Sunday, 28 July 2013

Crossed Quills Kindle Sale

My Regency CROSSED QUILLS is now on sale for Kindle: $1.99 US/£1.34 UK

Star-crossed authors: Pippa writes Radical political tracts under her deceased father's pseudonym. Wynn Selworth writes spicy Gothic melodramas under the pen-name Valentine Dred. Then Wynn inherits a noble title and must make his maiden speech in the House of Lords. He begs for help from Pippa's father, whose writing he admires. How can Pippa aid him without giving away her secret? How can Wynn keep his racy authorship hidden from the Ton?

Here is a blog about the issue that brings Wynn and Pippa together, the horrid fate of chimney-sweeps' climbing boys:

The original paperback cover

Excerpt 1:

Chapter 1

"Brilliant!" sighed Wynn, tossing the Political Register onto the table at his elbow. He leaned back in his chair and reached for his glass of brandy, a superb pre-Revolution vintage. "I'd give my right arm to write like that."
"If you gave your right arm," pointed out the Honourable Gilbert Chubb, "you wouldn't be able to write at all."
Wynn grinned, shaking his head at Chubby's invincible literalism. "My left arm, then. Don't you agree that 'Prometheus' is brilliant? His arguments are well-reasoned yet pithy, both incisive and persuasive. Whereas Cobbett's language is far too incendiary to be taken seriously by anyone but rabble-rousers and the starving masses. Just listen to this bit here."
Chubby groaned as Wynn picked up the Register again, the shilling edition. He no longer had to be satisfied with the twopenny pamphlet edition, reduced in size from the newspaper to avoid the stamp tax which put it beyond the reach of the poor.
"No, please!" Chubby begged. "I don't mind listening to your speeches, old chap, but I'll be damned if I'll sit still for any more Prometheus, however pithy."
"My efforts only make you laugh." Wynn kicked gloomily at the nearest of the sheets of close-written foolscap scattered on the hearthrug.
"I didn't laugh."
"You sniggered. I heard you. I don't blame you, mind. There's no denying that the style I developed to write those wretched Gothic romances is as unsuitable for a maiden speech to the House of Lords as a nightshirt in a ball room. Somehow I just can't seem to keep out the melodrama and bombast. "
"Seems to me," said Chubby judiciously, "you were a devilish sight happier writing your romances than you have been since your great-uncle popped off and made you Viscount Selworth."

Excerpt 2:

What was Lord Selworth up to?
Pippa soon found out. He turned to her mother and said coaxingly, "Mrs Lisle, I must confess to being here under false pretences. I have come to speak to you about Prometheus."
Her head whirling, Pippa gripped her hands tightly in her lap. Had the Government sent him? Surely William Cobbett had not given away Prometheus's true identity. However much trouble he was in, blamed for civil disorders all over the nation, the publisher, editor, and chief contributor to the Political Register would not betray his friends.
Cobbett was a true and generous friend, who paid liberally for Prometheus's articles despite his own financial woes. Without that income, the Lisles would be in sore straits—and the income would cease if the world discovered who had taken over Benjamin Lisle's pen-name.
Cobbett could not afford to go on publishing articles the world did not take seriously. How much influence would they exert if it became known that the author was a mere female?
And a youthful female, at that!
"Prometheus?" said Mrs Lisle cautiously. Avoiding Lord Selworth's eye, she tucked a greying curl under her lilac-ribboned cap.
Pippa regarded her mother with affection. Mama's calm nature, especially in contrast to Papa's quicksilver intellect, led some to consider her slow-witted. Not so her elder daughter.
"Yes, ma'am. I know your late husband wrote under that name—I must offer my condolences, belated, I fear. A sad loss to the nation!"
"And to his family," the widow said with quietly sorrowful dignity.
"Of course. are aware, I daresay, that someone else is now employing Mr Lisle's pseudonym?"
"Certainly. The person concerned very properly requested my permission."
"Then you know who he is?" Lord Selworth enquired eagerly.
"I regret that I am not at liberty to divulge the name."
His lordship's face fell, but he rallied. "Perhaps I can change your mind, ma'am, when you hear why I wish to approach the gentleman."
Mrs Lisle's mouth twitched, and she cast a quizzical glance at her elder daughter. For an anxious moment, Pippa feared her mother would be unable to repress the chuckle quivering on her lips.
However, with assumed gravity she replied, "I doubt it, Lord Selworth, but you are at liberty to try."
He smiled at her. "You are laughing at me, I see. I expect more persuasive men than I have badgered you in vain. But perhaps their reasons were less...altruistic. I hope you will consider my aims altruistic."
"Tell me."
Once more his lordship ran his hand through his hair, increasing its likeness to an ill-made hayrick. As if suddenly recalling its unfortunate tendency to go its own way, he then hastily smoothed it down, with a rueful sidelong peek at Pippa.
It was her turn to try not to chuckle.
         "May I enlist you on my side, Miss Lisle?" he begged.
         "It is not my place to enlighten you as to Prometheus's identity, sir," she said, adding frankly, "I cannot imagine any circumstances which would change that."

