Meet the Characters – Ailenor from The Silken Rose by Carol McGrath

I’m delighted to welcome Carol McGrath to my blog today. Carol is interviewing Ailenor from her historical romance novel, The Silken Rose.  Let’s find out a bit about the book first.

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They called her the She-Wolf From Provence. She’d shape the destiny of England …

‘Powerful, gripping and beautifully told . . . will resonate with the #MeToo generation’ – Kate Furnivall, author of The Liberation

‘A feast for the senses and highly recommended’ – Deborah Swift, author of Pleasing Mr Pepys

Fans of Alison Weir, Anne O’Brien and Philippa Gregory, will devour this compelling new novel, starring one of English history’s most fierce and courageous forgotten heroines!


Ailenor of Provence, cultured and intelligent, is only thirteen when she meets her new husband, Henry III of England. A foreign and friendless princess in a strange land she is determined to please him. And she knows that when the times comes she must provide an heir, to secure the throne against those who would snatch it away.

Rosalind, a commoner skilled in the arts of needlework and embroidery, catches the young queen’s attention and a friendship blossoms. But she is unprepared for the dangerous ramifications of winning the queen’s favour …

As closeness, and soon love, develops between Ailenor and Henry, so too does her influence on her husband and her power at court. As France and Wales provide constant threat, and England’s barons increasingly resent her influence, Ailenor must learn to be ruthless. Who should she encourage her husband to favour? Who can she trust?

Caught in a web of treachery and deceit, her choices will define the fate of England. To protect her close friends, and her beloved children, Ailenor, the She-Wolf from Provence, would do, and endure, anything …

‘A gripping tale of a much-maligned queen’ – Henrietta Leyser

‘Well-researched … fascinating’ – Joanna Courtney

Purchase links

The Silken Rose

Now let’s move onto Carol’s interview with Lady Ailenor of Provence


I time-travelled to 1287 to meet the once beautiful, still gracious and clever Ailenor of Provence dowager Queen of England. I conducted an interview with her as Ailenor’s biographical fiction researcher. Our chat took place in the peaceful Abbey of Amesbury to which she has retired from public life. What follows is a brief extract from the interview.

Lady Ailenor, you were married to the third Henry of England in 1236 until his death in 1272. I wonder could you tell me a little about your marriage. Were you in love?

I was only thirteen years old on my wedding day. What did I know about love?  The marriage was arranged. I travelled all the way to England leaving my beautiful castle of Les Baux in Provence to come to a strange land to marry a man who was already thirty two years old. The English king’s very handsome, married brother, Richard of Cornwall, had stopped at our castle on his way home from the crusades. I loved to write poetry so I gave him one of my poems. Richard took it to King Henry. Mon Dieux, grand surprise, King Henry sent for me to become his bride. We were not exactly wealthy, so he took me without a dowry. I was thrilled because the King of France had married my older sister, Marguerite, some years before. She was already a queen. I would be one too, you see. Henry and I were married in a beautiful ceremony in Canterbury. I wore a gold pleated gown and Henry too was dressed in cloth of gold. But that January was so cold and miserable I thought winter would never end and summer a distant prayer. I missed the lavender fields and sunshine.

Did you, if I may ask such a personal question, consummate your marriage at once? Thirteen is so young. Henry must have been experienced at thirty-two.

Umm, (she looks wistful) I am not so sure about the experience bit. Henry was more interested in praying than making love. He was keen on jewels, generous and kind, not greatly handsome, and his eyelid drooped making him a little sinister-looking to a young girl.  He gave me many rings, bracelets, and gorgeous dresses. He had apartments redecorated in Westminster Palace and The Tower for me. He had great taste (tears in her eyes). We never did the sex until I was fifteen years old. After all, my responsibility was to make heirs. Henry was concerned he might, you know, damage me there. (Smiles and points towards her secret place). So we waited, and in waiting we grew to know and love each other.

And you did provide Henry with heirs. How was that experience?

We had five children two boys and three girls, and we were a close family. I was sixteen years old when my first was born. The midwives shut me up in a stuffy chamber for a whole month before Edward’s birth. They wanted to hang dark cloths over all the windows but I insisted on letting light into the apartment through one opened window. My husband could not see me until after the child was born. No man could. The Virgin’s belt was hung on my bedpost and I was given a precious polished birthing stone to hold. Giving birth to Edward was a torture, but, you know, that is God’s will. It was worth the toil. My queenly status was enhanced.  A month later I had a celebration for my churching and entered the world again.

It must have been very special to be Queen of England? Was it?

Oh yes, I enjoyed my queenly role. I lived it fully. I was serious about almsgiving, as was Henry. He was generous to the poor. Occasionally, he invited beggars to dine with us. I was patron of many convents. Amesbury was always my favourite. Look around at my gorgeous apartment.  I had a household of my own and I always enjoyed a large allowance, I spent on embroidery, fashion and art.  I was no ornament. Mon Dieu, how I played the political game. I gave Henry advice, and he listened, but his half-brothers arrived at court and I had trouble. Henry, sadly, was a weather cock listening to this one and that one. And when those Lusignans thugs came here they took him over. They married English heiresses. The earls were furious. Henry gave those brothers favours for nothing. In truth, all my dear husband wanted was a peaceful life, to build Cathedrals, organise pageants. Some of the Lusignans were exiled in the end. I was regent when Henry was in Gascony. (Preens) It was a relief that when the Barons’ War in the twelve sixties ended and we could build peace again.

Your own uncles were never that popular?

My uncles were hard-working and cultured. They knew a thing or two about administration. They put good order into the treasury.  Rumours spread and rumour is a dangerous weapon.

I believe you are a fan of Courtly Love?

We women have our admirers. It’s all part of knightly tradition and chivalric code. I encouraged my ladies but I remained aloof. I was the Queen after all. A handsome young knight would chose a lady but keep his love secret. He would send her tokens such as a trinket or poem.  It was a courtly game.  To admire but not to touch. I was fortunate to fall in love with dear Henry. Courtly love was a fair compensation for loveless marriages.

And you never had an admirer. You have been a beautiful intelligent woman?

Since the object of courtly love is secret I could never reveal it if ever I had. (she looks away)

Have you ever felt in fear for your life?

Once in Woodstock Palace we were attacked by a madman. His punishment was to be torn limb from limb by horses.  Just before the Barons’ War, I was travelling from the Tower. I was pelted with offal from London Bridge and called a she-wolf. I escaped to France and raised mercenaries in our territories of Gascony to fight for the royalist cause.

What is your favourite book?

The Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

‘Thank you Lady Ailenor, Thank you for being so honest about your life.’

‘Queen Ailenor, if you please.’



If you’re intrigued by the blurb and the interview, you can buy The Silken Rose here:

Meet Carol

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Following her first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing at The Seamus Heaney Centre, Belfast, followed by an MPhil from University of London.  Her fifth historical novel, The Silken Rose, first in The Rose Trilogy, published by the Headline Group, is set during the High Middle Ages. It features Ailenor of Provence and will be published on April 2nd 2020. Carol was the co-ordinator of the Historical Novels’ Society Conference, Oxford in September 2016.  Visit her website:

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Follow me on Twitter @carolmcgrath

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Thanks so much for dropping by to tell us about your book, Carol.

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Meet the Characters – Florence from The Walls We Build by Jules Hayes

I’m delighted to welcome author Jules Hayes over to the blog today. Jules is interviewing Florence from her debut historical novel, The Walls We Build. Let’s take a look at the cover.

Jules Hayes_TheWallsWeBuild_Ebook Cover


Three Friends

Two Secrets

One Hidden Life

Growing up around Winston Churchill’s estate in Kent, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable, but as WW2 casts its menacing shadow their friendships become more complex and strained.

Following Frank’s death in 2002, Florence writes to his grandson, Richard, hinting at a dark past. On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light that have not only haunted his grandfather’s life but will now impact on his too. When a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill is revealed and a mystery relative in a psychiatric hospital discovered, just how much more does Florence dare disclose, and is Richard ready to hear?

Reverberating through three generations and set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Churchill’s country home, comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption.

Buy Links.

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 


Now let’s move onto Jules interview with Florence

When did you fall in love with Frank?

I fell in love with Frank a while before when Hilda and I met him in the woods properly – the day we found him sitting underneath the tree crying because his dad had hit him. But that was the day Frank fell in love with Hilda. We were about seven, I think, then. I’d fallen for him months before when I’d spotted him and his little sister, Jem, playing by the old track, near where they lived.

Although you and Hilda were friends, were you envious of Hilda when you were growing up?

I suppose I was, but not because of Frank; I always just accepted that Frank and Hilda were ‘together.’ But I did envy Hilda her cleverness. She and Frank were both so good at arithmetic, but at English too, both of them always had a book on the go, and from being really young. They were much cleverer than me – that’s what I always thought. Hilda was very beautiful too. Striking.

