To Defy A King By Elizabeth Chadwick
Pub. Date: March 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Format: Paperback , 544pp
Sales Rank: 39,354
The privileged daughter of one of the most powerful men in England, Mahelt Marshal’s life changes dramatically when her father is suspected by King John. Her brothers become hostages and Mahelt is married to Hugh Bigod, heir to the earldom of Norfolk. Adapting to her new life is hard, but Mahelt comes to love Hugh deeply; however, defying her father in law brings disgrace and heartbreak. When King John sets out to subdue the Bigods, Mahelt faces her worst fears alone, knowing neither she, nor her marriage are likely to survive the outcome. A story of huge emotional power set against the road to Magna Carta and the fight to bring a tyrant king to heel.
Elizabeth Chadwick is one of my absolute favorite authors writing historical fiction of the Medieval Period. I have read all of her books. I usually order them when they are published in the UK. However, To Defy A King, marks the first US publication. So it was such a delight for me to walk to my local bookstore, see it proudly on the shelf, and actually purchase it without having to wait a week for it to arrive overseas! I read To Defy A King in 48 hours stopping only when my eyes burned and to sleep!
'To Defy A King' picks up the storyline where, 'The Time of Singing' leaves off.
Roger Bigod and Ida de Tosney are now older and their children are grown. Their eldest son and heir, Hugh, is in his early twenties and beginning to learn the ropes of running an earldom. Meanwhile, “the greatest knight”, William Marshall is contemplating marriage for his beloved eldest daughter Mahelt. Forging alliances with other powerful families, the two patriarchs agree to the marriage of their children.
Mahelt, William Marshall's beloved older daughter is betrothed at an early age to Hugh, the elder son of Roger Bigod who is considerably older than she. After the betrothal, she comes to live with her new family, mainly at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk. Mahelt is homesick at first, misses her wonderful father and finds it difficult to settle in a household ruled by an earl of much sterner stuff. Her rebellious ways almost bring disaster down on them all but she is lucky in her husband who, whilst anxious to curb her over-enthusiasms, understands her fears and frustration. Slowly and hesitantly, theirs matures into a good marriage, despite the best efforts of King John and war to destroy it.
Mahelt takes after her father – she is somewhat of a free spirit and prefers to spend her time running and organizing things as opposed to sitting still and sewing. She often doesn’t know when to hold her tongue, but she is always mindful of her place. Hugh loves her spirit and is afraid keeping too tight of a reign on her will break everything he loves about her. Their relationship is well developed but not without its problems and as events spiral out of control around them, it may become just another one of the casualties. Mahelt finds her loyalties divided as her husband toys with rebellion and her father vows to honor his oath to the king.
There were two male characters that I found really interesting.
William Longespee is Ida’s son by Henry II and therefore half brother to King John as well as half brother to Hugh. He is arrogant and sometimes his behavior is a little over the top. Eventhough, he has a tendency to look down his royal nose at his Bigod relatives, he eventually learns that his royal brother is not the trusthworthy one which changes everything.
I was delighted to find out how Roger Bigod fared over the years since Elizabeth Chadwick's last novel, 'The Time Of Singing' ended. However, time has hardened him into a grouchy, narrow minded bastard whose relationship with Ida is now rather strained. When tragedy strikes, the old Roger's spirit breaks and we see the young Roger emerge briefly as he privately grieves and I cried like a baby!
I am never disappointed by an Elizabeth Chadwick novel. As a reader I am inexorably drawn into the Medieval world where I know I will meet characters I love, characters I hate and events that keep me on the edge of my seat ignoring the rest of my duties!
'To Defy A King' left me breathless with anticipation and yearning for her next novel, 'Lady of the English' due out this June!
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