Set in Europe during the Middle Ages, Isolde Martyn has woven a magnificent historical fiction throughout a time when to make strategic alliances with neighbouring Kings or Lords, was the only way to protect people from the savagery of the purge, led by Pope Innocent III, against heretics.
When the Queens hair braider, Adela is attacked by King John, she is forced to flee for her life, leaving behind her the security of the life she has always known, carefully, cautiously, but slowly finding her way to France.
Meanwhile beleaguered Richart, Lord of Mirascon, a small fiefdom in the South of France, is finding that defending his township and his people from the ever increasing horror of Pope Innocent’s campaign is almost unachievable, makes a decision to go to Britain in order to seek an alliance from King John. This is granted on the condition that Richart marries the Mistress of King John, Lady Alys.
Adela meets up with Lady Alys’s entourage on their way to her forthcoming marriage with Lord Richart. She manages to work her way into the entourage, taking on the task of washer woman. But all is not as it seems with the Lady Alys, as she has a roving eye. When the camp is attacked by bandits on the outskirts of Mirascon, she is in the bed of the Knight leading the party.
The only survivor of the massacre, Adela is discovered by Richart and his men hiding in the bushes, covered in a magnificent cloak and holding a casket of jewellery. The assumption is made that she is Lady Alys, but when she is introduced to Richart, he begins to wonder if this is so, as, on the night she was attacked by King John, he saw her fleeing the Court and assumed she had been killed.
As the days and months go on, their alliance turns into so much more, as they both struggle to survive in a time when to dare to step out of the strictures of society, could prove to be fatal.
Derwent, a Dwarf, and former Jester in the Court of King John, now a member of the Court of Mirascon, recognises Adela as the servant he once knew in Britain, but as a well-known mischief maker, he adds another layer of intrigue, to what is already a dangerous time for those in Mirascon.
Fast paced, and absolutely involving, can Richart and Adela overcome what are huge odds, to not only survive in a time of horror, but to find their way through a web of complex lies and deceit, before she has to pay with her life.
A totally enjoyable return to a time in history which is as horrific as it is all encompassing, spun into an enjoyable and compelling read.