My second blog

     Welcome to my second blog.  I had a very interesting chat recently at the Historical Fiction On-line forum, and several people mentioned one of my books as a particular favorite.  This got me to thinking.  I’d love to know which of my books is the most popular with my readers.  (I have a suspicion, but I don’t want to influence the vote.)  So if some of you would like to tell me your preferences, I promise to reveal my own favorite of my books in my next blog–deal?

     I am always curious about the reading habits of others.  Do most of you prefer historical fiction?  Any particular time period?  Obviously I am obsessed with the MA, but I am also fascinated with Ancient Rome.  I think Steven Saylor’s novels are wonderful and I enjoyed Colleen McCullough’s six book series about the end of the Roman Republic.  I have not yet read her novel about Antony and Cleopatra; any one recommend it?   I also enjoy reading about Egypt, be it Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody series or Michelle Moran’s books about Nefertiti.  What about medieval mysteries?  I am a huge fan of Margaret Frazer, who writes two excellent mystery series set in 15th century England.  In the interest of full disclosure, she is a long-time friend, but I’d enjoy her work even if she’d kidnapped my dog–she is that good.  I can also recommend Sharan Newman, Alan Gordon, and Priscilla Royal, just to name a few of my favorites.  And for historical sagas like mine, naturally Elizabeth Chadwick comes to mind.  If some of you have your own favorites to share, please do join the discussion.  I think the best way to discover new writers is by word of mouth.

October 26, 2008

PS  I am sorry to report that Devil’s Brood’s appearance on the New York Times bestseller list was as fleeting as a shooting star.  FWIW, Time and Chance clung like a barnacle to the list for three weeks, and yet I think Devil’s Brood is the better book.

92 Responses to “My second blog”

  1. Linda Says:

    Hi Sharon, I’m so glad you have developed a blog site. Re. my favorite of your books, it’s hard to pick just one. And like so many others, I really liked Here Be Dragons; but I must also mention Sunne in Splendour because of its impact on my thinking — I became a huge fan of Richard III, searching out and reading other novels sympathic to him, and deploring the picture that had been created by Shakespeare.

    Besides Sharon Kay Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick, other favorite historical fiction authors include Bernard Cornwell and Diana Norman. And, interestingly enough, a couple of favorite medieval mysteries are the two books she wrote under the name Arianna Franklin - Mystery of the Art of Death, and The Serpent’s Tale.

  2. Daphne Says:

    My favorite without a doubt is Here Be Dragons - it’s not only my favorite books of yours, but one of my all time favs. I generally read historical fiction and associated non-fiction/biographies (mostly about medieval England but I’ve been trying to expand my horizons a little bit!).

  3. Susan Says:

    I also loved Here Be Dragons, I’m re-reading Time and Chance as an introduction to Devil’s Brood. I can’t wait to get into Devil’s Brood which is sitting on my shelf patiently waiting.

    I’m a big fan of Amazon’s ereader, the Kindle. I was thrilled to see that the Sunne in Splendor was released in Kindle format, but would love to get the rest of your books in Kindle format also, especially the Welsh trilogy. Any chance of that happening shortly, especially as they are being re-released in trade paperback format?

  4. Kelly Says:

    Well … should be working … but, who can resist Sharon Kay Penman?!?l

    I have read all your books w/ the exception of The Devil’s Brood (and it’s coming up soon - I’m currently in the 1130’s w/ Elizabeth Chadwick’s Place Beyond Courage, working my way through the centuries, for at least the 2nd time!).

    Like everyone, I have enjoyed each and every one of your books. But, in the same way you can’t have just one favorite pet or child, nor can there be just one “favorite” Penman book. Each in its own way is “the best,” even those that make me weep, i.e., Falls the Shadow …

    But the one that holds a special place in my heart is When Christ & His Saints Slept. For one thing, this is the first of your books that I read (on an earlier trip through English history) and therefore it holds a sentimental place in my heart. Also, it taught me *so* much … prior to this book, I didn’t know much of English history prior to Henry II & Eleanor. So to have a glimpse of Henry as a boy, and then as a young man; to be handed such a clear understanding of the Civil War and to have the war-torn, worn-out, beat-down England he inherited so vividly portrayed was enthralling! I also adore the title! (You really get high marks for the titles of your books - most clever!)

    As for another historical mystery series - when I’m not gnashing my teeth waiting for Justin deQuincy, I’m fretting because there is not yet another Sir Robert Carey mystery by P.F. Chisholm (aka Patricia Finney). If you have not read her Sir Robert Carey books (set on the English/Scottish border during the latter years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign), I highly recommend them. They are witty, full of life and adventure, peppered with a wonderful cast of characters and laugh-out-loud funny at times.

    Take care of yourself and I look forward to reading future blog entries!

  5. Amanda Says:

    Favorite - Here Be Dragons
    Extremely Close Second Favorite - Sunne in Splendour (turned me into a devoted Ricardian)

  6. mike ryan Says:

    Sharon, I’m a new reader and its disappointing that Devil’s Brood hasn’t found an audience, yet. I purchased all three books in the triology and enjoyed each immensely. My only criticism, one of history, is that all these books have sad endings! I have just finished Sunne in Spleandor and, after making me like Richard III so much, he gets killed! (along with alot of other good people) If only history could be changed. But then we wouldn’t have Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, et al. Just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed these books and will be headed to the local Barnes & Noble to pick more of your past work.

