The heavens of rhetoric shake with noble intentions and pure thunderclaps of honor in this story of a rebellion that failed because its greater victory lay in defeat. In 1149, Roger of Hereford returns to England from France and from the company of Henry of Anjou to help marshal the rebel barons into an action against King Stephen and give the throne to Henry. Roger is 22, unmarked by war (""almost as if Fortuna herself could not bear to mar that great beauty""), and he has many illegitimate children and a vixen wife. To his flaming surprise, Roger is asked by the toothless Duke of Gaunt to mount the attempt to take King Stephen's son, Eustace, who will then be held as ransom for the throne. After several battles, with Roger winning the last and major one, Eustace escapes capture, Roger is nearly assassinated and Henry of Anjou (who has returned also to help out) decides against defeating Stephen for the nonce. Instead, Henry will return to France, marry Eleanor of Aquitaine, and come back later to claim the throne. It is God's will that Stephen is king, mayhap, but it is Roger's will that Henry be king and Roger's honor is divided between his desire and God's. That Roger gives up and retires into fur-lined robes as a non-fighting gentleman is his final test. The author pulls the reader down by the scruff onto her pages and says, ""This is history"". Would that it were fiction, and not one comma from history.