Sunday 3 December 2023

The Coffee Pot Blog Tour presents: The Mark of the Salamander by Justin Newland

Book Title: The Mark of the Salamander

Series: The Island of Angels

Author: Justin Newland

Publication Date: 28th September 2023

Publisher: The Book Guild 

Page Length: 256

Genre: Historical Fiction 

Twitter Handles: @JustinNewland53 @cathiedunn 

Instagram Handles: @drjustinnewland @cathiedunn

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Hashtags: #HistoricalFiction #TudorFiction #GoldenHind #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub

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The Mark of the Salamander

Justin Newland


Nelan Michaels is a young Flemish man fleeing religious persecution in the Spanish Netherlands. Settling in Mortlake outside London, he studies under Queen Elizabeth’s court astrologer, conjuring a bright future – until he’s wrongly accused of murder. 

Forced into the life of a fugitive, Nelan hides in London, before he is dramatically pressed into the crew of the Golden Hind.

Thrust into a strange new world on board Francis Drake’s vessel, Nelan sails the seas on a voyage to discover discovery itself. Encountering mutiny, ancient tribes and hordes of treasure, Nelan must explore and master his own mystical powers – including the Mark of the Salamander, the mysterious spirit of fire. 

THE MARK OF THE SALAMANDER is the first in The Island of Angels series: a two-book saga that tells the epic story and secret history of England’s coming of age during the Elizabethan era. 

“The constables are here with a warrant to arrest Master Nelan for murder.”

“Let them in,” Laurens said. “No, don’t!” Nelan cried.

“Let. Them. In,” Laurens snapped. The footman left the study.

“Then I must go,” Nelan said.

“No,” his father replied. “We are visitors here. Refugees. England is renowned for its adherence to the law. You must surrender to the constables.”

“Quickly, Dr Dee, what do I do?” Nelan asked.

“There are other significant elements in your horoscope that suggest you have a part to play in the future of this country. That’s why I’m here to help you escape: because you can’t do that while confined within a prison. So, you must run away and avoid capture for as long as possible. Then you can absolve yourself of this unjust accusation. Now, you must go,” Dee said, pointing to the window.

Nelan opened it.

“Do not go,” his father said. “You must defend yourself, and my honour.”

“Father, I must. The constables—”

Laurens squeezed himself between Nelan and the window. There he stood, legs astride, arms folded, glaring at him. At times, he had a fearsome presence. This was one of them. “You are staying here,” he said through gritted teeth.

“But, Dr Dee, even if I run, they’ll catch me,” Nelan said. “It’s broad daylight outside.”

“Not anymore,” Dee murmured, nodding his head. “Look out the window.”

Outside, a mist as thick as pea soup hung over the river. Where’s that come from? Did it arise naturally, or did Dr Dee conjure it out of the ether?

“Where is he?” an unfamiliar voice boomed from the corridor. “Nelan, be a man,” his father said, “and account for your actions. If you flee, you will dishonour the Michaels’ family name.”

Nelan clenched his fists. “Father, I have to find another way to clear my name. I’ll not end my days in Newgate or Marshalsea for a crime I didn’t commit. Besides, if anyone’s guilty, it’s Guillermo. Now, move, please!”

“I will not!”

“This time, I’ll not bow to your wishes. I’m innocent and disappointed that you don’t believe me. I beg you, get out of my way.”


The study door burst open, and Laurens glanced towards the intruder. In one swift, agile movement Nelan darted between his father’s legs and came out the other side. He scrambled onto the windowsill and jumped down to the ground outside before his father had time to stop him. Finally, he’d found an advantage to being small. The ground was moist and soft from the mist. A light breeze swirled vapour around him, adding a ghostly effect to the scene. From the study he heard muffled voices: those of the constables, his father, and Dr Dee.

He knew the paths leading to and from the house like he knew the course of the river. He felt invisible to the world, and in a way, he was. Leaving one life behind and taking the first frightened, tentative steps into a new one, he concentrated on every footstep. He could barely see the path, but he knew that the river flowed by some fifty paces in front of his house.

There he met an extraordinary sight. He stepped out of the swirling mist and into broad daylight. Apart from his house, everywhere was clear: the north bank of the river in Chiswick, the monastery of Syon Abbey to the west, and to the east the city of London, where filaments of woodsmoke snaked into the dawn skies on the horizon. The mist had settled around his house, but nowhere else. He’d never witnessed such a strange phenomenon in all the years he’d lived there.

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JUSTIN NEWLAND’s novels represent an innovative blend of genres from historical adventure to supernatural thriller and magical realism. His stories explore the themes of war and religion, and speculate on the human’s spiritual place in the universe.

Undeterred by the award of a Doctorate in Mathematics from Imperial College, London, he conceived his debut novel, The Genes of Isis (Matador, 2018), an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies. 

The historical thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador, 2018), is set in Ming Dynasty China in the shadows of the Great Wall. 

The Coronation (Matador, 2019) was another historical adventure and speculates on the genesis of the most important event in the modern world – the Industrial Revolution. 

The Abdication (Matador, 2021) is a mystery thriller in which a young woman confronts her faith in a higher purpose and what it means to abdicate that faith.

The Mark of the Salamander (Book Guild, 2023) is the first in a two-book series, The Island of Angels. Set in the Elizabethan era, it’s an epic tale of England’s coming of age. 

His work in progress is the second in the series, The Midnight of Eights, the charting of the uncanny coincidences that led to the repulse of the Spanish Armada. 

Author, speaker and broadcaster, Justin appears on LitFest panels, gives talks to historical associations and libraries and enjoys giving radio interviews and making podcasts. 

Born three days before the end of 1953, he lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.






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Wednesday 22 November 2023

Welcoming author Nancy Bilyeau to the blog



Nancy Bilyeau, a magazine editor, is the author of seven published historical novels and one novella. Her debut was “The Crown,” set in 1530s England. The main character is Joanna Stafford, a half-Spanish, half-English Dominican novice from an aristocratic family in disgrace. In ‘The Crown’ and its follow-up novels, ‘The Chalice’ and ‘The Tapestry,’ Joanna is up against some of the most ruthless men in England. After writing the Tudor novels, published in the US, the UK and 11 foreign countries, between 2012 and 2015, Nancy wrote two 18th century-set novels with a French Huguenot character.  ‘The Blue’ and ‘The Fugitive Colours,’ set in the porcelain workshops and portrait studios of England and France, drew on her own Huguenot descent. Most recently, she wrote ‘Dreamland’ and ‘The Orchid Hour,’ set in New York City in the early 20th century. She moved to the Hudson Valley, just north of NYC, several years ago, and is busy working on her first garden.

Why are you talking about the Tudors again?

Last year, my UK publisher, Orion, told me that they were re-publishing ‘The Crown’ and ‘The Chalice’ with brand-new covers and jacket material. I was very pleased! It’s been so interesting to see these books with new covers but even more so, to delve back into the period of time that I began my fiction career writing about. I’ve been reading fiction and non-fiction set in the 16th century before, during, and after writing my trilogy. It’s a great interest of mine, I would never want to stop. But it’s different to be a writer of Tudor fiction and to be purely a reader. 

Why did you move from the Tudors to the 18th century in your work?

It was a combination of things. By the time ‘The Tapestry’ came out, my U.S. publisher, Touchstone, was not as invested in putting out historical fiction. (Now that imprint of Simon & Schuster is closed.) Some people said that the Tudors were “over.” It didn’t seem that way to me, and obviously authors are continuing to create wonderful Tudor fiction. I looked at it as an opportunity to explore other world. I am a magazine writer and editor and for a while I was a screenwriter—in other words, I am used to jumping around among different periods and styles. I came up with the idea that became ‘The Blue’ while I was touring Hillwood, the Marjorie Merriweather Post estate in Washington, DC. Post owned an amazing collection of Sevres porcelain. The tour guide said, “In the 18th century, the rivalries between the porcelain workshops was like the space race of its time.” I thought that was fantastic! I’d always wanted to write a spy story, and I decided to make it an 18th century spy story set in the porcelain world.

And then you wrote books set in early 20th century New York. Why that change?

Again, it was because I had an idea for a novel. When I found out that on Coney Island, in the 1910s, there were beautiful resort hotels for the rich and powerful a mile down the beach from “America’s Playground,” the amusement park that was drawing thousands every day, including from the tenements of New York City, I thought it would make for an amazing culture clash story. I created an heiress who falls in love with an immigrant artist—and of course there is a string of murders going on at the same time! After that I wrote a novella, ‘The Ghost of Madison Avenue,’ because I woke up one day feeling, “I MUST write a Christmas ghost story.” So I did, and set it in the Morgan Museum in 1912. And then most recently I wrote “The Orchid Hour,” set in Little Italy and Greenwich Village in 1923, a place and time I am obsessed with. I’d lived in New York City for years, and read a great deal about its history. I am always on the lookout for a historical flourish in a building’s architecture or a stretch of cobblestone where you least expect it. 

How do your publishers and your readers feel about your jumping through time and across continents?

The publishers seem fine with it! They want a compelling story, a strong main character, well paced, and lots of conflict. There is a common thread running through each of my novels: a woman solving a crime,  launching an investigation, or becoming a spy, in a rich, fascinating time and place. Often there is a romance bubbling away in the background, but it’s rarely the whole point. Neither are these traditional murder mysteries. But there is that similarity among all my books. Everyone knows how much I love to write atmosphere. I try to build a world in each historical novel. So it’s not like I’m showing up with a  science fiction story one day or a modern noir plot. I haven’t plunged too far off course.

Now, my readers. I have to say there is a hard core of committed Joanna Stafford readers who would love to see another Tudor book. They usually like ‘The Blue’ and ‘The Fugitive Colours’ as well, but to be honest, they sometimes find the New York City-set books too far from their comfort zone in fiction. While people who enjoy ‘Dreamland’ or ‘The Orchid Hour’ are usually happiest in the 20th century as far as their novels go and not reading a lot of Tudor. So I have two groups, it sometimes seems. I think that’s delightful, actually. 

If you have readers who want you to return to the Tudor world, why don’t you do that?

That goes back to publishers and who has which series and their editorial mindset. It’s something I am open to. I’ve found myself in an interesting headspace lately. I wrote a short story for an anthology in the last month and it was an opportunity to explore my earlier enthusiasms. I can’t give anything away in this stage, but I’ll share this with you. The name of the short story is “The Reliquary.” That should say a lot.

