Category : Historical Fiction

Faltal Rivalry by Mercedes Rochelle

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Fatal Rivalry is the third book of The Last Great Saxon Earls historical fiction series by Mercedes Rochelle.

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Blurb

In 1066, the rivalry between two brothers brought England to its knees. When Duke William of Normandy landed at Pevensey on September 28, 1066, no one was there to resist him. King Harold Godwineson was in the north, fighting his brother Tostig and a fierce Viking invasion. How could this have happened? Why would Tostig turn traitor to wreak revenge on his brother?
The Sons of Godwine were not always enemies. It took a massive Northumbrian uprising to tear them apart, making Tostig an exile and Harold his sworn enemy. And when 1066 came to an end, all the Godwinesons were dead except one: Wulfnoth, hostage in Normandy. For two generations, Godwine and his sons were a mighty force, but their power faded away as the Anglo-Saxon era came to a close




A Word from the Author

Author Mercedes Rochelle pictureTo many, the name Tostig and Traitor are synonymous. But it was the sibling rivalry between Tostig and Harold that set up the circumstances leading to Stamford Bridge—and of course, put Harold in the wrong place at the wrong time when William landed at Pevensey. It was Harold’s break with Tostig that led directly to the Norman Conquest. Volume Three takes us through the last fateful two years before the Battle of Hastings then beyond, as the last surviving brother Wulfnoth spends the rest of his life in honorable captivity.

What went wrong between Harold and Tostig? While Edward the Confessor lived, they were both powerful earls—Harold in the south and Tostig in the north. But the Northumbrians were a troublesome lot, and in 1065 they rose up in rebellion, slaughtering all of Tostig’s housecarls and demanding his outlawry. It was Harold’s task to bring the rebels around, but he failed in his mission and Tostig held him responsible, swearing revenge as he left the country in disgrace. When King Edward died and Harold took the crown, he had to face the wrath of Duke William of Normandy and another invader: Harald Hardrada, egged on by the vengeful Tostig.

As with volume two, this book is written from the points of view of the Sons of Godwine. Tostig had his reasons for what he did, and only from his lips can we really understand what drove him to his fatal clash with his royal brother.

(Mercedes Rochelle, June 2017)

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The Sons of Godwine by Mercedes Rochelle

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The Sons of Godwine is the second book of The Last Great Saxon Earls historical fiction series by Mercedes Rochelle.

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Blurb

Emerging from the long shadow cast by his formidable father, Harold Godwineson showed himself to be a worthy successor to the Earldom of Wessex. In the following twelve years, he became the King’s most trusted advisor, practically taking the reins of government into his own hands. And on Edward the Confessor’s death, Harold Godwineson mounted the throne—the first king of England not of royal blood. Yet Harold was only a man, and his rise in fortune was not blameless. Like any person aspiring to power, he made choices he wasn’t particularly proud of. Unfortunately, those closest to him sometimes paid the price of his fame.

This is a story of Godwine’s family as told from the viewpoint of Harold and his younger brothers. Queen Editha, known for her Vita Ædwardi Regis, originally commissioned a work to memorialize the deeds of her family, but after the Conquest historians tell us she abandoned this project and concentrated on her husband, the less dangerous subject. In THE SONS OF GODWINE and FATAL RIVALRY, I am telling the story as it might have survived had she collected and passed on the memoirs of her tragic brothers.

This book is part two of The Last Great Saxon Earls series. Book one, GODWINE KINGMAKER, depicted the rise and fall of the first Earl of Wessex who came to power under Canute and rose to preeminence at the beginning of Edward the Confessor’s reign. Unfortunately, Godwine’s misguided efforts to champion his eldest son Swegn recoiled on the whole family, contributing to their outlawry and Queen Editha’s disgrace. Their exile only lasted one year and they returned victorious to London, though it was obvious that Harold’s career was just beginning as his father’s journey was coming to an end.

Harold’s siblings were all overshadowed by their famous brother; in their memoirs we see remarks tinged sometimes with admiration, sometimes with skepticism, and in Tostig’s case, with jealousy. We see a Harold who is ambitious, self-assured, sometimes egocentric, imperfect, yet heroic. His own story is all about Harold, but his brothers see things a little differently. Throughout, their observations are purely subjective, and witnessing events through their eyes gives us an insider’s perspective.

Harold was his mother’s favorite, confident enough to rise above petty sibling rivalry but Tostig, next in line, was not so lucky. Harold would have been surprised by Tostig’s vindictiveness, if he had ever given his brother a second thought. And that was the problem. Tostig’s love/hate relationship with Harold would eventually destroy everything they worked for, leaving the country open to foreign conquest. This subplot comes to a crisis in book three of the series, FATAL RIVALRY.




A Word from the Author

Author Mercedes Rochelle pictureThe early history of the Godwinessons has pretty much been lost to us. You could almost derive their whole known story from the last fifteen years of Harold’s life. We know little early history about his siblings either, until Godwine’s exile in 1051 (except for the troublesome Swegn, whose exploits are covered in Godwine Kingmaker). But of course, we do know the basics: Harold became Earl of East Anglia by 1045, and shortly thereafter he married a great beauty, the wealthy Edith Swanneck. It’s assumed he married her to curry favor with the local nobility, but it’s also assumed theirs was a love match.

So what was it like to become a great Earl to an unproven man about 23 years old? How did Harold come to acquire such unswerving loyalty? These are the things I wrestled with in trying to flesh out this interesting character. And it must not be forgotten that Harold married his Edith more danico—in the Danish manner, what we now call handfasted—which left him free to take a Christian wife if policy dictated it, which indeed it did when he became king. Most historians thought that Edith was probably a daughter of a wealthy Thegn, but I also stumbled across speculation that she might have been a rich widow. This appealed to me, because I could imagine that her current wealth might have been more attractive to an aspiring earl rather than future inheritance. No one knows for sure—we don’t even know who her father was.

We know virtually nothing about Tostig before he became Earl of Northumbria in 1055. What did he do while waiting for an earldom to drop into his lap? He did get married to the sister of Earl Baldwin of Flanders—a handy ally to nobles in exile. It was during their wedding celebration that Godwine was summoned from Bosham to London to deal with the incident at Dover. I believe that Tostig’s relationship with Harold, although probably plagued with sibling rivalry, didn’t flare into full-fledged hostility until the Northumbrian uprising in 1065 (in Fatal Rivalry).

(Mercedes Rochelle, June 2017)

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Godwine Kingmaker by Mercedes Rochelle

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Godwine Kingmaker is the first book of The Last Great Saxon Earls historical fiction series by Mercedes Rochelle.

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Blurb

Harold Godwineson, the Last Anglo-Saxon King, owed everything to his father. Who was this Godwine, first Earl of Wessex and known as the Kingmaker? Was he an unscrupulous schemer, using King and Witan to gain power? Or was he the greatest of all Saxon Earls, protector of the English against the hated Normans? The answer depends on who you ask. He was befriended by the Danes, raised up by Canute the Great, given an Earldom and a wife from the highest Danish ranks. He sired nine children, among them four Earls, a Queen and a future King. Along with his power came a struggle to keep his enemies at bay, and Godwine’s best efforts were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son Swegn. Although he became father-in-law to a reluctant Edward the Confessor, his fortunes dwindled as the Normans gained prominence at court. Driven into exile, Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his second son Harold was destined to surpass him in renown and glory.




A Word from the Author

Author Mercedes Rochelle pictureThe year 2016 was quietly celebrated by medieval historians, for it marked the 1000th anniversary of King Canute’s coronation. This powerful Danish conqueror is mostly known for failing to command the ocean waves, and few stop to realize that the Vikings ruled England for almost forty years. This same anniversary saw the rise to power of Godwine—son of a Thegn in exile who threw in his lot with the invaders. Although our sources are few and far between, they tell us just enough to piece together the story of a great man’s spectacular rise to power. He became the first Earl of Wessex, the wealthiest man in the country and the father of a king: Harold Godwineson, the last Saxon monarch before the Norman Conquest. Godwine’s daughter Editha became queen and four more sons grew up to be earls.

Harold was not the eldest—in fact, he was second in line. The first, Swegn, was born under a cloud, begat in conflict and unloved by his mother who resented being forced into a marriage beneath her station. The Danish Gytha eventually reconciled and learned to love Godwine, but her feelings never changed toward her firstborn. Godwine tried to make up the difference, but Swegn turned out badly, and Godwine’s best efforts to ensure his family’s fortunes were brought down by the misdeeds of his eldest son.

Once Edward the Confessor became king—with Godwine’s help—the Norman faction rose to prominence and the old Saxon ways began to fade. Harried by the Normans who contrived his exile, Godwine walked a fine line between the demands of his peers and the needs of his family. His enemies won—for a short time—but Godwine regathered his forces and came back even stronger, only to discover that his son Harold had bypassed him in popularity, and looked destined to surpass him in renown and glory.

(Mercedes Rochelle, June 2017)

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Other Book in the Same Series

The Last Great Saxon Earls

Front Cover The Sons of Godwine - The Last Great Saxon Earls 2 by Mercedes Rochelle  front cover Faltal Rivalry - The Last Great Saxon Earls 3 by Mercedes Rochelle

 

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