Friday, November 17, 2017

Iris Johansen’s STORM WINDS - Masterful Sequel to Wind Dancer... a Keeper!

Johansen weaves a complex tale with many threads and many interesting characters. She does it so well you will be captivated. And one thing I really respect is that from novel to novel, her heroes and heroines are different with unique personalities and attributes.

Set in late 18th century France, it begins a few years before the dawn of the French Revolution as Jean Marc Andreas, heir to the Andreas shipping and banking business based in Marseilles, meets Juliette de Clement, a courageous but lonely 14-year-old girl whose mother is a courtesan at the court of Marie Antoinette. Juliette takes care of Jean Marc, who is 10 years her senior, when he is injured. Their time together at the inn is not forgotten by either of them.

When Jean Marc has the chance to send his ward, Catherine Vasaro, to an abbey for an aristocrat's education, he asks the queen to send Juliette with her. Juliette thinks it is so she can watch over the sensitive and fragile Catherine, but Jean Marc has other plans in mind. At the abbey, the girls come to be great friends and Juliette pursues her love of painting.

Years later, as France's Reign of Terror begins, the revolutionaries attack the abbey, massacring and raping nuns and students. The two young women escape with their lives as one of the revolutionary leaders, Francois Etchelet, comes to their rescue and delivers them to Jean Marc's Paris home. Juliette, wanted for murder, asks for Jean Marc's protection in exchange for which she will use her connections with the queen, who is now imprisoned in the Temple, to recover his family's once-prized possession, the golden statue of Pegasus—the Wind Dancer—last owned by the royal family and now missing.

As Jean Marc and Juliette search for the Wind Dancer, they face treachery, danger and a city in the grip of the Revolution.

This is a well-told tale of a tumultuous time in the history of France. I loved Jean Marc, Francois, Juliette and Catherine. Great characters all. Amazing details and careful attention to history make this a very worthy historical romance. Highly recommended.

The Wind Dancer Trilogy

Wind Dancer
Storm Winds
Reap The Wind

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Kresley Cole’s IF YOU DECEIVE – Absorbing Story of a Scarred Soul and a Broken Lady... A Keeper!

Set in the Victorian era, this is the story of Ethan MacCarrick, the oldest of three brothers, Scots who live under a 500-year old curse that promises death if any of them marries. Of course, the curse was not all readable so they don’t know the whole of it...

Ethan, the oldest MacCarrick was a heartbreakingly handsome rake until a powerful nobleman ordered him brutally beaten and his face scarred for a crime he didn't commit. In revenge, Ethan bankrupted the nobleman. Ten years later, a haughty, mysterious beauty captures Ethan’s attention one night at a masquerade ball. When he learns she is the daughter of his enemy, he decides to complete his revenge: he'll promise her marriage, seduce her, then cast her aside.

Madeleine (“Maddy”) van Rowen has had a hard life. She comes to London hoping her cousins can help her find a new path, but alas, an encounter with a man who takes her virtue has her returning in shame to the slums of Paris where she ekes out a living. When that same man, Ethan, comes to Paris to find her, he is shocked at her living conditions and awed by her courage and kind heart toward others.

I fell in love with Ethan and Maddie and their story (introduced in the second book, If You Desire). There is something about love healing a scarred man and a curse to overcome that melted me. The characters are well developed and the plot moves at a good pace. Cole does her homework on the historical setting—it feels authentic—and she makes you fall in love with Scotland and it's men. These three Scottish brothers are sexy and strong and love their women with a passion that is compelling. They will draw you in, I promise. And Maddie is, well, one of the most endearing characters I have ever met.

I couldn’t put this story down. And the rest in the trilogy are equally good.

The MacCarrick Brothers Trilogy

If You Dare
If You Desire
If You Deceive

Monday, November 13, 2017

Lillian White’s THE UNSCHOOLED HEART – Unusual Victorian with a Staunch Heroine

Set in England in the 1860s, this is the story of Lord and Lady Peaton of Highton Manor, who have a troubled marriage due to his infidelity. He’s even brought his young mistress into their home, ostensibly as governess to his children. Elizabeth, Lady Peaton has nowhere to turn. When her husband befriends Noah Parlow, a former Royal Hussar, now crippled, Elizabeth gains an ally. Then into her dull existence comes an event that changes everything.

