Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Serve by Rosanne E. Lortz



First Line: It was an unusual sight these fifteen years and more to see a man traveling the road – especially a solitary Englishman in the heart of the French countryside.

In 14th century England, John Potenhale is an impoverished young man from a very modest background who serves a patient knight and works hard at the tasks he faces. Partly through wit and partly through intelligence, he comes to the attention of Prince Edward, the Black Prince of Wales who knights him on a battlefield in France. Thus he rises to become one of the Prince’s innermost circle, privy to his master’s thoughts and actions.

The Black Prince loves a young beauty named Joan. Through this relationship, John falls madly in love with Joan’s maidservant, a feisty and sharp-tongued young woman named Margery who knows her lady’s darkest secrets. But Margery’s often vile tongue keeps John at arm’s length. At one point, he considers abandoning his knighthood to enter into a monastery. Thankfully, the wisdom of a seasoned, French knight deters him from that path.

For both Prince Edward and John Potenhale, one man blocks their path to true love and happiness – Thomas Holland, a beligerant, war-lusty warrior with little regard for honour. At years of war over land in France plague the English, Potenhale finds himself traveling back and forth between England and France several times over many years.

The passions of love and war and the turmoil of difficult politics affect the lives of the people trapped in its throes. Rosanne Lortz tells a wonderful tale of the Hundred Year war. Through vivid language and in-depth descriptions, she nudges the emotion and credibility out of the story, making the reader truly understand the difficulties of this turbulent era. Even though a lot of historical fact is relayed, she does it brilliantly, through the thoughts, dialogues, and actions of her characters. Her battle scenes were written carefully and accurately with clarity so that even days later, I can envision them in my mind. I also engaged with the characters, including the villain Thomas Holland who could be despicable at times. This novel makes an excellent read that both genders can appreciate.