Focussing on the bride, Ms. Rees introduces us to a young woman from Bruges caught between duty and her first crush. Giovanna Cenami's father arranges a marriage for her with a business acquaintance at the same time she falls for a charming young nobleman who works for Van Eyck. It turns out the latter is a member of the family with whom her own has feuded for years. Can she trust him?
Though Giovanna seems a little modern in some of her ideas, it is easy to sympathize with her plight, while Signor Arnolfini is an understated hero in every sense. Ms. Rees's other characters are equally well-drawn and brimming with personality, moving in a world depicted accurately through small details and slightly formal language.
My only quibble came with a violent scene towards the end that struck me as over written and not in keeping with the overall tone of the book. That aside, I believe readers will enjoy this fast-paced and historically authentic tale set in 15th century Flanders.
© Teresa Eckford, 2005
This review first appeared in the November 2005 issue of The Historical Novels Review