Historic Novelists’ 4 Day Book Fair…
Welcome to the Historical Novelists’ Four Day Book Fair
How fantastic to be able to roam from one pavilion to another, all 50+ of them … all just FULL of hist.fict novels from every timeframe one can imagine. Load your kindles, your Nooks, your Kobos, your i-books. Or be a real devil and buy the print version of any novel you see if it’s available.
As I am still writing the second book of The Gisborne Saga and only have the first in the saga to display, I’d like to offer you a cup of tea (whichever sort you would like) and some hazelnut choc chip cookies. (Recipe below) and a sample of the novel on offer today:
‘I dwell by dale and downe,’ quoth Guye,
and I have done many a curst turne;
and he that calles me by my right name
Calles me Guye of good Gysborne.’ Child Ballad #118
‘And all shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.’
Julian of Norwich
The parchment crackled as it opened and I angled it to the light at the window.
‘To Lady Ysabel Moncrieff, my daughter, It is with sadness that I inform you of the death of your loved and adored mother, Alaïs de Cazenay, Lady Moncrieff.’
The letter was dated two months previous and was signed with my father’s name, his seal buried in uncompromising oak gall ink. I glanced at the packet again in the hope there would be more words … something, anything. But my father had sent no message of comfort or orders for my future and I was bereft.
As the writing blurred and I held hard to the stone windowsill, I thought that in eight weeks my mother had died, been buried and had a mass said for her soul every day whilst I sang, danced, hunted and gamed with my Cazenay cousins and friends in Aquitaine. My heart ached with the poignancy of it all and I wept, the tears blotting the green of my gown.
I drifted around the domain in a dark and distant mood and my cousins could barely touch me in my grief because I adored my mother and had lost my way with no one to show me the path back … my mother, a beauty and a cousin twice removed from the great Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Alaïs deserved to be lauded by the troubadours across the land because Eleanor had thought her a jewel beyond measure and had not been pleased to give the hand of one of her favourite ladies to my father. He was Joffrey of Moncrieff, an English baron of greater ranking and the man who appeared to have forgotten his duty to his child.
I saddled my mare, Khazia, the next day and the groom helped me mount, the gown folds hitched into the girdle that hung at my hips. I wanted to gallop and cry far from the meaningless prattle of the castle confines. I wanted to grieve, rent my clothes if I desired and as soon as I was over the drawbridge, the mare stampeded downhill over stones and round jutting boulders with me caring nothing for her safety or my own. My heart hurt. I had not been able to see my mother for two years nor tell her what she meant to me in her last days. It seemed to me that I had deserted her when she needed her daughter beyond measure.
Khazia snorted and started sideways and through my tears I noticed another mount gaining on my flank, saw a hand reach out to grab my reins. Pressure was brought to bear on the bit and Khazia slowed, shaking her head in protest, the horse alongside matching her pace.
Eventually we stopped and both animals stood heaving whilst I swallowed on my pain and turned to stare at the man who had halted me. He still held my rein but bowed his head slightly and spoke. The resonant tone of his voice burrowed through my hurt and the blood thumped through my limbs in consequence.
‘Lady Ysabel, I am sorry for your loss but breaking an innocent animal’s legs does neither you nor your mother any credit.’
I went to slap his face, a face with strong planes and shadows of tiredness, but he grabbed my wrist, tugged hard so that I had to lean toward him, and then calmly placed my fingers back across the reins. His eyes met mine glance for glance, the air solid and tempestuous, but something in his expression touched my grief and my anger stilled for a moment.
I was sure he felt compassion for me, not pity like the rest of Cazenay society, but a kindred understanding of loss and confusion. The mare blew loudly down her nose and shook herself and I realized this man was right; I had been thoughtless and cruel.
I slid down, my gown still hitched inelegantly high, and he dismounted beside me. He towered above with height and broad shoulders, reminding me how effeminate were the men I had known. I guessed he was older than myself by a year or two, perhaps a little more, and he had a manner that implied he had seen life far more than I.
‘I am Guy of Gisborne, Lady, and I am charged to return you to Moncrieff forthwith.’
I gasped as I held out a sweaty hand that he took but did not kiss, holding his dark hair back with the other hand. I was to go home, and my heart so lately broken began to warm and I almost thought I might bear my mother’s death after all. Gisborne’s palm was dry and cool and something about the way our fingers touched slowed the world around me. A blush warmed my cheeks and I glanced at him from under my lashes, noticing he was intent upon me.
‘When, sir? When do we go? I am desperate to return.’
‘Tomorrow at cockcrow. They pack your immediate needs now. Your chests will follow.’
I stood looking out over the view of the stony valley with the fierce lapis sky and the river trailing away between ivory cliff walls and brushed falling hair back from my forehead.
He followed my gaze.
‘It’s not the cool green of England’s shores, is it?’
His voice held a degree of sarcasm and as he wiped at his brow, a faint sheen of sweat peeled away under his palm.
He was dressed in leggings and laced leather boots that creased across his ankles and the southern winds blew a linen chemise back hard against his chest. For the first time in recent days I smiled.
‘But they write excellent poetry, have delectable food and play at courtly manners like none other.’
His mouth barely curled and yet I could see he was amused.
‘I read and I write and yet I believe there’s a time and place for it. Things here seem out of balance. Too much sweetness and not enough savoury.’
‘Is Moncrieff any better?’ I asked. ‘It is so long since I have seen it. Eight years, Sir Guy.’
‘I am not yet a knight, merely your father’s steward.’
‘You are a knight because you rescue me from this place and return me to my father. How does he? I miss him.’
‘I have only been in your father’s service for six months, Lady Ysabel. But in truth I would say he is much aged and your presence may sooth him in his troubles.’
My heart jumped and I grabbed Gisborne’s arm. ‘What troubles? Is he ill?’
I could see he chose his words carefully but I could decipher nothing beneath what he said.
‘He grieves,’ he replied.
Tears threatened again. Of course my father would grieve; Alaïs was his light.
‘Tomorrow you say? How long will it take us?’
‘A month to reach the northerly coast, perhaps a few days to sail to the English coast depending on the seas and then two weeks to ride to Moncrieff.’
As he spoke, he helped me mount, and I brushed away the tears that finally trickled down my cheeks. I was to go home at last. So many times I had craved it, losing my temper with the heat, the affectations of my friends, wanting nothing but the quiet, calm cool of Moncrieff.
Momentarily I wondered why I should want to go home so badly with my mother gone. But then I recalled the dour walls of Moncrieff and the way the building stood proud in the middle of its little lake. The way the water that underlined fens life trickled, rushed and sometimes just stood as reflective as a burnished piece of steel. But more than anything, I realized my mother’s heart and soul were still there and I wanted to be close to her.
It was my family’s habit from when I was born, to make the arduous journey to Aquitaine once yearly so that Alaïs could enjoy the southern climes and meet with our cousins. My father Joffrey loved Aquitaine and would sink himself deep into his wife’s familial society. I sometimes wondered if he preferred it to Moncrieff which is northeast of London, as flat as a trencher and surrounded by the blurred edges of fens and marshes.
I loved my family home and Cazenay equally but if I had a choice, Moncrieff was where I belonged because they say often enough that home is where the heart is. On less damp ground, Moncrieff had valuable fields and its forests were sought after for reputable hunting and I had reveled in the riding, even as a child.
In addition, Moncrieff Castle was considered a well-appointed and comfortable place because my mother filled it with acquisitions from Aquitaine, my father’s purse strings always open. But its singular most remarkable claim on my affections was its position in the middle of a lake. My father had the habit of calling my mother his Lady of the Lake after the spirit in the legend of Arthur the King and I loved the mysterious nature of such a title.
When I turned twelve, Mama sent me to Aquitaine to join my Cazenay cousins in the belief the sophistication of the courts would add a sparkle to my charm and the chance of an advantageous liaison. Ensconced in an eyrie-like bastion that hung on the edge of white ravines, I enjoyed the atmosphere, but whilst I became educated in the courtly style, I missed the pale colours of my home – the mystic trees and reed-frilled fens, the forests that wrapped around and whispered legends in my ear and the lake on which the swans and I would float.
Despite such longings, at fifteen I was as polished as I could be and becoming objectionable. By twenty, and still in Aquitaine, I was bored. Worse, I was unmarried. My father had dallied with possible marriage settlements but he had hardly been diligent, losing interest if any complication arose. Meetings with suitors were arranged but no son nor their father would have me because I was sharp, opinionated and as accomplished as all of them at hawking and poetry … even gambling. Worse, I could shoot a bow better than any of them and I suspect they felt emasculated. So I was every man’s best friend but most assuredly not a lover nor likely mother of children and my Papa seemed unworried.
My mother? Ah, she despaired…
This is a sample of the images that inspired me and which I have pinned to a board about the book.
And now for your tea and cookies…
Hazelnut Choc Chip Cookies
125g unsalted butter
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
150g dark and white chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Cream together butter, both sugars and vanilla. Add lightly beaten egg. Mix in flour. Add chocolate chips. I add as many chocbits as I want, throwing them around with abandon. And I add 60g of not quite smoothly ground hazelnuts.
Teaspoonfuls of mixture into small balls on a cookie tray and press ever so slightly with fork. Bake in oven for 10 – 12 minutes, until just golden and remove from oven. Do NOT touch until cooled.
I then melt half a block of the darkest, most pure chocolate I can find and dollop on the top of each and then shake icing sugar over all.
Thanks for visiting my own little yellow silk pavilion and enjoy all the others!
Historical Book Fair
|1.||Francine Howarth||19.||Maggi||37.||Elizabeth Hopkinson|
|2.||Fenella J Miller||20.||Suzi Love||38.||Michael Wills|
|3.||Paula Lofting||21.||Jeanne Treat||39.||DM Denton|
|4.||Helen Hollick||22.||Chris Longmuir||40.||Richard Abbott|
|5.||Martin Lake||23.||Kiru Taye||41.||Sue Millard|
|6.||Jane Godman||24.||Betty Cloer Wallace||42.||Margaret Skea|
|7.||J.G. Harlond||25.||Christina Phillips||43.||Wendy J. Dunn|
|8.||Melanie Robertson-King||26.||Suzy Witten||44.||Bryn Hammond|
|9.||Nicole Hurley-Moore||27.||Kim Rendfeld||45.||Sarah Waldock|
|10.||Anne Gallagher||28.||Kevin John Grote||46.||Hilda Reilly|
|11.||Deborah Swift||29.||Ginger Myrick||47.||Roy E Stolworthy|
|12.||Derek Birks||30.||Linda Root||48.||Patricia O’Sullivan|
|13.||Katherine Pym||31.||Prue Batten||49.||Glen Craney|
|14.||Michael Wills||32.||Pauline Montagna||50.||Suzan Tisdale|
|15.||Sandra Ramos O’Briant||33.||Sophie Schiller||51.||Jo Ann Butler|
|16.||Elizabeth Caulfield Felt||34.||Judith Arnopp||52.||Charles Degelman|
|17.||J L Oakley||35.||Anna Belfrage||53.||Gates of Eden|
|18.||Alison Stuart||36.||Jean Fullerton|