an excellent novel set in the reign of Henry 1st about Isabelle Vermandois and her marriage to a Norman nobleman. the period andn treatment of women at the time is brought to life in this fact based novel
After the author's stunning success with her novels, Sultana and Sultana's Legacy, comes a powerful story set in 11th century France. Isabel de Vermandois is a very young girl whose cruel, abusive, parents betroth her to the Comte de Meulan, a 50 year old man. She fights the union and is beaten and starved until she cooperates and the betrothal is formalized. Thereafter, she is sent to Paris to live with her uncle the King where she encounters the Comte and William de William de Warenne, the earl of Surrey.
When the Comte suffers a serious injury and it is possible he may die, she is rushed to his side where he seeks to marry Isabel right away. Despite her prior reluctance to wed him, he promises her love and security in exchange for bearing him sons. He promises not to come to her bed until she menstruates. Believing him to be kind, she warms to him and they soon wed in a small ceremony, despite the fact they have not received papal dispensation.
When Isabel's parents learn of the marriage, they withhold her dower lands and urge Isabel to remain a virgin until the papal blessing is received. Soon she finds herself in her husband's bed. Their happiness erodes when she learns of her husband's numerous illegitimate sons and his unusually close relationship with his clerk, Thorold, who is her nemesis. While Robert is often absent from home for long periods, William de Warrenne reappears and she is obliged to nurse him to health. Although the relationship is tense, there is no mistaking the attraction William and Isabel feel for each other.
Isabel's life becomes more entrenched in turmoil - kidnapping, forbidden love, betrayal, long buried secrets, and the harsh realities of everyday life during the medieval period grace the pages of this story about a long-forgotten countess and woman of history.
Author Lisa Yarde has penned an authentic, compelling story without sugar-coating the realities and hardships women endured in medieval times. What I liked was that despite Isabel's husband's secrets and lies, she remained a dutiful wife, a woman to be admired and respected by readers. It is evident that a great deal of time not only went into researching the countess's life, but that of those around her.
As the characters' lives intertwine and their problems seem insurmountable, I found myself becoming engrossed in the many plot twists and unpredictability of the story. The prose is beautiful, flowing, easy to enjoy. Lisa J. Yarde knows how to extract time and place, people and situations with great skill. Part historical fiction, part biographical, this novel was a joy to read. The story is compelling and well crafted, written in an effortless, easy to enjoy manner. I was hard-pressed to put it down.