Written by Donald Michael Platt
Review by James Hawking


In the Spain of Felipe IV, Vicente de Rocamora writes love poetry, hears royal confessions, learns the art of Jewish medicine, and still finds time to use his skills as a swordsman to advance the interests of his imperfect Rocamora family in its struggle with the perfectly diabolical Angelsola clan. In an era when washing one’s hands before meals can be seen as an indication that someone is a secret Jew, Rocamora works with the king’s prime minister, Count Olivares, to ease the restrictions on new Christians. The young handsome Dominican Rocamora advances rapidly, winning the love of the Infanta destined to marry the Holy Roman Emperor but confining his desire to the writing of poetry.

Little is known of the real Rocamora, which gives Platt the freedom to invent most of his own plot and to write his own poems. A table at the end of the book separates the historical characters from the fictional and helps to sort out the invented plot from the underlying history. Personally, I found the lead character far too perfect to be interesting, but a reader in quest of a romantic hero might think differently.