Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Video of the Week: Horrible Histories -- William Wallace Song

In celebration of the first two books having released in my new acclaimed Stolen Bride series -- which William Wallace plays cameos in each book in the series -- it is only natural that this week's video is the William Wallace song from Horrible Histories! Awesomesauce :)

Enjoy!





The Stolen Bride Series...

Book One: The Highlander's Reward --  Amazon / Barnes and Noble
Book Two: The Highlander's Conquest -- Amazon / Barnes and Noble
Book Three: The Highlander's Lady -- coming soon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Release! The Highlander's Conquest -- Book 2: The Stolen Bride Series

I'm thrilled to announce that a few days ago, The Highlander’s Conquest, Book Two: The Stolen Bride Series, has released in both print and ebook!

What is a Highlander to do when he falls for the daughter of his enemy?

Highland warrior, Blane Sutherland, has one mission: disguise himself as an Englishman, cross the border and retrieve Lady Aliah de Mowbray. Always up for a challenge, he agrees, pursuing his conquest with vigor—and trying to deny the powerful desire that eclipses him each time he touches his charge. A rogue of the highest order and a younger son, he has nothing to offer a lady but a broken heart.

And what is a lady to do when she cannot trust her heart?

Aliah is skeptical of the English noble who has come to take her to her father and sister in Scotland, but she pushes her doubts aside. Without word in months, she must make certain her family is safe, then she can return to England to join the convent to which she has sworn to pledge her life. But then her escort reveals his true self—he’s a Highlander and his kisses are more seductive than the sweetest of wines.

Surrender never tasted so sweet…

“An author with a natural gift for story telling…” ―Victoria Roberts, acclaimed author of Temptation in a Kilt

"Sweet, funny, sensual and deliciously intriguing! You don't want to miss another of Ms. Knights HOT adventures through the Highlands!" -- Andrea Snider, Reader Review

Here's an excerpt from Chapter One:

Late Fall
Northern England, 1297

A violent banging at the manor door startled Aliah from her studies and set Frosty, the family’s monstrous Irish wolfhound, to barking ferociously. Aliah jerked backward against the oak chair she sat in, hitting her head against the ancient wood and stifling a harsh word beneath her breath.
Her father, Baron de Mowbray, had left a small contingent of men to protect her while he escorted her older sister Arbella to her bridegroom in Scotland. These men would fight to keep her safe until their very last breaths.
But who was to say they hadn’t already taken that last shuddering inhale?
Aliah glanced around the room, filled with memories, but not with people. Today, her maid Glenda was her only companion. Well, Frosty as well—who in fact was a far superior protector than her maid. Swallowing her fear, she rubbed the ache from the back of her head and squared her shoulders. Strength. That was what she needed, even if the sound of someone knocking made her want to run to the opposite end of the manor and hide.
Her father should have returned a month ago. The only news she’d managed to garner was that a battle took place at Stirling Bridge in Scotland—the very place her sister was to marry.
Had the battle now come to her own door?
Aliah jumped as a strong fist once again slammed the door.
“Glenda, would you answer the door?” Aliah asked.
’Twas Saturday morning and most of the servants had gone to tend family or to enjoy themselves in whatever way they did, leaving Aliah quite alone—and at the mercy of whoever stood outside her door. Could they have dispensed of her father’s guards so quickly?
Glenda, afraid of her own shadow, started to shake her head, but Aliah gave her a stern look. The woman had been driving her mad since she was a babe and ever since Arbella left, Aliah had little patience for the older woman’s nonsense.
Aliah set down the book of Gaelic she’d been studying—she was determined to learn the language because she secretly believed the Scots would soon invade. Understanding their barbaric conversations was crucial. Aliah smoothed her gown and stood tall.
Glenda scurried toward the door, Frosty a foot ahead of her.
Aliah tried to find comfort in the fact that perhaps the guards had allowed whoever came knocking through the manor gates. She’d heard no clanging of metal or yells of pain. Aye, the only conclusion that made sense was, they were not enemies, but friends.
She could use a good friend. The comfort of someone she knew. Aliah frowned. She had few friends, and seldom was it that they dropped by.
So who had the audacity to practically beat down her door?
“Wait!” Aliah shouted just as Glenda touched the wooden plank barring the door.
She hurried to retrieve her bow and an arrow from beneath her chair. As swiftly as possible, she cocked an arrow and aimed it at the door. Taking a deep breath, she nodded for her maid to open it. If her father’s enemies dared to come after her, they were in for a big surprise, she wouldn’t surrender so easily.
An interminable amount of time seemed to pass before the door was fully open. Aliah stepped back, speechless. Standing before her was the most staggeringly handsome man she’d ever seen—and he was quite alone. Frosty growled for only a moment, quickly silenced by a motion the stranger made with his hand. What? How had he done that? Aliah struggled to keep her mouth from falling open at the man’s effortless command of the dog. The animal had favored her sister, but since Arbella had left, Frosty refused to leave Aliah’s side.
She felt a certain amount of betrayal at Frosty’s easy acceptance of this stranger. Who in the name of God was he? And why didn’t one of her father’s men escort him? She’d have to speak with them about that later.
The visitor wore an intriguing cap of deep burgundy, a dark feather jutting from the side, held on by some sort of medallion. A thick black wool cloak lay open to reveal a matching tunic, and leather studded armor. White hose outlined the shape of his legs in a way that drew her eyes from his intense dark green gaze. His boots were made of soft, expensive-looking leather, and the gilded belt at his waist held a gleaming, sharp sword that was hard to miss.
Aliah allowed her gaze to travel over the length and breadth of his solid form, before getting ahold of herself.
“Will you shoot me, my lady?” His voice was deep, raspy, and stroked along the ends of her nerves in a way that made her want to run away and kiss him at the same time.
Where had that thought come from? She’d never kissed a man. And she never would. She’d pledged her life and future to God. Shame crawled through her making her cheeks heat with embarrassment. Even her toes felt the blush of such a carnal thought.
Aliah had to gain some control of her wayward mind. Her life belonged to the church—penance for having caused her mother’s death. There was no room for kissing or men in her life. Not even for a thought.
“Apologies, sir, but one can never be too careful. I am Lady Aliah.” She kept her arrow pointed at his heart, taking note of how his tunic and leather studded armor strained over what appeared to be a very broad, taut chest.
“Sir Blane of Yorkshire.” He doffed his cap and bowed low, then returned upright, settling his cap back in place.
She tilted her head, studying the angles and lines of his face, taking in the pleasant smile of his wide, full lips. He didn’t appear to be someone she should be wary of, but as she’d learned over the years, looks could oft be deceiving. Aliah flicked her gaze toward her maid who wrung her hands and looked ready to bolt from the room.
Deciding that for the moment he did not have any designs to harm her, Aliah disarmed her arrow and lowered the bow. “Welcome to Mowbray Manor, Sir Blane. Have you any men with you?”
“Aye, I’ve left them by the stables. I assure you, we come on friendly terms.”
Aliah nodded, making her lips thin so as to keep them from trembling. Did he come with news of her father, of Arbella? She shivered. The news must not be good. If her father were able, he would announce his return himself. Her spirits lowered, replaced by a dull, cold pulse.
He smiled, disarming her, his lips curving in a rascally way that set her to shivering and then to quickly reciting a Hail Mary in her mind for penance.
“I come with a message, my lady. If I may?” He swept out his hand, asking permission to fully enter their great hall.
She nodded again, not sure she could trust her voice.
Glenda backed away, but Aliah quickly caught her gaze. “Fetch our guest some refreshment.” She motioned for Sir Blane to sit at the long trestle table. “There is no need to wait, please tell me what news you bring.”
Sir Blane pulled out her chair before taking his own seat, and she disliked how that chivalrous move made her feel warm and tingly inside.
“I come from Scotland, my lady.”
She felt the blood rush from her face, but quickly recovered. There could only be one thing he needed to relay and she was positive she was not ready to hear it. Just then, Glenda returned setting down a pitcher of watered wine and two glasses. She left again, coming back several moments later with a trencher of hard cheese, a few apples and day old brown bread. After setting down the food, Glenda made a hasty retreat from the room.
Aliah poured his wine and pushed the goblet towards him, then snatched an apple from the trencher. Slicing a piece, she bit into it, hoping the man would eat and forget that she’d asked to hear the news.
But alas, that was not to be. After a hearty bite of cheese and bread, Sir Blane’s green eyes met hers. “My lady, I come with a message from your father. He and your sister are well and wish you to accompany them in Scotland for a spell.”
“They are well?” Her voice sounded weak to her own ears and her heart pounded against her ribs.
“Aye, heartily so.”
Aliah released a shuddering breath. “And Arbella, is she married then?”
A strange expression briefly crossed his face before disappearing. “Aye.”
What did that expression mean? “Is she happy?”
“I believe so.”
But would the man say otherwise? ’Twas really none of his business whether or not her sister was happy, and if he were truly just the messenger then he wouldn’t know anyway.
“How can I know you speak the truth?”
As if the sting of Frosty’s earlier betrayal was not enough, the great wolfhound sidled up to Sir Blane and nuzzled him in the ribs. Absently, the man rubbed Frosty behind his ears.
“My lady, I come with direct orders from your sister. Arbella told me herself to tell you that it pained her not to have you at the wedding with her, and that she hoped you’d help her to settle into her new home.”
Aliah frowned. Was he telling her the truth? It made no sense. Hadn’t Arbella told her not to come before she left? So what changed her mind? Why would Arbella say such a thing? Aliah had agreed for her own personal reasons. Reasons no one knew about. If Blane were telling the truth, this would surely hinder her plans. There were only a few short months before spring and Aliah was due to present herself to Mother Superior, never to leave the convent again. Although her sister wasn’t aware of that, going to Scotland to be with her sure did put a glitch in her arrangements if it meant Aliah couldn’t return in time.
“Your father sent this.” Sir Blane reached into his pocket and pulled out a rolled scroll.
The seal was plain wax. “My father’s seal is not on this missive.” Aliah handed it back, intent now on figuring out a way to escape. Who was this man and why was he trying to lure her away from her home? A sense of unease made her suspicious.
