Hairstyles in the Eleventh Century

The Handfasted Wife, a novel about Edith Swan-Neck, common-law wife and beloved of Harold Godwinson, opens at Westminster during Christmas 1065. Elditha rides in on her mare Eglantine surrounded by a guard and with her two younger children following in a covered cart. Harold arrives at Thorney Island on a long shaped boat, the Wessex dragon flying at the mast. … Read More

The Greek Mani, A Writer’s Hideaway.

This year I am fortunate enough to have found a writing escape tucked away in the Greek Mani not too far from Kardamyli where the travel writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, a scholar gypsy, lived for many years. His home, a unique house overlooking the sea, is to become a writing retreat. He left it in his will to The … Read More

Reredfelle, an Eleventh Century Estate

Psalters, early medieval calendars, and The Domesday Book yield fascinating information about life on a medieval estate. For instance, a scene from Saint Mary’s Psalter depicts the lord’s reeve overseeing the harvest. The reeve is behind the cart which is drawn by three horses and is packed full of grain. The illustration climbs the margins of the Psalter page to … Read More

The Handfasted Wife

The Handfasted Wife is Edith Swan-Neck, the common-law wife of Harold II who was defeated by William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings. Handfasting was a traditional marriage ceremony that was frequently favoured in early medieval England. The marriage ceremony usually took place in a hall or manor house. Before the marriage ceremony could occur contracts were exchanged between … Read More

Talking The Talk

Nowadays it is a given that Publishers expect every writer to actively promote their own novels. Once the book is finally published the next duty that falls to the writer is to bring it to the attention of the great book-buying public in whatever creative or underhand way that they can. What would be the point of all the effort, … Read More

Sakura Fever

Sakura, the Japanese word for cherry blossom, is very short lived. It occurs in the spring, usually late March. This period marks a Japanese holiday period after which the new school year begins in April. The Japanese celebrate it with Hanami, cherry blossom viewing parties consisting of picnics, walks through parks and along streets lined with Sakura trees. The Japanese … Read More

Dining out in Ancient Rome

I have long had a love affair with Italy and enjoy reading novels set in either Ancient Rome or Renaissance Italy. And I have often wondered as I twiddle my spaghetti around a fork or order up my favourite Milanese chicken dish what it would really be like to dine out in Ancient Rome. First I would wear an unstiffened … Read More

The Trotula, Medieval Women’s Medicine

The Trotula is one of the best sources of information about ‘conditions’ for women in the middle ages. It is thought by historians that The Trotula originated during the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Salerno, Italy. Salerno was the leading centre for medical learning in medieval Europe. Its opening lines give us a flavour of the thought processes that permeated … Read More

The Next Big Thing

For weeks I have resisted The Next Big Thing because my publisher did not want me to talk about my book in too far in advance of publication. However, ‘the next big thing’ posts I have read are fascinating and I am thrilled to be nominated to carry the torch forward by two fabulous writers whom I wish to mention … Read More

Books for Four Seasons 2012

As Christmas approaches it is time to review four of my favourite historical novels of this year. I have chosen four that are set in the seventeenth century and each of these absorbed me during 2012. Again, I have selected one for each season. Winter The Bleeding Land by Giles Kristian I have just finished reading The Bleeding Land by … Read More