Top 10 Reasons I Love Medieval Romances

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  1. Castles are very cool. I’ve been fortunate to visit assorted castles in England and Wales, including the castle where my AT HIS COMMAND heroine lives (Castle Rising). You can tell from the ruins how vast some of them were. Climbing spiral staircases in a tower or walking on narrow castle walls with amazing views of the surrounding area helped me imagine what living there hundreds of years ago was like. I even had the opportunity to stay in two castles (Thornbury and Amberley). Both were amazing in different ways.
  2. Real kings, queens and dukes figure into the plot, which happen to be more interesting to me than, say, books featuring presidents or first ladies. I’m fascinated by the historical events and lifestyles of late medieval England, from fashions to food. My interest sparked when I was in a production of Richard III in college and wondered how much of what Shakespeare wrote was true.
  3. The opportunity to figure out what happened when there are gaps in actual history. When, in a reliable source or sources, I see something like, “No one knows what happened in this meeting,” or “Scholars disagree on this or that,” I get to play, “What if?” and make up what will best enhance my characters and/or plot. When I learned about King Henry IV’s strange illness (scholars still debate what he suffered from), ideas started popping into my head, such as how the different people in his life would handle the situation on a day to day basis.
  4. So many interesting character options. Characters can be nobles, peasants, soldiers or merchants. They can live in castles, towns or cities. Heros can be knights in shining or cobbled together armor. Heroines can take on more roles in medieval times than many assume, or they can face societal restrictions most women today do not.
  5. Research and non-fiction books. And more non-fiction books. I’ve written a couple of contemporaries set in my hometown of Chicago. While it was definitely easier to, say, have the characters go for dinner at a Chinese restaurant similar to one in my neighborhood or walk downtown streets I already know well, I had more fun planning medieval meals and learning about who might eat what when, and figuring out how long it would take to travel from one place to another. One of my favorite books is English Medieval Industries, because it gives so many details most of which aren’t available on the Internet) about a variety of occupations.
  6. They say, “Write what you love to read,” vs. writing to market trends. My favorites when I started reading romance novels included Kathleen Woodiwiss’s THE WOLF AND THE DOVE, Roberta Gellis’s Roselynde series, and Julie Garwood’s and Madeline Hunter’s medievals. So when I decided to write, I wanted to write medievals.
  7. Life or death plots. From the plague to battles, from medical knowledge at the time to weapons and armor, from schemes to overthrow the king to arranged marriages, the medieval period yields high stakes plots. It’s easier for me to make the most of the available technology, or lack thereof, during the Battle of Castillon (featured in AT HIS COMMAND) than if I chose to place my characters, say, in a current war. Also, TV shows such as Homeland and Scandal do such a great job portraying modern warfare and politics. I don’t know if I could do as well or better.
  8. Escape and/or fantasy. Many of us read romance novels to experience times, lives and places different from our own. Immersing ourselves in the characters’ world can be more interesting if we’re not as familiar with it. For example, I have a law degree and spent 13 years working with attorneys. I’d rather spend my time off reading about other professions than the law.  If I do read a novel about a lawyer, it’s easier for me to get pulled out of the story if something a character does doesn’t resonate with my knowledge.
  9. Upending readers’ assumptions. Many readers lump the medieval era in with the dark ages, aren’t aware of how long the medieval period actually was or what was invented when, or how much life changed over the course of several hundred years. (Don’t get me started on the scholarly debate about correct terminology and the beginning and end of eras, such as “middle ages,” “early medieval,” etc.) That’d be like assuming very little changed in the 19th and 20th centuries, when we know each decade brought many changes.
  10. Gowns, veiled headdresses and armor. My favorite costume book, John Peacocks Costume 1066-1990s, does a wonderful job of depicting clothing worn during each monarch’s reign. The headdresses popular in mid-15th century England don’t look very comfortable, but are interesting and so different from even the stunning Edwardian chapeaus on this season of Downton Abbey I can’t help but wonder what it was like to wear them.  And who doesn’t love a knight in shining armor? Or chain mail, even. Toss in a manly sword, and you’ve got a swoon worthy hero.

Why do you love medievals? If you don’t, why not?

RKaufman_AtHisCommand_HistoricalRomance_285kbBlurb:Could she defy her king for love?

England 1453: King Henry VI sends Sir Nicholas Gray to protect the recently widowed Lady Amice Winfield from undesirable suitors. Though Nicholas intrigues her, she yearns to run Castle Rising without a man’s control.

Nicholas has no interest in marriage, but can’t deny he’s attracted to Amice. He’s surprised to finally find in Castle Rising a place he feels at home. A kiss sparks desire neither can ignore, yet serving opposing factions seeking to govern England threatens to pull them apart.

