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is a 164,180-word novel by Michael J.
Eardley set in the period of English history 1304-1369. Actual events
encompassed are Bannockburn, the removal of Edward II from the throne, the
origins of the 100 Years War with France, Crecy, the Black Death, and
Poitiers. Historical realities are woven with and into the lives of the North
Staffordshire Barons of Audley, their enemies, their friends and relations,
and their retainers (including the Eardleys!)
narrative is flashbacks, two lengthy, and one short, through the memories of
the main female character, Eve de Clavering.
by the age of twenty-one, she had no children in wedlock, but five by her
lover in a twenty-year relationship without the blessing of law or priest.
her loverís death, she married once more, in later middle age. Her eldest
son, James Audley, although illegitimate, became a favourite of Edward III and
his son, the Black Prince, a founder member of the Garter Knights, and hero of
the cavalry charge which routed the French at the battle of Poitiers in 1356.
was remarkable for her times, living to be 76, when the average life-span was
48. She died in September 1369, the same month and year as her celebrated son.
He died in France, where he had risen to the title of Seneschal of Poitou.
This coincidence provides the climax for the novel, and explains the title, LETTER
of the letter sparks off recollections, which form the text of the novel.
a financial and dynastic pawn of her fatherís social and political
ambitions, heiress Eve suffered two loveless marriages, the first when she was
the prospect of a third, she used secretly acquired information, asserted her
growing confidence, and blackmailed her scheming father into allowing her to
pursue her own agenda. She revived a childhood friendship with James Audley
senior, her first husbandís cousin. Defying convention (and partly to retain
her inherited fortunes!), the pair lived together for two decades, through
some of the most turbulent events of the 14th Century.
the plot, James played a significant, but hidden, role in the assassination of
Piers Gaveston, Edward IIís homosexual lover. Guilt plagued Jamesí
conscience, and Eve lost him to a fever contracted on a penitential pilgrimage
and socially independent, Eve used all her influence to further her sonsí
careers: she was acutely aware of their status as bastards. As a result, both
young men flourished in the martial atmosphere of Edward IIIís attempts to
seize the French throne.
follows the sweep of history through the personal observations of the
characters and uses the device that Eve has been telling her lifeís story to
the nuns at the Abbey to which she retreated in old age.
the characters, except for minor ones, are real. They were born, lived, and
died, at the places shown in the novel, or the subsequent historical notes.
necessity, the dialogue and some of the motives and actions are fictitious.
There are feuds, murders, ancient family curses, intrigues, sex, battles, and
local interest, much of the action takes place in North Staffordshire: the
Audleysí seat was Heleigh Castle, between Audley and Betley. Local family
names (including the Eardleys) and places crop up throughout the story, yet
the plot is also well-traveled: Scotland, France, and Spain. Some of the
centuryís bloodiest battles are visited.
the language style is Modern English Ė as if it were translated from a
foreign tongue. The combined Old English, Norman French, and secular Latin
would indeed sound alien if we were able to visit those times, hence the
Intrigued? View a sample chapter here