The Beautiful Thread
This is eighth in the Hawk and the Dove Series, set in the small Yorkshire abbey of St. Alcuin’s in the late 14th century. Struggling to cope with the difficult demands of both a society wedding and a bishop’s visitation, Abbot John summons his old friend and brother-in-law to lend assistance. William is a former monk and highly capable administrator, but unfortunately Bishop Eric wants to punish him for breaking his monastic vows and the sin of attempting suicide. Can he elude the zealous bishop, fend off his attempts to change the abbey’s gentler way of life, and still manage to organize the elaborate wedding festivities?
This is Christian fiction, and it advocates the path of tolerance and kindness; but it does not preach. Rather it shows the struggles of the main characters, William and Abbot John, to navigate the dangers of life in a difficult era. Innocence leaves one vulnerable, not only to the manipulations of the unscrupulous, but to one’s own insidious impulses; one reacts with justifiable anger against the arrogance and cruelty of others. Better to show kindness than perpetuate a cycle of resentment, violent retaliation, and subsequent guilt and punishment; but that is not easy to do in the face of provocation from difficult people who live by a double standard.
This is a thoughtful novel, and it offers a credible and balanced picture of often harsh conditions in the Middle Ages. William’s wife is a survivor of gang rape, the bishop and his equerry are rapacious and callous, those with aristocratic pretensions treat the lower classes as inferior, and flogging followed by hanging awaits William if the bishop catches him.