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The Orphans of Tolosa #3

Voices in the Mist

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Marry a Catholic stranger, or flee the only world she’s ever known: Headstrong Bruna de Gansard must choose one or the other to protect her Cathar family from the inquisitors.

Toulouse, 1229. The inquisitors have arrived to rid the city of Cathar heretics once and for all, and are putting all unmarried girls over the age of 12 to the question. After an incident in the town calls unwanted attention to 14-year-old Bruna, a young Catholic stranger who is sympathetic to the heretics warns her family about the looming danger, and volunteers to marry their daughter to save her from being questioned.

But Bruna doesn’t want to be forced into marriage, so she chooses flight—which lands her unexpectedly in the midst of a Catholic pilgrimage to Compostela, thrusting her into a life of deceit.

When her beauty and her voice bring her to the attention of the powerful Baron de Belascon, who owes fealty to the king of France, Bruna earns the enmity of the baron’s bitter and imperious mother and finds herself caught between her allegiance to her own people and the dangerous secret of her origins—a secret that can be revealed at any time after the arrival of a French knight who recognizes her.

The Orphans of Tolosa Trilogy comes to a dramatic end in this gripping story of loyalty and betrayal, set amidst the violence and peril of the Albigensian Crusades.

300 pages, Paperback

First published September 21, 2021

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About the author

Susanne Dunlap

29 books416 followers
Susanne Dunlap is the author of more than a dozen historical novels for adults and teens. Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, Brooklyn, Northampton, MA, and now Biddeford, ME. Her love of historical fiction arose partly from her PhD research at Yale.

Susanne is also an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach in fiction and nonfiction, specializing in coaching historical fiction and historical nonfiction.

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Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
Profile Image for gwendalyn _books_.
903 reviews31 followers
September 22, 2021
From the desk of Gwendalyn Anderson

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Voices in the Mist is the third installment in Susanne Dunlap’s Orphans of Tolosa trilogy. Which happens to be prequel to the other books delightful book in the series, to Listen To The Wind and The Spirt Of The Fire.

In the year of 1229 southern France the far reaching hand of the Catholic inquisitors has reached the Tolosa [Toulouse].

The Cathars, who considered themselves the true Christians. Suffered persecution by the Holy Roman Catholic Pope, and all the Catholic Christians who sought to completely to destroy them. So they hid their beliefs as best as could, following their religious sects doctrines of living in modest homes and eating non-meat items, along with dressing without any adornments.

We follow a young girl Bruna de Gansard of a Cathar family, who’s older sister Azalaïs is the main protagonist from the first two books in this series. This tale grabs the reader immediately as the Catholic inquisitors knights are flooding the city of Tolosa.

Separated from her father and sister in the middle of the city. Bruna is rescued and returned to her father and sister by Alaman de Bousquet. Who is a kind and sympathetic, Catholic merchant. The brute military force of the Catholic Dominicans inquisition, seeks to eradicate all the religious sect the Cathars has arrived.

Their occupancy will set about a drastic change in Bruna life. When an offer of proposal comes, Bruna takes thing into her own hands. Not wanting to be wed to a Catholic stranger she plans an escape. Finding herself in enemy territory, amongst a Catholic noblewoman’s pilgrimage to Compostela. Bruna must keep up a grand facade without revealing who she really is, and her beliefs.

As things progress, Bruna’s beauty and voice draws the attention of a baron. Her life depends on her ability to keep up her pretense of being Catholic. She also find moments of peace filled with poetry and music as a baroness.

Susan Dunlap weaves vivid details, along with meticulously research to create a unforgettable book. The author uses precision and depth to creat a storyline that is both captivating and memorable. Told in dual narration, but focused more on our main heroine Bruna. Her struggles and strength along with the Cathars is wonderfully depicted. The character development and complex relationships, is impeccable.

But, there is a ever present darkness looming, as her mother-in-law will stop at nothing to ruin her marriage to her son. An arrival of a certain knight might be disastrous for Bruna.

Voices in the Mist catapults the reader into turbulent times of the thirteenth century France. Rich in period atmospheric imagery Susan Dunlap has written a stunning book.

