HOME     ABOUT      CONTACT      MEDIA     BOOKS:   Historical     Contemporary

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Nov 10, 2016

Oct 25, 2016

Book Review: Duty to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan

Duty to the Crown, second book in the Daughters of New France series by Aimie K. Runyan, Kensington Books, 2016, 352 pp.

The principal characters in Duty to the Crown, covering the years 1677-1680 in Quebec, appeared in Promised to the Crown, the initial novel in Runyan's Daughters of New France series. Nicole, Rose, and Elisabeth, female protagonists of that book, are now established in their marriages and their enterprises and focus shifts to their younger counterparts.

Manon, the native girl skilled in medicines and healing, still feels torn between her own culture and that of the French settlers--the Lefebvre family--who raised her and whom she abruptly deserted. After her banishment by her own people she returns to them, struggling to re-integrate herself into the white world, where she's regarded with suspicion, prejudice, and at times, outright hostility. At the top of the social scale is her foster mother Nicole Lefebvre, whose sisters--gentle Emmanuelle and bold, self-centered Claudine--and Elisabeth's adopted daughter Gabrielle--are her contemporaries. All the young women are expected to make suitable marriages and avoid scandal. In order to fulfill their duty to the Crown and their families, they must foster French civilisation and culture in this remote and harsh landscape and expand the colony's population and prosperity through childbearing.

The author skillfully and compellingly renders the setting and living conditions as she depicts the loves, longings, heartbreak, and challenges faced by her female and male characters. The bonds of friendship and the commitment to responsibilities ring true as members of the community encounter the harsher realities of life in a treacherous yet promising new world. Marital strife and struggles are as sensitively depicted as harmony, success, justice and reconciliation. This novel and the preceding one are very highly recommended to readers of historical fiction and particularly for those seeking an alternative to courtly novels set in 17th century Europe.

*I received an Advance Reading Copy of this title prior to publication for review purposes.

Also recommended:


Sep 21, 2016

The Very Bad Baron

My latest article for English Historical Fiction Authors. A truly terrible individual, who has a cameo appearance in A Pledge of Better Times. High on my list of candidates for Worst Person of the Stuart Age!


Sep 11, 2016

Travels & Research

With September's arrival I left behind city home and lake cottage, where I've been hard at work on the next novel, for the first of two research trips.

During my time away I was living in a palatial residence of the sort familiar to my protagonist during a significant period of her life. Here are some photos of my splendid surroundings:

Dwarfed by the splendour!

The ballroom from the balcony

The largest of the dining rooms

Another area sometimes used for dining

The gallery

Detail in one parlour

Detail of fireplace mantel

Practising ballet moves in front of mirrored wall

As you see, a beautiful location. And the weather was ideal!

Already looking forward to my next journey . . . .

Aug 12, 2016


A very productive summer so far for writing, interspersed with travel and author activities. I haven't much to share about the work-in-progress, except that it's progressing. So here are some highlights from my professional and personal life

A booksigning

A photo shoot

Feeding a friend

Sunset at my lake cottage

My companions

A bloom on one of my 90+ rose bushes

Research for the current book

I hope you're having a lovely summer as well!

Jul 22, 2016

Characters in Motion Series spotlights A Pledge of Better Times

I'm featured at the wonderful Layered Pages blog, sharing insights about the characters in A Pledge of Better Times.

My thanks to Stephanie for some wonderful interview questions for this series! I've so enjoyed reading other authors' contributions and highly recommend them.

Characters in Motion: Bestselling Author Margaret Porter

Jul 15, 2016

Monmouth's Execution Anniversary & More

 On this date in 1685, the Duke of Monmouth--a half-brother of my protagonist the Duke of St Albans--was executed on Tower Hill. Here is my article on the event for the English Historical Fiction Authors blog:

An Execution Timeline: The Duke of Monmouth's Last Days

It is the second time I've written in detail about this gruesome event, also depicted in A Pledge of Better Times.

Here are links to other history blogs I've written lately:

Playing the Provinces: 18th Century Actors on the Move, Part 1 (Liverpool & Manchester)

Playing the Provinces: 18th Century Actors on the Move, Part 2 (York, Bristol & Bath)

The Tragic Tragedian: William Brereton of Drury Lane

The Herbal in England: A Brief History

Apr 26, 2016

Recent Travels and Writings

At Easter I travelled to a part of the US where spring was fully unfurled and history is alive. It was a holiday rather than a research trip, but I had opportunities for book promotion.

Beautiful Savannah!

One of Savannah's many squares.

