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Martyn, Isolde. The knight and the rose.

Berkley. 452p. 1999. 0-425-18329-7. $14.00 SA

Intrigued by a medieval divorce proceeding as well as the status of women in England during the 1300s, romance writer Martyn has woven a compelling novel within the framework of that period. Two strong-minded women, Lady Johanna FitzHenry and her mother Lady Constance, devise a clever plan to save Johanna from her abusive husband. Sir Fulk De Enderby treats Johanna as chattel and sees her only as a source of a substantial dowry. Beaten down by the cruelty and isolation of her loveless marriage, Johanna seeks refuge with her mother, vowing never to return to Fulk. She hopes for sanctuary in a convent, but her mother proposes a different solution. They must find a man who will claim to be Johanna's true husband from an earlier marriage, thus invalidating her marriage to Fulk. Backed by the kindly parish priest and reluctantly aided by the local wise woman Christiana, the women pull Gervase de Laval into their scheme. As an escaping rebel, caring for the wounded heir of King Edward's sworn enemy and posing as a wandering scholar, Gervase has little choice but to become the reluctant husband. Failure to do so means Lady Constance will turn him over along with his young charge to the king's high sheriff.

Johanna and Gervase spar constantly, but soon the strictly business transaction becomes much more as their mutual respect and devotion increase. Gervase grows to love the woman who is terrified of men because of her abusive husband, while Johanna gradually realizes that all men are not beasts. The story moves rapidly through the medieval divorce proceedings and the destruction of the cruel "chastity" belt that Fulk forced Johanna to wear. The momentum continues through devastating floods when Johanna shows her mettle as a leader. The grandeur and greed of the royal court of Edward's wife, Queen Isabella, propels Gervase and Johanna into the midst of the court politics and the battles between the rebel forces and the king's men. The romance clings to life and in the end flourishes as Gervase's noble identity is fully revealed and he is reunited with Johanna. Martyn has created a "fine romance" out of a piece of history that should satisfy readers who enjoy historical romance with believable characters. Mary T. Gerrity, Camp Springs, MD
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Author:Gerrity, Mary T.
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2002
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