The Maid by Nita Prose, Published by Harper Fiction @HarperFiction @NitaProse #BookTwitter, #bookblogger #writingcommunity #BlogBlast #BookReview #Bookpreneur

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK • “A heartwarming mystery with a lovable oddball at its center” (Real Simple), this cozy whodunit introduces a one-of-a-kind heroine who will steal your heart.

“The reader comes to understand Molly’s worldview, and to sympathize with her longing to be accepted—a quest that gives The Maid real emotional heft.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“Think Clue. Think page-turner.”—Glamour

In development as a major motion picture produced by and starring Florence Pugh

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B091Y4KGFH
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ballantine Books (January 4, 2022)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ January 4, 2022

This has to be one of my favourite books of all time. What an endearing, eccentric character at the centre of this locked-room mystery. I found it refreshing to inhabit Molly’s heart-warming world. A lowly nobody, invisible to the guests but 100% familiar to me. I used to be a maid myself in a large hotel, so I resonate with Molly and understand her pride in the uniform and her trolley. This book doesn’t leave a residue, it leaves a deep mark and I’m not sure I’ll find another quite like it.   

Living by her gran’s moral code, Molly works at the Regency Grand Hotel. She doesn’t see her job as a daily grind, or something to pay the bills, she owns it, returning each room to a state of perfection. We meet Molly nine months after her gran’s death and her grief, although palpable, is kept in check by her sheer devotion to her duties. Unable to read social cues, some employees see her as an oddball while others see her as polite and respectful. She may be excluded by some, but others are there to protect her.

Giselle Black, a trophy socialite and regular guest at the hotel, befriends Molly. But her life isn’t as smooth as it seems. Her husband, Charles Black, a famous impresario who owns a quarter of the city, is not a nice man. Not if Giselle’s puffy red eyes are anything to go by. When Molly finds Mr Black dead in his bead, all hell breaks loose and she is at the mercy of the investigative team. Targeted as a suspect, she finds friends she never knew she had and embarks on finding out who could have committed this terrible crime.  

From the start, I knew this book would be one to savour. Only putting it down for work, I was desperate to return to Molly’s world and the people that surround her. Caught in a web of deceit, she is an innocent who appears unable to defend herself. But Molly is surprisingly agile. The inner workings of her brain far exceed those of the fraudsters who are out to harm her.

The humour comes with her naiveté. It’s laugh out loud funny at times, partly due to her impeccable manners and the way she thinks through a situation, especially where romance is in the air. But Molly is far from perfect and that’s what I liked about her. She is believable. She is in all of us.

Thank you to author Nita Prose for making my week so entertaining. I loved Molly and somewhere, deep inside, I’d love to see a State of Perfection Series. Molly is a national treasure.

About the author:

Nita Prose is a longtime editor, serving many bestselling authors and their books. She lives in Toronto, Canada, in a house that is only moderately clean. Visit her at or on Twitter: @NitaProse.

Other books by Nita Prose:

Review Tour – The Doomsong Sword by J.G. Harlond @Lucero #BookReview

Hosting J.G. Harlond on this review tour has been one of the most thrilling rides of the year. Author of ‘Local Resistance’, ‘The Empress Emerald’ and ‘The Chosen Man’ trilogy (work-in-progress) Harlond writes page-turning historical crime fiction that weaves fictional characters into real events. She is particularly interested in aspects of power; international intrigue and domestic politics are significant elements in her adult fiction.

‘The Doomsong Sword’, a novel for younger (and not-so-younger) readers, is based on part of the old Norse Volsung Saga.




Buy Links    Amazon UK 🇬🇧     Amazon US 🇺🇸

Book Description

Formats: Paperback, Kindle Edition, eBook

Print Length: 364 pages



Facing up to destiny can be lonely, silent, and secret.

In the darkest years of Long Ago in the cold, cold North, there were two young men who were very much alike; and very different in all that mattered most. Davor was a spinner of stories; Sigurd was an earl. Both were destined to confront an evil dragon – but only one of them slew the beast.

The Doomsong Sword is coming-of-age, mythic fantasy based on the ancient Norse Volsung Saga, where the real tests of character aren’t always what they seem.

Book Review

The Doomsong Sword is a treasure. A classic everyone should read. Harlond has done a marvelous job inventing a mythical place full of thick-furred wolves, dwarves, the semimortals of Asgard and leather-winged dragons with tongues of flame. The main character is a young man called Davor who, although frequently tricked and trapped, goes from strength-to-strength in his quest. One adventure sees our friend traveling with the lightfoot troublemaker Loki, whose element is fire. Davor must beat a path to Andvari’s treasure horde to get much needed gold. With Master Odo who can read thoughts and greedy shapeshifters on the prowl, how can Davor possibly overcome so many obstacles with so many more adventures to come?

I gave this book five stars because of the ingenious word pictures that sum up warm fires and good friends. It’s true that one young life can make a huge impact on the world, not because he has power. But because he has the edge. Readers will appreciate the heroism of Davor and enjoy rich words and exciting adventures. It’s truly a compelling read.

(Bookworm 5* Review)

This hugely entertaining tale will appeal to those who enjoy the likes of The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. Based on Viking legends, Davor is a reluctant young adventurer who embarks on a journey which turns into a quest. Directed by the inscrutable traveller Master Odo, and accompanied by a Wolf, Davor encounters all manner of odd events and dangerous situations. The story is cleverly told and there is great depth to the characters, particularly Davor who, just like the sword in the title, is forged with considerable skill. An exciting adventure in the best tradition with a wonderful cast of princes, dragons, dwarves – and of course treasure!
This fabulous story will enchant older children and adults alike.

About the Author


Jane Harlond is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the British Society of Authors. Originally from the English West Country, she has travelled widely and is now settled in rural Andalucía, Spain.

Other publications

‘Dark Night, Black Horse’ is a true short story about a young boy who rescues his father’s favourite black stallion during the Spanish Civil War. This is now available in Spanish as ‘Noche Oscuro, Caballo Negro’.





A Warm Welcome to Author Kathryn Gauci

Kathryn smaller image (2)I am delighted to welcome author Kathryn Gauci to my blog today.

Kathryn Gauci was born in Leicestershire, England, and studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design where she specialised in carpet design and technology. After graduating, Kathryn spent a year in Vienna, Austria before moving to Greece where she worked as a carpet designer in Athens for six years. There followed another brief period in New Zealand before eventually settling in Melbourne, Australia.

Before turning to writing full-time, Kathryn ran her own textile design studio in Melbourne for over fifteen years, work which she enjoyed tremendously as it allowed her the luxury of travelling worldwide, often taking her off the beaten track and exploring other cultures. The Embroiderer is her first novel; a culmination of those wonderful years of design and travel, and especially of those glorious years in her youth living and working in Greece – a place that she is proud to call her spiritual home.

Kathryn is here to tell us about a scene from The Embroiderer which is set against the mosques and minarets of Asia Minor and the ruins of ancient Athens. A gripping saga of love and loss, hope and despair, and of the extraordinary courage of women in the face of adversity.

My favourite scene in The Embroiderer and why.

9781781322963-Perfect.inddA hard choice as The Embroiderer spans 150 years and I have several favourites, especially the prologue and Dimitra’s memoirs which throw light on the family’s early life.

The story is written in four parts and in the end I have chosen the last scene in Part II – a pivotal point in the book. The year is 1922 and the Greek troops have occupied the Smyrna region for three years. The main protagonist, Sophia Laskaris, has left Constantinople for her home town of Smyrna (modern day Izmir). For reasons I cannot divulge, her highly successful life as a couturier has come crashing down and she is forced to re-open her couture house, LA MAISON DU L’ORIENT, in the Rue Franque – Smyrna’s equivalent of Bond St or Fifth Avenue.

Unfortunately, not only for Sophia and her family, but for the entire population of Smyrna, they underestimated the strength and determination of Mustafa Kemal’s Nationalists. In late August 1922, the remnants of the Greek army return from Anatolia and evacuate back to Greece leaving in their wake, thousands of desperate Christian refugees who pour into the city.

Smyrna before 1922 showing the Hotel Kramer (2)

Smyrna before 1922 showing the Hotel Kramer

During the first week of September, Kemal’s Nationalists enter the city determined to take their revenge on the Christian population. Despite calls for calm, atrocities start to take place immediately. When the Greek archbishop is reprimanded and then set upon by Turks who torture and kill him, many believe all is lost, yet others believe that because of the presence of foreign warships in the Bay of Smyrna, and the many foreign nationals living in Smyrna, the Allies will not stand by and see a massacre.


Rue Franque (2)

Rue Franque

During the second week of September, a fire breaks out in the Armenian quarter of the city which was later proven to have been deliberately lit by the Turks. The fire takes hold and the wind changes direction. The fire, now burning out of control, spreads towards the harbour where there are thousands of helpless refugees. All those hiding in hospitals, schools and churches are either burnt alive or forced out into the arms of the Turks who slaughter them.


Most of the remaining westerners are evacuated leaving the Greeks at the mercy of the Turks. From the safety of the ships, the Allies are forced to watch on as they have strict orders not to antagonize the Turks. Sophia flees to the harbour with several of her family. All the buildings are now on fire, thousands are either crushed to death, burnt by falling embers or fall into the sea which has become a quagmire of floating bodies and debris. Fearing an international backlash, the Allies now send out boats to rescue some of the survivors.

Refugees congregate on the seafront  Smyrna 1922 (2)

Refugees congregate on the seafront. Smyrna

This is the culmination of the Asia Minor Catastrophe. Thousands are killed and except for the Turkish quarter, the beautiful cosmopolitan city of Smyrna lies in ruins. Two thousand years of Greek settlement in the city and the Aegean and Anatolian region comes to an end. Sophia survives but most of her family and friends do not. She leaves for Athens and will never set foot on Greek soil again. This chapter is one of the most harrowing scenes in the book.


Why not visit Kathryn at her blog:

 Kathryn blog Blog – Kathryn Gauci

Author interview with John Manuel Over the next few months, A Literary World is taking a new angle and looking at writers whose novels are set in Greece.

Buy The Embroiderer

The EmbroidererThe Embroiderer is a beautifully written novel spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, set against the backdrop of the Greek War of Independence. It was published on 5th November 2014 and is available to buy in paperback and as an ebook.

You can order from all good bookshops and online retailers.

Purchase directly from the publisher here:

Published by SilverWood Books Ltd.

Cornucopia is the award-winning magazine for connoisseurs of Turkey. The Embroiderer can also now be purchased from the Cornucopia web site.

CornucopiaCornucopia: Turkey for Connoisseurs


Find Kathryn Gauci here on Facebook

Kathryn Gauci | Facebook


Keep Calm & Write A Book


Writers see the world differently. Every voice we hear, every face we see, every hand we touch could become story fabric. – Buffy Andrews

Ever wondered what makes authors so unique? I have.   

If you know an author, you probably know they see the world through a different lens. Authors have stamina and an ability to adapt to several habitats. They tend to be introverts and at times, socially inept. Their brains tend to fire on several cylinders simultaneously, working on two projects at once, or at the very least, writing two books in tandem. They have markings which help them blend into any given environment and can follow someone without being arrested for stalking. Here’s a brief outline of what makes them so special.

Authors are closely related to psychologists. They study human behavior, dissect mental processes and select reactions to suit any given scenario. They are storytellers who can spin a yarn without drawing breath. Worldwide, there are many subspecies that have flooded the market, causing the most skilled of authors to become endangered. But there are several things that separate excellent authors from their subspecies.



  1. Study: Authors don’t simply watch people. They study them. This is an art form that requires sitting in public places for several hours, observing a target and tuning into his/her conversation. In extreme cases, an author might appear as a disinterested third party with the ultimate aim of picking up dialogue with or without the use of a tape recorder.
  2. Strengths: Authors narrow down behavior patterns and tap into moods. It’s an ability to see and connect the dots, an ability to get into someone else’s head, an ability to fine tune a profile to suit a certain character.
  3. Emotion. Authors empathize, fantasize and scrutinize in a world where most people stagger through each day in a blank haze. They are intuitive, able to soar to euphoric heights one minute and plunge into despair the next. All for the purpose of making their characters convincing.
  4. The Thrill of the Quill. Authors love to take chances and start new projects. It’s the rush of the challenge because their imagination is fueled by raw curiosity. Given the right environment ― a study sealed off from the rest of the house, a coffee shop, a restaurant, a library ― they will excel.
  5. Determination: Authors will edit their work until it’s perfect. They will design, format and learn new tricks without tiring. They will continue writing until they croak. There is no ‘off’ switch for an author. They never shut down.

If any of the above applies, then there’s definitely a story in you. So keep calm and write a book.

All Books

For any of the above books, please find the author links below:

Claire Stibbe

Jean Gill

B.A. Morton

Karen Charlton

Elizabeth Horton-Newton

A Warm Welcome to Author Karen Charlton



71utPfsQ6UL__UX250_I’m very excited to welcome bestselling author, Karen Charlton to my blog today.

Karen writes historical crime fiction, set in Regency England. Her Detective Lavender Mysteries, published by Thomas & Mercer, are based on the fictional adventures of Stephen Lavender, a real-life Principal Officer with the Bow Street Police Office in London. She has just finished writing the third book in the series: ‘The Sculthorpe Murder.’

To compliment these novels, she has written two Detective Lavender Short Stories (available on Amazon): ‘The Mystery of the Skelton Diamonds’ and ‘The Piccadilly Pickpocket.’

Below, Karen gives us an overview of how London would have looked like during the time of her crime fighting duo, Detective Lavender and Constable Woods.

Bow Street Police Office at the turn of the nineteenth century

Imagine taking a trip back to London in the mid-eighteenth century. Be prepared to be shocked – and robbed. Pickpockets, gangs of thieves and prostitutes roamed the filth-strewn streets. Every fourth shop in London was a ‘gin house.’ A vast sex trade sprawled across hundreds of brothels and gangs of highwaymen and cut-throats terrorised the roads on the outskirts of London. Whole areas of the capital were no-go areas for anyone who valued their purse, their virtue or their life – especially the notorious ‘Seven Dials’ and the area known as the Rookery around St Giles Church.

Bow street Magistrates court (2)In response to the growing call to find an effective means to tackle the increasing crime and disorder in the capital, Sir Henry Fielding, novelist and magistrate, persuaded the British government to establish a small police force in 1747. Fielding brought together eight reliable constables at the magistrates’ court on Bow Street in Covent Garden. They soon gained a reputation for honesty and efficiency in their pursuit of criminals and became known as ‘the Bow Street Runners.’ But Fielding faced an uphill struggle against both organised crime in London, and the mistrust of the politicians who paid for his policemen.

There was huge resistance to the notion of a centralised police force because of the brutal excesses of the French police system across the Channel, under the revolutionary fanatic, Joseph Fouché.   Nevertheless, the crime fighting force started by Sir Henry Fielding expanded and gained national recognition.

Bow Street 4 (2)By 1809, the year of my novels, the number of police personnel had dramatically increased and a horse patrol had been established to bring some law and order to the crime-infested outlying areas. Principal officers were restyled ‘detectives’ and had various roles. Apart from supporting their colleagues in the capital, they were often sent out to help magistrates in the provinces with difficult cases. Wealthy landowning citizens could request the help of a principal officer. Bow Street would charge them a hefty fee and the detectives could claim lucrative expenses on top of their salary. Many principal officers became very rich. According to the records I unearthed, Stephen Lavender spent a lot of his time working on difficult cases out in the provinces. The detectives also took part in undercover work in periods of insurrection, for example, during the Luddite riots in the Midlands.

The principal officers were a policing elite and were famous throughout London. The aristocracy loved them. They did security work for the Bank of England and acted as bodyguards for Royalty, especially the Prince Regent. They were the only policemen allowed into Buckingham House, the forerunner of the palace. On occasions they were even sent abroad to help with crimes and criminals who had spilled out over our borders onto the continent.

Bow Street 2 (2)However, the Bow Street officers were still regarded with mistrust by the general population and there were many allegations of police corruption. In 1829, the government charged Sir Robert Peel with the task of creating a new national police force; a force which was properly funded and more accountable. Following this transition, the real-life hero of my novels, Stephen Lavender, became the highly-respected Deputy Chief Constable of Manchester.

My Detective Lavender Mysteries show how I imagine these early detectives worked. In a world with no Forensic science, motive and opportunity were everything. In my novels, Stephen Lavender follows a trail of clues and uses his intelligence, logic and common sense to piece together the sequence of events leading up to a crime and explain the mysterious circumstances that surround it.


The Sans Pareil Mystery


Karen Charlton

On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances.

The Sans Pareil Mystery book cover (2)Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part.

With the Napoleonic War looming dangerously across the Channel, this is a time of suspicion and treachery. Following the clues from the seedy back streets of Covent Garden up through the echelons of society, Lavender and Woods begin to fear that the case is much bigger than they’d dared imagine—and worse, that they are at risk of becoming mere players in a master criminal’s shadowy drama.

It will take all of Lavender’s skill and wit, and help from the beautiful Magdalena, to bring the mystery of the Sans Pareil Theatre to a dramatic conclusion in the final act.

For a complete list of Karen’s books, why not visit her on Amazon

Please see Karen’s links below:

Website where you can sign up for her newsletter

Facebook where you can read about book news, upcoming promotions and awards

Welcome back T. E. Taylor

T E Taylor (2)We are delighted to welcome back Tim Taylor. He is with us today to discuss his book, Revolution Day, which is currently on special offer for 99c/99p on both and Amazon.UK. Links provided below.

Bio: Tim was born in 1960 in Stoke-on-Trent. He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford (and later Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London). After a couple of years playing in a rock band, he joined the Civil Service, eventually leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing.

Tim now lives in Yorkshire with his wife and daughter and divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.

Tim’s first novel, Zeus of Ithome, a historical novel about the struggle of the ancient Messenians to free themselves from Sparta, was published by Crooked Cat in November 2013; his second, Revolution Day in June 2015. Tim also writes poetry and the occasional short story, plays guitar, and likes to walk up hills.

Dictators in history: Augusto Pinochet

Hello, Claire. Many thanks for inviting me over today.

Revolution Day (2)My novel Revolution Day (currently on special offer for Christmas at 99p/$0.99!) follows a year in the life of Latin American dictator Carlos Almanzor, as his vice-president plots against him and his estranged wife writes a memoir of their marriage and his regime. Carlos is a fictional figure and is not based upon any particular individual. Nevertheless, his life and career share many elements with those of real dictators and in some cases I consciously drew on historical events in writing the novel. I thought it would be interesting to explore, in a series of blog posts, the lives of some real-life dictators, and to look for similarities and differences between their careers and characters and those of my own fictional dictator. Today I am looking at Augusto Pinochet of Chile.

Born in Valparaiso in 1915, Augusto Jose Ramon Pinochet Ugarte went to the Military School in Santiago, graduating in 1936 as a junior Army officer. He rose steadily through a range of command, staff and training posts, to become a brigadier-general in 1968. Thereafter, he quickly progressed to become Chief of Staff of the Army in 1972 and on 23 August 1973 was appointed its Commander-in-Chief by the then President Salvador Allende.

At this time, a political and economic crisis was developing in Chile, as Allende’s socialist government, elected in 1970, implemented a programme of nationalisation (including of US-owned businesses) and redistribution of wealth – to the dismay of right-leaning parties, much of the Chilean military and the United States. There had already been a failed coup attempt in June 1973. On 22 August, the Chilean Chamber of Deputies passed a resolution accusing the government of violating the constitution. After a defiant response by Allende, on 11 September a group of senior military officers including Pinochet perpetrated a coup d’etat. During an attack by land and air upon the presidential palace Allende died, apparently by suicide. Following the coup, a military Junta was formed, comprising the heads of the three armed services plus the national police. Pinochet established himself as the leader of the Junta and became the President of Chile in June 1974.

The new regime was – and remained – ruthless in eliminating opposition, dissolving Congress, suspending the constitution and arresting many thousands of people. Estimates of how many people were killed, tortured and imprisoned vary: the Chilean government has recognised some 40,000 victims of the dictatorship, of whom over 3,000 were killed or ‘disappeared’. Others fled into exile.


Augusto_Pinochet (2)

Augusto Pinochet

Pinochet implemented free-market economic policies influenced by the neo-liberal Chicago School, achieving success in controlling inflation and restoring economic growth, though critics argue that this this was at the cost of deepening inequality, pushing many into poverty. He also amassed a considerable personal fortune, much of it almost certainly by illegal means.


In 1980 Pinochet held a plebiscite on a new constitution that, inter alia, gave him considerable powers and an eight year term as President. The constitution was approved, though there were were allegations of electoral fraud. In 1988 a further referendum rejected Pinochet’s continuing as President for a further term. He complied with the result and allowed democratic elections the following year. He remained Commander in Chief of the Army for another 10 years and under the constitution became a senator for life, enjoying immunity from persecution as a result.

Nevertheless, Pinochet was arrested in 1998 in Britain for human rights violations, on an international warrant issued in Spain. Though the House of Lords ruled that he could be extradited, he was eventually released on health grounds in 2000 and allowed to return to Chile. Further legal battles ensued in Chile, where he was eventually stripped of his immunity and charged with a number of offences including torture and illegal financial dealings. However, he died on 10 December 2006 without having been convicted of any crimes committed during his dictatorship.

Carlos and Pinochet

Pinochet’s look in his later years, with his greying hair and flamboyant military uniform (see pic) is as close as any historical figure comes to how I imagined Carlos’s appearance (though Carlos has a beard). Unlike Pinochet (but in common with many other dictators who affected military uniform) Carlos has had no military career, though he is nominally head of the Navy.

In his early career Carlos was very different from Pinochet: politically on the left and initially reluctant to adopt authoritarian measures, whereas Pinochet was emphatically on the right and dealt brutally with potential opponents from the very outset of his regime. In time, though, as Carlos abandons state-controlled socialism for a more pragmatic economic policy and comes to see himself as the only person who can be trusted with the running of the state – embracing autocracy and repression as necessary means of preserving his power – he comes to preside over a regime which is in some ways not dissimilar to Pinochet’s Chile. Another similarity between the two is in their uneasy relationship with democracy – anxious to be seen as legitimate rulers but reluctant to gamble their future on an election. Pinochet did eventually stand down in response to a popular vote (having taken steps to protect his personal position first). As to whether Carlos goes the same way – you’ll have to read the novel to find out!

Thanks again for hosting me, Claire!

Thank you Tim for being with us today. All the best with your fascinating book. As promised, here are Tim’s links:

Revolution Day page:!revday/cwpf.

Facebook author page:



Revolution Day on



A Warm Welcome to author Jean Gill

jean colour smjpg (2)

My next guest this week is Jean Gill, author of The Troubadours Quartet. Here she has selected a scene in her latest book Plaint for Provence and shares a generous excerpt. Happy reading folks!

Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a big white dog, a scruffy black dog, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.

Les-Baux-de-Provence: 1152 and 2014

When I suggested to my husband that we have a romantic weekend in Les-Baux-de-Provence, a medieval citadel three hours’ drive from our home, he knew very well that I had more on my mind than our romance. He has lived with Dragonetz and Estela for four years now and he guessed that I was researching the third book in my 12th century Troubadours series. He is also used to me working as a photographer, and he accepted it as normal that our evening meal was planned round the best end-of-day light on the citadel from a nearby mountain pass. While I adjusted my aperture and muttered about filters, he sat in the car and read a book.

This is the moment in Chapter 4 of ‘Plaint for Provence’ when Dragonetz first sees Les Baux-de-Provence, from that very same pass. There are no marshes there now and, of course, the castle was newly built.

Although he automatically registered the defensive potential of the Sarragan Pass, its gigantic rocks allowing a few men to hide and seem many, the narrow bottleneck of access and exit, these features were not what had struck Dragonetz most. He and Hugues had reached the top of the rise first, in the van of their small troop, with the setting sun behind them, gilding the grotesque white boulders, the marsh-reeded valley and the cliffs beyond.

Plaint eBook cover sm (2)The boulders grew leering faces and demonic familiars in the shifting light and long shadows, dropping into unfathomable blackness in the valley below and lightening again as the cliffs rose, and rose again to the jagged tips. Except that the tips were not jagged but regular crenellations, the turrets of a castle that made the small hairs on Dragonetz’ arms prickle with excitement or foreboding, he knew not which. ‘It’s prettier than Trinquetaille,’ Hugues had said, regarding the origin of their name.

‘Les Baux,’ breathed Dragonetz.

Hugues said nothing but his face spoke. There was a set to his jaw, a determination in his gaze that Dragonetz had seen before, in the Crusades, when a man had decided what was worth dying for. For a brief moment, the low day’s-end sun caught whatever metals the castle offered; armour and flagstaff, door-hinge and wheel-hub, and the fortress caught fire, dazzling and defiant. Then snuffed out, just as suddenly. His eyes still recovering from the glare, Dragonetz rehearsed his litany of defence, but this time extending it to Les Baux itself, not just tonight’s camp.

Les Baux

Les Baux

The massif was occupied by the château on the northern heights, protected by sheer cliffs on two of the sides that Dragonetz could see, and dropping through the dependent village downhill to the south, Les Baux’s only access and weakest point. Gate and rampart were visible even from this distance, defending the entry. ‘The access to the château from here is downhill, by the boulders, across the river and marshes, then up by the south gate into the walled city and up again to the château?’

‘There is no river in the valley, just marshes. The path down is basically a mule track, widened by our use. And the caves are amongst the rocky outcrops,’ confirmed Hugues. They had spoken at length of the caves the night before. Dragonetz had assumed a river from the look of the land and was surprised that a fortification of this importance had no water source nearby. Rainwater was unreliable, especially in Provence, making the castle even more vulnerable to siege. He must investigate the water system when he was in Les Baux itself.

‘How do men get to the château itself?

‘There’s only one way to get up onto Roucas, the rock on which the citadel is built, and that’s to the south. The side you can’t see is sheer cliff.’ Just as Dragonetz had guessed.

Les Baux de Provence

Les Baux de Provence

Nowadays, Les-Baux-de-Provence is a top French tourist destination and one of its most popular attractions is a son-et-lumiere in a gigantic network of caves. When we visited, the Impressionist painters featured and this is Long-Suffering Husband in front of one cavern face, with light show.

cave art (2)

Cave Art


The caves were there in the 12th century, some of them occupied and all of them the subject of legends; Moorish treasure and a demon goat. The valley is called ‘Le Val d’Enfer’ (the Valley of Hell). What more encouragement is needed for a writer?

In my story, the Gyptian (an allusion to a possible origin of the word ‘gypsy’) Dame Fairnette lives in one of the caves near the castle and the huge caves where the son-et-lumiere now takes place are the scene of a daring ambush, in which Dragonetz and the Lord of Les Baux try to steal a march on the visiting Comte de Barcelone.

Author Info

Try Book 1 ‘Song at Dawn’ – it’s free. I’m told ‘it’s like Game of Thrones but with real history’. If you review any of my books, do send me a photo of your dog – or one you know. I have a lovely Gallery of Readers’ dogs and I’m hoping to add to that.

Latest book

Plaint for Provence, Bk 3 in ‘The Troubadours Quartet’ :

Book trailer

Book 1 ‘Song at Dawn’ is available FREE.51QQyWv2WNL__SX326_BO1,204,203,200_


IPPY Award for Best Author Website




The Troubadours Page

Youtube book trailers

A Warm Welcome to Author Sue Barnard

Sue Barnard author pic (2)We are delighted to welcome Sue Barnard today. Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After graduating from Durham University, where she studied French and Italian, Sue got married then had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent. If she had her way, the phrase “non-working mother” would be banned from the English language.

Since then she has had a series of part-time jobs, including some work as a freelance copywriter. In parallel with this she took several courses in Creative Writing. Her writing achievements include winning the Writing Magazine New Subscribers Poetry Competition for 2013. She is also very interested in Family History. Her own background is stranger than fiction; she’d write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

In case you haven’t read The Ghostly Father, it’s based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, told from the point of view of the character of Friar Lawrence (called Fra’ Lorenzo in this version). In fact all the characters are given the Italian versions of their names – hence “Giulietta” rather than Juliet.

TGF front (2)The scene Sue has given us, which is pivotal to the story, is set in the vault, whilst Giulietta is still in her death-like trance. This is where, in the original tale, the lovers fall victim to a maddeningly preventable double-suicide. But in The Ghostly Father, events take a slightly different turn…

I have no idea how long I had been sitting there, desperately trying to ignore my cold, dark and dank surroundings, when I suddenly became aware of the noise of footsteps. I held my breath and listened. The footsteps grew louder; I realised that their owner must be coming down the steps into the vault. But concealed as I was behind Giulietta’s bier, I remained out of sight of the entrance, and the shaded light of my own flambard was wholly eclipsed by the light of another one, which was now being borne into the depths of the tomb.

Whoever this intruder might be, and whatever business he might have here, I prayed: Please may he go before the lady revives. Otherwise, what he sees will require no end of explanation. And neither she nor I would wish to be the one who would have to give it.

Vault (2)The footsteps came ever closer, eventually coming to a halt at the other side of Giulietta’s bier. There was a moment’s silence, then I was aware that the muslin sheet which had covered her body was slowly being pulled aside.

The intruder let out a low groan, then a stifled sob, before brokenly murmuring, “Giulietta! My love! My wife!”

I recognised the voice almost before the words had been uttered.

I lifted up my flambard and slowly eased myself to my feet. A ghastly sight met my eyes: young Romeo, his body racking with sobs, was clinging desperately to Giulietta’s body, his streaming face buried in the folds of her white wedding dress. So absorbed was he in his prostrate grief for his lost love that he was clearly utterly unaware that I was now standing at his side.

I was so taken aback at his arrival that it took some moments for me to ask myself: What in Heaven’s name was he doing here?

I received the answer to that question in the next instant. The broken-hearted boy was reaching into his pouch and pulling out a small glass vial.

Juliet's tomb (2)

Juliet’s tomb in Verona (part of the city’s Romeo & Juliet trail). Copyright Sue Barnard

Oh merciful Heaven, I thought, as I recalled Giulietta’s words: “I have no doubt that he would wish to follow me to the grave…”

I had no time to wonder what had happened to bring him hither in this desperate state; I knew only that I had but seconds to prevent a true catastrophe…

Book Blurb

Here’s the book blurb, as it appears on Amazon and on the back cover of the paperback edition:

Romeo & Juliet – was this what really happened? When Juliet Roberts is asked to make sense of an ancient Italian manuscript, she little suspects that she will find herself propelled into the midst of one of the greatest love stories of all time. But this is only the beginning. As more hidden secrets come to light, Juliet discovers that the tragic tale of her famous namesake might have had a very different outcome… A favourite classic story with a major new twist.

Sue Barnard is the author of the award-nominated historical fantasy The Ghostly Father and the romantic intrigues Nice Girls Don’t and The Unkindest Cut of All

Sue has a mind which is sufficiently warped as to be capable of compiling questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

She joined the editorial team of Crooked Cat Publishing in 2013. Her first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet) was officially released on St Valentine’s Day 2014. This was followed in July 2014 by her second novel, a romantic mystery entitled Nice Girls Don’t. Her third novel, The Unkindest Cut of All (a murder mystery set in a theatre), was released in June 2015.

You can find Sue on Facebook, Twitter (@SusanB2011), or follow her blog here.

Sue is also an Editor at Crooked Cat Publishing

Blog   Facebook   G+   Twitter   Amazon

The Most Excellent Worldwide Book Tour ~ Jean Gill

JeanGill-1-copyAuthor Name: Jean Gill

Book Title: Plaint for Provence

Genre and Sub-Genre: Historical Fiction / Romantic thriller

Book Content Rating: G, PG, PG13, Adult (18+) Based on language, violence, sexual content.

Author Bio

Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a big white dog, a scruffy black dog, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is also mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training (from French), and a cookery book on goat cheese.

bladesongBook Blurb:

1152 : Les-Baux-de-Provence

From the winner of the Global Ebook Award for Best Historical Fiction

Summoned to the court of Les Baux, Estela and her lover, Dragonetz, are embroiled in two rival claims for power as their feuding liege lords gather in Provence. Although Estela is reluctant to leave her idyll with her young child Musca, and her pursuit of Arabic medicine, she welcomes the chance to show her musical skills and to support Dragonetz, who must use his swordsmanship to play peacemaker.

The visit of the Comte du Barcelone to Les Baux sparks bitter memories of the recent civil war and Lady Etiennette des Baux has no intention of ceding to her overlord. Nor does she plan to remain a widow. With good friends on both sides, Dragonetz weaves a precarious path through the rival factions at court where an uneasy truce prevails behind the chivalry of hunt and tournament.

SongMeanwhile, Estela faces her own demons. Confronted with her childhood abusers, threatened and attacked, she confides in her friends. Unfortunately, one of those friends is Dragonetz’ worst enemy and Estela has no idea of what he is capable.

In this third volume of the Troubadours Quartet, Jean Gill, the ‘master of historical intrigue’, continues to weave the gripping adventures of Dragonetz and Estela seamlessly into real historical events. Medieval France comes alive in all its facets, from healing with leeches to training a goshawk.

‘A stunning masterpiece of tangled alliances, conflicting loyalties and tested love.’ Kristin Gleeson, the Celtic Knot series


‘Historical Fiction at its best.’ Karen Charlton, the Detective Lavender Mysteries

Book Trailers: Youtube book trailers

PlaintBook Links: The Troubadours Quartet Book 3 Plaint for Provence

Book 1 Song at Dawn

Book 2 Bladesong

Author Links:  

Thank you for having me on your blog. I’d like to offer a free ebook copy of ‘Plaint for Provence’ to one of your readers. To enter, all they have to do is write a comment here on the blog.

In celebration of the new Troubadours book, Book 1 ‘Song at Dawn’ is free at the moment and there’s also a free ebook copy of my collection ‘One Sixth of a Gill’, which was shortlisted for the Wishing Shelf Award’, for every new subscriber to my newsletter. Just sign up here for news and offers on my books.

Feel free to contact Jean at

IPPY Silver Award for Best Author Website



The Troubadours Page

A Warm Welcome to Vanessa Couchman

Vanessa CouchmanToday I’m delighted to welcome Vanessa Couchman, author of THE HOUSE AT ZARONZA. Vanessa lives in France and is passionate about French and Corsican history and culture, which provide inspiration for her writing. The House at Zaronza is based on an intriguing true story that she came across when holidaying on the beguiling Mediterranean island of Corsica.

She is working on a sequel, set in World War II, and another novel set on Corsica during the 18th century.

Book description of The House at Zaronza:

Rachel Swift travels to Corsica to discover more about her forebears. She finds a series of passionate love letters and the story unfolds of a secret romance in the early 20th century between a village schoolteacher and Maria, the daughter of a bourgeois family. Maria’s parents have other plans for her future, and she sees her dreams crumble. Her life is played out against the backdrop of Corsica, the “island of beauty”, and the turmoil of World War I.

In the extract, Maria’s father has told her she must marry her cousin Vincentello to keep the family possessions together. She is carrying on a secret relationship with the village schoolmaster and reacts vehemently against her impending marriage. Her mother tries to get her to “see sense”, illustrating the Corsican attachment to family honour and the futility of struggling against it.


Front cover final 2My father stamped down the corridor, his heels ringing on the flagstones. The front door stuck and grated as usual on the uneven floor. The knocker banged on the door, such was the force with which Papa slammed it.

Maman sank down into the chair opposite me. She looked at me for a moment and a fleeting glimpse of something crossed her face. Sympathy? Understanding? I couldn’t tell, but it seemed unlikely. She sighed.

“Maria, you know your father always does what’s right for you, for us all, for the family. You can’t expect to love your husband at first, but it will come. Papa and I married because our families agreed it was in everyone’s best interests. I have never regretted it, even though… even though I have never been able to have any more children.”

She glanced away for a moment. Despite my own problems, I glimpsed the sadness behind the façade.

“But, Maman. You and Papa talk as if I were goods to be parcelled up and sold, like a barrel of olives. As if I had no will or wishes of my own. What about my feelings? I can’t love Vincentello. I never will. When I marry I want it to be to a man I love and have chosen myself.”

Rugged Corsican landscape

Rugged Corsican landscape

“Maria, stop being so unrealistic. You’re a woman. Women have little choice in these matters. And you know that once your father has made up his mind he won’t change it. You would do much better to reconcile yourself and prepare yourself for your marriage. So that you and Vincentello can get to know each other a little better, we have invited him to spend Christmas Eve with us. Your father and I expect you to be hospitable and agreeable towards him.”

Christmas Eve! But that was only two days away. What was I going to do? I had to get a message to Raphaël in his village. But how? The posts were unreliable at the best of times.

“And now,” Maman said. “I’ll leave you to think about all this. I must admit that your father and I find your response to this good news very disappointing. I hope that, on reflection, you’ll realise your good fortune and thank your father for having your best interests at heart.”

She left me and went back to the kitchen.

Interests, interests. That was all anyone could talk about. What about love? What about feelings? Was life just to be reduced to a series of financial transactions? I thought of Vincentello and his thin, cruel lips. Papa said he would respect me. I wasn’t so sure. I had heard the stories about the way he treated his mother and sisters after his father’s death. His sisters got away by marrying, his mother by following his father to the grave. Why hadn’t Papa heard about these things? Or maybe, in the family’s “interests,” he had just shut his mind to them.

Corsican village that inspired the novel

Corsican village that inspired the novel

I dragged myself upstairs, heavy as lead. I didn’t have the energy to fling myself on my bed but sat down on the edge of it like an old woman, worn out. Even the tears didn’t come, just a cold numbness that weighed me down. Now the mist that obscured my future had cleared away and I saw it stretching before me. But instead of a warm, sunny prospect, a stony, frozen wasteland spread out without end.


Vanessa Couchman lives in France and writes for magazines and websites about French life and writing. Her short stories have been placed and shortlisted in creative writing competitions. The House at Zaronza is her debut novel set in early 20th century Corsica and at the Western Front during World War I.

Vanessa describes herself as a “young” author, having been writing fiction since 2010. Her short stories have won, been placed and shortlisted in creative writing competitions and published in anthologies and online.

She runs a copywriting business and also writes magazine articles on French life and the art of writing.

You can find out more about Vanessa and her books on her Website and blog:

Amazon author page:

Why not check out her Facebook author page:

Follow Vanessa on Twitter: @Vanessainfrance

Zaronza on Amazon UK:

Zaronza on Amazon US: