Tony Riches: Author Spotlight

Today I’m very pleased to welcome UK author Tony Riches, best known for his Tudor Trilogy. Not only is Tony a best-selling historical fiction author, he is on Richtopia’s Top 200 Most Influential Authors in 2018All three books of his Tudor Trilogy reached #1 on Amazon in the UK, U.S and Australia. His latest novel appears to be another winner.

I had the opportunity to ask Tony about his novels, and his approach to writing historical fiction. Welcome Tony!

Q-2

Please tell us about your latest book, MARY –Tudor Princess.

MARY ~Tudor PrincessTony: Hi Cryssa, thanks for inviting me. I researched Mary Tudor’s early life for my last book, Henry – Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy. In the Tudor Trilogy I’d moved forward one generation with each book, so it appealed to me to write a ‘sequel’ which did the same. I’d become intrigued with Mary’s story of how she risked everything to defy her brother, King Henry VIII, and marry for love.

 

 

Q-2

Everyone loves the Tudors. What new angle are you bringing to historical fiction readers about the Tudor era?

Tony RichesTony: I was born in Pembroke, within sight of the castle where Henry Tudor was born, so I’ve always been keen to know more about how he became King of England. Like most people I knew all about Henry VIII and his six wives, but very little about the life of his father – or grandfather. I’ve now become an expert on the Tudor dynasty and want to help readers understand the true stories behind the myths. Last year I was part of a community group which raised the money for a statue of Henry Tudor in front of Pembroke Castle, so his importance to the town will never be forgotten.

Henry Tudor statue at Pembroke Castle 

Q-2How do you balance historical accuracy with compelling story telling?

Tony: They say the events of history can be stranger than anything you could make up. I know from readers that they appreciate my hard work to keep my books as factually accurate as possible. The early Tudors were of course surrounded by servants and people such as clerics and physicians whose lives are lost to history, so there is plenty of scope to be creative. I find it particularly useful to have a ‘sidekick’ or companion for my main characters, as it helps provide the interaction and conflict of the storytelling.

Q-2How does setting influence your stories?

Tony: I enjoy visiting the actual locations in my books to have a real understanding of the setting. My research has taken me to some amazing places. I followed the footsteps of Jasper and Henry Tudor through the secret tunnels under the town of Tenby, to their exile in remote Brittany, and visited Henry’s magnificent tomb in Westminster Abbey.

Q-2How do you flesh out your characters greatest sorrows?

 Tony: There is a famous quote by Pulitzer prize winning poet Robert Lee Frost ‘No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.’ I become so immersed in the lives of my characters that something like the loss of a child can be quite emotional. Mary Tudor was a princess and Queen of France, but she suffered greatly after the death of King Louis, so I had plenty to work with.

Q-2What are you working on next?

 Tony: When I was writing about Mary Tudor I researched the life of her second husband, Sir Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and visited his tomb at Windsor Castle. He was Henry VIII’s best friend and a champion jouster and adventurer, leading an army into France even though he had no military experience. Then he breaks his promise to Henry and secretly marries Mary. I’m now writing Brandon – Tudor Knight, which will tell the story from his point of view.

Q-2Where can readers buy your books?

 Tony: All my books are exclusive to Amazon and available worldwide in eBook and paperback. The Tudor Trilogy is also available as audiobooks and an audiobook edition of Mary – Tudor Princessis currently in production.

Purchase your copy today: Amazon UK,  Amazon U.S, Amazon AU


About the Author

Tony Riches AuthorTony Riches is a full-time author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors.

For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his popular blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches.

 

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The Art of Daydreaming

Six impossible things

Have we lost the art of daydreaming? I ask myself this as I make my through my daily commute. I see people checking their smart phones on the way to the subway, standing in the elevator, or waiting for their next bus. There’s very little talk happening on these phones; no one is speaking to one another. With each ping, our brain fires, turning us all into Pavlovs who crave that next notification from Facebook or Twitter.

Sad young woman and a rain drops

I remember when my commute included time for daydreaming. It seems like so long ago. I’d listen to my music, with my head resting against the window pane of the bus and watch the landscape zip past. The music allowed my mind to wander and before the end of the commute, I’d be imagining a story that mirrored the mood of the music or the lyrics. This was a time of rejuvenation and recharging. I’d look forward to this down time after a long day at work. It was a way to clear my head, to transition between work and home with possibly a bit of time-travel kicked in for good measure.

