Plucked from poverty after the death of her parents in the London of Edward III, Nell’s resemblance to the King’s daughter, Princess Joan, puts her and her brother George into great danger. They accompany the princess on her journey to marry Prince Pedro of Castile, but when she dies of the plague in France Nell is forced by the Black Prince to take her place, and travel onwards to marry him in the princess’s place. So far so good, although the American spelling and the occasional inconsistencies in the prose, for example with sails billowing but the king’s banner limply hanging on page 10, do give the reader an uncertain feeling. The Black Prince appears to be related to the Pied Piper of Hamelin in that he can call up armies of rats which appear throughout the story at crucial moments. Nell and George are rescued from the Black Prince by Gracias and helped on their way back to Bordeaux and thence to England to inform the King of what has happened, once by having to travel in the cart of the man who buries the victims of the plague which is sweeping France as well as England. They do manage to tell Edwards III of what has passed, but rather unconvincingly he appears to forgive the Black Prince for his deception and Nell and George flee, hoping they will be beyond the Black Prince’s reach.
The problem with mixing real and fictional characters in an historical story is that some facts at least do have to be used in order to give credibility to the story. The Black Prince does not appear to have had a relationship with rats, nor with underhand dealings over the marriage of his sister which does destroy the basis of the adventure which Nell and George enjoyed. The very American feel of the prose and the fact that there is a lack of feel for the period both in dialogue and text make for a disappointing read not helped by the cover’s Hollywood style photograph of Princess Joan/Nell.