Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham

Title:  Hugh and Bess

Author:  Susan Higginbotham
Published:  August 1, 2009
Page Count:  304
Genre:  Historical Fiction
My Rating:  3/5

Forced to marry Hugh le Despenser, the son and grandson of disgraced traitors, Bess de Montacute, just 13 years old, is appalled at his less-than-desirable past. Meanwhile, Hugh must give up the woman he really loves in order to marry the reluctant Bess. Far apart in age and haunted by the past, can Hugh and Bess somehow make their marriage work?

Just as walls break down and love begins to grow, the merciless plague endangers all whom the couple holds dear, threatening the life and love they have built.

Award-winning author Susan Higginbotham’s impeccable research will delight avid historical fiction readers, and her enchanting characters will surely capture every reader’s heart. Fans of her first novel, The Traitor’s Wife, will be thrilled to find that this story follows the next generation of the Despenser family.

Hugh and Bess was different from most historical fiction I’ve read lately.  It was “lighter”, I suppose, focusing more on the relationship between the two main characters than on the historical events surrounding them.  The events certainly played a huge part in the story; however, the characters themselves were much more the focal point of the book.

Bess was an extremely sympathetic character, I liked her right away.  I so felt for her when, as a youngish teenager, she was informed that she was to marry Hugh, a man much older than her (by something like 10 or 15 years), and a man with a tarnished family history.  While she was terrified by the thought of marrying Hugh, it was sweet to see their relationship unfold, especially as Hugh was such a gentleman with his young and immature wife.  He respected her entirely, and this respect was what ultimately led them to come together as a couple.  They learned about each other first, got to know each other, and then started to live as a married couple.  Theirs was a truly sweet romance, of the type that you don’t get to read about too often.

And although the book was lighter on the historical details than most historical fiction novels, there was definitely plenty of historical “stuff” within Hugh and Bess to keep my interest.  A ton of time passed in the pages of this novel, and within that time there were plenty of important historical events (including the plague!).  Higginbotham expertly weaved the history of these times with the relationship of Hugh and Bess to create such an excellent combination.

All that being said, I have to admit that I didn’t love Hugh and Bess.  The book really never grabbed me, in fact, if I wasn’t committed to reading it I may have put it down after the first fifty or so pages.  I definitely ended up enjoying the novel, for all the reasons I spoke of, but it will not go down as one of my favorites.  I liked the characters and the story well enough, but unfortunately, things just never came together enough for me to wholeheartedly gush about the book.  I will say, however, that many others have loved the book so far, and in fact I am a part of a current blog tour of Hugh and Bess – I’ll display the rest of the tour stops below.  Despite my reservations about this novel, I think fans of historical fiction should absolutely give it a try – it was a quality novel, just not the perfect book for me personally.

Here’s the rest of the stops on the Hugh and Bess blog tour – I encourage you to take a look at some of these reviews and see what everyone thought!

Musings of a Bibliophile (7/28)

Passages to the Past (8/1)

My Friend Amy (8/1)

Reading Adventures (8/2)

Jennifer’s Random Musings (8/2)

Peeking Between the Pages (8/3)

Historical (8/3)

Grace’s Book Blog (8/4)

The Written World (8/5)

Mrs. Magoo Reads (8/5)

Historical Fiction (8/6)

Jenn’s Bookshelf (8/6)

The Tome Traveller’s Weblog (8/7)

Galley Cat (8/8)

Steven Till (8/10)

Medieval Bookworm (8/11)

Carla Nayland (8/11)

The Literate Housewife Review (8/12)

Diary of an Eccentric (8/13)

Bookfoolery and Babble (8/14)


8 thoughts on “Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham”

  1. I’ve read some other reviews of this that praise it up and down. I’m glad that you enjoyed the book, even if you didn’t love it. I read the first in this series, and just wasn’t grabbed by it.

  2. I haven’t read much historical fiction, but have enjoyed what I have read. I’ve heard that Susan Higginbotham is one of the best historical fiction authors out there, but it sounds like this is the book to start with. Great review.

  3. I haven’t read much historical fiction (if any!) and I’d like to try some. Susan Higginbotham’s books interest me and I’ve heard she is one of the best in this genre.. Hugh & Bess because of the bride’s young age, her fear of marrying a man 10 or more years older than her and the lack of love in the marriage at the beginning intrigues me and I wonder how their relationship can work and on top of it, the plague descends. Theswe factors would very likely break a modern marriage so I’m anxious to see how a historical marriage deals with the pressures. The Traitor’s Wife focuses more on the hostorical events of the time and how people behave in that framework. In this book there is intrigue, deception, manipulation but also love. I’m looking forward to how the story plays out against the unrest at the time.


  4. You’re right, it was pretty “light” historical fiction, but I loved it. I wouldn’t say it’s one of my all-time faves, but I was drawn into the story right away. I think I was attached to the characters from The Traitor’s Wife, and that really helped. Glad you enjoyed it overall.

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