Sunday, 3 July 2022

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Angel of Goliad by Jean M. Roberts

Fictional Drama / Dual timeline
1800s / present day
Mexico /Texas

"Imaginary friends are not real—or are they?
A freak accident, a mysterious portrait and an imaginary friendship take Magda O’Toole on a journey of self-discovery. Her search for answers leads her to Toluca, Mexico, where she meets a handsome Professor, Miguel Villatoro, and encounters the ghostly apparition of a woman long dead.
Her desire to reconnect with a childhood friend pulls Magda into the past—it’s 1836 and the Texas Revolution gathers momentum. Trapped and unable to return home, she travels with the Mexican Army deep into enemy territory, witnessing the events of the war.
With only a tenuous hold on her old life, Magda must find a way to return to Miguel and her time. As she struggles to survive, Magda learns the true meaning of friendship, love and courage."

Magda O’Toole has been in a coma for four months. Upon awakening, she is hardly able to move. She asks for her friend, Francita and claims a Spanish or Mexican woman visited her often during her coma and told her stories and taught her Spanish, which she can now speak fluently.

Back in 1818, a young girl named Francita plays with a friend her mother can’t see who disappears in a shimmer of light.

When she recovers, Megan determines to go on the hunt for ‘Francita’ who has deserted her. In this effort, she has the help of Miguel Villatoro, with whom she falls in love. Eventually, she succeeds in going back to the past and reuniting with her friend. The problem is that she has gone too far and doesn’t know how to return to the present so she finds herself embroiled in Texas’s struggle for independence.

The dual timeline has been overdone, in my opinion, but I enjoyed this book. It is an interesting story of enduring friendship, our ties to the past, and comes with different perspectives: Mexican/American/modern woman who experiences and sympathises with both sides.

The only objection I have is to a serial-killer part. I understood why the author included it, but to me it was superfluous. I would have enjoyed the story just as much without it. All the same, a good four star read.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Susan Appleyard
 e-version reviewed

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Robyn Pearce: From Diamond to Platinum - celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee

Last one today

To celebrate Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee Discovering Diamonds is hosting a series of excerpts or articles written by our wonderful review team. For our author reviewers: the theme is an excerpt from one of their novels portraying royalty - or an equivalent leader-type character. For our non-writer reviewers: a favourite monarch and/or novel about Royalty... In other words, an enjoyable mix of entertainment to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II's longest reign in British history! 70 years! 

God Bless you Ma'am. 

(say ma'am to rhyme with 'jam' not 'farm')

Excerpt from:  

They Said I Couldn’t Do It: John Mercer Langston: Young Black Lawyer In A White Man’s World (Book 2 in The Freedom Series)  

by Robyn R Pearce  

On pre-order with Amazon, Due for publication July 2022

About John Mercer Langston and the book:

John Mercer Langston, orphaned at four, loves to learn. His guardian says, ‘Black boys don’t need schooling.’

Against intense opposition, John wins admission to abolitionist Oberlin College, Ohio. It’s a radical town ― one of the few institutions in the 1840s and 50s to teach blacks and women alongside white students. 

Once educated, John sets out to be a lawyer. More opposition ― law schools slam their doors in his face.

But he’s a fighter. Refuses to be limited by other people’s prejudices. He’s driven to succeed, not only for himself, but also for the good of all people of color. He becomes one of the first black lawyers in America. But there’s more. He also becomes the first black ever elected by a white community to a civic position.

John and Oberlin form a great alliance. The town nurtures the young man, and he supports the townsfolk. Then, in 1858, the respectable God-fearing people of Oberlin defy the hated Fugitive Slave Act. They rescue a captured runaway slave. A David and Goliath battle of wills begins with the tiny town fighting the evil perpetrated by President Buchanan and his Federal officials. The Oberlin Rescuers, including John’s older brother Charles Langston, refuse to buckle under intense pressure. For ten months, September 1858 to July 1859, the community remains front-page news across the nation as legal battles rage. 

Only by a whisker does Ohio not fire the first bullets in what will become the most dreadful bloodbath in American history—the Civil War. Yet, since then, the history of John Mercer Langston, and the story of the Oberlin Rescue, have faded into the folds of history. It’s time to honor them again.

Chapter 24

1855, Brownhelm, North Ohio 

Apart from being the location of my lovely farm, there was something else very significant about Brownhelm Township. Like Oberlin and Elyria, its early settlers were New Englanders with firm opinions about respect and fairness to all. There were only a few exceptions—the most notable being one of my nearest neighbors. 