Today, I use my commute to multitask, checking emails and catching up with news feeds. It’s exhausting. I’m sure I’m not alone. Before smart phones, we had down time and time to be bored. Today, there isn’t a moment when we aren’t plugged in. How many people use their smart phone as an alarm? How many reach over at odd times in the night to check on missed notifications? I’ve turned off social media notifications to disable my Pavlov response, but it doesn’t help. I’m still darting in probably more frequently to check notifications. It’s like putting yourself on a carb-free diet only to binge on carbs more than ever before.

Synergies of MusicI feel that I’ve lost access to my creativity by not unplugging, by not allowing myself time to daydream. Music is my gateway between the hard world of here and the beguiling land of story. I write to music. With the right soundtrack, I can tap into an emotional moment and even conjure a vivid scene. But for this faerie engine to work, you need to lull that active part of your mind. Staring out through a glass as the world slips by is meditative. All those pings and dings breaks the trance.

But I am determined to make a change–to reclaim daydreaming, even in little chunks. I’ll start with my morning commute. Instead of bringing my laptop, I’ll bring a notebook. I’ll give myself permission to write, or not, and if I choose to write, I can either do it in the notebook or in my mind. Either way, I will use that time for daydream.

Virtual Abstract Landscape

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Author Spotlight: Nancy Blanton

LondonHeadshot_RetouchA finely crafted work of historical fiction transports the reader to another time. It isn’t just the physical details of daily life and the world around the characters which elevates the work from just being set in the past to practically being in the past. Those are definitely crucial. Dialogue is one of those secret ingredients that needs just the right touch. Not enough authenticity and the work feels too modern and general; too much, and most readers find it a hard slog to follow.

Nancy Blanton is a historical fiction author who has just the right touch for crafting authentic, character-centric dialogue that takes you back to 17th century Ireland. Together with impeccable historical details and a rousing good adventure, her Prince of Glencurragh is a novel that I would heartily recommend.

I’ve asked Nancy to drop by and talk about the inspiration behind her 17th century novels of Ireland. Welcome, Nancy!


Q-2

Tell us what drew you to 17th century Ireland?

Nancy:  Long before I started Sharavogue I knew I wanted to explore Irish history, partly because of family heritage, but also because I had grown tired of books about the Tudors. As an avid reader of historical fiction, I was searching for something new to learn about and was fascinated by the Scottish history I found reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. But perhaps the greatest influence came from a summer study course in Dublin when I was about 19. I was hooked even then but it took a good while longer for me to realize it.

My research of Irish history began at Dingle, a place I had visited and loved. I read about the 16th century, the Siege of Smerwick and the terrible massacre there, and then the doomed Desmond rebellions. But ultimately the 17th century compelled me. Rife with conflict, disaster, invention and sweeping change, I don’t believe there is a time more fascinating and remarkable. In the words of Robert Burton in 1638: “War, plagues, fires, inundations, thefts, murders, massacres, meteors, spectrums, prodigies, apparitions…and such like, which these tempestuous times affoord…” – and all of that during the first few decades. Who could resist?

Q-2What inspired you to write Sharavogue and its prequel The Prince of Glencurragh?

Nancy: One day on the Internet I stumbled upon an argument between two people over whether the Irish had once owned slaves. One insisted that the Irish, being so oppressed themselves, would never have owned slaves. I looked into it and found some books, essays, and an archaeological study to confirm that in fact Irish plantations on the island of Montserrat had operated using slave labor. At the time, it was the only way they could be profitable. These plantations developed in the early 1600s and into the Cromwellian era that is credited with deporting to the West Indies about 10,000 to 12,000 Irish who became slaves or indentured servants. I had spent time in the town of Skibbereen, the end-point on a map of Cromwell’s march through Ireland. The pieces came together in a very exciting way. The story begins with Cromwell’s arrival in Skibbereen. Protagonist Elvy Burke confronts Cromwell, runs for her life, and is swept away to a fictitious sugar plantation on Montserrat named Sharavogue – from the Irish meaning bitter place.

