Posts tagged with: Medieval

Come to Me, new medieval debut

I’m honored to have a longtime writing friend join us today with her debut, Come to Me, published by Entangled Press.  Oberon has one of the most authentic medieval voices I’ve ever read.  Be sure to read the excerpt of her novel at the bottom of the post and see what I mean.  With that, let me present Oberon Wonch.

OberonThank you, Banditas, for having me today! I’m honored to be pampered in your lair. That Sven is a sweetie with his mimosas and cute little pumpkin tarts, isn’t he?

So, let’s talk romance. Did you all read the literary classics in school? The Scarlet Letter, Romeo and Juliet, Tess of the d’Urbervilles? Did you, like me, want the relationships in those books to work out for the protagonists? I even hoped Ishmael in Moby Dick would find a gal and settle down. With only a few notable exceptions, the books we were told best presented the human condition all ended unhappily, usually for the female protagonist (Anna Karenina, anyone?) but often for the male lead as well.

While reading these books—and many more in college as I pursued a degree in World Literature and studied masterpieces in their originalTales_serial languages—I was more interested in the romantic relationships between the heroes and heroines. I desperately wanted the protagonists to find love and happily-ever-afters.

Time after time upon reaching the finale, however, I was disappointed. Rather than sit back and nod sagely over how well the book demonstrated the wretchedness of life and our insignificance in a cruel world, I wept in frustration for the love that never was.

I longed for Tess Durbeyfield to escape her pursuers and be happy forever with her faithful Angel Clare, or for Hester Prynne and Reverend Frederick_Leighton_-_The_Reconciliation_of_the_Montagues_and_Capulets_over_the_Dead_Bodies_of_Romeo_and_JulietDimmesdale to overcome the villainous Chillingworth and sail off with their love child Pearl. For Juliet to awaken in time to stop Romeo from his rash and, frankly, cowardly act.

During this time, I was writing my own stories, too. Since grade school, I’d dreamed of entertaining readers the way my favorite authors did me. Jules Verne’s tales were a big influence on my early work. At some point in adulthood, I started reading romance novels, and thank heavens I did. There, I found a world of great literature, characters and conflicts pertinent to my life experiences, and men and women who overcame obstacles to live together in love and harmony. Bingo!

After that, I knew what I wanted to write. I think it was watching the movie Roxanne with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah thatRoxanne really clinched it for me. That film is wonderful! Funny, lighthearted, tender with an HEA.

But it was based on a famous French play, Cyrano de Bergerac, written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand. You may have heard of this literary treasure in which the swashbuckling Cyrano of the Big Nose is too shy to court the lady he loves, but he helps his handsome, less glib friend do so by feeding him poetic love words to give to the lady. A fun, romantic trope, right?

However, did you know that play ended unhappily for poor Cyrano? Yes! He helped this handsome, young fellow court Roxanne, who actually marries the guy! It’s only years later, after Roxanne’s husband has been killed and Cyrano lies dying in her arms, that she learns Cyrano had been cyranobehind all the lovely words. How did such a story become synonymous with romance and courtship? Who knows!

It was seeing how the movie reworked the classic to have a happy ending that made me realize I could write romance as a way to sort of “fix” all those monuments of literature that had disappointed me.

Thus, my first book, Come to Me, was born. It’s a new treatment of the Cyrano story, set in my favorite time and place (medieval England), with a bit of the beloved and very romantic Sound of Music mixed in.ComeToMe-500x7501

HEA all around, thank you very much!

Do you have a romantic literary classic with a tragic ending that you would like to see made into a romance with a happy ending? Comment about it below. One commenter will be randomly chosen to receive a digital copy of Come to Me.


A maiden’s duty
becomes a woman’s desire…

Comte Grégoire FitzHenri, the new Earl of Shyleburgh, is known for his prowess as one of the Norman conqueror’s most favored warriors…but not for his romantic sensibility or his command of the English language. Now Grégoire wishes to court his elegant betrothed before taking his wedding vows—which means an interpreter…and much-needed lessons in courtly love.

