The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy: Boxed Set

USA Today Bestselling box set containing Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen, and Mistress of Legend.

Game of Thrones meets The Mists of Avalon. Perfect for fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Philippa Gregory, George R. R. Martin and Signe Pike.

  • Best Fiction Series – Independent Book Publisher (IPPY) Awards

Guinevere is remembered for her role as King Arthur’s wife and for her adulterous affair with Lancelot. But there is so much more to her story…

Priestess. Queen. Warrior. Experience the world of King Arthur through Guinevere’s eyes as she matures from a young priestess who never dreamed of becoming queen to the stalwart defender of a nation and a mistress whose sin would go down in history. Throughout it all, Guinevere faces threats from both foreign powers and within her own court that lead her to place her very life on the line to protect the dream of Camelot and save her people.

This compendium of Nicole Evelina’s two-time Book of the Year award-winning trilogy – Daughter of Destiny, Camelot’s Queen, and Mistress of Legend – gives fresh life to an age-old tale by adding historical context and emotional depth. Spanning more than three decades, it presents Guinevere as an equal to the famous men she is remembered for loving, while providing context for her controversial decisions and visiting little-known aspects of her life before and after her marriage to King Arthur.

Purchase

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Book One: Daughter of Destiny
Before queenship and Camelot, Guinevere was a priestess of Avalon. She loved another before Arthur, a warrior who would one day betray her. Learn the true story of her early life.

  • Book of the Year– Chanticleer Reviews
  • Best New Voice, (Silver Award), IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards
  • Winner – North Street Book Prize
  • “Rich and stunning, easily comparable to novels by other bestselling historical fiction authors.” – Chanticleer Book Reviews

Book Two: Camelot’s Queen
Guinevere is now High Queen and Arthur’s top strategist. But when she is feared dead, Arthur installs a new woman in her place, one who will poison his affections, threatening Guinevere’s fragile sanity and driving her into the arms of her champion. Can the Grail’s promise of peace set things right or will peace prove as dangerous as war?

  • Fiction Book of the Year– Author’s Circle
  • Best Second Book– Next Generation Indie Book Awards

“Historical fantasy at its finest!” – InD’Tale Magazine

Book Three: Mistress of Legend
Legend says Guinevere spent her final days in penance in a convent, but that is far from the truth. Not one to quietly cede power, she fights for her ancestral homeland against an invasion that threatens both her people and her life.

  • Finalist – Chaucer Award (historical fiction pre-1750) – Winners TBD
  • Finalist – Foreword Indies (fantasy) – Winners TBD

“Full of riveting action and surrealistic scenes of ancient lore…Deftly crafted and highly recommended historical fiction!” Historical Novel Society

Other Awards

 

Languages: Published in English worldwide. All other rights available
Formats: paperback, ebook
Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing
ISBN:

  • 978-0-9967632-8-8 (print)
  • 978-0-9967632-9-5 (ebook)

Open for Submissions: Anthology to Benefit Female Human Trafficking Recovery

Image purchased from Adobe Stock

This morning I participated in an online (for me at least) tea and chat event with #StrongWomenWrite founder and author Khrys Vaughan, who I’ve known for years in the St. Louis writing community. (In fact I don’t think I ever mentioned the interview I did with her back in March. Here’s the link if you want to hear me and author Sheri Fink talking about writing strong female characters.)

Anyway, Khrys has since moved to Atlanta. She surprised all of us with announcing a multi-step, multi-year plan to help women who have escaped human trafficking in St. Louis and Atlanta, two of the biggest hubs for this crime in the country.

The Plan
1. It begins with a book authored by women about women. Half of it will be the true stories of women who have experienced human trafficking and managed to escape their captors. Each of these profiles will be paired with a fictional short story (2-3 pages) written by a participating author. That story can be anything except erotica or gore and does not have to have anything to do with the profile it is paired with. But it must feature a strong female character. Participation is free to the author other than what you choose to spend on marketing it when the book comes out. Anticipated publication is September 1, 2020.

2. Proceeds from the anthology will help fund the next part of the project which includes a tea room and a tiny home outside of Atlanta. It will also be a place where they can recover and learn a trade/skill. Khrys has a location in mind. The hope is that the tiny home can be located  on the same property as the tea room or on nearby land. The location will be determined by what Georgia law permits.

3. There will eventually be more than one house (one for women, one for orphans, etc.) and the land will be self-sustaining. It takes five years for a tea plant to mature. Tea can be grown in Atlanta, but the soil could be a problem. If so Khrys will draw on experience and contacts from her previous social enterprise projects for the best solution to help women here, but possibly abroad. 

