||Wake Robin Press
||Sept, 14, 2010
As Viceroy, Simon, with only a small military force, learns to seize and hold a country. But those he rules conspire against him, and his king finds the opportunity he wants to try him for treason.
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Simon de Montfort
The Holy Land has fallen to a wild people called the Khoresines, driven from their homeland by Ghengis Khan. The Christian kingdom in the East is destroyed. Knowing it was he who kept the Christian factions united, Simon is desperate to return to Palestine, to restore the Lord's land that he feels he has betrayed.
But King Henry has other work for him, work that will entrap him, block his return to the East and give Henry the chance he want to accuse him of treason. Intrigue, battles and the Bordeaux wine trade blend to bring Simon to the brink of execution.
As he ran the echoing beat of his own feet on the cobbled paving made chaotic din with the clatter of hooves behind him and the bursting throb of his heart. The house fronts formed a narrow chasm, their whitewashed walls glowing in the moonlight, their dark shutters and doors bolted against the dangers of the night.
The riders, three at least, were nearly upon him. Here. Here was the door with the dove with outspread wings carved in the stone of the lintel. The runner pounded on the oak paneling. "Let me in! I'm Richard! Duke of Gascony!"
Page 1, The Viceroy:
A knife blade thudded, driving its point deep into the door. But the bolt rattled and the door swung open. A frightened servant dropped back as Richard forced his way into the safety of Guillaume Colom's house.
The three horsemen turned and rode away before a torch could be thrust out the doorway to light the street and reveal whom they were.
MONTFORT THE FOUNDER OF PARLIAMENT (reviewed on December 1, 2011)
A full-blooded second installment of Ashe’s historical fiction, in which the seeds of rebellion against Henry III’s economic tyranny are sown in the mind of Simon de Montfort, the founder of Parliament.
More assuredly ensconced in the saddle than she was in her first volume, a volant Ashe charges ahead, taking the reader along on a largely gripping ride. This volume opens with dark tidings that Palestine, gloriously secured by Simon in his first Crusade, has fallen. Plunged into an orgy of grief, he lashes himself until he passes out. He wants to immediately jump on his horse and head to the Holy Land, but the king has other plans; Henry sends his finest general to subdue the notoriously rebellious French province of Gascony. Although the fine detailing of the three Gascony campaigns occasionally plods, Ashe does her best to mine it fully to build up the antagonism that will eventually explode into civil war. Pitted against a spiteful, changeling Henry who plies him with favors only to then humiliate him by trusting the word of the Gascon lords over his, Simon is tried for treason but acquitted. The official charge against him is his ruthlessness in Gascony, but the real treason has taken place in the bedroom, with Simon lapsing back into his affair with Queen Eleanor. In the background is a quiet but dangerous campaign launched by Simon’s archbishop-mentor and chancellor of Oxford, Robert Grosseteste, to curb Henry’s arbitrariness by appointing a council. This could be seditious but it has a deep appeal for the barons and clergy, bled to death by a king addicted to wars and keeping his foreign in-laws in velvet (literally—the fabric was new to the court, as, incidentally, was Roger Bacon’s rudimentary cannon). The sanctimoniously loyal Simon initially dismisses Grosseteste’s talk with “Henry is no Tiberius,” but, in a deftly turned phrase by Ashe, he is soon bitterly aware that trusting Henry is akin to “leaning on Aaron’s staff that would one day turn serpent and sting him.”
Ashe is more flag-bearer of the rampant Montfort lion than objective storyteller, but her sharp eye for human drama and historic detail, together with strong characterization, keep the reader absorbed to the very end.
amazon reader V.C. Lambert
It just gets better, July 5, 2010
V. C. Lambert "Grandma Books" (New Jersey, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Montfort The Founder of Parliament: The Viceroy 1243-1253 (Paperback)
"Montfort The founder of Parliament, The Viceroy 1243 to 1253" is the second in Katherine Ashe's projected four volume exploration of the life of Simon de Montfort. The promise of volume 1, "The Early Years 1229 to 1243" is more than extended in this book and prompts pleasurable anticipation for volumes III and IV.
As in the first volume, Ashe uses her meticulous research to propel a story of chivalry, honor, intrigue and treachery in the lands claimed -- and mismanaged -- by England's Henry III. She individualizes a daunting array of characters. There's Henry himself, petty, easily swayed, frequently vengeful; Henry's beautiful, self-indulgent Queen Eleanor; Montfort's own wife Eleanor, plain, intelligent and rigid in her own rectitude, and of course Montfort, fond husband, secret lover, talented general, loyal subject, would be Crusader, reluctant administrator, and intolerant of frailty, especially his own.
This volume takes Montfort home to France where what he hoped would be a brief stop on the way to Crusade becomes a quagmire of often brutal conflict between forces loyal to Henry and those who feign loyalty and follow their own agendas. There's sword play and archery and even the early use of black powder in battle, battlefield medicine and a look at the wine trade.
(Rated unanimously 5 stars on Amazon)
Simon's life was a spiritual journey: a tormented soul who found his way through faith, a brilliant warrior, but the disciple of a great Franciscan.
Sr. Donald Corcoran, O.S.B., PhD theology.
Katherine Ashe's exceptional skills make Simon de Montfort and his time come alive on every page.
Dora Polachek, PhD, Center of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Binghamton University.
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