Sir Blane didn’t even bat an eye. “Ah, yes. Your father knows you well. As I told you, there was a battle. He lost his seal during the encounter and bid you forgive him for such.”
“Was he injured?”
The knight shook his head. “Not overly so. A few scrapes and bruises.”
“And Arbella—”She sucked in a breath and held it, regaining her composure. “Was she near the skirmish?”
Again that odd look crossed Sir Blane’s face. “No, she was perfectly protected.”
Aliah broke the seal and read the short, two-lined note stating her presence was requested in Scotland. It was signed by her father. His script appeared shaky, but that was not alarming as he’d just been in a battle. After rolling up the parchment, she set it aside and returned her attention to her guest.
Should she trust him? Could she trust him? Her father may have been forced to sign the missive. But why? What could Sir Blane possibly want with her? If the knight had her father and her sister, taking her wouldn’t further his cause. Aliah’s instincts were failing her. Saints preserve me!
He tore off a hunk of bread, bit into it and chewed as his eyes roved over the room. She took the opportunity to study his features. His skin was darkened from the sun, and a brush of stubble covered his cheeks and chin. Aliah fought the urge to reach out and brush her fingers over it to see how rough it was. She would be doing penance for a month if Mother Superior knew the thoughts going through her mind. Pledging herself to God meant she should not care about the texture of his face. It meant that the way he smiled should not make her melt.
Aliah watched in utter fascination as his throat bobbed after taking a swallow of wine. “’Tis a homey place you have here,” he murmured.
Aliah glanced away from him and stared at the walls covered in tapestries her mother, grandmother and several other generations of Mowbray women had woven. Some depicted battle scenes, victories, while others showed glorious moments in their family’s history, like a man being knighted, or the birth of an heir. A few even depicted warm moments that she missed the most—especially the one that embodied her mother, with Aliah, Arbella and their brother Samuel as small children, playing at her feet—a moment that had never come to pass. The latter was sewn by her aunt some years after Aliah’s mother’s death as a comfort to the family. But to Aliah it was a constant reminder of what she didn’t have. She still felt an empty void where the love of a mother should be.
“Aye, I suppose it is.” She glanced back at him. “Is your home not so?”
He shook his head, his eyes saddening. She wanted to ask why, what made his mood change, but didn’t. That would have been awkward coming from someone he barely knew. And she didn’t want to offer him the chance to get more personal, even if it were only on a basic level.
His face cleared and Sir Blane pushed back from the table. “I hate to rush you, my lady, but we must be going now. ’Tis a long journey to our destination and the weather will soon be turning surly.”
Glenda gasped. Aliah had not realized her maid had returned, and she threw a disgusted look in Glenda’s direction. She knew what Glenda was thinking—that if Aliah were to leave she would surely die of the cold—and Aliah was also aware that it was utter rubbish. Glenda had been filling the girls’ ears with rumors and terrors of the Scots since they were babes, and while Arbella had taken them to heart, Aliah knew better—but only by accident. She hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but one evening after Glenda had consumed too much wine, Aliah heard her confess to another maid that her own mother had told her those things. And everyone knew that Glenda’s mother was mad.
Aliah had only ever met a Scot once —a woman in fact, who’d been married to a neighboring lord, and she’d been the epitome of grace and calm. If it weren’t for her Scottish burr, Aliah would have thought she was an English noblewoman. She’d begged to go with her father when he made the trek to congratulate them on their wedding and he’d acquiesced since Arbella and Samuel were both busy with their studies.
Ever since meeting the Scottish Woman, Aliah never paid much attention to Glenda’s rantings. And so, she didn’t mind the journey to Scotland for the cold, she minded it for another reason entirely.
“I shall need an escort.”
“Aye, indeed, my lady, I shall provide you escort.”
She shook her head. “No, that won’t do.”
He gazed at her quizzically. “Why not?”
“I’ll need a female companion.”
He pointed to her maid. “This one shall do.”
Aliah rolled eyes at the choking noise that Glenda made. “Glenda does not travel.”
A hint of knowledge glowed in his green eyes. “That is Glenda?” He nodded. “Makes sense now.”
“You’ve heard of her?”
“Oh, aye. Your sister speaks of her often.” His smile was catching and she found herself returning it.
“What did she say?”
“What manner of horrid things we—I mean the Scots—would do to her.”
What did he mean by we?
He picked up his glass of wine and chugged it. Perhaps the slip of his tongue was the wine, or lack of sleep. If he knew of Glenda from her sister—and she could only imagine what Arbella had said—she could trust him, couldn’t she?
“Where is it exactly that we shall travel to?” she asked.
“The Highlands, my lady.”
A chill caught her and she tried to downplay the gooseflesh rising on her arms. “And what is my family doing there? I thought their destination was Stirling?”
“’Tis where they are seeking shelter. Stirling is in a bit of unrest.” He waved his hand, dismissing the topic. “We must depart, my lady. Pack a satchel or two. That is all. We can send for more things if they are needed. But we must ride quickly and too much baggage will hold us back.”
Aliah sensed urgency in his tone, which made her wary. But all the same, this man knew her father and sister and said he would take her to them. She needed to see that they were safe, before she was cut off from the world by entering into the church where she would take a vow of silence for a year. She hesitated for a moment. He had to be telling the truth, didn’t he? She had her doubts but she didn’t have any other choice but to trust him. Her father and Arbella might need her help. How could she give herself over to the church if she gave into her fears and didn’t help her father and Arbella in their time of need? Reluctantly she stepped forward, tilted her chin and met his gaze.
“I will be ready within a half-hour. Would you care for a bath or some other comfort while you wait?”
He shook his head. “I thank you, my lady, for the generous offer, and while I would relish a bath, there is simply not enough time. I will see to my men and procure a mount for you.”
Aliah nodded for Glenda to follow as she made her way upstairs to her chamber. Once inside, her maid broke into a terrified litany, chewing her fingernails to the quick. “My lady, you cannot go with him. You don’t know who he is, and he could be a barbarian himself for all you know. He will cook you up for dinner. He could have done the same to your sister and your father—absorbed their souls—and that is the only way he knew you were here.”
Rolling her eyes heavenward, Aliah threw open her wardrobe and pulled out a leather satchel that her father had given her. “Glenda, stop your blubbering. You saw yourself he was English and he had a letter from my father.”
“Oh, I… Oh…” Glenda rushed around the room, doing nothing productive whatsoever. The woman opened the wardrobe wider, banging the door into Aliah’s shoulder before shutting it again. She rushed to poke at the non-existent fire, then turned to mess with the coverlet on Aliah’s bed. “You will at least pack your bow?”
“And my arrows,” Aliah said sarcastically. She pulled a couple gowns, shifts and hose from the wardrobe and tucked them into the satchel. “Help me change into a more suitable riding gown.”
Glenda clucked and tugged at Aliah’s gown until she shoved the maid’s hands away and finished the job herself. The woman was completely useless.
“Be cautious, my lady.”
“I assure you, Glenda, I will not let any man put my bones in his beard, nor shall I succumb to death from the cold.” She’d almost forgotten to get her cloak. She pulled out the black wool, fur-lined cloak, and then switched from slippers to her sturdy leather boots.
“Oh, I do hope that is the case, my lady. Arbella seems to have made it alive. Which leads me to believe you might also.”
“Your encouragement overwhelms me.” Aliah bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. “Fare thee well, Glenda.”
Tears brimmed in the older woman’s eyes. Despite her fear of the Scots and all the crazy notions she’d filled their heads with, Glenda meant well, and had been the only motherly figure Aliah had ever known. Dropping her satchel, she pulled her maid in for a hug, breathing in the scent of bread and rosemary that always seemed to cling to her. She would miss her.
“I shall return soon, Glenda.” She wished to tell her maid of her promise to the church and that she intended to grace the sanctuary’s threshold come the first day of spring, but word would get to her father who was certain not to agree. As much as she wanted to tell Glenda, she couldn’t take the chance.
Glenda nodded, wiping a tear with her sleeve. “I shall pray for your safety.”
“I thank you.” Before she lost the courage she’d summoned to embark on this sudden journey, Aliah quit the room and the only home she’d ever known.


Read the rest!:  Amazon / Barnes and Noble

Did you miss The Highlander's Reward, BOOK ONE: The Stolen Bride Series?

She belonged to another… But was destined to be his…
Lady Arbella de Mowbray abhors the idea of marrying an English noble occupying Scotland. When she arrives in Stirling, she is thrown into the midst of a full battle between the Scots and the English. Besieged by rebels, she is whisked from her horse by a Highland warrior who promises her safety. But when he kisses her she fears she's more in danger of losing herself.

The last thing Magnus Sutherland wants is to marry the beautiful English lass he saved. As the laird of his clan, he has a responsibility to his clan and allies. But when Arbella is attacked by one of his own men, he determines the only way to keep her safe is to make her his. A decision that promises to be extremely satisfying.

Magnus brings Arbella to his home of Dunrobin Castle in the Highlands. And that’s where the trouble begins… Their countries are at war and they should be each other’s enemy. Neither one considered their mock marriage would grow into a deeply passionate love. What’s more, they were both unhappily betrothed and those who've been scorned are out for revenge. Can their new found love keep them together or will their enemies tear them apart?

“Eliza Knight has crafted a wonderfully entertaining, emotional and sensual read. I loved the sizzling romance and the exciting adventures. Magnus, the hot Highland hero, stole my heart just as he did Arbella’s.” Vonda Sinclair, Award-Winning author of Scottish romance

Buy LinksAmazon / Barnes and Noble

Visit me at...

Twitter @ElizaKnight

Monday, September 24, 2012

A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO THE ENGLISH LAWS OF SUCCESSION by Alison Stuart

Please join me today in welcoming Alison Stuart, a fellow member of Hearts Through History. I read her article on the laws of succession in our monthly newsletter and just had to share it with you all! Thank you, Alison, for visiting with us today!!!  Enjoy!



A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO THE ENGLISH LAWS OF SUCCESSION

by Alison Stuart



Thank you, Eliza, for the invitation to post my article on the English Laws of Succession...or Laws of Succession 101.


Firstly my qualifications for writing this article - I was a practicing lawyer for over 30 years in the Australian jurisdiction, which is an English common law system rather than the American codified legal system. If you are struggling with understanding the English common laws of succession then don’t panic ...most lawyers don’t understand them either.


A wedding
The English aristocracy depended for survival on the devolution of their estate from one generation to the next and by the mid thirteenth century the common law had set in place certain rules of inheritance which determined who could inherit based on a “parentelic” calculus (now there's a phrase that just rolls off the tongue!) ie those who could trace their blood directly to the deceased. Rather than split the ever diminishing estate between your children (as is the case in many European countries), it was determined you should only have one heir and that heir should be descended from you by direct line.

Male descendents would always be preferred to female (although inheritance by female descendants was possible). The law decreed that your estate went first to children or grandchildren or in the absence of those then to brothers, cousins, nephews etc.  If the deceased died leaving daughters but no sons, then the parentelic calculus  would allow the daughters to inherit over say a brother or a cousin. If there were multiple males in the line then the law of “primogeniture” applied...ie it went to the first born. These basic rules of inheritance lasted into the twentieth century.

