Welcome to the world of adventure, love and war. You’ve entered 17th century England. It’s a time of civil war, social upheaval, conspiracies and intrigue. In the world of historical fiction, this is gold.

Explore my blog and discover articles about 17th century Britain, creative storytelling, and my writing.

Join me in this journey. I intend to pique your interest.


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Love & History with Charlene Newcomb


I’m continuing my discussion with historical fiction authors about how they’ve incorporated romance into their work.

Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome Charlene Newcomb, author of the Battle Scars series: Men of the Cross and For King and Country. Charlene writes historical fiction with a m/m romance set during the Crusades. Both novels have page turning action, rich historical detail, with a well-developed romance. I appreciate how Charlene has thrown her lovers, Henry and Stephan, in the middle of conflict. Not only do they need to survive battles and a grueling campaign, they also need to come to terms with their feelings for one another at a time when love is a luxury.

Let’s charge into the Crusades!


cropped-thank-you-8What made you decide to include a m/m romance in your story?

Charlene: Stories must have conflict – as if fighting a war isn’t enough, right? Writers are told to challenge themselves, to be bold, and write from the heart. The journey to war and the war itself made an excellent backdrop for a story about knights who served King Richard, the Lionheart. The story could just have been about their friendship, but adding the m/m romantic element quadrupled the conflict.

I could have had a more typical “forbidden” romance. Henry is, after all, a knight, the son of a baron, and expected to marry – an arranged marriage, of course, a business arrangement. He is betrothed to a 14 year-old girl back in Lincolnshire, but she doesn’t stir any passion in him. He could be tempted by women beneath his class – camp whores accompany the army, at least until the march towards Jerusalem begins. There are Sicilian beauties, Muslim servants, even laundresses. But any of those options sounded too cliche to me. And it never crossed my mind that Queen Joanna, the Lionheart’s sister, might fall in love with the hero of story. Readers knowledgeable of the era would have thrown the book across the room if I’d gone that route. [CB: I would have been one of them. So very glad you didn’t!]

Men of the Cross is about a friendship between soldiers, men who have already have a special bond as they struggle to survive against brutal enemies and harsh conditions. It is unfathomable to me, given human nature, in an army of 15,000 or more men, that some men would not have fallen in love.

The challenge was making the developing relationship between Henry and Stephan feel real. Honestly, I wasn’t even certain I could write a believable story of any relationship. Could I find the emotion, the passion, between two men? Apparently I have, and I am thrilled when I hear from gay readers who tell me the relationship feels authentic. I also love to hear from readers who only read war stories or only want a romance, but tell me they gave Men a chance.



Can you tell us about some of the challenges Henry and Stephen faced in their relationship?

Charlene: On the war front, the challenge is staying alive. Death at the hands of the Saracens isn’t the only obstacle – raging rivers, illness, starvation, the weather, other Christian enemies – too many give their lives in service for God and country. But I think you’re looking for the love angle. 🙂

The relationship is borne of the friendship between two knights who meet in Southampton prior to sailing across the sea to join up with King Richard’s crusader army. And though they both answered the call and took the Cross for slightly different reasons – Stephan for his loyalty to the king; Henry for God, king, and country and a desire to prove himself to his father – they find mutual respect and admiration.

The challenge for these two men is accepting they can love each other. Stephan, who had been filling his lustful desires for men since he was a mid-teen, is certain there will never be love in his life. He has no intention of marrying and no compulsion to as the third (and poor and landless) son of baron. He is completely satisfied bed-hopping with other handsome knights. Henry, on the other hand, has been steeped in Church teachings – sex outside marriage, whether with a man or a woman, is a sin. And not just a sin, but a mortal sin. Henry is extremely torn by the feelings he develops for Stephan, and his inner turmoil drives the conflict and could be a rift between the men that cannot be healed.

At times it makes it difficult for them to be around each other – and because the knights tend to march and camp with their divisions, it isn’t easy to escape from each other. Their closest friends, who know the two men should be together, finagle ways to make that happen and encourage the relationship.

In the second book of the series, For King and Country, Henry returns home knowing he must keep his love for Stephan secret from his family. His father expects that he will marry and produce an heir and is in matchmaking mode. The pressure is on, including from Henry’s sister, and the question is how will Henry avoid marriage when his heart belongs to Stephan. The knights face months of separation when Stephan’s orders from the queen mother send him on missions that Henry isn’t privy. There are darker forces at work, too, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers! [CB: No spoilers from me, but you could say that what awaits them at home may be more challenging than the Crusades!]


How does Henry and Stephan’s same-sex relationship reflect the historical times?

Charlene: The Church considered same-sex relationships unnatural. Priests had penitentials – guidelines – on what penance to dole out for a variety of sexual sins. If these penitentials were needed, then obviously there was some sinning going on. (See a broader discussion of this in a post on my blog.) Henry and Stephan weren’t alone. But this isn’t something one flaunts. Enemies might use it against you. The knights’ relationship is not overt – no public displays of affection, beyond what would have been normal at the time. From Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing Unto Others:

 “…medieval society celebrated a type of deep, passionate friendship between men that modern society does not. Men today who expressed their feelings for each other in the same way medieval men did would be universally believed to be sexually involved with each other. Medieval people either did not believe that they were, or did not think it noteworthy if they were, because there is no comment about it.” (Mazo Karras, 2017.)

