07 June 2015

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Blythe Gifford on WHISPERS AT COURT

Today, we welcome Blythe Gifford, a long time contributor to the Unusual Historicals blog.  Her eleventh novel, WHISPERS AT COURT from the Harlequin Historical line, has just been published and an excerpt was published here on Thursday.  She’s offering a free print copy to one randomly chosen commenter, so leave a comment at the end of the interview with your email address for a chance to win.
First, here’s a bit about the book:

Lady Cecily scorns the French hostages held at court. Treated as honoured guests, the men

play at love games – and Cecily fears that her mistress, the Princess, might be disgraced.
War-weary chevalier Marc de Marcel wants only to return home. Uncertain whether his ransom will ever be paid, he makes an unlikely alliance with enticing fire and ice Cecily. He’ll help her keep the Princess safe from ruin if she’ll help him escape. A pact which could lead them into a scandal all their own...

The first Royal Wedding story, last year’s SECRETS AT COURT, was cited by Wendy, the Super Librarian as one of her favorites of the year.  She called it “medieval to the marrow.”  What tricks do you have for getting inside the medieval world and yet making it accessible to modern readers?
Hard to say!  I’m just glad someone feels that I do! Part of it is just many years of reading and writing in the period.  I actually became fascinated with the 14th century and Edward III’s family back in junior high school and he, or members of his family, have now appeared in six of my books.  I feel as if I know them and after a time, you do develop a “sixth sense” about the period.  But I also research carefully so I can “walk around” in the landscape and structures my characters do.  For this book, I became very familiar with Dover Castle, for example.  And I try, as much as a 21st century woman can, to understand the medieval mindset. 

Talk about that:  the “medieval mindset.”
There are a few critical pieces of the world view of that period:  the active role of God and the church in daily, and national, life; the loyalty to kings instead of countries, and the code of chivalry, as it was actually practiced.  Many of these are totally foreign to us now and (or) they have been distorted into something more idyllic than the reality.  And, just as we do today, the practice and the code were, at times, contradictory.  The challenge is to express that world those through characters the reader can relate to.

So who are those characters in this book?
The hero is a French chevalier, Marc de Marcel, who is being held hostage in the English court.  After a lifetime of looking at the world from the English side of the channel, I had to do some research before I could see the world through his eyes!  The heroine, Lady Cecily of Losford, hates the French, including Marc, because she blames them for the death of her father in the war, a loss she still mourns. 

What is the actual historical background around this story?
Isabella, the daughter of King Edward, married a French hostage, Enguerrand de Coucy, for love, a rarity at that time and for many subsequent centuries for a royal.  (I wrote about them in this UH post:  unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2015/02/lovers-princess-and-hostage.html ) Their flirtation provides a common cause for Marc and Cecily, both of whom want to stop the budding romance.  But instead, they find themselves falling in love, just as their friends are.  The wonderful thing about using real royal weddings as a backdrop in this period is that so little is known about the facts.  No one even knows when the princess and the hostage actually met!  This gives a novelist room for creative license without violating the facts. 

So what’s next?  More medieval stories?  Or something different?
I have several ideas, some of which include different time periods.  The readers of Unusual Historicals are versed in these issues, so let me ask the readers to comment:  What time periods seem neglected?  What eras/years/events would you like to read about?  Leave a your thoughts below with your email for a chance to win a copy of WHISPERS AT COURT. 

About the author:
After many years in public relations, advertising and marketing, Blythe Gifford started

writing seriously after a corporate layoff. Ten years and one layoff later, she became an overnight success when she sold her first book to the Harlequin Historical line.  Since then, she has published ten books, primarily set in England and on the Scottish Borders, most revolving around real historical figures and events.  For more information, visit www.blythegifford.com
Author photo Jennifer Girard