Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Temptation Tuesday...Through History

Historical author Carol Townend brings us her take on tempation in a time when coffee and chocolate did not exist. Can you imagine?

Chocolate is always a temptation, of course, and don’t even mention coffee. My love of coffee is so bad that my family have banished the word from our house!

Happily our medieval heroes and heroines were free of the temptations that we must fight hourly - chocolate, coffee, tea and sugar etc. They would have had mead though. Yum! They also had wines, ales and honey cakes. Almonds and dried fruits were imported from the east along with spices like cinnamon, cloves and pepper. Queens and noble ladies would be tempted by the purple silks and rich damasks shipped in from Byzantium - not to mention well-muscled stable boys..

Why is it that temptation is invariably linked with sin? If you give in to eating that cream cake, it’s a sin, the implication being that you are bad if you indulge and good if you don’t.

On a recent research trip to France we gave in to the blissful chocolate Easter Cake above, served on a terrace overlooking the snow-capped Pyrenees. Wow! You can see by the empty glasses that we had been busy tasting the local wine too. Hard work, research. We were also seduced by the pretty (and pretty ancient) hotel below where the footsore tower climber can be wined and dined and made super comfortable.

For my eleventh century heroine Cecily in The Novice Bride, temptation comes in many forms. Poor Cecily! Her Anglo Saxon father has packed her off to St Anne’s Convent at the tender age of twelve. As a novice she discovers it’s a sin to eat meat on a fish day; it's a sin to speak during the Greater Silence; it's a sin to miss chapel; it's a sin to argue with Mother Superior . . . (you can tell I went to a convent school! )

There isn’t much that isn’t a sin at St Anne’s so Cecily is forever fasting or doing penance for one transgression or another. To hear Mother Aethelflaeda speak of her, you would have no hesitation in naming Novice Cecily as the convent bad girl. Of course she is no such thing.

In fact Cecily is innocence personified, particularly as far as men are concerned. Since walking through those convent gates Cecily has scarcely laid eyes on a man, let alone spoken to one. But then Sir Adam Wymark rides up and Cecily (a novice who is about to take her vows!) is so tempted she offers herself to him in marriage. She tells herself she is doing this because she wants to protect her family, and this is certainly true. She also tells herself that her proposal has nothing to do with her desperate need to escape the convent; and nothing to do with the fact that Adam is the most handsome hunk of Breton knight ever to ride into Wessex. . .


Carol's next Harlequin Hisorical, THE NOVICE BRIDE, is out in North America now! For those of you elsewhere who can't wait until Spring 2008 you can buy the book now at eHarlequin.

Check out her website for more.

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