Michelle Diener is the KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS (and pssst…there’s a giveaway!) Back to Blog

Update:  The winner of KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS is…azteclady!! Congrats!!

Time for another fabulous guest author! Today’s guest is my Magical Musings buddy, Michelle Diener. Michelle is a sweetheart of a lady–and she’s got one engrossing new read coming out–I can’t wait to get my greedy hands on KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS. Welcome, Michelle!

Daredevils – extreme sports through the ages

Isn’t it funny how some things you think are very modern, turn out to be very old, instead? As a historical fiction author, and someone who does a lot of research, I see it more as a case of ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’

The term extreme sport came in to common use in the 1990s, but the concept of extreme sport was thought to have come into play in the 1950s. However, more than one extreme sportsman has said extreme sports have always been around, they just weren’t labelled and categorized. And I can honestly vouch for that!

In my upcoming 3 April release, KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS, I put Parker, my hero, through participating in an extremely dangerous 16th Century extreme sport, called shooting the bridge.

In 1525, when my novel is set, London Bridge was the only way across the Thames in London by road. You could cross by boat, of course, but if you wanted to walk, or haul a cart full of goods across the river, London Bridge was it. This meant the bridge was prime real estate, and you had to pay a toll to cross it. It also meant, EXACTLY like in an airport or a station, that you were a captive audience while on the bridge. You certainly couldn’t get off wherever you liked (although someone in Keeper of the King’s Secrets certainly tries!). So the bridge became a mini town. It had churches, shops, houses, administrative offices, all built on either side of a central road. The weight the bridge had to support was immense, and so the pillars were very wide, and the spans very narrow.

Just like a dam wall, the bridge was a barrier to the Thames River, travelling to the sea. It reached the bridge and had to force itself between the narrow spans to get through. That alone would have made the journey under those spans . . . shall we say . . . interesting? But let’s add the fact that the Thames is a tidal river to the mix. So at low tide, the seaward side of the river is low. But the source side of the river is still flowing strong, and is backing up against the massive bridge, which meant at low tide, there could be 6 feet or more difference between the height of the river on the source side and the sea side. And some people thought it was very daring, fun and just a great laugh to ‘shoot the bridge’ when the conditions were as I described above. Getting into tiny boats and letting the force of the river shoot them through the spans and then fly through the air to land in the much lower water on the other side.

Of course, like anything else, the first person who did this probably was paid a lot of money to get cargo from the source side to the sea side of the river. Most watermen who valued their lives waited the tide out, allowing the high tide to come in and equalize the water levels as much as possible, making the trip under the spans less life-threatening. But if you were in a hurry, waiting for the tide to come in was frustrating. Over time, though, some watermen obviously became addicted to the adrenalin rush and started shooting the bridge as a badge of honour.

Shooting the bridge probably delivered the same rush as white water rafting does to extreme sportsmen and women today. But with none of the safety features. And without the knowledge of how to swim, in most cases. Hmm.

To me, an extreme sport like parkour (and I’ve included a pic of David Belle, the founder of modern-day parkour, you know, just for the purposes of illustration and enlightenment ;) ), where participants use gymnastics, speed, stamina and strength to traverse urban landscapes, has probably been around forever as well. Wherever there have been cities with people running from the law or soldiers on a daily basis, I bet you there have been parkour experts. I have a feeling Victorian London, with its massive, sprawling slums and its new police force and entrenched criminals, was a non-stop parkour paradise.

I’m sure there are a ton of examples! I’d love to hear what you think about this, or if you can think of any extreme sports that probably have a long and happy (if dangerous) historical tradition. I know we all love a daredevil, and you can’t get more daredevil than someone risking their lives in an extreme sport (especially in the past, where safety equipment was just not done!). I’ll be giving a copy of KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS to one commenter – US residents only, I’m afraid.

Michelle Diener

About Keeper of the King’s Secrets:

Susanna Horenbout’s chance meeting with a jeweler from Antwerp pulls her and her betrothed, courtier John Parker, into a deadly plot against the King. Ever since Henry VIII’s sister Mary gave him the spectacular Mirror of Naples, part of the French Crown Jewels, the King of France has been plotting to get it back.

