The Rose of the World (A Hawkenlye Mystery)
In 13th-century England, we find a former abbess, Helewise, who has renounced her vows, deserted the nunnery, and is living with her lover. No one in the environs seems to much mind this, which I found hard to believe. Trouble rears its head when Helewise’s granddaughter disappears. The author spins a convoluted tale of kidnapping and murder. King John figures in the story, and so do family relationships that are not what they seem.
The revelations about who is actually related to whom provide some interesting plot twists. There is a madman at the center of the story, and he is well-drawn, sympathetic though potentially dangerous. However, this novel has an extensive cast of characters, and the frequent shifts in point of view made it difficult for me to care much about anyone in particular. The language and people’s thought processes are sometimes jarringly modern. King John seems a paper-thin creation as he laughs happily at the thought of inflicting a painful death on a close relative, and then a few chapters later changes his mind for the slimmest of reasons. All in all, I was disappointed.