10 January 2010

Guest Author: Carrie Lofty

Hi, I'm Carrie Lofty. When I founded Unusual Historicals back in November 2006, I hadn't yet conceived of the idea behind SCOUNDREL'S KISS. I only knew that I loved stories set in unusual places and times, and I wanted to revel in that love with other romance fans.

Now check it out! Medieval Castile! In a romance novel! I'm so glad to be here, more than three years on from beginning this blogging adventure, and to talk about Gavriel and Ada...

When it comes to temptation...

Turning his back on his old life as a rogue, Gavriel de Marqueda has joined a monastic order in Spain and taken a vow of chastity. Before he becomes a monk, he must pass one final test: help a woman who has lost her way. But when he lays eyes on Ada of Keyworth, he is tempted beyond measure by her sultry beauty and dangerous curves.

Rules are meant to be broken...

Far from her home in England, Ada has been battling inner demons for more than a year. When she discovers that her only friend has abandoned her, she has no choice but to grudgingly accept Gavriel's help. But Ada is not fooled. Though Gavriel wears the robes of a monk, Ada sees that he is a virile man who looks at her with a hunger that matches her own--one that begs to be satisfied again and again....

I think I'll keep this relatively brief, because I know you're busy and want to get straight to the giveaway! So here I present my "Top 10 Unusual Facts About Medieval Spain":

10. The Iberia Peninsula, which today consists of Spain, Portugal, and British-controlled Gibraltar, was actually seven separate kingdoms in 1201AD (when SCOUNDREL'S KISS is set): Castile, León, Navarre, Catalonia, Aragon, Portugal, and the southern Moorish territories held by the Almohads.

9. Opium was easily obtained in medieval Iberia because of heavy Mediterranean and North African trade with Arab tribes. The Arabs got their opium via the long spice road to China. Opium was prescribed frequently, especially among the richer strata of society. Therefore it's highly possible that drug addiction could have afflicted a portion of the population.

8. Reconquista is the term for Christian "reconquest" of Iberia, as they pushed Moorish powers farther and father south. Reconquista took no less than 800 years, culminating when the last Muslim leader of Granada surrendered his forces to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.

7. Jews were integral to courtly life and were, under certain monarchs, awarded noble estates called juderias. They had survived Visigoth and Moorish occupations, and thus proved very useful to the Christian kings because of their centuries-long familiarity with Moorish culture. Only after Las Navas, when Jewish knowledge was no longer as essential, were their rights seriously curtailed.

6. The balancing act of living among Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim cultures was called convivencia. This forced proximity created new terms: Mozarabs (Christians in Moorish-held lands), Mujedars (Muslims in Christian-controlled territories), and Muladi (Christian converts to Islam).

5. Sexual relations between Muslims and Christians was punishable by death for women. Men might only lose their hands to start, but multiple transgressions led to execution. Even prostitutes had to stick with their own kind. This was all to further reconquista efforts.

4. But...because the need to secure tenuous Christian bloodlines was paramount, and with Christian women so scarce on the Almohad frontier, provisions were made for mixed-race children. If a Christian man fathered a baby on a Muslim slave, and then that baby was baptized, the man could name the child as his heir.

3. A man's official mistress was called a barragana and was afforded almost all of the rights of a wife. If the affair came to an end, the woman was not ruined. Frontier fathers still wanted their daughters to find reputable matches, and frontier suitors did not want the small issue of an affair to take a possible mate off the market. No banns and no priest were required for an official marriage. Society only required the husband and wife's word!

2. Children inherited equally, regardless of gender. A man's six children, for example, would split his lands and worldly goods six ways. The only exception related to implements of warfare such as weaponry and horses, which went to sons alone. Daughters were compensated with gold. This goes a long way to explaining why Iberian kingdoms were so fractured.

1. Even monks were afforded special dispensation under the goal of reconquista. To attract more men to the Order of Santiago, Pope Alexander III permitted that the Jacobean monks, as they were called, could own individual property, marry whom they liked, and practice conjugal chastity--with celibacy only enforced during Lent. Here's the fleury cross they wore:

Good thing Gavriel de Marqueda, the hero of SCOUNDREL'S KISS, chose to become a Jacobean rather than a Dominican or Franciscan!


Now you can win a signed copy of SCOUNDREL'S KISS. Just give me your questions: anything else you want to know about medieval Spain? I just revel in how different Spanish society was compared to that of medieval Britain. I'll draw a winner at random next Sunday. Void where prohibited. Good luck, and thanks to everyone for being a supporter of Unusual Historicals! I'm so proud!