Monday, July 31, 2023

Book of the Week: A Druid's Magic by Sharon Bradshaw #HistoricalFiction #Folklore #BookOfTheWeek #TheCoffeePotBookClub @sharonbradshaw0 @cathiedunn

* Book of the Week *

A Druid’s Magic

The Durstan Series, Book #1

by Sharon Bradshaw

Publication Date: April 19th, 2019
Publisher: Independently published
Pages: 76
Genre: Historical Fiction / Folklore

When Durstan celebrated Beltane with Ailan in 794AD, they believed that their sexual awakening would honour the Old Gods, and ensure the fertility of the earth. Despite falling in love that night she has disappeared, and the young Monk is distraught.

He journeys magically into the past with Brionach who has come to Iona, to guide him in the old way of the Druid Bard, through tales of the Ancestors and their experience of love.

Garwyn, an Iron Age priestess, is infatuated with a Roman centurion from the Vindolanda fort. He betrays her. Ara suffers at the hands of a Neolithic hunter, whilst Artuir and Gwenhwyfar's 5th century romance is broken by Lleenog, and there are others.

Beth is mischief making with Alys as Durstan discovers what happened to his sister, Mora, when he was taken to the monastery as a child. Her husband, Duncan, is Lord of Mull so there is much to be told.

You'll find charms, runes, and spells here. Magic is an everyday occurrence in the Early Medieval period. People believe in Dragons, Elves, and the Wyrd. Many have still not converted to Christianity but continue to worship the Old Gods, while Vikings threaten the monasteries along the coastline of the British Isles.

Will Durstan be guided by the Druid's storytelling, and find love again... with Ailan?

A Druid's Magic is an exciting introduction to the Durstan series, and a standalone novella, set in the real Middle-Earth we called the Dark Ages.

A brief note of the history behind the series is included in this prequel, taken from the Author's research.

Goodreads 5* review: "I really enjoyed this book. Sharon Bradshaw blends the old Pagan and Christian religions together to form a riveting read. Excellent writing, and I look forward to reading the second book in the series!"

Goodreads 5* review: "A beautiful and relaxing book, full of wonderful imagery."

For fans of Stephen A. McKay; Bernard Cornwell; Judith Arnopp, and J.P Reedman.

Friday, July 28, 2023

#SummerTime #History: Discover the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte and the rise of the House of Normandy by Cathie Dunn #HistoricalFiction @cathiedunn


The Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte

by Cathie Dunn

Or, how Rollo the Viking was latinised…

Many readers will now be familiar with Rollo the Viking – ever since he featured in the popular TV series, Vikings

But I’m not going into the historical timeline errors of the rather inventive plot of this exciting series. Instead, I’m looking at a part of Rollo’s life that changed his outlook, his life – and that gave him the power he craved: 

The Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte.

Rollo (or likely Hrólfr, to use the Norse spelling – Rollo is a latinised version) was a Viking leader who took part in raids and sieges in the northern region of what is now France, including modern Normandy, Brittany, Paris, and across to Burgundy. 

Statue of Rollo, Rouen, France. (c) Cathie Dunn

He is first mentioned at the Siege of Paris, in 986, when he refused to leave with the money offered by Count Odo of Paris (who later became king) and continued the siege. But eventually, Rollo had to give up when reinforcements came from the Frankish king, Charles the Fat. Undeterred, he continued to harass the Franks living along the Neustrian coast, and along the Seine estuary over the years, as well as attacking Burgundy (with the Frankish king’s tacit approval, it appears). Around this time (or even before Paris), he captured Rouen, and the strategic town on the Seine became his base.

After besieging the small town (village?) of Bayeux at some point in the aftermath of Paris (possibly in 889), Rollo was married ‘in more danico’ (in a Pagan handfasting ritual) to Poppa of Bayeux, herself a historical character whose family tree is somewhat unclear. 

Like with Rollo’s obscure origins – was he Danish or Norwegian, and was he known as Rollo the ‘Ganger’, or was that a fable? – we may assume her father was an important man in the area. He may have been Bérengar, Count of Bayeux (and/or Rennes?) or the otherwise unknown Guy de Senlis. Or, as William de Jumieges wrote, was she merely a random girl he married? Yet that doesn’t explain the importance of their son, also William, as Rollo’s heir. 

