Nicola is not actively blogging at this time, but archived all this rich content here for you to enjoy. She also has posts over at Word Wenches and Historical and Regency Romance UK, too.

An Interview with Alison Stuart

Alison-web smallIt’s my very great pleasure to welcome Alison Stuart to the blog today! Alison is an award winning author whose latest book, Claiming the Rebel’s Heart is set during the English Civil War. I love reading books set in this time period and I can unreservedly recommend Claiming the Rebel’s Heart as a page-turning and very romantic adventure!

Alison, please tell us a bit about Claiming the Rebel’s Heart.

In doing some research for a Hoydens and Firebrands blog on the feisty women who were left behind to defend hearth and home while their men went off to fight in the English Civil War, I came across the story of Brilliana Harley and her valiant defence of  Brampton Bryan Castle in Herefordshire.  It started the “what if” thought process. I have previously written my English Civil War stories from the cavaliers side of the war and I thought it would be interesting to play with the other side… so my heroine Deliverance Felton is left to defend her family home, in Herefordshire, against her royalist neighbours while her father, who supports the roundhead cause, is away.  There the similarity to Brilliana Harley ends! Alas poor Brilliana died of pneumonia shortly after the end of the siege of Brampton Bryan.

Which was your favourite scene in the book?

I had so much fun writing this book (even though the subject matter is quite serious in parts), but the scene that made me chuckle was the scene in the chapel where Luke and Deliverance have gone as a last resort to get a few moments of intimacy (finding any privacy in a besieged castle is challenging!). The chapel is full of gunpowder so they are guaranteed some peace and quiet.  Needless to say just as things are getting interesting there is an unexpected interruption…

Deliverance Felton, the heroine, is a tough and practical woman in a man’s world. I loved her! Is there a real life character associated with the period who inspired you when you were creating her?

BrillianaI have mentioned Brilliana Harley (pictured) above but the other inspiration for Deliverance was Charlotte, the Countess of Derby who defended Lathom House against Sir Thomas Fairfax. She was going to brook no nonsense and had no hesitation in telling those upstart roundheads where to go!  The exploits of her wily captain of the guard provided some ideas for Luke.

I love reading about characters like Lady Derby and Dame Mary Bankes at Corfe Castle, who were such strong women in the era. They were a match for any man. Which brings me neatly to your hero, Luke. He was gorgeous! What qualities do you think are important in a hero?

Luke differs from my “normal” hero.  My previous heroes have all been “wounded” heroes, carrying scars both physical and emotional. Luke has his secrets but he is far more cock sure of himself and is so convinced of his attraction to women that he is completely put off his game by Deliverance.

The main quality I look for in a hero (at least by the end of the book) is a degree of self awareness, a confidence in their own abilities that have been tested in the fire and an absolute certainty that this woman is the only one to complete them.

What do you enjoy about the English Civil War period in particular?

“Enjoy” is probably not a good word to describe a period of such enormous political and social upheaval. More people died per head of population than in WW1, but I am passionate about it, particularly as a writer. A King died on the block, England toyed with republicanism and a military state…civil war pits families and friends against each other and sets up the possibilities for conflict, both internal and external. It caught my imagination when I was a child and has just stayed with me.

Is there any place associated with the English Civil War that you would especially like to visit?

Every time I go to England I make little pilgrimages – in fact we met when I was draggingAlison Donnington Castle my long suffering husband to Donnington Castle (the scene of the Battles of Newbury). My children have been trailed around all the major battlefields and my personal favourite was visiting Worcester. The one place I haven’t been yet, although I’ve walked past it, it is Westminster Hall, the scene of the trial of Charles I. That is next on the list!

Donnington Castle and the battle site at Newbury are both fascinating places to visit. I find battlefields so poignant.

Do you have a particular type of story you are drawn to tell? What would you say are the core themes of your books?

Stuart_CTRH_rgb_300x438Firstly I like to say I write historical with romance, rather than historical romances. It’s semantics I know, but as soon as you say “historical romance”, it envisions a certain type of book. I like my stories firmly rooted in historical fact first and I love a rattling good yarn. I’m not a reader of “pure romance” – I need a strong storyline to keep my interest and those are the sorts of stories I like to write.

As I mentioned above, my stories have generally revolved around wounded heroes and heroines and I like to think there is a strong redemptive theme running through them.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and what advice would you give to other aspiring authors?

So much advice over the years! Apart from being advised to join the Romance Writers of Australia which is a brilliant organisation, I think the one that has stuck with me, is to never lose sight of your goal. As we both know, the writing and publishing world has changed out of sight in the last few years – offering possibilities that no one could have envisaged even 5 years ago.

It is easy to get published but my caveat is that it is not so easy to sell books, and as a consequence, the way is strewn with disappointment and frustration. But if you want to write, set your goal and stick to it (I am still working toward a lifesize cardboard cutout of myself in airport bookshops). You will be bombarded with advice from all quarters but remember no one writes the same way you do. No one’s plotting or writing method will be the same as yours.  Take from it what works for you and discard the rest… oh and join a great writing organisation and learn your craft!

