A Passion for History
Several years ago, I was teaching a seminar on “How to Write your Own Life Story”. A participant mentioned that the 1891 census of England had recently been made available on line at a website called ancestry.com. Later that evening I thought it might be interesting to look for my grandparents, about whom I knew very little, having only ever met one of them. That decision marked the end of ‘spare time’ in my life. I became completely addicted to the pursuit of my roots, and since that day have had a continuous subscription to the ancestry.com website. I have traced my own family roots back many generations as well as those of my children’s spouses, and even perfect strangers!
Some family lines are easy to trace, others are nigh on impossible. But my journey into history instilled in me an urgent need to pass on the stories of my English heritage to my Canadian born children. This led to the publication of genealogical histories, including Lancashire Heritage (yes, I’m a Lancashire Lass), Celtic Roots, and From Highland, Lowland and Prairie.
Slowly, a desire grew within me to write historical love stories, inspired in part by my cousin, who has been an award-winning romance author for many years. She began her career in earnest after the death of her mother, and, coincidentally, it was the death of my father in August 2010 that provided the spark for my plunge into the world of actually publishing my work.
I digress here—my dad was a typical Lancashire lad, a man who blushed if you spoke the word ‘sex’. Perhaps I wouldn’t have felt comfortable publishing some of my work when he was alive. Who knows? I don’t want to give the impression I am in any way apologetic for what I write about my characters’ love lives. I’m very proud of my writing.
And my books have turned out to be family histories—or should I say the history of one family—The Montbryces—nobles from eleventh century Normandy, who are caught up in the perilous and turbulent events of the Norman Conquest and its aftermath. The first book in The Montbryce Legacy series, Conquering Passion is now available in various digital formats on Smashwords. It is the story of Count Rambaud de Montbryce and Mabelle de Valtesse, an unlikely couple—a chauvinistic Norman nobleman and an independent minded refugee, who together forge the foundation of a powerful dynasty.
A Man of Value is the sequel, about Ram’s illegitimate son, Caedmon Brice Woolgar, who always believed his father was a Saxon martyr of the Battle of Hastings. Will his struggle to come to terms with the new found knowledge of his bastardy destroy his love for Agneta Kirkthwaite?
Bastardy is, of course, something the genealogical researcher cannot avoid. The pages of parish registers are full of entries such as base born child, natural child, and bastard. On the marriage certificate of one of my great, great grandfathers, you can plainly see the word illegitimate written in the space designated for Father’s Name.
If Love Dares Enough, is the third book in the series. Ram’s youngest brother Hugh de Montbryce, is haunted by a deep fear, engendered by his experiences at the Battle of Hastings, that violence arouses him. He avoids women, but is drawn into the life of a Saxon noblewoman, Lady Devona Melton, a victim of abuse at the hands of her Norman husband. Can Hugh overcome his demons and the political and religious implications of abducting the wife of a Norman nobleman?
I have to admit to being a Pollyanna—a hopeless romantic. My books are What If stories. What if there was a Norman Marcher Earl who was more intent on diplomacy than brutality, an eleventh century nobleman in love with his wife? (It’s the “Montbryce Curse” for the men to be in love with the women they marry!) What if the illegitimate son of a Norman could make his bastardy his greatest strength, and sire a powerful family in his own right, based on two great peoples, Saxon and Norman.
I haven’t yet been able to trace my own family as far back as the Norman Conquest, but in some ways, the Montbryces have become my family. I’m almost as caught up in their lives as I am in my own! I’ve used the Legacy Genealogical Software program to create an extensive family tree for them, and have included in it the families who were the stewards of the Montbryce castles for several generations, the Bonhommes and the Cormants. I have a wikispaces page designed to keep track of them all, so that when I get to my fiftieth book, I can look back and sort out who was who! Even my pen name, Anna Markland, belonged to my great, great aunt, who died at fifteen, too young to know the pain and pleasure of falling in love and marrying.
Anna's Blog: Get Intimate with History
Conquering Passion © Anna Markland 2011
A Man of Value © Anna Markland 2011
If Love Dares Enough © Anna Markland 2011