Today I’m participating in the blog tour for Barbara Kyle’s Blood Between Queens, a novel set during the reign of Elizabeth I. This one’s focused on Mary’s story as she escapes Scotland and asks for refuge in England… We’re starting with a guest post from Barbara – read on!
“My Shameless Affair”
by Barbara Kyle
I confess it: I lead a double life. For years I’ve reveled in an affair of the heart, and I brazenly intend to enjoy it for many years to come. It’s the secret, sensuous, thrilling relationship I share with my readers. They get me. And I get them. That’s a precious, intimate bond.
Family and friends are wonderful, bless them. As a daughter-sister-wife-mother-friend I enjoy a happy life with them, rich with shared experiences. My family know me as dependable and steadfast, and I in turn depend on them. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
But that’s the real world. My readers and I live in another world, one in which we can be more than ourselves. A world of quests and adventures, lust and heartbreak, daring and greed, beguilement and intrigue, betrayal and bliss. Only fiction can give us this charged life of the imagination, a place where people seem more flesh-and-blood than those we actually spend our days with. That’s because fiction reveals inner life, the life of the human heart in all its grandeur, frailty and agony, in a way that we can never see in those who are around us.
There’s plenty of incriminating evidence of my affair with readers. Fearless souls that they are, they’ve declared themselves to me in writing. Sometimes their avowals are moving, like the Yarmouth museum curator who told me that reading The Queen’s Lady helped him as he mourned the death of his father. Sometimes they bring a laugh, like the lady who cheerfully told me she got The Queen’s Captive out of the library because she remembered having loved a similar book, and then realized, as she was enjoying The Queen’s Captive, that it was the very book she’d read and loved!
Some readers are beguilingly kind, like the Colonel, a retired military man from Tennessee. He’d read my newsletter about how, in researching The Queen’s Lady, I’d spent a day exploring Hever Castle in Kent, the home of the Boleyn family where Henry VIII sometimes came to court Anne, the affair that changed the course of England’s history. I wrote that as I’d strolled the grounds in a happy haze of imagination I picked up an acorn and reveled in holding this living connection to the so-called “dead” past. I squirreled the acorn away in my pocket and brought it home, and it sat on my desk as I wrote my books, a touchstone that spirited me back to the Tudor world. I was very fond of it. Then my husband and I moved, and in the shuffle the little acorn got lost.
Well, a few months later I got a cheery email from the Colonel telling me he was on his way to England for an Anne Boleyn Tour during which he’d be staying at Hever Castle. I replied to wish him a happy trip and told him about my acorn. Several weeks later a small package arrived in my mailbox. It was from the Colonel. Inside was a note: “I looked for an acorn to replace the one you lost but couldn’t find one. I did get you this.” Nestled under the note was a pine cone. He had scoured the Hever grounds for it. That pine cone has sat on my desk ever since, through the writing of three more books. Thank you, Colonel, for that sweet fling.
Sometimes my affair with readers has been a passionate romp. Two years ago I held a contest, the “Name Carlos’s Horse Contest.” In The King’s Daughter Carlos Valverde is a Spanish mercenary soldier whose heart is caught by Isabel Thornleigh when she hires him to rescue her imprisoned father. I was now continuing Carlos’s story for The Queen’s Gamble and wanted a name for his horse. Carlos is a cavalryman and his new mount needed a serious name reflecting the deep bond he feels with the animal. So I announced the contest – and was bowled over by the response. Readers sent me scores of names they’d slaved over, some with classical roots they keenly explained, some with mystical associations, some with literary resonances, from Don Quixote’s horse to Pegasus. They sent me lessons on cavalry horse breeds of the time, pointers on medieval Spanish, and earnest advice about Carlos and Isabel’s love life.
You see why I adore my affair?
In the fall of 2012 I attended the Historical Novel Society conference in London, England, where I spoke on a panel about “The Fabulous Tudors” with wonderful fellow authors Margaret George, C.W. Gortner, and Karen Harper. In preparing for it I asked my readers via Facebook to let me know what they love (or loathe) about the Tudors. Thirty-four people replied. Here’s a sample of what they said fascinated them:
• “Charles Brandon”
• “the theatre, the beheadings, the burnings, the passion”
• “Anne Boleyn. Cursed be the name of the harlot!”
• “My favourite is Anne Boleyn”
• “Shakespeare, Marlowe, Sidney”
• “politics and power, Elizabeth 1”
• “arsenic in the makeup, mice in the wigs”
• “Shakespeare, music, Holbein’s portraits, court intrigues, sea captains”
• “Sir Francis Drake pirating for plunder”
In the face of such ardour, can you blame me for falling head over heels?
Real life is all very well and good. I’m as grateful as can be for my family and friends. But I will never give up my affair with readers, because it’s with them that I share the achingly intimate life of the imagination, a life peopled with men and women who feel more than real.
That’s a love my readers and I cannot do without.
About Barbara Kyle:
Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed Tudor-era “Thornleigh” novels Blood Between Queens, The Queen’s Gamble, The Queen’s Captive, The King’s Daughter and The Queen’s Lady which follow a rising middle-class family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns. She also writes contemporary thrillers. Over 400,000 copies of her books have been sold in seven countries. In July 2013 Barbara will be a speaker at Ontario’s world-renowned Stratford Festival with her talk “Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens: A Study of Leadership Lost and Won” about the cousin-queens Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots featured in Blood Between Queens.
Barbara has taught writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the US.
For more information, please visit Barbara Kyle’s website www.barbarakyle.com.
About Blood Between Queens:
Following her perilous fall from a throne she’d scarcely owned to begin with, Mary, Queen of Scots, has fled to England, hoping her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, will grant her asylum. But now Mary has her sights on the English crown, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects to protect it.
Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. To Justine’s surprise, the Thornleighs appoint her to serve as a spy in Mary’s court. But bearing the guise of a lady-in-waiting is not Justine’s only secret. The weight of her task is doubled by fears of revealing to her fiancé that she is in truth the daughter of his family’s greatest rival. Duty-bound, Justine must sacrifice love as she navigates a deadly labyrinth of betrayal that could lead to the end of Elizabeth’s fledgling reign…
Compelling and inventive, Blood Between Queens artfully blends history’s most intriguing figures with unforgettable characters, bringing to dazzling life the fascinating Tudor era.
Justine Thornleigh is young and pretty, and has only a few things she’s currently focused on. The first is the Queen’s visit, which I imagine would be awe-inspiring, especially when it’s Queen Elizabeth. The second? Why, a boy, of course… And so we begin Barbara Kyle’s Blood Between Queens.
The Queen’s visit is as fabulous as Justine expects, even when it’s interrupted by the news that Elizabeth’s cousin Mary has crossed into England to escape her Scottish enemies. Next thing she knows, Justine’s sent to Queen Mary as a lady-in-waiting, to keep an eye on this Catholic Queen who may foment rebellion in Elizabeth’s realm.
There’s romance and a secret betrothal. Murder and assorted skullduggery. Family feuds and hidden identities. Monarchs impatient with their wants and needs and plots and plans. Jealousy and envy and hatred. Phew. I’m not sure how Barbara Kyle keeps it all straight!
I really enjoyed reading Blood Between Queens, and its portrayal of the tension between Mary and Elizabeth. And while I know this is Justine’s story and not Mary’s nor Elizabeth’s, I wanted more of the Queens – their thoughts, emotions, and actions – than I found between the pages. Not that I’m complaining, as Blood Between Queens will satisfy any historical fiction fan with its detail and breadth!
drey’s rating: Excellent!
Have you read Blood Between Queens? What did you think? And if not, read on to win your very own copy!
Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, I have a copy of Blood Between Queens for you. This one’s open to US and Canada residents. To enter, fill out the form below before May 24th. Good luck!