White writes well and brings you into the home of this troubled couple. You won’t see much of the children or any secondary characters, but the story is rich in Elizabeth’s emotions as she struggles to give meaning to her life. The romance between her and Noah comes on slowly but blossoms quickly, particularly after a tragedy.

The ending came as a surprise as the virtuous wife takes her revenge and Elizabeth and Noah get away with a terrible crime. Not for those who like their heroines without major flaws but intriguing nonetheless. 
If you are looking for an unusual Victorian romance, this is one to try.

Friday, November 10, 2017

New Release! A Secret Scottish Christmas!

Just in time for Christmas! My newest installment in the Agents of the Crown series, this one set in snowy Scotland.

Spies and Scots and Shipmasters, oh my!

Scotland 1819

Twin brothers Nash and Robbie Powell of Powell & Sons Shipping, London, sail with their fellow Agents of the Crown to Scotland for a secret celebration of Christmastide, a holiday long frowned upon by the Scottish Kirk. But more than Christmas is being kept secret. The two brothers have accepted an assignment from the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to ferret out a fugitive fomenting rebellion among the Scots.

Aileen Stephen, the only daughter of an Aberdeen shipbuilder, had to be clever, devious and determined to gain her place in the family business. She succeeded to become a designer of highly coveted ships. One night, a man’s handsome face appears to her in a dream. When two men having that same face arrive on a ship full of Londoners, Ailie wonders what her second sight is telling her. Is the face she saw a portender of the future, a harbinger of danger, or both? And which of the two Englishmen is the one in her dream?

Older than Nash by a mere five minutes, Robbie has always been protective of his twin. When he realizes Nash is attracted to the sister of their Scottish host, he thinks to help matters along. But Nash wants no help from his brother, not where Ailie Stephen is concerned because Robbie is attracted to the girl himself!

Two brothers vie for the affection of the Scottish lass but only one stirs her passion. Which one will it be? And what will she do when she learns they are spies?

“Masterfully crafted, wholly intriguing, utterly captivating.”
 Collette Cameron, USA Today Bestselling Author

“Walker stuns with her gift for storytelling, magically entwining historic fact and fiction to create a thought-provoking, sensual romance, one that will stay with you.”
Chicks, Rogues & Scandals

“A beautifully developed romance with political intrigue and such well developed characters you’ll swear this is your favorite of Walker’s stories… until the next one. Well done, Regan Walker! Very, very well done!” The Reading Café

Available on Amazon as an ebook and in paperback. And in paper from Barnes & Noble.

Read an excerpt as the Powell twins meet Ailie's Gordon Setters.

See the Pinterest Board for the story!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Betina Krahn’s THE LAST BACHELOR: Hilarious Victorian Romance!

Betina Krahn is a favorite author of mine with her detailed, well-crafted stories. And this is one of my favorite Victorian romances.
Set in London in 1882, a beautiful young widow, Antonia, Lady Paxton, occupies her time by saving widows and trapping gentlemen into marrying them by using their own perfidy against them. When a bachelor seeks to take a young widow's virtue--albeit a woman he's ostensibly been courting--Antonia follows them and, interrupting, forces the man to do the gentlemanly thing and marry the girl.

With 13 marriages to her credit, the men of White's club in London become concerned. They decide they must see “The Dragon Lady of Matrimonia” brought down, and what better man to do it than Remington Carr, Lord Landon? A confirmed bachelor, handsome as the devil, who advocates the vote for women and sending "surplus women" off to work to earn their keep, he is definitely against marriage. Antonia, on the other hand, believes marriage is a noble state and the salvation of many a widow.

Antonia offers Remington a wager...two weeks of women's work to change his mind about a woman's place. And if his mind isn't changed, she will do two weeks of a man's work. He accepts the wager, thinking to seduce her, but Antonia has her own plans.

Krahn had me laughing out loud when Remington put on a corset (after all, how could he do work as a woman does without having to bear the restrictive garment?). You will be amazed at the history contained in this seemingly light romance. It isn't really light at all. It's a meaningful tale of what widows suffered in Victorian times, when they were raised to be wives and mothers but were left bereft with no way to earn income.