At court, the king and queen reject Amice’s pleas and choose a new husband for her, a highly-ranked lord who’ll provide connections and coin for the king’s depleted coffers that Nicholas cannot. How can she follow the king’s command when she’s a scribe for his rival? How can she marry another man when she’s falling in love with Nicholas?

Praise for AT HIS COMMAND-Historical Romance Version: A wonderful debut sure to please lovers of romance!
—NYT & USA Today bestselling author Madeline Hunter

With a bold knight and a strong-willed lady, Kaufman’s story is positively medieval.
— NYT & USA Today bestselling author Tracy Anne Warren

Buy: At His Command-Historical Romance Version, At His Command-Inspirational Version

Ruth Kaufman is a Chicago author, speaker and on-camera and voiceover talent with a J.D. and a Master’s in Radio/TV.  Her writing accolades include Romance Writers of America® 2011 Golden Heart® winner and RT Book Reviews’ national American Title II contest runner up. Her true, short story, “The Scrinch” is in the St. Martin’s Press anthology The Spirit of Christmas, foreword by Debbie Macomber. Learn more at www.ruthkaufman.com and www.ruthtalks.com.

Website: www.ruthkaufman.com

Blog: www.rjkaufman.blogspot.com

Audio Review: Lady Caroline and the Egotistical Earl by Terry Spear

lady caroline and the egotistical earlHeroine: Lady Caroline has aided her mother in managing the estates after her father’s death. All was well until knights in the earl’s colors started to terrorize the people and kill livestock. When her mother seeks to speak with the earl, a simple request for assistance turns into something else.

Hero: Lord John Talbot is not aware of any rogue knights. He is however very aware of Caroline. He wants to be near her and decides she must be a lady-in-waiting for his mother. Caroline might not be amenable to the idea, but he has ways to persuade her… and if she’s in danger all the more reason to keep her close.

Review: Lady Caroline is one to take charge. She has an excellent memory and plans to investigate the raids if Lord John won’t. After she gets into a few scrapes… the worse getting her chased up a tree by villainous raiders, he keeps her securely within his arm’s reach. You have to agree that Lady Caroline, while she may be a tad too independent, was right because someone had to proactively investigate! Readers will find this a clean romance without sex, but with sexual interest and overtones to liven up any afternoon.

Narrator: Maria Hunter Welles has a very affected voice for Lady Caroline’s character who is 19 years old. It worked, because Caroline is young and impetuous.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Lady Caroline and the Egotistical Earl

Review: Desire in Tartan: 2 (Highland Vampires) by Suz deMello

desire in tartanReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Her first novel in the Highland Vampires series, Temptation in Tartan: 1, concentrated on one part of the Kilburn clan, Lydia Swann-Williston and Keiran the Laird of Kilburn. This time readers are treated to a new possible romance between Dugald Kilburn and Alice Derwent. They both ache for each other, but he can never give her children as he is a vampire. He also wants to spare her the cruelty of being wed to a vampire, but as she is dying, she feels she wants him all the more.

Review: This novel is part of the Ellora’s Cave Legend series and as it mixes historical with the paranormal, it piqued my interest almost immediately. As she has lost her father, and has been thrown out of her father’s house by his friends, Alice has no choice but to take Dugald’s offer to work for him, but she has to adjust to the Scotsman’s brash manner before she falls for him. Dugald in turn is fascinated by her direct speech, and quiet manner. He finds her intriguing as she is beautiful, but not boastful, and conversational when pressed, but not brash. It is her intelligence that amazes him more, but when he knows her father made sure she was taught properly, he realizes he shouldn’t be. Dugald is well aware of what he looks like, and has an awful thought that he will go mad watching those he loves die while he still lives. This is his price for being one of the undead, and it is something he doesn’t appreciate.

Good bits:

  • Dugald’s use of his Scottish accent when the story is shown from his point of view.
  • Dugald has an appreciation of women as well as men, so he isn’t a chauvinist – hurrah!
  • The two for the price of one approach doesn’t make Alice think any better of Dugald, yet that’s what he has in mind – a governess and a wife.

Bad bits:

  • Alice riding for the first time – no, she’s not ready for it.

Final Thoughts: At first Alice is destined to have nothing and be thrown out of her home, when the Kilburn clan change all that and invite her to be their governess. Dugald makes sure she is well provided for even though she is scared to be around the family when she is invited into their home. He hopes she will warm to him, and to be honest, I wasn’t surprised she took to him as they are both opposites. He is rough and ready; she is shy and demure but hides her true self. You would think they would be a match made in heaven, but to be honest it isn’t as easy as that. There are many obstacles the two of them must get over before they can love each other.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Desire in Tartan: 2 (Highland Vampires)

Review: Torch in the Forest by Marcie Kremer

torch in the forestHeroine: Eleanor of Strathcombe is a young widow, only 18, and managing her late husband’s estate. Poachers are running rampant and keep escaping into the neighboring Lord’s estate, where her forrestor cannot pursue. The poacher’s activity is creating a whole host of problems. Then the long absent Lord returns and blames her for the poachers. What’s a lady to do? Fight him of course.