Coastal_cliffs

Montserrat – By T. Gilligan – Own work, Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

I’d intended to write a sequel to Sharavogue, focusing on the Great Irish Rebellion of 1641, but instead my readers urged me to do the prequel. They wanted to know more about Elvy’s father Faolán, and how he came to be in his circumstances when Elvy was born. Once I figured out his lifespan, I discovered a book detailing the strategy of young men to elevate their station in life by abducting an heiress, often with the help of their families. Such abductions weren’t condoned, but they weren’t illegal at the time. In fact, the famed Duke of Buckingham abducted his wealthy bride with the help of his mother. Once the heiress was in a man’s possession she was considered damaged goods, and the family became willing to make the best of things by negotiating a marriage settlement. This sparked my imagination and the story flowed rapidly from there. Faolán dreams of reclaiming his father’s estate and building Castle Glencurragh. Thus the title, The Prince of Glencurragh, refers to his driving desire.

Q-2Did you uncover any surprising facts while researching your novels and what were they?

Nancy: Yes, many. The research is so exciting because you never know where it will lead.

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Great Earl of Cork [Public Domain]

I learned a lot about the Great Earl of Cork, who built towns and developed industry in the Province of Munster, but became one of the wealthiest men in Ireland by taking advantage of others’ misfortunes, and taking a large percentage of church tithes – which he was later forced to return.

Another discovery was that the town of Skibbereen experienced a population surge in 1631 after Algerian pirates raided the coastal town of Baltimore and carried away about 100 people to be sold as slaves. This is well documented in Des Ekins’s book, The Stolen Village. It turns out the pirates may have been led to the Baltimore settlement by a man who wanted to own that land. There are also a few grisly stories about the English inviting “troublesome” Irish clans to a banquet, and then killing every man, woman and child. Native populations in the West Indies received similar treatment from both the English and French.


Q-2In ThePrince of Glencurragh, one of the issues you address is an eating disorder and its devastating effect. It’s an issue that is only recently spoken about. Why did you decide to include it in your story, and was this a disorder that was more common in the past than we might think?

Nancy:  This brings up the challenges that can arise when writing a prequel. In particular, I describe a case of anorexia, which I had always assumed was a modern disease. In the opening chapters of Sharavogue, Elvy’s mother Vivienne already has died, so the prequel had to cover her death within a year of her marriage. Common illnesses like tuberculosis could take seven or more years for death to occur. To have her die in childbirth seemed unfit for this story. I sought out a disease that would kill her within a year, and found a treatise by 17th century physician Richard Morton on “Nervous Consumption.”

He attributed this disease to “violent passions of the mind” and described symptoms reflecting anorexia: “At first it flatters and deceives the Patient, for which reason it happens for the most part that the Physician is called too late.” Morton details symptoms and describes at length his treatment of a woman who tired of her medicines (various drinks and stomach plasters) and died within three months; and a man who was successfully treated by moving to the country, taking in “very good air,” cheerful exercise and the conversation of friends.

I was surprised and fascinated that this disease existed so long ago, and I love to use such details that further illuminate the 17thcentury for readers. It also made sense for the personality of Vivienne. Anorexia typically causes death by stressing the heart to the point of failure, but at its core anorexia is a disease of control. In the book, when Vivienne loses control of her fortune and her identity, the disease that has troubled her for years takes a fatal hold.

Q-2In The Prince of Glencurragh, you chose to tell the story of Faolán and Vivienne through Faolán’s faithful friend Aengus which was a daring choice (not too unlike Nick Carraway in the Great Gatsby). Not all authors would be able to pull this off but you do. Can you tell us why you decided to show the story through Aengus’s eyes?

Nancy: Thank you for the compliment! There were a number of reasons for this decision. I suppose the biggest one was that I expected Faolán would die in a skirmish at the end of the book, and I wanted an objective voice to follow him throughout the story. As it turned out, Faolán’s transformation at the end seemed like the right place to end, and he survives for the next book. A second reason is that I was not writing a romance, and I believed if I wrote from Faolán’s point of view it would become one.

A third reason is that I had written Sharavogue in first person, and the use of Aengus would be an opportunity for growth as an author. We must push ourselves, just as any athlete does to improve a skill. To do this I did in fact study the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tactics for portraying Nick in The Great Gatsby. I also studied Taita, the eunuch slave in Wilbur Smith’s book, River God. Taita is a charming narrator who all but invented the wheel. These were extremely helpful as I wrote Aengus, but in all truth Aengus unfolded himself for me. I only realized when I finished the book that he comprised many experiences I have had with my dearest friends. And that’s what the book is really about: hope, and friendship.

