THE NEEDLE IN THE BLOOD
Bower cleverly builds a highly sensual novel on the reimagined life of William the Conqueror’s half-brother Bishop Odo of Bayeaux and his mysterious mistress. She embroiders the well-written tale with fascinating and plausible historical detail (including the process of embroidery), several mysteries surrounding the tapestry, a powerful romance and many characters’ viewpoints. This will captivate historical fiction aficionados.
Upon Edward the Confessor’s death, a battle for the English throne begins. William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Odo, commissions an embroidered tapestry to commemorate the victory of William and the Normans over English King Harold II in the Battle of Hastings. One of the women employed is Gytha, once lady-in-waiting to Harold’s mistress, brought low by the William’s conquest. She plans to take revenge, but cannot plunge the dagger into Odo. Instead they fall in love. Though Odo strives for power his passion for Gytha places him in a position that tears at the fabric of their lives as his enemies use this against him to change the course of history. (SOURCEBOOKS, Mar., 520 pp., $14.99)