In this installment of the Hawkenlye Abbey mysteries readers gain insight into Helewise's past as a young wife and mother. Secrets long held come to light and Heleise and Sir Josse must help prove her son innocent of murder.
Alys Clare brings a good deal of definition to her characters and you feel Helewise's inner struggle to separate herself as an Abbess and a mother as she tries to reconcile her duties as both.
#8 Hawkenlye Abbey mystery set in 1190's Kent, England featuring Abbess Helewise and Sir Josse d'Acquin, knight of King Richard. The whole country of England seems to be poor and hungry as people give and give to attempt to ransom their captured King Richard. Even staunch supporters such as Sir Josse and the Abbess are much less enthusiastic than they once were, especially the Abbess as her giving and giving makes it harder to feed and help those who are hungry and in need.
Abbess Helewise gets a visit from her past when her Leofgar, her eldest son (she was a widow when she entered the nunnery and had fostered her two young sons out) whom she's not seen since he was a child, comes calling at Hawkenlye. His wife is ill, seemingly in the midst of a post-partum depression, and his fourteen-month-old son has developed fears and terrors and refuses to speak. Professing to want them under the care of the Abbey's well-known healer, Leofgar spends some time with his mother and Sir Josse, who happened to be there himself with a bit of a fever and cough. Soon it becomes apparent that the young family is on the run from something or someone--but what, or whom? When a man is found hung from a tree a short distance from the Abbey, Leofgar and his family disappear in the night, and the Abbess and Sir Josse set out to discover the mystery, and of course eventually do.
I enjoyed this book more than the last one in the series, which seemed a little long-winded and unfocused. This one had me wanting to eagerly read on, and getting to know a bit more about Abbess Helewise's past was interesting, too, although much of the contents of her dreams and memories were rather, shall we say, unseemly for a nun! I'm by no means a prude, but nun + romance just doesn't add up to anything I really want to read, and I do hope THAT trend doesn't continue, but I am still looking forward to the next.