Beloved Besieged is a romantic novel set in southern France during the Hundred Years War coinciding with a period of turbulence when France started to regain lost ground, especially around the duchy of Gascony, ruled by Edward, the Prince of Wales, later to be known as The Black Prince.
Ms Munday has done her research and the scenes involving army life are the best. She captures the experience of a soldier at war and the camaraderie between soldiers very well. It feels honest, not at all dramatic, and very pleasing.
I was mostly attracted to this novel by the promise of a portrayal of the aforementioned Black Prince and it delivered on its promise. We probably hear about him more than we see him, but we see enough of him to know him and understand him, and again the research is spot on and that made me smile.
The main characters are generally engaging and likeable, the villains are villainous and we are rooting for the right people and feel the right amount of fear for them and indignation on their behalf. Joscelin is a soldier first and foremost and he thinks like a soldier and a landowner and lord of an estate.
Elaine is the daughter of a wealthy stonemason but the plot hole is how a humble stonemason amassed riches of any kind. It is never quite satisfactorily explained although his wealth is necessary to the plot. The events that lead to her being with Joscelin are well documented and quite credible, as is the reaction of everyone to that union. All very good.
However, I don't feel that the romance is as credible as the rest; it doesn't really ring true. Joscelin's behaviour is a bit odd, on many occasions, but love is blind and if Elaine is fine with it, then so will the reader be. It is their story after all. The fight scenes are not quite brutal or descriptive enough (although some readers prefer a lack of detail). Maybe Ms Munday needs to read some early Bernard Cornwell, borrow some ruthlessness and pump up the siege of Limoges to more than a passing phrase. But she doesn't shy from them and that is in itself admirable. A touch of editing to reduce a little repetitiveness that renders the prose a touch naive in places wouldn't go amiss either.
But overall, a fine read, a worthy addition to the, thankfully, growing corps of work that finally tackles the Hundred Years War, and with a super, evocative cover, I would happily read this again.