My Favorite Scenes

        I’d like to start with some book news.  Lovers of good historical fiction can rejoice for there is another P.F. Chisholm mystery glimmering on the horizon; A Murder of Crows won’t be out until June of next year, but it has been a long wait since the last adventure of Elizabeth Tudor’s dashing cousin, Robert Carey.  Regarding books already ready to be snatched off bookstore shelves, I want to remind you all that Michelle Moran’s new novel, Cleopatra’s Daughter, has a September birth, as does the first American edition of Elizabeth Chadwick’s novel about William Marshal, The Greatest Knight.  And there is a new Priscilla Royal mystery, Chambers of Death, out now, too.  And in December, Margaret Frazer’s sardonic and sexy Joliffe, player and sometime spy, makes a welcome return in A Play of Treachery.  

       While I’m making book recommendations, I’d like to mention Sharan Newman’s The Real History Behind the Templars.  Dan Brown is not likely to buy it, but anyone interested in separating fact from fiction and reality from myth should head out for the nearest bookstore—preferably an independent one, assuming there is still one in your neighborhood.   Speaking of first-rate bookshops, I just got the latest catalogue from Oxbow Books, and I noticed some books that might be of interest to my blogging buddies.  Mind you, I haven’t read any of these books, so I am not recommending them, merely calling them to your attention.   There is a new biography of Edward I by Marc Morris, A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain.  And there are no less than three new books likely to be of interest to Ricardians.   Richard III: The Maligned King by Annette Carson, Eleanor, the Secret Queen: The Woman Who Put Richard III on the Throne, by John Ashdown-Hill, and The Lost Prince: The Survival of Richard of York, by David Baldwin.  Ian Mortimer also has a new book out that sounds rather interesting: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England.

        Back to my own books, I finally have some news about Saints and Kindle.  Readers have been asking me when all of the trilogy would be Kindlized, and I hope I mentioned that Time and Chance will be available on Kindle in September.  It is more complicated with Saints because it was published before the advent of e-books and for reasons too complicated to go into, the decision to make it available rests with Amazon and Google, not the publisher.  I have been told that it will become a Kindle book, but I do not know when that will happen, and sadly, it will be available only in the Kindle format, not Sony Reader, etc.

     Since I really don’t have any questions to answer in this blog, having been dropping by to keep current, I thought I’d do something different this time.   When Elizabeth Chadwick interviewed me on her blog, she asked about a key scene in Devil’s Brood, the one in which Henry does penance at Becket’s tomb.   And Marbella has been posting comments on my Facebook page as she reads Shadow, mentioning scenes that she found powerful or touching, even lines of dialogue that made her laugh; I wouldn’t say she has won my heart by this sort of detailed feedback, but she is now in my will.   Even our near and dear ones are rarely specific—too often we get the generic praise, “Really liked the book.”  And of course editors are more likely to tell writers when we do something wrong than when we do something right. 

       Anyway, I got to thinking about this, and I am going to list some of my favorite scenes in my books.   I am not choosing scenes that are necessarily the most significant or even the most dramatic; you’ll notice there are only two death scenes.   These are scenes that I chose because they brought a character into focus or threw light upon a relationship or simply left me with a sense of exhausted satisfaction when they were done.  

Sunne in Splendour

1)      The scene in the tavern in Bruges between Richard and Edward; I think this marked a turning point in their relationship.

2)      August, 1469—confrontation at Middleham between Edward and the Earl of Warwick.

3)      Scene between Edward and Charles of Burgundy and his lord chamberlain Philippe de Commynes, showing that there were devious depths beneath Edward’s playboy-prince exterior.

4)      Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury

Here Be Dragons

1)      The scene where Joanna learns that John is her father

2)      The siege of Mirebeau

3)       Joanna and Llewelyn’s wedding

4)      The burning of his bed which leads to the consummation of their marriage

5)      The childbirth scene for Joanna and Llewelyn’s son Davydd and Gruffydd’s reaction to it

6)      Llewelyn’s surrender to John in August 1212 and Joanna’s response to her husband’s public humiliation

7)      The scene where Llewelyn finally tells Joanna what John did to Maude de Braose

8)       September, 1212—the scene between Llewelyn and Joanna at White Ladies Priory

9)      October 1228—scenes with Joanna and Will de Braose and her guilt-ridden reconciliation with Llewelyn afterward

10)    May 1230—scene at Dolwyddelan where Llewelyn tries to come to terms with his wife’s betrayal

11)    Their scene at Llanfaes

12)    The very last scene because it was wonderful to have characters left alive at the end of the book after Sunne


Falls the Shadow

1)      June 1258—battle at Bwlch Mawr between Llewelyn ap Gruffydd and his brothers Davydd and Owain

2)      May 1264—scene at Tower of London between Simon de Montfort and the Jewish physician Jacob ben Judah, one of my all-time favorite chapters.

3)      April 1264—Bran’s capture at the siege of Northampton.


The Reckoning

1)      Opening scene where Bran makes a clandestine visit to his father’s grave at Evesham.

2)        Ellen de Montfort’s capture at sea by a pirate in the pay of Edward I

3)      September 1276—Scene where Davydd ap Gruffydd seduces Elizabeth de Ferrers, the young and vulnerable girl who has just learned, to her horror, that she must wed this “malcontent Welsh prince.”

4)      Llewelyn ap Gruffydd’s first meeting with Ellen de Montfort and then their wedding chapter, because I pulled out all the stops on that one, did my best to recreate a medieval wedding in all its boisterous and bawdy glory.


When Christ and His Saints Slept

1)      Sinking of the White Ship

2)      July 1140—scene where 7 year old Henry sneaks into his father’s bedchamber to return a “borrowed” dagger and loses some of his childhood innocence.

3)      Scene after the Battle of Lincoln where Stephen’s devastated queen receives a surprise visit from the Flemish mercenary captain William de Ypres.

4)      December 1143 scene in which Ranulf rescues two orphans of the Fens with some help from his Norwegian dyrehund Loth.

5)      Scene where Ranulf asks Rhiannon to marry him.

6)      Scene in Paris where Geoffrey of Anjou defies the French king and Bernard of Clairvaux and Henry sees Eleanor for the first time

7)      And of course Henry and Eleanor’s scene in the rain-drenched Paris garden.


Time and Chance

1)      September 1159—scene between Eleanor and Maud, Countess of Chester, in which they discuss men and marriage. 

2)      Eleanor’s meeting with Rosamund Clifford at Woodstock

3)      Henry’s 1167 Christmas Court where he is reunited with Eleanor after a year apart.

4)      Thomas Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral

5)      Scene with Henry and Ranulf in August, 1171, in which Henry bares his soul about Thomas Becket


Devil’s Brood

1)      Eleanor’s capture by Henry’s men in November 1173

2)      Confrontation between Henry and Eleanor at Falaise in December 1173

3)      Henry’s penance before Becket’s tomb

4)      August 1177—scene with Henry and Eleanor in which they play a medieval version of the game Truth or Dare.

5)      Geoffrey and Constance’s wedding night

6)      Hal’s death scene


     I am sure there are other scenes I could have picked, but these are the first ones to come to mind; I am not deliberately snubbing Justin de Quincy, will get to the mysteries in a later blog.  I’d be very interested—even fascinated—to find out which scenes you would select.  But if you want to mention favorite scenes from other writers’ books, feel free to do that, too. 

      Lastly, I am going to post a second blog with this one, in which Ken sets out his research about the family tree of Llewelyn Fawr and Joanna, concluding that Gwladys and the mysterious Susanna are indeed Joanna’s daughters.   Diolch yn fawr, Ken!

September 6, 2009





122 Responses to “My Favorite Scenes”

  1. Jane Says:

    Hi Sharon

    Thank you as always for your interesting blog. The lists of your favorite bits of your books is great, one of my favorites in ‘Saints’ is when a young Henry asks Stephen for the money to return home after his failed attempt to take the crown.

    The most emotional for me is in the last part of ‘Sunne’ in Richard’s last battle - I have to confess although I have read it at least 5 times I always cry when he gets killed. I put that down to your excellent writing, each time I read it I know what is going to happen but after reading the whole book you get very attached to the characters and I can’t help crying!

    I have recently read Philippa Gregory’s ‘The White Queen’ about Elizabeth Woodville. Although the book was interesting there was a lot made of the fact that she and her Mother dabbled in Witchcraft and it seemed a bit far fetched at times. I don’t know whether it is available in the US yet.

    I have read all of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books and love all the William Marshall books. I look forward to her novel To Defy a King coming out but that looks like May next year so a bit of a wait.

    Will Justin de Quincy be making any return adventures? I do hope so, although I suspect Richard I is keeping you pretty busy.

    Thanks again for your blogs, I don’t know how you get the time to do them and write you books - I am a great fan,


  2. Koby Says:

    I’ll just mention a few of my favorite scenes right now. You already mentioned most of them, but I’ll mention the ones that touched me the deepest, even if you did already:
    Confrontation between Henry and Eleanor at Falaise in December 1173.
    The scene in the tavern in Bruges between Richard and Edward; I think this marked a turning point in their relationship.
    The burning of his bed which leads to the consummation of their marriage.
    The childbirth scene for Joanna and Llewelyn’s son Davydd and Gruffydd’s reaction to it
    Llewelyn’s surrender to John in August 1212 and Joanna’s response to her husband’s public humiliation
    May 1230—scene at Dolwyddelan where Llewelyn tries to come to terms with his wife’s betrayal
    Their scene at Llanfaes.

    Those are the ones you mentioned, that truly touched me deeply. Now for some you haven’t mentioned:

    Falls the Shadow - The Confrontation between Davydd and Grufydd, where Davydd drugs their wine. I especially liked Davydd’s reaction to the outraged bishop, and laughed at his line ‘I lied’. That was a scene where we saw him truly as John’s grandchild.
    Sunne in Splendour - When Richard finds Anne in the tavern.
    Here Be Dragons - Elen’s Wedding, where Joanna almost erupts at Hubert. I can’t forget the line ‘cat eyes, John’s eyes in a blazing Angevin rage’.
    When Elen talks with Joanna in Llanfaes after she’s imprisoned.
    When Elen spills wine on Gwenllian, and the subsquent happenings.

    That’s all I can think of for now. Oh, and I had a last reply in the previous blog, which I believe you haven’t read. So should I re-post it here, or will you go back and read it? It just sounds unconnected to this discussion.

  3. Jody Allen Says:

    Hi Sharon,
    This is my first time at your blog and I want to say how interesting this posting was. I have been interested in Knight Templar for a long time ( pre DVC) and I have Ms Newman’s book on the Templar and like the fact she has included our her sources, though many are difficult to get now. Helen Nicholson has a new book out called KNIGHTS TEMPLAR ON TRIAL: The Trial of the Templar in the British Isles 1308-1311. As one who is interested in the Templar in Scotland I found the book to be interesting and tad bit easier to read than Evelyn Lord’s book on the same subject.

    I have Ian Mortimer’s book you mentioned and it is wonderful, one I would recommend for “romance” author who sets their book in this period. Might be a bit too “popular” history for the historian but it is easy to read and one gets a real feel for the period and the culture as it it evolved from forces within and without.

    Thank you to for the wonderful trip down memory land with your favortie scenes. I will now have to drag out my old copies especially of HERE BE DRAGONS and put them at the top of my TBR pile, though now I have gone back to school and am steeped in both Celtic history and Scottish history, I may have to use them as treats when I get my school reading done.

    I will be visiting your blog and archives often.


  4. kristen elizabeth Says:

    Good morning, Sharon! Thanks as always for the book recommendations. At this rate, I’ll never finish my book list! LOL.

