The Handfasted Wife (Daughters of Hastings, #1) – by Carol McGrath – independent book review – Historical Fiction (England)

Interesting period, but WAY too much detail for me. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

Author Carol McGrath Photo Courtesy of

I picked up this book intentionally because, though I’ve read a lot of historical fiction, I had never read any about William the Conquerer. Though William is a peripheral character in this novel, his shadow obviously hangs over the book since it covers the years surrounding the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

This novel focuses on Edith, the handfasted (married but not by Christian clergy) wife of Harold Godwin who was briefly King of England after the death of Edward the Confessor.

Edith’s relationship with Godwin, their children, and their collective fates are portrayed through a pro-Anglo Saxon, anti-Norman lens. And that was interesting to me since so much of England’s history is so often pro-Norman.

Author Carol McGrath (photo from

On the other hand, there are places where I was completely bored by tedious detail about the everyday lives of the time period. I’m sure this kind of detail about meals, travel, clothing, and customs would be gobbled up by some. But it detracted from the overall enjoyment of the read for me.

I still plan to read the second and third books in this series (The Swan-Daughter and The Betrothed Sister) because I always need to know how a story plays out. I may just skips some of the details.

Carol McGrath is an Irish writer. She is also the author of The Woman in the Shadows, a 2017 novel about Elizabeth, the wife of England’s Thomas Cromwell.

You may be interested in my review of another book by Carol McGrath, THE STONE ROSE.

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