Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Passion for History by Anna Markland

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2012! Today on History Undressed, we have a new guest author, Anna Markland, talking about her passion for history. Also, she will be giving away a her new novel, CONQUERING PASSION to one lucky commenter.

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.

Twitter @annamarkland
Conquering Passion © Anna Markland 2011
A Man of Value © Anna Markland 2011
If Love Dares Enough © Anna Markland 2011


Marissa said...

I wish I knew as much about my ancestors as you do yours! I've always wanted to find out that I have some famous relation or a tie to someone who did something outrageous. And these books sound marvelous! I'm going to have to check them out.

Marin McGinnis said...

I am also an ancestry.com addict - parts of my tree hail from Cumbria, so we're nearly neighbors. ;) Thanks to the work of a very distant cousin from more than half a century ago, I have been able to trace that line back to Saxon times. I have also delved into the British Archives, which is a fabulously rich resource, to discover a sordid tale of kidnapping and forced marriage which will appear in a future book. :) Thanks for an interesting post!

Anna Markland said...

Thanks Marin.
My daughter-in-law's family hail from Cumbria, so I've done some research there, but not for a while-too busy writing novels! You've obviously gone further back than I have.It is incredible some of the things you discover that you didn't expect!

Anna Markland said...

Hi Marissa
Just be prepared if you start that it is an addictive pursuit. Good place to start is the free website of the LDS church, familysearch.org. Hope you enjoy my books.

Mimi Barbour said...

I know very little about my ancestors and haven't had the time to look into my past to any degree other than gathering information from those still living. But i do find it fascinating and envy you Anna that you've been able to do so.
I'm presently reading your book Conquering Passion and have found it very difficult to put down at times. When my eyes close on their own and the kindle falls out of my hands, I give up, but I am looking forward to finding out what happens to Ram and his Maybelle.
Good luck with your wonderful books and your career!

Renee said...

I also am a genealogy buff and have found several fascinating stories about my ancestors! I can't wait to read this book. I am such a lover of this time period!

Anna Markland said...

Hi Mimi
Thanks for your kind words about my book. That's pretty well my criterion for a good read- if the only reason you stop reading is because it's way past your bedtime!
The only trouble with researching roots is that it's like writing novels. Once you start you can't stop!

Anna Markland said...

Hi Renee
It is amazing what you discover about your ancestors that you had no inkling of. For example, I found out one of my 2g grandmothers died of smallpox after receiving the vaccination. She was preganant at the time. A cold chill swept over me!
Enjoy the books.

Eliza Knight said...

And the winner is Mimi! Please send an email to writer @ Elizaknight.com (minus spaces) and I will forward it on to Anna!