Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Up & Down Again British Crown Jewels by Katherine Pym

Crown Jewels
For some reason, to-be monarchs expect to be surrounded by gold, silver and jewels when crowned and when they attend state ceremonies. In the old days—really old like ancient times—it is said those who wore crowns were set a part. They were different than the everyday guy who walked the dusty paths of the planet.

The Up:
Over the years, the British crown jewels piled up, including gold thread, silver and gold plate, embedded with precious metals and stones. Their worth cannot be calculated. Well, I suppose it can but my sources won’t do it, and who am I to argue? I could easily say their worth is in the millions and millions or more.

British Imperial State Crown
The British Imperial State Crown is mounted with more than 3000 precious jewels. It must be very heavy after a few hours. Whoever wears this crown will have a sore neck and shoulders for several days afterward. 

Tower of London
The Maltese cross at the top of this crown has a great sapphire. Legend says it came from Edward the Confessor’s ring. It was removed from his finger after his death and before his coffin was sealed. The Stuart sapphire at the back of the crown may have come from Scotland in 1214.

The Down:
King Charles I had a hard time of it almost from the get-go. He married a Roman Catholic girl, which was hugely frowned upon. He allowed her to remain Catholic. He trussed up the Church of England to be more papist.

He annoyed a lot of people who wanted the church services less papist. They wanted music during services to cease, and they were tired of statues, gold and jewels shining from the altar, the stained glass windows.

The man in charge of the crown jewels at this time was Sir Henry Mildmay, a royalist who jumped over to the Parliamentary side soon after Charles I left London to fight in the civil wars. Two years into the fighting, Parliament ordered the royal plate be melted down. Some argued the plate was ancient, the decorations worth more than the plate, but they were shouted down.

Historical treasures of banqueting plate and coronets worth in today’s market of almost £388,000 were melted and minted. After the fighting was over, the king lost his head and most royalists fled or fell under the Commonwealth rule. It didn’t take long for Parliament to sell the king’s personal estate and the crown jewels.

Sir Henry Mildmay was summoned to make an inventory. Once a royalist who changed sides, now he was royalist again. He locked the Jewel House door and wouldn’t come out. It was a standoff of 6 weeks. Finally, Parliament grew frustrated and stormed the building. Henry Mildmay was flung into Fleet prison.

All the gold and silver was melted down and the jewels sold off. They had destroyed the holy relics of a monarchical system that had lasted for centuries.

Up Again:
When King Charles II returned from exile in 1660, Sir Henry Milmay was again summoned to the palace. He feared for his life and tried to run away but was caught. He was sentenced to be dragged through the streets each year on the anniversary of King Charles I’s death (end of January per the Julian calendar).

Nothing remained of the original crown jewels or coronation regalia. A local goldsmith was called in where, for a mere £1.6 (modern costs), he made duplicates of the old jewels.

After King Charles II’s coronation all the jewels and regalia were stored in the White Tower in the Tower of London. It was where William the Conqueror had stored his treasure but moved again after the great fire of 1666 to the Martin Tower.

Colonel Thomas Blood
Down Again:
The only successful person to steal the crown jewels was Colonel Blood (yes, a real name, and he wasn’t a pirate). Blood was an unhappy man who had done well under Cromwell. It annoyed him when his government failed and he lost all his lands in Ireland.

The way he did it was interesting:
In early 1671 Blood, disguised as an old, grizzly clergyman, went to view the crown jewels with his supposed ‘wife’. The caretaker and his family lived on the floor above. Happy to oblige, the caretaker showed them the jewels.

Suddenly the clergyman’s wife bent over, groaning of a terrible stomachache. The caretaker took the poor, sad lady to his apartments, where his wife took care of her. The next day, the old couple returned, this time with a pair of gloves for the caretaker’s wife, in thanks for her care of the old woman.

The couples became friends. The clergyman and his wife visited often. It gave Blood plenty of time to study the layout of the protected jewels.

While friends, Blood said he had a nephew who would be a perfect suitor for the caretaker’s daughter. They should meet. The caretaker and his wife agreed.

With other men waiting nearby, Blood and his ‘nephew’ arrived early at Martin’s Tower. While the caretaker’s wife and daughter were still getting ready, Blood asked if they could show the nephew the crown jewels.

Blood and the nephew surprised the caretaker, bound and gagged him; then Blood’s gang went to work. They removed selected items, stashed them in overly baggy clothes or beat them with mallet until they were flattened and easily hidden.

