Blythe Gifford Shares Her Secrets!

Blythe 4I’m delighted today to welcome the wonderful historical romance author Blythe Gifford who is here to tell us about her new release, SECRETS AT COURT, the first of the Royal Weddings series.

RT Book Reviews really liked this story, saying, “Royals plus secrets plus impending exposure always equals drama of the highest order.”

Here’s the blurb:

THE THRONE OF ENGLAND IS AT STAKE!

Anne of Stamford has long been the keeper of her mistress’s secrets, but when Lady Joan marries the king’s son, court life becomes ever more perilous. Sir Nicholas Lovayne has arrived to uncover the truth about Lady Joan’s past, and Anne must do something—anything—to throw him off….

Longing to escape the intrigues at court, Nicholas hasn’t counted on the way Anne distracts him—her refusal to accept pity for her clubfoot touches something deep inside him. Will he be able to follow his duty when every fiber of his being tells him to protect Anne?

Blythe 1Royal Weddings

A hint of scandal this way comes!

You can find out more about Blythe and her books at her website: http://blythegifford.com/

Blythe, welcome to the Bandita lair!  I’m so excited about SECRETS AT COURT, your new book. What were the inspirations behind this book?

Delighted to be here!  When Prince William and Kate Middleton married, the Harlequin Historical line released a series of short stories that looked back at British royal weddings of the past.  I was invited to participate, but had too many deadlines on my plate at the time.  I loved the idea, though, and I envisioned a full-length book using the premise.  Most of my books are set amidst the backdrop of real history and the medieval court of Edward III is familiar territory for me.  Thus, I wrote a book centered on a very unusual royal wedding!

blythe 5How fascinating. Can you tell us about this story?

SECRETS AT COURT, out now, is set around the wedding of the oldest son of Edward III, also an Edward.  History knows him as the Black Prince.  (As an aside, he was the first Prince of Wales.)  His chosen bride, Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent, had a bit of a scandalous past and they, in essence, “eloped” and married without the church’s consent. 

My hero, Nicholas, is charged with untangling the mess they made and getting the Pope’s dispensation for their marriage.  My heroine, Anne, who has been with Joan all her life, is the keeper of her lady’s secrets.  Secrets that, if Nicholas discovers them, could destroy the throne of England!

SECRETS AT COURT launches a new series for you, Royal Weddings. Can you give us a sneak peak of what’s to come in the series?

Blythe 3Right now, it is a series of two.  Both of Edward III’s oldest children married for love, unheard of at that time.  The second book, WHISPERS AT COURT, will center on the marriage of Edward’s daughter Isabella.  After remaining unwed until the ripe old age of 31, she fell in love with a French nobleman who was held hostage at the English court.  Release date is to be determined, but I hope it will be yet this year.  (I’m madly wrestling with revisions.)

Can’t wait for that. Did SECRETS AT COURT present any special challenges?

Several.  First, was understanding Joan of Kent’s checkered marital past.  At one point, she was actually married to two men at once.  (Yes, this is documented!)  It was a rather risqué background for a royal bride.  But sorting out the timeline and the legal aspects of her entanglements didn’t give me as much trouble as something more mundane:  the floor plan of Windsor Castle.  The castle was undergoing massive renovations during these years and trying to figure out what wings and rooms were finished was a real challenge.  I finally found a solid source, available only in print, with color coded floor plans and filled my iPhone with pictures. 

blythe 8The use of real historical events is a trademark of yours, isn’t it?

History inspires me.  One of the first books on my keeper shelf was KATHERINE by Anya Seton.  It is the story of the lifelong mistress of John of Gaunt, another of King Edward’s children.  They finally married, late in life, and her children were legitimized and sat on the throne of England.  I love the idea that love can change history!

Oh, I adored KATHERINE. Speaking of great books, I read and loved your indie novel, THE WITCH FINDER. Can you tell us about that story?

THE WITCH FINDER is set on the Scottish Borders during the middle of the seventeenth century and one of the worst witch hunts in history.  I was inspired by Sandra Brown’s famous comment:  “If your heroine is an arsonist, your hero better be a firefighter.”  In this case, my hero is a witch finder, a man expert in determining whether a suspect was really a witch or falsely accused.  And my heroine, of course, is an accused witch. 

