The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift


England, 1660. Ella Appleby believes she is destined for better things than slaving as a housemaid and dodging the blows of her drunken father. When her employer dies suddenly, she seizes her chance–taking his valuables and fleeing the countryside with her sister for the golden prospects of London. But London may not be the promised land she expects. Work is hard to find, until Ella takes up with a dashing and dubious gentleman with ties to the London underworld. Meanwhile, her old employer’s twin brother is in hot pursuit of the sisters.


I found this story to be a bittersweet tale of what happens to people when they make choices in life and have to deal with the outcome. Throughout this story, Ella makes bad choices and her behavior is shocking towards her sister, Sadie. As you’re reading this story you wonder how Ella redeems herself and at the same time can’t help admire her for her will to survive no matter the situation. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive at times about turning the page to see what happens next

The dialogue is well-written and the story is beautifully crafted. Swift obviously did extensive research for her story and it is true to the period of time the story takes place. I highly recommend this story and I have rated it five stars!

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Publication Date: November 27, 2012 | St. Martin’s Griffin | 480p

Author Bio:

DEBORAH SWIFT, a set and costume designer for the BBC, lives in Windermere, England. THE LADY’S SLIPPER, shortlisted for The Impress Novelists Prize in 2007, was inspired by her own discovery of the rare orchid during a summer walk. For more information on Deborah Swift and her novels, please visit her website at


Review: Nobody’s Slave by Tim Vicary

Nobody’s Slave is a book about slavery and the consequences of it on everyone concerned. It is a story about Africans, Europeans, human suffering and cruelty, but also of hope and judgement. When I first started reading it, it had the ring of Roots, but very soon it diverged. The message of this author was different.

The story was well told, and both the protagonists, Tom and Madu are both well-etched characters and their stories run parallel to each other, till the very end. The other characters are also very balanced and fit well into the story. The story winds right through Africa, Spain, and England, not to mention the time at sea, and provides a delightful contrast to each other. The book itself winds to a close with a note of hope and understanding which is very heartening, though nowhere close to historical.

I honestly cannot see any flaws with the book, which takes us on a roller coaster of emotions, from the depth of despair to the heights of hope. I would recommend this to anyone interested in this genre or history or just to everybody at all. The focal point of the book is that slavery was practiced by all societies and it was equally bad no matter who practiced it.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading other books by the author. I give this book 4 / 5 stars.
Review Team Member

Interview with Author Finian Black

I would like to introduce Author Finian Black, the winner of the BRAG Medallion for his book, “The Nightmare Stone.”
Finian, it is a pleasure to be interviewing you. Could you please tell me about your book, The Nightmare Stone?
Hi, Stephanie. Thank you so much for interviewing me. It’s a real pleasure. To answer your questions:

‘The Nightmare Stone’ is about normal people thrown into a very abnormal situation. The main character is a family man, disillusioned with work, who gets the opportunity to give his wife and daughter a life they could only have dreamed of. But dreams have a nasty habit of turning into nightmares! It combines some of my favourite ghost story themes, namely the spooky old house, people who aren’t always what they seem, and historical references to place it all in context. Then I throw in a literary twist that has surprised a lot of readers.

Who or what inspired you to write this story?

Without wanting to give too much away, my son was completely obsessed with Peter Pan when he was about four. I went back to the original novel, to get beneath the skin of the Disney version that is so familiar to us all. There is so much darkness there, I knew I had to use it as the basis for this book. Secondly, I’ve suffered from significant episodes of insomnia, and that experience coloured the story.

How long did it take you to write, The Nightmare Stone?

I started sketching out the story in late 2009, then started writing it in late 2010 before abandoning it because it just wasn’t working. I hadn’t found the right balance of the past and present. A chance discussion with a good friend took me back to the manuscript and I finished the first draft a few weeks later. Then it was re-written before the editing and proof reading phase, so in total about a year.
Do you have to have a certain mind-set to write these types of stories? If so, please explain.

That’s a great question. I think you do. I think you need to be able to see the darkness that lurks beneath the surface of so many everyday situations. I’m not a fan of blood and guts and gore. I prefer the scare that comes from the shadow in the corner, the movement out of the corner of the eye. I like to imagine what lurks behind the mirror.
Do you have any other supernatural thrillers that you’re working on?

I certainly do. ‘Angels of War’ will be published on 12/12/12, again for kindle and kindle apps. It’s the first release of a trilogy, inspired by the myth of angels that appeared in the skies over the Belgian town of Mons in the first days of World War One. I’m very excited by the story; these are very human angels, fragile and flawed. The first book is set entirely in 1914-1918, then the second book will pick up the threads of the story in the present day. My wife came up with many of the themes that I explore and this book is definitely for her.
Where is your favorite spot in your home to write?