    It was very interesting to see the list of scenes you found particularly touching in your books. I haven’t finished Devil’s Brood yet, but I did love the scene where Eleanor was captured by Henry’s men. I agree that the scenes where Loth helps Ranulf save the two orphans (whatever happened to them, anyway? I liked that little tangent) and where he asked Rhiannon to marry him were terrific. I laughd out loud when the young Henry asked Stephen for money after his failed attempt to take the throne. What a gutsy kid! :D In Dragons, it was more a bit of character development than a specific scene, but I loved how Joanna gradually came to realize that she loved Llywelyn and the whole tension that led up to the consummation of their marriage. But for a specific scene, I loved when Joanna locked herself in her chamber and he was left outside, banging on the door. When he came in, I loved how he went from being angry to being concerned in a split second when he saw her face and how miserable she was. It was the first time I truly liked him. He had my heart from then on.

    I was fascinated to read that you haven’t ever cried over the death of one of your characters. I think I read that in one of your responses to another reader somewhere–I’m sorry I can’t remember where I saw that, so I’m just popping it in here. It is interesting to see how different people react to writing. I know I sobbed so hard when Simon died at the end of Shadow. Oh my god, I cried so hard. That was a spectacular scene, by the way. I love how you wrote it and imbued it with such vitality and immediacy. I felt like I was right there, seeing the scene through Bran’s eyes.

    It must be frustrating to you as a writer when people don’t give specific feedback. I know I try to be detailed whenever I write a review on Goodreads, even though I know no one ever sees them. I was always frustrated when I didn’t get much feedback on papers and such, so I try to put detail in any reviews I write. If you want, I will share the link on Facebook when I review your books. I tend to focus more on character development and my perception of individuals than specific scenes, though.

    Thanks to you and Ken for posting his essay in your blog! I will be reading it next and am fascinated to read his findings!

  5. cindy ash Says:

    Its hell getting old - I am having trouble remembering some of those scenes! But there is a silver lining - it means I am going to have fun re-reading, starting from Here Be Dragons. By the time I finish all of the books, Lionheart should be ready to be read!

    Surprised you did’t mention one of my fav scenes - When Maud escapes out of the window of the castle in a snowstorm, and manages to elude the guard on either side of her.

  6. Misfit Says:

    The bed scene is definitely one of my top favorites from HBD. As for The Reckoning I think when Llewllyn and Eleanor finally meet for the first time - they just smoked off the pages. I wouldn’t call it a favorite scene but I have to say that towards the end of The Reckoning when Eleanor - well I won’t say to avoid spoilers - but you know what I mean, touched me very deeply. I don’t recall any other time when I’ve had to put a book down and have a good long cry.

  7. Ellie Lewis Says:

    Sharon and friends,
    I have always been partial to your Bran De Montfort. The scene on the beach where he meets his dad for the first time is quite endearing. Also the scene mentioned above by Cindy when Maud escapes the castle in Oxford. I’ve mentioned to you that the Welsh trilogy inspired me to go to Wales, but not that the “Maud” scene in Saint’s sent me to Oxford Castle….twice. (I posted a photo of the castle for you a while back, but I’m not sure where it is.) On my first trip the castle was under renovation, so I just walked around the castle and tried to guess which window she escaped from. I know I found it because there was a white dove sitting in the window! On my second trip to Oxford, the castle was open and I took the guided tour that was available. I was the only one on the tour, so it was great.
    Thanks for all your recommendations.

  8. Cate Cushing Says:

    The scene in ‘Sunne’ in the Bruges tavern is my favorite scene in any book. Though, quite honestly, in ‘The Sunne in Splendour’, any scene where Edmund was mentioned was awesome. I loved how he was never forgotten throughout the book. It made the book all the more realistic- and Edmund was my favorite character. =)

    The scene in ‘Christ’ when Henry admitted that he asked Stephen for money was hilarious. I think I split my sides open I was laughing so hard! I additionally loved the scene when Maude escaped Oxford Castle and Stephen’s subsequent reaction. Priceless.

  9. Paula Says:

    I really like Davydd ap Gruffydd in ‘The Reckoning’, especially the exchange with Llewelyn when they meet by chance on the road to Clynnog. He was so funny at times! The story about the barnacle goose is hilarious.

    I also found Edward very scary in ‘The Reckoning’ especially when he says “This is not the first war English kings have had to fight with the Welsh, but I swear, upon the surety of my soul, that it shall be the last.”

    I also like when Elen and Llewelyn meet for the first time and Llewelyn is unhappy about seeming to flirt with Edward and she says that she would have done more if it would get Amaury released.

    In ‘Falls the Shadow’ I enjoy the courtship between Simon and Nell, especially at Odiham castle when they first get together.

    And two of the best lines ever written are in ‘Saints’ when Henry says to Eleanor, “If you are not the Queen of France, by God, you ought to to be.”
    And her reply, “And if you are not yet the King of England, by God, you will be.”

  10. Paula Says:

    I have been thinking way too much about fave scenes and not doing enough sleeping (it’s almost midnight here in Australia).

    In ‘Sunne’ I like all the confrontations between George and Edward which lead up to George’s execution.

    Also in Sunne the confrontation between Elizabeth Woodville and Richard when she is in sanctuary.

    And another fave scene from Sunne is the last confrontation between Richard and Will Hastings before Richard orders his immediate execution.

    In DB one of my favourite scenes (makes me cry every time) is when Willam Marshall is talking to Henry after the death of Hal and Henry say, “My son cost me greatly, but I would that he’d lived to cost me more.”

    I’d better not get started on HBD’s as I will never get any sleep. I agree with other fave moments mentioned but I also love the side story between Catherine and Rhys. And thinking of side stories, in Sunne I like Francis and Veronique and their romance.

  11. Dave Says:

    I have several scenes I enjoy, but my favorite is from Falls the Shadow. Simon, Will, and Humphrey de Bohun escape from the Welsh, and are admiring a lighting attack by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, when Llywelyn has one of his bowman shoot an arrow at them. Of course they think they are out of arrow range, when suddenly the arrow slams into the helm of the boat.

  12. Suzanne Says:

    OK, this is so not fair! I love that we’re reminiscing about favorite scenes, but not for all the books at once! I’d much rather drag it out over several posts!

    Anyway, Paula mentioned one of my favorites from Sunne that you didn’t mention: Richard ordering Hastings’ execution — it’s been a while since I’ve read Sunne, but I can still see Richard boiling over w/ rage and hear Hastings crying “A priest! You’d not deny me a priest!” Another favorite was the scene where young Richard stands up to Warwick when Warwick comes home furious about Edward’s marriage. I agree that Barnet and Tewkesbury were great — I’d also include Sandal, and Edmund’s scene immediately afterwards.

