Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Taking the Cross by Charles Gibson


Taking the Cross

[historical fiction]
by 
Charles Gibson
Release date: October 1, 2014
at Köehler Books
269 pages
ISBN: 1940192277
***

SYNOPSIS


Taking the Cross is a historical novel by Charles Gibson about the little-known crusade launched by the Roman Catholic Church against fellow Christians in France, a time of great religious turmoil and conflict.
In the Middle Ages not all crusades were fought in the Holy Land. A two-pronged threat to the Catholic Church was growing within Christendom itself and Pope Innocent III called for the crusade against heresy to eliminate both the Albigenses and Valdenses, two movements that did not adhere to Church orthodoxy.
Andreas, a knight who longs to go on crusade to the Holy Land, finds himself fighting against one in his French homeland. While Andreas wages war for the lives and religious freedom of his people, a battle rages within his soul.
Eva, a young woman of a new religious order, the Beguines, discovers a secret message within a letter about the death of her father in the Holy Land. As she learns more of her father, she is forced to confront the profound and perilous spiritual inheritance he has bequeathed to her. A legacy for which she must fight.
Hearing of the feats of Andreas, Eva senses her inheritance may lead her to him.
Filled with battles of the flesh and the spirit, Taking the Cross reveals a passionate aspect of Medieval times where some fought ardently for the freedom of others. [provided by the author]

Attention reviewers: some medieval warfare violence
My Review:
Four Stars
Copy received from France Book Tours for an honest review
I really enjoyed "Taking the Cross" by Charles Gibson.  There were so many layers to this story that it made it for a gratifying read.  I really liked the historical context that it specifically discusses.  I really learned so much that I had no idea about! I had heard of the Crusades and thought that I knew enough about them but I had no idea that they occurred in France.  It was my first time hearing about the Albigensian crusades.  Eva and Andres gave this story heart and soul.  They were both such interesting and complex characters.  The dynamic of the story line was perfectly intertwined with the history of the crusades.  I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more in the series!