At first, he was dismissive and rude. Refused to engage in conversation as he rode past my fence. If he could have gone to town any other way, he assuredly would have taken it.  

‘I don’t talk to darkies,’ he was heard to say. Over time, using humor and good manners, I won him over. Eventually we became firm friends.

However, most residents were for the abolition of slavery and some were also conductors of the Underground Railroad. I quickly became well known in the community and enjoyed the open acceptance of many. 

In March 1855 the township needed to elect a new clerk. I was on my way to a meeting to help choose a candidate for the Liberty party, when along came my friend Charles Fairchild, also on horseback. As we walked our horses along the street he said, ‘John, I’m intending to nominate you tonight for the position of Town Clerk.’

I pulled on the reins. Brought my horse to a stop in the middle of the street. Looked at him in shock. ‘Oh no, you mustn’t do that, Charles. My name, I fear, would kill our ticket. We can’t afford to take such risk. We must nominate men who have a chance.’

Charles refused to listen. ‘I don’t care what you say, John. No-one has better qualifications than you for the job. It would be beyond wrong not to put your name forward.’ 

Pole-axed, I ceased arguing, sure that the rest of the nominating committee would reject his nomination.

But he was right, and I was wrong. That night they chose me as the Liberty Party’s candidate, and on polling day, to my delight and surprise, I was elected with a sound majority. It’s not putting too fine a point on it to admit I was beyond delighted—I was the first Negro in the nation elected to public office in an open contest with whites. The publicity did no harm to my career!

‘Mr. Langston, I’d like you to take on my case.’ 

‘Mr. Langston, there’s a matter of law I need to discuss with you.’

‘Mr. Langston, my neighbor’s trying to steal some of my land. He’s planted trees on my side of our boundary. Can you help?’

Day after day, new clients came to my door, and with the role of Town Clerk came many other legal matters as well. I was so busy I had no time to help on the farm. Thank goodness I’d hired an excellent manager. 

Then, one day, an opportunity of a different stripe arrived by letter, post-marked New York.

Dear Mr. Langston

We hear you’ve become the first black man in America to be elected to a civic position by a white community. We tender our most sincere congratulations. Your achievement is hugely significant for the promotion of equality between the races.

The American Anti-Slavery Society invites you to speak to our twenty-second anniversary conference, to be held May 1855 at the Metropolitan Theater, New York. Your time-slot, should you accept, will be for thirty minutes on the morning of May 9th., the anniversary of our founding. Exact time to be confirmed.

If you can join us on this important occasion, we will pay you an honorarium of $50, plus cover all expenses of travel and accommodation. 

Yours respectfully,

Edmund Quincy

Corresponding Secretary

American Anti-Slavery Society

No one had ever paid me for a speech before. I could scarce contain my excitement! This request to speak to the AASS would put me in front of some of the most high-profile abolitionists in the nation, people I was keen to meet. 

I thought about who might be there—people I’d either read about, or Frederick Douglass had mentioned. William Lloyd Garrison, one of its founders and the publisher of the abolitionist paper The Liberator; Wendell Phillips, lawyer and such a brilliant orator that people called him ‘abolition’s golden trumpet’; John G. Whittier, poet, Quaker and abolitionist; Gerrit Smith, the wealthiest landowner in New York State, who believed his wealth was a divine gift to be used for the oppressed. He’d already spent at least a million dollars on freeing slaves and supporting abolitionist causes. Would Harriet Beecher Stowe or her brother, Henry Ward Beecher, be there? And James and Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone, Stephen and Abby Kelley Foster? Heady stuff for a twenty-five-year-old black lawyer from a modest village in North Ohio!

Charles Fairchild called into my office while I was still holding the open letter, my brain spinning at the possibilities and opportunities it would open up. 

‘Look at this, friend!’ I passed the letter to him. ‘If you hadn’t insisted on nominating me, this would never have happened!’

He clapped a hand on my shoulder. ‘John, you so deserve it. How did they hear about you, I wonder?’

I tried to look humble. ‘I dropped a note to Mr. Douglass, telling him of the election result. As you know, he’s been my mentor in political matters for the last few years. He’s on the AASS Executive Committee. Perhaps he put a word in.’

