Monday, January 31, 2011

Anglo-Saxon Riddles - and a few of my own

Hello, I'm Lindsay Townsend and I write historical romance novels for Kensington Books and Bookstrand of SirenBookstrand.

Today I thought I would talk a little about a less-well-known aspect of English literature: Anglo-Saxon poetry. There are some beautiful and very poignant poems in Old English. Poems such as 'The Seafarer' and 'The Wife's Lament' speak to us even today of love and loss and longing. There are poems that contain useful information - verse is a useful memory device - and poems celebrating places such as Durham, battles such as the battle of Maldon, biblical heroines such as Judith and profound mystical experiences. 'The Dream of the Rood' takes the idea of the cross on which Christ was crucified: the 'wondrous tree' from which he hung, and has the tree speak to us directly as it too suffered with Christ.

I wanted to honour this great tradition in my own way in my historical romance story for Kensington, A KNIGHT'S CAPTIVE, which takes place in 1066. I did so by devising my own versions of poems that were another part of Anglo-Saxon society and poetry - riddles.

There are riddles about wine, about a bookworm, about a reed, about a shield, about a plough. Some are saucy and double-edged in meaning; all give clues as to what people noticed in those times, what was important to them, what amused them. Some of the original riddles can be seen here and here . I read them and even in translation I feel directly connected to a people long past - a wonderful, slightly eerie event.
Here are my own riddles, as part of an excerpt. They appear in A KNIGHT'S CAPTIVE as the heroine Sunniva and hero Marc are attempting to escape the clutches of her uncle in the mysterous and dangerous fenlands.


She was a good traveler, Marc thought, kneeling up in the log boat to row. As the darkness faded to a dusky rose and the sun began to burn off some of the river-fog, she began to ask him riddles.

"This is one way we English pass the long winter evenings, so it is a skill you need," she said.

"Ask away," Marc answered. It passed the dull time of rowing and he could still listen and keep watch. Her voice lilted to him over his shoulder, teasing and playful.

"A giant, now toppled,
hollow and dead,
still glides where it never would
when alive."

That was easy. "This boat," Marc answered.

"Here is another," Sunniva paused to wrap her head-square about her alder paddle to save her hands against the knobbly bark. She had offered to tear it in two for him to share but, when Marc shook his head, she cleared her throat and declared,

"This knave creeps and clings,
A friend to mischief, the enemy
of sight. The sun may drive him off -"

"You cannot claim fog is male," Marc interrupted. "It is a woman. Listen." He listened himself first, checking all about was still and reedy, no dogs or busy hunters, then spoke.

"She winds her promise of mystery about you,
Endlessly deceiving and beguiling. Softer than dew."

"Not so," Sunniva replied at once. "Listen -"

And so they went on, moving slowly but steadily through the fens until they reached a point where the mist seeped away and they found themselves on a river, rowing to a fording-place.

Here is the blurb of A KNIGHT'S CAPTIVE

A KNIGHT'S CAPTIVE. The perfect prison is in his arms...
In the year 1066, England struggles against Norman invaders, and two strangers cross paths on a pilgrimage fraught with peril - only to discover a love worth any danger....
Battle-weary Marc de Sens has never encountered a woman like Sunniva of Wereford: beautiful, brilliant, and miles above the curs who call themselves her kin. Alas, she is promised to another and Marc's obligation is to his three orphaned nieces. But when Sunniva's circumstances suddenly change, Marc learns the truth about her "betrothal"...
A rough-hewn knight so gentle with children intrigues Sunniva, who never knew a kind word or caring touch from any man until Marc rescued her from the grimmest of fates. When her loutish father and brothers are killed, Sunniva is finally free, but her troubles are far from over. Although Marc has appointed himself her protector, he has a dark secret - as well as an uncanny ability to disarm her completely...

Best wishes, Lindsay Townsend

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good Eats from Historic Scotland and Wales by Danielle Thorne

I’m not a Scottish writer or researcher, although the culture intrigues me. What also captures my interest is long ago recipes that might have been eaten aboard wooden ships at sea. This fascination often leads down other paths, such as the road to ALL THAT WAS PROMISED by Vickie Hall. Vickie’s Welsh inspirational story tracks the conversion of a Methodist Welshman to Mormonism in the nineteenth century. It also offers up an interesting array of recipes to the modern day observer.

Recently, I spoke with Vickie about an interesting recipe of Scottish origins she shared online.

The first time I heard about Cock a Leekie Soup was from you. What’s the origins of this stuff? How did you learn about it?

Leeks are abundant and used in many Welsh dishes. My dad used to talk about some of the dishes his mother used to make, she being a grandaughter of the converts who came to the U.S. from Wales. She died when I was very young, so unfortunately I don't have her family recipes. I do remember my dad talking about her delicious rice pudding, though. In doing research for my book I wanted to lend an authenticity to it and so incorporated some traditional Welsh dishes.

You have many Welsh recipes on your website that are also in your book, ALL THAT WAS PROMISED. Care to share one?

The cawl was delicious.

Traditional Welsh Cawl

Serves 6

4 tablespoons bacon fat

2 pounds Chuck roast cut into 1" pieces

3 pints vegetable stock (Can use 4-5 14oz. vegetable stock from cans)

1 pound peas, shelled or frozen

1 pound broad beans, shelled or frozen, cut into smaller pieces

1/2 pound cauliflower or small bag frozen, cut into small florets

1 medium leek, diced, rinse well before cutting

1 large carrot, cubed

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium turnip, peel and dice

1 medium parsnip, peel and dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

10 peppercorns

3 leaves lettuce, sliced thin

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Begin with a large soup pot. Place the bacon fat and vegetables (except for the cauliflower and lettuce, they go in later) into the pot and brown lightly. Remove the vegetables to a bowl, and put the beef into the pot and brown lightly.

2. Add the vegetables back into the pot, and put in the vegetable stock and season with salt and pepper.

3. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours.

4. Add the cauliflower and lettuce and simmer again for 20 minutes.

5. Check the salt and pepper and adjust if necessary.

6. Serve piping hot with crusty bread.

How did you research Welsh cooking? Have you tried these recipes yourself?

My research was done largely on the internet, linking to authentic sites in Wales. Yes, I tried all the recipes, with my sister's help, and will do so for book two which hopefully will also be picked up by my publisher.

Which recipe is your favorite?

It's a tie between the cawl and the whipod (rice pudding). The pudding is thick and creamy and quite rich, but oh, so good!

Can you give a quick blurb about your book?

In 1847 young Methodist minister, Richard Kenyon, converts to Mormonism. Richard's newfound faith is put to the test as he faces down the anger of his former congregation, his wife's indecisiveness, the betrayal of his brother, and the murderous intentions of misinformed villagers.

All That Was Promised can be ordered online from Barnes &,, Cedar, or purchased at Deseret Book and Seagull Book.

Thanks for sharing your historical good eats with everyone, Vickie. Best of luck with your novel!

Thank YOU, Danielle. It was a pleasure!


Find out more about her at Vickie Hall's Website

~Danielle Thorne

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review:The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding

I reached the third chapter of this novel before I realised it was designed for children. However, that didn’t detract from its charm at all. In fact I wish I had had a 12 year old handy to whom I could introduce the genre of historical fiction, because this story is perfect for youngsters.

In late 18th Century London, an orphaned 12-year-old girl named Catherine 'Cat' Royal lives in the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane as a sort of mascot, maid cum errand girl, whose jobs include tidying the stage, and acting as a prompt during shows.

Discovered as an abandoned baby by the playwright, Mr Sheridan, Cat overhears her patron and a man named Marchmont talking about hiding a diamond in the theatre. Thus begins the problem which spans the entire novel 'Where (or who) is the diamond?'

Cat loves her unusual life and feels privileged to live behind the scenes of the theatre, running errands, watching the best plays in London from the wings and sleeping amongst the props and costumes in the attics. 

After an accident with one of the props, she is saved by Pedro, a young black boy who has a genius for the violin. When Pedro runs into a local gang of criminal boys led by Billy ‘Boil’ Shepherd, she returns the compliment and attracts some punishment herself.  Cat is gutsy and charming, and also pragmatic – in that she shrugs off life’s injustices as something she has to deal with and endure.

The story takes young readers into the luscious atmosphere of the theatre and extends to the filthy alleyways and markets of London which are Cat’s playground. She mingles with the high and low of society, from the actors on stage to the lords and ladies in the stalls to the barrow boys in the grimy marketplace. The tale is packed with local colour and authentic detail. There is, of course the mystery of the diamond to be revealed too.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: The Crown in Heather by N. Gemini Sasson

This is one book I highly recommend. I love medieval, it's one of my favourite genres to read. I am not a fan of first person, which this book is, but the writing was so good, so involving that I was soon, within the first three pages, absolutely hooked.

The story of Robert the Bruce, the English dominance and Scotland's struggles for independance is told through the eyes of Robert the Bruce, Prince Edward of England and a Scottish lesser nobleman, James Douglas. When reading from each person's point of view you are taken into their world with such deft writing that is so well craft and absorbing that you forget the world around you, at least I did.

The Crown in Heather by N. Gemini Sasson is an outstanding read and the author should be widely praised for her portrayal of a trubulent time in Scotland's history. The detailed research is richly woven into a magnificent story that blends seemlessly between the facts as we know them and authoritive fiction.

