It’s such a pleasure today to welcome author Jennifer Ash – also known to many as Jenny Kane – as my guest again here on Being Anne. It’s the first day of her blog tour for her latest book in the Folville Chronicles series, Edward’s Outlaw, published today by Littwitz Press, and available via Amazon in the UK and US for kindle and in paperback. Congratulations Jen, and over to you…!
I’m delighted to be here on Being Anne today to launch my blog tour for Edward’s Outlaw. This, the third book in The Folville Chronicles series, follows on from The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw. (It can be read as a standalone novel if preferred.)
Set in the troubled fourteenth century, this medieval murder mystery (with a hint of romance) takes the reader into the world of Mathilda, once a potter’s daughter, and now the wife of one of the most notorious criminals in England. Robert de Folville.
Here’s the blurb.
January 1330: England is awash with corruption. King Edward III has finally claimed the crown from his scheming mother, Queen Isabella, and is determined to clean up his kingdom.
Encouraged by his new wife, Philippa of Hainault, and her special advisor - a man who knows the noble felons of England very well - King Edward sends word to Roger Wennesley of Leicestershire, with orders to arrest the notorious Folville brothers… including the newly married Robert de Folville.
Robert takes his wife, Mathilda, to Rockingham Castle for her own safety, but no sooner has he left than a maid is found murdered. The dead girl looks a lot like Mathilda. Was the maid really the target - or is Mathilda’s life in danger?
Asked to investigate by the county sheriff in exchange for him slowing the hunt for her husband, Mathilda soon uncovers far more than murder… including a web of deception which trails from London, to Derbyshire, and beyond…
The third thrilling instalment in Jennifer Ash’s The Folville Chronicles series.
One of the most challenging things about writing this series has been that the main protagonists (apart from Mathilda) are technically bad guys. Six of the seven Folville brothers, all who existed in reality, had criminal records- and they all deserved them. So why make these people – thieves, murders and kidnappers – characters that the reader should (mostly) root for?
The answer lies with the history in which they operated. The Folvilles lived in Ashby Folville, Leicestershire; ruling that region during the 1320’s and 1330’s with considerable influence. At that time, England was run by corrupt and ruthless officials who were, on the whole, worse than many of the organised criminal gangs that existed alongside them. It is no wonder that the tales of Robin Hood were so popular!
If you think about it, we love villains in our stories. These antagonists; the bad guys and girls (and creatures), help us enjoy our fiction by creating friction and peril. We want them to get their comeuppance – but not until the very last minute.
The best villains come back again and again; rejuvenated after each defeat and more determined than ever. They are beaten – but only for now – and only at the very end of a novel, or series of novels, are they vanquished, imprisoned, killed or banished depending on the genre.
When I was writing The Folville Chronicles however, in particular Edward’s Outlaw, I asked myself the question, when is a villain not a villain?
I, like Robert de Folville, have been heavily influenced by the original ballads of Robin Hood during my writing. Naturally, this means that over the years I’ve come to love the character of the Sheriff of Nottingham. He has long been one of my favourite villains. But is he really so bad?
Isn’t he just a man in an impossible job with strict rules- in constant danger of paying for his failures with his liberty or life?
Is it any wonder then that he’ll stop at nothing to capture Robin Hood – a hero who is a thief, a murderer and an outlaw?
If you approach these men in black and white, then surely Robin Hood is the villain and the sheriff a failed hero?
The world however, is far from black and white, and it is the methods of the sheriff which cause the audience to boo and hiss in his direction.
In The Folville Chronicles, the sheriff, Robert Ingram, like the Folvilles, as an anti-hero. He is in the brothers’ pay. As long as they work together, and the sheriff ultimately does was the Folvilles want, then he’ll be left in peace.
And what of my heroine, Mathilda de Folville? Surely she can’t be a villain or even an anti-heroine?
Mathilda is the family’s moral compass. And believe me – they need one!
At the beginning of Edward’s Outlaw, Robert and his brothers receive word that an arrest warrant has been issued against them – and for once – the sheriff has no choice but to hunt them down. Unwilling to put Mathilda in jeopardy, Robert declares he will send her to Rockingham Castle for her own safety – an idea that the housekeeper, Sarah, is none too pleased about…
“…‘Are you insane?’
Mathilda was stunned at her friend’s outspokenness. Sarah had the respect of the household, but that did not mean she had liberty to speak her mind in her masters’ presence. Especially not in anger.
‘I beg your pardon?’ Robert growled. ‘Explain yourself, woman!’
Undeterred by her master’s ire, Sarah spoke on. ‘Are you really taking your new wife into that den of thieves? Do you honestly believe De Vere will see her kept safe?’
Mathilda’s pulse quickened as she looked from Robert to Sarah and back again. She couldn’t imagine Robert deliberately putting her in harm’s way, but equally Sarah would never speak out in such a manner unless she was frightened.
Everything was happening so fast. After the sheriff’s departure the brothers, acting as though Mathilda wasn’t there, had discussed her disposal. Eustace had agreed with Robert that she would be safer with their associate, Robert de Vere, the constable of Rockingham Castle, than with them. The words ‘in case we never return’ hung in the air unspoken. She also noted how Eustace had used the word ‘associate’ rather than ‘friend’.
Amused rather than annoyed by the outburst from the housekeeper, Eustace ripped a lump of bread off a fresh loaf to put in his scrip. ‘You give the women in this house too much rope, brother.’
Ignoring the familiar jibe, Robert reined in his temper. ‘Sarah, if you haven’t worked out that I’d never do anything to endanger Mathilda then you don’t know me at all.’
Far from content with his reply, Sarah’s hands fixed themselves to her hips. ‘You say that, yet jeopardy follows your family like a stray dog. There are hazards everywhere; surely they are better faced when we all stick together?’
Robert held Sarah’s gaze, glad that Adam was in the stables; otherwise he’d be backing her up. He could feel Mathilda’s eyes on him. For once she wasn’t asking questions. That told him how worried she was.
Bored of the moment’s theatre, Eustace grunted, ‘Walter and I are going now. I’ll leave five of my men to watch the manor and keep Sarah, Adam, and Ulric safe. They can also be used as messengers. We’ll see you in the agreed location, Robert. Do not tarry in Rockingham too long.’
The silence left by Eustace and Walter’s hasty departure felt heavy as Mathilda sat next to her husband. Refusing to be hurried despite the atmosphere of urgency, she said, ‘I am not happy about leaving Sarah, despite the presence of Eustace’s mercenaries. If Richard is truly on his way… well, it isn’t too hard to guess what he’ll have in mind for her. Husband, I am not setting one foot towards my palfrey until you tell me everything I need to know about Robert de Vere. And before you shout and say time is short, I am acutely aware of that. Talk quickly, my Lord.’
In truth, Robert wasn’t happy about the arrangements being thrust upon them either. ‘If I thought it was safe, I’d leave you here, Mathilda. I trust few people with your welfare as much as I do Adam and Sarah, but you are too obvious a hostage. Wennesley is not a stupid man. He would know the quickest way to capture me would be to take you. With you as his prisoner, all he’d have to do is wait for me to try and rescue you, before catching me too. Then my brothers would come to save both of us and… well, you can imagine the rest. It would be a perfect trap, neatly baited with you.’
Mathilda hated that he was right. ‘And Robert de Vere?’
‘We’ve made use of de Vere’s services on a number of occasions. I will not lie and tell you he is a good man. He is not. But nor is he evil. He will keep you safe, because I will pay him to do so. Nothing speaks louder to the constable of Rockingham Castle than money.’
Sarah shook her head, but she kept her counsel as Mathilda listened to Robert. ‘De Vere knows that crossing a Folville would not be a good idea.’
‘And if you don’t come back for me?’ Mathilda spoke the words boldly, hoping she was successful in hiding how afraid she was of that prospect.
‘I will be back.’
‘I will come back for you.’ …
Thanks again for inviting me to visit today.
Happy reading, Jennifer
It was a real pleasure – and wishing you every success with this one!
About the author
With a background in history and archaeology, Jennifer Ash should really be sat in a dusty university library translating Medieval Latin criminal records, and writing research documents that hardly anyone would want to read. Instead, tucked away in the South West of England, Jennifer writes stories of medieval crime, steeped in mystery, with a side order of romance.
Influenced by a lifelong love of Robin Hood and medieval ballad literature, Jennifer has written The Outlaw’s Ransom (Book One of The Folville Chronicles) – a short novel, which first saw the light of day within the novel Romancing Robin Hood (written under the name Jenny Kane; Pub. Littwitz Press, 2018).
Book Two of The Folville Chronicles – The Winter Outlaw – was released in April 2018. (pub. LittwitzPress): Book Three of The Folville Chronicles – Edward’s Outlaw – was released in December 2018.
Jennifer also writes as Jenny Kane. Her work includes the contemporary women’s fiction and romance novels, Romancing Robin Hood (2nd edition, Littwitz Press, 2018), Abi’s Neighbour (Accent Press, 2017), Another Glass of Champagne (Accent Press, 2016), and the bestsellers, Abi’s House (Accent Press, June 2015), and Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013).
All of Jennifer and Jenny Kane’s news can be found at www.jennykane.co.uk