A Date for your Diary – my very first Author talk!

I’m super pleased to announce that I’ll be giving my very first author talk on September 28 at Southampton Central Library from 1-3pm. There will also be books on sale which I can sign for you!

Save the date and please do come along if you can – spaces are limited though so it’ll be first come first serve with spaces in the room.

An event will be created on Facebook as well, via The Borgia Bull facebook page so please do keep an eye out for that.

Cesare author talk Sept

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Timeless Season 2 – The Perfect Mix of Sci-Fi & Historical Drama



I discovered NBC’s Timeless thanks to a historian friend of mine on Twitter, who told me to drop everything and watch this ‘silly yet amazing’ TV show. So off I toddled to Netflix and began watching the first episode. Safe to say I was hooked from the get go, and I binged the whole first season in a couple of days. It was the characters that hooked me first and foremost – Lucy Preston, played by the incredibly talented Abigail Spencer, is the main protagonist of the show and I think it was the characters love of history that truly drew me in. Her passion for the subject reminded me of myself in very many ways. And then there’s the character of Rufus, a bit of a nerd who’s in love with his equally as nerdy but exceptionally beautiful colleague Jiya, the is he/isn’t he bad guy Conor Mason, the hard as nails but mother like Agent Denise Christopher, the PTSD suffering Wyatt and the time bandit terrorist, Garcia Flynn (who is my absolute favourite, by the way!) In Season 1 we are introduced to the idea of time travel and the idea of Rittenhouse, an organisation who wants to change time to suit their own ends.

And that’s when we find out the apparent bad guy, Flynn, isn’t really all that bad at all. He just wants to stop Rittenhouse and get his family bad. His family who were brutally murdered by Rittenhouse sleeper agents.

Season 2 continues with this story, expanding on what was introduced in the first season. We see more of just what Rittenhouse are up to with their crazy wish to change history and we learn much more about the characters who were introduced to us. We see Lucy Preston (Abigail Spencer) change from a timid historian into a strong young woman who won’t take no for an answer. We see Connor Mason (Paterson Joseph) turn into a man who stands up for what he believes in. We see Flynn (Goran Visnjic) on a redemption arc. We see Wyatt (Matt Lanter) struggle with getting what he truly wants. We see Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) actually working side by side with a man who once wanted to kill him and we see Jiya (Claudia Doumit) come to terms with something incredibly life changing. And then we see other characters (the bad ones!) sink deeper into themselves. The character of Emma (Annie Wersching) is a prime example of this. Now, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the character of Emma is an example of a truly well written villain. She has her good points, and she has her bad points.

In fact, every single character within this show have their good points and bad points. There is no black and white here. There’s always that grey area.


As in season one, we see our favourite Time Team travel through time using the Lifeboat – a device developed by Mason Industries in order to travel back through time – and during their missions to stop Rittenhouse from causing chaos, they meet some of the most iconic characters from American history including Mrs Sherlock Holmes, Mary Humiston; JFK and Harriet Tubman. What struck me about the times that our heroes travelled back to wasn’t the fact that they were visiting these times, but it was the fact that they were concentrating on parts of history that people tend to just gloss over. And for me, a historian who concentrates mainly on the Italian Renaissance, I found myself garnering an interest in these eras of American History that I truly know very little about. Let’s just say I’ll be scooting about for some books on many of the eras introduced in the second season of this wonderful show.


What I found particularly impressive about this season was that, along with the epic stories of character development and crazy time travel to stop psycho time travelling terrorists, we are introduced to topics that are very rarely brought up in any sort of programme. Ever. I was particularly taken with Agent Christopher’s  back story and how she believed that she had to marry a man in order to keep her family happy and that she couldn’t go against her faith. In the end it was a happy ending all around (again, I don’t want to spoil it fully) but we saw her embracing her sexuality and taking a stand. This was an incredibly moving piece of television and one that had many fans of the show finding their own strength to come out to their friends and families. Now tell me, how many television shows can do that? The stories that were shared on twitter after the episode was aired were just absolutely inspiring.

Racism and sexism throughout history are also topics that come up throughout the season. Not only do we see the recording of Robert Johnson’s wonderful blues album in 1936 and how people of colour back then had to deal with racism, but we are also shown the work of the suffragette movement in 1919. These subjects are dealt with in a sympathetic and completely expert manner – I truly cannot fault the writers of Timeless for any of their work on not only these episodes, but every single other episode as well.




