Wednesday, 29 May 2013


by Marie Laval
Published by MuseitUp Publishing

Passion, lost treasure and deadly secrets in the heart of the Sahara

Algiers - 1845
Arrogant, selfish and dangerous, Lucas Saintclair is everything Harriet Montague dislikes in a man. He is also the best guide in the whole of the Barbary States, the only man who can rescue her archaeologist father from the gang of Tuareg fighters that has kidnapped him. As Harriet embarks on a perilous journey across Algeria with Saintclair and Archibald Drake, her father’s most trusted friend, she discovers a bewitching but brutal land where nothing is what it seems. Who are these men intent on stealing her father’s ransom? What was her father hoping to find in Tuareg queen Tin Hinan’s tomb? Is Lucas Saintclair really as callous as he claims—or is he a man haunted by a past he cannot forgive? Dangerous passions engulf Harriet’s heart in the heat of the Sahara. Secrets of lost treasures, rebel fighters, and a sinister criminal brotherhood threaten her life and the life of the man she loves.

Does forever lie in the lion’s embrace?


It was a narrow valley where the river curved into a bend, secluded by thick bushes and reeds. After a quick glance around to make sure she was alone, she stripped and walked naked into the water. It was so cold it took her breath away. She gritted her teeth, clutched her bar of soap, and walked into the river until the water reached her hips. Getting rid of the grime and sweat of the past few days was worth the torture…

Holding her breath, she dipped into the water before standing and lathering soap over her body and her hair.

The light was changing. A transparent gold dust touched the hillside, the top of the trees. The sunrise streaked the sky with red, orange, and pink hues, reflecting into the river. She was alone in the world, in a bubble hovering between sky and water.

It was then she heard the growling. Stones tumbled down the hillside seconds before a male lion jumped onto the river bank, sleek and agile. It approached the river and started drinking. It hadn’t seen her. Yet.

Her heart thumping with terror, she ducked under the water very slowly, careful not to make any ripples on the surface. How long would she have to hold her breath? How long did it take a lion to quench its thirst after a night spent hunting? What if it saw her and came after her? Did lions, like cats, hate water? Her lungs started to burn, she felt close to choking. When she couldn’t hold on any longer, she popped her head above the water and took a long, long breath.

The lion had gone.

“You are one lucky woman,” a voice called from the bank.

Still breathless, she spun round. Saintclair crouched near the water, a knife in one hand, a pistol in the other. 

“How l-long have you be-been here?” she stuttered, her teeth chattering from cold and shock.

“Long enough.”

Had he watched her undress and get into the water? Actually, she’d rather not know.

She moved her legs and arms, numb and stiff with cold.

“Is it safe? Has the lion gone?” She looked toward the hillside.

“You’re safe. From the lion, that is.” He narrowed his eyes. “I, on the other hand, might just want to throttle you for disregarding my orders. I knew taking you with us was a mistake. I knew you were stubborn. I didn’t realize just how reckless, how stupid you were. You could have been mauled to death just then.” 

“I handled the lion perfectly well on my own.” She tilted her chin. Her heart had almost stopped with fright, but there was no reason to tell him.

He stood up, put his pistol in the holster on his hip, slid the knife in his boot, and walked toward the edge of the water. His face was so tense, his eyes so steely, that she recoiled. He was going to walk into the river, pull her out and…

“Damn it, woman, you were told not to leave the camp alone. You were warned about lions roaming this area. There are all sorts of dangers here—wild animals, snakes, scorpions.” He looked up towards the hillside. “Raiders.”

She swallowed hard, followed his gaze toward the top of the hills.

He shook his head.

“If that lion hadn’t been so old and half-blind, you wouldn’t be talking to me now.”

“It seemed pretty sprightly to me,” she muttered.

He snorted.

“Get out. You’re freezing, and your lips are blue,” he said without a trace of sympathy in his voice.

She shivered, nodded. “Only if you turn round.”

“It’s a bit late to play the prude,” he muttered, but he obliged and faced the other way.

So he had seen her naked. Well, he wouldn’t see her now. She covered her chest with her arms and walked to the shore. She threw a nervous glance in his direction before stepping out of the water, but he remained immobile, his back to her, as if he had been turned into rock.

She gathered her clothes as fast as she could, stumbling on pebbles in her haste, and chose a large bush behind which to get dressed.

Her fingers were too cold, too stiff to fasten her tunic’s tiny buttons. She had to leave it open for now. She put her boots on and ventured out of the bushes. Saintclair took one look at her and snarled.

“You can’t go back to camp half dressed.”

She pulled her tunic across her chest to cover up, shifted uncomfortably on her feet.

“I can’t do the buttons up,” she said, showing him her hands still red raw with cold.

He tightened his lips but didn’t answer.

The sun now peeped above the rugged hilltop, a huge orange ball setting the sky on fire. Dazzled, Harriet caught her breath.

