Merrimon Book Reviews

Bernart de Ventadorn, medieval french troubadour from 13th century manuscript of troubadour music

Queen Eleanor with her youngest son, King John

Guilhem de Peitieus, William IX of Aquitaine, portrayed as a knight, the earliest troubadour whose work survives

From Medieval Book Reviews
The Knight's Courtship
The Knight's Courtship by Joanne Rock
by Joanne Rock

Brilliant tribute to the troubabour tradition in a medieval historical romance

Joanne Rock's The Knight's Courtship is a truly inspired Medieval historical romance that recasts the troubadour traditions into a new genre, revitalizing a highly stylized and conventional genre to modern readers. A truly clever romance!

The heroine Lady Ivy Rutherford in this romance is a woman troubadour in Eleanor of Aquitaine's court. Eleanor led a rebellion against her husband Henry, the king of England. Eleanor was a patron of the arts. Her court (and Eleanor!) was a trailbrazer, known for its art, sophistication, luxury and the wonderful troubadour poetry which sang the praises of love. Rumor has it that she and her women held mock trials, judging men on their refinement and manners. Henry seeks to rein in his queen and sends Roger Stancliff to spy on Eleanor's court and report proof of her treason. As a troubadour, Lady Ivy Rutherford sets about to educate the knave Roger and teach this womanizer the ways of courtly love....will she tame this scoundrel and teach him the ways of courtly love or will he teach this idealistic dreamer poet the real earthly pleasures of love? Political intrigue threatens to put an end to the games of love and their education. Despite Lady Ivy's noble spirit and her mother's noble birth, her father belongs to the lower merchant class. The different social and economic classes between the two make a love match no easy thing in a time when marriage was often an economic and political institution. All these external complications threaten to intrude upon the lessons of love, but the dark secrets the hero and heroine have kept from one another may be more menacing yet. Can a Medieval intellectual woman poet find true love or does love exist only in poetry? Will she discover her heart? Will the infamous knave Roger put aside his past? Can earthly real love also ennoble the heart and spirit?

Troubadour poetry and Joanne Rock's historical romance
In the original Old Provençal language, troubadour poetry works on homophonic puns in the original, one level lofty and platonic and another quite erotic and sometimes bawdy. You can imagine how it might work when the word for heart and body sound like the same word and the poets sing the praises of one but also the other---in detail. The puns in the entire Old Provençal language abound, creating double, triple and quadruple entendres! Joanne Rock's romance itself is neither erotic nor bawdy. Instead, she plays with those poles in her creation of the hero and heroine characters, two people who represent the two poles of troubadour poetry. Lady Ivy is a troubadour who lacks experience in real world love and envisions love as a dreamy romantic idealistic image. Roger Stancliff has a reputation as a womanizer, well versed in seducing women for more earthly experiences of love. The author even touches on the Latin religious satire of courtly love in defense of marriage in the creation of her hero, but in an inspired manner and true to the romance genre, she transforms this satirical literary tradition into a facet of her characterization of the hero, a man who understands ins and outs of love in a more earthly lived manner and who values marriage. The question is who is going to educate whom. How can these two characters and these two poles discover true love?

I just absolutely adored this book! I cannot imagine how an author could have been more attuned to all the nuances of troubadour poetry. Joanne Rock added more by casting it all within the romance genre and adding another entire understanding to the idea of love. At times, I could easily imagine I was reading a translation of a Medieval work... and yet this romance adds something new and much appreciated by this reader to the highly stylized Medieval literary tradition.

Publisher: Harlequin Historical (August 2006)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Medieval Book Reviews
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