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Blog Tour Review: Hugh and Bess, Susan Higginbotham

When her parents arrange for Bess de Montacute to marry Hugh le Despenser, Bess is extremely unhappy.  Hugh is the son and grandson of traitors and in his thirties, while Bess is only thirteen.  She cannot imagine ever getting along with her new husband and spurns many of his advances.  Hugh, meanwhile, is thrilled with the match, given that Bess is lovely and her family is in favor with King Edward III, but regrets having to put aside his long-term and much-loved mistress.  Still haunted by dreams of his tortured past in prison, Hugh needs someone who will love and support him.  Will Bess be the one, or will their marriage result in heartbreak?

Since I really enjoyed The Traitor’s Wife by Susan Higginbotham this spring, I was very much looking forward to Hugh and Bess.  I was not at all disappointed; Higginbotham has written an eminently charming and touching novel of romance that varies enough from Traitor’s Wife to show off her writing talent while giving us something a little bit different.

As this is essentially a novel about a relationship, the two main characters must be well developed for the book to work, and here they certainly are.  I loved Hugh and Bess.  I loved them apart but I loved them together even more, which is what made this book such a pleasure to read.  They each bring problems to the marriage, Hugh with his difficult past and Bess with her initial inability to look past Hugh’s traitorous family.  Watching them fall in love with one another and get past their individual issues was pure enjoyment.  Higginbotham efficiently fills us in on the history of Edward II and the Despensers, so readers without knowledge of the period will fully understand the stigma Hugh faces as he attempts to rebuild his family’s name.  It also helps that the cast of this novel is considerably smaller; we don’t need an epic to get to know these people, and just under 300 pages is the perfect length for this book.

One rather small detail I appreciated was Higginbotham’s attention to the chivalric education of young men around this time.  I just so happen to be educating myself on this topic right now and I love that she stuck to the history and incorporated her research, particularly in this one area about which I have become well-informed.  It makes me trust the rest of her facts, which are all accurate as far as I know.  Of course, historical novelists tend to slant portrayal of all characters one way or the other, but it’s wonderful knowing that there is a sound basis for such decisions.

Hugh and Bess is a wonderful read. I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction (and romance!) everywhere. I’m eagerly awaiting more by Susan Higginbotham. In the meantime, she has a fantastic blog which you can find right here and you can also visit the other great blogs on this tour:

Musings of a Bibliophile (7/28)

Passages to the Past (8/1)

My Friend Amy (8/1)

Reading Adventures (8/2)

Jennifer’s Random Musings (8/2)

Peeking Between the Pages (8/3)

Historical Novels.info (8/3)

Grace’s Book Blog (8/4)

The Written World (8/5)

Mrs. Magoo Reads (8/5)

Historical Fiction (8/6)

Jenn’s Bookshelf (8/6)

The Tome Traveller’s Weblog (8/7)

Galley Cat (8/8)

Book Addiction (8/9)

Steven Till (8/10)

Carla Nayland (8/11)

The Literate Housewife Review (8/12)

Diary of an Eccentric (8/13)

Bookfoolery and Babble (8/14)

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