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Sunday, 17 December 2017

Book review: Eirik: A Time Travel Romance (Mists of Albion Book 1) by Joanna Bell

Gripping story ... Four and a half stars.

I usually avoid Time Travel romances - Diana Gabaldon has set the bar too high - but this one was a real surprise. The writing style grabs you from the first page, and the story is great.

The heroine, Paige, is one of the book's highlights for me. The story is told entirely from her point of view but I never got tired of being in her head. We don't get to know the hero, Eirik, as well as we do Paige, but he's definitely a great hero: strong, powerful, and ruthless when necessary, but with a deep, kind and chivalrous side.

I loved the setting too. The author brings 9th Century Anglo-Saxon Britain to life brilliantly. The Kingdom of the East Angles and the Viking raids are realistically drawn with just enough description to make the setting seem authentic without going into too much historical detail. Paige's 'portal' between the two worlds - a tree on her father's property - works too. It's simple, but unlike some other time travel romances, I could believe it could exist.

I thought Paige's back-story was beautifully drawn, the loss of her mother, and her father's depression, followed by visits to psychologists. You really want this girl to find happiness!

The only thing that didn't work for me in the book (which is why I've given it 4.5 instead of 5 stars) - was the use of language. In 9th Century Britain, the Angles would have been speaking Old English, and the Vikings, a form of Norse. However, our heroine slips from 2017 North America to the 9th Century without any language difficulties. Maybe I missed it, but she just thinks her new Angle friends speak a little differently to her. Plus, Eirik would not likely have spoken the local tongue either - there would have been two new languages to learn! Outlander works because Claire only goes back a couple of centuries to Jacobean Scotland, where the same language (apart from the local Scottish Gaelic) is used. It's quite a big detail not to get right! If the portal equips travelers with some Tardis-like language device, the reader needs to know that!

However, the story is so strong, the plot so exciting, the writing so vivid, and the characters (even the minor ones) so richly drawn that I will just overlook that issue ...

I highly recommend this novel, and look forward to more in this series.

Buy a copy on

Saturday, 16 December 2017

A Pictish Lament

Here's another passage from BARBARIAN SLAVE (to be published on 31 January 2018). This one is sad though ... a Pictish lament for the dead. In the past in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon culture people would sing laments for their dead as a way of revering those they had lost ... but also to help mourners release their grief. This passage comes from near the end of the novel—I won't say more, or I risk spoilers!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Inspirational quote from BARBARIAN SLAVE

My novels are Historical Romance - and as such you might think that means they're light and fluffy. However, if you've read any of my books you'll know all of them have deeper themes all related to the human condition. 

Love doesn't arise in isolation ... and romance is much more poignant when mixed with a little darkness.

My upcoming Scottish Historical Romance, BARBARIAN SLAVE (to be released 18 January 2018), is no exception. The story hinges on the relationship between a Pict warrior and the Roman noblewoman he takes as his slave ... but it's also about searching for our place in the world, and about the power we have to take control of our own future ... even if we live in a harsh world such as Dark Ages Scotland!

Here's my favorite quote from the novel ... I hope you enjoy it. :-)

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

BARBARIAN SLAVE is now out on pre-order! Publication date: 31 January 2018. Book #2 of The Warrior Brothers of Skye is available on all Amazon stores.

This story picks up after Galan and Tea's happy ending in BLOOD FEUD, Book #1 of the series. It focuses on Tarl, Galan's hotheaded younger brother, and Lucrezia, the Roman noblewoman he takes as his slave after the 'Barbarian Conspiracy'—the attack on Hadrian's Wall in 467 AD. It's an exciting, action-packed tale!


He takes her as his warprize—but she enslaves his soul. Pict and Roman culture collide in this epic Historical Romance set in Dark Ages Scotland.

Lucrezia is the wife of a Roman soldier posted on the northernmost reach of the Empire. Locked in an unhappy marriage upon a desolate outpost, she feels her youth slipping away. However, her life changes forever in the winter of 467 AD. Barbarians from the north band together and attack Hadrian's Wall.

Tarl mac Muin is a Pict warrior with a thirst for battle and glory. He's part of the Barbarian Conspiracy that will change history. But when he takes Lucrezia as his slave, he sets off a chain of events that neither of them could have foreseen.

In an epic adventure that starts at the Roman fort of Vindolanda at Hadrian's Wall and takes Lucrezia north to the wild shores of the Isle of Skye—she discovers love and happiness when she least expects it. Only, a shadow from the past risks ruining everything.

Preorder your copy today!




Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Happy Yule ... and an excerpt from THE WHISPERING WIND

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year and Yule (or Mid-Winter Fire in my Pict stories) often features in my novels. 

Many of the traditions we have in the West hark back to these times. In my novel THE WHISPERING WIND I have my hero and heroine finally succumbing to their attraction for each other on the eve of Mother Night (24 December). It's one of my favorite scenes from my books ... and guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit!

If you haven't read THE WHISPERING WIND (or would like to re-read the scene), here it is below for you to enjoy!


Mother Night arrived with another heavy snowfall. Aelfwyn and Leofric trudged through three feet of snow on their way into town. Fat flakes fluttered down, frosting the surrounding trees and the roofs and walls of Lincylene before them. Smoke from cook fires rose into a washed-out sky. The aroma of roasting meat—boar, mutton, and fowl—reached them.

