Title: Yvonne, Lady of Cassio
Author: Rosemary Morris
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
When Yvonne and Elizabeth, daughters of ruthless Simon Lovage, Earl of Cassio, are born under the same star to different mothers, no one could have foretold their lives would be irrevocably entangled.
Against the background of Edward II’s turbulent reign in the fourteenth century, Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, contains imaginary and historical characters.
It is said the past is a foreign country in which things were done differently.
Nevertheless, although that is true of attitudes, such as those towards women and children, our ancestors were also prompted by ambition, anger, greed, jealousy, humanity, duty, loyalty, unselfishness and love.
From early childhood, despite those who love her and want to protect her, Yvonne is forced to face difficult economic, personal and political circumstances, during a long, often bitter struggle.
Cassio Castle—South East England
Alice stumbled after the squire, who guided her from her home in Lovage village to the nearby island fortress, Cassio Castle. After she followed him up stone stairs, they trod the length of a dim corridor. The squire halted. He pointed at a massive oak door which stood ajar. “In there.”
Alice stepped across the threshold of a magnificent bedchamber furnished with a huge bed, painted coffers and many other items. She gasped, for she had never imagined such luxury. Until now, she knew only the two rooms in the thatched cottage she and her large family shared with the livestock they hoped would survive winter’s frozen grip. Here a log fire blazed and a blend of familiar dried lemon balm and lavender scented the air.
Too frightened to face Simon Lovage, Alice quivered. She took a deep breath and looked down at her feet. She could recite frightening tales of the muscular, fiery-haired Earl of Cassio—accounts of his insistence on bedding peasant women, whether they were willing not.
She must stay calm. According to other resentful brides-to-be, who endured the loss of their maidenhood when taken by the earl, resistance would lead to violence. She would bear in mind her mother’s advice to turn the situation to her advantage—the loss of her virtue in exchange for privileges.
The earl strode to her. His large hand cupped her chin. “Look at me, girl. Do you know why you are here?”
Although Alice dared not disobey him, she was somewhat reassured because he had not seized her with hands as cruel as her betrothed’s when he tried to force her to yield her virginity. Yet, still fearful of the unknown, Alice swallowed.
She assessed the old man, who stood before her straight as a lance, unlike village men who thought they were old if they lived until the age of forty. Besides, most of those who reached such an age endured bent backs and gnarled hands from their labours on the land since childhood.
Heat scalded her cheeks. She would not think of her betrothed, who ranted and swore when he heard of the summons, before he sought solace in liberal servings of strong home-brewed ale. Moreover, she cared no more for him than she did for the earl.
Alice eyed the large bed. She nodded in answer to the question.
“Come here. Don’t be frightened. If you submit, other than piercing your maidenhead I shall not hurt you.”
* * *
When Alice woke in the morning after Simon parted the thick moss-green bed curtains, she stirred in the warm nest of rumpled linen sheets and bedcovers.
“My tub and hot water to fill it,” Simon bellowed to his body squires.
Thoughtful, she stretched. The old man had kept his word to hurt her no more than necessary. After he penetrated the barrier between maidenhood and womanhood, his expertise had awakened her desire for more pleasures of the flesh.
While he bathed, attended by a body squire, she lay quietly, conscious of soreness but not pain.
The earl stepped out of the tub. “Get up…what-is-your-name?”
Embarrassed by the thought of his body squires seeing her naked, she pulled the bedcovers up to her chin.
“Well?” Earl Simon asked, an impatient edge to his tone.
“I’m Alice, my lord.”
“The name suits you. Water’s still warm. You may bathe.”
Alice tugged the bedcovers higher. He laughed at her embarrassment before he left the chamber with his squires.
She must have pleased him because after the bath, a woman servant handed her finer clothes than any she had previously worn.
“I overheard the earl praising your beauty,” the woman told her, as she helped Alice to dress.
Alice shrugged. Many others had remarked on her almond-shaped blue eyes and admired her mass of curly, honey fair hair that cascaded to her hips.
While she smoothed the soft, borage flower blue wool of the first surcoat she had ever owned, her lord returned to hand her a purse. “You pleased me. Take this gift.”
Alice returned his stare, angered by his assumption she was a loose woman who wanted payment. At that moment, she forgot her mother’s advice to gain as much from him as possible.
She scrutinised him; desire throbbed in her woman’s parts. Her overlord raised a bushy eyebrow. She stretched her arms out to embrace him. His nostrils flared. He took a step forward. Afraid she had been too bold, she wrapped her arms around her waist.
Simon chuckled. “You are unlike outraged wenches who either grab my gift before they run away dressed in their new clothes, or those who either weep or say they hate me.”
Compared to her betrothed, the lord smelled good. Yet hearsay told her the violence of his Viking ancestors, which served him so well on the battlefield, threatened to boil over at any moment. If she pleased him he could offer her a better life. She wanted to stay with him. Better to be a rich man’s mistress than a poor man’s wife.
The earl interrupted her thoughts. “Your money, Alice.”
When she did not reach for it, Simon pressed the leather drawstring purse into her hand. They stared at each other again. Her free hand crept around his neck. Simon’s mouth covered hers before he carried her back to his bed where he removed her surcoat. “How old are you, girl?”
Alice summoned her courage. She wanted the benefits he could bestow. “Not Girl! Call me Alice. I’m fifteen.”
A skein of her hair lay across his hand. He raised it to his lips and kissed it. “God has blessed you, Alice. You arouse me in a way few women do.”
She fondled his hand, admiring his well-tended oval nails, so different from her betrothed’s dirt encrusted ones. Simon withdrew his hand from her clasp. She veiled her eyes with her lashes and grasped his battle-hardened hand again. After turning it over, she kissed its palm. “Please don’t send me away. I prefer you to the man the reeve ordered me to marry.”
“You don’t want an old warrior like me, do you?”
She opened her mouth to insist she did but closed it when someone knocked on the door.
“Enter,” Simon shouted.
A young squire stepped into the chamber. “I bring news, if it pleases you, my lord.”
The squire, who seemed ill at ease, approached the earl and spoke too low for her to hear.
The lord stood steady as a strong wall, his feet wide apart. “There is no easy way to deliver bad tidings, Alice.” He cleared his throat. “Poor child, your future bridegroom became as drunk as a fiddler’s whore. I am sorry to say he fell into the moat and drowned.”
Shocked into silence Alice looked into her blunt lord’s bright blue eyes. She imagined her betrothed, Peter, intoxicated with ale and heart sore because the earl had summoned her. Her stomach churned. By now Peter’s mother and sisters would be weeping. It seemed her heart had turned into granite. Guilt consumed her because, instead of grieving, she was glad Peter would never touch her again. She tried to pacify her conscience. Always honest, she admitted his death came as a relief. After all, she had not welcomed her betrothal to the clumsy young man.
Alice gazed at Earl Simon without resentment. From the moment, he clasped her hand she thrilled to his touch. She wanted more, much more, yet what did he want? Was she only one of unimportant young girls to pass through his bed chamber? Could she find a way to stay? If he did not want to keep her, she must brave his anger to change his mind. For a moment, she hesitated. One day she would have to pay the price of immorality. For now, young and healthy, judgement day seemed far away.
What’s the first binge-worthy book you read and why was it a must-read?
I enjoy classical Indian literature, reading fiction and non-fiction. It’s difficult to say what my first binge-worthy one was. My bookshelves are so crammed with historical non-fiction, which I use to research my novels, that until that if I bought a new book I considered getting rid of one.
What makes your featured book a binge-worthy read?
Told in vivid descriptive narration, Rosemary Morris brings the strife and hardship of this era to life. The 14th century was a tumultuous time for many, including the nobility. Greed, power, corruption, and lust overran the population. Political jockeying was as commonplace as the evening meal. Women in this time period lived a very hard life, even the nobility. They were treated like no better than cattle and Rosemary Morris’ Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, showcases this eloquently. Historically accurate with plenty of drama to satisfy any historical fiction reader, this is a must-read. Fans of The Vikings will love this medieval tale. – N. N. Light’s Book Heaven
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There is a gigantic canvas for a historical novelist to choose from.
I am Rosemary Morris, a best-selling historical novelist. So far, my novels are set in the early 14th century during the reign of Edward II, in that of Charles II’s niece, Queen Anne Stuart, who reigned from 1702 to 1714, and the ever-popular Regency era.
I chose those periods because each of them affected the course of history If Edward II had won the Battle of Bannockburn, it is feasible that he would have conquered Scotland and, perhaps he would not have been deposed. Had the Duke of Marlborough lost The War of Spanish Succession, and The Duke of Wellington had been defeated by Napoleon at The Battle of Waterloo, the history of Britain and that of Europe would be different. Defeat would also have had far-reaching consequences for the rest of the world.
The more I read about my chosen eras the more fascinated I become, and the more aware of the gulf between the past and present. Those who lived in the past shared the same emotions as we do, but their attitudes and way of life were in many ways very different to ours. One of the most striking examples was the social position of women and children in bygone ages.
My characters are of their time, not men, women and children dressed in costume who behave like 21st century people. My books are sensual but do not contain explicit sex.
Research of my chosen eras sparks my imagination. The seeds of my novels are sown, and from them sprout the characters and events which will shape their lives.
I was born in Kent. As a child, when I was not making up stories, my head was ‘always in a book.’
While working in a travel agency, I met my Hindu husband. He encouraged me to continue my education at Westminster College. In 1961 I and my husband, by then a barrister, moved to his birthplace, Kenya, where I lived from 1961 until 1982. After an attempted coup d’état, four of my children lived with me in an ashram in France.
Back in England, I wrote historical fiction, joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association, The Historical Novel Society, Watford Writers and online groups, and am now published by Books We Love Ltd
Apart from writing, I enjoy classical Indian literature, reading, visiting places of historical interest, vegetarian cooking, growing organic fruit, herbs and vegetables and creative crafts.
My bookshelves are so crammed with historical non-fiction, which I use to research my novels, that if I buy a new book I have to consider getting rid of one.
Time spent with my five children and their families, most of whom live near me, is precious.
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