Set in the 12C, Alexander de Montroi, unwanted by his older half-brother, is placed in a monastery where he was abused by a monk. Alexander escapes the monastery and seeks his half brother Hervi who is a tourney knight in partnership with Arnaud de Cerizay and his wife Clemence and their daughter Monday. As Alexander is trained by his brother to be a tourney knight, he also earns the lifetime enmity of fellow tourney knight and all-around bad guy Eudo le Boucher. Eventually, Monday’s mother dies in childbirth and her father is driven mad with grief and is killed by le Boucher, leaving Monday in the care of Hervi and Alexander. One night Monday and Alexander get a bit too tipsy and end up in bed together, leading Monday to leave the protection of the de Montroi brothers and seek employment with Lady Elise as a sempstress — and finds herself pregnant. Hervi is injured and Alexander leaves him in care of monks (good ones) as he searches for Monday to no avail. The brothers fear she is lost to them forever.
John, Count of Mortaine, visits the castle where Monday resides and is smitten and makes her his mistress as Alexander, with no hope of finding Monday, takes service with William Marshal as a household knight. After several years, their paths cross and the rest of the story then revolves around extricating Monday from John’s clutches along with those of Monday’s well born grandfather – who now needs an heir and wishes to have Monday married to someone more suitable than Alexander – but Alexander must be put out of the way first.
This is one of Chadwick’s earlier novels and while her attention to historical detail is outstanding as always, this book does have more of a romance feel to it, although I thoroughly enjoyed Alexander and Monday’s love story. King John is delightfully evil as always as are the other baddies leading up to an exciting ending waiting to see if true love will win out in the end. While not her best novel, Chadwick’s second best is head and heels above much of the rest in the genre, and as always the way she brings the medieval period to life with the smells, clothes, food and battles is just awesome.