Hello, everybody! This brief posting is just to announce the name of the winner of Elizabeth Ashworth 's historical novel,  The De Lacy Inheritance. Thank to Elizabeth for guesposting on Fly High (HERE) and give away a free copy of her book,  as well as to all of you who have read her post and commented.  Glad to be part of such a big interesting community, I'm going to announce the name of winner.

My congratulations to ...

tiredwkids !!!



Rosy Thornton had managed to reach the age of 40 without ever attempting to write a novel. In fact, she had written no fiction at all since the 'imaginative essays' she was obliged to produce at school . But BBC started broadcasting an adaptation of North and South by Mrs Gaskell and Rosy started watching it ...
Cambridgeshire is her home now. In her  daily existence she is  a lecturer and Fellow in Law at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. She teaches and writes on an eclectic mix of topics, including landlord and tenant law, trusts, homelessness, and women and the law.
You'll find more about her at her website .
Here's her RA Friday  post.

Regular readers of this blog will have read with great enjoyment, as I did, the recent guest spot on RA Friday by romantic novelist Phillipa Ashley. Phillipa told us how she began writing fiction as a direct result of watching the BBC’s 2004 adaptation of North and South – with the gorgeously smouldering Richard Armitage in the leading rĂ´le as mill owner John Thornton.

Well, ‘do not adjust your sets’, as they used to say on telly when I was a kid. You haven’t scrolled back down to Phillipa’s post by mistake. It’s just that my own story is uncannily similar. My own career as a novelist was also kicked off by watching RA in his waistcoat and cravat on Sunday evenings.

I didn’t know Phillipa then, though we have a lot in common, besides our love of period drama (and Richard!). Both of us have careers involving writing for a living (she as journalist and copy writer, me as an academic lawyer). Both of us reached our forties without ever thinking of writing a novel.

When the closing credits rolled at the end of the final episode of North and South, I was buzzing with excitement, but I also felt bereft.  Like Phillipa, I went online to find other people who had been inspired by the serial. Like Phillipa, I had a go at writing fanfic based on the characters of John and Margaret – in my case, a Victorian pastiche sequel to Gaskell’s novel. And, like Phillipa, I found that when my fanfic was finished I’d been bitten by the storytelling bug, and went on to have a go at writing my first independent novel.

The voice I discovered was contemporary and humorous – quite different from the historical one, imitative of Gaskell, that I had used for my fanfic. But the story I found to tell owed a lot to North and South. The heroine of my first novel, More Than Love Letters, is a clergyman’s daughter, and actually named Margaret by her father after Margaret Hale in North and South. My Margaret is very much a Victorian heroine out of her time: all pale skin and dark curls and burning moral zeal. Like Gaskell’s Margaret, she moves to a new town where she meets – and eventually falls in love with – a man considerably her senior who is already an established figure in the community. My hero is not a mill owner and magistrate but the town’s MP – and it’s no coincidence that his name is Richard. No prizes for guessing whose picture was in my mind as I was writing the book!

I was lucky enough to find a literary agent who liked the novel and agreed to represent me. He helped me knock it into shape for publication, and landed me a two-book contract with Headline in March 2006. By an amazing coincidence, Phillipa Ashley signed a two-book deal with the same publisher just a few weeks later! We had encouraged each other’s writing since the early, fanfic days, and egged each other into taking the plunge and sending our work to agents. Now we were both breaking into print together. It was – and still remains for me – a dream come true.

There have been other novels since More Than Love Letters. My fourth and latest, The Tapestry of Love, was released in paperback last month. But none of it would have happened without the support and friendship of Phillipa and the rest of the North and South fanfic community – and the inspiration of Richard Armitage on my TV screen with his sombre suit, silk cravat and sexy, brooding stare.
Thanks Rosy for this lovely blogpost!  


Two lucky commenters can win a copy of "More than Love Letters" or "The Tapestry of Love" by Rosy Thornton. The giveaway is open worldwide and ends next Thursday December 2nd.  Don't forget to add your e-mail address and ... good luck! Have a very good weekend!



