Posted in Author Interview

Interview with Catherine Meyrick

I was first introduced to Catherine Meyrick’s writing after she released her second book, The Bridled Tongue. Let me tell you! This was a story filled with tension that kept me guessing how Catherine was going to pull all of the loose ends together (which she managed beautifully!) It is well researched and as a writer of 16th century fiction myself, I really appreciated her attention to detail. (To read my original review of The Bridled Tongue click here.

When planning my blog posts for the upcoming months, I knew I wanted to include Catherine in my great line up of authors’ interviews and guest blogs. Catherine was kind enough to answer some writerly questions for me and I appreciate her insight. She answered these questions for me way back in October 2021. It was not long after I had lost my mother and I was still recovering from Covid-19, so I guess life just got in the way. But she is so interesting and I wanted to be sure to get her interview posted.

Read on to find out a little more about this Australian author.

Tonya: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Catherine: Rather than thinking that I ‘wanted to be a writer’, my experience has been more of a slow progression from oral storytelling to writing stories down, later followed by the thought that ‘one day’ what I wrote might be published but that was all in some vague future.

Storytelling was a constant through my childhood whether it was listening to my parents and grandparents telling stories about incidents in their lives (or, in the case of my grandfather, just making things up and finishing with ‘and then it started to rain and I woke up’ when he got tired of it), listening to serials and plays on the radio (we didn’t get a TV until I was eleven), listening to Dad reading to us at bedtime and, occasionally, overhearing the fascinating stories, otherwise called gossip, told by Mum’s visitors. Once I could write, it seemed natural to try to write stories down. I enjoyed ‘composition’ when I was at school and loved the books we had in secondary school with pictures and sentences that could be used to inspire a story. I was encouraged at school and that probably gave me the confidence to continue writing through my late teens and twenties though my efforts, poetry and short stories, ended up in the bin whenever I moved house. I saw it as something I just did and realized that most of it was rubbish. When I was at home, after my first child was born (she is now in her early thirties), I was decided to move beyond unfinished bits and pieces and write something substantial. The first few years were really re-education as I tried to shake off years of formal and stilted essay and Public Service report writing. Once the children were at secondary school, I took several writing courses which did improve my style. It was at that point that I began thinking that what I was writing might be something others would be interested in reading.

Tonya: In your opinion, what is the hardest part about writing historical fiction?

Catherine: Possibly the most difficult thing for me is developing an awareness of what I do not know. It is always what you don’t know that you don’t know that will trip you up.

As an example, when I had nearly finished writing The Bridled Tongue I read, by chance, that Elizabethan women didn’t wear earrings. Sheer panic set in as earrings were an element in a couple of scenes that I didn’t want to remove. I spent an afternoon searching for images of 16th century women and found that while there were plenty of women wearing earrings throughout the 16th century, these were mainly Spanish and Italian women. The only woman I could find wearing them in England was Mary, Queen of Scots in the 1570s and she had had a French upbringing. Up until the 1580s, it is impossible to tell if English women were wearing them at all because of the shape of women’s headwear, and later the ear-high ruffs. This supported the idea that they were not wearing them because what’s the point of wearing something so pretty if no one can see it? From the 1580s, before earrings appear with any frequency, there are images of women wearing baubles in their hair near the ears. By the end of the 1590s earrings are common but not ubiquitous. I kept the earrings by mentioning that the women wearing them were embracing a new fashion.

While something as small as a pair of earrings is not crucial to the story, if you make assumptions about bigger things you open yourself to being seen as someone who doesn’t know their history well enough. Even with the little things, if you get them wrong, it can erode the reader’s confidence in the authenticity of the world you are trying to recreate.

Assuming is an issue with language as well, particularly when reading contemporary sources. The meaning of words can change over the intervening centuries so it’s important to be aware of this when you are reading and to always use a dictionary such as the OED that includes the historical development of a word as well as its current meaning.

I suppose the best advice is to be vigilant and assume nothing.

Tonya: Is there a genre you would love to write but are too afraid to try?

Catherine: I would love to write a ghost story, one of those unsettling stories where more is implied than what is written, where the darkness of the past echoes into the present leaving the reader uneasy long after the book is closed. I used to make up ghost stories as a child to scare my sister but usually ended up scaring myself more.

Such skill is needed to write these stories well—the creation of atmosphere and tension, implying rather than showing, an ending that resolves but, the more you think about it after you have finished reading, isn’t really resolved at all. One of my favourite short stories is ‘The Tower’ by Marghanita Laski. It is brilliant. It starts in bright sunshine in Florence and ends in something worse than shadows. While not strictly a ghost story, it is chilling and ambiguous. I read it thirty years ago and it still gives me the shivers.

At this point, I doubt I could do such a story justice. Perhaps one day…

Tonya: Which one of your book characters is your favorite? Why?

Catherine: My favourite character is always the one I am currently working on or have just released into the world. So, it is Ellen Thompson, my great-great-grandmother, the central character of the book I’m planning to release in April next year (2022). Ellen was born in Hobart, Tasmania in 1858, the daughter of two transported convicts. Between the ages of nineteen and twenty-six she faced every single thing, short of her own death, that women fear most in life. Hers is the story of the resilience of the human spirit, the story of so many ordinary women of the past.

Tonya: What is your favorite time period to read? Is that also your favorite time period to write in?

Catherine: I used to read a great deal set in the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. These days I read widely and will read pretty much anything, provided the story is good. The bulk of my reading is historical but this year I have read from the fourteenth century through to contemporary. I particularly like murder mysteries. Two series that I would absolutely recommend are the Purveen Mistry series by Sujata Massey, set in India in the 1920s, and the Harriet Gordon mysteries by A.M. Stuart set in Singapore in the early 1910s. Both are excellent with female main protagonists.

I would have said that the Elizabethan period was my favourite to write but I have found writing ‘Cold Blows the Wind’ liberating. This is partly because it is closer to home in time and place. I haven’t needed to think about where the sun sits in the sky, the time it rises and sets, the depth of colour of the sky or how far away it looks, the stars at night. In a way, it has been writing about ‘home’ although I have never lived in Hobart (my father was born and grew up there) where it is set, just visited quite a number of times. It has been a delight to write the sort of Australian vernacular that was spoken by my maternal grandparents who were born in the 1880s. I had imagined that I would return to the Elizabethan period when this one was finished but I won’t be. I am planning to truly write about home—the suburb where I have lived for the last thirty-four years. The story will be set in the aftermath of World War One. I’ll see how I feel about the 1580s when that is done.

Tonya: Do you have authors that you feel have influenced your writing or inspired you?

Catherine: There are so many wonderful writers that I admire whose writing I wish I could emulate. The greatest are Terry Pratchett, Dorothy Dunnett and Hilary Mantel. I love Terry Pratchett’s writing for the sheer entertainment, the humour with seriousness beneath, the cultural references and the underlying commentary on the human condition. Dorothy Dunnett’s novels have an incredible breadth of vision and complex plotting combined with beautiful prose, depth of characterization and rich evocation of the period. Hilary Mantel has the ability, in a single sentence, to perfectly encapsulate a critical event and the effect it had on ordinary men and women; reading it you are awed by the depth both of her research and her understanding.

I believe that you don’t necessarily have to analyze their work to learn from them. In those moments when you pause reading, awestruck by what you have read, you do take in some understanding of the way brilliant storytelling is constructed. At very least, it allows you to realize when your own writing falls short.

Tonya: What is the biggest obstacle in your writing process?

Catherine: My biggest obstacle is the length of time it takes me to write. I start out with a general plan and I know how the novel will end but my early drafts are seriously lacking. My work goes through many drafts and heavy editing as I slowly refine characterization, structure and language. And, while I do a lot of research prior to writing, this continues while I am writing because, sometimes, I need to check things I have assumed to be correct. If my assumptions are wrong that can mean more rewriting. Once I do have a draft I am not ashamed of, I then pass it on to a structural editor. In the case of The Bridled Tongue and my current work in progress, that is Jenny Quinlan of Historical Editorial. She is brilliant and can see what is missing, what needs to be cut or developed further. Both novels are so much better for her advice. All this takes time. I see this as the slow cooker approach to writing, the one that brings out the full flavour of the ingredients.

Tonya: How long did it take you to write your books?

Catherine: I began my work in progress about ten years ago. I barely touched it between mid-2017 and early 2020 as in that time I published my two other books. I have been working on it solidly since The Bridled Tongue was released over eighteen months ago. The other books took about the same length of time. Usually after a revision, I will put the draft aside and work on something else. So, for a while, I was cycling through three stories. I was working near enough to full time up until a couple of years ago, so that meant I had to juggle writing, work and family commitments. Possibly, if the time was compacted, I have spent about three years writing each book.

Tonya: What is your biggest inspiration for stories? Where do you get your ideas?

Catherine: Each novel has had a different inspiration. Forsaking All Other had its beginnings in a daily writing exercise—a scene of a woman lost in the meaner streets of Elizabethan London. There was something about the scene and the character herself that made me want to develop it further and place it in the wider context of the period and of the lives of ordinary women at that time.

The Bridled Tongue grew out my own experience of gossip both as the subject of it and observing it in action with others, the way minor incidents or slips of the tongue can be twisted into something else and once the snowball starts the most ludicrous things can be said and be believed. While, usually for us today, it is embarrassing and uncomfortable for the subject of gossip, in earlier times it could be dangerous.

Tonya: What are you currently working on?

Catherine: I am revising a novel with the working title ‘Cold Blows the Wind’. It is set in Hobart, Tasmania between 1878 and 1885 and is based on a period in the life of my great-great-grandparents, Sarah Ellen Thompson and Henry Watkins Woods. Their story had been forgotten until I uncovered it through my genealogical research about twelve years ago. They were both the children of convicts and belonged to the lower end of the social scale where life was a constant struggle and the middle-class virtues we see as ‘Victorian’ were not much regarded. The story touches on such issues as secrets, family ties, poverty, and the struggles of unmarried mothers. I am hoping to show just how hard life was for these people, women in particular, and the spirit they showed as they did their best for those they loved. While I would describe it as a love story, encompassing not only romantic love but a mother’s love for her children, it certainly doesn’t fall into the standard definition of a romance.

Tonya: What inspired you to write the book you are currently working on?

Catherine: From early in my genealogical research, I felt that I wanted to write something about one of my female forebears. I had read A Cargo of Women: The Novel by Babette Smith, based on the life of her great-great grandmother Suzanna Watson who was transported to New South Wales in 1829 having stolen to feed her children. This book is tight and gripping and reads like any good novel. I had read other novels based on family history that did not work anywhere near as well. A Cargo of Women showed me that it could be done well. The story of Ellen Thompson and Harry Woods had been pretty much lost to memory until I began my obsessive digging. My father was not sure what his great-grandmother’s name was and no one even knew who Harry Woods was. By the end of my research, I knew the whats and wheres of Ellen and Harry’s lives but I did not know the whys. My novel sets out possible motivations and reasons for what happened. I would say over 90% of what happens in the novel is factual but the reasons for it happening are my speculation. The novel only covers a period of seven years but they were tumultuous years for Ellen. I hope, through Ellen, to show what life was like for many women in the past, the everyday courage they showed in their struggles to protect and care for their children in a world that seemed to conspire against them. Ellen and Harry illustrate what I firmly believe – that the people of the past, plus and minus a few attitudes, are just like us with similar hopes and dreams and challenges to face.