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Vikings in Ireland: Dark Pool by Jen Black

Conn sat down, a warm, very solid presence beside her. Eba's gaze flew to the youngest man of all. With the darkness of the hall behind him, Kimi's pale hair shone silver and rose in the firelight as he laughed at some joke. He is only a boy, Eba thought. He still had the prettiness of childhood, though faint glints and sparkles around his chin announced the beginnings of a new beard. He turned, his gaze slapped into her face and Eba flinched at the contempt in his hard blue eyes.

Conn stirred at her side. "Kimi doesn't want to be married, after all!" 

Kimi scowled at his cousin, but Conn was not cowed. "You won't find a girl prettier than this, Kimi. Better grab her fast."

Kimi's smile became a sneer. "I don't want her. If you do, you can have her."

Eba's blood thudded in her ears. Nervousness, fright and ale combined into sudden overwhelming anger. She banged her bowl down on the hearthstones and sprang to her feet. “Good," she snapped. "I'll leave first thing in the morning, then."

Speechless, startled faces all around the fire pit stared up at her. Eba swallowed with difficulty and the thought she might have just consigned herself to the slave market flitted across her mind.

Torquil grunted, slapped his palm across his knee and began to laugh. One by one the men relaxed and laughed with him. Only Kimi was not amused. He got to his feet and glared at her across the hearth. "You'll go nowhere. You're not pretty enough to marry me." His glance slid over her from head to foot. "But you can be my bed slave, for as long as I please."

His high tones grated on Eba's already lacerated nerves. "I'd rather die!" She glared at him. "Why, you're still a child whose voice hasn't broken! I won't be here for very long at all, I assure you. My brother will come for me."

The fire hummed in the silence and one of the wolfhounds opened its mouth and yawned. Kimi snorted in derision. "I'll look forward to it," he said. "And I'll sharpen my sword."


This exciting story is set in Dublin in the years of Viking domination in Ireland. Eba, a headstrong teenager, always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and grows up  very fast during one summer of dramatic happenings. I went to Dublin specifically to check I'd written sensibly about the places in the story, and still have good memories of Dublin. 

 You can read Dark Pool on Kindle via and visit with me on my blog at

Uploaded by Jen Black 24/07/2013

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Logic, poetry and revolution - Marie Laval

Bastille Day was last Sunday, so I am a few days late, but I wanted to write about some of the things I absolutely love about the French Revolution. Not the guillotine and the years of Terror, the burning of chateaux, massacres and terrible abuses of power, of course. I just love the revolutionaries’ enthusiasm for change, their thirst for reform and their sometimes completely crazy ideas.

Take the calendar which came into effect in 1792 by 'Décret de la Convention Nationale' and remained in place until Napoleon abolished it in 1806.