Remington is an intelligent rake you will come to love and Antonia is a woman we would all want to know...a woman with a kind heart and a good mind who crafts devious plans to prove the damn men wrong. Even Queen Victoria supports her. Remington and Antonia are well matched and in an ironic twist will end up advocating each other's positions. The story is detailed, historically accurate and charming. I highly recommend it.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Becky Lee Weyrich’s THE SCARLET THREAD – The “red lantern” district of New Orleans in the Victorian Era… oh my!

Having read and loved Tainted Lillies, I was anxious to read another by Weyrich.

This is the story of Desiree La Fleur. It begins in 1885 when she is seven and her mulatto nurse flees Desiree’s drunken father with Desiree and her infant sister, Innocente. In the swamps they become separated and Desiree is recaptured by her father’s men. We don’t learn much of her youth after that except she is taken home and though she has a stepmother who has no love for her, Desiree is educated in the East. In 1899, when she is 21, she decides to take the money she gained from a writing contest and join her best friend, Nanine, in New Orleans.

As soon as she gets off the train, Desiree is mistaken for a woman named “Garnet” who, she later learns, is a prostitute living in “Storyville,” the red lantern district of New Orleans. It’s “the scarlet thread” on Basin Street. Right then I realized, even if Desiree did not, that she’d found her long lost sister.

Meanwhile Nanine plots to match Desiree with Dr. Roman St. Vincent, dubbed “the saint of Storyville” for the help he gives to the young prostitutes. And the prostitute named Garnet is in love with him. Two sisters both in love with the same man. Because of their beginnings, one is ostensibly good and the other a fallen woman, raised to believe she is a woman of color when she is not.

Neither Desiree nor Roman want marriage but decide, at their early encounter, to pretend they are engaged to appease Nanine and her husband in whose home Desiree lives.

Weyrich writes well and tells a good story so, of course, I was sucked in from the start. There were lots of improbable twists and turns but once I got over that, I had to find out if this smart girl was really going to be so dumb as to do some of the things she did. And what of Garnet who really loves Roman but who he thinks of as a young sister? And then there is this “ripper” guy who goes around killing prostitutes. Ah, yes, lots to think about. And did I mention it’s a bodice ripper?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Victoria Holt’s THE SECRET WOMAN – Victorian Romance with Many Secrets and a Sail to the South Seas

First published in 1970, this is a wonderful story that begins in England but eventually sweeps you to the South Pacific. Set in the late 19th century in the Victorian era, it’s the story of Anna Brett who was born in India but whose parents sent her to live with her maiden Aunt Charlotte, an antique dealer who populates her old house with furniture in the process of being sold.

Anna’s one solace is her friend Chantal Loman, the beautiful nurse who tends Anna’s ailing aunt. When Aunt Charlotte suddenly dies, Anna takes a job suggested by Chantel, as a governess in the home of a wealthy English family in the shipping business. The family has two sons, one legitimate, Rex Crediton, and one a bastard, Redvers Stretton. Anna is very attracted to Red, but then she learns he is married. 

Rex is the heir apparent, consumed with the business, but Red is not unhappy about that since he loves his ships and the sea. It was on one of those South Pacific islands, however, where Red met his wife, and island beauty whose family forced him to wed her when she came up pregnant.

In this fascinating story, it seemed everyone harbored secrets, even Anna, who hid from her friend her love for Red Stretton. And even though I knew Chantel was capable of doing wrong to accomplish her purposes, I was surprised at all the twists at the end.

Holt did a good job of bringing us into the drama and the places to which the characters traveled. I could feel the heat of the island and Anna’s exhilaration with the wind on her face while they were at sea. As she and Red finally admitted their love, I could feel her emotion at finding herself in love with another woman’s husband.

No one does Victorian suspense and mystery like Holt and this is a great one!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Review: Mimi Matthew’s THE LOST LETTER – To Love a Scarred Hero

November is Victorian romances month on Historical Romance Review (as well as Romance Trilogies month). I’m beginning with a debut romance author’s first story, a delightful romance set in Victorian England in 1860.

It’s the story of Miss Sylvia Stafford, daughter of a baronet and a sought after beauty in her first season. But when her father committed suicide, she is cut by her friends and forced to become a governess. Silvia is happy in her work but misses the life she had.

