DiPastena (Loving Lucianna, 2014, etc.) offers a historical novel about a forbidden romance in 13th century England.
It’s December of 1213 when readers first meet Robert Marcel. Once a villein forced to do his master’s bidding or suffer dire consequences, he’s now a traveling minstrel no longer tied to someone else’s estate. Though his fortunes are still linked closely with the generosity of the upper classes, as a freeman he’s able to seek out his own opportunities. He owes his freedom to a daring escape he made some years past, aided by the young, lovely Lady Marguerite of Winbourne. However, he’s still highly sensitive to the plight of the lower orders. When he discovers that he’ll be singing for the now-mature Lady Marguerite at her betrothal dinner, he can’t help but feel his heart stir. He vows to speak with her despite being in “a castle filled with her father’s knights.” The stage is set for a love affair pitted against the social system of the time. Lady Marguerite’s options are decisively limited (“Her father meant to pass her from his own harsh control to the brutal possession of this man beside her”) but she can certainly relate to a quest for personal liberty. But when she and Robert fall in love, will they ever be able to make it work? The novel effectively incorporates aspects of the time period, ranging from the popularity of fables about Reynard the Fox to the use of dried yarrow leaves. As a result, readers hungry for historical details will find much more than lutes and swords, although the story has its share of both of those, as well. The story is at its best when it weaves in scenes of action, such as a tournament of knights. Occasional scenes can prove melodramatic, however, such as when Lady Marguerite’s “anger flashed behind her tears.” However, the tone throughout is one of grandiose emotions and epic decisions—one that’s designed for a man like Robert, who “understood the call of loyalty and love.”
A nuanced, passionate love
story that will transport readers to King John’s England.