The Beautiful Thread

I recently finished reading Penelope Wilcock’s book, The Beautiful Thread. It’s the eighth book in The Hawk and the Dove series, which I started reading in February of 2021, after my friend Jason recommended them to me and then my parents purchased the series for me as a birthday gift. Mostly, these books are centered around a group of men living in a Benedictine monastery in 14th Century Yorkshire. In this particular installment, the action centers around a large wedding being hosted at St. Alcuin’s, which introduces several “outsiders” to the monastic community.

"The Beautiful Thread" by Penelope Wilcock

To be honest with you, by the time the author got around to writing this eighth book in the series, I feel like the narrative had already lost quite a bit of steam following the original trilogy. Books One, Two, and Three were excellent. Books Four, Five, and Six were passable. But my interest definitely started to fade as I made my way through Book Seven. And sadly, the trend continued through Book Eight. I’m still probably going to go ahead and read Book Nine, just so I can complete the set. But I’m disappointed that all of the books haven’t been as good as the first three.

The character William de Bulmer again plays a significant role in this story. First (in Book Three), he was a villain. Then he became a part of the St. Alcuin’s community (in Book Four and Book Five). Then, he leaves the monastery to marry the abbot’s sister (in Book Six and Book Seven). And now, in this story, he is asked to come back to St. Alcuin’s to help them manage the logistics for this big wedding. And I suppose there is some intrigue to see him manage those dynamics, straddling the border between “insider” and “outsider,” without any of the complications of his marriage directly imposing themselves upon the monastery.

But then, the other major character, Father John (the abbot of St. Alcuin’s), has a crisis of conscience when he falls in love with a woman who comes to help the kitchen staff prepare for the wedding feast. Like a soap opera! I saw the love interest slip into the narrative and groaned, “Oh, please let’s not do this again.” But that’s exactly where the story went. And even though John changed course before things went too far, it still felt like a reach to weave in another love story involving one of the monks.

I’m trying to think of something good to say about this book. But honestly, in this moment, I can’t think of anything particularly meaningful to praise. I’m not sure where things are going to go for the series finale, but I certainly hope it won’t be more disappointing than this one!

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