The Birth of Venus

Posted by on Feb 12, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

The Birth of Venus 3

I fell in love with this book from the first page. Sarah Dunant’s recreation of Renaissance Florence is breath-taking. The young protagonist, Alessandra, is totally convincing as true to her time: restricted but vibrant, frustrated in her artistic ability but determined to find her own path, a girl who fights for her independence yet finds herself cruelly betrayed. This is a story that explores extremes of passion, dancing thriller-fast between the pursuit of sublime beauty and a dark underworld of violence, at a time when art swung from being revered to being despised as an instrument of decadence, when Savonarola oversaw the Bonfire of the Vanities and the Medicis briefly lost their hold on power. Alessandra has to adapt to a marriage of convenience, the fragmentation of her family, a city facing catastrophe, and a love that almost destroys her, and pulsing through all this is the art of the greatest master of the age. Magnificent.


Richard III and his Times

Posted by on Feb 10, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

There’s an afternoon and evening of exciting literary events the day before Richard III’s historic re-interment in Leicester on March 25. Amongst many goodies on offer will be a talk by renowned historian and author Alison Weir, sessions led by bestselling novelists Joanna Hickson and Toby Clements, as well as a discussion by a panel of experts on Richard III in fact and fiction. I’ll be running a starter workshop on writing historical fiction as well. Come along – it’s all free!

For how to book follow this link:

The flyer is here:

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The Poet’s Wife

Posted by on Dec 24, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

The Poet's WifeLovely, lyrical and ravishing in its portrayal of a lost rural England in the mid-nineteenth century, this novel by Judith Allnatt is a wonderful one to read over the Christmas break. The countryside is a central character in this story, as seen through the eyes of John Clare’s wife in all her poverty and rustic simplicity, yet she has a deep empathy that resonates with the beauty of the poet’s verse, and above all with an extraordinarily steadfast and self-sacrificing love. We’ve become so accustomed to expecting feisty independence of our heroines that it comes as a welcome surprise to appreciate the quiet virtues of selflessness. In Patty we see a woman caught in a heartbreaking dilemma: to remain loyal and caring of a husband whose mental illness makes him deny her, or abandon him and put her own interests first. The novel speaks of the power and tragedy of enduring love. It’s a sober reminder that artistic genius comes at a price, and often the price is paid by others not only by the artist. This book is exquisite; acutely sensitive; brilliantly observed.


The Promise by Ann Weisgarber

Posted by on Nov 6, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

The PromiseI adored this book: poignant, moving and most sensitively written; it speaks of human frailty and endurance, and the way love can flower like a bloom on shifting sands. The voices of the two central characters – Nan, the illiterate helpmeet, and Catherine, the privileged pianist – are totally convincing, despite the gulf between them in background. These voices ring true throughout the struggle of Nan and Catherine to come to terms with one another and the changes in their lives. Catherine’s burgeoning love for the dairy farmer, Oscar, and his little boy, Andre, delicately unfolds like the petals of a rose. The historical details are perfectly drawn. I shall not speak of the great natural disaster that forms the backdrop to the final chapters for fear of spoiling anyone’s read. A beautiful, heart-rending story. (more…)

The Devil in the Marshalsea

Posted by on Oct 6, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

TDitMarshalseaA well-deserved winner of the CWA Historical Dagger Award, The Devil in the Marshalsea is a cracking good page-tuner that grabs the reader in a bear-hug against the underbelly of Georgian Society. So effective is Antonia Hodgson’s storytelling that the adrenalin rush and stench of the experience lingers long after the last chapter is grudgingly finished. Elegantly plotted, with a neat unity of place and action packed into a few nerve-jangling days – the place being the infamous debtors’ prison, the Marshalsea, and the action being centred around the ‘do or die’ unravelling of a gruesome murder – this is a story that in its artful simplicity packs a powerful punch. Gets my ‘You must read this’ accolade. (more…)

History and Love

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

History and Love – how can we ever unravel the truth?
The historical records provide evidence of events about which we are certain, but what of the feelings of those who lived long ago – how can we know how they experienced love? Consider attitudes in the Elizabethen era, when women were typically under the complete control of men, could not own property or trade (except in widowhood), and could not even protest if their husbands beat them because that was legal and expected in cases of disobedience. Women were inferior to men so how could they be loved as equals? ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ Shakespeare wrote of his lover, ‘Thou art more lovely and more temperate’. In language that has resonated through time with the power of his feeling we all know how the sonnet ends:
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
The words are beautiful, but it is Shakespeare’s mastery with his pen that gives his lover immortality. In this, he possesses her absolutely.
Elizabeth I - Armada Portrait

Elizabeth I – Armada Portrait

For historical novelists the recreation of emotion poses a dilemma. We want to accurately reflect the attitudes and mind-sets of the past, to make our characters convincing in terms of being true to their age, but we also want to show them experiencing emotion in a way that we can identify with in the here and now. They have to be empathetic to modern readers. How accurately can we conjure up the passion in relationships that flowered long ago? Is it possible to do this simply by transposing how we might feel now in similar circumstances within the framework of what actually happened according to historical sources? The difficulty is that while there are many accounts that deal with incident in time and place, there are few that document emotion, particularly genuine expressions of love. There is a wealth of Elizabethan love poetry, not least because declarations of love in rhyming couplets were expected of every gentleman of the time, but relatively little was written by women, and the stylised poetry that formed a conventional facet of courtship may well have had more to do with the idea of love than the reality.

Lost Colony & Writing History

Posted by on Jun 7, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

This is the text of an interview kindly hosted by Erin Al-Mehairi on ‘Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Talking with English Author Jenny Barden about Lost Colony of Roanoke and Writing History

Hi Jenny, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m delighted to have you with us today to speak about your writing, specifically, your newest novel, The Lost Duchess, which just released TODAY in paperback! I am sure you are thrilled with the culmination of publishing this second book, but tell us some of the exciting endeavors you’ve been up to in preparation for its release?

Jenny: It’s lovely to be here talking to you, Erin. Thank you for inviting me over! The Lost Duchess comes out today, June 5,  in paperbackand I’m in the midst of a string of appearances, interviews and a blog tour organized through HFVBT. The last talk I gave was at the Elizabethan Merchant’s House, Eastbury Manor, run by the National Trust, where I spoke about ‘Queens, Heroines and Heartache’ with Elizabeth Fremantle and Joanna Hickson. The next feature I’ll be posting will be on the Romantic Novelists’ Association blog titled ‘History and Love, how can we ever unravel the truth?’ That’ll come out this Friday. Those are just two examples of a long list of events I’m involved in. Life is a bit of a whirlwind at the moment!


Queens, Heroines and Heartache

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ll be speaking with Elizabeth Fremantle and Joanna Hickson at Eastbury Manor House on May 13 at 7.00pm. Join us to hear about and discuss the intimate lives of women in the Tudor period – from the greatest to the many whose names are lost in the past…

Eastbury - Copy

Eastbury Manor is a beautiful Elizabethan merchant’s house run by the National Trust at Eastbury Square, Barking, London IG11 9SN
Tickets only £5 (with a glass of wine to boot!)
To book contact the museum on 020 8724 1002


Book Tour for The Duchess!

Posted by on Apr 15, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Wonderful line-up for The Lost Duchess on her upcoming Tour and Book Blast in celebration of the paperback release, 5 June 2014. All the details are here, thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours:

The Lost Duchess_Tour Banner_FINAL


My Writing Process

Posted by on Apr 13, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

Today I’m taking part in a blog hop at the invitation of Patricia Bracewell, author of Shadow on the Crown. Please do see what Pat has had to say about writing the sequel to her debut, The Price of Blood which will form part of a trilogy set in the Viking period. Her post is here.

The Spanish Armada

The Spanish Armada

1 What am I working on?

The working title for my next book, the third of my novels set in the Elizabethan period, is The Queen’s Lady. It will focus on a Lady of the Bedchamber to Elizabeth I and explore her relationship with the queen and a captain who becomes the lady’s lover at a time of national crisis during the threat from the Spanish Armada.