However this left spouses, younger siblings, illegitimate children and daughters without any rights of inheritance. In short they could only be provided for during the life of the father. As nothing in the law prevented a newly inherited heir from selling off his newly acquired estate, to prevent a youthful heir from squandering his inheritance, family settlements, away from the will, became common.

One way of disposing of property was to make a gift (generally on marriage) to the couple and their progeny eg “To H and W and the heirs of their bodies begotten”...or the “male heirs of their bodies begotten”. This gift could not then be disposed of until there were no heirs when the gift would revert to the donor. This was called the “fee tail”...or to use the word more common in our writing “entailment”.   Entails in stories we are familiar with are Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice.  In the absence of a male heir, for the direct family line to maintain a hold in the land, it was desirable one of the girls marry the heir...always good fodder for a story viz Matthew/Mary and Mr. Collins/Lizzie.

I won’t go into the complications and machinations that lawyers devised to “bar the tail” -  remove the tail from estates to allow the land to pass freely according to the general laws of inheritance. Succession law kept lawyers and courts busy (and still does) for years and years. Dickens wrote about this subject in Bleak House (the case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce).  It is probably surprising to note that the basic laws of inheritance and entailment did not change until the Property Law Act of 1925. 
Bleak House

Example:  Lord Fauntleroy is the proud possessor of Fauntleroy Park.
·       The estate is not entailed and he has three sons. The eldest son inherits Fauntleroy Park.  #2 goes into the church and #3 into the army...If he has no sons but a daughter then the daughter inherits.
·       The estate is entailed and the terms of the original settlement stipulate “male heirs”. If he has a son then it goes to the son by operation independent of the will. If he has a daughter, she is excluded by the entail and the estate goes to second cousin Rufus Stuffnpuff. In the absence of any assets independent of the entail, her prospects are grim!

Dowers and jointures

A wife was completely outside the laws of inheritance - your estate passed to your children or through the entail. Husband and wife were counted, at law, as one person so a husband could not make a gift to his wife during his lifetime with one notable exception. A gift from husband to wife on the day they married, at the church door, could take effect on the husband’s death if he predeceased her. This was “dower” and was subject to the supervision of the church. The dower lands were nominated before the marriage service, and after the husband had given his wife the ring saying “With this ring I thee wed”, he gave her tokens symbolising dower with the words “With this dower I thee endow”.

The effect of the dower was to give the wife an interest for her life in the nominated lands. If the husband died without a will, the widow was deemed to inherit one third of her husband’s estate, independent of any specific dower. However if the bulk of the estate passed outside the will through the entail, there may not have been much for the widow or other children.

There was also a practice of settling land on husband and wife jointly so as to entitle the wife to an estate called a “jointure” instead of a dower.  A wife could elect to take their common law dower or her jointure but not both.

What if a man married an heiress? If his wealthy wife predeceased him, the widower was allowed, by law to continue to enjoy her estate for his life, providing there was a child of the marriage capable of inheriting. So in effect the husband held the land on trust for his child. This was called “tenancy by curtesy”.

The laws of succession are complex and I am happy to answer specific questions if you would like to email me at alison@alisonstuart.com

Alison Stuart is an award winning Australian writer of historicals with heart.  Whether duelling with dashing cavaliers or waywards ghosts, her books provide a reader with a meaty plot and characters who have to strive against adversity, always with the promise of happiness together. Alison is a lapsed lawyer who has worked in the military and fire service, which may explain a predisposition to soldier heroes.  She lives with her own personal hero and two needy cats and likes nothing more than a stiff gin and tonic and a walk along the sea front of her home town.  She loves to hear from her readers and can be found at her website, facebook, twitter and Goodreads. Her latest book, GATHER THE BONES, is a “Downton Abbeyesque” haunting love story set in 1923. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Historical Fiction Review: Rebel Heart by Caroline Wilson

This historical fiction review was completed by Callie Hutton, one of History Undressed's wonderful new reviewers! 

About the Book



Julienne Dalton’s privileged existence is shattered when her family’s plantation home is burned and her father murdered by Union soldiers. Desperate for justice, she is drawn into a Confederate spy ring after overhearing important battle plans. But when Julienne meets Alexander Caulfield, a charming British expatriate, she begins to question her desire for vengeance.

They marry after a hasty courtship and only then does Julienne discover that Alex is in the employ of the enemy. Heartbroken and fearing for her life, she escapes the country, bound for Europe. But she must be on her guard at all times for now she is the one with a dangerous secret. Alex could find her at any moment and if he does—will it be to rekindle the brief passion they shared or to exact revenge for her treachery?

Available now for Amazon Kindle



My Review



During the Civil War, Julienne Dalton is left an orphan when her father is killed and she is burned out of her home by Union Soldiers. In an attempt to assuage her father’s death, she becomes a spy for the Confederacy. But she never counted on meeting Englishman, Alexander Caulfield, on a mission of his own.  Their quick courtship results in marriage, but both carry secrets that can destroy the other.

I must admit it took me a while to get into Rebel Heart. For some reason the author has chosen to write this tale in both first person and third person, switching back and forth as the story progresses. I found it jarring, and never really got used to it.

