And Then There Were The Victorians – A Short History of Libraries – Part III

From the fall of the Roman Empire, through the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance, the monks of Northern Europe could be found in their monastery’s scriptoria copying and illuminating manuscripts, preserving the knowledge of the ancient world as well as more recently written books, but with the religious upheavals of the Reformation in the sixteenth century CE, and the political upheavals that followed, this peaceful book-loving monastic existence came to an abrupt end.

In England, 1536 – 1541 saw Henry VIII taking time out from executing Anne Boleyn and marrying Jane Seymour to dissolve the monasteries (and redirect their incomes to the Crown). The destruction and looting of the religious houses and the selling off of their lands, also saw the dispersal – and often the destruction – of the contents of their libraries, with some volumes being torn apart for their valuable bindings and others being sold by the cartload to folk who rather than read them used them to scour candlesticks or clean boots. Of the six hundred books known to have been in the library of Worcester Priory, only six have survived to today.

With the destruction of monastic libraries many books were lost for all time, but during the reign of Elizabeth I, the Queen’s principle advisor, William Cecil, and her Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, along with private collectors such as Sir Robert Cotton and Sir Thomas Bodley, sought out the scattered manuscripts to form their own libraries. Their collections eventually became the basis of libraries that are very well-known today – Parker’s went to the library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Cotton’s eventually became part of the British Library (which still holds his collection), while Bodley’s formed the Bodleian Library at Oxford, open to ‘the whole republic of the learned.’

The Francis Trigge Chained Library of St Fulfrum’s Church, Grantham, founded in 1598, is considered a direct ‘ancestor’ of public libraries as we know them today, since, unusually for the sixteenth century, its founder intended it for the use of the inhabitants of the town rather than the members of a particular institution such as a school or university. Originally its books were chained to shelves, and eighty-two chains can still be seen today. Interestingly, and uniquely in the era of the Reformation, the volumes in the Chained Library reflected both sides of the religious argument. Not unsurprisingly, most libraries at the time held books that argued for the beliefs of whoever founded the collection.

Over in continental Europe, libraries in the sixteenth century had mixed fortunes. Martin Luther, the instigator of the Reformation, was very much a bibliophile, and wrote a letter to every German town insisting that they should all set up libraries – there are libraries in Hamburg and Augsburg that date from this time – but the Thirty Years War that ravaged Europe between 1618 and 1648 saw books carried off as plunder from one library to enrich another. (Yes, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, it’s you and the library you founded at Uppsala we’re talking about!)

Meanwhile, in China, the Tiyani Ge (Tiyani Chamber) library was founded in 1561 – and is still in existence today. In its prime, it held a collection of 70,000 antique books.

By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, in Europe and North America, book collecting had become more widespread, and many fine private libraries were to become the basis of today’s great national collections, such as the Library of Congress in Washington, USA.

There is some doubt as to whether the original collectors put together their libraries for the love of books or as a means of showing off their wealth – and the confiscation and distribution into depot literraires of aristocratic libraries by bibliophilic French Revolutionaries may not have been done entirely in the spirit of scholarship – but nevertheless so many important libraries were founded that this era is known as the Golden Age of Libraries.

Most of them, however, weren’t open to anyone who fancied browsing the shelves, but restricted to scholars or institutions, Cheltham’s library in Manchester – established in 1653 under the will of Humphrey Cheltham for ‘the sons of honest, industrious and [sic] painful parents’ – being one of the notable exceptions.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were still virtually no public libraries as we understand them, but subscription libraries supplying serious books to those who could afford the high membership fees, and commercial circulating libraries, operating out of shops, supplying the rising middle classes with novels became increasingly popular – despite fears that female readers were unable to differentiate between the more sensational elements of fiction and real life!

Skip forward half a century, and it was the Victorians, with their belief in self-improvement – particularly for the unfortunate ‘lower classes’ in need of distraction from drink – who, when they weren’t inventing the Industrial Revolution, fostered the idea of establishing community libraries for all funded at public expense. Eventually, after some opposition from the less philanthropically minded, this resulted in Parliament passing the 1850 Public Libraries Act, enabling taxes to be raised to fund public libraries.

By 1877, seventy-five cities in England had public libraries, by 1900, there were three hundred.

This was the start of public libraries as we know them today.

Her Outback Driver – Giulia Skye – Armchair Travel #1 – Western Australia

Wishing good luck to Giulia Skye whose debut novel, Her Outback Driver, is a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s inaugural Vivian Awards tonight.

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Isn’t it wonderful how a book can take you places that you might never have the opportunity to visit in real life?
Giulia Skye’s Her Outback Driver takes the reader to the remote Kimberly Region that covers much of Western Australia, an area three times larger than England but with a population of only around 40,000. It’s an area of great natural beauty, with a dramatic landscape of gorges and waterfalls. One of the last untouched wildernesses left on Earth, it makes for an amazing road trip for the two main characters, and the author conveys the sense of place brilliantly in her writing so that the reader is able to make the journey along the Gibb River with them.

About Her Outback Driver

When former Olympic Swimmer, Michael Adams—now reluctantly Canada’s hottest reality TV star— insults his fake showbiz wife on social media, he escapes the ensuing scandal and jumps on the first flight to Australia. Desperate to experience ordinary life again—if only for a few weeks—he becomes “Adam”, just another tourist traveling through the Outback. But with a reward out for his safe return and his fame’s nasty habit of catching up with him when he least expects, he needs a disguise… and he’s just found it.Sweet and scruffy British backpacker, Evie Blake, is taking a year out of her busy London life. Tired of lies and liars, she’s looking for adventure to heal her broken heart. So when the hot Canadian she meets at the campground offers to be her travel partner through Western Australia’s wild Kimberley region, she grabs the chance, unaware he’s got the world out looking for him.

