The story in this historical novel takes place during the time period leading up to the final confrontation between Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Abelard at the council of Sens. (The novel says this occurred 1140 A.D.; Wikipedia says 1141 A.D.) This historical setting is peripheral to the fictional murder-mystery story, and is not an important part of the story. However, it places it firmly into a particular time in history. One of the things I appreciate most about Sharan Newman is her concern with accurately portraying the life and times surrounding the fictional plot.
The actual plot itself is quite contrived, but what murder mystery isn't contrived? The plot of this book contains a legal hearing (a trial) near its end that is worthy of a Perry Mason TV show with emotional outbursts from almost everybody present. There's even a missing human head in the story that appears near the end in a very public way. The story includes a primer on medieval smelting of iron. The main character gets married in this story so there's ample discussion of their frustrated honeymoon. There are plenty of hints toward the end that she may be pregnant, and at the very end we learn the truth.
One interesting aspect of the ten part Catherine LeVendeur series of novels is to try and figure out the thinking behind the selection of the book's title. The titles are always intriguing, but their application to the story tends to be obscure. This book is the second one in the series. I think anyone who enjoys the Brother Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters would also enjoy these novels as well.