Monday, 14 June 2021

A Discovering Diamonds Review of The Raided Heart by Jennifer Wilson



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Fictional Drama / Romance
1400s
Northumberland

"Northumberland, 1470s. Ambitious reiver Will Hetherington wants to prove himself a competent man in the company of Robert Mathers, head of the village. Headstrong Meg Mathers, Robert’s younger sister, wants to remain at her beloved home, caring for her family, the land and the village of Long Ridge where she’s grown up. When an accident throws Meg and Will together, attraction builds, and both begin to realise they might just have met their match. But life on the 15th century border is never that simple, and Meg finds herself betrothed to the weakling son of tyrannical neighbour, Alexander Gray. When tragedy strikes, can Meg and Will find their way back to each other, and can Will finally take his own personal revenge on Gray?"

In the 15th-century Borders, young Will Hetherington, an outsider taken into the Mather family’s village, is eager to prove himself both loyal, and a competent, valuable reiver.  Raiding across the line dividing Scotland from England for cattle is a dangerous business, and men must be excellent riders, quick thinkers – but also obey orders. When Will’s mare accidentally injures Meg Mathers, the youngest daughter of the family, Will is ordered to give her all the assistance she needs during her recovery. He’s not happy about this, but he can’t afford to disobey.

The Borders is not an easy land, neither politically nor geographically. Windswept, rocky moorland, treacherous bog, thin soil – all make agriculture difficult. Cross-border theft and destruction; families manoeuvring for position and authority; the unique justice system of the March Wardens and laws specific to retribution for raids led to a way of life very different than other parts of England. Jennifer Wilson has positioned her romance between Will and Meg against this setting.

The role of and expectations for Meg are clear: she is to help run the house and village until a suitable marriage is arranged. She is an asset to be bargained with, to help create or solidify alliances among the reiver families. Will has been accepted by the Mathers after raiders destroyed his own home, following his sister, who has married into the village, but he has no status to allow him to be considered as a husband for Meg.

The story is told in clear, competent prose and with dialogue that flows naturally. We watch the romance growing between Meg and Will against a background of the tasks of house and village and the concerns of the Mathers to balance the opposing factions and the law. But Meg’s responsibilities to her family must take precedence over her own wishes, regardless of what her heart tells her. There are plenty of twists and turns, reversals and barriers in The Raided Heart, enough to keep the reader wondering how – or if – this love story will reach the desired conclusion.

The social and legal structure of Northumberland in the 15th century are described well; what I found lacking in the book was a sense of place. Other than town names and the description of a bastle, the fortified house common to the reiver families, there is little to ground the reader in the distinctive landscape of Northumbria. Yet it is a landscape that helped create the reiver way of life, and must have been both an immense challenge to navigate and a refuge for those who knew it well. 

That comment aside, this is a novel recommended for fans of romance embedded in a larger historical story.


Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Marian Thorpe
 e-version reviewed


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Sunday, 13 June 2021

SundayGuest Spot - Nancy Jardine

Continuing our Sunday Series
of taking a look at some fabulous authors!




Hello Nancy, welcome to our Discovering Diamonds Guest Spot. Along with my readers and visitors I love to hear from authors who write wonderful stories. There’s nothing better than curling up with a good book,  box of chocs and glass of wine to hand!

Q. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself...
A. My life as a fiction author officially started when I hung up my dominie cloak for the last time in 2011 (ex-primary teacher). I’ve been traditionally published by a couple of small independent publishers since 2012; hybrid when I made my first foray into self-publishing in 2015; and since late 2018, all of my 9 titles are self-published with Ocelot Press, a co-operative of authors.  

Q. Where do you live?
A. In a historic village in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which was first granted Royal Burgh status in the late 12th century. Archaeology spanning thousands of years is all around me, which is really excellent since I’m continually obsessed by archaeological discoveries, which I use to inform my historical fiction set in Late 1st Century Roman Britain. I’m extremely favoured in that my daughter and family live in a house that was built for them next door, on what was originally my vegetable garden/ ‘mini-orchard’. I get to see my young grandkids regularly, and thankfully don’t have nearly as much garden ground to tend. 

Q. If you had a choice to live anywhere – where would it be?
A. I’ve no desire to live anywhere else, though I could definitely do with the local rain goddess having more days off! 

Q. Modern house, old cottage, castle or something else?
A. My granite house is a hotchpotch of old and slightly-less old and has a unique village history. 1820s built, it has adjacent granite outbuildings which include a 2-horse stable (now the wood shed). It was owned by a series of village doctors from the late Victorian era, and in 1900 a granite surgery extension was added on at that time.  Later on, a waiting room for patients was built on to the surgery room in the 1960s, a ‘health and safety’ requirement back then. Patients no longer entered by the house front door to wait in the large hall, till called through to the surgery by the doctor. 
These details were given to me by a doctor who grew up in the house in the 1950s and 1960s. He said his father (the incumbent doctor) did ‘tonsillectomies’ and ‘other surgical work’ on their long kitchen table. 

Q. Cat,  dog or budgie?
A. Never had a pet, though not because I dislike animals. 

Q. Are you a ‘dining room for dinner’, or a ‘tray on your lap in front of the TV’ person?
A. Dining room when we have guests: all other times we eat at the kitchen table. I’m pleased to say that the table currently in my kitchen is also long, but not the same one that was used for surgeries! 

Q. TV preferences – documentary, drama, comedy, soap or thriller?
A. Lunchtime and 10 o’clock news, and other politics programmes. I use I-Player nowadays and do catch-up on TV historical series’. Via Amazon Prime I’ve recently enjoyed some Russian produced ones (subtitled), though they can be a bit ponderous  - Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and War and Peace come to mind, but since I loved reading them, that’s fine by me. 


Q. What was your first published novel about?
A. Monogamy Twist - a contemporary romantic comedy mystery.
In late 2011, I was embroiled in personal ancestral research and simultaneously following a Dickens series on TV. I decided Charles Dickens wouldn’t mind me borrowing his theme of a weird inheritance to use as the basis for a humorous contemporary novel. The mystery of Greywood Hall was born – a slightly ‘tired’ old mansion on the fringes of  the Yorkshire Dales. Lots of ancestral secrets must be uncovered when it’s left in an extremely quirky bequest to my handsome hero, Luke Salieri. The Wild Rose Press published the first edition in 2012, the title of Monogamy Twist being eventually agreed as a compromise with my editor of the time. [To be honest, I can’t remember now what my working title was!]

Q. What was your last novel about?
A. My last novel, Beathan The Brigante, is Book 5 of my Celtic Fervour Series and is the story of young warrior Beathan of Garrigill. [At the end of Book 3 of the series, not quite13 years old, Beathan is captured by the Ancient Romans after a pitched battle in north-eastern Caledonia – Ancient Romans against the Caledonian tribes of the north.] Beathan the Brigante relates the couple of years that Beathan is held as a hostage and depicts his highly-unusual relationship with the Ancient Roman General Agricola, who drags Beathan all the way to Rome. During his captivity, Beathan exists to gain freedom and vengeance over his captors and Vindolanda Roman Fort (Hadrian’s Wall area) is the scene of some justified revenge, before he re-unites with his clan in Caledonia. Torrin, a female Brigante warrior, is a great help to Beathan and just might be a little more than that… (I’m adding a winky smile here 😉 ) 


Q. Do you write in one genre or several?
A. Several. 
My 5-book Celtic Fervour Series is historical fiction, with varying degrees of romance, set in late 1st century Roman Britain/ Roman Caledonia. 
My time-travel historical novel - The Taexali Game -  is set in AD 210 when the Ancient Roman Emperor Severus invades ‘Aberdeenshire’. There’s archaeological evidence that points to Severan troops being in my home area around this time. (Intended to be enjoyed from early teens, I’m delighted that adult readers  have given it a definite thumbs up! 
Topaz Eyes is a complex romantic suspense mystery/thriller. Monogamy Twist is a light-hearted romantic comedy mystery. Both of these have dominating ancestral/historical themes.
Take Me Now is a fun romantic romp I call my ‘corporate sabotage’ mystery (That title was also a compromise with my Wild Rose Press editor in 2012, my working title suggestion being ‘Taking Me There’). 


Q. Have you ever considered exploring a totally different genre?
A.  Not presently! My WIP is planned as a 3-book family saga beginning in 1850s Scotland, but will follow one main character through different generations to probably the 1920s, or early 1930s. In that way, it differs from my Celtic Fervour Series, which features different clan members. 

