Roses Around The Door

RosesNicola here. Today I’m looking at roses, literally out of my study window and also as a historical symbol. It’s that time of the year in the UK when the rose is in full bloom. It’s a sign of summer and the sight of roses growing around a cottage door (or window) is one of the quintessential images of an English country village.

The rose is also a symbol of a lot of other things: A red rose is for romance, of course, whilst 300px-Plucking_the_Red_and_White_Roses _by_Henry_Payneinnocence or purity is symbolized by the white rose, friendship with yellow roses and passion with orange.  I’m currently writing a book set in the 15th century during the period known now as “The Wars of the Roses” although this term wasn’t coined until the 19th century. The red and white roses were of course said to be the rival emblems of the aristocratic houses of York and Lancaster. In Shakespeare's play Henry VI rival nobles plucked them from bushes in the Temple Gardens, as depicted in this painting by Henry Payne. The different roses are the perfect embodiment of the antagonism each side had for the other, with the thorns and the red for the blood spilled in the conflict.

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About Chalice of Roses

Cor Jo here, talking about the anthology Chalice of Roses, which has stories about the Grail.

The reviews have been great, including this one from Library Journal. "Based on legends surrounding the mystical Holy Grail, this quartet
sweeps readers across time periods with emotionally compelling, often
lyrically written tales of courage, sacrifice, love—and roses. A young
woman of ancient lineage is destined to bring peace to 12th-century
England when she finds her protector, and together they call forth the
chalice in Beverley’s “The Raven and the Rose”; a Guardian must use her
powers to keep the Grail safe during World War II in Mary Jo Putney’s
“The White Rose of Scotland”; a debutante is charged with keeping the
Grail out of Napoleon’s grasp in Karen Harbaugh’s charming “The English
Rose: Miss Templar and the Holy Grail”; and an American grad student
studying in England becomes involved in a strange fey tale involving
the Grail in Barbara Samuel’s “Eternal Rose.” VERDICT: This beautifully
crafted anthology by some of the genre’s best is graced with flawless
writing, touches of humor, and magical, creative plots.

I'll start with a bit of history — business history. Most romance anthologies are put together by an in-house editor. There's a theme or link and she then looks for writers to do the novellas. (A novella is a story of about 10-20,000 words, though they can be longer.) I have to say that sometimes the blend of stories doesn't make a lot of sense, and sometimes the stories don't stick tightly to the theme.Ifmmpb

In SF&F, a writer or two invite submissions and select stories, and generally their vision of the collection is stronger, as with another anthology I'm involved with — Songs of Love and Death, edited by Gardner Dorzois and George R R Martin, whose names will be on the cover when it eventually comes out. The SF&F people are often bewildered by the romance genre system and keep asking why the editor isn't named. If you click on the cover of Irresistible Forces you'll see the editor, Catherine Asaro, named.

So, some years ago, four romance writers had an idea for a collection of linked novellas and decided to put it together themselves and then sell it. Thus was born Faery Magic. A few years later they did Dragon Lovers, and now, Chalice of Roses. The author are Barbara Samuel, Karen Harbaugh, and two of the Wenches — myself and Mary Jo.

I asked the other members of the Faery Four contributors to give me a short description of the historical basis for their story.

KarenHarbaugh Karen Harbaugh

Whose story is set in the Regency. "As with most conquerors, Napoleon Bonaparte sought to maximize his power in whatever way he could.  Whether he believed  the Holy Grail and the Spear of Destiny had actual powers or not is not precisely known, but what is certain is that the city fathers of Nuremburg, Germany were terrified that Napoleon would seize the Spear when he marched his armies toward that city in 1796, and so sent it out of his way, and that after the Battle of Austerlitz in the winter of 1805, Napoleon did indeed seek to get his hands on it, but it was smuggled out of the city and he did not succeed.  Napoleon's conquest of Italy actually brought the "emerald" grail (there is more than one, apparently) into his hands, but it turned out to be Egyptian glass and broke (could it be that someone substituted a glass cup for the real thing?)  I like to think that my hero, William Marstone, had a part in smuggling them into England, but the Spear and
the Grail seem to have a habit of appearing wherever it might affect the course of human events."

You can read an excerpt by clicking here.

Maryjophotosm160 Mary Jo Putney

Whose story is set in WW II. "There is a metaphysical tradition that says Hitler was fascinated by  ancient artifacts of power, and that he sent his people to search for such  items so he could use that power.  INDIANA JONES AND THE RAIDERS OF THE  LOST ARK uses that tradition, with the Ark of the Covenant as the object,  while INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE goes after the Grail itself.  

So, since we were doing a Grail themed anthology and the Nazis make such  resonant villains, I decided to use World War II as a setting.  Other  historical bits I threw in were Rosslyn Chapel; a Canadian tradition of  Grail connections in the area of Halifax (that courtesy of Jo!);–and why did  Rudolf
Hess, deputy fuhrer of the Third Reich, really fly  to Scotland, claiming he wanted to negotiate for peace with the Duke of  Hamilton?  History has such lovely material to play with! 

I used the world developed while I wrote my Guardian trilogy because I  wanted an excuse to return there.  The World War II research was  interesting, and also tricky because it's within living memory.  In fact,  after I turned the story in, I wrote a blog on the research:  It was great fun!"

You can read an excerpt by clicking here.

Barbara Barbara Samuel

Whose story is set in the present day. "The historical pins in Eternal Rose came from my fascination with the old epic poem The Romance and the Rose, in which a rake is turned into a rose bya jealous fairy.  I've always loved the period of courtly poetry–forbidden love and bargains made by lovers, and secret trysts.  The setting of a small village in England comes from visits we make to my partner's mum's house in southern England, where there is a field I walk, and the tree that stands in the middle of it.  A white horse lives close by, and it all feels tremendously ancient and enchanted.  My story is contemporary, but in mood draws heavily from the period of courtly love."

You can read an excerpt by clicking here.

And now me.

Whose story is set in the middle ages. "As the Grail is strongly connected with war and peace, I set my story among one of England's civil wars, the period in the 12th century called The Anarchy. Henry I, whose early reign features in some of my medievals, had a son and heir, but the young man was tragically lost in a shipwreck when returning from France. Despite his attempts to beget another son, in the end he compelled his barons to swear to support the succession of his daughter, Matilda. The trouble was, she was married to a foreign prince, so when the time came most of the barons supported the rival claimant, Stephen of Blois, who was at least a man. Thus began war, chaos, and suffering which in the end the Grail is summoned to end.

In my research I discovered that the term grail wasn't used for the
holy cup at this time — it was still a common word for a dish — and
so in my story it's the Graal, an interestingly pre-Christian term connected to the Horn of Plenty."

You can read an excerpt by clicking here.

So as you see, we all have a different take on this deeply rooted mythical story.

…four formidable authors stretch their imaginations…each unique voice
calls upon historical incidents and paranormal elements to contribute to an anthology
that lifts the human spirit.
” 4 1/4 stars, Top Pick! Kathe Robins Romantic Times Book Club

The book has been out for a few weeks, and if you've read it we'd love your comments.

What does "the Grail" mean to you? Do you connect it most strongly to the Christian element of the cup used at the Last Supper, or is it a more general mystical entity?

What are your favorite Grail-related stories, in print or screen?

Do you enjoy anthologies, and do you prefer them to have a fairly tight theme?

We'll be picking four winners from among the comments on this blog and each will get a copy of Chalice of Roses from one of us, so have at it!Davyhead

Jo — and Davy.