Lady of the English

Elizabeth Chadwick. Sourcebooks/Landmark, $14.99 trade paper (544p) ISBN 978-1-4022-5092-7

Prolific historical novelist Chadwick's latest (after To Defy a King) delves deep into the political intrigue of 12th-century Britain after the death of Henry I, and the contest for the throne between Empress Matilda and Stephen of Blois. After the death of her husband, the Emperor of Germany, Matilda returns to England, where Henry I declares her as his successor. But Matilda's cousin Stephen, hungry for power and, like others, unhappy with the idea of a female ruler, makes a successful grab for the throne. Now unhappily remarried to the equally greedy and unpleasant Geoffrey of Anjou, Matilda works to reclaim her crown. Partly for her own honor, but also to ensure the succession of her sons, she launches England into a bloody civil war. Chadwick's depiction of the Middle Ages is sure and subtle, building the reality of daily life with ease, and her skill in imagining the private conversations that led to the great decisions of their time is enjoyable. Though the complexity of the plot drowns what little personality the characters have time to develop, the pace of the story and Chadwick's solid research will engage fans of heavy historical fiction. (Sept.)
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