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When romance and history collide

the power of love stories in my historical fiction

I got the idea for The Queen’s Scribe when I learned about the extraordinary Charlotta of Lusignan, who was already a widow when she was crowned Queen of the Kingdom of Cyprus in 1458 at age 15. Two years later, she moved her supporters into the seaside fortress of Kyrenia, where they withstood a siege by her power-hungry half-brother, Jacco. When her second husband Louis of Savoy proved a weak leader, Charlotta voyaged without him across the Mediterranean, entreating allies to help save her crown.

Landmarks of Cyprus island – medieval fortress castle of Kyrenia

I chose to tell Queen Charlotta’s astonishing tale through the eyes of fictional Estelle de Montavon, daughter of a French falconer. In The Queen’s Scribe, Estelle—a talented scribe and linguist—becomes as valuable as gold when civil war looms between the queen and Jacco. But Estelle soon faces a brutal reckoning for her loyalty to the queen.

Although I do a lot of plotting when I write a historical novel, there’s one aspect of my books that’s purely organic: romance. Each of my novels contains a strong romantic thread (and a happy ending), but planning it all out in advance would spoil the fun. After a lifetime of reading and watching romances, I’ve internalized my favorite beats and themes without realizing it. The result? When I’m immersed in writing historical fiction, my favorite romance tropes just appear of nowhere and ignite on the page. I love watching my characters deal with the consequences.

Window view from ancient St. Hilarion Castle in Northern Cyprus.

With The Queen’s Scribe, I knew I’d have Estelle enlist a mysterious falconer to help her survive the treacherous medieval court of Cyprus. When I originally planned the book, I figured the falconer would be a man about a decade older than her who was also French. But as I began to write, my characters balked. It turned out Estelle wasn’t interested in the man I’d selected for her romantic partner. There was zero chemistry between them.

It took me a while to figure out what Estelle actually wanted. The man she found intriguing, Gabriel Bayoumi, was about her age. He was the Cypriot son of a wealthy merchant and a slave woman, and he’d stumbled into falconry purely by accident. Like her, he was an outsider in the royal court of Cyprus, and though she found him infuriating at times, his gray eyes were absolutely mesmerizing . . .

Once I’d discovered this, their story was a thrill to write. I love a slow-burn romance, and that’s what Estelle and Gabriel’s story is all about. Writing their meet-cute scene in a bustling medieval marketplace was exhilarating. I made sure they were deeply, deeply annoyed at each other leading up to their forced proximity scene in a haunting Gothic abbey only accessible by horseback (I love a road trip). Then there was the admission of love, the first kiss, the inevitable separation. Would they reunite? Could they reunite? They just had to.

Bellapais Abbey, front view. Kyrenia, Cyprus.

That’s the beauty of a romance. It has a happy ending. Of course they’ll reunite. The fun is being along for the wild ride as they make their way back to one another. Estelle and Gabriel’s love story not only endures, but it thrives despite a siege, an attack by bandits, a terrifying dungeon, a civil war, a queen’s wrath, an usurper’s jealousy, and a bloody battle at sea.

Several times, I paint them into corners so deep and shadowy that escape seems impossible. But luckily for us, Estelle and Gabriel have an affinity so powerful that nothing can truly come between them. Not oceans, not war, not scheming royals or backstabbing courtiers. Their love was written in the stars.

Find The Queen’s Scribe online here; you can also order the paperback version from any bookstore or your local library. Audio version coming soon.

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