Rated 5++++++ Stars!
No one comes as close to putting the reader in the position of being a fly on the wall so to speak of their stories as Elizabeth Chadwick does.
What I think is particularly wonderful about A Place Beyond Courage is that is really not a very heroic figure as hero's are defined in novels. Susan has managed to breath life and humanity as well as creating sympathy for a character whom I suspect was pretty much a self serving cold fish of a person.
The real life changed sides far to often for me to get any sense of his having the code of honor that was prevalent in his time. Many men died trying to live up to their code of honor while seems to have honored only his own self interest. Also the way he dumped Aline really bothered me. A man of honor would not have notified her by letter that she has become an inconvenience.
The only self serving thing he did that I even come close to understanding was a.) surrendering William as a hostage since that was common practice at the time and b.) giving that little hammer and anvil speech (never let them see you sweat) since I agree with the author's conclusion that it was in Williams interest that John not show how much (if it was indeed much) that William meant to him. I am sure that he cared some, because he was human after all.
The tender love story between him and Sybilla is, IMO, all from the author's imagination as I don't think there is any real evidence that they did other than get married and have children together. It's lovely to think of her version as fact but I guess I am just too much of a skeptic. But it sure made for great reading.
The fact that the author managed to spin such a wonderful story while incorporating all these facts is a true testament to her as a writer. I love the of her story. But I suspect that very few, if anyone from his time would recognize the man he was as the man she was writing about.
Now his son William, (The Greatest Knight) that is another thing entirely. Every thing she wrote about him was absolutely, positively true. I know this because my heart tells me so.