Thursday, March 17, 2016 | By: The Write Way Cafe

My Use of Poetic License in A Woman of Courage by Marlow Kelly

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The Write Way Café welcomes author Marlow Kelly, who explores the role of women in society and how their roles differ from country to country, and from time period to time period.   

The Honour, Love and Courage series consists of three novellas set in three different timelines, medieval Scotland, Victorian England, and early medieval Ireland. During my research for these stories I focused on the role of women in society. How were they viewed? What rights did they have? And what were their lives really like? 

I won’t bore you with all the details, but as you can guess a woman’s lot was a hard one. In the end I concluded that it all came down to property. After the Norman conquest of England women were owned, first by their fathers, and later by their husbands. It got so bad that by the turn of the 19th century, some men actually sold their wives at cattle markets. 

But there are exceptions to every rule, and despite being born with the disadvantage of being female; strong, independently minded women did exist. My research uncovered impressive historical figures like Theodora, a 6th century prostitute who became empress of the Byzantine Empire, and Eleanor of Aquitaine, a 12th century queen who owned most of France and ruled England in her son’s absence. 

For my final book, A Woman of Courage, I studied my own ancestry. Although I was born in England my parents were both Irish. And so I looked to the history of Ireland. It seems that before the Tudor conquests, in the 16th century, women were not owned by their husbands. They owned property, and had the right to study and become poets, healers, brehons (lawyers). But could a woman ever rule her people?

There are Irish texts dating back to the early medieval period (400 – 800 AD). These manuscripts are a little sparse on details, but they do list all the important events. Here’s a quote from the Annals of Ulster for the year 848. It will give you an idea of how brief the monks were:

“848 AD
A great snowfall on the Kalends 1st of February.
848 AD
Fínnechta of Luibnech, anchorite and formerly king of Connacht, died.
848 AD
Tuathchar son of Cobthach, king of Luigni, died.
848 AD
Mael Sechnaill won a battle against the heathens at Forach in which seven hundred fell.”

Given that the Irish wrote everything of importance down they must’ve written about the women in their world – apparently not. They mention queen consorts, but there is no reference to women ruling in their own right. We only know they existed because of one extraordinary woman – Grace O’Malley.  

We know about Grace because she lived in a turbulent time when the English were trying to subjugate the Irish. Grace, of course, resisted the invading forces. It is because of letters from the English governor, Sir Richard Bingham, that we know so much about her. In 1593 Grace even travelled to England to meet with Queen Elizabeth I, as an equal.

Was Grace O’Malley an exception, or were there other queens; ignored by the monks that wrote the annals? Personally, although I have no proof, I feel the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I’m convinced Irish women rose to the top just as Theodora and Eleanor had done. In a society where women were educated, property owners it stands to reason that they were also queens. That is why I used some poetic license and made Fianna, my heroine from A Woman of Courage, the queen of her clan. 

A Woman of Courage is on sale for $0.99 from March 11th – 24th.

A Woman of Courage coverThe Wild Rose Press       Amazon       Nook       ARE

With her home destroyed she is forced to revisit her past and prove once and for all she is a woman of courage.

When an injured Fianna Byrne turns up at Connell O’Neill’s gate twelve years after their separation he knows this could be his last chance to find happiness with the woman he loves.

False accusations against Fianna had strained relations between their clans and forced Connell, under Irish law, to divorce her. 
Their disastrous three-month relationship left Fianna pregnant and heartbroken. She has avoided Duncarraig and her ex-husband ever since.

But with her home obliterated by the Vikings, Fianna must face her past in order to save her son, and prove once and for all she is a woman of courage.


Twelve years ago she’d been Connell’s wife. His devastating rejection of her, after only three months of marriage, and their subsequent divorce caused a pain so real it twisted her insides. The hostilities that ensued after their separation, followed by an uneasy truce when she found she was pregnant with their son, Lorcan, made it prudent to restrict her contact.

During their short marriage he had weakened her in a way no other man could. She’d transformed into a woman so overtaken with lust she’d been blind to everything, including his true feelings. With Connell all her instincts, control, and intellect became like overcooked oats, a sludge that thought of nothing except him.

Her breath caught when her former husband strode out of the large central house, marching toward her. His long limbs and easy stride accentuated the rippling muscles of his legs. Every movement emphasized his grace and strength. He was still tall and broad, with long, smooth, black hair and a black beard to match. He would have been too handsome, too pretty, if it hadn’t been for his large crooked nose. That imperfection added to his allure, making him more appealing. Her pulse quickened, and her body warmed with need. She forgot her reason for being here, forgot everything except him. Damn it. Even in her injured state, with everything she had endured, he still had the ability to turn her mind to mud.

About Marlow:  After being thrown out of England for refusing to drink tea, Marlow Kelly made her way to Canada where she found love, a home and a pug named Max. She also discovered her love of storytelling. Encouraged by her husband, children and let’s not forget Max, she started putting her ideas to paper. Her need to write about strong women in crisis drives her stories. You can visit Marlow at

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Marlow Kelly said...

Thank you for having me as a guest on the Write Way Cafe

HiDee said...

It's always interesting to learn how other people live, and what their backgrounds are. Thanks for being with us today, Marlow!

Angelina Barbin said...

Lovely post, marlow. I do agree that the truth about an Irish woman's role lies somewherein the middle. That is enough for an author to work with, right? best wishes with your trilogy.

Marlow Kelly said...

Thanks for stopping by Angelina :)

RT Wolfe said...

Beautiful title and cover. The excerpt is lovely. Best wishes to you! :)
-R.T. Wolfe

Marlow Kelly said...

Thanks RT. I'm glad you liked it.

Devon McKay said...

Interesting post. I love anything to do with history and women have come so far. Wishing you the best of luck with A Woman Of Courage.

Marlow Kelly said...

Thanks Devon