Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guest Blogger Jayne Castel, author of Anglo-Saxon Romances

Welcome with me today Jayne Castel, author of romances set in Anglo-Saxon England, who is coming to us from New Zealand. Do comment on her post (and leave your email) to be entered to win her book The Deepening Night!

After studying Old English language and Medieval English history at University, she developed a passion for the history, culture and language of Anglo-Saxon England. She loves setting historical romance in this vibrant, gritty era. Her Kingdom Of The East Angles series, set in 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England, spans a decade and the reigns of three kings: Raedwald, Sigeberht and Annan (Dark Under Cover of Night, Nightfall till Daybreak and The Deepening Night.) I’ve asked her to join us to talk about that time in England’s history.

Bringing Anglo-Saxon England to Romance

Anglo-Saxon England (from around 400 A.D. to 1066 A.D.) is a challenging era in which to set a historical romance. Many people imagine it was a brutal time, when men were warriors, life was cheap and women were nothing more than property.
While there is some truth to that, it was also a period that experienced a rich, vibrant culture.

My romances are set in 7th century A.D. This was a time of great change. Kingdoms rose and fell: Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia all battled for dominance. It was also largely pagan. Christianity started to make inroads in the early 600s, but most people worshiped the old gods like Woden and Thor.

The Anglo-Saxons had a fatalistic view of the world. To them, it was fate - or wyrd - that dictated who would live, and who would die. This was a world dominated by blood feuds and battles. Read any of the literature of the time, The Wanderer or Beowulf, and you will notice just how dominant the role of fate is. The message is clear: whatever your doom is, you can't escape it. As the famous quote from the Anglo-Saxon poem, The Wanderer states: "Wyrd bið ful aræd" – Fate is everything.

War also dominated, but so did notions of valor, honor and kinship. Women were the property of men (that didn’t end with the Anglo-Saxon era), but they were also strong. War and death were a way of life, not just a part of it. This time in Britain’s history was before the times of courtly love, and knights and ladies. Even highborn women had to be tough to survive.

You can probably tell by now that I love writing novels set in this period!

My novels are about warriors – most men were warriors in Anglo-Saxon England, even those who worked the land had to learn how to defend it – and strong-willed women.

My hero in The Deepening Night, Annan of the East Angles, is a true Anglo-Saxon warrior. Based on an actual historical figure, Annan was one of the last kings of the great Wuffinga dynasty.

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Here are a few facts about this hero and the history surrounding his rule:

● Annan of the East Angles ruled from around 636 – 653 A.D. I have taken some ‘author’s license’ with the dates – since this story takes place in 630 A.D., I have shifted Annan’s time line slightly.
● Annan’s real name was Anna – which I altered slightly for my readers’ benefit.
● In my story, it was Annan who ‘bent the knee’ to Penda, the warmongering Mercian King – however, historically, it was Annan’s brother, Aethelhere who did so.

● The last half of the novel is centered on Devil’s Dyke; a ditch and bank defense, which the East Angles built to defend their kingdom from the Mercians. Set in the heart of rural Cambridgeshire, Devil’s Dyke is often described as Britain’s finest Anglo-Saxon earthwork of its kind – and it’s certainly one of the best surviving. There are historical records of King Anna of the East Angles spending time in Exning, possibly overseeing work on the dyke.

The storylines of all my novels are built around actual historical figures and events; even if the love story itself is fiction. The closer I get to history – the stronger the plot!

Do you enjoy reading romances set in Anglo-Saxon period? If you do, comment below and tell me why, and you will be entered to win a copy of the eBook of The Deepening Night!

Keep up with Jayne at her Website, Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Hi everyone! Thought I'd get the ball rolling by letting you know why I enjoy reading (and writing) romances set in the Anglo-Saxon period. It's simple: I love warrior heroes, men who are tough (they had to be to survive), but also brave and loyal. There's nothing sexier!

  2. I do not recall, nor do I believe, that I have read any novels set in the Anglo-Saxon period...unless I just didn't know the book I was reading was set in that era. I've read King Arthur tales, of course, and classics like Ivanhoe...but anything that announced it was during the Anglo-Saxon period I do not remember at all. I am beyond curious and interested in reading stories during this early period of Anglo history. So, as far as I know, Jayne, you are not only new to me...the period about which you write is new to me. I'm a little excited about branching into this era of history. I really appreciate Regan's introduction to you and your writing. I, too, love warrior heroes who are tough, brave and loyal. I also love strong heroines. :-) Thanks for the post!

    1. Thanks Janice - a couple of Elizabeth Chadwick's novels (e.g. The Conquest) are set later in that period, but you're right, there aren't many romances set in Anglo-Saxon England - especially the earlier part of it. I too like to read novels with strong heroines. I think there's been an increasing trend in historical romance of late, for authors to give their heroines more of a back-bone - something readers are obviously looking for! Good luck!

    2. Thanks so much for dropping by, Janice!

  3. I don't think I've ever come across any, much less read them but I love historical romance set in any era.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Linda. I think there are some books from this period on my Viking list and possibly my Medieval list but they are rare, I'll grant you.