This week, my guest on the Showcase is a multi-genre author. Today, she has her historical fiction hat on. Please welcome Jennifer Ash.
Many thanks for inviting me to your blog, Richard.
After over a decade of writing romance and romantic comedy, over the past three
Within The Outlaw’s Ransom, my fourteenth century protagonist is a nineteen year old woman called, Mathilda of Twyford in Leicestershire. In the medieval period, nineteen was the age of a full grown woman. Most females would be married and have children by that age. Mathilda however, is single, as she’s been looking after her father and brothers, running the home and the family pottery business since the death of her mother.
Her life changes abruptly when she is forced to get to know the notorious Folville family rather better than she would have liked. Suddenly, Mathilda finds herself surrounded by criminals and under a very frightening type of suspicion…
When potter’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life. Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for using crime to rule their lands—and for using any means necessary to deliver their distinctive brand of ‘justice’.
Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so, she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the betrothed of Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will send her to Bakewell in Derbyshire, and the home of Nicholas Coterel, one of the most villainous men in England.
With her life in the hands of more than one dangerous brigand, Mathilda must win the trust of the Folville’s housekeeper, Sarah, and Robert Folville himself if she has any chance of survival.
Never have the teachings gleaned from the tales of Robyn Hode been so useful…
Women in the fourteenth century had to be strong-willed, as well as physically fit, or they’d never have survived. Putting aside the obvious pressures and problems of childbirth, they ran family businesses alongside their men folk, kept the house, dealt with all the food and raised the children. In fact, it all sounds fairly familiar!
I’ve never been keen on the idea of writing weak characters; be they male or female. Such protagonists/antagonists frequently fail to hold the interest of a reader, often frustrating you into wishing they’d just grasp the metaphorical nettle and get on with it- whatever, ‘it’ is.
In the case of The Outlaw’s Ransom, it was particularly important for me to have a determined, capable and intelligent female in the driving seat. I wanted Mathilda to not just survive her enforced hostile environment, but to hold her own and show the Folville brothers that they were dealing with a feisty, clever, woman who could give as good as she got.
Here’s a little taster from when Mathilda – having just been hauled out of the Folville family cell – meets her keeper, Robert de Folville, for the first time.
…The Folville didn’t say anything else, but satisfied himself with watching Mathilda as she stood, half bowed, before him. She wasn’t shaking now. He’d noticed how hard she had fought within herself to still her external reactions to his news of her change in circumstance and had admired her self-control. It was almost as if she had an offended dignity about her rather than terror; an unusual reaction from a prisoner in the presence of a Folville.
He wondered if she’d been taught her letters. Most families didn’t waste their time teaching their womenfolk such things, but Mathilda of Twyford was clearly sharp and capable. With her mother gone, she’d run the household, and he imagined she did that job well. He saw that his family’s plan for this girl might work, but only if she kept that nerve. Otherwise… well, she wouldn’t be the first to die during his family’s quest to maintain their position.
Breaking the silence that had stretched out between them he said, ‘I recall you have questions for me. I can see your head jarring with them.’
‘If I may, my Lord?’
‘You may, although I should caution you, I may not choose to offer a reply.’
Mathilda licked her lips and ran her clammy palms down her grubby belted surcoat, which largely hid her brother’s leather hose, and flexed her numb bare toes.
‘Please, my Lord, who are you?’
This produced a bark of laughter, ‘You are well-mannered despite the indignity of being thrust, if only for a short while, into our cell. I am Robert de Folville, one of seven brothers of this manor.’
Mathilda curtsied, more out of natural impulse than any feelings of reverence towards this man, whom she knew for certain, had been party to at least one murder. ‘You are kin to my Lord Eustace, my Lord?’
‘Yes, girl, I am.’ He cocked his head to one side. ‘That worries you?’
‘He is a man I have been taught to fear, forgive my impudence, my Lord.’
He snorted. ‘I would rather have honest impudence than bluff and lies. So, you have been instructed by your father to be wary of us?’
‘Not only my father, sir.’ Abruptly worried that her boldness might place her family in more danger, Mathilda clamped her mouth shut. Seeing, however, that the Folville wasn’t cross, but had an expression of acceptance on his face, Mathilda braved a further question.
‘Where is my father, my Lord, and Matthew and Oswin, my brothers?’
Robert de Folville paused and, after a moment’s consideration, gestured for the servant boy to bring her a chair. Mathilda was glad to be allowed to sit down, but was puzzled at the equal status she was being afforded after her earlier abuse, as Folville sat next to her, leaning uncomfortably close to her slight, tense frame….
(Please note that if you have read Romancing Robin Hood by Jenny Kane and Jennifer Ash- then you will already be familiar with the story with The Outlaw’s Ransom)
If that has whetted your appetite- then here are those all important buy links!
With a background in history and archaeology, Jennifer Ash should really be sat in a dusty university library translating Medieval Latin criminal records, and writing research documents that hardly anyone would want to read. Instead, tucked away in the South West of England, Jennifer writes stories of medieval crime, steeped in mystery, with a side order of romance.
Influenced by a lifelong love of Robin Hood and medieval ballad literature, Jennifer has written The Outlaw’s Ransom (Book One of The Folville Chronicles), The Winter Outlaw (Book Two of The Folville Chronicles) and Edward’s Outlaw (Book Three of The Folville Chronicles (Pub. Littwitz Press, 2018).
All of Jennifer and Jenny Kane’s news can be found at www.jennykane.co.uk
Jennifer Ash https://www.facebook.com/jenniferashhistorical/
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Have a great week,