A Lily, A Rose by Sally Nicholls
Ooh, historical fiction you say? With dyslexic-friendly features too? Oooh, do go on!
Elinor is a young lady whose father has sadly fallen out of favour at court with the crowning of the new King of England, Edward III. To curry favour again, Elinor is to be married to someone who politically will stand her and her family in good stead, but there’s just one snag; Elinor loves someone else. She’s fallen in love with Dan, her father’s squire, and really doesn’t like the idea of marrying a much older man, even if it is a good political match. Can she solve her dilemma, or is she doomed to an unhappy marriage?
I’m not one for love triangles, or even love stories in general, but this was one where I genuinely didn’t see the ending coming. I mean, it’s an unusual dilemma really isn’t it? A 14 year old girl having to marry a decades-older knight in order to curry favour politically for her father’s name? I did not see her solution (or non-solution) coming, but what really draws me to it though and to Elinor herself is that her plan relies on her strengths as a person. Compared to Dan (who seems to throw a strop as soon as reality kicks in and he relaises that no, he can’t just ride off into the sunset with Elinor), Elinor is a very wise and shrewd individual, using her talents with chess to try to gain her way (and her preferred man). What you end up with as a result is not necessarily the ending you predicted, but it is a very grown-up one. I really liked this and I’m already eyeing up more of Sally Nicholl’s novels (All Fall Down looks awesome – it’s got the Black Death in it!).
There’s a couple of interesting points to make too, ones that I hadn’t really considered before (and I do love a novel that makes me rethink a point of view!), namely the idea that yes, medieval girls didn’t exactly get much choice in who they married but then again, neither did medieval boys. After all, Dan can’t just stake his claim to Elinor – politcal allaince trumps first love in Elinor’s dad’s book and since he’s ultimately the chap who says yes or no to Dan… well, Dan doesn’t have much choice in his bride either. Certainly it doesn’t look like he has a choice of Elinor.
It’s a fast-moving story – within the first few pages we’ve gone from first declarations of love to being found out, to being forbidden to meet, to plans for Elinor to be married off – but happily, the story doesn;t suffer for this. It’s SO well-written and the fast pace really draws you in. I swear, my nose even got a bit closer to the pages as I read on.
So, to sum up, I love the unusual love triangle ending and Elinor is a fantastic heroine, using her own strengths to try to get what she wants. To top it off, it’ll also leave you as it did me with a new insight into the past.
For dyslexic readers, this has a Reading Age of 8, Interest age Teen.
Find it here