Synopsis: England, 1176 Imprisoned by her husband, King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England, refuses to let her powerful husband bully her into submission, even as he forces her away from her children and her birthright. Freed only by Henry’s death, Eleanor becomes dowager Queen of England. But the competition for land and power that Henry stirred up among his sons has intensified to a dangerous rivalry. Eleanor will need every ounce of courage and fortitude as she crosses the Alps in winter to bring Richard his bride, and travels medieval Europe to ransom her beloved son. But even her indomitable spirit will be tested to its limits as she attempts to keep the peace between her warring sons, and find a place in the centres of power for her daughters.
My review: I seem to be developing quite a taste for royal historical novels. I’m slowly expanding my reading beyond that of the Plantagenet/Tudor times and that’s one of the two reasons I downloaded this as an arc from netgalley.
The other reason was more personal. I’m keen on genealogy and Eleanor (or Alienor in the book) is actually my 25th great grandmother! I know this is a work of fiction but as with many of these based on extensive research so fascinating to discover what this woman (and great granddad King John) was potentially like. And what a woman. I love the idea that well into her 70’s she was still extensively travelling and being involved in politics.
I really struggled to like eldest son Richard (Lionheart) and wondering if that’s latent DNA of being related to his brother. It made me chuckle anyway.
In terms of the actual book, it’s a long story covering 30 years and sometimes I felt that time span. It’s 520 pages (according to Goodreads) and I couldn’t seem to read at my usual pace. I wouldn’t say the story dragged, it did keep my attention but I struggled with the length on this one.
The writing is excellent though. You can tell there has been a lot of research as the characters are very well rounded and fit the personalities we know of them. Alienor is a very strong woman but the author isn’t afraid to show her more vulnerable side. It’s a fascinating insight into a woman who once travelled by horseback to Jerusalem when women were meant to be at home producing heirs and also gave us a couple of iconic kings and an incredible dynasty.
My first book with this author but I’ll be going back to read the first two books to see if that Jerusalem journey is recounted as it’s caught my interest and to see the other works this author has done. Highly recommended