While there might not have been specific accusations, medieval chroniclers did write about the rich and famous. One noted the “immodest love” between Edward II (14th century) and his favorite Piers Gaveston; and it is suspected that William II (aka William Rufus, 11th century) may have been “gay.” (I use gay in quotes because that term and the concept of homosexuality as a sexual identity don’t appear until the second half of the 19th century.)


By Marcus Stone (Kunst für Alle) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps there were loving, long-term relationships between men that went deeper than friendship, but like the examples above we don’t have definitive proof. As an incurable romantic, I want to believe there were some Henrys and Stephans out there.


How have you kept Stephan and Henry’s relationship central across multiple books without it getting stale for the reader.

Charlene: Battle Scars doesn’t fit a typical category. Is it a romance, historical fiction, a military adventure, a gay romance? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Purists may have a hard time with it. I like to say it’s historical fiction with a romance element that features gay characters. The romance may be central, but the story is much larger, with the historical aspects driving it through bloody battles, tedious army life, and the politics and intrigue of the reign of Richard the Lionheart. It is based in a fascinating time and place with real people and actual events that my two fictional characters witness. You know the adage: “truth is stranger than fiction.” It really is true. I think all those elements plus the adventure keeps the knights’ story fresh and believable. Henry and Stephan are two young men shaped by their times and I place them in interesting situations hoping to keep the reader emotionally involved. Sure there is sexual tension – that romance element, remember – but there are many obstacles in their path. Their lives and the lives of those they care about, including each other, are at risk. I hope this makes the reader worry about them, root for them. How will the knights get out of this mess? Take a breath, turn the page…

I know I’ve done my job when a reader tells me they didn’t want the story to end.

I can attest that I didn’t want either story to end. After devouring Men of the Cross, I immediately dove into For King and Country. Now I’m eagerly awaiting Book 3! I know I’m not alone.

As a final note, we should all applaud blended genres. They can bring the best of both genres into one exciting read. Also, read outside your genre as often as you can, no matter where that takes you. Stories, after all, are universal.

Your turn. I want to hear from you. Do finish this sentence: if I was not reading historical fiction [substitute any genre], I would be reading….

me1medCharlene Newcomb, aka Char, is currently working on Book III of her Battle Scars series. Men of the Cross and For King and Country, Books I & II, are B.R.A.G Medallion honorees that vividly portray the impact of love and war on a young knight serving Richard the Lionheart. Book II is an Editor’s Choice of the Historical Novel Society and a finalist in the Chaucer Awards for pre-1750 Historical Fiction.

Char is a contributor and blog editor for English Historical Fiction Authors and a member of the Historical Novel Society. She lives, works, and writes in Kansas. She is an academic librarian by trade, a U.S. Navy veteran, and has three grown children, one grand kitty and three grandpuppies.

Connect with Char through Twitter (@charnewcomb), Facebook and Pinterest.

Char’s books are available in print and eBook through Amazon. Men of the Cross is also available through Barnes & Noble (eBook).

** Time sensitive** Kindle Countdown for U.S and U.K readers: For King and Country will be on sale beginning June 19th at a special price of $1.99/£1.99, rising incrementally through June 22, 2017. Be sure to grab your copy early!


Featured header image: Photo credit Dun.can via Visual Hunt / CC BY

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#OTD in 1645: The Battle of Naseby + an excerpt from Traitor’s Knot


By Sir John Gilbert (bridgemanartondemand.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The turning point for the English Civil War happened on this date on Broad Moor, Naseby. Up until then, the Parliamentarians were struggling against the King’s forces, and the Royalists fully expected that victory was imminent. They were probably planning on returning home to their families in time for the fall harvest. And then Naseby happened.

The days leading up to the battle were filled with constant rain which lifted late the previous night or early morning, leaving a thick fog to cloak the steady march of both armies. The Parliamentarians, led by General Thomas Fairfax and his Lieutenant General, Oliver Cromwell, abandoned the stronger ground in favour of provoking the King’s forces to attack.


1792 Reproduction map of the Battle of Naseby. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

The battle started off in the King’s favour. Prince Rupert’s cavalry smashed through the Parliamentarians and sent them into a rout. Instead of keeping to the field, Rupert’s cavalry proceeded to try to capture the Parliamentarian baggage wagons, no doubt expecting their Foot to mop up behind them. For this, Rupert has been roundly criticized and has been blamed for losing the war. While I agree that it was not the soundest of strategies (it falls under the “don’t underestimate your enemy” category) — ok, it was a huge blunder– but credit for winning the battle really must be handed to Oliver Cromwell. He very brilliantly held back a reserve cavalry which he used to good measure when Rupert’s horse were occupied elsewhere.

The battle turned into a rout with the King’s forces beating back a retreat while the Parliamentarians cut them down along the Leicester road. During the retreat, they seized the King’s baggage train and not only seized precious ammunition, they also found the King’s personal effects, including sensitive papers. There was correspondence containing plans for an invading Irish army  to the King’s support which turned many against the King. But during the attack of the baggage train, spurred by blood lust, the Parliamentarians also brutally attacked the King’s camp followers.

The King never recovered from this battle, and it was really the beginning of the end for the Royalists.

If you’re interested in learning more about the battle, check out the Naseby Campaign, 1645, by British Civil Wars Project.

The Battle of Naseby features in the opening to my debut novel, Traitor’s Knot. Here’s the opening from Chapter One:

Naseby, 14 June 1645

The Roundheads were closing in.

