Today, I am very glad to welcome Mary Lancaster here to A Bookish Affair for a guest post and a giveaway of her latest, A Prince to be Feared.
The Impaler’s Wife By Mary Lancaster
What would it have been like to marry Vlad Dracula?
Having reached my own ideas of Vlad’s character (which isn’t at all the generally accepted one!), in order to write the story I wanted to, I needed to create the right wife for him. This was difficult. To begin with, history is unsure about who she was, or even if he actually had a wife. There is a legend about a wife – or perhaps a mistress – throwing herself off the castle of Poenari onto the rocks below during the Turkish invasion that deposed him. And there is mention of negotiations for an alliance with the King of Hungary that included marriage with the king’s sister. Or perhaps his cousin!
So, basically, I had a blank canvas. Historians seem to believe the likeliest candidate is the king’s cousin Ilona Szilagyi. I was happy to go with that. The daughter of a great soldier and niece of Christian Europe’s hero of the time, John Hunyadi, she must have lived among the great decision-makers whose actions affected Vlad. She probably knew him before any marriage negotiations were mentioned. I began to imagine the kind of girl she might have been to attract the attention of the ambitious, obsessive and probably frightening young soldier Vlad Dracula. I imagined her to be bright, perceptive and unafraid, someone perhaps even her important elders listened to occasionally; someone used to living on the edge of warfare and under the threat of invasion; someone who understood what drove the young Vlad.
I liked this Ilona. The only trouble was, I also had a conflicting vision of a slightly older woman, grey, faded, almost wraith-like, so vague that she verged on madness. And this was the woman who had to be forced into marriage with the older, imprisoned Vlad to secure his loyalty to the Hungarian crown, should he be allowed to reclaim his principality. Considering his reputation by then was monstrous, it would have been a cruel duty to impose.
So which tale should I tell? My head said the tale of the bright young Ilona – the book could then cover the main adventures of Vlad’s life, be exciting and romantic at once. But my heart kept coming back to the faded Ilona, pushed into a marriage with “the monster of Wallachia”. I started one version and then the other – and finally realized I had to make them both Ilona. And show Vlad’s unchanging humanity through his efforts to win her, and then win her back.
And that’s the story I eventually wrote. I tried to stick to what’s known of Vlad’s life, but at least half the fun of writing a novel like this is in letting my imagination fill up the gaps. I made an educated guess at his true character, and imagined, in those days of female duty and blinkered family ambition, the kind of love he might have inspired and returned. The result is A Prince to be Feared, which I hope you enjoy!
One lucky winner will win an ebook copy of this great book (open internationally)!
a Rafflecopter giveaway