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The Traitor’s Wife by Susan Higginbotham

I recently received The Traitor’s Wife by Susan Higginbotham from Sourcebooks for review and this April blog tour. Stay tuned for a giveaway after my review.

Susan Higginbotham’s research shines through in this historical fiction about the reign of King Edward II. Despite the large cast in this book and the multiple Edwards, Hughs, and Joans, readers will not have a hard time keeping track of the characters and even if they get stuck, there is a handy character breakdown in the front of the book. I don’t know much about 14th Century England, but I do remember Robert the Bruce from Braveheart, who does make a few appearances in the novel.

King Edward II is thrust onto the throne despite his wild ways after his father’s death, and his niece Eleanor becomes Isabella of France’s lady-in-waiting, Edward’s new bride and queen. Sweeping through battles, bedroom scenes, and the court, readers will get an inside look at the kingdom and the politics that dominated England in the 14th Century. After checking some historical information, quite of bit of Higginbotham’s plot is based upon well known facts about King Edward II and his kingdom at the time.

This novel is told from Eleanor’s point of view, which will quickly absorb the reader in the story and how the political uprisings impacted her family and her husband, Hugh Despenser the Younger. The passage below occurs between the new queen, Isabella, and Eleanor.

“‘And this Gaveston? Do you truly believe he and the king are nothing more than brothers to each other?’

‘I don’t know, your grace, and it would be presumptuous of me to guess, I think. I can only tell you this: The king loves Gaveston more than anyone in the world. And Gaveston for all of his ways loves the king too, I think.’

‘And I should accept this?'” (Page 23)

Readers will find the back-and-forth of the dialogue engrossing, and the prose is vivid, like the passage below when Eleanor trudges through the woods:

Walking in the opposite direction from the men, and praying that there were none to follow them, she caught sight of a stream. It would certainly lead her to the river. Sobbing with relief, she hurried to the stream, not seeing in the growing darkness the root that caught her foot and sent her headlong down the bank and into the water. Soaked to the skin, her hands scraped on the pebbles she had grabbed in a vain effort to stop her fall, she emerged coughing and sputtering from the water, only to find that her throbbing ankle would not bear her weight. She crawled out of the stream and pulled herself upon a large rock, utterly defeated. (Page 48)

Although there are several instances when Hugh, Eleanor’s husband, disappears, readers are not likely to be convinced of his blind ambition, which emerges later in the novel. Oftentimes, Hugh seems not to care much for court or the politics of the age when he interacts with his father, and he fails to show himself at court early on in his marriage to Eleanor, which to many readers could signify his ambivalence to wealth and power. However, Hugh plays a central role in the novel, seeking greater power, land, and favor from King Edward II. Another drawback to the novel is the tendency for the prose to tell rather than show plot points. Overall, this novel is engaging and informative for readers interested in 14th Century England and the nation’s struggles with Scotland and its political regime.

***Giveaway***

I have 3 copies for U.S./Canada residents available from Sourcebooks and 1 copy, my gently used ARC, for an international recipient.

1. Please leave a comment here about your favorite historical novel for 1 entry.

2. For a second entry, come back tomorrow and leave a comment on my interview with Susan Higginbotham tomorrow, April 16.

3. Spread the word about the giveaway and leave a link on this post for a third entry.

***Remember to leave your email address and indicate if you are international in your comments***

Deadline is April 22 at 5PM

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. For a list of winners, go here.

About the Author (from her Website):

Susan Higginbotham has been writing, off and on, as long as she can remember. Her first stab at a historical novel was in junior high school, where she whiled away my study halls writing about the adventures of five orphaned siblings living through the Blitz. Fortunately, most of the details have escaped her, but as she recalls her characters had an endless supply of money and very few relatives to get in their way. Aside from the remarks such as “There’s a war going on, you know” that she cleverly threw in once in a while, the characters could have just as easily been living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., in the 1970’s (like herself) as in London in the 1940’s. But everyone has to start somewhere, eh?

Read Susan Higginbotham’s Website for the rest of her biography, here, and check out her blog, here. You can buy this book here in the United States and here in Canada.

Check out the other stops on the tour: