There is a reason why Silken Threads (published in 1999) by Patricia Ryan won the 2000 RITA award for best historical novel. It's good! Oh sure, when I reread the book I did notice some anachronistic terms; however the book is so steeped in medieval atmosphere that I chose to ignore them.
This story takes place in 1165, a time period woefully neglected. We have Graeham Fox, a bastard soldier of fortune, and Joanna Chapman, a widow and a down-on-her-luck silk merchant. Here's the quick plot: Graeham is sent to London on a mission to rescue a woman from her husband. Along the way he is set upon by a bunch of brigands and has the crap beat out of him. He is rescued by Joanna's brother Hugh and taken to her house to recover. Well, as luck would have it for Romanceland, he suffers some broken ribs and a broken leg which requires him to stay at Joanna's house for two months. It is at this point, and this is a really early point, that the story becomes really good. You see, Joanna's house is located behind the house of the woman he is to rescue and from a window, Graeham can keep an eye on the coming and goings of that house. Anything ringing a bell yet? For all of you who have watched Hitchcock's Rear Window, you should be hearing a giant clanging in your brain... because this story is a take-off of that wonderful movie.
Neither one of the main characters are aristocratic, and Graeham has ambitions that make a HEA very hard to come by. The romance is based on lies and distrust but the characters that travel by Graeham's window are what makes this tale a better than normal romance. What makes this book really great are the characters that share the pages with Graeham and Joanna. There's the quite sympathetic leper, Thomas; the whore; the shopkeepers; and London. Yes, London... in this book, all of the rich textures of London are there, including the smells.
This is one of my favorite books, and if I have any complaints, it would be the quick wrapping up of all the stumbling blocks that Ms. Ryan set up along the way. And, I wish that she still wrote historicals. I followed her Nell Sweeney books and read her Louisa Burton's, but I loved her historical writing the best. If you have never read a book by Ms. Ryan, I'd recommend going to the library and checking this one out.
Time/Place: Medieval England
Sensuality Rating: Warm, with a hot bath scene.