Bridget of Shyleburgh has been secretly in love with Grégoire since his visit when he was promised in marriage to her sister. But when he returns five years later as their new earl, Bridget is tasked with translating for him—including his love letters and awkward attempts to woo her sister. Mortified at first, Bridget soon finds herself completely charmed by his whispers of love and desire. Grégoire’s heated missives tempt a fair maiden to stray down a path filled with forbidden pleasures.

But his words are meant for another…aren’t they?


Link to order:


Additional Excerpt:

Blind panic drained Bridget’s limbs of warmth. “I don’t read those kinds of poems. I read the gospels and ancient sages.”

FitzHenri ignored that. “Simply substitute Aislinn fair for Blancheflor, or Guinevere.”

“I tell you I don’t know those poems.”

“I’ll get you started.” His impassive gaze remained fixed on hers—that dark, forest-colored gaze with the blackest lashes. But when his fierce Norman lips moved again, Bridget instinctively sighted on them. She shivered over every delicious vowel he articulated. “Lady fair, of the crimson lips and snowy breast…”

Her face heated. Those words were so…so evocative, and she just knew she’d gone as red as the flamboyant apron Nurse wore on feast days. Heavens! And her sister was watching them!

She licked her lips and sucked in air. I can do this. I can do this.

After whirling stiffly toward Aislinn, she delivered the lord’s words in English as indifferently as she could.

Her sister blushed sweetly and averted her shining eyes. Bridget ground her jaw. Even Aislinn’s shyness was delicate and enchanting.

The earl said, “You know the rest. Tell her.”

“But I don’t know the rest!”

“Then make something up. You don’t expect me to utter these absurdities, do you? All that drivel and sniveling.”

She stared at him. “How is this possible? You are famed for wooing women and yet you don’t bring gifts. You don’t dance. You memorize love poems but sneer at them.”

“I’m a man of action. Not a minstrel.” He winked. “Tell her something…” In the air he waved a forefinger, drawing Bridget’s gaze to his handsome ring of garnet set in gold. “Something about her sweetness and lovely face.”

Bridget met her sister’s eager, bright eyes and observed the anticipation there. For whatever reason, Aislinn was making an effort to please her intended husband and be pleased by him. All Bridget needed to do was nudge her sister, metaphorically speaking, a little closer in his direction. Indulging the girl’s vanity was certainly a way to do it.

This was all part of her plan, she reminded herself. Let Aislinn believe the earl found her irresistible, that he loved her. What woman could resist that? Bridget would also convince his lordship that Aislinn loved him. Everyone would be happy. For, if Aislinn fell in love with the earl, Bridget could forget about him and his disturbing kiss. She could never desire the man her sister loved. Never.

So what if she had to fabricate some of the words? She was a creative sort.



Marisa Dillon debuts in the lair!

Several years ago, I taught a full day at the Antioch Writers Workhop and met Marisa Dillon who was clearly determined to write a romance.  We’ve been friends ever since.  It gives me great pleasure to bring her here today.

DillonM16 With Book Small[2]Hi Marisa!  Make yourself at home.  Tell me a bit about your story.

 Hi, Donna, thank you for inviting me. It’s so cozy here in the lair. At first, I thought it might be a bit drafty in February, with all the stone, but the bear skin rugs and the hot, mocha cappuccino, are keeping me warm.

My debut novel, The Lady of the Garter, is set in the late 1400s. The heroine, Lady Elena, is a strong, independent woman determined to achieve two goals: win the heart of Sir James, a knight in the Order of the Garter, and attain knighthood herself. The story grows as Elena disguises herself as a boy, becomes James’ squire and follows him into battle. But Elena’s determination and strength are tested as she confronts obstacles put in place by her nemesis, the evil Sir Nicholas. The twists and turns lead the reader on a romantic, high-spirited adventure that follows one woman’s pursuit of honor and true love. Here’s an excerpt:

James rubbed the back of his neck, then staggered forward. “Are you a gift from the duke? Where is my bloody TLOG_FINAL Extra (1) Resized Smallersquire, Edward?” he growled.

He’d obviously drank more than he’d eaten. She could smell the ale. “Your squire left when I arrived to tend to your bath, milord,” she answered. “He promised to return shortly.”

