Last year Patricia Bracewell introduced readers to the likely little known Emma of Normandy, the "twice crowned queen." The beginning of her story was one fraught with tension and political scheming: she was to be the key piece in a negotiation between Normandy and England, a young girl set to wed King Æthelred who'd hoped it would ensure Normandy's support against the Danes. Unfortunately for Emma, her new marriage is little more than a contractual agreement; Æthelred isn't interested in her support or her counsel. Instead, he wants her to bear children and that's about it. Worse yet, Emma and Æthelred's eldest son, Athelstan, who are much closer in age and much better suited for one another, find that they indeed have strong feelings for each another.
What a pickle!
The second part of Emma's saga, The Price of Blood, picks up around Easter 1006. She has born the King a son, a son who has been declared heir in spite of having six remaining sons - from his previous marriage - who would be in line first. But the story begins with the death of one of those six and the King's continued certainty that he has been cursed by his dead brother.
Ecbert has died. King Æthelred knows this is continued punishment for his silence pertaining to his brother's death, but what is there to do about it at this stage? With the Viking forces rallying, Æthelred learns that his Ealdorman in the north has been plotting against him, planning to wed his daughter to one of the Danes in order to forge his own alliance. The King orders his death and that of his sons, causing the lords of the north to question his role as their sovereign. And in spite of this, the Ealdorman's daughter is indeed tied to the Vikings, marrying the Cnut, the son of King Swein. But Æthelred's problems don't end there. The King is convinced that his sons are plotting against him and his behavior has become cause for concern. Emma - torn between her role as queen, her love for the King's eldest son, and her determination to protect her own son - is forced to begin her own plotting behind the scenes, ever aware that if she is caught, the King will no doubt accuse her of treason.
Whew! Poor Emma. Though this is a fictionalized version of her as a person (her thoughts and motivations), history does include enough about her life that it's likely Bracewell has pieced much of this together fairly accurately. As she pointed out in her guest post last year, what is known about Emma alone leaves little doubt that she was a formidable woman and a force to be reckoned with.
And as Bracewell also points out in her post, people know very little about Emma as compared to other queens. I love, though, that she has taken it upon herself to rectify this situation! Bracewell brings Emma to life through her prose, imagining a woman driven by loyalty and love. Marrying Æthelred wasn't her decision, but it is her lot in life and a duty that she takes on with bravery and determination. She is smart and not willing to stand by the sidelines as a trophy or broodmare. No, this woman will do whatever it takes to ensure the safety and future reign of her son. She's also determined to see peace for the kingdom she has been tied to.
If you're a fan of historical fiction who has yet to discover Bracewell and Emma, you should definitely add both Shadow on the Crown and The Price of Blood to your immediate reading plans! And for anyone interested in some extras, the publisher has put together a great Book Club Kit featuring party ideas, early English factoids, and a Q&A with the author. You can also follow Patricia on Twitter.
What's more, thanks to the publisher I'm able to offer up a copy of both Shadow on the Crown and The Price of Blood to one of you lucky readers! To enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, March 2, US only and no PO boxes please.
a Rafflecopter giveaway