From the author of Fitzempress' Law (1980), solid medieval entertainment as a tender 12th-century child bride becomes Woman Warrior, replete with crossbow. It's just one of those embarrassing things that go hand in hand with being a 14-year-old Norman princess in 1134--the chance that you'll be married off to some fat, snuffling pig of a Saxon who shows his gratitude by giving you as a morning-after gift a ""manor"" on an island in the godforsaken swampy Fens, peopled by creepy peasants with names like Toki, Ulf, Impa, and Wyrm. But Sigward, Lord of Hetfelde, Ires the good grace to die shortly thereafter, leaving the beautiful Matilda de Risle with an infant son and a steely determination not to be married off again. But fat chance--there's a civil war (to last 20 years) going on between Stephen of Blois and the Empress Matilda of Normandy (distant relation to Matilda) over succession to the English throne; Matilda becomes a pawn in the game as she is held a genteel captive and finally forcibly betrothed to an absolutely chilly psychopath mercenary named Fitz Payn, who likes to inflict same. She's rescued by soldier-of-fortune Willem of Ghent, who has long loved her from afar; back in the Fens he helps her turn her now-beloved peasants into a disciplined fighting force--Matilda herself dispatches Fitz Payn with a crossbow--and the two of them finally get together, though only after almost an entire civil war and many adventures. A potboiling romantic adventure from the kind of writer who likes to tell you how people ate, drank, and went to the bathroom 800 years ago--so that Matilda's transformation from chattel to feisty chatelaine is believable, funny, and very human.