The Canterbury Papers
Judith Healey
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The Canterbury Papers

Judith Healey
William Morrow
368 pages
December 2003
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Princess Aläis, unwed sister of the King of France, rightly feels bitter as youth, love and marital prospects have all passed her by. Famous in Paris court for thoughtlessly wielding a sharp tongue, Aläis continues to live in memories of an eventful and exciting past when she was desired fiercely by both King Henry and his son, Richard the Lionheart. Out of the blue one day, Aläis receives a mysterious letter from her stepmother, the aging but ever-wily Eleanor of Aquitaine, former Queen of England. The letter asks Aläis to retrieve some compromising letters of Eleanor’s hidden in the Canterbury Cathedral.

Still hurting from Eleanor’s machinations, Aläis nevertheless leaves for Canterbury, motivated by Eleanor’s sweetening the deal with an offer to reveal a secret so terrible that it had haunted Aläis for an age. On the journey she meets a famous Arabic scholar, encounters her uneasy uncle, and almost has her unique jewel stolen. Upon finally reaching England, she is surprised to discover that William of Caen, a childhood acquaintance, is now in charge of Canterbury Cathedral. Unknown to Aläis, deadly intrigue awaits her, and William is involved in the thick of it. Can this tormented lady ever find peace and the answers to her questions?

Thrilling romance, explosive passion, taut suspense and violent peril, all framed by some painstakingly detailed and authentic historical research, set The Canterbury Papers a notch above other similar books. Almost all its characters are taken from actual history, and author Judith Healey has built this fictional account upon the then-existing socio-political scenarios. The powerful men and women of those times – Henry, Richard, Philippe, Eleanor -- and the even more powerful institutions such as the Knights Templar and the Churches, are brought to vivid life, as are the subtle and not-so-subtle political machinations, the royal sexual escapades, the betrayals, the backstabbings and the relentless secrecy. And all this in a language which is as beautiful as it is musical and makes reading the book an outright joy. Simply put, Healey has an enormous talent for combining fact and fiction to create a magnificently enthralling story, one which is sure to whet readers’ appetites for more such literate and entertaining works.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Rashmi Srinivas, 2004

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