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Today we are joined by Jenna Jaxon, who is not only incredibly talented but one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. (Seriously, y’all, I’ve met her a few times now and she has yet to hit me with anything.) You guys are going to love this glimpse at medieval pastimes, especially as you simultaneously get to know Jenna’s newly released historical romance BETROTHAL. And the fun doesn’t stop there–keep reading to find out how you can win something made of awesome. Jenna, take it away!

Giveaway closed, but don’t let that stop you from reading this awesome blog post! 🙂 Congratulations to Meghan Stith, who was chosen by random.org as our winner. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and discussion!

Betrothal with LogoJenna Jaxon: Medieval Pastimes

I often wonder if readers view the medieval period as being dreary, too serious, full of deprivation.  There is a lot of evidence that even for noble households times were certainly hard in the area of creature comforts.

After some research, however, I’ve found that the people in the middle ages knew how to have a good time.  They did indeed work hard, but they could play hard when time permitted. In fact, they indulged in a variety of pastimes, some particular to the time, some that we ourselves enjoy today in 2013.  Here’s a list, in no particular order, of some of the pastimes the nobles in my medieval romance might have played.

1.  Board and card games.  Most popular were backgammon, checkers, and chess.  In Betrayal, Book 2 of Time Enough to Love, Alyse and Thomas while away some time playing chess.

471px-BodleianDouce364Fol8rRomanRoseMirthGladnessLeadDance2.  Dancing.  Dancing was a favorite court activity in the medieval period and later.  Some of the dances mentioned in Betrothal are the carole, like a stately march, a lively hopping dance called the estampie, and a fast-paced dance called the farandole that wound all around the dance floor.

3.  Minstrel entertainments.  Wandering entertainers were welcomed at court.  The oral tradition of storytelling was usually their stock-in-trade, though they often played music, juggle, and perform gymnastic feats as well.  These minstrels would frequently perform at banquets for the nobility as their means of sole means of employment.

4.  Hunting.  One of the most prevalent pastimes of the medieval nobility, hunting was as much sport as it was means to feed the castle.  Both men and women hunted during this period. Game hunted with bows included foxes, deer, rabbits, badgers, birds.  Wild boars were hunted with spears. As is common today, dogs were used in the sport.  And these dogs often had a better life than most people of the period, living in heated kennels. A noble often had dozens of hunting hounds–King Edward III took 60 pairs of dogs when he invaded France.

450px-Mediaeval_archery_reenactment5.  Hawking.  Falconry, the sport of hunting with falcons or other predatory birds, was extremely popular.  Again, men and women enjoyed this sport and castles employed a falconer who raised and trained the birds in a specific place called a mews.

6.  Archery.  Another pastime that was both fun and utilitarian.  This popular sport was mandatory for men ages 15 to 60 as training for longbow defense in battle and actually mandated by law.  But men loved this sport and archery contests flourished.

7.  Gambling.  Games of chance played with dice made of bone, wood, knucklebones, or small stones have been popular since ancient times.  And the medieval period was no different.  Dice games were portable, easy to arrange and played by all manner of men–everyone from the peasants to nobility to clergy indulged. Then as now gambling could become addictive.  Games included odds or evens, hazards, Marlotta, Pair & Ace, and Triga. In Betrothal Thomas mentions “there is to be a game in Sir John Claymore’s apartment this evening.”  That would have been a dice game.

Duke-de-Berry-Feast-Main8.  Feasting.  Who among us doesn’t like to eat?  The nobles of the middle ages were no different and could afford to entertain a lavish number of people.  Royal tables were loaded with dish after dish and feasting lasted long into the night.  There were up to seven courses, although three was more usual.  Each course had a combination of meat and fish, sweet and savory dishes. Often there were interludes–short plays–given between courses.  The original dinner theatre! J

9.  Pitching Quoits.  The game from which it is said the game of horseshoes derived.  Metal spikes were placed at a certain distance from each other.  Then participants threw a metal disc to fall as close to the spike as possible.  It eventually became more popular than archery.

Weltchronik_Fulda_Aa88_158v_detail10.  Tournaments.  Medieval tournaments were a version of War Games.  They could be one of several different types of mock combat:  pas de armes, melee, and jousting.  Pas de armes was a tournament where one Knight took on all comers in hand-to-hand combat. A melee a pied was teams of knights fighting on foot; melee a cheval was teams fighting on horseback.  Joust a plaisance was a series of elimination rounds over three days with one overall winner would be announced.  The joust in Betrothal is a joust a plaisance.

