cover image Masques of Gold

Masques of Gold

Roberta Gellis. Jove Books, $7.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-515-09816-7

The author of Fires of Winter et al. pens an especially fine novel set in the early 13th century realm of King John of England. Gellis finds her protagonists in London's burgher classthe tradespeople who carry on the city's business and organize themselves into guilds. Lissa, the tale's heroine, is an apothecary, skilled in selecting and selling herbs and spices for culinary and medicinal uses. She meets her hero, Sir Justin, a merchant and the leader of the London watch, when he arrives to investigate the death of her husband of six weeks. Her spouse's murder is eventually revealed to be part of an elaborate plot, of which Lissa is wholly innocent, to sow further dissention between King John and his barons and to prevent the signing of what we know as the Magna Carta. The delightfully imagined love affair that quickly develops between Justin and Lissa counterpoints the increasingly violent and disruptive events connected to the traitors' conspiracy. Fans of historical romances will enjoy the work's rich tapestry of detail, well-drawn characters, suspenseful story line, deft meshing of factual and fictional incidents and fresh approach to the hackneyed medieval setting. (September)