Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dunstaffnage Castle, Scotland -- The Setting for the MacDougall Legacy Series

Dunstaffnage Castle

In my newest series, the MacDougall Legacy, we follow a family through the generations, starting in 1207. Every hero takes his place as Laird MacDougall of Dunstaffnage Castle. Legends abound within the series, many with a mystical element. The history of Scotland is seeped in mysticism, and so most of the elements I’ve added into this series are based on historical fact or legend.

Why did I choose this castle as the setting?

I love a good ghost story, and in my travels to Europe, I’ve often felt the otherworldly presence of those who lived in the past. One of my favorite castles in Scotland is Dunstaffnage Castle, and I was lucky enough to visit there on my last trip! The history behind it is fascinating and haunting. There is this tale of a glaistig, or green lady, who haunts the grounds of Dunstaffnage. She is called the Ell-Maid of Dunstaffnage, but no one knows who she might have been. She appears in green, gliding over the walls, and through the forest. Her appearances often were brought on by tidings of joy or sadness within the family. This gave me an idea—in fact, it sparked the whole series! In Laird of Shadows, we learn the origin of the Ell-Maid of Dunstaffnage… It was exciting to write this story, and I can’t wait for you all to read it, and to see what happens as I follow the MacDougall family throughout generations in my new series!

Here are a few pictures I took at Dunstaffnage Castle.

Me being silly :)

The castle through the forest.

A model of the castle.

The castle's main door.

The entry corridor from the main door.

Inside the bailey.

Standing on the ramparts looking down. This section here would have had a roof like  you saw in the model.

On the ramparts looking out on the water.
Inside a tower, looking out.

More of the inside, and the well.

Inside a tower, the floors are no longer there, but you can see the  shelves and hearths  from upper floors.

More inside, showing stonework on multiple floors.

A hearth.

An arrow-slit window.
Crumbled stairs inside one of the towers.

Inside the bailey looking up at the tower walls. The stonework is amazing.

A forest trail  to the castle kirk.

The castle kirk.

A cross on the side of the kirk.

More of the forest surrounding the castle.

As battles and treachery rain down upon them, Beiste and Elle find unlikely allies in each other, and a few stolen moments of passion that bring light from the shadows…

Read it!

The second book in my series, Laird of Twilight, will release in The Forbidden Highlands, April 18th! Available for Pre-Order!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Luck of the Irish or Just Sheer Irish Grit?

Daughter, wife, mother, businesswoman, landowner, seafarer, leader, chieftain, rebel, pirate, legend—all these terms would accurately describe the infamous Grace O’Malley.

Gráinne Ní Mháille (Grace O’Malley) was born in 1530. Her father, Owen “Black Oak” O’Malley, was the elected chieftain of the Ó Máille (O’Malley) clan. He was also a seafarer successful in trading cattle, tallow, and salt fish as far south as Portugal and Spain. The O’Malley were one of the few on the western coast to sail beyond Ireland’s shores. As a result, they controlled much of County Mayo and all who fished off their coasts were taxed. Upon her parents’ deaths, she inherited her father’s trading business and her mother’s lands. That with and the land holdings from subsequent marriages, she was a wealthy woman.

Rockfleet Castle
Even as a child, Grace was a spitfire. She scorned societal conventions placed on girls and women, favoring adventure over what was suitable for her gender. She wanted badly to go to sea on a trading expedition to Spain with her father. Her parents forbade it. Ah, but she was fiery and independent. She cut off her long red hair to disguise herself as a lad in hopes to trick her father into taking her.
A stunt such as this was surely a precursor to what was to come.

At 16, she married Dónal O’Flaherty, who was heir to the chieftain of the O’Flaherty clan which controlled Connacht.  This was a good political match for the clans. Plus, bonus, he owned castles. One of these castles—Bunowen—is where she operated her first shipping and trade business, in part out of necessity as Dónal’s gallivanting brought the clan near to poverty.  Over the course of their marriage, she had three children with Dónal—Owen, Murrough, and Margaret. Not only did the family grow, but so did her pursuits. She controlled their fleet and oversaw all the business dealings, legitimate and otherwise. No doubt plying skills she learned from her father. And when she was not allowed to trade in Galway, a key trading port, for sketchy practices, she simply laid in wait off the coast for merchant ships, negotiating fair fees that guaranteed their safe passage. If they refused, she relieved them of their cargo. If they further resisted, well, things got violent and deadly.

