After reading rave reviews about Elizabeth Chadwick's books, I now understand why she is so well loved by fans of medieval historical fiction. She effortlessly weaves intricate political intrigue and chivalry into her stories filled with historical figures she brings to life. I simply loved her characters!
For the King's Favor is based on the true story of Ida de Tosney, the young mistress of King Henry II and the man she chooses to marry, Roger Bigod, an honourable man who patiently waits for the earldom he is to inherit. The story spans almost twenty years from when Ida is seduced at a young age and becomes the King's mistress against her will (a role she is ashamed of) to when her family and happiness are complete after being married to Roger for eighteen years.
There is plenty of action and romance in this novel. Chadwick follows the political events of the time and how they affect Ida and Roger who are closely tied to the royal court. Ida gives birth to a son by the king before she marries Roger and the heartrending choice she has to make when she leaves the court to start a new life with Roger plagues her throughout her life. Roger's stepbrothers and stepmother continuously fight him over the issue of the inheritance of the earldom since Roger's father annulled his first marriage in which Roger was conceived. (I was surprised at the ease in which people could do this'annul a marriage even after the conception of children. I suppose it was similar to divorce but without the stigma?)
These conflicts are well developed in the story and are enhanced by the fragility of court relationships, which can instantly change or reverse depending on the whims of those in power. Although Roger was loyal to the king, the evil Longchamp (Bishop of Ely) never lost an opportunity to sow doubts, posing a threat, as did the stepbrothers. This is what led me to believe the plot would thicken and something awful or momentous was going to happen to threaten Roger's alliance with the king and thus his chances of gaining his earldom. I was waiting for Longchamp or his brothers to plot against him since Chadwick did such a marvellous job of building believable characters and plunging the reader right into the world of political betrayal. When this did not happen and Chadwick chooses to follow the chronological life of Roger and Ida as depicted historically, I was somewhat disappointed.
However, this does not take away from the fact that I enjoyed reading this novel. I want to mention that this book includes explicit sex scenes, tastefully described, except for one scene with a prostitute that was disturbing, and with details I could have done without. The main characters Ida and Roger are loyal to one another, love each other and their children, and their story is a good one. If you are a fan of historical fiction, you will undoubtedly want to read this one. Well written, full of royal intrigue, with likable and not-so-likable characters you'll love to hate, this novel is sure to please.