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Monday, December 31, 2018

Prairie Rose Publications Wishes You All A Happy New Year!

As we close the fifth year here at Prairie Rose Publications with a lot of great books by our amazing authors, tomorrow will be the beginning of an exciting new page in our lives. Celebrate and rejoice! Cheryl and I want to thank all of our readers and wish you much happiness in the year to come. We have many more wonderful titles coming in 2019.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Gold, Gold, Gold - plus excerpts from "Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure" by Lindsay Townsend

I am fascinated by gold. People in the past were also inspired by it and made many beautiful objects with the metal. One of these ancient treasures is a torc and in my latest historical romance, "Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure" I have a torc as a precious relic at a northern church.

I had in mind the magnificent Snettisham gold torc as my relic. Here it is.

From the British Museum

Here's an excerpt from my sweet Christmas romance, "Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure" where we see Sir Conrad and Maggie together.

Chapter 2

A gathering of horses, war-chargers, palfreys and spare mounts, a hasty bringing together of men, weapons and supplies, and they were off. They pounded out of the bailey, through the village and onto the track to the old Roman road. Sunrise to sunset they rode and then on through the night, sunset to sunrise. Riding in front of Conrad, his thick arms braced on her either side, Maggie felt her world shrink down to her heartbeat, the scalding ache of her thighs, the glare of snow and the relentless drum of the galloping horses.
Had she ever imagined the recovery of Michael would be an adventure? Wishing she could clasp her aching head but not daring to relinquish her grip on the horse’s mane, Maggie longed to stop.
   “You awake there?” Conrad growled, his lips close to her ear. She shook her head as if he was a bothersome fly and forced her wind-chapped lips to reply.
  “Doing well,” she said, determined her teeth would not chatter. In truth she was not so frozen. Sir Conrad had supplied her with a thick cloak and a woollen cap, cloths to wrap round her boots and rags to bind her hair. If I could only have some eastern cushions for my hips, perched on this bony nagWho knew horses had such a spine? Glancing sidelong she caught a knowing gleam in her companion’s deep eyes, as if he expected her to complain. But I shall not.
“Yourself?” She tried a smile, the cold light of the coming dawn piercing her cheeks.
 “We make camp soon, rest the horses.”
“Naturally. The horses. And the pack mules,” she added, wondering why she was teasing him as she might have done Michael. The truth was, she had ridden with this man for hours, her back snug against his chest, her legs pressed against his long shanks. It was hard not to feel a kind of closeness to him.
Now, she felt rather than heard Conrad’s rumble of a chuckle and knew a fleeting lightness in her soul as his arms tightened briefly about her.
“You will not be outdone, will you?” He guided their mount onto an unpaved section of road that did not jolt her bones, which was overall a blessed relief.         
“Is this a contest?” she replied, catching her wind-sore mouth in a yawn before she could stop it.
He smiled against her woollen cap and Maggie closed her eyes. The great horse moved beneath her, smooth now as a sailing ship on a calm river, the beat of its hooves strangely soothing, like a lullaby. I wonder how Michael is faring, she thought as she slid slowly, inexorably into sleep.
Conrad gently lowered the sleeping girl onto the rough pallet of bracken and hay that he had set before the new fire. She had done well, he decided, nodding to Davie, a silent reminder that the man guard her, before he checked on the horses and men. A palfrey had picked up a gorse or bramble tear on her flank. Conrad was conferring with a groomsman how to treat the wound when the weary peace of the camp shattered.
Lurching out of the darkness, Maggie staggered back to the fire, plucked out a burning branch and brandished it at the figure coming after her.
“Back!” she cried, stabbing the flaming brand at her would-be attacker, “You will get none of what you want from me!”
Conrad thrust the salve at the nearest groom and began striding back, to hear the farrier, Brian, say, without shame or apology,
“Come on, goldie, I can give you a sweet time—”
“What is happening here?” Conrad pushed between the pair, scenting the mead on the farrier’s breath.
“A bit of sport.” Brian swayed on his feet, squinting past the taller man as he gave the girl a wave.  Has this fool been drinking all night? Supping while on horseback?
“I do not expect to be set upon when I slip into the hazels to pass water!”
“You take on so, goldie, not fair—”
She took a deep breath that would have fit a dragon, clearly ready to light into the fellow afresh, when Sir David with his uncanny ill-luck, stepped out of the trees where he had been setting guards and said drily, “Women following soldiers are usually bed-mates.”
“I am not following anyone!” snapped Maggie, as red-faced as a dragon’s fiery breath, “I am seeking my brother and your lord is meant to be aiding me! Or do such courtesies only count for knights and ladies?”
Conrad sensed the camp about them stiffen and knew his men were leaning in to listen.
“Ladies do not bawl like market criers,” he drawled.
The bright stare cut towards him. “How else am I supposed to be heard?”
“Enough!” He made a cutting motion with his arm, tired of the whole squabble, and addressed his men. “The girl is with me, mine, and you all know it. Brian, get yourself a pail of water and dunk your head. We move on in two hours, when the sun tops that pine tree. Get on!”
He caught the girl’s arm and led her, none too gently, back to the pallet by the fire. “You stay,” he ordered, ignoring her look of utter betrayal.
He turned to leave, go back to the horses, when a narrow wiry hand grabbed his cloak. Looking back, he almost flinched at the flinty glare which stabbed him.
“You need the farrier, yes? But mark this, my lord, you also need me.”
His temper bridled at her insolence. He leaned down into her face, part of him amazed at how very blue her eyes were, in her anger. “I just saved you from a mauling or worse. Why did you not wait for me to escort you? Are you so naive?”
If she could, she would have shot poison like a snake, he guessed, though her words were pin sharp. “I did not know such courtesy was required in your own camp.”
Not even a gesture of thanks, the ungrateful little wench. Did she think they were equals? “You do not tell me how to govern,” he began afresh, but she interrupted,
“Then rule yourself first. I thought you, sir, were different.”
With the I was wrong hanging between them, she stepped aside and flounced down on the pallet with such force that a puff of hay-dust rose in the air between them. Sensing he had made a mistake, loathing that feeling, Conrad stamped back to the horse lines.
Later, too brief a time to be truly rested, they rode on, into the forest of Galtres. The girl sat before him, silent as a stone. I thought you were different. “What happened to you?” he growled, too low for her to hear. He disliked her being so stiff, that was all.
I do need my farrier. She had no right to complain. As for Brian approaching her, it is the way of the world. In a war-band, everyone expects it.

