St. Martin's, Aug 2004, 27.95, 473 pp.
In 1120, King Henry's men beat up Sabin FitzSimon for insulting His Royal Highness by having a tryst with Lora, the King's current favorite. Sabin's bruises are nothing compared to Lora being killed since she has no noble kin protecting her like the illegitimate Sabin has. Anticipating repercussions, his aristocratic family arranges for Sabin to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Believing he should have died instead of the innocent Lora as he caused the incident, Sabin agrees.
Reluctantly Scottish warrior Edmund Strongfist allows Sabin to join his group that includes his convent “educated” daughter Annais on a trek to Outremer (Israel). Strongfist knows of Saban's unsavory reputation with women and warns him to stay away from his daughter or die. Still feeling culpability over Lora's death, Sabin tries to stay away from the pretty innocent, but admits to himself he is very attracted to her. Annais is fascinated with Sabin's dark reputation and womanizing scandals, but both keep their wary distance until they reach their dangerous destination and begin to fall in love as they need each other to survive
This is a strong tale that brings to life the early twelfth century Holy Land though the novel also contains a powerful romantic subplot that uses historical events to further the relationship between the lead characters. The key to the story line is the secondary players with various backgrounds that enable the audience to obtain a complete vivid picture of a place almost nine centuries ago.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner