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The Widow's Tale

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Dame Frevisse is embroiled in political intrigue when she aids a widow who is holding on to secret information that could be damaging to the lords closest to the king.


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Dame Frevisse is embroiled in political intrigue when she aids a widow who is holding on to secret information that could be damaging to the lords closest to the king.

30 review for The Widow's Tale

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Davie

    Fourteenth in the Dame Frevisse medieval mystery series and revolving around a Benedictine nun with a nose for clues in 1449. The focus is on a beleaguered family in Hertfordshire. It's been two years since Suffolk forbade Alice to meet with Frevisse ( The Bastard's Tale , 12). My Take It's a mean, greedy story of a mean and greedy man, taking advantage of a a newly bereft family through bribery and forced incarceration, kidnapping, and forced marriage. It makes me grateful for women's lib and ou Fourteenth in the Dame Frevisse medieval mystery series and revolving around a Benedictine nun with a nose for clues in 1449. The focus is on a beleaguered family in Hertfordshire. It's been two years since Suffolk forbade Alice to meet with Frevisse ( The Bastard's Tale , 12). My Take It's a mean, greedy story of a mean and greedy man, taking advantage of a a newly bereft family through bribery and forced incarceration, kidnapping, and forced marriage. It makes me grateful for women's lib and our current laws when stories such as The Widow's Tale demonstrate how one-sided life was in the past. No, I'm not saying today is perfect, but I much prefer due process. I wouldn't return to the mid-14th century for anything! Not as a woman anyway! It's a convenient fiction, that of Dame Frevisse playing detective, as it gives Frazer such lovely opportunities to show us English life in the mid-1400s from simple daily living in the country and the city, of spies and lawyers, of laws and customs, the food and dress, manners and expectations, and more. It includes politics whether its those of the court, within the neighborhood, within families, and all points in between as well as a look at how the genders and classes are treated. And up to now, the nuns have been welcome wherever they go. Not here. We all have someone in the family who's a nasty wart on the world, and poor Cristiana will pay heavily for this one. What I don't understand is why Edward didn't do more to protect his family? And why would Abbot Gilberd acquiesce in this? It doesn't seem to fit his character. Part of the underlying theme of the series involves royal politics, or rather, the machinations of the nobles at court, and specifically Lord Suffolk and his circle and how they manipulate the king. I keep thinking that I must look into the history of this, for I'm curious to know if Suffolk ever fell from grace, *fingers crossed*. And so it goes...will Suffolk's fate appear in a future Dame Frevisse? Edward puts it well: he's not selling his daughters off so that Laurence's ambition can be satisfied. It's a sad tale, and one I would have preferred to skip even though Frazer wrote it well. Too well, really, as I was by turn furious and sad until I cried at the end. For she's lost so much… The Story It's a May Daying party which Laurence is determined to spoil with his demands about Edward's lands and marrying Mary off to his son. The man simply will not accept no for an answer. Unfortunately, he doesn't have to accept that no for long, and Laurence quickly takes control, hiding the kidnappings, only Mary won't cooperate, and Laurence is forced to beg Cristiana's help. Hah. The Characters Dame Frevisse would much prefer to be left to her copying, but her natural curiosity, skillful observations, and innate sense of justice won't let her back away from a mystery. Others of the nuns include: Sisters Johane and Amicia, Domina Elisabeth is the abbess still, Ela is one of the servants, Dames Perpetua and Juliana, Dame Claire is still the infirmarian, Sister Thomasine is even saintlier than ever, and Sister Margarett is the current cellarer. Master Naylor is the nunnery's steward. Father Henry is still the nunnery's priest. Abbot Gilberd is Elisabeth's brother, and St. Frideswide's is under his care and protection. Edward Helyngton is married to Cristiana and allied to my Lord Suffolk. Mary is their twelve-year-old daughter while Jane is eight. Sir Gerveys Drury is Cristiana's brother, even though he's one of York's. Pers is Gerveys' squire who's been with him since they were boys. Ivetta, a carpenter's widow, is the girls' nurse with a grown son, Nicholas, of her own; she and Pers are sweet on each other. The widowed Laurence Helyngton is Edward's cousin, and a meaner snake you'll never meet. Well, until you meet Milisent. Clement is his loutish son. His sisters, Milisent and Ankaret, are married respectively to Master Henry Colles with his hard little eyes and Master Petyt, a wealthy clothier who doesn't seem to notice his wife making sheep's eyes at every comely man. John Say is also Suffolk's man and Speaker of Parliament, but the king is first and foremost in his heart. Beth is his quiet, unassuming wife. Their children are Geneffeve, almost two, and Betha, Beth's daughter from a previous marriage, who is six. Master Fyncham is the house steward, Nurse came from Beth's first household, Edmund is valet to Say, Sawnder and Rafe are men-at-arms, and Reignold is one of the kitchen help. Father Richard is the local priest. William de la Pole is the duke of Suffolk and married to Frevisse's cousin, the very worried and twitchy Lady Alice. He is a power at court and with King Henry VI who is married to Queen Margaret. Charles VII is king of France. The Cover The soft-looking cover is split in half vertically with blurbs, the title, the series name, and the author's name against a pale mint background on the right while the left is a perspective of the land with the manor house slightly above the center and a parade of horses and a sedan chair winding up the road towards it. The title is The Widow's Tale as her life unfolds and disintegrates around her.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Laura Edwards

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. More a 3.5, but I rounded up because I love this series and Dame Frevisse, herself, never disappoints. From the get go, this book proved to be upsetting in regards to the injustice being done to Cristiana. It's not bad enough she's being separated from her children, but her reputation is being unfairly torn to shreds. Thus, though the book is well-written and historically detailed, it was upsetting to read. And the fear of Cristiana losing her children hangs over the entire story. Makes a woman More a 3.5, but I rounded up because I love this series and Dame Frevisse, herself, never disappoints. From the get go, this book proved to be upsetting in regards to the injustice being done to Cristiana. It's not bad enough she's being separated from her children, but her reputation is being unfairly torn to shreds. Thus, though the book is well-written and historically detailed, it was upsetting to read. And the fear of Cristiana losing her children hangs over the entire story. Makes a woman grateful to be living in the present, but we best be careful so our hard-won rights aren't slowly chipped away. I was glad to have Alice back sooner than I thought, though I am worried about the strain done to her and Frevisse's relationship. Hard to fault either. Frevisse has right on her side while the difficulty Alice experiences coming to terms with the depths of her husband's treachery are expected. Poor Frevisse at the end. She really has no cause to feel guilty, though I can see why she does. It's unwarranted and I hope she recovers soon. Also, I suspected Ivetta played a part, mainly because no one else really had an opportunity to overhear the pertinent information.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carol Flatten

    Most of the story of the Widow's Tale has a different setting from the Priory, although the story begins there with the arrival of a widow, brought there by those who accuse her of grievous sins. The story develops with a rescue and then several murders all connected with the property left by the husband of the widow, but taken by her husband's kin. The emotional turmoil in this mystery is gripping, the end not so predictable, but none-the -less a great story. Most of the story of the Widow's Tale has a different setting from the Priory, although the story begins there with the arrival of a widow, brought there by those who accuse her of grievous sins. The story develops with a rescue and then several murders all connected with the property left by the husband of the widow, but taken by her husband's kin. The emotional turmoil in this mystery is gripping, the end not so predictable, but none-the -less a great story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Frevisse and the good nuns have a much less prominent place in this story than in past entries but Cristiana and her troubles are so enthralling that the storyline doesn’t suffer much from the lack. This is also--to me at least--a much darker plot than Frazer’s usual novels. There’s usually at least a bit of a happy ending for the main characters. This time, not so much.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Abbhirami

