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Tuesday 21 December 2021

To You All

 wishing all my friends and readers 

a very Happy Christmas

Wednesday 15 December 2021

My Guest today C.J. Adrien and The Lords of the Wind Coffee Pot Tour

Welcome to my Blog!
Wander through wonderful worlds
real and fictional,
meet interesting people,
visit exciting places
and find a few good books
to enjoy along the way!

The Lords of the Wind
 (The Saga of Hasting the Avenger, Book 1)

To a keen observer, evidence of the island of Noirmoutier’s ancient past exists all around. Its castle, one of the oldest in all of Europe, stands as a testament to its importance in the medieval period. Not far from it, Le Bois de la Chaize, a woodland of oak trees growing on the edges of timeworn granite monoliths crumbling into the sea, hides some of the island’s most intriguing secrets. Caves nestled between and under the stone slabs once served as a burial ground for some of the island’s first inhabitants. In no uncertain terms, humans have called the island their home for several millennia. The island’s capital city, Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile, receives most of the attention, but archeologists have found evidence of early human settlements at other locations, such as L’Herbaudière, as well.

In the 1980’s, archeologists made the first discoveries that would re-write the island’s early history. At Le Bois de la Chaize, they found smooth stone tools dating back to the Paleolithic period. More surprisingly, the site contained artifacts dating to two separate periods, indicating humans had re-visited or settled the island more than once over the course of thousands of years. By the time the Romans arrived, the island had developed a distinct character. Bronze Age Celts had settled Noirmoutier and built their trademark Dolmen, stone monoliths erected by the druids, in several areas spread out from L’Herbaudière on the northern tip of the island to the tide pools on the south-eastern shore. Alas, only two of the monoliths have ever been found, and they have since disappeared, submerged by a rising sea. Rome’s conquest of Gaul did not spare Noirmoutier, either. In the 1930’s, the archeologist Edouard Richer discovered a gallo-roman villa at Saint Hilaire, suggesting the Romans had seen value in occupying the island, whether for better control over shipping routes or to extract the island’s most important resource, salt.

The archeological dig that uncovered the Gallo-Roman Villa revealed a more astonishing fact about the site: it had been reused after the withdrawal of the Romans by the Merovingians, and later the Carolingians. Virtually nothing is known about who lived in the villa during the early medieval period except that they ate a diet rich in seafood and animal proteins, as evidenced by the copious amounts of sea shells and domestic animal bones found at the site. What matters most about the discovery is it proves someone lived there throughout the period between the fall of Rome and the arrival of Saint Philibert.

As the monastery found firm footing in its doctrine, it experienced what no one had thought possible. A fleet of ships descended from the far north and pillaged the island. In a 799 letter written to the archbishop of Salzburg, Arno, the monk Alcuin wrote:

As you may have heard, pagan ships have done much harm to the islands of Aquitaine. Some of them were entirely lost; five men were slaughtered by hundreds of marauders on the beach. A great chastening is upon them unlike any the ancient Christian world has ever seen; perhaps it is because they have not kept their vows to God.

Few details from the attack in 799 have survived, but the event set into motion decades of turmoil that utterly transformed the holy order. In the wake of the attack, Charlemagne ordered the construction of a new fleet and additional coastal defenses, which may explain his visits to the Aquitaine region in the first decade of the 9th century, as attested by Notker and Astronomer. The chronicler Eginhard, who wrote the Vita Karoli Magni, another biography of Charlemagne, claimed the defenses the emperor built had proven quite successful. The entirety of what he called Gaul, Eginhard wrote, was spared the destruction of the Northmen during Charlemagne’s reign. No sooner than the emperor took his last breath, it would seem, the Viking raids intensified.

The Lords of the Wind
(The Saga of Hasting the Avenger, Book 1)
By C.J. Adrien
Narrated by Gildart Jackson.

Orphaned as a child by a blood-feud, and sold as a slave to an exiled chieftain in Ireland, the boy Hasting had little hope of surviving to adulthood. The gods had other plans. A ship arrived at his master's longphort carrying a man who would alter the course of his destiny, and take him under his wing to teach him the ways of the Vikings. His is a story of a boy who was a slave, who became a war-lord, and who helped topple an empire.

A supposed son of Ragnar Lodbrok, and referred to in the Gesta Normannorum as the Scourge of the Somme and Loire, his life exemplified the qualities of the ideal Viking. Join author and historian C.J. Adrien on an adventure that explores the coming of age of the Viking Hasting, his first love, his first great trials, and his first betrayal.

"The Lords of the Wind" by C.J. Adrien is a gold medal winner in the 2020 Reader's Favorite annual international book award.contest.