Do yourself a favour and buy this book. It is a keeper for me on my Kindle and one I will also buy in paperback.

With the wonderful speed of Kindle I am buying the sequel, Worth Dying For. I believe there is a third book to be written.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Western Romance, My First Reading Love

Well, westerns and time travel. The advantage of a time travel is that you can go anywhere you want and I do love the ones that take me back to my westerns. I was a little apprehensive when it came time to write my own, but I couldn't resist.

The idea of mail order brides intrigued me and I have a thing about law men...probably comes from dating a former Marine who became a U.S. Marshal.  Hmmm, ya think? But the idea intrigued me long before my own hottie came into my life.

A couple of years ago my thoughts wove around the idea of a mail order bride hiding from heinous crime and, since I love reading and writing romance, meeting the love of her life. That became Indentured Bride. Along the way of writing Brett and Jenna's story I "met" Brett's brothers and his best friend. Well it only made sense that Brett's brother, a Marshal, would be the one to bring the evidence to save his bride from the hangman's noose.

This week Mistaken Bride debuted at Awe-struck (! Kendrick Parker, Brett's older brother begins his trek west with the evidence to clear Jenna. Along the way though, he encounters a woman he is sure is the devilish, perfectly evil Black Bette. Taking the woman who calls herself Amanda into custody he drags her along the trail. But as the wagon train makes way west, he begins to question the rightness of his decision.

Following that too potent kiss, even days later, each night Amanda, as she made up their bed, tried a different arrangement to keep Kendrick at a safe distance. She told herself she was relieved he rode out early each morning and kept away from the train during the day. He took his supper with the men and kept his distance while she taught the children each night. Oh she’d feel his gaze on her each night. But he never approached. When it was time to turn in he’d enter the wagon after she was snuggled under the blankets.

As usual, tonight, she told herself it was because he was a disreputable rogue that he had kidnapped her against her will and stolen her livelihood from her, not because she was starting to want more than those kisses, kisses she was finding herself missing. “Poor excuse for a gentleman,” she muttered under her breath. “I can’t wait to see his face when he finds out what a mistake he has made. Of course, brute that he is he probably won’t even apologize let alone make reparations.”

“You say something, Mandy?” he asked as he climbed up in the wagon and took in her latest design to keep her distance from him. He startled her because he entered before she had turned in.

“No. Until you listen to what I have to say about who I really am, I have nothing to say to you.”

“Fine. So, that line of pots gonna keep you warm when the chill sets in tonight?”

“What do you care if I’m warm or not?” She turned and in the soft glow saw he had shaved the beard that had been growing over the past few days. Whether it was for his own comfort or the fact that this morning, when she woke, chest to chest with him, she grumbled when his beard abraded her cheek she didn't know. And, she reminded herself, she didn't care. She was strong enough to admit to herself that the real reason she groused at the beard wasn’t so much because it scratched her. No, the problem was it felt good. Too good. His beard was soft and made her wonder what it would feel like to run her fingers through his hair and know she was doing it. Not the unconscious entwining she engaged in when he kissed her. She wanted the freedom to do it the way he often threaded his own fingers through it. The blond locks crested his collar—shorter than many men of her acquaintance wore. He also eschewed the thick sideburns most eastern men sported. Kendrick Parker was definitely his own man. A very potent man from what she’d observed as he rode, gathered wood for the fires and strode about the camp. Taller and broader than most, he was a force to be reckoned with.

And stubborn as a mule.

No. He was more stubborn than a mule. You could pull a mule or kick it in the posterior and it’d get moving. Kendrick Parker just dug in and stayed there till he was good and ready to move.

“I care. Don’t want you getting sick and holding things up or making anyone else ill.”

“You’re too kind. I’ll be just fine without you accosting me in my sleep.”

“I don’t,” he paused for emphasis, “accost you in your sleep.”

“You most certainly do.”

“Lady, I can’t stand what little touching I have to do for appearances. I’m not about to touch you when I don’t have to.”

“That’s why you constantly paw at me in public before you force your kisses on me.”

“I don’t paw at you. And if I do touch you, it’s purely for appearances.”

“Well good. Which side of the pots do you want?” She huffed, hands on her hips, her stance defiant. For all the good it did. The man still made her feel weak-kneed.

Lord help her if he ever realized how she would watch for him during the day, drinking in the sight of him mounted on his horse. Sometimes she imagined herself sitting between his thighs on the big stallion. He was always there to help out the other men on the trail setting up camp or bringing buckets of water for the women. When it came to the children, especially when one of the younger ones would get cranky after a long day on the trail, he always spoke to them with fondness in his tone. A few days out of St. Louis he had begun to allow one of the children to ride a bit with him while he rode scout. When it came to Amanda, at least outwardly he treated her as a gentleman would. It was becoming increasingly necessary for her to remind herself what a troublesome man he was.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

El Parque Del Retiro - across from what street?