How did you feel when Hilda became pregnant so young with Anna, and did you think that Frank was her father?

I wasn’t shocked, not then. It happened and I accepted it, but at first I did believe that Frank was Anna’s dad. All the village thought the same thing. I think I was shocked more when I realised Frank wasn’t Anna’s dad.

Why didn’t you ask Hilda who Anna’s father was, and why did you wait until Frank and Hilda moved up to Nottinghamshire to do so?

When it was obvious that Hilda was pregnant, she refused to talk about it, she closed up, with me anyway. Frank knew though, knew what had happened to Hilda. They were so close… I thought Hilda would jump at the chance of his offer of marriage then – I mean, everyone assumed anyway that she and Frank would end up together. But she didn’t, not for four years, and only then… when she thought that Frank and I had feeling for each other. Yes, that’s when she agreed to marry Frank.

Did you enjoy working at Chartwell for Winston and Clementine Churchill?

I did, although they could both be difficult, in their own way. Sir Winston, as he’s now known, because he could be so cantankerous and… well, too direct. He never worried about upsetting people, either important people in Parliament, or his own valet, or his own family. But… deep down, he’s a kind man, a man who thought a lot before making a decision, and he never, I don’t think, made a decision for selfish ends, not the big decisions anyway.
Clementine Churchill, on the surface, was quite a ‘cold’ woman, but I think that was the persona she liked to portray to the outside world. She loves her husband, that’s for certain. He comes first, before her children, and before herself. There’s no way Sir Winston could have done what he did during WW2 without her by his side. We owe Clementine Churchill for that, that’s my opinion.
But, I like Sir Winston, and always did, but I didn’t put him on the same pedestal as Frank did. I saw his flaws, Frank didn’t. Not until after the war, anyway.

Tell us about Edward, and your first meeting.

Ah, my first meeting with Edward. I’d been so anxious about the posh bash at the Savoy Hotel in London that autumn of 1942, which is where I met him. You know, I still have the dress I wore that night, tucked away in a suitcase, together with all my photos and letters.
But Edward. What can I say? I met him soon after meeting up with Frank in London…  and just before Frank went off to North Africa, to fight in the desert campaign.

Edward was American, a doctor, and knew Mary Churchill quite well. I couldn’t believe it when he took a shine to me, but he did, and immediately, he told me afterwards. Ours was a whirlwind war romance, but it was true love. It really was. Edward was everything that Frank was not; uncomplicated, happy within himself, and didn’t keep everything within himself.

Can you love two men, Florence?

I truly believe you can. I did. I loved Frank and Edward. I was lucky that I found Edward. It was Frank who was unlucky in many ways, because he could never leave Hilda, and didn’t want to really, I knew that. Because of their boys. Frank adored his sons, and later his grandson, Richard. Everything worked out for the best in the end. Life doesn’t always turn out like you think it will. Both Edward and Frank knew that. They both only ever wanted the best for me, and for Anna.

Do you have regrets?

I have a few: I wish that Edward and I could have done more for Anna sooner. But my greatest regret is that I have out-lived two of my children – that is my greatest regret, and sadness.

What readers are saying about The Walls We Build

“This epic story is beautifully written and I look forward to reading more from Jules Hayes.” Amazon Reviewer.

“A tour de force.” Author, Sally Spedding.

“If you like shows such as Home Fires, or Foyle’s War, you will love this book.” US Amazon reader, Ellen Green Andrews.

‘Passion, intrigue and family secrets drive this complex wartime relationship drama. A page-turner. I loved it.#1 bestselling author, Nicola May.

‘A compelling story of friendship and the secrets we keep for generations. The poignant and moving narrative had me enthralled.’  Critically acclaimed author, Sarah Ward.

The finest of story telling, a real page-turner, an enthralling read – I unreservedly loved it.’

 Anne Williams, Being Anne Book Blog and RNA Media Star 2019.

‘Jules Hayes has written an exceptional cross-genre novel that will appeal to all readers. Simply outstanding.’ The Book Magnet.

It sounds an intriguing read, doesn’t it? You can purchase the book here:

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 


Meet Jules


Author bio

Jules lives in Berkshire, UK with her husband, daughter and dog. Before writing novels, Jules was a physiotherapist. The Walls We Build is her debut historical novel, which she began working on whilst attending the Novel Writing course at the Faber Academy in London in 2017

Jules has a degree in modern history and is fascinated with events from the first half of the 20th century, which is the time period her historical fiction is set.
She is currently working on her 2nd novel, set in civil war and 1970s Spain, and England.

