Thursday, October 29, 2020

Jennifer Roberson’s LADY OF THE FOREST – An Opus Telling of the Robin Hood Legend, Rich in Historical Detail

Set in Nottinghamshire in 1194, at 608 pages, this is a thorough telling of how Robin Hood came to be… and the love story of Sir Robert (Robin) of Locksley and Lady Marian of Ravenskeep. In the words of the author, it’s “…a fictional interpretation of imaginary events leading to the more familiar adventures depicted in novels…” And so it is.

 

The whole cast of characters is included in intricate detail: Alan of the Dales, Little John, Friar Tuck, William Scarlet, one-handed Wat and the boy, Much, to name some—Saxons made outlaw by Norman cruelty, King John’s egregious taxes and the Sheriff of Nottingham’s “justice” fed by his selfish ambition. Richard the Lionheart, though not a character, is mentioned frequently and motivates the stalwart souls to engage in thievery to raise his ransom.

 

Sir Robert (whose mother called him “Robin”) returns from the Crusades as a broken man, plagued by memories of his captivity with the Saracens. His father, the Earl of Huntington, has plans for his son to take his place as heir to their castle at Locksley. But much has changed in England while Robert was gone and Robert/Robin has little desire to live in the castle.

 

Self-serving, ambitious Prince John seeks to rein in his brother’s sted and William de Lacey, the Sheriff of Nottingham, seeks more power and wants Marian in his bed. With the death of her father, Marian is now a ward of the Crown and alone at Ravenskeep.

 

Marian begins as a woman too easily manipulated by the conniving Sheriff, but at times shows a backbone as she learns to stand on her own when she is abducted by a murderer (Will Scarlet who, with good reason, murdered four Normans) and is then rescued by Robin with whom she spends the night in Sherwood Forest. She is ruined, no matter that nothing happened.

 

I am a fan of Roberson and loved Lady of the Glen. So, I couldn’t wait to devour this one. It’s a bit different and you just need to be ready for that. Unlike Lady, this story, though it  kept me turning pages, contains a lot of detail, a lot of perspectives (every character had one) and at times was just a tad repetitive. Still, it’s superb storytelling and it has Roberson’s wonderful characterization and writing.

 

I love her work and this is an exceptional effort. The sequel is Lady of Sherwood.


Monday, October 26, 2020

Best Medieval Romances!

 

Who among us ladies hasn’t dreamed of a knight in shining armor? A valiant hero living in a time when valor prevailed and a woman of character who loved him. (I did say we were dreaming, right?) These historical novels will take you there.

 

Since the medieval period in European history spanned the 5th century to the 15th century, all the stories on my list take place during that time; however, some Scottish, Irish, Viking and Pirate/Privateer historicals not listed here can be found on those specific “Best Lists” (links on the right side of my blog).

 

All of these listed below have garnered 4, 4 and ½ or 5 stars from me:

 

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

Autumn’s Flame by Denise Domning

Baron of Godsmere and Baron of Emberly by Tamara Leigh

Betrothal by Jenna Jaxon (the first part of a 3-part story)

Bianca by Bertrice Small

Blackheart by Tamara Leigh

Blue Heaven, Black Night by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)

Bond of Blood by Roberta Gellis

Bride of the Lion by Elizabeth Stuart

By His Majesty’s Grace, By Grace Possessed and Seduced by Grace by Jennifer Blake

By Possession, By Design, Stealing Heaven, By Arrangement, The Protector and Lord of a Thousand Nights, 14th century London series by Madeline Hunter

Candle in the Window by Christina Dodd

Come the Morning, Conquer the Night, Seize the Dawn, Knight Triumphant, The Lion in Glory, and When We Touch from the Graham series by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)

Crimson Secret by Janet Lane

Damsel in Distress by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)

Desire Lines by Elizabeth Kingston

Desire of the Heart by Katherine Vickery (aka Kathryn Kramer)

Devoted by Alice Borchardt

Enchantress, Kiss of the Moon and Outlaw, Welsh trilogy by Lisa Jackson

Everlasting by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Forever and a Lifetime by Jennifer Horsman

