Tag Archives: medieval historical fiction

Interview with Medieval Thriller Author E.M. Powell

What can I say, I just love E.M. Powell. She’s a great writer and a wonderful person. A lot of research goes into her books! The third book in her medieval thriller series released recently so I caught up with her to talk about The Lord of Ireland. If you missed my review of this stellar book, you can read that HERE. Enjoy the interview! (P.S. Love this cover!!)


Hi Elaine, welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I can’t believe it’s been a year since we visited, and invited Paddington Bear, but this year I think we will go a bit more Irish, since most of your third book, The Lord of Ireland, is placed there. Just like your roots! (And besides, my name is Erin…Ireland!) So welcome, come in and have a seat, I’ll put on the tea or coffee? Your choice today, just let me know your preference? And I’ve baked up some of my Irish soda bread as well so I’ll bring that in.

Elaine: Hi Erin—and yes, it feels like some very nice stars have aligned to have you talk to me about my book on Ireland. Coffee as always, please, though tea is the drink of choice in Ireland. And that bread smells so good!

Erin: Wonderful choice of course as I love coffee (but I also like tea hehe). I’ll pour and bring in a tray of soda bread fresh from the oven.

Let’s get started, as I have some interesting questions to ask you. How exciting is it to now have your third book in your series published?

Elaine: First, I must say, your soda bread is the best. You’ve passed the taste test with a genuine Irish person! As for exciting, having The Lord of Ireland out there in the world is hugely exciting but also deeply fulfilling. It’s been the book of my heart.

Erin: I really enjoy how you’ve switched the setting of this book to somewhere new, and to a place that doesn’t really seem to get as much historical fiction attention in the 12 century. Your details and descriptions were lovely. What gave you the idea to follow this track and how much research was involved?

Elaine: I had a launch of the first book in the series, The Fifth Knight, at the Irish world heritage Centre in Manchester in 2013. That book is set in 1170 England, featuring my fictional eponymous Sir Benedict Palmer, and it centers on the infamous murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. A member of the audience asked me if I would ever write a book about medieval Ireland. I said no, but even as the words came out of my mouth, I think that seed was planted.

In continuing the series, I wanted to stay with the theme of using a known historical event and providing my take on it. In the second book, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, Sir Benedict Palmer was charged with trying to figure out who was intent on murdering the Fair Rosamund, the young mistress of Henry II. This was set in 1176, again in England.

As I started to look for another hook (yes, the hook of a book!), I came across an account of Henry’s youngest son, John (he who would be Bad King John), going to Ireland at the age of eighteen and insulting the Irish chieftains who came to welcome him by pulling them by their beards and mocking them. This rang a bell. But further research told me John had an eight month campaign there. And that it was a disaster. And that he went there with his very first title: Lord of Ireland. I was in- and I was going back to Ireland, the land of my birth.

I have to confess, the research commitment to this book was huge. I had to research from the perspective of English/British history and of course Irish history. As you’ll appreciate, these don’t always agree on a consensus!

Erin: In deciding to feature Lackland in this novel, and his adventure to lead Ireland, you seem to have moved somewhat more away from a mystery element to more of an historical thriller. Would you say this is correct? Why did you decided to do so or did your muse and characters dictate the plot?

Elaine: In a way, it was a return to a thriller. The Fifth Knight was a thriller, The Blood of the Fifth Knight was more mystery and then I came back to thriller again. And both have elements of both! The mystery/crime/thriller genre(s) often has huge overlap between all three. I think ultimately The Lord of Ireland was more thriller because of the historical events that took place.

Fifth Knight Series Twitter

Erin: Yes, that’s true I can see that, reading all three. Speaking of Lackland, youngest son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, you seemed to prove all the previous writings and rumors of him in history to be true and presented him as such in your novel—cruel and spiteful, and yet, modern historians have tried to paint him more as hard working and more able bodied as a leader. What are your thoughts and why/how did you prove enough to stand behind how you presented him as a character?

Elaine: I read many, many books and articles about John. While there are a few voices that paint him in a more positive light, most are still very much agreed that he was dreadful. One of the most recent biographies of King John is English historian Marc Morris’s 2015 King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta. As one might guess from the title, Morris is not a fan. It’s a wonderful read. As for John’s first trip to Ireland, the eminent Irish historian Seán Duffy sums it up thus: ‘If, as few would dispute, John’s 1185 expedition was a military failure, it was disastrous too in a political sense. ‘

Erin: I always enjoy your characters and you have superb character development that gets deeper with  each novel, both your main characters becoming more complex and your newly introduced sub-characters being created with more depth. I’m always glad to see Palmer again, but I’m very glad you endeavor to give his wife more of a role now. Did you plan that or is her character speaking to you? Why is she becoming such an important asset to Palmer and to the books?

Elaine: I’m so pleased you should say that! Characterization was my Achilles Heel pre-publication and I’m always aware of that. Theodosia, Palmer’s wife, had a more active role in this book because I planned it. In the second book, she was the mother of very small children and I couldn’t allow her to step away from that role as I truly believe most women wouldn’t. And (no spoilers!), she actually had the final say in that book too. A shrinking violet, she ain’t!

Erin: Your series, The Fifth Knight, is in its third book now with The Lord of Ireland. Where will the series go from here? Do you have more planned?

Elaine: I have a Book #4 in the works, which will be the last in the series. I also have a very exciting project linked to Book #2, The Blood of the Fifth Knight, that I can’t discuss yet. Stay tuned!

Erin: What authors influence/influenced you in writing medieval thrillers and who do you enjoy reading?

