For the King's Favor is about Ida de Tosney and Roger Bigod. Ida was mistress to King Henry II while a teenager and bore him a son, William, before marrying Roger. Roger spends much of the book trying to win back and then protect his land holdings, all of which had been in jeopardy since his father rebelled against Henry. The two meet at court, marry, and then embark on a life together during a tumultuous period of English history.
I must admit that this is not my favorite of Elizabeth Chadwick's books. I can't even pinpoint why. I liked Ida and Roger well enough (though I have no idea how to pronounce either of their last names), but I didn't love them. Ida was a woman who was strong enough to make decisions about her own future and go after the man she wanted, but she also seemed to get embarrassed by things that didn't seem to faze anyone else. That seemed a bit inconsistent to me, and while I think Ida was one of the kindest women I've gotten to know in fiction over the past several reads, I did find all her blushing and mortification old after a little while, particularly for a former mistress of the king and also in the Middle Ages when (from what I gather) people's personal lives were not very personal at all.
I liked Roger more, which is no surprise, considering my general reaction to women in novels. He seemed like someone I could spend a lot of time with and for whatever reason, his awkwardness seemed more realistic to me than Ida's. I fully believed in his reactions and emotions to events that occurred and I can see why he was such a popular and well-respected person. He just seems like a nice guy, and I think that nice guys are all too rare in literature these days. I also like that Chadwick was honest about how Roger would have felt about Ida's first son with Henry. She didn't try to romanticize Roger into being a perfect man who would accept the son of his wife's former lover, which I really appreciated.
But while I liked Ida and Roger, I didn't think they did much for the first half of this book. They went about their lives- which were interesting, yes, but not fascinating- and I wasn't really sure what was going to happen to create a real conflict or turning point or climax for quite a while. And then the second half came and I was much more engaged.
And while I liked this book, I must say that I liked it more for the way I think it sets up Chadwick's next book, which is about the next generation (Ida & Roger's son marrying William Marshal's daughter) as she sets up many plot points here that I think could resonate and come to fruition in the next book. I think there was a lot going on in this book, for sure- only I don't think it was all fully resolved in the period this book covers, so to me it felt like a set-up for a sequel more than a completely stand-alone book.
But to me, Elizabeth Chadwick is a joy to read. I love how she fits into Medieval England with seemingly little effort (though judging by her blog posts, it does take a lot of effort!) and shares all sorts of facts and opinions and suspicions with us. She obviously has a true love for the characters she writes about, and I greatly appreciate that.
Note: In the UK, this book is sold under the title A Time of Singing.
This review is based on an advanced reader's copy. I received this book for free to review.