Writing medieval romances, such as my latest release A Knight's Reward, is a challenge—and not just because I set my stories hundreds of years in the past. My task as a writer is to make my characters as true to the late 12th century as possible, but also appealing to the modern reader. I guess it's fair to say I ask my readers to don on a pair of those famous "rose colored glasses." I mean, would you want to read about a knight who has no teeth because they decayed and fell out, who bathes once a year (if that), and eats stewed cabbage almost every day of his life?
I sense a flurry of shudders. But fear not. My heroes and heroines have all of their teeth, bathe regularly, eat cabbage only when integral to a scene, and are young and attractive. Especially the heroes. This is, after all, a romance novel.
Take Dominic de Terre from A Knight's Reward, book two of my Knight's Series; the first book, A Knight's Vengeance, is the story of Dominic's best friend and lord Geoffrey de Lanceau. Dominic is a strong, handsome alpha male (my favorite to write!) with a wry sense of humor and fierce loyalties. A knight who fought on crusade, Dominic knows how to vanquish opponents in battle. But, the true romance hero must also win wars of the heart—and I give him one for which he must fight dearly. While on a mission to find a stolen cloth shipment belonging to de Lanceau, he sees the only woman he every loved but lost when he left for crusade: Gisela Anne Balewyne. Now he's found her again, he's determined to win her love, this time forever. However, she's married and has a young son. And, for some reason, she's afraid to trust him.
Gisela still loves Dominic, but she's no fragile, swooning damsel. She's a hunted runaway who fled her abusive husband to protect her child, who Dominic later discovers is his illegitimate son. Gisela's a scarred survivor, a warrior in her own right, who puts her love for her child and Dominic above her own needs and happiness. I think she's one of the strongest heroines I've written, and the most forthright. She knew how the climactic scene in A Knight's Reward must play out and told me so very early on in the writing process.
Would her story really have ended as it did in the late 12th century? Part of the fun of writing romance is exploring the possibility of "what it?" And since, as an author, I have my own pair of rose colored glasses that see nothing but happily-every-after endings, I let Gisela have her way and let Dominic win her heart.
And no, there was no cabbage-eating involved.
For more information on Catherine's medieval romances, visit her website