To find out more about Nancy’s work, go to

The Crown and The Chalice will be republished by Orion books in the UK on November 23rd. Go here 


The Coffee Pot Blog Tour presents: The Matchstick Boy by Rowena Kinread

Book Title: The Matchstick Boy

Author: Rowena Kinread

Publication Date: October 10th, 2023

Publisher: Goldcrest Books

Page Length: 329 pages

Genre: Historical Crime / Mystery / Historical Thriller

Tour Schedule Page: 

The Matchstick Boy

Rowena Kinread


When his young brother, Josef, is killed by a rock avalanche, Jakob believes it is murder. He had seen someone on the mountain ridge, above the scree, before it began to roll. But who would want to kill a child, and why? Jakob suspects Ramun, the privileged son of the owner of a matchstick factory, but nobody takes him seriously and he is powerless to obtain justice.

Thirty years later, Jakob’s profoundly deaf daughter is raped by Ramun and becomes with child. Determined to gain justice for his daughter, Jakob unearths a myriad of well-kept secrets in the tight-lipped community, but is anyone willing to tell the truth?

Just as he thinks he has uncovered all the facts, he realises he has made a vital mistake all along. Nothing is really as it seems.

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

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Author Bio:

Rowena Kinread grew up in Ripon, Yorkshire with her large family and a horde of pets. Keen on travelling, her first job was with Lufthansa in Germany.

She began writing in the nineties. Her special area of interest is history. After researching her ancestry and finding family roots in Ireland with the Dalriada clan, particularly this era. Her debut fiction novel titled “The Missionary” is a historical novel about the dramatic life of St. Patrick. It was published by Pegasus Publishers on April 29th, 2021 and has been highly appraised by The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and the Irish Times.

Her second novel “The Scots of Dalriada” centres around Fergus Mór, the founder father of Scotland and takes place in 5th century Ireland and Scotland. It is due to be published by Pegasus Publishers on January 26th, 2023.

The author lives with her husband in Bodman-Ludwigshafen, Lake Constance, Germany. They have three children and six grandchildren.






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Wednesday 15 November 2023

Join the New Release Party for Historical Stories of Exile - an historical fiction anthology

Book Title: Historical Stories of Exile

Authors: Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Elizabeth Chadwick, Cathie Dunn, J G Harlond,

Helen Hollick, Loretta Livingstone, Amy Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Elizabeth St.John, Marian L. Thorpe, Annie Whitehead.

With an introduction by Deborah Swift

OFFICIAL LAUNCH  PARTY Date: 16th November 2023

Publisher: Taw River Press

Page Length: 323

Genre: Historical Fiction / Short Story Anthology

Twitter Handle: @HelenHollick @cathiedunn

Instagram Handle: @thecoffeepotbookclub

Bluesky Handle: @cathiedunn

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Historical Stories of Exile

Contributing Authors:

Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Elizabeth Chadwick, Cathie Dunn, J G Harlond,

Helen Hollick, Loretta Livingstone, Amy Maroney Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Elizabeth St.John, Marian L. Thorpe, Annie Whitehead.

With an introduction by Deborah Swift.


Exile: a risky defiance, a perilous journey, a family’s tragic choice – or an individual’s final gamble to live. Exile: voluntary or enforced, a falling-out between friends, a lost first love, a prejudiced betrayal – or the only way to survive persecution?

In this historical fiction anthology thirteen authors (they are not superstitious!) have written exclusive short stories on the theme of exile. Some are based on true history, others are speculative fiction. All mine the depths of human emotions: fear, hope, love, and the fortitude to survive.

Join an inspiring Anglo-Saxon queen of Wales, a courageous Norwegian falconer, and a family fleeing back in time to escape the prospect of a ruthless future. Oppose the law with the legendary Doones of Exmoor, or defy the odds with two brave WWII exiles. Meet a Roman apprehensively planning exile to preserve the 'old ways', and a real Swedish prince forcibly expelled in heart-wrenching circumstances. Thrill to a story based on the legend of Robin Hood, sail with a queen of Cyprus determined to regain her rightful throne; escape religious persecution, discover the heart-rending truth behind the settlement of Massachusetts and experience the early years that would, eventually, lead to the founding of Normandy. Experience the stirring of first love, and as an exclusive treat special guest author, Elizabeth Chadwick, reveals a tale about the 12th-century’s heiress, Isabelle de Clare, and the Greatest Knight of all time – William Marshal.

With an introduction by multi-award-winning author Deborah Swift, enjoy these tales of exile across the ages. Some are hopeful, some sad, some romantic, some tragic, but all explore the indomitable spirit of resolute, unforgettable characters.

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited

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ALISON MORTON writes award-winning thrillers featuring tough but compassionate heroines. Her ten-book Roma Nova series is set in an imaginary European country where a remnant of the ancient Roman Empire has survived into the 21st century and is ruled by women who face conspiracy, revolution and heartache but use a sharp line in dialogue. Several of her novels have hit  #1 in Amazon US, UK, Canada and Australia. The latest, Julia Prima, plunges us back to AD 370 when the founders of Roma Nova met.

She blends her fascination for Ancient Rome with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, historical and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected a BA in modern languages and an MA in history.

Alison now lives in Poitou in France, the home of Mélisende, the heroine of her two contemporary thrillers, Double Identity and Double Pursuit. Oh, and she’s writing the next Roma Nova story.


AMY MARONEY studied English Literature at Boston University and worked for many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction. She lives in Oregon, U.S.A. with her family. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of The Miramonde Series, a bestselling historical mystery trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. Amy’s award-winning historical adventure/romance series, Sea and Stone Chronicles, is set in medieval Rhodes and Cyprus.

An enthusiastic advocate for independent publishing, Amy is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Historical Novel Society.


