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Lady of Hay

Lady of Hay

3.8 98
by Barbara Erskine

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Jo Clifford, a successful journalist, is all set to disprove hypnosis and past-life regression, until she submits to a simple hypnotic session and finds herself reliving the experiences of Matilda, Lady of Hay, the wife of a baron at the time of King John.


Jo Clifford, a successful journalist, is all set to disprove hypnosis and past-life regression, until she submits to a simple hypnotic session and finds herself reliving the experiences of Matilda, Lady of Hay, the wife of a baron at the time of King John.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Erskine's first novel gets off to a fine start. As a participant in a college research project on hypnotic regression, Jo Clifford is almost too good a subject. Under hypnosis, she relives the final, tortured moments in the life of Matilda, a 12th century Welshwoman. In the process, Jo herself comes close to death. The story then jumps 15 years. Jo, now a journalist researching regression, is again hypnotized and again regresses to Matilda's excitement-packed life. Unfortunately, the pace of the early pages is not maintained. The problem is not with Jo/Matilda, who are both well-drawn, or even with the whopping coincidences Jo encounters. What slows the narrative is the bevy of minor characters, Jo's acquaintances. They talk to her and about her, they try to help her and they conspire against her, all at the expense of the central plotline. This is still a good read, but it could have been better. Doubleday Book Club and Literary Guild alternate. (June 19)
Library Journal
Matilda de Braose was an actual 12th-century Englishwoman who angered and was put to death by King John. Fictional journalist Jo Clifford undergoes hypnosis while researching the story of her previous life as Matilda. As she becomes increasingly obsessed with the story, her male friends assume the roles of Matilda's husband, lover, and the king, manipulated by ``mad scientist'' Dr. Sam Franklyn, who hypnotizes all of them. Jo's story is initially an annoying intrusion in a historical drama that could easily have stood on its own merits. The modern-day characters are all ``types,'' none of them particularly likeable. However, as Matilda's death nears, this complex first novel turns in to an engrossing gothic that races to an exciting conclusion. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates. Marcia R. Hoffman, M.L.S., Hoechst Celanese Corp., Somerville, N.J.
From the Publisher
"One of the most intriguing, fascinating books I've read in a long time. " - Night Owl Romance

"Absorbing and hypnotic, Lady of Hay seethes and sizzles with emotions that often erupt out of control... captivating." - The Long and Short of It Reviews

"Exceptionally vivid... A spooky, quasi-supernatural thriller. " - HistoricalNovels.info

"This wonderful mix of time travel/reincarnation set in real historical settings will capture your imagination." - Queen of Happy Endings

"The story will grab your imagination and take you on a ride of twists and turns filled with intrigue, treachery, and lots of passion." - Thoughts in Progress

"Barbara Erskine is a wondrous storyteller... one of the richest historical novels I have read this year." - Bookworm's Dinner

"I was completely fascinated by both time periods and leading ladies." - Books Like Breathing

"Lady of Hay is brilliantly developed, chock full of drama to keep the reader turning the pages long into the night... [Barbar Erskine] is a masterful storyteller." - Rundpinne

"Erskine is a master storyteller... Kudos to Sourcebooks for reprinting this very entertaining novel." - Historical Novels Review

"A well thought out, detailed story with so many twists and turns it gave the plot a new dimension. " - The Romance Studio

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt


"Basically I like the idea," Bet Gunning leaned across the table, her eyes, as they focused on Jo's face, intense behind the large square lenses of her glasses.

Jo was watching her intently, admiring Bet's professionalism after the relaxed lunch at Wheeler's.

Their eyes met and both women smiled appreciatively. They had been friends for five years, ever since Bet had taken over as editor of Women in Action. Jo had been on the staff then, learning the trade of journalism. She learned fast. When she left to go freelance it was because she could name her figure for the articles she was producing.

"'Anything Ethnic,' 'Medieval Medicine,' 'Cosmic Consciousness'-my God, what's that?-'Meditation and Religion'-you'll have to keep that light-" Bet was going through the list in her head. "'Regression: Is history still alive?' That's the reincarnation one, yes? I read an article about it somewhere quite recently. It was by an American woman, if I remember, and totally credulous. I must try to look it up. You will, of course, be approaching it from quite the opposite standpoint."

Jo smiled. "They tried it on me once, at the university. That's what gave me the idea. The world authority on the subject, Michael Cohen, tried to put me under-and failed. He gave me the creeps! The whole thing is rubbish."