Q. If you could, which two of your characters would you like to invite to spend an afternoon with you?
A. Oh, difficult question! 
1. General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola (Books 4 & 5 Celtic Fervour Series). He is a genuine historical figure, though little is known about his personal life. We only know what his son-in-law – the Ancient Roman writer Cornelius Tacitus – writes about him. Agricola could tell me so….much…real history.
2. Aela Cameron from Take Me Now – a feisty, adaptable young lass from Vancouver, Canada. She flies Nairn Malcolm, a grumpy temporarily debilitated hero, all over the world in his jet and his floatplane. She’s not fazed by the madman bent on wreaking havoc on Nairn.  

Q. Where would you go / what would you do?
I’d take General Agricola across the road from my garden and have him describe what the site was like back in AD 84, when 10,000 of his Ancient Roman troops were encamped there for a short time (Deer’s Den Roman Camp at Kintore). He’d tell me where the Battle of Mons Graupius (as described by Cornelius Tacitus) was fought against Calgacus and the Caledonians. I’d give him an enormous hug if he confirmed that Bennachie (9 miles from my house) was the battle site – because that’s where I’ve depicted the battle in After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks (Book 3 Celtic Fervour Series) 
Aela would fly me up the west coast of Scotland in Nairn’s floatplane, taking in all of the Hebridean islands. The idea for Take Me Now was prompted by an extended-family birthday trip in a seaplane from Glasgow to Oban, on the west coast. It was incredible to fly at such a low altitude, the illusion being that I could almost touch the grass beneath the plane, compared to flying in a normal commercial jet. Being Canadian, Aela might not know the history of the areas flown over, but I’d be delighted to tell her all I’ve learned over the years of visiting them! 

Q. How do you prefer to travel? Plane, boat, car?
A. I like all forms of travel.
A local balloon flight was a tad nerve-wracking at lift-off (very noisy and wobbly) but was fabulous after that. Seeing the patchwork of fields below, the details of local Aberdeenshire castles so clear, and the tree tops so close when descending was incredible! 
I’m a good sailor and can cope with bad weather. In Aug. 2017, we had force 9 and 10 gales for more than two days on a cruise to Greenland, which was quite an experience! Very few passengers were staggering about, so my husband and I found we had the bars to ourselves. A cruise in early April 2020, to the Iberian Peninsula, was sadly cancelled due to Covid 19. 
Long-haul flights are okay, since I’m only 5 ft 2 and leg room isn’t an issue. I read a novel, or watch a film, and am generally surprised to find we’re approaching the landing phase. 

Q. You are out for a walk. You see a chap sitting on a wall, looking right fed up – but there’s something odd about him... What? And what  do you do?
A. If I had to pass by to continue where I was going, I’d ask if he was okay – because that’s what normally happens in my area, people doing the ‘hello thing’ with complete strangers in the street, or countryside. Though, I’d ask at a distance if I felt in any way unnerved by him – even before Covid 19 has made that the ‘new norm’. 


We have a long-running Radio programme here in the UK called Desert Island Discs on which celebrities talk about their life and select eight of their favourite discs... so changing that slightly...

Q. If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what eight books would you want to find left in an abandoned hut? (There’s already a Bible, the Quran, and the complete works of Shakespeare)

Big fat books! And… I’d be greedy. 
1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
2. War and Peace.
3. Gone with the Wind.
4. The Outlander Series books.
5. Ulysses by James Joyce (Because I’d maybe understand it better now than I did as a student aged19, and would hopefully now appreciate the classical references) 
6. A Guide to living off the land! 
7. An omnibus of Charles Dickens books.
8. The complete works of Robert Burns. (I’d enjoy the poems and would have the words to sing many of the songs that I learned as a child, but now forget the lyrics to them.)

Q. What sort of island would you prefer, and why? (e.g. Desert Island... Hebridian Island...)
A. A warm one, anywhere. Survival on a Scottish Island would be so much tougher. 

Q. And you would be allowed one luxury item – what would you want it to be? (a boat or something to escape on isn’t allowed.)
A. soap or shampoo (I love my daily shower)

Connect with Nancy Jardine:
Blog: 

Amazon Author page 



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