Monday 8 July 2019

Find out what inspired #HistoricalFiction author, Nancy Blanton, to write her fabulous book — The Earl in Black Armor #History #Giveaway @nancy_blanton @hfvbt

The Earl in Black Armor

By Nancy Blanton

Ireland, 1635.

When the clan leader sends Faolán Burke to Dublin to spy on Thomas Wentworth, the ruthless Lord Deputy of Ireland, the future of his centuries-old clan rests upon his shoulders. Wentworth is plotting to acquire clan lands of Connacht for an English Protestant plantation. To stop him, Faolán must discover misdeeds that could force King Charles to recall Wentworth to England.

Leaving his young daughter Elvy in the care of his best friend Aengus, Faolán works as a porter in Dublin Castle, and aligns with the alluring Denisa, Wentworth’s personal assistant. She, too, spies on Wentworth, but for very personal reasons.

While Faolán knows he should hate Wentworth, he admires his prosecution of pirates and corrupt nobles who prey on Irish merchants. Supremely arrogant and cruel to his enemies, Wentworth shows loyalty, warmth and compassion for family, friends and a few select others.

A common mission takes Faolán and Denisa from Dublin to London and Hampton Court; to York and Scotland; and to the highest levels of court intrigue and power. But secrets, fears, war and betrayal threaten their love—and even their lives. And as Wentworth’s power grows, so grow the deadly plans of his most treacherous and driven enemies.

Praise for The Earl in Black Armor

“If you are looking for an adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat, then look no further! Get ready for court intrigue, roguish behavior, and of course, that little bit of romance… Well, then you have a book that is hard to put down.”

Rebecca Hill, Net Galley Reviewer

An Author’s Inspiration…

Contemplating Honor

When I first began to write my latest novel, The Earl in Black Armor, I knew how it had to begin: at Portumna Castle in County Galway. The year 1635, and the moment, when men of honor were being stripped of it by men of greed, for the crime of opposing tyranny.

Portumna Castle.

I also knew the ending of the story, that honor would somehow be realized and rise as the ultimate victor. The hero would teach his daughter the true meaning of honor, the one defining lesson he himself had learned from his father.

And as I write the words now I wonder, wasn’t that a perfect recipe for disaster? And perhaps less so for my protagonist’s journey than for my own journey as a writer? Well, disaster is the wrong word; it turned out to be more of an unanticipated challenge, but certainly it was the greatest one in my writing career so far.

The Earl in Black Armor is a story woven around the last decade in the life of Thomas Wentworth, who would become the first Earl of Strafford during his service as Lord Deputy and later Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for England’s King Charles I. Wentworth believed himself to be a man of honor and piety, but stretched the limits of those concepts in that he felt himself above the law, and believed anything done in the service of an anointed king was not only acceptable, but equivalent to serving God. He believed wholeheartedly in the divine right of kings—that those who ascend to the crown have a God-given right to rule, and receive their guidance and inspiration through direct contact with God.

Thomas Wentworth, he first Earl of Strafford.

King Charles I.

My protagonist, Faolán Burke, the only son of a famed and respected warrior, believes it is his birthright to ascend to nobility on the basis of his father’s achievements and reputation. Times had changed since the claim upon Ireland by Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I, and inheritance was not a certainty. Faolán’s inherited lands have been distributed to another, and the English are scooping up the best clan properties for English plantations. Faolán seeks the respect and standing he believes are his due, and will do almost anything—within his own concept of honor—to get it. That includes spying on Wentworth to find cause for the king to remove him from office.

Then comes his co-conspirator, Denisa Dumalin, who spies on Wentworth for her own reasons, and whose sense of honor revolves entirely around her own and her young son’s survival.

The story is rife with conflict in a time when moral codes and traditions are in question. Should all codes of life come from the church? If so, then which church? Protestant, Catholic, Puritan? Does divine right actually exist or, as some of the greatest thinkers are starting to propose, do human beings truly have the ability to reason and guide their own behavior and destiny?

My research of honor was inconclusive. Most writings I found were comparative rather than informative. In 17th century England, honor mostly derives from the 10 Commandments and church doctrine. Is honor just about knowing the difference between right and wrong? Is it self-respect and respect for others? Is it about maintaining a spirit of endeavor? Is it faith in God? Faithful obedience to some inner guide, like ‘the force’? Or is it simply the avoidance of shame?

I sought help from a friend who fit my own construct of an honorable man. Retired after 20 years in the U.S. Navy, most of his service was distant, sometimes covert, and often dangerous. I’m impressed by his calm manner of speaking, his direct and honest gaze, and his steadfast, loving care and gentle but firm discipline for his two daughters who adore him. How would he define honor?

“It’s just something you know. It comes early. I’ve seen toddlers peer over their shoulder when they are considering doing something wrong. They just know,” he said.

Had he ever talked about honor with his daughters? I asked. He had not, but in the interest of my research he decided to discuss it over dinner just to see what might come of it.

“We had quite an interesting conversation,” he told me later. “I’ll sum it up and send you an email.”

I waited eagerly, but the email didn’t come, and after two gentle reminders, still nothing came. I thought it best not to ask again—perhaps I was intruding. My own sense of honor wanted to respect their privacy, but I was disappointed.

And then one day I realized that without speaking or writing, he’d already given me the answers. I’d had them for some time. Maybe honor is something we define individually, from learning, observation and experience, and yes, from something internal but unknowable. It cannot be borrowed, and it cannot be taught except in a very limited way.

Likewise, Faolán’s conversation with his questioning six-year-old daughter came to its own form:


From Ch.65

“What is a last resort?”

“It is when you have asked me every question you can think of but can’t get the answer you need, so you ask just one more.”

“What question is that?”

Faolán sighed. “Will it be honor, or will you be havin’ defeat? And sometimes, they are one and the same.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“It means that when you are traveling down a road and you must choose whether to go this way or that, you should look into the distance to see which way is brighter. You must always choose the brightest, most honorable direction.”

“But,” Elvy sighed with frustration, “what does honorable mean?”

“It means not being selfish or wasteful. You are honorable when you are doing something good for someone though they may not even ask you and though it may not be what you want. It is doing what you think is right—even though others may knock you down for it. Having honor means following that feeling inside that guides your choices by squeezing your heart or twisting your gut.”

She gaped at him, perhaps amazed by all his words but not yet comprehending. He shook his head. He was a foolish, foolish fool.

Was it honorable that he had stayed in London for Strafford? The man he should have hated? Should he not feel good and proud for it then, instead of sick inside? Was it dishonor that he felt sorrow for the man though his ruthlessness so damaged the clan and had killed Martin Darcy? Was it honor or dishonor that he’d spied upon the man while pretending to work for him and that the information he’d provided to Clanricarde likely helped bring Strafford to his death? How could he teach his daughter about honor when he hardly understood it himself?

“Forgive me, sweet. It’s a difficult thing to understand. Let’s forget it for now. Tomorrow we’ll go for a ride on Dunerayl and pretend that we are brave warriors out for an adventure.”

“I will be a warrior, Da. Like you.”
“Nay, not like me, aye? Be better than me…”


During the Blog Tour, one winner will receive a signed hardcover copy of The Earl in Black Armor! To enter, click HERE!

Giveaway Rules

• Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on July 19th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
• Giveaway is open to the US & UK only.
• Only one entry per household.
• All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
• The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Pick up your copy of

The Earl in Black Armor


Nancy Blanton

Nancy Blanton writes award-winning novels based in 17th century Irish history. Her latest, The Earl in Black Armor, tells a relentless story of loyalty, honor and betrayal in the Stuart era prior to the great Irish Rebellion of 1641. The Prince of Glencurragh, her second novel, occurs in 1634 during the English Plantation of Ireland. Her first novel, Sharavogue, is set in Ireland and the West Indies during the time of Oliver Cromwell. In non-fiction, Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps is also a medalist, providing a valuable personal branding guide for authors, artists, and business consultants. Her blog, My Lady’s Closet, focuses on writing, books, historical fiction, research and travel. Ms. Blanton is a member of the Historical Novel Society and is proud to be an occasional guest author on the award-winning UK blog, Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots. She has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, corporate communications leader and brand manager. Her books celebrate her love of history and her Irish and English heritage. She lives in Florida.

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  1. Great article! Wentworth was a fascinating character. Looking forward to reading this unique perspective.

  2. What a fascinating post! I loved The Earl in Black Armor and highly recommend it! Thanks so much for hosting Nancy's blog tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours

  3. Congratulations on your book, Nancy. It sounds fabulous!!


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