Bet gave a mock sigh. "Okay, Jo, show me the outlines. I'm thinking in terms of a New Year or spring slot so you've got plenty of time. Now, what about illustrations? Are you fixed up or do you want them done in house?"

"I want Tim Heacham."

"You'll be lucky! He's booked solid these days. And he'd cost."

"He'll do it for me."

Bet raised an eyebrow. "Does he know that?"

"He will soon."

"And what will Nick say?"

Jo's face tightened for a moment. "Nick Franklyn can go take a running jump, Bet."

"I see. That bad?"

"That bad."

"He's moved out?"

"He's moved out. With cream, please." Jo smiled up at the waiter who had approached with the coffeepot.

Bet waited until he had withdrawn. "Permanently?"

"That's right. I threw his camera across the room when I found out he'd been sleeping with Judy Curzon."

Bet laughed. "You cow." She sounded admiring.

"It was insured. But my nerves aren't. I'm not possessive, Bet, but he's not going to mess me about like that. If it's off it's off. I don't run a boardinghouse. What do you think about the title of the series?"

"Nostalgia Dissected?" Bet looked up, her head a little to one side. "Not bad. I'm not totally convinced, but it certainly puts the finger on your approach." She beckoned to the waiter for the bill. "Aren't you going to tell me any more about Nick?"

Jo put down her coffee cup and pushed it away. She stared down at her hand, extending it over the tablecloth, flexing her fingers as if amazed they still worked. "It is three years, four months, and eight days since I met Sam again and he introduced me to his brother. Doesn't that surprise you?"

"It surprises me that you counted, lovie," Bet said slightly acidly, tossing her American Express card down on the waiter's tray.

"I worked it out last night in the bath. It's too long, Bet. Too long to live in someone's pocket, however well one gets on. And, as you know, we don't all that often!"

"Bullshit. You're made for each other."

Jo picked up her coffee spoon and idly drew a cross in the surface of the sugar in the earthenware bowl in the center of the table, watching the crystals impact and crumble with a concentrated frown.

"Perhaps that's it. We're so awfully alike in a lot of ways. And we are competitive. That's bad in a relationship." She stood up, the drab olive of her dress emphasizing her tanned arms with their thin gold bangles as she unslung the canvas satchel from the back of the chair and swung it onto her shoulder.

"Tim said he'd be at his studio this afternoon so I'm going up to see him now. Are you going straight back across the river?"

"'Fraid so. I've got a meeting at three." Bet was tucking the credit card back in her wallet. "I won't give you any good advice, Jo, because I know you won't listen, but don't hop straight into bed with Tim out of revenge, will you. He's a nice guy. Too nice to be used."

Jo smiled. "I didn't hear that, Miss Gunning. Besides, I'm a nice guy too, sometimes. Remember?"

— —

She walked slowly, threading her way through the crowded streets, the June sun shining relentlessly on the exposed pavements. Here and there a restaurant had spilled umbrella-shaded tables out onto the pavement, where people dawdled over their coffee. In England, she thought affectionately, the sun makes people smile; that was good. In a hot climate it drove them to commit murder.

She ran up the dark uncarpeted staircase to Tim's studio in an old warehouse off Long Acre and let herself in without knocking. The studio was deserted, the lines of spots cold and dark as she walked in. She glanced around, wondering if Tim had forgotten, but he was there, alone, in shirt sleeves, reclining on the velvet chaise longue that was one of his favorite photographic props. There was a can of Long Life in his hand. Above him the sun, freed from the usual heavy blinds, streamed through huge open skylights. "Jo! How's life?" He managed to lever himself upright, a painfully thin man, six foot four in his bare feet, with wispy fair hair. His unbuttoned shirt swung open, revealing a heavy silver chain on which hung an engraved amulet.

"Beer or coffee, sweetheart? I'm right out of champagne."

Jo threw her bag on the floor and headed for the kitchenette next to one of the dark rooms. "Coffee, thanks. I'll make it. Are you sober, Tim?"

He raised his eyebrows, hurt. "When am I not?"

"Frequently. I've got a job for you. Six to be precise, and I want to talk about them. Then we'll go and see Bet Gunning in a week or two if you agree."

Jo reappeared with two mugs of black Nescafé, handing one to Tim. Then she pulled a sheaf of notes from her bag and peeled a copy off for him. "Take a look at the subjects, just to give you an idea."

He read down the page slowly, nodding critically, as she sipped her coffee.

"Presumably it's the approach that's going to be new, sweetie? When's the deadline?"

"I've got months. There's quite a lot of research involved. Will you do them for me?"

