TO DEFY A KING - Elizabeth Chadwick
A Perfect 10
England during the reign of King John
Mahelt Marshal was the daughter of one of the greatest men in English history, William Marshal. As the offspring of such a powerful man, she was well educated and brought up to head her own household. Mahelt grew up as the eldest daughter, always knowing that someday her marriage would be one that would tie her family to another one of equal prestige. So it came about that at a tender age, she became the wife of Hugh Bigod, son of the wealthy and influential Earl of Norfolk. Although Hugh was ten years her senior, they grew to love each other, but Mahelt's transition into the Bigod household wasn't easy.
Outspoken Mahelt clashes with her stubborn father-in-law who expects women to stay in their place. He orders his son to keep a tight rein on her, but Mahelt is not her father's daughter for nothing. She is taken under the wing of Hugh's mother, the gentle Ida, but Mahelt chafes at the restrictions placed on her, especially when her brothers are taken hostage by King John, and she sets out to help them. The king is suspicious about William Marshal's behavior and decides to hold his sons until Marshal shows that he is still loyal to John. To Mahelt, the king's behavior just cements her hatred of him, but now that she is also a Bigod, she must temper her actions. It isn't easy for Mahelt to control herself, though, when John makes overtures to her. The love between Mahelt and Hugh is tested by both her responses to the king and Hugh's loyalty to his family.
Elizabeth Chadwick has hit a home run again. TO DEFY A KING is beautifully written, impeccably researched, and undeniably enjoyable. The day to day life of a medieval wife is brought to life as Mahelt soon becomes a force to be reckoned with in the Bigod household. While she slowly learns to control her emotions, she isn't afraid to speak up when she disagrees with her husband or father-in-law, although the earl is anything but enamored of that behavior! The unstable King John makes both the Marshal and Bigod families test their honor to uphold his kingdom, and puts Hugh and Mahelt at odds.
Ms. Chadwick is one of the finest authors of historical fiction today, and I have never been disappointed when I open one of her novels. TO DEFY A KING is no exception and is a Perfect 10 because of that.