One of the central themes of my historical trilogy, set in the turbulent 13th century, is love. Those who have read the first two in the series, The Grip of God and Solomon’s Bride, know that in the first volume its heroine, Sofia, was captured and enslaved by a Mongol lord. While he fell in love with her, she was too angry and wounded by her fall into slavery even to notice how he felt.
Yet as she came to see and appreciate him as he was, she also began to learn what love might mean beyond her childish dreams of a handsome prince who would cherish and protect her. Ironically, her master fit that description and all she wanted to do was escape!
And, in Solomon’s Bride, having fallen into a new form of captivity in Iran (isolation in a harem and then in Alamut, capital of the Assassins), Sofia discovered that love and marriage weren’t necessarily going to be part of her destiny. She married twice, out of necessity, but didn’t find love. Only after she traveled west and met a knight who reminded her of her father (shades of Freud) did she fall in love. But he proved to be both mysterious and elusive until, with a crusade looming, it was almost too late for love; and then both politics and duty came between them. The reader is left wondering whether she can ever find the right man to love.
This question is answered in the third novel, Consolamentum, by which time Sofia has matured and become a woman of the world. She’s no longer naïve about marriage, but she still wants love—as well as independence—more than a wedding ring. So, though she has several suitors, she maintains her solitary life, willing to be content with other sources of love like an orphanage and her love child from a brief affair with her knight.
But this third novel also asks further questions about love: where does loyalty fit in where the king comes first and the wife comes second, how much power can a medieval woman realistically retain when she marries, is it worth giving up your independence for love, and can love survive threats to survival? And ultimately, knowing that lovers will always remain a mystery to each other, how can they find the intimacy of mind and heart that we all yearn for? For Sofia, there are compromises to be made, but in the end, she boldly answers her own question: yes, there is a love worth waiting for!