He glanced up at her, his clear light-green eyes intense. "Of course. Some nice posed ones, some studio stuff-whole foods and weaving-the vox pops in chiaroscuro.

Great. I like this one especially. Reincarnation. I can photograph a suburban mum under hypnosis who thinks she's Cleopatra as she has an orgasm with Antony, only Antony will be missing." He threw the notes to the floor and sipped his coffee thoughtfully. "I saw someone being hypnotized a few months back, you know. It was weird. He was talking baby talk and crying all over his suit. Then they took him back to this so-called previous life and he spouted German, fluent as a native."

Jo's eyes narrowed. "Faked, of course."

"Uh-uh. I don't think so. The guy swore he'd never learned German at all, and there's no doubt he was speaking fluently. Really fluently. I just wish there had been someone there who knew anything about Germany in the 1880s, which is when he said it was, who could have cross-questioned him. It was someone in the audience who spoke German to him. The hypnotist couldn't manage more than a few words of schoolboy stuff himself." Jo said, "Do you think it'll make a good article?"

"More like a book, love. Don't be too ready to belittle it, will you. I personally think there's a lot in it. Do you want me to introduce you to Bill Walton? That's the hypnotist."

Meet the Author

Barbara Erskine (UK) is a historian and internationally bestselling writer whose first novel blending the historical and the supernatural catapulted her to success. Her books include Lady of Hay, Daughters of Fire, Hiding from the Light, Kingdom of Shadows, Child of the Phoenix, Midnight is a Lonely Place, and House of Echoes. Her books have sold more than 3 million copies worldwide, and she is published in 24 languages.