It wasn’t enough to make a break with the old Gregorian calendar and its references to the birth of Jesus Christ and to turn 1792 into the Year 1 (An I) of the new era. In the republican calendar, months and days were renamed and rearranged in a more ‘logical’ manner so that there were twelve months which were each divided into three exact periods of ten days.

Forget the old lundi (Monday), mardi (Tuesday) and so on… The new days were called primidi, duodi, tridi, quartidi, quintidi, sextidi, septidi, octidi, nonidi and decadi! Decadi was the day of rest. However, many people protested that they were losing out under the new regime since they only had a day of rest in ten days whereas before there was a Sunday every seven days! The new republican year didn’t start on January 1st but at the time of the autumn equinox, around 22nd September.

To make the break with the ‘Ancien Régime’ even more drastic and erase any mention of Catholic saints and festivals, each day was placed under the sign of a plant, an animal or an agricultural implement. Some days sound wonderfully poetic (Reseda, olive, pistachio, basil, peach), others very down to earth (water can, manure, shovel) and others just a little weird (salt, lead, zinc, pig, donkey!).

 The poet Fabre d’Eglantine was given the task to find new names for the months which would evoke the power and the beauty of nature. I think he did a good job.

For autumn, he chose Vendémiaire (from the word 'vendanges' which means grape picking), Brumaire (mist) and Frimaire (wintry weather). In winter, we had Nivôse (snow), Pluviôse (rain) and Ventôse (wind). The spring months were Germinal (germination), Floréal (flowers) and Prairial (meadows). Finally Fabre d’Eglantine named the summer months Messidor (from the summer 'moissons' or harvests), Thermidor (heat) and Fructidor (fruit).

As there were five days left at the end of the year (from 16th to 22nd September) Fabre d’Eglantine decided there would be celebrations of republican values such as Virtue, Engineering and Work. A most peculiar celebration was the ‘Fête de l’Opinion’ during which French people were allowed to make fun of civil servants and public figures any way they liked – be it caricatures, songs or pamphlets. According to Fabre d’Eglantine, the ‘Fête de l’Opinion’ would make sure there could be no abuse of power from the men in charge of public affairs. Was he a little naive? Poor Fabre d'Eglantine was guillotined on 17th Germinal, Year II (6 April 1794). I wonder if it was because the civil servants didn’t like his idea of the ‘Fête de l’Opinion’!

But that’s not all!

Obsessed with mathematical rigour and scientific reasoning, the revolutionaries also decided to change the way time was measured and divide the day into 10 hours, themselves divided into 10 parts, each one divided in a further 10 measures! The new time system didn’t however go down very well and confused people too much. It was abolished in 1795 (Year III). 
So what is your favourite 'revolutionary' month? Mine has to be Floréal...

Marie Laval

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A little Egyptian magic - scenes from 'Blue Gold'. Lindsay Townsend

A little Egyptian magic - two scenes from my historical novel, Blue Gold.

Blue Gold is a mainstream historical romance but, because of the ancient world setting, it contains strong paranormal and magical elements. When I wrote it, I incorporated magic as part of the beliefs appropriate to the times.
Ancient Egyptians believed in magic, gods and spirits - magic especially was practised as a means to influence and change fate and to give power. In this scene from Blue Gold, the ambitious princess Ahhotpe is attempting to ill-wish a political rival:

Ahhotpe shot a second glance at the wax figure posted just inside the doorway of her tent. Noon was not the most propitious time for magic, but the midday heat ensured that her people were resting and that consequently she would be unobserved. When she saw the shaft of sun chink through the closed tent flaps and strike the figure, the young woman laid aside her letter.
She had fashioned it well, rolling and mashing the wax between her fingers, infecting it with her hatred, until a startling likeness formed. That same narrow forehead and wide jaw, the bull neck and broad chest, the wider hips and massive legs: the Pyramid in miniature, three fingers high. Ahhotpe smiled as she settled cross-legged before the model. It was, she thought, the closest she might ever come willingly to Zoser. Invoking the proper forms, she thrust the first small copper pin deep into the manikin’s heart.
This kind of sympathetic magic was practised throughout Egyptian society, by princes and peasants alike. Sometimes more formal magic was evoked, and this could be through ritual and through symbolism, as in the Heb Sed rite described by Pharaoh’s mother Tetisheri:

