Belaset’s Daughter by Feona J. Hamilton
by Feona J. Hamilton
England, 1264: as Simon de Montfort and his fellow Barons challenge Henry III’s arrogant conviction of the divine right of kings to rule, the country moves inexorably towards civil war. In the little town of Lewes in Sussex, Judith, daughter of Belaset, seeks revenge for the massacre of her family and other Jews by de Montfort. As a trusted messenger between the King and his loyal followers, she is asked to act as go-between for King Henry and William Foville, Prior of St Pancras in Lewes. Judith seizes the opportunity to strike one last blow against de Montfort before her wedding to Aaron of London.
The castle in Lewes overlooks the little town, as it has done since the Conqueror gave the land to William de Warenne. Jervis FitzHugh, squire to William’s descendant John de Warenne, longs for adventure, and for the hand of Madeleine de Tourney. His longings are both fulfilled, but in a most unexpected way.
Judith, Aaron, Jervis and Madeleine all become closely intertwined in a way that none of them could have foreseen. Far from a simple journey to France and back, Judith finds herself facing danger and deceit, as de Montfort’s followers do all they can to prevent the message getting through. Help comes from the King’s supporters, in England and in France, and from other more unexpected quarters. When the inevitable happens, and the Battle of Lewes is fought, Judith’s work is done.
BUT – could it have really happened?
Yes, it could! Most of the characters in the book really existed, and the historical accuracy of the events of the time have been carefully researched and verified by the author.
BELESET'S DAUGHTER is a 2002 Eppie Award finalist. For an author bio and photo, reviews and a reading sample, visit bosonbooks.com.
England in 1264 was divided between loyal supporters of King Henry III and his enemies, led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who insisted that Henry adhere to the Provisions of Oxford, which allowed for the formal organization of a baronial council—in essence, the origins of Parliament—to work with the king in the formation and adjudication of British law. In this riveting work of historical fiction, Hamilton centers the activity that led to the Battle of Lewes on a Jewess named Judith, who, assuming the disguise of a young man, serves as a spy for the king. There is no man Judith despises more than de Montfort, who, 10 years before, had incited an angry mob of Christians to wreak havoc on a Jewish settlement, killing Judith's father, younger sisters and baby brother in the process. Hamilton's story, with convincing dialogue and finely paced intrigue, captivates the reader from beginning to end. With an emphasis on fast-moving plot, the author never fully develops any of her primary characters, but this is only a minor quibble. More importantly, this is a novel not only about a pivotal period in Henry's reign, but also about the life-and-death friendships between a handful of Jews and Christians and those who would conspire against them. On the very last page, Hamilton teases the reader with the suggestion that she has delivered only the first chapter of a larger tale. If readers are lucky, Hamilton will provide more about Judith and this period of British civil war. – Publishers Weekly
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