Castles, Knights, politics and God. All elements that combine in this new novel from the talented pen of Claudia Dain. Set in Medieval times, renowned knight Hugh of Jerusalem is wed to Elsbeth, daughter of Lord Gautier. This comes as an enormous surprise to Elsbeth, who has determined to live her live dedicated to God as a nun.
Of course, this marriage is arranged. Hugh knows of Elsbeth, and initially he regards her as a pawn…his marital freedom is the price he is willing to pay to obtain what he needs to assist his King. The real price, it transpires, is much higher - his heart.
Claudia Dain never fails to write a challenging and complex romance, and this is the case here. Elsbeth’s theological devotion is extreme, and can be hard to comprehend in many ways, especially in our contemporary times when such dedication can be viewed as obsessive. But with patience, these characters gradually unfold into real, living, loving people, tormented in some ways and generous in others. Hugh, especially, falls readily into the “to die for” hero category. His patience with, and increasing desire for, Elsbeth will make any romance lover sigh. Elsbeth is harder to understand, but eventually she too becomes a flesh and blood woman.
A warning however – blood, in its many forms, figures large in this tale, for good reasons. Blunt and descriptive, Elsbeth’s inability to immediately consummate her vows is detailed and explicit. If you’re squeamish about such things, you might begin your Claudia Dain experiences with another novel. But don’t put this one aside completely, you’ll be missing an interesting read. I certainly recommend this novel - it’s historically fascinating, and romantically appealing. It is not, however, an ‘easy’ read…make sure you have time to stay with it, suspend your contemporary values, and lose yourself in the story. It will be worth it in the end.