Sunday, August 02, 2009

Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham

When forced to marry thirty two year old Hugh le Despenser, the son and grandson of disgraced traitors, young Bess de Montacute is appalled at his less-than-desirable past. Meanwhile, Hugh must give up the woman he really loves in order to marry the reluctant Bess. Hugh and Bess must work to discover whether true love can flourish within the confines of an arranged marriage...

Just as their love begins to grow, Hugh and Bess must surmount the trials of an unchangeable past, war, and disloyalty. But can they overcome the pestilence, an unrelenting, indiscriminate plague that leaves only death in its wake?

I am sure that I am not the only reader around who has authors that they have been meaning to read for a while but it just hasn't happened. For me, Susan Higginbotham is one of those authors. I can not tell you how long I had Susan's first book sitting on my nightstand unread, until I finally decided to clear off the nightand and reshelve the pile that was there. The big question for me now is not so much why, because I know that it is because I kept on having other books get in the way, but rather how can I reorganise my reading calendar so that I can now read The Traitor's Wife sooner rather than later?

When young Bess de Montacute finds out she is to be married again, she is not happy. At fourteen she is already a widow, having been married to a young boy who died before they truly began married life. She doesn't want to be a wife again especially to Hugh le Despenser. Not only is he significantly older than her, but he also comes from a line of le Despenser men who have been found to be traitors in the past and therefore his family doesn't have the best name. The current Hugh le Despenser is however loyal through and through to the current king.

It's fair to say that Hugh is also not overly thrilled when the King suggests this match but given how hard he has worked at trying to redeem the family name he decides to go ahead with the betrothal, even though it means giving up the woman that he loves - a woman who would not be a suitable wife for a man of his stature.

Hugh and Bess struggle through their early days of married life, feeling their way through a veritable minefield of emotions, not least of all resentment and loneliness, but over time they come to find a bond of love much stronger than either could have imagined possible.

One of the highlights of this novel for me was the dialogue between the characters, especially between Bess and her friends - relaxed and almost gossipy, but above all dialogue that feels like it would really happy between young girls such as those featured in the book. I found it interesting to contrast the fates of two young girls who had very different experiences of arranged marriages. I was also impressed with the way that Higginbotham chose to end this book. Given the historical facts, it could have been possible to end the book much earlier, and much more abruptly than she did, and I appreciated the extra few pages that sets up a very hopeful ending.

If you want to read accessible historical fiction or perhaps a lovely romantic novel with a historical setting, then this is certainly a book to pick up and enjoy

Now I am off to find out which bookshelf The Traitor's Wife is on.

Thanks to Sourcebooks for sending me a review copy of this book. This post today is part of the blog tour organised to celebrate the release of this book through Sourcebooks. Other stops on the tour are as below:

Musings of a Bibliophile (7/28)
Passages to the Past (8/1)
My Friend Amy (8/1)
Reading Adventures (8/2)
Jennifer's Random Musings (8/2)
Peeking Between the Pages (8/3)
Historical (8/3)
Grace's Book Blog (8/4)
Historical Tapestry (8/5)
Mrs. Magoo Reads (8/5)
Historical Fiction (8/6)
Jenn's Bookshelf (8/6)
The Tome Traveller's Weblog (8/7) (8/8)
Book Addiction (8/9)
Steven Till (8/10)
Medieval Bookworm (8/11)
Carla Nayland (8/11)
The Literate Housewife Review (8/12)
Diary of an Eccentric (8/13)
Bookfoolery and Babble (8/14)


  1. I really liked this one as well. I'm looking forward to Susan's next book!

  2. Sounds interesting. When is it set?

  3. I really liked this one as well. I finished it yesterday and will have my review up tomorrow. You just have to read The Traitor's Wife. While it's a lot longer, it's fantastic as well.

  4. I am definitely trying to fit The Traitor's Wife in Dar.

    Alice, it is set in the first half of the 1200s.

    Susan, you are welcome. I really should have read it ages ago!

    Daphne, I am too!

  5. So glad you enjoyed this one! I am going to be reading it very soon for a review next week. I'm really looking forward to it!

    The Traitor's Wife was great, I hope you get to it soon!

  6. I enjoyed this one as well, and I think you'll enjoy The Traitor's Wife, too! :)

  7. I love historical fiction, and this looks like a great book. I haven't yet read The Traitor's Wife, but it looks as though I will have to get both of them. Thanks for the great review!