    This book was also set in the 15th century England (I read this right after Kate Sedley's The Green Man). My first Dame Frevisse mystery, a fast read, had all the elements of a good mystery- kept me on edge. The rest of this series is on my list now! This book was also set in the 15th century England (I read this right after Kate Sedley's The Green Man). My first Dame Frevisse mystery, a fast read, had all the elements of a good mystery- kept me on edge. The rest of this series is on my list now!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I'm a big fan of historical fiction and mysteries. This book was very much my kind of story. Thus 4 stars. I'm a big fan of historical fiction and mysteries. This book was very much my kind of story. Thus 4 stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    Harder read because of the old language, but really interesting!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Roshni

    Sister Frevisse gets entangled a widow's fate that has surprising political implications. It may even prompt or forestall all out war. Sister Frevisse gets entangled a widow's fate that has surprising political implications. It may even prompt or forestall all out war.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    A very well-written book, but so much sadness I cried through most of it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary Helene

    I should be reading something else, shouldn't I? But now I am caught up in this medieval history and abandoning other reading for the joy of this. I should be reading something else, shouldn't I? But now I am caught up in this medieval history and abandoning other reading for the joy of this.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jill Holmes

    In 1449, the title character of "The Widow's Tale", Cristiana Helyngton, loses her husband suddenly and tragically to illness. But stormier events are to follow as Cristiana's in-laws kidnap her and her two daughters, declare her insane with grief, closet her in a nunnery, and prepare to have her elder daughter marry their son, with the younger daughter to be bound over to a convent. Fortunately for Cristiana, the nunnery to which she is taken, though far from her home, is St. Frideswide's Prior In 1449, the title character of "The Widow's Tale", Cristiana Helyngton, loses her husband suddenly and tragically to illness. But stormier events are to follow as Cristiana's in-laws kidnap her and her two daughters, declare her insane with grief, closet her in a nunnery, and prepare to have her elder daughter marry their son, with the younger daughter to be bound over to a convent. Fortunately for Cristiana, the nunnery to which she is taken, though far from her home, is St. Frideswide's Priory in Oxfordshire where Dame Frevisse is cloistered; and Frevisse has considerable experience with the twists and turns of human experience and with solving mysteries. Cristiana's brother, the knight Sir Gerveys, is far away and is her only hope of rescue. While waiting and hoping for him to save her, she spends long hours doing harsh penance for her madness. The nuns begin to suspect there is more to her than insanity when her brother-in-law appears demanding Cristiana's assistance because daughter Mary refuses to marry her cousin Clement. Cristiana is to be escorted home by Dame Frevisse and the Prioress, Domina Elizabeth. They stay with the widow's dear friends the Says; Master Say has recently been at Parliament as Speaker of the House of Commons and has wealth and worldly connections, as well as sympathy for Cristiana. He has received permission from the Duke of Suffolk to shelter Cristiana and her daughters, and Dame Frevisse begins to suspect there are wide complications associated with the widow when she learns Cristiana and her brother Gerveys hold some secret document that could impact the reign of King Henry VI or his powerful but conflicted family, notably the Duke of Suffolk. Frevisse has a personal interest because her cousin is Alice, Duchess of Suffolk. Alice herself becomes involved and visits the Says with a large retinue that camps in pavilions and tents on the Says property. She is also the advance party for Henry VI himself and his new bride, Queen Margaret. During the household's flurry over the Royal visit, Gerveys appears, but several murders quickly follow. Did Gerveys have the document? Does Cristiana? What is its dreadful secret? Is it something to topple the throne or Suffolk or his enemy the Duke of York or all? And what of England's possessions in France--does this mystery document somehow threaten those, peace between the two countries, or peace within England itself? These are among the mysteries Frevisse and Alice put their minds toward in "The Widow's Tale". Although this was not my favourite of the Dame Frevisse books, it sheds fascinating light on the lives of women in medieval times. They were, indeed, in peril often because the word of a man--almost any man--could imprison or entrap them in convent or marriage; or, even worse, such word could send them to trial or death. Even women "protected" by marriage were vulnerable to the crimes, actions, and responsibilities of their husbands, as in the case of Lady Alice whose husband's ambition and power changed him from the man she once loved to someone she barely knew and from whom she had to protect herself and her son. Life on the small canvas can have much larger implications in which women are often powerless; or perhaps, Alice, Frevisse, and Cristiana herself can prove they aren't so powerless for after all.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Abra

