Margaret of Ashbury wants to write her life story. However, like most women in 14th-century England, she is illiterate. Three clerics contemptuously decline to be Margaret’s scribe, and only the threat of starvation persuades Brother Gregory, a Carthusian friar with a mysterious past, to take on the task. As she narrates her life, we discover a woman of startling resourcefulness.
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Margaret, a resourceful midwife, is living with the insufferable relatives of her third husband, Gilbert de Vilers, known as Gregory. She is carving out a life for herself and her daughters despite the hostility and greed of her in-laws. But when Gregory is captured in France and held for ransom, Margaret knows she must take action - her in-laws are too tight with money to be of any use - so she teams up with her old friends Mother Hilde, the herbalist, and Brother Malachi, an alchemist on a quest for the secret of changing base metals into gold.
Margaret of Ashbury is ready to settle down; the medieval healer is looking forward to an uneventful life in the country. And, indeed, life with her true love and a brood of rambunctious children is nearly perfect—except for her husband Gregory’s ever-meddling family. Finding himself deep in debt once again, Gregory’s father has plotted to sell Margaret’s daughter off in marriage to save his woodlands from a greedy abbot.