Elaine: I love Robert Harris’s Pompeii above all else when it comes to historical thrillers. To me, it’s the gold standard. It’s got a wonderful hero- a water engineer (yes, you read that right!) and no one knows that the big old mountain is about to blow. Except the reader. It’s compelling and exciting and above all, you’re THERE. 

Erin: What types of places have you visited in doing your research, either in person or by Internet, that you’ve loved? And why? And did they end up in your book(s)?

Elaine: Part of my research for the Lord of Ireland involved a research trip to Ireland. I know—a tough job, but someone had to do it. I had a clear itinerary as I had the good fortune that Henry II had sent his royal clerk, Gerald of Wales, with John. Gerald wrote an account of John’s campaign and mentioned many of the events that took place as well as the locations John visited. So I started at Waterford, scene of the beard pulling, where John landed. Much of what was present in 1185 still exists—even some of the buildings. Where buildings such as wooden fortresses had long gone, in parts of Co. Tipperary and Co. Kilkenny, I still had the lie of the land to go at. And then there were places that were ancient even when John arrived, like a Durrow in Co. Offaly. There’s a High Cross there that dates from 850 AD. Seeing things like that helped me to put the history into its correct perspective. It might have been a new land to John—but not to the Irish.

Erin: If not writing mysteries or thrillers, what other types of historical fiction, time periods, or genres would you attempt?

Elaine: I wouldn’t! The first version of The Fifth Knight was very heavily weighted on the romance side and it won several times in RWA contests. It still has romantic elements, as do the other two books. But I’m a thriller writer at heart.

Erin: If you could meet one woman from history, and then write a book about her, who would it be?

Elaine: It would have to be Emmeline Pankhurst, the leading British women’s rights activist, who led the movement to win the right for women to vote— the suffragettes. She fought tooth and nail and refused to give up. And she won.

Erin: Yes! Good choice. More coffee to go? I’ll wrap up some bread for you to take home. It’s been a pleasure to interview you again and you’re welcome anytime. Thanks for coming by, my friend, and for continually writing excellent books! Best wishes for a great year.

Elaine: Any chance you could make that two loaves? And it’s been an absolute privilege, as always—slánleatagus go raibhmaithagat!


by E.M. Powell

Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Thomas & Mercer
Kindle, Paperback, Audiobook; 370 Pages

Series: The Fifth Knight
Genre: Historical Thriller

England, 1185. John is a prince without prospect of a crown. As the youngest son of Henry II, he has long borne the hated nickname ‘Lackland’. When warring tribes and an ambitious Anglo-Norman lord threaten Henry’s reign in Ireland, John believes his time has finally come. Henry is dispatching him there with a mighty force to impose order.

Yet it is a thwarted young man who arrives on the troubled isle. John has not been granted its kingship—he is merely the Lord of Ireland, destined never to escape his father’s shadow. Unknown to John, Henry has also sent his right-hand man, Sir Benedict Palmer, to root out the traitors he fears are working to steal the land from him.

But Palmer is horrified when John disregards Henry’s orders and embarks on a campaign of bloodshed that could destroy the kingdom. Now Palmer has to battle the increasingly powerful Lord of Ireland. Power, in John’s hands, is a murderous force—and he is only just beginning to wield it.

Praise for The Fifth Knight Series

“With her fast-paced mysteries set in the tumultuous reign of Henry II, E.M. Powell takes readers on enthralling, and unforgettable, journeys.” -Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

“Both Fifth Novels are terrific. Benedict and Theodosia are not merely attractive characters: they are intensely real people.” -Historical Novels Review

“From the get-go you know you are in an adventure when you enter the world of E.M. Powell’s 12th century. Peril pins you down like a knight’s lance to the chest”-Edward Ruadh Butler, author of Swordland


Author E. M. Powell, Biography

03_E.M.-Powell-197x300E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers The Fifth Knight and The Blood of the Fifth Knight have been number-one Amazon bestsellers and on the Bild bestseller list in Germany.

Born into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) and raised in the Republic of Ireland, she lives in north-west England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

She reviews fiction and non-fiction for the Historical Novel Society, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine.

Find more information at E.M. Powell’s website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.


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The Fairytale Keeper is an Amazing Medieval Story For Lovers of Fairytales

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Today I have a review of The Fairytale Keeper by Andrea Cefalo! You can also take the Fairytale Keeper Playbuzz quiz and enter to win a Fairytale Keeper Clutch Purse & $20 Amazon Gift Card below, following the review and the info.

I happen to love fairytales, and not just the happy ending ones, but even the true-to-form  original Grimm tales. Therefore, I love any retellings, awakenings, fracturing, or gentle nods to them as well. I like happy endings and not so happy endings. I love the history that creeps behind them and the Old World feel that resonates in my modern soul.

When I hear about The Fairytale Keeper series by Andrea Cefalo, and saw the goregous cover, I was sold on reading them. In hoping to love them, I immediately did so from the first few pages. As a mom who has loved to read fairytales to my kids since they were just very little in hopes to spark their imagination, I was touched by the beginning.

“I cannot write your story, Snow White. Only you can write your story.”

Adelaide’s mother tells her stories when she is young and calls her Snow White for a nickname. But her mother dies in medieval time from the plague, and though her father does financial better than most as a shoemaker, he still has to bribe a priest to give her mother a proper funeral and pyre. The situation doesn’t quite go so well and Adelaide is forever changed, not only by the death of her mother, but by the degradation of the body at the burial and the church’s politics and lack of compassion. We see Adelaide emerge from the reckless fire of her mother’s pyre as a Phoenix on a mission of revenge and retribution. She becomes a strong-willed, intelligent, and passionate protagonist that all young women can admire.

The real wonderful thing about this novel is how she portrays the relationships between Adelaide and others: with her father (the good and the bad feelings), Galadreil (who becomes her step-mother-see the tie-in…he’s a cobbler, she relates to Cinderella), her best friend Ivo, who becomes her Prince. In the relationships in the novel, we see where weaknesses are made strong, or people are torn apart, in each person with the accompaniment of another character. We see the loyalty, love, and dedication, yet also the tragic fight for Adelaide to receive this back, when all else in middle ages Cologne is suspect, corrupt, and falling to pieces.

If you are looking for a straight retelling of Snow White, that isn’t what this novel or series is about though. Instead the author is much more original as she takes pieces of various fairytales, the ones that Adelaide’s mother told her, and intertwines them into the story. Adelaide is called “little Snow White” and wants to save her late mother (her Queen, who dies and leaves her with an evil witch–just like in the fairytale) from the big bad wolf (taken from Red Riding Hood…the priest, the plague, the terrible burial), her dad is a shoemaker (an ode in a roundabout way to The Elves and the Shoemaker as well as Cinderella), Galadreil who has a similar story to her life as Cinderella (a noblewoman who appears in a dirty dress and has had a hard childhood- yet doesn’t becomes the witch or the evil step-mom), and Ivo who gives the novel a sweet romance to enjoy as he is Adelaide’s Prince Charming. You’ll enjoy a retelling of Hansel and Gretel as well.

You’ll find nuggets of fairytales distributed throughout if you tune in to your reading. It made it quite a fun addition to the dark back story of how awful the life, and the church, was in the 13th century, as well as the underlying “moral” of the story of what revenge can cost someone on a mission to for it. By the end, there is still anger and some dark places in Adelaide’s heart, but she does fine her solace too in regards to telling her own story and keeping her mom alive in her heart by keeping the fairytales alive. Andrea writes with a good mixture of the dark of Grimm’s tales and the more lighter side of Perrault’s versions.

I enjoyed Andrea’s fluid and decadent sentences, her historical detail in terms of setting-places, food, dress, as well as her character development, including how she crafted their emotions to make us connect to them, and her overall plot, which was Adelaide’s journey. It was original and imaginative, descriptive, and absorbing.

I felt like I was thrust back in time not only to my younger years, but to the medieval ages. I couldn’t put the book down and truly can’t wait to dive into the next one in the series. Highly recommended for medievalists as well as fairytale connoisseurs!

Read the First Chapter—> http://andreacefalo.com/book-one-the-fairytale-keeper/free-first-chapter/

Excerpt 1~

Intro: Adelaide’sbest friend and first love, Ivo, has asked Adelaide to tell him the tale of Hansel and Gretel. But Ivo, always ready to tease Addie and try to make her laugh, isn’t being the greatest listener.

“Once Gretel was inside,” I say.“The witch intended to shut the oven and let her bake in it. Then she would eat her, too. But Gretel saw what she had in mind and said, ‘I do not know how I am to do it. How do I get in?’

“‘Foolish girl,’ said the old woman to Gretel. ‘The door is big enough. Just look, I can get in myself!’ She crept up and thrust her head into the oven. Then Gretel gave her a push that drove her far into the oven, shut the iron door, and fastened the bolt. Oh, how horribly she howled—”

Ivo interrupts me with a great AWOOOO!!!

A huddle of women turn their wimpled heads, their faces screwed up.

“Are you mad?” I ask through giggles. “What are you doing?”

He laughs. “I’m howling like a witch.”

“That’s not how a witch howls.”

He stops. “Oh, then how do they?”

“I don’t know.” I grab his arm and tug him away from the on-lookers. “But not like that…not like a wolf. Come on.”

“Your cheeks are red,” he remarks.

“It’s the wind,” I lie. “It is getting cold.”

He shakes his head at me and howls again.

“Stop it!” I hiss and slap him in the stomach. “Lest I drop you off at St. Pantaleon’s with the rest of the lunatics.”

He flashes a wry smile. “Oh, if I was mad, you’d keep me. Wouldn’t you?”

I roll my eyes and heave a heavy sigh.

“So how does it end?” he asks.


“The story. Hansel and Gretel. What happens?”

“A wolf eats them.”

“What? No. That can’t be how it ends.”

“No.” I cross my arms. “You don’t get to know how it ends. This is thrice you have interrupted me.”

“Oho,” he guffaws. “But I promise I will be a good boy if you’ll tell me the end.” He raises his flaxen eyebrows, eyes brimming with mischief. “Or I could howl some more.”

“The witch burned to death.”

“And…” he prods.

”And?” I repeat in a mocking tone.

“What about the father and the stepmother?” he asks.

“What do you think happens to them?”

He is silent for a heartbeat, squinting an eye and pursing his lips. “I think…the father and the stepmother go find them,” he says. “Gretel tosses her in the oven. They eat the house, and they live happily ever after. Am I close?”

“Close enough.”

“So what really happened?”

“Nothing really happened,” I say. “It’s just a story.”

“You know what I mean, Addie. How does it really end?”

“The children find gold and jewels, and then they make their way back to the father. The stepmother was already dead. They lived happily ever after.”

“Huh.” There is a hint of disappointment in his voice.

“I think I like your ending better,” I admit.

“Did they eat the house first?” he asks.


He shakes his head, eyes wide with feigned shock. “I would have most certainly eaten the house.”

I give a sniff of laughter. “Me too.”

Excerpt 2~

Intro: Adelaide and her Father are imprisoned in the North Tower, where at best, men are locked away and forgotten, and at worst, they are interrogated and tortured. The Archbishop of Cologne, suspecting the beginnings of revolt in his city, comes to question Adelaide.

