Research & Writing Historical Fiction

Today Judith Arnopp talks about her research, writing and her collaboration on Sexuality and its Impact on British History with me. Judith’s life-long passion for history eventually led her to the University of Wales where she gained a B.A. in English and Creative Writing, and a Masters in Medieval History. Her first novel, Peaceweaver was published in 2009, quickly followed by two others. Her best-selling Tudor novel, The Winchester Goose lead her to create five more novels covering the lives of Anne Boleyn, Katheryn Parr and Elizabeth of York. The King’s Mother is the third book in The Beaufort Chronicles a trilogy following the fascinating life of Margaret Beaufort. She is researching her eleventh novel. Judith’s non-fiction work has been published in various historical anthologies and she is active online at her website and at Facebook  and Twitter @juditharnopp

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During the course of research for my novel The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn I constantly came up against intriguing suggestions of some sort of romantic attachment between Anne and Thomas Wyatt. Historians are divided as to the nature of the relationship and at the time, since it had no part in my novel I wasn’t able to pursue the matter. So, when I was approached by Hunter Jones to write a piece for a forthcoming anthology to be published by pen and Sword books, Sexuality and its Impact on British History, I jumped at the chance.

The project is a collaborative project between authors: Hunter S Jones, Annie Whitehead, Jessica Cale, Gayle Hulme, Dr Beth Lynne and Emma Haddon-Wright and myself, examining how romance and sex has impacted upon history. It looks at relationships from the Anglo Saxon period right through to the Victorian, throwing up some surprising facts and details.

I love researching the Tudors. I love Anne Boleyn and I also love Thomas Wyatt’s poetry so it wasn’t long before I was fully immersed, my study piled high with books and snippets of verse stuck around the room.

Wyatt’s presence in Anne’s social circle and the fact of his arrest at the same time as Smeaton, Norris, Brereton, Rochford and Weston, is often overlooked. It is only Wyatt’s surviving poems that give us pause, make us stop and consider if perhaps he was too close to the queen; perhaps he was the lucky one, the one that got away.

Even if their affection was platonic, they were friends and moved in the same circles for most of their lives. The queen’s companions were also his, he drank with them, laughed with them, jousted with them and later, in May 1536, he watched from his prison in the Bell Tower as they died on the scaffold. He may or may not have deserved to die with them but the experience was riven into his heart and coloured his poetry ever afterwards. It is clear he could not forget.

The bell tower showed me such sight

That in my head sticks day and night.

There did I learn out of a grate,

For all favour, glory, or might,

That yet circa Regna tonat.

Whether he was guilty of adultery with Anne or not, the remainder of Wyatt’s life was difficult; he spent most of his time abroad, involved in intrigue and espionage, leading to capture and ransom by the Spanish. His involvement in the attempted assassination of Reginald Pole led a second spell in the Tower of London. His marriage to Elizabeth Brooke failed and eventually he left her and lived openly with his mistress, Elizabeth Darrell. We all know how Anne died but Wyatt died of virulent fever at the home of his friend Sir John Horsey in Sherborne, at the age of thirty nine.

My chapter on Anne and Wyatt, named These Bloody Days in honour of one of his best poems, took a great deal of time and consideration. One day I’d hold one view, the next I felt differently but the more I read the more I became immersed in the desperate sorrows of that time. My personal life took a back seat and I fell behind with my novel The King’s Mother – Book Three of The Beaufort Chronicles, the life of Margaret Beaufort. I distinctly remember one afternoon sitting on the floor surrounded by books and documents and realising that I just had to stop researching and get something on paper or I was going to miss the deadline. Once I began to write it, things became easier, as I slowly made order out of chaos I began to feel better and when it was time to send it off to the editor, I knew it was going to be all right.

As luck would have it, once Anne and Thomas were out of my head I was able to return to Margaret’s story and met the deadline on that project too. All the authors involved are in a fever of excitement and the book has been received with a great deal of enthusiasm and we are all set to go.

Author Judith Arnopp

 Sexuality and Its Impact on History: The British Stripped Bare 

Banner II Final for Sexuality and its imapct on history

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.

Available on Amazon 

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Review: Very Like A Queen by Martin Lake

Very much a queenAlice Petherton is well practiced at using her beauty and wits to survive in the Court of King Henry VIII. As the King’s favorite, she enjoys his protection, but after seeing the downfall of three of his wives, she’s determined to avoid the same fate. Alice must walk a fine line between mistress and wife.

She finds a powerful protector in Thomas Cromwell, and Alice has every reason to believe that she will continue to enjoy a life of wealth and comfort at Court…until she puts everything at risk by falling in love with a Frenchman, Nicholas Bourbon.

