Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Knight’s Horses by Regan Walker

In the course of my research for my Medieval Warriors series, I learned a lot of surprising things about the horses the Norman knights rode. For example, horses were not so much distinguished by breed as by use. There were highly trained warhorses like destriers, strong coursers, smooth-gaited palfreys for lords and ladies, and general purpose rounceys. Knights did not, for the most part, ride their warhorses around the countryside, at least not very often. They rode palfreys, high-status riding horses. 
Warhorses—destriers and coursers—were trained for combat and reserved for battle and tournaments. They were difficult to handle. The courser was preferred over the destrier as it was light, fast, steady and strong—and less expensive. You can get a rough idea of the warhorses from illustrations of the period, such as the Bayeux Tapestry, which is actually an embroidery sewn in the 11th century and meant to depict the events that surrounded the Conquest.

Destriers and coursers were stallions trained for charging and putting up with the shock of impacts. They had to be maneuverable, too, but with the strength to bear a knight’s weight in battle. (Though the chain mail was much lighter in the 11th century than the mail and plate armor that came later.) In King’s Knight, Alexander has both a destrier and a palfrey. Palfreys were trained to be gentle, excellent horses for riding and hunting. Ladies rode the smooth-gaited palfrey, too, either astride or pillion (sitting sideways and having their horse led by a groom).

While the origin of the medieval warhorse is not clear, it is thought they had some Barb and Arabian blood through the Spanish Jennet, a forerunner to the modern Friesian and Andalusian horse. Today, breeds that have similar bloodlines include the Welsh Cob, the Friesian, the American Quarter Horse, a stocky Morgan and the Andalusian.
Sir Renaud's Spanish stallion

The Spanish-Norman horse, like both the Percheron and the Andalusian, is predominantly gray in color, and is the horse Sir Renaud (“the Red Wolf”) rides in The Red Wolf’s Prize. It is known that William the Conqueror was gifted a Spanish stallion at one point and so it occurred to me that a favored knight might also receive one as a gift from his lord.

In addition to palfreys, nobles rode the general purpose rounceys, but not typically knights, although knights might use them in a pinch. There were also horses for the hunt and the race that were fast and had stamina. And there were workhorses (common plough horses), and cart horses bread for hauling things.  


When the battle was over, the knight would leave his warhorse and his helm with his squire and ride off on a palfrey, a much more manageable horse than his often mean-spirited warhorse, and one that had a smoother gait making for a better ride.

William the Conqueror shipped horses across the English Channel when he invaded England in 1066—as many as thousand or more. And his son, William Rufus, who was King of England after the Conqueror’s death, shipped horses to Normandy when he was at war with his brothers, Robert and Henry.

Norman knights
Unlike the English, who rode their horses to battle and then dismounted to fight on foot, the Normans most often fought on horseback. It is also why they fought using longer swords than the English and their shields were kite shaped. The outcome of the Battle of Hastings has been described as “the inevitable victory of stirrupped cavalry over helpless infantry.”

I hope you enjoy my Medieval Warriors series and now you'll know why I have my characters riding the horses they do!

See the Medieval Warriors series on Amazon.

 And on my Website.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review: Lisa Jackson’s ENCHANTRESS: Captivating Welsh Medieval Romance!

Jackson’s writing is superb, her feel for the medieval period genuine, her plot interesting and the characters engaging.

This story captured me from the beginning. It's the first in a medieval trilogy that takes place in Wales. Jackson weaves in myth and legends while still retaining the fundamental belief the characters have in the God of heaven, so as to capture the feel of another time and place where people were influenced by superstition and beliefs in forces of nature. Each in the trilogy is well written and quite wonderful. I recommend you read them in order as they are related and characters in the first show up in the last.

Set in late 13th century Wales, this is the story of independent, headstrong Morgana of Wenlock, who has the gift of sight and visions she inherited from her grandmother. With her gift she has helped others, finding lost souls and even saving some from death. Now she will be called upon to help the handsome widower Baron Garrick Maginnis of Castle Abergwynn find his missing son.

Morgana dreads this "lord of the north" because she's seen a vision of such a man bringing death. When the Baron comes to collect her and she is caught disobeying her father, her sire banishes her from Wenlock and gives her to the Baron (her father's liege lord), with the freedom to choose whom she will wed. Miserable, Morgana leaves her home but vowing to return and so the adventure begins.

There's treachery at Abergwynn and the man to whom Garrick would give Morgana—his cousin and a senior knight—is a man Morgana dreads.

You won't regret reading this one. It's a well told, captivating romance, a tale of love between the headstrong, noble girl and the bitter lord desperate to save his son even as greed and treachery swirl around them. I highly recommend it.

On Amazon

The Welsh trilogy:

Kiss Of The Moon

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review: Janet Lane’s CRIMSON SECRET – Love Amid the Wars of the Roses

This story is set in the 15th century during what later came to be known as the Wars of the Roses, fought between supporters of two rival branches of the House of Plantagenet, Lancaster and York. While Lane has done considerable research for her story, I had to look up the wars to remind myself of the players.

Bridge builder Luke Penry (“Lord Penry” in the story, though he is a younger son) is on a mission for the Duke of York when he is discovered by Joya, the half-gypsy daughter of a nobleman loyal to King Henry who, because of his mental issues, is dominated by his ambitious queen, Margaret.

Joya considers Luke a traitor, but once he is taken prisoner, she repeatedly disobeys her father to see “the Yorkist”… and she keeps kissing him. (At that point, we do not have Luke’s point of view and so we do not know why he is interested in kissing her except possibly he won’t turn an anxious woman down.) She also convinces her father to allow Luke the run of a part of their castle.

I did find Luke a more compelling hero than Joya was a heroine. He is an introvert, a loner and she is a social butterfly. While he has reservations about how they suit, he still pursues an intimate relationship with her.

Lane has an unusual writing style that was very clipped at the beginning but smoothed out as the story proceeded. Along the way, she introduced numerous characters that were just names to me. (I had no feel for who they were or what they looked like.) This is the 4th book in a series (which I did not know when I first began the story), and it may be necessary to read the others in the series first to follow all of the characters. I do recommend that.

A few modern words threw me (fiancé, meaning a betrothed person, dates from the Victorian era; smoke-screen from the 20th century, etc.). And, regrettably, the map is too small in the Kindle version to see. But for those who love well-researched historicals that include real history, and who read the series from the beginning, this is a great find.

On Amazon
And if you want to start with book 1, Tabor's Trinket, it's HERE.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: Kathleen Givens’ ON A HIGHLAND SHORE and RIVALS FOR THE CROWN – Keepers!

I only discovered Kathleen Givens just as she passed away unexpectedly in January 2010. I so loved her books that it broke my heart to lose such a great writer of historical romance. But she left us six wonderful historical novels to treasure. All are “keepers”, including the two I’m featuring today. Both are set in 13th century Scotland.

On a Highland Shore
On Scotland's western shore, the village of Somerstrath prepares for the wedding of Margaret MacDonald, the laird's daughter. But a merciless band of Vikings threatens and Margaret doesn’t know if she can trust the noblemen from King Alexander's court, who insists that only by adhering to a betrothal dor political gain will she find safety. And she wonders if she can put her trust in the half-Irish, half-Norse warrior, Gannon MacMagnus.

Margaret is a brave heroine who handles all with courage and Gannon is a noble man who would claim the woman others want.

Givens does a superb job of weaving English and Scottish history into an epic romance and a tale of Highlander families swept up in the great themes of Scotland's history. If you love historically authentic romance, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Buy on Amazon.

Rivals for the Crown 

This story follows some 30 years later when the young Queen of Scots dies en route to claim the crown. Two bitter foes—John Balliol and Robert Bruce—emerge as possible successors, but England's Edward I has his own designs on Scotland.

In London, Edward has expelled all Jews from his kingdom. Rachel de Anjou must leave behind her best friend, Isabel de Burke, and travel with her family to the Scottish border town of Berwick for their safety. And then she meets the tall, dark Highlander, Kieran MacDonald, who would have her heart.

Innocent Isabel, lady-in-waiting to Edward's queen, Eleanor, is soon immersed in a world of privilege and peril where she attracts the notice of two men—Henry de Boyer, an English knight, and Rory MacGannon, a Highland warrior and outlaw. Isabel and Rachel are reunited in Berwick, but enmity between Scotland and England
leads to war.

This story stayed with me long after I turned the last page… it’s a well-written story of choices, not just those of Rachel and Isabel, but also of the men who would have them. I promise it will tug at your heartstrings.

Buy on Amazon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Regan's New Release... KING'S KNIGHT! - “A tantalizing and intriguing tale..."

Hi, all! Today is “Release Day” for King’s Knight. I’m sharing with you an excerpt, what the early reviewers have said and where you can get it.

My Book Addiction and More called King’s Knight

 “A tantalizing and intriguing tale of medieval chivalry, intrigue, passion, duty, honor and romance. Walker's knowledge of history shines through. Masterfully and brilliantly written!”  


Dubbed the Black Wolf for his raven hair, his fierceness in battle and his way with women, Sir Alexander of Talisand attacked life as he did the king’s enemies. But acclaim on the battlefield and his lusty escapades did not satisfy. King William Rufus would bind him to Normandy through marriage to one of its noblewomen, but the only woman Alexander wanted was a commoner he had saved from a terrible fate.


The shame of being the child of a Norman’s rape dogged Merewyn’s steps from her youth. Determined never to be a victim of a man’s lust like her mother, in Wales she donned the garb of an archer and developed extraordinary skill with a bow. Despite her fair beauty, men now keep their distance. No longer in need of protection from other men, can Merewyn protect herself from Alexander when he holds her heart yet can never be hers?

Buy on Amazon: US, UK, Canada, Australia & India.

An excerpt:

“Stay,” she whispered. With that one word, she knowingly sealed her fate. One day she might lose him to Lady Adèle or some other woman at the king’s command, but tonight he could be hers. And she would have the memory to treasure forever.
“Merewyn, do you know what you are saying?”
She turned from him, needing the distance to speak the words she must. The maidservant had lit a candle and Merewyn stared into the flame as she spoke, feeling the heat of his presence behind her. “There has never been another for me, Alex. I had thought with the years passing and you becoming a knight, my feelings for you would change. But they have not.”
Turning to face him, she looked into his seductive gray eyes and spoke with the conviction of one who has finally decided. “Whatever happens after this, no matter where your oath to the king leads you or where I go as a consequence, we will always have this night. I will give myself to only you and I will remember this night forever.”
“Aye, Merewyn,” he said coming closer and putting his hands on her arms, the heat of them robbing her of breath. “You will have your night of love and I vow ’twill not be the last.”

Praise for King’s Knight and the Medieval Warriors series:

“Wonderfully researched historical fiction, filled with romance, danger and intrigue. I fell for Sir Alexander the moment he rode through the gates of Talisand. Merewyn is fearless, unconventional, and yet vulnerable. The perfect pair!”   Good Friends, Good Books

“A sweeping tale that pulls you in at the very beginning and doesn’t let you go. Along with a wonderfully developed romance, there is political intrigue and a great cast of supporting characters begging for their story to be told. It's medieval romance at its finest. Well done, Regan Walker!  Very, very well done!”  — The Reading Cafe     

“This series captures the medieval era perfectly, creating the true sensation of traveling back in time to experience epic, riveting love stories that ignite the imagination. Beautifully written, perfectly paced and action-packed... What more can you ask?”   —  The Book Review

Keep up with me on my Website (where you can sign up for my newsletter), Facebook and "Regan Walker’s Readers" on Facebook.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Review: Sarah Hegger’s THE BRIDE GIFT – An Unwanted Marriage Turns to Love

Set in England in 1153, this is the story of Helena of Lystanwold, whose uncle has fallen out with King Stephen and fled England, leaving his castle and his niece to Guy of Helston. We are led to believe Helena’s uncle somehow managed to marry her to Guy before Guy arrives. Helena (“called “Nell”) is not happy as she already had a man picked out, one she can manipulate, whereas Guy, a warrior, is the “Scourge of Farringdon”.

Guy goes about his new duties with few words for his reluctant bride. Helena decides to take her husband in hand by seducing him to get him to kill the man responsible for her sister’s death. Guy readily agrees to both (he was intending to kill the guy anyway) and becomes the consummate lover.

A cleverly told story, which at times seemed very medieval (with some unusual phrasing I assume was meant to convey the era), but in places sounded quite modern. The story did hold my interest and kept me reading as Helena comes to see that the man she chose is really a pathetic figure and the man who waits in the shadows to take her is a true villain and not her friend.

On Amazon.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Paint My World Bright: Medieval Colors

Medieval Tapestry
One of my readers asked me about the colors of the medieval era (from the 5th through 15th centuries). And this got me to thinking. For my own medieval stories, my research told me the people preferred bright colors and scarlet was often the color of nobility, including the English, French, Scots and Danes. But now I look to the source of those colors.

Today we often dress in subtle colors: cream, beige, pale pink and blue and gray, and some outlandish neon ones. But the people who lived in medieval times would not have dressed in either extreme. They loved brilliant, jewel-toned colors. A street scene in those days must have been an amazing sight. Against the background of the painted façades of shops, with their signs hanging outside, men and women went about their business dressed in rich hues, contrasting sharply with the black robes of the clerics, the brown frieze of the mendicant friars and the white of head cloths of the married women.
Medieval Pigments and Dyestuffs:

The pigments they used were natural ones, but they made for a rich palette:


Mineral pigments, such as red ochre, yellow ochre, umber and lime white, were used, dug out of the earth. Painters made chalks ready for drawing. Natural red chalks were popular from about 1500 to 1900. Artists such as Michelangelo and Rembrandt used this medium to produce some of the most treasured art.

Medieval Italian painters used green earth for painting under flesh tones. Its commonly used synonym is Verona green, from Verona, a city in the northern part of Italy. Malachite and verdigris were also used as greens.
Orpiment, a deep orange-yellow colored arsenic sulfide mineral, was used for yellow, together with yellow ochre. Before the late 15th century, the color orange existed in Europe, but without the name; it was simply called yellow-red.

