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Author Spotlight | @MelissaAddey writes historical fiction based on the footnotes of history

I live in London with my husband and two young children, although if truth be told I’m more often found behind the high red walls of the Forbidden City in 18th century China or riding a camel across the Moroccan sands in 11th century North Africa. I write historical fiction and so far, I’ve written in these two very different eras.

I came across the Forbidden City while reading the legends that grew up around a real concubine, who the stories claimed was born with a natural perfume which drove the Emperor of China to fall in love with her. She was known as the Fragrant Concubine and once I’d read her story, I had to write my own version. And because I then researched the whole of the court at that time, it was inevitable that it would turn into a series as I came to know many other fascinating people’s stories. The complete set is now made up of four books, each of which follows a different concubine as they made their way through the rivalries and secrets of the Forbidden City. I had a reader describe it as a real-life Game of Thrones! If you’d like to see what life was like for a concubine, you can try the first in series for free on Amazon, it’s called The Consorts and follows the life of a neglected concubine as she tries to find a chance to love and be loved.

My second series began on a trip to Morocco, when I read about the importance of silver jewellery to Berber tribal women. It is highly symbolic and given at key moments such as marriage or the birth of a child. I wondered if one could write a book where each chapter was a piece of jewellery being given to a woman over the course of her life story. Knowing nothing of Moroccan history, I read a lot and found my setting: 11th century North Africa, when a Muslim warlord created an empire out of North Africa and most of Spain, defeating El Cid along the way. This man, Yusuf, oddly chose to leave his empire, not to any of his sons by his queen and right-hand woman, but to the son of a Christian slave girl. Historical oddities are just too tempting for a writer… I am now completing this series, again of four books, the last of which will be published in the next month. You can join me in Tunisia by downloading The Cup for free from my website, it’s the story of a healer who makes an impossible vow and then goes on to serve Yusuf’s powerful and jealous queen.

I have a lot of fun exploring a new era in my research stages and my kids are pretty good at helping out. As I come to the end of these two series, I’m off on a new journey to Ancient Rome and the Colosseum. My son has already painted me a Roman shield and my daughter has followed a recipe to make Roman honey biscuits. The two of them had a lot of fun playing ‘gladiators’ when we visited the Colosseum in Rome last year. This year we will be visiting Pompeii, which I am very excited about although my son is very worried Vesuvius may time another eruption just as we visit!

Sign up for my newsletter and get a free novella, The Cup, which kickstarts my Moroccan Empire series, at

The Cup (free on my website)

Hela has powers too strong for a child – both to feel the pain of those around her and to heal them. But when she is given a mysterious cup by a slave woman, its powers overtake her life, forcing her into a vow she cannot hope to keep. Trapped by her vow, Hela loses one chance after another to love and be loved. Meanwhile in her household a child is growing into a woman who will become famous throughout the Muslim world.

This is a novella (100 pages) and you can get it for free on at .

Watch the trailer:


But the young woman is back when less than two

moons have passed and she brings me more silver than I

have ever been paid.

“I am with child,” she says. “My husband sent you this.

He says he is the happiest man in Kairouan. He smiles all


I take the silver and murmur something in reply, I am

not sure what.

“It was the red cup, wasn’t it?” she says, looking eagerly

up at it on the shelf, where it has sat unused since her first

visit. “It has a special power, does it not?”

I do not look at the cup behind me. “The herbs will

have done you good,” I say.

She nods and thanks me again and goes away but she

has a busy mouth, for now one and then another woman

asks if I will use ‘the red cup’ when I treat them. If I try to

dissuade them, saying that one cup is much like another,

they insist that they must drink from the cup.

And strange things happen when they do.

The Consorts (free from Amazon)

China, 1700s. Lady Qing has spent the past seven years languishing inside the high red walls of the Forbidden City. Classed as an Honoured Lady, a lowly-ranked concubine, Qing is neglected by the Emperor, passed over for more ambitious women. But when a new concubine, Lady Ying, arrives, Qing’s world is turned upside down. As the highest position at court becomes available and every woman fights for status, Qing finds love for the first time in her life… if Lady Ula Nara, the most ambitious woman at court, will allow her a taste of happiness.

This is a novella (100 pages) and you can get it for free on Amazon.

Watch the trailer:

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“Is something wrong?” I ask, standing in the doorway, ignored by


Bao turns to me, flustered. “You are called on.”


“You have been summoned.”

“Summoned where?” I ask, still stupid from lack of sleep.

“To the Emperor,” says Bao, exasperated. “You are his chosen

companion for tonight. And there is nothing suitable for you to wear,”

he adds, almost in tears.

I stand, silent. I can feel myself swaying slightly in shock. “I am to

be the Emperor’s companion tonight?” I repeat. “In his bedchamber?”

“Yes of course in his bedchamber, where else?” splutters Bao.

“Now go and be bathed. I have important things to prepare if you

are to be ready in time. And tell them to do something about the

dark circles under your eyes,” he adds, grabbing another handful of

clothes and beginning to sound hysterical. “You look old.” It is the

only unkind thing Bao has ever said to me and it makes me realise that

this is real, this is actually happening, it is not some strange dream or

practical joke.

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