‘Of course he did! Couldn’t happen to a better chap! Tell me, what do you know about their aims and objectives? There’s many abolition societies now.’

‘Mr. Douglass tells me the AASS don’t just fight for abolition. They also work to elevate the character and condition of people of color by combating prejudice and discrimination throughout the nation. He’s been wanting me to meet these people for over a year.’


On May 9th, with a cold rain washing the streets of New York, three thousand people crowded into the Metropolitan Theatre. 

I tried to quell my nerves as I waited to go onstage. Not possible. Rubbed my sweaty palms nervously on my trousers. Took several deep breaths. Imagined myself speaking to a friendly audience in Oberlin. The nerves settled a little.

Then I heard the Master of Ceremonies introduce me. I stepped out, blinking momentarily in the bright stage lights. I could only see people in the first few rows; the rest of the audience disappeared into the dimness. 

I began. ‘There is not, within the length and breadth of this entire country, from Maine to Georgia, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, a solitary man or woman who is in possession of his or her full share of civil, religious and political liberty. […] Why? Because slavery is the great lord of this country, and there is no power in this nation today strong enough to withstand it.’

I talked about the unfreedom of black and white, Northerners and Southerners, rich and poor. Of how the evils of slavery contaminated the entire nation, because prejudice was its fruit. And I shared an example I knew intimately. 

‘I wish to speak now of […] the class which I have the honor to represent—the free people of color. What is our condition regarding civil, religious and political liberty? In the State in which I live, Ohio, they do not enjoy the elective franchise, and why? It is owing to the indirect influence of American slavery. Slavery in Kentucky, the adjoining State, says to the people of Ohio, “You must not allow colored people to vote and be elected to office, because our slaves will hear of it and become restless, and directly we shall have an insurrection and our throats will be cut.” And so the people of Ohio say to the colored people, that they cannot allow them the privilege of voting, notwithstanding the colored people pay taxes like others, and in the face of the acknowledged principle that taxation and representation should always go together.’

I finished with a challenge. ‘Shall our free institutions triumph and our country become the asylum of the oppressed of all climes? […] May God help the right!’

As the audience rose to their feet, cheering and clapping, my heart raced. I’d done it! I’d spoken to this mighty audience and they liked what I had to say! I walked on air for the rest of the day! The following morning’s New York dailies printed my speech in full, as did all the main anti-slavery papers and journals around the country. 

After that huge congress, nothing was the same. Everything I’d done until then had been but a training ground for the wider fight. My ability to influence others for the good of my race changed, thanks to that invitation. 


Pre-order your copy now to discover the first thirty years of inspirational John Mercer Langston’s life. Help him take back his rightful place in American history as one of the outstanding black leaders of his century. 

Amazon links:

About Robyn

New Zealander Robyn Pearce writes both historical fiction and non-fiction. An amazing collection of family letters and journals started her digging into freedoms lost and won, thanks to intrepid ancestors who made the long and dangerous voyage to New Zealand in the mid-1800s. Abolitionist forebears, conductors on the Underground Railroad, are the inspiration for her current series. Bless them, they saved their correspondence! 

See her fiction and more about her at 

Her eight non-fiction titles, a number of them best-sellers, all relate to improved productivity and effectiveness. They’ve been written during her thirty-year international career as the Time Queen. Find heaps of free resources and help with time management at

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Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Anna Belfrage -From Diamond to Platinum: Celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee

To celebrate Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee Discovering Diamonds is hosting a series of excerpts or articles written by our wonderful review team. For our author reviewers: the theme is an excerpt from one of their novels portraying royalty - or an equivalent leader-type character. For our non-writer reviewers: a favourite monarch and/or novel about Royalty... In other words, an enjoyable mix of entertainment to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II's longest reign in British history! 70 years! 

God Bless you Ma'am. 

(say ma'am to rhyme with 'jam' not 'farm')

Today an excerpt from 

Days of Sun and Glory

by Anna Belfrage

 book #2 in The King’s Greatest Enemy

(Allow me to introduce Queen Isabella, at present the most unhappy wife of Edward II.  Isabella plays a central role in my series The King’s Greatest Enemy but she is rarely as vulnerable as she is in the below. After all, Isabella is a firm believer in shaping your own destiny wen so required… )

After stabling their horses and finding their accommodation, Adam escorted Kit to the hall, snugly positioned within the inner curtain wall. Behind them the white keep loomed, in the inner bailey a gaggle of small boys were playing a loud game with a ball, and in the hall itself the chill of winter reigned, with Queen Isabella speaking with so much ice in her voice it was a miracle the words did not fall to the floor and shatter into fragments.

“You are doing what?” Isabella stood so straight she resembled a lance.

“I have confiscated your dower estates – for now,” the king replied offhandedly, his eyes on anything but his wife.

“You have no right! Those are my lands, mine, given to me by contract! How dare you?”

“I have every right!” The king rose from his chair. “Your lands are ultimately my lands – as all are lands in this, my kingdom!” He glared at the assembled barons, shoulders shoved forward in a menacing stance.

“But why? What have I done—”

“I have reason to suspect you may have consorted with traitors.”

“Traitors?” Prince Edward gasped. “My lady mother?”

The king blinked, looking at his son as if he had just realised he was there. He beckoned him towards him, but instead the prince shifted closer to his mother, mouth setting in a straight gash.

“I have done nothing of the sort! Where is your proof? Your witnesses?” the queen demanded.

“I have no need for proof.”

“So I am accused and judged guilty on what? On his say-so?” The queen spun around, pointing at Lord Despenser. “Is it his poisonous lies that you believe, my liege? His preposterous accusations that you act upon?”

Despenser almost tripped in his haste to distance himself from the angry queen.

“I follow my own counsel!” the king roared.

“Your own counsel?” The queen laughed out loud.

“Silence!” The king had gone the colour of a scalded ham. With an effort, he composed himself. “I have decided to relieve you of your dower lands. With the impending war with France, the kingdom needs the income, and surely you will not begrudge me the monies I need to build up a defensive army, will you?”

“And what of my expenses?” The queen demanded.

“Your expenses will be covered – at a level I find reasonable.” King Edward inclined his head slightly. “My queen must live as her position requires.”

“A level you find reasonable?” the queen echoed. “What precisely does that mean, husband?”

“It means I control the purse strings.” The king smirked. “I dare say there will be some minor changes.”

“What changes?” the prince demanded. At almost twelve, he was already as tall as his mother, and standing side by side with her, they looked remarkably alike – except in colouring.

“That is a matter between your mother and me,” the king snapped, making the prince flush. The king relented. “We must all economise, my son. Arms and soldiers are expensive.”

“Couldn’t you have asked Maman to contribute instead of stealing her lands?” The prince’s voice shook.

“Tread carefully, my son,” the king warned.

Adam pressed his lips together. Now was not the moment for his lord to explode into the famed Angevin temper, however impressive his lordling looked. Apparently, the queen agreed, and she said something in a low and earnest voice that had Prince Edward at first shaking his head. Everyone heard him mutter, “But it isn’t right, Maman!” and everyone saw him glare at Despenser, who quailed under the weight of his stare.

“Will he flee the country, do you think, once the prince becomes king?” Kit murmured in Adam’s ear.

“He will try,” Adam replied, just as low. But God would not be so unjust as to allow Despenser to flee, and Adam knotted his hands, thinking of alternative ways to make Despenser pay for everything he’d done.

By the dais, the prince knelt before his father and mumbled an apology. The king ruffled his hair, and the prince tensed, much like a cur expecting to be kicked.

“He won’t forgive his father for this,” Adam said, watching as Prince Edward regained his feet.

“I fear there is more to come,” Kit whispered back, nodding in the direction of Despenser, now with his head very close to the king’s. The king nodded and said something in a low voice to the queen.

“What?” The queen had no compunction about keeping her voice down. She looked from the king to Eleanor de Clare and back again. “You’re putting her in charge of John’s household? Why her?”

“Why not her?” the king asked.

“Because she’s your lapdog’s wife!” the queen screeched. “And he, Hugh Despenser, he wants to steal my children’s affection from me.” She hugged her eldest son close.

“You hear that, Hugh? My lapdog?” The king laughed. No one else did, least of all Despenser, who was looking at the queen as if he would gladly disembowel her there and then. “Our son is old enough to have his own household,” the king continued calmly. “John must be brought up closer to court, while his sisters—”

“Yes, what about his sisters – my daughters?”

Our daughters will be transferred into the care of Roger and Isabel Monthermer.”

“His sister!” Yet again, the queen pointed at Hugh Despenser. “And you,” Queen Isabella rounded on Eleanor de Clare, “do not believe I don’t know that you’re behind all this. I swear that one day I will do to you what is done to me today. I will take your precious children from you, and you will rue the day you took mine.”

