Book Review: Margaret Frazer’s Squire’s Tale

Posted March 19, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Margaret Frazer’s Squire’s Tale

Squire's Tale

on December 1, 2001 and has 288 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Tenth in the Dame Frevisse medieval mystery series revolving around Dame Frevisse, a nun in a Benedictine order in 1442 England.

My Take

I do love how easy it is to sink into the time period in Frazer’s Dame Frevisse stories. The language, the architecture, the food, the dress, the manners, and the legal system when it comes to marriage and wards.

Thank god for today’s customs as I would have hated being a commodity to be traded and used. I believe it’s this attitude against women and men that made me so uncomfortable with this story. It’s excellent, but it made my heart race with fear for Katherine and pity for the younger Robert. Then Lady Blaunche’s reactions to that first death…oh, god. Madness can be universal. Fortunately, peoples’ reaction to it is also universal.

Robert Fenner is between a rock and a hard place: in love with Katherine, his ward, but married to the self-absorbed, demanding Lady Blaunche. It’s a sorry household, and we see the raw underside with the anger and greed, the love and the hate.

Lord, that woman is such a spoiled brat, contaminating those around her. Destroying lives, destroying herself.

The Story

A failed abduction and the worry over the Allesleys’ demands have caused Robert to decide to place Katherine with the sisters at St. Frideswide’s to keep her out of harm’s way. And provides Frazer with the opportunity to interject Dame Frevisse into the Fenners’ lives.

Forced to choose between marriage and being turned out into the streets, Lady Blaunche seemed the better alternative at the time, but it’s been a difficult number of years, now culminating in her insistence on keeping a dower estate that doesn’t belong to her as well as replaying a variation on how she originally trapped Robert, only with Katherine.

It’s Lady Blaunche who arrives to collect Katherine, and she requests Dame Claire’s aid in returning home, which means another sister must accompany them. A very fortunate turn of events as it happens when Dame Frevisse’s detecting skills are required.

The Characters

The scrivening business is slowly pulling St. Frideswide‘s out of the hole it fell into with Domina Alys at the helm. Domina Elisabeth is still in charge, and she, Dames Perpetua, Johane, and Frevisse are busily finishing a commission. Dame Emma and Sister Amicia are helping Dame Juliana in the garden. Abbot Gilberd, Elisabeth’s brother, has sent them a wealthy novice, Sister Margrett, and the Domina has also enticed a couple of students, Helen and Lucy, into being schooled with the sisters. Sister Cecely fled back into the world. Dame Claire and Sister Thomasina are in charge of the medicinals. Father Henry is still the priory’s priest.

We first met the honorable Robert Fenner in The Novice’s Tale, 1, when he fell in love with Sister Thomasine. Lady Blaunche was widowed, again, and took a fancy to Robert seven years ago. She’s the type who must have it all her way and will work herself into a frenzy to ensure it. Emelye and Avys are her waiting-women; Mistress Avys is teaching Katherine about herbs and their uses. Benedict is Blaunche’s eighteen-year-old [now] son from her second marriage. Their children are Robin, John, and Tacine, a nickname for Thomasine, with whom Benedict gets on very well. Katherine Stretton, an orphaned heiress, is Robert and Blaunche Fenner’s ward; Mistress Dionisia is her waiting-woman.

Master Geoffrey Hannys is the household clerk. Jack and Matthew are two of Robert’s men who guard Lady Blaunche and Katherine on their journeys. Eudo is a watchman. Master Skipton is the steward. Father Laurence is the household priest. Gil is Robert’s manservant.

Ned Verney is Robert’s friend. Ralph Verney is Ned’s younger brother and a lawyer in the Court of Common Pleas at Westminster. Sir Walter is the head of the Fenner family. Master Humphrey is the bailiff in charge of one of Sir Walter’s properties.

Will Hayton tried to abduct Katherine; the Haytons figure it’s safe to thwart the Fenners as Sir Walter’s star seems to be waning.

The Sir Lewis Allesley is demanding the manor of Northend back; it should never have been part of Blaunche’s dower. Drew is Sir Lewis’ heir, likely to marry Katherine. Masters Durant, Hotoft, and Fielding are three of the six arbiters.

The Cover and Title

The cover is split between a subdued red on the right and an elongated graphic of Brinskep Manor with a body visible through the window.

The title refers to Robert, for it is The Squire’s Tale.