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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review and ARC Giveaway: To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

A powerful character portrayal in a wonderful historical fiction.
To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick

    To Defy a King
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402250894
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402250897
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating:  4.75 of 5.0

The privileged daughter of one of the most powerful men in England, Mahelt Marshal’s life changes dramatically when her father is suspected by King John. Her brothers become hostages and Mahelt is married to Hugh Bigod, heir to the earldom of Norfolk. Adapting to her new life is hard, but Mahelt comes to love Hugh deeply; however, defying her father in law brings disgrace and heartbreak. When King John sets out to subdue the Bigods, Mahelt faces her worst fears alone, knowing neither she, nor her marriage are likely to survive the outcome. A story of huge emotional power set against the road to Magna Carta and the fight to bring a tyrant king to heel.
Review: This is wonderfully rich.
Mahelt is eldest daughter of the powerful Marshal family who has allies in England and Ireland.  The story opens with 10 year old Mahelt trying to play soldier with her brothers. They ridicule her but then consent to let her pretend to “protect the keep.” When they attack she manages to defeat them. Immediately the reader sees the determination and stubbornness of this fiery girl. 

Mahelt is betrothed to another strong family, the earl of Norfolk,  with lands along the French borders. When her brothers are taken hostage by King John and her own father travels to Ireland to protect his interests there, the 14 year old Mahelt is wed to 25 year old Hugh with the promise that she will live with the family for a year before the marriage is consummated.

The author weaves the growth of friendship between Mahelt and Hugh and his mother. But also  Mahelt faces difficulties obeying the instructions of her strict Father-in-Law.  At every turn it seems that Mahelt is defying some rule and trying to add her input into the business of the men. She hates King John for taking her brothers and she chafes at the political balance that the two fathers try to maintain in their dealings with a cruel and faithless King who does not keep his promises.

Mahelt is a wonderful character growing from a spoiled girl to a proud (still spoiled) determined wife, mother and chatelaine.  She is not always a pleasant or easy woman or character. Hugh is a wonderful husband for her because he is more mature and he is a calming influence to her volatile and almost termagant personality.  Mahelt is prepared to defend the Bigod fortress against the King’s attack but as a woman she is too often powerless.  Her marriage is severely challenged when Hugh fails to keep his promise to always protect her and their children.  I loved the slogan that Hugh gives to Mahelt: "Ne vuz sanz mei, ne mei sanz vus" or "No you without me, nor I without you."

I expected this might be long to read but it flowed beautifully and moved at a very good pace. This was the time of the drafting of the Magna Carta and the noble rebellions against the King. I really enjoyed learning about the different approaches of the two families in their efforts to honor their commitment to the King and yet maintain their power and their relationship with other powerful noble allies.  It was refreshing to read a story where the spouses were faithful even though they were separated quite a bit.  I recommend this book to anyone who loves strong female characters and/or historical fiction. This is the first book I read by Ms. Chadwick -- I know it won't be my last.

Additional Review Note: I listened to this on Audible. Initially I did not like the narrator’s attempt to imitate a man’s low voice but after an hour or so I didn’t even notice that problem. The narrator does a good job evoking the emotions of tenderness, confusion and pain from the characters.
Thank you to Sourcebooks for this book to read and review.

Sorry but this giveaway is limited to US entries because of the weight of the book. 
There is a special going on for Elizabeth Chadwick’s To Defy a King and Sarah Bower’s Sins of the House of Borgia. You can now pre-order/purchase the eBooks for only $2.99! This offer only goes until Monday March 7th so hurry!
Click here for the links to purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and BooksOnBoard
P.S. To Defy a King is only available in the US & Sins of the House of Borgia is available in the US and Canada.


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(Six total entries possible.)
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* This contest is open to US only.
* No P.O. Boxes Please - for shipping reasons.
* This contest will close 10:00 PM (Central) on March 18, 2011.
The winner will be randomly selected from all entries.

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