Medieval Passion, Arthurian Obsession & Courtly Love with Jessica Cale

Today Author Jessica Cale talks with me about her collaboration on Sexuality and its Impact on British History, about her Medieval passion, Arthurian obsession and her fascination with courtly love. -Stephanie M. Hopkins

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When Hunter S. Jones asked me to be a contributor to Sexuality and its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare, I was thrilled. This was the kind of opportunity I always dreamt of when I was a kid. (Yes, I was a weird kid.) When everyone else wanted to be doctors, astronauts, and entertainers, I was at home watching History’s Mysteries and wanting to be Leonard Nimoy. Everyone else knew him as Spock, but to me he was the host of my favorite show on the History Channel.

corn palace

Behold, the Corn Palace

From there, things progressed as you might imagine. Medieval history was my passion, and I decided to go to school for it. Growing up in Minnesota, the closest castle was the Corn Palace, so I knew if I wanted to study the Middle Ages properly, I was going to have to get on a plane. Fortunately, I was accepted to my first choice school–Swansea University in Wales. As far as I’m concerned, there is no better place to study British medieval history than Wales. With more castles per square mile than anywhere else on earth, it was my idea of heaven.

My first degree went so by so fast I barely felt it. I was fortunate to have a lot of great teachers, in particular the late Ifor Rowlands, who supervised my undergraduate thesis. It was Ifor who suggested a way for me to combine my love of Arthurian literature with the history behind it: I would compare the stories with the Life of William Marshal.

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William Marshal’s coat of arms as Earl of Pembroke. Look familiar?

Even during his lifetime, William Marshal was widely regarded as the greatest knight in the world. His life had a lot of interesting parallels to the Lancelot of legend, and in my thesis, I made the argument that the depictions of Lancelot coming out of Marie de Champagne’s court (most notably that from Chrétien de Troyes) were directly inspired by Marshal himself. He was a rock star of the High Middle Ages–handsome, noble, and his prowess was second to none. He was the tutor and companion to Henry the Young King, the eldest son of Henry II, and was rumored to have had an affair with Henry’s wife, Margaret of France. Whether or not he did, no one’s sure, but it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine the hottest gossip of the day popping up in the stories told around court.

Marie de Champagne’s court is best remembered as the unofficial birthplace of the idea of courtly love. At the very least, it is where Andreas Capellanus wrote De Amore, or The Art of Courtly Love, the entertaining, often bonkers, and nevertheless revealing treatise on the ideal and practice of courtly love in the Middle Ages.

In The Art of Courtly Love, Capellanus lays out a number of rules for being in love. Some of them are common practice, but other have changed some over the years. For example, Capellanus argues that jealousy is a good thing and that love cannot and should not exist within marriage.

real castle

A photo I took at Pembroke Castle, William Marshal’s residence as Earl of Pembroke

As an Arthurian obsessive and a Historical Romance author, I have always been fascinated by the idea of courtly love, so when Hunter asked if I would like to be involved with her book, I jumped at the chance to examine it further. One thing that struck me as particularly interesting was the discovery that in spite of common belief and even Capellanus’s recommendations, people did marry for love.

In fact, according to Gratian, you couldn’t be married without it. Three things were required to make a marriage: love, sex, and consent. That’s right–consent. Although forced medieval marriages is a popular trope in historical dramas, in practice, the Church viewed consent as a crucial component of any marriage. Yes, people could feel pressured to marry by parents or just circumstance, but that was the exception rather than the rule. The Church frowned on marriages made only for material gain. Procreation was not the only purpose of marriage, and people also married for love and companionship as they do today.

Love in the Middle Ages was not so very different than it is now, and is it any wonder? While the world changes, human nature does not, and we have a lot more in common with our medieval ancestors than you might guess. I cover a lot of ground in my chapter from common law marriages and annulments to sex, homosexuality, and contraception. Did you know that most of the medieval churches in London were built with the profits of prostitution? True story. It was tolerated and licensed by the Church. Surprise! Along with facts like that, I found recipes for herbal abortifacients, sex magic practices involving fish (what?), a gay king (it’s not the one you’re thinking of), and transgender individuals more or less accepted in society. The more you look into it, the more you find that the Middle Ages weren’t as “medieval” as we’ve been told.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading all about it with me in my chapter in Sexuality and its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare.

Jessica ColeJessica Cale is a historian, editor, and Historical Romance author. Originally from Minnesota, she earned her B.A. (Hons) in Medieval History and MFA in Creative Writing from Swansea University while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She is the editor of Dirty, Sexy History and you can visit her website .

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1 + 2018 Sexuality in History Brits Stripped BareSexuality and its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare

Would you swig a magic potion or plot to kill your husband in order to marry your lover? These are just two of the many romantic and sexual customs from British history that you will explore as seven authors take us through the centuries, revealing that truth is stranger than fiction when it comes to love. From bizarre trivia about courtly love, to techniques and prostitution, you’ll encounter memorable nuggets of provocative information that you’ll want to share.

It’s all here: ménage a trois, chastity belts, Tudor fallacies, royal love and infidelity, marriage contracts (which were more like business arrangements), brothels, kept women, and whorehouses. Take a peek at what really happened between the sheets. Each story provides you with shocking detail about what was at the heart of romance throughout British history.

Sexuality and Its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare chronicles the pleasures and perils of the flesh, sharing secrets from the days of the Anglo-Saxons, medieval courtly love traditions, diabolical Tudor escapades—including those of Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots—the Regency, and down to the ‘prudish’ Victorian Era. This scholarly yet accessible study brings to light the myriad varieties of British sexual mores.

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Cover Crush: Still Lives by Maria Hummel

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

Still LivesAbout the Book:

Hardcover, 288 pages

Expected publication: June 5th 2018 by Counterpoint Press

A young editor at a Los Angeles art museum finds herself pulled into the disturbing and dangerous world of a famous artist who goes missing on the opening night of her exhibition

Kim Lord is an avant garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.

As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all of the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances.

Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala

Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls upon the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

Set against a culture that too often fetishizes violence against women, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world’s hall of mirrors, and one woman’s journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets.

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

My thoughts:

I love abstract art and often times they make great book covers. If you read the book description, you will see how they pulled themes from the story to create this cover.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Other great cover crushes from my fellow book bloggers: 

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden’s Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum

 

Cover Reveal: Deadmarsh Fey (Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light Book 1) by Melika Dannese Lux

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Expected Publish Date: May 2nd

Flesh and bone and hearts unknown, lead to the rath and your fate will be shown…

Deadmarsh. The name struck terror into the hearts of all who heard it. But to Roger Knightley, neither Deadmarsh the house, nor Deadmarsh the family, had ever been anything to fear. Nearly each summer of his young life had been spent in that manor on the moors, having wild adventures with his cousin, Lockie, the Deadmarsh heir. This year should have been no different, but when Roger arrives, he finds everything, and everyone, changed. The grounds are unkempt, the servants long gone. Kip, the family cat, has inexplicably grown and glares at Roger as if he is trying to read the boy’s mind. Roger’s eldest cousin, Travers, always treated as a servant, now dresses like a duchess and wears round her neck a strange moonstone given to her by someone known as Master Coffyn, who has taken over the teaching of Lockie at a school in Wales called Nethermarrow.

And soon after he crosses the threshold of Deadmarsh, Roger discovers that Coffyn has overtaken Lockie. The boy is deceitful, riddled with fear, and has returned bearing tales of creatures called Jagged Ones that claim to be of the Fey and can somehow conceal themselves while standing in the full light of the moon. What they want with Lockie, Roger cannot fathom, until the horror within his cousin lashes out, and it becomes savagely clear that these Jagged Ones and the Dark Wreaker they serve are not only after Lockie and Travers, but Roger, too.

Joining forces with an ally whose true nature remains hidden, Roger seeks to unravel the tapestry of lies woven round his family’s connection to the death-haunted world of Everl’aria—and the Dark Wreaker who calls it home. The deeper Roger delves into the past, the more he begins to suspect that the tales of dark deeds done in the forest behind Deadmarsh, deeds in which village children made sacrifice to an otherworldly beast and were never seen or heard from again, are true. And if there is truth in these outlandish stories, what of the rumor that it was not an earthquake which rocked the moors surrounding Deadmarsh sixteen years ago, but a winged nightmare attempting to break free of its underground prison? Enlisting the aid of a monster equipped with enough inborn firepower to blast his enemies into oblivion might be as suicidal as Roger’s friends insist, yet the boy knows he needs all the help he can get if there is to be any hope of defeating not only the Dark Wreaker and his servants, but an unholy trinity known as the Bear, the Wolf, and the Curse That Walks The Earth.

And then there is the foe named Blood Wood, who might be the deadliest of them all.

Racing against time, Roger must find a way to end the battle being waged across worlds before the night of Lockie’s eleventh birthday—two days hence. If he fails, blood will drown the earth. And Roger and his entire family will fulfill the prophecy of fey’s older, more lethal meaning…

Fated to die.

The Anatomy of A Book Cover

by Melika Dannese Lux

The title was there from the beginning. The idea for the cover, as well—a vision of the fog-haunted nightmare Roger Knightley unwittingly walks into the moment he sets foot in Deadmarsh, the manor on the moors which shares its name with his kin.

