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Summary

A headlong journey through the physical and spiritual dangers of Plantagenet Britain, in all its savage pageantry.

Welsh Marches, July 1284 - the uprising in Wales is over, the leader gruesomely executed, the dead are buried. But for Illesa Arrowsmith, the war’s aftermath is just as brutal. When her brother is thrown into the Forester’s prison on false charges, she is left impoverished and alone. All Illesa has left is the secret manuscript entrusted to her – a book so powerful it can save lives, a book so valuable that its discovery could lead to her death.

When the bailiff’s daughter finds it, Illesa decides to run, and break her brother out of jail by whatever means. But the powerful Forester tracks them down, and Illesa must put herself and the book at the mercy of an unscrupulous knight who threatens to reveal all their secrets, one by one. 

Inspired by the seductive art of illuminated manuscripts, The Errant Hours draws from the deep well of medieval legend to weave a story of survival and courage, trickery and love. 

This is the first book in the Arrowsmith series. It is followed by All the Winding World, which finds Illesa Arrowsmith 10 years later, determined to protect her family and home in the face of brutal conflict and rebellion.

“An utterly delightful novel that kept me reading into the small hours. Very Enjoyable.” (Historical Novel Society Review)

©2015 Kate Innes (P)2020 Kate Innes

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Incredible detail beautifully read

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The engaging storyline is weaved in between layers of history Add to that the soothing tones of the narrator and the emotion of the characters, this made for a very rounded listen. The attention to detail is impressive. It brought this period of time alive for me.

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  • 23-10-20

Engaging medieval yarn

I much enjoyed the main story but thought the Roman Antioch and Mabinogion themes were a bit of an unnecessary distraction
There was a great deal of convincing medieval and courtly detail and in general the author gives you a persuasive and well written picture of life in a society where most people have no power or control of their lives and everything is underpinned by an all pervading Christian belief.
My only quibble would be that Illessa’ s sense of fair play and injustice seemed a bit more Malory Towers than 13th century - but she gets her Mr Rochester in the end.
The narrator is excellent with a pleasant and deliberate delivery. She is able to distinguish the various characters apparently effortlessly - so often it is done either inadequately or by exaggerating the different voices in a way that jars on the listener. I was surprised to see that this seems to be the only audiobook she has narrated.

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A gripping tale, beautifully narrated

A wonderful story set in the 13th Century of life through the eyes of Illessa, who manages the struggles of life whilst learning much about herself and others. It is written to capture the imagination and transport you to Shropshire and latterly the Welsh coast. The narrator draws you in perfectly and is easy to listen to. I am looking forward to part 2.

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Medieval Romance

Three stories, three women, in three time periods. Our ‘present day’ heroine, Illesa, lives in Shropshire in 1284. She is not yet 18, unmarried, and finds herself without parents or a brother to protect her. Within a few chapters she is on the run from the Forrester’s men, having rescued her brother from prison. Her wit, quickness and knowledge of poisons is enough to win the audience over, and we are willing Illesa on as she dices with death and danger. She spends the first part of the story disguised as a boy, much to the embarrassment of all the men who help to shelter her. Her humble Christian heart keeps her from harm as she seeks forgiveness or acts humbly with those she meets. There are plenty of loveable characters along the way, Goodwife Lyttle and her husband Warden Lyttle reminded me of Mr and Mrs Beaver in CS Lewis’s Narnia books; their hustle-bustle care and concern is not to be trifled with and Goodwife Lyttle sends off the thugs with just the prod of her finger. Warden Lyttle escorts Illesa on part of her journey, offering her advice and protection on the dangerous road. Prince Alfonso is only 11 but treats Illesa with such respect and gentleness, that I wish he was given more airtime. Sir Richard comes to the aid of her brother, Kit, but ultimately does it all for Illesa. She reminds herself constantly that she is just a country girl, the daughter of a poor midwife, and her disguises, as a boy, a monk even later as a lady, are not who she really is, and fears that one day Sir Richard will see through it.

Throughout the whole adventure runs two other stories, both unfolding from two books, the first in the possession of Illesa, the other belonging to Sir Richard. The first story is that of the martyrdom of Saint Margaret, an early Christian convert in Antioch. Marina, as she is known in the Eastern Church, is captured and tortured to death for not renouncing her faith; she became the saint of childbirth. The story unfolds slowly throughout Part 1 of The Errant Hours, underpinning the concept of sacrifice, virtue and trusting in God. The second story is told in Part 2, and comes from the welsh celtic stories in the Mabinogion, and narrates the romance of a woman who falls in love with her husband’s murderer. The two books are held dear by Illesa and Richard, but their story in 1284 does not echo those in the books. Theirs is a story of faithful christianity meets honour and chivalry, of poor (or is she?) meets wealthy, of vulnerable woman meets noble knight. It is the story of siblings, of childbirth, of escape and ultimately of making something new from broken pieces.

I liked the format of flitting between the present day story and the historical unravelling of the books. Illesa is a warm and intriguing character. She butts the traditions of needing a protector, but lives within the constraints of medieval England, where a man is a much needed requirement for every woman. Marina is far more hardcore than even Illesa; she endures the worst of it, and by God’s grace, she defies the Govenor to save the Christian captives. As for Manon, the welsh woman from AD 558, she is on the cusp of conversion to christianity; her story is one of defrosting, melting, softening - of hate becoming love. Her story ends before it feels complete.

I read the book when it was published in 2015, and have listened to it again as an audiobook. I enjoyed it more the second time, as the nuances of love and themes of disguise and hiding became more apparent. Second time round, the Anchoress scared me even more, she reminded me of the hag in Prince of Thieves - her bitterness and unforgiveness had twisted her soul to make her unwilling to love or forgive. Rebecca Sharp reads it very well, with steadiness and deliberation, giving weight to each word. Her welsh accent isn’t brilliant, but perhaps they didn’t sound very welsh in AD 558 anyway…. A definite must read. Can’t wait for All The Winding World (book 2) to be released on audible too.

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An amazing listen!

I just loved this book. Excellent storytelling, weaving the different time frames, skillfully. I could not stop listening and was happy to inhabit the strange and vulnerable world of medieval England and Wales, told from such a unique perspective. A wonderful book!



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A gripping story,beautifully read.

This is the first audiobook I have tried,and I am thoroughly enjoying listening to it. The story is absolutely absorbing,full of drama and beautifully written. This is a time in history with much to interest the listener,and the story is full of interesting detail and wonderful characters.What a joy to have a narrator with such an engaging voice and one who makes all the characters speak with a convincing voice