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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Bilson

For Castle And Crown by Sian Ann Bessey

A medieval romance set during the turbulent years of King Richard the Lionheart’s captivity in Germany, For Castle And Crown follows Lord Edmund of Hawksford as he returns to claim his ancestral home in the Welsh Marches. A younger son, Edmund never wanted to claim the title, but the death of his brother in a fire a few months previously has left him no choice. It’s a difficult time in England, though, especially for those loyal to Richard, as Prince John seeks to cement his claim to the crown.

Philippa was severely burned in the same fire that killed Edmund’s brother. Sequestering herself in a nearby nunnery, she plans to take vows, certain no man will ever be able to overlook her scars to marry her. Edmund’s return upturns her plans, though, because he doesn’t see her scars. He only sees the friend he could always trust, the intelligent woman who can tell him the truth about what has been happening at Hawksford… and the one person who may be able to help him save his legacy from the enemy determined to claim Hawksford for himself.

I absolutely loved Edmund and Pippa’s romance. They both have very clear trauma from the events in their past and neither of them are dismissive of the other’s issues, instead they are patient and willing to help do whatever is necessary to get through it and move on. The appearance later in the story of one of my all-time favourite historical personages, Prince Llewelyn ab Iorwerth of Gwynedd, really made the story for me, though. (Read Sharon Kay Penman’s magnificent opus Here Be Dragons to fall utterly in love with Llewelyn).

There were one or two minor niggles that bothered me in the book - a Marcher lord would have at least a few words of Welsh in his vocabulary, and English nobility of the era spoke Norman-French, not English. The biggest error was geographical, however, when Edmund and Pippa ‘accidentally stumbled’ across into Wales while making their escape at one point. One does not accidentally stumble into Wales from Herefordshire. There’s a very large geographical barrier called the Severn River in the way. And Prince Llewelyn definitely wouldn't be wandering around that part of southern Wales anyway. While he was named Prince of Wales in his lifetime, it was after his marriage to John's illegitimate daughter and long after the setting of this story.

However, these are pretty small niggles in the context of the story, and only a massive history nerd (and someone familiar with Southern Welsh geography) like myself would even notice. They didn’t stop me from awarding this book five stars.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.

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