However, this is a wonderful story with strong characters, and a riveting storyline. Julienne is everything a heroine should be, and Alexander compliments her perfectly. Rebel Heart is the type of story that tears at your heart, bringing all the human emotions to the reader. I laughed, cried, and felt deep sympathy for the suffering of Julienne and Alexander.

I strongly recommend this book, and look forward to more of this talented author’s work. Well done, Ms. Wilson.

Historical Romance Review: This Heart for Hire by Elysa Hendricks

This historical romance review of THIS HEART FOR HIRE by Elyssa Hendricks was done by one of History Undressed's fabulous new reviewers: Emma Westport.


About the Book


A convent reared innocent and a gunslinger with no memory struggle to survive and find love while crossing the dangerous west Texas frontier.

Abandoned by his father and betrayed by his half-brother and fiancee on the eve of his wedding, JAKE GALLAGHER no longer believes in love. Though he longs to go home, his undercover work for the Texas Rangers keeps him in a lawless Texas border town. Even though it jeopardizes his mission he refuses to stand by and watch outlaws rape and murder a young woman. Getting shot and losing his memory wasn’t part of his plan.

While fleeing from her stepfather’s plans to steal their ranch, CHRISTINA GOODWIN witnesses her brother’s murder and is left in the hands of a merciless band of outlaws. Raised in a strict convent, Christina has little knowledge of men or the world, its dangers and temptations. Frightened and alone, she is forced to accept the help of the dark gunslinger who rescues her. Though drawn to Jake’s potent masculinity, she hesitates to trust him, fearing her stepfather has sent him to bring her back. Unsure of Jake’s motives for helping her, she struggles against him, determined to find a way to avenge her brother’s death and regain control of her ranch from her stepfather.


Available now in ebook!

My Review


Jake Gallagher is a part time lawman with his own problems, not the least of which is protecting a pretty, would be nun from the bandits who murdered her brother.  Christina Goodwin, raised in a convent, is now on the run, trying to escape a stepfather she hates, the stepfather who wants to marry her to gain control of the ranch she owns. 

What follows is a chase across 1870’s Texas and New Mexico that forces both Jake and Christina to confront their pasts.  The journey is difficult and painful, obstacles and adventures abound, and the harshness of their struggle is set against the vividly written beauty of the American West.   At times, some plot twists are too convenient and, at others, serious issues are raised but glossed over.  However, the story is fast paced, the writing skillful and all the subplots are resolved.
   
In This Heart for Hire, the characters make the story.  Their ‘happily ever after’ is hard earned.  And that, more than anything, makes the story very satisfying.  

Guest Historical Romance Review: My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander

Thank you so much to Kira Decker, who has done a guest review for us! 


My Wicked Little Lies (Sinful Family Secrets) by Victoria Alexander

About the Book:


Evelyn Hadley-Attwater has it all--a genteel Victorian life replete with loving husband, ball gowns and elegant parties. No one, including the man she married, suspects that she was once "Eve," a spy for England's most enigmatic intelligence agency. Summoned for one final assignment, the excitement of her former life and memories of her mysterious, flirtatious boss "Sir" prove too tempting. . .

Adrian Hadley-Attwater is a respectable, dignified gentleman. But even the most proper gentlemen have secrets of their own. Secrets from the rest of the world, from their families, from their wives. Secrets that have a price. Now, as a veil of secrecy frays, a tantalizing game of cat and mouse will test the bounds of unfailing love. . .

Available in Ebook and Paperback
ISBN: 978-1420117066
Zebra Books

My Review:


I have to admit, this book surprised me. I loved the premise that the two main characters were already married instead of the typical storyline of getting to that result.

Although the plot is lacking depth in some places, the characters themselves are delightful. Evelyn is a feisty young woman who has left the adventurous life of a spy behind for the quiet safety of marriage. Having been married for two years the heroine, Evelyn Hadley-Attwater, finds herself drawn back into her past life as a spy. A past she has never quite figured out how to explain to her prim and proper husband, Adrian, an Earl in London’s high society.

Adrian, truly in love with his wife, also has a past about which he neglected to inform his wife. His fears that Evelyn may not love him as much as he thought, lead him to develop outrageous schemes to determine whom she really does love. Him or his alter ego, Sir. Adrian shows how sometimes, love can make a fool out of you even after you are married.

The story transported me into London’s high society in the late 1800s and the not so proper goings-on between the privileged upper class. In an almost keystone cop like series of miscues, the twists and turns kept me entertained. Even though the events were predictable in many places, the comedic miscommunications made the adventure enjoyable and I found myself wondering just how the characters would extradite themselves from the problems of their own crafting. The secondary characters, especially Beryl, added to the comedy and the side romance of the sidekick characters Max and Celeste, was a nice contrast to the relationship of Evelyn and Adrian. I chuckled at the absurdity of situations that could have been avoided with simple communications. Marriage is often like that and Ms. Alexander captured that beautifully.

An enjoyable read with a fresh twist on the normal romantic story.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Death Before the Altar by Laura Vosika

Today on History Undressed, I'd like to welcome guest author, Laura Vosika! Today she's sharing with us a fascinating and gripping bit of Scottish history! Enjoy :)

Death Before the Altar

by Laura Vosika


The Butterfly Effect: it’s a source of endless fascination to us, to contemplate how the smallest decision can have profound and far-reaching effects. Books have been written, movies have been filmed, and every one of us knows such a story first-hand, how oversleeping saved someone from being killed or how a man changed his mind about which movie to see that night and ended up meeting the woman he would marry. We marvel at how that one decision, that one small detail, affected not only the individual’s life, but so many lives all around him, spreading out sometimes for generations.