ANNA BELFRAGE Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with three absorbing interests: history, romance and writing. Anna always writes about love and has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. Anna is presently hard at work with her other medieval series, The Castilian Saga ,which is set against the conquest of Wales. The third instalment, Her Castilian Heart, was published in 2022, and the fourth and final one will be out in 2024. She has recently released Times of Turmoil, a sequel to her time travel romance, The Whirlpools of Time.


ANNIE WHITEHEAD is an author, historian, and elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and has written four award-winning novels set in Anglo-Saxon England. She has contributed to fiction and nonfiction anthologies and written for various magazines, 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 Nonfiction and was shortlisted for the Exeter Story Prize/Trisha Ashley Award 2021. 

She was the winner of the inaugural Historical Writers’ Association/Dorothy Dunnett Prize 2017 and is now a judge for that same competition. She has also been a judge for the HNS (Historical Novel Society) Short Story Competition.

Her nonfiction books are Mercia: The Rise and Fall of a Kingdom (Amberley Books) and Women of Power in Anglo-Saxon England (Pen & Sword). She has contributed to a new history of English Monarchs, Kings and Queens: 1200 Years of English and British Monarchs (Hodder & Stoughton) and has signed a contract to write her third nonfiction book, to be published by Amberley books in 2024.


CATHIE DUNN writes historical fiction, mystery, and romance. The focus of her novels is on strong women through time. She has garnered awards and praise from reviewers and readers for her authentic description of the past. A keen Medievalist, she enjoys visiting castles and ruins, and reading about battles and political shenanigans of the times.

Cathie is a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She also now runs The Coffee Pot Book Club, promoting historical fiction authors and their books.


CHARLENE NEWCOMB writes historical fiction and science fiction. Her award-winning Battle Scars trilogy is set in the 12th century during the reign of Richard the Lionheart. Her writing roots are in the Star Wars Expanded Universe (aka Legends) where she published 10 short stories in the Star Wars Adventure Journal. Scifi/space opera fans should check out Echoes of the Storm, her original novel published in 2020. She returned to medieval times with her novel Rogue in 2023. 


CRYSSA BAZOS is an award-winning historical fiction author and a 17th-century enthusiast. Her debut novel, Traitor's Knot is the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award for Historical Fiction and a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards for Historical Romance. Her second novel,  Severed Knot is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and a finalist for the 2019 Chaucer Award. Rebel's Knot, the third instalment of the standalone series, Quest for the Three Kingdoms, is a B.R.A.G Medallion Honoree and 2021 Discovering Diamonds Book of the Year..


DEBORAH SWIFT is a delver into archives, drinks too much tea, and loves antiques and old buildings. Her sturdy, stone-built house used to be the village primary school, and from her window she has a view of a few 17th century cottages, and behind those, green fields dotted with grazing sheep.

Historical fiction was a natural choice for Deborah as a writer because she always enjoyed the research aspect of design – poking about in archives and museums, not to mention the attraction of boned bodices and the excuse to visit old and interesting buildings.

She used to work as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, so enjoy the research aspect of creating historical fiction. She likes to write about extraordinary characters set against the background of real historical events. In her books Deborah likes to write about extraordinary characters set against the background of real historical events. Her first novel was The Lady's Slipper which was shortlisted for the Impress Prize, and her book  The Poison Keeper, about the Renaissance poisoner Giulia Tofana, won the BookViral Millennium Award. She has written eighteen novels to date including two series set in WWII – her latest, The Shadow Network is due for release in early 2024.

Deborah lives in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District,  and divide her time between teaching and writing.


ELIZABETH CHADWICK New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Chadwick lives in a cottage in the Vale of Belvoir in Nottinghamshire with her husband and their four terriers, Pip, Jack, Billy and Little Ted. Her first novel, The Wild Hunt, won a Betty Trask Award and To Defy a King won the RNA’s 2011 Historical Novel Prize. She was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Award in 1998 for The Champion, in 2001 for Lords of the White Castle, in 2002 for The Winter Mantle and in 2003 for The Falcons of Montabard. Her sixteenth novel, The Scarlet Lion, was nominated by Richard Lee, founder of the Historical Novel Society, as one of the top ten historical novels of the last decade. She often lectures at conferences and historical venues, has been consulted for television documentaries and is a member of the Royal Historical Society.


ELIZABETH ST.JOHN’s critically acclaimed historical fiction novels tell the stories of her ancestors: extraordinary women whose intriguing kinship with England's kings and queens brings an intimately unique perspective to Medieval, Tudor, and Stuart times.

Inspired by family archives and residences from Lydiard Park to the Tower of London, Elizabeth spends much of her time exploring ancestral portraits, diaries, and lost gardens. And encountering the occasional ghost. But that’s another story.

Living between California, England, and the past, Elizabeth is the International Ambassador for The Friends of Lydiard Park, an English charity dedicated to conserving and enhancing this beautiful centuries-old country house and park. As a curator for The Lydiard Archives, she is constantly looking for an undiscovered treasure to inspire her next novel.

Elizabeth's books include her trilogy, The Lydiard Chronicles, set in 17th Century England during the Civil War, and her medieval novel, The Godmother's Secret, which explores the mystery of the missing Princes in the Tower of London.


HELEN HOLLICK and her husband and adult daughter moved from north-east London in January 2013 after finding an eighteenth-century North Devon farmhouse through being a ‘victim’ on BBC TV’s popular Escape to The Country show. The thirteen-acre property was the first one she was shown – and it was love at first sight. She enjoys her new rural life, and has a variety of animals on the farm, including Exmoor ponies, dogs, cats, hens, ducks and geese and her daughter’s string of show jumpers.

