My guest today is Kay Berrisford, an English author specialising in delicious fantasies rooted in the mythology of the mysterious and sacred places of our prehistory. Mmm, love it. Her stories are also deeply erotic with a twist of BDSM. She’s here today in celebration of the recent release of her second novel Bound to the Beast, whose hero is and always has been close to my heart, but I’ll let Kay explain about him in her own words and pictures.
The hero of my new novel, Bound to the Beast, turned up in my imagination entirely uninvited.
When I showed the early drafts of my first novel, Bound for the Forest, to a good friend, she suggested that my Greenwood universe was ripe for a cameo from Herne the Hunter. I was no expert on Herne. I knew him chiefly from John Masefields “Box of Delights”. Still, a plethora of wonderful images of “the horned one” flashed through my mind, from the Celtic deity Cernunnos, through the Mesolithic antlered headdresses found at Star Carr, to your generic horny Viking warrior, reinvented by nineteenth and twentieth century “romantics,” and worthy star of so many modern sexy novels. I rubbed my hands together in glee. There was definitely a place for Herne in my story, so I started researching.
While the earliest reference to Herne himself is found in Shakespeare’s ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’ as late as 1597, the figure of the horned man-beast haunted human imaginations for many thousands of years before.
So, why this ongoing obsession with, err, horns? Antlers were, and still are, a powerful symbol, the meanings of which are not always identical but rarely hard to decipher, and which function as effectively in pre-literary culture as they do today. Stripped to their basics, antlers represent hunting, power, violence, fertility, sexuality, and rebirth, a heady concoction to which humankind have long added their own mystical spin. Mesolithic and Neolithic sites in Wiltshire (Amesbury, Norton Bavant) have revealed human skeletons buried with deer antlers, possibly symbolising the hope of new life. Of course, antlers were used chiefly as tools in this period, yet archaeologists argue that the hundreds of examples found buried at probable religious sites, such as Stonehenge, further underlie their spiritual significance.
From the European Bronze and Iron Ages onward, representations of ‘the horned one’ were prevalent in visual culture. The god Cernunnos has been labelled from a single source, a stone altar discovered in France bearing Roman letters. But whatever his true name or names, Cernunnos’s image was revered throughout northern Europe.
Christianity introduced a new and negative element to this mix in the guise of Satan, often depicted with goat-style appendages and cloven feet. Nevertheless, the horned hero and his earlier symbolism were never completely vanquished, as testified by Herne’s emergence in the early modern period. Shakespeare’s description of Herne as a ‘keeper’ in Windsor Forest with ‘great ragg’d horns’ established him as a lord of the oak with fearsome undertones, an image echoed by his association with the Wild Hunt…but that’s another story.
The ‘horned ones’ origins thus delve us deep into folklore, history, and the mists of time, a man-beast deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness who foreshadowed the werewolves and other shifters so popular today. No wonder then, when I started investigating Herne, he required more than a cameo in Bound for the Forest. He demanded his own novel.
Genres: m/m, Historical, Fantasy, Paranormal, BDSM.
Art work by Anne Cain
Blurb: England, 1588. When a fairy betrothal ritual goes wrong, village lad Tam is bonded to Herne the Hunter. Warrior, legend, and Greenwood spirit, Herne once led the terrifying Wild Hunt, an army of the undead who rode as harbingers of doom. When his passions are stirred and his blood is up, Herne sports the antlers of a mighty stag.
Herne could be the lover Tam secretly craves, but Herne’s past makes him fear the brooding warrior will enslave or kill him. While Herne admires Tam’s toughness and humor, he has rejected love – as he has sworn off leading the Wild Hunt – and wishes only for solitude. To break their betrothal, they must travel into the Greenwood, a realm of magic and bondage where their desires for each other grow dangerously irresistible, and the Wild Hunt bays for their blood.
As the threat rises, Herne’s mastery and compassion realize Tam’s darkest sexual fantasies. Soon he’s no longer fighting for his freedom, wishing to be bound to the beast forever. But can Herne’s tortured heart be reawakened? And if so, will their love destroy them both, or prove Herne the Hunter’s greatest weapon?