Blythe 2Such high stakes in that story. I couldn’t put it down. How did you come to self-publish?

I actually wrote the book for Harlequin, but they were afraid it was too dark for their audience.  Your enthusiasm for the story was a real boost, and I am so grateful!  It encouraged me to go ahead and release it myself.  And the reviews, I’m delighted to say, have echoed your enthusiasm.

I’m not at all surprised. As this is your first visit to the lair, we’d love to hear about your writing journey.

I started writing seriously after a corporate layoff.  Ten years and one layoff later, I sold my Golden Heart finalist manuscript to the Harlequin Historical line!  (But the behind the scenes story is that I started writing my first historical novel at age ten.  In pencil.)  I’ve now had nine books with them, one more coming soon, plus one self-published, I’m astonished to say!

Blythe 6One of the things I love about your books is that you set your stories in, for historical romance, unusual periods. If you were to persuade a diehard Regency reader to try a book set outside the first quarter of the 19th century, what would you say to them?

I think we read historical romance for two things:  to be swept away to a different time and place and for the guarantee that all will end well.  For readers who think an unfamiliar time period might be off-putting, I would assure you the happily ever after survives intact.  So why not try being whisked away to a new time and place? 

So here’s a thought starter:  Do you read historical romance outside the Regency period?  What time periods have you tried?  (Or would you like to try?)  And if you have read something “unusual,” how did you feel about that experience?  Conversely, if you adore only the Regency, what is it about the period that draws you?

BanditBootyBlythe has very generously offered one lucky commenter today a print book of their choice, either SECRETS AT COURT or THE WITCH FINDER (international). Good luck! 

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Comments

93 Comments

  • Delighted to be in the lair! And thanks for showing some of my Scottish Border Reivers trilogy covers, as well. Happy to answer questions about that series, too. Looking forward to chatting!

  • Mary Preston says:

    I love to read across all time periods.

    Years ago now, wish I could recall the title and author, I read an historical romance set in Ancient Egypt. Even after all this time I do remember the story. It held me spell bound.

    • Mary, I read a couple of great historical romances set in Ancient Egypt. They had titles like Dawn of Destiny or Daughter of Destiny or something. He was a pharaoh. Great stories. Actually there’s a great historical novel that has a lot of romance in it by Pauline Gedge about Hatshepsut, the female pharaoh. Haven’t read it in years but I loved it. Her love interest is her architect and they build a wonderful temple together.

    • I was once fascinated by ancient Egypt, but have never had the courage to set a story there. MARA, DAUGHTER OF THE NILE was a book I read as a child and loved. It has a romance in it, but, since it is a book for young people, “G-rated.” Reread a few years ago and still enjoyed!

  • Helen says:

    Hi Blythe and Anna

    I really love historicals and medievals and have read many over the years and I have not been disappointed in any of them I love going back in time and seeing the way they lived without all the mod cons 🙂 I can’t remember any that have been really unusual but I do like trying them all (just need more time)

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Helen, you need a reading clone, don’t you? Thanks for swinging by!

    • While romance does not dwell on the mundane realities of life, I have been struck in my research at how much time people in the medieval era (and for centuries before and after) had to spend just on food, clothing, and shelter. It’s hard for us to truly understand, at a time of grocery stores and malls!

  • flchen1 says:

    Hi, Blythe! I do like to read outside the Regency period! A couple of time periods/settings I’ve found very interesting have been ancient Asia (Jeannie Lin, for instance, has some fabulous Tang Dynasty stories) and Carrie Lofty’s Christies includes a story set in Africa and another in Scotland…

    • Ah, you’re speaking of two of my favorite people – and writers! Jennie Lin, of course, also writes for Harlequin. Carrie Lofty was a founder of the Unusual Historicals blog and while she has moved on, I still hang out there and post regularly.

    • Fedora, I love those books of Jeannie’s. And I love that they’re so exotic and so unusual. Great choice!

  • Quantum says:

    Living in England I enjoy visiting the many historic houses and castles that are open to the public. For example I was recently at Hampton Court where Catherine Parr and Thomas Seymour lived for a while. The costume collection showing Tudor dress and Parr’s dresses in particular, is superb.

    I think the Tudor period is probably my favourite and I love novels involving intrigue at court involving real characters ….. I shudder just thinking about Thomas Cromwell and his scheming!

    Blythe, there are only 2 of your books available at audible UK. ‘Return of the border warrior’ and ‘In the master’s bed’. Which of these would you recommend as an introduction to your style?

    • Always a hard question! IN THE MASTER’S BED is another “unusual” story. It is set in a medieval university and the heroine has disguised herself as a boy in order to go to school, where women were forbidden. RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR is the first of a trilogy set in the early Tudor era of the Scottish Border Reivers. If you are a Tudor fan, maybe that one is a good place for you to start. The second book of the series, CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, takes place at the Scottish court, where Henry VIII’s sister is the dowager queen. Not sure about the audio release schedule for the remaining books in the series, though.

    • Hi Quantum! I was thinking the other day that I was due a visit to Hampton Court. I went one very quiet off-season afternoon in 1985. It’s so huge, it really was a bit overwhelming. Didn’t see Katherine Howard’s ghost!

      • Quantum says:

        Hi Anna
        I think you visited THE Hampton Court at Richmond near London.
        There is a smaller Hampton Court in Herefordshire where Catherine Parr went to live after the death of Henry VIII.
        I was referring to the later.

        All very confusing! LOL

        • Oh, goodness me, that IS confusing! I remember visiting Sudbury (think it was Sudbury) Castle in the Cotswolds where Tom Seymour and Catherine P lived too – lots of relics of their life together there. Fascinating stuff.

  • Patty L. says:

    I love historical and a Regancy junkie. Ironically reading historical romances helped me through a lot of boring history classes so to maintain each period I would find a romance that was in that specific time. Let’s just say I am grateful for our modern conveniences. Great blog and I will be adding a new author to my must read pile.

    • Thanks so much! What a great idea, to use romance to accompany your history. In fact, I get so frustrated when history is taught badly, as if it were nothing but dates and battles. History is a whopping good story and I hope my books make it come alive. That’s my intention!

    • Patty, how lovely that we’ve introduced a new author to you. Blythe’s books are great – always really high stakes in the stories. What a great way to lighten the history classes – talk about a spoon full of sugar!

  • Shannon says:

    I’m always up for another historical, despite the time period and of course grew up reading Regencies. But my reading has broadened. I’ve read stories set during the Cousin’s War (War of Roses), the Cromwellian Era, and the Victorian Era. Some of my favorites are also set in different parts of the Georgian era.

    As for unusual, it depends on how it’s done. If it’s done just to push the envelope or for shock’s sake, it feels pretty hollow. If I’m having to say, well, it’s fiction and the author gets to do what she wants, then it’s probably not that good.. If it’s integrated into the story and feels just a little different, I can sink into an revel in something delightful.

    • Glad you have enjoyed many periods. THE WITCH FINDER is set in post-Cromwellian Scotland. (Is that an era??) But it eventually depends on the writer, doesn’t it? Any period can be terrible or wonderful to read, depending on the book. It is a challenge, though, for an author, to be true to history and still accessible to the modern reader. Quite a balancing act.

      • Shannon says:

        I’m about a 1/3 a way through the Witch Finder, and the description of the confusion of laws and authority in a post-Cromwellian era is striking. Love the small town-setting.

        • Oh, I’m so glad you are enjoying it! Things were quite confusing at that time and I think that uneasiness about who was in charge and what the law was contributed to the atmosphere that made witch hunting so virulent.

    • Shannon, what a thoughtful answer. I agree with you – shock for shock’s sake never really works, does it? But when it’s an integral part of the story, that pushing the envelope can really work.

  • Laurie G says:

    Most of the historicals I read are set in the Regency and Victorian time periods.

    However, I do enjoy medieval: Elizabeth Lowell’s trilogy Untamed, Forbidden and Enchanted. Claudia Dain’s The Holding and The Marriage Bed. Jude Devereaux Velvet Angel and Velvet Song.