Like Grace, Dónal was an ambitious sort. But he preferred warfare. Not surprisingly, that didn’t end well for him. He had taken an island fortress from another clan over some sort of revenge, but in the siege was killed. Grace didn’t take the death of her husband too kindly. She sailed to the island to avenge his death and successfully defended the castle. In another attack on the castle by the English, she not only defended it, but she alerted her fleet, launched an attack, and soundly defeated them. As you might imagine, she had many, many loyal men who followed her anywhere she went.

Grace O'Malley and Queen Elizabeth
She married a second time in 1566 to Richard Bourke, purportedly for more holdings, and the couple had one child together. But Grace still wasn’t one to settle down and quickly divorced him, keeping his Rockfleet Castle for herself.

Grace is known for many exploits that have become legendary. One thing for certain, she was not one to be slighted or crossed. She purportedly defeated a Turkish pirate ship, killing the crew, just one day after giving birth to her fourth son. Can you imagine how cranky she might have been to be disturbed while nursing her newborn? Grace had once abducted an earl’s grandson after she was denied hospitality by the family because they were having dinner. She released the boy only after the promise that the castle’s gates were always open and a place set at the table for visitors—a promise still kept to this day. Don’t underestimate a woman in love. She sought deadly revenge on a clan for killing her lover Hugh de Lacy, snatching away the lives of those responsible and seizing their castle. The woman was mighty!

How far will he go to rise up against her?
Get Your Copy HERE!
Her piratical ways both on sea and land eventually caught up to her. English power had increased over Ireland and set to control the chieftains who had been self-governing. She was no fool. Like most chieftains, she submitted her fealty. Ah…appearances. With a troublemaker like Grace, England took notice, especially Governor Sir Richard Bingham who, in 1584 was tasked with overseeing and controlling chieftains and their clans. Bingham made it a personal mark to take Grace down. He stripped her clan of wealth by overtaxing them, ordered the murder of her oldest son, raided her home, took her livestock, imprisoned family members for treason, and impounded her fleet. Ouch. In 1593, Grace intended to restore her clan’s rights and free her family. How? By petitioning Elizabeth I, Queen of England, of course.

Elizabeth must have been intrigued by the intrepid Irish woman with such a colorful reputation for she granted Grace an audience…in private. Perhaps they were a lot alike. Perhaps there was a mutual respect. Whatever the case, it must have been quite a meeting that September day between the two powerhouses. The queen granted all of Grace’s requests, including monetary aid and the release of her impounded fleet. In the queen’s letter to Bingham, she also stated that Grace O’Malley had her permission to act as a privateer on England’s behalf. And so a-pirating Grace did go.

Grace finally retired in 1601. Two years later at the age of 73, she died, the same year as the queen.

About the Author 

Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017



Kathleen Bittner Roth

Having lived in beautiful Budapest, Hungary for the past six plus years, I have yet to grow weary of this incredible city. I am in awe of its architecture, where even the most seemingly insignificant building is festooned with cherubs and angels. Coffee houses abound here, and frequenting them is a way of life. One of my favorites is the baroque, palace-like New York Café. Built in the mid-1800s, not only is this work of art a part of the history of Budapest and Hungarian literary life, incidents that took place there became an inspiration for Michael Curtiz’s iconic movie Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Once a meeting place for artists and poets, Michael Curtiz, an up and coming writer and producer of film, became a regular. It’s a historical fact that these imaginative types wanted the café open at their discretion. After all, creativity did not run by a clock, and many of them got their inspiration in the middle of the night. One evening, near closing time, the lot of these rowdy patrons stole the key to the front door from the owner, and ceremoniously raced to the Danube and tossed it in!

New York Café (the building was so named because it was built by the New York Insurance Company) became a popular home away from home at all hours. That is, until the Nazis arrived. The film Casablanca was actually adapted from a play, but there were no Germans in Morocco. The SS officer featured in the film was an adaption of one leather-coated officer who roamed the New York Café ferreting out dissidents. Artists were the first to be singled out by Hitler, ahead of the Jews and Gypsies and were considered dangerous to his movement.

Michael Curtiz was both a Jew and a liberal artist. Soon, he and his dissidents were in danger of being plucked out of the café and loaded onto trains to Auschwitz. Curtiz escaped to America, as did many of his fellow artists, where Hollywood became an enclave for Hungarian talent. Not only were most of the founding fathers of film Hungarians, so were many of the actors, including Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, and the Gabor sisters (Tony Curtis and Peter Falk, both Hungarians came along later).

The end of WWII meant the dividing up of countries. Unfortunately, Hungary was handed to Stalin. The communists moved in, closed down gathering places like the iconic New York Café, and used it as a warehouse! Perhaps doing so wasn’t so bad during that nasty era because the original interior, which earned its fame as being the finest coffee house in the world, was saved. Although photographs cannot begin to capture the ambiance and grandeur of this awesome place, look closely, and you can make out the intricate detail of the original paintings on the ceilings and walls. If the coffee and food are not enough to satisfy, the precious Venetian lamp shades, intricately designed gold-plated columns, and abundant frescoes are a feast for the eyes and soul.

Stepping inside the New York Café never fails to take me back in time, to the magnificent era of sophistication when Budapest was the wealthiest city in the world. I even enjoy watching the first timers ogling the splendor that abounds. I sip cappuccino here, revel in the exquisiteness of the place, and write stories in my head.

If visiting Europe is on your agenda, do consider a trip to Budapest. And to the New York Café. You won’t regret it. I’ve included this YouTube link to a visual tour. Enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_sEkMl6Nfc

He marries for her dowry. She marries to escape a hanging. HIS LORDSHIP’S WILD HIGHLAND BRIDE. 

Kathleen Bittner Roth creates evocative stories featuring characters forced to draw on their strength of spirit to overcome adversity and find unending love. Her own fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle led her to her current residence in Budapest, Hungary, considered one of Europe’s most romantic cities. A PAN member of Romance Writers of America®, Kathleen was a finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest. 

You can find Kathleen at:

Website:          www.kathleenbittnerroth.com
Twitter:           @K_BittnerRoth
Pinterest          https://hu.pinterest.com/bittnerroth/

Monday, March 6, 2017

The H-Team Presents: Songs of Blood and Gold on sale!

The H-Team presents... 

Twelve bestselling historical authors bring to life to the glory of the ancient world in three novels spanning golden Greece to blood-soaked Rome in


A DAY OF FIRE (Authored by: Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter) Pompeii: a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of Rome's glory. When Vesuvius erupts in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town struggles to flee the mountain's wrath: soldiers and politicians, villains and heroes, young and old. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

A YEAR OF RAVENS (Authored by: Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, SJA Turney, Russell Whitfield) Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica leads her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume warriors and peacemakers, slaves and queens, Roman and Celt. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

A SONG OF WAR (Authored by: Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, SJA Turney, Russell Whitfield) Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, a haven destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other planes--the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy's gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: heroes and cowards, seers and kings, innocent and guilty. But who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the dawn of a new age?

Get it while it lasts!

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2kXKsfA
Kobo: https://goo.gl/30o2AQ
B&N: https://goo.gl/3zoATa

Friday, March 3, 2017

March is Women's History Month

by Tara Kingston

As an author of historical romance, I love writing about bold, courageous heroines—women who pursue their own dreams and don’t wait around to be rescued by the hero, no matter how daring he might be. So, you might imagine I was a more than a wee bit frustrated by the treatment of history while a student in school. I recall memorizing dates, discussing historical events, and learning the names of the men involved in those events. The impacts of a scant few women in history were presented—Queen Elizabeth, Betsy Ross, and Dolley Madison come to mind. But by and large, I learned about the accomplishments of women through my voracious use of the library’s biography section.

Susan B. Anthony
Later, when I became a teacher, I strove to share the accomplishments of remarkable women throughout the year. Women’s History Month was a special time in my classroom, an entire month designated to recognize diverse women who’ve made such a difference throughout the centuries.

President Jimmy Carter first issued a Presidential Proclamation designating the week of March 8, 1980 as National Women’s History Week. President Carter’s proclamation called to attention the achievements of leaders such as Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Please click the link to access the National Women’s History Project: President Carter's Proclamation     

Harriet Tubman

Dolley Madison
In 1987, Congress designated March as National Women’s History Month. What a great time to introduce young students to the women who’ve helped shape the fabric of our society! If you’re interested in learning more about women of achievement during this month and throughout the year, many resources can be found online. Here are a few of my favorites:

~ Women's History Month - Hosted by the Library of Congress; Brought to readers by The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - This site provides a wealth of resources
Eleanor Roosevelt
including teacher resources and photographs.

All Photographs & Historical Images are in the Public Domain

About the Author:

To Purchase or Read An Excerpt
Award-winning and Amazon.com bestselling author Tara Kingston writes historical romance laced with intrigue, danger, and adventures of the heart. A Southern belle-out-of-water in a quaint Pennsylvania town, she lives her own love story with her real-life hero in a cozy Victorian. The mother of two sons, Tara's a former librarian whose love of books is evident in her popping-at-the-seams bookcases. It goes without saying that she’s thankful for the invention of digital books, thereby eliminating the need for yet another set of shelves. When she's not writing, reading, or burning dinner, Tara enjoys cycling, hiking, and cheering on her favorite football team. 

Click the links to connect with Tara at www.tarakingston.com and on