I'm pleased to welcome Barbara Kyle, the author of five novels set in Tudor England, including The Queen's Gamble, an "Editor's Choice" of the Historical Novel Society. Her latest release is Blood Between Queens (May 2013). Barbara shares her perspective on choosing a good setting for historical fiction.
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The Hinges of History
by Barbara Kyle
Game changer. Turning point. We use these terms to describe crucial, pivotal events. In my historical novels I like to call such events the hinges of history. It's a powerful image: a swinging door. An opening, a closing. Sometimes with a joyful whoosh, sometimes an anxious creak, sometimes a furious slam!
I set my stories at these hinges of history – decisive historical events – to test my characters’ mettle as the doors of change open and close. My “Thornleigh” books follow a rising, middle-class family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns during which they must make hard choices about loyalty, allegiance, duty, love, and family.
The Thornleigh family is fictional; I created them. But the historical events they're passionately involved in are dynamic hard facts.
The "Thornleigh" series begins with The Queen’s Lady set in the nerve-jangled court of Henry VIII as he wrenches England away from the Roman Catholic church to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. To get Anne, Henry created a national church, and any subject who refused to acknowledge him as its head was threatened with death. Honor Thornleigh fights to save victims of the religious frenzy of the day, and risks her life in trying to save her guardian, Sir Thomas More, from the king's murderous wrath.
In The Queen’s Captive the hinge of history swings when Henry's daughter, Queen Mary, imprisons her twenty-year-old half-sister Elizabeth in the Tower. The terrified Elizabeth fully expected to be executed. The Thornleighs make it their mission to save her, and in the ensuing national uprising against Mary, Elizabeth learns the hard lessons she will need to become a formidable leader.
The Queen’s Gamble is set during the young Queen Elizabeth's fledging reign when she faced enemies on all sides. Fearing invasion by the French through Scotland, she sent money to John Knox's Scottish rebels who were fighting their French overlords. Isabel Thornleigh accepts the dangerous mission to secretly take the queen's money to Knox. Eventually, Elizabeth gambled by sending an army north to face the mighty French. Her victory over them, ushering in Knox's Protestant government, swung a hinge of history that forever changed Scotland.
My new release Blood Between Queens again features Elizabeth I, and the hinge of history is the emergency that Mary, Queen of Scots, creates when she flees to England to escape her enemies and throws herself on the mercy of her cousin Elizabeth. Mary, though, has set her sights on the English crown, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects, the Thornleighs, to protect it. But Justine, the Thornleighs' ward, pities and sympathizes with Mary when Elizabeth holds her royal cousin under house arrest and launches an inquiry into the accusations that Mary murdered her husband. The crisis splits the Thornleigh family apart.
The hinges of history tested the people who lived in those turbulent times. To this day we can hear echoes of the doors swinging open . . . and those slamming shut.
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Learn more about Barbara Kyle at her website.
Purchase Blood Between Queens at Amazon and Indigo.