The Marsh King's Daughter, Elizabeth Chadwick
This was my first time reading the wonderful Elizabeth Chadwick and I have to say I was not disappointed. I could not put the book down and I was up until 3am so I could finish it. So why only 4.5 roses and not 5 if I enjoyed it that much? Just personal preference, really. I think Elizabeth Chadwick did a wonderful job with this story and she was able to blend fictional characters, historical fiction, and historical romance together beautifully.
The story was about Miriel Weaver and Nicholas de Caen, fictional characters set at the beginning of Henry III's reign in the early 13th century. Miriel has been imprisoned in a convent by her stepfather and Nicholas is a rebel against King John. They meet when Nicholas ends up sick and injured at Miriel's convent and she nurses him back to health. She then runs away with him when he leaves, seeing him as her only way out. Miriel then steals something of Nicholas's (which happens to be part of the royal regalia that HE snatched) and runs from him, setting herself up in Nottingham, hoping for a new life. The rest of the story is about their two separate lives until they eventually meet up again. Miriel ends up married to a really evil man, though she doesn't realize it immediately, and Nicholas becomes a very successful sea captain. The events at the end of the novel really rush along and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end.
While this wasn't about any historical people (though of course they are mentioned, they just don't play any major roll in the story) I really enjoyed it and I thought it was incredibly well written with well developed characters. You can feel sorry for Miriel as she suffered the way most women suffered during the middle ages - being at the whim of the males in your life, be it father or husband. I was a bit surprised that she really didn't have any inkling about how horrible her husband, Robert, really was and the lengths he would go to in order to get what he wanted. I did feel a few of her decisions were poorly made but she was doing what she felt she needed to in order to survive. I really enjoyed the bantering between Miriel and Nicholas as they tried to hide the fact that they already knew each other when they were finally thrown together again.
The part that interested me the most was how Chadwick "explains" what happened to King John's royal treasure, which really did disappear around this time. As no one ever found it or knew what happened to it, it was fun to see her way of explaining its disappearance (though what happened to the Empress Mathilda's crown at the end made me want to cry).
I would certainly recommend this to anyone interested in the time period. I would also recommend it to readers who would like to start reading historical fiction; this is an easy step into the genre as it doesn't throw a ton of historical information at you all over the place.