Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review: The Pendant by Mirella Patzer

Canadian author Mirella Patzer delivers an intense emotional experience in her historical romance The Pendant, published by the Eternal Press. Set in A.D. 1270 in the region of Genoa, Italy, The Pendant opens with Amoro Dragone learning of his father's murder. His father was the Duke of Genoa. Much to Amoro's surprise he is told by a trusted advisor that his father's wish was that the Dragones end their long feud with the House of Monterossa. Specifically, Amoro's father wanted Amoro to marry the sole Monterossa heir Contessa Morena Monterossa of Portovenere.

Amoro commits himself to this course, but first he must break up with his mistress, Laria. This is a powerful scene that left me very much disgusted with Amoro and sympathetic to Laria's anger. Amoro then journeys to Portovenere and kidnaps Morena. The plight of Morena very much drives home the historically accurate situation faced by women of that wholly patriarchal era. Morena is not valued as a person. She is simply a means of seizing control of her castle, which is supposed to contain a lost Roman treasure.

This small excerpt is quite telling about Morena's vulnerability:

Morena recognized the truth and trembled. Her father's absence left her unprotected. If he should die before she married, she would become quarry for any warlord who sought to take her wealth and fief.

Although Amoro takes possession of her with great arrogance and presumption, he is immediately entranced by her beauty and spirit. He works hard to seduce her and earn her love, which involves many passionate scenes of pitching woo. Morena resists him with varying degrees of fierceness as she grapples with her emerging sexual desire for Amoro.

The plot of The Pendant is not limited to only this sexually charged courtship. Morena is officially betrothed to Ernesto Duke of Savona, a wholly loathsome degenerate gambler with a taste for violent sex. In need of a new source of wealth, Ernesto is determined to claim his betrothed. Serious conflict arises as the two men vie for possession of Morena.

To avoid revealing any spoilers, I'll describe the other merits of this novel. Patzer's fiction reveals a loving mastery of Medieval Italian history. The Pendant is rich with sumptuous detail as lavish feasts are described and the landscapes between castles unfold in picturesque Mediterranean beauty. From the servants in the kitchen to Amoro preparing for the joust, I was deeply drawn into the setting of this brutal and feudal world.
One detail I particularly appreciated was embodied in the character of Smerelda. She is the old medicine woman who conducts Morena's virginity examination. I like this excerpt:

"What would transpire if the examination revealed otherwise?" Morena asked.

Smerelda responded with a wink and a grin.

I liked the historical detail of Smerelda's role in society. She is a healer and herbalist. Such women were widespread in ancient and Medieval times before the rising profession of male doctors persecuted them as witches in the early modern era.

Although packed with thoughtful historical details, The Pendant's greatest strength is its main character Morena. I felt for her keenly and would think about her and worry about her when I was not reading the novel. Amoro is also a powerful character. My opinion of him would shift between dislike and respect, but, like he did with Morena, he did win me over. I enjoyed participating in Morena's inner turmoil in regard to Amoro.

My only criticism about this novel is that at least twice some characters did very stupid things that irritated me. Like when Morena leaves Amoro's castle without an escort of guards. This action annoyed me, but I was soon so caught up in the unfolding drama that my irritation was fleeting.

For readers looking to be swept away into a romance of passion and danger I recommend The Pendant. The novel is an emotional powerhouse that will relentlessly claim your attention. The events are so intense that I lost hope right alongside Morena. I consider it a great accomplishment of any writer to make me care about a character.

Find complete ordering information for The Pendant here.

Also find out more about Mirella Patzer. I interviewed her about her incredible blog History and Women a while ago.