I’ve always been a writer and I had my first publication at eleven years old when I sent an article I’d written about the Spanish Riding School in Vienna to the girls’ magazine Diana.  It’s been a long journey from there to the publication of my first novel The de Lacy Inheritance. Along the way I’ve had lots of articles and short stories published in magazines and written three local interest books, but there’s something about being a novelist that makes you a ‘real’ author.
 The de Lacy Inheritance came about because of a legend I discovered when I was writing my local interest book Tales of Old LancashireThis old story, about a Holy Hermit who lived in a cave under the castle at Clitheroe captured my imagination.  I did some research to discover how much of it was true and found that the man was Richard FitzEustace who had contracted leprosy whilst on Crusade with Richard the Lionheart and who lost everything because of it – home, family, fortune, his standing in society as a nobleman and any chance of a normal life.

I felt compelled to tell his story, although I knew that writing a novel with a leper for a hero was going to be a challenge.  I also wanted to explore the attitudes of people towards disease.  In medieval times illness was often viewed as a punishment for sin and I began to wonder what sins Richard had committed, or thought that he had committed, to deserve such a fate, and what he believed he could do to redeem himself.  Then I added the story of Richard’s younger sister Johanna, who is also based on a real person, and her role in deciding just who should inherit the lands across Lancashire and Yorkshire after the death of Robert de Lacy.
 I was aware that the novel would not be easy to sell to a publisher.   My first plan was to self-publish it and try to sell it in the local area but the book was accepted by a small independent publisher, Myrmidon Books, and went on to be not only stocked in Waterstone’s but on their 3 for 2 tables during July.
Reactions to the book have been very positive and despite the leprosy most readers have found Richard FitzEustace to be an appealing person.  And there is some romance as well.  It’s not all gloomy.
You can read the first chapter on my website: www.elizabethashworth.com and there’s a growing archive about the de Lacy family and a slide show of some of the settings for the novel on my blog: www.elizabethashworth.wordpress.com

Just leave your comment  to enter an international giveaway! Win a copy of The de Lacy Inheritance by Elizabeth Ashworth. The name of the winner will be announced on Tuesday 30th November. Good luck!



This is the story of the most notorious double agents in the history of spying.
Four very British traitors (from Cambridge Spies DVD)

"Betrayal is a cancer. Let it eat your soul ...". I'm  quoting Sir Harry Pearce from Spooks 9. But it doesn't seem like that at all watching this gripping drama.The glamorous four are rather romanticised and manageto pass through awful historical tragedies with a certain light touch.
I found it among my pile of TBW stuff. It is a BBC 4-part series starring Tom Hollander, (Guy Burgess)  Toby Stephens (Harold Kim Philby) , Rupert Penry-Jones (Donald Maclean) and Samuel West (Anthony Blunt) . It conjugates spy and period  drama. CAMBRIDGE SPIES was broadcast on BB2 in 2003 and,  if you like me missed it, it is available on DVD.
For someone loving period drama,  it is a happy reunion of familiar faces. Brilliant cast indeed.

The truth behind fiction
Maclean, Burgess, Philby and Blunt were British members of a KGB spy ring that penetrated the intelligence system of the UK and passed vital information to the Soviets during World War Two and the early stages of the Cold War.
The members of the ring were Donald Maclean  (1913 - 1983) Guy Burgess (1911 - 1963), Harold 'Kim' Philby (1912 - 1988) and Anthony Blunt (1907 - 1983). Several other people have been suggested as belonging to the ring, including John Cairncross. Blunt became a communist in the early 1930s and was recruited by the NKVD (later KGB), the Soviet security agency. While teaching at Cambridge University, Blunt was influential in recruiting the other three, who were all students there.

Burgess became a journalist after he left university, but on the outbreak of war joined MI6. Maclean was in the Foreign Office during the same period. In 1951, tipped off by Philby that they were under suspicion, Burgess and Maclean defected to the Soviet Union, where they spent the rest of their lives.
Philby was also a journalist but joined SIS (also known as MI6) in 1940. Just before the war ended, he was appointed head of SIS's anti-Soviet section. Thus the man charged with running operations against the Soviets was a KGB agent. He later became chief British intelligence officer in the United States. After Burgess and Maclean fled to the Soviet Union, Philby came under suspicion and was forced to resign. In 1963, he defected to the Soviet Union, and died there. Blunt worked for MI5 during the war. After the war he had a distinguished career as an art historian. He was director of the Courtauld Institute and Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures. He was knighted in 1956. In 1963, the British government discovered he was a spy but offered him immunity in return for information. In 1979, the story got out and Blunt was stripped of his knighthood.

Good quality TV
It is good TV drama though I've read reviews complaining for many historical inaccuracies. Being not that informed about the real story of these glamorous double agents, I just tried to enjoy the interesting, involving plot Peter Moffat created in his screenplay. I loved the 4 protagonists, I admired the fact that the characters are portrayed accurately and convincingly. Having just seen the last of the four parts, I must admit  that for entertainment value it is top notch. If you watch it with an open mind, as the game of four masterminds who underplayed the archaic MI6 for their principles, you'll enjoy 4 hours of great TV.



This week's RA Friday has got a very special guest: Leah Larson, Associate Professor of English and graduate program director at  Our Lady of the Lake, a small Catholic liberal arts university. She has published an article on Maria Edgworth's novel Belinda and has written numerous articles for encyclopedias and other reference works. She has  presented papers on Robin Hood at six conferences.

Richard Armitage has been the inspiration for books, artwork, and fan videos. I’m not creative, but I can say that Richard Armitage has made me a better scholar. As a university professor, I have to publish articles and present papers at conferences. Because of my heavy teaching and administrative load, I often have problems finding inspiration for my scholarly work. Two and a half years ago, while staring at a photo of Sir Guy in all his leather loveliness, I was inspired to turn my obsession into something scholarly. I presented a paper on the BBC Robin Hood at the Texas Medieval Association conference and was complimented by a major medieval scholar who encouraged me to push on with this topic. At a larger conference, my paper on fan responses to Sir Guy caught the attention of a top Robin Hood scholar, who asked me to present at the International Conference of Robin Hood Scholars. So there I was, standing in front of a full house, which included every major Robin Hood scholar—even Stephen Knight, the foremost authority on the Robin Hood legend—talking about Sir Guy fan fiction and fan videos.

The first person to ask me a question after my paper was Frances Tempest, the costume designer for Robin Hood series one and two—the woman who designed the buttery leathers that have starred (along with the gorgeous wearer of these leathers) in hundreds of fan videos. All I wanted to ask was if she had fitted the costume. But I knew she had and knew if I was going to retain any scholarly integrity I couldn’t ask that question! Frances is a lovely woman, and I have enjoyed visiting her when I am in the UK. I try to suppress my fangirl side, but did ask her if she knew what she had started by dressing Richard in such tight leather. She just laughed.

In researching the Robin Hood legend, I developed an appreciation for the series. I know a lot of people have put it down, but on close examination it stands up as being as good as any other Robin Hood. In Jane Austen adaptations, directors cannot stray too far from the novel. But with Robin Hood there is no novel, no one “canonical text.” The Robin Hood legend has always been played with and changed. Robin didn’t become a member of the nobility until the Elizabethan age. And the legend wasn’t always set during the time of Richard I. Like the Arthurian legend, each retelling of the Robin Hood legend reflects the ideas of the society that is retelling it. With this in mind, I spent (many pleasurable) hours viewing the BBC Robin Hood, writing down much of the dialog, noting interesting costumes and connections to earlier versions of the story. Of course, the parts of the series where Guy played a major role required much more in-depth examination!

I found only one article that focused solely on the character of Guy as seen in the ballad. Stuart Kane, the author of the article, stated that the Guy of the ballad was erotically charged and this eroticism created a discomfort in Robin Hood which led to his extreme violence. Kane’s description reminded me of the episode “Tattoo? What Tattoo?” where Robin displays his most violent self. I believe that there is something inherently erotic in this character as portrayed in the original ballad, but that no one until Richard was able to fully express this eroticism. And—in another thrilling RH scholar moment—Stephen Knight told me that he thought I was onto something in my analysis of Guy’s character. But the BBC Robin Hood and Richard took this character even farther, expanding Sir Guy beyond the brute of most versions or even the erotic brute of the ballad.

In the original ballad, Sir Guy is dressed in horse skin—tail to head. In the series, Guy is the only character who always wears leather—at least in the first two series. Since the beginning of my research, I’ve wondered about the connection between the leather and the horse skin. I’ve talked to other scholars who have said “They must have read the ballad and made a connection.” But Frances Tempest insists that she didn’t know about the original Sir Guy and the horse skin when she designed the costume.
So why give Guy, and only Guy, all leather all the time?

As a medievalist, I love Guy. I love the community that my interest in Guy has enabled me to join. My favorite RA characters are medieval—Uthred and Guy. I wish Richard would play Richard III or my favorite medieval hero, William Marshal. But I do have Thorin to look forward to. I’m not a big Tolkien fan (at least not of his fiction, but I bow down to his scholarly work). But Tolkien was a major C20 medieval scholar. So who knows what scholarly avenues Richard will take me down in his portrayal of this heroic dwarf!

Thanks for this amazing guest post , Leah!
And a very good weekend, everyone!



It's actually rare to find a costume drama set in the 17th century. The only good one I can remember, which I also reviewed on this blog, is  Gunpowder, Treason and Plot dealing with the Gunpowder Plot (1605) against James I . The Devil's Whore, which I watched at the weekend,  is an extremely-engaging and well-acted 4-part drama about the period 1642-1660 covering the English Civil War and the subsequent execution of King Charles I and his replacement with England's only republican government. Don't expect to learn or understand more about that complicated historical period but for once drama faced not an easy task and chose differently for its time setting.

The Devil’s Whore, is full of wild storms, furious winds and camera angles so eccentric they make it look like chaos has come to Earth. its talented director, Marc Munden ,  tries  to conjure a sense of impending apocalypse. It is s a tale set in the English Civil War about a fictional woman, Angelica Fanshawe, and  how her life intersects with the real events and  key figures of the time, including Charles I ( the beheaded  Stuart King) and Oliver Cromwell

To many who witnessed this period in British history, apocalyptic was just how it felt. In the 1640s fighting engulfed the country and the rule of  law collapsed: it was the end of the world as people knew it. 
The speed with which the plot unfurled is, at times, bewildering. I was completely taken away by the quick pace and gripping narration of the events.  Kudos to Peter Flannery, the scriptwriter,  for making this period of history really interesting. This difficult period, as I wrote in the opening,  has never really been covered in movies or TV.

Peter Capaldi is great as a doomed king, Michael Fassbender is intense and stunning as Rainsborough,  Dominic West magnetic as Oliver Cromwell, but my favourites are John Simm and Andrea Riseborough. Both act intensely and make me want to keep watching and get quickly to their next meeting. The chemistry, sparring and respect between Sexby and Angelica is fascinating! Almost perfect...

The Devil's Whore was broadcast on Channel 4 in 2008. The initial critical reception was good, though there has been some criticism of the omission of some figures and events (such as John Pym, the Earl of Bedford, Sir Thomas Fairfax, Sir Denzil Holles, 1st Baron Holles, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, Pride's Purge, Colonel Sir John Hutchinson and the Bishops' Wars) and the fictionalisation of others (such as the suggestion that Cromwell orchestrated Rainsborough's death, of Rainsborough not Sexby being a close friend of Cromwell's, and Sexby's assassination attempt on Cromwell).

The series is still available to be watched online on Channel 4 site (but only to UK watchers).  It is also available on DVD at Amazon.co.uk. More information about the cast  and the series at  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1050057/.



Hello, there! Good news for you. I'm here to announce the names of the winners in the latest  book giveaway  contest here on Fly High! Sherri Rabinowitz was so kind to answer my questions last week and to give 3 of you the chance to win a copy of her novel, FANTASY TIME INC. Thank you so much, Sherri, for your kindness and genorousity!


1. RAD HALL (for the international giveaway)
2 & 3 . INSPIRED KATHY & ALEXA ADAMS (for the US /Canada giveaway)




Do you remember Avalon? One of My Blogger Buddies? She's having a Native American Celebration Month at her blog  (HERE) and asked me to write something about the themes she's dealing with this November.
This is my choice, a review of a great novel. I often read pages from this fascinating book by J. Fenimore Cooper with my students: The Last of the Mohicans. This is my tribute to this great people and their history. Per non dimenticare... In order not to forget...

"Few men exhibit greater diversity, or, if we may so express it, greater antithesis of character than the native warrior of North America. In war, he is daring, boastful, cunning, ruthless, self-denying, and self-devoted; in peace, just, generous, hospitable, revengeful, superstitious, modest, and commonly chaste." (from The Last of the Mohicans)
James Fenimore Cooper (1789 - 1851) and the first American "epic-hero"
Cooper's fame rests on The Leather-Stocking Tales and the  creation of the first American epic-hero: Natty Bumpoo, a hunter and frontiersman, who is nicknamed in several ways in the different novels: " Leather-Stocking",  Hawk-eye, "La Longue Carabine", "Pathfinder", "Deerslayer" or "Trapper".  The first 3 novels of the series are The Pioneer (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826) and The Prairie (1827). The other 2 novels were written after a tour in Europe and after many years, The Pathfinder (1840) and The Deerslayer (1841).
Cooper had the idea of transporting Leather-Stocking to the Far West while he was writing The Last of the Mohicans. He had read with care Major Stephen H. Long's account of his expedition up the Platte River. During the spring of 1826 or earlier he met a young Pawnee chief who became the model for Hard-Heart in The Prairie. From the narrative of the Lewis and Clark expedition he took such names as Mahtoree and Weucha for Sioux chiefs. The character of Natty, who stood about six feet in his moccasins, drew upon folk traditions of historical pioneers such as Daniel Boone. Natty's friendship with the Delaware chief Chingachgook established him as a mediating figure between the white, advancing settlers, and the threatened culture of the Native Americans. Natty himself was educated by the Delaware Indians, who gave him the name 'Hawk-eye'.
Daniel Day-Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans 1992

 The Last of the Mohicans (1826)

(ALERT SPOILERS!)  The story is set in North-West America during the French and Indian War(1756-59) which ended with the expulsion of France from the region. The plot deals with the adventures of Alice and Cora Munro who, together with Major Heyward and their guide, the native Magua, try to reach their father, the British commander at Fort William. Magua is indeed the chief of the Hurons, a native tribe allied with the French. He captures Heyward and the 2 girls but they are saved by three people: Natty Bumpoo, here called Hawk-eye, Uncas, the last of the Mohicans, and his father Chingachgook. In the end Cora will be killed and given an Indian burial near Uncas as a sign of the friendly relationship between the English and the natives. Magua will be killed by Chingachgook, symbolising the link between the European and native cultures.

The characters and the themes
Among Cooper's characters, there are the rather stereotyped white men belonging to the high ranks of society, like the British commander Munro and his two daughters Alice and Cora; the white men of the lower rank, who live the frontier- life and speak dialect or slang; the natives, modelled on Rousseau's myth of the "noble savage". Cooper's natives are proud and brave (Uncas and Chingachgook) but also wild and brutal (Magua). Uncas, the last of the Mohicans embodies the end of wilderness and its values that are being destroyed by the colonisers.

Cooper's themes are those typical of the Romantic Age, being very much influenced by Walter Scott: he dealt with the opposition between different cultures, between the individual and society, between the individual and nature. His portraits of genuine primitive life, his description of the woods and the forests, of the prairies and vast horizons of the Wild West contributed to creation of the American myth.

Cooper's Native Americans 

While Cooper's Indians undeniably made an important impact on American fiction, they have been the subject of much literary debate. The most common charge leveled against Cooper is that the Indians did not resemble any that could be found in life; simply, they were wildly unrealistic. Indeed, Cooper did not have much first-hand knowledge of American Indians. In Savagism and Civilization, Roy Pearce states, "Cooper was interested in the Indian not for his own sake but for the sake of his relationship to the civilized men who were destroying him. So far as we can tell, Cooper had little personal contact with Indians. Rather, he read widely in the best authorities on individual tribes; in particular, we know that he read of the Delawares in Heckewelder and of the Plains Indians in Biddle's account of the expedition of Lewis and Clark..." . In fact, Cooper told his friend Sir Charles Augustus Murray, "I never was among the Indians. All I know of them is from reading, and from hearing my father speak of them".

However, Cooper's limited exposure to American Indians seems to have been enough for many readers to accept his characters. Furthermore, Cooper himself denied that they were unrealistic in the introduction to Last of the Mohicans; instead, he claimed poetic license. He asserted: "the reader who takes up these volumes in expectation of finding an imaginary and romantic picture of things which never had an existence will probably lay them aside, disappointed. The work is exactly what is professes to be in its title page--a narrative" . Cooper asserts that while his texts do not reflect historical events, they preserve historical flavor.