One of the city's many historic houses

Faux bois panelling in the dining room

Bonaventure Cemetery

Camellia  blossom

I've lately done more blogging at English Historical Fiction Writers than I've done here. Some links to the latest:

Mistress of More Variety: Actress Susanna Verbruggen

English Garden History: Spring Guide

Valentine's Day History

And I offered some book reviews on a book blogging site:

Author Margaret Porter’s Five Top Reads

Enjoying wild roses

Feb 6, 2016

The Death of King Charles II

The precise cause of His Majesty's death, which occurred on 6 Februrary, 1685, is uncertain. His autopsy revealed fluid in the brain. This led to the relatively recent conclusion that he suffered acute poisoning from proximity to mercury vapour in his laboratory.
What is known is that he suffered an apoplectic attack (now referred to as an "epileptic seizure") on the morning of 2 February. This date is considered the birthday of mistress Nell Gwyn, mother of his son Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St Albans--who at that time was nearly fifteen years old. Although the young duke spent much of his adolescence in Paris, where he was educated, he happened to be in England at that time and was present as his father lay dying at Whitehall Palace.

The king had slept badly and on waking on the morning of the 6th was "pale as ashes." At the time he was suffering from a sore on his legs, and the royal doctors had come to his rooms to change the dressing. Rather than joining them, Charles returned to his bedchamber. His speech was somewhat impaired. He took a glass of sherry and, still in his nightgown, prepared to be shaved.

Before the razor was applied, he let out what was later described as "the most dreadfulest shriek" and fell back unconscious into his barber's arm.

All the usual 17th century medical applications were attempted--bleeding, blisters--and perhaps it was the agony they produced that revived the king. He asked to see the Queen. The doctors continued torturing the patient with potions containing cantharides, vitriol, sal ammoniac, and one containing spirits of human skull.

Occasionally he would rally, but finally succumbed to another convulsion followed by a fever. Word of his decline was spreading beyond the palace walls.

Anti-Catholic sentiment was so great that many people assumed that the king had been poisoned. Sir Charles Lyttelton reported "his disease being, as is supposed, has fallen upon his lungs which makes him labour to breathe." Some modern authorities speculate that he was a victim of a kidney complaint, resulting in uraemia. Others propose that many hours he spent in his laboratory led to some form of chemical poisoning. The onset of his complaint was characterised by an epileptic seizure, which apparently affected brain function. The original post-mortem was destroyed when Whitehall Palace burned to the ground in 1697. A copy quoted in the British Medical Journal is inconclusive, as the autopsies of that era were less sophisticated than those of today.

Whatever felled the king, in his final hours he was surrounded by doctors, clerics, and family members. At that time a royal death, like a royal birth, was extremely public. Those in attendance included, at intervals, Queen Catherine of Braganza, various royal mistress (though Nell Gwyn was excluded from the sickroom), and the royal bastards--though not the Duke of Monmouth, who was living in exile at the Dutch court of his cousins, Prince William and Princess Mary of Orange.

King Charles famously remembered the Duchess of Portsmouth--the Frenchwoman, Louise de Kerouaille. He charged his brother (and successor) James, Duke of York, not to let "poor Nelly" starve and requested that he care for her son and ensure that his mother didn't spoil him.

It was to young Charles Beauclerk that the king gave a memento of his own father. While still lucid, he asked that a gold and carnelian ring be taken from his hand and given to his illegitimate son. Charles I wore the ring when he arrived at the scaffold with Bishop Juxon (later Archbishop of Canterbury.) Before his execution he presented it to the bishop, who later delivered it to Charles II. The ring is set with an intaglio depicting Charles I in the guise of a Roman Emperor, wearing armour, and the closed back is decorated with coloured enamel. This memento of two Stuart kings remains in the possession of the Beauclerk family.

The king's deathbed conversion to Catholicism was achieved by Father Huddleston, who had been with Charles at the battle of Worcester. When he entered the sickroom through a secret door, Charles supposedly greeted him with the words, "You who have saved my body are now come to save my soul." After making his confession, he received the sacrament, and Huddleston read the prayers for the dying.

At six o'clock in the morning of 6 February, the king asked that the curtains be drawn back so he could see the dawn breaking one last time. He also requested the winding of his clock. After that his speech failed him, and by ten o'clock he had fallen into a coma. He died between eleven-thirty and noon, aged fifty-five.

The King saw one more sunrise lighten the sky before he slept, never to wake again. By midday Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans, was no longer the son of a living monarch.

                        A Pledge of Better Times


Jan 26, 2016

Author Spotlight: Interview by David Cook

I'm delighted to be the inaugural subject in author David Cook's Author Spotlight series. David asks some wonderful questions, and I enjoyed answering them. And I appreciate the opportunity to share!

Jan 22, 2016

English Garden History: Winter

Today I continue my series of articles on seasonal garden activities of the 17th and 18th centuries in England.

Garden Guide for English Historical Authors: Winter

Bulb forcing in a glass is not a recent innovation! Even in the distant past, people needed fresh flowers in their homes during the harshest months of the year....