Fictional saga / military
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
Q. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself....
A. I’m a full-time historical novelist, following the stories of the Tudors from the first meeting of Owen Tudor and Queen Catherine of Valois to the death of Queen Elizabeth I.
Q. Where do you live?
A. In beautiful Pembrokeshire, West Wales UK – birthplace of King Henry VII, the first Tudor king.
Q. If you had a choice to live anywhere – where would it be?
A. Hampton Court Palace – or if it’s not available, Windsor Caste would do.
Q. Modern house, old cottage, castle or something else?
A. Modern – a short drive from the sea and the River Cleddau
Q. Cat, dog or budgie?
A. We had a (high maintenance) Samoyed, (Siberian husky)
Q. Are you a ‘dining room for dinner’, or a ‘tray on your lap in front of the TV’ person?
A. Standards have to be maintained.
Q. TV preferences – documentary, drama, comedy, soap or thriller?
A. Love well-researched historical documentaries
Q. What was your first published novel about?
A. Queen Sacrifice is set in ancient Wales. Two kings battle for their lives. The queen of the northern tribes has a new son and the king of the south has a young Saxon bride. At the heart of the conflict are the bishops, who are torn between their faith and their duty. Powerful knights and warlords see the opportunity to grow rich but know there the loser will pay a heavy price. The narrative faithfully follows EVERY move in the queen sacrifice game, known as "The Game of the Century" between Donald Byrne and Bobby Fischer in New York City on October 17th, 1956.
Q. What was your last novel about?
A. Drake – Tudor Corsair is the first book of my new Elizabethan series, and follows Devon sailor Francis Drake as he sets out on a journey of adventure and discovery, sailing around the world and becoming an unlikely favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and one of the richest men in England.
Q. Do you write in one genre or several?
A. I have several non-fiction books, but I’m best known for my Tudor historical fiction.
Q. Have you ever considered exploring a totally different genre?
A. Yes, I’ve written one contemporary thriller, The Shell, inspired after my wife and I faced the danger of kidnap on a beach in Mombasa.
Q. If you could, which two of your characters would you like to invite to spend an afternoon with you?
A. I’d love to meet Henry VIII’s best friend, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk – and his last wife, the intriguing Katherine Willoughby, who both feature in my book, Katherine – Tudor Duchess.
Q. Where would you go / what would you do?
A. It would be fun to take them to present-day London and see what they think of it.
Q. How do you prefer to travel? Plane, boat, car?
A. The Tudors have bought me an ocean-going yacht (which has been in the boatyard throughout the pandemic) so I’d prefer to travel by sea.
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. I would keep two metres distance, smile and say, ‘good morning’.
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)
1. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
2. Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
3. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
4. Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen
5. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing
6. A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
7. Revelation, by C. J. Sansom
8. Boatbuilding: A Complete Handbook of Wooden Boat Construction
9. Boatbuilding: A Complete Handbook of Wooden Boat Construction, by Howard I Chapelle
Q. What sort of island would you prefer, and why? (e.g. Desert Island... Hebridian Island...)
A.Tropical island with plenty of fresh water.
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. A solar powered MacBook Pro with 2TB hard disk and Word.
One of the reasons why I read historical fiction is to slip away to far off places and explore different worlds. The Heart of a Hussar took me back to early 17-century Poland with its Winged Hussars, an elite cavalry unit that was the backbone of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. I was not familiar with this history or the Winged Hussars, but with the author’s impressive research and meticulous world building, I was transported to the past.
Jacek Dabrowski is a lieutenant of the Hussars, in service of a great lord, and he has a reputation for being one of the finest warriors. His men would do anything for him and women try to catch his interest. To acquire the land he needs to secure his future, he relies on the support and commendation of his superiors; unfortunately, his direct superior, a jealous, petty captain, belittles him at every turn and threatens to crush him. This forces him to work harder to prove himself in battle strategy and leadership and rise above the numerous traps laid out by his captain.
Oliwia is a distraction that could destroy everything Jacek has been working toward. Over the course of the story, she blossoms from a fifteen-year-old war orphan to an eighteen-year-old woman who has entwined herself within Jacek’s professional heart. Theirs is a slow-building romance that catches Jacek by surprise in the latter part of the book. Unbeknownst to him, she has cared for him since he rescued her from a burning village. But Jacek is focused on his career and the pursuit of his dreams, and what can he offer a young woman except his heart? Jacek must decide between Oliwia and his future.
This is the first book of a duology, and the story ends with a cliffhanger and so many things left in a tangle. Fortunately, the conclusion was due for release in November 2020 (I read this first novel during October).
The Heart of a Hussar has action/adventure, a budding romance and offers a unique history set in a unique settingReviewed for Discovering Diamonds