Lady Eleanor’s face crumpled, eyes darting to the king.

“What nonsense is this?” The king scowled at his wife. “Eleanor had nothing to do with this – and besides, you seem to forget, my lady, that it is I, not you, who has the ultimate say in our children’s lives. All of our children,” he added significantly, looking at his eldest son.

“Previously, you have always discussed these issues with me,” the queen flared, “not with them.” Queen Isabella looked at Eleanor de Clare as if the woman was a maggot-infested corpse. Under that bright green stare the lady shrank, pressing back against her husband, who looked as discomfited as his wife.

“I do as I please,” the king retorted.

“You always do as you please, not as you must,” the queen said. “And today, at your pleasure, you have deprived me of my income and my say in how our children’s lives should be ordered.” She bowed. “I have no option but to obey, being your loyal wife and subject, but I fear that for this, my lord husband, you will suffer the everlasting fires of Hell. God will punish you as I, weak woman that I am, cannot. This, my lord, will cost you everything. Everything.”

The king paled. “Are you then my enemy?”

“Your enemy? I am your wife, the mother of your children. Have I ever not done my duty by you? Is this how you repay me? By stealing everything away from me?”

“It is best this way,” the king said.

“So says every thief!” The queen drew herself up to stand as straight as a lance before the king. “Tell me, my lord, was this your own little scheme? Or is it Despenser who thinks, while you merely obey?”

A hush followed these words.

“Maman,” Prince Edward groaned, taking a step towards his mother.

“Do not move, son,” the king snapped, his gaze never leaving his queen. “You will do as I bid and go with Lady Eleanor – now!”

Lady Eleanor made as if to take the prince by the arm.

“Do not touch me!” The prince reared back. “I will do as my father commands, but I will not tolerate your hands on my body.” Prince Edward looked at the king, and at Queen Isabella. “I excuse myself, my lord,” he said, bowing to his father. “My lady mother.” He knelt before her, and Isabella’s eyes blazed in triumph. Before anyone could stop him, the prince got to his feet and left.

“I must go after him,” Adam murmured to Kit.

“As I must go after her,” Kit replied, nodding in the direction of the queen, already leaving the hall in a flurry of skirts.


(Is Isabella devastated? Oh yes. Is she down for the count? Oh, no!)


Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

About the author

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England.  Anna has also published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.

At present, Anna is hard at work with the next instalment of her “Castilian” series. Once again, she returns to the medieval world. In His Castilian Hawk, she transports us back to Wales during Edward I’s conquest. In The Castilian Pomegranate, the reader is invited along to medieval Castile and Aragon, places rife with intrigue and betrayal. The next book is as yet nameless, but is set in England.

Anna has also recently published a new time travel novel, The Whirlpools of Time.  Join Duncan and the somewhat reluctant time-traveller Erin on their adventures through the Scottish Highlands just as the first Jacobite rebellion is about to explode.

All of Anna’s books have been awarded the IndieBRAG Medallion, she has several Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choices, and one of her books won the HNS Indie Award in 2015. She is also the proud recipient of various Reader’s Favorite medals, several Discovered Diamond awards and has also won various Gold, Silver and Bronze Coffee Pot Book Club awards.

Find out more about Anna, her books and enjoy her eclectic historical blog on her website, 

Sign up to Anna’s newsletter to keep up with new releases, give-ways and other fun stuff: 


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Monday, 20 June 2022

Marian L. Thorpe: From Diamonds to Platinum - celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee

To celebrate Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee Discovering Diamonds is hosting a series of excerpts or articles written by our wonderful review team. For our author reviewers: the theme is an excerpt from one of their novels portraying royalty - or an equivalent leader-type character. For our non-writer reviewers: a favourite monarch and/or novel about Royalty... In other words, an enjoyable mix of entertainment to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II's longest reign in British history! 70 years! 

God Bless you Ma'am. 

(say ma'am to rhyme with 'jam' not 'farm')

Empire's Bard
by Marian L. Thorpe

Swearing the Oath

An excerpt from Empire’s Bard: the gathering of landowners to confirm—or reject—the fourteen-year-old Ruar as Teannasach (Chieftain, roughly) of Linrathe.

“We could not have held Sorham,” Daoíre said. “Too many Härren saw the Marai favourably. Too many marriages and trade alliances made across the narrow sea.” 

