Title: Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva
Author: Eliza Redgold
Format: Paperback & eBook, 240 pages
Published: July 14, 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffen
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Rating: 4 out of 5 Wine Glasses
We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don't know her true story.
We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva's ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for 'peeping Tom') and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.
Naked is an original version of Godiva's tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion,Naked brings an epic story new voice.
Lady Godiva's famous naked ride through the streets is definitely a memorable tale but only a small part of the story. Invading Danes, traitors, famine, and a powerful Earl all swirl around Godiva as she struggles to not only survive but maintain control over the coveted Middle Lands. The Earl of Mercia, Leofric, looks to be her savior but could be secretly angling for more power as her childhood friend Edmund warns. With her heart and mind at odds, Godiva must battle the dangers of her time all while navigating through her true feelings.
Naked is a historical romance novel that incorporates real historical figures and interweaves notes from historical documents, myth, legend, and artistic license. The people, time, and places you've glimpsed from paintings and poems come alive as their story unfolds. In what I imagine is a nod to the inspiration for this story, Tennyson's poem, this story is written in a very poetic stylistic way. Told in first person from Godiva's point of view, her inner monologue has poetic flare with shorter, choppy sentences. The first 10% or so was a little difficult for me to get into but as the story went on, I was able to merge into the flow of the story. If you're not a fan of poetry and its rhythm, you would probably find yourself struggling to read this. The conversation between the characters does follow the more traditional form of novel structure, however.
I have read the poems and viewed the paintings so I already felt closeness with Godiva but she truly came alive for me here. Writing about a true historical figure is a tricky thing as some already have preconceived notions you might clash with but as Godiva seems known and only known for her ride, Naked gave her the depth and breadth such a woman deserves. Godiva was revealed to be strong and caring but had a little bit of the romance heroine naiveté when it came to realizing who the true villain was; women can be kind without having TSTL moments. Her blindness was a way to create angst between her and our hero Leofric but it went on a little too long. Leofric is often forgotten as the man who sent Godiva on her ride and as such, he was an intriguing mystery to me. The author definitely delivered providing readers with a hard, stoic, strong, supportive, and above all, hero. From the moment he comes charging into the scene on his horse and armor, piercing Godiva with his blue gaze, you know things are about to change.
As I mentioned, this is told from Godiva's point of view and while I missed Leofric's thoughts, for the beginning and middle, he had an incredibly strong presence. It was towards the end that we lose him a bit as he acted out of character making the lead up to Godiva's ride feel rushed. Godiva and Leofric work as a couple with their moments of heat and Leofric's willingness to shun some 1023 year thinking but they also fall victim to the keeping secrets and not just talking about it machination; a lot could have been avoided if they had just talked with one another. They read like enjoyable level headed characters so their lack of communication, which was explained as mistrust, felt slightly forced.
Overall, I enjoyed this fictional peek behind the curtain of a true historical figure. The author shied away from using a lot of 11th century words, which I think will help in the enjoyment of reading, but still managed to convey a feeling for the time period; I felt transported. Medieval period romance (this actually felt more romance to me than historical fiction) is greatly ignored right now but where else can you find fantastically named villains such as Thurkill (Thorkell) the Tall, who was also a real person? If you can get into the poetic rhythm of the writing, you will find yourself absorbed by the story and inspired to learn even more about these real life characters.