After the French king is captured in battle, the secret deal struck for the jewel’s return is in jeopardy—and French agents in London are taking matters into their own hands. But the powerful Duke of Norfolk has caught wind of the secret deal and sees the planned theft as an opportunity to rid himself of a hated rival at court—even if it means plunging England into an unwinnable war with France.

As Susanna and John Parker desperately search for the jewel, trying to stay one step ahead of the French, they’re swept into a power struggle with men who will crush any obstacle to get what they want. And with the fate of Henry’s kingship in the balance, they must figure out who Henry’s true enemies are—before it’s too late.

Back cover copy:

A priceless jewel. A royal court rife with intrigue. A secret deal, where the price of truth could come too high . . .

The personal artist to King Henry Tudor, Susanna Horenbout is sought by the queen and ladies of the court for her delicate, skilled portraits. But now someone from her past is pulling her into a duplicitous game where the consequence of failure is war. Soon, Susanna and her betrothed, the King’s most dangerous courtier, are unraveling a plot that would shatter Europe. And at the heart of it is a magnificent missing diamond. . . .

With John Parker at her side, Susanna searches for the diamond and those responsible for its theft, their every step dogged by a lethal assassin. Finding the truth means plunging into the heart of the court’s most bitter infighting, surviving the harrowing labyrinth of Fleet Prison—and then coming face-to-face with the most dangerous enemy of all.

What reviewers are saying:

Passages to the Past

Diary of a Book Addict

Historical Novel Review

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28 Responses to “Michelle Diener is the KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS (and pssst…there’s a giveaway!)”

  1. I love the sound of this book, Michelle! Can’t wait to read it.

  2. Thank you, Laura! Lovely to see you here.

  3. Rachel says:

    The gladiators were pretty extreme. Book sound great.—Rachel

    • Oooh, good one, Rachel! Yes. I’m particularly horrified, in a can’t look away kind of way, with the andabata gladiators, who fought each other with helmets that rendered them blind.

  4. Molly Frenzel says:

    I think parkour is awesome and I agree with you in that there probably were a lot of experts in victorian London. They just didn’t know it!

  5. Audra Holtwick says:

    this is a new word for me –Parkour— thanks for the great article

  6. Maria D. says:

    I consider Skydiving to be an extreme sport because even though there is some safety equipment (parachute) you are still jumping out an airplane and anything can go wrong between when you jump and when you land – and it’s been around since at least 1797 so that’s a pretty long time for people to be doing it.

    Keeper of the King’s Secrets sounds great! Thanks for the giveaway

  7. Edie Ramer says:

    I’m eager to read King’s Secrets book again! I think skateboarding and snowboarding can be two of the newer extreme sports. I bet there have been extreme skiers for many years.

    • Edie, so true! Think of the early trappers and traders in America and Canada, and the farmers in the Alps and their wives. I bet they’d be considered extreme sportsmen today.

  8. petula winmill says:

    I think jousting was an extreme sport of the day . You couldn’t get more deadly but they did it for sport aswell as training .

  9. Cynthia Eden says:

    Michelle, thanks so much for coming by!! LOVE the cover for your new book!

  10. azteclady says:

    I was sidetracked–just finished watching the parkour chase scene from the new Casino Royale.

    Oh. my.

    erm…what was the question again?

    [Agreeing 100% with Ms Eden, that is one absolutely stunning cover![

  11. Colleen says:

    Your book sounds wonderful… Extreme sports… it has always amazed me by the courage people have to do so… I guess I am a bit of a wimp…

  12. I recently saw speed skaters on a track like the one used for the Olympic luge. OMG, all I could think was “they’ve got to be nuts!”

    Your new cover is beautiful, Michelle, and I’m looking forward to another terrific read. :)

  13. Betty Hamilton says:

    This sounds like a fun read!!

  14. bn100 says:

    Very interesting and fun post. Those sound like fun sports.

    Congratulations on the book! It sounds very good.

  15. Fedora says:

    Oy, extreme sports have always given me pause–while I admire their courage (foolishness?! ;)), I’m not made of that sterner stuff. Keeper of the King’s Secrets sounds intriguing!