    In HBD, the bed-burning scene and its aftermath definitely stands out. Also, as you said, Joanna meeting John for the first time. Actually, there were so many great scenes in HBD — all the ones you’ve mentioned are great.

    I’m not going to echo you and everyone else here by listing the same scenes already mentioned — they’re all wonderful scenes, and seeing them listed, I can’t do anything but agree. Thanks for the reminiscences!

  13. james watson Says:

    Standing on top of Middleham-Keep!…Looking West!…..Then Driving up (Coverdale)..Cheese Sandwich and a Packet of Crisps?…..from the Local Post office”read That Book Av-Yer?”….In a Yorksher-Accent Said the Postmistress?……”Yes, I replyed. ?”…..My Wife, is bored,….Wants Too Get Too Harrogate, For Her Christmas Present! (pearls??)……Anyway Its Snowing!!……So the Going;s Slow??. My imagination is Running Wild?….Edward, and George, or was it Edmund ? looking For A young Richard??….The Fox ?Sene?….”Then Back in the Great Hall” for there Christmas Feast,……..with, the Old Earl of Warwick,….Richard And Young Anne,…….Poor Edmund?……..Thank-you Dear Sharon? James

  14. Leigh Says:

    Hi Sharon
    This is a great list of favourite scenes, I agree with all of them. I love every bit that Davydd ap Gruffydd is in in The Reckoning - he must have been such fun to write. I would add his belligerance in the face of his impending execution and that wonderful comment about the English “not recognising his cock if it was nailed up over the dais at Westminster” :)

    Richard III: The Maligned Prince arrived from Amazon today and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.

    Just finished Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen and found it a bit disappointing and one-dimensional. But then nothing can live up to the way you brought the characters in Sunne in Spendour to life (although I am fond of Meredith Whitford’s Treason too).

  15. Carrie Says:

    One of your most powerful and heartbreaking scenes for me is when Eleanor, pregnant with John, confronts Rosamund Clifford. Being confronted with you charismatic husband’s younger, pretty mistress would blow to any woman.

    My favorite Justin de Quincy scene is when he and Llywelyn ab Iorwerth meet for the first time in Dragon’s Lair, especially when their physical similarities are mentioned. Sounds like Justin might have some Welsh blood.

    I like to pick up one of your books and read a few scenes when I need inspiration for my own writing. I’m currently working on my second draft of a mystery novel set in 13th century Wales.

  16. Joyce Says:

    Noone has mentioned my favourite scene yet so I’ll risk it.

    I love the scene in Reckoning when Hugh is desperate and goes to borrow money and ends up playing with a little boy. This so impresses the moneylender, that Hugh gets the money he needs. It is a lovely moment of mutual respect between two men from vastly different worlds.

    And my favourite line (and I can’t remember offhand who says it) paraphased is “if a man is drowning should he quibble over the colour of the rope being thrown him?”

    I burst out laughing the first time I read it simply because I know people who WOULD quibble!

  17. Kristen Elizabeth Says:

    Ellie, I agree that Maud’s escape from the castle was a terrific scene! I don’t know if it’s just me romanticizing things or what, but it seems like when the women in the ME did something, they didn’t do it half cocked. They went in whole hog and by god they kicked butt and left a footprint! :)

    Joyce, Hugh playing with the boy is also one of my favorite scenes. It really highlights the similarities between the two cultures, which were so often overlooked.

  18. Christy English Says:

    Thank you for listing your favorite scenes from so many of your novels. So many are resonant, but the one you mentioned from TIME AND CHANCE where Eleanor met with Rosemund de Clifford really struck me. I am a huge fan of Eleanor, so seeing her deal with such a blow was impressive. Rosemund has never been my favorite (I am jealous on Alais and Eleanor’s behalf, I suppose) but your portrayal of her is so compassionate. Through your eyes, I can understand what Henry saw in her.

  19. Nan Hawthorne Says:

    Two things I appreciate about this post… the first is that refreshingly you talked about what is good in your writing.. unlike much of the needless modesty among so many female authors. I like it when authors say, in essence, “I’m good and I know it, uh huh!”

    Second, good as you are, it is a treat to understand what about a scene you wrote is meaningful to you. You mentioned the scene with ben Judah in Falls. If I had written that scene, what I would have loved about it is having to get into Simon de Montfort’s mind to resolve for myself how such a good and earnest man could be so prejhudiced and ignorant. When you love a character you want to forgive him his failings, but you can’t always do that. I too have had occasion to learn to forgive what I can’t excuse in a character.

  20. Victoria Colios Says:

    Favourite scenes from Reckoning - I agree with Leigh and several other posts above, anything with Davydd ap Gruffydd, he’s so vibrant - even with all his faults he is such a good counterplay to L.
    The aftermath of Simon’s death is handled so well, too.
    Finally - the end of Reckoning..devastating and I clung on to every detail desparate to know more about each of the remaining characters - the visit to Elizabeth deF at the end! I still get angry when Edward I is mentioned - can’t stand him lol.

  21. April Says:

    Many of my highlights have already been mentioned, but a few favorites not yet listed come early in Here Be Dragons: Llewelyn and Morgan discussing courage and common sense, and then Walter de Hodnet walking right into Llewelyn’s hands 10 years later. Two moments that show the firming foundations to a man who would become larger than life.

    HBD was my first SKP book, and as engrossing as it was, I must admit I had to walk away from it for a while when Joanna began her affair. I couldn’t bear to read on, sure they had to be discovered and knowing how painful it would be when that happened. It was harrowing when I picked the book up again, and then I stayed up late (Kleenex at hand) to finish it all in a rush, relieved beyond measure that Llewelyn and Joanna reconciled.

  22. Brenna Says:

    I have to agree with April, Joanna’s affair was probably one of the most memorable for me. The different emotions Sharon’s writing was able to evoke in me while I was reading it, still gives me goosebumps. I went from complete disbelief, to anger, to a sobbing mess in a matter of a few pages. My husband honestly thought someone had died or something because of my wailing (ok maybe a little exaggeration, but you get the point).

