Monday 30 January 2023

 Guest Post with Marie Laval

This week, I'm delighted to welcome Choc Lit author, Marie Laval, back to the blog to talk about her latest novel.

Welcome, Marie! I can't wait to hear more about your novel so it's over to you.

Thank you so much for welcoming me on your blog today to talk about CAPTURED BY A SCOTTISH LORD which was released by Choc Lit UK on 24th January.

This novel is a historical romance and the third book featuring a member of the Saintclair family. I loved every minute of researching and writing the love story between my fun and intrepid heroine Rose Saintclair and my wonderfully stern, dutiful and brooding hero Bruce McGunn, and I hope that readers will enjoy it too.

The story mostly takes place in the far north of Scotland, so you may wonder why I am today writing about Algeria's infamous Ouled Nail dancers. Algeria is a long way from Scotland!

Well, here is why. My heroine, Rose Sinclair, was born and brought up in Bou Saada, a beautiful oasis in the Sahara desert, and this was where many dancers from the Berber tribe Ouled Nail lived and worked.

They were made famous by painters such as Etienne Dinet, who settled in Bou Saada in the late nineteenth century and who, like so many other visitors to North Africa, was fascinated by them. They trained young in the art of dancing before leaving their villages to earn a living in market towns. When they had saved enough money they usually returned home, settled down and married.

Unlike most women in Algeria, they were always unveiled and wore heavy makeup. Their eyes were lined with kohl and their hair was adorned by elaborate headdresses. Their costumes featured voluminous and colourful skirts, lots of necklaces, charms and bracelets. These bracelets often had studs and spikes which the girls used to defend themselves against the unwelcome attentions of overexcited spectators.

The Ouled Nailliterally wore their wealth on their person, usually in their long necklaces, sewn into their skirts and shawls, or on their headdresses. This made them easy preys to unscrupulous thugs and many were attacked and robbed. 

Rose Saintclair, the heroine of CAPTURED BY A SCOTTISH LORD, learnt the art of dancing like a Ouled Nail from her childhood friend Malika. However, now she is married to wealthy landowner Scottish Cameron McRae and sailing to be with him in the far North of Scotland, she has to forget about her most unbefitting and unladylike skills...Or does she? 

Can a Desert Rose survive a Scottish winter?

The wild Scottish landscape is a far cry from Rose Saintclair’s Saharan oasis, although she’ll endure it for Lord Cameron McRae, the man she married after a whirlwind romance in Algiers. But when stormy weather leads to Rose’s Scotland-bound ship docking on Cape Wrath – the land of Cameron’s enemy, Bruce McGunn – could her new life already be in jeopardy?
Lord McGunn was a fearless soldier, but his experiences have made him as unforgiving as the land he presides over. He knows McRae won’t rest until he owns Wrath, and the man is willing to use brutal tactics. Bruce decides that he’ll play McRae at his own game, take the ship and its precious occupant, and hold them hostage.
Rose is determined to escape, but whilst captured she learns that there’s another side to her new husband – and could her supposedly cold and ruthless kidnapper also be concealing hidden depths?

CAPTURED BY A SCOTTISH LORD is available on Amazon and Kobo and other platforms.

About the author

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire and writes historical and contemporary romance. Best-selling LITTLE PINK TAXI was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit.  A PARIS FAIRY TALE was published in July 2019, followed by BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC in November 2019 and bestselling romantic suspense ESCAPE TO THE LITTLE CHATEAU which was shortlisted for the 2021 RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Award. Marie’s historical romances, ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, QUEEN OF THE DESERT and CAPTURED BY A SCOTTISH LORD, all feature members of the Saintclair family and her short stories are published in the bestselling Miss Moonshine anthologies. Marie is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, and her novels are available as paperbacks, ebooks and audiobooks on Amazon and various other platforms.

Thank you, Marie. What a fascinating background to your novel. I'm sure the readers will want to know if Rose does forget her 'unbefitting and unladylike skills'.

Thank you for reading. Had you heard of the Ouled Nail dancers before?

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Please go to my AMAZON to learn more about me and my books. Thanks. 

Monday 23 January 2023

St Dwynwen's Day

The Welsh Custom of Giving Lovespoons

Siop Y Pentan
Cyfres Lucila Lavender

The 25th of January is the feast day of Saint Dwynwen who is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, making her the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine. Saint Dwynwen lived in the 5th century and was a Welsh princess, the daughter of  King Brychan Brycheiniog. She was unlucky in love, and became a nun. She prayed that happiness would be granted to all lovers. She set up a convent on Llanddwyn island off Anglesey. Her church and 'holy well' is a pilgrimage shrine, especially for lovers, from the Middle Ages until today. The popularity of celebrating St Dwynwen's Day has increased considerably in recent years.

A Welsh love spoon may be considered an ideal St Dwynwen's Day gift.  Lovespoons were traditionally given as a token of love and affection and each spoon was unique. Although individual, over time a series of symbols was used to convey romantic thoughts and feelings. Here are some designs and their meanings:

Hearts - the universal symbol of love. Twin hearts may indicate a mutual love between the sender and recipient.