I write at the kitchen table of our house in Winchester, looking out over woodland. I need music to write, always. I write in the evening once the kids are in bed, so at the moment the views aren’t so good. Roll on the summer!

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

The same advice I give myself again and again – keep writing. I try and write something every day, even if it’s a few hundred words that will never make the final edit. It’s a skill that needs practice like any other, and I know I’m getting better because I keep working at it. Believe in yourself, and write the kind of stories you want to read.

What books have influenced your life the most?

I read ‘Watership Down’ when I was about nine. It blew me away, and is still one of the greatest reads ever. The imagery, use of language and scale of the story is astounding. Richard Adams lives quite close to me, but I would be too star-struck to ever seek him out! ‘The Stand’ by Stephen King is one of the best ever post-apocalyptic books. It’s his finest achievement in terms of characterisation and the use of multiple perspectives. I love it and have read it many times. I’m a huge fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon. ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ is, in my opinion, the best gothic novel of the last twenty years. And finally, I have to say ‘Great Expectations’. It’s simply the greatest novel in the English language.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading ‘Let The Right One In’, by John Ajvide Lindqvist. It’s terrifying and I’m in awe of the prose. I’ve recently finished Andrew Graham Dixon’s biography of Carravagio, entitled ‘A Life Sacred and Profane’. Carravagio was the original infant terrible. I think he may well pop up as a character in my ‘Angel’ trilogy!
What do you plan on reading next?

I’m struggling to find time to read anything at the moment, as I’m desperately working to get ‘Angels of War’ ready for publication. When it’s out there, I’m going to settle down with Justin Cronin’s ‘The Twelve’, sequel to ‘The Passage’.
How did you discover indieBRAG?

I discovered indieBRAG on twitter and was so pleased and proud to be awarded their Medallion for ‘The Nightmare Stone’, because it’s the readers who decide. Support for independent authors like me is so important and I’m immensely grateful.
What is your favorite quote?

Can I be cheeky and have two favourite quotes? They are both a bit clichéd but they get to the very heart of what it is to be an indie author, fighting to be heard in a frantic marketplace. The first is Wayne Gretzky’s ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ The second is the classic ‘some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.’

That’s all. Thanks again, Stephanie. It’s been a real pleasure.


Author Bio:

FINIAN BLACK was born in the heart of the Black Country. He studied medicine at Leicester University, served in the British Army and is now a GP in the south of England. He wishes he could get back up to the Midlands more often to see his beloved Wolves play.
Black is married with two children. He writes because the words are in there and they have to come out somehow.

His fiction is inspired by the work of his heroes – Stephen King, Carlos Ruiz Zafon and Charles Dickens.

He writes across genres; historical fiction melting into modern supernatural suspense.
THE NIGHTMARE STONE is his first novel. It is inspired by the life and times of JM Barrie.
Finian Black’s second novel, ANGELS OF WAR, will be available on amazon for kindle in December 2012. Inspired by the myth of the angels of Mons that were supposedly seen over the Belgian town during the desperate days of the battle of 1914, it is a sweeping story of love, loss and belief.

Links to THE NIGTMARE STONE on amazon us and uk:


We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Finian Black who is the author of, The Nightmare Stone, one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as The Nightmare Stone merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Thank you!


Review: The Red Gate by Richard Sutton

The Red Gate
By: Richard Sutton
The Red Gate by Richard Sutton is a great example of how family history can be made intriguing and interesting! The novel starts with an unexplained drowning and a rainy funeral. These events are just the catalyst that sets off a chain of unexpected events leading to the discovery of an ancient secret that threatens the future of a family if exposed to the world. Everything has to do with a little bead that Finn finds, it is the key to a much greater and significant family history that is buried under the land owned by Finn and his father.
Richard Sutton produces an excellent novel that is well written and full of emotion. The book is descriptive and lyrical making it a joy to read as well as keeping the readers interest from waning. The reader can feel the hardship of the characters as well as the warmth of a family who supports one another. The characters were well written and really brought the novel to life. The Red Gate is a historical fiction novel that has been clearly well researched, there is so much Irish heritage throughout out the story it makes the reader want to pick up and move to the Emerald Isle.
I give this book four stars! An excellent read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction as well as Irish family heritage.
Rachel Massaro
Review Team Member

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Linda Gillard


I would like to introduce Linda Gillard, the winner of the BRAG Medallion.

