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Publisher: William Morrow / HarperCollins
Release Date: December 2003
ISBN: 0060525355
Format Reviewed: Hardback
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Genre:   Historical Crime [1200 England and France]
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Kim Malo
Reviewer Notes:  Mild sexual

The Canterbury Papers
By Judith Koll Healey

Paris 1200 A.D.

     20 years removed from the upheavals at the English court after Henry II made her his mistress instead of just his son's betrothed, Princess Alais Capet of France receives a letter from Henry's widow, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

    If Alais will retrieve some secret letters from Canterbury, Eleanor will reward her with information she knows Alais desperately wants. Unable to resist the offer, even though she knows Eleanor better than to wholly trust what she says, Alais arrives at Canterbury and finds herself in the middle of a web of plots and intrigues, deceptions and danger well beyond what even she had imagined. Both out of present conflicts between the Templars and Eleanor's son King John, and out of her own past, full of people and events that turn out to have been not quite what she thought they were.

    Whether or not you'll enjoy reading The Canterbury Papers probably depends as much on your expectations as it does on the author's efforts. It's not a book for historical mystery purists looking for a classic detective novel set in an accurately depicted past. The author admits to taking some liberties with history, and in fact takes a great many more. Those range from ignoring the context of the time by having a noblewoman travel all over in solely male company or never addressing the religious aspects of a relationship that would have been considered not just illicit, but incestuous, to basic factual errors such as inventing pockets in which Alais can hide a crippled hand (itself an authorial invention, I believe) well before they were in use. While the plot belongs more to the intrigue filled world of romantic suspense, focusing on hidden secrets and misunderstood motives, rather than that of actual murder mystery style detection. But if you can suspend your disbelief enough to get past the shakiness of the historical aspects, you'll find an enjoyable, character driven adventure with an engaging heroine and a medievalish setting, full of intrigue and secrets unveiled.