Friday, May 24, 2013

Life for Medieval Women

     My historical romance series is set in the 830s, just after Charlemagne’s reign, during the Middle Ages or medieval period of history that most historians consider to span 500 -1500AD. Comparing the Middle Ages to present day is a wide-open topic because things are so different now. I’ll limit myself to the Carolingian Empire in the 800s.
     I chose to write about Charlemagne’s empire because it has the strong societal structure that many of us enjoy in historical romance, but is not England or Scotland, which are heavily used in the genre already.
     The three books in the series feature very different women as heroines. In each, I created a woman who represents the female reality at the time. None are warriors, none are formally educated, none escape society's expectations of her, though each, in her way, exert her influence to make her life suit her.
     In Vain, my heroine is from the merchant class. Her life in her parents’ weaving and tailoring shop is very simple. They have a front room where they work and sell, and a back room where they live. The home has one open hearth with a small hole in the roof to release smoke. Fabric is woven on a rough frame of wood. Metal pins and needles exist but are too precious for her to buy. Hers are made from bone or thorn. She eats bread, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables grown or gathered nearby, and meat rarely. She drinks watered wine or ale. It sounds dismal, but Lily loves her life, and she fights to maintain herself when she is unexpectedly left alone.
     Theophilus, the hero in Vain, is a nobleman. (Don’t worry, his name is often shortened to Theo, so you won’t be reading that eyeful for an entire book.) When he is forced to marry Lily, her transition to life in his great house is challenging because she has crossed a societal boundary, and he is pretty angry at having marry her.
     Life as a noblewoman is still rustic by our standards. She has an outside wells and latrine, her kitchens walls are black with soot from an open cookfire, and only she and her husband enjoy much privacy. Most of the nobility can’t read or write, entrusting such work to clerks, though I found it hard to stick to that with my heroes. In addition to clerks, there are servants to do the less pleasant physical work, a much better selection of food from the countryside around town, and social diversions.
     The Evolution Series fits into the medieval historical romance category because it is more rustic and gritty than, say, a regency. In my recent release, Vain, I say that in this time period “lives were, for the most part, everlasting struggles for survival.” Though those struggles are not the main focus of my stories, suffice it to say that none of my heroines gets the vapors because an earl steals a kiss on the veranda. Each of them has a life path she is trying to follow, and I do my best to show her story while respecting the reality of the time period.
    Now you just have to pick which one to read! The stories stand on their own, so you can start anywhere. The titles describe the hero of each book. I list them here in order, with a short description, and they are available on most online book vendors.
    Unbidden - When the emperor chooses a husband for Rochelle, she tries to drive her betrothed away, but by the time she realizes she might want to keep him, she has been too successful and other forces are dividing them as well. Unbidden is only $0.99 and since it is the first book, I am providing a few buy links here. Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Smashwords
    Redeemed - Can a quiet widow help a damaged, secretive man find redemption? This book features the villain from Unbidden and if available in the Evolution Series bundle with that book.
    Vain - A tailor’s abandoned daughter fashions a vain nobleman’s tunic, finding passion between the neckline and hem as misfortune forces her into his precarious aristocratic world.

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