Thursday, July 13, 2017

Blog Tour Guest Post: The Kate Clifford Mystery Series by Candace Robb

Please join me in welcoming Candace Robb back to Let Them Read Books! Candace is touring the blogosphere with her Kate Clifford historical mystery series, and she's here today with a guest post about switching gears from her popular Owen Archer series (check out her 2015 guest post) to write about a female lead. Read on and enter to win the first two books in the series, The Service for the Dead and A Twisted Vengeance!

Expertly recreating the social and political upheavals of late medieval Europe, Candace Robb introduces a new series starring Kate Clifford, a woman forged on the warring northern marches of fourteenth century England.

Political unrest permeates York at the cusp of the fifteenth century, as warring factions take sides on who should be the rightful king–Richard II or his estranged, powerful cousin in exile, Henry Bolingbroke. Independent minded twenty-year-old Kate Clifford is struggling to dig out from beneath the debt left by her late husband. Determined to find a way to be secure in her own wealth and establish her independence in a male dominated society, Kate turns one of her properties near the minster into a guest house and sets up a business. In a dance of power, she also quietly rents the discreet bedchambers to the wealthy, powerful merchants of York for nights with their mistresses.

But the brutal murder of a mysterious guest and the disappearance of his companion for the evening threatens all that Kate has built. Before others in town hear word of a looming scandal, she must call upon all of her hard-won survival skills to save herself from ruin.

As the fourteenth century comes to a close, York seethes on the brink of civil war―and young widow Kate Clifford, struggling to keep her businesses afloat, realizes that her mother is harboring a dangerous secret…

1399. York is preparing for civil war, teeming with knights and their armed retainers summoned for the city’s defense. Henry of Lancaster is rumored to have landed on the northeast coast of England, not so far from York, intent on reclaiming his inheritance―an inheritance which his cousin, King Richard, has declared forfeit.

With the city unsettled and rife with rumors, Eleanor Clifford’s abrupt return to York upon the mysterious death of her husband in Strasbourg is met with suspicion in the city. Her daughter Kate is determined to keep her distance, but it will not be easy―Eleanor has settled next door with the intention of establishing a house of beguines, or poor sisters. When one of the beguines is set upon in the night by an intruder, Kate knows that for the sake of her own reputation and the safety of her young wards she must investigate.

From the first, Eleanor is clearly frightened yet maintains a stubborn silence. The brutal murder of one of Eleanor’s servants leads Kate to suspect that her mother’s troubles have followed her from Strasbourg. Is she secretly involved in the political upheaval? When one of her wards is frightened by a too-curious stranger, Kate is desperate to draw her mother out of her silence before tragedy strikes her own household.

Casting a Female Sleuth in a Historical Crime Series
by Candace Robb

I remember the day my new sleuth, Kate Clifford, auditioned for the role. I’d stepped away from the crime genre to write two novels about women in the court of King Edward III, Alice Perrers and Joan of Kent. They’d first appeared as secondary characters in my crime novels, and I’d been so taken by them that I wanted to get to know them better. My research for their books took me down paths I had not yet explored, and I came away with a deep admiration for both women. But great frustration as well. I’d grown accustomed to writing about the women who surround and support Owen Archer, the sleuth in my original crime series. They were women of the merchant class—tradeswomen, innkeepers, apothecaries, and midwives, independent, pragmatic, wise. The women of the court did not lack wisdom or strength of character, but they were anything but independent—such is the nature of life in a royal court. I found myself wanting to shake them and point to the door—especially Alice, who had been brought up in the merchant community. Go back! Step out of the shackles! But I was not writing that sort of book—I was filling in the blanks in their biographies, not revising history.

For my next project, I wanted to return to fictional characters whose circumstances might be derived from the archives, but whose stories, whose fates were in my hands. Kate Clifford answered the casting call. She came striding down Stonegate in York, flanked by Irish wolfhounds, her step bold, her gown craftily hiding the small battle axe she wore for protection. She rounded the corner into High Petergate and entered a well-appointed house, received by an elderly couple with the respect due an employer. Curious, I invited her to stay awhile, tell me her story. Once I knew more about her, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. Kate was my new sleuth.

Someone interviewing me about the new series commented that there would seem to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female, and then asked, “do you prefer to write one sex or the other?” I answered that a male sleuth has a potentially wider range of activities in 14th-15th century England than a female sleuth, which is why I crafted Kate Clifford’s background with an eye toward making plausible the ways in which she seems unconventional. And strong. Kate’s background is a combination of women I’ve found in the records, women who took control of their lives and overcame adversity. They are there in the archives if you look; strong women aren’t a modern phenomenon. They took charge of manors and farms when their men went off to war, took over businesses when widowed, or when their husbands were imprisoned, away, incapacitated. Taking charge included defending those manors and businesses as well as managing them. Women knew how to use weapons; I’ve given Kate a childhood on the border with Scotland where that would have been a given.

So Kate’s responsibilities give her a wide scope in the city of York and beyond, where she and her family own property. That doesn’t mean she can plausibly ride off on adventures far afield, as my sleuth Owen Archer does on occasion. She’s more like Owen’s wife, Lucie Wilton, who remains in York when Owen rides off on adventures. She’s an apothecary with a clientele who count on her, and the mother of young children. So, yes, a male character has more geographic scope than a female character. But what I might lose in a variety of locations I gain in the richness of women’s social networks—which in the late middle ages meant humans communicating face to face. Where there’s a community, there’s plenty of material for a mystery writer. So which sex do I prefer writing? Depends on the story. At the moment, I’m enjoying Kate. And even in the Owen Archer mysteries, some of the most dynamic characters are the women in his life.


During the Blog Tour we are giving away a copy of The Service of the Dead and A Twisted Vengeance to one lucky winner! To enter please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 21st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– 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.

Kate Clifford Series Blog Tour
About the Author:

Candace Robb did her graduate work in medieval literature and history, and has continued to study the period while working first as an editor of scientific publications and now for some years as a freelance writer. Candace has published 13 crime novels set in 14th century England, Wales, and Scotland. The Owen Archer series is based in York and currently extends over 10 novels beginning with THE APOTHECARY ROSE; the most recent is A VIGIL OF SPIES. The Margaret Kerr trilogy explores the early days of Scotland’s struggle again England’s King Edward I, and includes A TRUST BETRAYED, THE FIRE IN THE FLINT, and A CRUEL COURTSHIP.

Writing as Emma Campion, Candace has published historical novels about two fascinating women she encountered while researching the Owen Archer mysteries, Alice Perrers (THE KING’S MISTRESS) and Joan of Kent (A TRIPLE KNOT).

Candace was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has lived most of her adult life in Seattle, Washington, which she and her husband love for its combination of natural beauty and culture. Candace enjoys walking, hiking, and gardening, and practices yoga and vipassana meditation. She travels frequently to Great Britain.

For more information, please visit Candace Robb’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

The Kate Clifford Mystery Series is on a blog tour!


  1. This sounds like a very good book. Dont count me in though as I am overseas.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mystica! Always lovely to see you!

  2. Thank you for hosting Candace's Blog Tour & guest post, Jenny! Good luck to all who enter the giveaway.

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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