Margaret Frazer

In Memoriam

February 28th, 2013

Gail Frazer, who most of you knew as Margaret Frazer, passed in her sleep on February 4th, 2013.

  Gail "Margaret" Frazer - 1992  Gail "Margaret" Frazer - 1999


This website will continue to be maintained and updated by her sons, Justin and Seth, to keep you updated on our continued efforts to share her amazing legacy with the world.

The Reeve's Tale - Margaret FrazerFor the curious (or the doubtful), yes, English village government was much as it’s shown here, only far more complex. The villagers themselves ran daily matters, governing themselves in much the way of New England town meetings (whose self-governing skills probably developed from these medieval roots) while dealing with the complex bureaucracies of lord, church, and central government. The cases that come before the village court in Chapter One are all taken directly or derived from actual cases in medieval village court records, down to some of the names remaining the same.

Two books I cheerfully recommend if you want a more detailed, non-fiction look at everyday village life are the scholarlyl but readable Life on the English Manor by H. S. Bennett and The Ties That Bound by Barbara Hanawalt.

The mesels are of course today’s measles, though the word was not applied exclusively that way until well after the 1400s but was used for several different ailments, ranging from measles to leprosy. Mesels as we think of it was considered a children’s version of smallpox, less devastating than the adult kind but potentially lethal nonetheless. My own memory of being horribly sick with them in pre-vaccine days stayed with me darkling enough to be used here – as well as inspiring me to have my own children innoculated against them as early as I could.

Since rashes were – and still are – difficult to tell apart, it was useful that the rash that went with some of the worst forms of plague did indeed form rosy rings, as Mistress Margery observes, and the next time you hear “Ring around the rosy, A pocket full of posy, Atchoo, atchoo, All fall down,” know the sweet little game in a circle with everyone collapsing at the end is hypothesized to be a re-enacting of the Black Death. Sneezing was one of the possible symptoms, and the posies were herbs and flowers hoped to give protection against it. Children, being devastatingly realistic, showed how effective they thought that to be.

And by the way, to be pedantic, no one ever died of the Black Death in the Middle Ages. They died of the Great Pestilence, the Great Death, the Great Plague, but the term “Black Death” seems to come into use only in the early 1800s.

Kindle Edition / Nook Edition
Other Editions

The Reeve's Tale - Margaret Frazer

The Reeve’s Tale has been released for both Kindle and the Nook. It can also be read on any iPad, Android, Windows PC, Mac, or Blackberry device using either the free Kindle Reading Apps or the free Nook Apps for those platforms. It will be available through the iBookstore and other platforms shortly, but those platforms take longer to process new e-books than Amazon or B&N.


The village of Prior Byfield is blighted with famine, devastated by plague, and cursed with ill-fortune. Simon Perryn, the poor reeve of the village, is driven to distraction by the petty rivalries and hopeless troubles of his neighbors. His adulterous sister and her dolt of a husband have entangled their affairs with Gilbey Dunn, the richest man of the village, and Elena, the beautiful and seductive woman that he calls his wife. With wealth on the line and lives at the stake, old quarrels and ancient angers are boiling over into the once-quiet streets of the village. That’s when things get even worse for Simon: A horrid scandal curses him with a pair of nuns, sent from the nearby nunnery of St. Frideswide’s to make sure all is kept right in the village.

Dame Frevisse, however, suspects that the scandal which has drawn her and the innocent Sister Thomasine from the safety of the priory is but the tip of a terrible intrigue which threatens both nunnery and village alike: The good, kind, and honest Master Naylor stands accused of a crime which threatens to strip him and his entire family of their freedom. Who could stand to profit from his loss? Is it the same silent killer who stalks the village youth? Or are they all being played like fools?

Yet even if Frevisse’s keen wit can lay bare the ugliness in the hearts of men, she fears that no amount of prayer will serve to cleanse her own soul of that sickly hate. Can even God pardon one who has turned from a holy path?


“Everything about it bespeaks quality and care… Frazer draws us into a medieval village in England with a story of lust, greed and murder.” – St. Paul Pioneer Press

“Exquisitely written, the novel offers a brilliantly realized vision of a typical medieval English village, peopled with full-blooded men and women who experience the human range of joys and sorrows. Suspenseful from start to surprising conclusion, this is another gem from an author who’s twice been nominated for an Edgar.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“This tale is a trip back in time, a time when your personal wants had to be satisfied with what could be found in your immediate surroundings. You will appreciate the intense need for each village and villager to be self-sufficient. You experience the terror caused when children fall ill. The Reeve’s Tale is a fascinating one.” – Martha’s Vineyard Times

“Frazer [turns] the screw of the mystery… The looming threats guarantee suspense… Greed and self-interest lurk beneath marital agreements knotted to land contracts, reminding God’s virgins just who feeds them.” – Kirkus Review

I am very sorry for the long interruption between the release of the e-book for The Maiden’s Tale and The Reeve’s Tale, but there were both emotional and practical hurdles to be cleared after my mother’s death. She and I had worked together to establish a really fantastic working process for converting and editing the books (and frequently adding bonus features and the like to them). It was, perhaps unsurprisingly, difficult to find a new process that would ensure the high quality standards that my mother’s work deserves.

For those of you waiting for The Squire’s Tale and some of the other missing titles from later in the series, however, I can now say with a fair degree of certainty that they will be appearing once more with regular frequency.


– Justin


We’re pleased to announce that the first eight novels in the Dame Frevisse Medieval Mysteries are now available for sale through Google Play:

The Novice’s Tale
The Servant’s Tale
The Outlaw’s Tale
The Bishop’s Tale
The Boy’s Tale
The Murderer’s Tale
The Prioress’ Tale
The Maiden’s Tale

Also available are The Clerk’s TaleThe Hunter’s Tale, and The Apostate’s Tale.

We are hopeful that the missing books in the series will be made available as e-books in the near future.

– Justin

Circle of Witches - Margaret Frazer

Kindle EditionKindle UKNook EditionSmashwordsTrade Paperback

Circle of Witches has been enrolled in the new Kindle Matchbook program. What this means is that when you buy a copy of the trade paperback for Circle of Witches, you’ll also be able to download a free copy of the e-book from Amazon.

This is a pretty nifty program. It doesn’t look like a lot of books are using it yet (and most are still charging for the e-book instead of offering it for free), so I’m excited that mother’s book can be a part of it. We’re investigating the possibility of making other books available through the program, but that’s tougher because different publishers control the Frevisse and Joliffe books currently in print.

– Justin

Sins of the Blood - Margaret FrazerFollowing the promotional plans we discussed at the beginning of the year, I’m continuing my mother’s efforts to introduce Dame Frevisse and the wonderful world of St. Frideswide to as many new readers as possible. Towards that end: For the next five days (until March 7th), Sins of the Blood will be available FREE on Amazon.

As my mother discussed when the book was released, Sins of the Blood is a collection of three Frevisse short stories — “The Witch’s Tale”, “The Midwife’s Tale”, and “The Stone-Worker’s Tale” — available through the Amazon Kindle store. It also includes the exclusive Guided Tour of St. Frideswide and, perhaps most importantly, an extensive preview of the first ten chapters of The Novice’s Tale.

Many of you may already own a copy of the book, but if you don’t this is a great opportunity to snag it. (Remember, even if you don’t own a Kindle you can still read it through your smartphone, tablet, or PC.) It’s also a great opportunity to share Frevisse with your friends and family. Throw ’em a link and tell them to grab it quick before it goes back to full price!

– Justin

Margaret Frazer – Tributes

February 20th, 2013

I’m taking a moment to archive and index the various tributes, memoriams, and obituaries which have been written and posted about my mother over the past two weeks. If you know of any others, please take a moment to comment. Of course, many people are still commenting on her Facebook fan page, too. In the near future, I’m hoping to scan some of the printed media and get it posted here as well.

During her memorial service, many of the comments posted here and on her Facebook fan page were read aloud over the music of “Non nobis, Domine” by Patrick Doyle (from Branagh’s Henry V). I would have liked to have read them all, but there were simply too many of them. But although many of you could not be there in the flesh, I wanted you to know that your thoughts were in the room with all of us and they moved us to tears. Thank you.


Gail "Margaret" Frazer - 1992 Gail "Margaret" Frazer - 1999

Star Tribune

Post Bulletin

Pioneer Press

Sharon Kay Penman: “Margaret Frazer, In Memoriam”

(Please note that all of the newspaper articles contain errors of fact. Most notably, my mother died on February 4th, not January 28th. Oddly that error occurred despite the article being written in direct response to an obituary which correctly listed the date. This sort of thing reminds one, as my 6th grade teacher Joe Stannich would have said, to read other news reports with a skeptical and critical eye.)


