As promised, here is more about what I love about Gwen’s book, Love and Loyalty on the Loire: A Tale of Medieval Hearts Divided by Battle Lines. I have also posted this review on Amazon and Goodreads!
Read Gwen Holbrooke’s first novella, “Love and Loyalty on the Loire: A Tale of Medieval Hearts Divided by Battle Lines,” and you will find yourself immersed in the romance between young Elodie deClery and Gareth of Cornwall, a wounded enemy knight who Elodie nurses back to health in the midst of the 100 Years War. The story offers the reader a satisfying love story between a French maiden and injured English knight as well as a lesson in history and medieval culture during the Hundred Years War. My favorite part, however, is how, in addition to history and romance, her story artfully offers the reader an opportunity to consider Catholic teachings as an underpinning to living a virtuous life.
Love and loyalty, are, as the title suggests, central themes of the story. Elodie is primarily motivated by love – not just romantic love for Gareth, but a more profound love for all humankind as created by God. She reflects upon this frequently throughout the story, remembering, as she wrestles with the wisdom of rescuing a wounded enemy knight, that her “[f]ather always taught that human life with its imago Dei mattered more than fiefdom to any king” (Kindle location 364). She clearly learned this elevated love from her family, headed by two incredible parents, Luis and Colette. Gareth, on the other hand, is motivated by loyalty to country, his word, and his code of knightly ethics. Spending time with the deClerys, his intellect nurtured by Luis’ store of Catholic and philosophical books—including The Confessions of St. Augustine, among others that remained unnamed—and his heart by Elodie’s tender care, he learns to weigh love and loyalty in the moments that matter.
Gwen’s admirable characters demonstrate the virtues of love and loyalty undergirded by a firm foundation on Catholic principles, artfully woven into the dialogue and inner musings of the characters. For example, Gareth and Elodie’s discussion of Augustine’s “Confessions” flows naturally and clearly contributes to the development of the characters as the story progresses. Throughout, the characters ponder themes of just war, human dignity, and good and evil. I was impressed by Gwen’s ability to make the application of the great saints’ teachings seem so practical, essential, and attainable for ordinary people in everyday situations.
Perhaps my favorite line in the entire story comes as Elodie tried to sleep, but instead continues her internal debate on just war and the appropriateness of helping Gareth. It is Elodie’s profound thought that these moral and philosophical considerations determine “the shape of all reality” (Kindle location 748)—that remains with me the most after reading the story. I find in Elodie an admirable woman who lived her life the way the Lord intended. She weighs her actions according to the precepts of the Lord and seeks truth and justice, and I find her becoming a role model for me and, I think, for women everywhere and throughout time.
Overall, I enjoyed the love story and the lesson in history. Gwen’s detailed writing enables the reader to see the scenery and to smell the smells. Even more importantly, the depth of her character development and ability to create suspense when and where it matters allow the reader to become emotionally invested in the story. At the end, I find myself missing the characters and longing to know what the future holds for them. Perhaps Gwen will thrill us all with a sequel!
*** Thanks to Stephanie for guidance on how to write my first real book review. Click here for “How to write a book review in 5 easy steps”