Four years and nearly 700 pages later, I finally had the book. You’d think that would have marked the end of the heavy-lifting. All the hard work of writing was over; now it was time for the fun to begin. Time to jacket the pages in dazzling attire and send the novel out into the world…

But you’d be wrong. It’s one thing to have a vision in your head for what you want the cover to look like; it’s quite another to find an artist who gets that vision and is able to magic it into life. Several designers told me my concept was much too technical and complex to ever be featured on the cover of a book. Images that matched my vision just did not exist, and Carver, that charming little blue fellow (So adorable, isn’t he? *shudders*) lurking behind Roger Knightley (I’d like to see what kind of look you’d have on your face were you in Roger’s position!), would be impossible to portray, not to mention the writing on the mirror from a source that might be ally…or enemy. Actually, forget the writing. Even the mirror itself was in doubt!

I’m a tenacious person. All right, fine, let’s be honest and stop sugarcoating. I’m as intractable as a shark that’s latched onto a seal it has singled out for its lunch. I refused to believe no one could do this! It seemed, to quote that wise sage, Vizzini, “Inconceivable!” And it was! Because very soon after I had cut ties with yet another designer, I was fortunate enough to meet Ravven.

*insert wild clapping for this amazingly talented artist*

A handful of cover iterations were all it took. Ravven was able to reach into my imagination and extract every element that had been racketing around in there for years. From the beautiful woman hovering outside the window, to the blue fog she brought with her from whence she came, to the cat, the mirror, and its writing…and, most of all, to those two combatants in the foreground, the boy and his otherworldly tormentor with talons black as obsidian and sharper than carving knives—it was uncanny how in synch with my vision Ravven was. Her work astounded me, and I am still in awe of it.

Those you see on the cover of Deadmarsh Fey, friend and foe alike, you shall meet within the pages of the book.

Dare you be led to the rath for your fate to be shown?

If yes, then dive in.

And remember …beware what’s hiding in the moonlight.

About the Author:

Melika

I have been an author since the age of fourteen and write novels that incorporate a variety of different genres, including historical fiction, suspense, thrillers with a supernatural twist, and dark fantasy. I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

Website: Books In My Belfry

City of Lights on Amazon

Corcitura on Amazon

Layered Pages will be interviewing Melika on April 27th!

Pre-Order your copy at Amazon

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Cover Crush: The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson

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I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

About the Book:

The Glass ForestHardcover, 352 pages

Published February 6th 2018 by Touchstone

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Booksellercomes a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s about a deeply troubled family and three women who will reveal its dark truths.

In the autumn of 1960, Angie Glass is living an idyllic life in her Wisconsin hometown. At twenty-one, she’s married to charming, handsome Paul, and has just given birth to a baby boy. But one phone call changes her life forever.

When Paul’s niece, Ruby, reports that her father, Henry, has committed suicide, and that her mother, Silja, is missing, Angie and Paul drop everything and fly to the small upstate town of Stonekill, New York to be by Ruby’s side.

Angie thinks they’re coming to the rescue of Paul’s grief-stricken young niece, but Ruby is a composed and enigmatic seventeen-year-old who resists Angie’s attempts to nurture her. As Angie learns more about the complicated Glass family, staying in Henry and Silja’s eerie and ultra-modern house on the edge of the woods, she begins to question the very fabric of her own marriage.

Through Silja’s flashbacks, Angie’s discovery of astonishing truths, and Ruby’s strategic dissection of her parents’ state of affairs, a story of love, secrets, and ultimate betrayal is revealed.

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

My thoughts:

The premise mentions about a Glass Family and a house at the edge of the woods. I would say the cover is relevant to the story and this is the main reason why I chose this cover for my weekly cover crush. There is also the fact that I love images of trees and woods. I’m adding this one to my to-read list and I look forward to seeing if the story is as eerie as the book description makes it out to be.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Other great cover crushes from my fellow book bloggers: 

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden’s Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum

 

Book Spotlight: Sugar The World Corrupted: From Slavery to Obesity James Walvin

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The World Corrupted: From Slavery to Obesity James Walvin

The modern successor to Sweetness and Power, James Walvin’s Sugar is a rich and engaging work on a topic that continues to change our world.

How did a simple commodity, once the prized monopoly of kings and princes, become an essential ingredient in the lives of millions, before mutating yet again into the cause of a global health epidemic? Prior to 1600, sugar was a costly luxury, the domain of the rich. But with the rise of the sugar colonies in the New World over the following century, sugar became cheap, ubiquitous and an everyday necessity. Less than fifty years ago, few people suggested that sugar posed a global health problem.  And yet today, sugar is regularly denounced as a dangerous addiction, on a par with tobacco. While sugar consumption remains higher than ever—in some countries as high as 100lbs per head per year—some advertisements even proudly proclaim that their product contains no sugar. How did sugar grow from prize to pariah? Acclaimed historian James Walvin looks at the history of our collective sweet tooth, beginning with the sugar grown by enslaved people who had been uprooted and shipped vast distances to undertake the grueling labor on plantations.  The combination of sugar and slavery would transform the tastes of the Western world. Masterfully insightful and probing, James Walvin reveals the relationship between society and sweetness over the past two centuries—and how it explains our conflicted relationship with sugar today.

