I picked up this book more or less by accident on the bargain table, never having heard of author Cecelia Holland before. It’s a historical epic using fictional characters against a real background, when Norman knights occupied eleventh-century Italy. I usually love falling into a book set in a time and place I didn’t know anything about, but this one was a bit of a disappointment. Maria is betrothed at fourteen to Richard, even though she prefers his younger brother Roger. Richard and Maria have a tempestuous, stormy marriage, and Maria eventually emerges as a strong-willed woman in her own right, exercising power and influence in the ways that were available to women in the medieval world (mostly working behind the scenes and influencing the men around her). This all sounds like a great premise, but for whatever reason the book never fully engaged me. The most telling thing I can say about it is that I read it a couple of months ago, and looking back I have no idea how it ended — I remember a few events from the story but not where it ended up at all. Clearly, it wasn’t the right book for me, even though the time period is fascinating and the character had the potential to be so.