Giveaway + Blog Tour: A Gathering Storm (A Porthkennack novel) by Joanna Chambers

Joanna Chambers is here today to tell us about researching her new novel, A Gathering Storm. See our review HERE

Also, be sure to enter the giveaway below!

Hello, reader friends! I'm Joanna Chambers and this is the blog tour for A Gathering Storm, my new Cornwall-set historical romance. I'll be sharing thoughts on my experience of writing about eccentric Victorian scientists, pragmatic Romany land stewards and unscrupulous mediums - come and comment to win a copy of the book and a $25 Riptide gift card!

Mesmerism as a Romantic Metaphor

A big part of my research into this book was into hypnotism and its forerunner, Mesmerism. 

Mesmerism, or “animal magnetism” as it sometimes termed, was named after Franz Mesmer, a German physician, born in 1734.  Mesmer theorised that there was a substance present in all beings which could be manipulated by the mesmerist to bring about a trance state in which improbable feats of clairvoyance could be performed by the mesmerised subjects and various ailments suffered by them cured.

Mesmer’s theory, first put forward in 1779, enjoyed immense popularity well into the mid 19th century, and there were many professional mesmerists who rose to prominence, such as Charles Lafontaine, a failed actor who caused a great sensation during a tour of London in the 1840s when he reportedly mesmerised a lion at the Zoological Gardens

The accounts of what the mesmerists did to their subjects are often disturbing, not least given that the mesmerist was invariably a man and the subject often a woman, and often of a lower social class. Many of the mesmerists loved to demonstrate seemingly unthinkable feats by simply assaulting their subjects and inviting audiences to marvel at their lack of reaction. Pins were pressed under subjects’ fingernails, their hands scorched over flames, pistols discharged next to their ears. These disturbing practices perhaps reached their nadir in the case of Madame Plantin who underwent the surgical removal of part of her breast whilst in a mesmerised state. She died a few days later, having reportedly confessed to a nurse that she had, in fact, felt the full effects of the procedure, a claim that was strenuously denied by supporters of mesmerism.

Whilst mesmerism had its critics, it was difficult for sceptics to refute the mesmerists’ claims since there was no doubt  that some extraordinary events were indeed taking place. However, in 1841, a Scottish surgeon, James Braid went to see Charles Lafontaine perform. Despite his scepticism, he was forced to admit there was something to LaFontaine’s act but he questioned the explanation given for what he was witnessing and decided to investigate further.

Braid began to experiment - on himself to begin with - and soon realised that there was a genuine phenomenon - that he later termed hypnosis - at work. Braid explained the true nature of this phenomenon in his work "Neurypnology" and came to be known as the father of hypnotism. His explanations entirely debunked the idea of the mesmerist himself as the creator of whatever extraordinary things might happen through the influence of his great powers. Rather, hypnosis was a state of enhanced concentration that anyone could enter. The hypnotist was no god, but rather a facilitator.

By 1853, when "A Gathering Storm" is set, stage mesmerists were still commonplace and my character Nick is alarmed to learn that Ward wants to put him into hypnotic trance, fearing what may happen to him whilst he's under the other man's control. In that sense, it’s a neat metaphor in a love story. Sometimes we fear that if we give our hearts to someone, we will lose part of ourselves, be taken over, but if our partner is someone who cares for us, who we can trust with our most vulnerable selves, they may bring out the very best in us.

About A Gathering Storm

When grief-stricken scientist Sir Edward Fitzwilliam provokes public scorn by defending a sham spiritualist, he’s forced to retreat to Porthkennack to lick his wounds. Ward’s reputation is in tatters, but he’s determined to continue the work he began after the death of his beloved brother. 

In Porthkennack, Ward meets Nicholas Hearn, land steward to the Roscarrock family. Ward becomes convinced that Nick, whose Romany mother was reportedly clairvoyant, is the perfect man to assist with his work. But Nick—who has reason to distrust the whims of wealthy men—is loath to agree. Until Fate steps in to lend a hand.

Despite Nick’s misgivings, he discovers that Ward is not the high-handed aristocrat he first thought. And when passion ignites between them, Nick learns there’s much more to love than the rushed, clandestine encounters he’s used to. Nevertheless, Nick’s sure that wealthy, educated Ward will never see him as an equal.

A storm is gathering, but with Nick’s self-doubts and Ward’s growing obsession, the fragile bond between the two men may not be strong enough to withstand it.

Now available from Riptide Publishing.

About Porthkennack

Welcome to Porthkennack, a charming Cornish seaside town with a long and sometimes sinister history. Legend says King Arthur's Black Knight built the fort on the headland here, and it’s a certainty that the town was founded on the proceeds of smuggling, piracy on the high seas, and the deliberate wrecking of cargo ships on the rocky shore. Nowadays it draws in the tourists with sunshine and surfing, but locals know that the ghosts of its Gothic past are never far below the surface.

This collaborative story world is brought to you by five award-winning, best-selling British LGBTQ romance authors: Alex BeecroftJoanna ChambersCharlie CochraneGarrett Leigh, and JL Merrow. Follow Porthkennack and its inhabitants through the centuries and through the full rainbow spectrum with historical and contemporary stand-alone titles.

About Joanna Chambers

Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. In between studying, finding a proper grown up job, getting married and having kids, she spent many hours staring at blank sheets of paper and chewing pens. That changed when she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna's muse likes red wine, coffee and won't let Joanna clean the house or watch television.

Connect with Joanna:

To celebrate the release of A Gathering Storm, one lucky winner will receive a $25 Riptide credit and a copy of A Gathering Storm! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 22, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!


  1. The Mesmerism aspect sounds fascinating!


  2. Thanks for the post. Until now, I didn't know about mesmerism. It also shows that people in Victorian Era believed in many things without a scientific proof.

  3. Mesmerism sounds really intriguing. Thank you for the post =) I'm learning quite a lot.
    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

  4. Congrats and thanks for the info on mesmerism. Your new book sounds great, as does this new collaborative series. I love your historicals and when they take me to a time and place I haven't been, as well as being able to learn about such things as mesmerism. - Purple Reader,
    TheWrote [at] aol [dot] com

  5. I've been waiting for this novel for the longest, it feels like! (FTR, I pre-ordered it on Riptide, but haven't had the time to sit down and devour it, LOL!)

    Congrats on the release of this book, Joanna!

    Mazingergirlie (at) gmail (dot) com

  6. I always enjoy Joanna Chambers writing!

  7. Rachel:
    What a fascinating post! As a nurse, I cringed when I read the section about a nurse undergoing surgery w/o anesthesia. How horrific to feel the full effects of the procedure. On a happy note, I have read some fantastic reviews for your story, and cannot wait to enjoy it myself. I am thrilled to see a new Joanna Chambers story, and hope to see many more stories in the future! Congratulations on the new release.
    chalonsursaone95 (at) hotmail (dot) com

  8. Thank you all for your kind comments! I learned so much researching this book but the mesmerism stuff was particularly intriguing...

  9. Thanks for the fascinating post! The history is so intriguing. I have A Gathering Storm waiting for me on my kindle and I'm looking forward to reading! violet817(at)aol(dot)com

  10. The books released in this Porthkennack universe are great read. Thank you for this interesting post, Joanna - really fascinating with the research and correlation to the story. Would you be writing another entry in this universe other than this book?

  11. Thank you for the interesting post, Joanna, and congratulations on the new release. I loved this story

  12. Thanks for a very fascinating post, I'm looking forward to reading this series!

  13. Congratulations on your new release and thank you for introducing me to this book! I am looking forward to learning more about it.

  14. Sounds so, so good! Congratulations to all the collaborators. Let there be much success.
    Thanks for the chance at this very interesting book!
    taina1959 @