    Any scene where the two Llewelyn’s were together was also very poignant. It brought back memories of when my grandfather and I would take long walks together and talk.

    Another amazing blog, Sharon. Thanks!

  23. Marbella Says:

    An amazing Blog Sharon!!! And where to begin, is precisely my debate right now. I will try to be short, but I’m warning you people, it might be impossible.

    Sharon—It’s nice to read about some of your favorite scenes, I am sure it’s not an easy task to choose from so many but you said it to the point when you said how you came to chose the ones because “…simply left me with a sense of exhausted satisfaction when they were done.”

    ‘SUNNE’–I will leave it at 3 scenes this time: Richard ordering Hastings’ execution, Richard and Edward in the tavern in Bruges, and Richard’s last battle (his death, ouch!)

    HBD–way too many scenes, but this is my overall feeling about Llewelyn’s and Joanna’s loving, forgiving and enduring relationship. Their ‘love story’ left me with a sense of personal deliverance, especially after L & J made up at Llanfaes and Llewelyn restored her back to favor as his Queen and Wife. I believe HBD is the most wonderful love story that I have ever read for its Redemption and Forgiveness extended to each other. To realize that Love can overcome evil and that it is a choice that we all have was so liberating to me. I have been sharing this wonderful story with my girlfriends and yes, they do look at me weird (wink!). And last but not least, one of my favorite lines was said by Llewelyn to Joanna–”…A scar signifies past pain, a wound that did not heal as it ought. But it testifies, too, to survival.”

    SHADOW—I just finished it today and as I closed the book I was left with a feeling of fatigue and joy at the same time. A powerful novel indeed, will be hard to identify specific scenes after having each character being part of my life for about 40 yrs, seriously, I did feel as if I had live with them all those years from the very beginning when Simon goes to see Chester to ask him to have the Earldom of Leicester, to the moment Simon dies at the Evesham battle, to when Bran runs over to Evesham only to see Simon’s head in a spike, and till the end when Nell and Ellen reunite with Guy and Bran! I called this a family reunion. Oh my, the last pages when truly powerful!

    One scene stands out afresh—when Edward goes to see Nell to show his good faith towards his “Aunt” and the following goes on: Edward–“ Harry never blamed me for upholding my father’s rights, no more than I blamed him for heeding Simon. He understood that what I was doing I had to do. I’d hoped, Aunt Nell, that you would understand too.” Nell–“But do you think he’d (Harry) also have understood the butchering of his father’s body? Look me in the eye, Edward, and tell me if he’d have understood that!” Edward—“that was not my doing,” Nell—“If that is to be your defense, spare me any more of it. I am the daughter and sister of English Kings, was wife to two Earls. Power is no foreign tongue to me; I speak it as well as any man.” (Talk about whose grand-daughter she is, none other but Eleanor of Aquitaine’s)

    Well, I can go on and on and will not be done today. So I will leave it here for now. I really enjoyed reading everyone’s blogs on “favorite scenes”. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that we all share the same passion.

    Thank you Sharon for coming up with another great Blog. It was as exciting as the last one about the ‘Super Natural’ in a HF novel.

  24. Blair Hodgkinson Says:

    Hi Sharon:

    Lots of great scenes in your books, but one of my favourites may seem an unlikely choice: I love the scene in Here Be Dragons where Prince John first appears in 1189 when he defects to Richard and Philip. It shows John as self-serving, but also as very insecure and trying to find his legs to stand in an ever-changing and inconstant world. Very interesting to try to see him relate to the mercenaries under his command. Not a scene right out of the history books, but a scene that felt extraordinarily real.

  25. Dave Says:


    This doesn’t exactly fall under the category of favorite scenes, but I told you I would let you know when I tried to bake Teisen Mel (That’s Welsh Honey Cake for you non Welsh speakers). So far anyone who’s tried it has loved it. Even though my meringue didn’t come out well at all. Hopefully this will encourage you to have another book tour when you finish with Cour de Leon.

    Good Health,


  26. Malcolm Craig Says:

    (Leaving aside the 13th century)

    Sunne in Splendour

    I especially enjoyed the encounter of Richard with the widow Rosamund, whom he had recently helped - not to mention the squirrel of whatever color. It was good for Richard to have a bit of pleasure before the inevitable end. Since I visited Middleham and the Dales so recently, their discussion of the area’s beauty rung especially true when I reread the scene. Finally, that night together would raise the possibility of a child of Richard, unknown to any Tudor, and thereby free from being inevitably murdered.

    When Christ and His Saints Slept

    Not citing any particular scene, I think that Sharon’s portrayal of Geoffrey of Anjou made him positively charming. As I had hoped, she has done just as well by his grandson and namesake in D.B.

    Devil’s Brood

    1) As I have mentioned before, for obvious reasons, my favorite scene is the marriage night of Constance and Geoffrey.

    2) I also enjoyed the immediately preceding scene, in which the Welsh brothers, Morgan and Bleddyn, come to a mutual understanding. I trust that we will see more of Morgan during Richard’s reign.

    3) The visit of Geoffrey and Constance to Paris in February 1186: When Geoffrey says he is a lucky man to have such a forceful wife, Philippe is somewhat taken aback. During his private discussion with Geoffrey, Philippe realizes that he is now only one of the two smartest kids in the class.

    4) Henry’s visit to Constance and his grandchildren in Nantes near the end of 1187 is poignant. Were he not a king, having to deal with the likes of Richard and Philippe, Henry might have had a chance to enjoy his small grandchildren much more than just this one time.

    What strikes me in all these “favorite scenes” is Sharon’s mastery of dialogue. We all get to enjoy reading so many splendid conversations.

