The Jester by James Patterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hugh whose early life was spent traveling with an itinerant band of goliards (a group of clergy who wrote bibulous, satirical Latin poetry in the 12th and 13th centuries) after his Mother (a cleric's mistress) died, now runs an inn with his wife Sophie in a small French village.
When the miller's son is viciously drowned by Norcross (acting for Baldwin) Hugh determines to fight with Stephen in the Crusade and win his freedom so he will not have to fear the same thing happening to his future children. The Crusades are a brutal nasty affair and the Tafurs are viewed with fear and disgust by everyone including their allies. Hugh decides to desert and return home with a few small souvenirs of his trip including a staff. When he gets home he finds that Sophie gave birth to his son during his absence but that raiders dressed in black and with a black cross threw his young son into a fire and carted Sophie off. Believing it to be the work of Baldwin Hugh sets out for Treille in hopes of finding Sophie in the dungeons and freeing her. Before he gets there he is attacked by a boar and Emilie finds him near death. She has him taken to Boree and nurses him back to health.
Once he recover Emilie suggest he pose as a Jester in order to get into Treille. He takes her advice and sets out for Treille dressed as a Jester. He doesn't find Sophie in the dungeon but after Norcross sets him up for a crime he didn't commit he escapes from the dungeons and kills Norcross before going back to Boree. When he sees Tafurs at Boree he is shocked and goes to the dungeon to ask one of the prisoners what the Tafurs seek. He is further dismayed when he barely recognizes his wife who is being held in Stephen's dungeons. She dies in Hugh's arms after imploring him not to give them what they seek. Hugh leaves Boree and returns to his village.
Some of the villagers are very happy to see Hugh but others are afraid of Baldwin's wrath if he discovers Hugh there, but Hugh convinces them to fight for their freedom. Emilie soon arrives at the village and her and Hugh quickly become lovers. Stephen sends Tafurs to attack the village, but they are quickly dispatched by Hugh and the villagers. Realizing the danger they are now in Hugh convinces the villagers to march on Treille. Hugh with the aid of his friends inside Treille take Baldwin prisoner. But Emile fearing for Anne (Stephen's wife) returns to Boree. Hugh leaves for Boree on his own but his army soon follows.
He lays siege to Boree and when he defeats the Tafurs, Stephen threatens to hang Eimile unless Hugh and his men surrender. With the help of Anne Hugh comes up with a plan to rescue Emilie. Then Emilie's father (The King of France) shows up.
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