Hero: Lord Hugh of Wykeham doesn’t trust any woman, and stands accused of murdering his faithless wife. Now he is back from crusading and finds his lands are being poached. If Eleanor were a better stewardess this wouldn’t be a problem. Demanding control of the forest boundaries is the only option… that and to marry Eleanor’s sister… which clearly won’t do at all because Eleanor likes the arrogant fellow.

Review: I wasn’t able to connect with the characters in this book and found myself trudging through by sheer force of will at times. The heroine is too strong and comes across anachronistic. A child bride who was married for two years and widowed for two more could be strong, no question, but I didn’t sense the buildup of this strength. The hero is a dunderhead and came across one-dimensional.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: Torch in the Forest (Entangled Scandalous)

Review: Kiss Across Chains (Kiss Across Time, Book 3) by Tracy Cooper-Posey

kiss across chainsSexy Synopsis: Four years doesn’t sound like a long time, but for Taylor and Brody their time living around humans has been fraught with trouble, and they have had to mingle with the ones who could hurt them the most, despite them being vampires and time jumpers. During the First Crusade, they nearly lost Veris, and had to control their time jumping in order to have what they can see as a normal life among the humans bringing up their daughter, Marit.

Queen Tira was her usual self in paying Brody back for defying her; it is almost as though she had in fact taken her wrath out on all three of them in turn. The result of her meddling makes them have to jump back to a time where they could get evidence that she had set Brody up previously, but even that comes with a price as this awakens Brody’s inner turmoil as they have jumped back to Fifth Century Constantinople. As this is all done to save their daughter, Marit, they endure the bitterness and torment that comes with living in a cruel and dangerous age. Brody ends up being a wretched slave, while Taylor plays the wife of a wealthy aristocrat, and searches to save him.

Sizzling bits:

  • The sensual scenes between the three of them is a real heart stopper!
  • Queen Tira’s demanding and dangerous nature.
  • The sensual build up with the three characters.
  • The relationship between Taylor, Brody and Veris.
  • Good character development and good storyline make this a great read.

Bad bits:

  • None at all – it’s an impressive third instalment of the series.

Review: While the first two novels seemed to set the scene for the third one, everything that has followed since has built up to these precious moments between Taylor, Brody and Veris. Book one focussed on Brody and Veris being together, while book two concentrated on Veris and his awful past.

One of the interesting parts of this novel is that Brody has once died in the Hippodrome, and thinks he might die again as he has become human, so as far as the plot is concerned, anything can happen to Veris. Starting to read this one book isn’t the best idea as there is a lot of past story that surrounds the three of them that you have to take in and bear in mind before you even get to this one, and plus which, you’ll miss out on all that burning sensuality between two bisexual men, and their female lover and you wouldn’t want to do that, would you.

This novel can be seen as being more about how Brody feels, and what happened to him in a previous Constantinople. Brody is a genuinely nice man who only wants the best for the four of them – and, as the book shows, he will go to any lengths to show his love for their daughter, and how far he and his partners would go to protect her. I liked the characters and thought they were well developed, especially Brody, as he seems to be the most emotional of the three, and you can’t blame him as he had suffered so much from his abusers in the past, and could do again. This isn’t the sort of novel series you would read to enjoy a normal menage romance novel, there is a lot of pain, and suffering in it that would make it not for the feint hearted. Then again, if you are familiar with Tracy Cooper Posey’s earlier novels, then you will relish this as one of the trio of novels and relish it just as much as I did.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Kiss Across Chains (Kiss Across Time Series)

Review: Music for My Soul by Lauren Linwood

music for my soulReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Most readers tend to go for Regency when someone mentions historical to them, but Medieval isn’t as left out as you might think – it’s still going strong thanks to those authors who decide to take it on themselves to create a stormy and sensual novel – which this is. Madeleine Bouchard is an unhappy wife in a difficult relationship with her husband who beats her when things don’t go right with his life.

As a vineyard owner, he expected her to bear him a son, but after years of trying for one, and with no success, he blames her for their barren relationship. When she finds out he plans to kill her, she decides to leave and make a new life on the road in England as a troubadour, singing songs and entertaining people. It is then she catches the eye of Garrett Montayne.

Garrett is a wealthy nobleman who wants to see more of Madeleine even though he thinks she might do him a disservice at some point. He does his best to encourage her, and summer plans to be a whirlwind affair where the both of them will fall in love, but problems lurk on the horizon when her husband has discovered where she might be, and intends to kill her no matter what.

What can Madeleine do now?