Obituary at Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

Obituary at the Post Bulletin (Rochester, MN)

Obituary at the Star Courier (Kewanee, IL)

Obituary at Crescent Tide Funeral Services



Richard III Society of NSW

Mystery Fanfare Announcement

Galleycat Announcement

Minnpost Announcement

– Justin

Margaret Frazer – An Obituary

February 5th, 2013

My name is Justin Alexander. I am Margaret Frazer’s son.

I’m afraid there is no easy way to say this: Gail Frazer, who most of you knew as Margaret Frazer, passed in her sleep last night. I would like you to know that she was comfortable and at peace, and that she was among family and friends until the end.

In the days to come, I will be attempting to communicate additional information through both her Facebook page and here at her website about her life, her literary legacies, and her final messages. For the moment, however, all I can offer is her obituary.


Gail Lynn Frazer (Margaret Frazer) - Obituary Photowho wrote under the pen name of “Margaret Frazer”, passed away on Monday night at the age of 66. She is survived by her two sons (Justin Alexander and Seth Gupton), her loving daughters-in-law, and the enduring legacy of her award-winning and nationally bestselling novels and stories.

Twenty years ago, Frazer’s first novel – The Novice’s Tale – was published the same summer that she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. She published her twenty-fifth novel – The Circle of Witches – last December at a time when she was struggling with the fifth recurrence of the cancer. She fought long, she fought stubbornly, and she refused to be defined by the disease which ultimately claimed her life. In her work, she sought the unique pleasure of thoroughly exploring the otherwhen and otherwhere.

Frazer grew up in Kewanee, IL, the daughter of Fred and Grace Brown. Her father was a labor attorney and later mayor; her mother was a proud homemaker. Frazer discovered a love of theater and her future husband with the Genesius Guild in Rock Island, IL. She appeared in theatrical productions throughout her life, including essentials roles on the Guthrie Stage and most recently as part of the Complete Readings of William Shakespeare with the American Shakespeare Repertory.

She will be interred at Prairie Oaks Memorial Eco Gardens in Inver Grove Heights, MN, amidst the nature and vast open vistas that she loved so dearly during her life. On February 8th there will be a Visitation at 11 AM and a memorial service at 12 PM at the Fort Snelling Memorial Chapel (1 Federal Drive, Minneapolis). Donations in memorial to Heifer International. For further information, contact Crescent Tide Funeral Services (, 651-315-8214).

Link to obituary at the Star Tribune’s website, including online guestbook.

– Justin

For all of you who have been lamenting that Circle of Witches was only available as an e-book, I have wonderful news: My latest novel, Circle of Witches, is now available in trade paperback! You can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online booksellers.

At some point within the next two weeks, it will also be available through the distribution system. Unfortunately, because it’s being offered through a small imprint it’s quite likely that your local bookstore won’t automatically carry a copy of it. But you will be able to have them order a copy for you. (And you should ask them to order an extra copy to put on their shelves at the same time!)


Her mother had always been afraid. That’s what Damaris remembered. From the time she was a little girl until the day her mother died, she had seen the fear in her eyes.

But now she understood. Now she was afraid, too.

Young Damaris wanted more than anything to be happy at Thornoak, the ancient manor owned by her aunt and uncle. Adventuring through the wide, open beauty of the Dale in the company of her rambunctious cousins she rediscovered a joy she had thought lost with the death of her parents. And in the deep, storm-tossed eyes of Lauran Ashbrigg she was surprised to find an entirely new emotion.

But even under the warm and inviting sun, Damaris is chilled by the undeniable fact that the family which claims to welcome and love her is hiding truths from her: The truth of the Lady Stone. The truth of the Old Ways. The truth of moon and star and witchcraft.

The truth of her mother’s death.

Kindle Edition - Kindle UK - Nook Edition - Smashwords
Trade Paperback

– Margaret

About Medieval Lighting

December 26th, 2012

The fine historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick has posted an excellent essay about medieval lighting on her site.

I have very little to add to that except that once upon a time, in the interest of research, I lived by candlelight every evening after supper for quite a few evenings.  I had the advantage of good candles, which many ordinary medieval people did not have, but the experience was still extremely useful.  The room became full of soft shadows beyond the gentle, rich, golden glow of the candles.  As few as three slender candles provided enough light by which to read, and – here is a point I came to cherish – I found myself relaxing in the candlelight, easing out of the day’s tensions far more easily than usual, so that I went to bed much earlier than was my wont and sleeping very well.

Added to that, I am now far more appreciative when I flip a switch and simply get all the electric light I want.  There is nothing like research to help you enjoy the commonplaces of the 21st century.

– Margaret

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