This is an Official Review by an Eye On Romance Official Reviewer
for Mark of the Cross
Date of Review: 05/18/06
Set in the turbulent 13th Century, this sprawling epic tale of love lost and redeemed takes the reader from England to France and into the Holy Land where the great Crusades were taking place. Philip de Tolard is the bastard son of a powerful English lord. His half-brother and legitimate heir, Gareth, is truly villainous. He murders their father in a fit of rage when he learns that their father had decided to bequeath Philip his rightful share of his holdings. Gareth's cold-blooded mother, Clarise, helps him to pin the blame on Philip, and Philip is forced to flee England, a proscribed murderer. Philip and Beatrice are childhood sweethearts, but the chasm of their birth denies them marriage. Beatrice is forced into a marriage of convenience by her father to a much older nobleman. It seems that all is lost for the two star-crossed lovers. Philip joins a band of thieves and eventually travels to the Holy Land and mingles with the Moorish populace. Edward, King of England, declares a Crusade. Accompanied by his retainers and his wife and family, he travels to Palestine. Beatrice, now a widow and an orphan by Gareth's murderous hand, once again is forced into marriage, this time with him. She endures his abuse, scorn and neglect with superhuman equanimity. But while in the Holy Land, she discovers a marvellous gift for healing. She and Philip find each other under fantastic circumstances, but this is the Middle Ages, where all things were possible. Taken captive once more by Gareth, she is forced to return to England and her vengeful mother-in-law. It seems all is lost...but is it?
This richly detailed story is an easy read. The setting has been well researched and drawn with skill. The secondary characters are well-drawn, although they don't have great depth. Nevertheless they weave into the fabric of the story and move it forward. While it may be tempting to wonder why Beatrice doesn't just jump onto her horse and ride off into the desert sunset with Philip, the author weaves a cohesive web of social expectations around her that hold her prisoner. The Modern Mind might balk at Beatrice's pliancy and urge her to "put the pedal to the metal," but that option was not open to a 13th Century woman. If that premise can be accepted by the reader, it will be possible to understand the reasons behind everyone's actions. There is a haunting and enduring love story here, but there is also a higher story, the tale of human destiny working itself out within the framework of a firm belief in a Divine Plan for each one of us. Welcome to the Middle Ages.
is a romance community member review
for Mark of the Cross
Date of Review: 05/14/06
In MARK OF THE CROSS the author does a marvelous job of defining the characters motivations amidst a vivid description of the life and times during the Thirteenth century. She gives great attention to the historical background as well as placing a heartfelt romance that drives this wonderful tale. You see and feel the anger that consumes the lead, Philip de Tollard who after losing the mother who loved him sought out and found naught from the father who sired him. While Philip was given shelter, the barest necessities along with schooling, he was also the recipient of total animosity from his younger legitimate half-brother Gareth. This anger towards his brother would later be fueled after his father, finally wanting to make some sort of amends to the son he ignored died and Gareth arranged it to look as though Philip killed him.
Beatrice Marlow, the pampered young daughter Philip had befriended when he was expelled from school came to his rescue and helped him escape to the continent. Both young, and with nothing to offer her Philip reluctantly left with her oath to never marry his brother Gareth. Years later, as the numerous wars and political maneuverings entered the equation, Beatrices’ life would be turned upside down and her oath could not be kept. Blackmailed into a horrendous marriage where she was physically abused it was easy to see her totally losing her faith in God. It would be years later in which the journey and trials the author put these two through, eventually found Philip finding his own way of dealing with his anger, and Beatrice finally coming to find the peace she needed as God entered her life.
With a real edge of the seat finale, I found this to be immensely satisfying. Although billed as an inspirational, it was not in any way overly ‘preachy’ as both hero and heroine were not motivated by religious beliefs, rather they both floundered around bemoaning the fact that ‘God’ didn’t seem to answer either of their prayers. The story was sweeping in intensity with a lively pace and rarely a dull moment. As both hero and heroine globe trot from England across to the Holy Land in a fast paced adventure the historical detail is richly preserved and well researched. Excellent dialog kept the pace lively and exposes more sensuality than I’ve ever encountered in an Inspirational themed novel. Bottom line, this was a breathtakingly robust historical that should appeal to most and one of which I can highly recommend.
Marilyn Rondeau, RIO – Reviewers International Organization
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