The Chosen Man

Written by J.G. Harlond
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In 1636, tulip bulbs in Holland are worth their weight in gold. The Vatican plans on forcing a financial scandal in the Low Countries by creating a high price for tulip bulbs, and then developing an economic crisis situation where the price of the bulbs would decline in value.

Ludovico (Ludo) da Portovenere, a Genoese spice and silk merchant, is chosen and brought into the conspiracy. Dreaming of making high profits from the sale of tulip bulbs, he sets sail for Holland. Along the way, he encounters and is assisted by a Spanish youth named Marcus, who is looking for his father in Flanders and soon tags along as Ludo’s “servant.” Before leaving Spain, Ludo rescues a young Spanish girl, Alina, from pirates, and she accompanies them north. They stop in England, and Alina remains with an elderly rich man who is looking for a young girl to marry his homely son.

This novel contains two stories: that of Ludo and Marcus and their adventures in the Netherlands disrupting the tulip trade, and that of Alina, living as a foreign young woman in England with a man she does not love, but willing to sacrifice her happiness to live as a lady. Both come together into an exciting climax. Be prepared to be immersed in this book. The research into the tulip trade in 1636 (the story is based on a true event) and the manor house life of 17th-century England add depth to the storyline.

A well-written period novel that I highly recommend.