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Lady of Hay 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 98 reviews.
KimberlyWrites More than 1 year ago
Hmmm. Interesting how most really loved this book. Because I am a lover of historical fiction, Lady of Hay has been on my reading list for some time. I recalled that it was a big bestseller back in the 80s when it was first published. I'm giving it 3 stars for potential, but it's really a 2-star. I guess I just don't like time travel, although I love Diana Gabaldon's books. I despised The Time Traveler's Wife and I was greatly disappointed in Lady of Hay. It was just too long, too repetitive, and all the characters, who were supposed to be highly successful, "hard-hitting" professionals, were so weak-minded they could be thrown into trances in a split second by just looking at a brick wall! Not only that, they drank themselves into blithering idiots. I don't think they were entranced - they were besotted with booze. There were no surprises and the only time I was moved by the modern-day people or the 12th Century characters, was when I was moved to lay the book down and hope it got better. I hate to be a spoil sport but if you want to read a great historical romance, read The Fatal Crown by Ellen Jones, or The Canterbury Papers by Judith Koll Healy - I assure you Lady of Hay will be pure tripe.
LASR_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Absorbing and hypnotic, Lady of Hay seethes and sizzles with emotions that often erupt out of control. Whether in twentieth century or twelfth century, the volatile personalities love, hate, connive, and preserve with intensity as they work out theirs destinies. The feeling "I've-been-here-before" takes on a whole new meaning when Joanna starts researching regression by hypnosis. Skeptical and expecting to uncover information well suited for her often-vitriolic style of writing, she agrees to be hypnotized to see if she regresses to an earlier time in history. Wow! What a past emerges-an 800-year-old past. While in a trance, Joanna seems to become Matilda, the lady of Hay in twelfth-century Wales. She takes the reader on a journey full of treachery and passion that mesmerizes. Both Joanna and Matilda are strong women who strive for control of their own lives while navigating through a maze of ambitious, egocentric men whose jealousies and territorial attitudes play havoc with lives. Matilda's husband William, ambitious and a user; King John, the cruel royal who feels entitled in every way; and Richard de Clare, who loves and understands Matilda make life a minefield ready to explode with a single misstep on her part. Joanna is not married but the men in her life begin to take on different personalities from time to time. Nick, Sam, Tim, and Pete make Joanna's twentieth-century life a tangled mess of emotions and danger. Knowing who the bad guys are and who the good guys are is indeed a guessing game. Barbara Erskine's writing style with layers of plots, strong characters, exquisite imagery, and graphic descriptions, plops the reader down right in the middle of events happening 800 years apart. The supernatural, historical, and the modern day (replete with promiscuity) blend to make LADY OF HAY captivating. The tale gives one pause for thought. Do people work out their own destinies or does some unknown force propel people along? SUPERB READING! originally posted at: longandshortreviews.blogspot.com
Ladybrat More than 1 year ago
Great Read, i couldn't put the book down.The charators are very real the author did a great job with creating the story line that was taken from history. If you love history and want to feel as if you are there read this book.
amy lisek More than 1 year ago
Amazing bbok! Well researched, loosely based on fact. Did get a bit tedious, its 600 pgs long...loved it nontheless!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A nice idea and good narration.. however got me on the looong stretch of story in the present.. cannot recommend it if you are not already familiar with the resume and think it's for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written. The historical portion flowed very well. The modern portion was a little staid at times. The parallel of characters and the question of whether they are reincarnated is very intriguing.
Jessie Bryer More than 1 year ago
The story line seems to be getting a little carried away but its an interesting concept and a readable book overall.
Colleen Hepler More than 1 year ago
Interesting, but a little hard to follow. The amount of drinking, and lack of eating and sleeping was distracting. I would give it a 3.5 for the historical story telling.
Amanda Nichols More than 1 year ago
Definitely one of those stories you can't put down! Absolutely recommended if you like historical fiction.
SpyderRyder More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most compelling books I hve read to date. I would recommend it to anyone. It is a very long read.
micheleky More than 1 year ago
I throughly enjoyed reading this book. I wouldnt hesitate to buy another by the same author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The plot has many turns and twists to keep you guessing. It is a mystery and romantic adventure. I think it would be great as a movie.
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LetsBookIt More than 1 year ago
I confess that I have a love of books that explore past lives of the characters. I'm not sure I believe in reincarnation but I wouold like to. In the Lady of Hay, the possible past life/possible possesion of journalist Jo Clifford as the Lady of Hay is explored. Jo begins her exploration of past life regression as research for an article she plans on writing. Soon she is totally immersed in her past life: being drawn back to her past at inconvenient times, in inconvenient ways. A smattering of darkness, evil and insanity invades 'both'of her lives as she struggles to make sense of what is real and what isn't. I have to say that, while I loved the story and the author's style, I really did not like Jo. She struck me as wimpy and weak in both lives. That said, my feelings for the main character did not take away my total enjoyment of the book. Definitely recommended reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story. Very suspenseful, kelpt me on the edge till the very end.
ToManyBooksNotEnoughTime More than 1 year ago
This is a rather convoluted story given that you must keep track of both past and present story lines for multiple characters. The characters are compelling by themselves, but when placed into this particular story they become entrancing. Ms. Erskine was very thorough in researching the material for this book, and the descriptive details were wonderfully enchanting. The only place I feel she slipped a bit was in the way the historical characters spoke, occasionally using the word "hey," which was not introduced into common language until several hundred years after the historical portion of the story took place. And for all that Lady de Baorse was a trailblazer, I still found it a bit challenging to reconcile her attitude and how on the one hand she spoke to men - particularly the king - as if they were equals, and on the other hand she would talk about the duties of women being to submit to their husbands and acknowledging that they were owned by their husbands just like a horse or an item of clothing. But much of that can be forgiven and understood since the Lady de Baorse was being channeled by a modern-day woman who wouldn't be afraid of men as women of the 1200's would be, since women were chattel and only used to gain necessary alliances and such. That hiccup aside, the story is riveting. All the main characters are strong forces on their own and combined together they become a volatile mix. Even the secondary characters have a surprising depth not often seen in a character that may only be in two or three scenes in the entire book. Just when you feel that the story arc is beginning to drag, you are whisked back in time to relive the extraordinary life of Matilda, otherwise known as the Lady de Baorse. However for the majority of the book the story moves right along at a lovely clip. If you have an issue with wanton alcohol consumption be forewarned, as I'm not sure if there is a single scene in which either alcohol or coffee is not consumed - and often the coffee contains alcohol. Also, Jo comes across as having a rather loose moral code when it comes to sex, but I much of that is driven by the historical portions of the book oddly enough. This book is perfect for those who enjoyed such books as 'The Other Boleyn Girl,' 'The Virgin's Lover,' and other books that take historical periods and their more well-known people and try to recreate what their lives might have been like. While that may sound like a simple romance novel it is clear the hundreds of hours of research that goes into the creation of the top-shelf books of this genre. And there is no doubt in my mind that this book belongs up near the top-shelf with the others, though it is not in the same league as the Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series. Definitely a challenge to put the book down and get anything else done until I finished reading it. Thankfully it is a fairly quick read, regardless of its size.
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lcecelia More than 1 year ago
Well written interesting and a very good mystery kept me guessing til the end about the fate of the heroine!
cleotaylormobley More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended. I loved the regression into the past. Especially the fact that the people were real but the book was fiction.
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