Discover Normandy with Cathie Dunn

Today, on My Place, I'm going to tell you about the setting of my novel, Dark Deceit. A romantic medieval adventure, Dark Deceit is set initially in Gloucestershire, England, and later in Normandy, France in the year 1141.

When Alleyne de Bellac inherits her murdered father's manor in the softly-rolling Gloucestershire countryside, one vulture descends in the guise of a friend to take it from her. 

Having come across the murder scene on his return from a battle, undersheriff Geoffrey de Mortagne sets out to help her, but is unable to prevent the inevitable: the loss of her manor to his childhood friend and later enemy, Will d'Arques. 

As England is torn by civil war, leaving Alleyne without a protector, Geoffrey takes her with him when he travels to visit his dying brother in Normandy. But not only does he have to face the demons that have haunted him since his childhood, but Alleyne proves to be a troublesome travel companion. 

Their journey takes them to places in Normandy that I have had the pleasure to visit, such as Caen, Falaise, Sées and Mortagne-au-Perche. A holiday in Normandy in 2007 gave me the chance to conduct some serious research around the area. I walked in the footsteps of the Conqueror, the count of Anjou, the empress Matilda and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I felt very honoured! :-)

So, here are a few impressions of my travels. 

La Tour Marguerite, Argentan

La Tour Marguerite in Argentan

The town was founded by Henry I, Matilda's father, and the tower is the only remaining part of the fortifications built in the 12th century. 

Falaise Castle

The remnants of Falaise Castle. Sadly, not much is left of the original, but the concrete construction on the right hides a most spectacular audio-visual treat inside. An exhibition about life in the castle, its inhabitants, including most famously the Conqueror, Henry II and Eleanor. 

If you are in the area, I would highly recommend you go inside. It's wonderful! 

Falaise Castle



Bayeux does not feature in Dark Deceit, but it's a town with a pretty old centre and, of course, the exhibition of the Bayeux Tapestry. 

Not made in Bayeux nor a tapestry, it's still one of the most incredible pieces of medieval craft around. A must-see!

Domfront Castle


A pretty, sleepy small town in the Orne region, Domfront is worth a visit. Not much is left of the medieval castle, however, the grounds give you a hint of the expanse. 

Rouen Cathedral

Here lies Rollo, first mentioned leader of the Viking settlers of Normandy and founder of the duchy of Normandy.

The cathedral also houses the heart of Richard I, the Lionheart, in an elaborate tomb.

Rouen Cathedral illuminated
Right, I hope you enjoyed our little trip to Normandy. We returned there in July 2015 and enjoyed it as much as the first time.
Murder. Betrayal. Hope. 

On his return from battle at Lincoln, Geoffrey de Mortagne, under-sheriff of Gloucester and spy for the Empress Matilda, assists a dying knight caught in an ambush. Promising to look after the welfare of the knight’s only daughter, Geoffrey stays at her manor, investigating the murder. Keen to join the Empress on her progress through England, he is torn between his oath and his duty. 

Left to defend her manor following her father’s death, Alleyne de Bellac reluctantly accepts Geoffrey’s support. As she doesn’t trust the taciturn stranger, she asks Will d’Arques, an old friend, for help. But loyalties change. Her life in danger and her inheritance at stake, Alleyne must decide which man to trust. 

Discover England and Normandy divided by a brutal civil war, where vows are broken as allegiances waver. 

Dark Deceit is available here:  Amazon  Smashwords  iBooks Barnes & Noble


Next Sunday at My Place: author Sue Barnard explores Verona!

My Place: author Jane Bwye and I Lift Up My Eyes

Today, I extend a warm welcome to author Jane Bwye to My Place. Jane's first novel, Breath of Africa, a romantic drama set in Kenya, was nominated for the People's Book Prize and has garnered wonderful reviews. Her deep knowledge of the country added depth and colour to the story.

But today, she's telling us about her novella, I Lift Up My Eyes, and how she came to writing such a compelling, realistic story – a completely different setting to the vibrant Breath of Africa. More internal.

Find out from Jane!


“Take four men and one loving but unloved woman. Light the blue touch paper and stand – as close as it suits you, depending on whether you prefer a dash of passion or the quiet life…”
(~Ron Askew: Amazon review)

I suppose my life has been anything but quiet. I have survived tragedy, widowhood, and the trauma of leaving my home country. And I’ve been blessed with a large family and two loving husbands.

When I was in my thirties a friend had a serious accident. He was traumatised and his wife could not cope. They parted. Both have since recovered and remarried, and I know of many incidents where sickness has been the cause of broken relationships. Why does this happen – how can people avoid it? Nowadays we have access to counselling, but the pain is still there, and the result often seems inevitable. I have often felt compelled to explore this problem.

After my first novel was published (award-nominated Breath of Africa), I needed a break from Africa, yet I wanted to keep writing. So I decided to do what I do best, and write a story.

I have enjoyed disguising myself as Ann, thinking thoughts through her, and enjoying with her the delights of little things. Ann has helped me to appreciate the joys of England, to hold onto the good things and accept every blessing which comes my way.

I gave Ann three men: a husband Robert; a reprobate Duncan; and a son John, in the evening of her days. And then there is the fourth male in the mix – God.

Ann finds fulfilment in her work, enjoys her singing, loves to walk across the hills, and she travels to Israel. But Robert is not the man she married, and she is agonisingly attracted to Duncan…

I made a simple discovery, universal in its truth.

People have found this a compelling read, and it has made them think. I hope you will also enjoy the many lighter bits, and come away with some morsels of wisdom.


I LIFT UP MY EYES is a novella of 30,000 words, ideal for a short holiday read. It can be downloaded from Amazon UK, Amazon US, and Smashwords.

About Jane:

Jane Bwye lived in Kenya for over half a century, where she went to school, and brought up her large family.

Her first novel, Breath of Africa, took forty years to gestate, and draws on her experiences growing up in the country she still calls her home.

The novella, I Lift Up My Eyes, is utterly different, as she needed a break from Africa but wanted to keep on writing.

A world traveller, she buys a bird book in every country she visits. Now living in the UK, she indulges her love for choral singing, horses, tennis, bridge, and walking. 

Find Jane at:

Novel spotlight: Take Me Now by Nancy Jardine

I'm delighted to welcome back the lovely Nancy Jardine, author of contemporary and historical romantic mysteries. Today, she's talking about her novel, Take Me Now. It's a gem of a romance. A definite must-read!

So, here's more to whet your appetite...

Hello Cathie, thank you for the opportunity to return to your lovely blog.

Readers who already know me will have learned that I like to write across different genres. Variety is the name of my game and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, since it’s the type of writing which comes naturally to me.

In my historical romantic adventures, I love to immerse myself in the distant past and write about daily life in Celtic /Roman Britain. For that, I have to don my imaginary cap and make educated guesses beyond the facts I can glean from historical sources and archaeological interpretive assessments.

Yet, I also love the almost freedom of writing contemporary mysteries, of which I’ve now written three, one of them more humorous than the others.

Take Me Now, my contemporary romantic corporate-sabotage mystery, was an absolute pleasure to
write because I didn’t need to be careful of speech rhythms as in my historical novels and I didn’t have to be so watchful of anachronisms slipping through the editing net. Contemporary dialogue comes to the page more easily than historical for me and that’s maybe the case for other authors who write across those genres.

It was so enjoyable to create my kind of highland hero, Nairn Malcolm, a battered around the edges alpha male who has difficulty accepting his limitations after a mysterious motorbike accident at the beginning of the story. Yet Nairn’s not the only casualty. I call it a corporate-sabotage mystery since his businesses are also the target for malicious mayhem.

Aela Cameron, a feisty and resourceful lass from Vancouver, Canada, is a direct contrast to the incapacitated Nairn as the story unfolds. Making her a strong, agile woman with all the skills that Nairn needs in a hurry wasn’t too onerous but injecting a bit of humour into the plight Nairn finds himself in meant using different writing skills. I’d not attempted something akin to romantic comedy before, but I’m sure I’ll try it again.

Take Me Now is a mystery which needs to be solved but it isn’t a police procedural one where Mr. Detective steps in to solve the crimes. Neither does Nairn hire a private detective to find the saboteur, so it’s not that kind of mystery, either. I suppose it’s a ‘DIY’ mystery where my protagonists find the answers themselves…with only a little bit of help from the police.

You know—I might just start calling it my DIY mystery instead of a corporate-sabotage one.
Take Me Now is available from
and other ebook stores.

Nancy Jardine writes: historical romantic adventures (Celtic Fervour Series); contemporary mystery thrillers (Take Me Now, Monogamy Twist, Topaz Eyes – finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE 2014) & time-travel historical adventures for Teen / YA readers (Rubidium Time-Travel Series – Book 1 The Taexali Game).

Find Nancy at the following places:

My Place: author Ailsa Abraham talks about The Capital

After a break of a couple of years, my Sunday series, My Place, is back. At My Place, authors chat about the locations of their novels, how they came to choose them and a bit about them. Intrigued, as you're new to it? Well, let's start!

Today, I want to extend a warm welcome to Ailsa Abraham, author of fantasy romance novels, Alchemy and Shaman's Drum. A white witch and shaman herself, the characters in her books share her knowledge. 

Welcome to My Place, Ailsa!

A Capital Idea!

