Hearts Through History Romance Writers

The Medieval Love Story

by | February 14, 2015

After years of reading and recycling books, I still have this one on my shelf:

Born in a fierce, feudal world as cruel as it was courtly, theirs was the rapturous love destined to change the face of the Irish nation forever.”

A Shield of Roses

The heroine is history’s Aoife Macmurrough (c. 1145-1188), a princess who was not given the chance to exercise her right under Irish law to choose a husband.  Her father, Dermod MacMurrough (c. 1110 – 1171), the deposed king of Leinster, was determined to choose for her, having lost his throne for kidnapping another king’s wife. MacMurrough had invited an Anglo-Norman invasion to recover his lands, offering his daughter as reward to the nobleman that could do the task.

Richard Fitzgilbert “Strongbow” deClare (1130 – 1176) is the hero, the dispossessed heir to the earldom of Pembroke. He took up the challenge of the MacMurrough in hopes of gaining the hand of his daughter and through her the kingship of Leinster.

It’s a familiar medieval romance trope–a powerful lord who journeys to redeem a noble princess’ dowry in exchange for her hand.

Familiar, but tricky to execute. Reviews of Pershall’s 1984 book bear this out. Can an Irish princess be a “thoroughly Modern Medieval Miss” who takes a job in a tavern and stamps her feet when she doesn’t get her way? Personally, I think the foot stamping is an accurate description of the typical teenage girl, but one does has difficulty reconciling this picture with history’s “Red Eva” who personally conducted military campaigns while her husband was away.

And then there’s the hero, in reality a busy man trying to gain back his inheritance, establish Anglo-Norman rule in Ireland, and placate his overlord Henry II. He has a heavy travel schedule, with little time for romance. Yet Shield shows Strongbow as a man who has time to discuss his feelings, chase the heroine around and tolerate her disrespectful foot-stamping.

Did I mention it’s still on my bookshelf after all these years?

It’s been discussed before, the tension between historical accuracy and romance. What is your opinion on modern medieval love stories? Do they do a better job striking such a delicate balance?

After all, it’s not easy to write a romance that changes the “face of a Nation.”

Idealized Victorian rendering of the marriage ceremony between Strongbow and Red Eva

Idealized Victorian rendering of the marriage ceremony between Strongbow and Red Eva







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