Monday, December 30, 2013

New Review: Elizabeth Chadwick’s THE CONQUEST – Poignant Tale of Two Loves Set Against the William’s Conquest of England

The story begins in 1065 (and continues through 1088), as Ailith, wife to Goldwin the Armorer, watches her younger teenage brothers serve the new English King Harold Godwinson as his bodyguards. Her husband makes them the Danish war axes, which they wield. But a storm is gathering as the Harald Hardrada, King of Norway and William, Duke of Normandy both seek to rule England. Rolf de Brize, a Norman horse breeder prepares his duke for war.

When the Conquest comes (Chadwick vividly describes the Battle of Hastings), Ailith’s life is deeply affected. As she says to the married Rolf, who has more than a passing interest in her, “My brothers, my baby, my husband. What more is there to take?” Well there is more as she experiences betrayal that shakes her very world. I was deeply affected by it and reaching for the Kleenex box with nearly every scene.

Chadwick has created a compelling story that portrays the difference between a marriage of convenience and a marriage of the heart, personal stories set against the tumultuous events during and after the Conquest. Ailith is a wonderful heroine any woman can identify with and love. She is strong yet vulnerable to the man she loves though she never really possesses all of him. Rolf is a man who, while mature in many ways, takes his pleasure wherever he wants without regard to the consequences. He has two women—his insipid Norman wife and Ailith, his English mistress—and dozens more besides. He sees too late what his betrayal has cost Ailith and their child. And hence I must warn historical romance lovers that the story of Ailith’s love for Rolf, which takes up most of the book, does not end well. Yet there is another story that follows, that of Ailith’s daughter Julitta, which will give you the happy ending you are looking for.

Julitta, is a wonderful wild young woman with a spirit only a man of strong character could appreciate. And she finds him when she is only five—Benedict. Like her mother before her, Julitta is forced by circumstances and the whims of others to accept less than her heart’s desire, which I have to say, pained me greatly.

The saga begins the year before the Conquest and continues for two decades as Chadwick weaves an intricate tale of the consequences of loyalties, the harsh revenge of William the Conqueror when the English do not bend to his well, lives disrupted and lost and a new legacy forged from the clash of two cultures. The characters are wonderfully drawn and the emotions powerful. The well written story reflects Chadwick’s considerable research into the period.

The book kept me reading till the wee hours of the morning and has haunted my dreams since. Chadwick is a master of historical storytelling and she pulled my heartstrings on this one. It’s a worthy story though at times a sad one.


  1. Sold! Love your review and the book sounds great. Though I'm a contemporary romance writer (first book coming Fall '14!) I usually read Regency. Medieval is so hard to find. But I'm also of Anglo-Saxon ancestry and fascinated by the hardships they endured daily.

    1. Heather, you must check out my Best Medieval List! (You can access it from the right side of the blog.)