“I tire of this snow,” Aelfwyn grumbled as she struggled through a deep drift. Her legs were far shorter than Leofric’s, and she was having difficulty keeping up with him. “I want to see the earth again, and the grass.”
Leofric turned and smiled at her indignance. Then he reached back for her hand. “Come on—not much farther.”

Aelfwyn clutched his hand tightly, enjoying the warmth of his skin against hers, and attempted to quicken her stride. The heavy snow had rendered them housebound over the past few days. However, Cynn and Gytha had invited them to their home for the Yuletide feast, an occasion neither she nor Leofric wanted to miss.

They reached the town walls and passed into Lincylene under the Roman gate. The streets were deserted this morning, for all folk huddled around their firepits while they sipped mulled wine and waited for their noon feast to finish cooking. The aromas that Aelfwyn had smelled outside the town walls grew thicker within. She inhaled the scent of baking honey shortbread and apple and plum pudding, and her belly rumbled.

Boughs of holly and fir hung over the threshold of Cynn and Gytha’s hall. The mouthwatering aroma of roasting fowl greeted them as they ducked inside. Cynn and his family gathered around a long table. The girls sat, their round faces pink with excitement, helping their mother prepare the feast. The two eldest, Ealhgyth and Hilla, rolled out pastry and prepared the filling for an apple pie, while the younger girls chopped vegetables under Gytha’s watchful eye.

“Merry Yuletide!” Gytha bustled over to them with two steaming cups of mulled wine. “Come warm yourselves by the fire.”

A huge oaken yule log burned in the center of the fire pit, throwing out a considerable amount of heat. Aelfwyn shucked off her fur mantle and handed it to Gytha, who hung it up with Leofric’s near the door.

Sighing in relief to be out of the biting cold, Aelfwyn wrapped her chilled fingers around the warm cup.

For the first time since Leofric’s flogging, Aelfwyn felt welcome in Lincylene once more.

Of course Cynn and Gytha had been good to them, as had a few other townsfolk Aelfwyn and Leofric had befriended since their arrival here. However, she tired of the sniggers and stares whenever she and Leofric ventured into town to shop at the market. Leofric assured her it would stop soon enough, but their gawping galled her nonetheless.

“Your decorations are beautiful, Gytha,” she said, gazing around the cozy interior of the hall. Gytha and her daughters had decked the walls and heavy beams overhead with boughs of mistletoe, ivy, and witch hazel.

“Thank you,” Gytha replied with a proud smile. “The girls spent all of yesterday decorating.”

Cynn sat at the head of the table, his cheeks ruddy from warmth and wine. He beamed at them, and Aelfwyn smiled back. She shared Leofric’s opinion of Cynn, and had liked the meadhall keeper from the moment she met him. Cynn was a big-hearted man who had welcomed them into his home like kin.

“Sit down!” he called out to them. “The girls are baking shortbread. It should be ready soon.”

They sat down at the long table, upon a low bench. Seated side-by-side, Aelfwyn was aware of Leofric’s closeness. His arm lightly brushed hers as he reached out to steal a sliver of apple from Hilla’s pie filling. The heat of his leg next to hers made her breathing quicken slightly; a frisson of excitement igniting in the pit of her belly.

It was becoming unbearable—day after day cooped up inside the tiny hut, just the two of them. Leofric appeared unflustered by it, but the enforced closeness was starting to become slow torture for Aelfwyn. The hunger that knotted in her belly now had nothing to with the coming Yule feast.

She did her best to ignore the yearning but when Leofric sat this close to her, it was impossible to ignore.

“Here.” She smiled at Hilla and picked up an apple from the bowl in the center of the table. “Pass me a knife and I’ll help you get that pie ready for the oven.”

The girl beamed and nodded. “Thanks, Aeaba. I could do with some help.”

“She’d have the pie done by now, if she wasn’t so busy gossiping with Ealhgyth,” Cynn complained.
“Oh stop your grumbling,” his wife replied before giving Hilla a fond smile. “Let the girls be—it’s Yuletide.”


Gytha’s Yuletide feast was one that Aelfwyn would never forget.

She was a splendid cook, better even than Aelfwyn’s mother, who was the yardstick by which Aelfwyn judged good cooking. The table groaned under the weight of the magnificent roast fowl and a platter of roasted and braised vegetables, cheeses, pies, and sweet treats. They ate and drank slowly, enjoying the celebration of being able to eat such rich, delicious food. Now that they had little gold to see them through the winter, Aelfwyn and Leofric ate plainly. One cauldron of pottage would need to last three days, and there was very little meat in their meals.

After the feast, they joined the family on comfortable furs piled around the fire pit. Aelfwyn sat curled up against Leofric. Their friends believed them to be a wedded couple and perhaps wondered why they did not show much affection between them. The warmth and hardness of Leofric’s chest against Aelfwyn’s back was distracting to say the least, but her belly was full of good food, and the wine had made her drowsy. She dozed against Leofric’s chest, and was aware of him gently stroking her hair as he chatted to Cynn and Gytha.

She could have sat like that all night but, eventually, the time came for them to take their leave.

