Revenge of the Rose

Written by Nicole Galland
Review by C.W. Gortner

A minstrel with a secret; a brawny impoverished knight who wins fame as a jousting champion; an emperor in search of a bride: these are the ingredients Nicole Galland (The Fool’s Tale) tosses up in her second novel, Revenge of the Rose, which takes as its framework the exploits of troubadours and art of courtly love made famous by the “Romance de la Rose.”

The time is 1199. Impish Jouglet, a privileged member of the court of a fictional Holy Roman Emperor named Konrad, has befriended Willem and Lienor of Dole, a handsome brother and sister living in gentile penury. Jouglet connives to bring Willem to court to earn his fortune, while also masterminding a prestigious alliance for Lienor. However, his machinations run awry when the truth about his own past comes to light and Willem’s meteoric rise to fame kindles the wrathful intrigue of the Emperor’s brother, a churchman named Paul, and Willem’s contemptible kinsman, Alphonse. Caught in the middle is the Emperor’s close friend and steward, Marcus, whose requited love for Alphonse’s daughter leads him to betray his own conscience.

It all starts out with some flair, promising a delightful – if historically casual – romp through an early medieval landscape of tomfoolery. However, the bawdy approach starts to wear thin after a while, and the characters, with the possible exception of Jouglet, lack a complexity that might have elevated this otherwise lighthearted summer fare.