So excited to have Angel Martinez as part of History Week Part II today!
The Perils of the Historical for the History Buff
Some musings on writing Fortune’s Sharp Adversity…
Did you realize that the old city of Amiens in France had not one wall, but two? Were you aware that farmers punted in on the canals to the Saturday market from marshes on the north side of the city? Do you have any idea what would have been sold at these markets?
No? None of it? And I’m positively batty for getting all hyperventilated and starry-eyed about it?
Understandable. But this is what happens when you set a history buff loose on historical fiction. The phrase Fortune’s Sharp Adversity comes from a set of lines in Chaucer, which set me thinking about loss and regret. The request from my publisher to “write something set in a French speaking part of the world” then set me thinking about French cathedrals, the glorious, soaring gothic ones to be exact.
From there I fought a losing battle and had to dive into research before I could even think about character and plot and, you know, the story. I spread maps of Amiens on my desk from various centuries, trying to pinpoint the famous cathedral and all the landmarks that would have been important in the late medieval period. I devoured research on the Cathédrale Notre-Dame d'Amiens, one of the most stunning and, at the same time, most surprising of gothic cathedrals. Research followed on local farming and industry, rulers, bishops and wars during construction. The completion of the marble meditation labyrinth in 1288 gave me a final date. The discovery that (oh joy!) the stone sculptures decorating the massive doorways had been painted provided vector and velocity.
But this is what a historical should be about, this need, this obsession with detail. What did people wear? What did they eat? How did they live and how did this influence their attitudes?
Sadly, much of the history of Amiens Cathedral has been lost over the centuries in various fires, but with a little imagination, and a feast of research, we can fill in the blanks where we must.
Philippe is very much a product of his times, an artisan who has seen the best and worst of mankind, and Etienne…well, you’ll have to read about Etienne.
It’s a little jaunt into past material culture and the next best thing to time traveling, this research gig. (Fortune’s Sharp Adveristy is part of the AmberPax collection “The French Connection.”)
In the year 1288, Amiens Cathedral is still a hive of construction. Philippe works as a painter, cheerfully decorating the stone carvings. Lamed in the crusades, alone in the world, he feels he has found the perfect life, with a safe place to sleep and work he loves. He tells himself he is content, that is, until the night he spies a man in a scarlet cloak, kneeling in the sanctuary, clearly distraught. For Philippe, the world will be forever changed.
Lord Étienne Michelant has fallen far and fast. Once the beloved youngest son of a powerful family, now he has nothing and, unbeknownst to church officials, he lives atop the cathedral’s unfinished tower. In Philippe, he finds everything he ever wanted in a man, and he curses fate that they met now. Tangled in dangerous secrets and arcane enchantments, Étienne knows any hope of love is futile.
It will be up to a crippled painter to try to prove Étienne wrong and to navigate his way through the maze of enigmas surrounding him.
The tension eased from Étienne’s jaw. His thumbs stroked the backs of Philippe’s hands. “What shall we do this evening, eh? If we were at my home, I could court you properly, with lute and song and poems scratched out in my atrocious hand.”
Philippe couldn’t stop the laugh that slipped from him. “Is that what you’re doing? Courting me?”
A little smile quirked a corner of Étienne’s mouth. “I did say I wasn’t doing it properly.”
“Ah, well, as long as we’re set on impropriety.” He leaned in carefully, as if Étienne might startle like a wild stag, and brushed his lips over that upturned corner.
Long fingers clutched Philippe’s hands tight and Étienne’s breath caught, short and sharp. “Philippe…”
Not accustomed to being pursued, are you? He freed a hand to cup Étienne’s face, steadying him and making his intentions clear. The fathomless longing in those green eyes threatened to stop his heart. Whatever the cause of Étienne’s troubles, he couldn’t imagine that this wry, gentle man was a murderer or a thief, and a heretic would hardly seek sanctuary in a church. “There will be an answer, Tien. Whatever troubles you, there is a solution for everything.”
“So simple for you to say.”
Philippe’s brow creased. The man had no inkling when to stop talking sometimes. He slid his hand back and tangled his fingers in the thick mass of Étienne’s fawn-brown hair. By rights, Étienne should have smelled terrible, and had a few days’ worth of beard, but it wasn’t so. Smooth skin met his lips when he feathered kisses along that strong jaw, a hint of clove and anise clinging to Étienne.
With a hesitant nuzzle, Étienne turned his head, and searched after Philippe’s lips, capturing them finally in soft nudges, holding them hostage with a swift succession of tender assaults.
Bonfire sparks leaped in Philippe’s veins. He let go a ragged moan and wrapped Étienne tight in his arms. Étienne’s arms slid around him in answer, his strength stealing Philippe’s breath in a rib-creaking embrace. The hard muscles spoke of arms accustomed to heavy exercise. A nobleman, but not a soft one. This one can wield a sword.
The tip of Étienne’s tongue licked along Philippe’s lips, pleading for entrance. He opened to the wordless request, sucking Étienne within the heat of his mouth. Their tongues dueled, the kiss turning fierce, hands roaming over backs and shoulders, both of them panting through their nostrils like rutting bulls.
Étienne pulled back first with a soft laugh. “Did you neglect to have supper this evening? You threaten to devour me whole.”
“A different sort of hunger.” Philippe combed his fingers through Étienne’s hair, pleased when his eyes closed and he leaned his head against Philippe’s hand. “Do you wish for…more?”
“Perhaps.” Étienne stroked Philippe’s arm in slow circles, raising goose flesh along his skin. “Perhaps soon.”
“But not tonight.”
Étienne shook his head, still gulping for air. His all-too-infrequent smile flashed. “We are courting, after all.”
About the Author:Angel Martinez is the erotic fiction pen name of a writer of several genres. Her experiences as a soldier, a nurse, a banker, and an underpaid corporate drone give her a broad view of the world and a deep appreciation for the astounding variety of people on this small planet.
She currently lives part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head. She has one husband of over twenty-six years, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.
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