He’s just a down-on-his-luck traveler, right?

To purchase Her Outback Driver , please click on link below:
Her Outback Driver: A feel-good road trip romance across the Australian Outback eBook : Skye, Giulia: Kindle Store

To connect with Giulia Skye:

On Bookbub –

On Twitter – @GiuliaSkyeOn Instagram –

Italian-born Giulia Skye spent her childhood watching classic Hollywood films and thinking up her own romantic stories. After two decades working in TV production, she knew turning those stories into novels would be much more enjoyable – and far cheaper – than turning them into films. She still keeps her hand in TV production but is at her happiest being a stay-at-home mum, spending time with her family, growing her own vegetables, and conjuring up sizzling stories about sexy heroes meeting feisty heroines who aren’t always as they at first appear. Her Outback Driver is her first novel, Book 1 of her “Take a Holiday” series.

Things I Should Have Said And Done – Colette McCormick – This Writing Life #30

Today, I’m delighted to host a guest post from Colette McCormick about her writing life and her novel Things I Should Have Said And Done, which she has recently published as an independent author.

Over to you, Colette…

Colette writes…

THINGS I SHOULD HAVE SAID AND DONE started life as a spark of an idea one evening in Newark as I was getting ready to dinner with a bunch of colleagues before a meeting the following day. What would happen to the family I’d left back in Co Durham if I never made it home? A pretty random thought but it wouldn’t go away.

It took a couple of years to get it to a stage where I was happy to send it out to publishers and agents but no-one would take it on. There were plenty of compliments about it but I just couldn’t find a home for it. I had a serious health scare in 2013 and when I was recovered enough to work on it, I decided to knuckle down and try again. I liked the book, I believed in it, I just had to find someone who thought like I did.

In January of 2015 I sent it off to a publishers and was thrilled when they offered me a contract. I was a proper writer now and I had the three-book deal to prove it. They weren’t one of the ‘big’ publishers but they were a publisher and they had been willing to take a chance on me and for that I will remain eternally grateful.

Sadly, things don’t always turn out the way that you want them to and at a later date, I decided to get my rights back and publish my books as an independent author.

The traditional path hadn’t worked for me so I decided to go it alone. It makes sense for me because no-one knows the book better than I do, and I was doing most of the promotion myself already.

The self-publishing option is not an easy one because you are the one in charge now and it is vital that you adopt a professional approach. With a publisher you send your book and they arrange an editor, the typesetting, the art-work and all the other things that go along with getting a book onto a shelf. Now I am the one arranging all of those things. The upside is that I get to choose who I work with and I’m not restricted to the publisher’s choice.

I loved the original version of THINGS I SHOULD HAVE SAID AND DONE, but I think I love this one more. I can’t really explain it because it’s always been my book, its just that this time it feels more so.


Thank you, Colette, for writing such an interesting guest post, and sharing your journey to becoming an independent author.

Things I Should Have Said And Done

It is only after death that life can be fully understood.’

Ellen’s life is over in an instant when a drunk driver comes out of nowhere and hits the car that she is driving.

She never knew what hit her.

But Ellen in only young, she isn’t ready to die and there are loose ends to tie up before she can move ‘beyond the light.’ Luckily she isn’t alone, she has George to look after her. He’s new to the job and his methods aren’t exactly orthodox but together they set about dealing with Ellen’s issues.

There is Marc, the man that Ellen still loves. She watches him struggle with life as a single parent as she herself struggles with the realisation that Marc needs to move on without her. There is Naomi, the child that Ellen left behind, the child that becomes Ellen’s link to those that still live. And there is her mother whose life is falling apart.

Ellen looks for ways to help and with George constantly at her side she learns that even though she is dead, she is not helpless. There are things that she can so from beyond the grave to influence what happened in the world that she left behind.

No-one ever said that being dead was easy.

If you would like to purchase Things I Should Have Said And Done, please click on the following link:

Buy on Amazon

About Colette McCormick

Colette was born and raised in Sheffield but now lives in North East England. She has had a wide range of jobs from ledger clerk to school dinner lady and lots of things in between but in 2001 she found her calling in the world of charity retail. After working for CR UK for 10 years she now works for Barnardo’s and while it’s a job that she loves, writing is her real passion. When she is not working or writing there is a good chance you will find Colette, baking, gardening or walking the dog in the beautiful countryside that Co Durham has to offer. She has been married almost forty years and has two grown up sons.

To Find out more about Colette, please click on the following links.


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Going Undercover with Jane Risdon

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jane Risdon to my blog with an extract from her book of short crime stories: Undercover : Crime Shorts.Over to you, Jane…

Lynne, thanks so much for inviting me to share something about myself and an extract from my collection of short crime stories, Undercover: Crime Shorts. I hope your readers enjoy Sweet Sable (aka the Red Siren). This story is set in 1939 Hollywood and features a jazz singer who has another, much more sinister string to her bow when she is not singing with Desi Garcia’s Syncopators…

Sweet Sable – The Red Siren

Extract from Undercover: Crime Shorts

by Jane Risdon

Closing the safe door quietly and with an expert spin of the dial, the black clad woman straightened up, slinging the grip with her haul over her shoulder. She stood listening intently before moving towards the office door. Again, she waited, her ears straining, before gently prizing the door open and stepping silently into the corridor of darkened offices; she eased the door closed, calculating she had barely two minutes before the night-watchman made his rounds, trying the doors and checking the building was secure.

