Circle of Stones

Brenda, mistress and confidante of Prince Owain of Wales, bears him a son destined for greatness. But Owain, seeking to elude a legendary curse, plots to kill the baby. Tricking Owain into believing the child died accidentally, Brenda flees to Ireland, where kindly Druids agree to foster baby Madoc. While there, Brenda studies healing and starts a romance with her tutor, Sein. Fearing Owain’s wrath, however, Brenda returns to Wales.

All is not well in Owain’s court. His high-strung wife, Gladys, is a pious Christian who coddles her violent, unstable son, Dafydd, instilling in him a deep hatred for pagans. With the help of his nursemaid, Christiannt, Dafydd plans to overthrow Owain. Christiannt passes vital information to the traitorous son and his allies. Meanwhile, Dafydd kills pagan devotees for sport. When Gladys dies, Owain weds Christiannt, whom he suspects, but comes to his former lover Brenda for advice as his enemies and intolerant Christians close in.

Brenda’s life turns upside-down when Madoc, now a handsome youth, arrives in Wales. Not recognizing his son, Owain appoints the promising lad Shipmaster and commands him to renovate Welsh trading vessels in the north.

Now certain of his wife’s duplicity, Owain kills Christiannt, but guilt ruins his physical and mental health. Seeing his chance, Dafydd poisons his ailing father and accuses Brenda of murder. Brenda flees, relentlessly pursued by Dafydd’s henchmen. Dafydd proclaims himself king and Wales is laid waste. Brenda’s only hope is to find Madoc’s shipyard and sail to Ireland, but she must use all her skill and wit to escape. Brenda’s courage pays off, but Madoc’s auspicious destiny leads him to sail west towards uncharted lands.

Circle of Stones is a fast-moving, well-researched novel, but author Anna Lee Waldo’s subplot of Madoc’s possible discovery of America seems unnecessary. Historical fiction fans will enjoy it.