Friday, July 17, 2009

The Love Knot - Vanessa Alexander

It is spring, in the year 1297. Recently widowed Joanna of Acre, lovingdaughter of Edward I, is pleased at her father's unexpected visit. But Edward has heard a rumour of an inappropriate friendship between Joanna, still officially in widow's weeds, and penniless commoner Ralph Monthermer. Edward, believing he has proof of a clandestine affair, immures Joanna in a nunnery and imprisons Ralph within Bristol Castle. Henry Trokelowe, Edward's clerk, stops him killing Ralph, who is allowed to live while the cold, almost passionless Henry investigates. Ralph and Joanna's only chance of survival now lies in Henry's hands, but how can a confirmed bachelor even begin to understand the all-consuming passion binding them?

The Love Knot is the story of Joanna of Acre and Ralph de Monthermer, or at least a small part of their story told in the form of letters between them and between the King of England and the man he sent to investigate whether Ralph could be the murderer of Joanna's first husband, Gilbert de Clare. Joanna had been widowed only a short time before starting a relationship with Monthermer and it is known that they secretly wed while Joanna's father was busy arranging another match for her.

On the discovery of their relationship Joanna, who seems to have been a determined young woman, and Ralph were, for a time imprisoned and out of favour but were later on accepted and restored in the king's good graces. Vanessa Alexander (a pen name for Paul Doherty) imagines what happened during those months and what led the king to accept and apparently approve of the match between a daughter of England and a commoner.

The letters between Joanna and Ralph were moving and compelling. They address not only their feelings but also what is happening to them, why and how strong they will be to protect their secret. In parts of it one almost feels like an intruder in someone's private life as they are of a most intimate nature.

The letters that the king's envoy writes were very interesting to read also but of a different nature. Through him we really feel we are watching a trial and it seems there is more eagerness to find evidence of guilt than of innocence. But Trokelowe is determined to find the truth. He successfully discovers Joanna and Ralph's secret and, despite this book not being labelled a mystery I felt there was enough for me to think of Trokelowe as a sort of detective which also appealed to me.

This is a small book and a very easy read that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

Grade: 4/5


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