Cut off from his men, Captain James Hart galloped along Broad Moor, dodging dragoon fire and enemy cavalry. From the hedgerows, musket shot screeched past his head, and he flattened against the neck of his bay mare. Fog obscured the moor as acrid smoke choked his throat and sweat stung his eyes. His lathered horse nearly stumbled on the muddy turf.

James pulled hard to the left to avoid a company of pikemen. The field grew hazier; he advanced another hundred yards before he realised that a fallen soldier blocked his path.

Digging his heels into his horse’s flanks, he leant forward to take the jump. The bay arched in the air, and before they could clear the body, a volley of wild musket fire hit the horse. The mare screamed and lurched sideways. James kicked his feet from the stirrups and launched himself off. He slammed against the ground and rolled several teeth-shattering feet.

Spots fired across his eyes. James pushed himself upright, past the barrier of screaming muscles and ringing ears. The ground rumbled from the pounding of a thousand horses. His own wounded beast thrashed in the mud.

James staggered towards his horse. Her liquid brown eye rolled, and white foam trickled from her mouth. Her screams cut through him.

“Christ’s teeth.” He swallowed the lump in his throat and crouched beside her. “Damn.”

James drew his carbine, took a steadying breath and aimed at the horse’s forehead. In the last second before firing, he turned his head. The shot resounded in his ears—her pain was silenced.

He had to get out of here. By now, the rebels were swarming the field, closing the net on the king’s infantry. On the northern ridge, King Charles’s colours snapped in retreat. Odds were against an unhorsed Royalist.

James searched for an escape, and his attention lit on a Roundhead dragoon lying dead several feet away. He scrambled through the mud to reach the fallen rebel. When an enemy trooper drew closer, James flattened to the ground, face down. Willing himself to lie still, James’s heart hammered in his throat. The muscles between his shoulder blades twitched as he anticipated a shot in the back.

The trooper passed without slowing. James lifted his head and crawled the last foot to reach the dead man. He pulled off his own montero hat and exchanged it for the dragoon’s distinctive pot helmet.

“I scorn to take quarter,” James muttered under his breath as he worked to cut away the dead man’s cartridge bag, “from base rogues and rebels.” Next he pried the musket from the man’s claw grip.

James grimaced when he realised that he still wore his regiment’s blue ribbon tied around his sleeve. He ripped it off and prayed his ploy would work. If he could blend in with the bloody rebels long enough to skirt past their lines, he might rejoin his commander, the Earl of Northampton, and what was left of their regiment.

But first he needed to get past those hedgerows.

As he ran across the moor, James slammed into a maelstrom, dodging past an enemy determined to kill as many Royalists as they could. In pockets, the fighting continued—men fought with bloodied swords or swung the butt-end of their muskets as clubs.

Hundreds of soldiers littered the moor, a carpet of buff, blue and red coats. James tried to focus on getting off the field until a familiar blue ribbon stopped him.

Stokes—his cornet.

Face up, the man looked as though he slept until James neared and saw that half his face had been torn away by shot. A corner of their troop flag peeked from under his body. Even in death, the cornet had protected their colours.

James stuffed the flag inside his coat.

Another troop of enemy cavalry headed towards him. This was useless. He’d never make it off this godforsaken field. There had to be another way.

A trio of riderless horses balked several yards away. Two trotted off, leaving the last one, a black, penned by the currents of cavalry crisscrossing the field. A young, disorientated animal—James only had a moment before it bolted. The black saw him coming and reared, forelegs testing the wind. James approached him warily, murmuring in a soothing tone until he managed to get close enough to seize the bridle.

Hoisting himself into the saddle, James took command of the beast. “Hope you still have a good run left in you.” The moment he touched his spurs to the horse’s flanks, the animal flew across the field, churning up the turf. James fought to adjust his seat.

They galloped along the hedgerows, frantically searching for a break. Ahead, the line ended, revealing a rolling meadow beyond. This was his chance. James raced through the gap and gave the black his head. He stole a glance over his shoulder—he couldn’t believe his fortune. No one was in pursuit.

The field sloped towards a wooded gully. James found a narrow path leading into a shallow creek. They splashed their way northward, hugging the tree line. The sounds of battle dropped off behind them. He had made it—for now.

James slowed to let his horse catch his wind. Rubbing his stubbled beard, he grimaced. What the hell had happened? How had this engagement unravelled? At the outset, the King’s cavalry had managed to smash through the enemy horse—how had the other lines failed?

He thought of Stokes, and his conscience gnawed at him for leaving his man behind. The cornet had been a good Warwickshire man, full of fire and loyalty to the crown. He deserved better than being left for carrion. After three years of fighting, it never got easier.

James couldn’t stay here—he had to keep moving and find the rest of his unit. Where? He glanced over his shoulder towards the battlefield, and his mouth went dry. Nay. He had to believe they escaped. It was up to him to find them. He visualised the area from memory. The King had set up temporary headquarters in Market Harborough to the northeast. His best chance was to continue north several miles, then cut east to reach the Leicester road.

James urged his horse upriver. He followed the gully a couple of miles until he reached a stand of trees and followed a trail into the forest proper. The path narrowed, becoming more treacherous, with tangled roots heaved up across the track. He picked his way carefully, heading deeper into the woods.

After advancing a quarter of a mile, the black’s ears flicked a warning. James reined in and strained to listen. Wild whoops and laughter grew more distinct.

More bloody Roundheads.

James knew he should search for another way past them, yet something inexplicable pulled him forward. He advanced cautiously.

