Monday, 1 August 2022

Some Tree Lore and Magic and the Trees in my Garden. Plus new excerpt from "A knight's Choice and Other Romances"

 I love trees. I am a member of the Woodland Trust and often click on Alistair Campbell's Tree of the Day on twitter. We have a birch tree in our garden, planted when we arrived which is now 20 years old. It's home to all kinds of bugs and birds and shades our kitchen window.

Birch trees are early colonisers after fire in woodland or in tundra after snow. They are good guardian trees, giving protection to the slower growing oaks, ash and beeches that follow. Perhaps because of this, birch trees are linked in folklore with fertility and regrowth. Bundles of birch twigs were offered to newly weds to ensure their marriage was fruitful and a birch wood cradle was said to protect babies from evil spirits. Its sap was held to be antiseptic and good for skin problems. Drinking a tisane of birch tree leaves is said to help with gall bladder problems.

Other trees in our garden are the hawthorn - again a good guardian tree and excellent for wildlife with its berries - and two apple trees, both on dwarf stock. Felling an apple tree was said to be unlucky and my husband and I take care with both, watering each in times of drought. In old apple orchards, the winter custom of wassailing - derived from the Anglo-Saxon wes hal, or be of good health - still goes on to ensure the trees remain healthy. Folk gather around a particular apple tree and beat pots and pans and drums to drive away trouble. They sing to the tree to encourage a  future good harvest and drink its health and their own with cider, pouring some on the roots.  

Two cherries, one sweet, one tart, are also on dwarf stock where I live. The blossom is lovely and leaf cutter bees use the fresh leaves to seal in their grubs and provide protection in the various bee hotels we have about. The blackbirds love the fruit and often leave the stones on the tree!

Other trees that thrive in our garden sadly need to be kept in check. The ash and its smaller cousin the rowan are both natural apex trees where we live and seed themselves with great regularity.  There is a rich history and many legends connected to both. Rowan was said to be a strong protector. The rowan tree, taken from the Norse “runa” meaning charm, was often planted close to houses to protect the household  against evil. Around Easter time medieval people would make small crosses from rowan wood to give further safety to the house. Ash was seen in Viking myths as a tree of power and magic - the god Odin hung from the world ash tree, Yggdrasil, to gain wisdom. In Norse myths the ash was also known as the Venus of the Forest, its leaves used in love charms. The wood of the ash was used for spears and in arrow shafts. It is a strong and flexible tree, as I know whenever I have to dig out unwanted ash saplings.

I wanted a holly for our garden for the beautiful green foliage and the red berries and now have one growing against a boundary of our garden. My husband cuts me a few sprays each winter to bring indoors to decorate our home around Christmas, as people have been doing since Roman times. In later folk lore it was believed to protect against malicious witchcraft and lightning. I also have an ivy, winding through a hedge that is almost all ivy. Drink taken from an ivy goblet was said to protect from poison, although I have never put that to the test. 

  I try to celebrate trees in my romances and use the beliefs of medieval people in my fiction to add interest and realism. 

To close, here is an excerpt from my sweet novella "Midsummer Maid", one of several stories in my anthology "A Knight's Choice and Other Romances." 

It celebrates a very special tree, a wild service tree. These are indicators of ancient Woodland and I would love to grow one in my garden.


She stood very straight but would not meet his eyes. "This is my sin."

            "What?" Haakon heard himself ask, wondering if he had misunderstood.

            "My sin. My vanity." She wrung her hands and clutched at her gown. "I was so proud to be the June Lady, but see! I tempted and sinned and now you…you have lost your home!"

            "You believe you caused those knights to hunt you?" He could not believe her folly. "They would have raped you if they had taken you away! That is their evil, not yours!"

            She looked up at him, her eyes bright with shimmering tears.

            "Never yours, my heart," he said, the endearment rising naturally to his lips. He wrenched his mind round from his rage at the knights and the church for making women feel they were the vessels of sin and sought a way to reassure her. In an instant, he had it. “Come with me.” He held out his hand.


            “Happily browsing hawthorn again. Come, Clare. I want you to see something; then you will understand.”

            She looked puzzled, her dark brows drawn in heavy bows over her eyes, but she slipped her narrow tanned fingers readily into his.

            This is madness, part of him complained, but he was too content to care. For months, he had dreamed of Clare and himself together, and now it had happened. "Only woodsmen know this place in the forest," he reassured her. "We shall move on in a few days, when the hunt for us grows slack. We have skills."

            "The other villagers?" she queried.

            "Father Peter will speak for them." Haakon refused to fret over men and women who had never accepted him. Not even knights would slay all their workers, for then they might have to sweat in the fields and bring in their own harvest. "They will be safe, I promise you."

            "It may be that we shall find an even better lord," Clare murmured, as if trying to console him still, a suspicion confirmed when she added, "and you will not miss the village?"

            "Where the women make the evil eye against me? No!" Haakon stopped on a narrow badger run and pointed to a tall, spreading tree with glossy, many-tongued leaves and a dazzle of fading white blossoms. "Look! Is this not a lovely thing?"

            Clare stared. "It is beautiful," she whispered. "The way the wind tumbles the leaves, and it rustles; the way the light shines through the leaves."

            "And is it sinful for that?"

            She gave him a narrow look beneath her dark lashes. "No. It is a tree."

            "And are its blossoms not adornments?" Haakon went on, warming to his theme. "And did God not make this tree and you?"

            "Sometimes you speak like a priest," Clare muttered, and she walked to the tree and laid her hand against its trunk. "I have never seen any like this before."

            Neither have I seen any like you, Haakon almost said, but the moment was too rare for courtly froth and folly. They were, even at this special moment, on the run for their lives. "It is a service tree. They are rare, even in large forests, and their fruits are proof against witches."

            "Last winter, you came to the barn where I sleep and hung a fruit from the lintel over the door," Clare recalled. "And you added more to our beer. It made a fine beer. I sent some to my mother at the lord's house, and she gave it to a maid who had the flux, and it cured her."

Lindsay Townsend.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Christmas in July. My Medieval Holiday Romances with Prairie Rose Publications

 For Christmas in July, here are four of my Medieval Historical Romances, published by Prairie Rose Publications. All are Free to Read with Kindle Unlimited.

The Snow Bride (THE KNIGHT AND THE WITCH 1): USA UK #EXCERPT #ChapterOne #REVIEW #FreereadKU #KindleUnlimited #HistoricalRomance #HolidayFiction #paperback

She is Beauty, but is he the Beast?

Medieval Knight Sir Magnus searches the land for kidnapped brides. Hideously scarred, he is finished with love, until he rescues the beautiful witch Elfrida, whose innocence ignites his passion.

Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure USA


What is the true treasure of Christmas?

Maggie’s younger brother, Michael, is kidnapped by outlaws, and it’s up to her to rescue him. Appealing to Sir Conrad, the grim steward of the northern English high lands, is the very last thing she wants to do. With the very real possibility that the outlaws know of Michael’s talent—the ability to open any lock, to reveal any treasure—Maggie races against time to find him before his usefulness to the outlaws is ended.

Sir Conrad desires Maggie from the minute he sees her—she makes him feel alive again—and that has not happened since the death of his wife. Though he hasn’t known Maggie before, a strange feeling of familiarity nags, and he agrees to aid the beautiful peasant girl in this quest of finding her brother.

Sir Baldwin and the Christmas Ghosts. 

99 cents



Ambitious and arrogant, the young knight Sir Baldwin returns to his family’s lands and estate at Brigthorpe to face disaster. The pestilence has struck, destroying his parents and all his family save for a young half-brother, Martin, whom Baldwin does not wish to acknowledge because Martin is the bastard child of a serf. Baldwin needs to learn kindness and how to be a lord–and quickly.

Into this hopeless situation comes Sofia, a young woman who can see glimpses of spirits, of the restless dead. These revenants are very restless around Sir Baldwin.

Somehow, Baldwin and Sofia must work together, to make a true Christmas for the survivors of Brigthorpe and the Christmas ghosts. Can they do so in time—or will the gulf of class and custom make any love between them impossible?

Carrie's Christmas Viking 

He was trapped and she freed him



0.77p UK

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Hunting. A Medieval Passion. Plus new Excerpt from "The Snow Bride"


                                            Hunting. A Medieval Passion.




Hunting in Anglo-Saxon England was a pastime for the rich. Spears, nets, horses, men and dogs were often needed.  Of the bigger hunted game, wild boar were extremely dangerous, most of all when cornered and brought to bay, but they were seen as worthy adversaries. The god Woden was a god of hunting and the god Frey rode a boar called Gullinbursti.


As a sport, hunting was mostly for the well off. However the forests were largely free for landowners and their people to gather wood, honey and fruit and to pasture animals. Rights to woodland, heath, moorland and wetlands were shared by all by ancient custom.


1066 and the conquest of England by the Normans saw a massive change in the law. King William appropriated huge tracts of land as hunting preserve—the New Forest being the most famous.  In such areas the law was forest law, a new import into England, and bitterly resented, being regarded as oppressive. All game was protected and reserved for the king and his nobles.  There were deer parks, enclosed stretches encircled by stakes and earthen banks, costly both to set up and to maintain. Breeding and training dogs for the chase were also expensive. Edward III spent about £80 a year (around £49,000 in modern money) keeping a pack of hounds of various types. Costumes for the hunt were often specially made and favourite hounds might have silver collars.


Hunting was frequently portrayed in art and in literature. The month of December was often shown in illuminations, symbolized by a deer or boar hunt.  In the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”  there are several hunting scenes, each vividly described.


With all this tasty food and opulent display, the nobles were keen to gain royal grants so they could also hunt on their lands. Although both lords and ladies hunted, tracking and killing large prey was seen as a form of single combat, man against beast, and a means to train young warriors for war. Because of this martial association priests were not supposed to hunt or hawk, although these strictures were often ignored.


Those less than noble despised the changes. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle complained that the Norman King William I  “set aside a vast deer preserve and imposed laws concerning it….Whoever slew a hart or hind should be made blind.”  On his death in 1087, the Chronicle broke into verse:

“For he loved the stags as dearly

As though he had been their father.”

The death of his son and successor, William Rufus,  within the New Forest, was seen by later chroniclers as divine punishment for driving so many off the land to accommodate the beasts of the chase.   


               In these circumstances it is perhaps not surprising that many folk turned to poaching in the woodland to eke out their diet and to defy the authorities. The fact these poachers were successful  is shown in the statue of 1390, which stated that any artificers, labourers or peasants with lands worth less than £10 a year (around £7000 in modern money) could not hunt deer, rabbit or hares. Still poaching went on—Robin Hood hunts in the greenwood as a gesture of defiance and to supply himself and his men with venison from captured deer. Perhaps it tasted particularly sweet?


Hunting could also be a cover for assassination – as is suspected in the death of William Rufus by way of a hunting “accident”. I used the same threat in my novel “The Snow Bride”, where the hero Magnus has to go hunting with his enemy, Denzil.




Out in the forest, Magnus glanced so often at the sun’s position that Gregory Denzil chaffed him. “Eager for the night, Magnus? That luscious redhead is a trophy, before God, and we all envy you!”

His men added more, which embarrassed even Mark and set Magnus’s guts grinding in slow fury. Keeping his countenance was easy. His scars meant most men had trouble guessing his mood. Except for Elfrida, of course, but she was unique.

“I remember you with that blonde from Antioch,” Denzil added, “but this new one is better.”

“Elfrida is not for sale,” Magnus repeated. He hated to sully her name by speaking it in such company, but Denzil and his men had to learn. He gripped his spear, a flash of memory returning him to Outremer as he saw in his mind’s eye a Templar screaming in agony as a spear passed through him. “Where is this rich game?” he demanded, snatching at any diversion and wishing only for the night. Elfrida in his arms again and him seducing her, kissing her in her most secret place...

He heard a faint click and creak behind him and knew at once it was a bow and arrow being readied and aimed. There was no game in the wastes and thickets of hazel ahead, so he must be the target.

Before he completed his conscious thought, he had reacted, dragging his left foot out of its stirrup and head-butting down into the snow, not considering the speed of his cantering horse or where he might land. Snow-crusted brambles snagged and broke his fall, and as he urged his flailing limbs to roll away, he felt the vane of the arrow score the top of his shoulder, where the middle of his back would have been.

“Maaagnusss! Areee yeee weeeeelllll?”

Gregory Denzil’s question crawled from his mouth as the world about Magnus slowed into thick honey. As his jaw crunched against a branch and threatened to loosen more teeth, he felt a trickle of blood run into his eye.

He compelled his sluggish body to sit up, a devil caught in a thicket. He knew he would make that picture, and he grinned, raising an arm to his men and yelling, “Hola! What a ride!”

Denzil and his mob nudged their horses closer. Mark had already leapt from his own with his hunting spear aimed at Denzil's throat. Magnus stood up, cursing with all the oaths of Outremer he could remember, and looked around him. His own men were honestly puzzled, while Denzil's wore expressions of studied innocence.

“Not a good time for archery practice,” he said. All good fun, all men together.

Denzil smiled thinly. “A fool, too eager for sport.”

“Indeed.” As an assassination attempt, Magnus rated it as poor to moderate, but Gregory Denzil had always been lazy. And in the clustered mass of hunters, he saw no skinny stranger with distinctive rings.

“Time to go on?” he asked, knowing if he suggested it, Denzil would say the opposite, which he did.

“We go back.”



Thursday, 18 November 2021

Perfect Winter, Christmas and New Year Reads


Read of a knight & a witch & their descendants in 3 wonderful romances! All #freeread with #KindleUnlimited & in #paperback!

She is Beauty, but is he the Beast?











Sunday, 10 October 2021

The Snow Bride is a Featured Romance Title at Book of the Day!

 My "The Snow Bride" is featured as a #Romance  BOOK OF THE DAY  at the Book of the Day Website!

#Excerpt #blurb and #bookdetails here:

Please go see.

The Snow Bride: Historical Romance Novel, FREEread with KindleUnlimited.

The novel is very exquisitely written, showing great depth of character and a well thought out plot line. The characters themselves are gorgeously written and vivid, making them seem almost lifelike in spots. The Snow Bride is a fantastic story for romance lovers everywhere. Night Owl Reviews 4.5 Stars

She is Beauty, but is he the Beast?

In a dark and snowy northern winter, a  wounded crusader warrior and a witch join forces to rescue missing brides from a dangerous necromancer. Dare they also fall in love?

TwoLips Reviews Five Lips, Recommended Read. I was completely enraptured by The Snow Bride. It's the best story I've read in quite some time.  – Mac

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Love and Letters. New Medieval Historical Romance Anthology. 77p/99cents

 Two romantic medieval tales and a retold Christmas favourite, now reissued in one volume:

Amazon UK

Amazon Com 


"I Command you to marry the bearer of this letter."

Lady Alice Martinswood has no choice but to obey her dead father’s final instruction. His choice is his champion, the mercenary Simon Paton. To Alice, the handsome, arrogant Simon is a dangerous, seductive stranger.

Bewitched in turn by Alice, Simon is appalled when he discovers that Alice’s father disowned Henrietta, her younger sister, when Henrietta fell in love and eloped. Simon promises Alice that he will help her find her sister.

Still having nightmares after witnessing the sack of Constantinople, Simon misunderstands Alice’s tears of joy on their wedding night. Swearing not to hurt her again, he decides he must not touch her—a promise he finds impossible to keep, especially when Alice vows to beguile him…

Meanwhile Simon and Alice trace Henrietta to medieval London, wandering together through the perilous, exciting streets. Will they find Henrietta? Will they find true love with each other?


Recovering from a brutal marriage, Esther is living quietly as a widow when a letter from her brother Sir Stephen destroys her contented life. Stephen orders her to marry Sir Henry—but who is this “Plain Harry” and how will he treat her?

Set in medieval England in a time when women had few rights, this story shows how love can flourish in the unlikeliest of places and between the unlikeliest of people.


Handsome, confident, a touch arrogant, Prince Orlando thinks that now he has found Sleeping Beauty, his kiss will wake her at once. When it does not, he realizes he has much to learn about life, and love.

Princess Rosie, trapped in her enchanted sleep, dreams of a mysterious man. Is he a rescuer, or a nightmare? Will he find her letters to him? She must fight to recover herself, and all before Christmas, for time is running out.