The medieval romance novel I thought I’d never write

If you’re looking for a medieval romance novel you’re expecting knights in shining armour, jousting, and at least three feasts. Right?

Well, that’s what I always thought. I’d loved medieval history, literature, architecture, art, music – the works – since before I can remember. I studied it at university first as an undergraduate and then as a postgraduate, and when I starting writing my first ever novel, it was a medieval romance novel.

And yet after the first book was published (which is Conquests, by the way) I realised that I wanted to tell a different story. Because as much as the medieval era was beautiful, and full of mystery and joy, it was also really brutal.

No, really, brutal. People loved and lost more than they lived. Children died young, parents died young, and illness was suffered at every point of life.

So I decided that my next medieval romance novel was going to show a little more of a grittier side of the medieval period. There was going to be kidnapping and betrayal, sickness, and trust and confusion, and pillaging, and more.

And you know what? It was still full of love, and romance. Because that’s what life is. No matter what people and life throws at you, there’s always the opportunity to find warmth and love.

That’s what I wrote. And you can read it here. 

 

(ps. my latest Regency romance is on pre-order! You should totally grab it now.)

medieval romance novels

My favourite medieval romance novels

As well as being an author, I am of course a reader! There are so many incredible medieval romance novels out there and there is no better time than to start exploring this fascinating and romantic period of history than right now.

Whether you’ve read these before and want to relive them, or you’re about to dive into medieval romance novels for the first time, let me know your thoughts in the comments below! (And if you want to read them, just click on the cover image.)

 The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

This was one of the very first medieval romance novels that I ever read, and it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to say that this book is one of the reasons that I became an author in the first place! I loved delving into one person’s life, covering not just years but decades, and it was made all the more incredible by the fact that this was a real person that actually lived. It is why I have always included real historical personalities in my medieval romance saga.

 The Thief’s Countess by Cecelia Mecca

There has to be a book from Cecelia Mecca on any list of best medieval romances – not just because she writes of a fascinating part of history, and her stories are well blended with historical accuracy and searing passion, but also because she’s one of my author friends! The border between England and Scotland was contested and fought over for centuries, and this series follows some of the families and characters who made it their battleground – and their bedroom!

Queen Hereafter by Susan Fraser King

One of my favourite historical characters is actually one that you rarely hear about, let alone read about: Margaret of Scotland. Born into the last Anglo-Saxon royal family, her brother Edgar was never able to successfully claim the throne from William the Conqueror, and that’s all most people know. But Margaret was determined to be someone, and you know what? As with all determined women, she made it. This glorious book follows her life in a thrilling way, and I highly recommend it.

So Speaks the Heart by Johanna Lindsey

If you discovered medieval romance novels in the 1980s and 1990s, then it’s likely that you’ve already read a fair bit of Johanna Lindsey! Her wide sweeping sagas were written in a very similar style, packed full of castles, forests, betrayal, and of course, rather sexy noblemen just waiting to carry off the heroines. In our post-#MeToo world some of these scenes may be a little triggering for some people, but if you like a little roughness with your hero, then this is the book for you.

The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart

Another favourite from my teenage years, the original trilogy follows the Arthurian legend from Merlin’s perspective, a completely unique approach that has made Mary Stewart an absolute legend. She eventually added two books to the series, making this boxset on that you can lose yourself in for weeks on end, as you will be forced to read and re-read it to spot the clues that she leaves in earlier books…

Falling for the Highlander by Emma Prince

Another one of my author friends! If you like a little time travel mixed with your medieval romance novels then this is the one for you. Emma joined up with two other medieval romance authors to create a trilogy based on a trio of modern day sisters who fall through time – and the highlanders that they meet, fight against, and of course, fall in love with in the fourteenth century. Each book can be read on its own, or you can read all three to get a wonderful insight into the Sutton sisters.

The Conquered Hearts Series by…me!

