Review: Okay, I know you shouldn’t ever judge a book by its cover. But look how pretty! I want that dress.
Joan may be Welsh nobility, but she is also an orphan, cast out of the only home she knows to live with her godparents. She tried in vain to save her father, but as a result of Queen Elizabeth’s henchmen, he succumbed to the torture and passed away. She knows little of her godparents, and is shocked to find they still expect her to marry a boy she had been betrothed to years earlier, one who shows very little interest in her. Anyway, she’s not sure she even wants to marry - what she truly wants is to be Welsh. She wants to practice her faith in public, but as a Catholic, the mere thought of that is nearly treasonous. Without meaning to, she is recruited as a runner, charged with dropping off a few papers here and there that will be printed and distributed as a booklet extolling the virtues of Catholicism.
Wheeler did an amazing job with this book. It’s a quick and engaging read, and one I found very easy to get lost in. Joan’s character is very likable, concerned with what she sees as her duty as a noblewoman and a Catholic. While she chafes under the restrictions placed upon her by Queen Elizabeth and by her own limitations as a woman, she searches for ways to blossom. It almost felt like a distant cousin of Beauty and the Beast, but without a lifetime of servitude.
Although the story is set in Elizabethan Wales, I loved how relatable some of Joan’s problems were. Inequality, prejudice, fear-mongering, and poverty are universal struggles, and Wheeler deals with them in a way that is optimistically uplifting. I would easily pass this book to a teen (11+) as a summer read.
Rating: Four stars
For the Sensitive Reader: There is a scene where Joan is attacked and beaten for information. Also, one of the priests she is trying to help is distinctly chauvinistic. I didn’t like him.