Double Bowls - this indicates the union of souls when joined together.

Balls in a Cage - these are commonly thought to represent the number of children desired by the carver.

Chain Links - generally considered to indicate loyalty and faithfulness, chain links may also symbolise a couple bound together in their love.

Diamonds - these are believed to represent a wish for prosperity and good fortune as well as a promise to provide well for a loved one.

Keys and Keyholes - as well as representing domestic contentment, these are thought to represent security and a key to one's heart.

Wheels - these are said to represent the carver's vow to work hard and guide a loved one through life.

The young man would spend hours carving the lovespoon with his own hands, in the hope that the young girl would accept it. If she did, they would start a relationship, which is the origin of the word 'spooning'.

Today they are often given as a gift of affection or a memento of a visit to Wales.Lovespoons are given to commemorate special events such as weddings, engagements, birthdays, anniversaries, births, christenings, house-warming and St Valentine's Day. Over the centuries, many more symbols and motifs have been added and now lovespoons have become more elaborate and collectable.

Here is one made for me when I left my first teaching post to get married and move away from the area. Obviously, those were the days before disposable nappies and by carving the heart's safety pin, the carver thought babies would be on the horizon for me!

Lovespoons do not always come in wood. Clogau Gold has a range of beautiful lovespoon jewellery. For an anniversary, and three babies later, my husband presented me with this beautiful pendant in yellow and rose gold. I was thrilled.


A very special lovespoon features in my short story Christmas Surprises on Péfka in the anthology Cosy Christmas Treats, published by Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction

'Yiannis unwrapped the gift and held up a beautifully carved lovespoon, with two hearts engraved with the initials A and Y.

    "In Wales, these were given as love tokens." Sadie pointed out each part of the design. "The hearts are obviously for love, the bell here is for marriage, the knot symbolises everlasting love, and see the little balls inside the frame? They signify how many children you'll have."

    "Three?" Yiannis and Alexandra laughed.

Yiannis handed the lovespoon to Alexandra... "With three woodturners in the room, you could not have chosen a better gift. We all see the craftsmanship and care that has gone into this. Thank you."


Thank you for reading. Do you own or have bought a lovespoon? Was it for a special occasion? What symbols are part of its design?

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

For more about me and my novels, please visit my AMAZON page. Thank you.

Monday 9 January 2023

 Guest Post with Evonne Wareham

Continuing with the series of blog posts on research which proved so popular at the end of last year, today I'm delighted that my first guest of 2023 is fellow Cariad author, Evonne Wareham. We write for the same publisher, Evonne writing for Choc Lit of which Ruby Fiction is an imprint. Having read her books, I know what she has to say will be very interesting.

Welcome, Evonne. Over to you!
First I’d like to say thank you to Jan for inviting me on today to talk about research. It’s lovely to be here in the company of the wonderful authors who have already occupied the slot.

Very many writers will tell you that they adore research. It can be a lot of fun, and is the most marvellous displacement activity. You can dive down any number of fascinating rabbit holes that will never go near the book you are supposed to be writing and still say you are working.  It is also quite often a painstaking graft, doing your best for accuracy.

I divide research into two types – the big stuff - which is often also the fun part - and the detail checking. The latter is why I now know more than you might expect about formalities for getting married in France, proceedings in UK courts and the journey times between stations on the French and Italian Riviera.

One of the trademarks of my books are the settings  - glamour, sunshine and escapism - along with mayhem and the occasional murder – well, I do write romantic suspense. (I assure you that the allegation that I know all the best places to bury a body is completely unwarranted.) Location is important, particularly, as you would imagine, in the ‘Riviera’ series – love and crime on the Mediterranean coast. Well - usually on the Mediterranean coast, but we’ll get to that. I’d class this research as big and fun stuff. Best done by visiting, but sadly difficult or impossible in the last few years. In A Villa in Portofino, written in lockdown, I had to rely on memory, guide books and some excellent walking tours of the town that obliging tourists had posted on You-tube.

The latest book, Masquerade on the Riviera, which is currently wending its way through the editing process, to be available around Easter, opens on the English Riviera. To my editor’s relief it does make it to Monaco – the setting for a grand masquerade ball. Sadly I haven’t made that trip yet, so it was the same process as for Portofino for that part of the book. I did have a very enjoyable weekend in Torquay though, attending the Crime Writers’ Association Annual Conference and doing research on the side. When I came to writing, I‘d forgotten how much easier it made things to know first-hand how everything looked. 

Torquay takes us to its most famous resident – Agatha Christie. Dame Agatha has an influence on the book as the opening chapters include a house party, as do many of hers. No body in the library, just a stolen necklace – although there are a few murders along the way.  I’ve tried to capture at least some of the atmosphere created by the Queen of Crime. My one-line summing up of Masquerade is ‘Death on the Nile meets To Catch a Thief.’ Why the Nile? Well, my hero is an Egyptologist.