So why did these reasonable justifications seem hollow?

Here's another excerpt, where we see the golden treasure of Ormingham church.

Inside the church Conrad noted that his brother and the earl were most keen to see the treasures within its crypt. In contrast, Maggie—or Margaret—was intent on the stout door of the underground chamber, the narrow stone steps leading down to it and the huge key the priest produced from his surplice to unlock the sanctuary.
“No one has ventured here for a while, thank our holy mother,” she observed, as the priest shouldered open the thick door and Richard and Earl John jammed together in the small opening in their haste to be first into the crypt.
Would be funny, I vow, were my girl’s plight not so serious.              
“Why do you say that?” Conrad asked aloud, interested in her and her reasons rather than the costly trinkets stashed within.
Maggie smiled, her eyes less strained than he had seen them for two days, and pointed down. “Dust and cobwebs on the steps, before the holy father walked down,” she answered, “which means no thieves, either, so we can set a trap for them here.”
“Snares have no places in the house of God!” protested the priest, while Conrad could only think she said we. She is glad we work together. In that instant his joy burned as fierce as the newly-lit torches.
“By all the saints, look at this!” Richard’s loud excitement over-rode the cleric’s disgust and the earl rocked back and forth on the heels of his two-tone coloured shoes, murmuring, “My, my, such handsome works.”
Curious where he had not been greatly intrigued before, merely staying with Maggie to ensure she was safe, Conrad waited for the smoke of the priest’s spitting, damp torch to settle, and then looked for himself.
So much bright gold, was his first thought, while Richard, naturally stretched out sticky fingers to paw at the pieces and Earl John intoned, “Roman, or earlier, and fit for a king.”
“This is the holy moon torc of Saint Oswald!” snapped the priest, keen to put the church’s ownership beyond doubt, “Discovered in a pond near here by my great-grandfather!”
“I have heard tell of such sacred wonders before,” said Conrad, hoping to prevent the priest and earl from saying more in anger or gold-greed that they could not take back.
“It was a woman’s,” said Maggie softly beside him, glancing once at him to share her thought.
“Why do you say that?” asked Conrad.
She pointed. “Because of the safety chain.”

Here's a picture of the gold torc with safety chain that inspired me.
From YouTube

My sweet medieval historical romance, SIR CONRAD AND THE CHRISTMAS TREASURE, is now out. You can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

On Amazon. Com here
And Amazon UK here  

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Pinkerton's Women

Pinkerton's Women

C.A. Asbrey 

It’s not commonly known outside of the USA that the first professional female detectives in the world date right back to the 1856 when Kate Warne answered an advertisement in a Chicago newspaper looking for detectives. Allan Pinkerton thought that the women described as thin, attractive- but not beautiful, confident and outgoing, was applying for an office position. He was wrong. She wanted to be a detective. And she was very persuasive. The woman Pinkerton thought was applying for secretarial work assured him, worming out secrets in many places which would be impossible for a male detective.”