I hope you enjoyed these pastimes and found some refreshingly familiar.  Please leave me a comment telling me what your favorite medieval pastime would have been, leave your email address, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Betrothal!

Learn more! Head over to Jenna’s blog for a photo post on jousting @ J is for Joust — click here.

Betrothal with LogoBetrothal | Blurb

Lady Alyse de Courcy has fallen in love with Lord Braeton, a nobleman in King Edward III’s court and a man to whom she has barely spoken. Fate, however, has decreed her betrothal to his best friend, Sir Geoffrey Longford—a handsome and imposing knight, yet hardly the man she wants to wed.

When Sir Geoffrey is bound in betrothal by his father, he could not have expected the beautiful stranger to win his heart the moment they meet. Nevertheless, the fascinating Lady Alyse has done exactly that, and his feelings for her only grow as he learns more of her gentle yet spirited nature. But Alyse’s infatuation with his friend casts doubt on whether she can ever return his regard and their wedding day is fast approaching…

Will he have time enough to win her love?

Betrothal | Excerpt

“What do you require of me, Majesty?” Her mouth so dry she could taste sand, Alyse fought to speak in a normal tone. With a sigh of relief, she dropped into a deep curtsy, hiding her face in the folds of her skirt. If only she could remain bowed thus before His Majesty for the remainder of the evening.

King Edward laughed. “Obedience, Lady Alyse, as I require of all my subjects. As your father requires of his daughter.”

Her heart thumped wildly in her breast. That could mean but one thing.

“Rise, my lady.”

She did so on unsteady feet. “I am ready, as always, Your Majesty, to obey my father as I would you.”

Holy Mary, let it be Lord Braeton.

King Edward lifted an eyebrow toward Alyse. “A very pretty answer, my lady. And are you ready to accept your father’s decree for your betrothal? His messenger has today reached me with the contract, as I am to stand in his stead in this matter.”

Alyse took a deep breath and hoped her voice did not tremble. “Yea, Majesty, I will obey my father.”

King Edward nodded and leaned over to whisper something to Queen Phillipa, who sat beside him, heavy with their twelfth child.

Mere seconds before she learned her fate. She could scarce affect an indifferent pose before the court when inside every inch of her quivered with anticipation of the name. His name, pray God, on the king’s lips.


In her mind, she heard the word.

The king straightened, glanced at her then at the man by her side.

“What say you then, Sir Geoffrey? Does the lady not speak fair? I vow she will make you a proper wife and a dutiful one as well.”

Alyse turned, until that moment unaware that Geoffrey Longford stood beside her. Chills coursed down her body as the king’s words echoed in her mind. The sensation of falling backward assailed her, as though she rushed away from the tall man at her side even as his figure loomed larger and larger in her sight.

Not Lord Braeton.

Her numbed brain repeated the phrase, trying to comprehend that instead he would be her husband. Geoffrey Longford.

God have mercy on me, for by the look of him, this man will not.

Fearful, she cringed as her gaze climbed higher, over his chest, over his chin, finally resting on the dark blue eyes turned toward her.

Geoffrey returned her appraisal, his gaze sweeping her figure as a smile crept over his face. “Your Majesty.” He spoke to the king but his attention remained fixed on Alyse. “When my father told me of the betrothal contract before I left his home, I resolved to play the dutiful son. Now, however, I find I do not wish to act that role after all.” His eyes held hers as he paused.

Dear God, does he mean to renounce me here before the entire court?

Alyse stared at the man beside her, willing herself to remain upright, despite the waves of ice and fire alternating through her body.

“Now I find I would rather play the ardent lover.”

An amused murmur ran through the Hall at his words. Sir Geoffrey grinned, his eyes sparkling with humor and something more. Despite the uneven light, Alyse saw an unfathomable promise in their dark depths. She took a shaky breath and looked away.

Jenna Jaxon

Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance.  Her historical romance, Only Scandal Will Do, the first in a series of five interconnecting novels, was released in July 2012. Her contemporary works include Hog Wild, Almost Perfect, and 7 Days of Seduction.  She is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as a member of Chesapeake Romance Writers. Her medieval romance, Time Enough to Love, is being published this summer as a series of three novellas.  The first book, Betrothal, released on April 19th.

Jenna has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager.  A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise.  She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets.  When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director.  She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.

She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.

Buy Links

Published Works

  • Betrothal–Historical Romance
  • Only Scandal Will Do–Historical Romance
  • 7 Days of Seduction–Contemporary Erotic Romance
  • Almost Perfect–Contemporary Erotic Romance
  • Hog Wild–Contemporary Erotic Romance
  • Heart of Deception–Historical Romance