The daughter of Queen Isabella’s physician discovers that her parents don’t practice the religion in which they raised her.
Doña Isabel can’t understand why her parents insist that she be betrothed to Luis, the cruel and arrogant son of her father’s friend from the royal court. At last they explain that they are marranos, secretly living as Jews but seeking to protect her from the Inquisition by marrying her to a Christian. Shocked but not particularly given to soul searching, Isabel proceeds to meet an attractive Jewish boy, Yonah, who leads her into Toledo’s ghetto for a secret Torah class and a seder. True to type, Luis turns out to be an informer who has her father arrested and tortured—but thanks to a fortuitous family letter proving that Torquemada himself had Jewish grandparents Isabel secures his release. With “Dayenu” on their lips, Isabel and her parents join Yonah’s family and other expelled Jews headed for a new life in Morocco—their passage paid with jewelry smuggled by a loyal slave. A scant few of the Christians here are not rabidly hateful, but Wiseman is plainly less intent on posing thorny issues of faith or crafting complex characters than portraying Jewish courage and solidarity in adversity.
Worthy aims are scuttled by avoidance of nuance. (Historical fiction. 11-13)