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The Traitor's Wife Paperback – April 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1402217870
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402217876
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Review

"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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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.

Customer Reviews

The main character was well developed, but not entirely likeable.
Andrea D. Lopez
All in all a very enjoyable read and one I would recommend for any lover of historical fiction or those interested in this time period.
Misfit
It took a little while to get into it, but once I was sucked in, I didn't want to stop reading.
Courtney Clements

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

134 of 138 people found the following review helpful By JaneConsumer on 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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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful By wkbee on October 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
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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95 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Floyd M. Orr on September 17, 2006
Format: Paperback
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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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Jerry K. Belew on 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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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Miawil on March 18, 2007
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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