Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Review: Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham

Forced to marry Hugh le Despenser, the son and grandson of disgraced traitors, Bess de Montacute, just 13 years old, is appalled at his less-than-desirable past. Meanwhile, Hugh must give up the woman he really loves in order to marry the reluctant Bess. Far apart in age and haunted by the past, can Hugh and Bess somehow make their marriage work?

Just as walls break down and love begins to grow, the merciless plague endangers all whom the couple holds dear, threatening the life and love they have built.

Award-winning author Susan Higginbotham's impeccable research will delight avid historical fiction readers, and her enchanting characters will surely capture every reader's heart. Fans of her first novel, The Traitor's Wife, will be thrilled to find that this story follows the next generation of the Despenser family.

Synopsis courtesy of

My Review

4 Stars

Susan Higginbotham's Hugh and Bess is, at its heart, a love story.   Forced to marry a man several years her elder, one who also happens to be the son of a traitor to the Crown, Bess de Montecute is less than pleased by her match with Hugh le Despenser.   While willing to give his new bride a chance, Hugh's heart is already attached to another.   Despite a less than promising beginning, Hugh and Bess gradually grow closer and realize their match was, in fact, a good one. 

The strengths of Susan Higginbotham's novels rest with her attention to historical detail and solid character development.   Hugh and Bess is no exception.   While the primary focus of this novel is on the relationship between the title characters, key political, economic and social events of the period are skillfully woven into the story to provide context.   The character development is also well done, especially that of Bess, who, over the course of the novel, grows from a sullen, spoiled child into a mature, compassionate and strong young woman.

Well-written and engaging, Hugh and Bess is sure to please fans of historical fiction, especially those interested in the medieval period.   Although not necessary, I do recommend that anyone interested in this novel read The Traitor's Wife first, as it tells the story of Hugh's parents.    

Note: This book comes from my own personal collection.