When Cromwell is executed, Alice loses her only ally and flees to France. There she hopes to live in peace with Nicholas. But Alice is lured into a perilous game of treason, and peace doesn’t last long. Will Alice get back the life and love she’s fought for? Or will she lose herself to the whims of a capricious monarch?

My review:

First, I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing a copy of this book. What first captured my attention was the title. I thought, how unusual and I liked it. Though with my busy schedule I read this novel in four days. I did NOT want to put it down. This is the first book I have read of Martin Lake and I am now a fan!

I love his portrayal of Cromwell! I actually like the man in this story. If you know the history, you know his demise and how Martin portrayed that was very powerful and believable. So many great men lost under Henry’s rule.

As I was reading the story I couldn’t help keep thinking that I am so glad I wasn’t alive or one of the members during King Henry VIII court. Yikes! The man’s moods were so up and down and vicious! As his health and eating habits became worse, the more suspicious and paranoid he became. What a miserable existence. One never knows what he will do to you if you made him mad!

I love Alice, though I would have liked to shake her sometimes! She couldn’t help but get herself in sticky situations! But she is a true testament of a survivor and wins the heart of many. I would like to read more about her.

There were several notable characters and locations in the story I enjoyed reading about. Nonsuch Palace, Dover Castle and the French Castles comes to mind and then there was Ralph Sadler, Suffolk. Cranmer, Norfolk-archival to Thomas Cromwell, Master Hans Holbein, Marillac, Katheryn Howard- to name a few…Brilliant character development there.

There is so much to this novel. I am adding this among my favorite Tudor stories. Truly a gem and so well written. I will be on the lookout for more books by Martin Lake!

I rated this book four stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Review: The Tudor Conspiracy by C.W. Gornter

the tudor conspiracy

 

Hunted by a shadowy foe in Bloody Mary’s court, Brendan Prescott plunges into London’s treacherous underworld to unravel a dark conspiracy that could make Elizabeth queen—or send her to her death in C.W. Gortner’s The Tudor Conspiracy

England, 1553: Harsh winter encroaches upon the realm. Mary Tudor has become queen to popular acclaim and her enemies are imprisoned in the Tower. But when she’s betrothed to Philip, Catholic prince of Spain, putting her Protestant subjects in peril, rumors of a plot to depose her swirl around the one person whom many consider to be England’s heir and only hope—the queen’s half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.

Haunted by his past, Brendan Prescott lives far from the intrigues of court. But his time of refuge comes to an end when his foe and mentor, the spymaster Cecil, brings him disquieting news that sends him on a dangerous mission. Elizabeth is held captive at court, the target of the Spanish ambassador, who seeks her demise. Obliged to return to the palace where he almost lost his life, Brendan finds himself working as a double-agent for Queen Mary herself, who orders Brendan to secure proof that will be his cherished Elizabeth’s undoing.

Plunged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a mysterious opponent who hides a terrifying secret, Brendan races against time to retrieve a cache of the princess’s private letters, even as he begins to realize that in this dark world of betrayal and deceit, where power is supreme and sister can turn against sister, nothing—and no one—is what it seems.

 

Review:

This sixteenth century Tudor spy thriller was absolutely captivating and superbly well crafted. I’ve never read a Tudor story quite like this one before and I was immensely impressed with the intrigue, mystery, imagery, and the portrayal of the Tudors. The character, Brendan Prescott was a wonderful and clever addition to the story. I believe I formed a little crush on him from the beginning of the story. I can only imagine how exhausting and intense it must be to be a double agent. Gortner gives you that intensity perfectly.

I was really drawn into the story and the portrayal of the characters and their plight. Here is an example of the beautiful, vivid and suspenseful imagery: “The water carried me, tumbling, down an incline. I grappled with debris, clutching at anything I could, and then I was tumbling headlong into the conduit that spilled into the river, the sky wheeling above, scattered with stars, the moon in its cradle of cloud.” Just Stunning!

His portrayal of Queen Mary is one I have not seen before. She of course is pious and zealous of her religion and is obsessed with returning her country back to the Catholic faith. But at the same time…..Gortner shows a softer ‘almost’ forgiving or empathic side to her-if you will. Maybe that is because this story takes place in the early reign of her throne.

The Tudor Conspiracy is filled with beautiful and powerful historical detail and the characters are engaging and vibrant with personality. You will be swept away and not wanting to return to our present time….I am really looking forward to more of Gortner’s spy-thrillers and I’m crossing my fingers he brings his readers lots more of these wonderful stories. I highly recommend this story and I’m giving it a five star rating.

Be on the lookout for my interview with C.W. Gortner tomorrow on Layered Pages.

Stephanie

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