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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Aquamarines, Castles & Daffodils

Aquamarines, Castles & Daffodils





It’s March. St. Patrick’s Day, wearing of the Green, partying. I’ve had my share of fun on that day and I’m not even Irish. For our blog this month, we had the choice to write about castles, for St. Paddy; aquamarines, March’s birthstone; or daffodils, for spring. I decided to write about all three.

The only castle I’ve seen up close and personal is Windsor Castle on a trip to London some years ago. Below at left is a picture of me in front of the castle. What I remember most about Windsor Castle is the “castle cat.” On the grounds was a beautiful and friendly housecat. We tourists stopped to pet the cat and take pictures. I know. You’re rolling your eyes. But it was a very pretty cat. I loved London and want to go back. Scotland, Wales, and Ireland are on my bucket list. I’d love to see the castles there. Maybe they have “castle cats” too.



Below right is a picture of a tower that is all that’s left of a medieval castle in Italy in the town where my family is from, Ripa Teatina, in Abruzzo. I visited there in 2006. Because my family were peasants, there’s a good chance they were serfs under the castle lords.



Castles are romantic and cool. I love looking at them. But the Middle Ages, when the castles were spread throughout Europe, was a particularly brutal time. The lords and ladies who lived in the castles had all the rights and privileges of class. The peasants and workers not so much. People rarely bathed in those days. I don’t read a lot of medieval romances because I don’t like that period of history, and I can’t get past the fact that everyone smelled. However, there are several books I love that are set at that time. Here are my favorite medieval romances set in castles: Outlander by Diana Galbadon; A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux; Green Darkness by Anya Seton, my favorite book; The Nonsuch Lure by Mary Luke. I highly recommend each one. Green Darkness and The Nonsuch Lure were published in the 70’s so may be hard to find. I just bought a used copy of The Nonsuch Lure online.

All of the above are time-travels in which the time-travelers saw the castles when they were new, and in the current age when they are crumbling. I love the idea of going back in time and seeing a castle when it was new and bustling, then looking at what’s left now. In my shifter romance, Cursed Mates, my hero, Nick, former Duke of Radford is 500 years old and a werewolf. He’s brought the ancient Radford Manor from England and assembled it, gargoyles and turrets included, stone-by-stone, on a seaside cliff in Maine. My werewolf hunting heroine, Kyla, gets shivers whenever she looks at Radford Manor, especially when she has visions of it as new. 

Aquamarine, in addition to being the birthstone for March, is the birthstone for the Zodiac sign Scorpio. Aquamarine is a member of the beryl family. Colors range from very pale blue to blue-green, or teal. The most desired color is the deep-blue aqua. Aquamarines are said to have healing properties and endow the wearers with foresight, courage, happiness, and intelligence. During the Middle Ages it was thought the aquamarine would reduce the effect of poison.



Daffodils, also called Narcissus, are predominantly a spring perennial plant in the amaryllis family. The flowers are generally white or yellow (orange or pink in garden varieties). They are native to meadows and woods in southwest Europe and North Africa with a center of diversity in the Western Mediterranean, particularly the Iberian Peninsula. Both wild and cultivated plants have naturalized widely and were introduced into the Far East prior to the tenth century. Historical accounts suggest narcissi have been cultivated from earliest times, but became increasingly popular in Europe after the sixteenth century, and by the late nineteenth century were an important commercial crop centered primarily in the Netherlands. (Wikipedia)



Below is the scene from Cursed Mates where Kyla sees Radford Manor for the first time. Kyla and her business partner/best friend Todd, are in Maine supposedly to do research for their next video game. In reality, Kyla is there to kill the creature who has been terrorizing the village. (Hint: Nick isn’t the only supernatural who lives in the strange little town).

As Todd turned toward the car, his gaze swept upward. “Holy shit. A wolf’s lair if I ever saw one.”
“Wolf’s lair?” Kyla asked.
“Radford Manor,” he whispered in reverent tones. “Eerily authentic.” He pointed to the gothic mansion clinging to the cliff above them. “That’s the setting for our next game.”
“Radford Manor.” She followed his gaze and froze. “You know that place?”
“I’m a computer geek. I do my research. Why do you think our games are so kick-ass popular?”
Kyla strained her eyes to take in the grandeur of the dark stone monstrosity high above them. Turrets speared into the blue-black sky. Rugged and ominous, a menacing sentinel, the house seemed to command everything around it. Her whole being trembled as cloudy memories surrounded her.
The hairs on her neck bristled against her sweater. She had seen this mansion before. Those turrets were familiar. She knew gruesome gargoyles, hidden by the darkness, stared from the rooftop. Thirty-four cracked, uneven steps led up to the parapets of the cliff house. The only thing she didn’t know was how she knew all those details. She stiffened against the knot of panic that formed in her chest. 
“They brought that stone by stone from England,” Todd said. “It’s positively ancient.”
Pain, sudden and intense, pounded in her temples. For the second time that day she saw the empty grave. Instead of the shadowed man in her first vision, the face of the handsome stranger from the restaurant flashed before her. The vision disappeared.
Struggling for air, she lifted her eyes to the stone building. One small light flickered in a high window. Wind gusted around her, a forewarning of unknown forces gathering, waiting, in the dense woods?




  
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10 comments:

Lynda Bailey said...

Lovely post, Cara, and I adore the idea of a *castle cat.* ;) Your excerpt had me on pins and needles!

Cara Marsi said...

Thank you, Lynda. Glad you enjoyed the blog and the excerpt. I had fun writing both. I'd like meet a few more "castle cats" too.

vicki batman said...

Hi, Cara! I think castle cat is cool. I really liked seeing the castle from where your family is from. How neat to have that link. And most of all, our favorite book, A Knight in Shining Armor. oxox

Judy Baker said...

Thanks, Cara, for sharing the pictures of the castles and where your family is from. I just keeping thinking how drafty a castles would be, especially in the winter, and I hate being cold. No wonder they had to wear long heavy clothes.

jean hart stewart said...

Love to look at castles, would purely hate to live in one. I like a luxurious bathroom. Enjoy your blog and thanks for all your interesting research.

Melissa Keir said...

I love aquamarines. They can be worn with everything from blue jeans to fancy dresses. Your cover is wonderful and the book sounds amazing. I wish you all the best!

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Vicki, Judy, Jean, and Melissa. It was cool seeing that old tower in our family village. I would not want to live in a drafty old castle either. Love aquamarines too.

Paris said...

I love the idea of a friendly "castle cat". Thanks for sharing the lovely photo and intriguing excerpt! I love shifter stories and this one sounds wonderful:)

Melissa Keir said...

One of the local libraries has a library cat. I like that idea too!

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Paris. I had a lot of fun writing Cursed Mates. Melissa, I've heard of libraries that have "library cats." I love that.

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