  7. Kristen Lindquist Says:

    Hi Sharon, Although I first read and fell in love with your Welsh trilogy, when I read the Sunne in Splendor it quickly became my all-time favorite of your books. I am an all-time diehard fan of Eleanor of Aquitaine and have read everything I can find about her, including your Justin de Quincy mysteries, so was thrilled to be able to finally read Devil’s Brood–even though it’s so tragic. You can’t make that stuff up! For other historical fiction, I too have enjoyed Margaret Frazer and Stephen Saylor, as well as a King Tut-era series of Egyptian mysteries by Linda Robinson and Candace Robb’s Owen Archer series. And someone else mentioned Bernard Cornwell, I believe. Thank you and be well.

  8. Bea Mohr Says:

    I must say my favorite is “Here Be Dragons”. I think that the whole story is so wondefully told. You feel that you are there and that you are just watching these people from across the room. For my 20th Aniversery my husband is taking me to Wales. We have been on the Princes of Gwynedd in North Wales website and plan on staying in the area and doing all the day tours.
    “Sunne in Splendor” is a close second. I stood in York a year ago and thought about the old city wall with the pikes and the heads on top of them. I hope that the movie deal comes thru…

  9. Leigh Says:

    Hi Sharon
    I’m joining the votes for Here Be Dragons. I have read all of your books many many many times and this trilogy is my favourite although I first discovered your work through The Sunne in Splendour, so that one will always be a favourite too.
    I think Here Be Dragons is a fan favourite as most of us probably never knew anything about Joanna or Llewelyn before and we all fell in love with them.
    I was first introduced to your books 20 years ago by my history teacher who was impressed by your attention to accuracy without letting it get in the way of a good story.
    I actually don’t like other historical fiction - it annoys me because I just compare it to your work and find it lacking! I enjoy Philippa Gregory’s books but think they can only be loosely classed as ‘historical’ - the history graduate in me gets irritated with the historical liberties taken.

  10. Jessica Says:

    Hi Sharon and fellow fans,
    I have loved every single one of your books since I discovered them in high school. It is hard to pick a favourite but I would go with When Christ and His Saints Slept. I think I especially like that, in many ways, the book does not have a clear-cut hero (at least not until the maturity of Henry II). Both Maud and Stephen appear as likable, admirable but flawed. Unlike in other books on civil wars, I found myself sympathetic to both at various times. And, of course, I can never resist seeing more of Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the most remarkable figures in English history!

    In terms of my general tastes, I read mostly historical fiction and often focus on English history but no particular time period. I also enjoy Colleen McCullough’s series on Rome. I would recommend her book on Anthony and Cleopatra. Not only does it show the evolution of that relationship but it presents a very complex and fascinating portrayal of Octavian.

  11. Lara Says:

    I’ll add my vote in the “Here Be Dragons” column. It was the first book of yours that I read and I still even remember how I came across it. A friend of the family runs a used bookstore and I have helped her do inventory a couple of times, since it gives me a chance to discover new books and authors. I found the pocket paperback size of “Dragons” (with the more romance-oriented cover) and was intrigued. I read it shortly afterwards and completely fell in love with it. When I visited a friend in Bangor (Wales of course) a few years back, I dragged her to as many sites associated with Llywelyn as I could!

    I do enjoy other historical fiction and I tend to stick to the Middle Ages and Tudor period, and mostly stuff based in the British Isles. Like many others here, I also enjoy Elizabeth Chadwick’s work. I’ve somewhat drifted away from reading as much Tudor fiction since it is the period I know the most about historically and have a harder time suspending disbelief with it.

    I still haven’t had a chance to grab a copy of “Devil’s Brood”, but I’m looking forward to reading it as soon as I can!

  12. Sharon Says:

    I love all Sharon Penman books but my absolute favourite is Here Be Dragons. I have read it countless times and will read it again and again in the future. I fell in love with Joanna and Llewelyn’s story. Sunne in Splendour was brilliant and made me a Richard 111 fan. I loved the story of Henry and Eleanor of Aquitaine and I would have to say that Time and Chance is definately my 2nd favourite. I just wish their story had a better ending where love conquers all and they found their love again, but history is history. Eleanor was certainly a woman well before her times. I live in Australia so will have to wait a bit longer to read Devil’s Brood, I can’t wait to read it.

  13. Alison Says:

    J’adore all of your books! My first and favorite is Here Be Dragons.

    In 2005, I traveled from the United States as a member of an alumnae choral group from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts that performed at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. It was the performance and trip of a lifetime! I fell in love with the country and the people; after all, part of my ancestry is Welsh.

    I didn’t know much about Wales though, and when our Welsh guide recommended your books for those who were interested in learning more about the country’s history, I sought out the books right away. I was entranced from the very beginning of Here Be Dragons with its rich, complex cast of characters and its gentle unfolding of history through storytelling.

    I did learn on my trip about the oppression that the Welsh have endured over the years (something rarely noticed in this country and never mentioned in my history lessons from school). Your books helped me understand some of the origins of that oppression.

    Thank you for your unwavering dedication to teaching and storytelling. I’m sending positive thoughts and prayers for your good health.

  14. Simon Says:

    Hi Sharon, I’m glad your health is improving. I hope you are able to whip this malady once and for all.

    I have to claim When Christ And His Saints Slept as my favorite. As with an earlier poster it was the book that introduced me to your work and will always be special to me. Also with a earlier poster I can’t find anyone I feel holds a candle to you for MA historical fiction. You are the standard for the genre.

    My reading is all over the place from Hobbits to biographies, mysteries to writings on the US Constitution. I never know what will interest me although I do read my favorites over and over and that definitely includes every one of your books. Thank you many times over for sharing your gift.

  15. Amy Says:

    It seems I am in the majority - Here Be Dragons is my all-time favorite! The love story between Llewellan and Joanna was so beautiful. I about died when he found her in another man’s arms! Completely heart wrenching. Another reason I love this book is because of the title - so clever of you! I feel like when you talk about food and all of the sudden you get hungry, now that I’m talking about HBD I must go read it again!!

    BTW - I finished Devil’s Brood last night and it was spectacular! Never have I been so happy to be an only child!!

  16. Kate Bailey Says:

    Juding by the respones to your poll, I’m suprised to see that my favorite book isn’t turning up yet–Falls the Shadow. I had barely heard of Simon de Montfort before reading it, and I became absolutely fascinated with his story. The last lines with Llewelyn and his candle still give me chills. I love the entire Welsh trilogy, but FTS is my favorite.

    As far as other reading, my major vice is fantasy, espcially stories set in a medieval type world. Favorites include George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Robin Hobb, Elizabeth Haydon, David Eddings and of course C.S. Lewis and Tolkein. I’ll read anything I can get my hands on that promises a good story, which is why I started reading your books!

    Side note–I’ll be reading Devil’s Brood this weekend, and I can’t wait!

  17. Sherri Says:

    It is hard to choose a favorite among your books. It has been a few years since I read the Here Be Dragons trilogy, but I remember liking The Reckoning the best. I also absolutely loved Sunne in Splendor because it made me view history differently. It is also the first book that I recommend to friends who are interested in historical fiction.

    I am thoroughly enjoying Devil’s Brood - I am reading it slow because I never want to see it end. That being said, I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. last night reading to get to the scene where Henry confronts Eleanor. It was worth the price I am paying today!

  18. Megan Says:

    I have read all your books (and re-read a few times too :0) ), but Here Be Dragons is my definite favorite. I read the book at the beginning of each summer, and sometimes more than just once a year! I do have the *hardest* time reading pages 630-33 (everyone knows what I mean) and each time I find myself skimming the words because I have grown so attached to the characters, it just breaks my heart!
    I love historical fictions, but after reading them, I have to then find biographies and nonfictions on the same subjects because I like to know the whole story.
    I am a huge fan of the medieval period, but I also love the Tudor period and have recently, after reading the Sunne in Splendour for the first time, become really interested in the era of the Yorkists. I also a fan of Middle Eastern history as well.
    Thank you so much for your list of authors. I am looking forward to checking out those I have not read yet and can’t wait to hear your own favorite!

  19. Dave Says:

    Hands down, Here Be Dragons. The Welsh trilogy is the most fascinating, I thought (although my Welsh heritage may make me somewhat bias), and this is by far the most compelling piece of the story without the tragedy of the other two books. I also finished Devil’s Brood over the weekend and thought it was great, but was somewhat surprised that it took place almost entirely in France (shows you how much I know my history).

    I’ve always thought a story about the famous Owain Glyndwr would be a fitting connection from the Welsh trilogy to the last true Prince of Wales, whose tale unfolds not too long before the War of the Roses takes place.

  20. Jessica Says:

    I’d say my two favorites (can’t really pick one) are Here Be Dragons and When Christ and His Saints Slept. Both are equally good, and both are equally rich. But asking me to choose a favorite Penman book is like asking Henry or Eleanor to choose their favorite son (though they did both have favorites, for sure!).

    I finished Devil’s Brood last night — was fantastic! I knew the sons had rebelled multiple times, but geez! They made a career out of it, didn’t they. I’m looking forward to the next one. I’ll be curious to see Richard and John from the English perspective, since we’ve seen a bit of them (mostly John) from the Welsh perspective.

    Thanks for writing such great books!!

  21. Marguerite Says:

    Hello Sharon! I’m absolutely thrilled to join your blog. I love all of your books, but The Sunne in Splendour has a special place in my heart. It was the first of your books I read, when I discovered it way back in 1990, and I am now a confirmed Richard III defender. When my husband and I went to England in 1996 I insisted on visiting Middleham Castle (as a result of reading your book), and I was so pleased to see Sunne holding pride of place in their gift shop! My husband couldn’t understand why I spent over two hours wandering around the castle–but then, he hadn’t read the book. Needless to say, my copy of Sunne is in tatters, the result of many re-readings.