    Somehow I missed this single entry in Frazer's medieval nun series, and it is one of the best. I enjoy how Frazer links the political history with the social history with the individual fictional characters she has created, and this mystery about how a scheming brother-in-law tries to get his brother's widow committed (to St. Frideswide's nunnery) for madness and wanton behavior is excellent. I am so sad I only have three more to re-read before I am done with the Sister Frevisse mysteries. Then Somehow I missed this single entry in Frazer's medieval nun series, and it is one of the best. I enjoy how Frazer links the political history with the social history with the individual fictional characters she has created, and this mystery about how a scheming brother-in-law tries to get his brother's widow committed (to St. Frideswide's nunnery) for madness and wanton behavior is excellent. I am so sad I only have three more to re-read before I am done with the Sister Frevisse mysteries. Then it's on to the Joliffe series, which is much shorter.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary Newcomb

    Politics, intrigue and plots abound in 1449 England. This comes to the priory in the form of Cristiana Holyngton, imprisoned as part of a plot by her brother in law. She is retrieved when her daughter declines her assigned part. Since the nuns are not excused from their role, Domina Elisabeth and Dame Frevisse accompany her to her home. The bodies pile up and the intrigue takes on a royal overtone. Dame Frevisse works to untangle as much as possible with the help of her cousin, Lady Suffolk.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen L.

    This could be classed "historical fiction." It reminded me of the Ellis Peters Medieval mystery stories about Brother Cadfael. The sleuth was a medieval nun, Dame Frivisse, and the main character a genteel lady, Cristiana Helyngton. The plot was good, but what kept me from rating it higher was the periods of slowness from too much detail and medieval politics. Otherwise it still aroused my curiosity and kept me going. The ending was very dramatic and satisfying. This could be classed "historical fiction." It reminded me of the Ellis Peters Medieval mystery stories about Brother Cadfael. The sleuth was a medieval nun, Dame Frivisse, and the main character a genteel lady, Cristiana Helyngton. The plot was good, but what kept me from rating it higher was the periods of slowness from too much detail and medieval politics. Otherwise it still aroused my curiosity and kept me going. The ending was very dramatic and satisfying.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    As this series goes on, Frazer becomes better and better at exploring the ambiguity that exists when questions of justice, and good and evil, are involved. The treatment of the widow, Cristiana, by her relatives is shocking, and sheds light on the powerlessness that medieval women sometimes were subject to. Even the nuns of St. Frideswide's don't come off as always good and nonjudgmental in this one--if, indeed, they ever did, as I think back. Well done, with plenty of suspense. As this series goes on, Frazer becomes better and better at exploring the ambiguity that exists when questions of justice, and good and evil, are involved. The treatment of the widow, Cristiana, by her relatives is shocking, and sheds light on the powerlessness that medieval women sometimes were subject to. Even the nuns of St. Frideswide's don't come off as always good and nonjudgmental in this one--if, indeed, they ever did, as I think back. Well done, with plenty of suspense.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Mustread

    Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery #14 (called Sister Frevisse series on Goodreads) set in 1449, and more of a political mystery – who's the spy? how much is Suffolk involved? – than the previous whodunnit mysteries in the series.  Frightening how little control women had over the lives and decisions.  Yes, I already knew that, but this book made me think about all the ramifications when Christiana was left a widow. Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery #14 (called Sister Frevisse series on Goodreads) set in 1449, and more of a political mystery – who's the spy? how much is Suffolk involved? – than the previous whodunnit mysteries in the series.  Frightening how little control women had over the lives and decisions.  Yes, I already knew that, but this book made me think about all the ramifications when Christiana was left a widow.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I definitely recommend reading this series in order. I didn't. I read 6 of the books over a period of about 8 years, reading one every time I came across a used copy at a sale. In May, I picked up 7 Frevisse tales at the library sale. Now, having read them in sequence, I have a much better feeling for the history of that time period, and I've enjoyed watching the development of the various characters and recognizing the return of some minor characters. I definitely recommend reading this series in order. I didn't. I read 6 of the books over a period of about 8 years, reading one every time I came across a used copy at a sale. In May, I picked up 7 Frevisse tales at the library sale. Now, having read them in sequence, I have a much better feeling for the history of that time period, and I've enjoyed watching the development of the various characters and recognizing the return of some minor characters.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This is a low-key series that does a good job of capturing an era without a huge amount of anachronism or silliness. At times, that can make Dame Frevisse--the sleuth--less attractive to my modern sensibilities, but it's still refreshing after so many books that tell purely modern stories with only the trappings of medievalism. This is a low-key series that does a good job of capturing an era without a huge amount of anachronism or silliness. At times, that can make Dame Frevisse--the sleuth--less attractive to my modern sensibilities, but it's still refreshing after so many books that tell purely modern stories with only the trappings of medievalism.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Martin

    Wonderful mystery set in 1449. Dame Frevisse has to discover who the young woman is who has been imprisoned in her convent, then she finds there are several murders to be solved. Also who is the spy that keeps the wicked brother in law informed about the doings of the widow and Lady Alice. Is there another murder planned? Is the king in danger, or the beautiful widow? Hard to put down.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susie

    This book combines a fascinating peek into medieval times with an above average mystery plot. Set in 15th century England, the author weaves murder and treason in a story that includes real life characters and events. There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and the dramatic events at the conclusion were quite a surprise.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie Bee

    My heart ached for Cristiana in this book. The villains were unrelievably bad, which would have palled except for the hefty helping of politics that provided a second plotline. I feel for Cristiana's daughters, who've lost their entire family in a space of months, and especially for Mary, who was so nearly forced into a horrible marriage. Hopefully the Says help them to heal. My heart ached for Cristiana in this book. The villains were unrelievably bad, which would have palled except for the hefty helping of politics that provided a second plotline. I feel for Cristiana's daughters, who've lost their entire family in a space of months, and especially for Mary, who was so nearly forced into a horrible marriage. Hopefully the Says help them to heal.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lexi

    Lacks the strong plot of most of her works, and a bit of a depressing ending. More like Frazer gave up than figured out how to rescue her heroine. Prefer more goodness in my mysteries, but still well-told.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    Not a particularly memorable outing in this series. The book touches on interesting matter - such as the treatment of 'wantons' and the machinations around land, but the sensational needs of the plot made it doubtful how accurate that portrayal got. Not a particularly memorable outing in this series. The book touches on interesting matter - such as the treatment of 'wantons' and the machinations around land, but the sensational needs of the plot made it doubtful how accurate that portrayal got.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Calista

    This story was very upsetting to me, as a woman, to see how badly woman were treated in 'civilized' England at the time. In the light of recent political disparaging of women, this shows how bad it could get if our rights are removed. This story was very upsetting to me, as a woman, to see how badly woman were treated in 'civilized' England at the time. In the light of recent political disparaging of women, this shows how bad it could get if our rights are removed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This is one of my favorites in this series.

  26. 4 out of 5

    ghostlibrarian

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I enjoyed this book in the series but it had a very bloody sad ending. I guess I sort of expected it though.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Another taste of history wrapped in a mystery that focuses more on human relationships that "whodunit". Reads like a warm fire and a nice cup of tea. Another taste of history wrapped in a mystery that focuses more on human relationships that "whodunit". Reads like a warm fire and a nice cup of tea.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    Very nice to explore this time period through the steady eyes of Dame Frevisse.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Corinne

    These books are so well written you'd think the authors LIVED thru the 14th century! Well plotted too!! These books are so well written you'd think the authors LIVED thru the 14th century! Well plotted too!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kilian Metcalf

    Dame Frevisse at her best.

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