Many thanks to Cathie for inviting me over to talk about the settings and inspirations for my books Alchemy and Shaman's Drum

Those of you who have already read them will notice that the main Temple and the Guild
of Black Shaman are situated in a city only known as “the capital”. This was quite deliberate. I wanted the world in which the characters are living to be as real to the reader as their nearest metropolis. I mention the underground but those exist in many cities. Having been a student for three years in London, I will finally hold my hand up and admit that I did take inspiration from my time there. Happily, readers anywhere from Paris to Moscow can imagine the action taking place in their capital. The essential idea was that every reader feel that they could be there, it could happen and they were accompanying Iamo and Riga on their adventures. 

It was also very convenient to find that, existing religions having been banned, there would be very large buildings up for grabs. Already we see de-consecrated churches used for other religions, carpet warehouses or night-clubs. What would be more natural than that the old faith and their council would snap up the cathedrals for their own use? Instant spiritual centres with atmosphere and easily-imagined by the reader.  

Where I had to go into great detail for the background, obviously I dredged up my family history. It is no coincidence that Iamo's aristocratic family have a grand place in the Highlands plus a pied-à-terre in town as that is how things were in my grandmother's day. Similarly, for a very spiritual place for the show-down at the end of Alchemy I had to use ancient stones around which I played as a child in Cornwall. Even the drive from Long Rock to Penzance I was still able to see vividly. Again, I wanted the reader to be there so I had to have been there myself. 

As an author I love reading settings where it is obvious that the writer has been in person. Yes, we have any amount of information on the internet and one can Google anything, it jars with me when someone “guesses” that two minutes out of Lyon station on a French train they will be able to see wide open countryside. I wished to avoid that kind of boo-boo. 
In total, I wanted the world I wrote to be instantly-recognisable so that the changes which take place are believable. I hope I succeeded. 
About the author:

Ailsa Abraham writes under two names and is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman's Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon. She also writes gay male romance under her brother's name, Cameron Lawton.

She has lived in France for twenty-five years, enjoys knitting, village life and crochet. Until recently the oldest Hell's Angel in town, she is recovering from a serious bike accident and starting again from scratch (no, she won't stop). Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family. She runs an orphanage for homeless teddy bears and contributes a lot of work to Knit for Africa.  Unable to decide if she is a hippy or punk/goth when getting dressed she claims to be too old to care.  

Links and Buy Links:

Amazon. UK
Amazon.  com


History and Revolution with author T.E. Taylor

I'm delighted to welcome fellow historical fiction author, T.E. Taylor. Today, Tim chats about historical research, linked to his novels, Zeus of Ithome and Revolution Day. Each is set in an entirely different era, but both make equally gripping reads.

Over to Tim...

Hello Cathie,
   Thank you very much for inviting me to visit your blog. As one historical novelist visiting another, I thought I’d talk today about the different ways in which I have drawn upon historical people and places in my two novels for Crooked Cat, Zeus of Ithome and Revolution Day. Both novels are reduced to 99p/$0.99 until 15 August in the Crooked Cat Summer Sale. 
  Zeus of Ithome is a historical novel in the fullest sense of the word: inspired by real events (the revolt of the Messenian people against their Spartan overlords in the 4th century BC, and the wider power struggles in Greece that made it possible), set in real places – the landscape and some ancient cities of southern and central Greece – and including real (as well as fictional) people among its characters.  

  Although for some of those historical characters we know little more than their names, others – in particular the Theban generals Epaminondas and Pelopidas – are quite well documented.  There is a surviving biography of Pelopidas, and Epaminondas was a widely admired figure in the ancient world. That meant I needed to do some research, to make sure that the characters as they appeared in the novel – and indeed, my retelling of the events in which they participated – were consistent with what we know about them. With almost any person, and any event, in the distant past, that still leaves a fair amount of room for the imagination. One of the joys of historical fiction, for me, is putting flesh on the often dry bones of what we know to make living, breathing, believable human beings.

  To an extent something similar is true of the places that feature in the novel, at least insofar as the surface of the landscape is concerned: the patterns of cultivation on the land have changed a great deal since then and the ancient buildings are either gone entirely or leave only ruins behind. So there is scope to recreate these places in imagination on the bones of what is left. The body of the landscape itself is another matter: its shape will have changed little in two thousand years. I had visited some of the places that feature in the novel, such as Delphi, and still had memories of the views. Others, however, I had never seen, yet still needed to take my characters to these places and see them through their eyes.  Here, Google Earth was an invaluable resource.  If I couldn’t visit these places in person, I could still place myself within a 3D virtual landscape and see more or less the views my characters would have seen.

