Forsaken Soul

Forsaken Soul by Priscilla Royal. On the surface, this five-book series featuring Prioress Eleanor and Crowner Ralf in the last half of the 13th century appears to be quite similar to other ecclesiasticals such as those by Alys Clare and Margaret Frazer. However, despite the considerable amount of discussion in this book about religious matters, especially man’s relationship with God and the sinful nature of men and women, these stories have a much more modern feel to them. Perhaps these discussions are necessary given the rampant, yet unwelcome, lustful thoughts entering the minds of these supposedly pious characters. The priory is a double house, where its youthful female leader supervises both male and female monastics. However, Eleanor is attracted to one of her brothers; a lust likely to be unrequited given the brother’s own sodomite feelings; Ralf also has unrequited feelings for one of the nuns and for one of the prime suspects. The characters, when not speaking of matters of faith, use a more modern tone of voice as well. The mystery itself is a rather simple murder by poisoning. The priory is located near one of those typical small English towns where everyone has grown up together, knows each other’s histories, and where grudges develop over time and are not easily forgotten. Overall, there’s a lot of lust, several deaths, a little bit of dry humor. However, the religious conversations get in the way of the plot at times and the crime story could have been more complex. A well-paced tale, but not as good as earlier entries in the series.

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