This wonderful author began her series about Princess Alais of France in her first book, The Canterbury Papers. In that novel, we met Alais and were privy to the affair and friendship she had with King Henry II of England. In this next story, readers are taken back to France, where Alais - the sister of King Philippe of France, is a member very high up in the Royal Court. She sits at the right hand of her brother and offers him her advice - seeing as that Philippe can trust no one under his "roof," even his own aunt and wife, who he had to re-marry because the Pope told him to do so even though he was then married to a woman he truly loved and had a child with.
King John of England is invading pretty much everywhere he can, and Philippe has his hands full trying to push him back. He really doesn't have enough time and energy to spend on another matter that is growing out of control; which is the new "religion" that is popping up in his southern territories. Many of the people are leaving the umbrella of Rome and the Pope, and worshiping quietly, trying to stay out of the sight of Rome's leaders. Raymond is the one that most of Rome's religions men are after. He is the man who is in charge of the southern area of Toulouse, which is a calm, quiet village, but they've begun to step away from the ideals of the Roman Catholic Church, and the monks are being sent to Philippe's kingdom to ask for guns and men to stop the heresy taking place there.
Alais has many things on her own "plate." Not only is she trying to "back up" her brother, who does not want an all out war in the south because he wants to save his men and arms for the war with England; she also has to deal with the fact that her son Francis is running the globe with William, the man she loves. Francis' birth and parentage has been hidden from him; the young man has no idea that Alais is kind to him because she is his mother and King Henry II was his father. All the young knight IS aware of is that he rides the country at the side of Alais' beloved fiance, William of Caen, who serves as the Templar Grand Master. This is the man that Alais has been patiently waiting for, so that he can retire from the Templar Knights, take her into the mountains, and they can live happily ever after.
Unfortunately for Alais, everything falls out from under her. A mystery surrounds an object that is kept in the Abbey Church of Denis. It is a long-stemmed chalice with a braid of pure gold wrapped around it that looks like a serpent. They call this artifact the Cup of St. John: Legend has it that at the last Supper, John was handed a cup of poison wine. Before drinking, he blessed the cup and a snake crawled out of it, making the wine whole and safe to drink. This cup has been stolen - and so has Francis, Alais son. Soon the action begins, and Alais finds herself dressing up like a nun to race across France to find the cup and rescue her son from people who are dying to take him out. There are many spies in the court of King Philippe - from Roman monks (one who seems to be on Alais' side); to Philippe's own family in the form of his Aunt Constance, whose clandestine meetings might mean she's the one giving secret information to the other side.
Not only is the historical scenery and facts awesome to read about, guys and gals, but the story never stops. The intrigue inside and outside the Court of France is beyond interesting, and you find yourself caught up in another world and praying for Alais to get back what she loves, and stay loyal to her brother at the same time. I, for one, can't wait for the next in the saga of the Princesse of France.
Until Next Time,