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The Canterbury Papers    by Judith Koll Healey order for
Canterbury Papers
by Judith Koll Healey
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Alais, the sister of the king of France, is commissioned by Eleanor of Aquitaine to retrieve letters secreted in the altar, where Thomas Becket died in Canterbury Cathedral. In return, Alais is to learn a long held and dangerous secret, in which she is involved.

The scene is set, in medieval France and England. Castles and cathedrals are still standing and in use not the crumbling ruins most of them are today. We can almost smell the wood burning in fireplaces lit to dispel the damp and cold, and it seems like we can reach out to touch the intricate needlework in magnificent tapestries hung to keep out drafts. The tale is told through Alais' eyes as she travels from France to England and back again to France. She is never sure who is sympathetic to her mission, and who wants to see her fail.

Intrigue is rampant at the Royal courts, and seems as integral to life there as eating one's meals. Although the author lays them all out in correct order, the royal cast of characters is at times too numerous and confusing to keep straight. Even so, this is an intriguing and fascinating tale of the marriages that held the world's countries bound together. Alais is a troublesome woman, a renegade of sorts, in the clime of the times and in terms of what was expected of a woman. I too might have kicked over the traces a bit.

The Canterbury Papers gives the reader a glance of what living was like back in medieval days. It's an engaging tale of court intrigue, state marriages, the succession of kings, betrayal, and love.

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