The time is 1148 and we have a quiet, reserved boy fostered out to another family. Boys are not expected to be shy or reserved and Brunin stands out as he is different. Quiet, well behaved and different. Brunin is hounded by his brothers and taunted by his horrible grandmother at every turn. Fortunately for Brunin he is fostered into a family who is very understanding and this becomes the making of him..
In Sybilla and Jocelin's household Brunin comes into his own. Looked on as a son of the house (with only daughters on their side) Brunin is pursued by Marion (another foster child) but is drawn to the tom boyish Hawise (youngest daughter of the house) who is also different to the run of the mill girls of this era. The family is loyal to King Henry through thick and thin, though this does not hold them in good stead in the long run when they lose their home to the De Lacy's.
The battles of the period and the effect of the war on women and households is extremely descriptive. Women of the time were ready for every eventuality and were almost fatalistic about their future because war was an everyday part of their lives. They knew they could be widowed, orphaned, destitute at the whim of a king and the fight for survival was very personal. Girls were pawns for marriages of political expediency and for land gain. It was a very forward household like Jocelin and Sybilla where daughters were actually asked their opinion on matches brought forward and the girls of the house were distinctly lucky in that respect.
Apart from Brunin and Hawise who are the main characters of the story we have several others whose life history makes almost for a story within a story. The one of Marion is tragic - orphaned at birth, loved by her foster family, she constantly seeks love and finds it in the wrong quarter. The story of Sybilla and Jocelin - unusual to find a husband seeking his wife's advice in so many matters and heeding her counsel and then we have Mellette twisted and autocratic and spoiling for a quarrel all the time, ruling her son and making her daughter in laws life a misery.
There is a sequel to this story taking the FitzWarin story further (Lords of the White Castle) and I do hope I can get to that soon.
I really enjoyed the mix of so much history in such detail - the era in general and the lives of the family from a domestic angle as well. I also liked the romance that was part of the story. Not too much but so realistic and part of the story.