THE KNIGHTS OF ENGLAND SERIES: BOOKENDS TO THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY
England's golden age: but what happens when the gold turns to dross?
KNIGHTS OF ENGLAND begins with the deposition and murder of Edward II and ends with the ascension of his great-grandson, Henry Bolingbroke, to the throne, following the deposition and murder of that most tyrannical of kings, Richard II. In between England endures the Black Death, its offshoot The Peasant's Revolt of 1381, and the bloody battle of Shrewsbury, which lays the ground work for the Wars of the Roses. That most magnificent of medieval kings, Edward III, enjoys glorious martial victories against the French spearheaded by Edward III's legendary son, Edward the Black Prince. Before it all turns sour... Against this historical backdrop, my knights live, love and fight their ways across England and the continent, while the women they bed and sometimes wed persevere, against great odds, to survive in a society that considers all women to be daughters of Eve, and thus responsible for the sins of the world!
Why would anyone want to read about the Middle Ages? Just watch the movies. Everyone is dirty, the women wear funny pointed hats, they have terrible table manners, they believe the earth is flat, and, if we're watching an old Robin Hood flick well, his men are always laughing like lunatics. Oh, yes, and then we have BRAVEHEART, about which I will only comment that Scots did NOT wear kilts during the real William Wallace's time.
And yet the Medieval Period has branded itself upon Western consciousness. Even in our historically challenged age, I can't imagine anyone who has never heard of King Arthur , Camelot, Excalibur, the Knights of the Round Table, Lancelot and Guinevere, as well as Robin Hood--whether with merry men or otherwise. (If the aforementioned actually existed, they did not in the form we know and love.) As far as actual historical characters, we have Richard the Lionheart, the Black Prince, Thomas Becket, Joan of Arc, Saladin...and many others. And of course there are the Crusades. And the Templars. And the Holy Grail. And the series, such as GAME OF THRONES and LORD OF THE RINGS, that are all based on legends or the feudal structure, mores and customs of the time period.
Not to mention that most of us women are still seeking our own knight in shining armor.
I love the fourteenth century, at least in England, because in so many ways it feels so similar to our age. After England had endured the deposition and murder of a bad king, Edward II, it entered into a golden age under that most magnificent of medieval monarchs, Edward III. (Short history lesson: Crecy, Poitiers, beginnings of Hundred Years' War, Order of the Garter, Black Death.) But like some of the rest of us, Edward III lived too long and by the end of his reign England's golden age had turned to dross. Difficult times are no fun for those living through them but they are a lot of fun for writers like me who glory in battles and describing plagues and of course the Peasants Revolt of 1381. (A CHILD UPON THE THRONE. ) In my fifth, LORDS AMONG THE RUINS, Richard II grows up and as he becomes increasingly tyrannical, his magnates struggle with how to cope with such a megalomaniacal (not a word in medieval days) sovereign. And when they do rise up, depose (and murder) Richard--in an eerie echo of his great-grandfather's fate--well, can we say "Wars of the Roses?"
I'm the first to say I'm not a scholar, but I try very hard to give a truthful flavor of the times, at least from my research. I'm always trying to figure out the way the medieval mind works, and share beliefs and behaviors that are interesting and sometimes bizarre. (Women covered their ears because theologians considered ears to be sexual objects. Of course they were because that's how the Virgin Mary conceived Jesus.) I try to make sure my women aren't feminists, my men are not metrosexuals, and to stay away from words like "okay" and "hunky dory," or "homosexual." (Words like fuck and cunt were around then, though not used as pejoratives.) I find everything, from the politics to the geography to the superstitions to the daily minutiae and of course their glorious castles, endlessly fascinating and hope I sketch them well enough to fascinate you too.
Some of the questions I address are my 21st century ones dressed up in surcoats and kirtles.
*What does romantic love actually mean? How is it executed? How does love change over the course of a lifetime?
*What happens when a person's raison d'etre, all his assumptions about life, are proven to be false?
*How did knights cope who were suffering from what we call PTSD?
*What are the limits of loyalty?
*How can a woman successfully make her way in a society where she has very few rights?
*What happens when the common folk, taxed in order to sustain wars they are no longer winning and to finance the profligacy of their rulers, finally say, "Enough!"? Can numbers overcome weapons and centuries of a particular belief system?
And finally, beyond the questions, is the persistent theme that runs through my entire series, "Life though pleasant is transitory, even as is the Cherry Fair. "
Hopefully, time travel, simply because I love to contrast contemporary thinking and reactions to those from previous centuries.
*RANULF AND LADY JANE: My fictional memoir, in which I finally meet the man who has haunted me through many centuries and all my books. I think I will be married at least five times and will enjoy a far more exciting life than in present reality.
*LADY SHA-LA-LEIGH FINDS LOVE: Frustrated historical novelist finds fame as romance writer and head of Lady Vixen Publishing. After experiencing burnout and trying to escape her metrosexual boyfriend/Svengali, (Danger, formerly known as Chuck), she visits Ireland's Malahide Castle and ends up, well, you know. Here I'll try my hand at comedy so this may never see the light of day.
*ROADHOUSE: Can we cheat death? My grandfather had a very popular tavern on Colorado's eastern plains which will be the fictional setting for my heroine, who from earliest childhood, sees a soldier in WWII uniform walking along a dusty road...before simply disappearing . After figuring out the key to his world, which is tied to the Roadhouse, she meets him at various times throughout her life, where she repeatedly tries to to prevent his brutal murder.
*LABOR WARS: Modern woman, irritated by her blue collar family, is engaged to a Colorado state legislator, whose politics are antithetical to everything her union siblings and father believe in. On a trip to Cripple Creek-Victor, my heroine finds herself back in the turn of the century mining towns and smack in the middle of Colorado's labor wars.