His Stolen Bride by Shelly Thacker

Honor & Roses by Elizabeth Cole

Impostress, Temptress and Sorceress, Welsh trilogy with fantasy elements by Lisa Jackson

Keeper of the Dream by Penelope Williamson

Knight’s Honor by Roberta Gellis

Lady of Fire, Fire and Steel and The Fire and the Fury from the Fire Series by Anita Mills

Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson

Lady of Valor from the Warrior trilogy by Tina St. John

Laird of the Wind by Susan King

Lespada by Kathryn Le Veque

Lie Down in Roses by Heather Graham

Lily Fair by Kimberly Cates

Lord of Desire, Lord of Temptation and Lord of Seduction, Risande Family trilogy by Paula Quinn

Lord of Vengeance by Tina St. John

On a Highland Shore and Rivals for the Crown by Kathleen Givens

Princess of Fire and the sequel Knight of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham)

Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey

Rose of Rapture by Rebecca Brandewyne

Sense of Touch by Rozsa Gaston

Shadowheart by Laura Kinsale

Siege of the Heart by Elise Cyr

Silk and Steel and the sequel Desire and Deceive by Cordia Byers

Silverhawk by Barbara Bettis

Spellbound by Nadine Crenshaw

Sword of the Heart by Maureen Kurr

The Angel Knight by Susan King

The Bedeviled Heart by Carmen Caine

The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux

The Breaking Dawn by Jayne Castel

The Bride Gift by Sarah Hegger

The Christmas Knight by Michele Sinclair

The Conqueror, Promise of the Rose and The Prize, trilogy by Brenda Joyce

The Deepening Night by Jayne Castel (7th century Britain)

The Devil to Pay by K.C. Bateman

The Dragon Tree by Marsha Canham

The Falcon and the Flower, The Dragon and the Jewel and The Marriage Prize, the Plantagenet trilogy by Virginia Henley

The King’s Pleasure by Heather Graham

The King’s Rebel by Michelle Morrison

The Last Knight by Candice Proctor

The Lily and the Falcon by Jannine Corti-Petska

The Lion’s Bride by Connie Mason

The King’s Man by Elizabeth Kingston

The Knight’s Scarred Maiden by Nicole Locke

The Outlaw Knight (aka Lords of the White Castle) by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Raven and the Rose by Virginia Henley

The Rose of Blacksword by Rexanne Becnel

The Swan Maiden and The Stone Maiden from the Maiden trilogy by Susan King

The Unveiling by Tamara Leigh

The Warrior’s Game and Spring’s Fury by Denise Domning

The Wild Hunt by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss

Through a Dark Mist, In the Shadow of Midnight and The Last Arrow, Robin Hood trilogy by Marsha Canham

Uncommon Vows by Mary Jo Putney

Untamed, Forbidden and Enchanted, trilogy by Elizabeth Lowell

Warrior Poet by Kathryn Lc Veque

Warrior’s Song, Fire Song, Earth Song and Secret Song, medieval series by Catherine Coulter

When Love Awaits by Johanna Lindsey

Where Love Dwells by Elizabeth Stuart

Wild Moonlight by Miriam Minger

Winter’s Heat by Denise Domning

Wonderful, Wild and Wicked, trilogy by Jill Barnett

 

I hope you will also consider my own award-winning medieval novels: 

 

  The Medieval Warriors series: The Red Wolf’s Prize, Rogue Knight, Rebel Warrior and King’s Knight on Amazon 

 

The Refuge, An Inspirational Novel of Scotland, on Amazon

 

And my newest, Summer Warrior, on Amazon

 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Miriam Minger’s WILD MOONLIGHT – Well-told installment in the Medieval Irish brides series

This is book 3 in the O’Byrne Brides series and I recommend you read them in order as they are related and later books refer to couples in the earlier books. No date is given but presumably this story is set in the time of the others, in the early 13th century.

 

It’s the story of Nora MacTorkil, the daughter of the richest merchant in Dublin, who flees a dreaded betrothal to a wild Norseman and, in the moonlight, runs along the dock and tumbles into the River Liffey. She is saved by Niall O’Byrne, who was drunk on the dock, still in misery for losing the woman he wanted. Niall is the brother of a rebel and decides to marry Nora to save her and then takes her to his family compound.

