History Surrounds Us With Stuart S. Laing

It is always a pleasure to have Author and history enthusiast Stuart S. Laing visit Layered Pages. He talks with me about the images he captures of Edinburgh and gives us a glimpse of it’s fascinating history! 

Stuart, I have been enjoying the photos of Edinburgh you have been posting on social media. Even though I haven’t had the chance to visit the city, it is on my bucket list! When you find an image to photograph, what is going through your mind?

Stuart

Stuart S. Laing

Thank you, and I would love to give you a guided tour around town one day. As to taking photos I think it just comes down to being in the moment. I love the architecture of the Old Town, the history surrounding you, and the energy of the people both local and visitors from all corners of the world. Trying to capture just a hint of that is such fun. But I am strictly of the point and click school of photography.

The architecture is certainly breathtaking!  You really do have a great eye for imagery. Which I believe is part of your story telling in books. What do you characters have to say about that?

I think Robert Young would agree with you. He would point out that the more you can see, the more you can know. A shady character like Shug Nicholls would prefer people not go prying into what he and his old adversary, Sergeant MacIan of the Town Guard, get up too. What I try to achieve with words is to paint the reader into the scene so they can be there and feel the cobbled streets beneath their feet and catch a waft of the stink from open sewers or the sweet aroma of perfumed ladies as they pass by.

I notice you choose a black and white medium for your pictures. Is there a particular reason why?

I think the benefit of black and white is it brings an element of doubt into a picture, was it taken yesterday or 50 years ago? It’s my attempt to try to capture the timelessness of a city which seems to never change on the surface but in reality has been in constant motion as old buildings crumble and new ones rise. The thing which saves Edinburgh from the anonymity which besets so many city centres is the fact that in large the centre of town has managed to escape the concrete and glass monstrosities of so many other old cities.

Edinburgh 6What do you love most about Edinburgh?

The simple answer is everything. As I mentioned earlier it’s the history, the buildings, the noise and the hustle and bustle. I know that many locals decry events which fill the centre of town such as the

Festival Fringe which draws tens of thousands daily throughout August but I actually love the crowds. I think that many forget that until the development of the New Town from the 1760s onwards, Edinburgh was largely shoehorned into a space smaller than many modern city parks. It was this which led to Edinburgh Old Town being home to the first skyscrapers as builders went up rather than out. So, for me, seeing those crowds is simply an echo of the past when the Royal Mile was home to shops, coffeehouse, stalls, animals, horses and carts all competing for space. These days there is little risk of having a cow squash your foot under its hoof so people probably should count their blessings

Edinburgh IIHow often do you get a chance to visit the city?

I try to get across as often as possible, and normally at least several times a year. Having a membership of Historic Scotland allows me unlimited entry to Edinburgh Castle which provides another excuse to pop over.

 

 

 

Edinburgh 7

Cowgate before the ‘improvements’ of the 1860s

What have you discovered on your adventures to be the most surprising?

Probably that despite all the changes Edinburgh has faced, urban planners, great fires, which destroyed a large area of the Royal Mile meaning that parts of the New Town are actually older than parts of the Old Town, is the fact that you can take the map of town drawn in the 1740s and use it to guide you through the streets, closes and wynds (alleyways) today. Even when regeneration meant the slum dwellings of the Cowgate were obliterated in the name of progress in the 1860s, the new homes and shops were all built on the footprint of what they replaced. It is still remarkably easy to walk from the Royal Mile to the south side of town following the exact same route you would have taken in the 15th, 16th, 17th or 18th century. That is what constantly inspires me to keep going back.

Edinburgh 4Describe Edinburgh to me from your mind.