Why I’m Participating
I am so all over this project for several reasons:

1. I used to want to be a nun/sister but none of the ministries of the orders I looked at interested me. I realized after watching several documentaries on human trafficking and prostitution when I was in my teens and 20s, that helping those women is something I would love to be involved with. If I could have found a religious order where that was their ministry, I would have been all over it. As a lay person, I knew being a social worker wasn’t for me (I don’t have the personality for it), so I didn’t know how I could help. And now with this project, I do.

Me at the House of Mercy in Dublin in 2012. The statue behind me depicts Catherine as a Sister helping a woman in need.

2. I ended up working for a non-profit Catholic health care organization (I’ve been there almost 16 years). Our ministry traces its roots to Dublin, Ireland, in 1827 when a woman named Catherine McAuley (now on her way to sainthood in the Catholic Church) opened a refuge for poor women and children called the House of Mercy. She was a lay person and wanted her ministry to involve other lay women. At the House, they gave shelter to poor women, those running from abuse, and orphaned children. They also gave them an education and taught them a trade. (Which sounds an awful lot like Khrys’ plan.

Eventually, the Church forced Catherine to become a nun (because in those days, lay women performing that kind of ministry was unthinkable). She ended up founding the Sisters of Mercy in 1831 to ensure her ministry endured.

Catherine’s tea cup in the House of Mercy archives in Dublin.

One of the earliest symbols of the Sisters was a cup of tea because it reflected the hospitality for all they were vowed to provide. (Plus, tea time was a tradition in Ireland.) On her deathbed, Catherine said about her fellow Sisters, “Make sure they have a comfortable cup of tea when I am gone.” She wanted them to have a way to deal with their grief and the bonding that takes place over a cup of tea was part of it.

To this day, each year on September 24, the date Catherine opened the House of Mercy, we celebrate Mercy Day with a cup of tea and cookies, among other celebrations. Interestingly, just yesterday, I was working on materials for our Mercy Day celebrations this year, and at dinner, one of my friends who also works for the same company said to me, “I think you are a Catherine McAuley.” She said it twice.

3. Since 2006 when I first visited the U.N. and became interested in what Angelia Jolie (and now Emma Watson) were doing with U.N. Women, I’ve said that when I become rich and famous, I want to be a U.N. ambassador. My goal was to travel around the world with a photographer and tell the stories of the women I met. I feel like this project is God’s way of letting me do this now on a smaller scale.

4. I’m all about telling the stories of women in danger of being forgotten. Who is more vulnerable or likely to be overlooked than a woman in sexual slavery? No one wants to think about such a thing or admit that this very lucrative trade exists in the 21st century. I’m hoping to be involved in the interviewing and writing of the profiles of the women, and Khrys just asked me to write the forward, which is an honor.

Meant to Be
For me, the parallels between these things and the project that Khrys is starting are too strong to ignore. I don’t believe in coincidences; I think everything happens for a reason and I feel like God and Catherine are guiding me to this project.

I actually already know what my short story is going to be about. I won’t give it away, but it comes from the life of Catherine and involves a domestic who was trying to escape an abusive master.

As I said, Khrys is looking for additional female authors (sorry guys, this is a women-only project) who would like to contribute. You can email her at ikhrys [at] gmail.com or I can try to answer your questions, but she obviously knows things better.

I’ll keep everyone updated as things progress. This may be the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. Thank you, Khrys, for inviting me to be a part of it.

The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy Makes Smashwords’ Hot List

I got an email this morning that the Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy made Smashwords’ Hot List for being one of their bestselling books last week. I didn’t even know this was a thing. It’s mostly a behind the scenes thing they do to help promote your book to Apple, B&K and Kobo. There’s no actual logo for it, so I made one (and likely violated all of their brand guidelines in the process. Sorry!)

They also told me that Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy was the top selling book and boxed-set at Smashwords last week, both overall and in the Fantasy and Fairy Tale categories. So hey more accolades!

We Did It! The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy is a USA Today Bestseller!

I cannot thank everyone enough for all of your help promoting The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy last week. It paid off! We made the USA Today bestseller list at #148 and as one of only six sci-fi/fantasy books on this week’s list.

