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Sharon Kay Penman was an American bestselling author of historical fiction and historical mystery novels set in medieval England and Wales.

Born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, she held a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Rutgers University School of Law.

Penman worked as a tax lawyer prior to becoming a writer.

While she was still a student, Penman managed to research and write the manuscript for the novel, The Sunne in Splendour.

However, the manuscript was stolen from her car, a devastating setback that rendered her unable to write for five years. Nevertheless, she rewrote the book again while still practicing law, publishing it in 1982 as her debut novel.

Penman went on to write a couple of book series, including Justin de Quincy, Plantagenets Series, and Welsh Princes.

She died of pneumonia on January 22, 2021, aged 75.

More about Sharon Kay Penman

Genres: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery

Born: 1945 / Died: 2021

United States


Non Series

  • The Sunne in Splendour (1982)
  • The Land Beyond the Sea (2020)

Justin de Quincy

  1. The Queen's Man (1996)
  2. Cruel As the Grave (1998)
  3. Dragon's Lair (2003)
  4. Prince of Darkness (2005)

Plantagenets Series

  1. When Christ and His Saints Slept (1994)
  2. Time and Chance (2002)
  3. Devil's Brood (2008)
  4. Lionheart (2011)
  5. A King's Ransom (2014)

Welsh Princes

  1. Here Be Dragons (1985)
  2. Falls the Shadow (1988)
  3. The Reckoning (1991)

Detailed book overview

Non Series

The Sunne in Splendour

A glorious novel of the controversial Richard III---a monarch betrayed in life by his allies and betrayed in death by history.

In this beautifully rendered modern classic, Sharon Kay Penman redeems Richard III---vilified as the bitter, twisted, scheming hunchback who murdered his nephews, the princes in the Tower---from his maligned place in history with a dazzling combination of research and storytelling.

Born into the treacherous courts of fifteenth-century England, in the midst of what history has called The War of the Roses, Richard was raised in the shadow of his charismatic brother, King Edward IV. Loyal to his friends and passionately in love with the one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning.

This magnificent retelling of his life is filled with all of the sights and sounds of battle, the customs and lore of the fifteenth century, the rigors of court politics, and the passions and prejudices of royalty.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 1982
ISBN: 978-0312375935
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
The Land Beyond the Sea

The story of the reign of King Baldwin IV and the Kingdom of Jerusalem's defense against Saladin's famous army.

The Kingdom of Jerusalem, also known as Outremer, is the land far beyond the sea. Baptized in blood when the men of the First Crusade captured Jerusalem from the Saracens in the early twelfth century, the kingdom defined an utterly new world, a land of blazing heat and a medley of cultures, a place where enemies were neighbors and neighbors became enemies.

At the helm of this growing kingdom sits young Baldwin IV, an intelligent and courageous boy committed to the welfare and protection of his people. But despite Baldwin's dedication to his land, he is afflicted with leprosy at an early age and the threats against his power and his health nearly outweigh the risk of battle. 

As political deception scours the halls of the royal court, the Muslim army--led by the first sultan of Egypt and Syria, Saladin--is never far from the kingdom's doorstep, and there are only a handful Baldwin can trust, including the archbishop William of Tyre and Lord Balian d'Ibelin, a charismatic leader who has been one of the few able to maintain the peace.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 2020
ISBN: 978-0593187685
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons

Justin de Quincy

The Queen's Man

Epiphany, 1193. Eleanor of Aquitaine sits upon England's throne. Her beloved son Richard Lionheart is missing, presumed dead--and the court whispers that her younger son John is plotting to seize the crown.

Meanwhile, on the snowy highroad from Winchester, a destitute young man falls heir to a blood-stained letter, pressed into his hand by a dying man. The missive becomes Justin de Quincy's passport into the queen's confidence--and into the heart of danger, as he pursues a cunning murderer and jousts with secret traitors in Eleanor's court of intrigue and mystery....

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 1996
ISBN: 978-0345417183
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Cruel As the Grave

April 1193. England’s King Richard Lionheart languishes in a German prison, and treason scents the air. Richard’s younger brother, John, seizes Windsor Castle, and Dowager Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine summons her trusted personal “queen’s man,” Justin de Quincy, to do the impossible– mediate a truce with her rebel son. 

Amid such fateful events, the murder of a Welsh peddler’s daughter seems small. But the cruel demise of the beautiful Melangell so troubles Justin that not even a threatened French invasion can keep him from investigating her death. Yet can he bring Melangell’s craven killer to justice?

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 1998
ISBN: 978-0140270761
Publisher: Penguin Books
Dragon's Lair

July 1193. King Richard Lionheart lies in a German prison, held for ransom by the emperor. His mother, Dowager Queen Eleanor, ransacks England for gold to buy his freedom, while his younger brother, John, plots with King Philippe of France to ensure that he rots and dies in chains.

When a ransom payment vanishes, Eleanor hastily dispatches young Justin de Quincy to investigate. In wild, beautiful Wales, his devotion to the queen will be supremely tested–as an arrogant border earl, a cocky Welsh prince, an enchanting lady, and a traitor of the deepest dye welcome him with false smiles and deadly conspiracies. The queen’s treasure is nowhere to be found, but assassins are everywhere . . . and blood runs red in the dragon’s lair.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 2003
ISBN: 978-0345434234
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Prince of Darkness

Justin de Quincy has been lured to Paris by his nemesis, Prince John, on a mission of mercy. The prince is suspected in a plot to kill his brother, King Richard. Despite John’s hunger for the crown, he’s unwilling to put himself at risk for regicide—and he wants Justin’s help in discrediting the document that implicates him.

