Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Blog Tour Q&A: Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage

Please join me in welcoming Anna Belfrage back to Let Them Read Books! Anna is touring the blogosphere with her newest release, Under the Approaching Dark, Book Three in The King's Greatest Enemy series. I recently had the chance to ask Anna a few questions about writing during this fascinating and dangerous period in England's history. Read on for a peek at one of her favorite scenes from the novel and enter to win a copy of Under the Approaching Dark! And then check out my 2014 interview with Anna about her Graham Saga series!

Adam de Guirande has cause to believe the turbulent times are behind him: Hugh Despenser is dead and Edward II is forced to abdicate in favour of his young son. It is time to look forward, to a bright new world in which the young king, guided by his council, heals his kingdom and restores its greatness. But the turmoil is far from over.

After years of strife, England in the early months of 1327 is a country in need of stability, and many turn with hope towards the new young king, Edward III. But Edward is too young to rule, so instead it is his mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, who do the actual governing, much to the dislike of barons such as Henry of Lancaster.

In the north, the Scots take advantage of the weakened state of the realm and raid with impunity. Closer to court, it is Mortimer’s increasing powers that cause concerns – both among his enemies, but also for men like Adam, who loves Mortimer dearly, but loves the young king just as much.

When it is announced that Edward II has died in September of 1327, what has so far been a grumble grows into voluble protests against Mortimer. Yet again, the spectre of rebellion haunts the land, and things are further complicated by the reappearance of one of Adam’s personal enemies. Soon enough, he and his beloved wife Kit are fighting for their survival – even more so when Adam is given a task that puts them both in the gravest of dangers.

Hi Anna! Welcome back to Let Them Read Books! Thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.

It is a pleasure to be back to visit—thank you so much for having me!

What inspired you to set a series in this turbulent time in England's history?

The short answer is the enigmatic Roger Mortimer, at times painted as a villain, at others as a misunderstood hero. The somewhat longer answer is the enthusiasm of my 6th grade history teacher, who left me with a permanent fascination for the three Edwards—and in particular the events that led to Edward II’s deposition.

Kit and Adam are both strong, opinionated characters who get to rub shoulders with some of history's eliteboth royalty and rebels alike. How did these characters come into being?

I met Kit through a mirror. I was reading up on the history of mirrors and found an illustration of a redheaded woman holding a polished metal mirror. She looked sad, somehow, and I immediately knew whoever had given her the mirror was occupying her thoughts. Which is how Adam came into being… The “he gives her a mirror” scene never made it through the final cut, though. It felt too contrived.

I knew what I wanted to write about—Roger Mortimer’s rise and fall—and I also knew I didn’t want to write the story from Mortimer’s POV. I needed my “own” eyes to tell the story. I also wanted a main character who had emotional bonds to Mortimer, someone who might end up in the difficult situation of hating what Mortimer does while still loving the man himself. Lucky Adam, hey?

What's your favorite scene in this novel?

There are very many—and some would be spoilers. But I rather like it when Edward takes out all his rage and frustration on Adam in the tiltyard—like in the below, where Edward is very, very angry with his mother and Mortimer for forcing him to sign a peace treaty with Scotland.

“So it is decided, then,” Isabella said. “We leave on the morrow.”

“Not me.” Edward crossed his arms over his chest.

“Don’t be such a stubborn fool!” Queen Isabella snapped. “It is an insult to the Scotsmen if you stay away.”

“Even better. You can lick their arses, not me.”

Some instances of stunned silence. Beside him, Kit went still, not even drawing breath.

“Edward,” Isabella began but was interrupted again.

“Not now, Maman.” He flung himself away and came marching straight towards Adam. “The yard, de Guirande, now!” He scowled. “Swords, I think.”

There was nothing Adam could do but obey.

No matter the sun, Adam insisted on chain-mail, sharply reminding the king who it was that desired this bout. So now they stood facing each other, in gambesons and hauberks, blunted swords at hand. Adam had the sun in his eyes and shifted to the left, the king following.

“Ready?” the king asked, his voice muffled by his helmet.

“Aye.” Adam gripped his sword.

Edward charged.

Hours of practice, years of learning to handle his weapons, had left Edward impressively strong. Being half Adam’s age, he was also faster and more agile, coming at Adam from the left, from the right—again from the right, swiping at Adam’s damaged foot with the flat of his sword. Adam hopped aside, put too much weight on his permanently crushed toes, protesting pain flaring up his calf.

He stumbled, the king came after, his sword whirling back and forth. A blow to his back had him pitching forward, and he only avoided falling flat on his face by putting even more weight on his right foot. Bastard. This was not how they usually fought, the king never pressing the advantage offered by Adam’s mutilated foot. Today, apparently, was different. So be it.

Adam blocked and parried, regained his stance, blocked yet another furious attack. Fool. Already, the king was breathing heavily. They circled each other, and the sand beneath their feet swirled and rose like clouds around them. Adam dipped his sword, as if tired. The king howled and lunged. One swift underhand blow and Adam’s blade crashed against the king’s. Another, and the king reeled. Two hands on the hilt, a swing that started low and ended high. The king parried, fell back. Adam swung again, right, left, up, down, putting every ounce of his strength into each blow.

Edward was on the defensive now. Adam did not let up. Let the pup feel what it was like to be bested in front of others. Let him realise, once and for all, that men like Adam did not grow on trees. With a grunt, he thrust his sword straight at the king’s throat. A controlled movement, for sure—Adam had no intention of killing his lord—but the king bleated, leaned back, and with one last swipe Adam unarmed him, the unhanded blade clattering to the ground. Edward overbalanced, sitting down heavily on the ground.

Adam stood over him. “Do you yield, my lord?” he asked, swallowing to clear his mouth of the fine grit that coated it.

“Aye.” Edward pulled off his helmet and sent it flying. Adam offered a hand, but the king batted it away, getting to his feet on his own. “I think it best if you retire from court for a while,” he said as he limped off. “At present, I fear I may be tempted to tear your head off.”

“You could try,” Adam muttered to his back.

There is a lot of speculation about when and how Edward II died. How do you separate fact from fiction while researching, and what do you think really happened to Edward II?

I’d say that in this case, there are no hard facts. What we do know is that after Edward II was moved to Berkeley Castle in March of 1327, no one in England ever saw him again. Edward II purportedly died while imprisoned (and I must take this opportunity to state that even if he did die in September of 1327, he most certainly was not murdered by having a red-hot poker shoved up his backside, no matter how lurid that particular story is) but no one saw the corpse prior to the features having been covered by a cerecloth. This means that there’s a possibility he didn’t die, and a rather strange item among Edward III’s later expenses could be taken as an indication that he paid his father some money several years later.

Personally, I hope Edward II did not die in prison. I may not rate him high as a king, but I am rather fond of him as a person, this man who had the misfortune of inheriting a crown that would never quite fit.

What's next for Kit and Adam?

They still have to see things through to the end. Adam remains torn by his love for the young king, Edward II, and the love he feels for the man who saved him from the gutter and made him what he is. Even worse, both Adam and Kit realise that ultimately there can be only one rooster at the top of the dung-hill, so either Edward or Mortimer will have to bite the dust…


To win a copy of Under the Approaching Dark by Anna Belfrage, please enter via the Gleam form below.


– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Under the Appraoching Dark
About the Author:

Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer—or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Under Approaching the Dark is on a blog tour!


  1. I first saw the cover of this book on Bookbub. It appealed to me and prompted me to look up her other novels too.

    1. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

  2. Thank you so much for inviting me to visist, Jenny! (and i tried to post this comment yesterday but blogger just kept on throwing me out)

  3. I think my cover artist outdid himself on this one :) I do hope you'll like my books.


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