Sunday, 3 September 2017


Please note that the author is giving away an ebook copy of To Be A Queen
Just leave a message below or leave a comment on my Facebook Author Page

This is a fictionalised tale of a historical woman, Æthelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, based on true facts of what is known of her and the times in which she lived. Teasel, as the author has nick-named her, is the daughter of the great king, Alfred of Wessex. Her father wants her to marry a Lord of Mercia to form an alliance between the two English kingdoms so that they might be ever stronger to defeat the scourge of the Danes. For years, these 'Vikings' have been invading and settling, raping, pillaging and sending terror into the hearts of the English people. Teasel has grown up as a child living with the threat of the Danes always hanging over her, but it is not until she is old enough to understand the fear that her mother constantly displayed when she was a child, that she understands what it is she fears the most. Then the day comes when her heart, who she had given to another, is broken and she is set on a course of unhappiness and despair as she struggles to come to terms with her plight. Married to a man she does not love, who is indifferent to her, she must first gain the respect and understanding of the suspicious Mercians, before she can give herself wholly to him, mind body and soul. This is no easy task through the years, but eventually she wins out, through her indomitable, endless spirit, and then she must act to save her beloved adopted country from the Vikings.

This is one of the rare books that have managed to captivate my heart. I’m a fussy reader, that’s not to say that I can’t enjoy many books, but only on some occasions does a book take my breath away, completely. For a book to do this, there must be a plot that grabs me, make me either smile to myself, or sigh wistfully, wishing that it was I who had just written that passage. Strangely enough, the plot in To be a Queen, has no arc, there are 4 parts to this book; first being, Girl; the second, Woman; third, Wife and finally, Queen, which, in reality she never was. The narrative moves through each stage of her life and it is only towards the last half of the book that we see the characters of Teasel and Ethelred come into their own, both as a couple and as individuals as their story develops more deeply. To begin with, whenever there was a hint of conflict, it would always come to naught. (It would not be appropriate to give an example as it may be considered to be a spoiler.) I found this a little frustrating, because I was expecting something to ‘happen’ but it never does. There are no storming build-ups to tension, nothing really bad ever happens, (not that we see, anyway) and in most cases, this would annoy the hell out of me, but strangely enough, the slower pace and the lack of action are exactly right for this book, and although I might not have written it that way myself, Whitehead manages to captivate me with her beautiful prose and in-depth knowledge of the period and the language which shines throughout the whole of the book.

This is not a book that follows Æthelflaed into war, although we do see some of that later in the book. It is essentially a story of how things might have been, using the known facts and events that happened during her time to design a plausible story of her life. It is a love story, but not in the bodice ripper style (not usually my cup of tea), but written in beautiful, deep emotional scenes, that give us a vision of a woman’s love for a man she had never wanted to wed. What I loved most about this book is the way Whitehead uses a wide knowledge of vocabulary of the time and a skilful writing talent to describe characters thoughts, feelings and actions. The dialogue is well crafted, and made me imagine that I was hearing the language in the manner it would have been spoken, not of course in Old English, but using the modern equivalent of. All this, and what we are given, is a subtle story that filters its way into the reader’s mind in the same way a patient might be drip-fed blood. It flows, like a boat carried on a river's current, passing through time, stopping for a while before it continues on again to reach the end of Æthelflaed’s life.

It is a shame that we know so little about this amazing woman who, it was said, was so beloved of the Mercians, she was trusted to lead an army against the Vikings and other enemies.  We know she did this, but we don’t know whether or not she actually wielded a sword and fought in the battle itself, or just commanded. We don’t know to what extent her knowledge of warfare was, though there is evidence to say that Ethelred was advising her. In Whitehead’s version, she has ‘Teasel’ learn to fight and wield a sword so she can ride out with her army and at the very least attempt to protect herself. Personally, I think she was too important to actually fight in the shieldwall, for she would no doubt be injured at some point, not having the strength, as a woman, to fight hand to hand with experienced male opponents. But that’s just my opinion, perhaps she was skilful and strong, but given that even the dangerous, most doughty warriors could not always protect themselves from being mortally wounded in a melee, then I think it unlikely. She was needed as a figurehead more than a warrior, and although Whitehead puts her in the midst of a shieldwall in one scene, she doesn’t have her doing anything foolhardy or practically impossible. Æthelflaed is not a shieldmaiden, nor is she a walcyrie. and I was glad of that, as I do not like historical fiction where women are made to do the impossible. Shieldmaidens would not have lasted long in a battle, and although I can see no reason not to have women fight if the story asks for it, it must be plausible. If they are going to fight, then they should not be slaughtering multitudes of men in one strike, and anyone who wants to write a book called ‘Shieldmaiden’ needs to do so with caution.