More details on how the book fared during the campaign are below, but first the mushy stuff. It may seem odd for me to say “we” but it is totally accurate. I may have written the book and did part of the promotion, but you are the reason my book is on this list. I could not have done this without my friends and fans. And for that there are not enough words in all of the languages on the planet for me to express my gratitude. Your outpouring of love and support online truly overwhelmed me; when I saw all the sharing on Facebook and Twitter and felt you genuinely rooting for me, it changed me for the better. I’ve always known theoretically that supporting others is good, but I’m an only child, and thus, rather self-absorbed (yes, even at nearly 40). By your example, you taught me just how powerful it is to support others, especially fellow writers. Beyond that, I have no doubt that without your purchases, shares, and well-wishes, this dream of mine would not have come true. This honor is as much yours as it is mine.

I want to say a special thank you to Nancy Bilyeau, Susanna Kearsley and Amy Collins for being willing to share my promotion with your fans. And also to James Conroyd Martin, Pat Whaler, Shauna Granger, Liv Raincourt, Courtney Marquez, Jeanne Felfe, my entire street team and a million other people for constantly sharing the graphics and links online. (If I didn’t list you by name, please don’t be offended. These are just the top people who came to mind. I’m going to try to compile a more complete list of people who shared when I go back to do my post-campaign measurement.) This accomplishment is truly a testament to the power of networking. When I met all of you, I never thought I would have something like this ask and I value our friendship first and foremost, but thank you for being willing to champion this book. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank BookBub for giving me the featured deal that made all of this possible.

As you may know, this is my first time on any bestseller list and is my first time “earning my letters,” as they say. (I have my USA and now only need my NYT. Someday!) It is particularly important to me that it was this book that got on the bestseller list. You see, when I first started imagining what was then called Guinevere’s Tale (hence the name of the series) way back in September 1999, I imagined it like this – one gigantic book to rival The Mists of Avalon. It was only in early 2008, when I began to realize what I was writing might actually be publishable that I learned I would likely have to break it up into several books for the publishing industry to even consider it from a debut author. I certainly don’t mind it being a trilogy, but in my mind it will always be one long story.

In case you weren’t following the flurry of photos on social media (and by God was it fun to watch the rankings rise), here’s a rundown of how The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy did from Monday, July 8 through Monday, July 15:

Sales and Category Rankings

  • #1 in fantasy at Barnes and Noble
    • Held for 2.5 days
    • In top 15 for 4 days
    • Bestseller status for 5 days
  • #11 in ALL Nook ebooks
    • In Top 100 for 3 days
  • #1 in three subcategories on Amazon
    • Held for 2.5 days
  • #4 in Fantasy on Amazon
    • Held for 2 days
  • #5 in Sci-fi and Fantasy on Amazon
    • Held for 2 days
  • #40 in ALL Kindle ebooks
    • In Top 100 for 2.5 days
  • #8 in Sci-fi and Fantasy on iBooks (I only thought to look at this on Sunday, so I’m not sure if it was any higher. It likely was at least on Thursday.)
  • Outsold both George R. R. Martin (2 books) and Nora Roberts at certain points.

 

Amazon Author Rankings

  • In Top 100 authors for 4 days.

Nearly a Canadian bestseller.

I also thought it was interesting that it ranked in both book and ebook categories on Amazon even though only the ebook was on sale.

All this to say, wow, what a whirlwind. As Kate Quinn noted, I can now and forever more say I am a USA Today Bestselling author and no one can take that away from me. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart. And if there is ever any way I can repay you, all you have to do is ask.

For those who want to know the nitty-gritty of how all this happened, look out for another blog post on Thursday, August 1, in which I dissect every detail of the campaign, numbers and all. After all, if I did it, so can you!

Two Days Left to Help The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy Hit the USA Today Bestseller List

I’ll post a full roundup next week after the promotion is over, but I just wanted to say THANK YOU and remind everyone that there are still two days left of The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy promotion (the ads say Monday, but USA Today stops counting at midnight on Sunday).

Please help in any way you can: buying and/or sharing on social media or telling your friends. WORD OF MOUTH THIS SO IMPORTANT! Remember, this sale is 3 books for less than $1.

So far, we’ve ranked:

  • #1 in fantasy at Barnes and Noble
  • #11 in ALL Nook ebooks
  • #1 in three subcategories on Amazon
  • #4 in Fantasy on Amazon
  • #5 in Sci-fi and Fantasy on Amazon
  • #41 in ALL Kindle ebooks

Here’s a sample FB/Twitter post in case you want to share. More graphics are available here: https://nicoleevelina.com/new-sale-graphics-guineveres-tale-trilogy/

TIME IS RUNNING OUT to get this BESTSELLING trilogy for ONLY $0.99. Experience Camelot through Guinevere’s eyes. Buy links: https://nicoleevelina.com/the-books/historical-fiction/guineveres-tale-box-set/.

Sale Updates, an Interview and an Article

I got a bestseller banner on B&N!

These are exciting times! In the last two days The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy has been dubbed a bestseller by Barnes and Noble (top 8 in fantasy) and been within the top 2-4 books in three categories on Amazon.

PLUS, today I am Author of the Day over at ManyBooks- check out their interview with me– and I have a new article on Medievalists.net on the first Battle of Lindisfarne (Angles, pre Vikings), which you can experience yourself when you read the third book in the Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy, Mistress of the Legend.

AND the big BookBub featured deal is tomorrow (it’s the keystone of the promo I have going right now). Please keep sharing on social media, Bookbub, Goodreads, through text or email, in person, anything you can think of so we can hit the USA Today Bestseller list! Tell everyone you know. I bet they could scrape together $0.99 from their couch cushions or car. (Or if you’re like me, the bottom of your purse!) Please direct them here.

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has purchased the book and/or helped promote it so far. You are a Godsend to me.

 

 

The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy: On Sale Now

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Being a writer is full of “dream come true” moments.

Some happen with each book, like typing “the end,” or holding a hard copy in your hands for the first time, or celebrating your publication day.

Some happen more rarely, if at all, at least for most authors. Hitting a bestseller list is one of those, especially for an indie author.

This week I have the chance to make that happen. You see, I have a Bookbub featured deal in the United States for my Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy. The whole thing (all three books in one volume) are only $0.99 in ebook from July 8-15. If enough people purchase it during that time, I could possibly hit the USA Today bestseller list.

I’m a firm believer that God helps those who help themselves, so I am not being shy in asking for your help. I only ask one thing of you in return for a series that took me 19 years to write: please download The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy by June 15. Even if you already have one or more of the books in another format, even if you don’t ever intend to read it, please consider spending $0.99 to support my dream.

If you aren’t tied to Amazon for your ebooks, please consider downloading from Barnes and Noble or iTunes (authors have to have a certain number of sales from there to make the list; Amazon alone doesn’t qualify.)

Tell Me More
What’s the book about? You can read the full description here, but in short, it is the story of King Arthur and Camelot from Guinevere’s point of view—her life story.

  • Book 1, Daughter of Destiny, covers her early life as a priestess of Avalon and her first love during a time she never dreamed of becoming queen, as well as how she met Morgan and Arthur.
  • Book 2, Camelot’s Queen, tells the story we are all familiar with, Guinevere’s time at King Arthur’s side, but it also provides a twist on why she had her famous affair with Lancelot.
  • Book 3, Mistress of Legend, includes the fall of Camelot and Guinevere’s later life as she seeks to reestablish her identity once she is no longer queen and preserve the legacy of her mother’s people from the invading Saxons. 

In case you are wondering what others have said about the trilogy, I’ll quote from a few reader reviews. (You can read the trade reviews on the book page.)

“The Guinevere’s Tale Trilogy shows us not a passive woman, but a strong one…This is a must-read for anyone who loves adventure woven with a touch of fantasy.” – K9freind1

“Loved this series! Strong, vibrant characters. The world building is detailed and pulls you right into the story…I’d highly recommend it for a great summer read.” – John

“I didn’t want this story to end!…This book is 100% book of a lifetime to read!” Kristinann

Going Above and Beyond
If you are so inclined, please also share information on the sale on social media. I’ve created a page that has ready-made images (just right-click on them to download) and sample tweets and links to where the book is for sale to make it as easy as possible to share.

What do you get in return? Three books that are my baby. If I could list with this single-volume boxed set, it would be especially meaningful to me because I originally imagined Guinevere’s story as one gigantic volume (ala The Mists of Avalon). While I certainly don’t mind it being broken up into a trilogy, I love that I can offer it the way I envisioned it as well.

If you’ve already helped my dreams come true by buying, THANK YOU. If you have time to leave a review, that is always appreciated and may encourage others to buy. Here’s the link to review on Amazon.

Thank You
Thank you for any help you can give. Know that your support makes you agents of fate in my life. Let me know how/when I can return the favor for you.

In the meantime, if you need me, I’m going to be fighting the temptation to look at my Amazon rankings every five minutes…I’ll let you know in a few weeks if we were successful in hitting the list!

Paper: Changing Minds, Changing Role: Guinevere Throughout Literary History

Today I had the amazing privilege of attending and speaking at my very first academic conference, the Seventh Annual Symposium on Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University (SLU).

