Review: The Sharp Hook of Love + Giveaway

Posted 20 October, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 5 Comments



The Sharp Hook of Love
By: Sherry Jones
Format/Source: Paperback courtesy of the publishers as part of The Sharp Hook of Love blog tour by France Book Tours

“To forbid the fruit only sweetens its flavor”

Among the young women of 12th century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands apart. Extraordinarily educated and quick-witted, she is being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess in the service of God.

But with one encounter, her destiny changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster at the Nôtre Dame Cloister School, is acclaimed as one of the greatest philosophers in France. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet despite the legions of women swooning over his poetry and dashing looks, he is captivated by the brilliant Heloise alone. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds to a forbidden love affair, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty, and ambition.

Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ own words into an evocative account of desire and sacrifice. As intimate as it is erotic, as devastating as it is beautiful, The Sharp Hook of Love is a poignant, tender tribute to one of history’s greatest romances, and to love’s power to transform and endure.

I had long heard of Heloise and Abelard and how their love story was one of passion, intellect, and forbidden. We all know of Romeo & Juliet’s tragedy, Tristan and Isole’s story, of Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s affair, but there’s something about Heloise and Abelard’s story that’s intriguing–is it because they were both scholars? Because they were bound for a life of service in the church? I was delighted to learn that their story was brought to life in a historical fiction novel, which also prompted me to finally get around to reading their letters just before reading this book. This novel was released on 7 October 2014.

Thank you to France Book Tours for letting me take part in the book tour for this novel. I am also hosting a giveaway at the end of this review for a chance to win a copy of this novel (open internationally!).

Also, be sure to check out this post for an interview with the author!

Excerpt

Here’s a brief excerpt from the book!:

“When I lifted my gaze so shyly to his face, did he behold the girl dancing inside me? Could he hear the music playing so sweetly? At night, alone in the study of my uncle’s house, reading the Porphyry assigned to me and writing my arguments, I would hear that tune begin quietly, as if played by a distant piper, then increase until it had filled me to overflowing and drowned out all thoughts but those of Abelard. How intently he gazed into my eyes as I spoke, pouring out my very soul to him in our long talks. Who had ever listened to anything that I said? Who had ever responded with smiles and compliments? With him, I became utterly myself as never before-and, to my astonishment, when I looked into his eyes like mirrors reflecting myself back to me, I admired the person I beheld there. Thinking of him, bathed in that sweet music, I would take up a new tablet and write verses to accompany that tune-words not of feigned love, as in our letters, but, of the elation that had seized me on the day we met, and which aroused my spirit more with every moment I spent in his presence.” — Page 26

Review

The Sharp Hook of Love invites the reader into the story of Abelard and Heloise and the world they live in from the very first page. I was a little surprised that the story started with their first encounter as opposed to introducing Heloise only (as she is the narrator of the story), but it’s such a wonderful opening and it shows how interconnected their lives became from the moment they physically meet. I was also surprised how quickly we see their relationship develop as I was expecting a slow burn, but the pacing was nonetheless great and in keeping with all of the emotions coursing between the lovers.

Initial impressions aside, I love how the story is narrated from Heloise’s perspective as her backstory and circumstances were interesting and has potential for drama and obstacles (namely in the form of her uncle, Fulbert (insert groan here)), not to mention a bit of mystery and intrigue (who was her father? Why did her mother abandon her and left plans that she be an abbess someday?). Through Heloise’s perspective, the reader also gains a sense of what it’s like for women living in this time period; as a woman from the modern day, to say it’s frustrating doesn’t even begin to express the sort of things that Heloise and other women in this story go through. Heloise is also a very intelligent and thoughtful woman, and while her opportunities for furthering her education and making a career out of her brilliance are few, the education and discourse that she was able to receive is still impressive. The reader is also exposed to the prevalent ideas and philosophers that were studied at the time, which were all really informative.

As for her relationship with Abelard…the feels! Her love for Abelard, coupled with quotes at the start of each chapter from their letters, is really all-compassing, passionate, sweet, even as they go through the ups and downs, the moments of passion and the moments of hardship and separation and all the other trials that go through. It’s honestly a bit of a difficult read, knowing how their story pans out, and all of the problems they have to face along the way (sometimes I wanted to smack Abelard, but it also goes to show the gender politics at play were during this time period), but it goes to show how much the author has brought out in both characters for me to care about them. And in the end it’s utterly heartbreaking how these two people who found each other, respect and admire each other’s intellect and opinions, and who love each other despite of the other’s faults and circumstances, just can’t live the rest of their lives together and in peace (try as I might to wish them a happy ending, haha).

I do admit, there was one particular scene that happened maybe a third or halfway through the novel that shocked and upset me and that was uncomfortable to read. I trekked on reading because I had grown to care for the characters and how everything turned out for them, but it did affect my reading experience for the rest of the novel.

Despite of that particular scene, The Sharp Hook of Love does a lovely job in bringing Abelard and Heloise’s story to a narrative outside of the letters that have survived between them. Secondary characters that populate this novel were also interesting, from the loyal Jean to the brutish Fulbert, and medieval French life–both in the city and in the countryside–is wonderfully brought to life through these pages. You may have to be in a particular mood to read their story (lest you end up flailing over their circumstances and what drives them apart in the end), but it’s a deeply-felt romance that also raises some interesting and philosophical questions about the nature and impact of love.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

ABOUT SHERRY JONES
SHERRY JONES is also the author of Four Sisters, All Queens; The Sword of Medina; and her controversial, internationally bestselling debut, The Jewel of Medina. You can send her an email at sherry [at] authorsherryjones [dot] com

She lives in Spokane, Washington.

official website / @ Facebook / @ Twitter

Now that you’ve read my review of the novel, here’s the giveaway for a chance to win a copy (print or digital copy for winners residing in US/Canada, and a digital copy for international winners)! Please fill out the following Rafflecopter below to enter; this contest is open internationally. Contest closes on 27 October 2014. Ten (10) winners will be drawn and contacted by the book blog tour organiser. Please use a valid email address.

Bonne chance!!!

Many thanks again to France Book Tours for hosting this book and for letting me read this book as part of the tour.

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5 Responses to “Review: The Sharp Hook of Love + Giveaway”

  1. thanks for your thorough review. If the scene that made you uncomfortable is chapter 7 in part 3, the author HAD to insert it, this is the big thing everyone remembers about Abelard, apart from his philosophy. I’ll never forget the day I was sitting between rows of a library, reading about them, and suddenly discovered what happened. I literally started to cry for him and them.

  2. Thank you for the review! Of course, writers of historical fiction are constrained in our plotting if we are intent on being faithful to history. Heloise and Abelard’s tale is not an escapist read with an HEA, but an honest portrayal of a true, and heartbreaking — but ultimately uplifting — love story. It’s this honesty that has garnered rave reviews from the likes of Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal, and that is endearing readers daily to THE SHARP HOOK OF LOVE. The tale of Heloise and Abelard is truly unforgettable in its passion, complexity, and depth, and that’s why we are still talking about them nearly 1000 years later.

    If your readers would like a sneak preview of the first two chapters or an ebook of Heloise and Abelard’s elegant early love letters, they can get them at http://authorsherryjones.com/swag. Thank you again for featuring THE SHARP HOOK OF LOVE!

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