In 1449 England, Christiana Helyngton's husband, Edward, dies, and a power struggle begins. Edward's jealous, unscrupulous cousin Laurence has Christiana and her two daughters kidnapped. His wants the girls declared his wards so he can marry off his son to one of them and take over Christiana's estate. They're sent to St. Frideside's nunnery.

The always shrewd Dame Frevisse has a hard time believing the vile things Laurence accuses Christiana of, and eventually she is released. Then Frevisse and Christiana encounter the Duchess of Suffolk, who is also Frevisse's cousin. Whether she will help Christiana's cause isn't certain, especially when several murders occur.

Frazer, noted for her meticulous research, does not disappoint with Frevisse's latest outing. England in the 1400s comes alive, as we witness the volatility of life under Henry VI, when women could have everything taken away from them when their husbands died.

The author uses many real historical persons in her books, deftly and flawlessly weaving them into the story. Her fictitious characters are also well defined, and Christiana will break the reader's heart. (Jan., 272 pp., $22.95)
Reviewed by: 
Lorraine Gelly