Elizabeth Chadwick’s third historical novel, and – even with a re-edit following subsequent successes – refreshingly free from the quirks I find so annoying in later books. Purely fictional, The Leopard Unleashed follows Renard FitzGuyon from the Crusader Kingdoms of Outremer to the northern end of the Welsh Marches, where, as King Stephen and Empress Matilda battle for the throne, he must choose between duty and passion.
Publisher page: The Leopard Unleashed – Elizabeth Chadwick
I don’t know why I do it. Every time I plough through one of Elizabeth Chadwick’s historical novels I get irritated by the deliberate use of words and phrases (presumably) unearthed in this season’s research (my bête noires from in this particular novel are: solar plexus and dapifer) and the mediaeval Mills and Boon plot.
Amazon.co.uk link: To Defy A King – Elizabeth Chadwick
The Scarlet Lion of the title is William Marshall, and this novel covers the second half of his life and offers an equal focus on his wife, Isabelle de Clare.
We follow William and Isabelle through the growth of their family, their travels through their lands in on continental Europe, England and Ireland, and the difficulties of staying loyal and honourable during the reign of King John, a corrupt court and the chaos and collapse of the Angevin Empire.
Amazon.co.uk: The Scarlet Lion – Elizabeth Chadwick
The perfect read for the long journey home from Bhutan via Kolkata. Shadows and Strongholds tells of the childhood friendship and subsequent marriage between Fulke FitzWarin and Hawise de Dinan – characters I’d first met in Lords of the White Castle and which I now feel the need to go back and read again!
The novel also shows the friendship between their fathers – minor noble Fulke FitzWarin (senior) and former mercenary, Joscelin de Dinan, whose sensible wife Sybilla had inherited Ludlow castle – and the ever present threat to their power posed by rival claimants and the Welsh. I felt that I’d me these characters too – but can’t work out where.
The novel spans 12th century decades from the waning of the civil war between Empress Matilda and King Stephen and Matilda’s son Henry II, firmly taking control of the crown and the country.
One of Elizabeth Chadwick’s best, with the powerful female characters underlining the limits of female freedoms and corresponding male attitudes.
Amazon.co.uk link: Shadows and Strongholds – Elizabeth Chadwick
A slimmer volume than some other Elizabeth Chadwick novels, but still a good love story set in the Middle Ages. In Shields of Pride, Linnet de Montsorrel finds freedom from her abusive oik of a noble husband when Giles is killed at Smithfield horsefair, but her hand and her land is swiftly “reallocated” to Joscelin de Gael, illegitimate son of William Ironheart. The course of true love is inevitably indirect, but Linnet and Joscelin get there in the end, and on the way we have brawling (half)brothers, obsessed and bitter wives/ mothers, ghostly apparitions and royal rebellion.
Amazon.co.uk link: Shields of Pride – Elizabeth Chadwick