As soon as I get my footnotes in proper format, I’m going to upload the paper I gave on academia.edu (great resource for all you researchers out there), so I thought I would share it here as well. It is basically a 20 minute version of the same argument I give in The Once and Future Queen, just WAY pared down. Hope you enjoy!

Changing Minds, Changing Role: Guinevere Throughout Literary History

When you think of Guinevere, chances are good two other names spring to mind: Arthur and Lancelot. For nearly two thousand years, she has been defined by the men in her life and the sin she committed. But the Guinevere of Arthurian literature is so much more. She is a bellwether of society’s views toward women, a character that changes over time as history’s thoughts on women evolve. She is a representative figure of the fears, hopes, lusts, and dreams of society, a figure ever morphing to meet the needs of her reader.

While a full account of Guinevere’s evolution is beyond the scope this presentation, I will endeavor to show through a handful of examples how she has served as both a warning and an aspiration for women over the last two thousand years.

Beginnings and Geoffrey of Monmouth
Guinevere begins her Arthurian journey in Welsh poetry and literature as very much a peripheral character, an object with no real identity or agency outside of her interactions with Arthur. The earliest mention of her is in the story “Culhwch and Olwen,” which is part of The Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh tales first written down between 1100-1225, but believed to be much older. Here she is little more than a symbol of Arthur’s court and its wealth. This is a silent, objectified role that she will play often in the future, even in the famous Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and is in keeping with the way women were perceived by the Celts.

While Celtic women were better off than their Greek and Roman counterparts, the Celtic world was not a matriarchal utopia, nor did its women have equal rights, as some like to believe. While they had many rights and laws that protected them, Celtic women could not act as witnesses, could not enter into contracts without their husband or father’s consent, and had limited rights of property ownership and inheritance. Even “a queen had no official or special legal rights independent of her husband.”[1]

Guinevere is also mentioned in four of the famous Welsh Triads, mnemonic devices dating to the ninth century[2] meant to preserve early folklore, mythology, and oral history. Here we find the idea that there may have been two or three Guineveres and the condemnation of Guinevere as one as one of the unfaithful wives of Britain: “One was more faithless than those three: Gwenhywfar, Arthur’s wife, since she shamed a better man than any of the others.” Some see this as proof that Guinevere had a bad reputation from the beginning, but others believe it was a later addition, written after Geoffrey of Monmouth introduced Guinevere’s affair with Mordred into Arthurian legend.

Either way, without Monmouth, there would be no Guinevere as we know her. His pseudo-history The History of the Kings of Britain contains very little information about Guinevere: only her lineage, her betrayal of Arthur with Mordred and her flight to safety in a convent. In fact, she is mentioned only six times and never directly speaks, establishing a tradition of passivity it will take hundreds of years to break, but is perfectly aligned with early medieval views of proper female behavior.

The Middle Ages are widely considered one of the worst times in history to be female. Powerful priests used the Bible—specifically the story of woman being created by Adam’s rib and St. Paul’s admonition that women should be subservient to men, remain silent, and never teach—to emphasize the superiority of men and sinfulness of women as descendants of an immoral Eve. The Virgin Mary, meek, mild, and completely obedient to God’s will, was seen as the paragon of womanly virtue.

Medieval woman were classified according to their sexual status, rather than their occupation: they could be virgins, wives, mothers or widows.[3] Their role was strictly to support the life desired by men. And when they went against societal expectations, like Mary Magdalene, they had to repent. Hence, Geoffrey of Monmouth has Guinevere first join in Mordred’s rebellion against Arthur, then flee to a nunnery for protection. There “she took her vows among the nuns, promising to live a chaste life,”[4] silent, submissive and humble, just as a medieval woman was expected to behave.

Chrétien De Troyes
The next major figure to shape the character of Guinevere was Chrétien De Troyes, a twelfth-century poet who invented the love affair between Guinevere and Lancelot as an example of courtly love, likely at the behest of this patroness, Marie de France.

In his tales, Guinevere is a cold, shrew-like character who berates Lancelot as proud because on his way to rescue her, he hesitated a moment before stepping into back of a cart, lest he appear to be a common criminal. While this may seem like odd behavior, both characters are following the rules of courtly love, which insist that the man be almost obsessively in love and willing to do anything, even humiliate himself for his beloved, and that the woman be wanton and jealous and “correct any behavior in her lover that does not follow the rules of courtly love.”[5]

In Chrétien’s stories, Guinevere and Lancelot’s love is one of bliss and joy with no hint of remorse, which is in keeping with Marie de France’s ideal of courtly love. Although sexual relations are rarely portrayed as part of courtly love, it is possible that Marie—if she was indeed the source of the affair storyline—may have been using it as a bit of reverse psychology to emphasize the exact opposite of accepted courtly love behavior,[6] which kept love at a safe spiritual distance. In this way, Guinevere and Lancelot served as a warning to the members of her court.

