The King's Man

book cover: Close up of fair-skinned man in chain mail, scruffy beginning of beard, holding sword hilt before his chest like a large cross.  Colors: silver chain mail and black leather accents, burnished gold sword hilt, antique gold lettering, gray background
Published June 2015
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Book Description
 

Ranulf Ombrier’s fame throughout 13th century England for his skill at swordplay is rivaled only by his notoriety as King Edward I’s favorite killer. Ranulf's actions have gained him lands, title, and a lasting reputation as a hired butcher. But after years of doing his king's bidding, he begins to fear for his mortal soul and follows his conscience away from Edward, all the way to the wilds of Wales. 

Gwenllian of Ruardean, Welsh daughter of a powerful Marcher lord, has every reason to leave Ranulf for dead when one of her men nearly kills him. As a girl she was married by proxy to a man Ranulf murdered, only to become a widow before she ever met her groom. In the years since, she has shunned the life of a lady, instead studying warfare and combat at her mother’s behest. But she has also studied healing and this, with her sense of duty to knightly virtues, leads her to tend to Ranulf’s wounds.

Saving her enemy’s life comes with consequences, and Gwenllian and Ranulf are soon caught up in dangerous intrigue. Forced together by political machinations, they discover a kinship of spirit and a surprising, intense desire. But even hard-won love cannot thrive when loyalties are divided and the winds of rebellion sweep the land.

 
My Unofficial Summary of the Book

In addition to the real, full, professionalish book description (above), I traditionally provide a more casual description in the spirit of Real Talk, like how I pitch it to my friends:

Alternate Title: A Couple of Knightmares

 

It's medieval, set in the late 13th century, around the last real bid for Welsh independence. So I had to do boatloads of research and OMG it was so freaking HARD, you guys. People living 735 years ago may as well have been living on another planet.

 

Anyway, it's not a light read - it's pretty angsty. Lots of sin and redemption and identity issues and conflicting loyalties, yadda yadda. It's also rather stark and even occasionally grim, before The Love gets going. But it's totally worth it, I promise! Just make sure you're in the mood for Intense and not Lighthearted, you know? (Next time, I'm writing a comedy. One that doesn't require so much research.)

 

Here are some important points of distinction:

  1. There are no Scots. For some reason, like apparently 99% of all medievals these days involve lairds and Highlanders and plaids and sporrans. But not mine. Palate cleanser!
    1a. Nothing against the Scottish or those who love them. I just don't see myself writing a Scotsman ever. Blame Jamie Fraser, the only Scottish hero I'll ever want or need.

  2. Now with 90% less thews and sinews! Even though my hero does have lots of muscles, I don't go on and on about his hulking huge biceps or anything. I don't even think his body is described at all. For sure he's all buff and whatever, but do you really need me to tell you he can crack walnuts with his thighs? I think not. 

  3. It's not erotica. There is graphic sexytime and it's quite...uh, spirited. But the nookie scenes do not take up considerable real estate in the text. In addition to the swarm of Scotsmen in the medieval section of Romance, I also notice that there is a LOT of erotica in there. And that's great! Sex for everyone! It's just that sexual intimacy is not the big focus in this book. 

  4. It's not part of a series.* I know that's a negative for some people, but some of us LIKE stand-alone books. Not that you'd think so, looking at what's out there these days; it's all sequels and prequels and Book 17 in the series, am I right? But this one is a one-shot deal, so no need to buy 3 more books after this one.

 

Also, the heroine is not gorgeous, like most Romance heroines are. To tell the truth, she's actively non-pretty. Sometimes people hate this, but sometimes people find it a refreshing change from the usual Romance fare. So I thought I'd let you know.

 

In conclusion, there is sword-fighting. Enjoy!

*Okay that was true when I wrote this but now it is designated #1 in a series - BUT it's still a stand-alone. The story in this book has a resolution; you can read "the end" at the end of it and that's it. But there are other self-contained stories related to it, which are ALSO stand-alone. So the point still stands: you can read this and not be committed to a 10-book arc or anything.

 
Writing The King's Man

After completing my first manuscript in 2002 (which would become A Fallen Lady) and sending it off into the world to seek publication, I sat down to write The King's Man.  I have always been in love with the Girl Dressed As Boy trope, and wanted to try it out. As I thought of it, I realized what I wanted to explore was what it might really be like to be raised in such a way that all "feminine" qualities are devalued and considered weaknesses, and therefore must be hidden at all cost. Of course, this is how many (if not most) men are raised: to believe there is no greater insult than to be told you are acting "like a girl." So, I thought, what if the girl in question is conditioned to value her "masculine" traits, distrust and suppress her "feminine" traits, and manages to be better at being a man than a lot of the actual men around her? And hey (I thought, in a fit of righteous feminist rage) how about if I give that girl a sword? YEAH.

 

So that's what I did. I saw immediately how Ranulf could only let himself love someone with Gwenllian's strength and competence - and how only Ranulf could show Gwenllian how to value her female self. So I wrote a fair bit of it and knew what was coming next in the story, but I just stopped writing. I'd spent several months on it and progress was slow. Rejections were rolling in for my first manuscript, and writing this girl-with-a-sword story was like pulling teeth, and life in general just seemed to be telling me to stop. So I stopped. Not just this book, but writing. I stopped being a writer.

 

For about 10 years. Yeah. Well, nine and a half? But still, just about a decade. 

 

There's a lot to say about "writer's block" and lord knows that writers have said an awful lot about it. I can only tell you that there is what people generally think of as writer's block - the garden variety type where the well is dry, you're burned out, stuck on a plot point, unmotivated, whatever. That kind is the sort that you can usually plow through eventually (if painfully, like plowing through a brick wall with your head). Then there's the kind that I had, where saying "just make yourself write, keep at it" is like saying "just throw yourself into a pit of molten lava, it's no big deal." 

 

Anyway, that's its own story. At the end of it, when I tentatively found my way back to writing, I picked up the unfinished manuscript that would eventually become The King's Man. It took a while. It was still like pulling teeth. But I told myself it was allowed to be bad, it was allowed to be dumb, it was allowed to be any number of things, but it was NOT allowed to be unfinished. And after a little more than a year of chipping away, it was finished. For a book that I had declared dead for years and years, it resurrected itself quite nicely. I'm awfully proud of it, and I'm thrilled that so many readers seem to like it too. 

 
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