Poppa was at least 10-15 years younger than her new husband. She was also a Frankish Christian, so what she made of the Pagan wedding ritual is sadly lost in the mists of time. Clearly, whoever her father was, he didn’t have enough influence to force Rollo to convert.

Statue of Poppa of Bayeux in Bayeux, France. Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.

As for Rollo, the marriage was the first act in consolidating his power in Neustria. Years of further attacks of the region may have followed, including a brief exile in the Kingdom of the East Angles, in the early 10th century, when King Charles III, or Charles the Simple, and his nobles had managed to threaten the invaders. Temporarily…

But on his return to Neustria, Rollo continued to raid lands of various Frankish and Burgundian nobles, across Neustria and its borderlands, something the Frankish king was under pressure to stop. Rollo’s followers would have increased over time, and he became a permanent thorn in the side of Charles the Simple. 

But it was in the aftermath of the unsuccessful Viking siege at Chartres that Rollo’s influence grew markedly – and somewhat ironically, given that he lost. After campaigning across the north of Neustria and beyond, Rollo and his Norsemen laid siege to the prosperous town of Chartres. But after an earlier raid in the mid-9th century, the town’s defences had been fortified, and the besiegers had a hard time trying to gain the advantage. On July 20th, 911, possibly with the aid of a ruse, the Franks and their allies beat the surprised Vikings in battle and took many prisoners. Rollo and his inner circle escaped, ravaging Neustrian lands.

Having finally had enough, Charles offered Rollo a deal: keep Rouen and the surrounding lands in Neustria at peace, ally himself to the Frankish king, call himself jarl, and settle in Rouen with his fellow Norse. Oh, and Rollo had to renounce his Pagan roots and become baptised. 

Details were finalised between the two leaders, and the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte sealed the deal. Sadly, we don’t know the exact date, but given the continuous threat Rollo caused to peace in Neustria, I would guess it was mere weeks after the disaster at Chartres.

Somewhat surprisingly, Rollo agreed. We can only guess his reasons. Religious conversion is never an easy choice to make, so one assumption is that his lust for power far exceeded his old faith. By 911, he’d not appeared to have aligned himself with other Norse leaders for years. Perhaps, Rollo may have wanted to shed the image of the warring Viking, although he would defend Neustria against Burgundians and other potential threats for almost two further decades, so his days as a warrior were not over with the treaty. And just maybe, he wanted to be regarded and respected like all the other Frankish lords, with a title and legitimate lands of his own.

Following the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, Rollo was baptised, as were his children by Poppa: his son, William, and daughter, Geirlaug (or Gerloc), who took on the Latin name of Adela. I’m sure this pleased their mother, Poppa, greatly, although she is not mentioned at all. Robert, count of Neustria (and later briefly King Robert I), became Rollo’s godfather, and the Rollo took on his godfather’s name following baptism. 

An aspect of the treaty that we can’t be certain of is his alleged Christian marriage to Gisela, supposedly a daughter of King Charles III. There is no record of her – legitimate or otherwise, and only few chroniclers mention her. There are also no children recorded.

Did Gisela exist? And if yes, did Rollo set Poppa aside to wed her? If she’d been plain Poppa, cast aside, and not the daughter of an important man, the question remains how Rollo could keep William as his heir in the rather traditional Frankish society. His power was still growing. In that case, Rollo would have tried desperately to have a legitimate heir. 

But his relationship with his son, who he appointed jarl in 927/8, even though he continued to live for another few years, tell us otherwise… 

The Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte paved the way for Rollo to turn from raider to respectable lord – to join the Frankish nobility (albeit under the Norse title of jarl), increase his power in Neustria and beyond, and become an important part in the defence of the West Frankish kingdom at a time of great upheaval and political intrigues between the Carolingian branches. It did not make him duke, however, even though various later sources gave him the title. And the treaty did not create Normandy, but it was the beginning of the conversion from Neustria to the lands of the Normands.

The treaty gave Rollo the power to expand his territory, which his son William defended with his life. It was his grandson, Richard, who was likely the first duke. Thus, the rise of the House of Normandy had begun… 

Ascent: The Story of Poppa of Bayeux

House of Normandy

by Cathie Dunn

A brutal Viking raid heralds the dawn of a new, powerful dynasty
– the House of Normandy

Neustria, Kingdom of the West Franks

AD 890

Fourteen-year-old Poppa’s life changes when Northmen land near Bayeux. Count Bérengar, her father, submits to them, and she is handfasted to Hrólfr, the Northmen’s heathen leader, as part of their agreement.