“Not only is the treaty favourable,” Ruar said, “but I will remind you again of Lord Sorley’s loyalty to me, your Teannasach. He saw the need for me to come north to my people, accompanied me and fought at my side, taking a wound.”

“Ruar,” Liam said, “you forget yourself. No support from the Eirënnen has yet been offered.”

“Donnalch’s son is your choice, Raséair?” Ingold asked. “Yours and the other men of your house?”

“He is,” Liam said. A reluctant choice, I knew. “The boy should succeed his father.” 

“Then let us hold that oath-giving and get on with the council,” Ingold said.

“How old are you?” the Eirën who had challenged me asked. 

“Fourteen,” Ruar replied. 

“Na,” the man said. The northern pronunciation: his lands would be near the Sterre, then. “You’re only a youngling. Daoíre, will you not stand?”

“I will not,” he said. “I am not of the Teannasach’s blood.”

“But your sons —” The man stopped. “Forgive me, Daoíre. They died early on, did they not?”

“On the Sterre,” Daoíre said quietly. I hadn’t known. Hadn’t asked. “With yours, Utar.”

So many men had fallen that day, fighting against a strong Marai force supported by too many men of Sorham. Surrender had come quickly, and shortly afterwards, the quiet organization of the Ti’acha and certain torps into a network for those who opposed Fritjof’s rule. 

“Shall we give our oaths?” Ingold said, after a moment’s silence.

“No,” Utar said. “I want something decided. The lad clearly favours Lord Sorley, and I still don’t accept his right to sign the treaty. We should settle that question first.”

“What question?” A woman’s voice. Birgit, wife to the Eirën Sullis; he’d died with only an infant daughter as his heir, and Birgit had declared her intent to run the torp on her own. 

“The question of consequence,” Utar said. “Is he to be allowed such a presumption? He was not an envoy. I say it was almost treasonous.”

“If I am a traitor to anyone,” I said, “it is Sorham. What would you have had me do, Utar?” I felt a flare of irritation, damped it down. 

“Let Cillian na Perras sign it,” he said. 

A laugh from among the men. “Utar,” someone said with an impatient edge, “he is sworn to the southern Empire.”

“A traitor long before that, from what I’ve heard,” Utar said. 

That first flare of irritation blossomed into anger. “A traitor?” I growled, my chair scraping against flagstones as I stood to lean over the table. “Who do you think negotiated these terms? Could you have done better?”

“Not likely,” I heard from among the men. “Utar, shut up. You could barely sell fleeces to the Marai.”

Voices rose, in argument and defence. Liam pushed himself to his feet. “Quiet!” he shouted, smashing a fist on the tabletop. The hall fell silent. Blood pulsed in my temple.

“The loyalties of Cillian na Perras are known to me,” he said, his old voice quavering a little. “I have no love for the man, and he could not have signed the treaty for Linrathe, but its terms are fair.” 

“They are,” Ingold agreed. 

“And Cillian na Perras is no traitor,” Hagen said. “I’ve known him all my life.”

A derisive snort from Utar earned him Liam’s silencing glare. I took a deep breath. “Were I not a toscaire, and sworn to the land and its people,” I said, “I would be first to offer my oath to Ruar.”

“Then I will be,” Ingold said, standing. 

“First after his family.” Daoíre said. 

“Aye,” Liam said. He coughed, shook his head for patience as he found his breath. “I cannot kneel, Ruar. You have my oath as your great-uncle and your regent, Teannasach.”

Daoíre swore next, and Oisín, and then Bhradaín, before the Eirënnen came, one by one, to pledge their loyalty to Ruar. Birgit, too: women did not usually make the oath, but as a landholder she was required to. When she and the others arrived home, their torpari men would swear too, their lords standing proxy for the Teannasach. Men who were not landholders: the army, the Comiádha, the travelling teachers and traders, the scáeli’en; all would swear the oath too, at different times and places. Unless Ruar refused a man: it was his right. I wondered if he would accept Utar’s. 

Bhradaín, recording who swore their allegiance this day, bent close to my ear. “See who is last,” he murmured. “Utar, and others whose lands abut the coast and the Sterre. They will bear watching, in the years to come.” 