Unfortunately, they were caught when the caretaker’s son surprised them. The gang was overpowered and their robbery foiled.

King Charles II

Up Again:
Blood was taken into custody and housed in the Tower which was a dark place in the 17th century. When taken for interrogation, Blood refused to talk to anyone but the king. Everyone was surprised when he agreed. After quite a long discussion between Charles II and Blood, the king, humored by Blood’s daring, pardoned him and restored his lost lands in Ireland to him.

Many thanks to:
Harnrahan, David C. Colonel Blood, The man who Stole the Crown Jewels. Sutton Publishing, Ltd., UK, 2003
Tales from the Tower, Secrets and Stories from a Gory and Glorious Past. Think Books, London, 2006
Wikicommons, Public Domain


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Thursday, June 2, 2016



I haven’t read anything of late except books that I needed for research. I picked up a book in the library and thought it would be as dry as dust to read, but I was desperate for the information it might have contained. Well, what a surprise. I actually read the whole lot, not just the sections that I thought I would need. Normally, I would skim through the pages looking for information, but I actually read this book from cover to cover. It is called Days On the Road, Crossing the plains in 1865, and was the diary of Sarah Raymond Herndon. She was a 24 year old school teacher who left her native Missouri with her mother and brothers, to join a wagon train heading along the Oregon Trail. They were four months on the trail. She kept a diary and it made for a fascinating read.

The reason I was interested in this kind of information, is I have recently started writing Western Romance, and I wanted to get a better feel for the hardships people endured out on the plains. I am multi-published in historical romance set in Australia, and very familiar with our history, but American history, well, I can do with a little help.

I really enjoyed reading about Sarah and her mother straining milk into a butter churn that had a lid, and fixing it to the front of the wagon, where it was churned into butter by the motion of the wagon. How clever was that.

What I really found interesting (maybe it’s the romantic in me), was the fact that with so many single young men available, a couple of doctors and reasonably well to do gentleman who were interested in Sarah, she had no interest in any of them.  She did eventually marry, but not in this story.

A few months after the family’s arrival in Virginia City, a school was started and Sarah became a teacher there, earning the princely sum of $125.00 per month. So, you can see this book was a goldmine of information on day to day living for someone like me.

Fear almost crushes Tommy Lindsay when she arrives in South Dakota to live on her uncle’s isolated ranch.  She will need all her courage and daring to survive the hard times ahead.

 Adam Munro is a wealthy rancher who thought he only wanted a presentable wife who would give him heirs.   When he meets Tommy, he is smitten. Can he ever hope to capture the heart of this beautiful English rose?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

THE LONGEST DAY (June 6, 1944) by Shirley Martin

It’s ironic that the first  person who coined the term, the longest day, was a German officer.  (Erwin Rommel,, The Desert Fox.)  Indeed, it must have seemed like the longest day to both Germans and Allies alike.

For a long time, Russia’s Stalin had urged the western Allies–the British and Americans–to open up a western front against Germany.  Russia had borne the brunt of the German onslaught for years, suffering horrific losses in desperate and cruel fighting.

Since 1943, the British and Americans had planned this second front, code-named Operation Overlord.  Now on the morning of June 6, 1944, all of that planning had come to fruition.  But it had been a long, tortuous  path that led to the operation.

Prior to June, ‘44, the Germans realized that the western Allies would  open up a second front.  Under Rommel’s stewardship, they had labored on the Atlantic Wall, a series of mines and obstacles meant to stop the Allies upon landing on the coast of France.  Yet much work remained to be done on the Atlantic Wall.

The narrowest distance across the English Channel between England and France is the Pas de Calais.  That would be the logical route the Allies would take and what the Germans would expect.  For that very reason, the Allies chose the Normandy coast on which to land.  The Allies launched an elaborate deception, code-named Fortitude, meant to fool the Germans into thinking that the landing would occur at the Pas de Calais.  A phony army with phony messages was created.

The English general Mongtomery devised a plan in which the British and Canadians would land on three Normandy beaches, and the Americans would land on two.  East to west, the British  beaches were Sword, Juno, and Gold.  The Americans would land on Omaha and Utah beaches.  As the head of SHAEF, (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force) General Eisenhower approved  this plan.

As the planning for the invasion progressed, the southern English coast was alive with over 6,000 ships and 4,000 landing craft.  Operation Neptune, the naval plan, included a bombardment force of 7 battleships, 23 cruisers, and 104 destroyers.  Their role was to destroy the coastal batteries of the Atlantic Wall.

The Allies had overwhelming air superiority.   The German Luftwaffe was only a shadow of its former power.

For years, the French Underground  had waited for this moment and knew the part they were to play.

After all the months and years of planning every large and small detail, the success of Overlord hinged on one factor:  the weather.  Sea and sky turned stormy in the Channel at the end of the first week of June.  June 4 was the day Eisenhower and Montgomery had chosen to launch the invasion.  On that day, heavy winds and waves buffeted the Channel.  The invasion had to be cancelled for that day.  However, the meteorologist had good news.  There would be a window of better weather on the morning of June 6.

Operation  Overlord  began fifteen minutes after midnight on the morning of June 6.  At that moment, men of the 101st and 82nd airborne divisions stepped out of the planes into a moonlit night over Normandy.  Five minutes later and 50 miles away, men of the British 6th Airborne division plunged out of their planes.  These men were the pathfinders,, the men who were to light the dropping zones for the paratrooper infantry that was soon to follow.  German flak drove many of these planes far off-course, and many of these paratroopers landed miles from their DZ.  Some were dropped in the river, and weighed down with eighty pounds of supplies on their backs, simply drowned.

As paratroopers fought the enemy near the coast of Normandy, the greatest armada the world had ever known began to gather off these beaches, almost 5,000 ships carrying 200,100 soldiers, sailors, and coast guardsmen.  The sky thundered with the passage of aircraft, and coastlines began to disappear with smoke and dust as the airplanes dropped bombs.

During the bombardment, the British, Canadians, and Americans debarked from the landing craft and waded ashore while the Germans fired from their concrete fortifications.  The Allies picked their way between the shore obstacles , diving for cover from enemy fire, and struggling to reach the shelter of the cliffs.  Many men didn’t make it to shore, falling in a hail of German bullets.  Many others helped their wounded to the shore.

For much of the morning, the fate of the free world was held in the balance, Omaha beach faring the worst.

Had the invasion failed, Eisenhower had prepared a message to deliver in which he took full blame for the Allied defeat.   Instead, by 9 a.m. local time, he delivered this message:

“Peoples of western Europe.  A landing was made this morning on the coast of France by troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force.   This landing is part of the concerted Untied Nations plan for the liberation of Europe, made in conjunction with  our great Russian allies. . . .
This landing is but the opening phase of the campaign in Western Europe .  Great battles lie ahead.   I call upon all who love freedom to stand with us.  Keep your faith staunch –our arms are resolute.  Together we shall achieve victory.”

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What Happened to David Lang, A Strange Disappearance by Eleanor Stem

Farmhouse 1880's
September 23, 1880 on a farm near Gallatin, Tennessee, USA 

David Lang had just returned from Nashville that morning. He had brought his two children, George & Sarah a toy of a wooden wagon pulled by wooden horses. He and his wife talked to the children, then David set off across a pasture, scorched brown from a hot summer and no rain. No trees or bushes marked the place. His family watched him enter the field and hike across it. 

The open field David walked across
At that moment, Judge August Peck and David’s brother-in-law were riding in a rig to the farmhouse. The judge was about to hail David when the man vanished. He had been standing in the open field, a plain of short grass, with no rocks or fences.

If, as they thought in the medieval days, he stood on the edge of the earth, he had somehow fallen off. He had vanished in full view of his wife, his children and two men.

“Mrs Lang and the 2 men went to the spot where David had disappeared, thinking he might have fallen into a crack in the earth but they found no such crack. Mrs Lang became hysterical and was led, screaming, into the house. Someone rang a huge bell, which brought the neighbors to help. Soon scores of people were searching the field and nearby land, but to no avail.

A surveyor and geologist who examined the field later found limestone bedrock just a few feet underground. There was no fracture in the bedrock.

For a month the search went on. Curiosity seekers came to gawk. All the Lang servants except the cook quit in fear.

A year later, the grass where Lang had disappeared had grown high and thick in a circle 20’ in diameter. Not one of the farm animals would graze there, and it seemed free of insects. It was as though an ominous presence hovered over that piece of ground.” 

