward V, into the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation, she is engulfed in political turmoil. Within months, the prince and his brother have disappeared, Richard III is declared king, and Elysabeth’s sister Margaret Beaufort conspires with her son Henry Tudor to invade England and claim the throne.

Desperate to protect her godson, Elysabeth battles the intrigue, betrayal, and power of the last medieval court, defying her Yorkist husband and her Lancastrian sister under her godmother’s sacred oath to keep Prince Edward safe. Bound by blood and rent by honour, Elysabeth is torn between the throne and her family, knowing that if her loyalty is questioned, she is in peril of losing everything—including her life.

Were the princes murdered by their uncle, Richard III? Did Margaret Beaufort mastermind their disappearance to usher in the Tudor dynasty? Or did the young boys vanish for their own safety? Of anyone at the royal court, Elysabeth has the most to lose–and the most to gain–by keeping secret the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

Inspired by England’s most enduring historical mystery, Elizabeth St.John blends her family history with known facts and centuries of speculation to create an intriguing story about what happened to the Princes in the Tower.

An excerpt!

Chapter 1

November 1470, Westminster Abbey

A secret has been conceived . . .

“Entry, in the name of God and King Henry!” My guard clouts the iron-clad door of Cheyneygates, challenging the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. “The Lady Elysabeth Scrope demands entry!”

The Abbot’s House

A murther of crows startles from the gables, cawing and whirling around my head and circling up into the clouded heavens. I join three fingers in the holy trinity and cross myself; head, chest, sinister and dexter. These ancient purveyors of death do not disturb me, for I have not survived this war to be hindered by a superstition. If there were a crow for every dead soldier, England would be a huge raucous rookery. But it never hurts to invoke God’s protection. The crows swoop and squabble and alight singly among the gargoyles on the parapets of the soot-stained Abbey. Like the granite tors of my Yorkshire home, these walls are impenetrable and inaccessible. And just as hostile. God offers protection to all who claim sanctuary. And men erect walls to keep them safe.

No stirring from within. I sigh. Not unexpected. “Knock again,” I command the guard. “Let them know their visitors will not leave.”

The waning October afternoon trickles shadows into the well of the courtyard. I pull my cloak closer, thankful I had chosen my finest weave to keep the warmth in and the damp out. The sun had shone golden when we rode out from London, but upon reaching Westminster we collided with the rain clouds streaming in from the west.

Fallen mulberry leaves clog the stone steps rising before me, rotting unswept in the hollows. Someone isn’t taking care of the abbot’s house. It is clear that no one has left nor entered for a while. The guard’s hammering is unanswered, and yet to the right of the door a candle flame glimmers through a browed window and a shadow flits elusively.

I push back my hood, and a spatter of rain needles my face. Here, gatekeeper. Here’s reassurance I bear your fugitive no threat. I am of middling age, graceful, fair of face, my countenance pleasing, I’ve heard say. Hardly a threat.

The rain unfurls in sheets. I raise my voice. “I am not asking the queen to break sanctuary.” God knows the wretched woman would make it easier on all of us if she did. I motion the guard aside and edge up the slippery steps to the door. “I am here to join her.” My voice competes with a dripping gutter and gets lost under the pitter-patter.

Elysabeth Scrope’s Appointment to attend Elizabeth Woodville (National Archives)

At the foot of the steps, my stepdaughter, Meg Zouche, hums with a redhead’s restless energy; her curly hair springs wildly from her hood, laced with jeweled droplets of Thames mist. “The queen thinks to defy fate with a barred door.” Meg scowls at the blank and blackened oak.

“She will admit us. Eventually. Even one such as she cannot birth her child alone,” I reply. “I may not be her choice for an attendant, but a captive has no say in their guard.” Temper’s blood warms my cheeks. I stand resolute at the door, ignoring the invisible eyes taking my measure. If this time in sanctuary is to be the battle of wills I anticipate, then I must win the first foray. I plant my feet in the composting leaves, ignore the damp seeping from the stone into the soles of my boots, and wait.

