Hobbes’ novels have a rich depth of historical knowledge – and there are no jarring anachronisms – which means a reader is quickly immersed in the medieval world of her work. She writes very successful romances, with all the dramatic tension and passion we demand of such stories, but leaves us in no doubt that her characters live in uncertain, violent times. Indeed, her fourth novel, The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge, begins, ‘They hanged the rebels in the market square’, and in her first novel, Falling for her Captor, the heroine gives orders for a villain to be hung, drawn and quartered. Gentle, conventional bodice-rippers these are not. Her women are fully aware of their precarious situations, but they are ultimately strong in their convictions and refuse to concede anything to Hobbes’ heroes until the men have proved their worth.
The difficulties Hobbes’ medieval women face is made very clear in her latest novel, Redeeming the Rogue Knight. We’ve met Roger before – he is the legitimate son (but an utter bastard in his dealings with women) in Hobbes’ earlier novel, The Blacksmith’s Wife – and part of the fun Hobbes has here is showing his growing awareness of the consequences of his treatment of women. In this new novel, Roger is forced to rely on Lucy, an innkeeper and single mother, for safety. He has been badly injured in the shoulder and Hobbes makes much of the idea that this man’s power in the world has been based on his physical prowess. He’s humbled by his new vulnerability and thrown by Lucy’s refusal to give into his masculine charms. For me, the turning point in their relationship occurs when he realises that Lucy, forced by debt and potential penury, is visiting the local miller with the sole purpose of paying her debts through sexual favours. Roger arrives in time to prevent the woman he has grown to love having to prostitute herself, but Lucy is quick to point out that his behaviour towards women in the past has been little different to the transaction the miller proposed, ‘you use women like me until you’ve had enough, then you leave us to mend our lives and our reputations as best we can.’
In Hobbes’ novels, women are all too aware of the patriarchal society they inhabit. In The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge, Constance’s late sister suffered at the hands of a cruel husband who now looks to his sister-in-law to take his dead wife’s place. The only heroine with any degree of independence is Eleanor Peyton in A Wager for the Widow, and even she is constantly reminded of the need to remarry. Fortunately, Hobbes’ genre means that the heroes, however caddish they might initially appear, ultimately seek fulfilling, romantic relationships. Her marriages are ones of love, rather than transactions, and ones which fulfil readers’ expectations of highly satisfying romances. However, these are not easy lives and Hobbes does not shy away from the darker side of her heroines’ experiences.
Thanks again to Lucy at http://www.lucideditorial.co.uk for checking my spacing!