For the King's Favor, Elizabeth Chadwick
4. 5 roses
I love Elizabeth Chadwick's books and always look forward to a new one eagerly. This novel was published (in the UK I believe) as The Time of Singing but I had never read it so I was excited when the opportunity arose through Sourcebooks to review the novel for it's US release. I was not disappointed - but then, I have never been disappointed with Ms. Chadwick's novels.
The novel tells the story of Roger Bigod, heir to the earldom of Norfolk, and Ida de Tosney, mistress to Henry II. While at Henry's court to settle his inheritance, Roger meets Ida, Henry's somewhat reluctant mistress and mother to his illegitimate son William Longespee, and something sparks between the two. What follows is a story full of conflicts as Roger and Ida try to form a life together - Roger constantly having to prove he is not the traitor his father was, Ida's heartbreaking choice as a mother, the ongoing problem with Roger's stepmother over the Norfolk inheritance, and the troubles within the royal family - and all this is after Roger has to truly "win" his lady love and get permission from the King to marry his former mistress!
While this may all sound a bit fantastic, Roger and Ida's story is true, which makes this novel so much more lovely. Readers who have enjoyed the series on William Marshal will be thrilled to see him appear here in as a secondary character. Unlike William Marshal, there is no where near as much recorded history about Roger Bigod; however Ms. Chadwick is able to piece together what is known with her little bits of creativity flawlessly, creating a very believable character and story. Her attention to historical detail and accuracy is again very obvious but you do not feel like you are being beaten over the head with information. Once again she has used her wonderful talent of effortlessly recreating medieval life for her readers making it easy for a modern person to picture what life was truly like for these very real people. She has created characters that are multi-dimensional and a joy to read about, taking people who could have been lost in the mists of time and given them new life. I thought Roger Bigod, while not a stud like William Marshal, was a good, noble, and honorable man and it was very easy for me to root for him throughout the novel. While reading I noticed that Roger's struggle with his stepmother and stepbrothers slightly resembled a "Cinderella" type story and that gave me a little chuckle. Ida's story is heartbreaking at points (my heart ached for her when she would pull William's baby shoes out and look at them). Her struggle to rebuild a relationship with the son she had to give up is very touching and Ms. Chadwick brilliantly shows what a rough life a medieval woman - even a noble born one - had to struggle through. Just like modern couples, Roger and Ida have some serious conflicts to work through during the course of the novel, making their story even more accessible to readers. The other characters in the novel all have a very distinct personality and it is easy to like them or despise them. I found myself really disliking Ida's firstborn, William, as he grew older; his arrogance really grated on my nerves and his snobbish ideas on his mother's new family made me want to spank him. Beyond the characters populating the novel, there is wonderful description of the extremely turbulent times Roger and Ida are trying to struggle through. Life could be quite rough on a normal basis but at this point in time there was the added danger of political intrigue nobles had to navigate through and Ms. Chadwick does a superb job of portraying how this threat could really hang over someone's head, influencing every aspect of their life. One surprise for me was the fact I really enjoyed all the information on the rebuilding of the Bigod estate, Framlingham, in Norfolk. I also enjoyed seeing characters that figure into Ms. Chadwick's newest novel about Roger Bigod's son Hugh and the Marshal's oldest daughter Mahelt. It is amazing how she is able to weave all these stories together, even in separate books!
I will caution some readers - this is not an action packed, super suspenseful novel. It is a well written story of two people struggling to create a life together amidst a very turbulent time. It is a very enjoyable read (but of course we are talking about Elizabeth Chadwick!) that will introduce the reader to two little known figures in history. I can easily recommend this book to all readers. Chadwick fans will certainly enjoy another fantastic novel, readers who are rather picky about the historical accuracy in their historical fiction will be pleased with the attention to research, and those who aren't picky will get facts that aren't skewed out of shape to fit the author's storyline. Pick this one up; I don't think you will be disappointed!
To read more about the Bigods, read Chadwick's newest novel To Defy a King.
*Thank you to Sourcebooks for the review copy of this novel!