Pinkerton agreed to give the young widow a try and she quickly proved her worth. Nobody expected a woman to be a detective, so witnesses and friends of criminals spoke about things in front of her which they would never discuss in male company. Men would brag to women, and lonely people confided secrets. Not only did she recover large sums of stolen cash, but she compiled robust evidence which was vital in the arrest and conviction of many criminals. Warne was skilled at transforming her appearance and her accent, and passed as a man even close up. Working under cover, which Pinkerton called 'adopting a role', Warne gathered intelligence on a plot to assassinate Lincoln, was pivotal in planning his safe delivery to the White House, and stayed up all night as a vigilant armed guard. She could slip in and out of accents as easily as she could alter her appearance. She was rumored to have been a widowed actress, but there is no evidence to support that to date.

During the Civil War she infiltrated Confederate circles to deliver vital military intelligence, and adopted a dizzying array of roles. She was a wife, a fortune teller, a Southern Belle, and helped capture thieves, spies, and prevent at least two murders. Before long she was the head of the new Women’s Department.

Allan Pinkerton is quoted as saying to the female recruits “In my service, you will serve your country better than on the field. I have several female operatives. If you agree to come aboard you will go in training with the head of my female detectives, Kate Warne. She has never let me down.”
She died on the 28th of January 1869 of a pulmonary edema caused when a fall from a runaway horse broke her ribs. It turned into pneumonia and she died at the age of 38 in Pinkerton’s own home. Allan Pinkerton was by her side and she was buried in his family’s cemetery plot. It’s not recorded what Mrs. Pinkerton thought of all this. We can only imagine that she was unhappy with the situation as Pinkerton's son pushed for the removal of the woman's department, but had to wait until Allan Pinkerton's death in 1884 to accomplish that.
Hattie Lawton with fellow Pinkerton agent, Timothy Webster, before his execution
Her legacy continued, for a while, in the other female operatives. The second woman employed was the first mixed-race agent. Hattie Lawson, or Carrie Lawton (called H.H.L.) in the agents reports, who just might be the stunningly beautiful Kitty Prescott Brackett who posed as the wife of a spy captured during the civil war. Pinkerton and had been a chartist back in his native Scotland, campaigning for universal suffrage. In the USA he worked on the underground railroad, helping runaway slaves reach safety. He saw through gender and race in a way which was unusual for the USA at that time, but it definitely helped him put his detective agency on the map. John Scobell was the first black man recruited to the agency in late 1861. Hattie was hired in 1860 and was not only the second woman employed at the world famous detective agency, but some historians speculate was the first, mixed race woman as well due to the circumstance of her meeting with Pinkerton. 

Hattie played a key role at the detective agency for many years, assuming various identities and ferreting out information that aided in solving numerous cases.  One of the most dangerous assignments in which Hattie participated involved gathering intelligence about Confederate army movements.  She posed as Timothy Webster's wife, and while he was executed, she was imprisoned for a year in  in Castle Thunder prison in Richmond, Virginia before she was exchanged for Confederate spy Belle Boyd, in 1862. Whilst imprisoned, he Union's most accomplished spy, Elizabeth Van Lew, visited Hattie Lawton, but it is unclear whether Van Lew was aware of the real identity of "Mrs. Timothy Webster." It's hard to believe she didn't. Van Lew ran her own spy ring, but by 1861 Pinkerton was head of the federal government's Secret Service.

Elizabeth Van Lew

Other female agents, like Elizabeth H. Baker, not only infiltrated the confederate side, but sat casually sketching the opposing force’s naval forces in full view of a naval officer, before handing them over to the union side. She also worked on robberies and missing person cases. Elizabeth Van Lew worked as a nurse in a Confederate Prison, who collected intelligence which she passed to Washington in code.  

All these women have one thing in common. Their histories are elusive, and they often have so many versions of their names it can be hard to pin down their real identities before they melt into obscurity. The fact that many of the records of the Women’s Department were destroyed in the Chicago fire in 1871 makes research even harder. That’s probably fitting for women who lived their lives in deep cover, but frustrating for those researching these elusive pioneers. If this post is light on detail, and low on photographs, it's not only due to the light footprint these women left, it's also a testament to their skills. These roles would later be known as 'spooks' in modern vernacular due to the fact that they would flit in and out and leave nothing but a memory.        