Tetisheri beckoned to the little girl in Ahhotpe’s saffron-colored dress. “My, a pretty girl! Let’s do your hair like a lady.”
Her fingers were nimble, artistic. Ahhotpe stood nearby and picked an old song on her harp, letting the servants see how very much alike she and Tetisheri were.
“Do you know what a Heb Sed festival is, my darling?” Tetisheri stroked the child’s forehead.
“No, granny.” The little girl naturally used this title. Tetisheri was every child’s grandmother.
“It’s a special time for the King, a sort of birthday. He runs along a magic track, and the gods make him youthful again and fit to rule the whole of Egypt.” Tetisheri cuddled the little girl. “Now you can go to the party.”
“Have you seen a Heb Sed festival, grandmother?” asked Ahhotpe, re-tuning her harp.
“I saw my husband’s, Sekenenre’s daddy.” Tetisheri suddenly tugged off her wig and fanned her sparse brown hair. “He ran straight from the track into my bedroom!” She and Ahhotpe, and then the other women, laughed.
“Surely thirty years have not passed since then,” remarked Ahhotpe. “Kamose says you look younger than I do.”
“That’s brothers for you,” replied Tetisheri, pleased none the less at the compliment. “But you’re right, little one. My boy hasn’t ruled as long yet, but he wants the magic the festival will give him.”
“Isn’t it dangerous? Pharaoh running alone?”
“Well, things have grown rougher since my husband’s time,” admitted Tetisheri, “but Sekenenre doesn’t want anyone else’s feet under his table, so to speak.” The old woman sighed. “For myself, I’d certainly feel easier if Kamose ran with him.”
“So would I, granny,” said Ahhotpe.

Sometimes magic was made through more formal rituals. Magic was an accepted part of religion and of medicine. People wore ‘lucky’ charms and amulets. A mother would recite a spell to see off sickness in her child. The sign of the Ankh, the cross of life, was carved or painted on furniture and tombs as a magic protection.
In the ancient story, “King Khufu and the Magicians,” a wizard makes a crocodile of wax. When this is thrown into the water, it becomes a real crocodile. Another wizard is summoned to the Pharaoh Snefru (Khufu’s father) because Snefru is sad. As a diversion, the wizard suggests that Snefru goes boating on the Nile, rowed by beautiful women dressed in nets instead of clothes. 'And they rowed to and fro,' the story goes on, 'and the heart of his majesty was glad when he beheld how they rowed'. You bet.

Blue Gold 
4.5 Books: "A sweeping epic set in ancient Egypt, this story encompasses life as it was lived then, told masterfully by Ms. Townsend...The detail is luxuriously embedded in a story so compelling the reader will not want the book to end. What I love most about Ms. Townsend's prose is the ability to give the reader an almost holographic entry into life and times long past. You smell the fear, feel the passion, the frustration and anger, and burn under a hot, unforgiving sun, among other delightful stirrings of the senses." -- Honeysuckle, Long and Short Reviews

B review: "Beyond an Egyptian setting, I wasn't sure what to expect with "Blue Gold" as I didn't read the description until after I'd finished the story. And what a story. It's a sprawling 1970s miniseries crossed with a soap opera crossed with the epic sword and sandal movies made only in the 1950s. Plus it's got almost as many characters as Cecile B. DeMille managed to pack into his films." -- Jayne, Dear Author
"The sands of Townsend’s Egypt are blood-soaked, and the halls of her palaces echo with lust and intrigue — and yet, the most interesting part of her novel is how real, how human all of her characters feel (even the supernatural ones). Even while you’re booing and hissing her villains, you’re fully informed as to their motives and might even sympathize a little. Part of this effect can be attributed to Townsend’s keen ear for dialogue and phrasing (when two characters kiss we’re told “their lips met with the greedy accuracy of lovers”) — and the effect is so strong that when all the book’s grandstanding and conniving and personal drama has concluded, readers will be mildly shocked to be reminded that the whole delightfully complicated business happened three thousand years ago. That’s praise indeed." -- Steve Donoghue, Historical Novel Society