  27. Britta B. Says:

    It’s Friday afternoon and SKP Blog-Reading time ‘-)
    I like strong opening paragraphs, the ones that make you feel like you were just dropped into the action, you have to figure out on your own what’s happening. All of Sharon’s books have them. I have always liked the scene with little Llelo being awake at the beginning of FTS. One just HAS to read on to see what happens next. Same for HBD, when young L gets beaten up but is so determined. Throughout a book I often go back to the beginning, especially when the story spans so much time, to see how that little kid stacks up to the adult he/she has become. Richard’s lost in the forest scene was so vivid, too.
    In The Reckoning, I felt almost depressed being on the journey with Hugh and Bran, I could feel Bran’s guilt and loneliness. If a scene/scenes can make me relate to it so strongly, it’s well written in my opinion.
    I agree with Cindy Ash - time for a re-reading of the two trilogies!

  28. Emily-Jane Hills Orford Says:

    I think Eleanor is a rather tragic character. I can’t help but feel sorry for her. She is brilliant, beautiful, and regrettably, due to the time in which she lived, she’s a woman. In spite of her wealth and power as a ruler, she can achieve nothing without a man at her side. In some ways, she reminds me of Mary Queen of Scots, another tragic figure. But, at least Eleanor survives. She is definitely a survivor.

  29. cindy ash Says:

    Oh, I don’t see her as a tragic figure at all. In fact, I suspect she’d scoff at the thought. I think she acheived quite a bit; granted, through the king her husband and the kings her sons, but for her time period, this was pretty significant. She was known in her own lifetime as an intelligent and powerful woman. Could she have done more had she lived in this day and age? Of course. But given her situation, she did what she was able to do

    Now I’ll agree, Mary Queen of Scots was a tragic figure; too many people had their fingers in the pie, and she was reallyu hobbled by them.

  30. Jenny Says:

    Most of my favorite scenes have already been mentioned. Pretty much any scene between Llewelyn and Joanna in HBD, but particularly Davydd’s birth and Joanna helping Llewelyn save face when surrendering to John.

    Marbella, I love that scene between Nell and Edward at the end of Shadow! And also one of the preceeding scenes where Edward’s messenger tells Nell she must surrender Dover Castle to him and she says “I think not. You may tell the Lord Edward that the Countess of Leicester says no.”

    Elen’s death scenes in the Reckoning still haunt me, I loved her character so much. And the scene where Davydd hears Llewelyn’s last message for him was very powerful.

    I’ve only read the Saints trilogy once, but two of my favorite characters are Geoffrey and Constance. I enjoyed all of their scenes, but one of the scenes that resonated with me the most was Constance’s second wedding night with the Earl of Chester when she couldn’t stop thinking of Geoffrey.

  31. Jenny Says:

    Oh! And I just got my copy of The Greatest Knight! I will start it as soon as I finish Gone With the Wind, which is taking me a while to get through, so this gives me incentive to hurry up and finish it!

  32. Paula Says:

    While I’m here I thought I would mention another of by favourite scenes- or maybe two!

    I love the dialogue between Isabelle (John’s queen) and Richard (John’s bastard son) in HBD when Isabelle cautions Richard to not tell John how much Joanna loves Llewelyn. Isabelle tells Richard that John needs to feel he comes first in everyones feelings. It gives great insight into Isabelle (hadn’t thought much of her before that) and it sets up well all the following scenes and conflict with John, Joanna and Llewelyn.

    Then, later in the book I like the scenes with Isabelle and Hugh de Lusignan.

  33. Eleanor Says:

    There is one that has always stuck with me, although it’s hard to call it a favorite. It’s highly traumatic, depicting a psychologically intense moment: the set of scenes at Dover Castle, when Nell and her younger children have been told that Simon and Harry were dead. Young Ellen’s hysterical response rings so true to me. You really captured the heartbreak of a young girl who had just lost her father at precisely the age when a father is so important in an adolescent girl’s social development. The first time I read it, I had a very difficult time getting through it, and I kept grabbing the Kleenex box. Even now, after many re-readings, it can still make me cry.

  34. Ken Says:

    Hi, Everyone!

    Just to say I’m back from London (why are big cities so tiring?) and have posted a message on the ‘Children of llywelyn and Joanna’ attachment.

    Will try to (attempt to) answer your questions and I’m sure that my answers will only generate more questions!!

  35. jerelyn Says:

    I have a confession, I’ve never been able to read the battle scene at Evesham, in Falls The Shadow.

    Favorite of all time is the bed burning, I was crying and laughing at the same time.

  36. Marbella Says:

    HI JERELYN, your confession is very intriguing to me so that brings a question to my mind, it will probably sound stupid but here it goes: Does that mean that you stopped the story there, or simply skipped that whole chapter? I did find those pages hard to swallow so i know what you mean. Specially when Bran runs to help Simon and got there too late….

  37. Elizabeth Chadwick Says:

    I’m dropping in late due to e-mail problems and having been on hols. My memory is total mush. I agree so much re the scenes mentioned, but until people have mentioned them, I don’t specicfically remember and then I think ‘Oh yes, you’re so right!’
    I have to say that the opening scene in HBD has always been a favourite of mine. I had devoured Sunne in Splendour a few years before and had been keeping my eye open for another novel by this terrific author. Then HBD was published. Reading that first chapter was such a treat after a long wait and knowing that I had a full, wonderful novel in front of me with this character as one of the protagonists. From that novel, I also loved the bit where Joanna first meets her father and he gives her a puppy and a new dress. The one in Saints where young Henry starts poking the fire because his parents are arguing has always stayed with me as being very powerful too. It’s not always the big set-piece scenes that hit me (although they do) but smaller paragraphs within scenes. (such as the reconciliation one between Llewelyn and Joanna where she bites his thumb before they make love. That’s so clearly drawn and erotic!

  38. Koby Says:

    Today Louis VII The Young of France died, officially making his son Philippe Augustus King of France. ALso, Happy New Year to everybody!

  39. Ken Says:

    Hi, everyone.

    Just to say that after trawling through literally hundreds of genealogical sites, I’m almost in a position to answer (or pose further questions!) some of your questions about the identity of the mother of Joanna. Will post in the next couple of days.

  40. Sue W Says:

    Great list! For me, 2 of the greatest scenes I’ve ever read are in HBD, the burning of the bed and the reconcilliation at Llanfaes. But Jenny reminded me of the scene when Joanna helped Llewelyn save face with John. I love that book!