First accepted for publication by William Heinemann in 1993 – a week after her fortieth birthday – Helen then became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am the Chosen King), novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she also writes a pirate-based nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages, where you can read more about Jesamiah Acorne, son of Charles St Croix – and the Doones.

Despite being impaired by the visual disorder of Glaucoma, she is also branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with the Jan Christopher Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working for thirteen years as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of a Smuggler. She also runs a news and events blog and a Facebook page for her village, and supports her daughter’s passion for horses and showjumping – and occasionally gets time to write... 


J.G. HARLOND Secret agents, skulduggery, and crime that crosses continents.

British author of historical crime fiction, J.G. (Jane) Harlond writes award-winning, page-turning novels set in the mid-17th and mid-20th centuries. Each story weaves fictional characters into real events. She describes her WWII Bob Robbins Home Front Mysteries as ‘cosy crime with a sinister twist’. Prior to becoming a full-time author, Jane taught English and World Literature in international colleges. She also wrote school text books for many years using her married name. 

Jane is married to a retired Spanish naval officer and they have a large, grown-up family living in various parts of Europe and the USA. After travelling widely (she has lived in or visited most of the places that feature in her novels) they are now settled near Málaga in Spain.

J.G. Harlond is a member of the British Crime Writers Association and the Dorothy Dunnett Society.


LORETTA LIVINGSTONE had no intention of writing anything but short stories or poetry, and especially not historical fiction. She stated it quite clearly on social media, only to suddenly find herself writing ... historical fiction. Her debut novel, Out Of Time, set in the mythical Sparnstow Abbey, was shortlisted for the Historical Novel Society Indie Award in 2016, which stunned and elated her in equal measures.

It was supposed to be a one-off. It wasn't. She went on to write two more stand-alone novels in the series; A Promise to Keep and Blossom on the Thorn. She had plans for more but has had ME for many years, and ill health has temporarily reined in her gallop. However, she intends to write again soon... 

Her other books include short story collections and poetry, and can be found on Amazon.

Loretta is on Facebook:

MARIAN L. THORPE Taught to read at the age of three, words have been central to Marian’s life for as long as she can remember. A novelist, poet, and essayist, Marian has several degrees, none of which are related to writing. After two careers as a research scientist and an educator, she retired from salaried work and returned to writing things that weren’t research papers or reports.

Marian’s first published work was poetry, in small journals; her first novel was released in 2015. Her award-winning Empire’s Legacy series is historical fiction of another world, based to some extent on northern Europe after the decline of Rome.

In addition to her novels, Marian has read poetry, short stories, and nonfiction work at writers’ festivals and other juried venues.

Her other two passions in life are birding and landscape history, both of which are reflected in her books. Birding has taken her and her husband to all seven continents, but these days she's mostly content to move between Canada and the UK.


Tuesday 14 November 2023

The Coffee Pot Blog Tour Presents: Twelve Nights by Penny Ingham

Book Title:           Twelve Nights

Series:                  The Heavenly Charmers

Author:                 Penny Ingham

Publication Date: April 2022

Publisher:             Nerthus

Page Length:        360

Genre:                  historical fiction/historical mystery

Tour Schedule Page:  

Twelve Nights 

by Penny Ingham

1592. The Theatre, London.

When a player is murdered, suspicion falls on the wardrobe mistress, Magdalen Bisset, because everyone knows poison is a woman’s weapon. The coroner is convinced of her guilt. The scandal-pamphlets demonize her.

Magdalen is innocent, although few are willing to help her prove it. Only handsome Matthew Hilliard offers his assistance, but dare she trust him when nothing about him rings true?

With just two weeks until the inquest, Magdalen ignores anonymous threats to ‘leave it be’, and delves into the dangerous underworld of a city seething with religious and racial tension. As time runs out, she must risk everything in her search for the true killer - for all other roads lead to the gallows.

Excerpt from Twelve Nights by Penny Ingham

Magdalen was beginning to wish she had crept back to Silver Street. Her world had turned upside down and she had no idea how to set it right again. She put her head in her hands, and her obvious distress cast an even greater pall over the gathering. At length, William Kempe’s bulbous eyes slid to the landlord.

‘Perhaps Francis murdered John? He’s best placed to slip something in his beer.’ 

They all turned to look at Francis Johnson. He was dunking dirty cups into a bucket of equally dirty water before slamming them back onto the board. 

‘It’s possible,’ Burbage replied. ‘But I’ve never taken Johnson for a murderer. And what motive could he have?’

‘None that I can think of,’ Kempe admitted.

Magdalen remembered Richard Cowley’s rapier piercing John’s doublet. Could it have nicked John’s skin? If the tip was poisoned, could it have been enough to kill him? She looked up, into Richard’s eyes. 

‘Poison is a woman’s weapon,’ he repeated, seeming to have read her mind. ‘A coward’s game. There’s no honour in it.’

‘When is there ever honour in murder?’ she shot back but Richard had already turned away, gesturing to a serving girl for more Mad Dog.

The shadows lengthened. The landlord lit the fire, the serving girls laid out soggy saffron cakes, and the players’ spirits began to lift, warmed by the crackling fire, and by wine and cakes and ale. And with every cup of Rhenish she drank, Magdalen’s spirits lifted a little too. The tavern was starting to fill up. Word spread fast through Shoreditch, and now all the poets and playwrights who had ever felt envious of Burbage’s lauded band of brothers were crawling out of the woodwork to gloat over their misfortune. 

