REVIEW: Hugh and Bess, A Love Story by Susan Higginbotham
Dear Ms Higginbotham,
I wasn’t aware when we accepted your offer of an arc for “Hugh and Bess” that it is actually a novel following in the footsteps of Jean Plaidy and Norah Lofts. I grew up reading those accounts of English Kings and Queens and even though I know now that some of the happy endings were merely cutting off the telling of the tale before the sad ending, I still recall them fondly.
To me it has always seemed like it would be harder to write within the confines of the historical facts known about people than to make everything up. Not that you didn’t do a fine job of adding shading to the known facts and filling in the knowledge gaps with some educated deductions. After finishing the book, I tried to find information on the internet about Bess and Hugh and let me tell you, as if you didn’t already know, you must have done some incredible sleuthing to find what you did. I’m impressed.
I was delighted that the story was filled with a gentle, dry, very subtle sense of humor. I think this helped leaven the sometimes ghastly reality of this world. This was real and some not so nice things can show up in books like this. Child brides, or who wouldn’t want to be married at age twelve? The siege of Calais, or let’s all eat rats when the dogs run out. The manner of Hugh’s father’s death, which was a major squirming owie read but then the man was voted as the most hated man in 14th C England. And finally the Black Death, or one out of every three of us will be dead by year’s end. Yipee.
I think you boiled down the complicated politics of the time very well. The shifting alliances called for adroit tacking in high winds as evidenced by Hugh’s recovery from the pit his father’s and grandfather’s actions had sunk the family into. I could see why Bess was a little reluctant to marry him, not to mention the differences in their ages. The fact that you could make me believe in the possibility of such a love between these two speaks well for your writing abilities.
I was awash in nostalgia after reading this book. And happy that someone is still writing the kind of stories I grew up with. Thanks for bringing back happy memories. By the way, I love your pink Easter shoes! You look like a peep. B for “Hugh and Bess.”