One day, the sister of the man she once loved, a colonel serving in India, shows up to plead with Silvia to come to visit her brother to save him from despair. Colonel Sebastian Conrad, now the Earl of Radcliffe, is horribly disfigured from a sepoy’s saber, and hides away at his estate in Hertfordshire.

From the beginning, it is clear these two people are in love, but each believes betrayed by the other. Given the title of the book, I assumed it had to do with a lost letter and a misunderstanding, which proved correct.

A well-written story, the chemistry between the characters is good, the emotions well developed and the secondary characters (Sebastian’s valet and his sister) delightful. And, importantly, all comes right in the end.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bertrice Small’s BIANCA – Intriguing Love Story from Florence and the Black Sea in the 15th century!

Set in Florence and the area around the Black Sea, beginning in 1474, this is the story of Bianca, oldest daughter of Giovanni Pietro d’Angelo, a Florentine silk merchant. When his son’s indiscretion threatens to ruin the family, Giovanni is blackmailed into giving Bianca in marriage to the debauched blackguard Sebastiano Rovere. Rovere treats his delicate new bride abysmally and she loathes and fears him.

Her mother, appalled at what has befallen her daughter, helps Bianca flee to a seaside villa where she meets Prince Amir, grandson of Memhet the Conqueror. Two years later, Bianca’s husband is murdered (I couldn’t have been happier), leaving her free to find love with Amir. She wants no husband and would have him for her lover, but neither Amir (who wants her for his 3rd wife) nor her mother (who considers him an infidel) accepts that decision.

Ms. Small never holds back on the evil of others, so the beginning of the book shows in vivid terms the perversions of Rovere. But once we are at the sea cliff villa, beauty is restored. Amir is a gallant, romantic man who loves Bianca. And Bianca has changed from the docile, obedient daughter to a strong woman bent on her own destiny.

It’s a fascinating look at the culture of the day in both Florence and in the world of the merchants of the Black Sea. A good start to a new series for Ms. Small.

The Silk Merchant’s Daughters series:


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Review: Nicole Locke’s THE KNIGHT’S SCARRED MAIDEN – Two Scarred People Find Love in Medieval England

Set in England in 1295, this is the story of Rhain, a mercenary knight for King Edward, who is being hunted by a warlord for killing the man’s brother. Fleeing north to York, Rhain and his men rescue a woman from a from a gang of evil men. Helissent is scarred on the right side of her face and body from a terrible fire that took her family. Knowing what she will face when Rhain leaves, Helissent insists he take her with him.

Helissent flaunts her scars before people, knowing they will be repulsed, but Rhain sees beneath the scars to the kind, unselfish woman she is. And she bakes wonderful sweet rolls. She sees Rhain as the most beautiful man she has ever encountered, a golden Welshman, but he, too, bears scars just not the kind you can see. Each carries shame for their past and each believes they are unworthy of the other.

As death stalks Rhain, he wants to see Helissent safe, but he cannot bear to leave her behind, and she does not want him to leave her. Rhain and Helissent continue to experience angst for their past as they travel north together.

This is a well-written story with vivid descriptions that bring to life the medieval villages and characters. The details reflect much research and enrich the tale. A few secondary characters—both the good and bad—add to the story. Recommended for readers who like emotional depth in their romances.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Best Medieval Romances

Who among us ladies hasn’t dreamed of a knight in shinning armour? Or, living in a time when valor prevailed and honorable men did great deeds and women of character loved them. (I did say we were dreaming, right?) These historical romances will take you there.

Since the medieval period in European history spanned the 5th century to the 15th century, all the stories on my list take place during that time; however, some Scottish, Irish, Viking and Pirate/Privateer historicals from that time period not listed here can be found on those specific “Best Lists” (links on the right side of my blog).

