The Orphans of Tolosa: Book 3
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
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.
With The Orphans of Tolosa trilogy, author Susanne Dunlap sheds light on life in the 13th century. The focal point is southwestern France, which was known as the Midi, a place rich with history. Midi also happens to be an area fraught with political and religious unrest.
The latest installment, Voices in the Mist, is designed to be read as a standalone book. Rather than serving as merely the grand finale to the storyline that begins with Listen to the Wind and continues in The Spirit of Fire, the third book is the origin story. It actually begins before the first book and ends a year after the second one. While I read the series in sequence, I found Voices in the Mist to be my favorite since it addressed the “why” by providing a comprehensive approach to the story.
Throughout history, we’ve seen the battles that have been waged for religious freedom. In the 13th century, the Catholics considered the Cathars to be heretics and vowed to wipe them out, even if it meant burning them at the stake. The author tells the story using young Bruna de Gansard, who runs away to escape an arranged marriage. Her adventures lead to a pilgrimage where she must hide her faith in order to follow a path toward nobility.
The author’s attention to detail is reflected throughout the book, from the clothes Bruna wears to the danger posed by Fraire Martin. Bruna’s reaction to learning her infant daughter was betrothed to a viscount and would be cared for by his family until old enough for marriage was heartbreaking. I found that scene to be especially well written. As a main character, Bruna evolves throughout the story, which makes the ending more poignant.
To gain the full experience of this saga, I highly recommend reading the books in sequence. If that’s not possible, then Voices in the Mist will provide an engaging look at the time period and the religious battle taking place.
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.
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