Character Spotlight: Dina Sleiman’s Gwendolyn & Allen with a giveaway

ChivalrousMeet two unlikely knights in

Dina Sleiman’s

YA Medieval Adventure


Bethany House


The Story

Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers. However, that is not an option for her, not even in the Arthurian-inspired Eden where she dwells. Her parents view her only as a marriage pawn, and her domineering father is determined to see her wed to a brutish man who will break her spirit.

When handsome, good-hearted Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, Gwendolyn spies in him the sort of fellow she could imagine marrying. Yet fate seems determined to keep them apart. Tournaments, intrigue, and battles–along with twists and turns aplenty–await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.

Introducing Gwendolyn & Allen

Brief physical description

Gwendolyn is tall and strong with long golden blonde hair. She thinks of herself as ugly in the beginning, mostly because she doesn’t bother with her looks, but quickly learns that is not the case.  Allen is a big, powerful Lee Leeknight with chiselled features and waving brown hair. I’m thinking you can’t go wrong with that.


Actually, Gwendolyn is the first heroine I ever wrote who somewhat resembles me, and a number of people have commented that the cover looks like me when I was younger. LOL. But I’ve been using LeeLee Sobieski, an actress who has played several tough medieval heroines, as my model for Gwendolyn. For Allen, I was picturing Jared Padalecki who played Dean on the Gilmore Girls.

Strengths and weaknesses

Gwendolyn is physically strong and tough. Her brothers thought it would be hysterical to train her as a knight since their father is so determined to keep women in their place. She is also generous, protective, and adventurous. But Gwendolyn has an emotional fragility to her as well, and she sometimes escapes into a fantasy world to avoid hard issues.

Allen is brave, kind, and faithful. He has a very deep connection to God. But he was raised a peasant, and his new role as a knight is causing him some insecurity. As his standing continues to rise, pride creeps in and threatens to lead him astray.

Quirk (if any)

Well, being a female warrior was pretty quirky for that time, but I contrast that with Gwendolyn’s beautiful, haunting gift of playing the pipe to bring out her softer side. There are also some funny scenes where she is Jaredtrying to act demure to please her father and fails miserably. Allen has a bad habit of falling out of trees. People who have read book 1 will get that.

Your inspiration for the character

The idea behind the whole series is strong medieval women in traditionally male roles, so Lancelot in many ways served as an inspiration for this female knight who longs to fight in tournaments. I was also very inspired a few years ago when I saw a picture of a tough female warrior illustrating spiritual warfare. That woman encouraged me to be more strong and courageous, and the picture was in my mind as I worked on this book.

Allen is a character who just sort of evolved. He was one of the “Merry Men” in my first book, Dauntless, and the publisher liked him and asked me to develop him more and use him as a hero for book 2. I love the results!

Background to the story 

The idea was basically to feature a female knight and play with some Arthurian legends. I took the Guinevere and Lancelot story and turned it upside down. But in considering this female knight, I also had to face the fact that she would not have been readily accepted in her society, and that she would likely be stirring up trouble at home.

So I gave Gwendolyn a brutish father and a mother who has been beaten down by him. That really provided the motivation for Gwendolyn to want to be strong and tough, and it makes her very opposed to the marriage her parents demand of her, which creates all sorts of wonderful tension in the story. Bringing in Allen as a hero for this story was the perfect touch and linked it nicely to book 1 in the series.

Thanks Dina!
Dina Sleiman2015

Dina L. Sleiman holds an MA in professional writing from Regent University and a BA in communications with a minor in English from Oral Roberts University. Over the past eighteen years, she has had opportunities to teach college writing and literature, as well as high school and elementary classes in English, humanities, and fine arts. She lives in Virginia with her husband and three children. 

Relz Reviewz Extras
Character spotlight on Merry (Dauntless)
Visit Dina’s website and blog
Buy at Amazon: Chivalrous or Koorong

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21 Responses to Character Spotlight: Dina Sleiman’s Gwendolyn & Allen with a giveaway

  1. I read Robin Lee Hatcher’s “Fit To Be Tied” which was about a woman who wore cowboy pants and worked with horses like the men did. I really like when women are in those roles because it shows the balance of their hard and soft sides. Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. Angela Hunt had a series that featured women disguising themselves as men. I remember one was set in the Civil War, and the heroine masqueraded as a soldier. That was a great series…I think I might have to reread them!

  3. Great question! I’m enjoying the answers. Thanks for having me, Rel.

  4. I literally just finished this book in the wee hours this morn. Truly, it was a fabulous read that I couldn’t put down. Gwendolyn & Allen were fantastically written and I enjoyed their story immensely. But I must admit that Gwendolyn’s saucy and sassy handmaid Rosalind had me laughing out loud at times. I won’t spoil anything here, but I am anxious to read more about her.

  5. I read and loved the book Dauntless by Dina, and believe The Lady Merry Ellison would fit that description. Also Gunpowder Tea by Margaret Brownley’s character Miranda Hunt as a Pinkerton detective.

  6. Oh boy, Oh boy, Oh boy!!! This is the book I’ve been waiting for the release – – and now I’ve gone to “speed dial” on my kindle and downloaded it! I’ve got my chain-mail and sword and a one-way ticket to “medieval land” – I’m in heaven!!

  7. The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson features a young woman who dresses as a man to go hunting in the King’s forest at night. Mary Connealy’s Wild at Heart series features three sisters who posed as men to fight during the Civil War and are now trying to pass themselves off as men to prove up on their homesteads (though one sister doesn’t like the pretense). This series by Dina looks really good, though I haven’t read any of them yet.

  8. I am looking forward to this book. I hope to be able to read it and Dauntless soon.

  9. Great interview with Dina! Dina, congrats on the release of Chivalrous! No, I’ve not read a book featuring women in traditional men’s role.

  10. Mary Connealy had a delightful character in The Husband Tree, Belle Tanner. She was a better rancher than most men!

  11. I just purchased a used copy of a Debra Ullrick novel called The Unlikely Wife. Since I just received it, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. It’s about a woman and a rancher who are married by proxy, sight unseen. When she first meets her new husband, she is adorned in trousers, a cowboy hat and a rifle. This, of course, throws the rancher for a loop and the story begins.

  12. Thanks so much for the giveaway! I have wanted to read this book for so long. It sounds really good.

  13. I have. I’ve read some fiction civil war books were women were disguised as men so they could fight the battle. I wasn’t aware women had done that during the civil war so I did some research at my local library. I checked out a whole stack of books detailing the women who fought in the Civil War disguised as a man.It was fascinating reading. I am looking forward to reading this second book in the series, Chivalrous.

  14. My daughter and I both read Dina’s first book and enjoyed it. We also enjoyed Cinder where she is a cyborg mechanic Cinderella. 😉

  15. I’m sure I have read many books with women who take on a traditional mans role. I can’t pin down just one at the moment, but these books sound awesome! I love reading stories in this time period and will be adding these to my to read list! So many new and exciting books and not enough time to read!!

  16. I read a book called Tempting The Player where the woman was an airline pilot. That seems like a traditionally male type role.

  17. I read Mary Connealy’s book Fit to be Tied where the three sisters dressed like men after the Civil War to keep their land. The youngest sister still liked the womanly things, so kept her hair long and sometimes wore a skirt much to her sisters dismay. I also have read Dauntless.

  18. Not sure if there was a novel but who can forget Annie Oakley? She was a lady who coumf shoot with the best of them? Thanks for this giveaway!

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