“This is…magnificent. We don’t have sunrises like that in England.”

He gazed at her face, at her eyes filled with wonder.

“No but you have rain, summer storms.”

He stepped closer and looked down into her eyes. “I always wanted to stand outside in a thunderstorm.” Her eyes were a rain cloud right now, cool and soothing.

She smiled. “You might get hit by lightning.”

“Maybe, but what a beautiful way to die,” he said. His breathing was a little faster, his gaze heavier.
She parted her lips but didn’t answer. The colour of her cheeks deepened. In the opening of her tunic, the gold pendant gleamed against her milky white skin. His fingers itched to toy with it and bring it to his lips, still hot and fragrant from her body.

THE LION'S EMBRACE is available from:
And also at Barnes and Noble
You can find Marie Laval at

Sunday, 26 May 2013


A Mutual Interest in Numbers, Book 2 in my Love and the Library series is now available!

Love and the Library--A celebration of the beginnings of love wherein four Regency gentlemen meet their matches over a copy of Pride and Prejudice at the library.

A Mutual Interest in Numbers
Love and the Library Book 2: Ellen and Laurence

Lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice. Does it?

Regency gentleman Mr. Laurence Coffey doesn’t care for libraries and novels. His interests run to steam engines and mathematics. But his friend found the lady of his dreams at the library over a copy of Pride and Prejudice. Laurence yearns for a lady of his own, one of wit and cleverness as well as beauty. And while he doesn’t expect his friend’s luck, visiting the library can’t hurt.

Miss Ellen Palmer enjoys mathematics, but, unfortunately, many men frown on bluestockings. She loves the library and its mathematics books as well as its novels, especially her favorite, Pride and Prejudice. How she would like to find her own Mr. Darcy. Perhaps someday, somewhere, she can discover a man who wants an intelligent woman.

At the library, they both reach for a copy of Pride and Prejudice at the same time. Can their mutual interest in numbers--and this particular novel--make their dreams come true?

A sweet, traditional Regency romance. With a duck. Quack.

Laurence pushed aside a copy of Byron’s The Corsair and then curled his lip at a volume of sermons. Gads, sermons on Sunday were enough for anyone.

He set the sermons aside to reveal the book beneath. Pride and Prejudice. The novel that had brought his friend his lady.

Could this book somehow help a man find his love? He extended his hand toward the tome...

A gloved feminine hand, also reaching for the novel, bumped into his. “Oh, I beg your pardon.” The voice was soft and musical.

He jerked upright. “No, I beg your pardon.” The same extraordinary blue eyes that had almost knocked him flat a moment ago threatened to do so again. And he wouldn’t even care.

As if he were under the effect of Mr. Mesmer’s animal magnetism, he waved in the general direction of the book. “Please, be my guest.” Take the book. Take me.

A Mutual Interest in Numbers at Amazon, Amazon UK, Smashwords,
Barnes and Noble

And if you want to start with A Similar Taste in Books, Part 1 of Love and the Library, the blurb, excerpt and buy links are here.

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Lindsay Townsend: 'Escape to Love'. Opening Excerpt

Here's the opening of my erotic historical romance, 'Escape to Love.' This novella is set in ancient Rome. The cover shows a Roman 'bikini' - a two piece costume very popular with Roman women spending time at the notorious summer resort of Baiae.

Chapter 1

Rome AD 125
He came awake. A prickling discomfort, sharpening to pain, jabbed into the middle of his back.
“Have I your attention?'” The whisper was close to his ear. He tried to turn and the knife held at his back pricked him again. “Do not look round!”
The knife-wielder was female, young, and scared. Severus could have disarmed her in less than a breath, but he guessed that she had things to tell him, things he needed to hear. So much that was strange had already happened to him today that he was astonished he had slept at all.
“Who are you?” he murmured.
“You will know, soon enough, although I tell you now that I did not know of your existence before yesterday.”
He felt her hot breath against his naked shoulder, smelt her clean skin and the peppermint leaves she used to freshen her mouth. A thread of finely-woven cloth brushed his lower back: she was crouched close to where he lay on the tiles, her knife prodding against his spine. Whoever she was, the girl was no slave, although she was as fast and nervous as one, creeping upon him in the deserted atrium. “Did you douse the lights?” he whispered in Latin.
“Yes, and drugged the maid who is my keeper, so listen! Tomorrow may be a shock at first to you - it certainly was to me and I have had a full day to reflect on it, but keep this in mind: it is a chance for you. If you pass the trial tomorrow - don't ask what, there's no time to explain! - We’ll both be sent away to the family villa at Baiae. You will have a full month. Use the days to work out an escape for yourself. Pretend you do not understand much Latin. They’ll be expecting that and it may work to your advantage. They may promise you riches and freedom. Don’t believe them! If their plans work, they will never let you live. Do you understand Greek?”
Startled by the question, he automatically answered, “Yes.”
“Good, because they do not. It may be we can speak together after all, so long as we take care.”
“What is this month you speak of? What is Baiae?”
“You will know what the month is tomorrow. Baiae is a city beside the sea, a place of hot springs, theatres, parks and boating parties; where the rich and noble go for their summer holidays. A place where behaviors frowned on here near Rome can be indulged. Now I must grope my way back, before I am missed. Farewell!”
This last was in Greek. He felt a pair of soft warm lips kiss his shoulder and even as he rolled onto his stomach, trying to catch a glimpse of her in the humid darkness, the young woman was gone. He peered into the shadows of a corridor, willing his eyes to see more, but could scarcely make out his own hands.
He waited a few moments, listening, but the great hall remained as dark and silent as a tomb. Rolling onto his back, Severus thought of the woman's warning and recalled the previous day, when everything in his life had changed.
Until yesterday he had been a field-slave, picking grapes, hoeing fields, fixing carts, repairing walls - any task about the huge farm that the overseers wanted doing quickly and well. He labored hard because it was a point of pride to do so and because then he would sleep through the night, untroubled by dreams. Yesterday had been different, beginning at dawn when two overseers had shackled him in irons and brought him to the main house, where he had never been before.