At their worst the Pinkertons were heavy-handed thugs who broke strikes and shot up family homes to capture criminals. At their best, they were not only revolutionary in their recruitment, but they were amongst the first to see the value in a national database. A systematic and analytical approach to investigation now seems routine, but only the enlightened took advantage of the growing scientific discoveries which assisted in solving crime in the 19th century.

Not everyone was delighted at the prospect of female detectives. Pinkerton and Warne were frequently accused of having an affair, and often posed as man and wife. Pinkerton’s son, Robert, fought against the hiring of more females, but his father insisted that he would continue to “to use females for the detection of crime where it has been useful and necessary.”

When Allan Pinkerton died in 1884, Robert finally got his way. He closed down the women’s department and cited complaints from agents’ wives about their husbands working with women.
The very existence of the Women’s Department was gradually forgotten by all but a few, and the groundbreaking work done by these brave women was almost lost to history to all but a few enthusiasts. I’m glad to feature a fictionalised version in The Innocents Mysteries. They are murder mysteries, set in the late 1860-1870s and stripped of the political partiality the agency later became notorious for. I hope it will renew interest in these remarkable women.     

A vacant-looking man with prominent yellow teeth walked into her field of vision, striding beyond the blinding sun and dragged her roughly from the horse. She had expected to be searched and had ruthlessly bound her body with bandages to try to flatten and conceal her breasts, but the man merely patted down her sides before turning his attentions to her jacket. He pulled out the pistol which had been loosely placed in her pocket and slapped his way down her legs. She was instantly glad she had foregone the Derringer she usually wore at her ankle. A concealed weapon was too risky.
“He’s clean.”
“Well, boy. It seems like you’re gonna get your wish, but if you’ve been messin’ with us and you ain’t Quinn’s kin, you’re gonna regret it. He don’t like to be messed with.”
Abigail felt her arms grabbed as she was roughly turned around and her carefully dirtied hands were bound behind her back, the rope biting deeply into her skin as it was pulled tight. They must have seen her wince as it provoked a chorus of laughter which rang in her ears.
“Looks like this life’s a bit too rough for you, sonny.”
 A thick, smelly bag was thrust over her head, obliterating the world, before she was lifted back onto her little colt and she felt herself led off to face the rest of the gang.


Friday, December 28, 2018

FASCINATING NORWAY by Cynthia Breeding

This fall, I took a land tour of Scandinavia…Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Most of the time, travelers choose cruise ships for these destinations since all the major cities can be accessed by ship as well as the spectacular fjords, but I always like to learn more about the people and the land than what a short day excursion while in port can provide.

Denmark is, as they say, “flat as a pancake” and everyone (everyone!) owns a bicycle. Part of the reason is that there is a 150% surcharge on personal cars, although the Danes can get a “business” plate. Cycling also keeps them incredibly fit and healthy in spite of a penchant for ice cream and waffles. Historically, the Danes were powerful, having control of both Norway and Sweden for centuries. (Remember Hamlet?) Odense is the home of Hans Christian Anderson and a museum there has beautiful editions of The Little Mermaid.

Sweden is very pastoral, with forests and a huge lake (Lake Vattern) that nearly bisects the country. Stockholm is actually a city of many islands criss-crossed with numerous bridges. Old Town (Camia stan) was settled nearly a thousand years ago and contains Marten Trotzigs Grand, a street with 36 steps and only 35” wide. Contrast that to one of our eight-lane freeways!

Norway, though, was my favorite. The fjords are absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and as deep as the mountains surrounding them are high. The snowcap on the mountains starts at about 3,000 feet so you can imagine the depth. It’s no wonder cruise ships can sail all way in. A Flam Railway trip to Voss passes by numerous waterfalls, at which any the Nordic Huldra, a wood nymph that lures sailors into the forest, may lurk. She sang her song as we passed. Also worth the trip was the Trolstigen Road (The Trolls’ Road) which climbs a mountain at a 10% incline and includes eleven hairpin bends…a bit hair-raising if you are sitting on the side of the bus that looks over the edge of that road.

But you simply cannot visit Scandinavia without thinking about Vikings. The Viking museum in Oslo has two well-preserved long-boats from the Viking area that are definitely a must-see, as well as plenty of other artifacts from the Viking Age (9th-11th centuries).