  41. Rach Says:

    Bran dying is one of my favourites but it makes me cry like a little girl.

  42. Pam Says:

    Hi, so glad to have found this blog! I just finished my first of your novels, Here Be Dragons, and I will be a fan for life!! It’s so exciting to know I still have so many great reads ahead of me as I prepare to continue on with the Welsh trilogy and then move on to your other books.

    I am so in love with HBD. My favorite parts (I’ll say parts rather than scenes because most play out over several scenes) are Llewelyn, after being beaten up by Walter de Hodnet, telling Hugh that his mother’s name is Marared; John and Joanna meeting and coming to share so much affection; Joanna slowly coming to realize that she loves Llewelyn; Llewelyn’s reluctance to sleep with Joanna, misconstrued by Joanna as a lack of interest; their parting kiss when Joanna goes to visit John; Llewelyn demanding that Joanna open her door after she finds him with Cristyn; the burned bed (of course) and the consummation of the marriage which followed; Llewelyn revealing he wants Joanna to share his bedchamber; Davydd’s birth; Gruffydd riding to meet Llewelyn on the battlefield and telling him he won’t fight him; Llewelyn and Joanna’s reunion at Llanfaes; the final scene in the book. Actually, it’s all still pretty fresh in mind, and I loved every single page!!!

    Thank you for writing such a great book. Your characters sprang to life for me. None was perfect, but there was none with whom I found I could not empathize. I felt I could understand where everyone was coming from, even some of the less likable characters like John and Gruffydd. Llewelyn and Joanna’s love story is one I will always cherish.

    Now, on to Falls the Shadow!

  43. Brenda N. Says:

    I posted on Amazon yesterday and then discovered your blog while at work today (I had to force myself not to read it until I got home!). All of the information on here is fascinating — and I was really excited to read Ken’s findings.

    I didn’t want to “gush” too much in my Amazon post, but after reading Here Be Dragons, it truly has to be my favorite book of all time. I was in Hawaii moving my daughter into her college dorm room last week and we were so busy we didn’t get to a beach once, but I didn’t even care as I stayed up after midnight each night reading HBD! While there, I spent 5 1/2 hours at an auto repair shop one day, getting my daughter’s car fixed, not even caring as I read and read. When the mechanic came to tell me the car was done, I was in tears because of HBD — he was quite nonplussed! On the flight home, I could hardly wait for the man next to me to quit talking so I could read. I finally announced to him, “I’m leaving Hawaii and going to Wales now,” and then warned him “I may get teary and emotional” on the flight as I read but not to worry!

    Throughout HBD my stomach was in such knots at different parts — I couldn’t even bear to read the few pages dealing with Will and Joanna’s tryst and now that I have finished and am going back and re-reading portions of the book, I still can’t read those pages — I merely skim them. It may take me awhile! I am an “incurable romantic” and especially love that Llewelyn and Joanna’s love seems to be grounded in fact. My “favorite scenes” all come from HBD as I have just begun the journey through your books, and they have already been mentioned — I love love love the bed burning, the childbirth scene when Davydd was born, Joanna’s response to Llewelyn’s humiliation upon his surrender to John, the moving scene of their reconciliation at the White Ladies Priory (my favorite), and lastly, the Llanfaes scene, which caused me to cry and cry! My daughter (whose husband recommended this book) and I were texting back and forth all week as she couldn’t wait to see where I was and what I thought. I am still entranced as I’ve been re-reading it. I have Falls the Shadow waiting for me at my local bookstore and I’ve ordered every other book you’ve written. I don’t know when I can leave HBD alone, though! The research-loving attorney in me has caused me to get online to try to learn more of Llewelyn and Joanna as I am quite lacking in any knowledge of Welsh history. That search is how I stumbled across your blog.

    One last note: I have been planning a trip to Italy and Germany, and yesterday my husband said, a bit wryly, “I suppose we’re going to Wales now instead?!” You have quite a following in my son-in-law’s family and now in my own. I do wonder if we should have started with When Christ and His Saints Slept as I feel nothing can eclipse HBD. I, like Pam above, want to thank you for writing these wonderful books - for your detailed research and your amazing, captivating style!

  44. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Hi, Brenda,
    My day had not gotten off to a good start; the news was filled with tragic stories and it is pouring rain and my beautiful shepherd Cody’s arthritis is getting worse and I am suffering one of my periodic panic attacks where I worry that I’ll never meet the Lionheart deadline. So finding your comment on my blog today truly did wonders for my morale! Thank you, or as Llewelyn would have said, Diolch yn fawr. Dragons was initially supposed to be the story of King John and his illegitimate daughter Joanna; I’d found myself wondering how a woman would react upon discovering that the father she’d adored since childhood was capable of acts of great cruelty. When I moved to Wales to research Dragons, all I knew of her husband was that he was a Welsh prince. Well, it took Llewelyn only about a fortnight to steal the book right out from under John’s nose. Once I realized what a remarkable man he was and discovered that their marriage was that rarity, a political alliance that evolved into a genuine love story, I was hopelessly hooked. And since he decided that one book wasn’t enough to tell his story, I ended up doing a trilogy. Oh, yes, and he also puts in an appearance in one of my mysteries, Dragon’s Lair!
    Ken has some more research about Joanna’s mother and I will be posting it as a separate blog entry again when I put up my next blog.

  45. Ken Says:

    Hi, Brenda,

    I thought your post summed up very nicely what all the fans of SKP think of HBD. What a treat you have in store with ‘Falls The Shadow’ and ‘The Reckoning’ - get a plentiful supply of paper tissues in!!

    Sharon’s research for her books is legendary! Particularly for this trilogy which she wrote some 20 years ago, before the advent of the internet. Just to show it is not only her readers who think so, I’ll just copy a paragraph from my paper on ‘The mother of Joanna of Wales,’ where I quote an eminent genealogist’s opinion of our Sharon:

    “I am very fond of Sharon Kay Penman’s books. Even though they are not purely biographical, I feel more comfortable relying on her books to ‘fill in the gaps’ (given the amount of research she obviously put into her books), than in actually citing some genealogical sources that I have come across in my own research (I’m sure we all run into sources like that). To anyone who has not yet read her work, I recommend it very highly, especially if you would like to get a feel for what life was like 800 years ago.”

