Sunday, 29 May 2016


 SWORD DANCE, Book 3 of the historical romance trilogy DANCING FOR THE DEVIL, was recently released by Áccent Press. Like the first two books in the series – DREAM CATCHER and BLUE BONNETS – it mostly takes place in the far north of Scotland, so you may wonder why I'm writing a post about Algeria's infamous Ouled Nail dancers. Algeria is a long, long way from Scotland!

Well, here is why. THE DREAM CATCHER, the first novel in my DANCING FOR THE DEVIL trilogy, features Rose Saintclair, an unconventional heroine born and brought up in Bou Saada, an oasis in the Sahara desert. This was where many dancers from the Berber tribe Ouled Nail lived and worked.

The Ouled Nail 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. The Ouled Nails were trained since their girlhood in the art of dancing. They left their villages to earn a living in market towns and usually returned home after ten to fifteen years, when they had saved enough money to settled down and get married.
Unlike most women in Algeria, they were always unveiled and wore heavy make up. Their eyes were lined with kohl, their hair was braided on both sides of the face, and adorned by elaborate headdresses. Their costume 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 Nail literally wore their wealth on their person, usually in their long necklaces, sawn into their skirts and shawls, or on their headdress. This made them easy preys to unscrupulous thugs and many were attacked and robbed.

The girls usually danced in pairs. Their style has often been described as 'earthy', and it was often the case that after several dances in costume, the dancers would retire behind a screen, only to reappear completely naked, except for headdress and jewellery, to continue their performance.  

An Ouled Nail Dancer by  Etienne Dinet
Ted Shawn, the famous American dancer and choreographer, saw the Ouled Nail in the early 1900's and is quoted to have said that their dancing could not be called suggestive 'because it left nothing to the imagination'.

Rose Saintclair, the heroine in DANCING FOR THE DEVIL, learnt the art of dancing like a Ouled Nail from one of her childhood friends.  However now she is married to Cameron McRae, one of Scotland's richest landowners, she has to forget all about that most unsuitable skill...Or does she? 

And to carry on the theme of dancing, DANCING FOR THE DEVIL was published in three parts, each one with the title of a Highland dance.



Can her love heal his haunted heart?

Cape Wrath, Scotland, November 1847.

Bruce McGunn is a man as brutal and unforgiving as his land in the far North of Scotland. Discharged from the army where he was known as the claymore devil, haunted by the spectres of his fallen comrades and convinced he is going mad, he is running out of time to save his estate from the machinations of Cameron McRae, heir to the McGunn's ancestral enemies. When the clipper carrying McRae’s new bride is caught in a violent storm and docks at Wrath harbour, Bruce decides to revert to the old ways and hold the clipper and the woman to ransom. However, far from the spoilt heiress he expected, Rose is genuine, funny and vulnerable - a ray of sunshine in the long, harsh winter that has become his life.

But Rose is determined to escape Wrath and its proud master - the man she calls McGlum.

DREAM CATCHER is the first in the DANCING FOR THE DEVIL trilogy and is followed by BLUE BONNETS and SWORD DANCE.

It is available both as an ebook and paperback from

Wednesday, 25 May 2016


I am delighted to welcome Ellie Gray and ger romantic novel BEAUTY AND THE RECLUSE, which was recently released by Tirgearr Publishing. Don't miss the giveaway at the end of the post!

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: 12th February 2016

Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing

Following the recent death of her father, and in need of both a job and somewhere to live, Kiya takes a housekeeping job on the spur of the moment. She soon finds herself living in a beautiful but neglected mansion, working for a strange and reclusive man.

St. John is a man scarred by the past, both physically and emotionally, and is determined to live out his life alone. They are two very different people, drawn to each other almost against their will, but can Kiya convince St. John that he is not the monster he believes himself to be?


Singing softly to herself, Kiya was halfway into the room before she realised that she was not alone. From the corner of her eye, she saw St. John O’Neill spin around in surprise and she gave a startled cry, the vase slipping through her fingers to smash on the floor by her feet. He was a very tall man, easily 6ft. 5ins, broad-shouldered and muscular. His thick black hair, although clean, was long and unkempt, and his beard did not quite hide the vivid scar that ran from high on his right cheek down to his mouth. Incredibly bright blue eyes bore into her and, despite the scar and his rough, dishevelled appearance, Kiya was breathlessly aware that he was an incredibly attractive man. He continued to stare at her, radiating an aura of menace, and Kiya gave an unconscious shiver.

‘Seen enough?’ he asked coldly.

Blushing furiously, aware that she had been staring, Kiya quickly bent to pick up the pieces of shattered vase.

‘Leave it.’ His words were clipped.

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realise what time it was. I’ll just clear…’ she babbled, nervously.

‘Dammit, I said leave it.’

Her hand jerked at his unexpected ferocity and she gave a yelp of pain as the sharp edge of the broken vase sliced her palm. She stood quickly, lifting her hand to check the severity of the cut, and felt a wave of nausea wash over her at the surprisingly profuse amount of blood pouring from the wound. She heard St. John mutter an explicit curse and looked up to see him striding quickly towards her, his expression furious.