Such was the case for poor John Comyn, a Scottish earl in the late thirteenth century. He couldn’t begin to guess how the wild weather in March 1286, or his king’s race to get home to his new wife, would lead to his own death, years later, in 1306.

Maybe, considering he was a king and his death was bound to have an impact, it’s not entirely fair to call this the butterfly effect. Nonetheless, Alexander’s decision, a very personal one, on the night of March 19, should have been, historically speaking, nothing but the beat of a butterfly’s wings. After a council meeting, he wanted to get home to his new wife. This was nothing like the political decisions being made in his councils with his earls. It was nothing that should have affected the fate of a nation, except, hopefully, to produce an heir.

But the meeting went long. The night grew dark. And the weather grew rough.

Alexander ignored the warnings of his men to stay put; he ignored the warning of the ferry man to stop and insisted on crossing; and somewhere in the night, on the other side of the water, his horse stumbled. Alexander was found dead of a broken neck. He left no heir, but his granddaughter, the young Maid of Norway. She died in the Orkney Islands on her way to be crowned the new ruler, leaving Scotland with no clear heir.

What followed is the time many of us know from the movie Braveheart, when Edward I of England stepped into the gap and began his takeover of Scotland; when William Wallace resisted and was finally captured and executed in 1305.

In the wake of a failed kingship by John Balio, and Wallace’s death, there remained the question of who would take the throne. As the two strongest contenders, whose families had long been at odds over the question, John Comyn, Earl of Badenoch, and Robert the Bruce, agreed to meet at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, to set aside their long-standing differences and discuss the matter. They left their swords outside the church.

Historians have argued for centuries, and perhaps will for years to come, about what happened in the kirk and why. But the end result was that Bruce pulled a knife, there before the altar, and stabbed John Comyn. There are those who believe he went to the meeting intending to do so. He had made agreements with various people, including Comyn, that would not have been to the liking of Edward I of England, and he had reason to believe that Comyn had betrayed him to Longshanks.

My personal belief is that Bruce went into the meeting with honorable intentions. He had been known as hot-tempered in his younger days, and there had been a long history of animosity between himself and Comyn. Some sources state that he spent the rest of his life feeling guilt for that act before the altar.

Whatever his intentions, Comyn ended up dead at Greyfriars Kirk, one of thousands of deaths that ultimately resulted from Alexander’s insistence upon defying a rough, wild night to reach his new bride.

About Blue Bells of Scotland
Shawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants--until the night Amy has enough and leaves him stranded in a Scottish castle tower.

He wakes up to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior. Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall's tempting, but knife-wielding fiancee. They are pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead.

Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn. Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life-- pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, and gambling debts--seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene. His growing fondness for Shawn’s life brings him face to face with his own weakness.

About the Author

Laura Vosika, author of the Blue Bells Chronicles, is also working on several other novels and a non-fiction book on raising a large family. Past publishing credits include an essay in Glamour magazine.

Laura grew up in the military, visiting castles in England, pig fests in Germany, and the historic sites of America's east coast. She earned a bachelor's degree in music, and master's degree in education, and worked for many years as a freelance musician, private music instructor, and school band director.

She currently lives in Minnesota with her nine children, and assorted menagerie.

Links
Blue Bells of Scotland:
The Minstrel Boy:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Video of the Week: Horrible Histories Ruthless Rulers

What's a week without a bit of Horrible Histories??? Here's a little ditty sure to make you smile!


Friday, September 7, 2012

Review of The Devil Devere Series by Victoria Vane (Recommended Read!)

I'd like to welcome another ebook reviewer to History Undressed! Callie Hutton (author of the Oklahoma Lovers series) has joined out team! Thank you, Callie!!!

The Devil Devere by Victoria Vane -- Four Scorching Novellas, One Continuing Story




A WILD NIGHT'S BRIDE  (book #1)

What happens when a struggling actress and a grieving widower come together in a night of unbridled debauchery orchestrated by a bored and machinating rake? With the devil in charge there will be hell to pay!

She’s a lonely lady down on her luck... Phoebe Scott, alias Kitty Willis, is a struggling Covent Garden actress with a bruised heart and a closely guarded secret. 

He’s steadfast and eminently respectable..Sir Edward Chambers, Ned to his intimates, is guilt-ridden over his beloved wife’s death and avowed to live out a rustic and mundane life … of celibacy. 

With the devil in charge — there will be hell to pay. Devil in disguise, Viscount Ludovic DeVere, is determined to return his best friend, Ned, to the land of the living. His meddling machinations result in a night of mind blowing passion after which “dull dog Ned” awakes to find himself in the King of England’s bed! A WILD NIGHT’S BRIDE, a sexy, rollicking Georgian romp!

Callie's Review...


In Georgian England, Actress Phoebe Scott is looking for a Protector. The theater where she had a brief run as the sultry Kitty Willis, has closed its doors. She decides to adopt the persona of Kitty, so different from her own, to secure a Protector who can support her now that the theater has closed, and help her in her career.  Because of a closely guarded secret, and her financial circumstances, the marriage she’d always dreamed of is not an option.

Sir Edward Chambers, Ned to his intimates, is dragged by his friend, Viscount Ludovic DeVere to a night of debauchery where he meets the lovely, and obviously out of her realm, Phoebe. He is not the ‘Protector’ sort of man, but after a night of passion, he isn’t about to let Phoebe go.

