Many thanks to my friend and colleague, Claire Delacroix for stepping in to fill an unexpected opening today.
Good to be here, Anna. One of my favorite elements of writing linked series is getting to know the secondary characters better with each successive book, until they require their own stories to be sold. The characterizations become deeper with each book, and the relationships between the continuing characters become richer. I like to find out the secrets of each character, whether they ever have their own book or not, and to have glimpses into shared experiences in the past, sometimes unexpected ones. As I continue to write series like the ones set at Kinfairlie, the fictional world becomes so dimensional that it seems real to me. I’ve written ten medieval Scottish romances featuring the family at Kinfairlie, in three linked series (The Rogues of Ravensmuir, The Jewels of Kinfairlie and The True Love Brides) but when I finished The Warrior’s Prize, I knew it was time to take a wee break. There will be another linked series called The Brides of Inverfyre, but first, I needed to start something new.
You see, I had this company of Templar knights in my office, demanding that their stories be told. They’ve been here for a while, and I’ve been researching their era for a while. It was time to begin.
The Champions of Saint Euphemia is a linked series of four medieval romances, set during the Crusades in the 12th century. In fact, the story begins in 1187, before the fall of Jerusalem. Gaston, a knight who is leaving the Order of the Templars and returning home to France, is entrusted with one last mission—to deliver a priceless treasure to the Temple in Paris, along with a message about what is transpiring in the Holy Land. For safety on the road, a company of travellers is collected to journey with him, including his squire, a career knight, who is determined to finish the errand and return to Jerusalem before the battles are over, and another knight who was serving a fixed term with the Templars and is returning home to Scotland to wed his betrothed. Pilgrims and merchants join their party as well, including Ysmaine, a woman and pilgrim Gaston meets and marries in Jerusalem, and her loyal maid.
The series follows the journey of these four men from east to west. It’s not long after they set out that they realize their party is being followed, then that someone is trying to steal the treasure. Who is the villain? They know little about each other, and less of each other’s motives. The treasure must be defended and delivered at any cost—even if the villain proves to be prepared to kill to claim it.
The first book in the series, The Crusader’s Bride, is the story of Gaston, that Templar who was surprised to inherit a holding and thus leaves the order. Gaston knows little of women, for he has been a Templar for eighteen years, but he knows he needs a wife in order to have a son. When he sees Ysmaine praying with both fervor and persistence, he is intrigued. It’s in his vows to defend pilgrims, and clearly this destitute lady has need of a defender. When she spends the coin he gives her on her maid’s welfare instead of her own, he’s convinced of the merit of her character. They wed in haste, and leave the city upon the quest of the Templars. Ysmaine has been widowed twice, both times on her wedding night, and fears that Gaston may fall prey to whatever curse follows her. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that he is the husband she’d like to keep.
I really enjoyed writing this story of trust and betrayal, of love and intrigue. Ysmaine and Gaston have very different expectations of marriage, and I liked watching them build their relationship. Gaston has been a diplomat and negotiator, which means he has learned to keep his thoughts to himself. Ysmaine believes that better solutions are found through discussion. Gaston values honesty above all else, but Ysmaine realizes that she will have to lie to him to ensure his quest is successfully achieved. It’s no spoiler to tell you that these two do manage to achieve their happily-ever-after, but for a while there, it looks like a close call. They successfully deliver the treasure and message to Paris, but Ysmaine and Gaston don’t realize that the treasure will journey onward from there.
It was also great to start a new series and meet a new cast of characters. What’s particularly fun about this series for me is that the books overlap each other slightly. Wulfe, the career Templar intent on returning to Jerusalem to fight as soon as possible, meets Christina in Venice. She’s become a courtesan, due to a lack of choices, and he seeks relief in a brothel after the frustrations of the journey so far. Christina sees Wulfe as her way out of the life she hates—we see them together in The Crusader’s Bride, but don’t really learn much about their relationship. Book #2, The Crusader’s Heart, is Wulfe and Christina’s story. It begins in Venice, when they meet, and will reveal more of what we might have guessed was really happening between them (and probably a few surprises, too.) The Crusader’s Heart will be published in October.
The Crusader’s Kiss is Bartholomew’s book and will be published in January. We meet Bartholomew, who is Gaston’s squire, in the first book, but don’t know much about his past, until he leaves Gaston’s service and travels home to set an old wrong to rights. The Crusader’s Vow is Fergus’ book and the final book in the series, and will be published in April. That book tells of his return to Scotland to wed his betrothed, secretly entrusted with the Templar treasure. Alas, his beloved Isobel hasn’t waited for him, but you can be sure that all will come right—for Fergus, his companion knights, and even the treasure—by the end.
I hope you will join me on this new medieval adventure!
You can read an excerpt from The Crusader’s Bride on my website, right here.
Thank you to Anna for inviting me to guest-post on her blog, and thanks to all of you for stopping by to read about my new series. I’ll give away a signed trade paperback copy of The Crusader’s Bride to one person who comments today. Tell me your favorite period for historical romance, and why you love it so.
Bestselling and award-winning author Deborah Cooke has published over fifty novels and novellas, including historical romances, fantasy romances, fantasy novels with romantic elements, paranormal romances, contemporary romances, urban fantasy romances, time travel romances and paranormal young adult novels. She writes as herself, Deborah Cooke, as Claire Delacroix, and has written as Claire Cross. She is nationally bestselling, #1 Kindle Bestselling, KOBO Bestselling, as well as a USA Today and New York Times’ Bestselling Author. Her Claire Delacroix medieval romance, The Beauty, was her first book to land on the New York Times List of Bestselling Books.
Deborah was the writer-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library in 2009, the first time TPL hosted a residency focused on the romance genre, and she was honored to receive the Romance Writers of America PRO Mentor of the Year Award in 2012. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and of Novelists Inc.
Visit her website at http://deborahcooke.com