All of these listed below have garnered 4, 4 and ½ or 5 stars from me:

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught
Autumn’s Flame by Denise Domning
Betrothal by Jenna Jaxon (the first part of a 3-part story)
Bianca by Bertrice Small (1st in the Silk Merchant’s Daughters series)
Blackheart by Tamara Leigh
Blue Heaven, Black Night by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Bond of Blood by Roberta Gellis
Bride of the Lion by Elizabeth Stuart
By His Majesty’s Grace, By Grace Possessed and Seduced by Grace by Jennifer Blake
By Possession, By Design, Stealing Heaven, By Arrangement, The Protector and Lord of a Thousand Nights, 14th century London series by Madeline Hunter
Candle in the Window by Christina Dodd
Come the Morning, Conquer the Night, Seize the Dawn, Knight Triumphant, The Lion in Glory, and When We Touch from the Graham series by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Crimson Secret by Janet Lane
Damsel in Distress by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Desire of the Heart by Katherine Vickery (aka Kathryn Kramer)
Enchantress, Kiss of the Moon and Outlaw, Welsh trilogy by Lisa Jackson
Everlasting by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Forever and a Lifetime by Jennifer Horsman
His Stolen Bride by Shelly Thacker
Honor & Roses by Elizabeth Cole
Impostress, Temptress and Sorceress, Welsh trilogy with fantasy elements by Lisa Jackson
Keeper of the Dream by Penelope Williamson
Knight’s Honor by Roberta Gellis
Lady of Fire, Fire and Steel and The Fire and the Fury from the Fire Series by Anita Mills
Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson
Lady of Valor from the Warrior trilogy by Tina St. John
Laird of the Wind by Susan King
Lespada by Kathryn Le Veque
Lie Down in Roses by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Lily Fair by Kimberly Cates
Lord of Desire, Lord of Temptation and Lord of Seduction, Risande Family trilogy by Paula Quinn
Lord of Vengeance by Tina St. John
On a Highland Shore and Rivals for the Crown by Kathleen Givens
Princess of Fire and the sequel Knight of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)
Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey
Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewyne
Sense of Touch by Rozsa Gaston
Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale
Siege of the Heart by Elise Cyr
Silk and Steel and the sequel Desire and Deceive by Cordia Byers
Silverhawk by Barbara Bettis
Spellbound by Nadine Crenshaw
Sword of the Heart by Maureen Kurr
The Angel Knight by Susan King
The Bedeviled Heart by Carmen Caine
The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux
The Breaking Dawn by Jayne Castel
The Bride Gift by Sarah Hegger
The Christmas Knight by Michele Sinclair
The Conqueror, Promise of the Rose and The Prize, trilogy by Brenda Joyce
The Deepening Night by Jayne Castel (7th century Britain)
The Dragon Tree by Marsha Canham
The Falcon and the Flower, The Dragon and the Jewel and The Marriage Prize, the Plantagenet trilogy by Virginia Henley
The King’s Pleasure by Heather Graham
The King’s Rebel by Michelle Morrison
The Last Knight by Candice Proctor
The Lily and the Falcon by Jannine Corti-Petska
The Lion’s Bride by Connie Mason
The Knight’s Scarred Maiden by Nicole Locke
The Outlaw Knight (aka Lords of the White Castle) by Elizabeth Chadwick
The Raven and the Rose by Virginia Henley
The Rose of Blacksword by Rexanne Becnel
The Swan Maiden and The Stone Maiden from the Maiden trilogy by Susan King
The Warrior’s Game and Spring’s Fury by Denise Domning
The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick
The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Through a Dark Mist, In the Shadow of Midnight and The Last Arrow, Robin Hood trilogy by Marsha Canham
Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney
Untamed, Forbidden and Enchanted, trilogy by Elizabeth Lowell
Warrior Poet by Kathryn Lc Veque
Warrior’s Song, Fire Song, Earth Song and Secret Song, medieval series by Catherine Coulter
When Love Awaits by Johanna Lindsey
Where Love Dwells by Elizabeth Stuart
Winter’s Heat by Denise Domning
Wonderful, Wild and Wicked, trilogy by Jill Barnett

I hope you will consider my own Medieval Warriors series: The Red Wolf’s Prize, Rogue Knight, Rebel Warrior and King’s Knight. Both The Red Wolf’s Prize and King’s Knight won the RONE Award for Best Historical Novel, medieval.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Review: Johanna Lindsey’s WHEN LOVE AWAITS – Love in an Arranged Marriage in the times of King Henry II

Set in England in 1176, this is the story of Lady Leonie, sent away by her father to her dower keep because he didn’t want to be reminded of her mother whom he loved. Living alone with her people away from the suitors she might have had, Leonie begins to think she is happy in that state. When her neighbor, Sir Rolfe d'Ambert, a favored knight of King Henry, discovers she owns the land that is causing all his problems, the mercenary Lord of Kempston asks the king for her hand, wanting only to gain the land. Leonie knows Rolfe only by his bad reputation, but she will not defy the king.

