Catherine takes us back to 10th Century England and Sally couldn’t wait to get there with Vikings and Saxons. A time of rape and pillage but would there have been space for an M/M Romance? Then be sure to read Sally’s review and also find out what Catherine has to say about the matter. Catherine will be giving away an ebook copy of Kjartan the Gentle to one lucky winner!
Why I started writing M/M romance.
I started my trilogy ‘Tales of Forbidden Love from the Danelaw’ with two M/F stories. I’d never written a gay male romance before, although I’d read them. So when it became clear that Kjartan, one of my ‘Tales’ characters was hiding the fact he was gay, I decided to go for it and write my first M/M romance, ‘Kjartan the Gentle’. Bear in mind that is a very ironic title, like the first books in my trilogy. I like ironic titles.
When I researched Viking attitudes to homosexuality, I was pleased to find the Vikings were very extreme and prejudiced about it—so a huge area where I could explore my themes of Forbidden Love and relationships between people with different cultures.
The best site I found to research was the brilliant Viking Answer Lady (Gunnora Hallakarva) http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/gayvik.shtml
There is ample documentation of homosexuality in insults. Judging by the literature, the Vikings were the “rednecks” of medieval Europe… if you went into the mead hall and called a man a faggot, he’d do the same thing that any good ol’ boy at a Texas cowboy bar would do. The end result would be a big axe in your head instead of a big cowboy boot in your face, but the idea is the same. Furthermore, in every one of the instances where níð or ergiis encountered as an accusation, no one seriously believes that the accused party is in fact homosexual: the charge is symbolic, rather like calling a modern redneck “queer” to provoke him to fight. (Sørenson 20)
So any gay lovers in the Viking Age would undoubtedly face great prejudice- but what about in Dark Age Britain, where the British and Danish cultures clashed and they had different attitudes to gay relationships?
It was a great challenge to write ‘Kjartan the Gentle’, I got very caught up in the research and I hope readers enjoy the book.
Catherine L Byrne
Kjartan the Gentle by Catherine L Byrne
Title: Kjartan the Gentle
Author: Catherine L Byrne
Release: 1st February 2015
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Genre: M/M (Historical)
916 A.D. East Anglia under the Danelaw.
In Dark Age Britain, you knew your place and if you didn’t keep to it, you faced the consequences…
Hot-blooded Kjartan, accidental hero, has settled down into married life, with a baby on the way. But when he meets handsome glass maker Lini, their unlawful relationship provokes angry and passionate reactions from their kinfolk.
They have to fight back against the prejudice of Norse culture, and find out who their real friends—and enemies—are. And this conflict leads to murder.
But who is the victim, and who the killer?
Sometimes a cover image captures the mood of a book perfectly. Here, despite the difference in scale, the lissom youth with red hair holds the gaze of the bearded warrior against a backdrop of rainwashed moorland and wooden buildings. It's the sort of cover that's a magnet for me and the blurb made me whoop "the Danelaw, hell yeah!" so I was very happy to settle down with the book for some immersion in the 10th century.
In retrospect it might have been a good idea to read the previous books in the series because, while I'm familiar enough with the cultures to get by on the information provided, I was a bit confused at times as people were mentioned and I wasn't sure why I should be interested in them or why they were so significant to the protagonists. They were the protagonists of previous books, of course, so fans will have been very glad to see them and their ladies being so cute together, and they served a useful purpose for me in bringing me up to speed on the astonishingly chequered career of Kjartan of the title.
It's actually quite hard to talk about Kjartan without spoiling the previous two books so my apologies if I let the cat out of the bag. You see Kjartan doesn't seem to have been gentle at all. In fact he seems to have been viewed with great suspicion even in this society where the willingness to kill at the drop of a helmet was prized amongst men. Accidental killing or maiming, when sparring or wrestling, was acceptable. It could happen to anyone. Killing when having lost ones temper was also acceptable, especially if avenging a slight on ones honour. But killing for money – no, that was murder. Kjartan had also been a ladies man - absconding with the eorl's wife in addition to assassination led to him being sent into exile. He was accepted back into the village due to acts of unexpected heroism, but he isn't welcome and is under constant scrutiny.
Lini Fleetfoot is the other protagonist. He is a craftsman, making glass ware for the feast hall and beautiful pieces of jewellery from coloured glass, gemstones and amber. But although his crafts are high status, he, as a man who works with tools rather than weapons is considered to be of a much lower status than even a disgraced warrior. But Lini, who is very well aware of his own desires, has admired Kjartan for years and decides to seduce him. When their relationship is discovered it precipitates a cycle of violence that throws Kjartan back into peril.
I think I should mention here something that some readers might find problematical – cheating, and also m/f. Both young men are married, Lini has small children and Kjartan's son is born partway through the book. Both men have sex with their wives on page, in fact Lini has sex with Kjartan's wife too. I promise that it all makes sense in the context of the story, but I know that both these issues are sometimes deal breakers for M/M readers.
Where the book really shone for me was as a depiction of the historical period when Dane and Saxon were doing their best to get along together in close but separate communities. Hallby the Danish settlement is within walking distance of Byrnham, a Saxon village [which I decided was probably Burnham on Crouch in Essex so I had some nice intense mental images of the swampy meadows and huge cloudy skies]. The book shows the gentler side of the Danes – ie not all rape and pillage. They are farmers, fishermen and mighty craftsmen as well as warriors.
But it's still a tribal society viewing all outsiders as enemies – hence the series title of Forbidden Love. In one of the previous books a Danish warrior got into trouble for his love for an English woman, in the other a different warrior pledged himself to a slave. On the surface it appears as though Kjartan should have an easier time of it because at least he and Lini are both Danish. However, the resistance to relationships between two men in Danish culture was enormous. Penetrative sex was a regular method of humiliating defeated enemies, or any other man who needed to be taught a lesson. To treat him so made him argr – womanly – the very worst thing you could say about a man. The concept was taken so seriously that it was an insult that could only be wiped out with blood and any man willing to participate in such activity was rendered an object of contempt in the eyes of his peers. Already on the edge of society, Kjartan is pushing his luck by entering a relationship with Lini so the risk levels are really high.
The book is nicely produced and the history part rocks – although I'd like to see the citation confirming that the Danes made portable hay bales instead of stacking it. It's a fun story, quite short and to the point with some interesting characters and amusing moments. I understand that the author has written another M/M novel and I'd certainly consider reading it, though I hope it's either a standalone story or the first part of a series.
Meet Catherine L Byrne
Catherine L Byrne amused herself writing as a hobby for some years until she had her daughter, but becoming a mum made her realise she now had a purpose and time was limited, so she must get on with writing seriously.
The winter of 2009 was severe and as she and her family live in a small village, they were house bound by unusually deep snow for southern England. So she settled down in her office (i.e. the corner of her bedroom) and began her first book, which was published in 2010.
She hasn't stopped writing since, generally on the theme of forbidden or unrequited love, and often including erotic scenes.
Connect with Catherine
Catherine will be giving way an eBook copy of Kjartan the Gentle to one lucky winner. Just enter the Rafflecopter draw below.
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