Tonya: What words of wisdom would you share with inspiring authors?

Catherine: I think the most important thing of all is to read and keep reading—the classics, whatever is popular now, prize winners, your chosen genre, anything that appeals to you. My belief is that through reading, to a degree, you learn by osmosis. And make sure you read works on the craft of writing. A reputable writing course is a good investment. And revise and redraft, as many times as is needed even if you end up completing more than a dozen drafts like I do. What you want is for your book to be the best it can be. If you can, find a couple of readers, or other writers you can share with, who you can try your new story out on and who are willing to give you their honest opinion. Listen to any professional advice you are given and think especially seriously about those things they say that you hate the most–they are probably right. Be honest with yourself and most of all, keep faith and don’t give up.

Catherine Meyrick is an Australian writer of romantic historical fiction. She grew up in Ballarat, a city in regional Victoria, but has lived all her adult life in Melbourne. Until recently she worked as a customer service librarian at her local library. She has a Master of Arts in history and is an obsessive genealogist. When not writing, reading and researching, Catherine enjoys gardening, the cinema and music of all sorts from early music and classical to folk and country music (she just loves the banjo) and, not least of all, taking photos of the family cat, Dusty, to post on Instagram.

Writing with company

List of published books:

Forsaking All Other (2018)

The Bridled Tongue (2020)

Connect with Catherine at the following sites and check out her books:


Twitter:  @cameyrick1

Facebook:  CatherineMeyrickAuthor

Check out Catherine’s books:

Love is no game for women; the price is far too high.

England 1585.

Bess Stoughton, waiting woman to the well-connected Lady Allingbourne, has discovered that her father is arranging for her to marry an elderly neighbour. Normally obedient Bess rebels and wrests from her father a year to find a husband more to her liking.

Edmund Wyard, a taciturn and scarred veteran of England’s campaign in Ireland, is attempting to ignore the pressure from his family to find a suitable wife as he prepares to join the Earl of Leicester’s army in the Netherlands.

Although Bess and Edmund are drawn to each other, they are aware that they can have nothing more than friendship. Bess knows that Edmund’s wealth and family connections place him beyond her reach. And Edmund, with his well-honed sense of duty, has never considered that he could follow his own wishes.

With England on the brink of war and fear of Catholic plots extending even into Lady Allingbourne’s household, time is running out for both of them.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

England 1586

Alyce Bradley has few choices when her father decides it is time she marry as many refuse to see her as other than the girl she once was—unruly, outspoken and close to her grandmother, a woman suspected of witchcraft.

Thomas Granville, an ambitious privateer, inspires fierce loyalty in those close to him and hatred in those he has crossed. Beyond a large dowry, he is seeking a virtuous and dutiful wife. Neither he nor Alyce expect more from marriage than mutual courtesy and respect.

As the King of Spain launches his great armada and England braces for invasion, Alyce must confront closer dangers from both her own and Thomas’s past, threats that could not only destroy her hopes of love and happiness but her life. And Thomas is powerless to help.

‘People never forget. When the fancy takes them, they bring the old stories out and embroider them further.’

Posted in Author Interview

Interview with Ailish Sinclair

I fell in love with Ailish Sinclair’s writing when I read her first book, The Mermaid and the Bear. She has such beautiful prose and I was hooked immediately into the story which had interesting characters and an intriguing plot.

I was so excited when Ailish agreed to interview with me about her writing process and how she became an author. She lives in Scotland, surrounded by inspiration and beauty and she has taken that awe-inspiring setting and written some fantastic stories that come straight from the heart of Scotland.

Keep reading to learn more about Ailish and her history-inspired books.

Tonya: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Ailish: When I was 7 years old I started to pen a novel called ‘The Flea Invasion’. The scope of the post-apocalyptic world I’d envisaged was beyond my ability to write, but I knew I wanted to do things like that again.

Tonya: What is your biggest inspiration for stories? Where do you get your ideas?

Ailish: The places and history all around me where I live in Northern Scotland are my greatest inspiration. So much has happened here, much of it rather dark and hidden. The Grampian region has over 150 stone circles, which are mysterious and alluring. One always makes it into my novels! There’s so much natural beauty in the forests and beaches and mountains. All these things infuse and inspire my writing.

Tonya: In your opinion, what is the hardest part about writing historical fiction?

Ailish: It’s knowing when to stop the research and just write the book. There’s always more to know about historical time periods; you could just go on and on researching for years. But the book has to be written and the story matters, so you have to wrench the history books from your own hands and get down to it!

Tonya: Which one of your book characters is your favorite? Why?

Ailish: I love the character of Bessie Thom in The Mermaid and the Bear. She’s so down to earth and wise, and works so hard to do her best for everyone around her. She’s based on a real woman who was accused of witchcraft in 1597 so I hope I’ve done justice to the person she was.

Tonya: Have you ever written a character that you absolutely disliked and if you were to meet the character in real life you know you wouldn’t like them?  Which character and why are they so detestable?

Ailish: William Dunn, Dean of Guild, from The Mermaid and the Bear. He’s a villain, so obviously he’s not meant to be liked, based on a real person who made a profit from the witch hunts. I have instilled in him traits and attitudes of misogynistic and abusive people I’ve encountered in my own life and know I would physically recoil if I were to meet him.

Tonya: What is your favorite time period to read? Is that also your favorite time period to write in?

Ailish: I love to read the medieval period and also the dark ages. I have not actually written anything set exactly in those times but I would love to.

Tonya: Do you have authors that you feel have influenced your writing or inspired you?

Ailish: I’ve been reading novels by Mary Webb, the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Goudge and Mary Stewart since childhood and they have all influenced my writing.

Tonya: What is the biggest obstacle in your writing process?

Ailish: Self doubt. Is it really good enough? Is it, in fact, bilge? Or nonsense? Or the worst thing that has ever been written in the whole history of the world? Like stopping the research, this is something you just have to be strict with yourself about, or decide to just write it anyway, bilge or not.

Tonya: How long did it take you to write your book? If you have more than one, which took the longest to write?

Ailish: The Mermaid and the Bear poured out of me at just over a thousand words a day, so in two months I had a short first draft, writing for about an hour a day. I then redrafted twice in the next month and sent it out. That’s the fastest I’ve ever managed. The book I’m working on just now is very different from that. I’ve literally been writing it for years!

Tonya: What are you currently working on?

Ailish: I’m working on an Iron Age novel, set in Aberdeenshire again. My usual stone circle is there but, of course, the castle is not. The main character is a non-verbal autistic woman who is the spiritual leader of her community. There’s some sexy Romans and Caledonians too…

Tonya: What inspired you to write the book you are currently working on?

Ailish: I like mystery when it comes to historical events, and the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes intrigued me. Where did it take place? What really happened there? What would it have been like to live through such an event? I’m enjoying exploring all those questions.

Tonya: What words of wisdom would you share with inspiring authors?

Ailish: Just keep writing. Don’t let other people tear you down and tell you you’re doing it wrong or that you should be published by now. Unless they’re actual experts who you’ve chosen to consult, the advice will undoubtedly be wrong. People have strange agendas when it comes to the writing of others. Do your own thing. Go your own way.

Ailish Sinclair spent the earlier parts of her life dancing around and encouraging others to do the same. She now lives beside a loch with her husband and two children, surrounded by castles and stone circles, where she writes and dances (yes, still) and eats cake. 
Connect with Ailish at the following sites and check out her books!





Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and The Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.

Posted in Books

The Master of Mary of Burgundy

I have been fascinated with Books of Hours for a long time. I finally found this beautiful replica on Amazon and wanted to share with you what it looks like on the inside and a little bit of information about it. I am by no means on expert of these types of books, nor manuscripts for that matter and welcome any input from others who know more about it than me.