    I’m also proud to share a name with some of the characters in your books, both famous and infamous ;-). I get a tremendous kick out of the fact that I share a name with Medieval royalty.

    I’m glad you’re feeling better. I’m currently reading Devil’s Brood, the story of Medieval Europe’s most famous dysfunctional family. Your talent for bringing these passionate people to life is amazing. Thank you!

  22. Catherine Demers Says:

    I just bought “Devil’s Brood” yesterday. I am completely immersed in the story and love it. You are a wonderful writer - thank you .

    One of my other favorite writers is Pauline Gedge - from Canada. Her works are about Egypt. Her most current books are “The Twice Born” (2007) and
    “Seer of Egypt”(2008) which comprise the “King’s Man” series.

  23. Jan Says:

    Sunne in Splendor is not only my favorite book of yours, it is my favorite novel, period. I have been reading historical novels (and history) since I was a teenager in the 1960’s, and I also greatly enjoy other authors like Dorothy Dunnet and Colleen McCullough. However, what strikes me about Sunne in Splendor, and all your books, is that you give your characters such believable motivations and they behave so plausibly, that you actually help me to understand possible explanations for the historical events for which we only have bare facts. Since I just finished Devil’s Brood last week, here is an example of what I mean:

    SPOILER WARNING for Devil’s Brood
    Even though I have read several history books and novels about Henry and Eleanor, I could not quite grasp why their relationship decayed. But you had Eleanor say (and I am paraphrasing, because I do not have the book with me) “Henry looked at me firstly as his wife, and secondly as Duchess of Acquitaine, whereas I look at myself firstly as Duchess of Acquitaine and secondly as Henry’s wife”. I thought that this was such an insight, and it is explained in only one sentence! It is perfectly in character for both Henry and Eleanor, and certainly would lead to misunderstandings and motives that we could not possibly know about all these hundreds of years later.

    I am amazed that all your characters in all your books give me the feeling that you were there, that you knew them, and can explain why they may have taken actions that are not easily explained by historical fact. And that is why you are my favorite historical fiction author.

    I think that a comment from my 90 year old father sums it up. He also enjoys historical novels and I gave him Sunne in Splendor to read a couple years ago. When he returned it to me, he said “Wow - I don’t know how anyone can write like that! It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.”

    Thank you, Sharon!

  24. Teri Says:

    Dear Sharon, as many others have said, Sunne in Splendour is my favorite among your novels, with Here be Dragons a close second. I became a Richard III defender after reading Sunne and The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. I have just completed The Devil’s Brood and couldn’t put it down. I’m looking forward to your next book. I’ve read all of your work and hope you write many more! I look forward to reading the authors you and others have suggested.

  25. Jessie Says:

    Dear Sharon,
    Once I finish Devil’s Brood I will have officially read every book you have written. They are very entertaining, and I love to learn about history at the same time. Here Be Dragons is one of the best books I’ve ever read. However, Falls the Shadow is a very close second.

    I love historical fiction, especially about Norman England. One book I read recently and enjoyed was Wife to the Bastard by Hilda Lewis. It was a very interesting story about William and Matilda.

  26. Julie Says:

    My favorite is “Here Be Dragons” - which seems to be a popular favorite…with “The Reconing” a close second…I cried for days thinking about the end with those two boys shut away in prison for life.

    As to other favorite Historical Fiction writers, Elizabeth Chadwick and Edith Pargeter are tops; I also really like Bernard Cornwall and wish he would write more set in the middle ages. For general fiction, I like Joanna Trollope, Anita Shreve, Mary Gordon and Gail Godwin.

    After reading “The Reckoning”, I wonder about Edward I as well - he seems an interesting character capable of incredible brutality and yet seems to have had a loving marriage…any chance he will show up in another book?

  27. Carrie Says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I’m casting my vote for While Christ and His Saints Slept as my favorite of your historical sagas. As for your mysteries, it is difficult to choose between Dragon’s Lair and Prince of Darkness. Hopefully in the next Justin de Quincy mystery we will find out why he looks so much like Llywelyn ab Iorwerth…

    I also recently met an author named G.R. Grove on, a very cool social networking site for people to catalog their books, meet others with similar libraries, chat, etc. Anyway, I’m really enjoying Grove’s trilogy set in 6th century Wales. The first book is Storyteller. Other favorite mystery series: Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series, set in England during the 1930s, Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, set in post-WWI England, Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis, set in ancient Rome, Mary Russell series by Laurie R King, also set post-WWI.

    As for other historical periods, I’m especially fascinated by Celtic Britain, 19th century US, the Regency period, and post-WWI Britain.

  28. Candice Says:

    I have loved all your books and I have read every one of them -some twice. My special favorite is Sunne in Splendor which changed my opinion of Richard and has caused me to do further research. Although I was a history major and teacher, I felt thrilled to be able to discuss Richard with a professor of the Middle Ages from VMI on a bus trip during an AP European history trip whhich I would not have been able to do without your well researched book! Fun!! I really enjoyed the Welsh books also.

    An additional author to add to the many already listed is Anne Easter Smith. I have just recently discovered her book A Rose for the Crown ( a book about Richard III’s paramour in his early youth to king and his illegitimate children).

    I also think anyone should read the four books in Mary Stewart’s story of the Authurian legend beginning with The Crystal Cave. These books make the time of the Dark Ages in England come to life and make the legend very believable.

    I can’t wait for your next book. I have recommended your books to many people and students also.

  29. Jeff Says:

    The Sunne in Splendour is the first of your books that I read years ago; once I finished it I knew I would read everything you published from that point on. My favorite, though, is probably Falls the Shadow. Maybe I’m more into politics and action than romance…..all of your books have a good measure of each but Falls the Shadow seemed to me like more of a “guy” book than the others.

    In fact, several months ago I was looking for the historical fiction section at one of the poorer bookstores in my area. I was surprised to find all HF books, including yours, under Romance. That doesn’t seem right to me!

    I am glad to hear that you are recovering and I hope that you will tour again soon.

  30. JA Says:

    Here Be Dragons - my hands down favorite from your books. Time and Chance is 2nd.

  31. Danielle Says:

    Here Be Dragons was magical for me & definitely #1 on my list of all-time best reads. My next two favorites are tied: Devil’s Brood (fantastic & worth the wait;-) & Sunne in Splendor.

    Now that I’ve finished the Devil’s Brood, I feel a tangible void. I am SO elated that are you continuing the story from Devil’s Brood in your next book, I can’t wait! I’ve read and enjoyed all of your books & personally thank you for ‘resurrecting’ my ancestors (Eleanor, John, Joanna, Llewelyn, Simon De Montfort, etc.) so I can get to know them on a more personal level!

    Thank you again & We all wish you a speedy recovery & good health!

  32. Kat Says:

    Well, I guess for me it would be a toss-up between Prince of Darkness & Sunne in Splendor.

    What I have always liked about your books is that you can weave accurate history into a fiction plot.

    Just one request…more Wales!

  33. Katherine Says:

    I was looking over my list of books read in 2008 so far, and about three-quarters of them are historical fiction. That’s indicative of my reading tastes in general, however.

    You and I have very similar tastes! I am very much into the medieval period, specifically England. I’ll also occasionally read Rome, and Victorian England on the other end of the spectrum. I really like the semi-ghost stories of Michael Cox. Anya Seton’s Katherine is a MUST-read, as is Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber. Those are classics of romantic historical fiction (but not bodice rippers!)

    And it’s funny that you mention Michelle Moran’s books, because I just finished Nefertiti and loved it. I’m reading Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Greatest Knight right now and loving that, too. And then, of course, there are your wonderful novels :-). The Sunne in Splendour is amazing, as is Devil’s Brood.

  34. Richard Burnett Says:

    Hi Sharon
    I love all your books but without doubt my favourite has to be Sunne in Splendour.

  35. Amy Dunbar-Wallis Says:

    My favorite has to be When Christ and His Saints Slept. It was my first Penman book and found it was a much needed escape during a particularly tough semester in college. I was struck by the similarities facing Maud’s struggle to advance in a male dominated world with many intelligent and capable women throughout history. If you are not a good girl then you are clearly the devil! My second favorite is Here Be Dragons–I’m a sucker for a girl getting her man in the end!

    I love reading and am not limited to any particular genre or author. My three favorite authors are SKP, Louise Erdrich, and Andrea Barrett. All are excellent craftswomen and have a wonderful way of immersing the reader into an experience outside of what modern westerners would know of. I also love Sarah Vowell, Bill Bryson, Milan Kundera, and Graham Swift.

    I’m not a big fan of comic books, but, my husband introduced me to Bill Willingham’s Fables. It is a wonderful twist on all fairy tales, fables, and legends from around the world.

    I hope you feel better soon Sharon–I too can’t wait for more Justin deQuincy!

  36. Elizabeth Says:

    My favorite would have to be Here Be Dragons, and the The Sunne in Spledour. I am madly in love with Richard and both of the Llewelyns!! I’ve also developed a fascination with Welsh history, because of your books, thank you!! I love all of your books, but HBD and SIS are my top favorites, with The Reckoning probably in third.
    Thanks for your amazing writing, and I hope you feel better soon!

  37. Gay Says:

    Like many others, it’s very hard to choose my favourite but it would probably be Sunne in Spendour, the first of your books that I read after coming across it on a library shelf many years ago. It rang a chord as I’d become interested in Richard III after reading Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time which I loved. I’ve since bought all your books (except for the mysteries which I’m just getting into though I like the others better) and loved them all. Here Be Dragons is definitely second favourite and then When Christ and His Saints Slept. Although I’ve always been fascinated by Eleanor of Aquitaine and that whole period, I didn’t know so much about Maud and Stephen before reading your book. I’m now so looking forward to Devil’s Brood which has reached New Zealand where I live. I love medieval history (and the Tudor period) so please keep writing.

    We try to visit Europe every few years and as I’m a voracious reader while on holiday it’s hard to take enough reading with me to keep me going. So I’ve now got into the habit of buying one or two paperbacks of your books (the hardbacks at home are too heavy for air travel) to take with me on my overseas holidays. I love your books so much that re-reading them isn’t a problem. Last time while staying in the Dordogne in France I loved reading about places that were just nearby. We’re off in a few weeks to spend a month in Germany for Christmas and I’m about to buy extra copies of Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning to accompany me.

    So glad you are getting better and the blog is really interesting. I shall start reading some of the authors being recommended. Thank you so much for all the reading pleasure you’ve given me over the years.

  38. Katie Says:

    My favorite - Here Be Dragons
    Second favorite - tie between The Sunne in Splendour and When Christ and His Saints Slept.

    The Sunne in Splendour was the first book I ever read about Richard III and it definitely made me pro-Richard…to the point where I can’t even read books that portray him as a hunch-backed nephew-killer.

    My other favorite medieval author is Margaret Frazer, I own all the Dame Frevisse mysteries and I highly recommend her books.

    One of my all-time favorite historicals is Katherine by Anya Seton.

  39. Kathryn Says:


    I have pondered your questions regarding my favorite of your books and the simple answer is Here be Dragons. But, a more accurate answer is that I have enjoyed all of the books. Recently I was working with a group of young fourth graders — they were suppose to be selecting books to read during their quiet time. One particular young man, head down, shuffled past me. I asked him if he had found anything and his reply, full of all the angst he could muster was “there is nothing here to read! There is never going to be anything here — this place is stupid!” There were tears in his eyes (seriously, I am not making this up)… I had seen him reading Harry Potter a few days before and made an assumption… “So how did you like the Deathly Hollows?” “It was the BEST book ever!!!!” Silence. “Sometimes when you finish a book, it feels like you are saying goodbye to a friend…” He looked at me as though I had suddenly figured “it” out — “yeah…now what am I gonna do?” Well, we are working on a solution to his problem but the point is, I feel the same way whenever I finish one of your books.

    An author I would highly recommend — C.J. Sansome. His time frame is Tudor England and his protagonist is an intirguing hunchbacked lawyer…

    Hope your health begins to mind its manners soon!

  40. pam Says:

    I’m just rereading them, so I can’t pick a favorite now, but to give you an indication of how much I loved “When Christ and his Saints Slept”, I put it down at the last ten pages and didn’t finish it until the next day - I was so loathe for it to end. I immediately started reading “The Sunne in Splendor” again. You are by far my favorite author.

  41. Lisa Says:

    I became a devoted fan after reading ‘Sunne in Splendour’ for the first time back around 1983 and have worn out my original copy. I am now well on my way to wearing out ‘When Christ and his Saints Slept’ and all the others, but my absolute favourite is ‘Here Be Dragons’. Can’t wait for ‘Devil’s Brood’ to appear on my doormat.

  42. Mary Gardner Says:

    I’m sorry Devil’s Brood fell of the NYT bestseller list, but I’m even more sorry that it appears to have disappeared from my local library. I had a circulation assistant and the library director looking for it for me, but no one can locate it. Sob! Apparently someone wanted it for their very own. I have ordered it from Amazon but I won’t get it until next month and I’m dying to read it! I know it’s a little late to vote but my favorite is Sunne in Splendor (I have also worn out my original copy - I keep trying to keep the scattered pages together), although I did name my second daughter “Elen” after Llewellyn’s favorite aunt.

  43. Meghan Says:

    I’m late to commenting (Sharon, I’d love if you linked to my blog! What an honor!) but I do have to mention my favorite. I just adore The Sunne in Splendour. It was my first introduction to looking at Richard III in a slightly different way, and what a love it has spawned. My interest has always been deeply focused on the Middle Ages like you, but I never considered it a serious contention for my life’s work, until I read your book and subsequently took a few medieval history classes in college. I promptly went on to write my senior thesis on Richard - not focusing on what happened to his nephews, but the origins of his affiliation with York and the North and what he actually did well - and I give The Sunne in Splendour a great deal of credit for that, even if my view has since diverged from your Richard. I still love the book, as I love all of your books.

    When it comes to other historical fiction authors, I too love Michelle Moran, who makes Egypt fascinating in a way it hasn’t been to me before, and I also have to speak for Bernard Cornwell, particularly his Saxon Chronicles. His books are a bit formulaic but they feel very like what I imagine the middle ages to be and his history is usually spot on. I just discovered Elizabeth Chadwick myself and I’m enjoying her books. I’m looking forward to looking at all the suggestions!

  44. Taylor Says:

    For an author who focuses on a completely different timeline, I adore Diana Gabaldon, who writes the Outlander series. She’s my second favorite (after you, naturally). It’s a series set in 18th Century Scotland, France, and America. I think she’s up to the 7th or 8th book now, and they are TOMES, so you get very involved in the story.

    I’m sad to say that I’ve been disappointed by every other MA author I’ve tried. They don’t feel like they have enough history in them for my liking, but I’ll certainly try a few that you recommend.

    Oh! I just thought of one: Ken Follet. His book, The Pillars of the Earth is particularly good.

  45. Janet Mullin Says:

    Hi Sharon - just a quick note to say I agree with your assessment: as good as Time and Chance was, Devil’s Brood is even better. The ‘grey areas’ in the relationship between Henry and Eleanor, and the ebb and flow of both their anger and their love, were compelling. Time and Chance seemed to suggest that Eleanor’s love was dead; Devil’s Brood was more nuanced, I think, in its treatment of their bond, which, as Eleanor herself said, not even death would destroy.

    I’ll look forward to reading more about Eleanor’s children. Here Be Dragons (my first taste of your writing, and probably my all-time favourite) left me wanting more about Joanna of Sicily, in particular. And of course, more Welsh story-lines would be great.

    Take care of yourself! Might your latest illness have been an after-effect of the mono? It took me 7 years to get past that point, and I had it as a teenager.

    J Mullin

  46. Kelly Says:

    I’d have to say that “When Christ and His Saints Slept” is not only my favorite Penman book but one of my favorites of all time. It’s the first of your books that I ever read. I found it on the “bargain” table at a local bookstore and was intrigued by the cover (it is a first edition). I was fortunate enough to have been able to have you sign it during your book tour for “Time and Chance” at Books & Co. in Dayton, OH (they have become two of my prized possesions!).

    As for other writers, I find that your friend Helen Hollick is also one of my favorites. If anyone is interested in the Arthurian legend told in a way that might have actually happened I would suggest “The Kingmaking”, “Pendragon’s Banner” and “Shadow of the King”. I also have recently discovered Anne Easter Smith, she has one book that is centered around Richard III and her other is about Margaret. I also have read two very good Robin Hood centered novels, “Hood” and “Scarlet”, by Stephen Lawhead and am waiting for “Tuck” to be released.

    I have found that as I get older, fantasy novels have held an interest for me; especially George R.R. Martin.

    Thanks so much for all your hard work and your devotion to your readers, it really shows in the high quality and thoroughly researched novels you produce.

    Kelly Stambaugh
    No. Olmsted, OH

  47. Suzanne Says:

    Well, I’m late to this party, but I’d have to go with the crowd and say Here Be Dragons. I pretty much never re-read books (I don’t have much time for reading these days, and there’s so much other good stuff out there that I haven’t read yet), but Here Be Dragons was one that really stayed with me and I eventually had to re-read it a couple of years ago (I absolutely love the bed-burning scene!).

    Sunne in Splendor is a close second. I first discovered you after my book club read Royal Blood by Bertram Fields and I became hooked on Richard (I’m still in love with him. Sigh.). Just this past September, I visited London for the first time since I was 12, and decided to re-read Sunne on my trip to put me in a medieval frame of mind. I was there for business, but took 3 days off to do some sight-seeing. While I loved rereading Sunne, it was probably the wrong choice for the trip, as there’s not much evidence of Richard in London — I would have been better off with Falls the Shadow (which would be my third choice) or The Reckoning, as Henry and Edward are much more in evidence there!

    Currently I have Devil’s Brood sitting on my bookshelf because I wanted to reread the first two books first (it’s been a while since I read them the first time), but I should get to it soon.

    AFA other books, you started me on a medieval England kick — I followed your recommendation to Helen Hollick (thank you!), and also loved Dorothy Dunnet’s King Hereafter. I want to read Elizabeth Chadwick, but her Marshall books don’t seem to be in print here in the US. More than that though, I’ve moved more to reading actual history (biographies of Richard and Simon de Montfort, and other more general books on English medieval history). Historical fiction where the characters aren’t really historical doesn’t seem to have as much appeal to me (so while I’ve read all your mysteries, I think of them more as candy than a real meal).

    Interestingly enough, before I got on this decade-long medieval kick, I mostly read science fiction — the hard stuff, not the fantasy stuff — scientific accuracy was as important to me then as historical accuracy is now! Though I admit I read more fantasy now that I have pre-teen daughters.

  48. Terri Says:

    I have read every book that you have published but started with Falls the Shadow - picked it out in the libary when I was a teen. Fell in love very quickly with Simon de Monfort and Llewelyn. No one I think can compare to them except maybe Simon’s boys!! I wait in anticpation for all your books that followed.

    I am quite embraressed that Devil’s Brood has been out for a month and I was not aware. I did not think it was coming out until next year. I am going to Barnes and Noble in the am!! I am so excited.

  49. Terri Says:

    Oh and I totally agree with Kat - MORE WALES!!!

  50. Jenny Says:

    I’ve loved all of your books but Here Be Dragons has been my absolute favourite - until Devil’s Brood. I had intended to re-read the first two books before starting but glanced at the first page and that was it. I couldn’t put it down.

    I am nearly finishednow and desperately don’t want it to be over. I am loving it and look forward to coming home from work, getting dinner out of the way (with apologies to the husband who is being very tolerant) and immersing myself in Eleanor and Henry again. I am trying to ration myself because I don’t want to finish - what am I going to read next that is going to be as rivetting and just so good?

    I read mostly historical fiction with a preference for the MA and am a huge fan of Dorothy Dunnett, particularly the Lymond Chronicles. Francis Crawford is my all time favourite fictional chracter.

  51. Janna Says:

    My favorite is an easy choice–The Sunne in Splendour. It was the first book of yours that I read, which may give a special place in my heart, but above all, it severely influenced my understanding of and feelings toward Richard III. Second is probably the Welsh trilogy, but unlike most, Here Be Dragons is not my favorite, The Reckoning is. I so appreciate the way I can read your books as novels, which they are, but also be sure that you’re not taking huge literary license with the facts. Your books are so carefully researched that, within reason, I can read them as history books, too.

  52. Pete Says:

    Falls the Shadow…. Here Be Dragons in a close second, with two chapters to go in Devils Brood though…. I have some re-reading to do, stylistically I am really digging DB…. thank you for your perseverance!

  53. Catherine Le Busque Says:

    Without question the Sunne in Spelndour is my favourite book. It was the first book I ever read of yours and it is still my fav book of all time! I have always been fascinated by the MA ( I live in the Cotswolds in England so its easy to immerse myself in the history of this time) and this book was a revelation to me. As a result I joined the Richard III society, went to visit Middleham Castle and named my house Middleham! I also loved Here be Dragons. I have just finished the Devils Brood and have really enjoyed that also. I have read all your historical fiction books and have loved them all and I can’t wait for the next book. I read one of your detective novels but didn’t enjoy that as much as the fiction books. Thank you for your ability to bring history to life.

  54. Storeetllr aka Mary K. Says:

    Hi, Sharon ~ I just found this blog and am so grateful to Amy for linking to it in her Passages to the Past blog. I hope you are feeling better and will say a prayer for your complete recovery.

    My all-time favorite historical novel is ~ SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR!!! Falls the Shadow comes in second, along with the other two in the Welsh trilogy. Am looking forward to reading the series on Eleanor and Henry & their brood. Thank you for writing such brilliant historical novels and mysteries.

    Next to your historical novels, I love Edith Pargeter’s The Heaven Tree (which I think beats Pillars of the Earth into dust, no pun intended ;-) and A Bloody Field at Shrewsbury (I think that’s the title). Also love her Cadfael mysteries which she wrote as Ellis Peters. Other authors whose historical fiction/mysteries I enjoy are Lindsey Davis, Colleen McCollough, Steven Saylor, John Maddox Roberts, David Lindsey, Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody), Candace Robb, Robert Graves, Mary Stewart, Anya Seton, Ariana Franklin ~ well, the list could go on and on. But, you are most definitely number one!

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  56. Valerie Morgan Says:

    My favorite without a doubt is Sunne in Splendour. What an amazing book. I feel as though the people are my personal friends. I reread that book when I get lonely. I know, sorta sick, but it makes me feel better. Actually, I have enjoyed each book you have written. When reading Devil’s Brood, I felt the parental pains of Henry and Eleanor. That was the most amazing thing. Living here in Europe, I get to see some of these places that were important to them. That makes this all come to life in an unbelievable way.

  57. Megan Says:

    My favorite book so far is, Here Be Dragons. I’ve read it twice…and just shipped it off to my mom to read before we make our first trip to Wales to visit Pen Y Bryn. I may have to buy another one though as I am having separation anxiety…LOL! I LOVED the love story between JoAnna and Llywelyn. I am truly hooked on your books. You are an excellent writer! Thank you for your superb work! I just finished Falls The Shadow and am now starting The Reckoning. Can’t wait to read them all.

  58. RAY PRATT Says:

    MY favorite book you’ve written is “The Sunne In Splendour” that I read in 1988. I also was able to tour Warwick Castle that same year, (after reading your book) and to visit the battlefield and museum of Bosworth Field. I always wonder how it is that you can know how a Man would feel in a given situation, as when the couple (William and Emma Bretuile ?) are defending their home and living (Castle and Honour) of Pacy as you described in “When Christ and His Saints Slept”. How is it that you know what a Man would feel? I wish that you did historical fiction of the American Civil War era dealing with people of VA-WV. The known facts of some of my great-grandparents (Pratts and Weekleys) would make a good story but I just do not have the talent to write it. Looking forward to your book about Richard Lion-Heart. Ray Pratt

  59. Dorothee Will Says:

    Hello Sharon,
    I came across your blog and found your question on favorites of your novels:
    in my case its Sunne in Splendour, followed by Falls the Shadow and When Christ and his Saints slept.
    But since I am an addict of historical mysteries as well: What is Justin doing presently? Any chance of hearing from him again soon? I really grew to like him and think he still has a lot of potential for development.
    Readers do ask a lot of a writer , don’t they? But as long as we keep asking you will know your books are good!

    I have read all of Margaret Frazer’s Sister Frevisse novels and loved them, now I am on the watch out for a new medieval series.
    As you said: so many books and never enough time. I will certainly try some of the suggestions which are given in your blogs.

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  82. shirley Simchik Says:

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    Keep writing!

  83. shirley Simchik Says:

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  92. Kathy Feuerman Says:

    I was given Here Be Dragons as a gift and it remains my favorite. I’ve read all your books in order of publication but some time prior to Devil’s Brood went back and reread them in chronological order. I’m a voracious reader and read everything but if pressed I’d say I prefer historical fiction above all else.

    I am really enjoying Lionheart right now. Regrettably I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like (who does?) but the audiobooks are beautifully read and I listen to them while I drive and read while I’m home. A true boon - one actually need never leave the 12th century!

    Greedily awaiting the next book and thanks for so much reading pleasure,