I don't read many historical novels but someone left an Elizabeth Chadwick at my house last year and I got hooked so I'm gradually reading my way throI don't read many historical novels but someone left an Elizabeth Chadwick at my house last year and I got hooked so I'm gradually reading my way through her whole back catalogue. This is her first novel, set at the turn of the 12th century at the time when William Rufus - heir to William the Conqueror - is holding Britain by the scruff of its neck despite political intrigue. Guyon, a comfortable bachelor and courtier, with a pregnant mistress, is heir to his uncle's estate at Ledworth, close to the Welsh borders. On his uncle's death the king grants him the right to take his rightful lands, but only on condition that he marries Judith of Ravenstowe to keep her holding from the rapacious border lords, de Belleme and de Lacy who between them are worse than the Welsh raiders who plague the area. The couple meet for the first time at their wedding. He's in his late twenties, she's barely fifteen.
Judith is terrified of men, marriage and especially sex. Brought up by an abusive father who treated her mother despicably, raping her in public and abusing her physically and mentally for not bearing him a son, Judith can't face the idea of being possessed and dominated. Despite their unconsummated marriage she's a competent housekeeper and herbalist, and in many ways a good wife to Guyon, Guyon sees her as a child at first. He's patient as she matures and though it takes more than a year, eventually friendship is established, love blossoms.
But in the meantime, at court, Prince Henry remarks how much Judith reminds him of his grandmother... and no wonder... It turns out that in desperation to please her horrible husband and bear him an heir, Judith's mother took a much younger man to her bed, and that same man – Prince Henry – is now poised on the brink of taking the throne on the death of William Rufus in a hunting 'accident'.
A story in two halves. The first half is of Waltheof, the English Earl of Huntingdon who was not involved at Hastings on the fateful day in 1066, butA story in two halves. The first half is of Waltheof, the English Earl of Huntingdon who was not involved at Hastings on the fateful day in 1066, but who was held hostage by William of Normandy in the troubled period following the defeat of the English. Big, kindly and as strong as his Viking forbears Waltheof is, nevertheless, not up to the politics of the period, and his love for Judith, the Conqueror's niece and haughty Norman ice-queen is his undoing. Getting involved in one Danish rebellion too many leaves Waltheof's head parted from his body and Judith a widow, raising her two young daughters alone as Countess of Huntingdon..
One of Waltheorf's true friends is the young squire Simon de Senlis, whom Waltheof saves from being trampled by a horse as a child of nine and befriends throughout his coinvalescence. (Simon's broken leg leaves him with a permanent limp which makes him always push the borders of his own physicality.) When - thirteen years after Waltheof's death and as a knight in the service of William Rufus, the Conqueror's heir - Simon is sent to take charge of Huntingdon, ousting the widow Judith, he makes good his claim on the earldom by hastily marrying Waltheof's sixteen year old daughter, Mathilda. The second half of the book is the story of Simon and Mathilda as they love and fight their way through the early decades of the Norman invasion, the early crusades and William Rufus' open battles against his brother disputing the English throne.
None of Chadwick's characters is perfect. They all have lapses of judgement and carry their own personal demons with them. Waltheof is none too bright – a follower rather than a leader, and is too easily swayed by his ties to his Danish family and twice reneges on his oath to the new Norman king. In the end he pays the ultimate price. Judith, despite her love for Waltheof, is too much in the mould of her harpy mother (the Conqueror's sister), always putting duty first. She makes a fateful mistake in denouncing Waltheof's rebellion to the king (her uncle). She expects it to lead to banishment, but instead, he is executed for treason. After a boyhood accident that almost kills him, Simon strives to overcome his lameness and people’s attitude to it, learning to live with almost constant pain, but always working that little bit harder to be as good as men with two straight legs. He lets his wanderlust overcome his need for Mathilda and takes the crusade, discovering - when it's almost too late – that his place is where his heart lies. Mathilda carries the deep neediness and insecurity caused by losing her beloved father, Waltheof, and being raised by her duty-bound and straight-laced mother, Judith. She must learn trust so that history doesn’t repeat itself. ...more
Another excellent Elizabeth Chadwick historical, though may be not my favourite of hers. When Oliver Pascal returns from a long pilgrimage in 1140 heAnother excellent Elizabeth Chadwick historical, though may be not my favourite of hers. When Oliver Pascal returns from a long pilgrimage in 1140 he finds his brother dead and their lands given to a Flemish mercenary. The country's in turmoil with civil war raging between Stephen and Mathilda. Drawn to the site of a raid by the smell of smoke, he finds two survivors, Catrin, a young widow, and her charge Richard, bastard son of the old king. He delivers them safely to Earl Robert, in command of Mathilda's garrison at Bristol, and true to his promise continues to have an eye for their welfare. He's already attracted to Catrin, though still bruised from the loss of his beloved first wife in childbirth.
