Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva

Written by Eliza Redgold
Review by Arleigh Johnson

In 11th-century Coventry, the heart of England’s Middle Lands, there is a threat of invasion by the Danes. Lady Godiva, determined to protect her people, agrees to marry Leofric of Mercia, fellow Saxon and the earl of a neighboring land. His protection will in turn keep the enemy from his borders, while strengthening the Anglo-Saxon stronghold endangered by the rule of King Canute. The marriage, however, may prove to be just as treacherous as facing the Danes.

The legend of Lady Godiva is well known, though the history behind it is less so. Because there are not many facts known about her life, the lady Godgifu—God’s Gift—is a malleable character for historical novelists. This retelling imagines her as a young woman determined to uphold her late father’s legacy to his people. A series of bad harvests has ravaged the lands, and most cannot pay the tax owed to their new lord, Leofric. It falls to Lady Godiva to intercede, and thus the story is played out in parallel to the famous legend.

Bordering on the historical romance genre, this novel may disappoint readers looking for an in-depth account of a historical figure. The characters seem a bit two-dimensional, but this could have been avoided with further background information early on. The descriptions of life in Anglo-Saxon England are spot-on, and the customs and inner workings of society make interesting reading. The writing style is charming but can be overdone, with repetitive use of choppy sentences. Overall, it’s an enjoyable, light read, but perhaps not to every reader’s taste.