The Book of Love

Written by Kathleen McGowan
Review by Cindy Vallar

Estranged both from the man she loves and her brother, Maureen Pascal requires their assistance to unravel Matilda of Tuscany’s biography and find Jesus’s Book of Love before a secret faction within the Catholic Church does. They fear the revelations both of these documents will have on the Church and its doctrine, and they will do whatever is required to make certain Maureen and her friends fail in their mission.

Matilda is one of the Expected Ones, who undergoes trials and triumphs that impact world history and the Church. Her father’s trusted mercenary teaches her to be a warrior, for Matilda has no intention of allowing a man to rule her. When her father is murdered, her life changes, and she is betrothed to her stepbrother, a hunchback who fears women with red hair and who will not tolerate Matilda’s wild and free ways. Once she escapes from her imprisonment, she returns to her beloved Tuscany and aligns herself with Pope Gregory VII. Together they wage political and personal struggles to combat Matilda’s overlord, King Henry of Germany, and her husband, who want control of her lands and the Catholic Church.

Intriguing on their own, the numerous interwoven story threads make it difficult to convey the true breadth of what The Book of Love entails. While Jesus’s manuscript plays a role, its presentation sometimes leaves one wondering about its pertinence to the whole story. McGowan cut significant portions from the original manuscript, which may explain the lack of cohesion among the various threads. Unlike The Expected One, which was clearly Maureen’s search for the Magdalene Gospel from both Maureen and Mary Magdalene’s perspectives, The Book of Love is primarily Matilda’s tale and how she preserves Jesus’s teachings, rather than Maureen’s investigation or her personal relationships, and both are told as if witnessed by an outsider looking in rather than by the characters themselves.