I was speaking at a book club recently when one of the members said, “I love Aengus!” My eyes filled with tears. I am so gratified that he meant something to readers. I love him, too.

Q-2What are you currently working on?

Nancy: Taking place between the first two, my next book, The Earl in Black Armor, is about relentlessness, loyalty and betrayal. Faolán is sent to Dublin Castle by the Earl of Clanricarde to spy on the new Lord Deputy of Ireland, Thomas Wentworth, who is bent on acquiring Irish clan properties for English plantations. Faolán soon discovers he is not the only one watching the Lord Deputy. It’s a volatile time including the Bishops Wars with Scotland and the events leading up to the Great Irish Rebellion, England’s Civil War and ultimately the fall of the monarchy.

Wentworth is a real and controversial figure, both good and bad. He was rich and powerful, but sought an earldom for most of his adult life. He received it only months before he was executed — basically, murdered –by Parliament. Publication is set for the spring of 2019.

Thank you Nancy for stopping by. I’ll be looking forward to reading your next book! 


Nancy Blanton is the author of historical fiction including The Prince of Glencurragh and Sharavogue, both award-winning novels set in 17th century Ireland. She also wrote Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps, winner of the President’s Silver Medal, Florida Authors and Publishers Association. She wrote and illustrated the children’s book, The Curious Adventure of Roodle Jones. She has produced two award-winning regional history books and two interactive timelines. She lives in Florida.

Connect with Nancy through her Website (nancyblanton.com), Facebook (Nancy Blanton author) and Twitter (@nancy_blanton).

Nancy’s books are available through Amazon. For The Prince of Glencurragh (click here) and for Sharavogue (click here).

Media attributions (Featured image in header): 

View From The Hilltop at Lough Hyne (Skibbereen) By edward982 (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Traipsing through the fields of Culpeper

 

One of my favourite resources is the Complete Herbal and English Physician by Nicholas Culpeper which was published in 1653. The Complete Herbal can boast the rare distinction of being in print for over 350 years.

In_Effigiam_Nicholai_Culpeper_Equitis_by_Richard_Gaywood

By Richard Gaywood – British Museum [1], Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Culpeper was a botanist and a physician who spent years cataloguing the virtues of herbs, the preparation of simple syrups and physic. His volume was intended for a household audience instead of the professional practitioner, which is not entirely surprising if you consider that for years housewives kept a ‘receipt’ book with their home remedies which served to treat the various ills of the household. But it went further than that. Culpeper was a dedicated practitioner who believed that medicine should be available to everyone, not just those who could afford it. His sentiments did not stand him well in the professional community, but he was able to literally practice what he preached thanks to the comfortable living courtesy of his wife, who came to their marriage with a small fortune.

The first time I saw Culpeper’s Complete Herbal was in the Toronto Reference Library in the Baldwin Room for rare books. Their copy dates back to the 19th century. The Reference Library’s copy is gorgeous! Beautiful painted plates of flowers and herbs are just as bright today as they were in the mid-1800’s. The volume I have on my desk is more prosaic—a fairly inexpensive black and white copy of the original.

Culpeper classifies herbals by their temperature, moisture content, and temperament.

Temperature and moisture content

For temperature and moisture content, Culpeper describes herbals as hot/cold and dry/wet. Culpeper considered these attributes as a means to balance out the ‘humours’ in the patient’s body. The idea would be if someone had an excess of phlegm, for example, you might want to counteract the condition with a cold and dry herbal. At first it sounds odd, but if you consider it a little more, there is perhaps some basis in science. The human body is finely balanced piece of machinery, and I’m sure you could attribute many of our worst ailments to being out of balance.

Temperament

This is the part where people have their doubts about Culpeper, because in addition to the above properties, he categorized herbals by their planetary influences. A bit of astrological botany. Yes, herbs had a horoscope. Can’t you just hear the conversation at the salad bar? A herb could be ruled by Venus (eg. strawberries), Mars (eg. garlic), Jupiter (eg. sage), Mercury (eg. savory), Saturn (eg. quince), or the Moon (eg. saxifrage).