    Well deserved praise indeed!

  46. Brenna Says:


    You summed up everything I felt the first time I read HBD. Like Charlie says in the “West Wing,” that feeling never goes away. I hope you have the most amazing time reading “Falls the Shadow” and “The Reckoning.” They are amazing. Enjoy reading all of Sharon’s old blogs. Trust me when I say, you will be adding an entire new bookshelf in your house because of all of the wonderful recommendations.

    Sharon, I’m sorry you had a rough morning. I hope it got better once the sun came out (at least it did here). You will meet the deadlines, don’t worry! We all have faith in you and we (meaning all of your passionate,loyal readers) can become your personal cheerleaders. Rah rah rah, go Sharon!

  47. Sharon K Penman Says:

    Hi, everyone. There has been a huge find in the UK, a treasure trove of Anglo-Saxon gold that is being compared to the Book of Kells in terms of its historical significance!

  48. Ken Says:

    A Welsh mountain ‘Carnedd Uchaf’ will be renamed in a ceremony today ‘Carnedd Gwenllian,’ in honour of Wales’s ‘lost princess.’ The Ordnance Survey, Britain’s national cartographic agency will change its maps to reflect the change.

    Gwenllian was the daughter of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and Eleanor (de Montfort). Her mother died in 1282 while giving birth to her and her father was killed in battle later the same year. Gwenllian aged 2 months, was snatched from her guardians and held at the abbey of Sempringham, Lincolnshire, where she lived out the rest of her life, dying at the age of 54 in 1336.

    Carnedd Gwenllian will join other carneddu in the royal circle: Carnedd Llywelyn, named after her father and lying less that 2 miles to the south, and Carnedd Dafydd, which bears the name of Llywelyn’s brother, whom Edward 1 had hung, drawn and quartered. The mountain bearing the name of her mother, Yr Elen, completes the family group.

    The renaming is the result of a campaign by the Princess Gwenllian Society, so often mentioned by Sharon

  49. Sandy B Says:

    I thank the day a book store worker turned me on to Sharon Kay Penman books, especially Here Be Dragons. That is my FAVORITE book of all time. My favorite scenes are the ones Sharon picked herself. I love Llywelyn and the love story of he and Joanna. I have read all of your books Sharon and have read Here Be Dragons 3 times and passed the book on to many others! I am ready to read HBD again. Thank you so much!

  50. Yvette Hoitink Says:

    My two favorite scenes are both from my favorite book, Here be Dragons. One is the passage where Joanna meets Llewelyn and then asks if she can bring her puppy, which makes him realize she’s just a child. The other is the scene where Joanna finds him in bed with his mistress and then burns the bed and him telling her later that she had every right to be angry under Welsh law. I just love the Welsh!

  51. Sue Says:

    Dear Sharon

    I stumbled across your fascinating blog quite by chance a few weeks ago when doing some research online. It was interesting to read something of your thinking behind the novels that I have enjoyed reading so much and which introduced me to the medieval world. I felt in response I should let you have some feedback about the continuing enjoyment you have given me as a result of the stories you’ve told.

    I was first introduced to your work, over 15 years ago, by a friend and ex-colleague who taught history in the school in which we worked. She thought you recreated the medieval world very accurately and recommended the novels in that respect. In so doing she was introducing me to my own country’s history which has inspired and fascinated me ever since.

    It didn’t take long for me to be hooked once I started reading your novels of course. I read Here Be Dragons first, then The Sunne in Splendour followed by The Reckoning. During this time I was actually very poorly having suffered a breakdown and then an ME type illness together with glandular fever. Fortunately I did recover fully eventually, but it was your books that kept me going during this time and indeed influenced my current choice of career in which I find myself, amongst other things, providing interpretation for historic sites.

    Being Welsh the story resonated deeply maybe the more so because I was so poorly. Although I was educated partly in Wales, as children in the 70s, we were never taught about the medieval history of our country. What a dreadful mistake! Teachers would have had their classes spellbound if they had! The irony was not lost on me that I would learn of it from an American novelist but I’ve much to thank you for as a result! Not only did the novels aid my recovery but I visited many of the main sites named in them, probably like many of your readers do, during my recovery which helped me too. Whenever I go home now and I pass through various parts of Wales the stories are close companions brought alive by the natural and man-made landscape and it all so enriches a journey through Wales. The amazing thing about stories is that they never die, do they? If they are strong enough they stay with you always.

    I was very interested to read of Ken’s research on Joanna. Funnily enough I remember reading snippets of some of that research myself on the internet some time ago in the online genealogies and his thoughtfully written research struck a chord. I wasn’t sure at the time if what I was reading was possibly true but now I’ve read Ken’s piece it’s all the more believable. All these footnotes to history make it so compelling I think.

    Finally I’d like to ask you a question that has always intrigued me as I wonder what your take on it is. I’ve always wondered why Llywelyn ap Gruffydd did not marry earlier or even have any illegitimate children as his brother and grandfather did. Their behaviour seemed more typical of the time and their status somehow than his in this respect. Given that the need for an heir would have been paramount it seems strange. Was it a deal struck with Davyedd that Davyedd’s children would inherit? If so this must have been latterly and what about his early years? Why would he want his brothers’ heirs to inherit all along being the formidable warrior leader that he was? You mention too in your blog that a character like Davyedd is a godsend to a novelist because I presume he was so active in so many ways - mostly to the detriment of his brother! I always feel when I read about Llywelyn ap G that he fails to come alive in the same way in novels. Why is he always so shadowy in comparison when he accomplished so much? I always feel he is an enigma somehow. I’d love to know your views on this.

    For now diolch yn fawr iawn for for all your writing! Not everyone can thank a novelist in this way for not only unlocking history for them but for aiding recovery from illness and providing such an enduring subject of interest to enrich their lives subsequently! I felt you should have this feedback.

    Kind regards

    Sue Davies

  52. Егор Says:

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  53. Bretta Says:

    any updates ???

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