Last week, I received The Night’s Dark Shade by Elena Maria Vidal for review.
A historical romance set in 13th century France, The Night’s Dark Shade is an engrossing tale about faith, honor, and courtly love.
In the wake of the loss of her family and her betrothed, Lady Raphaëlle finds herself thrust into a world that challenges everything she believes in. Drawn into an arranged marriage with her cousin, Raymond, the young Vicomtesse de Miramande is placed under the guardianship of her uncle, the Baron de Marcadeau. Hopeful and eager to make the most of her situation, Raphaëlle is disappointed to find that all is not as she believed. Set upon by a band of brigands while traveling to her uncle’s estate, Raphaëlle meets the dashing Sir Martin de Revel-Saissac, a knight of the Hospitaller order. This fateful meeting awakens Raphaëlle’s sense of passion and longing, an awakening that brings with it a restlessness and sudden awareness of her position as a female.
Struggling between duty and love, Raphaëlle is unwittingly drawn into a world marked by heresy and fanaticism. Under the auspices of friendship, Raphaëlle is beguiled by her aunt, the Lady Esclarmonde, a Perfecta of the Cathar sect who wants to ensure that her son’s marriage will prove advantageous to the Cathar. Unwilling to compromise her Christian faith and wishing to annul her betrothal, Raphaëlle seeks the aid of her cousin Bertrand and Sir Martin, and soon finds herself placed in the custody of Sir Jacques d’ Orly, King Louis IX’s loyal liege.
Braving danger and persecution, Raphaëlle emerges as a strong and thoughtful character, a woman certain of her virtue and moral stance.
This novel drew me in from the very first page and put me in mind of the Lais of Marie de France. Raphaëlle is a charming character whose innocence and strong opinions make her a worthy lady and a wonderful protagonist. The history of the Cathari is fascinating and lends a darkness to the tale that adds a thrilling sense of mystery to Raphaëlle’s journey.
I highly recommend this novel for readers interested in fiction about medieval women’s lives and courtly love.