Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Search and Research for The Irish Princess by Karen Harper *giveaway*

Karen Harper’s historical novel, THE IRISH PRINCESS, tells the true story of a woman who belonged to the Fitzgerald family of old Ireland, a family known as “The Uncrowned Kings of Ireland.” Gera Fitzgerald’s story of loss, love, rebellion and reconciliation, set in Ireland and Tudor England, is out in time for St. Patrick’s Day—Erin Go Bragh! And, the author says, the real-life hero is in the tradition of the swashbuckling heroes like Errol Flynn, Russell Crowe and Johnny Depp—and certain Liam Neeson.

My Search and Research for The Irish Princess

It’s a special challenge to research and bring to life a woman who actually lived, especially if most of the clues to her character must be found in her relationship with better known figures. I’m getting to be veteran at such hide-and-seek research. My novels THE LAST BOLEYN (Mary Boleyn), THE FIRST PRINCESS OF WALES (Joan of Kent), SHAKESPEARE’S MISTRESS (Anne Whateley) and THE QUEEN’S GOVERNESS (Katherine Ashley) were all novels I call faction, a blending of fiction and well-researched fact. Travel to historic sites, interviews with experts, and good old library (now on-line too) research may take years, but I love to look for that little revealing nugget of gold.

In Gera’s case, my search for her started with a trip I took to Ireland when I didn’t even know about her. But I fell in love with the Kildare County countryside, the charm of Dublin and the people. And I wondered how long the Irish love/hate relationship with the English went back.

Elizabeth I coronation

Then, in researching Queen Elizabeth I for another novel, I found that for many years she had an Irish woman in her court, a beautiful redhead, who apparently was a good friend. Yet I learned that they frequently argued; the queen once even sent this woman, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, nicknamed Gera, “to the Tower for plain speaking to the queen.” However, Gera was soon released and back in Elizabeth’s good graces. And Gera was married to the Lord High Admiral of England.

How unusual! Elizabeth had a lot of trouble with the Irish. Besides, beautiful women made her nervous when she wanted to be the most lovely woman at court. Of course, the Virgin Queen had many songs and poems praising her, but Gera Fitzgerald had been honored at a young age by the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, in a poem dedicated to “The Fair Geraldine.” (Geraldine she’s named…Her beauty of kind; her virtues from above; happy is he that can attain her love!”) Such adulation cannot have gone over well with the queen. And to take someone back who has argued with her? What gave here?

Edward Clinton

As I delved deeper into Gera’s life (mostly through books about her father and half brother, both Earls of Kildare), I found she had a long love/hate relationship with a sea captain, Edward Clinton, who later became Lord High Admiral of the English navy. Before she wed him, they evidently had a long and turbulent relationship. Ah, the perfect swashbuckling hero. So then I searched for information about him, even read his will. I studied the part of England he came from and found information on the ruins of his homes.

I corresponded with the caretakers of Maynooth Castle in Ireland where Gera grew up. As I studied her family in Irish history books, the necessary trials and tribulations for a plot found me: most of the Fitzgerald men, including her brother and uncles, were executed (yes, beheaded!) by King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth’s father. The plot thickens because of Gera’s marriage to Edward Clinton, this dashing figure who worked for Gera’s enemies. I located two paintings of Clinton and two of her. What must be the motives and power of this woman who stares defiantly out from these two still extant portraits (and later, from the cover of my book?)

Another example of digging out details: After many turbulent, but happy years of marriage with her English admiral (Gera once even took his place as ship’s captain and arrested a pirate!) her husband’s handwritten will shows how much he loved and trusted her, so much so that her stepson was really upset at the power and decisions the Irish spitfire was entrusted with. And so, from little telling details are characters born, plots laid and novels written.

Elizabeth Fitzgerald, "the Irish Princess"

Another painting of Elizabeth

I hope Gera and Edward Clinton, Queen Elizabeth and the villain King Henry leap right off the page for readers, because that was what they did for me when I researched and wrote of their lives. I have studied Henry Tudor for years, but never concentrated so completely on his final years and the mysteries surrounding his death. A secret back room was his death chamber? His royal will was never signed? In his final hours he swung between lucidity and the belief he was talking to Jane Seymour? Thank you, Gera Fitzgerald for being a treasure of a heroine whom it was worth the effort and time to dig out of the past.

So this St. Patrick’s Day, I will dance a jig for Gera just as she loved to do with Elizabeth Tudor, who could have been her enemy but became her lifelong friend.


NYTimes and USA TODAY bestselling author Karen Harper also writes romantic suspense for Mira Books, most recently a trilogy set in Amish country, DARK ROAD HOME, DARK HARVEST and DARK ANGEL. You can learn all about Karen and her impressive backlist at her website.



Thanks to Karen's generosity, we have two copies of The Irish Princess to give away to two of our readers. To participate just follow the rules:

- the contest is open to the US & Canada only
- leave a comment and don't forget to include your email address
- one entry per household
- closes February 15 at Midnight GMT

Good luck to everyone!


  1. The book sounds fascinating and I would love a copy.

  2. I'm so excited for the release of this book!!

    Thank you for the entry!

    wendysfictionaddiction at gmail dot com

  3. It sounds like a fabulous read!

    plainjane2005 at g mail dot com

  4. The story sounds so interesting! I can't wait for the release.


  5. It was a wonderful treat to hear about your research. The book sounds fascinating! I'd love a chance to win.



  6. Definitely looks like a good read!


  7. The book sounds fantastic; count me in! (Besides, any book where King Henry is the villain is bound to be interesting.)

    nickiheart16 [at] aim [dot] com

  8. excited to read this book!

    Kelly H

  9. Love Ms. Harper's mysteries. Looking forward to this as well.


  10. I'm so looking forward to reading this--the richness of your research is what always draws me to your books (and you unknowingly mentor me in how to write good historical fiction--or at least how to fully research my era; I always search out your latest book)

    I would love to win a copy ;-)


  11. I would love to read this one!


  12. This book looks great! I love historical fiction and I would love to be entered for your giveaway.

  13. That looks like an awesome book!

    CMShelstad at gmail dot com

  14. Love all things Irish!


  15. Thank you for including me in your giveaway. =)

    tiredwkids at live dot com

  16. I've gotten a little tired of Tudor historicals, but this one sounds different, and very interesting. Thanks for the giveaway.

  17. I would love to read this book.
    thank you
    kaiminani at gmail dot com

  18. I've never read any Irish historical fiction before! Sign me up :)


  19. This sounds fantastic! I'd love to win a copy!

  20. Ooohhh, I'd love to win this one! Thanks so much! :-)

    tiger_fan_1997 AT yahoo DOT com

  21. I have had this one on my wishlist since I first heard about it months ago. I would love to read this one! I have enjoyed all of Karen's previous historical fiction and also her mystery series. After reading about all of her research, I am sure this one will be a wonderful read as well.

    tmrtini at gmail dot com

  22. What a fascinating historical figure! And the cover is gorgeous. Sing me up!


  23. I just picked up a copy of the book this morning!I can't wait to sit down and read and review it.

  24. Thank you for the wonderful giveaway!

    shhhimreading at hotmail dot com

  25. I like the idea of "faction" - it's the kind of novel I like to read, and intrigues me most - something about the author getting into the heads of real people makes me curious. Thanks for the post!

    Thank you for the giveaway - please enter me, this book looks too good to pass up! apereiraorama[at]gmail[dot]com

  26. I have always loved the subjects of her books - they are always the ones that I know so little (if anything) about. I cannot wait to read this one. Please enter me!


  27. Will this book be coming out in Kindle edition?

  28. I would love to read this book.


  29. Great giveaway - sign me up!
    marie1200 at gmail dot com

  30. Please put my name in to the hat. I have enjoyed Ms. Harper's mysteries, LOVE QE I, and also quite enjoyed Mistress Shakespeare.

    OreAnnie at yahoo dot com

  31. I am SO EXCITED to read this book! It is on my Amazon wishlist as we speak (along with tons more :)). I read The Queen's Governess and absolutely love it so am looking forward to reading this one as soon as possible. Thanks for the giveaway!

  32. I'm learning that research is a lot of the fun of writing. This sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the giveaway!


  33. I have enjoyed Karen Harper's books, so this automatically went on my wishlist. But reading about Gera's relationship with Elizabeth I, really has me intrigued. Their friendship sounds very compelling and intriguing. Please count me in!

    Thanks for the opportunity.

  34. This book sounds lovely and right up my alley!! I think I'm going to have to read it whether I win it or not..

  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. Sounds great, and perfect for the Ireland reading challenge I'm working on!


  37. This book sounds really good! Thanks for the chance to win!

    christin.mead at att dot net

  38. This sounds like a wonderful story!! I have been on a bit of an Irish HF kick lately, and this is certainly on my list to read. Thank you for creating a giveaway for this book!! :)

    txreyn5663 at earthlink dot net

  39. I enjoyed reading about you research. This sounds like a terrific story. I'd love a chance! Thanks, Nancy D.

  40. This book looks so interesting; I'd love to win. Definitely adding it to my TBR list either way :)


  41. This book amazing! I cant wait to get my hands on a copy... as a winner or from the library :)


  42. I would love to win...:D



  43. Sandrea

    Talk about perfect timing! I am in school, one of my courses is Multicultural counseling, I am working on a project where we have to study a culture different than our own. I chose the Irish, and would love to be the winner of this contest!


  44. This book sounds like a must read! Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

    susan(at) susancoventry(dot)com

  45. This sounds like an interesting book. I would love to read it.

  46. This sounds really good. Count me in!

  47. Sounds exciting - I'd love to read it! hganshorn[at]gmail.com

  48. Wow the novel sounds fascinating! I can never get enough of a good historical Europe novel. I'd absolutely love to read it.