December 7, 2008

The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan

I received an ARC copy of The Book of Love from Simon & Schuster Canada and it will be released in hardcover on March 10, 2009. The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan is the second book in The Magdalene Line trilogy. The first book in the trilogy, The Expected One, focused on Maureen Paschal’s adventure to discover the lost Gospel of Mary Magdalene and growing realization she is an “Expected One”. The second story in the trilogy begins as Maureen is on her book tour. 

Fresh from her successful hunt for the long-hidden scrolls written by Mary Magdalene, journalist Maureen Paschal receives a strange package in the mail – containing what looks to be an ancient document written in Latin and signed in code. Maureen discovers that the document was written by an extraordinary woman who history has overlooked – or covered up, Matilda of Tuscany, and it demands the return of Matilda’s “most precious books and documents”. As the discoverer of Mary Magdalene’s gospel, Maureen immediately recognizes a new search has begun. Soon, she finds herself in a race across Italy and France, where new dangers await her and her lover Sinclair as they begin to uncover secrets and shine new light on the hidden corners of Christianity. 
As Maureen learns more about Matilda, a warrior countess who was secretly married to a Pope who joined her, not only in bed, but also in using the Last Gospel of Jesus to form a radical new kind of church, she begins to see the eerie connections between herself and Matilda, connections she must unravel quickly if she is to stop the wrong people from finding The Book of Love and hiding it forever.
Combining expert research with Dazzling plot twists, The Book of Love is sure to thrill readers as they follow Maureen’s search for clues through the world’s greatest art, architecture, and history, until a potentially fatal encounter reveals The Book of Love to her – and to us. 
I thought The Expected One leaned more toward the mystery/suspense genre, while The Book of Love presents itself as largely historical fiction. It is an ode to a little-known but vital woman in history, Matilda of Tuscany, and a quest for the truth. As a large portion of the novel is portraying Matilda, I did not get as strong a sense of Maureen’s character that I did in the first book. In fact I was much more engaged with Matilda, as Maureen seemed to be wavering between making choices, decisions. Parts of Maureen’s story I was frustrated with, first that, as she should have already experienced theft of her belongings and attempts on her life, that she would have been more aware of plots against her and have the intelligence to avoid them. Second, her life is in ways paralleling Matilda’s, but Matilda is a warrior and Maureen has little shown similar strength of will. I was most riveted with Maureen’s story when she was unraveling all the clues to the truth about The Book of Love and the secrets of Chartres Cathedral. 
The Book of Love is surprising, evocative and eye opening. There are many layers and interwoven elements to the story, probably more than what can be grasped in the first reading of the book (the author herself suggests this in Acknowledgements). I have to applaud Kathleen McGowan for the shear amount of historical content that had to have been researched and the creativity required to present the story in its three-way format of Maureen’s present day journey, Matilda of Tuscany’s historical diary and the writings from the Book of Love. 

In reading this series I would suggest keeping an open mind and an open heart. If you loved books such as The Red Tent, Labyrinth, The Rossetti Letter, The Historian or The Thirteenth Tale, I would definitely recommend this series. 
The third and final book will be called The Poet Prince, the story of Maureen’s other half, Berenger Sinclair. I definitely will be re-reading the first two books when The Poet Prince is published. 

Kathleen McGowan’s website:

My Rating: 4.0

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