English history changes in an instant. Wandering alone after a battle, enemies all around, a Danish Jarl (noble) stumbles out of the forest, and finds a teenage Saxon boy. This encounter between Ulf of Denmark and Godwine of Wessex, England sets the stage for years of conflict and drama. How might a mere commoner rise to become an earl, and have his line take the throne of England? This novel follows England’s Danish/Viking invasion, from Canute the Great, almost to the Battle of Hastings. Well-researched, and told as a compelling story, Godwine’s rise from shepherd to second in the realm makes a compelling tale of love, lust, political intrigue, and battle. As he turns his back on all he has known, Godwine takes steps toward Denmark, unable to ever turn back.
“Godwine drew rein then, turning in his saddle to take one last look at the land he knew so well. “Yes, lad, remember it now,” Ulf said quietly, “because when you return, you will be a different man, and all this will have changed for you.”
Godwine Kingmaker – Mercedes Rochelle (Kindle Locations 175-177). Kindle Edition.
Ulf begins as a tutor but his student, Godwine, soon surpasses him. Godwine desires Ulf’s sister Gytha, captivated from first glance – but she scorns him due to his low birth. Their developing romance and passion, held at bay for years, will keep you guessing – will Godwine ultimately win her heart? After their return to England, will the family be banished or triumphant? The twists and turns, ups and downs will keep you turning pages. The story takes a few chapters to really get rolling, but stick with it, and you won’t be sorry.
The accurate portrayal of the sorry state of women’s lives, especially noble women, may make you seethe a little at times – Gytha’s marriage, Godwine’s daughter wedded to Edward the Confessor, the plight of widows – but watching how these women scheme and turn things to their advantage against all odds is a fascinating part of the journey.
I am not an expert on this period of English history but I found it easy to follow, and informative while being entertained. The characters are well-drawn, and the story keeps moving. It stimulated me to learn more about what was fact, and what was fiction. I recommend it – and it is just the first in a series.