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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My review of Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

About the book:

Matilda, daughter of Henry I, knows that there are those who will not accept her as England's queen when her father dies. But the men who support her rival Stephen do not know the iron will that drives her.

Adeliza, Henry's widowed queen and Matilda's stepmother, is now married to a warrior who fights to keep Matilda off the throne. But Adeliza, born with a strength that can sustain her through heartrending pain, knows that the crown belongs to a woman this time.

In the anarchy, in a world where a man's word is law, how can Adeliza obey her husband while supporting Matilda?

How long can Matilda fight for the throne that she has struggled so bitterly to win?

My review:

Everything about this story was compelling, and though it was a long book of 514 pages, I enjoyed every word. I adore a novel that is set during this time period, especially when the author can keep me solidly planted in that time period. There were a lot of references to God and Jesus as well as God's will. It was the Middle Ages after all and spiritual retreats, convents and sanctuaries were revered places. I loved that aspect of this novel.

I also became tearful several times, especially toward the end. I appreciated that the story was not just about Matilda, but also regarding Adeliza, the dowager queen who eventually remarried. The love story that began after the king's death was beautifully written and I felt the wonder along with Adeliza, who never felt truly loved before Will married her. That was very touching. 

The relationship between Adeliza and Matilda, the deceased King's daughter, was something to behold and I loved how the author worked that story line into the plot. There was also the mystery surrounding Brian FitzCount's dedication to Matilda that kept me turning the pages. I could see where the author's theory came from regarding their close relationship and it worked for me. Anything more would have been known about and written into some historical documents, not to mention it could have jeopardized Matilda's ultimate goal of reigning England.

I connected with both female lead characters, but mainly with Adeliza, who reminded me a lot of my own mother who ended up longing for children and then after having all of us she became weakened by MS which rendered her physically incapable of parenting. I grieved with them all. Matilda was strong on the outside, but she had a definite feminine side to her that few people saw. I identified with her feeling stuck because of duty to the crown. First, she had to marry an old man, but she ended up loving him until he died. Then the second husband her father the king had chosen for her was a teen boy of only 14 when she was about 28. That had to have been difficult, though I liked how the author developed their relationship as well. It made sense to me.

I absolutely loved this book and probably would have read it sooner if it hadn't been so long, but that aside, it was worth my time and inspired me. I recommend it to people who love reading about this time period. The author's note at the end highlights the historical facts, and that is sometimes my favorite part as they explain why they wrote things certain ways and discussions of that nature. This book makes me want to look at pictures of castles online and take a trip to Europe. Ah, well, someday maybe...

Lady of the English was published by Sourcebooks Landmark and released in Sept 2011.

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