#188 ~ Hugh and Bess

Cover of Hugh and Bess

Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham

Hugh le Despenser has an unfortunate family background.  His once proud name has been brought down by the scheming of the two previous Hugh le Despensers, who are both executed for treason while he is barely a young man.  Had he not held the castle where he last saw his father alive, he, too, would have been executed.  Instead, he spent four years inprisoned by Queen Isabella and Lord Mortimer.  It was only after the execution of Lord Mortimer that Hugh was able to win his freedom from King Edward III.  He had his freedom, but not much else.  His family had been brought low and it was an uphill battle for him to gain the trust of first his tenents and then his King.  Knowing the background of his family, 14 year-old Elizabeth Montacute, daughter of William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, was not at all happy at her parents decision to make a match between her and the much older heir to the Despenser family.  Hugh loves his childhood friend and long-time lover Emma, but he has to marry someone from the nobility in order to have any chance to regain his family’s status.  Can he find a way to make Bess happy and, more importantly, will Bess let him?

Tewkesbury AbbeyAfter reading historical fiction taking place in Tudor England, I found myself tracing England’s royalty backwards and the story of the Despenser family is anything if not memorable.  Both the Elder and the Younger Hugh were depicted as vile people.  Although the story in this novel takes place after both of their executions, Higgenbottom wrote Hugh the Younger to be a good father and a good man who just made some poor choices in the political arena as well as in his personal life.  He may have made his bed, but he was a man who would be loved and missed by his family.  Hugh the Younger was given much more depth, making it possible for me to put myself in the place of his children and family.  I wanted the Hugh of this novel to suceed financially and in love.  My heart broke for him when he had to let Emma go, but I held out hope that he could melt Bess’ icy heart.  I was rooting for the Despenser family throughout.

Hugh and Bess is a delightful love story. Amidst the tragedy of the Despenser family and the arranged marriages of King Edward’s court, two unlikely people find love. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a love story so much – let alone one taking place in medieval England.  Although you know that there is conflict and scheming among people of royal courts, it was refreshing to read a novel about people who wanted the most they could make out of life, but through loyalty and chivalry.  Higginbothom made the relationship between Hugh and Bess come alive while painting a picture of where they lived and the places they visited.  The scene with Bess and Hugh at Tewkesbury Abbey, pictured above, before their wedding was especially vivid. From that moment, it became a “must see” location if (hopefully when) I visit England.  This novel will appeal to lovers of historical fiction as well as romance. With England’s vast and intriguing history, I’m so glad that Higginbothom chose to champion Hugh and Bess le Despenser.


Here are links to other blogs who have or will be reviewing Hugh and Bess as part of this book tour:

Musings of a Bibliophile (7/28)
Passages to the Past (8/1)
My Friend Amy (8/1)
Reading Adventures (8/2)
Jennifer’s Random Musings (8/2)
Peeking Between the Pages (8/3)
Historical Novels.info (8/3)
Grace’s Book Blog (8/4)
The Written World (8/5)
Mrs. Magoo Reads (8/5)
Historical Fiction (8/6)
Jenn’s Bookshelf (8/6)
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog (8/7)
Galley Cat (8/8)
Galley Cat (8/8)
Book Addiction (8/9)
Book Addiction (8/9)
Steven Till (8/10)
Carla Nayland (8/11)
Diary of an Eccentric (8/13)
Bookfoolery and Babble (8/14)


To buy this novel, click here.

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  • At 2009.08.12 11:03, Daphne said:

    I really liked this one as well – I just wished it had been a little longer. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • At 2009.08.12 11:03, Meghan said:

      You’re right that this novel is refreshing because it isn’t about scheming and scandal in medieval England for once. I didn’t think about it that way, but so often we’re reading about how terrible life is, so it’s nice to have a love story in the midst of all that (even if it ends in a typical medieval fashion).

      • At 2009.08.12 11:14, Darlene said:

        I just loved this book as well. It was great getting more on the Despenser family. I just wish it had been longer. I don’t know why but historicals I seem to like when they are chunksters.

        • At 2009.08.12 12:00, Kathy said:

          I do enjoy some historical fiction, but romance just isn’t my thing. I’ve heard that Susan Higginbotham is really good at historical fiction, so I’d probably give this one a try.

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          • At 2009.08.12 12:31, Susan Higginbotham said:

            Thanks for the review, Jennifer! Hope you get a chance to see Tewkesbury–Hugh and Bess’s tomb is beautiful, as is the stained glass.

            • At 2009.08.12 12:59, Amy Reads Good Books said:

              Nice review! I do love a good love story. .. I’ll have to check this one out!

              • At 2009.08.12 13:21, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

                I’m really excited to read this one.

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                • At 2009.08.12 14:44, Amy @ My Friend Amy said:

                  I really loved this as well. 😉

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                  • At 2009.08.12 16:11, Sandy said:

                    Good reviews abound on this one! I intend to get my hands on it and soon!

                    • At 2009.08.13 22:33, Jennifer said:

                      I am in such good company of those who loved this book. If you haven’t read it, I know you will like it. Kathy, it’s not a Harlequiny type of romance. I would really suggest you give it a try. It’s a quick read.

                      Suan, thanks so much for stopping by and wishing me well on my future way to England. I will be thinking of you on my stop at Tewkesbury Abbey!

                      • At 2009.08.13 22:54, Penny said:

                        I hadn’t heard of this one yet, but now I’m sure to add it to my TBR list! I enjoy historical fiction when it’s done “right”, and unfortunately, too many of them are not.

                        • At 2009.08.13 22:56, S. Krishna said:

                          I’ve heard great things about this book. I definitely want to read it. Thanks for the rebiew!

                          • At 2009.08.15 00:27, Rebecca said:

                            I have read some great reviews on Hugh & Bess. I’m a fan of historical fiction. Thanks for the review!

                            • At 2009.08.21 12:38, Anna said:

                              Great interview! I really loved this book, too.

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                              • At 2009.09.10 09:47, b*babbler said:

                                Ooh – another historical fiction to add to my list!

                                (Required, will not be published)

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