cover image Sold for Endless Rue

Sold for Endless Rue

Madeleine E. Robins. Forge, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7653-0399-8

Three generations of women struggle for love and acceptance amidst the male-dominated discipline of medicine in this imaginative historical fiction based on the fairy tale "Rapunzel". Robins (The Stone War) begins in 13th century Salerno, Italy, as 11 year-old Laura narrowly escapes from her abusive captor. Taken in as an apprentice by Crescia, a benevolent healer and midwife, Laura learns the trade and later enrolls in the Scuola, a prestigious medical academy as their first female student. Being told, "[the] greater your consequence, the harder for them to question your ability," Laura strives academically to prove her worth among her male classmates. When a romantic encounter with a classmate sours, she is left bitter and devastated as Crescia shuns her for her lack of chastity. Years later as a successful physician, Laura has an opportunity for revenge when she tends to a pregnant neighbor. Taking baby Bieta for her own, Laura is determined to shelter her from the pain and betrayal she experienced as a young woman, even as her methods of protection become increasingly extreme. Though Robins's slow-starting narrative offers an explanation for Rapunzel/Bieta's captivity, the fairy tale origins lose importance as the story develops and gathers its own momentum. (May)