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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Wandering Harlot

Wandering Harlot, TheWandering Harlot, The by Iny Lorentz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The time is 15th Century Germany.King Rupert has died and his two sons are in conflict over the throne. Without a firm governing hand the nobles are in disarray--forming and breaking alliances, overtaking each others properties and incarcerating and killing opponents.

So, too, is the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire in chaos with three disparate Cardinals claiming to be the rightful Pope. As in the lay realm, the Church's clergy--from Bishops to lowly monks are anything but religious. There is corruption and sin at every turn. And there is collusion and unsavory alliances among the hierarchy of the priesthood and the strongest of the nobles.

Onto this stage steps the affluent Matthis Sharer and his beautiful daughter, Marie. As the story opens the Sharer home is being prepared for the celebration of Marie's betrothal to Rupert Splendidus, the son of a Duke and a Counsellor of the City of Constance. The marriage is seen by many to be an excellent match which will elevate Marie in society and bring Matthis' considerable wealth to Rupert over time. Marie is an innocent young girl, nervous at the prospect of marriage to this man she hardly knows but accepting of her obligations and duty to her father. A childhood friend, Michel, the seventh son of the local taverner, loves Marie but, being of such lowly stature with no chance of being able to support her, is hardly considered an eligible suitor.

Michel, who has heard rumors of Rupert's nepharious dealings in the town resulting in the ruin of many a family, warns Marie that this match is dangerous and will result in sorrow. Though this only increases Marie's apprehension she is powerless and must carry out the contract of marriage the next day.

Rupert, however, has other plans and as the legal documents have been signed the only way to break the marriage contract is to prove that Marie is not a virgin as claimed in one of these signed by her father. He states that Marie has slept with several men and that they will vouch to these accusations. Marie is arrested to await inspection by an honest local woman who can attest to her virginity. While being held overnight she is raped repeatedly, fails the inspection the next day and despite her hysterical accusations is whipped and taken from the city and left in a gully to fend for herself. She is forbidden to return to Constance under pain of incarceration and so begins the life of a wandering harlot, who spends five years in the company of other prostitutes traveling from festival and fair to another selling herself in order to eat and have a roof over her head during harsh winter.

Though the book is quite long and the above introduction covers only a very few of its pages, the story moves very quickly. It is populated by nobles and their wives, prostitutes with stories as varied as the areas of the country and personalities to match. The men with whom these women sleep are kind or cruel, generous or greedy, but those that are important in Marie's search for revenge are more highly developed characters as are several of the women with whom she travels. Though they are fictitious they walk through a landscape and history that is made more interesting by their presence.

The book cover calls this part of the Marie series and though the story could end satisfactorily at its end, I hope there is a series and look forward to following Marie into the next phase of her life story.

I received this book as a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for my review.

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