In Cooper's travel narratives, Notions of the Americans, he does not indulge in any fanciful ideology concerning the American Indian present or future situation. Pearce states: "In the Notions he might hope for gradual civilization of the Indians, but he was forced to admit that savage heroism, as he called it, was doomed, even in the west, to go down before civilized heroism". His chapter addressing "Indians" is an excellent contrast to his Indian characters in Last of the Mohicans.

( the photos in this post are from the movie adaptation of the book, The Last of the Mohicans, 1992)



Gone ... for good. Well, there are those of us who still live in hope. No body ,  hence , who knows? But I feel he's gone  for good. So good-bye, Lucas.
After watching the thrilling finale of this year's Spooks season I felt upset, moved but grateful, orphaned but gratified. I've had plenty of emotions thanks to Lucas North. I'm sad now and feel in loss but I AM grateful for what I had. 
Series 7,  October 2008. When Lucas first appeared from that black hood back from the hell of a Russian prison , bedraggled and malnourished, staggering toward Harry Pearce I thought: "Here we go, the great adventure has started"!

It was bliss: my favourite actor in my favourite series! I couldn't believe I was being that lucky. And it was great, amazing, so intriguing. Lucas 's journey in Spooks was very interesting, full of twists and turns. Complicated and,  at times,  rather incredible but not  when you have Richard Armitage playing that role. He succeeded in making every unbelievable, unpredictable, implausible twist simply possible with his heartfelt , convincing performances.

I loved Lucas's inscrutability and  vulnerability, his coldness and his fragility.  That only perceptible, yet  indecipherable,  mysteriousness was his charm. And then he was cool, smart, brave, generous, loyal, reliable, enterprising, tender, extraordinary, skillful  ...

Lucas's journey was the opposite of Guy of Gisborne's : we met the latter as the villain in  BBC latest version of Robin Hood's legend but,  peeling layer after layer,  we discovered his hidden goodness and frailty. Mr North's story was different and reverse. When I guessed what was going to happen to Lucas, long before the new series started,  I  was so angry ! Almost furious.  But then , watching the series, episode after espisode,  I just let it be... the emotions and the storyline took  hold of me ... stunning series! Gripping. Not perfect, but extremely good . Emotionally involving. After series 7, this latest one is among my best favourites. Spooks 8 , instead, had left me quite disappointed for several reasons.First of all the lack of chemistry between Lucas and that Sarah what-she-was-called. Never seen one of the episodes a second time. Some  music fanvids, yes, but never an episode again.

Lucas North in series 8 
What was I saying? Yes, Lucas's journey the reverse of Guy's in RH. Peeling layer after layer in this series we are led to discover his hidden dark side. A true Mr Hyde,  John Bateman. I still have Richard's "WHAT?"  in my ears (Watch this interview, 4:33,  if you don't remember it) . I made it mine when I first heard Vaughn Edwards calling Lucas, "John"! But then, I just let it be. And it was great. They deconstructed the character I loved, I let it be and ... enjoyed the show.

My favourite Lucas moments...

1. Yes! Lucas &  Elizabeta. Tender, protective, reassuring. He lets her go in the end (series 7, ep. 5) , apparently in order to protect her new quiet life.

2. Episode 6 series 7. Helping the teen and his mother. Wasn't he awesome in that episode? BTW, was he really the son of a minister? Who knows!

3. "Close your eyes. You'll remember". This is another unforgettable scene. Shivering moments.

4. They were tough together. Unbeatable, it seemed. I loved to watch them together. Ros & Lucas. I'll miss them both.

5.  "My name isn't ... Lucas North.  My name is John ... Bateman".  The naked truth. What suffering on both faces . This long confrontation scene between Lucas and Harry is another awesome bit. Richard and Peter Firth were touching in their performances, so convincing!

Lucas: a mystery to us all. I wonder, just like Elizabeta in series 7 episode 2:

"Were you always this cold ... under the skin?
Was the man I knew just a lie?"

I  loved Lucas North. Till the very end ,  against all odds, at any cost. What about you?

(As usual, many thanks to www.richardarmitagenet.com for all these beauriful screencaps)