Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham

Susan Higginbotham's Hugh and Bess picks up where The Traitor's Wife ends, and I found it to be a charming love story set in 14th century England. (I read The Traitor's Wife earlier this year. You can read my review here.)

Elizabeth "Bess" de Montacute is the 13-year-old daughter of William de Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, the close friend of Edward III. In 1330, William de Montacute was one of the knights who entered a secret passage into Nottingham Castle and arrested Roger Mortimer so that Edward III could rule independently. Bess learns that her father has agreed to marry her to 32-year-old Hugh le Despenser, and she is upset. Hugh is the son of the infamous traitor and lover of Edward II, Hugh le Despenser the younger, whose exploits are detailed in The Traitor's Wife.

After his father's death at the hands of Edward III's mother, Queen Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer, Hugh is held as a prisoner for four years. Upon his release, Hugh serves as a solider and works hard to prove his loyalty to Edward III and to rebuild his family's reputation.

The marriage is suggested by Edward III, and William de Montecute tries to convince Bess that Sir Hugh is a decent, loyal man. But Bess is cold to Hugh when he is nothing but polite and attentive to her. Hugh knows the marriage is important to improving his family's name, but he is in love with Emma, a childhood friend whom he can never marry. Still, he strives to be a good husband, and despite the complications that arise when Bess befriends Emma and she becomes a fixture in Bess and Hugh's home, Bess eventually warms to Hugh and their marriage becomes one filled with love, tenderness, and passion.

Higginbotham has written a touching love story arising from an arranged marriage, and as the years pass and the plague spreads to England, Bess grows into a caring, strong woman who commands respect. Watching Bess transform and her love for Hugh grow made the book fly by, and when I turned the last page with a tear in my eye and an ache in my heart, I was sad to see it had ended so soon.

Hugh and Bess covers the years 1341 to 1350, along with a few scenes from the time just prior to Hugh's father's death in 1326 and the years of Hugh's imprisonment. Although I found the story captivating and finished it in about a day, Higginbotham does more telling than showing. People have said this about The Traitor's Wife, but I noticed it more in Hugh and Bess. It didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book, but it might explain why the book is so short. (The ARC was just a mere 275 pages.)

The characters, especially Hugh, Bess, Emma, and Joan of Kent, were extremely interesting, and scenes like the one in which Bess has too much to drink, gets feisty with the king, and faces Queen Isabella with a hangover were amusing. I thoroughly enjoyed Hugh and Bess, and if you think it sounds worth checking out, you're in luck!!

I have 2 ARCs of Hugh and Bess to give away, courtesy of Sourcebooks. To enter, leave a comment with your email address and tell me why you are intrigued by the love story of Hugh and Bess. The giveaway is open internationally and will end Sunday, August 23 at 11:59 pm EST.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Hugh and Bess from Sourcebooks for review purposes.


Serena said...

Ok, you've convinced me that I should give this a try, so here I am entering this giveaway! LOL

savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com

I'll post it in the sidebar as always...I'll even tweet for you.

Jo-Jo said...

Great review Anna...I would love to win this one. I think what intrigues me is that at age 13 she learns that she is going to have to marry some guy that is 32 years old...that's an old man for her! lol

joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

traveler said...

Thanks for this great review and giveaway. This is fascinating history and what a relationship to learn about. I am definitely interested in this novel. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Pam said...

I've heard such great things about this book. I'm fascinated by the history of royalty and these types of "marriages" to better the family.

melacan at hotmail dot com

Anonymous said...

I am intrigued by Hugh and Bess because I love the historical era they live in. I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

Blodeuedd said...

I am so curious about this couple can get a HEA. They are so different, and I am not only taking about age.

blodeuedd1 at gmail dot com

Meghan said...

No need to enter me for this one! I didn't really think about the telling more than showing, but I would agree with you. Luckily it didn't detract from my enjoyment in this case!

Kristen said...

Alright, your review tipped me over the edge. I'd like to read this one. It is fascinating to see how politically motivated marriages turn out and how the partners negotiate ways to build a life together.

whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

Dar said...