Bolts grate top and bottom, and the door creaks open. I swallow a last breath of rain-washed air, hoarding the fresh scent for the stifling weeks to come, for the queen’s confinement shapes my own prison sentence. Reaching for Meg’s warm hand, I cross the threshold into the abbot’s house. The splashing steps of our guard fades, his duty done, mine just beginning. And if I fail and the child dies, I will be shown no mercy from Henry, the king that rules, nor Edward, the king in exile.

We are herded like moorland sheep into the cramped entry corridor, and the steward squints down his drip-tipped nose and sniffs. Meg glares back at him until he drops his gaze. She may be only nineteen, but she has been mine since she was two years of age, and I have trained her to run a great household. She will brook no truck with an insolent servant. Let Meg practice her learnings on the poor man; he is, after all, the enemy.

“Escort my mother to the queen,” Meg commands, “and then show me our lodgings.”

He grudgingly dips his head. “Wait here, Dame Zouche.”

So the household expects our arrival. They just don’t choose to welcome us. Of course, there is little that will escape the queen, for certainly she has her spies and informers even as she invokes sanctuary to protect her unborn child.

“This way, Lady Scrope.”

I kiss Meg’s warm cheek. “Make friends with him, Meg,” I whisper. “We’re going to need all the help we can muster. I’ll return shortly.”

She grins and winks. “Bon chance, Belle-maman.”

The steward sets off at a brisk trot through a passage that runs alongside the entry courtyard. He does not look back to see if I keep up nor to extend me the courtesy of a deferential bow nor even a head tilt that my rank demands. So. This is how we will engage.

He leaves me at the open door to a dim chamber, and I pause to let my eyes adjust to the shadows and to reclaim my dignity. I am aware that whoever is in the room sees me before I see them.

The lofty wood panelling is underlit by half-burned candles struggling in the damp air. At the end of the chamber is a diamond-paned window, beyond which the Abbey lurks, blocking the waning light. Resting in a high-backed chair before the hearth, her pure profile dark against the blue flames of a meagre fire, is Queen Elizabeth—I still think of her as Elizabeth Woodville—her belly swollen under a beaver-fur mantle. Three little girls huddle on red velvet prayer cushions at her feet, the youngest child perhaps eighteen months.

So this is the commoner queen and her brace of healthy children. Yet still no male heir to claim the throne. What are the odds this next child is a boy? High, I reckon. Especially given the wellspring of prayers God must be receiving daily from the queen and her followers.

 Buy The Godmother’s Secret 

Amazon universal link: https://geni.us/GodmothersSecret
(Subscribers to Kindle Unlimited can download it free.)

Connect with Elizabeth:
Website: http://www.elizabethjstjohn.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElizStJohn  @ElizStJohn
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethJStJohn
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elizabethjstjohn/
Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/elizabeth-st-john
Goodreads: https://geni.us/GoodreadsElizStJohn

My review

If you thought the Roman Empire had the monopoly on power squabbles, egotistical opportunists and ruthless schemers, read this book! But as with the Ancient Romans, there are true hearts and great moral courage in the 15th century along with mysterious disappearances and unsolved enigmas. 

The ‘princes in the Tower’ must be one of the most intriguing mysteries in English history. Pick your villains and victims from the circling characters: Richard of York, Margaret Beaufort, Elizabeth Woodville, Harry Buckingham, the Woodville/Grey brothers, Edward IV, Henry Tudor…

Ms St John has very deftly focused on one character loyal to her values and principles, but one whose compassion and courage guides her actions. Elysabeth Scrope might not have been highlighted as a prominent actor in previous stories of this period, but the author has done us a great service in telling the  story of a woman at the centre of these tumultuous events.

Heroine Elysabeth is no ‘goody two shoes’; she fails and is conflicted like anybody else, but not least by her complex family relationships, so prevalent amongst the nobility of the period. The relationship – loving and hostile and exasperating – between Elysabeth and Margaret is particularly well drawn.

But why do Elysabeth’s desire to ensure her voice is heard in the maelstrom and her actions to be seen as independent, yet centred around the children’s welfare seem so important? Why do we feel compelled to follow her story? It’s the writing, of course. The descriptions are vivid and rich, the period detail thoroughly researched, yet subtly dripped in and the dialogue is authentic. Highly recommended.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA, a new Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Anna Belfrage: Other languages in a narrative? ¡Claro que si!

