The News

A Capital Union shortlisted for HWA Debut Crown

 Victoria Hendry

A Capital Union, Victoria Hendry’s novel that focuses on the Scottish independence movement during World War II, has made it on to the shortlist for the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown for best first historical novel.

Following the fortunes of young Agnes Thorne, whose new activist husband brings her into contact with the Scottish nationalist movement in wartime Edinburgh, A Capital Union cleverly shines a light on issues of loyalty and independence.

It will compete against She Rises b y Kate Worsley (Bloomsbury), Secrets of the Sea House by Elizabeth Gifford (Atlantic Books), Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchmann (Serpent’s Tail) and Child of Vengeance by David Kirk (Simon and Schuster) for the £2,000 prize.

The judges said, 'Each of these books is exceptional, and to have written it at any time in a writing career is an achievement: to have written it as a first novel, is exceptional.'

The winner of this year’s prize will be announced on 23rd October, the first day of the Harrogate History Festival.

Scottish culture inspires edgy, modern tales of womanhood


The original ‘Four Marys’ were ladies-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots. According to legend, one was executed for murdering her own baby. In Jean Rafferty’s new quartet of novellas, four modern Marys – Mhairi, Mara, Mercedes and Mariana – have their own dark tales to tell…

Is motherhood every woman’s destiny?

‘A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world.’ So said Agatha Christie, ambiguously; for the bond between mother and child is deep, but sometimes, motherhood does not come naturally.

Obsession, longing, deceit and even murder feature in Jean Rafferty’s The Four Marys, published on 5 June 2014. This collection of provocative novellas gives a modern twist to tales of women for whom all is not necessarily as it seems, or as each woman would want her life to be. The four stories included are:

The Sealwoman On ‘wishing night’ seals can become human for a few short hours. When Mhairi comes ashore that night, she is about to find out whether being human really is as wonderful as it appears.

A Faerie Child When a woman suffers nine miscarriages she becomes desperate to have a healthy baby. Desperate enough to try anything…

The Diva A world-famous opera star becomes pregnant and experiences the pain and the passion that she sings about in her beloved arias.

The Four Marys A student is having an affair whilst researching the legend of ‘The Four Marys’ – which tells of a lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots being executed for killing her own child. Her love is real, but is history repeating itself?

Drawing on universal themes of womanhood and on history, culture and lore, The Four Marys is a riveting exploration of the complexities of motherhood: edgy and engrossing, moving, yet at times, disturbing.

Chris Packham's praise for The Dragonfly Diaries

TV's Chris Packham is full of praise for author Ruary Mackenzie Dodds and his new book The Dragonfly Diaries, published on May 22. He says: “Ruary Mackenzie Dodds is not only a notable dragonfly expert but perhaps more importantly the greatest ambassador these insects have had in the UK. This lovely book is testament to the power of a passion, and cements his status as one of Britain's greatest living naturalists.” 

Back in 1985, a dragonfly landed on Ruary’s shirt. It was the catalyst for a life-long obsession with protecting these remarkable insects and passing on his passion to the public.

In his own idiosyncratic way, Ruary achieved all that and more. Over the next 30-odd years he would:

  • Muster an army of volunteers to create the first public dragonfly sanctuary.
  • Become a leading dragonfly expert and advocate, regularly appearing on the BBC with the likes of Chris Packham, Bill Oddie and Kate Humble.
  • … And cause a minor security alert at Highgrove with an exploding inflatable boat.

In The Dragonfly Diaries, Ruary Mackenzie Dodds shares his quirky fascination for these striking creatures over the decades he has been photographing and working with them. The diaries combine fascinating description of dragonflies – their primeval beauty, their aerobatic grace, their importance to our water eco-systems – with a chronicle of the ups and downs of establishing Britain’s first public dragonfly sanctuary.

Often humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring, The Dragonfly Diaries is a must for nature buffs and for anyone who wants an insight into the resolve and dedication of a man on a mission to save these critically important insects.

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