Dark Destiny!

MJPutney_DarkDestiny_800by Mary Jo (aka M. J. Putney)

DARK DESTINY, the third and final book in my Young Adult time travel trilogy, was released yesterday!  I'm so happy that this series is now available. I really enjoyed writing about these valiant young people learning to manage their unnerving talents and growing together as they fulfill their vows to aid their country in time of war.

As I've said before, I've always been intrigued by the parallels between the Napoleonic wars and World War II because both times Britain stood alone against a Continental tyrant, protected only by the narrow strip of sea known as the English Channel. 

Much of Great Britain's history is informed by its island status. Dark Mirror, first in the Lackland Abbey Chronicles, had a grand action finale involving Dunkirk as hundreds of thousands of troops were evacuated across the Channel to Britain.


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Battle Babies!

TreeNicola here, talking about names. Back in July, Christina posted about names and saints’ days, and recently a previous Wench guest, Elizabeth Hawksley, wrote a fascinating piece on her own blog here about why the name Thomas fell out of popularity in 1532. It seems to me that whether we’re talking about about choosing names for characters in books or how we feel about our own names, it’s a perennially fascinating topic.

This time around, my interest was sparked by the BBC genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are, which returned to our screens in the UK last week with a new series. The first programme explored the family history of actress Jodie Whittaker. Among the family stories that emerged was one relating to her grandmother, who was called Greta Verdun Bedford. This was the moment I learned something completely new to me – that in the past, babies have been named after battles.

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The Joy of Unexpected Books!

Tredegar HouseNicola here, musing on the pleasure of discovering unexpected reads. Last week I visited Tredegar House, which is a fabulous 17th century mansion in Wales, once the home of the Morgan family. Like so many of these places, the house is magnificent and the family history riveting. There’s also a connection to Ashdown House, which made it even more interesting for me so I wandered around looking at the family portraits and admiring the rooms before heading off to the gift shop and the tearoom!

Most National Trust properties these days have a second hand bookshop and browsing through the 1066 history section I came across a non-fiction book about the Norman Conquest. It was a “retired” library book called 1066 The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry. I hadn’t studied the Norman Conquest of England since I was at college and hadn’t read much about it in the intervening time, so this looked intriguing and I’m also a total sucker for books that promise to solve a history mystery or tell me some sort of secret I didn’t know. That night I sat down to read it, not really expecting a thriller-style read, and I was totally hooked. Even though it was non-fiction it read like a page-turner, putting forward a story that challenged the traditional interpretation of the Bayeux Tapestry as a piece of Norman propaganda and suggesting it had a secret hidden message showing the Anglo Saxon side of the story. It was pretty convincing and I loved it.

One episode in the book particularly caught my interest. It was talking about how the tapestry had survived from 1066 until the present day, which is pretty astonishing when you think about it. It had some fairly close escapes, most notably during the French Revolution when some of the people of Bayeux wanted to rip it up to use it to cover their carts! Soon after that, though, it became a propaganda tool again, this time for Napoleon.

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Mary Jo Putney — Once a Spy

Anne here, and today I have the very great pleasure of interviewing Mary Jo about her new book, just published, ONCE A SPY, the fourth book in her "Rogues Redeemed" series. I thoroughly enjoyed it — so much so that I ripped through it the first time, just to gobble up the story, then had to read it again. MJPOnceASpy 

It's getting some lovely —and well deserved — reviews. Publisher's Weekly said: "Putney’s dramatic historical is filled with scintillating romance and tense danger."

Kirkus reviews called it "equal parts adventure and romance."

Reviewer Barbara Rogers said:"I loved that this book wasn’t about insta-lust. I loved that the love and intimacy grew over time until they were both ready for it. That made the romance so very believable."

ONCE A SPY is about a Frenchwoman, Suzanne, the young widowed Comptesse de Charbon, and Simon Charbon, half French, half English, her late husband's cousin. 

When the story opens, Suzanne is living in a boarding house in a poor part of London, trying to earn a living by sewing. Simon, having heard from a friend that his late cousin's widow, a woman he'd heard was dead, is now living in London, calls on her. And in a very short time he proposes marriage — a marriage of friendship and companionship.

Both hero and heroine are worn down by their experiences, and believe any sexual life is behind them, Simon because he's tired and disillusioned by years at war, and Suzanne, because after a brief, unhappy marriage, she was captured by corsairs and sold into a Turkish harem, where her experiences have put her off sex for life.

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London Calling! Part 1

By Mary Jo

I've always been an Anglophile. I'm not sure if it's my DNA or all the books I read with British settings and British authors. I remember being surprised in school when a world map showed me the actual location of the British Isles. So far north and so SMALL! But mighty in world history, and in my imagination.

My interest in Britain and British history had a lot to do with living there for over Morris Minor Traveler two years in my 20s, when I was the art editor of a start up magazine about third World Development. I lived in Oxford and made brass rubbings in churches and drove a Morris Minor Traveler, a little station wagon with a wooden framed back structure that creaked like a ship at ship at sea when rounding corners. (Once a wheel fell off on a turn. I was told that the king pin broke, which happened regularly on older Morrises. O-kayyyy….)

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