The phenomenal setting and world building allows the reader to be fully immersed within the books setting. The author delivers a brisk paced, beautifully written historical fiction.

This book and the other two books in this series are beautifully written historical fiction, that you need to read! Make sure you grab your self a copy today!
Profile Image for Yvette.
727 reviews25 followers
September 30, 2021
Interspersed with a secondary point of view, Bruna de Gansard narrates her story in retrospect. An innocent dreamer, she flees her home in Tolosa to avoid marrying a man not of her choosing, though it would save her from the Inquisition. Swept along by her lies and circumstances, the story unfolds of her life among the upper class she envied - and Catholics she has great reason to fear. 

Susanne Dunlap has woven a captivating tale of 13th century religious persecution and the struggles of a young woman to survive and have some say in her future. With her beauty and the discovery of her singing voice, Bruna becomes entangled with several men and a target for the malice of others. 

Voices in the Mist is book three in Susanne Dunlap's Orphans of Tolosa series, and I found it easily read as a stand alone. This is a story that I was slightly hesitant with at the beginning, but as it progressed I became more and more involved, building up to a crescendo and then picking up and ending years later, in what was more a continuation than an epilogue.

It is a rare book where the final paragraph not only encapsulates the story but is so beautifully written that I am unable to close the book without stopping to reread it. This is one. Recommended with a note that this story is set in a time when girls were married at a young age and does include a rape and scenes of marital intimacy on the page.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Vicki Kondelik.
180 reviews2 followers
September 3, 2021
Voices in the Mist is the third volume in Susanne Dunlap's Orphans of Tolosa trilogy, set in southern France in the 13th century. It is a prequel to the other two, so it can be read on its own. This volume focuses on Bruna, the older sister of Azalaïs, the heroine of the first two books. The teenage Bruna is the daughter of a Cathar family, members of a Christian sect that the Pope has declared heretical. When Catholic knights invade her city of Tolosa (Toulouse), Bruna's parents decide to marry her off to Alaman, a Catholic merchant who sympathizes with the Cathars, in order to protect her from the Inquisition. Bruna, who does not want to be married against her will, runs away from home and ends up joining a noblewoman's entourage for the pilgrimage to Compostela. She must use all her wits to survive, and keep from revealing the secret of her faith.

Bruna's beautiful singing voice captivates the noblewoman's son, a baron, and he decides to marry her, much to his mother's fury. When the baron takes Bruna back to his castle, she must adjust to life as a baroness, all the while pretending to be a Catholic. But she doesn't know the lengths to which her mother-in-law will go to ruin Bruna's marriage. The appearance of a knight who recognizes Bruna from Tolosa threatens to spell disaster. Will he keep his silence about what he knows? Meanwhile, Alaman, the man Bruna's parents intended her to marry, genuinely cares for her and does his best to keep her safe. Will it be enough, in the face of her mother-in-law's evil schemes?

This is a beautifully-written novel, which vividly captures the spirit of life in the south of France in the Middle Ages. Dunlap takes the reader on Bruna's journey and makes you feel as if you were there. I love the way Dunlap uses the songs and poetry of the troubadours as an essential element of the plot in this and the other volumes in the trilogy. Bruna has a beautiful voice, but she is untrained in the forms of poetry. In a wonderful scene, she sneaks out of the castle to visit an old troubadour in order to learn from him. The reader learns about the songs along with Bruna, but never in a way that feels like the author is lecturing.

The period when the novel takes place is a tragic one, when the peaceful Cathars were persecuted because they did not believe as the Pope did. It deserves to be better known. Readers of Kate Mosse's Labyrinth will recognize the setting. These books are not as long as Mosse's, but I am sure her fans will enjoy them. I highly recommend them to anyone who loves a good historical novel. Because it is a prequel, it can be read first, but it will make the reader want to read the first two volumes, Listen to the Wind and The Spirit of Fire, in order to find out how it all fits together. People who have read the first two books will find this a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author, in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Margaret.
Author 12 books21 followers
September 5, 2021
I should begin, as I do when I know the author, by stating that Susanne Dunlap is a friend of mine; in fact, we're holding a dual book release party celebrating this book! That's why I was able to read it before its publication date. However, feel free to cast all of this aside for this review, as I don't believe it's colored my reception of this story, nor has the author asked me to review this book. I do so simply because I enjoyed it.

