One reader sent her comments in per email because she couldn't make it to the group, and the rest of the group totally agreed with it when I read it out loud:
"My initial reaction, from the first page or two, was oh, no, chick lit disguised as something else. I was immediately irritated by the need to describe what Alice was wearing. I have never read any Kate Mosse before and knew that she was a founder of the Orange Prize for fiction, so I expected something more.
It seems clear that she wrote this as entertainment rather than literature. It is a real summer holiday read. The story has you turning the pages but you never stop to marvel at a wonderful turn of phrase or clever metaphor. The only descriptions that worked for me were of the landscape. I think she got that right and it shows that she both knows and loves the area.
I found the history interesting and I did learn things; the origins of the Inquisition for example. It seems that she did her research and there were frequent fascinating details about the way of life in the thirteenth century Pays d’Oc. I liked the fact that in both stories the hero and the villain were women. I don’t think either story really worked as a mystery but there was enough tension to keep me reading.
One thing that really annoyed me was the lack of explanation about Grace Tanner. Why was she interested in Alice? Why did she leave everything to her? How did she know Baillard? It is all too coincidental that she ends up living near Carcassonne and has a niece she never meets who has the same name as the person Baillard has been fixated by.
I don’t have a feeling for whether Mosse is a good writer. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I wish she had written her story as a literary novel rather than a beach read. I would need a recommendation from someone whose judgement I trusted to try another book by Kate Mosse."
We discussed the parallel stories of Alais' and Alice's worlds, that were a bit flatly comparable one-to-one (Will in 2005 was Guilhem in 1207, etc), and the sheer idiocy of giving the villains dark hair and making the heroines blonde... there wasn't much intrigue or difficulty, or beauty of prose, to really engage the mind enough, it was more of an easy evening (beach) read. The group members were interested in the history, and didnt' necessarily mind the easy-to-read quality of the book, despite the length, but it didn't have us yearning for more or appreciating the book on a literary level.