To her relief, Hrólfr leaves immediately in search of further conquest, only returning to claim her years later. In the face of retaliating Franks, they flee to East Anglia, where she gives birth to their son and daughter.

When Hrólfr and Poppa return to reclaim Bayeux, his new campaign strikes at the heart of Frankish power, and King Charles of the West Franks offers him a pact he cannot refuse. In exchange for vast tracts of land in Neustria, Hrólfr must convert to Christianity and accept marriage to Gisela, the king’s illegitimate daughter.

Poppa’s world shatters. She remains in Bayeux, with her daughter, Adela. When Gisela arrives one day, demanding she hand over Adela, to be raised in Rouen, Poppa’s patience is at an end. But Gisela makes for a dangerous enemy, and only one woman will survive their confrontation high up on the cliffs.

Will Poppa live to witness the dawn of a new era?

ASCENT is the first in a new series about the early women of the House of Normandy – women whose stories have been forgotten through time.

Until now!

Readers of Viking and medieval fiction will enjoy ASCENT, a fictional account of the life of Poppa of Bayeux, handfasted wife of Rollo the Viking.

This title is available to read with #KindleUnlimited.

Cathie Dunn

Cathie writes historical fiction, mystery, and romance.

She loves researching for her stories, delving deep into history books and visiting castles and historic sites. Her novels have garnered praise from reviewers and readers for their authentic description of the past.

Cathie is currently working on two projects: Treachery, the story of Sprota the Breton (and sequel to Ascent), and The Alchemist’s Daughter, the second in her Affair of the Poisons series. She is also writing a spin-off novella to Ascent, featuring Ranulf and his adventures on Orkney.

Cathie lives in the south of France with her husband and two rescue pets, Charlie Cat and Ellie Dog.

Connect with Cathie:

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Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Have a sneak peek between the covers of Chris Bishop’s gripping new novel — The Prodigal Son #HistoricalFiction #AngloSaxon @CBishop_author @cathiedunn

The Prodigal Son

The Shadow of the Raven, Book 5

by Chris Bishop

Publication Date: June 8th, 2023
Publisher: Ember
Pages: 312
Genre: Historical Fiction


WESSEX 893. As the kingdom is once more plagued by Viking attacks, Wareham is obliged to strengthen its defences against the threat posed by a fleet of over one hundred Viking longships which are rampaging along the south coast of England.

Meanwhile, having recognised Edward’s true lineage, King Alfred fears that the boy may fall victim to every fraudster in the realm seeking to get their hands on the vast fortune he’s set to inherit. Worse still, given his newly established bloodline, he could well be used by those wishing to usurp Alfred as King.

However, the most immediate threat to the boy comes from his treacherous uncle, Edmund, who has already tried once to kill him and failed. He is believed to have fled to join a band of desperate thieves in Wareham Forest from where he could strike again at any time.


Alfred had sent word to Governor Osric and to his nephew, Oswald, asking them to attend him at his lodge at the Vill. When they arrived, the place seemed a hive of activity. Two of Alfred’s servants were busily packing the King’s personal belongings into several chests whilst he remained seated, sorting through a pile of documents he had yet to construe.

The King looked up and stopped what he was doing as soon as they arrived. ‘My friends,’ he announced by way of a greeting. ‘I regret that Lord Ethelnorth and myself have no option but to take our leave of you. We both of us now have more pressing duties elsewhere.’

‘My Lord,’ asked Oswald. ‘Has then the threat from the Viking fleet abated?’ As the Garrison Commander at Wareham, he had been much concerned with ensuring that they could deal with over one hundred Viking ships which were known to be patrolling somewhere along the south coast and might well deign to strike at any time, with Wareham being an all too obvious target.

‘No,’ said Alfred bluntly. ‘I regret that’s not the case, although I wish it were. In fact, I fear we may all be sorely tested in the weeks and months to come. Lord Ethelnorth is even now preparing my personal guard to break camp. We intend to rejoin my army which is still camped beyond the marshes and march out from there at first light tomorrow.’

‘Where to, Sire?’ asked Osric.

‘I’ve received word that a large Viking warband has left Essex and is now raiding seemingly at will across the north of my realm. The fyrd should deal with them well enough but I would have Lord Ethelnorth command them. For my part, I must march to support Exeter which is under the threat of an imminent attack.’

Neither Osric nor his nephew took much comfort from that. ‘But surely, my Lord, you’ll be splitting your forces?’ suggested Osric.

‘Regrettably that’s true,’ admitted Alfred. ‘But I have no choice. I’m obliged to cover both threats as best I may.’

Having once been head of the King’s personal guard, Osric had more he wanted to say about that but left it to his nephew to speak instead.

‘Sire, this arrangement worries me greatly given the reported size of the fleet,’ said Oswald, his voice filled with concern.

Alfred got up and placed some of the documents in one of the chests. ‘The fleet could strike anywhere and you’re no more at risk than any of the other settlements that have sheltered harbours large enough to accommodate so many ships. We can’t cover every possibility, so just hold yourselves ready. I shall be within a few days’ march from here so can reach you readily enough if needed. In the meantime, I would advise that you train men to sail the two captured longships as they could prove useful.’

‘Sire, will you then return to Wareham once the threat in Exeter has been averted?’ asked Osric.

‘No, my friend,’ said Alfred. ‘I thank you for your hospitality, but I must go wherever I’m needed most. In my absence, I’m most anxious that you continue to look out for young Edward.’

‘Of course, my Lord. As we agreed whilst in Winchester, I’ll ensure that he learns the ways and skills of a Saxon nobleman as now befits his new station.’

‘I was thinking more of his personal safety as I fear that his treacherous uncle doesn’t yet know that the assassin he sent to the stables failed and that Edward is still alive.’

Osric had to admit that was something which greatly concerned him as well. ‘Do you think he’ll try again, my Lord?’

‘I’m sure of it,’ stressed Alfred. ‘Or more likely he’ll have others do so on his behalf.’

Osric considered that for a moment. ‘Then I’ll alert our permanent guard to keep a ready lookout for any strangers,’ he offered.

‘Do that. But it won’t be near enough. Don’t forget that there could be other rogues who may try to use Edward to their advantage or attempt to relieve him of his great fortune.’

Osric remembered all too well what Lord Ethelnorth had said about how a fool and his money are soon parted. He also recalled what he and Ethelnorth had discussed about the risk of Edward being used to usurp Alfred as King, the consequences of which were, in such troubled times, too dire to think about.

‘Then what more can we do?’ he asked.

‘I recall that you said you’ve charged the carpenter, Sigbert, to look out for Edward at all times?’ said Alfred.

‘That’s true, my Lord,’ agreed Osric without hesitation. ‘Although one of the oldest members of the fyrd, he’s served us well enough and is also one of our most experienced men.’

‘Good. In the meantime, I’ve advised Edward to confine himself to Wareham and warned him to be wary of anyone else who tries to befriend him.’

Osric looked worried. ‘Sire, all that should help to keep him safe from those who might seek to use or exploit him, but there’s little we can do to guard against his uncle’s murderous intent. A stray arrow loosed from behind a tree or an assassin who strikes when Edward least expects it – those are surely the greatest threats and yet are also the ones which we can do little to protect him against.’

Alfred didn’t answer at first. ‘Yes,’ he managed at last. ‘I fear that’s true. But you can do no more than try. That and pray that God will see him safe, although with all that which now threatens this pious realm, the good Lord may well have more immediate concerns than the plight of just one boy.’

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

Chris Bishop

Chris was born in London in 1951. After a successful career as a Chartered Surveyor, he retired to concentrate on writing, combining this with his lifelong interest in Anglo Saxon history. His first novel, Blood and Destiny, was published in 2017 and his second, The Warrior with the Pierced Heart, in 2018 followed by The Final Reckoning in 2019, Bloodlines in 2020 and The Prodigal Son in 2023. Together they form a series entitled The Shadow of the Raven.

Chris has also published numerous blogs about his work, including several for Historia, the online magazine for The Historical Writers’ Association of which he is a member.

The topics for his blogs include the following:-
1. Alfred and the Vikings – a four part series:-
a. Alfred’s troubled realm
b. So, who were the dreaded Vikings?
c. Why did the Vikings first invade England?
d. The (almost) forgotten battle
2. Warhorses – the use of horses in battle at the time of King Alfred the Great
3. Wareham’s past as a Saxon stronghold
4. Was King Alfred really the father of the English Navy?
5. So, did Alfred really burn the cakes?

These can all be viewed on his website -

His other interests include travel, windsurfing and fly fishing.

Connect with Chris: