I'll agree that the cover's not that much to look at. But don't judge a book by it's cover--unless it's really old and has a pretty cover.
It's my favorite book that's not by my favorite author, if that makes sense. I've read it five times (or the tally marks I made in the back tell me), and I started on it again last night. I wanted something familiar and dear. So I grabbed it off the shelf and started reading.
I found this book when I was in 10th grade, in the Limited Quantities cart in Barnes and Noble. I don't remember if I saw the binding or the cover first, but it was the title that caught me. Nectar from a Stone.
What could this be about? So, I flipped it over on the back and read the synopsis.
Stephen R. Lawhead is my favorite author and that will probably never change. His latest series at the time took place in Wales during the Middle Ages, in the 1090s. This book is a few centuries later, in 1351. So, it was a familiar setting. I was interested.
I kept reading the back cover and after reading the first bits of it, I bought it, but I didn't read it right away. I was working on several other books. I even put it on my unread shelf--books stay there for months, even years before I even remember that I have them.
But not this one. I thought about it a lot, impatient to read it. Eventually, I took it off and re-read the back cover again. I hadn't noticed before that, while it wasn't a romance, per se, there was a little romance in the story.
**Caution: Adult Content**
The story opens up with Elise's husband raping her. It's not explicit, but the reader knows what's going on. He doesn't like the fact she has visions, doesn't like her gray eyes, and beats/rapes her regularly. On this particular night when the story opens, he tries to kill her.
Before he can manage this, however, Elise gets a shard of broken glass and stabs him twice: once in the groin, and once in the neck. She doesn't kill him, but he's so close to it. Elise is tempted to finish him off, but can't bring herself to do it.
Their house's only other inhabitant, Annora, comes into the room. Elise feels guilty. Surely as all Maelgwyn's sins damn him, she's convinced, murdering him will condemn her. She actually wants to nurse him back to health or fetch a priest for last rites.
Annora won't have that. She takes the sheet off the bed, strips Maelgwyn, and wraps him in the sheet. Reluctant, Elise helps Annora carry the body of the almost-but-not-quite dead man to the river and put him in. After, they pack up and leave. They can't and won't stay.
Here, the story goes a little back into a few months before, to Paris, France. Gwydion ap Gruffydd, a half-Welsh, half-Englishman, is in prison. The book tells why, but I'm not explaining all of that, but consider the fact that this book takes place during the Hundred Years' War. Gwydion's ransomed for a high price, and after plenty of mistreatment, he goes home, where his portion of the story eventually meets with Elise's.
It's not at all light reading, especially the first few chapters, which are explained in a nutshell above, but it's definitely WORTH the read. It has a happy ending. Really, with the dire beginning, there's no way to go but up, with a bunch of twists and turns and hills and valleys and murders along the way.