Graceful"" is a word not usually applied to the often lumpy medium of the historical novel; but this sad little medieval tale of doomed young love--based on 13th-century court and monastic chronicles--holds throughout the tension and tone of Pargeter's lean and lively scholarly speculations. England's Henry III is the dangerously single-minded and calculating young king who, in pursuit of the dazzling dream of total regal power, wreaks havoc upon the love of Meggotta de Burgh, daughter of Henry's justiciar, and Richard de Clare, a ward of the de Burgh family since being orphaned by the death of his land-rich father, the Earl of Gloucester. Meggotta and Richard begin as childhood playmates in the affectionate de Burgh household, and later they discover the stirrings of a more adult love. But the king, irritated at being cramped by the old advisers left over from his father's reign, turns on de Burgh with a trumped-up charge of treason. While de Burgh, ruined and imprisoned, awaits death, his wife flees to sanctuary with the two children, who are secretly married with her blessing. Alliances of barons force Henry to restore de Burgh, but rumors of Richard's marriage cause another trial, and de Burgh, tired unto death, cannot find the strength to support the children. Richard is taken away, Meggotta dies in despair, and finally Richard, married to another child, is now bitterly wise in the ways of adults and their monstrous games (""They don't ask us what we want. If we tell them, they don't listen""). Flecked with the intrigues of great kings and barons at their tiny wars, this is a modest and appealing period recreation--from a veteran whose mysteries (under the Ellis Peters byline) have also taken a medieval turn.