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The Traitor's Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II
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The Traitor's Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  3,039 Ratings  ·  305 Reviews
"Conveys emotions and relationships quite poignantly.entertaining historical fiction."-Kirkus Discoveries
"The dialogue is excellent, the characters are well formed and vibrant.

Higginbotham's talents lie not only in her capacity for detailed genealogical research of the period, but also in her skill in bringing these historical figures to life with passion, a wonderful sens
Paperback, 499 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first published July 25th 2005)
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Linda Shea Reading it now and really enjoying it - but I'm not surprised as this is the 3rd of Susan Higginbotham's books that I have read (after "Her Highness,…moreReading it now and really enjoying it - but I'm not surprised as this is the 3rd of Susan Higginbotham's books that I have read (after "Her Highness, the Traitor" and also "The Stolen Crown" and both were awesome) and I like her writing style. Her characters really come to life! (less)

Community Reviews

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Dawn (& Ron)
Nov 08, 2011 Dawn (& Ron) rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: medeival fiction readers, historical fiction readers
Recommended to Dawn (& Ron) by: Jemidar, Misfit
I was so eager to dig in and begin this book, especially with the endorsements of friends and a bit of help from the author herself (helping me to choose which book of hers to start with). I was beyond frustrated that it took me two months to read. Let me explain, it wasn't the fault of the book but life that got in the way. I tried to read a few pages here and there but you can’t do that with this book. You need, and want, to have time to spend with Eleanor de Clare, her family and their lives, ...more
Friends, I can't.

I can't continue this torment. Without question, The Traitor's Wife is one of the most boring books I've read. EVER. At any point in my life. I'm not exaggerating, guys. I can't even find words to express how dull, lifeless, & utterly unreadable this book is. Every sentence pains me. LITERALLY. EVERY SENTENCE. It's an orgy of infodumps, As You Know Bob, telling-not-showing, block paragraphs of confusing names, chunks of time skipped, flat characters yammering at each other,
Monique first five star book of the year and it was a free, relatively unheard of book that I was introduced to through my Kindle..and I loved it, not only did it introduce a entire of host of characters in a new dynasty equally as fascinating as the Tudors but seamlessly told the tale of an extrodinary woman, her life,loves against the backdrop of thirteenth century England constantly at war with Scotland and itself..This book was longer and way more detailed than I expected and I thoroughly e ...more
Rating: 3.5 stars

This book was incredibly well researched. Before reading it, I knew nothing of the reigns of Edwards I, II and III, and as I was reading, I was sure a lot of it was made up by the author; there was so much plotting, scheming, betrayal, greed, power, adultery, manipulation, revenge, murder and general downright crazy, that it could dwarf even the maddest American daytime soap! But no, almost all of this book is true. As a regular Tudor and War of the Roses reader, I’m not shocked
I am very picky about historical fiction.

I like my historical fiction very, very well-researched. Don't mess with known history or rearrange timelines just to fit a plot. Don't over-modernize the dialogue. And above all, do NOT dumb it down just to appeal to a vapid audience.

Well, I am here to shout it from the rooftops that author Susan Higginbotham does none of the above. And she does is very, very well.

The Traitor's Wife recounts the reign of England's King Edward II, as seen through the eyes
Feb 19, 2014 Hiba rated it it was ok
This book had so much promise.

When I got this book I was flipping out with joy. I started it right away and didn't even put it down.

Sadly.... I never finished it because when I reached page 400 I couldn't continue.

I was really pissed because the beginning was great and so much shit happened that ruined the book.

I was really confused. The author made everyone Eleanor magically fall in love with her. Seriously, even the gay ones! Like the author kept dropping hints about some kind of secret love b
Jul 13, 2013 Iset rated it it was amazing
Susan Higginbotham seems to have a propensity to write the stories of those much maligned figures from history and redressing the myths surrounding them. And you know what, I like that. I’d much rather have an accurate portrayal than another tired round of dragging up every juicy salacious crumb of rumour just to make a novel interesting. Because it’s not interesting. It’s cliché and boring and seems to me it does a disservice to the actual historical people. Plus, it’s always fun to read the st ...more
Dec 12, 2013 Korey rated it did not like it
Dull as all hell. The plot, characters and situations are inherently interesting but the author's writing style drains all the life out of the proceedings. This book is written like a straight history or a teleplay: it is a 500 page list of events with no internal monologue from any characters and almost no discussion of feelings, motivations, reactions etc. There is a great story here waiting to be freed from such bone dry prose. Also, while the author can't help that so many of the characters ...more
Jennifer Jensen (Literally Jen)

If I weren't reading this for book club, I would have stopped already. I wish that I had gotten this from the library rather than paying the $7.99 for the Kindle version because it was a total waste of money.

From the very first chapter, I knew that this would be a difficult read for me. I am not a fan of Higginbotham's prose, her lack of description, or the characters. She writes in passive voice, which is something that I don't like seeing in fiction, or in any type of wr
Jan 02, 2011 Jenny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, 2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
As a general rule, I try not to leave books unfinished; for the twenty five years that I've been steadily reading, there's a handful of them I just couldn't manage to continue with, and this is one of them.

I can't say that the story is awful, because it's not. It was actually interesting, which is why I can't give it less than 2 stars; it was interesting in a High-School-history-textbook-kind-of-way though. That's it's greatest strength... and greatest weakness.

This story was incredibly well-re
Jun 23, 2010 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-edition
Loved it, loved it, loved it! I'm so glad I finished it because I was getting absolutely no sleep and my husband has been grumbling about how he had been ignored over the past several days.

The story of Eleanor and Hugh le Despenser was magnificent. Full of real alive characters, humor, sadness, skullduggery, romance, and more political twists and turns than the Clinton/Bush administrations!

Anyone can read the book description so I'm not going to bother with a synopsis. It would be a waste of you
Aug 20, 2008 Misfit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating tale of treachery and intrigue, focusing on the life of Eleanor De Clare who married Hugh le Despenser. Hugh's ambitions embroil him in the life of Edward II of England and eventually lead to his downfall. As several reviewers have already summed up the story, I need not recap it again.

This is a complicated tale, with many characters with the same names so you do have to pay close attention, although the author does provide a list of characters at the front of the book. Th
Most people know the reign of Edward II to be filled with homosexual relationships, a “She-Wolf”, and a supposed murder with a red-hot spit. How much of this is true? Although we may never know precisely, Susan Higginbotham explores this topic in “The Traitor’s Wife” with the main viewpoint being of Hugh Despenser’s wife: Eleanor.

Disappointingly, “The Traitor’s Wife” begins with a rather slow kick and pace. Although the novel is from the perspective of Eleanor le Despenser (nee de Clare); a myri
Christy B
Sep 09, 2009 Christy B rated it really liked it
I ventured into uncharted territory picking up this book. I had never gone back this far in either fiction or non fiction. The farthest I ever went back beforehand was the 1600s. And I'm not very educated in English history before the 1800s, so I learned a lot. One of the things that is great about historical fiction, is that you end up wanting to learn more about the people and events you're reading about. That's what happened here, I learned about a period of history I wasn't educated in befor ...more
Amy S
Oct 06, 2009 Amy S rated it it was ok
Hmmm. What to say. Basically, this story follows Eleanor de Clare, in 1300s England, married to Hugh le Despenser. She is the niece to King Edward 2. It is very well researched, very detailed, but to me, pretty boring. And really gross. Here's how it went:

A. The King's male lover is executed.
B. The King takes up Eleanor's husband as his lover.
C. Eleanor gets mad when she finds out, so she begins to have an incestuous relationship with the King. Did I mention that's her uncle? The one already h
Apr 25, 2012 Johanna rated it did not like it
Ugh. I don't usually stop reading books once I've started, but this one was intolerable after about 150 pages (I think--reading it on my iPad so I am not sure). The characters have absolutely no depth, and somehow the author makes it impossible to really engage in all of the intrigue and drama going on at court. It seems like a huge laundry list of "things that happen" during Charles' reign, punctuated by descriptions of ridiculous sex. Really disappointing.
Rebecca Huston
A very very enjoyable read for me. Tells the tale of Eleanor, daughter of England's Edward I, and her marriage to Hugh le Despencer. Excellent writing, convoluted plot, believable characters, all of which leads to a keeper for me. Susan, keep 'em coming!

For the complete review, please go here:
Reading this book made me realize I read a ton of historical fiction set in England. I probably know British (and by extension French and general European) history better than I know American history. That being said, so much of what I’ve read has been set during the Tudor or Elizabethan periods and this book was dense with rich historical detail and various happenings during the reign of Edward II and Edward III. It ended up being a slower read than I anticipated but only because I kept falling ...more
Jun 02, 2015 Anna rated it did not like it
Ugh. What a book. It’s a fictionalized account of Eleanor de Clare, the wife of Hugh Despenser and the niece of Edward II. Despenser was an ambitious and ruthless noble whose actions led to a rebellion by Edward II’s wife Queen Isabella and Edward’s eventual loss of the throne. I read half of it over the holidays and kept meaning to come back to it, but I just can’t. In retrospect, it’s a slightly more respectable romance novel. Everyone seems to be in love with, or lusting after, Eleanor. There ...more
Steven Peterson
May 09, 2011 Steven Peterson rated it liked it
This is, as it were, the prequel to Higginbotham's book "Hugh and Bess." I rather prefer the latter, but this volume is also well written. At one level, it is the story of the marriage of Eleanor de Clare to Hugh le Despenser (the younger). Eleanor's uncle, Edward II, is also a key player as well as Edward's Queen--Isabella.

The dangers of the royal court are displayed, as well as the secrets of Edward II. One key line, the words of Hugh le Despenser to Eleanor (Page 38): "What nonsense! You are
In 'The Traitor's Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II' author Susan Higginbotham follows the life of Eleanor de Clare from the time she marries Hugh le Despenser in 1306 to her death in 1337. The years in between are full of challenges, which the title character rises to admirably. She is portrayed as a loyal, passionate woman who loves her husband, her children and her king. She will do whatever she can to protect them. Even when her efforts fail and she is faced with tremendous loss, she m ...more
Jul 06, 2010 Gaile rated it really liked it
Shelves: 13th-century
This book was somewhat difficult to get into at first because of the plethora of characters given the same name. An index of the names was in the front of the book which helped to keep me on track. The heroine lives at a time when men were hungry for power and once they got it, became greedy for more. Written in the time of Edward II Of England, a personality too gentle, thoughtful and careless of the jealousy shown to ward those he favored to be a strong leader in these violent times, he also h ...more
Dec 26, 2009 Lesley rated it liked it
This was NOT an easy read! With 5 Isabella/Isabel's, 4 Hugh's, 4 Joan's, 4 Edwards, 4 Eleanor's and the largest cast of characters I've ever encountered between the pages of one book - it was enough to put my reading sanity on edge. I finally started to get the characters straight about 2/3 of the way through (thank goodness for the Character index in the front of the book).

This story basically starts where the movie Braveheart left off during the reign of Edward II. Everything unfolds through t
Jan 24, 2013 Sandy rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
This is killing me - slow! I keep putting it down.
The author spends WAY too much time on historical who's who (titles and lands), just to show she's done her research when it has nothing to do with the story or main characters. I hate this 'tmi' with historical fiction.
I love tid-bits of facts and history, but you have to make it interesting and a good story with well developed characters.
May 11, 2014 Christina rated it liked it
I have conflicting thoughts on this book. This is an incredible period of history, that at times it seems it is filled with nothing but villains. It is a period that I think a lot of people shy away from in historical fiction. As such, this is a great book in that it tackles this difficult era. Especially as it is told mainly from the viewpoint of the wife of the main villain. Eleanor de Clare was a granddaughter of a king and niece to the current one, Edward II. She married into a prominent fam ...more
May 30, 2016 Nola rated it it was amazing
Hugh le Despenser The Younger as a flawed hero? Excellent! That was an almost impossible task for the author and she did it so well! I loved this book despite the fact that it was more gritty than I usually select (truthfully so, however). The author does a wonderful job describing the intense political controversy of Edward II's court from the perspective (mostly) of Lady Despenser. Kudos to Susan Higginbotham for staying true to the history with names, places, dates. This telling lands the rea ...more
A truly shining example of historical fiction done right. Excellent characterizations and top notch research and storytelling elevate this novel to the top for me. I’m now a fan of Susan Higginbotham.

This book did for such characters as Piers Gaveston, Edward II, and the Despensers what A Prince To Be Feared did for Vlad the Impaler for me. Besides the avarice and perceived weakness of these figures, Susan gives us their humanity. We get to see their deep love for family, their devotion to frien
Mar 29, 2011 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
My original review of this novel is on my blog; http://historicalfictionobsession.blo...

This is definitely one of my top ten historical fiction picks. I had never read a book that really gave you the dirty, DETAILED details of what was going on with Edward II of England. Yeah, I read Braveheart, and it hinted at the debauchery that was going on with Edward II and Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser, and there have been other books that mentioned that he was a homosexual, but this book really went
Aug 21, 2009 Sara rated it it was amazing
Susan Higginbotham tells of the reign and aftermath of Edward the II in her steamy THE TRAITOR’S WIFE. The action is revealed mainly through the perspective of Eleanor le Despenser, Edward’s favorite niece and wife of the notorious traitor Hugh as suggested by the title. Higginbotham’s Eleanor is fiercely devoted and gracefully traverses the challenges of corruption, intrigue and betrayal that only the Royal Court can provide.

The novel is well researched, most of the main action being either ba
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I am the author of two historical novels set in fourteenth-century England: The Traitor's Wife: A Novel of the Reign of Edward II and Hugh and Bess. Both were reissued in 2009 by Sourcebooks.

My third novel, The Stolen Crown, is set during the Wars of the Roses. It features Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and his wife, Katherine Woodville, as narrators. My fourth novel, The Queen of Last Hopes,
More about Susan Higginbotham...

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