And it was with Vikings in mind, that I wrote The Viking’s Yuletide Woman, available through Prairie Rose Publishing.
Travelling tips: Because of the North Atlantic Drift (part of the Gulf Stream) the waters around southern Scandinavia are relatively warm which means a temperate climate. Pack some shorts and t-shirts! Also, most hotels and restaurants do not have air-conditioning either.


866 A.D.~

Ruthless Viking Prince Ivar is determined to avenge his murdered father—even if it means marrying a Saxon princess who will do whatever she can to escape him. Ivar and his men take over the Saxon stronghold of York, England, in the hope of forcing King Aelle to surrender. He holds Princess Aethelthryth, King Aelle’s daughter, as a prized hostage---or so he believes.

But the “princess” captive, Ella, is a lowly maid who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She bears a striking
resemblance to Princess Aethelthryth who has been spirited away to safety. Ivar’s captain, Bronwolf, mistakes her for her mistress. Though he is attracted to Ella, Bronwolf turns her over to Ivar, as is his duty…but the fires of desire have already been kindled between the captain and the maid.

Ella continues her pretense of being the true princess in order to protect herself from the brutish Viking prince and his men, but her plan is turned on her when Ivar decides to make her his bride to seal the alliance between their people.

When Bronwolf learns her true identity, there is only one thing he can do to save her from Ivar’s fury at being duped—he must find a way to get her to safety. Can he protect Ella from the barbaric Prince Ivar, or will it cost both of them their lives? Will Ella consent to his plan and become THE VIKING’S YULETIDE WOMAN?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Book review: Kissing Until Christmas: A Mail Order Bride by Livia J. Washburn

Christmas is almost here!! And they'll be kissin' till Christmas! I'm ready, are you??? ;)



Shawn Killian and his young son Wes came to Briar Hill, Texas, looking to escape their past. The last thing Shawn wanted to complicate his life was a mail-order bride. But because of some mysterious mix-up, that's what he found himself having to deal with when Abby Demarest showed up. Shawn knows the smart thing to do would be to send her back where she came from, but that would have been easier to do if she wasn't so smart, pretty, and determined. What Shawn doesn't know is that Abby has some secrets of her own that threaten the life he has planned for him and Wes, and it may be that love is the only thing that will save all of them!

My Review:

Ohhh! Talk about an intriguing mix of sweet and mysterious and heart-warming and heart-pounding all wrapped up in a pretty Christmas story!

Abby heads off to Texas to meet her groom... only she gets quite the surprise once arriving there. I adored her strength, her stubbornness, and the way she worked through opening up her heart to Shawn and Wes. The secrets she had hounding her -- whew, they sure catch you off guard and make her all the more desirable and worthy of a woman, wife(to-be), and mother(to-be).

Shawn -- he's definitely a mystery as well and manages to keep himself pretty closed off. You just want to dig in like Abby does and find out what's hidden in his head and chaining up his heart so you can give him the love and healing he so desperately shows he needs, and wants, but is scared to accept. Same as Abby - when those secrets are revealed - whoa baby - they're a shocker.

Wes, Shawn's boy, is just absolutely sweet and has so much love to give. Even to cantankerous geese.... haha!

If you're wanting a charmin' sweet Christmas story with just a bit of suspenseful intrigue, grab Kissing Until Christmas. It'll keep you warm and smilin' from beginning to end!

Purchase Links:

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Book review: The Viking's Yuletide Woman by Cynthia Breeding


866 A.D.

Ruthless Viking Prince Ivar is determined to avenge his murdered father—even if it means marrying a Saxon princess who will do whatever she can to escape him. Ivar and his men take over the Saxon stronghold of York, England, in the hope of forcing King Aelle to surrender. He holds Princess Aethelthryth, King Aelle’s daughter, as a prized hostage---or so he believes.

But the “princess” captive, Ella, is a lowly maid who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She bears a striking resemblance to Princess Aethelthryth who has been spirited away to safety. Ivar’s captain, Bronwolf, mistakes her for her mistress. Though he is attracted to Ella, Bronwolf turns her over to Ivar, as is his duty…but the fires of desire have already been kindled between the captain and the maid.

Ella continues her pretense of being the true princess in order to protect herself from the brutish Viking prince and his men, but her plan is turned on her when Ivar decides to make her his bride to seal the alliance between their people.

When Bronwolf learns her true identity, there is only one thing he can do to save her from Ivar’s fury at being duped—he must find a way to get her to safety. Can he protect Ella from the barbaric Prince Ivar, or will it cost both of them their lives? Will Ella consent to his plan and become THE VIKING’S YULETIDE WOMAN?

