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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.

Hugh and Bess by Susan HigginbothamTo 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.”


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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Barbara B.
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 15:43:08

    Jayne, thanks for the great review. You’ve brought back some memories. I grew up reading Norah Lofts, too. I sometimes get nostalgic about the kinds of romances I read as a teen in the ’70s. At least I think they were romances. Did you also read Victoria Holt, Roberta Gellis, Janet Aiken Hodge, Dorothy Eden, Joan Aiken, or Susan Howatch? They were a palate cleanser for the Sweet Savage Love type trash I read as well.

  2. Jayne
    Jan 02, 2008 @ 19:19:04

    I did read Dorothy Eden and Victoria Holt then. I’ve since tried some of the others you mention and would agree about what you said. I used to love the old Fawcett Crest Regency and Georgian books.

  3. Aoife
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 09:21:47

    Jayne, is the Hugh in the book Hugh Despenser? If so, making him the hero must have been quite a feat! I’ll have to look for this one.

  4. Jayne
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 15:42:30

    Well, there was Hugh Despenser, Hugh Despenser Jr and Hugh Despenser the third. The book is mainly about Hughie III. His father is in a few scenes at the start and the grandfather is mentioned.

  5. Marg
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 21:45:17

    I am so pleased to see that Susan’s book got such a positive review! Maybe one of these days I will read her first book, and then get to this one!

  6. Anne Marble
    Jan 03, 2008 @ 21:49:58

    Her earlier book The Traitor’s Wife is about the Hugh, and it’s now available in a new, cheaper edition:'s_wife.htm

    Her blog on historical fiction is cool, too:

  7. Susan Higginbotham
    Jan 04, 2008 @ 00:51:16

    Thanks for the review, Jayne! As you mentioned, this novel is about the third Hugh, a nicer chap than his notorious father and grandfather. (If you really want to get complicated, there’s a Hugh before all these guys, the great-grandfather, who died with Simon de Montfort and has a line or two in Sharon Penman’s novel about Simon. These people sorely needed a Name the Baby book.)

  8. Zoe Church
    Apr 17, 2011 @ 00:41:07

    Well, there was Hugh Despenser, Hugh Despenser Jr and Hugh Despenser the third. The book is mainly about Hughie III. His father is in a few scenes at the start and the grandfather is mentioned.

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