Severus is a slave, dragged from the fields to an uncertain future. Warned to expect no mercy from a mysterious young woman who comes to him in the night, he learns that his natural father is his owner, Calvus, and that he has a half-brother, Thallus.

Thallus has no sexual interest in women but he is desperate for an heir. Severus and Thallus' sexy young wife Lydia, whom Severus recognizes as the mystery woman who warned him, are sent to the family palace at Baiae and expected to breed.

Lydia, used to an unconsummated, loveless marriage, is intrigued by the handsome Severus and appalled by her husband's and father-in-law's treatment of him. She finds herself anticipating their lovemaking. She also wants to help Severus to escape because she knows that once he has served his purpose, Thallus and Calvus will never let him live.

They have just a month to escape.

Lindsay Townsend

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Historical fiction: Reluctance by Jen Black

The heroine of Reluctance is Frances Bowes, the widowed heiress who insists she does not wish to re-marry at any cost. When a childhood friend returns to the neighbourhood, she is shocked to discover him drunk wandering the lanes at midnight and visits his home early next morning to see that he did not come to grief.


“What the hell are you doing here?”
“Please step back, sir.” To her shame, her voice sounded like a child pleading for comfort. When a floorboard creaked, she assumed he had stepped back. She laid her brow against the smooth, cool wood, closed her eyes, and spoke quietly. “I am not here to do you harm. The opposite, if only you will believe me.”

“Then why invade my home like some meddling, interfering busybody who—”
“I resent that!” Frances gathered together what shreds of dignity she possessed, turned, and met his sardonic gaze. “I am neither meddling nor interfering! I came to see…” Her voice faded into nothing. A flicker of fear ran through her skin. Grimly, she took a few swift breaths.

He waited, his head tilted to one side.
“I came to see that you were safe,” she added. “Last night you were as drunk as…as I have ever seen anyone, and I feared you would not arrive home without mishap.”

“And what is your scale of drunkenness, Lady Rathmere? How do you judge? I should wager you have never in your life seen a man drunk!”
Frances acknowledged the accuracy of his statement and worried her lower lip. “I am truly sorry,” she blurted at last. “Please believe my intentions were good.”

Streatham threw his hands in the air. “You invaded my bedchamber. What if I was not alone? What if I had a companion here? For God’s sake, woman, what were you thinking?”
“Oh.” Such a possibility had never crossed her mind.
“Oh, indeed.”

She flushed under his mockery, but met his gaze and held it. “I may have made a mistake,” she said, “but I find your behaviour both inappropriate and…detestable, sir.” It was only when her thigh knocked against the corner of an open trunk she realised that, step by step, she had retreated toward the windows. Somehow he had moved between her and the door and now lounged against it, watching her with disbelief in his eyes.

“Really?” His brows lifted. “And your invasion of my house, my room, is appropriate? I do not think you have any grounds on which to lecture me, madam.”

Frances found her way to the battered rocking chair in the corner and dropped into it. Her legs might stop shaking if she rested for a few moments. The relief was instantaneous, but when she met his gaze she knew she should not have taken such a brief respite. It would look as if she wished to stay. Immediately, she rose to her feet.

Posted by Jen Black,
Far After Gold, Fair Border Bride and Victorian Beauty

Monday, 13 May 2013

Death at Wentwater Court

by Carola Dunn

Great excitement yesterday--my editor sent me the cover art of the Polish edition of my very first mystery, Death at Wentwater Court, first published in 1994.

