Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lady of the English (2011)

Lady of the English. Elizabeth Chadwick. 2011. Sourcebooks. 544 pages. [Source: Library]

Lady of the English is set during the dispute between Empress Matilda (Henry I's daughter) and King Stephen (Henry I's nephew). These two cousins (through their armies) fought bitterly for the throne of England starting in 1135. Last year, I read one adaptation of that conflict--though it was a bit ridiculous, Passionate Enemies by Jean Plaidy. Lady of the English is told mainly through two perspectives: Empress Matilda (the mother of Henry II) and Queen Adeliza (the widow of Henry I, Matilda's stepmother). Half the book is focused on Matilda's struggle with Stephen, her complicated relationship with her husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, her trying (but not too hard) to balance being a mother with being a strong political/military force to be reckoned with. Readers do spend time with her son, Henry, who would in good time become the next King. The other half of the book is focused on Adeliza's second marriage with William d'Aubigny. Adeliza was a supporter of Matilda; her husband a supporter of King Stephen. But these two were devoted to one another and had quite a large family, especially considering that she was the "barren" wife of Henry I. If Lady of the English is considered a "romance" novel, it would be because of this match.

The battle between Stephen and Matilda is not resolved in this novel. The novel just seems to stop suddenly in the middle of the story. I'd love the chance to read the rest of the story through Matilda's perspective!

I enjoyed this one for the most part. Lady of the English is not a "clean" read, however, there is so much history, so much historical detail, that it is easy to overlook the small percentage of smut when all is considered.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Kailana said...

I really need to read more Chadwick books. I like her but neglect her!

Jessica Snell said...

I can never read about Stephen and Matilda without thinking of Ellis Peters' Cadfael books - that conflict is so important in those stories!