I do not know how long I am in the dark. Shrill screams echo through the hallway, and I shudder with fear, thinking every one of them belongs to Father. It is the most wretched feeling, worse than the last moments of Mama’s life, for I can do nothing to help him except pray. And so I do, until my knees are raw from the damp stone floor.

The cell opens, and just outside the frame of the door stands the archbishop.

It is true. He is here.

He is a slight man with icy, scheming eyes and thin lips. I sink to my knees, prepared to beg.

“I hear you make trouble in my city,” he says, his accent remarkably Roman. “I am good at dealing with troublemakers.”

“Please, I beg you to have mercy. Father and I tried to go to your cathedral, but—”

“I have not asked you to speak,” he interrupts.

“She is feisty, Your Excellency,” pipes the guard who caught me. “Kicks like a mule and bites like a dog.”

The archbishop gives a slow turn of his head, and the guard’s face goes white. “Leave us.”

The guards bow and hasten from the room. The door to my cell claps closed behind them.

The archbishop gesture languidly. “Do you know what happens in this tower?”

“Yes, Your Excellency.”

“Do you love your father?”

“Yes, Your Excellency!”

“Then you would save him—if you could?”

“Yes, Your Excellency!”

“Does your father urge rebellion upon the church?”

“Your Excellency, if I may explain—”

“Yes or no.”

“No, Your Excellency, he tries to stop them.”

He raises a silver eyebrow. “So you know of plots?”

I have said too much.

“I, I have overheard a stranger’s whispers, Excellency, but also overheard my father tell this man that he shall go to church. My father has no desire to see a rebellion.”

“Of course you would defend your father. I shall have to find ways to get the truth from him, if I cannot get it from you.” He pivots toward the door.

I surge forward, clutching his robe. “I swear it on my mother’s soul, Your Excellency! He is innocent!”

He turns, regarding me with an indifference that terrifies me. “Perhaps you tell the truth about your father’s innocence, but I know you lie of something else. You know who incites the rebellion, and yet you keep it from me. For this, you and your father shall be punished. But…I can be merciful. If you tell me who incites the rebellion, then your punishments shall be light.”

I stall, hoping a brilliant lie shall come to me. A lie that he shan’t see through. A lie that can save us all. But nothing comes.

“His name is Elias, Excellency.” I avert my gaze, wishing I had never mentioned this stranger at all, wishing I had never overheard his conversation. But more than anything, I hope I have saved my father.

“You shall confess that your father ordered you to abandon the church, and tell no one of any other story, or I shall have to change my mind about your father’s punishment.”

I wonder if he is seeking a confession in order to punish us as heretics and that all of his other promises are lies.

“But that is not the truth, Excellency. It was—”

“Ah, but, stupid, stupid girl, I do not care.” He meets my eyes, no hint of unease. “And those are the kinds of words that might make my men want to drive a hot poker up your father’s rectum and burn you both as heretics.”

I swallow hard. “Then I shall say whatever pleases you, Excellency.”

“Perhaps you aren’t so stupid after all.”

02_The Fairytale Keeper_CoverThe Fairytale Keeper, Info~

Re-Release Date: February 1, 2015
Scarlet Primrose Press
Formats: eBook; Paperback
Pages: 262

Series: Book One, Fairytale Keeper
Genre: Young Adult/Historical/Fairytale Retelling

Adelaide’s mother, Katrina, was the finest storyteller in all of Airsbach, a borough in the great city of Cologne, but she left one story untold, that of her daughter, that of Snow White. Snow White was a pet name Adelaide’s mother had given her. It was a name Adelaide hated, until now. Now, she would give anything to hear her mother say it once more.

A rampant fever claimed Adelaide’s mother just like a thousand others in Cologne where the people die without last rites and the dead are dumped in a vast pit outside the city walls. In an effort to save Katrina’s soul, Adelaide’s father obtains a secret funeral for his wife by bribing the parish priest, Father Soren.

Soren commits an unforgivable atrocity, pushing Adelaide toward vengeance. When Adelaide realizes that the corruption in Cologne reaches far beyond Soren, the cost of settling scores quickly escalates. Avenging the mother she lost may cost Adelaide everything she has left: her father, her friends, her first love, and maybe even her life.

Seamlessly weaving historical events and Grimm’s fairy tales into a tale of corruption and devotion, The Fairytale Keeper, leaves the reader wondering where fact ends and fiction begins. The novel paints Medieval Cologne accurately and vividly. The story develops a set of dynamic characters, casting the famous villains, heroes, and damsels of Grimm’s fairy tales into believable medieval lives. Though historically set, The Fairytale Keeper brims with timeless themes of love, loyalty, and the struggle for justice.

Praise for The Fairytale Keeper~

“A…resonant tale set late in the 13th century… with unexpected plot twists. An engaging story of revenge.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“Great historical fiction. Strong emotion injected into almost every page.” –Amazon Vine Reviewer

“…a unique twist on the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Part fairy tale retelling, part historical fiction… The Fairytale Keeper is a story of corruption.” -Copperfield Historical Fiction Review

“The story that Cefalo weaves is intriguing and leaves you hanging on, wanting more.” -Hooked to Books Book Review Blog

“…it doesn’t feel like any retelling. Because it’s not. The Fairytale Keeper is its own unique story…very entertaining, containing a strong female role, a sweet romance, and much more.” -Lulu The Bookworm Book Review Blog

Buy the eBook~

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Buy the Paperback~


Take the The Fairytale Keeper Playbuzz Quiz


About the Author Andrea Cefalo~

01_Andrea Cefalo_Author Pic 2Besides being the award-winning author of The Fairytale Keeper series, Andrea Cefalo is a self-proclaimed medievalist, hopeless bookworm, and social media junkie. She graduated with honors from Winthrop University in 2007 where she studied Medieval art history and children’s literature.

