Monday, July 30, 2018

White Rose of Night

Desert storm and djinn, Saracen and Templar, the riders from Hell -- unholy adventure in a age of holy war.

The twelfth century is a time of conquest and chaos. The Saxon is almost a slave in his own country and the Holy Land is sundered by unholy war in which there can be no real victor. For Paul Delgado and Edward of Aethelstan, no place is safe. Their own home is as filled with danger as the battlefields of Palestine ... they are men who love men, in an age when such emotion is forbidden.

On the threshold of manhood, Paul is a penniless orphan
whose only future is to follow the young earl to war.
Edward has no desire to sell his sword and soul to a bloody campaign where mercy is rare, cruelty is commonplace, and dark sorcery might consume a man. But to repair the patchwork fortunes of his house, he pledges himself to the Crusade.
For love of the Saxon knight, Paul sails in the company of Normans, Templars, soldiers and squires. His tale is an epic of bloodshed and sorcery, sublime sensuality and timeless love. Dust-veiled battlefields and the candlelit bedchambers of Saracen captains are his memories: silk and steel, delight and despair, the magic and mayhem of a half-forgotten age.

Sensual in character, vast in scope, White Rose of Night is a haunting
gay romance set against a backdrop of thrilling adventure, with a twist of high fantasy, from from the long-time favorite author of Fortunes of War and The Deceivers

Novel length: 145,000 words
Rated: adult (18+; sex, violence, language)
ISBN-13: 0-978-0-9750884-8-7
Publication date: August, 2011
Publisher: DreamCraft
Price: $6.99 - Kindle only
Cover: Jade

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This title is available only in amazon Kindle and in paperback.

Mel Keegan comments on WHITE ROSE OF NIGHT 

Of all my novels to date, this was the hardest to write, and it's the "strangest" too. It's a period of history where fact, myth, allegory and legend start to weave together until you realize, in the midst of your research, you're not perfectly sure where the line lies between fact and fiction. Also, WHITE ROSE was a story which desperately wanted to take off into fantasy. I kept as tight a rein on it as I could, saving fantasy for future novels, but the location and the era begged for the outrageous, the strange, elements which challenge the senses. There a delicious sub-plot about a "black sorcerer" and a gorgeous Tartar youth, taken prisoner after a drunken raid, which is right out of fantasy. It was enormous fun to write. The research was confounding, and in fact the book was beta-read in various forms and drafts prior to submission, because it can be difficult to "get a feel" for a period in history that's far enough in the past for its people to have become strangers. I tried very hard indeed to make my depiction and treatment of the Muslim characters fair and objective (hence, the previous forms, drafts and beta reading), and to answer a question asked of me a long time ago, yes, I actually did read the Koran to get this one right -- you can get it as a Penguin paperback. In fact, it just appeared as an interactive CD-Rom, which is ... curious. WHITE ROSE was as intensely difficult to write as AN EAST WIND BLOWING was easy. How well I succeeded with it is something I leave for readers to decide! (In fact, the reader reviews for WHITE ROSE and FORTUNES OF WAR, on line at, are often immensely gratifying). One parting shot here: the character of Paul is aged 15, but don't leap to the conclusion he's a child. In that era, the human lifespan was shorter, people matured sooner and were often married with children at 12. At 15, Paul was not just old to be a squire ... he should rightly have been a soldier! I certainly couldn't make him any older, but on the other hand I sure wasn't going to make him any younger. Suffice to say, at 15, Paul is about the equivalent of a 20 year old in our modern world. 

Preparing this one for the new edition was a real pleasure ... a little like a trip through time, too. For a while it seemed I was transported back through ten years, and I vididly recall doing the research for WHITE ROSE. It did take a lot of backgrounding, but research can get to be a hobby and you enjoy it. I went this same road with THE DECEIVERS; but time and technology had overtaken me by that time, and a lot of the research was done on the Web. Back in '94, for WHITE ROSE, I hit the books, and one in particular was a jewel. 

This (above) was it ... "1066: THE YEAR OF THE CONQUEST," by David Howarth. And if you have an interest in this period, I can't recommend it highly enough. It wasn't that Howarth novelized that year -- far from it. But he focused on the 'social history' of the period ... on the people and the forces driving them, until a work of non-fic came alive. (I don't think it's still available; it was done in 1977. The publisher was William Collins, if you want to take a shot at tracking it down). 

Working my way through WHITE ROSE was odd in many ways ... in ten years the substance and texture of my writing has changed, it's true. My plots are more complex (one reader recently commented that the weave of SCORPIO is so dense, you almost feel as if you should take notes!) By contrast, WHITE ROSE is simple; it's certainly linear. It's my third 'coming of age' story (the others being FORTUNES OF WAR and AN EAST WIND BLOWING), and I'm working on the plotline for another novel which falls into the same genre (boy becomes man), but the location is Mars, the timeframe, maybe 100 years in the future. That'll be interesting. 

WHITE ROSE is probably the most sensual novel I've ever done, too. ICE, WIND AND FIRE was sexy, but WHITE ROSE is sensual (there's a world of difference, in fact). And it was also the first chance I'd had to sneak a fantasy past an editor without him noticing it! There's a wide streak of the fantastical in this one, but it's set in a real historical time ... the only other tale I can liken it too, to give you a clue about what I mean is, LADYHAWKE. But my story is set in the same approximate location as EAST WIND and even THE DECEIVERS ... before it takes off across the world. Something like 24 out of 30 chapters take place in the Holy Land of the very early Thirteenth Century. And it's exotic beyond words. If you're interested here, scroll down to 'Research Tales.' 


As I wrote in my Foreword to the 2005 edition of WHITE ROSE, the world of a millennium ago is a thoroughly alien place, where the rationalizations for war look as absurd, to people of our generation, as the social forces way back in the 1920s and 30s, which made WWII a foregone conclusion. The more one digs back into the historical reality, the more cynical one becomes. On the surface, the Crusades look like a series of holy wars, but look closer. The Mid-east was one end of the Silk Road, and the powers from the west were fairly drooling as they saw the wealth there for the taking ... if only you could raise an army big enough to overpower a people as vigorous as the Saracens, Turks and Kurds. I have absolutely no doubt that the ordinary soldier in the field, beneath the banners of England or Normandy, thought he was fighting for the safety of Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem: the best way to recruit an army is to ignite their zeal; and it's true, the great cities *were* being re-taken by the Turks! And why not? Constantinople (aka Istanbul and Byzantium) was, and is, in Turkish lands; it was improbably optimistic to hope that a Christian force could maintain control there in the Eleven-hundreds, with supply lines stretched back to Normandy and Germany. As purely holy wars, the Crusades are very difficult to rationalize. They were a series of calamities for both sides; but out of the blood-soaked tangle of their history comes one fact that's inescapable: it was all about politics! 

The power struggles between England and Normandy were endless and expensive. The First of these Crusades took place in the 1090s, not even 40 years after the Norman Conquest of England ... and the country was actually still reeling after a war which had decades-long ramifications. The Normans themselves were hardly what you'd call nice neighbors. About a century before Duke William conquered England, part of France had been carved off and handed on a plate to a clan of Vikings in exchange for peace ... ie., 'If we give you Normandy, will you leave the rest of us alone?' It worked, more or less, but if these Vikings, who were now known as Normans, were going to leave France alone, who were they going to raid instead? The best target was England ... and sure enough, in 1066 it came to a monstrous war. A direct descendant of the Viking to whom Normandy had been given (his name was Rollo) commanded a vast fleet which landed at Hastings; and the rest is history. 

Meanwhile, out east, the Empire of Islam was on the move, and by the 1080s they had taken control of enough land to have the Christians sweating. The population of Europe was, even then, starting to blow out, and the petty wars being fought between this and that area were expensive. The Crusades were much more about expansionism, global doimination and old-fashioned treasure hunting than they were about holy war. 

These were the social forces driving the times of WHITE ROSE OF NIGHT, which is set at the time of the Third Crusade. This third war was in part an attempt to win back territories which had been lost to the armies of Islam ... but Richard the Lionheart was also one of your archetypical Tomb Raiders. He was out east looking for booty. The story of what was happening back at home during these years has become a Hollywood legend: Robin Hood, Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Prince John is made the villain, and King Richard returns in the nick of time to banish him and rescue the people from his tyranny. Alas, the facts of history are a tad bit different! But the one inescapbale truth still comes out of all this: it's all about politics. 

So much for the social forces driving the world of Paul and Edward! But what was their world like? This is where David Howarth's book really hit the spot. A good encyclopaedia will quickly fill in the details of what happened when, and to whom (and might even give you an analysis of why), but researching the every-day, mundane life of people in the street or on the farm, is not so easy. 

It's not only a world without steam or electrical power, without educational and medical resources as we understand them, and without any vestige of democracy ... it's also a world still governed by the 'manorial' system, where labourers were bonded to land owners and women were chattels; and if you were not Christian, you were toast. Literally. (In a thimble, the 'manorial' system was a pecking order with God at the top, followed by the King one rung lower, and ending up with the serf, the man on the land, at the very bottom, who was property; he couldn't quit, not travel, nor even choose who he was going to marry without his lord's nod of approval. He was supposed to get many perks in return. In theory it works; in practise, it's too easy to abuse and life at the bottom of the ladder sucked, unless you were lucky enough to have a really good overhead infrastructure ... you wouldn't gamble on it). 

One of the most difficult things in writing WHITE ROSE was to first *do* the research, then dump it, unload it, leave it behing and write about ordinary people doing sometimes extraordinary things. Readers are not interested in the kings and bishops, popes and political forces! So once a writer has put the jigsaw together, laid the foundations on which the story is to be built, the next step is to ditch the research, get to grips with the humanity of the characters and just tell the story. 

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