Through the trees, James spied the King’s baggage train. Rebels swarmed the site, crowing over the richness of their prize. He couldn’t see any of the baggage guards—didn’t know whether they had escaped or had been taken prisoner. Most of the carts and wagons were still there, pulled up in a defensive line. A few had been overturned, their contents raked across the ground. Casks and boxes were being smashed open as the looters seized the King’s effects—coin and private documents.

Back awaynothing you can do about it.

Shrill whistles and shouts farther down transformed the swarming men into a semblance of order. They jumped into the wagons, gathered the reins and set the horses in motion. The wagons creaked and rocked down the road, one by one disappearing from view.

All except the last one.

Two men pushed against the wooden panels, rocking the wagon back and forth to free the wheels from the mud while another tried to use the horses as leverage.

James studied the road. Here was a chance to salvage something of this day and save at least some of the King’s effects. One against three—and none with their muskets within easy reach.

He alighted from his horse and tied the animal to a sapling. After priming his carbine, he checked the charge on the stolen musket. The irony of using the enemy’s weapon against them brought a grim smile.

James crept towards the Roundhead soldiers, careful where he stepped lest a snapped twig alert his quarry. Oblivious, they continued at their labours, swearing and cursing.

When he reached as close as he dared, James lifted his carbine and aimed at the nearest man. Releasing a slow breath, he squeezed the trigger. A bark of an explosion—the man crumbled to the ground. The other two scrambled to take cover.

James dropped the carbine and settled the musket in his grip. He lined the sights on another who nearly disappeared behind the wagon. Fire. The Roundhead grunted and flew to the ground.

James sprang through the trees after the last man. By the time he reached the lead team of horses, the rebel soldier was already halfway down the footpath and barrelling back to camp—he’d never catch him in time. James whistled for his horse, then winced, remembering. He ran back towards the forest and trailed to a halt when he finally saw the road.

At first, he only registered the clothes strewn on the ground—cloaks, skirts and aprons trampled into the mud—and he wondered at the rebels for scattering them. Then with a slow, creeping horror, the truth set in. These weren’t just clothes—these were women—at least a hundred. Their camp followers—all massacred.

The shock drove a fist into his gut.

Broken bodies littered the ground. Their faces were slashed; fistfuls of tangled hair torn in clumps. Shredded skirts hiked up over smeared limbs—twisted, mangled limbs. So much blood—pooled in a scum over soaked ground. They had tried to defend themselves with whatever weapon they had on hand—kitchen knives and iron skillets. But they were no match against broadswords, muskets and an enemy fuelled by bloodlust.

James choked back the bile that rose hot in his throat. He bent over his knees, fighting for control.

He had never seen anything like this—even through three brutal years of war—nothing like this.

Three years of mourning men lying dead on the field, their bodies ravaged by shot, was nothing compared to seeing these women torn apart like corn dolls. At least the soldiers had a fighting chance. What ground had these rebels tried to take? Nothing strategic like a bridge or a pass. Just a group of wagons defended by women with kitchen knives.

Cowards—depraved, rabid dogs. Roundheads.

James recalled the ribald laughter as they drove away and now understood its darker meaning. And they had thought nothing of it—those damned, holier than thou, godly Puritans—preaching out of both sides of their mouths. Haranguing the King for not being godly enough, then tearing apart the country while they played the downtrodden and ill-used.

Damn them.

James began to search for faces he knew and squatted beside one woman—glassy eyes stared up at the sky, her legs set at an unnatural angle. Long Meg. She had been a matronly woman who scolded the lot of them with the authority of a hen-mother. A blade had sliced her from ear to jaw and finished across her throat. Her bodice was stained red, as though she had been dipped in a vat of dye. James reached across and gently closed her eyes. He bowed his head. Burning fury squeezed his chest like an iron band.

A scurrying from the direction of the forest alerted him. James straightened and drew his sword, advancing slowly towards the sound.

Let it be one of those whoresons.

As he drew closer, he heard a crack of snapped twigs and a muffled sob. He parted a low-hanging bough and found a cowering woman backed under a blackthorn shrub. Her white face was stark against smears of blood and mud. Her clothes were torn, and she clutched her shredded bodice with shaky hands.

“Keep away,” she whispered. “In God’s name, mercy.”

James smothered his surprise and lowered his sword. Extending his hand, he said, “You’re safe with me, lass. Come out.”

She shook her head and wedged herself even tighter. “I’ve seen the devil, and he is you.”

James frowned, puzzled, then it occurred to him. He yanked off his helmet and tossed it away. “I’m not one of them,” he tried to assure her, but her expression remained terrified. “I’m a king’s man, of that you may have faith.” He pulled out his troop’s flag from his buff coat and showed it to her.

A guarded relief replaced the panic. James squatted down so he could meet her at eye level. “You’ll not be harmed,” he softened his tone, “but we have to leave now—they’ll be upon us any moment.”

Tentatively, she accepted his hand and allowed him to help her to her feet. He led her to his tethered horse. By now, she was shaking uncontrollably. He had to get her out of here while he still could.

A blare of trumpets sounded in the distance. Their time had run out.

If you’d like to read more, Traitor’s Knot is available for purchase as an eBook through Amazon Kindle, and as paperback through Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Posted in English Civil War | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Book Blast

Traitor’s Knot is going on campaign – a book blast campaign arranged through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours (HFVBT). The standard rises from May 31st to June 23rd when Traitor’s Knot will be featured on a round of 20 premier book blogs. I’d like to thank Amy Bruno at HFVBT for her enthusiasm in leading the charge.

