Brigands have tied Gryff to a tree while they go and attack a group of travellers on the King's road. While knights fall a young woman manages to kill all robbers like a kind of ninja and then frees their starving prisoner and his birds of prey.
She is a woman who speaks English as a servant and Welsh as a noblewoman and is covered with knives and called Nan and quite a mystery.
Gryff is a Welshman and has been a noble hostage in the past and now was taken captive in a raid on a monastery by the brigands and only kept alive because he knew how to keep the birds of prey who have to do the hunting and are very valuable alive.
Falconry or hawking was a way to hunt birds and small mammals in the days before gunpowder. An arrow comes in handy with a deer but is quite useless on a pigeon. The birds of prey were also a way to show off for nobility like they still are in Arab countries.
Gryff and Nan end up travelling together to Lincoln to find his friend Hal and her sister and we learn more and more about their background. Both are scarred inside and outside by life. It is a dangerous time. The Norman lords of England have conquered Wales and the local lords that rebelled are squashed what makes the world for a noble from Wales quite dangerous. For a beautiful woman lurk other dangers. That is why they stick to trails through the forests and fields instead of walking on the roads: hence the desire lines.
A desire line is a trail what we here in Holland would call an "Elephant path": an often used route people walk outside of the real road so they can for instance avoid a corner or cross a road on another spot than where the traffic lights are. You can see them because they look as a trail in the grass. In this novel Nan and Gryff prefer to walk off the road and go hiking. You might translate it as "off the beaten track" and that is also what they are. They do things differently then their contemporaries and also the way they fall in love is not traditional.
This is a historical romance novel but not a very traditional one. There is a lot of adventure novel in it and lots of little sidestories are added like falconry, prostitution, LGTB, crossing social boundaries, noblesse oblige and sexual violence.
The story is believable and is also interesting. Not only the historical background but also the way people who have experienced sexual violence come together.
If you think it is an erotic novel: NO. There is one bedscene that is beautifully described without being vulgar and essential for the storyline so even a very prudish person can live with that I think.
The writer has a pleasant writing style, sometimes she creates real gems or has you grinning and if you want to you can finish the book in one day but that involves a lot of reading.
A 5 star out of 5
21 Mar 2019