Friday, October 23, 2015

Guest Author: Madeline Archer

Today we have a guest spotlight. Please welcome Madeline Archer, who is showcasing her book, The Changeling. 

The Changeling
Madeline Archer

November 1, 1867
Frances March hurried cautiously along the stable wall. So distracted by their conspiracy of mercy, she nearly jumped out of her shoes at the nicker of a horse. The sooner this deed was done, the better.
Pressing flat to the wall, she listened for the stableman, but heard only the muffled sound of stabled horses and the hoot of a distant owl. It was imperative that no one — upstairs or down —  see her. She peered around the corner and watched as her sister disappeared through the hedge. Pulling her shawl tightly around her and the bundle she held, she scurried across the gardens to the library and slipped inside quietly. The head butler was waiting.
He stated rather than asked, “You’re certain no one saw you . . . ”
With a nod she went to warm herself by the fire, her bundle held close. The grandfather clock in the hall struck one.
Osgood checked his watch against it. He pressed, “Did you explain to your sister she must never speak of this again?”
“Yes, Mr. Osgood. As I said before, Agnes says no one would believe the truth of it anyway. She’d be ridiculed…her reputation ruined. And there’s always the possibility she could be blamed for the other. It is unbelievable, no?”
“It is at that.” Osgood nodded. “I scarcely believe it myself, Fanny. What about the poor still babe?”
Her eyes brimmed with tears. “Agnes will see him to the cradle and hopefully none will be the wiser. Mrs. Benton will think her own baby died and he’ll get a decent burial. And that’s pretty much the truth, isn’t it? Her own son is as good as dead. Poor, poor laddie, wherever he is now.” She crossed herself.
Osgood peered out into the night before locking the French doors and drawing the heavy curtains closed. “It’s as it should be.”
“Is it? Was it wise to switch them, Mr. Osgood? I mean, the baker and his wife —”
“— Had their child taken, with nothing to be done for it. They have seven living children to love, Fanny. Her ladyship has four in the grave. Five now.”
Frances frowned. “Has her ladyship awakened?”
He shook his head. “Doctor Fischer administered a sedative. Lady Amelia was done out. She went to sleep believing her child alive and has no idea of the tragedy that occurred but half an hour later.”
My poor lady. To go through that long labor and, in the end, the babe too weak to survive.” Emotion welling, Frances wiped her eyes. “What do you suppose they do with the babies they take?”
Osgood blinked his own sentiment away. “I can’t say. My old Welsh grannie said the fae only took the sickly ones. But back then it was only legend.”
“My Scottish gran told us the same,” Frances said, shaking her head. “But Agnes says Libby Benton’s baby wasn’t sickly but strong and healthy. Nearly every child of the Benton’s is as towheaded as their father, except for the two with the ginger hair like their mother. Agnes said Libby’s babe was destined to be ginger.”
Osgood went to the decanter and poured two small glasses of sherry. He handed one to her before downing his in one swallow. “Did your sister witness the switch?”
Frances sipped then shook her head. “When Agnes went to tidy the mother, she left the sleeping babe in the crib with no one to watch him. And, why would she think he needed to be watched? She helped bring the others into the world without fuss. It was minutes only that he was out of her sight. When she went back, another, with black hair, was in his place. That’s when she told Libby the babe was asleep and she should rest a while. So distressed was Agnes that she ran up to the hill to find me.”
He nodded. “It was fortunate she did. Another hour and everyone might have known.”
“Oh yes, it was fortunate. Libby’s husband was at the bakery mixing his dough, and the other children were sleeping up the stairs . . . one more child to such a large family brought little interest in him, you see. There was no one to witness the deed. Will you be telling Mrs. Smithson?”
“No, Fanny. No one in this household, save you and I, will know. Of course Mrs. Smithson would keep the secret if I asked her to, but that isn’t necessary. We shan’t burden anyone else with the truth.”
Frances uncovered the bundle in her arms. Looking down, she smiled. “He’s a handsome laddie, don’t you think? I’m no expert, mind, but Agnes and I both suspect the babe is of mixed race. His little ears . . . ”
Moving to her side, Osgood broke into a smile of his own. The little bundled boy was sleeping. He ran a gentle fingertip over the small, slightly pointed ear. “Yes, he very well could be. And yes, he’s a handsome little man  — dark like Master Evan was. May his soul in heaven forgive us.”
The lady’s maid put a reassuring hand on the head butler’s arm. “He wouldn’t want her ladyship’s heart to be broken more than it already is. You know how he loved her.”
“I do,” he nodded. “As I see it, the baker’s child is no more, taken away to some faery hill no doubt, never to be seen again, if the old stories are true. This little boy did not belong with the Benton family anyway. He’s black-haired, for one. He’d grow being different, maybe disliked or mistrusted, even despised by his father as another man’s bastard. Danny Benton is a highlander. You know how they are — with their superstitions —  when they feel something isn’t quite right. The child would suffer for a situation not of his making. It harms no one that he be raised a Pendry.”
She nodded. “Yes, you’re right Mr. Osgood. If nothing else, this is the better life of the two.”
“It most certainly is. Master Evan is gone and Master John has been missing for a fortnight. Solicitors across London have been inquiring high and low for his whereabouts, but it isn’t looking good, Fanny. Should anything have happened to Master John, there is no other heir living. This little man may very well become the 10th Earl of Pendry.”
To the babe, Osgood leaned down and whispered, “And the family name will continue because of you. Shall we meet your mummy little sir?”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New cover reveal for my Victorian historical novel, To Gain What's Lost.