Follow the book blast through the dedicated page on the HFVBT website.

04_Traitor's Knot_Book Blast Banner_FINAL

Here is where we’ve been…

Passages to the Past

A Bookaholic Swede

The Writing Desk

Pursuing Stacie

Oh, For the Hook of a Book

So Many Books, So Little Time

I Heart Reading

What is That Book About

Books, Dreams, Life

The True Book Addict

A Holland Reads

Ageless Pages Reviews

Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots (with excerpt)

A Literary Vacation

To Read or Not to Read

Svetlana’s Reads and Views

CelticLady’s Reviews

Book Nerd



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Charles Stuart, Prince of Wales

Today is the anniversary of Charles II’s birthday. He is 387 years old, but he doesn’t look a bit over 40. In honour of timeless Charles, I thought it would be fitting to introduce you to his early years.

The following article was originally written for the English Historical Fiction Author’s Blog (EHFA) and published on May 2, 2016. If you are interested in English history of all ages, I can’t recommend a better site to explore.


Charles II (de Champaigne), by Philippe de Champaigne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When people think of Charles II of England, they usually think of Charles the Merry Monarch. Yet there was more to this intelligent man than the number of mistresses (and illegitimate children) he had. His life was defined by war, loss, and exile, and in the end, restoration. He fought to reclaim his father’s throne during one of the most tumultuous and complex times in English history. To understand who he was before becoming the Merry Monarch, allow me to introduce his early years when he was still the Prince of Wales.

Charles was the eldest son and heir of King Charles I of England and Queen Henrietta Maria (sister to Louis XIII of France). His grandfather, King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) united the crowns of Scotland and England upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Charles was born on May 29, 1630 in St. James’s Palace in London, and as the story goes, a bright star shone in the afternoon sky to mark his birth. Ironically, this star was Venus.

Charles took after his mother’s French heritage, with his dark looks. Henrietta Maria called him her ‘black boy’, though not with affectionate fondness. Whereas most mothers are often blind to their children’s ‘imperfections’, Henrietta Maria was hypersensitive. Shortly after Charles’s birth, Henrietta wrote about her son to a former nanny, “he is so fat and so tall…I will send you his portrait as soon as he is a little fairer, for at present he is so dark I am ashamed of him.” Charles never became fair, but at 6’2” he fulfilled the promise of exceptional height.


“Anthony van Dyck – Five Eldest Children of Charles I – Google Art Project”, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Over the next several years, Charles was joined by a clutch of brothers and sisters in order of birth: Mary (later Princess of Orange), James (King James II & VII), Anne, Elizabeth, Henry (Duke of Gloucester), and Henrietta (Duchess of Orleans, but known affectionately as Minette). He was particularly close to his brother James, who ultimately ascended the throne after him. The two had experienced the upheaval of the civil war together, and even when James later converted to Catholicism, Charles supported his decision even though it was politically inconvenient. Some have attributed Charles’s deathbed conversion to Catholicism as having signalled his support for his brother on the eve of James’s ascension to the throne.

When Charles was eight, he was given over to the care and education of William Cavendish, then Marquess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Cavendish was a notable horseman and the father of dressage. A long-time political player from a wealthy family, he instilled in Charles the gift to see men for what they were and the ability to work with them according to their talents. He also fostered in Charles a love of horsemanship.

Charles’s keen wit came through even at this young age. Having a strong aversion to taking physic, he wrote a clever note to Cavendish, which also demonstrated his affection for his guardian:

“My Lord, I would not have you take too much physic, for it doth always make me worse, and I think it will do the like with you. I ride every day, and am ready to follow any other directions from you. Make haste to return to him that loves you. Charles, P.”

Charles had a very different personality than his stubborn father. Had he been king during this time, war may very well have been avoided, and with it, years of bloodshed.

But civil war did break out, and Charles’s idyllic childhood came to an abrupt end in 1642 when Parliament raised an army against his father. Charles was given a titular captaincy and a troop of horse named after him, the Prince of Wales Regiment. At this time, his dashing cousin, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, came to lead his Majesty’s horse, and the young Charles looked up to his cousin as any impressionable twelve-year old would.

During the first major battle of the war (Edgehill), Charles should never have been anywhere near the fighting, and yet typically, he was and had a close shave with the enemy. His safety, and that of his brother James, was entrusted to the famous physician, Dr. William Harvey. In later years, the doctor became celebrated for documenting the circulation of blood, but at this moment, with two armies clashing on a field, the good doctor withdrew with his charges to the shelter of a hedgerow and the comforts of an absorbing book. The fighting heated and now being too close for comfort, Charles and his brother fled across a field to reach the safety of a barn. An enemy troop of horse saw the pair running, and without realizing who they were, gave chase. Fortunately, another Royalist troop headed off the enemy cavalry before they could capture the King’s sons, thereby avoiding a checkmate.


A history of England from the landing of Julius Caesar to the present day (1913): Internet Archive Book Images via Visual Hunt/ No known copyright restrictions

In March 1645, Charles had been named Captain-General of his father’s forces in the west and was stationed in Bristol, relying on Edward Hyde as one of his chief advisors. Charles has always proved loyal to those who had shown him loyalty; years later when he won back his throne, he elevated Hyde to Chancellor and bestowed upon him an earldom.

