Set in Tudor England, this is the story of Alys, an orphan who was raised by the local wise woman until she leaves to join a nunnery in order to escape a life of poverty. When Henry VIII’s men burn the abbey down, Alys runs without looking back, leaving her adoptive mother and her sister’s in Christ to burn to their deaths. With nowhere else to go, Alys returns to the old wise woman who raised her. Alys begins to work alongside the old wise woman, horning her own skills as a wise woman herself. The old lord Hugh learns of her skills and requests that she comes to his castle to work as his nurse and later his scribe. With nothing to protect her except for her looks and her innate magic, Alys walks a fine and dangerous line between her faith and her own female powers. Alys soon finds herself falling in love with the old lord’s son Hugo, who happens to be already married to another woman. Alys decides to turn to dark magic to get what she wants—to defeat her rival and to win the man she loves but she soon finds out that magic makes a poor servant and a powerful and dangerous master. Alys soon finds herself in a precarious situation where heresy means the stake and witchcraft the rope.
I love Philippa Gregory’s work however this novel was . . . well . . . interesting to say the least. It was a dark story with a good plot, twisted characters and extremely explicit sexual imagery. There were creepy boudoir scenes that really did not need the amount of detail they were given – definitely an uncomfortable read at times. I think that the words “love triangle” were a little tame, it was a creepy, twisted love triangle to say the least. As for the characters, they weren’t horrible but they weren’t amazing either. I am all for the bad girl type heroines but Alys takes the cake—she has got to be the most self-serving heroine out there, she would throw anyone, including her own mother, under the bus if it would save her own skin. Alys is portrayed as both the protagonist and the antagonist in the story but unfortunately she is not strong enough in either role. I also found that there were a lot of similarities between this story and the Tudor dramas: fathers with similar names (Hugh and Hugo versus the two Henrys); wives named Catherine/Katharine; mistresses named Anne/Sister Ann (Alys). Overall, it was decent book and if you can get past all of the sex then it is a great read.