(contains violence)

Buy Links: 

This series is available on #KindleUnlimited 
The Lords of the Wind (Book 1) -
In the Shadow of the Beast (Book 2) -
The Kings of the Sea (Book 3) -

About the Author 

C.J. Adrien is a bestselling and award-winning author of Viking historical fiction novels with a passion for Viking history. His Saga of Hasting the Avenger series was inspired by research conducted in preparation for a doctoral program in early medieval history as well as his admiration for historical fiction writers such as Ken Follett and Bernard Cornwell. He is also a published historian on the subject of Vikings, with articles featured in historical journals such as L’Association des Amis de Noirmoutier, in France. His novels and expertise have earned him invitations to speak at several international events, including the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), conferences on Viking history in France, among others. 

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You might also like

Books By Helen Hollick 


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Liked Pirates Of The Caribbean?
then you'll love the Sea Witch Voyages!

1066 - the events that led to the
Battle of Hastings
Harold the King (UK edition)
I Am The Chosen King (US/Canada edition)
1066 Turned Upside Down -
an anthology of alternative stories

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Lies That Blind by E.S. Alexander - My Coffee Pot Book Club Guest

Welcome to my Blog!
Wander through wonderful worlds
real and fictional,
meet interesting people,
visit exciting places
and find a few good books
to enjoy along the way!


Edward Thatch, better known as Blackbeard; William Kidd; Calico Jack Rackham. Most of us in the West are familiar with the names of these real-life ‘pirates of the Caribbean’. Many of you may also be familiar with the exploits of Ching Shih, the female pirate leader who terrorised shipping in the South China Seas in the early part of the 18th century. But how many are familiar with the marauding activities of ‘Bugis’ and ‘Lanoons’, or have heard about the piracy rife throughout Southeast Asia? A region that, today, TIME Magazine describes as ‘The Most Dangerous Waters in the World.’ 

Back in the day, pirates sailing the Malay Archipelago would attack Dutch and British ships, relieving them of their cargoes of silk, spices, and slaves, by using pistols and daggers. Nowadays, with a third of global trade and a quarter of the world’s oil transiting through Southeast Asian waters, so TIME tells us, regional pirates continue to kill and plunder, only now with machetes and Kalashnikovs. 

While writing my historical novel, based on events that took place in the late 18th century in Malaya, I became interested in why men across this region turned to piracy. Certainly, there are those in any culture who are drawn to easy pickings and a life of freedom and adventure, (assuming, of course, that you didn’t get caught and hanged). But as I began delving into the plight of Malay fishermen, also known as orang laut or people of the sea, it seemed that there was a social phenomenon at play, similar to the Enclosure Acts in England that began in the 16th century. Those Acts deprived smallholders, and landless labourers, the right to graze their sheep and cattle under the centuries-old common field system. Men who had previously been free to catch rabbits and other game to feed their families became labelled as poachers and were jailed or executed as criminals. On the other side of the world something similar oppressed ordinary people, only much earlier. Fishermen, obliged to pay heavy duties on their catches and to give up ownership of their belongings at the whim of a chieftain or sultan, turned to piracy as a means of making a living. 

The practice of piracy so infested the waters known as the Straits of Malacca that one sultan who ruled over the Kingdom of Queda—to which the island of Penang, the setting of my novel belonged—sent an army to Penang to clear it of the 3,000 or so people living there. These individuals were such a threat to ships that they were forcibly expelled. By the time the antagonist of my novel, Captain Francis Light, arrived there were barely more than fifty families living on Penang. 

The fierceness of such desperate men cannot be overstated. As the author of the Hikayat Abdullah, published in 1849, wrote: ‘A voyage from Malacca to Singapore was looked upon almost as a journey to the grave…’

Lanoon war boat
© public domain

But not all of those who raided ships and plundered coastline property in the region were born poor. The problem of piracy in the region was compounded by the fact that the Malay custom of sultans having several wives, and many more gundeks or concubines, meant that the royal courts were awash with anak raja or princes. With the sultan’s treasury unable (or unwilling) to support them, they became ‘sea-raiders’, benefiting from the protection of the court as long as they adhered to royal guidelines as to who could be attacked and where. 

According to James Low writing in The British Settlement of Penang, first published in 1852: ‘…it only takes a couple of hours after a crime is committed to place the perpetrator beyond the fangs of the law… piracy being the perquisite of the younger and unprovided for branches of Malayan families of high rank.’

Indeed, the sultans and their chiefs were often complicit in encouraging systemic piracy. As the real-life character, Francis Light, points out in my novel (words taken directly from one of his letters to his East India Company paymasters in Calcutta): ‘The feudal government of the Malays encourages these pirates, since every chief is desirous of procuring these desperate fellows to bring him plunder and execute his revengeful purposes’.