Justinian I

The term “purple” was originally a reddish dye obtained from various mollusks found in the Mediterranean. It wasn’t the color we think of today, which is more like amethyst or violet. The picture on the left is Byzantine Emperor Justinian I wearing Tyrian purple.

In addition to azurite, which had been used as a blue since the time of the ancient Egyptians, ultramarine was by far the most important blue in the Middle Ages. 

Lapis Lazuli
Ultramarine is a deep blue color, originally made from grinding Lapis Lazuli into powder. The name comes from the Latin ultramarinus, and means literally "beyond the sea", owing to the fact the pigment was imported into Europe by Italian traders during the 14th and 15th centuries from mines in Afghanistan.

In Anglo-Saxon churches before the Norman Conquest, entire walls were often painted by plastering over wood timber or wattle work or stone. The plastered wall was then lime-washed, readying it to receive mineral color paints, which were then fixed with casein made from skim milk. Apart from the beauty they imparted during services, the wall paintings served as a Biblia Pauperum, a “Poor Man's Bible” illustrating stories from Scripture, scenes from the lives of saints and allegorical lessons.

Colors from Medieval Art:

You can get an idea of the colors they wore through the art and stained glass of the time. During the Renaissance, the color blue was associated with purity, and ultramarine was used to striking effect in paintings of the Virgin Mary, where she was almost invariably depicted wearing ultramarine blue garments. The high price of the pigment, sourced in Afghanistan, also meant that its use was appropriate in the case of a noble subject such as the mother of Christ. 

The Virgin and Child, Sandro Botticelli

It was not until the advent of the monumental cathedral and church building campaigns in the 11th and 12th centuries that the demand for colored glass began to increase significantly, reaching its highest level in the 14th and 15th centuries. The stained glass of this period reflected the jewel-toned colors they prized.

The Canterbury Cathedral still has a few original stained-glass windows, dating from the 12th and early 13th centuries, including: Adam delving (digging), circa 1176 (the oldest surviving window), Henry II with Archbishop Thomas Becket (pictured below) and the Virgin Mary and King Josiah. 

The Color Black:

In the early Medieval Era, black was not generally a favored color. The one exception was the fur of the sable, an animal of the marten family, used to trim the robes and gowns of royalty. However, in the 14th century the status of black began to change. High-quality black dyes began to arrive on the market, allowing garments of a deep, rich black.

Magistrates and government officials began to wear black robes as a sign of the importance of their positions. Laws in some parts of Europe prohibited the wearing of certain colors by anyone except members of the nobility. The famous bright scarlet cloaks from Venice and the peacock blue fabrics from Florence were restricted to the nobility. The wealthy bankers and merchants of northern Italy responded by changing to black robes and gowns but, as you might suspect, they were made with the most expensive fabrics.

The Viking Colors:

Lest you forget, the Nordic people we call the Vikings lived during the medieval era and they were great traders. They also loved bright colored clothes and used natural dyes to obtain them. When they came to England in the 9th century, no doubt they brought their vivid colors and fabrics with them. Hence, the Anglo-Scandinavians living in York at the time of my story in Rogue Knight would have worn bright colors and the heroine, Emma, does.

King Harald

Ulla Mannering, an archaeologist at the Danish National Research Foundation's Centre for Textile Research at the National Museum, states: 

"Blue and red were popular colours throughout the Viking Age. In general, they all wore colourful clothes with patterns and sewn-on ribbons. Archaeologists have come across examples of colours covering the entire colour palette.”

Through their trading and voyages to various parts of Europe, Vikings also had access to silk and ribbons with silver and golden threads, though only the elite would have worn them.
Wool, the chief textile fiber of the Viking Age, was available in white as well as many different natural shades of browns and greys. Such shades could be and often were spun and woven without ever being dyed. Wool dyes very easily, though, and many finds of wool from the Viking Age were dyed in once-bright colors.

Linen does not take most historic dyes readily, even when a mordant (a fixative) is used. Accordingly, linen was often bleached or left its natural color (grey if dew-retted, straw if water-retted). Substantive dyes such as woad (a blue dye made from leaves of the woad plant), are fairly successful. As a result, blue linen may have been more common than we thought.

And don’t forget the red and white striped sails of those Danish raiders!

All this is to say that people don’t really change much. They love variety and, in a world of colorful flowers, minerals and beautiful scenery, why wouldn’t the people living in medieval times create for their clothing the rich colors they saw in nature? Reading my stories you will see many colors.

As you read my medieval romances, you'll not be surprised when you see William the Conqueror in a purple cloak, or the Danish and Scottish kings wearing crimson and my heroine donning a sapphire or emerald gown. It's what they wore!

The Medieval Warriors on Amazon. King's Knight is now available for preorder on Amazon.