England, 1276: Forced to leave her home village, Eleanor moves to Lincoln to work as a housemaid. She’s prickly, independent and curious, her prospects blighted by a port-wine birthmark across her face. Unusually for a woman, she has fine skills with ink and quill, and harbours a secret ambition to work as a scribe, a profession closed to women.
Eleanor discovers that Lincoln is a dangerous place, divided by religious prejudice, the Jews frequently the focus of violence and forced to wear a yellow badge. She falls in love with Asher, a Jewish spicer, who shares her love of books and words, but their relationship is forbidden by law. When Eleanor is pulled into the dark depths of the church’s machinations against Jews and the king issues an edict expelling all Jews from England, Eleanor and Asher are faced with an impossible choice.

Vivid, rich, deep and sensual, The Fire and the Rose is a tender and moving
novel about how language, words and books have the power to change and
shape lives. Most powerfully, it is also a novel about what it is to be made
‘other’, to be exiled from home and family. But it is also a call to recognise
how much we need the other, the one we do not understand, making it a
strikingly resonant and powerfully hopeful novel for our times.

The Fire and the Rose is a remarkable, profound story about love, hatred, prejudice, pain, conformity and rebellion, and the luminosity books can bring into our lives even in the darkest of times. An entrancing storyteller, Cadwallader recreates the medieval world with scholar’s rigour and poet’s immediacy and emotion. I deliberately read this novel slowly, to savour it, and I know I won’t forget it.  

Lee Kofman, author of The Writer Laid Bare

Like an illuminated manuscript, The Fire and the Rose brings the divided medieval city of Lincoln to life in wonderful detail. A tale of prejudice, violence and exile but also of love, illustrating the power of words, language and story to shape our lives – and the course of history.

Inga Simpson, author of Willowman

The Fire and the Rose is a heartbreakingly timeless tale. Richly imagined and wondrously alive, every sentence yearns for a better way for humans to be together. No one writes with compassion and empathy quite like Robyn Cadwallader, and few can match her ability to move readers to their core. Unforgettable.

Nigel Featherstone, author of My Heart is a Little Wild Thing

The walled medieval city of Lincoln comes alive again in this astonishingly immersive novel. As reader, we walk the streets, smell the market, sense the sneering whispers, and hear the stones speak. The sensuous story of Asher and Eleanor’s love, forbidden by laws separating Jews and Christians, carries Cadwallader’s reach of history like a laser. A thrilling read.

Biff Ward, author of The Third Chopstick

Luminous, lyrical and deeply moving, Cadwallader’s writing fills the senses, and sings with detail and authenticity. A compelling story of love, resilience and hope in the face of oppression and racism. Alive with imagery. I loved this book.

Karen Viggers, author of The Orchardist’s Daughter