The Book of Hours

A Book of Hours is a devotional book that was popular with Christians in the Middle Ages. A typical Book of Hours contained the following:

  • A Calendar of Church Feasts
  • Excerpts from the four Biblical New Testament Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
  • The Hours of the Virgin (a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary)
  • The fifteen Psalms of Degrees (Psalms 120-134)
  • The seven Penitential Psalms (Psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, 142)
  • The Litany of Saints (a formal prayer of the Catholic Church)
  • The Office of the Dead (a prayer cycle for the Canonical Hours, said for the repose of the soul of a descendent.)
  • The Hours of the Cross (not sure about this one, but I believe it is prayers and hymns said at matins)
Page showing the calendar of Church Feasts from The Master of Mary of Burgundy.

Who was Mary of Burgundy?

The Book of Hours that I have is titled, The Master of Mary of Burgundy. However this book did not belong to Mary of Burgundy. It is named after an illuminator that created works for her.

Mary of Burgundy was the only child of the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold and his second wife, Isabella of Bourbon. When the duke died at the Battle of Nancy in 1477, Mary inherited all her father’s Burgundian lands, making her the richest woman in Europe. She married Maximilian of Hapsburg who eventually became the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I after Mary’s death.

Mary was the mother of Philip the Fair, who was the husband of Joanna of Castile, daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. She also had a daughter, Margaret, Duchess of Savoy.

Mary was killed in a riding accident during a falcon hunt when she was 25 years old.

Mary of Burgundy by Michael Pacher, 1435-1498
Public Domain

Who was the Master of Mary of Burgundy?

The Master of Mary of Burgundy was a Flemish illuminator and painter that was very successful in the late 15th century. His real name is not known. Rather, he is known by what is called a Notname, a name given to an artist whose identity has been lost. The name of the Master of Mary of Burgundy comes from two of his most popular works: two Books of Hours created for Mary of Burgundy.

Who owned the Master of Mary of Burgundy Book of Hours?

This book of hours was created for a man named Engelbert of Nassau. Engelbert was Count of Nassau and Vianden and Lord of Breda, Lek, Diest, Roosendaal, Nispen, and Wouw. He was a knight and a leader of the Privy council of the Duchy of Burgundy.

It is believed that Engelbert passed the Book of Hours on to Philip the Fair, son of Mary of Burgundy, as a gift. Philip’s coat of arms was added to the book after he took possession.

Engelbert of Nassau~Masters of Portraits of Princes, 1490.
Public Domain.
Philip the Fair (or, the Handsome)~Juan de Flandes, 1500.
Public Domain.

The Master of Mary of Burgundy Book of Hours has gold-gilded pages and is printed on heavy, glossy paper. The printed version of each picture looks as if it were painted in real gold, giving you a little idea of what the original would have looked like. It is very colorful, as you can see from the above pictures.

Get your copy of The Master of Mary of Burgundy Book of Hours here.

Posted in Book Review

The Lady of the Tower

Book Title: The Lady of the Tower

Author: Elizabeth St. John

Time Period: Early 17th Century-The end of James VI & I reign/Beginning of Charles I reign

Setting: England

My Rating:

Reading historical fiction has many perks. First, it’s the ability to escape to a time when women wore beautiful, fancy dresses and men dressed as impeccably as the women (I can’t resist a man in a lace-ruffled tunic and knee-length damask coat, can you?). I also love the chivalrous knights and damsel in distress stories. But it also opens many doors for learning about people in history that I either know little about or have never heard of before. The Lady of the Tower hit all of these points for me, and in my opinion, that’s what makes this such a great read.

Author Elizabeth St. John does a marvelous job at portraying the intrigue that surrounded the court of King James VI & I as he took the throne of England after Elizabeth I’s death. This first book in the Lydiard Chronicles, follows the life of Lucy St. John as she tries to avoid the politics of court in an effort to live a quiet, unassuming life. Caught up in her family’s desire for riches, prestige, and titles, we watch as Lucy struggles to distance herself from court and make her way in the world without the royal trappings that the rest of her family longs for.  

