"Dangerous Favor," the new offering from Utah-born author Joyce DiPastena, is a romantic mystery set in medieval times, complete with tournaments, knights and castle intrigue.
Mathilde is a young lady who desperately needs a champion. Her once-wealthy father has been accused of stealing from the king, and she's determined to clear his name. As an impoverished female in the Middle Ages, she has few options. Mathilde figures she has only one card to play. The right marriage match may do the trick, if she can find someone with enough money and the right connections to prove her father's innocence. Still, she dreams of a marriage of love instead of calculation.
But when she's tricked into granting her favor, an embroidered white ribbon, to a charming but poor knight when he enters a tournament, she sets in motion a dangerous chain of events that reach far beyond her father's situation. A clever mixture of mystery and political intrigue unfolds, adding a level of interest and complexity often missing from romance stories.
Yet there's plenty of romance here, and although there is the threat of rape or women being "ravished," there is nothing objectionable for young readers. Still, the complexity of the story places it more in a young adult or adult category.
DiPastena has done a lot of research on medieval times, and it shows. The story is full of details that add to the flavor and setting of the novel, and she manages to do so without letting her research get in the way of the story. Names, places, foods, customs, conversations and historical events of the time are all period-accurate, woven in a non-obtrusive way.
The exposition of the mystery elements was confusing at first, but the chart of characters at the beginning helped smooth that problem.
Margot Hovley's first novel will be published by Covenant Communications in fall 2012. Find her self-reliance blog at www.mynewoldschool.com or read about her writing adventures at www.margothovley.com.