As a debut author, this is Lauren Linwood’s first novel, one of three in fact set in 1346 and starts at the point where she is ready to flee her abusive husband, Henri and thinks hard on the problems she will have once she does leave the relative comfort of what she has considered her home with him. Through all her plotting she also considers that she has to not alert him as to her sudden decision to move, but with him being a drunkard, she feels he is unlikely to notice any change in her. His annoyance at her not being able to bear children can quickly be traced back to Henri as he is unlikely to be able to father any with his constant drinking enabling him. Garrett on the other hand already has a daughter, Lissa who he loves very much and he is a completely different man to her husband. He has the wealth and the caring attitude toward her she has missed while being with Henri.

Good bits:

  • I am with her all the way through while she is plotting to leave Henri – the suspense is killing me!
  • Garrett Montayne is everything you would want in a man, strong, cuddly and good with kids.
  • There is an excellent build-up to the sensual parts in the story.

Bad bits:

  • Henri, she does a great job of making him sound positively awful most of the way through the novel.
  • Lauren makes you wait before anything saucy happens – naughty

Review: For a debut romance author this gets right to the nub of the matter without any messing around – Madeleine wants to leave her husband and she does right at the start. Lauren knows the strength of a setting and using interesting characters you want to get to know more of in the story, and has them do the most amazing things for love.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Music For My Soul

Review: The Trouble with Highlanders by Mary Wine

trouble with highlandersReview by Lynn Reynolds

The year is 1488.

Daphne MacLeod is having a really good dream about Norris Sutherland. Norris is having an interesting conversation with his father about Daphne. What I love about Mary’s book is that she has made Daphne an independent woman during the middle ages when women were to take care of a man’s every need.

Mary’s book shows how things are perceived back in the 1400’s as how women are supposed to behave and what is expected of them. She also shows how women can turn against other women when they are perceived as being beneath others. There is also social standing that comes into play.

Norris is a true romantic hero. He doesn’t care about anything other than the woman he wants. He doesn’t care if he is supposed to marry someone else in order to satisfy an obligation. But there is someone that just has other things in mind.

Sandra Fraser is the woman who would give the Wicked Witch of the West a run for her money. She would also be a perfect fit for any of today’s soap operas. I will say that I was keeping my fingers crossed that she would get what was coming to her.

If you have read any of Mary’s other books, you will also want to read this one as well. I hated to have to put the book down. If you have not read any of the other books in this particular series, don’t be afraid to go back and read the others. Mary will not disappoint you.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Trouble with Highlanders

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Review: Velvet by Xavier Axelson

Velvet by Xavier AxelsonReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Medieval times are the setting for this novel. It is Axelson’s first full length one, and it isn’t about to disappoint. Young Virago is a royal tailor and works at court, taking over the previous tailor, his father, who was killed in an accident. He knows he has to keep up the family trade as a lot of folk are relying on him for court fashions. He has a deep longing for Prince Duir even though he played with him as a child, he loves him, but as it is a forbidden love, he has to keep it a secret. When Virago gets a new cloth sent to him from outside of the kingdom, he is amazed at its beauty and feel. He finds it is called velvet, and it takes his breath away, just as Seton, the court lute player fuels his deep passion for another man to be alone with.

Review: As Virago is around court, his new position allows him to converse with royalty just as his father had, and in one way it is good as he gets to be around Prince Duir, his one true love, but he doesn’t see him as he should – Duir isn’t the sort of prince to be trusted as once his father gives him the position of king, he becomes cruel and unworthy of the title. The velvet Virago gets sent to him seems to have a life of its own. It is an entity that invites the fulfillment of urges, both good and bad, and even those never before known.

There is a sense of foreboding, and duality about this story as Virago lives and works around great privilege, but also gets to see the horror of what his true love, the now King Duir is capable of – murder and slaughter are seen as nothing to him, yet Virago still has a rose-tinted view of him. The king soon has an interest in Seton even though Virago has also fallen for him, so that could inspire a menage situation. There are so many opposites in this story, it is what makes it wonderful to read. Virago is prepared to take the rough with the smooth when dealing with the king, while he likes the smooth love he has found from being with Seton. Love is at the root of all this, and it is a true, honest love, but it is questionable whether it is a lingering one.

It is interesting that Xavier chose the name Virago as it is taken from the Latin words Vir for virile man, and ago to apply to a woman, which means a woman who displays male qualities. Virago in this is a virile man once he is exposed to the velvet, but also with the help of Seton, he can come to realize not everyone is as nice as he imagines.

Naughty Bits: They are nice and steamy! As I mainly read LGBT novels written by women, I found this an interesting diversion from the norm. The idea of opposites attracting, and also showing two sides of a series of people made it easy to identify to the characters. The writer is able to take the reader to his chosen world and let them enjoy it while shocking them too.

What’s the verdict? There are things that aren’t explained much, like Virago’s past, but that doesn’t make you like the story any less. This is a sensual and erotic page turner for those rainy days off.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Velvet