Don't enter me Anna, I just wanted to comment on your review. I had loved that part where Beth had gotten tipsy as well. That was so funny. This was another great book from Susan. It was also lots of fun to read about the Despenser's again.

lilly said...

I loved The Traitor's Wife and I can't wait to read part two. I think Higginbotham is one of the top historical writers nowadays.
I'd love to win this too :)

Susan Higginbotham said...

Thanks for the review, Anna!

teabird said...

I love historicals that humanize the times - this sounds really good. Please...

teabird17 AT yahoo dot com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I totally need to start this series. Not now, though. I've still got that small TBR problem... it avalanched last week. They had to send in St. Bernards to rescue me.

Anyway, thanks for the e-mail, darling. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

Shawna said...

Shawna Lewis

I really like books where the Marriage in fixed. I love to read the out comes. So this book looks really good to me & thanks for the chance to win!!!

Sue said...

I loved your review. I would love to read this and see the story of how this works out. The thought of being a young teen betrothed to a much older guy would have made my skin crawl.
Thanks for the giveaway.

s.mickelson at gmail dot com

Jake Lsewhere said...

I'm just a sucker for love stories and this looks like a good book, please enter me into this drawing.

Thanks for hosting this giveaway.

Jenny N. said...

I like the story of Hugh and Bess because it is an arranged marriage and they both grow to love each other as the story progresses. Also I have read "The Traitor's Wife" and really enjoyed it so would love the chance to be able to read this one too.


S. Krishna said...

I would love to read this book because I read THE TRAITOR'S WIFE, and I basically want to see that Hugh is a better man than his father! Plus I think it's sweet that they actually fall in love, despite not wanting to be married.

skrishna at skrishnasbooks dot com

avalonne83 said...

Please enter me in the contest. Thanks.

avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

Anonymous said...

Please enter me. I have The Traitor's wife and I would love to see how the story continues.

elizascott2005 at yahoo dot co dot in

holdenj said...

I'm intrigued because their relationship is one of those arranged ones, and there's even a third party involved.

JHolden955 (at) gmail (dot) com


Kailana said...

I really enjoyed this. I must get around to reading her other book!

Esme said...

Well this is a tough one considering I did not like The Traitors Wife-your review sounds good and I would like to give the author another chance.

lol E.

Brenda said...

I would like to read this book!

Brenda said...

I'm a follower!

Dawn said...

How did I miss this Anna? Are you Sure I didn't enter already?? Because I wouldn't want to cheat! LOL! Thanks for the heads up! ;O)

Please enter me!

austenfan said...

Please enter me! I love stories where the two people, who at first don't even like each other at the start, grow to love each one another. :)


Mary Ann DeBorde said...

Mary D
zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

Hugh & Bess sounds like an excellent romance read! I've also been longing to get a hold of The Traitor's Wife (someday soon lol)

So thank you sincerely for the chance to win Hugh & Bess :) Gotta love all these good book reviews, even though I keep adding to my wish list and TBR pile!

Bookfool said...

Joan of Kent was kind of a snob, wasn't she? Don't enter me, of course! Loved your review. :)

Anonymous said...

Please enter me. I am intrigued with any love story, particularly historical ones.

martina_ck AT shaw DOT ca


Anonymous said...

I'm interested in this arranged marriage...a young teenager to an older man...I'm curious to see what happens.

karen k

Amber said...

I am intrigued because I am in a romantic mood and a longtime lover of history!
Thank you for the giveaway :)

Nikola said...

I am always interested in seeing whether historical relationships would be the same as today's. What results would we get if we compared their relationships to the modern, instant-gratification ones?

My email is

Veens said...

This one has had so many Rave reviews all around that i have been wanting this one forever kno w:D
enter me! I am your follower :)

veena[dot]h[dotregit AT

etirv said...

Please count me in, historical love stories are my favorite!


Anna said...

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered, blogged or tweeted the giveaway, or stopped by just to comment on my review. I'll announce the winners shortly.