    Margaret Moore’s Brother In Arms series – 13th century LODRD OF DUNKEATHE French Norman occupation period and Warrior series..

    Pamela Clare’s 1300’s French and Indian War with the Surrender trilogy featuring Scotsmen impressed into the English army forming a group of Rangers.

    Finally Catherine Coulture featured Vikings in LORD OF RAVEN’S PEAK, LORD OF FALCON RIDGE and LORD OF HAWKFELL ISLAND
    ( year 916)

    Karen Hawkins’ Scotsmen: Hurst and MacLean’s series

    • You’ve read a wide variety! French and Indian War is definitely unusual! So few romances are set in North America unless they are Westerns. I’ll have to look for those.

      • Blythe, it’s odd that American settings are so rare, isn’t it? Given how many of the seminal books in the genre are set in the US like Sweet, Savage Love or The Flame and Flower. Wonder when the US went out of fashion as a setting – it was clearly post the 70s!

    • Laurie, sounds like you’ve flirted outside the Regency period a lot! I love Pamela Clare’s rangers – such great heroes!

  • Susan Sey says:

    Good morning, Blythe & Anna! You know, I read mostly English-set historicals, during the Regency or Georgian era. But it’s not because I love them so much, it’s just that they make up the vast majority of the available books. I love it when I pick up an unusual era or location. Our own bandita Joanie writes Roman set historicals & I’m totally hooked!

    • Susan, going back to nostalgia about my early historical romance reading, there used to be such a variety in settings. I can remember Kathleen Woodiwiss actually set a book in Russia and another around the Baltic featuring the medieval Hanseatic League. Makes Almack’s look a little unadventurous in comparison!

  • You’re right that publishers really focus on Regency and Georgian settings. The Scottish Highlands get some publisher love, too. One of the wonderful things about our new publishing era is that writers can get stories to readers that might not make economic sense for a corporate publisher to release. So many more choices!

  • Hi Blythe! Welcome to the lair!

    I write Victorians so yeah – I read outside of regencies :-). While I still love regencies, I never really figured out why the NY firms publish so few of “other” times and settings. There’s nothing like a good medieval for strong alpha heroes. Books set in Colonial America are rife with external conflict. Stories set in the old west in America can be so very heartwarming. All these fabulous historical time periods and yet the vast majority of new releases are regencies (sigh).

    Blythe – Love your covers. Wishing you great success with the new series and with the indie pub. THese look fantastic.

  • Thanks! Harlequin has blessed me with great covers and Kim Killion did an awesome job on THE WITCH FINDER.

    I remember when the time periods of romance books were more diverse. This focus on Regency has been in the last ten years or so? I vividly recall an editor at an RWA Conference one year stating flatly they would not look at a book with an American setting. Don’t know whether that is still the policy at that house, but wouldn’t be surprised. Thankfully, the Harlequin Historical line is committed to including other time periods every month.

    • Blythe, I’ve also noticed that the vast majority of inspirational historicals (which often have gorgeous covers) have American settings. Clearly there’s still a market for US settings.

  • Sigh. Sorry I’ve not hit the proper reply in the last two posts! Was responding specifically to Susan and Donna, though!

  • ellie says:

    Historicals are fascinating. I enjoy the 1920’s very much and my ultimate favorite is the World War 11 era.

    • I’ve always wanted to do a 1920’s book! Such an interesting era. Deanna Raybourn’s recent books are set in that period.

    • Ellie, I think there’s going to be a resurgence in 1920s stories, if not in mainstream historical romance in romantic elements and romantic mysteries, etc. I love the fashions of that era.

  • Linda says:

    I love historical romance & will read any time period as long as it’s well written.

    • Always good to hear. It is, ultimately, about the individual author and story, isn’t it?

    • Linda, I so agree. I’m actually not fussy about time periods (although I have to say I avoid books about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite rebellion – however I suspect even there, I could be convinced by the right story). As long as it’s a good story and well written, I’m there!

  • Diane says:

    Victorian historicals always captivated me and I thoroughly enjoy all Regency novels. I am transported to another realm and era which interests me greatly.

