As a young noblewoman in thirteenth-century France, Elinor may live a life of comfort, but she has little control over her own future. She is secretly in love with the much older Bertrand, a troubadour who often travels to her family's home. Bertrand has a secret of his own - he is a member of a religious sect that the powerful Catholic church wants to destroy, considering them heretics. When Elinor learns her parents wish to marry her off to a man old enough to be her grandfather, she decides she must avoid that fate at all costs. To escape, she disguises herself as a boy and runs away from home with a band of troubadours, hoping to one day be reunited with Bertrand.
Over the next few years, Bertrand and Elinor continue their separate journeys through a land at war. Bertrand witnesses the horrors of the Church's crusade, and the suffering of the innocent people caught up in the violence. Elinor, an immature thirteen-year-old at the start of the story, grows and matures throughout the novel, into a young woman. The ending was not what I expected when I started this book, but fit the story perfectly, I think, while being true to the place and time the story takes place in.
Troubadour is a detailed and interesting historical novel that I enjoyed as a fan of historical fiction. However it does have a lot of heavy historical detail about some lesser known events from history. While I enjoyed these details, and I think this book would be enjoyed by older teens (and adults too) who have an interest in Medieval history, more casual readers of historical fiction might find themselves overwhelmed by all the history. Therefore I would most recommend this book to readers who either love lots of historical detail in their historical ficton or who are fans of Mary Hoffman's previous books.