No list of great medieval romance novels could possibly be complete without my own! I know that sounds a little selfish, but I am genuinely proud of the first series that I wrote, and even though I’m now publishing my fourth series, this one has a very special place in my heart. It follows two women, a mother and a daughter, just after the Norman Conquest and includes kidnapping, marriage of convenience, and betrayal across two countries.

Read them all on an Amazon Fire Kindle!

I love paperbacks, but sometimes the convenience of a Kindle is just too much to ignore – and this one can be packed with loads of useful apps, and even has Alexa integrated inside it. We may not have servants today like medieval noblemen did, but wouldn’t want to have their own servant now? Click on the image to treat yourself to your own Fire (go on, you know you deserve it!).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Those of you who know me may be a little surprised at this blog post – after all, I’m not American but a Brit!

However, I think it’s important to take the time to be grateful for the awesome things in your life, and although I probably shouldn’t need a day literally entitled ‘Thanksgiving’ to do so, it’s remarkable how it focuses the mind.

So without further ado, here is my list of things that I am thankful for right now:

  • my wonderful family – husband, parents, brother, and incredibly large extended family. What would I do without you all?
  • my marvellous readers – without you, my books are just words on a page! You bring them to life when you read them.
  • my computer – still up and running, helping me to craft my historical romances with very few crashes!
  • my day job – not only does it pay the bills, but I can do so while enjoying it and surrounded by fab people.
  • the internet – it may be sad in places, but the research ability it gives me from my armchair is just incredible!
  • cheese and chocolate – my writing reward foods that help me push through difficult chapters when I’m feeling uninspired.
  • my editor, formatter, and cover designers – I don’t know where I’d be without them!
  • Netflix – the ultimate reward after a long day of keyboard bashing.

Do we have some of the same things on our list? Let me know yours in the comments below!

Why write medieval historical romance?

If you ask someone to think of historical romance, most people think of Regency bodice rippers, young ladies with names like Georgette or Isabella, who meet a Duke (typically in disguise) who they hate, then fall in love with.

And yet there are plenty of historical romances that are set hundreds of years before the Regency ton decided how sleeves were to be worn that season. Historical romances brimming full of knights, conquests, gowns and swords, with arranged marriages and plenty of titles apiece.

I’m talking medieval romance, and I’m a little bit obsessed with it.

The medieval world was what I chose to lose myself in when I was at university. After taking a degree in History and English, I chose my Masters: Medieval Studies. It’s a heady time period, packed full of powerful men but just as powerful women. Women that owned property, organised treaties, held forts, and betrayed their own sons.

Why wouldn’t you want to write a historical romance based in that time?

It’s why one of my bestselling romance boxsets, Conquered Heartsis beloved by so many. Set just after the Norman invasion of 1066, it has all the great medieval romance tropes – brooding knights, arranged marriage, marriage of convenience, hated overlords, clash of cultures, and beautiful jewels.

I always wanted to be a writer, and it was a medieval romance that I penned first. As a medieval romance author I wanted to give my readers the same passion and thrill reading about the medieval world as I did writing it.

Let me know if you did, and treat yourself to Conquered Hearts!

Guest Blog: Unwrapping a Rogue

unwrappingarogueUnwrap your next historical hero in this Regency romance boxset created especially for Christmas!
Including brand new and exclusive content from USA Today and Bestselling authors as well as much-loved Christmas titles, find yourself lost in a world of snow, scandalous kisses, and sexy heroes.
 