This story is very close to my heart as it was the first historical I wrote back in 1997 when I was at home with my small children. The characters Anna, Matt and Brenton, whom had been in my head for years, suddenly demanded to be written or I should say typed. I had an electric typewriter I used to work on my family genealogy, and one day I put a clean white piece of paper into the machine and started to reveal their story(and thankfully six months later I got my first computer!). It took me two years to write and it turned out to be a huge piece of work - over 150,000 words - too big!
Over the next few years I edited it, gave it different titles, put it through a critique group, and tried to sell it to agents. The novel was published twice by two small publishers, both went out of business, then it was published by Black Opal Books a few years ago, but I asked for my rights back and now I'm re-publishing it wit a new cover and hopefully a new audience. It's time for this story to shine properly.

She thinks her life has changed for the better, her dark secrets hidden, but little does she know…

The daughter of a wealthy landowner in Yorkshire, England in 1864, Anna Thornton leads a privileged life. But she is not content. She wants her life to mean something and longs to be accepted for the free-thinking, independent woman she is. When the dashing, adventurer Matt Cowan sweeps her off her feet, she thinks she has finally met her soul mate. However, he’s not the man she thinks he is. After he sails for South America, leaving her behind in England, Anna discovers she’s pregnant. Heartbroken she flees her family home, determined to keep her child’s illegitimacy a secret. 

He has a few dark secrets of his own…

Brandon O’Mara is a strong, independent man who wants to make his own way without relying on his father’s wealth. He comes to Anna’s new home looking for work and convinces the reluctant woman to hire him. But Anna's wary of men, of love, and treats him as nothing more than the penniless labourer she believes him to be. Then, just when Anna seems to feel she is getting on with her new life, and Brandon believes he is breaking down her barriers, the past rears up to confront them and their future hangs in the balance.  

Available on Kindle at Amazon.
USA and UK and all Amazon countries.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Guest Post: Historical author Liz Harris!

A special welcome to fellow Choc Lit author Liz Harris!
Liz's new release is a historical set in Wyoming in 1887, but this story is not your usual story, please read on to find out more about Liz and her wonderful story.


What’s so special about Wyoming, I’ve been asked on a number of occasions.

It’s a fair question – I’ve set three historical novels in Wyoming. A BARGAIN STRUCK, set in 1887, tells the story of a second generation homesteader who lives on agricultural land south of the railroad. My novella, A WESTERN HEART, set in 1880, is located in ranching country north of the railroad. My latest novel, THE LOST GIRL, is set in the 1870s and 1880s, and is located in SW Wyoming, an arid, non-agricultural region, but one that is rich in coal.

The answer is easy – I fell in love with Wyoming, its openness, its endless wide blue sky, its history and its people when I visited the State a few years ago. Not to mention the wrangler on the ranch where I started my trip, who filled me in on many historical details. A rugged, good-looking man he was, tanned from days on the range. Not that I noticed any of that - I was there for a greater purpose; namely, to research Wyoming in the 1880s.

Photo: Me at the border between Colorado and Wyoming

So what did I learn that I hadn’t been able to find in any of my research books?