Aelfwyn climbed to her feet and stretched sleepily. Yawning, she turned to Gytha and hugged her. “Thank you so much. I have never felt so welcome in someone’s home.”

Gytha hugged her back. “And you always will be.”

Aelfwyn crossed to where Leofric was holding out her cloak. With a smile, she turned, letting him place it over her shoulders.

“Look!” Ealhgyth squealed. “They’re standing under the misteltān!”

Aelfwyn started slightly at the girl’s outburst before craning her neck up. Indeed there was a sprig of mistletoe hanging overhead.

“Now they’ll have to kiss!” Cynn’s eldest daughter clapped her hands together with glee before she and her sisters burst out into tittering laughter.

Smirking, Cynn gently cuffed Ealhgyth around the ear. “They’ve been waiting all afternoon for you two to stand under it.”

Aelfwyn felt her cheeks warm. She glanced over at Leofric who merely raised an eyebrow, his eyes twinkling mischievously. “Come on then,” he said softly. “We don’t want to disappoint them.”

He stepped close to her, before reaching down and cupping her face gently. Then he stooped, his lips brushing hers. He drew back slowly, meeting Aelfwyn’s gaze as he did so.

“Give her a decent kiss, man,” Cynn goaded him. “Or do you want Gytha and me to show you how it’s done.”

Leofric cast him a sour look, causing Cynn to bellow with laughter. “I don’t need any lessons from you on how to kiss my wife.”

With that, he drew Aelfwyn into his arms and kissed her deeply.

Aelfwyn melted into him, her arms coming up to encircle his neck. For a moment she forgot where she was. His kiss set her on fire. When they broke apart, both gasping for breath, the hall had fallen silent. The girls were all blushing, although Cynn and Gytha both wore smug grins.

“That’s better, Lenred,” Gytha congratulated him with a wink. “That’s how a woman likes to be kissed.”

That's all from me until 2018! I'm hard at work on BARBARIAN SLAVE (Book #2: The Warrior Brothers of Skye), and have just finished the first draft! I should have a release date available soon. :-)

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

WIND SONG is available!

Launch day is here!

WIND SONG (Book #2: The Kingdom of Northumbria) is now available for purchase on all the Amazon stores.

Friends to lovers, unrequited love, a romance between two people from warring kingdoms and different worlds—this novel has it all!

Meet Hea and Bridei. She's a low-born flower seller and herbalist, the daughter of a seer who has inherited her mother's gift. He's a cocky Pictish prince, sent to foster at the Northumbrian stronghold of Bebbanburg. What begins as a childhood crush for Hea, develops into something much more serious when she and Bridei meet again after eight and a half years apart.

Here's what two of my Advance Reviewers thought of the novel (the full reviews are on Goodreads):

"The details of Jayne Castel's historic Iron Ages novels flow by like a river. Before you know it, you are immersed in another world ..."

"The plot was exciting, intriguing, and very well written. I enjoyed the romance of the story ... I very highly recommend this book and thoroughly enjoyed it."

Buy your copy of WIND SONG here:


Get a copy of THE WHISPERING WIND for just 99 cents

To celebrate the launch of WIND SONG, I'm doing a special offer on Book #1 of the Kingdom of Northumbria series. Usually priced at US$3.99, THE WHISPERING WIND (Kindle edition) is available at 99 cents for a limited time only— don't miss out! 

She depends on him for survival ... while he is her reluctant protector. But neither of them expected to find love.

Get your 99 cent copy of THE WHISPERING WIND here:

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Read a free sample of WIND SONG!

Book #2 of The Kingdom of Northumbria is available on preorder, and due for release n 15 November 2017. However, as it's on preorder, Amazon doesn't let you read a sample of the book.

To remedy that, I've put the first three chapters up on Instafreebie!

It's really easy to claim your copy. Just put in your name and email address (no sign up required) and they'll send you a sample to read on your Kindle, e-reader, tablet or computer.

Claim your copy on Instafreebie.

WIND SONG (Book #2: The Kingdom of Northumbria)

He rules the north, but she rules his heart. Two kingdoms collide in this epic tale of destiny, longing and love set in Dark Ages Britain.

Northumbria, Britain--684 AD. Hea isn't like other women. The feisty daughter of a seer, she lives alone in the fort of Bebbanburg and survives by selling flowers, herbs and potions. However, she has also inherited her mother's gift--and when King Ecgfrith requests her skills she can't refuse him.

Ecgfrith, the ruler of Northumbria, is having trouble with the Picts, the warlike people to the north. He needs a seer's guidance in dealing with them. The Pictish king, Bridei mac Beli is demanding freedom from his Angle overlord.

Hea and Bridei know each other. Bridei fostered at Bebbanburg, and Hea has longed for him ever since. Eight years later they meet again, and sparks fly. Arrogant and ambitious, Bridei is used to getting what he wants--and Hea discovers he's the only man she can't refuse.

Yet he's a Pict and she's an Angle. Bridei will do anything to win back his people's land from Northumbria, and Hea has sworn her loyalty to her king. As the shadow of war looms, it seems any chance they have at love is lost ... or is it?


Claim your copy on Instafreebie now.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Author interview: eight questions for Jayne Castel

1. Tell us what you write and why?

I write romance: predominantly Historicals set in Dark Ages Britain (7th Century Anglo-Saxon England and 4th Century Scotland). I have also recently started writing Epic Fantasy Romances, and have published a few contemporary romances set in Italy. 

My fascination with early British history and my love of Epic Fantasy have dictated my choice of setting. I wrote the contempories set in Italy as an experiment, but in doing so realized that I prefer writing stories in forgotten or new worlds! These days I am trying to find a balance between pleasing my own interests and filling the needs of a hungry romance readership!

2. Why romance?

Why not!

Seriously though ... the search for love is a central part of what it means to be human. Romance is one of the most popular genres (if not the most popular) for a reason. I write romance because although I've never been a reader of the more traditional 'frilly' romance, I adore stories with an emotion-filled, angsty love story in them! A bit of romance makes any story better.

3. Which book inspired you to begin writing?

Two Epic Fantasy books: The Lord of the Rings, and The Sword of Shannara inspired me to try and write my own stories as a teenager. I've always enjoyed reading adventure stories where the characters undergo a huge personal transformation along the way. For romance, my major influencers have been the Outlander series (Diana Gabaldon), A Knight in Shining Armor (Jude Deveraux), and The Circle of Ceridwen series (Octavia Randolph).

4. Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?

Yes, I do have a day job - I'm a freelance copywriter! I divide my time between writing fiction and writing marketing and web content. The day job has actually been invaluable for my fiction, as being a self-published author I have to do all my own marketing. I do enjoy my copy writing work, although writing stories is my first love!

5. Can you tell us about your current projects?

Happy to! :-) I have two novels on the go and the moment, and one about to be released. My Historical Romance set in Dark Ages Britain, WIND SONG (Book #2 in the Kingdom of Northumbria series) is available on pre-order and will be released on November, 15 2017. This is the second-last novel I'll be writing in 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England. When I finish the next (and final) book in the series, there will be 9 books set in this world .... split into three 3-book series!

I've also 20% into Book #2 of my Epic Fantasy Romance series: Light and Darkness. I'm still deciding on the name for this book, but the working title is THE LOST SWALLOW.

My second work in progress is a Scottish Dark Ages Romance: BARBARIAN SLAVE, Book #2 of my Warrior Brothers of Skye series. It's set in 4th Century Isle of Skye - the world of the Picts.

6. What about future writing projects?

I have a thousand ideas in my head, all fighting to be written about! My short-term plans are to finish the three series I'm working on at the moment. I'd love to write more set in Scotland ... maybe Medieval Isle of Skye ... and more Fantasy Romance ... but I will see where the muse leads me!

7. How productive are you? Do you think it's possible to write fast, and well?

At the moment I aim to publish around 4 novels a year. This can be quite a stretch, and I do have to work hard to achieve it. I don't think an author should ever 'rush' a book, but I do believe that you can write quickly without affecting the quality of the novel. Actually, I find that when I'm really into a story, and lost in that world, I write both faster and better. I get carried away by the tale, especially once I reach the last third of the first draft.

I think that if you write in other genres, such as Historical fiction of Epic Fantasy, readers don't expect more than one book a year from you. However, Historical Romance readers are voracious - some of them read 3-4 books a week! If an author doesn't produce novels steadily, they get frustrated!

8. Do you have any advice for someone wanting to become a writer?

Be clear on what you want to get out of writing from the very beginning. Is it a hobby and nothing more? Is it a hobby with a bit of pocket money? Is it a part-time job? Would you like it to be your main source of income? Do you want to win awards and recognition? 

The reason for establishing your goals early on is that it frees you from the expectations of others ... and from your own insecurities. There's nothing wrong with writing for pleasure only, and not caring if no one besides your family and friends read it, but there's nothing wrong either with aiming high! If you do aim to make this your career though, you will need to treat it like a job from the very beginning ... and that means improving your craft, learning everything you can about all the aspects of the writing, editing and publishing process (especially important if you're self-publishing), and sorting out a writing schedule. 

Sorry ... none of this advice is particularly sexy. I used to have quite a romantic idea about what being a writer entailed, but now that I am one I realize that even if you are in it for love it's really hard work!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

What inspired my Kingdom of the East Angles series?

Sutton Hoo ... a window into Dark Ages Britain.

Check out this replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet. The real one is at the British Museum, London.

The Anglo-Saxons buried their once rich and powerful dead, with treasures for the after-life. Sometimes the burial included a warrior’s horse, or even a ship. A wonderful example of this is at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk. There are 18 burial mounds, with barrows for Anglo-Saxon East Anglian royalty. The most famous of all, is the barrow for King Raedwald of East Anglia, who was buried in 625 with a huge hoard of riches, including his ship and this magnificent helmet.

After visiting Sutton Hoo (which is located near Woodbridge, Suffolk, where my mother's family still live), I decided to write a novel set in 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England.

My Dark Ages Historical Romance, Dark Under the Cover of Night (currently free on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Barnes and Noble) is set around the last year of the life of King Raedwald. It's a love story, but I did a lot of research to make sure the story's historical background 'feels' authentic.

East Anglia was extremely powerful during early 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England. Recently archaeologists discovered the remains of an Anglo-Saxon settlement in Suffolk during the development of a wind-farm.

