The Templar’s Garden

Author: Catherine Clover

Publisher: Duckworth Books

First Published: 12 November 2020

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“Your words, like your actions, are always of such comfort.”

I will start by saying that I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank so much the team over at Duckwork and NetGalley for sending a copy my way!

A young woman forced to fight for her beliefs. A chaplain with a secret that could determine the fate of a kingdom.

England, 1452. Under the reign of King Henry VI the country is on the brink of civil war after the Hundred Years’ War.

Young mystic Lady Isabelle d’Albret Courteault’s family is forced to flee the Duchy of English Gascony for a new and unforeseeable life in England. While they become established in the courts, Lady Isabelle discovers dark secrets about their chaplain and tutor. As their growing relationship places her in harm’s way, can she remain steadfast in her promises to uphold the monarchy and her faith?

Set amidst a period of grave uncertainty, this is the story of a woman learning to stand up for her beliefs in a patriarchal world – a beautifully crafted narrative of faith, love and grace.

I was so excited to see this title pop up on Netgalley. I am always on the lookout for historical fiction set in the medieval period. While I enjoyed this book, I was a touch underwhelmed. I was hoping the narrative would explore the tense political landscape of the Wars of the Roses. In saying that, I did enjoy the Da Vinci Code type mystery that unfolds.

The Templar’s Garden follows Lady Isabelle as her family flees their home in the Duchy of Gascony as the French overthrow England’s rule. Her family, along with her chaplain, has always been loyal to the English Kings so they escape to England. During the journey, Isabelle develops feelings towards her chaplain, Père Charles. The closer the pair gets the more secrets she uncovers about Père Charles.

Lady Isabelle is an interesting character. She is a devout catholic and had received visions from God since she was fourteen. There are strong Joan of Arc vibes, which I enjoyed. I’m fascinated with how Catholicism plays a major role in her day-to-day life. Her family has encouraged her love of study and reading, along with fostering her independence. Lady Isabelle would rather spend her days with her head in a book than get caught up in the court gossip.

The narrative is told in a diary format. Sprinkled through are some illustrations, which is a nice touch. After Lady Isabelle vision start, her mother requests that she will document her life. I’m not the biggest fan of the diary format because I feel removed for the story; its as though you are being told a lot of information rather than seeing it unfold. Lady Isabelle is exceptionally detailed as she describes each portion of their travel. Because of the attention to detail, the story is slow to start and the mystery doesn’t begin to unfold until the last third.

The mystery revolves around a religious artefact, which has been guarded by the Knights Templar. There has always been magic and conspiracy surrounding the Templars. I am excited to see what happens in the upcoming books.  

The setting feels grounded in the period. Catherine Clover has included a lot of historical detail, which I love, but is careful to make sure the details don’t overwhelm the narrative.

I will say there is a trigger warning for sexual assault. I understand that assault was a real reality for women in the 15th century. However, the assaults feel as though they have been added as a device to push the plot along.

I am interested in reading the next books in The Maid of Gascony series. I feel invested in Isabelle and Père Charles’s budding relationship. I hope it goes smoothly for them, mostly because I am a sucker for a happy ending.

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