I’m delighted to welcome historical fiction writer Anna Belfrage to the writing blog. Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with three absorbing interests: history, romance and writing. Anna always writes about love and is the author of the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy set in 14th century England.

More recently, she has published Her Castilian Heart, the third in her medieval Castilian series set against the conquest of Wales. She has also written a new time travel romance, The Whirlpools of Time.


Welcome, Anna! Now you’re going to tell us something about language, obviously, not bad language…

“I am something of a language mongrel. Growing up in South America, my first years were predominantly spent in a Spanish-speaking environment. My mother was a language teacher and went to great lengths to ensure we spoke Swedish at home, and when she spoke to me in Swedish, she expected a reply in Swedish, otherwise she’d just pretend she didn’t understand. So, by the age of three, I was fluent—as fluent as such a small child is—in two languages. Some years later, I began school, an English speaking school.

I can still remember that first day at school. I had my younger sister by the hand, I couldn’t understand anything of what was said around me, but I was responsible for Sofia and knew I had to deliver her to her kindergarten class before somehow finding my own classroom. Clearly, my parents had great confidence in my capacity to navigate this strange environment, this despite my English vocabulary being restricted to “yes”, “no”, “thank you”, “mister”, and “King Solomon’s Mines”. (Don’t ask!)

Some months later, English tripped off my tongue as easily as Swedish and Spanish.

When I write, I write exclusively in English. My sister finds this very strange. “You should write something in Swedish,” she says. And maybe I should—especially when one of my WIPs are set in 17th century Sweden—but I just can’t. When I write in Swedish, there is a lack of voice. The only thing I write in Spanish is poetry, very private (and not too good) poetry that I won’t be sharing with anyone.

The Magdalen Reading, Rogier van der Weyden, 1438 © The National Gallery, London

I write in English because I mostly read in English. I also write in English because of my very, very long love story with British history. Plus, the sheer expanse of the English vocabulary is addictive to a person who collects words like I do. This, however, doesn’t mean I don’t add the odd line of dialogue in another language in my novels. Many authors do to add a certain authenticity to their work. Quite a few authors haven’t bothered to do more than use Google translate, which results in quite horrifying results. Like when people litter their work with repeated dialogue in Spanish without recognising that Spanish differentiates between masculine and feminine… (Mimes stabbing herself with a sword in the belly.)

In my recent release, Her Castilian Heart, we’re back in medieval England. My characters express their thoughts and desires (via me) in English. In actual fact, English as we know it didn’t exist back then. Those who belonged to the rich and mighty spoke a version of French, while those lower down the ladder spoke an early version of what would, over time, become the rich and luscious English of today.

As I suspect very, very few people (including me) are conversant with Anglo Norman French, writing their voices in English was the logical choice—especially as they lived and breathed in England. But some of my characters are from Castile—one of the two dominant Christian kingdoms in medieval Spain—and to add a certain flavour, I’ve allowed Amalia, Elena and even Queen Eleanor to now and then express themselves in Spanish.

There are certain challenges in doing this: first of all, you want your readers to somehow grasp what is being said. If you restrict yourself to the odd expression like Ay, Dios (oh, God) or Santa María, sálvame (Virgin Mary, save me) chances are your reader will have no problem keeping up. But if they say things like Corre! Ya, ya, no me esperes, sálvate (Run, no, no, don’t wait for me, save yourself.), you somehow have to convey the meaning in the text. In the above case, I’d probably have whoever is being urged to save themselves reply “Save myself and leave you to die? Never!” thereby indirectly translating what was said in Spanish. What I would never do is insert a parenthesis with a translation (as I have seen some authors do) as, IMO, this becomes very annoying for the reader.  A good writer finds other ways to offer the required translation, be it through the responding dialogue or through the character’s reflection on what was just said.

