Lotharingia by Lara Byrne

Lotharingia by Lara Byrne

Three women are the focus of this story:  Beatrice, Margravine of Tuscany, her daughter Matilde, Countess of Canossa, and Agnes, Dowager Holy Roman Empress and mother of the Heinrich, King of the Germans. All are powerful, transcend the limits imposed on women, and influence the politics of the day. It is a time in Europe when the sacred and the secular mingle. The women are surrounded by calculating churchmen, some good, some not so good. The story demonstrates how closely marriage and politics were intertwined and how even the most powerful had little choice when it came to marriage.

The possession of certain relics; the marriage of Matilde to her cruel step-brother, much against her will; her love affair with King Heinrich; Beatrice’s possession of a prophesy, the last words of her ancestor, Charlemagne; and Heinrich’s ambition to become Holy Roman Emperor like his father and grandfather; these are the things that move the plot along. The author does a creditable job of laying out a complicated story – the research cannot have been easy. It is likely to be a little confusing for someone unfamiliar with the politics and personalities of the period, like me. I had difficulty keeping track of the churchmen, especially as the author sometimes used first names and sometimes titles. Fortunately a list of characters at the beginning of the book helped. Also there is a brief summary of the characters at the back of the book.

There are some anachronisms – scenario/chuffed/stash/and others – and also occasions when pronouns were used when proper names would have been more appropriate. A proofreader would help.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the book and suspect there may be another about Matilde. The tidbits concerning what went on before the opening scene led me to think a prequel would be in order.

Also, very cheaply priced.


My review of Sheriff and Priest by Nicky Moxey

Set in 12th century England, the book describes the rise of a Saxon peasant to become, as the title tells us, a priest and sheriff. I have to question whether in the period of the book, starting in 1143 almost 80 years after the Conquest, there was still such a division between Normans and Saxons that the latter were looked upon as second class citizens. I would think they were integrated by then. I also wonder how Wimer, a peasant who worked on the family farm, learned to speak a little French, read, do math, and recite the Lord’s Prayer – not bad for a nine-year-old.

There, that’s the criticism out of the way. If you can suspend your disbelief past this point, it is a good story, and Wimer who did exist is a likeable character, modest and devout, although far more suited to his role as priest than sheriff.

I would urge the reader to read the notes at the end of the book to learn the fascinating details of the story and Ms Moxey’s amazing and often successful pursuit of ancient artefacts.

I have a particular aversion to books that do not tell the full story but leave the reader with a cliff-hanger. This book, however, does have a cliff-hanger of which I fully approve. In the author’s notes we learn there will be a second book that relates how and why the priory founded by Wimer was moved, lock, stock, and barrel, to another location. So intriguing.



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