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Loyalty’s Web by Joyce DiPastena, is a love story set in medieval lands that are now part of France. King Henry II has crushed the initial rebellion of his sons Young Henry and Richard, but egos still rattle and the climate is far from settled when the Earl of Gunther arrives in Poitou to assess which noblemen stand with the king and if his son, Richard still harbors rebellious intent. Among the duties the king has stipulated for him to do while there, the earl is to marry the beautiful Clothilde, uniting her father, the Baron de Laurant, in a tie of unquestioned loyalty to the king.

But the earl’s errand becomes far more complicated than he anticipated by plots to start another rebellion, plots to assassinate Gunther, a hot-headed youth who escapes from the tower, a power hungry Lady Laurant, a traitorous seductress, the murder of the earl’s best friend, and the aggravating second daughter, Helene, who seems to constantly get herself involved in all of it. When he finds he has fallen in love with Helene, and not Clothilde, he must choose between love and duty. It is a web of confusion that he tries to avoid by staying loyal to the king.

Loyalty’s Web is set in medieval castles where servants may betray their masters for a pocket of gold, where a goblet of wine may hold a deadly drug, where the only defense against a sword is a man’s skill and the chain mail across his chest. And the life of a young lady is determined for her, from what she wears, to who she marries.

Keep reading for information on how you can win a copy of Loyalty’s Web.
I asked DiPastena about her connection to this time period and setting.

Me: Your books, Loyalty’s Web and Illuminations of the Heart take place in medieval France. What drew you to then and there?
Dipastena: I’ve always been particularly fascinated by King Henry II of England. During his reign, he ruled over large areas of what later became France, and because of the political dynamics between him and his sons, there were actually more fireworks going on in his French domains than there were in England during his life. So it seemed a great time and place to choose for a story of mystery and intrigue.
Me: I know you earned a BA in History, with a focus on the Middle Ages. What was different during that time period from our world today?
Dipastena: Well, the food was different, the clothes were different, the technology was different, but I think what impresses me most about any era of history is that people pretty much remain people no matter when they lived. They love, they hate, they plot, and they sacrifice. There were good parents and bad parents. There were obedient children and rebellious children. Some were rich and some were poor.
One thing that has perhaps shifted significantly in our time is the place of religion. The Middle Ages are sometimes called “The Dark Ages”, but they are also called “The Age of Faith.” Religion was much more a part of every person’s daily life and thought than it is for many people today. God was not theoretical. He was real. Of course, he is still “real” and a daily part of many people’s lives today, but in general, not on the unquestioned, widespread scale that he was in the Middle Ages.
Me: Haven’t you also participated in some medieval fairs? What is your favorite attraction? Where does one find them?
Dipastena: They are actually Renaissance Festivals, which is the closest I can come to a Medieval Fair in Arizona. Still, I’ll take what I can get! My favorite attractions? I love the stage shows, and thankfully, they now label the more risque shows as “Loose Canons”, so you know which ones to avoid. I’ve attended the Arizona Renaissance Festival for so many years that I have some of the stage shows memorized, so each year I try to look for new shows that have been added and try to check those out. Two of the most popular attractions are the Birds of Prey show, which gives a demonstration of falconry, a popular sport in both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. And then, of course, there’s the jousting tournament! That one’s always a treat to attend, but it’s always very crowded, since everyone else wants to attend it, too. My favorite treats there are the nut rolls (I like them with cashews) and the cinnamon almonds. The bread bowls are delicious. Last year was the first time I split a mammoth turkey leg with someone, and it was definitely a YUM!
Me: If you lived then, what things / luxuries / food would you miss most?
Dipastena: What would I miss the most? Indoor plumbing and chocolate! LOL!

O.K., here is the contest: to win a copy of Joyce Dipastena’s Loyalty’s Web, post a reply saying what intrigues you about the Middle Ages and what you would miss. Include your email contact information. You can also enter by sending an email to sdayleywrite@gmail.com I’ll run the names for a winner on Thursday 1-13-11