The woman headed for the fire escape where she’d made her entrance to the three-storey building some ten minutes earlier. Gently raising the window, she climbed out on to the metal staircase with the athletic grace of a ballet dancer, giving the dark alley below a quick once-over to ensure no-one was around, she hastily made her way down the rusting stairs. Her tar-toned unremarkable and unmemorable automobile was parked across the street, hidden in the gloom of another narrow alleyway. Glancing at her wrist-watch — an expensive pay-off from a married lover — she knew she’d better step on the gas. She’d less than fifteen minutes to get back to the night-club, park her car at the darkest end of the outside lot, and leg it back to her dressing-room with enough time to change into her gown for her last set of the evening.

The red head chuckled to herself as she repaired her lipstick, pouting seductively at herself in the mirror, waiting for the stagehand to knock on her door with her final call. She was buzzing. She’d done it again; she’d pulled it off. It was better than any sex she’d ever had, and that was saying something. She chuckled, puckered her ample lips, and blew herself a huge wet kiss.


As the spotlight found its mark the bandleader nodded to the scarlet-clad shapely figure who took up position in front of the microphone. Her hips swayed in time to the jazz trumpet, and she took her cue. Her sultry sable-clad tones sucked her audience into her lair.

The figures outlined in the flickering candlelight adorning circular tables dotted around the smoke hazed, expectant venue, stopped talking and turned their heads towards the elevated stage where Desi Garcia’s Syncopators went into full swing behind Sweet Sable, also known as the Red Siren — neither was her real name but no-one cared. When her song ended there was a moment’s silence before they pounded their tables shouting, ‘more, more. ’

Sweet Sable wiggled her slender but shapely hips, leaned over the stage giving more than an eye-full of her full bosom on display in her tight-fitting strapless gown, and blew huge smackers into the air, aimed at no-one particularly, but the full-blooded men in the audience got the message and so did their partners who silently seethed.

Her set over for the evening Sweet Sable made her way back to her dressing room, accepting compliments and congratulations on her ‘wonderful performance,’ smiling, blowing kisses, and with a toss of her luxurious red mane, closed her dressing room door to keep the stage door Johnnies out. There was always a small stud congregated outside her door and gathered around the stage door, following her shows. Sometimes she allowed a particularly handsome or obviously loaded guy inside, who was good for a dinner or two — or for something else — if rich enough. They were ripe for the picking, such patsies.

This evening Sweet Sable was anxious not to have any company. She had plans and getting pawed by a fawning, slobbering man who felt ‘entitled’ after giving her dinner, was not part of them. She had to get her haul to a safe place so she could take a proper look at it before deciding what she had to do. Sweet Sable loved having options – and she had plenty.


Thank you so much, Jane, for sharing this fab extract from Undercover: Crime Shorts.


If you would like to purchase Undercover: Crime Shorts (Plaisted Publishing), and read more of Jane’s short stories, please click on the following link:

About Jane Risdon
Jane Risdon is the co-author of ‘Only One Woman,’ with Christina Jones (Headline Accent), and author of ‘Undercover: Crime Shorts,’ (Plaisted Publishing), as well as having many short stories published in numerous anthologies. She also writes for several online and print magazines such as Writing Magazine, and The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine. Undercover: Crime Shorts was the February Free Book of the Month on the virtual library and festival site,, and her live video interview features in their theatre. She is a regular guest on international internet radio shows such as,, and The Brian Hammer Jackson Radio Show.Before turning her hand to writing Jane worked in the International Music Business alongside her musician husband, working with musicians, singer/songwriters, and record producers. They also facilitated the placement of music in movies and television series.

To purchase Only One Woman, please click on the following link:

For more information about Jane Risdon and her writing, please click on the following links:…

Sssh… It’s Our Secret – Lizzie Chantree

It’s Publication Day for Lizzie Chantree’s fabulous new novel, Ssh…It’s Our Secret, and I’m delighted that Lizzie is here today to tell us about the book…

Lizzie writes:

Thank you for inviting me onto your beautiful blog today and for the amazing support of the launch of my latest book!

Shh...Its our secret by Lizzie Chantree

Shh… It’s Our Secret, is about a shy woman called Violet, who is trying to silence her inner critic and step out of the shadows. Her best friends and sister support her, but she feels like they don’t see the real her, or understand that she has ambitions of her own and skills that could help them all.

To them, she is reliable, slightly dull and not very talented, but she is hiding a secret that could blow this theory sky high and change the lives of everyone she knows and loves, especially the regulars at the run-down café bar where she works.

After losing her parents at a young age, they are the closest thing she has to a family and she feels responsible for them. Violet will have to eliminate old demons, learn to stand up for herself and show the world who she really is.

Kai is a jaded music producer who has just moved outside of town. Seeking solitude from the stress of his job, he’s looking for seclusion. The only problem is he can’t seem to escape the band members and songwriters who keep showing up at his house.

When Kai wanders into the bar and Violet’s life, he accidently discovers her closely guarded secret. Can Kai help her rediscover her self-confidence or should some secrets remain undiscovered? 

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Thanks so much, Lizzie, for being a guest here today and telling us about your book. Ssh…It’s Our Secret sounds so intriguing. I shall look forward to reading it and discovering what it is that Violet is hiding!

Wishing you a Happy Publication Day!

* * * 

If you would like to purchase Shh… It’s Our Secret, please click on the link below:

Universal link: Shh… It’s Our Secret:

Here is an extract from the book…

Violet had made a terrible mistake. Looking around the buzzing room from her hiding place by the kitchen door, she realised that she should never have shared her secret with the world.

Yes, she loved the fact that this room, the place that had been her world for so long, had turned from a desperate mess into the successful creative hub it was today. And she couldn’t help but raise a smile when she saw Esme and Doris sitting at the bar with Hal, looking so happy and carefree. But resentment still burned in her chest. Why couldn’t she feel that joy herself?

Her shoulders slumped. She was trapped. She couldn’t run away and let these people down. They all depended on her now. They’d relied on her when this place was just a rundown coffee shop and karaoke bar. Now it was a popular music venue, with original breakthrough artists, and she was a big part of its success. It had been her dream to turn the café bar around, but not like this…not at the expense of her own happiness. She tried to brush the selfish thoughts away, but she felt like she’d had a headache for days. She just wanted to hide under the covers in bed and ignore the world outside, but it felt as though there was someone constantly banging on her door and demanding that she wake up.

Esme was perched at the bar on a tall stool and snorted loudly at one of Hal’s jokes, whilst waving her new walking stick at him, almost whacking a woman passing by. She was dressed in a bright yellow top today, and her scarf was swirls of burnt orange. Unlike her old accessories, this was made of silk and draped beautifully across her ample chest.

Hal beamed a wide smile at Esme, and Violet was almost knocked sideways by the glare from his new teeth. She grabbed onto the doorframe for support, hardly believing her eyes. She recalled him proudly telling her that he was getting his broken teeth capped and whitened. She should have called him to see how it had gone, but she hadn’t had a moment. Her phone had been ringing so much that she’d finally thrown it into the bin with such force that there had been a satisfying crack as the screen broke and died.

Hal turned to Esme’s friend, Doris. She was still wearing her favourite stripy jumper, but she now had a beautifully crafted hat perched on her freshly tinted curls and her make-up made her look about ten years younger.

Violet knew they were all enjoying the changes happening in their lives, and she felt a punch of guilt to her stomach that she might be the one to destroy it.

The other people in the bar were a mix of ages and they were all chatting and enjoying the live music. The latest singer was really good, and she hoped that this exposure would help him find a new audience. She wished with all her heart that she could go into the main bar area and join the crowd. She used to enjoy interacting with customers. All she’d ever wanted was to support other singers and to run a place where locals could come together to chase away isolation—and feel like they belonged.

She glanced up and saw Kai standing by the stage. He looked as strong and handsome as ever, but her heart had a wall of ice around it. He spotted her at the same time and his eyes lit up with joy, then he noticed her body language and the fact that she was still hiding, and the smile slipped from his face. He bent and said something to a man standing at the side of the little stage and then headed toward her through the crowds. She knew they had to talk about what had happened, but she felt that her needs had been ignored and she was alone. With no parents to run to and her makeshift family all here in the bar, she wanted to slump on the floor and sleep for a week. A lone tear escaped from her eye and ran down her cheek, but she angrily brushed it away before Kai saw it, and she summoned up enough energy to turn and leave the bar before anyone else saw her and all hell broke loose. She thought back to the start of the year and how repetitive and simple her days had been then, even when she was exhausted. Then she remembered the moment Kai had walked into her life, and how everything had changed.

Lizzie Chantree. Author photo small

About Lizzie Chantree

International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @Lizzie_Chantree

Buy links for Lizzie’s books:

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Universal book buy link: If you love me, I’m yours:

Universal book buy link: Ninja School Mum:

Universal book buy link: Babe Driven:

Universal book buy link: Love’s Child:

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One Summer In Cornwall – Karen King – Blog Tour

Today, I’m delighted to be taking part in the Blog Tour for Karen King’s new novel, One Summer In Cornwall. Here is an extract from the book that I’m sure will make you want to read more of this gorgeous feel-good romance…

One Summer In Cornwall

by Karen King

Chapter One

‘Bloody hell! Who is it?’

Hattie Rowland froze at the voice, her finger poised on the light switch that she had been about to flick on. Someone was already in the cottage! Who could it be? A squatter? A burglar? For a moment she panicked, her breathing quick and shallow as she backed against the wall, wondering whether to run out again. Then she pulled herself together. She had every right to be here – whoever it was, they were trespassing, and she wasn’t going to be intimidated by them. She took a deep, steadying breath and grabbed hold of her motorbike helmet, which she had tucked under her arm, ready to use as a weapon if necessary. The intruder would soon realise that she didn’t scare easily. She pressed down the switch, gripping the helmet tightly, ready to spring into action. As the room lit up, there was a loud screech.

‘Turn it off! Turn it off!’