The book, Daisy Dalrymple's first adventure, is set in England in 1923--I'm not sure this cover quite brings the '20s to mind. This is the original US hardcover (and ebook). England, definitely, but not specifically 1920s.

Even this, the UK cover, isn't particularly '20s-ish.
The two German editions give a somewhat better feel of the period.


The US paperback is pretty good.
The audio book gives Daisy what looks like a Roman helmet...

In the end, I think my favourite is the large print edition.

What do you think?


"Will you skate with us this morning, Daisy?" Fenella asked. "I know you're frightfully busy but this weather may not last and we don't get such spiffing freezes very often."

"Yes, I'd like to, if I can borrow skates?"

"We have a cupboardful," James assured her. "There's bound to be something to fit you."

"Jolly good. I'll finish off the roll of film in the camera down at the lake, and spend the rest of the morning developing my pictures."

Sir Hugh, emerging from his newspaper, told her he owned shares in the Eastman Kodak company and asked about the developing and printing process. Daisy explained as she ate. James and Fenella lingered over their coffee until she had finished her breakfast, then took her to look for a pair of

Outside, the air was crisp and still. Daisy couldn't resist leaving a footprint or two in the glistening untrodden snow beside the path. It crunched underfoot.

James carried the skating boots down the hill for her as she was laden with camera and tripod. While she set them up, he and Fenella sat on the bench and put on their skates. They circled slowly at the near end of the lake, waiting for her.

"Go ahead," she called, already chilled fingers fumbling at the stiff catch that attached the camera to the tripod. "I'll be with you in half a mo."

Waving to her, they joined hands and whizzed off towards the bridge. As they reached it, James yelled, "Stop!"

They swerved to a halt beneath the arch. James moved cautiously forward into the black shadow cast by the low sun.

And then Fenella screamed.

Amazon Kindle: Death at Wentwater Court
Also available for Nook

Thursday, 9 May 2013

New Release THE FOLLY AT FALCONBRIDGE HALL by Maggi Andersen

New Release!

Maggi Andersen
Nominated for the RONE Award!

 Review: The author deserves high praise for her ability to capture the reader's attention and engage one in both the mystery and the romance of this delightful story!

Margaret Faria

InD’Tale Magazine

BLURB: Vanessa Ashley felt herself qualified for a position as governess, until offered the position at Falconbridge Hall. Left penniless after the deaths of her artist father and suffragette mother, Vanessa Ashley draws on her knowledge of art, politics, and history to gain employment as a governess. She discovers that Julian, Lord Falconbridge, requires a governess for his ten-year-old daughter Blyth at Falconbridge Hall, in the countryside outside London. Lord Falconbridge is a scientist and dedicated lepidopterist who is about to embark on an extended expedition to the Amazon. An enigmatic man, he takes a keen interest in his daughter's education. As she prepares her young charge, Vanessa finds the girl detached and aloof. As Vanessa learns more about Falconbridge Hall, more questions arise. Why doesn't Blythe feel safe in her own home? Why is the death of her mother, once famed society beauty Clara, never spoken of? And why did the former governess leave so suddenly without giving notice?

 Vanessa remembered passing the library on her first day and located it without difficulty. She entered the room, finding it empty. It was designed for masculine comfort. Bookshelves filled with tomes covered all available wall space. A tan leather chesterfield and two chairs were grouped in front of the fireplace, and a tiger skin covered the floor in front of the hearth. The Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Penny Press lay on a table, and the aroma of cigars and pipe smoke lingered in the air.
A variety of magazines was stacked in a rack. Vanessa sorted through The Gentleman’s Magazine, Punch, The Strand, and the London Sunday Journal. She selected Punch and the Penny Press to take back to her room.
She roamed the shelves searching for suitable books and found several on botany, including one by Lord Falconbridge on Lepidoptera. She piled them onto a mahogany table, along with the books and the notes she’d fetched from her room. Searching further, she spied Plato’s Symposium and climbed the ladder. It was just out of reach. Not wishing to climb down, she leaned across. Her fingers touched the binding, and she leaned farther. She almost had it.
“You read Ancient Greek, Miss Ashley?” Lord Falconbridge asked behind her.
Vanessa jumped, and her foot slipped off the rung. She lost her balance and fell into a pair of strong arms.
He set her on her feet. The imprint of his touch remained as her heart beat madly. She hugged a wisp of hair from her eyes, sure her face was crimson. “Not with any degree of expertise, my lord.” Available in print & e-book

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Guest blog: Robin L. Gordon - 'Searching for the Soror Mystica: the lives and science of women alchemists'

Blurb: The reader will find many types of stories in this account of women practicing alchemy. Diverse subjects are integrated that encompass 16th-17th century politics, religion, scientific inquiry, medicine and even the way love can result in some misguided choices. This book touches upon history of science, biography, classical Jungian psychology, women’s studies, theology and a dash of the occult sciences. Early scientists, or natural philosophers as they were known, did not separate subjects from each other the way modern academics tend to do. They were interested in how the universe worked and that meant studying everything, from astrology and physics to Jewish mysticism and the Christian Bible. They constructed connections that the modern thinker might overlook or more deliberately, dismiss as preposterous. I explore the lives and alchemical practice of some remarkable women as well as comment on the way alchemy fragmented into esoteric studies and modern chemistry.


