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About Amanda





One of the most challenging aspects of writing historical romance is also the most fun, and that is—the history!  For a study-geek like me, it can be hard to stop researching and start actually crafting the story.  It can also be hard to incorporate the characters who live in my head into the historical world, but it’s also waayyy fun!


For A Sinful Alliance, I started with a character and a setting.  The character was Nicolai, the Russian acrobat/actor/spy who was the hero’s friend in A Notorious Woman.  Like so many of those pesky secondary characters, I didn’t intend to do a book for him, but he really kind of insisted.  I was very intrigued to find out what his back story might be, plus he was just a hottie.  (In the April issue of RT, he was named a KISS—Knight in Shining Silver.  The first of my characters to win his own award!  I’m so proud, LOL).  It took me a while to find the right heroine for him.  She had to be out of the ordinary, and I found her in Marguerite Dumas, a beautiful French spy with a complex, troubled past.  She needed Nicolai’s brand of magic!  Problem was, she tried to kill him once—ooops.


The setting came to me when I was reading Allison Weir’s non-fiction book Henry VIII: The King and His Court.  I’ve long been fascinated by this time period, ever since I was a kid and saw the old movie Anne of the Thousand Days on TV.  This book had a brief account of a meeting in early 1527 between King Henry and a French delegation, and I knew I had the right place for Nicolai and Marguerite to meet again.


1527 was a big turning point in Henry’s reign, and in English history.  Henry and Katherine of Aragon had been married for almost twenty years, and their only living child was Princess Mary.  Henry was becoming infatuated with the beautiful, ambitious (and pro-French) Anne Boleyn, and becoming more concerned with the lack of a princely heir.  England’s long-standing alliance with Spain was thus on shaky ground.  King Francois of France needed an alliance with England after his humiliating defeat by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, at the Battle of Pavia.  He saw a chance and grabbed it—and in my book sends his best spy, Marguerite, to deal with it all.


In February 1527, the French delegation (led by Gabriel de Grammont, the Bishop of Tarbes) arrives at Greenwich Palace to negotiate a treaty of alliance between the two kings, to be cemented by the marriage of Princess Mary (the eleven years old) to Francois’s second son.  The two would also declare war on Charles V, unless he agreed to accede to their demands.  In the end, neither of these terms happened, but the months of negotiation was one long, lavish party.


A new theater and banquet house had been specially built at Richmond, decorated with an extravagant display of silk, silverware, flowers, and gold plate.  At the welcome banquet alone, there were over 240 dishes, with 14 different meats (including a peacock dressed in its feathers!), gingerbread iced in gold leaf, subtleties in sugar and almond paste depicting myths and castles, wines and ales.


The feasting lasted for hours, followed by more hours of dancing (pavanes and galliards, as well as the trendy passamezzo), some card playing (mumchance, click-clack, Gleek, primero), maybe some chess or backgammon.  In the daytime, there was hunting, tennis, or jousting tournaments, with nights of more feasting, plays and concerts, masques, and chivalric allegories (including one starring Princess Mary as a Roman goddess in cloth of gold!)


A few favored guests might be invited to the Queen’s privy chamber for a dessert buffet.  These featured suckets (fruit in heavy syrup, eaten with special fork-like sucket spoons), marchpane, jellies, biscuits, and kissing confits (sugar fondant).  It sounds a bit too sweet, even for a dedicated sugar-freak like me!


This was the world where Nicolai and Marguerite had to face danger, both in the ever-shifting factions around them and within their own hearts.  A place of splendor and luxury, but danger and deceit.  (Not to mention stinkiness—Henry had decreed that the only dogs allowed in the palace were ladies’ lap dogs, but it still must have smelled atrocious, with hundreds of people and only primitive jakes for toilets!).  I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun writing a book as this one! 


Besides the Weir book, here are a few others I found useful:





Playing the Duke's Fiancee


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