Jan Scarbrough writes heartwarming contemporary romances about family and second chances, and if the plot allows—horses. Living in the horse country of Kentucky makes it easy for Jan to add small town Southern charm to her books, and the excitement of a horse race or a competitive horse show. Learn more about Jan and her books at her website.
Can you name a novel that has influenced your life in some way? For me, that novel was Katherine by Anya Seton. I found the book in the high school library and read it for a book report. The novel transported me into a world I’ve loved ever since—medieval romance.
We were big into “theme” back then in English class. Published in 1954, Katherine was not simply a romance or an adventure. It was not your “typical bodice-ripper.” Katherine described the personal growth of the main character. This classic romance novel tells the true story of a love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Here is part of the description from the book’s Amazon page. “Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue.”
Near the end of the book, Katherine is in the depths of despair. Then she meets Julian of Norwich (ca. 8 November 1342 – ca. 1416), an English anchoress who is regarded as one of the most important Christian mystics of the day.
Later in the story, she reveals to a priest what she learned from the anchoress: “It was this you said, and Lady Julian has told me too. ‘Our dearworthy Lord said not, Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be afflicted, but He said, Thou shalt not be overcome!’ Father Clement, of all the teachings, this seems to me the most beautiful.”
As a teenager, those words touched me— Thou shalt not be overcome! I even used the words when I spoke to a youth-led, church service. For the rest of my life, through the ups and downs of everyday living, I have tried to keep these quotes from Julian of Norwich close to my heart.
Because of Katherine, I fell in love with the time period and all things medieval. I took medieval history in college, and researched the time period for my own novels. I aspire to write a novel some day that will touch a reader’s heart as Katherine touched mine.
Other Interesting Facts
Anya Seton (January 23, 1904 – November 8, 1990) was the pen name of Ann Seton Chase, an American author of historical romances, or as she preferred they be called, "biographical novels".
If you’d like to read a nonfiction account of Katherine, try the Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess ofLancaster by Alison Weir.
Anne O'Brien has written another novel about the love affair of Katherine Swynford and John of Lancaster called The Scandalous Duchess released in 2015.
My Lord Raven
Knights of the Royal Household
To protect what little family she has left, Lady Catrin Fitzalan switches places with her cousin when King Edward orders the pious girl to wed his royal champion, a vicious knight called the King’s Raven. Rumors abound that this savage is responsible for the deaths of Lady Catrin’s father and brother. How can she allow her sweet cousin to wed a murderer?
Bran ap Madog, bastard son of a Welsh prince, has devoted his life to serving the English king. His badge is the raven, a creature that feeds off rotting spoils, just as Bran feeds off the spoils of war. Now he wants a reward for his service: a wealthy wife and the land and power she can bring him.
But there’s another side to the rapacious black birds Bran has chosen for his badge. Social and family-oriented, ravens mate for life. Which gives them something Bran never had—a family, a sense of belonging, and a rightful place in the world. Bran has fought for everything he’s ever had. But his last battle, with his new wife, may cost him the one thing he isn’t prepared to lose: his heart.