Isolde Martyn’s new book Troubadour proves one thing: women have been strong and fierce forever. In the tradition of Philippa Gregory, Troubadour follows Adela in 1208, the time of the Crusades. The book is compelling, dramatic, and suspenseful, with a healthy dose of romance to keep readers engaged.
We are introduced to Adela in the English court of King John. Adela is a hairbraider to the queen, and spends her time modestly going about her duties. Here, she spies a certain man: tall, handsome, and the Vicomte de Mirascon in the south of France. Richart and Adela meet eyes several time, and have one brief emotionally charged interaction. However, when she is pursued by the lecherous King John, a king known for his bad temper, alcoholism, and pursuit of the ladies of the court, Adela throws herself over the battlements rather than being subject to such an assault. The court is told that Adela was attacked and killed by the King’s hounds, and life goes on.
Devastated, Richart continues with his original reason for coming to England: securing an alliance with John. Pope Innocent III has started a crusade in France against the Cathars, and has warned all lords in France to cast out these ‘heretics’ or be invaded by the Pope’s armies. Richart, however, prides himself on being a benevolent ruler, and refuses to do so. In exchange for King John’s military assistance against the pope, Richart reluctantly agrees to marry the King’s discarded and adulterous mistress, Lady Alys.
And yet Richart sees the dead Adela everywhere as he travels back to Mirascon to prepare to wed the Lady Alys. He sees her in crowds, and there’s something in the face of Lady Alys that reminds him of the girl who jumped from the battlements… Then there’s the growing love he’s finding with Alys, a woman wholly different to how she was described to him, sweet in temperament, not selfish. Add to that betrayal from within the family, a papal army marching south, and one very snarky dwarf, and Richart has more than enough problems on his hands.
Troubadour is a heartfelt book, beautifully capturing the essence of the Crusades and the south of France. The language is sumptuous, and Martyn’s use of anachronism does not jar the reader at all. Instead, we are brought into the world of Adela and Richart, with their wonderful gowns, fabulous feasts, and beautiful architecture. It’s almost as if you are walking alongside them through Mirascon, and falling in love with the pair of them.
Adela, though she plays the part of a lady well, is no fainting noble. She is strong, intelligent, and brave, and most of all, she’s resilient. She finds herself in impossible situations after impossible situation, and yet she makes her way through all of them with poise and grace. This is a woman who knows the rules, and knows how to play them to make sure she’s still standing at the end. The romance between Adela and Richart will make you smile, laugh, and hurt, but they always come back together. It’s enduring and powerful, and made all the better by the strong Adela knowing herself and her own heart, and always striving to do what is right.
Troubadour is a book about love and commitment; it’s about trust and secrets. Isolde Martyn asks if love can prevail against treason, and our answer is – our love of this book can definitely prevail.
Isolde is a lady with an absolute passion for history, and writing historical fiction is a wonderful way to share her enthusiasm. Her debut novel The Maiden and the Unicorn won a Rita for ‘Best First Novel’ in the US and the inaugural ‘Romantic Book of the Year Award’ in Australia. Isolde has a History Honours degree from the University of Exeter, UK, with a specialization in Yorkist England, a lifelong interest, and she has worked as a university history tutor, research assistant and archivist. She was a senior book editor with a major international publishing house before taking up writing fiction full-time. She is a former chair of the Richard III Society in Sydney and a co-founder and Vice-Chair of the Plantagenet Society of Australia.