Watch a BCC video about the find.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Goodreads Giveaway for RULED BY SHADOWS

Great news for bibliophiles ... Goodreads are running a paperback giveway for RULED BY SHADOWS!
Enter to get the chance to win one of three paperback copies of my new Epic Fantasy Romance, RULED BY SHADOWS. Giveaway ends on October 2, 2017 so don't miss out!

What's RULED BY SHADOWS about?

In a land ruled by shadows, the fate of all lies in the hands of a girl who is afraid of the dark.

Meet Lilia, a young woman who is afraid of ... everything.

Lilia's life changes the day a stranger walks into the tavern where she works as a cook. Handsome and darkly mysterious, Saul leaves a charm-stone in her safekeeping. Only, what appears to be a humble Hag Stone--used by folk to ward off evil spirits--is in reality a powerful talisman. One that a secret brotherhood has spent five-hundred years searching for.

Life will never be the same for Lilia again.

Her shadow begins behaving strangely--and when The Shade Brotherhood come after her, Lilia must leave her sleepy isle to embark on an epic journey into danger, discovery ... and love.

The shadows are deepening and an ancient evil risks being unleashed upon the world. Lilia must face the darkness, and her own fears--or there will be no going home.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ruled by Shadows by Jayne Castel

Ruled by Shadows

by Jayne Castel

Giveaway ends October 02, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Sunday, 17 September 2017

RULED BY SHADOWS is LIVE on Amazon & free on KU

Exciting news—after nearly two years in the making, RULED BY SHADOWS is now available for purchase on Amazon! 

RULED BY SHADOWS is a detour from my usual Historical Romances set in Dark Ages Britain and Scotland (although I've got two more of those in the pipeline!). It's an Epic Fantasy Romance about a fearful young woman named Lilia who is catapaulted into an epic adventure. Romance, action, adventure and High Fantasy—this novel has it all!

Here are the links to the book on Amazon (if you buy a copy, please consider leaving an honest review—I'd appreciate it hugely):

Click on one of the links below to purchase from Amazon (it's free in KU):

Try RULED BY SHADOWS before you buy
Claim your free sample from Instafreebie and read the Prologue and the first three chapters of RULED BY SHADOWS on your Kindle or e-reader!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

RULED BY SHADOWS is available for preorder!

For those of you eagerly awaiting RULED BY SHADOWS—the wait is almost over!

I LOVED writing this book.

You can read RULED BY SHADOWS as a stand-alone, although there will be a three-book arc which explores a larger Epic Fantasy storyline (involving three different love stories).

This Epic Fantasy Romance—Book #1 in the Light and Darkness series—is the story of Lilia, a frightened young woman who is propelled into a life-changing adventure. It’s Epic Fantasy, but not as you know it! Sure, there will be adventure, magic, a quest, and the threat of darkness that risks destroying the world. But our heroine, Lilia, isn’t a warrior princess, an assassin or a sorceress—she’s the kind of girl most of us have met. Just an ordinary young woman thrown into an extraordinary situation.

RULED BY SHADOWS will be released on 18 September 2017!

Click on one of the links below to preorder:

Monday, 7 August 2017

Ruled by Shadows - BOOK TRAILER

This blog is dedicated to my Historical Romance novels - however I also write Epic Fantasy Romance!

Since my historicals are also set in the Dark Ages - and so have a slight Fantasy element to them - I think readers should enjoy this detour into the realms of Epic Fantasy Romance. I'm particularly excited about this project, as it's the book I've always wanted to write.

It’s been a ‘work in progress’ for a while, but RULED BY SHADOWS is steadily inching closer to publication.

The book is now in the hands of my beta-readers, and I should hear back from them toward the end of August. That’ll give me some time to make the final changes, sort the proofreading, and send out copies to the ARC readers. The novel will be up on pre-order soon, for release mid-September. As soon as it’s up on pre-order, I’ll post a link up on this blog. 🙂

What’s RULED BY SHADOWS about?

Book #1 of the Light and Darkness series, RULED BY SHADOWS is an Epic Fantasy Romance about Lilia, a frightened young woman who is forced to leave her old life behind and embark on an epic adventure. It’s the story of an ordinary girl thrown into an extraordinary situation. It has everything I love about Epic Fantasy in it (epic adventure, dark forces, magic and huge stakes) but it’s also a character driven story about people we feel we could know. The novel is a romance as well, so the love story is central to it.

In a land ruled by shadows, the fate of all lies in the hands of a girl who is afraid of the dark.

To find out more, watch the book trailer for RULED BY SHADOWS below.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

July update from Jayne - listen to a recording!

It's madness, I know—but I have three writing projects on the go at the moment: a Fantasy Romance, and two Historical Romances! 

To update you all on what each novel is about, I've done a recording. Just click on the link or the image below to listen. I hope you enjoy it. :-) 

Friday, 14 July 2017

Historical background to WIND SONG (Book #2: The Kingdom of Northumbria)

I'm now hard at work on Book #2 of The Kingdom of Northumbria. This novel is a Historical Romance, but like all my others set in 7th Century Britain the story is based on real historical events and historical figures.

WIND SONG – to be released later this year – is set in the later period of the 7th Century – when the Northumbria King, Ecgfrith (Oswiu’s son) takes on the Picts, and loses.

First up, here's a few facts about the Kingdom of Northumbria, to give some historical context:
  • Northumbria – ‘Northanhymbre’ in Old English – has always been a frontier land. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall there to mark the northernmost edge of their empire, for they were never able to conquer the Picts. The Anglo-Saxons after them had similar difficulty in ruling the wild lands to the north.
  • Northumbria was one of the most important kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, lying north of the River Humber. 
  • During its most flourishing period it extended from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, between two west–east lines formed in the north by the Ayrshire coast and the Firth of Forth and in the south by the River Ribble, or the Mersey, and the Humber.
  • Its military strength was greatest in the 7th century, when the supremacy of three of its rulers, Edwin (616–632), Oswald (633–641), and Oswiu (641–670), was recognized by the southern English kingdoms. 
  • Northumbria was formed from the coalition of two originally independent states—Bernicia, which was a settlement at Bamburgh on the Northumberland coast, and Deira, lying to the south of it. 
  • The kingdom probably reached the west coast by the mid-7th century, and it also rapidly expanded northward, at one time extending as far as the River Tay. To the south, the power of Mercia checked further expansion of the kingdom.

WIND SONG is focused on a pivotal historical event: the Battle of Dun Nechtain – the Picts vs the Northumbrians
  • The Battle of Dun Nechtain (or Battle of Nechtansmere as it was known in Old English), marked a turning-point between the Picts and the Anglo-Saxons. The battle ended with a decisive Pictish victory which severely weakened Northumbria's power in northern Britain.
  • The battle was fought between the Picts, led by King Bridei mac Beli and the Northumbrians, led by King Ecgfrith on 20 May 685. Relations between the two kings had been worsening for years, especially since Ecgfrith saw the Pictish king as a sub-king rather than an independent ruler. During the battle, the Picts pretended to retreat and drew the Northumbrians into a bloody ambush at Dun Nechtain near the lake of Linn Garan.
  • Ecgfrith was killed in battle, along with the greater part of his army. The Pictish victory marked their independence from Northumbria, who never regained their dominance in the north.

Bridei mac Beli is the hero of WIND SONG. Here are some facts about him:
  • Bridei mac Beli – Bridei son of Beli was king of the Picts from 672 until 693. He ruled the Kingdom of Fortriu, in Southern Pictland (today southern Scotland).
  • His father was Beli, King of Alt Clut, and his mother was an Angle – possibly a daughter of King Edwin of Deira. 
  • Bridei spent most of his childhood living at Bebbanburg, under the charge of the Northumbrian king
  • Bridei would have left Northumbria as a young man and returned to his father’s lands
  • He was based at Dundurn, a hilltop fortress in southern Fortriu.
  • Bridei was an expansionary and active king – he led violent campaigns throughout Pictland, claiming new lands and taking back old ones for Fortriu.
  • The relationship between Bridei and King Ecgfrith of Northumbria was strained – Ecgfrith likely saw Bridei as a ‘sub-king’ rather than an independent ruler, and Bridei would have chafed under what he saw as the yoke of an Angle overlord
  • Their worsening relationship led to the famous Battle of Dun Nechtain in 685, in which the Anglo-Saxon army of Ecgfrith was annihilated
  • Bridei's death is recorded as the year 693.
There are no records as to whether Bridei married, or had any children, so in my story (WIND SONG: Book #2: The Kingdom of Northumbria – to be released later this year), I create a romance between him and a young Anglo-Saxon woman, Hea. Bridei and Hea are childhood friends during his time fostering in Bebbanburg. However, when they meet again years later, their relationship changes dramatically…

Find out more about WIND SONG: 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

What I learned about the Picts?

Researching BLOOD FEUD was great fun. The Isle of Skye is a fascinating setting and the history and culture of the Picts was one I loved immersing myself in. 

As well as gaining a lot of info online, I got out library books on the history and culture of the Picts. A friend also loaned me a book on Pictish symbols, which she'd bought during a visit to Aberdeen. All helped me add depth and color to my story.

Here are some of the discoveries I made about the Picts (specifically those who were likely to have lived upon the Isle of Skye in the 4th Century):