How to Marry a Rake in Ten Days by Samantha Holt
 
The years had added the slightest touch of grey to his hair at the temples. Though he must have shaved in the morning, stubble was beginning to show on his jaw and upper lip. Something about that roughness made her want to reach out and stroke it. Lines crinkled the corners of his eyes. Not a lot but enough that his intense eyes were softened. And his lashes…dear Lord a man should never have such thick, long lashes. It was thoroughly unfair to the fairer sex.
“I always watched you,” he told her in a low voice, the timbre of it spearing deep inside her and making her feel warm and all twisted up inside.
She knew that. But she wouldn’t admit as much. A lady shouldn’t be aware of these things. However, he likely didn’t realise that she understood the reasons behind his stares. He probably had little clue that she even knew he was responsible for Robert’s change of heart.
“I never noticed.”
The lift of one brow told her he didn’t believe her. “I watched you dance. Watched you flirt. Watched you laugh.”
“A lady does not flirt.”
“You did.”
“Well, I have changed.”
His gaze met hers. “I noticed. A pity.”
Angelina eyed him. A pity? Here was the man who had so thoroughly disapproved of her behaviour that he had warned his all too impressionable friend away from her and now he was claiming that he liked that behaviour.
Though she supposed such behaviour was favourable in a conquest but not in a wife.
There was no chance she would be a conquest. She was here for a marriage.
“I have grown up, Benedict, that is all.”
His lips curved. “You have grown up in many ways.” He glanced over her figure. “The years have done you many favours, Angie. However, I’m not sure you are all that different.”
“I am,” she insisted. “I’m nothing like I was when we knew each other.”
Benedict released the curl and tilted his head to view her. “Well, we have ten days together. I’m certain it will become clear whether you have or not.”
“That sounds almost like a challenge, my lord.” She cursed the words once they were out. Those were the words of impulsive, silly Angie. Even the addition of his title had been used with every intention of being daring instead of polite.
He lifted a shoulder. “Perhaps.” He leaned forward and took her hand in his. She eyed their gloved fingers meeting and tried to force her arm to retreat but she had gone boneless at his touch. He eased his palm into hers and held her hand.
“A challenge would certainly make this rather dry party a little more interesting, do you not think?”
She was too busy gaping at their linked hands to even agree with him.
Or tell him no. She already had one challenge to worry about, she didn’t need another.
“We have ten days together. Let me prove to you that you are not changed. That the Angie I knew still resides behind those stiff manners.”
“Why on earth would I agree to such a thing?”
“To prove me wrong.” He lifted her hand up toward his mouth and brushed it over her knuckles.
“I have no need to prove it.”
“Are you scared?”
She raised her chin. “Never!”
He released a flash of a grin. “Ah, there she is.”
“Damn you, Benedict.”
His grin widened. “And again.”
She puffed out her cheeks, feeling how hot and red they were. This was all going so wrong. How was she meant to act like a lady when he was so infuriating? She should probably start thinking about a new job already. She’d never persuade Oliver they’d do well together if this continued.
Angelina tugged away her hand and shook her head. “You won’t win, Benedict. I can assure you of that. Now it is not appropriate for us to be alone together so I shall bid you good afternoon. Will you tell the marquess that I am suffering with a headache and I shall join them for dinner?”
“Of course, my lady.” He offered a mockingly formal bow and Angelina just knew he had no intention of giving up his idea of scandalising her.
 
She shook her head again. As if he could scandalise her further. 

Click here for a Rafflecopter giveaway!

Sneak peek into ‘Seduced under the Mistletoe’!

Seduced under the Mistletoe is now live! If you’d like a little sneak preview, then how about reading the opening to my novella, Peril with a Prince!

Chapter One

The tankard dropped hard on the table and was accompanied by a leer that Giselle could see from right across the room in the dark inn. Frothy beer spilling onto the floor. She bared her teeth back at him, and the man’s eyes widened, his smile disappearing.

Giselle wrapped her cloak around her more tightly, and tried not to shiver. Merde. She should have known better than to accept a meeting at the Loxham Inn – or however it was that this English pronounced it. She had known that it was a mistake as soon as she had opened the letter the day before, but there had not been time to get a message back to her contact. And so the Loxham Inn, on the very edge of this Kentish coast, was to be her rendezvous.

She swallowed. Being this close to her home in France and yet so far was douloureux, too painful – but she could not go back there. Not since… Well, it was safer for her here, en Angleterre.