I thoroughly enjoyed A Wild Night’s Bride. Ned is a hero in the true sense, and Phoebe, although down on her luck, does not come across as a victim. She’s sassy, brave, and is willing to put aside her dreams for her reality.

Since this is the first in a series of four stories centered around the debauched Devil DeVere, I look forward to the next three from this talented author.

THE VIRGIN HUNTRESS (book#2)

Desperate times call for devilish measures… when the object of one's passion has eyes for another… it's time to take matters in hand!

Lady Vesta Chambers is accustomed to getting what she wantsCoddled and pampered, since her mother's death, Lady Vesta Chambers is beside herself when her father goes to London to prepare for her come-out and returns with a young bride of his own. With her world turned upside down, Vesta accompanies her godmother, Diana, to town, where she is smitten the moment she lays eyes on a certain captain of the Seventeenth Light Dragoons. 

But when the object of her passion has eyes for another… Captain Hewett DeVere, younger brother and heir to Viscount Ludovic "The Devil" DeVere, has returned from the American war scarred, disillusioned, and looking forward to settling down to a quiet and respectable life. But when the handsome and straight-laced captain turns his eyes toward the widowed Diana, Vesta is prepared to take devilish measures to prove she is no longer a little girl, but a woman with the passion of …a huntress.

Callie's Review...



After thoroughly enjoying the first book in the Devil DeVere series of four stories, this second book, The Virgin Huntress, was a bit of a disappointment. I always find it difficult to appreciate a story when I dislike the heroine so much. There is no other way to describe Lady Vesta Chambers other than a spoiled brat. She goes after what she wants, regardless of the consequences to others. Captain Hewett DeVere was a likeable, albeit a somewhat unbelievable, hero.

That being said, the story was well developed, and kept my interest. If you like a strong-willed, loose cannon type of heroine, you’ll love The Virgin Huntress. I now look forward to book three in the series. 

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (book#3)

When dealing with the devil it's easy to be burned… especially when passion ignites the flames.

Who can find a virtuous woman… Beautiful, respectable, and dutiful, Lady Diana Palmerston-Wriothesley has long resigned herself to her decade-long loveless and childless marriage to a feckless husband…until his gambling pushes them to the brink of financial ruin.

Sometimes the devil is in disguise…as a gentleman… Viscount Ludovic, "The Devil DeVere", is a man accustomed to taking what he wants according to his whim and heedless of the cost…until he encounters a woman who won't be had at any price.

When dealing with the devil, it's easy to be burned… When Diana discovers a secret that shatters the carefully built fa├žade concealing her private pain, she seeks aid and comfort from the most unlikely place…the devil's arms. But will a single night of heavenly passion damn them both forever?

Callie's Review...


Lady Diane Palmerston-Wriothesley, who we met briefly in book one and two of the DeVere Devil series, has a starring role in Victoria Vane’s third book, The Devil You Know.

Lady Diana’s dreams of a comfortable, happy marriage have withered and died in the reality of her ten year union with Baron Palmerston-Wriothesley. Not only does he ignore her needs, he has brought them to the door of financial ruin by his gambling. At a gathering for horse races at the home of Viscount Ludovic DeVere, a man of notorious sexual appetites, Diana is confronted with the true horror of her husband’s predilections, and the reason for her unsatisfying marriage.

I will stop here in the description to avoid any spoilers, but I will offer high praise for The Devil You Know. The pages (or ebook screen, depending on your preference) literally pop every time Ludovic and Diana appear together.  The sexual tension is riveting, his desire to have her, and hers to resist, a palpable thing. I loved Diana, and oftentimes moved by her predicament. The Devil is, well, the Devil. Despite his debauched ways, the author has made him not only likeable, but down right loveable. I wait with bated breath for the fourth book, and the finale.

Well done, Ms. Vane!


THE DEVIL'S MATCH (book#4)

Once burned twice shy… but when old flames come together…passion reignites...

When burned once… Arriving in London as her goddaughter's chaperone, Baroness Diana Palmerston-Wriothesley wants to avoid her erstwhile lover at all costs. Once nearly consumed by passion, four years has reduced the former inferno to bitterness and ashes.

By an old flame... A world-weary master of seduction, Ludovic "The Devil" DeVere is bored with his chosen life of debauchery. When Diana's charge disappears, she is forced to seek help from the devil's lair, and their mutual desire reignites with undeniable ferocity.

Fire is best fought with fire… While DeVere is hell-bent to have her back for keeps, Diana is equally determined to bring him to his knees…by acquiring some sensual secrets of her own.

 Callie's Review...


What a fabulous ending to a wonderful series! In the last book of the Devil DeVere series, “The Devil” and Baroness Diana come back together years after their interlude together. Still hurt and confused by Ludovic’s rejection, Diana is disturbed when she and her former lover are thrown together because of their mutual goddaughter’s antics and subsequent engagement and wedding. Ludovic is anxious to renew their alliance, but Diana wishes to keep him at arms length, even though her desire for him has not ebbed.

I was happy the appearance of Vestra in this book did not spoil it for me, since I disliked the girl in The Virgin Huntress. She was certainly more tolerable in The Devil’s Match. But overall, the series was well written, interesting, and kept me turning the pages. I highly recommend Ms. Vane’s series.