The Vulgate Cycle
Not long after, in early thirteenth century, The Vulgate Cycle (also known as Lancelot-Grail Cycle) was written. Believed to be the work of Cistercian monks and clerics, the Vulgate Cycle is five interconnected tales telling the story of King Arthur from his birth to his death. These stories are the first to associate Guinevere with witchcraft and the Guinevere/Lancelot affair with the need for religious repentance from guilt.

As in earlier stories, Guinevere has no personality of her own, existing solely as an object of affection for the men in her life. Some believe she isn’t meant to be seen as a person, but as a symbol of Lancelot’s fatal flaw—loving her costs him the Grail and brings about the fall of Camelot. Here again we see her not as a woman in her own right, but as a person beloved by Lancelot, the Eve to his Adam who brings about his downfall.

It very well could be that the monks who penned this version of Guinevere, being chaste and cloistered away from the outside world, simply didn’t have the experience with women necessary to craft a convincing female character. Or, it could be that they were more interested in getting across their religious message of the evils of woman and the importance of repentance than in representing Guinevere accurately. Whatever the reason, they cast a long shadow of guilt that become more prominent as the popularity of the Arthurian legend soared at Thomas Malory’s hands.

Malory
Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur is one of the most famous works of Arthurian legend. It is the one that firmly placed a Christian King Arthur in the Middle Ages and made Guinevere a main character. In fact, she can even be seen as the prime motivator of the story, as she is the reason Lancelot goes on adventures and demonstrates his skills as the best of knights. Plus, her affair with Lancelot is what ends up allowing Mordred to usurp the throne. [7]

Like the story, Malory’s Guinevere is complex, and often contradictory, which can make it difficult to get a handle on exactly who Malory intended her to be. She is hot and cold with Lancelot and changes seemingly without motivation from a noble figure to a conniving adulteress and then again to repentant nun.[8] This is likely the result of the disjunction between Malory’s varied source materials and his own views[9] as he grappled with a sin he was forced to include, but then had to find a way to redeem.

Under Malory’s pen, Guinevere is symbolic of several things. First, of a woman’s role in helping her man attain heavenly perfection.[10] Throughout the tale, Guinevere “tries to repair Lancelot’s flaws.”[11] This is why she refuses his final kiss; by doing so she is in effect ensuring salvation for them both.

She is also symbolic of an ideal queen, a role at which she both succeeds and fails, and therefore appears contradictory. On one hand, she is a capable supervisor and helpmate to Arthur, yet she fails to produce an heir, which is her most important duty.[12] In succumbing to her feelings for Lancelot, Guinevere also fails in her fidelity to her king, which is the supreme duty of any subject, especially the queen. Later, in becoming a nun, she takes on the role of repentant sinner and acts as the guardian of morality for both the female sex and the court of Camelot, and by extension, as a warning for the women of the Malory’s time.

Renaissance and Victorian Eras
After Malory, the Arthurian world—especially in relation to Guinevere—went into something of a drought until the nineteenth century due to shifting morality after the Reformation[13] and the association of James I with King Arthur.[14]

This negative mood reigned until the Victorians revived interest in all things Arthuriana. When Tennyson introduces Guinevere in Idylls of The King, she is already with the nuns at Amesbury, anonymously in hiding because of the affair with Lancelot and the ensuing war. Tennyson is one of the first writers to acknowledge the significance of Guinevere by allotting her an individual idyll.”[15] To build her character, he started with the self-absorbed, scheming manipulator[16] of Malory and Chrétien, but made her more well-rounded with clear internal conflicts that give her a life outside of the actions of men around her.

Tennyson’s Guinevere is a character torn between her duties to a man she does not love and the love she feels for a man she cannot be with. Arthur is presented as a godlike, perfect figure. Conversely, Guinevere is human and weak. In her affair with Lancelot she “betrayed both her public duty of assisting Arthur in his creation of a moral” kingdom “and her private vows to the husband who deserves her love and fidelity.”[17] With sins of this magnitude, her only hope for redemption came in suffering that moved her to sincere and deep remorse.