   Revolution Day, by contrast, is about an entirely fictional set of events: a year in the life of ageing dictator Carlos Almanzor, during which his vice-president, Manuel Jimenez, makes a bid for power. He does so not by force but through intrigue, seeking to manipulate the perceptions of Carlos and others in order to turn the Army against him. The novel is peopled by fictional characters and set in a fictional country, so there was no need to be true to any particular people or places.

  Nevertheless, I was not writing in a vacuum.  Like Zeus, the novel was inspired by real events, albeit rather more indirectly. In this case the events concerned were the fall of one dictator after another during the Arab Spring. What interested me was not the specific causes of these events, but the general issues they raised about the nature, effects and ultimate fragility of autocratic power. So I was not tied to the Middle East as the setting for my novel – instead I settled on Latin America, with its long history of dictatorships.  

  Nor was Carlos based upon any particular historical precedent. However, to be believable, he needed to have similarities to various actual dictators. He has the classic fetish for military uniform (he looks a bit like Augusto Pinochet of Chile, but with a beard). 

(c) Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional
  Like Gualberto Villaroel of Bolivia, he began as a reformist but adopted repressive measures to suppress dissent. And like Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay, he faces his greatest threat from someone who has long been his closest ally.  His estranged wife, Juanita, who is writing a memoir of his regime and their marriage, has her feminism, her glamour and her early political career in common with Eva Peron of Argentina. Unlike Eva, however, she has had a disastrous personal and political split with her husband. She will also be unwittingly drawn into Manuel’s plans as he makes his move. 

  Similarly, the locations needed to feel right for Latin America. So it’s hot, and from the capital city in which most of the action is set you can see both mountains and the sea, which is true of a good few capitals in Central and South America.  And Carlos lives in the kind of grandiose presidential palace that you find in many of those cities.

  So although Revolution Day is not a historical novel as such, it is both inspired and informed by historical people and events, and real places. 

You can find out more about Revolution Day (and read extracts):!revday/cwpf
About Tim Taylor:

Tim was born in 1960 in Stoke-on-Trent. He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford (and later Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London). After a couple of years playing in a rock band, he joined the Civil Service, eventually leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing.  

Tim now lives in Yorkshire with his wife and daughter and divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.

Tim’s first novel, Zeus of Ithome, a historical novel about the struggle of the ancient Messenians to free themselves from Sparta, was published by Crooked Cat in November 2013; his second, Revolution Day in June 2015.  Tim also writes poetry and the occasional short story, plays guitar, and likes to walk up hills.
Author and book links:

Crooked Cat Summer Sale: grab some fabulous bargains!

Crooked Cat is having a summer sale – and my two novels, Highland Arms and Dark Deceit are on offer for 99c/p for one week only! Well, until Saturday, 15th August... ;-) 

But there are also many other fabulous reads on offer. Discover new authors today!


Highland Arms

Betrayed by her brother’s lies, Catriona MacKenzie is banished from her home to her godmother’s manor in the remote Scottish Highlands. While her family ponders her fate, Catriona’s insatiable curiosity leads her straight into trouble–and into the arms of a notorious Highlander. 

Five years after an ill-fated Jacobite rebellion, Rory Cameron works as a smuggler to raise money for the cause–until Catriona uncovers a plot against him and exposes his activities. Now, Rory is faced with a decision that could either save their lives or destroy both of them. 

But he’s running out of time… 

Highland Arms is the first in The Highland Chronicles series of historical romance novels set in the Scottish Highlands.

Grab your copy of a "vivid and suspenseful" Highlander romance on AMAZON and escape to Jacobite Scotland! 
Dark Deceit

Murder. Betrayal. Hope. 

On his return from battle at Lincoln, Geoffrey de Mortagne, under-sheriff of Gloucester and spy for the Empress Matilda, assists a dying knight caught in an ambush. Promising to look after the welfare of the knight’s only daughter, Geoffrey stays at her manor, investigating the murder. Keen to join the Empress on her progress through England, he is torn between his oath and his duty. 

Left to defend her manor following her father’s death, Alleyne de Bellac reluctantly accepts Geoffrey’s support. As she doesn’t trust the taciturn stranger, she asks Will d’Arques, an old friend, for help. But loyalties change. Her life in danger and her inheritance at stake, Alleyne must decide which man to trust. 

Discover England and Normandy divided by a brutal civil war, where vows are broken as allegiances waver. 

"...a great read..." 

"...captivating...engrossing...highly recommended"

Discover medieval England and France! Dark Deceit is available on AMAZON


There are also many other wonderful reads from other Crooked Cat authors for you to discover: Romance, thrillers, chick lit, historical fiction and fantasy. All very well-written and entertaining. 

So head over to AMAZON UK or AMAZON US now, buy a few reads, and make my fellow Cats happy authors! :-)