Espionage can be a deadly game…

You are REALLY going to want to find out more about The Assassins by Alan Bardos. Especially now that it is available as an audiobook narrated by Jack Bennett!


Tensions are reaching boiling point in Europe and the threat of war is imminent.

Johnny Swift, a young and brash diplomatic clerk employed by the British embassy is sent to infiltrate the ‘Young Bosnians’, a group of idealistic conspirators planning to murder Franz Ferdinand. The heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in a bid to liberate their country from the monarchy’s grip.

Swift has been having an affair with his employer’s wife, Lady Elizabeth Smyth. Sir George Smyth dispatches the agent on the dangerous mission, believing that it will be the last he will see of his young rival.

The agent manages to infiltrate the Young Bosnian conspirators’ cell, helped by Lazlo Breitner, a Hungarian Civil Servant.

However, Swift soon realises that he may be in over his head. His gambling debts and taste for beautiful women prove the least of his problems as he struggles to survive on his wits in the increasingly complex – and perilous – world of politics and espionage.

Desperate to advance himself and with the lives of a royal couple unexpectedly in his hands, Swift tries to avert catastrophe.

Praise for Assassins

‘A cracking read, highly recommended’ – Roger A Price 

‘Written with polished panache, it kept me gripped from the first to last. Five stars from me!’ – A.A. Chaudhuri

‘Part historical fiction, part thriller and part love story, this is a compelling and entertaining read’ – Gary Haynes

This book is available to read for free with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

You can get it in the UK HERE, and in the US HERE.

Find out more about the author

Alan Bardos is a graduate of the MA in TV Script Writing at De Montfort University, he also has a degree in Politics and History from Brunel University. Writing historical fiction combines the first great love of his life, making up stories, with the second, researching historical events and characters. Alan currently live in Oxfordshire with his wife… the other great love of his life.

Despite the amount of material that has been written about the twentieth century there is still a great deal of mystery and debate surrounding many of its events, which Alan explores in his historical fiction series using a certain amount of artistic license to fill in the gaps, while remaining historically accurate. The series will chronicle the first half of the twentieth century from the perspective of Johnny Swift, a disgraced and degenerate diplomat and soldier; starting with the pivotal event of the twentieth century, the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in ‘The Assassins’.

Connect with the author on-






How to get your audiobook

Click HERE for Audible UK

Click HERE for Audible US

It’s time to meet the Cotillion Brigade!

Georgia burns.

Sherman’s Yankees are closing in.

Will the women of LaGrange run or fight?

Based on the true story of the celebrated Nancy Hart Rifles, The Cotillion Brigade is an epic novel of the Civil War’s ravages on family and love, the resilient bonds of sisterhood in devastation, and the miracle of reconciliation between bitter enemies.

“Gone With The Wind meets A League Of Their Own.”

— John Jeter, The Plunder Room

1856. Sixteen-year-old Nannie Colquitt Hill makes her debut in the antebellum society of the Chattahoochee River plantations. A thousand miles north, a Wisconsin farm boy, Hugh LaGrange, joins an Abolitionist crusade to ban slavery in Bleeding Kansas.

Five years later, secession and war against the homefront hurl them toward a confrontation unrivaled in American history.

Fancy an excerpt from this exciting book? Then read on…

Lagrange, Georgia
May 1856

“Nannie, come sit with me,” said Senator Ben Hill.

Thrilled to be offered the chair next to the most admired man in western Georgia, Nancy accepted the assistance out of the carriage from her elder cousin, who had been elected to the state senate earlier that year. She held onto his arm as he walked her to the grandstands built for the occasion. Shaded by a canvas panoply, the podium for dignitaries overlooked the finish line at the county’s horse racing track in Mountville, a few miles east of LaGrange. Hundreds of conveyances arrived carrying ladies and gentlemen from as far away as Savannah and Selma for the faddish spectacle sweeping the South: The Tournament of the Rings.

Continue reading →

How a cruel English folk song inspired my latest story

My new release, NEVER TEMPT A WIDOW, took as its starting point a traditional song that originated in the Hampshire area of England.

In “Pretty Polly”, which I first heard sung by Sandy Denny, Polly is taken deep into the woods by her lover, Willie. When she gets frightened “of his ways”, he tells her she’s guessed correctly- he DOES intend to do her harm. He shows her a newly-dug grave, announcing almost proudly that he worked on it most of the previous night. He then stabs her in the heart.

This is a cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder that freezes the blood. But one of the most chilling lines for me is, “He threw a little dirt over her and started for home.” This is a man with no conscience whatsoever, who gets an innocent girl into trouble after promising to marry her, then slaughters her and doesn’t even bother to cover her body properly, leaving her to the mercies of the forest animals.

What, I wondered, would have happened had Polly and her child survived? How would she feel about love after that? What lengths would a ruined woman go to in order to survive?

I renamed Polly Seraphina, made her a duke’s daughter, and had her survive a drowning attempt. The story takes off from that point. Below is a brief overview.


The Duke of Wolfingham’s scapegrace daughter Seraphina is convinced her lover tried to kill her. Alone, penniless, and desperate, there’s nothing she can do to save the life of her beloved baby daughter, Adelina. Sir Rowland Cavendish offers an escape from her grief, but how can Seraphina ever trust a man again?

Rowland has just lost his wife, and his baby boy needs feeding. The beautiful young widow from the village would make the perfect wet nurse, but the conditions she sets in exchange for her compliance are not at all what he expects.

Seraphina refuses to share her secrets with Rowland, but her past returns to haunt her, threatening her new-found security. Her future hangs on a knife-edge as the game turns deadly, and a web of kidnapping, blackmail, and lies is uncovered.

She loves Rowland deeply, but if she doesn’t leave him, he may lose what he values above all else. His baby son.

If you fancy taking a look at NEVER TEMPT A WIDOW, it is currently at its pre-order discount price of $0.99 for a couple more days, or you can now read it for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

If you want to find out the full history of this folk song, why not take a look at Paul Slade’s website? It’s fascinating!

An exclusive extract from an amazing story!

It’s a dangerous time to be a dissident…

1938. Northern Italy. Since saving Angelo Grimani’s life 18 years earlier, Katharina is grappling with how their lives have since been entwined. Construction on the Reschen Lake reservoir begins and the Reschen Valley community is torn apart into two fronts – those who want to stay no matter what comes, and those who hold out hope that Hitler will bring Tyrol back into the fold.

Back in Bolzano, Angelo finds one fascist politician who may have the power to help Katharina and her community, but there is a group of corrupt players eager to have a piece of him. When they realise that Angelo and Katharina are joining forces, they turn to a strategy of conquering and dividing to weaken both the community and Angelo’s efforts.

Meanwhile, the daughter Angelo shares with Katharina – Annamarie – has fled to Austria to pursue her acting career but the past she is running away from lands her directly into the arms of a new adversary: the Nazis. She goes as far as Berlin, and as far as Goebbels, to pursue her dreams, only to realise that Germany is darker than any place she’s been before.

Angelo puts aside his prejudices and seeks alliances with old enemies; Katharina finds ingenious ways to preserve what is left of her community, and Annamarie wrests herself from the black forces of Nazism with plans to return home. But when Hitler and Mussolini present the Tyroleans with “The Option”, the residents are forced to choose between Italian and German nationhood with no guarantee that they will be able to stay in Tyrol at all!

Out of the ruins of war, will they be able to find their way back to one another and pick up the pieces?

This blockbuster finale will keep readers glued to the pages. Early readers are calling it, “…engrossing”, “…enlightening” and “…both a heartbreaking and uplifting end to this incredible series!”

Here is an extract from this absorbing book.

Chapter 9

Bolzano, November 1938

The maître d’ showed them to a corner lounge in the bar, and Angelo ordered two coffees with Strega and instructed the waiter to put them on his tab.

Mastromattei crossed his legs and seemed to finally relax. “Tell me how this Reschen Valley project is coming along, Angelo.”