Another challenge—especially when writing historical novels set in the thirteenth century—is that my Castilian people did not speak modern day Spanish. They spoke Castilian, still developing from its Latin roots to what would become the “Castellano” of today. While I have spent many happy months studying documents in medieval Castilian as part of my university studies of Spanish, I would not be comfortable writing it. Also, once again, to the modern day reader it would be confusing—or make them think I didn’t know my Spanish, and we can’t have that! Which is why I opted for using present-day Spanish, even if Amalia grumbles somewhat. She is, she tells me, very proud of her Castilian language.

In conclusion, I think the odd line or two in a foreign language definitely adds a flavour to the narrative—assuming the characters involved would speak more than one language. But to do so requires that the author has used correct grammar and vocabulary, that the author finds a non-intrusive mechanism to explain what is being said and that the author makes an informed choice as to what version of the language to use—something perhaps mostly valid for us history types.

I agree 100% with you, Anna. When my own heroine, Aurelia is in Vienna or Berlin, I give her a few German words just to add a bit of atmosphere and reinforce the setting. Like you, I find a round-the-houses way of making the meaning of that (very short) piece of foreign language obvious for the reader. And similarly, I wasn’t going to write the Roma Nova series in Latin…


Find out more about Anna:
Website: www.annabelfrage.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/abelfrageauthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annabelfrageauthor
Instagram: https://instagram.com/annabelfrageauthor
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/anna-belfrage
Amazon Author Page: http://Author.to/ABG
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6449528.Anna_Belfrage


What’s Her Castilian Heart about?

Blood is not always thicker than water…

At times a common bloodline is something of a curse—or so Robert FitzStephan discovers when he realises his half-brother, Eustace de Lamont, wants to kill him.

A murderous and greedy brother isn’t Robert’s only challenge.  He and his wife, Noor, also have to handle their infected relationship with a mightily displeased Queen Eleanor—all because of their mysterious little foundling whom they refuse to abandon or allow the queen to lock away.

Eustace is persistent. When Robert’s life hangs in the balance, it falls to Noor to do whatever it takes to rip them free from the toothy jaws of fate.

Noor may be a woman, but weak she is not, and in her chest beats a heart as brave and ferocious as that of a lioness. But will her courage be enough to see them safe?

Where to buy Her Castilian Heart

Universal Link: http://myBook.to/HEART
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3cj9TIq
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3dVZuCE
Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/3KfqvgF
Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3AIBfks


My review of Her Castilian Heart
Historical fiction at its best transports the reader into another time and place – the heat, fear and smell of battle, the celebration of a marriage where fire flickers nearby when the bride’s hair is arranged with a spear point, or a voyage across a cold featureless sea where you feared might drop off the edge of the world into oblivion.

Settings may be frightening or fascinating, but all good historical fiction conveys the impression of being an eyewitness to what is happening around them as well as how they are acting in that context. Her Castilian Heart is a perfect example of this.

Amongst the medieval politics, obligations of loyalty, the detail of horses, gowns and coifs, you find people with wants and fears like ours. And this is the secret to Ms Belfrage’s books. Her characters desire peace at home, time to enjoy their marriage and family, to care for their employees and secure their future. But the times of Robert and Noor are unstable; war and rebellion surround them whether in England, Wales or France. Throw in an aggressive and deeply jealous half-brother whose wish to destroy Robert has completely taken over his purpose and motivation in life and you have a level of tension that is both delightful and frightening for the reader.

Ms Belfrage draws and handles her cast of characters with a deft hand to the extent that each is imprinted on you without the least hint of confusion. They can be passionate, stubborn, despairing, caring and courageous as they meet challenges and enjoy triumphs. Their interactions with recorded historical figures are seamless and authentic – a real pleasure. A highly recommended read.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA, a new Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Jean Gill and The Ringbreaker

If you fancy a trip to 12th century Viking Orkney – and who doesn’t! – you are in for a treat from my writing friend, historical fiction author Jean Gill.

Loyalty has a price the children pay…

In the twilight of the old gods, when the last Vikings rule the seas, two cursed orphans meet on an Orkney beach and their fates collide.

Stripped of honour, facing bleak loneliness ahead, Skarfr and Hlif forge an unbreakable bond as they come of age in the savage Viking culture of blood debts and vengeance. To be accepted as adults, Skarfr must prove himself a warrior and Hlif must learn to use women’s weapons. Can they clear their names and choose their destiny? Or are they doomed by their fathers’ acts?

