Monday 6 July 2020

The Lure of Medieval Romance

by Enisa Haines

Heavy cavalry knight on horse (

Jan Luyken - Witch scene (

When I think of the medieval era I imagine a time of tribal feuds, religious wars, famine, plague, civil strife and revolts, heresy and the Inquisition. A cruel time in which to live--especially for women, whose lives were considered the property of men. Yet I'm drawn to the period and the romance novels set then, as many other readers and writers are. Medieval romances are ever popular. Why?

Sure, there was many a brutal moment, but for me the medieval era brings a fantasy world filled with adventure, courtly love and a touch of the mystical. Much like in the fairy tales of my childhood, tales like Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel.

Edward Frederick Brewtnall - Sleeping Beauty (

Medieval romance novels are filled with heroines who may have a little more freedom than women of the time really had. Noble by birthright they may live in grand castles or secluded in a convent. The heroes may be heroic knights clad in shining armour or dangerously seductive, kilt-wearing Scottish Highlander warriors. They may be conquering Vikings from the time of raiding Norse warriors. Honour-bound and powerfully alpha, the heroes may go on quests, engage in feudal battles or wars, or rescue ladies from danger and win their love.

John William Waterhouse - The Beautiful Lady without Pity (

The romances may also have touches of the supernatural, with sorcerers using magic and seers foretelling the future living side by side with dragons that must be vanquished.

Edward Burne-Jones - The Fight-St. George Kills the Dragon VI (

What medieval romances have in common is that they are stories of right vs wrong where good prevails over evil and chivalry towards others is a value above others. Those are aspects of life often lacking today so, like in the days of my childhood, I immerse myself in these fantasy worlds. As a reader and as a writer.

Frank Dicksee - Chivalry (

What are your thoughts? Do you like reading and/or writing medieval romances? 

Love to Love: reading medieval romance novels

Love to Laugh: at funny Facebook posts

Love to Learn: about life in medieval times


  1. I love reading medieval romances for all the reasons you've mentioned, Enisa! I grew up on such stories - they have a wonderful, romantic sense of the distant past. I love writing it, too (well, as part of my timeslips). Researching is fascinating!

  2. Growing up with fairy tales, it's a given we love medieval romances, Marilyn. And researching...You can get lost in all the interesting details.

  3. I do love a good medieval romance - Alyssa James for one - They are often politically plot motivated as life usually revolved around the King and what ever war they were fighting. It makes for turbulent times and great stories.

    1. Thank you for mentioning the medieval romance novels I write as Alyssa James, Cassandra. I'm writing Knight of Her Desire at the moment - the third book in my Conquering the Heart Series and have been delving into all the history of 1423, the time when HENRY V had passed away and his brother the Duke of Bedford was charging through France with English forces.

      I definitely enjoy all the historical research, Enisa and was, in fact, inspired to write medieval romances when I had a plot that didn't fit a contemporary story and it developed as I was touring around England and Europe at the time and having my fill of castles.

      From the romance aspect, I agree that it's the chivalrous aspect of these times that appeals the most. Rooted in our childhood fairy tales where the handsome knight rides in on his white steed to save the damsel in distress, it's even more fun now as an adult and author to change the narrative so that - although they still don't have many legal rights - my heroines are far from being as helpless as the ones in the childhood fairy tales. Their knights may slay their dragons, but up until the knight came charging in, the damsel had at least managed to extinguish the dragon's fire-breathing instead of facing being incinerated!

      This is a great article and I'm looking forward to another medieval themed article coming up from Marilyn in August. Previously Sharon has covered the Medieval times in her Romance Through the Ages posts. Our Breathless in the Bush group definitely has an interest in medieval romances!

    2. Hi Alyssa. Love your mediaeval series. So much intrigue adding an extra level of suspense but the heroes get their heroines by the end.

  4. Hi Cassandra. I love plots that cause a lot of angst and medieval romances certainly do that.

  5. I *love* Medieval romance! It probably stemmed from the time I was a child and given 'Robin Hood' to read. Everything from then on was all about castles, outlaws, sheriffs, giving to the poor, rushes, gorgeous clothes (for the nobles), candlelight, etc. Oh the romance of it all! In actual fact it must have been a pretty savage time to live, but when we read it we don't have to smell it, scratch our flea bites, or run up and down steep castle steps with chamber pots or the tea things. For me the romance lives on! I particularly love Lynsay Sands' Medieval books, especially her early ones like 'The Deed'; also authors like Julie Garwood and Karen Marie Moning who've written some splendid Highlander romances. Such fun.

  6. Hi Miranda. The medieval era certainly had its bad side but it's relationships that readers want to read about. The historical aspect is simply a backdrop. But what a backdrop. So full of intrigue and wars and deaths. Fascinating. I love your selection of authors. Must check them out.

  7. Enisa, have you read Madeline Hunter's medieval romances? They are brilliant. They really plunge you into the times, and the conflicts are medieval, not simply romancey. Try By Arrangement, By Design, and the others in that series. In fact your post has inspired me and I'm off for a reread. Also Jo Beverley write some fab medieval books.

  8. Hi Anne. I've read Jo Beverly. So sad that she's no longer with us. I haven't read Madeline Hunter's medievals. Thanks for the recommendation. Will definitely read them.

  9. Hi Enisa, I enjoy reading medieval romances. It's a fascinating time in history.


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