I found a first edition hardcover copy of this book at my local used book store for about $3. I was excited to read it having recently finished Helen Hollick's 'Forever Queen' and 'I am the Chosen King' which end with the Battle of Hastings. My lack of love for this novel is at least partially my fault. Expectations built on the writing of Hollick were disappointed by the very different take on events that Llywelyn imagines. Accepting that I do not really know the truth about the personalities of the people involved, I was also turned off by some of the scenes that should appear only in trashy romance novels and the Luke & Laura type 'romantic' feelings that takes place . I was also expecting this to be a story of what happened to Aldith after the Battle of Hastings, which is the scene that the novel begins with. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel is one big flashback covering Aldith's life up to that point.
Aldith is born to be a political pawn, and she becomes one to the highest degree. First married off to the Prince of Wales when her father is named a traitor in England. She marries his killer, Harold Godwine, once he becomes King. Was her marriage to Griffith Llywelyn one of love causing her to be horrified when he was killed? Was he cruel and abusive resulting in her seeing Harold as a savior when he had Griffith beheaded? I don't know, but the author's decisions regarding Aldith's love-life set the tone for the entire novel.
Once she finds herself married to Harold as England's Queen, she also has to overcome the hatred that she feels for him due to his campaign into Wales. Harold is presented as a cruel, selfish, intelligent, and ambitious man, which I suppose must be true of most men who get themselves named king. ** The following may be considered a spoiler ** I could have believed this version of events if Aldith did not suddenly (we're talking within a matter of months) forgive Harold for killing her husband, kidnapping her, separating her from her children, and raping her repeatedly. That is one forgiving lady, or a stupid one, or just a poorly written one.
I hesitate to make the last accusation because Morgan Llweylyn cannot really be accused of being a poor writer. Her historical research is extensive and she does an excellent job of wrapping an interesting story around known events. This particular one just didn't pull me in. Maybe it was the line about Griffith's scrotum being the right size to be cupped in Aldith's hands. I admit, that's about the time I started acquiring an attitude against this book.
The story of Harold's eventual downfall is well-written including the invasion of Tostig and his allies in the north closely followed by the cataclysmic landing of William of Normandy in the south. The battle scenes are described in just enough detail, even with the detriment of the novel being written in Aldith's first person point of view. Given that she was not present for most of this action, the author does an impressive job of believably fitting in this historical information.