Godiva by Nicole Galland

Book Depository: Paperback

Fun, playful, naughty!

Synopsis: Nicole Galland, author of The Fool’s Tale, turns her clever pen toward re-imagining the famous legend of Lady Godiva in this expertly crafted historical novel set in Anglo-Saxon England.

A 12th-century noblewoman, Lady Godiva is infamous for riding naked through Coventry to relieve her people of her husband’s unfair and oppressive taxation. Leofric, Earl of Mercia, said he would ease the tax burden if she would ride through the streets, wearing only her glorious, long hair. In doing so she risked everything, including her home and well-being.

Told with humor and precise attention to detail, Nicole Galland’s Godiva brings to life the adventures of the legendary lady, her husband and her best friend the Abbess Egdiva in thrilling detail. It’s an entertaining tale of courtly intrigue, deceit, and romance that is sure to captivate fans of literary and historical fiction.

My two cents: 

The extent of my knowledge of Godiva is (don't laugh) ... really good chocolate. Alright, alright ... maybe that's the first thing that comes to mind but I do have a vague recollection of a legend of a woman riding naked on horse.

As the old saying goes, behind every great man there is a great woman. Godiva is the woman behind the great Earl Leofric of Mercia. Playing the seductress, making full use of her womanly wiles (with her husband's full knowledge and blessing), she was able to wrest sensitive information, concessions, and all manner of favour from other great powerful men to the advantage of her husband. Her methods are underhanded yet effective and became quite the talk of the town, err, kingdom and quite the fear of her male conquests.  

Godiva's childhood friend and confidant, the Abbess Edgiva, is her polar opposite: a devout, modest woman who takes her calling for the cloth extremely seriously. With the people suffering under the weight of the heregeld (an unfair and onerous taxation that was put in effect by a despot), Edgiva became the people's champion. But under a still precarious rule, the king did not want to remove this instrument of power. 

Godiva uses her methods to support Edgiva's cause ... to disastrous effect, eventually leading to the infamous horse ride.   

I found this a fun, playful depiction of the legend and enjoyed it, making history so much less stuffy, even cool.

But then, let me explain, I was introduced to historical fiction by way of Philippa Gregory and that's where I first got a taste of the juicy scandalous lives that the royals of the past lived, the politicking, the machinations. Godiva does that equally well, I got plenty of that in this book!

However, as much as I wanted to so much to love this, I merely liked it. I felt like I was reading a young adult version of a Philippa Gregory novel, a historical fiction 101, an introduction to the genre. I went away feeling vaguely dissatisfied because I felt that the characters of Godiva and Edgiva seemed a little juvenile, schoolgirlish, even chicklit-ish. I can't quite put my thumb on it ... maybe it was Godiva's self absorption in her appearance, or the constant pokes about Edgiva's fascination with a certain royal's backside (pun intended), or her unnecessary meddling in Edgiva's love life. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I think I was just expecting a little more meat. (Also look at that cover, is it just me, or does it seem like a YA novel? Godiva is a mature woman, not a teenager!)

(SPOILER HERE) I'm not sure what I was expecting as an ending, but definitely not the let-down that I got. Edgiva acted completed out of the character that was built up throughout the novel -- the side romance I can forgive but the ending felt like a total cop-out to me. While I fully accepted Godiva's character as the manipulative vixen, I don't think I was quite ready to give up my Edgiva!

Verdict: A fun, playful historical fictional account of Godiva, the woman who rode naked in protest of unfair taxation, and her confidant the Abbess Edgiva. This is an interesting study in contrasts and a great introduction for someone who has yet to dip their feet into the historical fiction genre.

About Nicole Galland

Nicole Galland
Nicole Galland is the author of 4 previous novels: The Fool’s Tale, Revenge of the Rose, Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade and I, Iago. After growing up on Martha’s Vineyard and graduating with honors from Harvard, she divided most of the next 16 years between California and New York City before returning to the Vineyard to stay. During those 16 years she variously made her living in theater, screenwriting, magazine publishing, grad-schooling, teaching, temping, and random other enterprises. She is the co-founder of Shakespeare for the Masses, a project that irreverently makes the Bard accessible to the Bardophobics of the world. She is married to actor Billy Meleady.

Find out more about Nicole at her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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I received an ARC through TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Godiva by Nicole Galland
Amazon.com: Paperback | Kindle Edition
Book Depository: Paperback


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. Sadly, I know Godiva as the chocolate. But I enjoy historical fiction so this sounds like a book I would enjoy, thanks for the recommendation.

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  2. Awesome review, I really want to read this one.

  3. I like my historical fiction a little bit deeper, but this sounds like a fun foray for a YA or even a New Adult reader. Thanks for the review!

  4. I've always been interested in this character, but I'm finding mixed reviews on the book and I'm not sure this is the take on her story that I want to read. I might still give it a shot though. Great thoughtful review!


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