Ellie lives in the beautiful East Riding of Yorkshire with her partner, David, and two children, Joe and Abbie.
Ellie is a contemporary romance author, published with the lovely Tirgearr Publishing, and is a proud member of the Romantic Novelist Association.
Her debut novel, Beauty and the Recluse, was published in February 2016 and her second novel, Love on the Nile, is due to be released in the Summer of 2016. In between working full-time in public services and studying for an MSc in Public Management, Ellie is currently working on her third novel.

A few random pieces of information about Ellie:

  • Favourite TV shows – The Walking Dead, The X-Files, Nashville, Dr. Who, The Great British Bake-off!
  • Favourite Music – I’m an 80’s girl!, country, sixties, Elvis, classical (when I’m writing)
  • Favourite Food – Indian, tapas, crisps, cheese
  • Favourite Drink – black coffee – copious amounts when I’m writing, Sauvignon blanc when I’m not.

Facebook:         Ellie Gray Author
Twitter:             @elliegray58
Goodreads:       Ellie Gray Author on Goodreads
Instagram:        Ellie Gray Author on Instagram
Google+            Ellie Gray Author on Goole Plus
LinkedIn:           Ellie Gray Author on LinkedIn

£20/$20 Amazon Gift e-Voucher
<a class="rcptr" href="" rel="nofollow" data-raflid="4be03017161" data-theme="classic" data-template="" id="rcwidget_h4acuaba">a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>
<script src=""></script>

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Writing historical romance: personal challenges and useful resources

I love writing, and I love writing romance in particular. For some reason I have now written more historical romance than contemporary romance but I didn't plan it that way at all.... In fact I currently have two novels on the go which are contemporary romances and I love them both, but there is something about historical romance that draws me back time after time, and it's not just my inability to come to grips with modern technology  - iphones, ipads, and various gadgets I don't know much about and feel compelled to include in a contemporary novel!

I may love writing historical romance but it can be difficult to make sure the characters, the period and setting, and of course the love story between the protagonists, are plausible. Research is always important whatever period you are setting your story, but it's even more so for historical fiction.

My first challenge is to make sure I get the tone, the language and the thought process of the characters right, and for this I try to take into account the more rigid social order of the times my novel is set. That includes the constraints imposed on women, the importance of religion in everyday life, the relationships between men and women, as well as the broader historical background - such as political struggles and wars, for example.

I set the DANCING FOR THE DEVIL Trilogy in 1847, but the heroine's father fought in Napoleon's cuirassiers at Quatre-Bras and Waterloo. There is, of course, a wealth of material about these battles, but this site in particular was very useful: Waterloo. The site also has details of many battles fought by the British army around the world, including the Punjab wars where my hero Bruce McGunn fought.
Reading social or political pamphlets or extracts of newspapers of the time helps me find out what was going at the time of my story, and what and who was popular, fashionable, or reviled. By reading fiction of the period I can pick up popular expressions, slang or understand the way people addressed one another at the time. If you fancy taking a look at some Victorian slang, click on Victorian Slang, but be warned, it's not for the faint hearted! For lots of fascinating posts and articles on the Victorian age you must read The Victorianist.

Secondly, I try not to get mixed up with the various items of clothing people wore at the time, and that includes underwear! There are of course lots of material detailing items of clothing for both men and women, but for a quick glance at outfits for writing a particular scene I find Pinterest very useful. This site here has great information about female underwear in different time periods and these have beautiful photos and descriptions: Fashion of the 1850s and Romantic Era Fashion and Hair.

When writing historical fiction, 'you have of course to pay attention to distances too. Travelling by horse or carriage took a lot longer in the early nineteenth century, especially in bad weather and considering that the state of the roads could be appalling. It's the same of course for sea crossings. I know it's not exactly relevant here, but I absolutely love this website and will consult it again for anything regarding types of ships. If, like me, you don't now the first thing about horses, this site Horses, will prove invaluable!

The DANCING FOR THE DEVIL Trilogy mainly takes place in the Scottish Highlands where I have unfortunately never been. Here are just a few sites I found useful, including this one on the Clearances. For general information about the Highlands, these were very useful: Highland dress and weapons, Scottish Folklore and Songs, and the Scots Tongue.

Of course, I just don't rely on the Internet and material I find online. I always look out for great books too, all kinds of non-fiction books about fashion, travel and folklore. These featured on the photo below have been invaluable when I was researching DANCING FOR THE DEVIL. Visiting historic houses is always inspiring too, for ideas about design, furniture, everyday items. I always love looking at family portraits and old sepia photos, and make notes of unusual names.

 Finally I would say that the biggest challenge for me is to avoid overloading the story with lots and lots of historical details. However frustrating it may be to leave out fascinating or quirky facts I came across during my hours of research, I need to remind myself that I am writing a love story, not a social or historical treatise!

I hope you found these links useful, but if you have any favourites of your own, please post in the comments!