Queen Eleanor's court in Poiters is the heart of courtly love, and as the court's troubadour, merchant's daughter Ivy Rutherford is its voice. Naive Ivy believes intellect should supersede passion, until Eleanor asks courtier Roger Stancliff to tutor her in the true meaning of love.

On a mission for Eleanor's estranged husband, King Henry, Roger has infiltrated the court to report Eleanor's "treacheries" to Henry. When the king marches on Poiters, Roger, in a show of chivalry, vows to escort Ivy home.

Even as Ivy falls in love with Roger, she never wavers in her belief that a woman has a brain as well as a body. Roger falters between igniting Ivy's latent sexuality and courting her as a "modern" knight, with poems and chaste discussions. The journey to Ivy's home opens avenues for them to compromise their beliefs and find a way to merge pure love with desire.

Rock's expansive narrative shows how carefully she's researched the era, but it's at the expense of characters and a conflict that engages the reader enough to truly care about Ivy and Roger. SWEET (Aug., 300 pp., $5.50)
Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin