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The Traitor's Wife [Kindle Edition]

Susan Higginbotham
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Includes a special Q&A from the author of The Traitor's Wife, Susan Higginbotham.

From the bedchamber to the battlefield, through treachery and fidelity, one woman is
imprisoned by the secrets of the crown.

It is an age where passion reigns and treachery runs as thick as blood. Young Eleanor has two men in her life: her uncle King Edward II, and her husband Hugh le Despenser, a mere knight but the newfound favorite of the king. She has no desire to meddle in royal affairs—she wishes for a serene, simple life with her family. But as political unrest sweeps the land, Eleanor, sharply intelligent yet blindly naïve, becomes the only woman each man can trust.

Fiercely devoted to both her husband and her king, Eleanor holds the secret that could destroy all of England—and discovers the choices no woman should have to make.

At its heart, The Traitor's Wife is a unique love story that every reader will connect with.

Gold Medalist, historical / military fiction, 2008 Independent Publisher Book AwardsIncludes bonus reading group guide



"Conveys emotions and relationships quite poignantly... entertaining historical fiction."

Kirkus Discoveries

"Higginbotham's talents lie not only in her capacity for detailed genealogical research of the period, but also in her skill in bringing these historical figures to life with passion, a wonderful sense of humor, honor, and love."

Historical Novels Review Online

"Higginbotham has stirred to life a girl who is naive and passionate, impulsive and loyal... an endearing, involving story, made so by the unconventional characters of Eleanor and Edward."

Reviewer's Choice

"Higginbotham makes history come alive... The Traitor's Wife is a tale of intrigue, betrayal, loyalty, and passion."


"All the ingredients for a great tale: [love], treason, war, and murder. Couple this with Higginbotham's clear passion and knack for accuracy, and this book is a can't miss... this novel was a joy to read."

Read and Review

"Higginbotham makes history come alive…The Traitor's Wife is a tale of intrigue, betrayal, loyalty, and passion."

Book Pleasures

"Beautifully researched and incredibly captivating, The Traitor's Wife is a book you won't want to put down. Susan Higginbotham's vivid portrayal of life during Edward II's tumultuous reign makes for fascinating reading. Highly recommended!"

Michelle Moran, bestselling author of The Heretic Queen

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A strong woman circumscribed by artificial restrictions imposed on her by her time, her place, and her social standing is a recurrent theme in historical fiction. Higginbotham artfully reworks this theme, fictionalizing the story of Eleanor le Despenser, niece of Edward II and wife of Hugh le Despenser the Younger. As lady-in-waiting to Queen Isabella, Eleanor enjoys her privileged position in the fourteenth-century English court until doubts about her uncle and his seemingly unsavory relationship with her husband begin to creep in. Higginbotham does a superb job of vividly re-creating the royal intrigue and treachery that characterized Edward’s inner circle, while breathing new life into a complex, real-life heroine forced into making decisions that virtually defined the historical destiny of her family. --Margaret Flanagan


"Conveys emotions and relationships quite poignantly . . . entertaining historical fiction." -- Kirkus Discoveries

"[D]ialogue is excellent . . . Higginbotham [brings] these historical figures to life with passion, a wonderful sense of humor, honor, and love." -- Catherine Perkins, Historical Novels Review Online, Autumn 2005

[D]ialogue is excellent . . . Higginbotham [brings] these historical figures to life with passion, a wonderful sense of humor, honor, and love. -- Historical Novels Review Online, Autumn 2005

Product Details

  • File Size: 1152 KB
  • Print Length: 514 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1402217870
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 1, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003H29CM0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,957 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
135 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Eleanor le Despenser's story... February 13, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Eleanor de Clare, niece to Edward II, marries Hugh le Despenser when the book opens in 1306. Hugh was quite the character - a pirate, knight, knave or confidant of the king at one time or another. Adopting the consensus of most historians, The Traitor's Wife portrays his relationship with Edward II as a homosexual one. It even suggests there may have been sexual relations between Eleanor and the king, which some historians also believe.

This love triangle is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scandals during Edward's reign. In fact, this one doesn't even begin until after the death of Piers Gaveston, also alleged to have had homosexual relations with the king. And then there's the scheming of Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella, who want to reign - and do for a short while - in all but name.

Even after Hugh le Despenser, and a short time later, Edward II, die, Eleanor's life is anything but uneventful. She marries William la Zouche, the man responsible for capturing Hugh. Then she manages to get herself accused of marrying two different men at the same time. As the author later explains in the afterword, the explanation of this event is fictional. But historical records indicate that John de Grey, a knight, challenged the marriage because he believed Eleanor to have been married to him.

In short, the book is jam-packed with scandal - impeccably researched, which makes for some juicy reading. Moreover, the characters are likeable - perhaps except for Mortimer - even when they're misbehaving.

