Ximene – The Most Dangerous Woman in the World
John Stanley, brought up in a conservative Christian family, has never so much as laid a hand on a woman.
He is recruited into the army of the Black Prince, heir to the English throne. Due to a combination of talent and courage he is promoted to become one of the Prince’s personal bodyguards.
Ximene Trencavel has been brought up in the Cathar faith. Cathars see nothing sinful in the giving or receiving sexual pleasure, which is regarded simply as a sample of what reunion with the Good God would be like. Cathar education includes every aspect of the arts of making love.
Ownership of the lands of Occitan, lying between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, is in dispute. Ximene Trencavel’s uncle promotes her as the rightful heir to these lands and has offered her hand in marriage to the Black Prince.
Ximene mistrusts her uncle’s motives. She chooses John Stanley as the ideal person to help in a bid to escape from her uncle’s control and, at the same time, influence the Prince. She sets out to seduce John to win his support, but runs into a problem. John has no idea how to respond to her advances.
Ximene addresses this difficulty by arranging for John to partake in a Cathar Transition through which young people receive practical experience in sexual matters.
The world in which John and Ximene live is a time of great change, initiated by the emergence of concepts of nationhood, resulting in changing alliances and the re-definition of feudal boundaries. At the same time communities are ripped apart by endless warfare and subjected to the unspeakable cruelty of the mercenary armies which are used enforce change.
Ximene is not immune to attraction of nationhood, where people of who live in the same geographical area, speak the same language, share a common culture and believe in the same god can group together for mutual defence. However she is determined to find a way to nationhood which will not expose the peoples of Occitan to the horrors of warfare.
For the Cathars of Occitan, there is another threat. The Church of Rome considers the the Cathar faith to be a heresy and for over a hundred years has conducted a programme of intimidation and oppression, spearheaded by the dreaded inquisition.
It is a world of great opportunity for those with courage and vision, but a world in which the cost of failure is often a brutally violent death. Ximene and John have no choice. They must learn the skills needed to protect the people of Occitan though they are surrounded by treachery and violence.