Christopher Marlowe arrived, and the tavern lit up as if the stars had fallen through the thatch. He greeted them all in turn, embracing some, kissing others on the lips. But he offered no kiss to Will. Instead, they simply shook hands like two fencers before a bout. It seemed fitting, for they were presently engaged in an increasingly spectacular play-writing dual, lobbing masterpieces at each other across the Thames. When Marlowe attacked with the gore-fest Tamburlaine, Will struck back with blood-soaked Titus Andronicus. Marlowe lunged with his study of a weak king, Edward the Second, so Will parried with Richard the Second. All of London was waiting to see how Will would respond to Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta.

‘William.’ Marlowe released Will’s hand, and moved on.

‘Christopher,’ Will replied and turned back to his beer.

Magdalen found their relationship hard to fathom, but hidden beneath the jealousy and rivalry, she often suspected a lurking mutual respect. 

Stepping over Robert Greene, who had fallen asleep on the floor, Marlowe sat down beside her. ‘How now, Magdalen?’

She nodded absently. She had drunk a great deal of Rhenish, but she would never admit her inebriation, not even to Marlowe because it was not seemly. But he must have noticed her glazed expression because that familiar, half-smile was playing on his lips, as if he was enjoying his own private joke at the world’s expense. Although he was fast approaching thirty years of age, there was still a boyish charm to his features; the soft doe-eyes, the beard-less cheeks, the wisps of a moustache above full, generous lips.

‘I think you’ve had enough of this.’ He picked up her cup of Rhenish, and proceeded to drain it.

‘Hey!’ she exclaimed but it was a half-hearted protest, for her head was pounding like cannon fire.

‘You will have heard about the constable?’ she said quietly. 

‘Edmund Stow is highly fed and lowly taught. Pay no heed to him,’ Marlowe replied airily.

‘But what if the Puritans bribe the coroner to convict me? We all know they are looking for an excuse to close us down.’ 

He shook his head. ‘I won’t let that happen.’ 

She wished she could believe him, but Marlowe was the most unreliable man on earth. He had recently fought in a brawl which had resulted in an inn-keeper’s death. Although it was his friend, Thomas Watson, who had struck the fatal blow, they were both hauled off to Newgate prison to await trial. Marlowe had been released a month later, miraculously without charge. Perhaps he really did believe he was invincible now. In the history books in Will’s room the ancient Greeks had called it hubris, and no good had ever come of it.

‘You look like Christmas, Magdalen.’ 

‘Christmas?’ she repeated, bemused. 

‘Yes, your green kirtle, your red jacket.’ Marlowe broke into song, ‘the holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown.’ He had a beautiful baritone voice.

‘And you look -’ she eyed his tawny-orange doublet slashed to reveal yellow satin beneath; the wafer-soft, wide collar falling across his shoulders; the row of shiny buttons marching down his chest and belly. He had come into money recently, of that there was no doubt. ‘You look like a pageant, as always, Marlowe.’

‘Tawny is the colour of mourning, is it not?’ he asked with feigned innocence. 

Magdalen laughed, but it made her head hurt.

‘You remind me of my sister,’ he said, suddenly serious.

‘I didn’t know you had a sister,’ she said, taken aback.

‘Her laugh sounded just like yours. There was something so joyous about it.’ 

Magdalen noticed he was using the past tense. ‘Is she -’ she began cautiously, but Marlowe spoke over her.

‘She was married at twelve years old, and she died in childbirth at the age of thirteen.’ 

Magdalen’s heart lurched with pity. ‘Oh! I am so sorry…’ 

He was staring into the distance now, his eyes full of bitterness and remembered grief. Marlowe was a man of bluster and bravado; his every word designed to shock or offend. She had known him for ten years and in all that time, she had never seen his defences down. But now, the window to his soul was open wide and the view was so unexpected and so intimate, she felt obliged to hastily avert her eyes.

When Marlowe spoke again, he no longer sounded sad but angry. ‘Answer me this. How can you have faith in God when he allowed my sister to die in agony?’

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

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Penny has a degree in Classics, and a passion for archaeology – during the summer months, you will often find her on her a ‘dig’ with a trowel in her hand. She has had a variety of jobs over the years, including ice-cream seller, theatre PR, BBC local radio, and TV critic for a British Forces newspaper. 

She has written four novels – ‘The King’s Daughter’ is the story of Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians. ‘The Saxon Wolves’ and ‘The Saxon Plague’ are set in the turbulent aftermath of Roman Britain. Her inspiration for Twelve Nights grew from her love of the theatre in general, and Shakespeare in particular. 

Penny has two grown up children and lives with her husband in Hampshire.

