Monday, November 30, 2009

The Night’s Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars by Elena Maria Vidal

I had the pleasure of reading Elena Maria Vidals’ new historical romance, “The Night’s Dark Shade”, released by Mayapple Press in November, 2009.

The Night’s Dark Shade tells the story of a young heiress, Lady Raphaelle, who is caught up in the turmoil of the Albigensian Crusade in thirteenth century France. En route to meet her betrothed in the castle in the Pyrenees that is hers by right, she is rescued from an ambush by the brave and alluring Sir Martin.

The sparks between the two are flying from the very beginning, while the readers learns of the history of the crusade as well as the mysterious Cathars, a polytheistic sect which claimed to be Christian. In the first chapter the setting, plot, and all the main characters are all well-established. The second chapter instructs us on some history as told by the sweet-smelling knight as he carries her on horseback to her castle. The novel moves on, mixing history and drama, at a good pace. Raphaelle is caught up in several major dilemmas; we can truly sympathize with what she is going through.

Raphaelle is a strong character who insists on doing what is right for her people. All that she does, including following through on her betrothal to a man she does not love, is seen as her duty to them. Even so, she is torn by the feelings she has for another man. She also chooses to harbor an evil object which results in dire consequences. Vidal shows us how even the very best of us can struggle with sin.

The book addresses some surprising delicate moral issues of the time that are seldom brought up in a Christian novel. The Cathars were against marriage because it regularized procreation, and they thought children were evil. The religious midwives used herbs to prevent conception or to abort, even killing live babies if they were not deemed fit to survive. They promoted homosexuality because it did not result in children. People were encouraged to live together without marriage because they were more likely to contracept.

These topics are intertwined through the plot; the immoral acts are alluded to but never described explicited. The historical research is well documented, and moral deductions drawn by the author are all consistent with Catholic doctrine.

The more you read about history, the more you realize that there is truly nothing new under the sun. What is going on in modern society is a rerun of what was happening in the Middle Ages. If you haven’t heard about the “dark side of being green”, many environmental groups have been saying that children are “emitters” and the best thing we can do for the environment is to stop having children! Planned Parenthood is supported by so many large and well-reputed organizations that it is hard to go shopping, go to a movie, or go to a theme park without purchasing a product that will go toward their “cause”.

I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. I was up until 3 AM reading the suspenseful ending! Justice is served (medieval style!) to the protagonists. The main characters all make turn-arounds for the better and there is forgiveness all around. The choice Raphaelle makes in the end is completely satisfying.

Elena Maria Vidal sent me a copy of the newly released book in exchange for my honest review of her book. The author studied the Cathars at SUNY Albany before receiving her Master’s Degree in European History. She also authored Trianon and Madame Royale. You can follow her blog at

The book is available from and will be available from Amazon in a few weeks.

Signed copies can also be bought directly from the author at her blog Tea at Trianon


elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Elizabeth, for the wonderful review and thanks to Catholic Media Review for posting it here.

Chris said...

So is the butchery inflicted opon the cathars addressed in this book? This is tastless--as if to justify the actions of the catholic mob. What other reason to write this? Just beg mercy before God for your forfathers' sins and move on.

The parallels to modern issues are too obvious. Studied the cathars my butt.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Chris, this is appalling...trying to justify the bloody horrors that were inflicted by the catholic church in the name of God. It's not right. I live in this region in France, the aftermath of these massacres are still evident today. The Catholic church has a lot to answer.