Little does Rolfe know, he is about to get more than he bargained for.

This is a fun romp through the time when Henry II ruled England. The story reflects Lindsey’s research into the era and what life was like at the time. There’s treachery, rogues and villains aplenty with enough adventure to keep you entertained.

Rolfe is a worthy hero who will have his way. Lionie is an honorable woman who insists on having hers. The result is a bit of a tug of war but all does end well.

Of Lindsey’s many novels, I would say this is one of the lighter ones, but still has enough historical detail and angst to satisfy.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Read the Medieval Romance that Won the 2017 RONE Award!

King’s Knight, book 4 in the Medieval Warriors series, has won the 2017 RONE Award for best medieval romance!

See what the reviewers have said:

“… a tantalizing and intriguing tale of medieval chivalry, intrigue, passion, duty, honor and romance. Walker's knowledge of history shines through. Masterfully and brilliantly written!”  
 My Book Addiction and More

“Wonderfully researched historical fiction, filled with romance, danger and intrigue. I fell for Sir Alexander the moment he rode through the gates of Talisand. Merewyn is fearless, unconventional, and yet vulnerable. The perfect pair!”   Good Friends, Good Books

“A sweeping tale that pulls you in at the very beginning and doesn’t let you go. Along with a wonderfully developed romance, there is political intrigue and a great cast of supporting characters begging for their story to be told. It's medieval romance at its finest. Well done, Regan Walker! Very, very well done!”  
The Reading Cafe    

“Enticing, captivating, and exciting!! Alex is the type of hero that makes my heart skip a beat. Regan Walker’s attention to historical details and authentic history is astounding!”   —  The Book Review 

The author's style reminds me a little of Sharon Penman… the history I was taught in school was incredibly dry but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will be looking for more of Regan Walker's work.   Brutally Honest Reviews


Dubbed the Black Wolf for his raven hair, his fierceness in battle and his way with women, Sir Alexander of Talisand attacked life as he did the king’s enemies. But acclaim on the battlefield and his lusty escapades did not satisfy. King William Rufus would bind him to Normandy through marriage to one of its noblewomen, but the only woman Alexander wants is a commoner he saved from a terrible fate.


The shame of being the child of a Norman’s rape had dogged Merewyn’s steps from her youth. Determined never to be a victim of a man’s lust like her mother, in Wales she donned the garb of an archer and developed extraordinary skill with a bow. Despite her fair beauty, men now keep their distance. No longer in need of protection from other men, can Merewyn protect herself from Alexander when he holds her heart yet can never be hers?

See it on Amazon US, UK and Canada. And get the boxed set for the 4-book series!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

My Guest Today: Author Denise Domning Shares Longships!

Welcome historical romance author Denise Domning to the blog. Denise writes and raises pigs and sheep on her farm in Northern Arizona.  Her latest book Awaken the Sleeping Heart, the first full length novel in her new "Children of Graistan" series, is set in 13th Century England and Ireland, and includes a trip across the Irish Sea in a Snekke. 

Today she is sharing with us England’s first naval victory and the mode of transportation in the 13th century.  

Be sure and comment and leave your email so we can find you! Denise is giving away a copy of her new book!
England’s First Naval Victory: The Longship

Until I started my latest book, Awaken the Sleeping Heart, none of my stories ever left the shores of England. My previous heroes were men who tended to stay put, guarding their fief from all comers, riding out on a destrier or a courser (never a palfrey), dressed in chain mail and carrying a broadsword.

