Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The de Lacy Inheritance by Elizabeth Ashworth

Set in 1192, England, the story begins with the exclusion ceremony of a leper returned from the Crusades in the Holy Land. Richard de Eustace feels his affliction is in some way God’s punishment for his sin of love with a native girl and accepts his fate.

He must take his farewell of his mother, grandmother and sisters, leave his estates at Halton Castle and live out his life as a hermit. He journeys north into the newly named county of Lancashire, his final task but before he leaves, his grandmother comes to see him in secret and begs him to take a letter to her kinsman, Sir Robert de Lacy, at Cliderhou Castle and there press his consideration of her claim to his estate.

At Halton, Richard's headstrong fourteen-year-old sister, Johanna is distraught. The fate of her beloved elder brother has done more than leave her bereft. Her other brother, ruthless and ambitious Roger has returned to take his place as head of the family. He and Johanna's mother have contrived a marriage for her to a wealthy old landowner, and without Richard's protection there seems little she can do about it unless she can escape and find him.

This is a beautifully written story whose characters engage the reader from the first page. Richard is a worth hero with a Medieval hero’s aims and emotions, his main flaw being his longing for his lost love in Palestine. Johanna FitzEustace is a feisty and strong-willed girl on the brink of womanhood, but she remains a twelfth century maiden without the expectations of a modern heroine.
All Elizabeth Ashworth’s characters are well rounded - the ruthless Roger FitzEustace and the tyrant Dean of Wallei to the kind and gentle Geoffrey, with whom it's very easy to fall in love. This is a lovely story which is very well told and easy to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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