Desert Isle Keeper
Masques of Gold
A Retro Review
originally published on December 30, 1999
I was never much of a history student. Dry textbooks just didn’t hold my interest. Because of my love for adventure, intrigue and romance, much of what I’ve learned about medieval England has been gleaned from historical romances. I believe Roberta Gellis is one of the best at producing vivid and accurate portrayals of history. Her Masques of Gold is one of my all time favorites.
Beautiful apothecary Lissa de Flael, awakens one morning to find her new husband, Peter, viciously murdered and sprawled across her doorstep. Peter’s two grown sons have fled with all the money and valuables in the house, leaving her and a few servants alone with the brutalized body. Enter Sir Justin FitzAilwin, minor knight and medieval detective, who sets out to solve the mystery behind the murder, unaware that the enchanting widow will be the lady of his dreams and that the bloody trail will lead to a seditious scheme to overthrow the King of England.
There was not a single aspect of this novel that I didn’t enjoy, from the political machinations to the steamy passion and clever wit Justin and Lissa share. While most historicals pay homage to the nobility, Gellis brings life to the middle class of medieval times. She somehow makes it fascinating to observe the simple tasks of daily living, such as, record keeping, bartering, and especially the demonstrations of Lissa’s pharmaceutical skills and Justin’s investigative talent. Amidst the backdrop of their tempestuous affair, she skillfully weaves these events into a compelling tale of high treason and revenge.
Over the years, I’ve found great enjoyment in Roberta Gellis’ wonderful historical romances, such as Bond of Blood and Alinor, but none more than Masques of Gold. In fact, my copy is now lying beside me in three separate pieces with the cover gone, obviously the victim of being read once too often. Looks like I’ll have to start searching the Internet for a new copy, unless someone has one they’re willing to sell me?