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Her Naked Ride is Legendary - an Editorial Review of "Beheld: Godiva's Story"



Author Bio:

Christopher M. Cevasco was born in New Jersey and spent a memorable decade in Brooklyn, NY, but he feels most at home in medieval England, Normandy, Norway, and Greenland. A lifelong passion for history and fiction led him to earn degrees in Medieval Studies and English and later to embark upon a writing career that merges these two loves. His debut novel, BEHELD: GODIVA'S STORY, coming in April 2022, is a darkly twisted 11th-century thriller.

Chris has worked as an appellate attorney and was the founding editor of the award-winning PARADOX: THE MAGAZINE OF HISTORICAL AND SPECULATIVE FICTION. His own stories appear in several magazines and anthologies. When not writing about history, he creates bestselling D&D content available online at the DMsGuild and in the forthcoming TOME OF HEROES by Kobold Press.

Chris lives with his wife and their two children in Myrtle Beach, SC.

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Editorial Review:

The soughing wind and a wren's whir lulled him, and behind his eyelids he saw her again as she'd revealed herself to him when first he'd come to Coventry late that Eastertide: a lady on a white horse, the morning sun rising behind her as she rode up the High Street. The horse's step had been slow and even, and bathed in that light, she'd seemed clothed in shining, golden silk. Thomas knew at once he'd found his long-sought beacon. A twin half of himself. A worthy haven for his soul.... Some small sound made him start, and Thomas came fully awake, dizzy for a time with the dappled sunlight shifting through the branches. How long have I slept? He looked down. Godgyfu had arrived.

Most everyone knows the ancient legend of Lady Godiva and her naked ride through Coventry, as well as the man who forever was labeled as the “Peeping Tom” in the story, but with Cevasco's novel, the reader is plunged into the depths of a quite deep and murky pond full of scummy characters and dark medieval history as England emerges from the grip of the Danes under King Harthacnut. Godgyfu, Lady Godiva's life is filled with hardship from the very beginning, married at a very young age, which was customary, and emerges from near death to a life under the stringent hand of her husband, who she despises. Yet, her life in service to the community of Coventry, and her monetary and emotional support in building the Abbey, helps keep her focused. She is a deep character, full of flaws and suffocated passions, and ,unfortunately, falls prey to the desires of men in her quest to feel true love.

From the historical aspect, Cevasco does a remarkable job in rendering the true sense of life in this time period, full of gritty blood-soaked battles and a fair share of scoundrels lusting after any woman that moved within their sight. First and foremost, is Godgyfu's husband, Leofric, whose days in battle has turned him into a lecherous old codger whose mind is half filled with voyeuristic imaginings about his own wife, while the other half is filled with mead-induced visions of Saint Paul. This is a world teetering precariously on the edge of devout Christianity while rearing back to the old carnal days of their primitive Celtic roots; a world where women are mere chattel to be done with as the men wish, no matter if they are the local strumpet or the highest noble born woman.


The history of the transition of the kingdom of England from Hathacnut to Eadward is remarkably rich in this story, and unfolds in a similar way to stories such as “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett or books by Bernard Cornwell; not to mention the mingling of religion, politics, and the relationships between men and women which bring to mind “Game of Thrones” by Martin. This book is by no means an easy light read, and the reader should be warned for some graphic battle and sex scenes; however, in delving deeper, the emotional turmoil of this young woman, of Godgyfu, whose inner conflict places her in a very vulnerable position as she falls for a monk novice named Thomas, reveals the author's ability to reach deep into a character's soul and extract an extraordinary narrative. This story is more than blood, guts, and lust... it is about a shattered young girl's desire to be wanted, loved, and accepted. And it reveals the depravity of men who use women for their own ambitions, discarding them at will.


Thomas, the “Peeping Tom”, in this story is a piece of work full of machinations in his voyeuristic world with his mind set on recreating Godgyfu as the goddess Rhiannon. He weasels his way into her life and uses her failing marriage as a way to entice her to his bidding, that of carving an image of her in the nude as Marie-incarnate in order to draw the Christians back into their old Pagan ways of worshiping the goddess. He makes a deal with Leofric, Godgyfu's husband, after Leofric discovers the young man watching his wife bathe in the river, and whose own depraved fantasies are ignited upon seeing Thomas watching her. In this story, Thomas is the impetus to Leofric's former impotence, and recharges the Earl's desire for his wife... all at a cost. Both of them use her in order to fulfill their own insatiable greed and desires.


He was such a soft thing beneath all his bluster – wounded somehow – and she wanted to mend him as her husband might have mended one of his falcons with a broken wing. But it was more, she knew. More than only a mothering impulse. She burned for him as she had never before burned for any man.


Then he drew back; he never let things go too far. Only enough to keep pulling her along in her need. And she did need him now, his touch, his words, his nearness..... It was like some men grew to need mead or wine, craving it, living for it. He noticed she'd even begun to shake at times, ever so slightly, another thing he had seen in those for whom drink had become lord and king. Only, for Godgyfu, Thomas himself was her drink, and he doled himself out in forsakingly small draughts.


From a storytelling aspect, this book is first rate. Cevasco has a sensational ability to tell a story rich with beautiful phrasing and well-selected verbiage to give a reader the true sense of character and place. You feel the pain in the hearts or the rain dripping from the beards, you smell the loamy green forests and the pungent urine-drenched streets, you hear the clashing of swords and Godgyfu's cries in the dark, and you can see the love twinkling in her aging eyes as she desperately wants to believe in Thomas's offerings. Cevasco is a remarkable storyteller... enough said. But... I do have to share this last gift of a passage, which, to me, shows the strength of his chosen words in placing a reader firmly into the setting:


A cow lowed outside, a gloomy sound. Cows seemed ever mournful to her, and she tried to call to mind if she'd ever seen a happy one? Wan light leaked past the room's dark beams through a spot of roof thatch wanting mending; daytime them – not night at all. It all felt the same. Poor cows. She suddenly wanted to weep over that frayed bit of thatch.


*****


“Beheld: Godiva's Story” by Christopher M. Cevasco receives five stars from The Historical Fiction Company and the “Highly Recommended” award for excellence.


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