We probably know more about Æthelflaed than Ethelred, her husband, but we know nothing of their relationship, whether it was a good one, or if it was troublesome. There is later evidence that cannot be fully believed, that she had only one child because of the pain she had endured in childbirth. I’m not entirely convinced that this is true, but if it is true, then perhaps we can imagine that her relationship with her husband might have been strained.

I cannot praise Annie Whitehead’s style of prose enough. She has a very fluid approach to her writing, which is deep, and thoughtful, and encompasses what is going on in the background around her characters. Each passage is generally shown in the point of view of either Æthelflaed, her brother Edward, or her husband Ethelred. There is no head hopping, which if overdone, usually drives me insane. The narrative is solid, and the story flows along.

If you cannot tell by now how enamoured I was with this book, I must impress upon you that this book is one of those that I have enjoyed reading most in my life. It is definitely going on my must read again shelf, though I rarely read books more than once. If you enjoy historical fiction, this should be on everyone’s must read shelf, especially if you like stories told through the eyes of women, and don’t mind that the battle scenes are scarce. The story of Lady Æthelflaed as told by Annie Whitehead will haunt you and stay with you for a long time, as I know it will with me.
A well done to Ms Whitehead.

Victorian statue of Aethleflaed and her nephew, Aethlestan.

About the Author

Annie Whitehead isn't 'from' anywhere. She was born in Germany on British soil and has two birth certificates. Her father was in the army and the family lived all over the world, but she has lived in the Cumbrian Lake District since 1986. She graduated in history having specialised in the 'Dark Ages' but after a career break to raise her three children she qualified as an Early Years practitioner before concentrating on teaching Music to children aged 1-11. She has written three books about early medieval Mercia, the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the Midlands. The first, To Be a Queen, tells the story of Alfred the Great's daughter, and was long-listed for the Historical Novelist Society's Indie Book of the Year 2016, while the second, Alvar the Kingmaker, is the story of Aelfhere, Earl of Mercia in the 10th century. She hopes the third will be published early in 2017. When she's not writing novels, she writes magazine articles and has had pieces printed in diverse publications, including Yoga Magazine and This England. She has twice been a prize winner in the Mail on Sunday Novel Writing Competition, and won First Prize in the 2012 New Writer Magazine's Prose and Poetry Competition. She was a finalist in the 2015 Tom Howard Prize for non-fiction, and is also a contributor and editor for the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, as well as blogging for her own site - Casting Light upon the Shadow. When she's not working or writing, she can generally be found living up to the title bestowed on her by her offspring and their friends - "Mother Hen", or doing a spot of kick-boxing and weight-lifting.

To learn more about Annie, visit her Facebook Author page
Follow her on Twitter
Visit her Website

Friday, 12 May 2017


Today I am pleased to be part of a blog tour for Alison Morton's latest release in her Roma Nova series, RETALIO. Alison has stopped by to answer some questions about her latest novel and talk about her love of all things Roman and her writing career. 


Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.
Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.
A story of political and personal rivalry in an imaginary surviving state of the once mighty Roman Empire. But with a difference. Struggling to defend the tiny state and keep the families alive at the dissolution of the Roman Empire, Roma Novan women fought alongside their men. And they never forgot it as they rose to prominence through the ages. Now in the late 20th century the egalitarian state has been crushed into misery by a brutal dictator imposing male-only rule. Aurelia is their last best hope, but Caius who has longed to dominate and defeat her since childhood will do anything to stop her. Anything.

Paula - So, firstly, I'd like to welcome you to Paula's People, Alison. It’s been a while since I had you as a guest here, and it’s so nice to have you back, this time to ask some new questions because so much has moved on for you since then. I'm sure you'll have lots more to tell us!

Alison - Thank you for such a warm welcome, Paula. Yes, it seems like ages.

Paula - Tell us how the idea for your Roma Nova series came about and what inspired your vision of a new Roman state, and the whole idea of having women matriarchs as rulers instead of men.

Alison - I was fascinated at age eleven with a beautiful mosaic in Ampurias, north-east Spain. As my father explained about soldiers and sailors, slaves and senators, traders and farmers, I asked him what the mothers did. He said they stayed indoors and ran the house and looked after children. I thought that was a bit odd – my own mother worked as the head of a department at a local school. So I asked him what a Roman society would be like if women ran it. Clever man, he replied, “Well what do you think it would have been like?”

