Friday, 10 May 2019

New Release Spotlight and Guest Post: De Bohun's Destiny by Carolyn Hughes



De Bohun’s Destiny by Carolyn Hughes
How can you uphold a lie when you know it might destroy your family?
It is 1356, seven years since the Black Death ravaged Meonbridge, turning society upside down. Margaret, Lady de Bohun, is horrified when her husband lies about their grandson Dickon’s entitlement to inherit Meonbridge. She knows that Richard lied for the very best of reasons – to safeguard his family and its future – but lying is a sin. Yet she has no option but to maintain her husband’s falsehood... 
Margaret’s companion, Matilda Fletcher, decides that the truth about young Dickon’s birth really must be told, if only to Thorkell Boune, the man she’s set her heart on winning. But Matilda’s “honesty” serves only her own interests, and she’s oblivious to the potential for disaster.
For Thorkell won’t scruple to pursue exactly what he wants, by whatever means are necessary, no matter who or what gets in his way…
If you enjoy well-researched, immersive historical fiction, with strong female characterisation and a real sense of authenticity, you’ll love De Bohun’s Destiny, the third Meonbridge Chronicle, set in the mid-14th century, in the turbulent and challenging years that followed the social devastation wrought by the Black Death. Discover for yourself if, in Meonbridge, it is Margaret or Matilda, right or might, truth or falsehood, that wins the day...
Amazon UK - amzn.to/2L8QPhL
Amazon US - amzn.to/2UGpNOc

Mediaeval women…
The Meonbridge Chronicles series is set in the 14th century, in the years following the devastation caused by what we call the Black Death, the terrible plague that killed up to half of all people in England (and Europe and Asia too). “Meonbridge” is a fictional village in southern England, on a manor that, at the beginning of the first Chronicle, Fortune’s Wheel, still retains a broadly feudal structure of a lord and his tenants. In practice, by the time the Black Death arrived in England (1349/50), the feudal system was already breaking down, but the plague greatly hastened its end.
Times of social change are always interesting, and the great upheaval in society brought about by the plague was the inspiration for Fortune’s Wheel. The main conflict in Fortune’s Wheel is between the men of Meonbridge, but I wanted to reveal the story mostly through the voices of women, if only because women in history often do get not get much opportunity to “speak”. It was also their lives that interested me most. So, what were mediaeval women like?
Generally, peasant women had little status in the 14th century society. If they were married, they had no say in village life, for their husbands spoke for them. But, if they were landowners and widowed or unmarried, they had more control over their own affairs and might play some part in village affairs, such as attendance at the manorial courts. All unfree peasants were tied to the manor, owing not only rent, fees and taxes, but also regular week-work, and women fully shared this burden.
Ordinary women had to work, as today, because married women needed to contribute to the household budget and single women had to earn a livelihood. Again as today, marriage by no means meant that a woman had to devote herself entirely to her home, and many women supported themselves or ran businesses independently from their husbands. Rates of pay for women were generally lower than for men, however, the general shortage of labour after the Black Death gave women more power to claim higher wages, just as it did for men. The social and economic changes brought about by such a huge loss of life must have had an impact on everyone but, as I understand it, many women both benefited from the changes, and did to some extent throw off their “shackles”.
In the Meonbridge Chronicles, I have several “ordinary” peasant women, among them Alice, the middle-aged widow of a moderately affluent peasant; Eleanor, a young free woman, orphaned by the plague and now thrown onto her own resources; Emma, on the lowest rung of the social ladder, scratching a living from whatever work she can get; and Agnes, a carpenter’s wife, who sees that the social upheaval brought by the plague might give her the chance for “more”.
In some ways the status of the wealthy woman was little better than that of a peasant: she was still the chattel of her father, and then her husband, and often had little control over her life, even if it was relatively comfortable. She might be married as a child to someone she did not know, in order to seal an economic deal, and might be sent away from home at an early age. However, many of these women were far more active and competent than the “chattel” status might imply. Some 14th century literature might suggest that she was the romantic, lovely and capricious lady of chivalry, but she was, in practice, more often an extremely hard-working woman. The real 15th century Margaret Paston, who lived in Norfolk, was a ‘lady of the manor’ who was often left in charge of the manor while her husband was away. She managed his property, collecting rents, keeping accounts and even outwitting enemies. My character Margaret de Bohun is modeled on such a lady.
In all the Meonbridge Chronicles, the lives of many women from different positions in society, rich and poor, young and old, free and unfree are woven through, and central to, the stories. Even though women were undoubtedly “second-class citizens” in the 14th century, there is considerable evidence that many women were not down-trodden chattels but, like the doughty ladies of the manor, competent peasant housewives and efficient business women, were strong and capable. So my Meonbridge women are strong too but nonetheless, I hope, clearly “mediaeval”.

CAROLYN HUGHES was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After completing a degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the government.
She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage in her life. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
De Bohun’s Destiny is the third novel in the MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES series. A fourth novel is under way.
You can connect with Carolyn through her website www.carolynhughesauthor.com and social media:
Facebook: CarolynHughesAuthor
Twitter: @writingcalliope

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