Traipsing through the fields

I did want to give you a bit of flavour for Culpeper’s write up by looking at two herbs, one the Lily of the Valley (because it happens to be my birth flower), and Moonwort because you’ll have to wait and see.

Lily of the Valley: Culpeper always starts by describing the plant in question, where it grows, and in some cases, where specifically in England to find it. I have used Culpeper as a historical fiction resource to make sure that certain plants were actually there, and bonus, in the time that my story takes place. You never know what could have been cultivated elsewhere. But back to herbals for medicinal uses. Culpeper describes their “Government and virtues”. This is what he has to say about our garden variety Lily of the Valley:

“It is under the dominion of Mercury, and therefore it strengthens the brain, recruits a weak memory, and makes it strong again: The distilled water dropped into the eyes, helps inflammations there; as also that infirmity which they call a pin and web. The spirit of the flowers distilled in wine, restores lost speech, helps the palsy, and is excellently good in the apoplexy, comfort the heart and vital spirits.”

Of course Mercury, the god of communication, having dominion over a dainty herb would work in ways that affect speech and memory. I do find this very interesting.

Blooming Lily of the valley in spring garden

Lily of the Valley

Moonwort: These are a genus of ferns that send out a shoot-like flower. Moonwort is owned by the Moon and is described as both cold and drying, which makes it ideal to treat wounds, both inward and outward. It stays bleeding, vomiting and other fluxes. But what caught my attention was it’s unique non-medicinal properties. In Culpeper’s own words:

“Moonwort is an herb which (they say) will open locks, and unshod such horses that tread upon it: This some laugh to scorn and those no small fools neither; but country people that I know, call it Unshoe the Horse. Besides I have heard commanders say, that on White Down in Devonshire, near Tiverton, there were found thirty horse shoes, pulled off from the feet of the Earl of Essex’s horses, being there drawn up in a body, many of them being but newly shod, and no reason known, which caused much admiration, and the herb described usually grows upon heaths.”

Perhaps we should also consider the Moonwort a Royalist herb if it foiled the Earl of Essex’s advance.

800px-Botrychium_lunaria_(Vanoise)

By Abalg – own product, GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

And on a final note, I thought I’d share with you an outtake from Traitor’s Knot that was inspired by moonwort. It is a truth universally acknowledged that only a fraction of research makes it into the final narrative. I hope you enjoy it.

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The mare lost her shoe halfway to Ellendale. Elizabeth was forced to dismount at the side of the road.

“Bad timing, this,” she scolded the horse. The scudding clouds threatened a rainstorm, but she’d risk ruining the mare if she tried to ride her further. Elizabeth searched the ground and spotted the shoe on the road ten feet back. “No moonwort on the road to account for it,” she told the mare with a small laugh, but the horse didn’t see the humour in their situation. Truth be told neither did she. 

Gripping the bridle, she led the horse slowly down the rough road. After a quarter hour, she reached the edge of the lands the Ledbrooks leased from her aunt. 

“Samuel will help replace the shoe,” she said aloud. The Ledbrook cottage lay just on the other side of the copse. Clicking her tongue, Elizabeth led the horse off the road. They crossed spongy meadowland and entered the woods. 

The wind whipped the treetops, and the temperature began to drop. Elizabeth tightened her shawl and led the mare along the narrow track. The horse plodded along, going slower by the moment until finally the animal refused to continue. 

Elizabeth kicked the dirt. “Faith, just a little further,” she pleaded, but the mare ignored her and decided to graze. The first splatter of raindrops landed on the tip of Elizabeth’s nose. “Not now,” she groaned and tried once more to get the mare walking. Nothing. “You mayn’t mind the rain, but I refuse to stand here and get drenched.” She tied the mare’s lead to a sturdy branch and covering her head with her shawl, continued as quickly as she could through the woods. 

The path narrowed, and the dark clouds swallowed up all light. The wind snatched the shawl from Elizabeth’s hands and carried it high into the tree branches. 

Damn. She grit her teeth and hurried forward. She snagged her boot in a tree root and stumbled.

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Seventeenth Century Lady: Charles II Scottish Coronation

I’m pleased to be a guest of the Seventeenth Century Lady with an article I wrote about Charles II’s Scottish coronation. This occurred on January 1, 1651 in the Kirk of Scone. It occurred against the backdrop of Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland and has the distinction of being the last coronation to be held in Scotland.

