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Review: The Traitor's Wife, by Susan Higginbotham

Description from Amazon:

In fourteenth-century England, young Eleanor de Clare, favorite niece of King Edward II, is delighted with her marriage to Hugh le Despenser and her appointment to Queen Isabella’s household as a lady-in-waiting. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Eleanor’s beloved uncle is not the king the nobles of the land—or his queen—expected.

Hugh’s unbridled ambition and his intimate relationship with Edward arouse widespread resentment, even as Eleanor remains fiercely loyal to her husband and to her king. But loyalty has its price…

Moving from royal palaces to prison cells, from the battlefield to the bedroom, between hope and despair, treachery and fidelity, hatred and abiding love, The Traitor’s Wife is a tale of an extraordinary woman living in extraordinary times.

A noblewoman pays the price for her loyalty to an unpopular king and her unfaithful husband...conveys emotions and relationships quite poignantly...ultimately, entertaining historical fiction.

I really wanted to like The Traitor’s Wife. It promised to have all the things I look for in a good historical novel—a tight plot, good writing, and historical accuracy. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

First, I found it really difficult to identify with the main character, Eleanor. I understand the idea of the “innocent abroad,” but I found it really hard to believe that anyone could be as ignorant as Eleanor was in this novel of what was going on with her husband. Instead, I felt as though she came off as rather dumb.

In addition, I found it hard to identify with any of the characters, all of whom seemed like cardboard cut-outs instead of flesh-and-blood people. I really failed to see why Eleanor was so attracted to her husband Hugh, or why she fell in love with him from the very first moment she met him. The hallmark of a good novel for me is creating believable characters. I understand Higginbotham's reason for wanting to show the Despensers in a sympathetic light, but ultimately, I'm not a believer.

The author also seems very fond of the “tell, don’t show” method of writing. Things happen, but the author never illustrates them, instead having one of her characters mention what happened in a passing comment. There’s very little tension and no romance. I’m not sure about the historical accuracy of the book, but I felt that the characters seemed a bit too modern in their speech sometimes. And the entire novel is written in a sophomoric style of wring; I know of middle schoolers who can write better than Higginbotham. In short, this is sadly not a book I’d recommend. The new cover is lovely, though.

Also reviewed by: S. Krishna Books, Passages to the Past, The Tome Traveller's Weblog, The Bookworm, Medieval Bookworm, Peeking Between the Pages, Savvy Verse and Wit, Becky's Book Reviews, Devourer of Books


DeSeRt RoSe said…
Not relating to the characters really bums the book.. i enjoy it when I can realate to them and understand there motives and emotions.. great review.. I'm sure I'll add it to my Not To Be Read pile :)
Sounds like a whole collection of things that I am not fond of in a novel. One bullet I can dodge.
Darlene said…
It's too bad you didn't like this more. It is hard when you don't relate to the characters. While I thought Eleanor was pretty dumb-really how could you not know what Hugh was up to-I still liked her. I enjoyed the book and breezed through it quickly but that's what makes us all unique in the book world; we don't have to like the same things.
Serena said…
I have a review to post of this book as well. And I agree with a lot of your points. This is just an okay novel for me.
Daphne said…
I'm sorry to hear you didn't care for it. I really liked it, but as Dar mentioned, not everyone likes the same thing.
Daphne said…
I'm sorry to hear you didn't care for it. I really liked it, but as Dar mentioned, not everyone likes the same thing.
Alyce said…
How sad! I had seen that this was going to be on tour and had high hopes for it. I see from the other comments though that some liked it so I may just have to give it a chance and see.
Anonymous said…
Sounds disappointing. I'll have to check out some better reviewed historical fiction first.
Now, remember everyone...don't go crossing this off your list too fast, like the others have said "everyone's different". I really enjoyed this novel...I agree that Eleanor was a bit blind, but then again she was pregnant every other scene and at that day and age you didn't question your husband. I look forward to reading more by Higginbotham and I must say that the middle schooler comment was a bit harsh, IMO.
Anna said…
Sorry this one disappointed you, but I really enjoyed it. Eleanor did get on my nerves a bit, but I ended up liking her character in the end. I understand how frustrating it is to read a book when you can't connect with the characters. Thanks for the honest review.

Diary of an Eccentric

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