Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Welcome, Virginie Marconato

I imagine that the vast majority of authors would say that but I have always loved reading and writing. As a teenager I tried everything. Diaries, of course, poems, adventure books, newspaper articles, but it never amounted to anything.

When it came to writing a full novel, it was a no brainer. Historical romance would be my topic of choice. What better setting for a love story than sweeping landscapes complete with mighty castles, knights on proud destriers and ladies in tall henins? I quickly narrowed the Middle Ages, which span a thousand years and the whole world, to my personal preferences, namely the 14th and15th century and the British Isles. 

I have self-published six medieval stories now and am in the editing stages of my first novel published by The Wild Rose Press.

The inspiration for The White Devil’s Shadow came, quite unoriginally, from my own situation. As a French native married to a Welshman I am naturally drawn to the Hundred Years War, a time when our two countries were at war. Had we lived in 1408, when my story is set, we would have been an unlikely couple to say the least! How does it feel to fall in love with someone everyone tells you is your enemy? Eirlys and Amaury will find out that it is not easy.

Visits to Medieval castles, be it in France or in Britain, always provides inspiration. In these atmospheric surroundings it is rare I do not walk away with a story in mind, as well as pick up on some useful details. A bay window seat where the heroine might look over the landscape while she sews, an impressive barbican where the hero would get ready for battle, a dark corridor where stolen kisses could be had… The possibilities are endless and never fail to fuel my already buzzing imagination.


Wales, in the middle of the Hundred Years War.

In this difficult context two enemies, French nobleman Amaury de Malfete and Welsh heiress Eirlys are forced to marry by their unscrupulous fathers. As soon as the wedding night is over Amaury leaves for battle.

He only returns four years later, when everyone has long been convinced of his death.

After such a difficult start they will both find it hard to resume their marital life. Eirlys cannot help but resent her husband’s abandonment and be wary of his intentions. She is determined to keep him at bay until he shows her that he sees her as more than a possession. Amaury has his own demons to battle but he is desperate to prove to his wife – and himself – that he is not the type of man his cruel forefathers were.

To earn their happy ever after they will have to bare their souls, reveal painful secrets and risk losing it all.




“Don’t cry my lady, not on your wedding day. No bride should cry on her wedding day!” 

Eirlys gave another desperate sob. Bride or not, if someone should be allowed to cry, it was her. 

Her father had taken the bewildering decision to marry her to a stranger, a Frenchman, a man she considered her enemy and the enemy of her nation. She had pleaded to be spared such a fate but he had been deaf to all her protests. In the Count of Harcourt, her future father-in-law, he had found the perfect, if unlikely tool of his lifetime ambition and her arguments had been ignored. Dazzled by the prospect of his only daughter becoming a Countess her father had been happy to relinquish the best part of his fortune for the privilege and nothing or no one could have changed his mind, least of all her.

Amaury de Malfete had been called from Anjou and Eirlys was about to become his wife. 

“What about brides who are marrying someone they consider their enemy? Brides who know their groom views the union with equal distaste? What of these brides Mair, aren’t they allowed to weep?” she cried out, wringing her hands in despair. “Or once their dignity and their freedom have been taken away from them, are they to be robbed of that last satisfaction? I will cry if I want to cry, that is all that is left to me.” 

Her lady in waiting waved the words away but the light in her eyes was uncertain.

“Perhaps Amaury de Malfete will prove to be a good husband for you,” she said, forcing joviality into her voice. “Your father could have chosen much worse. He is of an age to you, having just turned eighteen, he is reputed to be chivalrous and brave and he is fair of countenance.”

This last comment stopped Eirlys short. Despite her reluctance to be married to him, she had indeed found the Count’s son to be an uncommonly handsome man and a part of her could not deny a frisson at the idea of becoming his wife. She bristled, ashamed at this shallowness. His good looks should not matter in the least.

“He is French, little could be worse than that,” she replied uncompromisingly, pushing the image of the tall, blond stranger out of her mind. “Remind me who we have been at war with these past sixty-seven years?”

Mair sighed, the noise of someone who had been forced to listen to the same discussion over and over again. “The English have but you are Welsh, are you not? And an alliance with France is eminently desirable for us right now. The rebellion will never succeed without it.”

Eirlys let out an unlady-like snort. “I am Welsh when it suits my father and English like my mother when he deems it more profitable.” Abandoning all pretence at calmness she stood up, destroying with a shake of her head the delicate hairdo her lady had created. “You mark my words, if the Count of Harcourt had not made this accursed offer when he did I would no doubt have been married off to an English lord when Owain Glyndŵr’s revolt comes to naught in six months’ time!”

“Do you wish Glyndŵr to fail?” Mair asked, piqued. A staunch supporter of the independence fighters, she was shocked at her mistress’ supposition.

“No. I am only pointing out that my father was shamefully quick to use this new alliance to further his own advantage. In his haste to be recognised he sold his daughter to the highest bidder, even though he be French.” She twisted her lips. 

“That is perhaps not fair.”

“No, as in this instance the money will be provided by my father. This union will not make him richer, all he has to gain is the prestige of a noble title for me and Glyndŵr’s approval for himself. The Count and his son will be the ones to benefit from a financial point of view. God knows we are rich enough, if little more than savages in the eyes of the French nobility.”

Eirlys knew she sounded angry but the fact remained that her only meeting with her future husband’s family had been a humiliating disaster. Issued from old nobility and proud of their lineage they had made a point of making her feel inferior in every way. A Welsh bride was not their idea of the prestigious match the Count of Harcourt should have secured for his heir and the Angevins had not tried to hide their contempt when they had looked at her. 

When they had spoken it had been even worse.

