|Available March 5th 2013 by Sourcebooks Landmark|
A medieval tale of pride and strife, of coming-of-age in a world where chivalry is a luxury seldom afforded, especially by men of power.
England, 1148---ten-year-old Brunin FitzWarin is an awkward misfit in his own family. A quiet child, he is tormented by his brothers and loathed by his powerful and autocratic grandmother. In an attempt to encourage Brunin’s development, his father sends him to be fostered in the household of Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Here Brunin will learn knightly arts, but before he can succeed, he must overcome the deep-seated doubts that hold him back.
Hawise, the youngest daughter of Lord Joscelin, soon forms a strong friendship with Brunin. Family loyalties mean that her father, with the young Brunin as his squire, must aid Prince Henry of Anjou in his battle with King Stephen for the English crown. Meanwhile, Ludlow itself comes under threat from Joscelin’s rival, Gilbert de Lacy. As the war for the crown rages, and de Lacy becomes more assertive in his claims for Ludlow, Brunin and Hawise are drawn into each other’s arms.
Now Brunin must defeat the shadows of his childhood and put to use all that he has learned. As the pressure on Ludlow intensifies and a new Welsh threat emerges against his own family’s lands, Brunin must confront the future head on, or fail on all counts....
I’d like to thank you for inviting me onto your blog to talk about an aspect of my research for Shadows and Strongholds.
One of the joys of writing historical fiction is doing the research because it leads me to discover all manner of fun and fascinating facts about my characters and their life and times. I thought today I’d talk a bit about names and hair colour in the novel.
In Shadows and Strongholds, the hero’s official name is Fulke FitzWarin. It was a name that was passed down father to son from the early 12th century through to the early 15th when the line died out in male tail. Being as there were several Fulke FitzWarins in the story, I had to find a different tag for my hero, and luckily one was waiting in the wings. The Fulke of Shadows and Strongholds had the nick-name as an adult of Fulke le Brun or ‘The Brown.’ This is suggestive of him having dark hair and eyes and an olive complexion – which is how I have depicted him in the novel. He starts out as a boy who is having a difficult time at home and is sent away to become a squire in the household of his father’s friend Joscelin de Dinan, lord of Ludlow. Needing a childhood name for Fulke le Brun, I turned to a good friend, who, among other things happens to be a cultural historian of the 12th and 13th centuries and knows about such things. She told me that in childhood Le Brun might have been called Brunet, Bruno, or Brunin. (it’s where we get the word ‘brunette’ from for a dark haired person these days). I didn’t want to call him the first because it so closely reflected our modern word for the hair colour. With the second I kept thinking of a teddy bear which wasn’t quite what I had in my mind’s eye, so Brunin he became!
At the outset of becoming a squire to lord Joscelin, Brunin acquires a new mount - black pony called Morel. I didn’t just pluck the name out of thin air though. In the middle ages, horses were very frequently named according to their colour and a Morel horse or pony would have been either glossy black or a very, very dark brown or bay. We still have a survival in the name of the sweet dark red almost black morello cherries. A golden chestnut horse would have been called ‘Sorel’ and a bay horse ‘Bai.’ When I was writing another novel, The Greatest Knight about William Marshal, I came across the detail that one of the horses he had as a young knight was called Blancart, which meant that it was white, from the French word for white – ‘Blanc.’
Thank you to Elizabeth Chadwick for sharing snippets of her research process for Shadows!
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