Like Victorian women, she is “condemned by the very conventions she is forced to enact.”[18] To be a woman in the Victorian era was to be subject to contradictions on a daily basis. Women were at once indispensable because they brought forth life, and utterly perplexing in a male-dominated world, especially once they showed a willingness to go against cultural norms and began, for the first time in history, to demand their rights. Guinevere’s prime sin, adultery, was decried from the pulpit and the judges’ bench, yet was the most rampant open secret of Victorian society – yet it was only acceptable behavior for men.

This hypocrisy was brought about by a flawed model in which women were expected to be submissive examples of physical and spiritual purity,[19] the angels in the house. But because Guinevere refused to conform to the submissive wifely role her husband and her society prescribed, she became not only a threat her marriage, but to social order, and the signifier of all threat to that order.[20]

Modern Era
With apologies to William Morris, T.H. White, and others could be discussed, we will now skip forward in time to the early 1980s, when, with the exception of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “featherhead” Guinevere in The Mists of Avalon, the character began being treated with respect and was equal to King Arthur for the first time. Penned primarily by women, she became a real person who was shaped by her past, with hopes and ambitions of her own. This Guinevere was the embodiment of the modern woman’s dream, able to handle anything, to overthrow the patriarchy and finally usher in the elusive era of equality women had been actively campaigning for since they first whispered the notion of suffrage nearly two hundred years before.

The first modern author to show Guinevere as Arthur’s equal was Parke Godwin in his early 1980s novels Firelord and Beloved Exile. His Guinevere is a woman with agency, intelligence, and a willingness to act according to her own whims. She is equal to Arthur in education, experience, and will, completely at odds with the meek, jealous, temperamental woman of previous legend. This is a Guinevere for the modern age, one who will rule alongside her husband and claim her worth in her own right rather than allowing others to define it for her. She is a fitting symbol of the time when women were beginning to come into their own as people, both in the workplace and in the home, demanding an end to the sexual harassment that plagued them for so long and speaking up for equal rights.

Beloved Exile was the first story to explore a non-cloistered life for Guinevere after Arthur’s death. It is likely not coincidental that in this same period women were beginning to enter the workforce en masse and take responsibility for their place in business and society as well as in the home. Hence, we see writers like Godwin placing additional emphasis on the administrative nature of Guinevere’s role as queen.

Another example is Sharan Newman, whose 1981-1985 Guinevere trilogy is still one of the best-known, most studied, works of modern Guinevereian fiction. She was the first to explore Guinevere’s youth, but also to give her a clear character arc that spanned the entire trilogy and helped the reader grow attached to her even as she matured. Her books “closely follow Guinevere’s voyage from a woman always relying on male wishes, desires, and rescues, to a truly adult woman who makes her own choices and therefore lives independently.”[21] This is perhaps best reflected at the end of the second book when Guinevere says to Lancelot, “All my life, I waited patiently for someone to come along and rescue me. But with Mordred, I knew no one could. And I stopped waiting. After all these years, I finally rescued myself.”[22]

Guinevere’s journey is one many women of the time could relate to. These readers were born in a more father/husband-centric time, and after a few decades of living, woke up to see themselves as individuals who didn’t need to depend on the men in their lives to survive, financially or in any other way.

As the 1980s came to an end and the 1990s began, Persia Woolley was penning a completely different take on Guinevere, described by one scholar as “arguably the most outspoken and independent of all the Guineveres written by feminist Arthurian authors.”[23]

In Wooley’s trilogy, Guinevere is very much Arthur’s equal. When she learns that Arthur would like to marry her, she weighs the pros and cons of his proposal with her father, considering first what it would mean for her people, as she views herself as their mother. When she accepts, Arthur takes her as his co-ruler, granting her power and listening to her innovative ideas. This, too, is consistent with the mores of the time, when the idea of the “man of the house” was gradually fading and men were ceding marital power in favor of establishing a more equal married relationship. Women were also holding the offices of mayor, governor, and congresswoman for the first time, so it is not surprising that Woolley allowed Guinevere to rule while Arthur was away, a success he later acknowledges.[24]

Conclusion
With the decline in popularity of feminism at the end of the twentieth century, authors and publishers soured on the idea of Guinevere, no longer seeing her, and the feministic power she represented, as relevant. According to a 2002 study, “no fewer than forty books on Arthurian themes were published in the United States in the year 2000 alone,”[25] but only a handful were written from the female perspective.

