Review: Beloved Pilgrim by Christopher Hawthorne Moss

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

2nd Edition

At the time of the earliest Crusades, young noblewoman Elisabeth longs to be the person she’s always known is hidden inside. When her twin brother perishes from a fever, Elisabeth takes his identity to live as a man, a knight. As Elias, he travels to the Holy Land, to adventure, passion, death, and a lesson that honor is sometimes found in unexpected places.

Elias must pass among knights and soldiers, survive furious battle, deadly privations, moral uncertainty, and treachery if he’ll have any chance of returning to his newfound love in the magnificent city of Constantinople.

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I’ve been interested in the Crusades since reading a book referencing it some time ago so jumped at the chance to read and review Christopher Hawthorne Moss’ book, Beloved Pilgrim. It’s also the first Harmony Ink title and transgender story I’ve read.

One of the things I loved about Beloved Pilgrim is that it doesn’t whitewash the horrors of the Crusades. As Elias loses his misconceptions about the ‘glory’ of all of it, so does the reader. It’s not written so that it hits the reader over the head, but it’s a gradual process which makes it more realistic. It’s not only the Elias’ journey from Elisabeth to the man he becomes but it’s deeper than that.

It wasn’t only Elias who sucked me into the story but also Albrecht. Like Elias, he has his own journey, starting off as lover to Elisabeth/Elias’ brother, accompanying Elias as his squire as they head off to the crusades, and finally finding his own happy ending.

Beloved Pilgrim is written with much attention to detail, although isn’t bogged down with it. The location and time period comes alive on the pages, but it doesn’t pull punches with the difficulties Elias faces with how to hide, while in the company of men, that his body is that of a woman’s. Despite living as a man, he still has to deal with a woman’s biology, and I liked the way the author didn’t skip around that.

A thoroughly enjoyable 5 star read, which I’d recommend to anyone wanting to read a story set during the crusades. I also found it a very thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive portrayal of a young man in a woman’s body—there is a need to books like this in the YA section of the library.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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