**Book Review at the Bottom of the Page
VOICES IN THE MIST BY SUSANNE DUNLAP
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Series: The Orphans of Tolosa, Book 3
Genre: Historical Fiction
Marry a Catholic stranger, or flee the only world she’s ever known: Headstrong Bruna de Gansard must choose one or the other to protect her Cathar family from the inquisitors.
Toulouse, 1229. The inquisitors have arrived to rid the city of Cathar heretics once and for all, and are putting all unmarried girls over the age of 12 to the question. After an incident in the town calls unwanted attention to 14-year-old Bruna, a young Catholic stranger who is sympathetic to the heretics warns her family about the looming danger, and volunteers to marry their daughter to save her from being questioned.
But Bruna doesn’t want to be forced into marriage, so she chooses flight—which lands her unexpectedly in the midst of a Catholic pilgrimage to Compostela, thrusting her into a life of deceit.
When her beauty and her voice bring her to the attention of the powerful Baron de Belascon, who owes fealty to the king of France, Bruna earns the enmity of the baron’s bitter and imperious mother and finds herself caught between her allegiance to her own people and the dangerous secret of her origins—a secret that can be revealed at any time after the arrival of a French knight who recognizes her.
The Orphans of Tolosa Trilogy comes to a dramatic end in this gripping story of loyalty and betrayal, set amidst the violence and peril of the Albigensian Crusades.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susanne Dunlap is the author of nine works of historical fiction. A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, Brooklyn and Northampton, MA. She now lives in Northampton with her long-time partner, Charles, has two grown daughters, three granddaughters, a grandson, a stepson and a stepdaughter, five step-grandsons and one step-granddaughter—that’s a total of four children and eleven grandchildren!
In her spare time, she cycles in the beautiful Pioneer Valley.
Voices in the Mist is the third book in Susanne Dunlap’s fascinating series, The Orphans of Tolosa. Although this is Book 3, it is a prequel of sorts involving Bruna, the older sister of Azeläis, who is a protagonist of the first two books. It can be read as a standalone. This book transports us to 1231 in what is now Southwestern France, when the Catholic Church was persecuting the Cathars, an orthodox Christian sect. When knights and priests descend on their village, intent on finding and destroying the Cathars, Bruna’s parents promise her in marriage to a local Catholic man who is sympathetic to them. Bruna, however, does not want to be married at 12 years old and runs away, forging a completely new life for herself amongst her Catholic persecutors. But her first betrothed has never forgotten her.
This is a fascinating look at the Cathars, of whom I was not aware prior to reading this series. I was instantly transported to this time period and learned so much about this simple, anti-materialist Christian sect whose only crime was disagreeing with the pope at the time and daring to go their own way. Bruna’s coming of age story amidst persecution and suspicion is well told. The intrigue, danger, and suspense in the book kept me spellbound. The underlying story of love and loyalty, and Bruna’s embracing of her musical talent were some of the best parts of the book. The discovery of little- known historical facts is always a delight for me, and I love to learn new things from historical fiction. I would highly recommend this series to anyone interested in learning more about 13th Century history or anyone who just wants to read fascinating historical novels with strong female characters.
Four and a half stars, rounded up to five on sites with no half-star option.
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