So the Roma Nova legend grew in my mind. Founded sixteen hundred years ago, when the Roman Empire was crumbling, it’s survived thanks to silver in the mountains, Roman engineering genius and a robust attitude. Given the unstable, dangerous times in Roma Nova’s early years, daughters as well as sons had to put on armour and carry weapons to defend their homeland and way of life.
Fighting danger side-by-side with brothers and fathers reinforced women’s status and roles. And they never allowed the incursion of monotheistic paternalistic religions; the traditional Roman gods were their inspiration. Women developed leadership roles in all parts of Roma Novan life over the next sixteen centuries.

Paula -You write alternative history, but your books are set in the alternative present, so to speak. I’d like to ask, what exactly does alternative history mean, and how does it correlate to the historical fiction genre?

Alison - In alternative history stories, the timeline has diverged at some point in the past from our timeline. It can be caused by a big event like the Norman invasion  (see 1066 Turned Upside Down) or a smaller event as in the Roma Nova stories (Emperor Theodosius banning all pagan worship on pain of death in AD 395) but there has to be a definite trigger. Events then travel a different path from that ‘point of divergence’ and it’s a permanent change with no going back, no time travel, magic or fantastical creatures. Some stories are fanciful, but others are serious counter factuals. As a historian, I’m up at the historical end of that scale. And whether it’s historical fiction? Well, all history is a patchy record of past events and a lot of it is made up, haphazard or from dodgy sources. I argue my case here!

Paula -When did you first start writing?

Alison - I’ve written all my life; translator, copywriter, editor and produced government position papers, corporate documentation and pitches, and a couple of academic papers – one thesis and one dissertation, but the first novel INCEPTIO, began its life in 2009. It was the usual terrible first draft, but polished up to appear as a published book in 2013.
Paula - I recall you and I chatting about it when you came to my book launch signing at John Pye's Bookshop in East Grinstead. I remember being in awe at the idea of a recreation of Rome, with women as the matriarchs.

Paula - I see you have studied history at university and obtained a Masters! Can you tell us what eras you read, and what eras you like best? I think I may know the answer to that already, hee-hee!:)

Alison - I’m going to surprise you, Paula!  Over the course, I studied medieval women, British Cinema and women in Third Reich Germany. The Romans made a brief appearance in one module. Why? I wanted to do something I didn’t really know much about. So my dissertation was about young German women who served in uniform with the German military equivalents of the ATS, WRNS and WRAF. They weren’t all fanatical Nazis; some were patriotic, some were just ‘doing their bit’, others weren’t that keen but got on with it, some hated it. I turned my dissertation (for which I gained a distinction!) into a little ebook – my first foray into self-publishing – called Military or Civilians?
Paula - Wow that was a surprise! I'd really be interested to read that. What a fantastic subject and to gain a distinction. I am in awe of you!

Paula - Can you give potential readers an overview of the Roma Nova series to give them an idea of what excitement awaits them?

Alison - I’d like to take you to Central Europe to an imaginary city state in the mountains. Its people are tough, its history long and its heroines valiant. Well, nearly always valiant; they do have their off days.
INCEPTIO focuses on New Yorker Karen Brown who is thrown into a new life in mysterious Roma Nova as Carina Mitela, and fights to stay alive with a killer hunting her. Helping her is a special forces officer; smiling, attractive, a tad condescending and hiding vulnerabilities of his own. In PERFIDITAS six years later, betrayal and rebellion are in the air, threatening to topple Roma Nova and ruin Carina’s life. When we get to SUCCESSIO nine years after that, she is well-established as a senior Praetorian officer with teenage children and young cousins. But a mistake from the past threatens to destroy that next generation including the young heir to Roma Nova itself.

With AURELIA we begin a second trilogy and go back to 1960s Roma Nova and a Europe very different from our own. Aurelia Mitela, Carina’s grandmother in the first trilogy, but here a 28-year-old Praetorian major, battles silver smuggling and illegal trading. In her pursuit of the amoral Caius Tellus, she must make the heart-breaking choice between her love, her child and her country. In INSURRECTIO, thirteen years later, we see Aurelia struggling against a manipulative tyrant grabbing power. This is the Great Rebellion that threatened to destroy Roma Nova in the 1980s. RETALIO (just out!) tells of resistance and retribution and the endgame between Aurelia and her nemesis, Caius.

PaulaSo far, I have read books 1&2 and am currently listening to the audio of SUCCESSIO which is the third in the order of books. Book 1 INCEPTIO was enjoyable, and PERFIDITAS, the second was wicked! Which book would you choose as your favourite of the series and why?

Alison - I really, really don’t have a favourite! INCEPTIO was my first book and I suspect all authors love the first baby, but honestly, they’ve all given me something different and I hope I’ve given readers a different aspect of the Roma Novans and their country in each one.

Paula - So, RETALIO is now available as an ebook and paperback. Tell us about this sixth instalment of your Roma Nova books and just where it all fits within the series.

Alison - RETALIO is the third book in the second trilogy,which features Aurelia Mitela.
Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.
Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.

Paula - Carina, the main character of the first trilogy, is a sassy woman with guts and the courage of a she-lion protecting her cubs. She can also be compassionate and tender, as both mother and wife to the gorgeous Conrad. Knowing that you come from an army background, is there anything of you in Carina that you recognise, or have deliberately put in there, or is she based on someone/s you know?

Alison - If that isn’t a leading question, I don’t know what is! Inevitably, I’ve used some of my military experience in the stories. Nobody is a direct reflection of anybody I knew or know, but I’ve pinched a few characteristics here and there…

Paula - Tell us about briefly about some of your favourite characters in the series, not Carina or Conrad, but some supporting actors so to speak.

Alison - Well, I was so fascinated by Aurelia and wanted to know her secrets that I ended up writing a whole second trilogy!
I do like Lurio in the first series; he was fun to write as a roughie-toughie cop with a soft heart. Carina’s comrade-in-arms, Flavius, is an interesting character as he’s always on Carina’s side, but gives her quite a hard time sometimes.
Paula - I quite liked Daniel, too.

Alison - In the second trilogy, apart from the vile Caius who was fun to write as a villain with an obsession, the stand out secondary characters are the tough soldier, Volusenia, and the young Silvia, the heir to Roma Nova.

Paula - Who are your current favourite authors and has there been a big influence on your writing, whether it be style, structure, or genre from them?

Alison - Currently, William Boyd who wrote Restless, a spy thriller with women protagonists, and Douglas Jackson whose Verrens series about a young Roman soldier who survived the Boudiccan rebellion and is going on to further things is very vividly and accurately written. Robert Harris remains the godfather of alternative history written cleverly and succinctly in Fatherland.
Paula - Some new authors there for me to get to know.

Paula - And now for the penultimate question, what are you reading now, or just recently?
I’ve just finished Anna Belfrage’s, Under the Approaching Dark (excellent!) and am currently enjoying Helen Hollick’s, Pirates: Truth and Tale, a non-fiction book about, er, pirates and our perception of them. Next up is Douglas Jackson’s Defender of Rome, the second Verrens  novel.

Paula - To wrap up the session, I’d like to say it’s been fabulous having you on the blog, and I wish you the best of luck with all your future endeavours but just to ask one more question, what next for Alison Morton?

Alison - Several things! I’m hoping to finish a novella about Carina this summer, then I might look at a book of short stories and there’s always the foundation story of Roma Nova waiting in the wings…

Thank you SO much for inviting me onto your blog, Paula and letting me run on about Roma Nova and its people.

Paula - It's been an absolute pleasure Alison. My very best wishes!

And you can read my recent review of Alison's second in the first Roma Nova series

About Alison

Alison Morton, writes the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction. 
The first five books have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. The sixth, RETALIO, is out on 27 April 2017. 
A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds a MA History, blogs about Romans and writing. 
Now she continues to write, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband of 30 years.

Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova Website
Alison’s Amazon page:

Buying link for RETALIO (multiple retailers/formats):

Wednesday, 5 April 2017


Present day, alternate reality. Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces is in trouble – one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating coup d’état thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country. 
Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal…

Well, if the above blurb doesn't hook you in, then nothing will. This is a thriller that at least matches, excels even, all expectations you might have of similar books. More realistic than the James Bond movies, PERFIDITAS goes way beyond anything that has been done before. Set in an alternative, but similar to the world of today, Roma Nova is a fascinating concept, created by the incredibly intelligent mind of the author, and drawn from her love of all things Roman. 

Before I began reading, I was under the impression that you didn't need to read the first in the series, (INCEPTIO), before you read PERFIDITAS, and although there is an intro describing the alternate historical background of the whole world, plus a list of characters placed in their contexts, I felt that due to the fast pace of the book, and the amount of characters Ms Morton juggles, a new reader would find it hard going to know what, who, when and why. So, I felt that I was at an advantage, having read INCEPTIO, and was glad that I had, for it enabled me to understand the wonderful intriguing world I was immersing myself in

I loved the idea of Rome continuing after its fall in the 5thc and beginning again in a new state, with the name of Roma Nova: New Rome. And the fact that it was ruled by women, because hey, the guys did a terrible job, didn't they; adds a whole new dynamic to the concept. Ms Morton has formulated this new Rome using the most prominent elements from their past, such as the language, Latin of course, the Praetorian Guard, which still exists, Domus, the name used for home, and amusingly, the old Roman gods as a way of swearing. "Juno!", is one example. All this serves to create a believable, fascinating world, that is not only modern, it is leading the world with its advanced technology and systems; one such example is the el-pad; got an idea what that is? What is even more extraordinary, is that Morton devises new customs for the Roma Novans, some of which have been part of this new world's traditions going back over 1500 years. I particularly liked the Twelve Family code which, under this, a noble family has the right to question a delinquent member of their family whom they believe has committed some criminal offence. You see, when Rome collapsed 1500 years (or there abouts) earlier, amongst those who made the exodus to what was to become Roma Nova, were 12 of the noblest families. These families were the most powerful ruling clans, and in the 21stc, their status as such is still preserved, with women always at the head of the clan. To balance this power, members of the twelve families have a greater responsibility of service to the state and are expected to behave better than the average citizen.

This book is definitely plot driven, and told through the eyes  of Countess Carina, therefore this, and the  fast pace, has to be taken into consideration when examining the characterisation of all the players. There were many characters of which I would have liked to know more about their emotions and their inner machinations. This is probably more difficult to do when writing in the first person, as Ms Morton does. That is one of my pet annoyances of books written in the first person, because I like to get right into the minds of the characters and feel that I am within them. All that aside, I can still read, and enjoy books written in this method, though they are few and far between, and this second book in the Roma Nova series I have selected as being one of them. as it is so unique in its presentation.

 I enjoyed Carina's character, she is not the shy, retiring type, she gets things done, and often her maverick -style way of doing things, gets her in all sorts of trouble. Her husband, the hunky Conrad, who has taken her family name as his own in the new Roman tradition, finds this aspect of her, less endearing than perhaps he should, but he is not only her husband but her work superior, and this can be conflicting for the couple. With such strong personalities, there are bound to be the usual disagreements and as well as the trouble on the home front, the couple are faced with difficulties aplenty as the plot unfolds. And it does so, very quickly, I might add, for soon it is obvious that someone is out to get both Carina and her husband. And when I say 'get' I mean, totally destroy in the most horrible, nasty way achievable. 

Roma Nova, as you may have probably guessed by now, had only survived because of their social structure. Women no longer were assigned to the confines of their homes, playing  good little wives, they had become the heads of their families, whilst the men were constantly at war in those early days of their colonies' survival. The women's take over of their governing systems, meant that both  men, and women, now, would have to perform 'service' to their country and that ethos seems to have continued right into the 21st century. A tiny country hidden away between New Austria and Italy, Roma Nova had become one of the most powerful, rich states in the world, surrounded by bigger boys who possibly want to take over. They had to be tough in order to survive, following a male dominated brutal consulship and civil war And there are strains of modern day Israel's kick ass attitude, in the way they run their regime:

...with characteristic resilience, the families' structures fought back and reconstructed their society, re-learning the basic principles of Republican virtue, while subtly changing it to a more representational model for modern times.
But what has this book got to offer? For one, Ms Morton has a snappy, concise style of writing that flows beautifully. The pace and atmosphere are just at the right speed and mood. The characters, are many, and sometimes when a new name popped up, I had trouble remembering who they were, despite having read the first book. Thank goodness there is a cast list in the form of a Dramatis Personae of all the characters and from which section of society they belong. Please readers remember to look in the back of the book for this. However, that aside, my enjoyment of reading this book was not hampered by this little niggle.

It is quite clear that Ms Morton is an excellent writer and story-teller. She has her own unique voice when conjuring up her plot lines. The world she has built is done so with integrity. It is formulated and constructed with faithful authenticity and is representational of a true society with its origins in Rome. I am sure that most readers will enjoy jumping into the arena of 21st century Rome, and will wholly accept the offer of a ride into the dark, almost invisible world of intelligence and criminality in this exciting, cleverly manufactured tale.