I’ll start with the title I gave this guest blog. I learned that anyone approaching a homestead should holler, ‘Hello, the House!’ if they valued their life. The westward-bound pioneers of the mid 19th century often settled on land which had once been the home of native peoples, thus giving rise to potential strife. Also, there was growing tension at that time between the large cattle ranches and the small homesteads. A quaint desire to avoid being shot on sight would encourage a person to identify himself thus.

I hadn’t been able to find out how far mechanisation had reached outlying homesteads and settlements by the late 1880s. Earlier than that would have been easy – they had nothing – but a few years after they’d started their settlements, the answer wasn’t so clear.
Did isolated homesteads have any form of running water, for example, or did all water have to be brought in from an external well outside the house? The answer, to my surprise, was yes, there was a rudimentary form of running water.

In addition to the main well on the pre-1890 ranch where I started my trip, there was a 28 foot deep, stone-lined well sunk right next to the kitchen wall. A pipe attached to a pump next to the kitchen sink ran down to the well. Bingo! They could pump water into the kitchen. PS. On winter mornings, they had to wait for the ice to melt on the pump arm before using it or they’d break it.

                                            Photo: The pump beside the sink

Call me trivial, but I was curious about the sanitary arrangements. I knew there’d be an outhouse, but did it have a can inside – a sort of porta-potty de luxe - or what? No book answered this, but the friendly wrangler did. The hole in the ground was filled in when full, and the outhouse structure lifted up and moved to a different place.

Photo. An outhouse

Interested in getting the feel of how it was to ride between the outlying towns, farms and around their ranchesI emulated the women of the American West and vaulted into the saddle.

Having been brought up on Hollywood westerns, I had always assumed that women at that period rode astride, but apparently not so. A museum curator told me that women had only ridden side-saddle until late in the 1880s. The change to riding astride hadn’t come about until there was a relaxation in the restrictive nature of women’s clothing. 
As you can see, I’m not sitting side-saddle, my skirts and petticoats tucked under me.  Rather, I’m wearing trousers and sitting astride my bucking bronco. Yes, bucking bronco. Minutes before the photo was taken, the horse had been rearing and snorting, desperately trying to unseat me. It had been all I could do to hang on. Yes, indeed!

The reason why women’s clothing became more relaxed in the late 1880s is an interesting one. Basically, Esther Morris, the first female justice of the peace in the US, appointed in 1870, wanted Wyoming Territory to become a State. A certain number of votes was required for this to happen, and because the population was so small, she needed women to go out and vote. Esther Morris, therefore, subtly let it be known that women could relax their style of clothing. Goodbye, tight, restrictive corsets; hello, divided skirts and trousers. Effectively, she bribed women to vote, and it worked. In 1890, Wyoming Territory became the 44th State of the Union.

Photo: The Indian Paintbrush, the State flower of Wyoming, courtesy of wikipedia

But women didn’t have the vote as early as 1890, I can hear you cry.

Oh, yes, they did. In 1869, Governor John Campbell extended the franchise to women. Wyoming Territory was the first in the US to give the vote to women. And it was the first for other women-related things, too: the first women jurors, 1870; the first female court bailiff, 1870; the first US State to elect a female governor, 1924. Wyoming is known as the Equality State with good reason.

But there was no such equality for the Chinese migrants, who started arriving in San Francisco from the Canton province of China in the 1850s. Until well into the twentieth century, thlaw ensured that the Chinese were very much second class citizens, with restrictions on their movement and with a ban on them becoming US citizens.

Ironically, the very State that was the first State in the US to promote the rights of women, albeit for pragmatic reasons, vigorously denied basic rights to the Chinese who lived and worked in that State. The history of Chinese and Americans in Wyoming is one of growing tensions between the two races, and it is against this background that I’ve set my love story, THE LOST GIRL.

Blurb for the novel:

What if you were trapped between two cultures?
Life is tough in 1870s Wyoming. But it’s tougher still when you’re a girl who looks Chinese but speaks like an American.
Orphaned as a baby and taken in by an American family, Charity Walker knows this only too well. The mounting tensions between the new Chinese immigrants and the locals in the mining town of Carter see her shunned by both communities.
When Charity’s one friend, Joe, leaves town, she finds herself isolated. However, in his absence, a new friendship with the only other Chinese girl in Carter makes her feel as if she finally belongs somewhere.

But for a girl like Charity, finding a place to call home was never going to be easy.