How the Search for the Soror Mystica Began

Initially, my work began with previous research I had completed in which I examined the psycho-historical significance of the philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, and his relationship with alchemy. I argued that the study of alchemy played a considerable role in developing major scientific theories, a notion supported by research on the history of science. Alchemical study consists of an intertwined relationship between philosophy, theology, matter, spirit, and soul. There is evidence that the emergence of a separatio, a divergence in people’s understanding of the relationship between the ideas of body, soul, and spirit, occurred around the seventeenth century, at the time of the Scientific Revolution; yet, I could not reconcile how that split could take place within the context of an alchemical paradigm that was held by most philosophers of the time such as Boyle, Newton, and numerous other scientists who studied alchemy. Alchemy stated that body, soul, and spirit were bound together and separating them from each other, a step needed in order to finally create the Philosopher’s Stone, was a difficult task fraught with error. In the midst of researching these well-known scientists, I also began noticing tantalizing morsels of information concerning what I came to think of as the ladies of alchemy and science. It seemed that there were many women who studied alchemy and were sometimes referred to as a soror mystica (mystic sister).

Investigating the story of the soror mystica leads the researcher down disparate paths. The term soror mystica usually refers to the female helper of the alchemist. For example, in Psychology and Alchemy, the noted depth psychologist Carl Jung, identified a young woman named Theosebeia as a soror mystica and the helpmate of Zosimos of Panopolis. Possibly the actual sister of Zosimos as well, Theosebeia assisted him in writing one of the first alchemical encyclopedias, Cheirokmeta c. 300 CE. The encyclopedia consisted of 28 books and included references to the work of both Maria Prophitissa and Cleopatra (another alchemical investigator, not necessarily the well-known queen).

Another source of information on the soror mystica is the Mutus Liber (1677). This work consists of a series of 15 engravings that illustrate the steps in accomplishing alchemical work. The author is unknown except by the name, “‘Altus—the high, deep, or profound one.’” The Mutus Liber is unusual in that it depicts the alchemist working alongside a woman, possibly his wife, although the term, soror mystica is not used in the treatise. However, besides the women pictured in assorted woodcuts and engravings in the alchemical literature such as in the Mutus Liber, as well as references to the work of Maria Prophitissa, I initially found very little evidence of female alchemists.

A few unfamiliar names, however, did emerge in my research on the afore-mentioned men. For example, Lady Katherine Ranelagh (1614-1691), sister of the famous scientist, Robert Boyle, opened her home to her brother and his al-chemical colleagues. Perhaps I projected my own scientific curiosity onto her, but I could not help but think that someone who was associated with the stories of their research in natural philosophy would surely be involved with the work itself. There is evidence of her work in what some historians have described as medical chemistry or iatrochemistry. Katherine also studied the Kabbalah, the body of Jewish mysticism, and I wondered if she linked this religious learning to understanding the nature of the Philosopher’s Stone. Does the dearth of written evidence that she worked as an alchemist herself mean that she acted only as an assistant for her notable brother?

Months of combing through the collection at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, proved fruitful in my search for these women practitioners. For example, Marie Meurdrac was described by historian, Lucia Tosi as the first woman to publish a book on alchemy or early chemistry in La Chymie charitable et facile, en faveur des Dames Charitable [Easy Chemistry for Women]. In addition to providing detailed instructions for the creation of medicines and cosmetic ointments, Marie exhorted her readers to follow her example and dis-tribute these remedies free of charge to the poor, a practice that I eventually learned was common for many of the women alchemists. Marie also offered to teach women in her own laboratory if they felt unsure about attempting the alchemical work on their own.

The stories of women who studied the natural world have been given great-er examination as described elegantly by writers such as Margaret Alic, Lynette Hunter, Sarah Hutton, Merry Weisner and Tara Nummedal. Certainly, there were fewer educated women than men prior to the twentieth century, but many women, nonetheless, found a way to challenge their minds and immerse them-selves in a sincere study of the natural world. Thus, intrigued and invigorated, I continued to look for these elusive sisters in science. I have since compiled the names and stories of many women who were both skillful alchemists as well as researchers in several fields of science. I will describe the numerous ways they manifested their practice that was not always obvious and has been largely dis-regarded in traditional, alchemical literature.