Website:        Penny Ingham (

Twitter:         Penny Ingham (@pennyingham) / Twitter

Facebook:    Penny Ingham Author Page | Facebook


Instagram:    Penny Ingham (@penny.ingham) • Instagram photos and videos

Amazon Author Page: Penny Ingham: Books, Biography, Blogs, Audiobooks, Kindle

Goodreads:    Penny Ingham (Author of The Saxon Wolves) | Goodreads

Thursday 9 November 2023

The Coffee Pot Book Blog Tours present: London Tales by Tim Walker

Book Title: London Tales

Series: Short Stories, Book Two 

Author: Tim Walker

Publication Date: 8th November 2023

Publisher: Independently published

Page Length: 203

Audiobook: 3 hours

Genres: short stories; historical fiction; contemporary fiction; dystopian

Blog Tour Page: 

London Tales

by Tim Walker

This collection of eleven tales offers dramatic pinpricks in the rich tapestry of London’s timeline, a city with two thousand years of history. They are glimpses of imagined lives at key moments, starting with a prologue in verse from the point of view of a native Briton tribeswoman absorbing the shock of Roman invasion. The first story is a tense historical adventure set in Roman Londinium in 60 CE from the perspective of terrified legionaries and townsfolk facing the vengeful Iceni queen, Boudica, whose army burnt the fledgling city to the ground.

Further historical dramas take place in 1381 during the Peasant’s Revolt, the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the last ice fair on the frozen Thames in 1814. These are followed by a romance set during the Blitz in 1941, then the swinging Sixties and wide-flared seventies are remembered in the life story of fictional policeman, Brian Smith. Moving on, an East End family get a fright from copycat killings that are a throwback to the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders.

There’s a series of contemporary stories that reference recent events, including the London terrorist bombings of 2005, a literary pub crawl and a daring prison break, building to the imagined death throes of London in a chilling, dystopian vision. These stories are loosely inspired by the author’s personal experiences and reflections on his time living and working in London in the 1980’s and 90’s. Adaptability, resilience, conformity and resolve are recurring themes.

London Tales evokes the city’s rich history and the qualities that were needed by Londoners at various times to survive and prosper – from the base and brutal, devious and inspired, to the refined and civilized. 

Read an Excerpt 

Burning Shadows

An explosion coming from the river caused gasps and glances in that direction. “A warehouse has exploded!” a man next to them exclaimed. “’Tis the Dutch - they are storing gunpowder in our city to attack us!” another shouted.

The sound urged the harried Londoners to redouble their efforts to escape the pall of black smoke rising from the glowing inferno barely three streets behind them. The fire was spreading quickly in a pernicious, swirling wind.

Reverend Swallow had removed the tall, black hat that marked him out as a Puritan to wipe the sweat from his brow. “’Tis the end of days as told in the Book of Revelation, in this cursed year bearing the number of the beast, 666.” 

The stern expressions around him showed this was of little comfort to his group of family and fellow believers. Any further revelations were halted by the splintering of wood accompanied by the groan of collapsing buildings as the insatiable fire ate up the flimsy houses in its path. They felt a rush of hot air on their necks as they picked up their carts and guided them down Ludgate Hill towards the Ludgate - the most westerly gate out of the old medieval walled city.

“We must look for my father amongst the crowd,” Goody Swallow shouted above the noise of braying donkeys, honking geese, clucking hens, and the fretful utterances of the fleeing tide of humanity, most of whom had given up their homes and possessions to the greedy flames. A dog snapped at Ruth who cried out in fear, causing her mother to beat the dog away with her staff. The crowd was bunching together as they approached the entrance to the stone gatehouse that was their route to safety.

“Over here!” William Say’s firm, commanding voice floated out of the gloom of the gatehouse passage. The Swallows angled their carts towards the damp, brick wall of the ancient archway where William was waiting. He hugged his daughter and granddaughter. “I am much cheered on this miserable day to greet you all,” he muttered, shaking his son-in-law’s hand.

“Thank the Lord you’re safe, William,” Reverend Swallow said, reluctant to let go of his hand.

“And thanks to little Ruthie for finding me and warning me off from returning to your house.” He pinched the gleeful girl’s cheek.

“Aye, but the sheriff’s dogs will no doubt be on our trail. Come, let us hurry to my meeting house beyond the Strand.” They rejoined the throng moving west, crossing a bridge over the River Fleet that joined the Thames just a hundred yards to their left, then uphill along Fleet Street.

Authors Note:

The Great Fire of London started in Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane on the night of 1st September 1666. It was speculated, in a television documentary, that the cause may have been that the oven door was left open and a spark jumped out to ignite a reed mat. The wind direction at the time was east to west, and the dry conditions allied with closely grouped and combustible houses, ensured the fire spread quickly. King Charles II didn’t flee London from the encroaching fire, as William Say suggests in the story. Perhaps on the advice of courtiers, the king and his brother, the Duke of York, took the opportunity to salvage their tarnished reputations by remaining to organise firefighters and the deployment of the cavalry to pull down houses to make fire breaks. Their efforts, perhaps aided by a dying wind, succeeded in stopping the fire’s spread and, on the fourth day, the Great Fire burnt out. The damage caused by the Great Fire was immense: 436 acres of London were destroyed, including 13,200 houses and 87 out of 109 churches. An accurate death toll was not recorded – the official figure was a mere six deaths.

Lawyer and Member of Parliament, William Say, was one of 59 signatories to King Charles I’s execution order in 1649, and is thought to have drafted the document. He was never captured, and an entry in Wikipedia tells us he is thought to have died in 1666, but where and of what cause, remains unknown. An entry in the biography of William Say on the British Civil Wars website tells us: “He joined [General] Ludlow at Vevey in Switzerland until 1664 and is believed to have been involved in plots against the government of England in 1665-6. He probably died in the Netherlands around 1666.” ( 

Many Regicides were buried in unmarked graves for fear their remains would be exhumed by vengeful Royalists (as were the bodies of Cromwell and Ireton) and their skulls displayed on spikes as traitors. The only other historical figure in the story, apart from Say, is Sheriff of London, Sir William Hooker. It is not known if William Say returned to England during his exile – I picked him for my story because of uncertainty over his fate and the suggestion he lived until 1666.

