‘Lying in bed, Christen listened to the bird song.’
The Welsh Borders, 1069. Three years have elapsed since the defeat of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, but not everyone has accepted the Norman invaders. Unrest on the borders invites retribution, and Ashdyke Manor, home of Lady Christen and her husband Lyulph is attacked by the Normans under the leadership of William FitzOsbern. Christen, aged twenty, has been married to Lyulph (thirty years her senior) for five years. When Lyulph is murdered, she has a choice between losing her home, lands and title and entering a nunnery or marrying Miles Le Gallois, the Lord of Milnham-on-Wye who calls off the attack on Ashdyke Manor. By marrying Miles, Christen hopes to save the life of her brother Osric, whose actions have caused the attack on Ashdyke. Osric leaves, swearing vengeance.
The union between Miles and Christen is viewed with distrust on all sides: Miles has married without the King’s permission, and William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford and relative of King William would like the lands around Ashdyke Manor. Miles is summoned to serve the King and Christen is left to keep watch over the lands. What does the future hold for Miles and Christen? Can she keep the lands safe? Osric, naturally, has plans of his own.
What follows is a fast-moving romantic adventure in an historical setting. This was Ms Chadwick’s first novel, has just been published for the first time, and it is a prequel to ‘The Wild Hunt’. I enjoyed this novel and plan to reread ‘The Wild Hunt’. While I enjoy all of Ms Chadwick’s novels, my absolute favourites are her novels about William Marshal.