A medieval romance with a supernatural slant.
As a nobleman’s adopted daughter, Isabel should be wearing beautiful dresses and spending her days embroidering and learning music and languages, not sleeping in the stables and wearing men’s muddy clothing and sword fighting and falling in love with Mathew, a thief-turned–dashing stable boy. But in the days of knights, kings and ladies, Isabel is a free-spirited, unconventional young woman. When her adopted father and his friend Sir John Scotch agree that Isabel’s independence must be nipped in the bud, they send Mathew away, forcing Isabel to decide whether she wants to submit or rebel. Her decision is complicated by the arrival of charming James, who has been sent by Sir John to look after her. As James attempts to gain her trust, Isabel finds that her feelings for him have begun to rival the love she has for Mathew. But she also suspects that there’s something strange about James—his power over her, for one, seems almost supernatural, and there’s something in his eyes that suggests a sinister knowledge outside of reality. When James reveals that he has been hired by Sir John to turn Isabel against her adoptive father, it becomes clear that James, too, has discovered that his calculations have their limits when faced with Isabel’s beauty and magnetism. Compromised in his mission, James must depart, leaving Isabel even more torn between her desires. Mathew’s return leads to further emotional confusion, as even more suitors vie for Isabel’s affections—some going so far as to make unearthly bargains to get what they want, throwing the kingdom into chaos. Author Schoeman adds a clever twist to the classic medieval romance, not only enhancing the plot but tapping into a contemporary hunger for the supernatural. The writing can be overwrought and often plodding—“Isabel gasped with the crushing of her heart from being turned away”—yet Schoeman moves the story along through unpredictable shifts and surprising intricacies.
Though breathlessly chaste and sprinkled with clichés, this novel will satisfy the romantic who longs for a world of chivalry and sorcery.