Thursday, March 27, 2014

Favoured Beyond Fortune by Elizabeth Ashworth


She was one of the richest noblewomen in England. But Alicia de Lacy lost everything when her husband, Thomas of Lancaster, led a rebellion against King Edward II. Everything except the love of one man.


Being unfamiliar with the main character of this novel, I referred to the author’s website to discover more about Alicia de Lacy.

Alice de Lacy was the daughter of Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, and Margaret Longespee, Countess of Salisbury.  She was their only surviving heir and was married at the age of 13 years to the King’s (Edward I) nephew, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. The marriage was not a happy one and Alice may have had a relationship with the Eble le Strange, the man who became her second husband, whilst she was still married to, but shunned by, Thomas who was known to have had mistresses and illegitimate children during the time he was married to Alice, yet he is barely criticised at all. Alice, on the other hand, is written about in scathing terms.

When has history ever been kind to strong, forceful women? Labelling them as harridans and witches seemed the male gender’s only weapon against them so after reading that, I was eager to read Alicia's story.

The novel opens with a heart-breaking account of the deaths of Alicia’s three siblings, two brothers who died as a result of accident – one wonders how many servants were racked as a result of their negligence – and the loss of an infant daughter in a time when babies dying before their first birthday were commonplace.

Alicia is only thirteen, and too young to be a wife, a situation she knows nothing about but which she looks forward to like any romantic young girl. However, she is doomed for disappointment when her father arranges her betrothal to the selfish and decadent Thomas of Lancaster.  From then onwards, Alice’s life goes steadily downhill.

Her marriage to the boorish Thomas of Lancaster is both loveless and childless, while Alice is admired from afar by the squire Elbe le Strange, who dares not tell her how he feels. I felt so sorry for Alice, who would have blossomed under a man’s affection, but instead endured years of being ignored by her husband and his family.

The characters of Elbe, John Warenne and Thomas Lancaster are very well drawn, beginning as young squires learning to be knights to ambitious young men making their way in a world fraught with conflict, their basic characters remaining the same as when they were children.

When Alice’s father dies, Thomas is content to accept the de Lacy lands and titles but then promptly builds a ‘hall’ for the wife he no longer has a use for. Alice goes to live at Canford Manor in Dorset, from which she was reported to have been abducted by John de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey, although there is evidence she went willingly, and who could blame her?

Thomas then proceeded on a private war with de Warenne, though he fails to actually request the return of his wife. Even when Thomas dies in battle, life doesn't improve for Alice.

I enjoyed this book immensely, but would warn readers to be prepared for some heart-wrenching scenes. Ms Ashworth made an excellent job of handling a difficult political situation with the Lancasters, Warennes and Henry de Lacy - but poor Alice - history hasn't been kind to her.

As the story is based on an historical character, it does not have the happy ever after ending I wanted for Alice, not to mention the revenge! This is a very well written book and a salutary lesson on the way women were treated in Medieval times, even wealthy ones from influential families. Alice was born close to the English throne, but was treated worse than the lowliest subject.

Author's Website

Anita Davison is a Historical Fiction Author whose latest release, ‘Royalist Rebel’ a biographical novel set in 17th Century England, is released by Pen and Sword Books under the name Anita Seymour

TWITTER: @AnitaSDavison

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