Mourning the loss of her beloved Grandfather, a once famed master weaver , Miriel is now facing a future she doesn't want-being forced into a convent so she is out of the way of her meek mother and volatile stepfather. Shipped off to St. Catherine's so she will not interfere with the running of the family business, Miriel is completely miserable at the convent. One day not far away, King John's baggage train is travelling through the marsh land. Nicholas de Caen, a nobleman whose family has drawn the ire of the King has been captured as a rebel and is travelling with the baggage train when a stroke of ill luck causes the train to be washed away by the tide. Nicholas survives along with a chest of King John's treasure which he hides before collapsing in a field near the convent. Miriel and another sister find him there and take the near death Nicholas to the convent to heal him.
Nicholas slowly gets better and leaves the abbey and Miriel decides this is her chance to flee. En route to their destination, while Nicholas is sleeping she makes off with half the retrieved treasure (including Empress Mathilda's crown!) and flees to start a new life never expecting to see Nicholas again. Some time later now leading totally different lives, Miriel and Nicholas are reunited-he as a prosperous sea captain and she as the owner of her own weaving business. Their love grows but they face many obstacles ahead-ones that they may or may not be able to overcome.
Once again Elizabeth Chadwick does a wonderful job of painting a picture of medieval life and times. It becomes clear from the get go that Miriel (and women living in this time period in general) had very few options in a male dominated world. It was either marry or be shipped off to a convent, stay in your place or suffer the brutal consequences. I felt sorry for Miriel being thrust into the convent where she clearly didn't belong and having to endure abuse from some of the nuns. When she finally does make her escape by imploring Nicholas to take her as far as the next big town so she can start life anew, I was really rooting for her. She uses her love of the weaving business and the secrets she learned from her grandfather to build her own little empire.
Unfortunately, the men surrounding Miriel do not seem to want to take no for an answer and she is soon forced to give up her new found freedom to keep a lid on her past. People finding out she is an escaped Nun would not be good for business. While not happy, it seems Miriel has at least found contentment with wealthy businessman Robert but then she crosses paths with Nicholas again, feelings are rekindled, and she realizes Robert is not all she thought he was either.
Honestly at this point in the book I was kind of conflicted as to whether I wanted Miriel and Nicholas to follow their hearts. Miriel had built her own life, Nicholas his, and other characters I had grown to like were going to get hurt in the fallout. As true natures were revealed and tragedies occurred I did slowly warm up the idea. It was a little shaky there for about a hundred pages or so. The pacing of the book picked up quite a bit in the latter half and by this point I had to find out what was going to happen to everyone and could not put the book down. I must say I really enjoyed how this one played out. One thing I am scratching my head over is the title of the book. The Marsh King's Daughter? There was a marsh involved but the main character was not royalty at all and the royal in this book (King John) was just a bit player so I'm not really sure where in the world that title came from. Other than that this was yet another lovely blend of history and romance from an author who is fast becoming one of my favorites.
I got this book from the Grand Haven Library