Enter self-publishing in the late 2000s. These authors, freed of the constraints of what agents and publishers believed would sell, looked at the market, realized it had been more than a decade since a Guinevere book was published, and took up the call to arms. Nearly a dozen versions of Guinevere’s story – from historically accurate historical fiction to paranormal fantasy and romance involving vampires and faerie changelings – have been self-published in the last five to ten years. These Guineveres are a far cry from the character’s docile, silent origins; rather, they are heroines for the #Metoo era, women who are strong, intelligent, sexually liberated and in charge of their own fates. Even when their main storylines echo those of Monmouth, Malory and Tennyson, these Guineveres triumph, carrying the Arthurian legend forward and positioning it for future generations.

From a silent object or possession and a living morality tale highlighting the importance of repentance from sin, to a warning of proper Victorian female behavior and an inspiration to second and third wave feminists, the character of Guinevere has undergone massive changes as the role of women in society has evolved. She has reflected the best of womankind as a helpmate and moral guardian, as well as the worst as a shrew and wanton whore, until, finally in the modern era, under the pen of female authors becoming a reflection of their hope for equality. Given this pattern, there is no doubt that Guinevere will continue to change as society does reflecting both our aspirations and fears of female power until the day the war of the sexes comes to an end and Guinevere can finally take her place beside Arthur, ruling Camelot in parity and peace.

[1] Macleod, Sharon Paice, Celtic Myth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief (Jefferson:North Carolina, McFarland & Co., Inc., 2012),188.

[2] Fries, Maureen, “The Poem in the Tradition of Arthurian Literature” in The Alliterative Morte Arthure: A Reassessment of the Poem, ed. Karl Heinz Goller (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer), 31.

[3] Leyser, Henrietta, Medieval Women: A Social History of England 450 – 1500 (London: Phoenix Press, 2003), 93.

[4] 101 Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, 259.

[5] Comer, “Behold Thy Doom,” 16, 22.

[6] Walters, “Introduction,” lxi.

[7] Howey, Ann, “Once and Future Women: Popular Fiction, Feminism and Four Arthurian Rewritings,” (PhD thesis, University of Alberta, 1997), 28.

[8] Comer, “Behold Thy Doom,” 72.

[9] Ross, “The Sublime to the Ridiculous,” 193.

[10] Walters, “Introduction,” xxxi.

[11] Wyatt, “Women of Words,” 135.

[12] Jillings, L. G., “The Ideal of Queenship in Hartman’s Erec,” in The Legend of Arthur in the Middle Ages : studies presented to A.H. Diverres by colleagues, pupils, and friends, eds. B. Grout et al. (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer; Torowa N.J., U.S.A.: Biblio Distribution Services, 1983) 123.

[13] Gossedge, Rob and Stephen Knight, “The Arthur of the Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Arthurian Legend, eds. Elizabeth Archibald and Ad Putte (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009), 103.

[14] Ross, “The Sublime to the Ridiculous,” 32.

[15] Gordon-Wise, The Reclamation of a Queen, 49.

[16] Bonner, “Guinevere as Heroine,” 51, Comer, “Behold Thy Doom,”53.

[17] Umland, Rebecca, “The Snake in the Woodpile: Tennyson’s Vivien as Victorian Prostitute,” in Culture and the King: the Social Implications of the Arthurian Legend, eds. James P Carley, Valerie M Lagorio, and Martin B Shichtman (Albany: New York State U of New York P, 1994), 283.

[18] Comer, “Behold Thy Doom,” 65.

[19] Bonner, “Guinevere as Heroine,” 8.

[20] 309 Ahern, “Listening to Guinevere,” 105-106.

[21] Gordon-Wise, The Reclamation of a Queen, 128.

[22] Newman, Sharan, The Chessboard Queen, 248.

[23] Cooley, “Re-vision from the Mists,” 32

[24] Cooley, “Re-vision from the Mists,” 28

[25] Beatie, Bruce A. “The King Arthur Myth in Modern American Literature.” Science Fiction Research Association, “SFRA Newsletter 259/260 ” (2002). Digital Collection – Science Fiction & Fantasy Publications. Paper 76. Page 35 http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/scifistud_pub/76

Mistress of Legend Takes Silver in the Foreword Indie Book Awards

Well, I came home to a wonderful surprise in my mailbox tonight: a certificate telling me Mistress of Legend won Silver in the Fantasy category of the Foreword Indie Book Awards. I didn’t even know they had held them already!

I am so glad because I am so proud of that book. I feel like it is the strongest in the series, yet I know it is difficult for judges to judge the final book in a trilogy when they haven’t read the first two. But the fact that this one won tells me I did my job in making the story make sense on its own.