Edinburgh, to me, is a strange combination of what you see and what you feel. When I stand on the cobbles by St Giles Cathedral in the very heart of town I don’t only see the beauty of the church before me but, in my mind, I also see the tall, grim walls of the old Tolbooth which once stood here, its location marked by brass markers set in the cobbles. It was here that William Burke, one half of the murderous duo with William Hare, met his end in 1829 on gallows built where the Tolbooth had once stood. It was from the Tolbooth that Captain Porteous of the Town Guard was seized by a mob who would lynch him in the Grassmarket. However it was also here where stalls once stood ran by women selling their wares such as home weaving and hand knitted clothes, fresh wild flowers and vegetables to the people of town. Nearby the famous poet Allan Ramsay operated the first circulating library which opened in 1725. That is what fascinates me about Edinburgh, the constant mixture between beauty and darkness. It was the city of Enlightenment when Scotland led the world in the advancement of science while at the same time huge crowds would gather in good humoured revelry to watch the public hangings in the street. The city itself presents visitors with its split personality. On one hand you have the cramped, towering tenements with the warren of narrow alleys running under and between them where every Close tells its own story and where you can get a taste of how the city once looked and felt, and occasionally smelled as you venture down them. Meanwhile only a short walk away you discover the elegance, charm and open, broad streets of the Georgian New Town where upmarket retailers and fashionistas can be found sipping artisan coffees in the streets where Robert Louis Stevenson grew up. That is what keeps drawing me back again and again. The dual nature of a city where everything changes and nothing does. If that doesn’t make sense you need to visit and spend a day just walking the streets and let some of fair Edina’s spirit work its way into your heart.

Stuart, thank you!

And thank you for allowing me to share my love of Auld Reekie with you. And remember that invite for a guided tour is always open.

Thank you, everyone for visiting Layered Pages today. Stay tuned for our follow up post about History Surrounds Us coming soon here at Layered Pages! -Stephanie

More About Stuart: 

Born and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife Stuart grew up looking across the Firth of Forth towards the spires and turrets of the city of Edinburgh and its castle atop its volcanic eyrie.

He has always been fascinated by the history of Auld Reekie and has spend most of his life studying Scottish history in all its aspects whenever he finds the time between family, work and the thousand and one other things that seek to distract him.
Despite the vast panorama of Scotland’s history he always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Those streets have provided the inspiration for his stories and characters.

He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

Stuart’s Facebook Pages where you can find more images from him and information about his stories HERE.

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(All book reviews, interviews, guest posts and promotions are originals. In order to use any text or pictures from Layered Pages, please ask for permission from Stephanie Hopkins)

 

 

 

Interview with Author Lorna Fergusson

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Born and brought up in the north of Scotland, Lorna Fergusson studied English at Aberdeen and Oxford Universities. She now runs Fictionfire Literary Consultancy. In addition to her own workshops, she teaches creative writing at the University of Winchester’s Writers’ Festival and for various Oxford University writing programmes. Her novel The Chase was originally published by Bloomsbury and is now published under her own imprint, Fictionfire Press. Her stories have won an Ian St James Award, been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and long listed for the Fish Short Story Prize. Her unpublished children’s novel Hinterland reached the shortlist of four for Pan Macmillan’s Write Now prize. Her chapter on Pre-Writing appears in Studying Creative Writing, in the Creative Writing Series published by The Professional and Higher Partnership. Her story ‘Reputation’, longlisted in the Historical Novel Society’s short story award 2012, appears in the e-anthology TheBeggar at the Gate. She is working on a collection of historical short stories and a novel, the opening of which has recently won Words with Jam magazine’s First Page Competition. She has just won the Historical Novel Society’s London 2014 Conference Short Story Award with her story ‘Salt’.

Stephanie: I am so delighted to be interviewing Author Lorna Fergusson about her book, The Chase.

Hello, Lorna! It is truly a pleasure to be chatting with you today.

Lorna: Thanks Stephanie! I’m delighted to be here – thank you so much for inviting me.

Stephanie: Congratulations on the HNS Short Story Award. That is absolutely wonderful! Before we officially start this interview about your book, The Chase, could you tell me a little about ‘Salt’?

Lorna: I come from the north of Scotland and the story is inspired by memories of my grandmother, who was a ‘herring lassie’ at the time when the herring trade was huge. The fish were known as ‘the silver darlings’. The men went out to sea and the women followed the fishing fleet to gut the catch and pack it in barrels. Incredibly hard work and not in the least bit glamorous! My grandmother was working in Great Yarmouth, on the east coast of England, at the start of World War 1 and something she said about that experience when I was a little girl is what triggered the story.

Stephanie: How wonderful to have such amazing memories and to share them. I would love to hear more about your grandmother sometime…

Your story, The Chase, sounds amazing! I love stories like this and I have lots of questions and I MUST read your story soon. Please tell your audience a little about it and what genre it falls under.

Lorna: The story is about an English couple, Netty and Gerald Feldwick, who move to the Dordogne region of France. Gerald has fallen in love with a house there, deep in the woods near the village of Malignac. Netty is less happy about the move and is soon oppressed by the house, which is imbued with an almost supernatural sense of the past. We learn that their real reason for leaving England is to try to escape memories of a traumatic loss. They need to heal their marriage.

In France, they meet a range of characters, some English like themselves, some French, including the wealthy owner of a nearby château and a local wine farmer. Netty becomes friendly with a Cambridge professor who has retired to a cottage nearby. Gerald returns temporarily to England – and while he’s there he does something that will only add to Netty’s pain.

As the shadows close in and Netty learns the truth about her husband, her state of long-suffering passivity is about to change …

As for genre, well, that’s always been a tricky question to answer! It’s ‘literary fiction’, I suppose, though that can be an off-putting description. It has thriller, suspense and mystery aspects, along with satire of the English expatriate community and the social class system. The Chase has been compared to Daphne du Maurier – who famously wrote Rebecca – because the atmosphere of place and the sinister brooding quality is there, and also to Joanne Harris, who wrote Chocolat, because of the descriptions of the sensory pleasure of living in France. It’s Chocolat, with a darker bite!

The Chase_MEDIUM

Stephanie: Why did you choose the Dordogne region of south western France in 1989 for your period and setting? And please tell me, if it won’t give anything away, how the past is revealed to Gerald Feldwick and his wife Netty?

Lorna: I chose the Dordogne region because for several years my husband and I part-owned a house there. Le Périer stood on a hillside overlooking a vineyard – that’s the view I had when I flung open the shutters and sat at my desk to write! We grew to know the area very well, and I was fascinated by the rich layers of history all around, from prehistoric caves to Roman ruins, to medieval castles. Our house had an old bread oven built into the back wall of the kitchen and we were told the German soldiers used to get their bread there during the occupation of the region in World War II. I wanted to celebrate the richness of the location from its natural beauties to the pleasures of its food and drink. 1989 was a time when even more English people than usual were choosing to have holiday homes there or even move out there permanently, so there were villages which were like little England. The English and French have had a long-term relationship in that part of France, going back to the Middle Ages. There are castles there which changed hands repeatedly during the Hundred Years’ War.

In the novel, it’s Netty who is more sensitive to the echoes of the past, when she converses with the Professor or visits Claudine Bellenger, the châtelaine of Bel Arbre. She senses the dark memories of Le Sanglier – is almost haunted by them, you might say …

Stephanie: What is an example of the house’s history they live in and how old is the house?

Lorna: Le Sanglier, we learn, was built as a hunting lodge just prior to the French Revolution, by the Comte de Saint Eymet – and he got up to fairly nefarious activities there. What Netty and Gerald don’t know is that the location has been the site of dramatic events for centuries. The novel opens with the caves beneath it being painted with images of the animals of the hunt, like the famous cave at Lascaux. Only the reader knows those caves are there.

Stephanie: The past covers a pretty wide range of history from the Roman period, through the Hundred Years’ War, the French Revolution period, to the early nineteenth century and the Second World War. Was there extensive research involved for you to cover these periods? Or were some of them mentioned briefly in your story? And what is one of the ways the past affects the people living on the land in the modern period of your story?

Lorna: I did quite a lot of research, especially on the Roman aspect and the French Revolution, partly by reading, partly by visiting places such as the Roman Tour de Vésone in Périgueux and the museum there. Each of these periods features as an inset narrative, a self-contained short story – but I enjoyed relating those periods to the modern era by showing the ruin of a Roman temple, the descendants of a character featured in the Revolutionary period – and even the consequences of what happens in the World War II episode. I wanted to show that everything is connected and everything repeats itself.

Stephanie: Please describe Gerald and Netty’s relationship. And what are their strengths and weaknesses?

Lorna: Their relationship is in serious trouble, even though they’ve loved one another for a long time. I wanted to explore the effects of trauma – how individuals deal with loss, plus the paradox that grief can tear people apart rather than bring them together. Netty and Gerald have very different ways of handling their situation. Gerald is a doer and a talker – he has energy and drive but is self-pitying and lacks dignity, Netty feels. Netty is buttoned-up and passive – but there’s a lot going on beneath the surface. She has a lot of anger brewing. She is also sensitive and creative; during the course of the story she learns a lot about who she really is – and she doesn’t always like that person.

Stephanie: Could you give an example of what their relationship is like with their children?

Lorna: I don’t want to go into too much detail, but alienation and secrets play their parts!

Stephanie: Please introduce me to Professor Rutherford Appleby. What is he a professor of and what is his role in the story? And does he know the history of the land?

Lorna: Professor Rutherford Appleby is genial and sensible and he understands Netty better than her husband does. He’s a kind of wise old uncle figure – but Netty has to learn he isn’t perfect either. He’s a Professor of Comparative Mythology and understands not only the history of place but the history of beliefs about place. He’s particularly expert in the Gallo-Roman history of that part of France and has chosen to retire there because he knows it so well.

Stephanie: In my questionnaire to you, you told me beautifully how you came to write your story and I absolutely love what you said. Could you please tell your audience what that is?

Lorna: The Chase is, first of all, an expression of love for France and for a special time in my life. The story came to me out there, via a vision of its ending. I started to explore what would bring the characters I visualised to such a pass, and the whole novel developed from there. I incorporated images of hunting and of tapestry to illustrate the tension between death and life, between destruction and creation. I focussed on how hard it is for people who love each other to handle loss – how people cope, or don’t cope, in different ways. My characters question the very notion of a benign order to the world and they demonstrate that even when you try to escape your past, the past is always with you.

Stephanie: Who are your influences? And what are you currently reading?

Lorna: My influences are probably too many to mention! I love writers who create a sense of place, definitely. I studied English Literature and specialised in Medieval English, so have an affinity with that, which meant I loved writing the Hundred Years’ War vignette in The Chase! Currently I’m reading an excellent non-fiction work, Philip Marsden’s Rising Ground, which is about the search for the spirit of place and why places are so important to us and have been throughout history. He lives in Cornwall and describes it so well – and Cornwall is one of my favourite places in the world.

Stephanie: How much time do you spend writing and where in your home do you like to write?

Lorna: I write in my study upstairs, which is a lovely room fast disappearing behind ramparts of books and piles of paper! It’s painted ivory white and a Greek island blue, which I find both restful and stimulating. As for time, well, there’s never enough. I run a literary consultancy so spend much of my time thinking about, editing and responding to other people’s fiction! When I do write, it tends to be in the middle of the night, because I’m quite an owl. It’s usually past 3 a.m. before I go to bed.

Stephanie: How has writing played an important role in your life?

Lorna: Writing is central – it’s central to my sense of who I am and what I’m here for. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer and even when I’m not being productive, I think like a writer – I notice things, formulate things in my head, jot notes and phrases on scraps of paper which then get lost, and wonder ‘What if …?’ all the time!

Stephanie: Thank you, Lorna! Your story sounds absolutely wonderful and I look forward to reading it soon!

Reviews:

‘Lorna Fergusson weaves a vivid but dark tale set in the beautiful Dordogne, where past and present fuse in a page-turning mystery. I could go back to this again and again.’ Alison Weir, novelist and historian

‘Superbly written, ambitious in scope, morally complex, emotionally challenging, this is a real page-turner.’ Linda Gillard

‘Steeped in the atmosphere, history and excitement of France … It is definitely the sort of book that is difficult to put down.’ Living France magazine

‘Lorna Fergusson has a natural gift for telling a story – think of Daphne du Maurier.’ Scotsman newspaper

The Chase is available as a paperback and an ebook and also on Kobo

Fictionfire Literary Consultancy

Fictionfire Press

Lorna’s blog, Literascribe

YouTube

Facebook and Facebook Fictionfire-Inspiration-for-Writers

Twitter: @LornaFergusson

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Author Stuart S. Laing

Stuart Laing

Born in 1966 and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife. Stuart has been married to the love of his life for 20 years and they have blessed with a daughter. Completing the household is a cat which is also female leaving him heavily outnumbered. He has always been fascinated by the history of Edinburgh and has spends most of his adult life studying Scottish history in all its aspects but always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

Stephanie: Thank you for chatting with me today, Stuart. It is always a pleasure. You have written so many wonderful stories. Today I want to talk with you about, The Children in the Shadows. Great title by the way. Tell me a little about your story.