James Walvin is the author of several books on slavery and modern social history. including Crossings and A Jamaican Plantation. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2008 he was awarded an OBE for services to scholarship. He lives in England.

I rate the cover five stars now if I can get my hands on a copy of this book! Everything about the premise interest me! -Stephanie M. Hopkins

Pegasus Books

The Gilded Age

The late 19th Century and early 20th Century are a deep fascination of mine and I have studied the history for years as part of my own research for my WIP’s. I was delighted when Janet Stafford posted these two posts-below-on her site, “Squeaking Pips.” I’ve read her articles on the Gilded Age several times and I was impressed and intrigued with what she wrote and how concise she is with her knowledge in the era.

Janet Stafford is an author with the wonderful, “Saint Maggie Series” I recommend. She and I are currently working on a project so moving that in the first phase of it, I was moved to tears. What is the project that has me so worked up? More to come on that soon! Meanwhile, please be sure to take the time to read both posts and comments are appreciated. We would love to hear your thoughts! -Stephanie M. Hopkins

The Gilded Age

gilded-age-cover-1873

In 1873, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner published a book that became the name of an era: The Gilded Age.  This period, generally believed to be between 1870 and 1900, was marked by rapid industrialization, economic growth, and immigration, most notably in the North and West. The South, however, after defeat in the Civil War and the punishment of the Reconstruction, suffered from economic depression. This is an important difference to note. The successes and excesses of the Gilded Age did not touch the United States in its entirety.

Twain and Dudley’s book is set in the United States at the very beginning of the Gilded Age. Marvin Felheim[i], who wrote the introduction to my yellowed paperback copy of the book, notes that the story’s primary criticism was focused on “the greed and lust – for land, for money, for power – of an alliance of Western land speculators, Eastern capitalists, and corrupt officials who dominated the society and appreciably altered its character.”[ii] He goes on to say:

The “Gilded Age” was a “peaceful” era following the horrors of the Civil War. The North, industrialized and righteous, had won. One consequence was the westward extension of institutions representing its victorious value system. Expansion was in the air. Capital was available and bankers were looking avidly for investments. The West, with all its rich potentialities, both of wealth and adventure, lay ready to be exploited. Colonel Sellers’ [a principle character] ambitious schemes were not merely the idle dreams of a satirist’s euphoric imagination: they represented the hopes and beliefs of a nation.[iii]

It is true wages for the average worker rose during this period. However, there was a dark side to all this growth and expansion, and that was an alarming disparity in income and wealth. Briefly put, the gulf between the wealthy class and everyone else began to widen. According to Steve Fraser…Read more HERE

Whispers of the Gilded Age in SEEING THE ELEPHANT

Gold Bars

To recap, the Gilded Age was a period in the United States that roughly spanned 1870-1900. An era of rising industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, it also saw a rising disparity between the wealthiest Americans and those who were “regular” folks.

Although it was a time of conspicuous consumption, some industrialists sought to moderate their public image by engaging in civic works, such as the building of libraries, hospitals, schools, and other institutions beneficial to the populace. In that era, the wealthy still feared hell – and if they didn’t, at least they were willing to hedge their bets by doing something good for those who had little.

The big wigs (or “big bugs,” as Eli calls them) were living well, but many workers in the Gilded Age routinely got injured or killed on the job and had little in the way of compensation. Is it any wonder that this era also saw the rise of the union movement?

New discoveries in science drove improve patient treatment and housing. A reform movement, led by Dorothea Dix, sought to change mental “hospitals” from dank jails where “patients” were put in chains and lived in their own filth to healthy environments that embraced more humane treatment methods.

I enjoyed putting early whispers of the changing landscape in American society into the fourth book in the Saint Maggie series. In 1864, they are felt in the little town of Blaineton, New Jersey. So, when Maggie and her family return to their hometown, they find not only their own lives changing, but also the life of their town, and these changes are borne out in the following storylines…Read more HERE

***Illustration: Cover of the first edition of The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, 1873

 

Cover Crush: Every Single Note by Lisa Genova

I am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

Every Note PlayedAbout the Book:

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 20th 2018 by Scout Press

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

My thoughts:

 I love the clean lines, color choice and how the cover designer took images of torn sheet music and created a look as if the paper was dancing or flowing across the layout. I’ve added this book to my to-read list. 

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Other great cover crushes from my fellow book bloggers: 

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden’s Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired
Meghan at Of Quills & Vellum