She hoped the threat of an interruption might keep James’ intensions honorable.

That made him smile. “Is this how you tend to the bath for your guests?” His grin turned wicked. “A bath with you would give me great pleasure,” he admitted, his heated gaze boiling her blood.

“I confess there’s scarcely enough room in here for me.”  

Her observation didn’t stop him from fumbling to remove his boots. Then he yanked off his breeches and shirt.

Elena sucked in a nervous breath—she loved seeing him naked. But if she didn’t take control of the situation soon, James would trap her in the tub.

“Come, you can sit on my lap,” he suggested.

She laughed louder than she should have, uncertain of what she wanted. But his smoldering gaze warmed her insides, making her wonder if he didn’t know who she was, what liberties she might take.

She wrung her hands, unsure what to do next. “Turn away and give me a moment of privacy, then I will tend to you.” She stepped out of the tub and draped herself in a towel the boys had left.

“That arse looks familiar. This is not my first time at Berkeley, girl. Pray tell, have we been together before?

Why historicals?

1325623091-fabio_romance_novelI cut my teen wisdom teeth on historicals, and have always loved stepping back in time to read a story starring an alpha male and the promise of a happy ending. Dukes, Viking lords, kings, chivalrous knights, they are the archetypes that satiate my appetite and fulfill my ideal of the ultimate hero. My older bookshelves are filled with the model Fabio on the cover. LOL. I hope some of your visitors remember him.

Dear Heaven – well I remember Fabio covers.  Those are a bit dated…Fabio’s flowing hair, submissive heroine at his feet.  I can tell from your excerpt that your heroine is hardly submissive.  What inspired The Lady of the Garter?

The inspiration for the story came to me after a trip I took back in time one autumn afternoon. I live in Ohio, and we have one of the largest and most authentic Renaissance Festivals in the country. I even dressed the part and took a ride on a warhorse. I was inspired by what I saw. The jousting reenactments, danger, romance, chivalry, comedy, comradery. It was all there and I wanted to write a story about that world.Ren Fair Fun

I love the idea of chivalry and romance mingling together. In the late 15th century, the notion of the knight in shining armor was not a fantasy, but a reality. (If history doesn’t lie) And as a lover of history and romance, I couldn’t resist researching and then writing about a group of knights who have been revered and served the English monarchy for generations. The Most Noble Order of the Garter was founded in 1348, holds the highest order of chivalry and is the Price William Orde of the Gartermost prestigious group in service to England. Even Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, is a Garter Knight today.

I was drawn to writing when my fifth grade poem was read aloud and published on the class room door as an example of what the teacher wanted. From then, I was hooked. My early writing was poetry, and then I dabbled with writing scripts for neighborhood plays that I’d staged with my friends in my garage. Later, a degree in journalism. But my career took me into television writing and marketing, where I work now. It was just in the last few years, I was able to get back to my true love of fiction writing.

 Someday we’ll have to talk about writing for television.  I know you must be asked this all the time, but I know the readers want to know – where do you get your ideas?

When I’m daydreaming and while I’m writing. Sure it’s sounds corny, and you’ve heard it before, but sometimes the ideas just spill onto the page as if someone else is guiding me. I am a panster-style writer and I let the characters take me where they want to go.

That’s me as well.  I know the structure of a novel and what needs to be accomplished along the way, but most of the time the characters are directing the flow of the story.  So know that you’ve gone through the publication experience, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Dream big and don’t doubt yourself. Take workshops and join a local group that supports the industry. Success is not a limited commodity in the publishing world. Many authors are willing to give an aspiring writer a leg up. I had an aha moment when I took that workshop from you, Donna, a few years ago on plotting, and it helped me with this book. You’ve always been supportive. I’ll be forever grateful.Ren Fair Mysterious

Well, the pleasure is mine. I remember that workshop.  I do love to teach, and as I love romance so it’s a good fit. 😛  So what has been your greatest challenge as a writer thus far?

Finding the time to write. I’ve learned if you want to have a career at this, and you can’t quit your day job (I still have mine), you’ll have to learn to squeeze it in. Do something every day, even it’s just rereading what you already written. Never underestimate the power of revising.

