Review and Excerpts: The Cross of Ciaran by Andrea Matthews

“..wiping her palms on her jeans, she reached out and traced the indentations with her fingers. Her heart raced as each letter formed in her mind…” The Cross of Ciaran by @AMatthewsAuthor

I am seriously torn about this book. It ticks off so many boxes for me. It is a wonderfully written story. It shows excellent world building as it explores more and more of Ciaran’s past and pulls the duality into the modern story. It is a seamless integration of fantasy and contemporary fiction. Also, the characters are fleshed out in spectacular ways. I am simply in love with Fathers Michael and Dennis and I could adopt Mary with her amazing family. Ciaran maintains an innocent look on life even having faced what he has. The only question mark in the main charters is Caitlin. Not sure she is really likable or good enough for Ciaran, but it feels like it was intended for her to be that way rather than the way she comes off to the reader. Still, it is almost 400 pages of setup. Still, I am so excited about what happens next. 

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

The Cross of Ciaran
by Andrea Matthews
Genre: Paranormal Romance

When a fifth century pagan priest is unearthed in Ireland fifteen hundred years after being entombed, archaeologist Caitlin O’Connell is convinced it’s the find of the century. The body is in perfect condition, right down to the intricate tattoos adorning the Celt’s skin. In fact, if scientific data hadn’t proved otherwise, she would swear he hadn’t been interred more than a few hours.Eager to discover more about the mysterious Celt, Caitlin accompanies the body back to the New York museum where she’s employed, but before she has time to study him, the priest disappears without a trace. Rumors surrounding the event begin to circulate and result in the excavation’s benefactor pulling the plug on the entire expedition.The rumors are not far off the mark though. After being buried alive for betraying his goddess and his priesthood in the dawning age of Christianity, Ciarán wakes to a strange new world. Alone and frightened in an unforgiving city, he stumbles upon the only thing familiar to him and seeks sanctuary within the church walls. With the help of the parish’s pastor, Father Mike, Ciarán slowly grows accustomed to his surroundings, though he’s plagued by dark dreams and the disturbing sensation that an evil from his past has followed him into the future. But a more immediate danger lurks on his doorstep.Caitlin is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery concerning her missing Celt, and when she meets her Uncle Mike’s new handyman, Ciarán Donnelly, she’s convinced the handsome Irishman knows more about the theft than he’s letting on. Yet, even she can’t deny the attraction between them, simmering below the surface and blurring the lines between her personal and professional life. But will Ciarán’s secrets draw them together or shatter their future forever?Goodreads * Amazon

Caitlin O’Connell brushed the dirt away from the small section of jagged rock she’d been working on. She couldn’t believe her eyes. That series of carved markings were too uniform to simply be the result of time and weather. But up here on the hillside, hidden beneath centuries of dirt and vegetation? Though her hands shook with excitement, she picked up her trawl and scraped away a bit more of the moist soil. 

Another line appeared and she let out a long, calming breath. Remember, you’re a professional. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Determined to make sure before announcing her find, she bent closer, hoping to decipher a letter, or better yet, a word. As she did, a piece of grass tickled her nose, and she wiped her hand across her face, depositing an ample amount of earth on her cheeks. 

     The heady aroma of dampened soil filled her nostrils, and she sat back on her heels for a moment to savor the fresh, clean scent. Then, wiping her palms on her jeans, she reached out and traced the indentations with her fingers. Her heart raced as each letter formed in her mind. First a ‘t’, followed by an ‘ó’, then an ‘i’ and an ‘r’. This was too good to be true. Without a doubt these markings were part of the ancient Celtic alphabet known as Ogham. She had to get Professor Lambert up here to see this right away.  


Ciarán stumbled along beneath the twisted canopy of blackthorn shrubs, their prickly branches entwining with those of the hawthorn to form a mystical passageway. Though only a dim grey light pierced its knotwork, intermittent flashes of lightning broke through the tangled vines to sketch eerie patterns across the moss-covered path. His robe caught on the spiny bramble, and he stopped for a moment to free his sleeve, but a sharp shove from behind thrust him forward once more, the sudden movement ripping a jagged hole in his fine linen robe.

His temper flared, and he turned to object, though it did no good. Another quick jab to his shoulder spun him back around and thrust him out into the lakeside clearing. Slender stone columns stood in a semi-circle around its perimeter, each one facing the sacrificial altar. He rested his hand against the one to his side, steadying himself as the reality of the situation washed over him in a wave of nausea. There would be no escape.    

As if in agreement, a bolt of lightning ripped across the horizon, followed by a crash of thunder so loud it caused the breath to catch in his throat. The goddess was angry.   

Out of nowhere, thick grey clouds had formed to conceal the morning sun and cast ominous shadows over the secluded enclosure. The urge to fall prostrate before his goddess mother gripped his innards, tearing at his stomach with a fiery knife, but he could not find it within his heart to do so. A black-robed cleric propelled him further into the temple confines, forcing him to his knees beside another of the slender gray columns. The decision to kneel had been made for him, though it was an empty gesture on his part.

Trying to retain his composure, he gazed around the quiet glade. Towering thorn bushes encircled the clearing, concealing the sanctuary from the outside world and providing a perfect setting for worshipping the goddess of their tuath. The bile rose in his throat, for he knew the requirements for admission all too well. Entry to its sacred confines was only granted to those within the priesthood — and those about to die.  


Andrea Matthews is the pseudonym for Inez Foster, a historian and librarian who loves to read and write and search around for her roots, genealogical speaking. In fact, it was while doing some genealogical research that she stumbled across the history of the Border reivers. The idea for her first novel came to mind almost at once, gradually growing into the Thunder on the Moor series. And the rest is history, as they say.
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Author Q&A

What Kind of Research Do You Do Before Writing?

     Since, I’ve always loved research, a fact which led me to a degree in history and ultimately a career as a librarian, it was only natural that it became a big part of my writing process. Once I come up with an idea for a novel and the backbone of the story, the next thing I do is dig into the research I’ll need to bring a bit of authenticity to the book. For the Cross of Ciarán series, I’ve created an imaginary priesthood, but that didn’t mean there was no need to do any research. I read up on Celtic mythology, as well as how people in 5th century Ireland lived, etc. I tried to incorporate the appropriate worldview and research the type of housing Ciarán might have lived in, the clothing he might have worn, and the food he might have eaten. What I discover during my research has a great impact on what happens to my characters and how they react in a given situation. 

Since the present-day part is set in the 1960s, I also had to research that period. Even though I lived through it, the memory is a funny thing, so I needed to make sure I got it right. Caitlin is an archaeologist, so I had to do some research into that as well, keeping in mind the decade I was dealing with. It doesn’t end there, however. Even as I’m writing, my research continues as new questions appear. At one point, I paused the story to check out what berries the characters might have been picking. A small detail, I know, but I think these little bits of information help enhance the story. I won’t say I never stretch the truth a bit. There are some things that are open for interpretation or fit the story so well that a little nudge doesn’t hurt. For example, Ciarán occasionally speaks Irish, though I chose to use modern Irish instead of the earlier dialect he would have been using  It is fiction, after all, and my intent was to add a little flavor, not confuse the reader.   

For the most part, however, I try to be as accurate as possible, hoping to give the reader a real sense of the period and maybe even encourage them to read a non-fiction book on the subject.

Do the Characters All Come to You at the Same Time, or Do Some of Them Come to You as You Write?

Do You Have Side Stories About the Characters? 

Initially, I have a basic cast of characters around which the story revolves, but as I write, new characters appear from time to time. Generally, they are minor at first, but sometimes they grow in importance as the novel and series continues. In fact, I just might have hinted at one or two in Cross of Ciarán. 

As most of my books are part of a series, it’s only natural for other characters and storylines to develop. I look at it as if I were meeting new friends — and sometimes enemies — along the way. Characters enter and exit the worlds I’ve created. Some play minor roles, never reaching more than acquaintance status, and they might keep their stories to themselves. But others will grow in importance and maybe even encounter adventures of their own as the series progresses, many times interwoven with the lives of the central characters. Even for the main characters themselves, new stories develop as their lives play out on the pages of a novel. 

Hopefully, there will at least always be a happy for now ending, but new trials and tribulations are waiting only a book away. What they are and who they will involve only time can tell.

Who Designed Your Book Cover?

Jennifer Quinlan, better known as Jenny Q, designed all my book covers. She’s easy to work with, always keeping your vision in mind while designing the covers, and provides a number of mockups for you to choose from. The only problem I’ve ever encountered was trying to decide which cover to choose, but even there, she’s more than willing to provide some guidance when asked. Her work is always professional and polished, and I’ve never been disappointed in the results. I’m sure her covers have encouraged many a reader to take a look inside. If you’d like to check out samples of her work, the website is http://www.historicalfictionbookcovers.com

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