The award-winning author of The Troubadours Quartet returns to the 12th century, with skalds instead of troubadours and Viking warriors instead of crusaders. Get ready for authentic medieval adventures steeped in poetry, politics and passion. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell Matthew Harffy and Madeline Miller.

My review

Deeply researched, deeply authentic, deeply exciting

My impressions are of a rigorously researched authentic story with well-developed characters. The author’s core theme of intertwining human and nature is present, perhaps not to the level of bee sex in her Natural Forces series, but in a spiritual and visceral level.

The book conveys how important connections to the spirit world were to these people, particularly in a period of transition, but also how basic and dangerous people’s lives were at this time.

I’m not at all poetic, but even I enjoyed the relevance of the poetry woven into the tale. The writing is beautiful and so vivid; reading the sea voyages made me almost sea-sick.

Hlif is a very strong character and her complex off/on relationship with Skarfr develops beautifully. Added to their personal story are political intrigue, action and adventure. Altogether a great book and a literary one as well.

Buy The Ringbreaker:
Ebook: The store of your choice
Paperback: Free delivery worldwide from The Book Depository

Jean says about herself…

“I’m a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a Nikon D750, a beehive called Endeavour and a man. I taught English in Wales for many years and my claim to fame is that I was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. I’m mother or stepmother to five children so life has been pretty hectic.

I’ve published all kinds of books, both with conventional publishers and self-published. You’ll find everything under my name from prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, to a cookery book on goat cheese. My work with top dog-trainer Michel Hasbrouck has taken me deep into the world of dogs with problems, and inspired one of my novels. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, I can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.”

Jean’s website: https://jeangill.com/


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA, a new Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Coins - Clearing up confusion as history moves on

The new 50 pence piece and the commemorative crown

New commemorative coins featuring the portrait of King Charles have been revealed by the Royal Mint; a crown and a 50p coin which will be available within weeks. These coins will be sold to collectors by the Royal Mint from this next week. The standard nickel-plated steel 50p coin will be available for general use well before the end of the year, distributed by banks, building societies and post offices.

From the start of next year, coins from the 1p to the £2 used in day-to-day life will be minted carrying the same image of King Charles. They’ll be sent out when needed to replace damaged and worn older coins and to cover any extra demand. They’ll circulate along with coins featuring the late Queen.

Don’t worry if you have coins with the Queen on

Those 27 billion coins with Elizabeth II’s image will still be accepted in shops and other outlets. Although very many people use cards, phones and online payment, there is a significant number of people who like to use coins as well. Try putting a credit card in a coin slot machine while the kid is fretting to have his or her ride in an amusement park… I firmly expect that the next generation will have coins from Elizabeth II, Charles II and William V jangling together in their pockets.

Before decimalisation, it was common for people to carry coins featuring different monarchs in their pockets. As a child, I used coins from the reigns of George V and George VI as well as Elizabeth II. Sometimes the odd Queen Victoria one would pop up in my change!

Top: 1951 old penny (1d, from Latin denarius) from George VI   Bottom: 1919 old penny from George V. Both were 31mm (1.22″) in diameter (Author photo)

The coins above were those I saved from my purse in the year before decimalisation was upon us. The old penny was withdrawn in 1971 and replaced in effect by the decimal half new penny, with 1⁄2p being worth 1.2d. Luckily, although the UK Treasury continued to argue that the new halfpenny was important in the fight against inflation (preventing prices from being rounded up), those wretched little washers were withdrawn in 1984 to the relief of all fed up with them getting stuck in the corners of purses and wallets. 

The last pre-decimal set of UK coins 1970: half-crow, two shillings (also known as florins), shilling (English and Scottish versions), sixpence, threepenny bit, penny and halfpenny (Author photo)

We still have expressions like sing a ‘song of sixpence’, ‘The Threepenny Opera’, ‘half-a-crown’ as a bingo call for 26 (a half crown was written 2/6), and ‘being cut off without a shilling’, but I think these and other references may fade away.

In the meantime, just keep using the coins in your pocket – they’re fine!


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA, a new Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.