Midnight Fire, Book 2 of the Jagiellon Mystery series, marks the suspenseful return of Caterina Konarska to Poland, where she goes seeking medical care for her ailing son. Queen Bona Sforza is delighted to see Caterina again and agrees to arrange the requested medical care, but in return she demands that Caterina travel to the Duchy of Lithuania to dissuade the heir to the throne from undertaking a disastrous marriage.
Faced with this near-impossible task, Caterina arrives in Lithuania just as a puzzling series of murders strikes the ducal court. Can she find the murderer before the heir’s consort is killed? Will the murderer kill Caterina to stop her investigation?
Fans of Tudor-era and European historical fiction will love this book. I highly recommend Midnight Fire.
The Greenest Branch is an engrossing historical novel set in the 1100’s about the early life of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician.
At the age of 10, Hildegard enters the cloister of the Abbey of St. Disibod, following an ancient custom of families’ tithing their tenth child to the church. Enclosure within the cloister means that Hildegard will never see her family again, but she possesses a deep faith and a strong intellect and is thrilled that, unlike other girls of marriageable age, she will be able to continue her education. She has already displayed a talent for the medicinal arts, taught to her by the family nurse, and she longs to become a physician.
Soon she is permitted to train in the abbey’s infirmary, where she develops her knowledge of the curing powers of herbs. As she grows older and more skilled, her ambition flies against the powers of the Church, which regards women who heal as practicing witchcraft. She encounters a powerful nemesis in Prior Helenger, who is determined to thwart her, despite St. Disibod’s growing wealthy from her skills at treating the infirm. The danger to Hildegard increases when she starts to write about theology, which the Church expressly forbids women from doing. Her writings attract the attention of Papal authorities, involving her in the conflicts between the Papacy and the Rhineland’s political leaders.
I highly recommend The Greenest Branch to readers of historical fiction, particularly those who enjoy reading about the medieval period. Fans of Elizabeth Chadwick, Ken Follett, Bernard Cornwell, Tony Riches, and Hilary Mantel will love this book.