In August 1881, the two children approached the green circle of high grass. “The daughter called out, ‘Father, are you anywhere around?’ There was no answer but she repeated the question 4 times. They were about to walk away when they heard a faint cry for help, a cry that came out of nowhere. Quickly the children ran and got their mother who returned with them to the spot and called as they had done. Her husband answered. For several days, the family returned, and each day when they called, the answering voice became fainter, until finally there was no response at all.”

So, what had happened to David Lang?

Since the UFO sighting in the 1940’s, one would think he’d been snatched by alien beings, but that doesn’t answer the question of his voice drifting to them over a year later. He could have slipped into another dimension like an episode of Twilight Zone back in the 1950’s or early 60’s where a little girl fell out of bed. Her father had to get her through a strange dimensional entry in the wall. Or, as a time slip author/reader would say, he could have found a time portal and slipped into another time. 

A time slip portal?

Whatever happened to him, David Lang never returned to his time, his dimension, or his farm. 

For more information on this, the internet is filled with this type of strange phenomena. 

Many thanks to:
The People’s Almanac by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace, Doubleday & Co., Inc., Garden City, NY, 1975.
Wikicommons, Public Domain 


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Monday, May 30, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Sheila Claydon

I was 7 years old when I cleared out the bottom half of my toy closet and, using the shelf as a desk, set myself up as a writer. I’ve been writing ever since: poetry, non-fiction, stories for children, but my absolute favourite is contemporary romantic fiction.

I truly believe that ‘love makes the world go round,’ so weaving stories around characters who are falling in love is what keeps me writing. Sometimes I become so engrossed in what is happening in their lives, that what was intended to be one book becomes a series. My When Paths Meet trilogy is an example of this. When I finished writing Mending Jodie’s Heart, I wanted to know what happened to her younger sisters. Finding Bella Blue (Book 2) and Saving Katy Gray (Book 3) were the result.

Falling in love should be about far more than the romance and my stories always are. Far from being perfect, my characters frequently have to face up to some uncomfortable truths before they can learn to truly love. I hope you will check them out, and enjoy them.

I write contemporary fiction. My books are listed below:

When Paths Meet Trilogy:
Mending Jodie’s Heart            (Book 1)
Finding Bella Blue                   (Book 2)
Saving Katy Gray                     (Book 3)

Miss Locatelli
Kissing Maggie Silver
Double Fault
 Reluctant Date
Cabin Fever
The Books We Love Special Edition

Miss Locatelli
Arabella knows her audacious plan to save her family’s century old jewelry business doesn’t stand a chance without Luca Ezio. She just wishes he wasn’t helping her because her grandfather asked him to, but because he wants to. 

For his part, Luca can’t remember when he was last so turned on by a woman and he doesn’t like it one little bit. Apart from being way too young, Arabella is the granddaughter of a client whose relationship with his family is complicated. The right thing to do would be to walk away but his heart has other ideas. Then Arabella’s life begins to unravel in a way that affects both of them and suddenly Luca finds himself fighting for his future as well as for her heart. 

Mending Jodie’s Heart
When musician Marcus Lewis buys the derelict farmhouse next to Jodie’ Eriksson's riding school he doesn’t know whether to be amused or irritated by her angry reaction to his plans. Then her sister Izzie visits him and makes things a whole lot worse…or is it better…because now he has an excuse to see Jodie again. Although, when he sees her, it’s not exactly a meeting of minds, they do discover they have one thing in common; they both believe they know what’s best for Izzie, and for Marcus' son Luke. 

It turns out they’re wrong. The children they thought they were protecting need to be set free. It’s Jodie and Marcus who have the problem; but can two broken hearts make one whole one? The battle lines that were set when they first met have long since been breached but the war won’t be over until Jodie learns how to trust again, and until Marcus allows himself to believe in his son.

Kissing Maggie Silver
Maggie Silver intends to put as much space as possible between herself and her family just as soon as her parent’s ruby wedding celebrations are over. She is fed up with their constant advice and her never-ending babysitting duties. There’s a great big world out there and she wants to see it before she settles for suburbia. Then Ruairi O’Connor turns up at the same time her sister-in-law goes into labor, and suddenly everything becomes a lot more complicated. 

As for Ruairi, in a few weeks time he will be on the other side of the world, so now is not the time to fall in love, especially with Maggie. Until now he’s thought of her as little more than a child so why has he suddenly discovered she is very grown up indeed and the only thing he wants to do is kiss her.


Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...