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Recommended Historical Reads for wet Tuesdays #TuesdayBookBlog

The Silken Rose Final VisualThe Silken Rose by Carol McGrath
Married at only thirteen years old to a King she has never met, Ailenor of Provence has to learn quickly what it is to be a Queen, and how to manage her relationship with her husband Henry III during the turbulent world of the thirteenth century – a world of rival barons and religious Crusades. Carol McGrath’s new novel explores how a woman might cope in this situation – how she manages to gain her husband’s respect despite her very different upbringing, and how motherhood is balanced with the needs of public life.
McGrath takes Ailenor’s courtly pursuits, such as embroidery and literature, and contrasts that with the world of the political machinations of the Barons who are vying for power. In this book there are in fact three women with contrasting personalities – Ailenor the strong-minded she-wolf, Nell her sister-in-law who has taken a vow of chastity, and Rosalind the embroiderer to whom Ailenor gives patronage. When Henry and Ailenor become embroiled in an unpopular war to protect Gascony, it brings them into conflict with  Simon de Montfort, who is both the King’s steward, and the love interest of Nell.
Between the three women there is plenty going on in the plot, and we get a well-rounded look at women in this society. The novel is a feast for the senses, with the intricate domestic details of life at court particularly well evoked, and sumptuous descriptions of embroidery and textiles. If you know nothing about this period, this is a great place to start, and this novel will immerse you in the medieval court and keep you enthralled. Highly Recommended.
Du LacThe Du Lac Chronicles  by Mary Anne Yarde
I have a bit of a thing for the Arthurian Legends, so this series has been on my list for a long time. Set in the Dark Ages of 5th century Britain, The Du Lac Chronicles, the first of a long series, centres on the sons of Lancelot and in particular, Alden du Lac. When the novel opens, Alden is tied to a stake and has been brutally whipped. His unlikely rescuer is Annis, the daughter of Cerdic of Wessex, who has taken Alden’s kingdom of Cerniw (Cornwall). We find out more about the couple as the story progresses, and how they met at a wedding. Annis is a strong active protagonist from the start, who drives the narrative forward in the sort of rescue scenario usually reserved for men.
The romance between Annis and Alden, on opposing sides of a power struggle,  is interesting from the outset, and I was keen to follow them as they flee the court.  Naturally, Alden is determined to regain his land, and seeks the help of his estranged brother Budic, now the King of Brittany. But Budic is a nasty piece of work, and… well, I won’t spoil it! When Annis and Alden get to France, one of the most endearing characters for me was Merton, Alden’s younger brother, and I loved his contribution to the humour of the book. This is a very well-researched novel with a wealth of detail that never overwhelms the pace of the action. It has won a number of awards, and deservedly so. It would be equally suitable for adults or young adults, and keep you turning the pages to find out what will happen.
Both these books will take you to another time and place. Happy reading!
My latest release Entertaining Mr Pepys
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Interview with Mary Anne Yarde – Saints, Standing Stones and an Ancient Curse

Dulac1I’m delighted to welcome Mary Anne Yarde to my blog today. Mary Anne is the multi award-winning author of the International Bestselling Series — The Du Lac Chronicles.

Did you envisage writing a long series when you started the first book, or did the idea grow? What made you want to carry on writing them?

The Du Lac Chronicles was meant to be an Arthurian romance, and it was meant to be a trilogy. It still has an Arthurian theme, but it is no longer a trilogy! I have in one of my many folders on my computer the first-drafts of the first three manuscripts of The Du Lac Chronicles that I had written over ten years ago — I never realised that two of them would never see the light of day. The joy of being an indie author is that you are allowed to change your mind, and I can remember reading over what was meant to be Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles and screwing up my nose with the realisation that this wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. So, I rewrote it, and I concluded that there was no way I was going to be able to tell this story in three books, and with that recognition, I felt free to indulge in my imagination and write the story that was begging to be written. 

What made me carrying on writing about those Du Lac boys is simply because I adore them, I adore the era, and I have had such positive feedback from my readers. I am always being asked when the next book is coming out, which certainly motivates me to keep writing.

Who is yDulac2our favourite minor character in the book, and why?

My favourite minor character is Saint Sampson of Dol, although he is not a saint in my books because he isn’t dead — yet! Saint Sampson was a character that I stumbled upon when I was still in the research stage for The Du Lac Devil: Book 2 of The Du Lac Chronicles. I had never heard of this Saint of Brittany before. I became compelled to find out more about him, and I discovered his life’s work overlapped events that happen in my book, so it seemed as if finding him was somehow predestined. Saint Sampson, even though he is a secondary character, has influenced the narrative of the story from the moments he makes his first appearance in Book 2. Through him, I have explored the influence of the Christian Church in Britain during this time.

Tell me about an object or place that is important in the novel and what it signifies.

A place that is really important to several characters in my series is the Standing Stones “The Hurlers” on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. It is where Merton du Lac first encounters Tegan. Tegan is a seer and former knight of Arthur’s, and it is also the place where history and myths collide. During my research for The Du Lac Princess, Book 3 of The Du Lac Chronicles, I visited The Hurlers, and I knew I had to include them. They scream myths and legends.

Dulac3Your books are described as a mixture of historical fiction and myth. Do you think this reflects what you are trying to achieve in your novels?

The Early Medieval era or The Dark Ages as it is more commonly known, is a challenging period to research as it is the age of the lost manuscripts. The manuscripts were lost due to various reasons. Firstly, the Viking raiders destroyed many written primary sources. Henry VIII did not help matters when he ordered The Dissolution of the Monasteries. More were lost due to the English Civil War and indeed, The French Revolution, and of course not forgetting the tragic Cotton Library Fire in 1731. So, researching this era can undoubtedly be challenging, although of course, not impossible. The one thing we do have is Geoffrey of Monmouth’s, The History of The Kings of Briton, (first published in c.1136).   

Monmouth’s book was for many, many years considered factually correct, and I think sometimes we forget that. Of course, there is very little fact in it. Monmouth borrowed heavily from folklore. The history of oral storytelling in Britain fascinates me. Folklore is its own particular brand of history, and it is often overlooked by historians, which I think is a shame. You can tell a lot about an era by the stories that were told.

The Du Lac Chronicles is an Arthurian tale, and it is based upon the life of Budic II of Brittany. I discovered Budic, purely by accident many years ago when I was researching the origins of the legend of Arthur’s most infamous knight, Lancelot du Lac. Budic’s story fascinated me. There is not a great deal of detail to it, but I found out all I could about him, and there were tiny gems of information which I thought, hang on, I could weave this into a story, and that is what I did. Along the way, I encountered other historical figures, such as Cerdic of Wessex.Dulac4

When you are dealing with myths and legends such as the story of King Arthur, or Robin Hood, for example, there has to be a historical element to the story. It has to be as historically accurate as you can get it even though you are dealing with people who may never have lived. Hopefully, what I write reflects a world where historical fact and legends collide.

How important is the story of Lancelot, who the series is named after, to this new book and what you are writing now?

Lancelot’s story is incredibly important, although it is Budic II’s life that the series is following. In The Du Lac Chronicles series it is with Lancelot where the idea of a “curse” begins. It is also Lancelot’s actions in the past that trigger the events that his sons are left to deal with after his death. 

The actual origins of the story of Lancelot are not mythical. He was the invention of a 12th century French poet, Chrétien de Troyes, who depicted him in his great work Le Chevalier de la Charette, replacing Gawain as First Knight. Lancelot’s story, however, captivated a nation. There is this unspoken understanding that if Lancelot did not exist, then he should have done. Talk about the power of fiction. Lancelot has inspired many writers, myself included. Without his story, I would never have found Budic’s.

And finally, I asked Mary Anne, what are you currently writing?

I am currently writing a second edition of The Pitchfork Rebellion, which is an interim novella between Book 1 and Book 2. I am also just beginning the research for Book 6 of The Du Lac Chronicles.

Dulac6God against Gods. King against King. Brother against Brother.

Mordred Pendragon had once said that the sons of Lancelot would eventually destroy each other, it seemed he was right all along.

Garren du Lac knew what the burning pyres meant in his brother’s kingdom — invasion. But who would dare to challenge King Alden of Cerniw for his throne? Only one man was daring enough, arrogant enough, to attempt such a feat — Budic du Lac, their eldest half-brother.

While Merton du Lac struggles to come to terms with the magnitude of Budic’s crime, there is another threat, one that is as ancient as it is powerful. But with the death toll rising and his men deserting who will take up the banner and fight in his name?

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I am currently reading Book One of this series, and was immediately hooked. It’s on offer at the moment, and its so good I bought the second in the series before even finishing the first. My review will be on this blog soon. If you like the myths and legends of Arthurian Britain you’ll love these.  Do go and check them out.

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