Buddy! Hattie burst out laughing as she spotted the green parrot, perched on a thick branch in a huge cage tucked into the corner of the living area, just before the open archway into the kitchen. The parrot’s head was turned towards the door, his beady eyes fixed on her as he squawked crossly. Uncle Albert’s beloved parrot. She hadn’t even realised that Buddy was still alive. As the big bird glared at her from his perch, his green feathers ruffled, the yellow ring around his neck clearly visible, she was transported back to her childhood. Hattie remembered stepping into the cottage with her parents to be greeted by Buddy screeching, ‘Bloody hell! Who is it?’ and her mother immediately trying to cover her ears. Uncle Albert, a fisherman, was her father’s much-older brother. He had never married and Buddy was his sole companion. Albert had worshipped the bird – and loved his little cottage by the sea. When he died a couple of months ago, Hattie had been surprised and touched to hear that he had left Fisherman’s Rest jointly to Hattie’s father, Owen, and Hattie. She had fond memories of summer holidays spent here in Port Medden with Uncle Albert when she was younger, and her parents were still together.

‘Hello, Buddy. It’s only me, Hattie. You probably don’t remember me. It’s been years since I last came down here,’ she said softly. She felt guilty about that, but her parents had finally divorced, after years of acrimony, when she was twelve, and then she had barely seen her dad, who had immediately moved to France with his new girlfriend, now wife, Raina and remained there. Obviously, her mum, who now lived in Portugal with her partner Howard, hadn’t wanted to spend summers with her ex-husband’s brother in Cornwall, so Hattie had lost touch with Uncle Albert.

She dropped her saddlebags down onto the old brown sofa; she was sure it was the same one that had been there when she’d last visited – was it sixteen or seventeen years ago? In fact, nothing seemed to have changed, she thought, as she looked around, her mind going back to her childhood holidays. The thick grey curtains were the same, as was the now-threadbare brown patterned carpet on the floor. The TV was a more recent model than she remembered, and the fireplace was now boarded-up with a gas fire in front of it. Not that she’d ever seen the fireplace in use when they’d come down in the summer, but there had always been a basketful of logs beside it, ready for the colder evenings. The old wooden rocking chair was still in the corner by the fire, but there was now a thick cushion on the seat. The dark wooden dresser, full of ornaments and decorative plates, still stood against the wall by the window. Over the fireplace was a stunning painting of fishermen tending their boats in the harbour. She didn’t remember that, but the rest of the downstairs of the cottage was almost exactly as she remembered, except it no longer looked exciting and welcoming but dusty, faded, old.

Her eyes flitted back to the rocking chair where Uncle Albert had often sat, smoking his pipe and telling them stories of his fishing escapades. He’d been a broad, larger-than-life man, who had always made them welcome, cooking them hearty breakfasts, taking them out on his boat, joining them for a drink at the local pub where everyone had seemed to know him. And now he was gone. And he’d only been in his late seventies, no age nowadays. She felt sad that she had lost touch with him over the years. She wondered if her dad had kept in contact. She walked over to the cage, which sat on a wooden wheeled trolley. Buddy immediately ruffled his feathers and eyed her warily from his perch. ‘Bugger off!’ he screeched.

‘Sorry to disturb you, Buddy. It’s me, Hattie, I expect you don’t remember me.’ Had the parrot been here on his own ever since Uncle Albert was taken to hospital, over two months ago? she wondered. Uncle Albert had died within a couple of days of being admitted. Surely Buddy hadn’t been here alone all that time? . .

* * *

Escape to Cornwall this summer… A gorgeous feel-good read, perfect for fans of CATHY BRAMLEY and PHILLIPA ASHLEY. When Hattie is made redundant and evicted from her flat in one horrible week, she needs time to rethink. Her Uncle Albert left her and her father each half of Fisherman’s Rest, his home in the Cornish town of Port Medden, so this seems the perfect place to escape to until she can figure things out. As Hattie stays in the cottage, clearing it out, tidying it up and getting it ready to sell, she starts to find her feet in Port Medden and making a new home here begins to feel right. If only her dad didn’t need a quick sale and things weren’t complicated by her unwelcoming neighbour Marcus . . .
To purchase One Summer In Cornwall, please click on the link below:

About Karen King    

Karen King is a multi-published author of both adult and children’s books. She has had eight romantic novels published, one psychological thriller with another one out later this year, 120 children’s books, two young adult novels, and several short stories for women’s magazines. Her romantic novel The Cornish Hotel by the Sea became an international bestseller, reaching the top one hundred in the Kindle charts in both the UK and Australia. Karen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. Karen now lives in Spain where she loves to spend her non-writing time exploring the quaint local towns with her husband, Dave, when she isn’t sunbathing or swimming in the pool, that is.  

For more information about Karen King and her books, please click on the links below:


Amazon Author Page




Follow the One Summer In Cornwall Blog Tour to find out more about this lovely summer read.

Monks and Princes – A History of Libraries Part II

In Roman times, a man about town might well spend his morning at the public baths, his ablutions followed by a few hours browsing and reading in the public library that was part of his town’s bath house complex (although he presumably wouldn’t be permitted to read in the actual bath itself!).


codexHistorians argue about the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century CE, but there is no doubt that its catastrophic collapse (or gradual decline, depending on which historian you agree with), and the Dark Ages that followed, saw the destruction of public libraries and their vast collections of books; scrolls – and those new-fangled vellum pages bound between wood and leather covers that were replacing them at the time – being particularly vulnerable to the ravages of fire, invading armies, and the end of civilisation as the Romans knew it.

In Western Europe, it was the monasteries, and probably some convents, that were responsible for preserving at least some of the books of the classical world, as well as the concept of libraries being a repository of knowledge. The founders of monastic orders believed that reading was an essential element of the life spiritual, and monastic communities established libraries under the supervision of a precentor who performed the function of a librarian and would issue books to the monks. The era also saw the creation of new texts, usually religious. While these collections of books were not public libraries in the sense we understand them, monks did lend their volumes to other monasteries (and sometimes members of the laity) in an early example of the inter-library loan. Whether or not they imposed fines for late returns is not known, but copyists often added a curse to the final page of a book condemning book thieves to eternal damnation.


The Benedictines in particular emphasised the importance of reading, and the collection and copying of books, and many of their scriptoria – the places where texts were transcribed and illustrated – such as Monte Cassino in Italy (founded 529 CE) and Jarrow in England – became famous for their beautifully illuminated manuscripts. The earliest Benedictine scriptoria were just a corridor in the monastery cloisters, where monks sat at their desks with no protection from the cold and damp, but by the late Middle Ages, scriptoria were situated next to the ‘warming room’ – one of only two rooms in a monastery that were heated, the other being the infirmary – and had glazed windows, which may explain why so many monks became skilled copyists and illuminators.


Surprisingly, for such bibliophilic institutions, the early monasteries did not have a special room set aside as a ‘library’ but kept their books in presses in the cloisters – which indicates how relatively few books were available to them. In subsequent centuries, when enough leather-bound volumes had been collected to warrant designating a separate space as a library, books were still enough of a rare and valuable commodity for them to be kept chained to shelves and lecterns.

library ISMeanwhile, in the Islamic world, the 7th Century CE saw the establishment of libraries in mosques and schools, and by political leaders. The arrival of the craft of paper-making from China in the 8th Century CE – making the production of books much easier –  led to the growth of public libraries in many cities, which as well as housing the works of Muslim scholars employed copyists to translate and transcribe ancient Greek, Roman and Sanskrit works into Arabic. By the 10th Century CE, monks and scholars of northern Europe were visiting the book markets of Cordoba – then the biggest book market in the world – and returning to their monasteries with the works of the classical world preserved by this flowering of Islamic scholarship. 

Skip forward a few centuries to the Renaissance, and the kings and princes of this era, including some of the princes of the church, were right at the centre of the flowering of humanist learning that took place in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, amassing vast book collections that, while they were originally privately owned, eventually became the basis of great national libraries. This was particularly the case in the Italian City States, whose princely rulers – when they weren’t hiring assassins to do away with their dynastic rivals or battering each other’s cities to pieces with the newly invented siege canon – were great patrons of the arts and sciences, and eager to collect both newly written books and the works of the ancient world.


The most notable among these aristocratic bibliophiles was undoubtedly the fabulously wealthy Cosimo de Medici – a banker, not a prince, but effectively the ruler of Florence – who employed a librarian, Niccolò Niccoli, a fellow enthusiast of the classics. Niccolò not only oversaw Cosimo’s collection, but amassed a collection of 800 books of his own. In his will, Niccolò stated that he wished for his private library to be open to the public as well as scholars, and Cosimo honoured his wishes by acquiring his books after his death, and using them for the basis of a library in the convent of San Marco – Florence’s first public library, where books could be borrowed free of charge.



Cosimo’s private collection of books formed the basis of what was to become the Laurentian Library, built by a Medici Pope. Today, this is an international research library, where scholars can study rare books.


Such was Cosimo’s enthusiasm for his library, that it wasn’t unknown for him to leave the luxury of his palazzo in Florence to go on book hunting expeditions – a riskier undertaking in Renaissance Italy, than a trip to a bookshop today! More usually, he employed book scouts such as Poggio Bracciolini, who scoured Europe, Syria, Egypt and Greece for books by Romans and Greeks. With the help of a considerable number of Medici florins, Poggia brought to light many ancient texts thought lost.

For all that we often see the Middle Ages and, to a lesser extent the Renaissance, as a time when most people never left the village where they were born, it seems Medieval and 15th Century highways were packed with ecclesiastics, scholars, and the occasional prince wandering from library to library in search of books.


Next time: Reformation, Revolution and Victorians


The Damask Rose – Carol McGrath – The City of Acre – A Sense of Place #15

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Carol McGrath, with a fascinating guest post about the setting for her new historical novel, The Damask Rose.

Over to you, Carol…

The Damask Rose and Crusading in Acre

by Carol McGrath

I have always been fascinated by the Crusades ever since reading Henry Treece’s The Children’s Crusade as a child. Crusading is not the main focus of my new Historical novel The Damask Rose but it is given some of my personal favourite chapters and, whilst I could not travel to Acre where Eleanor and Edward I set up their household, I enjoyed my armchair time travel back into the medieval Holy Land. If you have not seen The Kingdom of Heaven do look for it. It is just how I imagined the medieval Crusader Kingdom.

The City of Acre sits in a natural harbour in Haifa Bay. It was then a great trading city subject during the medieval period to conquest and reconquest by the Christians. Acre became a centre for the military religious orders of the Templars and the Hospitallers.

The Hospitallers which provide a hero for The Damask Rose were a military monastic order devoted to the care of the sick and to meeting the needs of pilgrims to the Holy Land. Edward, Eleanor and their households and knights took up residence in the Hospitallers’ palace fortress known as Saint –Jean-d’Acre.

It was a monumental complex built over three floors around a vast courtyard. The courtyard was surrounded by arcades, pleasantly cool in the heat of summer. A staircase on the east side led to the upper storeys. There was an enormous well on the north side with a great pool next to it and again on the south side. There would have been many gardens. I use medieval gardens in The Damask Rose a lot both in England and Acre. Plans are made there and secrets revealed. The three really large buildings belonging to the fortress complex are The Knights’ Halls, St John’s Church and a Hospital. Of course Eleanor and Edward and other important European royals and nobles, including a number of noble women, stayed in gorgeous, airy apartments within the fortress.

The wealthy Hospitallers must have processed sugar because the Sugar Bowl Hall, a three storey building on excavation revealed hundreds of earthenware pottery pieces arranged in twos. They were cone shaped sugar utensils with a drainage hole at the bottom. Archaeologists also found Mulsa jars used at the end of the process of crystalline sugar production.

Cleanliness was exceptionally important. Toilet stalls have been excavated with dozens of drain pipes in walls leading to a sewage conduit. 

The Column Hall was an enormous dining room, beautiful in Eleanor’s day with stone-ribbed vaulting, a decoration of Madonna Lilies, and engraved rosettes. I can see her and her ladies in flowing silks presiding over celebrations and feasts where musicians played unfamiliar and familiar instruments and dancers danced exotic dances, acrobats performed and dramatic plays were laid on for the nobility present.

It is unlikely that Eleanor suffered any discomfort during her year and a half in Acre. There was, none the less, plotting and the constant threat of assassins, part of this section of the novel’s plot. On one occasion, Edward narrowly escaped death from an assassin’s dagger. A later scribed story tells us that Eleanor, herself, saved Edward’s life by sucking out the poison from his wound. This is not quite true. The real story is in The Damask Rose. This and much, much more thrilling adventure involving Eleanor and her herbalist, companion Olwen await the reader. Danger was always present, whether on Crusade, in Gascony-Aquitaine or in the wilds of Wales, other wonderful locations in The Damask Rose.


Thank you so much, Carol, for writing such an interesting piece and giving your readers a vivid insight into the city of Acre and the history behind The Damask Rose, a historical novel that I very much enjoyed reading.

The Damask Rose

‘You lay hands on a princess of the realm? It is treason.’
‘But this princess disobeys her King. Treason indeed.’

1266. Eleanor of Castile, adored wife of the Crown Prince of England, is still only a princess when she is held hostage in the brutal Baron’s Rebellion, and her baby daughter dies. Scarred by privation, a bitter Eleanor swears revenge on those who would harm her family – and vows never to let herself be vulnerable again.

As she rises to become Queen, Eleanor keeps Olwen – a trusted herbalist, who tried to save her daughter – by her side. But it is dangerous to be friendless in a royal household, and as the court sets out on crusade, Olwen and Eleanor discover that the true battle for Europe may not be a matter of swords and lances, but one fanned by whispers and spies . . .

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Damask Rose

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Carol McGrath is the author of the acclaimed She-Wolves Trilogy, which began with the hugely successful The Silken Rose and continues with the brand new The Damask Rose. She was born in Northern Ireland, and fell in love with historical fiction at a young age, reading  children’s classics and loving historical novels especially Henry Treece, The Children’s Crusade, and, as a teenager, Anya Seton’s Katherine and everything by Jean Plaidy. Visiting the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace aged eleven was thrilling for her. Exploring Irish castles such as Carrickfergus introduced her to wonderful stories. At only nine years old an archaeological dig in Donegal was inspirational. Carol came away with a few ancient mammal teeth. While completing a degree in history, she became fascinated by the strong women who were silenced in records, and was inspired to start exploring their lives. Her first novel, The Handfasted Wife, was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards, and Mistress Cromwell was widely praised as a timely feminist retelling of Tudor court life. Her novels are known for their intricacy, depth of research and powerful stories.

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The Muses – Annette Hannah – The Cosy Little Cupcake Van Blog Tour – This Writing Life #29

Today, I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Annette Hannah’s The Cosy Little Cupcake Van. Annette has written a fab guest post about her writer friends. Over to you, Annette….

The Muses

by Annette Hannah


Writing can be such a solitary profession, lost in a world of your own imagination putting your imaginary friends through trials and tribulations whilst simultaneously trying to zone out your family around you. Those loved ones who used to go out to work or be at university and who now roam the house usually looking for snacks or regularly enquire either what time is dinner or how long will dinner be or over-exciting the dog.

My saving grace, especially during lockdown, is knowing that I have the support of my writer friends to get me through. I’ve made so many friends in the writing community, especially as I’m a book blogger too and that’s been marvellous, but the group I would like to talk about today are the friends I met through the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I first met them at the London Chapter meet ups and there are ten of us altogether, so we call ourselves the Muses. The last time I physically saw these fabulous ladies was last year at the London Chapter party for Romance Reading Month and we had a brilliant time. Since then, we constantly support each other via Whats App and we’ve also had regular zoom meetings which have been invaluable and lots of fun. I find these women such a huge support, whenever one of us has a problem or a niggle about something you can guarantee that the others all come together with words of wisdom and advice and our group is full of laughter too, which I love.

Last year was an amazing year for us as within a month three of us graduated from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme which meant that we were all eligible for the Joan Hessayon award. We were all truly delighted when one of our Muses actually won the award: congratulations Melissa Oliver. These friends all bring something totally unique to the group as well, quite a few of them are juggling young children as well as other amazing and interesting jobs and writing and quite frankly I don’t know how they do it. We are all at different stages of our writing careers and there are inevitably lots of ups and downs but I’m happy to say that we keep each other going through the hard times and we celebrate hard through the good times. As my second book The Cosy Little Cupcake Van is published, I will raise a glass and a cupcake to each and every one of them and hope we are soon able to meet up again to celebrate properly. Friendships are very important to me and this book is about how one woman’s friends rally round and help her rebuild her life after the loss of her beloved mother. It’s a story very close to my heart.