Southeast Asian pirate
Public domain Wikipedia Commons

However, the pall of piracy can also be laid at the door of the colonising forces in the region during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Dutch, in particular, were notorious for enforcing their monopolies. Indonesian and Malay hatred of the Hollanders was so great that, even today, if you put the word belanda into Google Translate, it will come up as ‘Dutch’ or ‘the Netherlands’. Why is that an insult? Because belanda also refers to the long-nosed proboscis monkey found in the jungles of Borneo.

As a result of Dutch dominance in the region, otherwise law-abiding Bugis settlers based in Selangor lost their livelihoods as coastal traders. The only way they could  escape the onerous Dutch-imposed taxes and laws and survive was to turn to piracy. Engaged in that activity they found relatively easy and frequent pickings, since the Straits of Malacca was the fastest, most direct route for Dutch and English traders to sail between Macau and the eastern ports of India. 

The disdain between the local inhabitants and the European powers intent on colonising them went both ways. At least, that’s the sense I got from reading a letter that Francis Light wrote in January 1794 to the Governor-General in Bengal, just months before an armada of Malay pirates and mercenaries amassed to reclaim Penang on behalf of its legal owner, the Sultan of Queda:

‘(The Malays) may be divided into two orders, the one of husbandmen who are quiet and inoffensive, and easily ruled…The other order is employed in navigating prows (boats). They are, in general, almost without exception, a bad description of people, addicted to smoking opium, gaming and other vices; to rob and assassinate is only shameful when they fail of success. Ten or fifteen men will live in a small prow…For months they will skulk in bays and rivers, where there are no inhabitants, watching for unwary traders; they spend their whole time in sloth and indolence…and are only roused by the appearance of plunder which, when they have obtained it, they return home or to some other port to spend. Here they are obliged to part with a share of their plunder to some chief, under whose protection they squander the remainder, and again proceed in quest of new adventure.’

But is this ‘turning a blind eye’ by Malay sultans and chiefs any different to the attitude Queen Elizabeth I took with Sir Francis Drake? After all, she not only encouraged this English ‘privateer’ to attack Spanish galleons but afforded him protection and status. The same was true for Sir Henry Morgan, variously referred to as an ‘adventurer’ or ‘buccaneer’. But look more closely at his activities and he was, essentially just a royally rewarded (this time by Charles II) bloodthirsty pirate. 

What would you risk to avoid obscurity?

Malaya, 1788

Aspiring journalist Jim Lloyd jeopardises his future in ways he never could have imagined. He risks his wealthy father’s wrath to ride the coat-tails of Captain Francis Light, an adventurer governing the East India Company’s new trading settlement on Penang. Once arrived on the island, Jim—as Light’s assistant—hopes that chronicling his employer’s achievements will propel them both to enduring fame. But the naïve young man soon discovers that years of deception and double-dealing have strained relations between Light and Penang’s legal owner, Sultan Abdullah of Queda, almost to the point of war. Tensions mount: Pirate activity escalates, traders complain about Light’s monopolies, and inhab-itants threaten to flee, fearing a battle the fledgling settlement cannot hope to win against the Malays. Jim realises that a shared obsession with renown has brought him and Light perilously close to infamy: a fate the younger man, at least, fears more than death. Yet Jim will not leave Penang because of his dedication to Light’s young son, William, and his perplexing attraction to a mercurial Dutch-man. He must stay and confront his own misguided ambitions as well as help save the legacy of a man he has come to despise.

Inspired by true events, Lies That Blind is a story featuring historical character Francis Light (1740-1794) who, in an effort to defy his mortality, was seemingly willing to put the lives and livelihoods of a thousand souls on Penang at risk.

Buy Links:

Amazon UK: 
Amazon US: 
Amazon CA: 
Amazon AU: 

About the author

E.S. Alexander was born in St. Andrews, Scotland in 1954, although her family moved to England a few years later. Her earliest memories include producing a newspaper with the John Bull printing set she was given one Christmas. She wrote and directed her first play, Osiris, at age 16, performed to an audience of parents, teachers, and pupils by the Lower Fifth Drama Society at her school in Bolton, Lancashire. Early on in her writing career, Liz wrote several short stories featuring ‘The Dover Street Sleuth’, Dixon Hawke for a D.C. Thomson newspaper in Scotland. Several of her (undoubtedly cringe-worthy) teenage poems were published in An Anthology of Verse.

Liz combined several decades as a freelance journalist writing for UK magazines and newspapers ranging from British Airway’s Business Life and the Daily Mail, to Marie Claire and Supply Chain Management magazine, with a brief stint as a presenter/reporter for various radio stations and television channels, including the BBC. In 2001 she moved to the United States where she earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in educational psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.

She has written and co-authored 17 internationally published, award-winning non-fiction books that have been translated into more than 20 languages.

In 2017, Liz relocated to Malaysia. She lives in Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang where she was inspired to embark on one of the few forms of writing left for her to tackle: the novel.

