Sometimes that’s a hard question to answer, but not in the case of INNOCENCE UNVEILED, my June release.
My second “royal bastard” romance was sparked by a very specific incident in 1337, reported by the chroniclers. As King Edward III was trying to gain support for his claim to the throne of France, he sent an “embassy,” or diplomatic mission, to the Continent to recruit allies. Along with the diplomats traveled a number of “bachelor” knights, each wearing an eye patch and swearing not to speak until he had performed some deed of arms in France.
My hero is one of those knights, but instead of staying with the group, I imagined him riding off alone. Of course, I had to follow him, and he led me into a web of secrets, deceptions, and lies, where to trust anyone, even a beautiful woman, could lead to betrayal. And death.
Where did all this happen? In Ghent.
I can hear you now. Where????
Ghent is a beautiful city in Belgium, but in the 14th century it was in the duchy of Flanders and the cloth-making powerhouse of the Continent. Responsible for the second of the basic necessities (food, clothing, and shelter), the city imported raw wool from England, wove it into cloth, and exported it back across the Channel.
Because of the close economic ties between England and the Flemish cloth makers, the burghers, or the middle class, found their economic and political interests tied to England’s, while the Count of Flanders was tied to the Court of Paris and the French king. Even language divided them, with the burghers speaking Flemish and the nobles speaking French.
So in a city swarming with suspicion, my story took shape.
He is a man of secrets. He shares a king’s blood, but his mother’s shame means he’ll never claim his birthright. Now, disguised as a smuggler, he is a spy in a city of enemies.
She is a woman of lies. She hides her hair under the veil of a married woman to protect her father’s weaving business. Desperate for the banned wool, she opens her home to the alluring smuggler.
Sleeping under the same roof, they fight temptation at every turn. In a town where no one feels safe, she makes him yearn for things long forbidden, but can he trust her when the truth may mean betrayal---and death?
Their tug of war, and that of the factions in Flanders, changes the course of history.
For more about the book, and the place, visit me at http://www.blythegifford.com/.
The Graslei in Ghent. Picture by http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:China_Crisis
License by http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/