Her work has been longlisted in the Mslexia Novel Competition, and shortlisted in the prestigious Bridport Short Story Competition.

Contact Jules via her website, and sign-up to her newsletter for exclusive short stories and news!

Chat with her on Twitter

And follow her on her Facebook author page:

Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your book, Jules!

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Meet the Characters -Bethan Harley from The House Sitter by Jill Barry.

I’m delighted to welcome author Jill Barry to my blog today. Jill is interviewing Bethan Harley from her latest novel, The House Sitter.

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When Suzanne and Eddie decide to put their house on the market and move closer to their daughter, they neglect to tell their friend and house sitter Ruth. When Ruth finds a ‘For Sale’ sign outside their house, she is outraged. She never imagined they would ever leave. What follows is a series of events that are set to ruin the couple’s plans – with dramatic and shocking consequences that no one could have predicted…


Buy Links


Now over to Jill’s interview with Bethan. Bethan is the Sales Negotiator in charge of selling The Sugar House for Eddie and Susan Deacon.

Bethan, what qualifies you to answer my questions?

I’ll try to remain professional here and say my contact with Mr and Mrs Deacon extended to dealing with their friend and near neighbour, Ruth Morgan, especially while they went away and left her in charge.

OK. Everyone seems to think the Deacons’ house sitter is evil, creepy and manipulative. Do you agree with this rather cruel description?

Sadly, I do. Ms Morgan obviously took a dislike to me and this didn’t help during the time I was involved with marketing and selling the Deacon’s house.

What made her create obstacles for you?

Huh! Obstacles don’t come close to describing the devious tricks she produced.

Why is Ruth Morgan so anxious to stop her friends from moving away?

The woman has inveigled herself into their lives, almost to a point where she considers herself as indispensable. She goes to great lengths not to be found out and while she’s plotting, is still pretending to be their friend, in particular playing mind tricks with Suzanne. Ms Morgan enjoys the good things of life and having the Deacons around ensures she can sponge off them.

Wow, that’s harsh! But you were determined she wouldn’t succeed, weren’t you?

I hate bullies. And I couldn’t stand by and let her walk all over Eddie and Suzanne.

Why do you think Ray Kirby was so keen to buy The Sugar House?

I think he’d reached a point where he wanted to lead a quieter life. Three Roads is a remote village and wouldn’t suit everyone, despite its fantastic setting. Mr Kirby’s a high-flying loner with the money to make an already luxurious house into a desirable and lavish country retreat.

Forgive me, Bethan, but as you became very friendly with him, could this have made you all the more determined to help him achieve his wish and settle in mid-Wales?

I sell houses for a living. Ray was my most likely prospect.

But you can’t deny you were on the verge of falling in love with him?

(Hesitation) I’m still married to Tim.

Could you answer my question please?

With respect, your question has nothing to do with the situation involving The Sugar House, but I had to take Mr Kirby into my confidence and this led to emails, texts, the occasional meeting…

You spotted something one day which clarified something regarding Ms Morgan, didn’t it, Bethan? You look rather pleased about it, if you don’t mind my saying so.

Yes, my discovery satisfied me my suspicions were correct.

Intrigued? Here are what readers are saying:

A powerful, psychological chiller to keep you turning the pages…

What Barry does best is to allow the reader to laugh at the ridiculous in her characters as well as to make them care, even perhaps slightly for the unbalanced Ruth, who appears lonely and vulnerable

If, like me, you’re hooked and want to read The House Sitter, you can buy the book here:


Meet Jill


Author bio

Jobs like hotel reception and cabin crew have provided magic moments and helped inspire my writing. Since settling back in Wales, I’ve joined writers’ groups, gained my MA degree in Creative Writing, also tutored and mentored adults and high school students. I hope to continue entertaining my readers and to walk, read and bake, plus keep up with the most varied mix of friends anyone could wish for.


Contact links

Facebook Author Page:

Twitter: @barry_jill


Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your book, Jill.

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Meet The Characters – Annabelle from The Cake Fairies by Isabella May

My guest author this week is Isabella May who is interviewing Annabelle, one of the baking cousins from her delightful novel, The Cake Fairies. Doesn’t the cover look scrumptious! Let’s find out a bit about the book.


1960’s Somerset is no fun for cousins Polly and Annabelle Williams. Mourning their non-existent love lives, and the mundanity of village life, their only pleasure is baking – until a chance encounter has them magically transported to the bright lights of London… in 2019!

Promised a chance of love, first they must teach the people of the future about the simpler pleasures of life by becoming Cake Fairies. Over the course of a year they set off on a delectable tour of the UK, dropping off cakes in the most unexpected of places and replacing the lure of technology with much sweeter temptations.

But will their philanthropical endeavours lead them to everlasting love? Or will they discover you can’t have your cake and eat it?

Buy link:

Now let’s move onto Isabella’s interview with Annabelle:

Annabelle Williams, you and your cousin, Polly live in the sleepy Somerset village of Middle Ham. What’s a typical day like for you?

Riveting. Not.

I get up, I get criticised for my ‘deeply inappropriate’ choice of hippie-dippie clothes, I work a nine hour shift at the bakery I run with Polly (the bakery where I try my best to avoid the lecherous, and thoroughly beady eyes of certain village males), and then woe betide me if I’m not back at my parents’ kitchen table at half-past five sharp!

What’s so exciting about the nearby town of Glastonbury’s annual Tor Fair?

Hello! Eye candy!

Polly would tell you it’s the blessed brandy snaps. She’s lying.

Why do you think neither of you have found Mr. Right yet?

You try living in Middle Ham. Oh, all right. There have been a few contenders, but Polly holds me – us – back every single time. She wants perfection, you see. And everybody knows that doesn’t exist.

Having met Amber Magnolia in her tent at the fair, and having time travelled from 1969 to 2019, what were your first impressions of the (not-so-new) new millenium?

Promise not to tell a soul? I was bewildered there. Totally out of my depth. Yes, even despite that surreal and rather lovely encounter with the dishy Scandi waiter.

Amber Magnolia has you both carry out a number of ‘interesting’ cake drops in various locations across the UK. Which was your favourite? Which was your not-so-favourite?

Cornwall was lush and every corner was like something off a chocolate box. I suppose it helped that I’d chilled out by then, that we visited in the summer and right at the end of our ‘magical mystery tour’. It’s crazy to believe we’d never visited in 1969, what with Somerset being so geographically close… then again, we’d probably never have encountered the lusciousness that is Jelberts clotted cream ice cream in those days. It’s secret would’ve been far closer guarded. So perhaps it was worth the wait.

We both hated Edinburgh. Not the city – well, what little we got to glimpse – but that bloody woman’s hare-brained idea to have us ‘drop’ cake in the blimming underground vaults… the freakishly haunted underground vaults, I hasten to add! I’m still having nightmares to this day.

Why does Alex catch your eye?

You mean to tell me you’ve never been seduced by the lunar pull of a tall, butter-blond Danishman with cerulean eyes?

Many readers have complained about your hot and cold treatment of your cousin. How would you respond to these accusations?

I think it’s all too easy to judge until you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes. But they’re partially right; 2019 certainly amplifies my inner bitch, and at times my behaviour toward my cousin has been grossly unfair. Although, while we’re on the subject, cut me some slack, purlease… I may not have walked the distance in my shoes, but I have just undertaken a 365 day cake drop tour of the UK with Polly Williams and her quirks!

Favourite cake baked on tour?

The eight tier Swedish Summer Cake. Mainly because I spent most of that afternoon drooling over Alex, but on a more ethical note; that’s the day the magic started to take shape…

It sounds fun, doesn’t it? And now for a couple of nice reviews 😉

The Cake Fairies is the perfect recipe for foodie fiction:

Two sweet characters (left to mature to develop their sharp flavour)

One cup of rich descriptions.

One block of well seasoned writing.

One large tablespoon of wisdom.

Stir in a fresh plot.

Add a dash of sauce and a pinch of spice.

And there you have it! Nigella in a Novel. Bon appetit!


Isabella May always manages to write novels that completely cheer me up.  She takes unique elements and combines them with food and a little magic/wonder and hey presto!  You are guaranteed a fun and enjoyable novel to completely escape into.

If, like me, you’re dying to read the book you can grab a copy here:

Meet Isabella

Isabella Doorstep Pav Pose (1)

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Pranic Healer, as well as a Law of Attraction fanatic.

Cake, cocktail, churros, gelato, and travel obsessed, she also loves nothing more than to (quietly) break life’s rules.

The Cake Fairies is her fifth novel.

You  can contact Isabella here:

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks

Facebook –

Instagram – @isabella_may_author

Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your book, Isabella. Wishing you many sales!

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Sassy, heartwarming romances set in glorious locations: Amazon Author Page