I first visited Spain in 1974 and fell in love with it. I lived in Madrid for a year on a beautiful boulevard called Paseo del Pintor Rosales, across the street from El Parque del Oeste. I am now in the process of writing my novel, The English Marquesa, the third novel of the Windword Trilogy and it takes place in Spain. I wanted the de Cordoba family mansion to be located across from a park, but Parqueo del Pintor Rosales and El Parque del Oeste did not exist in 1870, so I had to find a park that existed in 1870. El Retiro Park situated on the street named Alfonso XII existed in 1870. I wrote my chapter, and then realized that Alfonso XII in 1870 was only five years old and, of course, he wouldn't have a street named after him. After further research, I found that the name of the street at the time was Granada, later to be changed to Alcalá Zamora, and Reforma Agraria and then to Alfonso XII.

As I was researching the park, I found a few interesting facts that I thought I'd share with you.

"Madrid Gardens: Parque del Retiro (Park of the Retreat) - Calle Alcalá, Alfonso XII, Avenida de Menedez Pelayo, Paseo de la Reina Cristina
Retiro was once a forested royal hunting ground for Felipe II. The Duke of Olivares, as part of the Buen Retiro Palace, designed the park in the 1630s for Felipe IV. The Buen Retiro Palace was used until the era of Carlos III before being opened in part to the public in the 1770s. Unfortunately, the majority of the palace was ruined during the Napoleonic Wars. The 1.2 square kilometres / 0.75 square miles of park is best visited at weekends when pavement artists, puppet shows and street performers emerge. There is also the prospect of riding in horse-drawn carriages or hiring rowing boats on the lake."

"This is a large park in the city of Madrid. Originally it was a royal park for King Phillips IV who used it as a retreat for the royal family to escape the busy life. This also explains the name of the park, since ´retiro´ means retreat in Spanish. It is 130 hectares big and it opened to the public in 1868. The park contains many different sites to see, for example the Museo del Ejército, which is a museum with old armours, the sword of El Cid and the cross that Christopher Columbus took when he discovered America. The museum is also largely focused on the Spanish military history. Besides the serene nature and the museum, there’s also the monument of Alfonso XII in front of an artificial lake (which can both be seen in the picture above). Another statue is called El Angel Caído; it is most likely the only statue in Europe which is dedicated to Satan. Finally, there are also two palaces situated in the park, one of which is made completely out of glass."

The above information was taken from Go Study Spain and A View On Cities.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Write Regency

Why Regency?

As I sit here among the modern world of jangling cell phones, endless boring meeting and traffic jams, I ask, how can the modern world be romantic?

The commonplace, the everyday, is not the stuff of fantasy. Take me to a world lived against a background of life and death struggles, a vivid time, different from my own, but not too different, where vast possibilities reign--and that I can experience from a safe distance among all the modern conveniences.

Welcome to the English Regency. This historical period ran from 1811 to 1820, when George III of England went mad and Parliament appointed his son, the Prince of Wales, as Regent to rule in his stead.

But the Regency is an elastic term and can encompass the time from the French Revolution to Victoria's reign. The Napoleonic wars, that decades-long struggle which could have sounded England's death knell, occurred then. The literary giant Jane Austen lived and wrote in its midst. The time was one of extremes, of fabulously wealthy aristocrats and desperately poor commoners. But the era was also one of transition, when the old world, which defined a person solely by his birth, slowly and with great reluctance, yielded a new world where a person could make his own destiny.

The period was elegant, at least among the rich. In general, Regencies are tales of the upper classes two centuries ago. I love the sparkling conversation in these stories, the elegant manners and beautiful clothes. If I had lived then, most likely I wouldn’t have been the pampered lady of the house, but a poor servant, even more overworked and underpaid than I am now.

But in the realm of these books, I am the young, beautiful Lady of Quality, married to the same husband I have now, but who’s been transformed into a young, gorgeous hunk. We are both filthy rich so I can do what I like and not have to sit in boring meetings.

And I have all the modern conveniences. Ah, what a fantasy.

Thank you all,
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

RWA Queensland Flood Appeal (books)

Romance Writers of Australia Flooded Communities Book Appeal
We’ve all seen the devastation the recent Queensland floods have wrought and have wondered how we can help. We know that for many affected families, books will not be high on their priorities list for some time to come.

We also know how valuable books can be in providing time out when reality gets tough.

With the aid of some wonderful volunteers, we’ve put together a Romance Writers of Australia Flooded Communities Book Appeal.

What we need?
FICTION BOOKS! Romance books, children’s books, young adult books, genre books, whatever – either new or in sparkling condition.