Of course this wasn’t exactly how life was, even for my staid heroes. In a world organized along the lines of personal allegiances, the key to holding onto your properties was to visit frequently. All noblemen, and even lowly knights, were men constantly on the move, and a horse wasn’t their only mode of transport. In the case of many Anglo-Norman noblemen, this meant getting into a boat and crossing a sea. But what boat? 
The Longship, of course. This is the same vessel previously used by the Vikings, and is still the fastest way to go from shore to shore in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. Low to the waves and sleek, with a big square central sail and benches fitted out for up to sixty rowers, this ship remains the Dreadnought of the seas.  Think “Lion in Winter” and the scene where Eleanor, having been freed from Salisbury Keep for a Christmas court, is being rowed upriver to Chignon. Although it looks to me that she’s traveling in a Snekke, the Longship’s smaller cousin.

As for England’s first naval victory, that win lies squarely on the shoulders of an unexpected hero, King John’s younger bastard half-brother, William Longèspee, the earl of Salisbury. William, who was unusually tall and earned his cognomen from the length of the sword he carries, is the illegitimate son of Ida de Tosny and Henry II. Needless to say, he did not start out his life as a sailor. He is, however, completely devoted to his elder half-brother and will do everything he can to support John. And that’s what turns him into England’s first admiral.

By 1213 John really needs his brother’s support. Since taking the English throne in 1199 the last son of Henry II has had nothing but trouble. First, his nephew Arthur of Brittany, the son of his elder brother Geoffrey, tried to claim England’s throne. It was a potent threat because primogeniture—oldest living son of the father takes the estate—isn’t yet legally established. There were more than a few men who thought Arthur had the better claim. For the record, Arthur accidentally drowned in a boating accident while his Uncle John was visiting. Whoops.

Meanwhile, King Philip of France has driven John out of Normandy, forcing those Anglo-Norman barons, including William Marshal, who yet have estates in Normandy to swear allegiance to him. And the barons of Poitou and the Aquitaine have flat out betrayed John, taking Philip as their new liege lord. Worst of all John had a years long spat with Pope Innocent III over naming the archbishop of Canterbury. To show England’s king just who he’s dealing with, the Holy Father put England under Interdict —forbidding priests from performing last rites, baptisms, and marriages—and excommunicated John. The religious situation has fed the muted rumblings of rebellion from John’s English subjects. Add a recent assassination attempt and Philip’s threat to invade England and you can see that John’s not having a good year.

Here lies William Longèspee
It’s the threat of an invasion that has William Longèspee, now viceroy of Ireland, either building or recruiting ships. He and his royal brother are determined to prevent that invasion by crossing the Channel and retaking Normandy, thus tying Philip to the Continent. It’s a reverse Norman Conquest if you will.

Although William certainly wasn’t born a seaman, I like to think he became one during this period. By May of 1213 his new fleet of around 500 ships gathers on the English side of the Channel in preparation for the crossing, but John dithers. The king is torn between keeping the fleet between Philip and England or sending his longships and the 700 knights they carry to aid the count of Flanders, whom Philip is harassing as he prepares to launch his invasion of England.

The decision is made on May 28, 2013 and the fleet launches for Flanders. Two days later they enter the mouth of the River Zywn where they find a huge French armada, some 1700 ships. But there’s no one on them. Philip has taken all of his army to destroy the city of Ghent. The English are no fools. They immediately pillage the French fleet.

All the ships are laden with both supplies—food and armaments—and the personal belongings of the French army. That includes things like spare swords or helmets or chain mail, all very expensive items. Once they’ve cleaned out the longships, the men of William’s fleet seize 300 of those ships for themselves, set fire to another hundred or so, then set sail for England, laughing all the way home.

Indeed, every man among them was made wealthy by the riches of the French, so wealthy that William Marshal’s biographer notes that “never had so much treasure come into England since the days of King Arthur”.

Knights on the sea. It wasn’t something I ever thought I’d write about, but don’t we all go where the tide takes us?


Stephen de Brazdifer sails from Ireland for England, seeking the bride promised to him by an ancient royal writ. But he’s too late. King John has already claimed the rich widow as his royal ward, wanting to cheat a man he dislikes, and keep her wealth for himself. If Stephen is to have his promised wife, he’ll have to steal her from his monarch.

For all her life Cecilia de Gradinton has cursed her wealth and beauty for the freedom they cost her. Now, newly widowed, with all hope of home and happiness gone, she rides toward her new prison under royal escort. But more than one deadly danger stalks her on the road to King John’s court.

Buy it on Amazon

Keep up with Denise on her Website and Facebook.