The Swan-Daughter (The Daughters of Hastings Book 2) by Carol McGrath
This is the second book in the series surrounding the first Norman King of England, William the Conqueror. However, interestingly enough, it focuses on Gunhild of Wessex who was the eldest daughter of King Harold II who ruled for less than a year before his death in the Battle of Hastings (1066) – hence Daughters of Hasting series.
The reference to the “swan-daughter” was due to Gunhild’s mother ‘Edith the Fair’ being known as ‘Edith Swan-Neck’, probably because of her beauty and long swan-like neck!
When Gunhild’s father, the King, was killed she was receiving her education in Wilton Abbey under the careful watch of a dictatorial prioress called Christina. Gunhild loathes the religious life and longs to escape and fall in love. This opportunity presents itself when she first meets the fiery red-headed knight, Count Alan of Richmond, and through a few more chance meetings she agrees to elope with him and escape to his estates in France (Normandy). Hurrah!
However, life with Alan is not what she hoped for. He is cold and she is inexperienced as a wife. She constantly questions whether he loves her or if he just married her for the chance to win her inheritance and lands from her mother, Edith. Their relationship is tested further when she discovers Alan had once been a suitor for her mother’s hand and he swears fealty to King William the Conqueror, the man who killed her father!! Her only friend is Alan’s brother called Niall and as she confides in him, she finds herself falling further out of love with her husband. (Even though he is called Niall in this book, his real name is also Alan – confusing history names!)
I won’t spoil the ending, but this is a really great read set after the famous Battle of Hastings. Women in this period were so powerless to their fates after a change in King, so I was delighted to find a tale about a princess who eloped for love!
If you are still interested in this period I also really recommend The Chosen Queen by Joanna Courtney, which is about Edyth, the queen consort to King Harold II. She is remarkable as she was queen twice! Read my book review for The Chosen Queen here.
*Images taken from: www.amazon.co.uk