Blood Rose Angel is the third captivating episode in Liza Perrat's The Bone Angel series, a collection of novels based in the small village of Lucie-sur-Vionne in the south of France, whose common thread is an angel pendant carved from bone, believed by some to be an ancient holy relic, passed down from mother to daughter through generations of women across several centuries.
After Spirit of Lost Angels, set in the 18th century during the French revolution, and Wolfsangel, which took place in World War II when Lucie-sur-Vionne was in Occupied Territory, Blood Rose Angel takes us further back in time to the 14th century, when the Black Death was just starting its treacherous journey across Europe. (Each book can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel though.)
As always in The Bone Angel books, the main protagonist is a complex, strong female character. After Victoire and Céleste, it's Midwife Héloïse's turn to take centre stage. Being a midwife in those times was a vocation that required a thick skin and an unswerving sense of duty. While she can be the toast of Le Cochon Tué alehouse when all goes well, it is easy for the midwife, with her healing skills and herbal remedies, to be branded a witch when things go wrong, especially with her mysterious pendant that she uses during childbirth to help give strength to the mothers-to-be.
Héloïse is a timeless character and in many ways a modern heroine. By banishing men from the room while a child is being born, she takes control in a world where women have little power. In her own home too, she is the one calling the shots, as her husband, a master stonemason, has been away in Italy for the past two years working on a a cathedral in Florence. When he returns, they have to find a new balance and harmony for their family unit, in a village and indeed a world that is being mercilessly ravaged by a new pestilence that many believe to be a punishment from God.
Blood Rose Angel offers a fascinating look at life (and death) for the common people in the 1340's, both before and after the plague. Just as women had to step up to the mark and fill the men's shoes during the second world war, the Black Death marked a turning point for women who often had to take over running the family business when the men of the house died. As a former midwife herself, Liza Perrat manages to create in Héloïse a complex, appealing and realistic character who is both morally convincing and historically accurate. As with all good historical fiction, the novel combines a gripping, masterfully-written story of friendship and family strife, with a well-researched, fact-based backdrop in a particularly tumultuous moment in history.
Star rating : 4.5/5
Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to write an honest review.