The next three books in The Fairytale Keeper series—The Countess’ Captive, The Baseborn Lady, and The Traitor’s Target—will debut in 2015 and 2016.

She resides in Greenville, South Carolina—ever perched before her trusty laptop—with her husband and their two border collies.

For more information please visit Andrea Cefalo’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Follow The Fairytale Keeper Pinterest Board.

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Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thefairytalekeeperblogtour/

Hashtags: #TheFairytaleKeeper #Historical #YA #FairytaleRetelling

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The Tale of 12th Century Abelard and Heloise Shows Love Can Endure All Things: Excellent Read!

Historical author Sherry Jones is one of the most lyrical, poetic writers of historical and biographical fiction that exists. In all my reading of historical fiction, I’ve rarely seen anyone write sentences with the emotion, depth of feeling, and silky sounding, dripping with detail sentences as Sherry does. As well, her character development, of which usually one is many times in first person, is so dimensional that the historical people come vividly to life.

I am in love with the cover!!!!!

I am in love with the cover!!!!!

Her newest book, The Sharp Hook of Love,  just sold me more on those points and is now one of my favorites of her titles. I highly recommend this book as much as I’d recommend a gorgeous sugary treat from the most prestige bakery on the streets of Paris. Except, though you’ll devour it just as much, you’ll want to forever keep this book and re-read often. It’s deliciously written, with lovely sentences and thought-provoking sections, wrapped up in a tale of love you’ll not soon forget.

The Sharp Hook of Love is her retelling of the story of Heloise,  a young woman in twelfth-century Paris who lives with her Uncle Canon Fulbert after being abandoned by her mother to an abbey. She is on track, with her intellect, to be an abbess. She meets Abelard, a man who has given up his inheritance to teach philosophy and write poetry, becoming a distinguished and highly sought after scholar. He is quite taken with Heloise and becomes her educator, and as cunning as he is, he manipulates her power-hungry uncle into letting him board with them. Immediately, they fall in love, though physical love and intimacy is not allowed for either of them.

The story, in my opinion, though of Heloise and Abelard’s love affair, was really about Heloise. It’s told from her point of view and I can’t but feel sorry for all the abandonment, hurt, and controlling people in her life. She a young woman of great intellect and questions, yet her desire for men to see her as their equal, and love her for her brains and soul, frustrates her, because they remain in the flesh (while preaching against the flesh of course!). It would me too, in any age of time, but in this time, the only women who were allowed to be intelligent and educated or to educate, were nuns. How awful it must have been for her to know she could rival any man, hold her own in debate, be a scholar, and love her Church, but to have that would mean to giving up true love! What a price to pay. I really frown upon this period and the fact that men could have it all, while women could not. (Well, as long as they weren’t caught or announced their doings like Abelard!)

Sherry really deals with the issues of women’s independence, how religion ruled the day in the medieval times, the corrupt actions of men in religious roles, and the fear that permeated all that surrounded the Church, or wanted to be involved in the Church. She really took to task the rules and hypocrisy of the Church and how it effected both men and women during this time period.

I’m proud of the Heloise she wrote of, the one she made me feel connected to so deeply. I felt her pain, her remorse, her excitement, her frustration, her love. Sherry poured her very essence into this book, calling on deep life experiences of her own. Heloise has a need for love and acceptance, for understanding why her mother abandoned her and why her lover must do the same, and wants to know her true calling and who she is to be in life. I like that she knows what she wants and tries to make it happen, to follow her heart, even if others are too afraid to let her have her deepest desire. It’s amazing how being in love can make you feel inside and the lengths some will go to sustain it, and others, to destroy it. Though some feel her naive or manipulated, I think she always was smart enough to know, but choose love and forgiveness, and sometimes emotions, over realistic rules and procedures.

I don’t want to give away all the book, in case you haven’t read it, and in case you don’t know the story from history too, but Heloise wanted to love, to love Abelard and their child, more than she wanted to be a abbess or a prioress. She didn’t want the prestige, only love. But so many others created such strife with this romance, that it truly was a tale of star-crossed lovers. Overall, Heloise was right in her thinking, everyone loves differently, it doesn’t mean they don’t love at all. I loved how Sherry stayed true to the story that they both loved each other, just in different ways, and had various ways of showing it, sometimes causing much perplexing drama to the other. It was an awfully sad tale that really pulled at the heart strings, made me cry, and made me hurt for them. Sherry did a tremendous job writing the characters of Heloise of Abelard and created a lasting tribute to them of merit. I loved how she included excerpts from real letters they wrote each other, because it really tied it all together.

Her secondary characters were wisely and well-created, there is no flat in Sherry’s writing. The uncle I could visualize with clarity and he made me chuckle (with his heh-heh) and retch when he lifted his fist and used his booming voice. I enjoyed her personality created for Agnes, a friend to Heloise and Abelard both, and Jean and Pauline, the servants in her uncle’s home. As well, her settings were seeped in detail and description, yet in a way that molded into the story so as you hardly knew you were reading them, rather absorbing them. Her clothing, home, food, and other description also dripped with clear and distinct details that added such captivating allure to the novel.

The major essence of this book that I loved was that at the end, which though very sad of course, Sherry also showed how love can withstand anything and how things can come full circle. What they went through really did seem senseless. She showed in finality that Abelard loved Heloise, not only lusted after her. I LOVED how Sherry wrote the ending!! Love transcends all boundaries, even life. It was an amazing story of loyalty on both ends, and a joining together after all that had passed, which was emotional and hopeful all at the same time. It showed remorse, forgiveness, and the true joining together of souls. Love can heal hurt and pain, even if it also causes it. I guess the main question really is, how could God not accept true love between people, a love in its truest form, even if the laws of the Church, or family, ruled against it? For love is the most important part of life.

Once I opened this book, it had my heart skipping a beat from the start. I had an instant connection I rarely receive at first, and I was invested and up all night. As I stated at the start, I truly recommend this book to historical readers, but please do take care to open your heart, slow down your reading, savor her delectable sentences, and truly listen to this endearing, even though heart-wrenching, story. It’s beautifully written, as a song on the wind, a book you’d read with your lover on a sunny day, while having a picnic, a bottle of wine, a few stolen kisses, and nothing but the trees around you. Sherry’s retelling will stand the test of time.

The Sharp Hook of a Love, Synopsis

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Gallery Books (October 7, 2014)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1451684797

ISBN-13: 978-1451684797

The first retelling of the passionate, twelfth-century love story since the discovery of 113 lost love letters between Heloise d’Argenteuil and Pierre Abelard—the original Romeo and Juliet.

“While I sleep you never leave me, and after I wake I see you, as soon as I open my eyes, even before the light of day itself.” —Abelard to Heloise

Among the young women of twelfth-century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.

But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Notre-Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.

A sensual journey into twelfth century Paris. With a sharp eye for historical detail, Jones weaves an unforgettable, compelling tale about enduring love. (Lynn Cullen nationally bestselling author of Mrs. Poe)

Passion and treachery mingle in Sherry Jones’s explosive novel The Sharp Hook of Love. Wrenching and erotic, this is a grand romance in every sense of the word. (Mary Sharratt author of Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen)

Heloise is the sort of heroine you cannot help rooting for: brilliant and naïve, vulnerable and tough. The Sharp Hook of Love will have you up all night holding your breath as you turn each page. (Rebecca Kanner author of Sinners and the Sea)

Jones weaves history and passion in a tale full of emotional heft that questions what it means to truly love someone… (Kirkus Reviews)

Purchase and Review Links~


S&S  |  Amazon  |  B&N  |  BAM  | IndieBound  | Kindle   | iBookstore  | Nook

Sherry Jones, Biography~

sherrySherry Jones is an internationally best-selling author of five historical/biographical fiction books: The Sharp Hook of Love; Four Sisters, All Queens; White Heart; The Jewel of Medina, and The Sword of Medina.

She is now at work on a novel for Simon & Schuster/Gallery about the African-American dance sensation Josephine Baker. Sherry’s works have been translated into twenty languages. She lives in Spokane, Washington.

Connect with Sherry Jones on her website, Facebook, or Twitter. She loves to hear from her fans and readers!


Filed under Book Reviews

Talking with Historical Author Kim Rendfeld about War Between Saxons and Franks, Writing, & Women in History, and

Hi Kim and welcome back to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I enthusiastically enjoyed your debut novel The Cross and the Dragon, which took place in Francia in 778 near the early reign of Charlemagne, and our wonderful interview then. I’ve looked forward to having you back again. With the debut of your companion novel, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, it’s a great time to ask you a few more questions about your newest writing endeavor and what’s been going on with you this last year.

How has your launch been going for you?

Kim: Glad to be back, Erin. The schedule has been a whirlwind, a good whirlwind of reviews, interviews, and guest posts. It’s rewarding to see this novel so well received.

Erin: That’s wonderful news! Come in and have a seat and let’s make some tea. It’s still pretty muggy, so I have fresh brewed iced tea available or lemonade? Maybe peach or raspberry tea or strawberry lemonade? Pick your pleasure.

Kim: All sound delicious. How about raspberry iced tea?

Erin: Wonderful choice, I’ll pour and let’s get started! But first, let’s peek at your cover again…


Q: Did you have plans in the works for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar when writing The Cross and the Dragon? Do they connect to one another, or are they stand alone works?

A: When I wrote The Cross and the Dragon, I intended it to be a stand-alone book, but when I finished the manuscript, I went through an odd form of grief, one that could only be dealt with by writing another book. At first, I was going to feature two nuns I had met in Cross and Dragon, but I couldn’t get a plot to coalesce. I also wanted to delve more deeply into the events from the Saxon side, and three secondary characters, a Saxon family sold into slavery, kept telling me I’d needed to write their story. I surrendered.

The two stories overlap a little, but each can stand alone.

Q: How much research did you need to do for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar and how long did it take you to write it?

A: It’s difficult to quantify the research. The events are the same, but the culture of the Continental Saxons presents a challenge. They didn’t have a written language as we know it, and the Church made every effort to obliterate their pagan religion, which it considered devil worship. Among other things, I used translated primary sources from the Franks, academic papers, folk tales, and even the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.

How long it took to write is also not easy to calculate. I was writing Ashes while I sought a publisher for Cross and Dragon and sometimes would set it aside to revise my first novel. My estimate is five years.

Q: Are you a writer who outlines and follows painstakingly or a more “go with the flow” type of author?

A: If I tried to outline, I’d get stuck. With the second novel, I drafted a few chapters, then wrote an outline. Then threw everything away when the Saxons hijacked the plot. I wrote another outline and probably got about a third of the way through before casting that aside and going where the characters dictated.

Q: What types of historical discoveries have you made during your research that you want to share with readers? What themes of this time period interest you the most?

A: When I decided to write a novel set in the days of Charlemagne, I knew very little about the Middle Ages and had only heard of the monarch in middle school. So I was surprised by much of what I learned and could write an entire book. In the interest of brevity, I’ll provide just two examples. On a lighter note, medieval people did in fact bathe and considered it healthy. On the more serious side, Charlemagne’s most bitter wars were fought against pagan peoples.

I’m drawn to what the primary sources don’t say. Most authors depict the Saxons as brutes and treat war captives as booty. Historical fiction is a way to fill in the gaps and restore humanity to these people.

Q: The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is set during the destruction of the Irminsul. Can you explain for readers what that meant to the Saxons? How did they cope with the new wave of Christianity and what did it mean to them?

"The destruction of Irminsul by Charlemagne" (1882) by Heinrich Leutemann. / Wiki

“The destruction of Irminsul by Charlemagne” (1882) by Heinrich Leutemann. / Wiki

A: Your questions are what I wanted to explore in The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar. Since the eighth-century Continental Saxons didn’t write anything down, what I’m about to say amounts my best guess based on research. While we don’t know what the Irminsul was made of, where it was, or even if there was only one, it was sacred, perhaps emblematic, to the Saxon peoples. Its destruction might have been to the Saxons what September 11, 2001, was to Americans.

Some Saxons might have already practiced Christianity before Charlemagne’s first war in 772, but the Frankish annals complain again and again about how the Saxons broke their oaths, reverted to paganism, burned churches, and killed indiscriminately. Alcuin, a scholar and courtier in Charlemagne’s palaces, provides a more nuanced explanation. He sees a lack of education about the faith and more enthusiasm for collecting tithes than preaching as reasons for the Saxons’ stubborn rejection of Christianity.

Q: Did many need to convert to survive? What was it like for them to give up the only gods they had ever known?

A: In the earlier wars, Charlemagne might have seen conversion, especially of the Saxon leaders, as a means to ensure they kept their promises of peace. If someone is going to swear a loyalty oath, they invoke the divine, and whose deity do they swear by? To Charles, there was only one.

However, when the First Saxon Capitulary was issued in 782, refusing baptism was a capital offense as were pagan practices such as burning the dead. So, many Saxons might have accepted baptism to survive. Even though the vow required them to renounce their gods, the Saxons did not give them up entirely. Folk tales reflect that. The Germanic goddess Mother Holle punishes the lazy. Nixies are still evil creatures who live near water.

My heroine’s practice of praying to whoever might listen was common.

Some readers familiar with the period will cite the 782 execution of 4,500 leaders of a Saxon rebellion. While appalling to us in the 21st century, that incident likely had more to do with avenging a terrible defeat at the hands of the Saxons rather than an extreme attempt to force conversion. Charles had no choice if he wished to maintain alliances and stability without his own country.


A) Why was Charlemagne battling in Saxony? What was this like for people on both sides?

B) Your novel focuses on a family that was forever changed due to the wars. Did you create your characters based on fact or as fictional based on what might have been happening to any family at the time?


1) The Franks and the Saxons had fought each other long before Charles’ first war. Perhaps, Charles saw the Saxons as a military threat when he decided to invade in 772; perhaps, he wanted to protect Church interests. He might have had the Irminsul destroyed because it was a way to show the powerlessness of the Saxon gods.

I imagine the Franks saw themselves doing God’s will as they served their country and fought ancestral enemies. Many of the soldiers were teenagers and their compensation was what they pillaged from the conquered. To the Franks, the Saxons made an oath, handed over hostages to ensure the peace, and then soon broke their vows.

The Saxons went through years of war, destroyed homes and crops, and if we are to believe Alcuin, priests exacting heavy tithes. To them, their promises were exacted at knifepoint and therefore invalid. No wonder they rebelled when they got the chance, but they did it in a brutal way.

Neither side is innocent, and vengeance was ingrained in both cultures.

2) Leova and her children are products of my imagination. The primary sources rarely address peasants or pagans, so to know what the wars were like for an ordinary family, I had to make one up.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of medieval history? What areas need to be explored further?

A: Medieval women were not damsels in distress awaiting a knight to rescue them. Although arranged unions and marriages for girls age 12 or 13 made the period less than ideal, women tried to influence their reality and shape the events around them. Your readers may recall Queen Mother Bertrada, whom I wrote about in March for your Women in History series (you can read that HERE). After her husband died, each of her two sons inherited a kingdom, and she worked tirelessly to prevent sibling rivalry from escalating to civil war.

One thing that make medieval times fun to write about (but not live in) is how the personal and political were intertwined for royal families. Charles’s decisions on whom to marry had national and international implications. At the beginning of Cross and Dragon, Charles is about to go to war with the king of Lombardy, his ex-father-in-law angry over the insult to his daughter.

Q: Do you have plans to write more books in this “series” or will you write about other historical times and places?

A: I am working on a third book about Charles’s fourth wife, Fastrada, who was queen when Pepin, the king’s eldest son by his first wife, rebelled. A couple of primary sources blame her cruelty but never say what she did, and they seem to ignore that a son cut out of succession might resent it enough to stage a coup. After I finish this book, I will listen to what the muse tells me to write next.

Q: What are some of the books you read to increase your knowledge and improve your writing style? These can be research books or favorite authors that you admire the writing style of or both!

A: My library includes Einhard’s The Life of Charlemagne, translated by Evelyn Scherabon Firchow and Edwin H. Zeydel; Carolingian Chronicles, which includes the Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories, translated by Bernard Walter Scholz with Barbara Rogers; P.D. King’s Charlemagne: Translated Sources, and Pierre Riché’s Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne, translated by Jo Ann McNamara. For The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, I also used The Continental Saxons from the Migration Period to the Tenth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective, edited by Dennis Howard Green and Frank Siegmund.

I like to think of my writing style as my own. But in recent months, I’ve been leading a writers group at my day job, and we’re using William Zinsser’s On Writing Well as a guide. It reinforces concepts I’ve learned in 25 years of journalism and public relations such as simplifying language, eliminating clutter, and being genuine with readers.

Q: Who are your favorite women of history, from any time period?

A: Tough choice. There are so many women to admire.

We have Queen Bertrada, whom I mentioned earlier. There are also abbesses like St. Lioba, who assisted St. Boniface in strengthening and spreading Christianity in Europe. If we fast-forward a millennium and then some, we see Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who both fought for women’s right to vote but died before that right became part of the Constitution. There’s Eleanor Roosevelt, who didn’t want to be first lady but used her position to advance human rights. And let’s never forget Rosa Parks’s brave and peaceful protest for civil rights.



Q: Who is your favorite female character from either of your books (or one from each) and why?

A: I’m glad I can choose one from each. Otherwise, it’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. Alda is my favorite character from The Cross and the Dragon. I like her intelligence and cleverness, but most of all, I admire her courage. In The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, my favorite is Leova, a mom so determined to protect her children she is willing to sacrifice her honor and her safety.

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A: Readers can visit my website, kimrendfeld.com, where they can also read the first chapters of either novel. They’re also welcome to visit my blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like me on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, follow me on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, find me on Goodreads at goodreads.com/Kim_Rendfeld, check out my Amazon page at amazon.com/author/kimrendfeld, or contact me at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.

Erin: Thank you, Kim, for stopping by today to talk about your new book. I wish you much success with your writing. We need more medieval historical fiction on the market!

Kim: Thank you, Erin, for inviting me. I enjoyed this opportunity to share my writing process and some of the fascinating history behind my books.

Purchase Kim’s new book at:

Amazon U.S. http://www.amazon.com/Ashes-Heavens-Pillar-Kim-Rendfeld-ebook/dp/B00N3BPYIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409191291&sr=8-1

Amazon U.K. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ashes-Heavens-Pillar-Kim-Rendfeld-ebook/dp/B00N3BPYIG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1409191493&sr=8-2

Amazon Canada http://www.amazon.ca/Ashes-Heavens-Pillar-Kim-Rendfeld-ebook/dp/B00N3BPYIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1409191572&sr=8-1

Amazon Australia (Kindle) http://www.amazon.com.au/Ashes-Heavens-Pillar-Kim-Rendfeld-ebook/dp/B00N3BPYIG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410027609&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-ashes-of-heavens-pillar-kim-rendfeld/1120209842?ean=2940150454095

Kobo http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-ashes-of-heaven-s-pillar

 The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, Synopsis~

  • File Size: 4818 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Fireship Press LLC (August 26, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English

perf6.000x9.000.inddCan love triumph over war?

772 AD: Charlemagne’s battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her beloved husband died in combat. Her faith lies shattered in the ashes of Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. The relatives obligated to defend her and her family sell them into slavery instead.

In Francia, Leova is resolved to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her own honor. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master, and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family.

Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon and is Sunwynn’s champion — but he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.

Set against a backdrop of historic events, including the destruction of the Irminsul, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar explores faith, friendship, and justice. This companion to Kim Rendfeld’s acclaimed The Cross and the Dragon tells the story of an ordinary family in extraordinary circumstances.

Advance Praise for The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar~

“Carolingian Europe comes alive in Kim Rendfeld’s sweeping story of family and hope, set against the Saxon Wars. Her transportive and triumphant novel immerses us in an eighth century world that feels both mystical and starkly real.”  – Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters from Skye

“A captivating historical filled with rich detail, compelling characters, and a well-paced plot that keeps the pages turning to its very satisfying end. A true delight for fans of historical fiction. I couldn’t put it down.” — Susan Spann, author of the Shinobi Mysteries

The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar is refreshingly set in a less familiar medieval period – soon after Charlemagne has conquered a portion of today’s Germany and its people. The characters are refreshing also, common folk instead of the lords and ladies who are the usual inhabitants of historical novels, and how they adjust to their new condition is fascinating. Altogether, this book was absorbing from start to finish.” – Roberta Gellis, author of The Roselynde Chronicles

Kim Rendfeld, Biography~

Kim Rendfeld author photoKim Rendfeld has a lifelong fascination with fairy tales and legends, which set her on her quest to write The Cross and the Dragon (her debut novel).

She grew up in New Jersey and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English, with a minor in French. If it weren’t for feminism, she would be one of those junior high English teachers scaring the bejesus out of her students, correcting grammar to the point of obnoxiousness. Instead, her career has been in journalism, public relations, and now fiction.

Kim was a journalist for almost twenty years at Indiana newspapers, including the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, The Muncie Star, and The News and Sun in Dunkirk, and she won several awards from the Hoosier State Press Association. Her career changed in 2007, when she joined the marketing and communications team at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She gets paid to agonize over commas and hyphens, along with suggesting ways to improve writing, and thoroughly enjoys it. She is proud to have been part of projects that have received national recognition.

Kim lives in Indiana with her husband, Randy, and their spoiled cats. They have a daughter and three granddaughters.

To read the first chapters of either novel or learn more about Kim, visit kimrendfeld.com. You’re also welcome to visit her blog Outtakes of a Historical Novelist at kimrendfeld.wordpress.com, like her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorkimrendfeld, or follow her on Twitter at @kimrendfeld, or contact her at kim [at] kimrendfeld [dot] com.

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