Regarding research method, I employ the hermeneutic and heuristic methods, ones that are often employed in the field of social science and as well, depth psychology. Hermeneutics provides a framework for examining a question from several perspectives. Unlike a straightforward answer to one question, hermeneutics provides a space for exploring the numerous questions that continue to emerge in the course of research. One question leads to another and the resulting work may be quite different than what the researcher first planned. For example, I had not anticipated the significant role played by the study of the Christian Apocalypse that I found in the stories of many alchemists. The reader will find in chapter seven that one cannot disregard that area of study as peripheral. For some of the women in this book, their theology was so connected to their work that the question emerged and had to be addressed.

Another significant element of hermeneutic science will be seen throughout this book. Clark Moustakas describes this type of analysis; “hermeneutic science involves the art of reading a text so that the intention and meaning behind appearances are fully understood.”

Heuristics, as developed by Clark Moustakas, recognizes that the researcher is intimately involved with the subject of the research. There is some disagreement in the research community on how to define heuristics but the simplest way to explain the way I have used it in this book is to state that relating the stories of the women alchemists is one goal but I will also discuss what their stories mean to me. Moustakas explains:

It refers to a process of internal search through which one discovers the nature and meaning of experience and develops methods and procedures for further investigation and analysis. The self of the researcher is present throughout the process and, while understanding the phenomenon with increasing depth, the researcher also experiences growing self-awareness and self-knowledge. Heuristic processes incorporate creative self-processes and self-discoveries.

My work is subjective but I have tried to present alternative views to provide balance; the readers are invited to come to their own conclusions.

Finally, I have similarly approached my research from what is called a psycho historical perspective. Edward Edinger writes, “Everything that happens in the psyche happens for an adequate reason.” The field of depth psychology, which includes the study of the role of the unconscious in our psychic development, is the framework I will use to discuss my interpretation of what I believe occurred in the lives of the women alchemists. It will help the reader to understand that depth psychologists study the whole psyche, the unconscious as well as the conscious ego. Jung was followed by brilliant thinkers such as Marie Louise von Franz and Edward Edinger, who prodded the field further into explorations of how the unconscious is present and active in our daily lives. James Hillman added an archetypal element to depth psychology, characterizing the universe as alive and interconnected.
Depth psychology has a vested interest in traveling back in time to examine historical events through its particular lens. Our culture’s history is a story of our holistic development, the inner is reflected in the outer, or as the old alchemists often quoted, “as above, so below.” History does not unfold disconnected from psyche; it is a reflection, and often an unconscious one, of psyche’s development. Alchemical practices did not develop independently of the culture of the practitioners. It was spoken of in the terms of each generation, often employing its unique religious symbolism be it pagan, Gnostic, Christian, or of the Kabbalah. Carl G. Jung illuminated the analogy of alchemy and psychological development. It is within that context that I plan to reexamine events that are elements lacking in the story of Western evolution and the Scientific Revolution.

Another important aspect of understanding the idea of the psyche is that it has both a feminine and masculine nature, regardless of one’s sex. Balancing the feminine and masculine principles is a goal of individuation or psychic development. Eastern philosophy speaks of the feminine yin and the masculine yang as being active principles in our psyches. It can be argued that macro-entities such as culture and world consciousness contain these opposing aspects as well. The alchemical term coniunctio describes the joining of the two principles, resulting in something that is greater than the sum of the parts. This challenge of achieving harmony with the delicate balance of differing psychic energies will be illuminated in the course of telling the women alchemists’ stories.

Keeping in mind the existence of the masculine and feminine principles of psyche, a curious dichotomy appeared when I began my investigation searching for women alchemists. I sensed my inner psychic feminine principle pointing me strongly in the direction I should follow, via the tantalizing emergence of numerous names of women who appeared to be associated with alchemical work. The outer masculine; however, literally discounted these women. In one in-stance, I was informed via email by a prodigious author of traditional alchemical literature (physical alchemy) that in each case I cited in my email to him, the woman was fictional, inadequately documented, associated with herbal remedies which he stated was not “true alchemy,” or her alchemical status was the product of wishful thinking on the part of Jungians who wish to see coniunctio everywhere whether it exists or not. As I strive to be both a careful scholar and imaginative thinker, I felt that his points needed to be researched further. Yet, I also believed that these women, at a psychic level, were admonishing me that they were not phantasmagoria and furthermore, they cared little whether or not their work had been well documented by academics.

The deeper connection between the masculine and feminine principles of psyche is at the heart of my work. Historical accuracy regarding women’s practice of alchemy and what it looked like is important to me, not for the academic, scholarly, ego-oriented stamp of approval, but for the very fact that there is even a question of whether or not they studied the science. I question why the field of depth psychology, which values the feminine psyche, offers so little information regarding these women; yet, recounts so many stories of their male counterparts? Reading numerous accounts of alchemists results in a long list of male practitioners but only a handful of women. Why would women not have practiced this early chemistry? Why would certain scholars be so sure they did not? Why does one have to prove women studied alchemy as opposed to simply accepting the logic that they must have, considering their other well-known pursuits in astronomy, natural philosophy, and mathematics?

Therefore, I will also examine the nature of what some writers disparagingly label women’s alchemy, as if it were of lesser value, less meaningful, not sufficient. We do have examples of women’s early medicinal work in the rare, surviving copies of their recipe books or “receipts.” These women boiled herbs, made poultices, and processed curative food using the identical operations and implements employed by the alchemists. Alchemical practices such as distillation were, in fact, commonly used by non-alchemists as well as the traditional alchemist that comes to mind when we imagine some fellow working in his laboratory.

The notion that alchemy could manifest in different ways seems clear to me and is a central argument in my work. Robert Multhauf argues that telling the story of chemistry, the child of alchemy, necessitates examining how medicine and chemistry are completed by each other. This entails embracing alchemy as a legitimate science, rather than pretending that the work was an uncommon, occult practice. Margaret Alic discusses the role of alchemy in the manufacture of perfumes and cosmetics, and acknowledges that, “the work of the early alchemists was sometimes called opus mulierum—‘women’s work’” thus diminishing alchemy’s importance. Lynn Thorndike, however, quotes Libavius, a German alchemist who wrote Neo-Paracelsica (1594) and Alchymia (1597). He defined alchemy as “the art of accomplishing masteries and extracting pure essences from compounds by separating the body, while Chymia or chemistry was the second part of Alchymia and concerned with making chemical species.” Thus, alchemy subsumes chemistry rather than vice versa.
W.S.C. Copeman examines the connection between alchemy and the development of the field of medicine. He states, “No learned physician could afford to be without a working knowledge both of alchemy and astrology.” Alchemy and astrology were the foundations for studying the nature of matter and thus, contributed to the development of medical practice. Copeman describes how Queen Elizabeth learned chemistry from her personal astrologer and alchemist, Dr. John Dee. Even Pope John XXI is described as having been a physician and utilizing a laboratory at his Palace in Avignon where he also experimented with alchemy. Copeman points out that subsequent to the Pope’s failure at achieving transmutation, he issued his Papal Bull declaring that alchemy was not acceptable to God. Consequently, these records of men practicing alchemy in conjunction with healing make the use of the term, women’s alchemy, puzzling.

Bio: Robin L. Gordon, Ph.D. is Professor of Education at Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles. Professor Gordon began her career as a secondary science teacher in both public and private schools in Southern California. She completed a Ph.D. in Education at the Claremont Graduate University (1989) and a second Ph.D. in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute (2004). Professor Gordon’s area of research is multi-disciplinary. Recent publications include: “Finding the Philosopher’s Stone: An Essay on Teaching.” In Dennis Slattery & Jennifer Selig (Eds.) Reimagining Education: Essays on Reviving the Soul of Learning (New Orleans, LA: Spring Journal Books, 2009); “My Encounter with the Women Alchemists.” Alchemy Journal, 10(2), pp. 26-33; “Making Use of Story to Teach Science and Mathematics. “Ladder, 10-13, 2007; and Dupuis, Adrian D. & Gordon, Robin L., Philosophy of Education in Historical Perspective (3rd ed). Lanham, Mass: University Press of America, 2010).

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Lady's Slipper - orchids, obsession and murder

Top Pick! Swift's eye for detail and language augment this atypical debut. Compelling and intriguing, this is a
well-told story full of wonderful prose and surprising events. It's a vivid addition to the genre. 
RT BookReviews

Realistic dialogue, an author's obvious love for history, and characters that leap off the pages, THE LADY'S SLIPPER is a brilliant saga set in a time of confusion in England as it recovers from years of civil strife.
Romance Reviews Today

The story behind the Lady's Slipper Orchid and the book
In this excerpt you will notice that the Quaker, Richard Wheeler, speaks in the traditional old-fashioned Quaker way with 'thee' and 'thou.' Quakers believed in telling the truth, even to the degree that addressing a single person as 'you' - the plural form of address - was an untruth.


Alice did not often get to Kendal town, for to her regret, hiring a hackney was expensive, and could only be done once in a while. But today she had a number of errands to run that could not be trusted to anyone else. She had Thomas’s letters to deliver to the post and was to collect some other documents from the notary. It was chilly, and she was wearing a closed bonnet and a black woollen cape, but she was anxious not to be away from her work or the lady’s slipper for too long, so she made haste down the narrow streets, clutching the bundle of letters in her cold hands.

The town was thronging, for today was the meat market, and there were many horses and carriages from neighbouring villages, anxious to secure salt beef and bacon for the coming winter. She side-stepped a man carrying a shoulder of mutton, and headed down the cobbled hill towards the notary’s office.

On the counter in front of the ironmonger’s board, a bright copper kettle caught her eye and she paused to look at it, idly contemplating the other items – flat irons, crimpers, goffers, and tongs, scoops and ladles. She picked up a pretty doorknocker embossed with a rose, and held it up into the light to see the pattern. As she did so, she caught sight of a familiar figure in a brown felt hat, just rounding the corner. He was striding purposefully up the hill, his head bent down into the wind, a bulging canvas bag slung over his shoulder.

She bolted inside the shop, the doorknocker still in her hand, and turned her back to the door, feigning interest in the hanging scuttles, brushes and pokers. The shopkeeper followed her inside,

“Yes, mistress?”

She kept one eye fixed on the road outside as she held out the door knocker and asked,

“Have you more of these?”

“More?” He looked at her as if he did not understand.

Of course, people usually only needed one doorknocker. She saw Wheeler’s tall figure flash past the open awning.

“Well, yes, I do have more, mistress. How many would you like?”

Distracted, she said, “No thank you. Nothing at all. Good day.” And she put the doorknocker down on the table, leaving the shopkeeper staring down at it, nonplussed.

Scanning left and right as she came out of the dingy interior of the shop, she saw Wheeler’s broad back wending uphill between the other pedestrians. She crossed the road, for she did not want a battle of wits with him again if she could avoid it, and made her way quickly to where the overhanging buildings provided a shadow. She set off walking in the opposite direction.

She stopped briefly at the hosier’s, where she had ordered some new stockings in knitted silk. The weave was very fine, practically transparent. She put her hand inside one of them and admired the white silk look of her skin through the fabric, and the almost invisible seam, with its tiny fairy-like stitches. They were costly, but Thomas had never been close-fisted and she always had tokens in her purse, despite hints from acquaintances that his money lending business was teetering.

She had a few minutes very pleasant conversation with the hosier, who told her about Geoffrey’s wife, Emilia, and her latest order for long hose with tiny beads sewn up the back, and lace garters. Naturally these would be unsuitable for a woman in mourning, such as herself, but she enjoyed hearing about them before she swung out of the door, the thin wrapped parcel under her arm. She was still smiling as she launched herself up the street and straight into the solid chest of Richard Wheeler.

Agitated, she stepped back.

“Mistress Ibbetson, I beg pardon.”

“Mr. Wheeler.” She assessed the width of the path to see if she could make her excuses and leave, but he was blocking her way. She was sure it was deliberate. Curse the man.

“Thou art not at thy easel today, then?”

“No. No, I had some business in town,” she lifted the letters into his view.

He looked casually away, tapping his boot on the ground. “The rare orchid that was taken from my wood. There has still been no word of it.” He returned his gaze to her face, which by now had grown hot under her bonnet. “But if it were to be replaced, returned to its natural growing place, then I assure thee, that would be the end of the matter.”

She steeled herself. “I have said before, I know nothing of it. Excuse me.” “Besides, it has a sentimental value to me. I desire its return most fervently.”

“Then I sincerely hope you will find it, but I say again, it has nothing to do with me.”

Again she made to pass him, but he would not let her by. His face was stormy now, his eyebrows lowered. His voice came out loud and harsh. One of his hands was balled into a fist. He looked as though he might grab hold of her. Astonished, she backed away.

“Mistress Ibbetson. I do not like to be taken for a fool. I tell the truth and I would seek the same courtesy from thee. What wouldst thou have me do? Shake thee? Send for the Constable?”

“You must do as you think fit.” She turned on her heel and left him standing in the street behind her. She did not turn, just hied away as fast as she could. When she had put a good distance between them, she stopped to catch her breath, leaning against the warm stone wall of the bakehouse.

She was appalled at herself. She knew she had somehow crossed a line, that there would be no going back now. Her heart throbbed at her throat. Patently, there could be no more polite conversations with him. What had got into her? Partly she knew that it was stubbornness. But he got under her skin somehow, with his refusal to see her point of view. And to think, she had thought him pleasant, a man with a kind heart.

A few months ago she had stood behind him in a queue at the miller’s when a lad had come in for a bushel of corn. The miller had upped the price by a third for the lad, from the price it had been for Kendall’s steward, and Wheeler had stepped forward,

“Everything has a fair price,” she overheard him say, “And if it is a fair enough price for the steward, then it is a fair enough price for the lad.”

It had made her smile, the lad’s face open-mouthed with glee at his ‘fair price’ bushel of corn, as he ran out of the shop, and she had caught Wheeler’s eye. He had returned a broad grin. Although not acquainted, this shared incident had meant that they used to nod to each other or exchange greetings if they crossed paths. But all that was finished now. She would have to be more vigilant in the future to keep out of his bounds – and she certainly had no intention of following his suggestion that she should covertly return the lady’s slipper to him. Her first loyalty must be to securing the future of the orchid.