Her future groom, to give him his due, had at least tried to behave civilly, if somewhat stiffly towards her. Though his reluctance to marry her was plain to see, he had done his best to shield her from the taunts and comments flying around her. Eirlys forced herself to focus on this encouraging sign. Maybe, French though he was, Amaury de Malfete was a reasonable man and being his wife would prove nowhere near as demeaning as she had first imagined.

“You always knew you would not marry for love but to further the family’s fortune,” Mair argued.

“I did. But I never expected to be sacrificed to an enemy in a moment of unprincipled folly. The Count of Harcourt must have counted on my father’s inability to refuse the title of Countess for his only daughter. Money he has made but a noble rank is that which he covets more than anything else for his heirs.”

“Be that as it may, we need to get you ready now.” 

Taking the bejewelled crispinette in her hands Mair tried to lead her mistress back to the chair but Eirlys waved her impatiently away. 

“Do you know what they call my future husband’s father? Le Diable Blanc. The White Devil.”

As she had anticipated, her lady could not refrain from shivering at the name. “Why is that?” Mair asked, in a whisper. 

“I know not but I hardly think it speaks well for the family’s moral values, do you?”

“They say that your betrothed is an honourable knight, whatever his father’s reputation might be,” Mair replied cautiously but Eirlys could not help but note a distinct cooling in her voice. 

“He is still French. I never imagined I would marry into a French family! My mother would never have countenanced such an alliance!”

But her mother was not here any longer, and no one had come to her aid. Her father would not be gainsaid. Before the day was over she would be the Comtesse de Harcourt, whether she wanted it or not.

“Please sit down, there isn’t much time left!” Mair cried out, unable to contain her anguish any longer. “You have just spoiled your coiffure and you are still not dressed.”

Eirlys looked at the gown laid on the bed, ready for her to slip into. It was a spectacular creation of shimmering blue brocade. Her father had spared no expense, impressing on her the importance of this union in his scheme of grandeur. 

“Yes, I must look presentable for my groom, mustn’t I? We cannot possibly disappoint the French.” She gritted her teeth. “I will have to do my duty.”

Suddenly defeated, she sat down and let herself be transformed into a bride.


“Smile Amaury, pour l’amour de Dieu! You are getting married, not about to face a charging enemy!”

“No, although God knows I would prefer it.” Amaury ran a hand through his hair. If he did not want to attend the ceremony with a black eye, his brother would be best advised to keep his mouth shut. 

“Come, you have to admit that Father has chosen a comely bride for you. Bedding her should be an even more pleasant experience than skewering an Englishman, although I dare say you will draw blood at some point!” Geoffrey laughed, pleased with his own witty remark. “At least I hope she is a virgin, for your sake. How humiliating otherwise. But you never know with these Welsh people,” he mused, taking a swig of ale. “They are not at all like us.”

“The point I was trying to make is that our father chose her, not I,” Amaury answered, ignoring the vulgar comment. He had always found his brother’s crudeness hard to stomach and he would not stoop to his level. “Her beauty would not have been taken into account, and we both know it.”

Though he wanted to give the impression that he cared little about her appearance, Amaury could not help but remember that during his meeting with his future bride he had been surprised to find her so beautiful, even if, with her pale complexion and silvery blond hair, she was rather exotic to a man used to dark-eyed seductresses. 

The other thing that had struck him was that her reluctance regarding their union seemed to match his own. Her father was squandering her away on a gamble, hoping that this opportunistic alliance with Owain Glyndŵr’s new allies would bring him the Welsh rebel’s favour. A highly risky strategy at best, a fool’s errand at worst. He could not blame the old man’s daughter for feeling like an undervalued pawn in a game of chance but it did not make his own situation any more acceptable.

He too was being used shamefully.

“You know perfectly well our father didn’t choose her so I could have a comely wife to warm my bed. The sole purpose of this marriage is to replenish his coffers,” he added for good measure. This union would only have appealed to the Count for financial reasons, nothing more. It was a highly cynical move, making the most of Eirlys’ own father’s reckless ambition. “God’s teeth, he squanders his money away, compromises his fortune and my rightful inheritance and expects me to pick up the pieces!”

Geoffrey grimaced. “Pieces indeed! You will one day inherit Father’s lands in Anjou, on top of those your wife brings with her which, though situated in this accursed land, are plentiful, and a fortune by no means contemptible. Some of us have to make do with much less,” he reminded him, a not so subtle allusion to his own lack of prospects as a younger son.

“I know but consider this. Eirlys is Welsh. That is not the kind of alliance I ever envisaged.” Amaury didn’t need to say more. Refined Frenchmen considered Welsh people hardly better than barbarians. “And worst of all, because of his foolish decision to ally us with this obscure people, our father engaged us all to go and fight for their doomed of a cause in Dartmouth. Married today, gone to war tomorrow!” 

He strode to the other side of the room, overturning a chair with an angry movement.

“I thought you didn’t like your wife. You cannot object to leaving her so soon if this is the case.” Geoffrey picked up the chair and shrugged the matter way. “And fighting the English is what we do, whether here or in France, so stop complaining brother. It’s time to go.”

Amaury emptied the goblet of wine Geoffrey was holding out to him and stormed out of the room without another word.


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  1. My pleasure ! You’re an early bird!!!

  2. .love the blurb. When will the book be out?

    1. Thank you! Good news the book is already out! Check the link above or go to Amazon .

  3. Wonderful blurb and excerpt, Virginie! Wishing you all the best.

    1. thanks Mary, this is a good opportunity for me

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  6. Oh, they are both such strong characters! ! It's going to be a great read! And I enjoyed learning more about you and what inspires you. Wishing you all the best, Virginie! A great day to you, ladies!

    1. Merci, you’ll have to tell me what you thought of this great read!

  7. I would love to walk through medieval castles. There aren't any near me. Great post and excerpt.