Monday, 18 August 2014

Lord Gawain's Forbidden Mistress

Lord Gawain's Forbidden Mistress - the third book in the Knights of Champagne mini-series, will be published in March 2015.





Forbidden fruit always tastes the sweetest…
Elise keeps her cards close to her chest. Few people know that she’s also Blanchefleur le Fay, the celebrated singer. But she has an even greater secret... Her baby daughter is the result of a brief but intense affair with Gawain, Count of Meaux.

Duty-bound to marry, Gawain is back in Troyes to meet his bride. So why can’t he stop thinking about the sweet silver-voiced girl he met the last time he was there? And when he finds his mistress again Gawain must choose between duty...and forbidden desire.





The characters in this novel find themselves in the Champagne market town of Provins. Here are some pictures my husband and I took when we visited.
Provins city walls (in the 12th century they would have been wooden)
12th century Caesar's Tower built by the Count of Champagne

Part of the count's palace


Beautiful Romanesque arches by the museum





La Voulzie in the Lower Town
Knight in a Medieval Show

Entering the network of caves under Provins

A subterranean storage cave























Friday, 27 September 2013

Unveiling Lady Clare























Unveiling Lady Clare, The Knights of Champagne Book 2


THE SECRETS BEHIND HER EYES... 


Sir Arthur Ferrer catches sight of her among the stands at the Twelfth Night joust. There is something about her eyes…. He's seen them before. But when he goes to find the mysterious woman who has so captivated him, she's disappeared! 

Clare has been running from a dark past that she can never speak of. But this handsome knight seems determined to unveil her secrets. Will she dare to let him glimpse the real Lady Clare? 

To read a sample, click below:


The Knights of Arkeley enacting a joust at Hedingham Castle.





















Background

The Knights of Champagne  stories were inspired by the Arthurian myths and legends. Some of the earliest versions of the Arthurian stories were written in the twelfth century by an influential poet called Chrétien de Troyes. Troyes was the walled city in Champagne where Chrétien lived and worked.  Pictures of Troyes may be found here.

Chrétien's patron, Countess Marie of Champagne, was a princess – daughter of King Louis of France and the legendary Eleanor of Aquitaine. Countess Marie’s splendid, artistic court in Troyes rivalled Queen Eleanor’s in Poitiers.

The books in the Knights of Champagne mini-series are not an attempt to rework the Arthurian tales, they are original romances set around the Troyes court.  I wanted to tell stories about some of the lords and ladies who might have inspired Chrétien – and I was keen to give the ladies a more active role since Chrétien’s ladies tend to be too passive for today’s reader. Apart from a brief glimpses of Count Henry and Countess Marie, the characters are all fictional. I have used the layout of the medieval city to create my Troyes, but this series is first and foremost fictional.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Lady Isobel's Champion




To read an excerpt, please click on the widget above.

Cover Blurb

HIS LADY IN WAITING


In her long years at the convent, waiting for her betrothed, Lady Isobel de Turenne has built the Comte d’Aveyron into a fantasy—a man who will rescue, protect and love her.…


But when the comte finally returns to claim his bride, Isobel finds instead a man of contradictions—one who masks dark secrets with desire.


Wary of a man’s touch but desperate to grasp her new freedom, Isobel must decide if it’s solely duty forcing the comte to marry or whether he is truly her longed-for champion.


Knights of Champagne

Three Swordsmen for Three Ladies


Background

The Knights of Champagne  stories were inspired by the Arthurian myths and legends. Some of the earliest versions of the Arthurian stories were written in the twelfth century by an influential poet called Chrétien de Troyes. Troyes was the walled city in Champagne where Chrétien lived and worked.  Pictures of Troyes may be found here.


Chrétien's patron, Countess Marie of Champagne, was a princess – daughter of King Louis of France and the legendary Eleanor of Aquitaine. Countess Marie’s splendid, artistic court in Troyes rivalled Queen Eleanor’s in Poitiers.


The books in the Knights of Champagne mini-series are not an attempt to rework the Arthurian tales, they are original romances set around the Troyes court.  I wanted to tell stories about some of the lords and ladies who might have inspired Chrétien – and I was keen to give the ladies a more active role since Chrétien’s ladies tend to be too passive for today’s reader. Apart from a brief glimpses of Count Henry and Countess Marie, the characters are all fictional. I have used the layout of the medieval city to create my Troyes, but this series is first and foremost fictional.


Here are some pictures of the Abbey at Conques in southern France. In the story, Lady Isobel spent years in a fictional convent near Conques. The first picture is the Abbey as seen from the top of the hill, the photo was taken in the morning when the early mist was beginning to melt away.




















This is a sketch my husband did of a section of columns in the cloisters.











These knights can be found on one of the capitals...














And here's my husband in the guise of a pilgrim,  looking towards Conques.


For more about this book and mini-series, please click on one of the links in the 'Labels' section below.








     


 

 
 

    Reviews from Goodreads.com
 



    

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

RoNA Rose Award Shortlist for 2013!

The RoNA Rose Award recognises the best in category/series and shorter romance that focus on a developing love affair between the hero and heroine.  The Award is presented by the Romantic Novelists' Association.


Update:
Here we are at the Awards, and the winner was Sarah Mallory! (in the middle of the photo.)

We had a lovely day, Mills & Boon took us out to lunch beforehand, and then there was a glittering reception at the RAF Club when the Awards were announced. It was wonderful to be part of it!





The shortlist:
Fiona Harper, Always the Best Man, Harlequin Mills & Boon Riva
Sarah Mallory, Beneath the Major's Scars, Harlequin Historical
Heidi Rice, The Good, the Bad and the Wild, Harlequin Mills & Boon Riva
Carol Townend, Betrothed to the Barbarian, Harlequin Historical
Scarlet Wilson, West Wing to Maternity Wing, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical
Scarlet Wilson, Her Christmas Eve Diamond, Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical

Congratulations to everyone on the list!   I am thrilled Betrothed to the Barbarian is included.   It's  the final novel in a trilogy set in eleventh century Byzantium.  Read more about this novel here.

Betrothed to the Barbarian - UK Cover

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Medieval Furnishings - Reconstruction in Dover Castle

The royal chambers in Dover Castle have been marvellously recreated to give a flavour of what life might have been like for a privileged few in the twelfth century.  Below are some pictures from our visit in the summer.  Some of the scenes in the Knights of Champagne could have taken place in rooms like these.

Colours are dazzlingly bright, even garish, and the overall impression is one of luxury.   These are apartments which were designed to impress.  There were virtually no private spaces, the King would carry on some of the business of government even when in his bedchamber!
 This chamber has been laid out as though ready for a twelfth century banquet.  Note the knights' shields above the wall-hangings, and the larger tapestry at the end.
Here's a glimpse into the king's bedchamber.  Wall-hangings, murals and furniture are brightly painted.  As the bedchamber is so large, the curtains around the bed would have been necessary to stop draughts, as well as ensure a small measure of privacy.
The cross-framed camping stool next to the bed is similar to one in the medieval palace in the Tower of London.  It's a reminder of the peripatetic nature of court life.  To ensure the smooth running of his government, the king and his courtiers were constantly on the move.
The ships on this mural are reminiscent of those on the Bayeux Tapestry....
Here's a dazzlingly painted spindle chair, with a nearby chess set laid out for the next game...












Painted linen press

Painted coffer with elaborate iron banding, locks and hinges,
again ready for quick moves to the next castle...


The king's hall


On the left is an early example of a lighthouse -
the Dover lighthouse dates from Roman times!
(I know the lighthouse isn't strictly speaking part of the medieval reconstruction, but I love the idea of a lighthouse going so far back in time...)
For more about Dover Castle see here.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Medieval Town - Troyes...

Troyes was the medieval capital of the county of Champagne, and as soon as it became clear  that Troyes lay at the heart of the Knights of Champagne novels, I longed to go there.  Trying to get to grips with the lie of the land is very inspiring.  New ideas start cropping up, even if, as is the case in Troyes, the time you are focussing on is hidden beneath several centuries of history.

Today, the streets of medieval Troyes are film-set beautiful.  The houses were built after the time of the Knights of Champagne, but they give an idea of the layout of the earlier town.   They show how the houses were crammed together.

At the tourist information office, there is a model of medieval Troyes.   (You really know you are in Champagne, the old town was shaped like a champagne cork!)
The plan probably isn't quite large enough for you to pick out all the detail, but Troyes was a walled city, with a dry moat that often as not was used as a rubbish tip by the citizens.   The town was criss-crossed with canals and waterways - these were used for transport, and to power watermills.
The area at the top left of this plan is where Troyes Castle used to stand.  (The castle was built on the site of the old Roman garrison.)  The Count of Champagne had a separate palace which he used as his residence, Troyes Castle was for his soldiers and retainers, for the Guardian knights who patrolled the town at the time of the trade fairs.  (The Winter Fair and the Summer Fair.)   In many ways, the castle was like an office, it was used for official county business.


In this enlargement, taken by my husband, the round building (top left) represents the castle.  The cathedral (towards the centre of this shot) has been given a blue roof.   And I am guessing that the building with the orange roof (just below the cathedral and next to the canal) is Count Henry's palace.  The Abbey is just across the canal from it (orange roof).





This waterway runs past the site of Troyes Castle...
















One of the narrow streets as it is today.















The building below is gorgeous - sadly, it's later than the twelfth century, but we had a very nice lunch just staring at it!



The first Knights of Champagne novel will be out in July 2013.  It's entitled Lady Isobel's Champion.

More details about these novels will follow later...











Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A Medieval Palace - Twelfth Century Research

The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror.  Work probably began on it in the 1070's and ever since then the Tower has been an important London landmark.  Here's the Tower today.
Below there's a model of it in about 1300.  The tower stands out in the centre with the outbuildings and curtain walls around it...
Today the Medieval Palace - the residential area - lies in the range of buildings on the bottom right of the model.  These rooms are wonderful for giving the feel of what life in a palace apartment might have been like in the twelfth century.
This is a recreation of a royal bedchamber.   Colours on the bed-hangings and tapestries are bright.  The walls have murals, and coats of arms have been painted over the fireplace.  There's a candle-stand in a corner, a cross-framed stool, and the shutters are painted with a royal device - the lions of England.


 There no desk or dressing table in the bedchamber, just a trestle table covered in a cloth.    I love the lion jug, or aquamanile.  Both the cross-framed stool and trestle table are a reminder of how Kings and Queens were always on the move.    It is easy to pack up furniture when it's easily portable!
The Royal Chapel is reached via an archway, leading directly from the bedchamber.  The Chapel might have been one of the few places to find some peace and quiet!