By June 1645, the war had turned against the King. Following their defeat at Naseby, the Royalist army was in shambles. It soon became necessary to send Charles to the west where he would be safer from the threat of Parliament. As well, plague was becoming a threat in Bristol. Charles and his retinue left Bristol and travelled west to Barnstaple, and in September, continued to Cornwall. But by the spring of 1646, the mainland was not safe for the King’s heir, and he was forced to sail for the Isles of Scilly and then to Jersey.


Sailing across the Channel to Jersey flared Charles’s sense of adventure. While on board the privateer, the Proud Black Eagle, he took the helm for a time. His ship was forced to flee from a fleet of Parliamentary ships, but they managed to safely sail into Jersey harbour.

Clearly this made an impression on him, for when he needed to come to his father’s aid, he chose to do it on the water. In 1648, one of the king’s supporters in Scotland, the Duke of Hamilton, raised an army for the King who was a prisoner of Parliament by this time. Wanting to be in readiness to join in the fray, Charles left France for Holland with a small fleet under his command. With some degree of schadenfreude, he happened to chance upon a naval mutiny in the Parliamentary fleet. Ten ships put aside their officers and placed themselves under Charles’s command. From there, Charles and his expanded fleet sailed for the Downs.

In the Channel, while waiting for favourable news on land, he played the privateer (or pirate, depending on your perspective). Things did not always go well for the Pirate Prince. His fleet suffered from internal divisions and a betrayal from some of the Prince’s supporters (though it was thwarted). Even the weather conspired against him. Just as his ships were geared to engage against the Parliamentary fleet, a fierce storm drove them apart. Unfortunately, rescuing the King was not in the cards, and Cromwell defeated Hamilton’s army.

One thing bore fruit from Charles’s Channel runs, an act of respect that paid dividends three years later. One of the prizes he seized was a ship captained by Nicholas Tattersell. Charles readily released the ship, which was no small relief to Tattersell. Years later, when Charles was a desperate fugitive with a reward of a thousand pounds offered for his capture, his last hope for finding passage on a ship ended up with Tattersell. Though Charles dressed and acted like a commoner, Tattersell had not forgotten the man who had captured his ship—nor did he forget that the Prince had promptly released it to him. Tattersell agreed to help Charles and spirited Charles safely to France.

And finally, one of my favourite stories of Charles involves the carte blanche. Before his father’s execution on January 29, 1649, after Parliament had tried and found the King guilty, the story goes that Charles sent a carte blanche (a blank piece of paper with his signature) to Parliament so that they could fill in their own terms for sparing his father’s life. If true, the ramifications to Charles were enormous.

Did it actually happen or is it a 19th century fabrication or error? I like to believe in its veracity, not only because it is his signature that appears on the bottom of this blank document, but also is entirely in keeping with the nature and character of Charles Stuart, Prince of Wales.

Featured Image:

Charles II Signature, by Connormah, Charles II [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Additional reading:

Memoirs of the Court of Charles the Second, Anthony Hamilton

Memoirs of Lady Fanshawe: Excerpt From: Lady Anne Harrison Fanshawe.

Reprobates: The Cavaliers of the English Civil War, by John Stubbs

Carte Blanche, by T. C. Skeat

BCW Project

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Love & History with Victoria Cornwall


I’m continuing my discussion with historical fiction authors about darker, grittier romantic stories that push the parameters of the genre. Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome Victoria Cornwall, author of The Thief’s Daughter, and a finalist for the 2017 Romantic Novelist Society’s Joan Hessayon award.

The Thief’s Daughter takes place in 18th century Cornwall. If you are thinking Poldark and smuggling, you’re not far wrong. The heroine, Jenna, has struggled all her life to escape from her family’s criminal reputation. Though she has lived a disadvantaged life, her personal integrity is the only wealth she has. The hero, Jack, is a thief catcher who tries to shut down a smuggling ring . The social history is as an integral part of this story as the romance.

Let’s jump right in!

Thank you!-8I’ve heard some people refer to your historical romance as ‘darker’. You include themes that often do not get touched on in historical romance like spousal abuse, poverty and crime. What challenges did you encounter balancing the romance with these darker themes?

Victoria:  Thank you for having me on your blog today. That is a good question. The Thief’s Daughter is about ordinary people who face challenges they need to overcome; however, I wouldn’t want readers to be left with the impression that it is all doom and gloom. True, it is not a romantic comedy, nor is it all fluff and petticoats, as The Thief’s Daughter is set in poverty stricken England during the 18th century. The hero and heroine meet at a hanging, which is not the most romantic place to meet, but I felt that if a person can leave a lasting impression on you in those circumstances, you know they are someone pretty special and might just have the ability to turn your world upside down.  [CB aside: I can attest to the vividness of that scene. It still stands out for me! Also an excellent example of how key historical detail can make all the difference to a scene.]

Life is full of ups and downs and I tried to reflect these highs and low in the novel, so I did not find it particularly challenging to balance the romance with the struggles they face as people fell in love in that era just as they do now. Like any developing relationship, there are humorous exchanges, the development of friendship and trust, and many tender and passionate moments. There is something very special about a relationship that develops and deepens when life is difficult and, hopefully, the reader will be with them every step of the way.

Thank you!-8

What are some of your literary influences? What impact did it have on your work?

