For the King's Favor (William Marshal)

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9781402244490: For the King's Favor (William Marshal)
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A Bittersweet Tale of Love, Loss, and the Power of Royalty

When Roger Bigod arrives at King Henry II's court to settle a bitter inheritance dispute, he becomes enchanted with Ida de Tosney, young mistress to the powerful king. A victim of Henry's seduction and the mother of his son, Ida sees in Roger a chance to begin a new life. But Ida pays an agonizing price when she leaves the king, and as Roger's importance grows and he gains an earldom, their marriage comes under increasing strain. Based on the true story of a royal mistress and the young lord she chose to marry, For the King's Favor is Elizabeth Chadwick at her best.

"The best writer of medieval fiction currently around." -Richard Lee , Historical Novel Society

"An author who makes historical fiction come gloriously alive." -Times of London

"Everyone who has raved about Elizabeth Chadwick as an author of historical novels is right." -Devourer of Books Blog

"I rank Elizabeth Chadwick with such historical novelist stars as Dorothy Dunnett and Anya Seton." -Sharon Kay Penman, New York Times bestselling author of Devil's Brood

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About the Author:

Elizabeth Chadwick (UK) is the author of 17 historical novels, including The Greatest Knight, The Scarlet Lion, A Place Beyond Courage, Lords of the White Castle, Shadows and Strongholds, the Winter Mantle, and The Falcons of Montabard, four of which have been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Awards.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

From Chapter One

Framlingham Castle, Suffolk, October 1173 Roger Bigod woke and shot upright on a gulp of breath. His heart was slamming against his rib cage and, although the parted bed curtains showed him a chamber sun-splashed with morning light, his inner vision blazed with vivid images of men locked in combat. He could hear the iron whine of blade upon blade and the dull thud of a mace striking a shield. He could feel the bite of his sword entering flesh and see blood streaming in scarlet ribbons, glossy as silk.

"Ah God." Roger shuddered and bowed his head, his hair flopping over his brow in sweaty strands the colour of tidewashed sand. After a moment, he collected himself, threw off the bed coverings with his right hand, and went to the window. Clenching his bandaged left fist, he welcomed the stinging pain like a penitent finding comfort in the scourge. The wound was not deep enough to cause serious damage but he was going to have a permanent scar inscribed across the base of three fingers. The soldier who had given it to him was dead, but Roger too kno pleasure in the knowledge. It had been kill or be killed. Too many of his own men had fallen yesterday. His father said he was useless, but it was a habitual opinion and Roger no longer felt its impact beyond a dull bruise. What did abrade him were the unnecessary deaths of good soldiers. The opposition had been too numerous and his resources insufficient to the task.

He looked at his taut fist. There would be a lake of blood before his father's ambition was done.

To judge from the strength of the daylight he had missed mass. His stepmother would delight in berating him for his tardiness and then comment to his father that his heir wasn't fit to inherit a dung heap, let alone the Earldom of Norfolk when the time came. And then she would look pointedly at her own eldest son, the obnoxious Huon, as if he were the answer to everyone's prayers rather than the petulant adolescent brat he actually was.

Framlingham's bailey was packed with the tents and shelters of the mercenaries belonging to Robert Beaumont, Earl of Leicester-an ill-assorted rabble he had plucked from field and town, ditch, gutter, weaving shed, and dockside on his way from Flanders to England. Few of them were attending mass to judge by the numbers infesting the inner and outer wards. They were locusts, Roger thought with revulsion. By joining the rebellion against King Henry and giving lodging and support to the Earl of Leicester, his father had encouraged a plague to descend on them, in more ways than one. The plot was to overthrow the King and replace him with his eighteen-year-old son Henry-a vain boy who could be turned this way and that by men skilled in manipulation and the machinations of power. Roger's father had no love for the King, who had clamped down hard on his ambition to rule all of East Anglia. Henry had confiscated their castle at Walton and built a strong royal fortress at Orford to neutralise their grip on that part of the coastline. To add insult to injury, fines for the earlier insurgency had gone to assist the building of Orford.

Turning from the window, Roger sluiced his face one-handed in the ewer at the bedside. Since the tips of his fingers and his thumb were free on his bandaged side, he managed to dress himself without summoning a servant. From the moment he had been capable of tying his braies in small childhood, a fierce sense of self-reliance had driven him to perform all such tasks for himself.

On opening the coffer containing his cloaks, his eyes narrowed as he noticed immediately that his best one with the silver braid was missing. He could well guess where it was. While donning his everyday mantle of plain green twill, his gaze lit on the weapons chest standing against the wall. Last night his scabbarded sword had been propped against it, waiting to be checked and cleaned before storage, but now it was gone. Roger's annoyance turned to outright anger. His sword had been a gift from his Uncle Aubrey, Earl of Oxford, at the time of his knighting. This time the thieving little turd had gone too far.

With clamped jaw, Roger strode from the chamber and headed purposefully to the chapel adjoining the hall where mass had just finished and people were filing out to attend their duties. Roger concealed himself behind a pillar as his father walked past deep in conversation with Robert, Earl of Leicester. They were an incongruous pair, Leicester being tall and slender with a natural grace and good humour, and his father with a rolling pugilistic gait reminiscent of a sailor heading from ship to alehouse. His paunch strained the seams of his red tunic and his hair hung in oiled straggles, the colour of wet ashes.

Roger's stepmother Gundreda followed, walking with Petronilla, Countess of Leicester. The women nodded graciously to each other, smiling with their lips but not their eyes. There was little love lost between them, even if they were allies, for neither woman possessed the social skills upon which to build a friendship and Gundreda resented Petronilla's superior airs.

As they moved on, Roger's seeking gaze struck upon the flash of a lapis-blue garment and a twinkle of silver braid as his half-brother Huon swaggered out of the chapel, one narrow adolescent hand clasping the buckskin grip of a fine sword. A little behind him traipsed Huon's younger sibling Will, fulfilling his usual role of insipid shadow.

Roger reached, seized, and swung his half-brother around, slamming him against the pillar. "Have you nothing of your own that you must resort to thievery of everything that is mine?" he hissed. "Time and again I have told you to stay out of my coffers and leave my things alone." Taking a choke-hold on the youth's throat with his good hand, Roger used his other to unhitch the sword belt with a rapid jerk of latch and buckle.

Huon's down-smudged upper lip curled with contempt, although his eyes darted fearfully. Roger noted both emotions and increased the pressure. "I suppose you wanted to parade before my lord of Leicester and show off a sword you're too young to wear?"

"I wear it better than you!" the youth wheezed with bravado. "You're a spineless coward. Our father says so."

Roger released his grip, but only to hook his foot behind Huon's ankles and bring him down. Straddling him, he dragged the purloined cloak over his half-brother's head. "If there's a next time, you'll wear this on your bier," he panted, "and my sword will be through your heart!"

"Huon, where are y-" Having turned back to find her lagging son, Gundreda, Countess of Norfolk, stared at the scene with consternation and fury. "What do you think you're doing!" she shouted at Roger. "Get off him; leave him alone!" She forced Roger aside with a hard push.

Choking and retching, Huon clutched his throat. "He tried to kill me...and in God's own house...He did; Will saw it, didn't you?"

"Yes," Will croaked as if his own throat had been squeezed, and refused to look anyone in the eye.

"If I had intended to kill you, you would be dead now!" Roger snarled. He encompassed his stepmother and his half-brothers in a burning glare before flinging from the chapel, his cloak over his arm and his scabbarded sword clutched in his good fist. Her invective followed him but he ignored it for he had become inured to that particular bludgeon long ago.

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