My Review:

Ohh!  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve traveled to Viking days, and now, thanks to Ella and Bronwolf’s story, I’m wanting to stick around more!

The barbaric Vikings aren’t warring according to normal rules (hahaha! But of course!) and Ella finds herself playing the part of the princess hostage.  Which may have been the right decision to make...or maybe not…  Balancing between acting the princess and standing up to the Viking invaders, and bowing to the evil prince and keeping him at arm’s length, Ella finds herself also fighting off an attraction to Bronwolf. Which is hard to hide as well as deny.  And really, who would want to deny Bronwolf?

Bronwolf, while one of the prince’s closest men, stands apart from his fellow Viking warriors.  He’s been able to keep a hedge around himself to prevent the evil from his prince to leak into his heart.  And because of that, has devoted men and a presence that draws others to him.  Especially a particular princess-playing maid.  His ability to command, to lead, and to protect just make his struggle-filled pursuit of his Ella all that more swoony-sigh worthy.

With just enough drama, heat, excitement, and danger, Ella and Bronwolf’s story enchants and keeps you turning the pages till you at last reach the last page and really consider begging for just another chapter, or two, or three….

Purchase Links:

Friday, December 21, 2018

Medieval Gift Giving, plus Christmas Romance.

During the Middle Ages, Christmas was seen as a sacred time, the time for the three Christ-Masses. Charitable giving to the poor was encouraged on Saint Stephen's day, December 26, which we know as Boxing Day.  On Boxing Day in the middle ages, the poor received money in hollow clay pots with a slit in the top, nicknamed 'piggies'. Unlike modern piggy banks, these clay pots had to be broken to extract the cash.

A page from the Bedford Hours.
What about gift-giving among other classes?

Sacred gifts - of prayer books and so on - were seen as being appropriate for the holy Christmas period. Anne of Burgundy presented the Bedford Hours to Henry VI, her eight-year-old nephew, in 1430. The book is now at the British Library.

Gifts were sometimes given at the New Year. New Year's day, known at the time as the ├ętrenne, a word derived from the Latin strena,  (used to mean both the gifts and the ritual exchange) was the traditional time to do so. Gifts might be food -Christmas was a time of feasting and, for example, it was considered bad luck to refuse a Christmas mince pie given by a host. A Christmas kiss of peace might be given under the green kissing bough of holly and other green-stuff and mistletoe, the plant of peace. Sometimes the 'gift' might be a joke, such as the 'book' given by the illuminators of Les Tres Riches Heures to the Duke de Berry, which turned out to be a block of wood. 

At times the gifts were part of very formal processions and ceremonies. At the courts of Henry Tudor and Richard II the king rose on the day of the New Year and seated himself in his chamber ready to give and receive presents, given and received in strict order or rank. Sometimes the heralds and messengers bringing such gifts could also find themselves rewarded, as happened in the court of Richard II when the carver of the King was given a gold cup by the French King Charles. Kings and Queens could exchange gifts, often of rich jewels, as a public show of respect and affection. Rulers were expected to be generous but at the same time the size and value of gifts were ranged in order of class - kings and queens, their families, nobles, servants, right down to laundresses and cleaning-women. In some years, certain symbols might be used in gifts. In 1422 at the court of Charles VI, small jewels shaped like peacocks were given out to courtiers -  the peacock being one of Charles's badges. 

In medieval England, such gift-giving also went on. People gave New Year’s gifts to those above and below them in the social hierarchy. For example, peasants who worked on landed estates brought gifts of farm produce to the local lord during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Custom dictated that the lord respond by inviting them to a Christmas feast. Personal gifts between people of equal status might have taken place but there are few records of such. In the records and for many kings and nobles, gift-giving meant ostentation and display.

Christmas and gift-giving features in several of my books. In my latest medieval romance, "Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure" I show my hero and heroine taking part in several medieval Christmas customs, including winter hunts, gathering and displaying Christmas greenery, Christmas fairs and dancing carols.

In the dark time of the year and the winter solstice, there might also be spirits and ghosts. My Christmas novella "Sir Baldwin and the Christmas Ghosts"
have Sir Baldwin and Sofia seeking to placate the restless dead in time for Christmas.

Lindsay Townsend

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Book review: Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure by Lindsay Townsend



Maggie’s younger brother, Michael, is kidnapped by outlaws, and it’s up to her to rescue him. Appealing to Sir Conrad, the grim steward of the northern English high lands, is the very last thing she wants to do. With the very real possibility that the outlaws know of Michael’s talent—the ability to open any lock, to reveal any treasure—Maggie races against time to find him before his usefulness to the outlaws is ended.

