As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not really a Romance kind of reader these days – although some of my all-time favourites have contained a large dollop of the stuff and so I probably need to qualify that statement somewhat – but I will always pick up one of Elisabeth Hobbes’ novels. They’re so full of historical flavour that it’s easy to immerse yourself in her medieval world of knights, blacksmiths and outlaws. And, unlike the romances I picked up at the library as a teenager, her heroines are proper, not to mention complex, women who know that social expectations are stacked against them. If you like Romance as a genre, you’ll love Hobbes’ writing, and If you’re not usually a Romance reader, I also urge you to try her books.
Aelfhild, the heroine of Hobbes’ latest novel, is a lowly handmaiden but she is brave, cunning and willing to fight to defend her mistress. It’s a measure of Hobbes’ skill with her plots that she effortlessly weaves in a case of double mistaken identities, set against the political backdrop of the Norman conquest and its impact on the north, to produce a complex tale of growing passion (and there is a bucket load of sexual tension here) and characters whom the reader grows to care about.
As with her women, Hobbes’ heroes are often flawed – in this novel, Gui, a Breton soldier, is physically maimed and is clearly suffering what we would now term PTSD as a result of the war. The result is a rich level of characterisation that meant I kept thinking about Aelfhild and Gui even when I wasn’t reading. And I think that’s the mark of a good story – one which lingers when the final pages have been turned. This is why I find Hobbes’ writing so satisfying and why I always look forward to the next one. I’m also hoping she returns to these characters one day, just as she did so successfully with Roger Danby in Redeeming the Rogue Knight (see my post about her earlier novels here). Hobbes is a master (mistress?) of her genre and this is another marvellous addition to her growing collection of tales. More please.