    • The line between Regency and Victorian can be thin, at least at the beginning of the Victorian era. As the century went on, however, the world and society changed significantly, however. It leads, I think, to each era having an inherently different “signature” story.

    • Diane, actually I think one of the reasons that people love Regency and Victorian novels is that the characters look forward to a period of peace and prosperity (at least in the UK!) once they get married. Gives the reader peace of mind.

  • Minna says:

    I have read all kinds of historical romance outside the Regency period, including some set in the Stone Age that were written By Jean M. Auel.

    • Must admit I’ve never attempted Jean Auel. I’d be interested to know about her research process. There must be great leaps of imagination to get her to the story. Quite an achievement that she made the world so believable.

      • Blythe, I’ve got a feeling I read an article about her ages ago and she actually went out and recreated prehistoric life to get the detail right. Does anyone else know?

    • Minna, read the first two of those in my 20s and really enjoyed them. Found The Valley of Horses really romantic!

  • annie says:

    Historicals immerse me within the pages and it is impossible to escape the beauty, unforgettable storyline and locales that are enthralling.

  • pearl says:

    Historicals are fascinating and compelling since they can ease my sorrows, alleviate my discomfort and allow me to dream and enjoy an intriguing journey. Any historical can soothe my soul and make my dreams vivid and happy.

  • bn100 says:

    yes, will read anything that sounds interesting

  • catslady says:

    I love all historicals but seem to find the older the better so I start with medievals and work my way forward lol. I think I like to be the furthest from every day life than I can. I love variety so as long as I care about the characters, you can take me anywhere.

    • Love the idea of working through history. On my printable booklist, I include a separate list of the books in chronological order as well as publication date, for those who care. But yes, you have to enjoy, and believe in, a character to spend the time.

    • Catslady, I was talking to a couple of friends of mine about the differences between genres over the weekend and I said with romance, your readers absolutely have to fall in love with your characters. Characters are key!

  • Nicole Laverdure says:

    I really love historicals between the period of 1811 til 1910 (Regency-Victorian-Edwardian period) and medievals Scottish-Irish! Those are truly my favorites. They make me dream of faraway places like Scotland and England! Thank you for giving your book away, I would love to read it!

    • You’re welcome! Certainly the England, Scotland, and Ireland are popular settings. And lovely landscapes! On the other hand, Sherry Thomas’ NOT QUITE A HUSBAND, a RITA winner, is set in a corner of India we now call Pakistan. Compelling read!

    • Nicole, I’d love to see more Edwardian romances. I thought the Downton Abbey craze might prompt a wave of them but while there’s been a few, it’s been a mere trickle.

      • Though I am seeing more World War I set books. (More than zero!) That is the edge of the Downton World and, of course, we are at the 100th year of the beginning of WWI. I love this period – yet another one with ideas I haven’t yet written!

      • Caren Crane says:

        I have loved the novel and novella Deanna Raybourn wrote, set in the roaring 20’s in colonial Kenya. Great stuff!

        Her Lady Julia Gray novels are all set in the 1880s and 1890s (so far). I adore Victorian novels, too! There are many books called “Regency” that are really set in the 20 or so years after the Regency, but it doesn’t matter to me. Love them!

        • Caren, I often snicker at covers with Regency dresses on the heroines when the books are set in completely different eras. One that comes to mind, because it’s a favorite of mine, is AND THEN HE KISSED HER by Laura Lee Guhrke which is set in the late 19th century and features a heroine who works as a typist.

  • may says:

    I am usually a regency fan. I tried medieval but the court intrigue and knights don’t interest me…

    • And that’s totally fair! Every genre, or time period, won’t necessarily appeal. As for me, I have trouble warming up to paranormal, though lots of people adore it. The Regency is a real classic for a reason! You’re in good company. And have lots of wonderful authors to choose from!

    • May, I think it’s horses for courses with romance as for most things. What I think is sad is when there’s ONLY Regency romance on the shelves.

  • Teresa Kleeman says:

    Hello Blythe & Anna,
    I normally read Regency and Edwardian periods. I recently read a book my Monica McCarty with her twist on hunky Highlanders. I can’t believe how corrupt and nasty some of the soldiers and political leaders were in that time. Freedom sure didn’t come without a price. Blythe your a new author for me. So I hope I win so I may try your books. I do so love history. Thank you for a lovely interview.