Excerpt
“I brought the wood you requested.” Eva handed him the piece.
“Ah yes. Pera wood,” said the Painter, reaching for the rectangular object. He examined the rich brown color of the smooth-grained timber. “To simply behold such a tree, one would not know the beauty or value of its wood.” His finger moved the length of the wood grain. “Do you have supply enough for the choir, sacristy, and altars? They will require perhaps forty more pieces of this size.” The Painter set down the wood, turned to his stone jars.
“The ten trees nearest the valley of the Rhône have reached good size this season. They should yield twice that bounty.”
“Splendid. His grace, the bishop of Avignon, will pay handsomely for the adornments. You must cut the wood now and let it dry over winter.” The Painter stopped closing the stone jars with pigments, cocked his head sideways, and narrowed his eyes. “There must be no cracking as in la cathedrale in Arles.”
Eva clucked her tongue once and let indignity fill her voice. “That was but one piece, and three years past at that.”
The Painter took a step back, held up his hands in conciliation, color-etched palms outward. “I know this, and you repaired it admirably, dear Eva. I examined it anew on my recent journey to Arles and it remains whole, have no fear.” He closed his right hand except for his index finger and pointed it at her. “In Avignon, there must be no such failing.” He poked her thrice in the shoulder. It had ever been his way of chastening. “The city is special to Rome in ways I do not comprehend. Popes enjoy making sojourn there and celebrating mass. Success in la cathedrale Notre Dame de Doms will expand our good name and our business.You most certainly will earn your coinage this time.”
“The one exception notwithstanding, do not I always surpass expectation?” She gave the most winsome smile she could muster, let the corners of her lips droop to a frown. “Although you receive all recognition.”
Her eyes glanced casually about the room, but her mind was working like a thresher, trying to sift out what felt different about this place, this large villa occupied by only one man. Another presence was here. She could sense it. Whether corporeal or ethereal, such knowledge eluded her.
“I never reveal the name of my carver and my customers do not inquire,” replied the Painter, seemingly oblivious to Eva’s visual scanning of his studio.
“I never know who would approve or disapprove of a woman supplying the ornate carving of a masculine cathedral or monastery,” he stated with a broad wave of his hand. He proceeded to bend over the table and blow lightly on the still drying rosettes.
“Slender fingers make the most intricate designs and latticework,” replied Eva, collapsing into a black leather chair. Exhaling, she turned her full attention toward the Painter, a squat man with powerful limbs, a wild shock of black hair and penetrating, hazel-colored eyes.
Her thoughts returned to marching armies. “If the Moors again crossed the Pyrenees for Carcassonne, you would surely know it before this lowly Beguine,” she said coyly, as she turned one corner of her mouth slightly upward. “You claim I was your primary informant of the armies from the North.” She found herself questioning at that moment why she had told the Painter the same day of what she had seen, but had waited until this day to tell Claris. Had she somehow known Claris would ask of her father? “I may have been the first to tell you, but I doubt the singular one. Secrets give not health to the bones, nor the soul.”
Raising her eyebrows, she slowly allowed her lips to form a wide grin. She loved to knock people off-balance emotionally, leaving them uncertain how to respond to her. It gave opportunity for her to supply the answer to the dilemma she had created with the right word, or phrase, or compliment.
“Unburden yourself of any dark knowledge you carry my Painter. Even as you mock me your eyes betray you.”
“And your eyes bedevil me, my handsome Beguine, for I could not paint anything so beautiful if I practiced until blessed Jhesu returns.” In past days, he would have smiled in an explosion of light like only her Painter could do and they would both laugh, even as she pretended not to be moved by the compliment. But the smile was faint, the light absent, and he averted his eyes, which was a scarce thing indeed.
Eva followed his eyes with her own and moved to meet his turning gaze. “I know that blessed Jhesu has called you into many business dealings with bishops, men who are not always discreet with the knowledge they possess.” She shaped her slightly playful expression into one of earnestness. “I implore you, sir, do not speak in riddles. What news have you of the war against heresy? For that is what it must be.”
The Painter’s eyes stopped looking away and met her gaze. For a moment, he observed her determined expression. His look was as those who had studied her face, seeking knowledge of how a lady with such fair skin had dusky eyes and hair. She had been told once they were a shade of brown so rich as to be but a whisper from ebony.
Yet the Painter knew of her lineage of a pale German father and dark-haired Provençal mother. His eyes seemed to be probing beyond flesh and bone, as if to assess the tenacity of her soul. It felt as a test and was unnerving. She matched his gaze as one would return a blow in a tournament. A half smile lifted one corner of his mouth and moved his eyes. Good. “The gift of discerning is truly yours. You speak of Bishops with secrets to tell, and you are right, as always with such things.” The Painter hoisted the pear wood once more and turned it in his hands and studied it as if it held a mystery beyond fathoming. After a moment, he lifted his eyes off the timber and fixed them squarely on her dark soul windows. “There is one, a Lombart, who has journeyed a fortnight from Siena with news. Let him unburden himself to you, Eva. He carries tales of your paire for your ears alone.”

***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Charles Gibson first started reading about history and geography when he was seven.
He wrote his first short story at the age of nine.
He continues to read and write whenever he can.
Charles has spent many years researching the Middle Ages and the Crusades,
and has traveled to the Languedoc region in France.
He has combined the passions of history and geography and prose to finish his first novel, Taking the Cross.
It takes place during the summer of 1209 in France.
Charles Gibson has previously written for the inspirational book series God Allows U-Turns
as well as for a Minnesota newspaper.
He also works as a project manager for a medical device company.
He also loves travel writing,
and would like to start his own magazine some day about travel as a journey through life.
The dominant theme of his writing is freedom.
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free;
therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
He lives in Minnesota with his lovely wife and energetic sons.
He can be reached at cg [at] charlesgibson [dot] net
Visit his website. Follow him on FacebookTwitter , Google +
Send him your questions and comments.

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