In fact, I loved VOICES IN THE MIST. The main character was compelling and heart-felt, and at times she felt hemmed in by choices others made for her, yet she had agency at the key moments in the story. Her unwavering hope to survive and thrive made her endearing; she truly was an underdog who strived to rise above in so many ways.

The story, steeped in a sad but true history that was the oppression of the Cathars, is moving and moves at a great pace. I won't say how it ends, but the tale has that feeling of inevitable surprise that so many stories stretch to achieve. This text achieves it in a way that feels effortless to the reader.

The settings are rich, as are the historical details--everything from songs and poems sung to clothing to castels. Though the text includes some words that may feel foreign to some readers, the text provides enough context that their meaning can be gathered without having to stop and step out of the story. This takes a level of skill I've come to expect from this author, and one I'm delighted to find again in VOICES IN THE MIST.

There were heartwrenching moments and moments of great joy. There were layered characters whose loyalties the reader does not know at certain times, allowing the reader to connect with Bruna, the protagonist, on yet a deeper level.

I could say more, but I don't want to hide my review for spoilers. So I will leave this review with one thought: A delightful, heartfelt story that I'm sure will move readers again and again.
Profile Image for Kate Eminhizer .
430 reviews
August 27, 2021
Voices in the Mist is the perfect culmination to a fantastic trilogy! Dunlap brings the otherwise forgotten history of the Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade during the 13th century to the modern reader with brilliantly crafted characters and a thoroughly engaging story. While this book is the third in the series the plot is actually a prequel. In this book we follow the life of Bruna. As a young girl, Bruna made a rash decision that subsequently snowballed into a life of lies and deceit. The choice she made to supposedly save herself impacted the lives and decisions of many. While the first two books focused on the Cather struggles to retain their culture and religion, this book highlights the crusade from the perspective of Catholic nobles. You will be mesmerized with the artistry Dunlap exhibits in recreating this world. There are layers upon layers of manipulation and deceit, dedication and loyalty, strength and determination, love and loss. Dunlap saved the best for last as this book is truly a tour-de-force.
I received a copy of this title via NetGalley.
July 31, 2021
Voices in the Mist by Susanne Dunlap ended too soon for me. At times I completely forgot I was reading the story online. Instead, I was in a castle’s great hall listening to a troubadour recount her story, secrets, betrayals, battles, loss, and love capturing my attention night after night. I didn’t want the story to end anymore than I wanted the troubadour to travel on to another castle.
Profile Image for Frankie.
830 reviews60 followers
October 8, 2021
The third and final instalment in the engaging; The Orphan’s of Tolosa Trilogy, is a prequel to the previous two books so you can read this as a stand-alone (but do read the other two books in order though).

Set during the 13th century, south of France Voices in the Mist follows the story of a young Cather; Bruna – who is the sister of Azalais who is the heroine of the previous books. When the Catholic Inquisition reaches her part of France she is in danger – for those who haven’t been following the series, of for those who don’t know the history, like me when I first started reading this series.

The Cathers were persecuted by the Catholic church, they saw themselves as true Christians, but as we all know from history when the Catholic church decrees something and others don’t follow then it ult results in horror and death. And this is what happened to the Cathers, they were treated abysmally and destroyed.

From the start you are gripped with the dramatic opening, Knights storming the city of Toloso in hun for the Cathers – usually, I would love a Knight but I can’t find myself liking these guys. Most of the Cathers chose instead of fleeing but to hide in plain sight as the Inquisition has arrived and with it comes death and devastation.

We see as Bruna is separated from her family, she is scared and alone but lucky to come across a sympathetic catholic merchant who helps her back to her family. Once returned to her family her parents arrange a marriage between her and the catholic merchant who took care of her and is sympathetic toward the Cathers. Like any parent, they do this to anything in their power to protect their children, but Bruna is free-spirited and wish to be married off to a perfect stranger whether it will keep her alive or not, so she does what all teenagers do and runs away and inadvertently joins a pilgrimage of noblewomen.

I loved the way Dunlap meticulously entwines troubaourian folklore, history and knowledge into the story using old songs and poems, by way of Bruna who has a beautiful voice she is young and yearns to learn and through her, we learn too.

Susanne Dunlap is an incredibly gifted author, she swirls tension and danger around the read like a mist hovering over a pond, Bruna’s journey is compelling and authentic, you will be hooked right to the end.

Voices in the Mist is a vividly atmospheric and excellently writing historical that will easily become a much loved classic. The author captivates the reader with her vivid and eloquent wring, her attention to historical detail is second to none you feel as though you are right there in the thick of all the danger. There were times I had hairs stand on end and goosebumps by the gripping and haunting story of family, danger and betrayal set in a perilous and blood stained time.

This reminds me a little of Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, with the same setting and era readers who love Mosses trilogy as much as I do will love this one too.

Overall, Voices in the Mist is as enchanting and mysterious as the title sounds, you will get all the feels and at times think as though you are hearing voices in the mist. It’s a brilliant and highly satisfying ending to what has been a gripping and mesmerising series, one which I will remember for a very long time to come.
Profile Image for Donna.
735 reviews6 followers
September 7, 2021
This book is the final in a trilogy, but is really a prequel to the story in the first two books. “Voices In The Mist” is my favorite of the three. The story intertwines just enough with the first two to remind you of those details and how they fit together, but this one is very distinct and can be read separately. It focuses on the life of Bruna, a young woman in 13th century France who was raised to be a Cathar Christian. This sect was being called heretical by the Pope and Catholic Christians were seeking them out to destroy them. This very peaceful people had a different interpretation of Jesus and were pacifists, vegetarian and believed in the dignity and worth of women as well as men. They also had a rich musical heritage, so beautifully described in the book. So many interesting details are woven into the story.

Bruna runs from her family when she fears she will be forced to betray them and her people, setting in motion a series of events that result in the attentions of a powerful Catholic baron. His mother disapproves of the match and Bruna, under the alias Arsendis, becomes the Barona de Belascon and must keep her wits about her as her mother-in-law schemes to cause her divorce. When the Cathars are threatened by her own husband, Bruna feels bound to act. The action and pacing of the story keep you turning pages and the quality of the writing envelops you in this very different time and place. An engaging and truly enjoyable story that leaves you feeling full and satisfied.

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
2 reviews
August 26, 2021
Susanne Dunlap’s third Orphans of the Tolosa novel transports us to France during the 13th century where we follow Bruna, a young woman’s journey through fear and loss to hope and love. I rarely start at the end of the book series, but since this was a prequel, I read it and was not disappointed. I will miss Bruna, but I look forward to reading the rest of the series about the characters only glimpsed in "The Voices of the Mist." If you love women-centered historical fiction, read this book.
Profile Image for Patty.
1,191 reviews32 followers
October 13, 2021
Voices in the Mist takes place in one of my favored time periods for historical fiction. I have read a number of novels that tell the stories of the Cathars – the first one having ignited a curiosity about a peoples I had not learned about in my studies. This lead me to read more and more as I find their stories fascinating. When presented with a novel involving them I snap it up! This tale did not disappoint.

Bruna is a young converso, just on the cusp of womanhood who learns that the Inquisition is coming for all of her people – particularly the young women. To protect her a marriage is arranged but she does not want this so she runs and finds herself attached to of all things, a pilgrimage to Compostela. Here she needs to be careful for she cannot be who she really is but cannot help but be herself. All is going reasonably well until her group is joined by another and she catches the eye of an important man and someone else recognizes her.

I read this book as we were crossing the country from Montana to Vermont. It was a perfect book to read in the car; great characters, an involving plot and enough twists and turns to keep me entertained as the cornfields whipped by. I was so thrilled to have a good book for the time sped as the miles passed. It was a gift.
Profile Image for Janie Anderson.
395 reviews11 followers
May 29, 2022
Voices in the Mist is by author # Susanne Dunlap. Taking place in Toulouse, 1229 Bruna must marry a Catholic, or flee. The inquisitor’s have arrived to rid the city of Cathar heretics. Bruna chooses flight…..
Thank you for the advance copy,#
Netgalley, #Susanne Dunlap, and #BooksGoSocial
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