Best wishes, Lindsay Townsend

Sunday, 14 July 2013

New Twist on a romantic Cliche

Victorian Beauty
An unashamed piece of self-promotion on my part - but I also think Maggie's review is, in itself, worth a read. 

"There is a plethora of romance novels involving heroines with physical or psychological scars, dark, brooding heroes, a precocious child or two, loyal housekeepers, and remote, rural settings with slightly forbidding manor houses, or even castles. To use any of these literary chestnuts these days is dangerous, I think, unless the author is good enough--and sufficiently inventive--to overcome so many clichés huddled under one roof, so to speak.

Jen Black has done that admirably in Victorian Beauty, which succeeds on a number of levels, where others have failed abysmally. Read the plot synopses elsewhere--I`m more interested in the author's skills at making what could have been a hackneyed tale come alive again, fresh and fun to read. First, her writing is smooth, economical and, in quite a few places, graceful and evocative. There was never one of those moments, on the first page or elsewhere, where I had to sigh, hoping the writing would improve as I turned the pages. It was good from the beginning--what a relief! 

Second, Ms. Black's setting--the North of England--is one she knows, so now I know it as well, or at least that small part of it. Her descriptions are elegant, imparting exactly what's needed to lead the reader fully into the scene, and then move on. That's a neat trick which many authors have failed to master. Most important, however, are her characters, Melanie Grey and Lord Jarrow. Melanie is neither a beauty nor a typical Victorian noblewoman, but most fortunate for the discerning reader, she is not a "feisty" heroine saddled with the ridiculous trappings of the 21st century. She's vulnerable, to be sure, and she has her moments of fear and weakness, but she leavens those with an endearing nosiness--this woman will pry into things in a heartbeat!--a rather endearing refusal to be obsequious to anyone, including her employer, and a bit of rock-solid strength when she needs it. 

Jarrow has his moments of brooding, but for reasons that become clear only much later in the book, and are quite a revelation. He may be tall, dark, and moderately handsome, but I don't hold that against him--no one will eventually fall in love with a troll. The interactions between these two provide the requisite sparks, conflicting outlooks on the world and how it works, and an intriguing two steps forward, one step back pas de deux that makes an historical romance so entertaining--when it's done right, as it is here.

Ms. Black consistently writes outside the mold, the formula, or the whatever-it-is of historical romance. Her style, to include the sometimes wry, sometimes quotidian, and almost always refreshing take on her characters and the period she portrays, is a breath of fresh air. Additionally, the two main characters are ones you might want to spend time with outside the confines of a Kindle, and the minor characters are equally well-drawn, beyond the trite and true.

There's a lot of junk out there, folks, so spend your time and money wisely. This is a book I can recommend without reservation, and I don't usually like historical romances."

Loaded by Jen Black, author of Victorian Beauty

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Lauren Linwood - Music For My Soul - debut medieval historical romance

Welcome to my first outing on the Historical Fiction Excerpts Blog! I’m a former history teacher turned historical romance author, with a love for walking, reading, movies, travel, yoga, House Hunters, and sports. I collect gobs of Pinterest recipes that I’ll probably never use (and usually gain a few pounds just thinking about them).

My medieval historical romance debut, MUSIC FOR MY SOUL, came out in May 2013. I have two additional western historical romances slated for October (OUTLAW MUSE) and next January (A GAME OF CHANCE).

I look forward to meeting fellow readers and writers via this blog. Here’s a blurb and excerpt from MUSIC FOR MY SOUL – enjoy!

As the third wife of an abusive French vineyard owner, Madeleine Bouchard hasn’t produced the expected heir after three years of marriage. Fearing he plans to kill her, she flees during a trip to England. Unable to make her way home, she joins a troupe of traveling mummers and reinvents herself as the only woman troubadour in the land, captivating audiences with both song and story.

Nobleman Garrett Montayne’s fascination with Madeleine causes him to pay the troupe to bypass their next stop in order to journey to his estate. Though he suspects Madeleine of being a thief with dark secrets, love blossoms between them under the magical moon of summer solstice.

But Madeleine’s past is about to catch up with her, as her husband is set to arrive to conduct business with Garrett. Madeleine determines to free herself from her loveless marriage and make a new life with Garrett, no matter what the cost.
Show more Show less Excerpt:

            Madeleine knew with certainty that the nobleman would recognize her. They spent too much time together in one another’s company for him not to know her upon first sight.

            Madeleine groaned aloud. Where Sir Ashby was, she was positive his friend, the brooding Lord Montayne, would soon appear. She did not care to see that one face to face, especially since he had been so angry at her when they parted.

            She decided to skirt around the crowd and make her way back to the performance area. She would plead a sore throat and have Farley allow her to take York’s place in the play. York was a decent lute player, though not much of a singer. Still, he could perform before and between their scenes while Madeleine could be in plain sight of all, disguised by the heavy costume and mask York wore.

            She moved stealthily through the throng, hoping she would avoid attention. Just as she thought she’d made her way unseen, she heard shouts headed her way.

            “Stop, thief! Stop!”

            The cutpurse ran by her swiftly, throwing a cursory glance over his shoulder. She despised people who preyed upon others’ misfortune, and she was ready to see this shabby scoundrel caught. Madeleine stepped out, ready to give chase after the fellow when she was blind-sided, being thrown to the ground, the wind knocked from her.

            She rolled into a ball, her arms instinctively wrapping around her in a protective mode. She had spent many a time lying on the floor after one of Henri’s swift punches to her stomach.  She knew she must guard her ribs at all costs. Oh, God, it hurt so much when one broke. Please, not again. Not again.

            A hand, firm but reassuring, touched her shoulder. A voice came through the fog rolling through her brain. It wasn’t Henri! She half-laughed, half-gasped, as she opened her limbs and came to lie on her back. She even reached into her pocket and stroked Henri the pebble, validating that she was alive and unharmed.

            Yet who had attacked her? She looked up into the blinding summer sun but could not see who stood above her. Then the shadow moved, covering her face from the harsh light.

            “Why if ‘tis not Lady Montayne,” said a familiar voice. “And where the hell is my favorite cloak?”

            Garrett peered into the angry face of the woman who haunted his dreams by night and left him absent-minded by day. Their encounter had been brief, but he doubted he had ever met a more remarkable woman. Not even his petite Lynnette had brought such a sweet longing to his loins as did the bewitching creature before him.

            Her honeyed hair, loosened from its intricate braid, curled around her shoulders. Tiny beads of sweat had formed just above her upper lip. Without thinking, Garrett reached his thumb towards her and wiped it away. She flinched slightly, her dark, amethyst eyes glowering up at him.

            Garrett smiled in spite of himself, offering her a hand to pull her to her feet. He had forgotten how very tall she was as she stared at him, her cheeks flushed with anger.

            “Perhaps we could arrange a trade?” he suggested.

            She eyed him suspiciously. “I’m not sure if I could trust you, my lord,” she countered.

            “Trust me?” he sputtered. “This, from the woman who traipsed about the countryside claiming to be my wife?”

            She shrugged nonchalantly, an almost Gallic air about her. She didn’t sound French, but there was an unmistakable manner to her movement. Garrett spent enough time in France to recognize the behavior. However, when she spoke, he quickly put it from his mind.