To read more about all of Liz's novels, please visit her author page on Amazon:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Guest Post: Anita Philmar

More Than Ready by Anita Philmar


After losing his brother, Kirk Pepperman planned a future with Richard’s wife, Sadie. Kirk wanted to honor his brother and take care of Sadie.
She had other ideas and married another man.
Now, Kirk is uncertain what he should do with his life
Mary Beth Owens knows her parents are arranging for her to marry Kirk. The problem is he’s been stuck on the wrong woman for years.
She is determined to find out if he can please her. If not, then she has no desire to marry him either.
Can these two let go of the past and move into the future? 

Available for .99cents and free for KindleUnlimited.
Theme: friends to lovers
This story is part of the Naked Bluff series.
Section: erotic
Genre: historical, western, erotic
Theme: friends to lovers
Word Count: 5803

“Kirk, where are you?”
Unhappy about the interruption, Kirk Pepperman debated not answering Mary Beth Owens’ call. He’d snuck away to the barn’s upper floor to escape his parents and to have a few moments to himself.
The view outside the open loft door showed the sun drifting steadily toward the horizon. A nice cross breeze blew inside and cooled the large space. For the last couple of weeks, he’d found he enjoyed sitting up here alone, maybe because it helped him forget.
“Kirk?” Mary Beth’s voice rang from the ladder, leading to the stalls on the ground floor.
Not bothering to turn, he leaned forward and gripped his hands over his knees. The three-legged stool, where he sat, was right in front of the center pole for the barn. The position afforded him a backrest if he should want one.
The floorboards squeaked, telling him Mary Beth stood behind him. He pictured her in his head. A petite blonde, she had small breasts and appeared much younger than him. In truth, they were around the same age.
Hoping, if he remained quiet, she’d leave. He continued to stare out across his family’s property. The last days of summer and the recent harvest had turned the parched land to dust. What did this place hold for him?
He’d never ventured outside of Naked Bluff to travel or to experience another way of life. Depression filled him at his brother dying so far away from home. Now, though, Kirk understood Richard’s desire to leave.
What future could Kirk have here?
He toyed with the idea of heading off to join the Confederate army. The latest news from the returning soldiers was the south wasn’t faring too well against the Northern armies. Maybe, if he had something to fight for, he’d feel alive again.
The familiar noise of a rope flying through the air alerted him. The lasso fell over his head and circled his chest before it tightened, pinning his arms to his side. “What the...”
With a sharp tug, he fell back against the center pole and hit his head against the solid bulk. “Mary Beth, what are you doing?”
She yanked on the rope and walked around him, winding the cord across his chest. “Just sit still. Let me get you tied up and then we’ll talk.”
“Why the hell do you need to tie me up for us to talk?”

Connect with Anita at


Kindle short story, Hot Western romance, Cowboy lust, best western short story, texas cowboy romance series

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


A fast-paced dramatic story set in Stirling, Scotland in the year 1543.

The Dowager tilted her head and regarded Meg with a speculative glint in her eye. ‘Do you now wish to reside in Scotland? To be with your father?’
Meg blinked. Nothing would persuade her to leave the sophisticated court of England for the wintry delights of Scotland. ‘I have fond feelings for both my father and Scotland, Madame,’ she lied. ‘I am here at his request.’ She deliberately softened the clipped English Madam to the French Madame and put the stress on the second syllable. ‘But I shall return south very soon.’

‘Even though the Earl of Lennox pays court to you?’ the Dowager enquired softly, a hint of mischief in her eyes.
Meg wondered who among the lady’s numerous confidants had passed on such information. It came to her at once - Father, of course. He would not have thought twice about spreading the word of such an advantageous match for his daughter. ‘I wish I could be as certain as you, Madame. Lord Lennox has spoken of marriage, but only in the vaguest terms. I fear he may never mention it again.’

A small buzz of amused comment ran through the listening ranks of courtiers. The Dowager offered a smile that did not reveal her teeth ‘It is possible the English King dangles you as a prize before Lord Lennox.’
The same thought had been lurking at the back of Meg’s mind. ‘I don’t know that I am any kind of a prize, Madame. More of a liability, if my father is to be believed.’

Undisguised amusement shone in the Dowager’s eyes. ‘Among our relatives in France, Lennox is known as an ambitious man,’ she said softly. ‘Marriage to you would take him within Henry’s family and the succession to the throne of England.’

Every member of the illustrious de Guise family served either the French king or God. They would have made it their business to know Lennox when he was resident in France. ‘I must remember that,’ Meg said, ‘when we have our first married argument.’

