Just in time for Saint Patrick's Day, we have an Irish treat for historical fiction fans! The Wenches are pleased to welcome back the amazing Karen Harper, whose newest historical fiction release, THE IRISH PRINCESS, is now out in trade paperback from NAL. Deeply researched and as fascinating as all of Karen's books, this tale of Irishwoman Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Queen Elizabeth I's court is, according to Publishers Weekly, a "skillfully fleshed-out tale of an adventurous young woman coming-of-age inside a court constantly on edge."
Here's what Karen has to say about THE IRISH PRINCESS:
It was partly a trip to Ireland and partly my stumbling on an intriguing woman while I was researching another book that pointed my way to my latest Tudor-era historical novel, THE IRISH PRINCESS. My husband and I had a wonderful trip to Ireland several years ago. Although I am an Anglophile at heart and am a product of English and Scottish heritage (I even did Scottish Highland Dancing for years), I fell in love with Ireland and the Irish.
Of course we did all the usual stops: kissed the Blarney stone—all authors are, of necessity, full of blarney. We visited Cardiff Castle, did the Ring of Kerry, and
toured old Dublin town where I walked into a bookstore that actually carried my books. But at that time, although I looked for an Irish heroine as a hook for a book, I didn’t find one.
But later when I was researching Queen Elizabeth I’s ladies-in-waiting for THE QUEEN’S GOVERNESS, I stumbled on the fact she had a long-time Irish friend, a celebrated beauty, at that. The poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, had written a poem extolling ‘the Fair Geraldine,’ a woman named Elizabeth (nickname Gera) Fitzgerald, whose family had been called “the uncrowned kings of Ireland” and had been brutally ruined by King Henry VIII.
What gives, I thought. Elizabeth Tudor mistrusted the Irish. Beautiful women around her (and another redhead!) always made her nervous. Was this another example of the unspoken Tudor practice that, if a powerful family threatens your throne, kill off the men and keep the women close so you can keep an eye on them?
But then I found what I call “a telling detail” about the these two Elizabeths. The queen once sent Gera Fitzgerald to the Tower for ‘plainspeaking to the queen.’ Yet Gera was released almost immediately and was back in the queen’s good graces. Stranger yet, at least once, Gera commanded a ship which captured pirates who were taking French ships and giving the queen a bad name.
Aha, I had to write a book about this Irish woman, the “uncrowned princess of Ireland.” What a dynamic woman she must have been. And to top it off, I found she had a bittersweet romance (yes, with a happy ending, a sine qua non for me) with a dashing, swashbuckling English hero, Edward Clinton, the Lord High Admiral of the English Navy. Look out Johnny Depp!
But research wasn’t easy. I had to “find” Gera in books about other people. With the exception of her once hated rival and later longtime friend Elizabeth Tudor, I discovered Gera’s story through reading about the men whose lives she touched: her husband, her father and her brother whose rebellion brought the wrath of the Tudors down on her family and Ireland.
Of course, I’m writing faction, basing the book on fact but fictionalizing what I cannot find. But I believe I stayed true to the real woman, and I was pleased to see that Gera’s defiant face on the cover of THE IRISH PRINCESS is very close to her extant portraits. Please check out more about Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the Irish Princess on my website www.KarenHarperAuthor.com. And happy historical reading!
** Karen is giving away a copy of THE IRISH PRINCESS to a winner chosen at random from among those who leave comments! Be sure to post to this blog — you'll be entered to win!