This is a book I would highly recommend to those who enjoy alternative fiction, where events from the past have different endings, pushing the future into different pathways to produce a new, fresh world with which to play in. Also, if you enjoy thrillers, with espionage and intelligence as its background, you will love this book. Highly recommended.


A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison Morton continues to be fascinated by that complex, power and value driven civilisation. Armed with a masters’ in history, six years’ military service and the love of a good thriller, she explores via her award winning Roma Nova adventure thrillers the ‘what if’ idea of a modern Roman society run by strong women.The sixth book, RETALIO, will be published on 27 April. In the meantime, Alison lives in France with her husband, tends her Roman herb garden and drinks wine.

Watch a trailer  

Links for Alison
Social media links
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site:
Twitter: @alison-morton

Buying link for PERFIDITAS (multiple retailers/formats):

Tuesday, 14 March 2017


I've worked on The Review blog with Anna when she was one of our readers, but more recently I have got to know her a lot better. She has written an 8 book series, The Graham Saga , and a new series has been started called The King's Greatest Enemy of which there are two, and the new one coming out next month and a new series too! Also, we might see her contributions to other collaborate efforts, such as 1066: Turned Upside Down and the famous EHFA collaboration, Castles Customs and Kings. Apart from admiring her ability to work hard and achieve so much, I totally love the way she writes and is probably one of the only historical romance authors I will enjoy reading.

So please may I welcome you all to PAULA'S PEOPLE, as I relay the transcript of our conversation as it happened live. (Just so you know I am in Black and Anna is in Blue)

Hi Anna, welcome to PAULA'S PEOPLE. Its great to be talking to you like this. I'll start with:

Question number one : it's been a while since Days of Sun and Glory, what have you been up to since then and when are we going to see the next instalment of Kit and Adam's adventures?

I've been working on a new series - I hope to publish the first book this year. I have also almost completed a ninth book in The Graham Saga - but I'm still in two minds re whether to publish it or not. If not, that's a LOT of words and hours down the drain...And then I've done teh final edits & all that on the next Kit and Adam book, which is scheduled for April this year

Oh wow, a new series, am I allowed to ask what it's about? I'd love to see a sneak peak of the cover!

In the long lost ancient past, two men fought over the girl with the golden hair and eyes like the Bosporus under a summer sky. It ended badly. She died. They died. Since then, they have all tumbled through time, reborn over and over again. Now they are all here, reborn in the same place, the same time. It is time to end that which began 3 000 years ago. Time to lay old ghosts to rest, time to finish what began in distant fogs of time.

That's an awesome cover !

It is, isn't it?

Beautiful! And very different from your usual
Who is the artist?

My usual cover artist, Olly Bennett at More Visual

Ah, so he did your other covers?


What made you go for such a different look?

Different story, different genre

It certainly is stunning. I've loved you're other covers too, obviously, but this one is somehow very intriguing. And I just read the blurb and I can see it's going to be another nail biting roller coaster ride! Do you realise how your books make my heart race?

Oh, yes!
And it has some very steamy sex scenes.

Cripes! I have to admit, you do those so well

Question twoI'm very much looking forward to Kit and Adam in April, I'm longing to know what happens next. With Despenser out of the way, will there be another antagonist to torment the poor beleaguered couple?


Noooooo!!! *Paula faints
Who is it? Will it be a fictional character or a real historical one?

A fictional character. Although Isabella is always a borderline bitch...

Yes she turned out to be a bit of a surprise, I had thought she was going to be nice all the way through, but...

Question threeSo with all this writing you've been doing, have you had any time for reading?
if so, what great books have you read recently

I always find the time to read - it is a fundamental part of honing my own writing skills. So yes, I have been reading a lot. Some of the more recent fab reads are, Behind Every door by Cynthia Graham, To be a Queen by Annie Whitehead, and the rather harrowing, An Untamed State by Roxane Gay,

That last one sounds intriguing.

It was very harrowing - but impossible to put down. Let's just say I won't be going to Haiti any time soon...

Oh, even more intriguing. I love stuff about voodoo and so on. I'm a little strange like that I guess

It's pretty violent.

Im ok with violence as long as it doesn't go on and on. After awhile it just hurts too much ;)
I remember watching The Passion of Christ and I was eating chocolate and felt somewhat ill.
*Note to self, do not eat chocolate when watching a violent film

Speaking of films, are you a movie buff?

Not really. I like watching movies, but I don't go to the cinema all that much. I am planning on seeing La-La land, though.

Time for a break! See you soon folks!


Question fourBack again, now, where were we? Ah yes, we finished with movies so on that note i want to ask you, if The Graham Saga was to become a film, who would you like to see play Alex, Matthew, Luke, and Alex' mother.

Oh, dear, what a difficult question. I envision Matthew as looking something like Michael Fassbinder, while Alex is a bit like Scarlett Johansson or Jennifer Lawrence. And as to Luke, I think Rufus Sewell - especially when Luke grows older
Alex's mother - well, Mercedes is a difficult woman with a lot of darkness inside. She is not so much beautiful as striking, and I can't quite think of an actress who'd fill those shoes.

Michael Fassbender
could he play Matthew in the Graham Saga?
Anyone know if he's free?

I was going to suggest Olivia Hussey but i think she might well be too old now.
But i think Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence are good choices. Now, in  future, I will imagine them as the characters.

Question five: I've always known that you are a prolific reader and I just wanted to ask you if any of the authors you have read have influenced your style in anyway and if so was that deliberate because you admired their work, or it has been subconsciously?

I suppose reading a lot per definition means you have been influenced subconsciously, as there are writing mechanisms you enjoy and some that you don't. For me, it is important to develop my own voice, and as such I endeavour to have "my" style, a way of writing that is recognisable to the reader. For it to be "my" style, I cannot go cherry-picking from others - at least not intentionally  However, there are authors I want to emulate - not so as to plagiarise their style, but rather to achieve the same effect, principally that of dragging the reader into the past. Two such authors are Edith Pargetter and Sharon K Penman.

Oh yes I agree, Ms Penman is on my list of great authors and influences and Edith Pargetter too.
I know what you mean about finding your own voice. And I  definitely think you have The Belfrage style of writing.

Sharon K Penman,
one of Anna's early inspiring auhors

Thank you!

You're welcome. I'll have that piece of chocolate cake now, if you don't mind

Sorry: only carrot cake on offer today - but it's a GOOD carrot cake.
Ok! Carrot cake it is! lol

Question six: Having started a new job recently, fultime,  how do you find time to do all this writing and blogging etc? Not to mention reading for Discovering Diamonds as well.

Well, I read for more than Discovering Diamonds - but then, I read a lot anyway, so as to continuously improve my own writing. Yes, a new - and exciting job - naturally eats into large chunks of my time, thereby reducing the hours I can invest in my writing, but to me, writing is a bit like breathing, and it is quite inconceivable to pass an entire day without writing something. So when others relax by watching TV, I achieve the same result by string words together.

Yes, I also work pretty much fultime and the only time I get to write is my leisure time. Wouldn't it be nice to do this for a living?

Question seven: So recently you have created your own imprint, Time Light Press, I believe its called, where are you with this now, and have all your books been transferred to this imprint? What made you take the plunge to go it alone and how are you finding the process?

I'm not so sure I would want to do it for a living. I've recently had a long sabbatical, and when writing became the thing I did, rather the thing I stole moments to enjoy, some of the magic sort of disappeared. Besides, writing is a lonely occupation and I personally require the interaction with other people to fuel my imagination.
So far, I've published the e-books of my 14th century series through this imprint, and the new series I am presently working on (contemporary with a dash of darkness & a timeslip angle) will be published through the imprint. We'll see what happens next.

I'm afraid that all the carrot cake has gone now, so we will have to call it a day.
Anna, thank you for chatting with me, and for being one of PAULA'S PEOPLE today.

You're welcome, Paula, thank you for having me.

Here's to you, Anna. All the best for the future!

Anna in the middle, with me on the left
and my great friend Louise Rule

PS, all of Anna's Graham Saga and her recent The King's Greatest Enemies, are indieBRAG medallion winners.

Anna can be found on Twitter and at her website

Paula is the author of
Sons of the Wolf
The Wolf Banner
You can also find her at Twitter
and her Blog: 1066: The Road to Hastings and Other Stories

Saturday, 18 February 2017


When you should stop judging a book by its genre...

The author is kindly giving away an ebook to one lucky reader, so leave a comment on the blog to win
Winner will be drawn Saturday the 26th February

Although I have read time slips before, such as Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, and Philippa Pearce's, Tom's Midnight Garden, I've never knowingly gone on the hunt for books in this genre and in my ignorance, probably wouldn't have deliberately chosen those books if I'd been aware that they were part of a genre that I would usually put back on the shelf. To me, time slipping or time travelling, usually evokes thoughts of someone slipping through a time tunnel from the modern day age to a time gone by and changes history, and because my favourite genre is historical fiction, I tend to prefer my HF pure without any interference from the future. It's strange how putting a label on something can make it seem unattractive, and yet when I picked those books up off a shelf, I must have had no preconceived ideas in my head because they were simply labelled  as fiction, and nothing else. Which really shows that if I listen to my brain talking, it could really spoil my reading experiences, because my brain doesn't  know what's good for me.

Having worked on The Review blog for sometime, I got to learn about Ms Belfrage's Graham Saga through my co-admins' reviews. I loved them and each time, I kept wondering why I couldn't bring myself to read the book, just because they were about a time traveller who ends up in another century and creates a whole new life for herself. Because of my prideful ruminations about what I thought was not for me, I was also put off reading or watching the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldan. Too long, too unbelievable and too 'time slip/travel.' The change happened for me when I caved in to watch the first series of Outlander. Surprise, surprise, my head didn't fall off after all. I wasn't turned into some strange time-travelling creature, and I really loved it. And the friend who urged me to watch Outlander, happens to also be a big fan of Ms Belfrage's and so it didn't take much for me by now, to pick up the first in the Graham Saga series. For the first time I am feeling humble, because I have now discovered, that a book should never be judged by it's genre, and a genre should never be judged until you've read one. After all, had I not enjoyed Labyrinth?

So, having taking the plunge, I opened the first page, and my brain was still wondering what a book like this would have to offer someone who  prefers her history as it was, and not tampered with by people falling through Time or arriving in another era in time travelling machine, or falling through a hole in the sky. But the more I read, the more I became interested in knowing what the 21st Century woman would be thinking, what would go through her mind before she was able to believe that she was now in another time and place, and had somehow found an opening through time. When would she stop believing it was all a dream?

I was soon to discover that this book is not just a 'woman falls through time, meets 17thc man, and falls in love', book; this book has many layers. Despite its romantic theme, it is also a psychological study in how a woman and a man from different periods in time would interact given their cultural differences and their diverse mindsets. Because it has a historical setting, it means that there are lessons to be learned about what was going on in Scotland at the time of Cromwell's takeover of parliament, though the story has more to do with Alex and Matthew's relationship and the trials that come to plague them than Cromwell and the English Civil War.

In A Rip in the Veil, Alex Lind, a very modern, 21st century woman falls, literally, through a 'time node' and lands back in the 17thc. A gorgeous hunk of a man, Matthew Graham, a fugitive from the law, finds her injured and knocked out, and wearing very strange clothes. Matthew is the first person Alex sees as she wakes up and her first impression is that he must be doing some sort of reenactment or something, wearing those strange old fashioned clothes. Matthew, on the other hand is just as confused to see a woman wearing strange blue breeches, and with short hair. As Alex and Matthew get used to each other, they soon find out that they are both in danger, he because he is on the run from the law, and she because she is a vulnerable woman, wearing peculiar attire. Eventually they both find out that Alex has fallen back into time, and of course, this just complicates things even more.

Ms Belfrage's interesting style of showing one main character's point of view and then swapping to the other's gives the reader a greater perspective from both sides of the coin. I found it a useful tool for comparing myself with Alex, as she behaves as a modern woman in an olde worlde time period, and wondering what I would do in the situations she finds herself. I loved the way that Matthew copes when his misogynistic ideas go head to head with Alex' modern sensibilities and behaviour. It is comparable to a psychological study, as we get to see how Matthew becomes less and less like a chauvinistic 17thc man and more like 'new man', in this strange relationship of  two lovers who come from different worlds. Equally, we see the vulnerable Alex casting off her independent woman thing to give in to her husband's old fashioned demands, in times when she is at her most distressed. It really does give the reader food for thought and it made me value what I have in this modern world.
Along the way, the road to happiness is not easy, there are many falling outs and many falling back ins, and many romantic interludes which, well lets face it, its a Romance isn't it? And Ms Belfrage love scenes are so well done, like a true romantic.

But its not all love and sex in this book, there is brotherly rivalry which cause the bloodiest of fights between siblings you might ever see; close shaves, when Alex and Matthew both get on the wrong side of the law, and there are some hairy scenes that will have you hanging on to your armchair, or in my case my pillow. Well written, beautifully at times, A Rip in the Veil is the first in a series I just know I am going to enjoy more of.

You can purchase the Graham Saga books on Amazon here and they can be read in any order, but if you're anything like me, you'll want to start at the beginning. Plus, you will not be disappointed.