Sir Conrad desires Maggie from the minute he sees her—she makes him feel alive again—and that has not happened since the death of his wife. Though he hasn’t known Maggie before, a strange feeling of familiarity nags, and he agrees to aid the beautiful peasant girl in this quest of finding her brother.

Joining forces, Maggie and Sir Conrad form a tenuous bond. When an assassin attacks Maggie, the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit, and Conrad realizes that even Maggie doesn’t know the power she holds. But Conrad not only must keep Maggie safe, he must thwart the dangerous devices of his spiteful older brother, Richard, who has lately returned from crusade.

As love blossoms, Maggie and Conrad must protect one another. Evil is all around them, and doubt is a cruel enemy. Will their faith in each other keep them united? In the world of dangerous courtly intrigue, who is saving whom? Love is all that matters…but can that be enough?

My review:  

What do you get when you mix a resourceful, smart, and determined peasant girl with a good-hearted but tough knight? Sparks and insta-attraction that quickly ignite into something beautiful and sweet and worth fighting for!

Maggie is desperate to find her brother and is ingenious in finding help when she accepts she can't do it on her own.  Her drive, passion and smarts in working through both her desire to find her brother and her desire to pursue a relationship with Conrad captures your emotions.  Her skills in protecting others in her own way melts your heart and her worries about herself connects you closer to her.

Sir Conrad captures your attention with his honor, chivalry, and wisdom. But then he turns around and steals your heart with his protectiveness of Maggie - and in more ways that you think to expect.  Sometimes that care had some rough edges -which just made me love him all the more!  I adored falling in love with him along with Maggie and didn't want to let go when the last page was turned.

I appreciated how we got to see these two together from almost the first page.  I was charmed watching their insta-attraction grow into a forever bond.  We get to see things from both their perspectives and be in each of their heads, which I think added so much  more, because... after all... there's intrigue and danger and games at play within the ranks of nobility!

I was delighted to experience this Christmas story and get yet another wonderful taste of medieval story telling by a new-to-me author.  This longer novella delivers on the feels you'd expect from a longer length story, making it a wonderful holiday read!

Purchase Links:

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Secrets About A CHRISTMAS VISITOR by Sarah J. McNeal

A CHRISTMAS VISITOR just released earlier this month. I loved writing this Christmas story and it has a couple elements in it that may surprise you.

Although it does not have a Wilding in it, it DOES have a Thoroughgood and the Thoroughgoods took part in the Wildings series. See? I snuck that right in there.
In Banjo’s story he mentions Penelope Thoroughgood, a widow who taught him about love. I wrote Penelope Thoroughgood’s story in another Christmas story, WHEN LOVE COMES KNOCKING with Gil Thoroughgood, Penelope’s brother-in-law, as the hero. Gil Thoroughgood, a descendant of Sterling Thoroughgood in A CHRISTMAS VISITOR, was also a woodworker who liked to make whirligigs.
Gil and Penelope have a daughter who falls in love with Hank Wilding in the story, HOME FOR THE HEART.

In A CHRISTMAS VISITOR, Sterling has gone to a place called Hazard, Wyoming to build a ranch worthy enough to allow him to ask for Matilda Barton’s hand in marriage. The fictional town of Hazard is where all the Wilding stories take place.

So now I’ve told my all my secrets. A CHRISTMAS VISITOR is actually a part of the Wildings series. For those of you who have read some Wildings stories, maybe you caught the connection between Sterling Thoroughgood and the Thoroughgoods in the Wildings series. You probably see how crazy attached I became to the Hazard Wildings and their friends. In any case I truly enjoyed writing this Christmas story about Sterling and Matilda and the puzzle box that contains Sterling’s last hope to win Matilda’s heart.

A Puzzle Box With Two Doves Much Like Sterling's Box

If you haven’t read a Wilding story, I hope you’ll follow the link to my Wildings page at Prairie Rose Publications and check them out.  Here’s the link: The Wildings

In the meantime, here is the buy link for A CHRISTMAS VISITOR:
Amazon Kindle: A Christmas Visitor

