Book Reviews !
Things Medieval !
The Knight's Courtship
tribute to the troubabour tradition in a medieval historical romance
Joanne Rock's The Knight's Courtship is a truly
inspired Medieval historical romance that recasts the troubadour
traditions into a new genre, revitalizing a highly stylized and
conventional genre to modern readers. A truly clever romance!
heroine Lady Ivy Rutherford in this romance is a woman troubadour in
Eleanor of Aquitaine's court. Eleanor led a rebellion against her
husband Henry, the king of England. Eleanor was a patron of the arts.
Her court (and Eleanor!) was a trailbrazer, known for its art,
sophistication, luxury and the wonderful troubadour poetry which sang
the praises of love. Rumor has it that she and her women held mock
trials, judging men on their refinement and manners. Henry seeks to
rein in his queen and sends Roger Stancliff to spy on Eleanor's court
and report proof of her treason. As a troubadour, Lady Ivy Rutherford
sets about to educate the knave Roger and teach this womanizer the ways
of courtly love....will she tame this scoundrel and teach him the ways
of courtly love or will he teach this idealistic dreamer poet the real
earthly pleasures of love? Political intrigue threatens to put an end
to the games of love and their education. Despite Lady Ivy's noble
spirit and her mother's noble birth, her father belongs to the lower
merchant class. The different social and economic classes between the
two make a love match no easy thing in a time when marriage was often
an economic and political institution. All these external complications
threaten to intrude upon the lessons of love, but the dark secrets the
hero and heroine have kept from one another may be more menacing yet.
Can a Medieval intellectual woman poet find true love or does love
exist only in poetry? Will she discover her heart? Will the infamous
knave Roger put aside his past? Can earthly real love also ennoble the
heart and spirit?
Troubadour poetry and Joanne Rock's
In the original
language, troubadour poetry works on homophonic puns in the original,
one level lofty and platonic and another quite erotic and sometimes
bawdy. You can imagine how it might work when the word for heart and
body sound like the same word and the poets sing the praises of one but
also the other---in detail. The puns in the entire Old Provençal
language abound, creating double, triple and quadruple entendres!
Joanne Rock's romance itself is neither erotic nor bawdy. Instead, she
plays with those poles in her creation of the hero and heroine
characters, two people who represent the two poles of troubadour
poetry. Lady Ivy is a troubadour who lacks experience in real world
love and envisions love as a dreamy romantic idealistic image. Roger
Stancliff has a reputation as a womanizer, well versed in seducing
women for more earthly experiences of love. The author even touches on
the Latin religious satire of courtly love in defense of marriage in
the creation of her hero, but in an inspired manner and true to the
romance genre, she transforms this satirical literary tradition into a
facet of her characterization of the hero, a man who understands ins
and outs of love in a more earthly lived manner and who values
marriage. The question is who is going to educate whom. How can these
two characters and these two poles discover true love?
I just absolutely
adored this book! I cannot imagine how an author could have been more
attuned to all the nuances of troubadour poetry. Joanne Rock added more
by casting it all within the romance genre and adding another entire
understanding to the idea of love. At times, I could easily imagine I
was reading a translation of a Medieval work... and yet this romance
adds something new and much appreciated by this reader to the highly
stylized Medieval literary tradition.
When I find all
my books of Provençal
poetry in our unpacked moving boxes, I am going to place this romance
right next to them on my bookshelves. I have also not read a lot of
romances where the heroine is virginal, especially not in contemporary
romance, but it works really, really well in this context. On the
steaminess level, Joanne Rock's romance is a sweet romance. That is the
genius of how she turned historical literary styles into
characterization and made the whole troubadour tradition accessible to
a modern readership, creating something new and unique in her romance.
Bravo! Hats off to both Joanne Rock and Harlequin for publishing such
an exquisite Medieval romance.
Further Reading recommendations
For more on the
troubadours, see The Woman Troubadours by Meg Bodin. For the
Medieval Latin tradition (translated into English), see The Art of
Courtly Love by Andreas Capellanus.
Visit Joanne Rock's website
She would write poems about love, not
become captive to it!
Quiet and studious, Lady Ivy Rutherford is content merely to observe
the intrigues and scandals of Queen Eleanor's glittering court.
But then the Queen insists that Ivy would be the ideal mentor for
notorious heartbreaker Roger Stancliff. Her duty? To
transform the errant knave into a courtly knight. A simple task
for such a proper lady!
But in the sultry castle grounds just who is educating whom?
Chaste, courtly love seems much less appealing than losing herself in
the passion of Roger's arms...
A Knight Most