Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5 (rounded up to 5)
Your master has the field for today, but his name, whatever it might be, is without honour.
Sir Maheris Schade, the Black Knight, has been charged with guarding a strategic bridge that leads into his Master’s kingdom. His orders? To allow no one to pass over the bridge. It doesn’t matter that recent horrific events have made his Master, the Count of Tancred, the most hated man in all the land. All that matters to Sir Schade is duty and honor. Many times the Black Knight has been challenged and each time he has bested his opponent. And the toll of that constant fighting is showing on his body and soul.
At the Black Knight’s side, his squire Olivier. Olivier has had other Masters but none has he loved like he loves Maheris Schade. Olivier only wished that the Black Knight showed any interest in returning his love. Instead Olivier has settled for a gruff Master/Squire relationship with occasional benefits on the side.
But everything is about to change. The King and his men are approaching the bridge and they intend to cross. As the army approaches, an intriguing archer arrives first to upset their status quo and leave Olivier questioning not only his Master’s resolve but their relationship as well.
I first encountered the author, Elin Gregory, when I read her splendid book On A Lee Shore, another historical romance. So I was delighted to see another story from Gregory, this time set in the Middle Ages. A story of approximately 58 pages, it takes place over the course of three momentous days.
Sir Maharis Schade, with Olivier at his side, has been holding the bridge against an onslaught of knights as war wages in the lands around him. Gregory drops us into the action as the constant battling and lack of resources is wearing the Black Knight and Olivier down. Their armor, tents, and clothing are showing the wear and tear of their circumstances. The worn, oft-repaired state of their equipment is also starting to reflect their mental, emotional and physical status as well. Down to just the two of them, Elin Gregory makes us feel every bit of the weariness and exhaustion that is starting to overtake them.
In concise, detailed descriptions, Elin Gregory’s narrative uses the perilous situation, the depth of their honor, and the terminology of the times to bring these men vividly to life. This is not the expected romance per se but it exists, subtly at first. Then the thread of love weaves itself through the story in a manner both dramatic and poignant. There are several scenes in A Taste of Copper that will make you weep. The weight of honor and duty upon a chivalrous man has never been so heavy. That it is born by two makes it doubly heartrending and affective.
The author builds the drama and suspense in just the right increments, allowing the readers to learn to like, then love, finally able to comprehend and root for the complex relationship that exists not just between the Black Knight and Olivier but Hywel the archer and his love. Looking back, I find it hard to believe that all the events and the emotions and actions they engendered took place in only three days. But that timeline restriction works beautifully to build the sense of alarm and resignation as the King and his men approach. That sense of urgency, along with regret, run like the warp and weft of a tapestry the author is weaving in A Taste of Copper.
At first, I wanted more from this story. Then I realized that while I want more of these characters amidst the aftermath of their battle and war, I wanted it to come in a sequel, not as additional length to this story. I would love to see Elin Gregory revisit these characters and their relationship but if I only get them in this story, then I am content. A Taste of Copper is a small bit of literary perfection. It is a historical slice of two mens lives that happens to contain far more emotion and depth than is first seen at first read of the page. I can see this will be one of my favorite historical reads of the year. If you are a lover of historical stories and romance, put A Taste of Copper on your must read list today.
Cover Artist: Meredith Russell. Gorgeous cover, worthy of the wonderful tale within. One of my favorite covers.
Sales Links: Love Lane Books All Romance eBooks amazon A Taste of Copper
ebook, 26,900 words, approx. 58 pages
Published September 26th 2014 by Love Lane Books Limited
(first published September 24th 2014)
Love Lane Books