They say a book is never written, it’s rewritten.   😛  What’s next for you?

Book II in the series. I’m well underway, but this one will have a Scottish bent. I’m also obsessed with Highlanders. I’d to ask your visitors what’s their favorite historical genre: Regency, Victorian, Medieval, Scottish or Ancient World?  And why?

 I’d like to hear that as well.  Someone leaving a comment will win an ebook copy of The Lady of the Garter.  

Karen Ranney is in the Lair

hosted by Donna MacMeans

On Tartan Ink, the blog I share with Sue-Ellen Welfonder, we occasionally have author guests. Sue-Ellen has come up with thirty questions. We ask our guests to pick ten of those to answer.

One of the thirty is this: do you believe in gift books?

A gift book is one of those enchanted books where everything goes right. The plot flows, the writing is easy, your editor loves it, reviews are wonderful, and sales are great.

My Beloved is one of my two gift books. (The other is A Scottish Love – 12/2011. How lovely to have both books out in the same year.) The book, my only medieval, was originally published in 2000, and has just been re-released (7/29/11).

I dreamed the plot of My Beloved, but that’s a story I’ve told before. Something I’ve never told anyone is that I knew exactly what kind of book I wanted – had to – write. I already knew the atmosphere I wanted: intensely mysterious, sensual, with characters who longed for each other.

The story of My Beloved focused on two people – a tormented man, Sebastian of Langlinais, and his convent reared wife.

Sebastian had a great secret, one that would destroy his holdings and strip his family of wealth if the Church discovered it.

Sebastian was a leper.

Juliana, recently summoned from the convent that had been her home for years was suddenly faced with a man who remained in the shadows, attired in a monk’s robe with cowl. This man had a strange and troubling request of her. If she would pretend to be his wife, he would ensure her life was luxurious.

Through the years, Juliana had been trained in the art of being a scribe, and in order to consent to Sebastian’s odd arrangement, she wanted the inks and powders denied her in the convent.

The very last thing either one of them expected was to fall in love.

The Church held great power in the middle ages. A man suspected of being a leper

was declared legally dead, and his property and wealth confiscated, while he was sent to live in exile. The Mass of Separation dictated what would have happened to Sebastian:

I forbid you to enter the church or monastery, fair, mill, market-place, or company of persons…ever to leave your house without your leper’s costume…to wash your hands or anything about you in the stream or fountain. I forbid you to enter a tavern…and so on. In other words, lepers were shunned at all times.

How could I write a romance about a leper? Not any leper, but Sebastian of Langlinais, a man of great honor and determination. My Beloved is a love story, a tale of the sacrifices made for love. It’s also a story of power, faith, and perception.

Here’s the scene where Sebastian and Juliana meet for the first time as adults.

She turned and stifled a sound of fright.

A specter stood there watching her. A shadow limned in light. No, only a man garbed in monk’s habit. But he seemed so tall, so broad of chest, that he filled the doorway. Indeed, he looked to be more than a mortal man.

“Are you Death?” she asked in a tremulous whisper.

“Come to judge you in your final hour?” His voice was low, a rumble of sound. Had he spoken or had she just imagined the words? “What would you confess if I were? Or does your silence indicate a pure soul?”

Not Death then. Death did not speak in a voice that hinted at irony.

She felt absurdly weak, as if her knees wished to give out beneath her.

“Are you a zealot, then?” she asked, hearing the tremble in her voice and wishing she was capable of hiding it.


His cowl shadowed his face so well that she could see no hint of his features. She clenched her hands together at her waist, forced herself to take a deep breath, ask yet another question.

“A monk?”

The words came softly, seemed tinted with kindness. “I am your husband, my lady wife.”

There’s a touch of mystery featuring the Cathars, the Knights Templar, and the early banking system they created.

I hope you have the opportunity to read My Beloved, and let me know what you think (

In the meantime, since I’m thrilled to be a guest at Romance Bandits, I’d love to give away two copies of My Beloved to a random commenter. If you’re a writer, do you believe in gift books? If you’re a reader, has a dream influenced your actions in some way?