When a distraught young woman is left in the care of the nuns of St. Frideside’s priory, Dame Frevisse (The Bastard’s Tale, 2003, etc.) becomes embroiled in family intrigue too close to the royal court for comfort.
Cristiana Helyngton’s life with her beloved husband Edward, a gentlemen of King Henry VI’s court, and her two daughters is marred only by Edward’s envious cousin Laurence. Upon Edward’s death, Laurence insists on marrying one of his sons to Cristiana’s daughter Mary in order to gain control of Edward’s estate. He succeeds in taking custody of the estate and Cristiana’s two girls by stashing the grief-stricken widow in Dame Frevisse’s priory, where her brother Gerveys can’t find her, under the pretense that she’s crazy and immoral. But she has one resource: an inflammatory piece of evidence against the King and the powerful Duke of Suffolk that Edward left his wife and brother-in-law to use as protection after his death. When Dame Frevisse and her prioress accompany the widow on her return to Laurence, Frevisse uses her shrewdness and her relationship to her cousin, Duchess of Suffolk, to protect Cristiana from a killer who might possibly want that same piece of evidence.
Cristiana’s plight gets lost in the froth of courtly intrigue that ends in a revenge tragedy appropriate to a later period. Still, the interactions of Frevisse and her cousin make for compelling contrasts.