If you like action-packed medieval drama supported by accurate historical details, you'll love this book. Highly recommended.
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67 of 73 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The banality of evil October 28, 2006
By wkbee
I was very interested in reading this book to get a different take on Hugh Despenser and was willing to suspend disbelief. However, even the author can't save him from his notorious deeds. The best she can do for him is make him a loving husband and father who somehow manages to hide from his naive and adoring wife both his physical relationship with Edward II and outright theft of lands and treasure. Eleanor hardly raises an eyebrow even when he wrangles with her own sisters over their rightful inheritence (and wins, of course, with the king on his side). In order to get the reader to have some empathy for Eleanor, it's necessary to keep her in the dark about Hugh's bad behavior, which just makes Eleanor seem witless and unreliable. The way she could be fooled about his true self simply because he was a considerate spouse is unbelievable in a "we didn't know what the Nazis were doing" kind of way. The very modern English used detracts further from the believabilty of the story. Despenser is a tough character to work with if you are determined to have a novel with a sympathetic person at its center. The book might have worked better if Eleanor was not written as a naif but as an active participant in Hugh's activities, which she probably was, since she's long been viewed as a spy planted in Queen Isabella's household. There are many pages devoted to the stories of Despenser's children; the family actually managed to work its way back into royal favor in years to come. That might have been another angle to take - the sons dealing with the legacy of a notorious father. But Hugh as husband of the year? I'm just not buying it.
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96 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Soap Opera That Followed Braveheart September 17, 2006
King Edward I invaded Scotland, setting off the events more or less chronicled in the fictional book and movie, Braveheart. Edward's son was far less of a war hawk than his dad. His misadventures became the root of many problems that cropped up in the English king's court during the early 1300's. In essence, Edward II was the Bill Clinton of England: you either hated him for his sexual dalliances or you ignored them and respected him for his better qualities. This book is a fictionalized account of the story, as seen through the eyes of the king's niece, Eleanor le Despenser, who was also married to a pirate who shared his bed with both of them. Susan Higginbotham explains the whole, sordid, convoluted history with a conversational style that keeps the action flowing and the reader turning the page. This is quite an impressive first novel.
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37 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Work!! May 21, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Susan Higginbotham has taken a very complex time and done a magnificent job in describing it! I love good, fact-based historical fiction, and Susan has done a marvelous job of research and then writing the story of the times of Edward I, Edward II, the De Spencers, et al in such a way that you will NOT want to put this book down! A truly fine job of writing and I hope that we can look forward to more great work from this fine author. Jerry Belew, Llano Texas
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thank you Ms Higginbotham March 18, 2007
By Miawil
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this book and couldn't put it down and for that I am greatly indebted to the authoress. I found it to be literate and the characters interesting and a worthy investment of money I always hesitate to spend on fiction I buy online as I am far more likely to find myself turned off by the bad plots of so many novels. But this one did not dissappoint.

I was going to rate this book a 5 until a previous reviewer reminded me of what nagged in my mind as I read; the characters in this book were all too good, too nice, to accord with what I've read about members of the medieval English aristocracy. Aside from Queen Isabelle and her lover these were all the sorts of people you'd love to have to tea. I didn't feel this detracted too greatly from the story though; I recently read a novel where the characters had a tougher edge but the plot was so pedantic I couldn't even finish that one. I won't say the title here.

To me, the only weakness of this novel was the Kings flings with both Eleanor and her husband. I don't dispute that this happened as there has always been speculation these affairs did, its the way they happened which I don't feel is handled in a plausible way. First of all, Eleanor's husband Hugh de Despenser is a heterosexual man - according to the way the story is told - who sleeps with the king to get ahead (this is believable, human greed and ambition being what is is), he assumes the

role of the passive partner (not something you would expect from a heterosxual man but Edward was the KING and there is that greed and ambition again), but then comes to enjoy it? A heterosexual man comes to enjoy being the passive sexual partner in a homosexual relationship? I suppose anything is possible but this did not strike me as being credible.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 days ago by Heather Lana
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book!!
Grabbed me right away and could not stop reading! very

very well written!!!!
could not stop reading. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Treasa Ward
3.0 out of 5 stars not enthused
I really wanted to like this book a lot. However, I find at times it is a struggle to read, especially in the confusing historical accounts of events. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Jeanette Dothager
2.0 out of 5 stars Not her best
I read The Stolen Crown by this same author. I was pleased with it. Some historical info. Lots of characters, had to keep up with it all, which I enjoy. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Olivia D.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
This was the first Susan Higginbotham book I read and I loved it. It was beautifully written from start to finish. Read more
Published 5 months ago by chris palmer
5.0 out of 5 stars If you're a history fan and want a book that will last for few weeks,...
This is a very long book, but so glad I didn't give up on it. It has very interesting historical references and discriptive W. European landscape.
Published 5 months ago by Pamela R Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars Love it.
The writer has researched well and the novel has many twists and turns. The period in history depicted must have been a difficult time for anyone.... royal or not .
Published 7 months ago by Lillian Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars American history in a novel
It goes along with the book I read previously, George Washington"s secret six. Both are for anyone who is into American History.
Published 7 months ago by Gene Vandervoort
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars
This book was quite difficult for me to review fairly. All in all, not a great book, but definitely better than the last Higginbotham serving I had, The Queen of Last Hopes. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Van
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read for Historical Ficiton Fans
Eleanor, though niece to the king, is married to a mere knight Hugh. Hugh's hunger for more leads his family down a dangerous path as political unrest sweeps England. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Megan
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More About the Author

Susan Higginbotham's meticulously researched historical fiction brought to life by her heartfelt writing delights readers. Higginbotham runs her own historical fiction/history blog, History Refreshed by Susan Higginbotham, and owns a bulletin board, Historical Fiction Online. She has worked as an editor and an attorney and lives in Apex, North Carolina, with her family.

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