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follow the tour
Twitter Handle: @ES_Alexander7 @maryanneyarde
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You might also like 

some pirate books written by Helen Hollick 


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Liked Pirates Of The Caribbean?
then you'll love the Sea Witch Voyages!

A new edition with new additional scenes

Tuesday 7 December 2021

We're off to spend Christmas at Hembry Castle with Meredith Allard, my Coffee Pot Guest

Welcome to my Blog!
Wander through wonderful worlds
real and fictional,
meet interesting people,
visit exciting places
and find a few good books
to enjoy along the way!

Most fans of the 19th century are familiar with Mrs. Isabella Beeton, the Martha Stewart of Victorian England. Although I used her recipes and household management tips as resources for both of my Hembry Castle novels, I admit that I didn’t know much about Mrs. Beeton herself until recently.

On her very own website, it says that she married publisher Samuel Orchard Beeton in 1856. After her marriage, Mrs. Beeton wrote numerous articles about cooking and household management for her husband’s publications. In 1861, the articles were compiled into a single book, Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Sadly, she died at age 28 shortly after giving birth to her fourth child.

Some of Mrs. Beeton’s recipes that appeared in Christmas at Hembry Castle. Here is her recipe for Edward’s favorite beef rolls from the BBC Food website:

· remains of cold roast or boiled beef
· salt
· pepper
· minced herbs
· 1 roll of puff pastry

1. Mince the beef tolerably fine with small amount of its own fat. Add a seasoning of pepper, salt, and chopped herbs.
2. Put the whole into a roll of puff-pastry, and bake for ½ hour, or longer if the roll is bigger.
3. Beef patties may be made of cold meat, by mincing and seasoning beef as directed above, and baking in a rich puff pastry.

And how about the Syllabub Edward and Daphne share over a quiet dinner at Staton House?

· 570ml/1 pint sherry or white wine
· ½ grated nutmeg
· sugar to taste
· 900ml/1½pt milk

1. Put the wine into a bowl, with the grated nutmeg and plenty of pounded sugar, and add it to the milk.
2. Clouted cream may be held on the top, with pounded cinnamon or nutmeg and sugar; and a little brandy may be added to the wine before the milk is put in.
3. In some countries, cider is substituted for the wine: when this is used, brandy must always be added. Warm milk may be poured on from a spouted jug or teapot; but it must be held very high.

And last, but definitely not least, here is Mrs. Beeton’s recipe for the mince “Pies!” that nearly causes the death of Hembry’s cook, Mrs. Graham.

· Short crust, rich short crust, flaky, rough puff or puff pastry, using 6 oz. flour, etc.
· 10–12 oz. mincemeat
· castor or icing sugar

1. Roll the pastry out to about ⅛ in. thickness. Cut half of it into rounds of about 2½ in. diameter and reserve these for lids. (Use a plain cutter for flaky, rough puff or puff pastry.)
2. Cut the remaining pastry into rounds of about 3 in. diameter and line some patty tins.
3. Place some mincemeat in the tins, brush the edge of the pastry with water and place a lid on top of each. Press the edges well together; if a plain cutter has been used knock up the edges.
4. Brush the tops with water and sprinkle with sugar. Make a hole or 2 small cuts in the top of each. Bake in a hot oven (450°–425° F., Gas 8–7) depending on the type of pastry, for 25–30 min.
5. Dredge tops with castor sugar.

These are simple recipes, but they were very influential in my writing of Christmas at Hembry Castle. If you’re in the mood for some authentic Victorian flavors at your Christmas table this season, you might give them a try.


You are cordially invited to Christmas at Hembry Castle.

An unlikely earl struggles with his new place. A young couple’s love is tested. What is a meddling ghost to do?

In the tradition of A Christmas Carol, travel back to Victorian England and enjoy a lighthearted, festive holiday celebration

Buy Links:

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Amazon CA 


Barnes and Noble



About the Author

Meredith Allard is the author of the bestselling paranormal historical Loving Husband Trilogy. Her sweet Victorian romance, When It Rained at Hembry Castle, was named a best historical novel by IndieReader. Her latest book, Painting the Past: A Guide for Writing Historical Fiction, was named a #1 new release in Authorship and Creativity Self-Help on Amazon. When she isn’t writing she’s teaching writing, and she has taught writing to students ages five to 75. She loves books, cats, and coffee, though not always in that order. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit Meredith online at

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Twitter Handle: @maryanneyarde

Hashtags: #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalRomance #Victorian #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub

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You might Also like

Books By Helen Hollick 


Amazon Author Page: 

A Mirror Murder
#1 in the Jan Christopher 
Cosy Mystery Series
set in a 1970s London library 

Christmas in Devon
ideal stocking filler!