Title: Chatelaine: Mistress of the Castle
Author: Jai Rose
Publisher: ELM Grove Publishing
Copyright: April 6, 2021
Format: Paperback, 284 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Women’s Historical Fiction
A Saxon girl of noble blood and striking beauty, Judith had been orphaned when her father was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, leaving her at the mercy of a cruel stepmother.
When Raoul “The Hawk” arrives to take ownership of Oakwood, Judith’s ancestral home, he is smitten with Judith, and at the tender age of 15, she marries the Norman Lord, even though he is almost twice her age. The newly crowned King, William the Conqueror, faces rebellion throughout England, and Raoul – one of William’s favored military commanders – is away from home for much of the time. Left alone in charge of the castle, Judith faces many difficult and often dangerous challenges – not least when Raoul’s evil brother, Eustace, plots to attack Oakwood and take it over for his own use.
Will Judith’s courage and determination be enough to secure the safety of her home and her family?
Judith is the daughter of a heartless Saxon lord, Cerdic, Thane of Oakwood. After her mother passes away, her father marries a wicked Norman woman named Bertha. Thereafter, she is treated as a servant: forced to work and thrashed for every minor infraction. In 1066, when her father dies at the Battle of Hastings and England falls under Norman rule, her life changes for the better. Raoul “the Hawk” is a Norman baron who is given Oakwood and the adjacent lands. Suddenly, for the first time in her life, Judith is treated with respect by a man when all she has known is cruelty. Not only that, but he sees Bertha and her daughter, Agnes, for the vile women they truly are. Soon after, Raoul, who finds himself attracted to the beautiful young Judith, asks her to marry him, and she agrees.
Chatelaine is an enthralling story about a brutal era. The Norman Conquest is an often-mentioned time period, but little do we think about the human lives that were lost or the clash of two cultures. This comes to life in this novel. In addition, the characters feel so genuine and flawed during the power change in England. What starts off as a Cinderella-type story quickly evolves into something more. It is a fascinating adventure that I wanted to go on and on. One of my favorite parts of Jai Rose’s book is the cultural depiction of and attitudes towards 11th-century women, something that the author does exceptionally well. As I was reading, it felt like I had a window where I could peek into the 11th century. At the end, a helpful and extensive glossary explains certain medieval terminology. I would have liked to see a more detailed author’s note discussing the time period and her research. It was apparent that this story was not only well-written, but it was extensively well-researched. All in all, a great read.
Originally featured on the History Novel Society website.