Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl. While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.
When I first picked this one up, I was immediately reminded of Catherine, Called Birdy, which was one of my favorite books as a middle schooler. It has the same tone to it, and the way Cecily talks reminds me a lot of Catherine. Cecily, however, thinks quite highly of herself and is rude and arrogant. She remains sympathetic somehow, maybe because she’s a girl who lost her mother, or because she’s just been uprooted from all she knows. She looks down on the Welsh, worries about being murdered in the street, and is horrified that servants dare look her in the eye. When she is forced to go to Baron Court for speaking harshly to a guard, she starts seeing that maybe things aren’t so great here for the Welsh. Notice I said “starts.” She still treats everyone like crap.
Cecily knows very little about life in Wales before she showed up, while Gwenhwyfar knows too much. Cecily is courted by a burgess; Gwenhwyfar is starving. Cecily worries about having enough gowns; Gwenhwyfar’s cow is repossessed. When Gwenhwyfar’s brother, Gruffydd, begins working at Cecily’s home, Cecily seems on a mission to ruin him because he dared look her in the eye. I have to admit, I hated Cecily just as much as I liked her, which says a lot to how well-written this one is. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster of emotion: from sympathy to disgust to horror to sadness.
When, as the summary says, things reach their breaking point, I was horrified. Cecily suffers a lot, not that I begrudge those who hurt her. She didn’t realize what she was doing, but she deserves to be punished for how she treated the Welsh, just maybe not they way Gwenhwyfar carries it out. I was so relieved when I realized that there wouldn’t be a love story between Cecily and Gruffydd. The power imbalance would just be too much to overcome. It would be gross and creepy to read about. I’m all about rough ships, but not this one. This wasn’t about romance at all. It was raw historical fiction from both sides of this horrible war. I loved it. It was amazingly well-written, plus it was just such an easy read. This one is well worth your while, and I really think you should check it out!