Linda, please tell us about your book, Untying the Knot.

If the e-book had a back cover, this is what it would say…

“Everyone makes mistakes, but I sometimes think I’ve made more than most. Marrying Magnus was one of them. But the biggest mistake I ever made was divorcing him.”

A wife is meant to stand by her man. Especially an army wife. But Fay didn’t. She walked away – from Magnus, her traumatised war-hero husband and from the home he was restoring: Tullibardine Tower, a ruinous 16th century tower house on a Perthshire hillside.

Now their daughter Emily is marrying someone she shouldn’t. And so is Magnus…”

UNTYING THE KNOT was my fifth novel. I wanted to follow up the success of STAR GAZING which had been short-listed for Romantic Novel of the Year, but I didn’t want to repeat myself. My aim was to write another unusual love story that would make readers laugh and cry, but I needed a new angle.

I’d written about all kinds of love over the years but I hadn’t written much about marriage and I’d never written about divorce, so I decided my hero and heroine would be a divorced couple. The twist would be, they never should have divorced because five years later, they’re still in love with each other and can’t move on. The book asks, “Will they get back together again? And if so, how?”

What was your inspiration for writing this story?

Sometimes these things just fall into your lap. Driving through the Glasgow suburbs one day, I saw a white van parked on the drive of an ordinary house. The lettering on the side of the van said “Bomb Disposal Unit”. Questions started to form in my mind. Was this where a bomb disposal technician lived?… What sort of a man does that kind of job?… Then my novelist’s brain kicked in with more questions. What sort of boy grows up to become a man who’ll dedicate his life to the most dangerous job in the world? What sort of woman would marry a man like that? And what would that marriage be like?…

The answers to those questions became UNTYING THE KNOT. None of my novels has ever come together as a concept more quickly or easily, but strangely, none has taken longer or been more difficult to write!


Was there any research involved? If so, please explain.

I did more research for this novel than any of my others. I had to research bomb disposal – not how the job’s done now, but how it was done many years ago. My hero, Magnus had served as a very young soldier in the Falklands War in 1982 and later in Northern Irelandin the ‘90s, so that entailed historical research.

I also needed to know what it’s like to be “married to the army” and learned about the pressures of being an army wife. But my main topic of research was post-traumatic stress disorder. Magnus suffers from this illness as a consequence of his terrible experience in Northern Ireland, where his career was ended when a bomb he was disarming exploded.

On the lighter side, I had to research the architectural restoration of a 16thC tower house, a type of small castle, common in Scotland.

Very little of this research made it into the novel, but I don’t think I could have written the book unless I’d done it. I tried to keep the book free of “information dumps”, but I hope there’s a depth to the novel as a result of the research I did.

Is there a character that you relate to in your story? 

I think I relate to all the characters I create. I don’t think I’d be able to write them if I didn’t. But if you mean, which character in UNTYING THE KNOT do I relate to most personally, then I think I’d say Magnus, the mentally fragile hero with his dark, at times macabre sense of humour. Magnus is also the most romantic character I’ve ever written. He’s still hopelessly in love with his ex-wife, five years after their divorce. I identify with that kind of loyalty and passion.

What is your next book project?

I don’t know. I have a lot of notes for a big family drama, but I’m also drawn to writing another paranormal. (My last book, THE GLASS GUARDIAN was a love story with a ghost hero and it’s proved popular with readers.) But, to be honest, my next book project is probably a way off. I’ve been receiving treatment for breast cancer for much of this year and my current “project” is getting well enough to start writing my next novel.

What do you think contributes to making a writer successful in self-publishing?

Without a publisher behind you, you have to be prepared to put in the hours. If you don’t like promoting yourself and your work, don’t become an indie author! Achieving online visibility is the biggest challenge and there are few short cuts to this. You need to put in time seeking out potential readers, cultivating bloggers, joining in discussion forums, etc. You also need a good website and you have to embrace social networking.

But I think the main factor that contributes to indie success is writing a very good book! When you’re dependent on word of mouth and good reviews for sales, it’s essential that you write the best book you can. Readers have more free books on their e-readers than they’ll ever find time to read and the novelty has worn off. Readers are now looking for quality books at a reasonable price.

Who designed your book cover?

A professional designer, Nicola Coffield. Nicky is also a friend and we’ve worked closely together on all five of my indie ebooks. Usually I find the stock photo we use as the basis for the cover, then I tell Nicky what I want the cover to say, what mood I want it to convey. She gets to work, then sends me several different versions. I choose one, then we tweak it till we’re both happy.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’d been an actress, journalist and teacher before I started writing my first novel at the age of 47. I began writing EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY when I was convalescing after illness had forced me to give up teaching. I had a lot of time on my hands and I couldn’t find the sort of book I wanted to read, so I thought I’d write one, just for myself. By the time I was halfway through writing that book, I didn’t want to do anything but write my story. I was obsessed – perhaps I should say addicted!

I started planning a second novel even before I’d finished the first, because I could see how bad the withdrawal symptoms were going to be. But I also felt I’d finally found the thing I was meant to do. With hindsight I can see that as an actress, journalist and teacher, I’d always been a wordsmith, telling other people’s stories. Writing fiction meant that I could finally tell my own.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Getting that critic off your shoulder and believing in your ability as a writer, in the worth of your stories. That can be very hard, especially when you get months, even years of editorial rejections.

I think most writers are beset by self-doubt. I try to banish it while I’m writing by focusing on just covering the pages. (I draft longhand in pencil.) I don’t consider the quality of what I’m writing, I just try to tell the story and get all my ideas down as fast as I can. Then in another session, maybe the next day, I’ll go back to my scrawl and edit it into something much better. I’ll edit again and again until I’m happy. For me editing mostly means cutting, so that I’m convinced every remaining word is really earning its keep.

Drafting and editing are two different processes. If you try to draft and edit at the same time, you’ll cripple yourself creatively. Keep the tasks separate. When you’re drafting, believe that every idea you have is a good one. When you edit, imagine you’re editing someone else’s work.

When do your best ideas for stories come to you?

When I’m daydreaming. Travelling on long-distance buses or trains can be a fruitful time. Big plot twists tend to come when I’m in the shower, so I keep a notebook in the bedroom. I’ve been known to sit on the bed, wrapped in a damp towel, scribbling down my ideas before they disappear! You have to seize the moment.

What is your favorite quote?

Stephen King wrote: “I have never felt like I was creating anything. For me, writing is like walking through a desert and all at once, poking up through the hardpan, I see the top of a chimney. I know there’s a house under there, and I’m pretty sure that I can dig it up if I want. That’s how I feel. It’s like the stories are already there. What they pay me for is the leap of faith that says: ‘If I sit down and do this, everything will come out OK.’ ”

I like this quotation because it reflects how I write. I’ve always felt that the stories are “out there” and it’s a question of somehow discovering them. When they were younger, my kids used to ask, “Do you know how your book ends?” and I used to say, “No, the characters haven’t told me yet.” That’s what writing is for me: a process of discovery. I don’t think I’ve ever begun a book knowing how it would end. If I knew, I’m not sure I’d have the patience to write it.






Linda Gillard lives in the Scottish Highlands and has been an actress, journalist and teacher. She is the author of six novels, including STAR GAZING, short-listed in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and HOUSE OF SILENCE, which became a Kindle bestseller and was selected by Amazon UK as one of their Top Ten “Best of 2011” in the Indie Author category.


We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Linda Gillard who is the author of, Untying the Knot, one of our medallion honorees at To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Untying the Knot merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.





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Review: Sea Witch by Helen Hollick

Book Discription
“Escaping the bullying of his elder brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate, with only two loves – his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crew unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa. He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh, an insignificant girl or so he thinks – until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer and a midwife – and a white witch. Her name, an anagram of “all that is good.” Jesamiah and Tiola become lovers, despite her guardian, Jenna Pendeen’s disapproval, but Stefan van Overstratten a Cape Town Dutchman, also wants Tiola as his wife, and Jesamiah’s half brother Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for a stolen ship and the insult of being cuckolded. When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship – Sea Witch – is put in Jesamiah’s path, he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola; he wants both – but Mereno and Von Overstratten want him dead. In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of his brother’s ship, can Tiola with her Craft, and the aid of Roux, Jesamiah’s quartermaster and the rest of his loyal crew, save her pirate? And can she keep Jesamiah safe from another who wants him for herself? From the elemental being that is Tethys, Goddess of the Sea? A charismatic pirate rogue and a white witch – what better combination for a story of romance and high-sea fantasy adventure. “
What can I say? Fabulous! Helen takes you on a magical ride and into a world of pirates and the sea. She draws you into a love story of Jesamaih and Tiloa. Leaving you wanting more and losing much sleep to find out. Helen is one of my favorite authors and NEVER disappoints! Compelling characters, adventure, intrique and historical aspects that will find you wanting to learn more. There is so much to this story and I highly recommend you read it to find out! Historical fantasy at it’s best!
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