When Catrin persuades the old midwife, Ethel, to train her, she embarks on a new but dangerous career and Oliver is somewhat disturbed because, as a hearth knight in Earl Robert's employ, he goes where he's sent and he's not always there to protect her when she's called out in the middle of the night. As the fortunes of war ebb and flow he's taken prisoner by the opposition in the shape of a knight called Louis le Loup. When Catrin risks all to bring his ransom it turns out the Louis is Lewis, Catrin's supposedly dead husband, back from the grave and reinvented from sergeant to knight. catrin has to choose between legitimat (loved) husband and her new love, Oliver....more
Another excellent Chadwick. This time the main characters are entirely invented though some of the minor characters are actual historical figures. TheAnother excellent Chadwick. This time the main characters are entirely invented though some of the minor characters are actual historical figures. The main plot-bunny is that intriguing question... what did happen to King John's royal regalia? Was it really lost in the Wash?
When Miriel Weaver is forced into a convent by her violent stepfather, she sees the opportunity to escape when nursing the wanted rebel Nicholas de Caen back to health. It doesn't all quite go to plan, but Miriel does get away and discovers Nicholas' big secret – a treasure box rescued from King John's baggage train when the tidal flow of the Wash caught the wagons unawares. In the belief that Nicholas will abandon her penniless, Miriel steals a portion of his treasure and with it makes a good life for herself in Nottingham, buying a weaving business and running it as an independent widow. Nicholas also prospers, becoming a ship-master with a thriving business, but the two of them are destined to meet again. Unfortunately not until Miriel has given up her independence my marrying a man she discovers she hardly even knows.
Bound together by dangerous secrets, Miriel and Nicholas' relationship flares into passion which brings them both into desperate danger. Unknown to Miriel, her husband is not above murdering those who stand in his way. ...more
Reading Elizabeth Chadwick's historical fiction is almost a guilty pleasure. You tend to know what you're going to get: a romance involving (mostly) gReading Elizabeth Chadwick's historical fiction is almost a guilty pleasure. You tend to know what you're going to get: a romance involving (mostly) genuine historical personages from the (probably) Plantagenet era. She has a style and it suits me well for those moments when I want something that's light reading with an air of authentic history.
This is the story of Ida de Tosney, once the mistress of King Henry II, who was married off to Roger Bigod, heir to lands in East Anglia and in dispute with both the crown and his younger half-brothers over the title and revenues of the earldom of Norfolk.
The condition of the marriage is that Ida must leave behind the son she bore Henry to be raised as a royal bastard.
Roger was a contemporary of William Marshall, whose life is covered in Chadwick's books The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion and it's good to see how the Bigod's and the Marshalls intersect. ...more
Elizabeth Chadwick is another of this year’s discoveries. I haven’t read historicals for years but this might just lead me back into them again. Her wElizabeth Chadwick is another of this year’s discoveries. I haven’t read historicals for years but this might just lead me back into them again. Her writing is crisp and emotive and her research meticulous.
Alexander de Montroi, dedicated to the church as a child and now grown to a pretty teen, flees a lecherous prior and arrives at his older brother’s encampment on the French tourney circuit half dead from the privations of the journey. He’s scrawny and sick but soon recovers to learn the art and craft of fighting his way to the top of the tourney league. His older brother’s tourney partner has a daughter, Monday, granddaughter of the bitter Thomas FitzParnell.
An unwise moment brings Alexander and Monday together and then rips them apart. Pregnant and alone, Monday finds sanctuary with a lesser baron and his wife where she comes to the notice of Prince John, soon to be King of England. As his mistress she has everything she needs and believes herself to be happy and (relatively) independent until Alexander comes back into her life. Their love blossoms despite John’s vengeful nature and the unwelcome attentions of Monday’s grandfather who has been left with no heir except for his estranged granddaughter.
This is an exciting, if bloody, romp through 12th/13th century France and England with Alexander and Monday’s story woven through accurate historical events of the time. Highly recommended. ...more
This follows on from the story of Fulke (LeBrun) Fitzwarin and Hawise as told so well in ‘Shadows and Strongholds’ (number 30 on this list). The heroThis follows on from the story of Fulke (LeBrun) Fitzwarin and Hawise as told so well in ‘Shadows and Strongholds’ (number 30 on this list). The hero if this book is LeBrun’s son, also Fulke who carries forward his family’s ambition to regain title to The White Castle at Whittington in the hotly disputed Welsh Borders, arbitrarily taken from the Fitzwarins and bestowed on a lord with half a foot in the Norman camp and half in the Welsh.
It’s an ambition that’s going to drive him to despair and almost to the point of destruction since Fulke (the younger) quarrels with the young Prince John. John is never going to forgive and forget, so as king he blocks Fulke’s access to Whittington at every turn – ultimately causing Fulke to turn outlaw. Fulke Fitzwarin – the outlaw – is a matter of historical record, but within the broad sweep of history Chadwick has teased out a very human story.
Fulke’s attraction to Maude, the child bride of his much-loved mentor, Lord Theobald Walter, is an itch he dare not scratch until Walter dies, leaving Maude a young, childless widow under the protection of the Archbishop of Canterbury and lusted after by King John, who considers seducing his Baron’s wives a fair sport. Fulke and Maude are united at last, even though all he can offer her is the life of an outlaw’s wife until he eventually makes an uneasy peace with John.
Fulke and the spirited Maude spat like cat and dog but she is the light of his life even though things do not always run smoothly. Their story is fraught with danger, as the Welsh dispute the border. If Fulke regains Whittington can he hold it?
I think I would have liked this better if Chadwick had stopped earlier in Fulke’s story, but she takes us through to the bitter end. Maude is killed in an accident leaving Fulke empty, though eventually he finds companionship with Clarice, his second wife – again a matter of public record. ...more
The story of Fulke (known as Brunin) FitzWarin and Hawise de Dinan from the time Brunin is taken into the de Dinan household (Ludlow Castle) as a tenThe story of Fulke (known as Brunin) FitzWarin and Hawise de Dinan from the time Brunin is taken into the de Dinan household (Ludlow Castle) as a ten year old squire, at the request of his father who wants the gentle Brunin 'made into a man'. Brunin and Hawise grow up together, firm friends, but their eventual marriage is not in their own hands in a world where marriages are arranged for political, economic and security reasons.
This is set against a background of upheaval. It's England in 1148 and Prince Henry of Anjou is making a determined bid for the throne - and will soon become Henry II. FitzWarin and de Dinan are supporters of the victorious Henry, but that's a no guarantee that when the dust settles they won't have lost what they consider to be theirs, for Henry is a capricious king, given to redistributing his favours (and his strongholds) according to the need of the moment.
Gilbert de Lacy contests the right to Ludlow and as the de Dinan family and Joscelin’s young but growing squire are drawn into battles determined by the course of history. Brunin does, indeed, grow to manhood, every inch a Norman knight, learning eventually to overcome the enmity of his brothers, the fear of his harridan grandmother (who never lets anyone in the family forget that they carry William the Conqueror's bloodline) and the disappointment of his father, earning respect and eventually coming into his inheritance.
But Brunin's betrothal to Hawise (portrayed entirely realistically not as a great romance, but as a great friendship blossoming into love at the behest of both their families) is what brings Ludlow down - because in all his time in the de Dinan household he - and everyone else - had discounted the feelings of Marion - another de Brunin fosterling who is much more unstable than anyone suspects. It's Marion's treachery that loses them Ludlow in fact, to a private battle with de Lacey, and Henry that seals it in law.
This is also a story of the love between Joscelin de Dinan and his wife Sybilla. Joscelin, an ex mercenary and good judge of men holds Shrewsbury as his wife's inheritance. Joscelin is a rarity. A truly good and strong man whose one fear is of letting his wife down. He was given Ludlow (and Sybilla) together and fears that losing one will lose him the other.
A well-written and engaging book that I read because someone left it here. I'm glad I did. I don't read many historicals, but I'm inclined to seek out more Elizabeth Chadwick and there is a continuation of Fulke/Brunin's story in Lords of the White Castle (written four years before this book) which is now on my wants list. ...more
Not necessarily a sequel to ‘A Place Beyond Courage’ as all Chadwick’s books are stand-alones, this is the first part of the story of William MarshallNot necessarily a sequel to ‘A Place Beyond Courage’ as all Chadwick’s books are stand-alones, this is the first part of the story of William Marshall, penniless younger son, who has only his wits and his skill to lift him up out of obscurity. Fortunately he not only has wits and skill in plenty, but he also becomes a favourite of the King’s estranged wife, the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose sound advice sets him on the right course to prosper, though not without trials and tribulations as Henry’s children jockey for position in the race to take his throne.
William’s honour and loyalty are tested to the full as son goes up against father, but what sets William apart is his personal integrity. When he gives his word, he doesn’t falter. William’s worth is recognised even by his enemies and the potential rewards are great – if he survives the royal power struggles to reap them.
William Marshall has a special place in history. His skill and prowess on the tourney field in his younger days is legendary, as is his skill in battle his level head and his solid good sense. Above all William is a survivor, eventually outliving his masters to become the greatest knight. ...more
I don’t read much vampire fiction (not my favourite sub-genre) so I have little to compare this to. Cassie is a streetwise, sassy clairvoyant broughtI don’t read much vampire fiction (not my favourite sub-genre) so I have little to compare this to. Cassie is a streetwise, sassy clairvoyant brought up by the vampire equivalent of a powerful local mobster. As the story begins she’s on the run from him and he’s catching up fast. Her escape drops her right into the hands of the Vampire Senate who also want to make use of her powers. As well as being a clairvoyant, Cassie sees ghosts and – it turns out – may well have other hidden talents courtesy of the parents she never knew.
The vamps in this book aren’t necessarily all bad guys or stone cold killers, though they are manipulative, amoral and sneaky and there are other magic users who are just as dangerous if not more so. Cassie’s relationship with the beautiful Tomas and the seductive Mircea is complex and interesting. Cassie wants something from the vamps, too, besides security. She wants information about her parents.
I have a few technical issues with this book (there are times when the overpunctuation made me want to scream), but by an large it was a fast light read, though with a bit of muddlement on the plot that clunked towards the end when much hinged on spirit travelling through time. There was also the longest sex-foreplay scene in the history of the universe with unbelievable pauses between strokes for huge chunks of infodump/exposition in question and answer format. Not quite ‘as you know bob’ (because Cassie didn’t know) but almost.
Will I read the next one? Possibly but I’m not rushing screaming to the nearest bookseller to read it NOW. ...more
A science fiction romance in which fleet Captain Chaz Bergren, framed and sent to an inhospitable prison planet for a military mistake she did not makA science fiction romance in which fleet Captain Chaz Bergren, framed and sent to an inhospitable prison planet for a military mistake she did not make, is rescued by Gabriel Sullivan, one time smuggler, drug dealer and terrorist, reported dead two years earlier. Sully has a problem. Someone is breeding vicious Jukors, deadly killers, long since outlawed, and it seems to be someone high up in the Empire's political system, or maybe even the military themselves. Chaz, raised on the military base Sully needs to infiltrate, is number one on Sully's recruitment list, but she doesn't trust him. It tuns out she's right not to. Sully has a secret that just might be more dangerous than the Jukors and their masters. Unfortunately by the time Chaz finds out it's too late, she's hooked.
This is straightforward romance with a soft-SF setting, but none the worse for that even though it's a predictable plot: girl meets boy, girl is betrayed by boy, girl is reconciled to boy. On the plus side it's action packed, sexy, well-paced and a fast, engaging read with Sully's secret being teased out gradually until in the end he has to choose between losing Chaz or telling all, It looks like it's set up for a sequel and on checking I discover, 'Shades of Dark' was published in 2008. There are also at least two other associated novels in the same universe featuring characters coming to the fore from the periphery of this one. ...more
October (Toby) Daye is a half-fae private investigator in San Francisco – at least until an enemy turns her into a carp and leaves her swimming in a fOctober (Toby) Daye is a half-fae private investigator in San Francisco – at least until an enemy turns her into a carp and leaves her swimming in a fish pond for 14 years. By the time she gets out her wholly human husband and (by now teenage) daughter don't want to know her and with her life in ruins she takes a normal job and tries to leave the magic world behind. Tries. Unfortunately when an old friend, Countess Evening Winterrose, is murdered she's forced into finding the killer or suffering the fatal consequences of Winterrose's dying curse which binds her to the task.
The investigation leads Toby into finding out who her friends really are – unfortunately that also means finding that friends an enemies alike are not all what they seem.
I enjoyed this. It's urban fantasy crossed with noir detective fiction. Toby has an engaging voice and the whodunnit angle keeps you guessing. ...more
The battle of Agincourt told from the viewpoint of common English bowman, Nick Hook. Despite the battle being the main character, there is a story. NiThe battle of Agincourt told from the viewpoint of common English bowman, Nick Hook. Despite the battle being the main character, there is a story. Nick, very probably the bastard of the local landowner, Lord Slayton, is a troubled young man not above committing murder as the sworn enemy of the Perrill brothers, themselves the bastard sons of a jumped up priest, Sir Martin. Through a rolling set of circumstances he's serving as an archer at an execution of a group of Lollards – religious martyrs and is outlawed for striking a priest – the same Sir Martin – who was about to rape Sarah, a condemned prisoner.
He hires on as an archer in order to get out of England and ends up as the only English survivor of the sack of Soissons, from where he rescues Melisande, the bastard daughter of a French noble who has been placed in a convent. Hook and Melisande travel across the French countryside and eventually get to tell the tale of Soissons and hook signs on with the company of Sir John Cornewaille, tourney champion and seasoned veteran, whose rough and ready, but fair treatment of his men (and Melisande) earns him loyalty.
The story then follows Nick through what looks like Henry V's ill-fated campaign to claim the French throne via the siege of Harfleur where Henry wastes too many men (many killed by dysentery) and too much time before attempting to march to the English-held Calais with 4,000 bowmen and only 2,000 men at arms. Rightly wary of English bowmen who made mincemeat of them at the battle of Crecy, the French miss several opportunities to trounce the English, but finally come to a pitched battle on a deeply muddy stretch of ploughed land at Azincourt where the English are hopelessly outnumbered 30,000 men at arms to 2,000 plus 4,000 unarmoured bowmen.
Yes despite the odds it's the bowmen who make a difference, killing the first wave of heavily armoured Frenchmen by firing 15 arrows a minute, felling bodies in the vanguard and creating obstacles which hamper the next wave of men at arms, and the next, and the next. The facts are a matter of record, the French were thoroughly routed by the tiny force of English, but Cornwell's writing gets under the skin of the archers. You can taste the mud and the shit. Nick's personal story – his feud with the Perill brothers and Sir Martin – plays out against a background of living history. ...more