Universal Link:  Empire’s Bard:

About Marian

Not content with two careers as a research scientist and an educator, Marian L Thorpe decided to go back to what she’d always wanted to do and be a writer. Author of the alternative world medieval trilogy Empire’s Legacy, Marian also has published short stories and poetry. Her life-long interest in Roman and post-Roman European history informs her novels, while her avocations of landscape archaeology and birding provide background to her settings. As well as writing and editing professionally, Marian oversees Arboretum Press, a small publishing imprint run as a collective.  

twitter @marianlthorpe

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Friday, 17 June 2022

Helen Hollick: From Diamond to Platinum - celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee

To celebrate Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee Discovering Diamonds is hosting a series of excerpts or articles written by our wonderful review team. For our author reviewers: the theme is an excerpt from one of their novels portraying royalty - or an equivalent leader-type character. For our non-writer reviewers: a favourite monarch and/or novel about Royalty... In other words, an enjoyable mix of entertainment to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II's longest reign in British history! 70 years! 

God Bless you Ma'am. 

(say ma'am to rhyme with 'jam' not 'farm')

The first King to be Crowned in Westminster Abbey
King Harold II

"A novel of enormous emotional power" 
Elizabeth Chadwick

Two men. One crown.
The story of the events that led to the year 1066
the most famous date in English History.

England, 1044. Harold Godwinesson, a young, respected earl, falls in love with an ordinary but beautiful woman. In Normandy, William, the bastard son of a duke, falls in love with power.

In 1066 England falls vulnerable to the fate of these two men: one, chosen to be a king, the other, determined to take, by force, what he desires.

Risking his life to defend his kingdom from foreign invasion, Harold II led his army into the great Battle of Hastings in October 1066 with all the honour and dignity that history remembers of its fallen heroes.

In this beautifully crafted tale, Helen Hollick sets aside the propaganda of the Norman Conquest and brings to life the English version of the story of the man who was the last Anglo-Saxon king, revealing his tender love, determination and proud loyalty, all to be shattered by the desire for a crown – by one who had no right to wear it.

Excerpt From Harold The King /I Am The Chosen King

6th January 1066

London, Westminster Abbey

Standing flanked by the archbishops Ealdred of York and Stigand of Canterbury, Harold struggled to retain his concentration. A combination of tiredness, excitement and unexpected nerves was getting the better of him. To his left, a slab of marble lay new-mortared into the floor before the altar. Harold stared down at it as the abbey echoed from the singing of the Te deum laudamus, the ceremony of acclamation. Beneath the slab rested Edward’s coffin and the shrouded body of the dead king.

But he is no longer king, Harold thought, incredulously. The people have been asked if they will accept me as their sovereign and they have acclaimed me so.

Ealdred’s explicit words reverberated in Harold’s mind: “King, elected by the clergy and the people.”

The abbey of Saint Peter of Westminster, this sixth day of January in  the year 1066, was as crowded now as it had been earlier in the day for Edward’s funeral. Some of the populace who had trooped from London and neighbouring villages and hamlets, unwilling to give up a prized position on a bench, had remained stubbornly in their seats, drinking their skins   of ale and chewing goat’s cheese and bread. A cold easterly wind raged  outside, another reason to stay warm and dry within.

Reading in English from a schedule given him by the archbishop, Harold solemnly declared the triple oath, his mind flirting with incongruous personal thoughts as Ealdred proceeded to give instruction and admonishment for his own good and for that of his people. Soon, he would ask Harold to make the promises to keep true peace within the Church of God and the whole dominion of his Christian people, to forbid rape and wrongful acts in every degree, and to ordain that justice and mercy should be observed in all legal judgments: the traditional preliminaries to the ceremony proper.

Several times Harold felt the urge to run from the abbey, flee before it was too late. He was to be king, the first to be crowned in this abbey by God’s good mercy could he do this thing? Edgar, the boy, was the heir and ætheling but if he, a man grown, was filled with these doubts and anxieties, how would a lad of his age grapple with the enormity of the task ahead? Those doubts had almost overcome Harold in the early hours of yesterday morning as news came that Edward was dead. “Do I deserve to be elected king?“ he had said to the council. “I am a statesman, a warlord, but  am I the stuff of kingship?”

“What is it you shirk from?” his brother Gyrth had asked. “Or do you fear those who may oppose you? The commitment to God and country? The responsibility?”

“I fear all those!” Harold had retorted emphatically. “I would be the greater fool were I not to.”

“Which is why you will make a good king,” Eadwine of Mercia had countered, offering his hand in friendship..