The Lady of the Tower, is rich in historic narrative, immersing the reader into a time of great political transition in England. From the English countryside to the royal palace and the Tower of London, I loved the glimpses into everyday English life, and really felt as if I were a part of the story. I particularly enjoyed reading about Lucy’s time spent as jailor in the Tower of London. For, although many stories have been written about the people who have spent time within these walls, we rarely get a feel for what life might have actually been like for those unfortunate enough to spend any amount of time there.

Tumultuous times lie ahead for the country of England, as the Lydiard Chronicles continue with the next generation of St. Johns in the second book in the series, By Love Divided. I’m confident that readers will not be disappointed.

Posted in Book Review

The Bridled Tongue

Book Title: The Bridled Tongue

Author: Catherine Meyrick

Time Period: Late 16th Century

Setting: Elizabethan England

My Rating:

Alyce Bradley is practically past her prime in terms of making a good match. When she is faced with marriage to a man that repulses her, the offer of marriage from another man, though rumored to be a womanizer and a pirate, almost appeals to her.

Alyce makes her choice, and has to live with it. And slowly she is making it work. But when jealousy and bad blood cause Alyce to be accused of damnable deeds, she will face the most difficult trial of her life.

She is not the perfect, beautiful protagonist that you see quite often in fictional stories, which is one thing that makes this story unique. Alyce has a sharp tongue, is quite practical and solemn, and has a hard time showing her affection. But she has likable qualities, and the one I found to be most admirable was her ability to bite her tongue when those around her were being rude to her. I found myself quite often thinking of all the things I would have said in response to the characters that verbally mistreated her, had I been in her shoes! (Yeah, I probably would have been accused of witchcraft for being insolent, incorrigible, or whatever other bad qualities that get attached to women who aren’t demure and meek. LOL)

Meyrick gives you a wonderful insight into the everyday life of a late 16th century English household and the workings of a manor house. Her attention to detail concerning the court systems, jails and commerce of the time period are wonderfully described making you feel as if you are experiencing it for yourself. She demonstrates perfectly how tittle-tattle, jealousy, and revenge played a large part in the witchcraft accusations in the 16th century, and it is easy to see how one might find themselves on the wrong side of the law, just because a neighbor (or worse-a friend or relative) had it out for them.

Alyce had so much stress in her life. From a husband whom she was trying to get to know and understand in the small snatches of time they were allotted together, to a jealous sister, and a delusional former suitor. I fretted throughout the story as to how she was going to get out of her predicament. Meyrick really knows how to build the tension and keep you guessing as to what is going to happen next. I worried myself to find out how all the loose ends were going to come together to resolve the conflict in poor Alyce’s life. I am a sucker for a knight in shining armor and I tend to lean toward the whole rescued damsel in distress trope. Alyce’s husband tries to be that for her but can’t. And I’m ok with that. I was still pleased to see the author give Alyce the happy ending that she deserved!

This was my first exposure to reading books from this author. I do plan on reading more of her wonderfully detailed works.

For more information about author Catherine Meyrick visit her at:

To purchase The Bridled Tongue visit:

Posted in Animals

Mary, Queen of Scots’ Faithful Dog

Hi everyone! I just wanted to do a quick post, inspired by Louise’s challenge on Instagram at Ahellaloadofhistory. I’ve been participating in her 30 day history challenge and Day 10 asks for you to share an obscure history fact.

I don’t know how “obscure” this fact is that I wanted to share, but I thought it was kind of neat so, here it is.

For the Love of Dogs

Mary Stuart was taken to France when she was five years old with the intention that she would one day marry the French Dauphin, Francis. It has been said that when she first arrived at the French court, she stuck closely to her maids that had accompanied her, and was content with a group of about 20 dogs that lived at court.

Mary always kept dogs, and it appears that the Maltese was one of her favorite breeds. She also favored terriers, and it was a terrier that made it into the (obscure) history books on the day of her execution.

A Faithful Friend

Mary was taken prisoner in England in 1568, and was held for 19 years. She was allowed to keep dogs throughout her captivity.

One eyewitness account tells of her tiny dog that had hidden within the folds of her skirt on the day of her execution. Of the event, Robert Wingfield wrote:

Then one of the executioners, pulling off part of her dress, espied her little dog, which was under her clothes, which could not be gotten forth but by force, and afterwards would not depart from her dead corpse, but came and laid between her head and shoulders (a thing diligently noted: ) the dog being imbrued with her blood, was carried away and washed, as all things else were that had any blood, except those things that were burned.

Wingfield’s account does not clarify the color or type of dog that wouldn’t leave Mary’s side. And many tales have grown up around this little detail of Mary’s death. Some had said it was a white dog, others say it was black. Some say it was a Skye Terrier. Although some professional dog breeders claim that the Skye Terrier didn’t come into existence until the 19th century, leaving people to believe that perhaps it was a Scottish Terrier that was so devoted to her.

skye terrior
The cutest Skye Terrier you will ever see! (no photo credit available)


Scottish Terrier at Redbubble
Scottish Terrier (product/photo credit to creator thanhdang at Redbubble.    

Mary’s Dog in Literature and Pop Culture

I came across a really cute book that I want to get for my 4th grade classroom library. The Dog Who Loved a Queen, by Jackie French tells the story of Folly, Mary’s canine companion that accompanied her to the executioner’s block. This is a fictional book, told from Folly’s point of view. I am always on the lookout for ways to incorporate the time periods that I love to study and read about into my classroom. I enjoy sharing other historical time periods with my students that do not fall within the confines of our standard curriculum.

Click on the book cover if you’d like to check out this book.

The Dog Who Loved a Queen


You will also find a fuzzy little canine appearance in The Queen’s Almoner. You can read about Tom Tom the pup here.


Maltese puppy and inspiration for Tom Tom in The Queen’s Almoner. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia under the Creative Commons license.


I am not a big fan of Reign, but I found this lovely picture on Pinterest of Adelaide Cane, dressed as Mary Stuart alongside her deerhound, Stirling.

Reign-Mary with Irish Bloodhound
Pinterest. No photo credit available.



Mary-Queen-of-Scots and maltese
Mary, Queen of Scots with her Maltese. Drawn by J.W. Wright, based on image by Zuccero.


Until next time, Long May She Ever Live in Our Memories.




Posted in Books

Pre-Order Available Now! The Queen’s Almoner

I am so excited to announce that The Queen’s Almoner is

now available for pre-order. Print copies can be ordered at

Late November Literary, Amazon and Barnes & Nobel.

  Release date is June 30.


Official The_Queens_Almoner Book Cover Front

Sometimes loyalty to the queen comes at a cost.

Thomas Broune is a Reformer and childhood friend of the young queen, Mary Stuart. When Mary embarks on a new life in her estranged homeland of Scotland, Thomas is there to greet her and offer his renewed friendship. But the long-time friends grow closer, and Thomas realizes his innocent friendship has grown into something more. Yet he is a man of the cloth. Mary is the queen of the Scots. Both of them have obligations of an overwhelming magnitude: he to his conscience and she to her throne.

When he must choose between loyalty to his queen or his quiet life away from her court, he finds that the choice comes at a high price. Driven by a sense of obligation to protect those he loves, and crippled by his inability to do so, Thomas must come to terms with the choices he has made and find a peace that will finally lay his failures to rest.

Be the First to Read The Queen’s Almoner!

Request a FREE digital copy of The Queen’s Almoner in exchange for an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Nobel, among others. Go to to sign up.

ARC Readers for Insta 2