Giselle took a slow and meaningful look around the dingy room, decorated poorly for the Christmas season, trying not to grimace as she held her arm close to her chest. It was a small stab wound to start with, but constant movement in that carriage to get here had pulled at the healing, and now it was bleeding through her sleeve. It was a pity it was her right hand, for it meant that she was forced to hold her dagger in her left.

You could not be too careful when meeting a man you’ve never even set your eyes on before.

Giselle shivered and took a deep breath as a card game two tables over ended in mutterings and a punch that forced one man to the ground. Here she was, a young woman in a silk gown and elegant diamond ear bobs, sitting in one of the most dangerous inns in England. C’est stupide.

Another deep breath was needed as the minutes ticked by, and the innkeeper glared at her for keeping the small table to herself. You are the Great Whisperer, Giselle said to herself, trying to keep a stern and forbidding look on her face. Courage. You have always managed to get out of scrapes before.

There was a heavy thundering and her cobalt blue eyes looked around, anxious, until she realised it was the sound of her own heart rattling her ribcage. She wasn’t merely frightened: she was terrified. How could she have known, four months ago – and it felt so much longer – that wanting to pass on a letter for her friends would start her on a path like this? But she had had no choice, no choice at all – and now she had a spy’s reputation that she did not deserve!

Giselle swallowed, and tried to imagine what anyone in the Loxham Inn would see if they looked at her. A lady, she hoped; une femme, well bred, and strong, with a determined stare that did not give in. She had not wanted to live a life of subterfuge, and this last transfer of letters was the last one. On Christmas Day, she would be free.

Then she could go and find Pierre, wherever he was. No one’s brother should be missing for that length of time. Ah, mon frère…

Giselle started; the hair on the back of her neck was starting to prickle. What was it? Her eyes darted around the room until they fell on a gentleman almost exactly opposite her, sitting in a small recess but still facing her.

He was staring at her.

She gasped as their eyes met, but he did not look away, and she found herself unable to break the connection. He was a young man, probably not more than one or two and thirty. He looked remarkably clean, which was unusual for the Loxham Inn, and his chestnut hair was cropped short. Even from this distance, Giselle could see his eyes were dark, sparkling with intelligence and focus.

He was focused on her. There was no denying it, his entire attention was fixed upon her, and Giselle hated that her cheeks rushed with colour at the thought of his admiration.

And yet she was not blind. He was a handsome man, richly dressed but poorly kempt. He looked like a man who had spent a few too many nights on the road, but had a servant just waiting to clean him, dress him, and send him onto a court ball.

“’ello, dearie.”

A man smelling rather pungently of pigs dropped into the seat beside her, and Giselle stiffened. Could this be the man that she had been waiting for all day? Could he be the one that she could pass these dratted letters onto, and then she would be free – free to just be Giselle d’Épiluçon, not the Great Whisperer any longer?

The man was badly shaven, and his eyes were bloodshot from drink. “You’re a mighty pretty one, aren’t you?” He murmured in the deep Kentish accents that she now knew so well. “Whatcha doing here, nice lady like you? Looking for some fun?”

The hand that was not grasped around his tankard had now found her leg. Giselle’s lips smiled, but the mirth did not reach her eyes. In one swift movement, she had grasp of his little finger and twisted it back, causing the man to cry out in pain and tears appear in his eyes.

“Was this,” she whispered in a meaningful voice, “what you were looking for, mon amie?”

She pulled it back a little further and the man shook his head, whimpering. Giselle pushed back her cloak slightly to reveal the shine of her dagger, and his eyes widened even further, tears now falling onto his cheeks.

“I think it is best if you leave the Loxham Inn,” Giselle said, the false smile now completely gone from her mouth. “Perhaps you do not come back. Perhaps you never come back, tu comprends?

The man nodded, pleading with his eyes to be released. She let go of his hand but brought her dagger out of her cloak’s folds ever so slightly, as a warning.

He did not need it. Without another word but a quiet whimper, the man half walked, half ran towards the door of the Loxham Inn and left without a backward glance.

Giselle sighed and rolled her shoulders, trying to loosen the tension that had built up there. Mon Dieu, but she hated what her life had become. She lived in fear from moment to moment, never able to rest, never comfortable – and yet she was a lady of France, not some London urchin who enjoyed fighting to its life from day to day!

It had all started when the Revolution happened. 1798 had been a difficult one for all of France, but far more so for families like the d’Épiluçon. Rich, powerful, and noble, they were everything that the revolutionaries hated.

It had not taken them long to start executing them for the crime of simply being rich.

The d’Épiluçon family had managed to survive for a few years, keeping their heads down, not getting involved in anything political, just wanting to live in peace. Until that day when “they” had come.

Giselle swallowed as her eyes filled with tears that she forced away. The important thing was that she had survived, and she had not survived just to feel sorry for herself. The counter-revolutionaries had found her, and convinced her that the only way to protect Pierre was to turn spy against the revolutionaries, to move information about the nobles and how they could be protected. Only for a few weeks, they had said. And then she could be free.

Code name, the Great Whisperer.

She glanced up and once again caught the eyes of the handsome gentleman, who was still watching her.

Her eyes dropped, unable to match the intensity in his dark eyes. It could not be much longer, she told herself. Her contact would arrive soon, and she would be free from being the Great Whisperer, and would be Giselle d’Épiluçon once more.

Just one more rendezvous.

 

Make sure you grab the full sixteen novella boxset here!

Author Collaboration FAQs

Since announcing that I am part of a multi-author boxset, I’ve been receiving a lot of questions – questions that (I hope!) have good answers! I wanted to bring them all into one place for you so that you can have a proper read.

What does that even mean, a multi-author boxset?

A typically boxset contains more than one book by the same author – for example, my Conquered Hearts boxset contains three books that are all part of the same series: Conquests, Love Lettersand Captives

A multi-author boxset contains more than one book by different authors. Sometimes they are novellas, like Seduced under the Mistletoe the multi-author boxset that I’m involved with, and sometimes they are full length novels.

How did you find out about it?

I’ve been aware of outstanding multi-author boxsets before, and it’s always been a dream of mine to be in one – it’s an incredible chance to learn from other authors, share your best work with their readers, and reach new people. The lead author (the one in charge of organising the boxset) for my boxset is Emmanuelle de Maupassant, and we’ve worked together before. She got in touch and invited me to join a group that she’s put together.

Who decides if your book is good enough?

Erm…well, I do I guess! Emmanuelle wouldn’t have invited me to join the boxset if she wasn’t convinced that my books were high enough quality, and my countless 5* reviews on Amazon probably counted for something. You have to be very careful when curating a multi-author boxset because you want books that all your readers will enjoy.

What about editors and stuff?

It was down to each of us to ensure that we had our manuscripts properly edited, and so I worked with my trusty editor to ensure that my contribution, Peril with a Prince, was absolutely perfect. Emmanuelle is a talented formatter and so pulled together the finalised manuscript for publication.

How long will the boxset be available?

Together, the 16 novellas will be published as a boxset until the end of January 2019 – but then after that, it’s down to each individual author to decide what they want to do. My book Peril with a Prince will be available as an ebook, but wouldn’t you rather have all 16 for just 0.99?

How do I get my hands on it?!?

Patience! We’re just a few days away, so keep a close eye here on the website and on my social media accounts! [Edit: it’s live! Treat yourself here.]

Announcing ‘Seduced under the Mistletoe’!

I am beyond excited to announce that I have partnered with 15 other historical romance authors to offer our readers the best Christmas gift ever: 16 steamy Christmas themed novellas for just 99c/99p!

Entitled Seduced under the Mistletoethis boxset will allow you to lose yourself in Viking romance, Regency romance, Victorian romance and more, all with a spicy edge and of course, a happily ever after.

Famous name included in this boxset include Carole Mortimer, Scarlett Scott, and Emmanuelle de Maupassant – and I was absolutely thrilled to be invited to join!

My loyal readers will notice that my contribution to Seduced under the Mistletoe, ‘Peril with a Prince’, is part of my Ravishing Regencies series and features the sister of the main character from Shipwrecked with a SuitorSo many of you loved the tantalising hints about Giselle, Pierre’s brother, and so of course I absolutely had to write her own tale – and you’ll save an absolute bargain by buying this boxset together because you’ll get 16 novellas for just 99c/99p if you buy in the first week!

Of course, we can only keep it at that price for so long, so set a reminder in your calendar to search for ‘seduced under the mistletoe’ on Amazon on November 1st, when our book will be published!

But don’t worry if you forget – I’ll be sure to remind you!

Emily Murdoch - Seduced Under the Mistletoe-2

 

What’s in a name?

Alright, I’m just going to come out and say it: naming characters is the worst.

Most of my (non-author) friends think that I’m crazy for saying this. After all, most of us only get to name a few people in our lives, and if you don’t have any children then you never get the pleasure of deciding what someone is going to be called for the rest of their lives.

I haven’t had that sort of responsibility yet, but I have named several characters in my books. In fact, with my seventeenth book coming out in November (pre-order here!) and my twenty third book just returned from my editor, I’ve probably named over a hundred characters.

I’ve had Avis and Cathryn, Hestia and Audrey, even a Margaret. The boys haven’t been left out either: Alexander and Leonard and Thomas have all graced my pages.

But there’s no hiding from the truth any more. I’m running out of good names.

What? I hear you cry. There are thousands of great names – wonderful names, emotive names, beautiful names.

And there are. But when you’re going for a specific part of history, you immediately become limited. You can’t call a character Jack in the 1060s of England, or a Zacharius in the 1400s. Although Alice was popular in the Victorian era and the 1300s, you wouldn’t have found many in the Tudor era, and don’t even get me started on Judas and Delilah.

You’re unlikely to have a Regency noblewoman called Abigail (a servant’s name), nor any Victorias at all. Meredith is a boy’s name until the 1950s, and no matter how much I try to use Emily, I just can’t stomach naming a character after myself!

When you are seeking historical accuracy, it’s a challenge. There are natural limitations, and limitations that I want to stick to…within reason.

So apologies if you’re a Charles, Mary, Elizabeth, or Margaret. You could appear in almost any part of England’s history from 1050 onwards, and I’ll probably end up using you more than twice.

What name do you love? What names do you think are ignored in historical romance? Let me know in the comments below!

Holidaying as an author

When most people take a vacation, they set down tools, leave the office, wave goodbye to their colleagues, and turn their mind off from their work until they need to step back into work again.

Not so with us authors. Our office is of the mind, and that means that it is almost impossible to completely abandon and try to switch off while you are taking a holiday – even if you would like to!

It has almost becoming a running joke in my family. Whenever I go on holiday with them, my trusty laptop somehow seems to find its way into my luggage.

“What did you bring that for?” They’ll ask me, a smile on their faces. “Surely you don’t want to work while you’re on holiday?”

And the answer seems that it should be ‘Of course not!’…but in many ways, writing doesn’t feel like work to me. Yes, some chapters are nightmares, and some characters make me want to rip my teeth out…

But sometimes the words just come. They flow like water from my fingertips and after losing myself completely in the words, I realise that several hours have gone by, and I haven’t eaten in any of them. My family have been tiptoeing around me, leaving hot drinks now cold around me, but otherwise leaving me be.

It’s an incredible blessing, having family like me. I honestly don’t know how I would write without them, and when we go on holiday together and explore our favourite parts of the country, inspiration lies around every corner.

A phrase to include in a book. A character to add in a story. A location that is perfect for a scene.

So when I next go on holiday, I’ll be taking the laptop. Inspiration may not stride, but just in case it does…