  • The early Picts were a tribal society, formed by hunting (boar and stags mainly), fishing and farming (sheep, goats and cattle). They were also a warrior people and their would have been a number of feuds and battles between tribes. Ironically, the only time the Picts ever truly united together was against a common enemy: the Romans.
  • The Pict chieftains lived in fortified stone forts (duns) upon headlands—the heart of the fort would have been a brochs: a stone round-tower.
  • Pictish houses tended to be dug into the earth and circular in shape with alcoves around the edges for sleeping. They had cone-shaped thatched roofs, giving the inhabitants room to stand up inside. The dwellings would have been built in this way to make them warmer and protect from drafts during the cold winters.
  • The clan (the word comes from 'clanna' which means 'children') came much later in Scottish history. Instead, the early Picts could have easily been grouped according to animal names (according to the many animal symbols they used). i.e. the People of the Eagle.
  • The word 'mac' meant 'son of' so a warrior's name: Galan mac Muin meant 'Galan son of Muin'.
  • Many historians believe that Pictish chieftain descendency came down through the female, rather than male line. There is some debate about this, but the fact remains that Pictish women enjoyed considerable independence and rights (compared to some of the later British cultures). Pictish women were also warriors, and could be as formidable as their menfolk in battle.
  • The Picts didn't wear kilts or tartan (that came centuries later)—however, it's likely they would have worn clothing (leggings or skirts) made of plaid.
  • Despite the cold climate the Picts often went barefoot, and the men barechested. What clothing they did wear would have been minimal, with leather foot wrappings to protect their feet during the coldest months of the year.
  • They bore blue (woad) tattoos on their bodies (depicting the tribal markings and symbols of their people) and would have painted their bodies for special occasions and before going into battle.
  • The Picts took pride their appearance, the men and as well as the women—they wore beautiful jewellery and hair accessorys, and both sexes generally wore their hair long.
  • They were a pagan people, who would have believed in more than one god—rather a host of gods and goddess to represent different times of the year and different stages of life.
  • The passing of the year was celebrated by a number of fire festivals (as with all Celtic peoples).
  • The Pictish were highly artistic—they left behind a number of symbols and carvings on standing stones, buildings and jewellery.
  • They were a culture that believed in magic and superstition—they believed in fairies (called the Aos-si or 'Fair Folk') and in magical creatures such as selkies (half man, half seal), kelpies (water horses), brownies (a type of pixie) and wulvers (men with heads of wolves). 
  • Druids were an important part of Pictish society, and highly respected.
  • When the Picts wed, they did so barefoot and standing outdoors in nature.
Those were just some of the bits and pieces I gleaned during my research, and which I wove into my story. 

Piecing together Pictish culture when we have so little recorded history on them means that an author has to fill in a lot of gaps herself! As there is no existing map to show us what 4th Century Isle of Skye would have looked up, I have delved into the realms of fantasy and created my own—complete with four warring tribes: The People of the Stag, Wolf, Eagle and Boar. Here's the map which appears in BLOOD FEUD.


Grab the first three chapters of BLOOD FEUD for FREE off Instafreebie and see what you think!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Goodreads giveaway contest: BLOOD FEUD

She has only ever known war. Now she must make the ultimate sacrifice for peace. 

Enter for a chance to win one of two paperback copies of BLOOD FEUD (Book #1: The Warrior Brothers of Skye—a Scottish Historical Romance set in Dark Ages Isle of Skye! Just click on the banner below to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Blood Feud by Jayne Castel

Blood Feud

by Jayne Castel

Giveaway ends May 28, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BLOOD FEUD is available on Amazon!

Book #1 of The Warrior Brothers of Skye has been released on Amazon.

Welcome to 4th Century Isle of Skye—a world of feuding tribes and forbiddable warrior men, and women.

What's BLOOD FEUD about?

They come from warring tribes—but can their love overcome generations of hate?

Dark Ages Scotland, the Isle of Skye. Far north of Hadrian's Wall—beyond the shadow of the Roman Empire—the daughter of a Pictish chieftain prepares to wed her enemy. To forge peace, Tea's brother has promised her to the leader of a neighboring tribe that killed their parents.

Dark and brooding--but committed to peace—Tea's new husband isn't what she expects. Unlike her, Galan mac Muin is determined to end decades of bloodshed between two warring tribes, even if it means sacrificing his own happiness.

Tea isn't what Galan expects either. A statuesque, embittered beauty, she hates him and his people. Yet neither of them can deny the powerful attraction between them. Together, Galan and Tea have the chance to forge a new future--one that will ensure lasting peace--if only they can only let go of the past.

BLOOD FEUD is the exciting first book in THE WARRIOR BROTHERS OF SKYE series. Follow the lives and loves of three warrior brothers: Galan, Tarl and Donnel. Fans of Historical Fiction, Scottish Historical Romance and Historical Action & Adventure, and those who enjoy Kathryn Le Veque, and who loved Donna Fletcher's Pict King series, should enjoy this series set in Dark Ages Scotland.

Take a journey into Dark Ages Scotland

Read the Prologue and first three chapters for FREE on Intafreebie.

Or get your copy on Amazon!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Teasers from BLOOD FEUD - new release

BLOOD FEUD is now available for preorder on Amazon—and will be released on May 18 2017.

In the pre-release period for the novel, I'd like to share some of my favorite passages from the novel. Hope you enjoy them!

Monday, 1 May 2017

BLOOD FEUD - new release!

I've wanted to write a novel set in Dark Ages Scotland for ages—so here's the first in my new series set amongst the mist-shrouded mountains, wild shores and desolate moors of the Isle of Skye. 

These books delve into the history of the Picts, an enigmatic warrior people who were the predecessors of the Highland warriors.

If you're into bare-chested, tattooed Barbarian heroes, lots of action and adventure, and some steamy romance, BLOOD FEUD (Book #1: The Warrior Brothers of Skye) is for you! The series follows the lives and loves of three Pictish warrior brothers: Galan, Tarl, and Donnel.

Preorder BLOOD FEUD now for the 18 May 2017 release!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Book review: Silver Hammer, Golden Cross (Book Six of The Circle of Ceridwen Saga) by Octavia Randolph

A sweeping, epic novel that picks up around a decade after Ceridwen and Sidroc's story. This is the tale of Ceric (Ceridwen's son) and Ashild (the daughter of Aelfwyn and Yrling). Like the earlier books in this saga, Octavia Randolph uses real historical events to bring her story to life. The peace forged by King Alfred and Guthrum has ended, and war sweeps across England once more.