 

At the family’s home, we get to meet other characters, whom you would know if you have read the earlier books in the series. They make cameo appearances here. Knowing the Norse will likely come, they prepare for battle. Nora, a sympathetic person, makes friends and finds a new home. Not much history here but Minger does paint a medieval background that reflects the different factions in Dublin of the time.

 

All comes right in the end for a happy ending to a well-told tale.

 

The O’Byrne Brides series:

 

Wild Angel

Wild Roses

Wild Moonlight

On a Wild Winter’s Night

 


 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Rexanne Becnel’s THE ROSE OF BLACKSWORD - Captivating Medieval from 12th Century England

Set in 12th century England, this is the story of Lady Rosalynde of Stanwood, a young beauty whose father consigned her and her young brother to live with their aunt and uncle when their mother died years ago. And now Rosalynde must travel home to Stanwood Castle to tell her father her brother has died.

On the way to Stanwood, outlaws set upon Rosalynde and her knights. She and her page escape, but the page is wounded and Rosalynde seeks the only help she can find—that of a condemned criminal—agreeing to handfast with him to save him from the gallows if he will help her get home. The outlaw they call Blacksword is really Sir Aric of Wycliffe, a knight of renown, who is none too happy about being nursemaid to a lady and her wounded page—he seeks only vengeance on those who falsely accused him of crimes. But when he learns that Rosalynde is now her father’s only heir, he decides to seek more than a reward—he wants to make their handfast a real marriage to gain her and her lands.

This is a great story, well told—a page turner. Though there is no real history, there is a genuine historic feel and a real historic setting. Sir Aric is a noble knight but also a wily one, and Rosalynde (“Rose”) is not indifferent to his wooing. But her father sees Aric as a criminal and requires him to work as a servant at Stanwood Castle. Aric stays, rising to become a man at arms constantly reminding Rosalynde that she is his wife.

Lots of action, mystery and adventure with an exciting ending. I recommend it.


 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Hares and Rabbits in Medieval England by Regan Walker

 

Hares and rabbits existed together in medieval England, however, the rabbit was a rare beast and much sought after for both its meat and its fur. And, unlike the hare, the rabbit is not believed to be native to Britain, but was deliberately introduced. (There are no written records of them in Britain before Norman times, the 11th century.)

 

I have several novels in which the characters hunt for hares. Rogue Knight and Summer Warrior (my most recent novel), are two of them. Rogue Knight is set in Yorkshire in 1069-70 when William the Conqueror came north to claim Northumbria. He engaged in a terrifying campaign we know today as the “Harrying of the North”, causing the deaths of as many as 100,000 people. Summer Warrior is set in the Scottish Highlands and Isles and in England in the 12th century.

 

                                                                         Yorkshire Dales


I like to think that some people, chased from their homes by William’s army and deprived of the ability to grow food, might have survived on the brown hare, native to Yorkshire. Certainly my heroine and her family, hiding out from the Normans, dined on hare while living in the woods.

 

And when David, King of Scots, called upon Somerled to bring his Islesmen to the Battle of the Standard, the warriors hunted for hares as well as deer.

 

The brown hare is generally larger than a rabbit. They have long, black-tipped ears and a tall and leggy appearance. They are timid and fast runners. They prefer grassland fields and some woodland in their habitat. In the Peak District of England, you will find the smaller mountain hare.

Unlike young rabbits, that are born blind and furless, totally dependent upon their mother, young brown hares, called leverets, are born fully formed and active, weaned in a month. Their average life expectancy is three years. Rabbits raised in captivity might live longer.

 

Despite persistent rumors that the Romans brought rabbits to England and then left warrens that quickly established a wild population, there is no evidence (either archaeological or documentary) to support this. There is no Anglo-Saxon word for rabbit and the earliest documentary evidence is from the late 12th century. This is also borne out by the evidence from sites such as Southampton where despite through investigation not a single Early Medieval rabbit bone has been found. While they may have been present on the continent, there is no reason to believe that any wild populations of rabbits existed in Britain prior to the Norman conquest.

 

In the Middle Ages, rabbit-warrens were almost the sole source of supply for rabbits and that is one reason they were so valuable and closely guarded.

 

Throughout the medieval era, beginning after the Norman Conquest, the right to hunt and kill any beast or game was a privilege granted by the king. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in a verse written shortly after the Conqueror’s death states, “He made great protection for the game and imposed laws for the same, that who so slew hart or hind should be made blind.”

 

And, as for the hares, “…did he decree that they should go free.” (Meaning they could not be hunted, for the Chronicle indicates, “Powerful men complained of it and poor man lamented it, but so fierce was he that he cared not for the rancor of them all…”)

 

In the Middle Ages, people were more free to hunt in Scotland than in England. Even in royal reserves the penalties for poaching were less severe. Hence, Scottish forests were never an issue. And, in the Highlands and Isles, there were no restrictions. The Lord of the Isles allowed the people to hunt and fish as needs required. Scottish medieval government as a whole was more relaxed than England’s.

 

It appears that the royal forests of the kind that existed in the 11th and 12th centuries were, thus, a Norman creation. The Domesday Book, written in 1086 at the order of William I, indicates that the royal forest was created through a combination of eviction and the taking of woodland and uninhabited land. At the height of the royal forest practice in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, fully one-third of the land area of southern England was designated as royal forest.

 

Hunting in the royal forests was the privilege of the king alone. Outside of those areas, the king would sell hunting rights by means of a charter that allowed the killing of the “beasts of warren”—pheasant, partridge, hare and rabbit. Hence the right to keep and kill rabbits was the exclusive right of the owner of the “free-warren”. Grants of warren—the right to hunt hares—can be found from the reign of at least William II and perhaps William I.

 

Henry I, as reported in the Gesta Stephani, “claimed for himself sole hunting rights of wild beasts throughout England…” That doesn’t leave a poor man many options to feed his family, but perhaps a hare in a remote area found its way into a poor family’s stewpot.

 

“Fast paced, action packed, thrill ride of emotions from angst to passion to healing and love. A true storyteller! Another hit!”  

                              – My Book Addiction


York, England 1069… three years after the Norman Conquest

The North of England seethes with discontent under the heavy hand of William the Conqueror, who unleashes his fury on the rebels who dare to defy him. Amid the ensuing devastation, love blooms in the heart of a gallant Norman knight for a Yorkshire widow.

 

Angry at the cruelty she has witnessed at the Normans’ hands, Emma of York is torn between her loyalty to her noble Danish father, a leader of the rebels, and her growing passion for an honorable French knight.

Loyal to King William, Sir Geoffroi de Tournai has no idea Emma hides a secret that could mean death for him and his fellow knights.

 

War erupts, tearing asunder the tentative love growing between them, leaving each the enemy of the other. Will Sir Geoffroi, convinced Emma has betrayed him, defy his king to save her?

On Amazon.  

 


  “Walker’s superb storytelling makes history come alive!”
          – Danelle Harmon, NY Times Bestselling Author

Somerled’s parentage was noble, of the Kings of Dublin, the royal house of Argyll and the great Ard Ri, the High Kings of Ireland. But when the Norse invaded Argyll and the Isles, his family’s fortunes fell with those of his people. All hope seemed lost when he rose from the mists of Morvern to rally the Gaels, the Scots and the Irish.

Sweeping across Argyll and the Isles like a fast-moving storm, brilliant in strategy and fearless in battle, Somerled began retaking his ancestral lands, driving away the invaders and freeing the people from the Norse stranglehold. In doing so, he would win the title Somerle Mor, Somerled the Mighty, Lord of Argyll, Kintyre and Lorne and, eventually, Lord of the Isles.
 

 

This is the unforgettable story of the Norse-Gael who forged the Kingdom of the Isles and won the heart of a Norse king’s daughter. On Amazon.                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Autumn in the Highlands

 

“Autumn in the Highlands would be brief—a glorious riot of color blazing red across the moors and gleaming every shade of gold in the forests of sheltered glens. Those achingly beautiful images would be painted again and again across the hills and in the shivering waters of the mountain tarns until the harsh winds of winter sent the last quaking leaf to its death on the frozen ground.”

The thoughts of Anne MacKinnon, the heroine in Elizabeth Stuart's HEARTSTORM, on my Top 20 List


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Scottish Deerhounds in the Medieval Era by Regan Walker

                                                       Scottish Deerhound, painting by Arthur Wardle

In Summer Warrior, book 1 in The Clan Donald Saga, David, King of Scots, invites Somerled to take part in a hunt in the woods near Irvine where the king is holding court. As the morning of the hunt arrives, Somerled observes,

 

The day presented all they could hope for in weather, the sky nearly cloudless and the leaves on the trees that had changed with autumn were ablaze with red, yellow and gold. The air, too, spoke of autumn, being dry and crisp.

 

While the king and his guests break their fast on the riverbank, as was the custom if the day was fair, the huntsmen went forth to seek out the mature stags with great antlers. Somerled and Ragnhild, the Princess of Man, have brought their bows and quivers of arrows, eagerly awaiting the hunt.

 

Many kinds of dogs and hounds might be used in a hunt in the 12th century. Edward of Norwich, the second Duke of York, who wrote medieval English hunting manuals, listed five types of medieval dogs used in aristocratic hunting: the spaniel, the mastiff, the running hound, the alaunt and the greyhound.

 

In a “drive hunt”, such as I recount in my story, the rough-coated greyhounds from which the Scottish deerhounds of today originated, were favored to drive out the stags from the depths of the woods. Bred as deer hunting dogs for the Scottish chieftains in the Middle Ages, they had a balanced temperament. Over time, they gained size and strength and, due to the harsh climate, they also gained a rough protective coat. The deerhound was once so popular with Scottish high nobility the breed became known as the Royal Dog of Scotland.

 

In a hunt, the deerhound could bring down a deer and was used especially to hunt the male of the red deer, known as the hart.

 

The hart was a deadly opponent to both dogs and men, even more dangerous in some ways than the boar, which was known for eviscerating its foes with its razor-sharp tusks. To bring down a hart required a powerful dog, combining strength with speed, agility and a good nose. A hart would “ruse” or double back on its tracks or run through a stream to send the dogs off their scent.

 

So, back to our hunt in Summer Warrior:

 

The huntsmen in their green garb and hats returned, telling the Master of the Hunt they had spotted several harts, at least one of which possessed ten tines on his antlers.

 

The deerhounds, waiting with their keeper and sensing the hunt was about to begin, whined and strained at their leashes. At the instructions from the Master of the Hunt, the huntsmen took the hounds forward to be stationed along the expected route the hart would take.

 

Once the harts run by, the deerhounds would be released to give chase. They would find the stags hiding in the woods and chase them out toward the waiting archers.

 

You’ll have to read the story to see what happens in the hunt in Summer Warrior, just whose arrow brings down the hart and what unexpected thing happens after that.

 

 

“Walker weaves a spellbinding tale of heroism and adventure coupled with a touching love story.”

 A Reader's Review

 

Somerled’s parentage was noble, of the Kings of Dublin, the royal house of Argyll and the great Ard Ri, the High Kings of Ireland. But when the Norse invaded Argyll and the Isles, his family’s fortunes fell with those of his people. All hope seemed lost, when he rose from the mists of Morvern to rally the Gaels, the Scots and the Irish.

Sweeping across Argyll and the Isles like a fast-moving storm, brilliant in strategy and fearless in battle, Somerled began retaking his ancestral lands, driving away the invaders and freeing the people from the Norse stranglehold. In doing so, he would win the title Somerle Mor, Somerled the Mighty, Lord of Argyll, Kintyre and Lorne and, eventually, Lord of the Isles.

This is the unforgettable saga of his path to victory that forged the Kingdom of the Isles and won him the heart of a Norse king’s daughter.

 

On Amazon US, UK & Canada (among others) 

On Goodreads

 

Regan’s links: Author website, AmazonAuthor Page, BookBub, Regan’s Facebook Readers’ Group, Pinterest boards (including one for Summer Warrior) and Twitter 

 

Selected references:

 

The Master of Game by Edward, Second Duke of York, written between 1406-1413

The Art of Medieval Hunting: The Hound and The Hawk by John Cummins, 2003

The Medieval Deerhound: A Lecture on the Origins of a Breed by Ryan R. Judkins, 2012

Medieval Hunting, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_hunting