The Dowager rose from her chair and stepped from the dais. ‘Come, walk with me. Your mother welcomed me to Scotland. For her sake, I believe we may find friendship between us. And of course, I shall be pleased to hear of my husband’s youth.’

A historical novel set in the sixteenth century. PG 13
UK Kindle link:

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Victorian melodrama at its best!

Melanie Grey escapes the south of England to take up a post in rural Northumberland as housekeeper to Lord Jarrow, a widower with a young daughter.
A strange but not unpleasant situation awaits her. Trying to conceal her own past, she grows curious about Lord Jarrow's night time excursions and is soon embroiled in whisky smuggling and deceiving Excise men....and all the time growing closer and closer to the master....

Excerpt: Chapter One
Melanie Grey pulled down the veil attached to her hat and glanced cautiously through the window as the horses slowed and turned into the inn yard. The door of the grey stone building stood open and a grey cat, tail curled neatly around its front paws, sat on the windowsill. Oak trees flourished behind the inn, their leafy branches bowing low over the heavy slate roof. Smoke from the squat chimney coiled and drifted into the still air.

It was a far cry from the grand hostelries of southern England she had frequented in the past. So much quieter here; no sign of frantic stable-boys and grooms hurrying to change the horses before the next coach arrived. Faded paint curled from the ancient sign of a blackbird above the inn doorway.
She heard voices. Angry voices. Frowning, she leaned closer to the coach window. In the dusty space between an abandoned wheelbarrow and the stable door, a tall youth argued with a child. Something the child said made him raise his hand and he slapped the boy, who staggered under the blow.
Melanie gasped, one hand rising to her mouth. The child, no more than eight or nine, did not cower away; instead, crimson with rage, he recovered his balance and kicked out with a hob-nailed boot that connected with the youth’s shin bone. Dancing out of reach, he yelled something that made the older lad snarl and lunge toward him.

Cold with horror, knowing she ought to intervene, Melanie grabbed the leather strap, released the window and their rough voices poured into the coach.
‘Come ’ere, you little guttersnipe!’
‘Not bloody likely!’ The child skipped nimbly out of reach.

‘Stop! Stop at once!’ Because she was afraid, her voice carried no conviction. The young man ignored her, but the boy saw her and offered a swift, gap-toothed grin as he backed rapidly away from danger. He collided with the gentleman leading his horse around the front of Melanie’s coach.
‘Ouf! Steady, lad!’ The man gripped the child’s shoulder to keep him upright. ‘What’s amiss here?’ His expression hardened as the bully, fists clenched, advanced on them both and he pushed the boy behind him.

Melanie, weak with relief, shuffled back into her seat. The boy was saved. She need do nothing. Once she would have been out there in the dust of the inn yard, standing toe-to-toe with the bully and caring not a jot for his regard. Her accident had scarred more than her face, she thought ruefully.

‘What’s going on here?’
‘That’s my uncle Bert,’ the boy’s voice cried.

‘He’s your uncle, you say?’ The gentleman’s cultured, mellow voice sounded faintly amused. Or was it disbelief she could hear in his warm tone? ‘Then he should protect you rather than beat you.’
Edging forward, Melanie risked another glance at the scene outside. The grooms, who should have been changing the horses, loitered in a group by the stable door, grinning.

The child glared at his relative and stuck out his tongue.

The youth, his face ugly with temper, took a step towards the boy. ‘That lyin’ young varmint needs a lesson in doing as he’s told! Come ’ere, Toby Redman, before ah lose me temper and clatter yer ’ead against t’wall.’
Melanie shuddered.

Dark Whisky Road is available on Amazon Kindle: Here

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Historical Reseach: Inside a Manor House

Another blog post on my visit to Normanby Hall, in North Lincolnshire. 

My visit was for research to help write my historical novels, which usually include a manor house or two! It is wonderful to walk in the past's shoes. To see the furniture used in the days of my characters. I can feel the atmosphere in my mind and absorb vibe of the era, which I hopefully transfer into my stories.

 This photo I took half way down the driveway, from the rad to the village. You can just see the gate posts right at the end. The drive continues to go through an avenue of trees until it passes the stables, then the trees finish to open up in a park in front of the house, see photo above. 

The entrance hall of the house is square with rooms coming off to the right and the staircase to the left. The above photo is taken from the doorway leading into the drawing room, which is shown in photos below.

Beautiful silk wallpaper

 Modernisation comes to the Hall.

 The Dining Room

The Library

Architect's table

Next time, I'll blog about the upstairs.