Victoria: I have made no secret of the fact that I loved Winston Graham’s Poldark series, long before Aiden Turner graced our screens and set everyone’s heart beating wildly. I was probably about eleven years old when the original series was aired and I read the books shortly afterward. I loved his writing style and it has greatly influenced the sort of books I like to read and how I write.

Thank you!-8
What inspired you to write this particular story?


Being a fan of the Poldark novels, it was probably inevitable I would write an 18th century romance. I also live in Cornwall, which is a wonderful muse to have. The landscape is very diverse, from barren moorland to very fertile pastures. From dramatic coastlines to the great historic buildings of the gentry. Everywhere, you will find hints to its industrious past, such as abandoned tin, copper and arsenic works and overgrown, towering mountains of spoil from clay mining. Of course, Cornwall’s past industries were not always legitimate ones. Smuggling contraband into England grew to industrial proportions during the 18th century and Cornwall was a prime landing place due to its vast coastline. Needless to say, it was only natural that smuggling would feature in my novel. The county of Cornwall, its dramatic coastline and smuggling history provided a great backdrop to the tenderness and emotional roller-coaster of a growing romance.

North Cornish Coast

Picture taken by Victoria Cornwall

Thank you!-8
If I were to give you a soap box, what historical romance related issue would you like to discuss?


Victoria: If you gave me a soap box, I might be on it all day! There are several things I would like to mention, but I will be brief.

It is a struggle to get debut novel noticed and I feel it is particularly difficult for writers of historical romance at the moment as it does not fit in with the book trends of today.

Inexplicably, reading romance appears to still hold a stigma, despite it being one of the most popular genres sold.

Period dramas are one of the most popular series shown on television, yet contemporary romantic fiction is more popular than historical romantic fiction (in England). This seems very contradictory to me. You would think they would be equal in popularity as those who enjoy period dramas such as Poldark and Downton Abbey, would also be interested in reading a romance set in the same era.

I also find that the term Regency is often used for fiction that is not set in the Regency era. The Regency era was only a very short period, between 1811-1820. The Thief’s Daughter has been referred to as a Regency romance, but it is not. However, I would just like to mention that if a reader referred to it as being set in the Poldark era, rather than the Georgian era, I would find that very acceptable!
Thank you for having me on your blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions. Can I get off the soapbox now?

I’m not sure that I want to let you off your soapbox, in fact, I might just join you.   Connecting with another person is the primary drive for all humans. I’m not sure when (or why) historical romance was considered a fluffy genre. It’s unfortunate that there is a stigma that pervades historical romance (except around romance readers). Some believe that romance can’t be serious or complex, and yet The Thief’s Daughter proves that it can be all that and still deliver a satisfying romantic story.

We wish you the best of luck with this novel and look forward to reading your next one!

Victoria Cornwall
Victoria Cornwall grew up on a farm in Cornwall. She can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century and it is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.

Victoria is married, has two grown up children and a black Labrador, called Alfie. She likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.

Following a fulfilling twenty-five year career as a nurse, a change in profession finally allowed her the time to write. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society.

The Thiefs Daughter 500dpi
The Thief’s Daughter is available in any of these digital stores through the Books2Read link.
Connect with Victoria through her Website, Twitter (@VickieCornwall), Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.
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Love & History with Anna Belfrage


Love is an important element in any story, not just in romance. It doesn’t have to be the focus of the story—even a small sprinkling can be enough. I would argue that it’s especially important in historical fiction. We live, we love, we strive to maintain relationships, now and in the past. Love is often the gateway to making a historical figure flesh and blood.

Today, I’d like to welcome historical fiction author Anna Belfrage to chat about love + historical fiction. Anna’s knowledge of history spans centuries and across continents. I’m always amazed at the breadth of her knowledge. Not only is she a prolific bestselling author but she is also a regular history blogger and a contributor to the English Historical Fiction Authors Blog (EHFA) site, amongst other things!

Anna is the author of the wildly popular Graham Saga series, a romantic time slip novel set during the 17th century. In her recent historical series, the King’s Greatest Enemy, Anna has combined a central love story with a period of political instability. She’s thrown her lovers, Kit and Adam de Guirande, in the middle of a Medieval power play. Not only is their relationship at risk, but their very lives.

Let’s get started!

Thank you!-8

How would you categorize your work—historical romance, historical fiction, or somewhere in the middle? Why?

Anna: I’d say it is very much in the middle – traditional romance requires there to be major issues before the loving couple finally make it to the HEA, while I tend to write about couples who have issues but who once they realise it’s them face the world together. More love than romance in a way, albeit that many romance readers find my books very romantic.

Thank you!-8

What challenges did you encounter balancing the romantic aspect of the story with the complex politics? Did you have any concern that some readers would want more romance or more history?

Anna: First of all, I write the story as I need to tell it. I rarely consider what readers might like or not while writing, albeit I do take that aspect into account in my editing phase. In this case, the story I wanted to tell was that of Roger Mortimer, but I didn’t want to tell it from his POV – I wanted someone close to him that could, so to say, stand to the side and watch Mortimer’s transformation as the baron clambered right to the top of the pinnacle of power. This is how Adam de Guirande saw the light of the day, and once I had him, I knew he needed a wife, and poor Kit had just been abducted by unknown men (in my head, that is) so I sort of merged these two stories. I believe very many readers enjoy my mix of a well-researched historical context (and I do love the complicated politics of the times!) and a love-story. I think some readers come away a bit disappointed in the lack of battlefield gore (but there is more in the later instalments), while others think my lovers should play a much more central role. But Adam and Kit are there to help us navigate through the convoluted political quagmires of their times, at times dragged under by the treachery that surrounds them. Their love helps them survive – but it isn’t the main ingredient in the story.

