Good things come in Threes
Why I was foolish enough to not stop at one book in The Lydiard Chronicles
Ever thought of the origin of “Good things come in threes?” Apparently, the phrase came out of the tradition of oral storytelling, where narrators found the cadence of threes pleasing to the audience and memorable to retell. Three Billygoats Gruff. Goldilocks and the Three Bears. And The Three Musketeers. There’s a certain satisfaction to the rhythm of the phrasing of threes.
And, in storytelling, folklorists observe that events are often stated three times, so they can be negated twice and repeated a third. Think of Rumpelstiltskin and his three days of spinning. Or the Love of Three Oranges, where only the third was the magic solution.
Take it a step further. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Stop. Look. Listen. Or a Mars a day helps you work, rest and play. (OK, so that one is an ad slogan. Still memorable.)
When I first discovered Lucy Hutchinson’s memoirs and notebooks, I knew I wanted to write her story. The biographical fragment within contained such a rich account of her life and family, it would easily fill a novel. And so I wrote The Lady of the Tower, which narrates the extraordinary life of her mother, Lucy St.John. About half way through I realized I was never going to fit everything I wanted to explore into one book, and so make the decision to end it chronologically on the eve of the English Civil War.
So here goes the second book, By Love Divided, which tells of the devastating and uplifting panorama of England at war with itself. The story brings you into the lives of the people who fought so strongly for their beliefs a new commonwealth was born from their strife. Only about half way through I realized there was a lot more to tell than just a war story. There was the emergence of women’s’ voices, the politics of change, and how love truly does conquer all. This book ended at the capture of King Charles I, and the expectation from my family that life would resume. A new normal, perhaps, but recognizable.
And then I started writing the third book. Obviously I had carefully planned a trilogy from the very first word in The Lady of the Tower (not.) But this book nagged at me. The execution of a monarch. Government by parliament. Military rule. An exiled prince. A restoration of the throne. And what ultimate price did my family pay for their role in England’s future? All fascinating stories to be explored.
So, in the true rule of threes, I’m excited to release the third book in The Lydiard Chronicles, Written in their Stars, in November. And here go the “threes” again. This novel follows the story of three women in my family who lived through these times, and not only through their husbands but through their own actions, changed history.
I hope you’ll enjoy spending time with Luce Hutchinson, Frances Apsley and Nan Wilmot. The rebel. The courtier. The spymistress. Who hold the fate to their families — and England’s future — in their hands.
Written in their Stars will be released November 19th, 2019, along with updated editions of The Lady of the Tower and By Love Divided containing expanded author’s notes.
Orphaned Lucy St.John, described as "the most beautiful of all," defies English society by carving her own path through the decadent Stuart court. In 1609, the early days of the rule of James I are a time of glittering pageantry and cutthroat ambition, when the most dangerous thing one can do is fall in love . . . or make an enemy of Frances Howard, the reigning court beauty. Lucy catches the eye of the Earl of Suffolk, but her envious sister Barbara is determined to ruin her happiness. Exiling herself from the court, Lucy has to find her own path through life, becoming mistress of the Tower of London. Riding the coattails of the king’s favorite, the Duke of Buckingham, the fortunes of the St.Johns rise to dizzying heights. But with great wealth comes betrayal, leaving Lucy to fight for her survival—and her honor—in a world of deceit and debauchery. Elizabeth St.John tells this dramatic story of love, betrayal, family bonds and loyalty through the eyes of her ancestor Lucy and her family’s surviving diaries, letters and court papers.
By Love Divided
Fiercely independent, Luce Apsley rejects the dazzling English court and an arranged marriage by her aristocratic family, and falls in love with a Roundhead soldier. Desperate to rebuild their lives, her mother embraces the Puritan cause and yet Luce’s beloved brother, Sir Allen Apsley, chooses to fight for king and joins the gallant Royalists. As England marches into civil war, Luce embraces Parliament's radical views and challenges the very core of the family's beliefs. When their influential Villiers cousins raise the stakes, King Charles demands a loyalty of Allen that could jeopardize them all. Allen and Luce face a devastating challenge. Will war unite or divide them? In the dawn of England’s rebellion, love is the final battleground.
Elizabeth St.John was brought up in England and lives in California. To inform her writing, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Nottingham Castle, Lydiard Park, and Castle Fonmon to the Tower of London. Although the family sold a few castles and country homes along the way (it's hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth's family still occupy them - in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their imprint. And the occasional ghost. But that's a different story...