The cast of this show are incredibly talented and truly make you either fall in love with their characters or despise them. Yet even if you end up despising a character, there’s a part of you that either loves them or feels sorry for them. Like I said earlier, there are grey areas galore in these characters and that’s only a tiny part of what makes this show so damned good. With a diverse cast who truly live and breathe this show, there is really nothing that Timeless can do wrong. Not only does it introduce eras and people from history who aren’t so well known, but it gets people interested in history and for me that is one of the most important things that this show is doing right now. It has proven that history isn’t just about learning dates and being able to recite them by heart, but that history belongs to all of us. It’s gotten people wanting to learn more which is something I believe every historical drama should be doing – hell, history teachers even show Timeless to their classes and have spoken widely about just how much their students love the show and how it reels them in to a discipline that has long been seen as ‘one for the nerds’.

I highly recommend Timeless to anyone with even an inkling of interest in history. Even if you have no interest in it and are more of a Sci-Fi person, watch it anyway. Or just watch it even if you don’t care about either. I promise you that you will love this show.

Now all we need is for NBC to hurry up and renew this phenomenal television show. We need a season 3 after that EPIC season finale!


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[Review] A Last Goodbye by Dee Yates


In a remote hill farm in beautiful Scotland, Ellen and her father Duncan are enjoying a peaceful life away from the belching mills and hustle and bustle of the growing towns. In time they’re joined by rugged farmhand Tom, come to lend some muscle to Ellen’s ageing father, who has begun to find sheep farming hard to manage alone. Almost inevitably romance grows between Ellen and the new arrival but once married however, Ellen discovers that Tom has a brutish side to his character. As war in Europe spreads, she begins to dream of him leaving for the trenches as a way for her to escape.

Even with Tom fighting abroad however, the family can not hide from the realities of war as a group of POWs are brought to their valley to build a reservoir. And amongst the men, sworn enemies and shunned by all the locals, Ellen finds a gentler heart that she finds difficult to resist…

First of all I’d just like to extend a massive thanks to Head of Zeus for allowing me to review this book. I’ve been on a bit of a historical fiction kick recently so when I was approached to review it, I jumped at the chance. It helped that the subject line in the email said it was heartbreaking.

I’m a sucker for pain.

And let me tell you…it was worth every painful moment that made me want to hate this book and throw my kindle out of the window in a storm of tears.

Yates’ newest work is set in the highlands of Scotland on a remote sheep farm, right in the midst of the First World War. Our main character is Ellen, a young woman who lives with her aging father and gets a little too involved with their new shephard Tom. And when I say gets a little too involved, I mean that she lands herself in a whole heap of trouble and has to marry Tom. I’m going to be honest here, I despised Tom from the moment I first met him – there was just something terribly off about his character, the sort of young man who comes across as slimey – and my hatred for him only got worse after he married Ellen and shipped himself off to fight in the War.

Poor Ellen finds herself stuck in a violent marriage with a small child so is it any wonder that she wants to find happiness elsewhere?

With Tom away fighting in France, Ellen ends up spending time with a young German POW. This young man is sweet and kind, everything that Tom isn’t. And you can really see the differences between the two men when Tom returns from the Front. He’s brutish and violent, affected by his time in the trenches (which I’ll be honest, I did feel very sorry for him at this point. I’ve studied the First World War in some details and the effects of shell shock are horrendous) Ellen’s loyalties are completely torn and as you read, you can literally feel her confusion and her pain over it all. She’s married and has fallen out of love with her violent husband, but she knows she has to remain loyal to him. Yet at the same time she’s fallen head over heels in love with a man who is supposed to be the enemy.

This book is seriously gripping and I couldn’t put it down no matter how much I wanted to at times. Yates’ writing really hooks you and reels you in, her characterisation of these people practically consuming you. It’s not often that a writer can make you despise and love a character with just a flick of a page. And it’s even more rare to find yourself feeling sorry for, and crying over, a character who has just been a massive arse for the whole novel.

If you like painful romance in your historical fiction, then this is the book for you. And trust me when I tell you it is painful. Very painful. The ending is so bittersweet that it leaves you feeling almost bereft – and Yates should be commended for that. This read is a gripping, fast paced page turner that truly takes you into the world these characters live in – I highly recommend it.

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Netley Abbey & Royal Victoria Country Park


View of the ruins from the main entrance. Photo by me

Today, my other half and I decided to take ourselves off to Netley Abbey. We also decided that we would walk there – it didn’t look all that far on a map, after all, and the directions said it was only three miles.

If I ever say I’m walking to Netley again, someone please stop me.

But I digress. Once we’d trekked our way half way across the city and indeed OUT of Southampton and into the borough of Eastleigh, we found ourselves wandering around the absolutely magnificent ruins completely on our own.


Photo by me


Photo by me


They were doing some sort of conservation around the Church area. Photo by me


I found myself strangely drawn to this window. Photo by me

Netley Abbey was founded in the thirteenth century and was home to a group of Cistercian monks, who found themselves under Royal patronage. And you can really get a feel for that patronage as you wander around these wonderful ruins – particularly in the massive Church. When you are standing in this huge space, it’s very easy to imagine just how beautiful this building must have been. I could really see it all in my mind’s eye – especially how stunning the east window must have once looked with its stained glass.

Other buildings include what may have once been an infirmary, the cloister and the Abbot’s house.

Despite its Royal patronage, Netley did not survive the first suppression of the monasteries simply because it did not make enough money, and it had too few monks housed within. It was dissolved in 1536 and the site was handed over to William Paulet who began to renovate the Abbey into a country house. It was occupied as a house until the early 1700’s, when the decision was made to demolish the building.


Photo by me


This building may well have been the infirmary. Photo by me


Cool fireplace. Photo by me


Outer view of the East Window of the Church. Photo by me


The stunning East Window. Photo by me

In 1704 the decision was made to demolish the house and sell the building materials. However this plan was scrapped when a worker was sadly killed by a falling piece of stonework. Left abandoned, the partially demolished building was left to the elements and allowed to fall into ruin – a ruin that later attracted some rather famous visitors including the wonderful artist John Constable, who painted the ruins in the moonlight.


Netley Abbey by Moonlight – John Constable. Wikimedia Commons

I found Netley Abbey to be incredibly beautiful and beyond peaceful and I feel like it’s somewhere that, were I to visit again, I would see something completely different. There is an incredible amount of history layered within these ruins – you can really feel the history as you wander about the place. What makes this place even better is that it’s out of the way and, if I’m honest, rather poorly signposted. So we were alone there for well over an hour.

Following our visit to the Abbey we walked further up the road to the Royal Victoria Country Park and spent a pleasant few hours wandering around this HUGE place. We didn’t see it all as it was just far too big, but we did find the War Cemetery which I found to be incredibly moving.


This was a beautiful woodland walk. Photo by me

The site used to be made up of Netley Hospital, a hospital for members of the military. Construction started in 1856 and the hospital, despite facing controversy from Florence Nightingale over its design, was used extensively during the First World War. It was also used extensively during the Second World War, but following this the hospitals use began to dwindle. On this site was also one of the very first military asylums.

Today, only the chapel and the cemetary still remains whilst the rest is open to the public as park land. The cemetery is full to bursting with the military graves of personnel from all over the commonwealth, with the majority of graves dating to the First World War.


Netley Military Cemetery. Photo by me

These two sites were both incredibly moving in their own right and, despite the aching feet and terrible sunburn, they’re places I’ll certainly be going back to.

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Sea City Museum & Southampton Art Gallery


Southampton is well known for its links to the Titanic so of course the city has a museum dedicated to it – but not only to the Titanic, but the Maritime history of the area as well. Now I’ll be honest, I’ve known about the Sea City Museum for ages but I just hadn’t had the time or the inclination to visit. But seeing as how I have this time off and need to keep myself busy, I thought I would pop down there this morning.

When I arrived, it was only about five minutes until opening time. However I found myself utterly shocked at just how many people were waiting outside. I suppose it’s to be expected given as Southampton is practically the home of the Titanic. Getting inside was a bit of a farce even after the doors were open, due to technical issues with the tills. However after a bit I was inside and home free.

£8.50 and a wrist band later, I was inside and wandering the Titanic exhibition.









The Titanic disaster certainly hit Southampton hard. Many workers from Southampton were on board when it sank and many of them never came home again. Every day on the way home from work I walk past a plaque stating that the building was an office of the ocean liner company, an office that was bombarded with family members when news of the disaster hit.

Following the Titanic museum you are taken into a couple of rooms for an exhibition called “The Gateway to the World” – this exhibition concentrates on the maritime history of Southampton and the surrounding area, from prehistory to present day.











I have to be 110% honest here, I found the entirety of the Sea City museum completely underwhelming. I had finished my visit within just over 30 minutes and that included reading the information and taking photographs. £8.50 is far too steep a price for this museum and, I would say, unless you have an interest in the Titanic then avoid this place like the plague. The price really isn’t worth it.

Following my completely underwhelming visit to the Sea City museum, I took myself around the corner to the art gallery. This was much more to my taste and although I was only there for a maximum of about fifteen minutes, it was truly a wonderful visit. Below are a selection of my favourite pieces of art from the gallery.












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