To read the article, click on the link: Charles II’s Scottish Coronation.

Featured pictures:

Charles II Coronation at Westminster: [By John Michael Wright – http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page92.asp, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Kirk of Scone (Moot Hill): I, Calgacus [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Palace of Scone: By Ingo Mehling – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

 

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The Butcher of Drogheda and a long-running war of attrition

I recently came across an article from the Irish News (available here), and it gave me my laugh for the day. Apparently there have been some shenanigans at Westminster involving one particular statue–a bust of Oliver Cromwell. Someone had turned it to face the wall, very like a naughty schoolboy. When the bust was righted, it was later found to be turned again to the wall.

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Picture via social media

“I feel we may have stumbled into some underground, long-running war of attrition,” staff in the Labour Whips’ office tweeted.

It’s curious that Cromwell’s bust would be tucked away in a stairwell by a tea room. One MP even said she had never noticed it before. Possibly because it was facing to the wall for much longer than anyone expected.

It’s not all curious that the Irish News would have picked up on the joke and ran with it. Oliver Cromwell would very likely make Ireland’s Top 10 list of Most Reviled. Go on, ask anyone from Ireland about Ollie–perhaps not on St. Patty’s Day.

Why do they hate him so? In Ireland, he’s known as the Butcher of Drogheda.

The English Civil War should have been called the War of the Three Kingdoms, because it wasn’t localized to England. After Parliament executed Charles I in January 1649, James Butler (1st Duke of Ormonde), the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, proclaimed Charles II as the new king to the ire of England’s Parliament.

In August 1649, Cromwell landed in Ireland with a force of 12,000 to re-conquer Ireland and immediately moved against the port town of Drogheda. On September 3, 1649*, the Siege of Drogheda began. The defenders were outnumbered 6 to 1 but they refused to surrender. When Cromwell’s forces broke the siege eight days later, they slaughtered the entire town, civilians and all. The rules of warfare were clear. After rejecting surrender, the defenders could be lawfully killed, but the slaughter of innocents was particularly heinous. This was Oliver Cromwell making an example of Drogheda for all the other Irish Royalist garrisons in his path–take note, this will be you if you resist. What happened at Drogheda was vicious and bloody.

St._Laurence's_Gate,_Drogheda_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1055832

St Laurence’s Gate – the last remaining of the ten original defensive gates; picture by Kieran Campbell, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It worked. Cromwell continued his campaign, and by the time he was recalled to England to take up another invasion (this time in Scotland), leaving his second in command to carry on, he had taken southern and eastern Ireland. By May 1652, the Parliamentarian army had defeated the Irish Confederates and Royalists and occupied the country. The colonization of Ireland by Cromwell’s supporters would then start in earnest, but that is a post for another day.


*Note: September 3rd was a meaningful date for Cromwell. September 3, 1649 was the start of the Siege of Drogheda. Exactly a year later in 1650, he’d have a stunning victory against the Scottish army at Dunbar, and a year after that in 1651, he’d defeat King Charles II army at Worcester. He died seven years after that, on September 3, 1648. You can say the date finally caught up with him.

 

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International Women’s Day and Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart remains as one of my favourite authors and a huge inspiration. It was with great delight that I discovered that she was recently included in a tribute for International Women’s Day. Her heroines were always ahead of their day, showing a gritty determination to prevail. “Faced with a choice between love and duty, reject the traditional choice of romantic fiction, and–as so many women do–choose duty.” Thank you for Mary Queen of Plots for finding this article!

Mary Queen of Plots

Today I spotted a newspaper article looking at ‘five books by women, for women’ to celebrate International Women’s Day. You can imagine my delight when I saw that one of the five is Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting! She features alongside Agatha Christie, Shirley Jackson, LM Montgomery and Octavia Butler.

Stacy Gillis, Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Newcastle University, has written a wonderful piece about the five books and a culture which has seen women’s writing as ‘something to be controlled, managed and dismissed’. You can read the article here. She writes of Coaches:

A rewriting of Jane Eyre, the novel contains all the tropes of the Gothic romance – a castle, a family secret, murder – but these are challenged by one of Stewart’s finest protagonists, Linda Martin. Martin is employed as a governess by an aristocratic family, but rejects the trappings of romance to…

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