Hugh and Bess is another fantastic work of historical fiction from Susan Higginbotham and one that I enjoyed a great deal. I read The Traitor’s Wife a while back and it was a favorite of mine and the story of the Despenser’s continues in Hugh and Bess making it yet another favorite. I’ve come to like the Despenser family along the journey even though some of them were less than favorable characters at times. This is a short book for historical fiction at approximately 300 pages but you know while I would have liked it to be longer I was actually pleased with the shortness of it. It was a nice break from the heavier stuff while still giving me that historical fix I crave.
This novel is really a love story between Hugh Despenser and Bess (Elizabeth de Montacute) and a really amusing one at times. Bess is almost fourteen years old when her parents arrange a marriage between Hugh and herself. She is none too happy about it either. She doesn’t want to get married and she especially doesn’t want to marry a man who is thirty-two years old and is the son of a known traitor. Goodness, what if she has to bed down with him? To her great relief her parents ask Hugh to hold off on that until she’s a little older but now she’s got that to worry about.
Hugh is a great character and a likable one, very different from his father before him who was executed as a traitor. Hugh spent enough time in prison to gain a healthy respect for freedom and life. He starts to fall for the witty and full of attitude Bess and it doesn’t help that she’s really beginning to grow into a beautiful woman. For Bess’ part though she still wants nothing to do with Hugh and is still headset on thwarting any advances from him. Slowly though Bess finds herself liking her husband and missing him when he leaves to go to war. It was great to see her come into her own and growing up from the spoiled girl she started out as. I really grew to care about her and respect her by the end of the novel.
This novel, for as short as it is, has everything. There is scandal, wars, love, romance, sadness and grief and to top it off The Plague. It amazes me how much Susan put into this novel and made it so readable. The Traitor’s Wife took a lot more concentration because it was much more detailed yet, in reading Hugh and Bess, you don’t miss that at all. You are able to immerse yourself in the story and feel yourself in the lives of these two and live through their triumphs and tragedies. I think, for me, what I liked even more was that this was kind of a continuation of The Traitor’s Wife so you already had that background and it made Hugh and Bess all the more interesting. However, I have to say that Hugh and Bess can completely stand on it’s own and you wouldn’t be in the least confused.
My thanks go to Katie from Sourcebooks for my copy of Hugh and Bess and for the opportunity to participate in another blog tour for Susan Higginbotham. I can’t wait to see what will be next as Susan has become one of my favorite historical fiction authors. You can pick up your own copy of Hugh and Bess here in the US and here in Canada. You can also visit Susan’s website here and her blog here. In addition check out the next few blog tour stops at HistoricalNovels.info today as well, Grace’s Book Blog on August 4, and The Written World on August 5.