Justin only concedes to John’s request when he realizes that the welfare of the woman he serves, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is also at risk. It is a concession that will take him to a bloody chamber at Mont St Michel, to a putrid dungeon in Brittany, to a murderous encounter in a Paris cemetery, and to the unraveling of a conspiracy that might have changed the course of English history.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 2005
ISBN: 978-0425207819
Publisher: Berkley Trade Pub

Plantagenets Series

When Christ and His Saints Slept

A.D. 1135. As church bells tolled for the death of England's King Henry I, his barons faced the unwelcome prospect of being ruled by a woman: Henry's beautiful daughter Maude, Countess of Anjou. But before Maude could claim her throne, her cousin Stephen seized it. In their long and bitter struggle, all of England bled and burned.

Sharon Kay Penman's magnificent fifth novel summons to life a spectacular medieval tragedy whose unfolding breaks the heart even as it prepares the way for splendors to come—the glorious age of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Plantagenets that would soon illumine the world.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 1994
ISBN: 978-0345396686
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Time and Chance

It was medieval England’s immortal marriage—Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II, bound by passion and ambition, certain to leave a legacy of greatness. But while lust would divide them, it was friendship—and ultimately faith—that brought bloodshed into their midst. 

It began with Thomas Becket, Henry’s closest confidant, and his elevation to be Archbishop of Canterbury. It ended with a perceived betrayal that made a royal murder seem inevitable. Along the way were enough scheming, seductions, and scandals to topple any kingdom but their own....

Only Sharon Kay Penman can re-create this truly tumultuous time—and capture the couple who loved power as much as each other . . . and a man who loved God most of all.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 2002
ISBN: 978-0345396723
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Devil's Brood

A.D. 1172. Henry II’s three eldest sons conspire against him and align themselves with his greatest enemy, King Louis of France, but it’s Eleanor of Aquitaine’s involvement in the plot to overthrow her husband that proves to be the harshest betrayal. As a royal family collapses and a marriage ends in all but name, the clash between these two strong-willed and passionate souls will have far-reaching and devastating consequences throughout Christendom.

Devil’s Brood, a breathtaking and sweeping epic of a family at its breaking point, shows how two monumental figures once bound by all-consuming love became the bitterest of adversaries.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 2008
ISBN: 978-0345396730
Publisher: Ballantine Books

A.D. 1189. After the death of his father, Henry II, and the early demise of two of his brothers, Richard is crowned King of England and immediately sets off for the Holy Land. This is the Third Crusade, marked by internecine warfare among the Christians and extraordinary campaigns against the Saracens. 

Richard’s surviving brother, the younger John, is left behind—and conspires with the French king to steal his brother’s throne. Only their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, now freed from decades of captivity, remains to protect Richard’s interests and secure his destiny.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 2011
ISBN: 978-0345517562
Publisher: Ballantine Books
A King's Ransom

November 1192. After his bloody crusade in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Richard and his crew are overcome by a sudden storm, its fierce winds propelling the ship onto the Sicilian shore. But this misfortune is just the beginning. Forced to make a dangerous choice, Richard finds himself in enemy territory, where he is captured—in violation of the papal decree protecting all crusaders—and handed over to the Holy Roman Emperor. 

Imprisoned in the notorious fortress at Trifels, from which few ever leave alive, Richard, for the first time in his life, experiences pure, visceral fear—while his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, moves heaven and earth to secure his release. Amid betrayals, intrigues, infidelities, wars, and illness, Richard’s courage and intelligence will become legend.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 2014
ISBN: 978-1447205388
Publisher: Pan

Welsh Princes

Here Be Dragons

Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce by marrying the English king's beloved illegitimate daughter, Joanna, who slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband. But as John's attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales---and Llewelyn---Joanna must decide where her love and loyalties truly lie.

The turbulent clashes of two disparate worlds and the destinies of the individuals caught between them spring to life in this magnificent novel of power and passion, loyalty and lies.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 1985
ISBN: 978-0140133400
Publisher: Penguin Books
Falls the Shadow

Simon de Montfort was a man ahead of his time in the thirteenth century, a disinherited Frenchman who talked his way into an English earldom and marriage with a sister of the English king, Henry III. A charismatic, obstinate leader, Simon soon lost patience with the king's incompetence and inability to keep his word, and found himself the champion of the common people.

This is his story, and the story of Henry III, as weak and changeable as Simon was brash and unbending. It is a tale of opposing wills that would eventually clash in a storm of violence and betrayal―an irresistible saga that brings the pages of history completely, provocatively, and magnificently alive.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 1988
ISBN: 978-0312382469
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
The Reckoning

This book completes the splendid sequence of novels on the struggle between the independent Welsh Princes and the growing English strength which began with Here be Dragons, continued with Falls the Shadow and is now completed with The Reckoning. The major figures in The Reckoning are the splendid dominant King of England, Edward I, and The Great Llewellyn II, Prince of Wales. 

His long love affair and eventual marriage with Ellen, daughter of Simon De Montfort, provides the strong emotional interest in the book, while the political machinations of Edward against the Welsh and the Scots, together with Llewellyn's struggle to control the recalcitrant Welsh Princes provides the political and military drama.

Author: Sharon Kay Penman
First Release: 1991
ISBN: 978-0140113259
Publisher: Penguin Books