To begin with, the author provides an introduction with some information about the religious order that Tyndal Priory (the fictional location of the story) was based on (the Order of Fontevraud, which is where Eleanor of Aquitaine ended up). The order was woman-positive, and the Prioress was over both the nuns and the monks. Royal has certainly done her research, and it shows. I’m kind of a medieval nut (studied medieval art history in college, and started taking masters’ courses in medieval history, but never finished the grad degree), so this story was right up my alley.
It’s 1270 in England, at Tyndal Priory (with monks and nuns running a hospital). The new prioress Eleanor is young, and her arrival causes some resentment in the priory because she got the job through her family’s political connections. She was needed because the old prioress died, peacefully and in the company of her sisters. Brother Rupert was there too, he and the prioress were best friends. Just as she is about to die, she reaches out to Rupert, her confessor, to tell him something important. He didn’t hear, and she died without letting anyone know that she had wrongly accused someone.
When Eleanor arrives, she not only has to deal with cranky nuns and monks, but the brutal murder of Brother Rupert. Was he killed by a random killer, or because someone thought he had information that needed to be kept secret? Eleanor investigates, with the help of a new monk, Thomas. Thomas has an interesting past, and has some attitude issues.
The characters were interesting and well-written, and the story gives an in-depth look into the cloistered lives of the nuns and monks. I would recommend this book to anyone. Apparently it’s a series, and I will definitely be investigating (hee) the rest of them.