Unsure whether the question was just polite chitchat or whether this was the magistrate’s agenda, Angelo started with the simple facts. “The electrical society has given MFE permission to dam up the Reschen and Graun Lakes—”

“Is the Colonel still running things with that group?”

Angelo confirmed he was, sensing that Mastromattei was smirking inwardly.

“There will be a smaller inflow into Haider Lake,” Angelo added, his way of sharing how he had prevented the third lake from being integrated into the general reservoir.

“How much power is this project going to bring?”

Of course Mastromattei would be interested. It was the electricity they needed for the industrial zone. “Over thirty-three thousand kilowatts to the first plant in Sluderno.”

“We’re going to need that power,” Mastromattei said.

Their coffee arrived, and the magistrate beckoned the waiter to him and whispered something into his ear. The waiter nodded and hurried away towards the main lobby.

Angelo picked up where they’d left off. “Plans are to finish expropriating all the necessary land by next spring.”

Mastromattei leaned forward to stir the whipped cream on his coffee. It curdled beneath the alcohol.

“Germany is gearing up for war,” he said. “They’re shitting on the Versailles Treaty. Ciano says that Britain has proven too weak with the infighting taking place in parliament. They and France could have put a stop to Germany’s sufferings years ago. Instead, together with the United States, they are now trying to outbid each other on who can sell the most aeroplane engines and parts to the one country determined to win back its former glory.” Mastromattei gazed at Angelo, his spoon tapping on the rim of the glass. “Hitler’s army will require bodies. Soldiers. And they will pull Italy into this.”

Angelo nodded.

Mastromattei made a regretful noise before taking another drink. “The Nazis will try to recruit the Tyroleans northwards first. We must crush those organizing against us if we’re to net our most valuable commodity.”

“White gold,” Angelo muttered. It was the new term. Italy, poor in natural resources such as oil and metal, had gained, with the annexation of South Tyrol, the one thing that other countries needed, namely energy. Energy that came from the province’s alpine rivers and lakes.

Mastromattei looked appreciatively at Angelo. “Yes, white gold and our citizens.”

Angelo leaned forward, his coffee still untouched. “What are you suggesting?”

Mastromattei suddenly looked up. “Ah! There you are.”

It was the waiter. He held out a newspaper to Mastromattei, who then gave the waiter a few coins. “Good man.”

He placed the copy of the day’s Archivio per l’Alto Adige on the table. “Angelo, what do you think about the Libyan resettlement project?”

Angelo’s pulse quickened. “The one that Tolomei says we should all celebrate?” He pictured the distinguished and arrogant senator, the self-proclaimed designer of the Italianisation programme. “His plan is to transplant twenty thousand settlers to our colony in North Africa.”

“We’ve taken many Italians from the south into Bolzano, as many as we can accommodate,” Mastromattei said. “The new settlement will take another year before we can move anyone in, and we’ll be planning another one right afterward. But what Tolomei and his other hardliners have failed to see is the opportunity to have integration work the other way around.” Mastromattei rubbed his chin. “You are still mediating the expropriated lands and the restitutions for the Reschen Valley population, right?”

Angelo picked up his coffee, pushed the whipped cream aside with the spoon, and took a long sip. The Strega warmed him. He nodded. “Problem is the veterans’ administration is stalling with their offers.”

“As is MFE.”

To avoid scoffing, Angelo took another long drink before answering. “There’s not enough land to relocate the hundreds of families. They can’t very well make their living off the side of a mountain slope.”

“I have a solution,” Mastromattei said. “You know the twelve hamlets I allotted between Bolzano and Merano—”

“The Italian settlements. Are they proving prosperous?”

“They’re doing well, yes,” the magistrate said. “Yet our esteemed senator claims the borderlands are still—after almost twenty years—tenuous at best.”

Because, Angelo thought, the people living there are not self-evidently Italian.

“What is the goal of Italianisation?” Mastromattei propped his elbow on the arm of his chair and leaned his temple against his index finger. His square chin rested on his thumb.

Angelo played along. “Italianisation means integrating the two cultures so that we can’t tell who is who. Especially those living in the community. It might take a couple of generations, but soon enough they’ll all feel Italian.”

“Exactly. This reservoir is massive. If we push the citizens—Italian citizens!—off their land and north into Hitler’s arms, we’ll be losing a lot to the efforts I have taken great pains to establish here. Our economic base. Our productivity.” He pointed to the wall behind him—the direction of the industrial zone beyond. “We’ll lose the consumers for those goods we’re producing over there.”

Angelo’s skin prickled. By God, for a price the Tyroleans and he could finally move forward. “You’re suggesting moving the locals out of their valley and into the new hamlets south. If the restitution is fair—”

“They’ll find any expropriation unfair.” Mastromattei looked amused. “I want them all out. All of them. As far south of the border as possible.”

Angelo winced inside. “And if they don’t want to go? What other choices can we offer them?”

Mastromattei’s look darted to the newspaper between them. He released his index finger from his temple and pointed at it, the amusement gone. “They’re Italian citizens. We could resettle them to Libya.”

He couldn’t be serious. “That’s an…extreme move. Can we not explore all our alternatives before we do that?”

Mastromattei leaned back in the plush chair, the leather creaking beneath him. “Then call a meeting with everyone involved.”

Now they were onto something. Open discussions. “Good. It will take some time to get the representatives from the Reschen Valley—”

“No. Call a meeting with your father’s company, the electrical society, and the veterans’ administration. The people in the Reschen Valley will get offers for their land and get instructions for resettlement after the stakeholders agree on a procedure. There is no need to involve the population in this yet. It’s only one idea of how we could proceed, correct?”

“Surely the residents could stay in the valley if they choose to. All they want is a fair offer. What is the worst they can do? Tie us up in legal battles?” Angelo laughed drily. “There isn’t a lawyer around who would take up that fight.”

Mastromattei leaned forward, eyes narrowed. “There is no court in the nation that would accept the case.” He slapped his thigh and straightened. “They can do what they want. But perhaps you should inform them of the consequences. These days Rome is coming down hard on those who revolt.” He drained his glass and stood. “I’d prefer to save those bullets for the war we’ll be dragged into and not defending ourselves against a bunch of farmers who still haven’t accepted the fact that they are Italians first.”

Find out more about the author here-

Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger is an American author living in Austria. Her focus is on historical fiction. She has been a managing editor for a magazine publishing house, has worked as an editor, and has won several awards for her travel narrative, flash fiction and short stories. She lives with her husband in a “Grizzly Adams” hut in the Alps, just as she’d always dreamt she would when she was a child.

Social Media Links:

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Get your copy of the book here-

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Angus & Robertson:

Some much-needed good cheer!

Regency romance, DISTRACTING THE DUKE, is now out as “Her Forbidden Duke” on Radish via @radish_fiction
You can read the first 10 chapters for free right now!

I’m proud to be hosting the Pied Piper today!

Here’s a bit about the story-

In September 1939 the British Government launched Operation Pied Piper. To protect them from the perils of German bombing raids, in three days millions of city children were evacuated – separated from their parents.

This story tells of two families: one whose children leave London and the other which takes them in. We share the ups and downs of their lives, their dramas and tragedies, their stoicism and their optimism. But. unlike many other stories and images about this time, this one unfolds mainly through the eyes of Tom, the father whose children set off, to who knew where, with just a small case and gas mask to see them on their way

This novel is free to read with #KindleUnlimited subscription.

You can get the book here-

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

Amazon CA:

Amazon AU:

And lastly, here’s a bit about the author of this amazing book.

Keith Stuart (Wadsworth) taught English for 36 years in Hertfordshire schools, the county in which he was born and has lived most of his life. Married with two sons, sport, music and, especially when he retired after sixteen years as a headteacher, travel, have been his passions. Apart from his own reading, reading and guiding students in their writing; composing assemblies; writing reports, discussion and analysis papers, left him with a declared intention to write a book. Pied Piper is ‘it’.  Starting life as a warm-up exercise at the Creative Writing Class he joined in Letchworth, it grew into this debut novel.

