Overwrought! This is the word that came to me as I tried to characterize Katherine Sutcliffe's new medieval romance. All the characters behave in a manner that can only be described as excessive and overwrought. And the writing is pretty overwrought too.
The story opens in 1164 in England. Godfrey de Gallienne is listening as his beloved young wife suffers through labor. He calls on the old wise woman to predict what will occur. She warns him that his son will kill his mother and destroy his lands. Godfrey is distraught, as can well be imagined.
The scene shifts to 1189 in France. Roland de Gallienne, known as the Black Flame, is leading his troop of knights and vassals towards the abbey in a small French town. He is fighting for his king, Henry II, who is seeking to put down a rebellion by his oldest son Richard and his ally Philip of France. Roland is weary of war and of betrayal and is
hoping that the abbey will provide a short respite from the horrors of fighting.
Roland and his troops are not greeted enthusiastically by the monks or the townsfolk. But nothing prepares Roland for an attempted murder while he sleeps. Roland has the sense that a small, frail monk is the culprit, a belief strengthened when another such attempt is made.
Roland learns that the abbey has a resident saint, a healer and seer who attracts the ill from miles around and whose gifts have enriched the abbey. He also discovers that this "saint" is small and slight and wears monk's clothes.
Hope had fled to the abbey when her town was burned by, she believes, the English. Although she and her brother Daniel sought sanctuary, what they found instead was a cruel prison. The abbot is quite willing to use Hope's reputation and ability to enrich his establishment. But he views her as evil and uses brutal force to keep her and her brother in line.
Seeking his assailant, Roland discovers the badly beaten Hope. When she spits out her hatred of all things English, he realizes that she has tried to kill him. So, he decides to take the "saint" with him as his troop leaves. And when Hope objects to being rescued, he has her shackled and led away. His men are not pleased with his treatment of the woman, especially since the old woman (Remember her, the one who made such dire predictions at Roland's birth? Well, for some reason, Roland has decided to bring her along on his campaign), jealous of Hope's powers, warns that the girl will bring disaster upon Roland and his men.
The tale continues with betrayals, dangers, rescues, death, and every other imaginable plot device. Roland falls under his captive's spell and, since he keeps her shackled and confined, Hope also falls in love with him, especially once she learns that it was French mercenaries not English who destroyed her town. (Why good old Daniel didn't tell her
this after the first time she tried to kill Roland is not clear.)
If you like a hero who imprisons and shackles the heroine, lies to her about his intentions, forces her to have sex, all in the name of love, then you'll just adore Roland. If you like a heroine who, for all her psychic powers, is just about everybody's victim and spends most of the book in one kind of danger or another – but stoically! – you'll love Hope. If you like a plot which makes almost no sense, then you might like Hope and Glory (which is, by the way, a totally inappropriate title).
Interestingly, I found the first few chapters rather promising. In particular, Roland seemed to be a potentially interesting hero, a warrior whose faith in God and in himself has been undermined by the horrors he has lived. But the early promise was lost in the muddy waters of the plot.
I have never before read a book by Katherine Sutcliffe and I was really looking forward to discovering why she is so popular with so many readers. I was obviously disappointed. Not knowing her previous books, can I assume that this is her first medieval romance? I always believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt.