Margaret Frazer

Posts tagged ‘frevisse’

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.

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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

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

The Maiden's Tale - Margaret Frazer

The Maiden’s Tale has been released for both the 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 also be available through the iBookstore shortly, but Apple takes much longer to process new e-books than Amazon or B&N.


It is an hour of desperate need for St. Frideswide’s. Thrust into financial ruin by the incompetence and corruption of their former prioress, the nuns have become trapped under the thumb of Abbott Gilberd as he pries into every possible corner of the priory’s life.

In an effort to escape their desperate straits, Dame Frevisse is forced to journey to London in order to seek both a new prioress and financial aid for her beleaguered sisters. Once there, she turns to her wealthy cousin Alice, lady wife of the influential earl of Suffolk. But with a new Parliament warming to its arguments, Frevisse discovers that Alice’s need may be even greater than her own. Caught between the powerful Gloucester, the machiavellian Bishop Beaufort, and the darkly handsome Duke of Orleans, Alice is torn by the broken loyalties of those she loves the most.

Before she can unravel the twisted turns of romance and deception, Frevisse herself is caught up in the intrigue, carrying secret messages which will determine England’s future. But the mystery deepens when one of the other messengers is killed, and Frevisse must solve the murder in order to save not only herself, but Alice’s immortal soul.

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“Frazer’s books will be among those I read as soon as I see them…” – Houston Facts

“Frazer successfully captures the essence of 15th century England – the sights, smells, and sounds fill the pages, drawing us in as we become immersed in the language, manners, and customs of a far off time and place.” – Rendezvous

“It’s a fine time to introduce yourself to this smart and sensible nun… Weaves a budding romance and a grand, unrequited passion with a bold and dangerous plot… A historical tale that teems with period detail. Great fun for all lovers of history with their mystery!” – Alfred Hitchcock Magazine

There are few things that hurt an author like their book(s) going out of print. It’s as if your child has been abandoned by those who had joined you in nurturing it into the world. This, of course, is an idealized notion to have about publishers, and after a time an author becomes inured to publishing realities. But times are changing, and so I am delighted to take a brief break today from the Midwinter Blog Tour for Circle of Witches to announce that The Maiden’s Tale, eighth in Dame Frevisse’s series of medieval mysteries, has joined the wonderful world of e-books.

Better yet, this has given me a chance to rework the book. When I wrote it, I was finally past the ghostly presence (never fear; she yet lives) of my erstwhile co-author waiting to modify whatever I wrote, and I’m afraid I got carried away by the freedom. The book came out far too long, and both agent and editor assured me I had to lose a lot of words. “Take out the subplot,” I was advised, but there was no subplot, and so the cutting of over 100 pages (I told you I got carried away) had to be accomplished in bits and pieces. A word or phrase here and then there, with occasionally a heady moment of eliminating a whole paragraph at once – that was the way I had to do it.

I smoothed and mended as best I could, and I doubt the effort showed when I was done. What problems there might be were unobtrusive. At least my editor pointed none out to me. Still, when my e-editor got hold of the book, he found every weak and unclear or confusing point, and had no scruples in pointing them out to me, which happily gave me the chance to work again in the duchess of Suffolk’s household, with characters I enjoy, making their world a little better. The Maiden’s Tale is still the story that it was, but better crafted than it had been, and that is very pleasing to an author – and hopefully to anyone now coming to The Maiden’s Tale for the first time or for another time.

– Margaret

Sins of the Blood - Margaret Frazer

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” — being released exclusively for the Amazon Kindle. It also includes the all-new and entirely original Guided Tour of St. Frideswide: In 40 pages, we walk through both the nunnery and the village of Prior Byfield, discussing the history of the setting and revealing details never-before-known.

(Well, never-before-known to anyone except me.)

St. Frideswide, as it has developed over the course of the Frevisse series, is something like an iceberg: 10% has been visible through the novels and short stories, but there’s this immense depth that I’ve built up “below the surface” (so to speak) that I’m excited to be able to share with you.


Witchcraft has come to the peaceful village near St. Frideswide, and its foul touch is striking down those closest to the church. Can Dame Frevisse thwart the servants of the devil before the hellfire of hysteria sears the souls of the faithful? Or is there more to this magic than meets the eye?


“Sisters! Come back! Please don’t leave us yet!”

Cisily Fisher has died in childbirth and now the village of Priors Byfield is held in a grip of fear. Can Dame Frevisse find the root of misery behind a murderer’s sin before the next lethal blow falls? Or will the village be lost in a hue and cry of terror? The gentling touch of the midwife may calm the tortured soul… or give birth to a bitter death.


When Frevisse is given bishop-pardoned leave to visit her cousin Alice at Ewelme, she is enchanted by the work of the sculptor Simon Maye. But Simon is enchanted by the beauty of Elyn, one of Alice’s ladies in waiting. Clandestine meetings have given way to sinful lust, and now the two lovers have disappeared. The servants whisper that the lovers have eloped, and secretly pine for the passion to do the same. Lady Alice believes her sculptor has been stolen away by jealous rivals and rages at the injustice. But Frevisse alone suspects there may be some darker truth behind the midnight vanishing…


And so we turn to St. Frideswide’s in rural northern Oxfordshire. Imaginary, yes, but fully realized as an ordinary place much like many others common across England in both rural and urban settings by the 1400s. A wealthy widow founded it in the 1300s, saw to its beginning, and endowed it with lands and other income to sustain it – alas, not so fully as she intended to do before she died…

Kindle Edition

Why is this a Kindle exclusive?

The short version is that I’m trying to introduce Dame Frevisse to new readers. Amazon offers a unique program called the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: Any Amazon Prime member who owns a Kindle can borrow books from the Lending Library for free. I’m hoping that making Dame Frevisse a part of the Lending Library will expose new readers to her stories.

But in order to get your books included in the Lending Library, you have to offer a title exclusively through Amazon. I didn’t want to take any of my existing books off the market, so I created Sins of the Blood and “A Guided Tour of St. Frideswide” as something that I could enroll in the program.

What if you don’t own a Kindle? Well, there’s some good news:

(1) The three short stories — “The Witch’s Tale”, “The Midwife’s Tale”, and “The Stone-Worker’s Tale” — are still being sold separately as individual e-book titles through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iBooks, Google Play, and many other online bookstores. (It’s also relatively easy to find used copies of the original short story collections they were published in.)

(2) There are a wealth of Kindle Reading Apps which will allow you to read Kindle e-books on any iPad, Android, Windows PC, Mac, or Blackberry device. Basically, if you’re reading this blog post you’ll be able to read Sins of the Blood on the same machine.

(3) All of the books that I directly control the rights to are sold DRM Free. That means there’s no copy protection on the e-book files: If you buy the e-book from Amazon, you’ll be able to freely and easily convert it to any e-reader of your choice.

– Margaret

Happy St. Frideswide’s Day!

October 19th, 2012

Happy St. Frideswide’s Day. We may be the only people remembering it outside of Oxford, England, so we’ll just have to party all the harder on her behalf, right?

For those who have wondered where Frevisse’s unusual name came from, it’s the French version of Frideswide. Frideswide seems to have been effectively unknown outside the English Midlands, except for a single church dedicated to her in France as St. Frevisse. Frevisse’s wandering parents may have been just a touch homesick when their daughter was born in France and gave her a name that reminded them of home. So I am never over-sensitive about how a reader may choose to pronounce Frevisse’s name. There is the French version, the English version, the dialect version from some particular part of England — or of France, come to that — and far be it from me to claim there’s only one true way to say it. Knowing Frevisse, I’m sure she responds to all of them with equal ease.

It’s St. Etheldreda I feel sorry for. An Anglo-Saxon princess (like St. Frideswide), her name degenerated over the centuries to Audrey and then to the adjective tawdry. Frideswide may be pronounced “Fryswyd” today, but at least she hasn’t become an adjective. That I know of, anyway.

– Margaret

The Novice’s Tale – Chapter 14

September 14th, 2012

The Novice's Tale - Margaret Frazer

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Thomasine sat in the far corner of the window bench in Domina Edith’s parlor, her hands folded in her lap, her gaze on the sunlit, empty yard below. Sir Walter and Master Montfort and all their men were gone. Sir Walter had taken Lady Ermentrude’s household with him. There had been a great clatter, with shouting and creaking of wheels and clanking of harness, but now there was only the mid-morning silence with, distantly, the calling of workers in the fields. Everything in the past few days might not have happened, except for Martha Hayward’s coffin waiting in the church for someone to come and take it to her people. (more…)

The Novice’s Tale – Chapter 13

September 13th, 2012

The Novice's Tale - Margaret Frazer

Ela clutched at Frevisse’s sleeve. “When I saw what they were doing, I went the back way round, into the church! To Domina Edith. She said I was to come get you! And him!” She gestured wildly at Chaucer. “She said to hurry!”

“Damn him,” Chaucer said without passion, and went for the door.

Jerking her sleeve free from Ela’s fingers, Frevisse followed him, overtaking him at the foot of the stairs, in the cloister walk.  “Your men?” she asked. “Can they be of use?”

Chaucer shook his head. “There’d only be blood shed to no purpose. I’ll have to stop him with words or nothing.”

Breathless with fear as much as haste, Frevisse nodded, gathered up her skirts and ran. Chaucer followed her. (more…)

The Novice’s Tale – Chapter 12

September 12th, 2012

The Novice's Tale - Margaret Frazer

The woman servant who had come with Lady Isobel was seated on the bench outside their chamber. She made no move to stop Frevisse, but Frevisse paused, turned from her intent to talk with Sir John and Lady Isobel because so casual a chance to talk to the woman might not come again.

“God’s greeting to you,” she said lightly, and nodded her head toward the door. “Your lord is still hurting?”

The woman, obviously bored at sitting attendance here, brightened, glad to talk about troubles. “Indeed he is. Wearying my poor lady with his needs and her so good to him she’ll not deny him anything.” She lowered her voice and said, leaning forward as if to give a great confidence, “Fancy, a big, strong man like him letting some passing peddler muck with his tooth because he’s afraid to have it drawn!”

Frevisse was not interested in Sir John’s toothache, but asked without a qualm at her own duplicity, “Do you suppose it was all the quarreling brought it on this time?”

The woman shrugged. “It comes on anytime it feels like, but I’d not be surprised. All that shouting would make anyone’s jaw ache.”

“They argued all the night, I’ve heard. And Sir John told Lady Ermentrude to leave.”

“Now that’s not quite right but close enough. Sir John was the one who tried to quiet it between them, but hardly a word in edgewise they let him have. We could hear them right through the door of the solar most of that evening. But the next morning when Lady Ermentrude came to leave, hardly a word was passed among them, except Lady Isobel sent my lord out to say, nice as you please, that he hoped, it would all come right after she’d thought on it and wouldn’t she break her fast before she left.”

“And did she?” (more…)

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