Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Historical Book Review: TO DEFY A KING, by Elizabeth Chadwick

To Defy A King, by Elizabeth Chadwick, explores the life of Mahelt Marshall and Hugh Bigod--daughter of the famous William Marshall, and Roger Bigod and Ida de Tosney's son, which we read about in For The King's Favor.  I was excited to read this book, because I so enjoyed Ida and Roger's story, and in To Defy A King I would get another chance to visit these characters again and see how they were faring.  In addition, we got to see Longspee again, Ida's son with the King.

Ms. Chadwick's books are packed with historical fact and description. She captures the essence of the time period in her characters, setting and plot, but not in a way that feels textbook, instead she tranports you there, puts you right in that great hall, or solar, or on the horse riding through a field. Once again, I was impressed with her writing, her ability to make each character individual, her research, and her creativity in bringing it all together in a riveting and intriguing story.

Mahelt is a head-strong, vibrant and spontaneous heroine. She is quite young throughout the majority of the book, but it is fascinating to watch as she grows older, more mature, and faces more hardships, how much she grows and changes.  I liked watching her butt heads with everyone, but at the same time, there were times I wanted to reach through the book, grasp her shoulders, shake her and say, "Mahelt! No! What are you thinking!"  And that's not to say anything bad about the book, this is actually a compliment to the author on how well she was able to illustrate a fifteen year old heroine's heart and mind. I think many women will connect with Mahelt, because she is a woman beyond her time. She wasn't willing to sit still and "take it", let the men decide her life and the life of her family. Oh no, she wanted a front row, driving seat. She wanted to be in control, she wanted to be a part of it. And I think if they'd allowed her to, in many instances heartache would have been avoided. She was an intelligent woman who wasn't given much credit from others--except her husband. 

Hugh, was a compassionate, intelligent, and strong knight, heir, husband and father. I could see the good parts of Ida and Roger in him, and I was so pleased to see how he and Mahelt got on. He embraced her fiery nature, and her need for independence. Instead of trying to quash it as his father instructed, he simply went along with it, holding her hand along the way. That's not to say Hugh was perfect. He and his half-brother, Longspee, still had their difficulties, and many of them stemmed from jealousy and misunderstanding which is so true in most of life. Here too, I wanted to reach through the book and throttle them, tell them to stop being so hard-headed. Once again, Ms. Chadwick capture my heart with these characters, I felt invested in them--I cared what happened to them

**Spoiler Alert**

If you read For the King's Favor--which I highly recommend--than you will be just as sad as I was to see the deterioration in Ida and Roger's relationship. They are still in love, still harbor feelings for one another, but they were so far removed from each other, especially Roger, that in the end, they missed out on nearly a life time of love. I actually cried in the end, and if you loved them as much as I did, you will cry too.

I highly recommend reading To Defy A King, and for that matter all of Ms. Chadwick's books. They are really a true treat to read. I found I tucked myself into bed quite early at night just so I could read their story for hours and hours.

About the Book...

The adored and spirited daughter of England’s greatest knight, Mahelt Marshal lives a privileged life. But when her beloved father falls foul of the volatile and dangerous King John, her world is shattered. The king takes her brothers hostage and Mahelt’s planned marriage to Hugh Bigod, son of the Earl of Norfolk, takes place sooner than she expected. Mahelt and Hugh come to care for each other deeply, but Hugh’s strict father clashes with the rebellious Mahelt. When more harsh demands from King John threaten to tear the couple’s lives apart, Mahelt finds herself facing her worst fears alone, not knowing if she—or her marriage—will survive.
A brilliant story of a vibrant woman in a tyrant’s world, To Defy a King is another impeccably researched masterpiece from a beloved author.

ISBN: 9781402250897

Available now from Sourcebooks in Trade Paperback and as an E-book

For a complete list of Elizabeth Chadwick's books visit her website: http://www.elizabethchadwick.com/

If you haven't seen it previously, here is my review of FOR THE KING'S FAVOR.

If you missed it, last week Elizabeth Chadwick visited History Undressed with a post on Medieval Marriage and Sexuality.

1 comment:

Marg said...

I was sad to see the change in Ida and Roger's relationship too, but it didn't feel as though it was an unreal direction to take with these characters.