Thank you very much for visiting the blog today, Alison!

Now a question for blog readers – Do you enjoy 17th century set stories? Is there a particular character from the era, either real or fictional, who inspires or interests you?

About Alison Stuart

Alison Stuart is an award winning Australian writer of cross genre historicals with heart.  Whether duelling with dashing cavaliers or waywards ghosts, her books provide a reader with a meaty plot and characters who have to strive against adversity, always with the promise of happiness together. Alison is a lapsed lawyer who has worked in the military and fire service, which may explain a predisposition to soldier heroes.  She lives with her own personal hero and two needy cats and likes nothing more than a stiff gin and tonic and a walk along the sea front of her home town.  She loves to hear from her readers and can be found at her website, facebook, twitter and Goodreads.

For more information and to read an excerpt from CLAIMING THE REBEL’S HEART visit Alison Stuart’s Website:

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War divides families…love unites hearts…

Herefordshire, England 1643

As the English Civil War divides England and tears families apart, Kinton Lacey castle is one of the brave few loyal to the roundhead cause.


With her father away, Deliverance Felton will do whatever it takes to defend her family home against the royalist forces ranged against it. She can shoot and wield a sword as well as any man and anything she needs to know about siege warfare she has learned from a book…but no book can prepare her for what is to come.

Captain Luke Collyer, soldier of fortune and a man with his own reasons for loyalty to the parliamentary cause, is sent to relieve the castle. Everything he knows about siege warfare in general and women in particular he has learned from experience, but when it comes to Deliverance Felton has he met his match?

Deliverance will not give up her command lightly and Luke will have to face a challenge to his authority as fierce as the cavalier foe outside the walls. He will do whatever it takes to win Deliverance’s trust but will he run the risk of losing his own, well guarded, heart?


  1. Thanks for inviting me to join you for “Seventeenth Century” week, Nicola!
    I love that photo of Anna Campbell and I at Donnington Castle. It was such a fun day… beginning with nearly missing you at Newbury Station!

    1. Yes, I have such happy memories of that day, Alison. It was the first time I’d driven into Newbury and then we couldn’t find you! It’s a pleasure you have you here on the blog.

  2. I’ll look forward to reading your book, but oh my god, that cover! Costume and hair completely out of period.

    1. Hi Farah… I know but it is well nigh impossible to find period appropriate images for this period for use on covers. Dark straight hair and a red dress is a compromise that hints at the story.

  3. Hey, lookee, two of my fave peeps in one (17th century) spot! Hiya Nicola! Hiya Alison! Nicola, do you remember the day we waited for Alison at Newbury in exactly the wrong spot? Alison, do you remember the day Nicola and I ran into you after giving up on the waiting at the toilets at the station? Ah, the memories. I still remember the Berkshire Museum we checked out while we were waiting (in exaclty the wrong place!). That photo of Alison and I at Donnington Castle springs from that fateful day. Ah, memories light the corners of my life!

    Alison, congratulations on CLAIMING THE REBEL’S HEART.

  4. Im a big fan of the English civil war and spent a year of my degree studying all the interesting religions that sprang up during that time, including the Puritans and Quakers and the less well known levellers, diggers and muggletonians 😉
    The banqueting hall is well worth a visit. 🙂

    1. I have visited the a Banqueting Hall … That was an early site on my pilgrimage list! Although I should go again as I am sure it has more to offer these days!

    2. Me too, and I wrote my thesis on the Quakers.

      I’ve just finished reading for a project where I read *every* English Civil War novel I could find from 1740 to 1950. Kinda fun.

      1. Awesome undertaking, Farah! Do you have one that stands out?

        For me it is the novels of Pamela Belle but Children of the New Forest was an early influence and Du Mauriers The a Kings General stands out as THE book which set me on this path!

        1. I re-read children of the New Forest only the other day. And the Daphne Du Maurier is on my keeper shelf as well.

          Speaking of the Levellers, has anyone been to Burford church and seen the bullet holes still in the wall? I studied Levellers Day as part of the public history MA. Fascinating stuff.

  5. Great interview, Nicola and Alison. I love the sound of your new book, Alison. I became interested in the English Civil War period many years ago after reading ‘The White Witch’ by Elizabeth Goudge. It was certainly a turbulent time and would be full of great story possibilities. I can see why you like writing in that period so much! Wishing you all the best with your new release 🙂

    1. Oooh, I’ve just read The Castle on the Hill by Elizabeth Goudge, Amy (I’m having a real 17th century indulgent reading time) and must pick up The White Witch next!

    2. My favourite YA English Civil War Stories were those by Barbara Softly – Plain Jane and The Stone in the Pool were two. Beautiful, evocative illustrations by Shirley Hughes (who did the Alphie stories by kids loved!) – she caught the period! Now if SHE could still do covers!!!

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