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Help me introduce readers to the Tumultuous (but also romantic) Tudors!

I have spent the past year- and some!- writing a series of Tudor era romances for Dragonblade Publishing. All that hard work may be about to pay off, as Book 2 in the collection, LORD OF LOYALTY, has been nominated for a RONE Award!

I would so love your vote to help my book progress further in the contest. You’ll need a FREE subscription to the fabulous InD’Tale magazine before you can vote- find out more here
Time’s up for this category, Historical Ancient-1800, tomorrow, April 18th, so please act NOW! Thank you ❤️

Great reviews for a new release!

LORD OF THE MANOR, my intriguing historical romance set in Tudor England, is released TODAY. There are some terrific reviews coming through. I really like the one by Morgan & Many Books, of which the following is an extract-

“…I will definitely read more from Keysian as I like her character development, prose, and evident research tack and I feel like I can trust her to write some good pre-19th century HR.”

Candy Briggs liked the book too- “I highly recommend this wonderful novel.”

You can still get LORD OF THE MANOR at the discount price of just $0.99. You can grab your copy here-

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lord-of-the-manor-graphic.jpg

Here’s a bit more about the story-

To her, he represents authority and power. To him, she spells sedition and danger.

Orphaned at birth, Cecily Neville owes more than her name to the former hospitallers of Temple Roding. She was still a child when the reformation wrenched her home and adopted family from her and now, like the few surviving monks, she lives in fear that her past could take a deadly toll. Her closest friend is her precious peregrine falcon, Charlemagne. Her greatest enemy is Allan Smythe, the new owner of Temple Roding.

Grieving over the loss of both wife and child, Smythe throws his heart and soul into reviving the old hospitaller commandery that he’s bought in partnership with his brother-in-law, Kennett Clark. He can’t risk being distracted by the mysterious but tempting Cecily and her murdering bird. However, when Smythe is forced to save her from his brother-in-law’s lecherous clutches, the unscrupulous Kennett vows to destroy them both.

On a knife-edge, Smythe can’t afford to relax the rents owed by Cecily and her fellow villagers. If he doesn’t demolish her former home for profit, he risks losing everything to Kennett. But when necessity forces him to employ Cecily, there’s more at stake than his future and his battered heart. Something lies hidden in the depths of the hospitaller commandery that could solve all of Smythe’s problems… or threaten his life.

It all depends on whether he, or the very determined Cecily, finds it first.

A Knights Templar site in Essex

Back in 1990, my partner got as job a site archaeologist at Cressing Temple, in Essex. No- it wasn’t a temple. It was a site gifted to the Knights Templar by Queen Matilda, wife of King Stephen, where lay brothers and employees of the military order could raise crops to finance the Crusades.

Living there for seven years as we did was an amazing experience and I really hope to find time to write more about some of the things that happened, such as the time the cat got walled up, the time the carppet almost caught fire, the moment the car rolled through the fence, and the occasion when the TV crew came and wrecked the archaeology, but I got to be on the telly!

Some other time, mayhap. For now, I would like to signal Cressing Temple, my temporary home, as the inspiration for LORD OF THE MANOR, my Tudor era story that is published TODAY! More about that anon. For now, here is a picture of the place, and a link where you can find out more about the history and archaeology of this fascinating site.

An invite and some competitions

If you live in the US, there is a contest you can enter if you attend my Facebook takeover in the Dragonblade Readers’ Group on Tuesday 13th April. I’ll be available to chat, tell you a little about my latest book, LORD OF THE MANOR, and entertain you (hopefully) with one of my quirky quizzes. Here’s the address for the Facebook takeover-

I’ll be live at 13.00 PDT, which is 21.00 BST. See you there!

You can also enter this Rafflecopter contest for a $25 Gift Card and paperbacks-

I am also giving away signed paperback copies of the first four books in the Tudor era TRYSTS AND TREACHERY collection to some lucky UK winners. To be entered into the draw, you will need to either retweet the following pinned post on Twitter or this share this Facebook post Or even do both! I’ll add your name to the draw and let you know at the end of the week if you’re a winner.