Where did that come from? I have no idea, and research was needed – books, talking to experts, and an enjoyable wander around the British Museum. Fingers crossed I have got it right. Elliott the Egyptologist – and I have only just realised what I said there - is an academic, as is Megan the heroine of Portofino. I do know a bit about that but I invented my own university, so if things are done a little differently there, that’s my excuse. More research too, to find a suitable name for it. The occupation of the hero in Portofino was easier as he is a landscape gardener. I’m a long-standing, although not necessarily successful gardener, and an avid attendee of the kind of flower shows where Gideon would have won medals. As for the overgrown garden that Megan inherits and Gideon tames for her, I only had to look outside the back door for that! My own garden had taken on Sleeping Beauty dimensions during a period when life threw a lot of spanners in the works, as it is wont to do on occasion. All fixed now, I’m glad to say. I did research the kind of qualifications that Gideon might have as a professional gardener – that is where the detail comes in. Similar detail work has included investigating the helicopter transfer from Nice Airport to Monaco, how an artist would transport a work in progress when it was still wet, the history of famous jewels reputed to have a curse on them and popular bathroom colours from the 1970s.

One element I didn’t have to research for A Villa in Portofino was the period artefacts, as I used items from within my own family. As the book is about family secrets – not things that have been deliberately hidden but just things that are lost in time or are unexplained – I needed pieces that would contribute to the structure of the story. One was a collection of postcards that my father brought back from his war service in Italy. They were very useful in sending Megan’s own research off in exactly the wrong direction. Writers are mean and sneaky like that.

Well - this one is.

Thank you, Evonne. I like the way you have divided your research into the big stuff and then the detail checking. Glamour, sunshine and escapism! What's not to like reading about that?

Here are some more details about Evonne:



Evonne is an award winning Welsh author of romantic suspense - more crime and dead bodies than your average romance. She likes to set her book in her native Wales, or for a touch of glamorous escapism, in favourite holiday destinations in Europe. She is a Doctor of Philosophy and an historian, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Society of Authors, Crime Cymru and the Crime Writers’ Association.






A Villa in Portofino , which was a nominee for the Jackie Collins Award for Romantic Thrillers 2022,  is available in e-book, audio and POD paperback from Amazon.

Masquerade on the Riviera will be published by Choc-Lit in spring 2023.

Thank you for reading. I'm sure Evonne has whetted your appetite for finding out what her books are about. Look out for Masquerade on the Riviera soon. Do you agree that even the title sounds intriguing? What do you think?

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

For more about me and all my books, please visit my AMAZON Author page. Thanks.

Wednesday 4 January 2023

 Happy Birthday, Happy New Year

My blog is nine years old this January and although it has changed since I started out as a newbie with the aim of writing weekly blog posts to chronicle my journey into writing, it's still here! Less frequent now, the posts are more about my novel writing rather than the short stories I'd started with. I love reading those early posts. It really has been a journey. 

Looking back on the goals I set myself last year, I think it was a much better idea to follow the advice I found on a blog post, New Year Writing Inspiration and Prompt Challenge, to set one BIG goal for the year. You may read it HERE. In the past, especially in the early days, I set myself lots of detailed goals and often they were not met. My big goal for 2022 was to finish writing the first draft of novel four and I did it! This time last year, I had done lots of preparation and research but there'd come the time that I needed to write it. With the help of NaNoWriMo where I achieved the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month, I wrote 51,945 words to add to the 52,000 I'd already written. I had a novel to edit and work on.

Smaller goals such as supporting other writers by inviting them onto the blog were achieved, too. Last year, I welcomed nine authors to talk about their forthcoming novels or about the research they did as preparation. A goal to continue learning more about the craft of writing was met by undertaking an excellent ten-week course at Cardiff University on Writing Historical Fiction, led by Katherine Stansfield, and a superb Advanced Imagine Writing Course, taught by Jenny Kane. I hope that what I learned will have had an impact when I was writing my new novel.

Alongside writing novel four this year, I have been able to make research trips that were not possible in the previous two years. Visiting the Hut 9, POW Camp in Bridgend in July was invaluable for viewing the artefacts and wartime clothing on display even though the camp housed German POWs not Italians. The highlight was a trip to Sicily in August where I was able to walk in the footsteps of my characters. Being in the actual places that inspired the setting for the novel was wonderful. On return, I made a visit to Henllan Bridge Prisoner of War Camp 70 in West Wales which was home to 1,200 Italians during the war to view the beautiful chapel the prisoners created from found and scrap materials. By being able to make these trips, I'm hoping my novel will have an authenticity that would have been so much more difficult to create otherwise.

In September, my third novel, Her Nanny's Secret,was published as a trade paperback. It was a great feeling to receive a box of books and see my books displayed on shelves. At the end of the same month, I had my first library event where I was in conversation with lovely Honno author, Judith Barrow. It was a full house and so good to talk to people face to face. In November, I attended the launch of the Worcestershire Literary Festival 2022 Flash Fiction Anthology which included my three flashes. Reading to a live audience for the first time after two years felt so much better than reading on Zoom.

So for me, life as a writer did get back to some sort of normality in 2022 with some live events and meetings. Travel opened up so that research trips were possible.

A huge thank you for your support this year, especially all of you who have bought and read my books, taken time to leave reviews and send me messages. I appreciate every one of them.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year. 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.
For more about me and all my books, please visit my AMAZON PAGE