Brilliant tribute to the troubabour
tradition in a medieval historical romance
Harlequin Historical (August 2006)
Joanne Rock's The Knight's Courtship
is a truly inspired Medieval historical romance that recasts the
troubadour traditions into a new genre, revitalizing a highly stylized
and conventional genre to modern readers. A truly clever romance!
The heroine Lady Ivy Rutherford in this romance is a woman troubadour
in Eleanor of Aquitaine's court. Eleanor led a rebellion against her
husband Henry, the king of England. Eleanor was a patron of the arts.
Her court (and Eleanor!) was a trailbrazer, known for its art,
sophistication, luxury and the wonderful troubadour poetry which sang
the praises of love. Rumor has it that she and her women held mock
trials, judging men on their refinement and manners. Henry seeks to
rein in his queen and sends Roger Stancliff to spy on Eleanor's court
and report proof of her treason. As a troubadour, Lady Ivy Rutherford
sets about to educate the knave Roger and teach this womanizer the ways
of courtly love....will she tame this scoundrel and teach him the ways
of courtly love or will he teach this idealistic dreamer poet the real
earthly pleasures of love? Political intrigue threatens to put an end
to the games of love and their education. Despite Lady Ivy's noble
spirit and her mother's noble birth, her father belongs to the lower
merchant class. The different social and economic classes between the
two make a love match no easy thing in a time when marriage was often
an economic and political institution. All these external complications
threaten to intrude upon the lessons of love, but the dark secrets the
hero and heroine have kept from one another may be more menacing yet.
Can a Medieval intellectual woman poet find true love or does love
exist only in poetry? Will she discover her heart? Will the infamous
knave Roger put aside his past? Can earthly real love also ennoble the
heart and spirit?
and Joanne Rock's historical romance
In the original Old Provençal language,
troubadour poetry works on homophonic puns in the original, one level
lofty and platonic and another quite erotic and sometimes bawdy. You
can imagine how it might work when the word for heart and body sound
like the same word and the poets sing the praises of one but also the
other --- in detail. The puns in the entire Old Provençal
language abound, creating double, triple and quadruple entendres!
Joanne Rock's romance itself is neither erotic nor bawdy. Instead, she
plays with those poles in her creation of the hero and heroine
characters, two people who represent the two poles of troubadour
poetry. Lady Ivy is a troubadour who lacks experience in real world
love and envisions love as a dreamy romantic idealistic image. Roger
Stancliff has a reputation as a womanizer, well versed in seducing
women for more earthly experiences of love. The author even touches on
the Latin religious satire of courtly love in defense of marriage in
the creation of her hero, but in an inspired manner and true to the
romance genre, she transforms this satirical literary tradition into a
facet of her characterization of the hero, a man who understands ins
and outs of love in a more earthly lived manner and who values
marriage. The question is who is going to educate whom. How can these
two characters and these two poles discover true love?
I just absolutely adored this book! I cannot imagine how an author
could have been more attuned to all the nuances of troubadour poetry.
Joanne Rock added more by casting it all within the romance genre and
adding another entire understanding to the idea of love. At times, I
could easily imagine I was reading a translation of a Medieval work...
and yet this romance adds something new and much appreciated by this
reader to the highly stylized Medieval literary tradition.