In the abbey, Harold jerked his attention back to the ceremony. Ealdred was again standing before him, anointing his head with chrism, the holiest oil known to the church, and the anthem, They Anointed Solomon, lifted from the sweet, clear voices of the choir.

Trouble would come from Normandy over this. Could there be any doubting that unofficial word was already speeding on its way southwards? Officially, a letter would be sent by courier on the morrow, duly endorsed by the newly crowned and anointed king, greeting William and asking that the marriage arrangement between himself and William's daughter be upheld, to unite Normandy and England in the union of kinship. Kinship? What stability or loyalty did kinship bring?

A brother. Tostig. How was he going to react to this day’s crowning? Harold could guess only too well. And his sister Edith, where did her loyalty lie? With a brother, certainly, but not with the one declared as king. She had refused to attend this ceremony, claiming it was too soon after Edward’s death. Harold admitted she was right there, for he too had protested against a kingmaking coming on the same day as a king's burial. Edward had died in the hours of the fifth day of January, was put into his grave on the morning of the sixth and his crown placed on the head of his successor that same afternoon.

“We wait until the next calling of the council, then, do we?” council had responded with unanimous scorn. “Let England flounder like a beached whale, inviting our enemies to come through the wide open door to sample our ale and women?”

For too long already had earls been absent from their manors, thegns from their farm holdings, bishops and abbots from congregation and monastery. Council ought to have disbanded three days past, for snow would be coming soon.

Archbishop Ealdred had said boldly, “We must all of us leave Westminster on the morning after Edward is buried. We cannot wait until the next council for a coronation. It would be better for you to claim your crown now. By Easter, who knows who else may come to try for the fit of it?”

To combine the laws of land and God together, the church had created a liturgy for the investiture of the Regalia of Kingship. There were five items of holy symbolism: the ring, sword, crown, the sceptre and rod, given to the king with the blessings of the Mother of God, Saint Peter, prince of apostles and Saint Gregory the apostle of the English and all the saints.

“May God make you victorious and conqueror over your enemies; may He grant you peace and with the palm of victory lead you to His eternal kingdom. May God bless this, our chosen king, that he may rule like David and govern with the mildness of Solomon.”

And the abbey, so newly built and which smelt of sawdust and mortar, incense and male sweat, was filled with the answering roar of acclaim, shouted from every lip and every heart as men came to their feet, three times lifting their arms in salute, and their voices in endorsement: Vivat Rex! Vivat Rex! Vivat Rex in aeternum!

Harold sat, enthroned, enrobed, his expression a look of almost childlike wonder. He saw a sea, an ocean of faces, all with their right arms raised, mouths open acclaiming him. Long live the King! His brothers Leofwine and Gyrth his nephew, Hakon, so delighted to be home in England among his kindred. The earls, Eadwine and Morkere; ealdormen of the council; men of the holy church. His friends, housecarls, thegns. To one side, his mother Countess Gytha, sated with pride and pleasure. Beside her, his sons, his daughters. Goddwin, Edmund, Magnus, Ulf, Algytha and Gunnhild. The boys with great moon-full grins, hands raised, chins jutting, shouting, Vivat Rex!

“Hollick constructs a magnificent epic in this unabashedly pro-Saxon recounting of a turning point in English history. Thanks to masterful storytelling, Harold's nobility and heroism enthral to the point of engendering hope for a different ending to the famous battle of 1066.” Publishers Weekly

“Whether the events described actually happened is unimportant, that the reader feels instinctively that they could have happened is the sign of a superior novel. This is a fabulous read and one to be recommended unreservedly – even to committed ‘Williamites’. If only all historical fiction could be this good." Historical Novel Society Reviews

From Amazon Reviews:

"Liked every page, never bored and felt like I was living in the time."

"What a compelling tale! Couldn't put it down. The battle is secondary, as this is the tale of the perfect storm that led William and Harold to that fateful day in Hastings."

"A well written - and well researched - story of the last Saxon king, Harold II."

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About Helen

First published in 1994 with her Pendragon's Banner Trilogy, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. 

Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She is now branching out into the quick read novella, 'Cosy Mystery' genre with her new venture, the Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales (Amberley Books) and Life of A Smuggler (Pen & Sword).

She lives in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon, runs Discovering Diamonds, and occasionally gets time to write...

Website   Facebook   Twitter @HelenHollick  

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