18 January 2017

Meet My Protagonists...Forced to Wed in RUMORS AT COURT

In RUMORS AT COURT, scheduled for release in May, 2017, I did something I had never done before:  I had a heroine who had been previously married.

While in a romance novel, this created an additional character challenge, (one has to then explain her previous husband and their relationship) it did something more important.  It allowed Valerie of Florham to hope for a life other than that of a wife.  Widows had the potential for a kind of freedom available to no other medieval woman - on her own, without a husband constraining her every move.  (See http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2016/05/my-characters-lived-in-14th-century.html for my post on this subject.) 

Of course, that was not to be.

My main characters are fictional, but the story includes a number of real historical figures.  The book, the third Royal Wedding Story, is set in England, late in the Fourteenth Century.  The English king’s son has assumed the title of King of Castile, by virtue of his marriage to the previous king’s daughter.  Soon, he plans to seize Castile from the current ruler and establish his own court there.

My hero, Sir Gil Wolford, plans to go with him.  But before they sail, Castile’s “king” insists Gil marry the widow.

A medieval garden, similar to that of my heroine.
Gil is no more eager to wed than Valerie, but for very different reasons.  He has spent his life trying to prove himself worthy, despite his scandalous family background.  Before he marries and sires a son, he wants to sit at the right hand of the King of Castile, in the palace of Alhambra, as far away from his past as possible.

Valerie longs only to be left in peace in the garden she has created on land that her family has held in England for generations.

At this time, England’s earlier success against France in the Hundred Years War has slipped away and the once extensive English holdings on the continent are in danger.  There is unease in the country and rumors abound about the royal family, the intentions of the enemy, and about Valerie and Gil.  Neither is certain who can be trusted, including one another.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter One, when the two first meet.  Gil, whose company included Lady Valerie’s late husband, has a final commander’s duty to perform.  One he wants completed quickly.

When Lady Valerie turned to meet his eyes, for a moment he could not speak.

Now he could see her plain.  Fair skin.  Dark eyes that changed expression when she knew him for who he was.  Was it his family history or his reputation in battle that erased both smile and sadness?  No matter.  Now, he faced a strong, impenetrable shield, through which he could glimpse no emotion at all.  Until then, he would have judged her a woman who needed protection.  Now, he thought she would have been an asset on the battlefield.  “Some have called me that,” he answered, finally.

A silence.  Awkward.  “What do you want of me?” she said, finally.

The time had come.  “Your husband served in my company.” 

She glanced down at the floor.  “I know.”  Had her sadness returned?  Would there be tears?

He hurried to speak.  “Then you know that the siege was broken by that attack.  That his death was not in vain.”

“That is a comfort, surely.”

Her tone suggested otherwise.  “He was a worthy fighter.  His death was a blow.”

Now her gaze met his again.  Her shield had not slipped.  “More so to me.”

Ah, then she blamed him for the man’s death.  She had the right.  “Men die in war, no matter what we do.”  War was not what those at home imagined.  It was not…glorious.

He pulled the stained, crumpled silk from his tunic.  “Your husband was carrying this when he died.  I thought to return it to you so you would know he treasured the thought of his wife.”  He waved it in her direction.  A poor, limp thing, even more wrinkled and dirty now than it had been when he took it from the man’s body.

She did not reach for it.  Instead, she recoiled, as if it were a live thing with teeth. 

He shook his outstretched hand, wishing to free himself of it.  “Do you not want it back?”

“Back?”  The word, barely a whisper.  Then, she lifted that hard, impenetrable gaze and met his eyes again.  “It was never mine.”


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 eleven romances set in England and on the Scottish Borders.  RUMORS AT COURT, a Royal Wedding story, is a May, 2017 release from the Harlequin Historical line.  For more information, visit www.blythegifford.com

Author photo Jennifer Girard. Excerpt © 2017 by Blythe Gifford. Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.  All rights reserved. ®and T are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license. Copyright 2017