Sunday 5 February 2023

Fantastic HNS Review for Before Beltane

Good Morning!

It's definitely proving to be a great weekend for me and I hope similarly for you. Yesterday, I had an excellent lunch with some of my RNA Scottish Chapter fellow authors in Perth, Scotland (Romantic Novelists Association). That meant a 2-hour-drive to get to the venue, and the same return journey, but it was so worth it to meet up in person and to get caught up with what everybody is doing in their current writing journeys. 

When I returned home last night, I opened an email that made my smile even wider. It had come from J. Lynn Else, a reviewer at the Historical Novel Society of which I'm also a member. The email told me that a review for Before Beltane had been published in the February 2023 Edition of the HNS magazine. It's an extremely encouraging review which pleased me no end since the reviewer has highlighted many of the important issues I wanted to address in the Prequel to the Celtic Fervour Series. 

You can read the full review HERE . 

There are some great comments that I can use in my promotional material, in fact almost all sentences below are perfect! 

"Before Beltane is an immersive trip into the Iron Age of Britannia. From new archaeological discoveries to the writings of Ptolemy’s mapmaker, Jardine’s comprehensive research and intuitive contextual choices bring the story to life in plausible and nuanced ways. Subtle touches of Gaelic in the dialogue, along with well-detailed social hierarchies, enrich the story. Tensions are rising for the indigenous people while Lorcan’s and Nara’s stories draw closer together. The book is packed with more character development and world building than I typically see from prequel novels. I am impressed and would definitely read more from this author and the Celtic Fervour series."

My thanks, again, go to the reviewer J. Lynn Else, and the whole Historical Novel Society team of organisers.

Happy reading!


Wednesday 1 February 2023


Hello! Happy Imbolc wishes are winging their way to you. 

February 1st marks the Celtic Festival of Imbolc. Traditionally, it would be heralding the beginning of Spring and saying a farewell to the dark days of winter. In today's climate in the NE of Scotland where I live, I'm not sure we can determine what is a turning point any more with regard to the changes between dark winter days and bright spring ones. 

Last night the winds were howling, the gusts somewhere upwards of 50 MPH. That's not too unusual now, since this time last year we were in the aftermath of a couple of very damaging storms that occurred in November 2021 (Arwen) and January 2022 (Corrie) and then we had another in early Feb. 2022 (Dudley). In my experience of living in Aberdeenshire for 35 years, we also tend to get a decent snowfall sometime around mid-February, so our winter can not be said to be over yet. 

It definitely makes me wonder what the climate really was like in Aberdeenshire, and indeed in the whole of northern Britain (i.e. north of York) some 2000 years ago when my Celtic Fervour characters were 'existing'. 

Last year in  April 2022 - BEFORE BELTANE - the Prequel to my Celtic Fervour Series was published. It introduces Lorcan of Garrigill and Nara of Tarras. They are the main characters of Book 1 The Beltane Choice and are essentially the bedrock of the Garrigill warrior clan adventures.  

Across the series of six books, the four main Celtic festivals are mentioned but never all in each book. Imbolc, February 1st in our present calendar, gets a mention in the Prequel, Before Beltane. Last year at this time of Imbolc, I added what was a final draft extract from Before Beltane which mentions Imbolc. That draft had not yet gone through beta reading, or final edits, but I'm pleased to say the extract published on this blog on Febraury 1st 2022 had few changes. You can read that extract HERE 

Since both Lorcan and Nara's stories are running concurrently as regards the season in Before Beltane, Nara also mentions the Festival of Imbolc and how it affects her fellow priestesses at the island nemeton where she lives. In this extract below (the final published version), Nara - a priestess in all but the absolute final rites -  is out hunting with a few of the younger acolytes, instructing them in how to make progress through the forest...


Nara’s low chuckles rippled around the slender alder trunks that populated the forest fringe at the far end of the Lochan of the Priestesses.

“Branwen! We have already discussed the many possible tactics that you can use. Why would I need to repeat myself when silence is necessary?”

“Is it because we must remain silent when in the realm of the god Cernunnos?” The response from the other girl, Rhawn, was confident.

“Well done,” Nara praised. “That is definitely an excellent purpose, Rhawn. We must respect the forest god at all times, nevertheless there are other equally good reasons for silent progress across the undergrowth.”

Branwen’s sudden smile made all the difference to the girl’s dark-eyed expression. “We must not alarm the forest creatures in any way, so that we can track them properly – I know that, but I am fearful that I do not know enough about how to avoid causing upset to the forest god.”

Nara’s smile faded.

“None of us know very much about that. Cernunnos can be generous to all humans who enter his dwelling, nevertheless when he is offended, he can be fickle,” she warned. “Just remember what I told you about the hunt today. We are here to fulfil the wish of one of our priestesses who has the desire to taste some deer meat during our forthcoming festival of Imbolc, before she passes to the Otherworld.”

“Is the old one nearing her end in this realm, Nara?” Rhawn asked.

Nara could not prevent the instinctive smirk that widened her lips. “Our oldest priestess has changed very little since I arrived at the nemeton, many summers ago. Nevertheless, when Coinchend – the warrior from the Otherworld – will come for her is yet to be revealed. In the meantime, as the old one very well knows, late winter and early spring are good seasons for hunting.”

What happens next to Nara and Lorcan you can find out in BEFORE BELTANE 

Enjoy Imbolc