Matilda Barton’s broken heart may never heal. The love of her life, Sterling Thoroughgood, has been gone three years with no word. Is he dead or alive? Why should it matter to her? She’s spent the past three years trying to save her father, her ranch, and her dignity—but her heart has taken the worst battering of all. Now that her father has died, the livestock has been sold off, and the ranch is in disrepair, her life is empty. When Sterling Thoroughgood rides up to her house on Christmas Eve, is it any wonder she greets him with a shotgun instead of a kiss?
Sterling Throughgood has worked hard to build a ranch in Hazard, Wyoming. Admittedly, it took longer than he thought, but he had to have a good start for Matilda, the woman he’s always loved. Arriving at her house on Christmas Eve, he discovers a lot has changed in three years. Her father, his mentor, has passed away—and Matilda has become bitter because of what she felt were empty promises Sterling made in the past. But Sterling is not a quitter, and he will pit his determination against Matilda’s iron-clad will any day of the week—even on Christmas Eve.
He hopes that the puzzle box he made for her with his special gift inside will prove to her his ever-constant love, but is it too late for that? Can Matilda understand his three-year absence amidst all the loss she’s gone through? Is their love lost forever, or does the peculiar puzzle box hold the key to happiness for both of them? Can Sterling be more than just A CHRISTMAS VISITOR…

            “Don’t you even think about stepping up on this porch, Sterling Alexander Thoroughgood, or I’ll shoot a hole in you big enough for a team of horses to jump through.” The woman wearing a faded blue calico dress aimed the shotgun straight at his heart…and sometimes his liver since she wasn’t holding the shotgun all that steady.
Sterling raised his hands in the air. His bare hands were practically numb from the cold. He glanced up at the slate gray sky. Snow’s comin’. Then he grinned at the woman holding the shotgun. “Merry Christmas to you, too, Matilda.”

She dipped the shotgun for just a moment, but raised it again as if on a second thought. “What do you want here after being gone for three years? Did you break some hearts up in Wyoming? Maybe you have some fathers and brothers gunning for you and you thought you’d come running back here to hide.”

Well, there it was. He’d hurt her when he left and she wasn’t about to let him forget it. “I came to see Allister. I told him I’d be coming back soon as I got my place up and running. We had an agreement about him selling me some cattle and maybe a bull to get a good, diverse herd started of my own.” He reached out his hand to press down on the barrel of her shotgun pointing it toward the broken down boards of the porch. “So, if you could see yourself clear to let me speak to your daddy, I’d be obliged.”

Matilda placed a hand on her hip while the other held tight to that shotgun. “Seems you’re a little too late, Mr. Thoroughgood. Pa died last year from pneumonia. He’d been sick a while and I had to sell off all of the livestock except for the mule and a few chickens to pay for the doctor and his medicine. I guess you’ll be leaving here empty handed.”

“Tilly, darlin’, I’m so sorry to hear the news that Allister has passed away. He was a good man and a good friend to me.” He stretched out a hand to touch her arm, but she stepped back just out of reach.

“Don’t you dare call me sweet names or my nickname, you snake. You’ve been gone three years and not a single word from you in all that time. All that sweet talk means nothing to me now.” She opened the door and stepped back to wave him into the house.

“I need to get my horses settled in the barn first, but I’d be obliged if I could come in for some coffee after that. It’s been a long trip from Wyoming.” He tipped his hat and turned to step off the porch. Once he had hold of the reigns of both horses, he glanced back up at Matilda who still stood with her hand on the door wearing a strange expression on her face.

“Don’t be surprised at the condition of the barn. Part of the roof has a hole in it. You might want to put the horses in the stalls on the left to keep ‘em warm and dry. There’s a little hay in the loft still.” Her voice seemed less determined and ornery. Sterling liked it better when she cussed him than when she pretended to be obliging.

“Thank you, Matilda. I brought some feed with me. Do you have some stock you need me to feed or have anything I need to bring in for you?”

Her throat worked for a moment and her eyes took a watery sheen. Please don’t cry, darlin’. His heart hurt for her. Things must have been tough for her over the past year. Finally, she managed to speak and her voice had its defiant edge to it again. “Hector, the mule, could use some hay and there are a few chickens needing to be fed some dried corn, if you don’t mind a little work.”

Sterling chuckled relieved she had regained her starch. “No trouble at all. I’ll see to things in the barn. You best get on in the house out of the cold. You reckon we could have a cup of coffee and talk when I get back from the barn? I’ve been riding for days in the cold to get here and could use something hot to get me percolating again.”

“Ran out of coffee three days ago. Hot water might have to do.”

“I brought provisions with me and some things I thought Allister and you might need. I need to see to my horse first, so I’ll just get on out and get those chores done. You take it easy for a while and I’ll fix us up a fine pot of coffee as soon as I get back from the barn.”

Matilda nodded her head as an answer, took up her shotgun and walked into the house shutting the door with a decided bang behind her.

Diverse stories filled with heart