Heart of Vengeance (The Jewels of Tomorrow) byTracy Cooper-Posey
[Helena's] 'mouth was thick with the coppery taste of fear.'
Those words captured me, tainting the very atmosphere. The visceral reaction of this woman whose story I was about to follow was riveting. This opening scene takes place in 1197 in Oxford near to the court of Prince John.
Posing within the court of John as a Norman, the Lady Isobel of Brittany, Helena of York is seeking the truth about her father's death and the consequences that followed for the villagers where Helena's father, the Earl of Wessex's body was discovered.
Here Helena meets Stephen, Count of Dian, the 'Black Baron', once a close friend to King Richard and as chance would have it, a childhood playmate to the real Isobel. Stephen will in turn be puzzled by Helena, challenged by her, love her, protect her from her enemies and assist her in her quest for vengeance. He is quite a remarkable man for his times. The truth of why revenge is important to Helena would become clear to him, although he counsels against it. Very much in terms of how taking revenge will affect her psyche.
The action swings from the court of Prince of John in Oxford, to York, to the great forests of Robert (Robin) of Locksley, and on to King Richard in Normandy. The interweaving of these commanding characters into the very fabric of the story creates further interest. Their intersection doesn't seem beyond the realm possibility, indeed is indicative of the story's reality working within the historical and legendary contexts of the times.
Helena is companion to the seemingly fragile Lady Catherine Fitzwarren who turns out to be motivated by motherhood, ambition and fear in attaching her family to John's star. That determination of purpose leads Lady Catherine to render Helena harm. Catherine is closed to all else but her own desires in these matters.
The very kingship of England comes under threat as the key players jockey for position.
A medieval romance that stirs the imagination and portrays vividly many of the concerns, cultural habits and political intrigues of the times.
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