Desert Isle Keeper
Masques of Gold
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?
Over the years, AAR has had many a guest reviewer. If we don't know the name of the reviewer, we've placed their reviews under this generic name.
|Review Date:||December 30, 1999|
|Book Type:||Historical Mystery | Medieval Romance|
|Review Tags:||1200s | Blast from the Past | DIKlassic | Historical Mystery | knight | Retro Review | STEM heroine | widow | working class | working class historical | working class romance|
I just reread this book and love it still.
So much space for romance, yet very good story (and history too).
I am so glad some books stand the test of time!!
I don’t think I’ve read it. I’ll add it to the endless TBR!
Lisa and Lisolette’s comments made me curious about Gellis. Wikipedia has a nice article about her. One of the links is to an interview with the author at AAR. A search on the site doesn’t find it but Dabney do you have the ability to find it? http://www.likesbooks.com/robertgellis.html
It’s not a big deal but might be fun to read . . . ?
Gellis wrote almost 50 books, about 40 of which were historical romances. (Gellis also collaborated with Mercedes Lackey on four scifi/fantasy prequeals to Lackey’s Serrated Edge series.)
Here you go!
“I don’t know about political correctness but no, I intend my heroine to be a woman of her own time, to accept the fact that women are evil and need to be controlled by men (well, even Alinor gave lip service to those ideas, even though she accepted virtually no control by anyone) and my men (although they never do it) fully believe that a good beating makes a good wife. I am medievally correct, if not politically correct.”
Interview is dated 2003 . . . It would appear “political correctness” is always a topic of conversation.
I also liked this comment:
“I only find the romantic relationship interesting as it is woven into and around the life people were living. Since I carefully chose historical moments when there were important events taking place, a great deal of the attention of my characters was given to war or politics or whatever was happening around them. Often it was the external events that interfered with the progress of my love affairs, not a silly misunderstanding that could have been explained in three words by any two sane people.”
Since I dislike both “insta lust” and “big mis” tropes, it sounds like I should put a few Gellis books on my TBR. Thank you for bringing her (back) to my attention. (I owned a copy of Alinor at one point in time but didn’t read it; and I think it went by the wayside during the great downsizing purge. Argh!)
This one’s just 2.99 in ebook right now.
Roberta Gellis is my romantic touchstone. I still love her books at 41 just as much as I loved them when I was 15.
i am so glad her son wrote a kind of final book from her notes to her Magdalene series.
To me, this was a gift to readers he gave us:
Pallid in comparison, but like a black and white foto and a lovely memory of her.
I have never read her. What do you like most about her?
Hard to say, many things.
read her first Magdalene mystery, if you like her voice, go further. A Mortal Bane. Or Rope Dancer, a medieval about traveling artists. Or this one, a complex mystery that makes London come alive, in those times, and the life of a lady burgher of those times.
she makes Middle Ages come alive, without ever making them a dreary dark slog.
she knows her history, and the values are true to the time (including religion, which was at the centre of medieval life, and cannot be ignored).
Her people are fully rounded, and still somehow honest and charming.
Her stories are richly drawn, and worth reading for just that.
The romance is present and strong, the books are not just historical books.
She writes thoughtful people dealing with real situations – legal experts who negotiate a peace deal and are immersed in the history of the times (both in her Regencies, and in her medievals), warriors in medieval times who know that war is constant and peace just a brief respite, courtiers who are loyal to their overlord though he is weak. So, I really learn to empathize with a situation I could otherwise not relate to.
I need a bit of headspace for the thinking characters ( like listening when a friend tells you their dilemma), and a willingness to engage in the conflicts / history background, then I really enjoy her books a lot.
if i just need to wind down and read with only part of my brain, this is not the right author.
Her historical accuracy, and how real her romances felt. She knew how to do historical accuracy AND strong heroines AND strong romances.
This book and Rope Dancer are my favorites of her medieval.
They both have a good core romance, and excellent other stuff: in this one, a criminal investigation. In Rope Dancer, a realistic road trip through medieval England.
As the reviewer for Alinor on this site says, these are medieval people who think stuff we do not. And we spend a lot of time in their heads.
I love that, others may find it wearying. It means slow developments savored and expanded in a world that is quite far from ours, describing how to get food, or how to organize stuff so that we can relate to life in those times and places.
Roberta Gellis is (was) one of my absolutely favorite authors,
Just bought the book. Thank you for continuing the great reviews……even the old ones.
I hope you’ll come back and report on you what you think of the book. My memory is that Gellis was a solid writer. Would love to know if her writing holds up!