Available from Amazon in e-book, paperback, Kindle Unlimited and audiobook formats, London Tales is a companion volume to Thames Valley Tales.

Book cover designed by Sean McClean, shows elements from stories.

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

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Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. Although born in Hong Kong in the sixties, he grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. After attaining a degree in Communication Studies he moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business. He returned to the UK in 2009.

His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, inspired by a visit to the part-excavated site of former Roman town Calleva Atrebatum at Silchester in Hampshire. The series connects the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend and is inspired by historical source material, presenting an imagined historical fiction of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.

The last book in the series, Arthur, Rex Brittonum, was published in June 2020. This is a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur and follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum. Both titles are Coffee Pot Book Club recommended reads. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018). Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker.

Tim has also written two books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (second edition 2023), London Tales (2023); a book of verse, Perverse (2020); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); and three children’s books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy – The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017), Charly & the Superheroes (2018) and Charly in Space (2020).

Tim took early retirement on medical grounds and now divides his time between writing and helping out at a Berkshire-based charity, Men’s Matters.

Find out more about the author at his website: 

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Audiobook Narrator:

London Tales and Thames Valley Tales audiobooks were narrated and produced by actor, author and playwright Richard James who has been appearing on stage and screen for over thirty years. Most recently, he played a guest role in Miss Scarlet & The Duke for PBS and Alibi Films and was nominated for 'Best Supporting Performance' at the Off West End Awards for his roles in A Sherlock Carol at the Marylebone Theatre in 2022. The play will be reprised in winter 2023/4.

Richard is on Twitter as @RichardNJames 

Wednesday 8 November 2023

The Coffee Pot Blog Tour Presents: The Warmth of Snow by Heidi Eljarbo

Book Title: The Warmth of Snow

Series: Heartwarming Christmas

Author: Heidi Eljarbo

Publication Date: 24th October 2023

Publisher: self-published

Page Length: 212

Genre: Sweet Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, Scandinavian Literature

Tour Schedule Page:  

The Warmth of Snow 

by Heidi Eljarbo

There must be a way to thaw a heart long frozen. Can she help him, or does he have other plans?

Sweden 1810.

August Brandell, the count of Linborg, has returned home after four years of war against the French Empire under the direction of Napoléon Bonaparte. Wounded and downtrodden, he is a meager shadow of the man he used to be.

One day, a lovely young woman comes calling. She’s strong and bright and, unlike the rest, seems unaffected by his wealth and unfortunate disability. He soon discovers he wants more than a sweet friendship, but a life of caring for him would not be fair to such a beautiful soul. Oh, how dearly, deeply he loves her and secretly wants her to stay, but he cannot and will not ask such a sacrifice from her…especially not when it’s out of pity for him.

Erica Gustava Ebbesdotter has primarily been left to herself since she was orphaned at an early age. Although grateful to her aunt and uncle for taking her in, they pay her no attention and even keep her in the dark about her parents.

Hearing about Count Brandell’s unfortunate fate on the battlefield, she knocks on the door at Castle Linborg to leave him a card of encouragement.

Meeting Count Brandell changes Erica’s entire world. Falling for him is utterly unexpected. Soon, he fills her heart, but he is far above her station. How can a man like him see beyond her less refined clothes and past? Worst of all, he is already betrothed.

This is a sweet and wholesome historical romance—a hauntingly beautiful tale of two hearts meant to be together.


TIME IS A PECULIAR thing. The first of November is here. Leafless birch trees stand in silent parade along the allée. The birds of summer have flown south to places only God knows where. Outside, the first snow has painted the garden and fields beyond with an overwhelming whiteness. It comes and goes this time of year…the snow. And time deceives me, makes me believe I’m wiser, older—that I’ve experienced these seasonal changes a hundredfold. Yet, for me—Erica Gustava Ebbesdotter—it has only been twenty-four moments in time.

Erica put the quill pen aside and placed her journal in the desk drawer. The knitted shawl had slipped off her shoulders, and she pulled it back into place.

Even though the maid had lit the wood burning stove in her attic chamber more than an hour ago, the chill of the night still clung to the walls and floor. Erica lifted the latch and opened the door to add another log in the cast iron stove. Mesmerizing orange and yellow flames danced inside, playful yet confident.

She had nothing to complain about…not truly. An orphan who’d been taken in by an aunt and uncle who kept her dressed, fed, and somewhat socialized, Erica considered herself more fortunate than most in her situation. But no matter how often her fireplace was stoked or how many summers arrived with days of sun and warmth, nothing made up for the lack of affection and tenderness from her family at Holst Manor. A niece was not the same as a son or daughter—something her aunt had pointed out to Erica on numerous occasions.

This title is available to read with #KindleUnlimited.

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HEIDI ELJARBO grew up in a home full of books, artwork, and happy creativity. She is the author of award-winning historical novels filled with courage, hope, mystery, adventure, and sweet romance in the midst of challenging times. She’s been named a master of dual timelines and often writes about strong-willed women of past centuries.

After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She lives with her husband on a charming island and enjoys walking their Wheaten Terrier in any kind of weather, hugging her grandchildren, and has a passion for art and history. 

Her family’s chosen retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summer and ski the vast white terrain during winter.

Heidi’s favorites are her family, God's beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.

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