Thank you!-8

In both series, the King’s Greatest Enemy and the Graham Saga, the story of your lovers continue on across multiple books and you’ve managed to keep your readers’ interest on what happens to them beyond the first happy conclusion. When you first started writing the Graham Saga, did you expect to continue Alex and Matthew’s story or did it evolve organically? What are some of the challenges of continuing their relationship across multiple books?

Anna: Ha! I set out to write ONE book and finally be able to look myself in the eye and say “I did it” after all those years of wanting to write but never having the time to do so properly. Somewhere in the last third or so of A Rip in the Veil, Alex and Matthew took over, presenting me with one long sequence of future adventures, and obviously I was stuck, incapable of not writing the sequels. So I guess it did develop organically – to a point. The challenge in writing a series with recurring characters is that you have to think of a very extended character arc. People change as they grow older, and accordingly Matthew and Alex have to change too. If you write a series where essentially you repeat the same story (like the excellent Kresley Cole does in her Immortals after Dark series – she has two immortals of different kinds in each book finding true love with each other and surmounting a number of challenges to do so) then the character arc is relatively short and recurring. If you write a series where people grow up, have babies, suffer loss and persecution, are forced to emigrate, see children die and in general suffer – well, obviously they’re going to be affected by all this and have to develop in a credible manner. I think that’s why so many readers like The Graham Saga – it is the story of human life, in all its unvarnished glory. But then all good fiction – no matter in what time it is set – must deliver some sort of insight into the human condition.

Anyway: the long and the short of it is that I wrote the entire eight book series (except that soon enough it will be a nine book series) prior to publishing anything as this gave me the opportunity to verify those character arcs, ensuring my Alex and Matthew reacted consistently with who they really are. I’ve done the same with my Kit and Adam series. All books are written—albeit still in a rough draft—prior to publishing number one. I’m doing the same with my next trilogy, where I’m just about to start the full edit of all three books.

Thank you!-8

If I were to give you a soap box, what genre related issue (whether it be for historical fiction or historical romance) that you would like to discuss?

Anna: I get a tad irritated by the general assumption that the average female “back then” was weak and submissive and therefore, to live up to modern “feminist” expectations, we get all these historical fiction heroines who are tough as old boots and very atypical of their times. I think this is an indirect insult to all the women who did live “back then”. After all, people haven’t changed all that much over the centuries, and it is my experience women as a whole are extremely strong – they have to be, for their kids. But this does not mean the heroine of a story set in medieval times should wield a sword or in general act the avenging Valkyrie – that is not how medieval female strength manifested itself. Instead, you find it in how women handled their estates, raised their children, maneuvered politically. A true historical heroine is not necessarily feisty: she lives within the confines imposed by society and still gets ahead. I’d like to see more such heroines in my future reads.

Thank you so much, Anna, for dropping by. I can’t agree more with you about strong women. They should be celebrated for their resilience, no matter what form that takes. History comes alive when we are able to relate to the people and we become invested in their struggle.

Good luck with your new release, Under the Approaching Dark. We look forward to the next instalment of Kit and Adam.

annna_belfrage-2015Had Anna Belfrage been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exist, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power. And yes, Edmund of Woodstock appears quite frequently. The first book, In The Shadow of the Storm was published in 2015, the second, Days of Sun and Glory, was published in July 2016, and the third, Under the Approaching Dark, was published in April 2017.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, she’s probably visiting in the 17th century, specifically with Alex(andra) and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him.

More about Anna on her website or on her blog!



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Traitor’s Knot: Happy Publication Day!

World, I am very proud to present my debut novel, Traitor’s Knot!

After years of crafting this story, nurturing and polishing it through various edits, I finally release it to the universe. There’s nothing like this exhilaration!

In the words of a 17th century poet, no man is an island. This is especially true for a writer. It is only through the support and encouragement of family and friends that this journey has been possible. I would like to thank everyone who cared enough to offer their honest feedback over the years–everyone who believed in me and the story that I wanted to tell. And a huge resounding thanks to my publisher, Endeavour Press!

Let the adventure begin!

Traitor’s Knot is a sweeping tale of love and conflicted loyalties set against the turmoil of the English Civil War. It is published by Endeavour Press and is now available in eBook on Amazon.


About Traitor’s Knot

England 1650: Civil War has given way to an uneasy peace in the year since Parliament executed King Charles I.

Royalist officer James Hart refuses to accept the tyranny of the new government, and to raise funds for the restoration of the king’s son, he takes to the road as a highwayman.

Elizabeth Seton has long been shunned for being a traitor’s daughter. In the midst of the new order, she risks her life by sheltering fugitives from Parliament in a garrison town. But her attempts to rebuild her life are threatened, first by her own sense of injustice, then by falling in love with the dashing Hart.

The lovers’ loyalty is tested through war, defeat and separation. James must fight his way back to the woman he loves, while Elizabeth will do anything to save him, even if it means sacrificing herself.

Praise for Traitor’s Knot

“A hugely satisfying read that will appeal to historical fiction fans who demand authenticity, and who enjoy a combination of suspense, action, and a very believable love story.” ~ Elizabeth St. John, author of The Lady of the Tower

“A thrilling historical adventure expertly told.” ~ Carol McGrath, author of The Handfasted Wife.


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