Please send them to:
RWA Flooded Communities Book Appeal
PO Box 1717
Noosaville Post Office
Noosaville BC
Queensland 4566

When to send them?
Now! And any time over the next few months. The books will be boxed and delivered to the appropriate libraries/schools/neighbourhood centres/community centres in batches as soon as the communities are ready to receive them. We’ll be liaising with councils, libraries and schools to ensure this is done appropriately. Feel free to pop a note inside, or if you’re an author, sign it.

Q. I’m overseas and would like to donate but the cost of sending books is very expensive?

A. If you are an author, send one copy of a book. This will keep your individual costs down, but will also contribute to our book appeal.
Alternatively, consider buying a book from The Book Depository, which offers free postage to Australia. The book can be sent directly to the appeal.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Shots fired at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861 marked the commencement of four long years of internecine warfare, drenched in blood, which wrought the United States in its present form. Our observance of the Civil War's 150th anniversary will be of the same length, as it wasn't until April of 1865 that the war ended and the Union of States was restored. Given the magnitude of this historical event, it's most appropriate for us to reflect upon its true meaning and relevance today.

Clearly, enthusiasm for the upcoming observance won't achieve the same level experienced by many Americans during the Centennial of the Civil War. For better or worse, we aren't the same country that we were in the early 1960s. Nevertheless, it's important that we understand how the war forever changed our great nation. For real insight into this transformation, we must grasp mid-nineteenth century perspectives as we contemplate the participation of unionists, secessionists, slaves, freed blacks, and Southern white women during the conflict.

I was confronted by this broad spectrum of human experience when I researched, then wrote "Two Brothers: One North, One South". It's the story of Clifton and William Prentiss of Baltimore, their fellow soldiers, friends, and acquaintances. Closely based on real people and actual events, the novel follows these historical characters throughout the war; many of its scenes are based on anecdotes recorded in memoirs and letters of the period.

Walt Whitman encountered the Prentiss brothers at Armory Square Hospital and later eulogized them in "Memoranda During The War", thereby commemorating the sacrifice that each brother made for his cause. For this reason, I made Whitman the navigator of their story. While Whitman's fervent support for the Union and his abhorrence of slavery never wavered, his devotion to visiting wounded soldiers of both the North and South furnished him with a unique perception of patriotism and courage. His intuition is revealed in this passage from "The Wound Dresser":

"Arous'd and angry, I'd thought to beat the alarum, and urge relentless war,

But soon my fingers fail'd me, my face droop'd and I resigned myself,

To sit by the wounded and soothe them, or silently watch the dead;

Years hence of these scenes, of these furious passions, these chances,

Of unsurpass'd heroes, (was one side so brave? the other was equally brave);"

As we approach the sesquicentennial of a war in which six hundred thousand American deaths were suffered, the poet's words should be remembered and embraced. Walt Whitman believed that many of the participants were unsurpassed heroes: Union and Confederate soldiers for their devotion to duty; women on the home front whose role in society was forever changed; and African American soldiers who fought for the Union to achieve dignity and freedom. They were, one and all, American patriots.

If we achieve an understanding of those people and the times in which they lived, we will recognize the significant progress that we have made over these past one hundred fifty years. There is much to celebrate during the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.

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Historical Fiction on the RNA Novel of the Year long list

I was interested to see which historical novels made it to the longlist of the Romantic Novelists Association Book of the Year. The shortlist will be announced on February 10th, meanwhile for those of a romantic persuasion - here's the list.

To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick (Little, Brown - Sphere)

The Good, the Bad and the Dumped by Jenny Colgan (Little, Brown - Sphere)

The Golden Prince by Rebecca Dean (HarperCollins)

Sons and Daughters by Margaret Dickinson (Pan MacMillan)

Kissing Mr. Wrong by Sarah Duncan (Headline)

A Perfect Proposal by Katie Fforde (Random House)

The Jewel of St. Petersburg by Kate Furnivall (Little, Brown - Sphere)

Amazir by Tom Gamble (Beautiful Books)

The Island by Elin Hilderbrand (Hodder & Stoughton)

The Queen of New Beginnings by Erica James (Orion)

The Way to a Woman’s Heart by Christina Jones (Little, Brown - Piatkus)

I Heart Paris by Lindsey Kelk (HarperCollins)

His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm (Little, Brown - Sphere)

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbour by Lisa Kleypas (Little, Brown - Piatkus)

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes (Hodder & Stoughton)

Virgin Widow by Anne O’Brien (Mira)

Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn (Little, Brown - Piatkus)

The Search by Nora Roberts (Little, Brown - Piatkus)

The Legacy by Katherine Webb (Orion)

Hope Against Hope by Sally Zigmond (Myrmidon)

Find out more about the award or the Romantic Novelists Association at the RNA

Even as a historical fiction writer I am not quite sure where the "historical" tag begins and ends, and many of these are set in a time past - but I'm sure they are all great reads.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Janus - The Roman god of gates & beginnings

By: Stephanie Burkhart

The influence of this Roman god echoes with us today in our modern calendar – the month of January is named after him.

So who was this god and why did the Romans pay him so much respect?

In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates, doors, beginning, endings, and time. He's depicted as having two heads – one looking forward, one looking back. The one head looks back at the last year, the other looks forward to the new year.

For Romans, Janus symbolized change and transitions. They worshiped him at major events such as at the beginning of harvest and planting, marriages, deaths, and other important changes.

Also, when you enter into a new place, you start by going through the door. For the Romans, he was the perfect choice to start their calendar.

Many temples were dedicated to him in ancient Rome. His image could be found on many of their gates and coins.

Interestingly, he has no counterpart in Greek mythology.

While we no longer worship how the Romans did, January is still a month were we look back to the previous year, assess our actions, and set new goals for the upcoming year.

May your January set you on a great start for the new year.

Stephanie Burkhart's upcoming release, "The Count's Lair" is a paranormal romance set in Budapest, Hungary in 1901. It will be released 1 FEB 2011 with Desert Breeze Publishing. Her previous novel in the Budapest Moon series is "The Hungarian."

You can find her on the web at:





Monday, January 10, 2011

An Invitation to Submit to a new Victorian Anthology

US Publisher, Sonar 4 Publications, recently approached me with a view to producing an anthology of short stories, based not just on JTR, but on life in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, intended to help raise funds for The Whitechapel Society 1888, in order that they may continue their researches into the Jack the Ripper case and also into life in the Victorian and Edwardian periods of British history. They asked if I'd approach the Society for them which I was pleased to do, and the committee decided to accept Sonar 4's gracious offer.

As a result Whitechapel 13 was born and Sonar 4 are now seeking submissions for the book, which will be edited by ME, I'm delighted to say.

The full submission guidelines, for anyone interested in submitting to the anthology, can be found at

Regards to all


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gabrielle d'Estrées

History tells us that when Gabrielle de Estrées was sixteen years old she was so pretty and already in possession of a good figure, that at her mother’s instigation she was sold as mistress to Henri III. The deal was negotiated through a third party, Montigny, and a sum of six thousand crowns was agreed as payment to compensate her mother, Madame d’Estrees, for the loss of her daughter. Though why she deserved it, being surely the most unfeeling mother imaginable, is hard to say. Montigny, however, only remitted her two-thirds of that amount, retaining the balance for himself, and when this came to the king’s ears, consequently lost all favour.

Gabrielle, however, got the worst deal as her mother sells her again, passing her on from lover to lover, including the Cardinal de Guise. She was with him for more than a year, until May 1588 when he left for Paris to support his nephew, the Duke de Guise, in what became known as the Day of the Barricades.

For a time Gabrielle felt free, was passionately in love with the Duke de Bellegarde, Grand Equerry of France, Master of the King's Wardrobe and First Gentleman of his Chamber. Henri III, with whom Bellegarde was in high favour, is said to have supported his suit. Unfortunately, Gabrielle was a sprightly, spoiled little miss at this time and also in love with the Duke de Longueville. Playing one off against the other she couldn’t quite make up her mind which would make the better husband.

As this picture shows, Gabrielle was a perfect beauty, and the courtiers waxed lyrical on the subject.

Blue eyes so brilliant as to dazzle one; a complexion of the composition of the Graces but in which the lilies surpassed the roses unless it were animated by some deep feeling… a mouth on which gaiety and love reposed, and which was perfectly furnished.’

‘she had fair hair like fine gold, caught up in a mass, or slightly crisped above the forehead…’

‘the nose straight and regular, the mouth small, smiling and purplish, the cast of physiognomy engaging and tender. A charm was spread over every outline. Her eyes were blue, quick, soft and clear. She was wholly feminine in her tastes, her ambitions, and even her defects.’

Bellegarde was so besotted he foolishly boasted about her to his master, Henry of Navarre, later crowned Henry IV of France. Henry means to have her. And the rest, as they say, was history…

Her life certainly makes a good story, and I couldn’t resist telling it. But Gabrielle desperately longs to choose her own lover for once, to marry and be respectable, wishing she hadn’t foolishly prevaricated over which to accept.

Meanwhile, Henry’s Queen, Marguerite de Navarre, is determined not to agree to a divorce until she has a just financial settlement. But then there are other ways of getting rid of an inconvenient wife…

Here is the blurb for Reluctant Queen, which is the sequel to Hostage Queen.

The story of Gabrielle d’Estrées is one of love, betrayal, intrigue and tragedy. All she wanted was to marry for love, and enjoy the respectability of a happy marriage. But in the court of sixteenth century France this was almost impossible to achieve. She was sold by her own mother to three different lovers before catching the eye of a king. Henry has a weakness for beautiful women with fair hair and blue eyes, and once he sees Gabrielle, he knows he must have her. She bears him children and he promises to marry her. But Henry of Navarre still has a war to fight to win the crown of France, and succeeds only when he finally accepts that ‘Paris is worth a Mass’.

Queen Margot is in exile, where she flees in fear for her life, suffers the siege of Agen, a plague, and creates yet further scandals, but she will only grant him a divorce if he agrees not to marry his latest ‘whore’. Rosny, his favourite adviser, disapproves strongly of the match, and plans a more suitable political marriage for the King. Is the love of a king enough to secure Gabrielle the happiness and respectability she craves, and a crown for her son as the next dauphin of France?

Published by Severn House as a hardback. Paperback to follow later in the year.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Great Read for lovers of the Victorian Era

My wife, knowing my penchant for everything Victorian, generously bought me a great gift for Christmas. Having completed my reading of the book she bought me I simply must bring it the attention of those who enjoy this blog, and who share my love of things Victorian. I was fortunate that she found a collectible first print, first edition copy of Lee Jackson's The Welfare of the Dead. The book has kept me enthralled for the last week and today, I placed my review of the work on the book's page at I'll also be adding it to the US site as soon as I can. For those who may be interested in an author who skilfully takes his readers into an authentic Victorian world, this one cones with my highest recommendation. Without wanting to give away too much, here's the book's write up at amazon followed by my own review of the work.

The Welfare of the Dead

In the disreputable dance-halls and 'houses of accommodation' of 1870s London, a boastful killer selects his prey. His crimes seem like random acts of malevolence, but Inspector Decimus Webb, promoted to the Detective Branch at Scotland Yard, is not convinced. Webb begins to suspect a connection between the terrible murders, a mysterious theft at the Abney Park Cemetery, and a long-forgotten suicide. His investigations lead him, in turn, to the Holborn General Mourning Warehouse, devoted to the sale of 'Mourning for Families, In Correct Taste,' and its proprietor, one Jasper Woodrow, a seemingly respectable businessman. As Webb delves into Woodrow's life, he uncovers layer upon layer of deceit. But can he unearth Jasper Woodrow's darkest secret, in time to prevent another tragedy? Lee Jackson's second Inspector Webb novel once again guides readers through the dark alleys and gaslit parlours of nineteenth century London, in a suspense-filled gothic mystery, with the Victorian celebration of death at its morbid heart.

My Review:
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb tour through the murk of Victorian London, 6 Jan 2011
Whitechapel Jack "Whitechapel Jack"
This review is from: The Welfare of the Dead (Hardcover)
Have previously read, (and thoroughly enjoyed), Lee Jackson's, A Metropolitan Murder, I looked forward eagerly to reading Welfare of the Dead. I was not disappointed. Having first of all been delighted to have found a collectible first edition of the book, I then found myself quickly drawn once again into the world of Inspector Decimus Webb. Lee Jackson has a talent for drawing one's attention to the minutiae of the Victorian era, and this adds to the overall effect of the story he so cleverly weaves. When two young women of rather less respectable means are discovered dead in a London bawdy house, Webb finds himself on a path that leads along many blind alleys, and yet which seems to lead him inextricably to the conclusion that the deaths have some connection to the events surrounding a long ago disappearance and suicide, and to the world of the Victorian's strict and ethical funeral processes. I shall not spoil the reader's entertainment by giving away any more of this wonderful story, except to say that I found myself unable to put this book down. Page after page led me further into a superb re-creation of the world of the Victorians and their morals and standards, and the ending carried a superb surprise twist.

Five stars, without a doubt!

And, coming soon from me!

Moving on to my own humble efforts, the summer of 2011 will see my own Victorian murder/mystery, Behind Closed Doors, released by Sonar 4 Publications. Sonar 4 approached me last year with a view to commissioning me to write a Victorian Thriller for them and Behind Closed Doors is the result. This book probably brought me more enjoyment in the research and writing of it than anything I've previously produced and I sincerely hope my readers will enjoy it in the same way. The big positive for me in the publication of the book is that Sonar 4 have generously agreed to donate $1 from the sale of every print copy of the book to The Mayflower Animal Sanctuary, not far from my home, and from where many of my own pack of rescued dogs have come from. A truly generous publisher, without a doubt!
As for the book itself, well, here's the blurb, and I will be giving out more information about Behind Closed Doors as publication date draws near.
Behind Closed Doors, Brian L Porter, Sonar 4 Publications
Autumn, 1888. The population of London is transfixed and horrified by the atrocious and horrific murder spree being conducted by Jack the Ripper. The newspapers are full of the details of the mutilations perpetrated by the killer and the apparent inability of the police to apprehend the unknown assailant. As Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren throws the bulk of his investigative resources into the search for The Ripper, and the tabloid press scream of the crimes in banner headlines on a daily basis; on the new, ultra modern Underground Railway that has revolutionized travel around the great metropolis for the working man, another, less well publicized killer is at large.

Tucked away on the inner pages of the daily press, hardly enough to raise an eyebrow among discerning readers, one may have found a few, short articles which told of the strange and also, so far unsolved murders which are taking place on board the carriages of the new-fangled and much heralded transport system. Each murder takes place the day after one of the ripper killings, as the murderer appears to be taking advantage of the lack of police resources to tackle not one, but two, major investigations simultaneously.

Inspector Albert Norris is charged with bringing the railway killer to justice, but, as with case of Jack the Ripper, clues are few, the killer's motive unclear, and he is forced to carry out his investigations 'quietly and without causing a public panic' as the authorities seek to prevent a loss of confidence in the safety of the underground railway system. The press are being told even less, hence the minimal coverage, and Norris can count on little help from above as he attempts to solve the inexplicable series of murders.
Behind Closed Doors by Brian L. Porter

Coming in Print and Ebook format Summer 2011

$1.00 off of every print sale goes to: 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

This Day In (Future) History (Contest)

At some point 2011 will be history. Well, actually, the 1st through 3rd are now history. But at some point we will look back on 2011 and hopefully it will be fondly.

So let's play a game with it.

The year is now 2021 and you are sitting there with your special someone.  What happened in 2011 that made it a fabulous year? What fantastic event do you remember most about it? Would you like to relive that event again?

You have from today (January 4, 2011) till Sunday, January 9, 2011 to respond.  At that time, Mel, my contest loving kitty, will pick a name to receive a copy of His Eyes, one of my time travels.

Monday, January 3, 2011

3:10 to Yuma -- Originals and Remakes

My weekend thing is borrowing classic movies from my local library. I love the originals, especially the black and white ones. The colorized versions just seem to leave something out for me. So this weekend I decided to do a side by side, sort of, viewing of 3:10 to Yuma.

I love Glenn Ford. He had such wonderful eyes. The kind you melt in to. The kind I like my heroes to have. And while he's not the "official" hero of the original 3:10 to Yuma, he does become a hero at the end. I wish there'd been a sequel where he did get to be the out and out hero who gets the girl. In the beginning there's a scene where he runs into a woman he once knew and the way he talks about her eyes, the shade of green and how beautiful she was. And then he promises to bring her pearls. It's definitely the stuff of romance and romance from any period. His portrayal of Ben still fits in with today's view of the alpha male, the bad boy, that women want to reform.

The original is still in black and white. The coloriazation brigade hasn't gotten to this movie yet so you still have all the rich dimensions and textures of black and white.

Gene Pitney -- a favorite singer of mine -- his songs were just so emotional -- sang the 3:10 to Yuma song in the movie. He also sang the theme song for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence -- which I have on an old (we're talking old) 33-1/3 record of Gene Pitney I have. No way to play it, but I do have the song!

Glenn Ford's version of Ben Wade is, in its way, a sympathetic portrayal. You want Ben to get away. Maybe it's because I found Ford so sexy that I wanted him to live and get away and make a better life for himself. In the end, despite the fact that his gang kills some of the people trying to bring Ben to justice, Ben does the right thing. He does comment along the way he's escape Yuma prison before, so why wouldn't he do it again?

So fast forward to 2007 and Russell Crowe's version of 3:10 to Yuma. Russell Crowe is hot. So is Christian Bale. The movie was okay -- it was a remake, in color. Still, many of the lines that caught my attention in the original were still there -- the reference to the woman with the pretty green eyes, wanting to hear Dan's wife say grace, among others.

The language kind of caught me off guard -- like "dumb shit" seemed out of place. I've  used the term myself, but it seemed out of place in a movie set in the late 19th century. It wasn't used in the original.

The ending didn't impress me either. Okay, the shoot out was action packed. When Russell Crowe steps up and takes down his own men, it's a great scene. But when Christian Bale's character dies, I didn't much like that deviation from the original. To me, even though Crowe's character didn't kill Bale's character, it still made him seem less of a hero than Ford's portrayal. The bad guys meet a sad ending, but I much preferred the ending of the original when Dan's wife drives her buggy to a place where she can see the train pass and Dan has the chance to see just how much his wife loves him.

My world view is that originals are better than remakes and the books behind the movies and televisions shows are better than what the camera gives us.