Historical author Sherry Jones is one of the most lyrical, poetic writers of historical and biographical fiction that exists. In all my reading of historical fiction, I’ve rarely seen anyone write sentences with the emotion, depth of feeling, and silky sounding, dripping with detail sentences as Sherry does. As well, her character development, of which usually one is many times in first person, is so dimensional that the historical people come vividly to life.
Her newest book, The Sharp Hook of Love, just sold me more on those points and is now one of my favorites of her titles. I highly recommend this book as much as I’d recommend a gorgeous sugary treat from the most prestige bakery on the streets of Paris. Except, though you’ll devour it just as much, you’ll want to forever keep this book and re-read often. It’s deliciously written, with lovely sentences and thought-provoking sections, wrapped up in a tale of love you’ll not soon forget.
The Sharp Hook of Love is her retelling of the story of Heloise, a young woman in twelfth-century Paris who lives with her Uncle Canon Fulbert after being abandoned by her mother to an abbey. She is on track, with her intellect, to be an abbess. She meets Abelard, a man who has given up his inheritance to teach philosophy and write poetry, becoming a distinguished and highly sought after scholar. He is quite taken with Heloise and becomes her educator, and as cunning as he is, he manipulates her power-hungry uncle into letting him board with them. Immediately, they fall in love, though physical love and intimacy is not allowed for either of them.
The story, in my opinion, though of Heloise and Abelard’s love affair, was really about Heloise. It’s told from her point of view and I can’t but feel sorry for all the abandonment, hurt, and controlling people in her life. She a young woman of great intellect and questions, yet her desire for men to see her as their equal, and love her for her brains and soul, frustrates her, because they remain in the flesh (while preaching against the flesh of course!). It would me too, in any age of time, but in this time, the only women who were allowed to be intelligent and educated or to educate, were nuns. How awful it must have been for her to know she could rival any man, hold her own in debate, be a scholar, and love her Church, but to have that would mean to giving up true love! What a price to pay. I really frown upon this period and the fact that men could have it all, while women could not. (Well, as long as they weren’t caught or announced their doings like Abelard!)
Sherry really deals with the issues of women’s independence, how religion ruled the day in the medieval times, the corrupt actions of men in religious roles, and the fear that permeated all that surrounded the Church, or wanted to be involved in the Church. She really took to task the rules and hypocrisy of the Church and how it effected both men and women during this time period.
I’m proud of the Heloise she wrote of, the one she made me feel connected to so deeply. I felt her pain, her remorse, her excitement, her frustration, her love. Sherry poured her very essence into this book, calling on deep life experiences of her own. Heloise has a need for love and acceptance, for understanding why her mother abandoned her and why her lover must do the same, and wants to know her true calling and who she is to be in life. I like that she knows what she wants and tries to make it happen, to follow her heart, even if others are too afraid to let her have her deepest desire. It’s amazing how being in love can make you feel inside and the lengths some will go to sustain it, and others, to destroy it. Though some feel her naive or manipulated, I think she always was smart enough to know, but choose love and forgiveness, and sometimes emotions, over realistic rules and procedures.
I don’t want to give away all the book, in case you haven’t read it, and in case you don’t know the story from history too, but Heloise wanted to love, to love Abelard and their child, more than she wanted to be a abbess or a prioress. She didn’t want the prestige, only love. But so many others created such strife with this romance, that it truly was a tale of star-crossed lovers. Overall, Heloise was right in her thinking, everyone loves differently, it doesn’t mean they don’t love at all. I loved how Sherry stayed true to the story that they both loved each other, just in different ways, and had various ways of showing it, sometimes causing much perplexing drama to the other. It was an awfully sad tale that really pulled at the heart strings, made me cry, and made me hurt for them. Sherry did a tremendous job writing the characters of Heloise of Abelard and created a lasting tribute to them of merit. I loved how she included excerpts from real letters they wrote each other, because it really tied it all together.
Her secondary characters were wisely and well-created, there is no flat in Sherry’s writing. The uncle I could visualize with clarity and he made me chuckle (with his heh-heh) and retch when he lifted his fist and used his booming voice. I enjoyed her personality created for Agnes, a friend to Heloise and Abelard both, and Jean and Pauline, the servants in her uncle’s home. As well, her settings were seeped in detail and description, yet in a way that molded into the story so as you hardly knew you were reading them, rather absorbing them. Her clothing, home, food, and other description also dripped with clear and distinct details that added such captivating allure to the novel.
The major essence of this book that I loved was that at the end, which though very sad of course, Sherry also showed how love can withstand anything and how things can come full circle. What they went through really did seem senseless. She showed in finality that Abelard loved Heloise, not only lusted after her. I LOVED how Sherry wrote the ending!! Love transcends all boundaries, even life. It was an amazing story of loyalty on both ends, and a joining together after all that had passed, which was emotional and hopeful all at the same time. It showed remorse, forgiveness, and the true joining together of souls. Love can heal hurt and pain, even if it also causes it. I guess the main question really is, how could God not accept true love between people, a love in its truest form, even if the laws of the Church, or family, ruled against it? For love is the most important part of life.
Once I opened this book, it had my heart skipping a beat from the start. I had an instant connection I rarely receive at first, and I was invested and up all night. As I stated at the start, I truly recommend this book to historical readers, but please do take care to open your heart, slow down your reading, savor her delectable sentences, and truly listen to this endearing, even though heart-wrenching, story. It’s beautifully written, as a song on the wind, a book you’d read with your lover on a sunny day, while having a picnic, a bottle of wine, a few stolen kisses, and nothing but the trees around you. Sherry’s retelling will stand the test of time.
The Sharp Hook of a Love, Synopsis
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books (October 7, 2014)
The first retelling of the passionate, twelfth-century love story since the discovery of 113 lost love letters between Heloise d’Argenteuil and Pierre Abelard—the original Romeo and Juliet.
“While I sleep you never leave me, and after I wake I see you, as soon as I open my eyes, even before the light of day itself.” —Abelard to Heloise
Among the young women of twelfth-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 Notre-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.
A sensual journey into twelfth century Paris. With a sharp eye for historical detail, Jones weaves an unforgettable, compelling tale about enduring love. (Lynn Cullen nationally bestselling author of Mrs. Poe)
Passion and treachery mingle in Sherry Jones’s explosive novel The Sharp Hook of Love. Wrenching and erotic, this is a grand romance in every sense of the word. (Mary Sharratt author of Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen)
Heloise is the sort of heroine you cannot help rooting for: brilliant and naïve, vulnerable and tough. The Sharp Hook of Love will have you up all night holding your breath as you turn each page. (Rebecca Kanner author of Sinners and the Sea)
Jones weaves history and passion in a tale full of emotional heft that questions what it means to truly love someone… (Kirkus Reviews)
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Sherry Jones, Biography~
Sherry Jones is an internationally best-selling author of five historical/biographical fiction books: The Sharp Hook of Love; Four Sisters, All Queens; White Heart; The Jewel of Medina, and The Sword of Medina.
She is now at work on a novel for Simon & Schuster/Gallery about the African-American dance sensation Josephine Baker. Sherry’s works have been translated into twenty languages. She lives in Spokane, Washington.