            “I chose a bloody awful name to scare away anyone who accosted me on the road! How was I to know I’d run into you?” She snorted in an unladylike fashion. “I had heard tales of the wicked Lord Montayne, how he frightened old and young alike and gobbled up babes for his dinner. Why, the very mention of his name would cause grown men to plead for their lives and their loved ones. Oh, no, my lord, I was an honest liar. You were the one who resorted to trickery and hid your true identity from me."

            Her accusation so startled Garrett his jaw flew open. No sound came out for a moment. The woman lifted her chin high and turned on her heel. That brought Garrett into motion.

            He grabbed her elbow and pulled her around to face him. “Not so fast, my lady.” He studied her a second.  Her eyes narrowed at him, but she remained silent. Finally faced with her visage square in front of him, Garrett was at a loss of what to do. His emotions swirled out of control as he spoke.

            “’Tis curiosity,” he sputtered.

            She looked puzzled. “Curiosity?” she echoed.

            He nodded, his words spilling forth rapidly. “I know not who you are, nor where you come from. I’ve dreamed of you since that night only to awaken to an emptiness.” His voice became low and tinged with sadness. “I don’t even know your name.”


You can buy MUSIC FOR MY SOUL through Amazon:

Author website:

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Guest post: Fenella Miller - 'Barbara's War'

I write historical fiction, some romantic some of it not, all it needs to be researched. This is the part I love and the reason I don't write contemporary novels. The problem is I've become so engrossed in this I don’t get on with the writing.

For part two of Barbara's War I’ve begun to research the life of a fighter pilot. My hero, Alex, is a Spitfire pilot, and I became fascinated by the lives of those young men. I have already spent far too long on this.

It is hard to credit what those very young men lived through in the early days of the war. Dowding's code meant they were taught to fly in close formation – wingtips almost touching – which proved to be a lethal method. Many "tail end Charlies" were shot down by the ME 109s because they just didn't see the German fighters. Sometimes these missing planes weren’t noticed until the squad had landed. Early on in the war a group of Spitfires shot down a Blenheim – and then claimed it as the first kill of the war – because of faulty information and bomber command.

The Blenheim looked similar to a Dornier 17. A Spitfire was shot down by a squadron of Hurricanes – it seems that this sort of thing wasn't that unusual. The myth that German pilots were poorly trained was believed but that was soon proved erroneous and many of our brave young fighter pilots lost their lives because they thought they were better trained than the Germans. In fact it would appear our boys were wrongly trained – should have flown in pairs – not something in a V-shaped close formation – thus making them easy targets the opposition.

See what I mean about too much research? Neither of my heroes are involved in this – although now I think about it – Alex is a pilot at the start of the war – perhaps I can use some of this with him. You might think my book is more about the men than Barbara, but that’s not the case. This second book takes her from the end of book one (when John and she are engaged) to the end of the war. I’m not telling you how the book ends – you will have to wait and see.

Back to my fascinating research: Lessons should have been learned from the way the Luftwaffe performed in the Spanish Civil War, but this was ignored by Dowding. After the fall of France it some squadron leaders ignored the obsolete manual and flew in pairs.

I think I’ll have Alex be one of those who ignored the manual –he’s an intelligent young man –he would have understood what was needed to keep his men safe.

Air-Vice Marshal Johnnie Johnson said at the time "These formation attacks were useless for air fighting because the tempo of air combat did not allow time for elaborate manoeuvres in tight formation and as a result the last words too many splendid fighter pilots heard were 'Number …Attack… Go.’"

The second and final part of Barbara's War will not only focus on Alex and also on John to whom she is engaged at the start of the book. He is a bomber pilot and I'm thoroughly enjoying learning about their lives as well.

Barbara's War, Part Two, should be written and ready for publication by the end of the year. I'm a little nervous about saying this as I’ve not written anything completely new for over a year. It is also the first time I've attempted to write a sequel.

Thank you, Lindsay, for inviting me to your fabulous blog.

Fenella Miller