In a striking departure from her first two novels ( Taste of Salt ; Grab Hands and Run ), which center on current political and social injustices, Temple travels back to 13th-century Europe for a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old orphan. Eleanor of Ramsay is betrothed to the rakish Thomas, who has just returned from fighting in the Crusades for eight years. Frightened by the prospect of an arranged marriage to a man she hardly knows, Eleanor worries even more when the town priest sends her and Thomas on a pilgrimage to Spain to atone for the sins of all the townspeople. Along the way Thomas and Eleanor meet up with scholars, peasants and performers, each of whom plays a role in helping the young protagonists to discover their true feelings for each other. Temple's pleasing portrayal of the saintly but plucky heroine guides readers through a rather long-winded journey. While Eleanor's spiritual and emotional awakenings are believable and sensitively wrought, her internal conflicts fail to buoy the tale with any significant doses of humor, pathos or drama. However, readers newly introduced to Chaucer's famous Canterbury pilgrims may find Temple's contemporary style an easier introduction to medieval settings and customs.
An Unlikely Couple
The year is 1299. 14-year-old Elenor reluctantly awaits the return of her betrothed - a man she hardly knows - from the Crusade. Thomas, broken and disillusioned from years of fighting, finds the very idea of marriage and lordship overwhelming.
So when the village priest sends them on a religious pilgrimage before the marriage, both are relieved. The journey means a postponement of the dreaded nuptials, and a last chance for adventure.
As Elenor and Thomas wend their way toward the shrine of St James, they meet other pilgrims - each with their own extraordinary tales to tell and ideas to share. There is Etienne, a passionate student of philosophy; Brother Ambrose, gentle teacher of schoolboys; practical Marthe, eager for a decent life for her children. And gradually Elenor and Thomas come to realize the glorious possibilities of the world around them ... and within each other.