Stuart: While Robert and his friends and family attend an engagement party the murder of a young girl casts a grim pall over the evening. Everyone seems convinced that the woman who carried the body into the town Guardhouse is guilty and no investigation is necessary. Robert is pressed to do what he can to help the woman and by doing so he opens up a can of worms that certain people in high office want closed for their own reasons.

The story also allowed me to shine more of a light on the female characters who come to the fore in this. I have always sought to allow them to be as strong and outspoken as they wanted to be and in TCiTS they seize the opportunity with both fair hands.

Alice Galbraith especially truly came into her own when she decides she is going to solve the crime. While this decision places her in great danger as she is kidnapped by the murderer she is not the type of girl who is prepared to set back and wait to be rescued.

Faith also plays a strong part in the book. It serves both as comfort at times of sorrow and inspiration to stay the course and bring the guilty to justice.

Stuarts book cover

Stephanie: What was your inspiration?

Stuart: There has been much said in the British media over recent years regarding ‘people trafficking’ and ‘economic migrants’ from Eastern Europe coming to our shores in search of a better life as though this was something new. Throughout the 18th Century people from the Scottish Highlands had been trickling southwards to find hopefully a better life in the cities of the central Lowlands. Glasgow and Edinburgh had probably hundreds of Gaels struggling to eke out a new life for themselves by 1745 alone. I took that fact and mixed it with my fictional creation of a heartless man who lures children from the Highlands with promises of a happy and wealthy future only to put them to work in the worst sort of brothel.

It was the sad fact that such places existed and the fact that the victims were hidden from sight that gave me the title. That and the fact that certain people wanted the children to remain hidden in the shadows so that their own sins would remain unseen.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about Captain Travers.

Stuart: Charles Travers is a young man aged 25. Formerly an officer in the regular army who sold his commission and returned to his hometown where he was able to secure the position of captain in Edinburgh’s Town Guard. He is looked upon as a popular figure but other than Robert has no’one he can call a true friend. His single interest is solving crimes and this has been to the detriment of his social life. He has allowed nothing else to come before that and it was through work that he first met and then became close friends with Robert. Romance has never really figured in his thoughts.

His parents died when he was a child and he had been raised by an elderly relative who passed away while he was in the army so has no family left.

It was while he was attending Kitty’s to make an arrest that he met Miss Estelle Cannonby who he fell in love with at first sight. He is convinced she is his soul mate and the woman he wishes to make his wife.

Stephanie: What is the most dangerous encounter that Robert Young, Captain Travers have had?

Stuart: For Charles it is when he corners the murderer in A Pound of Flesh in the climactic scene when he finds himself unarmed facing a desperate man armed with a pistol. He tries to persuade him to surrender but…

Robert has largely managed to avoid placing his life in real danger, although like Charles he is there when the killer is confronted in ApoF. However his luck runs out dramatically in The Children in The Shadows when he discovers the identity of the man responsible for exploiting children. Rather than wait for Charles and the Town Guard he attempts to capture the man himself trusting in his own skill with a rapier. His skills may not be all that he hoped however!

Stephanie: Out of all the characters you have written about, which one are you most partial to?

Stuart: Arghhh! Does it have to be only one? Obviously I have to say Robert Young himself as the driving force of the stories but I love his wife Euphemia who has to deal with worrying about him when he is investigating a dastardly crime while looking after two young children. I also have a real fondness for Sergeant MacIan of the Town Guard who believes in ‘traditional’ methods of policing while dear Captain Travers prefers a modern, analytical approach to a crime scene. One character who is always an absolute pleasure to write is Alice Galbraith, a high class prostitute who delights in causing mischief for Robert and Captain Travers whenever she speaks to them. She is not a malicious character in any way, more just a saucy minx with a wicked sense of humour. She really came into her own in the most recent book The Children in The Shadows where she revealed herself to be much more than just an amusing supporting character. Even as I wrote her scenes I was cheering her on.

Stephanie: Is there a scene you wrote where you burst out laughing? If so, do tell.

Stuart: There is a short scene in A Pound of Flesh where Captain Travers and Robert visit Kitty’s (a gentleman’s club for games of chance and meeting young ladies of negotiable affections) to arrest a dubious character. He is busily engaging with two ‘ladies’ in a bedroom and while they arrest him the women, naked as the day they were born, applaud their efforts while they cringe with embarrassment. It was just one of those little scenes that is both important as it leads to a break in the investigation and just amusing for the sheer awful embarrassment for the men as they try to arrest the villain while doing their best not to stare at the naked flesh on display.

Stephanie: Where in your home is your favorite place to write? Do you have a favorite coffee or tea by your side when you write?

Stuart: Normally my armchair with my netbook perched on my lap. I like the small size of the netbook compared to a full size laptop when I am writing. Now, coffee or tea? The eternal conundrum! I tend to stick with coffee when writing but a mug, never a cup, of strong tea is always welcome. Just don’t add sugar!

Stephanie: I write at my desk, living room, kitchen and sometimes in my bed early in the morning. When writing, what is your process?

Stuart: I generally work out the full plot from beginning to end before I write the first word, I even work out a chapter by chapter guide of who does what, when and where in advance. However…pretty much as soon as I get past the first chapter things start to move, if not in a completely different direction, then in a way which I had not planned in advance. Generally only the very beginning and the end will remain unchanged. The crime and the criminal will be as I planned but anything else between the first and last page tends to weave its own path. Characters have a bad habit of doing their own thing. When I am actually writing though I prefer to have the TV switched off and have music playing in the background. Mumford and Sons, Marillion and the Scottish band from the 1980’s Big Country all feature fairly regularly on my writing playlist.

Stephanie: Yes, I agree. Characters do tend to do their own thing. I have noticed a lot of writers like having music on while writing. I’m must be strange, because I need complete silence and no distractions. How many books a year on average do you read?

Stuart: A rough estimate would be somewhere in the region of 50-60 full length books a year on average. I generally read at least one novel a week and goodness only knows how many short stories!

Stephanie: That is about the amount I read. Good number of books. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to try their hand at writing?

Stuart: Do it! Work out your basic storyline, plot and main characters and then just write. It doesn’t matter if you miss words or letters or even have gaps in the plot in that first draft, just get your idea down on paper (or on the computer screen these days) Once you have written that first draft then you can go back over it and catch the things you missed first time around. The single most important piece of advice I could possibly give is simply this. Do it! And have fun while you are doing it! Is that two pieces of advice? Do it and have fun!

Stephanie: Agreed!  

What is up next for you?

Stuart: I am nearing completion of the fourth Robert Young tale, so I think it is safe to say he doesn’t die when he confronts the cad in TCiTS. It has the working title of Major Weir’s Dark Legacy and is about an ongoing argument between two elderly booksellers. When one is murdered and the other found standing over the body with a knife in hand Charles is prepared to see things as an open and shut case. His attention is focussed on an upcoming wedding and he doesn’t want any distractions to get in the way of that. Robert, at his wife’s insistence agrees to do what he can for the accused. Meanwhile a sneak thief is plaguing the town, Robert’s adopted daughter Effie has discovered boys and a demon raising lunatic from the past haunts the dark rooms of an empty mansion.

 Stephanie: How exciting!  

Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Stuart: I think the only message I would dare try to give to my readers is that no matter how grim things may seem at the moment, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. With some of my characters that light is provided by their belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Others settle for the contents of a bottle! What I hope readers would take from my books is that our troubles, even on the darkest days can be overcome. I would suggest that faith was a better source of hope than a bottle though!

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Stuart: All three novels are available on Amazon in ebook and paperback. A short story featuring the regular cast is also available for the Kindle.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stuart-S.-Laing/e/B007B5H19U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

 

Review: The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage

The Prodigal Son

He risks everything for his faith – but will he be able to pay the price? Safely returned from an involuntary stay on a plantation in Virginia, Matthew Graham finds the Scottish Lowlands torn asunder by religious strife. His Restored Majesty, Charles II, requires all his subjects to swear fealty to him and the Church of England, riding roughshod over any opposition. In Ayrshire, people close ranks around their evicted Presbyterian ministers. But disobedience comes at a heavy price and Alex becomes increasingly more nervous as to what her Matthew is risking by his support of the clandestine ministers – foremost amongst them the charismatic Sandy Peden. Privately, Alex considers Sandy an enervating fanatic and all this religious fervour is totally incomprehensible to her. So when Matthew repeatedly sets his faith and ministers before his own safety he puts their marriage under severe strain. The situation is further complicated by the presence of Ian, the son Matthew was cruelly duped into disowning several years ago. Now Matthew wants Ian back and Alex isn’t entirely sure this is a good thing. Things are brought to a head when Matthew places all their lives in the balance to save his dear preacher from the dragoons. How much is Matthew willing to risk? How much will he ultimately lose? The Prodigal Son is the third in Anna Belfrage’s historical time slip series, which includes the titles The Rip in the Veil and Like Chaff in the Wind.

 

My review:

I really admire Belfrage’s use of voice and language. She makes it so that the characters are well developed and thought provoking. And I admire how her characters interact with each other and does a good job expressing their emotions. Her dialog is also engaging and flows really well.

She gives wonderful details of the domestic life of the time the story is written in and details of what they had to endure in the regards to the government’s (Charles ll of England) unreasonable rule. There were laws or should I say-Charles ll required his subjects to conform to the Church of England- on how they were to worship which as you know made it extremely difficult on the people. And that is putting it mildly.

Mathew Graham has risked much to support and protect his minister, Sandy Peden. And his family has suffered for that. I did not always agree with him and was often times frustrated with the decisions he was making. But having said that, he is one of my favorite characters in this story. I believe Mathew truly loves his family and has adjusted quite well to the fact that his wife-Alex-is from the future. I’m sure he is more tolerate to her ideas and beliefs than what most men during that time would have been.

Sandy Peden is a pious and fanatical minister who I actually enjoyed reading about in this story. He is opinionated- thinks women have their place and feels Mathew should put his wife in that place and has no problem telling him so. It is obvious he does not approve of her one bit. But she certainly matched wit for wit with Sandy. I do admire how Sandy is a survivor and he stands by what he believes and does not give into being told how he is to worship and what organized faith he is lawfully suppose too follow. Very entertaining….he adds a lot to this story.

Alex is a strong woman who is from the future and I believe her knowledge has really helped her and yet sometimes it was a hindrance for her, I think. I do however think she adapted quite well in the 17th century for someone being so forward thinking and modern of course. She does have a stubborn streak to her but so does her husband. I really enjoyed seeing the way they interacted with each other. Their relationship is really dynamic. And I do admire their strong sense of family and values. Alex does something in this story that I truly respect her for. But I cannot tell you! You will just have to read the book to find out!

I really have enjoyed this series so far and I look forward to continuing to read them! The Graham family are definitely among my favorite families to read about! I am giving this story a four and a half star rating and I highly recommend this whole series to people who are looking for a quality written time slip.

 

Stephanie

Layered Pages

 

About the Author

anna belfrage

 

I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favorite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s WEBSITE.

Layered Pages latest interview with Anna Befrage : https://layeredpages.com/2013/07/09/1350/

Links to where you can purchase her stories:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Prodigal-Son-Anna-Belfrage/dp/1780885741/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1376163215&sr=8-5&keywords=The+Prodigal+Son

http://www.amazon.com/Like-Chaff-Wind-Anna-Belfrage/dp/1780884702/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376163168&sr=8-1&keywords=like+chaff+in+the+wind

http://www.amazon.com/A-Rip-Veil-Anna-Belfrage/dp/1780882424/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376163127&sr=8-1&keywords=A+rip+in+the+veil