    • Teresa, thanks for swinging over. It’s been such fun having Blythe here today and discussing all these different historicals!

    • Thanks for the warm welcome! It’s always a challenge, to know how much to let reality intrude on our romantic tales. Believe me, even in the age of chivalry, that behavior was not the norm! Certainly, you can find nasty folk in every age. For me, it’s a question of whether they contribute to the challenges my characters need to face to reach their Happy Endings!

  • Caren Crane says:

    Blythe, it’s so great to have you here with us! I, for one, love ALL time periods. I’ve read everything from Jean Auel’s Clan Of the Cave Bears to Joan D. Vinge’s futuristic fantasies. But good old Barbara Cartland started me on historicals, so I have had a very long love affair withthe Regency (and a soft spot for heroines with heart-shaped faces). 😀

    I didn’t realize you had an indie out. It sounds exactly like my kind of read, Pffffft on things being “too dark.” Honestly, very little in my reading is too dark (though TV and films can go there at times – Coppers, anyone?). I adore witch hunt stories, historicals and Germany. Perfect setup for a great read!

    I love that you include so much history in your historicals, too. It really helps to anchor a story set in a less-familiar time period and give it solid bones. I can’t wait to read these!

    • I’m having such fun with the Bandits! (or is it Banditas?) And thanks for the encouraging words. Isn’t it wonderful that authors don’t have to be so limited now? My witch hunt on the Scottish Borders book is very dear to me and I hope it finds an audience.

      Every writer, and every writer’s process, is different, but I sincerely must feel as if I must be able to walk in the character’s world to understand him or her. It may sound absurd, but discovering the layout of Windsor Castle, as I mentioned, was very important. The heroine of SECRETS AT COURT has a club foot. Now look at that staircase in the picture I posted and imagine what it must have looked like to her when she had to climb it every day! Those are the things that develop into wonderful (I hope!) story moments that really make it possible for a reader to walk in the character’s shoes.

    • Caren, I know Dame Barbara gets a lot of flack but when I was a pre-teen and early teen, I read those books like chocolate and I’ve got to tell you, they did wonders for my historical knowledge. I think she ran out of puff a bit in her later stories but some of those early stories were damn good reads!

  • Hello, Blythe ! I am SUCH a fan of your work !! I read primarily Regency set historicals and some Victorians and Georgians, but I do love and and all of the time periods in which you’ve chosen to write. I think it is your characters that draw me in and then the way you surround the reader with the time period. Reading your books is like traveling to a different day and time and feeling right at home as you watch a wonderful romance unfold.

    I am really looking forward to reading these new books of yours and I am especially excited to read The Witch Finder as I’ve heard so many great things about it.

    • Louisa, you’ll love the Witch Finder! Such a great story and wow, talk about high stakes. I couldn’t put it down.

    • Hope this comes through. Switched computers and suddenly the site doesn’t like me!
      Louise, your comments touched me more than I can say. So much of the time, writers are alone with our words. To hear we have actually reached a reader as we intended means everything!
      And, to be honest, I do not move between time periods easily! Every time I do, I kick myself later wondering why it seemed like such a good idea! Love the research, but it takes a lot of time to switch gears!

  • Hi Blythe! A very warm (if late) welcome to the lair! Thank you for bringing Blythe to us today, Anna.

    I read and enjoy many different historical periods, both in historical fiction and romance. A great author can make any era fascinating, I find. Blythe, I’m amazed at the way you can move around different eras and settings so easily. It must take a lot of research. And of course, if Anna recommends you books I must try them!

    • Christina, I never steer you wrong, do I? Mind you, I could say the same for your recommendations to me!

    • Well, Anna and I are a bit of a mutual admiration society! And it’s late here and I must rise to catch an early plane. Forgive me for answering a bit of your comment in my previous reply – about switching time periods. Obviously getting too sleepy to post!

  • Thanks so much to Blythe and to everyone who swung by to join us today. What a fun discussion we’ve had.

    Don’t forget to check back to see who won the book prize!