The characters are great - well rounded with flaws that make them feel like real people. I particularly loved Ashild. A young woman of independent spirit, she struggles with the role that she must play; to marry to strength alliances and wealth. She and Ceric are childhood friends, and both their families wish them to wed. However, despite her attraction for him she wishes to choose her own fate.

Likewise, Ceric is a young man coming to terms with his own place in the world as he reaches manhood and must fill the gap left by his uncle.

Unlike the earlier books in the series, this one is told in third person narrative (rather than first person). This creates quite a different tone - less intimate, more epic. We move from Four Stones (in what is now Lincolnshire, I guess) down to Kilton on the south coast of England, and then across the water to Gotland in Scandinavia. Ceric and Ashild are the main POV characters, although we also spend some time again with Ceridwen and Sidroc, which I enjoyed.

What I love most about Octavia Randolph's books (apart from the memorable characters) is the way she brings 9th Century Anglo-Saxon England to life. She has done vast amounts of research and it shows, not in an 'info-dump' way but in a rich, detailed tapestry. She really brings you there. I particularly loved the descriptions of the food!

The story also highlights the conflict between the paganism and Christianity at this time, hence the title of this book. Ashild carries the silver hammer of Thor from her father, Yrling, and a golden cross from her mother, Aelfwyn, around her neck.

There are quite a few battle and fight scenes in this book that were really well done. There are some great action scenes toward the end of the book - but I'll say nothing about those as I don't want to spoil the story for readers!

I look forward to reading the next installment in the Ceridwen saga - highly recommended five-star read.


Buy a copy of Silver Hammer, Golden Cross on

Thursday, 6 April 2017

My favorite Historical Romances list

I read (almost) as much as I write—and there have been a number of historical romance novels over the years which have inspired and enthused me. I thought I'd share my list of absolute favorites here. Some you'll recognize, others might be new to you—some new books for you to discover! 

Of course, I read far more widely than historical romance. I love historical epics, fantasy and the classics. Although I haven't mentioned them above Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, George R.R Martin's The Song of Fire and Ice, Jean M. Auel 's The Clan of Cave Bear,  Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, Stephen King's The Stand, and Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles/Saxon Chronicles, have had a huge influence on my writing (and life!).

Back to Historical Romance though... 

In no particular order, here are my keepers:

The Conquest
Elizabeth Chadwick

This is one of Elizabeth Chadwick's earlier books - but easily one my favorites. It's actually two love stories, set at the time of the Nortman Conquest. Poignant, and at times very sad, this isn't a traditional romance, but it's well-worth the read. Chadwick brings this time to life so vividly you feel as if you're there with her. It was after reading this novel that I decided I wanted to set my novels in the Anglo-Saxon period!

Daughter of the Forest
Juliet Marillier

This book is actually Historical Fantasy Romance but I had to add it here. A beautifully written story of courage, strength and slow-burning love, Daughter of the Forest is a compelling tale.

Read my review of Daughter of the Forest on this blog.

The Warrior's Game
Denise Domning

Get past the awful cover and discover an exciting story set at the time of King John and the Magna Carta. The characters in this story—a fiesty English widow and a sexy French mercenary—is what made this novel a keeper for me. This well-researched story really brings the 13th century to life. It's the third in a trilogy (although they can all be read as stand-alones), and my favorite of the three.

The Wolfe
Kathryn Le Veque

Kathryn Le Veque has written a huge number of door-stopper epic romance novels set in the Middle Ages. Her earlier works are definitely my favorites; they're page-turning adventures with exciting characters and lots of intrigue. My other favorites by Le Veque are: The Dark One, Spectre of the Sword and The White Lord of Wellesbourne.

Read my review of The Wolfe on Goodreads.

Diana Gabaldon

This series needs no introduction. It has everything, romance, adventure, intrigue and real history—with a bit of time travel thrown in. Jamie Fraser is the ultimate romantic hero, who can blame Claire for falling for him!

Circle of Ceridwen Saga
Octavia Randolph

This is a fabulous series of books set in 8th Century England and Scandinavia. Randolph draws you right into the period and brings it to life so vividly you can almost smell the burning peat, the crunch of rushes under your boots and the jingling of chain mail! Not a traditional romance, the love-story is a slow burn through the first four books, with a stand-alone fifth book. I'm now half-way through the sixth book which tells the story of the next generation. A fabulous historical epic that I can't recommend highly enough!

Read my review of the first book in the series on Goodreads.

The King's Man
Elizabeth Kingston

A fabulously gritty historical romance about a brutal English soldier and a wild female Welsh warrior. Kingston is an original voice in this genre. She writes realistic stories about flawed characters. The second book in this (Welsh Blades) series is also excellent.

Read my review on this blog.

A Knight in Shining Armor
Jude Deveraux

Before Outlander there was this book. This is the original historical romance time-travel novel—the story of a frightened and insecure young woman on holiday in England and a young, arrogant Elizabethan lord, whose paths cross across time. A compelling, fun read that's really well researched. A first read this book many years ago but recently re-read an updated version—even better than I remembered!