Sunday, September 30, 2007
Coming Soon! (With Even a Reappearance by Queen Isabella)
One of the reasons I've been somewhat quiet in blogdom lately is that I've been completing my second novel, Hugh and Bess, which follows the marriage of Hugh, the eldest son of Eleanor from The Traitor's Wife, to Elizabeth de Montacute, daughter of the Earl of Salisbury. I'm in the proofreading stage now, and if everything goes well and I figure out the formatting, it should be available online, probably through Lulu, within a few weeks. (That's a rough version of the cover you see.) It's quite different from The Traitor's Wife, being much shorter (the sigh of relief you hear is coming from my mother) and more of a love story than anything else. In the meantime, here's an excerpt featuring a familiar face. It takes place in early 1344, following a ladies-only banquet at Windsor Castle at which Elizabeth and her sister-in-law Joan of Kent enjoyed the king's wine a bit too much:
The ornate entrance to Queen Isabella's apartments was so different from the simple one to hers and Hugh's that no sober person could have mistaken the two. A page showed her in, and Bess sank to a curtsey, though every bone she had resisted. She spoke the words that she had been rehearsing since Hugh had given her the news. "Your grace, I beg your pardon for my inexcusable and disgraceful behavior last night. I assure you it shall never happen again."
"Inexcusable and disgraceful? Ridiculous will do, Lady Despenser." The queen waved her to a stool. "Sit there. You brought some needlework with you, I see? Show it to me."
"It is for our portable altar, your grace."
"Very pretty. You work very nicely. Don't look so frightened, child. I didn't call you here to upbraid you. So you are wondering, no doubt, what did I call you here for?"
"My head aches so badly, your grace, I could hardly figure it out if I tried."
Isabella laughed. "Well, it's no mystery, Lady Despenser. You are the eldest daughter of my son's favorite earl and wife to one of the wealthiest men in England. It would be remiss of me not to take some notice of you." She settled back with her own work. "I gather you haven't been to court much."
"No, your grace. I have mostly stayed on my father's lands and now my husband's."
"And you have visited your husband's aunt, Lady Elizabeth de Burgh. She is an old friend of mine. She has spoken very highly of you."
"There were no opportunities for me to make a fool out of myself when I visited her. I suppose that is why."
Isabella chuckled. "She said you were a clever girl. So was I, at your age. I noticed you and your pretty sister-in-law looking at me quite intently last night."
Bess blushed. "We did not mean to be rude. It is just that your grace is so handsome, and the king's mother, and so seldom seen, and—"
"A wicked woman, I am sure you have been told. I suppose if I were a young lady again I would stare at me too." She paused. "Don't fear, Lady Despenser. I won't force you to turn confessor. I have a perfectly good one of my own."
Relieved and disappointed at the same time, Bess concentrated on her needlework. To break the silence, she said, "If it is not being impertinent, is it strange being back at court after all this time?"
"Why should a girl who embraces her king in front of a hall of people worry about being impertinent? I miss very little, you see."
"Oh, I blame my son entirely. He shouldn't have filled the hall with ladies, half of them who have never been outside their little shires before, brought out his best wines, and not expected half of them to make fools of themselves. My husband had the right idea. He discouraged women from being at court, unless they were among my ladies and damsels."
She spoke of her husband as if she were an ordinary widow, Bess noted with fascination.