Reading Anne Stuart’s Lord of Danger last week made me nostalgic for all the medieval (or pseudo-medieval) romances I used to read back in the 80s and early 90s.
If you like medieval romances, you’ll probably like….
— Mary Lide’s Ann of Cambray. This was the first romance novel I ever read, the book that got me started on the genre, and I love it still. Written in the first person, featuring a feisty heroine who feuds– and eventually falls in love with– her guardian during the tumultuous years of the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda. Highly, highly recommended.
— Jude Deveraux’s Velvet series, featuring four brothers during the reign of Henry VII. I accidentally started with Book IV, Velvet Angel (I loved that book, despite being mildly confused the first time I read it), but if you’re doing it the right way around, start with The Velvet Promise and move on from there.
— More Jude Deveraux, this time The Black Lyon, not my favorite (see Velvet series, above), but extremely beloved by others (Sarah MacLean, I’m putting this one in for you!), now reissued with a cover quote from Sarah MacLean.
— Julie Garwood’s The Bride. Take one brooding Scots laird, one feisty heroine, one mysteriously dead first wife…. It’s Gothic meets medieval meets Scottish meets lots of men in kilts.
— How could anyone leave out Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’ Wolf and the Dove? It’s sometime after the Norman Conquest and our innocent Saxon maiden is being oppressed by Norman knights, some more oppressive and others more impressive. I got in huge trouble on a family trip to Gettysburg because I didn’t want to leave the car– I was too busy reading the joust scene as Wulfgar fights for Aislynn’s honor. How could a Civil War battlefield compete with that?
— Susan Carroll’s Winterbourne and Shades of Winter. Better known now for her Renaissance-set trilogy (The Dark Queen, et al), I remember reading Carrol’s (then Coppula) medievals back in the day, set during the uneasy reigns of John and the boy king Henry III. I found Shades of Winter, in particular, a deeply touching novel, conveying the pageantry and uncertainty of the time period.
— One of my all-time favorites is Judith Merkle Riley’s A Vision of Light and its sequel In Pursuit of the Green Lion. I’m not even sure how to begin to describe these– they’re humorous, sometimes even verging on the farcical, while still contriving to provide a vivid image of the era and complex and realistic character portraits.
— Judith McNaught’s one and only medieval, A Kingdom of Dreams— I can’t believe I initially left this one out! Huge thanks to Joanne M for reminding me.
— Last but not least, you can’t go wrong with anything by Elizabeth Chadwick.
(Note: I’m leaving out Anya Seton’s Katherine, Pamela Kaufman’s Shield of Three Lions and others of that ilk because they fall more on the historical fiction end of the spectrum– although these lines are always debatable.)
For some fun non-fiction about the Middle Ages (and this is a HUGE time period and a huge topic, so I apologize to my medieval history profs for this necessarily patchy treatment of the topic), try:
— Barbara Tuchman’s The Distant Mirror, an incredibly readable history of the tumultuous 14th century;
— Amy Kelly’s Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings, about, well, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the four kings;
— and William Manchester’s A World Lit Only By Fire (with the caveat that this book gives many of my medievalist friends hives– but many of my non-medievalist friends love it. You can draw your own determinations).
What medieval-set romance novels would you recommend?