Thank you so much Lynne for having me on your lovely blog, for being one of the Muses and helping me stay afloat.     Annette


Thank you so much for being a guest on my blog, Annette. I’m very much looking forward to reading your latest book.       Lynne


The Cosy Little Cupcake Van

Untitled designA deliciously feelgood romance, perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Ali McNamara and Rebecca Raisin!

Camilla’s delicious cakes are the talk of her village. If you need a perfectly iced mouthful of joy, Camilla “Cupcake” is your woman. But after losing her mother, she finds her home and her business in jeopardy. She needs a little helping hand… Thankfully her friends are always there for her, and when she is given an old ice cream van, Camilla’s dream of a cupcake delivery service is born. Now she can bring happiness – and buttercream frosting – to the whole town. But when her ex Blake appears back on her doorstep, Camilla must decide if she can trust him again or if her heart might belong to someone else… Bursting with rom ance and sprinkled with humour, this is a deliciously feel-good story about one woman putting her life back together, one cupcake at a time.

To purchase The Cosy Little Cupcake Van, please left-click on the link below:


The Cosy Little Cupcake Van: A deliciously feel-good romance eBook: Hannah, Annette: Kindle Store


About Annette Hannah

annette-hannah-author-picAnnette Hannah is a Liver Bird who relocated to leafy Hertfordshire in the 80’s and now livesnear a river with her husband, two of their three grown up children and a crazy black cockerspaniel. She writes Romantic Comedies in settings inspired by the beautiful countryside around her and always with a nod to her hometown. She worked in Marketing for many years as a qualified Marketeer, which she loved as it tapped into her creative side. As an avid reader, she began to review the books she read, became a book blogger and eventually plucked up the courage to fulfil her lifelong dream of writing a book. For four years she was a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s new writers’ scheme, during which time she wrote a book a year. After signing a two book deal with Orion Dash in 2020 she graduated to full member of the organisation and is also their Press Officer. She loves long walks along the river, travelling to far flung places and spending time with her friends and family.

You can follow Annette on:

twitter @annettehannah 

TCLCV blog tour


Books and Gardens – Suzanne Snow – The Garden of Little Rose – This Writing Life #28

I’m always fascinated by the inspiration behind a book, and today I’m delighted to welcome Suzanne Snow to my blog, with a guest post about the gardens that find their way into her writing, and her latest novel, The Garden of Little Rose. Over to you, Suzanne…

Books and Gardens

by Suzanne Snow

Growing up I always wanted to be an author and didn’t imagine I’d be ever be a gardener. I loved being outdoors looking after horses and watching the landscape changing across the seasons. Although I appreciated the beauty and the effort involved in creating a garden, I didn’t expect that such a thing would come to play a part in my own life.

Fast forward to developing my own garden at home and this pleasure eventually fed into my writing, and the character of Flora in The Garden of Little Rose was created. Flora is a garden historian, quite different to my own career planting redesigned gardens, but we both share a passion for plants and a belief that gardens are good for you.

For Róisín House in the book, I wanted to create a house with a history, and this story of love and loss is still being felt as Flora and Mac discover more about the people who came before them. I was inspired to write about Arts & Crafts gardens and chose this period of Victorian history for my story. The Arts & Crafts movement began in the mid to late nineteenth century as a reaction against the mass production becoming popular in design and manufacture. The book is set on a fictional Hebridean island which I named Alana, and I hope to return to explore more of these wonderful communities in the future. I love the clear, turquoise waters warmed by the Gulf Stream, secluded beaches with white sand, towering sea stacks and stories of lives deeply connected to sea and their surroundings.

If you find yourself wandering around an old garden, and I hope it isn’t too long until you can, take a moment to consider its history and search out the detail. Perhaps it is one that was created with care to blend craftsmanship, a love of nature, and beauty reflected through simplicity into something special. I believe that such gardens and the pleasure they offer will always find their way into my writing.

The Garden of Little Rose

For love to grow, Flora will have to first dig up the past.

At a hen party on the remote Scottish island of Alana, Flora is dared to ask a handsome stranger to be her plus-one for the wedding. When the gorgeous Mac accepts her invite, she assumes he’s joking and thinks nothing more of it… Until he turns up at the church on the wedding day.
But Mac has an agenda. He wants to hire her skills as a horticulturist to restore the gardens at Róisín House, his home back on Alana. Flora knows she should refuse – Mac has ‘heartbreaker’ written all over him – but she can’t resist uncovering the tragic truth behind the garden at Róisín.

A heart-warming village love story for fans of Julie Houston, Victoria Walters and Trisha Ashley.

Thank you, Suzanne, for giving us such an interesting insight into your writing process. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Garden of Little Rose, and wish it every success.

To purchase The Garden of Little Rose, please left click on the link below:

About Suzanne Snow

Suzanne writes contemporary, romantic and uplifting fiction with a strong sense of setting and community connecting the lives of her characters. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, she can usually be found in a garden or looking to the landscape around her for inspiration.

For more information about Suzanne and her writing please left click on the links below: