Not to be over dramatic, but this book came at the PERFECT time in my life. I literally JUST finished “Three Day Road” by Joseph Boyden, and while not being a BAD book, it was not an overly HAPPY one. And from the first sentence of Hugh and Bess I knew that it was going to be a delightful read. Which it totally WAS. I LOVED IT.
I really do not know much about Edward II, but interestingly enough I DID know about the standoff at Calais so parts of the book were very cool for that reason. What I LOVED about the novel is that each of the characters had a very distinctive VOICE. And Bess’s voice is so endearing, I liked her immediately. She is only 13 when we meet her, and she is a widow (thaaaat’s right.. I said WIDOW) and her parents have figured she had been widowing around long enough and it was high time for her to be married off.. again. Bess is not impressed, to say the least, especially when she finds out that her dear friend Joan is marrying her brother Will who is around their age, and Bess has to marry this old guy who is a whole 32 years old for heaven’s sake!
Eventhough this novel is set in the 14th century Bess's character is, in many ways, very typical of a any thirteen year old girl. For example how she is secretly annoyed at the fact the Joan has developed breasts long before she has.
"So why didn't you tell me? Don't you want to marry Will?"
"I have my reasons."
This had become Joan's favourite saying since she had started her monthly courses and developed those breasts of hers.
She is feisty, and outspoken, but also self conscious. All completely endearing qualities. Hugh, although relatively handsome, has a dark family history which horrifies Bess. But since she has no choice in the matter agrees to marry him.
Flashbacks to Hugh's past help us to understand his character and how it is vastly different to that of his distasteful and cruel father and Grandfather. He is a respectable and lovely man who is always trying to "do the right thing". We also learn of Emma, Hugh's first real love whom he will never be permitted to marry. A very respectable woman in her own right, who knows the rules of the court well enough to know she will never be married to Hugh, the only man she has ever really loved.
Throughout the story we are gently taken along as Hugh and Bess's feelings for one another grow, and we learn that their love is the stuff of fairy tales. That, which is to say, is not without its nightmares.
"Hugh and Bess" is a love story, and it is very well written and lovely to read. Personally, I could not put it down and read it in two days. And I will be ordering Higginbotham's other book "The Traitor's Wife" and then "The Stolen Crown" when it comes out. If this book is any indication of the story telling ability of the author than I know I will LOVE her other books as well. Historical fiction can be tricky. You need to have enough HISTORY to frame the story in it's place in time, but not TOO much and not TOO DRY to make it like a text book. Higginbotham's historical fiction blends the "historical" and the "fiction" perfectly. In fact, in my opinion, the mark of a great historical fiction novel is that you want to go on after you finish it and devour anything having to do with the family or historical persons portrayed in the book. Higginbotham's novel made me want to do that very thing. Also, the mark of ANY good book is at the very very end, when you finally close its cover , you actually sigh audibly as in "that was SUCH a great book."
You can read more about Susan Higginbotham and her works at her website here.
NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY PORTION OF THIS POST!!!!!
The publisher, Source Books, of Hugh and Bess has GRACIOUSLY allowed me to giveaway a COPY OF THE BOOK!!!!!
Here is how to enter:
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This giveaway is open until October 30th at midnight Alberta Time, and the winners will be announced on October 31. The winners will have ONE WEEK from that DATE to reply by sending me their mailing address or their winning number will be forfeit.
The winner will also be notified via email.