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Monday, January 24, 2022

Why the Middle Ages Fascinate Me - by Lindsay Townsend

I write historical romances set in the ancient world and the Middle Ages, especially the Middle Ages. Why then?


The Middle Ages covers a huge period of time in the western world, from AD 300 - the rise of the Roman emperor Constantine and the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire - until the 14th century. This gives lots of scope.

It was a time when religion played a crucial part in people’s lives. The clash of the spiritual and practical was very real. That clash is shown most clearly in the history of the Crusades, when men, women and even children left their homes to travel to the Near East to ‘win’ the holy city of Jerusalem. The motives of such people were mixed and varied, so that mix of emotions - the profound, the greedy, the opportunistic, the generous - fascinate me as a writer. 

I touch upon the impact that the Crusades and contact with the Arab world had on men and women in "The Snow Bride " and "A Summer Bewitchment."

The Middle Ages was a time very different to our own, with different beliefs: a pig could be put on trial for witchcraft, a man would be made to prove his innocence by clasping a red-hot iron bar, a woman would be told by the church that she was inferior to her husband and yet still be expected to defend his castle. Alchemy and chemistry were one and the same. The contrast in ideas between then and now fascinate me and I like to show them at work in my romances. 

This was the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine's court of love, of Geoffroi de Charny’s ‘A Knight’s Own Book of Chivalry’ - a how-to book for knights - and Christine de Pizan’s ‘City of Ladies’ - a defense by a woman writer of her own sex. It was a time of the Viking sagas, of troubadours and the chronicles, of many rich and varied sources of information. It was a time of jousts and tournaments, where ladies gave favours and knights vied for honour - jousts I describe in my "Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure".

KindleEbook here 

But the Vikings came from the north to pillage and kill and burn, even if at times they also came to

settle, as I show in my "The Viking and the Pictish Princess". 

Kindle Ebook here

Later the Black Death came, too, a plague - or series of plagues - that killed almost a third of Europe.

The  survivors were traumatized but also had new chances to prosper, something I explore in  "Dark Maiden".

Kindle Ebook here 

The Middle Ages had many decisive battles that changed the course of history - Hastings, Agincourt,

Poitiers, Crécy amongst them. I explore the social influences of such wars in my stories such as "Mistress Angel".

Kindle Ebook here 

I write romances in which the history serves the hero and heroine and the impact of that history is shown through their lives. I enjoy cooking and the foodstuffs available in the Middle Ages are both similar to ours and yet very different - a difference I explore and exploit when I make a medieval cook one of my heroes in my novel "The Master Cook and the Maiden".  

Kindle Ebook here 

In the end, the Middle Ages gives me a wonderful backdrop for adventure, high stakes, courtly knights and beastly ones, generous ladies and cruel damsels, peril, good and horrible manners and amazing costumes.

I love the Middle Ages.

Lindsay Townsend


  1. I can see the attraction as your books cover such a wide array of places and plots. That far back in past seems almost dystopian at times, with rights held by only the strongest until a challenger takes all.

  2. I do like the challenger takes all, Christine! Thanks for reading and commenting

  3. From your post, I can see why you're attracted to the period. So different from current times, the research must be fascinating. And so many unusual details to inspire stories. Interesting post.

  4. Love your blog and look forward to more. I was a voracious reader of historicals set in England, France and Italy and knew all the rulers and their place in history. Somehow, when my babies started coming along, there was no more time for reading. I love books set in medieval times. One thing I've learned from all my reading is human nature never changes down through the centuries, only thee window-dressing changes. You have an amazing array of books that I would love to read because I love the period you and Deborah write in and bring those times so vividly to life.

  5. Agreed, Ann. The interesting detail to me is often a trigger for stories and the Middle Ages have so many!
    Thanks so much, Elizabeth! I agree with you about human nature - and the past gives witers such scope to explore it, within different times.

  6. I love your books written in the Middle Ages. THE SNOW BRIDE is still my favorite. The Middle Ages time period was a fascinating historical time, but I wouldn't want to live in those times: no antibiotics or sterile procedures, women were considered property, and people weren't exactly hygienic. LOL
    All the same, I liked the castles, the fashions, the knights, and the quests. You always write such interesting characters, especially the women who are healers who use herbs and natural ingredients, and the heroes who may not be handsome, but are of sound character and loving hearts.

  7. It is an endlessly fascinating time. So rich and full of stories for a writer and lover of history to draw upon. I can see why you love it, as do I. Doris