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!).

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!

Medieval vs Regency

I started out as a medieval writer; someone who knew and loved the medieval period completely and utterly.

I studied History and English at the University of York, UK, and the majority of that ended up being medieval and Early Modern. I revelled in what I learned of the medieval period, and I truly loved learning about the history, the politics, the food, the fashion, the literature, and the language. I knew that the medieval era was something that I really wanted to immerse myself in.

So I continued at the University of York, and I studied my MA in Medieval Studies on a scholarship. There are still times when I really miss academia, and the time I had just enjoying the research and the reading. In fact, I loved it so much that even in my spare time, I ended up thinking about the medieval era – and so I decided to write a book about it.

One book was followed by its sequel, and then I wrote a bridge novella between the two. Soon enough, all three books had been put together in one collected edition, and I was already half way through another series.

And then my publishers gave me a call.

They wanted to commission me to write a Regency novella – specially based around Christmas. Now, I love Jane Austen, and I’ve read a huge number of Regency novels and novellas, but this wasn’t something that I had a huge amount of research knowledge in. Could I really make the transition? It was only about 700 years difference . . .

I threw myself into the task, and I can now proudly say that I’m a rather successful author of both the medieval period and the Regency period. Do I have a favourite? I still think that my heart truly belongs in the medieval era, but I’m now mid way between writing two series, one set in the tenth century and one set in the nineteenth – so who can say what will come next!

It’s hard to believe that the last of my Regency romance series is now published! A Harvest Passion is now available to read, and completes the series of four novellas, with A Christmas Surprise, A Valentine Secret, and A June Wedding all coming before it. Make sure that you read them and let me know what you think!

Inconvenient Truths

Hey guys! As many of you know, I am currently working on my next big novel, hurrah! It’s been great to see the success of my previous series of books, but I want to keep things fresh, and keep challenging myself.

So I’ve been working on the first novel of a series of four. It is twice as long as any other book that I have ever written, covers twice the amount of geography, and has at least four times the number of characters. I have complicated diagrams to follow how everyone interacts with each other, and I’m still getting confused with how long a particular character needs to stick around before I kill them off (sorry).

However, today disaster struck. I accidentally discovered that I had misplaced the entirety of the action of the first seventeen chapters…by almost two hundred miles.

It may not sound like a problem, but at the time of the year that I am writing it will change the weather, the holy days, the ways that people interact with people – and worse, I have now discovered that there was a whole religious dispute going on in the place where my characters ACTUALLY were during this time. So now I’ve got to weave that in.

This is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult things about writing historical fiction when you include characters that really existed. It doesn’t matter how marvellous you think it would be that your hero was in this particular location at this time; if he wasn’t you can’t put him there. You can’t also move people’s ages by a couple of years to make characters peers, and you can’t change a person’s appearance to fit with a joke you have half way through.

I have always considered this one of the exciting challenges of writing historical fiction, but right now, I am totally gutted. I’m going to have to re-write the last 56,000+ words of my draft, just because I read one year wrong in my initial research.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving up heart, but it will certainly push back my finish date by at least a fortnight. Longer for you guys to wait, I’m afraid! If you are too impatient for my work, check out Conquests my first book. Let me know what you think!

Changed My Mind . . . Again!

So, once again, I’ve changed my mind.

(Don’t forget to buy my books on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com!)

This will not come as any sort of surprise to those who know me. I am the one, after all, that really can’t decide what she wants for supper and so has a bit of everything; who struggles to make even the simplest decision about which film to watch; and has once completely opted out of a survey because she couldn’t decide whether she wanted to be Ms or Mrs.

But anyway. I digress.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will have seen recently that I’ve been working on a new novella series, and I got pretty close to finishing the first one…and then I stopped working on it. I changed my mind about what my writing priorities were.

So now I’m working on  the first novel in a four novel series. Becuase of course.

So what prompted me to change my mind? A myriad of reasons actually, and I’ll share them with you:

1. Too much plot!
I was in the enviable position of actually having too much plot to fit into the novella. I had given myself 25,000 words per novella, and I reached the 20,000 word mark without really delving deeply into the narrative, let alone explore the characters and their developing relationships. I got frustrated, and I wanted to go back to novels again.

2. Too much dissertation!
This probably needs a bit more explanation: I actually started writing this novel two years ago, but I was forced to put it on hold because I had my Medieval Studies MA dissertation to finish, and I was finding myself getting distracted – who wouldn’t! I really hated the fact that I never finished it, and it was going to be my next novel anyway.

3. Too much encouragement!
You may be laughing at this one, but it’s true! My husband is super encouraging, but he always wants me to keep challenging myself – and a four novel series that spans hundreds of years? That’s pretty challenging, and that’s what I had put aside that MA year. In his mind, novellas were small fry, and he is right (at the moment).

So: that’s what I’m doing now! I can’t pretend that it’s not hard work, because it is, and I can’t pretend that I don’t doubt sometimes whether I’m a good enough writer to attempt this, because I do . . . and yet I’m loving it. Chapter 8 was finished this evening, and my editor has a few amends for Chapters 1-3. This novel is happening!

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

What have you changed your mind about before – in your writing, or in general? Let me know in the comments, tell me on Facebook, or tweet me!

Struggling to Write Second Book

I know this post may sound a little strange, and I know it is definitely a first world problem, but it’s something that I’ve been struggling with for a while, so I thought I’d share it: I am really struggling to write a second book.

I know that sounds mental: it’s supposed to be the first book that’s difficult! And for many people it is, but I found that my first book Conquests almost flowed out of me. It was a story that I knew inside out, and I really wanted to tell it. And so I did – it only took me about three months, although getting it published was another matter. But once it was done, there, put on paper, it didn’t feel difficult.

But the sequel?

My word, it’s like drawing blood from a stone. Just like my first book, Conquests: Hearts Rule Kingdoms, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, exactly where my characters are going…and yet they aren’t getting there.

I think partly it’s because I’m terrified that I won’t be able to match the success that I’ve had with my first book. From here, the only way should really be up…but what if my readers don’t like it as much? What if they hate it? What if my family hate it, and they start to disown me because it’s just too terrible to be associated with?

I’m also in such a different place than I was when I wrote my first book, almost two years ago. Then, I was just about to graduate with a BA in History and English, and had days and days of nothingness in which I could write. Now I’m working two internships whilst planning my wedding and a move to the other side of the world (New Zealand). Empty days are a distant memory.

But if I’m serious about being a writer (which I am), and if I want to end up writing about three books a year (which I do), then surely I’m going to have to get used to this? After all, life isn’t going to slow down just because I have another chapter deadline. Life doesn’t stop after the wedding and the move – I’ll have a husband to look after, a house to keep, and a social life to create. “Time to write” isn’t going to drop into my lap.

So here’s the challenge to myself – and you, if you’re struggling to find time to finish that first, second, or fifteenth novel. Divide it into chunks, and allot rewards. For every chapter, a chocolate bar. For every character development, another episode of The Big Bang Theory. For every completed novel, a weekend break away.

Whatever it takes to keep you writing, chipping away at the word count and killing off that antagonist, find it and use it.