Norman England has little to celebrate in the new year of 1140. The country is immersed in a bitter civil war from which no one is immune, including Hugh de Leon, heir to an earldom. His Uncle Guy has arranged his marriage to the spoiled daughter of the newly named Earl of Lincoln. It is a merger that will combine two of the land's largest fortunes -- and give the de Leons unparalleled power. Hugh's heart, however, belongs to the Lady Cristen, and he will do everything he can -- including eloping -- to make her his own.
His plan is simple enough-until the new Earl of Lincoln is murdered, and a friend of Hugh's is accused of the crime. Though he has little time in which to foil his uncle's arrangement, Hugh cannot see an innocent man wrongly hanged. To save his friend and marry the woman he loves, Hugh must work fast to track down a deadly -- and wily -- serpent. But when he grabs it by the tail, can he avoid its poisonous bite?
Twelfth-century England provides the setting for Wolf's second medieval mystery (following No Dark Place), which serves up history and intrigue in equal measure. Stephen is the English king, but his crown and his kingdom are prey to shifting allegiances. Hugh de Leon, heir to the earl of Wiltshire, has given his heart and pledge to lovely Cristen Haslin, daughter of Lord Sommerford. But such a marriage does nothing to benefit Guy de Leon, earl of Wiltshire. Instead, the earl has arranged for Hugh to marry the lovely Elizabeth de Beaut , heiress to the earl of Lincoln. Elizabeth, in turn, is determined to refuse Hugh in favor of another. The murder of Gilbert de Beaut , earl of Lincoln, casts suspicion directly on one of Hugh's supporters, and indirectly on Hugh himself. As Hugh strives to prove the innocence of that supporter, he finds himself at odds with the sheriff of Lincoln's son, a foe since childhood. Handsome knights and strong, beautiful ladies perform here against some absorbing set pieces, including a game that resembles a huge rugby scrum and a trial as held by England's chief justiciar. Bold and bright characters, plenty of romance and a healthy dash of mystery and murder enliven this engaging novel.