29 January 2016

Book Launch Guest Post ~ Darkest Before Dawn, by Jayne Castel

Book Two in The Kingdom of Mercia series 
is now available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Darkest before Dawn is a tale of forbidden love and duty. Princess Alchflaed of Northumbria's father has given her a terrible choice: if she wants to choose her own path, she must marry the son of his bitterest enemy - and then murder him.

Take a journey into 7th Century Mercia and Wales

Buy on Amazon
As with all my novels set in 7th century Anglo Saxon England, The Breaking Dawn is based on actual historical figures and events. This time around, we also visit 7th century Wales.

There’s something exciting about the Anglo-Saxon period. It’s no wonder this era was a massive inspiration to Tolkien’s writing. It was a time when fate – wyrd – ruled men’s lives, when swords had names. A time when sagas were told around the fire pit at night.
This period of British history is shadowy, hence why it’s called the ‘Dark Ages’ and not particularly well documented. 

The main source of information for this period came from Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. This text wasn’t completed until the 730s, and was written from a religious perspective – however, I found this lack of detail freeing rather than constricting. It allowed me to bring Anglo-Saxon Britannia to life using my own research of how people actually lived, and the beliefs that drove their lives forward.

Cynddylan ap Cyndrwyn – the Prince of Powys (Wales) – was a well-known historical figure of the time, who ruled from around 641 – 655 A.D.

The alliance between Mercia and Powys did exist, and historians have learned a bit about Cynddylan from two famous poems: Marwnad Cynddylan (The Death song of Cynddylan) and the Canu Heledd (Heledd's lament), a 9th century poem in which his sister sings of her brother's death. Both are hauntingly beautiful, if grim, poems.

In a nutshell, here's what my research unearthed about Cynddylan (Dylan, to his friends!):      
  •  He wore a mail shirt and purple cloak
  •  He was fiery, stubborn, brave and ruthless – a great warrior
  • He went to battle alongside King Penda of Mercia, against the Northumbrian King, Oswald, bringing 700 warriors with him. They fought together in the Battle of Maserfield (Maes Cogwy in Welsh), in the summer of 641 A.D. The battle ended with Oswald’s defeat, death and dismemberment
  • He died fairly young and never married (I ignore this detail – it's a romance after all!)
  • He had 9 sisters and 12 brothers (I also ignore this detail – for the sake of the story – preferring to shrink the family to one sister, Heledd, and one brother, Morfael)
  • After the Battle of Maes Cogwy, Cynddylan appears to have fallen out with Penda
Details around Cynddylan's death are hazy. There is debate about whether Cynddylan was killed alongside Penda in 655 A.D. at the Battle of Winwæd, or whether he and his family perished the next year when King Oswiu of Bernicia destroyed his ‘court’ at Pengwern.  However, we don't get this far in the novel – I prefer to leave Dylan's future open, for the reader to decide.

Jayne Castel
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About the author

Jayne Castel writes Historical Romance set in 7th Century Anglo-Saxon England. Two of her novels DARK UNDER THE COVER OF NIGHT and NIGHTFALL TILL DAYBREAK, reached the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards in 2013 and 2014. Jayne writes historical romance adventures about warrior heroes and strong-willed heroines. She weaves powerful love stories into meticulously researched stories about honor, valor, loyalty and vengeance. Visit her website: www.jaynecastel.com, and find her on Facebook and twitter @JayneCastel.

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